Saturday, July 27, 2013

for the epitaph...

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: "the only proof He needed for the existence of God was music" 
- Kurt Vonnegut, published in Scotland's Sunday Herald (via Jason Gray's website)

Friday, July 26, 2013

a letter on enduring grief and entering eternal joy

This spring I got to read a friend's copy of Sharon James' biography, Elizabeth Prentiss:  More Love to Thee.  The entire book was a deep encouragement for me in is aiming to live for Christ and praying for more love, more love for Him! Elizabeth Prentiss had a personality that I understood very well and she loved the Lord with arduous affection, endured tragic losses all her life (her father dying when she was young, the death of two of her three young children five months apart), poured herself out for the sake of others until her health was completely weakened for it, and grieved deaths around her continually (as was common in that age.)  Through all of it, she wrote and wrote and wrote... letters to friends and novels that are still loved today.   

Here's just one excerpt to share here before I return the book to my generous book-loaning friend.

"In October, 1867,  Nelly Payson (wife of Elizabeth's brother Edward), died after a lingering and painful illness.  Nelly's friendship with Elizabeth dated back to their childhood... One of Elizabeth's last letters to Nelly illustrates her complete confidence that, for the Christian, 'to die is gain':
I have been so engrossed with sympathy for Edward and your children, that I have just begun to realize that you are about entering on a state of felicity which ought, for the time, to make me forget them.  Dear Nelly, I congratulate you with all my heart.  Do not let the thought of what those who love you must suffer in your loss, diminish the peace and joy with which God now calls you to think only of Himself and the home He has prepared for you.  Try to leave them to his kind, tender care.  He loves them better than you do; He can be to them more than you have been; He will hear your prayers... All your tears will soon be wiped away' you will see the King in His beauty; you will see Christ your Redeemer and realize all He is and all He has done for you;  and how many saints whom you have loved on earth will be standing ready to seize you by the hand and welcome you among them!  As I think of these things my soul is in haste to be gone; I long to be set free from sin and self...
 Dear Nelly, I pray that you will have as easy a journey homeward as your Father's love and compassion can make for you; but these sufferings at the worst cannot last long, and they are only the messengers sent to loosen your last tie on earth, and conduct you to the sweetest rest..." (p 136-137)
Side note:  Elizabeth Prentiss would never have written this letter to Nelly, assuring her of heaven, if Nelly's hope was rooted in her identity as a good person or a flag-flying American.  Our hope for heaven is Christ, the Ransom, the Redeemer, the promised rescuer of God for His people.  On Him we have set our hope.   In Him we assure ourselves...

Oh.... and just one more.  This is so much what I want my heart (and our journal here) to be about:
The more I reflect and the more I pray, the more life narrows down to one point-  What am I being for Christ, what am I doing for Him?  Why do I tell you this?  Because the voice of the fellow-traveller always stimulates his brother-pilgrim; what one finds and speaks of and rejoices over, sets the other upon determining to find too.  God has been very good to you, as well as to me, but we ought to whisper to each other now and then, 'Go on, step faster, step surer, lay hold on the Rock of Ages with both hands.'  You never need to be afraid to speak such words to me.  I want to be pushed on and pulled on, and coaxed on.

(And I agree.  I do too.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

life lately

A big piece of the summer right here.... and precious friends to share it with
These two end up shoulder to shoulder for "book look at time" quite often.... usually with the little one cuddling next to her big brother whenever he's still long enough for the love.

These friends:  I can't tell you how my heart has been knit to this little sister for me.   So soo grateful for the Lord bringing her into our family and for her cool boyfriend who's nearby too.... 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome Little Prince { #RoyalBaby}

You are one well loved, well-cared-for baby and sure to be adorable if what your daddy said was true, about you getting your mama’s looks.  Welcome little one, to our world.

I’m no one you’ll ever need to know but I thought I’d jump on the hashtag bandwagon and send you a hello and tell you just one thing that I hope, more than anything else, for you.

They say you’ll be king one day and you’ll never know anything but press coverage and hard-to-find privacy because of who you are and to whom you were born.  And all of this has been chosen for you.  

I wonder what it’s like on the inside of the palace to think of kingship and leading a people.... even from the awkward position of a figurehead.  But I can tell you this:  that I think we, humans, were made for kingship.  Even you....  may you know how you too need a King.  You were born to be a little picture of the True Kingship we were made for...  Why else would millions be panting for news of your arrival, a glimpse of your little head, the announcement of your name?  So will you be a picture of what the True King is like.... or what he isn't like?

What kind of prince.... and then king.... will you be?  What will you set your heart to seek after?   What will you allow to shape you, your character, your mind, your ambitions?  For what issues will you take a stand?  What will the history books record about you?

They say you were born lucky.  I say you were born with a heavy load of responsibility and an abundant supply of distractions.  May you seize your role and responsibilities with courage and valor and may you be a radical royal after all things good and true, refusing to waste your life on vanities and empty waves at the crowds.  I don’t believe that the years we live here are all we live for, so I’m not sure I’d call you lucky just because you’ll be comfortable for your short stay on Earth.   There’s got to be more, much more that our lives, even your life, are worth being poured out for, invested in, surrendered for.   

Here’s the one thing I hope for you, the one royal challenge to give to you, little one.  

Find the Truth.  

Don’t settle for fool’s talk of everything and nothing and all and none in the realm of what is true.  The world speaks it’s testimony:  there is truth, there IS truth.  There is goodness and there is a Giver of Good, the Ultimate Good.

Don’t settle for a life that is wrapped up in name brands and thrills, confined to palaces and resorts, unaffected by real need.  The world’s needs are too clear for you to blow your advantages, your wealth, your role on such dust-in-the-wind vanities.... and they won’t satisfy you anyway.  Find truth and live accordingly.  Live boldly for the people you were born to lead.... not just with the natural bold beauty of your family that will shine in you, but bold and emblazoned with the truth like a fire in your bones, in your soul.  You are more than a handsome face.  Live for the Truth.

There are lots of claims out there for what is truth or what is good but I believe Truth must satisfy every question and need of humanity if it really is what it says...  I believe you won't find Truth apart from the book from the King of Truth, the Bible.  The Bible bears the weight of humanity's hungers and questions and hopes.  Read the Bible.  And try Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, or your own man, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, for next steps beyond that.  

I’m sure I’m just one of many million that are praying for you now...

Welcome little prince.   We are so glad you’re here.

on Pintrest and craving beauty

Wonderful thoughts here, yet again, from Rachel Jankovic... This time she's writing about pintrest and how we can misuse it and deceive and distract ourselves with it.

Oh God of All, may I see life and light and truth in the truth of Who you are, Eternally Good.   Please keep me from the distractions called rewards and entitlements and "relaxation" that our culture applauds and assumes.  Pour my life out in spirit and in truth... worship, for You.

Where I hunger to make my life beautiful... to hopefully be beautiful, and create beauty in relationships and on our table and in song and every way....  lead me to You, the only Eternally Beautiful Truth.

May all my soul hungers bring me empty before you, to that blessed state of poverty and grief and meekness... the end of myself, to the fullness, the brimming pleasure and satisfaction of YOU.

May my quest for perfection give way to acceptance of all.... all that you give as chosen, intended for me, received with the promise to one day be redeemed.   There are no interruptions under a Sovereign King.

I belong to you, Maker, Redeemer.  Have your way.  Sear your beauty deepest into my soul.

And may the blaze of your glory leave me awestruck and still before YOU.


Monday, July 22, 2013

the battle was fierce...

and (of course)...  it got funny
everyone was armed with colored pencil spears, ready and waiting for the command to charge 

some spectators had no idea what to think about the crazy sound affects (with lots of spit flying) and the loud proclamations of repeated deaths and resurrections on both sides

after most of the battle had been fought, a castle was built on the site....  
and reward drawings were made for the victors (originally by Marian, enhanced by Vivian) 
Kylie Bear was queen of the castle
and this guy could be the jester...(just like he is at our house)

And it's all very sweet and wonderful and I love this joy and I LOVE these kids....  and I'm sure I'll sound like a wet blanket here, but I can't escape the truth of it....  The sad reality remains in our world that real war is not a happy matter.  I can't get this article out of my mind about the atrocities of today and the past decade in the Sudan/ Darfur. And with it, the saddness of natural disasters like the earthquake we felt this morning... that killed 75 and injured nearly 500 in a province just west of us. Lord have mercy!  Come quickly Lord Jesus and begin your reign of unhindered, untainted, unspoiled, eternal Joy.  Our world is aching, groaning to be set right.....  Come quickly, Redeeming King!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

at this very moment...

thursday evening...
He got it.  Grace intervention- miraculous provision from God.  Matt has his needed document in hand and will be home for dinner!  He'll fly to Hong Kong Sunday night (be back Tuesday) and we'll TRY (again, leaning into the miraculous Giver who has gotten us this far!) to get all of our visas processed before our current visas expire next Friday.

Thanks be to God!

thursday afternoon...
Matt is on his way to the office again.  This will be the tenth visit to this place to try to get his application completed.  8 of those office visits were made by Matt's local coworker who was trying to get this done for him.  He's been told the application has been approved and is waiting for him to come pick it up now.  But we won't be sure until it's in hand....

Join us in praying right now please?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Visa.... (not a credit card)


Thanks so much for lifting us up in prayer for our visa.  This morning Matt heard from the office in charge that there is still a chance that his visa can be completed as he's applied for it (ie. we wouldn't need a whole new visa opportunity/ work contract/ visa application) but there's no way it will be soon.  So he's coming home tonight and won't head to Hong Kong today (can you see our sad smiles?)  The bad news is that we'll have to pay for extending visas for our whole family as our current visas expire next week and no new visa will be ready for us now or possibly we'll have to get two new visas for each of us in the next few weeks.   Matt and I could fly to America for the cost of all this!

The very good news in all of this is that we know Who is ultimately in charge!  The fees we'll be paying and the difficulty and hassle of months of paper gathering and phone calls and office visits is incalculable.... but we trust that God's got a good plan and a good purpose through it.  We lean into His sovereignty and goodness, yet even still, this feels so unjust to us fish-out-of-these-cultural-waters and even though we grieve with hope, we still grieve.  It smarts with pain today.

We are enormously grateful to the friends stateside that have helped us complete yet more needful pieces of paperwork at crazy late hours for you.  Thank you to Matt's parents who have helped us with pieces of this process beginning months ago!  Thank you so much.  Your care and devotion is beyond beautiful.   We are so grateful.

Thanks so much for praying for Matt as he seeks to bless the people who are withholding his needed documents.  May Christ be praised!

with much love,
jill- for the K crew

Wed. 1:00pm update.... THIS JUST IN!  
Because of grace and amazing help we've received, Matt may still be able to receive his needed papers by this Friday.  He was able to change his flight to Hong Kong with no fees!!!!  So he'll be flying out Sunday night and back next Tuesday.  There's just a chance we may still be able to get all this together- if all goes smoothly ahead in miracle mode!- by our deadline next Friday.  We are grateful and hopeful that things may still come together!  Thank you Lord!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

health check

(wrote this a few days ago and am just getting it up)

As we walked into the room, I was rambling away for my busy husband...  "I think the way life and business work in China is something that most Americans would never expect without being thoroughly introduced..... Just think of how many trips across town in often takes to just get a stamp on a piece of paperwork or a signature on a line.  There are so many crazy hoops and hurdles to daily life here...."

We stood our ground amidst the group of people that were all pushing their way toward the lady at the front desk and eventually we got to the front (of the crowd, not the line)....   Her office area was packed and it wasn't her day.  Nor was it ours.  She told us our checks couldn't be done, "just come back tomorrow."  

Teary-eyed, I mentioned that we have four kids at home (five people all around us turn their heads and look in shock at us in this one-child nation) and "arranging child care is hard and we've just come all this way.... can we please get this check-up done today?"  (I didn't even mention the many failed attempts or the 30 minute challenge to simply get ourselves into a parking space.)  

She assured us it was impossible and if I she were a newspaper, her headline was shouting, "I just don't feel like taking care of you guys..."  Matt kindly mentioned our urgency and she shamelessly repeated her answer.  I pleaded and Matt finally tugged on my arm and we left.  

Then we figured out we had to go back in and see when we could pick up our health test results...If we got the tests done tomorrow morning, could he pick up the results in time, or would he miss his flight to Hong Kong next week (tomorrow now) (where he's required to go in order to change to a business visa for us to live here.)  

This time, by pure grace!, we talked with a man who knew well that this was exactly the office to get this done and he passed our paperwork through, pointed us to the next three desks to get stamps on our papers and then to stand in line (an actual line this time!) in what looked exactly like a bank teller's line.  When we got to the front, we laid our arms over a nice little pillow and got our veins pricked for a blood draw.  I watched carefully and gladly as all the needles and viles they used were sterile, and saw grimacingly how there was never any hand washing going on, no changes to gloves.... Lord have mercy.  It seemed nearly clean though....

Up to the third floor, we find a nice lady who guided us through the next 5 rooms we needed to visit for more stamps, signatures and checks on our papers.  Room #2 was something like a quick EKG.  I took the 5.5 steps from the crowded waiting room of summer scented fellow patients and maneuvered around the divider that stood high as my head and then I laid down like I was told.  "Lift up your shirt,"  obediently (I thought), I showed my waist.... which was not enough.  Ms. EKG grabed my shirt and bra and threw everything far too far north.  Instinctively, I grabed it all back and told her I'm not ok with that.... "what if someone walks in just behind me?"    She chuckled at my ridiculous modesty and yelled out into the waiting room, "the foreignor isn't ok with her shirt off.... can someone come stand watch?"

(Ah.... that was not quite the sympathy or support I was hoping for.)  She began her test set-up again and then  Lady #2 comes in to see what the big deal is and stood in the door way til the procedure is over.  

When I heard a man's voice about two feet from me, on the other side of the divider, I decided the best course of action was to "hide" two-year-old style, with my eyes tightly closed, and get this done quickly.  

And it wasn't much longer, and we were done....  and very thankful for that!   We made it home only an hour late for the babysitters.  (Now on to steps 7 - 34 to get this visa completed!)

Yes, Lord, give us your help and favor on this process!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Reward {He is Worthy}


Here's a video to let stir in our souls...
a song of truth-fuel for lives of passion and purpose
and eternal all-exceeding pleasure.

(Don't get lost on the video with the painting and don't miss the words at the very end!)

Thank you, Matt Papa!

He is Worthy.

Lord embolden us...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

movin' on up

Marian graduated from Kindergarten last week.... so sweet to honor the school that has loved her and encouraged her in love for the Lord and where she has grown solidly bilingual for the past 2.5 years.   We count this school one of the Lord's greatest gifts to us in this city!

(yep, that's the cutest trash bag- graduation gown ever, isn't it!?
and on our sweet love girl.....  oh I love her so!)

Liu Laoshi... Marian's teacher
To celebrate, we went on a special outing after her ceremony....
Burger King is still new to our city.  I didn't get many shots there but this one is cute of the little sis.
(she was trying to say "cheese" while Daddy stuffed her mouth with soft serve)

More May....  a tiny tribute to the graduate

Daddy daughter love.... and a crown of John-silliness in on it too..
my girls twirling

the crew

PS-  John and John (see the last pic in the post below) are swimming in the pool together at the moment.... It will be a summer of memories for each of these dear kiddos!