Monthly Archives: March 2016

Indulging myself

Girly post! (Sorry, Uncle Matt)

Yesterday I went to World Market with my Mom and sister. It was a first time visit for all of us and we LOVED the place. So many fun, colorful things. I showed remarkable restraint, if I do say so myself, and did not buy the colorful chopsticks or the witty notebooks or the $900 bookshelves with the sliding ladder (okay, that probably wasn’t a realistic option.) 

However, I did indulge myself and bought a lovely little bouquet of fake flowers. I am allergic to real flowers so little things (like pretty, fake flowers wrapped in newspaper) always brighten my day. Hopefully they will brighten yours as well!


Seeking mentors

What is a mentor?

When I was in high school, I heard a speaker talk about the importance of having mentors in your life. It struck me forcibly. Afterwards, I sent the speaker an e-mail asking for more information. In particular I wanted to know, where do you find mentors? I never got a response back, but the question has remained in my mind to this day.

Where do you find mentors?

At the time, I thought a mentor had to be a much older adult who met with you on a weekly basis for coffee. This wasn’t any old person, this was a MENTOR. This was a very intentional relationship. MENTORS knew their role and defined themselves by it (and somehow by you, too.) Others knew this was your MENTOR. I saw others had MENTORS.

However, especially in high school and college, I couldn’t find anyone specific enough to fit this magical role in my head. It is a lot of pressure to find the perfect adult.

I’ve been realizing lately that I have had a lot of mentors in my life, but I didn’t recognize them at the time. They didn’t carry a giant sign that said MENTOR. They didn’t sit down on a weekly basis and talk about me. In fact, they did something much more precious. They walked through life with me. Some were only in my life for a short time, others have remained for years. They are the adults – and friends – who have watched over, advised, and instilled confidence in me through each new challenge.

I have been surrounded by mentors, but I didn’t notice because I was looking for someone who carried the title. Mentors don’t always look a certain way. Some might purposefully wear the name and meet with you weekly. However, more often they impact you because they are the people in your life at the time. They don’t necessarily fit into a certain age or role, though some categories (like bosses, pastors, professors etc.) may “fit” the role more readily.  I don’t know that the mentors in your life always wake up and think, “I am going to mentor today.” It is more natural, an aspect of your relationship with them.

I have taken a very general view of mentors, and I realize there are situations where a particular person does become a central figure. A  Mentor, if you will. It is good to seek out a Mentor. I don’t want to downplay that. I just found that in seeking a MENTOR, or even a Mentor, I failed to make the most of the mentors I already had.

Finding mentors is critically important. I don’t know if you ever grow out of it. Sometimes, you do find someone to intentionally meet with and learn from. That’s great. It is important to be willing to seek those people out and ask to be mentored if it fits the situation. However, often it is the people around you who don’t carry any specific “title” that have the most impact on your life. It is important to intentionally pursue their wisdom and guidance as well. You have mentors in your life whether you call them by that name or not. The key is to make the most of them. 

Psalm 116

I enjoy reading my Bible in different translations. I grew up on NIV and lately I’ve been reading more NKJV and ESV. It often surprises me how a familiar passage can gain new meaning or perspective with just a few different words. Today I read Psalm 116 in NKJV and I was really struck by the opening verses. I decided to share the whole thing: 

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore I spoke,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 I said in my haste,
“All men are liars.”

12 What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

16 O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
19 In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

I traveled to Slovakia (and Austria and the Czech Republic) last May. Because I am a bookworm, and I was traveling with bookworms, I spent the majority of the trip in various bookstores. Most of the books (at least 85%) were in languages I couldn’t read. However, there were English books, and one in particular kept popping up. It was a new release and prominently displayed everywhere. I picked it up, skimmed it, wanted to buy it. I told myself I didn’t need to load my already crammed suitcase down with another book. I told myself I had books with me already. I told myself a book this prominent in Eastern Europe would definitely be at my local library.

But, oh, how I wanted it.

However, for once in my life I paid attention to my pocket book and didn’t get it. I returned home and almost immediately searched my local library for the book. They didn’t have it. I tried an inter-library search. No one had it. I went to Barnes and Noble. They only carried the sequel. Finally, I gave up and almost forgot about it. Until, last week. I searched my local library for the book, just in case, and they had it!

It almost took a year, but I can now say with great satisfaction that I have read Girl Online by Zoe Sugg.

After all that effort, it is a pity the book was so awful. I’m talking seriously stupid. 28 pages in I didn’t want to finish it. I forced myself to keep going, growing more and more incredulous. ‘It can’t be that bad…?’ It was. ‘It must improve at some point…?’ It didn’t.

It is only March, but Girl Online is in the running for Most Disappointing Book of 2016 (and possibly 2015, too!)

The story is narrated by Penny, an average-ish, clumsy, camera obsessed, British teenager. Her awkwardness and complete lack of social…anything cause many embarrassing moments which she processes through her anonymous online blog, Girl Online. While this novel attempts to portray Penny as a strong, changing character, her melodramatic and shallow outlook quickly grow irritating. Her character change is instantaneous and unbelievable, usually motivated by a hot guy.

Girl Online is full of stock characters, almost like the author thought she was writing a Disney Channel movie. Clumsy main character who doesn’t see her own beauty? Check. Very gay best friend? Check. Evil ex-best friend? Check. Hot, popular, beach blond guy who flirts with the heroine to get something? Check-check. Quirky, unexpected boy who gives the heroine confidence? Check. Throw in a zany, understanding family and few million OMGs and you get the idea.

The writing is extremely juvenile. Penny comes across more tween than fifteen. She finds a boy and instantly starts writing drivel about “soulmates” and how even though she doesn’t know about Noah, she knows him. About, oooh, three days after meeting him, she presents this list to the world at large to prove their soulmate-ness.

Even though I’ve only known him for a few days, in many ways, in important ways, it feels like I’ve known him forever.

So, I still don’t know who his favorite band is, or his favorite flavor ice cream, but I do know that I can tell him anything.

And I know that I can cry in front of him and show him my weak side and I know that he won’t judge me at all.

And I know that he can cry in front of me and show me his weak side and I won’t judge him either – it just makes me like him even more.

It’s so hard to describe how I am feeling. The best way to put it is that when I’m with him I feel like I’ve met my matching person.

Like Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Or Barbie and Ken.”

If that doesn’t make you shudder, you are made of stronger stuff than I am. I really, really hoped this part would turn out to be ironic and the story would present a good, solid message about high school romances and how you should not put all your hope and adoration into one person. I thought maybe Penny would realize that meeting random guys and driving around NYC with them is a bad idea, or that her parents might actually start to worry about their 15-year-old spending so much time with an 18-year-old. But of course not. This book remains as lovelorn and shallow as when it began.

In fact, it gets worse. I won’t give away the ending but it is pretty evident if you read the book what is going on. Misunderstanding leads to entirely foreseeable complications and even more predictable solutions.

I mainly kept reading because of the debacle to get the book. There were a few scenes that made me chuckle, such as:

“If you could invite any fictional character to a picnic, who would it be?”

I instantly smile. Noah’s random questions are definitely great icebreakers. “Augustus Waters from The Fault in our Stars,” I say. “So I could bring him back to life.”

“Great answer,” Noah says. “I’d bring back that sappy guy from Twilight – so I could kill him.”

However, amusing scenes were few and far between, caught up in sappy, teeny bopper fantasy. Unfortunately, even this scene illustrates one of the book’s great weaknesses: a reliance on pop culture. Justin Bieber, 1D, Angelina Jolie, even the pretentious Augustus Waters, get a mention. It seriously dates the book and will quickly drop Girl Online into obscurity (probably for the better.)

I might have enjoyed the book more if I were able to take Penny’s blog posts seriously. “Soulmate” moments aside, the use of texting and blog posts carried an interesting element. Her posts, though, tended towards the vague and upbeat and it was hard to understand how she garnered so many followers so fast. On top of that, ambiguous stories about anxiety and facing fears have people cheering like Penny has done something amazing. Said people then take her words and find the courage to do great things themselves. It was difficult even for my suspension of disbelief.

A lot of things were difficult to believe. It never made sense why Penny, who has an encouraging and understanding family, never first went to her parents with her problems. They usually ended up finding out and providing counsel and help. Why doesn’t she just start there when things go bad?

The crowning horror of this novel, however, came when the Penny explains why she can’t wear green:

Whenever I wear green, I have the horrible feeling that I might look just like a walking Christmas decoration.”

Because she is a redhead…get it? Yeah, me neither.

Overall, a shallow, teenybopper novel that could have been so much more. Definitely a good thing I didn’t buy it on my international adventure. I’m not entirely opposed to sappy, I can stand teenybopper, but my incredulity was strained too much to make this one worth the time.