The Beauty of Silence 2

I love St. Mother Teresa’s “The Fruit of…” prayer –

The Fruit of Prayer and Flower 11x14

(image credit: Erika Marie)

It’s a recipe Mother Teresa whipped up for us as a guide for how to live a fruitful and abundant life.

I’m sure she wrote it as a step-by-step  guide but I mistakenly looked at it like a list of ingredients to collect in no particular order.  I tend to skim right over the fruit of silence bud and dive head-first into service activity, failing to realize the significance of each “fruit” and its deliberate position in the prayer.

I busy myself with so much “service”, thinking I’m doing all these good things with love before falling flat on my face, wondering why I feel no peace from all this doing. 

God has a way of subtly – or sometimes not so subtly –  getting me to see what’s missing.  I’m sure He tries to get me to see but it’s hard to catch my attention when I’m buzzing around 100 miles per hour.

Sorry, God, I’m too busy serving you to pay attention to you or hear what you’re trying to tell me.

Then –

BAM!

I hit a brick wall and, in my dazed confusion – look to God and indignantly ask why He didn’t warn me about the wall.

Silence.

Oh, so now that I’m finally listening, You’re not going to say anything?

Chirp. Chirp.

Oh…I slowly catch on. I stop listening for a big booming voice, or looking for His answer written clearly in the sky. And then I hear it…

Silence. 

In my zeal to serve God, I dismissed the importance of seeing Mother Teresa’s “fruits” as a step-by-step guide in which each step cannot be accomplished without first cultivating the preceding fruit.

Silence leads to Prayer, Prayer opens our hearts for the fruit of Faith to grow, Faith points us to Love, Love moves us to Service, and, only after those five fruits are fully grown, blossomed, and habitually cultivated, can the fruit of Peace begin to take root in our souls and our lives.

After the heart-wrenching experience of my dad’s death and the deafening numbness of the grief that’s followed, I really couldn’t do anything but go back to that first branch,

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.

Like I shared about using the gift of time I have better, I lessened my commitments and activities and spent more time simply listening and allowing God’s gentle and healing Grace wash over me.  Over time, these moments of silence have become a prayer, a wordless but soul-filled conversation with the One who Loves me and Knows me. Through these moments of silence and prayer, He rolls my heart out and kneads a new kind of Faith in me, a refiner’s fire faith. Stronger, deeper, truer.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1: 6-7)

From this refiner’s fire – humbled, laid bare and still aching – we are finally ready to receive Love.

But what is Love?

Love is not a what, Love is a Who. And the Who is God.

God gives Love by ceaselessly giving Himself. In turn, we give Love by giving ourselves back to Him. We give ourselves to Him in silence, through prayer, with faith…and then – by giving Love, by giving God, to the people we encounter.

The wisdom of Mother Teresa’s prayer is that if we ignore the Silence, Prayer, and Faith steps, we’ll lack genuine love in our hearts and any acts of service become monotonous busy work to pass the time, avoid pain, or make ourselves feel better about being a “good” person.  All the “good work” we might do will lack long-lasting and fulfilling significance.

Anyone can do good things in the name of “service”; it takes prayer and faith to LOVE. 

When I use the time God’s given me to stop doing and just listen to God in the silence, in prayer, with faith, and through Love, I finally notice the buds of Peace poking up through my thawing heart, and in the hearts of those around me.


A Healing Goodbye to Our Dog 1

About three years ago, we welcomed our first dog into our family Bella.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, we had to let her go.

I had been resistant to getting a dog despite my husband’s and kid’s desire for a family dog. We had a chance to dog-sit Bella a couple times for our friends and loved her.

I told my husband, “Well, if we had a dog like Bella, then maybe we could get one.”

Then, one day, our friends told us that they were going to have to find another home for Bella and my ears perked up and I started thinking….hmmmm.

Long story short, one day, for Father’s Day, we brought Bella to our house and surprised everyone – especially my husband – when we told them she was ours to keep if we wanted. It didn’t take long for everyone to say, “Yes!”

Bella was about seven, we weren’t for sure, and so it was the perfect way to introduce our family to dog ownership. She was trained, wasn’t quite as energetic as a puppy but loved to play with all of us, even the toddler at the time, and she was used to being an outdoor dog – my main requirement.

We all grew to love Bella and, in the beginning, everyone did a good job helping to give her attention and care. Like most new things, the excitement wore down over time and she had a few bad habits we didn’t appreciate (chewing on kids’ toys, peeing in the house if we weren’t constantly watching her, eating her…nevermind that’s too gross.) Nevertheless, we all still loved having her, including me.

She was a good friend for me especially last year in the dream-like daze of intense grief. Sometimes I’d go outside and just sit on the back steps. She’d come up to me, tail wagging, and set her snout on my knee and beg me to stroke her. As I stroked her soft fur, it brought us both comfort. The repetitive action and the soothing texture calmed my mind and soothed my sorrowful heart. My Dad loved Bella so, in a way, I felt connected with him during those moments.

Whenever I was feeling frustrated and angry with myself or because of behavioral difficulties with the kids, I’d go out and throw the ball around with Bella or run around the yard with her  – providing her needed exercise and entertainment and me a positive release of my emotions.

Admittedly, she was so  laid back it was easy to take her for granted. One evening, after being gone for the day, we came back and I noticed her stomach area was suddenly very enlarged, which was unusual since she was always on the skinnier side of an average lab.

The next day, I noticed it even more and I remember sitting out on the back porch and rubbing her tummy like she loved so much. I gently pressed on it and could tell it was very hard and it made her uncomfortable, though she didn’t whimper or show any other obvious signs of pain.

However, there was something….familiar. I had felt this feeling before. The feeling of knowing, somehow, that death is close. I stroked her fur and scratched behind her ears and felt a foreboding sadness for her, and our family. Later that day, I went out to throw the ball around with her and noticed she didn’t seem interested. She’d run and get it and then slowly trudge back. With the last toss, she trotted over to get it but then dropped it back in the grass and sulked back to her favorite spot to lay down in the sun, as if she was saying, “I want to…but I just can’t anymore.”

The next morning, I brought her to the vet to see if we could figure out what was ailing her. After poking around and examining her, she determined the cause of her abdominal swelling was pretty serious.

“Possibly liver disease…or a cancerous tumor…,” I heard the vet gently explain.

I knew where the conversation headed and, to my surprise, I started tearing up as memories of sitting in a doctor’s office listening to the doctor briefly explain my Dad’s diagnosis suddenly flooded my mind.

Lung cancer….mutation….stage IV….incurable….

I looked at sweet Bella, peacefully ignorant to the meaning of our conversation, and felt pity and shame. She had probably been in pain for a little while now but, being the sweet mild-tempered dog that she was, just didn’t show it until now. I knew we could choose to go all out and try to “cure” her illness. I also knew this would be highly expensive and, as the vet agreed, had a low chance of success.  In the end, I left the clinic with Bella and a day’s worth of pain medicine for her.

That evening, my husband and I sat down with all the kids and Bella in our family room and shared what the vet told us about Bella. (another familiar scene) We gently explained why exploratory surgery or medicine most likely could not help her. Our oldest picked up on what the other option would be and cried out, “No, not that, we can’t do that to her!”

The younger boys picked up on her emotions and pretty soon everyone had tears in their eyes.  Gently, slowly, calmly, we explained that we needed to think of Bella and her pain. There was a lot of confusion and questions.

“But, I thought we weren’t supposed to kill?” Our oldest son, so practically and black-and-white minded, couldn’t quite understand how this could be ok.

“We all love Bella,” I said, “and we don’t want her to die….but we also don’t want her to be in so much pain. We can’t keep her alive for us and make her continue living a life of pain.”

They took these words in and it was the same oldest son, who usually struggles with showing empathy, who was the first to say, “I think we should do option two. So she isn’t in pain anymore.”

My heart swelled and broke all at once in that moment. My son grasped the reality of the situation and was able to appreciate what Bella really needed.

That night, we let Bella sleep in our daughter’s room, since she was struggling the most with the decision and because we didn’t want Bella to sleep on her own that night. Despite the pain medicine we’d given her, Bella was very restless. She wouldn’t sit or lay down in her bed no matter what we tried. In the morning, our daughter said Bella never went to sleep and kept pacing around the room.  Through that night, our daughter’s reluctance over having to let her go turned to a sorrowful acceptance. She had seen how much pain Bella was in and knew it wouldn’t be right to prolong her life just because we wanted to keep her with us longer.

We let the kids each have time to say tearful and quiet goodbyes to Bella before leaving for school, knowing she’d be gone when they came home. My husband and I brought her to the vet together and they kindly showed us into a room. The vet gently and compassionately explained the procedure and let us know we were welcome to stay for however long or little we wanted.  We said we’d probably only stay for the first part – the Valium that puts her into a relaxed state before the final injection.

We had a few more moments alone with Bella while they prepared the medications. Though still in obvious pain, Bella stood alert by the door, her ears perked up listening to the sounds of other dogs or cats and people there for regular check-ups. It struck me, how she stood in front of me then with no idea what awaited. In that moment, I felt a conflicted sorrow.

Is this ok? To purposefully end her life instead of letting her die naturally?

I tried again to get her to sit but she wouldn’t, her abdominal pain too intense now. She looked up at me with kind and loyal eyes, and I stroked her back and rubbed her ears like she loved so much. In that moment, looking at her, I felt a great sense of gratitude. 

“Thank you, Bella, for being such a good dog for our family. ”

The door opened and the vet and her assistant came in. They laid a white towel on the floor and had Bella stand on it. Gently, slowly, with soothing words, the vet injected the Valium in. Within seconds, Bella let out a low groan, as if she was saying, “Ahh…that feels good.” Then, she sat down – the first time she’d done that since the day before – and then her legs gave in and her body melted down to the floor as my husband and I gently stroked her. The vet explained that she was now in a deep sleep.

I felt happy for her, relieved of her pain and finally able to sleep after the past restless nights. This was the point we had decided earlier that we’d leave but now that we were there, we couldn’t leave, we wanted to stay with her until the end.

The vet quietly injected the final medication. We stayed with her as her body went limp, her eyes closed, and her chest stopped swelling in and out. I wiped my eyes  filled with tears I couldn’t contain. In those moments, my body was with Bella in the vet’s office but my mind was back in the hospital room watching the same process happen to my dad’s body a little over a year ago.

I felt like a hole in time opened up in that hospital room, all other noises outside vanished and a warm glow of light vignetted us.  The seas of time parted and swirled around us, the whirlpool of eternity spiraled in, gently pulling and guiding my dad’s soul through the “birth canal” of death into new life.  Once his soul passed through, his heart deafeningly silent and his chest formidably motionless, the whirlpool lifted out, the warm glow of light faded, and the seas of time crashed down around us again, pushing us down into the intense pain of shock and grief.

The nurse came back in the room and put her stethoscope on his still chest. I asked, “Is it done?” She nodded and gently confirmed, “yes.”

Back in the vet’s office, the vet put her stethoscope to Bella’s chest, paused, then quietly confirmed, “She’s gone, at rest and in no more pain now.”

We nodded our heads and let out long sighs.  Slowly I wiped my tears, we offered our final thank you’s and gave Bella one last stroke goodbye. Then, we stood up, opened the door, and walked back into the world of time.

We drove back home in silence, both of us struck again by the jarring finality of death and surprised by our grief. After all, she was “just a dog”. But…she had been our dog. And, in the way only animals can, she loved us and we loved her. We hated that we had to do that, wishing she could have gotten better on her own, but accepting that, for her sake and not ours, we had to let her go.

I hated that my dad got sick, that he had to leave us so soon before we had barely begun to process his out-of-the-blue diagnoses. In the 24 hours I spent with him in the hospital, I saw his pain and his incredible discomfort. The more we tried to save him, the further away he sank. Through a torturous night, I began to see the reality of his prognosis.  By the morning, I knew we’d need to let him go, for his sake even if not for ours.

And so it is, with life and death:

The Lord giveth…and the Lord taketh.  (Job 1:21)

He blesses us with the gift and joy of life….and then, after a time, He retrieves life – His beloved creatures – back into Himself where we ultimately belong.

Thank you, Lord for the gift of Bella. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of my Dad. Take them into you, and bless our mourning hearts with your loving and comforting mercy. 


It Just Takes Time 4

It just takes Time

It just takes time [for the heart to heal].

A friend whispered this to me during my adoration hour and I let the phrase seep into me and guide my thoughts.

What does that mean, “it takes time”?

Usually, when I hear this phrase I think of time as abstract and passive. But this time I envisioned time as a tangible and active material object – like a salve I could apply to heal my internal wounds.

I pondered this a while and realized God has answered my prayers for healing by giving me time, loads of time. But I often squander it with chronic busyness to avoid the pain and make that time go by faster.

Yet, what I’ve discovered, as many others have, is you can’t rush the healing from grief or other life crises and you can pretend the pain away all you want but it only buries it deeper and deeper, making it harder to heal and causing it to fester.

I knew this intellectually but emotionally I felt lost, confused and didn’t really know what else to do but to “keep going” and “stay busy”.

Everyone complains about not having enough time to do what they really want or really need to do. But, in reality, we all have the same exact amount of time every day. It’s how much we try to pack into a single day that makes it feel longer or shorter.

This year, I decided I needed to listen to my friend’s advice and fully embrace the gift of time and rediscover joy and hope in the little grace-filled moments of everyday life.  

I’ve lessened my personal and family commitments, said no more to extrafamilial activities and yes more to spending time just being with my family and friends.

One of the biggest changes I made was the decision to limit my time on Facebook and social media in general and, as you may have noticed, a break from writing and keeping up with the blog as much. (Though I’ve missed that!)

I’m thankful for the ability to stay connected with family and friends and do agree that social media has become an important communication tool. That said, I felt I had become so attached to all my social media connections that I’d find myself scrolling or “just checking” so many times throughout the day that I didn’t even know I was doing it anymore.

Like a cigarette, checking Facebook on my phone was my “go-to” when I felt stressed and overwhelmed with life or just didn’t feel like doing the dishes or dealing with yet another squabble or whiny complaint.

Instead of actively and personally engaging with friends and family, I felt more like a passive friend, peering into their lives through status updates and pictures they shared but not really taking the time to know how they are really doing.

I knew I needed to pray more but whenever I had a few moments of quiet time, instead of praying I’d get my phone out and “just check” and end up using all my rare moments to myself scanning through others’ lives instead of “checking in” with God and opening my heart to Him. I wasn’t sure how I would spend my time without Facebook, and that’s when I knew I needed to uninstall it. If I couldn’t remember or imagine what my life would be like without it, it was time to give it up.

I decided I wanted – needed – to remove this from my life, or at least greatly limit the time I spent using social media. I uninstalled Facebook from my phone, leaving the Messenger, Groups and Facebook page app so I could still stay connected with specific people and groups that use Facebook to plan get togethers. I didn’t give it up completely, I still check it on my computer every now and then and I usually get emails if someone tags me.

The morning after I uninstalled it I felt…free. Like a huge weight had been lifted and I was no longer chained, though I didn’t even realize I had been.

It was a little hard, and still is sometimes, feeling like I’m probably missing out on important information – or not so important. I also worry that people may get the wrong idea and think I just don’t care about them anymore or think I’m somehow “better than”.

I do care very much and most definitely do not think of myself as “better than” anyone. The problem is, as much as I love the ability to share glimpses of our lives with those we truly do care about, I still feel dissatisfied and empty after scrolling through my newsfeeds.  It’s because I desire a deeper more personal connection than what social media can offer.

I want to know how my friends and family really are and listen openly to their thoughts with a personal conversation. 

By limiting my commitments and spending less time hypnotized by a screen, it’s like my eyes are slowly reopening and seeing the tangible world around me again.

Shortly after my dad passed away, I shared with a friend that I didn’t know what else to do with my days except fill them with activity,  “I mean, what am I gonna do, just sit and stare out the window all day?”

“Maybe.” She wisely responded.

Hmmm, yeah…maybe.

Instead of rushing around from one activity to another, frantically working to meet deadline after deadline, I’ve turned the speed dial of my days wayyyy  down.

And guess what? I feel like I have more time to do the things I need to do with more joy and more time to do things I like and which are good for my health with less guilt.

I’ve had more time to meet friends for coffee or playdates, call or write letters to friends I don’t get to see often. I’ve reworked my exercise goals to focus on rebuilding my “core” strength (in more than one sense of that word) instead of escaping my sorrow with only high-intensity workouts. I have more time to plan and prepare simple yet nutritious meals and #eatmoresalads. 😉

I try to take a short nap in the afternoons so I can devote my attention to the kids after school with more energy and I’ve started cooking as much ahead during the day so I’m available to help with homework without as many distractions.

I spend more time reading and creating on my own and with my family. I’ve been able to spend more focused time with my husband to talk with each other instead of rushing off to evening packed with activities or only sitting and staring at our phones or computers the whole evening.

Like I said before, at first I worried I might miss out by not checking in on Facebook throughout the day. Now, I see I was missing out on those raw yet profound moments of life that were starting to pass me by without my awareness.

And sometimes, I just sit and stare out the window and allow my mind to ponder, remember, and pray.

Yes, time heals.


Marry Him and Be Submissive #BookReview

Time for another book review!

My friends at TAN Books asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing  –

Marry Him and Be Submissive by Costanza Miriano

I’ll admit the provocative title piqued my curiosity. If anything, I decided to read to see if it was as controversial as it sounds and see what all the fuss over the book (in Italy) is about. (Apparently Costanza has caused such a stir over her book, which came out first in Italian and now in English, that there have been “riots” and talk of banning the book in Italy.)

What I liked about it:

Costanza, a working journalist, writer, wife, and mother of 4, seems like a fun and interesting person who cares deeply and passionately about preserving authentic and mutually respectful loving marriages. She shares a lot of advice and wisdom to women who are either contemplating marriage or are already married in a tell-it-like-she-sees it but with a good amount of tongue-in-cheek quips to go along. That said, the translation is great although I think I missed out on a few punch lines because I’m not well-acquainted with Italian humor and culture.  It was fun getting a little peek into what life for a mom, maybe a lot like myself, is like in Italy.

After reading it, I’ll honestly say this probably is not a book I would choose to read on my own but I’m glad I had the opportunity to see what it’s all about with an open mind. I can definitely understand why the title and the content would ruffle a few pretty feathers but it definitely gave me some munchies for my mind to chew on.

Without getting into any opinions as I know this can be a sensitive subject, I will say that I did not relate with everything Costanza writes about. However, I did  find it interesting to notice the similarities between her – an Italian woman and mother somewhat obsessed with fashion and giving out unsolicited advice – and I – an “American” woman who generally dislikes clothes and shopping or telling anyone what to do if they don’t want to hear it (except for my kids, of course).

What is Submission?

Before I share more, I’ll also say that it’s essential to understand what the word “submission” really means in the context of marriage and loving relationships. Costanza did a good job going into a deeper explanation of that on pages 112 – 120. In short, know that, in Italian, sotto mettere (submission) means to place under so as to be supportive.  I remember learning about this with a line drawn horizontally across the whiteboard and then a woman stick figure under a man on top with the woman’s arms holding up the man and the man’s hands holding up the woman.

Kind of like this…

_________^_________________

v

sort of…you’ll have to use your imagination. 😉

So, in this context, it is not a submission that says a woman should basically do whatever her husband tells her and never speak up against him. It is a sub-mission – a loving and generous submitting and giving oneself to another and in cooperation with that other person for their own good and the good of their family.

For the record, she also has a book for men – Marry Her and Die for Her.

If you can understand the true meaning of the word submission, then you can more fully understand and appreciate what Costanza means when she says, “Marry Him and Be Submissive”.

In other words, Love Him Selflessly and Support Him Generously with your Love.

Here’s a video of Costanza explaining her perspective on “submission” on the BBC Newsnight. 

Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have read this book on my own, and I found her tangents into fashion and other unrelated topics distracting for my already distracted brain. That said, she shares a great amount of wisdom about Women, Marriage, Motherhood and everything that goes along with it.

Here are some quotes from the book I liked: 

On Marriage and Commitment

[Your husband] is the means God has chosen to love you, and he is your pathway to heaven. Our vocation, whatever it is in life, is essentially to make each other happy. As Pavel Evdokimov, the Russian Orthodox theologian puts it, if the objective end of marriage is to generate children, the subjective end is to generate ourselves.
Without [your husband, you] cannot fully be yourself… And this task, with God’s help, you will regenerate yourself.

Nowadays everyone seems to be desperate to keep all options open…. What they don’t realize is that the choice to leave something open necessarily requires closing off some other possibility. Refusing to decide closes off the possibility of following a path that leads to depths of emotion and riches of spirit that the world has ever known. Experiencing an array of different love affairs won’t teach you as much about love as living a single experience of love in all its depth.

The choice of a profound and lasting love will help you embrace your everyday life…It will help you love your life… the path will lead you, through everyday life, up a slope that may be steep. But at the top, a great valley, will open up before you – a hidden and secret place that the back lanes of ‘feelings’ can never reach. It is experienced by very few…”

About Women, Emancipation, and Equality

“Today, we women are no longer required to act as servants, but we can choose to serve each other out of love and as a freely chosen response to a call. Men and women are very different, which has nothing to do with equal opportunities. We are not the same, and not recognizing this is a cause of certain suffering, as indeed happens every time we deny the truth.”

“Emancipation – which started out as a claim for Justice – led to a distorted idea of equality. Equality is not sameness. It is about giving equal dignity to two identities that could not be more different.”

To her young daughters  –

“My hope is that your generation and women can finally be at peace with itself, and I hope that you can fulfill your deepest identity by consciously choosing it. And so – and this really is an unfashionable wish – I hope that you will be, more than anything else, strong and thus welcoming, open to others and capable of bringing people together. And in a word, if you can, be good.”

Advice for Motherhood

Pages 148 – 150 contain many good words and thoughts about motherhood that any mother of young children could relate to, for example:

“It might be useful for you to know that if you need to go to the bathroom and you still managed to retain the right to close the door, you can place a toilet role against the wall and use it as a makeshift cushion to grab a couple of seconds of rest.”

“Lowering your expectations is always a wise move, and at certain points, a goal simply to survive is a sign of good sense.”

“So I have come to the conclusion that the main challenge of our life as parents, and mine as a mother, lies precisely in this: We have to learn to give them their freedom…The challenge comes…when our children begin to take a healthy distance from us; when they are no longer little satellites revolving around us; and when they grow up, not always in the way we would like. The point is this: it’s not for us to choose how their life will pan out. We have to get used to running the risk that they won’t turn out the way we had planned… But that they may actually be better than we had ‘planned.'”

“We have to have patience, let time pass, learn to accept things, and acknowledge that, on occasion, times will be tough; they might be dirty, naughty, and much more, but they will always be our children.”

On Maternity and Openness to Life

“Maternity on the other hand offers the possibility of learning that precious lesson of how to give of oneself. And women who learned that lesson move up a gear in life. They flourish…. If you try, with honesty and humility,…welcoming a new life into your own life can convert you and help you to be less selfish.”

“…there is no need to be perfect to make the decision to being open to life, nor is it possible to wait until you reach perfection before trying to bring up decent kids. You just do it as best you can, knowing that none of us are perfectly balanced or free of anxieties. You do it knowing that mistakes will come every day.”

On Sacrificial Love (in Marriage, Motherhood, and all relationships)

“Keep on giving even while you’re running on an empty tank, without ever looking back. Otherwise what you have is not love, it’s a contract, and for that you don’t need a husband, you need a housekeeper.”

“There’s a secret that the world hasn’t figured out that allows us to follow a luminous path through the daily grind of boredom, habit, misunderstanding, and annoyances…. It is summed up in one word – sacrifice. The daily struggle is transformed from a stumbling block into another word for love. It is no longer something that gets in the way of love: rather, it’s something that nourishes it and helps it to grow. Love doesn’t go out in the daily grind; its flame burns stronger.”

If these quotes and the title, Marry Him and Be Submissive, have tickled your curiosity as it did mine I suggest you give Costanza Miriano a chance and look at the issue of marriage, women, and submission from a unique perspective. You might even gain some extra fashion advice while you’re at it! 


10 Movies We Watched in 2016 2

Alright, finally, two months later, I’m ready to share our list of movies we watched last year – you know, in twenty sixteen.

10 Movies We Watched in 2016:

We tried listing these in the order we liked them (the first one being our most liked.)

Arrival

This is my husband’s favorite movie from last year. He liked everything.

The unique  idea of a time and a language that is happening all in one instant instead of chronologically totally fascinated me. I remember getting chills as we watched this, not because the theatre was cold, though it probably was, because I had an eerie feeling the movie makers had somehow found the secret door to my mind and saw some of my inner most thoughts.

Without giving away the unexpected twist of the movie, I have to say my other favorite part was the way one character decided to embrace life, even with all the suffering and pain she knew would come with it.

Experimenter

This was definitely my favorite last year. It was a random Netflix movie I’d never heard of that turned out to be great. (Now available on Amazon, also.) 

Experimenter paints a unique and abstract vision of social psychologist, Stanley Milgram’s, unconventional and controversial social experiments.

I’m a “people watcher”, I’ve always been intrigued by human behavior and the science of social psychology – the study of how people interact together. If you also find that fascinating or you’re in the mood for a random thinker movie, try Experimenter.

McFarland, USA

We watched this with our thirteen year old (gasp, did I just write that?) and we all really liked it. Maybe you think you’ve seen enough corny sports inspiration movies but give this a chance. We all are runners and cross-country has been part of mine and my husband’s life and now our daughter’s so we might be a bit partial.

Aside from the obvious “you can do it” theme of all inspirational sports movies, I also appreciated the lessons about diversity and showing a slice of what life has been like for migrants – how hard they have to work but also that they can become more.

The Fundamentals of Caring

This one has crass language throughout but, if you can get past that, it’s a really excellent film. You’ll laugh, you might cry, and your heart will feel all swelly with pride for the goodness in humanity. Watch it, you’ll love it. (Just remember, I did warn you about the language.)

Of Gods and Men

We’ve watched this twice now. Well, technically this was the first time watched it all the way through. My husband really, really liked it and so I wanted to give it another go.  It is slow-moving but…well that’s kind of the point.

It’s a movie about monks living in Algeria during a time of civil unrest. Somehow, in the midst of all that, they carve out a special place in the community for their religious community to live and serve the local people.

This is a simple movie that shows the beauty of prayerful work, loyalty, community and friendship.  Though they each have a chance to leave each other and save themselves, they all seem to ask the same unsaid question, “to where else would we go?”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This was a fun little “interlude” between the The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode VIII, The Last Jedi (which apparently is plural!) Our daughter (who watched it with us) described it as much sadder and depressing that other Star Wars movies. I agree, it wasn’t meant to be uplifting but it was interesting watching that story branch from the previous storyline.    In case you’re wondering – no, you do not have to watch Rogue One to keep up with the other Star Wars movies. This is just a fun bonus for Star Wars fans.

The Walk 

I wasn’t sure how well I’d like this – I mean how interesting could a movie about a tightrope walker really be?It was surprisingly suspenseful, artistic, and historically interesting.

Jason Bourne

I always like me a good Jason Bourne movie. Fast, energetic, suspenseful. ‘Nough said.

Passengers

I had higher hopes for this one. The plot had exciting potential.The cliche relationship between the only man and woman was honestly a boring distraction from what could have been a much cooler movie. Still, I guess if you’re looking for a mildly exciting and interesting sci-fi/chick flick this might satisfy that mood.

10 Romero

I wanted to watch this before going to El Salvador last November.

Though I think some of the movie takes a few tangents from the true events, it still demonstrates a very accurate portrayal of who Archbishop Romero was and of the situation in El Salvador during that time. It made me appreciative of finding a Catholic church and not feeling afraid to pray and go to Mass safely.

Movies like these are harsh and hard to watch but they can help us know about the struggles and atrocities others have had to deal with and still do in many ways and places. We had thought about watching this with our 13-year-old but we’re very glad we decided not to since many of the scenes are so horrific and graphic.

We watched a few Netflix/Amazon Series last year:

Stranger Things

Mysteriously thrilling, nostalgicly fun for anyone who grew up in the 80’s. Watch out though, it gets kind of creepy.

House of Cards

I’m a little hesitant to admit we watched this. First, it’s got a whole lotta inappropriate content, we held the remote the whole time ready to fast forward when needed. I’ll admit it didn’t help with our growing cynicism about our American political situation. Let’s just say the writers of this series have a mastermind talent for inventing a very believable plot about the behind-the-scene relationships and corruption in government politics.

The Crown Netflix Original series

This was a nice series that we both enjoyed, maybe me more than my husband. It kind of fills the space in TV-series-watching left by the ending of Downton Abby. It’s got early 20th century fashion both in clothing and the setting, polished British accents, and all the propriety – and impropriety – that goes along. Like the rest of the world, the English monarchy intrigues me so I found The Crown both entertaining and informative, though I wonder how accurate it all is and I’m not sure this series would win the Queen’s “Royal Seal” of approval.

Man in the High Castle Season One

We watched this sometime last year, when my brain was foggy and numb with sadness. So maybe it wasn’t the best series to watch but I stuck with it nonetheless. I found it mildly entertaining and the suspense motivated me to keep watching even though it was hard to understand what was going on and, to me, it took too long to reach a point when I felt like maybe I was starting to at least grasp at the plot.

Well there it is, our 2016 Movie-Watching List. Now I can get started on movies we’ve watched this year. Any new suggestions?

 

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