Women of Christ Wednesday: Purposes Lost and Found

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Today’s Women of Christ Wednesday will be a bit different. I am going to share with you two books. These two books are about women who thought they lost everything when their lives were radically changed by unforeseen circumstances and yet, through the grace of God, they were able to find a new sense of purpose and gained an authentic, wonderful love along the way.

The first book is Fractured, Not Broken, a memoir by Kelly Schaefer and M. Weidenbenner. Kelly Schaefer became a quadriplegic after an accident involving a drunk driver.

I should tell you right now, one major flaw I have is I often read the last page first. If the ending makes me wonder how the people involved got to that certain point and how they changed, chances are I’m gonna go back to page one and read non-stop until I find out. Kelly Schaefer wasn’t the typical “inspirational disadvantaged” person. The struggles she faced and the losses she endured are shown on each and every page. She longed for the days when she could do backflips and cartwheels and especially hated when her boyfriend pre-accident ended up breaking up with her. And yet, slowly Kelly started turning her life around. She finished college and became a teacher and spoke out about the dangers of drunk driving. Then, all of a sudden, another wonderful man comes into the picture.

This memoir is unique because the story of Kelly’s husband, Shawn, is also included. I was literally screaming at the book, rooting for Shawn to find Kelly. I honestly couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to know how Shawn and Kelly would find each other. Knowing that they eventually did and that their relationship would lead to a beautiful marriage gives me hope that someday, I will find my own wonderful husband.

 

The second book I want to share with you is The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs. This book is a Bible study and commentary on the Book of Ruth. While Higgs is Protestant, I have a deep respect for her because her Bad Girls of the Bible series was one of the things that helped me stay grounded in my love for God back in my California days. (Keep in mind, by the way, I was a very pretentious teenager at the time.)

The Girl’s Still Got It is a bit of a departure from Higgs’s usual Bible studies in that there is no “modern version” of the story that Higgs creates to parallel Biblical Ruth with a modern version of her. Instead, each chapter has short testimonies from women who commented on their relationships with their mothers-in-law and their husbands.

The Book of Ruth is one I’m familiar with, but Higgs’s commentary brings new life to the story. Ruth stands out as someone who was a foreigner, who came to Israel to take care of her mother-in-law. Given Pope Francis’s frequent jokes about mothers-in-law and Naomi’s bitter heart at the loss of her husband and sons, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. In spite of that, Ruth devotes herself to taking care of Naomi, even if it means leaving behind the home she knew all her life.

The best part of the story, though, is when Ruth’s kind actions are noticed by her kinsman-redeemer Boaz. Their romance isn’t exactly as much a page-turner, but it’s still heartwarming because Boaz is drawn to Ruth’s selfless love and Ruth sees Boaz as a kind provider. Like any good love story, there are still a couple obstacles for the two of them to overcome before they can finally say “I do,” but the happy ending is very much earned.

 

I have to wonder if Kelly Schaefer ever read the Book of Ruth and saw the parallels between her story and that of Ruth’s. So many women out there, myself included, often wonder if there are any good men out there. These two stories are proof that nothing is impossible with God. If you are like me and you are seeking a godly man, I have a prayer for you.

 

Heavenly Father,

Before the world was created, you knew me. You know all that was and all that will be. You know the man who is best suited to share my heart with You. Lord, I pray that you will prepare my heart for him. I ask that you prepare his heart for me, as well. Whenever I am lonely, remind me to pray for him. Whenever I feel jealous of others’ happiness in relationships, remind me to have hope and to be grateful for what I have right now. Whenever I feel that aching in my chest, that deep sad longing, carry me through it. Let Your love be enough for me, and yet let me be open to receive his love as well.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

 

Gratitude Shown Through Doing Good

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to say that we are grateful and to keep a gratitude journal. Unfortunately, the things we write and meditate on will ring hollow if we don’t live a life of gratitude. Gratitude is more than just a feeling, after all. It’s something we do.

“How exactly do I live a life of gratitude?” you ask.

Find out here!

A Night at the Movies with Charlie Brown and Snoopy (The Peanuts Movie)

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Dedicated to Mrs. A, who introduced me to Charlie Brown and the whole gang in 4th grade.

Like many kids, I grew up reading the Peanuts comic strips and watched the specials. So when I heard about how Blue Sky studios was making a 3D animated Peanuts movie, I was reluctant to see it until I saw the trailer and heard good things about it.

This review will be spoiler-free because I want everyone to give this movie a chance.

The best word I can use to describe The Peanuts Movie is “timeless.” Movies that are marketed to kids usually try to grab attention by pandering with pop culture references and using modern slang. This was easily seen in the trailers I saw. There were some laughs, but nothing in particular made me want to see any of the movies advertised.

In contrast, The Peanuts Movie begins with the kids waking up and finding out that it’s a snow day. As soon as the alarm clocks started ringing, I felt laughter bubbling up inside of me as I watched Peppermint Patty smash her alarm clock with a hockey stick while Schroeder woke up to Beethoven’s Fifth and just sat in his bed enjoying the music. The only “modern” thing in movie was Meghan Trainor’s song that played a few times throughout the movie. Kudos to the animators and the writers because it wasn’t until I saw Charlie Brown tangled up in phone cords that I realized “Omigosh they’re using landlines!”

The whole movie is a slice of life with lots of nods to the specials that everyone grew up with. You hear the “Skating” theme when the kids go out ice skating on the snow day. There’s a sequence where you get to see everyone do those familiar dance moves from the Christmas Special and Linus hoping that the new neighbor will be open to believing in the Great Pumpkin. The best shout out to the comics, though, came in the subplot of Snoopy creating his novel and his daydreams of chasing down the Red Baron. Snoopy is my favorite character so I loved how the sequences with the Red Baron finally came to life in this movie.

The main story, however, centers on Charlie Brown and his numerous attempts to impress the Little Redhaired Girl. I know some people are up in arms that we actually get to see her face in this movie, but the movie does a great job at not letting anyone actually see her close up until the very end. I also have to give credit to Charlie Brown for actually reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, understanding the complex themes, and being able to write an essay on it in the span of one weekend. Most grad students would slog through that book in maybe a month or two. I tried reading it in high school and I wasn’t able to get through it. Unfortunately, all of Charlie Brown’s efforts end up falling short for one reason or another, to the point that you think the world is out to make his life as miserable as possible.

What Charlie Brown learns, however, is that in order to succeed, you don’t have to do great things, you just have to be good. He makes an effort and always tries to do the right thing even when the odds are against him. I personally think that Charlie Brown’s determination is what inspired Snoopy to stop acting like a bratty dog and actually help his master out. But Snoopy wouldn’t be Snoopy without some digs at Charlie Brown, but thankfully that happens at the beginning of the movie, before Charlie sets out to try and get the girl.

It was a lot of fun seeing all the other characters, too. The speed of the animation made for great comedic timing. It comes off like stop-motion animation and it’s done really well. Plus, whenever the characters have a thought bubble moment, their thoughts are shown in the original comic strip style, which I felt was a nice nod to the source material.

Some might argue that Charlie Brown and especially Snoopy had a bit too much screentime, but given that this is the first feature length Peanuts movie, I’m okay with the most recognizable characters being the focus of the movie. If all goes well, there will probably be sequels that focus more on Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, etc. Another critique I hear is that Charlie Brown actually got a happy ending when in the original comics, he would’ve ended up losing the girl but being okay with it. Honestly, though, there are times that Charlie Brown succeeds in getting what he wants, but it’s never how he planned it. The ending felt realistic to me, compared to say the Valentine’s Day special when Charlie Brown gets a kiss from the little redhaired girl and dances the night away only to end up not remembering any of it.

Kudos, btw, to Christophe Beck for contributing to the movie’s score. As a Buffy fan, I know Christophe Beck’s music all too well and it was nice that he was a part of what made each scene so memorable.

Seriously, people, go see this movie. And make sure to stick around for the credits, too. There’s one particular joke I realized wasn’t in the movie and I was about to think “huh, I can’t believe they forgot that joke” but then, in the mid-credits, there it was. The one joke no Peanuts fan ever gets tired of.

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It never gets old. And this movie won’t either. Go see it!

Peanuts is copyright to Charles Schultz. The Peanuts Movie is copyright to Blue Sky. All pictures here are used for editorial purposes only.

Gratitude Shared With Others: Gratitude Bible Study Day 6

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

Remember how I’ve been saying how gratitude starts from within and works its way outside of ourselves? This is where we start looking outside of ourselves for gratitude.

Today’s passages are guidelines that instructs us on how we ought to behave towards others. It’s one thing to have an appreciation for the world and for ourselves, but how can we be grateful for other people, especially those we don’t particularly like?

Find out here!

The Prayers of Ruth, Naomi, and the Woman at the Well

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These prayers are written in the perspectives of Ruth, Naomi, and the Woman at the Well. Dedicated to all women who are searching for something. Offer these prayers to the Lord. Know that He is listening and that he understands your desires. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”- Matthew 7:7

 

Ruth’s Prayer

This is my prayer to a God that I don’t really know.

I am on a journey.

Protect me and guide me as I find my way.

Help me to always care for my family to the best of my abilities.

Lead me to where I can find work and food.

Shelter me in a warm and loving home.

And if it is Your will,

Renew my heart so that it may be open to receive new love.

Be with me as I work and provide and care.

Open my ears so that I can understand what I don’t know.

My heart is heavy at the losses I’ve endured

and yet I want to embrace this new chapter of my life,

so I praise you Lord and thank You for this second chance

and the blessings that will come my way in the future.

Amen

 

Naomi’s Prayer

Lord, I am bitter.

I’m angry.

I’m hurt.

You’ve taken so much. So what more can you give?

My heart was filled with sweetness, joy, and delight.

I led a wonderful, pleasant, and lovely life.

Now here I am, stripped of my identity.

I know no longer what makes me “me.”

I feel as though You’ve slapped me in the face.

Is this my wake up call or some peculiar grace?

I have never felt so alone.

Nor have You ever felt so far away.

Let me get back to where I once belonged.

Take this pain away from my heart.

With this prayer, I plant the seeds of my faith.

I ask You, Lord, to let them grow like fields of barley.

Be my kindman-redeemer and rescue me from this hurt.

Let this new life restore and renew me.

Amen

 

The Prayer of the Woman at the Well

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

I feel so thirsty and dry.

I am an outcast amongst my peers.

Too many men have come and gone in my life

and still, I feel unfulfilled by them.

I am seeking love, never satisfied at what I find.

Always yearning, thirsting for more.

I thirst and hunger for something I can’t name.

Will I ever be satisfied?

Help me to understand this longing.

The pain weighs as heavy as the noonday sun.

My chest carries an empty jar of a heart.

Lead me to the waters  of your wisdom, O God,

that I may learn how to truly live again.

Amen.

Gratitude For All the Small Things: Gratitude Bible Study Day 4

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

We have a lot of blessings in our lives that we tend to overlook. Even the daily annoyances we endure have are opportunities for us to gain more of God’s grace. We may not know what the overall purpose for everything is right now, but I’m the kind of person who likes to believe that there’s always something to be learned every day and that everything happens for a greater good.

 

Read the rest here!

Forgiveness: Doing the Unimaginable

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We have a lot of concepts of what forgiveness is and how it’s supposed to be done. When I was out with my friends yesterday, I passed by a woman who reminded me of someone who hurt me deeply.

 

Back when I was in college, I had my first anxiety attack when I was presenting my writings in a class. The lady who triggered the anxiety attack showed no compassion towards me and thought that I would never become a good writer or amount to anything. I used to have nightmares of her and whenever I ran into her on campus, I either ran away or froze completely, waiting until she left the room in order to breathe again.

 

I’m not sure if the woman I saw last night was the same woman who caused my first anxiety attack or some doppelganger of hers but as I went home, I thought to myself “How would I feel if it actually was her?” The answer was “Nothing.” Never have I ever thought that feeling nothing towards a person would ever be a good thing, but in this scenario, it’s a major milestone.

 

I’ve mentioned before that when I venerated the relics of St. Maria Goretti, I said a prayer of forgiveness towards those who’ve hurt me and asked the saint to help me forgive myself as well.

 

There’s this song from Hamilton called “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Some of the lyrics in this song reminded me of how I felt when I was dealing with my anxiety, specifically the idea of dealing with and trying to do the unimaginable. One one of these unimaginable things is forgiveness. As Giles said in Buffy Season 2’s “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s-it’s… it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” And, of course, there’s also this song:

 

I used to dream of the day when I would be a successful, bestselling writer and finally get revenge on the woman who caused my first anxiety attack. But now, this peace that I feel, the fact that I can look her in the eye and feel absolutely nothing at all is better than revenge. It’s a release. It’s a new kind of strength. And it’s a very beautiful thing.

 

I know that for some of you, forgiveness seems like such an unimaginable concept. It’s a lot to work though, especially if someone hurts you so much, it damages your mind, heart and soul. It’s okay to feel angry, hurt, and afraid. But at some point, you need to let go of all of that. Forgiveness isn’t about pretending that nothing happened. It’s more like acknowledging that you’ve grown past that hurt and have healed from it. It means releasing the emotional power that the anger, hurt, and anxiety had over you. It also means that the person who caused that hurt can’t trigger that pain anymore.

 

Forgiveness is a process. I don’t know if I feel this same peace when I think about others who’ve hurt me, but I’ve already let go of at least two people who’ve caused me pain in the past. It will be a great day when I realize that I’ve let go of all that hurt. But for now, the fact that I’ve finally overcome one of my worst experiences is enough for me.