Sunday, September 29, 2013

Astonishing

Matt and I are profoundly, eternally grateful for the change that came about in this "Jack" (who is C.S. Lewis) which must have been deeply affected by such a talk as this one.  These words from this Catholic brother (J.R.R. Tolkien) are magnificent true, glad, life-giving, joy-inspiring, absolute and firm...

I saw this link from Justin Taylor who mentions that this discussion (reenacted here probably from records from both men) is probably one of the most important in recent church history.  We praise the Lord for this....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

a little app shout out (Updated!)

A friend just bought a new iPad and since it's so much fun to share favorite apps... I thought I'd post just just a few of our happy online finds from recently:

Update:  This was the reason I wanted to write anything about apps... and then I forgot it!  The New City Catechism is an amazing, needed resource.... and it's free.  For the land where everyone loves an idea about God and most if it is called Christianity, but little of it seems to be rooted in what we call "God's Word" ... And for all of us who love God but sometimes get shaky on what the goodness of the Good News is truly about (here's a great article, thanks EB for the link!) this app will help!  The introduction section is excellent and exhorts parents to teach the catechism to their kids as a way of laying logs in the fireplace of their kids' hearts.....  would that the Spirit of God give His flame to their hearts!  We're going through this catechism as a family and would love to have any of you join us.  Let us know if you do!  

FREE in the App Store....  Human Body.  by Tinybop.  This was the perfect week as our big kids started a unit on exploring the way our bodies work.  Such a very well-done app!  Just beautiful and fantastically fun to learn from.   (Oh no!  It might not be free anymore? Still worth checking for!)

Learn With Homer.   I downloaded this one to try for free and loved it!  It was even worth it to this cheapskate to buy more lessons for $3.99.  Such a perfect begginning reading app for preschoolers....  Absolutely adorable and enjoyable learning for our kiddos.  

And since we just finished reading Tirzah, by Lucille Travis, and I have firmly ranked it second only to Narnia, for my own favorite books that I've read with my kids, I decided to search for more books by this gifted, insightful author.  I'm excited to have found a cheap one that I'm going to start with them soon....  A Few Brave Keepers, $2.99 for Kindle.    

And these two bath cuddlers....  gotta share this too!






The Must-Know for the How-To of Parenting (and Life)

I am a richer woman for the hours that I’ve spent recently with this wise, wonderful friend.  Sue is the mother of six kiddos: five of the most delightful and polite kids I’ve ever met, and one dearly missed son in heaven.  Last week she shared with me about a class she’s teaching on parenting.

“People often bring in stories, difficulties in parenting, and expect that I should have the answer for how to fix it.  I always tell them, you have to first know what you value, and then you can figure out how to fix a situation.”  (Some of her family’s values are respect, love, truth, creativity.)

“If your kid is struggling with grades at school... Well, what do you value?  If the most important thing to you is that your kid is at the top of his class, then you’ll need to tutor and push and maybe cheat and bribe your way to your goal.   You just might get there.   Or if you more greatly value your kid enjoying his education and truly understanding the material no matter his grades, than you’ll have to accept that your kid might not be top of the class.  You must know what you value most to know how to solve an issue.”  And Sue is always glad to share where her values come from too.  Her life and family is rooted and blessed because they treasure and cherish the life-giving, eternal truth of the Word of God.

She also mentioned how sometimes people get quite frustrated if they take on the values of their culture and feel like they have to pursue those, when they’re really not personally owned...  Again, the example is education.  The culture here stresses grades and academic achievement in an incredibly intense way here and some parents feel like they have to run after that goal, as if it's been required of them.

How true this is for Christians too...  advertising and app stores all selling us a lifestyle and life goals and a load of idols to worship with our precious time... so many things that might even directly (though usually, deceptively) oppose Christ.  We must know the values we live for- our King, His Word, His ways, His glory-  so that we can find the “how-to get there” in parenting and in life.     

When Sue shared with me, I had just finished writing up a new schedule for my days where I wrote a life motto at the top of the page:  “to serve with joy”  (from this talk).  A motto isn’t exactly the same as a value but they’re close...  This motto goes a good distance to sum up my values, the heart I want to travel life with.  

Do I want to?  Do we have time to??  Haven’t I done this already???  Serve with Joy.  This little question and answer exercise is good for my heart.  

And sometimes there are decisions to be made, probably reaching beyond our front door,  where that motto needs some support.  Welcome, More for the kingdom.

Since my life is not my own, it’s a darn good thing to check that my decisions are not being made for only my own ends but for the King, for the Kingdom.  Some decision might not bring about any heroic, sacrificial service from me, but it just might mean less of me and more of Him.  Oh bring it,  Lord.  

This gets down deep to the places that I don’t want to change, don’t want to give up, don’t want out of my control.  But is it more for the kingdom?  Then do it, then give it, then serve...with joy.  

A nerve-wrecking invitation?  A chance to get dirty (even hurt) while you bless and love the least of these?  A cap on your spending and an increase in giving... a lifestyle less like the worlds'?   A bold step of faith?  A crazy investment for the sake of others?  It’s all surging in my mind right now...pulsing with all that just might be possible.  More for the Kingdom. Make my heart to say "Yes" to all that you ask, Lord.

They left town in good times in order to duck behind the stage and set the scene for more, a greater expansion of Kingdom work....  The cost was high and there's still no regrets.  More for the Kingdom.  

The soul-poured-out, the tears for the distance, the depth of grief in accepting and in the decision to obey, the friendship tenderly confronted.  More for the Kingdom.

The guest book in a vacation home crammed with thanks for the place made open and available to them (with our thanks signed in it too.)  A place to be still and know....a place for repentance and rest....  More for the kingdom.   

The choice for something harder, that no one understood.  Is it more for the Kingdom?  Yes?  Then do it!  

The widow’s mite laid down in the bucket... more, much more, for the Kingdom.  


And has there ever been a time when He wasn't faithful to all that He's promised to all who loved not their lives, loved not their own, and lost their lives for His sake?  Was it ever, even once, in all history not worth it?  

If we to dare to ask it, we must dare to believe... each moment of prayer and decision and action - more of Him, His kingdom, His glory and less of me, my self-reliance, my plans for success - each and every time it has been worth it all.  Worth Everything.  For His eternal praise, for his people's eternal joy.   May we have grace to never loose sight of His promise.  

We do have to pay attention... this isn’t about more for our church or more for our ministry or more health and wealth so the world will see how happy Jesus makes me.  This is about more for the King who suffered and died for his enemies, more for His Kingdom.  More for Him, more in His ways.  

I know these two lines don’t answer everything.  They aren’t the perfect water tight values summary and they sure don't solve every problem... but I am helped to get to check opportunities by these two lines.  God help me, help us, to serve with joy so that all of my life is poured out, more for your name, more for You, more for your glorious kingdom, O Eternally Worthy God!






K Family Values.  Our Heart's Desires....

Relationship-  with the Lord, our family, the church, our world.  Characterized by honest, vulnerable truth and bold, accepting grace, all the fruits of His Spirt, and integrity, Christ-like character in the dark.

Worship- primarily a commitment to God's word, evidenced in prayer and song, and excellence in education (loving the Lord with our minds), and encouragement to others, and also enjoying creation, inspiration, and expressing our own creativity to His glory.

Service- to each other in our family, and in prayer, hospitality, schooling, church, and outward ministry (evangelism, discipleschip, mercy,...)  Characterized by generosity, flexibility, simplicity and lowliness (servant-hearted).

Monday, September 23, 2013

hip hop and kiddo-love







Matt was in the capital city for a few days for a very significant visit with friends there... and while he was gone wethe kids and I got to join up with this young Brit with a heart for Jesus and for kids for a music and dance class he leads at a local orphanage.  He might just have inspired a young breakdancer in our crew....

What a holy joy to come onto the grounds of an orphanage- oh that there were never an orphanage as large as this one- but to go in there, to snuggle hug these kids (Josh knows these kids well, he plays with them and teaches them every week), and then to turn up some music, songs of the King, with a beat and words that electrify the air with joy, and to see these kids light up with gladness.  Most of the kids we met had some physical limitations but between the hip hop dance lessons and the origami folding lessons (Asians are really into their paper art!) and the story time, there was joy for everyone.  Pure privilege for the five of us!  May our time there inspire much more in our hearts and lives of prayer and giving and compassion and service for others...  

Lord open our eyes, enlarge our hearts and prayers,  and put our hands to work for your people!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

mark the map

I decided recently that I remember not at all as much as some friends do about their childhoods.  Perhaps it's because I grew up as an only child and there weren't others to recall things with very often... or perhaps it's just a weak-me thing.  But I do remember this moment...

I was nearing the top of the slide. I was four, maybe five years old.  And it was the big slide, the one that seemed like it was as tall as our balcony in our second floor apartment.  I was bound to land in a cloud of glory sand dust in just a second...  but I had a revelation.  I was still for a moment contemplating all the ramifications of this blazing realization, this discovery.  I felt like a genius for understanding it all so clearly.   I am me.  I am me and this, my skin, is where I end.  I'm inside me, inside this skin, this body.  I'm in here.  Deep inhale.  Profound moment.

These little milestone moments, when and if I can find them are gems on a growth chart and I love tracking them down, the most special moments I can see for my kids lives, though I know there's many more going on in their hearts and minds that I can't see.

And I'm learning that one fantastically special piece of marking these moments like an x on a map or a notch on their growth charts is in sharing literature with them... What a joy to get to enjoy such good stories with our kids.

How rich we are to invest in stories- reading aloud, listening, loving, exploring, reacting, remembering, learning from stories together.  There is some phenomenal literature out there and I don't think we'll run out of the good stuff by next year like I suspected  not too long ago.

I'm reading Tirzah to our kids aloud right now.  We. Love. It.  What a fantastic privilege to enter into such a story (Tirzah is the story of a young Israelite Jew as she is released, with her people, from slavery in Egypt), to engage with it and enjoy and expand our hearts and minds around these stories together.

We finished reading Caddie Woodlawn a little while ago.  It wasn't striking me as quite the stellar book I was hoping it would be, until about the halfway point.  Then we started laughing out loud a bit more.  And then, at the end of this sweet rolling, like a lazy, enjoyable river, kind of story there was this paragraph that perfectly marked the map for me, Caddie Woodlawn with even more profound words than my discovery at the slide-top.  Her story closes with these two paragraphs:

"What a lot has happened since last year...  How far I've come!  I'm the same girl and yet not the same. I wonder if it's always like that? Folks keep growing from one person into another all their lives, and life is just a lot of everday adventures.  Well, whatever life is, I like it."

"The late afternoon sun flooded her face with golden light.  Looking toward the approaching rider, her face was turned to the west.  It was always to be turned westward now, for Caddie Woodlawn was a pioneer and an American."


  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a drive in the country

We have been exceedingly blessed to own a vehicle for over five months now and we've enjoyed the perks almost everyday in getting around our city....  but I realized that we haven't enjoyed it at all enough yet in getting out of the city.  That was one of the main reasons we wanted it!   There's just been too much going this summer!  Sunday morning I realized we've only left the city once in the five months that we've owned this van, so we decided to take off that afternoon for a drive.  It was a treasure of a time... sweet memories made for our crew, together, in the beautiful country where we live.  Such. a Gift.  Thank You, Lord.

Who cares about traffic... I know.  Dumb.  But how about the double yellow line to the left of this white Corolla and the cars still headed the same direction on the other side of it?  The way of it here is to flow like water.  I will say, we were a bit of a grumpy crew after sludging through this for a little while.  But just about ten minutes later we felt released from the thick gridlock of city-ness...




We meandered for a while till we found ourselves near the base of Cui Hua Shan.  My chinese characters are pretty poor so I'm not exactly sure which Cui this was (it could have meant something else), but it sounds to me like Crispy Flower Mountain and I like that name so I'm going to stick with it.  There was a quaint little touristy area at the trailhead.  








We decided we'd hunt for one more place to play before we returned home from Crispy Flower....  





and we found this sand spot...   I don't think we did any damage, but these mounds of sand and gravel were not in their pristine, untouched form when we left!








(and there was nothing pristine about our crew when we left here either!) 

 -hide and seek in the corn field behind the sandhills-
Vivi & I were sure Daddy wouldn't be able to find us behind our camouflage but he's just too good!



I still need to tell a more worthy story of God's deep work of healing in my heart for the culture difficulties I've struggled deeply with for the first six years of our time in China (we just passed the seven year mark!)  That post is coming... I feel very new, very different in my heart on most of the issues that "shredded me" just last year.  But for now I will just share one point where we still feel the huge difference between our culture and customs and the local ways....  Picture Taking.  

Only two times on this outing did I mention to people, "oh thank you, but no please... the kids really don't like having their pictures taken."  (Nor do any of us like them being pulled on the arm by a group of giddy, chatty teenage girls- or grandmas either- who just want to pet our kids' heads and talk on and on about their blonde hair, blue eyes, white-white skin.)  There have been some times when mentioning this as we enter a new place is my attempt at crowd-control because we can gather several dozen people like a wall around us in a minute flat if the crowd climate is right.  Sometimes I wish I could just say, "Thanks folks, but we just want to see the scenery here, ok?"

Yes, I know we look as foreign as space aliens, but we're not.  We understand all that's being said about us even when it probably wouldn't occur to our onlookers that it's even legal (or possible) for anyone else to speak Chinese.   We're standard humans here...  blood, pulse, breath.... all the same.   If you'd like to talk to us, that would be great.  We have names, we can speak with you, we can dialogue and that would be sweet.  But we cannot pose for another picture, sorry.  

And then I turn inside out, pure hypocrite.  I want to take their picture.  I want to snap my kids and I want to get portraits of some local faces too if they smile approvingly when I ask gently, if it's ok with them?  What does this look like to the mob of adoring girls that I just turned away from posing with teary-faced John?

There are a dozen pokes and prods and cellphone photographers every hour or so yanking on my kids when we're out in public and the sheer numbers of it turns me off.   I'd like to excuse myself with the impossibility of our family conforming to so many people's desires for a smile and a pose but each cell phone in my kids' face belongs to an individual that Christ died for and it's just not easy.  I think there will always be tension and I guess there really should be... there is no easy way out.

(Nobody warned me of the depths of heart-ache possible in motherhood when you try both to honor Christ and His word in sacrifically loving people and try too to care for and protect and love the little children entrusted to you.  Motherhood hurts and it's grace again and again to realize anew more of my need for my God, His wisdom, His grace, His strength.)

I'd like to be able to justify it like this:  Would you please not take pictures of my kids because there's over a billion of you and it feels like just about that many want to take our kids pictures every hour.   So... no please, if you don't mind. But I still want to take pictures of you, if I may?  There's not so many people that think your regular lives here are as stunningly photo-worthy as I do and, terribly humbly, may I ask, may I please, do you mind?

And I just don't feel like it works.  Either end of it really.  Instead, I want to try to let photos be taken of us as much as we can manage, as graciously as the Lord alone can enable us for.  And, on this drive, I passed by another hundred photos that I just didn't have the nerve to snap because.... photographing people is, I feel, intrusive, and it really should be done ever so sensitively and only with approval.   When there's time to chat friendly with someone, I am so happy to get a portrait if I can... and when I do, I'll count it gift.

And so... there's the sad story for why I have far too few pictures of local beautiful faces on our blog.


A few weeks ago I took this picture about ten minutes from our house- middle of the city.  
When I was done, this grandma instructed the cutie here, "You know what to say to the auntie 
for taking your picture"and she said it....
"Thank you."  

Friday, September 6, 2013

bla bla blog...


So many sweet gifts to record and remember...  

The birthday package from Grandma and Grandpa for our Six Year Old!  So grateful for cake sprinkles  and a whole fall-winter wardrobe for her and treats that we can't get here :)  
THANK YOU!! 太感谢你们!

 
we love you Grandma and Grandpa!

School is going so well.  They are loving it (and I am tired- already!!)  
Here's the landform map we painted....


sisters...  I love how these two love each other (and so silly too!!)


One Sat AM he came running into the house to tell me he hit three times, all home runs!