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.)

A Few of My Favorite Things {December 2016}

Happy New Year from the Trotters in Cambodia! As usual, I’ve got lists of the best stuff from this month, including a Christmas section, a Third Culture Kid section, and a Home School section, so be sure to scroll through everything to find what you want. ~Elizabeth

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My family attended this play at one of the international high schools in town. It was the perfect way to kick off our Christmas season.

More regular dates with my husband. I am so much happier when I get away regularly to talk with my husband. And now that our oldest is of babysitting age, we can go to our favorite coffee shop (Joma) more often.

The Sparrow. Our co-op performed an original play based on the story of Robin Hood. It explored themes of power, oppression, and poverty, and the students themselves gave input into the script. I loved the community nature of kids and parents working together on a project and the way it empowered my kids, each in his or her own way.

The Moms. “The Moms” are the women of our home school co-op. They are kindred spirits. We share both the experience of cross-cultural living (which is a powerful bond in itself) and the daily experience of teaching our children. There is no one like these women, and time with them is sacred and holy (not to mention fun).

Rogue One. We watched this on our family Christmas outing and followed it up with ice skating at the mall. Rogue One was a good, funny story with no bad language, no gory battle scenes, and a strong non-sexualized female lead — two years in a row on that count for the Star Wars franchise.

Boxing Day. I was invited to a Boxing Day party at some friends’ house, and one of the things we did was sing Christmas carols, yes even the less well-known ones, AND all the verses (the host is apparently a verse snob like myself). Of course the feasting and conversations were fun too, but the highlight of the evening was the singing.

 

BOOKS, MAGAZINES, AND ONE PODCAST

I did not finish any of the books I began last month (maybe next month??), but here are the best things I did read and listen to this month.

Poppy by Avi. This story about a brave, intelligent little mouse is funny, adventurous, and fast. This was my first Avi book, but I might be hooked now.

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales. I love Beatrix Potter, don’t you? But I recently realized I hadn’t ever read them to my girls. So we cracked open this treasury and read them aloud this month. Truly, Beatrix is as delightful as ever. In fact, I think her work is even richer for adults than it is for children.

Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson. We think Grandma’s Attic books are better than Caddie Woodlawn (which we read in November) and the Little House books (which got me hooked on reading as a child). These stories are filled with the misadventures of Mabel O’Dell, and practically every chapter has us laughing. We read them years ago but revisited them this month.

The Man Who Lit The Dark Web by Charles Graeber in Popular Science. When I finished reading this article, I said to myself: THIS is the most important story in this magazine, not the Mark Zuckerberg whose famous face graces the cover and who wants to change the world by immersing us all in virtual reality, but the man who discovered the atrocities of human trafficking while fighting terror in the Middle East and whose subsequent journey led him to organize teams of coders and computer scientists to more efficiently and effectively fight the sale of human flesh. I don’t know if this man (Chris White) is a believer or not, but this is the kind of work that pushes back the Darkness, and I’m thankful for it.

The Eternal Argument on the Bibliophiles podcast. More big ideas to chew on from the people at Center for Lit.

 

POEMS AND POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS

Don’t Ask Me About My Christmas Traditions by Amy Medina. Simply perfect.

Reflections on a Christmas Poem by Adam Andrews. Read the poem by Anne Ridler.

Immensity Draws Near for the Sake of Love by Missy Andrews. Again, read that poem. This one’s by John Donne. (By the way, Adam and Missy Andrews lead the Bibliophiles podcast at Center for Lit.)

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. As you know I’m really into poetry these days. It really is the densest and most efficient form of language, beautiful and soothing and searing all at once. You’re gonna want a hard copy of this book. But the following poems aren’t just good for Advent, they’re worthy prayers the whole year long.

O Sapienta (Wisdom)

O Adonai (Lord and Master)

O Radix (Root of Jesse)

O Clavix (Key of David)

O Oriens (Dayspring)

O Rex Gentium (King of Nations)

O Emmanuel

(The Latin ‘O Antiphons’ were the basis for the hymn ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel.’)

A print of Mary consoling Eve. I’d seen this going around on Facebook, but you can also purchase it here.

A new musical version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by the ethereal Audrey Assad.

 

THIRD CULTURE PEOPLE STUFF

I Signed Up For This by Anisha Hopkinson. So good!!

Moving abroad will fix all of your issues . . . . and other lies by Jerry Jones. Funny (par for the course with Jerry) and true. Reminds me of Marilyn Gardner’s You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas), which is also worth a re-read if you have time.

You and me: teen sweethearts on a wild 20 years together in the Kingdom, an article in the Phnom Penh Post about a married couple I’m acquainted with here in town. Such a sweet story, and describes so well the importance of Third Culture Kids connecting with other Third Culture Kids.

Nobody Knows by the Lumineers. I heard this song in the movie Pete’s Dragon. My kids have been watching this movie for a while, but I had never taken the time to watch it until recently. Its themes of longing and belonging surprised me, and its soundtrack is sublime — make sure you also check out Something Wild by Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon (but skip the official music video as it alters the meaning somewhat, and just stick to the lyrics video I linked to).

Anyway, back to ‘Nobody Knows.’ Something about the folksy sound of this song drew me in, and then of course, there are the lyrics: “Nobody knows how to say goodbye, seems so easy till you try.” It’s so true — missionaries often need to receive special training in how to say goodbye well. Or what about this line: “Nobody knows how to get back home. We set out so long ago. Search the heavens and the earth below, nobody knows how to get back home.” Words for a global nomad if ever I saw any.

This month I was also privileged to read and review an advance copy of Marilyn Gardner’s upcoming book Passages Through Pakistan. Marilyn is a writing friend and Third Culture Kid who grew up in Pakistan. Although on the surface my TCK story diverges widely from hers, I found myself relating to so much in this book. I cried a lot, and laughed some too. I also got a kick out of how she told her story chronologically while also arranging the chapters around forms of transportation. Such a clever writing device. I’ll share my official review on here when the book gets closer to publication!

 

MUSIC

In Remembrance of Me, a communion song by Cheri Keaggy. This song was in my head a lot this month. Personally, I think Free Indeed did this song better a cappella, but I can’t find their version, so you’ll have to  settle for Cheri’s own version. Such beautiful lyrics.

The Creed by Hillsong. Yes, I’ve shared this song before, but this month when we sang it in worship, I was struck all over again how crucial these beliefs are to our lives and faith, and how important it is to repeat them again and again to our children (and to ourselves), to talk about them when we are at home and when we are on the road, when we are going to bed and when we are getting up.

Everything We Need by the group Acappella. These lyrics are straight out of 2 Peter 1:3, and I grew up on them. I just happened to hear it again as we were sharing some of our Acappella CDs with our kids on a car trip. And I really needed the reminder.

The Final Word by Michael Card. There’s no one like Card for theological richness and depth. He’s kind of like Malcolm Guite — a theologian and poet who turns phrases in such a way that I instinctively know they’re true, even though the words and ideas are new.  Read his lyrics here.

 

BITS OF SCRIPTURE AND CREATION THAT CAUGHT MY EYES

Hebrews 2:14-15:

“Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

(You can read why it impacted me so much here.)

The ministry of Does God Exist publishes bits of information on different aspects of creation. These links are about the beautiful lotus flower, which is considered sacred here in the East. Its self-cleaning abilities have inspired scientists. It’s also a very hardy plant.

 

PARENTING AND HOME SCHOOL STUFF

Should I Make My Child Apologize? by Brandy Vencel. There’s also a Part 2 and Part 3.

Get sleep. by Mystie Winckler. She’s also got Eat breakfast. Both posts have pithy little titles that pack a lot of (easily forgotten) wisdom.

And while we’re on the subject of pithy wisdom, check out my old camp counselor Laura Hamm Coppinger’s excellent (and funny) post Don’t Buy Stuff.

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I’m nearly done working through this book. Occasionally it makes homeschooling feel like a too-heavy spiritual burden that my husband and I have to carry all alone, but most of the time it lifts the burdens. A few big takeaways:

  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and it is going to require sacrifice. (I have found this to be true; homeschooling is a job, and I am a full-time working parent, apart from any outside ministry I might add to it. Accepting at the outset that lifestyle changes will have to be made is helpful for coping with those changes.)
  • If you think homeschooling is a burden and not a blessing, then you are not free. (I have been on various points on this spectrum and know this statement to be true. I’m currently and have been mostly in a place where I think it’s a blessing, but I know the other side, and it’s not fun.)
  • As homeschoolers we do not have to follow the educational systems of institutions. (A good reminder as I tend toward scholastic snobbery even as I struggle to keep up with the workload I’ve assigned myself. My children’s education does not need to look like mine!)
  • The book also reaffirmed our family’s choices to read lots of books, both together and alone. (That was basically nice confirmation of what we already do.)

I also re-read Sarah Mackenzie’s much more accessible Teaching From Rest this month. One reviewer says she the book is a quarterly read for her, and it may become so for me too. But do yourself a favor and get a hard copy. Kindle is only second best in this case.

(For future homeschoolers I also always recommend Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum as it explains all the relevant educational approaches and helps you choose one based on your and your kids’ personalities.)

I’ve processed the educational and mothering ideas in these books in various forms here on the blog too:

The thing that happened while I was scrubbing the kitchen floor with a toothbrush

Dear Homeschool Mother of Littles: Don’t Give Up

The Home School Manifesto

Home School Burnout Part 1: Unrealistic Expectations (the first in a 4-part series)

A Few of My Favorite Things {November 2016}

by Elizabeth

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First and foremost, my Mom came to visit us this month. She brought presents from friends and family in the States plus some home school materials, all of which was certainly fun. Then we dove into life together. We had our own little early Christmas, complete with tree trimming and pumpkin pie. My mom even watched our kids overnight so Jonathan and I could get away as a couple. We also traveled down to Bokor Mountain and Kampot, which were frighteningly beautiful. The endless jungle especially is imposing at dark, but in the daylight, I cannot explain the sense of both being at home and longing for my final Home that I get from the palm trees.

I got to go out for the afternoon with a dear girlfriend of mine. It was both refreshing and fulfilling. We packed a lot into just a few hours.

Our first Scholé Sisters meeting. I’ve talked about scholé before, so I won’t rehash it here. Well, the idea behind Scholé Sisters is that of a group of homeschool moms getting together to deepen their own learning. Not to improve their teaching, but to grow as human beings themselves. A group of us decided to start a Scholé Sisters group here in Phnom Penh, and we had our first meeting this month. We had planned to discuss Sarah Mackenzie’s book Teaching from Rest, but we never got to that. Instead, we trod on holy ground. Our time became a sacred space for each lady present to talk about what God has been teaching her personally in the last year. It was just what we needed for our first meeting. We plan to have actual book discussions later on and possibly attend some art classes. I’m looking forward to more of our meetings.

I figured out how to drink my after-lunch coffee even when I’m out of the house at home school coop. Sounds kinda silly, but I’d been missing it on Tuesdays. Then one day this month I looked around my kitchen and noticed my Team Expansion thermos and the thought hit me, why don’t I make the coffee ahead of time and bring it to coop to drink?? Well I did and it was a success, so here’s to future coop meetings with a caffeinated me. I also continue to have really good, deep conversation with the other moms at coop. I’m finding I really need those ladies and our conversations to keep me focused on first things.

But the best part of all was our actual Thanksgiving Day. We wanted to make it special for us and for our kids, so we took the entire day off work and school (we rarely do that for either American or Khmer holidays). Then we did only what we wanted to do. For us, that meant donuts for breakfast at the fancy western mall, followed by a game of bowling and a trip to the bookstore next door (we are all inveterate bibliophiles around here). Next we headed to our favorite sandwich place (Joma, for those of you in the area) where we shared our thankfulness lists with each other and topped it all off with pumpkin pie (though two of us ordered apple). I savored every single teensy tiny bite of that pumpkin pie. Mmm! Thankful and fully stuffed, we headed home where Jonathan and the older kids watched some Lord of the Rings while I hung out with the little one. Then we ate homemade mac and cheese for supper, tucked the kids into bed, and read by ourselves. It was perhaps non-traditional, but it truly was a restful, relaxing, and fun day with our favorite people in the world and was, potentially, the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.

The last half of this month was really hard. We had some kind of beetle or bug infestation in our home, and it took about two weeks to clear. Thankfully it’s gone now (some infestations can take months to clear), but it was a huge drain on our time and energy. I think they call these things the “rigors of missionary life,” but that doesn’t make them any easier when they happen.

 

ADVENT/CHRISTMAS STUFF

Click here to find links to our old Christmas articles plus my very favorite Christmas and Advent songs, books, and movies. I’m just so excited about my list that I wanted to share it here again!

 

ON MY BOOKSHELF

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. I didn’t have a lot of time to read this month, what with my mom being here the first half and fighting critters the second half, but I did dip into this memoir from a former atheist. I’ve been wanting to read her book for a while now, and Mom brought with her an Amazon Kindle gift card from some friends in the States – yay!

I’m only a third of the way through this book. At times there is too much detail spent on food, drink, and surroundings, but overall it is a compelling portrait of the meaninglessness and hopelessness of atheism and of intellectually sound reasons to believe. For example, once she’s realized there must be a creator (an ordeal in itself), she concludes that if there’s a god who created all this, then it’s not a big stretch to believe that same god could raise Jesus from the dead. I never thought of it that way before. Her first few chapters are golden – she was raised to be an atheist, but even as a child she bumped up against the meaninglessness of a godless existence, and she tells those stories very well.

I also used that Kindle gift money to buy Timothy Keller’s new book, which I will review here when I get to it (whenever that is). Additionally,  after working through a book on evolution and the origin of life in the kids’ homeschool curriculum, I realized I was way behind in that area of study and that I needed a refresher, so in the next several months I plan to make a personal study of several books of that nature as well (time permitting of course).

Embracing the Body by Tara Owens. A blogging friend recommended this book to me after last month’s post in which I mentioned I was exploring Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners but that it was very dense. I’ve read the first few chapters in Owens’s book and found it much easier to read than West’s. It’s not groundbreaking or novel yet, but that is perhaps because I have been exploring how our spirituality relates to our physicality for months (and just haven’t had a chance to write about it — it’s such a big topic after all). What I can say at this point is, with the time I’ve invested in these ideas over the span of several months, I know that I am experiencing God in both my physical world and my emotional life more than before. I breathe differently. I hug my children differently. I stand differently during worship. “Embracing the body” is a work in progress for me, and I hope to communicate more of my journey in writing in the next year. I’ll also review the rest of the book on here when I finish it.

Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. This homeschooling book was a breath of fresh air. It came highly recommended by an old, good, and trustworthy friend of mine and was brought across the ocean by my mom. I want to tell a little story about it: There were so many days during bug treatment that we finished less than half my normally assigned work, and I felt like such a failure. Until I sat down, opened this book, and exhaled. It helped me pause long enough to realize that while I was boiling sheets (yes, I was literally boiling sheets) and couldn’t attend to my children’s lessons, they were busy doing things like: reading historical women’s biographies, making up stories of their own, reading intriguing science books, or making up computer codes of their own. Sometimes it takes a “fail” like that to remember that when self-education is modeled in the home and good books and resources are provided, children will voluntarily engage in learning. I needed that reminder this month. The book is THICK and will take me a long time to get through (but I did find a mom at coop who has read it, so we can have discussions!). It takes a fair amount of space at the beginning to equip parents with biblical reasons their homeschooling choices are valid. I didn’t need those affirmations — I’m already confident in our decisions (all 6 of us are, actually) and merely struggle with the day-to-day upkeep of the task. But I’m hopeful the book will continue to be helpful and encouraging for me, along with a potential revisiting of the much smaller Teaching From Rest.

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. I mentioned this book of poems about the church year in my Christmas post, but I want to mention it again here. It’s just that good. I am several poems in now, and I’m finding that poetry is not like prose (who would have guessed??). I can read the same poem over and over again and it still has the same power. (I do not generally find that to be true about prose.) The first reading of the poem doesn’t do it justice either — I don’t “get” it yet. I actually need that re-reading for the meaning to soak in; and then the meaning stays.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I decided to read this instead of just watching it like I usually do. And let me just say I think the first two paragraphs are a hoot! This week we are attending a performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and I’m super excited. I even read the book to my kids ahead of time. I hope you enjoy something theatrically or literarily Christmas-y this holiday season.

 

BLOG POSTS

Healing Humor Only Heaven Could Deliver by Renee Auperlee. I may not have had much time to read (ahem, finish) books this month, but I was able to get through a fair number of blog posts. This one is funny, so if you don’t have time for anything else, spend a few minutes on this one.

Relax! God was at work before you arrived! by Marilyn Gardner. So encouraging and grounding and true. Every overseas worker and minister needs to read this.

The Secret to Finding Hygge by Tanya Marlow. These are dense ideas, so I cannot easily summarize them here. You just need to read it and soak in it. I will say, though, that the concept of “hygge” reminds me of some scenes in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga where the main characters found what could be called hygge in the midst of their trials and travels. May we also find hygge in the midst of our trials. And one other thing — for an engineer from the United States, when I read the British “cosiness,” I think I’m reading about trigonometrical cosines with a typo, not the state of feeling cosy. I had to laugh at myself there.

Practicing Stability: Part 2 by Jen Rose Yokel. The author says stability (which is always a relevant topic for the global nomad) is a determination to say, “This is not my home, but it can be a home.” This is another really dense article, and long — but worth it. There’s a juncture of the physical and spiritual in these words, and she especially grabbed my heart with the Kathleen Norris acedia quote (I talked about acedia last month), the quote from Christian McEwan on longing, and the Richard Rohr quote on enchantment. Read it all and find these treasures for yourself.

How Much Awesomeness Can We Really Handle? by Rachel Pieh Jones. Not very long, but very important thoughts on the expectations we place upon ourselves (and that are placed there by others) and how well we are coping with our own “ordinary.”

Subtract to Multiply by Patty Stallings. On top of the fact that I always appreciate Patty’s wisdom, I find myself in a season like this and must choose to submit to the subtraction.

How Like the Rooster We Can Be by Amy Young. This is a book club post with probably my favorite chapter in the entire book (although I also really appreciated the raven chapter). Perhaps it is because I studied this topic in depth earlier this year and was so moved by the change in the disciples from arrogance, competition, and comparison, to love, generosity, and humility. They are stories I never tire of hearing.

So You’re Thinking About Serving Overseas? by Anisha Hopkinson. Anisha offers the overseas-hopeful some really good thought experiments to follow — very insightful. (You can find my thoughts on the subject here.)

 

MUSIC, POETRY, AND NEW WORDS

You all know that singing has always been important to me, and this month was no different. What is different, however, is that I’m discovering that singing has been one of the only ways I have historically used my body to both worship God and receive strength from God. It is a good realization to have, to know that I have never truly left my body out of my relationship with God:our musical worship is, after all, physical sound waves leaving our physical body and bouncing around hitting our and other believers’ physical eardrums.

Anger by Laura Hackett Park. I’ve loved Laura’s music for years, and I love several of the songs on the album this song came from. But somehow I hadn’t heard this song. Then when we were listening to music on the way down to Kampot with my mom, this song came on. Wow, do I know what she’s talking about. Make sure to listen to the back story too. Find the full lyrics found here.

All to Him by Desperation Band. “For every fear that closes in, He is closer. For every doubt that comes on strong, He is stronger.” I faced a lot of fear this month, and for those fears I needed this song (and the song that comes next).

Forever Reign by Reuben Morgan and Jason Ingram and performed by Kristian Stanfill. This one’s neither new nor new-to-me, but it hit me in a different way this month at church. How could it not, with words like “You are peace when my fear is crippling,” “You are true even in my wandering,” and “You are God, of all else I’m letting go”??

Let It Be Jesus by Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin and performed by Christy Nockels. Mostly “God I breathe Your name above everything.” Again, just trying to breathe and relax my physical body into the goodness of God’s love and to praise Him with my physical breath.

A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther and translated by Frederick Hedge. One Sunday in church my husband read the lyrics to this old hymn, and I was hit anew with their power and meaning. (What can I say? You can’t explain these things. Or maybe you can — after all “the wind blows wherever it pleases.”)

Sing and Shout by Matt Redman. This is just a lot of fun. But when we got to “Because Your love came down, it’s makes me want to sing,” I realized Love really did come down, into our world, in the Incarnation. It’s not metaphorical the way I always thought of that phrase. (I know, I am so late to the party of understanding here, but let me just say that the good thing about being 35 is that you can encounter the same, old truths in powerful, new ways, simply because you have lived longer. And the longer I live, the better and more good God is.)

George Herbert’s sonnet entitled Redemption. Do yourself a favor and read these 14 lines.

Best new word: fernweh. It’s a German word that means “the longing for far-away places,” as contrasted with heimweh, “the longing for home.” Fernweh caught my eye on a missionary writer’s Facebook page. This is just the right word set for global nomads.

 

MOVIES, VIDEOS, AND PODCASTS

The North Avenue Irregulars. I grew up on this movie — on reruns of this movie on the Disney Channel. It is a lot of fun, and I wanted to share it with my kids. Mom brought it over and now my kids all love it too. Plus it’s got a few scenes that ministers and ministers’ kids will completely understand.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey at IF:Equip. I loved the five-minute video at the bottom of the page because it represents what we learned in our Kairos (a course we took through our organization).

Justice and Judgment on Bibliophiles. Takes on the unfairness of life as we perceive it and goes into a good bit on Job. Made me cry with the goodness and power of God. Probably my top pick for podcasts this month.

Tanya Marlow on suffering. Tanya says, “My question isn’t whether God is real, it’s whether God is good.” Even atheists have to deal with the problem of suffering – all people have to grapple with it. And we have to ask ourselves the question, is our theology of suffering true for ALL suffering? We need to deal with the phrase “God has a wonderful plan for my life” – does that work for people outside western middle class Christianity? Tanya also says that “suffering happens to everyone.” I thought that was very compassionate of her, since she lives with a chronic illness. Another important quote: “Suffering reminds us that we are not in control.”

Tanya also did an excellent followup Q&A session to the first interview. My favorite parts were the bits about God groaning with us in our suffering and what being yoked to Jesus means (which was a new idea to me).

Learning Styles are Bunk by Scholé Sisters. I have read before that learning styles — a concept many of us hold dear — does not hold water, scientifically speaking. So it was nice to hear some homeschool moms discuss the actual research. Conclusion: we do have learning preferences, but they don’t affect how much we learn. There are, instead, certain methods and combinations of methods that are good for everyone. Additionally, these moms make the claim that if you fall prey to the learning styles myth, you could be catering to your child’s wants and setting them up for failure in the “real world” when it turns out that the world doesn’t cater to them like Mom does. Lots of food for thought.

Can a Children’s Book Change the World, TEDx talk by author Linda Sue Park (daughter of a Korean immigrant). Fun reflection on the American public library system and more serious reflection on the impact of literature on the world.

Right Now Media. Prepare yourself for a rant. We’ve had Netflix for several years now. I used to be able to find good shows for my kids on Netflix. But now they have outgrown the preschool and early elementary shows. There are several movies in the “kids” section that we won’t let them watch, but they get bored with old movies, so this month I let them try something new. And since it was rated “Age 7,” I didn’t even look up the reviews. But less than 20 minutes in, we had to give it up. Too much inappropriate humor. In a cartoon. Later I was complaining about it to Jonathan, and he reminded me that we had a subscription to Right Now Media through my mom’s church. I had never even looked at it before, since I had no need of it and couldn’t remember my password anyway. Well, I went to work on that password and got into the site. It’s got such great content for kids and grownups alike. And such a relief to let my children watch something without the fear of it being inappropriate. It does cost money to get a subscription, but I just want you to be aware that there are other options out there for kids besides Netflix. There’s VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible (from the VeggieTales people) and our favorite, Friends and Heroes.

(As you can see, I was able to listen to quite a few podcasts even as my reading fell by the wayside this month.)

 

QUOTES

Ephesians 4:4-6 in The Message. I don’t generally prefer The Message, but this caught my ear when it was read out loud in church this month:

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

Will Schwalbe at The Wall Street Journal:

“We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see in magazines and our lives to the exaggerated ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends. We bombard ourselves with video clips and emails and instant messages. We even interrupt our interruptions.

And at the heart of it, for so many, is fear—fear that we are missing out on something. Wherever we are, someone somewhere is doing or seeing or eating or listening to something better.”

Thayer Salisbury in the Does God Exist? bimonthly magazine, whose ministry my family has been following since the 1980’s. Such a great picture for grace:

“Several years ago I showed up at a concert for which I had not purchased a ticket. Despite not having purchased a ticket, I was perfectly confident that I would be allowed to see the concert. I had not purchased a ticket, but I had been given one, free of charge, by the organizer and featured artist of the concert. Having an undeserved ticket was in a way better than having a purchased ticket. If anyone had questioned my right to be there, I could have appealed not only to the ticket itself but to the giver of the ticket to defend my right to be at the concert. Thus, we who know that our salvation was given, not earned, have the greater confidence.”

Augustine of Hippo in his Confessions, found through an article by Andrew Kern:

“Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest dwell therein.”

I found this rather convicting 1890 Clay Trumbill quote in Clay and Sally Clarkson’s book Educating the WholeHearted Child – it proved to me that some parenting ideas are not original even when we post-moderns so arrogantly think they are:

“How many parents there are . . . who are readier to provide playthings for their children than to share the delights of their children with those playthings; readier to set their children at knowledge-seeking, than to have a part in their children’s surprises and enjoyments on knowledge-attaining; readier to make good, as far as they can, all losses to their children, than to grieve with their children over those losses. And what a loss of power to those parents as parents, is this lack of sympathy with their children as children.”

I found this next quote through the youth pastor at our international church. It’s from Dr. Joseph H. Hertz in The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, published in 1973. While I knew that child sacrifice was a common practice in the ancient biblical world, I had never connected it to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Gotta tell ya, the longer I study the Bible and the surrounding cultures of Bible times, the more I believe that there is truly no god like Jehovah:

“The story of the Binding of Isaac opens the age-long warfare of Israel against the abominations of child sacrifice, which was rife among the Semitic peoples, as well as their Egyptian and Aryan neighbors. In that age, it was astounding that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it. A primary purpose of this command, therefore, was to demonstrate to Abraham and his descendants after him that God abhorred human sacrifice with an infinite abhorrence. Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required. Moses warns his people not to serve God in the manner of the surrounding nations. ‘For every abomination to the Lord, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods’ (Deuteronomy XII, 31). All the Prophets alike shudder at this hideous aberration of man’s sense of worship, and they do not rest till all Israel shares their horror of this savage custom. It is due to the influence of their teaching that the name Ge-Hinnom, the valley where the wicked kings practiced this horrible rite, became a synonym for ‘Hell’.”

Amy Young in Is Jesus Funny? I never get over being made in the image of God. It always amazes me. And there is such great image-of-God stuff tucked right into the middle of Amy’s post:

“I realized several years ago that while I could picture, say, Michael Jordan good at sports, or Beethoven talented at music, or Karen amazing at making images for Velvet Ashes, I couldn’t quite picture God as actually good those areas. I inadvertently thought of those people better than God in their respective areas.

I confused the image in the mirror with the reality it reflected. We are made in the image of God, not the other way around.

Is Michael Jordan an amazing athlete? Without a doubt, but his skill is because he is made in the image of God. A God who is fast and strong and has perfect aim and timing.

Is Beethoven a gifted musician and composer? Yes. But his skill is a reflection of God’s perfect pitch, rhythm, and ability to combine notes in such a way to evoke emotion.

Does Karen design images for Velvet Ashes that leave you in awe? On a daily basis. But her skill did not pop out of nowhere; instead, she is reflecting God’s creative eye, his ability to capture a moment, his endless awareness of proportions.”