Thursday, September 11, 2014

sweet intervention...

We were all grumpy fussing at each other. I couldn't seem to pull anyone out of the pit of gloom.  Each kid found one after another to bug or be bugged by.  My best efforts to talk sweetly weren't working and even when I did squeeze out a few words like honey, no one bought them.  The grump continued.

But it was Friday.  We didn't need to push past anything at that hour.  And certainly not in the frame of heart.  Finally, we stopped writers mid-sentence, packed everyone up and sent everyone outside.  "Go get some sunshine, some fresh air.  This day is too beautiful for us to be in here right now....  We have got to change this up!!"

I slumped on the couch, cried, prayed and listened to a podcast- modeling Christ to our children, with my dear Ann Voskamp, at a Catalyst conference recently.  (Catalyst podcast episode # 289 I think?)  Helpful encouragement... and I need just that, so very much.

Then there was a hefty heap of jelly beans (thank you Grandma and Grandpa) to bring downstairs for a bit of joy intervention.  By the time I made it to the ground floor they were all refreshed, renewed with sunshine and cheer, and each one was covered with earth.   I decided just to relax and take in the sweetness, dirt and all... grubby hands, grabbing jelly beans, restoring, remembering joy.  And we came back upstairs happier again.

Your grace- in fresh creation, space to run and jump and shout, remembering to laugh aloud- your grace renews us, Lord.  Thank you, Thank you.

And here are photos from our playtime and jellybean joy.... probably way too many photos for anyone but the jellybean givers!  Thank you again for the sweet gifts, Grandma and Grandpa!







eyes on daddy six floors up when he was calling out for us



She's found a secret recipe for happy-silliness in walking, twisting her head and wiggling all that she can.
 Everyone should try it :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

blue skies and wide open thanks.... {a summer summary}

This summer (alright, I think it's been more of this year so far!) I have written much less than my norm.  I miss writing!  I miss thinking, having words to mull over in my mind and process in writing.  But it just hasn't been a season of that for me.  (Hopefully soon!?)

It has been a season full of life- full of messes and full of learning- learning to work and learning to flex and learning our new place and new routines.

Last Wednesday we were all sweaty... and stinky.  It was our second day with no water, which followed days previous with so little water we couldnt shower.  It was a hot Wednesday (thankful for solid water- in force!- as of Thursday!) and it was the last of the heat.  That night I woke up to cool winds and it's been steadily cooler since.  I thought maybe we'd have a few weeks to enjoy of fall?  Bu't today, I'm feeling like fall might be here and gone near instantly- making way for winter soon!   I'd better finish up these summer thanks before that page is turned too!  So here's a probably very boring list for others, but jewels of our family experience that I just can't let be forgotten-  a brief record of our summer thanks to the Lord.

*Slumber Parties:  our kids' firsts.  Before our neighbors went back to Canada for the birth of their soon-coming-one, we had a girls' slumber party and a boys' slumber party with their kids and one other precious family.  So sweet to log memories with these friends!  The girls came here first and then Marian went to the D's house to get some slumber fun at their place while the boys all came here.




*Chores:  Matt lead the way in teaching the big three to wash dishes this past spring and now our kid crew is really stepping up to help significantly!  I'm so gratefully blessed!!!  Isaiah often says he's glad to do chores, to be a hard worker.  And everyday I think of what a gift it is to spend a few moments doing chores together every morning and every night.  Chores don't loom over us as some terrifying-terrible thing we have to dread and finally do late Saturday.   And the house doesn't usually get too wildly out of control. We do a little bit together after breakfast, after dinner.  It's a joy to work together and keep it quick and help keep our home nearer to order.  It's a win all the way around.  

*Friends:  Our kiddos play outside all the time with lots of local friends.  Yesterday John came up to the house (our apt. is on the 6th floor with no elevator) saying "we had so few friends to play with near our old house but we have so many friends here!" Such a gracious gift from the Lord.

(just precious... that's all)



*New glasses.... they're Matt's new glasses but they're cute on our John boy too!


*At the end of one particularly hard day of disobedience and discipline I told Matt that I didn't know what more I could possibly do to help serve our kids, to fix our days together!?  The next morning, instead of harder discipline, we fought harder for joy and we won.... together.  We called it Kindness Training Day.  That Saturday was truly marked by smiles....  the timer telling us every ten minutes time for more kindness.  I would send one or two kids on kindness assignments- aiming to bullseye everyone and every love language through out the day.   They enjoyed the day so much, the opportunity to laugh together and express and give gifts and create for each other.   It was well worth putting on constant repeat for every Saturday we're together....  Lord, please help kindness never to grow old among us!

*Vivi's line:   "mama, you give me feather fingers.  First on this shoulder, then on this one.  Five times. And don't count." (Feather Fingers is what we call a light tickley tingly back scratch.)


*Piano Marvel is fun for all of us... clearly not the same as meeting with a teacher, but worlds more affordable and doable for all of our crew!   Our big kids have been learning well and even our littles are able to jump in on some fun too.  (And friends, if you click on the link to PianoMarvel from our kfamilyjournal and if you decide to try it for free or subscribe for unlimited monthly lessons, then we will benefit too :)  Yea for all of us!) 


*Surprise!  We got to host a surprise baby shower for this precious friend.... such a joy to gather such a beautiful group of women to celebrate this friend and babe (coming next week now!).  Marian was thrilled out of her mind to get to bring Auntie Corrie up to our house for the surprise...

*Matt's building: I was dreaming of moving our computer from our room into the living room but we'd need a desk that would fit... so my clever man disassembled an old wooden trunk (first paid about $6 at a used furniture market) and put the top and the bottom together and attached some simple legs.  The old wood looks great in our living room and I love having the computer in the middle of my domestic space and days.  Somehow I'm spending less time online and that's a good thing.  Matt used one side of the trunk to make a nice shelf to put over the electric piano to use Piano Marvel for the kids' lessons.



*Isaiah's scars:  Isaiah has heard from a few friends about scars, how basically they're a measure of bravery and coolness.  Our big guy has spent not a little time looking for every possibly blip or speck on his body that could maybe be another scar.

*Marian sitting at the table with us and pointing to dad and then to me with her other hand....  putting her fingers together to form a heart and nodding her silliest goofiest grin, eyebrows sky high.... and all of us smile-full.  

*Isaiah asking why we walked off weeks ago when we were all in the mountains to kiss....  did he really notice that?  Did I really just hear my boy gigglingly say that?

* That little incident with a little neighbor boy and a knife.   Maybe it was culturally inflexible of us, but we just don't "play" with little kids making threats with blades.  Matt had to chase him down to get it out of his hands.... and I think, by grace, he's only dearer to our family now after that sweaty tearful moment.

*  A new hairdo....  I had just decided that maybe even for me, I could let long, long hair be almost like an accessory.  Thats big for the girl who somehow feels mismatched or gaudy with any single piece of jewelry.  But my hair was longer than it's ever been in my life (near my elbow) and I thought that a long pony tail hanging down my back felt pretty.  But it was time for a trim and I practiced all my local lingo well enough...  I really like long, I really want it long, just a little trim....  and I came out with most of my hair layered above my shoulders and a third or so hanging below there and then about 56 hairs together nearly full length.  Layered like nothing America has ever seen.  But I couldn't go for the rat tail look so now I'm back to my regular ole pony tail again.  bummer.  and a new promise that since I just don't get the culture of local haircuts, I just can't get one again!

* Leatherman.  Isaiah has recently become an expert on these multi-tools and has even begun- yep, this is his beginning- to use the internet to research and compare the different knives.  He's well on track to add the next 4 months of allowance and extra chores to his savings already and he'll be able to buy his favorite one.   big steps....

There... a few things to remember.... all gifts from the Lord!




Sunday, August 31, 2014

Oh for this....

Oh for a passionate passion for souls.
Oh for a pity that yearns!
Oh for the love that loves
unto death,
Oh for the fire that burns!
Oh for the pure prayer-power that prevails,
that pours itself out
for the lost.
Victorious prayer in the
Conqueror’s Name,
Oh for a Pentecost.


- Amy Carmichael

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Sweet Mint!

Our big girl is seven years old!  She is growing so fast, so sweetly.  We could not love this precious girl any more!!

On the evening of the real day, we facetimed with Grandma and Grandpa to open the feast-of-gifts box they sent.  




This birthday was a Taobao first for our family....  with the grandparents giving a gift that we bought for them from China's (for me, very-hard-to-use!) online mall, Taobao.  
This super fantastic doll house was their gift, but purchased here.  It's much bigger and better than we expected it to be!  What a sweet surprise!


The next day was the big birthday bash!  



(PS- this is all in our new school room!  We feel like the most blessed homeschoolers in the world!)

There was a super precious kid-crew in attendance: three sweet local friends that we are so happy for Marian to get to play with, two big boys that Marian is totally impressed with- how gracious they were to come!- and the whole beautiful family that we worship with on Sundays, as well.  All such treasured friends!
This dear friend was our kids' summer school teacher (she's back to uni. classes herself this fall.)  Every day she came, she showed pics of the cakes she was learning to bake at her other part-time job.  Marian started immediately planning for her cake for when her big day.   It was a long-awaited treat-gift to enjoy!

And I'm glad she was out the door before anyone else noticed the goofy thing going on around the sides of this beautiful little cake....
With a cake like this, how can we not call you our Breath Mint Girl?
Or Sweety Mint? Or our Adorable Asthma Advocate?


We had lots of fun, and I hope so much, dear Marian, that you enjoyed your friend-filled celebration!  We praise the Lord for you, our bright and cheerful, helpful, growing, beautiful  daughter!  

culture burden

We are hours away from our 8 year anniversary in China.  That's an exciting, humbling, amazing thing for me.  What an honor it is for us to be here as His, for Him.  And it makes me pause and question myself...

I've written much before about culture obstacles, stress that has ripped my heart out and shredded me whole.  That's how I felt.  I can remember driving our 3 wheel electric bike past garbage heaps and pollution and strange neighbors to pick up kiddos from preschool and thinking over and over:  "How could I possibly... what words could I use to communicate to people back home, to fully portray, the enormity or dark depth of difficulty these culture struggles are for me?"

I often think that just about nothing would be hard for me here if I weren't a mom.  I know single friends here also have their struggles.   But most of what I have faced has felt like it's come at the sword-tip of the already difficult battle to glorify God as a mom in my children's lives and before them.  The pushiness, the misunderstanding, the way my choices for my kids are brushed aside and disregarded by strangers who don't know us at all but go ahead with their plans for my kids even after I've communicated.... the filth we live in the middle of, the hard things we see, that go on all around us.  The hope of teaching our kids etiquette... and the zillions of miles we live from it.  All this, and we live in a modern city, nothing compared to so many who live overseas!

I actually started to see that in the past, the way of sending kids off to boarding school could have been more for the blessing of the kids rather than for the sake of the parents (to focus more on their work.)  Now boarding school is not our style... but I've come to a bit more compassion in understanding that choice.  

(I must also add here that the Lord has given a tremendous measure of grace for me in dealing with these culture stressors.  The last time we were back in the states (Feb 2013) I got to have a way-too-short visit with one dear friend, one bridesmaid of mine, who listened long and prayed for me with the keen strength of the Word of God and an understanding heart.  It was perhaps the most piercingly penetrating time of prayer I have ever experienced, received as a ministry to me, to my own heart.  I am profoundly grateful to the Lord for His grace that has healed so much of these culture wounds in me.  So magnificently grateful to the Lord for you my dear friend, JJK!)

So far, almost the entirety of my processing, sometimes- my ranting and raving- here on this blog has been about how challenging this culture is for me.  Yesterday I saw that difficulty turn inside out.

How about how INSANELY DIFFICULT my culture is for people here?  How about how *ridiculous* my standards come across to them?  And yea, why on earth, would anyone here want to be a friend or ever imagine wanting to listen to the mom who doesn't feed her kids candy every hour of the day (such a mean mom!), the mom who yelled sternly out the sixth floor window when her kids began to join in with a pack of little neighbors tormenting a trapped mouse in the courtyard (and there's a cock fighting place just outside our complex-- what do you mean, you don't take joy in seeing animals suffer?).  Who really wants to hear what the mom who stays home all day to teach her kids has to say?  I know, I know well, that plenty of moms in the states are minorities for their choices too.  Plenty must also feel misunderstood, wrongly left out, unjustifiably disliked.  

America is a melting pot, a salad bowl, some say.  Everyone who's stepped outside on red white and blue soil has seen faces different than theirs, come across press reports or stories of opinions different than theirs, has probably received some education and some choices and options presented them.  Not. So. Here.   The uniformity of decisions, methods, choices among most of our neighbors is uncanny... but it makes sense with the history of this precious land.

So....  I'm feeling the weight of all this.... and trying to hold it in swing with the reason we've come.  And how, but by miracle after miracle of GRACE, will I ever be able to share with friends here?  And really, how can we, in this heavy cultural, political climate right now boldly proclaim!?  It's pretty hard on the ground right now.  Miracles needed.

Good thing the God who opened up the Red Sea is still at work, still faithful today.  

Lead, Lord!  Open the way here too!   We believe that you can.  That you will.

Hold my heart there, Lord.  And come, do this work, by your grace, for your glory!

two for two

Pretty special that these two had both their front teeth out at the same time.  


Marian lost her first one earlier this summer and then the second in early July.  
Odd that both of hers came out before Isaiah's!


Last week Isaiah's first dropped (as they say in Chinese) and the next day the next one.  I didn't realize how very loose they were;  they weren't too wiggly, but they also weren't too attached!  As soon as they were out, you could see the new adult teeth already ready to fill in their places!  No vacant front for long for him!

treasure goofballs!

Friday, August 8, 2014

broken

So I've been fussy lately.  Had a few down days where motherhood beat me.  I've been tired in the heat and climbing all these stairs all day long. And it's been a great summer but I've complained  about dumb stuff in the midst of all my lavish comforts, joys, blessings....

And thousands are being killed in Palestine and Israel and Iraqi Christians and minorities are being hunted down and slaughtered in their streets.  Children beheaded in public squares.  Homes in Iraq being marked with the "N" letter (in Arabic) to show where Nazarenes, Christians, live so if they return to their homes they can be executed too.  Father, forgive my loathsome self-centeredness!

I want to stand with my brothers and sisters in Iraq.  And remember too, the victims in both Palestine and Israel.  The humbling conviction and wisdom needed for all these leaders.

And India...  where the most gruesome, horrifically violent rapes imaginable are happen repeatedly.  Two girls hung from a tree when a group of three brothers is done with them.  And the girl who was gang raped on a moving bus a few months ago?  The one who had an iron rod jabbed up her, wrecking all her organs?  She died after 13 days of expert hospital care.  And... oh well?

No way.  

Move us to action, Lord!  Move your people to prayer and fasting for those we've never met.  And move, Lord, in your peer and mercy, rescue these sufferers!  Move your people to giving and going.  To sacrificing and serving and humbly loving.  Move us beyond ourselves Lord.  Bring your kingdom!




(Broken and grateful for stirring leads in the sidebar and this post from Ann V.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Books.... so many good words!

Happily, we got some great reads that took no space in our travels and move this past spring.  I "bought" Teddy's Button for free on kindle and then followed it up with several more books that "readers who liked this one, also read..." We found some absolute gems!!  What a great rabbit trail to chase!

Here's the books we've been enjoying lately as read alouds together... 

Teddy's Button.  A super sweet book, probably especially for boys. 

A Golden Thread.  A helpful and capturing allegory to help kiddos connect obeying and blessing.  John remembered this story weeks after we read it and wanted to "keep holding onto the string that the Father gave to Eric."

A Basket of Flowers.  Needful.  Such a good showing of God's sovereignty in our lives even through suffering... and of His worth to follow Him still, even when it isn't easy.

A Peep Behind the Scenes.  (O.F. Walton.)  I recognized this author's name since a friend recommended Christie's Old Organ, by the same writer.  We've read both Walton books now, and while Christie's Organ was good, A Peep Behind the Scenes was outstanding.  This book is especially dear to me because I saw so many parallels to my own life, to my mother's life.  Oh such grace to be found by the Good Shepherd "who searches for His own until he finds them."  This one, more than all the others above, is worthy adult reading.  Prepare your soul for the weight of God's grace and glory as you read....   (which for me, means prepare for a lot of snot and tears.)  Even though this book was about a girl and her mother, it is one of Isaiah's top favorites that I've ever read to him.  (He's got a list of favorite books from mom and a list from dad b/c we read fairly different genres.)  

Black Beauty.   It was free and it took a lot of convincing but I think by about half way in, all the kids were hooked well enough to finish well.  It brought up some great conversations about caring for animals... especially since our area has been notorious for generations as a place where animals are not cared for well.  It also linked well to a tiny, fun mini-unit on horses for the end of homeschool in June.  

Most the books above were free or 99 cents on kindle.  Yummy for the budget, eh?!  And even better for the heart and soul and for relationships in our home.  I love reading together!!

Now we're into our third Patricia St. John book....  She might just be my favorite author... at least one of my top five.  I love this woman.  Love her writing- her substance and her stories.  Tanglewood Secret and Treasures in the Snow and now Star of Light....  all Five (thousand) Stars.  I don't imagine I'll find a book by her that doesn't stir my soul with beauty and excellence and love.  What a gift to unfold and enjoy these stories together with our children!



an ipod hand-me-down?.... Anyone?

Just wondering if any of you have an old, iPod sitting in a drawer, collecting dust?

~~~~~

We mentioned it here and can't believe the lavish kindness of dear friends....  Thanks R&J for your sweet sweet gift!  I'm so excited to get to listen and learn....

Thank you, Thank you!!