A Few of My Favorite Things {September/October 2018}

by Elizabeth

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We moved back to Asia two months ago and have been busy ever since, but I’m here today with some favorites for you.

A couple online fitness sources I’m really loving right now are the Lazy Dancer Tips Youtube channel and the Fitness Blender website. I especially love videos for improving core strength, releasing back and neck pain, and improving overall flexibility. (Ask me for specific favorites if you want them!)

I’m using some essential oils: peppermint in the morning (and for headaches) and lavender at night.

I’m back to enjoying coconut milk in my morning coffee. I just couldn’t find any coconut milk in America that tasted like the coconut milk here in Cambodia, so I used half and half. I like half and half, but I also like coconut milk on tropical mornings!

I got to start teaching science at co-op again, and it really helps sew up the tears in my soul. I might write more about that some time, but for now I’m just happy to be in the classroom again.

I attended an adult dance class. I’m trying to take better care of my mind and my body and tend to the ways in which they are connected, and I hope this dance class can be part of that. I was thoroughly confused during much of the first class, but I’m hoping that changes as I attend in the future.

I’m also working on my anxiety. Will be able to talk more about that in the coming months. For now I’m just admitting I have been struggling with anxiety for awhile and seeking more guidance and healing. I had not dealt with it for many years, but it’s back and getting in the way of normal life functioning.

 

BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Delightful story. Montgomery was a favorite childhood author of mine. A friend on Facebook recommended this book, so it inspired me to read it (it’s cheap and I had loaded it onto my Kindle ages ago but never read it). I was entranced. The story is hilarious, and Montgomery is also a wise observer of human nature and relationships. I always get a kick out of old authors who describe reality so accurately. Life may have changed over the years, but humans haven’t changed much, have they? It’s a short read (and cheap on Kindle!), so treat yourself to it soon.

Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse. Also recommended by a friend on FB. Wodehouse is hilarious in his Bertram Wooster series. He’s still funny in this stand-alone story, though somewhat less so in my opinion. Free on Kindle!

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I re-read this book to my younger kids, who didn’t hear it the first time around. We loved it. Again, this is a book nearly a hundred years old that seems so contemporary. Such a great handbook on child development too, if you want to see it that way. If you just want to see it as a great story, that’s fine too. Cheap on Kindle.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Rereading this to my younger children for our Sonlight American History course. It is just as good as it was several years ago, if not more so! I wrote about it before, here.

Families Where Grace is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff Van Vonderen. I’ve read a lot of books on marriage and parenting, so many that I’ve stopped reading them — so many seem formulaic or simplistic or place more burdens on already tired, struggling people. This book is different. I’ve had it for years but for some reason the introduction didn’t pull me in, so I never actually read it till now. It is so good. Van Vonderen is a counselor and it’s clear he has sat with so many suffering people. He shines a light on the way religion can be used to keep people captive. He explains how unhealthy relationships get started and keep going. He shows how shame hurts people. And then he teaches us how we can do family life better: with grace, boundaries, and honesty. Single best book I’ve ever read on the Christian family.

(No More Perfect Kids is probably the second best book I’ve read about parenting. Other important influences on my parenting have generally just been good books on Grace, on receiving it for myself. I can’t give my kids what I haven’t received from God myself. I think of Grace for the Good Girl, From Good to Grace, and Prodigal God as top three contenders in the Grace arena.  But marriage and parenting books in general, I dislike and don’t think are particularly helpful. I’d love to hear in the comments either how you feel about marriage and parenting books or which ones you think are particularly helpful.)

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher. This book is about so much more than NFP (which, full disclosure, I don’t practice anymore). I bought the book because I read several of Simcha Fisher’s scathing, insightful blog posts (which are linked in a section below). I thought this would be a funny and practical take on life with NFP, but like I said, it was about so much more. This book is worth the price for chapter 3 alone, which delves into the ideas of “God’s will.” Anyone who grew up in 1990’s cultural Christianity with heavy emphasis on finding and doing the Will of God needs this chapter. She balances our incorrect views of what God’s will means, and if you’re anything like me, it will make you cry both with its compassion and with its truth.

She also delves into suffering — the Cross. That we should not look down on our suffering, just because it isn’t our neighbor’s, and we should not look down on our neighbor’s suffering, just because it isn’t ours: we all have a Cross. She gave me the courage to accept the suffering that is in my life right now, regardless of what it looks like compared to other people’s suffering. Simcha offers a fresh interpretation of Jesus’ words “do not worry about tomorrow,” something I always need more of. It goes something like this: “Your now self can’t imagine handling the future, but you won’t be your now-self handling the future, you will be your future-self” (my paraphrase). Later on she has a lot of insight into marriage, specifically regarding issues of NFP, but they are applicable all across the board for how married people can love each other better.

The Message by Eugene Peterson. I have not historically enjoyed The Message. It seemed too “out there.” I really, really like the New Living Translation and have been reading it for about 10 years now. I’m still using the NLT while using the Message more as a commentary on favorite passages (especially Matthew 6) and the Psalms rather than a primary reading source. Mainly to add a different perspective to my original reading. But my Bible reading tastes are varied, because I also use the Scottish Psalter, published in 1635, as an adjunct to my Psalm reading. The Psalter enables Psalm-singing, and I love it.

And I’m back to reading Christianity Today. I think my brain was too tired in America to keep reading their articles. But now that I’m back into a routine in Cambodia, my brain is able to engage a little bit more. I appreciate that Christianity Today, while never misinterpreting or teaching against the Bible, still dares to question unhealthy or merely cultural practices and mindsets. After 6 years overseas, I find that I can still strongly relate to the content in Christianity Today, an American periodical. In my opinion, CT remains true to biblical Christianity without being overly culturally influenced.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR OVERSEAS WORKERS

Moving Abroad Can Sure Mess Up Your Autocomplete by Craig Thompson. Funny!

5 Newton Street – a Love Story by Marilyn Gardner. Emotive and insightful as always.

Missions or Wanderlust? by Stephie. Important.

If I Had to Get a Job by Anisha Hopkinson. Again, funny.

10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz by Rachel Pieh Jones. Really important reminders.

8 Things I Forget to Love About a Life Overseas by Jerry Jones. More important reminders.

GRIT: A Guide to Praying for Third Culture Kids by Lauren Wells. Exactly what the title says it is.

TCK Lessons: Everyone Leaves by Tanya Crossman. This is a real phenomenon for Third Culture Kids. My kids have been saying this phrase for some time now, and recently had occasion to say it again. How can it not be true? We are all, after all, guests in our host country. No matter how long-term we are as global workers, we will, in time, return to our passport countries.

 

BLOG POSTS REGARDING ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND ACCUSATIONS

Lament for the Disbelieved by Tanya Marlow. Some of the political controversy in the States may be over for now, but this is still a vitally important message. The same goes for the next two pieces by Simcha Fisher, author of the NFP book I reviewed above.

Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, When Do Girls Matter? (Be prepared for a bad word at the end.)

If she was sexually assaulted, why didn’t she say something sooner? Written a year ago, long before the most recent political catastrophe. The issues are the same and have been for decades. We need to wake up and pay attention to this problem.

 

JUST PLAIN GOOD BLOG POSTS

You are not dead. You are waiting. By Simcha Fisher.

Would You Even Like Jesus? by Jonathan Trotter

He’s just a . . . by Jonathan Trotter. (Yes I do like my husband’s writing, thankyouverymuch!)

Still Scandalous by Jen Pollock Michel.

On Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls and Pondering My Own Household God by Jen Oshman.

A God Veiled in Time and Space But Revealed in Christ by Shayne Looper. I’ve had some real life conversations and watched some online video interviews and have been contemplating belief and unbelief. I want to write more about it eventually, but I think in the end having belief means making room for mystery and not having all the questions answered. Unbelief doesn’t answer all the questions either. It has its own set of problems. This is a good discussion of some of the issues.

 

MOVIES AND PODCASTS

Goodbye Christopher Robin. A lot of the issues in this story applies to ministry families. A real tear-jerker.

Wonder. We watched this as a family. I had avoided it for fear it would be too sad or difficult. But it’s really really worth the watch, even if I did cry!

Faith and Reason from Bibliofiles. Good discussion of faith and unbelief.

Forgive Jerks, a short video from Nadia Bolz-Weber.

 

SONGS

Defender by Rita Springer. “When I thought I lost me, you knew where I left me.” This song met me in all kinds of good ways.

Sing My Way Back by Steffany Gretzinger. “When I lose direction, when I can’t see the stars, if we get disconnected, I’ll sing my way back to Your heart, I’ll sing my way back to Your arms.”

A Few of My Favorite Things {July/August 2018}

by Elizabeth

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Well this summer has flown by without a lot of time to write. We have had some amazing experiences. I could almost say it’s been the best summer of my life so far. (And let me just say that summer in the States is way better than winter.)

Here are a few of the highlights from the last two months:

We took a trip to Joplin to see several sets of family friends.

We visited the Nelson-Atkins art museum and the World War I memorial in Kansas City. I love being a Kansas Citian and I love sharing these things with my children.

We traveled up to Belle Plaine, Iowa, to visit family for the 4th of July. I caught up with family I hadn’t seen in years, visited the church where my parents (and several aunts and uncles) got married, and visited the graves of family members all the way back to the first Czech immigrant. Plus I saw my first fireworks show in 7 years.

My husband and I went on an anniversary trip to Eureka Springs, where we toured the town, including two breathtaking church buildings. We also visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has some amazing architecture in addition to the art.

I met up with three Velvet Ashes writers for lunch right here in Kansas City.

My sister and her adorable baby boy came into town again. Swoon!

We caught up with old friends, new friends, and family in Rolla, Missouri, and Searcy, Arkansas. We also went to a college reunion.

We finished the summer with a family vacation at Camp Takodah.

When we got back from that, my parents threw me a surprise family birthday party, my first birthday in America in 7 years. It’s been a wonderful summer, and I will be sad to leave my parents’ home again.

 

BOOKS

Life has been so full I haven’t had a lot of time to read, but I’ve been able to squeeze in a little bit of reading. These four books are wonderful.

Darling: A Woman’s Guide to Godly Sexuality by Aanna Greer. The friend who told me this is the book she wishes she would have had as a newlywed (and who gives it to engaged college students) was right: this is a fully comprehensive book that honors God’s purposes for marriage without being uptight or insecure. Aanna fully embraces the joys of sex within marriage. Lots of practical advice you don’t find many Christian sex resources. Often you get one or the other – delight in sex without God’s boundaries, or a respect for God’s boundaries without the joy or the practical advice.

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich. A 92-year-old writes about the ridiculousness of our health and longevity ambitions. Written by someone without an eternal perspective — how much more applicable are these words to those who believe these bodies are not the end of the story!

Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education by Susan Wise Bauer. Bauer is a favorite writer, speaker, and thinker of mine. In fact I think I’ve listened to her discussion What I’ve Learned From the High School Years half a dozen times already. I wasn’t planning on reading this new book of hers because 1) I’m already homeschooling 2) I’d heard a bunch of interviews with her about this book and figured nothing would be new. But I walked into a brick-and-mortar bookstore in America and saw the book. I was in tears by the second page of the introduction. I needed her words badly, so I bought the book and read it.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss. I did not grow up on this Seuss title, but came across it this summer at my sister-in-law’s house. It’s good for kids, sure, but like any good children’s book, it becomes even more true the older you get. Good for grown-ups too.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR INTERNATIONAL WORKERS

You’re Doing it Wrong by Anisha Hopkinson. So funny! Also, true.

Risk Myths by Anna E. Hampton. This page is a treasure trove of resources for cross-cultural workers. Hampton has written a book on the subject but still offers a wealth of wisdom on her website. She’s one of those rare people who seamlessly blends head and heart. She’s well-researched while being compassionate. I highly recommend her entire site, but this page is a good place to start.

Shame or Courage: Leaving the Field for the Sake of a Child by Michèle Phoenix. Empathetic and discerning, as is all of Michèle’s work.

Where I Ought to Have Been Born by Karen Huber. Discusses Till We Have Faces, for any Lewis lovers out there.

On Welcoming the Third Culture Kid by Marilyn Gardner.

 

BLOG POSTS ON PRIVILEGE & RACE

Repenting for Healthcare Inequality: A Christian Response by Marilyn Gardner.

Are White Christians Retraumatizing People for the Sake of Diversity by Kaitlin Curtice. It’s at least worth asking the question.

I Am Not a Racist — and other things I wish I knew were true by Jerry Jones. So proud of Jerry for writing this.

 

MISCELLANEOUS BLOG POSTS ON CHRISTIANITY

The Sentence I Thought I’d Never Write by Rebecca Reynolds (whose new book is out, and I pre-ordered my copy, so I get to take it back to Cambodia even though it’s already sold out in a few places!). You should follow Reynolds on FB and on her blog. She’s thoughtful, thorough, nuanced, and waaaayy smarter than me (she’s a logic teacher for crying out loud). But when I learned she had also been a pastor’s wife, I suddenly realized why I connected so much with her writing.

But Could a God Like That Be Good also by Rebecca Reynolds.

Authoritarianism: just some things I want to say by Kay Bruner. Explains a whole lot of wrong things I’ve seen in my life.

The Bible is Literature for the Resistance by Rachel Held Evans. Worth a read even if you’re not on all the same theological pages as the author (I know I’m not). Still, an excellent perspective.

 

QUOTES

“All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

This passage from II Samuel 14:14 was read during a communion talk, of all things. But it grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. We have a God who does not just sweep life away; He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.  (As a side note, this is one of the reasons I love the New Living Translation and have for the last 10 years. I have not found another translation that makes God’s Word come alive so well.)

“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God’s holy people [in Ephesus], who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.”

A seemingly insignificant verse at the very beginning of a favorite book (and the beginning of a sermon series this summer). But I noticed both/and aspect of “chosen” and “faithful.” It reminded me of Tanya Crossman’s most recent TCK article on A Life Overseas. We belong to God because God says so, and then we learn to live like we’re in God’s Kingdom.

 

SONGS

Living Hope by Brian Johnson and Phil Wickham. The first time I heard this song in church, I got goosebumps when we got to “roaring lion.” I never get tired of the gospel story, do you? “Then came the morning that sealed the promise Your buried body began to breathe Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion Declared the grave has no claim on me.”

Center My Life by Austin Stone Worship. Turn my eyes away from searching for lesser glory.” Hit me hard. That’s what all our searching is, isn’t? For LESSER glory. It’s not that we’re not seeking glory, it’s that we get sidetracked from the real glory.

Love So Great by Hillsong. “Not to us but to your name, we lift up all praise.” From a well-known psalm, but a singable way to say it.

No Other Name by Hillsong. “Seated on high the undefeated one.”

 

TELEVISION & FILM

I Can Only Imagine. I didn’t expect to like this movie since the song had never appealed much to me (don’t know why, since it was always so popular). But Christian movies are definitely getting better. This one and The Case for Christ from earlier this year both focus on the narrative rather than preaching. And their narratives are good.

John Adams HBO series. Adams is my husband’s favorite Founding Father. We didn’t finish this series, but as a family we started it (previewing it first so we could skip needed scenes). We’re starting two years of studying American history in school, so this felt an appropriate introductory family activity.

Crazy Rich Asians. I laughed so hard at this movie. It’s funny even if you don’t “get” the Asian cultural and lifestyle references. But if you do get them, it’s even funnier.

A Few of My Favorite Things {May/June 2018}

So I can’t always seem to get these favorites posts to you by month’s end, but better late than never right? ~Elizabeth

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Teenagers. 17 years in to our ministry journey, and I still love youth. This semester I taught math to the teens at our co-op. I’ve been with these students for a couple years now and have gotten to know each of them, and they are all special to me. Teaching them has been one of the greatest honors of our most recent term in Cambodia. I love watching them come alive and interact with different ideas, each in their own way.

At the end of this semester we lost 6 teens to family moves and graduations, and it was a difficult sendoff. I asked if I could say something to them at graduation and then pray over them. It was an emotional thing to do, but I really wanted to say goodbye well. Next year will not be the same without them! But we know they are headed where God is leading, and we trust Him even when things get hard.

Palm trees in Los Angeles. I wrote about our trip over the Pacific here.

Trip to Emerald Hills. We always visit Team Expansion’s home office, and this year’s visit was particularly good. I wrote about it here.

Trip to Washington State. We visited family and friends, which is of course its own treat. But we also saw the magnificent Mt. Hood on descent, drove to see Mt. St. Helens, and even climbed an ancient lava tube (basically a 2-hour hike up a 60-degree cave) at Mt. St. Helens. I’d never seen a volcano in person before. Beautiful.

Meeting my nephew. He’s 6 months old, but I hadn’t seen him yet. He was even cuter and sweeter than the pictures showed. He fell asleep in my arms several times, and I fell in love with him. I was pretty bummed when we had to say goodbye.

Trip to northern Missouri. We’ve been friends since our college days, and we’ve always gone to visit their farm, even before we had kids. The Galt Christian Church there always welcomes us wholeheartedly. Honestly, every time we visit I am blown away by their kindness and generosity.

Grand River Valley Choir and Orchestra. While we were in Galt, we went to see another friend who was singing in a concert. It was marvelous. I don’t get a chance to see much live music in Cambodia, and it is just different from music you can access online. It may have been my girls’ first experience of live music in fact, and they loved it. Some of the orchestra music had an Irish theme, which was fun, while the choir music was themed around the stages of life, from new baby to old age. I will tell you I cried. Quite a bit actually. The director I hugged afterward may have thought I was crazy!

 

BOOKS

I have not finished a single book, but I have looked in detail at several library books, including:

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik and The Language of God by Francis S. Collins (both in search of high school science books),

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker (a favorite Youtuber of mine),

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack (recommended by Rachel Pieh Jones and in preparation for studying American history next year with my kids), and

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (recommended by the people at Sonlight and full of history and neuroscience).

I’ve also been reading Mr. Putter and Tabby books and the Whatever After series (recommended by my friend Danielle and her daughter) with my girls. Both are fun, heart-warming series, and I can fully endorse them both.

 

MISSIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LIVING

To My Adult TCK Self: I See You by Rachel Hicks. Makes me cry every time.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Africa by Arthur Davis. Note: If you want to really think (or cry), read Arthur and Tamie Davis. They are Aussies living in Tanzania, and they blog at Meet Jesus at uni.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is Not a Ministry Guide by Susan Mettes. Intriguing and important.

6 Reasons Why You Should Not Go Overseas by Wesley Mills. For more on that subject, see Laura Parker’s classic 10 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary or Ryan Kuja’s newer The Call Is Not Enough.

The Top 10 Most Valuable Mindsets for MKs and TCKs by Michèle Phoenix.

25 Things They Don’t Put in the Life Abroad Brochure by Jerry Jones.

Leaving Poorly: a whole new set of options for departing expats also by Jerry Jones.

Is it a failure, or is it a growth opportunity? by Kay Bruner. So much grace here. (You may also be interested in Kay’s interview with Sarita Hartz.)

We Need Each Other by Renette. I like this perspective. Reminds me of discussions on community and culture in Alissa Wilkinson’s book How to Survive the Apocalypse. (And you know I always love anything reminiscent of culture critic Alissa Wilkinson.)

 

HOMESCHOOLING AND PARENTING

Calculus is the peak of high school math. Maybe it’s time to change that. by Sarah D. Sparks. Has me thinking.

The Problem With Hurrying Childhood Learning by Justin Minkel. I’m always a big fan of a non-hurried childhood.

Education is a dangerous thing: a conversation with Wendell Berry. Long interview, but good, especially the bit on “education for homecoming”

 

FOR WRITERS AND ARTISTS

You Are Not Your Work: On Receiving (and Ignoring) Feedback by Jonathan Rogers.

 

OTHER CULTURAL CONCERNS

Why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair Haque.

How can we untangle white supremacy from medieval studies? Important conversation with David M. Perry and Helen Young.

What Google Bros Have in Common with Medieval Beer Bros: the exclusion of women from coding fits perfectly into centuries of labor history by David M. Perry. Enlightening but concerning.

Prominent Democratic Feminist Camille Paglia Says Hilary Clinton ‘Exploits Feminism’ by Sam Dorman. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, this is a fascinating read.

‘We’re teaching university students lies’, an interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson. I don’t agree with everything here, but there is much food for thought.

Could managed consumption be a better form of treatment for alcoholism? by Sasha Chapin. Also intriguing.

 

QUOTES

Found on Randy Alcorn’s Twitter and I believe quoting John Piper:

“It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge… I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book…I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.”

From Doug McKelvey on the Rabbit Room, quoting G.K. Chesterton:

“Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men [or young women!], but one…”

Here’s the best explanation I’ve ever heard of how children can follow the 5th commandment, starting with childhood and extending into adulthood in this order. From a sermon at Legacy Christian Church (my parents’ home church, where we’re going this summer and where my kids participated in a fabulous week of VBS.)

  • Willful obedience
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Frequent communication
  • Care for them in their frailty

 

MUSIC

So Will I (100 Billion x) by Hillsong. Yes, I like this song (along with everyone else).

Fly Away Home by Pink Zebra. A song that had me tears at the concert. Besides all the other layers of possible meaning here, to me it also represents the fact that whether I’m leaving the States for Cambodia or leaving Cambodia for the States, every time I step on a plane, I’m “flying away home.”

If you’re a TCK in a less sentimental mood, try No Roots by Alice Merton instead.

 

MOVIES

Churchill. I watched this on the plane and cried through much of it. Emotions are understated, making them all the more powerful. Coming on the heels of a semester studying World War 2 at co-op and my yearlong obsession with The Crown series, this movie gave more depth to the historical character of Winston Churchill, some insight into the challenges of marriage in politics (or ministry!), and some perspective on the atrocities and traumas of war. Well worth the watch.

Candy Jar. A fun movie. I saw my younger self in the main character probably far too much. There’s some bittersweet in this story, which took me by surprise.

Little Dorrit. I absolutely loved this BBC adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens story. Here’s my FB conversation about it.

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.

A Few of My Favorite Things {February 2018}

A little late, but here I am. This month’s reviews are separated by section in case you’re interested in particulars: TCKs & Global Nomads, Home School Guidance, along with Everything Else. ~Elizabeth

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We attended the Family Education Conference as guest speakers. I tell the story of some things I learned here. After working hard at the FEC, we spent 3 days at the Juniper Tree, a retreat center for cross-cultural workers. We really needed that rest.

Good Earth Sweet and Spicy Caffeine Free Tea, a gift from my mom. So delicious. We drank a lot of it at Juniper Tree, and Mom promises to have plenty on hand when we visit this summer.

Ash Wednesday. My family isn’t as “into” liturgy as I am, so the yearly Ash Wednesday service at the local Anglican church becomes a sort of personal spiritual retreat for me.  Do you know what can happen when you give a mom an hour and a half of uninterrupted time with God? So much. I had some much-needed conversations with God. Conversations about trust, belief, and idolatry.

Teaching non-traditional math classes at our home school co-op. It’s so much fun to share my love of mathematics with teenagers and watch their curiosity for an oft-dreaded subject come alive.

School break week. This week is our last break week before the last 6 weeks of school, and then we head to the States for a 4-month furlough. We are all enjoying our break week and are looking forward to spending time in America, especially the month of May. We intend to spend the first two weeks of May at my mom’s house, cut off from work emails and just being a family. Looking forward to the cool-in-comparison weather too.

We’re going through a lot of transitions in our family right now, including the search for a new sending church. Our current sending church is merging with another local church. Our church is graciously providing continued funds, for which we are incredibly thankful, but they cannot provide continued leadership — thus the search for new spiritual authority and accountability. We loved our sending church, and they loved us. It was a relationship like no other. I wrote this memorial in honor of our sending church.

This transition is truly good for Christ’s church, but it is a hard change. We are grieving many other personal losses and goodbyes right now too. God has been meeting me in my pain, and I see how He can turn my mourning into dancing, but I still ache for my kids, who have goodbyes and grief of their own. I’m not sure that as parents we can avoid this. We know in this world we will have trouble, and our children will have trouble, and our children’s children will have trouble. We take heart, because we know who has overcome the world, but in the present moment, our troubles often remain.

Lastly, a little bit of girlish shallowness: Essie Nail Polish in Hi Maintenance (a light pink) and Guilty Pleasures (bright pink). I picked them up when I was in the States for my sister’s wedding. It’s pricier than most brands, but actually holds up over the course of a week. Wedding trip bonus: I got a bunch of hand-me-downs from my much-more-stylish-than-me sister and have been enjoying wearing them ever since.

 

POETRY AND MUSIC

“The Call of the Disciples” by Malcolm Guite. You know how a poem can just latch onto you and refuse to let go? Malcolm Guite’s poems do that to me a lot, and in this season of needing to trust God more, this has been the one with staying power.

Spiritual Warfare Lullaby by Jonathan Trotter. Nighttime is not good to me. I’m a good sleeper as long as I don’t wake up (in fact my husband is often amazed at how quickly I can fall asleep). But if I wake, the Anxiety Monster threatens to overwhelm me. All the heath worries that seem ridiculous and easier to dismiss during the day become realistic and looming fears at night. One morning this month we read the classic Psalm 91 and my  eyes alighted on verse 6: “Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness.” That was it, that’s my problem — I dread the disease that stalks in darkness. Verse 5 right above it, “Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,” is the basis for a verse in my husband’s spiritual warfare song. All the verses are lifted straight out of scripture (which is the best source of spiritual armor, anyway, right?). So the song has been in my head by day and by night.

 

BOOKS

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bajita Lovejoy. A read aloud. I cannot tell you just how deliciously good this story is. Read it!

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. A sobering and hopeful read aloud. I have more thoughts on water here.

The Living Cross by Amy Boucher Pye. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I generally try to add something — a specifically designed Lent Bible study. Last year I wanted to read Amy’s Living Cross book, but by the time I received it in the mail, Lent had not only come and gone, but Pentecost as well. So I saved the book for this year. The focus of the book is forgiveness, but what I am finding are deep lessons on followership and what it really means to turn to God. Scripture that I know and love is hitting me in new ways, and I’m thankful.

Letters Never Sent: A Global Nomad’s Journey From Hurt to Healing by Ruth van Reken (coauthor of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds). I have had this book for several years but had avoided reading it because I sensed I would cry through most of it. And I was right: I cried through most of it. But I had found myself in a season of grief already, so I thought I might be ready to enter in to the sacred space of Ruth’s story. The book is about a Missionary Kid/Third Culture Kid who grew up in boarding school, but that is not all it is about.

Letters Never Sent is also for anyone who has grown up in Christian circles and, as a result, thought they had to be perfect or could never admit weakness. It’s for anyone trying to measure up and continuing to fail in their attempts. This book is even for anyone who grew up poor and wondered at the unfairness of the world (honestly it was refreshing for her to tackle such a seemingly “earthly” issue as that of money). And of course it is especially for those who grew up in boarding schools and didn’t feel permission to speak all of their feelings about it over the years. Ruth is a generation (or more) ahead of me in life, yet every issue she tackled felt modern and relevant. Don’t skip it just because her TCK experience differs from yours, or because you are afraid of facing the grief. This is an important book.

It’s also in this season of grief that I decided I was finally ready to read Madeleine L’Engle’s The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, which I had been avoiding for the same reasons. I should be able to review it next month.

The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy Sayers. I confess I stopped reading Peter Wimsey after my last Sayers novel, because the novel was so stinkin’ long. But I’ve returned to this collection of short stories, which is very satisfying. I can read a finish a mystery in a short amount of time. When I finish it, I intend to start Chesterton’s Father Brown Mysteries, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time now, but somehow fiction always gets pushed aside during the school year. I manage to take it up again during school breaks.

The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. I finally finished this short little book. I had put it aside while preparing for the Family Education Conference — and also because I was struggling to accept some of Kathleen’s claims. But I have had more time to consider the ideas, and although I dislike the dailiness of many of my household tasks (how they have to be done again and again and again), I think she’s on to something here. Much of our work on earth is never done, because it was never meant to be done. It was meant by God to be repeated day in and day out, to teach us to depend on Him and to rest in Him. These are things I am learning to accept.

Close Calls by Dave Carder. This is a book my husband recommends through his pastoral counseling ministry, and since our Amazon accounts are linked, I thought I would read it too. The book describes how anyone can become embroiled in an emotional or physical affair if the wrong person comes along at the wrong time. It helps you identify where you might be weak (because we are all weak somewhere) and how to protect your marriage. If you don’t want to read a whole book on protecting yourself and your marriage from adultery, I recommend reading Jacque Watkins’s blog series What You Should Know Before an Affair.

I picked up Napoleon’s Buttons again because I have time on our break week. And I’ve started the spring Velvet Ashes book club books, Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson and Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg. Humble Roots, especially, resonates. Anderson discusses the issues I talked about at the Family Education Conference, but couches them in the language of humility rather than grace.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR TCKS, MKS, AND GLOBAL NOMADS

How We Get Rootedness Wrong by Beth Watkins. “Maybe rootedness turns into an idol.” Convicted — and realigned — with that one phrase.

One Simple Way to Bless TCKs by Jonathan Trotter. Based on some of his teaching at the FEC.

Naming Your Grief — and Finding an Answer by Craig Thompson. Explains disenfranchised grief and gives you language for what is happening inside you.

6 Permissions Most Missionaries’ Kids Need by Michèle Phoenix. I only ever hear wisdom from Michèle who, as an adult MK, is uniquely situated to talk about these issues.

The Truth About Missions Is That It’s a Long, Hard Slog by Jen Oshman. Just plain truth that we often need reminding of.

I Have Nothing to Prove by Kathleen Shumate.

 

SERIOUS HOME SCHOOL GUIDANCE

The Top Seven Reasons Homeschoolers Fail by Marlin Detweiler of Veritas Press. Based on 20 years of experience working with thousands of homeschooling families.

Dear Self: Why you stink at homeschool consistency by Pam Barnhill. I thought it was helpful and practical, but if you think it’s too harsh, scroll to the link at the bottom where she addresses concerns of harshness.

Who Actually Teaches Your Kids? by Joshua Gibbs at CiRCE Institute. Interesting food for thought. Can be applied to ourselves as adults too. Whoever is influencing me, the people I am imitating, that’s who my teachers are.

55 Things I Did NOT Do as a Homeschooler by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer (a podcast).

61 Things I Did RIGHT in My Homeschool, also a podcast by Julie Bogart.

 

MISCELLANEOUS ARTICLES

5 Ways to Doubt Your Doubts by Timothy Keller. A helpful perspective.

Breastfeeding in Church, and Other Petty Crimes by Rachel Marie Stone for Christianity Today. With a tag line of, “The act of breastfeeding is a picture of the care God gives us.” Stone sees both the up-close and the big picture.

Blessed Are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson. Maybe we’re not supposed to be fully satisfied on this earth. Maybe we’re still supposed to want. Simpson pushes back against some ideas of God that can become burdensome.

Is Filling That ‘God-Shaped Hole’ God’s Plan for Our Lives? also by Amy Simpson, and along the same vein. Both are worth a read.

Understanding God’s Control When You’re a Climate Scientist, Rebecca Randall’s interview with Thomas P. Ackerman. Interesting to me as both a scientist and a Christian.

The One-Way Intimacy of Podcast Listening by Glen Weldon. I’ve found this to be true.

This is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake by Brianna Wiest. Obviously contextualized for an American (or at least Western) audience, but interesting food for thought. We need to differentiate between self-care and self-comfort, we need to keep a private life (not everything has to show up on social media), and sometimes we need to flat-out reject society’s unrealistic expectations of us.

 

MOVIES AND TV

There’s No Place Like Home by Jen Pollock Michel on Right Now Media (you need a subscription to listen). I love Jen Pollock Michel. Her voice and her teaching are comforting and always resonate with truth.

How Movies Are Prayers, an interview with Josh Larsen for Forma Podcast. I always enjoy the cultural and Christian commentary on the Forma Podcast. This idea is the flip side to experiencing a movie as a message from God to us (i.e. when it “speaks” to us). A movie can also portray our communications to God. In my opinion this often happens better in non-Christian movies than in Christian movies. I’ve been known to say to my husband, “Hollywood gets it so right.” But of course when I say that, I’m talking about how Hollywood portrays the problem, not how they portray the solution (if they offer one at all). Hollywood can get brutally honest about the human condition. The answer they offer may not be biblical, but their painting of the picture can be much more accurate.

Black Panther. Ahem, speaking of Hollywood. We watched this movie for a family birthday party. The story is compelling, and the underlying themes are incredibly important for us to discuss as a society. Interestingly we watched it in the middle of a unit study on Africa, which gave us ample opportunity to discuss the harm Americans and Europeans have done to the continent. In the middle of the action, I was nervous about the outcome and whether the message would end up being that violence is helpful and even necessary to right wrongs done, but I think they handled the conflict well. (Although I will tell you my youngest daughter and I looked away during a couple intensely violent scenes.) The villain was portrayed sympathetically, which I thought was important. I cried at several points — there was a lot of wisdom thrown in here. And if you know me, you could probably already guess this, but Shuri is my favorite character — a brilliant, spirited female scientist on the silver screen. Can’t get much better than that.

A Few of My Favorite Things {January 2018}

We’ve been busy this month preparing to speak at the Family Education Conference in Thailand, so this month’s installment of my favorite things will be short. ~Elizabeth

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BOOKS

Poppy’s Return by Avi. I’ll say it again: Avi is a brilliant writer. This time instead of social issues, it was family issues he was packing into a story about a mouse.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. We finished this read-aloud and it was just as good as it began – even better. Here are a few more quotes:

“There’s more than one way to be crippled. I don’t mean that you can have a crippled foot or a crippled knee or a crippled hand. I mean you can be crippled in your heart. You can store up all your rage at someone, which can weigh down on your heart and twist it into a weird shape until you’re always aching underneath. After a while you get used to the ache – just like with my foot. You forget what it’s like not to ache. You forget you’re aching at all.”

“We all have our demons to deal with, Little Pigeon. It’s when we cherish them – cradle them to our breasts and feed them day after day – that’s when they curdle our souls.”

“In the old tales, there is power in words. Words are what you use to summon a jinn, or to open an enchanted door, or to cast a spell. You can do everything else perfectly, but if you don’t say the right words, it won’t work. If you know how to use words, you don’t have to be strong enough to wield a scimitar or have armies at your command. Words are how the powerless can have power.”

Living Water in the Desert: True Stories of God at Work in Iran by Rebecca Davis. Another Sonlight read-aloud. All the stories are good, and several of the stories are interwoven, but there is one particularly good story about a romance that was my and my kids’ favorite.

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World by Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson. I finally finished this book, but I’d like to read it again. The ideas were really dense. Paperback would be better, but all I have is Kindle.

Again, I’m still working through some books on Genesis and still formulating my thoughts on them, but I haven’t had a whole lot of time to study them because of preparing for our upcoming speaking event.

 

BLOG POSTS

Jane Austen: Responsibility and Love by Jesse Sumpter for Veritas Press. So good! Sometimes moderns get love wrong – it’s only a feeling, not a duty. But then, sometimes conservatives get love wrong too – it’s only a choice, not a feeling. Maybe it’s both.

The Proverbs 32 Man by Jonathan Trotter at A Life Overseas. Hilarious and truthful, all at the same time.

There’s Proof That Scientists Don’t Hate Christians by Rebecca Randall at Christianity Today. I might write more on this topic someday, as I’m passionate about the interplay between science and faith, but for now here’s the link for you to read.

On Living Sacrifices and the Walking Dead by Adam Andrews for CiRCE. Andrews is always thought-provoking (I love his and his family’s literature podcast BiblioFiles). In fact I think I need a reread of this one.

 

MOVIES, VIDEOS, AND PODCASTS

Perfect Harmony. A Disney channel movie I grew up watching that I have now introduced my own children to. Addresses racism through the lens of a child’s eye. Profound and moving.

Every Fight Ever by Studio C. Hilarious.

Forma — a new podcast at the CiRCE Institute. This podcast isn’t just a conversation about education; it’s a conversation about culture. I especially loved the interview with Brett McCracken about his book Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.

A Few of My Favorite Things {December 2017}

December was jam-packed with good things. There was a wedding, a baby, and a theater performance, all before Christmas. The after-Christmas time was full too. I’ll explain below! ~Elizabeth

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The Wedding. First of all, my sister got married, and I got to attend! My youngest daughter was the flower girl, so I made my first solo trans-Pacific trip with her (she was a great traveler). The wedding was beautiful, and it was beyond good to be with my extended family — I wrote about that here.

The Baby. My other sister’s baby was due after Christmas, but he was born right before Christmas instead, and he’s quite beautiful and healthy. The fact that one of us three girls lives in Asia and the other one was 36 weeks pregnant makes it all the more amazing that we both made it to Texas for our middle sister’s wedding.

The Performance. All four of my children have been working hard this semester to prepare for their home school coop performance. This semester’s play, The Flight Into Egypt, was set in World War II-era France and was based on a true story from Claire Huchet Bishop’s children’s novel Twenty and Ten. The performances were truly astounding. Our director continually impresses me with the depth of the themes she writes into her scripts and the excellence she pushes our kids to strive for. The extra work is really worth it, to see my kids grow in confidence and in relationship with others students and adults.

The Movie. The Star Wars movie! The Last Jedi was probably my most favorite yet. We took our whole family, and we all loved it. I heard someone describe it as dark (which is how they like their Star Wars movies), but I found it profoundly hopeful and filled with sufficient light to fight back the darkness. Two years ago, The Force Awakens seemed to echo old stories and characters and take us on a nostalgic tour of the Star Wars universe, and I’m glad they did. We needed to see that someone could do Star Wars right. The Last Jedi, however, felt freer to tell fresh stories while still honoring past ones. They didn’t need to prove anything to us anymore; they had gained our trust enough to take some risks.

The Carols. I try to take some time each Christmas season to sing and play carols (I tell that story here). This year my favorites veered away from my usual mournful, minor-sounding songs and into the merrier ones, most notably “The First Noel” by Davies Gilbert and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley.” (I am not sure what that says about where I am emotionally and spiritually at the moment, but it probably says something.) And of course, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” (also by Charles Wesley) never gets old.

I love how these hymn writers manage to embed the gospel story into their Christmas songs. So if you haven’t taken the time to read and contemplate all the verses, I hope you’ll be able to do so soon. Here is the link for the book I use for regular hymn playing as well as for Christmas carols. The difficulty level is just right for someone like me, who only took a year or two of piano lessons. I’m in love with this spiral-bound book, as it’s a great aid for personal and family worship.

The Family Christmas. All six of us were in dire need of a holiday from school and work. So two days before Christmas we went to the riverfront, where we could walk, scooter, and skateboard and even play football (we went in the morning before all the crowds arrived). Then we ate at a Lebanese restaurant, because nothing says Merry Christmas like Middle Eastern food. Later that night we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s a family tradition and a family and personal favorite, but I have particular notions of only watching it the day before Christmas or the day before that.

On Christmas Eve of course we went to church, but we also celebrated the Musel family way, with noodle soup, bread (though not homemade like Grandma’s), and the traditional cutting and eating of the apple. Then we watched It’s a Wonderful Life, a Hunzinger family Christmas Eve tradition. The power cut out in the middle of the movie, but it wasn’t too hot (in fact we had some downright cold days this month), and then we camped out around the Christmas tree. Christmas morning was lovely and cool and included presents from friends and family in the States. We spent the rest of the day reading our new books and playing with our new toys and games. Also we really splurged this Christmas and ate Indian food too. (What can I say? We really like Indian food and Mediterranean food. I’m certain heaven will be mostly filled with those two cuisines.)

The Boxing Day Party. We have some Canadian friends who celebrate the day after Christmas by inviting friends to come, eat, and talk. And afterwards, we sing more carols! I love this tradition. It’s all about the people, not the presents, about the fellowship, not the rush.

The Date. Jonathan and I went on a long date; it had been a long time since we had done that. For those of you in Cambodia, one of the things we did was go to Brown Coffee. I had no idea it would be so delicious. (It was my first time.) (What can I say? I don’t get out much.) It was so refreshing to spend so much time together and to talk about grownup things, not just family or education concerns. Jonathan listens and makes me laugh and makes me think and is my truest and best “schole” partner. Seventeen and a half years after saying “I do,” I’m more in love with him than I ever thought possible.

And now, enough about my month! On to reading and viewing recommendations.

 

FUNNY (BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A LITTLE FUNNY IN OUR LIVES)

33 Clickbait Headlines for Expats — Number 12 will Make You Gasp by Craig Thompson. If you have ever lived or served cross-culturally, you’ll get a real kick out of this article.

A couple more Studio C favorites: P90X (which my kids and I think is hilarious) and The Restaurant of Life (which my kids don’t yet understand but which I think is super funny and astute).

I just rediscovered Tim Hawkins, after several years of absence. These aren’t new clips, just new to me: Atheist Kids’ Songs (which humorously but truthfully points out the hopelessness of a life without God) and Yoga Pants which had me in stitches.

 

BOOKS

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. An incredibly important story. I read this on the recommendation of Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival. It’s all fun and games till the last few chapters when the story gets real — 1963 real. It tells of tragedy through the point of view of a child, similar to our Holocaust-era home school play, and similar to the recently released Cambodian genocide film First They Killed My Father. Stories like that have a different flavor than tragic stories told through the eyes of an adult, even if it’s an adult remembering his or her childhood. I bawled my way through the last few chapters, so be prepared.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. This is a Sonlight read aloud, and we’re not quite finished with it yet, but oh my, is it good. It’s a retelling of Arabian Nights with a new character injected into the story. As with all good stories, this book has something to teach us. Two of the more salient points are:

“You can’t just go chopping off the parts of a story that you don’t agree with and scrubbing the rest of it clean. You violate its spirit. You rob it of its power.”

“If we don’t share our stories — trading them across our borders as freely as spices and ebony and silk — we will all be strangers forever.”

So many things I could say about those two quotes, but I’ll just leave you with them for now.

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. I re-read his “Great O Antiphons” poetry for Advent. My favorites (four out of the seven — because apparently I can’t choose just one) are “O Sapienta,” “O Adonai,” “O Rex Gentium,” and “O Emmanuel.” Guite’s sonnets never get old. I love the sonnet form in general: its succinctness, its piercing intensity. And I love the way Guite can turn a phrase to mean both it and its opposite at the same time; his sonnets embody paradox. These poems are like hymns: worth revisiting over and over again, ever new yet always comfortingly old and true.

By the way, Guite is an Adult Third Culture Kid, having been born to British expat parents living in Nigeria. When I realized that, all of a sudden it made sense to me why I resonate so much with his work (which is also steeped in traditional Christian theology) and why he seems so comfortable with paradox. I recently received his Parable and Paradox: Sonnets on the sayings of Jesus and am looking forward to diving in. Don’t bother with poetry on Kindle; you need a physical copy of these poems.

I’m working my way through a few other books but need more time to formulate my thoughts on them. Specifically I’m reading a pair of books on creation/science/Genesis and a pair of books discussing the “holy ground” aspect of our everyday endeavors. For both pairs of books, I agree with some of the authors’ claims but am not yet convinced of other claims, so I really need more time to ponder them before commenting on them.

 

BLOG POSTS

We Said It Enough by Kelly Delp. For families with aching hearts. Pure poetry.

Why Mystery Stories Are the Cure For What Ails Us by Angelina Stanford. I’d been waiting for this article to come out for a long time. Stanford has revolutionized my understanding of both fairy tales and mystery stories. I interpret literature (and human behavior) differently because of her influence.

A Muslim, A Christian, and a Baby Named “God” by Rachel Pieh Jones. I teared up at several points during this “long reads” article. I love the way Rachel imbues dignity to people who are different from her while at the same time remaining steadfast in her own faith.

I also brought back several back copies of Christianity Today from my trip to the States, and I have to say: I love print magazines. I love holding something in my hands and being able to reference it again and again without opening up my computer. It also seems to me that the articles in Christianity Today are more thought-provoking and better thought out than many blogs out there. Don’t shoot me, but there just seems to be more meat in print.

I received some old copies of Pacific Standard magazine from my parents as well. Pacific Standard is secular but contains a wide variety of research and ideas, all fascinating. As I tell anyone who asks me for reading recommendations, I like to read both secular and Christian writers, so I can look for flaws in thinking on both sides, and so I can see where science and research can harmonize with Scripture, and where our worldviews depart from each other significantly.

 

MOVIES AND TV

I rewatched the remake of Cinderella on the airplane. And I was just in tears at the beauty of the story (my interpretation was informed, of course, by the teachings of Angelina Stanford). I love how this remake added so much depth to the characters.

All Saints. This was another airplane movie. A Christian movie well-done and not overly preachy (a rare find, don’t you think?), this story took place at the intersection of a small rural community, a troubled pastor, and a large group of Asian refugees. In many ways it felt like home to watch. Realistic, painful, and hopeful (which I find to be some of the things often lacking in Christian movies).

The Crownseason 2. Not finished with the season yet, but as I’ve mentioned before, the tension Elizabeth experiences between her responsibility as head of state and the needs and desires of her personal life feels very familiar to the tensions that ministry and missionary families experience. Plus I just love British culture and history. BIG CAVEAT: Skip episode 7. It’s far too graphic and disturbing. I wish I had known that ahead of time.

 

(NON CHRISTMAS) MUSIC

This Is Our God by Reuben Morgan. Especially the chorus: “Freely you gave it all for us, surrendered your life upon that cross, great is the love poured out for all, this is our God. Lifted on high from death to life, forever our God is glorified, servant and king rescued the world, this is our God.” Just describes our God so well and so fully.

Days of Elijah by Robin Mark (an oldie but a goodie). My favorite part is “It’s the year of jubilee.” I love how Michael Card fleshes it out in his song “Jubilee“: “Jubilee, Jubilee, Jesus is our Jubilee. Debts forgiven, slaves set free, Jesus is our Jubilee.” Read all of Card’s lyrics here. The sad and ironic aspect of Jubilee is that there’s no evidence the Jewish people ever practiced this amazing gift. But it was offered to them, pointing to Jesus all along, and now we have fulfillment of the promise in Jesus. So when I sing “Days of Elijah,” what illuminates my thinking during the song are the words of Michael Card’s teaching on Jubilee.