Loving

For us there is only the trying (August update)

And… it’s time for an August review! Sit back, grab a cookie, and enjoy. Here’s what to expect:

  • An update on Thomas Clarkson
  • Thoughts on life and growth
  • Piranesi! (or, I won a book)
  • My painting I mentioned back in July
  • What I’ve been reading lately

Thomas Clarkson

Last time I spoke about Thomas Clarkson, I wrote about all the prayer which has gone into the project, by me and by others. This month I signed a contract to publish a Thomas Clarkson children’s biography! I am very excited, and overwhelmed by God’s kindness. Just because you’re passionate about something and put a lot of work in, doesn’t mean it will succeed… and when it does, it’s such a blessing. I spent August finishing and editing the manuscript, and it is which is now safely in the hands of my proof-readers (thank you!).

We’re always growing

August was a very busy, and at times stressful month, if I’m completely honest. Difficult assignments, surprise deadlines for various assignments all converging in the same week, some exhausting health problems (nothing major, just, well… exhausting!) and a burgeoning realisation that I’m a bit over COVID.

I’m grateful to God for his kindness, even so because although life is sometimes just plain Hard, in this season I have been able to see growth. We’re always growing of course, and God is making us more like him, but it’s one thing to know this, and quite another to see it. Lately I’ve noticed that Emily a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago, would have reacted differently. I have matured – spiritually, socially and emotionally. The difficult times in my life have brought forth golden fruit, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. Nothing is in vain.

So as my birthday draws near, and I realise (as I do every year) that I am not where I expected to be, or the person I expected to become, I take heart. Because my Father in heaven is working. Slowly, but surely, he is re-making me into his likeness. It’s painful and frustrating, and it takes too long, but it’s happening. So I wait in expectation and hope.

Piranesi

As some of you might know, I’m a huge Susanna Clarke fan. Up until this year she had only ever written one novel: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I loved it so much, and still think about it frequently. BUT she’s written another book! And I won a competition and for an advanced copy! And I loved it!

It took me a while to get into, and it’s very different to JS&MN, but it’s the sort of book which stays with you. You go on this strange, gripping journey, and you emerge with a new understanding of the world. Would strongly recommend.

“Nearer my God to Thee”

I realised that I never showed you the painting I mentioned ages ago. So, although it was finished before August… here it is:

I really like the story of the musicians on the Titanic. I admire their courage and their steadfastness. There’s something beautiful in their decision to play a hymn to comfort others, even as the ship went down.

Reading Lately

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

^ This was a lovely, heart-warming read – but what struck me most was that it was a book about healing. How often do terrible things happen to characters, only for the book to end? Or a Dark Past to be merely a plot device? That said, it’s not a book about Issues. You know, the kind which feels like it’s written so the author can tell you How Bad Drugs Are, or something. No, it’s a genuinely good book which manages to be both realistic and hilarious.

Four Quartets – T. S. Eliot

^I love Eliot’s poetry. It’s confusing and deep and absolutely beautiful. I particularly enjoyed ‘East Coker’:

“And what there is to conquer, by strength and submission, has already been discovered, once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope to emulate – but there is no competition – there is only the fight to recover what has been lost… for us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

East Coker – T. S. ELiot

Brideshead Revisited – Eugene Waugh

^ I expected not to like this… but I was pleasantly surprised. The writing is beautiful, the themes relatively thoughtful, and the subject matter interesting. For a book where not a lot happened, I couldn’t put it down!

The Wounded Healer – Henri Nouwen

^ Really interesting discussion of what it means to reach out to broken people when we ourselves are broken. I love his writing!

Othello – William Shakespeare

[watched, RSC, Youtube. Header image is from performance]

^ Talk about a tragedy. I generally prefer Shakespeare’s tragedies… but this was brutal. I think it was because, unlike Macbeth or Hamlet, there is no transcendent sort of aspect, which helps remove it from the every day (ie. no ghost, not witches, no prophecy, just evil, selfish men).

What about you? Read anything recently? How are you going with the whole COVID situation?

Images courtesy of https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/jun/12/othello-rsc-stratford-hugh-quarshie-lucian-msamati-joanna-vanderham

Hamilton! – Does your legacy matter?

[Note: My monthly ‘life’ post is due… and it will come, but enjoy this in the meantime!]

I recently (along with many others in Australia!) watched Hamilton: An American Musical when it became available online. I had heard some of the music before, but didn’t know who Alexander Hamilton was, except that he was an American and lived during the revolution. I have to admit I expected an inspirational, rags-to-riches, American Dream™ story. 

Instead I was introduced to a rather selfish, ambitious, and at times un-likeable man and his idealistic, patient wife Eliza. Alexander does Great Things, but when his life is snatched from him too early, it is his wife who ends up fulfilling his dreams. And you know what? It was just what I needed. Because I want to be an Eliza, but I know I am too often an Alexander.

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Something accidentally beautiful (July update)

Happy July! Grab some chocolate and settle in for a read. Here’s what to expect:

  • A Thomas Clarkson update
  • My review of Upright – an Australian drama
  • 1st week back at Bible College
  • What I’ve been reading lately

Prayer + Thomas Clarkson

I feel I have walked through several valleys and over several hills with Mr. Thomas Clarkson since I last wrote. I sent a proposal to a publisher; I returned to the 21st century for a week; and then I drafted the rest of the biography. I wrote an article on what I’ve learnt from his life; I fielded several emails regarding potential publication; – and I’ve prayed, and prayed and prayed.

Prayed for words and wisdom to write. Prayed for honesty and truth in my sentences. Prayed that the story would bless many, for the hearts of future readers. Prayed against my own ego. Prayed for publication. Evening and morning I’ve handed the story over to God: it is Yours, it is Yours, it is Yours!

An answer will come soon, and so I wait and pray. It is Yours.

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Upright (8 episodes of 25 mins)

‘Because sometimes… Sometimes when you make mistakes, you make something accidentally beautiful… Sometimes.’

Review

Upright is the story of how a man and a girl brought a piano from Sydney to Perth and saved each other in the process.

It’s the tale of two broken, selfish people whose eventual happy ending is a pure gift of grace. It’s set in a world of colourful, but believable characters, where every single morally grey or black decision comes with consequences and mistakes don’t come with cheap forgiveness. 

Throw in a camel, a brown-snake, a lost race-horse, an illegal boxing ring and a stolen prescription, and you only have a quarter of the shenanigans!

Lucky is (apparently) an out of luck (pun intended) musician in his 40s with a dying mother, determined to return her piano before she passes. 

Meg is (apparently) a sixteen year old on her way to reunite with her mum after her parents’ divorce. 

The thing is, neither man nor girl are who they seem, nor even who they are trying to be. Keep that in mind as you bear with Meg’s frankly appalling decision-making skills and the recurring video clip of Lucky’s mother. 

Actors

Both Tim Minchin and Millie Alcock are brilliant and I’m a sucker for ‘unlikely duo learn to trust each other and become sort-of friends’. They are equally hilarious and devastating, and really sold the story to me. 

Humour

Is this a comedy? Sort of. But it’s also deep and quirky and coming-of-age. The humour is somewhat… dry? dark? realistic? Aussie? – I’m not sure, but I personally laughed out-loud several times. 

Local alcoholic: My soul’s dying! 

Fed-up nurse: That’s ya liver, Paul!

Language

There is a lot of bad language, particularly in the first few episodes. I opted to overlook that (which I rarely do) because:

a) at 3.5 hours it’s less likely to get in my head; 

b) it seemed realistic for the characters;

c) it’s not accompanied (as it so often is) by characters getting away with immoral actions.

Where to watch

Foxtel – I got a free ten day trial, and watched it twice (When I like something… I really like something. And I really liked this!)

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First week back at Bible College

So initially I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of studying online. Now we’re exactly one week into the term however, I have to report that Zoom tutorials are a lot less exhausting than I expected them to be, and I am in love with my reading list.

I think this is what is carrying me through, really. Most of the time I feel like I am genuinely just reading for fun! I think that everyone has a ‘style’ as well as a genre of  literature which they prefer, and I am super grateful because so far most of my books are written in my preferred style (literary, musingly-philosophical reflections).

It’s interesting returning to study after six months off. For a variety of reasons I am quite different to the person who was at college at the end of last year, and for the better. Still, as I study I am trying to continue to examine my heart daily – how easy it is for me to work hard for the wrong reasons.

As I continue into this semester my prayer is that my study will change my heart and grow me in Christ-likeness, that I might love Him better and bless those around me.

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Reading Lately

Ahh, so many books! I feel so blessed.

Our Greatest Gift: A meditation on dying and caring – Henri Nouwen

^ Written in 3 weeks this is an interesting Christian reflection on how acknowledging that dying is a community act (both human and spiritual communities) can lighten the awfulness.

Death & the Caring Community – Richards & Johnson

^ While somewhat American and dated, this is a practical book full of helpful tips on caring and loving someone who is dying (and their family) as a Christian

The Vertical Self – Mark Sayers

^ A book combining western sociology and a Christian belief in holiness, this is a book which I appreciated more post-discussion with my reading buddy (you know who you are!) I think the primary problem for me was that I found some of his reflections a bit parochial and vague/absolute.

Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding

^ Yeah… this is not my type of book. I’m really not about about the romance/sex… and this book is. It was a very easy read, however.

Bleak House – Charles Dickens

^ Whoo! I finished. I’ve been reading BH since February, and being the length of 5 standard novels, it’s taken some reading. I found the 1st half slow going, but the 2nd half was an honour. Dickens’ utter delight in the English language is a thing of beauty.

The Contemplative Pastor – Eugene Peterson

^ Memoir-like reflections on his years as a pastor, if this book is about anything, it’s about living a quiet, reflective life in the presence of God. Definitely ‘my kind’ of writing style, and while there were some parts I didn’t love, I’d like to re-read and continue to ponder over it in the future.

// What have you guys been up to? Read/watched anything interesting lately?

Image courtesty of chortle.co.uk

The Lays of Ancient Rome

I’ve always been interested in how literature reflects and affects society. Perhaps that’s why I am fascinated by the Lays of Ancient Rome. On the other hand, it could just be because they sound cool.

The Lays are a collection of poems by Thomas Babington Macaulay. They are Roman ballads, set in Ancient Rome about Roman heroes, yet were written in 1842 by a Victorian gentleman.

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WHY I LIKE ‘Memory’

In primary school the music teacher showed us the musical ‘Cats’ by Arthur Lloyd Webber and Trever Nunn. I found it rather odd, to be honest, but some part of it must have stuck with me, because I ended up performing the ‘Macavity’ song as a poem at the school talent night with a friend.

It wasn’t until much later that I developed a love for the song ‘Memory’ – immortalised by Elaine Paige in the 1981 musical, and by many artists afterwards (perhaps most recently Susan Boyle).

The song is sung by Grizabella, a cat who is old, tired and broken, yet longs to begin a new life. It is the climax of the musical and is based on two of T. S. Elliot’s poems.

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Why I like… The Call of the Wild

I read The Call of the Wild bit by bit during “reading time” in Year 4. It is a relatively short novel by Jack London, published in 1903, but set in the 1890s Canadian Gold Rush. It tells the story of a pet St. Bernard-Scotch Shepherd dog, stolen from his pampered home and put to work as a sleigh dog in a brutal world where the toughest survive and everyone else, whether man or animal, perishes.

It had such an impact on me when I first read it that I have been almost afraid to read it since, and so these reflections are 12 years old.

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Why I like… The Adventures of Sam

The Adventures of Sam was  a 1997 animated Australian children’s television serial consisting of 13 consecutive episodes, featuring an escaped convict boy named Sam, his magpie Swoop, and his friend Bridie. Set in the 1850s, it follows his journey around the world to find his lost brother and obtain freedom. Along the way he makes friends, becomes entangled in several ‘historic’ moments and narrowly avoids capture by the Australian authorities. Each episode ends in a cliff-hanger, and the serials tagline was “From Sydney to Singapore and beyond!”

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Why I like… Gattaca

Gattaca is a 1997 film about a future where most babies are genetically engineered at birth. Born the natural way, Vincent is an ‘in-valid’, an outcast from society. In order to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut, he takes the identity of a crippled ‘valid’ and sacrifices everything to infiltrate the space academy. Yet when the head of the space mission is murdered, he learns that he cannot escape his past forever…

This was my HSC text, and I’ve watched it too many times to count.

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Why I like… Tin-Tin

The Tin-Tin series by Belgium writer Herge (made into a cartoon series by the same name, and also a relatively recent film) was (and still is!) a love of mine. I distinctly remember reading them in the library at lunch time while the people next to me raced each other in “Where’s Wally?” and “I Spy” competitions.

They are a collection of 24 comic books about the adventures of Tin-Tin, a Belgium reporter and his dog Snowy. The history of their conception and publication is an intriguing read in itself, worth the google 😉

What I love

The characters! They are utterly hilarious. Captain Haddock with his “billions of blue blistering barnacles” and fiery temper always makes me laugh – as do Thomson and Thompson, the luckless and idiotic detectives, and oblivious Professor Calculus with his perchance for mis-hearing information.

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What I have in my car

This is just a fun look at what I actually keep in my car. To be honest, it surprised even me!

What I have in my car

When you live in two different places and work in another your car becomes practically an extra appendage.

And so, for fun, I decided to take a survey of what’s inside it. My dad is always complaining that it’s messy – but, I promise you, it’s all stuff I need!

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