My favorite things come a bit early this month, as I’m preparing to take two weeks off from the internet. ~Elizabeth
Taking a Kassiah Jones Day. I took one of these right after New Year’s. We worked really hard in December on our co-op play, and we didn’t take much time off for Christmas, and then my husband got sick, so by the time I got to New Year’s, I was desperate for a break. I was so glad I took one.
A couple weeks at home. January gave us some downtime in between the chaos of Christmas and the start of this semester’s home school co-op. I took the opportunity to take better care of my body (through exercise, which I neglected last semester) and better care of my marriage (through time with my husband, which I also sometimes neglected).
Hearing the birds. Our neighborhood is loud, but we had one week this month when I actually heard the tweeting of birds in the mornings. It was glorious. I wrote about it here on Facebook.
Attending a ladies’ retreat. This event was a couple of hours outside the city, so there were long walks to be had and more nature to be enjoyed. But the part I liked best was getting to know more deeply some ladies whom I’d only seen in passing.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. We’ve had this book forever, and I read it to the boys when they were little, but somehow it fell to the bottom of the toy bin, and I just rediscovered it while organizing my girls’ room. I thought they would enjoy it, so I tried it out with them, and my youngest especially fell in love. I did too. Ferdinand is for the introverts, the contemplatives, and anyone who lives with or supports one. This slim little children’s story is incredibly compassionate and wise.
Telling God’s Story by Peter Enns. The first half, in which the author lays out a logical and friendly way in which to share the story of Scripture with our children, was perfectly fine, but the second half, in which Enns offers a survey of the Story, was superb. It told the heart behind the stories in the Old Testament, and Genesis in particular, in such a way that it made me grasp the heart of God better.
Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler. I’m so glad I stuck with this book, which was a real tear-jerker at the end. I often thought there were too many unnecessary sensory details in this book – but perhaps that’s the INFP coming out in me. I don’t need sensory details; I need the inner workings of the mind and heart. I related to a lot of Jen’s journey though: the desire to find the right LOGICAL answer and to go about finding it logically but then to get stuck, because the way to approach God is with a humble heart, not a mind that’s sure of itself. And I, too, have had trouble feeling the presence of God until I come to Him as a broken, repentant sinner. I did not read this story solely as a conversion to Catholicism but as a conversion to Christianity out of atheism, as a journey from disbelief to belief. The beautiful the way God started meeting their dire financial needs right when belief was beginning to blossom touched me deeply.
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. This is the story of an Indian girl’s arranged marriage and all the ways life falls apart for her. But don’t worry, this story is not like Humpty Dumpty. It gets put back together again in just the right way. I read this children’s novel one morning during the “lull” of a play date.
Onward Christian Hobo by M’Lynn Taylor. I love everything M’Lynn writes on Velvet Ashes. Often she makes me laugh; this one spoke of our deep need for Home and also touched on the way our “words of the year” often surprise us.
The Gospel in a Psych Ward by Marilyn Gardner. Everything Marilyn Gardner writes is worth reading, and this post is no exception. If the Gospel cannot touch the psych ward, it is not the gospel at all.
Real Friendship by Kathleen Shumate. Kathleen has guest posted for A Life Overseas before, and everything she writes is both deeply true and densely written. In this post she once again cuts straight to our core needs and longings.
Death, Rebirth, and New Beginnings by Angelina Stanford on CiRCE Institute. Do not get me started on how much I love Angelina’s work! (I link to an excellent lecture from her in the next section.) You know that anything on death and rebirth, especially in tandem with the seasons, catches my attention.
Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer. Agreed. My most deeply felt need is not to know I’m beautiful; it is to know I am both loved and valued. Teaching us that we are children of God, deeply loved and cared for and redeemed, should therefore take higher priority than affirmations of our beauty.
Let Music do the Praying For You by Karen Huber. Lovely and true, Karen paints our longings with both words and music.
I’m a Short Cup by Megan Gahan. Much to my chagrin, I am also a “short cup” (where others might be a venti). And like Megan, I need my “sanity sandwiches.” I’m currently in the process of learning how better to practice boundaries and pad my schedule with enough margin.
And lastly, some cool stuff about lichens from the ministry of Does God Exist? If you follow them on Facebook, you can read regular posts about God’s exquisite design and creativity in nature.
MUSIC, POETRY AND A PODCAST
Unsaid by Dana Gioia. For anyone who’s grieving and can’t put words to the pain, this short poem is a balm.
Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. Especially the chorus:
When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you
We sang this in church, and my kids and I loved it. It sounded strangely familiar, though, so I looked it up. I had heard it before – and hadn’t liked it. For when I heard Lauren performing the song, it had seemed to be more about showcasing her magnificent talent than about voicing any prayers to God. In my opinion, fancy vocals draw attention away from God; congregational singing points only ever to God. So I think this song is much better sung congregationally than individually. Putting our trust in God is a collective activity. We are the people of God, and we must declare it and live it together.
(This happens to me regularly. The contemporary song I chaffed at, whose sound grated on me, turns into a moving prayer when sung corporately.)
(I know I am particular about these things, about song versions and such, but these are some of the reasons.)
Christ is Enough by Hillsong. This song was playing in my head the week I wrote If your year has been a flop, and then on New Year’s Day, what do we sing at church, but this song? And I needed to sing it that day because I wasn’t exactly believing it at the moment. (But I have to say, I prefer the way we sing it at church to this recording. It’s just a bit slower and more contemplative.)
The Distorted Image: Greek Mythology and the Gospel by Angelina Stanford. Illuminating. I’ve listened to Angelina before (on the redemptive power of fantasy at the bottom of this page), and she packs a lot of thought and information into each sentence, so an entire hour of listening to her will stretch your mind. (In fact I need a re-listen of this lecture.) Here’s the main idea: in much the same way that the tagline of the Jesus Storybook Bible is “Every story whispers His name,” this talk from Stanford offers basically the same thesis — though on a much more complex plane. I particularly appreciated her in-depth explanation of Acts 17, which I’ve always loved but will love even more now. (I grabbed this lecture when it was on sale for free, but it’s still worth the $3 that it’s currently priced at.)