Sunday, April 5, 2015

Desire for Acceptance

I think the desire to belong is inherent to human nature.  Likewise, feeling like we don't belong can be devastating.  This week I experienced such a devastating blow. In a matter of minutes, a few critical comments piled up into an insurmountable pile of emotional baggage, leaving me to feel unwelcome where I once felt welcome, unaccepted where I once felt accepted, and unloved where I once felt loved.  

Most people possess a stronger sense of determination to fight, but, in the presence of this emotional enemy, I completely wilted. I was so taken aback when heretofore friends turned to seeming foes that I quickly spiraled downward into a very deep slough. The situation went over and over in my mind again and again, with heightened pain at each recurrence. It was as if I could not think of anything else. I had trouble accomplishing even the basic tasks necessary to maintain my household, like cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  I frequently snuck away to my bathroom to cry hoping my kids wouldn't notice my red swollen eyes and tear-stained cheeks. I lost interest in things that I typically enjoy like running or taking my kids to the park and threw the diet I ordinarily follow so conscientiously out the window. Whenever David was available, I took advantage of the opportunity to "nap" or rather to lay in bed crying bitterly until I finally fell asleep. Feeling more and more like the situation was completely hopeless, I began to protect myself from any more pain by withdrawing more and more from others.

Needless to say, it was very difficult for me to go to church today. I was such a mess of pain and confusion, but I've pretty much mastered the art of disguise over the years. I was pretty much able to keep the sermon at arm's length until the point of application.  Pastor Peter asked us to reflect on what the resurrection means for us. He shared how he had moved around so much and never belonged anywhere until he met Christ. Then, he knew where he belonged: he had become a citizen of heaven. Suddenly, I realized that the agony and torment I had been experiencing were because I was looking for acceptance in the wrong place. When I put my faith in Christ, he transferred me from the kingdom of this earth to the kingdom of heaven. I do belong in Christ's kingdom, and He will never leave me or forsake me. 

I am not placing my hope in the approval of others. Instead, I am placing all my hope in the inheritance described in 1 Peter 1: 3-5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 

And, lastly, I just want to close with the words of a praise song that came to mind as I was reflecting on this desire for acceptance today:
I will change your name 
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, outcast 
Lonely or afraid
I will change your name
Your new name shall be 
Confidence, joyfulness 
Overcoming one 
Faithfulness, friend of God 
One who seeks my face.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Easter!

Easter is THE holiday for Christians. Jesus left his home in heaven and came to live on this earth for one singular purpose: the cross. Jesus, though he did no wrong, willingly went to the cross where he experienced the full wrath of God in body and in soul. Jesus suffered agony and torment on the cross, God's punishment for sinners, for those who think, do, and say what is wrong and those who fail to think, fail to do, and fail to say what is right. Jesus' death on the cross was to pay the penalty due us for our sins against a pure and holy and just God. After Jesus died, they took his body and anointed it with oil and spices and placed it in a tomb with a stone covering the opening. Three days later, the stone was rolled away and Jesus' body was no longer there. An angel declared, "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." After that, Jesus appeared to many of his followers.

Faith in Jesus' death and resurrection in our place is the basis for our salvation from our sins. It is what brings us back into fellowship with God. It is the source of the hope that Christians have of one day being reunited with Christ in Heaven. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19,

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have also fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

For this reason, we have tried over the years to establish meaningful Easter traditions to celebrate the salvation and hope that Jesus accomplished for those who trust in Him by His death and resurrection.  I pray that one day each of my children will come to trust in Jesus savingly and live their lives to bring Him glory!

Scriptural Stations of the Cross

Two problems with this picture: (1) Josiah refused to be in it and (2) these boys move too much and too fast!

To go over the Scriptural Stations of the Cross, I colored these little wooden crosses with Sharpies and glued the name of one of the stations on the front. On the back, I wrote the Scriptural reference. We went through all fourteen stations in one sitting.  Yes, that was kind of difficult for the little ones who can't/won't sit still for very long.  Note to self: next year, spread this out over two weeks.

The stations are as follows:

  1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane 
  2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested 
  3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin 
  4. Jesus is denied by Peter 
  5. Jesus is judged by Pontius Pilate 
  6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns 
  7. Jesus bears the cross 
  8. Jesus is helped to bear the cross 
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem 
  10. Jesus is crucified 
  11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the thief 
  12. Jesus speaks to his mother and John 
  13. Jesus dies on the cross 
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb
Resurrection Eggs
My not very impressive resurrection eggs.
Resurrection eggs are pretty easy to pull off.  I just got 12 plastic Easter eggs from the store and filled them with the symbols collected from around the house.  I have the kids take turns opening an egg and discuss the account of Jesus' death and resurrection using the following symbols and Scriptures:
  1. Bread (Matthew 26:26)
  2. Silver Coins (Matthew 26:14-15)
  3. Purple Cloth (Mark 15:17)
  4. Thorns (Matthew 27:29)
  5. Piece of Rope (Mark 15:15)
  6. Cross (John 19:17-18a)
  7. Nails (John 20:25b)
  8. Sign (Luke 23:38)
  9. Sponge (Matthew 27:48)
  10. Spear (John 19:34)
  11. Rock (Matthew 27:59-60)
  12. Nothing (Matthew 28:6) 

Resurrection Rolls

Five kids eagerly anticipating resurrection rolls!

I think this is pretty much my kids' favorite Easter activity.  It's really easy and impressive, especially for preschoolers.  Mind you, this is the only time of year that you will find crescent rolls and marshmallows in my house.  Separate and unroll the crescent rolls onto a baking sheet.  This is the tomb.  Take a marshmallow, which represents Jesus' body, and roll it in butter and then a cinnamon-sugar mixture.  You just anointed Jesus' body with oil and spices.  Then place the anointed Jesus (a.k.a. cinnamon-sugary marshmallow) in the tomb (a.k.a. crescent roll) and wrap it up.  Be sure to seal the edges really well or the lesson will backfire.  Bake the rolls according to the directions on the package.  While baking, the marshmallow will melt inside the roll.  After the rolls have cooled a little, you can break one open and the kids will be shocked to find Jesus' body is no longer there!  This is a very illustrative lesson to explain that Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb because he went to Heaven.

Devotional with Magnets

Josiah playing with the magnets!
The last activity that I did with kids in anticipation of Easter Sunday is a six-day devotional activity published by a local church.  A friend gave this to me before Easter two years ago.  Each day, we read a devotional and place a magnet on the board which forms the cross you see in the picture above.  The topics of the devotions are:
  1. Praise (Matthew 21:6-10)
  2. Service (John 13:1-20)
  3. Prayer (Mark 14:32-35)
  4. Love (John 3:16)
  5. Sacrifice (Luke 23:33-46)
  6. Victory (Matthew 28:1-10)
I really like this devotional material because I feel like the other activities focus on historical facts, but this devotional material is intended to affect the heart, as I think is evident from the topics.  For more information, please contact Compass Bible Church.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How I Spend my Free Time

As a homeschooling mama to five kids, I am frequently asked about what I do in my spare time. Ummm...SLEEP? Just kidding, ummm...well, I'm actually not kidding at all. You know those ads that offer miracle cures for getting a better night's sleep. Secretly, they're put on the market by people who are very concerned with controlling population growth. Seriously, if you want a better night's sleep, just have another kid. All my sleeping problems disappeared when I had my first baby in 2006.  Now I can sleep any time, any place, in any position, with any degree of brightness.  I hope I just saved you two dollars.

Now, back to the topic of how I spend my free time, when I am not sleeping, that is. This year, I have been busy making theatrical props and costumes! We allow our girls to take one of the many enrichment classes offered through Springs Charter School.  This year, both girls elected to take Musical Theater.  There are five theater classes for students in grades K-8, all taught by the one and only superly-awesome-amazingly-creative Mrs. Mary Hering. Each of the classes are working on a scene from a selected musical, but all the musicals will be put together into one performance. The classes are working on scenes from The Lion King, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderelly, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The neat part is that all of the kids get to have supporting roles in the other classes' scenes.

It does take a village to put together one of these performances, from props, lights and backdrops to costumes, music, and make-up. My little part has been to help make some props/costumes from the quiet(?) and comfort(???) of my own home! While David would argue that this show is taking up too much of my time, it has been so much fun stirring up and releasing a few creative juices! That would certainly be reward in itself, but we are also receiving free admission as recompense for the sweat of my brow!
Candy bars for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
More Candy Bars.  I think the 3 Mousketeers is my favorite!
Drums for the Lion King!
Maggie in her bird mask.
Four sets of bird wings!
Last, but certainly not least, a Glinda the Good Witch costume for Mary.

Friday, February 27, 2015

I ran a half marathon!

Probably the craziest goal I set for 2015 was to run a half marathon. I mean really, isn't that something people do in their twenties?  Certainly not when they're approaching...ahem...forty!  The way I see it, I can't change careers.  I am a mom for life.  I can't buy a sports car.  I can't afford it and where would I put the kids?  So, instead, I set out to run 13.1 continuous miles.  I didn't tell anyone this, but had my sights set on 9:30 or faster miles.  I thought it would be nice to run somewhere new, so David planned a route for me from our house to the Back Bay and around the 10-mile Back Bay loop.  I was a little nervous even though I had printed directions and my cell phone that I would get lost.  (I have the worst sense of direction ever!)  Sure, enough, I took a few wrong turns and had to back-track.  I even had to call David once cause I missed a turn and ran into the marina.  In the end, I did make it and ran the whole way, though it was much harder than I expected.  The last two miles were especially difficult because I just wanted to be done running, but I set my mind on hymns and praise songs and those carried me through those last miles!

It took a little bit of work to calculate my time because of a little GPS glitch when I ran into the marina, but David says I finished the 13.1 miles in 2:01 moving time, or 9:14 miles!  Yay!  Better than I hoped for, helped by the pancake-flat terrain at the Back Bay!

I did learn a very important lesson from running my first half marathon. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  I didn't, and the recovery was miserable.  I had three vomiting sessions and severe digestive issues for a full 24 hours!  I had to take a bath, then a nap, and nearly missed taking Mary to a Build-A-Bear birthday party.  So, if you have your sights set on that half marathon, drink yo' water!! I will not be defeated.  I want to train and run the same route with proper hydration and not get sick!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Please Pray for Emily!

This cutie pie is Emily Choi. I am writing to ask you to please, please pray for her. She is 18 months old and has been recently diagnosed with stage 4, high-risk neuroblastoma, a.k.a. CANCER. She has two tumors, one in her brain and one in her abdomen. She has one round of chemotherapy under her belt and will undergo six more rounds over the next six months. The goal of this treatment is to reduce the size of the tumors so that they can ultimately be removed surgically.

Emily is the daughter of one of our pastors, Pastor Aaron Choi. Pastor Aaron and his wife Tina moved along with their son, Silas, from Orange County to the Bay Area to plant a church two years ago. David and I were very blessed to have the opportunity to hear Pastor Aaron preach several times before they moved. David also had the opportunity to visit the church plant, Berean Mission Church, when he attended a conference in San Francisco. Pastor Aaron preaches with authority and conviction, and Berean Mission Church is blessed to have him as their pastor!

When our twins were born, they each had health issues. Jonathan was in the NICU because he had trouble breathing and Matthew was in a Children's Hospital because he was jaundiced and dehydrated. At that time, I feared for their lives. That experience gave me just the smallest inkling of what Pastor Aaron and Tina are going through.  So, I just want to urge you to pray for her!

Please pray for God to heal Emily from this cancer and to give wisdom and skill to all the medical professionals involved.

Please pray for Pastor Aaron and Tina that their faith will be firm and steadfast and that God will supply them with all the strength and courage that they need to walk through this trial as they care for Emily, including giving her injections at home (tears!)

Please pray for Emily's big brother Silas. I'm sure it's really rough on Silas having his parents and Emily gone during her hospital stays. He does have lots of aunties and uncles caring for him, but no one replaces mom and dad.

Please pray for the ministry of Berean Mission Church as leaders step up to enable the church to continue to flourish.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Entire Day Off!

What do you give a wife who doesn't wear jewelry, has zero self control around chocolate, and considers flowers to be a waste of money? This is pretty much the dilemma that my husband faces every year. Ordinarily, David does a really good job at selecting gifts for me, despite my minimalist tendencies.  He will never be able to top this year, though!  He teamed up with the kids to give me an entire day off!  I haven't had one of those in almost nine years. Sure, I take time here and there but never an ENTIRE DAY!  Super Dad took the day off of work and took charge of caring for all five kids from sunrise till sunset, while I acted like a ghost!
I started off my day reading my Bible while David was out for a run with his cohort, Joe.  This is the verse that I spent time meditating on: "But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble."
After David came home from his run, I went out for a run, a really long run, for me.  I ran a 10-mile loop through Quail Hill, a route that I have been interested in running for a very long time.  For the record, I think this is the longest run I have ever done in my life!  
After I came back from my run, I wanted to spend a little bit of one-on-one time with each of the boys.  Josiah and I jumped on the trampoline together!  He looks less than thrilled in this picture, but he really had a blast!
Jonathan rode his big blue bike.
Matthew rode his big red bike.
Then, I went to a salon and had my hair shampooed, cut and styled!  This is my new short do inspired by Hannah Michelle and Cheryl!  I think the last time I had the whole shabang done was for my wedding!
After that, I went to Cha for Tea to enjoy some milk tea and a good read.  Mary and Maggie have two friends, Alexa and Elyse, who have been reading books about warrior cats.  They love these books so much that they have developed an elaborate warrior cat game that they play in our neighborhood.  The four girls have names for themselves and positions. They scooter around on patrol, collecting medicine, guarding the camp, etc.  They even leave notes on one another's doorsteps!  I wanted to take some time to read part of the first book, so I could understand this "game" a bit!
When I came back, I spent some one-on-one time with each of the girls.  Maggie taught me to ride a scooter!
Mary and I worked on her Knot-A-Quilt!
Then, I went off for a 90-minute sports massage.  About now, I'm thinking David is probably regretting not setting a dollar limit on my day off!  The massage was great, but they tried to talk me into purchasing a membership to enable me to come in for monthly massages.  Who's got the time or money for that???  
After that, I went to the pool and swam just enough to be relaxing (15 100s on 2 minute intervals).  Then, I soaked in the hot tub for a long time.
Then, I picked up dinner from Tender Greens and dessert from Yogurtland. I brought it home and ate and read while David and the kids were at soccer practice.  
That was the exciting conclusion of my day off. This should prove to all that I am an introvert at heart no matter how much I talk!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Our New Year's Tea Party

I really don't like New Year's. At all.  I don't like to be around people, and I don't like staying up late.  I don't even like fireworks or loud noises.  So, it's really saying a lot to say that our New Year's celebration this year was the best ever!  David and I wanted to give our kids an experience gift for Christmas. We figure they really need time with us not more things.  The downside of an experience gift, though, is the price tag, especially for a family of seven!  So, we ended up gifting our kids a home-made tea party. Everyone played a part in the preparations: Mary and Maggie decorated the butterfly cookies; Matthew and Jonathan helped make heart sandwiches; Josiah supervised pretzel making; and David ooed and ahed at the appropriate moments! We got dressed up in fancy clothes, pulled out the fine china, and ate and drank to our belly's delight!  Below are some pictures of the celebration.  The kids enjoyed it so much that they have already requested this be a New Year's tradition, but I don't know...I'm kinda tired...
Everyone is eagerly anticipating the opening prayer!
Placemats made out of wrapping paper and aluminum foil!
The menu!
Pretty placecards illustrating our butterfly-heart theme!
The food: pretzels, heart-shaped ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes and butterfly cookies! 
The centerpiece: twigs with origami butterflies!
Lots of origami butterflies all over the table!
Jonathan is goofy as ever!
Maggie and her beautifully decorated butterfly!
Josiah ate his grapes first!  I would have started with the cookies!
Matthew sat Indian style the whole time!
Mary being such a fine lady!
Pictures of David and me are few and far between.