Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reading Aloud Blessings Abound

In his college years, one thing that God used to spark Matt's thirst for Christ, was seeing an actor perform the book of Mark from memory. The Word of God is powerful, sharp, piercing, and it left my man limping.
Last fall I greatly enjoyed Elisabeth Elliot’s great book “The Shaping of a Christian Family.” She mentioned how her mom (or grandmother?) used to tuck her kids in at night always reciting a passage of scripture... and in a week’s time, with no other great efforts needed, the passage was usually memorized. I figure that must be how a generation ahead of me could describe "growing up with the King James written on our hearts."
We were in the states for that season and around the same time we got to hear our pastor- the same great guy that pronounced us man and wife- preach from Rev 1. We were confronted by the clarity of verse 3: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time in near.”
How could we not seize this plain invitation to seep ourselves together in the eternally true blessing of God?

While visiting Maelee’s parents in South Carolina, they treated us with afternoon babysitting and we enjoyed a smoothie date in the sun and rambled possibilities and refined a plan for reading the Word together in our home. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that we have each been changed by the Word since then, with this daily engagement.

Our plan started off as twice a day, but this spring, being influenced by the Voskamp’s plan, we've started reading at every meal. Ann V. quoted Peter Kreeft, "praying is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body." It sure is a sweet means of grace for us to indulge ourselves together in this blessing each time we gather at the table.
We pick a passage a week. Read it before we break the nightly fast, like the  Orthodox do their prayers, to physically remind us of our hunger and the Word’s satisfaction. Read it to finish lunch and dinner and wrap it all in prayer, reflecting on the truth and asking that God would make his word true in our lives.
Isaiah and Marian have decided that for these meal closing reads, the only place to be is on Daddy’s lap (or mama’s when I read). Gladness all around. I get to face this at the other end of the table:

The Word is getting in us this way... Isaiah is not an overly expressive boy and until recently has never been eager to pray aloud (so grateful for his buddy Hudson’s example a few weeks ago to spur him on in this!) But last week, our big boy prayed aloud at bedtime. His prayer was scripture that gotten into his little warrior heart: “Dear God, thank you that You are the mightiest warrior and thank you that your word is a sword and thanks for the helmet of salvation.” (followed by the regular mentions... bunk beds and bubble gum.) It made this mama’s heart full of gladness.
Thanks be to God for providing for us and inviting us to enjoy his good and perfect Word! May our souls drink deeply of this delight and may we be transformed to more of him as we take in his True Word.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I want to be changed...

and this is so worth changing for.

How good to hear this message, see this video about poor around the world and change our lives accordingly. I hope if you have a minute, you can watch these two videos here...

We K's will be praying and thinking creatively about ways we can give more, get more funds and practical help for all these needs directly to these needy ones, who Christ loves, who he died for.

How can we live as though they don't exist?

And, another one very dear to our hearts, is this video about the recent bloodshed in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. If you're anything like me, be ready to weep. And then pray. Let's pray urgently together for these people!

(For this and any other time it might look like I regularly scour the internet to find great resources like this, I don't. Almost 100% of the time it's just straight from
Justin Taylor or Ann Voskamp's blog. Thanks to Ann for the first one above.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Piercing Me

From this morning's read... James 5
Come now,you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
and from last week's read... 1 John 2: 28
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
I am pierced with these words. We are talking about changes we need and earnestly desire to make to give more. We certainly are fans of giving to westerners to be able to live and work among the poor doing all sorts of good works for them, but we also want a good portion of our giving to go straight to the poor and aim to not just give them fish but, as the saying goes, teach them to fish. One of the ways we are glad to get to give for this is through Kiva.

I just saw this article reviewing David Platt's new book Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream, that also hit me pretty hard... here's a quote:
Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day …. Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry.
What is the difference between someone who willfully indulges in sexual pleasures while ignoring the Bible on moral purity and someone who willfully indulges in the selfish pursuit of more and more material possessions while ignoring the Bible on caring for the poor? The difference is that one involves a social taboo in the church and the other involves the social norm in the church.
We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, "How could they have treated their fellow human beings that way?" I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, "How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes? How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn't have food or water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn't even exist?"
I want to live streamlined for his kingdom and that will surely mean different things for each of us in the body of Christ. But a common theme between us all- wherever God has called us- will be humble service and sacrificial giving that extends to and reaches beyond the church.

Ouch.... I want to be wounded with and changed by the truth here so as not to stand ashamed at his coming... Thank you Lord for piercing me and piercing us with your Truth.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the kids' house

No cardboard has ever been so well-loved

We love the memories in it, the artwork scribbled all over it, the squeals and laughter ringing out of it
We are sure grateful for these three ones inside it

What a joy it is to love them

May the Lord give us grace to raise them well, for their richest, all satisfying joy in him and his brightest glory through them

Monday, June 21, 2010

Giving Thanks as Fighting Sin

My dear friend Darcy and I were talking about lessons in gratitude. She shared her gladness for “gratitude as a way of fighting sin.” Yes, deal swiftly with my frustrated, self-absorbed heart. I know when I’m giving thanks that I’ve been blessed by a Giver beyond me. Now to just leave my eyes and heart focused right there... on Him, His goodness.
Gratitude really is sweet curing medicine for my sinsick heart and it's side effects are pretty stellar too: leaves me with some needed humility and a good bit more happiness.
And for this morning’s sin that I could dwell on as if it was a virtue worth repeating, oh to indulge in a rich dose of promise instead:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7: 24- 25 a
Thanks be to God for...
~ no pole, no place on the globe where the east meets west

~ summer bright cheery sunlight and long naps from the heat

~ air conditioning

~ date nights at home after the party crew’s bedtime

~ friends coming across town for dinner at our place

~ roses just planted in our apartment courtyard, down from our kitchen window

~ preschool teachers that love on our kids in the morning

~ an afternoon out- my man's birthday gift to me of a short time alone

~ beauty (I overheard how evolution gives no explanation for beauty, sacrificial love, charitable virtue...)

~ disposable diapers

~ the dangling swirly sound of ice in a glass

~ for grace in my kids to be quick to forgive their often way too up tight mama... and even still treat me to join in their kid fun

~ homemade salsa

~ water guns and our kids' passionate delight in spraying everything they see with them

~ minds to learn, the privilege of learning and discovering, of thinking... and open access to such good stuff to engage our minds with (It isn't so where we live. The Party tells folks what to think about too many topics still...)

holy experience

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dads and Daughters

A girl born near Father's Day grew up fatherless, dodged a date, every dance, and a kiss, and barely made eye contact with a male till she was 23. Astonishing me still today, I've been graced to marry Matthew Dale, my very own tall North Dakotan, strikingly handsome, Christ-loving man. A man whose character I admire, learn from daily and still roll my eyes in bewilderment over.... I'm married to him, Matthew who loves God with a solid trust and devotion that I don't get (it's not gooey emotional) but I know it's deep and strong and it forms the foundation in our home. I love his humor, his help, his tickling, his lovey kisses in the kitchen, his reading aloud, his desire for me, his spoken blessings over us. I love him.
As I reflect this morning- I think I could narrow a lot of my gratitude for him down to one essential, great thing: he is a giver. A regular giver to me and to our kids. A faithful giver, not perfect, but by God’s grace, faithful still. He serves and and fans flame in me to be a joyful wife. The unchanging foundation of my joy is Christ and what he has accomplished for me, but as a wife, I take great pleasure in being, and bringing joy to my man. So much for the ones who are sadly mistaken to think that monogamous must mean monotony. May it never!
Pure passion and pleasure and joy of friendship and faithfulness and mutual, overflowing delight is what we’re committed to, aiming for, and enjoying- at least pieces of - daily. And thats the stuff that not only makes the best of a lover husband, but also makes the best dad.
I can’t think of a way around it: to be a great dad, a man must honor daughters- his own and the one he's married too.  And a man can’t honor his own daughter or honor his wife or any other woman rightly without honoring their Maker, the Father who made us in his image and loved us first. We daughters first belong to God and you dads do well to honor him and love us servingly. You do so well, Matthew and may I ever be growing to love you well in return.

Happy Father's Day Darling.

My Love with our daughter, our eldest son, and our little guy...

More great dads in my life:
My Father in law: with his girl and with his firstborn and ours.

I'm so glad my husband and our firstborn have your name in the middle of theirs. An honor for them both. You are a blessing to each of us. I can't believe how good I have it marrying your eldest boy and getting you as the dad with the package. Thank you for leading your home as you have, for loving your wife, for blessing our clan of five and carefully tending to the wounds in your children's lives. I am so grateful for you as a dad for me and such an incredible grandpa for our kids.

My brother in law Greg-

No picture here is telling of the agony...

This is not at all what any one would want for you, for anyone's first father's day. Our hearts are broken as you are missing your daugther today. Greg, you already have been such a servant-hearted, fun-giving dad while Maelee was alive on the inside. I can just imagine those jumps that you felt on Heather's belly were for your daughter's complete delight in you. Maelee has the best mom imaginable, but I think- nothing taken from that amazing mama- she still would have been one completely smitten daddy's girl.

We miss her so badly for us and so soo badly for you and Heather. We are praying, crying, trusting, praying still... and looking ahead with Hope and Joy for that day when all this sorrow will be redeemed.

My brother in law Chris-

How fun a dad you are too! The way you love your Lilli girl, is admirable in so many ways Chris. You also serve your daughter very evidently- giving her your time and effort when I'm sure your terribly spent by the end of every day. We love you both so much and delight to pray for you and be family with you.

My dad-

I met you the day after I turned 22 and I’ve known since well before then that our lives stand for wildly different ways. Not quite a year ago we swabbed around in our cheeks and confirmed our DNA is a match, so there’s no squirming out of it, but there’s little else that matches up between you and I... except for our noses and eyes and the olive in our skin. The mismatch is at times puzzling, and maybe a bit funny, and has made for some bumps along the road, hasn’t it?
Some of your roles are indeed interesting and I know you always try to be charming and it seems you have the image down well, but I hope that your years and a hunger in your soul might expose some more wisdom and clarity to comprehend the cheapness and fleeting nature of all the world has to offer.

Our lives are all broken cisterns, craving to be filled but always flowing brokenly.  It seems abundantly clear that this is the story of humanity, you and I included.  We are broken and we need to meet the Potter... I am praying for you and I love you, my very interesting, definitely zany, hard to handle, totally different from me, father whose skin I wear. I pray you’ll know Jesus, the sin-Conqueror, "true God and eternal life".

Monday, June 14, 2010

John... Johners... John Timothy...JT

We had a simple celebration last week to mark our baby boy's first year. Rode to the park for a picnic, then a lesson at the toy store... "it's more blessed to given than receive" and the big kids picked out two small gifts for their bro. Then for a DQ treat (yes, we have Dairy Queen, isn't that great!?) for the ride home.

This year celebrating a birthday hits differently, hits harder, after loosing our baby niece. It was a mixed celebration, good saddness in this mama and daddy's hearts and also a deep time of thanksgiving and awed wonder at the Lord's blessing to give us this boy. We do not deserve him at all but we sure do love him, sure are grateful.

This sweet lady, a worker at the park, was quite enamored with our birthday boy, but he was not at all so smitten with her hat as she was with him.

fun for everyone at the park...

Loving history like he does, Matt is so happy to live near this ancient monument (ahead of him on the road) and he loves telling folks how crazy old it is....
the Big Goose Pagoda, built around 700 AD- I think.

What we wrote for you near your birth and pray for you still...

"John Timothy, in all of your life, may Christ have preeminence. May you delight in his Word as your joy and your strength. May God direct your steps to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. And in all you do, may you be faithful to live for the praise of his glorious grace!"

At the one year mark our boy is glad to stand on his own but hasn't ventured any steps yet. He weighs in at about 23 pounds, has 6 teeth and loves to flash them in charming grins, and is still the most content child we've ever known. Pure delight to our whole home.
We love you sweet boy! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Daddy's back... and our way home

Daddy's back and right now he's jet lagging... but the four of us could not possibly be more glad to have him with us again. We are so grateful for you, dear!

And I am so grateful for the GIFT that you brought me, love. Now I can really play photographer... Abundant thanks to my dear parents, Dale and Mary K. who went in on the gift with their son. May it serve your photo-craving hearts very well. Thank you guys! I'm so excited to have this new camera!

Matt arrived late Friday night. We spent Sat visiting with dear friends from our old stomping grounds and then Sat evening got on the train to come home. Soft sleeper cabins are pretty posh.... and we towed in our own potty bucket to complete the cabin. (Locals here all viewed this as a given when traveling with kids. We are totally won over with the wisdom and helpfulness of this not so glamourous, but oh-so-helpful addition.) Smooth 11 hours, by the grace of God.

out the window

Daddy intervention.... (did I say already that I'm so glad he's home?)

the boys... looking so big
Daddy brought back lots of books for the kids.... 42 to be precise. Thank you again Mom and Dad and Aunt Barb!

Best Friends

Towards the end of Matt's time in the states to be with family for Maelee Day, the kids and I, and a super serving friend Megan, travelled to the capital to play with friends there and be there to welcome Daddy back in country. I didn't have a camera till the last day so I missed a hundred great shots... but here are a few.

The C family is absolutely precious to us. Their kids are boy, girl, boy, all just 3-4 months stepped up from ours. It is such great fun and such soul nourishment for us to be with them. We love you guys!

Our big guys, Isaiah and Hudson, have a depth to their pre-K friendship that is plainly visible and deeply admirable. We remarked how great it is to see the way they believe the best about each other, are (almost always) quick to forgive, and faithful to delight in each other. Such a sweet picture of friendship in a way that Christ surely delights in too.

The boys played hard together, fighting off bad guys with foam swords and fighting off sleep by telling stories. One of Isaiah's was about "two kings and two queens. The queens were Marian the Kind, and Gracie the Really Kind." Marian does have a way to go in learning the heart and skill of serving, loving, blessing others in friendship like this. She definitely has the fun-ness of child-play down.... Now for more of the kindness. We are praying!

We asked Isaiah this evening what he thought of Gracie and he told us "she's really kind, just like Jesus, and her face is a lot of smiles." We all love you too Gracie and sweet little wacky one, Titus. How fun it will be to see these two little boys play together next time.

After nap, the boys stumbled out to the couch.... sticking close, waiting for wakefulness

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Supernature vs. Insanity

Some days I linger too near insanity. And some days I really do see more supernatural grace at work to ease my load. I believe the Bible states clearly enough... I have no supernature in myself. And I don't think I've gone fully insane (yet.) I'm an ordinary mom. Regularly sinning. Regularly repenting and pleading for grace and wisdom to come. I really want to be holy as he who called me, he who has given me his Spirit, is holy.

This past weekend was full of sorrow- most especially for our family as they grieve through a burial service for our baby niece and in me there was also sorrow that as I care for the most precious kids in the world, the greatest little treasures in my life, my mothering is so marred by sin.

I got to talk to my man on skype and he reminded me of how well our last round of potty training went. For some unknown reason, the Lord graced me with a really easy heart about it... I knew I would be serving our girl. I knew I would be scrubbing up poopy floors and undies and wiping and waiting ages for her to put her feet in her undies, again and another again. It honestly went worlds smoother than it could have.

But this weekend did not. I was tired, drained, sad, missing family, and busy trying to prepare for and host a gathering to honor my niece who was being buried. I was impatient with my kids who were being.... kids.

I agreed to a fantastically sweet offer to stay at some friend's of ours home for a night so Isaiah could get some male attention from the daddy of the home and I could get some friendship conversation with the mommy. The pillow fight that night was exactly what he needed... got out my boy's yearning energy and our girl even threw her own effort in and they were perfectly tired by the end. But somehow not tired for sleep.

I was nursing our 11 month old for probably the eigth time that day- like I did when he was 3 months old- because he's been struggling with diarrhea since before Daddy left for the states. The big kids were quiet before I brought him into our shared quarters but the quiet only lasted a minute before rounds #2-22 of energy were miraculously discovered still within them.

I was really angry by the end of the evening. I yelled (and yelled). I really wanted them to let our poor baby boy sleep. I really wanted to call their daddy as it was morning there.... minutes before the burial service. I really wanted Marian to stop inviting electricity into her bones as she dangled her limbs on the outlets near her bed. I wanted them to obey and be respectful- don't they know I love them and am telling them these things for their good?  But for all this I could do nothing to enforce my words, but just lay there watching the squealing disrespect mount and hear my own repeated instructions drone on and on, unheeded, as I nursed our little one and cried.

Heated, I left the room after a spectacular finale: explaining how angry I was that they were not letting John sleep. "I'm too angry to spank you but I'm so angry I'm going to spank the bed." And I did. And they were wide eyed at my sinful show.

(I find myself wondering now if this is some of why our One God is three..... so he could kill himself to pay the price for our sin.  He himself took the punishment for our sin.  The bed can do nothing.)

My neighbor downstairs came up at 5:50 am a few days ago to tell me my baby was crying. Maybe I didn't realize it? Are you kidding me?

Mix with these things all the symptoms of classic detox, not in an 19 year-old druggie, but in our 2.75 year-old darling. She wants her "sleep toy." We'll work on her sucking habit through the night later, but for now we're just trying to lessen her ties during daylight.

But I don't know the local word for "addiction" or "withdrawl" to explain to my neighbors the incredible screaming they hear once or twice a day when she remembers this mangled bunny head that she loves. I'm sure they've got some wild imaginations for what would possibly produce such a protest. I tried some gestures and explained "like a smoker wants a cigarette..." for her preschool teacher this morning. I only got a little laugh and a regretful shaking head... Apparently she hasn't ever seen a child as orally crazed as our girl. Lord, have mercy.

Perhaps this feels so tough for me right now because I have judged other moms in the past and now I feel my own judgement (rightfully) falling back on me. Oh that I would never judge! Or perhaps I feel so little understanding because so many around us just let their kids do/ say/ eat/ wear whatever the sweethearts want. But I'm really not willing for my girl to plug herself in, however much she wants to do it. (For some issues, we're delighted to let them have their say, of course.) It's an uphill battle.

I think this job is so great (and it is....for me, the Greatest Job, funnest, best joy in the world) perhaps because it is so hard. At least it couldn't be so great if it wasn't so hard. Do great things ever come easy? Still, there is a time to simply behold the mountain you are climbing and respect it as a difficult one.  That is what I intend with this post. I really don't want to complain but just call this what it is..... darn hard work, completely worth the sweat and tears, humbling, teary-eyed, deeply delighting, measurelessly significant, good work. And I know the mountain that the Lord has assigned me is nowhere near as difficult to climb as the journey of parenthood that begins with the death of your child, like my champion brother and sister-in-law. Or like an amazing family whose blog I saw recommended today.... raising 4 kids, one with severe disabilities.

I'm reading Ginger Plowman's masterpiece "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" The title, I think, is really dumb (she argues in the first lines of the book for that line being no good at all... so how did it take over as the title?). The book, however, is genius. Clearly wisdom gifted from God, full of the Word, genius material. And I want all I can get of what she's writing about into my head and heart.

But ultimately it's not in the next, newest parenting tips that my hope is found. Ginger's book points us to the Word as the authority that corrects and trains and instructs our kids. And it is the Hope for my heart too.

What my man reminded me of is exactly the thing I needed to remember. The Lord can do this. In fact, He has done this.... right here in our little home, with these three crazy kids and this sinner of a mom. If we could make it through that last batch of poop-everywhere potty training, we can make it through another dose* of disobedience and follow it with self-controlled, God-pleasing discipline to bless our kids as they learn to live to delight in and honor God. God's grace is sufficient to lead us, enable us, calm us with his peace to bless our kids in this way. I'm sure it won't look as perfect as Mrs. Plowman's little scenarios, but it will be gracious discipline for the purpose of godliness, in them and in me... *even if it's the 743rd "another dose" of the day.