One Word

–by Elizabeth

I chose a word for last year, just like I’ve done many times before. I chose it based on my perceived family and mental health needs, but I had a feeling that God’s interpretation of my word would be different from mine, and I thought He might do with it what He wanted. And He did.

I had chosen Purify because I knew I was overscheduled. I needed to weed out my calendar and my commitments, and I did, and it was good.

Then along came March and April, and as the thick heat of Cambodian summer set in, I buckled under the weight of it all. I couldn’t see how I could possibly do what God had asked me to do — mother my children and educate them — because I could never do it well enough. I could never do it perfectly enough.

At one point I landed flat on the floor ready to duke it all out with God. This sounds so dramatic and Jacob-wrestles-the-angel as I write it, but it was really pretty pitiful as I lived it.

My husband was at a loss for why I was feeling such heavy burdens and setting such unrealistic expectations for myself. What was he, chopped liver? Were parenting and education really all up to me?? Wasn’t he around to father our children and educate them, too? And where did I get these crazy wild expectations for them and for me anyway?

Missionary and ministry wives, I know you will understand this. Home school moms and school moms, too. We feel we have to “prove” the system, whatever system we’re in.

Everything’s gotta be perfect, or else our life choices will be suspect. It’s all gotta fall into place, or people will assume we did something wrong. That we made the wrong decisions, or executed them poorly.

We’re so afraid. The fates of other people depend on us, and people’s positive ideas of certain lifestyles depend on us. Because it ALL depends on US, you see.

These are actually the things God needed to purify from my life. My misplaced sense of worth. Massively unrealistic expectations. Fear of judgment for my life choices. Absorbing the wrong priorities. Conflating my identity with my children’s accomplishments (or lack of). A (repeat) misunderstanding of grace and the cross and what has ALREADY been done for us.

Some of these things I had worked through before. Some of them I hadn’t, and certainly not to that extent. They touched on some sensitive spots, had me asking why I was still struggling with the same issues. Had me wondering why I couldn’t get it together enough and get over them already.

Life with God is like that, a spiral that circles around to the same issues, going deeper each time and hopefully getting stronger each time. So I revisited Galatians — those foolish Galatians who, like me, had been bewitched. And I had to relearn my priorities and where my worth comes from. I had to shed some of my expectations for myself and my children.

I had to give myself grace for not being good enough. I even had to learn to give myself grace for still struggling to understand and live out grace. Because this might happen again. I might lose my focus, might forget what life with God is all about, might get caught up in distorted thinking patterns again. In fact it’s probably not a “might.”

When I look back at my year, though there were definite low spots, I can call this year “Good.” It wasn’t “great.” It wasn’t “super.” But it was good. The year wasn’t full of mountaintop highs, though there were some definite high points. It was mostly a lot of daily living, getting up in the morning to do the same things as the day before. It was mostly making slow progress in schoolwork.

It was mostly GOOD. Which is very different from the year before, a year I called “Brutal” when I got to the end of it. That’s kind of funny now, because I think some of the reasons 2016 turned out to be so brutal were the very same reasons I ended up wrestling with God in the early part of 2017. That year might not have been so bad after all, had I had my mind and my heart in a better place.

I don’t feel like choosing a word for this year. I don’t sense that God has new or big things in store for me. I sense that He’s asking me to be content with faithfulness in the little things. In the daily things. And you know what? I mostly am.

That’s part of what this past year did for me. Settled me in all sorts of ways. I don’t dream of doing bigger and better things “for God” (or is it “for me”??) outside of the things He’s already asked me to do: parent and educate my children ALONGSIDE my husband-friend (with youth, women’s, and writing ministry very much on the margins). I have practices in place to meet God and to connect with family and friends, and I know the bad habits I have, the ones that need working on.

So here’s to more GOOD years, for all of us. Years full of the presence and refining power of God. Years full of the goodness and grace of God — yes, even when tragedies and crises occur, and even when our looming problems are chronic and never-ending instead of surprising and emergent.

May the happiness of God be our happiness, not because of our circumstances or anything we did, but because God offers Himself to us freely, and His glory and goodness, and His peace and rest, are always available to us. May we receive it.

A Few of My Favorite Things {December 2017}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

BOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BLOG POSTS

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

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

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

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

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

 

MOVIES AND TV

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

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

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

 

(NON CHRISTMAS) MUSIC

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

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

The True Myths That Keep Me Coming Back to God {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . 

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The word myth often conjures up the idea of epic fantasy tales or of commonly held beliefs that need debunking. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines myth as both “a fictitious or imaginary person or thing” and “a widely held but false belief or idea.”

The dictionary also defines myth as “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” The word derives from the Greek mythos which simply means “story.”

And that is what I think of when I think of myth: I think of story. I think of narrative. So when I use the word myth to describe the Bible, I’m not saying it’s not true – because I most certainly believe it is true. Rather, when I say the Bible is myth, I’m saying that it’s full of stories that infuse meaning into our lives and that it is, in actuality, one overarching Story.

The God of the Bible audaciously makes a world, joyfully populates it with creatures, and then willingly redeems those creatures from sin and death. This story is unlike any story humans have ever told. Indeed, the Bible’s uniqueness among world myths is one reason I believe it, love it, and base my life on it.

Finish reading here.

When We Said “I Do” {the first in a three-part series on marriage}

by Elizabeth

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At eighteen years old I really wanted to write my own wedding vows. I was hopelessly in love, and I didn’t want to say the same old words everyone else had been saying for years. That was stale, passé. I wanted to be original, unique, special. (Perhaps there was a bit of pride there too?) So my fiancé and I wrote our own vows. Ten years and four children later, we renewed them — with the same minister and in front of the same congregation.

Lately I have been thinking about those seventeen-year-old vows. How they were somehow incomplete. Not that they were insincere — they were so very sincere. But they were incomplete. And they were very, very young.

In the last couple months circumstances have conspired to distress us on many levels. (Jesus wasn’t joking when He told us we would have trouble in this world.) But in the midst of these recent difficulties, I’ve been drawn to the beauty and majesty of traditional vows. Vows in which we acknowledge the sacredness of the marriage covenant. Vows in which we promise the same things married couples have been promising for centuries.

When a bride and a groom promise “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death,” it’s beautiful and romantic. But when we are young, we do not imagine we will ever be sick or old or poor. We imagine we will be young, healthy, happy, and wealthy — for always. We imagine that loving and cherishing will be easy. We say these vows, and we mean them, but we do not know the fullness of what we say. We do not imagine we will need to live them out sacrificially.

Young couples promise each other, before God and before the congregation, to “live together in holy marriage, to love, comfort, honor, and keep, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful as long as we both shall live.” In that breathtaking moment we can’t imagine that any better “other” may ever come around, but nonetheless we vow to forsake the others. These are grand promises that we make. And they are promises I intend to keep, even if I didn’t make them in so many words.

My own personalized vows skirted around these issues. I promised to respect and support my husband in a generalized “in everything I do, in every season God gives us” rather than specifying any potential struggles with “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” One sounds gentle and all-encompassing. The other is harsher, more abrasive. But I wonder now if the second one is more exactingly truthful when troubles start to rain down on a married couple: we committed for just such a time as this.

Instead of vowing to forsake all others, I told my new husband, “I pledge my faithfulness to you, my best friend and one true love.” My youthful version almost assumes that because my 18-year old self considered Jonathan my best friend and one true love, that I always would. That faithfulness was a mere matter of friendship and finding one’s soul-mate.

Now, I still consider my husband my best friend and one true love, but what if that changed? What if we grew apart? What if our relationship were strained? Would I still owe him my faithfulness and my fidelity? I believe I still would — especially in a situation like that. But I’m not sure my personalized vows were specific enough. “Pledging my faithfulness” sounds pretty, but “forsaking all others” much more accurately describes the turning away from temptation that all married people must do.

Seventeen years after I said “I do” (metaphorically speaking of course, because we didn’t actually say those words), I understand more fully the weight of these lifelong vows. And I also know what it means to live in holy matrimony with one person through the various seasons of life. It’s a big deal to commit to a single person, regardless of what happens from that point on. And a lot can happen in a life. A lot of tragedy. A lot of heartbreak. A lot of things that can threaten to swamp a young marriage (or even an older one). A lot of reasons to remember and fulfill the specific promises that we made to each other.

I want to renew our vows again on our 20th wedding anniversary. But I’m not sure whether I want to repeat my initial vows or say the traditional ones. I think about these traditional vows often, and I’ve come to consider them my own. I didn’t say them on my wedding day, but I’ve said them to my husband since then. And I’ve come to understand that there’s a reason traditional vows have held up over time. They distill the essential aspects of a holy institution down into just a few sentences. They are guidance and they are wisdom. And they are a picture of what true love looks like.

The traditional vows are hardy. They can apply universally to Christian couples. At the same time I love listening to people’s personal vows; they are lovely and heartfelt and meaningful. But they necessarily apply to only one couple. Perhaps, though, we need both universality and specificity in our marriages. Perhaps we need both unity with other married couples throughout time and a sense of uniqueness in our own love story. It makes me think that if one my children ever came to me and asked me for wedding advice, I might suggest saying both traditional vows and personalized vows. Because maybe a marriage can use a bit of both.

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For any concerned readers, infidelity is not something our marriage has dealt with. I’m only reflecting here on the magnitude of the promises we make at the altar.

Sources for traditional vows and their history.

A list of the other marriage articles we’ve written.

Communion as the intersection of all things

by Elizabeth

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I didn’t grow up with the Sacraments. Sacraments were for liturgical traditions, while I was a proud and happy member of Restoration Movement churches. I did, however, grow up with physical commemorations of spiritual truths — for that is what sacrament means. Of course, I didn’t know that back then.

I like to talk about these things when I get together with my friend Heidi, whose husband is an Anglican priest. When I asked her what sacrament means, this is what she told me:

 “The Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses this definition of sacrament: 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).”

“Matter matters.” As someone who has been running away from her physical body since early adolescence, this was novel concept to me. But as I reflected on my spiritual history, I realized that my church tradition did observe two sacramental practices: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism celebrates our union with Christ through death, burial, and resurrection and is intended to occur once in a lifetime. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, is a regular occurrence and a reminder of how much we are loved. We are loved enough for Christ to pour out his very blood and allow his very body to be broken for us and for our eternal home.

(I like to designate corporate singing as a sacramental practice due to the fact that in singing we join the physical sound waves of our voices together to worship our Triune God and to declare spiritual truths over ourselves, but that’s another conversation entirely.)

Some people call it the Eucharist. I usually call it communion. Whatever its name, this meal of bread and wine is our feast of love. It is where we learn and remember our belovedness. It is where God speaks to us. It is where He calls us: every particle of every person in every place.

God communicates His call in every conceivable human language, for in His wisdom He created communion as the intersection of all things.

It is the intersection of the physical – bread and wine – with the spiritual – the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

It is the intersection of the deeply personal – what Christ did for ME – and the incredibly communal – what Christ did for ALL of us.

It is the intersection of the Old Testament sacrifices and the new covenant where no more sacrifices are needed.

It is the intersection of the ancient and the far future as we look back to the Exodus and the Passover – the central story of the Old Testament – and eagerly await the wedding feast of the Lamb.

It is the intersection of the ordinary — a regularly repeated act — and the ceremonial — a special event.

It is the intersection of celebration – our God is victorious and we are free — and mourning – our God suffered and our sins caused it.

The Lord’s Supper is the intersection of the marriage invitation and the acceptance of His offer. It is the intersection of being chosen and the act of choosing back.

The Table brings together all human experiences. At the Table He speaks to each person’s particular history and particular language and particular longings. At the Table He places us in a community that will never end.

So come to the Table where there’s always room for more.

Take, eat: the Body of Christ, broken for you.

Take, drink: the Blood of Christ, shed for you.

Come to the Table and remember. Come to the Table and celebrate. Come to the Table where there’s always room for more.

 

photo source

To the Returning Missionary {A Life Overseas}

by Elizabeth 

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You have walked with God in this place a long time, and He has walked with you. He has been beside you and inside you this whole time. The same Spirit remains in you and with you in your new place.

This place has changed you, and you have changed this place. Do not be distressed if you don’t understand everything that has happened and that is happening. Remember that the stories God writes are always long. They unfold over generations, not days or weeks or even months.

You have been here long enough to understand some of what God is writing, for both yourself and the people you’ve served, but some things may not make sense yet. Do not fret, and do not fear. The Father will show it all to you One Day. Until That Day, remember that you leave with our love, even as you live within God’s love.

Many years ago you came to this place as a foreigner, and the place you’re going now may also seem foreign to you. Everyone and everything has changed, including you.

So in the days and months and years to come, when you feel misunderstood, remember that no one understands your foreignness like Jesus, the One who came to the most foreign land to show his beloved creatures Truth and Light. He will understand your sorrows like no other.

You have seen so much change in your years here. Change in the people around you, change in yourself, change in the people you’re returning to. And you are tired. So tired. No one can work and live as long as you have and not be tired. Remember that Christ is your rest. (And on your journey, also remember to sleep.)

Circumstances change, and communities change, and in the end, He is all we have to hold onto. So don’t lose hope: He IS our hope. Hold onto Him, and remember that His love never fails. It will never fail you.

Though organizations may fail you, though supporters may fail you, though cultural acquisition may fail you, though years of experience may fail you, though people you love and invested in may fail you, though you may even feel you’ve failed yourself, still one thing will not fail you: the love of the Great Three in One will never fail.

And One Day, this squeezing in your heart and this aching in your bones from all these years and all these travels and all the years and travels to come, it will all be undone. Everything will be made new. Remember this.

Originally appeared at A Life Overseas.

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

by Elizabeth

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Full disclosure: Life has been bumpy around here. We’ve had some health issues (which are as-yet unresolved) and some financial concerns (which are thankfully resolving) and some noise pollution issues (for over a month now) and some just plain too-many-things-on-the-to-do-list issues. I’ve been living with a lot of worry and fear, and I’m working on my issues, but these things take time. It’s been nearly two months since I offered you any reading, music, or other recommendations, so here I am. But please, if you think of it, say a prayer for the six of us Globe Trotters.

Did you know you can use coconut milk as coffee creamer? It’s delicious, with a fuller flavor than cow’s milk (well, if you like coconut, which I happen to like very much). But be careful, you don’t need much. I add a little extra dairy milk too, to balance out the heavy flavor. I don’t need sweet coffee, but I do like it creamy.

Teaching math/art class at home school coop. It’s been a joy to discover that these teenagers are interested in the concepts and in the projects. As every teacher knows, interested students make teaching much more exciting. I’m also thrilled that my own kids have a natural curiosity (including for subjects I myself am interested in), and as they get older, they become better and better conversationalists.

#6 pencil leads. These are way better than #2 pencils. Not for standardized testing of course, but for doing regular school and art work. We’ve also discovered the best little Faber Castell pencil sharpeners (at the IBC, for those in Phnom Penh).

 

BOOKS

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. I grabbed this detective novel when it was on super duper sale. The dialogue, let me tell you, it’s delicious. Intellectually I can’t keep up, but it’s still delicious. The book was surprising proof to me that women’s worries (including working women’s worries) of today are exactly the same as they were nearly a century ago.

The Light Princess by George MacDonald. I needed more time with this story, so I reread it. For me, The Light Princess is a metaphor for my life. If I ever find the time, I’ll share the reasons why in a blog post. Until then, if you want to know more about why I love this George MacDonald story, just ask me in person!

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. I’m still working slowly through this. Many selections (and their personal reflections) end up in my journal.

Classic Poetry (selected by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Paul Howard). From my children’s Sonlight curriculum. I haven’t been successful in convincing my kids to like poetry, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it, right? Particular favorites from this collection are Rudyard Kipling’s “The Way Through the Woods” and “The Deep-Sea Cables”.

Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson. I first read this book when I was pregnant with my second born, and I wanted to re-read it. It’s not a history of chemistry (that’s been done elsewhere), but rather a profile of various chemicals’ impact on human history. This second read-through is much more sobering than the first, after having seen so much suffering overseas and after having studied so much world history in our home school. After reading about the sad effects of the spice trade, sugar trade, and cotton trade on human souls, I was ready for a break. But I will return later.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. An important read for the free peoples of Middle Earth. A Sonlight read aloud.

How To Survive the Apocolypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World by Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson. This is dense, and I do not pretend to understand all of it, but I’m absorbing the social and theological commentary I do understand. I first discovered this book when I heard an interview with Alissa Wilkinson at CiRCE a couple years ago. She was formerly the critic-at-large for Christianity Today.

 

BLOG POSTS

This is for All the Lonely Writers by Jennifer Trafton. Long but worth every word. Tear-inducing.

Around the World, Girls are Taught the Same Limiting Lesson by Emily Peck. I think this is what I was pushing back against in my Paul/breastfeeding article.

Kepler Pursued God. He Found Him in Pomegranates. By David Hutchings. On curiosity, science, and God.

The Ethics of Aesthetics by Andrew Kern. On art, pleasure, and understanding. Short but worthwhile.

Dear Mamas, This is the One Thing That Will Destroy Your Home by Meg Marie Wallace. Long, gritty, honest, true, and gospel-centered.

When You’re Sure God Loves Ann Voskamp More Than He Loves You by Marilyn Gardner. Super important and applies to all people, but especially women and especially those working in ministry.

At the intersection of a Messiah-Complex Friendship and Depression. Helpful insight and advice from the always wise Rebecca Reynolds.

 

FOR MISSIONARIES AND EXPATS

What Did I Do Today? I Made a Copy. Woohoo! By Craig Thompson. Hilarious but incredibly true.

More on the topic of inconveniences overseas: Why things take so long, or ‘something always goes wrong’ by Tamie Davis.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Anisha Hopkinson. Also hilarious and true.

I Am the Ugly Duckling (Part 1) by Lauren Wells. Help for distorted TCK thought processes. Also Part 2: Avoiding Terminal Uniqueness.

Where Your Story is Held by Amy Young. At the intersection of the physical and the spiritual. Wow.

No to cheese pizza, but yes to green pastures. Renee Aupperlee does it again! Reading her words is like meeting with a spiritual director.

Mental Health on the Field, an interview with Dr. Barney Davis from Michele Phoenix. Illuminates why we global workers are so stressed out.

 

PODCASTS, VIDEOS, AND TV

Angelina Stanford on why she loves fairy tales. A powerful 2 minutes.

And here’s a longer interview with Stanford on fairy tales. For the child within. On transcendent truth. I cried at several points. Touches on some of the same ideas as Wilkinson’s Apocolypse book but heads mainly in a different direction.

Taking Imagination Seriously, a 10-minute TED talk by Janet Echelman. At the intersection of art and engineering. Unbelievably beautiful.

Nate Bargatze on The Standups on Netflix. I’ve been told that other comedians in this series are NOT clean, but this guy is. And hilarious. And I need hilarious. (Don’t forget the Ryan Hamilton Netflix special from last month. We’ve let our kids watch both.)

The Crown. I rewatched the entire first season while my husband was traveling. It’s that good. Seemingly about royalty, it also has implications for marriages in ministry.

Arrival. I’d been wanting to watch this film and was able to watch it with my son while my husband was out of town. It opened up some great conversation about free will and predestination.

Andrew Peterson on Rich Mullins. What’s not to love about both Mullins and Peterson??

An interview with Susan Wise Bauer on Brave Writer. This is SWB at her best — candid and wise. For the home school parents.

What the Scholastic Reading Report Means For You at Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie. For all parents.

 

QUOTES

“You are chosen. And so you must choose.” This sentence from a Sonlight read aloud, to me, explains so much about predestination and free will.

Most mornings lately I wake up and sing Job 1:21 from the Scottish Psalter, to the tune of either the “Doxology” or “The Lord’s My Shepherd.” I try to give God my expectations for quick answers. Then I read Philippians 4:11-13 and ask God to teach me how to be content in times of trouble. I have to do this practically every day, and even then I still get discouraged.

 

MUSIC

Man of Sorrows by Hillsong. Packed with theology and written in beautiful poetic verse, on first hearing this song I thought it was going to be from the Gettys. Nope. It’s Hillsong, something I realized when we got to the chorus. Lyrics here.

Doxology/Amen by the talented and ethereal Phil Wickham. We regularly sing the Doxology as a family; I love it. Oftentimes when a new chorus is added to an old hymn, it doesn’t seem to fit either lyrically or musically. This one does. Lyrics here.

King of My Heart by Sarah Macmillan.

“Polyvetsian Dance” from Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor. I have loved this song ever since my 5th grade clarinet days, when we performed a version of this in concert. There’s a sad, minor quality to it in my piano arrangement of the song that I return to again and again. In my piano book there’s a bit of biographical data given — for instance, that the Russian composer’s day job was chemistry professor and that he was painstakingly slow to finish his musical compositions. I relate to him on all three counts — having another day job, being a chemist, and being slow to finish my work.

Arise My Soul Arise, a Charles Wesley hymn set to new music by Twila Paris. I have always loved these gospel words and was listening to them again this month.

Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go, a hymn by George Matheson with updated melody. I’ve been singing it to myself for the past month or so, especially that third verse about the “Joy that seekest me through pain.” Lyrics here.

I was struggling so much with discouragement that last week I asked for prayers at church. At the end of that prayer time, my prayer partner told me to pay attention to the songs that “bubble up” in this time, that God will be speaking to me through them. And so I have, and so I am. These next three songs “bubbled up” this week.

You Satisfy my Soul by Laura Hackett Park.

Do I Trust You Lord by Twila Paris. I can’t find a link without distracting video. Paris wrote this song in the wake of Keith Green’s death in the early 1980’s. The part that always gets me is this: “I will trust you, Lord when I don’t know why, I will trust you Lord till the day I die, I will trust you Lord, when I’m blind with pain, you were God before and you’ll never change, I will trust you, I will trust you, I will trust you.”

I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad.