Saturday, February 26, 2011

If Stickers Were a Love Language

... and even if they aren’t, this is one well-loved little babe.  We are all so excited to meet our littlest one in just about a month now.  
Isaiah likes to land a good kiss on my tummy every now and then and he tries to explain the matter to John.  He points to my belly and tells John “Baby.”  But clearly this little guy is in for a huge surprise when Baby arrives.  
We’ve never had more of a “mama’s child.”  John is the cuddliest snuggler of our big three and the enormous protrusion in my middle does not deter him in the least from wanting to sit straight in the center of my lap, even with his neck bent out, head laid back on my chest.   This pic makes me laugh every time I see it and I honestly expect it to be at least a bit prophetic of John’s initial emotions when meeting K4.  

This was the first shot we got of Isaiah meeting his little sister....  perhaps there will be some resemblance?  

Far more than these tough first few days of transition (especially for John!), we really look forward to our kids  growing in sweet, deep friendship!  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Color of Smog and Smiles

Maybe this is just a symptom of winter... winter in a polluted city?  Color seems nearly gone from the scene.  The sky is usually grayish brown and most everything is some shade of the same.  Even tree leaves and grass (in spots where you find it) are mostly layered in soot from burnt something (often something toxic, like plastic) that people gave up in efforts to be warm.  

The only usual exception within our apartment complex is kids.... Their clothes and laughter and smiles.  We’ve met some fantastic new kids recently and they sure do sparkle like gems against this drab background!   This week we've been gifted three new friends, fun kids in our complex... hopefully I can get some more pics of these new friends soon.  




Thursday, February 17, 2011

SILK ROAD ECOTOURS!

My husband has been diligently working on a Masters in Business (he just finished a statistics course in Chinese!) and language study (every day our brains are swirling, studying our 3rd language and hoping to keep it straight from the 2nd).  He's a fantastic husband and dad and friend and he's becoming a real businessman to top it all off!  I'm so proud of my man.


This company will hopefully grow into a great way for us to live and work here (hoping to be on a business visa once Matt graduates from the current student visa arrangement), introduce new people to this land and these people, and be a blessing to local people where we are and in less commercial/urban areas too.


Take a look if you get a chance-


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday

We all love trying to make it outside for some family time together on Sundays.....  
 Our new apartment complex has a great playground.... 
So Grateful!

And isn't Matthew doing great with his photography?  These are all his shots. I don't have the patience that our new camera requires but I'm so glad he does!


 the half dozen of us... with the littlest one still inside, 
but not for long now! :)
 Isaiah and his waggy tongue!  I love this goofball!

And Saturday...  I think our little man has turned the verbal corner.  He's been saying several words for a while now (We've woken up to "I oooove uuuu" a few times recently) but yesterday he seemed to add to his word repertoire exponentially.   When our Chinese friend left our home, I told him "John, say goodbye to Ayi (Auntie)" and he translated it...  "Zaijian!"..... And then he looked at our other guest who was across the table from him and said to this friend in his minority language "Hosh."  That's 'goodbye' in three languages.  Pretty good for the 20 month mark!  We delight in the Lord's grace in our kids' lives and learning! 

And finally...  here's K4 at 33 weeks

Saturday, February 12, 2011

update on our littlest one

(Note:  I've tried to make this post flow straight for you, but my pregnant head isn't lining things up very well...  thanks for flexing/flowing with me here!)

First, here's the big thing:  God's provision for our birth plan.  

We have been praying for months for the Lord's leading and provision for where to have this sweet baby that's growing in me.   We knew He wouldn't leave us hanging, but time isn't long now and we have three big kids (if almost 5yo and under count as big!) to plan for along with the zillions of other very weighty medical, cultural, financial, logistic, timing factors to consider.     

I am a passionate believer that the birth of a baby should be beautiful.  It should be.  I know it isn't always but I believe we're wired to hope deeply for life, to hope urgently and desperately for beauty in life from the start.  It makes the grief of when a birth isn't beautiful all the worse, but we persist to hope still.   For my longing for a peaceful, beautiful birth, it just won't work to go to a local hospital.  

The plan that the Lord has provided for the birth of our wildly loved K4 is both beautiful and humblingly, trust-demanding.  

My best friends in town have all told me that our city rates as "not very modern" among China's cities (still, we've got 7 million people!) and I think it shows the clearest in its hospitals.  I've visited four in the past few months and none of them has left be smiling.  Smoky waiting rooms, disgusting bathrooms, more people than I thought would fit, no men (fathers) allowed in the communal delivery rooms, very poor facilities, very high c-section rates and even higher infection rates with it, and medical practices that I simply have a very hard time accepting, submitting to (that honestly seem downright wrong a lot of times.)

I love China and I want to live here long, serve here humbly and joyfully.  And to aid toward this end, we decided to try all we could to find housing in the capital to be able to deliver at the private hospital there where May and John were born.  But only a few doors looked open, and eventually all of them have closed completely.  

The past month or two we've prayed more and more that the Lord would make us open, possibly to something new, something we hadn't been looking for.  We were imagining going to some strange city where we didn't know anyone....  or, we didn't know what to imagine.

But then came the unexpected message back from a friend, the wonderful midwife who delivered Marian: "I have a friend who is interested in coming."   I cried when I blubbered to Matt on the phone, "Even if this ends up being another closed door, I'm so encouraged to know that this is even a possibility for us."

And the possibility is becoming reality.  This sweet midwife has purchased tickets to fly around the world mid March to deliver our baby here.  She had the perfect gap in clients at her midwifery practice in the states and she'll be staying with us for about a month and assisting with another birth of an ex-pat friend who is due 3 days before me. 

I tremble every time I think of it:  that the Lord would answer our prayers so generously as to provide this graciously! That she would fly this far, stay this long, for us, for this precious little one (and one more)! And every time I pray for this, I cannot help but pray that this birth would somehow bring more life along with it.... salvation life for friends near us here.  I'm asking the Lord for grace that somehow they would hear and see God work in this birth, see Him set Himself before their eyes as True Life, Giver, Lord that He is...  We pray it will be so.  

I know there will be some of you who, out of love and concern for us, will disagree with our decision to have a homebirth here.  It's true, local backup care is enormously undesirable and we hope not to need it, but if we do, we will trust the Lord to lead us through that too.  (Babies are born here all the time.  It can be done!)  We are grateful for your love and we have peace to go with what the Lord has miraculously made possible for us and what we believe he has provided for us for good purpose.  

There is no other circumstance in my life where I have felt that there is More. Trust. Needed.  I'm glad for that.  We So Need God.  

We are awed, humbled, desperate, delighted, grateful beyond words, and eager as can be to meet this precious little baby!  Thank you for your hopeful anticipation too and for your prayers with us and for us!

Here are a few more random pregnancy tidbits:

Last week I bought something for our littlest one- the very first, the only thing yet:  a pack of itsy-bitsy newborn diapers. It's so exciting to think that this little one will be arriving soon!  Less than 7 weeks now...  (actually, I'm mostly counting the days till Kara's arrival (Mar 12) - anytime after that is good!)

I had high hopes for this, my last pregnancy, that we would get a picture each week, but it hasn't happened.... at all.  I think we have to get some shots here before long so we can take them into the embassy along with baby's passport application, to prove that this little one really came out of me! 

Supposedly varicose veins are common on ankles during pregnancy but I'm quite sure my ankle could win awards...  "The Most Discolored Ankle" I've ever seen anywhere, on anyone.  Truly.  I've had a few days that the veins have lightened considerably so I'm choosing to be optimistic that they won't remain quite this dark/ severe post-birth. Yikes!

Calories feel hard to come by here.  Either for my idea of wanting to eat somewhat healthily (local snacks don't work) or for tiredness to bake another batch/loaf of... I'm very often, very hungry.    (This mama just can't quite fill my tank with fruit and raisins.)  I think I've gained about half as much weight as I did when I was pregnant with Isaiah in the states.  This little one feels like a wiggly brick tucked into the front of me.  Solid.  

And oh.... we are so grateful, so excited to meet this wiggler!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

my horn

I often write about Ann Voskamp, what she has written or invited others to write with her.  Sometimes when I share about it on our blog I have certain friends in mind that I think would most enjoy whatever post it is....  but today, her post is really for everyone.


I won't even try to sum it up for you, I just so hope you'll read and enjoy for yourself.  Honestly, a few lines in, I was wondering if it might end up being a fairly silly (cheesy) post?  But gladly, positively, I was wrong.  It was wonderful.


Ann hung a horn on her wall for the lesson she learned.... and I printed up an old song that came to mind.  These lyrics are posted on the wall near our table now, where I'll be reminded often to sing them loud, sing them bold to proclaim all this goodness to myself and to my kids.


May it ring loud like a glad horn in our daily fight for joy!  

I Give Thanks

(Brian Thiessen, Vineyard Music)
      You have shown me favour unending 
      You have given Your life for me 
      And my heart knows of Your goodness 
      Your blood has covered me 
        I will arise and give thanks to You Lord my God And Your name I will bless With my whole heart You have shown mercy You have shown mercy to me I will give thanks to You, Lord 
      You have poured out Your healing upon us You have set the captives free And we know it is not what we’ve done But by Your hand alone
        We will arise and give thanks to You Lord our God And Your name we will bless With our whole heart You have shown mercy You have shown mercy to us We will give thanks to You, Lord 

Monday, February 7, 2011

bits of the New Year


wrapping jiaozi with these most pretty folds is called "wrapping little mice"
jiaozi... the yummy dumplings that you must eat to celebrate the new year
my dear friend An Mei showing the kids a fun application she had on her phone
An Mei's family...  this dear friend will probably be a helper we call on around the time of K4's arrival.



Every time we gather with friends (at their place or ours) Marian asks if everyone will please sit down to watch her dance at least one song for them.  This time her dance was topped off with a duo with daddy.

These are our extravagant friends who invited us to a FEAST in their home at 10 am.  Being pregnant, I had finished my first breakfast, but I wasn't quite ready for a second breakfast like this!  The meal went on and on and on.... complete with boiled Coke.  


The friends (above) gave us these vegetable paste patties (on Marian's plate) and these fen tiao special noodles...  neither one did we expect to enjoy as much as our local friends would, so we took them to a friends house to learn from them how to prepare these things.... and let them enjoy these delicacies.

Usually, Marian talks about one day marrying Isaiah's best buddy Hudson, but recently, this guy has moved up to the lead marriage candidate.  Xie Zi Lin (whose back is on the left, his mom is by Marian) was a classmate of Marian's in her preschool and a favorite friend of all of us at the reading nights we hosted at our old place.  


Our goofy guests from Beijing brought lots of fireworks to share.



And a few more scattered sweet spots from this week:

Our verse this week at the table is Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Marian almost always launches into a solo of her own arrangement of words and lines from "In Christ Alone" when we come to the end of the verse.  I Love It. (Love her!)


Isaiah is becoming one diligent and devoted artist.  It's shocking to both Matt and I how his skill has developed in the past few months (he really only started drawing last May) and we're amazed at the attention and ambition he shows for his artwork.  He did not get it from either of us, but we're loving watching him grow in this creative skill!

Daddy has decided that some of John's bad moods lately have been because of his hair.  If Matt walks into the room to see a crying boy, he picks him up and heads straight for the bathroom to give him a sprinkle up top and a style to be proud of.  I think it's honestly worked more times than not to cheer up our sweetheart and everyone of us smile for a good-looking' do on our boy.  (bad shot, but you get the idea)


and the randomness ends here :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy New Year! Holy Day?

"Congratulations.  May you have wealth!"  This is as common a greeting here as "Merry Christmas" in the west in December, and really, what else is "merry" these days?  It's the year of the rabbit now and the turn on the calendar has not passed without a war-zone envying load of gunpowder (in the form of fireworks) and probably enough jiaozi to feed each world citizen at least a few.


Here's the view we woke up to Thursday morning... 

7am, downstairs from our place





the air was thick with the smell and dingy grayness of ash

fireworks are always wrapped in red paper... the color of blessing


The fireworks here are absolutely amazing.  They are beautiful and they are LOUD.  There's the quantity (we heard the average home here spends approximately 3,000 quai ($450 USD) on fireworks for this celebration.  Not sure that could be correct though.  That's a good bit more than a month of rent for us here!) and the incredible scariness/ foolishness of shooting them off:  little kids running between huge piles of missel-type shooters and crackers thrown onto sidewalks bustling with pedestrians or inches from homes.   There were over 1,600 reported injuries from firecrackers in 2010.   But I need to be humbled if I'm going to try to wrap my heart around this issue for a country who's had gunpowder in its veins since the very beginning...  


Watching these festive displays does leave me wondering, questioning again, the point of all of it.  Is this holiday simply about fireworks and food?  And I'm not poking on China...  I wonder it all the more about the way that we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter.


Honestly, is there much meaning to these celebrations in our own home besides maybe a token Bible passage reading and/or church service, food, and whatever the cultural norms are... usually, when I was growing up, including a fair portion of time in front of the TV(as if it was of great importance!)?  I don't mean to rag on this....  but might there be more to a day (or days!) of holy celebration?


Since November, when I read about the first Thanksgiving celebrations with the Native Americans near Plymouth, how the pilgrims celebrated several days of feasting and sports and fun with their local friends, I've wondered what a holy celebration should look like.  In December, Ann Voskamp wrote about ways of celebrating Christmas in a way less dictated by western cultural norms and more thoroughly saturated with Christ.   God seems quite concerned that his people celebrate worthy days well.  But what does that look like for us?


Reading through much of the Old Testament, the Torah, it's clear that God gives worthy celebrations and weekly rest as an evident mark that sets his people apart as blessed, as His.  And its good news already that our God cares that we rest and be glad, and if it brings him pleasure and glory too...  I really need to figure out how to live there better, how to celebrate holy days well.   


And while I'm at it, I want to pursue growing in actively celebrating every day...  aren't they all holy gifts, never to be repeated, beginnings of eternity?


I have much to learn, much to explore.  I'm going to dig around a little bit and hopefully gather others' wiser thoughts on the discipline of holy feasts and maybe also fasts (they were both commanded).  A most magnificent season is coming and I so want our family to celebrate it fully, excellently, joyfully, worshipfully... in a way that others might see His joy and blessing in us and us in Him.


We are so blessed that our God wants us to be a people of holy celebration... After all, we were made in his image and he is a holy, celebratory, worship-worthy God.  Belonging to him, we have every reason to celebrate.  Lord teach us to do it well for your glory!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

stocked up

Happy Chinese New Year!  


(warning~ this post is super uninmportant.... just thought I'd share an odd slice of life here!)

We have several guests with us in the next few days (one already here, two more coming to stay, and hopefully more for visits scattered over these days) and all the local groceries are closed.  Our local produce vendors are all gone for 6 days!  So...  we've stocked up.  Good thing my man is such a generous, servant hearted, fantastically strong husband.... he carried home LOTS of food for us a few days ago.  

  • 5 kg of rice (we were low),
  • 3 boxes of milk,
  • a quart of oil (which the vendor assured Matt with deep concern would positively never be enough for a family for the entire the week of holidays.  We just don't use oil like they do here!!),  
  • 10+ pounds of fruit (you've got to have lots to serve guests and it's a staple for us anyways)
  • 10 pounds of potatoes (our guest's favorite American food is mashed potatoes and I think he ate 5 potatoes worth last night!),
  •  and 7-8 pounds in assorted veggies
  • Good thing we had just bought our big bag of flour for the month!  (We were also stocked with our faithful few from the import store- so grateful for that!)  

Random veggie side note:  Auntie Heather, thanks so much for introducing us to Ants on a Log last fall... we've become deeply devoted fans of the celery, PB and raisins combo!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

tonight's pics

Bath-time in the new tubs...




For us, bathtime basically always means a tea party and even the boys enjoy it.




Grandma, you can kind-of see the nail stickers you found for her.  She *loves* her pretty fingers. Thank you!