Monday, September 29, 2014

Wednesday weekend # 1

Part of our joy in homeschooling and Matt running his own business is that we have a more flexible schedule to enjoy some weekdays out when most the rest of folks are working or in school.  I hope we can take an outing every month or so!

For this first mid-week exploration, we went to a famous park in the middle of our city and the kids' fantastic adorable teacher came with us.  No wonder there just might be a little crush sparked in the heart of our 8.5 year old, right?




This was all Matt's idea.  It looked a bit too rickety for me.  But it worked and it was fun!





(We love this city.)
It really couldn't have been a more special time together, or in a more lovely place.  What a gift this day was!
The 1,000ish steps up the mountain and 3.5 hours of running around apparently took it's toll.

family worship

This week we started a prayer focus in our morning devotions time together.  How needful that we remind ourselves, soak ourselves, beg for grace to live in line with 1 Corinthians 13.  We're just going over verses 4 - 7 and praying that we would get it in our souls, our hearts, our minds, our lives, our tongues...  that it would show in our relationships with each other and in how we serve others outside our home.  We need this.  As always:  We need God- the I Am, our absolute reality, the definer of all that is and all that we are.  We need His Word.  It is our very life.

For the record, our morning devotions are quirky, frustrating, wonderful, laughable, and hopefully soul changing.  Here's a bit of what this morning looked like:

"You guys, love is patient and kind.  Do you think we can aim our hearts for that?  Sow some kindness seeds with each other today?"

"Hey, do you remember we saw camels last week?"

"Yea, thanks.  Let's stay focused.  What else stands out to you about love?"

"Did you guys hear about the kid that pushed the delivery bike yesterday in front of our building? It was hilarious."

"No, I didn't.  Let's talk about that later."

"What does arrogant mean?"

"Good question!..."

"Can we eat breakfast now?"

***

For our evening devotions (which are far from every day) we spend more time singing and lately, I've been totally captivated by a whole set of new songs from Sovereign Grace.  Really, there's no way in the world I would think to let our kids grow up in our home and not know these songs by heart.  We need to know, to linger in these beautiful, life-saving, life-giving truths!




And ...

O My Soul Arise

Father, How Sweetly

Behold our God

O Great God


Monday, September 22, 2014

much of heaven, much for Christ

"How much of heaven might Christians enjoy even here on earth if they would keep in view what ought to be their great object in life.  If they would but make the enjoyment of God their main pursuit how much more consistent their profession would be with their conduct, how much more useful their lives and how much more rapidly they would ripen for eternal glory...

"Christians do not sufficiently assist one another in their spiritual walk.  They are not enough in the habit of conversing familiarly and affectionately on the state of each others' souls, and kindly encouraging each other to persevere and get near to heaven.  One degree of grace attained in this world, is worth more than every earthly enjoyment....

"A little while, and we are in eternity; before we find ourselves there, let us do much for Christ."

~ Ann Judson (Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, p 84-95)



more of the same:
- from Amy Carmichael:  "We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, and only a few moments before sunset to win them."
-from Alistair Begg (rewriting C. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional, Sept 25):  "It is to be feared that many believers lose their strength as Samson lost his hair, while sleeping on the lap of carnal security.  With a perishing world around us, to sleep is cruel; with eternity so close at hand, it is madness."



Oh for this eagerness, this affection and anticipation for Christ, this griping insistence on His pleasure!...  oh to be ripening right now for His glory!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A prelude for peacemaking...

This post has been mulled over months, forgotten and pressed under the moving madness, and now resurfaces with urgency in my heart and on our home front....  we are needy.

As I remember and recall my prayer-plan to be a peacemaking authority, I have got to add too it the prelude that sets the stage for every other method and aim in their lives and in mine, as their mama...

I have got to be a mama who prays desperately, boldly, earnestly for my kids.

I felt a little stab when I read Paul Miller's book A Praying Life, the place where he mentions the huge numbers of Christian parenting books that are out there. (I've drunk down a dozen such books like I was a deer being hunted by toddlers with guns.)  As he pointed out, perhaps most of these books emphasize "Christian parenting methods" or "Biblical child reering" but sadly, sometimes they might not even mention praying for our kids.  Or maybe there's just a polite hat tip in that direction before laying down the rules, the steps, the methods that you can really rely on...

But what could be more Christian, more Biblical, more vital for this job than prayer!?  God forgive me for being so completely decieved that I could do this work of blessing and loving these children well enough by getting the right method and somehow implementing it by myself…  No way.   This so reminds me of a line from a sermon, "The things you need most are the very things you can not produce on your own.  You need God or all you're going to have is the small and fading stuff you could do, you could make by yourself."

K Burns, thank you for the list of characteristics of Biblical Humility that you sent...  Yes, yes!  true humility will mean desperate prayer, "and a great deal of it."  I know God's grace abounds to the humble and I want, I desperately need His grace.  So I might pray quick shots of "Lord, humble me." but if I shoot off that prayer so quick and then move throughout the day completely relying on myself, my perfect parenting methodology (even however imperfectly we implement it)....  no way, am I putting myself in the place where His grace should over abound to me.  Lead me to be prayerful, Lord.  Make me humble and let your grace abound!

Joel Beeke urges parents to pray Habitually, Spontaneously, Covenantally, Specifically and Earnestly for our children.  He shares this example (Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children, p36):

"Spurgeon remembered sitting on [his mother's] lap and feeling her warm tears as she prayed, "Lord, Thou knowest if these prayers are not answered in Charles's conversion, these very petitions will have to bear witness against him in the day of judgement."... The lesson was not lost on her son.  "The thought that my mother's prayers would serve as witness against me in the day of judgement sent terror into my heart,"  Spurgeon later wrote."   

And in praying for them, I'm going to be affected to love them better, to more deeply esteem their eternal value.   I'm happiest in motherhood and I think I best bless, best serve my kiddos when I'm remembering deep respect for the children I've been given, when I bind myself to cherish and dearly esteem who. they. are.... all the weight of the image of the eternal, living God living distinctly, uniquely magnificent in each one of my children.   

This scene has stayed running in my imagination recently: I'm with our children as grown adults who fervently love the Lord and are serving Him zealously with their whole lives.  In my dream scene, I'm sitting next to them on the couch, perhaps with their spouses and children gathered close too, all of us watching videos of their childhood.... What if the whole reel, every crunch moment, could be played back for us to view together then?

I know that Christ is with me always but I need that awareness deeper sometimes.   I've wished for a tattoo on my soul of James 5:9.  The Judge is at the door, but at times I've spoken with snobbish superiority to my little loves.  I wish it wasn't so, but it's happened.  And I think that the Lord isn't the least bit surprised by my sin.  He even built in another help for me.  Not only can I try to remember that He is near, right at the door, but even right there, in my own children, their two eyes looking right back at me, I can see a glimpse of Christ.  There, in those eyes, I see the image of God, my child manifesting the glory of the Father like no other being in the universe quite does.   Their eyes can bring the conviction of God for me and I can be turned again to humility, Christ-dependence, respect for them and kindness….

Because it really is the slime of this world that sneaks in to twist my view of my children from "image of God" to "frustrater of my plans."  (Hello, idolatry.)  It is the filthy, flawed wisdom of this world that tells me that children are annoying, dirty, not worth my time..... None of that is what God sees in them, who He made them to be, why he loves them and died for them.  I need my eyes open to see Christ in them, to bless them, to honor God in how I care for them, to cherish these little image bearers of God and to respect them as now-playing-silly, now-needy, future leaders of God's church.

May God be praised in parenting that abounds with His love…. a love that perseveres in prayer and deeply respects these precious little people.  And may our home, and their lives, abound with joy and peace and patience and self-control, prayerfulness and mutual respect…. and all of this is only from You.   Please give us your grace, more of your great love, for your glory, Father.

May the strained attempts for peace in our home, this daily battle for joy and truth, may it all be woven together to make beauty, souls glad with laughter and love, as only a sovereign God could possibly work out of the mess of our lives.....



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!