I Had an Arranged Marriage

by Elizabeth

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One time Jonathan and I were at a wedding here in Cambodia, celebrating the marriage of a Brit and a Filipino. Sitting at the table with us was a young lady from India. When the table conversation strayed into the topic of marriage, this young lady asked us if we had a “love marriage” (as opposed to the Indian custom of arranged marriage).

Our first answer was yes – yes, we had a love marriage. A second later we added, “Our parents were really involved in our relationship.” And they were. They were intimately involved.

Another time we were sharing a meal with our Pakistani friends, when the conversation turned to marriage. They told us their story, and we told them ours. When we explained the way our parents had helped to guide us, we laughed and told them that at the time some people thought we were crazy.

There was another time when I was chatting with a lady from India about the cultural differences between India, Cambodia, and America. I asked if her daughter, who is studying in America, will have an arranged marriage, or not. She said she probably won’t have an arranged marriage, and that she herself did not have an arranged marriage, so how could she expect her daughter to?

I told her I got married at 18, and to her that seemed very young. (She was right. It was.) She said that in India, parents prefer their children’s marriages to take place a little later, so husband and wife and older, wiser, and more stable when they’re just starting out.

Then I explained how our relationship had unfolded – how Jonathan had talked to his dad, how his dad had talked to my parents, how Jonathan had then talked to my parents, how my parents had eventually talked to me — and she said that is exactly how marriages happen in India.

That was the moment I realized I had an arranged marriage. That was the moment I realized that “courtship” as I knew it was really “arranged marriage, American style.”

It makes sense: an arranged marriage is not a forced marriage. My friend went on to explain that even when it is a so-called “love marriage,” Indian families prefer marriage to be  formalized in this way — that children will talk to their parents, who will talk to the other parents, and so on.

In fact that is how she expects it to happen with her daughter, that she will tell her parents the man in whom she’s interested, and they will get to know the other family, etc. Parents know their kids, she explained, and they know how their kids react to certain situations and people, and they want their children’s marriages to be successful.

I like this idea of families knowing each other. It’s all too easy at university to find someone and fall in love them without any family context, and not to know what you’re getting into. But a marriage is not just a union between two people. A marriage always involves the families of origin, for we are formed by our families and bring our original family culture into our marriages, whether healthy or not.

Now that I’ve been married for nearly 17 years, I can honestly say I’ve loved nearly every moment of marriage. Yes, we’ve had conflict. Yes, we’ve had disagreements. Yes, we’ve sometimes been so busy we barely spoke to each other.

But most of the time we’ve enjoyed being married to each other.

And while I can’t attribute the success of my marriage solely to its arrangement, that arrangement does deserve some credit. Looking back, I can clearly see the way God moved to bring us together under the blessing and authority of our parents. That knowledge and belief is a sure foundation to lean upon when committing to a lifetime of love and togetherness.

Marriage doesn’t have to be as formally arranged as it was for Jonathan and myself or for my Indian or Pakistani friends. Still, it can be good for family to be involved. Or if, for whatever reason, it’s not possible for family to be involved, it can be good for someone to be involved, intentionally guiding a young couple toward marriage.

In the end, marriage is a community matter. The strength and stability of our marriages affect our churches and our culture at large. Proverbs 15:22 tells us that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” We can all use a little outside input to make wise decisions — decisions that will hopefully last a lifetime.

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Other articles I’ve written about marriage:

What I Want to Teach My Daughters About Married Sex

Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)

When Marriage and Ministry Collide

Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)

Articles Jonathan has written about marriage:

The Purpose of Marriage is Not to Make You Holy

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife

A Marriage Blessing

Love Interruptus?

Love with Faith (or Play Guitar with Both Hands)

Recorded at ICA in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 2017.

To listen to the message, Click Here or visit the trotters41 podcast on iTunes.

Paul concluded his message to the Ephesians with the idea of Love mixed with Faith(6:23), and I borrowed his thoughts for a bit. Here are some excerpts…

Love comes to seek and save the lost, while Faith believes they can be.

Faith empowers Jesus to prophetically imagine a new paradigm for the co-crucified: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” While Love communicates the fantastical truth: “I want you with me in paradise.”

Faith innervates Jesus’ declaration to the Samaritan woman, “If you only knew the gift God has for you….”

But Love is what got Jesus talking with her in the first place.

“Love joined with faith.”

Faith helps me believe the Gospel. Love helps me share it.

Without Faith, Love lacks vision and imagination, leaving us without mooring and definition.

Without Love, Faith becomes cold and unapproachable, leaving us bitter and mean.

We need both.

Love mixed with Faith.

Passages Through Pakistan {book reviews from both of us}

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Last year Jonathan and I were privileged to read fellow blogger Marilyn Gardner’s new book Passages Through Pakistan. It’s a chronological journey through her childhood as a Missionary Kid and Third Culture Kid in Pakistan. Somehow Marilyn manages to arrange the book around various forms of transportation while still maintaining that chronological progression. (The writer in me was impressed with that clever little device.)

On the surface my TCK experience seems quite different from Marilyn’s, so I initially wondered how much of her story I would relate to. Where hers involves missions and boarding school, mine involves military service and public schools. But my concerns were completely unfounded. There was so much to relate to, on so many levels. Truly, this is a story for everyone.

As I’ve said in other places, for me the mark of a good book is that I laugh all the way through and then cry at the end. Passages Through Pakistan certainly measured up in that regard as well.

One of the funnier parts came when reading about her family’s visits to the ruins of the ancient Indus River valley. Somehow the ancient Indus civilization managed to install covered drains in their city, while during Marilyn’s childhood, Pakistan had not yet done so. I could relate — the lack of covered sewers in Cambodia is something I continually lament.

I also laughed over her comparisons of popular (but fleeting) camp songs to the steady and stalwart hymns of our faith. But by the time I finished the book, I have to tell you I was wrecked. Wrecked.

In the end, Passages Through Pakistan is simply the story of a child’s faith in God. Marilyn holds her story loosely and tells it humbly, so it’s worth a read even if you’ve never lived overseas.

Jonathan’s and my reviews are featured below. We were thrilled to be part of her book launch team (and also to have our reviews printed in the book — wow such fun!).

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From Elizabeth:

For anyone who has wrestled with heavy bouts of homesickness or lived through long stretches of loneliness, Marilyn Gardner’s new book, Passages Through Pakistan, is a gift.

For anyone who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death or of betrayal while simultaneously trying to hold onto faith in a good and loving God, this book is a light in your darkness.

For anyone who longs for the people and places of your past or has ever had to pack up a life and say goodbye, this book is a trustworthy traveling companion.

For anyone who has ever grappled seriously with their privilege or come face to face with their own shortcomings, this book is a safe place to land.

And for anyone who’s ever wondered if it’s even possible to raise a happy family in difficult or unusual circumstances, Passages Through Pakistan offers hope and, what’s better, guidance.

But these stories are also a sober reminder to parents that no matter how much love and security we lavish upon our children, we cannot protect them from the sorrows and difficulties of this life — nor is it our job.

Marilyn’s book is a gem for all these reasons, and it is also a joy to read. The language is beautiful, and each story is seasoned with profound truths about life and faith. Somehow as we read, we are able to swallow the bitter along with the sweet. That is what grace is all about, and that is what this book is all about.

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From Jonathan:

It’s been said that if you dig down into your story deep enough, you find the common things. I didn’t grow up in Pakistan, and I didn’t experience boarding school or life as a missionary kid. But that doesn’t matter, because in this book Marilyn digs down deep enough into her own journey that I found myself resonating throughout. And crying.

The cross-cultural connections and the cross-cultural stretching, the faith struggles, the reverence of older missionaries, the questions about God’s sovereignty in the midst of catastrophe, and the confusion surrounding the loaded word, Calling. It’s all here.

We need this story. The missions community needs this story. Yes, it’s one person’s history, but this is a book that missionaries and TCKs of all stripes need to read, because Passages through Pakistan ties us to our shared history. It links us with the bigger Story, and it reminds young cross-cultural workers that they’re not the first. Not the first to travel. Not the first to care about social justice. Not the first to raise children abroad. It shows us that we are part of a larger plot arc that both preceded us and will in fact follow us. These reminders are much needed and deeply enriching.

I am sure that Marilyn’s gentle storytelling and textured memories will encourage and inspire and heal many.

Living Well Abroad: 4 Areas to Consider {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan’s at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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My day job here in Cambodia is serving as a pastoral counselor. In a typical week, I meet with clients from Asia, the Americas, Australia, Europe, and occasionally Africa. And whether these clients are missionaries, NGO workers, or international business people, they’re all trying to figure out how to live well here. In Cambodia.

I was recently asked to share at an international church on the topic of Living Well abroad. I gave it all I had and presented my compiled thoughts and hopes. This article is an extension of that presentation.

It’s not short and it’s not fancy. But it is pretty much all I’ve got. 

My hope is that this article might serve as a resource, a touch point, for you and your team/org/ministry/family/whatever. If you’d rather listen to the podcast of this material, you’ll find some links at the very end. All right, here goes!

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How long were you in your host country before you cried really hard? You know, one of those famous UGLY cries that no one sees but certainly exists? Was it sometime in your first year? Month? Week?

For me, it took about 27 hours.

Our theme verse for those early days was 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.”

But we did.

For as Paul Hiebert writes in his seminal work, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, “Culture shock is rarely terminal.”

Theory can only get you so far. At some point, you have to get your feet wet and Nike the thing. That’s what this article’s about. It’s an attempt to give some practical, hands-on, nitty-gritty, [insert random epic language here], rubber-meets-the-road, advice.

Much of this comes from my own experience of transitioning a family of six from the suburbs of mid-west America to the concrete vistas of Phnom Penh. The rest comes from observing lives and stories in that enigmatic place we call “the counseling room.”

The four specific areas we’ll consider include Living Well Abroad…

  1. Theologically
  2. Spiritually
  3. Relationally
  4. Psychologically

Click here to read about the 4 areas.

The simple tool I use with 90% of my pastoral counseling clients

Sometimes you stumble across a tool that you didn’t know you needed, but as it turns out, you really do. Like pretty much everything Steve Jobs ever created.

I’ve creatively titled this tool “The Shapes Diagram.” I use it with 90% of my pastoral counseling clients because it takes complex ideas (like emotions and inner healing) and makes them a bit more concrete.

This diagram basically designed itself as I was trying to communicate some core emotional health ideas to Cambodians in Khmer. It wasn’t that my clients were dumb, it was that I lacked enough language skill to accurately describe some things.

So I did what any former youth pastor would do, I started scribbling. And this is what I came up with:

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I’ll walk you through the thing here in a minute. But if you’d rather watch an 11-minute video of me explaining The Shapes Diagram, click the video below.

OK, so here’s a rough walk-through…

Basically, we all have emotions, and most people end up seeing me because they’re having some emotions they don’t like. In other words, most people don’t come in happy (except the pre-marital clients, they do come in happy, and usually they leave happy too, but that’s not a given).

We start in the middle rectangle. For many, the rectangle (emotion) is anger or sadness or anxiety. Now, many pastors hear the story that led to the unwanted emotion and immediately start looking at what STEPS the person needs to take (or avoid) in order to get to the positive result (and avoid the negative one).

For example, someone might tell the really sad person, “Exercise, read your Bible more, pray!” They might continue, “Don’t drink when you’re sad, don’t do drugs, don’t watch Gilmore Girls. Those would be steps in the wrong direction and would lead to a negative result.”

Here’s the thing: that might all be good advice, and maybe people need to hear it, but pretty much every depressed person I’ve ever talked to already KNOWS those things. What I’ve come to believe (and experience with my clients) is that for the most part, all of that top part (the middle emotion box) and the steps and the results are all future-oriented things. That is, they force the client to ask, “What will I do now?” And that’s certainly a very valid question.

The thing is, that top half of the diagram (Emotions plus Steps plus Results), often balances precariously on the triangle that consists of emotional pain and lies from the past.

Often, past painful events in the client’s life have caused him or her to believe, deep down in their core, lies. Lies like “I’m worthless,” “I’m unlovable,” and “I’m broken beyond repair.”

It takes a lot of energy to keep everything steady on the tip of that triangle, but people try. And they try and they try. And they never deal with the emotional pain and the lies. We do them a tremendous disservice if all we do is give them Steps.

I want to ask the question, “What’s in the triangle? What’s the pain that this is all balancing on?” In practice, about half of my clients see this diagram and immediately say, “Oh, I know what’s in that triangle!” They then go on to list the traumatic event or the emotional trauma and the lies it planted. The other half typically says, “Well, I think this is probably true, but I’m not sure what’s in there.” That’s fine too, and so with their permission, we just continue the conversation.

If we can help a client to see what’s in the triangle and label it and maybe find the lies, then we can encourage them to invite Jesus into that specific place for healing. We can invite the Truth in and he can counter the lies and heal the emotional pain. The triangle can be erased, and it’s not nearly as mystical as it sounds. : )

Then, with the triangle gone, the client’s emotions are simply resting on the Truth (Jesus). The emotions are still there, because the client is still a human, but the whole thing is much more stable.

Now some people try to bypass the triangle and jump straight to the Truth. But that’s not as effective. In fact, it’s just terrible. You can’t skip the triangle and jump straight to Jesus. You want to meet Jesus in the triangle. And he wants to meet you (and your clients) there too.

If you jump over the triangle (the pain/lies) you also jump over the healing.

I ask people to imagine that someone’s drowning in the middle of the Mekong. What if I see them drowning and I ride my boat over to them and I give them five gallons of good, clean water. Do they need that water?

Well, sort of. I mean, people need clean water to drink. And the Mekong is filthy. But is it helpful to them? No. It’s also not very kind. When someone’s drowning, I don’t want to just throw clean water at them, I want to actually help them.

We do that to folks who are depressed or anxious or experiencing a lot of difficult emotions. We give them good clean “water” of Truth and throw a Bible verse at them and stuff. The verses are true and good, but the timing is way off. Help the person NOT drown. That’s what the Church has to get better at doing, not just throwing water bottles to drowning/depressed people and telling ourselves we were helpful.

One article that might prove an additional resource is something I wrote about the Psalms. You can find that article here: The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement.

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Caveat: I’m all for medication if it’s necessary, and I would NEVER tell someone who’s depressed to stop their meds or go off their meds. I’m talking about a holistic approach here. So maybe someone’s on meds, fine, they should still be looking at what might be in the triangle.  Maybe there’s nothing, but maybe there’s something. Maybe it really is just a chemical imbalance that needs intervention. I believe that happens. But I also think exploring past painful events and asking around for deep-seated lies can expose someone to healing and greater self-awareness.

10 Ways to Choose Life in the Middle of an Eating Disorder

by Elizabeth

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Last fall I taught a class to international teen girls which I entitled “Life After ED,” where ED refers to eating disorders. I borrowed that title from a book I have not read because it so perfectly encapsulates what I want people to know: there is life after eating disorders. People need the hope of a life abundant when they’re in the midst of a struggle with scarcity.

When we talk about eating disorders, we’re talking about a range of struggles, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, orthorexia (obsession with “right” eating), and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). The research I’ve read indicates that 75% to 80% of women will deal with some sort of food or body image issue in their life, and many are easy to hide, so when I talk about eating disorders, I’m not just talking about extreme cases. Food and body image issues are struggles for all of us.

[Men deal with eating disorders too, but I don’t know those stats, nor do I have significant knowledge of that subject.]

Most of the girls in that class were Third Culture Kids, and most of them didn’t know my story. It feels like such a healed part of my life that I rarely think about it nowadays — and I often forget to tell it. So I started out by telling my personal story through the lens of a cross-cultural transition, because that was my experience. Then I touched on some theology regarding our bodies (including the concept of Imago Dei), and finished with a discussion of ways to seek healing and freedom in this area.

Today I’m only going to share some practical ways to choose life in the midst of a body image or food struggle. As I’m still in the early stages of truly understanding “the theology of the body” (yes that too is a borrowed book title), I’m going to skip that section of my class. And because I’ve published my eating disorder story before, I won’t rehash it here, even though the story I told these girls had some additional (and also very personal) details.

So without further ado, here’s my list. And since this list is relatively short, feel free to ask for clarifications on any of the items, whether publicly or privately.

 

  1. Break the shackles of shame. I want to take away the shame of struggling with these things. They’re common to women. They’re not terrible or shocking, whether it’s to me or to God or to so many other women out there. So take a deep breath. These struggles with food and body hatred are just part of your life right now. The only way to move forward and get them out of your life is to acknowledge them. And remember, you are NOT alone.
  2. Get some help. You really need some outside help to fight your food and body image battles. It’s very hard to walk this path alone. So talk to someone – a parent, a counselor, a pastor, a teacher, another safe adult. But NOT a peer. Not a friend. It’s not that you can’t confess these things to your friends, but you can get into trouble partnering with a friend in fighting an eating disorder. It can become about competition. Or it can become about endorsement, where you and your friends all know you struggle, and you “accept” each other, but there is no accountability to grow or change. A counselor, on the other hand, will help you delve into the reasons why you stumbled into this eating disorder in the first place. A Christian counselor, in particular, will help you stand on the truth of God’s word and seek Jesus for the healing of your mind and your body. But make sure your counselor feels safe to you. If you’re not comfortable with one, look for another.
  3. Don’t expect a quick fix. There is no special prayer or special person’s prayer that will magically and instantaneously cure your struggle. There is only consistently walking with Jesus toward healing and restoration and consistently realigning your mind with the truth of God’s love. There is only “a long obedience in the same direction” (to reference yet another book I haven’t read).
  4. Don’t be thrown off guard by relapses. They are normal; I had three. Three separate times I stopped eating enough, lost too much weight, and stopped my normal female functioning too. It happened twice in high school and once after I had my second child. Remember, relapses are NOT the end of recovery or healing, and they don’t mean that no healing or recovery has occurred. They are just a temporary setback. So take a deep breath and start again to walk this road of healing.
  5. Don’t get your ideas of what your body is supposed to look like from magazines or images on the internet. This is simple to understand but difficult to live. I know how tempting it is to look at those pictures and compare yourself to them. I know how tempting it is to compare yourself to your own personal idea of a perfect body. But those images, whether on a screen or on a glossy magazine page, or inside your own head, don’t tell the truth. They aren’t real. Don’t let them lie to you about what is beautiful or valuable or what you must look like. Reject those ideas, they’re not from God. Put down the magazines or turn off your phone or your computer if you have to.
  6. Know where your value and worth come from. When God formed us from the dust, He stamped us with His image, something He didn’t do for any other creature. This is the idea of imago dei: the belief that all human beings, regardless of status or creed or “usefulness” or even likability, are valuable, because the God who created them is the one who gives them their value. Imago dei is what needs to be restored when we struggle with disordered eating, body image distortion, body shame, body hatred, or the effects of sexual abuse. So remember how much you are worth — body, soul, and all.
  7. Look in the mirror and declare God’s Word over yourself. This can be really hard and uncomfortable at first. Get into your underclothes and stand in front of that mirror and speak out loud statements like, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” or “I am created in the image of God, and God himself says that’s very good,” or “I am a child of God,” or “I am in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation for me, not even from myself,” or “The Spirit is setting me free from these things.” It’s hard at this stage to accept your physical body as something good, but try practicing these things and see if they help.
  8. Work on portion control, but avoid calorie counting. Portion control can be hard. Whether you’re accustomed to restricting OR overeating, it’s difficult to learn to listen to your body’s signs of hunger and fullness and to eat a normal, regular amount of food that’s not too big and not too small. Look up recommended portion sizes if you want, but don’t pay too much attention to calorie counts. Calorie counting is both legalistic and addictive and tends to be used in fear, not freedom. So don’t get hung up on calories.
  9. Hold onto hope for healing, restoration, and life abundant. I stand before you today free of obsessive thoughts of body hatred. I may have occasional thoughts of dissatisfaction, but I am free of obsession and the accompanying depression that my body is not good enough (and that therefore I am not good enough). So I want you to have HOPE: hope for freedom and wholeness and a full life after dealing with eating disorders.
  10. Remember that God is not giving up on you. God longs to live in you, in body, soul, and spirit. He will not give up on you, no matter how many times you binge, purge, or starve. He loves you the SAME. Always the same, eternal, everlasting, pure, perfect love. Of course we will make mistakes and let our beliefs and thoughts get all messed up. Of course we will make mistakes and make poor choices: that’s why Jesus came. God knew we would need Him, and He never gives up on us.

 

Linking up with Velvet Ashes

A Few of My Favorite Things {February 2017}

Well, here I am again, with the best stuff from this month in both my real life and in my reading and music world. ~Elizabeth

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Sabbatical. I took two full weeks off the internet at the end of January and beginning of February. It was magnificent. I honestly did not miss the internet at all, and I got a ton of reading done.

Skywatching. I wrote about my excitement over seeing Venus for the first time here.

Laughter. This very sheet-y story had me laughing for days. Days. (Make sure you read the comments.)

Cool season in Cambodia. I have to say that overall, February was still pretty cool.

Tea. I’ve discovered Twinings English Breakfast Tea, and I must say it’s far superior to Lipton.

A day-long date with the hubs. A friend gave us some gift money to spend on a date, so we went out for the entire day (!) to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

Jars of Clay. This is the coffee shop where I go most Wednesday afternoons to write (on my brilliant husband’s suggestion). It’s recently been remodeled and is now even cozier and more comfortable for working.

Spiritual direction sessions. I met with someone for spiritual direction during our two-week sabbatical. It gave me the courage to address a few things in my life, to place better boundaries around work, ministry, and technology, and to reconnect with God. I wasn’t dealing with any “new” issues; I was merely forgetting to apply the Gospel to all my old issues. (This felt like both good news and bad news at the same time.)

Sunday Screen Sabbath. After finishing my two-week technology break, I felt convicted to take a weekly break from screens and from the internet. I’ve felt this nudge before but never been brave enough to follow through. Now that I’ve tried it, however, I want to keep fasting from the internet for 24 hours once a week. The first Sunday was the hardest, but the tech break became easier with each successive Sunday.

A “Prayer for the Nations” Sunday at our international church. We focused on various geographical locations and prayed about four main areas: governments, churches, migrants and refugees, and families. The flags of about 35 countries had been set up around the room, and during the offering song people were encouraged to grab a flag and wave it around as we sang and prayed, in an Old Testament-inspired “wave offering.” I watched teens from different countries grab their own flags. I watched visitors from different countries grab their own flags. I watched my own daughters grab their flag, and I burst into tears, for that is literally the flag I grew up under, as a daughter of a U.S. Army officer. We all want to see revival and spiritual flourishing in our own countries, even as we leave those countries to serve God in Cambodia. Later in the service we sang “How Great is Our God” in six different languages, including Khmer. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful picture of all nations, all tribes, and all tongues bowing down before God in heaven. I cried for the sheer beauty of it. In fact, I had to sit down when the service was over to cry some more and contemplate the truth of our final destiny with Christ.

 

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS (PLUS ONE MOVIE)

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. This was the last of our Narnia adventures for a while (we worked our way through all seven of them over the last year). I don’t remember this installment being one of my favorites, but I have to say that this time through I loved it (then again, how can anyone say anything less when it comes to Lewis???). My favorite quote is “’Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.’”

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. We started this book right after we finished Narnia, and we LOVE it. It’s so fun and funny. One of my kids was gone for a few days this month, though, and we didn’t want to read ahead in The Penderwicks without everyone present, so the rest of us started up  The Moffats again — another delightful children’s story.

This month I realized that although I had read fairy tales to the boys when they were younger, I never did read any to my girls. We have so many other books we’re always reading, and sometimes fairy tales contain magic, and sometimes the happily-ever-after endings grate on me because they seem too perfect. But I got two of Sonlight’s recommended fairy tale books, and lo and behold, my daughters LOVE them. Fairy tales are an important part of western culture that I need to make sure my little TCKs know, but moreover, reading these fairy tale endings reminded me why people have been drawn to these stories for ages – we are all still longing for our final happily-ever-after with King Jesus, and fairy tales point to that longing.

One of my favorite things to do on my own is to read children’s literature. Basically I just thumb through all the Sonlight readers we have laying around, and I pick one. This month in my extra free time I was able to devour The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin, and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. The first is a delicious mystery that’s also a study in character, the second is a mystery that’s just plain fun, and the last is a subtle, sweet story set in American Revolutionary times. I also started Cold Sassy Tree (a non-children’s novel set in the post-Civil War South) by Olive Ann Burns but have only made it half-way through. Of all of these books, The Westing Game is my favorite.

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. My husband has been recommending this to me for quite some time now. In addition to helping me identify areas in my work and parenting that need stronger boundaries, this book also taught me that boundary problems are not just for people like me, who have a weak “no.” People who make their demands felt too strongly and cannot hear no also have boundary problems. The chapter on self-control issues was unexpected and convicting, but also appreciated. It explained that when we can’t say no to ourselves, whether it’s food, money, sex, time, alcohol — whatever our problem is – that is also a boundary issue.

Misunderstood by Tanya Crossman. This brand new book on Third Culture Kids was written by a personal friend of ours. Its title encapsulates the main feeling of today’s TCKs: they feel misunderstood on all fronts — whether it’s from people in their home culture or people in their passport culture or even people in their families.

I skipped straight to the home school section, and what I read there was very encouraging. The main challenges faced by TCKs in homeschooling families are a) lack of friends or social network and b) lack of educational help or tutoring. We work hard on both these fronts, by participating in a co-op and by arranging extra times for our kids to hang out with their friends. I’m also always around to answer questions – I was surprised to learn that some TCKs whose parents are in full time ministry must do their lessons basically on their own, with no outside help besides having the answer key to look off of. (The good news for full time working parents who homeschool is that if they hire a tutor for their kids, things can still work out educationally speaking.)

I also noticed myself in the portrayal of long-term TCKs who become resistant to new people entering their circles. The longer I’m here, the less energy and time I have to welcome new people into my life. I’m still not sure how I feel about that yet.

The Living Cross by Amy Boucher Pye. To be fair, I haven’t read this yet. It’s my Lent study for this year (the last 2 years I worked through a book specifically designed for Lent). I know Amy through blogging and enjoyed her first book Finding Myself in Britain, and I’m looking forward to the subject material of forgiveness, as I often find forgiveness to be a mystery, whether it’s of myself or of others.

Fiddler on the Roof. We watched this movie with our kids one Saturday morning. I hadn’t seen it since I was 18, and nearly 18 extra years of life really make a difference in understanding a story. This time, I cried through many of the scenes, especially “Sunrise, Sunset” (because my children are growing so fast), “Do You Love Me?” (because that’s what sacrificial love looks like), and the final “God-be-with-you” blessing of Chava by her Papa (because that’s what parents do, even when they disagree with their children’s choices).

On a related note, I recently read some advice that said that if you read Little Women as a teen or young girl, you’ll most likely identify with Jo. If you read it in your twenties or as a young mom, you might identify with Meg. But if you wait long enough to re-read it, you just might understand the story from Marmie’s point of view. Similarly, it was mentioned that if you read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books as a young person, you’ll identify with Anne (of course), but if you read it later in adulthood, you might understand better why Marilla and the other adults in the story were so frustrated by Anne’s antics. I just found that interesting in light of the fact that I had just re-watched Fiddler on the Roof and experienced it completely differently than I did as a teenager. It also made me think I really need to re-read Little Women and the Anne books!

 

BLOG POSTS

Living Overseas and Fear: Learning to Banish Love’s Twin by Lisa McKay. I love everything about this post. It’s dense and meaty but every sentence is important, and it’s for everyone, not just people living overseas.

The Gift of Need: MKs and Isolation by Michele Phoenix. I’m not an MK, but I saw myself in this article way more than I’d like to admit. Another top pick for the month.

Every Sin is the Lesser of Two Evils by Joshua Gibbs. This will make you question where in your life you are tolerating compromise.

Questioning Your Calling by Jerry Jones. “’Calling’ gets tossed around flippantly — sometimes carelessly.” This article offers basic yet profound truth in a practical package, as usual for Jerry. The cross cultural wisdom at his own site is also excellent.

Thoughts on Sharing Our Stories  by Marilyn Gardner. A call to honesty and humility in the way we tell our own stories and the stories of others.

Remember how I raved about Helena Sorensen’s Shiloh series last year? Well, the Velvet Ashes book club read it this month, and if you’re wanting a taste of the book before you decide to read it, or simply want to discuss it or discover what others think of it, check out this blog series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The last part dips into Helena’s writing process, which I found entirely refreshing and grounding.

 

QUOTES & POEMS

This quote from G.K. Chesterton.  And here,  another similar quote from Chesterton. Both on home and belonging and feeling lost.

Love (III) by George Herbert. Probably my most favorite poem of the month, along with Guite’s. This is a perfect description of perfect love and how we cower back in fear of it, and it’s nearly 400 years old. I’m always amazed when such

Mary (Theotokos) by Malcolm Guite. I didn’t read Guite’s poems for a while – I avoided them because I was busy and these poems require a lot of concentration to fully absorb. But I love this one (even though it was written for the Christmas season).

As referenced by Amy Young in The Question Heard Round the World: C.S. Lewis wrote in Pilgrim’s Regress Be sure it is not for nothing that the Landlord has knit our hearts so closely to time and place – to one friend rather than another and one shire more than all the land.”

 

SCRIPTURES & RESPONSES

Philippians 3:3: “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.”

Philippians 3:8: “I no longer count on my own righteousness.”

(I got really into Philippians this month — many more verses are recorded in my journal.)

(I also got really into the Transfiguration this month, thanks to Michael Card’s commentary on Mark. Card’s book also inspired this post.)

Psalm 145:3: “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise. No one can measure His greatness.” No one can measure His greatness – can we even imagine what that means??

Proverbs 12:12: “Thieves are jealous of each other’s loot, but the godly are well-rooted and bear their own fruit.” (I wrote here about how that verse made such an impact on me.

From a recent lesson by Ann Greve (these are not exact quotes): In John’s gospel, soldiers come looking for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus answers, “I AM he,” everyone falls to the ground – including Judas. This is a picture for us of the power that Jesus really had over his captors.

It also reminded me of three sections in Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. Firstly, there’s a point at which the main character encounters Aslan and wordlessly slips off his horse to bow down and worship him, without really even knowing why he feels compelled to do so. At another point, a talking horse meets Aslan for the first time and trots right up to him to announce that he can eat her if he want, that she’d rather be eaten by him than fed by anyone else. These two characters instinctively know Aslan’s glory. But later, a proud, arrogant fool of a prince refuses to bow before Aslan and is warned, and warned again, and then punished for his refusal. And that reminded me of Philippians 2:10: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee. Every tongue. Like the men in the Garden, and like the characters in Narnia who bow willingly — or unwillingly. We will all confess and we will all bow.

Also from a recent lesson from Ann Greve on John 18, when Peter cuts off Malchus’s ear. When we get angry like Peter and act out on that anger without understanding the plan of God, we have a tendency to “run around cutting people’s ears off.” That was such a word picture for me of what Peter was doing, and of what we and I can so easily do, run around in our anger injuring people and doing more damage than needs to be done.

More Narnia and Ann Greve connections: “When God told Moses ‘I AM that I AM,’ He was both revealing and withholding.” Which of course reminds me of my favorite quote from The Horse and His Boy about Aslan only telling people their own stories, not the stories of others — a revealing and a withholding.

 

SONGS

(Prepare yourself, because I have a lot of new and old songs that spoke to me this month.)

One day my girls were doing sticker art, and I sat down next to them with my beloved Songs of Faith and Praise and started singing. I just love hymns, but too often I forget to take the time to sing them. I specifically chose songs about creation or heaven, because I knew they would like them. These are the songs we sang:

Nearer My God to Thee  by Sarah Flower Adams.

There is a Habitation by Love H. Jameson.

On Zion’s Glorious Summit Stood by John Kent. Oh for the days of Bible camp when the entire camp sang this in 4-part harmony.

Have You Seen Jesus my Lord? A more modern camp song.

Can You Count the Stars? by Johann Wilhelm Hey and translated by E.L.J.

We Saw Thee Not by Anne R. Richter. Have you read these lyrics lately? Amazing.

This is My Father’s World by Maltbie D. Babcock. A childhood favorite of mine, and of their maternal grandmother’s. It’s ok to shout those last two songs, isn’t it??

Jubilee by Michael Card. Card’s music is always full of theology, and this (older song) is no different.

Be Kind to Yourself by Andrew Peterson. A song to sing over our children or over ourselves. Was on repeat at our house a lot.

Jesus We Love You by Paul McClure (and Bethel). I heard this at a church I visited. Has been in my head and on my lips all month. The words are good enough to copy here:

Old things have passed away
Your love has stayed the same
Your constant grace remains the cornerstone

Things that we thought were dead
Are breathing in life again
You cause your Son to shine on darkest nights

For all that you’ve done we will pour out our love
This will be our anthem song

Jesus we love you
Oh how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore

The hopeless have found their hope
The orphans now have a home
All that was lost has found its place in you
You lift our weary head
You make us strong instead
You took these rags and made us beautiful

Dwell by Casey Corum (and Vineyard). A beautiful “breath prayer” for any time of day. I heard it at a church we visited.

All Creatures of our God and King by Francis of Assisi and translated by William H. Draper, also from our Sunday morning visit to another church. In my head I can only hear Fernando  Ortega’s version.

Come Out of Hiding by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook (of Bethel). I’ve shared this before, but it was relevant to me again this month.

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser. Oh how often I forget my truest, deepest identity, especially when I‘m too busy “working for God.” But my husband played this for me again this month, and again I put it on repeat.

Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship. “Here in Your presence, all things are new, here in Your presence, everything bows before You.”

Mercy by Matt Redman. I was listening to my little iPod Shuffle when this song came on. I put it on repeat, just could not stop listening. “I will kneel in the dust at the foot of the cross, where mercy paid for me, where the wrath I deserve, it is gone, it has passed, your blood has hidden me.” I pray along with the song, “May I never lose the wonder, oh, the wonder of Your mercy, may I sing Your hallelujah, hallelujah, amen.”

And finally, Beneath the Waters by Hillsong, especially the bridge:

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your Lordship
And glorify Your Name
Your Word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
An on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone
I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin