A Practical Guide to Culture: Book Review

A Practical Guide to Culture Book Review

If you’ve never gotten onto a river ride that you mount using a giant spinning table — well, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to you. Oh, they are easy enough to find. There’s one on the Rio Loco ride at Sea World, and I’m sure Six Flags or any other theme park with a river ride has one as well. But I waver in suggesting it to you. Because as enjoyable as the rest of the ride may be, that wooden platform is completely and utterly unbalancing. Literally. You step off of a firm concrete slab, onto a twirling place of confusion, where neither your feet nor your stability is right. You mentally know that this is completely safe, but still your adrenaline jumps as you rush to a boat as quickly as you can, for a moment irrationally worried that you might be left behind. And sometimes, that’s what life can be like for young adults.

I should know. I am one. Continue reading

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3 Lessons From an Almost 3-year Old on Prayer

3 Lessons

There’s a toddler dashing about our house now, a skewed-hair mess of sweet and sass. So I’ve learned to do many new things.

How to distract him with something else fun, because he can’t be banging thunder on the piano while siblings are in online class? Check. How to persuade in a few more bites of eggs, because despite what he may think he can’t survive on just watermelon? Check. How to change an overly-full diaper on laughing child who refuses to stay still? Double check.

Though my parents do take care of most all of Xan’s needs, I’ve still learned many practical physical skills from this little brother of mine. But sometimes he teaches me spiritual skills as well.

Because one of the things little ones are best at is needing help. And when they need help, they come to adults for aid. Whether they’re hurt, hungry, mad, or just want that one toy down, they go straight to the only people who can answer their needs. And I think there are several thing we can learn from them about coming to God with our needs.

1: You’re Dependent

Continue reading

The Most Beautiful Story

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Days they force you

Back under those covers,

Lazy mornings, they multiply.

Life is mundane sometimes. It’s slow, it’s dragging, it’s the same circle round and round again. The sun rises, and the sun sets, slowly spinning round again, and everything seems much the same. We work. We eat. We sleep. We get up the next morning and do it all over again. Life is reduced to dry facts on a page: breakfast, shoes, car, computer, water.

And facts, well, facts don’t do much of anything. Contrary to what we often think, they don’t command you, they don’t encourage you, they don’t comfort you. They only tell you what has happened in the past, and what is happening in the now. You are here, this is going on, this is all there is, and this is all there’ll ever be. Basic, textbook definitions.

So everything becomes a grey list of steady, unending, unrelenting march of facts. Dry monotones that dull your sense and close your eyes in slumber. Basic, textbook life.

But we were never meant to be a textbook. Continue reading

Clean Hands in a Muddy World

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I should not have been working to dig holes in the mud this weekend.

Why? Let me explain.

Reason Number One: It was Sunday, my only day off after a very long week of child-wrangling, dumpling-folding, pan-scrubbing, house-decluttering, food-prepping, and word-working. As a family we had decided to do nothing all day besides church, with no other work going on.

Reason Number Dos: We had no plans for working outside in the yard. At all. All the fence-posts have been in for ages, nothing needs to be planted in the front yard, no one mows this time of year, there are no mesquite trees to evict, and it’s not even time for me to clear out my garden for next year! (Well, technically it probably is, but I’m going to pretend it’s not) Nothing involving shovels, gloves, or holes should have been going on.

And finally, Reason Number III, (which is truly and honestly the only real, actual reason on this list that isn’t just me being dramatic for the sake of story-telling): There shouldn’t have been any mud.

Literally, there should be no mud in our yard. Continue reading

The Picture-Wall (A Short Story)

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I knew what the prologue would be.

The notification popped up on my phone, “Appointment, 2:30.” I stared at it transfixed, my mind churning.

I knew about the chaos.

I had played how it would go all out in my head. My parents, sitting on the couch, smiling happily at me, blissfully unaware. Just living their happy, everyday lives with their nice jobs and nice neighbors and nice, straight-A daughter and —

I’d tell them.

They’d be shocked. I could see their eyes widening at the blow. My mother’s hand would come up to her mouth, shaking as she tried to comprehend it, to take it in. “Why– how–”

I knew they would be so betrayed. So disappointed.

I knew the whispers, the looks.

All my friends, family, acquaintances, would feel the same way. The groups of girls would whisper and stare at me out of the corners of their eyes. All the adults would ignore me with icy disapproval, or — so much worse — speak softly to me with deigning kindness, disgust veiled behind smiles, all the while thinking of my failure.

I knew the complete shame.

I had ruined everything. My education, my family, my future – all gone. Every one of them — dashed to pieces on the floor. Why did I let this happen?

Now nothing would ever be the same.

I knew what the prologue would be.

I sat there in my car, transfixed by that glowing bubble of text.

But

I didn’t know the rest of the story. Continue reading

What Christmas Was Meant to Do

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A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

You can recognize all these. Perhaps you barely even had to read them, they’re so familiar. They make us grin, they call forth memories, and they evoke emotions. Your heart is instantly swept away into another land, full of adventure, danger, and wonder. But very little of that is because of them. Just those sentences themselves aren’t much. There’s no elegant structure here. There’s no eloquent prose. In fact, they all consist almost entirely of single-syllable words! They’re not stories, they’re not chapters, and they’re barely even full sentences. Taken simply as words by themselves, they have little power.

No, we love them because they are beginnings. We love them because they herald what is coming next.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1)

And I think this is how we should love Christmas as well. Of course, most people do enjoy Christmas. Ask most people on the street, and — unless they are the living incarnation of Scrooge or the Grinch himself — they’ll smile and agree that it’s one of the most wonderful times of the year.

His soft little hands stretched open, reaching for the warmth of His mother. Red and wrinkled, His small body was wrapped snugly, safe from the bitter winter air. Continue reading

When Stories Collide

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As you may know, this month is Orphan November, a time set apart to consider and support the vulnerable and fatherless. While I myself haven’t been able to do much on my blog about it this month because, well, we were busy ensuring there was one less orphan  🙂 ; my dear friend Christ in Me has a whole section of her lovely blog dedicated to orphan care. She asked me if I could share a bit of our story to finish out Orphan November, and I thought I would share with you all as well.

Stories are strange things. Because it isn’t the big, important people who are usually the main characters; it’s not the sunny, lovely days that move the story along. It’s the little people who become the heroes. It’s the disasters that cause the quest.

I don’t really know the beginning of your story. But I think it must have started like many others. With a brave little mother, a brave little father, and a brave little baby. I like to think they loved you dearly, you adorable little ball of sass and sweetness. But then disaster hit. Your head started swelling.

I don’t know if they knew what was wrong. I don’t know if they had ever heard of hydrocephalus. I don’t know if they tried to get the doctor’s help. But I think they must have fought for you. You were their beloved one, their beautiful baby and now —

Four months. That’s all they had with you. They give up their child. But they gave you a chance. A chance at help, a chance at love, a chance at life. They couldn’t help you, but they knew who could. So one night, a brave little baby was left at the gate of the best orphanage in the province.

And so ended the first chapter of this story. But that wasn’t the only family fighting for hope.

Because another story was unfolding in another little family.

Read the rest over at So I Fix My Eyes

 

You can read my thoughts before we left for China here

An Introduction

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Introductions are tricky things.

Here is a new person: wonderful, broken, and beautiful; here is a new relationship: laughter, frustration, and love; here is a new adventure: exhilarating, terrifying, and enchanting. All that potential, all that unknown, and all you have are words — four simple, small words — to unlock it.

Once upon a time.

“Hello, I am Isabelle.” Continue reading

Acorn Treasure

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Little kids are some of the silliest creatures. And sometimes also the wisest.

I’ve recently started working with some preschoolers, and for part of the day they play out on the playground. The majority of the time, they’re running shrieking from the ‘monster’, with their tousled hair and wide grin peeking over the edge of playground as they beg me to come catch them. But eventually their energy (somewhat) runs out, and I can convince them to sit down and give themselves (and I) a break. And so they sit, in the oddest-looking positions, digging and dumping mulch on their little jeans and cowboy boots. And in their rummaging, they find something.

Continue reading