Wednesday, February 24, 2010

8 months

The shot above is John at 8 months old... and below is Isaiah at the same age

Here they are now.

And here is one more shot of Isaiah's favorite new look:
his elastic belt as a headband- karate kid style.
Last night Isaiah woke up and Matt met him in the bathroom to expedite the potty run. Somehow he finagled the headband on his head in the dark and was wearing it while he (mostly-asleep) took care of business.

a new school!

We are amazed with the incredible grace that God has given to our kids for all the transition they've been through in the past few months. We have the most amazing God and he has so graciously helped our kids. We are so grateful!

When we left the capital city, our kids were solidly confident to enjoy their morning preschool routine all in the local language. But 5 months in the states left them unwilling to speak anything (they understand lots but want to answer in English or with gestures.) Isaiah often reminds us that he lost his Chinese but he's started adding to it, "but I might find it at school."

Monday morning I sat with them for about an hour of class and it did not go too smoothly. I thought that the next morning when we dropped them off for a day on their own, it was going to be BAD.

Matt dropped them off the next morning and I picked them up at noon. The teachers all rejoiced with me "They did great. Isaiah didn't even cry a little bit and Marian was all done crying in just a minute or two."

One teacher asked me what I said to them the day before because she saw how difficult that first day- when I accompanied them- was. I told her I didn't really say anything to them, but I prayed and asked God to protect and encourage and help them both and he clearly did!

Another spectacular piece of this is that for this one week, Isaiah and Marian are in the same class. There's no other time when they would have been put in the same class except this week. There are so few students at school right now because most are still staying with family as they wrap up their New Years celebration time. What a perfect transition for them to get to be with each other as they adjust to their new school and this kind-of new language for them.

Here's a few recent pics...

the 2 block walk to school


I'm not sure of any details for this- but it's probably a part of continued New Years celebrations- this parade of approx 100 people marched through our apartment complex with drums and gongs blaring. I took this photo of Confucious et al, from our kitchen window.

If you've ever spent time with our kids when they're anywhere near a few pillows, you probably know they are expert Pillow Pool builders. I love that John can hold his own, "swimming" with the big kids that he loves. This baby boy is such a sweetheart!

Here's "Jericho" all crashed down around Marian

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Come and Get It!

Friends,

I hope you'll get a chance to check out http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ . For the month of February they are having a great sale with music for $5 and most books for $7. These guys have some excellent music- nourishment for heart and soul and altogether good music- and you can listen to samples of most all the songs at their site.

One of my favorite CDs ever is Psalms by these guys.

And I'm excited to download these two new sets due to the sale incentive :)
"Looked Upon" and "Sons and Daughters"


valentines

For Valentines Day this year, my man went entirely overboard. He had the whole city light fireworks for me.... and more, even the whole country lit them off by the zillions. Here's some out-of-focus video proof. Isaiah woke up near midnight and we bundled him up and took him out on our friends' rooftop patio to witness the war-zone-style celebration.




Well, you're probably on to it by now... there was nothing Valentines about it. This is Chinese New Year at it's most festively fireful. But, in all honesty, it is indicative of our relationship- full of sparks and fun. I do love my husband!!

(I'm so excited that I finally got a video to upload! Hopefully it will really work and I can load more in the future!)


Our kids have been missing having more friends around lately. We're so grateful that there are a few other kids in our apartment stairwell but they seem to be gone these days- probably staying with family for the New Years celebration. So our big kids have become very creative at play and that's always good.

With only minor surgical modifications (using a pink blanket and the cape), the couch pillows became turtle shells earlier this week. Good thing for this living room race track, Isaiah and Marian have not caught onto the fact that turtles are usually considered slow creatures.



We also had a great visit with some dear friends this week.
Isaiah was absolutely enthralled with these big boys! (And yes, Grandma, he still wears his Buzz shorts every day.)
And we found the greatest playground in the world (it honestly seems that way to us!) at a park only about 10 minutes away by bike. What a blessing!!!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Power of the Cross

This is definitely a song for my kitchen hymnal. I want to get these lyrics and this tune deep in my own heart and head and in my kids as well. What a sweet way to learn the best news in the world!

To hear an audio sample (Kristyn Getty singing) and see the Getty's home page, go to http://www.gettydirect.com/hymns.aspx and click on the title: The Power of the Cross.

Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

CHORUS:
This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

FINAL CHORUS:
This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

moving details

Last August we arranged for our things to be stored in the capital city and then moved to our new city once we found an apartment. We would call our cool moving guy and let him know when we found a place here and he would load things up and drive it to us then. But, our mover had a different memory about our plan. Matt emailed him a few days after we landed to ask when he could come and he replied that our things would arrive in three more days. We'd been looking for a home for almost a week at that point, but we had NOT found a home yet!

But, just an hour or so before we found this out, our super friend and host, had just chatted with some of his neighbors (hoping to find a potential rental for us) and met a guy who owned an unfinished apartment in a building nearby.

So, this guy's place - like a cement cave on the first floor- turned out to be the perfect holding space for all of our things. What a provision of God!


We were so grateful that all of our things made it for the 3 day road trip in this truck.


(Too bad I didn't get there in time to snap a pic of all of our boxes piled all over the top of this little beauty!)

The night before our stuff arrived, we saw a nice 4 bedroom apartment that we thought might be the best option for us. So that day, after storing our goods, we took off in a taxi to drive far across town, with our rental agent and his buddy, to meet the landlord of that place and discuss the price and contract details. But her first few words took the wind out of our sails.

We had our negotiation tactics carefully planned out: we'd ask her to lower her price 300 quai per month (about 45 dollars). She told us she was so sorry she couldn't give it to us even for her own asking price! "My family has all told me I need to ask for much more rent than I said yesterday."

So we left with our hat in our hands... if that's the right figure of speech. We were not going to pay her MORE than she was asking for the day before!

I almost wanted to ask that landlady if she would at least cover our taxi fare- that would seem to be a decent thing for her to do!- but of course we didn't. As we left, we couldn't even find a taxi for the way home so we had to walk a way till we finally squished onto a bus.

The bus ride back with our rental agent and his co-worker was fun language practice, we saw more of our new city, and we discovered that agent is also a follower of Christ. And then it came up that we would definetely be interested in a 3 bedroom in the same complex as that 4 bedroom. He said he had one and we agreed we'd look the next day.

Matt and I both had a strong peace about things that night. I told him I just felt like Thursday- the next day- was going to be the day that God would make sense of things for us. Our dear friends that we were staying with prayed with us and for us that night. (Here they are- at the blanket fort they constructed for the kids in their living room.)


Thursday morning, my hopes were high to see this 3 bedroom. We knew we loved the location. But the time came and it only worked for me to go look at the apartment alone. Here's the view I had walking in....


I knew I really liked the place and was eager that we might hopefully get to live there. I talked Matt through the whole apartment as I walked around. We agreed that I would discuss things with my husband and then get back with this (super kind) landlady later that day. And as I was about to leave, the rental agent got a phone call and talked for a few minutes while I just poked around a bit more.

We got downstairs and our agent asked me which home I would like better- the 3 bedroom or the 4 bedroom? Honestly, I liked the 3 bedroom place better than the 4 bedroom for several reasons and it was cheaper too. He told me that he had just spoken with the 4 bedroom landlord and heard a new offer- we could live there for the deal we had presented her the day before!

I almost wanted to laugh and cry aloud at once. Had the Lord ever turned events in our favor!? Now we could make a lower offer for the 3 bedroom and the landlady there would know that if that didn't work, we could easily take the 4 bedroom. We asked her if she would provide a fridge, a washing machine, and put in a bathtub and we would pay her 100 quai (about $15) a month less than she asked for and she said YES!

Matt saw the home for the first time after we signed the contract- what a blessing that my man was so confident in my assessment of this home. We got to move in 5 days after that and we are so grateful for it every day we're here. Turns out, we didn't get a furnished place- as is common here- so we needed to buy some furniture and that need was met too when we found "furniture alley" and picked up some surprisingly sturdy fake wood pieces for a few rooms. We also got a couch with some gift money from friends (thanks KPCO!).

The Lord has provided so graciously for us. We are very cognizant of the fact that our Lord didn't have a place to lay his head. A nice home is not what we live for- in any way- and by no stretch of the imagination is it what we deserve. We desire so much that our home would never be the object of our faith or a consuming obsession- distraction from what is truly good and worthy. Our hope is in the Lord who will never rust, fade, or decay and who never even goes out of style. He has been so generous to put us in this place. May he be greatly glorified in our lives in this home! Thank you Lord!

(The front door is directly behind Matt's back. Those of you who know Asian kitchens will be able to tell that this kind is RARE. It's wide open to the living room and dining area. Most kitchens here are completely separated off because the cooking is usually so oily and smoky that it needs to be kept out of the rest of the house. I love being able to see and talk with my kids while I'm in the kitchen here!)

the cherry on top


I mentioned that the apartment God has provided for us here is an answer to prayer and beyond our requests in a so many ways, but there is one thing that tops off everything and here it is:

I honestly never dreamed that we would have a bathtub here- but look at this!  We do!

And.... to top that sweetness, the cherry came in a box:


Marian is posing with our new friend M who came to our place for dinner this evening with her boyfriend who is a pretty stellar chess-hound.  Our first houseguests!  What a treat, what a joy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

we're here.... and finally online!

Friends,

We are finally online!  The last big piece to come together in our new home was getting internet and that  happened this afternoon.  I have a short list of blog posts (of really amazing provisions of God) and I'm eager to post them, so stay tuned....

We have been completely blown away by God's sweet provisions for us in the past few weeks:  An empty seat for Marian on the plane and dear friends to host us for our first days in the new city.  L & A set us up with delicious meals at their table and fun child care so we could hit the streets searching for our new home.  A few times we thought we had found that home but in the end, God provided so terrifically to plant us in this very home that he has so clearly chosen for us.

Honestly, I feel totally spoiled with our new home.  It's everything I had dreamed of- a smaller community feel (versus the 10,000+ population apt. complex we lived in in the capital city), 3 bedroom- 2 bath, near parks (that's right- 2 of them!), spacious (the most spacious home we've ever lived in), it's decorated like an American home (simple paint, simple tiles in the bathrooms and kitchen- instead of bright colors and flowers and extra decorations everywhere) and it has a long porch area that we can use for all the stuff that most apartments don't have any room for:  tools, storage, cleaning supplies.

And there's a cherry on top of all of that- but I have to find that cord for our camera to post the pictures.

THANK YOU friends, for praying for us and tracking with us on this journey.  We are so blessed to have such friends as you.  More soon...

the neighborhood... and the neighbors

When we lived in the capital city, we stood out in a crowd because of our height and hair color, but people there are used to seeing foreigners occasionally. Here, it's a fairly different story.

I feel like many people in our area have never seen a real-live foreigner, but I can hardly believe it. In the past 2 weeks, I have seen a few other westerners myself- ok, in the western restaurant not too far from here. But still... I know there are some others around.

A very kind gentleman asked me yesterday if I'm from Korea. Korea... really? I would love to be, but I don't think I have any Asian blood in me.

Then, I met a nice lady who lives in our stairwell and we happily chatted for a few minutes outside. While we were visiting, another older woman came to inform my new friend, "She can't understand you. Don't you see she's a foreigner, she doesn't speak our language." Funny timing... she must not have realized we were already deep in conversation!

As for this neighborhood, we are so happy here. We live very near two nice parks and one of them even has a playground and grass that I think, I hope, we might even be allowed to walk on. The thing that most blesses Matt's heart is that in a 5 minute bike ride he can be standing in the shadow of a tower that was built over 1,400 years ago or he could be standing on the ancient city wall around the inner district of our city if he rides just 15 minutes further down the road.

For history lovers like my love, this place is spectacular. Unfortunately, the pollution here is also pretty outstanding. Our first few days here- while we were all in the throws of jet lag, and not at all unpacked- the air was so thick (murky like dingy dish water after all the dinner dishes) that I honestly felt like I was in a science fiction movie scene of the last days of the earth. Sadly, I couldn't find my camera to snap any shots. If I had pic.s, those days would have taken your breath away too. But I'm not going to hope for a repeat just for the sake of photo evidence. I've been happy to have some bluer days since then.