Friday, August 31, 2012

in weakness & in joy


We're only leaving our home for five months, but today has been strangely packed with emotions for me.   I'm so excited to see family and our very dearest friends.   (We are all.... so sooo excited.)   So looking forward to simply being in America where things are like I'm used to, so many things like I love (sunsets, green, beauty, space, delicious, English, cleanness, quiet, politeness as I best understand it).

And I'm scared.  Scared that all we're preparing to share with friends won't look good, won't sound right, won't be worth it, our words maybe just falling down to the ground like lame arrows and no one will care about any of this.....  Maybe?  I'm scared that I won't understand my American friends as well anymore.  Scared they won't understand me.  Scared I might fall into coveting all things fashionable.  

And here I am posting about all this at 10:32pm.  A moment even just to process all this is sheer grace.  We leave early in the morning.  The Lord has been so good to us this week and these last days especially.  Everything is basically done, except of course for the 20 things on the list on the table that must be done in the morning.  One friend came and played with our kiddos this afternoon.  Two families from a new Sunday fellowship we've been at just since this summer visited us this evening.  What a blessing to receive their kindness... such a cheer amidst our packing madness.   Dinner with neighbors too.....  so many wonderful gifts.  

Matt reminded us both this morning that the Lord cares more about how we finish our responsibilities today than that we get all these things done.   I've been thinking all this afternoon of one little phrase...

We go in weakness.

Oh God may it be.    Too often when we're in some stressful situation, I become "Ms. Task Manager Mama and you better not change the schedule of events or the props that I'll need because I've got a job to do, four kids to take care of and get through these hoops with me, and I'm going to check it all of the list, (don't mess with me!), we'll make it happen, thank you very much."  It's ridiculous.  Pure Sin.  Since when have I ever really been able to control the events of my day?  

But my Lord does.  He is "the blessed and only Sovereign."  

Yes, I want to prepare.  Be responsible to do the best that I can.  But my heart is more important than any pseudo control I might grasp for..... oh, and grasping is so ugly.  

It has been sweet today to think of going forth in weakness.   Intentionally turning away from self-trust and self-strength (self-deception!) and trusting that the Father will take care of us.  Isn't it in our weakness that his strength is made perfect?   And what would I rather have....  his perfect strength or my delusion of power?  

His strength given to us is an incomparable gift.  And who could receive that without some humble gladness?  

We go in joy.

Isaiah 55:12 comes to mind:  "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace..."

There is lots of joy, and glad thankfulness to the Lord who is with us here and as we go, and who will be with us through all this new, scary season.  The Father who knows each of us and loves us more than we know.  We are so thankful to be His.  

Here's just a few more home-life joys I can't forget to record....  

After sorting kid's clothes and laundry and boxing up hand-me-downs to store for the littles,  Marian came to me with true bewilderment on her face and in her voice.... like she was shocked or stunned or maybe worse.   "Mom.  Something really strange happened.  When I looked in my drawer, I found this shirt.  And it was folded."  Phew....  glad that was it.  "Sorry, dear.  That IS strange.  But don't worry, it won't happen again."  (I normally just lay our kids clothes flat for them....  how strange indeed to have that old habit suddenly reappear!  I'm thinking there will be a "Fold Your Clothes Week" somewhere in the K family future, but probably not anytime too soon.)   May has been so helpful this week.  I love cuddling with her at bed time.  Recently she's been quick to shout out a math problem for me the moment I lay beside her and then she's ready for 10 problems from me too. 

John's pretty into doing headstands now.... sticks his feet into Isaiah's bunk above him and he fits just right.  But it's a loud thump when he comes down.  He is absolutely thrilled with this new skill.  He just might want to show you at the train station, Grandma and Grandpa!

Vivi is fun.  John and May taught her a little game that consists of them running into the room straight to her and then all of them screaming.  It's wonderfully fun-funny-loud. 

Isaiah has been quiet....  hard to tell what's going on in his heart sometimes.  He's becoming "cool", sometimes that means he's hilarious and other time it means he's seriously mindful of what others think about him.  It's all quite frightening to this mama, and yet full of potential that's exciting.   May He fear God!  What do I do to love a boy so big as this?   He is such a delight to me.... especially recently how he loves on Vivi so super well.   I've recently been thinking of Augustine's mom praying for him fervently for decades and what a privilege it is for me to have that role, that influence, in this great boy's life.  All I can do to love and lead him is cling to the One who loves him best and who will lead him and arrange everything everything for his good.  

Thank you for praying for us as we travel tomorrow.... it will be a long day!  But then!  We'll arrive in Seattle at nearly the same hour as we fly out of Seoul tomorrow afternoon..... we're going to be a zany bunch of jet laggers I'm guessing.  So grateful the Lord is with us.

May your lives and ours, our hearts, our days be all for His glory!  I'm so grateful for you sending us off with your prayers too, dear friends!

See you soon!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

today

Exactly this....  






Isaiah was exactly this age (give or take 20 hours) when Marian was born five years ago.

And today (Isaiah 6.5,  May 5 +2 days, John 3.2, Vivi 1.5) they're all cookie fans and sometimes cookie thieves and they are all the sweetest gifts I can dream of.  We are So Grateful to the Lord.


(And we are happily busy!  Leaving for the states in 2.5 days now!)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

May Love turns FIVE

Happy Birthday to our big girl... five years old today. May Love Dear, we can see you growing so much, so beautifully, especially recently.  It's such a joy to see you showing kindness, being generous, praying passionately, dancing gladly....  Daddy and I enjoy you so very incredibly much and we are beyond this world grateful to the Lord for your five years with us and for the woman you are becoming, darling.   

Yesterday we had a sweet group of girls at our place to celebrate.  I think it was the easiest birthday party we've ever planned and still one of the funnest.  Girls came, played, swam, ate...  and got their faces painted.  Nothing else needed!  6$ for face paint and a bunch of happy laughter.  
So. Much. Fun.  Thank you Lord!
I painted Marian's face with a flower, just like she asked for.  I think we were both glad it came of in the splash pool.  
...but thankfully, there were others more skilled than I am at face painting!
Beware of Shark (Boy)
He was very glad mama found some boy face paint ideas...  and we painted his face together- he and I!  
His dinosaur-dragon deal has a killer-hilarious roar, can't you tell?  



These two are so cute together!  We're so grateful for such precious friends for our kiddos!
 

This same day would have been my mama's 70th birthday.   I just reread our birth announcement for Marian here on our blog and treasured again the Lord's grace in all this.... May came two weeks before she was due and she was a SHE, a baby girl we could give my mom's name too....  two of the very most special women in my life, sharing this one special day.  What a gift. 

Marian Lynn has a name with a magnificent heritage.  Matt grew up loving his grandma Marian's name, always thinking it was simply the most beautiful girl's name.   And for her middle name, our daughter would get the name of her grandma who I believe was dancing in heaven for the day of her birth.   (Grandma Lynn's Y is why we spell May's short name like the month.)  Great Grandma Marian, and Matt's Mom, Mary (another close name connection) and Grandma Lynn are all women we earnestly hope our daughter will grow like in character, beauty, talent, wisdom and faith in the Lord Jesus. 

We love you Marian Lynn, our precious May Love Treasure Bug.


PS-  Matt recently pointed out another sweet thing about our girl's names...  that one day our girls probably won't share our last name, but we'll still share our first name connection:  Marian, Vivian, and Jillian.  That's really sweet to me.  (Even if we mainly go by our short names!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Family Life in Cultural Limboland

It's been over 2.5 years that we've been in China this stretch, though in many ways, it feels like it's been light years.   John has no memories of America (our last visit ended when he was 6 mo) and Vivi has never touched American soil.  Our big two, I'm pretty sure, are expecting the sates to be something along the lines of Hansel and Gretl's candy castle in the woods, but without the witch.  

Matt and I are eager to be back "home" where so much of life is worlds more comfortable to us.... But our family will be moving between about 18 homes in the 5 months that we're back and there's nothing comfortable about that.  At the end of these months, we'll be hungry to get back to this "home" where we live, the home that we love.  Our home where we it is a privilege to be refined by all that's still uncomfortable to us, and where it's an indescribable joy and privilege for us to get to shine our little lights.  


Here are a few of the shifting landmasses- the joys and the sorrows- we'll have our feet on in the next few months:  

  • How easy and wonderful it will be to communicate with people in our mother tongue!  To understand others thoroughly well and be able to express ourselves clearly and be understood, to know cultural cues in communication... how very nice!!
  • We're excited to get to eat American food!  We can get some imports here but we buy very few (too expensive!)
  • We will sorely miss...
    • near-by, super cheap, fresh produce
    • The terrific fried green beans, eggplant and garlic dish at the restaurant across the street... a large plate for us all $3 USD
    • Bing fang, ro jia mo and liang pi.... a nice meal for our whole family:  $8 USD
    • Lanzhou noodles...  the whole family eats for $6 USD
    • lots of vinegar and fresh ginger
  • We won't miss at all...
    •  smacking lips, open-mouthed chewing.  It's just normal and not the least bit impolite.  
    • Chicken paws reaching off the butcher's shelves
    • Live meat at that market (and hearing when it's time has come)
  • We will miss funny Chinglish signs like  "Lotus Teahouse and Rrrt Lecture Hall" or "Careful Knock Head"  and miss- just a little bit- strangers yelling out to us "one two three" or "Haloh! Haloh!" to practice their English with us.   
  • We're excited to have a secret language that no one around us knows!  Watch out friends, we're all ready to plan pranks, tickle tackles, and all sorts of surprise gifts for you!
  • We have at least 11 appointments (doctors and dentists) for our family during the first full week we're back.  And that's not because anyone's sick!  It's just that we haven't seen any docs in a long time and there are a few things to check on.  There is a sweet clinic in our town that serves foreigners but things are, well, different.  We are grateful for them and we're so grateful for the health the Lord has given us here when medical care like we're used to and drugstores are so far away. 
  • We will have a car to drive (loaned to us by super generous family and friends- THANK YOU!)  
    • but we'll all be confined with belts and buckles... no snuggling or tackling during a ride in the states!  
    • and we'll be zooming at an astonishing 60-70+ mph!  Doesn't that scare any of you, Americans?  (It scares me a bit.) 
    • and the cost of gas, we've been warned, will knock us over.  Our average taxi ride here is $2-3 USD. 
    • and I'll be honest, a little part of me will miss the "flow like water" driving mindset here.... it does look crazy and sometimes makes for pure gridlock, but occasionally it is terribly efficient and you gotta love that!
Absolutely none of these things (in the list above) are better in one place than another.   All of this can feel awkward and even painful to try to adapt to, but none of these issues is a matter of right vs. wrong.   But there are some issues that are harder to handle, some that are daily struggled with and often prayed over with tears.    The marks of a society that is fallen and dead in sin.... And again, there's no chance for a superiority complex here because our home culture is entirely marred by it's own sin too.
  • We are SO excited to be outside...
    • Green.  Trees!  We're mostly surrounded by cement here
    • Grass.  If there is any here, it's almost always roped off.   Grandma and Grandpa have a whole YARD for these kids to romp and roll in!
    • Blue skies! and clouds!  
    • Quiet.  Chinese usually love "Re Nao" which means "Lively". Grocery stores and storefronts have multiple (overlapping) sellers announcing on megaphones their sale items.  Walkers often carry around a news radio (no headphones).   Hiking locations often have pop music on loud speakers so that nature areas aren't too quiet and lonely or depressing feeling.   People go outside for conversation, to find a lively corner of a dozen or more neighbors, with music and dancing exercise and liveliness together.  We are hungry for wide-open nature, the sound and smell of wind blowing, cloud and sunset watching together.  
  • We'll miss having friends and neighbors close by all the time... sometimes for easy help or playtime together or just a daily hello.
  • How will we handle Christmas?!??!  We would value simplicity no matter where we live, but really, How Will We Deal with (the materialism of) Christmas in America?  We have so many friends here who live on so little...
  • How will we handle Starbucks and Steakhouses?  Yes, it's nice.  And yes, it's normal to plenty of American friends, but it adds up quick.  And it matters.  And yes, there is a time for everything....  but when families live on a dollar or two a day, that just matters to us.  They are also our brothers and sisters.  James 5 matters too and we don't want to live in "luxury and self-indulgence" even if that makes us more alien to Americans than we already are to Chinese!    There IS a time for everything, but we know this will be a struggle.  
  • There are so many different values and ideas... (this is the abbreviated list)
  • Procedures.  Hospitals, visa offices, universities, the telephone company, picking up a product ordered, these procedures all run according to rules that work here, but sometimes drive us absolutely batty!  It's normal to need several trips to a place (which means Matt bikes across the city) to get a single job done.   There are almost no appointments and waiting in line is only recently becoming standard.  There are many instances where you'll need to figure out how to stand your ground and politely push your way to the front to be helped.    
  • Hovering, Crowding, Staring.  We look different and we don't go unnoticed or unmentioned.   I really can't convey the intensity or frequency of this piece of our lives here.  I don't yet know how to steer myself through it mess free and I certainly haven't figured out the key to get our kids through these waters smoothly either.  I need to constantly remind myself that it is not a universal idea that staring at people is rude or inconsiderate... even if there are several of you and the child you're surrounding and watching so closely appears to be scared by you.  To many neighbors here, they are showing honor to be so interested in our kids.  
  • Some of the things people say to our kids are really hard...
    • "Who of you is more beautiful, your brother or you?"  
    • "If I take your baby sister away, what will you do to me?" (to see if the kids are appropriately brave)
    • "Look, this one is more beautiful than that one." (probably assuming we don't understand them)    

We need much more of the Lord- his humility, patience, grace and LOVE-  and much less of our own wisdom and strength to thrive and be fruitful here.  That is what we so deeply long for.  Would you pray for us for this!?  

Thank you if you've made it this far...  We will be so glad for you to understand our cultural goofiness a bit better for having plowed through this long post!   

Please let us know if we can connect with you in the states.   We are so grateful to the Lord for you, dear friends!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

can you hear that?

Matt is famous for his (tickley) back rubs around here..
Perhaps if you lean in close, you can hear the joy?



John's sweet sense of humor and general silliness is so. much. fun.  We all love this boy like crazy!
Yes, I know it looks like they're behind bars but really they're just sitting near our living room window with a (sturdy as tinfoil) railing that's there for "safety".

...and there are more wiggly laughing pics , but they're all too squiggly...

Here she's all caught up in telling Daddy about her day, her adventures and her sorrows.  She's babbling and speaking so well, so much these days!  Vivi is breathtakingly delightful to us.

 Sometimes we Ks have to speak Latin in order to fully express our emotions on a topic.  That being said, I can more accurately tell you that she is, in my eyes, fatastimoniously adorablinimous.  

Play Ball! Wanr Qiu Ba!

We finished the first bilingual baseball camp and it was a FUN two-week stretch for all!  We're so grateful for the kids that played and the progress each one made.  We sure hope this will work as a business endeavor for Matt to continue with to open opportunities for us here!




so fun to have help from dads and play with sons that we love!
a little juggling fun on the side... 
this girl makes fun wherever she is.... and sadly for Daddy, that hasn't been on the baseball field lately.  Can't believe we'll be celebrating her 5 year mark this weekend.  Beauty Treasure, how are you growing so fast, my love!?


This boy caught a fly ball and made some great hits... he's still got a ways to go in persevering through an hour of play at a time though!  But man do I ever love him!!


I'm pretty sure this grandpa was just observing us... and Daniel was so sweet to explain our crazy foreign sport

the last morning the kids played against a team of dads and Matt's friends....  they all did great!


Passed!

We're in the last two-week stretch before we're off to America for a few months.  The To-Do List is long and there have been late-night coffee and Cokes and sweaty panicky moments when I have to speak scripture aloud to calm myself down.  There are so many things we just can't leave unfinished for five months...  But today, a great piece of the burden was finished.  

The biggie on my list was to complete the process to get my China driver's license.   You'd think the test, my last step,  would be easy because we were given a test booklet with all the questions in it.   But that booklet had 1500 questions (327 pages) and it covered an huge range of topics from China's internal DMV admin reqiurements, EMT rescue techniques, penalties for every traffic violation possible,  hundreds of specifics related to buses, tractors, trailers, non-motorized vehicles, and heavy machinery, to driving etiquette for when you encounter a herd of animals on the road or rescue methods  for when your car is submersed in water (stay in the car and call for help?), to road signs and hand signals that Matt had to encourage me to believe must be intuitive for somebody somewhere.   Dozens of questions contradicted each other (they probably didn't in Chinese, but I was reading English questions which- on the whole-  I am SO grateful I could do!)   It was killer.   But today, by the wild grace of God, I passed the test, first try!

What a relief!   Tonight we're celebrating with a little silly time off together....  it's like an evening vacation. (Yea for some blog post fun!)

I'm
So
Grateful 
to be
DONE!

I can drive in China now!!!  Yipee!!!
Thank you Lord!

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Veggies and the Gospel


Very sweet thoughts and honest conviction shared here by the creator of Veggie Tales.   I found this excerpt on  Hutchmoot, a conference where Phil Vischer will be speaking.  It looks like these words about his dream that came true (Big Idea Productions/ Veggie Tales) then suddenly collapsed, are from his memoir Me, Myself & Bob.  


I looked back at the previous ten years and realized I had spent ten years trying to convince kids to behave “Christianly” without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, "Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so," or, "Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!" But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.

American Christian[s]… are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god… We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of "when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true" and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.

Monday, August 13, 2012

like a box of chocolates


Here's a random assortment of sweets...

on my trip to meet John Paul... I had two hands for photos on the street!  
my favorite little round bellies
our cute neighbor girls from upstairs
"Little Jack" from the building across from us, spends most evenings at our place playing.   He turned ten this week and we got to celebrate with him and his parents- dinner at a hot pot restaurant- yum!
they're not laughing at the cute puppies but they sure are giddy that a foreignor just asked for their picture

I melt to see her in this little China dress... it was a gift from my dear friend Li Miao for May's 1 year birthday.
And the fuzzy hairdo?  It's all that works for the girl who's taken out every clip lately, along with a fist full of hair.   

(Those two pointy fingers just crack me up!)


Monday, August 6, 2012

Praise be to the God who saves!


On the speed train heading home liquid joy keeps slowly spilling over.  I’m so amazed, absolutely awestruck at the grace of God this day...

Just last week we confirmed that these dear friends had their “Gotcha Day” set and that I would get to be there to help with their littlest guy, precious Luke, and take pics of the welcome.  After more than two years (right, Ks?) of dreaming and waiting and praying for an adoption to go through for their family, they would finally bring home their new boy.  I’m stunned that I got to be there...with these friends and another friend family we love.  Only a Sovereign Father could arrange for friends to meet, to welcome their new sons in the same city on the same day.  
The S Family adopted their sweet boy David seven months ago.  Just before his adoption was complete, they learned about David’s foster brother, a little boy just ten months older than him, who would comfort David when he was sad or afraid; a little boy with only one eye.  These two were a tight pair but then David was adopted.  Jeff & Rebecca certainly wouldn’t have guessed it earlier, but the Father had it planned from the beginning that they would bring home that foster brother too... Isaac and David would become forever brothers and would get a little brother and big sister along with a mom and dad who love them crazy much and crazy fun with the unspeakable love of God.
This Morning.  This joy hasn’t stopped pouring down my face and I’m afraid I’ll be a mess over this for days....
It really couldn’t have been sweeter.   There were seven families at the Civil Affairs office all waiting to meet their kids and the children slowly trickled in in taxis from orphanages around the province.   There were lots of anxious parents: crying moms, eager videoing dads.  (How very happy I was to take a few cameras for those dads to get in the videos with their new kids.)  

Isaac arrived and was chased around with cookies and a lollipop by new siblings and happy parents.  He’s a spunky one for sure and theres a bit of sibling angst to be praying for with that sweet tightly-knit crew (21 months between their four from oldest and youngest).  



And then all of the sudden, there was John Paul.  He spent the first 45 minutes or so in his daddy’s arms.  There was lots of paper signing, some cracker crunching, and picture viewing (pics of his two big sisters and one big brother who are waiting at home to shower him with love.)  




And then mama couldn’t wait any longer.... with just a few seconds of sorrow for the loss of that papa hold, John Paul began his first long mama snuggle.





John Paul is a handsome, sturdy-built 19 month old with a cleft lip (that’s been repaired) and cleft palette.  In all the stir in that room and on the bus ride back to the hotel, I don’t think he made a single peep.   But when I got back bringing lunch for our crew, this little guy was playing and communicating and soon, eating like a hungry, silly, little sweetheart.  
I admit.  I’m absolutely in love with John Paul!  Struck through with love and joy over this sweet boy.  I was hoping to stare at pictures of him all the way back to my town, but my camera battery just gave out.  So...  I’m writing my joy.
Oh such joy!  
Welcome John Paul!  Welcome Isaac!  

Congratulations dear friends!
Praise! Endless Praise to the God who loves orphans  
Praise be to the Father of the Fatherless, Defender of the Needy, Helper of the Weak, Savior of all who trust in Him
You have done marvelous things yet again in our lives! ... in these precious little lives
Praise be to our Great God!






More tears hit my lap and I raise my hands, fearless of the business travelers around me, emboldened by the majesty and splendor of the love of our God.  And tonight already I'm home in central China for late dinner with my love and my little loves, for kisses all around, and yet more joy in the retelling of all this...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

bits & pieces

Today, just a little record a few of simple things in our home... none of it extraordinary, but all of it precious to enjoy.  Oh these treasured little moments!  Oh the myriad ways the Father shows us his kind love!

Right now Isaiah is sitting at the table, drawing a picture (no doubt, of soldiers and a battle of some sort) and telling aloud the story that's unfolding... in Chinese.   The bad guy is getting killed and another guy is riding in on a horse....  I love our bilingual boy!

And John just built a thing of blocks- 6-7 bristle blocks attached head to tail to look like a train.  He brought it to me and told me it was his "speedy."  And when I asked him just what a speedy really is, he looked at me with a tinge of pity, like that was not my brightest question, and he explained again,  "Mom, right here, this is my speedy."   Of course....

And yesterday the kids turned on a CD we recently received as a gift from sweet new friends who travelled through. The last song is "Mighty to Save."  I walked in to see a well arranged band:  Isaiah strumming his dumbra (dumbela- I'm embarrassed I don't know what it is!) like a rocker's guitar(he'll need  some coaching Uncle Greg), Marian playing piano on the toy box and two little drummers with chopsticks going crazy on the yellow stool (John) and anywhere she could find (Vivi.)  John and Marian especially love this song and will sing the second half of the course over and over again just like that's all there is to the song:   "Forever, Author of Salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave... Forever..."  (We're still working on getting the whole chorus down.)




I know... way to blurry... but a keeper still
(this was when she moved on to become the third drummer)

It's been cooler yesterday and today.  Yippeee!   The drizzly rain has been pure gift for the past week that's been especially yucko hot in this city cement oven!

But this made the heat well worth it:  Last week, we were invited by some new friends to a swimming pool/ mini water park in town.  It was wonderful!!! (We just started attending a new Sunday fellowship here that has been a tremendous joy to us after abut a year of really missing such connection with the Body. How fun to spend the morning with those friends all cool in the pools!)

he spent most of his time right here
I admit, these "hot dogs" (water seesaws) had me giddy.... we had so much fun on them!
thats our cool neighbor buddy Kai there too- we're so grateful for him and his family!

 

Still...Right...Here...
Yep.  That's our girl.
this slip-n-slide deal was perfect for John and Vivi...  she was up for the challenge


We also have a few kiddos gearing up to play for the first Bilingual Baseball Camp here this summer!  We could still use a few more kids to join in.... would you pray with us for that?

There... just a few, simple treasures to remember...