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As you may know, my homeland is not the grand country of England – but rather the small and discreet pocket of the world called the United States of America.  For those not familiar with this country, it is broken up – not into districts – but states and my home is in a somewhat large state on the west coast, in a humble area natives like to call So Cal {short for Southern California}.  In this region there is a strikingly rich heritage of sun and we endeavour to see that this tradition continues to be celebrated by successive generations into our future.  The traditional fare is vast, but the most notable are the burrito and burger and I have yet to find a comparison.  Our people are uniquely kind and courteous and have a unequivocal way of making themselves known to the world – primarily through their modest and demure temperaments.  Hobbies include laying on the sand, staring in movies, going to the local gymnasium and perusing the Gap on a slow Monday morning.  Somehow the natives make do.

California beach sunset

Although I find the above amusing and slightly true – California is a bit more diverse and 3D than I allowed for in my description – {somehow} over my three-year stay in England, I am not as embarrassed of my State as maybe I once was.  Just last night I was talking to Mark about how I may not like all of the aspects of my culture – yes, aspects of it are blatantly uncaring of other people in the world, the environment, and my general moral standards – but my culture is something I know and find predictable and because of that I really like it.  I am starting to miss that particular aspect of life – knowing what to do and how to interpret situations.  I guess that’s how most people feel in a different culture when they are missing their own.

So, I am looking forward to moving back to the west coast of America.  We’ll be moving to Oregon in the north west, a place I’ve never lived but have visited a few times as my family are there now.  Hopefully sometime in August of this year we will be hauling all our earthly possessions onto a large bird across the Atlantic {and many other states} to our new home.  The thing that I am hoping to find when we settle in there is a renewed confidence in my surroundings, maybe some missed comforts, and to be able to draw on my experience in this culture here in England.  I am hoping my time here has made me a more dynamic Californian.  I will find it interesting to see which cultural values I have gained whilst being in England in contrast to Oregonian and Californian values.  Its not easy to see that from my vantage point now, but I am expecting bits to come out as we adjust there.

Whilst ‘proud’ is not usually my favourite term to use when describing my patriotism…I am feeling slightly more in that direction as I look forward to slipping back into some of the norms I am used to.  Just as I said that last line, REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK came catapulting through my head…any tips?!

Until next time…have a nice day! :)

Smelling the rosesHere’s the second in my series on Ruth.  As I mentioned before my goal is not to find answers but to ask questions that will help me to engage with this very interesting story…  Feel free to add any other questions of your own or any insights/answers you may have.

Ruth 1:2

The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. {Ruth 1:2}

Question Time

Family Ties?

What do the names Elimelech and Naomi mean?  Were they common names in the time?  Did Elimelech or Naomi have much extended family?  Where were they living?  How would they have felt about them moving?   Would they have moved with them?  What were the customs for families in that time – did they live close to the wife’s family or the husband’s?
What do Mahlon and Kilion mean?  Would they have been close to each other – ie friends?  Would they have depended more on each other or their parents for support during the move to Moab?  Would they have made friends along the way?
Ephrathite?
What is an Ephrathite?  How many were a part of this tribe?  What set them apart?  What were the common stereotypes of this tribe?  How did this tribe originate – did they have any closely related tribe?  Would they have looked the part – unique clothing, accessories, facial features, body build, or other external appearance?  Would it have been an easy or hard life as an Ephrathite?  What sorts of things did they deal with on a day to day basis?  Did they integrate well into their surrounding culture in Bethlehem?  Would they settle well into their new culture in Moab?  What types of stress would this bring to the family?  How would they cope?  Would they be persecuted for their differences?  Or would cultural difference be a normal encounter in Moab?
Transition?
When they ‘settled’ in Moab – what sort of accommodation would they have had?  What was a typical Moabite’s house like?  Would it have been much different to and Ephrathite’s?  If much different, would Elimelech and Naomi  choose to use this style of house – or a similar one from their homeland?  Where would that decision put them socially?  How much pressure in everyday life would cause them to choose the path of least resistance in regard to assimilating?  Could they join a community of ‘foreigners’ who chose to live separately – with a general acceptance that they would all be different, even from each other?  How would their sons cope with the attitudes about different customs?  Would this add to their parents’ pressure?
Two girls by the river

Allowing others to see you

Have you ever thought of how you are viewed by others?  What does someone pick-up about me from talking to me?  Unfortunately (or maybe ‘fortunately’), I don’t read minds.  But I wonder if the things people see in me match my character, beliefs or even the mood I happen to be in when I have a conversation with them.

Unfortunately (and this time I mean it), I allow myself to hide my true self from others in the thinking that I will connect better with them if I maintain the image that I perceive they want to see in me.  Or perhaps its that if I let them see that part of me I can never attain the (so-called) perfection I so desire.  However, this is not how to connect with people – and actually, I don’t know how I managed that idea in the first place.  I guess it boils down to fear.

My dearest friends have known for years my need to be authentic with them on every level.  But that has only been shared with a very select few.  Even starting this blog has revealed that I struggle to be authentic except with the few I trust – and its as though I undergo a peeling back of layers as I gradually feel safe in sharing my life in the open.

I believe that authenticity is critical to a full life.  And although I have developed bad habits – I am determined to share my life with others so that I can embrace compassion towards others as I reveal that I, too, am imperfect.

Smell the roses

Asking questions to bring a story into full bloom

Do you ever feel like you have more questions than answers?  Well, when it comes to the Bible – I always have more questions than answers…  And actually, that’s what I sat down to do today.  I asked some questions about the book of Ruth.  I didn’t really ask anyone in particular but rather opened my mind to the details behind this intriguing story.

A dear mentor of mine challenged me a while back to read the word of God with questions: Why? being the main one.  I find that when I start with that simple question my mind goes very quickly to many, many more – and before I know it, I’ve got a real hunger to know more about the people in Bible times.

I think that one challenge we face in our culture is whether its ok with not having all the answers.  Is it ok to be open-minded about God’s holy word?  I have found that asking questions is an approach to life that I want to incorporate more regularly in each day – because I know I certainly don’t have all the answers.

So, without further ado – or rambling – here are the many questions I thought up whilst reading the first verse in Ruth 1.

Ruth 1:1

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.

Question Time
Judges?
Who were the judges and when did they rule? Who could be a judge?
Why were there judges? What areas of life did they judge?
What did the judges do? Were they like the Kings who were appointed because of the peoples’ desire for human authority?
Why do we need to know about this for this story?
What were the cultural implications: What was the structure of the judges in terms of authority over the land?  What areas of life did they judge? What would have people felt about the judges?  Was it only the Jews who were under the authority of the judges?  Would others have respect for them?  Were there those who agreed with the judges and those who didn’t?
Famine?
How severe is a ‘severe famine’? What did a famine mean for a normal, middle of the road farmer? What did it mean for poor or wealthy people? What action did people often take to survive a famine? Spiritual actions or practical or both?  What is the geographical location like? What type of life were they used to in normal times with moderate weather and conditions?
Moving?
How far is Bethlehem from Moab? How often did people move house, village, city or nation at this time? How far in advance did they have to make this decision? Would they stay somewhere along the way? How would the journey have affected everyone in his family? Did his wife take care to bring all the things they needed for the journey – or was that someone else’s job? How would they have been accepted in Moab? Would it be easy to find/build a new home? How would the man find work? What would be the normal load of responsibility for each member? How would they have felt being moved from their home – relief to be away from the famine, or afraid of the new/foreign territory and whether they’d assimilate well – or both – or more/different? How would the man have dealt with the feelings/fears of his family? What could have changed his mind to keep them in Bethlehem? Would he have ‘consulted’ God – committed it to God – what was the perceived view on decisions as these? Did he depend on the law, practicality, feelings, fleeces, or lots – or something else? How old were his sons? Did his sons have an understanding about how this would affect their lives? What did their parents tell them to help them accept the move?

That was just from one little, tiny verse.  And only the questions from one little, tiny person.  I am sure you or anyone else would have different questions when looking at a text like this.  I hope, however, that these questions provoke you to look for yourself about what significance the story of the Bible has.  Feel free to use mine for your own study…but I challenge you to find your own questions and let the story become alive through your own unique questions.

MarriageThanks to Lindsey at Passionate Homemaking, I have found a good resource for checking and challenging my relationship with my husband.  The beauty of it is that this 30-Day Challenge by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is all stuff that I can do.  And it will be sent directly to my email so that I can be reminded to complete the challenge.  And I can see how so many of the days could really change the way that I see my husband and therefore the way I treat him.  I would like to start this challenge and thought it would be good to post it here as a reminder…

Read more about the ways this challenging tool can improve your view and love of your husband if you let it: Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

I am reading the dear novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott at the moment and have been quite pleasantly surprised by some of the things that have come out of the mouths of the five little women living in the March residence.  Sometimes it feels so much like what I’ve been learning since being back into our home in England that I thought I’d share some here…  Mrs. March is sharing with her second eldest daughter, Jo, how to depend on her Heavenly Father.  She advises her:

“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father, as you do that of your earthly one.  The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom.  His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong happiness, peace and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”

Some of us haven’t had good examples of either mother or father in this life, and so couldn’t know for ourselves how to feel the strength, tenderness or companionship of these.  However, what a lovely example Alcott portrays of a happy family in the Marches, and we can then have the imagination of how to go to God as we would a happy earthly father or mother.

I am learning that nothing is dependable outside of Him and I strive to stick close to Him through everything.  And it is so good.  How are you finding the troubles and temptations of life?  Do you have the strength to sort it out?  Is anything constant enough to hold us up through it all?  I think you will find that nothing can, apart from Him.

Our Little Family

today at the nest

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Pattern Challenge