Tuesday, December 30, 2008

family gifts

This Christmas was a first for a few new things in our home. We really enjoyed the stockings that my family made for our kids.

3 generations of B family hands worked on these beauties and the love stitched into them is obvious, and precious to us. Thank you dear family!

The banner below also has 3 generations invested in it.... K family ladies, this time, as well as two very dear friends here, saw this project through to completion. Since Christmas is so much more than a celebration of only gifts and snuggly, wintery characters, we're glad to have learned from more creative people a method of teaching our kids what the real meaning of Christmas is. My friend here, B, drew each of the pictures on the ornaments. She is a talented artist!

Dec 1 we'll put up the first ornament, a picture of the world that God created, and each day till Christmas put up a new ornament explaining a piece of the story of how God prepared his people for the birth of Jesus, our Savior. There are a few great books out there on how to create your own Jesse Tree and devotionals to read along with each ornament you put up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We hope you enjoyed a most joyous celebration this year! Christmas is an incredible celebration.... our humble Savior King's birth, our salvation-life in him, and the Hope he sets in our hearts that he will make all things right. What cause for joy!

Our celebration this year included lots of fun gatherings with friends and started much before the actual day and lasted well past it... We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with just our family, four +. It was really neat (and a huge relief) to finally have our Jesse Tree banner finished to be able share with friends the real reason for our cheer(more about that soon.) Here are a few fun shots- mostly of the kids enjoying gifts that Grandpa and Grandma packed in when they visited last month. (Thank you again dear families of ours!)

In the way of gifts, Isaiah is thrilled to have a new dog which was first named with the local word for "they" but more lately is called "Pup." And thank you Auntie H and Uncle G for the super cool airplane! Matt helped Isaiah assemble it "all by himself" (toy drill was included for the assembly.) What a toy- perfect for our little engineer! (When Grandma and Grandpa were with us we opened still more gifts- a fun walkie talkie set and lots of cute clothes that more family members sent... we were really spoiled!)





Marian was also delighted to receive a baby doll and a stroller and a plastic tea set to dine with. She has made sure to take good care of her baby by spoon feeding Baby from her tea cup and by giving Baby a plate and cup to take along on her stroller rides.

This last family photo is hilarious to me... I would title it "Web Cam Face". The one thing I really dislike about web caming with family or friends is that our kids usually seem so sedate when they're groggy headed, eating breakfast, staring at the computer... it's just wonderful to see the people we love and hear from them, but for them to see us? I think web cam only captures 2% of the life and energy and spunk that our kids really have in them! This photo seems to capture my sadness for web cam just perfectly, still, I really love this photo!

In pregnancy news: I'm 15 weeks along with "K3" and glad to feel more pregnant lately. I've just finished an awkward and fairly short season of not being nauseous, not really showing (emphasis on "really"), not hardly feeling pregnant, and being a bit eager for some reassurance. I'm actually glad to feel more now- possibly our little one twittering around? The unconfirmable pudge has given way to a more assuredly pregnant feeling.... We're so excited!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

memory verses

We eagerly desire to teach our kids well about the Lord but we definetely do not consider ourselves to be gifted early childhood educators. So we're jumping in with memorizing some short Bible verses. It seems to be the best fit for our 2.75 year old's brain. And it's such a joy to see and hear him love the Word of God and to know these words and the LIFE in them are in the air, and hopefully, in the hearts in our home. Here's what we're working on:

* Psalm 19:1 ~ The heavens declare the glory of God.

* Psalm 24:1 ~ The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.

* 1 John 4:19 ~ We love because God first loved us.

* 1 Samuel 3:10 ~ Speak Lord for your servant hears.

* 1 Timothy 1:15 ~ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

* John 11:25 ~ He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.

Many thanks to the Cs for your rich contributions for our Sunday School time. We miss you dearly, friends!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

heart ache by email

Living overseas is a wonderful adventure for our family and we really wouldn't change it for anything. But there are some hardships that come along with it, and, as it turns out, there are some difficulties that are still sinking in for me, even after being here for close to 2.5 years. Specifically, I have to confess that it's really sad for me to feel so disconnected from all the people I love! I knew we would be far away, wouldn't get to have play visits or easy phone calls (12-15 hour time change makes it hard!), but how about just feeling like we live so far away that it's just too much trouble to keep in touch any more! Ahh!

I feel like I fight against this with all the strength and energy I can, because I'm deeply committed to maintaining and growing in friendships with you, the ones that I love! But today we've discovered something that nearly broke my heart: many of the emails I've written in the past few months have not been sent or received or saved.... obviously there is some error with my own methods for these emails to just vanish. It's really sad for my pregnant emotional heart to realize this communication is gone and that I probably can't go back to retrace all of what's missing, who hasn't heard from me (when I thought they had), and what I replied to their (your) situations.

So dear friends, know that you mean so very much to me, to us! Even with some emails being lost, I know I don't get to write as much as I'd like, so if you have or haven't gotten personal emails from us, and if we have or haven't written, please know that you- dearest friends, you know who you are!- are absolutely precious to us. We would treasure hearing from you!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do you see what I see?


Yesterday morning my language study was pretty distracted.... I sat for a while in front of my textbook, character paper and pen waiting to be used up, and I just listened to Todd Agnew's Chirstmas CD, Do you see what I see? Eventually I did get to my studies, but not before a sweet session of worship and appreciation with this music. I feel like my eyes were opened to some new aspects of the wonder of Christ's birth that we celebrate at Christmas. How rich we are to have food like this for our souls!

The CD is mostly all songs that are sung as if from the voice of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' birth: Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, the three kings, the innkeepers... the songs are excellent, vocals are sweet (I'm a sucker for the great choirs that pop up at times), and many of the lyircs are rich, profound, beyond what I expected (I just didn't know any better.) Abundant thanks to MF for recommending the CD to us. If you are looking for any new Christmas tunes, don't pass up this CD!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grandma and Grandpa's Visit

We greatly enjoyed having Matt's parents with us for the past two weeks. What a blessing that they were able to come, enoy and love on our kids with us, and get to know so much more than the web cam could ever offer of our darlings' personalities, quirkiness, humor, laughter, songs, tickle spots... We had so much fun! We miss you already- and lots- Ye ye and Nai nai

Grandma and Mama got to observe Isaiah at school.... but having us there with him was too distracting for him. Too bad we didn't get to really see him in action! Still, we know that he loves going to school and he's playing gladly every time I peek through the windows to spy on him. We are so grateful for such a great preschool so close to our home. What a blessing!

Isaiah proudly shares with you his "sleep toy".


Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for all the fun paints and craftsy projects you brought for us to do with you!

We rode the new subway line out to the Olympic Village.... the subway was the real excitement for Isaiah!



Our sweet princess Marian




One of our top joys from their visit was getting to share with them, for the first time in person, the fantastic news of the newest little one the Lord is knitting together in me! It was great to share this joy with them. We are all so excited to meet you K3!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

blessing my man

The Girl Talk Blog- which two dear friends pointed out to me (Thanks CV and DC!) recently posted 5 days full of ideas of ways to bless your husband. (When you click on this link, only day 5 will come up, then click on the link to day 4 at that top of that page).

I really enjoyed reading the contributions there and am really excited to have these creative ideas ready to go, to bless my man. Ladies, I think it's well worth a look of your own at this page, (especially since the top way to bless your man, which we all know, but is cutely shared, is better mentioned there than on this family blog!. Still, I'll sum up my other favorites and a few of my own thoughts here:

1- Drop the kids off at the end of the afternoon at a friends house so Matt comes home to a refreshing surprise. I got to do this for him last week (Thanks DC!!) it was a fantastic treat for both of us.
2- tell the kids often how blessed they are to have him for a dad, encourage and help them to express this to him with hugs and notes and gifts
3- tell his parents how well he blesses me, speak confidently of him to others
4- be gracious with his faults and weaknesses and quick to forgive
5- At the end of a long day, prepare a snack plate and a drink for him in our room so he can come home and rest a minute before he has to be “on” for me and the kids.
6- email him, text him encouraging notes
7- encourage him and provide dinner for him to have a guys night at our place
8- spend money wisely, honor the constraints of the budget he has set
9- be self controlled in emotion and expression when communicating with him- try to calmly, clearly communicate.
10- Clear time for him to “cave”, to work on his own things and not have to always be on call to answer questions or help in some way
11- PRAY FOR HIM. journal it.
12- Encourage dates for him with the kids and special dates with me.


And... while I'm at it, I'll share the top things that Matt does to bless me. (I'm just listing five things- but they are more broad categories of blessing he gives me :) )
1- Lead. I feel so provided for and cared for when Matt is aware of our family situations and makes decisions for us, sets goals and a plan for reaching them (ie. training our kids about the Lord, or determining priorities for a week's schedule). Especially as a mom of young kids, sometimes making a decision about something is just more than I can add to a day that's been filled to the brim with craziness already. He blesses when he leads confidently in Christ, sensitively and lovingingly towards me, and joyously in his role as the head of our home.
2- "Connecting Night." We started doing this earlier this year- once a week, put the kids down and then the two of us snuggle up and chat on the couch, like an in-house date night. It's far more doable for us than finding a babysitter and spending money going out every week. Spending one evening a week to catch up with each other and grow together in marriage, parenting, or just pursuing the Lord together, is a great encouragement to me! (I'm also realizing that some special times out of the house are probably well- worth the investment too!)
3- Bless our kids. I love to see how Matt loves our kids. I love watching him enjoy them, and make them laugh. Both our kids delight in their father's love, delight in the fun he is with them, and they both are blessed by instruction and discipline from him. And I have to say, my man is growing in his role as a father.... he seems to be getting better and better at this job!
4- Be diligent at his work. I love to see him work excellently to the Lord's glory in the many different responsibilities he has. It makes me admire and respect him all the more.
5- My man is wise in his relationships with others, often challenging me, and regularly meeting with other guys for accountability and mentoring. He also blesses me tremendously with his maturity in relationship with other ladies, being careful to not leave room for misunderstanding or even the "appearance of evil."

Friday, November 7, 2008

preschool sports meet





Isaiah was a little weirded out to have us join him at school. He really didn't know how to handle it, but in the end, he managed to really enjoy the bunny-jump dance/exercise and elephant tromp together with his all little friends. We loved the whole morning and were beaming with pride to take home our little gold medalist at the end of the morning. (Ok, everyone was a gold medalist, but that didn't change a thing!)

our hope

Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. Psalm 20:7

Some trust in presidents and some in political parties, but we remind ourselves, "turn your eyes and hearts only to the LORD, our God!" He is mighty to save and His kingdom and His Word endure forever, (regardless of popular polls and votes.)

And for all we write about loving where we're at.... we also love our homeland and are praying for that country and for the church and you friends there as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

more raw Christian poetry

A while ago I posted a link to a poem "Gain" on a great blog called Raw Christianity. I LOVE the poems and general posts at this site. I could try to use the same words I often use to describe really great music or books, but I'll skip it and just tell you that my eyes were flowing glad and grateful rivers as I read "Ripple" and then again as I read "Rise Up". I hope you will enjoy and be inspired by these poems too!

weekend in the countryside

Last weekend we had a great time on a retreat, staying at a tiny hotel about an hour outside of the city. We went with some close friends of ours here and were really grateful for the fresh air, open sky and plain ole' time to enjoy good friendship. The place where we stayed had only a few rooms that surrounded a courtyard where the veggies we ate were grown, and where bunnies and chickens were raised (yea, let's not talk about it.) We had a great time! Our hearts were really refreshed and renewedly inspired for the Lord's glory in this sweet, short time away.

Matt got some really fun play time with his girl. She was absolutely mesmerized by the animals.



Isaiah took deep joy in playing with Mama's drill (hairdryer) in the dirt. The "little engineer" is at it again!

We were so grateful each of these ladies could be with us for the weekend.... especially when it came time to dig in and enjoy this fish- all 38 (approximately) pounds of it-deep fried and drenched in sweet and sour sauce.

"Hot Pot" is a favorite traditional food here and this table was the real way to enjoy a meal of it- complete with the wood oven under the center pot.


We took a quick walk up this tiny mountain/large hill and enjoyed the view. We love this country, and know that our love is just a slim smidgin compared to the love of God... His love compels us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ABCs.... in which language?

Today at lunch I laid out on the table the new ABC chart that Isaiah and I recently made together. We put stickers near as many letters as we could that matched up- plane near the P, tiger near the T, and fish near the F.

But this was the wrong time to pull it out. Most days our kind helper who watches Marian while I have class has lunch with us so conversation is in the local langauge. Isaiah is usually ready to go for it because he's just returned home from all morning at preschool.

But today this plan messed with our brains too much! We were speaking the local language with our friend and looking at the ABC chart, but suddenly things weren't matching up. P doesn't say "feiji", T doesn't say "laohu", F doesn't say "yu". Better plan ahead to make sure the timing is right for our next ABC lesson!

Here's Isaiah's new trick: he loves to put on these wonderful slipper-boots that were just given to me by some friends from New Zealand. Wearing these boots, Isaiah instantly becomes "Da Ju Ren" A Biiiiiiiig Giant who tackles everyone around. He even told Matt yesterday "When we play, it's bad for you!" Sounds like a pretty confident Big Giant if you ask me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

missing things

I've been missing strange things recently... the sound of our car door closing, echoing on our carport in FL; looking out the window and seeing trees and feeling like you and your family have a little space, a little land to yourselves; being able to drive a few blocks to Walgreens and pick up any medicine I might need for our family; passing by a newstand and learning a few tidbits of what's happening (I still can't read most newspaper headings); feeling like we blend in in our environment (I know we are supposed to be here and we love the people here, but we still stick out so bad!); and of course, Baja Fresh or Panera- be grateful, Americans!

Still, we are so very glad to be here!

Thanks for keeping Marian in your prayers. She's still fighting this awful head cold/ sinus infection. It's been a rough one for her... and for me!

Here are a few photos from a sports meet on the campus where Matt studies language. Another American student there, who has become a close friend for Matt, was running in the 5k and since track meets are much more relaxed for rules here, Isaiah and Matt got to run along side of him to cheer him on! Also, Matt took 2nd place in shot put!



Friday, October 17, 2008

starfish

I just got home from a gathering where one friend shared about an excellent organization called Starfish. What a good work is being done there! Migrant women move into the big city, trying to help their families, but often end up in really hard circumstances. This group offers them a good job making earrings and provides employees with business and English training too.

And... you can buy the earrings! Please check their site to read more about their work and to browse their catalog.

www.starfish-project.com

understanding

I have a friend who is an English teacher in a far away land, where the cultural and political climate is far from what most Americans would describe as "open." Before we moved overseas I had no clue what it would be like to be her, or to be one of the citizens of such a country... but the picture is becoming a bit less hazy for me these days.

My dear friend, SB, is very limited on what she can post on facebook because her country has tight reigns on it. People in other countries, who voice opinions too loudly or clearly, get their blogs shut down. Other people might be misunderstood for what hear-sayers report about them, or for misrepresented details posted about them online, and get in trouble.

I remember dreaming as a high school and college student of having my own home one day. I would want all the things that I most deeply value to be evident in my home: Christ-centered, decently clean, hopefully beautiful, welcoming, and some how displaying that material things are not my ultimate treasure. When Matt and I were married we even had a little hand signal for it- it meant "let me nest a little and make us a home!"

Well, because of situations like SB's, not all blogs, just like not all homes- for one reason or another, get to so clearly display all there is in the heart of the blogger. There are probably excellent links and resources SB would share if she could... This morning I read in Matthew 10 where Jesus told his disciples "Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves." I think in our given day, under given circumstances, we all need to be wise blog readers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Immanuel's Land

A treasure of an old hymn......


O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep sweet well of love
The streams of earth I've tasted, more deep I'l drink above
There to an ocean fullness, His mercy doth expand
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land

With mercy and with judgement, my web of time he wove
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with his love
I'll bless the hand that guided, I'll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth, in Immanuel's land

O I am my Beloved's, and my Beloveds mine
He brings a poor vile sinner, into his house of wine
I stand upon his merit, I know no other stand
Not even where glory dwelleth, in Immanuel's land

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom's face
I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of Grace
Not at the crown he giveth, but on his pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's Land

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Psalms

Incredible. Right now "Glorious and mighty" is playing. Another favorite on this album of favorites is "The Lord Is." The set is solid with rich melodies and vocals and lyrics- all inspired by the Psalms (thus, the name for the album). You can listen to some selections on the Sovereign Grace site. I know Sov Grace music is all excellent- especially for it's sound God-centered focus, but this is by far my favorite album I've heard from them. I look forward to charging my heart and brain with these tunes and prayers first thing tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

South of the River

We are so deeply grateful for these dear friends that we spent time with, who so warmly welcomed us into their home and lives last week. It felt like a rare opportunity for us(as a family of four) to really see life in a local family, outside of this big city. We loved our time with these precious friends and in their neat community.



This is our dear FS that we travelled with, whose parents we visited. Her mother, Li Ayi, is an extraordinary cook and I was so glad to learn some more local recipes from her! Fang Shu Shu, her dad, was calm, cool peacefulness to be with. We loved watching how they both adored our kiddos.


The old men in this part of town seemed to congregate at one end of the city park just to be together. They weren't playing games as is super common here. They weren't reading or even smoking... it looked like they were really simply being together.
Every day after Li Ayi made a feast (three times a day) she would grab Marian out of her travel high chair and whisk her away with her downstairs to be with all the neighbors. Isaiah would run to catch up after he (finally) finished eating. Li Ayi sells wood ear, and some tofu type ingredients, and delicious spices out of the stand that their front door opens onto. All day everyday could be spent with the neighbor vendors and customers just being together.... it's was beautiful and radically, fantastically unamerican. I really want to learn this skill, this beautiful skill... to not be so task driven, task focused, task oriented, and so darn bound to my idea of productivity allllll the time. It is striking how much PEOPLE were priority to Jesus. This visit challenged me to recheck my good tasks and priorities in this light and pray for willingness and eagerness to lay down my schedule for others.



Every morning when we woke up, Isaiah and I would watch the street scene out the front kitchen window. Our family's home is in the wholesale food district for the city and it was rush hour for the veggie, meat, etc dealers from around 6 - 8 am.



Isaiah absolutely fell in love with the "beng beng chuang" (jumping bed) here. The town actually had three of them and Isaiah played on two. Tickets were 30 cents (USA) for the small one (first pic) and 50 cents for the bigger one.



Qi Qi, a cute little cousin in the family, was a fun play pal, once Isaiah got warmed up a bit for jumping.




Our kids are often treated like royalty here, especially in this town that has probably seen just a few- if any, really- blonde kiddos before. Sometimes the kids enjoy making friends and feeling popular but it's something we really want wisdom and patience to know how to handle because it can honestly be quite annoying. We'd so much rather make the most of every opportunity to be a blessing to people here and not be annoyed at such displays of joy!



This little guy came over one afternoon while Isaiah was napping and he waited around a while till Isaiah woke up. Then he presented Isaiah with a little toy that he bought for Isaiah himself. It was so sweet!