Monday, June 29, 2009

About to Head to Ethiopia!

I feel like I should write some wonderfully insightful post on adoption. But I'm drained.

We are just days away from leaving to fly out to Ethiopia. We are also in the middle of moving. But I just can't stop thinking of next Monday, when the pictures we have been staring at for 6 months jump off the paper and into our arms. I'm getting to the "I wonder if she'll scream her head off for the first 5 days?" phase. I keep wondering what in the world she must be thinking. The fear she will be feeling and the joy we won't be able to express. All of the paperwork and phone calls and crazy time lines are all have an end. And we're almost at that end. It's surreal.

Internet might be a sketchy while we're there, so we don't know when we'll get pictures up. Please pray for our kiddos here and our sweet friend DY who is taking care of them all week. All the kids are excited because when DY comes over, it's "party time!" It will be hard to be gone from them that long, but we are all so excited that this day is actually arriving.

I realize this was not the most inspiring of posts. But I did just spell check it, and at least there were no misspellings. Gotta take the victories when you see them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chinese Beaches

We spent the morning at the beach for Father's Day yesterday. One of the things that I love about our city is that it's relatively clean and close to the beach. I'm actually not a huge beach fan, but more of a mountain person (which our city also has....ahh, I love our city). But there are a few things about Chinese beaches that are a little different from American beaches.

1. Because we are from Houston, the only beach we went to growing up was Galveston. And to call that a beach is a bit of a stretch. It's more of a sandy landfill surrounded by a liquid that some refer to as water. I hesitate in classifying it as water, because it's oily, brown and murky. So coming to a Chinese beach isn't much of an adjustment. Our Florida and California friends would probably blow a gasket.

2. The wonderful thing about Chinese beaches is that very few people actually wear bathing suits. Yesterday, we saw maybe 3 kids in suits. The rest were in clothes or underwear. A few adult males had on suits, the rest of us were all covered. It was nice to go to a beach where you didn't have to explain to your girls why wearing floss for a bathing suit is not appropriate, or to shield your sons eyes from the impending doom of the female body. It was a nice family outing.

3. I realize that there was seaweed, gloves, bottles, plastic bags and a dead, bloated rat that washed up onto shore, but it gave us a chance to bury to rat and use the trash to build castles.

4. It's not uncommon to see kids using the potty just wherever they feel like going. I realize this is gross to most, but when you're at a Chinese beach, it's totally ok to de-pants your kids and let them go in the ocean. When you've got 4 little ones and no public bathrooms, this is the best cultural phenomenon around. Did we partake in this activity....yes....multiple times.

I love this place.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day, B

My husband, my kid's father.

Philosophizing, wrestling, loving, praying, guiding, building, nurturing, leading, explaining, reading, running, tossing, holding.

There is so much more that this wonderful man can do. He is a fantastic father who is humbling seeking the Lord's counsel as he leads our crazy little family. The Lord has been perfect in His choice for our fearless leader. We love him and cannot wait for the many more Father's Days to come.


(The kids made the hats in the above picture. Brad's wearing the one we made together for Makaria)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home schooling refreshment

I'm not gonna lie, home school has been rough the last couple of weeks. We've got so much going on in the background of our lives that my creative juices are being sucked away. So last weekend, I took the kids out for some outdoor school time. Another wonderful benefit (for kids and mom) of schooling at home. I hate when I get into 'survival' schooling. I don't want to just get by. I want to be creative and enjoy the time I have in school with the kids. But unfortunately, lately it's been survival mode. So I brought my camera along last weekend as therapy, to remind myself that I love home schooling and so do the kids. Sometimes you've gotta have a little self pep-rally.

Each of the kids got 2 kuai to spend on whatever they wanted in the store. They had to add up the prices of the items they selected and make sure they didn't excede their limits. It was mostly ice cream and candy. We skipped the food pyramid part of class today.

Then, each kid took some time to observe what was around them. After they found something interesting, they found me and they took a picture of it. When we came home, they described what they found, using interesting words and alliterations.
This was Malachi's picture.

Then it was off to the lake. We fished for little minnows and watched them camoflauge into the lake bottom. The kids got frustrated at not being able to find them (hence a great lesson on God's protection through giving animals defence mechanisms). And thanks to careless people and their trash that was in the lake, we also got into a little lesson about protecting the environment. Probably the only time I have been appreciative of their selfish act of littering.

Then the kids drew pictures of the lake. When asked what color lakes are, Charis responded "black, brown, and gray." I explained that in some places, water is pretty blue and green. I don't know if she believed me. After they drew, and we collected our 1 kuai/person for watching us, we sprayed the pictures with water to make it look even more like water. We didn't really collect money, but don't think I didn't want to.

Next, we took the water bottles and each kid sprayed ten red tiles in a row. Then, they went back and hopped the squares, while counting. Charis counted by ones and the older two did their skip counting of 6, 7, 8, 9. Kesed just ran around squirting innocent passers-by.

We found a nice corner and ran over there to finish the water bottle activities. We started out doing subject and prediates and then spraying your partner with water. After a few though, it turned into a full blown water war. It was great. And no time is complete without some potty humor. As you can see, Malachi fullfulled his duty and sprayed the statues rear end and invoked much laughter.

As we headed to do one last lake activity, we spotted the saturday morning-outdoor-we-don't-really-practice-ever-cute-retired-people-band. They really are cute. Not at all good, but cute none the less. Our kids love to dance with them. And if you look at the picture, when we say dance, we mean DANCE.

Alas, it was one more go at catching minnows. There were some "accidental" slips, so all the kids were soaked to the core. We never succeeded in catching any minnows, but that lead to a good discussion of the disciples and Jesus' in John 21. The disciples were frustrated (and so were the kids) at not being able to catch fish. But it was magnified for the disciples, because this was their livelihood. They were frustrated, tired and hungry....until Jesus. He took care of the abundance. And He does that for His children too. It was a great discussion and a wonderful day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Commanding the Emotions

There is a common but mistaken thought among many Christians. The idea is that God cannot command our emotions since we can’t control our emotions. Consequently, people excuse various emotions [i.e. much of psychology] and don’t apply Scriptures to one’s emotional life. Here’s the Bible’s response:

joy (Phil 4:4, Ps 100:2, 1 Thess. 5:16: Rom 12:8, 12, 15)

love (1 Pet. 1:22; Rom 12:9a)

thankfulness (Col. 3:15, Eph 5:20),

fear (Luke 12:5; Rom 11:20; 1 Pet 1:17) ,

hate (Rom 12:9b),

hope (Ps 42:5, 1 Peter 1:13),

grief / mourn (Rom 12:15; James 4:9),

sympathy (Rom 12:15),

anxiety (Phil 4:6, Mt 6. 25-31)

contentment (Heb 13:5),

bitterness / no grudge (Lev 19:18; Heb 12:15),

peace (Rom. 5:1, Col. 3:15),

zeal (Rom 12:11),

desire (1 Pet. 2:2),

tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32),

brokenness and contrition (Ps 51:17),

lowliness (Phil 2:3)

coveting (Ex 20:17)

Friday, June 05, 2009

My Pride of Self-Pity

"The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy.  But the need arises from a wounded ego and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but heroes.  The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness.  It is the response of unapplauded pride."

(Piper's "Faith in Future Grace")

To say the Lord hit me upside the head with this truth this morning is an understatement.  As a mother of 4, almost 5, this is something hidden in my heart that had yet to be exposed. 

 I want people to be awed at what I accomplish in a day. 

 I want people to feel sorry for me that I am always thinking of others and not myself. 

I want them to applaude my sacrifice to my family.  

I want them to see how tired I can get.  

I want my husband to validate my valiant efforts.

There is no humility in this.  And it's really a cry out for applause.  So when I don't receive these types of praise, I get dejected and angry.  My pride wants others to notice.  Because "I deserve admiration because I sacrifice so much."

People could say that if anyone deserved to feel some self-pity, it was Jesus.  But there was none to be found.  He knew that his identity and satisfaction was in the Lord.  When our 'self' is in Christ alone, there is no need for the praise of others.  I was disgusted at this sin in me this morning.  But so grateful that the Lord exposed it in me.  I am committed to offering up my sin of self-pity and serving with unconditional joy.  

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"We Can't Do That"

Human tendency is to label anything different or strange as "bad" until we understand it. You (hopefully) learn this about yourself after a while of living overseas. One contrast between Chinese culture and American culture is the tendency in in Chinese businesses to always say "We can't do that" if you asked them for something 'outside the box'. Usually, we either just say "Yes you can" OR "Just wait until they are uncomfortable enough to actually figure it out." Either way, we usually get agitated, since in America, you always find a way. An American would never default to immediately saying, "Sorry. Can't"

On our bad days, we chalk it up to their being lazy or worse. This morning, we might have an insight that is a bit more positive. The truth is, people are rarely all good or all bad (this includes people from the opposite political party).

HUMILITY. The Chinese have it. We don't. They know their limitations. They know they can;t be "whatever you want when you grow up". They respect authority. They respect teachers and history. Therefore, that awareness breeds a humility that doesn't presume to solve or do anything they want. That thinking of course keeps them from practicing some not so difficult acts of self-initiation. When would that attitude ever be bred into them?

On a related note, we Americans tend to just care about the bottom line: Did you get it done? Well, that very attitude is based on presumption and pride, namely, that we can do whatever we want, given enough effort and information. It's destuctive in parenting and in all of life. This is sad slavery...for we can't enough change our heart and will. This is why we continue in sins like anxiety, bitterness, jealousy, joylessness.... Why do we continue not to recognize our limitations?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Miraculous Potty Training

No joke, this kid started potty training himself this week.  He's 20 months and had just had enough with dirty diapers.  3 days ago, he had an almost clean diaper, but it was too dirty for him.  He was complaining for us to come and change him.  He's been doing this for awhile now with really dirty diapers, but never almost clean ones.  So we decided to let him try out this potty training thing.

So he's been running around naked (which is actually standard kid style in our fam) and using the potty pretty much without reminding.  He's got a little duck that he sits on.  He's done all the numbers.  And he's only had TWO accidents.  In THREE days....only TWO accidents.  For those who have never potty trained, you won't quite be able to understand the deep level of praise we are offering to the Lord here.  I really, really dislike potty training.  And it seems as if God's just gonna take care of this one for us.  

Kesed will use the potty on his own.  Empty it in the toilet.  Flush.  Put the potty chair back together.  All by himself.  

I think the Lord knew we had about as much as we can handle this month.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Receiving a Call from God

Receiving a calling from God is like getting a ticket to a show. The type of event and the venue tell us what we are going to see. Therefore, different Christian callings simply mean different ways in which we will see God. The pastor or evangelist see God’s work and character in a bit of a different manner than the teacher or social worker. Yet, they are all recipients of grace. They get to perceive a part of God’s glory. Necessarily, they will miss other sights and sounds, though all eternity will afford them time to see and hear them. Therefore, when discerning His will is unclear, we must sometimes ask ourselves, “How do you want to see and savor God move to reveal Himself?”
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