Tuesday, December 16, 2014

K Christmas 2014: part one

"Marian" by John

We enjoyed our Kindness and Thankful stockings again this year.... so grateful for this fun tradition of serious joy.   During Advent, the kids get to stock their stockings with notes (or pictures) of what they love or what they're grateful for or sometimes, invitations to private tea parties after homework is done.    At our Christmas celebration today, we read all the notes and then we pay the kids for every note, plus a little....   and that's their gift giving fund to give away together.   We ran out this afternoon to buy one snazzy China gift for one fantastic (biggest) cousin!  Still more fun ahead to give the rest of it to more needs.  We get to celebrate our Savior King's birth by giving gifts to Him!  

I doubt many of you have finished up your family Christmas's yet, so I'll try not to spoil the end of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift for you.... but my favorite of all the whole book is the bottom of the second to last page.  Enjoy it when you get there, friends.  

oh so terribly grateful for this tradition.... candlelight advent readings and sweets and our Jesse Tree banner.  I'm deeply grateful to the Lord for Ann Voskamp's Christmas words and inspiration.  
We leave well before morning for 2+ days of travel (2 planes and 28 hours of train) til more Christmas with more family.   (We're wildly excited!!!)

the crunch

Can I just acknowledge that this is hard?  We moved earlier this year and this is nothing compared to that.  And it's cake compared to leaving for 5-6 months.  But packing up our family and leaving our home decently contained for nearly three months, and saying good byes here (and good grief!  We'll be back in less than three months!) and preparing for at least a dozen wonderful stops across the states, and flights (who doesn't loathe buying flight tickets?  ) and all the details.... cars to borrow, homes to stay in, gatherings to arrange, and all the supplies we'll need to gather to come back here, and it's not like we live in the desert of Sudan, but we'll be hauling a hefty load back here, I know.

And none of this counts as big stuff, I know that too.  It's just that these little things have added up to enough to pretty much undo me.

Yesterday was an ugly crunch.  Just Too Much To Do.  Kids loved by dear sweet friends..... but oh, maybe one of their kids might have a hand foot and mouth disease, so yea, we'll pick our kids up early.  Sorry about that.  And then when I got to deliver the kids to their house...  I discovered that Matt was across town in the car.   And the crunch continued and it wasn't pretty and I was panicky. Just so much weighing down.

And there is grace.
Grace for this.
Grace for me.

Just the day before we listened to Matt Chandler exhort us about Woman's Hurdles.  (See a few posts down for the amazing sermon series we're listening to).  And he offered that women fight hard against perfectionism- trying to be the perfect mom, wife, pintrest star.  He said something like "You will never be the perfect mom.  Your kids don't need a perfect mom.  They need a mom who shows them grace.  They need a great mom and that's a mom who clings to Jesus and boasts in grace so that every time she falls, she gets right back up again and carries on."

That's me.  Today.  A few hours before we jump on a plane in predawn darkness tomorrow proclaiming to myself with this web pen, and brokenly sharing with you dear crazy ones who'd dare to read this far....  Yesterday I was down, miserably panicking and racing around like that poor proverbial chicken...  but by grace, by Jesus, I'm back in it again.  I'm crying as I write this, but it does help my heart to spell it all out.... (even while my piles loom.)  I feel weak and unable to finish all this but I'll keep clinging and we will make it and I think there will even be joy in this journey.  I'm grateful that I have reason to trust and know confidently, yes, there will be.

And it will be good to arrive on the other end....  Vacation Time. at Christmas. with Family.  Man....I am hungrily grateful for it already.    (Ok, I'm also pretty excited about a bathtub, carpet, parking lots, chocolate mint ice cream and a good burger... but that's probably more than really does need to be shared here.  Too bad though.... 'tis a post for honesty!)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Aiming for Authentic Joy

Inspired by the masterful post “Harvesting Hope.” Here’s my parallel plea, my own prayer and desire for our family, and for my photo recording of our lives together, especially this Christmas.

I want time with you.  
I want to be with you
and to know you.
I want to hear you,
hear you share your heart,
your dreams, your fears,
that never-ending dream from last night,
or maybe it was a year ago?
Tell me all the never-ending details, please.
I'm here for you.

I want to hear you breath, 
chew (well, a little less would be fine)
and swing your pillow through the air to start battle.  
I want to hear you sing.
and sing with you.
I want to pray with you.
I want to receive with you
the grace that makes us all even, equal,
sinners, saved, for glory, by lavish, unfathomable grace.

I’ve said that I accept you- 
warts and weaknesses and all-
but I’d like to do that better, truer, deeper.
Please forgive me for when I’ve not
born with your weakness
but tried to insist that you come in line right.now.
You have born with my weaknesses too.
Please forgive me.
I’ve been shown so much grace.  
Oh to be an open vessel for His grace
to flow into, onto you through me.  
That’s what I want.  

And as for the laundry on the couch, 
it’s on our bed.
And the scribbles on the wall,
they’re on several.
And the crying, there will be much of it.
And hopefully much, much more laughter
(Daddy can make you laugh 
almost anywhere, anytime, can’t he?)

I want to pass you the camera, 
my budding photographers,
and thank you for the gift 
of your angle
and perspective.
I can’t capture for myself,
Daddy’s arms around me,
his kiss nuzzling into my neck
his words and hands that stroke away my anxiety
as he helps me to lift my eyes
and remember what’s true.  
I want to be gracious in giving to you
the chance to capture these treasured moments.  
Thank you for your skill that captures these 
glimers of this fast fading time 
that itself is a record of your growth and heart.
Thank you.
I can’t capture this all on my own.
I need you.
Oh I need you, and I love you dearly.

And I want to jump in with you on photo fun.
I’m sad that I don’t have hundreds more photos
of me with you.
Oh my babies!
I’ve blamed a dozen things but
I’m the primary changer needed.    
Thank you for wanting me with you
even wanting me to be recorded forever 
in digital family stone 
looking like…
the mom that I am.  
Thank you for loving me.
Oh I love you so.

And you know what?  
We still might resort to bribery.
Just take the chocolate promise and 
smile big please,
OK loves?
Do it for me, 
and for your auntie,
and for your grandma.
We’ll be so happy to have a few pics 
of hopefully our whole large 
and larger crowd
all smiling at once.
And if that takes a bit of extra encouragement
lets count it as a gift.
Just this once, 
we’ll won’t call it fake.
But the rest of the time your smiles 
aren’t going to be paid for 
with skittles or chocolate.
If you don’t smile,
{here kids: see me raise my eyebrows and sneaky smile at you}
you’ll be the ones to go down in family stone
and we will show the pictures in your wedding
of your grumpy face 
and it won’t be my fault.
And I’ll love you still.
We all will.

But I do most earnestly, deeply hope
that joy is the real story of our family.
I want to make joy with you, for you.
Hold my plans loosely and
believe the truth about 
our imperfect family life
being the stuff of real purpose, 
the place where forgiveness grows into life,
bears strength
and joy that’s just a taste of life beyond
these dark confines. 

I am the gladdest any mama could ever be
that I get to look for wonder,
sing into your sadness,
pray for peace and patching up, and
take Jesus as the Savior we 
everyday need, 
get up again when we fall down,
and aim for joy 
and live it
with you.

Monday, December 8, 2014


we've known that John likes the cold and is very brave for it... but I was impressed by Vivi's winter adventure-loving this morning too.  Man, we love these treasure kids!
These two are seeming so bigggg to me lately....  I am so grateful to the Lord that I get to know and love them!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


We took a mid week morning off- a sweet way to avoid the crowds in the big city- and visited my new favorite park here.  Such a gift!

We have such an awesome group of kids come out to join us for soccer. 
The abandoned warehouse- turned mini soccer pitch where we play is a little less than awesome, but we enjoy it to the max anyway!
love this girl
Cool friends stopped by on a tour of their old stomping grounds.  So grateful for a sweet visit together- dear new friends for our kiddos.  
And we got a care package....  can you believe it!?  We feel totally spoiled by this:  a heavy box of Ann Voskamp's Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (*yipee*) and a load of Trader Joes treats to share!  So blessed by you dear L friends!  Thank you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being... (and planning for it)

I smiled and told the guy behind me in line a line I say all the time..."I've got the best and the hardest job in the world.  I'm a mom. "  

And I wondered to myself as I moved away "why, if I really think motherhood is that great and that difficult, why don't I let myself just be a mom then?"  I keep our home running (and it is run through constantly) and meals on the table and clothes clean and dry (never mind the folding) and I love and serve and snuggle and tickle and teach our kids something in three languages every day.  And we live here for good purpose and we want to be reaching out to our neighbors, to love and serve them too, as much as we possibly can.  

That's a tall list of real responsibilities, just like every single person who's reading this, I'd guess.  But I almost never allow myself to simply be what I feel called first to be:  a mom.  Not for a single minute.

It's my To Do List that lurks like a heavy-weight obsession, ready to define the value of my day's output... the value of me.  Somehow, with a load of eternally worthy, challenging, difficult, and delightful responsibilities, I usually measure my worth by that darn list.  When I spell this all out and face it down, I know it's ridiculous.  But I fall into this same trap all. the. time.  

In my planning, at most 1% of what I've ever written down has been along the lines of "cuddle with John" or "heart-talk with Marian".  My list is far more tasky than most mom-stuff ever needs to be.  And so is my heart my mind:  tasky.  

Tasks, clearly, aren't wrong at all.  They're needed and I want to be diligent and faithful to take care of the urgent realities that require my attention.  It's just that I also want to keep my heart from letting 'getting my list done', undo me.  I want to learn to hem in my attention and energy and creative runaway bunnies with focus and flexibility and live in the fullest freedom of being present to the people I love and to the biggest picture of what I'm called to be.   My to-dos are simply not worthy to be played continually in my mind, distracting and wearing me down, and usually trying to accuse and condemn.  There's a time for to-dos.  There's a time for everything....  but not everything all the time.    

I love Charlotte Mason and I need her reminding me that attention is the number one habit to train in ourselves and our children.  And I like the pomodoro approach for attending to one task at a time, but I usually give up on that plan quickly, excusing myself because those pomodoros don't allow enough room for creative sparks (and sometimes a creative thought might be just the brilliance my task needs to get finished well.)   Plus, if I fill my day and my mind with pomodoros, I'm heading straight towards ugly task-obsessiveness again.   Don't get in my way while the tomato is ticking!

But I'm trying something different now and I'm liking it.  The verdict is still out if this plan will lastingly revolutionize my days but it's going well so far...  Here's the new deal:

I'm arranging my day according to my roles, not my tasks.   What I need to be in different time slots of the day, instead of only what I need to do.  Every role has it's own tasks, but we probably also know how to "be" active and responsible in those roles without checking off a box a minute.  

As a language student, I keep a running list of lessons to study, flashcards to repeat... and when I don't finish them during one "Student" block... they simply move to the next block of time when I can focus on that role again.  When I'm done with that "Student" block, I'm done needing to worry about those lessons and onto the next role to attend to.   And if my tutor goes off on a tangent in class, I can listen and learn with freedom.  

For the dear friend who told me that she all she ever does is take care of her kids and the house, perhaps slotting some time to develop a creative hobby or learn a new skill or read a good book, would be healthy... and even make her a better mom.  In the past, when I've tried to squeeze in one creative, soul-refreshing "task" just for me, it can get pushed to the bottom of the list every time and it may never gets done.   But if there's a time blocked off for it, prioritized with prayerful thoughtfulness rather than just frantic squish-in-as-much-as-you-can type carelessness, it just might happen... and happen better.  I know this friend's husband would totally support her to allow herself time each week to invest in reading or take in a sermon, restore herself creatively.

Some of my roles are Worshipper, Mom, Wife, Home-maker, Servant (reaching out beyond our home), Lover of Beauty and Words (for personal refreshment).    For me, my roles are largely relationships:  with the Lord, my husband, my children, our neighbors, and how I care for myself.  

In all of life, it's plain to see:  we need to flex.  Living things are lively and no child, no loved one, or needy one, is going to stay put in one block on a calendar page.   As a mom, I'm 24/7 on call.  I'm on call to attend to one of the few lasting treasures of this world:  my children.  Flex, for their sake, by His grace, for His glory, trusting His sovereign goodness.  And plan... plan for when I don't need to bend around something, to hold myself up with attention to my roles rather than obsession for my tasks.   I'm feeling richer and richer as learn to think and do and be like this.

And, Lord, may such focus sharpen my attention for You and my efforts to glorify you in all that I do.    Our lives are all- every moment, every role, every task, every relationship and responsibility- all for the praise of your glory and grace...

Friday, November 14, 2014

old words

A dear friend pushed this book into my hands as we parted, our family moving west to a new city.  The Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella Stuart.  I gasp just to think of it now... the immeasureable gift of this book.

The narrative, lives of these women, their husband, the people they served, the God they loved.  Really, what could be a better gift than to get to such grand story as this, these lives so beautifully lived, and to get that story into my soul and launch out to live as much of that fullness myself?

There's much, much more than I can share here now (hopefully there will be more future posts) but for now here's just one sentence. It's not an important sentence, it tells none of the central theme or purpose of Sarah Judson. But if the backdrop is this good...  well, I hope it will make you want to read it too.  This quote is from the second page about Sarah Judson's life.  The author has just finished describing the poor family she grew up in.  She was the first of thirteen children who had less privileges and pleasures than many.

"Children so situated are sometimes pitted by those who consider childhood as the proper season for careless mirth and reckless glee;  but they often form characters of solid excellence rarely possessed by those to whom fortune has been more indulgent."

The nobility, the excellence, resourcefulness, Christ-centeredness of these beautiful women's lives....I can't think of anything, for me, that would surpass this exquisite inspiration!  I hope you're hungry to read more...

And the thing is... you can!  How fantastic a gift is this?  Google Play (a free app) has Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella Stuart (first published somewhere in the middle of the 1800s) and it has Emily Judson's memoir of her successor, Sarah Boardman Judson, too....  All it takes is getting this app, signing into Google and then downloading the books.  For free!  They're that easily available, that delightfully priced.  Oh friends, if you need some soul stirring, soul-strengthening...  don't miss these old gold words.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

John's Prayer and Father Love

Our sweetheart John has said a few most memorable prayers.    Not long ago he prayed at dinner time "God, thank you that we got to eat breakfast this morning.  And we got to eat lunch this afternoon.  And dinner now.  Amen."

Last time we were in the states, when he was 3.5 years old, we had stayed in about twenty different homes for a few months.  We tried to pray blessing and thankfulness for each home we were in.  And John remembered that when he prayed on Christmas Eve (I think it was?)....  it was a sweet and really long prayer (especially for this boy who does brief prayers well) and he closed with "Thank you that Grandma and Grandpa let us stay with them in their home."  I can still remember Grandma giggling over it...."as if we'd leave you all out in the snow."

Sometimes the obvious things seem too little to mention.  But I'm so glad he remembers to name these blessings and to give them as gifts, to return them with thanks to the Lord.   

Tonight he prayed another one that, if it had come on any other day, might not have choked me up so much.  But it did today.  He prayed:

"God, thank you that I was born.  
And that Daddy was born.  
And mommy was born.  
And Isaiah was born.  
And Marian and Vivi were born.  

We were listening to a sermon on Biblical manhood this morning, on teaching our boys the creation-old wisdom and beauty and goodness and rightness of living with such honor as to lay down their lives for women, for their women... and I wept straight through it.  

I wouldn't have thought there was very much "father-wound" in me....  I know the Lord shielded my heart with outrageous grace all through my childhood and youth.  But I grew up with a single mother and a father who knew well of my existence and never cared to say hello, to check how we were, to protect, to provide... even a scrap, a crumb, for my mom or me.  This sermon pulled back the grace-cover from that wound to have me relive a little of my still-there tenderness, neediness for healing in my heart.... and where does a father abandoning his child, throwing her mother away like trash, not hurt their heart?

I remember some of the first words I heard from my father's lips the day that I met him, the day after I turned 22.  "I want you to know I bear no responsibility, no financial obligation towards you because I told your mother:  have an abortion."

But tonight I get to celebrate an eternally, exquisitely precious boy who is thankful he was born.  And thankful I was born.  He and his siblings.  And His daddy.  And these beautiful treasure kids of mine (!) are growing up loved... loved well by a Daddy who is living the Gospel before them.  Sacrificially loving them, loving me, loving and leading us all to our God.

In that sermon, Chandler reminds us of the admirable beauty of a three young men in Aurora, CO throwing themselves over their girlfriends when a gunmen entered their theater.  Each of those guys was killed while their bodies shielded those three young ladies and gave them life.  I had a father who left me before all the bullets of life and this world ...  but I have a Savior who took the weight of not just the junk of this world, but my very own, I-am-guilty,  soul-trash, to give me life by shedding His own blood for me.

And I am the most brokenly, soul-raw and Thankful any woman, any mother could be.  Stunned by the grace of healing (what's begun and still coming), faithful promises, a beautiful design, divine self-sacrifice, and Sovereign Love.   And that I, that we, belong to such a God as this?  

... stunning, outrageous grace.