Monday, October 26, 2015

LOTR Read-Along: Fellowship {Book II, Chapters VI- X}

This book ends on a bit of a downer. We have a Fellowship broken by loss, lust for the Ring, and diverging paths. The respite in Lorien was all too brief and difficult choices are upon them once again. It is hard to believe that we have already finished The Fellowship of the Ring. I don't know about you but I am racing through The Two Towers already. It is hard not to look ahead while typing this post! In order for the story to be fully felt, however, I believe the pause between books one and two is necessary, even if it is impossible to pause for long.

1. Put yourself in Aragorn's shoes. The book does a wonderful job (almost too wonderful) of fleshing out the burden of leadership. How would you rate his leadership? Would you choose someone else to be Gandalf's successor?

2. Everyone is a bit apprehensive about entering the Golden Wood. Boromir tells the Company that Men tell tells of the Wood and how none come out unscathed. Aragorn counters this by saying that the better word would be unchanged, not unscathed. What distinction is he making? Why is this distinction important? Can the two words be synonymous, to a point?

3. What is the significance of Galadriel's ring? Why will Lorien diminish whether they fail or succeed?

4. Galadriel embodies a number of different things, almost a different thing for each member. What are they? Why do you think that is?

5. Aragorn has a lot of names. What are the significance of them? Why does he have so many?

6. Think on Boromir's arguments on why Frodo should loan him the Ring. They make sense if one is willing to dismiss the wise counsel of Gandalf and Elrond. Do you think we, as a modern society, honor wisdom? Or are we too intent on the here and now, what we know and experience?

Sorry (not sorry) there are so many questions this week. These last five chapters had a lot to unpack. I so wish I could sit down and discuss these with y'all, more so than any of the other discussion posts so far. Congrats on finishing The Fellowship of the Ring! That wasn't so bad, was it?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The PR Report: August + September 2015

Hey hey friends! I'm here finally posting my August and September recap...

...22 days into October.

Life is crazy right now. It's been hard to put energy into the blog, which explains why you haven't heard from me in a while. My schedule is maxed out, the house is a mess, and I'm just plain tired. If there's one thing I'm learning from this season, it's that I need to get better at saying no and implementing real boundaries in my life. The people pleaser in me says yes WAY too often and I know all of you are screaming at me to read The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst already. I'll get on it. Soon. Pinky promise.

My friend Gretchen shared this on her Instagram today and the Lord spoke so clearly to me through her words. I desperately needed to hear them. Maybe if you're in the same boat as me, you'll find encouragement in them as well:

"I am trusting my tired eyes and weary body to the One who sees all things clearly and has strength enough for today. His faithfulness cannot be measured by our feelings or our circumstances. His grace extends beyond our messy homes, long to-do lists, and changing plans. He IS faithful and His grace upon grace never runs out on us. Rest your heart in that truth today and live in light of the gospel that never changes and meets you right where you are."

AMEN. And with that said, here's what happened in August and September:

August + September in Pictures

Hiking the Triple Falls trail in NC | Fenton family photo at High Falls | Swimming in Hooker Falls (brrr!) | Campsite setup at Cascade Lake | Hiking John Rock trail | Lillianne's 3-month photo session (she's the cutest!) 

Labor Day cabin getaway | Photoshoot with JMo for the blog (more on this soon!) | My sister-in-law is pregnant and it's a girl! YAY for another niece! | UGA vs. South Carolina at Sanford Stadium | Walking around downtown Seaside, FL | Reading on the beach

Favorite Books Read in August + September

Re-read: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt 
Adult Contemporary: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

On My Shelves in August + September

Bought for Shelves
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Most Popular Posts in August + September

Lesley Anne: The Lord of the Rings Read-Along: Intro + Sign-Ups!
JennyLOTR Read-Along Discussion: Fellowship (Prologue - Chapter 5)

3 Things I'm Looking Forward To in November

1. THANKSGIVING. I love this holiday so much. The older I get, the more and more I like it better than Christmas #sorrynotsorry.
2. The Ministry Village Benefit and Silent Auction. We're having this year's event at a farm in Monroe, and I'm so excited for people to learn more about this awesome ministry!
3. Basically being done with stuff for the year. I can't wait to have a Saturday at home where we literally have ZERO things to do. It's going to be glorious. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

LOTR Read-Along: Fellowship {Book II, Chapters I-V}

This is my favorite part of the Fellowship. Community is something I have been thinking about a lot lately (foreshadowing of a future blog post). I love books that feature strong friendships/relationships and this is some of the best. Aragorn's pledge to the hobbits — "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will" — is but the first inkling of the kind of people who will eventually make up the Company of the Ring. Their word is their bond in a way that is hard for the modern reader to understand. Aragorn is pledging his life to protect Frodo as Frodo is pledging his life to bear the Ring to Mount Doom. What is even sweeter is the center of the Company, its foundation, is the four hobbits' relationship. They refuse to give up on the other. They are so far from anything any other hobbit has experienced in their lifetime (excepting Bilbo, of course) and they cannot even truly comprehend the terribleness that awaits them on each leg of the journey, yet in spite of all this they are of one mind, not letting Frodo shoulder the burden without help. Love, love, love.

1. Bilbo has an interesting reaction to the Ring when he asks Frodo to see it. Why do you think this is? What does he mean when he tells Frodo to put it away, that "now he understands"?

2. What started Saruman on the path to partner with Sauron? Do you agree with him when tells Gandalf that there won't be any change in their ends (quest for Knowledge) but only in their means? Does the end justify the means?

3. Tolkien does a wonderful job of giving the members of the Company distinct personalities from the very first. How/why are they able to work together? Is there a member you would have left out? If so, who would you replace them with?

4. The hobbits are very innocent of the world at large and do not understand the full measure of danger, yet the Ring gives Frodo the ability sense, to be aware of the unseen evils all around. Which takes more courage? Facing a known evil, one you can understand, or an unknown evil, on you have not encountered or heard of but know is there?

Things are pretty grim for the Company right now. If you had the will power to not finish off the book, that is what we ware going to be doing this week — Book 2, Chapters 6-10. If you devoured it, you can get a jump on The Two Towers or use this time to catch up on the discussion questions *wink*. Hope y'all have a wonderful week!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

LOTR Read-Along Discussion: Fellowship {Chapters VI - XII}

The hobbits are finally on the Road! It only took them five chapters to do so. (They remind me of some people I have traveled with *cough* Matt *cough* who start prepping a week or two in advance of any trip, no matter the length.) The seriousness of the task has not quite sunk in yet, though they are beginning to understand it will not be easy. It is clear that something is starting to stir, something that is causing change to spread towards the Shire. Even with the reality of the terribleness that is coming, that they will experience, help is never too far. Tom Bombadil and Strider enter the hobbits' lives just when hope is waning, just when they are over their heads.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts, even if it is just a text message or a tweet.

1. Is the enmity of the trees towards the hobbits surprising or understandable?

2. What do you make of Tom Bombadil? Of Goldberry?

3. Frodo thinks of how "he had at times stood enchanted by fair evlen-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange". Think about the different types of joy Tolkien is describing here. Do you agree or disagree about there being different types? Or, it not joy, what do you think he is talking about? (This passage comes from the very beginning of Chapter 7 - In the House of Tom Bombadil)

4. The hobbits are almost frustratingly obtuse in this first part of the book. Which would you say is the keenest? Which is the most clueless of how the world works? Which one would you be?

This week we are reading Book 2, Chapters 1-5. Hope y'all have a great week :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

LOTR Read-Along Discussion: Fellowship {Prologue - Chapter V}

Y'all. I cannot tell you how excited I am to discuss these books. I am a firm believer that some books are made better, or more meaningful, by discussions, arguments, and musings. There is SO MUCH going on in this world that Tolkien has created that we could discuss these books every year and find different things to talk about each year. I am going to throw a couple of questions out there for y'all to mull over. I will -probably- give my answers mid-week, in case anyone is interested. As Lesley Anne said in the Intro post, feel free to join in the discussion in whatever way is easiest for you—in the comments, in a post on your own blog, on Goodreads, Facebook, etc. Just be sure to let us know where you respond so we can all come read your thoughts! If you use Twitter or Instagram, be sure to use the hashtag #LOTRreadalong.

Sometimes, when a book starts out slow, we want to rush through the initial chapters to get to the action. If you have never read these books but have seen the movies then you might have struggled a bit getting through this portion. Part of the beauty of read-alongs is you read a specific portion (usually), no more and no less, so you are forced to concentrate on absorbing just the one part. Part of the genius of Tolkien is that no description, no seemingly-innae conversation is ever wasted; one can really see the influence of the medieval understanding of reading on Tolkien in his own fiction. The medieval writer was obligated to the reader to make them a better person and the reader was obligated to the writer to read to the text to the best of their ability. Reading and writing were highly prized skills that not everyone was fortunate enough to possess. Being a good Christian meant cultivating the skills God had given you to the best of your ability; this included reading and writing as well as weaving, preaching, being a husband/wife, etc. To bring this full circle, Tolkien is both writing to the best of his ability, telling a story that entertains and edifies, as well as requiring the reader to pay attention, to think and reason. Okay, lecture over.

Discussion time!

Please, Lesley Anne and I would love, love, love to hear y'all's thoughts. I hope you have time to discuss with us. If not, I hope you enjoy the conversation and that it deepens your enjoyment of the story.

1. Why did Tolkien spend the Prologue giving an overview of hobbits? It seems a bit random, considering the story, but we know that Tolkien did not include anything that did not have purpose. What things do we learn of hobbits? Why is this important to the story?

2. What is the nature of the Ring? Compare and contrast its effects on Gollum and Bilbo. Think about Gandalf's reasons for refusing it and Frodo's reluctance to take it. How exactly does the Ring work its will?

3.  Sam's primary motivation is to see the Elves. After they spend the night in their company Frodo asks him if he still likes them now that he has spent time in their company. Sam replies, "They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak, " answered Sam slowly. "It don't seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected — so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were." What is he trying to say? What quality of the Elves is he trying to capture using words? Have you ever encountered anything that was above your likes and dislikes?

4. For those who have seen the movie, what are the 4 main hobbits — Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin — like in the book versus the movie? How do these differences influence your perceptions of them? Which do you prefer?

This week we are reading Chapters 6-10. I hope y'all are enjoying this as much as we are. Can't wait to hear y'all' thoughts!!

Home is beyond, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread,
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back to home and bed,
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!