Here are some highlights from the hottest month of the year. To be honest, it’s been kind of a rough one, what with the heat, the power outages, the broken things, the loud funeral chanting, the karaoke music in the morning, the metal shop next door, and even the middle-of-the-night cat fights outside our bedroom windows, but here are some honest-to-goodness bright spots. (And in answer to your unspoken question, yes I’m still writing in my gratitude journal! I’m just being honest about the hard things too.) ~Elizabeth
Watching some dear friends and teammates in the local homeschool coop’s play. I wrote about what I learned from that refreshing evening here.
Heading to Mondulkiri province with our teammates for Khmer New Year. It’s unbearably hot in Phnom Penh, but it’s at least 10ºF cooler in Mondulkiri during the day – and so cool at night I need a blanket, even without any fans. We met up with some other missionary friends in the area and had a lot of fun fellowship. I completely “unplugged” during this time and didn’t even use my husband’s phone to check Facebook or email. And the kids were again able to traipse all over the campground with their friends (there were 21 children in total), really getting that “camp experience” that Jonathan and I cherish so much from our childhoods. Here’s what I wrote about Mondulkiri on Facebook last year, what I wrote about it this year, and what I blogged about it last year.
Participating in the Velvet Ashes online retreat. The theme was “Commune: Closer to Christ, Farther from Fear.” Karolyn’s testimony really resonated with me, as she talked a lot about the Shepherd. She taught us that we are supposed to find our identity in the Shepherd alone – not even in being sheep, but really, truly in belonging to the Shepherd. She talked about how our Shepherd leads us to different pastures, but that’s all they are: different pastures. The pastures are His, and He is with us the entire time. Sometimes I can get hung up on “place” and Home being a place, but I loved the beauty of what Karolyn said about the Shepherd leading us to different pastures and being with Him the whole time. Beautiful, true, comforting imagery.
Also in the retreat time Kimberly read aloud Psalm 23 in The Message, because we tend to gloss over familiar passages of scripture without really thinking about them. She wanted us to listen to the psalm and pick out which phrases really caught our attention. The phrase that immediately caught me was “You let me catch my breath.” It stood out to me because I’ve been really breathless lately. I feel I can’t catch my breath, there’s so much to do, and the idea of catching my breath with God sounds really, really inviting.
Co-leading a workshop on relationships for international teens. We focused on both friendships and dating/romantic relationships, and I really enjoyed our interactive sessions. Confession: I really miss youth ministry! It was a thrill to get just a little taste of it again. I led a session about female friendships and also participated in a panel discussion on guy-girl relationships with the other leaders.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. I broke through the “wall” I was hitting in this book, and it started flowing much more quickly and easily. L’Engle is completely out of time. She’s in my grandmother’s generation, but I keep reading her words thinking they are directed at today’s society, when in reality she was a 1940’s bride and has been dead nearly a decade. So she’s a good example of the fact that human nature and human needs don’t really change. There’s so much in this book that I underline and find profound – too much to quote. You should just read the whole thing!
Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, also by Madeleine L’Engle. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous. Her husband had one kind of upbringing: stable. And she had another: mobile. I found myself in her story, and I found her musings on home, belonging, and marriage to be deeply moving. Be forewarned — it’s a tear-jerker. A beautiful tear-jerker, but a tear-jerker nonetheless.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. We finally finished reading this one! Goodness it takes longer to get through than any of the other Chronicles. I have so much less motivation to read it, although there really are some very good metaphors for the Christian life in it, including the baptism/transformation of Eustace and the appearance of Aslan in the form of a bird in one of their darkest, most fearful hours.
What If? by Michele Womble. Poetry by Michele is something you should never skip!
Commune: In the Breaking by Patty Stallings. In preparation for the Velvet Ashes retreat. Beautiful.
Sometimes We Can’t Feed Ourselves by Amy Young. Also in preparation for the Velvet Ashes retreat.
Breath of Life by Amy Young. Because I forget that I need to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. So thankful for the reminder.
Resurrection by Sarah Bessey. Because there’s no way I can pass up Sarah Bessey on resurrection — and you shouldn’t either.
The Cult of Calling by Leslie Verner. Such great truth that really touched a nerve over at A Life Overseas.
Sisterhood: We Sharpen Iron Here by Idelette McVicker. I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again: Christian female friendships have been some of my most life-giving relationships. I treasure them.
A Fit Bit (on belonging; not on electronic step tracking!) by Robynn Bliss. Not belonging or fitting in: this is the TCK condition. It is also the human condition. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. (And as an aside, when I met with Robynn in person, I felt like I belonged. I hope she felt the same.)
The Desert Shall Bloom by Emily Hamilton. Because “flourishing in the desert” imagery speaks my language.
On Freedom and Forgiveness by Jen Hatmaker. Such important truth, and so clearly and convincingly laid out here.
Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels. Especially the phrase:
God I breathe Your name above everything.
Beneath the Waters by Hillsong. Especially the bridge:
Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And 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
VIDEOS AND PODCASTS
If:Equip is going through the Nicene Creed. Here are my favorite discussions so far (they are each 2 minutes):
What Room Does Fear Have? video and backstory. This one’s 20 minutes, but worth the time.
Finding Allies in Imagination: Sarah MacKenzie of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast interviews S.D. Smith, author of The Green Ember (which I recently bought but haven’t read to the kids yet). Encouraging.
Navigating Fantasy: Sarah MacKenzie interviews Carolyn Leiloglou. Another WONDERFUL Read Aloud Revival podcast.
What does it mean to be emotionally healthy? by Kay Bruner. A short but comprehensive description of emotional health, including recommendations for some of our favorite books, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero and the classic Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Head, body, heart: three ways to work a problem by Kay Bruner. How much do I love this (also short) animation? So much. We are whole beings and have to treat ourselves as such.
And finally, this trigonometry animation, because I’m still more than a little obsessed with sine, cosine, and the unit circle.
FUNNY STUFF (because too often I forget to laugh)
27 Ridiculously Funny Things Sleep Deprived Moms Have Done. I laughed so hard at these! (Once I walked into a wall while on my way to fetch my little nursling.)
This Video Slays Every Video About Working Women Ever. Found this through a FB friend. Kind of like Igniter Media’s Nobody has it all together, minus the Christianity.
Jim Gaffigan on bowling. Because it’s Jim Gaffigan, and that means funny. (I actually do love bowling though.)
Jim Gaffigan on Disney World. As someone who doesn’t like amusement parks, I couldn’t stop laughing at this. (Beware one bad word.)
QUOTES (but only a few this month)
For the liturgical among us, Easter is a season, not a day. So even though it’s way past Easter, I’m going to share an Easter memory from Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s book The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. This particular story took place on Easter morning several years ago. The author’s son had been given a balloon in Bible class. He walked into the sanctuary where his mom was chatting with one of their pastors. He accidentally let go of the balloon, causing it to float upwards. The pastor immediately started walking for a ladder to retrieve the balloon for this heartbroken young lad. Kimberlee tried to stop him: “Please don’t. We believe in letting him experience the consequences of his actions.” But the minister turned around and said,
“It’s Easter, Kimberlee. There are no consequences.”
Aslan and Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
“Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon.”
Stephen Hawking, in The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, explaining straight lines and the curvature of space in a way in which I finally “got it.” I must admit that my study of spherical (or globe) geometry from several years ago greatly aided my understanding of this section. Even so, this is the best explanation I’ve ever read:
Einstein made the revolutionary suggestion that gravity is not a force like other forces, but is a consequence of the fact that space-time is not flat, as had been previously assumed: it is curved, or ‘warped,’ by distribution of mass and energy in it.
Bodies like the earth are not made to move on curved orbits by a force called gravity; instead, they follow the nearest thing to a straight path in a curved space, which is called a geodesic. A geodesic is the shortest (or longest) path between two nearby points. For example, the surface of the earth is a two-dimensional curved space. A geodesic on the earth is called a great circle, and is the shortest route between two points. As the geodesic is the shortest path between any two airports, this is the route an airline navigator will tell the pilot to fly along.
In general relativity, bodies always follow straight lines in four-dimensional space-time, but they nevertheless appear to us to move along curved paths in our three-dimensional space. (This is rather like watching an airplane flying over hilly ground. Although it follows a straight line in three-dimensional space, its shadow follows a curved path on the two-dimensional ground.)
How can I not love this chemistry analogy from Mike Bickle in his book Growing in the Prophetic? Though it’s not a perfect description of the science (but really, what metaphor is perfect?), over and over this has been my spiritual experience: I sit and I sit and I sit before God, and nothing happens. Then all of a sudden one day, something BIG happens:
There is a chemistry experiment called a titration. In this experiment, there are two clear solutions in separate test tubes. Drop by drop, one solution is mingled with the other. There is no chemical reaction until the one solution becomes supersaturated with the other. The final drop that accomplishes this causes a dramatic chemical reaction that is strikingly visible.
Some sit before God in prayer rooms and renewal meetings for hours with no apparent spiritual reaction taking place. Then, suddenly, they have a power encounter with the Spirit that radically impacts them. In retrospect, they come to believe that a spiritual “titration” was going on through the many hours of waiting on God and through soaking in the invisible and hidden ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Corduroy by Don Freeman. I got back into reading shorter books with my younger kids this month and was particularly drawn to the end of Corduroy, where the little girl Lisa brings Corduroy home from the department store.
Corduroy blinked. There was a chair and a chest of drawers, and alongside a girl-size bed stood a little bed just the right size for him. The room was small, nothing like that enormous palace in the department store.
“This must be home,” he said. “I know I’ve always wanted a home.”
Lisa sat down with Corduroy on her hap and began to sew a button on his overalls. “I like you the way you are,” she said, “but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.”
“You must be a friend,” said Corduroy. “I’ve always wanted a friend.”
“Me too!” said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.
Isn’t that just the heart cry of all of us? We want home and a friend and unconditional acceptance.
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. No matter how many times I read this book, little Jo-Jo’s YOPP at the end still gives me goose bumps. No matter what it is or how small it seems, the kingdom work you and I do matters.
And he climbed with the lad up the Eiffelberg Tower.
“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the air of their country!” he said.
“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts.
So open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,
The lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “YOPP!”
And that Yopp . . .
That one small, extra Yopp put it over!
Finally at last! From that speck on that clover
Their voices were heart! They rang out clear and clean.
And the elephant smiled. “Do you see what I mean? . . .
They’ve proved they ARE persons, no matter how small.
And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of All!”