Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wonderful Advent Book for Little Ones

So I don't intend to use this blog to push products.  But if I come across something super great, something I'm really glad someone told me about, I'll tell you about it here.  Here's my super great find:



It's an e-book you can buy for $4.99.  It's an advent guide for parents of little ones, mainly preschool and early elementary.  I think Ellie will adore it, and I'm hoping Aiden will go along with it. 
It's has:
1.  Short daily devo with a great "clue" idea to make it interactive. 
2.  Two different options for an advent calendar/count down to Christmas
3.  A Christmas ornament craft for every day that ties in with the devo

I've been reminded lately of the power of remembrance.  And holidays are the great rythm of remembrance for our lives.  I want my littles to grow up with a deep sense of tradition in the midst of their transitory lives.  I want them to grasp the richness of the Sacred Story, reliving it in the vividness of their imaginations each and every year.  And I think this little book will help us do that.

To be honest, I bought the book and was a bit overwhelmed when I looked at the craft supply list.  And the thought of doing a craft every single day is well, just not very realistic for me and mine.  But as the author encourages, you don't have to do them ALL.  She offers a few ideas for paring it down a bit.  My personal hope is to attempt HALF of the ornaments this year and complete the set next year.  I'll pick and choose ones that I have the supplies for now (plus a few little purchases) and then have all year to gather the supplies for the remaining ornaments next year.  Who knows, even attempting half may be a bit of a lofty goal, but we shall see. 

Regardless, I think the devos and advent calendar will be Christmas soul food for my children.  If you're interested buy yours here today!  Cuz tomorrow is December 1, people!  Which is very weird, because it's currenty 67 degree and over the weekend it was 80 degrees.  And when I say weird, I mean, AMAZING.  The paper snow flakes taped to my window more than satisfy any desire I might ever have for cold. 


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What are your favorite traditions (new or old) that make the holidays special?         


Sunday, November 27, 2011

On Shopping, Contentment and The OC



China did a lot of things in us.  We're still processing what those things are, but one thing I know, China helped me to be content with less, with simple.  And I surely needed this, because it's not my natural bent.  I like things.  I like nice things.  But when you see people living simple lives free from the trappings of stuff, stuff and more stuff, it has an affect

Don't misunderstand, China is on the fast train of consumerism, headed straight to materialism.  But in general, the people we knew lived with far less than the average American.  And when a Chinese friend walks into your home, you can't help but try to see it through their eyes, and the excess stands out like it's been coated in highlighter.  

I wish I could say that these things alone caused me to simplify our lives and our "want" list.  But the truth is that it took a little more to force us into it.  Here's what it took: 

We've known our homes are temporary.  So we don't put too much into decorating or home improvement.  And while I miss having colored walls, it just doesn't seem worth the expense or effort when we know we're not here to stay.  We've learned that hand-me-down furniture is great, and simple pinecones from the park can make for simply beautiful decor.  Not allowing yourself to indulge in finery teaches you that you can be totally fine without it. 

In China I rarely bought clothes and never bought shoes.  Requesting the equivelent of an American size 9 shoe brought laughter from shoe vendors.  Long sleeve shirts almost never reached my wrists.  Since I skipped coming back to the US the summer before we moved back, it had been two years since I last went shopping in America.  I kind of expected myself to go a little shopping crazy upon our arrival.  Instead, in the five months since we've been back, I've bought two shirts and a pair of $10 shoes for myself.

We currently living on a tighter budget than we've ever lived on before.  Forced frugality has a way of dividing your "want" list into a much smaller "need" list.  And there's something quite freeing about that, a sense of "this is how we should be living anyway."

But here's the thing.  The longer I live in the OC, the harder it is becoming to live contentedly with less.  I'm becoming more in tune with the fashions of the day, and the internal wiring of my womanhood shouts "Compare and Compete!"  So I take a whole afternoon by myself to go shopping for myself (with hubby's approval), and after a few hours of fussing over the fittings and gagging over the prices, I come back with...nothing.

Here's what bothered me more than my empty shopping bags and my wasted time - my heart.  The contentedness wasn't there.  My heart had convinced itself that it could have been content with those knee high boots (if only they were in my price range), and that dress (if only it weren't too short), and that sweater (if only they'd had my size).  I wasn't content without them.  I believed the lies.  But here's truth: 

Real contentment has no "if only's." 
Real contentment can be in the OC and not of the OC.  
Real contentment can look at those with more without envy and without judgment.
Real contentment looks at those with less and is moved to sacrifice for them. 
Real contentment is a heart dwelling in the reality that I have the hope of Glory, the well spring of Life, the gift of Presence residing in me. 

And I let a little shopping trip get me down?  Really

Lord, slip me back into reality.     


Photo found on http://mamasonadime.com/2011/04/retail-coupons/shopping-bags/
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Ladies, does your womanhood shout "Compare and Compete"?

                           
     

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart


For Thanksgiving we invited some of Aaron's students to join us.  And so gathered round our table was the world - Russian, Jordanian, Korean, and Kazakh.  Hearts far from home, trying to find their way in this new land.  I hope they tasted warmth and joy.  My heart was as full as my little home.


Memories to bottle up:

     -  My mom was here.  For the first time in years, our hands together prepared the feast.  Somehow we didn't think to take a picture.  

     -  The day before Thanksgiving, my uncle who I met once twenty years ago, showed up and spent a hundred dollars giving my kids their first Chucky Cheese experience.  What?!



     -  Ellie got a little Aunt time in.

     -  While we pulled out the Christmas decor, Ellie pranced around shouting, "Happy Christmas, Everyone!"
 
     -  Upon plugging in the lights on the tree, Aiden attempted to blow out each light. 



     -  Thanks to Grammy's babysitting, the hubs and I got a post-Thanksgiving lunch date.  We found a gem of a restarant in Little India.  I wanted to drink the curry sauce.  Instead I sopped up each bite of naan, while soaking up my husband's company.



I'm learning thankfulness is the fuel of the peace and contentment life.  So as we roll into the season of doing and wanting and buying, may my heart and yours breathe slow with gratitude, quieting our souls to await the Savior's birth. 

Our thankful tree




 



 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'd Like You to Think I'm Super Woman

This is posted under the "about" tab, but since it's the heart of me and my blog, I thought it deserved a post all its own. 
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This blog is my attempt to take off my good girl mask* and show the world who I am.  For so long I have tried to be worthy of your approval, hoping to impress you, fearing I may disappoint you.  I'm in the process of quitting, quitting this worry-filled, try-hard, have-to-do kind of life.  I'd rather have the peace and contentment life.  The dumb thing is that for years I have been seeking this peace and contentment life by trying hard to get it, doing all the must-do-things that we're taught make it happen, and then worrying why it wasn't happening.

But you probably wouldn't know that.  Because, like I said, I wear this mask to impress you.  I like for you to think I have it all together.  I'm the good girl who's always gone to church, homeschooled (minus the denim jumper), never did anything scandalous, went to Bible college, married my first boyfriend, served the Lord in far away countries, and naturally birthed my two babies in those countries.  I'd like you to think I'm super woman, a great wife, amazing mom, joyfully trekking my family back and forth across the globe doing incredible things for God.

The truth is, the last seven years of marriage, motherhood and this life we've chosen have only showed me that I am nothing of the super woman I always wanted to be.  (Insert lots of tears)

But here's what God's been showing me: I DON'T HAVE TO BE!  (Exhale big sigh of sweet relief.)

It's a slow awakening.  I often fall back into blurry, fitful super woman dreams.  But this blog is me taking a step in the journey.  Or rather it is about me sitting down on my journey.  Because the journey is not about heading towards a goal of becoming someone I hope to be.  He wants me to stop trying to acheive this ever allusive goal of being better, and be who I already am.  Broken.  Redeemed.  HIS.

This is me being free.  Free to be...Not Yet There.  I have not arrived.  I'm going to stop trying to fool you into believing I have.  This is me being right where I am, in the bosom of my broken, redeemed HIS-ness and sharing that with you.       

*The phrase "good girl mask" comes from Emily Freeman's "Grace for the Good Girl."

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Can anyone relate to any of this? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why Blog?


I've decided I must blog.  I must cast my voice into the internet sea, hoping to be heard.  If you know me, you know that blogging is not new for me.  You also know that I haven't touched our old blog (downtownchinatown) in ah...two years.     

So why the new blog?  A lot of reasons actually. And for the grand opening, here they are:

Because...

In my bones I am a writer. Not a writer, as in, I deserve to be published, but a writer, as in, when God gathered the dust to make me, he sprinkled some writer in. For me to be me, I need to write. Every major point in my life has been expressed through writing. As a nine-year-old girl, I wrote down my conversion story on a bright orange piece of paper. When I left as a freshly graduated eighteen-year-old for the unknowns of an Ecuadorian village, I said goodbye to each of my family with a letter. I greeted my groom in a garden on our wedding day...with a letter. As newly weds following a calling on our hearts, we chronicled our life in China on our blog. The life-giving experiences of my childrens' births were, of course, recorded. Nearly every time God has touched my heart in some way, I had to write it down. For me, writing makes it real. Writing makes it matter.




I've let it wither. Despite the fact that writing is so important to me, and despite the fact that the past few years have been among the most transformational years of my life, I have been writing almost nothing. I've let this writing gift wither. My excuse? Well, I had kids. And they kind of take up nearly all my waking hours. But this season of life means too much to not write it out. This is my attempt to breathe life into a part of my soul that has been parched.

To remember... How many memories are lost because I didn't take the time to write them down? How many life lessons are forgotten because I didn't record them? I want to remember, to remember it all, all the God-touches of my journey, all the heart cries of my struggles, each and every unrepeatable phase of my precious little ones. Then when I'm wrinkled and wobbly, and my brain is returning to the dust, someone can read me my blogs. And I'll be glad I wrote them.

To let you in. I could do all of this, the writing and remembering, in my own nice private journal, you know, one with real paper. Why plaster the innards of my heart for literally anyone to see? Because others have done so for me. They have let me in to their journeys, some perfect strangers I would never have the privilege of meeting. And I am changed. Their story moves me in mine. And I would dare to hope that my story would move yours.  

To throw you a rope. I am too many miles away from too many people I love. Scattered around the world, hearts tied to mine. I'm throwing you a rope, my dear yet distant friends, to bind us together. Our journey isn't over.

So stranger, family, friend, here's my invitation,. Come along with me. I'll move past my inhibitions, beyond the norm of “doesn't really matter” and delve straight into the good stuff. The stuff that we so rarely get to. This is my blog. If you care to know me, this is me.

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So when God made you, what did he sprinkle in?


My dear yet distant friends, how ARE you?