Sunday, September 26, 2010

all in one wild week

Last week was lots of good, tiring fun. Started off with our neighbors here inviting us to celebrate Mid Autumn festival early with them, since we would be gone for the actual day (Wed). So fun to "bao jaozi" (wrap dumplings) with these friends and then enjoy the yummy dishes that all the family brought together for us to try.

Below- The brown dish is mianjin (a type of bread doughy stuff, think tofu) and lotus root and "wood ear" (a mushroom like fungus, rich in nutrients) with marinated walnuts and peanuts.

Then we got on a sleeper train for the overnight journey to the capital. For four days we got to see lots of friends, enjoy a sweet wedding, each have a doctor appointment (except daddy), one appt at the embassy, a trip to the import grocery, a basketball game for Matt with his buddies, a birthday bash for the B boys, lots of yummy meals with friends... fun, fun play filling every moment.

The wedding was great. Matt was a groomsmen so he got to head out early in the parade of the mandatory big black cars to escort the groom to the bride's house. The bridesmaids let him in after only 10 minutes of pounding on the door and pleading to see his woman and everyone said he got off easy. Besides this beginning and the language spoken throughout, the ceremony was western through and through and honestly made me feel like I missed out, but I guess they the bride and groom felt quite stylish about things that way.

I got to be at the site for all the fireworks that prepared the way for the arrival of the couple and I cried thinking of the trumpets that will blare one day when Christ returns for his bride... Oh for that day...

Handsomest umbrella man ever...

I can't believe how few shots I took of our kids playing with their sweet buddies.... you'll just have to trust and imagine- there were lots of laughs, wrestles, tickles, owies, apologies, stories, pictures and treats.

one day we'll get our girl to wear clothes at home...

These B Boys are so sweet! My favorite moment at their party: when their daddy read aloud the scripture verses that he spoke over the boys at the moment of their births, the first words they heard aloud, his voice loving them with Living words.

Our appointment for K4 at the wonderful hospital there (a great private Chinese one where May and John were born) was great and everyone got to see the littlest of us wiggling on the screen. But we also saw the due date and it was much too late for my liking.

I knew the doctor here seemed pretty sketchy, probably a bit off, in her estimate for how far along I was.... but my optimistic heart had not. considered. in the least. that I might be less far along than she told me. She told me mid- March. I was hoping for early.... and now I'm assured I'm due at the tail end. Argh.

With the window of possible baby days seeming larger now and with this train ride foreshadowing how difficult a trip will be with a very full belly, let alone a tiny wiggly one in our arms, I'm backing off my insistence to deliver in the capital. We're really eager to find out every single option for births in this city. Maybe there will be one place with private delivery rooms!? Maybe one superstar midwife gem can come be with us? Or maybe we'll find a place to stay and arrive in the capital just in time to meet our little one? Only God knows! We are praying!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

world music

I had been thinking for a while that it would be great to find some $2 album with a hundred great songs on it.... we need some excellent classical music in our collection. It's so sweet to have it playing during work and play time, especially during quiet reading time for the kids while I make dinner. Of course music makes that time a bit sweeter!

But free is better than $2.

I just downloaded lots of free albums... Brazilian, Baroque, Classical, Jazz, Israeli, Middle East, Naxos (it sounds great, but I still need to look up what it is!), and Tango tunes from Argentina. What a treat! Way to go Amazon!

Just go to Amazon and search for "Brazilian Music Sampler Free"or "Eternal Baroque" and then follow the links to "customers who bought this also bought..." to see more of the free music.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

moving forward

Just a quick note from a sleepyhead.... wishing my body would let me sleep through the 3-5 am block, but something with this pregnancy seems to jolt me awake and keep me awake most nights.

As I look down, I'm more convinced than ever. I've been fiercely hungry for weeks. Emotional. Crying for joy over the shimmer of dew on grass and struggling hard with heinous thoughts of cultural superiority. Mind spinning with self defense for the continual comments and stares (there's nothing inappropriate culturally here about wide open, point blank, dropped-mouth staring) that we get for simply having three children in this land of one child only. And guilt for the un-Christlikeness of such proud self defense.

And now four. I'll admit I enjoyed the shock on the face of the ladies on the street who were gaping at three kids in a bike when they heard there was one more on the way.

But now this little one is popping out, clearly moving to the brim of my belly. A little life.
Life. I don't remember feeling so much movement already. It's just been several days, maybe a week, since the first flutter, and now I feel those precious ripplings several times a day.

We're traveling to the capital next week for a friend's wedding and I'll get an appointment and ultrasound at the hospital there where Marian and John were born. I think I'm about 15 weeks. This might be my last appointment till we head back there next March for the birth since medical care available here is emotionally really hard for me to handle. (I could write more later.... the point is that, by God's grace, we could be healthy physically here, but the local hospital would be so hard for me emotionally with the lack of privacy, cleanliness, decency/respect/dignity with which patients seem to me to be treated, that it seems better for my heart to train across the country to the capital for delivery... and we really want Matt present for the birth, which isn't an option here.)

All that to say.... it is an incredible joy to have this growing life inside me. This new person! For this dreamy moment of dark morning, this growing belly is altogther captivating to me. Who is this new person inside!? Such miraculous, mysterious, wonder, and gift. We are so grateful, so soo grateful to the Giver of Life.

Here's a sweet bit from a post on .
... I see more than a baby.
I see a harvest…the fruit of our love, the physical reminder of “two becomes one”, the labor of our hands through the years, a heritage, for me, from my Father.
My vision goes beyond that sweet little face and all the messes I know I will clean up, and the mid-night feedings that aren’t easy, the squabbles and the stains on the furniture, the tears and laughter, and the days I just want quiet…
There’s a whole generation underneath that spaghetti-smeared face that’s been given to me.
And it’s worth it.
And I want to be here when the harvest is fully ripe….
But I won’t.
Because the seeds we plant now will grow beyond us and the harvest will become unable to be measured.
So I will keep pulling the weeds, planting the seeds, nurturing, watering, tending and praying for growth, thanking God for the miracles.
And I will have the FAITH to believe that His glory will burst forth.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flame of God

I keep thinking to myself, as I read this, "it really doesn't get any better than this."  I love this poem.

We've been enjoying reading poetry together at the breakfast table a few times recently.... helps keep the morning squabbles contained.   Even beyond that, there's lots of benefit in enjoying these words together!

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

~by Amy Wilson Carmichael

for what end?

My good friend Ann is back in her home, processing the desperation she encountered in Guatemala last week and I'm left blessed, challenged, broken, encouraged by her words yet again.

She describes meeting several families who all live in one slum area that slid off the side of it's mountain in Hurricane Agatha not long ago. All of the families fear the gangs in the city that daily kill about 16. And all the families she met have some connection to the Compassion outreach in Guatemala city and there is sweet fruit to behold from that tie.

this post, Ann writes about the one question we've really got to look into the mirror and ask ourselves.
Compassion plans to open a time capsule a few decades from now and the plan is that at the opening ceremony, two sponsor children will be present and they are to ask the directors and leadership of Compassion one question.... that same question we need to call ourselves to account for:

"Is it still about Jesus?"

Is it all about Jesus? Am I living... really.
living. all about Jesus?

Oh.... may it be, Lord Jesus. By your grace, may it be!

Friday, September 10, 2010

one more most excellent find

Any one whose read a bit of our blog will know that I (Jill) count Ann Voskamp- just through her blog- as a dear friend and mentor. Right now, as she's visiting Guatemala, meeting Xiomara, the child they sponsor there, and writing about it, I'm reading and weeping and deeply moved.

We've supported Compassion for as long as we've been married- Daniel in Kenya who is thirteen years old now. We got to bless a girl, Agnes, at the same Kenya site in honor of my mom, when she went to be with the Lord. And recently, we've decided that this is really a priority, we simply want to be connected like this to more kids.... It's so worth tightening up the belt strap for...

We look forward to the day when we'll have the language to connect with more poor people here, but we'll be glad to continue giving to these Compassion kids even when our studying and God's grace has finally gotten us there.

We've liked Compassion for all these six plus years. But after reading
Ann's post here, I am more a believer than I've ever been. May the Lord continue to connect these field servants to local churches that will run hard and serve simply, humbly these little ones. And may the Lord move our hearts to give generously and pray earnestly for these precious lives, these children, their families.

Move us Lord.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

two excellent finds


I have to share these two posts I've just read this evening. Excellent, excellent, excellent. If you have any spare moments, oh please take a look...

Shaun Groves, currently visiting a Compassion outreach site in Guatemala wrote a piece to break our hearts and fan the pieces that remain into flame: "
Long Distance & Slow Violence." And while you're at his site, listen in for his tunes. More goodness there too.

May this move me- move us- to prayer, to giving, to serving right here where we're at.

Second, this is a quicky. A sweet excerpt from Fred Sanders book "The Deep Things of God." Neat to see the way that "grace" is carried through our own English language. And humblingly good to see the way that "please" is used.... or should be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

more thanks

I've been really caught recently with my need for more of the Word of God in my life... If it is "living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword" why would I settle for so starving my heart or feeding on dead crumbs for my soul? I want that which the Creator and Author of all life calls "Living" and I want it pulsing it's Life in my fading frame.

~ I am so grateful that God has given us his Word,
~ revealed himself to us in it, through it,
~ allows us to chew it up and get it into our hearts, heads, bloodstream, soul,
~ changing us, transforming us by it into more of his image.

~ So grateful for the all-suprassing power of the Gospel
~ which is not a message of my own sufficiency or power
~ but is a boast in God who spoke light to shine out of darkness
~ and caused "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" to shine in our hearts. (2 Cor 4: 6.)

Man! Have we ever got it good!?

And grateful...

~ to be married to the funnest, most loving man I can imagine: my best friend, my dreamy love.

~ for kids growing big- Isaiah is almost an inch taller than last month- I must have measured goofy on our homemade growth chart!?

~ grateful for the opportunity to give to new kids, to include new friends in our home

~ for a super fantastic bagels recipe and bulk pricing on 4 pounds of cream cheese to take the edge off the end of this fourth first trimester

~ for the store that carries cream cheese (maybe the only store in our whole province? and it's only a 15 minute bike ride from us!)

~ for the other foreign groceries they sell: cheese, butter, corn flakes...

~ for a rainy day, refreshing to the soul

~ for a boy who is learning more about loving others

~ a girl who loves that her mom and dad love each other

~ for a little boy who is on the verge of running

~ for the little growing one inside me- pure gift!

~ for friends who wrote me such encouragement last week when I needed it

~ for a skype date with precious girlfriends all gathered together!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

kid bits

Here are a few fun moments we've enjoyed with our kids recently.... oh we love them so!

Marian's card game
We've been playing Go Fish lately with the kids and Matt and I have found ourselves surprised at how super fun a time it is. Who would have thought? It's just so great to see Isaiah really tracking with how the game works and to.... well, just play it with May and enjoy a snuggle with John on the lap, for as long as he'll sit for it.

Yesterday, Marian created her own card game. She gave a few character cards (Xi Yang Yang, the local lamb cartoon character) to Isaiah and I and instructed us to ask her, "Foo wins?". (Isaiah and I share a secret giggle over Marian's sweet and constant mispronunciation of the word.) She replies "I DO!" and then gives us a card that we would then give right back to her. The next person asks again, "who wins?".... It was a grand game and it lasted all of 1.5 minutes. She was very proud of herself.

Here's the princess with her cool cowgirl skirt (home-made for her by a dear friend here) as her own hat creation...


Our big guy is writing letters, numbers and words! It is so exciting- way more than I thought when I just heard other parents talk about this step up. So great to see the world opening up before his discovering, learning mind. We praise the Lord for the ways God is growing our big boy. He's always fun and is becoming more and more of a reliable helper around the house too... what a blessing!


My husband is kind-of a grass freak. He loves North Dakota lawns and critiques lawns in every other city I've ever been in with him. But here, what's the point? If there is grass anywhere... it's all got signs on it to make clearly known that no feet should ever touch it. We've found a few patches around town that seem a bit more friendly, but usually those spots are covered with teems of people. It's honestly been something we've both seriously missed- places to be outside and feel quiet, alone to enjoy nature.

But this weekend, some neighbors of ours explained on the phone that one boy's dad's company had something special.... I really wasn't understanding all that was said... but sure we would go. I had expectations of thousands of people and bright lights and busyness abounding. But I was very pleasantly wrong.

After a drive across town, we arrived to a small private company whose grounds had a wonderful grass field and a nice garden area (I've never seen anything like this company's grounds in this country). We- just us- simply played there. Sweet Medicine for my Soul. Oh so sweet....


Earlier this week, Matt decided, as bedtime approached, it might be helpful to try to work off some of the overflowing energy in our girl. And so he launched a short exercise program that any PE teacher would be proud of. Marian kept up quite well with the sit-ups, jumping jacks, and pushups.... of course, adapted for her goofiness very well.

John is coming into his next fun stage... not only is he responding to fun, he's definitely initiating it too now. It's so fun seeing the big kids really enjoy playing with him more. He loves to come and sit on my tummy (or daddy's) or hold onto my legs when I'm doing exercises. He loves to throw balls, take baths, get his teeth brushed and unpack the kids dresser. He's very into his mama right now but occassionally he also does a really good job at playing by himself for a few minutes at a time.

And.... he's going to make a great big brother, come next March.  We praise the Lord for this surprise, completely-delighted in gift!