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!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

summer days...





we love you Bart and Pam....what a gift it was to spend these few days with you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a little local


Rumor has it that the average resident around here consumes 500 KG of fruit a year...
I don't doubt it a minute.  Watermelons are selling for 1Y (about 17 pennies) per kilo right
now and they couldn't be sweeter.







A normal restaurant will always serve this rice dish and a spicier noodle option.
That's it.  Every restaurant.  Everywhere.
In the wildest stretches of local cuisine, there are about 5 - 6 total possible meals and there are occasionally a few variations in side items.  A few non traditional meals are popping up on some menus but with these two standard dishes, how could anyone ever want or need anything else!?


He wanted his pic with all the animals... dried turtles and rats and lizards and a ram skull and horns
in front of the local pharmacy.  How's that for natural medicine?


Over the weekend we visited this street market with two precious friends of ours that came from the states to visit us.  In order to get any good local food we've had to wait til dark (for Ramadan) so the kiddos were especially hungry by the time we found those plates of rice or noodles.

What an encouragement it was to share our new home land, new neighbors with you....  We are so grateful for our time with you Bart and Pam!