A Few of My Favorite Things {July 2016}

by Elizabeth

If June was the month of Beauty, then July was the month of Light. June ended with a Cave Quest VBS focused on Jesus as Light of the World. That light theme continued in July as I co-hosted and attended a women’s conference whose keynote speaker spoke of pushing back darkness and remembering our true identity (this encounter happened there, as did this one), as I heard refrains from songs like Casting Crowns’ “Thrive” (“Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide”), David Crowder’s “Here’s My Heart” (“You are light breaking through”), and as I read through a new series of novels by Helena Sorensen (more on that in the books section). It was a good month filled with homeschool Sabbath, spiritual restoration, and holy moments.

At the beginning of the month, we also took a few days’ holiday at a local hotel that boasts a large (and clear!) swimming pool with lots of flowers, green grass, and trees. I slept a lot (I didn’t realize how tired I was until I stopped going!) and thoroughly enjoyed the green (we don’t see a lot of that in our part of town).

In the middle of the month Jonathan and I celebrated 16 years of wedded bliss and were blessed to attend a wedding the very next day. It was the most worship-filled, God-honoring, uplifting wedding I’ve ever been to, and it was a privilege to share in their joy.

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BOOKS

Shiloh by Helena Sorensen. I don’t know why this is, but the thing that consistently brings me up out of the mire is children’s literature. Earlier this spring it was Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, and this month it was Helena’s book Shiloh. It’s got themes of light and dark, and of some people pressing against the darkness and some giving in. I read it and thought to myself, I’m not going to let some kid in a children’s book press against the darkness, and me not do it!! This series shook me awake and served as a “holy reading” for the month.

(As a side note, I read it out loud in an Irish accent, because that’s what seemed to fit.) (Yes, I am one of those weird people who likes to read out loud even by myself.)

And you all know I love a good backstory. Well, here’s an interview with Helena and some backstory to her Shiloh world (and as another aside, don’t you just love the names she chose for her characters??). Helena blogs on her own site and also at Story Warren.

Now, a bit more reflection from me, because I just cannot stop talking about this book: One of the biggest weapons of the enemy in the land of Shiloh is forgetfulness – forgetting your name, your gifts, your creator. As Christians we too easily forget our name, our creator, our identity. Remembering is one of our greatest responsibilities, and one of our greatest privileges. It’s what Jonathan teaches his clients all week long, and what Helena’s books taught me in a visceral way. Maybe you need the reminder to Remember as well, for as I said on Facebook earlier this month:

If there’s one thing God’s been teaching me lately, it’s to REMEMBER.

Remember who I am, and Whose I am.

Remember God’s great story in Scripture, and in my life.

Remember the truth, and what really matters at the end of all things.

Remember, and do not forget.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie. Thanks to a friend who loaned it to me, I finally got to read this book! Not all the ideas were new to me, as I’ve been reading her blog and listening to her podcast for awhile, in addition to reading or listening to as many of her recommended resources that I can get my hands on. There were, however, some new ideas, along with this (very apropos) quote from Stratford Caldecott in his book Beauty in the Word: “The fundamental skills of humanity itself are remembering, thinking, and speaking.” We can evaluate activities and curricula based on the question of whether it will help our children think, speak, and remember what is “good, beautiful, and true” (a huge emphasis over at Read Aloud Revival). She even encourages moms to nourish their own souls through the idea of Schole (a whole ‘nother topic we don’t have time for here). As I head into another school year, I paid particular attention to her recommendation to keep things simple. And lastly, one of my favorite parts was her list of “Aspirations,” or breath prayers (as opposed to Affirmations, or phrases that promote positive thinking). I liked the dependence on God rather than self — not that Affirmations are wrong, just that to me, these Aspirations were (ahem) a breath of fresh air.

The 50 Most Extreme Places in the Solar System by David Baker and Todd Ratcliff. I finally finished working through this book! I’ll keep returning to it, though, because it increases my capacity for worship. I can’t help but wonder at the God who made the moon, when scientists can’t even figure out exactly how it was formed. Yet our moon not only lights up our night; its comparatively large mass keeps earth from wobbling too much on its tilt, thus stabilizing our climate. May we never stop wondering at our God’s creative power and might.

 

LIFE-CHANGING SCRIPTURES

Proverbs 30:1-3. When I read this Proverb of the Day at the very end of June, I knew that although Agur thought he was writing it for himself and his contemporaries thousands of years ago, he was really writing it just for me in the summer of 2016. (Don’t you love how Scripture works like that??) It expresses exactly how I’ve felt the last few months:

I am weary, O God;
    I am weary and worn out, O God.
I am too stupid to be human,
    and I lack common sense.
I have not mastered human wisdom,
    nor do I know the Holy One.

Luke 21:34. These words of Jesus shocked me. I read them in one Bible last month and underlined them. Then l went to another Bible to copy the verse in my journal and found that I had already underlined it once before. But this month I read it as though I’d never read it:

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life.”

Now, I may not be prone to carousing or drunkenness, but I am most certainly prone to be taken down by the worries of life, and to numb out on things like movies or computer solitaire games, which, though not exactly like drunkenness, have similar results. Jesus shook me awake in this verse. What am I doing, I thought? Sitting here letting myself be overcome by darkness?? Just giving in? Meg’s father in A Wrinkle in Time was imprisoned by the darkness for years, fighting it, before he even considered giving in. And here I was, giving in at the first sign of resistance?? I was fed up with myself. I had to stop giving in. This scripture was a turning point (one of many) for me this month.

 

GLOBAL NOMAD STUFF

Upstairs and Downstairs at Jodie’s Journal. Beautiful meditations on a children’s book (did I mention that children’s books are the best??).

Grounded by CF Dunn at Amy Boucher Pye’s website. Basically, this article is my military childhood story, nearly word for word, all the way to the end of my grandparents’ lives.

As a way of explanation here, Amy is an American who married an Anglican vicar and has been living with him in Britain for nearly two decades. She’s the author of Finding Myself in Britain, which I read earlier this spring. I read it as an Anglophile but found myself especially drawn to her reflections on home, longing, and belonging, which are sprinkled throughout each section — good words for the global nomad. Those feelings and that book are why she hosts the “There’s No Place Like Home” guest series on her blog.

The Changing Face of Home by Fiona Lloyd, also on Amy Boucher Pye’s site. This was an entirely new take on home and belonging: home is the place (any place) where she can be authentic and affirmed.

My kids are growing up global. Here’s why that’s a good thing. By Merete Kropp. Best line ever: “Globally mobile children are not without roots.”

And finally, G.K. Chesterton on home and wonder in his book Orthodoxy:

“How can we contrive at once to be astonished at the world and yet at home in it?”

“I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar.”

 

IF YOU NEED SOME HOPE

Eyes to See by Marilyn Gardner.

The Sun Always Rises by Kathy Escobar.

The Sky is Not Falling by Michelle T. Johnson and Anarchy is Loosed Upon the World by Amy Medina both offer some needed perspective.

The Resistance by Sarah Bessey. This reminded me of The Stubborn Gladness of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Favorite Poet. Elizabeth Gilbert can be a little “out there,” but I’m drawn to the words of this poem and experience them as true: “We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” Amen. We must fight for joy in a world of violence and heartache.

Recovering From Legalism by Addie Zierman. How much do I love this post? So much. It’s long, but worth it. Thoughts stirred in me as I read this article: I read the Bible so differently now than I used to. I don’t even know how or when it changed. I see myself more in the characters now. I see the impact of the characters’ culture on them. I read Paul differently. I went through an “I hate Paul” stage, but now I love him again, can see the love and grace in his letters. I read John differently. I used to hate the letters of John and how in his gospel telling, he called himself the “disciple Jesus loved.” How arrogant he was to call himself that, and how he burdened me with the responsibility to love others when I felt so unloving (and thus, unworthy). Now I see the love he was talking about, both from Jesus to him, and from Jesus to everyone else. But I don’t read in the versions of my youth (King James, New King James, New American Standard, which were all “approved,” plus the NIV we read on the sly, which was NOT approved) anymore, either. I read the New Living Translation. I think it does for my generation what NIV did for my parents’ generation, and what The Message seems to be doing for this newest generation. I love Addie’s idea that you just need a new “cover.” Same words, same message, different voice, different tone: new understanding. Because sometimes God’s followers get it wrong, but God is always always always good.

 

OTHER GREAT BLOG POSTS

God’s Sandpaper by Amy Boucher Pye on Our Daily Bread. I’ve felt these things before, and maybe you have too. I’ve only ever been able to praise God for His sandpaper after the fact, but maybe someday I’ll be able to thank Him for it in the midst. . .

Why Broken Stories Matter by Dane Bundy. Because I always want to wait for redemption before I tell a story, but not all stories seem redeemed on this earth and in this life, and maybe they still need to be told. (For Sarah Bessey’s rather longer take on this topic, read The Sanitized Stories We Tell.)

10 Ways to Live Well in this Season by Amy Young. I know Amy through Velvet Ashes and usually find her there or at her own site. It was fun to find her at She Loves Magazine, and I greatly appreciated her words there.

[Love Looks Like] Choices by Sarah Bessey.  Important, and reminiscent of what I’ve told trailing spouses and the people they’re married to.

Guard Your Gates by the ever-calm and always-wise (whom else?) Sarah Bessey. Really important.

 

FUNNY STUFF, BECAUSE I FORGET TO LAUGH

Matt Damon Pranks People with Surprise Bourne Spy Mission. (FYI there’s a bad word or two.)

Ryan Beard: Homeschooled Singer Charms the Ladies with Humorous Tune.

The Day I was Banned from Chick-Fil-A by Jordan Baker Watts.

****I laughed so hard at all of these.****

 

WORSHIP

I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) by Vertical Church Band. Grab onto these lyrics:

Go on and speak against my borrowed innocence
The judge is my defense, I’m going free
Right when the gavel fell, I heard the freedom bell
Ring through the heart of hell, I’m going free
I’m going free

Glory, glory, hallelujah
You threw my shackles in the sea
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Jesus is my liberty
I’m going free

I won’t go back again, that’s just not who I am
Lord, I’m a brand new man, I’m going free
I’m on a narrow road, it’s paved with grace and hope
It’s gonna lead me home, I’m going free
I’m going free

I am free, I am free indeed
I am free, I am free indeed
We are free, free indeed
We are free, free indeed

Someday I’ll fly away on Your amazing grace
Your love is my jailbreak, I’m going free

Here’s My Heart Lord by David Crowder. This is actually a prayer-song.

Here’s a new (old) way to sing the Psalms that’s especially delightful for hymn lovers: The Psalms have been translated into metrical form in books like The Psalms of David in Metre or The Scottish Psalter (these are cheap on Kindle). What that means is that they have a predictable number of syllables and can be sung to any tune that has the same number of beats. You can print out lists of common, long, and short meter hymns from this link. You just mix and match the hymn tunes to the words of the Psalter, and you’re all set for private (or corporate) worship through song and Psalm. Isn’t that the coolest??

 

PODCASTS AND VIDEOS

A mom recently asked me when I find time to listen to podcasts. If you, too, have been wondering how I manage to fit in all these podcasts, here’s my answer: We have a special “quiet time” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons wherein the children aren’t allowed to talk to Mommy and Papa. They have to play quietly on their own for a couple hours, and that’s when I listen to podcasts. We usually do a fun family activity on Saturday mornings, and we go to church on Sunday mornings, so we take those afternoons to rest.

I am Second by Shawn Johnson. This 8-minute video brought tears to my eyes. I think we can all identify with her story in some way.

Restore by Erin Duplechin. I first connected with Erin through A Life Overseas (see here and here), and last month I linked to one of her personal posts. This 5-minute video brings me to tears every time.

That’s me. . . a pastor’s wife, an interview with Kathy Ferguson Litton on the God Centered Mom podcast. I’ve read Kathy’s work at Flourish, and in this podcast she simply drips with hard-won yet gracious wisdom. Good for anyone involved in church or mission work, whether part-time, full-time, or volunteer.

Is Truth Necessary in Literature? on Bibliophiles. I found this podcast through (whom else?) Sarah Mackenzie. Distinguishes between Big T Truth and little t truth and discusses what kind of truth makes a story appealing.

Grace and Literature on Bibliophiles. Grace never gets old, so I loved this conversation, which also dipped into ideas of human connection and authenticity.

Nurturing Competent Communicators by Andrew Pudewa. Really important, big-picture information on teaching writing and other forms of communicating. I started instituting a new habit based on this lecture — listen and figure out what it is! Bonus: Pudewa is funny.

 

OTHER QUOTES

Renay West (the speaker at that women’s conference) with words that closely mirrored a key plot element in Helena Sorensen’s Shiloh series (so go and read that too!):

“Vision is seeing abundance when you’re surrounded by drought.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett on light and dark at the end of The Secret Garden:

“While the secret garden was coming alive and two children were coming alive with it, there was a man wandering about certain far-away beautiful places in the Norwegian fiords and the valleys and mountains of Switzerland and he was a man who for ten years had kept his mind filled with dark and heart-broken thinking. He had not been courageous; he had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones. He had wandered by blue lakes and thought them; he had lain on mountain-sides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming all about him and flower breaths filling all the air and he had thought them. A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him when he had been happy and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through. He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties. When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom. . . He had traveled far and wide . . . .  He had been in the most beautiful places in Europe, though he had remained nowhere more than a few days. He had chosen the quietest and remotest spots. He had been on the tops of mountains whose heads were in the clouds and had looked down on other mountains when the sun rose and touched them with such light as made it seem as if the world were just being born. But the light had never seemed to touch himself . . .”

Alanna Boudreau, found through Audrey Assad:

“To reiterate that point on gifts and charisms: a priest once explained to me the difference between a gift and a charism. ‘A gift,’ he said, ‘Is something you enjoy doing, something you’re good at: it comes naturally to you. It’s fun for you. A charism, however, is something that heals other people – something that reverberates out beyond you and your own experience of it, and effects change. It’s a responsibility.'”

“It is always his initiative, and it is always his grace. He is the water, and we are the water pitchers, broken but patched back together by adoption and grace. Our job is not to stop and focus on the chinks and fissures we see all over ourselves: our mission is simply to be filled, so as to be poured out. Those who are thirsty for water will not discriminate against the vessel by which they receive it. It’s the water they’re after, after all. It’s the water that replenishes them and cleanses them, not the clay.”

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