Thursday, November 20, 2014


We took a mid week morning off- a sweet way to avoid the crowds in the big city- and visited my new favorite park here.  Such a gift!

We have such an awesome group of kids come out to join us for soccer. 
The abandoned warehouse- turned mini soccer pitch where we play is a little less than awesome, but we enjoy it to the max anyway!
love this girl
Cool friends stopped by on a tour of their old stomping grounds.  So grateful for a sweet visit together- dear new friends for our kiddos.  
And we got a care package....  can you believe it!?  We feel totally spoiled by this:  a heavy box of Ann Voskamp's Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (*yipee*) and a load of Trader Joes treats to share!  So blessed by you dear L friends!  Thank you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being... (and planning for it)

I smiled and told the guy behind me in line a line I say all the time..."I've got the best and the hardest job in the world.  I'm a mom. "  

And I wondered to myself as I moved away "why, if I really think motherhood is that great and that difficult, why don't I let myself just be a mom then?"  I keep our home running (and it is run through constantly) and meals on the table and clothes clean and dry (never mind the folding) and I love and serve and snuggle and tickle and teach our kids something in three languages every day.  And we live here for good purpose and we want to be reaching out to our neighbors, to love and serve them too, as much as we possibly can.  

That's a tall list of real responsibilities, just like every single person who's reading this, I'd guess.  But I almost never allow myself to simply be what I feel called first to be:  a mom.  Not for a single minute.

It's my To Do List that lurks like a heavy-weight obsession, ready to define the value of my day's output... the value of me.  Somehow, with a load of eternally worthy, challenging, difficult, and delightful responsibilities, I usually measure my worth by that darn list.  When I spell this all out and face it down, I know it's ridiculous.  But I fall into this same trap all. the. time.  

In my planning, at most 1% of what I've ever written down has been along the lines of "cuddle with John" or "heart-talk with Marian".  My list is far more tasky than most mom-stuff ever needs to be.  And so is my heart my mind:  tasky.  

Tasks, clearly, aren't wrong at all.  They're needed and I want to be diligent and faithful to take care of the urgent realities that require my attention.  It's just that I also want to keep my heart from letting 'getting my list done', undo me.  I want to learn to hem in my attention and energy and creative runaway bunnies with focus and flexibility and live in the fullest freedom of being present to the people I love and to the biggest picture of what I'm called to be.   My to-dos are simply not worthy to be played continually in my mind, distracting and wearing me down, and usually trying to accuse and condemn.  There's a time for to-dos.  There's a time for everything....  but not everything all the time.    

I love Charlotte Mason and I need her reminding me that attention is the number one habit to train in ourselves and our children.  And I like the pomodoro approach for attending to one task at a time, but I usually give up on that plan quickly, excusing myself because those pomodoros don't allow enough room for creative sparks (and sometimes a creative thought might be just the brilliance my task needs to get finished well.)   Plus, if I fill my day and my mind with pomodoros, I'm heading straight towards ugly task-obsessiveness again.   Don't get in my way while the tomato is ticking!

But I'm trying something different now and I'm liking it.  The verdict is still out if this plan will lastingly revolutionize my days but it's going well so far...  Here's the new deal:

I'm arranging my day according to my roles, not my tasks.   What I need to be in different time slots of the day, instead of only what I need to do.  Every role has it's own tasks, but we probably also know how to "be" active and responsible in those roles without checking off a box a minute.  

As a language student, I keep a running list of lessons to study, flashcards to repeat... and when I don't finish them during one "Student" block... they simply move to the next block of time when I can focus on that role again.  When I'm done with that "Student" block, I'm done needing to worry about those lessons and onto the next role to attend to.   And if my tutor goes off on a tangent in class, I can listen and learn with freedom.  

For the dear friend who told me that she all she ever does is take care of her kids and the house, perhaps slotting some time to develop a creative hobby or learn a new skill or read a good book, would be healthy... and even make her a better mom.  In the past, when I've tried to squeeze in one creative, soul-refreshing "task" just for me, it can get pushed to the bottom of the list every time and it may never gets done.   But if there's a time blocked off for it, prioritized with prayerful thoughtfulness rather than just frantic squish-in-as-much-as-you-can type carelessness, it just might happen... and happen better.  I know this friend's husband would totally support her to allow herself time each week to invest in reading or take in a sermon, restore herself creatively.

Some of my roles are Worshipper, Mom, Wife, Home-maker, Servant (reaching out beyond our home), Lover of Beauty and Words (for personal refreshment).    For me, my roles are largely relationships:  with the Lord, my husband, my children, our neighbors, and how I care for myself.  

In all of life, it's plain to see:  we need to flex.  Living things are lively and no child, no loved one, or needy one, is going to stay put in one block on a calendar page.   As a mom, I'm 24/7 on call.  I'm on call to attend to one of the few lasting treasures of this world:  my children.  Flex, for their sake, by His grace, for His glory, trusting His sovereign goodness.  And plan... plan for when I don't need to bend around something, to hold myself up with attention to my roles rather than obsession for my tasks.   I'm feeling richer and richer as learn to think and do and be like this.

And, Lord, may such focus sharpen my attention for You and my efforts to glorify you in all that I do.    Our lives are all- every moment, every role, every task, every relationship and responsibility- all for the praise of your glory and grace...

Friday, November 14, 2014

old words

A dear friend pushed this book into my hands as we parted, our family moving west to a new city.  The Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella Stuart.  I gasp just to think of it now... the immeasureable gift of this book.

The narrative, lives of these women, their husband, the people they served, the God they loved.  Really, what could be a better gift than to get to such grand story as this, these lives so beautifully lived, and to get that story into my soul and launch out to live as much of that fullness myself?

There's much, much more than I can share here now (hopefully there will be more future posts) but for now here's just one sentence. It's not an important sentence, it tells none of the central theme or purpose of Sarah Judson. But if the backdrop is this good...  well, I hope it will make you want to read it too.  This quote is from the second page about Sarah Judson's life.  The author has just finished describing the poor family she grew up in.  She was the first of thirteen children who had less privileges and pleasures than many.

"Children so situated are sometimes pitted by those who consider childhood as the proper season for careless mirth and reckless glee;  but they often form characters of solid excellence rarely possessed by those to whom fortune has been more indulgent."

The nobility, the excellence, resourcefulness, Christ-centeredness of these beautiful women's lives....I can't think of anything, for me, that would surpass this exquisite inspiration!  I hope you're hungry to read more...

And the thing is... you can!  How fantastic a gift is this?  Google Play (a free app) has Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, by Arabella Stuart (first published somewhere in the middle of the 1800s) and it has Emily Judson's memoir of her successor, Sarah Boardman Judson, too....  All it takes is getting this app, signing into Google and then downloading the books.  For free!  They're that easily available, that delightfully priced.  Oh friends, if you need some soul stirring, soul-strengthening...  don't miss these old gold words.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

John's Prayer and Father Love

Our sweetheart John has said a few most memorable prayers.    Not long ago he prayed at dinner time "God, thank you that we got to eat breakfast this morning.  And we got to eat lunch this afternoon.  And dinner now.  Amen."

Last time we were in the states, when he was 3.5 years old, we had stayed in about twenty different homes for a few months.  We tried to pray blessing and thankfulness for each home we were in.  And John remembered that when he prayed on Christmas Eve (I think it was?)....  it was a sweet and really long prayer (especially for this boy who does brief prayers well) and he closed with "Thank you that Grandma and Grandpa let us stay with them in their home."  I can still remember Grandma giggling over it...."as if we'd leave you all out in the snow."

Sometimes the obvious things seem too little to mention.  But I'm so glad he remembers to name these blessings and to give them as gifts, to return them with thanks to the Lord.   

Tonight he prayed another one that, if it had come on any other day, might not have choked me up so much.  But it did today.  He prayed:

"God, thank you that I was born.  
And that Daddy was born.  
And mommy was born.  
And Isaiah was born.  
And Marian and Vivi were born.  

We were listening to a sermon on Biblical manhood this morning, on teaching our boys the creation-old wisdom and beauty and goodness and rightness of living with such honor as to lay down their lives for women, for their women... and I wept straight through it.  

I wouldn't have thought there was very much "father-wound" in me....  I know the Lord shielded my heart with outrageous grace all through my childhood and youth.  But I grew up with a single mother and a father who knew well of my existence and never cared to say hello, to check how we were, to protect, to provide... even a scrap, a crumb, for my mom or me.  This sermon pulled back the grace-cover from that wound to have me relive a little of my still-there tenderness, neediness for healing in my heart.... and where does a father abandoning his child, throwing her mother away like trash, not hurt their heart?

I remember some of the first words I heard from my father's lips the day that I met him, the day after I turned 22.  "I want you to know I bear no responsibility, no financial obligation towards you because I told your mother:  have an abortion."

But tonight I get to celebrate an eternally, exquisitely precious boy who is thankful he was born.  And thankful I was born.  He and his siblings.  And His daddy.  And these beautiful treasure kids of mine (!) are growing up loved... loved well by a Daddy who is living the Gospel before them.  Sacrificially loving them, loving me, loving and leading us all to our God.

In that sermon, Chandler reminds us of the admirable beauty of a three young men in Aurora, CO throwing themselves over their girlfriends when a gunmen entered their theater.  Each of those guys was killed while their bodies shielded those three young ladies and gave them life.  I had a father who left me before all the bullets of life and this world ...  but I have a Savior who took the weight of not just the junk of this world, but my very own, I-am-guilty,  soul-trash, to give me life by shedding His own blood for me.

And I am the most brokenly, soul-raw and Thankful any woman, any mother could be.  Stunned by the grace of healing (what's begun and still coming), faithful promises, a beautiful design, divine self-sacrifice, and Sovereign Love.   And that I, that we, belong to such a God as this?  

... stunning, outrageous grace.      

Just Beautiful...

At lunch this afternoon, I shared with my friend how my heart felt blown through, wide open and weary after hearing so much truth, and beauty.  Beauty worth aching for....

We've been listening to a sermon series called A Beautiful Design which is covering what the Maker intends for His creations...  what is the origin, the purpose of our lives, what is manhood and womanhood full, complete, fruitful and good?

A Beautiful Design from The Village Church on Vimeo.

I dare each and every one of you dear friends reading this, to listen to these sermons (scroll down to Sermons).  I wonder what you'll think of these wise words, these well presented, funny, yet solid, reasoned truths....

It's a gift I want to gently press into your hands... and I'd love to hear what you think of this... most especially from any dear friends who don't already love the God of the Bible.  I dare you to listen and find anything but goodness and beauty here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

our little loves

These little two astonish me. They are growing so sweetly in their own skills and character and in their precious friendship with each other.

While our big two are usually plagued with Bubonic Bickering- I love them still, we are working on this, but there's nothing I can do to pretend that it's very pretty between these two sometimes- they can hardly sit in the same room to do homework, without some ridiculous fussing- these little two play "dog and owner" (John usually gets the scarf tied around his belly as a leash), play "Raa" (pretty much what it sounds like... they just roar at each other and laugh), or play cars or tea party or .... anything. They laugh together so well.

Right now, I think John is the super-star in this friendship.  He's usually the one to bend over backwards to make the little princess happy. I want to try to give them freedom but maybe some help to encourage Vivi's virtue, some beautiful generosity on her part too.

In the homework hours of afternoon or evening... sometimes there's fussing from these two but usually there's just laughing, lots of it, and for no reasonable reason at all. I love it. The best music of our home.

And here's just a bit more of the latest news about these little two...

John loves animals and bugs.  Especially this most delightfully loving little dog, affectionately called Da Mi ('rice') by our whole neighborhood of kiddos.  He's our family's "outside dog"... There are probably a dozen stray dogs that wander our complex courtyards, but this one shines.   He's been the subject of several talks.... how DaMi's kindness and attention to others makes us all smile happy and oh to be like Da Mi!  I don't know what's going to happen when deep feet of snow fall, but we want to do all that we can to care well for this darling little friend.

not the cutest shot of any of these... but really, DaMi is an especially sweet, cute, kind dog.  Who wouldn't love him?!

Vivi also has a gentle heart.... loves to pat her hand on the back of anyone sad or suffering, anyone crying.   And she gave a valiant shot at joining me for a pilates video last week.   She sings.... and sings and sings.  (it's more precious than words.)  Her teacher at school is a beautiful minority lady who has nicknamed her very suitably....  Her local name is Aygul but she's not called that or her Chinese name at school.  She's called Aygulee.  So sweet.

My favorite part of bedtime with her is when she asks me "lay -own with me" (for some reason, a hold over from her baby talk) and then she reaches her arms around my head and pulls me close to her.  That's the best part.  Then she begins her lonnnng list of requests:  tickly back scratch, tummy tickle, sing "The Lord is my shepherd", sing it again, water, "lay -own with me" again.....

she watched Marian and I attempt pilates for a few minutes and then she dove in all by herself.  And about 14 seconds later, she was totally wiped out and took a rest...
I really love being with this girl.... and all of our kids!

that's some "sparkle chicken" in her left hand... her very own, very famous, outdoor cooking recipe.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

come in for a visit?

We've been in our new home for nearly seven months now and I've been meaning to post house pics to share with you for most this whole time!  Since photos were taking me forever... that is, waiting to get altogether beautiful pics of a totally clean and put together home.... I've decided to finally get the job done by taking some very average pictures of our not sparkling clean home and invite you in anyway :).

In just about six weeks we'll be back in the states and we'll get to see loved ones' much-prayed-for new-homes, but they won't get to come here for... well, a long time, at least.  So, we're throwing open these virtual doors to share our sweet home with you.  We are so soo grateful for this wonderful place!  Come on in....

Might as well start with the kitchen right?  It is the center of a home!  And this lovely little kitchen has countertops high enough for me to do dishes without near-kneeling.  First time in China to have high counters!  We are so grateful for this GIFT!
No closets means for some eye-sore coat racks but it works... the front door is between the table and the living room, by the shoe shelf and coat rack. 
windows, light, and just the right space to cuddle, wrestle, read or sing....  we love coming home to this home.
When we were getting ready for the move we made this past spring, the kids were grieving hard for all the friends they'd have to say good bye to and it felt like a mama's hard privilege and joy to try to find a prize at the end of the moving journey that would cheer up these stellar mover kids.  And this was it....  they moved from all four in "the kids' room" to having a girls' room and a boys' room.  I planned and saved up for a few special pieces for well over a year.  And I'm so grateful for how their rooms turned out...

The Boy's Room
There could not be a finer banner for this tent.  Thank you wonders Great Grandma Marian for contributing your talent to make Peter's war tent (for his battle against Miraz, you know) so perfect.  "For Aslan and For Narnia!"  I admit, I still have to figure out how to attach the banner long term....  it's just so precious, I'm hesitant to hurt it!
that little "lamppost" was needful in the boys' Narnia room...
I love the quotes on their wall...  "Courage, Child:  We are all between the paws of the true Aslan" and "There are no accidents.  Our Guide is Aslan."  are my favorites.  
The Girls' Room

I checked online occasionally for more than a year to find just the right bed covers for our girls.... something they will hopefully still like a dozen years from now.  I loved this one before I even saw the name...  It's Pottery Barn's "Vivian" duvet so I clearly had to buy just. this. one.  Thanks to Auntie Heather for the coupon code!  

I'm sure we're not alone in having gone through more than one copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible.  The loose pages of the last spine-less book made beautiful banners to bless our girls.

So crazy grateful for my talented friend who sewed this perfect princess tent for our girls.    Thanks T!

~ upstairs:  two rooms and a bathroom ~

The School Room 
the very real view of our school room (and laundry drying rack) and the boy who loves to pitch plastic balls at the wall all evening long...  Oh!  And those are storage closest up above!  How wonderful is that?  No garage, no closets... these storage cupboards are so fantastic!
(from the double doors behind the drying rack.) Our room is just behind the white-board wall.
Nothing is on the walls... still... yet.  The white board (and a few more treasures) will be hung beautifully one day.  
Our room...  and yea, that's the whole in the ceiling of our 8 week old room where our builder guy is trying to fix a leak that drips (flows) right over our bed.   (We just finished this addition so we could use the schoolroom for school and matt could have an office at home).... That's my baseball guy watching the last (sad) game of the World Series during work hours.  How else does a baseball fan cope with the 15 hour time difference!?
 And for bathrooms... the magnificent news is that we have two of them.   Two baths is a real treat here! They match (meaning they're the same, not that the colors within match).    And they're not just any old bathrooms... our sinks would beat any other bathroom sink in the world for St. Patty's Day festives.  And just in case you think you might be able to pull yourself away from this pic without being jealous of our bathroom beauties, let me tell you this:  they sparkle (not like sparkly clean, but with glittery sparkles inside.)  Vivi's proud.

One little trouble is that we've been without water for about 2 weeks total of the past 3-4 months.  And it's true, we're big fans of flushing, but we're adjusting our plans and learning to go with the no-flow days.  We've got huge buckets of water stored for flushing necessities and I'm perfecting my too-many-days-without-a shower hairdo.

It is a wild and crazy privilege to come home to a place that we simply love being in.  We've never lived anywhere in our married lives that feels so much like a home that suits our family, our tastes.  This home is a gift that we are so grateful to have received and to have for the season that the Lord allows us here.... and we so loooong to share this gift with friends who will come and enjoy meals, tea, laughter, stories, popcorn and learning here together with us.    YOU are most gladly, warmly welcome to come anytime!