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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG POSTS

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

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

Measuring Tiny Victories by Cindy Ward Rollins.

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

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

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

FOR GLOBAL CITIZENS

Furlough for the Uninitiated by Anisha Hopkinson.

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

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

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

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

SO FUNNY I COULDN’T BREATHE

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

MATH AND SCIENCE FUN

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

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

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

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

How the bumblebee flies.

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

This insightful drawing from Michael Leunig:

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

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

POETRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mourning song from Ella Enchanted. Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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