A Few of My Favorite Things {June 2017}

By Elizabeth

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The highlight of our month was definitely a trip to the Gulf of Thailand for an organizational conference. It had been years since I’d been to the sea, and I was desperate for some beach time. Beach time was somewhat limited due to the full conference schedule, but each morning after breakfast we were able to walk along the beach (which serendipitously coincided with low tide). Besides the nature fix, we enjoyed rich conversations with both teammates and other global workers, soul-filling worship with a well-known worship band, and an exceptional children’s program.

My friend’s Bran Muffins. At the beginning of the month we spent time with some friends who have now left on furlough. She served us her family’s old Bran Muffin recipe. They were filling and not too sweet, so I asked her for the secret recipe. Now I’m into muffin baking again, something I haven’t done for years.

An extended coffee date with another dear friend. We caught up in all things Life and dipped into some purposeful Life-with-Christ conversations, too.

I’ve also had a few really nice dates with my husband. And truly, that makes life so much more enjoyable, in spite of all the power outages we’ve been getting and in spite of all the things that keep breaking down and needing to be fixed.

BOOKS

Seeker by Helena Sorensen. I read the other two books in Helena’s series last summer but hadn’t gotten to this one yet. I knew it was supposed to be the saddest of the three and had sort of avoided it (doesn’t that just sound like pain-averse me?). Now that I’ve read it, though, I can say that this one was as beautifully written as the other two, if not more so. Certain sections just felt “truer.” The story is layered: as I read, I couldn’t help thinking that she was talking about more than just the story, she was talking about me. In some ways she reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle, with characters wiser and more self-aware than any of us mortals can generally hope to be, and whose theology works its way out through her (decidedly true) fiction.

The first and the third books in the series gave me courage and hope. This second book gave solace and kindredness. When I reached the end of Seeker, I was sobered and sad, yet glad for the chance to have read it. It’s one of those books that offers symbols for real-life situations. Do read it.

I haven’t made much other progress in the book department. The first week of summer break we basically just played with friends. The next week, we went to Conference, and anyone who’s ever been to Conference knows that it’s quite an energy investment. Which means that the week after conference I was still pretty wiped out.

In preparation for our upcoming school year, however, I was able to read some home school books — For the Children’s Sake most notable among them. Jonathan laughed when he saw me reading it, because growing up he saw that book around the house constantly. About the book: not only are the educational ideas lovely, but the language used to describe them is, too.

BLOG POSTS

A Walk Through the Tabernacle by Brian Phillips. This is a must-read article. I was already enamored of the Gospel of John, but this new information makes it even more breathtakingly powerful.

How Meditation Saved Me From Missions by Ann Hall. Ann is a personal friend of mine who recently started blogging, and when she talked about meditation on her own blog, I knew we needed her story at A Life Overseas. In this New Age-y world, Ann defines what biblical meditation is and is not while also offering a practical guide.

The Earth Between My Fingers by Glenn McCarty. This blog post reminded me of my friend Heidi Whitaker, the wife of a local Anglican priest, who explained sacrament to non-liturgical me. Our conversation a couple years ago was the beginning of a deeper journey to embrace the intersection of physicality and spirituality, something that fundamentalist-me had been running from for years. She told me:

“The Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses this definition: a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us. There’s also the pithy phrase “Matter matters.” It relates to the way God comes to us through matter (water, the bread and wine, etc) and to his value of matter (our physical bodies themselves and all of creation are precious to him – not evil or something to be escaped as in Gnosticism).”

Finding God in Fairytales by Tanya Marlow. Beautiful and experientially true (see: Shiloh and Till We Have Faces).

Existential Angst and the Creative Mind by Greg Wilbur. Thought-provoking post on Christian creativity and what it can be. I love the four points at the end. I hope my “art” can live up to these ideals.

No Moms, You Don’t Have to Wear a Bathing Suit. Just Be a Really Good You. By Rebecca Reynolds (author of this hilarious spring favorite). Everyone needs to be following Rebecca Reynolds on Facebook. The wisdom just pours out of her. Not all her posts are set to public, but here’s one example. Rebecca also wrote this piece, which I read several years ago, before I really knew who she was (but it apparently stuck with me). I love how she’s not afraid to go long-form, whether she’s on FB or in a blog. Rebecca is currently writing a book. I’m interested to see what it holds.

How Communal Singing Disappeared From American Life (and why we should bring it back) by Karen Loew (and found through Story Warren). Singing together was important to me growing up. And I miss it, which is one reason our family has recently begun singing together more often. As I heard Misty Edwards say once: “Singing is a spiritual experience that’s also physical, with physical sound waves leaving your voice box and traveling through the air to hit your and other people’s physical ear drums.” I personally think that’s why singing together is so bonding (there’s more to say on the subject of singing and sacrament, but for the time being I will refrain).

Member of the Family by Zach Franzen (for Story Warren). Beautiful little reflection on an Eleanor Estes story we read just last month. And don’t skip the poem at the end!

He Calls You: Beloved by Renee Aupperlee. Truth that is crucial to the Christian life — and, as one commenter noted, not cheesily delivered in the least.

Surprise! We Need to Learn from Christians from Other Cultures by Amy Medina. More important than I can say.

Your Short Term Trips Have Not Prepared You for Long Term Missions also by Amy Medina. Sobering and true. I am so glad Amy wrote this.

 

PODCASTS, VIDEOS, AND TELEVISION

Interview with Nell Goddard, author of Musings of a Clergy Child (and found through Tanya Marlow). I loved this interview so much. Nell is a “clergy child” — or as we Americans might say, a preacher’s kid. I have such an interest in this subject because all four of my children have been PKs since birth. Watch the book trailer here.

Christine Hoover interviews Jen Wilkin about the mistakes we make in friendship.  I love Christine and her book on grace. And I love the little I know of Jen Wilkin (see: her perspective on self-worth and her conversation on women in ministry with Russell Moore). A good listen, and some wise words.

Anne with an E. Not a favorite per se, but I figured this is as good a place as any to talk about the new Anne show, which I used my summer break to watch. (Hmm, maybe that’s where all my reading time went?) I read about the series before I began, so I knew what I was getting in to. I’m with other friends of mine who liked it, but didn’t love it. The story was darker and deviated from the source material. Now, to a certain extent I don’t mind darker (and this darkness wasn’t too terribly dark), and neither do I mind deviation from the source material. It’s just that the additional story matter seemed out of place to me, historically speaking. Don’t get me wrong; the story still resonated, but it was no longer whimsical. It was mostly enjoyable for me as an adult, but it certainly isn’t for children.

I can comment favorably on the characters, however: I loved this new Marilla. She had more depth of emotion and internal struggle (sorry Colleen Dewhurst, I loved your Marilla too, she’s just a different one!). Rachel Lynde is much more nuanced and sympathetic in this one, and I liked her better (in much the same way that Keira Knightley’s Mrs. Bennet is more realistic and bearable than Colin Firth’s Mrs. Bennet). Megan Follows is of course the very best Anne ever, hands down. But this new Gilbert, now, he’s exceptional. He seems more appropriately cast, age-wise, and he has more depth to his character too. Instead of just a boy in love with Anne, he has a life outside of Anne (but Jonathan Crombie, you are every girl’s dream-come-true: a man desperately in love with just one girl, and a finicky one at that). As for Matthew, well, I haven’t decided which Matthew I like better. I think I like both equally. Both are portrayed well, though differently. Ok, now that I’ve blabbed on and on, please give your Anne thoughts in the comments!

 

MUSIC

Did I mention the worship at Conference was fantastic? I did? Oh, let me tell you again: the worship at Conference was fantastic. Here are two brand-new-to-me songs that I learned there (although as usual I preferred the live versions to the Youtube versions). Both these songs were on repeat at my house all month.

The Lion and the Lamb by Leeland Mooring, Brenton Brown, and Brian Johnson.

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him

Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

O Praise the Name (Anastasis)  by Dean Ussher, Marty Sampson, and Benjamin Hastings (Hillsong). A gospel story-song more powerful than I can say.

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me.
I see His wounds,His hands, His feet.
My Saviour on that cursed tree
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb.
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone
Then on the third at break of dawn, 
The Son of heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
He shall return in robes of white, 
The blazing Son shall pierce the night. 
And I will rise among the saints,
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

Why I Can’t Care About Every Crisis {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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“What are people there saying about Syria?”

This question was posed to me during a Skype conversation with a friend back in the States. My answer? “I’m not talking to anyone about Syria. I’ve got things to deal with in my own personal ministry, and I’ve got things to deal with in my team ministry. I’ve got the daily work of homeschooling – a career unto itself – and your basic ‘how do I get food on the table?’ questions. I’m also living in a culture that has its own political and safety issues. So finding out what other people in my life think about Syria is pretty much not going to happen.”

I ended my rather lengthy explanation by saying, “I just can’t care about everything.”

While my statement might sound a bit cruel, I think it also sums up the struggle of overseas missionaries and expatriate Christians in general. How can we stay connected to our world back home while also embedding ourselves in our lives here? How can we tend to relationships in our host culture and relationships in our sending culture? How can we care about global politics and local politics and politics in our passport country? (And just to be clear here, that actually makes three worlds we’re expected to live in, not two.)

Here’s how I deal with these challenges, but I also hope to hear how you balance the many relational and cultural needs you face.

Finish reading here.

How I Learned My Belovedness {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . .

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Czechoslovakia felt like home to me. Well, not Czechoslovakia exactly, but my mom’s large Czech family. Their love was a constant throughout all my TCK moves. I never fit in at school, but I never, ever doubted my belonging in the Musel family. And wherever I go in the world now, the memory of my mom’s relatives is a comfort that I return to again and again.

Nobody loved or accepted unconditionally like they did. Friends and significant others were always welcomed, no questions asked. It was mind-boggling, really, the inclusiveness they demonstrated, especially as I view it now through adult eyes. They are the ones who taught me my belovedness. That knowledge is a gift that sustains me anywhere I go (and one that the Church would do well to imitate).

Each Christmas we cemented our family relationships with a tradition that harked all the way back to the “old country”: The Apple. Every Christmas Eve after a special meal of noodle soup and hoska (traditional Czech pastry), we gathered around Grandpa (or the oldest living male relative) and listened to him tell the story. It was the same story year after year after: a story about getting lost and finding our way back again.

Finish reading the story here.

A Spiritual Warfare Lullaby

Greater is He
Greater is he who is in me,
Than the one who’s in the world

There is no power in Heav’n or hell or earth
That can ever separate me
From the love of God our Father
From the love of God above

Like a Good Shepherd he leads me
Besides waters still and calm
In the presence of all of my enemies
Still the presence of God above

I will not fear the terror
Of the day or the night
For I know my Father is with me
In the dark he is my Light.

All the hosts of Heaven are shouting
At the victory he’s won
All of Hell continues to tremble
At the love of God above

The One Question We Must Ask {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

It’s a simple question, carrying with it the power to clarify purpose and extend longevity. It’s a question that buttresses against the nasty cousins of burnout and bitterness. It’s a question we need to ask more often.

It’s simply this: “What is it that I really need?”

We’ve got to start asking our cross-culturally-working-selves, “In an ideal world, what is it that I really need to make it? To thrive? To be ok? To survive where God’s called me? What is it that I really need?”

Before you crucify me for turning the Gospel inside out and hamstringing it with a message about me and my needs, hear me out.

I’m not at all advocating a life without obedient sacrifice; I am expressly advocating a life of eyes-open sacrifice. You might not get what you need. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t. There are a lot of things you need that a life of cross-cultural service just won’t be able to provide. I’m talking about the full spectrum here, from a Starbucks latte all the way to the absence of gunfire.

And that’s where this gets real.

When you realize that some legitimate needs won’t get met, when you realize that safety and functioning utilities and access to public libraries and date night just aren’t as much a thing where you live, you can do two things. You can seek to mitigate, or you can choose to sacrifice. In reality, I actually recommend both.

Mitigate it: Consider whether there are any creative workarounds that might meet the need, in whole or in part.

Sacrifice it: Obediently, with a full heart and open eyes, sacrifice the thing as a holy act of worship.

Continue reading over at A Life Overseas

A Few of My Favorite Things {May 2017}

By Elizabeth

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This month we finished our school year! We also had some health issues (bummer). In fact it was so crazy that I don’t even have any book reviews for you. (I miss reading books.) But I did find two new semi-healthy recipes that we are loving: Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes (which are mommy’s treat) and your basic Energy Bites, which the whole family loves (but I don’t add the chocolate chips).

 

BLOG POSTS

Ask a Counselor: roll away the stone of perfectionism by Kay Bruner. This came at the absolute right time for me. I had been doing hefty battle with the foe of perfectionism and needed a friend and guide and, most especially, a “me too.” Still working on some of these issues of perfectionism.

7 Ways We Secretly Rank Each Other by Amy Young. So good, and so uncomfortably true. Somehow Amy managed to touch on all the ways we rank ourselves and others . . . . even the ones we’d rather not admit.

On Home and Keeping Place, in which Marilyn Gardner interviews author Jen Pollock Michel. The interview stirred something deep inside me, and it moved me to watch the Keeping Place discussion series on my Right Now Media account. I haven’t read the book, but the discussion series delves more deeply into the theological basis for these longings, which was so helpful.

In Solidarity With the Butt Wipers by Leslie Verner. Although I’m not in the exact same “young mom” season as Leslie, I found myself nodding my head to the things she was saying. Many of her statements apply to older stages of motherhood too, including the inability to catch up, the occasional desire to run away, and the guilt that tags along with that desire.

 

FUNNY VIDEOS

I loved Kid Snippets so much that I started watching them WITH my kids. Fast Food and Hair Salon are still two of my favorites, and their conversations have become part of our family vernacular, much like this NFL Bad Lip Reading. Now we’ve discovered Bedtime, which is our much-quoted collective favorite (everything seems to “scamper off” now). Making Friends and Lunch are also good.

Then I came across this MAYhem video from the Holderness family, which pretty much describes the end of a home school year too! We’re glad to be on break now! I hope to return next month with a review of Helena Sorensen’s Seeker (the 2nd installment in her thought-provoking Shiloh series), which was too much for me to get to this month.

The Temporary Intimacy of Expat Life (and my search for rootedness) {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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It’s not hard for me to put down roots in a new place. Roots are all I want. That may sound unconventional coming from a Third Culture Kid, but Army life was unsettling, and even small tastes of stability were tantalizing to me. I’m always searching for roots.

Specific places can be very healing to me, but I almost wonder if the place itself doesn’t matter as long as the place seems permanent. I could settle anywhere as long as it’s forever. I know this need for stability points somewhere. It points to a longing for a forever home. A hunger for the new city. A desire that can’t be completely fulfilled in this sin-tarnished world.

So whenever I move to a new place, I pretend it’s a permanent home. I decide I never want to move away. I give myself, heart and soul, to this new place and to this new people. I make plans for future years, future decades even. I tell myself that I will settle here and live here forever. I imagine everything in the future taking place in this place.

While some TCKs want to move places frequently, that hasn’t been my experience. I don’t want to leave a new place after a few years of living there. I don’t become unsettled at the thought of settling somewhere. Sometimes I tell myself that this desire I have for roots is good. I tell myself that it means I’m stable and secure. But then I have to ask, if I’m so stable and secure, why would I become so unmoored by goodbyes?

A desire to move frequently can be unhealthy, it’s true. But it is equally true that this insatiable desire I have never to move homes or see life change can be unhealthy too. For see, God is the God who is doing a new thing. And growth in Christ never happens without change — sometimes painful change. So I sometimes live in denial, for this overseas life is not, and can never be, permanent. I will have to move eventually. My friends, the dear people with whom I live my life and to whom I’ve pledged my undying love, must also move at some point.

You can finish reading here.