Monday, February 16, 2015

Finding Comfort in Jeremiah 29:11



This year, I will have lived in Arkansas for just as long (maybe a little longer) than I lived in Tennessee. Now, if anyone asks me where I'm from, I say "Springdale, Arkansas." A few short years ago I would've said, "Union City, Tennessee." When I think of my childhood, I think of flat fields of corn, purple and gold tornadoes, horseback riding lessons, church camp, the Capitol Theater, and riding my bike from one end of town to the other (you can do that when you live in a town the size of Union City). I think of being the shy, scared little girl at coach pitch softball practice who got hit with a bat and was ready to quit on day one, but didn't because another, less shy, little girl asked me to stay; an action that formed a friendship that would one day make memories of my childhood that much sweeter. I think of youth group at Second Baptist Church and living in a neighborhood where I knew every single person. I think of going swimming in the Hopkins' pool, because we were always welcome even if they weren't home. I think of Mrs. Shelia brownies (still the best), pretending to be a mermaid, the Eastside Elementary spring play, and riding around on four wheelers. 

I remember the day when my parents sat me down and told me we were moving to Arkansas. I was a 14 year old freshman in high school. I was a cheerleader who also played french horn in the symphonic band; I was very involved in my church youth group as well as our local theater; I had more friends than I knew what to do with. The thought of moving was devastating. Union City was all I had ever really known. My town was small, but it was mine. I could walk out my front door and in literally every house I saw there was someone I knew. It was safe. It was comfortable. And if you know me, you know that I have issues with getting out of my comfort zone. I was also pretty sure that Arkansas was just full of ignorant hicks. (It's not, by the way.)

When my family got here, just a few too-short months after my parents had sat me down, I wasn't happy. I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I didn't make an effort to meet anyone. I think my dad may have been close to scheduling my appointment with a therapist (OK not really, but he was worried). 

I got better. I made friends. I joined choir at school, I got involved in church youth group again. I graduated high school, went to college, made more friends, met the man who would be my husband and now I have a job I love.

My favorite verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I lost faith in that verse 10 years ago. I wasn't sure what the plan was and I didn't believe there would be any situation where I was better off or happier than I was in Tennessee. I was so wrong. It wasn't the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. At that point in my life, I believed I was smarter than God. I believed I knew more than him about how to live my life. I didn't trust him. Despite my lack of trust, he still had a plan. I don't know where I would be if we had stayed in Tennessee, but I know I wouldn't be with Jake. I wouldn't have the job I have now with the most fun group of teachers you could ever meet. I wouldn't have met the people who are now my friends. 

I'm not trying to be melodramatic. I'm sure everything would've turned out fine in Tennessee, but it's comforting to me to think about the fact that this event that seemed so terrible, this change in my life that I thought would be the end of everything good was just the hand of God placing me exactly where I needed to be. He has a habit of placing people exactly where he wants them. He placed Moses in Pharaoh's palace to prepare him to free the Israelites. He placed Joseph in jail for a crime he didn't commit so that he could predict a famine in time to stockpile resources that would save thousands of lives. He placed Esther in the palace so she could gain the favor of the Persian king, which enabled her to save her people from genocide. He placed Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem so that one of the many prophecies about the Messiah could be fulfilled.

But it wasn't just the big players that God cares about. He also placed the woman with a bleeding disorder exactly where Jesus was walking that day so that she could be healed. He placed the widow in close enough proximity to Christ that he was able to raise her son from the dead and save her from a life of loneliness and destitution. He cares about the little people who don't have their names written in history. He cares about our little hurts and worries. He knows our hearts and our deepest desires more than we do. He won't always save us or make our lives easier. He won't always spare us the hurt and the pain, but he will always be watching us. He will always know the innermost workings of our hearts and our minds. He will always love us more than we know. And he will always, always have a plan. We can't see it and sometimes it feels like he doesn't care or notice, but he does. I'm not trying to understand it or explain it; I just want to draw comfort from the knowledge that He is sovereign and I am under his wing. No matter how many times I run out from under that wing or how often I feel like the protection is gone, it's not. Hindsight is 20/20, and there's no way I could have known then how things would turn out now. 

There will be times in the future when I don't understand why things are happening or how it could possibly turn out for the better. But right now I am comforted by how little I know and how sovereign and all-knowing the God of the universe is. 

Finding Comfort in Jeremiah 29:11



This year, I will have lived in Arkansas for just as long (maybe a little longer) than I lived in Tennessee. Now, if anyone asks me where I'm from, I say "Springdale, Arkansas." A few short years ago I would've said, "Union City, Tennessee." When I think of my childhood, I think of flat fields of corn, purple and gold tornadoes, horseback riding lessons, church camp, the Capitol Theater, and riding my bike from one end of town to the other (you can do that when you live in a town the size of Union City). I think of being the shy, scared little girl at coach pitch softball practice who got hit with a bat and was ready to quit on day one, but didn't because another, less shy, little girl asked me to stay; an action that formed a friendship that would one day make memories of my childhood that much sweeter. I think of youth group at Second Baptist Church and living in a neighborhood where I knew every single person. I think of going swimming in the Hopkins' pool, because we were always welcome even if they weren't home. I think of Mrs. Shelia brownies (still the best), pretending to be a mermaid, the Eastside Elementary spring play, and riding around on four wheelers. 

I remember the day when my parents sat me down and told me we were moving to Arkansas. I was a 14 year old freshman in high school. I was a cheerleader who also played french horn in the symphonic band; I was very involved in my church youth group as well as our local theater; I had more friends than I knew what to do with. The thought of moving was devastating. Union City was all I had ever really known. My town was small, but it was mine. I could walk out my front door and in literally every house I saw there was someone I knew. It was safe. It was comfortable. And if you know me, you know that I have issues with getting out of my comfort zone. I was also pretty sure that Arkansas was just full of ignorant hicks. (It's not, by the way.)

When my family got here, just a few too-short months after my parents had sat me down, I wasn't happy. I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I didn't make an effort to meet anyone. I think my dad may have been close to scheduling my appointment with a therapist (OK not really, but he was worried). 

I got better. I made friends. I joined choir at school, I got involved in church youth group again. I graduated high school, went to college, made more friends, met the man who would be my husband and now I have a job I love.

My favorite verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I lost faith in that verse 10 years ago. I wasn't sure what the plan was and I didn't believe there would be any situation where I was better off or happier than I was in Tennessee. I was so wrong. It wasn't the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. At that point in my life, I believed I was smarter than God. I believed I knew more than him about how to live my life. I didn't trust him. Despite my lack of trust, he still had a plan. I don't know where I would be if we had stayed in Tennessee, but I know I wouldn't be with Jake. I wouldn't have the job I have now with the most fun group of teachers you could ever meet. I wouldn't have met the people who are now my friends. 

I'm not trying to be melodramatic. I'm sure everything would've turned out fine in Tennessee, but it's comforting to me to think about the fact that this event that seemed so terrible, this change in my life that I thought would be the end of everything good was just the hand of God placing me exactly where I needed to be. He has a habit of placing people exactly where he wants them. He placed Moses in Pharaoh's palace to prepare him to free the Israelites. He placed Joseph in jail for a crime he didn't commit so that he could predict a famine in time to stockpile resources that would save thousands of lives. He placed Esther in the palace so she could gain the favor of the Persian king, which enabled her to save her people from genocide. He placed Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem so that one of the many prophecies about the Messiah could be fulfilled.

But it wasn't just the big players that God cares about. He also placed the woman with a bleeding disorder exactly where Jesus was walking that day so that she could be healed. He placed the widow in close enough proximity to Christ that he was able to raise her son from the dead and save her from a life of loneliness and destitution. He cares about the little people who don't have their names written in history. He cares about our little hurts and worries. He knows our hearts and our deepest desires more than we do. He won't always save us or make our lives easier. He won't always spare us the hurt and the pain, but he will always be watching us. He will always know the innermost workings of our hearts and our minds. He will always love us more than we know. And he will always, always have a plan. We can't see it and sometimes it feels like he doesn't care or notice, but he does. I'm not trying to understand it or explain it; I just want to draw comfort from the knowledge that He is sovereign and I am under his wing. No matter how many times I run out from under that wing or how often I feel like the protection is gone, it's not. Hindsight is 20/20, and there's no way I could have known then how things would turn out now. 

There will be times in the future when I don't understand why things are happening or how it could possibly turn out for the better. But right now I am comforted by how little I know and how sovereign and all-knowing the God of the universe is. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

My Issues with 50 Shades



Back in July of 2012 I wrote a post called "50 Shades of Magic Who?" So far, it has been my most popular post. It has double the pageviews of any other post on this blog. I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this post, considering the movie is coming out next week (ironically, on my birthday). There is so much hype about this movie. It seems like every blogger on the internet has posted something about the phenomenon. I found one blog that is dedicated simply to posting clips, teasers, and a countdown to the movie. I've found even more blogs criticizing the franchise. I hate to beat a dead horse, but my feelings on 50 Shades of Grey have not changed in the last 2 years. In fact, I would almost say I'm more critical of it now that I'm married. 

I know a lot of people will read this who disagree. I'm alright with that. It doesn't bother me if you're one of those people who loved the book and can't wait to see the movie. I'm not judging you, and what you enjoy is what you enjoy regardless of my opinions. My biggest problem is simply that I don't understand the hype. What would I gain by joining the 50 Shades of Grey fandom? All I see are negatives. 

It amazes me that the feminist movement is growing at the same time as this franchise. Those two ideologies seem contradictory to me. If you support the feminist movement, how is the idea of a wealthy, attractive playboy physically dominating a young woman considered appropriate? It's hypocritical. 
Women have made such huge strides in the last several decades. Emma Watson's #HeForShe campaign has gained millions of supporters. And yet how many of those women who demand equal pay and treatment are also supporting the idea of complete sadism and misogyny? 

I wrote a post a while back called "The Beauty in Submission" that was about how the bible calls for wives to submit to their husbands. I pointed out that this doesn't mean a marriage isn't equal and decisions aren't to be made together. I pointed out that this doesn't trump the idea that marriage is a partnership. Biblical submission in a marriage is a bit of a paradox. Men are called to be the head of the family, but in the image of Christ. They are called to lay down their lives for their wives the way Christ laid down his life for the church. The bible never condones men treating women any way other than purely and lovingly. In spite of this, I still received some negative feedback about how women are equal and men aren't meant to always be in control. I don't bring this up to say that the feedback was bad; I appreciate the good and the bad feedback and I try to use it to improve my writing. My point is this, the same women who scoff at the word "submission" are the women who become giddy and excited at the thought of Christian Grey. 
Do we not realize that the main character's obsession with domination completely contradicts our insistence that women deserved to be treated equally; that we deserve to be in charge and in control of our own lives, careers, and relationships? We trick ourselves into thinking the novel supports feminism because it refers to a woman's "inner goddess," but the truth is that the themes of the novel couldn't be more sexist. It is about a woman who is completely controlled by a man who has more power and influence than she has. He controls what she does, where she goes, who she sees, what she is allowed to say, what she eats

I don't know about you, but the last boyfriend I had who tried to tell me how to eat got dumped. (But not until after I, very gracefully, shoved an entire handful of Ritz Bitz with cheese in my mouth out of defiance. It was very ladylike. Mom would be proud.) 

If we take things back to the biblical perspective, Ephesians 5:21-33 calls husbands and wives to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (v. 1). Paul tells wives to "submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord" and he tells husbands to "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy . . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (v. 21-28). A man who loves his wife as Christ loved the church and who desires to view his wife as holy and blameless is not a man who gets off on dominating and abusing her. A man who loves his wife as he loves himself is not a man who desires complete control and compliance to his every whim.

The issue I have with Christian and Ana isn't necessarily the sex, it's the fact that their relationship and sex life are abusive. The language in the novel doesn't even do a good job of hiding this. Intentionally or not, James has created a entourage that not only condones, but celebrates this abusive and domineering relationship. To me, this sounds like a novel about socially acceptable domestic abuse, which is highly anti-feminist. 

In addition to all of this. . .

I'm an English teacher, so I have a great appreciation for literature and the written word. I am absolutely against censorship and banning books. This post isn't about eradicating 50 Shades of Grey, it's about why I dislike it. Obviously, as a lover of literature, I also have opinions about literature.
I haven't read the books, but I've read quotes, excerpts, and reviews. So, I feel like I can say this with at least a modicum of knowledge to support my opinion.

These novels are not written well.

50 Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like college-level literature. Seriously. I found one blog that stated it so much better than I can, "This is some very, very stupid material. It reads like a thesaurus procreated with a script from a soft core porn and then the baby fell into a vat of Lifetime Channel DVDs" (http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/07/25/women-america-4-reasons-hate-50-shades-grey/2/#KjCKJtUbGmrmEo4g.99). 
I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook that she was going to give in and finally read the book before the movie came out. Most of the comments on her post said exactly the same thing; one even compared the novel to a bad Lifetime original movie. 
I've never claimed to be an incredibly intelligent person, but I do believe it would be an insult to what little intelligence I have to claim these novels as decent literature.

And finally, Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
There is nothing true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable about 50 Shades of Grey

My Issues with 50 Shades



Back in July of 2012 I wrote a post called "50 Shades of Magic Who?" So far, it has been my most popular post. It has double the pageviews of any other post on this blog. I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this post, considering the movie is coming out next week (ironically, on my birthday). There is so much hype about this movie. It seems like every blogger on the internet has posted something about the phenomenon. I found one blog that is dedicated simply to posting clips, teasers, and a countdown to the movie. I've found even more blogs criticizing the franchise. I hate to beat a dead horse, but my feelings on 50 Shades of Grey have not changed in the last 2 years. In fact, I would almost say I'm more critical of it now that I'm married. 

I know a lot of people will read this who disagree. I'm alright with that. It doesn't bother me if you're one of those people who loved the book and can't wait to see the movie. I'm not judging you, and what you enjoy is what you enjoy regardless of my opinions. My biggest problem is simply that I don't understand the hype. What would I gain by joining the 50 Shades of Grey fandom? All I see are negatives. 

It amazes me that the feminist movement is growing at the same time as this franchise. Those two ideologies seem contradictory to me. If you support the feminist movement, how is the idea of a wealthy, attractive playboy physically dominating a young woman considered appropriate? It's hypocritical. 
Women have made such huge strides in the last several decades. Emma Watson's #HeForShe campaign has gained millions of supporters. And yet how many of those women who demand equal pay and treatment are also supporting the idea of complete sadism and misogyny? 

I wrote a post a while back called "The Beauty in Submission" that was about how the bible calls for wives to submit to their husbands. I pointed out that this doesn't mean a marriage isn't equal and decisions aren't to be made together. I pointed out that this doesn't trump the idea that marriage is a partnership. Biblical submission in a marriage is a bit of a paradox. Men are called to be the head of the family, but in the image of Christ. They are called to lay down their lives for their wives the way Christ laid down his life for the church. The bible never condones men treating women any way other than purely and lovingly. In spite of this, I still received some negative feedback about how women are equal and men aren't meant to always be in control. I don't bring this up to say that the feedback was bad; I appreciate the good and the bad feedback and I try to use it to improve my writing. My point is this, the same women who scoff at the word "submission" are the women who become giddy and excited at the thought of Christian Grey. 
Do we not realize that the main character's obsession with domination completely contradicts our insistence that women deserved to be treated equally; that we deserve to be in charge and in control of our own lives, careers, and relationships? We trick ourselves into thinking the novel supports feminism because it refers to a woman's "inner goddess," but the truth is that the themes of the novel couldn't be more sexist. It is about a woman who is completely controlled by a man who has more power and influence than she has. He controls what she does, where she goes, who she sees, what she is allowed to say, what she eats

I don't know about you, but the last boyfriend I had who tried to tell me how to eat got dumped. (But not until after I, very gracefully, shoved an entire handful of Ritz Bitz with cheese in my mouth out of defiance. It was very ladylike. Mom would be proud.) 

If we take things back to the biblical perspective, Ephesians 5:21-33 calls husbands and wives to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (v. 1). Paul tells wives to "submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord" and he tells husbands to "love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy . . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (v. 21-28). A man who loves his wife as Christ loved the church and who desires to view his wife as holy and blameless is not a man who gets off on dominating and abusing her. A man who loves his wife as he loves himself is not a man who desires complete control and compliance to his every whim.

The issue I have with Christian and Ana isn't necessarily the sex, it's the fact that their relationship and sex life are abusive. The language in the novel doesn't even do a good job of hiding this. Intentionally or not, James has created a entourage that not only condones, but celebrates this abusive and domineering relationship. To me, this sounds like a novel about socially acceptable domestic abuse, which is highly anti-feminist. 

In addition to all of this. . .

I'm an English teacher, so I have a great appreciation for literature and the written word. I am absolutely against censorship and banning books. This post isn't about eradicating 50 Shades of Grey, it's about why I dislike it. Obviously, as a lover of literature, I also have opinions about literature.
I haven't read the books, but I've read quotes, excerpts, and reviews. So, I feel like I can say this with at least a modicum of knowledge to support my opinion.

These novels are not written well.

50 Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like college-level literature. Seriously. I found one blog that stated it so much better than I can, "This is some very, very stupid material. It reads like a thesaurus procreated with a script from a soft core porn and then the baby fell into a vat of Lifetime Channel DVDs" (http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/07/25/women-america-4-reasons-hate-50-shades-grey/2/#KjCKJtUbGmrmEo4g.99). 
I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook that she was going to give in and finally read the book before the movie came out. Most of the comments on her post said exactly the same thing; one even compared the novel to a bad Lifetime original movie. 
I've never claimed to be an incredibly intelligent person, but I do believe it would be an insult to what little intelligence I have to claim these novels as decent literature.

And finally, Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
There is nothing true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable about 50 Shades of Grey

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Favorite Literary Protagonists

If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge book nerd. Reading is my escape and it is my passion. It's an odd passion, but I'll claim it just the same. I love immersing myself into a novel and getting lost in the characters and their lives. It is almost impossible for me to pick a favorite book, but when I think about the books that have made the biggest impression on my life, there are 5 characters who stand out. The order I've listed these characters by no means reflects the importance of each one. These are all characters that, as a reader, I have grown to love. These are the characters I want to introduce my future children to and they are the characters I want to introduce my students to. 

1. Harry Potter

If my husband is reading this, he is rolling his eyes. Pretty much every person in my life knows how much I love Harry Potter. I could write an entire post about just the characters from this series. Each one, whether protagonist or antagonist, has a different lesson to teach readers. JK Rowling has a talent for creating a bond between her readers and her characters.
From Harry, I learned that courage doesn't mean you aren't scared. Being afraid is sometimes one of the indicators of courage. Courage simply implies that you face your fears. Sometimes courage comes from within ourselves, and sometimes we get it from others. It doesn't matter where we get our courage, all that matters is that we don't run away and hide.
As cheesy as it sounds, Harry teaches us that sometimes, the only difference between good and evil is love. Love and compassion for others is what can keep us from crossing the line from integrity and righteousness to selfishness and sin. When we are concerned for the welfare of someone other than ourselves, we are much more careful about the way we live our lives. Harry had a family in Ron and Hermione, as well as so many others (Hagrid, the Weasley's, Remus, Sirius, Dumbledore...). Everything he did, he did while thinking of each of them and how his actions would affect them. I love my husband; therefore, I would never consciously do anything that would upset or hurt him. When we think of others before ourselves, we tend to be much better people. 
Harry also teaches us that a troubled childhood, while damaging and always worthy of our pity, is not an excuse for bad behavior. He shows us that we each have the power to take control of our own lives. We control our own integrity. We have to take responsibility for our actions. It doesn't do any good to blame others for our failures and our shortcomings. Mistakes will happen, we won't always make the right decisions, but we can use those mistakes as lessons so that we don't make them again in the future.

2. Jane Eyre

The Bronte sisters were relatively revolutionary for their time. Their novels pushed social boundaries and questioned roles in society, especially women's roles. Jane Eyre's beginnings were actually very similar to Harry Potter's. She grew up in a home where she was unloved and unwanted. She was shipped off to a boarding school where the students were treated unfairly. In spite of all this, she managed to take her life into her own hands and find a better situation for herself. 
But the most incredible thing about Jane Eyre, in my opinion, is that she put her integrity and her faith above all else. She fell in love with a man who adored her, and circumstances were such that, had she continued in her relationship with Mr. Rochester, she would have had to compromise her morals, her integrity, her dignity, and her faith.  She literally fled from temptation. She left with nothing and had nowhere to go. She relied on God to take care of her, and He did. 
Jane Eyre taught me that God takes care of those who trust and follow him. His timing is perfect, and his ways are not our ways. We can't see everything He can see, and He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. In the end, He made a way for Jane Eyre to be with the man she loved without compromising her integrity, and He showed her how to make a difference with her life. She did what she knew was right instead of what she wanted to do, and at first it didn't seem to pay off, but in the long run her faith is what saved her.

3. Jo March

Each of the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is worth getting to know, but Jo is my favorite. Jo didn't care what anyone thought about her. She was unique. She believed in the power of family, faith, and the written word. She had a passion to be a writer and she didn't let anything deter her from that passion. No matter what obstacles were placed in her path, she managed to find a way to eradicate them. 
Jo was selfless when it came to her family. She would have done anything for her sisters, her mother and father, and her best friend Laurie.  She was rough around the edges and had trouble with tact (which I can relate to). She spoke her mind and didn't really think before she opened her mouth (again...I can relate). 
She was flawed. She was passionate. She was opinionated. She was fierce. She stood up for herself and those she loved. When she fell, she got back up again. She was persistent and determined. She made mistakes and wasn't afraid to admit those mistakes. She was impulsive. She was honest. She was everything I want to teach my daughter to be, if I end up having a daughter one day. 
Jo March is the heroine that I wish every girl who idolizes Bella Swan would become familiar with. Jo didn't sit around waiting for things; for a man, for her life to start. She got up and did something. She wasn't content sitting still. She needed to be proactive, no matter the situation. Jo didn't wallow in self pity, and she didn't find her identity in a boy. She was proud of who she was and didn't need a sparkly vampire (my euphemism for boyfriend) in order to be happy or feel like she was worth something. 
Jo March was independent and she was comfortable in her own skin, which is something not many girls can claim anymore.

4. Hadassah

This is where things start to get a little more obscure. Everyone has heard of Harry Potter, and most everyone in the literate world has heard of Little Women, and Jane Eyre. Not as many people have heard of The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. This is a trilogy consisting of A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as the Dawn. Each of the 3 novels in this trilogy centers around a different main character and all the characters' stories intertwine. Most people who have read the series would agree that the character who leaves the biggest impression is Hadassah. The first novel is centered around Hadassah. She lives in Rome, a few decades after the crucifixion of Christ, not long before the fall of the Roman Empire. She is a Jewish slave in the household of an affluent Roman family. In the novel, she changes the life of every person she touches. 
Hadassah is a servant, not just as a profession, but as a lifestyle. She is a slave, yes, but she has a servant's heart. She is as self-sacrificing as it gets, and is a perfect example of the kind of love Christians should have for others, whether believers or not. 
Hadassah is innocent. She goes above and beyond what is required of her in her duties as a slave. She loves those who own her, and most of the members of the family love her in return simply because her meek, self-sacrificing, humble attitude makes it almost impossible for anyone not to love and respect her. She puts her faith in Christ above everything else in her life, and at this point in time that was a very dangerous thing. She wins people around her over to Christ through her love and compassion, instead of judgement.
Hadassah never judges anyone. Her heart breaks for the people around her and she devotes her life to making others' lives better. She is unfailingly honest, even though the truth ends up putting her in the arena. 
The most astonishing thing about Hadassah is the way she loves. It is easy for us to love those who love us in return, but Hadassah loves everyone. She serves a girl named Julia who abuses her, who hates her for her purity and is jealous of her integrity and dignity. In spite of all this, Hadassah loves Julia. Her heart breaks for Julia and the poor decisions she makes. Hadassah does everything in her power to tug on Julia's heartstrings and to help her realize how dangerous her choices are. 
Hadassah is everything I want to be and everything I am not. I am not humble or meek or self-sacrificing. Yet I know that is what the bible calls me to be. I wish every Christian were familiar with Hadassah and how she won people over to Christ. She didn't judge or accuse; she didn't threaten with the prospect of Hell. She loved.

5. Peeta Mellark

I realize I may have just shocked you a little bit. How can I write a post about literary characters, talk about The Hunger Games, and not use Katniss Everdeen as my example? Here's what I think. Katniss gets all the attention. Katniss is famous, both in the world of Panem and in our world. I think Peeta is too often overlooked. 
Katniss is forced into being the symbol of hope for the revolution. She goes into the Hunger Games thinking of nothing but returning home to her sister alive. She doesn't want to make a political statement. In fact, when she realizes that's what she's inadvertently done she immediately tries to do everything in her power to take it back. That doesn't make her any less of a hero, because she steps up to the plate when she's needed and she overcomes the challenges she faces. She is absolutely a heroine worth looking up to. 
However, Peeta tries to make a difference from the start. He doesn't expect to live, and so he goes into the games trying to hold on to some dignity that the Capitol has taken away from him. He doesn't have the skill that Katniss has, but he has twice the courage. He isn't afraid to make a statement if he feels that a statement needs to be made. He is selfless, and is there for Katniss even when she doesn't return the feelings he has for her. He makes sacrifices for Katniss years before the games even begin. He could easily be jealous of Gale but he's not. Quite the contrary, he cares about Gale and does his best to help Gale when he is whipped in the second novel. 
Everything Peeta does is to help others. At first, Katniss doesn't understand Peeta's motivation for the good things he does. She only understands actions committed in order to gain the upper hand. Peeta is nice for the sake of being nice, which is something that is alien and unfamiliar to Katniss. Peeta teaches Katniss the power of being a genuinely good person. He gives her the courage to be the Mockingjay. Katniss wouldn't be the heroine she is without Peeta.

It's been hard for me to narrow down this list to only 5 characters. I feel like I could devote an entire blog just to discussing and analyzing characters from all of my favorite novels. I'm sure there will be more blog posts from me in the future that center around books I've read. Leave comments, don't be afraid to let me know what you think. 

My Favorite Literary Protagonists

If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge book nerd. Reading is my escape and it is my passion. It's an odd passion, but I'll claim it just the same. I love immersing myself into a novel and getting lost in the characters and their lives. It is almost impossible for me to pick a favorite book, but when I think about the books that have made the biggest impression on my life, there are 5 characters who stand out. The order I've listed these characters by no means reflects the importance of each one. These are all characters that, as a reader, I have grown to love. These are the characters I want to introduce my future children to and they are the characters I want to introduce my students to. 

1. Harry Potter

If my husband is reading this, he is rolling his eyes. Pretty much every person in my life knows how much I love Harry Potter. I could write an entire post about just the characters from this series. Each one, whether protagonist or antagonist, has a different lesson to teach readers. JK Rowling has a talent for creating a bond between her readers and her characters.
From Harry, I learned that courage doesn't mean you aren't scared. Being afraid is sometimes one of the indicators of courage. Courage simply implies that you face your fears. Sometimes courage comes from within ourselves, and sometimes we get it from others. It doesn't matter where we get our courage, all that matters is that we don't run away and hide.
As cheesy as it sounds, Harry teaches us that sometimes, the only difference between good and evil is love. Love and compassion for others is what can keep us from crossing the line from integrity and righteousness to selfishness and sin. When we are concerned for the welfare of someone other than ourselves, we are much more careful about the way we live our lives. Harry had a family in Ron and Hermione, as well as so many others (Hagrid, the Weasley's, Remus, Sirius, Dumbledore...). Everything he did, he did while thinking of each of them and how his actions would affect them. I love my husband; therefore, I would never consciously do anything that would upset or hurt him. When we think of others before ourselves, we tend to be much better people. 
Harry also teaches us that a troubled childhood, while damaging and always worthy of our pity, is not an excuse for bad behavior. He shows us that we each have the power to take control of our own lives. We control our own integrity. We have to take responsibility for our actions. It doesn't do any good to blame others for our failures and our shortcomings. Mistakes will happen, we won't always make the right decisions, but we can use those mistakes as lessons so that we don't make them again in the future.

2. Jane Eyre

The Bronte sisters were relatively revolutionary for their time. Their novels pushed social boundaries and questioned roles in society, especially women's roles. Jane Eyre's beginnings were actually very similar to Harry Potter's. She grew up in a home where she was unloved and unwanted. She was shipped off to a boarding school where the students were treated unfairly. In spite of all this, she managed to take her life into her own hands and find a better situation for herself. 
But the most incredible thing about Jane Eyre, in my opinion, is that she put her integrity and her faith above all else. She fell in love with a man who adored her, and circumstances were such that, had she continued in her relationship with Mr. Rochester, she would have had to compromise her morals, her integrity, her dignity, and her faith.  She literally fled from temptation. She left with nothing and had nowhere to go. She relied on God to take care of her, and He did. 
Jane Eyre taught me that God takes care of those who trust and follow him. His timing is perfect, and his ways are not our ways. We can't see everything He can see, and He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. In the end, He made a way for Jane Eyre to be with the man she loved without compromising her integrity, and He showed her how to make a difference with her life. She did what she knew was right instead of what she wanted to do, and at first it didn't seem to pay off, but in the long run her faith is what saved her.

3. Jo March

Each of the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is worth getting to know, but Jo is my favorite. Jo didn't care what anyone thought about her. She was unique. She believed in the power of family, faith, and the written word. She had a passion to be a writer and she didn't let anything deter her from that passion. No matter what obstacles were placed in her path, she managed to find a way to eradicate them. 
Jo was selfless when it came to her family. She would have done anything for her sisters, her mother and father, and her best friend Laurie.  She was rough around the edges and had trouble with tact (which I can relate to). She spoke her mind and didn't really think before she opened her mouth (again...I can relate). 
She was flawed. She was passionate. She was opinionated. She was fierce. She stood up for herself and those she loved. When she fell, she got back up again. She was persistent and determined. She made mistakes and wasn't afraid to admit those mistakes. She was impulsive. She was honest. She was everything I want to teach my daughter to be, if I end up having a daughter one day. 
Jo March is the heroine that I wish every girl who idolizes Bella Swan would become familiar with. Jo didn't sit around waiting for things; for a man, for her life to start. She got up and did something. She wasn't content sitting still. She needed to be proactive, no matter the situation. Jo didn't wallow in self pity, and she didn't find her identity in a boy. She was proud of who she was and didn't need a sparkly vampire (my euphemism for boyfriend) in order to be happy or feel like she was worth something. 
Jo March was independent and she was comfortable in her own skin, which is something not many girls can claim anymore.

4. Hadassah

This is where things start to get a little more obscure. Everyone has heard of Harry Potter, and most everyone in the literate world has heard of Little Women, and Jane Eyre. Not as many people have heard of The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. This is a trilogy consisting of A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as the Dawn. Each of the 3 novels in this trilogy centers around a different main character and all the characters' stories intertwine. Most people who have read the series would agree that the character who leaves the biggest impression is Hadassah. The first novel is centered around Hadassah. She lives in Rome, a few decades after the crucifixion of Christ, not long before the fall of the Roman Empire. She is a Jewish slave in the household of an affluent Roman family. In the novel, she changes the life of every person she touches. 
Hadassah is a servant, not just as a profession, but as a lifestyle. She is a slave, yes, but she has a servant's heart. She is as self-sacrificing as it gets, and is a perfect example of the kind of love Christians should have for others, whether believers or not. 
Hadassah is innocent. She goes above and beyond what is required of her in her duties as a slave. She loves those who own her, and most of the members of the family love her in return simply because her meek, self-sacrificing, humble attitude makes it almost impossible for anyone not to love and respect her. She puts her faith in Christ above everything else in her life, and at this point in time that was a very dangerous thing. She wins people around her over to Christ through her love and compassion, instead of judgement.
Hadassah never judges anyone. Her heart breaks for the people around her and she devotes her life to making others' lives better. She is unfailingly honest, even though the truth ends up putting her in the arena. 
The most astonishing thing about Hadassah is the way she loves. It is easy for us to love those who love us in return, but Hadassah loves everyone. She serves a girl named Julia who abuses her, who hates her for her purity and is jealous of her integrity and dignity. In spite of all this, Hadassah loves Julia. Her heart breaks for Julia and the poor decisions she makes. Hadassah does everything in her power to tug on Julia's heartstrings and to help her realize how dangerous her choices are. 
Hadassah is everything I want to be and everything I am not. I am not humble or meek or self-sacrificing. Yet I know that is what the bible calls me to be. I wish every Christian were familiar with Hadassah and how she won people over to Christ. She didn't judge or accuse; she didn't threaten with the prospect of Hell. She loved.

5. Peeta Mellark

I realize I may have just shocked you a little bit. How can I write a post about literary characters, talk about The Hunger Games, and not use Katniss Everdeen as my example? Here's what I think. Katniss gets all the attention. Katniss is famous, both in the world of Panem and in our world. I think Peeta is too often overlooked. 
Katniss is forced into being the symbol of hope for the revolution. She goes into the Hunger Games thinking of nothing but returning home to her sister alive. She doesn't want to make a political statement. In fact, when she realizes that's what she's inadvertently done she immediately tries to do everything in her power to take it back. That doesn't make her any less of a hero, because she steps up to the plate when she's needed and she overcomes the challenges she faces. She is absolutely a heroine worth looking up to. 
However, Peeta tries to make a difference from the start. He doesn't expect to live, and so he goes into the games trying to hold on to some dignity that the Capitol has taken away from him. He doesn't have the skill that Katniss has, but he has twice the courage. He isn't afraid to make a statement if he feels that a statement needs to be made. He is selfless, and is there for Katniss even when she doesn't return the feelings he has for her. He makes sacrifices for Katniss years before the games even begin. He could easily be jealous of Gale but he's not. Quite the contrary, he cares about Gale and does his best to help Gale when he is whipped in the second novel. 
Everything Peeta does is to help others. At first, Katniss doesn't understand Peeta's motivation for the good things he does. She only understands actions committed in order to gain the upper hand. Peeta is nice for the sake of being nice, which is something that is alien and unfamiliar to Katniss. Peeta teaches Katniss the power of being a genuinely good person. He gives her the courage to be the Mockingjay. Katniss wouldn't be the heroine she is without Peeta.

It's been hard for me to narrow down this list to only 5 characters. I feel like I could devote an entire blog just to discussing and analyzing characters from all of my favorite novels. I'm sure there will be more blog posts from me in the future that center around books I've read. Leave comments, don't be afraid to let me know what you think.