“Malformed Babies” and Dust | A Mother’s Journey, part 3

November 6, 1987

Yesterday I was thinking about how the word “malformed” makes a mother feel; “malformed ears,” “malformed heart” — sick to my stomach.

That’s how Laura was described.

Today I went to my first parent-teacher conference for Jonathan. She used words to describe Jonathan such as “well-adjusted, “self-motivated,” “hard worker.” These make a parent feel so good. And yet I take no credit or blame for either description. With both babies I did everything within my power to ensure good health (good nutrition, rest, vitamins, exercise, excellent prenatal care) and yet the outcome was out of my hands. One was formed perfectly, one “malformed.”

As we drove by the cemetery the kids started talking about Laura’s bones — that’s all that’s left, they imagine.

I told them even the bones would turn to dust eventually.

I couldn’t help but think that almost a year ago I was so concerned about that little physical body that my physical body was nourishing. My body, not knowing that her physical body was doomed from the start, did everything within its power to build a healthy body for her. It’s good to be reminded, I guess, that only God is in control. We can do the best with what we’ve been given but it’s God who has control of the situation.

11709715_10155799979450621_7496495746700237135_n (2)

Of Tulips and Death, part 1

When Your Baby Dies, part 2

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

by Elizabeth

som2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

GLOBAL WORKER BLOG POSTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OTHER BLOG POSTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

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

Another good interview with Angelina Stanford, by Pam Barnhill.

Gillette video on toxic masculinity.

Upworthy video about gender assumptions.

 

SONGS

No Longer Slaves, an international version.

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

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

Douwe Eisenga, For Mattia. From my dance class.

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

Pilgrim Songs [a podcast]

This message was recorded at ICA-Cambodia, October 2018. Towards the end, the congregation sings a bit, and then the message continues: Songs of Ascent, part 1

This message looks at Psalms 120-124 and should be available as a podcast on iTunes by Friday.

May God bless the reading and preaching of His Word!

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.

Jonathan Trotter

A Few of My Favorite Things {May/June 2018}

So I can’t always seem to get these favorites posts to you by month’s end, but better late than never right? ~Elizabeth

som2

Teenagers. 17 years in to our ministry journey, and I still love youth. This semester I taught math to the teens at our co-op. I’ve been with these students for a couple years now and have gotten to know each of them, and they are all special to me. Teaching them has been one of the greatest honors of our most recent term in Cambodia. I love watching them come alive and interact with different ideas, each in their own way.

At the end of this semester we lost 6 teens to family moves and graduations, and it was a difficult sendoff. I asked if I could say something to them at graduation and then pray over them. It was an emotional thing to do, but I really wanted to say goodbye well. Next year will not be the same without them! But we know they are headed where God is leading, and we trust Him even when things get hard.

Palm trees in Los Angeles. I wrote about our trip over the Pacific here.

Trip to Emerald Hills. We always visit Team Expansion’s home office, and this year’s visit was particularly good. I wrote about it here.

Trip to Washington State. We visited family and friends, which is of course its own treat. But we also saw the magnificent Mt. Hood on descent, drove to see Mt. St. Helens, and even climbed an ancient lava tube (basically a 2-hour hike up a 60-degree cave) at Mt. St. Helens. I’d never seen a volcano in person before. Beautiful.

Meeting my nephew. He’s 6 months old, but I hadn’t seen him yet. He was even cuter and sweeter than the pictures showed. He fell asleep in my arms several times, and I fell in love with him. I was pretty bummed when we had to say goodbye.

Trip to northern Missouri. We’ve been friends since our college days, and we’ve always gone to visit their farm, even before we had kids. The Galt Christian Church there always welcomes us wholeheartedly. Honestly, every time we visit I am blown away by their kindness and generosity.

Grand River Valley Choir and Orchestra. While we were in Galt, we went to see another friend who was singing in a concert. It was marvelous. I don’t get a chance to see much live music in Cambodia, and it is just different from music you can access online. It may have been my girls’ first experience of live music in fact, and they loved it. Some of the orchestra music had an Irish theme, which was fun, while the choir music was themed around the stages of life, from new baby to old age. I will tell you I cried. Quite a bit actually. The director I hugged afterward may have thought I was crazy!

 

BOOKS

I have not finished a single book, but I have looked in detail at several library books, including:

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik and The Language of God by Francis S. Collins (both in search of high school science books),

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker (a favorite Youtuber of mine),

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack (recommended by Rachel Pieh Jones and in preparation for studying American history next year with my kids), and

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (recommended by the people at Sonlight and full of history and neuroscience).

I’ve also been reading Mr. Putter and Tabby books and the Whatever After series (recommended by my friend Danielle and her daughter) with my girls. Both are fun, heart-warming series, and I can fully endorse them both.

 

MISSIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LIVING

To My Adult TCK Self: I See You by Rachel Hicks. Makes me cry every time.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Africa by Arthur Davis. Note: If you want to really think (or cry), read Arthur and Tamie Davis. They are Aussies living in Tanzania, and they blog at Meet Jesus at uni.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is Not a Ministry Guide by Susan Mettes. Intriguing and important.

6 Reasons Why You Should Not Go Overseas by Wesley Mills. For more on that subject, see Laura Parker’s classic 10 Reasons Not to Become a Missionary or Ryan Kuja’s newer The Call Is Not Enough.

The Top 10 Most Valuable Mindsets for MKs and TCKs by Michèle Phoenix.

25 Things They Don’t Put in the Life Abroad Brochure by Jerry Jones.

Leaving Poorly: a whole new set of options for departing expats also by Jerry Jones.

Is it a failure, or is it a growth opportunity? by Kay Bruner. So much grace here. (You may also be interested in Kay’s interview with Sarita Hartz.)

We Need Each Other by Renette. I like this perspective. Reminds me of discussions on community and culture in Alissa Wilkinson’s book How to Survive the Apocalypse. (And you know I always love anything reminiscent of culture critic Alissa Wilkinson.)

 

HOMESCHOOLING AND PARENTING

Calculus is the peak of high school math. Maybe it’s time to change that. by Sarah D. Sparks. Has me thinking.

The Problem With Hurrying Childhood Learning by Justin Minkel. I’m always a big fan of a non-hurried childhood.

Education is a dangerous thing: a conversation with Wendell Berry. Long interview, but good, especially the bit on “education for homecoming”

 

FOR WRITERS AND ARTISTS

You Are Not Your Work: On Receiving (and Ignoring) Feedback by Jonathan Rogers.

 

OTHER CULTURAL CONCERNS

Why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair Haque.

How can we untangle white supremacy from medieval studies? Important conversation with David M. Perry and Helen Young.

What Google Bros Have in Common with Medieval Beer Bros: the exclusion of women from coding fits perfectly into centuries of labor history by David M. Perry. Enlightening but concerning.

Prominent Democratic Feminist Camille Paglia Says Hilary Clinton ‘Exploits Feminism’ by Sam Dorman. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, this is a fascinating read.

‘We’re teaching university students lies’, an interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson. I don’t agree with everything here, but there is much food for thought.

Could managed consumption be a better form of treatment for alcoholism? by Sasha Chapin. Also intriguing.

 

QUOTES

Found on Randy Alcorn’s Twitter and I believe quoting John Piper:

“It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge… I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book…I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.”

From Doug McKelvey on the Rabbit Room, quoting G.K. Chesterton:

“Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men [or young women!], but one…”

Here’s the best explanation I’ve ever heard of how children can follow the 5th commandment, starting with childhood and extending into adulthood in this order. From a sermon at Legacy Christian Church (my parents’ home church, where we’re going this summer and where my kids participated in a fabulous week of VBS.)

  • Willful obedience
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Frequent communication
  • Care for them in their frailty

 

MUSIC

So Will I (100 Billion x) by Hillsong. Yes, I like this song (along with everyone else).

Fly Away Home by Pink Zebra. A song that had me tears at the concert. Besides all the other layers of possible meaning here, to me it also represents the fact that whether I’m leaving the States for Cambodia or leaving Cambodia for the States, every time I step on a plane, I’m “flying away home.”

If you’re a TCK in a less sentimental mood, try No Roots by Alice Merton instead.

 

MOVIES

Churchill. I watched this on the plane and cried through much of it. Emotions are understated, making them all the more powerful. Coming on the heels of a semester studying World War 2 at co-op and my yearlong obsession with The Crown series, this movie gave more depth to the historical character of Winston Churchill, some insight into the challenges of marriage in politics (or ministry!), and some perspective on the atrocities and traumas of war. Well worth the watch.

Candy Jar. A fun movie. I saw my younger self in the main character probably far too much. There’s some bittersweet in this story, which took me by surprise.

Little Dorrit. I absolutely loved this BBC adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens story. Here’s my FB conversation about it.

Khmer resources

Here are some emotional words/vocab lists that I’ve picked up from a couple of friends. Many thanks to Mary and Wendy!

Emotions and Feelings in Khmer and English

Emotions according to intensity

More Emotion Words in Khmer

Here’s an additional resource in Khmer: What is a Woman Worth?

And here’s a master list (with video) about Church Planting Movements and Inner Healing.

Night shot Phnom Penh

photo credit: Nick Radcliffe

On Peace, Busyness, and Remembering that I’m not God (Psalm 131)

On March 18th, I was privileged to preach at ICA here in Phnom Penh. You can listen to the message here, or via our podcast on iTunes.

We talked about three things that block peace and a few things that help bring peace.

I also introduced a short song called Be Still, Be Quiet, based on Psalm 131. It’s at the end of the message around the 25 minute mark.

all for ONE,

Jonathan T.

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

                      “Psalm 131 is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of                                         the longest to learn.” — Charles Spurgeon

 

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

 

hannah-morgan-37675

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

som2

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.