Showing posts from 2011

Learning to retreat

Took a spiritual retreat today. My sweet husband took over the homeschooling for the day. I left the house before the kids got up, just long enough to write out assignments for the older ones and to lay out books for our youngest. I ran out as fast as I could seeing that I am highly distractable and a pile of dishes soon could be beckoning me home.

I went to my parents home which is empty for the day. They're returning from a trip this evening so it worked out. After brewing that important first cup of coffee I sat down on the couch with my pile of books, my Bible and my journal. I began as I always do. Writing out blessings, things for which I'm so thankful for.

Johanna's 6 teeth that were successfully pulledElijah's 2 teeth that were yanked out yesterday- thankful he's not too mad at us!For a day to rest and quiet down, to reflect and to prayThat I'm an extrovert and a day retreat will energize me for the monthFor seasonsFor the Father's love, so extravag…

A series of yesses

I was only four at the time. And I said yes. Yes, I believed in Jesus and needed Him to forgive me of my sins. Whatever "asking Jesus into your heart" means to a four year old, I wanted to.

Though I was only four, I understood that I had a choice and I made the choice. For the whole year that followed, I said yes to him each night. Afraid that Jesus might leave in the night, I asked him again, and again, and again. She discovered me one night, kneeling by my bed, praying aloud. Mom quickly assured me that Jesus was with me forever and I never needed to fear again that He would leave. Mom would continue to be that voice through the years, reminding me that the Lord was still here. Faithful. Present. Close to me.

Those early memories came to me again the other day. Funny how they do. My youngest son asked me a question, one of those innocent questions that are so perfect. One of those questions that sit funny in the heart. That reminds me of the little questions that remain …

A Quiet Heart

To love and lead out of a place of rest and quiet is something I've been asking for for so long.

And God is answering my prayer. This week He's giving me a glimpse of what it means to be quiet. To not have to push my way. To not be anxious over to-dos and not-yet-dones... To rest.

I am at an event that requires my attention, my energy, and my time, and a lot of it, but I feel peaceful! I don't think it's just due to the fact that the job is so big and I can't possibly do it. It's more than that.

When my kids were young we subscribed to the parenting philosophy that kids should just eat all day long. Small meals, snacks some would call it. We had people who thought we were spoiling their appetite but I found that it just helped them grow and mealtimes were no longer a fight. In a similar way, I've been snacking on quiet times throughout my day. Short periods of solitude and rest have been part of my diet, though I know I should probably move to longer per…

The blessing of a fall

Been listening to Laura Story's song, Blessing.... it's made me think.

I was preparing to lead worship for a spiritual retreat next week. Worshiping with my heart, singing loudly while my sweet husband gave me the afternoon off to prepare. Headphones on, I was in the Spirit.

What if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if the thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise....
I was thinking about those words, asking Father for grace to trust Him even when the blessings as I know them aren't as evident.
The wood stairs were slippery. Carrying garbage downstairs, I slipped, hitting my tailbone so hard I laid on our floor almost in tears. That was about twenty minutes after that prayer.
I've been asking the question, what is it like to live life present, awake, cognizant in heart and mind,to what God is doing in my life and in the lives of others..... A…

Do I have to run?

I wished it was raining but that morning it wasn't.

Feeling guilty for even wishing we didn't have to run this morning made me feel worse. Sometimes mom isn't any better than her kids. I lecture about the need to exercise and take care of the bodies God has given us, I drag my kids out of bed when their alarms have tired of ringing, and my husband and I meet the kids outside each morning to run our 1 1/2 mile track through our neighborhood. But this morning, tiredness took over and I wasn't so eager to run.

I've been meditating on the disciplines of the Christian life, study of Scripture, prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, worship, the things that help us stay on track and get spiritually fit. It's not always easy to maintain these disciplines, and many of us can easily find excuses for why we're not doing any of these things. I've logged most excuses, defending my role as a wife, mom, homeschool teacher, and other ministry roles I've played. Bu…

In a minute

If I could count the number of times I assure my kids of my presence right after I clean up the room, put the laundry in the wash, return that email, "in a minute"....  In a minute would describe me these days. Life is busy and I'm trying to figure out what it means to live openhearted, lovingly, responding in grace, and full of joy these days. When our travel schedule dies down, when we don't have so many appointments, when the list of to-dos disappears, when homeschooling doesn't seem so overwhelming..... in a minute.

To not wait for that minute, to be present, right here, right now. I want that kind of mindfulness. That kind of presence. To not wait until then, but to live fully now.

When Jesus assures us in Scripture to not worry about tomorrow, when Paul exhorts us not to be in anxious..... it means right here and right now. I don't know if I'll have that next minute, but I do know I have this minute. I can put tasks off for later, but I cannot put…

Lessons from a Bathroom Cabinet

I was cleaning out my bathroom cabinet this morning. Never a fun task. It's then I realize how unnecessarily overstocked I've been in some things and terrible understocked in others. Throwing unused expired things away always makes me feel wasteful. Planning a year or two in advance when our family is back in our home country for all medical needs can be a challenge. Sure there's more and more available here, but it's a lot easier reading labels in English! A mental exercise. Don't need this, haven't used it, won't need it, won't use it..... Sorting and cleaning is always more exhausting then I plan for. Of course I didn't plan to do that this morning, I just walked into the bathroom looking for something and then started cleaning. That's how half-full coffee cups land in the strangest of places. I know I'm not alone in this scattered behavior, it's just that some of us moms seem to do it more than others!

We're preparing to return t…

Toothpick trees and Cloudy Days

The white days of summer are here. White clouds cover the sky. They're formless, really. These kinds of days are ones that are hard. I struggle as it is to find beauty here. I truly want to. My eyes scan the horizon. I'm a naturalist, according to Gary Thomas's Sacred Pathways assessment. I feel God's presence most when I'm surrounded by nature. I don't have much of that here. Over the years I've seen the effort to plant more trees, and I've appreciated it. But it's not enough. Or so it seems.

See, these days present choices for me. A choice to wake up and smile regardless of the presence of sunlight or not. My second son, the one with great perspective and lots of joy, his words pierce my heart this morning. "What a beautiful day, Mommy!" I rub my eyes, wondering if he sees what I see. Apparently not.

The trees outside are growing. When we moved into this complex of 30,000 people, the trees were newly planted, sticking up from the hard …

Eyes to Perceive

Dust is everywhere. I am seeing it more. Covering the piano, the steps, the furniture, the pile of books on the side that are waiting to be put away.You see, I'm looking for dust. My new vacuum cleaner in hand, mop leaning against the wall, a rag over my shoulder, I'm ready for dust. The problem with this is that there's no end to this dust-hunting. I have barely finished my rounds and dust has collected again. I stop only because I'm too tired to continue.

Seeing is everything. I see what I believe to be there. When I am busy seeing other things, I don't see the dust. Or maybe I still see it but I don't perceive it. It doesn't bother me.

Last week we finished up reading Acts as a family. The last part of chapter 28 struck me. "Go to the people and say, you will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For the people's heart has been calloused, they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed th…

To be Sanctified

..I gave them My Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them." Ezekiel 20:12

The Lord gave His people Israel the Sabbath. Like the rest of the Law, it was placed there for their own good. They were to follow the Law, to stray from it in anyway was to sin. Sabbath was made so that Israel would stop what they were doing. They weren't to collect manna on the Sabbath. Double up the night before, and on the Sabbath it will be enough. They were to stop, rest, and reflect. "that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them..." How else were they to know? The rest of the week was one filled with hard labor. One day was set apart for rest.

As the Lord has been making this truth clearer to me especially in the last couple years, He has used Sabbath truly to show me more of my need for Him. It is with a day of rest, or even a life of resting in Him, that I would learn that all the doing, working, striving, isn…

How do you explain?

How do you explain to a 10 year old that you are never to stop loving? When her heart is so sad that it feels like it's going to melt away and shrivel up and never come out again?
Don't hide.
I tell her that this morning. It's not worth it. No matter how hard it hurts? No matter how hard.
But how is it worth it to love and then to say goodbye again so quickly?
For reasons that even adults cannot comprehend.
Could you explain to me, please?
There are tears caught in my throat.
I'm afraid to let them out for fear they won't stop coming.
I'm not a robot.
My heart is made of flesh, not stone.
To love again and again, to say that very same number of goodbyes.
It doesn't get any easier, my oldest son said to me as he watched grandparents say goodbye at the airport one year when he was 8.
This life that we've chosen to live seems to filled with so much pain. Everywhere you turn.
At least that's how it can seem sometimes.
I confess, Lord.
My …

A Picture of His Glory

I started reading Ezekial this past week. I love how the introduction to Ezekial is so short. Like introductions here in Asia, it begins with where he's from and his family. But then it moves quickly into a vision of God's glory. From there it goes to chapter 2 where Ezekial receives his calling from the Lord to be a prophet to the nation of Israel in captivity. For Ezekial to respond to this hard calling (for it truly was hard!) he had to have first seen the glory of God. I'm sure that vision continued to serve as a reminder for him in the following days in the difficult times that would ensue. God repeats himself in chapter 2 and 3 over and over, reminding Ezekial not to be discouraged by the "looks of the people of their response to his words" for more importantly these responses and words were to God, not to Ezekial.

It was like God was preempting Ezekial's response, He knew it was going to be hard. God is God and He could have just called Ezekial and ju…

A glimpse

God's grace is so amazing, the extent of His love for His children impossible to describe. This truth has been precious to me over they years, but it seems Father has a way of teaching me this over and over again through my children.

When I see my the sin in my children's lives, I have to admit, it sometimes shocks me. I'm not sure why. I confess secret hopes that my children will grow up and be better than me. That they won't struggle with the same sin of pride, that manifests itself in my life through self-reliance, self pity, and just plain self. That they would be quick to forgive and not get angry or frustrated when things don't go their way. But the truth is, while the events of their lives may be different than mine, they too will struggle with the sin.

As I am faced daily with daily opportunities to reach out in grace to my kids I find myself praying , Lord, how can you love me, broken, impatient....  Love so amazing. Love that reached through the heavens…

Divine and Perfect Love

What does it mean to love?

Christ has commanded us to love. From beginning to end, the Scriptures are God's love letter to us. Love marks us, sets us apart as followers of Jesus. Paul writes in Romans 12:9 "Let love be genuine, ... love one another with brotherly affection." Throughout the New Testament, we are encouraged in this way.

So why is it so hard to do?

The love that God calls us to is a supernatural love. A sacrificial love, a "willing to lay down oneself for another" kind of love. One that is impossible in ourselves. The desire to love another must be from God Himself. The desire to love God is our response to God's love at work in us.

Recognizing my limitations and weaknesses, my inability to love well, is a start to loving well. It's actually a relief to know that I can't love on my own! On my own I am left to navigate relationships my own way which leaves me often hurt, irritated, and yet longing for more. These longings for more ar…

Whether it Rains or Pours

So, I didn't think it could get worse, but it did.

My neck, arm, wrist, hand thing that I've had for 14 years since my eldest was born has worsened. I shouldn't even be typing this, but I am. See, it's this stubborn perserverance that probably has brought me to this place.

I examined my hand last night, asked friends who were over for dinner to look at it, yes, it's pretty swollen. It's all in my head, I'd like to presume.  Mind over body.... isn't that they way the old saying goes?

My husband is off doing relief work in tsunami stricken Ibaraki, Japan, he's only been gone for 1/3 of the time he's supposed to gone for... time is definitely going by too slow.

It's my right hand, the hand I use for everything! I'm typing this out like a second grader first learning they keyboard.

The passage I read this morning has left me pondering, "Make us glad by the measure of the days you afflicted us, and the years in which we suffered adv…

Thankful for the Cross

Listened to a message this morning by Mark Driscoll, a pastor in Seattle. We gathered in our usual place Sunday morning, my son led worship, (his first time), and we settled into a comfortable position, ready to listen to the hour long podcast. A friend commented that last week a couple people had fallen asleep during the semon. It's hard to stay engaged when you can't see who's talking!
Pastor Driscoll's message was on the atonement of Jesus at the cross. During Lent, we remember Christ's death, the sin of all of man, all that drove Him to the cross. We remember what we would be like without Jesus. But it's too easy to gloss over the details, those awful details that words cannot even capture a fraction of what that day was like, the day Jesus died. Crucifixion in those days was the worst of all deaths, and the pastor explained it was that kind of death that the word "excruciating" came from. As the pastor went on and on about what it meant to be sc…

Pilgrims and Goodbyes

We'll see you soon.
Until next time.
We'll be sure to stay in touch.
We'll miss you.

Blinking away the tears, we waved goodbye this morning to close friends who have been in our city for as long as we have. Their kids have been good friends to our kids, they have spent many sleepovers, afternoons that turned into sleepovers, birthdays, meals in and meals out, they have shared favorite Chinese street food, taught my boys games and daughter to crochet.... They have pursued the Lord together and have committed to journeying together, for life. They have challenged us to think hard about our faith. They have modeled loving Jesus and loving people so well. They have been a joy.

It's hard to say goodbye to that. Life as we know it, especially my kids, will never be the same. There won't be 3 extra kids around our table most weekends. My oldest son will not have that spur of the moment Risk game phone call, he won't have as much to look forward to on th…

Food on my table

I couldn't believe it.

They weren't coming until 6pm, for dinner. At least that was the plan. And there they were at our door with smiles on their faces at 10am. This was going to be a long day, I thought to myself.

I had woken up that morning with a heavy heart. It was like a dark gloom had settled over me and I couldn't figure out why. John helped me with the morning breakfast routine, we had kids sleeping over and many mouths to feed. I grabbed my cup of coffee and headed to my room. God and I needed to have a chat.

I emerged not 20 minutes later with the answer. I knew why I was feeling heavy-hearted. 2011 was going to be a confusing year! Lots of transition, people coming and going, our own comings and goings, kids growing up, and much much more to trust Him for.

The cloud lifted after my very quick and simple revelation. God whispered to me almost audibly, "No worries, Jenn. For I will be with you."

The doorbell buzzed. E was here. E had been in our st…

Signed away to Christ

It's hard to believe another year has gone by. What's the abbreviation for 2011? I'm wondering that this morning. Not super important, but if I were to refer to this year in the future, what would I call it? Eleven? What about in Chinese? I asked my friend yesterday, she wasn't too sure.

Reflected a bit today, shared thoughts for the coming year around breakfast, and cleaned out my kitchen cupboards. Naturally for me, cleaning up something that is part of reflection. As I sorted out my kitchen cupboards, I felt a wave of nostalgia pass over me. Living overseas, we don't throw much away either that we brought from the US or was sent to us from home. Twelve years here, five apartments, and four kids later, it seems like we have a lot of stuff! Of course, living in a small apartment has kept us from hoarding too much, but it's still way more than the average Chinese! I pulled out playdough accessories (my seven year old is almost too big for it!), sippy cup lids …