Wednesday, January 26, 2011

online gifts to share

We've recently been introduced to and come across some really wonderful finds online and we want to share them with you.

First:  "You've Got the Time," Dramatized ESV New Testament read as a podcast that's available for free on iTunes.   The group that put it out has arranged it in chunks (i.e. Matthew 1-7, 8-12) so that you can listen to one each day and finish listening to the NT in 40 days.  And so far, the dramatization that we've heard is very well done.  So grateful for this!!

Second:  For you overseas families like us, consider yourselves the recipient of a fantastic online library card.  Thanks Alycia for this tip!  I love this site!!  You can read any of these great books they've got up on their site for free... and each time you read a book, you can select a charity cause to which the site hosts to donate a book.  That's the deal.  Pretty great, eh?  So excited to have this wonderful gift in our home.  Our home library has just quadrupled!

Third:  Joelee Chamberlain.  So happy to have heard of this sweet Grandma's Bible stories from you, Darcy.  Ms. Chamberlain has 19 tracks recorded (half hour overviews, usually going over a book of the Bible) that are available for free download here at Sermon Audio.  They're not super professional level recordings but they're super sweet, and very well told.

Such great (FREE!) gifts to enjoy!  We are so grateful!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

they woke up with a plan

It's been a good, busy week here.  Matt's semester of business classes finally finished, we had 20+ guests for dinner/ dessert in our home, the first days of no class to work on lots of projects around our new place, and a our first house guest who stayed with us for the past 5 days.  All of it has been good, but I think we're all a bit worn out today.  Isaiah and Marian and I are ill:  they slept 5 hour naps today and tossed everything up along the way.  I'll be glad for this business to finish quickly!

We've had some special, simple moments... actually many more than I got pictures of.  I didn't get a single shot of any of our friends here with us!  But here's a few of our sweet moments at play or rest... 

One evening at bedtime, Isaiah and Marian got it in their minds that they needed to build a bunkbed for the babies and they would use leftover cardboard from the castle for it.  In the morning it was the only thing they cared about.... a very important project for them.   But somehow, a tea party got slipped in first.

When Daddy brought home a new roll of packing tape they all constructed this beauty, much to everyone's pleasure.  The babies are sleeping very well, I'm told.  

And even K4 was in the spotlight for a time, receiving expert medical attention and lots of love.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

two guards at the door

My dear friend and blog-mentor, Ann, has invited us to write about words.  It's a good push to gather my thoughts and experiences recently as I've been paying closer attention to my own.  The tongue.... my tongue: fire-starter or overflowing storehouse of goodness?  

I'm a verbal processor.  I like to tell stories and I really like (ok, too often I feel like I need) people to understand my stories, understand my heart in telling them.  I've known this for years.  But only recently have I caught on to one special feature of this craziness...

Sometimes I get pretty heated up if I feel like my point is not understood, my heart not heard.  My wonderful love is not a man who tends to be quick with words.  And sometimes if I'm telling him what happened in a day, or what I'm fearing might be, and I don't hear enough verbal feedback from him..... suddenly, sadly, my words can turn up a level- the intensity, the urgency, the passionate "need" to be understood- and the story becomes more than it is or really needs to be.  And to be honest, sometimes my story stays hot like this until I'm agreed with. Ug.  That's an I-really-wish-it-wasn't-the-case confession, not a proud boast.

The craziness flows quick.  My words come faster than feelings sometimes, or at least I hear my words before I am aware of my feelings.  When my words expand around some proud ambition inside me, it's no good at all for my heart.

Jesus said it's from the heart that the mouth speaks.  So, there, the true bottom line.  I know my heart is set, fueled, raring to go, but somehow hearing my own uncontrolled words, my own frustrated voice, knowing my face has slumped angry, feels like permission or an excuse for my heart to leap into an all-the-more wild race after untruth.

But there is a very good part to this lesson:  to be self-controled with my words and especially how my words are communicated (my voice and face) is going a long way to control my heart to stay to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable... It's finally occurred to me that if I can control the tone of my voice and the character displayed on my face, then my heart stays anchored worlds better and it doesn't get the chance to race so far into its sinful selfishness.  With these two guards in place, choosing wise words and sincerely communicating them is infintely easier.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:3

Maybe it has something to do with my first line of attack:  choosing to engage my brain (selecting words) or engage my heart (choosing gentleness and love)?  Of course I'll have to choose good words to speak, but if it's already decided that I will say whatever those words are with a calm, peaceful, loving voice, then triumph is near, the battle feels almost already won.... at least it does for me.   When my heart is guarded, constrained, controlled (instead of flung on the waves of any ole' worldly passion or pregnant compulsion).... the words that will flow out of it will be much more full of Christ.  

So this seems to be how things are working for me lately.  Aiming my attack on my brain- to wisely select words- has left me feeling like a hypocrite and usually hardly helps.  On the other hand, determining that I am not allowed to raise my voice, speak unkindly, or give angry, disapproving, disappointed eyes has narrowed the range of possibilities not only for the words that come out, but also for my heart that reacts to the words that it hears.  

We are not there yet, folks.  I have a long way to go in strengthening these self-control muscles.  But praise be to the Lord, I'm finding much grace in attending to these two guards, setting the tone of my voice and displaying Christ's grace on my face, to guide and guard my tongue to pour out only good, strengthening, life-giving words.

Oh please make it so Lord, in your grace, for your praise!

Friday, January 14, 2011

new home, new castle

Our new home is a great blessing to us and we hope it will be to many more too.  We have the largest patio that I've ever seen attached to a private apartment in China (how is it we could be so blessed!?)  Every week a small bag is filled of litter that's dumped on it from workers and neighbors in the 12 floors above us but we'll gladly pick it up for the joy this space is!  The rent is a bit cheaper than expected, and our complex is across the street from very dear friends.  Such grace for us!

It's been cold and the patio was even covered in a few inches of snow for several days... and when there's only dusty dirty cement outside it hasn't proven quite enough motivation to get us out of the house very often lately.  I look forward to a tiny bit warmer weather when we can make the most of this great cement space and new area to play!
 Another great blessing was that everything from our last place smoothly found a new place in our new home.  We've needed to buy very little to get this place running well.  We did have to get a fridge and washing machine (ug!) but besides that our only needed things were this little hutch (less kitchen shelves here, $11 at a local used furniture market- not sure if I'll paint it or try to stain it?) and two bath tub bins for the kiddos.  Everything else fit just right!

The Family Room/sometimes guest room is also the lego room/ DVD room and it's put to great use every day.  Isaiah sometimes spends hours in here diligently creating Cair Paravel or an army of archers on horseback with swords. 

As soon as we moved in a very kind and little bit flamboyant neighbor arrived with this beautiful orchid as a housewarming gift.  It's way more stunning than I would ever have spent money on for our own home!  All we can think of to return the kindness is to bring him a plate of brownies... we're still working on a better plan though.  Matt is confident he's going to be a fun friend.  

Our dear friend and Marian's classmate (and currently her intended husband) came to visit.  Don't you love how well they're hiding from the seeker?

And the appliance boxes have been put to good use:  A castle complete with two lookout towers.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

we're back online!

Soon after Christmas our home started dwindling before our eyes.  Everything was chaotically delivered to the new place by noon on the 31st and then we got to wake up to a new year in our new home. 

Matt and I hit the Unpack Battle hard and we finished, albeit a bit disorganized at that point, in just about 48 hours.  (A new record!)  And this new home...  truly a gift.  I've had really mixed emotions about leaving our old place but this home is without doubt a great place for our family.  Even if we only get to live here one year (all our landlord was willing to confirm in the contract) it will be a good year to have this patio where the kids can play while I'm busy with the little one....  so, so grateful!

We've already had several guests... and this morning, just like Isaiah prayed for, we got to have our Sun AM gathering here.  Joy for all of us to share our home with these great friends.  We look forward to many many more friends in our home.  And now too, to be able to share with all of you- who we miss!- now that we're back online...  again we're so terribly grateful for internet and even more, for you!

more soon...