A Few of My Favorite Things {July 2017}

by Elizabeth

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Visiting another local church. Jonathan was scheduled to preach there, and we all went along to watch and listen. The song service was especially meaningful for me as the lyrics chosen were rich, contemplative, and full of truth. The songs have continued to sink deep into my soul throughout the month, and I include links to them at the end.

4th of July Family Day. The U.S. Embassy used to host a 4th of July party, and we miss not being able to participate anymore. So instead, we took the day off school and work, went swimming at a special water park, and then ate sub sandwiches at our favorite sub shop. No fireworks though. We’re excited about next year, when we can celebrate with my Mom’s family in rural Iowa.

A day to celebrate 17 years of marriage. We got a babysitter for the entire day and finished with supper at a rooftop restaurant. (I do love this city’s skyline.) Marriage has been good to us. I know not everyone can say that, so I do not take this gift lightly. All I can do is give thanks for it.

Vacation Bible School at our international church. Missionaries from around the country, as well as tons of local kids, attend this VBS every year. Every year, my kids learn new songs (with motions!) that teach deep truths about the Christian walk. And every year, I get to catch up with friends I don’t often see or talk to.

Chamomile tea. I drank this while Jonathan was out of town, to help me relax and fall asleep without him. Actually I’m back into teas in general, with Peppermint Tea and Spearmint Tea along for the ride, as well as English Breakfast Tea and Darjeeling Tea. Mostly I prefer Twinings.

 

BOOKS

Poppy and Rye by Avi. Clever little social commentary on privilege, anger, and outrage, and injustice. For read aloud time.

Dandelion by Don Freeman, the author of the more famous Corduroy. “Come as you are.” Why have I never heard this story before??

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. Another read aloud, this one from our history curriculum. Such a good story. We can relate to life in 1920’s China because of living in Cambodia – a fact which I hope will be helpful this entire year as we study Eastern Hemisphere with Sonlight.

The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy Sayers (a contemporary of Lewis and Tolkien). Simply delightful. Sometimes I need a break from fiction that’s socially conscious, or from non-fiction that’s educationally or politically minded. I needed to get lost in a completely separate world, and one with delightful accents. Still working through these short stories.

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. This follows right on the heels of Sayers’ stories. I finally finished this Velvet Ashes book club selection from last summer which I for some reason never finished. I thoroughly enjoy reading stories of the British upper classes in the first half of this century. These series are what I call “light reading” — they are not “twaddle.” Although easier to read, they still use language in delightful and surprising ways. I prefer to read them out loud when I can, and in my best British accent. This one is only $0.99 on Kindle.

What Falls From the Sky by Esther Emery. I’d heard really good things about this book but had avoided reading it for a couple reasons – neither of which was because I didn’t want to read it. First of all, at the beginning of this year I made a reading list that included all the print books I had laying around and all the Kindle books I had accumulated over the years but not read. I wanted to read books I’d already purchased before buying any new non-school books. (So basically I made it 6 months.) The second reason was because the easiest way to get this book was through Kindle, but since the book centered on disconnecting from electronic devices and communication, that choice seemed somehow “off” to me. I’d already been experimenting with disconnection from technology and wasn’t sure I needed a guide or story about it. But then Sarah Bessey linked to a $1.99 sale of this book, and I went for it. I am so glad.

Esther, like all good storytellers, somehow manages to tell her own very personal story while also telling the story of the rest of us. It takes my breath away, really. Then again, she is a former theatre director; storytelling is in her blood. Like all stories worth leaning into, this is a tale of brokenness and loss, healing and hope, and running from home and returning there. And the prose. Oh, the prose. There are large swaths of narrative that I just have to underline because the story is so compelling. Not just a pithy line here or there, but entire chunks of text. Note: it might still be on Kindle sale.

 

BLOG POSTS ON THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

On the Silence of God: When He Doesn’t Show Up Like You Need Him To by Rebecca Reynolds. Debunks two promises often offered to young people in American Christianity. Incredibly important.

Patrick Mead on lament.

Roll Away the Stone of Approval Seeking by Kay Bruner. Truth! Approval seeking is a way to control others’ opinion of me and their behavior toward me. And I have often been guilty of it.

Living the Dream by Anisha Hopkinson. All those things you’re wishin’ and hopin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’ for? They won’t fulfill, not really.

Pigeon Loaf, God, and Me by Renee Aupperlee. This post spoke to places deep inside me. If you want read more of my reaction, see my comment at the bottom of the post, which is especially relevant post for fellow lovers of C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces.

Paul’s Uncomfortable Jaunt into Christian Mysticism by Rebecca Reynolds. I have always loved this passage from I Corinthians 1, and this post dives into important issues surrounding rationalism and empiricism. I’m especially interested in this topic as I want my faith (and my children’s faiths) to be both intellectually sound and experientially true. But this is untenable for a faith system. Instead we are left with the spiritual aspect to faith that is proved neither by evidence nor intelligence but is, I believe, supported by both.

 

BLOG POSTS FOR THE GLOBALLY MINDED

God Bless America! (and other dangerous prayers) by Jonathan Trotter.

Both and Neither: Exploring My Third Culture Kid Identity by Chris Aslan.

Celebrating Anne with an E: Orphans in Popular Culture, a 3-part series by Stacie Ellinger. Stacie is a friend who works with local NGO Children in Families. She examines our beliefs about orphans through beloved fictional characters and then offers actual research and data. Parts 2 and 3 are here: Resilience and Reintegration and Family-Based Care in Fiction. Long but thoughtful, especially for those interested in exploring a broader approach to caring for children at risk.

 

BLOG POSTS ABOUT SCIENCE

Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays. Nifty, huh? Found through Brandy Vencel of Afterthoughts blog. With video.

Researchers Crack the Secret of the Moving Rocks of Death Valley on Interesting Engineering. Also fascinating. Also with video.

Pluto might be a planet again. Let’s talk about why this matters. by Sara Chodosh at Popular Science. I don’t have a nostalgic reason to want Pluto to be considered a planet; I’m perfectly fine with its relegation into dwarf planet or Kuiper Belt Object. I do recoil bit, however, at the implications of this new definition, which would make all moons orbiting planets into planets in their own right. We could have hundreds of planets in our solar system alone; this could get confusing.

All about magnetotactic bacteria, at Does God Exist? Design is evident in even the smallest of living things.

 

HOME SCHOOL AND PARENTING STUFF

Don’t Hate on TV, a 5-minute video by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.

Working Memory and Copywork, an hour-long interview with Rita Cevasco, speech pathologist and reading/writing specialist. Rita goes into the neurology behind why copywork matters, and I’ve revamped by copywork strategies because of this new information. By the way, working memory difficulties sometimes masquerade as attention deficits; but they’re not the same. Don’t forget to grab the free download.

Take Pain Seriously by Julie Bogart. I’ll be honest. I struggle finding balance with this. On the one hand I know pushing through tears and frustration can teach your child to dislike studying and learning and that we should pay attention to the cues they are sending us. And the younger the child, the more likely I am to pay attention because — on the other hand, I also know that in life we don’t just get to quit when we push up against something hard, and helping our children push through it can build their resiliency, which is especially important in children whose resiliency may be lower.

 

MOVIES AND PODCASTS

Ever After. So old but so good. I watch it with my girls when my husband goes out of town. It’s tradition! The accents are wrong, but everything else is so right.

Teach Us to Want Bible study series by Jen Pollock Michele on Right Now Media. All about desire and unmet desire and disappointment. Every time Jen talks I am in tears. How can a person so consistently speak to the deep places inside me, the places I’m mostly fearful to go??

Ella Enchanted. I had another slumber party with my girls while Papa was away. I remember seeing this movie when it first came out, but didn’t remember it at all, and I didn’t remember thinking I liked it. But maybe Lewis is right: “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Maybe I just had to grow up enough to return to the fairy tales. My daughters, on the other hand, have yet to outgrow them.

 

MUSIC

Hey, Annaliese by Hetty White. I responded viscerally to this song and initially, without words. But isn’t that the point of art, to communicate for us? Since then I’ve been able to put words to my feelings in some email correspondence. For now I’ll just leave you with the song, and the blog post that gives more insight to its genesis.

Bonus Song: When I shared this song with a friend, she in turn shared this song. To be honest it was almost too emotive for me. All the lost things we can’t get back. . . .sometimes it’s too much to consider. And the artistry in this video, oh, breathtaking.

The rest of the songs come from the church service we visited. All of these songs I have revisited and revisited this month. So rich and deep and meaningful.

Awake, Awake O Zion by Phatfish. Joyful, hopeful, and somehow solemn all at the same time.

Awake, awake O Zion
And clothe yourself with strength
Shake off your dust
And fix your eyes on Him
For you have been redeemed by
The precious blood of Jesus
And now you sit enthroned with Him

Our God reigns
He is King of all the earth
Our God reigns
And He’s seated on the throne
Lift your voice
And sing a song of praise
Our God reigns

The watchmen lift their voices
And raise a shout of joy
For He will come again
Then all eyes will see the
Salvation of our God
For He has redeemed Jerusalem

Come People of the Risen King by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend (authors of “In Christ Alone,” “O Church Arise,” and other modern hymns). I’m glad to have discovered more of the Gettys. Too good not to include all the lyrics here.

Come, people of the Risen King,
Who delight to bring Him praise;
Come all and tune your hearts to sing
To the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth
We will lift our eyes to Him,
Where steady arms of mercy reach
To gather children in.

Rejoice, Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice; O Church of Christ, rejoice!

Come, those whose joy is morning sun,
And those weeping through the night;
Come, those who tell of battles won,
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change,
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace.

Come, young and old from every land –
Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands –
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing –
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age:
“Our God is all in all!”

The Power of the Cross (Oh to see the dawn) also by Getty and Townend. Many thanks to Pastor Peter for choosing these songs that Sunday.

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath:
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face
Bearing the awesome weight of sin;
Every bitter thought,
Every evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees,
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
‘Finished!’ the victory cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death,
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the power of the cross:
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Christ is Risen by Matt Maher. Not new to me but always good to sing again.

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign
Forever let your church proclaim

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, he’s alive! he’s alive!

A Few of My Favorite Things {June 2017}

By Elizabeth

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The highlight of our month was definitely a trip to the Gulf of Thailand for an organizational conference. It had been years since I’d been to the sea, and I was desperate for some beach time. Beach time was somewhat limited due to the full conference schedule, but each morning after breakfast we were able to walk along the beach (which serendipitously coincided with low tide). Besides the nature fix, we enjoyed rich conversations with both teammates and other global workers, soul-filling worship with a well-known worship band, and an exceptional children’s program.

My friend’s Bran Muffins. At the beginning of the month we spent time with some friends who have now left on furlough. She served us her family’s old Bran Muffin recipe. They were filling and not too sweet, so I asked her for the secret recipe. Now I’m into muffin baking again, something I haven’t done for years.

An extended coffee date with another dear friend. We caught up in all things Life and dipped into some purposeful Life-with-Christ conversations, too.

I’ve also had a few really nice dates with my husband. And truly, that makes life so much more enjoyable, in spite of all the power outages we’ve been getting and in spite of all the things that keep breaking down and needing to be fixed.

BOOKS

Seeker by Helena Sorensen. I read the other two books in Helena’s series last summer but hadn’t gotten to this one yet. I knew it was supposed to be the saddest of the three and had sort of avoided it (doesn’t that just sound like pain-averse me?). Now that I’ve read it, though, I can say that this one was as beautifully written as the other two, if not more so. Certain sections just felt “truer.” The story is layered: as I read, I couldn’t help thinking that she was talking about more than just the story, she was talking about me. In some ways she reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle, with characters wiser and more self-aware than any of us mortals can generally hope to be, and whose theology works its way out through her (decidedly true) fiction.

The first and the third books in the series gave me courage and hope. This second book gave solace and kindredness. When I reached the end of Seeker, I was sobered and sad, yet glad for the chance to have read it. It’s one of those books that offers symbols for real-life situations. Do read it.

I haven’t made much other progress in the book department. The first week of summer break we basically just played with friends. The next week, we went to Conference, and anyone who’s ever been to Conference knows that it’s quite an energy investment. Which means that the week after conference I was still pretty wiped out.

In preparation for our upcoming school year, however, I was able to read some home school books — For the Children’s Sake most notable among them. Jonathan laughed when he saw me reading it, because growing up he saw that book around the house constantly. About the book: not only are the educational ideas lovely, but the language used to describe them is, too.

BLOG POSTS

A Walk Through the Tabernacle by Brian Phillips. This is a must-read article. I was already enamored of the Gospel of John, but this new information makes it even more breathtakingly powerful.

How Meditation Saved Me From Missions by Ann Hall. Ann is a personal friend of mine who recently started blogging, and when she talked about meditation on her own blog, I knew we needed her story at A Life Overseas. In this New Age-y world, Ann defines what biblical meditation is and is not while also offering a practical guide.

The Earth Between My Fingers by Glenn McCarty. This blog post reminded me of my friend Heidi Whitaker, the wife of a local Anglican priest, who explained sacrament to non-liturgical me. Our conversation a couple years ago was the beginning of a deeper journey to embrace the intersection of physicality and spirituality, something that fundamentalist-me had been running from for years. She told me:

“The Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses this definition: a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us. There’s also the pithy phrase “Matter matters.” It relates to the way God comes to us through matter (water, the bread and wine, etc) and to his value of matter (our physical bodies themselves and all of creation are precious to him – not evil or something to be escaped as in Gnosticism).”

Finding God in Fairytales by Tanya Marlow. Beautiful and experientially true (see: Shiloh and Till We Have Faces).

Existential Angst and the Creative Mind by Greg Wilbur. Thought-provoking post on Christian creativity and what it can be. I love the four points at the end. I hope my “art” can live up to these ideals.

No Moms, You Don’t Have to Wear a Bathing Suit. Just Be a Really Good You. By Rebecca Reynolds (author of this hilarious spring favorite). Everyone needs to be following Rebecca Reynolds on Facebook. The wisdom just pours out of her. Not all her posts are set to public, but here’s one example. Rebecca also wrote this piece, which I read several years ago, before I really knew who she was (but it apparently stuck with me). I love how she’s not afraid to go long-form, whether she’s on FB or in a blog. Rebecca is currently writing a book. I’m interested to see what it holds.

How Communal Singing Disappeared From American Life (and why we should bring it back) by Karen Loew (and found through Story Warren). Singing together was important to me growing up. And I miss it, which is one reason our family has recently begun singing together more often. As I heard Misty Edwards say once: “Singing is a spiritual experience that’s also physical, with physical sound waves leaving your voice box and traveling through the air to hit your and other people’s physical ear drums.” I personally think that’s why singing together is so bonding (there’s more to say on the subject of singing and sacrament, but for the time being I will refrain).

Member of the Family by Zach Franzen (for Story Warren). Beautiful little reflection on an Eleanor Estes story we read just last month. And don’t skip the poem at the end!

He Calls You: Beloved by Renee Aupperlee. Truth that is crucial to the Christian life — and, as one commenter noted, not cheesily delivered in the least.

Surprise! We Need to Learn from Christians from Other Cultures by Amy Medina. More important than I can say.

Your Short Term Trips Have Not Prepared You for Long Term Missions also by Amy Medina. Sobering and true. I am so glad Amy wrote this.

 

PODCASTS, VIDEOS, AND TELEVISION

Interview with Nell Goddard, author of Musings of a Clergy Child (and found through Tanya Marlow). I loved this interview so much. Nell is a “clergy child” — or as we Americans might say, a preacher’s kid. I have such an interest in this subject because all four of my children have been PKs since birth. Watch the book trailer here.

Christine Hoover interviews Jen Wilkin about the mistakes we make in friendship.  I love Christine and her book on grace. And I love the little I know of Jen Wilkin (see: her perspective on self-worth and her conversation on women in ministry with Russell Moore). A good listen, and some wise words.

Anne with an E. Not a favorite per se, but I figured this is as good a place as any to talk about the new Anne show, which I used my summer break to watch. (Hmm, maybe that’s where all my reading time went?) I read about the series before I began, so I knew what I was getting in to. I’m with other friends of mine who liked it, but didn’t love it. The story was darker and deviated from the source material. Now, to a certain extent I don’t mind darker (and this darkness wasn’t too terribly dark), and neither do I mind deviation from the source material. It’s just that the additional story matter seemed out of place to me, historically speaking. Don’t get me wrong; the story still resonated, but it was no longer whimsical. It was mostly enjoyable for me as an adult, but it certainly isn’t for children.

I can comment favorably on the characters, however: I loved this new Marilla. She had more depth of emotion and internal struggle (sorry Colleen Dewhurst, I loved your Marilla too, she’s just a different one!). Rachel Lynde is much more nuanced and sympathetic in this one, and I liked her better (in much the same way that Keira Knightley’s Mrs. Bennet is more realistic and bearable than Colin Firth’s Mrs. Bennet). Megan Follows is of course the very best Anne ever, hands down. But this new Gilbert, now, he’s exceptional. He seems more appropriately cast, age-wise, and he has more depth to his character too. Instead of just a boy in love with Anne, he has a life outside of Anne (but Jonathan Crombie, you are every girl’s dream-come-true: a man desperately in love with just one girl, and a finicky one at that). As for Matthew, well, I haven’t decided which Matthew I like better. I think I like both equally. Both are portrayed well, though differently. Ok, now that I’ve blabbed on and on, please give your Anne thoughts in the comments!

 

MUSIC

Did I mention the worship at Conference was fantastic? I did? Oh, let me tell you again: the worship at Conference was fantastic. Here are two brand-new-to-me songs that I learned there (although as usual I preferred the live versions to the Youtube versions). Both these songs were on repeat at my house all month.

The Lion and the Lamb by Leeland Mooring, Brenton Brown, and Brian Johnson.

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him

Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

O Praise the Name (Anastasis)  by Dean Ussher, Marty Sampson, and Benjamin Hastings (Hillsong). A gospel story-song more powerful than I can say.

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me.
I see His wounds,His hands, His feet.
My Saviour on that cursed tree
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb.
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone
Then on the third at break of dawn, 
The Son of heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
He shall return in robes of white, 
The blazing Son shall pierce the night. 
And I will rise among the saints,
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

A Few of My Favorite Things {May 2017}

By Elizabeth

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This month we finished our school year! We also had some health issues (bummer). In fact it was so crazy that I don’t even have any book reviews for you. (I miss reading books.) But I did find two new semi-healthy recipes that we are loving: Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes (which are mommy’s treat) and your basic Energy Bites, which the whole family loves (but I don’t add the chocolate chips).

 

BLOG POSTS

Ask a Counselor: roll away the stone of perfectionism by Kay Bruner. This came at the absolute right time for me. I had been doing hefty battle with the foe of perfectionism and needed a friend and guide and, most especially, a “me too.” Still working on some of these issues of perfectionism.

7 Ways We Secretly Rank Each Other by Amy Young. So good, and so uncomfortably true. Somehow Amy managed to touch on all the ways we rank ourselves and others . . . . even the ones we’d rather not admit.

On Home and Keeping Place, in which Marilyn Gardner interviews author Jen Pollock Michel. The interview stirred something deep inside me, and it moved me to watch the Keeping Place discussion series on my Right Now Media account. I haven’t read the book, but the discussion series delves more deeply into the theological basis for these longings, which was so helpful.

In Solidarity With the Butt Wipers by Leslie Verner. Although I’m not in the exact same “young mom” season as Leslie, I found myself nodding my head to the things she was saying. Many of her statements apply to older stages of motherhood too, including the inability to catch up, the occasional desire to run away, and the guilt that tags along with that desire.

 

FUNNY VIDEOS

I loved Kid Snippets so much that I started watching them WITH my kids. Fast Food and Hair Salon are still two of my favorites, and their conversations have become part of our family vernacular, much like this NFL Bad Lip Reading. Now we’ve discovered Bedtime, which is our much-quoted collective favorite (everything seems to “scamper off” now). Making Friends and Lunch are also good.

Then I came across this MAYhem video from the Holderness family, which pretty much describes the end of a home school year too! We’re glad to be on break now! I hope to return next month with a review of Helena Sorensen’s Seeker (the 2nd installment in her thought-provoking Shiloh series), which was too much for me to get to this month.

A Few of My Favorite Things {April 2017}

There was a lot going on in our home school co-op in April, including a drama production and our end-of-year celebration, so I’m late in publishing my Favorite Things. This month I also have a separate Home Education/Parenting section, so if you’re interested in that, be sure to scroll down to it. There’s some really funny stuff from this month, too, that I wouldn’t want you to miss. Hope you enjoy! ~Elizabeth

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Easter Sunday was, as usual, phenomenal at our international church. I went through a dry season last year, but after seeing a spiritual director in January, I’ve been able to respond to God emotionally again, which made Easter all the better.

One of my sisters is skyping us regularly for phonics lessons with my youngest daughter. It’s precious to watch them getting to know each other better and helpful to learn some new kinesthetic tools for reading instruction.

We received a package from my mom and new hand-me-down clothes from a teammate.

We have also procured new hand-me-down tables for the school room whose shape and height make more room for both study and play.

Jonathan and I had the chance to teach at a youth event. He talked about a Biblical view of sexuality, and I talked about building intimacy with God. Opportunities for me to serve outside the home can be rare indeed, and I always appreciate them when they come along.

Most recently, I participated in the Velvet Ashes Online Retreat with a friend. It was so good to catch up with her personally and to process the retreat material together. The retreat material stirred up issues inside me that I didn’t know needed addressing — which was good but not fun.

 

BOOKS

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Here I am again, reading children’s lit and calling it leisure. This one made me laugh but also offered astute insights into human nature and the mind of a child.

The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Ester. This is the second book about the Moffats, and though I’ve read it aloud before, the girls don’t remember it, and we’re giving it a re-read. Jane, “the middle Moffat,” cracks us up!

Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. I finally finished this one, just in time for Easter. I wish I had a book club for this book (and his other Gospel commentaries). There are so many things to think on.

Invitations from God by Adele Calhoun. Almost finished with this one.

Also I just barely started Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder, which is his commentary on the book of Revelation. It takes my breath away, it is so different from anything I’ve ever read on Revelation. It’s poetic and pastoral and speaks to the pastor and poet within.

 

BLOG POSTS

First the FUNNY: Cosmo and Déjà Vu by Rebecca Reynolds. I laughed so hard I was shaking. I think I interrupted my husband’s own date with a nerd book. This is long but WORTH IT. Whatever you do, do not skip this post.

Now the overseas living stuff:

In Defense of Second Class Missionaries by Amy Medina.

You Are Not a Failure by Rachel Pieh Jones.

Three Reasons to Love an International Church by Jerry Jones.

And finally, this prayer from Danielle Wheeler.

 

MOVIES AND PODCASTS

Hidden Figures. Deviates somewhat from history, as do all movies, but this is a truly perfect storyline. And after watching her in this movie (and in the series Person of Interest), I can say Taraji P. Henson is a truly brilliant actress.

Bejeweled was a movie I watched on the Disney Channel growing up, and I wanted my children to see it. It can be incredibly difficult to find some of these made-for-TV movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s, but I was able to find a mediocre version online that was good enough to introduce my kids to this family-friendly non-murder mystery.

Polly was another made-for-TV movie from my childhood. (My family used to have both on VHS, but who knows what VHS is anymore, let alone still has the video players?) I was able to find a version of this one online too. It’s based on the classic Pollyanna story, but with a racial reconciliation twist. I wept at the ending. It was even better than I remember. I can’t wait for the new heaven and new earth when all WILL be made right.

Next up for movies from my childhood? Hopefully Perfect Harmony, another Disney movie about racial reconciliation.

Kathy Litton on Helping Grieving Friends at Grace Covers Me.

An evangelical climate scientists talks to David Remnick about winning over climate change skeptics. A short 15-minute listen. Powerful.

Kid Snippets from Bored Shorts. I laugh so hard at these. (See below for explanation and specific links.)

 

HOME EDUCATION AND PARENTING

First the FUNNY: Math Class from Kid Snippets.

Which reminded me of this meme:

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Other good Kid Snippets are “Fast Food,” “Hair Salon,” “Driver’s Ed,” and “Salesman.” I watched all of these with my kids. Hysterical.

Attachment Parenting in the Teen Years: 8 Applications by Melia Keeton-Digby. In the early years I was most definitely an attachment parent, but I never really thought about it extending past the baby and toddler stages.

Getting Through to Teenage Slackers by Joshua Gibbs.

Processing Speed 101, a Webinar at the online community Understood. This is an interview with the authors of Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up: Help Your Child Overcome Slow Processing Speed and Succeed in a Fast-Paced World. Encouragement and explanation for those with non-traditional learners.

The Low-Down on Narration from the Schole Sisters (Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill, and Mystie Winckler). I need all the help I can get on narration.

Sheila Carroll on Narration for the Mason Jar podcast. You may have to search iTunes to access the entire interview, including the info on narration.

Amusing Ourselves to Leisure, also from the Schole Sisters. Comforting to know I’m not the only one who gets to the end of the day or the week and is too tired to do something educational for myself.

Pam Barnhill’s interview with Missy Andrews of Center for Lit (whose podcast I also listen to when I have the time). It’s always helpful to hear experienced mothers talk about family and education.

 

MUSIC

In Jesus Name by Darlene Zschech.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship.

Covered by Planetshakers.

Victors Crown by Darlene Zschech.

Even So Come by Kristian Stanfill.

Even Unto Death by Audrey Assad.

Hosanna by Paul Baloche.

We Believe by Newsboys.

Overcome by Jeremy Camp.

The modern worship songs I mostly hear at church, and I truly love them. But I’m still homesick for the acappella hymns of my childhood, and since my kids don’t know them, we’ve recently started adding hymns to our morning family devotionals. We take one hymn and sing it all week long. So far we’ve done We Praise Thee O God, Hallelujah Praise Jehovah, and To God Be the Glory. Every time I sing a hymn I think it must my favorite. But they’re pretty much all like that. I love their beautiful language and their metrical structure and their theological depth. So much truth packed into a small, easy-to-swallow (and memorize) package.

A Few of My Favorite Things {March 2017}

by Elizabeth

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Ash Wednesday service at the Anglican church. I had never been to an Ash Wednesday service before but really wanted to go. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t expect to find a literal puddle of tears forming on the lenses of my glasses during the first kneel-down prayer (and oops, I’d forgotten to pack tissues). Ash Wednesday offers us a communal way to come back to God, to remember that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return,” and to be reminded to “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” In the sermon the priest spoke about the nature of sin to isolate, but how confession breaks this power. He also taught that regret can take up space in our souls, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Confession frees up that space. I also learned something important about burnout from the Psalm 51 reading.

Team Expansion Ladies’ Retreat. I love the ladies on my team, but with all of us having busy schedules and some of us separated by long distances, we don’t often get to spend time just being with each other. So for 24 hours, that’s just what we did. We talked, we ate, we laughed, we played games, we took a walk at sunset, we made art, and we stayed up way too late. It was awesome.

Baked Oatmeal. I’m loving this crock pot recipe lately. It’s not too sweet, so even though it smells like oatmeal cookies while it’s cooking, it’s not sweet enough to attract my children’s taste buds, which leaves more for me to eat for breakfast throughout the week, right?

I’m also back into hummus and carrots, after quite a long absence in my diet. I’ve taken to rinsing and removing the skins of the chick peas before grinding, which both makes the hummus smoother and reduces the amount of olive oil needed (thereby reducing stomach issues for me).

Crying with friends. I was having a particularly bad day/week this month, and although I didn’t intend to, I broke down in front of a couple friends (in the school library, of all places). I’m thankful for friends who accept me at my most raw (and I felt so much better after crying with them).

The wisdom of G.K. Chesterton. My husband is reading Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and he reads memorable sections out loud to me. They are morsels of wisdom in a world gone mad. Although Chesterton was writing about a hundred years ago, he is surprisingly current.

 

BOOKS

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. If the mark of a good book is that I laugh all the way through it and cry at the end, then this book is a GOOD book. I had avoided reading it because of 1) the drab cover and 2) the uncommunicative title. Truly, it needs a happier cover, because Cindy doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she had me laughing out loud in bed and laughing out loud in the church fellowship hall. So do yourself a favor and get this book. It’s geared towards homeschooling moms, but any mom-of-littles or mom-of-many will appreciate Cindy’s wisdom. It’s not on Amazon Kindle yet, but they promise it will be soon.

Invitations From God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. You must read this book. It’s the current Velvet Ashes book club book, and it’s basically a collection of all the spiritual lessons I’ve been learning over the last 5 years or so, written in a very conversational tone. Jonathan recommends Emotionally Healthy Spirituality all the time, as a collection of the lessons God has taught him over the last several years. Invitations from God is going to become MY go-to spiritual growth recommendation.

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. This book is a coming of age story that’s definitely an “adult read.” This story does not shy away from grief and sorrow, and I certainly did not expect to ugly cry so much at the end of it. It does make me wonder — is grief a natural and accepted part of American Southern culture in general? (I’m thinking along the lines of Steel Magnolias and Because of Winn-Dixie here.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. With this book, sometimes you just gotta stop and laugh. So we did. I hope to get my hands on the other books in the series someday soon.

Mark by Michael Card. Yes, still slowly working through this. Oh my goodness, the commentary on chapter 10 was excellent – I’ll share some in the Quotes section.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. I read through her lengthy Lent chapter, which was full of gold nuggets. I’ll also list some below.

 

BLOG POSTS

The Crown Must Always Win, a conversation between Joshua Gibbs and Heidi White. I love the show The Crown. It’s emotionally and politically dense, and certainly not a binge-watching show, but I love the interplay between Call/Duty and Love/Relationship. As a missionary/pastor’s wife, I relate to these issues so much, even if I’m nowhere close to being royal.

So I Quit Drinking by Sarah Bessey. This is a LONG read, like a book chapter, but it’s so good I cried. Not because I drink — though I’ve had friends and family who’ve struggled to put down the drink — but because that tender, tenacious conviction from the Spirit is how I felt about taking Sundays off technology. I was nudged and nudged and nudged that way until I finally obeyed, and lo and behold I am light and free and have begun to count on my tech-free Sundays for true Sabbath.

The Gift of a Second Salvation by Esther Kline. This guest post at A Life Overseas tugged at my heart and resonated with my spirit and is such good news.

A Conversation with Jen Wilkin from Russell Moore. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear “conservatives” push back against hyper-conservative practices such as the outlawing of women in ministry or of male/female friendships (my husband wrote on that subject here).

Reconciliation Before Promotion by Russ Parker for Amy Boucher Pye’s Forgiveness Fridays series. I dare you not to cry at this true story of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Why Students Need to Hear Epic Unrelated Tangents by Joshua Gibbs. This article reminds me of my more favorite and impactful teachers: the ones who were free to “tangent.” It reminds me to allow my kids to tangent with their interests. Of course this tangential approach to teaching only works if we have LOTS of time at home and no rush to get anywhere (which wasn’t the case at our house for most of month).

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan About Poverty and Empathy by Karen Weese. Around here I purposefully refrain from posting about political topics, and to be honest I don’t really even know who Paul Ryan is or what he stands for. I only know that after having spent some time in the States and abroad working with poverty, the statements and stories in this article ring true to me.

 

PODCASTS AND VIDEOS

The Shoe Song: a gift to every parent who’s having a tough day from Jen Fulwiler. Pure fun. Also desperately true sometimes.

Thoughts from the mother of a beautiful brown child as the Confederate flag flies from the back of pickup trucks. From a friend. Well-articulated and compassionately delivered.

The Intersection of Effortlessness and Hard Work with Dr. Christopher Perrin at Schole Sisters. I have almost given up listening to podcasts – it’s what I did on Sunday afternoons that didn’t provide me the rest I really needed, and when I went offline on Sundays, I mostly don’t listen anymore. But I occasionally find time and this one was a good one. (I’ve listened to Dr. Perrin speak about Schole before.)

This interview with Tara Owens, author of Embracing the Body, was also good.

As was this interview with Jonathan Rogers, who wrote a book on St. Patrick. I love St. Patrick’s Day (I explain why here). Did you know there’s not much evidence to suggest Patrick used the shamrock to teach about the Trinity? I was also interested to learn that he was consistently in trouble with Rome for reaching out to the native pagan Irish (having been sent to Ireland only to care for the small transplanted flock there). His fight against the establishment made me like him more now than ever.

Faerie Tale Theatre. These shows are old, old, old, but when we started reading fairy tales together, I remembered them from my childhood. Not all of the episodes are child-friendly enough, but The Snow Queen and The Dancing Princesses are. My family watched them on the only English-speaking channel when we were stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. I found old copies on Youtube to show my kids.

And finally, the new Beauty and the Beast film. I particularly appreciated the Beast’s transformation. You can literally watch love begin breaking in to his heart. It makes the storyline more enjoyable and more believable.

 

MUSIC AND POETRY

Refugee by Malcolm Guite. Oh my goodness, do NOT miss this poem.

Only King Forever by Elevation Worship. Good gracious, these LYRICS (and that RHYTHM).

Our God a firm foundation
Our rock, the only solid ground
As nations rise and fall
Kingdoms once strong now shaken
But we trust forever in Your Name
The Name of Jesus
We trust the Name of Jesus

You are the only King forever
Almighty God we lift You higher
You are the only King forever
Forevermore, You are victorious

Unmatched in all Your wisdom
In love and justice You will reign
And every knee will bow
We bring our expectations
Our hope is anchored in Your Name
The Name of Jesus
Oh, we trust the Name of Jesus

You are the only King forever
Almighty God we lift You higher
You are the only King forever
Forevermore, You are victorious

We lift our banner high
We lift the Name of Jesus
From age to age You reign
Your kingdom has no end

Even If by MercyMe. Wow. May this be true of my faith.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

 

QUOTES

Ecclesiastes 7:3 in The Message, sent from my “crying library” friends:

“Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face but scours the heart.”

From Sue Hanna, in a lesson taken from Abraham and his father Terah:

“When we begin life in Christ, we are headed for the Promised Land, but most of us settle in Haran. Then we die there.”

“It’s all right to get stuck (for a while). It’s not all right to settle.”

Michael Card in Mark:

“Jesus’ response, that the man should sell everything and follow him, is not the answer to the man’s question. It is a litmus test that reveals the truth; he has not kept all the commandments. He has broken the first one and made money his god.” (On the rich young ruler’s question about what he must DO to inherit eternal life.)

“A person does not enter the kingdom with anything — not with wealth, not with accomplishments, not with degrees. We come into the kingdom with one possession: the grace of Jesus Christ.” (On the camel going through the eye of a needle and rich people entering the kingdom.)

Madeleine L’Engle in The Irrational Season:

“We all know that no one can see God and live, it’s all through the Bible. And it isn’t only a Judeo-Christian idea — it’s in Greek and Roman mythology too: in fact, it’s a basic presupposition of humankind.”

“But he [Jacob] recognized God when he wrestled with Him, and he limped forever after. And that limp is important, for the point the Old Testament writer is making by emphasizing Jacob’s thigh is that anyone who has seen the living God and survived is marked by this experience and is recognized forever after by the mark.”

A Few of My Favorite Things {February 2017}

Well, here I am again, with the best stuff from this month in both my real life and in my reading and music world. ~Elizabeth

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Sabbatical. I took two full weeks off the internet at the end of January and beginning of February. It was magnificent. I honestly did not miss the internet at all, and I got a ton of reading done.

Skywatching. I wrote about my excitement over seeing Venus for the first time here.

Laughter. This very sheet-y story had me laughing for days. Days. (Make sure you read the comments.)

Cool season in Cambodia. I have to say that overall, February was still pretty cool.

Tea. I’ve discovered Twinings English Breakfast Tea, and I must say it’s far superior to Lipton.

A day-long date with the hubs. A friend gave us some gift money to spend on a date, so we went out for the entire day (!) to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

Jars of Clay. This is the coffee shop where I go most Wednesday afternoons to write (on my brilliant husband’s suggestion). It’s recently been remodeled and is now even cozier and more comfortable for working.

Spiritual direction sessions. I met with someone for spiritual direction during our two-week sabbatical. It gave me the courage to address a few things in my life, to place better boundaries around work, ministry, and technology, and to reconnect with God. I wasn’t dealing with any “new” issues; I was merely forgetting to apply the Gospel to all my old issues. (This felt like both good news and bad news at the same time.)

Sunday Screen Sabbath. After finishing my two-week technology break, I felt convicted to take a weekly break from screens and from the internet. I’ve felt this nudge before but never been brave enough to follow through. Now that I’ve tried it, however, I want to keep fasting from the internet for 24 hours once a week. The first Sunday was the hardest, but the tech break became easier with each successive Sunday.

A “Prayer for the Nations” Sunday at our international church. We focused on various geographical locations and prayed about four main areas: governments, churches, migrants and refugees, and families. The flags of about 35 countries had been set up around the room, and during the offering song people were encouraged to grab a flag and wave it around as we sang and prayed, in an Old Testament-inspired “wave offering.” I watched teens from different countries grab their own flags. I watched visitors from different countries grab their own flags. I watched my own daughters grab their flag, and I burst into tears, for that is literally the flag I grew up under, as a daughter of a U.S. Army officer. We all want to see revival and spiritual flourishing in our own countries, even as we leave those countries to serve God in Cambodia. Later in the service we sang “How Great is Our God” in six different languages, including Khmer. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful picture of all nations, all tribes, and all tongues bowing down before God in heaven. I cried for the sheer beauty of it. In fact, I had to sit down when the service was over to cry some more and contemplate the truth of our final destiny with Christ.

 

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS (PLUS ONE MOVIE)

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. This was the last of our Narnia adventures for a while (we worked our way through all seven of them over the last year). I don’t remember this installment being one of my favorites, but I have to say that this time through I loved it (then again, how can anyone say anything less when it comes to Lewis???). My favorite quote is “’Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.’”

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. We started this book right after we finished Narnia, and we LOVE it. It’s so fun and funny. One of my kids was gone for a few days this month, though, and we didn’t want to read ahead in The Penderwicks without everyone present, so the rest of us started up  The Moffats again — another delightful children’s story.

This month I realized that although I had read fairy tales to the boys when they were younger, I never did read any to my girls. We have so many other books we’re always reading, and sometimes fairy tales contain magic, and sometimes the happily-ever-after endings grate on me because they seem too perfect. But I got two of Sonlight’s recommended fairy tale books, and lo and behold, my daughters LOVE them. Fairy tales are an important part of western culture that I need to make sure my little TCKs know, but moreover, reading these fairy tale endings reminded me why people have been drawn to these stories for ages – we are all still longing for our final happily-ever-after with King Jesus, and fairy tales point to that longing.

One of my favorite things to do on my own is to read children’s literature. Basically I just thumb through all the Sonlight readers we have laying around, and I pick one. This month in my extra free time I was able to devour The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin, and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope. The first is a delicious mystery that’s also a study in character, the second is a mystery that’s just plain fun, and the last is a subtle, sweet story set in American Revolutionary times. I also started Cold Sassy Tree (a non-children’s novel set in the post-Civil War South) by Olive Ann Burns but have only made it half-way through. Of all of these books, The Westing Game is my favorite.

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. My husband has been recommending this to me for quite some time now. In addition to helping me identify areas in my work and parenting that need stronger boundaries, this book also taught me that boundary problems are not just for people like me, who have a weak “no.” People who make their demands felt too strongly and cannot hear no also have boundary problems. The chapter on self-control issues was unexpected and convicting, but also appreciated. It explained that when we can’t say no to ourselves, whether it’s food, money, sex, time, alcohol — whatever our problem is – that is also a boundary issue.

Misunderstood by Tanya Crossman. This brand new book on Third Culture Kids was written by a personal friend of ours. Its title encapsulates the main feeling of today’s TCKs: they feel misunderstood on all fronts — whether it’s from people in their home culture or people in their passport culture or even people in their families.

I skipped straight to the home school section, and what I read there was very encouraging. The main challenges faced by TCKs in homeschooling families are a) lack of friends or social network and b) lack of educational help or tutoring. We work hard on both these fronts, by participating in a co-op and by arranging extra times for our kids to hang out with their friends. I’m also always around to answer questions – I was surprised to learn that some TCKs whose parents are in full time ministry must do their lessons basically on their own, with no outside help besides having the answer key to look off of. (The good news for full time working parents who homeschool is that if they hire a tutor for their kids, things can still work out educationally speaking.)

I also noticed myself in the portrayal of long-term TCKs who become resistant to new people entering their circles. The longer I’m here, the less energy and time I have to welcome new people into my life. I’m still not sure how I feel about that yet.

The Living Cross by Amy Boucher Pye. To be fair, I haven’t read this yet. It’s my Lent study for this year (the last 2 years I worked through a book specifically designed for Lent). I know Amy through blogging and enjoyed her first book Finding Myself in Britain, and I’m looking forward to the subject material of forgiveness, as I often find forgiveness to be a mystery, whether it’s of myself or of others.

Fiddler on the Roof. We watched this movie with our kids one Saturday morning. I hadn’t seen it since I was 18, and nearly 18 extra years of life really make a difference in understanding a story. This time, I cried through many of the scenes, especially “Sunrise, Sunset” (because my children are growing so fast), “Do You Love Me?” (because that’s what sacrificial love looks like), and the final “God-be-with-you” blessing of Chava by her Papa (because that’s what parents do, even when they disagree with their children’s choices).

On a related note, I recently read some advice that said that if you read Little Women as a teen or young girl, you’ll most likely identify with Jo. If you read it in your twenties or as a young mom, you might identify with Meg. But if you wait long enough to re-read it, you just might understand the story from Marmie’s point of view. Similarly, it was mentioned that if you read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books as a young person, you’ll identify with Anne (of course), but if you read it later in adulthood, you might understand better why Marilla and the other adults in the story were so frustrated by Anne’s antics. I just found that interesting in light of the fact that I had just re-watched Fiddler on the Roof and experienced it completely differently than I did as a teenager. It also made me think I really need to re-read Little Women and the Anne books!

 

BLOG POSTS

Living Overseas and Fear: Learning to Banish Love’s Twin by Lisa McKay. I love everything about this post. It’s dense and meaty but every sentence is important, and it’s for everyone, not just people living overseas.

The Gift of Need: MKs and Isolation by Michele Phoenix. I’m not an MK, but I saw myself in this article way more than I’d like to admit. Another top pick for the month.

Every Sin is the Lesser of Two Evils by Joshua Gibbs. This will make you question where in your life you are tolerating compromise.

Questioning Your Calling by Jerry Jones. “’Calling’ gets tossed around flippantly — sometimes carelessly.” This article offers basic yet profound truth in a practical package, as usual for Jerry. The cross cultural wisdom at his own site is also excellent.

Thoughts on Sharing Our Stories  by Marilyn Gardner. A call to honesty and humility in the way we tell our own stories and the stories of others.

Remember how I raved about Helena Sorensen’s Shiloh series last year? Well, the Velvet Ashes book club read it this month, and if you’re wanting a taste of the book before you decide to read it, or simply want to discuss it or discover what others think of it, check out this blog series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The last part dips into Helena’s writing process, which I found entirely refreshing and grounding.

 

QUOTES & POEMS

This quote from G.K. Chesterton.  And here,  another similar quote from Chesterton. Both on home and belonging and feeling lost.

Love (III) by George Herbert. Probably my most favorite poem of the month, along with Guite’s. This is a perfect description of perfect love and how we cower back in fear of it, and it’s nearly 400 years old. I’m always amazed when such

Mary (Theotokos) by Malcolm Guite. I didn’t read Guite’s poems for a while – I avoided them because I was busy and these poems require a lot of concentration to fully absorb. But I love this one (even though it was written for the Christmas season).

As referenced by Amy Young in The Question Heard Round the World: C.S. Lewis wrote in Pilgrim’s Regress Be sure it is not for nothing that the Landlord has knit our hearts so closely to time and place – to one friend rather than another and one shire more than all the land.”

 

SCRIPTURES & RESPONSES

Philippians 3:3: “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.”

Philippians 3:8: “I no longer count on my own righteousness.”

(I got really into Philippians this month — many more verses are recorded in my journal.)

(I also got really into the Transfiguration this month, thanks to Michael Card’s commentary on Mark. Card’s book also inspired this post.)

Psalm 145:3: “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise. No one can measure His greatness.” No one can measure His greatness – can we even imagine what that means??

Proverbs 12:12: “Thieves are jealous of each other’s loot, but the godly are well-rooted and bear their own fruit.” (I wrote here about how that verse made such an impact on me.

From a recent lesson by Ann Greve (these are not exact quotes): In John’s gospel, soldiers come looking for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus answers, “I AM he,” everyone falls to the ground – including Judas. This is a picture for us of the power that Jesus really had over his captors.

It also reminded me of three sections in Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. Firstly, there’s a point at which the main character encounters Aslan and wordlessly slips off his horse to bow down and worship him, without really even knowing why he feels compelled to do so. At another point, a talking horse meets Aslan for the first time and trots right up to him to announce that he can eat her if he want, that she’d rather be eaten by him than fed by anyone else. These two characters instinctively know Aslan’s glory. But later, a proud, arrogant fool of a prince refuses to bow before Aslan and is warned, and warned again, and then punished for his refusal. And that reminded me of Philippians 2:10: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee. Every tongue. Like the men in the Garden, and like the characters in Narnia who bow willingly — or unwillingly. We will all confess and we will all bow.

Also from a recent lesson from Ann Greve on John 18, when Peter cuts off Malchus’s ear. When we get angry like Peter and act out on that anger without understanding the plan of God, we have a tendency to “run around cutting people’s ears off.” That was such a word picture for me of what Peter was doing, and of what we and I can so easily do, run around in our anger injuring people and doing more damage than needs to be done.

More Narnia and Ann Greve connections: “When God told Moses ‘I AM that I AM,’ He was both revealing and withholding.” Which of course reminds me of my favorite quote from The Horse and His Boy about Aslan only telling people their own stories, not the stories of others — a revealing and a withholding.

 

SONGS

(Prepare yourself, because I have a lot of new and old songs that spoke to me this month.)

One day my girls were doing sticker art, and I sat down next to them with my beloved Songs of Faith and Praise and started singing. I just love hymns, but too often I forget to take the time to sing them. I specifically chose songs about creation or heaven, because I knew they would like them. These are the songs we sang:

Nearer My God to Thee  by Sarah Flower Adams.

There is a Habitation by Love H. Jameson.

On Zion’s Glorious Summit Stood by John Kent. Oh for the days of Bible camp when the entire camp sang this in 4-part harmony.

Have You Seen Jesus my Lord? A more modern camp song.

Can You Count the Stars? by Johann Wilhelm Hey and translated by E.L.J.

We Saw Thee Not by Anne R. Richter. Have you read these lyrics lately? Amazing.

This is My Father’s World by Maltbie D. Babcock. A childhood favorite of mine, and of their maternal grandmother’s. It’s ok to shout those last two songs, isn’t it??

Jubilee by Michael Card. Card’s music is always full of theology, and this (older song) is no different.

Be Kind to Yourself by Andrew Peterson. A song to sing over our children or over ourselves. Was on repeat at our house a lot.

Jesus We Love You by Paul McClure (and Bethel). I heard this at a church I visited. Has been in my head and on my lips all month. The words are good enough to copy here:

Old things have passed away
Your love has stayed the same
Your constant grace remains the cornerstone

Things that we thought were dead
Are breathing in life again
You cause your Son to shine on darkest nights

For all that you’ve done we will pour out our love
This will be our anthem song

Jesus we love you
Oh how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore

The hopeless have found their hope
The orphans now have a home
All that was lost has found its place in you
You lift our weary head
You make us strong instead
You took these rags and made us beautiful

Dwell by Casey Corum (and Vineyard). A beautiful “breath prayer” for any time of day. I heard it at a church we visited.

All Creatures of our God and King by Francis of Assisi and translated by William H. Draper, also from our Sunday morning visit to another church. In my head I can only hear Fernando  Ortega’s version.

Come Out of Hiding by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook (of Bethel). I’ve shared this before, but it was relevant to me again this month.

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser. Oh how often I forget my truest, deepest identity, especially when I‘m too busy “working for God.” But my husband played this for me again this month, and again I put it on repeat.

Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship. “Here in Your presence, all things are new, here in Your presence, everything bows before You.”

Mercy by Matt Redman. I was listening to my little iPod Shuffle when this song came on. I put it on repeat, just could not stop listening. “I will kneel in the dust at the foot of the cross, where mercy paid for me, where the wrath I deserve, it is gone, it has passed, your blood has hidden me.” I pray along with the song, “May I never lose the wonder, oh, the wonder of Your mercy, may I sing Your hallelujah, hallelujah, amen.”

And finally, Beneath the Waters by Hillsong, especially the bridge:

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your Lordship
And glorify Your Name
Your Word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
An on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone
I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

A Few of My Favorite Things {January 2017}

My favorite things come a bit early this month, as I’m preparing to take two weeks off from the internet. ~Elizabeth

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Taking a Kassiah Jones Day. I took one of these right after New Year’s. We worked really hard in December on our co-op play, and we didn’t take much time off for Christmas, and then my husband got sick, so by the time I got to New Year’s, I was desperate for a break. I was so glad I took one.

A couple weeks at home. January gave us some downtime in between the chaos of Christmas and the start of this semester’s home school co-op. I took the opportunity to take better care of my body (through exercise, which I neglected last semester) and better care of my marriage (through time with my husband, which I also sometimes neglected).

Hearing the birds. Our neighborhood is loud, but we had one week this month when I actually heard the tweeting of birds in the mornings. It was glorious. I wrote about it here on Facebook.

Attending a ladies’ retreat. This event was a couple of hours outside the city, so there were long walks to be had and more nature to be enjoyed. But the part I liked best was getting to know more deeply some ladies whom I’d only seen in passing.

 

BOOKS

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. We’ve had this book forever, and I read it to the boys when they were little, but somehow it fell to the bottom of the toy bin, and I just rediscovered it while organizing my girls’ room. I thought they would enjoy it, so I tried it out with them, and my youngest especially fell in love. I did too. Ferdinand is for the introverts, the contemplatives, and anyone who lives with or supports one. This slim little children’s story is incredibly compassionate and wise.

Telling God’s Story by Peter Enns. The first half, in which the author lays out a logical and friendly way in which to share the story of Scripture with our children, was perfectly fine, but the second half, in which Enns offers a survey of the Story, was superb. It told the heart behind the stories in the Old Testament, and Genesis in particular, in such a way that it made me grasp the heart of God better.

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler. I’m so glad I stuck with this book, which was a real tear-jerker at the end. I often thought there were too many unnecessary sensory details in this book – but perhaps that’s the INFP coming out in me. I don’t need sensory details; I need the inner workings of the mind and heart. I related to a lot of Jen’s journey though: the desire to find the right LOGICAL answer and to go about finding it logically but then to get stuck, because the way to approach God is with a humble heart, not a mind that’s sure of itself. And I, too, have had trouble feeling the presence of God until I come to Him as a broken, repentant sinner. I did not read this story solely as a conversion to Catholicism but as a conversion to Christianity out of atheism, as a journey from disbelief to belief. The beautiful the way God started meeting their dire financial needs right when belief was beginning to blossom touched me deeply.

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. This is the story of an Indian girl’s arranged marriage and all the ways life falls apart for her. But don’t worry, this story is not like Humpty Dumpty. It gets put back together again in just the right way. I read this children’s novel one morning during the “lull” of a play date.

 

 

BLOG POSTS

Onward Christian Hobo by M’Lynn Taylor. I love everything M’Lynn writes on Velvet Ashes. Often she makes me laugh; this one spoke of our deep need for Home and also touched on the way our “words of the year” often surprise us.

The Gospel in a Psych Ward by Marilyn Gardner. Everything Marilyn Gardner writes is worth reading, and this post is no exception. If the Gospel cannot touch the psych ward, it is not the gospel at all.

Real Friendship by Kathleen Shumate. Kathleen has guest posted for A Life Overseas before, and everything she writes is both deeply true and densely written. In this post she once again cuts straight to our core needs and longings.

Death, Rebirth, and New Beginnings by Angelina Stanford on CiRCE Institute. Do not get me started on how much I love Angelina’s work! (I link to an excellent lecture from her in the next section.) You know that anything on death and rebirth, especially in tandem with the seasons, catches my attention.

Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer. Agreed. My most deeply felt need is not to know I’m beautiful; it is to know I am both loved and valued. Teaching us that we are children of God, deeply loved and cared for and redeemed, should therefore take higher priority than affirmations of our beauty.

Let Music do the Praying For You by Karen Huber. Lovely and true, Karen paints our longings with both words and music.

I’m a Short Cup by Megan Gahan. Much to my chagrin, I am also a “short cup” (where others might be a venti). And like Megan, I need my “sanity sandwiches.” I’m currently in the process of learning how better to practice boundaries and pad my schedule with enough margin.

And lastly, some cool stuff about lichens from the ministry of Does God Exist? If you follow them on Facebook, you can read regular posts about God’s exquisite design and creativity in nature.

 

MUSIC, POETRY AND A PODCAST

Unsaid by Dana Gioia. For anyone who’s grieving and can’t put words to the pain, this short poem is a balm.

Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. Especially the chorus:

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you

We sang this in church, and my kids and I loved it. It sounded strangely familiar, though, so I looked it up. I had heard it before – and hadn’t liked it. For when I heard Lauren performing the song, it had seemed to be more about showcasing her magnificent talent than about voicing any prayers to God. In my opinion, fancy vocals draw attention away from God; congregational singing points only ever to God. So I think this song is much better sung congregationally than individually. Putting our trust in God is a collective activity. We are the people of God, and we must declare it and live it together.

(This happens to me regularly. The contemporary song I chaffed at, whose sound grated on me, turns into a moving prayer when sung corporately.)

(I know I am particular about these things, about song versions and such, but these are some of the reasons.)

Christ is Enough by Hillsong. This song was playing in my head the week I wrote If your year has been a flop, and then on New Year’s Day, what do we sing at church, but this song? And I needed to sing it that day because I wasn’t exactly believing it at the moment. (But I have to say, I prefer the way we sing it at church to this recording. It’s just a bit slower and more contemplative.)

The Distorted Image: Greek Mythology and the Gospel by Angelina Stanford. Illuminating. I’ve listened to Angelina before (on the redemptive power of fantasy at the bottom of this page), and she packs a lot of thought and information into each sentence, so an entire hour of listening to her will stretch your mind. (In fact I need a re-listen of this lecture.) Here’s the main idea: in much the same way that the tagline of the Jesus Storybook Bible is “Every story whispers His name,” this talk from Stanford offers basically the same thesis — though on a much more complex plane. I particularly appreciated her in-depth explanation of Acts 17, which I’ve always loved but will love even more now. (I grabbed this lecture when it was on sale for free, but it’s still worth the $3 that it’s currently priced at.)