A Few of My Favorite Things {August/September 2017}

Good things from the past month and a half, in spite of all the terrible nature-made and human-made disasters in the news lately, and in spite of some persistent dental issues and grief over missing the eclipse. Yes, in spite of all these things, there is joy to be found. ~Elizabeth

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Cars 3. We watched it in the theater as a family. I’ll be honest: I did not expect much out of this movie. (After Cars 2, who would??) But this is no silly spy cartoon. This is a movie that dives deeply into generational issues. After a somewhat depressing beginning, I didn’t know what to expect. But let me assure you, this movie is Redemptive. The ending had me in tears. Teachers, coaches, and mentors everywhere, take heart from this movie.

An evening in a pine forest and some pipe dreams. We drove out of town and up into the hills in search of the Perseids meteor shower, the meteor shower my husband watched every year with his family as a child. It was too cloudy that night to see anything, but we played football and Frisbee, climbed on an actual, sturdy playground, and my littles went on a kids’ rope course. We slept in pipes. No, seriously. We slept in concrete pipes that had only enough room for a queen bed. This was my kids’ first camping experience with a separate, communal toilet and shower. (Spoiler: everyone survived the primitiveness.) We got to see some nature we never get to see, including things we’d studied in our botany lessons. It was perfect. I literally sat on the porch after breakfast, sipping my tea and watching my family play, and thinking, “This is a practically perfect moment. I don’t think life gets any better than this.”

Dinner with our returning teammates. A couple families were gone for the summer and recently returned. We all got together to eat and catch up. It was fun and really needed.

ICA Ladies Conference. This was a fantastic two days. We danced the electric slide to Mercy Me’s Happy Dance (did you know it has the right beat for that?). I wrote about the first session here, about the painting that spoke so clearly to me. The last session of the weekend was a sensory session. “Soaking stations” were set up around the room to lead us to encounter God through our 5 senses – music, water, visual art, taste, essential oils. The water station didn’t do anything for me that day, as I already experience God so strongly through water. The art station didn’t do anything either; I’d already had my encounter with art the night before. I dropped by the taste station, and it just didn’t draw me. Then I went to the scent station. I read about different Biblical oils and smelled them. They weren’t doing anything much for me. The oils were too floral, too light. They weren’t speaking to me.

But then I saw Myrrh, and something drew me in. In Hebrew mohr means distilled and comes from the root marar which means bitterness. Many of us know this already from the book of Ruth when Naomi returns to her homeland and asks to be called Mara. And I knew that my mom’s name, Mary, means both bitter and fragrant offering (with the fragrance primarily coming from that which is crushed). I did not know, however, that myrrh has traditionally been associated with Christ’s suffering in the Garden, when the weight of the world’s sin crushed Him like a wine press, causing Him to sweat blood. Neither did I know that myrrh is a tree sap that can only be obtained by wounding the tree repeatedly. When extracted, it hardens quickly into drops called “tears” that may be yellow or red (there is so much symbolism here). I smelled that myrrh, and it was unlike anything I’d ever smelled, and unlike any of the other oils. It was heavier, richer, somehow sweet and somehow savory. It is a mystery to me how nothing can speak to me and nothing can speak to me and then BAM, something speaks to me. I put a drop of myrrh on my wrist. One of these days I’d like to get my hands on more of that oil.

The last station I visited was a table where we were supposed to write a current struggle of ours on a card. Then we were to pick a color card “randomly” out of a box and use that color of paint to cover over the struggle. Then we leave it. We don’t take it with us. I had been struggling a lot with fear, so obviously I wrote FEAR. I was curious if my color would have any meaning for me (I mean, come on, it’s random, right?). My color was black. Stunned, I started walked away with it. (The lady handing out the colors had to come after me to retrieve it.) Black is exactly the way life feels when I’m ruled by fear. I was happy to blot out my fear with black paint. I let it dry and sat down to pray some more, inhaling the myrrh again. As I prayed, I realized that when I’m ruled by fear, I lose my joy. I wondered where my joy had gone and saw an image in my mind of me as a little girl, dancing. I realized that when I live in fear, I stop dancing.

Then I walked over to lay the card down at the “Key Tree.” Enough keys had been purchased for each lady to have one, tied to a note from God to us. I was one of the last ones to pick a key, but I knew my key when I saw it: “Little girl, do you know who Miriam is in the Bible? When you dance, you remind me of her. Love, Father God.” I picked up that key through tears. Since that day I have very slowly been shedding some of my fear and moving back into joy.

BOOKS

Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers. Sayers was a contemporary of Lewis and Tolkien. I have her short stories, but this was my first Sayers novel. Wimsey and Bunter are a lot of fun, especially when you read them out loud (you must read them out loud).

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. This was a read aloud from our school curriculum. Set in 1200’s Korea and so good. Also easy to read aloud.

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham. Recommended by Angelina Stanford, the reason I’m reading any golden age mystery novels at all. Apparently Allingham is J.K. Rowling’s favorite Golden Age Mystery novelist. I grabbed this when it was on sale.

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Ward Rollins (it finally came to Kindle!). This is our Schole Sisters book for the semester. I promised myself I would read it slowly this time, savoring every word, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s so compelling I just keep turning the pages. This time I could mark it up; it’s my own copy. I plan to reread it a third time before we meet to discuss it at Schole Sisters.

The Light Princess by George Macdonald. Delightful yet full of meaning. I want someone else to read it so I can talk about it with them. I plan to make a further study of Macdonald, starting with Phantastes. P.S. Has anyone ever read his The Maiden’s Bequest? I read it years ago. It’s so good but unfortunately one of his only books that isn’t on Kindle.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I’m borrowing this from a friend (well, her daughter actually), and what do you know, but that my own daughter managed to finish it before me! I’m still reading the story that inspired the movie (of course the book is better and more fully fleshed out). One of the chapters includes a mourning song about loved ones who have died. I’ll quote it in the poetry section.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. I finally finished L’Engle’s church year book (having begun it last Advent). Madeleine’s ramblings are always very good, but if you are looking for a book that more truly follows and explains the church calendar, I recommend Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s The Circle of Seasons.

I have begun to read Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace (her essays on religious vocabulary) again. Her first entry in The Cloister Walk (another memoir) speaks to me especially. I’ll quote it in the poetry section below. I relate to Norris’s rather Third Culture Kid upbringing, and in fact she reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle, another Third Culture Kid of sorts. We all had feelings of being out of place as children, we all highly value the Scriptures, and we’ve all gone through dark seasons of doubt. All these things make their words a comfort to read.

BLOG POSTS

The Failings of Eden by Helena Sorensen. I, like most of us, tend to think of Eden as paradise, as perfect. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Eden still leaves us still wanting. It is good to live in a post-Eden world where we know what we’re capable of (sin) and what we’re redeemed from.

Rising From the Ashes of Racism: A Lament and a Hope by Olive Chan. This was published a couple weeks before Charlottesville and is full of wisdom, humility, and love. (Here’s my personal response to the racial tensions in America.)

Measuring Tiny Victories by Cindy Ward Rollins.

For all the Sad Americans Who Missed the Total Eclipse by Emily P. Freeman. Did Emily write this just for me? I think she did. I wrote about missing the eclipse here. (P.S. I also quoted C.S. Lewis.)

Turning Away From Glory by Marilyn Gardner. More on the eclipse, and glory. I never had time to comment on this one, but there’s much food for thought here.

Some Fairy Tales May Be 6000 Years Old. Interesting, yes?

FOR GLOBAL CITIZENS

Furlough for the Uninitiated by Anisha Hopkinson.

Should TCKs Take Their Parents to College? By Lauren Wells. Wise and freeing.

When Hard Things Happen Back Home by Jerry Jones. Hits pretty close to home.

Don’t Eat the Spinach . . . But Do Receive the Invitation by Renee Aupperlee. Renee’s work has consistent depth.

Can mold really be an adventure? By Kathleen Shumate. Deep and important, with a generous sprinkling of G.K. Chesterton.

SO FUNNY I COULDN’T BREATHE

Ryan Hamilton’s Funny Face special on Netflix. Watch the trailer here. Our family loves to laugh, and we are always on the watch for clean comedians for our kids. This guy is hilarious. And completely clean. I highly recommend him.

MATH AND SCIENCE FUN

Things to See and Hear in the 4th Dimension with Matt Parker. Came across this while reading about the eclipse. Too much fun (no seriously, even for non-mathematicians). Got me excited for teaching my own math classes this fall at co-op. And speaking of co-op, our first day of classes went really well.

Brinicles. I first came across the existence of brinicles in a National Geographic in the book store but didn’t have time to read about them. So we looked it up at home instead. Fascinating!

Evidence of design in leaves. I thoroughly enjoyed this info as we were studying plants at the time. Truly, I stand amazed.

How a lizard in the Australian outback manages to get enough water. Reminded me of the beetles in the Namib in Africa that catch their drinking water from sea fog. Creation is astounding.

How the bumblebee flies.

25 Years Ago, Pat Robertson and Al Gore Discussed the Spiritual Problem of Climate Change. Before the concept became so polarized and politicized in the U.S., conservatives and liberals alike wanted to halt climate change. A telling conversation.

This insightful drawing from Michael Leunig:

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This social commentary (found through fellow writing friend Lisa McKay):

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And finally, NASA Johnson Style. My son showed me this. So much better than the original.

POETRY

Cleansing the Temple by Malcolm Guite (from his book of sonnets Sounding the Seasons).

Trinity Sunday, also by Malcolm Guite’s Sounding the Seasons.

The lyrics to this George Matheson hymn, especially the 3rd verse. We sang this hymn in college to an updated melody (I don’t like the original music).

Oh Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

The story of the prodigal son in the Scottish Psalter, sung to the tune “Amazing Grace.”

From L’Engle’s Irrational Season, written after spending time with a friend:

Sitting around your table
as we did, able
to laugh, argue, share
bread and wine and companionship, care
about what someone else was saying, even
if we disagreed passionately: Heaven,
we’re told, is not unlike this, the banquet celestial,
eternal convivium. So the praegestum terrestrium
partakes – for me, at least –of sacrament.
Whereas the devil, ever intent
On competition, invented the cocktail party where
one becomes un-named, un-manned, de-personned.) Dare
we come together, then, vulnerable, open, free?
Yes! Around you table we
knew the Holy Spirit, come to bless
the food, the host, the hour, the willing guest.

The mourning song from Ella Enchanted. Wow.

Hard farewell,
With no greeting to come.
Sad farewell,
When love is torn away.
Long farewell,
Till Death dies.

But the lost one is with you.
Her tenderness strengthens you,
Her gaiety uplifts you,
Her honor purifies you.
More than memory,
The lost one is found.

The first entry from The Cloister Walk, which still makes me pause every time:

“In the Orthodox tradition, the icon of Wisdom depicts a woman sitting on a throne. Her skin and her clothing are red, to symbolize the dawn emerging against the deep, starry blue of night.

For years, early morning was a time I dreaded. In the process of waking up, my mind would run with panic. All the worries of the previous day would still be with me, spinning around with old regrets as well as fears for the future. I don’t know how or when the change came, but now when I emerge from the night, it is with more hope than fear. I try to get outside as early as possible so that I can look for signs of first light, the faint, muddy red of dawn.”

MUSIC

Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship. This line caught me: “All of my gains now fade away, every crown, no longer on display.”

Leave Me Astounded by Planetshakers. We sang this song the same Sunday we sang Here in Your Presence. This line also caught me: “All my hands have made, I’m laying down. All that I hold dear, my many crowns.”

Isaiah 42 and Worthy of It All came up on my iPod Shuffle this month. Love those songs.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong. I’ve shared it before, but it’s worth a reshare.

Victor’s Crown by Hillsong. Also worth a reshare.

The Majesty and Glory. Jonathan and I were talking one day and remembering the albums of hymns we loved as teenagers. In many ways we fell in love over music. Anyway we were talking about this one and got curious and found it online and decided to buy it. Again. We had both had copies of it in the 90’s. And now we have it again.

Libera is a British boys choir that my husband discovered through a friend. It is otherworldly. We now have the Angel Voices album. I had not danced in a long time and decided to do some ballet to the Libera songs. May sound juvenile, but it was good for my soul.

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