A Spiritual Warfare Lullaby

Greater is He
Greater is he who is in me,
Than the one who’s in the world

There is no power in Heav’n or hell or earth
That can ever separate me
From the love of God our Father
From the love of God above

Like a Good Shepherd he leads me
Besides waters still and calm
In the presence of all of my enemies
Still the presence of God above

I will not fear the terror
Of the day or the night
For I know my Father is with me
In the dark he is my Light.

All the hosts of Heaven are shouting
At the victory he’s won
All of Hell continues to tremble
At the love of God above

A Trotter Christmas: articles from years past plus favorite books and songs for Advent and beyond

We celebrated Thanksgiving as a family, our tree is up, and the new church year (Advent) starts tomorrow. I am in a merry mood and want to share our very best Christmas articles from the archives plus my very favorite Advent and Christmas songs, both relatively unknown ones and timeless, cherished ones. I hope you enjoy my “grown-up Christmas list.” ~Elizabeth

 

BLOG POSTS

When Singing “Joy to the World” Feels Too Hard by Elizabeth. If you’re mourning or grieving this Christmas, that’s OK. Skip the other posts and read this one instead.

A Christmas letter to parents, from a kid who doesn’t have any by Jonathan. More for the hurting among us, and a reminder of what Christmas is really all about.

The Tree That Tells Our Story by Elizabeth. Does your Christmas tree tell the story of your family. A post especially for Third Culture Kids and global nomads.

I Need a Silent Night by Elizabeth. Do you need some soul rest or some unrushing this Christmas season? If so, this one’s for you.

When God Paid for Christmas by Elizabeth. Still one of my very favorite Christmas stories. It was the year money was tight and God gave us Christmas anyway.

In Search of Christmas Spirit (or, an ode to Christmases past and present) by Elizabeth. About our first Christmas overseas. Also for Third Culture Kids and Global Nomads.

A Christmas Prayer by Jonathan. A beautiful prayer for the universal church of Jesus Christ.

He Unbreaks It by Elizabeth. This one looks back on Christmas from the perspective of Epiphany (Three Kings Day or the Twelfth Day of Christmas).

 

ADVENT SONGS

When I talk about “Advent,” I’m referring to the period of four weeks in which we prepare for Christmas. It memorializes the long wait for the Christ Child thousands of years ago and is reminiscent of our current wait for the return of our King. A lot of Advent songs have a minor sound, as there is longing and ache in the wait (and you know I love that minor sound).

Ready My Heart by Lois Shuford, performed by Steve Bell. I learned this song two years ago from a missionary friend who led it during a Christmas service. Short, but I think you will find the message and melody sticks around in your head and on your voice. Here are the lyrics.

Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel, translated from the Latin by John Mason Neale. This is an absolute favorite of mine. Don’t cheat yourself of the theology in this song — you really must sing all the verses (you can find them here). Musically speaking, our family favorite is Aaron Shust’s version.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, by Charles Wesley and Rowland Prichard and performed by Chris Tomlin. Another favorite pre-Christmas song of mine.

 

CHRISTMAS SONGS

Little Drummer Boy by Katherine Kennicott Davis and performed by Pentatonix. Every time I hear this song I am a puddle of tears. Every time, people. At least, every time since we were in the States three years ago and the preacher at our sending church mentioned it in a sermon and shed a new light on it for — specifically the “I have no gift to bring.” I’d always liked the song, but now I love the song. Now my children look at me a little cross-eyed whenever this song plays, and I can’t for the life of me explain in understandable terms why I cry so hard. I think it is just that at this stage of my life, I feel and know deeply that I have nothing to give the Savior — nothing in myself — but I will give what little I can. And the promise of the song is that God is pleased with us when we give what little we can. OK, no more philosophizing, just go experience the song. Again and again.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Gloucester Cathedral Choir.  A friend sent this to me last year. It may not be completely historically accurate (it wasn’t that cold in Bethlehem), but it’s metaphorically accurate and oh, isn’t it beautiful?

Who Would have Thought by Julie Meyer. A beautiful worship song, and I love it. There’s no listing of the lyrics anywhere, but here’s the back story to this song.

Do You Hear What I Hear by  Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker. I’ve loved this song vaguely since childhood, as my mom played a version of it. But it’s only been in the last couple years have I truly understood the message of the last verse.

Vicit Agnus Noster by Michael Card. Beautiful and — as is par for the course with a Card song — deeply theological.

Mary Did You Know by Mark Lowry, performed here by Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd. A favorite from childhood.

Welcome to our World Chris Rice. A little off the beaten path, but good.

Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  A family favorite.

Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Another family favorite.

Emmanuel God With Us by Amy Grant. The album this song comes from is a family favorite. Ethereal and prophetic.

For Unto Us a Child is Born, from Handel’s Messiah and sung by Amy Grant.

Which brings me to my last linked song, Hallelujah Chorus. You really need to listen to Handel’s Messiah in its fullness, but for many this chorus is synonymous with Christmas and with the entire work. Something to remember about this chorus, though, is that you have to sit two-thirds of the way through the program to get to this triumphant song. Victory always involves waiting. For me this song represents the “now and not yet” reality of the kingdom, and though I cry over the beautiful partial fulfillment of these words, I still cry in longing of the full and final redemption of this world.

Other favorite carols of mine (though I’ve hardly ever met a carol I didn’t like):

  • What Child is This? (oh look, another minor song, for which you really must sing all the verses)
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (yes, more minor, and more gospel reminders)
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (for a full effect, all the verses are necessary)
  • Oh Holy Night (in which I break my minor streak, and in which you must also sing all the verses)
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing (again, all the verses)
  • Of course I also love Silent Night and The First Noel — but you have to sing all the verses to those too.
  • And finally, people, I love Joy to the World, but for goodness sakes, WAIT to sing it till Christmas morning. You must absolutely must wait for the joy. Otherwise it’s silliness. And when you sing it on Christmas morning, you gotta sing all 4 verses, people, all four verses.

Share your favorite songs in the comments.

 

BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS AND THE CHURCH YEAR

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I grew up on this story, and this year I decided to read it aloud to our kids. Plus, we are going to see an international high school production of the play next week!

The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I am relatively new to the church year, and this book walked me through it this past year. Kimberlee’s prose is friendly, fresh, and rooted. I continue to rave about several sections, including Easter and the Transfiguration. You really do need the paperback version, though, as it’s an all year by-my-side type of book. Kindle won’t cut it here.

Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. Walking through the church year with Kimberlee was so good that I knew I wanted to walk through it with someone else (but I’ve got Kimberlee’s book near so I can grab it when I want to). I’d been exposed to Guite’s poems (sonnets, really) and read enough of them on his website that I knew Guite was just the teacher I needed to walk me through the church year this year. The book is a cycle of 70 sonnets for the church year. I was going to wait until the first day of Advent (first day of the church year) to crack open the poems, but I cheated and read the prologue out loud (the only way poetry is supposed to be read of course) last week and then immediately burst into tears. I thought, this is going to be a good year.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. I enjoy Madeleine’s (rambling) prose and plan to read this book alongside Malcolm’s. It’s arranged by section of the church year, just like Kimberlee’s.

Share your favorite church year resources in the comments.

 

FAVORITE FAMILY CHRISTMAS MOVIES

The Muppet Christmas Carol. A classic, and a family favorite. This story always gets me in the Christmas mood. This year I’m going to go further than the movie and read the actual book. Probably out loud and in a British accent.

The Nativity Story. I don’t care if you think this version is not historically accurate enough, it is emotive and beautiful and true to the spirit of the story.

It’s a Wonderful Life. This is an absolute Hunzinger family favorite. We watched it every Christmas Eve growing up, and waited till our Christmas Eve showing to crack open the big flavored popcorn tin under the tree. But you must watch it in black and white. It’s silly to watch it in color.

My kids and I also enjoy Elf and White Christmas (a family favorite on Jonathan’s side).

Share your favorite Christmas movies in the comments.

When fear strikes at night, here’s something you can do

by Elizabeth

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I was talking with a friend recently when the subject of fear came up – specifically, nighttime fears. And all of a sudden I remembered the nameless, faceless fears of my early twenties. These were the fears that were irrational and nonspecific, feelings more than words. I didn’t always know what I was afraid of, I just knew I was afraid and couldn’t sleep.

Back then, all I knew to do was to sing the name of Jesus, over and over again, until I fell asleep. I had a few songs on repeat in my head. Later I would sing those same songs over my babies as I rocked them. This practice became so much a part of who I was that I didn’t consciously think about it as a weapon for fighting fear until I was in the middle of this recent conversation.

As we were talking, my friend said, “It’s like singing yourself a lullaby. We sing lullabies over our children, why wouldn’t we sing them over ourselves?” That was such a great description of the practice. So I’m going to share with you my lullabies. They’re calming to me but may not do anything for you. However, I think it’ll give you a starting point to find (or remember) your own evening songs.

The first and main song is one we used to sing in college with our friends. This version sounds fairly close to the way we used to sing together. I used to sing the “Jesus” chorus over and over to myself till I calmed down and fell asleep. There’s something so powerful about lifting your eyes up, away from your problems and even away from petitions for help, and focusing on the name of JESUS.

Here’s another one that helped me, though I can’t find any music for it anywhere. It was written by a lady in our Church of Christ circles who sang in a group called Free Indeed:

“Lord give me peace,
I’m feeling all alone,
calm my spirit,
still my mind,
fill my heart with peace.”

It had a really simple melody that I learned one Saturday morning from my youth minister’s wife. She used it when she needed peace and patience as a mama of young children; I used it at night when I couldn’t sleep.

And this last one might seem kind of strange, so bear with me. In middle school choir we sang a song set to words that had been scrawled on a cellar wall during WWII’s Holocaust:

“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining
And I believe in love even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God, even when He is silent
I believe through any trial, there is always a way

But sometimes in this suffering and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter, to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying ‘Hold on my child,
I’ll give you strength, I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.'”

The melody and the lyrics are both haunting, and the song has stayed with me all these years. It gives me comfort – though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s when I’m in the dark, alone and afraid, that I need its message most. And it represents the undaunted faith I want to pass on to my children.

I was only 12 when I first learned the song, so I couldn’t understand the full soul-depth of its cries, but I remember watching people in the audience weep as we performed it. Now I know why they were crying. They were living in – or had lived in – a world where the sun wasn’t shining, a world where God was silent, a world where it seemed no one was there. Yet they still wanted to believe.

The version below is the closest I could find to the song I learned:

These days, I rely more on the “Doxology” and the “Gloria Patri” for peace and calm. Many years ago in a ladies’ Bible class I listened to one woman talk about how her mentor had taught her to center herself with the “Doxology” when she felt anxious. (Did you catch that? That was a long stream of women passing on wisdom that I’m now passing on to you.) So now in times of stress, I tend to fall back on:

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”

And this:

“Glory be to the Father
And to the Son
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever shall be
World without end
Amen, amen.”

If you’ve never sung to yourself at night, I hope this post gives you a new weapon for fighting fear and anxiety. The songs that speak to you in the middle of the night may be different from the ones that speak to me, but I pray you can find your own nighttime lullabies and start singing yourself to sleep.

If you already sing away your nighttime fears, consider blessing someone else by sharing your own songs in the comments.

A Few of My Favorite Things {August 2016}

August was a whirlwind of a month. I got away for 24 hours with the ladies on my team, which was lots of fun. We had plenty of playdates with friends during our 4 short weeks of homeschool summer. Then halfway through this month, we started school (it’s been going well so far). And this week, I finally got a date with my husband! It was only an hour and a half, but it was the first out-of-the-house date we’d had in 2 months – though it wasn’t for lack of trying! Either our schedules didn’t match our sitters’, or they did but someone got sick. In other news, I’m joining a home school co-op this year and am quite excited about that. ~Elizabeth

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BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. I started this Bible study/devotional/commentary and have made some good progress on it. While I really liked Card’s Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, his book on Mark is so much better (for me anyway). It’s teaching me a ton and challenging me to think in new ways. In fact, I often have to put the book down so I can contemplate what I’ve just read. I’ve been surprised by this, as Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. But maybe it means there were treasures in there all along, and I just never knew it. (You’ll find a couple quotes from the book at the end of this post.)

Songbird by Helena Sorensen. This is the third and final book in the Shiloh series I raved about last month. Cannot tell you how much I loved it.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. This isn’t the first time I’ve read the last installment in the Narnia series, but it’s the first time in a long time, and the first time I read it out loud with my children. And to be honest, I’ve never much cared for this one before. How different was my reaction this time around!

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. A new-to-me Lewis book that is as good (and strange) as everybody says. You can read two different responses of mine to both these Lewis books on Facebook here and here.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Could this book get any more perfect? I think not. The entire thing is a Littmus Lozenge: sorrow mixed in with sweet. (You’ll have to read the whole book to find out exactly what I mean by that.) And don’t forget to read it with a southern accent — this is the book that inspired my daughter to speak in one too.

Psychology Today magazine, July 2016 edition. One of our family’s favorite Saturday morning activities is visiting the book store (especially with no public libraries around here). We peruse the magazine section each time but because they are so expensive, we almost never buy magazines here. This month we made an exception, an exception that was well worth it. Several of the articles provided a scientific defense of important spiritual concepts – things like finding mentors, staying humble, not comparing yourself to others, not letting smart phones destroy your marriage and other relationships, putting down roots and becoming attached to your “place” in a mobile world, even avoiding cohabiting or serial dating before marriage (yes, that last one really was in this secular magazine!).

 

BLOG POSTS ON THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

On Home and Glory: Musings on Daily Life and Divine Destiny by Heidi White. You know I’m a sucker for anything that talks about our longings, and that’s what you’ll find here.

Holding the Long View in Mind by Amy Young. Comforting, hopeful, and so very biblical, all at once.

Women, Trade Self-Worth for Awe and Wonder by Jen Wilkin. This post spoke to the deep places inside me that crave awe and wonder.

“I’ve Always Been a Good Girl” by Marilyn Gardner. I relate to this so very much (and in fact wrote about it earlier this spring).

In Defense of an Ordinary Life by Elizabeth Esther. So very important and so very true.

A Prayer of the Heart in 30 Words or Less by Emily P. Freeman. If these breath-type prayers are what you’re needing, you’ll find more like them from Sarah MacKenzie in the quotes section below.

 

FOR WRITERS

Dear Writer, We Commission You by Idelette McVicker. Go back to this post when you need inspiration. Every time, go back to this.

Mending Thoughts by Jenilee Goodwin. The idea resonates.

The Mental Neat Freak by Jennifer Fulwiler. A very helpful explanation.

Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me by Andrew Peterson, whose music I’ve linked to before (most notably here and here) and whose Wingfeather Saga I’ve just started and which I will probably review next month. This article is long but good — and I’ve never even read Harry Potter.

 

FOR GLOBAL NOMADS

The Gift of Saudade by Marilyn Gardner. More on our longings (and as you know I can never resist that).

The Mother of Modern Missions? by Abby Alleman. With this post, Abby created a safe space for those struggling in the missions community. More important than I can say.

 

FOR PARENTS

Wasted on Children: Keeping Babylon at Bay by Joshua Gibbs. “The more you love a child, the harder you make it for the Babylonians to love them later. The more you lavish on a child, the more the Babylonians will have to lavish on them later— and the Babylonians are, in truth, really not willing to lavish a whole lot.” Dense (like everything from CiRCE Institute).

This year’s *totally official* homeschool permission slip at Brave Writer. The permission we all need to enjoy our children.

How to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse and Molestation: A Pediatrician’s Advice at The Mom Creative. No explanation necessary.

 

MUSIC

Thank You by Hillsong United.

There is no one like You
There is no one like You, God
All my hope is in You
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

To Your name
We give all the glory
To Your name
We give all the praise

We Glorify Your Name by Hillsong LIVE.

The highest praise is yours
The highest praise is yours
The highest praise is yours
In all the earth

Healing Grace by Donnie McClurkin. The instrumentation here is a bit dated and slightly different from the way we sang it at church, but oh, these lyrics (reminiscent of The Book of Common Prayer don’t you think??).

Merciful God and Father
Loving us like no other
Hear our prayer
The cry of our heart
As we come to You
We acknowledge our transgressions
We confess to You our sins
Show us mercy and compassion
Touch our lives with Your healing grace
Again

Leave Me Astounded by Planetshakers.

All my hands have made I’m laying down
All that I hold dear, my many crowns
I’ve tasted and seen of Your great love
You satisfy me, You satisfy me

My constant request above all things
Every hour I wake, be near me, oh God
Though I’ve tasted and seen of Your great love
Show me Your glory, show me Your glory

Leave me astounded, leave me amazed
Show off Your glory, let heaven invade
We’re waiting with worship, we’re waiting with praise
For the almighty presence of God to invade

Glory by Hillsong.

Glory to the risen king
Glory to the Son
Glorious Son

Lift up your heads
Open the doors
Let the king of glory come in
And forever be our God

(Apparently glory was a theme for me this month.)

 

PODCASTS, VIDEOS, AND TELEVISION

Yeah. ANOTHER sermon on fear by Nadia Bolz Weber. 12 minutes of fear fighting — but don’t worry, it’s free of the salty language that sometimes accompanies her written work.

Amy Boucher Pye on the Intersection Between Creativity and Faith on James Prescott’s podcast. A relatable conversation on faith, creativity, editing, and writing. And Amy has such a lovely, velvety voice, don’t you think?

Why We Should All Be Reading Aloud to Children, a TEDx talk by Rebecca Bellingham. 10 power-packed minutes of read-aloud inspiration.

The Jim Gaffigan Show. I’m often too serious and in need of laughter in my life. (Of course, if you’ve ever seen me laugh, you know I do it so whole-heartedly that I look and sound ridiculous.) But you’ve read my writing and seen my reading list — there’s some pretty serious stuff here. So my husband recently asked me if I would join him in watching The Jim Gaffigan Show. He’d seen a few episodes and wanted to share the joy with me. It’s mostly clean, and I deep-belly-laughed a lot, which made him laugh even more. Jim and his wife Jeannie aren’t producing a third season due to the very respectable reason that the show was taking too much time from their real-life family, but you can still enjoy the first two seasons.

 

QUOTES

Greg McKeown on the importance of hand-written journals and records:

“Paper is an important technology.”

Somerset Maugham, found in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet:

“The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistical and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them , for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.”

Ann Greve with an explanation that makes a  lot of sense to me:

“We never leave God’s presence, but sometimes we leave God’s fellowship.”

Andrew Peterson in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness:

“‘Janner,’ Oskar said, ‘there’s more to the world than just seeing it. If you can’t find peace here in Glipwood, you won’t find it anywhere.'”

“All of the passion and sadness and joy of those who listened would into one common strand of feeling that was to Janner like homesickness, though he couldn’t think why; he was just a short walk from the only home he’d ever known.”

“Janner hadn’t realized it, but his cheeks were wet as well. ‘There’s just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you’re cooking, and there’s no place I’d rather be — but for some reason I still feel . . . homesick.'”

Aspirations (or breath prayers) from Sarah MacKenzie in Teaching From Rest:

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus, my God, I love thee above all things.

Jesus, I trust in you.

My God and my all.

My Lord and my God!

God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.

O Lord, increase my faith.

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Michael Card on the “Lord of the Sabbath” incident in his commentary on Mark:

“Lordship by definition knows no boundaries. There is no area of our lives where He is not master. Jesus’ proclamation of lordship should cause us to stop and take account. We need to realize that whatever the facet of our orthodox observance, no matter how correct or biblical, He claims lordship even over that.” 

Here’s something else from Card that stays with me and just won’t go away. It was one of those moments where I put the book down so I could try to absorb what I just read. And I’ve now copied it into my journal not once, but twice. In the passage in Mark 6 where Jesus walks on water and the disciples are afraid, the words Jesus spoke in the original language were actually:

“I AM; no fear.”

I’m struck by both the simplicity of Jesus’ statement, and its power. I’m not sure whether Jesus is making a statement here, as in “Wherever God is, there’s no fear,” or a command, as in “Do not fear.” Maybe it’s both. And maybe that’s why it stays with me.

And lastly, C.S. Lewis in Till We Have Faces:

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

When You Stop Loving the Church

by Elizabeth

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I’ve had a life-long love affair with the church of Jesus Christ. Many of you know that. I’ve talked about it often enough.

But. I almost lost my faith in Christ’s blessed church recently. I was disappointed with His people. Disillusioned even. I felt betrayed by the depravity of mankind.

And then.

I sang the Doxology with my teammates. The words of life set in rich, deep harmonies. Ancient truth, ever new.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost

And then.

I sang Hillsong’s “Glory” with my local church. Words I’d never before heard. Words my spirit desperately needed to hear and to proclaim.

Glory to the risen king, glory to the Son, glorious Son
Lift up your heads, open the doors
Let the king of glory come in
And forever be our God

And then.

I remembered the words of Psalm 29, words that my husband had read aloud earlier that day.

The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare.
In His Temple everyone shouts “Glory!”

And then.

It all came rushing back to me. All along, it’s been CHRIST. Christ is the reason I believed in His church in the first place. Because of Him, and not because of His people.

We are His because of Him, and because of Him, He is our God. Never because of us. For as we used to sing in youth group,

My only hope is You, Jesus
My only hope is You
From early in the morning till late at night
My only hope is You

Human beings were never worthy of my hope. My only hope is in God, and when we’re in God’s Temple, we all cry Glory! Even the believers who disillusion me.

And then.

I remembered more. Standing there with my hands lifted as high to the sky as I could reach, I remembered standing in that same position last year, shouting out Hillsong’s “The Creed” with a shattered heart.

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus

And then.

I realized that my strongest experiences of worship don’t usually happen when life is going well. No, it’s when life is going poorly and I’m in the middle of a storm and I still stand and sing GLORY that I most intensely experience God’s nearness and God’s greatness.

And this praise, this powerful act of defiance against evil and against discouragement and against hatred, it’s something no one and nothing can take away from us. It’s our right and our privilege as God’s children, and it can’t be stolen from us.

God alone is worthy of our hope and worthy of our praise. We proclaim it now, and one day in the Temple, we will all join together, saints and angels alike, to shout GLORY. Forever. And ever.

Amen.

This article was reprinted at both Relevant and Faithit.

You can read all the posts in my Church series here.

the soundtrack of sorrow

sountrack of sorrow

There’s a mysterious power in tones and rhythms; a sort of shortcut to the soul.

Sometimes, music can take us to places that words alone never could.

Often, I need a Soundtrack of Sorrow to more fully feel. Grief and loss can stay bound up behind to-dos and busyness and noise. But music suspends the shoulds and lets me grieve. It gives a whole rest.

The Bible itself contains these types of soundtracks: Psalms of Sorrow and expressive Laments. They are powerful, emotive, and not to be dismissed.

Mourning is a deeply human, soul-level response to The Fall and its repercussions: death, separation, loneliness. And sometimes, to deal with all that, I need music.

What’s on your Soundtrack of Sorrow? Here are a few of the tracks on mine…

These choices might  not make sense to you. That’s ok, ’cause they’re on my Soundtrack of Sorrow, not yours. These songs remind me of my mother, and when I listen to these tracks, I see her at the piano, or sitting on the couch with her worn-out guitar. I see her crying in the kitchen after the death of her third baby.

These tracks remind me of my dad. Of happy times long since gone, and lazy Saturdays with grass and baseball; they remind me of Casey’s cookies and how he always bought a Butterfinger and a Diet Coke.

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Over time, I’ve added songs to the list. Songs unknown to my parents but deeply known to me:

This last one was sort of my mom’s cancer anthem. As I drove her back and forth from oncology appointments, we listened to Fernando Ortega. My dying mother in the front seat next to me, my baby brother in his car seat in the back. Not your normal teen experience, but it was mine.

Do you have a Soundtrack of Sorrow? What’s on it?

A Few of My Favorite Things {April 2016}

Here are some highlights from the hottest month of the year. To be honest, it’s been kind of a rough one, what with the heat, the power outages, the broken things, the loud funeral chanting, the karaoke music in the morning, the metal shop next door, and even the middle-of-the-night cat fights outside our bedroom windows, but here are some honest-to-goodness bright spots. (And in answer to your unspoken question, yes I’m still writing in my gratitude journal! I’m just being honest about the hard things too.) ~Elizabeth

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Watching some dear friends and teammates in the local homeschool coop’s play. I wrote about what I learned from that refreshing evening here.

Heading to Mondulkiri province with our teammates for Khmer New Year. It’s unbearably hot in Phnom Penh, but it’s at least 10ºF cooler in Mondulkiri during the day – and so cool at night I need a blanket, even without any fans. We met up with some other missionary friends in the area and had a lot of fun fellowship. I completely “unplugged” during this time and didn’t even use my husband’s phone to check Facebook or email. And the kids were again able to traipse all over the campground with their friends (there were 21 children in total), really getting that “camp experience” that Jonathan and I cherish so much from our childhoods. Here’s what I wrote about Mondulkiri on Facebook last year, what I wrote about it this year, and what I blogged about it last year.

Participating in the Velvet Ashes online retreat. The theme was “Commune: Closer to Christ, Farther from Fear.” Karolyn’s testimony really resonated with me, as she talked a lot about the Shepherd. She taught us that we are supposed to find our identity in the Shepherd alone – not even in being sheep, but really, truly in belonging to the Shepherd. She talked about how our Shepherd leads us to different pastures, but that’s all they are: different pastures. The pastures are His, and He is with us the entire time. Sometimes I can get hung up on “place” and Home being a place, but I loved the beauty of what Karolyn said about the Shepherd leading us to different pastures and being with Him the whole time. Beautiful, true, comforting imagery.

Also in the retreat time Kimberly read aloud Psalm 23 in The Message, because we tend to gloss over familiar passages of scripture without really thinking about them. She wanted us to listen to the psalm and pick out which phrases really caught our attention. The phrase that immediately caught me was “You let me catch my breath.” It stood out to me because I’ve been really breathless lately. I feel I can’t catch my breath, there’s so much to do, and the idea of catching my breath with God sounds really, really inviting.

Co-leading a workshop on relationships for international teens. We focused on both friendships and dating/romantic relationships, and I really enjoyed our interactive sessions. Confession: I really miss youth ministry! It was a thrill to get just a little taste of it again. I led a session about female friendships and also participated in a panel discussion on guy-girl relationships with the other leaders.

 

BOOKS

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. I broke through the “wall” I was hitting in this book, and it started flowing much more quickly and easily. L’Engle is completely out of time. She’s in my grandmother’s generation, but I keep reading her words thinking they are directed at today’s society, when in reality she was a 1940’s bride and has been dead nearly a decade. So she’s a good example of the fact that human nature and human needs don’t really change. There’s so much in this book that I underline and find profound – too much to quote. You should just read the whole thing!

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, also by Madeleine L’Engle. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.  Her husband had one kind of upbringing: stable. And she had another: mobile. I found myself in her story, and I found her musings on home, belonging, and marriage to be deeply moving. Be forewarned — it’s a tear-jerker. A beautiful tear-jerker, but a tear-jerker nonetheless.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. We finally finished reading this one! Goodness it takes longer to get through than any of the other Chronicles. I have so much less motivation to read it, although there really are some very good metaphors for the Christian life in it, including the baptism/transformation of Eustace and the appearance of Aslan in the form of a bird in one of their darkest, most fearful hours.

 

BLOG POSTS

What If? by Michele Womble. Poetry by Michele is something you should never skip!

Commune: In the Breaking by Patty Stallings. In preparation for the Velvet Ashes retreat. Beautiful.

Sometimes We Can’t Feed Ourselves by Amy Young. Also in preparation for the Velvet Ashes retreat.

Breath of Life by Amy Young. Because I forget that I need to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. So thankful for the reminder.

Resurrection by Sarah Bessey. Because there’s no way I can pass up Sarah Bessey on resurrection — and you shouldn’t either.

The Cult of Calling by Leslie Verner. Such great truth that really touched a nerve over at A Life Overseas.

Sisterhood: We Sharpen Iron Here by Idelette McVicker. I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again: Christian female friendships have been some of my most life-giving relationships. I treasure them.

A Fit Bit (on belonging; not on electronic step tracking!) by Robynn Bliss. Not belonging or fitting in: this is the TCK condition. It is also the human condition. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. (And as an aside, when I met with Robynn in person, I felt like I belonged. I hope she felt the same.)

The Desert Shall Bloom by Emily Hamilton. Because “flourishing in the desert” imagery speaks my language.

On Freedom and Forgiveness by Jen Hatmaker. Such important truth, and so clearly and convincingly laid out here.

 

SONGS

Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nockels. Especially the phrase:

God I breathe Your name above everything.

Beneath the Waters by Hillsong. Especially the bridge:

Your word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
And on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

If:Equip is going through the Nicene Creed. Here are my favorite discussions so far (they are each 2 minutes):

Day 7 on God being good

Day 10 on God as creator

Day 18 on the resurrection

Day 21 On the Holy Spirit

Day 24 on listening to the Holy Spirit

What Room Does Fear Have? video and backstory. This one’s 20 minutes, but worth the time.

Finding Allies in Imagination: Sarah MacKenzie of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast interviews S.D. Smith, author of The Green Ember (which I recently bought but haven’t read to the kids yet). Encouraging.

Navigating Fantasy: Sarah MacKenzie interviews Carolyn Leiloglou. Another WONDERFUL Read Aloud Revival podcast.

What does it mean to be emotionally healthy? by Kay Bruner. A short but comprehensive description of emotional health, including recommendations for some of our favorite books, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero and the classic Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Head, body, heart: three ways to work a problem by Kay Bruner. How much do I love this (also short) animation? So much. We are whole beings and have to treat ourselves as such.

And finally, this trigonometry animation, because I’m still more than a little obsessed with sine, cosine, and the unit circle.

 

FUNNY STUFF (because too often I forget to laugh)

27 Ridiculously Funny Things Sleep Deprived Moms Have Done. I laughed so hard at these! (Once I walked into a wall while on my way to fetch my little nursling.)

This Video Slays Every Video About Working Women Ever. Found this through a FB friend. Kind of like Igniter Media’s Nobody has it all together, minus the Christianity.

Jim Gaffigan on bowling. Because it’s Jim Gaffigan, and that means funny. (I actually do love bowling though.)

Jim Gaffigan on Disney World. As someone who doesn’t like amusement parks, I couldn’t stop laughing at this. (Beware one bad word.)

 

QUOTES (but only a few this month)

For the liturgical among us, Easter is a season, not a day. So even though it’s way past Easter, I’m going to share an Easter memory from Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s book The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.  This particular story took place on Easter morning several years ago. The author’s son had been given a balloon in Bible class. He walked into the sanctuary where his mom was chatting with one of their pastors. He accidentally let go of the balloon, causing it to float upwards. The pastor immediately started walking for a ladder to retrieve the balloon for this heartbroken young lad. Kimberlee tried to stop him: “Please don’t. We believe in letting him experience the consequences of his actions.” But the minister turned around and said,

“It’s Easter, Kimberlee. There are no consequences.”

Aslan and Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon.”

Stephen Hawking, in The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, explaining straight lines and the curvature of space in a way in which I finally “got it.” I must admit that my study of spherical (or globe) geometry from several years ago greatly aided my understanding of this section. Even so, this is the best explanation I’ve ever read:

Einstein made the revolutionary suggestion that gravity is not a force like other forces, but is a consequence of the fact that space-time is not flat, as had been previously assumed: it is curved, or ‘warped,’ by distribution of mass and energy in it.

Bodies like the earth are not made to move on curved orbits by a force called gravity; instead, they follow the nearest thing to a straight path in a curved space, which is called a geodesic. A geodesic is the shortest (or longest) path between two nearby points. For example, the surface of the earth is a two-dimensional curved space. A geodesic on the earth is called a great circle, and is the shortest route between two points. As the geodesic is the shortest path between any two airports, this is the route an airline navigator will tell the pilot to fly along.

In general relativity, bodies always follow straight lines in four-dimensional space-time, but they nevertheless appear to us to move along curved paths in our three-dimensional space. (This is rather like watching an airplane flying over hilly ground. Although it follows a straight line in three-dimensional space, its shadow follows a curved path on the two-dimensional ground.)

How can I not love this chemistry analogy from Mike Bickle in his book Growing in the Prophetic? Though it’s not a perfect description of the science (but really, what metaphor is perfect?), over and over this has been my spiritual experience: I sit and I sit and I sit before God, and nothing happens. Then all of a sudden one day, something BIG happens:

There is a chemistry experiment called a titration. In this experiment, there are two clear solutions in separate test tubes. Drop by drop, one solution is mingled with the other. There is no chemical reaction until the one solution becomes supersaturated with the other. The final drop that accomplishes this causes a dramatic chemical reaction that is strikingly visible.

Some sit before God in prayer rooms and renewal meetings for hours with no apparent spiritual reaction taking place. Then, suddenly, they have a power encounter with the Spirit that radically impacts them. In retrospect, they come to believe that a spiritual “titration” was going on through the many hours of waiting on God and through soaking in the invisible and hidden ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Corduroy by Don Freeman. I got back into reading shorter books with my younger kids this month and was particularly drawn to the end of Corduroy, where the little girl Lisa brings Corduroy home from the department store.

Corduroy blinked. There was a chair and a chest of drawers, and alongside a girl-size bed stood a little bed just the right size for him. The room was small, nothing like that enormous palace in the department store.

“This must be home,” he said. “I know I’ve always wanted a home.”

Lisa sat down with Corduroy on her hap and began to sew a button on his overalls. “I like you the way you are,” she said, “but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.”

“You must be a friend,” said Corduroy. “I’ve always wanted a friend.”

“Me too!” said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.

Isn’t that just the heart cry of all of us? We want home and a friend and unconditional acceptance.

Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. No matter how many times I read this book, little Jo-Jo’s YOPP at the end still gives me goose bumps. No matter what it is or how small it seems, the kingdom work you and I do matters.

And he climbed with the lad up the Eiffelberg Tower.
“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the air of their country!” he said.
“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts.
So open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”

Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,
The lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “YOPP!”

And that Yopp . . .
That one small, extra Yopp put it over!
Finally at last! From that speck on that clover
Their voices were heart! They rang out clear and clean.
And the elephant smiled. “Do you see what I mean? . . .
They’ve proved they ARE persons, no matter how small.
And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of All!”