Sunday, December 27, 2009

today i saw...

A jewelry store grand opening.

Of course the kids found the way to the drums.

Don't you wish all store openings were accompanied by dancing dragons and old women playing drums?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

For all of you that are hoping for a white Christmas, be careful what you wish for. We have had a white winter wonderland everyday of the week. If I close my eyes and pretend real hard, I can tell myself that the white outside is not pollution frollicking through the air, but indeed a nice blanket of white snow keeping us cozy for the holidays.

On a fun note, here are the packages that a 4th grade Sunday school class from the States sent us for Christmas! It looks like the pacakages limped their way to our home, but they made it. We were instructed to open two of them on Christmas day. We are all really excited!

On other fun news, Hubs and I celebrated 11 wonderful years of marriage. Brad and I were joking that morning that it's been the best 9 years of our lives. The first couple of years were a little rough. But honestly, marriage only gets better the longer you're married. We such a great time navigating life together. He surprised me with my favorite dinner-hot pot.

Then we headed over to an acrobat show that a friend gave us tickets for.

It was a beautiful theater.

As I look over our year, it seemed that some of these acrobat pictures very aptly described our year. We will call this picture, "Transition." We picked up our daughter from Ethiopia and moved cities all in the same week. This picture is exactly how we felt for the months of July, August and September.

We affectionately refer to this picture as "Parenting." We've now got an 8, 5, 3, 2, and 1 year old. And many days, I feel like the two women upside down and still keeping the plates spinning. Except that my toes aren't pointed and half my plates have been strewn across the floor. While it's been crazy transitioning to our new family make-up, it's been wonderful in too many ways to describe.

This picture is titled, "Legs: God's solution to the environmental problems". If we would all just ride like this to work, the ozone would be just fine.

This is what we feel like as a family when we go to the store. Usually not only are we carrying ourselves, but usually several grandmas and onlookers follow us through the store as well. As long as we end up back at home with the same number of people we had when we left, we consider the trip a success.

I could blog all day about the amazing blessings the Lord has given to us. Most of all, for the trials. There have been a few trials this year, but all of them for our good. All of them ordained by the Lord.

My Selah girl finished her first knit scarf a couple of days ago. It's beautiful! She's going to give it to her sister for Christmas.

So there's the Cliff Notes version of our year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

By the way, if you are used to getting weekly updates from us, you haven't gotten one this week because Brad's computer is a PC which is the acronym for Piece of C---. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Issue of 'Santa Claus'

The following is from Noel Piper:

Over the years, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. There are several reasons.

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don't ask our children to believe them.

Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they're able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child's clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It's very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we're trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the "attributes" of Santa.

He's omniscient—he sees everything you do.
He rewards you if you're good.
He's omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
He gives you good gifts.
He's the most famous "old man in the sky" figure.
But at the deeper level that young children haven't reached yet in their understanding, he is not like God at all.

For example, does Santa really care if we're bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?

What about Santa's spying and then rewarding you if you're good enough? That's not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren't good at all. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

Helping our children understand God as much as they're able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we've also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.

First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn't that more significant than a funny, old, make-believe man who drops in just once a year?

Second, I think most children know their family's usual giving patterns for birthday and special events. They tend to have an instinct about their family's typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the "I-want-this, give-me-that" syndrome.

And finally, when children know that God's generosity is reflected by God's people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.

Karsten, for example, worked hard on one gift in 1975. On that Christmas morning, his daddy stepped around a large, loose-flapped cardboard box to get to his chair at the breakfast table. "Where's Karsten?" he asked, expecting to see our excited three-year-old raring to leap into the day. Sitting down, I said, "He'll be here in a minute."

I nudged the box with my toe. From inside the carton, Karsten threw back the flaps and sprang to his full three-foot stature. "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them . . ." He had memorized Luke 2:8-20 as a gift for his dad. Karsten knew the real story.

In fact, a few days later, he and I were walking down the hall at the church we attended then. One of the older ladies leaned down to squeeze his pink, round cheek and asked, "What did Santa bring you?" Karsten's head jerked quickly toward me, and he whispered loudly, "Doesn't she know?"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

The early years

The following is the conclusion to the most recent blog post on Desiring God, which discusses Joseph and Mary's early years as a family:

"The Holy Family's first few years were not tranquil. They were filled

with grueling travel during the hardest part of pregnancy, a birth in

worse than a barn, no steady income, an assassination attempt, two dessert

crossings on foot with an infant, living in a foreign country, waiting on

God for guidance and provisions just in the nick of time. It was

difficult, expensive, time-consuming, career-delaying and full of


And it was God's will.

The unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. They

are common for disciples, and they commonly don't make sense in the

moment. But God's ways are not our ways because our lives are about him,

not about us. He is orchestrating far more than we know in every

unexpected event and delay.

So when you find yourself suddenly moving in a direction you had not

planned, take heart, hold tight, and trust God's navigation."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Measure of Whether We Understand the Gospel (in the heart)

Those of us from a Christianized culture have heard the gospel many, many times. Church attenders sometimes get used to hearing it, as if we could grow beyond it. This leads us to assume the gospel---a deadly, deadly error.

This creates the need for a way to measure, in ourselves, whether we genuinely embrace the gospel, not merely in our heads, but from the heart. If we fully embrace the gospel, we shall find ourselves gladly applying the following verses to ourselves. (I suspect most of us are good at only applying ONE of them at a time)

1. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11;Luke 3:22). According to John 17:23, this verse applies to us as much as to Jesus since Jesus himself said, "John 17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. " [God loves us the same way He loves Jesus!]

2. "... Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Tim 1:15; cp Eph. 3:8, "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given....)

I struggle accepting the first one. I am the worst sinner I know because I am more familiar with my sin than anyone else's. Which do you more often struggle to accept?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Makaria's stocking

Do I know how to sew? Nope, not at all. But I realized that I didn't have a stocking for Makaria yet, so my gears started turning. "I could make a stocking. That seems easy enough."

One of my goals in life is to do things as cheaply and frugally as possible. The only thing I had to buy was more thread once my red ran out.

I cut out an old towel for the filler. And then used old sheets for the red and green. Then, I just started sewing. I really didn't know where I was going with it.

I like how it turned out. I wanted to keep the 'homemade' look to it. And it was a good thing because I didn't know how to fix the little imperfections anyway.

'Joi' is Makaria's middle name and also an important word of worship during Christmas. I was laughing at myself at how ghetto my process was for making this. I have dreams of being a stellar seamstress one day, following in my Grandmother's footsteps. Stellar I am not. My brain usually comes up with things that I have no skill at all for doing (that's a life issue for me). But it was fun and I'm pleased with the outcome.

I wouldn't say the process was easy, but it was really fun. I've discovered about myself that I have to have some type of creative outlet or I start getting antsy. So this was it for the last couple of days.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Little Family Christmas Cheer

I LOVE Christmas! And honestly, I love celebrating Christmas outside of America. Why? Because we get to avoid the commercial nonsense that comes along with this season. Although we do have to endure Santa's face that is now popping up everywhere. There is not even a concept here that Christmas is about anything BUT Santa. Stupid Santa Claus. (We obviously don't do the Santa thing. We told our kids that it's like telling them that we're having a birthday party for them and then when everyone shows up, we celebrate Dora the Explorer instead. We don't celebrate their birthday at all, but instead celebrate some random person, just because they are nice and cute. Christmas is about Jesus and that's it. Ok, finished now.)

We've got several family traditions that are getting more and more fun as our kids get older. I thought I'd share just a few.

Every year, we take 25 of the "50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die" or the "Passion of the Christ" by John Piper and we talk about one every night. Our friends were laughing the other night, because one of our first ones was "to absorb the wrath of God." As heavy as this sounds, it's important that our kids understand the full breadth of this holiday. It's not just about cute babies, fluffy sheep and tamed camels. It's about Jesus and His purpose and His redemption. Anyway, after each night, we put the reason on an ornament and hang it here on our little tree. Our other tree is wedged between the ceiling and window. Literally wedged. But it's a cute little guy.

We made some carolers out of toilet paper rolls. The kids had a blast making them. And we got to find a use for all the unmatched kid's socks that creep around on our floors.

The kid's kindergarten was canceled this week because "we've got stuff to do." That was the reason given to us. We've learned just not to ask why. So, an impromptu nativity scene was in order. Makaria, being the youngest (note, I did not say smallest) was nominated to be Jesus.

Kesed was the one socked, pantless shepherd that got the memo a little late. The other shepherds and wise men have beaten him to the manger.

I think Jesus is doing a little somethin' somethin' in his diaper while unsuspecting Mary, Joseph and the gang are busy praying and worshipping their Lord.

I love this one, because I totally think Mary would have played peek-a-boo with Jesus.

I'm sure this is the first of several Christmas blogs. But for now, I'm going to finish making a stocking.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Gospel and Sex Education

When should we start talking about sex with our kids?

Well, when do they start singing Christmas carols? Have you noticed how often they refer to the miracle of the virgin birth? It's in every other song. It was God's fulfilment of prophecy. It was a public sign authenticating Jesus' identity. This is the incarnation's beginning.

Therefore, do not let these words pass through your ears or your kids ears without some instruction on the matter. While you don't have to begin an anatomy lesson, let's think about what you can say that doesn't get more biological than they can retain.

For example, a few Christmases ago, we explained what a virgin was, "Someone who can't have kids". This is completely true. A virgin cannot birth children. If A, then not B. Therefore, we can show our kids the miracle of Christmas....of the incarnation.

Don't let squeamishness about sex take away from one of the central pieces of the Christmas story.

Friday, December 04, 2009


This is a true life conversation that is deeply challenging and presses us to reflect on the heart of contextualization:

Omodo (by Walter A. Trobisch)

On one of my trips I worshipped in an African church where nobody knew me. After the service I talked to two boys who had also attended.

"How many brother and sisters do you have?" I asked the first one.


"Are they all from the same stomach?"

"Yes, my father is a Christian."

"How about you?" I addressed the other boy.

He hesitated. In his mind he was adding up. I knew immediately that he came from a polygamous family.

"We are nine," he finally said.

"Is your father a Christian?"

"No," was the typical answer, "he is a polygamist."

"Are you baptised?"

"Yes, and my brothers and sister too," he added proudly.

"And their mothers?"

"They are all three baptised, but only the first wife takes communion."

"Take me to your father."

The boy led me to a compound with many individual houses. It breathed an atmosphere of cleanliness, order and wealth. Each wife had her own house and her own kitchen. The father, a middle-aged, good-looking man, tall, fat and impressive, received me without embarrassment and with apparent joy. I found Omodo, as we shall call him, a well-educated person, wide awake and intelligent, with a sharp wit and a rare sense of humor. From the outset he made no apologies for being a polygamist, he was proud of it. Let me try to put down here the essential content of our conversation that day which lasted for several hours.

"Welcome to the hut of a poor sinner!" The words were accompanied by good-hearted laughter.

"It looks like a rich sinner," I retorted.

"The saints come very seldom to this place," he said, "they don't want to be contaminated with sin."

"But they are not afraid to receive your wives and children. I just met them in church."

"I know. I give everyone a coin for the collection plate. I guess I finance half of the church's budget. They are glad to take my money, but they don't want me."

I sat in thoughtful silence. After a while he continued, "I feel sorry for the pastor. By refusing to accept all the polygamous men in town as church members he has made his flock poor and they shall always be dependent upon subsidies from America. He has created a church of women whom he tells every Sunday that polygamy is wrong."

"Wasn't your first wife heart-broken when you took a second one?"

Omodo looked at me almost with pity. "It was her happiest day," he said finally.

"Tell me how it happened."

"Well, one day after she had come home from the garden and had fetched wood and water, she was preparing the evening meal, while I sat in front of my house and watched her. Suddenly she turned to me and mocked me. She called me a 'poor man,' because I had only one wife. She pointed to our neighbor's wife who could care for her children while the other wife prepared the food."

"Poor man," Omodo repeated. "I can take much, but not that. I had to admit that she was right. She needed help. She had already picked out a second wife for me and they get along fine."

I glanced around the courtyard and saw a beautiful young woman, about 19 or 20, come out of one of the huts.

"It was a sacrifice for me," Omodo commented. "Her father demanded a very high bride price."

"Do you mean that the wife, who caused you to become a polygamist is the only one of your family who receives communion?"

"Yes, she told the missionary how hard it was for her to share her love for me with another woman. According to the church my wives are considered sinless because each of them has only one husband. I, the father, am the only sinner in our family. Since the Lord's supper is not given to sinners, I am excluded from it. Do you understand that, pastor?"

I was entirely confused.

"And you see," Omodo continued, "they are all praying for me that I might be saved from sin, but they don't agree from which sin I will be saved."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the pastor prays that I may not continue to commit the sin of polygamy. My wives pray that I may not commit the sin of divorce. I wonder whose prayers are heard first."

"So your wives are afraid that you become a Christian?"

"They are afraid that I become a church member. Let's put it that way. For me there is a difference. You see they can only have intimate relations with me as long as I do not belong to the church. In the moment I would become a church member their marriage relations with me would become sinful."

"Wouldn't you like to become a church member?"

"Pastor, don't lead me into temptation! How can I become a church member, if it means to disobey Christ? Christ forbade divorce, but not polygamy. The church forbids polygamy but demands divorce. How can I become a church member, if I want to be a Christian? For me there is only one way, to be a Christian without the church."

"Have you ever talked to your pastor about that?"

"He does not dare to talk to me, because he knows as well as I do that some of his elders have a second wife secretly. The only difference between them and me is that I am honest and they are hypocrites."

"Did a missionary ever talk to you?"

"Yes, once. I told him that with the high divorce rate in Europe, they have only a successive form of polygamy while we have a simultaneous polygamy. That did it. He never came back."

I was speechless. Omodo accompanied me back to the village. He evidently enjoyed to be seen with a pastor.

"But tell me, why did you take a third wife?" I asked him.

"I did not take her. I inherited her from my late brother, including her children. Actually my older brother would have been next in line. But he is an elder. He is not allowed to sin by giving security to a widow."

I looked in his eyes. "Do you want to become a Christian?"

"I am a Christian." Omodo said without smiling.

As I walked slowly down the path, the verse came to my mind: "You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel."

What does it mean to take responsibility as a congregation for Omodo? I am sorry that I was not able to see Omodo again, because I had met him while I was on a trip. I just report to you the essence of our conversation because it contains in a nutshell the main attitudes of polygamists toward the church. It is always healthy to see ourselves with the eyes of an outsider.

I asked myself: What would I have done if I were pastor in Omodo's town?

From Walter A. Trobisch, "Congregational Responsibility for the Christian Individual," in Readings in Missionary Anthropology II, ed. William A. Smalley (South Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1978), pp. 233-235.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Love-based Repentance

“In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us from sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

- Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 172.

Mothering sanity and a language mishap

I don't like resting. But, that's not good. Honestly, I feel guilty about sitting down, resting, "doing something for myself", or taking some time away. I'm not sure why, but I do. And then I hit a wall, like the one that my face ran into a couple of days ago. I do not do a good job of balancing work and play. And honestly, I'm not sure what tangible steps I need to take in order to be more balanced. There are practical things in my day that just can't be left alone. I have 5 kids. We homeschool. We live in a place where it just takes longer to do pretty much everything-except make rice. And none of these things are by accident. I'm not complaining, because there is so much goodness from the Lord in each of these things. I'm more just looking for advice on how to maintain sanity as the mom and caretaker of the house. I don't want to run and run and then collapse. I'd rather run at a slower pace, but not have to stop and get water and take a breath as often. The other part of me says that this is just the season of life we're in. Small kids. Foundational homeschooling. Two babies. So do I just pray for stamina and sanity? I think of my Nana who raised 5 kids with none of the modern conveniences that we have and then I tell myself "you're being a wimp. Suck it up. Everybody's tired." We had a mentor tell us one time "this is life. It's tiring. Get over it." Very true.

On a funny note: my son, Malachi, made up a way to say "you want a piece of me!" in Chinese. Our friend said that technically it's accurate, but not the way they would say it. "But," she said "you can say it that way in your own home." So he's been saying it to us and we've all laughed and laughed. Well, he decided to tell the waitress at a local restaraunt "you want a piece of me?!" (he was just joking). Our friend was mortified when that phrase came out of his mouth because in Chinese, it literally means "Are you sexually attracted to me?"

I am amazingly blessed by my wonderfully family. And I really do think that I just need to expect to be tired and pray for grace abundantly.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thanksgiving Fun-post #2 from 'My Mom's Visit'

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with some friends in our city. There was more food than an army could eat. One of our contributions was honey butter rolls in our cute little turkey bowl.

This was my Mom's first time to meet Makaria!

I had visions of a cute picture with Mimi and Charis. Alas, I got this:

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