Wow, I cannot believe it’s the end of May already! There were so many things to be thankful for in May. Here’s a run-down on the real-life blessings and my favorite books, blog posts, songs, and quotes. ~Elizabeth
Rain. May showers brought cooler weather to Cambodia. I cannot tell you what a relief it’s been. I’m not gonna lie, it was so hot here I couldn’t bear to leave my air conditioned bedroom in the morning to go to my bright, sunny, steaming living room to talk to God. Instead I stayed in bed where it was cool. So the cooler weather meant it was cool enough (just barely) to leave my dark, depressing cave of a bedroom to go to the living room to read in the morning. The cooler weather also meant we could reclaim the living room for family dance parties and devotionals at night.
The power of prayer. Sometimes I’m too self-reliant, and I neglect to ask people to pray for me. This month my spirits dipped so low that I actually asked for prayer, and God delivered in a big way.
The power of confiding in true friends. Sometimes I’m so independent that I think no one else shares my same struggles, and I forget to talk to my friends. Again, this month I had the chance to talk to other moms and remembered all over again why confessing our faults to one another is so important.
An afternoon by myself to go swimming. Jonathan gave me the afternoon off when he returned from Europe. I went to a local hotel swimming pool to read and swim. I cannot tell you how peaceful it is for me to float on my back in the water. I don’t know why it’s so soothing for me, but I could float there all day.
A working piano. I’ve been longing for a working piano for several months now, as I need time to sit by myself and sing and play the piano. Someone conveniently delivered the needed piano part to Jonathan when he was in Europe.
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. This installment of Narnia has always been my favorite, and I relished sharing it with my children and even watching them fall as much in love with Puddleglum as I always was. And as indicated by the quotes in the section below, The Silver Chair provided some greatly needed (though not greatly desired) spiritual conviction.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A story of transformation — and I do love me a good transformation story. A Little Princess (which we read last month) is fun, albeit with a slow plot, and the main character is static, making the story more providential than transformative. But in The Secret Garden, the sour characters pull you in right away, and they actually change in meaningful ways.
Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay. This one’s a beach read for sure, but you know what? I needed a beach read this month. Plus it’s got all the universal themes of love & belonging, plus a healthy dose of literary allusions, so what’s not to love? The story follows a former foster kid as a young adult, and though I don’t relate to that part of her story, I definitely relate to her lack of belonging and her propensity to get lost in her head and in her books and to forget to connect with humans in real life. It has a Cinderella ending that becomes fairly predictable about halfway through, but as I’ve said before, I do love me a Cinderella story.
How do we recognize and cope with trauma? from Kay Bruner’s Ask a Counselor series. I especially appreciated the part about how the body remembers trauma and the designation of “little t” trauma. This piece reminded me of this next piece from Marilyn Gardner:
The Frozen Sadness of Ambiguous Loss. Marilyn privately sent me some of the quotes in this post when I was having a hard time processing through TCK loss issues, but these concepts apply all across the board, not just to TCKs.
“How is your walk with God? (and other questions Jesus never asked) by Addie Zierman. Marvelous. Addie points out the types of questions Jesus actually asked, questions like
“Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15)
“Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15)
“Why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)
“What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32-22)
“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
10 Questions to Ask Instead of “How’s your walk with God?” also by Addie Zierman. I’ve heard that the classic spiritual direction question is “Where is God meeting you?” I love that question, and the other questions Addie offers here.
Helping Bono Find What He’s Looking For by Andrew Peterson. Such a great perspective by someone whose music and lyrics are really refreshing. (I say that as someone who also appreciated the Bono/Eugene Peterson video.)
God is Able by Hillsong. We sang this song at church at the beginning of this month, and even with my sorry attitude, it was in my head for weeks during those blasted power outages: when I slept and when I woke and everything in between.
How Can I Keep From Singing by Chris Tomlin. This is the song that came to mind when my husband was out of town and the power went off, yet I didn’t freak out. It’s old and came out of nowhere; I figured it had to be God.
Here’s My Heart by David Crowder. Especially the phrase “You are light breaking through.”
Hosanna (Praise is Rising) by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche.
Stronger by Hillsong.
PODCASTS AND MOVIES
Hope*Writers podcast. I feel like Emily is me right down to the last detail. This podcast talks about lots of things I’ve been processing through with Jonathan. You can find them on the link in soundcloud, or you can search Hope*Writers on iTunes. The episodes “When it doesn’t look like plenty,” “Myquillin’s system for taking a break,” and “The day I realized I had a job” are especially powerful. I am very picky about what I consider an encouraging, uplifting podcast, and I am happy to say Hope*Writers is one of those, along with Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival.
McFarland, USA. This movie’s got it all: home and belonging, fear and safety, crossing cultural, linguistic, and economic barriers, father-son issues, father-daughter issues, poverty, systemic injustice, you name it, this movie’s got it all. We watched it as a family; I often find secular movies “get” and present universal themes so much better than Christian movies — but that’s a topic for another day!
Marilyn Gardner’s comment on Jonathan’s The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement:
“The homily was on suffering and he referred a lot to the Psalms. One of the things he said, I will never forget because I’ve never heard this said before but he said that when it comes to suffering, we are always between My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?’ and ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And is that not so true with the Psalms? Are we not between: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?’ and ‘Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.'”
C.S. Lewis in The Silver Chair:
After adventuring a long time and being cold, tired, dirty, and lost, and being promised physical comforts from an (unbeknownst to them) evil witch. This was a little too convicting.
“They could think of nothing but beds and baths and hot meals and how lovely it would be to get indoors. They never talked about Aslan, or even the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning. She said to herself, at first, that she was too tired, but she soon forgot all about it. And though you might have expected that the idea of having a good time at Harfang would have made them more cheerful, it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and more snappy with each other and with Puddleglum.”
About the forever-seeming-ness of waiting and the wondering if it will ever stop (answer: it will):
“Presently they were given food – flat, flabby cakes of some sort which had hardly any taste. And after that, they gradually fell asleep. But when they woke, everything was just the same; the gnomes still rowing, the ship still gliding on, still dead blackness ahead. How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream.”
Elizabeth Esther on forgiveness, grace, and boundaries in Spiritual Sobriety:
“If our mistakes are strong enough to compromise God’s acceptance of us, isn’t that the same as saying our mistakes are stronger than God?”
“When someone shows you his character, believe him.” (SO profound)
“We may really want someone to stay in our lives, but if that person regularly makes us feel bad, we’ve got be honest about it. Pretending others can’t hurt us is like pretending we don’t feel pain when someone steps on our toes.”
“No matter when or with whom we set boundaries, we often need to grieve the relationship that never was and never will be.”
“I don’t forgive someone because he or she deserves it. I forgive my abuser because I deserve it. I deserve to unload the backbreaking burden of unforgiveness. I deserve to release my heart and mind and soul from the distress, obsessive thoughts, and fears that unforgiveness inflicts upon me. I deserve to have my soul space back to myself. Unforgiveness just takes up too much room!”
“True forgiveness means releasing the person from his debt to us and doing so with an open heart, bearing no ill will or resentment.”
“This is how we forgive our abusers: we allow ourselves to see their humanity. I forgave my abusers because I realized that they weren’t evil; they were simply terribly sick people.”
Frances Hodgson Burnett in A Little Princess:
“When the square suddenly seemed to begin to glow in an enchanted way and look wonderful in spite of its sooty trees and railings, Sara knew something was going on in the sky; and when it was at all possible to leave the kitchen without being missed or called back, she invariably stole away and crept up the flights of stairs, and, climbing on the old table, got her head and body as far out of the window as possible. When she had accomplished this, she always drew a long breath and looked all round her. It used to seem as if she had all the sky and the world to herself.”
(That quote was part of a longer 3-page section that’s a perfect description of the soul’s need for sunset and solitude, something which — due to the high heat — I haven’t fulfilled of late, but which I know I’m craving because the other day I saw part of a sunset and felt so homesick I almost couldn’t bear it.)
And lastly, Kimberlee Conway Ireton on Pentecost in The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. I knew some of this but not all of it, and I just love the meaning of Passover. For me it is the central story of the Old Testament just as the resurrection is the central story of the New. I loved adding more depth to my appreciation for the Biblical stories.
“Pentecost is the Greek name for a Jewish holy day. According to Leviticus 23, on the Sunday after Passover (the day of Christ’s resurrection), the grain harvest was to begin and a sheaf of barley, the first grain to be harvested, was to be taken to the temple as the firstfruits offering to the Lord. Seven Sabbaths (or fifty days) later, at the commencement of the wheat harvest, a second grain offerin was to be brought to the temple. This feast of the harvest was called Shavuoth, that is, “weeks,” in Hebrew. The Greek word Pentecost means “fiftieth.” On this day, Jews celebrate not just the harvest but also the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. . . . Just as the giving of the Torah to Moses constituted the birth of Israel as a nation and inaugurated their identity as Yahweh’s covenant people, so the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples constituted the birth of the church and inaugurated their identity as the Body of Christ.”
“Too often we forget that we are God-bearers and live and speak in ways that misrepresent God to the world. Thanks be to God, none of us is an exclusive bearer of God. In fact, we bear God better together; as the church, the people of God, we bear God more completely (though always incompletely, never fully), because God, too, is community.”