The Testaments

Well, I figured it is a good time for another book review. These quiet, wintery days of rain and slush have allowed me to finish a new book I received for Christmas. (Actually, I picked it out for myself and told someone to buy it for me — but who’s checking up, right?) The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the continuation of her last book, the Handmaid’s Tale. A continuation? A prequel? A sequel? The reviews say it takes place some 15 years after the handmaid, Offred’s, time. Sheesh. It’s as bad as the whole Star Wars saga. I can’t figure that one out, either. Notwithstanding the timing, I was excited about the follow up, as I had quite enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’d like to read my review of that one, you can do so here.

Let’s start with basics. I love Margaret Atwood as a writer. Admittedly, I haven’t devoured too many of her books, but appreciate the fact that she includes Canadian content (yeah for us canucks!) and I could have circled a tonne of new vocabulary words in this novel. I really enjoy new words. I should read more. I should encourage others to read more. Words are good. New words are even better.

Anyway… the book is comprised of 3 narratives (or “testaments”). The first being from Aunt Lydia (an elite character from the previous novel), Daisy, a woman from Canada observing Gilead from the outside, and Agnes, a young woman who has grown up in the dystopian Gilead. The plot twists around these three and their unique perspectives on the totalitarian state. Especially unique is their role as women in this theonomy. There’s a good word. It means:

Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law. Theonomists hold that divine law, including the judicial laws of the Old Testament, should be observed by modern societies. (Wikipedia, 2020)

I don’t really want to give away too much of the book, but rather share my views and thoughts. Like much of the other reviews I read, I was slightly disappointed. This sequel was much anticipated after the Handmaid’s fanfare, and I too, had greater expectations than the book delivered. At first, I found the characters slightly confusing, and it was difficult to follow along. Maybe I just need to read more. Big words and all that. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t as good as the first one.

What I did find interesting, was the idea of faith in the book. Now, bear in mind, the novel is written in this idealized world of Theonomy, and from Atwood’s own perspective, of which I don’t want to judge her views of faith, God and feminism… but I did muse about one particular passage in the book:

“The truth was not noble, it was horrible. …Up until that time I had not seriously doubted the rightness and especially the truthfulness of Gilead’s theology. If I failed at perfection, I’d concluded that the fault was mine. But as I discovered what had been changed by Gilead, what had been added, and what had been omitted, I feared I might lose my faith.

If you’ve never had a faith, you will not understand what that means. You feel as if your best friend is dying; that everything that defined you is being burned away; that you’ll be left alone. You feel exiled, as if you are lost in a dark wood….Everything was withering.”

1. Atwood, Margaret, Chpt.50 “The Testaments”, Penguin Random House Canada Limited, 2019, page 303.

I found this thought quite provocative. Especially coming from the character who grew up in the idealistic view of Gilead’s “right and true” society. What she believed to be true, nobel and just, was, in fact, the opposite. What she was told about the Bible, and what she actually read in the Bible, were very different. And so, I leave you with that thought. Consider it as you may. On what is your “truth” based? How will you define “faith”? Jesus often condemned the religious leaders of His time for their lack of “truth” because they twisted and added and subtracted to the texts. Do we do the same? As usual, I don’t claim to have the answers. I simply probe your thinking. As a good author should. As a good reader should. Hmmmn, I should read more.

Blogging from the Heart

I want to start this post by saying “thank you”. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here. Thank you for reading this post all the way through to the end and supporting me by becoming a “follower”. Thank you for encouraging me by sharing and commenting. This blog thing started as an excuse for me to learn some technology. To broaden the scope of my horizons. If you’re curious, you can read my first ever post here. I don’t consider myself a writer, nor do I have ambitions to publish a book or creative set of poems or muses. I write from the heart about weird and wonderful things that happen, here, in our neck of the woods. Things I think about, things I question, things I struggle with. I also blog about things I love. My muses have blossomed and bloomed and it has become easier to share. Especially with regards to my faith journey.

I didn’t start out trying to be a #jesusblogger. I had no intention of writing devotionals or bible studies, nor do I wish to be the next woman of faith speaker. And yet, my muses quickly morphed into my ministry. We launched 30 Days of Blessings as a side project and I’ve learned more and more about websites. A self proclaimed introvert, it somehow became easier to share my faith journey, here, “on paper”, than from behind a pulpit. That’s one of those things about your own little space on the internet. It seems private, and yet it is not! It’s a tool. And any tool can be used for both good and evil. My hope is that you will find my space used as a platform for encouragement, growth, challenge, and to make you think. I don’t intend it to criticize or point fingers at any one source.

You will notice I have no affiliate links, no brand collaborations, no sponsors are knocking down my doors wanting to advertise. In fact, I pay extra to not have pop ups and advertising flashing across the screen on my homepage. Am I against it? No. I follow and read many a blogger and instagrammer who earn their living through influencing. It’s just not where I am at. I have no intention of quitting my job and blogging full time to earn thousands of dollars online. It’s my learning curve. Plus, I promised my family that mittonmusings would still allow me time for them.

Words on a page may not mean the same to you as they do to me….

Some weeks are difficult. It takes time to research, write, design decent photos and schedule and post. I’ve committed to weekly blogs and stayed up late to finish them. I have no technical background — so post many of my social media follow ups by individual upload. I don’t know how to keep stats and follow algorithms and make perfect SEO posts. Yet, I read every comment and see every follower. I learn and grow by studying and through the help of others. I hope that I encourage and shed light with each post. But the internet is tricky. Words on a page may not mean the same to you as they do to me. My attempt at humour may not come across as such. My Canadian references may not apply to followers in the Philippines. My opinions and muses about things that happened two years ago may have changed and grown from when they were originally written about. Which leads me open to criticism. And vulnerability. An introvert’s worst nightmare.

I recently stumbled upon a fellow faith blogger who shared my fears — and yet encouraged me that despite the vulnerability… jesusbloggers can still be salt and light to a darkened world! According to thinkaboutsuchthings.com, more than half the world’s population in 2019 has access to the internet. That’s over 4 billion humans online. It’s estimated that 3.48 billion people now use social media in some form or another. The internet is our mission field! (and yes, I do link and share on this blog! They are references for you to check out and discover — as I do).

I have two degrees hanging on my wall. I study and work hard. I love learning. But I am far from perfect. My words don’t always convey the meaning I want them to. You may disagree with my views and my opinions. But, I encourage you to be part of the conversation. Please don’t write me off because of something you find here. I challenge you to question and discover along with me. I am one in a sea of opinions. If you join the adventure and follow along, you will learn a bit more about the imperfect me, and how, through a whole lotta grace and mercy, I’m learning to write from the heart.

The Next Step

Do you have a fitbit? One of those little devices that count how many steps you’ve taken and what you need to make your optimal steps for the day? Or how much you’ve slept and ate and who you should marry? I don’t have one. We did have a “pre-fitbit” step counter once… I think we got it out of a cereal box. You clipped it to your pant leg and you could trick it into adding steps by swinging your leg or frantically waving your arms. It obviously didn’t fulfill its purpose very well.

Funny how we focus on “steps”. Moving forward, moving back, constantly checking where you are and where you should be going. Now, I am a girl who likes to plan. I like to check off my steps and put the x in the boxes. I follow the list and love instructions with bullet points and numbers. I follow the steps. But what if you come to the fork in the road? The edge of the cliff, and you are unsure of your next step? What happens then?

Perhaps it is a big decision. Perhaps a life goal. Perhaps a next stage in life. How do you feel when you are tip-toe with that edge and your next step will determine whether you soar or fall off the cliff? What happens then? The fitbit doesn’t tell you what to do with your steps, it just shows you how many you have taken. You have to set the goal.

We studied John the Baptist at church this week, and I couldn’t help but compare his ministry to a few people I follow on social media. There were “big announcements” posted and “new projects” to be taken on, and I noticed that life seems to be timeless when it comes to the edge-of-the-cliff decisions. Everyone eventually comes to that point where you have to take the next step. Sometimes you celebrate it, sometimes you mourn it, and sometimes it just quietly moves forward.

If you are diligent, you make informed decisions… you pray, study, ask the experts, debate, consult, read… and then? John chose to end his career of “preparing the way” because the Messiah had showed up! He worked himself out of his job. Some people set the stage ahead of time and contract themselves into a plan or timeframe. Then the time ends and you stop. Some of you are vision castors — entrepreneurial types who love the prospect of something new — and your life just becomes an ebb and flow of projects and plans. Some of us peddle backwards, afraid of the unknown and where the path may lead.

I’m learning to be patient. To plant my steps purposefully. But the journey is hard and the path rocky. My footing is not always secure and I seek answers. What now? Which way? Should I wait here while others catch up, or plunge ahead and take the risk of not knowing the path? A wise person once told me: Just take the next step.