He’s just a…

He’s just a carpenter. A blue-collared day laborer. And he’s the one who builds mountains and stars.

He’s just a carpenter. A townie, a long long ways from cosmopolitan. And he’s the King of kings.

But he’s just a carpenter, uneducated, the son of nobodies. And he’s the dearly loved son of the Father.

The crowds are blind, eyes filled to the brim with scoffing, incredulous. They can’t see beyond their own limiting words.

It is true. He is a carpenter. But he is not just a carpenter. He is so much more.

And by his grace, we are too.

We are not just sinners.
We are not just failures.
We are not just inadequate.

We are loved.
We are saved.
We are sought after and enjoyed by our God.

So when people see us and laugh, saying we’re “just a” whatever, we smile and nod and run to Jesus.

And there we sit among the wood chips, remnants of a Roman cross, and we belly laugh with the Carpenter who saved the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. 
Mark 6:1-3

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Why Cross-Cultural Workers Need Tent Pegs {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is at A Life Overseas today. . . . 

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Home is a complicated word. A complicated idea. What is it? Where is it? As global nomads, we’re not entirely sure how we feel about home. We’re not sure we have it, and we’re not sure how to get it. We know the correct spiritual answer – that Christ is our home. That He is busy preparing an eternal home for us. And that even now, He makes His home in our hearts, wherever we go. Still, we search for a more earthly home. A physical place to set up camp for a while.

As an adult Third Culture Kid, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out roots. But lately I’ve been wondering if I should stop my search. I’m far too easily disappointed; permanence of people or place is not something we’re promised in this life. Even so, we need a support system for lives as portable as ours. This summer I started describing those supports as tent pegs.

A tent is a temporary shelter, and the tent pegs that fasten it to the ground also provide only temporary security. Tents and tent pegs are mobile, going with us wherever we go. They allow us to make a home right here, right now. And when the time comes, they allow us to make a home somewhere else too. Every time we pull our tent pegs up out of the ground, pack them in our bags, and move on, we can take the time to hold each tent peg in our hand and remember.

Finish reading here.

A Few of My Favorite Things {July/August 2018}

by Elizabeth

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Well this summer has flown by without a lot of time to write. We have had some amazing experiences. I could almost say it’s been the best summer of my life so far. (And let me just say that summer in the States is way better than winter.)

Here are a few of the highlights from the last two months:

We took a trip to Joplin to see several sets of family friends.

We visited the Nelson-Atkins art museum and the World War I memorial in Kansas City. I love being a Kansas Citian and I love sharing these things with my children.

We traveled up to Belle Plaine, Iowa, to visit family for the 4th of July. I caught up with family I hadn’t seen in years, visited the church where my parents (and several aunts and uncles) got married, and visited the graves of family members all the way back to the first Czech immigrant. Plus I saw my first fireworks show in 7 years.

My husband and I went on an anniversary trip to Eureka Springs, where we toured the town, including two breathtaking church buildings. We also visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has some amazing architecture in addition to the art.

I met up with three Velvet Ashes writers for lunch right here in Kansas City.

My sister and her adorable baby boy came into town again. Swoon!

We caught up with old friends, new friends, and family in Rolla, Missouri, and Searcy, Arkansas. We also went to a college reunion.

We finished the summer with a family vacation at Camp Takodah.

When we got back from that, my parents threw me a surprise family birthday party, my first birthday in America in 7 years. It’s been a wonderful summer, and I will be sad to leave my parents’ home again.

 

BOOKS

Life has been so full I haven’t had a lot of time to read, but I’ve been able to squeeze in a little bit of reading. These four books are wonderful.

Darling: A Woman’s Guide to Godly Sexuality by Aanna Greer. The friend who told me this is the book she wishes she would have had as a newlywed (and who gives it to engaged college students) was right: this is a fully comprehensive book that honors God’s purposes for marriage without being uptight or insecure. Aanna fully embraces the joys of sex within marriage. Lots of practical advice you don’t find many Christian sex resources. Often you get one or the other – delight in sex without God’s boundaries, or a respect for God’s boundaries without the joy or the practical advice.

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich. A 92-year-old writes about the ridiculousness of our health and longevity ambitions. Written by someone without an eternal perspective — how much more applicable are these words to those who believe these bodies are not the end of the story!

Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education by Susan Wise Bauer. Bauer is a favorite writer, speaker, and thinker of mine. In fact I think I’ve listened to her discussion What I’ve Learned From the High School Years half a dozen times already. I wasn’t planning on reading this new book of hers because 1) I’m already homeschooling 2) I’d heard a bunch of interviews with her about this book and figured nothing would be new. But I walked into a brick-and-mortar bookstore in America and saw the book. I was in tears by the second page of the introduction. I needed her words badly, so I bought the book and read it.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss. I did not grow up on this Seuss title, but came across it this summer at my sister-in-law’s house. It’s good for kids, sure, but like any good children’s book, it becomes even more true the older you get. Good for grown-ups too.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR INTERNATIONAL WORKERS

You’re Doing it Wrong by Anisha Hopkinson. So funny! Also, true.

Risk Myths by Anna E. Hampton. This page is a treasure trove of resources for cross-cultural workers. Hampton has written a book on the subject but still offers a wealth of wisdom on her website. She’s one of those rare people who seamlessly blends head and heart. She’s well-researched while being compassionate. I highly recommend her entire site, but this page is a good place to start.

Shame or Courage: Leaving the Field for the Sake of a Child by Michèle Phoenix. Empathetic and discerning, as is all of Michèle’s work.

Where I Ought to Have Been Born by Karen Huber. Discusses Till We Have Faces, for any Lewis lovers out there.

On Welcoming the Third Culture Kid by Marilyn Gardner.

 

BLOG POSTS ON PRIVILEGE & RACE

Repenting for Healthcare Inequality: A Christian Response by Marilyn Gardner.

Are White Christians Retraumatizing People for the Sake of Diversity by Kaitlin Curtice. It’s at least worth asking the question.

I Am Not a Racist — and other things I wish I knew were true by Jerry Jones. So proud of Jerry for writing this.

 

MISCELLANEOUS BLOG POSTS ON CHRISTIANITY

The Sentence I Thought I’d Never Write by Rebecca Reynolds (whose new book is out, and I pre-ordered my copy, so I get to take it back to Cambodia even though it’s already sold out in a few places!). You should follow Reynolds on FB and on her blog. She’s thoughtful, thorough, nuanced, and waaaayy smarter than me (she’s a logic teacher for crying out loud). But when I learned she had also been a pastor’s wife, I suddenly realized why I connected so much with her writing.

But Could a God Like That Be Good also by Rebecca Reynolds.

Authoritarianism: just some things I want to say by Kay Bruner. Explains a whole lot of wrong things I’ve seen in my life.

The Bible is Literature for the Resistance by Rachel Held Evans. Worth a read even if you’re not on all the same theological pages as the author (I know I’m not). Still, an excellent perspective.

 

QUOTES

“All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

This passage from II Samuel 14:14 was read during a communion talk, of all things. But it grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. We have a God who does not just sweep life away; He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.  (As a side note, this is one of the reasons I love the New Living Translation and have for the last 10 years. I have not found another translation that makes God’s Word come alive so well.)

“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people [in Ephesus], who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.”

A seemingly insignificant verse at the very beginning of a favorite book (and the beginning of a sermon series this summer). But I noticed both/and aspect of “chosen” and “faithful.” It reminded me of Tanya Crossman’s most recent TCK article on A Life Overseas. We belong to God because God says so, and then we learn to live like we’re in God’s Kingdom.

 

SONGS

Living Hope by Brian Johnson and Phil Wickham. The first time I heard this song in church, I got goosebumps when we got to “roaring lion.” I never get tired of the gospel story, do you? “Then came the morning that sealed the promise Your buried body began to breathe Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion Declared the grave has no claim on me.”

Center My Life by Austin Stone Worship. Turn my eyes away from searching for lesser glory.” Hit me hard. That’s what all our searching is, isn’t? For LESSER glory. It’s not that we’re not seeking glory, it’s that we get sidetracked from the real glory.

Love So Great by Hillsong. “Not to us but to your name, we lift up all praise.” From a well-known psalm, but a singable way to say it.

No Other Name by Hillsong. “Seated on high the undefeated one.”

 

TELEVISION & FILM

I Can Only Imagine. I didn’t expect to like this movie since the song had never appealed much to me (don’t know why, since it was always so popular). But Christian movies are definitely getting better. This one and The Case for Christ from earlier this year both focus on the narrative rather than preaching. And their narratives are good.

John Adams HBO series. Adams is my husband’s favorite Founding Father. We didn’t finish this series, but as a family we started it (previewing it first so we could skip needed scenes). We’re starting two years of studying American history in school, so this felt an appropriate introductory family activity.

Crazy Rich Asians. I laughed so hard at this movie. It’s funny even if you don’t “get” the Asian cultural and lifestyle references. But if you do get them, it’s even funnier.

A Few of My Favorite Things {May/June 2018}

So I can’t always seem to get these favorites posts to you by month’s end, but better late than never right? ~Elizabeth

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Teenagers. 17 years in to our ministry journey, and I still love youth. This semester I taught math to the teens at our co-op. I’ve been with these students for a couple years now and have gotten to know each of them, and they are all special to me. Teaching them has been one of the greatest honors of our most recent term in Cambodia. I love watching them come alive and interact with different ideas, each in their own way.

At the end of this semester we lost 6 teens to family moves and graduations, and it was a difficult sendoff. I asked if I could say something to them at graduation and then pray over them. It was an emotional thing to do, but I really wanted to say goodbye well. Next year will not be the same without them! But we know they are headed where God is leading, and we trust Him even when things get hard.

Palm trees in Los Angeles. I wrote about our trip over the Pacific here.

Trip to Emerald Hills. We always visit Team Expansion’s home office, and this year’s visit was particularly good. I wrote about it here.

Trip to Washington State. We visited family and friends, which is of course its own treat. But we also saw the magnificent Mt. Hood on descent, drove to see Mt. St. Helens, and even climbed an ancient lava tube (basically a 2-hour hike up a 60-degree cave) at Mt. St. Helens. I’d never seen a volcano in person before. Beautiful.

Meeting my nephew. He’s 6 months old, but I hadn’t seen him yet. He was even cuter and sweeter than the pictures showed. He fell asleep in my arms several times, and I fell in love with him. I was pretty bummed when we had to say goodbye.

Trip to northern Missouri. We’ve been friends since our college days, and we’ve always gone to visit their farm, even before we had kids. The Galt Christian Church there always welcomes us wholeheartedly. Honestly, every time we visit I am blown away by their kindness and generosity.

Grand River Valley Choir and Orchestra. While we were in Galt, we went to see another friend who was singing in a concert. It was marvelous. I don’t get a chance to see much live music in Cambodia, and it is just different from music you can access online. It may have been my girls’ first experience of live music in fact, and they loved it. Some of the orchestra music had an Irish theme, which was fun, while the choir music was themed around the stages of life, from new baby to old age. I will tell you I cried. Quite a bit actually. The director I hugged afterward may have thought I was crazy!

 

BOOKS

I have not finished a single book, but I have looked in detail at several library books, including:

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik and The Language of God by Francis S. Collins (both in search of high school science books),

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker (a favorite Youtuber of mine),

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack (recommended by Rachel Pieh Jones and in preparation for studying American history next year with my kids), and

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (recommended by the people at Sonlight and full of history and neuroscience).

I’ve also been reading Mr. Putter and Tabby books and the Whatever After series (recommended by my friend Danielle and her daughter) with my girls. Both are fun, heart-warming series, and I can fully endorse them both.

 

MISSIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LIVING

To My Adult TCK Self: I See You by Rachel Hicks. Makes me cry every time.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Africa by Arthur Davis. Note: If you want to really think (or cry), read Arthur and Tamie Davis. They are Aussies living in Tanzania, and they blog at Meet Jesus at uni.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is Not a Ministry Guide by Susan Mettes. Intriguing and important.

6 Reasons Why You Should Not Go Overseas by Wesley Mills. For more on that subject, see Laura Parker’s classic 10 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary or Ryan Kuja’s newer The Call Is Not Enough.

The Top 10 Most Valuable Mindsets for MKs and TCKs by Michèle Phoenix.

25 Things They Don’t Put in the Life Abroad Brochure by Jerry Jones.

Leaving Poorly: a whole new set of options for departing expats also by Jerry Jones.

Is it a failure, or is it a growth opportunity? by Kay Bruner. So much grace here. (You may also be interested in Kay’s interview with Sarita Hartz.)

We Need Each Other by Renette. I like this perspective. Reminds me of discussions on community and culture in Alissa Wilkinson’s book How to Survive the Apocalypse. (And you know I always love anything reminiscent of culture critic Alissa Wilkinson.)

 

HOMESCHOOLING AND PARENTING

Calculus is the peak of high school math. Maybe it’s time to change that. by Sarah D. Sparks. Has me thinking.

The Problem With Hurrying Childhood Learning by Justin Minkel. I’m always a big fan of a non-hurried childhood.

Education is a dangerous thing: a conversation with Wendell Berry. Long interview, but good, especially the bit on “education for homecoming”

 

FOR WRITERS AND ARTISTS

You Are Not Your Work: On Receiving (and Ignoring) Feedback by Jonathan Rogers.

 

OTHER CULTURAL CONCERNS

Why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair Haque.

How can we untangle white supremacy from medieval studies? Important conversation with David M. Perry and Helen Young.

What Google Bros Have in Common with Medieval Beer Bros: the exclusion of women from coding fits perfectly into centuries of labor history by David M. Perry. Enlightening but concerning.

Prominent Democratic Feminist Camille Paglia Says Hilary Clinton ‘Exploits Feminism’ by Sam Dorman. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, this is a fascinating read.

‘We’re teaching university students lies’, an interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson. I don’t agree with everything here, but there is much food for thought.

Could managed consumption be a better form of treatment for alcoholism? by Sasha Chapin. Also intriguing.

 

QUOTES

Found on Randy Alcorn’s Twitter and I believe quoting John Piper:

“It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge… I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book…I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.”

From Doug McKelvey on the Rabbit Room, quoting G.K. Chesterton:

“Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men [or young women!], but one…”

Here’s the best explanation I’ve ever heard of how children can follow the 5th commandment, starting with childhood and extending into adulthood in this order. From a sermon at Legacy Christian Church (my parents’ home church, where we’re going this summer and where my kids participated in a fabulous week of VBS.)

  • Willful obedience
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Frequent communication
  • Care for them in their frailty

 

MUSIC

So Will I (100 Billion x) by Hillsong. Yes, I like this song (along with everyone else).

Fly Away Home by Pink Zebra. A song that had me tears at the concert. Besides all the other layers of possible meaning here, to me it also represents the fact that whether I’m leaving the States for Cambodia or leaving Cambodia for the States, every time I step on a plane, I’m “flying away home.”

If you’re a TCK in a less sentimental mood, try No Roots by Alice Merton instead.

 

MOVIES

Churchill. I watched this on the plane and cried through much of it. Emotions are understated, making them all the more powerful. Coming on the heels of a semester studying World War 2 at co-op and my yearlong obsession with The Crown series, this movie gave more depth to the historical character of Winston Churchill, some insight into the challenges of marriage in politics (or ministry!), and some perspective on the atrocities and traumas of war. Well worth the watch.

Candy Jar. A fun movie. I saw my younger self in the main character probably far too much. There’s some bittersweet in this story, which took me by surprise.

Little Dorrit. I absolutely loved this BBC adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens story. Here’s my FB conversation about it.

Two Challenges That Homeschooling Families Face on the Field {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is at A Life Overseas. . . .

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In 2016 my friend Tanya Crossman published her book Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. Tanya worked with Third Culture Kids in Beijing for over a decade before writing her book, and I greatly value her insight into the hearts of TCKs today.

I’m passionate about homeschooling my four TCKs, so as soon as I received my copy of her book, I skipped straight to the home school section. Here is what I found:

“The majority of homeschool families I know do an excellent job. Unfortunately, I have also mentored and interviewed TCKs who had less effective, and less pleasant homeschool experiences. Those who shared negative experiences always referred to at least one of two key issues: working alone, and lack of social interaction.”

As a parent I want to be aware of these two important issues. I spoke about them at a conference earlier this year, and though not everyone in our online community home schools (or even has children), I think these issues are pertinent enough to warrant discussion here. Youth workers, sending agencies, and others who care about the well-being of TCKs may also be interested in how to help parents approach these concerns.

Finish reading here.

Khmer resources

Here are some emotional words/vocab lists that I’ve picked up from a couple of friends. Many thanks to Mary and Wendy!

Emotions and Feelings in Khmer and English

Emotions according to intensity

More Emotion Words in Khmer

Here’s an additional resource in Khmer: What is a Woman Worth?

And here’s a master list (with video) about Church Planting Movements and Inner Healing.

Night shot Phnom Penh

photo credit: Nick Radcliffe

Coming Home: a story in 3 parts

by Elizabeth

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1. We landed in L.A. for an 18-hour layover after what was perhaps the Most Turbulent Flight Ever. Then we headed to an airport hotel to sleep off some jet lag (courtesy of my husband, the Expert Trip Planner).

The next morning after breakfast, we walked around to get some sun so we could keep fighting off the dreaded jet lag. And lo and behold, what did I see? Only my very favorite plant: the magnificent palm tree.

(There were also succulents, which may just need to be added to my list of favorite plants.)

And I thought to myself, maybe the part of my soul that longs for palm trees really can be satisfied on this soil. I think on some level I knew America had palm trees, but I’d never been in a place to see them before. It was a welcoming sight.

 

2. That next day as we settled in to our last flight, we ran into an old family friend. (Actually, it was the minister who performed my husband’s grandfather’s funeral, and his wife.)

As we chatted, the husband said, “Heading home?” And I nodded and said, “yes” — because we are, and that’s the way most people talk about these trips anyway.

But then he paused, for maybe only half a second, and said: “Heading home, on your way from home.”

Yes. We’re heading home, on our way from home. And I THANKED him for that statement, because it’s the truest way of describing this strange mobile life, and not everyone takes the time to acknowledge that truth.

We are, ever and always, heading home on our way from home.

 

3. Friends and family greeted us at the airport and helped us load our luggage into their vehicles. In the car I talked with my parents some and listened to my parents talk to my kids some. I was tired.

We passed plenty of places that looked just the same, and we passed plenty of places where new homes and businesses had sprung up. The highway doesn’t look quite the same as it did when I was growing up.

But the moment we turned onto the street that heads to my parents’ house, I knew I was home. It may have been 2 1/2 years since I’ve seen it, but it seemed like I had driven that road only yesterday.

And so I am Home. It’s a good feeling.