Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Well Worn Life

I remember so clearly her voice as we carried our backpacks and tents off those Tennessee grounds. We had gathered with thousands from our generation for a day of worship and prayer- the whole weekend hinging on those hours of prayer. We camped two nights and walked, prayed, slept on the ground, sweat, rejoiced, ate little, prayed more, cried, and laughed, carrying everything in.... and everything out. We were worn at the end and as we waited for a bus, my room mate said,
"I'm glad I'm worn out. I wouldn't want to leave this time, leave this place, with reserves of my heart or soul that I had not poured out here. I'm really glad I'm worn out."
Those words are well etched in my heart and often spark reminders and challenges for me. Like 1 John 2:28 that gripped me well recently: “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.”
And I remember David Platt's needed challenge... to check how slave-owning sinful is my selfish materialism, hoarding trendy "treasures" as if they are mine or the least bit worthwhile, or as if “the world owes me such because I’m me” (as Jerry Bridges describes in Transforming Grace.)
I remember another roommate, a fashionable, smart girl, a nursing student experienced with studying cadavers, happily announcing to our house of girls that when she dies, she wants smile lines on her face.... "load them up, or leave them simple, but right there at the corners of my mouth, I want the testimony etched that I have lived joyously." Gracious, beautiful humility that I still lack but I do love.
And I think of one of my favorite set of words in the world: The Prodigal’s Sister, a poem by John Piper (if you look at the link, be sure to start at part 1 of the poem). The Father is described, when he sees his son at a distance, finally coming home,
“He knew. For all his soul was drawn,
And there was no resisting this.
He left his cane, and, lest he miss,
A step, he jumped them all, and ran,
Forgetting that he was a man
Of dignity, and that his knees
Were bad. He often thought, with ease
Someday I’ll run on these, and more,
Is this not what they’re ruined for?”
The story would have been nothing worth noticing if the Father just glibly greeted his son.... But he didn’t. He outstretched his hands and his heart and he ran and in the poem he ruined his knees for that running and it was full of glory.
How can I live and work and run, in such a way as to ruin my knees- my life- gloriously well?
So I’ve been thinking and praying about living more intentionally, seeking a life that is joyously poured out for that which is lastingly, ultimately worthy. Like William Borden , to somehow carve these words into my heart and raise them like a banner over my days: “No retreats. No reserves. No regrets.”
I am fully convinced that standing before Christ with no regrets (which will be sheer grace) will be joy worth every bit of effort, intent, sacrifice (if it can be said that I could make one for him) and suffering. Actually, far more than this. At that moment in the end, standing before Him, I can think of no possibility for more exquisite joy or more piercing sorrow.
And all this is finally taking shape in our hearts. We are happily aiming to live more simply and live strategically. I know that for all my desire and all the blessing I see in this, we're still not going to live as simply as any average family in Africa, Asia or South America- and they must be the bulk of the families on our planet. But still, I want to aim to live more of my life for Christ, shaped by Christ, instead of simply swinging with my luxury home culture and my own sinfully self-consumed wiring- no questions asked.
I don’t want to give in to my culture because I’m too ignorant or lazy to check myself on this or because I’ve considered things and have settled for blissful deception, gladly defending my “rights” to... everything I desire.
Lord help me see all this clearly and submit myself to your Word, which is full of words of strong caution for our choices. I would keep this to myself, not bothering to post about it, except that I really think it’s worth it for all of us, to look carefully at our lives and pray seriously, discuss and aim and reorient our lives with accountability and in community so that we might be shaped more by the Word than by the world.... because that’s right where the current will take us if we don’t pay careful attention and make effort. I don’t want to stand ashamed, even ashamed that I didn't mention this to friends...1 John 2:28.
Dr. Ralph Winter wrote of an excellent and boldly inspiring strategy for living, which he called “wartime living.” And Jonathan Edwards wrote his famous, thoroughly exhilarating and challenging Resolutions. Led by these greats and inspired by Scripture, I’m gathering prayers and hopes for my life and for the life that I cultivate in our home.
Well worn is what I want to be. It isn’t voluntary poverty. When I think "well worn," I mean wearing myself well for lasting things, worthy aims, and wearing and using my possessions well before replacing them. It means intentionally and strategically using all that God has given me (talents, passions, possessions, skills, relationships, opportunities...) to the max for His brightest glory. I am plainly out for my own good in this... it's just that I believe the best things for my life are lasting things and I will best enjoy life when I work hard for them and have the pleasure of doing every bit of my life for the Lord's smiling glory.
The Lord calls each of us to and gifts each of us with a wide array of possibilities, talents, and roles in his kingdom. I’m not saying that the specifics we are aiming for in our home are for every home, or even for any other home. This is simply what we’re aiming for for our lives. We would love to hear how you might want to work towards things or word things if a similar aim finds focus before you.


The specific prayers~ aims, if you will~ for living this dreamed of "well worn life" are poured out here, on the Well Worn page on this blog.  
May Christ our Savior be Exalted, the nations Joy and our Greatest Treasure!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthdays!

Every year we have the sweetest, prettiest reminder of my Mama's birthday.... her granddaughter Marian Lynn, born on her day. Happy Birthday Mama. I miss you so.

And for our big three year old girl... We had a simple English speaking party since we've ben very busy with reading night and play groups with local friends recently, and we've never had these church friends over for just fun at our house. All the kids got to dress up their own cookies and then we danced (some fantastic displays of local minority dance moves!) and played limbo and ate cake and prayed for our girl and opened
The Box of dress-up gifts. It really was a spectacular party, for a fantastic girl, with a truly great group of kids....






She's got the dress, the shoes, the moves.... and he knows it


After the party, there were more gifts to open, mailed from friends and family.




At the three year mark...
Our girl is on an "I love you" kick. Voiced 30 times a day, very often when she's been caught getting into something... She loves her brothers. Learned to pump 2 months ago, the swing-lover! Loves to be Mama's helper in the kitchen. Is excited for "when I'm 5 I'm going to cook for you, ok?" Failed the chewing gum test, again. Delights her teachers and has made huge strides forward in Chinese language. Is not afraid of anything (including discipline.) Has the goofiest chuckly laugh. Is sure that 2 + 2 (or any numbers together) = "TATA!" (lots of laughs every time.) Loves to pray. Loves to sing. Excellent lyricist.

Here are some of her rambling lyrics:

There is no one playing at the exercisers today, only me
There is no one but I have an owey finger, bonk the wall
Oh precious girl (to the tune of "Oh precious is the flow")
I love our friends, I love go to school
Chicken nuggets, french fries and celery
Oh precious girl (same tune, just for this line)
I love the Lord oh my soul

Thursday, August 26, 2010

a few random photos....


Time for one last outing of summer vacation. Just a simple walk around our complex, to the treat shop for a lollipop, played on the swings and toured the rubble at the front gate (I have no idea why they needed to rip apart the fountain that was there to put in another fountain... but they shredded the entire area, with at least 10-12 huge trucks, bulldozers, etc on the job so far. Our apt. complex is only 4 years old. What an odd choice, it seems to me!)






Recently learned the word for "rolly polly" (ok, I know that's not even the correct English name for the bug) in Chinese literally means "watermelon bug." John was sure he needed to eat one.
And yes, he has pink shoes on. I have no idea how, but we lost one of his shoes and I don't have any others for him right now. So he's wearing an old pair of his big sister's....
These three might look like this for a while. He'll be catching up soon enough though!

Marian's 3rd Birthday shots will be up soon (hopefully!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

compelled

I just got to listen to David Brainerd's biography, a talk by J. Piper, and was sweetly blessed and mightily compelled by God's grace in his life. His life was short: he died when he was 29, in 1746 (or '47?), after approx 8 years of suffering and hard persevering through Tuberculosis. But his life was rich, deeply, abundantly rich- not only in his personal enjoyment of God but also in his fruitful service among Native American Indians in New England, and, as we can see now, in his lasting impact on generations who have cherished and been inspired by his journal.

His life is a bold testimony to God's faithfulness and goodness to minister to and to use broken, weak vessels greatly for his glory.... broken, weak ones like Brainerd, and me, and all of us.

Here's a few quotes:
"Brainerd's life is one long agonizing strain to redeem the time, not grow weary in well-doing, and to abound in the work of the Lord." - said of DB by JP

"Oh how sweet it is to be spent and worn out for God." - DB

"Oh that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey." - DB

And he often wrote of fasting and prayer, of praying for long stretches of the day or many intervals in a day. In a letter to young ministers, he wrote, urging them "to build into their lives fasting and prayer." His is surely a sweet example of a life so well lived, so sweetly, satisfyingly invested.

I hope so much that you will check these biographical talks, download them and drink deeply. If you find yourself with a choice of how to spend an hour- please consider feasting your soul here, as I do believe it will stir your heart for the Lord and your prayers for his work in your life.

There is something dearly excellent about enjoying such biographies... not just one scripture passage taught through (which we need to feed on too!) but
scripture lived..... like I want to live. Oh Lord compel us to live so for you!

(Some of my favorite biographies are "Brothers, we must not mind a little suffering"- Charles Simeon, "The Swan is not Silent"- Augustine, "You will be eaten by Cannibals!"- John G. Paton, and "How few there are who die so hard!"- Adoniram Judson.)

Also, much (or possibly all?) of Brainerd's journal has been posted online in the form of a blog. You can
read it here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

confiscated

We put the word out with all of our neighbors that we were looking for second hand bikes for our kids but nothing ever turned up... So we finally declared a morning outing to the wholesale bike market across town. Matt took off early in our electric three wheeled bike so it might hopefully have enough juice to carry us all home with the new bikes in it too. But then came the call...

"You're not going to believe this. I just passed a checkpoint and our bike has been confiscated." It was not the time for details, just get him his passport number and wait for another call...

Not much time passed before he called back and we decided we'd carry on as planned. He hopped in a taxi and we did too and met up at the market. Matt selected his purchase- a simple commuter bike that he can ride daily to his new school. (Have I said how glad and excited I am for my amazing man to get to be a Business Management grad student at one of the top 10 universities in China?)

So far our only vehicle was this one electric bike. We love it. Not quite as convenient as a car but 7,000 times more fun for rides to the park (shooting water guns the whole way) and easily doable for trips to the grocery store and back (and of course, worlds cheaper and its less scary for me to drive in the bike lane here!)

After his purchase, we moved on to the kids section for our treasure hunt there. I think we ended up with two pretty great bikes that will hopefully see lots of years of use in our family. Isaiah's bike is a tiny bit big for him for now but he still rides it well. And Marian's bike is a tad smaller than we would have hoped for, but will be great for John before too long... hopefully around the time she's ready for a real big girl bike.




The cozy ride home... So glad all 5 of us and the three bikes fit. It was a squish!

Funny how we lost our big bike and gained these three within about 2.5 hours. But at least Matt had transportation to classes the next few days. We had no idea if we would ever get the bike back.

Now the goofy (alright... maddening) thing about this was that when he seized our bike, the policeman told Matt that this kind of bike is illegal in China- not illegal on major roads, not illegal in the central part of the city, but illegal in this country.

Yea, Right. There are bazillions of them. ALL over the place. I know that doesn't make them legal but what about the dozens of huge storefronts we pass all the time that sell these little vehicles daily? Why is it legal to manufacture them? Why are they still sold like hot cakes in broad daylight?

Matt was pretty frustrated with the situation. It was best for me not to bring it up with him since he was just at a loss for what to do. We prayed. We found a local guy who looked at the ticket and went with Matt this morning to the impound lot where our sweet little family bike was living... too, too far from us.

And he got it back! 30Y down (about $4.50) for the storage fee but the police officer that seized the bike was the same guy that Matt talked to today and he was very courteous (a gracious answer to prayer!) and didn't even charge us a violation fee. We are so grateful! (Of course, the question still lingers, "What violation was made!?" but still...)

And here's one more pic I just can't pass up... for as much as I love this shot, it honestly doesn't capture even half of his delightfulness!
A few shots of our fun times at Reading Night, Mondays in our home...




Saturday, August 14, 2010

not an easy one...

but darn good...



This post about suffering in ministry, from Ajith Fernando, is excellent and well-needed. (Reminds me of Richard Pratt's words about how he wants to see seminaries train their students for suffering in service.)

In response to Fernando's words,
Libby Little wrote a beautiful offering.... I remember hearing Mrs. Little speak at a big conference in the 90's and the testimony of her family staying when they didn't have to left a huge impression on me. How beautifully much like Jesus. What sweeter thing could we want for our lives?

She wrote these words, her short response, earlier this month. Then, on August 7, she received news that he husband had been brutally murdered. This reminds me of Barbara Youderian's words when she learned that her husband had also been killed (one of the "Auca 5" in January 1956):

Tonight the Captain told us of his finding four bodies in the river. One had tee-shirt and blue-jeans. Roj was the only one who wore them... God gave me this verse two days ago, Psalm 48:14, "For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our Guide even unto death." As I came face to face with the news of Roj's death, my heart was filled with praise. He was worthy of his homegoing. Help me, Lord, to be both mummy and daddy." (Let the Nations be Glad, J. Piper, p. 92)
Oh God equip us, your people, to serve you well and to press our lives towards that one all-satisfying end of glorifying, glorying in YOU, even glorifying you in our death. "YOU are our God even unto death!"

As Mrs. Little closed her piece: "
May the fruitful door of opportunity to embrace suffering in service, or at least embrace those who are suffering, remain open for the sake of God's kingdom."

Please join together in praying for the families of
these aid workers who were killed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

more on reading aloud

Today's post from Ann Voskamp is the substance I wrote about being influenced by in our own family habit of reading scripture at every meal (in this post from June). As Ann tells it in her post today, it's not just helpful, it's truly beautiful.... true to her style. I praise the Lord for her and the words that pour through her.

There are so many good words here.... describing the living Word verses our dead food, describing the sweetness of the Word as our dessert... and then this is one of my favorite bits from toward the end... so good to do this in the real world and not some perfect fiction notion of our lives....

"Days when I sadly want to rush, when children tussle over Bibles (and they are all the same!), when we read too fast and a little cries and no one pays attention. But some meals too are simply edible, hardly memorable, but we don't stop eating. We try the dish again or we change the way we eat or we just smile and set the table with candles next time.

Always, we eat again. "

I hope you'll get a chance to take in her words... and then take in that truly LIFE giving Word as your Living Bread too...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reading Night

Last night Marian paused from chasing her buddies as she turned the corner into the living to tell me, mid panting, “I am having so... much... fun.” Isaiah was so wrapped up in excitement he didn’t have time to stop to tell me anything.
It was a great night. Five kids, most with their parents, came for our first reading night. We’re super grateful for Du Laoshi (Teacher Du) who came to help prep me and the kids with some of the specific vocab from the story that I still need to learn and then she read aloud for our friends....She did great. Such a blessing! And we read aloud a super story... starting at the very beginning of the very best book in the world. Creation, Genesis 1-3. After a fun half hour of reading, play!
This reading night is kind of an extension of what we are doing to teach our kids in our home. It will help us continue to learn Chinese and give our kids a great place to learn with their buddies. And of course it’s an opportunity to share not only this best of best Literature with these neighbor kids but also this way to sharpen and train us all to use our brains as well.
Didn’t God make our minds, our brains to learn, to be stretched and exercised excellently for his glory? Wouldn't it be a blessing for kids to learn to use their brains to learn to work hard to study and know the world... and the Maker of it!?
We will begin homeschooling in about a year but already we love these tools from Charlotte Mason that we are trying to incorporate into our reading, playing, learning together.
Here’s the simple influence we’re applying from her educational philosophy:
1- We’re trying to select only the best literature for our kids to read (not only for reading night.) We have a great CD of audio books that our kids love to listen to and there are some great stories on there- with a plot, virtue demonstrated, characters learning lessons- and then also there’s the song of, “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” If this is your favorite, I’m sorry. But we have decided finally that this is absolutely not the kind of stuff we want our kids meditating on (cause that’s what they do with these audio books that they can listen to on “repeat” for half hour at a time.) It’s not that it’s evil it’s just dumb. Feed them excellence, truth, virtue, beauty, substance, greatness.... that’s the goal.
2- Help the kids learn the story by reading it aloud once and then asking them good questions like 1) Can you tell me the story in your own words? 2) What did you learn from the story? 3) What did you learn about ____ (name a character in the story)? 4) What was your favorite picture.... and why?
Gone are the days of one word, thoughtless answers.
On Monday night, my favorite question was #3 above. There are so many great points we can learn about God- even knowing NOTHING, never having heard anything about him before that story. And there are a zillion more questions we could ask.... this page at Simply Charlotte Mason has some great suggestions.
This way of learning is really exciting for me to think of offering my kids because it’s exactly the education that I cheated myself from receiving. As our tests in America check reading comprehension, all you have to do is read the questions and then scan the texts for the answers. Who cares about reading the dull as anything paragraphs provided and who really comprehends the passages at all? I never did, but I still did well enough to get a full tuition scholarship my freshman year simply based on my SAT score. They didn’t know how unexercised my brain was! I want to help my kids learn more, learn better, and love to study the world that God has made. Psalm 111:2
We’re so excited to have Reading Night as a part of our lifestyle of learning!
If anyone is interested in more about Charlotte Mason, this is the book, For the Children's Sake, by Susan Scaheffer Macaulay, that has delighted me this summer.

And here are some excellent web sites:
http://amblesideonline.org/CM/20Principles.html (be sure to read the right hand side!)

more Norwex

She called it a Flying Pig.... No one who knows her would ever have expected to see Heather (my cool sister-in-law) selling anything. But I'm glad she is!

After much research and time to hurdle her predisposition against multi-level marketing, Heather has decided that Norwex products are really worth selling.... She gets migraines easily from cleanser chemicals and with Norwex her house can sparkle with no looming fumes to steal a day of her life. I've also really enjoyed the Norwex products that I've recieved as gifts and the few I've bought myself.

Initially, I'll admit that seeing the price on some of these things makes me gulp.... but the cleaning cloths (what I've mostly used) last for years and save dozens of bottles of chemicals being bought and brought into our home... and in the end, I'm sure there's money saved (and those chemicals are gladly skipped!)

And time is saved. I've thought to myself that I honestly wouldn't know how to teach our daughter to clean a bathroom, except for using Norwex. It's so easy to get our bathroom sparkly clean and for the first time in my life I feel like I can actually, mostly keep our bathroom nice.

Enough from me.... I hope if you are interested or even just curious, you can visit Heather's site where she has lots of helpful and fun things to read and an easy way to connect with her for questions or to send in your oder!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

so grateful

In the past week we've enjoyed visits from two families we love. For the dear B's, I had to welcome them at the door of our apartment announcing, "Please come in, Isaiah and I have just thrown up (less than a minute apart, a minute before they knocked) but it's just food poisoning, nothing contagious. We really are so glad you're here. Please take a seat and I'll be right with you..." as I headed into the bathroom to clean up my poor boy.

You were champion guests to put up with such a welcome and we so enjoyed our brief visit. Thanks for stopping to visit us, friends! I'm so sad I didn't snap even a single picture of your time with us... we love you guys!

And then the C's... what delights you are to each of our hearts. It is funny how sweetly the Lord has knit us together even in the line up and timing of kids he's given each of us, and more than that, in each of our hearts we're so blessed to get to count you as friends. We love you!

So grateful we got to have the big boys together for some play time, we had time to hear from you, C & D, for this season of life and work in the place where God has you, time to enjoy each of your three wonders (and pray that our goofy love dove girl will pick up on some of your sweet darling's gentleness and kindness), time to enjoy Papa Johns with you and your parents, and laugh at the specatcle we made of ourselves- TEN foreigners on a 3-wheel bike- on the way to the park and we squished in that belly-laugh-worthy-trampoline-harness set up we got our big kids rigged into.... Our time with you was pure gift. Thank you. We are so soo grateful for you!




John, glad to catch a glimpse of Auntie Darcy






Many tears were shed in the moments before our goodbye, and for a while after the C's departure. Sweet sadness. So much to be grateful for.