Jesse Tree Journey

Every Christmas season, our family journeys together from Genesis to Christ’s birth. Each year the girls notice something new and learn a bit more about the incredible-ness of God’s plan to save each one of us from ourselves. It begins at creation and reminds us every step of the way how Jesus is part of the story. I love how the girls see the picture on the ornament and know immediately the story to come. I love how they help each other with names of people and places. I love the girls asking a question and how they pipe up to help one another understand. It is a treasured tradition that helps their roots grow deep and wide.

As this Christmas season comes to a close, never forget God has moved Heaven and Earth to make a way for you to be with Him forever-in a place overflowing with Truth, Love, and Joy. Christ is alive and loves you regardless of choices you have made…choose Him. He is one choice that you’ll never regret.

16 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has decided to reject Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because [b]he has not believed andtrusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him]. John 3:16-18

The Gift of Grandparents

December…It’s that time of year.  Reminiscing about family and holiday activities brings back all kinds of emotional memories; even as we continue some traditions and begin making new ones.

Some that we have continued include reading nightly (or at least most nights) from the Jesse tree book, and hanging the ornaments.  This year we began finding some outside Christmas decorations to bring a little bit of Davisville to Indonesia.  Our community is putting together a list of houses that have some outside decorations so that we can drive the girls around to look at Christmas lights!  And this year, Santa and his trusty elf are coming to our community to visit the kids.  

New traditions (and one of our favorites) include finding a beach to go to for Christmas vacation.  We look forward to a little bit of relaxation as this crazy semester/year comes to an end, and we prepare for the all-too-unpredictable that will kick off 2021. 

I love all the traditions, but this time of year also has me reminiscing about holidays of the past.  I still treasure the memories of going into my Grandma Cleveland’s house on Christmas morning with presents piled up around the Christmas tree.  She absolutely loved Christmas and instilled that excitement in my mom and in turn instilled it in us.  Sitting around her living room with all the cousins captured that innocent joy of the season.  

We all knew that we would have a gift from Grandma Duncan also.  And one or two of us were going to get an amazing new gift from her.  The rest of us were going to get a pair of socks or underwear that may or may not fit.  It was so much fun and we would all play together with the one amazing gift.  

My reminiscing about Grandma Davis didn’t include Christmas.  My memories of Grandma Davis center around food and travel.  Every time I came home from college, my grandma would always have some cornbread and sweet tea for me to take back with me.  Sitting around eating her homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast before going to work on the farm got the day started off right.  But, my favorite time with her was when I took my Spring Break one year and drove her and Aunt Bertha to Omaha.  We picked up Aunt Christine in Kansas City on the way.  I remember distinctly people asking why a college kid spent their Spring Break with his grandma.  But, I had an amazing time with one of the greatest women I’ve ever known.  

People say you’ll never get that time back. And there’s definitely some truth to that. But the more memories you create, the happier those reminiscing moments are. I’m so thankful for these memories. -Michael

Joy Jumping

Upon finally accepting we won’t see any family in 2020, the conversation shifted to ways the girls could have a bit of Davisville here. Beyond people, the girls talk about the trampoline and gaga ball pit as what they miss! Michael and I talked with Nana & Papa D…and, well, guess what happened for Christmas? Thankful for yardsale sites, a home with a backyard, and a vehicle for picking up the surprise! Nana got to tell the girls about the surprise via a video call! We are overJOYed about this early Christmas surprise! Thought you might enjoy a bit of happiness, too!

The girls jumping for the first time!!

Home Base

I’m not athletic, but I grew up at the softball fields cheering on Mars Hill softball teams.  I hollered with the best of them when a  homer pinged off of a bat.  And I joined in the ‘hoorays’ each time a foot hit home base.  I witnessed the encouragement when the runners strides looked tired.  I saw the team and the crowd carry them forth to add another run to the score board.

Home.  Team.  Home.  Base.

One of our girls asked Michael Joe where home was this week.  She said she didn’t know how to introduce herself to people anymore.  I could see the ache in his eyes as he relayed the conversation to me.  Another daughter started rattling off friends’ names as tears filled her eyes. “I just want to play with them,” she cried.  And my heart broke anew. Yet another said she was reluctant to go back to America because she doesn’t know  who she is there.

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Almost 20 years ago, I met my first group of TCKs (third culture kids). In my mind’s eye, I could hear myself asking my Shanghai kids ‘Where are you from?’ and watching them search for an answer. Should they respond- where they lived the longest, lived most recently, name of a place they grew roots, or just simplify with ‘my passport country is ___”?  Those are the kids that led me to love Expats-their treks, their willingness to go, their courage to stay, their ability to impact the world for Him.  Expats have grown to hold significant space in my life story.

But now I’m raising TCKs and I’m married to an Expat.  One of my gals was so young when she left America that corn dogs and M&Ms are foreign to her-just like Target and Chik-Fil-A.  How do we navigate this new life?  How do we not just weep in the brokeness but let the tears rain down as to grow roots in a new place?  What is the formula to help our family not just survive, but embrace this new home and culture in those moments we just want to run into the embrace of family and friends?

nouwen

During a January wedding of one of my dearest Shanghai kids, a Henry Nouwen passage was read.  It sums up the pain and beauty of this calling so beautifully:

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We cannot stay if He leads us on.  Just like we cannot go unless He beckons.  We have to put down roots wherever we are regardless on how long we are there.  We can’t hang back and see or wait until we don’t miss home.  We are to dig deep into His Word and be confident in who He is.  To trust His character, His promises, His salvation even when our whole hearts are plowed under and roots are yanked up.

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I believe there is another way we make it through the rough seasons with homesickness, yearning, and ache.  We rely on our home base.  Our home team.  The team that launched us to this new life-even though it broke them in the process.  We have found such strength in the committed prayers, cards, emails, texts, and partnerships.  We watch and rewatch videos.  We do our best to send mail and videos back.  We treasure voice calls and video chats.  Each instance reinforces those roots we have branched from.  While it can be tricky to navigate old roots and new, Romans 11 echoes in my heart.  We don’t have to choose between the roots and branches.  Grafting is what makes us who we are.  We are purely His with new branches and ever growing roots.  We need each of you from our home base to know you are with us here.  Your strength and passion keep our roots strong.  To those where we are, your branches make us see more beauty in this grafted Expat/TCK life.  Keep lifting us up-that we may not shy away from brokenness but instead bear fruit all the more.

nouwen 2

Hand Me Downs & Upgrades

When dad was in seminary, we lived down a one lane road, had to have water trucked in, and had next to nothing.  That house is where I remember falling in love with hand-me-downs.  The UPS truck would come rambling down our road.  Next came a knock on our door.  The UPS guy would be holding a huge box and Christmas had arrived (regardless of the month!). I recall going through piles of clothes from cousins and friends. (I even had some with my exact initials on them! Thanks, Aunt Marge & Alison!) And the lure of the hand-me-downs was born.

As we had girls of our own, we continued to be blessed by family with fantastic hand-me-downs & upgrades.  It was so fun to see the girls wearing a cousin’s dress or boots. We would giggle about how we remembered the other kid in that outfit and bonds grew tighter.

Now hand-me-downs have a bit of a different tang.  Hand-me-downs & upgrades are typically the result of someone moving (although not always! whew!).  Around here, that moving comes with airline tickets and new countries or islands.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to get hand-me-downs and have a way to create tighter bonds as our local families follow His leading to other lands.

Beginnings of Dollhouse Transformation
The girls got a new-to-us dollhouse today and quickly began finding ways to make it theirs!

Dollhouse Reno
The girls stepped away to find more fun and I was able to capture the dollhouse mid renovation!

Playing with Dollhouse
The girls have played and played-it even snowed! (see it on top of the house!?)

Sweet friends
These big gals have impacted each of our gals so much! My gals had a grand time going to their yard sale and finding treasures.

Too Grown RyAnne
She looks so lovely in this gifted dress!

Elliana-Bali pants
These Bali pants make all of us giggle and we love them on our Elliana!

Watermelon
Watermelon (the bike) was a true blessing to us when her owner left. She is now blessing another friend!

Couch Upgrade!
We are so excited to have new-to-us couches! (and for friends that helped us move them!)

 

 

 

Marry a Man

This past weekend Michael and I were gifted a tremendous 48 hours KiD-FRee! It began gloriously-we had a rare double-date with dear friends.  But things began to go askew from there.  We had to switch hotels because our first one was…well, iffy.  Happily, the new place was lovely.  We had the remote to ourselves and turned off alarms.  Bliss!  The next day was a bit different.  I ran smack-dab into my first horrific case of food poisoning.  While I will spare you the details, let’s just say it will be a memorable trip for years to come. (Also, the Art Deco flooring was beautiful!)

It may seem odd, but after a rather intense battle between bad food and my stomach, I recall thinking, “marry a man who cleans up after you have food poisoning”.  And this post was born.

Here is my absolutely non-exhaustive list of reasons to marry a man.

  1. Marry a man who pursues Christ day in and day out.
  2. Marry a man who actively chooses you every day. enhance
  3. Marry a man who acknowledges his need for prayer and guidance from God. enhance
  4. Marry a man who knows how to laugh when things don’t work like they are supposed to work. enhance
  5. Marry a man who bravely seeks God’s guidance-even if it takes him far from his comfort zone. enhance
  6. Marry a man who rubs your aching feet. (Do you really want to see that?)
  7. Marry a man who courageously teaches you life skills you don’t think you want. uRLw+EfgQZu0xn5LMHdFYA
  8. Marry a man who stands up to you when needed. (I was mad…no pics!)
  9. Marry a man who wears a ridiculous wig because he loves you. enhance
  10. Marry a man who treasures time with you…(especially the non-picture worthy times). enhance
  11. Marry a man who demonstrates how a gentleman treats a lady. enhance
  12. Marry a man who crosses oceans to propose (or is at least willing). enhance
  13. Marry a man who braves your cooking-smoke and all. (nope-zero pics of this!)
  14. Marry a man who sets new goals. enhance
  15. Marry a man who loves his family deeply. enhance
  16. Marry a man who opens his heart to new adventures. DeyhKj5CT+qET7hw3XYqGg
  17. Marry a man who loves your first kids like his kids. enhance
  18. Marry a man who shares Little Debbie treats when the next box is half a world away. PE6qbYRdRgafgO4AQ0Kpvg
  19. Marry a man who cheers for his team whether they win or lose. enhance
  20. Marry a man who still makes you grin like this 14 years later. enhance

I’m so thankful I married a man who does all these things and much much more.  Happy 14th Anniversary, my love!

Permission Slip

As a momma-of-four at home, crisis schooling & teaching my own classes to my students, maintaining semblance of sanitary home, wife-ing, and friend-ing gal, I hearby grant thee the following permissions:

  1.  You may say no, nope, nuh-uh, no way with no residual guilt.
  2. Paper plates are allowed.
  3. You may read a book that you like-not for work or any purpose other than to just escape.
  4. You are granted permission to turn your phone off.
  5. Cease checking the news.  If you must check it, set a timer for 15 minutes and then move on.  Permission granted to focus on your home and those within.
  6. Sleep odd hours (even for a thing called a ‘nap’ if the opportunity arises).
  7. You may retire the iron for this season.
  8. You may lock your bedroom door for a date night (ONLY applies to marrieds).
  9. You may make a fantastic detailed schedule.
  10. You may crumple up said fantastic detailed schedule.
  11. You may uncrumple and tweak said fantastic detailed schedule.
  12. Sandwiches are permissible for any meal-as is cereal!
  13. Permission granted to focus on your home and those within.
  14. You may lock the door when you go to the bathroom.
  15. You may decorate for any season you like.
  16. Worship through song with your church, youtube videos, homemade instruments, and off-key voices.  Sing at the sink, in the shower, at the dinner table, and on the porch.
  17. You may let your kids do their work/projects by themselves-you do not need to re-earn your elementary and high school diplomas.
  18. You may let your kids fail.  It is a great lesson to learn.
  19. You have permission to start a project, quit it 1/3 way through, stick your tongue out at it, restart, and repeat!
  20. You may laugh in a gut-busting, down to your toes, tears in your eyes manner as much as you can.
  21. You are allowed to wallow and weep-give yourself a set amount of time (15 min-30 min) and have a good ol’ tantrum.  Then blow your nose and march on.
  22. You may wear comfy clothes-including seasonal ones that simply are not in season.
  23. You are allowed to fail.
  24. You are also allowed to succeed.
  25. You are granted permission to feel all the things.

May the lasting memories from this unexpected season be ones of joy and an awareness of Christ’s love.  If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, email me or comment!  I would love to chat with you about Him!

Hope in the Grieving

Have you noticed something weird lately in your heart or stomach?  An odd ache?  I have.  I mentioned to a friend this weekend that the entire world is grieving.  There is scarcely a soul untouched by fear or concern. Each person I chat with or check in with is going through various stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Denial of sickness could happen to them, anger when others don’t follow the rules, bargaining with time saying ‘I’ll do this for this long, if…’, depression over lost opportunities, and even a few at the acceptance stage.  For some the grief is a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach, while others have gone into survival mode. Meanwhile, the grief of losing friends and family, fear of who will catch the virus next, and the lack of an end-date makes the grief inescapable.  Uncertainty taints every single decision.

Uncertainty.

That’s the word.  Most of us felt we had a pretty firm grasp on our lives. Our calendars were filled with work, events, family outings, vacations, and so forth.  Suddenly, a heap of unknowns was dumped into our laps.  Almost like our lives went through a shredder!  Now each person is scrambling to make sense of the moment-to-moment while simultaneously dealing with longterm decisions when there is no way to make sense of anything.  And it is driving us crazy.

We like to know.  Even more than knowing, we want to be in control.  Personally, the inability to control much of anything has led me to an organizing frenzy!   I assume no bin will escape my hand by the end.  We’ve also rearranged furniture and planted flowers, fruits, and veggies. We’ve made a daily schedule to create a new normal.  Others have over-shopped, over-exercised, over-couch potatoed, and over-indulged.  All the while each waiting for someone to tell us to stop-you’ve got to be ready to do such-and-such by this date!  But no one actually knows anything in these swiftly changing times.  Each of us is craving boundaries, controls, and assurances.

All of this brings to mind an old hymn “Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

As a Christian, I do have assurance that God is still on His throne.  I have assurance that my salvation through Jesus Christ is not dependent on my emotions, the economy, or my fears.  I am assured that regardless of what happens to my family here or thousands of miles away, God will make beauty from ashes.

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I do not have to be at the mercy of my emotions.  Instead, I will remember I am wrapped in His mercy.  I am not forced to let fear control my steps, but I can use His wisdom and guidance to step confidently.  I can choose to find JOY in the unexpected.  I can decide to rest in His promises.  I will limit my exposure to news and bulk up on reading the Bible.  I am not helpless in these moments, regardless of how I feel.  I will be thankful and take note of those blessings I tend to take for granted.  I also know that grieving is not something I’m doing alone-so I will reach out and heal with others.  Christ has grieved before and I know His heart is breaking in these moments, too.  I will choose to remember there is hope in the grieving.

 

100 Years

Even now I can see Pawpaw’s faded overalls and hear the jangle of mechanic’s tools in every pocket as he walked.  My Pawpaw was tall and lanky.  He also had a cigar perpetually perched in the corner of his mouth (though it was usually a stub and unlit in later years).  Last month, my Pawpaw would have been 100 years old.  We celebrated with a meal of his favorites-pinto beans with cornbread.  And no party would have been complete without a banana pudding, which he much preferred over cake!

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My Pawpaw, Jesse, was born in 1920.  I loved sitting and chatting with him about what he had seen in his life as he turned grease-stained solitaire cards over and over.  He was the type that could say more in a few well-chosen words than those who prattle on for hours and say nothing.  He was from the era of letting your actions speak.  His actions spoke loudly.  He was a mechanic by trade.  Living in the South, Pawpaw fixed everyone’s car-regardless of color or creed.  This was definitely not the norm.  He could simply lean over the engine, listen well, and fix what was broken.

His life wasn’t easy.  At age eleven, a truckload of logs fell on his leg. His femur was shattered beyond repair.  Experimental surgery was performed-a sheep bone was used to replace his bone.  And it worked.  A challenge appeared later.  He was eleven and eleven year olds grow.  The sheep bone didn’t.  His leg remained that same length the rest of his days.  I can still picture the cane hanging from the loop on his overalls.

In 1970, Pawpaw was given the Tennessee Handicapped Citizen of the Year award.  An award he never told me about…which is just like him.  I am thankful for this man who lived a hard life and served others well.

Happy 100th Birthday, Pawpaw.  Love you. Longing for the day I hear you say “Love you, too,” again.

Introducing Miss Delta Huang

“WE HAVE A VAN!”  “Is that OURS?”  “We don’t have to drive in the rain anymore?!” ” Can we take it to school tomorrow?”  Our girls couldn’t believe their eyes.  Honestly, neither could I.  Today, Michael pulled up to our house with a beautiful gift.  Her name is  Miss Delta Huang.  She’s a 2014 Toyota Kijang Innova.  Our entire family can ride in her plus a friend or two!  (Car seats will be added in the morning-my momma heart is elated!).  We cannot wait to use her to bless this community.  We are truly honored to have a way to stay dry and safe in our home away from home.

One of the best things about Miss Delta Huang is her story.  From the moment she was just a dream, to the closing sale handshake, we have been surrounded by His Body.  She was purchased with partnership and prayer.  For every uphill climb, someone has walked along with us.   When things seemed impossible, there were prayers, encouragement, and faith to borrow.  We have literally witnessed community from all corners of this globe join in this journey.  Every time we are sitting in macet (traffic jam) in the shelter of our own space, able to grocery shop in one trip instead of several on a motorbike,  provide refuge from the rain, and see more of this island we love, Delta Huang will tangibly remind us of the power of the Body working together.  We couldn’t be more amazed, thrilled, and thankful.  To God be all the glory.