Monday, September 26, 2011

everyday worship

Paper was scarce in the 1700’s.  As I remember from Noel Piper’s excellent biography- talk on Sarah Edwards, some of the records of Jonathan and Sarah’s home that we have today are scraps of well-used paper with sermon notes on one side and shopping lists for Jonathan’s trips into they city on the other.    “Chocolate darling, and more paper...”  that kind of thing.  
Ann Voskamp has pointed out that those lists are sweet to look back on in years to come...  don’t throw out every meal plan, every schedule, every project list.  Some opportunities to look back on those little pieces of family life this year just might be counted as precious in days to come.   So, it’s in that spirit that I record a bit of our family schedule in this season.   

One day last spring, I indulged in a bit of an art project:  this page (above) that I would scan and save and print up weekly to hang on the fridge....  weekly tasks, kids’ activities, meals, guests, classes.  That morning I felt like it was a gift from God to find Psalm 16:5-6 to write over my days:  “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.  These lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.”  I took one little liberty and changed “The” to “These” to refer to the lines dividing between and holding up each of my days.  And now even those lines speak to me boldly:   each day and all that falls into them, have been ordered by the sovereign God, my Father, who does all things well, who loves me and counts me as precious to him.  That should settle my anxious soul, shouldn’t it!?
But pondering that “WORSHIP” over every hour, every day... I finally realized a very simple thing.  Like the bulletins that our church passes out on Sunday mornings, an order of worship, why not hammer out a simple order of worship for our home to help me be mindful of what our moments, these hours of laughter, learning, sweat, service, tears and occasional quiet together actually are?  Find an order for our every day worship service, our simple, ordinary lives together.  
It makes sense even more to me now, what Ann wrote about somewhere in One Thousand Gifts, about liturgy being rooted in the idea of 'public work'.  Yes-  public work, my daily service to our family, our guests, our neighbors, the regular rhythm of our days, is just this:  a service of worship to God.

Seeing it on the wall- “the time has come”- takes a lot of pressure off me.  I don’t feel like I have to squeeze in time for these most needful, important, beautiful things....  this way I realize that the nonessentials will have to fill the space around these first order priorities.  And I can see too that there is such joy and security in providing this kind of healthy regular rhythm for our kids.  
There are so many advantages, but just these two are enough to make me delight in having such an order for our days:  one, to free me up from having to make decisions throughout the day, to ease the weight of deciding when and how to make the most important things happen, and two, to help me keep my eyes on the truth that each day, this day, is a gift to me, a gift to give in return to the Giver.... a service of worship to Him.  

Elements:  Here I share too many details about the pieces of this plan for us...  honestly, skip it all unless you're crazy interested...

We've been battling sickness and some killer night-time teething/screaming sessions so the 6 am hasn't happened all that regularly the past few days, but we definitely get off to a better start when it does!  Morning exercise for me is usually just a stretch and some silly near-exercises to begin my reading and prayer time....  such a help to get my head and heart awake!

I'm so grateful to have examples and books to learn from about having set-hour prayer throughout the day.  (Here's a post and a book that I've loved.)  Another light I've seen this in lately is with the words of Come Thou Fount....  "bind my wandering soul to Thee."  I've decided that the shorter the tether that binds me to the Lord, the better.  To let time push me up against a stopping point often in the day, that helps me, reminds me to kneel in worship, receive even just a morsel of the Word, give all my cares to the Lord.... it's a very good thing for me.  6am, around 2pm, and 10pm are my times... and hopefully a still moment later in the morning too.....  just so good...

Story Time...  It's silly and even more so, sad, that for as much as I value reading to our kids, there would be days when it didn't happen at all.  And that wasn't because there were other so-glorious things going on.   It's honestly a helpful easy thing for me to be mindful of the time and not have to think any more about it...  "it's story time folks!"  And that means cuddling and talking together too.

Tea Time might just mean a piece of fruit and sip of water or it might mean we bust out the whole tea schabang.   But when it happens (and so far, this is the piece that has been the most variable from day to day) it always means that I get to sit at the table, look at my kids, listen to them, love them with my words, my eyes, my time, and maybe something yummy.  

A confession:  I've realized recently that if I let things go, just flow as they may, then I could go a whole day, or even several days, without hearing any thoughts or dreams, fears or desires, from my kids hearts or stories from their lives.  Without some carefulness, I can spend the whole day keeping things going, providing for their needs, intervening in their battles, and rescuing them from their sometimes foolish fearlessness.  But I do not want to miss a single day of hearing their hearts!

Story time, tea time, and bed time are the best for this right now.  Meal time would be sweet, but lets face it....  getting food in their bellies and the Word in their hearts, managing them not stabbing each other with forks, spilling everything, or falling out of our chairs again really does mean success at the table in this season.  Our four are five and under... and Vivi is just beginning with her table needs too now!

And bed time...  since we've already read in the afternoon (and maybe the morning too?) we often don't read at night.  This works well because sometimes it feels like we have guests more often than not and we don't want bedtime to take 2 hours....  But we're trying to make this one piece more as non-negotiable as prayer:  we talk with our kids at the close of our day.  What are you grateful for today?  Who did you have fun with today?  Do you need to forgive someone today?  Who can we pray for today?  What did you learn about God today?   Do you remember the verse we're learning this week?

I wrote that 10pm would be the end of the work day... Once the kids are in bed, 2 or 3 days a week, Matt and I have declared as time to be online after the kids are in bed and very often this "work time" is not so much work.... but sometimes work feels like it could fill all night until morning!  (language studies, homeschool prep, laundry, emails... you all know what I'm talking about!).  How very good and helpful it is for me to set an end time for work.  Tomorrow will come and very few things are actually so urgent that they MUST be done today.  Such peace in releasing...  and I *LOVE* getting daily time to connect with my man... to hear from him too, read together maybe and pray before bed.  All.  Such.  Good.  Gifts.

Last, we don't have anything scheduled for Sundays.  We know well in advance that that one day is for worship, rest and play together!
Of course next to all of this will be pitched out the window when we’re out of the house.  But that's pretty infrequent for us here-  we lead awfully local lives (as in, we stay in our apartment complex almost all week except for Sundays!).   So for most of the time that we're home, this little liturgy for our days is becoming a blessing for each of us.....  a rhythm of worship, a beautiful tune to live together.  May it be Lord, for your glory!

One more bit to share:  to learn from a much better source about helping our kids form habits of excellence, here is a great resource.   Laying Down Rails  (thanks JF!!)  is an e-book available from Simply Charlotte Mason and there's an audio seminar.  Sonya Shaffer makes the point (or maybe it was Charlotte's to being with?) that decision making is responsible for a huge portion of stress and a consumer of our time our time each day.  To train our kids (and ourselves!) with habits that will help them automatically incorporate excellence in their lives will be such a blessing to them to help their days flow more smoothly and fruitfully.  

little engineer

When Isaiah was 15 months old we visited some dear friends.  It was the first time they met our boy but Kim M. seemed to know him well after our 48 hour visit.  She saw right away, "he sure watches closely to learn how things work.  He's going to be a little engineer."

Here's the latest from our 5 1/2 year old engineer.
Sadly, this is the second make of this spaceship.  The first one dropped and broke apart and now this one is a bit different.... even with these excellent instuctions to follow!

Liang Jun

What fun we had with a dear friend we met in Orlando back in our dating days. We met Liang Jun while he was studying at UCF and now we got to host him back in his home country while he was doing some business research and job interviews here.  We had so much fun with you Liang Jun!  Special thanks for all the tech lessons you gave our kiddos...

Here's Marian and Liang Jun on a walk we got to take in the mountains outside of town...

And here are the biggies goofing it up for Photo Booth on Liang Jun's computer...

(I'm behind on posting all that I'd like to, b/c of a bit of illness and a lot of busyness.  These photos are from a few weeks back when it was a fair bit warmer.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

in motion

And God, please bless the print shop that printed 500 business cards with the wrong address.... 
our kids have hardly enjoyed a gift more than this!

(Kids, why don't you give me that "I just won 120 million quai qian" look, ok?)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

missing Blythe

My Aunt Blythe, social glue of our family, elegant-til-the-end matriarch of my Denver family (the extensions my mom's family) passed away this Sunday morning.  Oh how much, how fiercely I hate death.  Hate grief.

(I should have noted at the beginning of this video that, in my memory, 
this was "Blythe's Song" for all the little people she loved....  
she sang it to many more than just our Marian.)

We skyped with Blythe this past Sunday morning our time, Saturday evening for her.  It was honestly super surprising that it happened b/c we're usually such a fiasco at our house around that time but this one Sunday (we hosted 20 people an hour after our call for worship and lunch) it miraculously worked.  A treasured gift- clearly arranged and provided for by the Lord- that we could see her that evening.

In my last discussions and emails with my aunt, I shared with her again the message of the Bible: God's holiness, Christ's death and resurrection, his saving love for her.  And now....  with a heart heavy with missing her, saddness, and sorrow for this distance, I continue in hope and prayer.  I wish I was with my family there to grieve together, to cherish Blythe memories with you, to take care of you in your grief....  Much much love to you precious family of mine.

We will miss you dearly, Blythe.

Vivian Hope, nearly 6 mo, wearing the red jacket that Great Aunt Blythe bought for Marian 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Well Done Victor Watters

I'm thankful tonight for this post at the Desiring God site about Victor Watters, a 14 year old boy in the Bethlehem congregation who went to be with the Lord this past week after a 5 year long battle with cancer.

The Lord's beauty is deep in this whole story... Victor's life, his months in the hospital- a 9 year old boy battling cancer with no family supporting him, his adoption into the Watters family, his coming to faith in Christ, and now his  unhindered, eternal joy with Christ.  

We praise the Lord for you dear Victor!  We rejoice to read of your life so well-poured out for the praise of our King!

Monday, September 5, 2011

quiet in the city

City living is hard for me.  I crave quiet.  I crave wide open.  I crave clean.  It's not all I need, but oh just sometimes...  I know I'll have all of it worlds more perfect than I can even dream when the Lord turns this old world inside out.  Until then, we're learning to seize every rainy moment as the best time to try to find that here, now.  Because most of the time, these Chinese city-dwellers are pretty uninterested in playing outdoors in the rain or any near rainy day.

When we were in the mountains this summer, we relished the quietness of the hours.... daylight songs faintly heard in the grass, the animals, the water, friends' talk and laughter.  And night time with its masterful quietness.

We gasped, the last morning we were there, to see tourists who drove out to our spot with a boom box!    How painful to listen to their blaring pop music smothering this symphony!  But to most Chinese,  I think quietness is not a beautiful song or maybe just not a known one.  (Remember how some songs grow in your heart as they become more familiar to you?)

Last week we rode our big bike out at dusk to find the two coolest tire swings in this part of the city. No one else there in that tucked away corner of apartments.  Our kids thrill over them.  And then play happy with a few neighbor kids coming home.  And when we head home, we pass by a plain corner with benches and the standard exercisers- no real attraction- but the place was packed.... at least fifty people all gathered, enjoying the evening together.  Chit chat and lots of laughter, babies and gray heads, noise and news radio...  Maybe that's one reason why Americans can come off as So Rude to foreigners sometimes...  we like our space, our privacy, so we give them theirs.... even when they don't want it.

But generally Chinese don't crave quiet as much.  They don't need "their space".  I think to many local friends, the best way they can think to show their interest in our kids when we walk by is to basically set off verbal firecrackers (the Chinese do love their firecrackers) and call out and gesture wildly "Oh how cute, they're little dolls, they can't speak Chinese, but they're so cute, white skin, yellow hair, blue eyes, and twins.... " (they can't fathom 4 single births so close together so everyday we have to explain that we actually don't have twins.)    The volume then increases again when they learn that we can speak Chinese...

I'll be honest, it's hard for me.  (Not a new story on this blog, right?)  A lot of times I just really want quiet and I want to be outdoors...  It doesn't seem like it should be an impossible combination.  In America, it's doable.  But in this city, and much of this country, being outdoors is like sending an invitation to everyone who sees you, that you want to talk, to visit, to find out about them and share answers to every one of their two dozen questions.

And really... it's ok, isn't it?  Not. A. Big. Deal.

Haven't I come to Love?  And Love can do this...

It's embarrassingly basic.  I wish I didn't need to pray this, wish there was already love gushing out of me...  but nope.  I need love beyond my own, from beyond msyelf.  That's for sure.  

Lord Jesus, please put it in my heart to love the sounds of many people.  Fill me with your love for them! Give me your love for my neighbors all made in your image (may I see your astounding beauty in them!) all ones you delight in and gladly serve (help me take up the basin and the towel too) and died for... (help me die, and live boldly new in you!)

her collection of pine cones and rocks, souvenirs from our walk

Now off to my spot in the living room for a bit of quiet prayer before I set out once again...


We so enjoyed visiting with these dear friends from our old stomping grounds!  Thanks for letting us get time with you dear S's!  Your kiddos are entirely adored by ours.... 
as are the two of you, Pete and Mel.  

And here a few more shots of kind of recent things...  well actually all these photos are a few weeks old now, but close enough, eh?

( He's showing you his muscles.  For John, the most important thing about "Show me your muscles" is the tremblingness of the flex... can you see him shaky-trembling here?) 
Thanks for the Charlie Brown shirt Uncle Chris!