A Few of My Favorite Things {March/April 2018}

by Elizabeth

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Ballet performance. We attended our local ballet school’s performance, which featured both expat dance students and Cambodian dance students. There were goose bumps, jaw drops, and tears all around. The first half was classical ballet and simply delightful to watch. The second half was a faith-inspired piece about Grace. I think most members of our family cried at some point during the performance.

Easter Vigil. Each year a large section of the community shows up for the Anglican church’s Easter services. It had been 3 years since I’d attended the Vigil, but I knew I wanted to make time for it this year; sometimes you just have to set aside time to focus on God. In addition to the rich liturgy and meaningful worship, our homeschool group performed a shadow theater version of the Creation story during the service. The depiction of the Fall was so moving that I cried through the next two songs. I could only start to sing again on the third. There is just something different about the way drama and dance speak to our souls. I’ll quote some of the more moving liturgy in the Quotes section.

Velvet Ashes online retreat. I was able to get away with a friend for two nights right after we finished our school year (yay!) (but I have a high schooler now — just how did that happen??). We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so that in itself was precious, but the testimony and teaching videos also prompted some really valuable conversation. There’s something about discussing the ideas together that holds you accountable to actually process your life. Doing the retreat alone, while valuable for getting some time and space away from normal life, doesn’t force you to process in quite the same way. The worship provided by Eine Blume was fantastic – especially the first two songs. They’re much better with music, but since you don’t have access to the music, I’ll just have to quote the lyrics in the Quotes section. They’ve been on repeat in my head and in my mouth.

Co-op Performance. This is always the highlight of our school semester. It’s hard work, but the children always feel so accomplished when they’re done. The youngest children performed while a parent narrated the Creation story, and our director (who is also a dancer and dance instructor) performed along with them. The first time I watched her lead the children in the acts of creation, I wept for the beauty and the truth of it. Like I said before, the performing arts just do something in our souls that words alone can’t do, and I won’t attempt to explain such a visceral experience here. I don’t think I could if I tried. But I can tell you it took me by surprise — I hadn’t expected the little kids’ play to touch me on such a deep level.

As for the teens, this time around, they wrote their own script and were both funny and insightful. I have to say, even thought I taught co-op classes in the States, I have never formed relationships like this with my co-op students. I have gotten to know each of their personalities and come to cherish their creative work. I’ve taught them math and science and seen them come alive with curiosity. I’ve seen them create art projects so different from one another yet all so fascinating and beautiful. And I’ve watched them perform plays, each time marveling at the gifts God has given them. In an environment absent of tests and grades, we are free to enjoy each person completely apart from academics — and I do. I always thought that in an alternate life I would have become a math or chemistry teacher, mainly because I love math and science. What I didn’t realize then was how I could fall in love with my students, and how that love for them would keep me wanting to teach. I’m especially nostalgic this semester because we are losing 5 teen students to high school graduation or family repatriation. Life will not be the same again in the fall.

Date with my husband. He got a rare weekday off, and we stole 4 hours for ourselves. It was magical.

Sculpt and Burn Body Blitz (a Denise Austin workout DVD). Someone gave this to me several years ago, but for some unknown reason I never used it. I was getting bored with the same old workout DVDs I had been using, so I pulled this one out and gave it a try. Such great workouts, and such good variety. Although I will say, when it gets this hot in Cambodia, I don’t do a whole lot of exercising!

 

BOOKS

Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson. I’m reading this for the Velvet Ashes book club, and let me assure you the book is even better than the description. It is profound and practical. I really appreciate Anderson’s footnotes. They often balance out anything she was trying to say, which is usually already seasoned with grace. I love finding such nuanced, thoughtful writers.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. I loved Gaudy Night, but it was long and at times stretched my brain too much. Lord Peter and Harriet Vane got together at the end, and I didn’t feel like committing to an entire detective novel after their marriage. But after finishing Sayers’ book of short stories, including “Talboys,” which took place several years after Peter and Harriet’s wedding (and which wasn’t published until after Sayers’ death), I knew I had to read Busman’s Honeymoon. In “Talboys,” Lord Peter turned into a hilarious, understanding, and practical father, and Harriet kept her sharp mind even after motherhood. And the novel Busman’s Honeymoon did not disappoint. British romance is understated, certainly, but I got to know Peter’s and Harriet’s hearts in a way I never had before. Both the novel and the short story are deeply satisfying.

Malcolm Guite’s Holy Week cycle of sonnets in Sounding the Seasons. Takes a while to get through the entire Holy Week cycle, but I’m glad I took the time to read them. You can access them online at Guite’s blog. Begin with Palm Sunday, and just keep clicking forward until you get to Easter Day.

Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. I finished this book. It gave me a new appreciation for history — and man’s depravity. Helps connect the dots between my understanding of science and history. Both sobering and enlightening.

Exploring the History of Medicine by John Hudson Tiner. I read this to my middle kids for science and really enjoyed it myself. It’s mostly narrative so you can really grasp the progression of medical knowledge and practice through the ages.

 

QUOTES

From the Anglican liturgy:

“Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all. He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.”

From a Kenyan (also Anglican) liturgy:

“All our problems of this life on earth, we send to the cross of Christ.
All the difficulties of our circumstances, we send to the cross of Christ.
All the devil’s works from his temporary power, we send to the cross of Christ.
All our hopes for wholeness and eternal life, we set on the Risen Christ.”

Paschal Troparion (5th century Orthodox “Resurrection hymn”), sung by Eine Blume:

“Christ is risen from the dead, He’s trampling down death by death.
And to those in the grave, He’s given life, He’s given life.”

“There is no fear in love,” also by Eine Blume:

“There is no fear in your love. There is no shame in your light. Only the laughter of God, seeking the dead back to life.

There is no fear in your love. There is no shame in your light. Only the mercy of God, only impossible life.”

Ephrem of Syria, 4th century A.D. (found through Kathleen Norris’s Cloister Walk, which I picked up again this month):

Have mercy, O Lord, on my children.
In my children, call to mind your childhood,
You who were a child.
Let them that are like your childhood
Be saved by your grace.

 

ON EDUCATION – HOME, PUBLIC, AND UNIVERSITY

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years at The Atlantic.

“The implication is clear. The best way to boost students’ reading comprehension is to expand their knowledge and vocabulary by teaching them history, science, literature, and the arts, using curricula that that guide kids through a logical sequence from one year to the next.”

(Hmmm this modern research-based advice sounds suspiciously like Charlotte Mason one hundred years ago: knowledge is food for the mind, and children crave it.) (Here again we see the way children in poorer communities miss out educationally while wealthy kids suffer less, even in struggling school districts.)

The New Preschool is Crushing Kids, also at The Atlantic.

“Here’s what the Finns, who don’t begin formal reading instruction until around age 7, have to say about preparing preschoolers to read: ‘The basis for the beginnings of literacy is that children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.’ For our littlest learners, what could be more important than that?”

Students Think They Can Suppress Speech Because Colleges Treat Them Like Customers at Washington Post. Interesting.

A Case for Contemporary Poetry at CiRCE Institute. Makes me feel justified in my love of Malcolm Guite’s poetry.

Every Dumb Plan in Hamlet, Ranked, also at CiRCE. I laughed!

 

THIRD CULTURE KIDS AND GLOBAL NOMADS

Stop Blaming Your Host Country for All of Your Issues by Jerry Jones. True. And also sometimes, ouch.

Failed Missionaries and “But God. . . “ by Marilyn Gardner. Honest and humble. A wise response to some of the “missions conversations” circling around lately (or always).

Are Transition Talks Increasing MK Angst? by Michele Phoenix. Intriguing question that can only be answered through person-to-person conversation.

10 Questions to Routinely Ask Your TCKS by Lauren Wells. A treasure trove of conversation starters — all of them pretty deep.

 

AT THE INTERSECTION OF THEOLOGY AND CULTURE

What We Lost When We Lots Hymnals by Tim Challies. I’m a lifelong hymn lover. In fact our family keeps three copies of our favorite hymnal, Songs of Faith and Praise, in our house for devotional singing. I’m also (confession time) a lyrics and melody snob. (I need depth! I need beauty!) So I appreciated these thoughts.

Eggs, Peanuts, and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb by Jim Miller. As both a parent of a kiddo with dietary restrictions and a person longing for the new heaven and new earth all on my own, I appreciated this post.

For Tenebrae: A Liturgy for Those Who Weep Without Knowing Why at The Rabbit Room. If, after Easter, you still need to spend some time weeping, here’s your link.

The F-Word: Why Feminism is Not the Enemy by Amy Peterson. Thoughtful, Christ-centered, and historically researched.

Adam Could Have No Name by Joshua Gibbs. Hefty food for thought.

6 Privileges of Living in a Wealthy Country by Amy Medina. Just some things to be aware of, if you live in a wealthy/developed country and have never visited a less wealthy/developed country.

The Vast Difference Between What We Think and What We Love by Rebecca Reynolds. Convicting.

 

ON RACE RELATIONS

Matt Chander Says That When He Preaches About Race, White People Accuse Him of Being Liberal at Relevant. An important acknowledgement. We need to really think about how we label people. I respect Chandler for even trying to talk about race.

A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers are Leaving White Evangelical Churches at The New York Times.

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis by Linda Villarosa. This claim is unfortunately supported by robust data — you have to have reliable data to make a claim like this one — and it broke my heart. As an educated white woman, I only ever encountered one medical professional who didn’t believe my symptoms (an ER nurse, who was rightfully chastened when the OB/GYN came in and diagnosed a real issue). And I remember being so irritated at that nurse for not believing me. To think that that kind of treatment is the default for so many black women in America, and to know that their medical outcomes are so much worse (yes, even when adjusted for income and education), is horrifying. They know now that this a particularly American problem, as women in Africa do not have these worse outcomes (you can read the whole article to understand the details). The researchers believe that it’s not only that the medical system in America tends to disregard black women’s health concerns; the very fact of enduring their whole lives under systemic racism puts so much stress on their bodies that they have more pregnancy-related medical issues than can be accounted for by poverty alone. The proposed solution is beautiful — community-based care — but can be difficult to implement on tight budgets. Long, sobering, and important.

 

PODCASTS AND VIDEOS

Guys, We Have a Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men on NPR.

Still Evangelical? With Karen Swallow Prior by the Story Men podcast (I went to high school with one of the hosts). I’ve read small portions of Prior’s work at Christianity Today. Karen blows me away with her knowledge and wisdom.

Walking the Tightrope. I explained on Facebook why I love this Greatest Showman song so very much.

From Now On. Also from Greatest Showman. Such a powerful song, sung at the end of a long, mistake-riddled journey. And isn’t it everyone’s deepest longing, to come back home?

Seth Meyers’ birth story. I laughed hysterically. Then I cried.

 

WORSHIP MUSIC

Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson. A new congregational song full of longing and hope.

Christ Will Hold Me Fast by Keith and Kristyn Getty. Comforting.

Across the Lands by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. We sang this song at the Easter Vigil. Captivated me. Read all the lyrics here.

The Lion and the Lamb by Leeland Dayton Mooring, Brenton Brown, and Brian Johnson. Not new to me, but sung at the Vigil. Powerful.

O Praise the Name (Anastasis) by Hillsong. Such a perfect Easter song. We didn’t sing it on Easter but sang it the next week.

Forever by Kari Jobe, Brian Johnson, Christa Black Gifford, Gabriel Wilson, Jenn Johnson, Joel Taylor. Speaking of Easter songs, we did sing this one on Easter Sunday. Resurrection songs never get old for me.

This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong. Sang it during a baptism service. I love this song, I love remembering the truth of this song, and I love it when a congregation proclaims together.

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