Coventry Carol

I’m excited and thankful to have taken part in Headpiece Filled With Straw‘s 25 Days of Christmas for the third time – this year with an oboe multitrack of my favorite Coventry Carol arrangement.

Head over to Headpiece Filled With Straw to listen.

For more on sorrow in the midst of joy at Christmas, take a look at these posts:
Life and Death at Christmas
The Problem with Holly Jolly Christmas Songs 
Christmas Music for a More Sober Joy


Advent Plans 2017 + Christmas Favorites

IMG 20171201 185812

Since our Jesse Tree ornaments are only partially done, I made a list of things to do with S for Advent this year. She’s 3, so while a lot is over her head still, there is a lot she can understand and participate in. I wanted to have activities that will help all of us grow in delight, wonder, and worship as we anticipate Christmas, and hopefully in that anticipation point her (and ourselves!) towards His purpose in coming and longing for His second coming. I also wanted to find small ways we could be a part of our community and even lift others’ burdens.
Some of these are taken from Preemptive Love’s 25 Days of Peace from last year, and I will probably be reviewing some of my past Advent writings as well, which you can see here.

I wrote out these ideas on strips of construction paper and we made a paper chain and will take one off the chain every day, in addition to reading one chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible (not our first Toddler Bible choice but the number of chapters fits better with Advent) and memorizing Joy to the World and Luke 2:10-11.
These may be reordered as our calendar fills!

What are you doing with your littles for Advent this year?

1. get a Christmas tree
2. decorate, while drinking Wassail and eating gingerbread.
3. wrap presents
4. mail presents
5. write out/decorate our memory verse
6. make paper snowflakes
7. watch the Nutcracker
8. Make hot chocolate (we often throw a banana in the blender with 1 c milk and 2 Tbsp cocoa then heat)
9. pay it forward (not sure where this will be yet)
10. decorate pinecones with glitter
11. pick up trash & greet people on our walk
12. tell the Christmas story with our Nativity Scene (which is awesome by the way – a creche crocheted by Syrian refugees, my parents got it for us last year).
13. go through our toys/clothes/books and donate some
14. bake cookies for Ezra’s work/neighbors
15. watch The Snowman
16. send mail to build someone up
17. walk/drive to see Christmas lights
18. go caroling
19. “dance party” to favorite Christmas music
20. color a Nativity Scene & listen to the Christmas part of the
21. Leave a thank-you for the mail carrier
22. drive to Grandma’s house
23. care package for the homeless/do something kind for someone who did something mean (these ones need more research for us in our area and S’s circle).
24. Christmas Eve service
More ideas here!
We also threw in A Charlie Brown Christmas, gingerbread dutch baby, and a church carol sing.

At the end of that I hope to spend some time considering how to keep giving into our community AFTER Advent! It’s good motivation to start doing these things but it’s something we should keep doing.

Favorite Christmas music:
Rescue’s The First Christmas
Kings’ Singers & Albrecht Mayer’s Let it Snow
Michael Card’s The Promise
Eden’s Bridge’s Celtic Christmas
The Nutcracker
Handel’s Messiah
Nativity Story Soundtrack
Joel Clarkson’s Midwinter Carols
Ola Gjeilo Winter Songs

Some background music from YouTube:
The Kings’ Singers
King’s College Choir
The Three Tenors

A Christmas Festival
Sleigh Ride
Boston Pops
London Symphony

Favorite Christmas Books
Three Christmas Journeys
Baby Jesus, Prince of Peace (Greene)
The Nutcracker (The one illustrated by Hague is our favorite for the “whole story” but Valeria Docampo’s is most similar to the ballet).
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (Gloria Houston/Barbara Cooney)
Christmas in the Barn (Margaret Wise Brown)
The Little Drummer Boy (Ezra Jack Keats)
…and still searching! I’ll probably update this as the season progresses.

For more on Advent, especially with kids, check out these podcasts:
Risen Motherhood: Celebrating Advent with Little Ones
Storyformed: Following Jesus Through Advent

Happy Thanksgiving

“When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”
John Piper

Being together
The way the girls grow and learn
God’s presence
A roof & four walls (and so much more) in the wind and rain

We truly are overflowing in abundance, learning to love the Giver more than the gifts and use what He has given us to love others. And this week we are enjoying a restful time with my extended family.

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!