Neoblogs: A New Home

We are currently in the midst of recreating our blogosphere in hopes to bring back the many neobloggers in the fellowship.

  • New additions include now a base site that displays all the most recent posts from current authors.
  • Linked sites for better navigation
  • Updated user functionality for both readers and authors

If you would like to start your own blog or migrate your existing blog back to our new home feel free to contact me at interns@neoxenos.org

Current users may also contact me for support with updating themes and looks for their blog site.

To access you blog site just click you name listed on the site to take you to your blog page, then just click the login link on the side!

UPDATE!!!!

As those of you who have blog sites may have noticed, you should have received an email to set up a new password. This was cause by a transition in our database to make future endeavors much simpler. If you have ANY issues logging in please contact me.

As far as linking social media with your blogs, we will be using Jetpack, you can find this on your dashboard. To do this follow these steps:

1) Log into WordPress and go to your dashboard
2) Towards the top left-hand side click on the “Jetpack” tab
3) It should go to a screen with a giant banner saying to log in with your wordpress.com credentials, along with 6 bubbles of options below it. Click on the giant banner to login and create a new user for yourself (its really easy)
4) After this go back to the previous page and click on the “Sharing” bubble.
5) Once there drag in the social media forms you would like, i.e. twitter or facebook. Make sure you are logged into those accounts. Then simply click the connect button.
6) Before you save at the bottom make sure to change the “Button Style” to “Official Buttons” and then on the “Show Buttons On” section, click the “Posts” tab.
7) Then save and it may take a few minutes to show on your blog, as always if you have any issues, shoot me an email (interns@neoxenos.org)

My First Time in Narnia

Over winter break, I read through the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. If you want to add seven books to your “2022 Books I’ve Read” list, this is a quick way to do it. Each book is super short, and honestly written for kids to understand, so it doesn’t take much time at all to get through. Despite the simplicity, I sincerely loved the stories and the meaning packed within them. Here are some thoughts I had while reading. (Also, pro tip: The books are all on Hoopla.)

  • C.S. Lewis does a great job of introducing characters seamlessly, showing who someone is and what they are like in no time at all. These books are short, but you feel as if you really know the characters. 
  • I think Lewis’ choice of representing humans primarily as children is not only intentional but telling. We, compared to all God can do and create, are just little kids. That doesn’t mean we are insignificant, as you certainly don’t get that feeling as you read the books, but it does mean there’s a needed level of humility and perspective. 
  • Aslan is great. I mean, obviously… but he is just so well done. (If you don’t know, he is the representation of Jesus in the book.) I like how he is really easy to understand, so much so that it’s obvious why little kids would be able to get it. But he’s also not that easy to understand, as all the adults and other living things in the books continually try to figure him out. Here are some quotes about him throughout the books I particularly enjoyed. I would give the page numbers but Kindle makes that confusing.
    • “Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly. “I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.” – The Magician’s Nephew (Book 1)
    • “Aslan,” said Bree in a shaken voice, “I’m afraid I must be rather a fool.” “Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either. – The Horse and His Boy (Book 3)
    • “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” 
      • “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy. “But anyone can find out what will happen,”
      • “Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?” “I—I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.” “Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not. 
      • Prince Caspian (Book 4)
    • “Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?” “I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder. And now come; I will open the door in the sky and send you to your own land.”- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 5)
    • “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.” 
      • “But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” 
      • The Silver Chair (Book 6)
      • These ones take some digging and thinking through to appreciate, I think, but they’re good. One takeaway is that a world without Aslan- or Jesus- really isn’t anything to be excited about. Another is that even when the spiritual side of things seems far away, it’s worth holding onto and holding out hope until reassurance comes back. 
    • “Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one.” 
      • “So,” said Peter, “night falls on Narnia. What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?” “Don’t try to stop me, Peter,” said Lucy, “I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia. Think of all that lies dead and frozen behind that door.”
      • The Last Battle (Book 7)

Here are some other takeaways and quotes I appreciated: 

  • “Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.” – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Book 2)
    • All the books do a great job of showing how admirable acts of bravery and being there for your friends have little to do with how you feel in the moment.
  • “But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.”
    • “Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.” 
      • This one just made me laugh (love you, Elli). 
    • “He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” 
    • The Horse and His Boy (Book 3)
  • “No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s the time for orders.” This is a great example of knowing when to listen to someone else. 
    • “It’s worse than what Father says about living at the mercy of the telephone.” This was written in 1951! Imagine what he’d think about smartphones.
    • “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
    • Prince Capsian (Book 4)
  • “It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that “from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 5)
    • This is about how Eustace had started to change in Narnia and though that was true, it wasn’t all at once. Even the biggest of changes takes some time. 
  • “Puddleglum!” said Jill. “You’re a regular old humbug. You sound as doleful as a funeral and I believe you’re perfectly happy. And you talk as if you were afraid of everything, when you’re really as brave as—as a lion.” – The Silver Chair (Book 6)
    • Puddleglum is one of my favorite characters. He’s so negative (or “realistic”) so often but also so brave. 
  • “And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.” 
    • This is about a man from another country who worshiped a false god named Tash, but then realized Aslan was real and wanted to find him. His humility and happiness after he finds him is wonderful. 
    • The last book’s depiction of the new Narnia is absolutely beautiful, too. 
    • “The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.” 
    • The Last Battle (Book 7)

Those are my initial thoughts on the books, though I realize it’s mostly just a bunch of quotes. Writing quotes down and thinking them through is really helpful for me to process, but I also think it paints a good picture of why these books are worth reading. I never read them growing up, as I said, but I can’t wait to read them again with James when he’s a little older. 

Dudley

A thought that keeps occurring to me, though thoroughly silly, is that I am more excited for the cast reunion special of Harry Potter than I am for Christmas right now.  What an absurd thought. But, with so much in the unknown right now, I DO know I will be able to watch Harry Potter reunion. It will be on HBO Max & there aren’t a lot of things that can keep me from it (just death, I guess.) 

I’m waiting to see if Covid cancels another Christmas. And that makes me sad – like so many others. What a beautiful antithesis that runs opposite of that thought, though… what we all wish for is to be with the people we love. That is what matters most. 

It’s easy to get stuck in my feelings with so much bad news. People I dearly love are really sick. I’m very worried. Others are hurting in their relationships. I haven’t been able to see my friends recently. My health is frustrating and keeping me from doing things I like even at home. 

Yet, to dwell in the bad just makes things worse. As I was getting ready to be disappointed for Christmas, and getting excited for Harry Potter, I realized something devastating about myself. That out of all of the characters in Harry Potter that I’d like to be like, the one I truly am is Dudley. Literally the worst. 

Dudley is Harry’s cousin, for those that don’t know. (If you don’t; what are you doing with your life? Pick up HP 1, or text me & I will drop off a copy for you!!) What makes him so dislike-able is his ungrateful, royal pain in the ass attitude. He’s above everyone, expects people to treat him like a king, and so mean! Probably the most infamous Dudley scene is when he’s counting his presents for his birthday and realizes that he didn’t get as many gifts as he did last year… and there’s like 20-some gifts AND he’s going to the zoo for his birthday… It’s SO annoying & funny. & me. 

When I’m in pain, & Covid is swirling, & I’m sad , & my plans get ruined – it’s like I am looking at the Lord saying “this isn’t fair” when I have a pile of 20 presents behind me, but I’m missing MORE. MORE, MORE, MORE! That’s what I want! OK God, you gave me so many things, but the fact that you haven’t met these expectations is so stupid. You’ve answered everyone of my prayers. You’ve protected me & my family against covid so far. You’ve done so much, but I deserve everything I want all of the time & never to suffer! Signed, Dudley. 

That’s just it: I’m so overwhelmed with blessings that I’ve been spoiled. Yeah, suffering sucks & it’s real. But to act like life isn’t worth living anymore or that I have nothing to be thankful for is bullshit. It makes me think of the obvious fact we Americans forget: the poorest people in the hardest countries are always the happiest. Because they know what really matters in life & it isn’t getting everything you want… 

One way or another, we’ll get through this. Life will go on. (Even if it doesn’t, to die is gain.) God has not abandoned me even though plans are cancelled or my fears consume me. I have to realize that I don’t deserve anything I have. And that he’s given me the very best thing that exists in the universe already; his son. 

I also just read in Luke 18 about the Pharisee vs. the tax collector’s way of worshipping God. And I realized that I’m like the Pharisee, “Thank God I am not like that tax collector.” When I really need to realize, “Be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” 

God’s given us so much. This material world convinces us that life sucks when it really, truly doesn’t (with Jesus.) We’ve been given all we need and more. 

Anyway, these are just some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been throwing a fit as another wave of Covid comes & another round of pain with my other illnesses. There’s so much to be grateful for. Every day is a gift. Even sick or in pain. Look to the Lord. Look to Jesus. He feels it. He knows it. He weeps with you. But he also rejoices with you despite the pain, exhaustion, frustrations. Love is what matters this Christmas and nothing can kill God’s love for you. 

2021 Books

Checking in here to talk about my favorite reads of the year! I met my goal in books, thanks to hoopla & being a SAHM (also 2 months of insomnia where I literally read all night long.)

Here are my top picks out of what I read: 

Top Christian Books: 

  1. The End of Anxiety – Truly the best book on anxiety I have read. The title is ironic, because he talks about in the first chapter how you can’t end anxiety. You just learn to work through it with the Lord. He’s honest & relatable. And points to the ultimate prescription for anxiety is getting to know the Lord & loving other people.
  2. Abide in Me by Andrew Murray – This is a 30 day devotional that is really deep. He breaks down John 15 so thoroughly. It took me a long time to get through it because it’s so packed & challenging. I really recommend it for anxious hearts or depressed persons. Or anyone who wants to learn what it means to abide in Christ. 
  3. Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (halfway through, really like it) – I’m not finished with this yet! But, so far – REALLY good. Jeri told me about it and I’m so thankful. The need to be emotionally healthy in discipleship, as we are Christ’s ambassadors, is definitely something I’d like to focus on next year with my friends.
  4. Imagine Heaven – This was a great one to read specifically during the worst months this year. I always had a hard time being comforted by the thought that if I were to die I’d be in heaven. After reading this book, my confidence that heaven exists increased so greatly, and it’s starting to be a comfort to me. I really like the reporting style of this book. Lots of stories that happened to real people that are just true. I’d recommend it for Christians and non. 

Top Fun Books: 

  1. Anna Karenina – Y’all this should count as 3 books. I think it took my 3 months. I like depressing romances, but a goal of mine is to be as deep as Ian (whose preferred reading is Russian authors.) But man, this was so good, so tragic. I love the themes and the philosophy each characters struggled through. It’s not a very happy ending, but a real one. Lots of thoughts about God and meaning, too, that I wish people wrote more about in today’s books. 
  2. The Princess and the Goblin – Probably a new favorite. Macdonald inspired CS Lewis & Tolkien. This is one of this kids books (I also read Phantasties and liked it, but I like this one better.) It’s truly scary, funny, easy to read & a touching picture of love & faith & youth. 
  3. A Man Called Ove – My friend Anne & Alexis both recommended this. It’s so heartwarming & heartbreaking. I love the idea of not judging someone until you know their story. And what kindness & initiation can do to change someone’s life. 
  4. Harry Potter (lol) – yes I effing read it again this year OK SHOOT ME.
  5. 1984 – I can’t believe I’ve never read it! Obviously it’s a classic with a thought provoking plot! Yes, everyone should read it. 

Books I read that were OK & wouldn’t recommend: 

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing
  2. A Song of Achilles
  3. Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them

The irony is that the result of my reading has lead me to a different goal next year: instead of reading so much, I want to make a point to spend time in silence. A few of the books I read made great points about our need for silence before the Lord, and how little of that we truly get. It’s true. I am constantly consuming – podcasts, books, audio books, TV, news… I think this year I still want to read. But I also want to reflect & listen to the lord. Learn to sort out my feelings before him. Learn to hear his voice for my life and my friends. Let myself have peace, because I always like to go. 

Anyway, I’m thankful for books. Books full of wisdom about god. Or relating to pain in a way that makes you feel seen. Books that take you into another world for a minute to get some relief, or to open your eyes to how little your perspectives really are. Books that help you understand someone else or think about them in a way you never did before. I love books. And I’ve loved reading them this year. 

Theater

Budgeting Tips

Hello! If you are reading this hopefully it means you decided to make a budget. So let’s jump right in and go over some tips to making a budget.

A budget is simply a list of your income and expenses. It is easiest to make the budget on a monthly basis. The goal is to spend less than you make, with the excess going to savings, I recommend you learn some tips to payback loan.

To start your budget you will need to do some research. First you will need your net income (your pay after taxes and deductions aka the money that hits your bank account).

Next you will need an estimate on your expenses for the month. Some expenses, like rent, are a fixed amount each month, so finding that number is easy. For others the amount fluctuates. I suggest pulling your last three months of expenses and using that data to calculate a monthly average. Fortunately banks and credit card companies keep track of that spending activity and it can be easily accessed online.

While this might take a little while, this step is extremely helpful because it gives you an accurate amount of how much you spend. If you budget only $50 to eating out each month but are actually spending $150 your budget is going to get blown up in the first month. The better your data, the better your results.

List out all your monthly expenses and compare it to your income. You might find that you are spending more than you are making. In this case you need to examine your expenses and determine where you can make cuts.

If your income and expenses are equal, you still need to make cuts. That is because you want to have some money that is being saved each month.

Eventually you should come to a point where you have the finalized list of your income and estimated expenses and savings. Now you get to see how well you stick to your budget. By tracking your expenses you can see how accurate your estimated expenses are. A budget should be fluid. If there is a category you are constantly spending more you can make cuts in other categories to even things out.

Tracking your expenses might sound like a lot of work, but as mentioned in another post this only takes me about ten minutes a work. Also, there are free tools out there like Mint that will track things for you.