Halloween Decor & Inquisitive Toddlers

(Our Autumn decor)

The girls and I go for walks almost every day, and while it’s usually my time to catch up on podcasts* I also end up answering a LOT of questions from S.**
Right now, a lot of those questions center around the decorations on houses in our neighborhood… Halloween decorations. Comments like “yuck” or squeals of not liking something she sees are thankfully less frequent than the questions of “What’s THAT?” but we have still ended up having to talk about Halloween sooner than anticipated.

Our current perspective is that of not participating in Halloween, but I think some of explaining decorations and interacting with toddlers about Halloween is the same regardless.

– A large portion of the time I respond just by saying “oh, that’s a hand, etc.” and leave it at that if she doesn’t say more. That way I can go back to my podcast and not have to be talking constantly (there are are tons of decked out houses around here!).

– If something is more silly than scary (like the green monster poster in one person’s window), I tell her it’s a silly face and we try to copy it.

– About once each walk I will explain more to her, whether it’s because she gets scared or just to jump at the opportunity to have a deeper conversation with her. It often goes something like this, although I know that this “script” projects motives on other people’s reasons for participating in Halloween that aren’t the same for everyone.

“People put [xyz] up because Halloween is a holiday that is celebrating death. They’re kind of saying that they aren’t afraid of the gross, scary things. But in some ways they should be, because death is real and not a joke and some places the yucky things are real. But we don’t have to be afraid of death or yucky things because Jesus conquered death. That doesn’t mean we should keep looking at these things or joke about death and what’s gory, though. These kinds of things aren’t what we should be filling our minds with because they aren’t good and lovely (Phil 4:8).”

I don’t say all of that every time and sometimes do more explaining of some words and concepts, but that’s a basic idea of how it goes. She doesn’t ask every time, and is often more interested in scarecrows and pumpkins (my explanation of scarecrows had to be repeated many times**). But I’ll still be thankful when the Halloween decorations come down (some people decorated the last Saturday in September!!!)… though I still won’t justify the few already-up-Christmas-decorations until after Thanksgiving!

*current favorites podcasts: Risen Motherhood, At Home with Sally, Mom on Purpose, The World and Everything in it, Pray the Word, Wild + Free, Storyformed.
S will ask “who is it podcast? Is it Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill?”

**And learning that if she asks the same question twice it’s usually because I didn’t really answer her question. Sometimes she then asks “say that question again,” if she wants me to repeat my answer.


Advent Musings 2016

Emmanuel, God with us. After the recommendation of a friend and a short devotional on it, I read “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence shortly after Ellie was born. I thought it was a good time to read it, to be challenged to be in His presence continually in a time when there wasn’t really much opportunity for specific times of reading and prayer.
But only a few weeks later, His presence was gone in the throes of postpartum depression. As I struggled to find it again and struggled to pray, slowly it came back, even as the breakers and waves crashed down on me drowning out at sea. I remembered Emmanuel: His Son sent to be God with us and be our rescue. That He would be with me. His forgiveness, and intercession, and His love which nothing can separate me from. In the suffocating of hormones, and a sin nature exacerbated by those hormones, I found Emmanuel before the throne, my strong and perfect plea, living and interceding for me, making it so nothing can pluck me from His hand or take away the presence He came and bled and died and rose for us to have. I’m not fully healed of the struggle yet. But every moment His presence is there is one of thankfulness and sweetness and joy. And to help in the moments He feels far away, one of the things I am doing for Advent this year is memorizing some key verses. Another is reading John Piper’s “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy,” and striving to look ahead with longing to His second Advent.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. This was quoted to us at church, the second Sunday of Advent, the 102nd day of Aleppo under siege. And we also prayed for the persecuted church. And I thought of those suffering under ISIS and Boko Haram, and Christians persecuted all over the world, and prayed that they may have hope remembering that the darkness does not overcome the Light.

Prince of Peace. And as I think of Aleppo and of Mosul, and prepare to return to an America reeling at election results, I remember that He is also the Prince of Peace, and that He came not be served, but to serve. That I as His child can be His ambassador in the world and be a peacemaker. And so the other thing I am doing for Advent is Preemptive Love’s 25 Days of Peace.


Happy New Year!

2015 was such a full year for us – we saw all of both of our immediate families and most of both of our extended families, in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, with some visiting us in California! We also enjoyed a number of my friends visiting, and Ezra was able to catch up with some of his closest friends at a wedding.
It’s hard to believe we most likely leave Japan this year (goal for 2017: don’t move).

It wasn’t an easy year, but we definitely grew a lot. Motherhood has a lot of growing pains, and that probably won’t ever really slow down. We also had a number of ministry opportunities, with Ezra being able to give a lot spiritually at work and helping out a neighbor in great need before we left San Diego.

Various things from my journal:
– a baby can make your relationships shallower if you get lazy, but deeper if you are honest
– a quote from church: there is nothing impressive about us. what is impressive is Christ’s righteousness. That’s why there’s no need for masks.
– it gets easier when you stop having expectations
– the curse gives pain in childbirth, the cross gives His help to make it through
– your child’s sleep is not a measure of good or bad parenting
– hard naps are to teach me to seek Him
– patience is easier when you have compassion
– His grace is HERE no matter how she sleeps – I will praise YOU for SHE is fearfully and wonderfully made. God has given US THIS child with THESE difficulties at THIS crazy time in our life. Nothing is without purpose.
– she’s not irritating, I’m irritable
– even when life is not fun there can still be joy through Him
– in the darkness of the soul how big is Your God? He is greater than the night. He brings out every star, every night. He is ordering every detail of my life, even when it is veiled or doesn’t seem right to me.

being together
S’s silliness
living in Japan
a place to call home
peace and friendship between US and Japan
GBC San Diego
Dubai family
nursing S past 1 year
diversity of creation
how He speaks in difficulty
worship via music
Prince of PEACE
World Magazine
He fills my need
people to love, even in the pain of missing them
grace to navigate new cultures (that time I was in the crowded grocery store the day before New Years’ Eve, thinking “I can’t Japanese!!!”)
healthy 2015
enough time
S’s 7 toothed smile
the way S shows me the world differently
google translate

This was my list at the end of 2014 for what I hoped to do in 2015, and how those goals went:
Nourishing Traditions: soak, ferment, whole, broth – I did eat a lot more fermented food and bone broth than usual, and most of what we ate at home was whole foods. As far as soaking grain, February-July was mostly grain-free so there wasn’t a lot of that going on, and I still don’t really eat/make a lot of bread at home, so I didn’t really get into that.
publish an eBook The Christian Musician was published in August.
52 project: photo a week I decided I take too many that this was thrown out.
Bible reading plan Got halfway through the Bible!
get together more with ladies from church This went pretty well, though I really didn’t do it a whole lot until later in the year unless Ezra was traveling.
meditate on the glories of Christ and of heaven (the practical side of the resolution to not fear)
MOVE back across the ocean & sort through/get rid of stuff before we go
cook through (or more through) Jerusalem We only have 33 recipes left (that’s including condiments)
work on reeds… if time allows I made a few…
possibly learn to draw some again I finished Drawing Textbook and did some handlettering projects.

Not on the original list:
Finished IBCD’s Level 1 Care and Discipleship Course and listened to the first half of the second
Started the Ferling Etudes on Oboe
Getting my wisdom teeth out

For 2016:

Finish Jerusalem
Design a coat of arms for our family
IBCD Level 2
“School” with S: sensory bins, clapping/acting music, reading to her, coloring, instruments.
Edit and publish Love Victorious
finish reading through Bible
Thankfulness: especially with savoring food
Reed making & Ferling Etudes
Gingerbug & sourdough
Possibly a summer toddler music class
Help out with an English Class

FOOD to nourish
MUSIC to encourage
READING to know God
WRITING to encourage
STUDY to prepare
SOCIAL MEDIA to encourage
EXERCISE for health
DECORATING to make home a haven

Dependence (vs being so independent)

Mt. Fuji

“Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong.” – Keller
“Thou madest us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless, until it rest in Thee” – Augustine
“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.”
1 Cor 15:58
Phil 4:1-8

Advent: God With Us – Christ in Us

Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.10 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” – John 17:3

In His birth, Jesus shows us that we couldn’t be near Him on our own. He must come to us to save us before we can have eternal life – before we can know God. And so Jesus came down and joined our problem, but He didn’t leave it alone. He pronounced blessing and future joy for those who are mourning, but it didn’t come in the way the world expected. He showed us that the answer to our pain isn’t a formula, the solution to our problems not their absence, but His presence. It’s not what we asked for, but it’s what we need more than anything else.

He offered His love in a way that can never be lost because it is based on Jesus and not our performance. He came to free us from chains of sin that weighs us down. He came to fill our need, and to bring us to God, even when we were His enemies. He gave us so that we will have everything we will ever need.

He was Immanuel for a short time
So that Immanuel, God with us, can be for forever.

Don’t reject His love, or Immanuel will be to you a judge, not a Savior.
He came to free.
Don’t love your chains.
Worship the One who can set you free.
Who fills our every need
Who is all we need
Who is worth every pain
Who makes it not about us but about His glory
Which is far, far greater.
He has met our need.
Because Christ was condemned and separated.
Because He left His Father and humbled Himself.
Then, not just at Christmas, but always:

Hymn: Joy to the World
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Advent Blessing

Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

– Give thanks for Immanuel: the person of Jesus, the work of Jesus on the cross, and the joy of being brought to Him!
– pray for those still separated from Him – remember that we were once the people walking in darkness, but He allowed us to see the Great Light. Pray that those (and be specific!) yet walking in darkness will see His Light. Remember that He can do far more than we can ask or imagine!

Advent: God With Us – My Redeemer Liveth

Matthew 28:1-9
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

1 Corinthians 15:17-24
..If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

Song: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day
upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall
I see God. (Job 19:25-26)
For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that
sleep. (I Corinthians 15:20)

Tomorrow is Thursday and Christmas Eve. I find it a very fitting day to fast, as we wait for Christmas celebrations, to remind us of what really matters, of what we should really be longing for. Take time to reflect on and pray about the things God has taught you this Advent season, and pray that He might draw many of His enemies to Himself, even this day!

Advent: God With Us – To Bring Us To God

In the incarnation, Jesus entered our suffering. He stepped into the sin-cursed world. In His perfection, He was more aware of things “not being right” than we are. He understood the fullness of the brokenness of our condition. He was born, like all of us, in pain and tears. But it didn’t stop at His birth – the innocent were slaughtered as Herod sought to destroy Jesus. He was tempted, like us. He suffered, like us. Injustice, pain, spiritual torment. Isaiah 53 says, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”

But while He was God with us, there was a time when He was forsaken by God. Condemned and separated, He suffered the darkest night the soul has experienced. He was accounted as sinful and judged by His Father, cut off from the most intimate relationship anyone has ever known.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief… As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11).

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)

Matthew 27:35-54
And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it withsour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him,keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded (instrumental version here)
O Sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Take time to meditate on “what Thou, my Lord, hast suffered.”
Let that shape thanksgiving, as well as prayers for the persecuted church: “And should I fainting be/Lord let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.”

Advent: God With Us – Jesus, Our Immanuel

Luke 2:1-20
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths andlaid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Hymn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hymn: What Child is This?
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Current Events
After the terror in Paris last month, my Facebook feed was filled with opinions on whether or not refugees should be allowed into America. As a conservative Christian I feel that it is extra-complicated, and I know that I have to be careful not to let my childhood among refugees make me decide based on nostalgia.
It is a very complex issue that dives into the roles of the church to love and serve and the role of the state to protect. While I can vote and petition, the state’s response is ultimately out of my hands, but I believe that Christians must do something.
The hospitality commands I referenced in the last post, teaching in the Old Testament about the foreigner, and the value of human life lead me to lean towards welcoming refugees. And knowing so many who are fleeing ISIS are Christians (although very few of those who make it very far are Christian), I believe 1 John 3:13-18 applies as well.
Should we be cautious? Yes (vetting refugees strictly and requiring them to follow our laws are both necessary things). Is resettling refugees the answer? No, it is dealing with a symptom of a greater problem. We should not receive refugees and do nothing about ISIS/making a way for the refugees to return home.
If the government decides to allow refugees into the United States, Christians should step up to welcome them, care for them, and share the gospel with them. And if we perish, we perish (good article here).
If the government decides to close our borders (or even if they don’t!), we can support people who are working with the refugees. Examine yourself to make sure you’re not living in fear. Pray fervently, without ceasing, for God to destroy (or save!) ISIS. Educate yourself and others about what ISIS is doing to Christians, Yazidis, other Muslims, women, children, HUMAN BEINGS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Feminists, you should care about this because of how they are degrading women to the worst extent. Pro-Lifers, you should care about this because they are souls just like the babies in the womb.
We should not just think about how this affects who we vote for, but how “I” personally can be involved.

Some links:
***7 Thought on the Gospel and Refugees*** (If you only read one, read this one!)
Syrian refugees speak in Istanbul
We Welcome Refugees FAQ
Immigration Policy Must be Based on More Than an Appeal to Compassion (food for thought, though I don’t necessarily agree with everything)
Refugees and the Two-Fold Kingdom
The World is Scary – Love Anyway
You’re not a Bad Christian Because You Want to be Cautious

I have mentioned places to donate here, but some more have come to my attention in this time:
Carry the Future (have a baby carrier sitting around you don’t use? The day before I found this I was thinking about natural disasters/evacuation and how I would want to have my Ergo with me, and how hard it must be for refugees without carriers. I was thrilled when someone on Facebook linked to this group!)
Never Again is Now (connected with Glenn Beck, but they are focusing on resettling Christian Refugees)
21st Century Wilberforce (they have a much wider focus, but they have written some about ISIS, specifically about why they are committing genocide, even if the UN refuses to acknowledge it).

– that the refugees would find safety
– for a soul that does not fear, but trusts in God for ultimate protection
– that both short-term and long-term solutions would be found to help
(Tomorrow is Thursday, so please join me in fasting as you pray!)