Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Love

Yesterday Matt and I got to talk with friends who shared with us about Paul Miller's book, Love Walked Among Us.  I haven't read it yet, but the summary I heard is etched into my heart....  Here's what Miller (apparently) wrote about the way Jesus lived love:

Christ was always free to say yes, 
always free to say no, 
and he always left room for divine interruption.  

No obligations, no fear of man, no lust for approval and applause?  No deadly iron-jawed insistence on My Plan Right Now?  Man, if I could live like that!  What a beautiful, whole, helpful, happy life!  I sure want to strive after that...

But the good news is that Jesus isn't only a good example for me to strive to be like.  Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, and thousands of others were good examples to emulate.  Jesus goes well beyond "good teacher" though;  He is Savior.  He lived Love for us, forgiving our failures, fixing our brokenness, cleansing our infected hearts, filling us with his wholeness.

At Christmas, we marvel and worship that our triune God- He who IS love within Himself- would take on flesh to demonstrate love in our broken world to us who are slaves to sin and death.  And to think of this eternally thriving love creating us to know him, making us to be satisfied and set free by His love?  Consider these words from Ann Voskamp  (from her Advent devotional that's free from her site.... oh so sweet.)  


We alone were formed by a huddle of hearts — Let us make human beings.

The three persons of the Trinity, Father God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, they gathered close together to imagine us and God in three persons, all full of affection, knelt down and kissed warm life into us with the breath of His love.

And we are made of the dust of this earth and we are made of the happiness of heaven and we are flesh and we are spirit and we are of two worlds longing for the home of His world. The authority of God made all of creation. But it was the a ffe c t i o n of God that made all of His children. (Prov. 8:31)

We were made by Love! For love! Made in the image of God to look like His love! The Christmas story is a love story, the whole blue marble of the world spinning on the axis of His love... Could anything be better?

Yes!  Could there be anything better than this magnificent love?  Rescue from slavery and death, freedom for life,  and eternity ahead full of soul satisfaction and pleasures at His right hand.....  

Christians, we have every reason for bold, confident hope and great celebration!  May this Advent season be full of joy, swelling your hearts with hope and expectation of the coming King.

sweet nothings


I don't want to whizz through these treasured moments and forget them.  They could sound like little "nothing" stories, but to me, they are precious gifts from God.  They are all from you, all for you, God.


*Vivi put her hand on mine at dinner last night, leaned in close and whispered in my ear just like she's seen her siblings do.  She said no words at all... just joy whispers, wordless consonant-breaths, that made her mama's heart puddle.  More whispers today too.  She loves laying down on the grass and looking at the sky or laying on a bed, wiggling under the covers and snuggling her little head into a big pillow.  She also loves her siblings:  "Gege" (somehow she remembered the Chinese word for 'older brother' without us urging her!), 'Ma Lee" (she says it as if her big sister's real name is Molly), and "Do" or sometimes "Joe" (John).  And she loves "baht bam" (popcorn) too.

*John's regular, precious prayers:  "Gank you God, pray for...."  And when we pulled over to admire four deer eating grass near the road a few days ago, how John told me as I started to drive away, "no, mama, I want to sing to them!  As the deer..."

*Marian singing right now in bed, a little aria of kinder-praise.  Oh, but wait, now she's giggling loud, and moving into a "hot dog song."

*Just before bed, the big three were transformed into "Underwear Men" with you-know-what as their face masks.  (yikes)

*And our big guy has been way more into cuddles and kisses lately and I. Love. It.   I love the young man he's becoming.  His stuffed animal Pup has had at least a dozen birthdays, each with it's own party, in just the past two weeks.... They're all growing up so fast :)

Thank you, Father!


tonight
our tea & popcorn party yesterday...  we're so grateful for these fantastic neighbors





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

for Christmas

Just seven sweet simple things here... and it sounds like the most merry Christmas imaginable.  Enduringly satisfying (and what toy has ever been that!?)   Oh that Christ might be the glowing Beauty that we all dream of, the Satisfaction and Fulfiller that we rightly hunger for and rightly celebrate, rightly honor this Christmas.  

Oh God, may we give well to your glory this Christmas!

Be praised, our Savior King!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

All for Christ

I read these words a little while ago and revisited them just tonight.  I love this friend of mine who shares about Harriet Newell.  I love Harriet with her for the quotes she shared.  And I love the God who is worthy... so much more than worthy... of all of our affection and energy and labor and lives.

If you have a minute....  please read!    May the Lord rise up many more like this 19 year old who lived and died with passion for the truth of eternity declared in the Word, a young woman who gladly gave her all for Christ.  


Monday, November 26, 2012

feast week

We got to have Grandma and Grandpa with us this week here in Florida!  What a feast of joy!  We're so thankful you could come... and glad to celebrate our THANKS with you.

What's that in your belly, Grandpa?



The Aqua Ball.   Leave it to (Matt's uncle) Father Tony to find a toy this fun.




It really must be said:  this girl is absolutely smitten with her grandpa!


And...  We are so grateful for you who track with our family in this little journal online.  Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you and thank you so much for sharing your life, your heart with us too.  We love hearing from you-  whenever, however you're able!  We love you dear friends!





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We ran for Premila


We ran for Premila.  What an honor and what compelling joy to Run.  For.  Her.
To run and to live and to push hard for the finish line... ultimately All For Christ.

THANK YOU to the friends who sponsored us, contributing to As Our Own, for Premila, for our run.
  



Yesterday morning Bart and Judy met us at the starting line and the guys ran a half marathon and Judy and I ran the 5k.  We love the connection we have with these two.  They are very much like spiritual parents to us, precious mentors, cherished friends.  It was great to run with them.... together for Premila.                          

The BEAUTIFUL blue sky and green all around was a huge cheer for Matt and I.  This is why we don't really run in China (just super sporadically.)  I need beauty around me to motivate me and the cement everything-rusty-smoggy running opportunity around us there does nothing to lure me into sweating. This morning was pure gift.   A gift very much made possible by one lavishly kind friend, Sean, who showed up at our house at 6 am to be there for our kids and shuttle them to the race in time to see Daddy cross the finish line.  Thank you, thank you, Sean!

Good job Daddy!
(it was bright)

Sadly, we missed the kids race (must have been while I was running) but we finished up with a little race of our own.  
Today, the kids and I prayed again for Premila.   World prayer time-lunchtime is becoming a tradition or at least hopefully will become a solid tradition in our family life together.   Pick a few current events, remember the names of organizations and dear friends and projects we love, our Compassion kids and so many friends in China... learn about the world and PRAY.   

Today was the best lunch time yet because I found As Our Own on vimeo and we watched a few of their videos and prayed for all the girls there.  Oh to pray more fervently for our four and for these girls too...  to love and give and pray for these girls more like we do for our own.  

(Side note:  there are so many excellent resources I'd love to link to on our family blog but not everything is bloggable because of where we live in.  Please email/comment if you'd like to hear more organizations and good works to pray for. )    More about world prayer lunchtime soon....  I'd love to have you join us!  

Harry Leu & Roman Elias


Last week we got to go to Harry P. Leu Gardens for their free admission morning with this fantastic group of friends.  Such a beautiful place to enjoy together!  

I love these two so much!
there were turtles swimming below 
finding the joy down there... together

Auntie Melissa knew this one kind of flower that can be eaten, so they all nibbled just a bit.
and they nibbled on these tiny oranges too.... but the sweetness just wasn't there

After the garden, we got to have a bday bash for Roman at Chick-fil-A.  Roman is quite taken with Vivi these days.

happy birthday big guy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

little bits on our little loves


Vivi-kitty
Last night Isaiah battled Daddy in Stratego, a game loaned to us by our pastor, the item that is now solidly at the top of Matt and Isaiah's wishlist.  The other three were playing house (the first time they've really gotten into this) and Marian told me what was going on:  "Isaiah's the dad (even though he wasn't playing), I'm the mom, John's the kid, and Vivi's the cat."  They just really needed a cat and somehow she got the role.   I think she's cute whatever she is...

And she's gotten crazy verbal on us!  Last week she told me "Aye Yan Gum" and brought me a stick of gum.  Clearly she hears her siblings tell their mama plenty often enough "I want gum!"  She has a few favorite words that I just love to hear from her:   sanas (sandals),  cooookie,  my (mine!), blay blay (she gets giddy when she cuddles or plays with her beloved Blanket), bella bulah (belly button) and peeez (which I'm pretty sure she thinks means "give it to me!").   I love how she's started answering me "kay" or "gay" when I ask her a question.... "okay?"  I feel like story telling is really not too far off for her!

"Airplane!"
I just love her pointy finger stretched toward whatever she loves.  And too, she's always quick to raise her hand and shout "me!" for every possible "who wants......?" 

This guy, well... he cracks us up all the time.  I'm quite sure he rarely tries to be funny but he just IS so often, so super funny!  We really couldn't love him more....  or any of these four, of course!

PS-  He did get a haircut, mostly because of the long tuft sticking out the back in this pic!


My precious girlfriends from high school, two of my beautiful bridesmaids, Melissa and Michele,  have all these fantastically sweet, cute kiddos and I LOVE that our kids slip right in the middle of them age-wise.  Our three families each have 2 boys and 2 girls (the littlest girl is due in Feb) and it's just so much fun to have our crews altogether.   And yes... this was the tail end of Oct and we were swimming in sunshine here in Central Florida!


just a really cool, green, shiny bug and a bunch of delighted, adorable kids
the celebrity
More shots coming (hopefully) soon of our great morning at Leu Gardens!

I love these two together.  Isaiah is learning to be a great helper when this little one makes her messes.  
She's  an easy joy to everyone in the family.  
(I really need to dig up a photo of Matt snuggling Isaiah and May when they were all wrapped up in towels just like this about 3-4 years ago.   Grandma, you know the shot, right?)  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

a very interesting visit

We weren't sure it would happen....  but in the end, Hurricane Sandy didn't hold them back.  My dad and his wife flew into Orlando Thursday evening for a visit with us.  It was the first time he met our kids and it was a very enjoyable 2.5 days with them.




We enjoyed several nice restaurants with them, swimming at their hotel, the Winter Park Chain of Lakes boat tour, and a morning of play at a park near downtown.  For that, my dad sat on a bench and we all watched the kids and while he rattled off some sensational highlights from our family history.

At one point, a runner sped by and yelled back to my dad, "Hey, you look familiar."  
My dad: "You do too, I'll keep watching you to see if I can remember where I've seen you." 
The runner very cleverly replied, "yea, you may have seen me before, I'm in a few commercials."  

he didn't ever tell us straight if these were imports or exports of Cuba 
I said I wouldn't post this photo on facebook.   But I think this shot only enhances his image!  And anyway, this isn't facebook! 





Some dear friends of ours watched our kiddos on Thursday night and Matt and I got a double date with these two.  That gave us the opportunity to have much more focused conversation and we even covered good books and spiritual things.  At lunch my dad told me he would read Tim Keller's The Reason for God so at dinner I put a copy in his hands.  Would you pray with us for my dad while he reads?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

choosing hunger for God

For a little while now I've been thinking that I really need to find the book Hunger for God, by John Piper.  Somehow I've just had it in my mind that that book would hit the spot for me in this season.

Here's a selection from the blurb about it on Amazon:


There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast: "This much, O God, I want you."


And then I found this invitation:  a seminar to be given this week (with live streaming for us to join in!) at Bethlehem on this very topic, and a link to text of the book to read online for free.


One quote from the introduction, a bit that has sealed my expectations of great pleasure as I pursue arousing a greater hunger for God:


Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie.  It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but the endless nibbling at the table of the world.  It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night....  The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolarty is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.  

This week I know as plain and clear as day that I need fierce weapons against my own unrighteous anger and gross impatience and selfishness of every kind.  I'll take whatever true weapon of the Spirit I can find!  And this...  that I could use this ancient, glittering sword of honor and even joy?  That I could fast and pray and be drenched in the Word!?   What a grace to be given...

I'm eager to press hard into more of him by means of these graces....  I'm sure we can find the seminars ("A Hunger for God") from Nov 2 and 3, 2012 online after they're given too....  I'd love for you to join me and share with me your thoughts from the book or seminar, dear friends!  Let me know if you can take it in too!



Oh God, may You be most highly praised!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Baldwin {for runners and readers}

Runners...
In just about two weeks Matt and I will take off at the starting line in the Baldwin Park races (him a half marathon and me a 5k).  We're excited and also fairly confident that we just weren't built to be runners.  The joy in this for us right now is getting all our morning practice runs and the race on Nov 11 here in Central Florida: absolutely beautiful, mild fall.    The moon was glowing fantastically and there were stars shining over me at 7am this morning!  Such a privilege to run in this beauty!

Plus, add the great joy and honor of running for Premila and having this running as a lesson compelling me to wear myself out well.   We're still raising money for  As Our Own with this run.   If you'd like to donate for Premila, the 14 year-old girl we're pledging our run-funds towards, please check here.  There will be no more mentioning this fundraiser here at the blog....  this is your last reminder, friends!  :)

In our city home in China, we rarely ever see a star.  This time to be in creation, to think, to pray, to take in spiritual nourishment (the moonlight, magnificent creation, or a sermon on the ipod) is such a gift.  We are so grateful.  Come January, I'll be back to my silly exercises with the kiddos in the living room (and there's a heap of joy in that too.)

Readers...
From Ambleside Online, I came across the Baldwin Project, whose slogan is "Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children."  We've loved the reading primer by Harriet Treadwell (came in super handy when the Veritas Press primers I ordered were several grade levels above what I expected!)  and also the fantastic stories (read with a tiny bit of mama censoring) in In Story-land.  This site is another fantastic find for readers overseas and everyone interesested in classic literature.  I'm so excited about this resource for our family!    

Lest You Be Hardened


More exquisite, penetrating poetry from John Piper..... posted just days ago here.  

"Lest You Be Hardened"
Hebrews 3:13
Your thoughts, your words, your ways
     Are high,
So far above my place
     That I
Sometimes perceive your broad
     Daylight—
Your brilliant blue, your sun—
    As night.
You love me with some shock,
     A threat.
Am I then in the dock,
    In debt?
You answer, "No, you're blest.
     It's my
Alert, my kindness, lest
     You die."
I see. Then, Lord, invoke
     Your Dove.
Cause me to feel this stroke
     As love.
Come, teach my heart in this
     To rest,
To savor and to kiss
     This “lest.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reds

When we arrived in Columbia Saturday afternoon Uncle Greg and Eli were out at the street to greet us.   Heather stepped out onto the front porch and greeted us "Hey... I feel like we're normal people, getting to see family twice in a month."  So cute, so tough, so true...

We had so much fun together in our  (approximately) 42.377 hours with this crew.  What a joy they are!  Sadly, my camera just seemed to out of reach for a few of our fun things (probably related to my mini-breakdown Sunday morning about how many things we've left scattered across the states we've passed through, how many of my needed possessions I'm missing, and how far we are from any normal routine for our family life!).  At last I got out the Nikon in time for our last park run...


(I'm pretty sure this kiss would pass for both "unforeseen" and "sloppy wet".... what a silly song!
 Thanks for educating us, Greg. )
we love this beautiful family... and in our eyes there are four to love
sweet sillies

Auntie Heather and Da Boys

In the middle of such joy and silly laughter and good food and fantastic story read alouds, Heather and I  got to look through the beautiful album and memory chest she made for Maelee, their firstborn, the treasured daughter that died at 38 weeks gestation.  This month was my first time to see Grether since Maelee went to be with Jesus and right when I laid eyes on them, just as I was meeting Eli for the first time, I missed her.  She should have been there.  Heather was carrying Maelee inside her last time we were together.

The grief still strikes deep.

Thank you for sharing your life and your joy and even your grief with us, Grether.  It is truly, radically amazing to see you grow and grieve and give to others the HOPE you have because of Christ and the comfort you have recieved from him even in the midst of such sorrow.  I hate grief, but its our reality in this fallen, will-be-redeemed world, and it felt so healthy to get to grieve with you.  Thank you.

What a good visit with you guys.  We love you so terribly, incredibly, wonderfully much!



To read more about Maelee, you can check posts from our blog in April (through summer) 2010 or at www.gretherfamily.blogspot.com .