Archive for November, 2014

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The Simmering Mind is 3 Years Old! – Some Site Stats

November 30, 2014
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I love my pretty new winter header image!

Today is a commemoration post – this blog has been here for three years as of today!  I didn’t blog faithfully in the beginning, and things petered out for awhile, but I am excited to report that since March 22, 2014 (when I began blogging weekly), the Simmering Mind has been going strong!

This post may be totally boring to most, but I had so much fun looking over all the “stats” from the past three years, and I wanted to round them up in once place.  So here they are!

Stats from Blog History

Blog views over all time (as of writing this post): 7,877

Blog comments over all time: 459 comments.

Single day with the highest number of blog views: Saturday, September 20, 2014, with 123 views – most of them on my most popular blog post ever, which had just been shared (see below).

Google Is My Friend (Sometimes)

Five most common search engine terms that led people to the blog:

  1. “the simmering mind” – 39 hits
  2. “harry potter head” – 14 hits
  3. “divination harry potter” – 13
  4. “tuesday” – 11 (okay?)
  5. “harry potter in class” – 9 hits (I’m sensing a theme…of ALL the search terms that ever led people to my blog, Harry was involved in 43 of them)

Most common topics I see bringing people to The Simmering Mind from Google:

  1. Harry Potter
  2. Heaven, especially referring to the book by Randy Alcorn
  3. Science-Fiction
  4. Firebird, by Kathy Tyers
  5. The Hunger Games
  6. The blog name itself, my name, or other related search terms like “Kraesinia land” (eeep, really?) – I also saw several people that seemed to be searching directly for my old (unfinished) serial story, “The Queen in the Wooden Box”, which I think I deleted from the blog because it was unfinished

What I’m learning here is that the internet wants more fantasy and sci-fi reviews from me.  😀  Most of these hits brought people to my reviews of those science-fiction and fantasy stories.  The internet especially wants more Harry Potter.

Here, internet.  Have some Harry.

Harry Harry Harry Harry 😛

Weirdest and funniest search terms ever to bring people to The Simmering Mind:

  1. “list of fantasy and sci-fi books containing physical telepathy that is only activated after marriage and after intercourse” (uhhh, there are enough of these to make a list??)
  2. “6 year old severely distractible” (as well as “distractibility in 6 year old”, “song about distractibility”, and “stories about individuals with distractibility”……)
  3. “alone in the daik.” (HA!  A typo got them here, because of my character Daik 11)
  4. “kevin bloody wilson early songs put a potatoe down ya bahte free download” (huh?)
  5. “my husband has been absent lately” (I’m sorry…)

Best Blog Posts

Five most popular posts and their views over all time:

  1. How Myers-Briggs Typology Became My Worst Nightmare (But I Still Love It) – 344 views
  2. Harry Hater to Potterhead: A Christian Reader’s Journey – Part II – 220 views
  3. Think About These Things – 196 views
  4. Between Two Worlds – Internet vs. Home – 152 views
  5. Have We Forgotten the Monsters? – 140 views

Bethany’s other favorite blog posts from the past three years – these may not have gotten as much love from the interwebs as the others, but I loved them!

  1. On Being Relevant
  2. How to Be Invincible
  3. 5 Reasons Writing YA (Sci-Fi and Fantasy) Is Awesome
  4. You Know You’re (Really) A Grown-Up When…
  5. Self-Publishing Is For Failures, Said Ignorant Teenage Me

Thank You!!

To all my faithful readers who read, those who leave me comments, and those who share my posts to others, thank you so much!  I love the conversations we have, and I greatly appreciate that so many take time out of their day to read my ramblings.

Much love,
Bethany

P.S. Who here thinks I should do a giveaway for the person who makes my 500th blog comment? 😀

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Why Katniss Everdeen Has No Hope – But We Do

November 26, 2014

A common beef Christians have with dystopian stories is that they are hopeless.  It’s common because it can be very true – dystopias are designed to display a reality where all feels lost, where people feel crushed and hopeless, and evil has all the power.  So it makes sense that books and movies in this genre will feel hopeless.  Usually, a dystopian novel will showcase hope and resilience by the end, but not every author intends to leave that kind of “mood” with their reader (more’s the pity – I hate unhappy endings).

Of course – we Christians say – the answer is obvious.  “Put God in the book!”  Without God, of course there is no hope.

But we’re not the authors, and we can’t change the existing stories from what they are.  However, we can learn from them and we can pay attention to what makes them hopeless, as a reminder to us of Who give us true, abiding hope, and show Him to those around us.

The helpless Mockingjay and her helpless idols

I just finished watching Mockingjay: Part 1 in theaters.  Awesome movie!  I’ve never been disappointed at any of The Hunger Games films…they are all brilliantly executed and thrilling.

However, as I was watching I finally put my finger on why Katniss bothers me as a character.

She displays the exact opposite of the message I am trying to express with my own trilogy.  My characters, especially Kevin, wrestle with the reality that sometimes defending a great cause is more important than defending loved ones.  His trust in himself and his ability to protect his sister have to erode, leaving him with God as his only recourse, a far greater strength.  Until he can “let Catherine go” and turn her over to God with his trust and hope, he is fractured in his fight against a brutal enemy.  It’s a theme that has emerged slowly and gradually as I continue to hammer this story from a rough into a diamond.

Katniss, on the other hand, has always been obsessed with her loved ones.  In the first movie, we see an example of beautiful self-sacrifice as she gives herself up to save her sister – so she starts well.  But as the series winds on she grows increasingly paranoid and reckless to protect people, more so in Mockingjay than in the other two.  The thought of a loved one in danger sends her into screaming fits, and she irrationally clings to beloved individuals over important causes.  I imagine if one of them was in danger on one side, and a thousand people dying on the other, she’d go to the aid of the one family member, leaving the thousand to perish even if she had the ability to save them.  One can easily argue that she has PTSD and mental health issues as a result of the trauma she endures, and that’s a fair assessment, but I think her trauma only exacerbates her pre-existing obsessions.

For all her self-sacrifice and the hero she is portrayed to be, Katniss is actually very self-centered.  Family and boyfriend(s) are her idols which she protects at all costs.  We get the impression that if all of them were to die, she would totally crumble because she had no reason left to live.

Because she really doesn’t have anything left to live for!

There is nothing left after your idols, if you have no hope in God.  Furthermore, with no sovereign Lord to trust, ultimately you have nothing but yourself to protect your loved ones.  It is painfully obvious to the audience, as well as Katniss, that ultimately she can’t protect them.  She is one human being, powerless against forces all around her that are using her as a pawn for their agendas.

As a story, it’s brilliant.  But I can’t help wondering over and over again as I watch it, “Why doesn’t she just lay down and die?”

At one point President Coin comes to speak to her, and remarks that “whatever’s keeping you going, you still have it, and that’s why you’re still here” or something to that effect (pardon my paraphrasing, as I have only seen the movie once).

What is keeping Katniss going?  What does she have?

I don’t see much of anything, except her family and friends, who she can’t ultimately protect, and who could easily die.  No wonder she has no hope.

I’m not as strong as Katniss Everdeen.  I’m sure, if I was in her place, I would be tempted many times to just give up and die.  I don’t have her fiery rebelliousness, or her defiant streak.  I could play the part, but when things got harder I’d just want to give myself up.

But I know I wouldn’t.  Because my strength is not in me – it is in the Lord.  And in Him, we don’t have to obsess over our loved ones!  We can know they are in God’s hands, pray for them, and have confidence that no matter what happens, one day we will see them again beyond the grave, rejoicing before the Lord in perfect glory and peace.

So that’s why Katniss Everdeen has no hope.  Not only does she have no greater God to look to, but all her existence is wrapped up in the people she loves.  And fragile, helpless human beings make for lousy gods and goddesses that are easily toppled.

Our world is a dystopia too

Did you ever think of what it must have been like for Christ to step out of the glory of heaven, totally empty Himself, and become a frail human baby?

A birth in a stable, a filthy manger for a bed.  Parents of relative poverty.  A nation crunched under the sandaled foot of Rome.  A power-hungry ruler who orders all baby boys murdered in his quest to destroy you.  It’s a bleak picture, not exactly the soft, sweet “Silent Night” we sing of in Christmas Eve services.

Yet Christ gave His life here for this world, over and over again in selfless service, and ultimately on the cross, pouring out His blood for the redemption of many.  Like Katniss, He volunteered, but not as tribute – rather as an atonement for our sin.

And because of Him,

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” – 1 Peter 3:13-15b

We have that hope within us, that one day this world will be made new.  We hear news of riots, and murders, and government corruptions, and racism, and wars, and natural disasters, but we have an eternal and powerful Hope that will never fail us, never let us down, and never leave us behind.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We can’t give Katniss hope.  But we can rejoice, especially in this Christmas season, that we have it in full abundance.

This is my Father’s world;
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world!
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be won.
— Martin Luther

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Confessions of a Pathetic Weakling – God’s Grace at the End of my Rope

November 22, 2014

One day a couple of months ago, if you had walked into my home in the mid-morning, you would have found this scene:

Mom dozing off on the couch, sick and dizzy with some unexplainable bug on top of my morning sickness.

Toddlers breaking into the upstairs bathroom.

Baby woken in the next room by their antics.

Cries.

Mom wakens, and panic strikes. The kids are in the upstairs bathroom??  The baby’s nap interrupted??

I was so dizzy I couldn’t walk up the stairs to deal with the situation.  I crawled up – and rammed into the wall on my way despite my efforts to crawl straight.  In the bathroom, the gleeful toddlers were running around with bath toys and who knows what else in their hands.

“Go downstairs,” I pleaded.

More giggling and running in circles.  They totally ignored me.

And I’m ashamed to say that not sure I’ve ever yelled louder in my life.

screamed at them.  I could barely see straight, I could barely stand without fear I was going to fall, and volume felt like the only way I could possibly touch base with reality enough to connect with the children over the sound of their baby sister crying.

They scampered down the stairs – fortunately not seeming traumatized by Mom’s explosion.  But when I had fetched the baby from the crib, I couldn’t follow them.  My head spun too much.  Pitching headlong to our deaths seemed all too likely.

So I scooted down on my backside, one scary step at a time.

Somehow, I managed to get the kids’ diapers changed and plop them in front of the TV before I collapsed on the couch.  I needed help.  Major help.

After agonized deliberation, I called my friend and neighbor down the street.  “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I think I need help today,” I whispered into the phone, swallowing back the misery in my throat.  “I’m really sick and dizzy.  I can barely even go up and down the stairs.  Can you come over?”

She sounded surprised, but immediately said, “Sure!  I’ll be right over.”

“Thank you,” I choked.  I hung up the phone and wept into my hands.

How pathetic am I?

(Seriously.  A mom who needs help?  What a ridiculous idea.  How unheard of!  What a sad excuse for a human being!  I’m so pathetic that I’m actually a burden on other people.  Disgusting. </end sarcasm>)

My friend arrived shortly – a wonderful blur to my sore eyes – bearing ginger ale, a cheery mood, and her kids and all their homeschool work.

Guilt dragged me down another few feet into despair.  I had disrupted their school day with this!  Was I contagious?  Was she bringing her children into a germ-infested house for me?

She poured me a cup of ginger ale, took the fussy baby off my hands, and encouraged me to go upstairs and take a nap.  I crept up the steps, fell into bed, and sobbed uncontrollably.

As the misery subsided, comfort and wisdom came.

If the situation had been reversed, and someone came to me needing help, would I have been secretly hating her and feeling burdened?  Noooo.  I would have felt excited to help, eager to be there for someone I loved in her time of need.  But here a friend was doing such a thing for me, and I was upstairs crying my little heart out with self-loathing?  That didn’t compute.  I needed help.  Why was I so ashamed to need help?

There are some women who are truly alone, who pull themselves together with God’s help and do what needs to be done.  But I had help!  That is the beauty of the Body of Christ.  I had help right here, in my own neighborhood, from a sister in Jesus.  What would I have proven by pushing on instead of seeking and accepting the help that was available?

We all need help sometimes.  Why am I so reluctant to ask for it?  Why do I see it like a mark of strength to say, “No thank you – I can handle it”?

God knows we all need help.  It’s why He sent His own beloved Son for us!

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:3-5

Those who think they are worthy, who don’t feel like they have any need, who are proud?  They are deceived.  I am the one who is so often deceived.  It is those who see their need who are blessed.

“Beware the subtle arrogance of self-sufficiency.” – from “Crown of Fire” by Kathy Tyers

Being at the end of my rope has shown me that I truly can’t do it all.  Sometimes I can’t even do anything.  And that’s okay.

I am slowly, sloooowly learning to accept offers of help: from the stranger at the airport who sees me carrying too much – from the bagger at the grocery store who knows I’ll need assistance getting to my car – from church members eager to aid me in toting kids and bags up to the fellowship hall.  There was a time when I would have smiled and said, “No thank you!  I’ve got it!” to all these helpers.  I was sure I had it all under control.

But for what?  What did I ever prove by saying no to these kinds of offers?

Nothing – except that I’m an arrogant snoot!

I’m not sure why I’ve have such a fear of accepting assistance.  Maybe on some gut level I feel like I need to repay all the help that is given to me.  I tend to carry around a lot of guilt that people help me and I can’t think of something tangible to do in return.  Do I see loving help as some kind of bargain?  You help me, I’ll help you, we’ll be even, and then I won’t feel “inferior” because everything’s fair, right?

God’s help certainly isn’t conditional.  His grace is free, and we are lost without it.

Amid our deepest challenges is when God often brings us to a better understanding of Himself and His love.

I find myself at the end of my rope a lot during this pregnancy, and every time I am reminded that it’s okay when I can’t do it all.  God never expected me to do it all.  Every time I fall short my shortcomings are covered by the blood of His Son.

Sometimes I’m tempted to look on Jesus as a comparison rather than a covering for sin.  C’mon.  Jesus was tired and he still preached to the thousands and healed all the sick that came his way!  You can’t get off the couch?  You’re nauseous and washing the dishes right now would make you sick so you’re going to wait until tonight?  You can’t pop right up and change that diaper immediately – you have to steel yourself first?  What a lousy Christian you make!  JESUS could pull Himself together and do that.  God expects you to be like Him, so quit being a wimp and work, work, work!

NO!

Jesus didn’t come to raise the bar.  He came to lift it off our shoulders, because we could never carry it to begin with.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t bother to try to do hard things. But why is my focus on what I can do for my Savior, rather than what my gracious Savior has done for me?

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” – Isaiah 40:11

My beautiful friend watched my three children half the day, homeschooled her kids from my house, ordered pizza to feed them all, and washed my entire kitchen full of dirty dishes…possibly saving us from death by dish avalanche.  She was the hands and feet of Christ to me that day – Jesus Christ, who came to help pathetic weaklings like you and me.

(And she didn’t know I was going to blog about her, so…surprise, friend!  I love you so very much.)

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Do you find yourself ashamed or reluctant to accept help?  Why do you think that is?  Have you ever learned something beautiful at the end of your rope?

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Lack of Postings – Why??

November 7, 2014

Some of you might have noticed that I didn’t post last week. I almost forgot to do it this week too! I promise this blogging laziness won’t become a habit, but right now I’ve been thrown off my game by a couple of factors:

1. As I expected, my morning sickness has gotten worse…it’s been rough.
2. For the very first time, I’ve been (loosely) taking part in National Novel Writing Month!

It’s been fun working on a totally fresh, new draft of something, not stressing about making it perfect, but just enjoying the story as it unfolds. This is how I remember writing being back in my teens – well, minus the icky pregnancy nausea that keeps me from writing some days! So a lot of my (minimal) wordsmithing energy has gone into the story I’m writing at present.

So, all this to say, I’m sorry for posting so little, and I hope to be back on my game in the next couple of weeks. I have posts simmering in my mind on: body image, gender in books, humility and accepting help, how Jesus came not to raise the bar higher but to destroy it entirely, and other topics. I hope to share them with you soon! 🙂

Love,
Bethany