Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh Joy, Where Art Thou?

Ok, so hubs is gone again. This time it's just three weeks. I can be a bit of an Eeyore sometimes, so this time around I am vowing to be joyful. So many times I excuse my grumbling because "Doggonit, I'm at home with 5 kids all by myself. AND, it's cold. And, I feel like I have an increased amount of back fat after the gobs of gummie cherries I have eaten this Christmas season." That's right, I said "Doggonit"...those are fightin' words.

I will meet up with my world trotting husband in another country. That means that I will fly with all 5 kids, by myself and my three different airport trek to meet up with him. God is so very creative in His sanctification of me. Apparently, He thought I had grown a little too comfortable in my abilities as a mother, so He decided to use the A-bomb of mothering: travel.

The glitz of international travel had been stripped off, melted down and now sits as a cesspool.

So, about that joy thing...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Living Water for Christmas

The last two Christmases we decided that we would give a few small things (pencils, gum, markers) to put in their stockings. We are trying to keep cost at a minimum, so that we can give more away. I think we spent $40 for 7 people this year. I only tell you this because our kids had a fantastic Christmas. They don't feel neglected, cheated or depressed. They are beginning to understand that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. And that Christmas is about Jesus and not them. 

We start on Dec. 1 by deciding on the charities to give to. Once my older two have decided, they start the research. Each one does thorough research and puts together an outline. On Christmas morning, they give a full presentation and surprise the rest of the family with which organization they gave to. But, I also didn't want this year to go by without spotlighting these people who are being used to change lives. 

Malachi decided to give to Living Water International.

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

• 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 5000 deaths a day. (UNDP)
• LWI projects providing safe water and hygiene education at an average cost of twenty dollars per person, for a generation. (LWI)

The caption is a little fuzzy, but it reads: "A child dies every 15 seconds because of the lack of clean water. It costs us an average of $0.98 to provide clean, safe water to one person for one year. Every dollar makes a difference!"

15 seconds is shorter than the time it takes me to microwave my coffee after it's sat on the table for 2 hours while I chase my naked son through the house while he's dripping soapy water. In that short time, a child has died. While mine are running around the house playing sword fights and drawing with stencils, dozens of children have died. Just like that. 

Clean water is an easy way to save lives and generations. Water. It's that simple. People need to be able to satisfy their dehydrated, crying little girl with clean water. This hits me at the core of being a mom. To not even be able to provide an essential to survival like water. I cannot imagine the grief those mothers feel each time they dip a cup into a nearby stream, just praying it isn't filled with disease and worms. But most likely, it is. That's why what Living Water is doing is so crucial. 

They have already successfully completed over 10,000 water projects. Most of these projects include digging wells in these poor communities, so that the provision of water doesn't stop when the team leaves. They have forever changed that community by cleaning up their water. And that way, the community can focus on other things like farming and trade. 
I cried as I watched my kids talk about giving and loving others. They were excited to know that they could make a difference, even at 10 and 7 years old. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Exciting News Is...

Ok, so I posted awhile ago that I have exciting news. I realize that, despite Thanksgiving and Christmas, you have probably been thinking of nothing else since I posted that over a month and a half ago. I wanted to wait a bit for my head to return to my body after December happened. Christmas over here is so great because you get to share about the story a ton, but it's exhausting. In December, we also crammed in visitors, a trip to Beijing to get a passport and shipped Brad off to the States.

I have decided that Dec. 26th is the official day that brain cells begin to work again. So, here we are at Dec. 27th. I figured those three brain cells I have left in my head needed an extra day to get themselves out of the fog. exciting news is that I am writing a book! No joke. That should both scare and excite you, like it does me. About a year ago, Lucid Books had a publishing contest. I entered. Didn't win. Some nice lady with a PhD in literature won. Weird that they didn't pick some punk that lives in China and likes to rant about giving her 5 year old an enema in Starbucks. Maybe they wanted to make sure I wasn't a danger to myself or to others, but they contacted me the day after the contest was over. They said they wanted to work with me to publish my book!

I'll fill in the details as I go along, but I'm just about done with the writing stage. I've done a decent amount of the editing, but still have a few things to look over before submitting the final manuscript. I'm also a maximizer, so the thought of pushing send on that final manuscript makes want to crawl into a dark closet and listen to Barry Manilow. But, I'll get there. I'm hoping to wrap things up this month. I'll keep you guys posted.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Poem 2011-Merry Kingdom

I had a cute little family picture of us eating cinnamon rolls Christmas morning, but I felt like this picture better captures our chaos. One of our Christmas traditions around here is that hubs writes a poem and shares it as a part of our family worship time on Christmas morning. He so beautifully depicts the backdrop to what is going on the moment Christ comes to this earth. 

Merry Kingdom

Long have people accustomed to cold
Celebrated traditions long and old
So used to ways of making life merry
Little knowing the things that now tarry

Families together, to eat and then die
Tell of good news of sweet little lies
Melodious songs the nations glad sing
But not of the day that comes with the King

Instead most rejoice in the night of the eve
They call silence "peace", too ignorant to grieve 
The curse that lingers with labor
Unconcerned that morning brings favor

They smile at birth and laugh at his death
Defending half-truth till left without breath
Still born in a world with hope not yet found
Oh hear the cries for Christ around 

Though they love a babe and not the man
Anticipating what they don't understand
Speaking truth makes grown men wary
Yet we shall call His Kingdom merry.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas!

May Jesus overwhelm you with joy, mercy and contentment this Christmas. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A little friendly visit

I'm gonna do a brief run down on our time with friends. I can't tell you what an encouragement these guys are. I think you should all be friends with them. 

We figured 3 hours of sleep was quite enough to work with and have a Christmas party on the first day they were here.

We played "wrap people in toilet paper to look like snow men" game.

Our family opened a large suitcase filled with goodies from our fellowship in the States. We screamed in excitement and vowed not to share our peanut m&m's with the children. 

We walked through a local campus and taught their boys that peeing on the streets is totally acceptable behavior here. Pretty sure it changed their lives. 

Moved babies and their beds into a new care center. Amazing.

Taught English in an engineering company.

Got a massage. I spared my friend and put the picture of my cellulite self here. You're welcome. 

Had dinner with special friends. 

Rode all types of transportation.

Explored Buddhist temples and taught about idol worship.

This family is like a walking GAP ad. So cute all the time. Seriously. 

Had tea that had a sweet potato aftertaste.

Braved street food. They were such troopers as we weaved through trash, police, vendors, and mysterious meat on a stick. 

Enjoying a little Bux. Ya know, we didn't want our friends to feel too disconnected from the States. We are servants that way.

We bought our boys swords and they were set for the morning. These guys have been an incredible blessing to us. We have enjoyed every second of their trip here. Looking forward to their next venture over here :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Loving Through Christmas Cookies and Footsteps

This is a quick follow-up post to this one. So, we have been praying about getting into the baby orphanage for some time now. I knew that the Lord was leading me to patience and prayer. These, not being my strong suit, led me to depend on the Lord's timing instead of me kicking open doors myself.

We have an amazing family that is visiting us this week from the States and our plan was to make some cookies and bring them to the older kid's orphanage to decorate and eat with them. Afterwards, we would take a few plates of cookies to the baby orphanage, the next building over. A few things happened that morning and we had to cancel the trip over to do the cookie thing. I was pretty bummed because I wanted my friends to get to meet many of the kids we knew and loved there. We decided to just take the plates of cookies over the next morning to the baby orphanage.

When we walked up, the nannies were walking out of the old building with bundles, baskets, sheets, buckets and various other things so that they could all move into the new building behind the old one. This was the first day of moving. We walked in and dropped off the cookies. I asked her if we could help bring bags and sheets and things over for them. She asked if instead, we could pick up and carry babies. Trying not to wet my pants in excitement, I told her that we would love to.

For the next 2 hours, we got to pick up, hold, pray for and love on these babies while we brought them to their new homes. Had we gone the day before, the kids would not have been moving buildings and we would not have been allowed in.

We watched a baby no older than one week old be brought in by two police officers.

We carried a baby with fresh marks that looked like it had been thrown in the bushes.

I wept at the goodness of the Lord as He preserved their lives and allowed us to pray over these sweet souls.

Man, God is just really good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homeschooling Expectations

I just got out of the shower. With those few minutes, I got to thinkin'. That can be scary. In this case, I hope that it's helpful.

Recently, I've talked with several moms that are really frustrated in homeschooling. This post could be made into a series, but I'm going to try and whittle this down a bit. Homeschooling comes down to expectations. Here are few that I hope gives you some freedom in your messy homeschooling life.

1. Let go of having a neat, organized, cute house. You should have maps on the walls, science experiments in the sink and dirty laundry in the corner. Homeschooling makes for a fluid lifestyle, but also messier than a traditional schooling path.

2. Let go of some of your parenting expectations for your younger ones. Maybe you don't want your children watching lots of tv. But, when you are homeschooling 2 and have 2 still in diapers, 30 minutes of movie watching for the younger ones just might add years to your life. Put on things like Scholasitc book read alouds, StoryNory, Baby Einstein, Cedarmont Kids, Story Line Online, or get an external mouse and let them do Starfall. If you don't own any of these things, there's this old fashioned thing called a library that has modern things like DVDs and audio books. There are tons of options now.

3. Let go of your social calendar. If you think you can engage in homeschooling and still maintain an active social calendar, you are setting yourself up for frustration and resentment. Maybe pick one or two nights a month where you can get together with girlfriends. That way, you can be excited to anticipate that night and you can settle into a homeschooling schedule with no resentment.

4. Let go of comparing to other people. Maybe you will be super creative homeschooling mom. Maybe not. Figure out your giftings and cater your school schedule to that. Maybe you are really organized or love to teach through song. Don't compare with other moms or blogs. You will feel like a failure. Every time.

5. Be choosy about your curriculum. If your friend is using ABC curriculum and loves it and tells you that her kids already know all the Latin roots and are balancing chemical equations at age 6, then more power to 'em. Find a curriculum that you can teach from. Period. You can adapt them to your individual kids later. Otherwise you will be frustrated and clueless because the teacher's manual makes no sense. Cathy Duffy's book "100 Top Picks for Homeschool" is a great place to start looking. She helps you weed through personality styles of both teacher and student and lines you up with curriculums that might work for your situation.

6. If your kids are young, let go of teaching 7 subjects at one time. Do math, reading and phonics. That's it. If you are really into music theory or art history and just can't bare the thought of not teaching your 5 year old these things, then go for it. For the rest of us, keep it simple. Your child will not end up homeless and on parole if they don't study ancient Egypt in first grade. Make history, science, art, music, those things you do life on life. While making juice for lunch, explain how to make ice. Science...done. When Dad goes on a business trip, pull out a map and show them where he's going. Geography...done. These are some of the benefits of homeschooling and relating all day with your kids.

7. Silence your email, twitter, and cell phone during homeschool. If your husband calls, answer it. For everyone else...they can wait.

8. The first few years are the hardest. Balancing mom/teacher with your child is hard. Pray, seek counsel, ask for forgiveness, and learn together. There are some days that it is sheer grit and determination that get us through our schooling time. Push through and be consistent.

Wow, there's a ton that I could write here, but this is a good start. Homeschool is such a hard, joyful, disastrous, glorious pursuit. But, getting to invest in your kids like this can be a blessing both to you and your child. At the very least, it is sanctifying :).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Santa Issues this Year

I'm happy to say that this year, one task has been done for me. For the last several years, these weeks rolling into Christmas elicited a blog post or two or three from us regarding the issue of Santa. But, this year, this blog has so eloquently written on the subject, that I will let her speak to her journey with the fat man in red.

The one thing I will say is that our resolve to not recognize Santa gets stronger and stronger each year we live overseas. An English teacher friend of ours was reading the TRUE Christmas story to her class. They went through the whole thing from beginning to end. At the conclusion of the story, several of her students raised their hands and said "This is a great story, but what does it have to do with Christmas?"

America has exported Santa and it has COMPLETELY overtaken the holiday here. It's like me telling you that Thanksgiving is really about celebrating extraterrestrials. We would look at me with a furrowed brow and utter confusion.

That's all. I won't rant, I just plead with you to read that blog post.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Loving Through Carrot Bread and Prayer

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had the chance to go into a government run orphanage and love on some babies. This particular orphanage has children 6 and under and most of them have some type of disability. Mind you, the range of "disabilities"is wide. I can't go into an explanation of what we saw, but the scene was better than what I had contrived in my mind, but worse than what my heart had hoped.

Selah and I sang to blind 1 year olds, played with a 3 year old little Down's boy, zoomed around like airplanes with 4 year old boys, prayed over a 2 month old girl with a severe cleft palate. As I rounded the room and prayed over each baby I touched, I found myself uttering 2 things into the ears of the Lord. I prayed for a forever family to come soon and for Jesus to completely overwhelmed their souls.

As we left, the head nanny told our friend that we shouldn't worry about coming back. That while they are completely understaffed, their leaders would not allow strangers to come in on a frequent basis. I am refusing to take that as an answer.

This is where the hard part comes in. As an American, I want to assert myself and just sit at their door every morning until they get tired of me and let me in. Being here though, I am firmly aware that culturally, this wouldn't work. I am going to have to figure out how to love the nannies and therefore love the babies from a distance. I am called to be patient and allow the Lord to open the doors of that place. Charis and I read the account of Paul and Silas with the jailer yesterday and I was reminded that the Lord creatively solves the problems of His children. While it seems that I have been locked out, I know that the Lord has the ability to open things up for us.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Kite Flying Meltdown

I'm pretty sure my husband could hear the clutch go out in my brain. He saw the imminent crash into the orange safety cones and told me to go outside for a run. (By the way, I believe that the government doesn't want to actually pay to store those orange cones, so they just move them around I-45 and place them in arbitrary stretches of the highway.) On said run, which was actually an anxiety filled power walk, I stopped. I stopped and cried as I watched the old man orchestrate a kite into the air and make them dance.

The difficulty of daily life here had brought me to the end of sanity as we know it. Between passport issues, internet fickleness, crazy travel schedules, various things breaking in our home, not being able to get medicine for my son without a 4-month running start, and fighting with the postman. Sometimes I feel like our life is like Fred Flintstone in his little running car. No matter how hard or fast our legs are moving, we just aren't going anywhere. We exhaust ourselves trying in hopes of eventually moving forward. 

I found myself over by the river on my little mental-breakdown-excerise-excursion, when I stopped to watch the kites and couples sitting together, attempting to make out in a shy and modest fashion. As I stood there, I listened to Dave Crowder Band's Glory of it All. I was trying to listen to a sermon, when I realized that I wasn't paying attention to one word being spoken. My heart needed a Christian "Eye of the Tiger" to remind me that God is bigger than my stupid issues with my DVD player. 

I know this sounds contrived, but I promise the kite started dancing in rhythm to the song being played in my ear phones. (They should still be called ear phones and not ear buds in my opinion. Ear buds sound like something with roots has cropped up inside my head. It's a gross phrase and I've vowed not to use it.) As I watched the kites flip and turn and circle overhead, the chords of the music followed in exact harmony. God was reminding me that He hasn't forgotten. I started to cry. 

As the kite hit the ground, the older man simply pulled the strings to coax it back up into the air. He didn't run furiously like bees had flown up his pants. He stood there calmly and reminded the kite that it was designed to fly. I needed God to remind me that He does that for me. He picks me up, dusts me off and with a simple truth, reminds me to fly. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thailand part 2

Thailand in pictures:

When we arrived at the zoo, we watched the zookeepers try to shoot the lioness with a tranquilizer gun. The zoo is fabulous, in that very few animals are in cages. The safety factor is questionable because there are just ditches that separate us humans from...say, the King of the Jungle. This particular lioness had tried to jump the gulch and got stuck at the bottom.  

We pretty much dominated the zoo tram. 8 kids, 6 adults.

There was a smaller pool at the house we stayed at and a larger one down the road. We went swimming multiple times a day and had a blast.

Mimi and Malachi playing word games on the computer.

My mom and I oooh'd and aaaah'd at the orchids that were sprinkled all over the place. These were looped around the Buddhist shrine placed in the backyard.

Minus the Asian eyes and obvious Buddhist influence, this line of children felt like a great representation of the cousins.

At the town center, waiting for our ride. 

A 3 story Starbucks. Um....yes, thank you.

Sitting in a median with traffic, tourists, honking horns, passing monks, and big tour buses Malachi uses his super focus powers and finds a place to read. 

Acting as Papa Eagle, Brad stands in the busy intersection and tries to keep the number of kids at 8.

Mimi and Selah.

We also did the Chiang Mai Night Safari. Where you also throw out any contrived safety standards. 

You can pet the zebra, giraffes, gazelles and boars.

For Thanksgiving, we had some amazing Thai food, followed by pumpkin and apple pie.

It was a great trip. Now, it is back to real life. 
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