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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dawning of Spring by Priscilla

The sun is shining today, and water is dripping from the garage roof.  Snow is on the ground with a shovel and hose lying around.  Skies blue.  No freeze, slight breeze.
It's peaceful today.

Birds chirp and I wonder, "What are they saying?  Maybe they're saying, 'Mother, can we have an after school snack?' 'Of course, my little chicks!  Would you like a big juicy worm?' 'Oh yes!' 'I will go get you one to share.'"

There are many other sounds around besides birds.  Dogs bark; bells ring at two o'clock.  Why are dogs barking?  What are they saying?  Do they see a cat, or want to chase it?  Who knows?  Maybe they're hungry and want to come inside to eat.  Whatever they're doing, they sure are noisy!

It's really peaceful today.  I hear airplanes every once in a while.  When I take a deep breath, I feel and smell the fresh spring air - moist, mossy, damp dirt.  I also hear cars whipping past on busy streets.  They sound a little like wind on a really windy day.  They don't make it sound more peaceful.  But in a way, they kind of do.

Sun is warm; the shade is cool, and there are animal tracks in the melting snow.  I wonder who left them.  Maybe the bunny, who has lived here for three years, left them.  Or maybe a raccoon left them.  Maybe the stray cat or our neighbor's cat...I can't tell what kind of tracks they are because the snow is melting and now they look like little holes in swiss cheese.

As we wait for spring to come, I hear, smell and see things.  It just shows the beauty of God's spring air!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bread

In Language Arts for 5th grade today we are doing observations to build into an observation essay.  I was showing Priscilla what observations are.  So I did one on bread, and will post it here to whet your appetite :)

Bread Observations


Wafting fragrance of yeasty air
Golden flaky crust eager to break with the serrated blade
Warm and squishy, tiny sacks wait to spring on my tongue
Crisp, firm, outer.
Soft, moist, inner.
Sweet honey-butter smoothly spread
The first bite
Gentle to teeth
A slight crunch
Then the melt
Sweetly blankets tastebuds that, like sponges,
Soak in the gooey goodness.

Trying to make your marriage work?!

...Well, there's good news and bad news.  Bad news First:  You can't make it work.

Good News?

You'll have to follow this link to read further:

I Can't Make My Marriage Work! But...


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Parenting Book Reviews - Very Brief overview

A friend recently asked us for some ideas for parenting reading material.  I shot off a quick email summarizing some of the books we've read, appreciated and used.  I am not promoting any of these, just throwing out my comments for your interest:

We started out using 'To Train Up a Child' by Michael and Debi Pearl. It requires wisdom to sift out some things we felt were just too radical.  But some situations call for 'radical'.  It was a good read, but I wouldn't use this as my sole 'go to' book - nor would I follow it rigidly. Reminder: every book we read (other than the Bible) needs to be sifted through the lens of Biblical wisdom. 
  
Our other 'go-to' was Shepherding a Child's heart by ...Tripp.  Again, this is a favourite for many parents we know and seems harmless enough.  I can't fault the book except it being longer and tedious reading.  Some great concepts laid out and I appreciated that the focus is the heart of the child and letting God's Word be the instructor.

My new BEST parenting book all-round is now Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.  This is a GREAT resource and covers all the bases in a general aspect.  It doesn't seem to be a practical 'how-to' however - which 'TTUAC' (to train up a child) is more like that.

I read 'Don't Make me count to Three' by... Plowman before I read 1-2-3 Magic.  By doing that I prejudiced myself against 1-2-3  Magic.  The Plowman book basically is a simpler version of TTUAC and less extreme, more appealing reading.  But she juxtaposes her concepts against the prevailing trendy popular 1-2-3 book (which is not explicitely 'Christian' in any way).  Her point is kids need to obey 1st time, no exceptions.  Giving them a 3 count teaches them they can ignore you the 1st 2 times.  Sounds fair enough, except she set it up as a straw man argument (where she presented falsely the opposing viewpoint only to break down that false idea).  1-2-3 is not saying that at all, and I actually felt it was a more practical book in addressing far more realistic and complicated situations.  I highly recommend 1-2-3 and have seen really solid families and good parents using it with great results.  It really is not recommending we teach our children to disobey the 1st 2 times!  It is a method that respects the child but implements clear, strong boundaries and the 1,2,3 method is instructive and firm all at the same time.  

Most of these methods are really about training the parent more than the kid! (As in, parents get up from what you're doing, engage and interact with your kid, teach them what you want them to do, don't be lazy, focus on your kid, and with a few helps here and there he/she may surprise you with his positive responses to your efforts).

There is just a brief overview of a few.

Also, while appealing to a certain audience, and to us for the first few years, I now see 'Baby Wise' (previously titled 'Growing Kids God's Way') by Ezzo with reserve.  It is all about programming babies and toddlers and making them conform to your wishes and lifestyle.  Geared specifically (insert tongue in cheek here) for Engineers, Babywise is formulaic because it elevates a method to the level of morality and instructs parents to ignore instincts insinuating that instinct from our sinful nature is inherently bad.  Following the 'method' is better.  (I am very sorry we ever followed this book.  I really believe it was emotionally harmful to our children.  I have backpedalled ever since).

A better all-round manual was Entrusted with a Child's Heart by Betsy Corning.  This is also a video curriculum.  Her style was simple, to the point, un-embellished but filled with practical, helpful ideas/support.  Some of her advice impacts my actions, words and decisions on a daily basis.  I think it is one of the best general materials out there.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Abortion

I've kept this blog pretty non-political so far - on purpose.  Because I know I have readers on both sides of issues, so I tend to shy away from making this a political soap-box.  However, on this issue I am an unashamed, openly pro-life advocate.  At the same time, I also tend to try to see things from all angles.  I like to get other perspectives on any and every issue I take a stand on.  I am not going to add anything new to this debate here, but I will throw out a few thoughts since they do buzz around in my head on occasion.  Especially because I get what both sides say, and wish sometimes I could answer the arguments I hear on the radio or elsewhere.

When I was pregnant for the first time I began to appreciate the pro-choice element a little better.  It was a miserable predicament for me - physically especially!  I would never have dreamed of ending the life of the pre-born baby within me, but I did come to think about how I might feel if I didn't have these convictions (that life begins at conception, that it is morally wrong to end human life, that God is the author of life etc. etc.).  I vomitted daily.  The acid burned through my eosophagus.  I really was miserable.  Even though it wasn't so bad with all my pregnancies, I did get a feel for how this condition does crimp one's freedom - albeit for a season only.

I begun to have sympathy for women who didn't hold my convictions and were tempted to abort - the physical challenges were real and difficult.  I recognized how vulnerable I felt and how other women must feel if they discover their condition and have little or no support around them.  This made me a little more sympathetic to the pro-choice arguments.  I did have sympathy, yes, but as I reasoned it out I still found myself landing with both feet in the pro-life camp.

We Americans love our freedom.  No-one better dare infringe upon it.  Funny thing is, you talk to the pro-gun side ('right to bear arms' group) and they say, 'It's my freedom at stake!'  Usually these are the same ones who argue against abortion - not realizing that through pro-choice eyes, restricting abortion restricts a woman's freedom.  And as I have been pregnant I realize that yes, the condition of pregnancy and childbearing does, in fact, limit my freedom.  When pregnant I am not free to feel comfortable all the time, to eat acidic foods without paying for it later, to sleep through the night, to have no-one sitting on my bladder, to have swelling feet and extreme fatigue... - I lost many freedoms when pregnant, and so all the rights-loving people out there cry, 'Rights for women!  Let them abort so they can have their freedom!'

I just have to mention that this is a one-sided argument.  Because when we mention the rights of women and feel sorry for them and wish they could choose abortion if they wanted to, we fail to recognize the loss of freedom their choice incurs upon others.  If a woman chooses abortion (to serve herself, her desires, her freedom) she infringes upon the freedom of another human being to exist.  She infringes upon the freedom of another family to raise that child.  She infringes upon the freedom of the father to make his choice about the life of that child.  The purchase of her 9 months of freedom from the difficulties of childbearing costs another individual perhaps 90 years of freedom - in any aspect at all.

So, let's weigh in the balance: On the one hand: 9 months of freedom from pregnancy for the woman versus a lifetime of freedoms for the baby who is lost to abortion.

So, I agree - abolishing abortion would limit the freedom of a woman to be free from pregnancy for a given 9 month period.  But it costs a life.  Is that a fair trade-off?  I can't bring myself to say that it is.  In fact, it strikes me to the core, that human life is cherished so little, to be so easily cast off to preserve a woman's independent freedom.  I grieve to think that these little ones that perish go directly to meet God without having been given the opportunity to know Him in this life.  It is sad to me.  Though I can see things through many angles and perspectives, on this matter I cannot fully appreciate where the other side is coming from.  But I try - I really try to understand.  But this is where I am left - with two freedoms vying for first place - and our country has decided to prefer the freedoms of a woman and denied freedom to the most vulnerable and helpless.

It is a tragedy.

It is a shame.

Our nation should bow its head and weep and repent.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Three Gives - Lent and Life beyond it...

Today I have a guest post from Ryan Guerra who is Worship Pastor at our Church (Water's Edge Bible Church in West Chicago).  I wanted to write some thoughts on Lent, but after reading his I decided not to!  Thanks Ryan, for sharing with us!


The Three Gives

Let’s do Lent better. Let’s redeem it more fully. Let’s consider it Biblically. Instead of Lent being a time of simply “giving up,” make Lent a time to “give of” and “give over.” (Isaiah 58)  Make it a lifestyle.  I write this primarily as a reminder to myself; someone who does not practice Lent religiously, but loves the potential  spring board of Lent to encourage us toward a life that is increasingly committed to God and His Kingdom.

Whether during Lent or any other day, if we “give up” without resolve to also “give of” and “give over” then we are only partially fulfilling the call to be imitators of Christ. (Phillipians 3:10, Ephesians 5.1-2)  Christ became a man when He humbly GAVE UP what was rightfully His in order to place Himself on earth to GIVE OF Himself to us. (Phillipians 2)   He also gave up those rights in obedience to God the Father as he GAVE OVER His will to the will of The Father. (Luke 22.42)  Giving up, giving of and giving over is displayed most gloriously at the cross.  Christ lived out the three “gives” with a definite purpose for men to be blessed by redemption and reconciliation and for His Father in Heaven to be glorified.

As we enter into Lent season how do we live out each of the Three Gives instead of defaulting to what Lent is best known for - simply giving something up? 

Practice all Three Gives! When we give something up we are left with resources we otherwise would have invested in that habit, indulgence or luxury.  That coffee money.  That hour each day spent on Facebook.  Insert your habit/favorite indulgence here. If we give something up, but don’t GIVE OF and GIVE OVER to God’s will the leftover resources, then Lent can become a time of hoarding and perhaps well intentioned, but mostly self centered introspection.  It should be so much more than that!  How could that money or time impact the life of someone God calls you to bless it with? It brings far more joy to us and honors God when every day of our lives is a pursuit to “give up, give of and give over” our lives and resources to God. 

Be prayerful and aware of God’s leading as you consider the Three Gives, during Lent or otherwise. Perhaps Lent is most importantly an annual reminder to daily petition God in prayer, “God, what are you calling me to give up, give of and give over today?”  Then imitate Christ and follow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How I Met Sam - Thanksgiving

Sam was able to take a day off work and he came and began to help with the immediate clean up - pulling out carpet, hacking ruined furniture to take to the dump, lugging things up and down the hill to the dumpster.  Friends came to help - there was no way to adequately clean the place - covered with smoke everywhere.  Dishes that were in cupboards were coated - everything needed to be washed.  Very quickly all of us were covered with soot.

This was the middle of November.  My parents were returning from their trip to the U.S. in just a few days.  We wanted to get some semblance of order so it wouldn't be so bad for them returning.  Still - I'm sure there was nothing that could prepare them for walking in to their home post-fire!  It was a week until Thanksgiving.  Mom was determined to host as she had always done.  So we planned and cleaned as best we could and worked towards celebrating Thanksgiving with true hearts of gratitude.

We gathered with friends and spent time sharing the things we were thankful for.  We looked around at the blackened walls, and decided to thank God that the walls were still standing.  We looked at each other and thanked God that we weren't home when this happened and no-one was harmed.  We looked at Sam and welcomed him into our lives with gratitude to God for bringing us together.  We opened the hymnal with darkened edges and were grateful that the piano remained intact.

We were grateful on that Thanksgiving, reminded in a very vivid way how brief life is, how temporary is the stuff we see, how uncertain are the things around us we come to take for granted.

Thanksgiving had always been a habit of cultivating gratitude in our hearts and directing thanks above - to the God Who daily lavishes His loving mercies on us.  This Thanksgiving would be no different.  Our circumstances changed, but our God didn't.  Our house looked a shambles, but our habit of gratitude remained constant.

A favourite verse of mine came to mind yet again:
For I have learned in whatsoever state I am,
Therewith to be content.
Philippians 4:11

Contentment is and was something we learn and learned.


How I Met Sam - After the Fire

I know it's taking me a long time to get this written... but I'll remind you that this was less than a week after getting engaged, which was five weeks after witnessing and dealing with the burglary, which was only three weeks after getting clobbered on the head with a break by nasty neighbours.  I was beginning to feel as if this was going to be the new normal - highs, lows, crazy, chaotic events - what was around the corner next?  I began to have a sense of dread, wonder, adventure, amazement, angst - all wrapped into one.

Coming into our house with it burned out seemed to sum up how I felt inside - burned out.  I had the hope of marrying Sam to look forward to in the future.  But at the moment I looked around at the devastation that a fire brings - smells, charred things, water an inch deep - and realized yet again how fleeting are the things we hold as dear.  My greatest sadness was looking at the piano, where I had taken lessons and practiced and played ever since I was 5 years old.  I was sure it would be completely ruined.

I stepped over the CAUTION tape, trudged through the puddles and pulled out the bench.  Other than smoky, it seemed alright.  I opened the lid covering the keys.  I grabbed a nearby hymnal.  Opened it to 'Great is Thy Faithfulness' and let the world fall apart around me, I was going to play that hymn to the best of my ability.

And I did.  I sat and played, and the piano was undamaged.  A little cleaning and it would be okay.

"Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see!
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided -
Great is Thy faithfulness - Lord, unto me."


Friday, February 8, 2013

Marriage: Beyond Love and Respect

Today I blogged over at A Biblical Marriage.  I'll put the link below.

I've read and gone through the 'Love and Respect' curriculum.  I'll reserve comment on it for now, BUT, I do want to address what I think lies behind the concepts it presents - and a far greater challenge than just to love more, respect more etc.  The Bible is clear in its call to husbands and wives to love and respect.  I don't deny that!  I just think there is more than reducing marriage issues to these two elements!

Beyond Love and Respect

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How I Met Sam - Post Engagement

So the first week after we got engaged was just a whirlwind of fun, excitement and the drudgery of everyday life - which seemed laborious in comparison with the heightened emotion of planning a future together.  My friend Melissa was visiting and she wanted to take a visit to China to see where Sam lived and worked and where we would eventually be living together once we were married.  We planned the trip for the following Wednesday and were going to spend the night and return the next day.

We got to the factory compound where Sam lived and worked and took a tour - it was really quite impressive.  Full tennis courts, gated entry, polished marble flooring, a grand piano, two cafeterias, a ginormous kitchen...

We enjoyed the evening together and went to bed since Sam would have to be at work early.  Around 5 or 6 a.m. (long before I or anyone was going to be up!) Sam received a phone call.  It was Lincoln - the neighbour who I had run to on the night of the burglary.  He asked to speak to me immediately.  Sam came to the room Melissa and I were staying in.  Groggily I got up and picked up the phone.  "Hi Sarah," he said.  "I've had a hard time trying to get through on the phone to you.  You need to come back immediately.  There's been a fire at your house.  Since your parents are away in the U.S. you need to come and sort things out."

I got off the phone and quickly arranged things for our departure.  All the way home I thought, 'Usually a fire is just a small, minor thing.  I'm sure it won't be that bad.'  Then I'd think the opposite.  I wasn't sure what to expect.

We got home and there was caution-tape roping off the whole front of the house.  It looked pretty bleak and black.  The entire front windows were broken.  We entered.  Water was everywhere and soot and black destruction.  An acrid smoky smell filled the place.  This was no minor fire.

A molotov cocktail lay nestled on a couch.  A second one lay on the floor where it had started the fire - the rug burned through.  The intense heat had melted whatever couldn't burn outright.  Thankfully the home is constructed of concrete, which didn't burn, so the structure was safe.  But most everything on the ground floor was smoked, burned or water-logged.

At 3 or 4 a.m. a neighbour had noticed the fire and smoke and called the fire department.  In our absence, it had gone undetected for enough time to burn the contents of the ground floor.  The third floor resident had to be rescued though her place wasn't on fire - but smoke inhalation threatened.

Apparently, someone had wanted to discourage us from continuing to take up residence in Hong Kong.  Apparently, the same someone had hoped a burglary would be enough.  And perhaps that same someone had hoped that with enough discouragements I might not testify in the trial about being clobbered on the head with a brick.

After the burglary the police had been unwilling to see a connection between the assault with a brick and the burglary - stating it was just a coincidence these two thing occurred weeks apart.  After the fire they admitted there seemed to be a connection.

No Duh.


How I Met Sam - Our Engagement 5

During the 7 minute interval, Sam prayed and waited, and just as the clock was to hit 2:40 (his designated time to give up waiting), a particular van pulled up and Sam noticed the delivery company name marked on the side.  It turns out they had the time wrong or something and neither of them could speak any English.  The men motioned for Sam to give them the package and address to deliver it to.  Sam reached over to the van door, opened it and stepped inside.  They looked bewildered and confused.

Communication was a problem.  Sam pointed at himself.  He pointed at the box he was holding.  They were puzzled.  Finally, Sam pulled out the ring and drew a picture of what he was planning to do.  With smiles and understanding nods, they went on their way.

Sam told them to drive past our house so they would know which doorbell to ring.  At first they stopped in front - but Sam motioned them on so I wouldn't see a suspicious-looking van lurking in our driveway.  At the end of the row of houses there was a clearing where Sam practiced setting up his box and putting himself inside.  He was kneeling on a piece of wood - then the box was placed over top of him.  They practiced lifting him up and putting him in the van.  On one such practice Sam heard a 'clink' and felt for the ring - and it was gone!  "Lord, you've gotta help me find it!  It's dark and the men won't understand if I say something from inside this box!"  He reached down and the first thing he touched was the ring!  "Thank you Lord!"

They pulled up to the house, positioned the box in the driveway in front of the front door where I would emerge.  They rang the bell, I awoke from my afternoon nap and answered the door to find these interesting Chinese men at my door.  And the rest, as they say, is history.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Pictures of Hannah...

Enjoy!  (We're enjoying her - can you tell?! :) )

   Feigning innocence...







Playing with Mr. PotatoHead glasses...






  "Who are you pointing that camera at, Mommy?!"







            Laughing, crying, smiling...all at once!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Childlike Faith

Tucking Timo in tonight, he asked, 'How long is it until I die?'

I told him only God knows - it can be a day, a week, a year or 100 years!  But the Bible tells us that every day of our lives He already knows and has planned for and He will take us home and help us when that time comes.

Then he said, 'I wonder what it's like to die.'

I guess we all wonder that.  And I wish we all gave it a little more thought, because even the wisest man ever (apart from the Lord!) said it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of partying.  It is good for us to consider our end rather than squander our days without giving a thought to what is to come - for good or bad!

Even so, Timo pressed on: 'Will the world ever end?'

He's 6 by the way.  In 1st grade.  He's wondering if there's school tomorrow - because of a potential strike.  But he lumps those questions all together - school, death, the end of the world.  You know, your normal, run-of-the-mill type of 6 year old questions.

We talked about going to heaven and seeing God.

'How does God know everything and take care of everyone?'

'He's very smart.'

'I bet He's as big as this whole world.'

'Bigger than we can imagine.'

And on it went.

'How do you know you'll go to heaven, Timo?'

'Because I told God I was sorry and because He forgave me by sending Jesus to die on the cross for all the bad things I've done.'

'Did He stay dead?'

'No.'

'How do you know that?  Did I tell you that?'

'It was at the place we had craft class - in the summer (VBS - at Warrenville Bible Chapel) - they had a song, He Arose! We sang it.  Jesus rose from the dead.'

And Timo began to hum and sing it so we knew what he was talking about.

As a musician, as a Mother, as a believer and follower of Jesus, it warms my heart to know the impact of a song on the young heart and soul of my child.

A song was what it took to help him know the truths of Scripture.  An old song, at that.

They say the songs we sing are the things we believe.  And this illustrates it perfectly.  Be careful what you sing.  Be careful what you let your children sing.  Because the message will sink in and sink deep.