Thursday, May 11, 2017

Student Spotlight: Alex H.

Thought I totally forgot Student Spotlight, right? Nope, just pressed for time, but, I wanted to put up one as this school year closes. My AP Literature students read Shakespeare's Hamlet this year, analyzing character development, but also considering how small parts of text are important to the whole. This essay is written by 11th grader Alex H. Enjoy!



Effective Scenes of Hamlet
In the play Hamlet, Act II Scene 2 is especially memorable and very effective to the work as a whole. It is a much longer and slower moving scene compared to the scenes in Act I; however, it is essential to the drama. Act II Scene 2 develops subplots, provides insights into key characters, and introduces motifs. It also includes an important soliloquy of Hamlet that characterizes him and keeps the plot moving forward.  
Many subplots are developed in Act II Scene 2. During the scene, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to King Claudius and he enlists them in spying upon Hamlet. When Hamlet speaks to them, they admit to him what their intent is which serves to further the action. Also, the guilt of Claudius for the death of King Hamlet is suggested by having his schoolmates spy upon him. Hamlet hopes to prove Claudius’s accountability with the play, The Murder of Gonzago. These subplots affect the play as a whole.
The reader gets insights into a few characters in this scene. Hamlet’s depression is suggested in his soliloquy. Hamlet taunts Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Polonius, indicating that he realizes their dishonesty. He also realizes the hypocrisy of people as he talks about how quickly people change their allegiances, alluding to Claudius who is now king. People praise him whereas when Hamlet was king, they mocked him. Along with noticing things about other people, he also reveals his opinion about himself. In his soliloquy he says, “O what rogue and peasant slave am I!” because he has not yet taken action against the man who has murdered his father. Also in this scene, Polonius displays his dishonesty and his unwillingness to sacrifice Ophelia for his political gain.
In Act II Scene 2 of Hamlet there are a few motifs produced. Youth vs. age is revealed in the conversation about adult acting companies as opposed to the theme of the play as youth replacing their elders. Illusion vs. reality is also revealed throughout the play. It is reinforced with the company of players as there are several allusions to young boys playing the parts of women. Another motif displayed is Incest. Incest is frequently alluded to by Hamlet and the ghost, in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius, the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married. The motifs manifested in this scene help reveal the theme of the play.

In the play Hamlet, Act II Scene 2 is very significant. Without this scene there would be no subplots, the reader would get no insight into the characters, and the motifs of the play would not be as clear. This longer, detailed scene strongly affects the work as a whole.


Feel free to leave Alex feedback in the comments. We'd love to hear what readers have to say!


kj

Sunday, May 7, 2017

When a Girl Chooses to Realize...


In November I wrote a post called "Set Apart,"in which I discussed how my journey into my PhD often felt like because I had to give up things, or things changed on me, that I was being set aside. Yet, through prayer, Bible reading, and great encouraging Christian writers (namely Lysa Terkeurst in this case), I knew there was more to it. That I wasn't being set aside, but set apart for God's greater purpose. 

Here, now, with my first full year of my PhD officially wrapped up (and the second semester easier than the first), the feeling of being set aside continues to pop up...it has become much more personal and has been an impossibly hard thing that, mixed with my insecurities and worry, has tried to take me down. Besides feeling left out, there is nothing quite like looking in on something from the outside when you used to be the one on the inside. Especially when you didn't realize quite how on the outside you had become. I know there will never be a time where we are completely free of such trials and challenges, but I'd hoped to have made an inroad on this particular challenge by now.

It's glorious to think that in the midst of heartache, God has a purpose and calling for it. To think that the things we feel left out of may just serve to set us apart so we can prepare for a new purpose. But in the moment it just seems impossible...how in the world can this feeling mean good things on the horizon?

Today, as I experienced this yet again, in the midst of an otherwise happy day, Lysa TerKeurst's original phrase came to me in the aftermath of feelings:

"There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to realize that being 'set aside' is actually God's call for her to be 'set apart.' This is true.
To be set aside is to be rejected. To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.
Embrace the preparation. And remember you are set apart, beautiful one. Chosen. Adored. And reserved for a high and holy calling."

I've read those words so many times - I have "set apart" tattooed on my arm to remind me for goodness' sake! But let me tell you, you can tattoo yourself into a rainbow of beautiful, catchy phrases and reminders, but it will mean nothing until God sinks it into your heart. 

As I drove away with a wrench in my heart, replaying the hurt, Terkeurst's words running through my mind, it hit me. The key words in TerKeurst's phrase aren't "set apart" - the key words are "when a girl chooses to realize..." 

The set apart piece is God's truth - it is what it is. But I have to choose to believe and trust in that truth to activate it in my life or I will go nowhere with it. If I do not stand up and literally choose to believe and trust, the hurt will continue to hurt and the next time will feel worse, and the time after that will be devastating. And the moment will come again - there's always a next time. Choice is the key - choosing to stop, take a deep breath, state what you know to be true, and pray. The next time, the hurt will be less and it will be easier to choose, and maybe a few times after that the situation will cease to wreck my heart at all...because I will know that I am not set aside, but set apart. 

So today, with the stinging still in my heart, I am choosing to believe I am not set aside, but that I am set apart. I trust that, that place I used to inhabit, but now feel set aside from, will come to serve a fresh and new purpose in the future God is shaping for me. And if not, that I have served that place and people well in the time God chose for me to inhabit it.

He who has eyes to see, let him see and he who has ears to hear, let him hear.


#setapart #higheranddeeper #koinonia #eucharisteo #nothingtolose #everythingtogain

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rhythms of Rest

Source: shellymiller.com
Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, by Shelly Miller
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: October 4, 2016
Category: nonfiction, Christian, motivational, How-to/self-help
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley for consideration of a review.

Rest. Seems it's not easy to come by these days if you have any semblance of a life. Church, family, friends, work, school, fun, hobbies, domestic chores (from major repairs to laundry)...the list just doesn't end. Rest is like an elusive fairy tale, something from a long gone era. Who has time for that, as much as we want to?

Yet, it's a commandment - to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). This tells me two things: it is possible and it is needed. So how does Sabbath look in the lives of 21st century Christians?

Alongside biblical commandments, that "to-do" list above probably makes it obvious why I took interest in Rhythms of Rest - I know I need it and can't quite figure how to find it. In the past year of readjusting my schedule for schooling, I have come across a few moments where I chose rest over work and it proved beneficial, but I would like to make this a consistent way of life.

Among the first things Miller makes clear is that rest looks differently among individuals. And even for one individual, "rhythms shift while remaining focused on what is most important." As much as most of us love routine for its ease and predictability, your rest is a rhythm that will not necessarily stay the same from one week to the next. Perhaps this is why we find rest so hard to do - it lacks routine. But good news, rest is scientifically proven: "A plethora of studies show that the brain requires alternating periods of structured work followed by unstructured rest in order to maximize function." So right way, we need to forget the guilt factor - there aren't rules, just the need for rest.

Another point Miller touches on is that the idea of Sunday as the one rest day doesn't apply as it did before. Rest is any time of any day in which we take time to relax from our work, at times to spend it in solitude, or with family, friends, or God. Sabbath gives us a break to stop, clear our minds, and relinquish control:

"When the mind is focused entirely a problem, we lose sight of God’s place within it. We pit ourselves against all the details as if the problem is ours to conquer immediately. Anxious and tense, we can wrongly assume that unless we achieve total victory, we will lose the battle and defeat will be our legacy. Sabbath provides space between you and your problems, enabling you to see from God’s perspective, often with surprising results, like a word breaking through your questions about life and awakening you to something more important. God is always near, but we often dismiss his powerful presence in the midst of pain and hardship."

Rest is not just for the purpose of regaining energy to hop back into the busyness - it's for the purpose of recollecting ourselves and going back into our schedules truly refreshed and perhaps even with new Godly perspective. And let's face it - none of us can go nonstop and make it through at our best.

Hopefully, you are convinced that rest is a need at this point - it should be top of your "to-do" list! If so, pick up Miller's book for further discussion on how our rest is met with resistance and even sabotage, but how we can stop trying so hard and maximize our rest.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Called to Speak

Source: New Hope Publishers
Called to Speak: Practical Tips for Women's Ministry Speakers and Teachers, by Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
Publication date: January 2, 2016
Category: nonfiction, Christian, motivational, How-to/self-help
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley for consideration of a review.

Much like the last book I reviewed, Successful Women Speak Differently, Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden's book Called to Speak drew my attention because of life circumstances. As a teacher, I speak to groups of high school students daily, on an academic and personal level. Even though I've been teaching for twelve years, there are always ways to improve. Yea, yea, I know the subtitle talks about women's ministry, but I've often found that similar principles apply across the nuances of an overarching topic. At a basic level, speaking is speaking and teaching is teaching. So, if I had the chance to read a book on the topic, why not take it? And if it is as Gail Godwin said - "Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre" - then consider this part of my one-fourth preparation. Ha!

Written from a perspective of Christian principals, Called to Speak of course speaks to the need to cover all speaking preparation and activities in prayer and discusses how your relationship with God affects the what, where, when, and how. Each chapter speaks on a broader level as well. One of my favorite topics Ellison and Gilden discuss is purpose and passion. Your purpose is a specific topic, but it is also the fact that you speak for the benefit of your audience, not yourself. You need to have great passion for your topic and the people to whom you speak, or else your message will fall flat. I've heard adults say things like, "I didn't like English in high school, but my teacher made it a lot of fun." I guarantee that teacher was enthusiastic about his/her subject and loved working with teenagers. Passion/enthusiasm makes a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks to this point well:

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

Besides passion and purpose as my favorite part of the book, other topics of interest discussed are: partnering with people, personality and the public, paths and possibilities, practice and perseverance, and more. I definitely highlighted more than I typically do while reading Called to Speak - great resource for those who have already started down the public speaking path as well as for those headed in that direction.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Successful Women Speak Differently

Source: Amazon.com
Successful Women Speak Differently: 9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, and Influence, by Valerie Burton
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication date: November 1, 2016
Category: Christian, nonfiction, motivational, self-help
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley for consideration of a review.

Moving around in a familiar world made new, aka grad school, I found myself drawn to different topics. I watch my professors, how they choose their words and tone of voice, the level of professionalism they choose to maintain among each other and students, etc., and wonder if I would know how to speak, act, or sound if I found myself in a new place, job, school, social setting, or otherwise.

That's what drew me to Successful Women Speak Differently: 9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, and Influence, by Valerie Burton. I'm a talker, both verbally and written...I could text all day, write all night, and hang out with people in between. Unfortunately, I also have foot in mouth disease: Thought comes to mind, mouth opens, sound comes out, foot goes in, silence and regret reign. And I've always wondered what I can do on my part to improve the way I speak - whether it be to sound more professional or just to be more considerate.

Successful Women Speak Differently, shows how clear communication makes the difference in influence you have and favor you gain. A few tips given in the Amazon.com summary accurately state the main purpose of this book:
  * recognize the nuances in speech that can mean the difference between success and failure
  * increase your influence by changing what you think and say in critical moments
  * speak accurately about yourself so you don't sabotage your most meaningful goals
  * boost your confidence by making simple tweaks to your everyday speech

Based on Christian principles, Burton's book gives great explanation and examples of how words, tone of voice, and body language play more into how others read you than you know. For example, when I am personally invested in a topic, my voice tends to become passionately elevated - aka unnecessarily loud. My family points this out to me in various ways, funny and serious, but being my family, I ignore their comments. However, Burton has a section about volume of speech presenting a person in different ways in different situations, loud not being good most of the time. Open mouth, insert foot. Lesson learned. And hopefully less tasting of feet in my future.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Make Your Time Work

Working smarter, not harder. Exercise bike while
reading the homework I assigned for the next day.
If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "I wish I could (fill in the blank), but I don't have the time," I could fund my current tuition with it. Most often the blank is the amount of reading I do. And usually the person saying this has things going on in his/her life that I wish I had more time for.

Everyone says "I don't have the time to..." about something at some point. The truth is, if it's important, you'll make the time. Our lives are easily filled with people, places, things (and that's a whole other conversation), so the only way anything fits in is if we place it there. Sounds impossible, doesn't it?

I've decided it's not always quite as impossible as we think. Going on a big trip to Israel this summer, I realized my husband and I needed to start exercising so we could handle the excessive walking the trip requires. But where the heck in my life of family, friendship, teacher, student, and church would I fit exercise?! But did I really have a choice?

There were some questions I had to ask myself. In my current season of life:
1. What do I HAVE to do?
2. What do I THINK I have to do?
3. What do I want to do?
4. What can I let go, cause I frankly don't care that much about it?

Everyone's answers will vary because it depends where you're at in life and your preferences. For example, spic 'n span cleaning of my house isn't even on my radar. If stuff is picked up and there's no obvious mold issue, we are good to go. However, I did notice two things in answering these questions that may apply more widely -  question #1 was a smaller list of items than I thought and question #2 was a larger list than it should be. And basically everything on lists #2&4, I can forget. Looking at my schedule, I placed the items from #1 and then fit around where I could items from #3. Yes, right now I do less of what I want than of what I have to, but I was able to fit in three hours of exercise every week!

And the big part to realize in all of this...if you still don't have time for something, then it's not as important to you as you thought right now. Life goes through seasons and things change. Don't give up on it, just put it aside for now. Quit stressing and keep your dimes!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wellness Tips

Since I am getting back into a fitness routine, it seemed a good time to post some related material. Welcome Diamond, who is a health enthusiast and cyber-security blogger and her seven tips for a healthier, happier you.
7 Amazing Wellness Tips to Make Yourself Healthier
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Becoming healthier is a journey we should all be constantly a part of. No matter what walk of life you come from, there’s always room to work on your health. Doing so has many benefits:
  • Improved focus
  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced illness
In general, feeling good is a state we have to strive for; it won’t just happen on its own. That’s why there are some changes you should consider making in your life. Some of them you may already be doing and if so, great.
Either way, check out this list to see where you can stand to improve. Every little bit counts, and there’s no better day to start than today.
  1. Cut Down on Added Sugars
Most of us are guilty of this problem: too many added sugars in our diet. From morning till bed time, we eat cereals, coffee, bread and just a general cornucopia of different foods that have sugars and syrups added for flavor.
But sugar is one of the biggest enemies of health. Since 2010, we’ve had fairly conclusive research that drinking sugary beverages contributes to poor health and the development of diabetes. Other research also suggests a link between poor heart health and consumption of processed sugars (typical of what’s added to everyday foods).
Your best bet is to stick with basic ingredients. See below for more on that.
  1. Shop in the “Horseshoe”
A great place to start looking for healthier alternatives to the sugary items mentioned above is in the “horseshoe” of the grocery store. Generally, that refers to everything along the outer edge of the store, as this is where fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats tend to be stored.
While staying on the edges isn’t the gospel of shopping, it definitely improves your chances of encountering unadulterated foods. Of course, you'll have to watch out for processed meats (they also tend to be on the outer rim) and flavored milks/creamers, but it’s generally easier to find healthy ingredients and foods there.
If you’re looking for ingredients with less pesticide (assuming you either can’t afford all organic or just don’t have access to it where you live; a problem I face daily), you might consider shopping with an app like Dirty Dozen. It’s a good app for identifying fresh produce that has less pesticide residue.
But take its suggestions with a grain of corn; papayas, which are on the “Clean 15” list are known to be GMO crops, so be aware if that’s an issue (interestingly enough, sweet corn, also on the list, generally is not GMO).
  1. Prepare Your Own Meals
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Armed with your healthy pick of ingredients, you can further improve your health by preparing your own meals. Doing so ensures you know exactly what’s going into the food and it prevents you from consuming as many processed ingredients such as those found in big chain eateries.
You can also save money and just generally become closer to what keeps you going each day. Understanding how food is prepared and how to preserve the nutrition (such as not overcooking foods or continually reheating leftovers) will help you live a cleaner, healthier life.
If time is an issue, you may want to consider investing in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. We use a pressure cooker at home and it cuts down on the number of pots and pans while reducing cook times significantly.
  1. Improve Sleep Conditions
A good night’s sleep is certain to improve anyone’s livelihood. The trick is setting your schedule and room up around providing a rejuvenating sleep. Owning a quality bed is obviously a good investment, but you should consider some other basic steps:
  • Go to sleep while the clock still reads p.m.
  • Remove sources of blue light while you sleep, such as TVs, LED display lights or other electronics (a piece of tape over a bright cable box light can make a big difference)
  • Only use your bed for sleeping; reserve other activities for other rooms if possible
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as it is less than ideal for your spine
You want to be conscious of your diet before bed as well. Consuming sugar or caffeine before bed can reduce the quality of your sleep and may contribute to grogginess in the morning. Stick with light plant-based foods before bed and avoid eating less than an hour before you sleep. Keep your room cool and dark; a programmable thermostat can help.
  1. Exercise Early
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Going to bed early is important, but getting up early and moving right away is also a valuable part of any daily routine. Early exercise helps awaken both your mind and metabolism to prepare you for the rest of the day. This is especially true if you work in an office or at home.
Starting early also provides you with more daylight to get things done, which is something your body needs. Your circadian rhythm is based largely on the light and dark cycle, so you’re less likely to feel tired if you start strenuous activity early and more likely to sleep better if you’ve done your workout earlier rather than later.
  1. Track Your Fitness and Diet
With the rise of devices such as Pebble and Fitbit, it’s never been easier to keep track of your activity, and you really should. It will help you determine whether or not you’ve been too sedentary and, in the case of food, can help you find out what critical nutrients are lacking in your diet.
Just be careful what apps you use; some apps may connect to public WiFi, which can put you at risk for data theft. Use a VPN (a type of security app) to navigate around this problem, as described in this review by Secure Thoughts.
  1. Train Your Mind
Having a strong mind is essential for maintaining a strong body; there are a number of ways you can achieve this goal, but none of them are quick. To keep your brain from turning to mush as you grow older, you’ll want to take interest in something that takes a long time to master. Learning a foreign language, for instance, can improve your vocabulary and help stave off mental decline.
Another activity that’s both enjoyable and healthy for the brain is learning to play a musical instrument. Be it a flute, cello or something else, the physical and mental skill required to play music will keep you sharp. It can also be very enjoyable and could become a very social experience.
What are you doing to make your life healthier and happier? Tell us what works for you.

About the Author: Diamond is a health enthusiast and cybersecurity blogger. She writes on a variety of topics, including how changes in technology and the food supply affect our health and what we should do about it.