Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the Midst

We are in the midst of a wonderful visit from my mother-in-law! So wonderful, in fact, that we've been really busy and I haven't taken any time to blog! So here is a VERY brief update of what we've been up to . . .

One big highlight of this visit is being a part of this country's national games. They are being hosted, for the first time, in our city, and the excitement level around town has been high, with pictures, posters, and enormous screens set up around town with live coverage of sporting events. So far we've attended the opening ceremonies (quite the experience, I have some great pictures to share!), a baseball game, an equestrian event (the first time I've ever been to a sporting event where you have to be sh-h-h-h-h quiet!) and a morning of track and field which included the men's and women's 800, the men's shotput, and the conclusion of the 50 kilometer walk. Wowza!

We've also been making the rounds to some of our local parks and have seen some beautiful sights, as well as getting our pictures taken by about 1,749 people. Argh. That's a story for another time.

The girls have really enjoyed having Grandma around, she loves to read books to them and they love it too! Dr. Seuss is a real favorite!

And then there's pictures! There are already 300 "keeper" picture's from Ann's trip and just last night, John finished going through our personal pictures of the last few years, selecting the good ones to print for Ann. That group numbers in the 700s! So she will not have any shortage of photo documentation of our family from the last few years! We've had fun with our camera, getting some great shots as we've been out and about. Pictures are such a fun way to remember her visit and cement the memories in the girls' minds!

Then there's been shopping. Ann had quite the list of gifts she wanted to bring back home and so we've had some big shopping trips to find souvenirs. We've found some fun things!

And on the days John has gone to work, we've been going out for walks, drinking coffee, and doing other "girlie" things like foot massages, chocolate cake, getting our nails done, and watching Pride and Prejudice. It's been really fun!

So, I have lots and lots of pictures to share, and more stories too, but for now, we're off to have some more fun together! We have to make the most of our time since we leave on Saturday to go back to the capital city and then my mother-in-law will leave early Sunday morning. Only a few days left . . . the three week visit is flying by!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THIS is what you say

Tonight I want to share with you something that my mom wrote to me after my recent miscarriage. After a loss like that, many people are not sure what to say, and sometimes, afraid to offend, don't say anything. But I can testify that after experiencing the loss of my brother to cancer, and then the loss of this baby, it truly IS comforting when people say something as simple as "I'm so sorry for your loss."

And thankfully, many people expressed their support and love for me and our family through words like that. I received notes of encouragement, offers of childcare, prayers on my behalf, and lots of expressions of support that all helped me to process things and think through my grief in a healthy way. But I want to highlight this note from my mom because it ministered to me so deeply and encouraged me so greatly and, well, it's from my mom, who loves me and understands me and labored to give birth to (11 pound, 1 ounce) me. (yikes!)

I had written to my parents and told them what was happening, and that I was doing ok, but "sad." Here is what my mom wrote in response:

"Dear Rachel and family,
We are sad, too, but know that God's plan is perfect, although beyond our understanding, and we know that He will always care for us and even our tiny babies. I hope that the weekend's activities can go on without you, for you will certainly need to rest and have some quiet time alone. We will pray for your health and that you will not need to go back to the doctor. . . Some of my friends are praying for you all, too. God is always good, and He will carry you through this time. (Easier for me to say, since I have never experienced what you are going through . . . but still, I believe.) You can find joy in loving the precious girls you have birthed and who are so special in every way. We wish we could be there with you, but know John and your very good friends will lift you up. Take some time for extra hugs! Until later, Love, Mom."

In those few short lines, my mom affirmed her love for me, her faith in God, and encouraged my faith in Him too. The Lord used her words to comfort me again and again, so much so that I just had to share them with you.

May I encourage you to share some gospel-affirming, life-giving words to someone hurting today? Is there someone in your life struggling with something you empathize with, but don't quite understand? Ask the Lord for his wisdom and then step out to share. Don't be intimidated by another's difficulty and "not knowing what to say." The Lord will guide you, and your hearer will be blessed by your care and concern, even if you feel your words are not profound. Let His spirit help you choose gracious, caring words to bring comfort to someone else's soul today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counting my blessings

It's a sunny, clear, crisp Saturday in October. What could be better? How about . . .

Having my mother-in-law here and seeing the girls love and enjoy her . . .

Hearing my girls sing to themselves about Jesus as they color princess pictures . . .

Wearing lovely new pearls (freshwater) that my husband sweetly gave me as a completely unnecessary, absolutely unneeded but dearly adored gift . . .

Fresh cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast with strong, hot coffee . . .

Being able to attend the opening ceremonies of this country's National Games last night, quite the spectacle of lights, music, fireworks, acrobatics, and artistry . . .

Lovely, delicate "Dianna" roses for the center of my dining room table that only cost about $3 . . .

Christin taking a three hour nap . . .

Leftovers for supper (no cooking needed!) with a delicious spice cake to follow . . .

A quiet Saturday to reflect on His grace, read more of His word, and enjoy more of His presence.

Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

As Requested (almost forgot)

I almost forgot to post the request for the cream soup substitute! Here it is--it works wonderfully.

2 cups non-fat dry milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup low sodium chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

To use, mix 1/3 cup of the powdered mixture with 1 1/4 cups water. This equals one can of soup. I love this blend because it is more deeply seasoned than the canned stuff, with less salt too. If you are concerned about consistency, you can also heat the 1 1/4 cups water in a small saucepan, add the powder and cook until thickened. But in most recipes you can just add the powder with the other dry ingredients and the water with the other wet ingredients, cooking it together later.


A Very Special Guest

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we will travel to the capital city to pick up my mother-in-law, who is coming for a visit! We are so excited!

It seems like the plans for this trip have been in the works for ages, but suddenly, the time has arrived! We are so thankful that Ann was willing to travel by herself across the ocean in order to see us. (Ann has been widowed since 1994). The girls are super excited for Grandma Ann to be here, and have been busy coloring pictures and choosing books for Grandma's bedside table. We are moving Christin in with the big girls for the duration of the visit so that Ann can have her own room.

I am so thankful that none of the standard mother-in-law jokes apply to me. I have always appreciated my mother-in-law, Ann, and I feel like we have an open and enjoyable relationship. She has been an encouragement to me on many occasions and I know is faithful in prayer for our family. Shortly after John and I were married, she even lived with us for about a year! We got along wonderfully then (of course it helped that when I would come home from a long day of school/work she would have the house tidy and some supper ready, who wouldn't love that!) and so I am really looking forward to spending these three weeks with her.

Most of all, I am looking forward to giving her time to interact with the girls and love on them. One of the hardest things about living here is keeping my children away from their grandparents. We try to keep in touch through phone calls, emails, webcam, etc, but Ann has had some trouble with the technological side of things so our contact with her has been more limited than with my parents. So I hope this visit will go a long ways to establishing some great relationships with the girls and making lots of memories.

We have some fun things planned, including the opening ceremonies of this country's national games, which are being held in our city with other events around the province. For several years now, we've noticed serious efforts at giving our city a "face lift"--improving the looks of existing buildings, tearing down old buildings, putting up newer, nicer cosmetic touches--it's a fine time for Ann to be visiting! The lake in the center of the city has a newly-opened, expanded section which makes the lake park almost double in size. It's lovely! All of this was ostensibly for the national games, but hopefully we'll be able to appreciate the benefits for the years to come.

The national games have their opening ceremony on the 17th, and we managed to get some tickets! That will be an experience! We hope to attend a few of the sporting events as well. Though, strangely enough, some of the events are already complete--before the games have officially started! Gymnastics is one of them, too bad. We hope to see a baseball game and maybe some equestrian events.

So, our very special guest will be leaving in a few hours from America. She has said that she was a bit nervous about flying alone--getting to where she needs to be, not getting lost or late or on the wrong plane. We offered our reassurances but I think she was still a bit nervous. We'll be praying her over! Welcome, Grandma Ann! We're excited that you're coming to visit!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Creamy Italian Chicken

Tonight for supper we enjoyed the leftovers from a meal I had served to guests last week. It is a recipe from my friend Amy, whose husband absolutely loves Italian dressing in any form. This meal is so easy, so yummy, and so wonderful--you should try it tonight! The only downside is that is uses some imported ingredients, so I save it for guests or special occasions. Made in the crockpot, it is easy to serve and stays hot so that your guests can enjoy seconds as well.

Creamy Italian Chicken
1 packet dry Italian seasoning
1/4 cup water
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup
8 oz cream cheese, softened
Sliced fresh mushrooms or diced red bell pepper, optional

Place chicken breasts in your crock-pot. Combine the Italian dressing mix and water, pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Then, beat together the cream cheese and cream soup. Pour it over the chicken and cook on high for one more hour. Add mushrooms or chopped bell pepper for the last hour of cooking, if desired.

Serve over rice with broccoli or another green vegetable and you've got supper! Enjoy!

[For my other living-in-Asia friends, I use a homemade mixture to substitute for the canned cream soup--it uses dry milk, cornstarch, chicken bouillon and some other spices. Leave a comment if you'd like me to post that recipe as well! It makes this recipe a little less extravagant in the use of imported ingredients.]

Sunday, October 04, 2009

High Stylin' Girl

Have I ever mentioned that I have a bunch of girly girls?

The littlest girl is no exception. Christin is particularly fascinated with shoes of any kind, wanting to try them on and clunk around the house. Usually this gets her in trouble as most of our shoes are "outside" shoes and we don't wear in the house. Trust me, the streets of this enormous city are DIRTY. They may be free of trash (or not), they may even have pretty flowers along the sides, but they are dirty with many no-need-to-mention substances, so we change our shoes upon coming in the house. Plus, it's just more comfortable and cozy to slip out of shoes and put on slippers, Mr. Roger's style.

However, happily for Christin, there is another category of shoes. . . the dress-up shoe. The girls have several pairs of "glass slippers" (actually cheap "jelly" shoes that have come back in from when I was a kid!) and also this one pair of highly coveted high heeled beauties. Just take a look. Can you see them? Let's look a little closer.
And closer still . . . (don't you love her tights? Adorable!)
Ah, yes, there they are. A gift to Chloe from her friend Samantha, these shoes are worn by some child every day for a period of time in our house. At first I thought Christin, still really a toddler, wouldn't be able to master them, but her love for shoes has overcome the slight difficulty of balancing on high heels. She walks like a pro in them! Clunk, clunk, clunk on the hardwood floors. Check out those heels, they're even clear like real glass slippers!

There's a tough decision--to pick up the toy or the shoes? The shoes of course!

A few days later we had come in from playing outside and I took Christin's outfit off because it had gotten dirty. That didn't stop her from finding her favorite shoes and modeling them for us, oh so stylishly, with her diaper, though! Silly girl!

Hey, is somebody in there? (Knocking on the front bathroom door.) Come and look at my shoes!

Niiiiice, Christin. Real niiice. That diaper sag goes so well with the heels!
What can we say, she's a high stylin' girl!

In the Meantime...

In the past few weeks, while my heart and body have been recovering from the loss of our fourth child, life has gone on. And that's a good thing. I have many wonderful reasons to get up in the morning, and here are three of them:

I think this whole experience has given me a deeper love and more tender feelings for my three precious daughters. More patient to bear with their foibles, more loving towards their needs, more kind to listen to their stories, and more intentional to teach them and train them rightly. I am so blessed to have Clara Anne Danielle, Chloe Rachelle, and Christin Arielle in my life. What a gift from God!
So as life has been going on, our time together as a family has been that much sweeter. Here's a few funny pictures to share. In this one, the girls had just gotten new jammies, thanks to a package from our sweet friends Karl and Chris. Yes, Chloe is wearing a bubble wrap bonnet! Clara Anne thought she'd try the layered look--the green jammy shirt goes with another pair of shorts with the design that Chloe's wearing (now affectionately known as the "cars" jammies), and then the "ice cream" jammies are on top. Blue is Clara Anne's favorite color! She loves these jammies!

Not content to pull silly faces, Chloe thought she'd WEAR a silly face. We picked this up at Toys'RUs in Hong Kong and John wears it on family game nights. It's guaranteed to get a laugh!

And here's those jammies doing what they were intended for . . . keeping little girls warm and snuggly, even after they're officially supposed to be up in the morning. A few extra minutes snuggling in Daddy's arms made for some more silly faces!
And finally, here's a picture from the other day. Clara Anne was having her rest time on the couch, curled up with . . . hmmm, is that Shakespeare? Yes, indeed it is! It's a cartoon-style book that has a brief synopsis of many of Shakespeare's stories. Looks like it put her right to sleep!
So, in the meantime, life has gone on. The Lord is still faithful, my days are still full, and I've been given a sense of renewed thankfulness for all that I've been blessed with. I'm especially thankful for your prayers. I know that many of you have lifted us up faithfully; thank you for that. We really do appreciate it, and I feel like my heart has healed so well as a result. Psalm 34 has been a real encouragement this week. . . it's worth some dedicated time of meditation! Here's a snippet:
"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord,
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together."
Psalm 34:1-3