Ash Wednesday & Resurrection

by Elizabeth

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I went to Ash Wednesday service this week expecting to meet God. I always do — in unexpected ways. I can never predict the moment God will show up and the tears will fall. The part of the liturgy that touched me the year before inevitably feels dry to me a year later.

But I’ve done this enough that I know God will show up. Even if we are more than halfway through the service and I haven’t encountered Him yet, I know He will draw near to me.

That night I experienced several of these moments. The imposition of ashes, of course, when we remembered that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. When we sang “Lord Have Mercy.” When we begged God repeatedly, “Holy Lord, hear our prayer.”

And when we sang the first verse of “Jesus Paid It All”: I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all.” Because I know my strength is small, and I am weak without Him.

But most of all for me that night, was the moment in the middle of a worship song whose name I can’t remember, that God reminded me of Galatians 5:7-8. On Tuesday and Wednesday I had a deep, dark flare of anxiety and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I had been doing so well, and the intensity of this relapse surprised and frightened me.

So I turned to the text. Here it is in the New Living Translation:

“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.”

And here are verses 1-3 in The Message:

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.”

[I love Paul. The way I love Paul borders on the ridiculous.]

I was discouraged because I had been running the race so well. The days had been good, and I was full of joy. And then what happened? It was like all of that goodness and grace just disappeared, poured right down the drain.

In case you don’t know what anxiety or OCD feels like, it certainly feels like a harness of slavery. And OCD is a definite rule-keeping system. I don’t want to trade my free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

So what is holding me back when I relapse? Maybe it’s the brokenness of my own brain, or the forces of evil in the spiritual realms. Maybe it’s living in a fallen and unpredictable world. Maybe it’s some aspect of soul care or body care that I’ve neglected. Maybe it’s all of it together. Maybe I’ll never know.

But this one thing I know: it’s not God. God is the One calling me to freedom. He’s not the One holding me back or “hindering” me, as the ESV puts it. The Message tells us: “This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place.”  No, the God who called me didn’t design that detour. What He wants to give is life full and free, satisfying and abundant.

And that freedom was what I had on Thursday — because I went to Church the night before. That’s not all I did, of course. Before that I had gone back to bed to cry extra hard. That wore me out so much I needed a nap. Then in an effort to manage the anxiety, I exercised as hard as I could. After that I went to church, where I smiled and made sweet small talk with people, because I knew the good stuff was coming when I entered that sanctuary.

I wasn’t ok, and I knew it, and I needed God to sit with me in the mess. And meet me He did, through the words of Paul and the words of the hymns and the words of the liturgy.

Because a relapse is not the end of the story. That’s what I tell girls struggling through eating disorders, and it’s what I needed to be reminded of last night. A relapse doesn’t mean that no healing has happened. It doesn’t mean that recovery is over. It actually means lots of progress has been made; a relapse wouldn’t feel so awful if you hadn’t been making forward movement.

So I relapsed. But I didn’t have to stay in that relapse, spiraling downward and feeling sorry for myself. I could start making good choices again, and I could listen to God when He spoke, and I could let Him encourage my heart.

I am a person in need of deep mercy from God, and so are you. So are we all, for we are all formed from dust. Our Maker knows we are dust, for He is the one who made us and breathed His life into us.

But dust, like relapse, is not the end of the story: for we are a Resurrection people, both now and forevermore. Amen.

 

photo credit

The Day I Left

I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes for their theme on Parents. ~Elizabeth

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Seven years ago I left Kansas City for Phnom Penh. In the early hours of a frigid January morning my husband and I boarded a plane with our four small children, leaving behind two devoted grandparents and a very full life.

I threw myself into life in Asia and began to identify Cambodia as home. It was where my life was. It was where my husband and children were. I embraced my inner Third Culture Kid, threw off the shackles of American culture, and flattered myself that I was becoming a more global citizen. But roots grow down deep, don’t they?

This past summer when I visited Kansas City, I had strong feelings of “this is home.” That this was my city. Although I have always felt at home at my parents’ house, on my two previous U.S. visits I had not felt that attachment for the metropolitan area as a whole. But being in KC in the summer is different from being there in the winter. It’s friendlier. Happier. This past summer was the most magical summer of my life. It stirred up a host of good memories and reminded me of a former life — a life that I don’t want to forget.

I recently found my journal entry from that day and was surprised by the intensity of my feelings of “home” towards Kansas City and by the sheer volume of memories. I find that in the span of seven years, I have come full circle, back to the feelings of this original journal entry:

Kansas City is my home. After moving a lot as a military kid, I’ve been in KC 18 years. It is home.

Driving through the Grandview Triangle to church hundreds of times. Going to the dentist. Going to LSHS. Running, biking, swimming in Bridgehampton in the summer. Babysitting the Craddocks.

Falling in love with God at Red Bridge. Falling in love with Jonathan at Red Bridge. Youth ministry and four babies. Burying Mark and seeing a counselor at Christian Family Services. Living in the Parsonage for five and a half years. Some of my favorite memories in life.

Closing the garage door that last time to drive away was harder than I anticipated. Even when I come back, I can’t go back there. So many good memories of family life. So much life.

During the farewells at KCI I cried and shook telling Mom goodbye. We’ve had a wonderful friendship, and I love her dearly. I worry about her being alone. I wish she could keep kissing the grandkids twice a week. I want them all to know her as well as I do.

I’m thankful that after seven years, my children do know my parents well. My parents Skype or FaceTime my kids once a week. They’ve visited us here. And of course we live at their house — my home — while on furlough. The girls cook and garden with Mom, and the boys help Dad with car, fence, and yard work. We all watch movies and eat popcorn together. We sit around the back yard fire late into the night and talk and sing and stargaze.

After a childhood of military moves where we never stayed in a house more than four years, the 18 years my parents have lived in their current home seems a lifetime, and I love both the house and the stability it’s given me and my family.

My kids don’t remember as well, but when we lived in KC before, we often saw my mom more than twice a week at church (which was a given). Since I was pregnant so frequently, I often had to go to prenatal or postnatal appointments. Mom would watch the kids while I went. Then we would eat lunch together and, many times, spend the rest of the day together. Some days I would just sit in her kitchen nursing a baby and talking for hours on end.

Jonathan was on staff at church and left early on Sunday mornings. Mom showed up at the Parsonage and helped me get the kids dressed and across the parking lot in time for Bible class. She brought books and toys, and we sat together in church while Jonathan sat up front leading worship. After Wednesday night service my parents often came to our house for a few minutes to hang out.

Our relationship has been cemented by all those times together. I can’t think what I would do without parents like these. Thank you, God, for good parents — all across the globe.

A Few of My Favorite Things {November, December, January}

by Elizabeth

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I have been so out of touch with blogging the past several months. In fact it’s been three long months since I’ve even published a Favorite Things post. I could explain how homeschooling a high school student and junior high school student as well as two elementary students and keeping up with coop activities and ballet classes and youth group and finishing writing and editing a book with my husband and editing a larger missions blog, etc, has kept me from regular blog writing.

But the truth is that I have also been heavily distracted by my struggle with anxiety these last several months. I don’t have a lot of room for writing, because I am using all my head space either worrying or attempting to figure out how to stop worrying. I’ve read some books and made some life changes, but that didn’t seem to be making enough of an impact. So I’m returning to counseling as well. After the first session I do feel more hopeful.

So even while my life stage feels crazy and my brain at times feels even crazier, here are the best things from the past few months:

Prince Caspian play with our homeschool coop. I was incredibly proud of my kids for their work on this performance last December. Three of them had major parts in this production: King Peter, Trumpkin the Dwarf, and Queen Lucy. There were also several TCK moments in the play that brought me to tears. (For those of you who were there, it was the treasure chest scene, the final goodbye scene, and the song the band sang at the end.)

Medieval dance, post-play. This event matched the historical/costume themes in the play. Our coop director is also a dance teacher, and we learned two group dances: a circle dance and a double line dance. I enjoyed both so much. If this is what traditional dancing is like, I’m all in.

Carols with friends. Singing a cappella brings me joy, and I know the busy Christmas season can easily get away from us without taking the time to worship our Incarnate God in song. So our family got together with a couple other families for a hymn sing.

Christmas Eve supper. My mom’s Czech family has a Christmas Eve tradition of soup and apple, and even though we’re gone from family, we now celebrate it here in Cambodia. We have other family traditions too, which absolutely must happen in the days leading up to Christmas. Thankfully we had a whole weekend prior to fit it all in!

Boxing day party. Another set of friends always hosts a Boxing Day party (the day after Christmas), and I’ve been able to attend the last several years. It’s a lot of fun, and we get to sing carols there too.

Red tea. I had been wanting some of this caffeine-free tea and received some for Christmas. I could drink this all day (but I don’t). It’s a good substitute for black tea. I drink mine with milk. I’ve also successfully quit regular coffee. It took me two months to cut from 3-4 cups per day down to 2 cups, to 1 cup, and then to a cup of half-caf, and finally down to decaf only. Finding decaf grounds at the local Starbucks was a fun surprise that helped in this effort (although they don’t always sell decaf grounds).

Mary Poppins. We watched this as a family at the theatre. The music was a lot of fun, and Mary Poppins’s character is a lot closer to her character in the book than in the original movie. There were a lot of references to and reflections of the original movie, however I thought they really increased the narrative tension over the original film. Thankfully it’s a family movie with a happy ending!

 

GLOBAL WORKER BLOG POSTS

Home for Christmas by Anisha Hopkinson. Not just for Christmas! “We are not just British, or American, or Chinese, or Indonesian – we are Hopkinsons. No matter where we are, we are home when we are together.”

Looking for a Place to Land by Kate Motaung. Beautiful and hopeful in its yearning.

When Life Gives You a Chicken by Emily Raan. Funny and relatable.

Saying “God Called Me” Can Be Dangerous by Amy Medina. On point as always.

Welcoming Broken Missionaries Back at A Life Overseas. Food for thought.

Go Ahead and Criticize Missions (Constructively) by Amy Medina. Important.

In the wake of John Chau’s death, here are some questions to consider by Arthur Davis. The Davises (his wife Tamie writes too) are always thoughtful, in a way that continually surprises me yet has me shaking my head in agreement.

Witnesses of the Kingdom by Rachel Pieh Jones. Important thoughts on global ministry.

Marrying Across Cultures by Hannah Edington. Such great advice even for mono-cultural couples, this is even more important for cross-cultural couples. I hope this advice can point the way for workers who want to help local marriages, cross-cultural or not.

 

OTHER BLOG POSTS

A Liturgy for the Fog by Rachel Zimmerman for Velvet Ashes.

This is Not a Dead End by Karen Huber. Hopeful and just the encouragement I needed that day.

Learn the Difference Between Right and Almost Right by Jen Pollock Michel. I love both Jen (you probably already know this) and Hannah Anderson, whose book Jen is reviewing here.

Coming Home to Our Bodies by Simona Chitescu Weik. I’m on a journey to learn to live more in my body.

The 4 Biggest Myths About Emotions You Probably Learned in Church by Marc Alan Schelske. Shared by my husband, and very good.

Bad enough yet? by Kay Bruner. Yes, for me it got bad enough to seek help. But only after a friend told me how worried she was about me, and after all the things she walked with me through, she had never seen me like this. I woke up enough to seek help. Because the “self-help” of reading books, trying to implement them, and praying on my own wasn’t enough.

There’s Nothing Sketchy About Cross-Gender Friendships in the Church by Aimee Byrd. I have so much I could say about this. Something that concerns me is the way the Billy Graham Rule has tended to reduce women to sexual objects. When I’m with men who believe strongly in separating the sexes even at church, I can’t get away from feeling like a piece of meat. Contrarywise, when I’m with men who don’t consider separation of the utmost importance, I feel like a human being, valued and listened to for my thoughts, not avoided because of my body. For me, the “piece of meat” experience is quite pronounced among both Americans and Cambodians. It is refreshingly absent from interactions with Europeans and Australians and New Zealanders. This may not be everyone’s experience, but it is mine, and it seems to tell me something about American Christian culture. According to this article, the Gospel should be powerful enough to transform cross-gender relationships into something good and holy.

The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend by Celeste Headlee. Hit me between the eyes.

Nutritional advice from Aviva Romm and Karen Hurd. Visit their websites and poke around. My diet needed a complete overhaul, and these two ladies were my main guides. Learning about nutrition has been fun, so if nutrition is your thing, feel free to talk to me in the comments.

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

Quiet, a project from two girls we know through our ballet studio. Inspirational.

Another good interview with Angelina Stanford, by Pam Barnhill.

Gillette video on toxic masculinity.

Upworthy video about gender assumptions.

 

SONGS

No Longer Slaves, an international version.

Raise a Hallelujah by Jonathan and Melissa Helser. Our coop’s choir class (the fact that my kids are getting to be part of a music class is another yay!) is practicing this song. Just happens to be the perfect song for me in this time.

Cover Me by Laura Hackett Park. Recommended by my husband during a major spike in anxiety a couple months ago. I listened to it for days.

Douwe Eisenga, For Mattia. From my dance class.

Peder B. Helland — Always. From the driad dance scene from Prince Caspian.

Gaslighting

by Elizabeth

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Gaslighting. The first time it happens to you, you may be unimaginably confused. You may not know what is going on for years — maybe even decades. But once you see gaslighting for the manipulative mess it really is, you won’t be so easily confused (or controlled) the next time.

I’m going to describe just one aspect of gaslighting, the aspect I’m most familiar with: false accusations. For years I was confused by false accusations. I knew I had not done the things I and my loved ones were accused of doing. I thought if I could just explain what really happened, that my accuser would finally understand and agree that I — and we — did not do those things.

I misunderstood. I thought truth was the goal. I was wrong. Truth was never the goal. Manipulation was the goal. Control was the goal. But truth was never the goal. Unfortunately, pain was the result.

Today we are in an era of Me Too, a long-overdue time when victims of abuse absolutely must be heard and cared for. I’ve been an advocate for victims in the past. So has my husband.

But I was double minded. On the one hand, I knew we needed to believe victims when they get brave enough to tell their (oftentimes horrific) stories. On the other hand, I was afraid that advocating for victim stories meant that all accusations should be believed, even and including the false accusations that I (and other loved ones) had been receiving for years.

I feared that advocating for Me Too would automatically mean that all accusations of abuse of any kind would be believed. I feared that in an atmosphere of victims speaking out, that someone might believe the kinds of accusations that had been leveled against us. Being in public ministry, this was a double fear. It was not just about the truth, it was not just about my good name. I was also afraid of false accusations wrecking our ministry. Destroying any positive influence we had. And even dissolving our salary.

This is a false fear. Just because we need to listen to the stories of abuse victims doesn’t mean that there aren’t also false accusations out there. We must take in the entire context of a story. And the entire context is that an abuser will abuse. They will hurt you on purpose, over and over and over again. And a gaslighter will gaslight. They will accuse you of doing and saying things you never, ever did. Things you would never, ever dream of doing or saying. That’s why it’s so confusing.

To top it all off, the things the gaslighter accuses you of are often the very sins they are themselves guilty of. But until you know your gaslighter much better, you won’t realize they are accusing you of their own sins, their own crimes. That’s part of why it can take so long to see it, the first time it happens to you. Gaslighters are masters at control and manipulation, so they will hide their sins from you. You won’t know they are projecting their sins onto you. You won’t know where the false allegations came from. You will think they are coming out of thin air. You will think you can clear up the “misunderstanding” with better communication. But you can’t clear it up, because those accusations didn’t come out of thin air: they came from inside the gaslighter.

But you don’t know any of this the first time it happens to you. The first time it happens, it feels like the ground is falling out from under you. You start to doubt your memory, even if you (like me) have always had an exceptional memory. You think to yourself that you never did that thing. You KNOW you never did that thing. But when someone else is so insistent that you did or said that thing, you start to wonder if maybe you did do that thing, and that you just don’t remember it. It’s absolutely crazymaking.

Eventually you might receive such outrageous accusations that you do in fact know you never did those things. That is about the time you start to see the gaslighting for what it is: behavior meant to entrap you.

But wait, there’s more to it than that. Sometimes a gaslighter will pop in with wonderful acts of kindness. They will spend money on you, give you a gift, spend a lovely afternoon with you. They will suddenly be super sweet and kind to you after months or years of nastiness. Don’t be fooled by this tactic, either. It’s also meant to confuse you. You will think, that person was so cruel to me, but now they are being so kind, maybe they really aren’t that bad. Maybe they are someone I really do want in my life.

Except they aren’t someone you want in your life. You will always be on edge around them, fearing the next false accusation while simultaneously hoping like a heroine addict for the next act of kindness. That heroine reference is no joke. Experiments have been done showing that rats get more addicted to drug dispensers that unpredictably dispense the drugs. More addicted to unpredictable dispenser than predictable dispensers. Being rewarded unevenly is more addictive that being rewarded evenly. That’s because you never know what you’re going to get, and you’re always hoping that this will be the time you will get the drug (or the kindness).

So you stay. You wait. You hope for goodness, you hope for change. You hope for something better. And because you occasionally get treated better, you keep sticking around thinking it’s going to happen again. Even though most of the treatment is cruel and manipulative. Even though you don’t feel safe, ever — even when the kindness is pouring out, because you know deep down the kindness won’t last. But those confusing messages of cruelty and kindness will keep you there in the clutches of the gaslighter.

It’s very difficult to see, the first time it happens to you. It may take years of pain and even time in a counselor’s office, working through what you think are YOUR issues, to see that the issue was never yours to begin with. The simple truth is that you were dealing with a manipulator. A gaslighter. And it’s not your fault. But it is your responsibility. To run. To put up boundaries between yourself and your gaslighter. To do the hard work of releasing yourself from guilt over staying in an unhealthy relationship so long, because you didn’t know any better. And truly, you didn’t know. But when you do know, you can protect yourself. You can get out.

And you need to get out, even if getting out means that your gaslighter will tell lies about you to other people, lies that are believed because gaslighters are very good at manipulating emotions in other people (beginning with yours!). Getting out of a relationship with a gaslighter means you have to accept that other people might believe the gaslighter. That’s ok. What other people believe about you is not your responsibility, even if it’s unjust and unfair. (And believe me, I know how unjust and unfair it is!) Getting away from a toxic person is good and healthy for you, even if your reputation takes a hit. Being with a toxic person is a continuous hit on your heart and your soul. It’s better to get out, even if false accusations come later.

Here’s the thing about false accusations: they’re false. You know, and God knows, and the people who really know you, also know that they are false. Of course an accuser is going to accuse. Of course an abuser is going to abuse. That is what they do. That is what you can expect them to do. It shouldn’t surprise us when liars lie and stealers steal and abusers abuse and gaslighters gaslight. If we are still afraid of our gaslighter making public, false accusations, then we are living in fear. We are still under their control. We are still under their spell. We are always looking over our shoulders, desperately afraid the other shoe will drop, and they will “ruin” everything.

But I think we need to tell and live a different story. In situations like these I think the bravest, sanest thing we can do is refuse to be afraid of false accusations from a habitual false accuser. We can choose to live FREE.

Rest is Not the Absence of Work, It’s the Presence of the King {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . .

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The words sleep and rest are nearly synonymous in my mind. We wake feeling rested after a good night’s sleep. Conversely, we feel disappointingly not rested after a fitful night’s sleep. Sleep is a gift, and certainly, it is a type of rest, but it’s not the only kind of rest we need.

We also need the kind of rest that lets us stop striving. The kind of rest that lets us stop worrying, that lets us stop working. We need the kind of rest that lets us stop rushing. “All our busy rushing ends in nothing,” David proclaimed in Psalm 39:6. Our daily lives have changed significantly since then, but in all those years the human heart hasn’t changed. David’s words are as true today as they were 3000 years ago.

If we spend some time studying the world David lived in, we can find fresh meaning in the word rest. In the Old Testament, “rest” referred to a dwelling or habitation. More specifically, the settlement in Canaan provided rest to the Israelites. In ancient times in general, rest meant that the battle was over and the king was on his throne. Rest meant that regular rhythms could be taken up because the people weren’t at war anymore.

Finish reading here.

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

by Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BLOG POSTS FOR OVERSEAS WORKERS

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

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

Missions or Wanderlust? by Stephie. Important.

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

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

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

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

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

 

BLOG POSTS REGARDING ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND ACCUSATIONS

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

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

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

 

JUST PLAIN GOOD BLOG POSTS

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

Would You Even Like Jesus? by Jonathan Trotter

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

Still Scandalous by Jen Pollock Michel.

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

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

 

MOVIES AND PODCASTS

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

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

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

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

 

SONGS

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

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

Why Cross-Cultural Workers Need Tent Pegs {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is at A Life Overseas today. . . . 

tent pegs post

Home is a complicated word. A complicated idea. What is it? Where is it? As global nomads, we’re not entirely sure how we feel about home. We’re not sure we have it, and we’re not sure how to get it. We know the correct spiritual answer – that Christ is our home. That He is busy preparing an eternal home for us. And that even now, He makes His home in our hearts, wherever we go. Still, we search for a more earthly home. A physical place to set up camp for a while.

As an adult Third Culture Kid, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out roots. But lately I’ve been wondering if I should stop my search. I’m far too easily disappointed; permanence of people or place is not something we’re promised in this life. Even so, we need a support system for lives as portable as ours. This summer I started describing those supports as tent pegs.

A tent is a temporary shelter, and the tent pegs that fasten it to the ground also provide only temporary security. Tents and tent pegs are mobile, going with us wherever we go. They allow us to make a home right here, right now. And when the time comes, they allow us to make a home somewhere else too. Every time we pull our tent pegs up out of the ground, pack them in our bags, and move on, we can take the time to hold each tent peg in our hand and remember.

Finish reading here.