Saturday, November 27, 2010

Much-Afraid

It was one of my mom's favorite books and I have her well loved copy now.  Hinds' Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard.  A treasure.  This story of Much-Afraid's journey with the Shepherd to the High Places is, in my mind, needful reading for every one who takes seriously their walk with Christ.   I say this because I think, as Americans, even among those of us who truly do love Christ, we too easily fall into assuming things, assuming we're all set with God...  We really do love Christ, we really want to honor him and we know we're not not saved by what we do and so we end up sloughing off and growing lazy.  And there's no good in that at all.  


I find her journey usually breaking me just where I need it.  
Oh what bold challenges this sweet timid friend finds for me!


I hope I don't spoil any of the plot for you, but I'll share three spots on her journey that have invigorated my heart most of all this week:


~ After traveling through the harsh desert, Much-Afraid found a flower, and after learning the flower's name, she replied with words that I want to be true in me, of me too.  "He has brought me here when I did not want to come, for his own purpose.  I, too, will look up into his face and say, 'Behold me!  I am thy little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy.'"


~ After collapsing in fear when she saw the tall precipice that she would have to climb next and choosing poorly for a short spell, Much-Afraid finally called for the Shepherd to come.  "She sat and looked at him and saw that he was smiling... The shame in her eyes met no answering reproach in his, and suddenly she found words echoing in her heart which other trembling souls had spoken.  "My Lord is of very tender compassion to them that are afraid.""


~ In Chapter 10, when Much-Afraid is nearing the top of the Precipice Injury, she finds another flower in the most barren rock landscape she's yet been in.  "Just then she looked up at the cliffs above her head and started with surprise and delight.  In a tiny crevice of the rock, where a few drops from the trickling waterfall could occasionally sprinkle it, was a single plant.  It had just two or three leaves, and one fragile stem, almost hairlike in its slenderness, grew out at right angles to the wall.  On the stem was one flower, blood red in color, which glowed like a lamp or flame of fire in the early rays of the sun... 
"What is your name, little flower, for indeed I never saw another like you."  
At that moment the sun touched the blood-red petals so that they shone more vividly than ever, and a little whisper rustled from the leaves.  
"My name is Bearing-the-Cost, but some call me 'Forgiveness'.... I was separated from all my companions, exiled from home, carried here and imprisoned in this rock.  It was not my choice, but the work of others, who, when they had dropped me here, went away and left me to bear the results of what they had done....I have borne and have not fainted;  I have not ceased to love, and Love helped me push through the crack in the rock until I could look right out onto my Love the sun himself.  See now!  There is nothing whatever between my Love and my heart, nothing around to distract me from him.  He shines upon me and makes me to rejoice and has atoned to me for all that was taken from me and done against me.  There is no flower in all the world more blessed or more satisfied than I, for I look up to him as a weaned child and say, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire but thee.'"


Friends, I hope you'll be able to get your hands on a copy and that your heart will be as blessed and challenged as mine has been.  And if you do read it, I'd really love to hear your thoughts too!


*****
And a little PS-  This book might hit women better than men because it is written with fair emotion and the main character is a woman very full of emotion.  And it is good.... so good.  If you are at all in need of a gift for a woman in your life, I most highly recommend this gem.


And for more great words of today, Kevin DeYoung has just written some great challenges to my generation of Christians to fan into flame again a passion for beautifully holy lives.  Oh for more Much-Afraids today!

Friday, November 26, 2010

let's learn from what could have been

In this great post, written by Michael Oh, a guy we've never met, but are still delighted to call a friend, we are perfectly challenged to consider some helpful what if's:  some basic, real-world, sure-could-have-been situations.... and we are challenged to rightly respond, to apply some needed lessons to our lives.  May the Lord be glorified as we gratefully, joyfully take heed of these words for the sake of his praise, and real people, real lives today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Capturing

I’ve heard from enough more experienced moms these words about enjoying our kiddos' little years.  It must be important.  I know it is... It must be worth some special attention because without it, these moments would probably fly by unmentioned and unremembered. What a loss that would be!

Some wise one also advised me before our wedding,  "Capture these moments.  Take pictures with your mind and in your heart."  Thank you, whoever you are.   I remember the birds were singing and the sky was bright as we said our vows and worshipped and slipped rings on each others fingers.  So grateful for that picture woven deep...
I don’t want to let these precious days pass by, these chapters of preschool vigor and virtue and bravery and beauty beyond any fairy tale I’ve ever read...  I don’t want them to slip away unappreciated, unnoticed, unrecognized for the tremendous gifts that they are, tremendous gifts from our Incredible Giver.  
Here are some of our recent moments to capture and gladly recount...
~ going down the slide backward
~ John's pat on the back when Isaiah slipped off his chair (that he had been rocking backwards in)


~ John coming up behind Isaiah inviting,  "Han(d)", and the big guy's pride in leading his little bro for a walk this evening.
~ her “piano solos” on the bunk bed ladder and accompaniment for her lively renditions of “Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be his holious name.”
~ John (17 months) bowing his head and mumbling “da da da...  A me(n).” and reaching for food.  Or sometimes, as soon as he’s put in his high chair he’ll skip the prayer and just announce “A me” and starting pointing for what he wants...


~ foam and taped-together plastic swords, more bravery displayed and a longer nap than usual for the hour + swordfight that our kids enjoyed with guests last night. 
~ Isaiah’s valor last week:  I didn’t want to load John in the stroller to walk the big kids to school when I realized he was quite ill.  So I bundled up the big two quick and left John strapped in the high chair as soon as I heard a neighbor kids’ voice downstairs.  I shot out of the elevator like a bullet, trying to chase down this nice grandma who was walking Marian’s classmate to school.  I was running, Isaiah (4.5) behind, Marian (3), in the tail, crying “Mama, don’t leave me!”  I stopped to reassure her, kissed her quick and took off again, little boy waiting alone in the high chair.  As we were running, my big- has he ever been bigger than this?-  boy yelled back “I’ll take care of you Marian.  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you!”
~ her joy-filled laugh at the first feel of the swing beneath her.... the thrill of her voice, that victorious exhilaration 
~ our little guy’s insistence to snuggle on mama’s lap with a toy, his Moses bear (and the blanket that goes by the same name), and a cup of milk for those first groggy minutes post nap.... 

~ how that time today included a bite of orange cake for each of us and scripture memory work for mama to the tunes of Dora’s music player.  
~ the little one inside me, today giving my belly the feel of round ripening fullness.  Grateful for this stretching, this bursting new life inside me.  Much more distinct movements lately...  so excited to meet you, little one!
~ for Matt’s first feel of this baby’s movements....  and his cheer and pride and anticipation for this little one.
~ John’s snorty smile when he sees a new cup of milk being filled for him
~ and how he hasn’t figured out yet how to get around the blankets laid over the bunk bed ladder to deter his upward exploration

~ inspiration to grow in gratitude and enjoying every moment.  So grateful for this mentor who so faithfully inspires!
~ starfall.com and our two big kids who read aloud with the story
~ heat, we are mindful that so many here don’t have stable heat, or only heat that pollutes their homes and lungs.
~ a chance to help a friend in a special way that my mama helped me
~ a local friends’ inexpressible delight in her two foster kids (whom she’s loved and served for 14 and 15 years) who are severely handicapped: cannot speak, eat, go to the bathroom on their own.  She loves them and she radiates Christ’s joy as she lights up talking about them.  (She lives in a coal-heated home, where the rains wash over her floors when they fall hard.  Her husband is the leader of a small, rural fellowship of believers and their only regular income is what she earns helping us- washing dishes after guests and watching John- whom she also delights in- while mama studies.  They have very little in this world and they are so very, lastingly!, rich. Pure inspiration to us.)  (I can't believe I let another day slip by without snapping a pic of this beautiful friend.  Try, pregnant head, to remember!)
~ dinner in our home with super fun friends whose holiday last week reminds them of a need for sacrifice for sins... and the chance to proclaim The Perfect Sacrifice.
~ that I get to share my days, these children, this God, this life, with such a man as I’ve been given.  He truly is my best friend.  

missing in Thanksgiving?

I think this article is exquisite... such a needed piece for a truly full Thanksgiving.  For as much emphasis as there is on the pilgrims and their first harvest festivals- such a great thing to remember and honor at this time!- how helpful and good it is too, to understand this fuller setting behind this rich tradition.


In her article for the Boston Globe,  Eve LaPlante looks into the European roots of this American developed holiday and notes that in the beginning, days of thanksgiving never came alone.  They followed fast days of repentance and petition to God for help, rescue, favor.  LaPlante recounts much of the life of one of her own ancestors, Judge Samuel Sewall, who modeled well the characteristics of repentance and prayer and who she sets forth as a beautiful example of what we can pray might influence our country's leaders and our own lives today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks Dear!

I remember loving journals.... loving writing in a new, beautiful one.... from high school years.  My amazing man has gifted me with a new look for our online journal- right here!- as my Christmas gift a bit early.   I feel like I'm driving a Cadillac to have such a beautified blog!  Definitely not a NEED, but a delightfully received gift.


Thank you Darling!


And to Debi, at Blog Togs, it was a joy to work with you and have your brilliance create this new blog home for us.  Thank you so much!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

our own brother

I just came across this post about Sayed Mossa, a Christian brother in Afghanistan who has been imprisoned since May and is scheduled for execution soon because of his faith in Christ, his conversion from Islam.    Greear, the author of the linked post, gives several excellent steps we can take to intervene for this brother and I urge you to take action as he suggests, as I have.


It reminds me of a prayer that was said before a meal one time, when Matt and I were joining friends for dinner in their home.  The father prayed "Lord bless the ones that are so dear to us."  Yes, yes and Amen.... And what of the ones that are so dear to Him?  The ones we don't know, have never met, who might not have food to eat tonight or might be facing execution next week for the Name of Christ?   The ones that he spilled his blood for?  How about we step up our prayers, our action on behalf of the ones that He loves....  they are our brothers and sisters too.


I am compelled, convicted, honored, and humbled to pray more, to do more... to do something!


Lord move us so, for the ones that you love!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

a bundle of...

This bun that is half-risen in my belly (really, I have 20 more weeks to get bigger still!?) is a masterpiece.  An exquisitely precious bundle of countless prayers and thanks to God.  We could never wrap this little one up and call it done, but we'll try to put words to a few of the prayers and just a bit of the endless thanks we feel...


This life growing in me is a bundle of...


Thankfulness-  We do not take it for granted one moment that the Lord would give us a child, another child, like this.  Awestruck with Thanks.  


Wonder-  What an amazing thing that God does to create life in us, out of our love, like this.  Absolutely wonderful.


Joy-  We have never deserved a gift from God, this one included.  We are, assuredly unworthy and fantastically joyful recievers.


Gratefulness again-  Knowing the joy of parenthood already gives us a crystal picture of the joy (and struggles and prayers and good weariness) that lies ahead in this one.  


Expectation-  So fun to get to talk about this little one and stir together the flames of anticipation with our biggest two who are comprehending this little sibling with delightful clarity.  Who will K4 be?  So many dreams and questions and prayers...  


Prayer-  It is a breathtaking thing, the significance of pregnancy, the anticipation of birth.  We have been through it smoothly three times.  That is something that is honestly hard to think of when we consider how vast the possibilities are for difficulty and tragedy in this, and how some of those tragedies have touched lives so near  and so very dear to us.  (Our lives are not free of difficulty but our pregnancies largely have been- and we recognize this is enormous.)  From conception to well-past where we're at in this journey, parenthood is I believe- at least for me- the most humbling, emptying-me-of-strength, refining (and oh how I need this!) thread through my life.... and I feel like it's almost the only one sometimes.  Lots of refining, emptying, and grace strength needed and lots being poured in.  Grateful once again for such a requirement, such a driving demand to that most excellent work:  prayer. 


Trust & Humility- Courage to hope, to look ahead with peace, knowing that God will allow only what he will use for our good and for his glory is a desperate prayer of mine through every pregnancy.  Is there any time easier to worry?  Honestly with the possibilities here, stacked up with the hormones of pregnancy....  I've never been a better fretter.   This little one and all of me lay in my Father's hands....  the Master Potter.  Craft us as you will and give me trust and humility to know that You and all of your work is for our good.  


Eternity- Absolutely breathtaking it is to linger thoughts for a moment on the eternity begun in this life.  As we read from Matthew 6 about the treasures of earth being destroyed by moths and rust and thieves, I am overcome once more to know that this little life will go on for eternity.  Strikingly precious, enormously weighty, wonderful, eternal gift... Honestly, in my life I think I've heard far too little on how Christians should be lovers of life.  


Names- We took a long walk a week or so before our first was born rethinking our final decision on names.  I really wanted to honor my man's desire for names, but I just couldn't go through with that first choice. I got my pick and he's always kindly agreed to it.  For our second, I announced in a text message to friends something about "Praise the Lord for our beautiful daughter...." and I didn't tell her name.  It was his pick.  (I really love it now though- and I have always loved the Grandma behind it.) Our third was much easier and now we're up to #4.  I find myself thinking sometimes that we have another boy coming, and I like our boy name.  I'm confident for it and so is my man.  But our girls name, I am so in love with it that sometimes I hope that baby is a girl just so we can give this name to her. (Let alone the joy of having her.)


Balance?-  The gender question is a fun one almost daily for us.  Marian has the math all worked out correctly (shocking! and I don't remember helping her) to wonder if we'll be 3 and 3 or 4 and 2 (she counts mom and dad).   Matt and I know that we won't need even a second to adjust our hearts to either gender.  There will only be thrilled joy for knowing the Lord has chosen the perfect gift to add to our mix.  
    
     Matt and I, for the first time ever, really talked about maybe finding out the gender this time.  But it's also illegal to tell the gender here (because so many more baby girls would be aborted..... oh the horror.)    We could find out easily in the capital or possibly at a hospital across town, but now that we're here, we're chosing to go the birthday surprise route again.   


Siblings- I grew up in about as small a family as you can get.  It was me and my mom.  I sat on a friend's bed in 7th grade and marveled at the brothers and sisters that would tromp through her room, speak so comfortably (like an insider!) with her, tease her, love her.  Now I can't believe that I get to marvel at that same grace in my own children's lives.  Isaiah and Marian have kind of been stuck together since either of them was at a playable age (17 mo. apart).  But John... to see him have a choice of siblings to play with is absolutely incredible to me.   Magnificent!


Timing ~ Waiting-  It looks like a plan is shaping up for us for where we will go to give birth.  At least a month away from home waiting to meet this little one and get baby's passport before we head back.  With recent glimmers of what the next few months will probably hold for us, we are already looking forward to this month away as a time to be less busy and more involved in the simple, glorious, wonderfully exhausting work of growing this family... each of us in the Lord, and each together...  K4's due date has been moved back and back and back three times now.  This month away- cautiously, prayerfully placed around my possible due dates- will doubtless be a season of eagerness, waiting, and trying to rest our hearts in the One Who Knows.  We'll be eager to meet our little one and I'll bet we'll be itching to get back to our own home.  Another very good lesson of grace indeed.


And there's much more than just these few things wrapped up in this bundle... such a gift, so humbling, so exciting...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

broken bones rejoice

Paul Tripp writes this excellent post (excerpts below) on rejoicing in God's grace even in the midst of difficulty.  Dear friends of ours linked to this article in a heart-crushing post on their blog, telling how they held "their" baby boy, met the mother who courageously gave birth to him, and then were shockingly turned away and sent home without this baby whom they had flown across the country to bring into their lives.


We love you and we are praying for you Matt and Laura.  We are praying these words will be made true in you and in us...


"If you’re confused about what God’s agenda is in your life, or if it doesn’t always seem like his promises are being fulfilled, then this strange little prayer from Psalm 51 is helpful and clarifying. In his psalm of repentance after his sin against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah, David writes this provocative little prayer, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” 


"Although our greatest personal need is to live in a life-shaping relationship with the Lord, as sinners we have hearts that have a propensity to wander. We very quickly forget God and begin to put ourselves or some aspect of the creation in his place. We soon forget that he’s to be the center of everything we think, desire, say and do. We easily lose sight of the fact that our hearts were designed for him and that the deep sense of well-being which all of us seek can only be found in him.


We very rapidly forget or ignore the powerfully addicting dangers of sin and think we can step over God’s boundaries without personal and moral cost. We think we are stronger than we really are and wiser than we actually prove to be. We assess that we have character, discipline and strength that we don’t really have. So God, in the beauty of his redeeming love, will “break our bones.” He will bring us through difficulty, suffering, want, sadness, loss and grief in order to ensure that we are living in pursuit of the one thing that each of us desperately needs—him.
It’s time for each of us to embrace, teach, and encourage others with the broken-bone theology of uncomfortable grace. Because as long as each of us still has sin living in us, producing a propensity to forget and wander, God’s grace will come to us in uncomfortable forms. 
So, if you are God’s child, if you’ve ever prayed that God would be near you and would do what he has promised in and for you, then resist the temptation to doubt his goodness in the middle of your moment of stress. It’s time for you and me to stop thinking that we are going through difficulty because Satan is winning or God is punishing us. If you are God’s child and you humbly recognize and admit that the battle with sin still rages in your heart, then tell yourself that those difficulties are the sure sign of his rescuing and redemptive love."

Monday, November 15, 2010

downtown

We live in a magnificently cool city for history lovers, with the ancient city wall still surrounding the inner part of the city, protecting the neighborhood of one old dynasty's military headquarters.  To be sure, there are a plenty of fancy pants shops in the downtown district.... zillion dollar diamonds, purses and perfumes.  And then not more than a block or two walk away is this area that we love.


Here are a few shots, all from Matt.











By the way, our ecotour company is getting closer to launch day for the web site.  We'll link to it once it's up and you'll be able to see many more fantastic shots of local geography, people, cultures there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

the boy likes dirt

What can we do?  John has snuck at least three big mouthfuls of dirt in the past month or two.  Here's how the process went with dad last month...



Sunday, November 7, 2010

the playground next door

I've mentioned before that I miss that we don't have a backyard to just throw open the door for the kids to play.  But if we did, we sure wouldn't have this beauty to play on there!  This place is so worth packing up the bat and balls and tromping a few minutes away to play at.  Only about 6-7 weeks ago we found this incredible playground tucked away in the back of the apartment complex next to us.  It's set up like a three story castle, seven slides! and ropes to climb,  and usually it's a really light crowd here.  We're so grateful for such a treat as this!









This is her "don't look at me" face... not very polite.... we're working on it.  

observing a lady bug on the slide







Friday, November 5, 2010

Iron Sharpens

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17


Iron sharpens when it smacks hard.  This is tough news I think.... but once again, GOOD.  I need this good, tough grace at work in me:  smacking the pride and selfishness and narrow-mindedness that need to be whittled down.... no, that need to be mortified in me.  
On Sunday I shared about my difficult afternoon the day before (see the post below) with a friend and I caught her at a bad time.  She's iron though, I know that, solid and strong, and I do need and want to hear from her, learn from her.  But this was a down day for her.  She was really emotional (she’s admitted it since.)  And I identify well with tears and confusion and lots of emotion.  I’m pregnant.
We talked for a few minutes and then moved on to chat with others and then before we went home, my husband mentioned that I probably should go talk again with this friend.... that’s when the tears were flowing and emotions evident.  She shared with me how hard my struggle for peace, a submitted, gracious heart was for her to hear about.  She said several hard things.  We prayed for each other and for our friendship, I prayed for clarity for her- if there was a way I had offended her?  a specific to repent of? any specific thing I could do to encourage her? - and then we finally headed home.  The kiddos were wasted.  
The next few days I tried to sort through her words to me- what was right, what was true, what did I need to hear?  Then I decided, I don’t need to dwell on everything she said if some of it really seemed off base (my husband and another mentor both agreed- not quite true.)  In prayer I felt really convicted that I don’t need to hang myself on logic.  I need to pray for grace eyes, grace words, communicate love and acceptance to her, and receive Christ’s love and acceptance for me, despite my weakness and sin, because of his cross.


So... the gladness I write this whole post for is to say that there has been GRACE REAPED out of this hard discussion already. 
I really can’t think of the specific words she said, but I have been affected by our conversation to handle my heart more lightly when I see people reaching to pull my kids in close.  Kids really are tough, resillient!  Sometimes they’re not bothered by this kind of attention/ affection.  (Sometimes they are, and I will be there to lovingly protect them.)    My eyes are on them and they can handle a fair bit and I won’t let things get crazy, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who was truly out to harm our kids.  Yea, local reactions of amazement to see foreign kids, and their efforts for friendliness can be a bit much for kids or adults to bear sometimes...
BUT I want to flex not just within my American flesh... not just accept as much as is tolerable to my American self.  I want to adjust, submit my heart for all that the Gospel allows.  Bend around the norms here as much as I can in wisdom and humility do for the sake for my King of Grace, for the sake of teaching my kids to love others, and for myself to be able to take deep joy and be refreshed by short or long interactions with these neighbors, onlookers and friends.  
This is a hard battle still.  I’ve written this post to mainly boast in the Lord’s grace to work through these hard words from a friend.  (...Not delivered well, not initially received well, but He is using them well!)  But I also still want to share with you, in this and the post below, so that you can understand what we face here.  I’ve got this (perhaps dumb?) thing about being understood and I want to help you “get” where we’re at.  I’m not trying to moan and groan, “woe to us!,” but instead to invite you:  “please pray for us.... that in the midst of this, the Gospel would ring out bright and clear and fragrant!”  

Honestly, knowing the difficulty of the battle and seeing his grace victorious in us will make it a brighter victory, I think, than having the mistaken notion that this is easy, and we could thrive here on our own, apart from any intervention of grace.  Not so.  We are clumsily, falteringly, clamoring after this prize... "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  (Phil 3: 14)  


Though grieving, limping maybe, we rejoice in these trials, that the "tested genuineness of our faith.... may be found to result in praise and glory and honor"  (1 Peter 1:7)....  We ARE victors in Christ!  (Thanks D!) And Victory in this battle- or any battle, really-  is simply not because of us.  It is all from, all for Him.  (Phew!)

Thanks friends, for "listening," for coming alongside us to understand this battle for us and to pray...  We love you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

a thorn in my American flesh

I think that probably most suffering is something that people feel alone in at one time or another.  The daily climate we live in here- “trying to sleep, standing up, with our eyes open,” as I’ve heard one friend describe- or trying to thrive in, humbly serve, and lovingly enjoy this beautiful and worlds different from me culture that we’re submersed in, is really hard.  I’ve tried to share bits here, but mostly it seems like I’ll never do the issue justice.  I don’t feel like I could ever convince anyone who hasn’t lived here- no, who hasn’t raised young children here- of the depth of difficulty there is in this endeavor.  But still I want to try to share about it.... even though it feels risky.
If cultural difficulties are this hard... is it worth it?  Entirely.  There is great gladness for that assurance.  We’re not packing our bags because this is difficult.  “Life is war.”  I would not be satisfied to simply live pursuing my own comfort.  This is tough, and I want to be ok with that.  It hurts and it’s hard but it IS worth it.  
Our “little handsome guy” and “foreign doll,” as they are called everywhere we go, have been hearing from me recently a lesson that we all wish we didn’t have to teach our kids but we do.   “Stay close to mama.  I don’t want you to get lost from me, and I don’t want anyone to take you away from me.”  
It’s a hard call:  how to encourage our kids to love and enjoy and serve the people around us, let them pinch their faces, pet their hair (their skin and hair and eye color are continually marveled at), and still promote a healthy sense of self protection.  Keep in mind, they are 4.5 and 3 years old.  That’s a lot for them to wisely discern!  I yearn for freedom and confidence in motherhood to throw the doors wide open to everyone around us here.... to lavishly love everyone we see, to be willing to simply stand there and be poked and prodded and keep smiling, but in my experience at least so far, only so much is possible.  Sometimes I keep my eyes locked on my kids, with the plain intent of avoiding our onlookers.  Oh, OH for grace!
On Saturday, the kids and I were buying veggies at the stand near the front gate of our complex.  We’re there often and they know where they can play and where they can wait for me while I gather our goods.  As I was handing 12 yuan ($1.60) to the seller, Isaiah came running in to tattle “Marian just spit at an ayi” (a lady.)  
I discussed it a bit with my girl, asking too few questions, and she confessed, it was true.  She knew she would be disciplined for it.  
At home, daddy did the hard work and as she was learning from him, Isaiah came again to tell me, “that Ayi told Marian she was going to take her away...  Take her to the ayi’s house.”  
I’m broken.  How did I miss hearing that whole story from my girl?  She was wrong to spit at that woman.... but a fair bit more compassion should have been shown to her.  In my culture, that woman was very wrong to say such a thing to a 3 year old girl sitting, waiting for her mama.   Oh my girl!  How is that good?  I know it sounds cute to the lady, fun for her to see my girl’s reaction.  But for my little girl??  I’m not willing to lay her down and sacrifice her on the altar of “appropriate cross-cultural living.”.... so how do I do this successfully!?  
(I know that answer.... If there’s any “success” at all, I know it will be pure grace.  I canNOT do this....)
Right after we left the veggie stand, the kids and I were playing inside our courtyard area, chatting with a few neighbors.  Two women walked by and one of them grabbed Marian's arm, trying to pull her close so she could look at Marian, hold her.  This woman was not. letting. go. and Marian was doing all she could to pull away from the stranger.  
I called out, "please don't touch her" (yes, I know, I should have said something more eloquent, but the Chinese wasn't coming to me in that moment).  Still she didn't let go.  I called out again.  Her friend heard me, but STILL, she’s pulling Marian, chuckling now at my girl because she's in tears and the woman thought that was cute.   I'm holding John, nearly half-rounded pregnant, and I didn't make it to run the 15 yards to where they were.  I just yelled at her.  
"Please don't touch her!"  She finally let go and Marian ran to me.  I called out trying to sound kind, smiling sheepishly.... "sorry, maybe you couldn't hear me earlier?  She's afraid... Please excuse me.   Please excuse me. We've got to go....."  and we walked home.  
THAT is not what I’m here to be doing.
I don't want to loose my cool.  I don't want to shame a neighbor, be too quick to anger.  But my girl was SCARED.  For all I could see, she was being hurt.  I can’t, I won’t stand by for that.  
When we got home, Matt talked with both the big kids about polite things they can say to someone in that situation.... and Marian replied, "but Mama said that for me."  Hearing her confidence that I would be there for her and that I would protect her was probably the most encouraging thing to me that day.  
I hated that moment. Hated that I yelled at that woman but even more hated that my daughter was being held in that scary situation.  It was awful and I know, as Matt has gently shared with me, it might not have been as extreme as I saw it then or as it plays back in my pregnant heart and head, but it was bad.  And it is only miraculous grace that will see me through these types of situations often.  


Come, encouragement, peace! for raising our kids with the heart and skill and understanding to trust that people wanting to look closely at them is not a bad thing.  Come gracious confidence, come humble submission, come wisdom!  Give graciously, Lord!
Thorn in my flesh.  I've come to serve these people!  To love!  To humble myself, prefer them above myself, to demonstrate Christ's grace.  The culture my brain is stuck in is NOT better than this culture. The Hope and Grace, Love and Truth of the Gospel are the only good in any culture, and in some aspects of living, that standard can be distilled from Chinese or American culture.  But not all... There are different demonstrations of hospitality and kindness (giving lots of what I call “pushy” advice is seen as kindness here) and they are both valid.  I don’t want to excuse a sinful, awful heart and actions simply because I’m not used to or don’t prefer things like they are.
Saturday was hard for me.  I think I truly felt my most broken ever over this thorn.  I’ve been angry before (sadly, too often), but Saturday I was broken- felt like I might just have to stay indoors for a month... or six.  
On Sunday, however, the difficulty was complicated, compounded a little bit.  But I’ll write about that in the next post.  This is one is nearly long enough to count as a thorn in the flesh for you to read! :)  Thanks for listening and for praying for us dear friends.   You are deeply treasured!