Blogging Hiatus

Very soon, I will be starting a big block placement of student teaching for my Primary Education degree. This will take up most of my time and energy. As a result – I’m taking a break from blogging.

I’m hoping that after my placement and some time to recover, I will be back to writing and blogging and link collecting for you all. I’ll still be posting as infrequently and randomly as ever on my Searching for Grace Instagram account, as well as my Animals Abound account.

For your entertainment, I’ve compiled a list of old blog posts you may or may not have read before. Enjoy reading them until I’m back!

See you soon!

Imagination – Part 1 – Anxiety – on the link between my anxiety and my creativity.

Liturgy For The Broken Hearted – why liturgy speaks to me in my mental illness.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Clear Your Head – simple, easy actions.

What Is Bravery? – on not taking the easy way out.

Travelling Alone – my thoughts in anticipation of my first solo trip (which I survived!)

Simplicity – on minimalism.

Better Together – on Christian community that includes everyone.

Today’s Prayer – this is basically my prayer everyday.

How Long? – on Advent and waiting and darkness before the light.

Things I Liked In July

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. Here’s my list of what I liked in July. What have you liked this month?

15 Ways To Catch Up With Friends That Aren’t Grabbing A Coffee Or A Cocktail

Look I love coffee. But not all my friends do. Not all my friends are most comfortable and talkative sitting at a table surrounded by strangers. Here’s a list to jump-start some ideas about interesting things to do with friends.

Lifelong Vegan

Kamina, of Nina Kardia and We Write You has started a vegan coaching business. I did a session with her, and it was really helpful. You can read my testimonial here!

10 Famous Book Hoarders

I am a minimalist in every area of my life….except my book collection. Beautiful libraries are my jam. I loved this list of book collections.

5 Things To Love About Black Sheep

I’ve been going to Black Sheep at least once a week for almost a year now. It’s dog friendly and will give you delicious delicious coffee. Here’s some other things that are good about, as written by Milika.

Hogwarts School of Arts and Music

Twenty years of Harry Potter (see my reflection here) has brought the much loved book series back into the light of public view. I loved this piece which argues that most of the analogies people are making about the real world and the HP world get it all wrong. Have a read (please!).

Constraints Can Breed Creativity

I’m finding this more and more true – when I limit myself, I am freed to be more creative, happy and productive in the space I’ve made for myself, rather than being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the world and it’s options.

Sayable

This blog is rocking my world and my heart right now. The above post gave me life on a day when I was tired and sad. It reminded me of the contradictory wonderful nature of my God and my faith. Lord, I believe – help my unbelief. It is all Jesus, all the time – I bring nothing to the table.

Everything Sayable writes has me saying – yes, me too. Here’s a bonus post on how to pray when you don’t know how to pray and here’s another bonus post on our hiding places.

Women and The Reformation Part 4 – Always Reforming

This is part four in my series on the Reformation and it’s impact on women. You can read part one here, part two here and part three here.

The Counter Reformation

The Counter Reformation is the name given to the Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation. Even before Luther and the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was starting to adapt and change – this was certainly made more necessary, however, with the advent of the Reformation. Recently, historians have revealed the importance of women to the Catholic revival after the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent has been called the launch point for the Counter Reformation – the Catholic Church declared a number of the Protestant beliefs as heresies, as well as revising and confirming the Catholic liturgy. It shaped and defined the future of the Catholic Church.

In this period of history, women often used their social status to negotiate their own spaces for religious expression. Where the traditional institution did not make room for them, the women forged their own groups and positions. For example, women in the Benedictine convent of Überwasser used their elite social status as ‘members of the noble class’ to challenge the reform of their convent. The nuns revealed themselves as more than silent brides of Christ. As another example, the group of pious lay women known as the Lichtmutter (light mothers) were overseers of the provision of candles in the parish church, but who came to fulfill a range of duties including the collection of alms and church maintenance.

At the close of the Council of Trent Catholic society offered two respected roles for women: wife and cloistered nun. By the end of the following century women had numerous other roles available to them, such as nurses, teachers and activists. They were integral parts of the new Counter Reformation society.

Where are we now?

The Reformation and the Counter-Reformation changed society for all people. As we have looked at, it’s easy to notice the changes it brought to the lives of women, for better and for worse. But where are we now? What difference has it made?

Most Western Protestant Churches are still dealing with the ‘women’s issues’ and struggling to find answers. This is telling; women are still seen as an issue. The leadership of women, the place for women as teachers and preachers is still contested and viewed by many (both men and women) as unbiblical.

Of course, some denominations have embraced the idea of female pastors – though sometimes for societal reasons rather than the conviction of scripture – and even in these churches, women are still facing struggles their brothers in Christ are not. Women often still feel like second class citizens in the church family.

Always reforming

I think the Reformers would be horrified if the Reformation had stopped with them. Reformation is not a one time event in history, but an ongoing attitude and process as we look at the Bible as we make decisions around how we do church and how we follow God.

The world is changing – it was changing for the Reformers, and it hasn’t stopped since. We will always be reacting to events around us as a Church, and we will always be tempted to both cling to old traditions out of fear and to leap ahead without stopping to check before we jump. Instead, we must turn again and again to God’s Word, just as the Reformers did, as we evaluate where we are heading as a Church.

References

Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe: https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/assess-the-effects-of-the-reformation-on-the-lives-of-women-in-sixteenth-century-europe/

Review: Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe: Private and Public Worlds (Social History) by Sherrin Marshall

Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – Diana Lynn Severance

Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion – Rudolph W. Heinze

The European Reformations – Carter Lindberg

The Education of Women in the Reformation (History of Education Quarterly) by Lowell Green

A Key to Counter Reformation Women’s Activism: The Confessor-Spiritual Director (Journal of Feminist Study In Religion) by Patricia Ranft

The Protestant Education in the 16th Century: https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/the-protestant-education-in-the-xvith-century/

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Education (Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences) by Mihai Androne

More Than Footnotes: Part 3: http://juniaproject.com/more-than-footnotes-part-3-women-reformation-era/

Women and the Counter-Reformation in Early Modern Munster: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1688

I Went To A New Church

Over the last few months I’ve started going to a new church. I’ll be honest and say this process hasn’t been easy, but it also hasn’t been as hard as it might have been. I’ve learnt a lot about churches, people and myself, and I thought it was time to reflect on that a bit.

Myself 

I don’t like large crowds of people. I already knew this, but I’ve realized more than ever than a growth group or bible study with a few people is much easier for me than a church service with 60 people.

It’s okay to low expectations of myself in terms of social interaction at church, as long as I get to church. Even if I need to leave five minutes after the service ends or arrive five minutes after it starts, that’s okay – meeting with God’s people is still good and valuable.

Church

My favourite part of church is singing songs about Jesus – for similar reasons to why I like prayerbook services. I think the first function of a church service should be the family of God telling each other the truth we believe about Jesus – through song, through prayer, through reading the Bible.

I’m not sold by the concept of a traditional ‘sermon.’ I don’t think it’s the best way to hear the truth about Jesus, encourage each other and grow in him. It would be different if it wasn’t so hard to preach a good sermon – but it is.

People 

The first conversation isn’t hard. It’s the second, third, fourth conversations that transition into building a relationship that is hard.

People are generally friendly and kind. People are also busy and already in relationships. That’s okay. There will be people with space in their lives for you. Keep meeting people and you’ll find them.

If you’re going to a new church…

Taking it slowly is okay. You won’t feel connected and at home straight away – commit to a certain number of weeks before giving up. Inconsistent attendance is better than nothing.

Small steps all add up. Be friendly and open to possibilities. Keep persisting.

If you’re welcoming new people…

Be willing to not just have that first conversation with someone, but the third and fourth as well.

If you don’t have the energy or room in your life for a new relationship, connecting them with someone who does is a good idea.

Women and The Reformation Part 3 – Leadership

This is part three in my series on the Reformation and it’s impact on women. You can read part one here and part two here. 

Leadership Outside The Church

With the Reformation came the complete restructuring of society, as the role of the church and the household were both altered. The Catholic church had been responsible for most forms of charity as well as schools, hospitals, guest houses and other ‘public services.’ Protestant women took charge to set up Protestant schools, hospitals and other charities. The entire nature of charity had changed. A lot of gaps were left, the the women of the Reformation stepped up to fill those gaps.

The question of charity as being a private or public action, as a centralized or decentralized function was just starting to be asked in the late medieval period. Social welfare was the responsibility of the church, because giving was seen as a spiritual matter. The main merit of charity was not to help the person receiving the care, but to earn credit with God.

Alms giving and charity had been seen as a method of cultivating faith and as salvation work; the Reformation changed all that. When salvation and justification come from grace alone, the act of charity becomes not about you but about those receiving it. Luther viewed social welfare as a work that flowed from right worship of God. Women were those who carried out this vision, and took compassion on those were needed their help – because these people were now seen as brothers and sisters in Christ, equal and valued by God just as they were.

The women who married preachers often became the head of a small business, coordinating schedules, finances, homes, boarders and other guests, as well as caring for her husband and their family. In a very real way, these wives often freed their husbands to focus on their work, writing and preaching. These roles gave women a place to be leaders and to hold positions of authority they previously might have only accessed if they entered a convent.

Perhaps the new leagues of reformed women were inspired by the women all over Europe who were starting lead nations. This was a rare period of history were circumstances and chance lead to many women becoming the head of their country, as Queen, Queen Mother or Regents. For example – Mary and Elizabeth of England, Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici as regent for her three sons in France, Marguerite of Navarre followed by her daughter Jean of Navarre, Louisa of Savoy in France when her son Francis I was captured for ransom, Margaret of Austria, Mary of Hungary, Isabella of Spain and others. We looked briefly at some of these high profile women in part two of this series.

To see women in these positions of power was a new occurrence and female rulers were not generally accepted throughout sixteenth century Europe, and even into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries after the Reformation. John Knox wrote in his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women that female rulers like Elizabeth I in England, and Mary Queen of Scots went against the law of God. These views were shared by many, who saw women as unstable and vulnerable.

Leadership In The Church

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers provided the foundation for arguing that women should have a significant role in ministry. Some argue that in the new structure of the Protestant church lay women were given a far greater role than they had ever exercised even as members of religious orders in the medieval church. But what were these roles? After all, there were no longer any official positions in the church open to women. The Reformation brought forward the radical idea of a priesthood of all believers, and access to the Scriptures and learning for all. But the implications for women to occupy a ministering role in the church were not followed through. Despite this, many women were starting to preach. Even those that believed Scripture prohibited a woman from speaking openly in church could often speak in their own homes, in the streets and through their writing.

Early on, Marie Dentiere, sent a ‘Defense of Women’ to Marguerite of Navarre, which argued; ‘if God has given grace to some good women, revealing to them by his holy scriptures something holy and good, should they hesitate to write, speak and declare it to one another because of the defamers of the truth? Ah, it would be too bold to try and stop them, and it would be too foolish for us to hide the talent that God has given us. God will give us the grace to persevere to the end.’ (Take from Feminine Threads, p153).

Countless women took up this call and began using their voices to proclaim the Gospel of God, and to work for good in this world. For example, Argula Von Grumbach spoke out against the arrest of a Protestant teacher at the University of Ingelstadt by writing to the rector and the University, and by speaking to all she could about the matter. From 1550 onwards, women could be seen holding prayer meetings, christening children and preaching.

But from 1560 onwards, things changed and their participation was no longer encouraged or even allowed. At the provincial and national synods, decisions were taken forbidding women from “meddling with Bible readings, prayers and christenings.” But again the familiar pattern emerged that when women were not allowed leadership in the church, they move out into the world to use their gifts and their voices.

Anabaptists did not did not limit preaching as an activity of the ordained, and as a result gave women many opportunities to preach and to teach the Word, but the the Protestant Churches gave preference to men when choosing positions of authority, and the pulpit became a solely male domain. Women were left to find ways to serve, teach and lead outside of the institution structure of the church. These women quickly learnt that a woman who sought to follow a calling and to make an impact in the world had to be an exceptional person.

The Reformation changed society drastically, and in these changes, some women found new callings and niches for them to live their lives following Jesus with their whole life and all their gifts. However, there were still constraints and restrictions placed on women, and many who determinedly set out into the world to lead faced opposition from those who should have been supporting them. The benefits of the Reformation were mainly accessible to women of a higher social standing or from the nobility. The opportunities to enter the church that were previously available to poorer women were no longer an option. Progress had been made, but there was still a long way to go.

References

Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe: https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/assess-the-effects-of-the-reformation-on-the-lives-of-women-in-sixteenth-century-europe/

Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – Diana Lynn Severance

Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion – Rudolph W. Heinze

The European Reformations – Carter Lindberg

The Education of Women in the Reformation (History of Education Quarterly) by Lowell Green

The Protestant Education in the 16th Century: https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/the-protestant-education-in-the-xvith-century/

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Education (Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences) by Mihai Androne

More Than Footnotes: Part 3: http://juniaproject.com/more-than-footnotes-part-3-women-reformation-era/

Women and The Reformation Part 2 – Women In Action

This is part two in my series on the Reformation and it’s impact on women. You can read part one here. 

What The Reformers Thought About Women

Before continuing to examine how the Reformation changed things for women, I want to pause and take a look at what the Reformers themselves thought and said on this issue. As always, there is a mixed bag of opinions, with contradictory opinions sometimes expressed by the same Reformer. This is a very quick overview, not a detailed analysis, but is neccessary to show the framework the Reformers, including female Reformers, were often dealing with.

John Calvin saw the commands given by Paul about women remaining silent in the church as coming under adiaphora or ‘things indifferent’ – things that could be changed as circumstances also changed. While he did not have women taking on roles of leadership, he was opened to the possibility that churches in a different culture might permit it, or that it would be necessary in times of crisis.

Luther held seemingly contradictory views on women – naming them flighty, vain and weak, yet loving and valuing not only his wife and daughter but many women he worked closely with, as well as defending women publicly, advocating marriage to take more of a shape of a partnership and working to increase educational opportunities for women. For example, he once proclaimed “would that every town had also a girls’ school, in which girls might be taught the gospel.” He established a school in Wittenberg to train young girls in reading, writing, mathematics and music. But Luther viewed education not as a pathway to other vocational opportunities, but as a way to train girls to be good mothers and wives.

Writing

The translation of the Bible into ‘common’ languages (not Greek and Latin) meant that theologians and preachers began preaching and writing in the vernacular as well. This made thoughts on theology available to women for the first time, as previously not even wealthy women were educated in classical languages. This also enabled women to become more involved in writing and publishing because of the Reformation. The Reformation allowed women to write about a ‘masculine’ subject: theology.

Katherine Zell wrote at length about clerical marriage, having married a priest herself, she corresponded with leaders of the Reformation throughout Europe and she wrote a book of meditations on selected Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer. Marie Dentiere is another example of a woman who was writing at this time – she published the first Protestant history of the Genevan Reformation. More importantly, she wrote to Marguerite of Navarre, asking her to protect the persecuted Calvin and Farel, and included a detailed explanation of the woman’s right to read and interpret the Scriptures, which will be looked at in detail in the next section of this series. These women are examples of what was happening all over Europe – women were reading the Bible for themselves, and were able to write and speak on theological subjects, expressing their thoughts and opinions on important matters in a way that had not been available to them previously.

High Profile Protestant Women 

High-profile women were also becoming more involved in writing and reformist thinking. Marguerite of Navarre, the sister of Francis I of France, wrote the Mirror of a Sinful Soul. Similarly, Katherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII, wrote a book called the Lamentations of a Sinner which was the first devotional text written in English by a woman.

Marguerite of Navarre had reformist leanings but saw herself as orthodox – Katherine Parr, on the other hand, maintained that people needed live their lives according to the doctrine of the Gospel. She wrote on the evils of the Papacy, and promoted the reading of Scripture and the marriage of priests. She was also around at the same time as several key Protestant woman in England, such as Anne Seymour, the Countess of Hertford, Katherine Brandon, the Duchess of Suffolk and even the Protestant martyr Anne Askew.

Anne Askew was a female preacher, who explained the word of God in English to any who would listen. She was arrested and tortured. Despite this, she refused to recant or name others, and eventually was burnt as a heretic.

Katherine Parr went on to help pave the way to a Protestant regency for her stepson, Edward the Sixth. She also had a key role in guiding Elizabeth of England’s education, teaching her to value the Scriptures. Elizabeth translated Marguerite of Navarre’s Mirror Of The Sinful Soul into English as a present for Katherine, and then the following year translated the first chapter of John Calvin’s Institutes into English. Clearly both women had a shared interest in reformed theology.

Katherine Parr also influenced Jane Grey, who was her ward for a time after the death of Henry VIII and Katherine’s remarriage. I’m going to finish this section of my series on Women and the Reformation with Jane’s story.

She was intended as a Protestant bride for the new boy king, Edward, but when the Edward’s health failed, the succession was rewritten to place Jane next in line – as a great niece of Henry VIII and a great granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

The events of Jane’s short-lived reign generally show a young girl placed in an impossible situation by adults who should have known better. But her faith in the period after this was truly remarkable for a girl only sixteen years old. Mary, the new Queen, daughter of Henry VIII, promised to pardon Jane from the sentence of treason and the punishment of death if she converted to the Catholic faith. But she was staunch in what she believed, knowing that faith and Scripture alone were enough to save her from a fate worse than death. She is a true example of the kind of education the Reformation opened up to women – if Jane had lived a hundred years earlier, she never would have had access to the tutors, books and learning she did. These things gave her confidence in Christ and certainty in what she believed about his death and resurrection to face turmoil and death without fear.

References

Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe: https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/assess-the-effects-of-the-reformation-on-the-lives-of-women-in-sixteenth-century-europe/

Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – Diana Lynn Severance

Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion – Rudolph W. Heinze

The European Reformations – Carter Lindberg

The Education of Women in the Reformation (History of Education Quarterly) by Lowell Green

The Protestant Education in the 16th Century: https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/the-protestant-education-in-the-xvith-century/

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Education (Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences) by Mihai Androne

Women and The Reformation Part 1 – The Ordinary Life

The Reformation changed the landscape of faith in Europe and worldwide. Plenty has been written on the history and stages of the Reformation, and I will not try to rehash what has been said already by those with a better understanding of the topic. But for the context of this post, I will summarize the Reformation briefly.

The Reformation was a movement in the 15th Century, in Europe, where preachers and thinkers began to move away from the traditional structures of the Catholic Church, towards an idea of the priesthood of all believers, with a focus on the Bible being available to everyone in their own language, and of salvation coming through faith in Jesus rather than the offices of the church.

How did this massive shift affect the lives of women? The question of whether it was good or bad for women is too simplistic. I want to explore how it changed things – then we have a starting point to evaluate the merits and drawbacks of this new way of Christian life.

This is not an academic essay, but I will list at the end of this piece the main books and websites that helped my thinking. These would also be good starting points if you wanted to explore this subject further.

Identity

The introduction of the concept of a ‘priesthood of all believers’ was a huge one. This was the idea that all believers had direct access to God through Jesus Christ. All people could have direct access to God through prayer and reading his Word (the Bible). While previously people’s relationship with God was mediated through a male priest, now all were equal before God through grace. Women were being encouraged, for the first time, to read the Bible for themselves. With this came an increased level of education and general literacy for women.

In terms of identity, the Catholic Church had previously portrayed women as saints such as the Virgin Mary, or as temptresses and the root of sin, like Eve. Now, women were grasping a new identity for themselves – redeemed children of God, part of his church family and valued as believers.

In addition, the Reformation placed a stronger emphasis on the whole church body being the ‘bride of Christ’ – a female role, in relationship to Christ Jesus as the bridegroom. This raises other ideas about the different roles in marriage – the bride as subordinate to the husband, the head of the wife.

 

Education

The Reformation changed the nature of Education drastically, especially for girls. Previously, the school system of the Middle Ages relied on parishes or convents running schools. But the Reformers put forth the notion of unrestricted education that was open to all young people, regardless of gender or social class. This transferred the responsibility of education to the political authorities. There was also a new focus on the importance of family education, which gave women a new role as they began to take responsibility for educating their children in Scripture and doctrine. Luther in particular believed it was the parents’ responsibility to bring up their children to become well-read Christians, and that domestic education and schooling went hand in hand for the process of raising educated believers.

This approach to education meant many girls were attending school for the first time, and the question of how to approach the teaching of girls was being asked by more and more people. One interesting sign of the new interest in female education was that people were writing and publishing books on the subject.

Luther and other Reformers felt that girls as well as boys should learn not only religion but also history, classical and modern languages, literature, music, and mathematics. Programs that balanced work and study were proposed for students without academic ambitions. Students were encouraged to spend part of the day studying the rest of their time learning a trade or skills to help them in keeping a home and raising children.

Some Reformers and schools also encouraged intellectually-qualified girls to study the liberal arts, like their brothers; at this time there was also a need for female teachers. However, Luther’s focus on education for girls was primarily to train them to be well rounded mothers and wives. We will look more at the Reformers’ attitudes towards women in the next section of this series.

Home Life

The Reformation placed an emphasis on the family unit as a household of faith. Marriage was viewed as a tool designed by God for the sanctification of Christians. In some ways, this elevated the traditional roles of wife and mother as supremely valuable and integral to the life of the home. Virginity and chastity, while still valued, were no longer idealized and glorified. The role of women in the family was acknowledged and praised in new ways, which some have interpreted as being liberating for women.

The flipside, however, is that choosing a celibate life dedicated to God became much harder to pursue, and was much less valued. No longer was the convent and veil a choice for women who did not wish to marry. In some ways, the changes made life more restrictive for women, in that there was less choice available.

Marriage and motherhood carried intrinsic risks for women; death in childbirth was a reality, as well as the heartbreak of infant mortality. Nuns had traditionally lived longer, not only by avoiding childbirth, but by avoiding the diseases of the masses.

For the ordinary women, the Reformation brought about many changes to their lives, from their identity as children of God, to their increased access to education and the new value placed on their roles in the home. However, things were still a long way from being ‘equal,’ and there were certain disadvantages and restriction of choices that came with these social changes. I’m going to keep exploring wider aspects of how the Reformation changed things for women in the next few parts of this series.

 

 

References

Assess the Effects of the Reformation on the Lives of Women in Sixteenth-Century Europe: https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/assess-the-effects-of-the-reformation-on-the-lives-of-women-in-sixteenth-century-europe/

Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – Diana Lynn Severance

Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion – Rudolph W. Heinze

The European Reformations – Carter Lindberg

The Education of Women in the Reformation (History of Education Quarterly) by Lowell Green

The Protestant Education in the 16th Century: https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/the-protestant-education-in-the-xvith-century/

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Education (Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences) by Mihai Androne

20 Years Of Harry Potter

It’s 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published. I’m re-reading the series again to celebrate. It occurs to me I have a lot to say about these books.

Often I don’t talk about Harry Potter and how big a part of my life it was because it is so inbuilt into me – of course Harry Potter was a huge part of my life. How could it not be?

Memories of the HP books are woven into all my childhood memories. Visiting my cousins and seeing the first HP book on his shelf and starting to read it. Having Mum read aloud the fourth book to us because we were still pretty young and it was too scary. Reading the sixth HP book in a day when it came out. Reading the books at the Sport Carnivals instead of, you know, doing the sports. Re-reading the books again and again, like coming back to an old friend.

20160722_140618
Hogwarts Express at the Warner Bros Studio

Then of course, there was all the extra stuff that came with the books. Going to see the movies as they came out. Thinking that the Harry Potter Puppet Pals was the funniest thing ever. Still knowing that A Very Potter Musical might be the funniest thing ever (or at least the funniest thing on YouTube). Watching as HP became the global phenomenon it deserves to be, as it got a theme park and a stage play and a spin off series of textbooks that somehow got turned into a movie with more to follow (hi Fantastic Beasts!). Being excited with the advent of Pottermore and finally being sorted into our own houses.

I visited the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio when I was in the UK last year, and it was magical in every way. Most of all, it brought home to me again that Harry Potter is not a just a magical world I can escape to – it is a shared love, a collectively adored series. There are strangers all over the world who love these characters and these books the same way I do – who know the feeling of escaping back to Hogwarts. Harry Potter makes me feel less alone.

HP

As the world celebrates 20 years of Harry, as I ponder again how seven books can make such an impact on the world and can produce so much more than just those seven books, I’m thankful again for imagination, for bravery, for stories and for the magic of reading.

I’m grateful for the world of Harry Potter. I’m grateful for the Harry, Ron and Hermione’s example of friendship, for the Weasleys’ example of family, for Dumbledore’s and McGonagall’s example of teachers who care, for Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, for Luna and Ginny and Neville, even sometimes for Draco (except not ever for Snape. Sorry guys).

I don’t think I would be the reader – or writer – I am today without HP. I don’t think I would have learnt to value the Hufflepuff qualities I have – of hard work and loyalty and compassion – without knowing that we are all talented differently and there is a place for each of us.

So, with 20 years done, it’s time to say thanks to JK Rowling and to Harry Potter. Let’s all agree the Cursed Child never happened and keep re-reading the books forever.

Things I Liked In June

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. Here’s my list of what I liked in June. What have you liked this month?

Diversify Your Happiness

I’ve been reading Yes and Yes a lot more. It has some very helpful articles about money and happiness. This article talks about branching out and finding new things that make you happy – a great endeavor!

Orphanages – 5 Myths You Need To Know

The true state of a many orphanages, and how we can help (without making it all about us and causing more harm). Warning: parts of this article are quite distressing.

Salad In A Jar

I’m experimenting with new ways to eat food. I’m currently thinking about ways to pack healthy lunches when I go back to uni classes soon. These salad jars look fun and practical.

The White Princess

A few years ago The White Queen aired – a 10 episode series that dramatized the events of the end of the War of the Roses. It focused on Elizabeth Woodville – the York Queen and Mother of the Princes in the Tower. Now, The White Princess is the follow up – it follows Elizabeth of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, who married the new Tudor king, Henry VII to unite the warring factions and bring peace to England. The series is light and entertaining, even if it skips the accuracy in some (many) places. The costumes are some of the most accurate I’ve seen though, and watching it was worth it for them alone.

This Dog Followed The Google Earth Guy

dog follows google earth

What a good dog. Just looking for a friend.

Catherine de’Medici: orphan, captive, wife, Queen, mother, politician, survivor

History things! Catherine has an amazing life story, where she played a variety of roles that weren’t always accessible to women in her time. This article gives some great insights into her life.

Loving Scripture, Living Egalitarian

This article makes some interesting points; I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but it’s worth considering.

A New Report On Teen Sex

I found this really interesting to read; especially where it compares perceived sexual behaviour in teens with actual sexual behaviour. Check it out.

30 Moments From Europe That Stayed With Me

A little while ago I wrote this post where I listed 10 moments from my trip to Austria that stayed with me. Well today is a year since I left for my first trip to Europe – a month long trip with my family, first doing a two week Trafalgar tour of mainland Europe and then doing two weeks in Britain, starting with 5 days in London and then driving up through York to Scotland and then down through Oxford to Poole, Dorset.

As I said before, memories and reflections are a funny thing. They change over time and what stands out to me a year on are a strange collection of moments and impressions. So, in no particular order, here is 30 moments from my first trip to Europe that I remember vividly.

  1. Walking out of a concert hall in Vienna to find it has started raining, getting the bus back to the hotel and viewing the city through rain-streaked windows that made everything beautiful.
  2. Landing at Heathrow Airport and my sister exclaiming ‘I can’t believe this is where they filmed Love Actually!’
  3. Getting the train alone to Hampton Court, and spending the whole day walking around, looking at and touching this old red bricked Tudor palace, unable to believe I was really there.
  4. Being exhausted in Rome and finding a comfortable looking rock in the Colosseum to sit on.
  5. Sitting in a boat, going down the main canal of Venice, worrying that my hat would blow off or I would drop my phone in the water.
  6. Driving over the border into Scotland and not being able to believe the sky was so big.
  7. Seeing a man buy two gelato cones in Rome, and then watching him feed one to his dog.
  8. Being too sick when we got to Paris to do the Seine river cruise – Dad and I found a bakery, and I ate a sesame seed roll with lettuce and Camembert cheese and then went to bed and slept for 12 hours.
  9. Driving through the Black Forest in Germany and totally believing that fairytale characters could appear at any moment.
  10. Walking around Florence on a 40 degree day and going to every church we saw because they were the coolest (temperature-wise) buildings.
  11. Meeting a dog named Chaz in a pub in Stow-On-The-Wold in England and missing my own Leo dog.
  12. Getting overwhelmed in the Vatican because there were so many people. 
  13. Getting the tube from Westminster to the Tower of London – it was sunny when we went underground, and then when we emerged it was pouring rain. We dashed to a nearby pub to take shelter (and eat lunch).
  14. Sailing down the Rhine River and seeing my first castle – the first castle I ever saw in real life. Then wondering how on earth you access it when it’s up so high on a cliff.
  15. Seeing the house Dad lived in and the primary school he went to in Glasgow (he lived there for a year when he was ten years old).
  16. Walking along the old city walls in Lucerne, Switzerland, and picking out which castle I would retire to/run away from the world to.
  17. Walking out of our dinner location to see the sun setting behind the Colosseum.
  18. Buying a colouring book at a rest stop in Austria and then using it as entertainment for the many, many hours on the tour bus.
  19. Realizing that the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace was happening in ten minutes, walking really fast to get there, and then realizing we were walking alongside the barracks they leave from.
  20. Driving from Glasgow to Creetown and getting lost. We ended up driving through almost deserted Scottish countryside on a tiny track. At one point we stopped the car, got out and just walked around, admiring the view. The hills stretched on forever, the sky was like a huge open dome and it was so silent.
  21. Attending a prayerbook service in the Royal Chapel at Hampton Court.
  22. Walking around a 17th Century graveyard next to the ruins of a 12th Century church – which were both in the backyard of our bnb in Bathgate. Also meeting the bnb’s two cats.
  23. Realizing the ducks in St James’ Park are HUGE.
  24. Sitting in the Eagle and Child in Oxford (the pub where the Inklings met) and drinking Pimms and lemonade and hiding from the sun.
  25. Meeting my Aunt and Uncle’s giant furry dog, and then walking him all around Poole and Dorset for three days.
  26. Standing in Westminster Abbey and just saying to myself ‘I’m in Westminster Abbey. I’m really here.’
  27. Driving from Germany, through the Bavarian alps towards Innsbruck, through the Austrian alps, and being overwhelmed that the world was so beautiful.
  28. Realizing that in Europe, a flat white is called an ‘Australian flat white.’
  29. Visiting Creetown, and the Creetown historical museum. Seeing objects like the town’s school enrollment book and letters from both World Wars.
  30. Walking down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh castle, listening to blues music (the Blues and Jazz festival was in town) and never wanting to leave.