Friday, July 30, 2010

Dear John and Regine

Oh dear, beloved friends,

Our hearts are breaking for your agony. Holding your son, feeling him wiggle in your arms and knowing that he is as beautiful, as lovely as any baby could ever be. And then letting him go. Seeing him depart and go to Jesus after just a few hours of his presence with you. Oh dear friends, we are praying.

And, you have a healthy son now too. On Facebook I saw a few comments congratulating you on "your little man," "your bundle of joy," but those words were singular and we all knew you were awaiting twins. I even wrote to you there about rejoicing with you and grieving with you. But after thinking about it just a bit longer, I've decided that although there IS joy for you, it would seem truer that this time is marked more by grief than by rejoicing.

We, as the people of God, have been commanded to mourn with those who mourn, and we love you so much, so
we don't want to miss you in this. We know you have a healthy beautiful son and we are so glad. We are so grateful for him and for you. May he grow to bring such joy and blessing to you and a myriad of others. We hope that you will have many decades to rejoice in his life, his passions growing and developing and being poured out for his own great joy and for the brightest glory of the God that we adore and that we trust.... but your son is missing his brother. And right now that is the sting you're bearing.

Two of my dearest friends are twins and at the one's wedding, her sister addressed her "Mel, you and I have been best friends since the womb..." Silas is missing his best friend. You are missing your son. And we are broken with you and for you, dear friends.

We've just had grief like this in our family so we've thought a lot about grief lately. At first glance, it might seem like birth and death should be equally weighty, equally celebrated, equally honored. But at the time of the death blow, I think it cannot. Grief overshadows. A griever can physically, hardly breathe. Mourning
must be done in it's time.

And I think there is something to be said of grief as a gift. A hard and horrifying gift, but a gift of God nonetheless. I am praying that where you are- so terribly far from us- there will be those that will
come around you to mourn with you.... to embrace this hard gift of grief, of being so emptied, of being carved out till you feel like you are going to burst open and there'll be nothing left of you, but still, trusting that you are being so carved by a Good and Gracious Surgeon, so that you can know more of Him, that you can comprehend, trust, enjoy more of his mysterious wisdom and goodness as he empties you in this valley of sorrow.

I wonder if more of the friends around grievers don't enter into grief because we are sometimes, somehow afraid that to enter into grief- to really mourn with the mourning- would be like telling God "I'm ok if you need to do this to me too." I wonder if it's this false sense of self-protection or something along these lines that keeps us from grieving more openly with others.

May the Lord grow us Christians to move beyond this kind of preserving our own lives- our comfort, our health, our lives- and move into the great joy of obeying our Lord... like the joy of fellowship in knowing and trusting God when we obey his command to grieve with those who grieve.

May the Lord be your great comfort in this time of sorrow. May he be your Rock, your Peace, Your Hope. We are greatly comforted to know that you do grieve with Hope, because we know that you will see your Brennan when he stands with our Redeeming King as He comes to reign. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

John and Regine, We love you so much. We are so glad for you to have your healthy boy. And we are so broken for you now as you mark the loss of your other sweet son.

Praying, praying, praying, loving you, and looking to Jesus-
Matt and Jill

PS- For friends of grievers, two very helpful links are here:
Molly Piper's guide to grieveing with friends, and our brother and sister-in-law's advice for what to say, as well as their entire blog from the month of April this year. And, in case you haven't experienced a death like this close enough to home to "get it"... to know how hard it is, this post might possibly help, written for our grieving family.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

here we go Charlotte!

This summer I've been reading "For the Children's Sake" by Susan Shaeffer Macaulay. Fantastically exciting and inspiring. I love the way this educational philosophy is rooted in a view of God's goodness to make us for his glory... He's given us brains to use them excellently- sparking wonder, curiosity, exploration, imagination, adventure, discovery in learning- to know the world He has made. The whole book is about Charlotte Mason's educational ideas and I think her ideas would be extraordinary to see slipped into the educational system in this country. I am super excited for them to be used as much of the foundation for the education of our kids in our home.

Charlotte Mason stresses the importance and greatness of encouraging kids to be explorers of their world. When we were outside last week we came across this dragon fly that I think had just died. I thought several times he might still be alive and I was a nervous giddy kid to pick up this beautiful creature.... he'll be the first specimen in some sort of a bug collection we get going eventually... (I hope!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

free music from The Village

The Village Church (FM, Texas) has some great worship music on their site that is free for downloading. I downloaded the kids album (5 fun songs) but wasn't able to get the regular worship album downloaded.... I did get to listen to it online though and it's great. Some really sweet lyrics and melodies.

I hope you can get over there and pick up your free tunes to enjoy too!

http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/music

picnic pictures









and a few more shots from a rainy Sunday afternoon...  Isaiah stayed inside for a lego battle with Daddy.  



Friday, July 16, 2010

a day for green

Our May Love has been pretty enthralled with matching things lately. She loves that we have matching green shirts and I love her goofy smile and quirky eyebrow look...





It was also Grand Opening day for a small business near our apartment complex. I really need to get to the bottom of what this is all about, but the drums boomed for at least 2.5 hours.... on my way to the fabric market and back again. I'm not sure if it's just plain celebration or if there is some hope that the drums will scare evil spirits away... I'll try to report back to you on this one.
The drums AND the firecrackers boomed. As always.
I shot scads more pictures at the fabric market but I'm still figuring out this beautiful new camera so none of the others are worth posting. I hope I'll start picking up some skill in this soon!


Could you possibly guess what the color of "blessing" is?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

walking boy

video

Here's our sweet John boy on the eve of his 13 month mark. Please excuse the over-the-top commentary from the videographer...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sinking Down and Looking Up

It’s hot and I’m tired and our big two (4 and almost 3) who often delight in their baby brother, have spent most bedtimes in the past week, gleefully pushing this sweet boy down, or like tonight, stepping on his back in gaudy, plastic high heels. To believe the best about them, I think they think it's funny for everyone, but clearly it's not. I told her she lost her “pretty shoes” for a month.
My own heart can spiral downward like my poor boy as I try to deal with all this general disobedience in their hearts and in mine. How can they disobey and then disobey again 2.5 seconds after being disciplined? Clearly, just like I do when I raise my voice after I’ve just sworn not to. Have mercy, Lord!
When I feel like I’m sinking in all this muck, feel swamped in these waves, I’m grateful to hear the voice of His Word tell me to lift up my eyes and grab on to his Rescue. And I'm most grateful that when my strength falters and my grip fails, He holds me... he holds me to himself whether or not my strength is there.
Praise, praise be for this faithful Rock, solid Rescue, living Hope!
Tonight I’m grateful...


~ first steps from our little love and his radiating joy in the newfound ability to take them

~ summer reading that has cast many new dreams in my optimistic visionary heart [Russell Moore’s outstanding Adopted for Life, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Child’s Sake, and The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller]


~ The Living Word that breathes life into me

~ That I can receive it, delight in it, be nourished by it like the beggar that I am, hungry for real life, starving for truth and rescue. I don’t need to be a super-star Bible scholar to be satisfied in it, by it.

~ Ambleside online and Ann Voskamp’s Feed Your Brain page to help us cultivate a learning lifestyle

~ that our second visa run is done!

~ and that we enjoyed a fantastic friend, the Grandma to some friends of ours who also needed to cross a border, so she traveled with us and blessed us the whole journey thorough. We love you “Grandma Joan!”

~ a hotel to stay in near the border that was super enjoyable and had the perfect pool for our little swimmers ($12 cheaper than the dive we stayed in near the Seattle airport last summer!)
~ cannonballs


~ crispy bacon at the hotel breakfast... we don’t have any pork in our home here in order to be able to share meals at our table with halal-minded friends. Though we're not huge bacon fans, it was just right last Friday morning!

~ a new bookcase in our room, already mostly filled

~ and for the open space there to be filled in time with excellent literature

~ and BookDepository.com to fill it.... Free Shipping Worldwide!

~ the “happy nursing”, around 4pm when John is intoxicatingly happy after his milk

~ and for the freedom and the “missingness” of weaning him


~ "Sure, you can play with it Marian."

~ "Isaiah, Daddy's coming.... Let's HIDE!"

~ smiles all around for slushy, not-yet-fully frozen popsicles

~ target practice with road signs, water guns on the back of our family 3-wheel bike

~ and the vocal delight after every shot

~ Isaiah and Marian's renewed delight in an old CD of audio stories.... Magic Fish, Curious George, Fire Truck! Thanks Nai Nai!

~ for friends who like to email, and this week reconnecting with one from more than two decades ago.... what a gift!

~ my man praying for me when I'm sinking down, gently encouraging me to look up

holy experience

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This...

really gets me going.

I just finished reading this (the last quote below) and then quickly reread it. Closed the book and dreamed of some glory workout- sweat flying through the air in slow-mo scenes of burning delight and joy and energy. The zeal this fires up in me is worth punching the air for, or pounding a punching bag... at the very least it's worth pounding out on the keyboard to share with you.

This is from Russell Moore's book Adopted for Life. Honestly, I've only read through the first two chapters so I'm not qualified to tell you about the whole book, but I will tell you- I LOVE THIS. So far, what I've read hits more on the theological greatness and implications of adoption, but the book is also aimed at presenting adoption as a mission priority for Christians and I'm eager to get to that part too...

Moore opened chapter two describing his difficulty responding to people's comments and questions about their two sons, born three weeks apart, who they adopted from Russia.

"... People kept asking, "Are they brothers?"

"They are now, " I replied. "Yes," the woman said. "I know. But are they really brothers?"... The woman sighed, rolled her eyes, and said "Well, you know what I mean."

A few pages later, "...the New Testament addresses former Satan-imagers [us] with the good news. It's not just that we have a stay of execution, a suspension of doom. It's not simply that those who trust in Christ have found a refuge, a safe place, or a foster home. All those in Christ, Paul argues, have received sonship. We are now "Abraham's offspring" (Gal. 3:29)." (p.30)

Moore moved on to hammer on the word "brother". In contrast to aliens and strangers, sojourners and even neighbor, "brother" is altogether different. It should ring differently in our hearts too.

"Adoption would become a priority in our churches if our churches saw our brotherhood and sisterhood in the church itself rather than in our fleshly identities.... If we had fewer "white" churches and "black" churches, fewer "blue-collar" churches and "white-collar" churches maybe we'd see better what Jesus tells us when he says we've come into a new household with one Spirit, one Father, one Christ. In fact, maybe the reason we wonder whether "adopted" children can "really" be brothers and sisters is because we so rarely see it demonstrated in our pews." (p. 39)

Moore shared how painfully difficult it was for both their boys to leave their dirty orphanage because it was all they had ever known. They seemed to be asking themselves the legitimacy of this new claim.... these words, these promises whispered over them.

The whole chapter is so good and there's much more in it that would lead up to this conclusion with a fuller, greater appreciation but, I'll still share here his concluding words- this is the stuff that had my blood jumping the highest:

"The real struggle for me shouldn't be the occasional rude question about my sons' identity; it should be the ongoing question about my own. Maybe such questions bothered me so much because they are being asked about me, all the time, within the echo chamber of my own fallen psyche and by unseen rebel angels all around. Are you really a son of the Living God? Does your God really know you? Does this biblical story really belong to you? Are these really your brothers and sisters? Do you really belong here? The question of identity related to adoption was so desperate because it challenged the authenticity of my family. But more than that, it challenged the authenticity of the gospel I'd believed since childhood.

The warfare that crackles all around us is quite like that. The powers threatened by the inheritance of which we will speak next, want to redirect our minds from who we are in Christ; they want to point us instead to our own flesh- to our impending death, to our instinctual resemblance to Satan. The problem is we are so easily outwitted by such designs. We veer from a fleshly self-sufficiency to a fleshly despair to a fleshly tribalism. And in all this we loose sight of Christ. In adoption we find ourselves- in Jesus. We see something we cannot perceive with our eyes.

Our adoption is about more than just belonging. Our adoption is about the day when the graves of this planet will be emptied, when the great assembly of Christ's church will be gathered before the Judgement Seat. On that day, the accusing principalities and powers will probably look once more at us- former murderers and fornicators and idolators, formerly uncircumcised in flesh or in heart- and they may ask one more time, "So are they brothers?" The hope of adopted children like my sons- and like me- is that the voice that once thundered over the Jordan will respond, one last time, "They are now." (p. 57)

Friends, I hope you know the hope he wrote of here. It's not a wishful penny lost, tossed in the fountain at the end of our days. The reason that Russell Moore can write so confidently of such a hope is because of Jesus. They are.... We are... because of Jesus.

His death secures an eternal redemption- absolute pardon from our sins, total forgiveness- for all who trust in him (Hebrews 9:11-12). The Spirit he promised and faithfully gives to all who call on him, seals us that we are his (Ephesians 1:13) and guarantees that he will bring us as his own sons and daughters into his home, forever loved, fully, irrevocably his own- his. very. own. children... (Galatians 3:28-29, Romans 8:15) Because of Jesus Christ's death- the death that we owe, that we deserve- we can come now and call this Holy God "Daddy Father."

I'm praying as I'm typing that the Lord will stir these words in each of our hearts to answer his invitation, to trust in Christ, or to embrace this great reminder today.

I warmly invite your comments and response, dear friends... and I'm especially interested to hear from those of you friends who haven't grown up in this family of Christ. You are loved.

around town




We've been keeping our eyes out for a used cupboard to put in our living room. Used furniture markets are really fun to explore...



Friday, July 2, 2010

talkers

John is launching into the verbal world with "Bye Bye" and "Pai" (simple Chinese for when you give a high five) and the most melodious "mama" ever...

And Marian and Isaiah have each recently each coined their own adjectives. Marian likes things that are "turn around the rosey." Pieces of bread, twisty pony tails, lego maneuvers... they're all better "turn around the rosey". I couldn't agree more... A few times I've had to show her the "T A t R" moves to (those pieces of bread, for example) to convince her of the worthiness of whatever it is I'm suggesting... it's worked and I'm grateful!

And Isaiah's teacher couldn't keep from giggling while she told me what she overheard our boy say this morning. A boy in class asked Isaiah if he knew what they were going to be eating for lunch and he answered "gong fu niao." (Kung fu bird). When he saw the glad reaction he got for that funny line, he decided that would be his new word to mean that whatever it is, is really cool... gong fu bed, gong fu book, our gong fu silly bilingual boy!


These are a few shots from "Children's Day" at morning preschool here last month.