Sunday, July 31, 2011

It Must Not Be

I'm in agony over these faces, this horror holding over 12 million people.  I'm shaking my head that in the few hours I've spent online this week, I didn't check far enough into world events to see this...


photo taken from The Atlantic article
The worst drought in 60 years, striking across the Horn of Africa, bringing malnourishment, starvation, death to thousands.


This devastation should not be.... and it will not go without this family turning themselves inside out- everything we can think of- to give all that we can.


Whatever it takes Lord!  Lead us with wisdom to give to groups that will use gifts wisely, to your glory.   Help us to cut back every penny we can to GIVE! our all for their sakes.


For the story in pictures, one of which is above:  This article from The Atlantic  (HT:  Ann Voskamp)


For ways to help the "nearly half a million children... at risk of dying of malnutrition and disease" and the 12 million people bound in this horror:  This CNN post.

Two more Christian groups serving here:  Kidmia- see the post below, and the Mennonite Central Committee that has developed food-for-work projects in Ethiopia.


Now... off to pray for Somalia, Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, these children, these mamas, for rain and wisdom and integrity for leaders to come and help and humbly serve...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kidmia

Just found this org that I think looks like an absolute winner.  Really...   far better than candy.


This makes my heart for Jesus and my head for public health SING.


Kidmia works with Ethiopian churches and pastors, providing training to understand a Biblical view of orphans and adoption and they also provide housing, food, education and discipleship for these kids and so much more.  I am really impressed with the little I know.... can't wait to learn more and start getting involved!

motherhood

To my most treasured mama friends~

I hope you'll get a chance to read this excellent post from Rachel Jankovic.  Ahh....  the glory, the gritty, hard-work, the brilliant GLORY of motherhood.  Motherhood is a calling (and where your children rank)

What. A. Gift.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...  Please email me if you have time!  It would be like a round-the-globe book club....  I would be so blessed!

And this one post fantastic too.... heading off to read it now:    Motherhood as a Mission Field

I just bookmarked Femina, Rachel's blog, along with her MIL and SILs (Mrs. Douglas Wilson et al).  Positive I'll be returning there to check for more of her writing.

Update... (I know I'm sounding pretty fanatical here and I'm ok with that...) I also just read the first chapter of Rachel's book and I'll be ordering that next- a MUST.  I'm hoping to finagle a way to get it in the next box heading to China!

Here's the quote from that chapter that is going up in the kitchen:
"It is no abstract thing, the state of your heart is the state of your home."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Matt's Solo Adventure


We missed him terribly last week, but even more, we are glad that Daddy could get away, go so far...to this great place, researching possibilites for Silk Road Ecotours,
and connect with close friends there.

Here are just a few of his best shots.  You can check the SRE site for many more photos and 
stories to be posted in the next several weeks.



 picture above and below by Landon D.



living room in an upper class home


 the local doctor

a poor Jewish peasant & a prepositional phrase

"An evangelical believes that God humbled himself not only in the incarnation of the Son, but also in the inspiration of the Scriptures. The manger and the cross were not sensational. Neither are grammar and syntax. But that is how God chose to reveal himself. A poor Jewish peasant and a prepositional phrase have this in common; they are both human and both ordinary. That the poor peasant was God and prepositional phrase is the Word of God does not change this fact. Therefore, if God humbled himself to take on human flesh and to speak human language, woe to us if we arrogantly presume to ignore the humanity of Christ and the grammar of Scripture."
quoted from John Piper's writing on Biblical Exegesis, @ http://www.biblearc.com/web/learn/


Thursday, July 21, 2011

four months



Our littlest sweetheart is 4 months old...  time is flying and I’m trying to savor all of these precious floppy-sprawl cuddles (when she doesn’t mind however I position her laying in my arms or across my chest.)  All the fussing that filled the pre-bedtime hours until she was about 2.5 months old have faded and she's become the easiest baby we've ever had for bedtimes now.  She enjoys her quiet time on a blanket, rolling on the floor and most of the time she just falls asleep in the middle of her quiet thumb-sucking, taking in the world, gentleness- without a peep.  Words cannot tell how much we love her...

And.. Daddy's HOME!  No crew could be more glad!  We praise the Lord for you Matthew.  The Lord's grace was very evident to us while you were away but we missed you sorely still!  (Matt got some fantastic shots of his journey...  I'll try to post some soon.)


She’s laughing gloriously these days, though not just any time... the tickle has to hit her just right.   And she does have a sweet sense of humor for a funny face or a kissy sound.  She’s almost always an easy smile for her big sis and brothers who love to clap her hands and pet her sweet hair.

 Oh this squishy delicious chub.... 
Here's a glimpse of the "screw-on hands" for you Great Grandma Marian :)

Our precious, tender, beautiful "little lady" Vivi

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If you are not the very verbal type......

... You might do far better in China than I do.

I think, though I'm not completely sure, that China tends to be a pretty verbal culture.  (Possibly this is just because words weigh more in my brain when they're in my second language?) But folks definitely do like to talk a lot.  Neighbors have to state the obvious just to be neighborly, kind.  For example, I'm loaded down like a donkey but sadleless, carrying 30 pounds of groceries for our family (side note, no body does this here but me.  Everyone else buys a meal or two of groceries at a time.  Grocery shopping is part of daily socializing for friends here who all only have one kid and probably two or more family members ready to watch that one sparkling child.)

Anyways,  I walk into our apartment complex and the guy at the gate has to say to me "Oh you bought stuff."  The neighbor lady walking past me tells me "You bought a lot."  The grandma on the elevator notices "You're back.  You bought stuff."

Yep.  Now this is the *perfect* time for me to smile and nod... Matt's constant advice for me...  but too often I feel like I owe people some sort of conversation and usually my amount of groceries purchased just doesn't rank as a desired topic.  A dumb struggle.

And for my too-verbal self, I usually feel like I owe people a greeting or a comment if anyone looks at me twice.  But let me tell you, there are some scenes in our days where we are swarmed with onlookers.   Just smile and nod... really, Jill!

It gets tougher, though, when we add parenting stress spots to the mix.

This morning John threw a Two Year Old Classic in an otherwise blissful scene of  play in the sandbox with his big bro and sis.  Baby sister is crying inside for mama.

I invite him "would you like to come in with mama or stay here and play?"

"NO!!"

"Buddy, that's not going to get you anywhere.  Would you like to come or like to stay?"

Repeat.  Apparently there's no option for us here.

I'm trying hard to deal firm and fair with this angel-haired ridiculousness, but it does need to be quick.  The baby needs me.

And then the sweet new neighbor, whose patio borders ours, chimes in.  She wants to know all that's going on.  Not only is she verbal, but she doesn't understand all the words my son and I have just exchanged.  And she needs the whole scene translated for her.

And John is full swing into his fit now, and Vivi really needs a nursing, and John will be disciplined for not only screaming and telling mama "No," but now he's throwing sand all over to top it off.

It's just not the time for translation.  (Do I really need to point that out?)  I usually feel super rude about trying to explain,"sorry, not now... ahh, is that ok?"  Smile and nod....  but sometimes it doesn't seem to work!?

Maybe this is just one of those tiny rough patches to humble me along the way.  I do need humbling so... Breath deep, smile, bring John inside with me, and wave to the neighbor.  Breath deep again.  Pray.   God's grace abounds for the humble, so take this humbling as a great, and very needed gift.  Love the boy.  Love the girl.  Then write a blog post to process without speaking words, how difficult words can be sometimes!  Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

we were there





Our family got to spend 4 days in these mountains along with several friends and it was delicious medicine for our citified souls.  Such Grace!  Green grass, wide open, happy blue skies, fresh air... no bother at all that it smelled like all the animals that belonged to the nomads with whom we stayed.  And we found it the perfect way to go, to travel with this small pack of friends, such kind, fun, loving helpers for us and our kids!  Our kiddos were downright spoiled...


The yurts we stayed in were only about two hours away from the capital city and the area was a popular tourist destination.  We were deeply grateful to find a way past all the crowds, to be led to this small group of families who live here in this tiny valley for seven months at a stretch and host only a few visitors at a time, just us for these days.  Their livelihood depends on tourism income and our joy was magnified greatly in our time with them... so sweet for both of us!  Great times playing with the kids, praying for these friends and sharing meals and talks and walks.   Mostly, this was R & R time for us and we certainly were refreshed.  So, so grateful.



Here we've studied the majority language in this country for 3 ish years and have been working on studying a minority language for 1+ year now...  and then these dear Kazaks that hosted us, they speak a language all their own!  We could come close to communicating with them using the minority language we're studying (they're pretty close) but most of our communication with them was through our minority friends that travelled with us or through the eldest girl (white jacket in the pics) of our new nomad friends who spoke the majority language that we feel fairly comfortable with.  

Our dear language tutor-friend who travelled with us to help out with our kiddos was a joy to have along.  In the pic above she's looking at photos on her camera with that sweet "older sister" who we all loved.  Joy (in the green pants) left her Book, in this language, with Norchan (white jacket.)  

Norchan also told Joy how she collects 10Y (not quite $1.50 US)  from every tourist car that parks near their valley.  She saves up all her earnings from all summer long and she pays for her own elementary school fees with this.  Leftover she normally has 2Y per month.  That's about 35 US pennies.  Earning her wages is extremely important to her, since that's her only ticket to school.  

TWO YUAN leftover.  

I wish I could somehow convery how precious, admirable, delightful this girl is...  She's got this book now and we pray that it will be powerful in her life, ring truth and love in her ears, her heart, her family!


Joy was pretty wiped out for the hiking that we did (as were the kids!).  I asked her before if she had ever been to the mountains and she said yes.  But after we arrived she told us she had never been on dirt paths... always, only sidewalks.  (That's the norm in China.)  We spelled out clearly for her that she had only ever been to parks than... This is The Mountains!  :)

Oh these kids...  such sweet, spunky, fun kids!!  These two are 4 year old twins.



The guys that travelled with us were working in various roles to help Matt with start-up research for Silk Road Ecotours...  which we are super excited to see finally getting off the ground!







 
This little guy, Birick, is six days older than Vivi (who is worlds cuter than this picture lets on...)



Above is Birick's bed that he would be strapped down to most hours of the day and night.  There's a little trap door for bathroom business and he's kept totally warm inside, wrapped up like it's his own little cocoon.  Also, no possibility of him rolling into the stove in the yurt so long as he's strapped down in his little spot.  I can see how the system works for them...  Vivi was sadly often either too hot or too cold for our nights there!

Our last day there, all these friends (a few different families represented) attended a wedding in town.   Here they are getting all dressed up.  Their gift for the bride and groom was a large container of fresh milk.  

oh may these friends know the True Lamb!  

As is customary, we got to witness these friends slaughtering a lamb for a meal (not a baby like this cutie.)   I could not stomach it (stayed in the yurt) but I'm trusting-hoping hard that my kids will be only stronger for their viewing...


I've written far too little, far too lacking...  nothing that adequately communicates our joy in meeting these friends and enjoying their valley with them for these short days.   There are More aspects than can be shared here.  It was all sweeter than can be put in words...  we are exceedingly grateful.  

Travellers Tales

We had such a sweet time away!  Thank you for praying for us!

Reflecting on this time, I am still amazed at how the Lord used so many people to be so richly, so deeply encouraging to us.  For me, that was the best part of our 6 days in the capital of this province:  we connected with friends who have lived and worked there for years, pouring out their lives for such good purpose.  These friends were like gold to lay eyes on and hear from and hug... 

Sorry the photography is pretty lacking of this part of the trip.  I'm sad I didn't get any worthy shots of this outstanding city or those precious friends.  But we will reconnect in a few more weeks with some more friends that travelled with us so hopefully later I can post some of their great shots.  

The kids and Joy (our sweet language tutor who travelled with us as a helper for the kids) and I really enjoyed one special park that had a few fair rides and play things.  Marian and John both rode little cars (John's handily came with a remote control which Isaiah was thrilled to use) and Isaiah was most enamored with the airplane ride that I went on with him and John.  

I really hope to post our friends' better pics of this city soon...  

Oh it was So Good to be there.  The land of the minority language we are studying, the land of this people we love.  And oh how poorly we love them, but how Greatly they are Loved by the One who made them...  Our hearts are quite overwhelmed by the Goodness of God to allow us to be here.

winning moments

We've had a few moments recently that I simply must record in this journal...

1)  On the train to Beijing (back in May when we went for Vivi's citizenship interview & passport):  We had poorly planned the timing of our packing and departure for the train station and to say we were late and were sweating heavy over making our train is a shabby understatement.  We blazed through that train station-  Matt with all the luggage, me with all the kids (Vivi in the Bjorn carrier, John in the stroller, Isaiah and Marian holding on the sides of the stroller- they were prepped and ready for a little run.)  And... we made it.  Phew!  Shockingly, we made it with a few minutes to spare.  Praise the Lord!  We put the big kids up on their top bunks and pinned the little guy down just long enough to get luggage and everything situated in our bitsy room for the next 11 hours.   Then for the reward of traveling by train:  TIME to be together.  Turn on some good tunes, pull out some sweet treats and watch the sunset and the world rush by- together.

Then Marian calls down...

"Daddy, can you bring me down?  I want to come down there because, because...  because, I love you."


A side note-  during our time in the mountains, this girl had all the big guys helping her around as if she was real-deal royalty.  For one stretch of a hike she had one "big brother" (the guy in the solid blue shirt in the post above) carry a 4-5 pound rock that she loved (while there were thousands of rocks all around us) simply because that one was her favorite.  Oi!  That's what I mean by SPOILED.  Mom and Dad hands are simply too full to indulge anything like this...

2)  The big kids are at the table and I come down the hall and announce "Look who's awake!"  Isaiah, sitting closest to me, glances up at the baby sister with a quick smile.  John, on the other side of him, stands up in his chair and tells me "give kisses."  I gladly hold Vivi over the table and John stretches his neck to kiss her sweet on the cheek.  Then he sits down and not a minute later stands up again, all determined, and tells me "More kisses.  More kisses for baby."  OH I love this guy!

And, she's a roller by the way.  Vivi ended up on her tummy in the middle of the night Saturday (a few days before the 4 month mark) and she did not like it one little bit!  By Sunday she was wiggling like a regular rolly polly. 

3) Last week when we were hiking with friends, one guy told us at the top of a little mountain about his conversation with Isaiah on the way up.

Jesse:  So do you know who made all this?
Isaiah:  Yea, God.  God made everything, you and me and allll this stuff.
Jesse:  That's pretty cool, huh?  Do you know how God made it?
Isaiah:  He just spoke and there it was.
Jesse:  So God's pretty powerful, don't you think?
Isaiah:  Yeah.  I can say stuff and it doesn't happen.  See, I say "make trees" and look, nothing happens.  God's way more powerful than me.

4)  Tonight:  Lightning and thunder strike up the band just as we say our bedtime prayers.  Perfect timing to throw back their curtains and marvel...  together.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

when the cupboards are bare...

The kids and I arrived yesterday evening.   We all swooned to see the tomatoes, corn, green beans and eggplants all leafy and green a foot taller on our back patio than when we left just 10 days ago. The kids adored their legos (the perfect help for a single-for-a-week mom) while I heaped the laundry and started the first loads just before our (cereal) dinner.  Then there was some serious scrubbing up in the bath and hard effort for an early bed time, which meant we were just a little later than regular.

We had a wonderful trip. It was more deeply encouraging than even I (the crazy optimist) expected and I hope to write a fair bit more about all that we loved of this land and this people...  but for now...  I think I'm more tired than ever (I told a friend I'm more tired today than I was just after childbirth...  perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I Am Really Wiped.)

Stories and many more pics soon...

Just quick~ now that we're home, we've slept like jet laggers (for just a 2 hour difference) and since our cupboards were bare, we stopped at "breakfast alley" (we could throw a stone there from our back patio) on the way to preschool this morning to fill these sweet bellies.  Breakfast for all the big kids and I = approx 75 US pennies.


veggie saucy soup... I know it looks like chocolate but no...



And for one more reason, it turned out to be a good morning to have the camera on me.  Once we arrived at school, I left the key in the bike and stepped off to pull John out of his chair.  Faster than I noticed, Marian got out of her seat and climbed onto my seat to get down.  But she grabbed that singular most dangerous thing-  the handlebar "gas pedal."  How was she to know?  It was ridiculous of me to leave the keys in it.  Since she pulled the handle to her immediately, the bike made an instant U turn and Praise the Lord! crashed into this wall after only 5 yards of her driving and a second or two of all of us screaming.  

Sometimes a hard crash is just what you need.  It was this morning.  Pure, lavish, wonderful grace.

A full body crash into my pillow is what I need right now...  I just so wish that Matthew would be beside me there!  We miss you Daddy!  Praying for your time...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

and we're off!

Train tickets are a touchy topic in China.   Whenever we're driving down the street and see a long line of people at a tiny shop, it's almost always a train ticket spot.  It's pretty hard work, lots of waiting, lots of flexibility, lots of patience needed to get tickets.  And sometimes, still, there aren't any.

Matt waited in that long line the first morning that tickets for our train would be available and by the time he made it to the desk, they were gone.  ALL gone.  And as for the spearmen who promised us they could mysteriously acquire tickets for us, this time their plans too were thwarted.

It might sound rosy that we've ended up with flight tickets and honestly, I'm expecting the 5.5 hours en route (including a 2.5 hour layover) to be cake compared to 30ish hours on the train, but the price tag is pure bummer.   Still we're so grateful we can go.  So grateful for your support and prayers for this!  We prayed lots about just bailing on the whole trip, but we'd loose the return tickets that we already purchased and we'd miss out on so much...  so we're going.  And we're trusting that somehow- He knows just how!-  it's going to be well worth it.  

May it be!  We'll post stories once we're home!

Friday, July 1, 2011

ahhh... train tickets

We're waiting for tickets to be purchased for our trip west... waiting, ready, watching for those prized tickets dangled from daring spearheads.  Argh.  It's not going too smoothly!  My good friend and tutor just buckled and bought Standing Room Only ticket for the 35 hour (slow train) ride.  We're hoping for one little cabin for our family, 4 beds, soft sleeper, but we're not guaranteed anything for now...

Except the most important promises:  God knows.  He loves us.  He's got better plans than we do.  We're covered.

We just don't know what this trip will look like yet or when we'll take off.  Thanks for praying that we'll get tickets to go soon as we already have a fair bit scheduled for our time there...