Monday, April 27, 2015

bases loaded


We feel enormously privileged to get to interact with our kiddos and other awesome kids in our community for our business here.  So so grateful for this...  (This Sat was week #2)



This is the most beautiful field we've played on in China... complete with snow capped mountains behind the stands and shade on the other side, for the mama crowd to sit and chat and watch.  


And don't miss the turkeys (back left)... first we've seen or even heard of here!  They were serious in their role as cheerleaders for the kids doing their practice drills... so goofy hilarious to all of us watching.

"So... how are you supposed to hold your glove?"

And when the fun on the field was all done, three of us families headed out for a bit more playtime together before dinner.  Here's a few scenes from our walk to the bus stop.  (Yes, one day, I really do need to get over my awkwardness for taking pictures of local life...  it just feels rude to me even though I think most locals consider it a great honor to have their pictures taken.)







So grateful not only for precious friends here, but also for the kids our little crew connects with here from our home culture and language.... all. such. gift.  

Returning to the Pure Relationship

I didn't know what to expect of this book.   Gift of the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has been a well-loved classic for several generation of women in America.  Ann Voskamp said she reads it every year (if I remember correctly?).  I figured I better give it a try.

Such gentle writing.  Such humble, beautiful wisdom.  In chapter four, where she writes about the first stage, initial romance of a relationship when two people "stand as individuals, without past or future, facing each other"(p 66) Lindbergh gave me a clearer (sweeter) vision for what we can aim for in our alone time together.  What we're after on a "date night" (if that were ever to happen!) or on a "connecting night" (what Matt and I call our stay-at-home dates, the nights we try to tuck the kids in early and focus entirely on each other for the rest of the evening) is something of a reforming the original, pure focus and delight in each other.  That sounds stars better to me than just catching up on what's been happening in my man's busy days.  For sure, some of the time, that'll be what we need... but hopefully we can carve out enough opportunity to reform the original beauty.

"It is true of course, the original relationship is very beautiful.  It's self-enclosed perfection wears the freshness of a spring morning. Forgetting about the summer to come, one often feels like one would like to prolong the early spring... One resents any change, even though one knows that transformation is natural and part of the process of life....(p66)" and growth. *

"Both men and women feel the change in the early relationship and hunger nostalgically for its original pattern as life goes on and becomes more complicated.  For inevitably, as the relationship grows, both men and women, at least to some degree, are drawn into their more specialized and functional roles... Functional relationships tend to take the place of the early all-absorbing personal one.   But woman refinds in a limited form with each new child, something resembling, at least in its absorption, the early pure relationship.  In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child.  It is however, only a brief interlude and not a substitute for the original, more complete relationship." (p67)

Lindbergh writes of the joy of a vacation for a couple alone together.  "Most married couples have felt the unexpected joy of one of these vacations.  How wonderful it was to leave the children, the house, the job and all the obligations of daily life:  to go out together, whether for a month, or a weekend, or even just a night in an inn by themselves.  How surprising it was to find the miracle of the sunrise repeated.  There was the sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with.  Here at the small table, are only two people facing each other.  How the table at home has grown!  And how distracting it is, with four or five children, a telephone ringing down the hall, two or three school buses to catch, not to speak of the commuter train." (p71)

Such wisdom in this!  And it overflows beyond marriage, to bless also, our relationships with our children.  "Actually, I believe this temporary return to the pure relationship holds good for one's children too.  If only... we could have each of our children alone [for some times]... would they not be happier, stronger and, in the end, more independent because more secure?  Does each child not secretly long for the pure relationship he once had with the mother, when he was "The Baby," when the nursery doors were shut and she was feeding him at her great alone? (p71)"

What sweet joy to aim for reforming this "pure relationship" as she calls it... with each of the ones that I most dearly love.  How sweet to have this new picture of what we can build into, of our relationship, in alone time I get with my husband and each of our children.  And oh!  To make such alone time, even if only brief moments together, a graced goal and priority in my time and lifestyle.  Lord, please build up my husband and each of our children as you pour into us grace and strength and more, please more of your best love, in the alone together moments that you give us in relationship.



*  And for just a bit more, from a few pages later, on Anne Morrow Lindbergh's view of what marriage grows into, beyond the first stage of gazing deeply on each other:  "Marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually... many bonds, many strands of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.  The web is fashioned of love.  Yes but many kinds of love:  romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship.  It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences.  It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments.  It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental.  It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges....  In the [deeper] stage of marriage, romantic love is only one of the many bonds that make up the intricate and enduring web that two people have built together." (p83)

May it be, Oh God, that you would build us into an enduring, adding-strength-and-joy-to-each-other marriage where others can behold a glimmer of the three-in-one, in us:  the two-woven-intimately-deeply-beautifully one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Glory and Suffering (by Matt Papa)

Two pages from Look and Live... The words of Matt Papa, and perhaps especially John Newton's words here, are crucial in the fight of life as we press hard past the dross and filth and sorrows of this world toward the finish line of His smile and welcoming arms....  (This is only one of several excellent points in Papa's chapter on suffering.)



"God hates suffering, the Bible is clear on this, and yet He ordains it.  

Okay.  Maybe you say, "I get it."  Nice doctrine, man.  But still the bitter question remains, Why?...

WHY?

We will never know the specific reasons why God allows the pain He does in our lives, but we can know what is behind our suffering and find an unshakable, incomprehensible peace if we look through the cross.  The cross assures us of God's love of us, which is the greatest thing we need in times of suffering.  

We all know this.  When you experience deep hurt in your life, you don't need someone to preach to you.  You don't need someone to try to fix you.  You don't need answers.  You need a shoulder.

Well, lean in.

At the cross we see a God who not only works for our good, but who also suffers for it.  Bleeds for it.

Look at Him.

The Infinite Innocent, suffering in the place of the Barabbas race. 

If you can see Him sweating blood in Gethsemane, screaming in agony on Calvary... for YOU... then you can find peace in your deepest suffering and hope in your darkest hours.  

Why?

Because now you have a God who understands your suffering, not only by omniscience but by experience.  This shoulder you are crying on not only sympathizes with your weakness, but empathizes with them.  But not only this.  

When we look at our suffering through the cross, we see that the God who ordered the greatest tragedy ever, for the greatest good, will order our every tragedy for our good.  

Look at Him.

If He ordered a bloody cross for our eternal salvation, will He not order our every little prick and tear for our benefit?  This Romans 8:32's logic:  "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"

Because of the cross, we can know that all trials we meet are for our good.  They have to be.

As Tim Keller says, "The cross does not tell us what our suffering means, but it does tell us what it can't mean.  It can't mean that God doesn't love us."

The cross is where we get faith.  And when faith meets a trial, it does not say "God is not good."  It says, "This is God loving me.  Indeed, it could not be anything else."

If you can see Him, totally abandoned, crying "why?" for you on the cross, then you can cry "Why?" to Him freely while knowing you are forever embraced.  
As to daily occurrences, it is best to believe that a daily portion comforts and crosses, each one the most suitable to our case, is adjusted and appointed by the hand which was once nailed to the cross for us.  Everything is needful that He sends.  Nothings is needful that He withholds.   -John Newton  (The Letters of John Newton to Mrs. Wilburforce.  London:  The Religious Tract Society, 1869.  p 75)



Selected from Matt Papa's book Look and Live:  Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ.    p 193-195.

Monday, April 13, 2015

tears

There have been tears this weekend.  Life is hard and the fall is real.  And with the Lord, we trust that pruning is a privilege in preparation of future fruitfulness for His glory.  And too there's the hope of increased nearness to Him when there's some severing from the world.  May it be, Lord.   Small seeds being laid down dead, giving themselves to struggle toward the light, and then the waiting... and finally then the new life breaking through.




We planted yesterday and our tears are still fresh (and just maybe they're still falling) and there's no new life to show for it yet.  /Yet/  To be spoken with hope.



How appropriate that Piper's Solid Joys devotional for this morning, April 13, was about Psalm 126: 5-6.  "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, brining his sheaves with him."

Piper wrote, "Sowing is simply the work that has to be done even when there are things in life that make us cry.  The crops won't wait while we finish our grief and solve all our problems.  If we are going to eat next winter, we must get out in the field and sow the seed whether we are crying or not." It is simply...."the sheer sowing (that) produces the reaping, and you need to remember this even when your tears tempt you to give up sowing."

"So here's the lesson:  When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness, and tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears.  Be realistic.   Say to your tears:  'Tears, I feel you.  You make me want to quit life.  But there is a field to be sown...  Then, on the basis of God's word, say "Tears, I  know that you will not stay forever.  The very fact that I just do my work (tears and all) will in the end bring a harvest of blessing.  So go ahead and flow if you must. But I believe (though I do not yet see it or feel it) - I believe that the simple work of my sowing will bring sheaves of harvest and that you tears, will be turned to joy."


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

March Birthdays... catching up!


So there's this pretty little, brand-new four year old princess who was utterly embarrassed by the cake and the singing and the friends all looking at her and yep, she hid her face for about 30 pictures in a row. Not until the candle was melting liquid, dripping fast into the cake, did she finally appointed the sweet brunette to her left to blow it out for her.    (Thanks Emily!)



Despite her odd choice of party play here.... it was a sweet and joyful celebration with dear friends and tolerable cake and grateful prayers to the God who gave her to us.   We love you Vivian Hope!

And for our nine year old young man we had a knights tournament complete with sword battle, archery competition and a bit of pure chaos in a nerf gun shoot-out.  



She wasn't the littlest bit interested in the tournament with the boys but was completely thrilled to have an audience to cook for....  (Isaiah and Marian's tutors both came to his party :) I've never seen a more devoted cook than this little sister.  Super thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the cooking set!   


Oh Son, we love you.  Daddy and I are so grateful to the Lord that He has allowed us to know you and raise you, we pray, to love Him first and fiercely, and to watch you growing into a young man hard after the heart of God.