Monday, July 29, 2013

Coffee to Your Door!

This a post for those of us living in China and find ourselves compromising our coffee standards by drinking boatloads of this:

Chinese blogger Han Han in Nescafe video spot 

Blue Eyes Coffee is offering fresh coffee from around the world, roasted and shipped from Yunnan Province. They are not a mass-bean-producing plant, but rather a family-owned company that will ship bags of coffee TO YOUR DOOR. That's right, I just told you something that actually makes life easier for you by living in China. Even if you don't like coffee, you should have it shipped to yourself just to remind you that there are things in life that are simple.


the owner is American, so you get to SPEAK ENGLISH ON THE PHONE! It doesn't seem to matter how long I've been here, I still feel like lisping sloth when I speak and listen to Chinese on the phone.


There are several different types and they can even put you on a yearly plan so that you don't even have to order the beans every month. We do tons of hosting, so knowing that beans are on their way is a huge advantage. The bags are a great price and we have had nothing but great customer service from these guys.

Here's the Taobao link. You can order directly from the Taobao store.

Or, you can go into the contact area for the email address or phone number and they will send you a full spread on all of their coffee options. Once you place an order, they will send you an invoice through taobao.

We just stumbled upon this company a few months ago and have been really pleased with the coffee. If you order, tell him we sent you so that he can continue to get the word out!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Releasing homeschool control

13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it

17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” Is. 44


There is a shield of control that is taken up when you decide to homeschool.  We convince ourselves that if we purchase the perfect curriculum or we have our children memorize the right Scriptures, that it will give birth to a child guaranteed to walk in holiness. 

All this curriculum

I have labored and agonized over my educational choices for my children. I've listened to experts convince me that this form of teaching or that writing assignment will be the closing arguments to a successful homeschooling career. 

Planning, researching, preparing, and asking questions is not wrong. It's when we put our full selves into those things and become resentful when our kids struggle that it is an issue. As a parent, we want a guarentee that something is going to produce our desired results. 

It seems as if the Israelites were wanting this very thing too. They measured and cut and fashioned. They shaped and nourished. And in the end, the only thing being produced was self-reflective idol of worship. While they were righteous in their planning and preparing, somewhere along the way, they lost sight of the end game. They became so focused on the details of preparation that they forgot that all of this working was unto the Lord. They weren't taking time to look up from their workbench to see if the Lord was pleased with the results. This is an enormous temptation in homeschooling. We wander around trying to get the best textbooks and use the latest educational theories, but in the end, the Lord is the one who teaches and trains our children in godliness. 

Giving it away 

We are to continue to be diligent in our teaching of Ancient Greece and the Pythagorean Theorem to our children. But let us not forget that we have to surrender their little hearts to the Lord. Offer the time of studies to the Lord in prayer everyday with your children. Remind them that you don't have all the answers. Point them to the fact that they can have all the answers, but if their heart is cold to the Lord, it's all vanity. For as much as they can solve math facts quickly, they need to be just as fast to offer to help a friend in need. 

I want to be able to control my children's hearts. I want to make godly decisions for them. Just because I make all the right decisions for their homeschooling, I am no entitled to the results. But the reality is that as they get older, decision ownership becomes an important part of their education. As I look back on my journey with the Lord, it is in the wrestling, the pain, the doubt, and the confusion that the Lord has reminded me that his hand extends out to my rescue. I need to afford my children the opportunity to grasp his hand too. And if I'm going to trust that his reach is long enough, I have to give up trying to rescue them myself through a solid education alone. This is an amazing post about things to pray for our children. 

Our trust and faith needs to be grounded in the Lord, and not simply in the educational choices we make for our children. We can't control their hearts, that is the Lord's territory. But we can bring their hearts into rooms of grace, truth, Scriptural curiosity, and humble question asking.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why I love Chinese water parks

On Friday, the family packed up and we headed to a new water park in town. Water parks are a relatively new deal in China. As a matter of fact, most of our Chinese friends don't know how to swim. With their growing popularity, I thought I put together several things that I love about Chinese water parks. 

1. They have amazing play areas for the smaller kids. This area had a huge pirate ships, twisty slides, water guns, and tons of things to climb on. I love this because they are too short to ride the bigger slides, but they don't feel like they are missing out because there are some legit slides in the kid area. This one above was three levels, with big slides running down both sides.


2. Most of the women have real bathing suits on. They are modest, cute, and comfortable. I love Chinese swim suits. They look like you would actually be able to swim and go down a water slide without flashing your goods to the lifeguards.

 3. The kids on the other hand are wearing a different type of bathing suit. For being a modest culture, it cracks me up how naked kids get. Just last weekend, we saw a group of 8-9 year old boys changing their suits out by the pool. Nobody cares, nobody panics.

 5. There are very few lines for these big slides. People will climb the 85 sets of stairs to get to the top, but just watch others go down because it looks so frightening to them. This afforded our kids to get to go down each slide dozens of times. 

 6. In the background, you can see a large covered area. This is the smaller kids' area. It's totally covered. Chinese are deathly afraid of tanning. With this area covered, it kept us fresh and relatively not sunburned by the end of the day.

7. The snack bars include things like: rice and cabbage bowls, beef noodles, and sticks of grilled lamb. 

8. If you've known me for 2.3 seconds, you will know about this. I fear the water.  Take that back, I fear my children and their relationship with the water. This place had life vests for the public to use! I almost kissed their feet.

9. Rules are simply suggestions. Charis was too short for the big rides, but when we first got there, the lifeguards didn't care and let her go anyway. They let me bring in tons of snacks. 

10. It was small enough that we could all hang out together, but the older ones could go off from time to time without me feeling like I was letting them loose. 

We had such a great time together. With the kids getting older, these types of outings are getting more and more fun. We all commented that this was one of our best family outings so far. Blessed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Homeschool Woes Part 2-This is the Redemption Part

Homeschooling has revealed so many weaknesses in me (which I vomited in this post) that sometimes I feel too fragile to teach my own children. But I'm beginning to understand that this type of fragility is what God wants to use to landscape my soul into something not just useful, but holy. God doesn't just want to use me as a vessel, but he wants to make my colors undescribable with human words. He wants my patience and joy and kindness to be so refined that the reflection from them seems to bounce like a chiseled prism held to the sun.These types of things don't happen by things being easy.

The kids and I were reading Isaiah 41 this week and my mind has fixated on verse 10 and 13:

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."


"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you."

I don't have to carry this load myself. It seems so simple when I type those words, but actually burying my face in surrender and not just giving up is quite another feat. Several times I have envisioned the Lord sitting by my bed while I'm angry, frustrated, tired, or pouting and he brushes back my hair to look at my face. In his mercy, he bends. He speaks directly into my eyes, his words slowing my rapidly beating heart. He whispers promises to a weary mom's soul:

"I am here.

You don't have to fear. I'm ultimately in charge of the well-being and education of your children.

I will be the one to breathe strength into your days, stop trying so hard to do this by yourself.

I got this.

This is going to be hard. You are on the struggling, incomplete side of eternity. Remember that and find comfort in the fact that one day, I'm going to make all things new. That's hope. 

Take my hand, stand up, dust yourself off, get out there, and saturate yourself in this gift I'm giving you. This homeschooling's a gift I'm giving you. Don't forget that.

You don't have to be a perfect teacher, you just have to be a mom who's vulnerable and forgiven. Being that for your kids will be more than teaching them why Rome fell. 

Stop looking at what other people are doing and look at me to remember why you are doing this. It's not for them, it's for me."

In both of those Isaiah verses, the Lord refers to using his right hand. This was the hand used to make contracts and promises. It's a promise of faithfulness and strength. As adults, we forget that we are also his children. We try to keep it together when sometimes we just need to curl up in God's words and listen to him tell us that things are going to be OK.

I'm holding on to these things this week. You see, God never promises this to be easy, he simply promises to be faithful. In these hard things, our eyes regain their focus on Jesus and off of ourselves.

That is a grace and I'm choosing to hold onto that today. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homeschooling Woes, I Need More Coffee

I slammed my knee into an exhausted, impenetrable homeschooling hurdle today.  The race always starts off with my spandex wedged into the appropriate places and glittering stars of academic bliss awaiting me at the finish line. I start running and clear the first few hurdles with relative ease. I clip my heals on a few; I straight up avoid some by running around them rather than jumping over them. But all in all, the race has gone as planned.

photo credit

And then we round the corner to summer.

As I'm running, I look up and this stretch of track seems to bleed into the horizon, never ending. It's the War and Peace section of the homeschooling year. You know you have to push through and finish, but man this is going to get painful.

I find myself muttering:

  "If you want to do the craft yourself it's on page 336. I'm tired."

 "If you aren't going to learn, I'm not going to teach." 


"If I hear you cry one more time, I'm gonna stick Jell-O in my eye." 

You see, we homeschool year round. With different people coming to visit, visa runs, and various things we have to leave town for, year round schooling just works better. But, it's about this time in the summer that I haven't just run out of steam, I've surrenedered to hitchhiking my way to the finish line. I don't even care if it's a drunk Pink Floyd groupie, I just need a ride to the end. The funny thing is that we don't have an end. I'm not organized enough to keep us on a good formal schedule, so we simply finish 2nd grade math on Monday and start 3rd grade on Tuesday. No bells, whistles, or graduations. I give them 5 kuai and tell them to get an ice cream-by themselves. It's all very grand and I'm sure they feel so deeply nurtured by this.

There is it.

All those lessons I've learned about training up my children in godliness and the benefits of tailoring my children's educations seem to be lost under the screaming dark angel saying, "Put them all in school and you'll get to actually finish a cup of coffee and a sentence involving a comma."

--I should spend more time praying over this. I try. Really I do. But I quickly find myself praying that I'd get mono so that I can take a nap.

--I should take a day off. If I do, it's fabulous and I feel so refreshed...until I wake up the next day. You see, resting has an eventual end which makes rest feel like a bad guaze-wrapped solution and when I have to get back to our routine, there are bits of bleeding flesh that have been ripped off after said rest.

--I try to remind myself of why I'm homeschooling and for that brief moment, I'm swept away in a Bette Midler song of homeschool nirvana. After those three melodious minutes are up, I shake the sentiment from my hair and remind myself that those platitudes have to be executed by me and me alone.

This is where I'm at today. I can sense the Lord tapping me on the shoulder. He's telling me to stop yelling my complaints so loudly, I'm disturbing all the other lovely families smiling their way through homeschool. There's redemption in this, I know it. I'm processing all of this with Jesus. He's teaching me things. But for today, this is all I've got.

Am I alone in this sentiment?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Makaria's 5th Birthday

 Well, Makaria is officially 5. This now brings me to an awkward 2 1/2 months were I have two 5-year olds in my home who are not twins. Explaining this to my community always brings a look of utter confusion and the assumption that we Americans don't know how to count. 

We had a little singing and cookie eating time at Makaria's school.With both a milk and egg allergy, we settled on non-cake things for our celebrations. We called them "Birthday, cookies cakes," at the school while pulling the "We foreigners do weird things" card with the Chinese kids. For them, birthdays ALWAYS mean cake, so we had to make up an explanation on the spot.

She decided that she wanted to go to McDonald's for her birthday meal. So we loaded onto the bus and headed into town for some fine dining.

We celebrated a little early because we had a dear friend that was moving back the States before Makaria's actual birthday and we wanted her there to celebrate with us. 

When you are a 5-year old girl, receiving wands and princess stamps is about the best thing to ever happen to you.

The fact that this sweet smile and joyful heart has been with us for 4 years makes me shake my head in disbelief. She still hasn't been able to figure out the adoption thing yet. We talk about it openly in our family and her most recent conclusions have been, "Mommy, you remember when I was a baby and you left me in the airport and then had to come back and get me?" And, "Mommy, remember how you went and got me in Ethiopia and then brought me back and put me in your stomach and then I came out?!" As a sidenote, I love that 5-year olds speak in commas and not periods.

As we went around and encouraged her with all the things we love about her, here are a few:

Loves to serve
Such a curious student
Hard worker
Great little sister

The next day, we had friends over and had apple pie. I will say that making a desert for a child allergic to both milk and eggs is quite a feat. But we did it and had a wonderful time. Hubs' birthday is right around the corner, so we threw him into the birthday mix too. 

We love you sweet girl! Happy Birthday!

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