Wednesday, April 23, 2014

our new city

Words are just not adequate to tell of our wonder and joy of finally being here…  The Lord has worked wonders to bring us here and we count this grace towards us as a magnificent joy and privilege.

Some pieces of life here…

We arrived to a warm spring… and then it snowed 4 days later, mid April.  

Mountains hoover in close around us

Street side butchers, with their next (still live) meat, abound

The Lord has given us all friends here already- English speaking friends- and many cute local friends, especially for our kiddos! (happy praise!)

Potholes:  driving here is just as chaotic and thrilling and video-game-ish as in our last city, except with the added bonus of vehicle-eating potholes.  This ups the challenge level…. and slows the speed :)

Music and Meals that we love…

Fresh bread and loads of fresh fruit available downstairs from almost everywhere 

Learning to live with two times…  The majority go by Capital City Time.  The minority group go by local time.  2 hours different. 

We are not in a new country, but the culture feels so super different here….  like this is the place we were made to be.  Tears of gratefulness and wonder at the Plan Maker...

These photos do no justice whatsoever to the beauty around us but I've just been distracted with all the crazy chaos of moving….   I'm super eager to share more pics here as they come!

the ride...

I love the perfect imperfection of this shot….  At our first lunch stop just after we pulled away from our dear church community and launched into this journey. This pic was meant to introduce "Brody" The Road Trip Owl.

Right after he mentioned that he and Joel traded one of their shoes after church this morning (they had the same shoes but Joel's are a bit older and a bit smaller and now they have equally awkward "pairs" to remember each other by).  
easiest baby carrier ever….  oh how we love these two!
we got stuck behind one of these for one of the 45 tunnels in our first two days on the road.  It happened to be one of the longest tunnels (probably at least 8 or 10 km) and we got to go 20km/hr with him….  I can't remember ever feeling so claustrophobic in a tunnel before!
peace in the back seat

Literally:  The Great Wall Mouth
This is it.  We recognized the patches of wall we saw alongside the freeway and knew it must be this (the town we stayed in that night is famous for being near the last fort of the great wall) but we never expected we'd drive straight through it!
passing by
and he said he didn't fall asleep...
oh this girl!  What a treat she is!
Yipee for an earlier finish than we expected this day!   Got to feed pigeons at a park in town to celebrate a quick day on the road:)

The last and longest day we decided to pass up our planned stop and push farther towards our new city.  So exciting to come into the cultural lands that we love...
And we got to spend the night at this cool lodge that is being managed by one of Matt's old language tutors.
What else do you do in the dessert for a wiggle break?

And about two hours after this stop…. we arrived….

Friday, April 11, 2014

safe.... and still needy


Thank you so much for praying for our move.... for the good byes and the road trip.  The Lord really couldn't have made the journey here any sweeter.  We did have our share of all the normal bickering, but we had a surprisingly smooth ride for the 5 days we spent on the road.

We got to see some spectacular friends along the way, drive through a slice of the Great Wall (really! who would have thought that such history would be chopped up for a highway!?), see a few roaming camels, days of desert mountains, and only one late night of driving (China-side friends, believe it when you hear that there are reasons to avoid night driving here!  Think hundreds of brights shining straight into your eyes and old semi trucks with no lights at all... clutched fist, constant-prayer driving I tell ya!)  All this, and then we arrived into our new city with an armed crew of comedian, friendly soldiers to welcome us at a checkpoint on the highway. 

Now that we're here, I have made two beautiful local friends already and our kids have made one too!  But we're feeling even more of the pinch of crazy desperate need for grace from the Lord!  For all the good work we've moved here for, we've narrowed down the area we want to live in and there are absolutely zero apartments to rent there.  (There's been a rumor here of a new tax for owning more than one property and most of these apartments were bought as investments by landlords living elsewhere.)   Also, as foreigners we aren't allowed to have a mortgage from China to buy here and as far as we know, international purchases aren't allowed from stateside mortgages either....  Meanwhile, the six of us are in a hotel room beggingly eager to unpack toys and homeschool books and more sleep diapers (that are nigh impossible to find on the ground here) and have our own place to host our new friends and wash clothes!

The Lord knows all these things... and we're grateful for your prayers with us too for wisdom and for His provision and leading.  Tonight, we don't know what to do but simply to beg Him for wisdom and guidance for His way to go...  Should we persevere in searching - waiting for a place to rent or maybe throw out our plans for where to live (this could be His way of redirecting us?) and/ or  should we pursue international lenders that might finance such a purchase?   Lord, lead us for your glory!

Thank you dear friends for standing with us in prayer!  

More news (and photos!) soon...

Much love,
the Ks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

so many people to love // the hard good-byes

Good-bye morning ride to school group, precious neighbor girl and little brother we all love too
 (and on this day, John's best buddy joined in for the last special ride and Isaiah and Marian hopped on the back too.)
And…. good-bye coolest ever, Trusty-Rusty three wheeled electric bike. 

Good-bye sweet Chinese teacher who stepped in during our 6 week need for a teacher….  she's a gem!
Good-bye adorable girls who all played as Marian's ballet students (for her to recap all she learned from the amazing you tube- homemade ballet camp she got to participate in several weeks ago.)

A few nights back, I talked with a good friend of mine about how this move is affecting our kiddos, and I looked up to see Isaiah playing alone with toys while his buddy was in the living room.  Not normal. These two are pretty inseparable.

So when it was time to go, I mentioned to Isaiah that he could tell Jaden how much he loved him.  It didn't even take him a second to think it over.  Isaiah went straight up and told him, "Jaden, you're one of my best friends" and then he broke down in tears and heart ache.  (And both mamas did too.)  Jaden, being the fantastic seven year old that he is, wore those words like a Congressional Medal of Honor, his whole face beaming….. but then he slipped into saddness with us too.  

We've talked about how the Lord loves His people and how getting to see how much we'll miss people, is a way of seeing how much we love them.  It's also been sweet to talk about how good it is to express our love to friends as a way of helping ease our sadness and bring joy into the middle of our grieving.  Friends to love really is a gift we can celebrate!  God has given us his people to love and we can love them a bit like he does because His love is so lavish!  Getting all wrapped up in the love of God is such comfort, like a healing balm for our weary hearts. 
Good-bye precious house-helper and good friend….  This woman loves the Lord so dearly.  She was John and Vivi's first Chinese teacher in our home on the mornings I had language class too.  
Good-bye precious, precious, precious friends.  We love you guys! 
Good-bye Tuesday afternoon "Sports" crowd of cool and crazy kids.  What a joy to have spent these afternoons with you!

Good-bye Coach Matt….a hug from all the sports kids
Good-bye…. Nope.  So glad the six of us are moving forward together!  I am praying lots that the Lord will mark this move in our kids hearts and lives especially (as well as Matt and I) to be a time where they deepen dynamically in love for the Lord, for the lost, and for each other….  Oh for grace for this!
There are so many precious pictures in my head …treasured people, delightful moments…. The sweet teachers at art school, the preschool teacher who read aloud for bilingual Story club at our house years ago,  who taught each of our kids at preschool since then.   The lady whose bracelet was smashed when our little buddy (who we were babysitting!) hit her in his early days of bike riding… that neighbor who told us she'd rather buy our apartment to rent to us than let our landlady sell it to anyone else!  oh… and our fruit and veggie vendor friends who I haven't even told yet that we're moving….  

And even in the midst of all these tears, there has been great joy too…..  Matt and I celebrated TEN years together and I have no idea how I've ever been so blessed as to get to be his wife. (The line from Anne Bradstreet comes to mind:  "If ever wife was happy with a man, compare with me, ye women if you can…")  Since one of the coolest families in the world, who happen to be our very own dear friends, moved into our building a few weeks ago and offered to watch our kiddos, Matt and I got to steal away for an overnight together.     #purebliss.

Then my man turned old….  37.   He told the kids he should get a cane for his birthday but no one followed through on it.  John asked me last night at bedtime if I would still be able to talk when I'm old?  We discussed the possibilities and then I asked if he'd finally be able to listen when he's old too?  Then John brought it all home with the bottom line, "At least, mommy, Daddy will be old before you."  Yep that's right.  He's going to get there three months before me.  (Good thing!)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

our daily mess

So when you move, note to self,  don't forget you'll need time for goodbyes and crazy detail sorting and planning and certainly not only packing. And remember this all takes a bit more time, and comes later in the game, in this country that doesn't bother with most details til the morning of….  We have our landlord's move-out date (april 6) but no movers, no home to move into, no place to stay in our new city when we arrive.  And it's not for lack of desire or lack of effort in trying to get all this done!  Maybe all that will be in place before we get there, or maybe not.  I do know now that we'll have two shipments of our home going out- one by train (a bit cheaper), one by truck (carrying what the train won't allow- fragile stuff and liquids).  The Lord knows…..  He knows and He'll be with us in the midst and care for us through it.  Father help me to walk ahead trusting, trusting You.

In the meantime…  here's a few pics from a nice afternoon for the kids and I at home on Vivi's real bday (not party day).  We made popcorn for our read-aloud time and sat in the living room and it felt like a gift… always with a good story (Laura's Literary society spell-off).  Of course John and Vivi love to "play puppy" (or sometimes "kitty") and eat the popcorn off the floor with no hands and I can't pretend to care deeply about the lack of hygiene right now.  They were happy.  I was glad.  (And the floor was tolerable too, as floors go.)

and then out came Calvin and Hobbes...

snazzy dress up girls

and I need a good brother shot too…. I'll be hunting for one :) 

Monday, March 17, 2014

She's fthree….

We had another early birthday party….  for our sweet Vivi girl's #3.   So fun to gather her friends to celebrate the joy she is to all of us and play together for the afternoon.

It was the perfect gift to this mom and dad that a small, simple play place just opened in the building next door to us.  We bought a card a little while ago that made each kid's visit cost not quite $2 so we got to treat Vivi's closest friends to an afternoon of play there and we didn't plan a single thing besides cake.  (That was true traditionally K:  tasty and nothing to look at.  Strawberry shortcake.  The battery was gone by then:).  

We delight in this treasure of a girl!  Thank you Lord for this darling daughter!

(Please excuse the wardrobe arrangement- dress, capris, socks.  Our very fashion savvy family stocks us with hand-me-down loveliness that helps improve our fashionlessness considerably but still, we just can't keep up!)

Now that she's three (which she sometimes says with a slight f sound to begin with), she's pretty crazy excited about her shot at chewing gum.   She's kept it all between her teeth and with none in her tummy yet, so she's feeling especially big these days.  Oh we love her….

The card her 1st grade big sister wrote for her….  (should all be nigh readable… except Plite, is "polite")
This is proof that poetry wins smiles and cheer and glad affection even when spelling and grammar fail miserably!  We're working on it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Capture the Flag (celebrating #8!)

We had a fantastically fun party for Isaiah's 8th birthday (just a little bit early, to preempt our moving madness).  25 kids, pizza and cake, and a wild game of screaming, running kids covering a huge area of our apartment complex (and astonishing a few neighbors and a gate guard), in the drizzly twilight:  the perfect party for our battle-loving athlete.  What a joy to celebrate the gift this boy is in our lives, and the Giver who gave him to us.

David Gunner Gunderson has posted some magnificent poems at his blog Raw Christianity.  This excerpt from the end of a poem he wrote for his son Judah. We cry out the same prayer and throw ourselves on the same promises in God's Word for our the son of our love, Isaiah…

O Father, help my son to see.
Help him to learn.  Help him to be
The kind of man who seeks Your face
And knows Your love and weeps at grace.
Dear Father, open Judah’s eyes
In times to come.  Do not disguise
Your Son from mine.   Please show him how
To turn and trust and love and bow.
I beg you now, O Lord of grace:
Let Judah early seek Your face.
Dear God of sight, please hear my plea:
I want my son to always see.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In praise of Laura

We just finished The Long Winter…. actually our own winter is going by crazy speedy fast, but Laura's…..  oh!  The Long Winter is the sixth book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's fantastic series.  Our whole crew loves these stories so much and its pure gift to share the stories, to learn from them, to enjoy their lives and stories together.  Isaiah has stumbled upon a bit of boy-ness that makes Laura suddenly a little uncool so he's started to pretend he's not interested in these books anymore, but he's still glued while I read aloud and he'll quietly ask me to keep reading each time I finally close the covers.  Laura (as I call her and all her books) is good for us- boys and girls alike.  I've seen several tangible benefits in our home from the inspiration of these stories, even beyond our simple, sparkling pleasure in these sweet stories.

1. Their example of working hard together.  The whole family contributes: it's expected, it's nonnegotiable, and the work they do is done with excellence.  Inspiring.   I saw something recently about couples being happier when they do chores around the house at the same time and so we've tried to apply this for our whole crew too.  I really do think the Ingalls and the Wilder families (Farmer Boy) have been fantastic role models for how our crew can work together like this too.  This mama is grateful. Even I am learning to keep my kitchen (more) clean meal by every single meal and I honestly think Laura's example is the leading influence for this!

2.  The kids know they're loved.  Ma and Pa Ingalls and Mother and Father Wilder love their kids solidly.  Their love was heathy nourishment and their children grew up strong in it.  Mother Wilder loved Almanzo with an extra slice of apple pie served to his plate and the twinkle in her eyes, which Almanzo knew came from her joy in giving her son his very favorite.  Father trusted his boy with real responsibility, giving him the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to earn the joy of conquering on his own.   I definitely want to gear my kids towards understanding and receiving my everyday service of them, my patient (Lord may it be!) training them as LOVE…. and not to miss it and only see love in lavish gifts and crazy wild speeches of gooey praise of their unending, amazing,perfect awesomeness that's ahhh…. not actually, totally true.  (Sorry, Grandma :) )

3.  And that bring me to….  Gifts.   We've been through many Christmas's with the Ingalls and they have shown us well the joy of celebrating simple gifts, homemade gifts, needed things.  There's no thought of needing mountains of gifts to celebrate a day- one or two or even the crazy notion of three gifts- would be wildly abundant.  I can just imagine the Ingalls would have thought that any more gifts would be a sort of gluttony and would be just plain undesirable, unhelpful, unhealthy.  I think so.  I want to leave way for my kids to celebrate with gifts and to practice generosity, thoughtful attentiveness to the desires of others, and saving and planning for others….  but this doesn't mean that we need to heap up gifts for Christmas or even birthdays.   I'm not trying to be a stick in the mud.  I do love gifts and I want to give gifts well.  But excellent gift-giving is not in quantity given or amount spent.  For birthdays for our K crew, we'll try to keep it to family members giving gifts and letting our friends know that their friendship is the best gift they could give.

Here's the photo credit: a beautiful site that will be a
future field trip for us…. I hope! 
One thing we're working on (oh Lord have mercy!) is celebrating a simple service as a gift and giving thanks for it!  After a meal or a read aloud from mom or dad, how sweet to lead the kids in expressing their thanks for what they've just been served….  How very much more happy it is to hear  (and to say!) "Thanks for reading, dad" rather than "nooooo, you've got to read more."   Seems to me there's a large bit of training in this:  helping our kiddos to see these gifts and form a habit of expressing thanks for each gift.  Worth it.  I long that our kids would know that we read to them, serve them breakfast, wash their clothes, provide everything they need because we love them.  It's all gift…..How much happier they will be in life if they can see this now in the little world of parents and children and toys and meals….  and if they can grow to understand this infinitely and perfectly true in regards to their Heavenly Father, and all that He gives and allows in our lives.

4.  The kids can learn to watch and listen and learn.....  The idea that every question is a good question is just not doable.  There may be super-parents out there who can answer every question that pops up in  every one of their kiddos' minds, but it sure isn't me.  From times when we're reading and the kids need to learn to listen to the story (where their question will be answered),  to moments in the kitchen, working together, and a child needs to learn to watch and learn to understand what's happening.... What a very good thing for our kids to learn to learn rather than simply letting them beg to be spoon fed every bit of knowledge they hope to gain.  I want our kids to be learners like this!

5.  Considering prejudice.  Ma ~ dear, beautiful, admirable, wise Ma is prejudiced against Indians and it's dirty, ugly, sin.   But it's exactly the thing we absolutely need to stare down, to see it for what it is and pray the Lord to root it out of our own hearts and serve to sever it's roots in our community and our world.  Our little John has a hard time with the idea that we should actually learn about slavery…. He knows that it was terrible and wrong and so it makes sense to him that we shouldn't ever hear about or talk about it.  But just as this is the hard story of our country's recent past, it's also the true story of the propensity of people.  How sad but true that we all wander at times towards thinking that we know and do and look and speak better than others.  So Ma…. Sadly, she's an example in this, in what we don't want to be.  But it does provide a great opportunity to talk about a very hard, sad, needed lesson.

And just to share a bit of the beauty and inspiration on these pages, here is the song the whole family sang together at the last page of The Long Winter:

This life is a difficult riddle,
For how many people we see
With faces as long as a fiddle
That ought to be shining with glee.
I am sure in this world there are plenty
Of good things enough for us all,
And yet there's not one out of twenty
But thinks that his share is too small.

Then what is the use of repining,
For where there's a will, there's a way,
And tomorrow the sun may be shining,
Although it is cloudy today.

Do you think that by sitting and sighing
You'll ever obtain all you want?
It's cowards alone that are crying
And foolishly saying "I can't!"
It is only by plodding and striving
And laboring up the steep hill
Of life, that you're ever be thriving,
Which you'll do if you've only the will.

So… does that make you love Laura with us?  I hope so….  It's fun to share and enjoy a dear friend together.  And yet, enjoying her doesn't mean I agree with everything (like the wretched racial prejudice.)

In fact, another aspect I've been surprised by, and have noticed with sorrow, is how Gospel-less these stories are.  At one point in On the Banks of Plum Creek (I think) Pa remarked about how it's nice to go to church and be with other people who want to try to do right.  But being Christian is not about trying to do right, but about trusting in the Savior alone for right-ness before God.  There's been not a drip of that mentioned anywhere in the books…. Even in the many Christmas chapters there's  hardly been a mention of whose birthday the celebration was about.   This has been a sad discovery for me, as I was hoping to find a bit more Christian roots in these stories, these beautiful families.  But, there is beauty to enjoy from them still….

Facing a Task Unfinished

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known
Where other lords beside Thee
Hold their unhindered sway
Where forces that defied Thee
Defy Thee still today
With none to heed their crying
For life, and love, and light
Unnumbered souls are dying
And pass into the night
We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose
Ours is the same commission
The same glad message ours
Fired by the same ambition
To Thee we yield our powers
O Father who sustained them
O Spirit who inspired
Saviour, whose love constrained them
To toil with zeal untired
From cowardice defend us
From lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us
To labour for Thy sake

Words and Music by Frank Houghton
© Overseas Missionary Fellowship

And.  a free Ebook from J.D. Payne  (from Brook Hills Church) shares about this same need of reaching those least reached with the Gospel who are here in America.  Maybe we can read it together?  I'm excited to read it as soon as I can.  It's only 50 pages so it should be doable and for sure will be inspiring!  
Lord move us to prayer, to giving and going, to demonstrating your humble love to the least of these for the praise of your great name!