Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Genius Diaper Challenge


We were generously gifted a large set of Bum Genius Diapers for Vivi's birth and though I was a bit hesitant as we waited for them, I am truly a committed fan now.  

I feared the poop, the laundry, the diaper pail, the leaking.  I'm sure I don't need to explain that poop is never fun.  It's the least fun part of cloth diapers for sure.  But the stink stays in the diaper pail (which washes easily) and I've had far less leaks on both our big guy and our baby girl while wearing Bum Genius diapers than when we've used disposables.  And even the poop messes pay off well when we're saving lots of money every day, saving loads of trash from the earth, and snuggling our kiddos in cotton instead of whatever that absorbo-junk is in the disposables.  


Now, to be clear, I am absolutely stress-free about using these cloth diapers because we still do use disposables when needed (sorry, environment).   If I'm a bit behind on laundry, if we're going out, or if all four of our kids are needing me and I just don't want to scrub out anything- then I don't.  EASY as that. 


Another huge perk is that I love this company.  I love Cotton Babies.  Not only is the super quality Bum Genius line their own product (they also sell a huge range of cool baby items), but the company has several programs to assist families which I really admire and appreciate.  I know that Cotton Babies really is out to help families and not simply to cut-throat and make their own profit.  


So finally... (thanks for making it this far!) Here's the Challenge:  

If you are having a baby or know a friend who will soon, why not considering registering or suggesting your friend register for Bum Genius diapers at Cottonbabies.com?   Honestly American's, you can find great, cute second-hand clothes easily at Once Upon A Child or get dozens of things handed down to you if you make the need known to the right kind of generous people.  I have girlfriends that dress their kids as cute as can be all from garage sale finds and I bet their average price tag is $1.50.  So plan on dressing your kids yourself and just ask for cloth diapers as your baby shower gifts.  Then the money that you save from disposable diapers (probably at  least $40 per month) can be wisely invested, saved, or given to more worthwhile things.   And there are zillions of things more worthwhile than diapers.  Kids at Compassion.  Donating books, seeds, food, cross-stitch.  Saving for college? Helping costs at crisis pregnancy clinics, earthquake/tsunami relief, literacy programs.  Kiva loans... 

And yes, this "challenge" would work with other cloth diapers from other companies, but I've already spelled out my dozen reasons for liking this brand, this company and I'm sticking to my pick.  It's a cute name for this diaper challenge anyway! :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

this week













a little treat?


Here’s a little summer treat we’re enjoying that's oh-so simple.

Cold Sprite (or Sprite-likeness) poured over a fruity tea bag.  I first tasted this at a baby shower (thanks ladies!) when it was made with Celestial Seasonings tea.  But I think maybe it’s nicer with London Fruit and Herb Company... perhaps more flavorful?   Who could ever need a fancy four dollar Italian Soda when there’s this?

When Matt’s parents visited, they even gave the “London Sprite,” as we call it, a stamp of approval and bought us a can of spray whipped cream to top our treats with.  Yum!

And one little tip...  A single tea bag of London’s Company lasts for at least 2-3 glasses of Sprite.  Just soak ‘til the color is right for your taste.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

confession

“I don’t believe in “Easy Believism.”   It’s probably a plain human tendency, and definetely a current American trend, to think that ‘Christian’ simply means checking a box, saying a prayer, possibly some sprinkling on some church attendance and nothing else.  
Too often we might think, “Maybe Jesus is like a good wine?  Since I’ve got such sophisticated tastes, I know a good wine when I taste one and Jesus is the choice for me.  He makes me warm inside and smile big and and beyond that the rest of my life is mine to live.”   Easy Believism.  No way.  
I believe passionately, desperately, joyfully that our whole lives are to hang on him, be hidden in Christ...
I believe...  and at the same time, I live in the delusion of “easy believism” too.   Without thinking and sadly, without noticing, I too-often live assuming, “Good thing Jesus has forgiven all my sin” and I’m too dull-hearted, self-consumed, and proud of my disposable-everything life to ever think twice about what eternal sin it is that I’ve been so graciously forgiven of.  And how do I ever hope to not fall into it again if I don’t even pay attention to what it is?  
Christ’s grace doesn’t let me hide my sin from me or him or anyone.  Praise be!  It covers over me, covers my sin (it’s worth its own study to explore all the implications there), but it is also scrubs me up to wash me clean and refines me with fire to change and transform me.   And apart from the blessed result of confessing, simply the act of confessing humbles me and causes me again to gaze on the extraordinary goodness of God....  and I, for one, am in desperate need of such a reminder and just such humbling.
David McIntyre pours out sweet wisdom in his excellent book, The Hidden Life of Prayer, and in chapter five on confession in particular:
... Oh to be like King David who “point[s] with his finger to the sore:  “I have done this evil” (Ps 51:4): he doth not say, “I have done evil,” but “this evil.” He points to his blood-guiltiness.”
... “Think of the guilt of sin,  that you may be humbled.  Think of the power of sin, that you may seek strength against it.  Think not of the matter of sin... lest you be more and more entangled.”  (DM quotes John Owen.)
... “Deadness of heart may arise also from the consciousness of our [many] sins of omission- duties unattempted, opportunities unimproved, grace disregarded... Each day is a vessel to be freighted with holy deeds and earnest endeavors before it weighs anchor and sets sail for the eternal shores.  How many hours we misspend!  How many occasions we loose!  How many precious gifts of God we squander!  And the world passeth away...”
... “The fouler was the error.  The sadder was the fall.  The ampler are the praises of him who pardoned all.”  


So... how to apply this desire, this command in my everyday life?  For a powerful, doable visual, I'm going to try Ann Voskamp's Repentance Box idea.   She suggests that everyone write out sins on slips of paper and put them in a "tomb box" that can be opened early on Easter morning to see that our sins are not there, for Christ is Risen! and those sins of ours he nailed to the cross and defeated.


For Easter we did this as a family and I'd like to teach our kids about it regularly (our sins sure are regular.)  But for me, it will probably end up as a simplified note of paper that is thrown in the trash every evening.  Oh that I would be diligent in this sweet exercise!  


I'm finding it to be like built-in accountability in my walk with God...  having my sins identified before God (just like with an accountability partner) is crucial in addressing my sanctification... (and if growth in godliness isn't on the map in my mind, what is?  Christ?)
Endless eternal benefits flow from this means of grace.  Confession humbles me, makes me more rightly attuned to the goodness of my God to provide rescue for undeserving me, and is vital for helping me obey  commands like 1 Peter 5:9-10.
Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brother hood throughout the world. 


Would that we be His people:  watchful, confessed-clean, humbled and glad in him, ready with the sword of the Spirit, selflessly united and strong in the Body of Christ, devoted to his kingdom, doing the works of God.  

This past Sunday, a friend of ours spoke on these verses and he used this video to illustrate.  His edited clip, shorter than the YouTube version, better spotlighted the point of these verses, but these 8 minutes are still amazing to watch and well worth the learning...  







Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the little big guy turns two


John celebrated his # 2 birthday last week with his Grandma on the day between their big days.  Sadly, I didn't get any great shots of the day, the dinner, the cake, but the memories are hopefully etched deep enough to last long. It was a simple, sweet day at home, altogether, fun.

Our big guy is talking more and more.  Often, when someone mentions counting, he'll go to the front door and put his arm on the door, lay his head against his arm, count "One Two Tree" and then take off to find some hiders.

He's showing great diligence and perseverance in learning sports (a crazy ball-lover) and riding the scooter on the patio.  Yesterday he brought me a lego creation and told me "Yego, house.  Daddy build it."  And after Scripture reading at the table, when Daddy says "This is the Word of the Lord."  John is the most eager to reply with his very slurred version of "Thanks be to God!"

I love his soft heart if he hurts a sibling... usually very quickly and tenderly tells them "saw-ruu"  which I think is a mix of "I'm sorry" and "love you."

And his favorite thing...  I've said it for him a hundred times, trying to help him place the B sound right...  and he repeats "B, B, B, Di-bip"  (blanket).

I could not forget Grandma's favorite one-liner:  "I- self."  Oh my...

Another big move during the grandparents visit was that we got a new bunk bed for the kid's room.  Vivi's only going to fit in her basket a bit longer before she needs the pack-n-play, so John John got to move up.  May and Isaiah are loving the extra partying possibilities now that they are both on the top bunks.

And one more special promotion: John is sitting with us at the table now.   Bye-Bye high chair!  So sweet and funny to see my little big boy across the table from me.  Isaiah especially adores his brother (often whatever John is wearing or eating or doing is a big motivator for Isaiah).  Our family is growing, the table is filling.... with laughter, chaos, messes, and grace- hopefully grace!


Oh we love you, John Timothy!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

the cross in a stitch ~ income and gift

This past weekend brought in a suitcase delivered to us by two travelers who came through town.   My girlfriends know me well, sent some fantastic goodies and more cute clothes for our kids.  And then there was an extra thing...

The delivery included things for three families and we've checked all around for who this cross-stitch pattern could be for but no one knows.  I sure don't have the time or talent to devote to a large wall hanging scene of wolves laying in the snow.  We don't know who it was from or who it was for so I just put it aside till....

I noticed a neigbor carrying a large cross-stitch of roses into his home, freshly framed.   Cross-stich is really a popular thing here in China.  Maybe this is it!?

We want to help, to serve the poor around us.  But how?  Giving gifts and money, can quickly turn into not a good thing.  It's just not the end-all answer, that's for sure.  But still... what can we do?

I've been asking God for a way to help our helper.   This kind woman comes two mornings a week to help in our home and teach our little guy John Chinese while I study our third language.  Her husband is the teacher (think p) for a small fellowship in the countryside.  They foster two severely handicapped kids and have two kids of their own.  She takes paper home after our artists have created all over it, and her husband writes his sermons on it.  The mud flows into their home when it rains hard and they burn coal when winter reaches it's bitterest lows.   And she is one of the happiest, most pleasant women I know.  

Maybe she knows someone in her church or town that would enjoy this cross-stitch?  Has the time and skill to make it?  Could sell it and make some needed income?

This morning I asked... and she said Yes.  A woman she has shared with before, a widow who has raised two boys for years by herself, her parents have also passed away.  Alone and very poor.  And she cross-stitches.

We set out a plan.  The wolves would be the first gift.  If she wants a second cross-stitch pattern, the only request that will come with it, is that she teach another woman to cross-stitch.  If woman #2 wants pattern #2, she'll have to teach another too.

They can sell their finished work wherever they want and the money is all theirs.  And if they want to keep it, it's a gift to be enjoyed however it will bring the most joy, meet the most needs.  The gifts will be distributed through these local brothers and sisters, their own fellowship.  Hopefully selling just a few of these gifted patterns will be enough of a jumpstart financially to make a difference for these women.

I'm excited!  As a family, we are busy with work in different areas of life... and yet we canNOT get around this poverty so nearby.  It matters and we really want to help and now we can.

A gift arrived unexpected but not unplanned.   May it carry the love of the One who carried the cross for us.  May the Lord use these patterns to bring joy and needed funds to needy households.  And oh, may his Cross-Love shine in and through these gifts!

so happy for three months with you!


Pure delight you are to each of us, darling!  We love you Vivian Hope!

And maybe as a birthday gift for your mama?, you've moved up your bedtime (from around 11pm to 9pm) and dropped those two hours of fussing, AND you've been sleeping 10-11 hours at night, no nursings.  You're spoiling me, baby girl!  Thank you Vivi!  We thank and praise the Lord for the great gift you are to us!


Zai Jian Yeye and Nainai!

We had a fantastic two weeks with Grandma and Grandpa!  Thank you guys for coming all this way and being such loving parents and grandparents!  Thanks for the gifts and for all your help and allllll the fun!




As a highly respectable reason (excuse) to spoil the grandkids yet again, they (in fact, we) were all outfitted with Twins gears to cheer for our favorite team.  Actually, Matt's fav is the Mets, but the extended Ks are pretty exclusively devoted to the Twins, the team nearest to these North Dakotan hearts.

(We said good-bye on Monday morning, but it took a while to get these photos uploaded properly!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

local groceries

This great fruit and veggie spot is about a block from our home.  
Such a blessing to have all this so nearby!  

I love the ladies I buy our fruits and veggies from!

I was so glad my mother-in-law went with me so I could take pictures of her here.   I'm just too embarrassed to simply go to the market myself and take pictures of all this daily, regular scene.  As if I need any more spotlight on my foreignness...


The produce is all quite fresh, but sadly, not so clean... For as much as I know, there are very few concerns for chemical pesticides, fertilizers, toxins.  We scrub stuff up as good as we can and pray. 






 You can also find lots of spices, seaweed, pickled roots, meat and sometimes live animals, "wood ear" (a yummy, nutritious fungus like a mushroom) and this spongey thing above which I think is a relative of the forest hear-er.   

yummy noodles... and the cute girl who makes them

Saturday, June 11, 2011

more fun with G & G





These have been fun-filled days with grandparents... 
lots of fun hiding and seeking, cuddling and reading, splishing and splashing 
and even with little ones, we've managed to see some of the 
best sites around our ancient city.

and these cute friends visited


This little girl is growing fast.  Near her 2.5 month mark she started smiling *lots*, with sweet tiny laughs.  The past few days she's started to nearly scoot and she turned herself around- the full 360 degrees- while she laid next to me on our bed one afternoon.  


Retreat

Matt's parents gave us some anniversary gift money (in March, at the seven year mark) and now that they're here, they gifted us with childcare for an overnight away... just the two of us, and our Vivi treasure.  What a gift!  A retreat... to seek a way to advance  (and to simply delight in and celebrate our romance!)  Thank you Mom and Dad!!

We had just heard from some visitors who came through about a cool training time that they got to attend.  They left us with two gems.  Simple, oh so simple, but how could we beyond these basics? We want these treasures tucked deep into our hearts, applied, we want to move forward in this way.

Lord renew us in fervent prayer... and refresh us with strength and energy and language to boldly speak of Christ at work in our lives, every conversation seasoned with salt... boldly commend;  humbly submit, listen and serve; gently answer; persuasively, lovingly proclaim.

And how to pray?  Pray the Word.  With the true and living word on my lips in prayer, it's alive and fresh, sweetness more ready on my lips to proclaim.  With a prayer guide through the Word, my prayers are focused much better.... and oh how I need help with this!

Here are some of the helps I'm leaning on, learning from in this endeavor to study, pray, know, delight in, be transformed by and proclaim this Good Word...

A very insightful post about reading to treasure, to be transformed by the Word... instead of of what he calls a "marketing" bit about how much we can read- how fast.  My favorite part... Yes, reading takes time, but "You're eternal.  Live like it."  (HT: AV)


Bible Arcing.  Oh to apply myself to this worth work of studying the Word... knowing God in his Word.
"Eternity is at stake in how we understand and teach the Bible....  [Be] blood earnest in your study."- Tom Steller, in a sweet booklet on Biblical Exegesis.  He goes on to write:
"We need three things to be careful interpreters of the Word of God. First, we must admit we need help and that we will die without it. Left to ourselves, and our own unaided human reason, we are hopeless. We need revelation from above. Our eternal life hangs on this! Secondly, we need faith in the sovereign goodness of the Author. This faith not only frees us to go where the Bible leads us, but it impels us to go where the Bible leads us. ” Thirdly, we need to learn how to read with the kind of care that corresponds to the preciousness of the Book.  It is, as Wesley said, “the Book of God!"
And... The Divine Hours.  Grateful, so grateful for this guide.  When I read-pray through these places in the day, I am reminded that prayer is largely an invitation from God to us, to come, to rest in knowing him, to receive from him, be reminded of his goodness, care, faithfulness... oh such a good gift!

Friday, June 3, 2011

grandparent party







This whole week has been one long, glorious party.... and we still has a more than a week to go, til Grandma and Grandpa have to head home.  We are sure loving this time with them!!  This morning Grandma and I got to enjoy playtime at the park and at this "beng beng chuang" with the kids... Such a blessing to have this expert, loving grandma care for Vivi while I played away with the big kids.