Saturday, April 25, 2009

more April photos

One day these chicks and ducklings were being sold on the street right behind our building.

Isaiah was given this hand-me-down bike recently and he LOVES it. Yep- it's very violet, lavishly lavender and in this neck of the woods, it's perfectly masculine. We're making this our first big opportunity to embrace genderless colors... And we are really grateful for the gift and how it delights our boy's heart! Marian also really enjoys riding around behind her big bro.

We travelled to a great city last weekend and I had high hopes of getting a zillion fantastic photos to share with you here... but travelling with kids, a big belly (K3 has definitely popped out more, again!), and a few things filling our schedules, the camera was kept pretty unaccessible. I think I only got 6 shots the whole long weekend! But at least this one was a good one.... Marian found this bird at the stall of a local merchant.

a look back

When we first landed here, we needed some passport photos of each of us to submit with our visa applications. Matt and I both tried to get shots in the local style for the occasion: no smile. It's tougher than it seems like it should be! But our boy pretty much hit the mark... with his own special cuteness on top! This pic of our boy (almost 6 months at the time) turned out to be an absolute favorite of ours..... maybe it's just that we're the goofy, ooey-gooey mom and dad, but we sure LOVE this pic of our sweet, fantastic boy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


A few thoughts on what I think tragedy is... and isn't:

I'm studying through a good book right now with a great group of ladies. It's called"Lord, Calm my Anxious Heart,"by Linda Dillow. This weeks lesson included a quote from Henry Kissinger: "To Americans usually tragedy is wanting something very badly and not getting it" (Granted, I know sometimes we want good things and it is sad and tough and hard not to get them.... but...) We are so spoiled. For the most part, this really isn't tragedy.

Half the world away from our home town, about two weeks ago a man who has been held in prison for more than a year without a proper trial and no conviction, was beaten head to toe. He has two sons and wife who he hasn't seen for this whole time and he recently asked an outsider- who was surprisingly able to contact him- about his three loved ones. His wife managed to send word to him just before his beating: "We are proud of you. We have never been more firm in our faith." Are there any two things that would be more important to communicate at a time like that? Nearly tragedy, except that for these dear ones their faith, which is of greater worth than gold (I Peter 1:7), is firmer than ever in Christ.

Tragedy is when my own heart is filled with an attitude that I am the central most important figure on the planet, an attitude that Jerry Bridges nails in his book Transforming Grace, (p.77), describing it as saying: "The world owes me something just because I am." Sadly, I am guilty of this proud arrogant heart far, far too often, and it is tragically sad to be so self-absorbed.

Tragedy is when Easter is celebrated by "Christians" (not even looking at how non-Christians celebrate it) as a day to remember Jesus as a really nice guy who was unjustly killed. Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The infinite value of His death is that by it, he purchased a sinful, sick, broken people back to a holy, perfect, pure-love God. The point is that God so loved us- the whole world- that He gave His only Son to die for us, to bring us back into right relationship with God. Christ's death reconciles all of us who believe- us who are sinful, dirty, wrong, broken, bent on evil and warped in our understanding and perspective of the world- to our infinitely good God.

It is a bitter thing to have a gift refused. For God, who is richer than all the monies in this world could ever define, gave the most valuable gift he could give... and gave it to a most unworthy, undeserving recipient. For that gift to not be cashed in, to be so squanderously devalued, to be rejected, is indeed a tragedy.

Jesus' death was a tragedy. Absolute tragedy that this perfect God Man would die as ransom for a people who had never earned, and could never by their own effort attain a stitch of his favor. BLESS THE LORD for this tragedy! All of us who believe are forgiven, released from the penalty we deserve for our sin. We are brought into joy eternal with Him because of the great tragedy of the cross (John 11:25-26, Psalm 16:11)

Tragedy turned victory is what we really do celebrate in the cross and resurrection of Christ. That victory is what Easter is all about. It is well worth celebrating as the most amazing, infinitely valuable gift that could ever be given, the most incredible, infinitely good gift ever to be received.

May we celebrate it well- with great joy- today!

A conversation with death


Hello, Death, my old enemy. My old slave-master. Have you come to talk to me again? To frighten me?

I am not the person you think I am. I am not the one you used to talk to. Something has happened. Let me ask you a question, Death.

Where is your sting?

DEATH, sneeringly:

My sting is your sin.


I know that, Death. But that’s not what I asked you. I asked, where is your sting? I know what it is. But tell me where it is.

Why are you fidgeting, Death? Why are you looking away? Why are you turning to go? Wait, Death, you have not answered my question. Where is your sting?

Where is, my sin?

What? You have no answer? But, Death, why do you have no answer? How will you terrify me, if you have no answer?

O Death, I will tell you the answer. Where is your sting? Where is my sin? It is hanging on that tree. God made Christ to be sin—my sin. When he died, the penalty of my sin was paid. The power of it was broken. I bear it no more.

Farewell, Death. You need not show up here again to frighten me. God will tell you when to come next time. And when you come, you will be his servant. For me, you will have no sting.

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

- John Piper, A Conversation with Death on Good Friday

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April... just beginning

I love this month for photos! Yesterday was the first day we ventured out with some of us in only short sleeves. Sandals are just around the corner now! I'm so happy!

We had a great day: worship, rest and fun together as a family outside. Isaiah enjoyed a great baseball lesson with Papa...

.... and then we headed to the slides in our apartment complex.

Here are a few fun shots with friends....This is a dear friend B (who drew the pictures for our Jesse Tree Christmas banner, which I posted about in December)

Saturday we took a picnic with some dear local friends to a great park nearby. For city-livers here, parks are NOT places for quiet, peacefulness. Many of them are absolutely beautiful, but the catch is that you have to be willing to enjoy them with about 10,000 other nature fans. This park was crowded- fully packed- but we enjoyed it well still! Marian even picked up on a little of one of the activities at the park. On weekends there are often dozens of clusters of people scattered around the park involved in all sorts of different arts and sports and hobbies.

Friday, April 3, 2009

rough day in Jr. High

In the excellent parenting series that Matt and I just listened to, Tedd Tripp gave some good examples of connecting with kids in difficult situations... Say you winningly convince your Jr. Higher to let you buy a pair of shoes for them because they are the cheaper option and all you can really afford, even though you know they are not the ones your child most wants. Later, the child is really upset about having the less cool shoes... How do you connect with your kid, love them, encourage them in this situation?

Last week I felt like I was there too- back in Jr. High, with all of it's fears and defenses boiling up in me. The preschool our kids are at is super close to our home. BUT, this day I was carrying a big bag of groceries, very aware that K3 is bigger than ever, and having a hard time convinincing my sweet 19 month old to walk home. In America, I'd have thrown the groceries in the trunk, buckled the kids into their seats and zipped straight home. If my darlings were upset about something, I could have tried to work through the situation in the privacy of our own car, or soon, in our own home. Of course I want to comfort them and give them all the love and attention they need and desire, but there will also be times when reality will dictate (as will Mama!), and provide them an opportunity to learn that they're not going to be able to have everything they want in life, every time, right when they want it.

For Marian, this was one of those times... I wasn't able to carry her home so she threw a FIT on the sidewalk and half our apartment complex (I felt like) came out to watch the scene. I spoke kindly to my princess, offered her my hand to walk with her, and waited for her to stand up and walk home with me. Honestly, it was only a handful of people that stared at me, told me what what Marian wanted (I'm thinking, isn't it obvious that I know that already?) and offered their advice: Of course I needed to hold her (not sure what I was supposed to do with the groceries). The consensus seemed clear- whatever it took, I felt that all my onlookers expected me to make her stop crying at all costs. This I couldn't do and it clearly upset all of us. And then I feared.... "of course they're all wondering 'what is this lady doing with a thrid one on the way!? She clearly can't handle two!' "

I hate being stared at and we are stared at LOTS here. My mother-in-law commented on one of her visits here that she felt like we were celebritries the way people are often so interested in our blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids, and the way people are so amazed that there are two of them (locals are only allowed to have one child). We are often asked a dozen questions about them and very often people pull out their cell phones to take pictures or want their picutre taken with them. I often have a hard time with this kind-hearted attention, but when we are stared at for being different and not doing things right according to local norms, I feel really uggggggg. It's hard for me (and I'm well aware that this is harder for me when I'm pregnant!)

So, when I got home that day, Matt encouraged me with a reminder of that example from Tedd Tripp. Jr. Highers need to be reminded that their identity is in Christ and not in their shoes.... and I need to be reminded that my identity and worth and defense come from Christ- are all securely rooted in who he is for me and who I am in him- and not from what my neighbors think of me or my parenting methods. We've been reminded recently that local friends here may never understand us- why we do what we do, are what we are...

Oh to follow Jesus more nearly- the One who did not retaliate when insults were hurled at him: Jesus, who entrusted himself to Him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2: 23) (And how much easier do I have it than Jesus! I'm usually dealing with kindly-intended words of concern and criticism.) Oh for more of His grace to work into every fiber of me.... especially all the sinfully proud, overly-independent, self-reliant, and pregnant-hormonal ones!

Here's one place where we daily hear lots of wise advice, concerned comments and common questions- in the elevator in our apartment building.

our joy in parenting

A while ago I posted some thoughts about a teaching series on parenting that Matt and I had just begun listening to.  Perhaps I should have waited to mention it till we finished it, but now we finally have so I feel like I'm bursting at the seems, eager to write as loudly as I can: Parents, this is GOOD stuff!

We are both so grateful to get to hear these things at this stage in parenting, not having missed this any longer! Listening and processing this together felt like strong, fresh air for us easily deflate-able parents!

This series by Ted Tripp is top notch. In these audio sessions, he covers most of what he wrote about it "Shepherding a Child's Heart." After hearing his second talk, Matt and I reviewed how fantastic it was to hear Tripp's emphasis on raising children to be worshipers of God, not just young people who grow up calling themselves Christians and knowing the list of rules they should obey, to go along with that name. That is far from what we want to be doing, what we want to be giving our kids. But honestly, that seems to be the idea that much of the church accepts for what "Christian parenting" boils down to: believe that God is there and behave well (by the way, here's the long list of what "Christians" do and don't do.)

I can't help but wonder if this really is some of another problem too... the sad image that many non-Christians have of "Christians". (What good is their faith? What difference does it make?) Believing in God's existence doesn't ring with more joy in any heart than any of the lesser pleasures available out there. If that's all we have known ourselves or have offered to our kids, it won't hold any of us through the storms of life. But GOD will. Oh God give us grace! We want our children to treasure you and seek You, your kingdom first, finding that you are more satisfying than any other thing, and that your name, your glory, your renown is what we were made to enjoy and pursue!

In the first session, Tripp focuses on training parents in the whys and hows of what he calls "Formative Instruction" (teaching our kids outside of discipline moments how they were made for God's glory, to honor him) and in the last session we heard about sharing the Gospel with our kids when we discipline them (instead of "I can't believe you would be so selfish!" we can identify with our kids, "Mama is selfish too, buddy, and Jesus died for both of us- to forgive us and help us, and give us his Spirit to show love to others.") There are 5 sessions- the three in the middle are outstanding too. Matt and I have laughed together, shed some tears (only me, of course!), repented, and earnestly prayed for God's help to love our kids well, demonstrating our love clearly, like he's teaching. This is good stuff, friends. Really good.

I hope you'll get a chance to listen too.... and do let me know what you think!

Grace and peace to you in Christ, dear parent-friends!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Matt's Birthday

For Matt's big day, I planned a game night for him with some of his close friends here and planned for a project that I thought would bless him- buying all the stuff and setting aside time for him with his friends to stain our table (Matt had mentioned a few times how it kind of annoyed him how different our table was from all our other furniture.) (I feel really dumb now- to see this "gift" explained in writing, but I honestly thought it would hit the spot for my man!) We both admit now, that the table is looking beautiful (still has a coat to go) but the process detracted enough enjoyment for Matt that it turned out not to be such a great gift as I had earnestly hoped! Next time I'll stick to the standards: a good book and a cold beverage.

And a few more pics...
Here are our dear friends that were in town for a while for the birth of their son Isaac. Isaiah and Marian enjoyed these girls so much... all four were great playing with each other. What a joy for all of us!

Here's some good showing for K3- enjoying some snuggle reading time with my big boy.

And a little more of K3.... now 29 weeks along!