Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: It's (Not That) Complicated

The subtitle of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin's newest book is: How to relate to guys in a healthy, sane, and biblical way

Since when have girls been able to relate to guys in a way that's healthy, sane, AND biblical?  Healthy?  Whether we flirt with guys or ignore them, most of our relations with them wouldn't exactly be qualified as healthy.  Sane?  The word 'boy-crazy' is there for a reason.  Biblical?  Everyone seems to disagree about what the Bible says about guy/girl interaction.  Does it even say anything about it?

Well, yes.  Using principles solidly rooted in the Bible, as well as common sense and candid comment from various young men, the Botkin sisters demonstrate that relating to guys can be done in a healthy, sane, and biblical way.  And then it's really not that complicated.

This isn't a blanket endorsement of everything Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin say or write.  Partly because... this is all I've read by them.  But It's (Not That) Complicated is the best book on guy/girl relationships I've seen.  The reason is that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are so Scripture-focused.  One place where this particularly jumped out at me is the part where they talk about crushes.  Instead of adopting one of the two conflicting viewpoints, either the if-I-like-a-guy-then-I've-lost-my-emotional-purity,-given-away-part-of-my-heart-and-won't-have-any-left-for-my-future-husband position or the crushes-are-natural-and-not-a-problem-so-you-can-like-any-guy-as-much-as-you-want idea.  They say:
We ask the wrong question when we ask, "Is having a crush a sin?"  The Bible doesn't actually say and the reason is because emotional purity is a made-up moral category.  And it's giving a lot of us feelings of (unbiblical) guilt for committing some dreadful nebulous crime that there is no definition for, when the answer would actually be very clear if we phrased the question using biblical terms.  There are plenty of real moral categories for real sins - like lust, covetousness, idolatry, fear of man, vain imaginations, and presumptuous sins.  How much clearer would things be if we would just go ahead and say, "I've made an idol out of a young man; is that wrong?" or, "I'm having lustful thoughts for this guy - is that a sin?
The Bible gives plenty of clear commands, both positive and negative: Guard your heart.  Love the brethren from a pure heart.  Think on what is pure and what is true.  Don't covet.  Don't lust.  Have self-control.  Take every thought captive.  Going against any of these clear commands is a sin.  This should answer our questions.
See?  Now it's not that complicated again.
 You see what I mean?

 Before I can go more into what this book says, I'll have to tell you what it doesn't say:  It doesn't say how to get married.  Anna Sofia and Elizabeth sensibly point out that since they're not married themselves, they aren't qualified to write about that.  But with five brothers and many guy friends, they are qualified to write about general guy/girl relationships.  This is very handy for us single girls who probably won't get married in the near future.  Sure, I Kissed Dating Goodbye might have good advice for when you are getting into a serious relationship, but it doesn't really apply to our lives now.  It's (Not That) Complicated does. 

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth discuss such important topics as
  • Why we're interested in boys (and why that is a good thing),
  • How to see men as God sees them
  • How to be a sister to our real brothers
  • Reforming our philosophy of relationships
  • How to draw strength, wisdom and protection from our parents, 
  • Why we aren't actually the sweet innocent girls that we think we are
  • Why we're not supposed to meddle in other people's relationships
  • How to say no to the wrong kinds of relationships
  • How to become a girl a man would want as a wife as well as a friend
  • And a VERY insightful chapter on contentment. 
On top of this, they offer practical tips on interaction and conversation, relevant comments from real young men, appendices to parents written by their parents, and the comforting conviction that when you look at it through the Biblical lens, it's really not all that complicated.  Although this is a book on guy/girl relationships, the Botkin sisters make it quite clear that it isn't all about guys.  It isn't all about marriage, either.  It's about serving God, and that includes how we relate to the guys around us. 

So what do I say about this book?  I say that it's the best book on relating to guys I've ever read.  If you only ever get one book about guy/girl relationships, get this one.

P.S. In all my praise of this book, I might have forgotten to say one important thing: that it's actually a lot of fun to read.  On top of the interesting quotes from a wide range of people in a wide range of circumstances they include, the Botkin sisters' delightful sense of humor pops up regularly and I had a lot of fun following and laughing at their direct or indirect references to common books, phrases, poems, or people.  Hey!  They just quoted Rudyard Kipling!  And paraphrased Elizabeth Barret Browning!  And took a couple lines from some of my favorite musicals!  And talked about Mr. Darcy!... again. :P

Now that I've basically told you to buy this book immediately, it's only fair to tell you where you can get it. It's available from Western Conservatory, from Vision Forum, and from Amazon. ( And no, I'm not getting paid to tell you this.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Self-Centered Nothings

I have an apology to make to all of you.  This blog for the last long time, has had one focus: me, me, me!  In other words, totally self-centered.  And in all of that, did I ever manage to tell you what I really love and dream?  Hardly.

Sure, some of it might have been amusing.  At the time, I thought it was (I still do, sort of.)  But it wasn't amusing for any good purpose.  Just me, trying to cleverly put words together to draw attention to myself.  In other words, self-centered nothings.

I think one of the reasons my blog has been languishing for the last while is that, while I've been striving to make my life less self-centered and more and more God-centered, I haven't managed to carry it into my blog.  So I when I made myself sit down and write up an awards post, I slipped as easily as possible into that ultra-self-centered rut that I don't think I've even quite left.  Really, it was disgusting.  Back-handedly flattering myself in an attempt to be witty, making up for that with a couple of self-centered Uriah Heepish 'umble remarks and proceeding with things about myself in a desperate attempt to make all of you think what a wonderful and witty person I am.


Needless to say, that post will not be published as it was originally written.  But I don't mean to stop blogging because I do it self-centeredly any more than I mean to stop living because I do it self-centeredly.  I hope to continue this blog with the same topics I've posted on before, but with a different focus.  A God-focus.  A lovely-focus.  A thoughtful-focus.  A kindness-focus

With God's help, I have great expectations for this new phase of blogging (which might, consequently, include more posts.)  And I have a request for you all.  First of all, I want you to know that I am serious in what I ask.  Deadly serious. (The unconcious pop-in of that quote has made me very un-serious, but I do want you to know that I mean it.)  I'm not saying this 'just because'.  I'm saying it because I want you to do what I ask, without any hesitation.  What I'm asking is that I want you - all of you - whenever you see me slipping back into the self-centered rut, to point it out to me.  Not just today or this week, but during all of my blogging.  A little encouragement, even if it feels awkward, means a lot.

Will you?

Thank you.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Well, I'm back

I suppose the right way to try to reintroduce myself into your good graces after such a long absence would be to make a delightfully amusing post about the wonderful summer I had and how my own silly procrastination kept me from writing the blog posts I desperately wanted to. But, even if such a post isn't boring for you who'd try to read it, it would be a dreadful bore for me to write it. Suffice it to say that it was a very interesting summer with a lot of fun, boredom, energy, and mood swings. Some of the happenings included getting a brand new laptop, meeting lovely people, reading lovely books, plotting like crazy (plotting books, peoples! Really, I'm not plotting to take down blogdom. Anyways,) reading good, great, and hilarious books (look at my Goodreads for a sample,) watching looooooong movies, going to beaches, listening to soundtracks, going to get-togethers and parties, singing, and... but I'll stop now. We wouldn't want this first paragraph to be longer than the amusing apology post that would bore us all, would we?

Anyways, now I'm finished with summer laziness and getting into school and schedule. I actually cleaned by room completely yesterday. (Believe me, cleaning it is rare enough, but completely is even more. I think it was only once this summer than the cardmaking supplies didn't lace my bookshelf, desk, and floor.)

I'm pretty excited about this year's schoolwork. (Y'all do know I'm homeschooled, right?) I'll be 'officially graduated' sooner than I think I realize right now. Things have gotten a lot more challenging and a lot more interesting too. I'm doing the Omnibus (literature/history/worldview, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera) course right now and I'm pretty excited about it. Even though I'm starting smack-bang in the middle of the books right now, I'm glad to get into it. It looks like it has Real Books, with plenty of classics, an extremely solid worldview, and lots of opportunities to think (which I really like doing sometimes.) On top of this there is that er, problematic math (full of all that nasty geometry and algebra which I never can quite get,) chemistry (which I'm expecting to be better than biology but not as interesting as physics,) Bible, French, music, art, and whatever other things one's Mamma thinks it would be good for one to do.

And that's what will be filling my days, I think! Plus, of course, all those lovely things I've been doing this summer but can't bear to give up. So I expect to be busy, but happy and productive. I've been given a couple delightful awards from some sweet people which I was absolutely estatic to recieve, but I never quite managed to get on here and communicate that ecstacy to you. So you should expect some dee-lightful award posts on here soon. :)

Oh, and before I go, do read Rachel's post with a comment challenge. But this is not a hint. Really, it isn't. It's just something that needs to be said and a much needed reminder to myself. A couple of my bloggy friends wrote amazing posts in the last day or two but did I comment on them? Uh-uh.

Just one more thing: what on earth does one suggest as a name for a little sister's real live birthday present rooster? Bertie Rooster is what I would call him, but it isn't an option for that non-Wodehouse reading girl (she is only ten, after all...)