I was pretty inspired when Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote about her favorite fictional mothers for Mother’s Day, so I decided to be a copycat and do a Father’s Day post in the same vein. Happy Father’s Day to all, and please chime in with your favorite fictional fathers. The men of this list certainly aren't perfect, but all things considered, Id say their kids were pretty fortunate to have them.

Mr. Bennet 
Who better to begin this list than the endearingly sarcastic and witty Mr. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice? Though he’s certainly not always a model father or husband, he’s affectionate, bookish, and always has a most perfectly clever and sardonic comeback. While he isnt the best disciplinarian with his silly younger daughters, he does encourage us readers to laugh at absurdity and marry for love, which are, incidentally, exactly what heroine Elizabeth is determined to do. And Mr. Bennet’s special connection with Elizabeth is a bright spot of the story, as is the enjoyment he derives from relentlessly teasing his silly wife.
Screen Capture Source: YouTube

Matthew Cuthbert 
Though Matthew is never actually a father, his roles of surrogate father and friend to Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables are one of the sweetest aspects of this first book in the Anne series. Though initially shocked at meeting a girl at the train station instead of the requested boy, he is smitten with Anne’s chattiness and childlike imagination within minutes of knowing her. And throughout the story, her innocence and unadulterated trust break through his shyness and eccentricity. Though a man of few words, his love for Anne is deep, and he’s quick to make it known. His famous words to her towards the end of the book still make me well up every time: 
Well now, I’d rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne. Just mind you that – rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn’t a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl – my girl – my girl that I’m proud of.
Photo Credit: Anne of Green Gables Wikia

George Banks 
What’s not to like about this hero from Father of the Bride? He’s conscientious about everything and yet has a knack for getting into serious scrapes, especially when major changes interrupt his schedule that always has to be just so. He often says the wrong thing and drives his family insane, but beneath all his antics beats an incredibly soft and loyal heart that would do anything for his wife and children.

Photo Credit: Movie Man's Guide 

Arthur Weasley 
Couldn’t forget this guy, could we? Throughout the Harry Potter series, he cheerfully heads up his wizarding family of nine and works tirelessly in his post at the Ministry of Magic because he genuinely loves it. He’s warm, welcoming, always up for an adventure, and usually ready to crack a joke along with Fred and George to encourage Mrs. Weasley to loosen up. But raising the twins has also made him wise to trickery when he needs to be, and he’s always ready with helpful, fatherly advice for Harry. Mr. Weasley’s fascination with Muggle trinkets remains one of his most endearing qualities; I’m waiting to stumble upon a fan fiction in which Hermione accidentally shows him Google and his mind will be so blown he can’t recover.

Photo Credit: Harry Potter Wikia

Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham 
And of course, a nod to stoic Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey. Hes always been one of Downton’s foundational pillars through the changes the Crawleys weather. He’s always there doing his best to run things, though he did often have to be unwillingly dragged into modern times by Mary, Tom, and even Violet. He can be a stuffy old prig, but at his heart, he is a good man with sincere love for his wife, daughters, and home. He’s a kindly landlord and devoted family man who wants the best for those in his charge, especially his daughters. His closeness with Mary is particularly enjoyable one of my favorite moments in the entire series is actually when he encourages her to break off her engagement to the manipulative Sir Richard Carlisle and find a cowboy instead. It’s a breakthrough moment for both and such a delight to watch.

Photo Credit: Playbuzz

Do any of these men make your list of favorite fictional fathers? What other noteworthy ones have you come across lately? I'd love to hear.

*I do not own the rights to the photos in this post* 
Well, summer is in full swing, both to my relief and yet also to my chagrin. I like summer because of vacations and more flexible schedules and lighter traffic in the mornings, but on the flip side, I truly detest the scorching hot weather, the sweating, and the mosquitoes. Can’t have it all, can you? But for many people, summer is also a time to revitalize reading habits, so I’m probably going to be posting a few suggestion lists here and there. Today, let’s start with the spiritual category. 

The “Christian living” or “inspirational” genre can be a hit or miss, and many people have rightfully iffy feelings about it. There are plenty of books in this section of the bookstore that have no business there, and it’s certainly important not to let books become more paramount than the Bible. But with those disclaimers, here are a few authors who have been tremendous encouragements to me and always do their utmost to keep Scripture at the center of their writings. 

Kevin DeYoung
Impossible to say too many good things about this guy. He’s down-to-earth, straightforward, funny, and unafraid of making readers uncomfortable. He’s written many books, but I’ve only so far read The Hole in Our Holiness and Just Do Something, both of which I highly recommend. These, like many of his books, deal with practical, everyday aspects of living out the Christian faith rather than abstract, deep-thinker type concepts that you might find in Tim Keller or John Piper’s works. His tone is very conversational and approachable even when he’s talking about difficult or weighty subjects. 

Elisabeth Elliot 
I first “met” Mrs. Elliot as a young teenager, and she would become one of the most influential writers in my faith journey. Her husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five American missionaries who were speared to death in an Ecuadorian jungle in their attempt to reach the savage Auca Indians with the gospel. Elisabeth was one of the relatives of the martyred men who stayed in Ecuador and eventually saw the Aucas accept Christ and become a civilized people. Her writings are winsome and insightful, clearly born out of many hardships that God used to shape her into a woman of wisdom and grace. She wrote for many years on topics like suffering, loneliness, singleness, trusting God, biblical manhood and womanhood, spiritual disciplines, knowing God’s will, and much more. I’m so grateful for the legacy of this sister! A few of my favorites of hers include Keep a Quiet Heart, Let Me Be A Woman, Discipline, and Passion and Purity

Ann Voskamp 
This lady has come on the Christian scene in recent years because of her book One Thousand Gifts, and though that is still the only one of hers I’ve read, I’ve been recommending it all over the place since I got it in college. Ann and her husband are Canadian farmers, parents of seven children, and live by the word “eucharisteo.” This is the Greek word for “gratitude” or “thankfulness,” and it’s the underlying theme of One Thousand Gifts. This book will help you reevaluate what gratitude looks like in everyday life and how a focus on being thankful can revolutionize your spiritual mindset. It certainly did for me and I’m so glad. 

Paul E. Miller 
Miller is perhaps best known for his book A Praying Life, also the only one of his that I’ve read, and it is phenomenal. Prayer is just hard if we’re honest, and this book doesn’t shy away from that. It addresses the struggles people have in prayer, the way prayer is portrayed and taught in the Bible, and practical ideas for prayer. Miller also honestly opens up about his own difficulties from his personal life, many of which are connected to raising a severely autistic child. The book is comforting and moving, as well as encouraging in helping one rethink a prayer life. 

What are your favorite spiritual books and authors? Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your favorites and suggestions in this category!
Just do it… I’ll be with Sirius again. 

Such were Harry’s thoughts as he writhed in pain, expecting to die by the hand of Lord Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, fifth installment in J.K. Rowling’s epic series about a boy wizard. But as the thought of joining his dear, departed godfather crystallized, Voldemort could no longer touch Harry. 

The film translation of this moment also stands out to me, though it’s different. Voldemort tries to possess Harry’s mind, to fill it with thoughts of pain and the deaths he’s seen. But Harry latches onto memories for which Voldemort has no category… 

Laughing with his best friends, Ron and Hermione. 

Hermione tackling him in a hug. 

Tender moments with Sirius.

His mother sacrificing herself to protect him.
And with that, Harry’s mind is out of Voldemort’s power. “You are the weak one, Harry whispers. “You will never know love or friendship, and I feel sorry for you.” 

Photo Credit: Favim.com

In his heart of hearts, Harry has seen that even if he dies, he will be better off than Voldemort because love is stronger than hate. Voldemort’s corrupt heart cannot receive love or goodness because he has bought the lie that love makes a person weak. Harry knows better. Love is his lifeline – his unwavering, steadying rock when turmoil has seemingly enveloped him. 

The Harry Potter books drive this point home time and time again. Love is not weakness; it is strength. Evil cannot understand love, so it sees death as the worst possible fate, but good knows that death need not be feared because love – real, strong, faithful love – lasts forever. I’m so thankful for how this book series has reminded me to look for the good and to hold friends close. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have a profound love for each other that stirs deep emotions. Harry’s parents are consistently remembered for fiercely loving one another and Harry. Friendship and love are Harry’s constants as he faces unimaginable danger and fear in his quest to defeat Voldemort, and like Harry, we all want a constant and a safe place. After all, this world can be a scary, sad place. 

Only this week, a sickening rape story has dominated the news cycle. Personally, days can seem very long right now and it’s easy to wonder if there’s any point to it all. Last year, this happened to my best friend, and this week, cancer has returned to her dad’s body. And a few weeks ago, precious friends buried their 6-month-old little girl. Everywhere we turn, things can seem so, so dark. 

And that’s when I have to remember that, as much as I now appreciate Harry and his friends, his story ultimately lacks something. Where is the presiding, sovereign hope beyond his immediate circumstances? From whence does the love between him, Hermione, and Ron stem? The messages of love and hope in these books remind me of two long-ago penned thoughts about love: 

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” –Song of Solomon 8:6-7 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” –1 Corinthians 13:7-8 

Yes, love is stronger than hate and death. But why? 

Because real love is rooted in a greater love that promises hope beyond this hurting world: 

We love because He first loved us. –1 John 4:19 

The love of God was so rich, so deep, so unconditional, that he gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as our mediator. Jesus laid down his life so that we wouldn’t have to. And then he rose to life once again, victorious over death, so that we could have a perfect life with him forever in a place where sorrow, death, pain, and struggle will be no more. Harry didn’t have such a promise in his story, but I do. The burden of winning the ultimate battle isn’t on my shoulders; it’s already a guaranteed win because of Jesus. When things look dark and I can’t seem to feel past the pain or disappointment, that is a constant, unwavering rock to stand on. And until that perfected day comes, I can look forward to it in hope and savor the small foretastes we have here of the glory that’s awaiting us, even when trials come. And deep friendships, love of family, laughter, and hugs certainly count among evidences of the paradise in store. And I’d say a good story does too, including one set in a fantastical world of magic and owls. It’s just all meant as a signpost that points to the best and perfectly complete that’s yet to come.

Photo Credit: Fanpop

*I do not own the rights to the photos in this post*
Photo Credit: Wallpaper Cave
Missing Downton Abbey? I understand. And so, it’s time to dip back in and talk about all-time favorite moments from the series. Believe me, this list was SO HARD to compile. Honestly, I could probably write an individual post for each character’s best scenes. But as that would take forever, I’ve done my best here and hope you’ll add your own! I just tried to go with the ones that came to mind quickly as I considered each season. 

Season 1 

Sybil encourages Gwen 
Sybil’s relentless efforts to help housemaid Gwen find a secretary job solidified her as one of the sweetest and most genuine characters of Downton. I’m thinking particularly of the exchange in which Gwen expresses discouragement over a canceled interview. True to form, Sybil offers nothing but smiles and gentle words of support, assuring Gwen that they mustn’t give up. She encourages, “No one hits the bull’s eye with the first arrow,” reminding both Gwen and viewers that perseverance is key. 

Anna tells Mr. Bates she loves him 
Photo Credit: Anna May Bates Tumblr
Oh, how we love these two. And Anna’s not much for ceremony, is she? Her declaration of love for Mr. Bates is one of her first moments of vulnerability with him, but if he won’t say it, then by golly, she will! Their feelings are in the open after this scene, and we also have an early glimpse of Mr. Bates’s troubled past. From this moment, I was all about this couple. I just love them and love the dialogue:
Anna: I love you, Mr. Bates. I know it’s not ladylike to say it, but I’m not a lady and I don’t pretend to be. 
Bates: You are a lady to me. And I never knew a finer one. 

Season 2 

Mary wishes Matthew luck at the train station 
This scene in which Mary bids Matthew “such good luck” and gives him her lucky charm as he goes off to war has become one of the most iconic moments in the entire show. I’ve heard it consistently brought up in interviews both with the actors and creators of the show, and with good reason. It’s a wonderfully constructed sequence, from the costumes to the dialogue to the beautifully swelling music. But the tension and unspoken emotions are what give this scene such power. Both want to admit love for the other, but they hold back and talk about surface level concerns instead. Both know Matthew could very well be going to his death, but the topic is firmly avoided. You ache for them but also want to tell them to say what they’re longing to say while there’s time.

Matthew and Mary’s snowy engagement 
I mean, what do we even need to say about this part? It’s probably the most romantic moment in any season of Downton. We’d been waiting so long for it and it exceeded all expectations. Matthew and Mary are finally free, they’d just shared a lovely dance, and then the last barrier between them disappears in the clouds of beautiful, falling snow. And then season 2 closes on their happy laughter. What more could you ask for? I never get tired of this scene. 

Season 3 

Tom and Sybil’s reunion at Downton 
As much as I like Tom Branson, his leaving pregnant Sybil behind while he fled the police frustrated me, even if they did agree to it previously. But when they’re reunited at Downton, his sobs of relief cut to the quick. They embrace and kiss rather fiercely and it gives quite a lot of feels. I think it’s an important and clearly moving moment for them, not to mention the beginning of a transition in Tom’s feelings toward Downton Abbey and his new family there.

Season 4 

Carson comforts Mary 
The friendship between Mr. Carson and Lady Mary has always been one of my favorites to watch. In many ways, he’s a better father to her than Robert, and this scene demonstrates that amazingly well. Mary rarely becomes vulnerable in front of Robert, but here, she completely breaks down in Carson’s arms and he is unfazed by it. I appreciated that Carson was one of the primary people to bring her out of her heavy grief after Matthew’s loss. For all of Carson’s stern dignity, we know a big, tender heart beats beneath it all, and his steadfast devotion to Mary is sweet to watch. Without fail, this scene turns me into a sobbing child every time I see it. 

Mary discusses Rose with Jack Ross 
I find this scene fun because it so excellently demonstrates both the changing times and how much Mary has grown. It brings together two characters that are so unlikely to interact, and they both show respect for each other. An earl’s daughter and a black jazz singer having tea together? It’s definitely the 1920s, folks! I found Jack a dynamic, cool character who certainly brought a new energy to the ensemble. Plus, in season 1, Mary scoffed at Matthew for being a lawyer, and now in season 4, she’s holding a civil conversation with a band singer. On top of which, she compliments him and shows faith in his character. There’s class and respect on all sides, and it’s an incredibly enjoyable exchange. 

Season 5 

Rose covers for Lord Sinderby 
I thought Lady Rose’s marriage to Atticus Aldridge and the tensions accompanying it were some of the most interesting aspects of season 5. Their religious differences sparked immediate conflict, the strongest objections coming from Atticus’s father, Lord Sinderby. But a few months after the wedding, he receives proper humbling when his former mistress and illegitimate child arrive unannounced at a huge family gathering. Hardly missing a beat, Rose saves his skin by running up to the woman and greeting her as an old friend. Her resourcefulness and quick thinking do her credit, and I think the scene also shows how much she’s grown up since we met her. Her prim flightiness has been replaced with a womanly dignity that cares deeply for others. And it’s a moment of reckoning for Lord Sinderby, for his prejudices have been challenged and Rose’s generous spirit has forced him to self-examination. 
Photo Credit: Downton Abbey Wikia

Season 6 

Violet’s first good one-liner of the season 
I’m speaking, of course, of when Violet dryly quips to Isobel, “Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?” This might hit the top five of my favorite Dowager quotes ever. So perfectly and quintessentially Violet-like. And what’s more, the scene in which she says it is a pretty enjoyable exchange between her and Isobel, and it’s also the moment when Violet rightfully punishes Denker with fear of dismissal. How I miss that lovely, witty Dowager Countess! 

Violet tells Mary to make peace 
With Edith and with herself, to be precise. I’ve discussed at length how much I love Mary’s development in season 6, and this scene with Violet and her visit to Matthew’s grave afterwards are amazing turning points in it. Violet and Mary are quite similar – sharp, clever, fierce, and hiding soft hearts beneath a load of tradition and societal expectations – so it’s ultimately Violet who can help Mary face her bad behavior toward Edith and her fear of loving again. Their conversation here and Mary’s subsequent moment at Matthew’s grave show Mary at her most vulnerable, which we don’t often see, so they’re incredibly moving moments. The cemetery scene makes me cry buckets every time.

Edith and Mary’s reconciliation 
This is another scene that makes me tearful. Mary and Edith have never seen eye-to-eye and have both been downright cruel to each other. But for all their differences and petty bickering, they’re sisters, as this scene so beautifully reminds us. It’s a poignant moment where they both seemingly choose to look beyond their feuding and remember the bigger picture. Many fans express frustration over their inability to get along, but honestly, I think they’re a good representation of real-life siblings who don’t naturally get along. And this scene shows that there’s hope for those too! Edith’s words are truly stirring: 
“Because in the end, you’re my sister. And one day, only we will remember Sybil. Or Mama or Papa, or Matthew or Michael, or Granny or Carson, or any of the others who have peopled our youth. Until at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.” 

New Year’s 1926 
It had to be quite a challenge to figure out how to close a show like Downton Abbey, but I couldn’t have been happier with the result. As everyone laughed and toasted and kissed each other Happy New Year to the beautiful tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” I was feeling every happy emotion possible. They were all reflecting on times gone by and looking forward in hope to the future, and I was bursting in love for all of them as I wished them well even though the cameras were moving away from their lives. How I love those Crawleys and their entourage!
What are your favorite moments of Downton Abbey? What seasons were your favorites? I'd love to hear and discuss more!

*Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this post are DVD screen captures. I do not own the rights to the photos with Internet source credits. No copyright infringement intended*
For the first time in a while, I have a big personal update to share. This southern girl is moving a few states north!! Yes, in a few short months, I’ll be packing up and moving to Washington D.C. to intern with the Family Research Council for the fall semester. I applied for this internship on a whim last fall, and now, through a series of unlikely events, I’ve been offered it and I’ve taken a leap and accepted. The Family Research Council operates under Focus on the Family and works to advance family-oriented causes in public policy. They take a new class of interns every semester, and those interns are placed throughout the organization’s various departments based on aptitudes and interests. Interns also live together in apartment housing provided by the program, so hopefully we’ll all like each other quickly! 
Since accepting this internship, many people have asked if I’m excited. The short answer is yes, but it’s also complicated. I applied in an attempt to give myself a wide array of options, and I’m now looking forward to having the chance to do something that’s so outside the box for me. As much as I love Birmingham, I did grow up here and didn’t travel far for college. I’ve felt kind of stuck over the last several months. It’ll be very good for me to go somewhere that’s so different and interact with completely new people. But at the same time, it’s unnerving to think of being thrown into the unfamiliar, of having to learn my way around a city like D.C., and of not knowing anyone. In many ways, it’d be nice to just be settled for a while and not pick up and move. But on the whole, it’s a new adventure and there wasn’t a good reason for me to pass it by. Yes, the metro system will be daunting, I’ll probably hate the crowds, and it’s a pretty horrifying and embarrassing time in American politics. But I’m also hopeful of new friendships, excited for the nearness to so many historical sites, and definitely want to make it up to New York for a Broadway show or two. And despite the sad state of the country, I’m grateful for the chance to have a small part in defending the truth publicly through this organization. 

So, who’s been to D.C. in the last few years? What famous historical things there aren’t free but worth seeing? What restaurants do I need to look out for? What’s the best route to New York from D.C.? I am all ears.