Monday, December 5, 2016

memory bottles... of grass and sunshine

In a kids' room, 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 warm 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) 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 (found the scent of earth and eucalyptus mingled with spice right under the bark), Marian did handstands and cartwheels til we were all dizzy watching her, John watched the birds and we all heard them together, and Vivi twisted her toes toward the sky and rubbed those freshly stripped twigs to her nose.   I read aloud how he dreamed 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 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...



My picture of motherhood was just this: 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 I am, only my mess is bigger than this.  And the paint drops and the tucked away stains, such lovable imperfections, all still holding us together, the base of the place that's holding all these dreams and stories and sights and sounds for my memory bottle.


These blanket days have become most days for us these past few weeks.








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, and most northerners can't even touch grass right now.  And that would be true of me just a few parallels north too.  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 wholly-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 this pride.  Help me not to 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 to reach.  Feeling all the yearning for a life thats full of fruit and sweetness and songs of eternity...

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. 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!)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Candidate with Honor... Evan McMullin for President

I'm not usually super political... but this election- when all the world is looking at two shameful characters running for president of our nation- in this election I am GLAD to support a new candidate: Evan McMullin // Mindy Finn. 

There's honor in this team. I hear intelligent competency addressing issues and polite, courteous character in dialogue with others.  And I'm unapologetically asking you to consider this vote.... would you shout out about this great chance on your social media as well?

He's pro-life. And on same sex marriage he said it so well (paraphrased): "I believe in the traditional view that marriage is one man and one woman. But the courts of our land have approved of this and I will support their decision. It's time to move on now."

As for the reality of him every possibly winning... its slim, very slim, but there is a chance.

And as for America needing to recognize that there are Conservatives that stand for principles of honor and virtue and truth and not just "Republican"...whatever that names has come to mean, this Forbes post shows plainly, why my vote is glad and confident for McMullin // Finn.

Monday, October 10, 2016

New York!

On the way into the stadium, this dog "Chica" captured our kid crew's hearts....  he watched his owner and obeyed so well!  What a great doggie!




So fun that our crew got to watch our first family MLB game in NYC- the Mets vs. the Twins!!  Mets beat 'em 3-0.  


With my dad gifting us flights to come see him, we were able to attach a few days to stay in New York City!  What a treat!  Super thanks to our friend Eli who hooked us up with a very dear church that hosts people who come to serve in the city.  Our family got to stay there for two nights, in a great neighborhood in Brooklyn.  


(so... it was pretty bright)

And from here, we ate a great NY style pizza and walked through Central Park and took a rest there for ice cream and dog & people watching.  Then we made it to the Museum of Natural History at the perfect time!  The lady at the door greeted us with the happy words "there's no charge for tickets in the last hour we're open."  Our kids might not have made it more than an hour anyway!  But this way we enjoyed our speed tour through the dinosaurs, Native Americans and gems and minerals exhibits.  

Sunday morning we deeply enjoyed worshipping at Redeemer Pres and even ran into the pastor as we popped up from the subway and were looking around for where to head for the service.  Pretty fun to get to say "Hey would you mind if we follow you to church?".... and then to tell him that he regularly preaches for us - via podcast- in our little worship services in China.   It was a beautiful worship service and we are unspeakably grateful, blessed, delighted to get to be a part of this tradition, as Matt is pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America.  

And that afternoon we headed back to sunny lovely Orlando....  such a great trip!  #superthankful #familymemories  #planestrainsandautomobiles #christforthecity

Vermont!


We got to spend a few days with my dad in Sept... such a gift to be in this beautiful place for the very end of summer- perfect to still be able to swim in the pond but also to catch a first glimpse of the fire that's simmering in the trees.  We learned, among other things, that our names and titles for these two did not hit their hearts so we've given up "Grandpa Jonathan" and "Grandma Barbara" and gone to the far funner "Pop" and "Nan".  Such a great time we got with you guys!  Thank you for flying us up and thanks for having our crazy crew in your lovely home!!

at Goldsmith Pond...  Lake Goldsmith

as always... some great conversation with you guys!  And of course lots yummy meals and beverages!

in the middle of an impromptu bed time story...  
(I'd like to think our crew outfitting this guy in a Chinese baseball jersey helps, just a tiny bit, 
to keep him interesting :)

bedtime stories



the six of us ran at least a dozen races around the pond... perfect length for a bit of competition + loads of laughter.







The big three caught over a dozen little fish... a good morning of learning to wait together

two times she caught such a heavy puller on her line that we were sure she'd be bringing in a northern pike.... but both times he got away after a good little struggle.



What a great visit this was... Thank you guys!
(Matt's getting limber for squats- and this subtraction of a few inches looks pretty natural!  
Great job, babe!)