Thursday, March 26, 2009

just playing

We went with my dear friend LM to visit a mom friend of hers, whose sweet baby girl is about 10 months old. Their complex has a really nice playground that our kids absolutely delighted in. Thanks LM for such a fun time with you!

Here we are just playing around at our house, on the porch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Big Number THREE

We had quite a weekend of celebration here....  a fun party on Saturday with five friends from preschool and two special American friends that are in town for a bit (their new baby brother was born on Isaiah's birthday!  Welcome Isaac!)  Here are some pictures from the party... one of the first days since November that it was such nice weather for extended playing outside.  What a treat!
Matt did a great job directing a fun relay race game for everyone...

Here's Isaiah and his cool buddy Wo Wo.  After our relay race, we headed to Ken De Ji (very roughly translates to "of course it's moral chicken"- actually, Kentucky Fried Chicken) for birthday lunch.

We really wanted to invite all of Isaiah's classmates to his party, but I also didn't want to cook- and it wasn't an option to take everyone to KFC.  Instead, we opted for a second, smaller round to the festivities and took a cake into school for Isaiah to share with all his classmates and teachers.  
I didn't know that Marian would get birthday perks simply for having her brother turn three... but she got to skip class for the morning and join her big bro in the classroom next door for some cake.
I love how his teachers had Isaiah serve all his classmates.
And... what's a FL-ND-Asia boy doing in a Illinois T-shirt?  Only partaking of the generosity of our dear friends, the C family, who are in the states for only a little longer!, who are trying to indoctrinate our children in the silliness of supporting their alma mater!  We love you Cs.... can't wait till you're back with us!

Isaiah has a really sweet lead teacher... Thanks Niu Laoshi for being so great a blessing to our kids!

The gate guard at the school is really sweet in loving on our kids...  we are so grateful for this school and these wonderful people in our kids lives!  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Fire

"The Fire" is credited, where we live, as the cause for various illnesses and sometimes even emotions.  Physically and emotionally, I can't say I really understand the idea.  

Spiritually, however,  I can clearly see how fire is a great image or metaphor for life... burning, blazing brightly, beautifully.... refining, changing us into more of the image of Christ.... consumingly fueled by joy for the greater pleasure in knowing God than any circumstance (fire) on earth could be or offer us.  Scripture gives us lots to learn about life being refined in the fire (I Peter 1:7) and not wasting our lives on things that will burn up in the fire, ie. that won't last for eternity (I Corinthians 3:10-15), and about our God "who is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29.   And I'm sure there's much more.

I just listened to a great sermon by John Piper titled "Put in the Fire for the Sake of Prayer."  The title was chosen from Zechariah 13: 8-9... Here's the first quote that jumped out for me:

"We have no right to go to God except through Jesus.  If you try to go to God apart from Jesus, you may be incinerated.  God is very dangerous apart from Jesus.  He's angry apart from Jesus.

He has put Jesus Christ forward to remove his anger and to clothe us with righteousness so that we can walk right into the flame of his holiness and not be consumed.  Jesus is the only hope that any prayer will ever be heard."

This reminds me of a quote from John Calvin that I recently came across in Transforming Grace, an outstanding book that is nailing me quite well, written by Jerry Bridges.  (p. 85)  Here's what Calvin wrote...

"All God's promises depend on Christ alone.  This is a notable assertion and one of the main articles of our faith.  It depends in turn upon another principle- that it is only in Christ that God the Father is graciously inclined towards us.  His promises are the testimonies of His fatherly goodwill towards us.  Thus it follows that they are fulfilled only in Christ...   Secondly, we are incapable of possessing God's promises till we have received the remission of our sins and that comes to us through Christ alone."  

What a powerful lesson to dwell on:  we have nothing to stand on but Christ, and in Him we have all of God's faithfulness to all of his promises (Romans 8:32).  As Bridges has reminded me- our merits and demerits do not matter the least little bit to determine God's faithfulness towards those who are in Christ.  He is faithful to us, gracious to us who believe in His Son, for His Son's sake, just as he is faithful and gracious to His Son.

Finally, Piper concluded his sermon also quoting Calvin and though it's a little less connected to this theme, this theme is still compellingly worth noting.  Again from Calvin:

"It is therefore necessary that we should be subject from the first to the last to the scourges of God [Piper explained this to mean "the fire"]  in order that we may, from the heart, call on him, for our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity so that we cannot make an effort to pray."  

Piper went on to add, "If that's not the American church I don't know what is.  We are enfeebled by prosperity so that we can scarcely make the effort to pray because so many other good things, prosperous things, right things, fill our powerless lives.  So would you resolve with me that this simply will not happen to you in 2009?...This meaning that our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity so that we cannot make the effort to pray.  Would you resolve with me...  'I'm not going to be enfeebled by my prosperity?"

YES.  I want this pleasure,  this grace-strengthened power to really live.  

The three points Piper suggested to make such a resolution for prayer happen, and to make 2009 a better year of prayer than any of us has yet known, are:  1) set a time and a place to pray and be there, 2) pray the Word, and 3) pray through concentric circles-  global to local to personal- or whatever order you choose.

I am eager for this resolve to bear fruit in me, and in you with me- in us, this year.  May it be for the praise of His glorious grace and for our great joy in Him!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

bath time and a few more pics

It's pretty unclear what kind of expression this is on our princess' face... but I can tell you for sure that this is joy-  PURE JOY.   Marian normally stands up as soon as we pour water to rinse her hair.... and once the bucket is empty, she urgently pleads for MORE!
This is Marian's "funny face."  She is still working on developing some different spins on it...

Isaiah thrills over bathtime, but honestly- when it comes down to it- he's not as deeply satisfied by a bucket over his head as his little sister is.  I think he appreciates her bravery here and of course, she adores every single thing he does and says!
Matt recently wrote out some goals for this year and for physical exercise, one item he listed is his daily game of "chase" with Isaiah.  Our boy has an incredible energy level and continually pleads for "one more game."  In all practicality, I think he could last for an hour or more, full speed ahead.  This shot shows pretty clearly why Matt gets wiped out a bit earlier than our boy!
Fun to have a friends crazy glasses to try on...
Looking cute for her fourth day at school...  Thanks for all the clothes Grandma and Grandpa and for the super homemade hair clip BT!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

birth announcements

We are getting super excited to meet our newest little one in about 3 months.   Recent news of dear friends' babies has been such a joy to hear and has only contributed to our own eager, joyous anticipation.

Names are important... and they're tough!  Matt and I have had some long walks and spent long hours hashing out what banner we want raised over our kids.... what name we would give them.   Also, it's Matt's fault :) but I'm glad for it too, we've never known the gender for our kiddos, so we have to have two names ready to go.  This time, however, we were surprisingly early to decide on a names and I think we're both surprisingly confident in the names we've agreed on.  What a relief!   

In thinking about the naming process, I thought I'd post the birth announcements we emailed out for our first two darlings.  Here they are for you.  We're excited to post the third announcement sometime around mid-June.

March 2006

The Lord Saves

With great joy, Matt & Jill announce the birth of their son

Isaiah Dale

7 lbs. 12 oz.    9am

Isaiah means “the Lord saves” and this is the good news we long for our lives and his life to proclaim. Dale is his grandfather’s first name and father’s middle name. We pray that the bond between these three men will be close and will sharpen our son to love and serve the Lord.

The story of his coming…

Dale and Mary K. arrived at 7 pm Wednesday and joked as they took pictures of “the night before Baby arrived.” Then at 3 am Thursday, I awoke with contractions but wasn’t really sure this was going to be the real thing. Still, we took off for the birthing center and Isaiah was born less than 2 hours later. Matt was the one to make the announcement in the birth room: “The Lord has given us a beautiful baby boy!” Then we waited to announce his name, till Grandma and Grandpa could join us in the room.

Ideally, we would have been going home just 4 -6 hours after the birth, but Isaiah was breathing faster than normal so as a precaution, we had to be transferred to a nearby hospital. We received great care there and by God’s grace Isaiah recovered by the next morning without needing any medication. We ended up having to spend a total of 2 ½ days there.

This made for a difficult start with feeding, but our bonding with him had definitely begun. We had already noticed his funny faces and sweet temperament. We arrived home Sunday afternoon, trying to recover and adjust to our new lives as a family of three! We are so outrageously blessed with this little man, and are so grateful to God for choosing him to be our son. He is a delight to us in every way!

We are so glad to have such tremendous friends and family around us to receive our son with such joy! You are a great blessing to us and we really look forward to introducing our son to you!

August 2007

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”

Just as Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang this song, 
we pray that this will also be our daughter’s heart and song.

Matt and Jill joyfully announce the birth of their sweet daughter

Marian Lynn

 Weight: 3.4 kg (approx 7 ½ pounds)
Height: 51 cm (20 inches)

Her local name is pronounced May Lynn ~ meaning “Beautiful Jewel”

The story of her arrival:
We had been praying for the timing to be just right… and it surely could not have been better! Saturday night we left for the hospital and a dear friend of ours here came and stayed with Isaiah. We quickly found a taxi and traffic was no problem at all. We met our American midwife at the hospital around 11:30 and after 3 hours of labor (which was much more painful than Isaiah's) our baby girl joined us… healthy and without intervention or complication!  An especially wonderful part of her birthday is that she was born on her Grandma Lynn's birthday. We are so struck by the grace of God, and we are grateful.

The legacy of her name:
In her name, our daughter is linked with several great women. We are glad for the examples of women named Mary in the New Testament whose lives were submitted to God and deeply committed to worshipping Him. Our daughter’s name also connects her with her Great-grandmother Marian and with her Grandmother Mary. For her middle name, she has the name of her Grandma Lynn B., who she’s already been loved by in heaven. We pray that her life will be passionately committed to the Lord and full of grace, virtue, valor, beauty and strength, just as each of these women have displayed in their lives.

We miss being near you all to celebrate our precious baby girl, but we are so grateful for your long-distance cheer with us!  Thank you friends!


Several days ago I had another ultrasound to check on our #3 inside and see the situation with the cord.  Just like we've been praying, the cord has come unwrapped from our little one's neck! We are so grateful to God for his intervention and help for our little one, and we're grateful for your prayers too.  We'll keep you posted as the little one grows.  It is so great to dream and think of having a tiny baby in our home again.... except when those prayers and dreams keep me awake in the middle of the night!  Oh well.... well worth it!  

Isaiah has been thrilled to have his hand on my belly to feel K3 kick around.  At this point, he's absolutely positive that my belly button is the door that Jesus is going to open to bring the baby out.  Marian always aims her kisses for the baby to land smack on my belly button too.  There is even more joy in our hearts and surely in our home for this number three than we knew to have or could even imagine at number one's arrival time!

Hopefully we'll get some good belly shots sometime soon....  hopefully before three more months are done and the belly's been emptied!

Monday, March 2, 2009

our princess in preschool

Preschool here starts for kiddos around 18 months of age:  8:00 am to 5:00pm 5 days a week.  Clearly this is the equivalent of day care in America, except that the school near us really does a great job of making their place a great, intentional learning environment.  Teachers fill the days with nursery rhymes, learning activities, fun lessons and games.  We are so super grateful to have such an excellent school so close to our home!

In all my dreams of motherhood, the idea of letting my babies go off to preschool daycare at 18 month of age never even entered my mind.... but it seems there is a time and place for rearranging those ideas.... and this is it.  Marian started school today, 18 months old.  It's entirely a local language environment and I stayed with her for a while to watch how she was adapting.  She's been used to the local language at home when our babysitter came to the house to watch her while I had class, so this wasn't a total shock to her.  But still, I was impressed with how well she handled the commands that were told to her:  "please put your chair over here," and "you can eat the egg but not the soup, it's too hot."

When I came before noon to pick her up (both our kids go for half-days at school) the teachers all told me confidently that she never cried.  She told me tiredly, yet surely all by herself, that she indeed had lots of fun at school.  Her mama and papa are so glad, and so proud... and grateful.  It's a great encouragement to me to know that my kids are enjoying a good morning while we try to take in as much as we can of this language.  This is our last semester of majority language study.  

On the way home, we usually play for a bit in the school ball pit.

Here are some of Isaiah's classmates... two of them sporting the local style shirt-bibs which I think are ingenius!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

five years!

I still tell my man pretty regularly- and it's still completely true- that I can hardly believe that I ever got to marry him in the first place....  let alone that we've had these five years together already.    Such lavish grace from such a Gracious God!

To celebrate our anniversary, we planned a little getaway.  We wanted this weekend to be pretty special and since we've never stayed in anything but a pretty budgetty hotel, we thought this was our chance! We saved for a few months and searched the city over (online) to find a hotel that seemed to be "special" and still doable.  

So, after our super friends arrived Friday afternoon (Thank you soooo much E & K, C & M and ZJ, who took shifts watching our kids), we took off for our first tryst post-kids (Isaiah's turning 3 in 2 weeks!).  Popping up from the subway in a spot of the city where we'd never been, we walked in circles for a minute before we arrived, only to be all the more excited about our weekend destination.  The nice lady at the front desk found our reservations and then a minute or two later kindly turned us away for not having all the right paperwork with us.   (This country is pretty particular about it's paperwork-lots of it, all needing it's own red stamp- and we just didn't have with us (and couldn't get) all that they wanted to see that evening.)  

We thought about just going home but we decided to persevere.... with K3 coming in 3+ months, this really is our last opportunity to be away for probably a year or so...

So we went to dinner (a bit grungy, we'd been hoping to clean up in the room before dinner) and made a call to a local friend who helped us find a hotel that, in the end, did give us a room.  My expectations for our love nest were pretty shot, and so was our budget, as the hotel we ended up in was more expensive and a bit less nice- both painful little blows.  Still the room was unquestionably clean and we were grateful to put our packs down in a place where we wouldn't be up a in a few hours taking our little champ for a potty run.  

The whole weekend was really a joy for us.  And, like a cherry on top, we arrived home Sunday afternoon to hear that our kids did great all weekend.  We are so grateful!

Here's a pic at a local site we went to see.  The architecture looks like the majority of old buildings in this area, but this building is a mosque- built hundreds of years ago for the Muslim minority here.

Our room was thoroughly comfortable, and to bless this pregnant mama's heart, and back, it even had a bathtub!  (Our apartment doesn't.  This was a real treat!)