Monday, June 29, 2009

Charles Simeon

"What I have found in my own experience, is that my own personal disappointments and discouragements find resources for endurance when I have before me a model of one who endured. I find tremendous strength flowing to me if I can put before me, in my minds eye, somebody who incurred or experienced what I'm experiencing and more and held on or even thrived in the midst of it.

I think we live in a very emotionally fragile time, and I am a child of my times much more than I wish I were. When I'm honest with myself, the things I hate about my culture, I see evidences in myself. By "emotionally fragile," I mean that we are easily hurt: we pout easily, we mope easily. When I say "we" I mean the American culture, inside and outside the church. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. Our commitment to the ministry and to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened and discouraged. We seem to have very few resources and little capacity for thriving in criticism and opposition.

The typical emotional response in a church where your people reject your ideas is: 'Well if that's the way they feel about me, then I'll just find another church.' We don't see a lot of models of people who live out the rugged words 'count it all joy brothers when you fall into various trials.'

I think that when historians write about the character traits of the later quarter of the twentieth century, words like commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve, perseverance won't be on the list at all- not even at the bottom. At the top of the list will be an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. Sub points under that list will be self-assertiveness, self-enhancement and self-realization.

And if you think you're not a child of your culture, then I suggest that you just test yourself and ask how emotionally you respond when significant people in your life reject your ideas.

We need help here. We are surrounded in a society of emotionally fragile quitters. And a good bit of that ethos is in you and me and therefore I have found that one of the weapons against being that way is to nuzzle up close to people who aren't that way- even if they're dead.... And most of them are.

'Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' Hebrews 6:12."

John Piper began his biographical talk on the life of Charles Simeon with the words above and when I listened to them, they shook me inside. I need this. I need this badly.

Far too often I am exactly this: an emotionally fragile quitter. And far to often I don't fight this gross tendancy at all. May it not be any longer, by the grace of God.

For me, one example I can think of being like this is when I encounter difficult cultural stressors- comments, stares, obstacles- that I chalk up to being because I live here. Some days I can blame so much on the hereness (if you will) of my life, it's just ridiculous (and altogether grievous). And far too often in this blaming, there is a self-satisfying justification that my rebellion against loving people when I feel insulted or just plain awkward is entirely reasonable or permitted. But it isn't. Not at all.

I sometimes also quit wayyyy to easily and give in to reacting out of my flesh when dealing with temper moments from disobedient or honestly, sometimes just plain curious, playful toddlers. Some might say "but that's only natural." But Scripture says that's not what God sent the Holy Spirit for- so we could live merely natural lives.

I thought of Jonathan Edwards Resolutions... When he was a young guy (19 years old, I think) he wrote up 70 defining resolutions for his life. I would shy away from calling what is below "resolution" for myself, except that I am hugely comforted by the intro he wrote to his own 70.... and I think that maybe, in that same spirit of things (you'll have to check the link to read his intro), I can say-

Resolved, to think less of myself: to consider every interest in self gain or self protection as negative points against me- utter loss- and to patiently and generously love others above myself, to the glory of Christ.

When I feel like others are demanding or expecting far too much of me: humble yourself, serve them. When I feel like my own needs or desires are not being met: lay them down. When I feel like obstacles and responsibilities have piled up too high for me to ever overcome them: go to the Lord and give him your burdens, and then press on. Consider Him who endured the cross and nuzzle up next to Him right there- against our God who humbled himself and served, and loved us to his death.

Lord give me grace to uphold these resolutions.

I really think that perhaps one of the highest privileges of motherhood (and living overseas like this) is having such daily opportunities for being humbled and refined and for learning to serve others with the Spirit of Christ. May it be a joy to us all and may the Lord be glorified in our homes and hearts as He works His grace in these opportunities!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Proud big brother.  Isaiah is really in love with our little guy.  He loves to give him kisses and hold him as much as possible.  (Please excuse his attire!)

Marian is my little helper... she likes to "help" far more often than she actually is helpful but its all pretty sweet and cute anyways.  She too adores her little "didi" (younger brother).  Clearly she was having far more fun than he was here!

This for sure isn't the best picture of our princess, but its still somehow sweet to me.  Honestly though, this hardly looks like her... I'm so used to seeing her smile!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

three more weeks

Our boy is just over a week old now, but according to local custom, we need to keep him inside- and I should for sure be inside with him, lying in bed- for one whole month after birth.   I know this and I really do want to honor the local culture as much as possible, but this is really tricky!  We don't have family here to take over caring for me, the baby, the house and the big kids, and I admit, I am very Americanly productivity minded.   Matt has been a Super Dad (absolutely extraordinary!) but still, he can only do so much. 

So, I confess, I have ventured out already.  Several times actually.  Matt took me out for breakfast to a cute coffee shop nearby for my birthday.  It was just me and my men (Isaiah was still a bit ill so he didn't go to school, but Marian did.)  I tried to find an exit out of our building where I wouldn't have to pass by the usual line up of people-watchers or hear too many comments before hopping in the back seat of our electric bike.   But the plan failed.

 I ran into an unexpected crowd of very concerned neighbors.  What was I doing out already!?  And WHAT was I doing wearing no socks, even daring to expose virtually my whole calf (calves) so soon after giving birth? (It was about 80 F.)  How old is that baby?...  Basically they were all of one mind and voice: "go upstairs this instant and don't come out again for three more weeks!"

Then I met two more ladies, one about 50 and the other about 70 years old.  The younger asked me "do you know that we have a custom..." and she went on to explain the "Man Yue" custom of spending the first month lying down.  

"Yes, I know."

"But you don't follow it?"

"I know there is lots of value in that custom.  I think it is very nice and helpful, but it's not what I'm used to and I also have two big kids I need to care for so I can't really practice Man Yue like you do."

Then the younger woman, who apparently was already familiar with foreigners ways, explained the whole thing to the older woman.  "These foreigners don't rest for a month.  She walks around with no socks on.  She probably even drinks cold water- really cold." 

The elder was flabbergasted.  Certainly not cold water!  (It would make my stomach upset and my milk undrinkable for our little one.)

Then the younger continued..."She probably brushed her teeth the first day after she gave birth."

The elder promptly replied:  "That's impossible.  If you brush your teeth that soon, all your teeth will fall out."

Lots to keep in mind!  

And, it's not just a few people who have shared thoughts like this with us.  These views honestly seem to be held by at least 9 out of 10 people we meet.... and people do share their opinions very (very) willingly.  There's basically no holding back when it comes to people declaring what they think of you!

The gate guard at the kids school is another friend of ours.  He's always careful to look out for and care for our family.  He told me, scoldingly (which means he cares a great deal for us) that he doesn't care if it's not what we're used to... and then he laid on us the equivalent of "when in Rome, do as the Romans."  

Yes...  Somehow... 

Lord give us wisdom, patience, and good measures of humility in these next three weeks!  (And the 33 years beyond that!)

more John

Here's a few more shots of our boy.... a few from our last day in the hospital and then from our first days home. Sadly, we don't have many shots of Isaiah and Marian with the little guy yet because they were both fevery for a while, but now that everyone is healthy (praise the Lord!) we should be able to post more fun sibling shots soon.

This was the afternoon we arrived home from the hospital. Thanks Auntie H for the super cool personalized onesie for our little man and big bro/big sis T shirts for the big kids!
Matt has a lot of fun helping our infants "talk" (by moving their mouths for them)....

John is our littlest one yet. We marvel at his skinny little legs and his long feet. He seems so little and yet it is still a wonder to me that he just came out of me! He is fearfully and wonderfully made!

Grandma and Grandpa

Just a note to tell two of the zillion reasons we love our Ye Ye and Nai Nai (Grandpa and Grandma).  It was just grandma's birthday and she was overjoyed to tell us what Grandpa did for her for her birthday.  He took her shopping for kids clothes and she bought 25 outfits for her 4 grandkids.  That was all she wanted for her own birthday.  Nothing could have hit the spot sweeter!

And... we had some friends arrive from the states for a bit of touring this summer.  Grandma and Grandpa mailed them a few things to bring over to us and I got such a kick out of the notes that Grandma wrote to each of the grandkids.  Then on the one small bag of goodies for Matt and I, was written very clearly "Only bring this if there is enough room."  Clearly, the priority is that the grandkids each get their 3 big bags of treats and clothes and toys before Mom and Dad get their one bag of candy to share.  I LOVE THIS.  It's exactly the way we miss being loved-  seeing our kids be lavishly loved and getting to enjoy loving them with others.  But, I'll admit, I'm glad there was room for the candy too. 

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!  We love you!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Lord is Gracious

Matt and Jill joyfully, gratefully announce the birth of their second son

John Timothy K.

The son whom we love who is faithful in the Lord
(I Corinthians 4:17)

His Local name:


Pronounced Zheng-4 Hway-1: the name means "upright, marvelous light" and It sounds like "witness of the light"

The legacy of his name:
The disciple John considered himself the beloved friend of Jesus and it's our prayer that this would also be the core of how our son grows to understand hismself as well. John means "God is gracious", and clearly, He is abundantly so! We are glad that this name also links our son to a history of many great men after God's heart , several treasured friends, and to Matthew's next youngest brother, John Christian, who went to be with the Lord while he was a toddler.

Timothy was chosen because of the banner Paul wrote of another young man by this name in I Corinthians 4:17. He commended this Timothy to the church as "the son whom I love who is faithful in the Lord." This is another message we want raised high over our son's heart, mind, and life. We are also glad that this name has been carried by three men in our own lives who have impacted us greatly: T. Kuck- a spiritual father to Jill through young adult years, T. Luepke- a dear friend, a brother of the heart, and ministry partner to Matt, and T. Mitch- a dear friend and mentor to both of us whose life and family overseas has been an example to us.

The story of his coming:
Labor was pretty strange leading up to the moment of meeting our boy. There were 3 weeks of significant contractions- off and on- ahead of time, and then a break with no contractions for 5 hours after we arrived at the hospital. After this wait, Jill was moved to the delivery room around 3 am and then soon dilated to 10 cm but contractions were still considered (not by Jill) to be too slight and there was no urge to push. Matt was an outstanding labor coach and remebered well how we had learned and heard the value of breathing through contractions and letting the body work naturally.... so we did that for 2 hours and then decided to have the sac of waters broken to see if that would help get the baby out. It was ruptured at 5:12 and John was born at 5:17am. Praise the Lord! We are so glad to have our new son with us!

Big brother Isaiah and big sister Marian join us in gladly welcoming our little one!

Our sweet princess wasn't feeling too well when she came to the hospital to meet her little bro... and then the big brother came down with the same junk she had so John and I have ended up staying our full 3 days in the hospital to hopefully see the fevers end at our house before we return.

One very important part of the morning for Isaiah, was making sure that John got to see his big brother's Automan (Ultraman) stickers and he got one or two stuck on him as well... Isaiah is obssessed with them and still willing to share.... we love these THREE so much!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

my tree

In my regular chunk of 3rd trimester awakeness in the middle of the night I recently started to dream up a little art project.  Sadly, I am not a very artistic person, but I so enjoy and appreciate great art and artistic talent in others.  

Anyways, here's my little dream.  I found this nice picture online of a beautiful tree (linked to here) and I'm hoping to find a way to print it up and label it in some frameworthy way, so that this tree could illustrate the characteristics I most want established in my life... kind of like a life mission statement illustrated.

I was really encouraged recently to think of who I want to be when I'm 80 years old and how I can actively pursue those characteristics from where I'm at now...  So here's who I want to be and honestly, it's also, implicitly, a bit of a plan for how to get there too...

The Roots:  Grace-fueled Joy in God:  my All-worthy, Beautiful Treasure

Ground Level:  Christ's uniqueness for me.   "All God's promises depend on Christ alone... only in Christ is God the Father graciously inclined towards us." (J Bridges quotes John Calvin, on page 85 of Transforming Grace.) Or another way to think of it:  In no way do I earn God's faithfulness to me.  Christ did.  It's a sealed deal-  God loves me and will always be faithful to to us who believe as He is to Christ.

The Trunk:  The Word of God and Prayer- two strands so melded together, the core pillar of my heart

The Branches:  My uniqueness in Christ.  God has made to display his goodness and mirror his image in a unique way... I want talents, passion, and service to be deeply developed in me for His glory.

Branches bearing three main types of fruit:  1) humble service,  2) faith-walking, courageous sharing and 3) passionate worship

Branches reaching into these areas:  1) my own heart, submitted to and intimate with Him, 2) my family- my amazing man and our champion kiddos, 3) our larger family and 4) our community- the world

So this is my prayer for my life... to be this kind of well-rooted, life-giving tree, to bear fruit for my King's glory.  And at this point it's all pure prayer...

Hopefully soon I'll have some far cuter pictures to post of our littlest one (and the proud bro and sis) than just a nice looking tree.  But at this rate, there just might be some more trees or maybe water gun shots or some kind of goofing around to put up before then. I'm due in 8 more days and eager as ever to meet our little one!  I'm fast approaching the "I've never been this pregnant before" mark.  We are all trying to wait patiently (which is hard- especially with painful contractions most every day for over two weeks now!)   But waiting is a good lesson- a privilege to learn.   If I would only learn it well!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

our outing

For lunch on Sunday, we went looking for a restaurant that we heard was in town (Element Fresh-  an Asian chain of western food that hit the spot for this pregnant mama).  When we found it, we found a fantastic fountain next to it.  We didn't come prepared for water fun, but we decided it was worth it to show off the underoos on our boy and get down to the diaper for Marian...  It was a really fun family time.  I'm so grateful.

G'ba G'ba

Marian is talking more and more and it's such a joy to hear such sweet and sometimes grown-up things come out of her.  She gets most words pretty near target but for some reason "belly button" is firmly "g'ba g'ba" or sometimes "b'ga b'ga".

Today she said "OK" to me probably 30 times when I told her "let's put on a clean shirt" or "let's walk this way".... so sweet to hear her!  (Don't read this to mean that she is always obedient, but when she is it is fantastic!)  She's just past the 21 month mark.   Today she pointed at her mouth and said "bite my tongue" and also "bonked face".  Wow- two little talkers in our home and one more little bundle on the way.  Exciting times!

Monday, June 1, 2009

baby tricks

When I was awaiting the delivery of our first little one, I had one big day of confusion about 4 days before we met our son:  contractions all day long that were pretty noteworthy, but never got closer together or much stronger.  With #2, I had 4 days of contractions ahead of time and then the evening before she came (she arrived at 2 am) my body was very clearly telling me what was going on.  Our sweet angel came 2 whole weeks early for me!

This time, my body is playing tricks on me.  I've had contractions- ones that seem better than Braxton Hicks- for almost two weeks, off and on- and this little one is so very low in my belly now.... Still, nothing yet.  I have nothing to complain of whatsoever though.  I'm just 38 weeks.  But I am so eager to meet our little child! Honestly, my heart sometimes run wild with all sorts of emotion, concerns, frustrations as I think of providing for our big two, getting across town to the hospital in this nearly continually rush hour city, meeting this little baby and discovering who will be the majority gender in our home, and also feeling strikingly lonely for far away family and friends to be with us to celebrate and help in the beginning.  I know this is what approximately 100% of pregnant women face- it's nothing new at all!  Still, thank you for praying for me and for our baby and our family at this time...  We so value your support in this most important way!  

Much love to you dear friends~