Embracing a Healthy Body Image Overseas {Taking Route podcast}

Elizabeth recently chatted with Denise James, host of the new Taking Route Podcast. They discussed some of the issues surrounding eating and body image that many women deal with, regardless of where they live.  You can listen to that conversation here. And when you’re done, be sure to check out the other conversations on the podcast!

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Avoiding Platitudes, Accepting Influence, and Loving Jesus (John 11:1-44)

Last Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at the ICF here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

To listen to the message, click here, or view on iTunes.

We looked at how Jesus allowed his emotions to be influenced (by a woman!), we talked about platitudes and why to NEVER use them, and we considered the different ways Jesus empathized with Mary and Martha.

He mirrored each woman and responded very uniquely, in fact.

We also talked about the one thing we must remember for this story to make sense: I am NOT the center of Christ’s universe. The Father is. Christ’s love for me is secondary and derivative. His primary goal is NOT to relieve my suffering or heal my disease.

So, although he loves, he sometimes “stays.”

— Jonathan T.

 

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Reflections on public speaking, prayer, and believing God

by Elizabeth

Three weeks ago I was smack in the middle of a conference. To be more specific, I was in the middle of the Family Education Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand as one of the plenary speakers. I didn’t talk much about it beforehand, and I haven’t spoken much of it since then. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty to say about it.

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The view from our hotel window.

The first thing I have to say about it is that it was SO MUCH WORK. I had no idea how much time and energy it takes to prepare one lesson for a large group, let alone multiple lessons. I’ve led small group Bible classes for years, but this is nothing like that. I don’t know these people; the sessions aren’t in the context of either long-standing relationships or long-term study topics.

Of course, this didn’t surprise my husband, who is well-acquainted with the privileges (and trials) of preaching. But I had never planned to speak at this thing. When we were invited to speak, I nodded my head and said, “Yes, we will come, my husband will speak and I will be the support person.” Because that is what I usually am. I am not the up-front person. I sit in the pews and listen.

The way things worked out, though, our workload was split in half. The topics the leadership thought were important to address and the topics that were heavy on our hearts, they fell out 50-50. I unexpectedly became half the teaching team. So I spent many hours out of the house in coffee shops, planning my talks. Each talk took more time than I had expected. I just kept needing more time to finish them. Until Jonathan left the country for his sister’s wedding, that is.

Our plan was to meet him at the conference location the night before it started. I would bring the 4 kids across country borders (something I’d never done by myself before), and he would fly in from the U.S., with about 10 hours to spare. I prayed about this. I knew one of his connections was tight, and I knew it was flu season in the U.S., a particularly bad flu season. And I knew my husband’s immune system was compromised due to his asthma.

So I prayed. And I asked a dear friend to come pray with me too. To pray for good health and flight connections for Jonathan. To pray that what we had to say would be what God wanted us to say, and that we would get out of the way and just preach a message of Grace to the parents at this conference. To pray that they would encounter the love of God for them personally.

In short, we prayed for everything possible except MY health, and my health is what took a beating. 60 hours before departure I spiked a fever. Now I know a few things about international air travel, and one is that traveling with a fever can get you grounded. And without a second parent to transport the kids to the conference, I knew the whole family could be grounded. I knew once sickness was in the house, it might spread to everyone else. We could ALL be grounded.

I immediately contacted the conference director to let her know, and she immediately got her prayer team praying. I didn’t know her prayer team was both so extensive and so intensive. They PRAY. And they pray. And then they keep praying. Every year they encounter resistance to the conference, which is a lifeline to many families homeschooling their kids in remote areas in Asia. This year the resistance seemed to come in the area of health, and not just mine. Others as well.

I also contacted one of our local prayer team members, who had the whole team praying for me. And then I basically lay in bed for 2 days, trying to rest. I wasn’t always successful, either. I would lay in bed, unable to sleep with worry, because I just HAD to get better, because people were DEPENDING on me. I had to heal myself, quickly. Which is of course impossible. And which is of course harder to do when you are not sleeping.

I had to depend on God to get me better, and I didn’t always do a stellar job of trusting. Truly, there’s nothing like preparing a lesson for a hundred people about Grace and then being tested in your belief in its truth.

Thankfully the fever did go away in time. But by then I was having symptoms of a separate bacterial infection, and the night before departure I hurriedly called an M.D. friend for advice. She got me the antibiotics I needed as yet another friend drove us to the airport the next morning. (It takes a village, right?) I was still weak and had to depend on my older boys to help clean up and close up the house and carry the luggage throughout the day. And you know what I discovered? They are far more capable than I had known.

Jonathan even arrived at the conference on time. But I have to tell you, I was so nervous about my message on Grace that I couldn’t sleep at all the night before. I knew I needed the rest, but my anxiety was sky high. So I prayed all night. I figured, if I couldn’t sleep, at least I could ask God to work through me. With my body still weakened from illness, and my mind distracted from worry over doing a good enough job and saying the exact right words to fix everyone’s problems, I had never felt so strongly that God’s strength would have to be sufficient in my weakness. I knew that Wednesday morning’s talk on grace had to be all Him.

And I did feel God come through for me, and a huge weight was lifted that morning. I could sleep again – I was so thankful for that. But I’m not gonna lie; I made mistakes at the conference. I failed at certain aspects of my job. I prayed and prepared hard, but I still had failures. I had to remember the truth of my own message on Grace – that it does not all depend on me. That there is forgiveness for failures, and room to grow, and room to try again. There is room to trust that God is going to take care of people, that it’s not my job to take care of everyone’s problems, but only to be as faithful as I can, and to listen as closely to God’s voice as I can.

So we survived that week and even enjoyed the fellowship. And if Jonathan or I said anything helpful to anyone, I know it is from God, and not us. Not that I didn’t work hard to prepare. I probably worked harder than I have worked since my engineering school days. But that when it came down to it, anything good came from God. It always does. It has to. That is the only way. And when people asked how I felt about our part in the conference, I said I didn’t feel like a success or like a failure. I only felt that I did what I went there to do. That I shared the messages I went there to share.

But that is not the end of these messages. These messages are continuing to do their work on me. Just like I was tested in my belief in Grace, that I am not powerful enough to either heal myself physically or to reach people’s hearts, I am being tested in my belief of other truths I spoke about. How true are they really? Do I live like I believe them? Do I really believe that the King is still on the throne? That I can rest in the fact that He is on the throne?

Because last week we received some news that’s going to change a lot of things in our life. A Lot. Can I trust God with them? Can I trust Him to take care of us, like He always has? Can I rest in Him even in this huge transition? There are so many details to be worked out. Can I lay down my worry for the future?? Can I lay down my worry over how I’m going to know that I’ve actually heard God’s voice in these future decisions and not just my own?? Can I even be *excited* for how God is going to work in our lives and show Himself faithful once again?

And do I really believe what I taught about Resurrection? That the best thing God ever did was to raise Jesus from the dead, and that the deadest things in our lives are where God does His best work? That we can trust Him to bring life from death, beauty from destruction? Because some of these big life changes feel like death. I need Resurrection as a living reality in my life. Can I actually believe in resurrection even as I mourn the death?

These are just three of the messages that I felt impressed on my heart in the last few months, that I communicated to the group at the conference, and that God is writing even deeper into my heart AFTER I taught them. Do I believe the messages He has given me? I say I do, and I know I want to. But I will also pray along with the father in the book of Mark, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!”

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(In the next few months I will try to convert some of the teachings into blog posts.)

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Our kids in the main conference room.

One Simple Way to Bless TCKs {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan is over at A Life Overseas . . . 

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My book is called Misunderstood because that is how many young TCKs feel.” —Tanya Crossman

It’s true. Many kids grow up among worlds and end up feeling completely and totally misunderstood. They may feel misunderstood by the societies they’ve grown up in and the societies they’ve returned too. They may feel misunderstood by the nuclear families they’ve grown up in and the extended families they’ve returned to.

So what do we do?

What can parents do? Parents who know they don’t understand all the ins and outs of growing up globally?

Well, what do we do when we interact with anyone we want to get to know better? Read a book? Google them? Ask other people? Read an article? Maybe.

But typically the best solution is just to treat them like the unique human beings they are and start asking questions.

I think that one of the simplest things we could do to help the TCKs in our life to feel more seen, more loved, and less misunderstood, is to get better at asking questions.

And of course we have to care about their answers.

Questions give value and open the door to deeper intimacy. Questions are Christ-like, with one scholar identifying 307 individual questions that Jesus asked during his earthly ministry.

It’s hard to ask questions, though, because I have to shut up long enough to listen to the answers. Most of us simply prefer giving answers to asking questions.

Finish reading here.

A Few of My Favorite Things {January 2018}

We’ve been busy this month preparing to speak at the Family Education Conference in Thailand, so this month’s installment of my favorite things will be short. ~Elizabeth

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BOOKS

Poppy’s Return by Avi. I’ll say it again: Avi is a brilliant writer. This time instead of social issues, it was family issues he was packing into a story about a mouse.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. We finished this read-aloud and it was just as good as it began – even better. Here are a few more quotes:

“There’s more than one way to be crippled. I don’t mean that you can have a crippled foot or a crippled knee or a crippled hand. I mean you can be crippled in your heart. You can store up all your rage at someone, which can weigh down on your heart and twist it into a weird shape until you’re always aching underneath. After a while you get used to the ache – just like with my foot. You forget what it’s like not to ache. You forget you’re aching at all.”

“We all have our demons to deal with, Little Pigeon. It’s when we cherish them – cradle them to our breasts and feed them day after day – that’s when they curdle our souls.”

“In the old tales, there is power in words. Words are what you use to summon a jinn, or to open an enchanted door, or to cast a spell. You can do everything else perfectly, but if you don’t say the right words, it won’t work. If you know how to use words, you don’t have to be strong enough to wield a scimitar or have armies at your command. Words are how the powerless can have power.”

Living Water in the Desert: True Stories of God at Work in Iran by Rebecca Davis. Another Sonlight read-aloud. All the stories are good, and several of the stories are interwoven, but there is one particularly good story about a romance that was my and my kids’ favorite.

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World by Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson. I finally finished this book, but I’d like to read it again. The ideas were really dense. Paperback would be better, but all I have is Kindle.

Again, I’m still working through some books on Genesis and still formulating my thoughts on them, but I haven’t had a whole lot of time to study them because of preparing for our upcoming speaking event.

 

BLOG POSTS

Jane Austen: Responsibility and Love by Jesse Sumpter for Veritas Press. So good! Sometimes moderns get love wrong – it’s only a feeling, not a duty. But then, sometimes conservatives get love wrong too – it’s only a choice, not a feeling. Maybe it’s both.

The Proverbs 32 Man by Jonathan Trotter at A Life Overseas. Hilarious and truthful, all at the same time.

There’s Proof That Scientists Don’t Hate Christians by Rebecca Randall at Christianity Today. I might write more on this topic someday, as I’m passionate about the interplay between science and faith, but for now here’s the link for you to read.

On Living Sacrifices and the Walking Dead by Adam Andrews for CiRCE. Andrews is always thought-provoking (I love his and his family’s literature podcast BiblioFiles). In fact I think I need a reread of this one.

 

MOVIES, VIDEOS, AND PODCASTS

Perfect Harmony. A Disney channel movie I grew up watching that I have now introduced my own children to. Addresses racism through the lens of a child’s eye. Profound and moving.

Every Fight Ever by Studio C. Hilarious.

Forma — a new podcast at the CiRCE Institute. This podcast isn’t just a conversation about education; it’s a conversation about culture. I especially loved the interview with Brett McCracken about his book Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.

One Word

–by Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Proverbs 32 Man {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

Women have had their chapter long enough, and my wife’s written about how she’s pretty much failed at following it. I think it’s time for the men.

It’s time we define the ideal man to whom we should compare all men, from henceforth and forevermore, regardless of context or culture, giftedness or calling, personality or preference. THIS is the perfect man.

Now, this isn’t some sort of legalistic standard we’re going to hold all men to. It’s just sort of a guideline for men to aspire to. It’s good for men to have goals and examples. If a guy feels bad because he isn’t as awesome as the Proverbs 32 Man, he shouldn’t. He should be encouraged and challenged to try harder, to honor God with his manhood. Proverbs 32 can provide a sort of prayer guide for the man who falls short, giving him something to lean into and press into and run hard towards. He should humbly allow this interpretation of perfection to take him deeper than his feet could ever wander.

Read “Proverbs 32” over at A Life Overseas.

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