Saturday, June 30, 2007

Open Heart Parenting

I have a knack for finding the right book at the right time. I paid a quarter for the Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens at a church rummage sale.
Paul David Tripp clarifies my job as a parent:

"We want to know the heart of our teenager, to help him see his heart as it really is, and to be used of God to help produce a heart ruled by nothing else but God and his truth."

I can learn to:

"...ask stimulating questions, that will cause the teen to examine his actions, his assumptions, his desires, and his choices. Help him shine the light of the Word on them. Surprise him with the truth. Let wisdom sparkle before his eyes. Don't give in to soliloquies or diatribes. Engage your teenage in a stimulating conversation that doesn't flash your authority or the right you have to tell him what to do. Rather, talk to him in a way that lifts up truth and points out its beauty."

And here's some advice:

"Don't get sucked in. Don't get locked out. Don't engage in interpersonal war."

"Faithfully bring sweet words of wisdom and loving words of correction. Hold what is valuable before your teenager and trust God to produce, in his or her heart, a love for truth."

With God's help, I can let His light shine through me into the hearts of my children.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Friday, June 29, 2007

Whatcha' Gonna Do?

I try to pray for my children but it backfires. I end up praying for God's grace and mercy in my own life. I'm an adult. I've been a parent for almost twenty years, with four children to practice on. And I have no clue how to be patient and loving all the time. I thank God for the work of Jesus, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:14). It's time to remind myself of what I have told others: If it was easy, I wouldn't need God. And I believe the Bible when it says, "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. I Thessalonians 5:14-15 ESV

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Manna on the Porch

The best half of a book I ever read was Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing His Will by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. I chipped away at the workbook while my baby napped. I often think about the list of names of God and how I circled "God will provide" as being significant to me. Six years later I would probably circle the same thing. I never know what my weekly menu will include. Today I found three dozen beautiful brown eggs on my porch. A friend can't keep up with her chickens and we are glad to help. My Chinese neighbor left a bag of bok choy and lettuce from their garden. Last week she brought us frozen potstickers because they were on sale and she knows they are a family favorite. Another neighbor brought me a bag of big white mushrooms. How about a mushroom omelette? This morning I ran over in my pjs to say good-bye to neighbors who are moving across the state. I came home with some soda pop cans they didn't have room for. I can't wait until someone has extra apples so we can start making applesauce and pies again. And I think I'll try Experiencing God again. I will start at the beginning and relearn seeing where God is working and joining Him there.

So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." Genesis 22:14 ESV

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Follow Through

I'm going on record that it's not the thought that counts. I want to put an end to good intentions. It's time to take action. I'm going to stop wishing friends and family belated birthdays or anniversaries unless I put it in writing. Here's an idea, check the calendar and pop things in the mail before the special day. I just found an old prayer journal from 1999 where I read through the Bible and recorded verses and prayers for the (then) director of the Pregnancy Care Center . Yesterday I stopped by her office and left the journal and a note for her. I could have waited until I wrapped it beautifully. I opted for getting it done in hopes of being an encouragement to her. She called to say she was just thinking about the year I prayed for her. It inspired her to record her prayers for her precious granddaughter who isn't expected to survive. I don't need to wait for the perfect card or wrapping paper ensemble. I can communicate a timely word of encouragement. And I can learn from my friend who carries an emergency gift-wrapping supply kit in her car. I can pack some blank cards too.

Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it"--when you have it with you. Proverbs 3:28 ESV

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You Didn't Say

I always thought anything chocolate was a sure winner, with carrot cake a close second. After almost twenty-two years of marriage, I found out that my husband loves pineapple upside-down cake. I'll have to get the recipe from his mom. Today I noticed something new in the passage of scripture I pray for my husband and children every day. I took note of what it DOESN'T say in Colossians 1:9-10: "I pray for you every now and then, asking that you may be filled with self-awareness in all human wisdom and knowledge, so as to walk in a manner worthy of our family name, achieving true happiness, completing every desire of yours, and increasing in knowledge of your inner bliss." I am thankful that Jesus made it simple. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33 ESV.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

Monday, June 25, 2007

Taste and See

He's given it away, replaced it, and threatened to give his away again. My husband's favorite devotional book is Taste and See by John Piper. If he acts now, he can buy all the copies he wants for 5 bucks a piece at the amazing 2 day online sale at the Desiring God website. All books are on sale on June 27-28. Here is a quote from my husband's favorite chapter in Taste and See, "The Only Ultimate Love."

The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centered sin so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but our helping them to find eternal satisfaction in making much of God.

I'll have to see how much pocket change I have squirrelled away. I might want to spring for a biography or What Jesus Demands from the World. Or what about Battling Unbelief? My birthday is coming up in two weeks and my grandparents usually tuck a fiver in a card. Or I could buy my husband another copy of Taste and See to give away.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 ESV

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mow, Mow, Mow Your Lawn

Two years ago on Father's Day my children pooled their resources to buy my husband a lawn mower. Our neighbor just sold his house and gave us his lawn mower and some other tools. We gave the new (to us) lawn mower to my recently retired dad who is fixing up their lakefront property. But then our lawn mower bit the dust. So now we are sharing one with my parents. It turns out the neighbor's mower is a far better mower but I wasn't sure how long it could handle mowing both places. I asked my children, "Do you have faith?" And I wondered how much faith I had. Would God keep the mower working? How could we get a new one? Today at church a friend asked my husband, "Do you know anyone who needs a lawn mower?" Yes!

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:30-33 ESV

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Life in a Fishbowl

I spend part of the day swimming around in circles like our two new goldfish. I am thankful for the energy to drive, prepare meals, run errands, and be a mom, wife, and friend. What people don't know is that I spend part of the day lying low like the plecostomus fish on the bottom of our fishbowl. My older three children remember how I was in bed full-time when my MS was at its worst. I didn't go to soccer games or school functions. I attended a few teacher conferences in my wheelchair. When I run into friends today, I can still picture the meals they delivered to our home. My health has been stable for the last couple years with one down time three years ago. I am learning to budget my energy and take a time-out when I need to recharge. I thank God for His grace to sustain me each day, whether I am swimming laps or taking a breather.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17 ESV

Friday, June 22, 2007

Loop Scoop

We went from zero to fifty in one hour. I watched the weather all day to see if we could hold our 9th annual last day of school celebration. It was windy but not raining. In the last hour my six-year-old, a young friend, and I canvassed the neighborhood and invited everyone to our end of the loop for ice cream. Meanwhile, my older children set up the tables and put out the bowls, cones, and the applesauce cake I make every year. I introduced myself to some new neighbors, met a baby born on my husband's birthday, got updates on the houses for sale, and found out someone has cancer. And then fifty men, women, children, and three friendly dogs ate ice cream in front of our house. My friend from across the street scooped the popular "Superman" ice cream (looks like multi-colored sherbet but I'm told it tastes like bubblegum) while I scooped vanilla. We had plenty so some children had thirds, but who's counting? Maybe next year we can bring back the barbecue and games for our 10th annual Hello Summer party.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:2 ESV

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Amazing Chase

On their way to a graveside service today, my friends had a close call with an oncoming truck in their lane. At the last second the other driver narrowly missed hitting them head on. My friends said a prayer of thanksgiving for God's protection. When they returned to the church they saw the same truck with a blown-out tire. The wife's car was parked outside the church and had been struck by the truck. Two other cars were also side-swiped. The driver of the stolen truck ran through the church with police officers in pursuit with guns drawn. He ran past the women in the kitchen preparing for the reception after the memorial service. He was apprehended a few blocks away. My friends were thankful that no one was hurt in the incident. Me too. (The youth pastor at the church took this picture with his cell phone.)

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12 ESV

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lend a Hand

"Can you sign for this? And by the way, can you help me unload 4,000 pounds of hardwood flooring?" And so went my husband's housepainting work today. My husband is good at lending a hand. I've lost track of how many times he's hooked up the cables and jump started vehicles for stranded drivers. Neighbors know he will listen and help when needed. My children are following in his footsteps. They have a reputation for being reliable petsitters--they've cared for dogs, cats, fish, and a guinea pig. They water and mow yards while friends or neighbors are out-of-town. A good reputation--priceless!

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16 ESV

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"The Great Emotion Eater"

I am not a father but I can learn from John Piper's sermon on June 17, 2007. Pay attention to what we are to stop and what we are to start doing.

Here is an excerpt from the sermon as posted on the Desiring God blog:

"A Father's Conquest of Anger in Himself and in His Children."

So the point I am stressing is this: When Paul says in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” don’t just stop doing things that provoke anger; start doing things that remove anger—overcome anger. Start doing things that awaken in the heart of a child other wonderful emotions so that they are not devoured by anger—the great emotion eater. The main task in all this is that you overcome your own anger and replace it with tenderhearted joy. Joy that spills over onto your children. When the mouth of dad is mainly angry, the tender emotions of a child are consumed. In other words, being the kind of father God calls us to be means being the kind of Christian and the kind of husband God calls us to be.

The Gospel Is the Key

And being a Christian means receiving forgiveness freely from God for all our failures and all our anger. It means letting the smile of God in Christ melt the decades of hardened, numbing, emotionless, low-grade anger. And then letting that healing flow to others. “Let all . . . anger . . . be put away from you . . . . Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” God forgave you. God has been kind to you. God is tenderhearted to you. It is all because of Christ. Therefore, in Christ, by the Spirit, fathers, we can do this. We can put away anger, and we can forgive, and we can experience and awaken in our children tenderheartedness with a whole array of precious emotions that may have been eaten up by anger. They can live again. In you. And in your children.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20 ESV

Monday, June 18, 2007

Keep Going

If it doesn't rain this Friday, we will have our 9th annual last day of school celebration in our sixty-home neighborhood. My friend Sue and I started the tradition in our end of the Loop. I wasn't sure if I was up to continuing the tradition this year. My fifteen-year-old daughter told me not to worry, she would make the flyers and hand-deliver them. She reminded me that she and her siblings are always good to make the Hello Summer banner and help with set-up. I am thankful for the word of encouragement. With their help, we can do this together. And this year we'll remember the name tags so we can match names to "that's the neighbor who walks" and "that's the neighbor with the new baby."

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Now and Then

I should never, ever, learn how to make spinach artichoke dip. I would eat too much of it. I can count on learning a new recipe or cooking technique every time I stay with my husband's brother and wife. Today we joined my husband's three brothers, one sister, and families for a graduation garden party in Oregon. We came a day early and helped with preparations. As I mingle with relatives, I try to balance two perspectives. First, I want to be a good listener as I catch up. One niece just had her tonsils out, with two of her cousins scheduled for the same surgery. Watch out for those killer sneezes afterwards! One beloved pet dog had 15 stitches after a nasty slice on her leg. She's going to be fine. We miss a niece who is on a mission trip to South Africa. She sent a text message reporting that she has to lock her door at night to keep the monkeys out of her room. Secondly I want to remember good memories of each family member. On this Father's Day I am thankful for a father-in-law who is committed to God, his wife, children, and grandchildren. He commuted to our town every other weekend to contribute hours to building our home. My mother-in-law keeps up with all five children, their spouses, and eleven grandchildren and loves all without favoritism. I am thankful for a brother-in-law who survived heart surgery. One brother-in-law helped my son move out of his college dorm when we couldn't be there. Another brother-in-law opens his home to us when we need a place to stay in Portland. His wife prepares amazing meals every time. One sister-in-law faithfully remembers birthdays. I received my ice cream gift card for my July birthday already. My husband's sister provides a home away from home for our son at college. I wish we lived closer so she could cut my hair! My husband's youngest brother generously gave us a gas gift card one visit. It's good to reflect and remember as we grow old together.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Ephesians 6:21-22 ESV

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Open House Season

It’s high school graduation time. We made it to two out of three open houses on our calendar today. We left the last party and hit the road for a family graduation celebration in Oregon. It seems like more than a year ago that we set up tables in the house and yard and feted our oldest son’s simultaneous high school and community college graduation. Next year our second son graduates from high school and community college and our daughter the following year. We have a break before our youngest graduates in 10 years. But wait, there will be probably be college graduations in a few years. It’s good to gather with family and friends and mark the milestones in our children’s lives. I have to get my neighbor’s family recipe for potato salad. Or maybe she can bring it to my son’s graduation party next year.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3 NIV

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dear Me in 1981

I was inspired by a post on the Restoring the Years blog. The author wrote a letter to her younger self. Here is my letter to myself when I graduated from high school.

You are only sixteen when you graduate from high school. That move to Hong Kong and missing first grade will make you the youngest of your peers. But by the time you are forty you will have friends twenty years younger and twenty years older.

It will be hard to be the first to leave the nest and get on that airplane. You will cry from Taipei until you change planes in Toyko. Brace yourself. After you come home for Christmas with your grandmother, you will cry all the way from Taipei to Seattle. By the way, don't wait to take that train trip across British Columbia with your grandmother. You won't get the chance because she will die suddenly at age 73.

Go easy on your mom and dad and write them regularly. It's not easy letting your first-born go, as you will find out for yourself in a few years. Those long distance calls are going to be expensive. Too bad you don't have something called e-mail yet. You will wish you kept in touch with friends from high school. You could give them your grandparents' address in Washington. They will take good care of you during college and beyond. They will live there for a long time, then build a house next door. Your parents will move in to their old house. And then, believe it or not, you and your husband will call the cabin at the lake home.

You will be glad you continued your Chinese classes. Twenty-five years from now you'll use Chinese to translate for neighbors from China. Beef up your Mandarin medical and legal terminology if you can.

Elementary education will be a good choice for a major. The fact that you considered an endorsement in mathematics will be humorous to your children who notice how numbers bounce in your head. Your love of algebra and problem-solving will come in handy when you tutor your husband through his 400-level college algebra class for his Masters in Teaching program.

Please, please, please get a handle on filing your papers. It will be the bane of your existence and have you saying, "I'm going to get organized" for the next 26 years.

Listen up. Don't give your heart to a charming older man that you befriend your senior year. Your differences in age, religion, background, language, and interests will never work out. It's ironic that your first-born son will major in cinema media communications and that "friend" is an award-winning Chinese cinematographer.

Write down more of your memories of growing up in Asia, your struggles, and your journey of faith. It will become a blur with a few snapshot memories.

Keep on going to the Bible for comfort. The Psalms will get you through leaving your parents and two sisters and re-entering your native culture. You will feel like a "foreigner" and an "egg" (white on the outside and yellow on the inside) for a long time but you will adjust.

You will apply for two work study jobs and think that the perfect one is the one in Ecumenical Ministries where you can study at work. You get the job in the Geology Department and will end up learning lots of secretarial skills. You will be typing purple dittos with an electric typewriter and carving typos with a blade but soon dittomasters will be obsolete. Personal computers are just around the corner. You will never get used to power tools like the one with diamond dust blades for cutting rocks. Don't worry, you won't ever have to do that again.

Enjoy your visits with your Canadian uncle and aunt and cousins. They love you and will be good to you. Some day you will look back and be amazed that you rollerskated down the streets of Victoria, B.C.

Try to feel good about being a size 8. You will look at pictures and wonder why you didn't feel skinny.

It will be a good decision to be involved in church all through college. Your first host home won't work out, but that's okay. You will move across town and gain an adoptive family that supports you all through college. They will be your home away from home even after you are married. You will change churches in that move and go from a large church to a small church with slim pickings, if you know what I mean. That is part of God's divine plan. You will meet your future husband in the new church at a Bible study.

But first pay attention. Watch out for a friend of a friend that will confuse your heart. Listen to the warning bells. Just because you love his family and they love you, doesn''t mean you should ignore his lack of commitment and trustworthiness. Don't overlook his lack of involvement at church. Saying you are a Christian and being a committed follower of Jesus are not the same thing. By the way, that ex-girlfriend he keeps going back to? There's more going on than you know. Save yourself the heartache. Walk, no, run away from that entanglement.

It's a good idea to set boundaries for dating relationships. Remember, the goal is purity before marriage. Don't be fooled into thinking you're pleasing God by staying on this side of a certain line.

You will strike up a conversation with a guy in your Calculus class who was listening to Christian music in the hall. You end up going on a blind date with him, his girlfriend, and a friend of his, to an Amy Grant concert. You will have fun, but nothing further develops.

Please take care of your health. You won't always have it. That week of dizziness and loss of balance your senior year is a portend of things to come. The good news is that you will bounce back from your bouts of Multiple Sclerosis and be able to have that fourth child like you and your husband always wanted. You will miss out on some of your older daughter's growing up but you will have a second chance with your bookend nine years after your third child.

Your illness and extended times in bed or needing a wheelchair will test your faith and your marriage. That's why it's so important to choose your life partner wisely. You never know what challenges you will face together. You will thank God every day for a faithful best friend who loves you and tenderly cares for you and your children.

Take care of yourself. You have a lot of learning, adventures, and demonstrations of God's grace in your journey to come.

Love,
You 26 years later

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 ESV

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Not So Fast

I forgot about the thrift store caper until I read an old journal from 1996. My then four-year-old daughter "managed to take her yellow spiral notebook past the parental 'leave it in the car' surveillance. She left it in the Salvation Army store. An hour or two, another store and dinner later she remembered leaving it there...we made a swing by to recoup. Her notebook had been picked up, used pages dutifully cleaned out, and placed on the shelf ready to purchase!" Today my teenage sons overhauled their bedroom. They sorted and weeded out clothes. I bagged the donate piles in the living room. I remember the shirt that my older son wore on the first day of high school and then handed down to his brother. And here's the shirt my daughter bought for her brother on her trip to Washington D.C. Is there someone we know who could use these clothes? Deep breath. I want to hold possessions loosely. I can let it all go in the name of our family's lean, mean campaign. Then my younger son came out of his room and wondered where all his clothes went. Only one pile was a donate pile. Good thing the bags are still sitting by the front door.

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 ESV

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Training Good Thoughts

I can't believe my first born is almost twenty years old. I am still trying to be smarter than the average bear with my teenagers. When I don't know what to do, I turn to God's Word for guidance and encouragement for the journey. I use Philippians 4:8 to corral my thoughts. Yesterday I read an article on the Boundless webzine that includes some helpful definitions. In her article, "You Made Me Sin," Carolyn McCulley says:

The Holy Spirit helps us to store in our hearts love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We make those deposits by focusing our thoughts the way the apostle Paul directs us in Philippians 4:8. We do this by training ourselves to think about what is:
true (not speculation or assumption);
honorable (assume the best first);
just (we are objects of mercy ourselves);
pure (untainted by gossip or slander);
lovely (whatever reflects the glory of Christ);
commendable (an evidence of God's grace at work),
excellent (find what's right — and not just what's wrong — in this circumstance)
praiseworthy (there is always something for which to thank God)

That's food for thought.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 ESV

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Home Cookin'

My parents' kitchen never closed. When we were first married my missionary parents were in the States on "furlough," now known as "home assignment." My mom always had leftovers and could fix something tasty. When our first son was born she returned to the U.S. to visit. She canned peaches and green beans, which came in handy for a starving seminary student and his wife on maternity leave from teaching. Now my parents are technically retired and live 15 minutes from my house. They often swing by on their way through town. We joke about their knack for nailing meal time. In our home with six schedules to coordinate, you never know if it's an early dinner at 5 pm, or a late dinner at 7 pm. or somewhere in-between. It is my joy to put on some hot water for tea and bring out two extra plates. Today we put some extra hamburgers and salmon burgers on the grill in hopes they would stop by. We picked up a half-flat of strawberries and I baked some biscuits for strawberry short cake. Knock! Knock! Come right in, you're just in time!

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, Acts 2:44-46 ESV

Monday, June 11, 2007

Don't Wake the Baby

It's hard to believe it's been one year since my Chinese neighbor delivered a healthy baby boy. I helped translate at doctor's appointments and accompanied her to physical therapy sessions. As I held the sleeping baby today, I noticed his cute little feet with ten toes. I had forgotten about the fears from an early ultrasound that possibly showed extra toes. His five-year-old sister also stayed with me this afternoon. I was there when she was born too. I think back to the prayers for her healthy delivery. Now I watch her run around and chatter with my six-year-old. Sometimes I think about my friend's baby that didn't live to see its birth day. I entrust my unanswered questions to the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21). The baby woke up from his nap and missed his mom and grandma. Good thing we had some Cheerios.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3 ESV

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Goodness Greatness

Twenty-two years ago a date meant listening for a '73 Dodge Charger coming down the street. Our first date was for strawberry shortcake as we planned a friend's going away party. Then my future husband introduced me to burrito surpremes at Taco Bell since I didn't have much Mexican food while growing up in Asia. Denny's was good for snacks before he worked the night shift at a group home for unwed teen mothers. Today we went on a date to Starbucks with a "thank you teacher" gift card and let our 15-year-old daughter join us. Starbucks has "The Way I See It" quotes on their coffee cups to get people talking. It worked. We liked today's quote: A person's pursuit of goodness leads to greatness, but the pursuit of greatness leads to ruin. Pursue goodness and you will achieve great things.--John E. Kramer, Vice president for communications, Institute for Justice. I love how my husband can analyze and synthesize. He boiled it down to the power of love versus the love of power. Twenty-two years ago I fell in love with a man who lived out Micah 6:8 "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" He still does.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 2 Thessalonians 1:11 ESV

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Young Man's Testimony

My 10-year-old nephew was baptized last Sunday. I have permission to post his testimony:

This is how I became a Christian. When I was almost five, I was watching a video called, “Let’s Dance!” It’s about kids dancing and singing praises to God. Well, at the end it said, “If you want to invite Jesus into your heart then pray this prayer with me.” Well, I had been thinking about this for a long time and I thought it was time to become a Christian. I felt relieved that I could be with God and have eternal life. Ever since then I have grown stronger and stronger in my relationship with God. He has taught me to be kind to people, to share, to help others, to do what’s right, to be courageous and truthful, and not fight back when somebody makes me mad. I am getting baptized because I want to tell the world I am a Christian and I believe Jesus died to save us from our sins. I want people to know that when I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, come and be the boss of my life.” I am getting baptized now because before I felt I wasn’t ready. I think the reason I feel ready to be baptized today is that God has given me the courage to tell other people that I am a Christian.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hello Summer

Someone asked if I was ready for summer. One thing at a time. Phase one: clean off top bunk and welcome oldest son home from college in May. Phase two: school picnic, awards night, and then the last day for the Christian School today. My husband wrapped up a great year with his second graders. My first grader (and I) can sleep in now. Phase three: my second son has community college finals next week. Phase four: my daughter finishes up 10th grade on June 22nd. It's time to finalize plans for the 9th annual last day of school shindig in our neighborhood. We need a family meeting to coordinate plans and goals. I can introduce my focus for our family's summer: "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 ESV

Thursday, June 07, 2007

God Pleaser

I attended a small missionary school for 7th and 8th grade. I thought the 8th grade Citizenship Award had my name on it, and so did my parents. But the son of the principal took home the award. I was a good student and I tried to follow all the rules. But where was my heart? I wanted to do well, make my parents proud, and feel good about myself. Tonight my six-year-old daughter won the Citizenship Award for first grade. She treats others right because she knows they matter to God. I haven't been this proud since my older daughter won the Citizenship Award in 8th grade.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TAS Class of 1981

I didn't get voted class clown or most likely to succeed. I wonder what the 100 students in my graduating class at Taipei American School would have said about me. I wasn't cool, hip, or stylish but I had friends from many countries and backgrounds. My main regret from high school is not keeping in touch with friends. Too bad we didn't have email back then. I probably was most likely to become a missionary. I had a reputation for taking a stand for what I believed in. I led protest meetings against unjust practices and senior class politics. I'm proud of my work as Orphanage Club vice-president. We raised money and had outings with an orphanage in Taipei, Taiwan. I was shocked when I didn't win the Chinese award. I did make Chinese television by winning a Chinese speech competition. (My sister was the real TV celebrity after winning a Chinese game show week after week.) I can't believe I traveled alone around the island of Taiwan by plane, train, taxi, and motorcycle. I didn't date in high school but had a fling (it was innocent but ill-advised) with an older man the summer after graduation. I only applied to one college--Portland State University, where my mom completed her degree my junior year of high school. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be an elementary or secondary teacher. I went elementary but did not end up going for the math endorsement after all. It's been a long journey from TCK (Third Culture Kid) to soccer mom with four children in Small Town, USA. I still believe my senior quote: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose--Jim Elliot.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

PBP: Please Be Patient

I wish I still had the pin from when I attended a Basic Youth Conflicts seminar my junior year of high school. I remember wearing the pin with the letters: PBPGINFWMY. If anyone asked, we were to tell them, "Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet." That is still true 27 years later. Today I found out that my husband was in the Portland Coliseum at the same conference. He was 19 and I was 15. I'm glad he was patient until God brought our lives together several years later. I need to picture each of my children wearing that pin and remember that they are works in progress (Ephesians 2:10). Am I helping them grow in the grace and knowledge of God? (2 Peter 3:18). And I appreciate their patience with me as we grow up together.

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:2-4 ESV

Monday, June 04, 2007

And Then There Was None

Today I felt like our refrigerator ice maker. After a few hot days and lots of thirsty people, the ice maker was all out of ice. The ice maker has been busy chilling drinks, filling ice packs for hot foreheads (my six-year-old's favorite cooling technique), soothing my cooking burns (two this week!), and adding cool entertainment fun for the trampoline bouncers. My husband discovered that the refrigerator/freezer was kaput. Uh-oh, sounds like the beginning of a Habakkuk 3:17 litany: Though the fridge is not cooling, and the ice maker yields no ice... But then my husband hit the reset button on the fridge and we were back in the cooling business. Like the ice maker, I was on empty by the end of today. I only have so much to give. I took a shower to "chill out" and prayed for God's strength to refill me. I'm glad I am in the habit of staying in the Word of God every day whether I feel like it or not. I trust that God will provide what I need. He can do that.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

Sunday, June 03, 2007

If I Had Been There

I often play the "What would I have done?" game when I read the Bible. Would I have recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah? Would I have denied him like Peter? As I read the book of Job I wonder what kind of friend I might have been. I see myself coming to comfort Job, sitting with him, and crying with him. But then would I have become self-righteous and confronted Job? As a parent I try to be patient and understanding. That works for a while and then I reach my limit. I am learning to let God work in and through me. I pray for wisdom and trust that God will show me the way. I hope I would have listened to Job and then waited for God to reveal what to say or what not to say. I can do that today, with God's help.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 ESV

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Noisemaker

It's hard to get a six-year-old to sleep when 200 fireworks* are going off one mile away and the dog is scratching on your door. I let the dog in and shut the windows. I kept reading bedtime stories in hopes of distracting my daughter from the noisy light show she was missing. The dog settled down but my daughter didn't get to sleep very early. I often ask myself, "What is the loudest message I am sending?" I am learning to first ask, "Are you okay?" before I find out "What broke??" It also doesn't work to raise my voice and demand that my children "stop yelling!" With God's help, I can be "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19).

Here's a link to the video taken by my 17-year-old son at the fireworks show:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3135098960019320785

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

*This is my 200th post!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I used to carry around a photocopy of floor plans for a four-bedroom rambler. After nine months of labor and teamwork, our dream of home ownership became a reality. We joined seven other families in a Self-Help Building program to build the homes together. Each family contributed 30 hours of labor a week and no one moved in until all homes were completed. We moved in nine years ago today. On our first anniversary I recorded what we were thankful for.

Journal Notes from June 1, 1999

After one year in our home, we are thankful for:

8-year-old daughter: We have neighbors to play with. We can ride our bikes and rollerblade.

10-year-old son: Everything works and we have neighbors to play with.

12-year-old son: I'm thankful that in our new home we are:
close to friends
the ice cream truck comes to us
we are really warm and we don't have to stack firewood
we have neighbors to play with and knock on our door
we have cement for skating and riding our bikes
our car doesn't get all pitchy
we have room for our office

Husband: I am thankful for a house we can keep warm, especially for Mary with our gas heater. I'm thankful for a yard to beautify and do projects in.

Me: I appreciate our warm, cozy, comfortable, and inviting home. I love our neighbors and unique community in the Loop. I especially love that my husband built this home. We have some nice touches outside. Hooray for our new porch bench, as of today!

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 ESV