Monday, March 27, 2017

FEEL... growing to see the gift and strength of emotion

A few years ago, we listened to a sermon series from Tim Keller that later became his book The Prodigal God.  When we finished, I made a mental list:  Things Our Kids Must Hear / Read Before They Go... (and grow out of our home).  Keller's series is the first on the list.

Nancy Pearcy and Francis Schaeffer are on the list.  There will be something from the Rebelution crowd...  And a few from Piper (of course).  And now also this book by Matthew Elliot:  Feel:  the power of listening to your heart.  It's a Biblical look at emotions, a very practical, helpful guide to sharpening your understanding of your own heart; this book was a  very needed gift.  As I read, I felt like I was in a growth spurt, climbing up some emoto-meters on a sacred doorframe.  This message seems to me an enormous help toward maturity and holiness and sensitivity for whole soul health and relationships.  

It must be noted that, I think, the book has a pretty terrible subtitle.  Bad enough to solidify in one or two of us Ks a serious enough (mis)judgement that we were ready to skip this gem altogether... just because of that one dumb line.   Having now devoured the book and profited from every page, I firmly believe that the subtitle is the last dumb line in the whole book.   And true, the book actually does address where and how and why there is goodness in "listening to your heart" but the way that our culture sings that song, even with those exact words, (in too many princess movies and all sorts of lines of deception and lure) I think it would have been much better to invite people in, to read the substance of the book before using Disney's words to mean something far better than Disney's ever dreamed.  

So... emotion.  It turns out, as Matthew Elliot exposes it, that much of what the wider Christian community has assumed is a "Christian view" or understanding of emotion, just really wasn't a fully bodied appreciation of the gift that the God of the Bible has delighted to create in us.  I think as Christians, we have tried to compensate for what seems often like a sinful emphasis on "just do whatever feels good to you" and have ended up tossing out a gift that we've actually been commanded to guard and grow, that was meant to lead us in wisdom, and to be a sparkling, winsome display of the fruit of the Spirit in our ordinary lives where we live in a dry and weary land.   

A wise and beautiful friend shared with me this past fall how she's been learning in counseling that her sadness isn't a bad thing.  For so long she assumed and acted as if feeling sad meant not trusting God.  Not so.  Sadness is needful and entirely appropriate in it's time.   

Another dear friend saw me right after we said good-bye to Matt's parents last month.... We would fly back to our China home the next day and I had a thousand weights on my heart about good-byes, preparations, the days of travel ahead of us, and landing back to in difficult place.  My friend said to me something about feeling deserted by God.   True, I was a wreck:  so sad and low strength.  But I wasn't doubting God's goodness or His faithfulness to His promises to me.  Not at all!  I was feeling sad.  And it was a worthy moment to feel exactly that.  Even knowing well and clinging to God's goodness, nearness, faithfulness.

I've felt so helped in reading this book to realize that my emotions are indeed something that I should pay careful attention to, be honest with myself and others about, and wisely choose how I let them guide me.

The book tied in to another gift that Matt and I received in January.  We met a few times  with a wise counselor friend and were very surprised to realize that though I am an intense "feeler" and can be crazy longwinded, I don't communicate my emotions, or actually name my feelings, very well at all.  Too often he would hear me trying to explain a hard situation as me being hard on someone else (whoever I was interacting with).  Instead, what would be so much better is to simply express is how I'm feeling... That way he can comfort me (which is what I want and need) rather than respond by trying to fix the situation or address or defend the other person (which is not where we need to go at all.)   

Our counselor suggested such a simple thing as asking each other "How are you feeling about...?" (instead of our normal "What do you think about...?") or "How do you feel when I do/say....?"  Or, a big one for the wife whose husband isn't the most verbose of all men, "dear, it looks like you're feeling.... Am I understanding you rightly?"

An unexpected and fantastically helpful blessing of this emotional awareness has come for us in parenting.  Since trying to apply this learning even in just the simplest ways to our discussion and interactions with our kiddos, I'm thinking that this might be quite a game changer for us.  Too often it's been my tendency to try to talk our kids out of what they're saying, without even acknowledging their feelings.  

They might say of their siblings, "No body wants me to play with them!"... and I would respond on the contrary.  "That's not true... They really love you even if they've been unkind...." or  "No... you're not seeing the situation rightly...."

How much better to dialog with them gently with words like:  "oh man, I can see that you're feeling really hurt and sad.  I really want to understand how you're feeling because you matter so much to me.  Can you tell me why you're feeling like that?"  

Our kids have responded so much better to us since we've seen this and tried to slow down and speak into their eyes and ask questions that get right into the realest depths of their treasured hearts.  Now, this and every other little trick we've tried has yet to give us a ticket out of the Fall that's broken all of us, and most days we're feeling remarkably broken still, but we're clinging to grace. And still, trying to hear each other's hearts and love each other in our realest feelings has been a sweet new gift to enjoy as we limp forward in grace together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ks on Instagram

Hey Friends!

Sorry we posted a goofy link that should've gotten you to instagram....  If you'd like to follow us there, we'd be so glad to get to stay connected that way!  Hopefully I'll have more opportunities to post pics of local scenes since I can snap and post them from a phone :)

Instagram:    mattsjill  

Blessings to you dear friends!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

growing hope

"Of all the emotions we want to grow, hope is the hardest..... because hope is about believing, we need God's help and the power of the Holy Spirt to accomplish it in our lives.  But we can certainly enlarge our hope as we place our belief squarely in what he promises.

How much standing-on-tiptoes, butterflies-in-the-stomach, latch-onto-it-like-a-vise-grip hope do you have for the things God says are in your future?  

Here's just one promise to consider:  "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever."  Now go out and should that from the rooftops!  Better yet, live out your hope before everyone, and live your life in light of the coming triumph of hope and joy and love over death and sorrow and paint.  You are a member of the kingdom of hope!

Take that, you evil world!

Take that, death!

Take that, war and terrorism.

Take that, disease, disaster and poverty!

Take that, sin and sorrow and selfishness in my own heart!

It is only a matter of time before you will be gone forever."

Feel.  by Matthew Elliott.  page 185

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas Friends! {2016}

Wishing all of you friends, a most joyful, beautiful, worshipful time as you celebrate once again, the true meaning of all of the lights, gifts, feasts and treats and giving... 
may your Christmas shine brightly with JESUS. 

We love you!
the Ks

 * We were So Blessed to have a new friend gift us with a professional photography session.  So sweet that just as I was getting to grow into an opportunity to bless others with photography (a bit of photo-love and hobby-joy at this new blog:  Eb Stone Photos)... that we would be blessed to receive photography too.  #thankful!

Monday, December 5, 2016

memory bottles... of grass and sunshine

On a bookshelf in our home in China is a story, the well-loved pages gifted to us when a dear family moved away.  With words and watercolor, an old man tells his life to kids who've climb into his house and found all his bottles: memory bottles, each a fragrance that spices the air when he uncaps them, a story of some time worth keeping, remembering, cherishing from his life.

I wish I could bottle up these days.  This sunshine and grass, these moments together here.  The perfect blend of introvert (private yard) and open,  still warmly accessible (extroverting with dear neighbors.)

Today we read Cameron Townsend on a huge white blanket stretched out to cover the lush carpet of lawn.  Isaiah widdled a stick til the scent inside unfurled, Marian did handstands and cartwheels til we were all dizzy watching her, John watched the birds and we all listened together, and Vivi twisted her toes toward the sky and rubbed those freshly stripped twigs to her nose.   I read aloud how he dreamed of reaching the tribes of the Amazonian jungle- the ones with no gospel witness, weeks of trekking beyond the last preached-to towns.  How his finger once landed on a verse when he had prayed for God to speak, on the words "Does not the Shepherd leave the 99 if he has lost just one sheep?  And does he not go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it and brings it home?"

Last week I read how Cam's daddy closed every one of the family devotions he led in Cam's childhood with the same words each time:  "May the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the seas."  Capture us God with holy, burning affection, with yearning ambition for you.  

My womb was full for the first time when I shared this dream with my love.  Almost eleven years ago, right here in this town...  a picnic blanket laid out on the lawn, sweet baby face up to the sky, and somehow... a kite.

I realized at the end of this summer that I could get into fishing too.  Watching a kite in the clouds or waiting for a fish to bite on the line has the same sort of relax about it, I guess.  Oh the rest of being present to a job that is such a balm to the soul for the doing of it.  I can imagine the calm respite an afternoon or a quiet morning on the water must be to a fisher.

There's no kite for us these days.  But this one blanket is perfection:  woven cream and huge enough for the half dozen of us to bake on, all spread evenly in the soothing sun.  And the hole somewhere near the center where the grass pokes through, makes me glad, frayed and unraveling just like me, though my mess is bigger.  And the paint drops and the tucked away stains, all holding us together, the base of the place that's holding all these dreams and stories and sights and sounds for my memory bottle.

We've developed a high level of swing pushing skill and bravery for the heights and this tree and these chains have held up and blossomed our joy.

And it downright scares me.  And I do not know how to handle it in my heart.   Seasons change.  But come summer or winter, city or mountains, year in and year out, there's nothing like this for us in China and I don't know how to hold it in my heart.  (There are glimmers of beauty and there are refreshing spots... but there's nothing at all this whole-soul refreshing.)

Can I breathe this in and say "I need this"... just an afternoon a month of family time outside?  In ten years in China, we've never had a day outside in untrashed creation that refreshed me like just one afternoon of this.  Oh to bottle this and take it with me.  Lord, let this memory scent flood my sweet room and heart there again.

It scares me and I really don't know how to ponder all this ache and longing and pleasure-blissed contentment.  Just to receive this as a gift?  Not a need, apparently (or the Father would provide it).  Not as wages that are due me: the attitude that  Jerry Bridges wrote of "the world owes me because I'm me."  The Lord opposes such pride.  Help me not go there,  Lord.

This is grace.  Pure, undeserved gift.  Receive it joyfully, gratefully.  Bottle it up and take it with you and uncap it when you need it, these memories, this living, never-stale grace.  oh help me Father.  

So yea, I can answer my own questions with my head, but my heart's still feeling it.  Feeling all the fear of future things and the ache of leaving again (even three months before we do!), of returning, relanding in a land that's so hard for me, in a land that's so needy, the we feel so compelled to and still so little able to reach.  Feeling all the yearning for a life thats full of fruit and sweetness and songs of eternity...

And this must be what is meant of walking by faith, not seeing but trusting His word, His promise.  Lord, help me.

Do what you want with us, Lord.  Make us who you want us to be.  Use us for your glory.  

...that swing

So glad to see these happy smiles.  Our big guy has had a harder time with this short-term living arrangement than anyone else in the family.  His style is to connect deeply with just a few close buds and there haven't been many boys his age around us here...  and how do you go deep with someone you know you're going to leave so soon?  These smiles are like medicine to remember.

This tree + swing + lawn + grass + sunshine + smiling giggly kiddo combo just can't be beat. 

But we did find a minor (or possibly, major?) improvement to the classic Underdog.

The K vote for best swing thing is the circle swing around.  100% that swing chair in the carnival type ride feel...  but somehow better.  

And the kids decided there needed to be something of a race around the track for runners and swingers.  

And that a little baseball mitt tag to the bottom end of the swinger would add a bit more fun to the whole experience for everyone as well.  

Five Star Family JOY.

so, soo grateful!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

a time of humbling

Hard things for our homeland....

We have a new president who is known for his hatred and arrogance and lies...

But may this be a new season in the Church:  a time to take up the basin and the towel, to humbly serve, to lay ourselves down, and may we bow down low to weep and repent and pray, to return with trembling to the Word of God, and may we be known- as we should be all along- for His love changing us and our communities and this dark world.  We have a long way to go to bless this hurting nation.

Reminds me of a truth from history:  that the church of God is never stronger or shining brighter, pure-er than when she is an oppressed minority.   I don't feel us strong, bright or pure at all right now. God have mercy, have mercy on us and on our land.


I posted this on Facebook and I really wanted to go back and make just one little edit but it seems like that's not a possibility on Facebook (reason #2,811 to avoid Facebook)... so here's what I really want to put down on the record:
Lessons for the kids on the morning of Nov 8: There was no good choice (between the big two) yesterday and I would have grieved if she won too, but, if ever you need to see that popular is not always good or right, here it is. Apparently “strong” is the new “smart”, the arrogant bully wins, and no amount of dishonor can discredit a guy anymore.  But for our crew, that’s not how we vote or how we aim to live. We love and follow One who is truth and never lies, who poured his life out in love and compassion, and recognized the dignity in each soul, the One who welcomed little children and all who are weary and weak, broken and needy. Praying now for repentance and humility, for eyes to see our need for TRUTH- for the church, for America, and for our new president and VP.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

trickle treat

So there were just a tiny bit excited for their first time to Trick or Treat!  But, good thing we went over what they were supposed to say and do to get the goods, because Marian was entirely ready to smile big and hold out her bag saying "Trickle Treat!"

The dear friends we are living with (yep, you should be thinking of insane generosity and uber kindness to invite our crew into their home for 3.5 months!!)  not only loaned me their camera when mine was broken, but also let Marian dress up in this Dorothy costume.  May decided she would rather be her favorite American girl, Samantha, but whoever she was, she was cute and she was ec-sta-tic to be dressed up and hauling home c a n d y like never before.  

John didn't want to get dressed up and he didn't want his photo taken....

(The pink socks were for Oct- Breast Cancer Awareness.)
Isaiah wasn't interested in dressing up as anything, until I suggested he just wear his little league uniform and he thought was a good plan.  (Pictures of little league coming soon- I just got a new camera this weekend!!).  Vivi had a ballet recital- that she was in tears behind the stage for, to nervous to get on stage with her class- but at least he adorable tutu made a good costume too!  Our friends loaned her the hat that crowned this little miss into one spectacularly sweet "princess fairy ballerina".  

And John....  he didn't want to dress up.  He stayed in his school clothes even when I suggested that he might not get any candy if he didn't get dressed up.   He held his ground... until he saw how fun it was to knock on doors, with mom and dad just a few steps behind him, and fill up on sweets.  I handed him the bag I brought along for him and told him "just tell them that you dressed up as John." And Matt corrected me.  "No- just say 'I work at Target.'" John's costume got the most joy at every house we went to that night.   

We got to walk the neighborhood with some very dear friends...  little Miss Natalie was a stunning butterfly.  And her cool mama snapped this on her phone when my camera battery was dead.  #sothankful!

Monday, October 24, 2016

missing pics and a broken camera...

I feel like there's a big hole in our family photo library....  Ten days after landing in the states I had over two thousand photos on my camera (see the Blackduck post below... a fantastically special vacation with Matt's family).  And I had no computer to upload the photos to and then LIFE happened (school, school, fixing up and selling our rental home, and lots of beautiful people to see).... Then I got our computer up and running and then my camera broke.

Now here I am two months in with almost no photos beyond two family trips and I have this ugly awkward inner sense of not-rightness to let two whole months go with no photos of our lives here... It just should. not. be.

Gratefully, the precious, dearly loved Mom of my heart, Judy, shared these photos from her phone.

(What a man, carrying his wife's purse like that!)  

During our time in Orlando this fall and winter, we are gratefully enjoying Lake Baldwin Church.  Since LBC meets in a public school, we had no meeting place on the Sunday morning after the Hurricane Matthew (even though there was so little damage in Orlando, the school still had to be checked.)  So we had a free Sunday to drive up to Sanford and worship at St. Andrews Chapel. Such a treat!

Don Bailey is the pastor that married us and first mentored Matt when he moved to Orlando in 2003.  What a gift to get time with the Bart and Judy Johnson and Don together!  (We missed you Tracy Bailey... who was helping her daughter clean up her home because Hurricane Matthew did cause damage outside of Orlando!)