Let the River Run

by Elizabeth

PiSky2

Only two songs have ever won all three major awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy) while being composed, written, and performed by a single artist. Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” the theme from the 1988 film “Working Girl,” was the first to do so.

Now, a few others have received all three awards but were co-written. One of those songs was Howard Shore’s, Fran Walsh’s, and Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” the final song of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and an absolute family favorite. “Into the West” speaks to something so deep and true, so simultaneously melancholic and hopeful, that it’s no wonder it won all three awards.

But anyway, back to “Let the River Run.” I first heard the song not from the movie, but from my junior high choir director Mrs. Chaney (whom you may remember from last week’s musical contemplations). Simon described her song as an “anthem with a jungle beat.” And indeed it was the sound that first drew me in, not the density of the lyrics — lyrics I could not possibly have comprehended fully at the time.

Even so, something in those words was stretching out and reaching for me. And I think it’s safe to say that, having won all those awards, the song spoke to deep, cracking places inside a lot of people. Of course there are layers of meaning here — some more material, some more spiritual.

And I’m still not sure I understand the song in its entirety, but I understand bits of it. I know it’s about dreams and desires. I know it’s about longing and risk. I know it’s about waking up and about waking up others. I don’t think you have to understand every part of the song anyway. It’s not necessarily for understanding but — like all art — for feeling.

Speaking of art, you all know I am no artist; I cannot even draw stick figures. But this semester I found myself teaching an art class in our home school coop. (In actuality, I’m substituting for the real art teacher until she gets back into town.) I love numbers, patterns, and designs, so I figured we could explore the intersection of math and art together.

In preparing for this class I used some old material but also sought out new material. One of the new art projects I stumbled upon was the Pi Sky Line. While the New York City skyline (complete with Twin Towers) is the setting for the song “Let the River Run,” the Pi Sky Line is a city skyline whose building heights are based on the first 30 digits of pi.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. And it’s an irrational number, which means its decimals go on and on forever, never terminating and never repeating. There are no patterns to its digits, and there is no end either: it is infinity captured in a single number.

After you create your sky line, you paint or draw a background for it. And bringing this conversation full circle here, I knew I could not draw any background but Van Gogh’s night sky: “The Starry Night.” It was a painting I first encountered in Mrs. Chaney’s class. And this photo is the finished product. For me it is the intersection of art, music, math, literature and, most importantly, my soul in motion.

Educational thinker Charlotte Mason said, “Education is the science of relations,” and each week Mrs. Chaney assigned us a “Connection” paper. We had to connect something in her class to something in the rest of our lives. Every week we did this. She may not have known of Charlotte Mason’s century-old philosophy, but she knew that brain science supported the idea of interdisciplinary studies. Maybe that’s why, all these years later, the soundtrack of her class is still playing in my life.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You’ve never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

What Jesus Has to Say About Dealing With Rejection

by Elizabeth

stamp-1726352_960_720

Rejection. I hate it. I hate the feeling. And I was feeling it again recently. In a major way. So I searched through my journals till I found an entry from over a year ago. It was the notes from a sermon Tim Krenz preached to the graduating seniors. The ideas helped me so much that I re-copied my notes into my current journal, and now I’m going to share them with you. It’s based out of the words of Jesus in Luke 10.

“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’”

Tim offered the graduates a handy little acronym for dealing with rejection: GRAD. It stands for:

GO

REMEMBER

ANTICIPATE

DETERMINE

Here’s how we can deal with the rejection we so much long to forget:

We GO out into the world like the disciples of long ago.

We REMEMBER who we are and what we have — God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

We ANTICIPATE rejection — whether it’s unfounded or not, we cannot avoid it.

Lastly, we DETERMINE ahead of time how we will respond: by shaking even the dust of that rejection off our feet. Even down to the last bit of dust, we will not carry it around with us, because we remember that even when man rejects us, God has not rejected us. We don’t call down fire from heaven on our rejectors like the Sons of Thunder wanted to do in the previous chapter (Luke 9:54). No, we do not take that rejection up: we shake, shake, shake it off.

 

You may also be interested in what I wrote about rejection a couple years ago.

Where does the love of God go?

by Elizabeth

building-2560843_960_720

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I believe in the love of God. And sometimes when I need to do that, I listen to Gordon Lightfoot. I first heard Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” in Mrs. Chaney’s junior high music class. Mrs. Chaney was an ex-hippie who brought her love of 1970’s music into the classroom and subsequently taught me to love it as well (thus preparing me for life with a man whose mother loved that music too, but died young).

It is quite literally impossible to overstate how much Mrs. Chaney’s 7th and 8th grade music classes formed me both musically and personally (and she probably never knew this; but neither did my 10th grade British Literature teacher – so music, art and literature teachers, take heart).

It was Mrs. Chaney who taught us that “religious music is always the best music” and who had us singing religious music at our public school concerts. It was Mrs. Chaney who, after we’d spent hours and hours practicing and performing choral music with her, played us her favorite 70’s songs, handed us the lyrics, and had us sing along.

It was from Mrs. Chaney that I first heard Don McLean’s “Vincent,” along with the radical idea that suicide only happens to people who suffer from mental illness. (That’s radical for a girl whose religious culture considered suicide to be an unforgiveable sin.) And it was in her classes that I began a lifelong love affair with the song and with Van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting, a painting scientists later determined was a true artistic rendering of the scientific principles of fluid mechanics.

It was with Mrs. Chaney that I sang the Holocaust remembrance song “I Believe in the Sun.” It was she who arranged for girl who knew sign language to sign during performance, moving the audience to tears (a phenomenon I didn’t understand at the time). And it was with her that I first heard “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I was immediately captured by its sound: the beautiful, haunting sound that’s woven into so many of our family’s favorite songs. The story stayed with me too, the tragic true story of a ship and crew lost to storm in the American Great Lakes.

Over the years I nearly forgot the song and the story, but one day I discovered how to google song lyrics and found it again. During one particularly sad season in my life, I purchased it. I still listen to it when I’m sad. I listen to it when I want to transport myself back to the simplicity of warm spring days in Mrs. Chaney’s music classes. And I listen to it when I want to remind myself why I believe in the love of God.

This is the way I do it. I listen to the entire tragedy, waiting for the 5th verse that asks, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” And I place myself in the shoes of the 29 men on board who knew they were going to die together, and then I place myself in the shoes of their families back on shore, who didn’t. And then I wonder “what if” along with the musician: what if this terrible thing hadn’t happened? And I swallow a lump in my throat and stay quiet for a bit.

The last time I did this, one of my children asked me where I first heard that song, and I told them the whole story the way I just told you. I told them: I listen to this song to remind myself why I believe in God’s love. I listen to it to remember that when bad things happen — and they do happen, all the time — when bad things happen, where is the love God? Is it still there? Or has it gone away?

It might be a personal loss or a tragedy back home or a tragedy here in my host country or somewhere else in the world. Truly, there’s so much tragedy to choose from. Regardless of the loss, I know I can listen to this song and somehow remember and believe that God’s love is still here and is still real. That God is still good and God is still love. I always cry at that point in the song, and I always remember that the love of God is really all I have to hold on to. I know that if I don’t keep my belief in the love of God, I would be lost. I would have nothing left.

So even when I don’t understand – and I mostly don’t understand – the love of God has not vanished. It is not buried at the bottom of the sea like so many ships. It is still present, in the midst of us. It still survives, though millennium of loss piles on millennium of loss. For me “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” gives voice to sadness but mysteriously brings me to a place of remembering God’s goodness. It helps me stand in the cruel face of tragedy, whether mine or someone else’s, and reminds me that no, God’s love has not gone away. Even though I can’t always see it or feel it, the love of God is still here among us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Master List of My Home School Posts

by Elizabeth

roller-skates-381216_960_720

Hello fellow moms and home educators! The following is a master list of the articles I’ve written on motherhood and home education, now conveniently in one place, with motherhood skewed toward the top of the list and homeschooling skewed toward the bottom, and with missionary life sprinkled in here and there.

(I don’t normally think of myself as a “mommy-blogger,” but as it turns out, I’ve written an awful lot about my life as a mother.)

I’m a Proverbs 31 Failure

I have this vague notion that the modern Proverbs 31 woman stays at home with her (many!) children, educates them at home, makes all their (organic!) meals from scratch, enthusiastically serves her church community, and, after all that, is still (frequently!) romantically available to her husband. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with any of these endeavors individually, I personally cannot live up to all these expectations at once.

Intensity and Intentionality {a note about marriage and motherhood on the field}

In many ways marriage and parenting on the field is the same as it is in my home culture, but its intensity level is higher. Missionary life simply requires more of me, and in order to match its intensity, I have to be intentional about taking care of both myself and my family. I have to daily turn my heart toward them and toward God. When I don’t, the consequences are great. But when I do, the reward is greater still.

“Me Too” Moments

I always feel so discouraged about motherhood on Sundays. Sundays completely wear me out, taking care of my youngest children’s needs. I feel so out of my league. I think about all the mom blogs out there and wonder how these women have all this energy just to spend on their kids’ intellectual and spiritual development? I’ve got sin issues of my own that need working out; how can I give 110% to each kid???

What I Want to Give My TCKs

There’s something else I want to give my TCKs, and that’s privacy. I’ve chosen a very public profession; my children, however, have not. They may go wherever I go and live wherever I live, but they didn’t choose to live a public life the way I did. Perhaps when they’re grown, they will. I don’t know. I only know I want to give them the luxury of choosing it for themselves.

A Prayer For My Third Culture Kids

My child, I’m well aware that in this life, not everyone gets married. But should you happen to marry, first and foremost I pray you will marry a fellow lover of Jesus. And then — oh then I pray you will marry someone who feels at home in the In Between spaces, who knows how to live in the margins of life, who’s comfortable crossing over and blending in, even if never quite fully.

On Not Being the Casserole Lady

Sometimes I think about people with the gift of hospitality and get this gnawing, guilty feeling. Why can’t I be more like them? I wish I could, for hospitality seems like the Real Spiritual Gift. Delivering meals to doorsteps, inviting large groups into your home for meals, hosting people long-term as part of your family — this all sounds so very first century Christian. I sigh and start to think I must not measure up.

I’m Not Supposed to Have Needs

The idea that “other people’s needs are more important than my own” sounds very spiritual. It sounds very sacrificial and giving. But we are all of us humans, created and finite beings with limited resources. Our lives are powered by the Holy Spirit, true, but none of us can survive if we think we are only here for others, or if other’s needs are always more important than our own.

These are the (Mon)days of Our Lives

The boys were screaming, “Her finger! String! Her finger’s stuck on some string!!” I ran in, and looked, and sure enough, my other daughter had wrapped a string around her finger. The top third of her index finger was already dark purple, and the threads looked deep. I told the boys to go get the scissors, but I was able to untangle it before they returned.

Sometime We Eat Cereal For Supper

Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I can’t do everything all the time. That I can’t seem to get my life in order and pull myself together and balance all the needs. But maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe every day isn’t supposed to contain every thing. Maybe each day is only supposed to contain some of the things. Maybe something is always going to fall through the cracks.

The Little Word That Frees Us

We talk a lot about Missionary Kids (MKs) being Third Culture Kids (TCKs), but we talk less often about another aspect of their lives, the Preacher’s Kid (PKs) aspect. These MKs of ours, these kids we love so fiercely, are both TCKs and PKs. They deal with both the cultural issues of TCKs and the potential religious baggage of PKs. It’s the religious baggage that I want to talk about today.

That Time Paul Talked About Breastfeeding

You need a lot of stamina. You don’t sleep through the night for months on end. Sometimes you get painful mastitis or yeast infections. You have to keep up your water and calorie intake. To your embarrassment, you leak milk everywhere. Or you have to work hard to make enough milk. Sometimes you can’t figure out for the life of you how to make this child stop crying, but somehow you have to stay calm while you do it. On top of that, you’re basically tethered to your child because you don’t know when they’ll need to eat again. You sacrifice many things for this child, this child whom you love so tenderly and so fiercely.

The Thing That Happened While I Was Scrubbing the Kitchen Floor With a Toothbrush

For me today, obedience means looking at the people who are already in my life, and saying yes to THEM. It means saying no to certain other things. I’m finding that as I practice my yeses and nos, I’m more content in each moment. I’m more joyful in each moment. I’m more present in each moment.

On Your High School Graduation: A Letter to My Third Culture Kids

I must say goodbye to you like this, no matter where in the world I live. And when you do leave, there are things I want to tell you. Things like. . . You are my child. You are now an adult, and I’m proud of who you are, but you will always be part of my family. Our home can always be your home.  No matter where we live, we will always welcome you into it.

7 Thoughts for Graduating TCKs

If you let them, the questions of home, belonging, and identity that your TCK childhood has asked you to answer can take you deeper into the heart of God than ever before. If you’ll take the time to look for Him, you’ll find Jesus on the other side of every question you have. Only Jesus can help you live an unhindered life. His is the face of love, and He is the answer to every question you’ll ever ask. So go with Him: there is redemption on this road.

You Don’t Have to Home School Preschool

Here is what you actually need for the preschool years: a home full of life and love. And books. Lots and lots of books. Kids learn so naturally at this stage, and they’re interested in so many things, that there’s no need to do anything formal.

Dear Homeschool Mother of Littles: Don’t Give Up

One of these days it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to turn around and find that everything you’ve been working towards and everything you’ve been longing for is finally coming to fruition. It’ll all be right here, right now, today. Just keep going.

The Home School Manifesto

We will commit to seeing our children as whole, integrated beings and not as students only, and we acknowledge that their scholarship — whether high, low, or somewhere in between — is only one aspect of their personhood.

6 Things I’ve Learned From 6 Years of Homeschooling

When I was first exploring the idea of homeschooling our children, a woman at church told me very matter-of-factly that in order to homeschool, the mom has to really want to. She told me how her husband had wanted them to homeschool. She wasn’t opposed to it and thought she would try it out for him, but she just wasn’t all that interested in it. She was the one who had to do the teaching, not her husband, who had originally wanted it. Eventually, they quit, but it wasn’t the end of the world. They just sent their kids to school, and mommy was happier.

Let Me Tell You About Kassiah Jones

That Friday I took the first of what I’m now calling a “Kassiah Jones Day.” I canceled home school. I played games with my kids. We watched sciences videos in the air conditioning. I read more than usual to them. I’m with them all the time, but I don’t always share enjoyable activities with them. Instead I focus on finishing our lessons, and then in my “free time,” I work.

After 8 Years of Homeschooling, I’m Giving Up

For years I avoided the way “expert” homeschoolers scheduled their school year, with six weeks on and one week off. I was afraid that kind of rhythm would make the school year last forever and that I wouldn’t have a significant enough summer break to recharge. Who wants to do school all the time?? And school all the time is exactly what that approach sounded like. I opted for the “traditional” school schedule instead.

Two Sanity-Saving Home School Practices

Later I spoke with my husband – who was himself homeschooled – about these things. He agreed that my expectations had been ridiculously high and supported my effort to find more reasonable expectations.

8 Practices That Are Revolutionizing My Parenting

I’m understanding more fully that we are not looking for perfection – in ourselves or our children. We’re looking for progress. For growth. My husband likes to say, “All learning happens one step at a time.” It’s plastered on the wall of our home school, in fact. But though we had pounded that fact into our children’s heads (with varying degrees of success), it had not yet reached down into mine.

Unrealistic Expectations (Home School Burnout Part 1)

I got to the end of most school days and didn’t want any more kid-interaction. I just wanted to quit and go hide somewhere. I wasn’t playing games with my kids anymore, I wasn’t reading aloud to them, I wasn’t enjoying them. I felt guilty about my lack of interaction. I complained to my husband that homeschooling was stealing my motherhood. This wasn’t what all the home school speakers and writers promised would happen if I chose to home school. Everything was supposed to be peaches and cream! Rainbows and butterflies! Pony rides in May sunshine!

“Mom Fail” (Home School Burnout Part 2)

So when the first Monday of summer break came around, I took a break from parenting — almost literally. I let myself be a “bad” mom: I locked myself in my bedroom and let my children watch movies. All.day.long. I didn’t talk to them, I didn’t read to them, I didn’t play with them. It was a total “mom fail.”

The Mean Mommy (Home School Burnout Part 3)

I began to see that I was aggravating the homeschool stress through my reactions and attitudes. Busted! God was convicting me big time. You mean this all came back to me? You mean I’m the problem here? I didn’t want to admit that. I would rather blame my issues on something outside me. I really couldn’t though.

Resources for the New and the Weary (Home School Burnout Part 4)

For me, recovering from home school burnout was about addressing spiritual and emotional issues, as well as practical issues. Here are some resources that helped.

How to be a Temporary Trailing Spouse

As many of you know, Jonathan was homeschooled, and I wasn’t. When we started our family, I just figured we would homeschool because Jonathan would want that. After a few years as a mom, however, I wasn’t quite so sure anymore. I was afraid I’d do it poorly. I was afraid I wouldn’t enjoy being with my kids ALL DAY. I was afraid that life would consist of only one thing: schoolwork.

Going Back to (Home) School

This year in our curriculum, we studied ancient history, from the first recorded accounts in Mesopotamia, to the fall of Rome. This means our studies covered the entire time period of the Bible, including both testaments. And I discovered: I did not know as much as I thought I knew.

Daughter

We’d been studying China, and the art materials came from our curriculum’s China Kit. We mixed the ink ourselves, used special brushes on special paper, and stamped our work in red at the bottom.

How My Church Accidentally Taught Me About the Holy Spirit

by Elizabeth

hs2

Last summer at a conference, the worship leader asked us to close our eyes and think back to the person who first told us about Jesus, to think back to the day we decided to follow Him and get baptized, and to try to remember the first person we wanted to tell afterwards. The exercise prompted a memory I hadn’t thought of in a long time. It was something I never articulated at the time but have definite memory of.

When I spoke with my parents about wanting to be baptized, mostly I verbalized the knowledge of my sin and the fear of hell. (I think most people verbalize those things in the beginning.) I knew I wanted forgiveness for my sins, yes, but I also had the distinct thought that I didn’t want to go back to public school that fall unless the Holy Spirit were living in me. I’m not sure why I wanted this because I wasn’t part of a church that preached the Holy Spirit. If anything, I was in a church that preached against the Holy Spirit.

But we were required to memorize Acts 2:38, and you cannot contain the very words of God, even when you try. Men may preach against the Holy Spirit, but men’s preaching can’t stop the Word of God from promising this to us: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By that time the Word of God was deep in my heart from all that memorizing. I knew the Holy Spirit was supposed to be given to me, and I wanted that gift.

Nowadays it seems normal to speak of the Holy Spirit’s movement in my life. But once upon a time it seemed novel. And when that worship leader had us think back on our deciding-to-follow-Jesus moments, he in a very tangible way reframed my life. I began to see my Holy Spirit awakening, two decades later, through the seed of Acts 2:38.

All that hunger to know God more, to encounter God more, to hear God’s voice, it seemed so new and exciting at the time. Now I also see it as the flowering of a long-dormant seed. God placed a desire in my teenage heart that I didn’t understand at the time. I am so thankful that this Trinitarian God of ours continues to walk alongside me and teach me more of who He is.

 

*I treasure my church upbringing. It taught me reverence for the Scriptures and gave me facility with the main Story (and main stories) of the Bible. It instilled in me a love for worship through song and a deep appreciation for the institution of the Church. Though I have grown in my understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit, I will always be thankful for the churches of my childhood.

Inheritance

by Elizabeth

vetch_crown

I don’t often remember my paternal grandmother, and when I do, I don’t remember her as a particularly warm person. But recently I chanced to remember her. She was mostly house bound, often even chair bound, accompanied as she was by her oxygen tank and her life sentence of emphysema. A registered nurse later told me that pulmonary patients were the crankiest; it’s hard to be polite when you can’t perform the most basic of bodily functions without pain. I didn’t understand that at the time.

I remember her retirement apartment and the sidewalks surrounding it. I remember how she rarely moved from her seat at the kitchen table, and I remember how the grassy terrace right outside her kitchen window sloped steeply upward. I remember the taste of her beef-noodle casserole and the sound of her television shows (most prominently Wheel of Fortune) playing always in the background. I remember the hospital bed in her bedroom and the shower stool in her bathroom and the closet in the back bedroom that was good for playing in.

I was named after her, you know, though at the time it was coincidental. My parents gave me her middle name. Mom tells me Grandma always seemed so pleased with it, though she didn’t know why until much later. The original reason I was named “consecrated to God” – a meaning I’ve always cherished – was that Mom herself was supposed to have had it for a middle name. But when she was born on a holy day for the Virgin Mary, she was given the name Mary Joan (instead of Joan Elizabeth). When Mom was grown, she passed the name on to me, and I in turn passed it on to my daughter: a legacy from both sides of the family.

When my grandmother died, the priest droned on and on about how much she loved the crown vetch outside her sitting window, and how we each needed to take some crown vetch with us when we left that day. He even had little baggies of crown vetch ready for us to take away. It was during this funeral memory that all of a sudden the light went on for me and I realized why Grandma Hunzinger was so obsessed with the crown vetch: she was catching hold of the only beauty she could find, imprisoned as she was in her kitchen chair and imprisoned as she was in her failing body. She was reaching out for the little magnificence available to her isolated existence. I remember that window, and I remember that hill. It was green and shady and reinforced with rough-hewn logs. As a child I didn’t know about the crown vetch. I only remember the green.

In that moment, in that memory, I felt a kinship with my paternal grandmother that I’ve rarely felt. There is something of her in me, though I’ve never thought much about it before. I am always hunting for beauty. Hemmed in by the filth of this Asian city, I seek it out, sometimes almost desperately. I can look at the same plant, the same leaf, over and over again and still be amazed. I can marvel at its ability to create nourishment from electromagnetic radiation. I can wonder at the arrangement of its leaves that enables it to catch the most light possible. And I can look in awe at the pure beauty of its shape. Every leaf, lovely. Every plant, perfect. Every look, every time.

At the funeral, the name “crown vetch” sounded so ugly that I couldn’t imagine the plant itself being anything but ugly. And I didn’t take any home with me. I just thought the man talked too long. I dismissed the words and I dismissed the thoughts. But now I know that crown vetch is beautiful. Now I know that crown vetch is tenacious – and sometimes hated for its tenacity, for its complex root system that crowds out any other plant, including weeds. Now I know that crown vetch is resilient and grows in a variety of soil and climate conditions. Now I know that the hardy crown vetch plant can help with erosion control, which is probably why it was planted on that hill in the first place. And now I know that after it takes hold – a process that can take several years – it needs little tending.

I want to be like that crown vetch. Persistent and resilient and adaptable. Able to grow and thrive in unpredictable conditions. Both rooted and blooming, if also at times a tangled mess of a creation. And I want to be like my grandmother, stubbornly seeking beauty, no matter my impairments. Clinging to my amazement, no matter my location. Refusing to be dulled to the presence of beauty in this world and fighting to keep it in my life. This is my inheritance: an unexpected gift from a cranky, ill grandmother.

 

I wrote about an inheritance from my mother’s side of the family here.

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

som2

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:

20819175_716297938556428_1801311326548665917_o.jpg

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

20663818_1131707686929310_8144263595275132959_n

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.