Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting The Jesse Tree Ready - Advent!

Our very empty Christmas...I mean...Jesse Tree.

Today, the kids woke up to find a very empty Christmas tree on the front table.  While lots of other families are already knee-deep in Christmas traditions, we are just waking up from our turkey-coma, I guess, and thinking about the upcoming Jesus celebration.  Christmas is about Jesus, right?  Just checking...

Instead of decking the halls and throwin' up the tinsel, we will be slowly adding ornaments to our Christmas tree.  By the 25th, our tree should be full of picture stories about the greatest Story of all: how Jesus came to us weary people on the earth to bring us back to life!

Don't get me wrong, I am totally into a beautifully decorated home this time of year.  I love poinsettias (got 'em on the front porch), nativity scenes, twinkling lights and yards of shiny ribbon wrapped around everything.  I guess its all the prep that scares me a bit.  And, the cleaning.  And storing.  And buying.  And, a general flair for making your house look...put together.  That's something that is lacking in the department of my brain that, for other people, is second nature.  So, decorate your houses with freedom and bring on the bling!  Just don't expect it here when you come for coffee!  

So, our main tradition (an early one...really...this is our second year) is adding to our Jesse Tree each day.  What is a Jesse Tree?  Basically, there was a prophesy in Isaiah about how from the stump of Jesse (the father of King David), that a branch would spring up and bear fruit, bringing Hope back into the world that had been cut-off from it, like the stump.  That branch would be the Messiah.  The Messiah was Jesus!  So, a tradition was started to retrace the line of stories of God's redemptive acts throughout the Old Testament...leading to Jesus.  On Christmas Day, the last day of our study, we will read about the birth of our Messiah King.  

And, each day, at the end of our Bible story reading, we will hang the corresponding ornament (a mere paper picture) on the tree to have a visual reminder of what we're looking forward to...His coming.  Here's the first ornament:

I took the picture from our devotional, glued it onto some red construction paper (fancy, right?), and taped some silver ribbon on the back.

Scotch tape.  What can be simpler than that?
The first ornament on the tree.  See?  Easy-peasy!

Where can you get a free copy of the devotional we're following this year? Go to A Holy Experience and subscribe to their email list of posts from Ann Voskcamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts.  She has given this Jesse Tree Devotional as a "thank you" to subscribers.  Go ahead - subscribe!  Ann Voskcamp is a gem.

Happy Advent!

Monday, November 28, 2011

They ARE Listening...

For the most part, my kids tend to follow me a lot: my tone of voice, my choice of words, my facial expressions, my opinions of others, and even what I like to eat.  All of this can be really good...or really bad!  Just think about it a second...exactly.  Think about a troupe of mini-You's running around like little mirrors projecting your life in front of you.  Hopefully, every parent dreams that the kids will "eat the meat and spit out the bones" of how they live.  We hope.

Thankfully, this morning I saw some projections that delighted me instead of frightening me (praise God!):

Bible Time...we had just finished reading in Mark 5:21-43 about the woman who, after twelve years of sickness, was left penniless and worse-off at the hands of many doctors who tried, with no success, to heal her. She was desperate...her life was over...she was rejected by her culture who declared her "unclean"...and there was no one left for her to turn to...

...except Jesus.

Jesus was coming to town - and in Mark 5, we read about her boldness to take a step of faith to simply touch his garments.  Her hope was to be healed.  Her faith, mingled with the power of Jesus, made her well.  He even said it that plainly.  Her life was whole again.

We ended our Bible Time and turned to prayer.  I mentioned to Jeshurun and Huy that we should intercede for my mother, who is very sick right now.  Without success, many doctors have attempted to cure her ailments.  She is, in many ways, like the woman in Mark 5.  The boys were up for it, and we started to pray out-loud, taking turns, for their Grannie.  

Jeshurun prayed one of the most heart-felt, truth-filled prayers I have ever heard him pray.  He repeated bits of scripture over her, spoke out in faith, prayed for her heart and soul, and basically was filled with emotion.  At one point, he teared up and almost started to cry.  Hallelujah.

Huy, much to my surprise and enjoyment, prayed quietly in whispers and mumblings.  At first, I thought he was just speaking unintelligibly, or I thought he was trying to mimic Jesus' Aramaic from the Mark 5 passage: "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!").  But, then, it occurred to me that he was mimicking us, his parents; when we pray in tongues.  Uh oh.  I might have just stepped on a few toes, there.  Don't be afraid.  :)  Just now, actually, I asked Huy if he was doing this because he hears us pray this way throughout the day.  He grinned and answered, "Yes!"  He is ready for God to give him his own prayer language.  Every day, I am in wonder at their steps toward knowing Jesus.

They ARE listening.  This time, they were influenced by some positive things about the way that we live life, attempting to walk in step with Jesus.  It makes me more aware of what they are silently observing, day in and day out, in our home.  Live-in accountability at its finest.

Take an account of your day today and your interactions with others.  Are they encouraging others to take a step more towards the Holy One...or away?  Help us, Lord!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Bad Bad Dream

Last night, I had a nightmare.

It wasn't a typical nightmare; the kind with monsters (I still have those!) or even the kind where you suddenly find yourself in math class, naked, taking a pop quiz you haven't studied for...

My bad dream actually started with a happy future event - when we go on our first trip back to the States.  We haven't been back for almost 3 years, now.  Getting to see friends and family is truly exciting.  Because we're getting close to that day (yay Spring!), the thoughts about our travels, what we'll eat, who we'll see, etc. have been popping up.  I'm trying to restrain myself from thinking about it too much - because we'll be here for a few months more!  Trying.  

But, in my dream, we had arrived back to meet happy, smiling people.  Loads of them.  Loads.  Tons.  Wait a minute...this feels like too much!  

I walked into the office of our organization to meet gobs of people.  Gobs, I say.  People popped up from their desks to greet us and say the obligatory, "Hey!  So how's it been waaay over there?"  For an extroverted me, this is one situation that gets me quite excited!  But, then, it turned a little more overwhelming and quite like a very bad dream.

"Oh, hi...(Wait!  Her face is familiar, but what is her name?)!  Girl!  How ya doin'?"  This happens several times.  Peoples faces pop up, but their names are beyond my mental reach.  I feel like a horrible friend/worker/human being.  If you are a Sanguine, you know exactly what I am talking about.  Daily.

And then, some other people say hi and start asking for when I'm take me to the obligatory coffee date to catch up on "life."  This is another thing I happen to love.  Who doesn't love coffee and talking?  I sure do!

But, I begin to realize that the person prying into my schedule is someone who seems to know me but, actually, is a person that I don't remember at all.  The pressure.  Suddenly I feel cornered and confused and I just want to see my real friends and family.

Switch scene.  

I am walking and crowds of people are passing me by.  I am searching for others who know me well and have finally located some!  I walk over...

"Hi!  How's it going (enter name that I actually remember)!  How are your kids?  How's "life"?  Man, I missed you!  Let's hang out sometime..."  Suddenly they look away, distracted by someone else...and have to go.  This happens several more times.  Rejected.  Ouch.

Then I wake up.  

In four months, when I arrive on American soil, I hope to not have deja vu.  I know I won't.  My dreams are not an inevitability.  Unless I inherit some of Daniel's gift for dreaming in God's reality, I do not have to mentally "give up" and decide that my dream's feeling of fear and frustration and busyness and loneliness is one big prophetic utterance.  Today, I am choosing to hope, and believe, and love, and pray and expect to love others well and be loved by others well.  

It may not work out perfectly, but at least we can all try.

And, when it doesn't work out perfectly, I have Jesus.  Hey, wait a minute, that's every day!  You think that I would have learned to be more secure in His love by now.  I'm working on receive His Him back...and then share it with others.  I guess others loving me back isn't really apart of the equation that I am in control of.  

Problem solved.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Best Of Friends

the birthday boy blowing out six candles.  he's getting so big!

the kids (sans Kyla) chowing down on ice cream cake.

getting attacked by sun conure birds.  Steph's mom, Steph and Nick are champs!

the littles gettin' crazy in the ball pit.

Run gettin' the throw-down by Uncle Nick

those aren't snacks for us - we fed deer, giraffes, hippos and more!

Last night, we celebrated Run's birthday again with our friends the S-clan.  As they made the half-hour trek to the night safari for us, pushed through another late night out with the kids, sang happy birthday, ate ice cream cake (maybe that one wasn't too hard), endured birds attacking them, gave Run gifts, and on and on...throughout the night I grew more and more thankful for our best friends.  

They are the friends who will:

- Tell you like it is.
- And then give you a hug.
- Pray for you.
- Encourage you.
- Baby-sit your kids.
- Treat you to a nice, expensive dinner.
- Endure emotional days.
- And...tiring days together.
- Stick it out.
- Do "what it takes."
- Fight for you.
- Believe for you.
- Prefer you.
- Be patient with you.
- Surprise you!
- Change their own desires in order to yield and bless.
- Push forward in vision.
- Hope for you even when you don't see what they do.
- Joke around.
- Look out for your kids.
- Listen carefully.
- Bless.
- Serve.
- Give.
- Sacrifice.

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for this bunch!

the S-clan in August

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Bloom

Backyard Centerpiece

Today I am preparing for possible house guests.  I was thinking about buying some flowers to adorn our dining room table, but came up with something better, ie: free. As I was doing dishes the other day, I noticed this outside in the back yard.  Our yard isn't that big, mind you, but in the back by the washing machine, was something pink shooting up from the ground.  Where did that come from?

You see, my beloved washing machine sits on the back porch.  And, here in Thailand, sometimes things aren't the most environmentally-friendly.  The way our machine deposits the waste water, soap and all, is right into the ground in the back yard.  A sudsy pool of water takes double-duty, wetting the ground that now houses the above flower and about 4 yards of bird-of-paradise flowers, too.  What I thought was an inconvenient mess has turned into something quite beautiful.

I am so thankful to God today for our home, and the beautiful, tropical land that we live in.  The Creator is so so good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Run is Six!

Jeshurun with his new birthday bike

My sweet boy turned six yesterday!  Wow!  Six years have flown by since he was born.  He is one of my closest friends, my own personal comedian, and there is almost never a dull moment when he is awake.  I have been challenged by him in every area of my life: physically (hello, can you say overdue baby and all-day labor without meds?), emotionally (brought to tears over discipline woes, and my patience being tried day in and day out), and spiritually (my biblical call to motherhood, self-examination over the Truth I teach him every day).  

For what we have sowed in tears and perseverance, we have reaped ten-fold in blessings and great joy!  He is smart, creative (what this kid can do with a bunch of string, a toilet-paper roll and a twist-tie...MacGyver!), talkative (more than me sometimes...and that's sayin' something!), funny, smiley, growing in wisdom, excited about the Bible (his self-proclaimed favorite subject...even over Science!), cute (love those big blue eyes), and energetic to the max.  He is learning to serve his family more and more each day.  Even today, he was training Kyla how to pick up her toys, encouraging her with every time she put a block in the box, "Good baby!  You are picking up so well!"  He does his morning chores diligently and comes when he is called, most of the time with a happy heart!  ;)  

He has dreams to be a Kung Fu master one day, thank you Po.  I know that whatever he does, that his calling is to be the "upright one" who walks in God's ways, as his name means.  Whether he's a Kung Fu master, a teacher, a safari guide or a bug enthusiast...whatever he does, he will do it with passion and great vision. There are wonderful things in store for his life.  I can't wait to see them come to fruition! 

Here's a look into what we did to celebrate Run yesterday:

special breakfast: Jeshurun's request...a tower of French Toast...the toppings: syrup and sweetened condensed milk.

four pieces later...all smiles.

we went to a night safari...Run loves the elephants!

they had 14 white tigers there.  amazing. 

we pet the deer...

fed the goats...

fed the birds...
got attacked by them...

got a little goofy...
posed for tons of pictures...

...and pet a giraffe.  what an awesome night!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Centipedes and Snakes In Suburbia

Within 24 hours, we've had two critter sightings our house.  Since moving from the southern part of Thailand, and away from our own private jungle mountain, I hoped knew that we would be seeing less creepy-crawly things around.  So far, living in Thai suburbia has its upsides in that area, but the last day has proved a little jarring on my nerves.  Good thing Treavor was around to beat things for me.  What a good husband.  :)

Last night, while filling up the mini-tub for Huy's bath, I saw something crawling out from behind the toilet.  Within two seconds, I ushered Huy to safety at the threshold of the bathroom as I yelled to Treavor to come to our rescue.  A huge, according to my standards, centipede was making it's way towards us.  Well, that's how it felt.  With the babies out of death's reach (again, that's how it felt), Treavor proceeded to choose his killing weapon.  What was it?  A pink baby potty, of course.

After coaxing it out of it's new hiding spot, he severed it in two and allowed me to get a quick video.  I sure you will be so very afraid:

Hey!  These things aren't to be taken lightly - really!

Actually, they can't kill anybody, but a sting from one of Thailand's many types of centipedes can leave you swollen and in pain for hours, sometimes days.  I don't exactly want to take care of a screaming kid in tremendous pain, swollen for days.  Right?

At least it wasn't one of these:

Scolopendra - the giant centipede of Thailand

Thankfully, what was crawling around my bathroom was only mildly dangerous.  The type above (I have yet to see one of these - and hope I never will!)...the "Scolopendra" has a sting that has been known to make a grown man cry...even after a morphine shot.

Moving on...

So, today as I walked outside to our porch to check on my laundry, I was admiring our newly cut grass and noticed some strange movement.  I took a second look and, low and behold, a snake slithers through the grass to check out my lemongrass bush.  What?

I, as always, ran to find Treavor, and demanded asked him to kindly dispose of our new reptile friend in the backyard.  He, calmly, as always, goes to grab the shovel...all with a curious smile.  The snake I spotted didn't look like anything I had seen before, or studied before after several snake sightings/killings.  Thankfully, the all-too-familiar stance of a cobra was not appearing...or anything that pops up on the 10 Deadliest Snakes List on the Internet.  But, today I was not in the mood for taking chances. 

That's what my husband is for!

Striped Kukri Snake, mid-beating.

Treavor moved him to a trash can for closer inspection.  Poor guy had a broken back.  I wasn't sad at all.  (And, yes, that is a Thai massage brochure!)

Treavor, who had compassion.  He grabbed the shovel to put it out of it's misery.  

And then...guess who grabbed it next?
...and then he did this!  That kid gives me a heart attack almost daily.  (Note to Grandma: didn't actually enter his mouth.  Don't worry)

So...good news:  This snake turned out to be non-venomous.  Praise the good Lord...

It is a Striped Kukri Snake (click for info), and there are several different kinds of these found throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia.  They eat frog and lizard eggs, and rodents.  Not people.  And, definitely not small children.  *sigh of relief*

He seems harmless enough.  The next time one of these guys comes in the yard, I might let it get away without a fight.  Or, at least, let my husband rest instead of asking him to go fight it for me.  

I am brave like that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Vacation 2011 - Part Two - Bring on the cheese...

We have become that family.  The family whose portraits are comprised of cutesy (or, some would say, tacky) snapshots of superimposed animals or famous backgrounds, or even printed on a souvenir plate or t-shirt.  

See what I mean?...

Us "with" the pandas at the zoo.  I love that Run and Kyla look a little unsure.  

And then there's this one...

Notice that we are "in" with the undersea animals at the aquarium.  Also, would you take a look at our stereo-type Asian peace signs...and who is that kissing Run?

Exactly.  The cheese factor is as high as it gets right now.  But, guess what?  I love it!

My kids look at these pictures and smile!  They have these memories of our vacation and get excited.  These cute family portraits, when looked upon in the future, will bring back those happy memories and stories.  

At least until they're teens...and then they might resent us for them, but, who cares?  They'll get over it.

We had a blast at the zoo and aquarium on on the fourth day of our vaca.  The kids spent their watching sharks and stingrays being fed by scuba divers, admiring white tigers, and seeing all the weird looking sea creatures from their Plant Earth videos up close.  Jeshurun said that he couldn't believe he was seeing real, live Mexican Axolotls.  

By far, that day was probably my fav of our whole stay-cation.  The kids had a fun time, too, I guess...

One of the real pandas.  "Everybody was kung fu fighting..."

Outside the aquarium there was a lake with these floating Zorb balls to spin from the inside.  Run was in his element.

Surprised this guy didn't lose a finger!

Huy with a white tiger in the background.  Awesome!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Vacation 2011 - Part One - Pictures Galore!

Run and Treav hiked up the mountain to the top of a nine-level waterfall.  

What are the ingredients of a camping trip?  

Bugs, check!  
Hot Dogs, check!  
Grill, check!  
Marshmallows (4 bags), check! 
Tents, check!  
Flashlights, check!  
French press (a must for us non-early risers), check!  
Frisbees, check!  
Kids who wake up at the crack of dawn because there are no black-out curtains in their tent, check!  

I could go on and on...

We started off our fall vacation this year with a three day camping trip.  A first for this family of five.  I think this was the 3rd time in my whole life that I had ever been camping.  Apparently, according to Treavor, RVs and Campers don't count.  Camping isn't hard-core enough if you don't sleep on the ground, I guess!

The weather up here in the North of Thailand has quieted down.  No more gigantic monsoons to dampen our trip.  Cooler weather.  (Yes, we put on long socks and sweaters for the 60-65 degree morning weather.  We are used to the tropical life!)  Even the mosquitoes left us alone, for the most part.  

The ants, on the other hand, had some kind of bitterness toward Man that they had to take out on us.  I counted no less than 8 different kinds of ants while we were there.  Thankfully, though, they stayed away from the inside of our tents.  I prayed and prayed and banished any kind of snacks from being consumed inside of them.  Another camper staying under the pavilion beside us said that the ants were all over his head one night after they pitched their tent in the grass, like us.  He moved.  Though, we moved our "eating spot" down the hill and that seemed to work.

We hiked, played Uno and dinosaurs in the tent at night, read stories, captured bugs, grilled food, sat by the fire and stared at the stars.  Kyla loved sleeping in our tent, and kept us up all night with her tossing and turning...and teething.  But, even with less-than-perfect sleep, we had fun and thoroughly enjoyed the great outdoors.  

Creation.  Breathtaking.  Awe-inspiring.  Relaxing.

The campsite:

all our gear.  we had some stuff, and borrowed some things from friends and had all that we needed!

hopefully, one day, my boys can actually help pitch the tents by themselves!  soon!

little man in training

the canopy for our eating/playing place

all tuckered out.  

the boys had one tent, we had another.  at $2 per night, it definitely beats a two-bedroom hotel price.  

awake and happy.

dinosaur fights by flashlight.

some of you may squirm when you see the squatties we used.  but, just think...if there were no bathroom, what would we have to do anyway?  I'd take this over a whole in the ground, any day!

one afternoon, chicken stew was on the menu.

my goofy boys.

marshmallows!  it took us searching four grocery stores to find these babies.  yum!

The scenery:

please forgive me and my fascination with fungi.  i know I'm weird.

a crazy flower we found.
the first level of the nine level waterfall in the park.  i love living here in Thailand!

Huy and I went on a hike up to the second level of the falls.  

the second level.

funny kid.

there's my sweet boy!  can't believe he's almost 4!
Huy and me.  

fungi again.  i don't know why they weird me out but they do.

Just some of the bugs:

awesome mantis!

walking stick!

ants.  how i loathe, thee!

Got any camping stories?  I'd love to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  Feel free to leave a comment below...
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