Sunday, November 27, 2011

raising banners

For Thanksgiving this year we wanted to lift our eyes and hearts to remember the goodness of God to give us His good gifts (our lives are so full of His grace!).  It seemed sweet that we could be surrounded with thanks,  enclosed within gratefulness at each meal, our dining table encircled with banners of thanks.    We actually didn't get ourselves completely surrounded this year.... but next year we'll be on the job a bit earlier and we'll get it done and then some.... I hope!

What a joy to celebrate such a Giver as our God!  
And how good it is for us to lift our eyes and hearts, our voices and our pens to Him in THANKS!

The kids all loved the banner that Matt made for each one of them... all truly goofy and fun and complete with their names in the three languages we love
Our big girl bannered her thanks for her little sis....  and what'a letter or two out of place?
We all know that VIIV means Vivi, right!?  
And the banner next to it?.... That I could be his.... what lavish wonder!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mother Prayers

"The Bible isn't mainly a book of's a Story" (we love The Jesus Storybook Bible)... and it's an Incredible one at that.  But it does have a lot of rules, and they're good for us, and its tough to hold both sides of this coin in view at the same time.   The  Rules ("Law") and the Rescue ("Gospel").  We can't pitch the rules to receive the rescue.   So what 'ya do?

The glory of following Christ is not that we no longer have rules to follow, but that we aren't saved by following them.  We're saved by following Him (trusting in his death for our sins, his life for ours) and in His light, we learn to see the beauty of His way of life.  So all this about love, and all these goals for my own walk with Him and for gentle mothering, this I strive after with all his grace which so powerfully works in me.... but at the end of the day, my joy is that I'm forgiven, not that I've ever reached any goal at all.  Ahh, the glory!!  He loves!  He forgives!  Me!... the chief of sinners.

Maybe this seems a little detail heavy to point out, but I'm writing this post about prayers, ideals, goals for motherhood and I don't want anyone to think either  a) that we could ever earn salvation by being just so good or b) that I have the least little bit arrived at any of these goals.  The reason I'm writng this at all is because I am *desperate* for the Lord's grace in these very areas....  So, although I haven't and really won't ever "arrive" I just can't pitch these prayers, these goals.  I am straining towards this nevertheless, with all of God's power working within me...

My Mother Prayers.  These words, bullet prayers, to help me remember His grace ways with me and how I long to love them too...

EMBRACE:  Compassion before Consequences

ABSORB:  instead of rubbing their noses in the list of all the work I do for them, just do it.  And for the times when 3 busy mouths are burning with bickering and complaining and requests all at once, "I am a Raquetball Court."  Absorb the shock.  Don't fire it right back!  (This from Rachel Jankovic's masterpiece, 55 star book "Loving the Little Years."  I'll write more about this soon... I hope!)

WAIT:   not tolerating disobedience, but respecting comprehension & transition time as they move towards obeying... and also, accepting their childish slowness

WORDS / SPEAK:  that my words, my voice, my face would show the love and acceptance and tender graciousness of Christ

ACCEPT:  Like the "teacup theology" that Linda Dillow wrote about in Calm My Anxious Heart...  Lord make me receptive to whatever you knowingly, carefully, sovereignly pour into my life today.

The WORD:  Pray it for them and with them.  Hide it in our hearts and sing it loud on our lips.  Submit to it so that it convicts, challenges, shapes, sharpens and empowers me.

LIGHTHEARTED (LH):  the picture in my mind is of that Prov 31 gal... open hands to the Lord, lifted eyes smiling, fearless trust, her laughing at the days to come.

ONE (ALONE):  This post from Sally Clarkson blessed me and excites me so much about getting one on one time with the kids.... that I can journey through the next 20ish years being this kind of mom to these precious kids growing up in our home?  Grace!  Wild, Wonderful Grace!

MARVEL:  at His Word, His creation, His character, and evidences of His image and love among us.  Go slow enough to notice beauty, to savor moments, to apprehend His majesty with us always in silence, storm or silliness...

DELIGHT:  Laugh!  with them.... and ok, at them sometimes too...

SERVE:  I am so grateful for this talk, this woman who shared the motto she found, "to serve with joy."  And doesn't all our training, caring for, disciplining come down to serving these little ones?

PREPARE:  Never Rush.  As Ann Voskamp says, "only amateurs hurry."  Aim to be ready 10 minutes early so as not to press the clock down on them.

GENTLE:  may there be a tenderness, a softness in me even if it comes across as weakness, unconfidence, to the world.  I can be gentle because I'm leaning into an all-powerful, competent Father to care for all of us. He promises to provide and assures that nothing can snatch us from Him.  Rest secure in Him, the True Gentle Shepherd.

Last year 1 Peter was my book for cross-sultural work.  This year James is my book for motherhood.  James 3:18  "A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."  Lord, by your great grace, please make this harvest and this sowing and this peace true in us, in my mothering, for your glory in their lives and in our home.

Monday, November 21, 2011

on brokenness and gentleness

In the midst of all our laughter, bickering, lego building, singing, bike riding... crazy lives, we never go long without Matt mentioning this:  that none of the parenting books and nobody's wise words ever prepared us for the lunacy we would regularly encounter with our kiddos.  Like all parents, we don't just see their lunacy and get to pass by like observers.  Nope, this is the stuff we're responsible for fixing, soothing, giving thanks for, rescuing from, forgiving, cleaning up, and not peeing our pants over....

This parenthood, it's worlds tougher than I ever recognized... even just after my mother journey began.  It's darn hard.

And sometimes there's funny stories and there's lots of cute stuff- and often all six of us are in stitches at once- but there are other times of heartache, failure, ex-huast-ion and general wretchedness that I can only cry over and lament aloud before God.

This past week has had more than it's share of that ugly stuff and it makes me endlessly grateful again for the story of Jesus, for the Truth about Him that makes me His:  that I belong to Him not because I ever have or ever could earn a single star on His chart but because He is a wildly, lavishly loving Savior.... He paid the price, the death price for my sin, and He gave me life with Him.  I live with this Sure Living Hope....   hope that remains even when clouded over on gray days.

They say "Don't cry over spilled milk," and I think it's intended for kids, but there are times when I've cried over it too.

Like last week....  I cried over spills when I was just too tired to clean another thing.  But the real low point was a certain moment involving throw up.  It wasn't Wednesday night when we had guests with us for dinner, (I had spent most of the previous two days flat in bed whole body fevered and aching from a nursing infection,) when after dinner I tossed up the only meal I'd eaten in two days into the basin beside me while I nursed our sweet little girl on our bed.  It wasn't the throw up that spurted randomly every half hour or so from our little guy a few days before that.  It was the one time our big guy threw up:  in the bathroom, sweet legs pressed against the toilet and face turned so that his bucketful of gross sloshed across the whole bathroom floor.

I broke.  It was a sorrowful moment for a mom.  I've never felt so wasted tired from motherhood, physically and emotionally (not anger but sorrow enough for a year of all this little stuff).  Never have I wanted my mom's help, her comfort and care more.  I ached and I broke.  And I still feel broken.

And broken isn't all bad.  It's really true, there's beauty in brokenness.  I can see that even from the place I am now, a little bit trembly still.  (Honest.)  I came across a reminder of gentleness and it made me smile and I lingered with that thought for a while.  Yea.....  Lord please make me a gentle mama.

It reminds me of our chat about one local friend recently.  How she seems so timid (maybe it's cultural misunderstanding, misconnects between us?).  And Matt's comment, "I wonder if when we meet Jesus, we won't see that her character is more His style than the Go Get 'Em Boldness we tend to admire?"  Maybe she's more gentle than timid?  Maybe it's not bad?

Gentle feels like God's perspective on my broken feeling.   Just last night I curled up on my knees and Matt prayed with me, for me, that I would dwell richly in gentleness, the gentleness of Christ, as a mom.  And just this morning he told he could see some newness there....  "It's a lot easier when I feel so broken and all I have strength for is pretty much a whisper."

I know I'm going to get my voice back and more strength back and get ambition-high and giddy over checking things of my daily list again.  But then too, I pray that the Lord will lead me in his gentleness, like I am enjoying this aspect of Him in this tender way, in this broken time now.

(I had planned on sharing a few more of our silly moments but....  I think I'll just wrap this one up for now and try to post again soon.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


 There's my fantastic beginner reader, awesome artist big boy.  If only he wouldn't dodge the camera so much these days he'd show up here so much more often and make this mama so glad.....  

Here's our pretty little sitter.  How is it she's so big already!?  She's not up on her knees to high yet for a regular crawl but she can slither much faster than I would ever want to see a snake go!  
 Can you spot the slit on her bottom right gum where her first tooth peaked through on the eve of her 8 month mark this past week?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Truth Habit

Saturday morning was a rough patch for me.   I was not in the pit of depression and I still laughed happy some that day...  but it wasa bit grey for a stretch and so I'm going to preach a little sermon (post) to myself to lift my eyes and heart to the Truth...

But first, here's the backdrop for you:

Saturday morning I skyped with one of my dearest friends in the world.  She stood up and we finally got the camera position just right so I could see how ripe and round her belly is, full of life.  And I got her email about all the girlfriends who were welcome to come by her place as soon as she's in labor.  (She even has a hamper set aside for them to match socks for her, such a thoughtful host to provide an activity for the waiting.)  I love this girl and I love that baby coming soon and my man, and our babies and I are half the world away from all those friends that will gather with all their babies.

Then we ate breakfast on the "boat" that the kids arranged out of the living room furniture.  That was my best shot at trying to give the kids a fun mom morning.... but it ended with too many messes, an increasingly grumpy mom, and the corner of the table impressed on John's forehead looking like a blue and purple marble bulging under his skin.  (The pancakes were delicious though.  Thank you, darling!)

After clean up that took probably an hour longer than it needed to, Marian and I decided to bake pretzel rolls.  Ugly thoughts swirled through my head, jealous bitterness about how how far we are from the lucky people who can just go to the store and buy pretzels or ice cream or tortilla chips...  and how if we could buy pretzels, we'd probably also have heat and how nice that would be... (really though, we'll have heat in less than two weeks now! and what of the millions in this country that won't have heat all winter long!?  This complaining and ungratefulness is shameful but true!)

Matt started packing up to head out to class.  It was almost noon so he asked me what we were going to do for lunch.... (I don't think I ever asked him.  Darn selfishness!) With my plainest face, I told him that the kids and I would be fasting from lunch that day.... and Matt and I enjoyed a quick moment of amazement together at the work load involved in loving these precious treasured gifts the Lord has so generously given us.  (Don't get me wrong.... not for one millisecond have our kids been unloved, it's just that the amount of work it is to care for them and keep up with life continually astounds and exhausts me!)

But it was true,   Daddy would be gone the rest of the day and I still needed to feed this crew....  I misread the recipe and the pretzels- the half batch that we managed to unstick from the pan- turned out pretty unspecial but at least we did have something to eat.

Then, after too much more mess making and grumpy mess-cleaning, we made it to reading time and nap time (such a Gift of God!) and that's when my language tutor arrived for my class too...

And by the Lord's great grace.... the day ended much happier than it began.

Now here's what I want to lift my head up for... to set my mind on...   I want to take captive these untrue thoughts and bind my mind to dwell on Truth... a habit of speaking the truth to myself.  This time, this truth is from Habakkuk.

Though I am way too far from my dearest friends 
and from our fun family,

though new lives are being born 
that will be unheld, unkissed (by us) for years, 
and our littlest is unkissed by all of those far-away (except her travel-pro, wonderful grandparents,)

though we are cold, 
(and this country doesn't seem to sell a single blanket long enough for us)
and we are hungry for home,

though the skies are grey,
and rust and smogified cement cloud my views,

though our kids are kids (and while they are treasured and delighted in)
I am still so tired from meeting their needs for care and help still pretty much 24 hours a day...

none of this is paramount.

Despite all that makes me feel empty and broken and tired and needy,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength 
he charges my heart with his power 
so that I can rise,

be reminded of the truth of his patient, forgiving love for me!  
and behold His faithfulness, 
in the midst of all my grey,

that I may dwell richly in the land of his promise:
"I am, that I am."
"I am with you."
"You are mine."

(an adaptation/ paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Lord, please help me to rejoice in you despite everything (however silly or serious) here.

This post from David Powlison about Psalm 23 and what he wrote as an "antipsalm" inspired me to adapt/apply this passage like this.  Powlison's post is so outstandingly worth sharing, worth discussing with everyone....  oh to live and apply the truth of the true psalm!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How did I ever...

...get it this good?  I still shake my head with wonder, these seven and a half years in, that I could ever be married to this man, ever get to raise these four precious lives born out of our love, ever serve and take joy on the front-lines of this life/battle together with him.

I remember an awkward (oh so tempted to write awful except that the Lord redeemed it) internship I was in more than a decade ago.  All of us singles who wanted to work overseas got to take a class on marriage and family:  me and three guys.  (Ug.)  The class came late in our internship and I had already decided not to work overseas with that group, and the teacher had probably finalized his letters home about me (that I would never do well working overseas), and two of the guys kept running into brick walls when trying to discuss views of marriage with me.  Why would I argue for this position?  Surely I was demeaning my gender??  No, I still disagree with those dorks ( :) )

I dreamt of marriage being a living picture of the Gospel, Christ pursuing his bride and loving her with her life, her responding with all the lavishness of a heart delighted in and made beautiful by the Lover's love.  I dreamt of love and being served and serving gladly, mutual submission.  And I was scoffed at- surely I was the young, dumb one- who would say roles in marriage seemed most sparklingly beautiful.... They thought that unless a husband and wife shared everything straight down the middle (each with a little of every role and responsibilty) that I was degrading myself.  (Not so!)

I dreamt of raising kiddos and serving up yumminess daily when he would come home, squeeze my shoulders and kiss me in the kitchen before sitting down for dinner with our little ones (who, in the dream, were never grumpy and were always perfectly obedient, of course, because we would be patient, perfect parents...) well... it works in my dream anyway.

YES.  This was my dream then and it's my delight now to serve in our home.  I don't view work in the home as slave labor or as menial work that any 12 year old could do....  My view of homelife - the ideals we are striving after here- are way too glorious to be so mocked or misunderstood.  This job takes all of me (physically, emotionally, spiritually), challenges me, and requires great grace from God continually even to keep things nearly rolling well here... I love every aspect and need every bit of this refining!  Matt and I are agreed that the work in our home is the most important job in our lives, not second to anything he does at the office or in the classroom all day long.

My prose is getting away from me here so I'll just cut to the punch and tell you:  I have been more blessed than I ever had dreamed.  The Lord has completely outdone himself to give me such a man.

March 14, 2004
Matt has four evenings of class each week right now.  I'm tired when he comes home.   This semester is also the heaviest load I've had in language study since Isaiah was our only infant and we've added 3 kiddos and several more responsibilities since then.   I'm tired and he's tired...  (Masters in Chinese, 3rd language study, helping start up a business and lots of relationships, yada yada yada....)   but still, when he comes home, he jumps into our circus like the ring leader he is, getting tackled, giving tickles and sometimes spanks and often pep talks and always hugs before he even gets a drink of water or a potty break of his own.   All this, often after a 1.5 hour bike road home in the cold.  (Edit:  he just clarified that he rides 1.5 hour daily but round trip...  I still think he's awesome.)  He loves me and he loves our kids so blazingly, wonderfully much (and he'll probably be embarrassed when he reads this and ask me to take it down, but I won't (though I truly usually do value the respect and submission bit)....  Sorry Darling.)

I am so glad I get to lead our home and he gets to lead us all in it.   He's the director of our show (though he also submits to the Script and it's Writer).  I'm the stage manager.   I'm so blessed that the weight and responsibility of ultimately keeping the roof over this circus is on his shoulders and not mine.  But my role is crucial too.  And while it's different than his  (just like I'm different than him) there's no thought of my work or my value being any less than his, him...  I love it.  I love him.  

Next week we're starting to meet with our tutors (a sweet dating couple) for an attempt at premarital counseling.  It will be something to talk about love and humility and what makes a marriage and selflessness, sacrifice, service, perseverance and forgiveness with these guys.  We look forward to sharing with them about the love of God- 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 3:16- and how all this is unattainable with mere human effort but it gets planted in us like a seed to grow by the One who has first loved us so lavishly.   Selfless love.  Forgiveness.   God Does This.  

The pleasure is all mine that I should get to grow with this man to know and love and serve this Lover God with him.   

Thank you, Thank you, Lord.

I need sleep tonight (please kiddos!) so I can't go into much here.... but for a tiny bit more about Complementarianism (this view of equal and distinct and beautifully complementary roles for men and women), you could check this post or this free online book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

our little chivalrous one

This boy is so much fun, such a delight to each of us and I think, to everyone who knows him...

I love sitting across from him at the table and watching his joy in his daddy.

John has a wacky ridiculous sense of humor.  I don't know where he comes up with some of his goofiness... though "funny faces" at the table is entirely instigated by Daddy- a fun tradition for us.

 A dear friend recently recommended "Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas.  (It's wonderful!  Such a joy and inspiration to read, and a pleasure to read "with" a friend even at such a distance.  Thank you LS!)

Metaxas shared some sweet bits that siblings remembered about Bonhoeffer from when he was very young.  When I first read some of it I was a bit skeptical.  What real live toddlers show such chivalry as to defend their sisters from creatures (bugs) or encourage others with selfless words of love and serve them with bravery?  But I've been taken aback to realize that there are some real-live evidences of such grace in the sweet little boy here in our home.

This week when Marian missed Daddy (whose had too many evening classes this semester, come quickly final exams!) John told her "It's ok Ma-yin.  Daddy be home soon.  Cuddle you.  Ok?"  He invited Vivi to sit with him in the basket that used to be her bed, that for this instant was fashioned into a boat for John to sail the seven seas.  He held her close to him and then let her scoot to her side of the ship.  But every few seconds he'd hug her again and put his head next to hers, like he did in his photo with her on our patio a few posts back.

We've had a guest this week and when he joins us at the table in the morning, John points out every item on the table, "Do you want bagels? apples?"  This morning when Isaiah asked me about a watch that he loved that's been missing for months, John replied "I'll find it.  I look for it, k?"

And he is brave too... the big kids were just playing together:  May a bunny, John a frog and Isaiah a lion.   Isaiah jumped out roaring at them and the bunny and frog came running to mama, squealing-shaking with delight-fear.  Then Isaiah said, "Now John is the lion" and right away he roared a (not) terrible roar and showed his (not) terrible claws and chased them both around the living room.  The big brother and sister roared and squealed with pure delight.  And I was impressed one again with our boy.  May he be just so brave for our Lord.

What an honor it would be if the Lord would raise up our John like he did Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   May John know and love, praise and proclaim the goodness and sovereignty of our God like Bonhoeffer.  May each one of our kids...

Oh, and it must also be mentioned that although Bonhoeffer's biography is super inspiring, he was no super-human.  And neither is our ordinary-wonderful, sinful, precious, everyday-disciplined John.

Here's some proof that he's not the only one having fun (or getting messy!) at the breakfast table...

This little girl is a crazy banana addict these days and, right now, she's really into this little mesh bag toy-thing that she slurps her banana out of.  (Sorry for any of you who might be like Matt, and get a bit queezy if you look long at this gooey mess all over our girl.  Her smile is still worth posting to me!)

One day last week, some (smoggy) fog induced all four of these sweethearts to nap in the afternoon and then, as if that wasn't gift enough!, we had a cuddle fest on our bed at wake up time.  Of course I wish our linens were all fresh and the kids were all clothed and matching, but since this slightly messier place is where we really live, this is what you get... with a few blank stares and grumpy-silly looks and giggly smiles altogether.