February 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Victor Hugo!

Regrettably, I have not yet read Victor Hugo's novels, but I have seen a great many quotes by him that deserved to be shared, in honor of his birth date.  Which one is your favorite?  Is there another quote of his that you cherish and have memorized?  What are they and what do you think of his works?

Thank you, Mr. Hugo, for your inspiring words. I hope to add your novels (Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to my reading list soon.  Au Revoir!

Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885)
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”  
“What Is Love? I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul." 
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”  
“Melancholy is the happiness of being sad.” 
“What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!”  
“It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.” 
“England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.” 
“Love each other dearly always. There is scarcely anything else in the world but that: to love one another.”  
“Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched, and those who have tried for only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives.”  
“Love is the only future God offers.” 

February 24, 2015

When We Two Parted

Lord Byron

WHEN we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow--
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me--
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:
Lond, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
I secret we met--
I silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

February 19, 2015

Perfectly In Time

The man placed his hand on the woman's back, 
took her hand, 
and waited for the music to begin. 

With adoring eyes the woman 
looked up at his handsome face, 
silently counting the beats of the melody.  
1, 2, 3. 
1, 2, 3.  

The man gave a nod and 
Whirled the woman onto the dance floor.  
Their feet were perfectly in time 
With each other and as the man led.
The dance moved as smooth as glass. 

He took her hand gently
And spun her about across the floor.
They moved in unison, perfectly, gracefully
With his hand on the woman's back. 

The music moved on,
1, 2, 3.
1, 2, 3. 
Never a stop, never a hesitation,
With silent counting of the melody. 

But how can such dancing
Move with such grace?
How can the beating of music
keep tune and time?

The man is the leader, strong and firm
Leading the woman's movements.
The woman must learn to trust the guide,
Or else the dance will falter.

1, 2, 3. 
1, 2, 3.
He offers us His hand to have
He leads us with the graceful steps
And we must try to trust his plan. 
1, 2, 3. 
1, 2, 3. 
Or else the dance will falter.

"He offers us His hand to have..."

February 17, 2015

A Living House

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

This poetic piece of imagery by Clive Staples Lewis has inspired me in countless ways, but three of the emotion-evoking points stand out and clamor to be heard. The Color, the Story, and the Legacy of the passage from Mere Christianity ask to be mused, mulled over, and thought about for years to come.

The color of this passage is so delightful.  Can't you just see the little house in your mind?  It's falling apart in places, and there's probably a shattered window, rusty door hinge, and cobwebby corners.  Can you imagine God, in the appearance of a man, coming in with his tool bag and dirty overalls.  He gets down on the floor and nails the loose planks back into place.  He would do some plumbing and repairing; replacing the windows, mending the door, and sweeping out all those cobwebs.

But then he does things that don't make sense.  He starts carting in lumber, breaking down perfectly solid walls and adding to the little house.  Sooner than later, that dirty, sweaty craftsman wipes his brow and stands back to admire the view. The ramshackle house is now a beautiful estate, a place where even the finest of kings would be honored to live in.

That leads on to the story behind the story.  Lewis is a master at allegory, painting pictures on top of an already painted canvas, and only those who choose to look past the first layer can see the underlying message. If we are the house that Lewis describes and God is the craftsman, why must we go through so much repair?  Because of our sin and stain, God had to come in and mend the holes, wash away the dirt, and fix us from the inside.

But of course, He doesn't want to stop there. He wants for us to have enough room in our hearts and lives for Him to live in us.  All of the little things cluttering up our house, or destroying the woodwork must go, and the long, hard process of rebuilding must begin.  But when He's done, oh, imagine, how beautiful might we be?  I wonder what my heart-house looks like now...and what potential it has to evolve into something elegant.

So, this is the legacy.  The color of the prose blended neatly with the story of the heart melds into one solid truth: our hearts are far from perfect, but if we let God in, He can make a palace out of our cottage.  But it's all a matter of willingness. Think if the landlord of the little house had refused to let the house be restored.  Weeds and animals would inhabit the uninhabitable home.  Walls would fall, and there would be nothing left to repair.

But if we choose to let God work in our lives, to nail down those loose boards, and replace our broken windows, we can see the growth and change within our lives. What better destiny is there for our hearts, then to be molded in God's hands and shaped in a beautiful way?  I don't think that there is; God's blueprint for our lives are the best plans in the world.

So with the colorful imagery of words and descriptions, we see a painting of a dilapidated old house, turned into something glorious.  We see through the story of allegory how that little house is our hearts being "knocked about" into something bigger, better, and more beautiful.  And we can see through the legacy of our hearts how we can be made into the dwelling place of God; a place that He is not embarrassed to live in, and that He Himself created it.

It's a beautiful feeling, this hope that we have that God will not give up on us, not even if it takes years to nail those boards, painful days to hang that chandelier, and countless nights painting the walls.  Thank you, Mr. Lewis, for your wonderful reminder that we are houses, and God is ready or already starting to work on our hearts!

February 12, 2015

Jane Eyre ~ A Book Review

Jane Eyre
Book By Charlotte Bronte
Review by Janelle A. Spiers
January 28, 2015

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.” ~ Jane Eyre

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter - often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter - in the eye.” ~ Jane Eyre

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

The timeless story of Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, has left a lasting impact on the genre of romance.  With memorable and haunting characters, mixed full of real life struggles and emotions, Bronte has painted a darker side of love that is not often seen in classic romance.  Her poetic way of writing, her original plot, and her ageless characters have turned Bronte’s Jane Eyre into an unforgettable masterpiece.
Bronte created a deep romance, however, only two thirds of the book are about Jane Eyre’s love life, but in that chunk of the book, love is a very strong theme.  Jane, the namesake of the book, has her story recounted from the time she was a child, and her character is very perseverant through difficult trials, which is another theme that Bronte began, but did not quite finish it out to the end. 
The story begins with orphaned Jane living with her abusive aunt and cousins.  When she retaliates against the bullying she so frequently receives from her cousin, she is sent away to a boarding school.  Unfortunately, Lowood, the strict school run by a hypocritical character named Brocklehurst, is no less inviting to young Jane and she is underfed and treated poorly, but not singled out, as the other girls are likewise treated.
After about eight years at the school, Jane decides that instead of teaching at Lowood, she would rather be a governess, and so she advertises for a job.  Her proposition is readily accepted, and Jane travels to a huge house called Thornfield Hall where she is in charge of teaching a young French girl.  The master of the house, Mr. Edward Rochester, is mysterious and ugly, but nevertheless, Jane falls for him, and he likewise for her.  But a startling series of events causes Jane to flee from Thornfield and live with a family who take her in penniless and hungry.  However, after several years of absence, Jane decides to return to Rochester and promptly marries him, never having lost her passion for her master.
Jane Eyre is a plain, small woman with much courage and strength.  Although she was raised to be meek and quiet, Jane has a feisty spirit that can plainly be seen when she is ridiculed or uncomfortable.  Her self-confidence and ability to think quickly helped and spared several lives within the story.
Mr. Edward Rochester is a strong gentleman, but he has very understandable human qualities.  Though he is very coarse and, at times, rude, Mr. Rochester also has a pitiable need for love and understanding.  He is described as unattractive and is believed by all to be rather ugly, but Jane learns to see past his homely face and love his features.  Rochester is the caretaker of Jane’s pupil, Adele, after her mother abandoned the young infant.  He shows no affection to the girl, but it is clear that his heart has enough gentleness to think of the child and bring her gifts.  However, underneath all of these thick, impenetrable layers of Edward Rochester, there lies a dark, haunting secret that stands between him and his beloved Jane.
In short passages of time, Charlotte Bronte was able to give vivid descriptions of her supporting characters, bringing them into the light of Jane’s retrospect and shining on them clearly.  However, none of the characters are exceptionally necessary for the progression of the story, except to give Jane reason for being in a certain location.
The writing quality of Jane Eyre is very high, and what Bronte once wrote as a modern English has now become archaic, very wordy, and has a slight poetic beauty in its words.  However, due to her excessive word count, the novel can be difficult to read, especially for people not used to such weighted reading.
Charlotte Bronte was born on the 21st of April, in 1816.  She was the third of six children, and only one of three to survive to adulthood.  At an early age she was sent to a boarding school that she later used as basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre; the conditions were unhealthy and it hastened the death of two of her sisters. Another scene in Charlotte Bronte’s life, that is more than likely to have made its way into Jane Eyre, was her own work as a governess and the unruly John she taught, who threw a Bible at Charlotte.  This is similar to Jane’s abusive cousin who threw a book at the main character.
Charlotte Bronte published other novels, four in total, but Jane Eyre remains her most famous, and she is hardly recognized for her additional works. Jane Eyre was published on October 16, 1847 under the pen name of Currer Bell.  The Bronte sisters wrote under male aliases so as to attract more publishing attention.
There is a definite Christian theology spread lightly across the pages of Jane Eyre.  Jane is a very devout, moral girl who often prays to God before bed, and in the boarding school, her dear friend speaks much of the Bible, obeying God, and going to heaven.  There is mention of Hell as a place for sinners, and Mr. Brocklehurst, the owner of Lowood School, believes that girls should be plain, have no adornments including curls, because of passages in the Bible that ask for women to be modest.  However, it is revealed that Brocklehurst’s family does not follow to his own teaching.
There isn’t much swearing in Jane Eyre, but Mr. Rochester is known to use occasional profanity and also swear under his breath.  God’s name is used several times in exclamation, but it is hard to tell if it is more prayer-like or used in vain.  Overall, the language is rather clean and unquestionable.
It may be surprising that the love life and romantic appeal between characters is very clean.  (Spoiler) However, Mr. Rochester does attempt to marry Jane, even though he is married to another woman, a fact unknown to Jane.  His bigamous plans are discovered before they are carried into action, but a big deal is made about how despicable that is.  Jane and Edward kiss passionately once or twice, but no other actions are made to display their love.  One of the most interesting parts of their romance is that there is no apparent reason for Jane to have loved Mr. Rochester, and so her faithful commitment is odd at times.
Alcohol is mentioned a few times, but sparingly, and the main characters are never drunk.  A sub-character does drink frequently, and sometimes has had too much, falling asleep and ultimately neglecting her duties.  However, for the sake of the plot, this drinking is necessary and not made graphic or overly accentuated. 
Jane Eyre does have a dark and slightly disturbing tone, consisting of a mentally unstable woman.  On multiple occasions the woman lights beds on fire inside Thornfield Hall, nearly killing Mr. Rochester.  At another time, she stabs her own brother in the arm.  She eventually commits suicide by jumping from the roof of a building that she also lit on fire. 
There are several deaths throughout the book, three of them caused by illness, and two possible suicides.  The death scenes of each are not graphic, and not entirely horrifying, however, typhoid and consumption does take the life of a young teenaged girl, which can be very sad for sensitive readers.
Charlotte Bronte was incredibly diligent in keeping her characters consistent.  From Jane’s young schooldays to her later married life, her development is obvious but her character is the same all the way through the book.  As with her plot line, even though it is very slow and drawn out, it is steady and progressive, ushering Jane from one key point in life to the next.
Dark and mysterious, sweet and romantic, Charlotte Bronte has left the world with a book that stands out against the background of other classic romances.  Perhaps more suitable for older readers, Jane Eyre still tells an age-old story of love, endurance, and faithfulness, which we can all hold to today. 

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (Strong and powerful, also high moral.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Extremely memorable and original.)
Characters ~ Positive! (For life-like and classic characteristics.)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (Difficult and wordy, hard to comprehend.)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Some topics may be unsuitable for a young or sensitive audience.)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For good/consistent character development.)

The total score for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is 3 out of a possible 6 positive points.

February 10, 2015

The Scent of Trees

Trees have a special interest in my heart, and I have always loved to walk among them, standing in their leafy shade. They have such unique and personal traits that no two trees can ever be the same. But what is the scent of trees?

A tree is like a person, with leafy hair cascading down their backs. The proud stand straight and tall like gentlemen, but the meek ladies bend gently in the wind, and those who are worn with age become gnarled and crooked. I wonder what their faces would be like, if you could see through their stylish bark.  Would she have pretty eyes as they look out upon the world, or would his eyes be closed, trying to blot out the memory of the present and look only back into the past?

Have you ever listened to a tree?  They are so merry and joyful when they rustle in the breeze.  With gentle murmurs and whispers they call to each other in a language all their own. But at times they shriek with anger, bowing and leaning, sparring with their neighbors.

A tree can be so textured that each has its own feel.  The elevated Aspen are powdered to hide their spots; the vain trees must cover all their blemishes, but are easily revealed.  The Pine Tree and its numbers spread vast across the land, but I wonder if they are woefully sad. Their sap runs down their rough bark, and maybe they are crying for a lost memory, or perhaps they're tears of joy.

What does a tree taste like?  The leaves are crisp and moist, probably with a sharp, tangy flavor that fill the entire senses with that overwhelming flood. Do they taste like the dirt in which they live?  And what of the bark?  Maybe it is crunchy, brittle, and terribly hard, or perhaps it is sweet, tender, and fleshy. But who would ever eat a tree?

With all the characteristics of these gentle giants, what more is there to say?  They live patiently in the suburbs waiting for a still, quiet peace to reign in the streets.  Others dance in the mountains, enjoying the freedom of fresh, undisturbed air.  Some, are tiny, baby saplings, sinking their roots into the dry soil, groping for water, groping for life.

But what indeed, is the scent of a tree?  Of course, a tree has its own perfume, much like her dress and touch, but what can a tree truly smell like?  I suppose it must be the smell of wisdom, age old creatures living upright in the world.  They gain knowledge, day after day, some are as old as the hills.  Think of an old book; surely, the wisdom of that recycled tree has passed on into legend and history, shedding the scent of understanding. Perhaps, that is the scent of a tree; the smell of wisdom.

"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.  
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest  
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; 

A tree that looks at God all day,  
And lifts her leafy arms to pray; 
A tree that may in summer wear  
A nest of robins in her hair; 
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; 
Who intimately lives with rain.  
Poems are made by fools like me,  
But only God can make a tree."
~ Joyce Kilmer

February 5, 2015

The Deepest Beauty

This was a sight inspired by my front-room window this morning, at about 7:00 a.m.  I did not have the chance to take a picture, but with a bit of creative embellishment and the picture in my mind, I decided to share the view with you.

The world was glorious,
 and the sight took my breath away.  
I could even see it, steamed up against the glass,
like a frozen cloud clinging to the window.
But the sight beyond was even better...

The naked, bony trees had been covered
By the soft down of frosty white
And they shone in the light.
The trees had a glow of crystal,
And all the world seemed white with ice.

I was pleased to see the frosty white, 
But what took my breath away
was the morning sky.
The deepest blue of beauty,
Mixed gently with golden, gilded clouds. 

Oh, how could the world be so brilliant,
when all the world is full of sad?
I looked into the beauty,
And felt my spirit rise within me.
The world was beautiful despite the pain.

The world was glorious and it took my breath;
I could see the bony, naked trees
And the deepest morning sky.
I felt my spirit rise within me, despite pain
And all the world was golden, white, and beautiful. 

All the world seemed white with ice...

February 3, 2015

Books ~ By Edgar Guest

I discovered these lovely little poems and found them fit to be shared. Enjoy!

A Book
 Edgar Guest

“Now” - said a good book unto me 
“Open my pages and you shall see
Jewels of wisdom and treasures fine,
Gold and silver in every line,
And you may claim them if you but will
Open my pages and take your fill.

“Open my pages and run them o’er,
Take what you choose of my golden store.
Be you greedy, I shall not care -
All that you seize I shall gladly spare;
There is never a lock on my treasure doors,
Come - here are my jewels, make them yours!

“I am just a book on your mantel shelf,
But I can be part of your living self;
If only you’ll travel my pages through,
Then I will travel the world with you.
As two wines blended make better wine,
Blend your mind with these truths of mine.

“I’ll make you fitter to talk with men,
I’ll touch with silver the lines you pen,
I’ll lead you nearer the truth you seek,
I’ll strengthen you when your faith grows weak -
This place on your shelf is a prison cell,
Let me come into your mind to dwell!”

What book is on your shelf today that really ought to come down and be enjoyed? What book do you have marked, in the middle of being read?  And what book did you just set down with a sigh or teary eye, longing for more?

Good Books
Edgar Guest

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you're lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They're never noisy when you're still.
They won't disturb you at your meal.
They'll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they'll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you've ceased to care
Your constant friends they'll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They'll help you pass the time away,
They'll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.