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!

the southbound train

Last Monday afternoon FS called at 3:20 and told us we had tickets for a train that was leaving at 4:30. Yes, we should have been packed but we weren't. Talking with FS at noon that day, it seemed like it just wasn't going to happen- that we just weren't going to be able to get tickets. Again, the difficulty with this is that most the inhabitants of our city wanted to travel during this one week national holiday and zillions of people wanted tickets to anywhere and everywhere.

But, all of the sudden, we had tickets. We managed to load ourselves and a shoddy arrangement of luggage into a taxi and arrive at the train station at 4:35... just in time to miss the train. We camped in a Chinese fast food joint for a few hours and finally our ticket "broker" met us and delivered us perfect tickets for a train that left town the next afternoon. It worked much better for us to get a better chance to really pack what we needed for our family. For example, Marian was weaned about 3 days before the milk contamination crisis hit the fan here and I forgot to pack the import formula that I trekked across town to buy for her. Praise the Lord that we could go home that evening and actually get things straight for our trip.... It was a great time!

Here's one shot of Marian in the fast food shop we waited in.... yes, she was going public in her pjs and tennies. It was such a good thing we got to return home before our 16 hour train ride and 5 day journey commenced!

we're back

We made it and we have lots of good stories to tell... it was a great time visiting FS's family for the national holiday week here. I have some great shots and videos to post soon, but for now I've got to be quick. Just thought I'd give you a peek at Marian's new pajamas...




The caption on the shirt is what sets these pjs apart: Hao Xin Baby ("nice baby") Always Smile with Cattle!