Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dish Towel Apron

Safety disclaimer: she's on the counter, but I never step away from being right in front of her so she won't fall!
Hadassah enjoys "helping" me with dishes (really, splashing in the water and looking at the soap bubbles on her hands!) and I enjoy having her with me when practical as I do chores, hoping to model for her work and encourage her to help. She loves when I let her do anything, putting her spoon in the drawer when I put silverware away, put the silverware on the table as I'm setting it, try to help me sweep the floor (this one gets tricky!) and hold the handle of the diaper pail as I carry it to and from the laundry room.

She went through a phase, though, where every time I let her do the dishes with me, she'd try to eat the soap bubbles. That combined with the fact that I don't use purified water to wash them made me stop. I tried her again recently and she enjoyed it and didn't keep tasting the soap, but her clothes would get all wet from her splashing and picking things up out of the water. It was inconvenient to change her clothes and it's cool enough I don't want to leave her wet. I tried putting a towel on her lap, but she'd immediately pull it off...

Enter the dish towel apron! I didn't have any thick, absorbent fabric on hand, and there's no local fabric stores that I know of. So, necessity is the mother of invention! A dish towel proved to be the perfect width and size for a toddler. I simply cut a whole in it, and used safety pins to bring it together under her arms. Soon I hope to finish the neck edge and sew on snaps to use instead of the pins, but I needed it in a hurry today. ;) It's not the prettiest thing around, and won't get her dry from all enthusiastic splashes, but it's worked well twice today!

I'm really loving the age she's at. It's hard to get stuff done, as she's SO curious about everything and has had more than a few tumbles and tears as she walks everywhere. But, she's getting to the golden age where she wants to help me cook! As I bake, she knows that when I fill a measuring cup or spoon, she can tip it over into the bowl. She tries to help me mix - and tries to stick her hands in the batter - but I love seeing her enthusiasm. Who cares if it takes longer... if it's something we can do together and I can teach her and accomplish something needed, I'm a fan!

We made The Best {No Sugar Added} Banana Muffins today. I've been wanting to cut back on sugar (trying to half the amount in recipes where I can, etc.), especially as Hadassah is eating pretty much what we do now. I was excited to find these - no sugar, no honey, no syrup, no applesauce - but I really didn't miss it. The banana gives it a naturally good flavor and they are delicious! We mixed them together before Hadassah's afternoon nap today, and when she woke they made a great snack for us both.

Thank you, Lord, for a daughter to train and work with...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Hadassah!

A very special girl turns 1 today - October 29th!

 In March I got this dress for free. Sized 18 months, I hoped it would fit Hadassah for her birthday pictures. It did. :) With the balloons on the front, I hoped to get balloons to take cute pictures like ones I'd seen on pictures. After many searches though, both online and walking by and in all the local shops, I couldn't find helium balloons for a good price. Some places delivered, but for more money than I was willing to pay.

But, God provides. I asked my neighbor if she knew where to get helium balloons, and she didn't, but said I could borrow these sticks with attachments to use with regular balloons. It wasn't my first choice, but it worked. Just took a LOT of tries to get a picture of Hadassah holding the balloon actually up in the air! ;)

 This little girl brings such light and joy into our lives...

 She's always on the go, walking and crawling everywhere, always ready to explore.

 I tell her she'll be a good mommy someday, as she takes such sweet care of her dollies

 She's learning to identify so many things, and will beep your nose if you ask her to!

 I never realized how much a name could warm my heart. But my little Hadassah girl does just that - her name is a reminder of all she is...

 She's cute and playful, with a different expression each second it seems...

 She loves flowers... every time we go outside she squirms until we smell the flowers, reminding me that it's good to take time for the little things.

 She's also curious about the way things work, and will take a flower apart if you leave her alone with it ;)

 Our little fall baby loves to explore and feel the many different textures in God's creation

 Her face lights up when she sees her daddy. He's the one she wants to find every morning after nursing, and she got so excited when he arrived for the end of our photo shoot!

 She's growing up... venturing out into the world. After a year where she had to have mommy to go anywhere... it's wonderful but also sometimes just a little hard to let her go...

 She's so cute and adorable and happy as a lark... most of the time. ;) Like anyone else, she has her moments too!

I am excited to see what God has for her future. It's so amazing to see the abilities and desires He's already given her, and we pray much for what the path ahead holds.

"If you take one more picture..."

We also know when she's had enough and it's time to be all done. ;)

A fun out-take from the photo shoot... she's still unsteady at times, so Daddy took good care of her, spotting her as she walked the path. We had no falls, thankfully! He then helped me edit the pictures to get such amazing photos for our memories.

Our baby has become a toddler.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A China 5K

Ryan has running in him. He ran cross country on his school's team growing up, but I never got to see him in a race. Until yesterday. :)

When I run, I hurt. When he runs, he gets an inordinate amount of happy endorphins that makes him love it.  Not that he doesn't hurt (he's sore today) but running just seems a part of his make up. Which is really cool. So, despite the fact that he hadn't run but a handful of times in the last month, he up and ran a 5k yesterday, and ran it super well!

 There was a huge 5k organized for companies to have employees run in. Ryan's work had 30 people representing them, and there was around 6,000 total people in the race!

 The race map

 It was a beautiful day for a run in the West Bund area near downtown Shanghai. Blue sky, cool and breezy but not too cold. Hadassah and I enjoyed walking along the river while we waited for things to start.

 The race started at 4:30 PM, and the sun was already starting to set! There isn't any time change here in China, so there will be a lot of dark late afternoons this winter!

 The little miss showed off her new walking skills...

 She was so proud of herself :)

 She's walking so steady now. Yesterday she just took off and has been walking everywhere. Including out of her room and around the corner to find me after finishing playing with some toys in there. So life is a little more dangerous now ;)

 But also full of such fun and sweetness!

 The race began! So many people went by, but I saw Ryan not too long after it started, trying to get around all the people in the way! 

(see if you can find him in the picture - it's hard!)

 The light was too pretty to not try and get a picture of her after we "all fell down" in ring-around-the-rosy

 There he is on the way back!

 There was some fun music playing, so Hadassah and I had a little dance and cheer going:
"Where's your daddy?
Let's go Daddy!
There's your Daddy!
Go go go go!" :)

 I liked the slogan for his company on the back of their shirts:
 "Elevating the Future of Flight"

We then went as close to the finish line as we could to see Ryan cross, and we were jamming out to the beat while we waited :) 

 He's running strong! I loved being able to see him do something he so enjoys!

 The finish line. Ryan clocked in at a time of 24:23 for a route that was a little over 5k in distance. He placed #76, which out of 6,000 people is pretty good, I'd say!

Together after the race. So happy to have experienced this with him! 

We also found a delicious, fairly priced Italian restaurant along the river afterwards. Italian has to be my favorite kind of restaurant and this one didn't let us down! Yum. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Joining the Body in Shanghai

Sunday morning. Our day starts early, as we prepare to get out the door by 7:30 AM. Some days, it works. We've packed the night before, everything goes smoothly, and we have time to spare. Other days - dare I say most days - it's a little more, well, rushed. Breakfast dishes stay on the table, we're printing chord sheets and stuffing food for Hadassah's lunch in the bag as we scramble into our shoes while Hadassah bangs on the door...

But it's worth it. This is what it takes for us to join Christ's body in Shanghai to worship together.

After the first few months of disappointing Sundays, not feeling at home where we were going, we were connected with an international, English-speaking church very similar to what we left in the states. Christ focused, cross centered, Bible believing, reformed, Baptistic, family friendly, Sovereign Grace and Getty singing... there are many great adjectives to describe our church, but that isn't what you think of when you gather with them. You see a group of people that love Jesus and love each other - and it shows.

From day one we felt at home, despite having just spent 1 hour and 40 minutes riding the subway. Last month we made it official, becoming members. One more step that made it clear that this city is home now...

We meet in a Sheraton hotel. Definitely the most posh place I've ever met in for church! This church started in a living room, but as it's grown to about 50 members with 30 children plus more visitors, they needed a larger place. ;) The children are another reason we felt right at home, especially coming from our previous church in Iowa, because there are a LOT of children, including at least 10 ages 2 or under!

Ryan intentionally seeks out people to talk to and works to learn their names. I get the "spark notes" from him later, as I'm usually busy walking Hadassah around (through Ryan is great to take turns!), because we've learned her coping mechanism for being over-tired (since her nap on Sunday morning is either quite short or non-existent) is to walk. So we walk the halls often, talking to people as we can. If I can get in a conversation, I'm often turning in circles are Hadassah runs around me holding onto one of my hands. ;) It can be exhausting, but often I'm grateful for the distraction and yet conversation starter my little one is, as I find it harder to get to know everyone new yet again. I'm working on it, though, and have been very blessed by a few ladies who take time to seek me out to talk to me and ask how I'm doing.

As we prepared to move over here, I prayed specifically that God would give us a church body in which Ryan could continue to use his gift of music. He often led worship in Iowa, and played guitar nearly every week. He was willing to let that go, but I knew how much he enjoyed that outlet. It didn't seem possible (most churches have their music people already) but God provided! The guy leading worship at our church is excited to have someone else to come alongside, play with, and have lead when he's traveling.

It means we take a taxi now, which takes us under half the time (just 45 minutes!). We'd already been taking a taxi back home, to get Hadassah a nap a little sooner, but the cost of it - the equivalent of $20 one way, verses just $1 for the metro - made it seem like too much of a luxury to do both ways. But with Ryan needing to get there early to practice, and the way it makes the long day easier on us all, plus the fact that this is our only weekly transportation expense... we gave in and enjoy our taxi rides. Hailing taxis, though, gives us interesting stories on their own! ;)

Almost everyone else lives very close to the church, meaning getting together during the week is pretty much impossible. We love to host friends in our home, so this has been one negative aspect. But, it frees us to use most of our "company time" to be with our neighbors and co-workers, and the warmth of people on Sundays has almost made up for it. We nearly always go out to eat with a group after church, after staying 30-45 minutes after the service to fellowship. Today our pastor's family had us over for lunch, providing a relaxing home and a pack 'n play for Hadassah to nap in. Last month the worship leader and his family had us over on Saturday for supper and to stay the night. Others have offered lunches and overnight accommodations. One lady even traveled the long distance by metro to our home - at 34 weeks pregnant none-the-less! - to bring us supper! So this seems to be a season more to receive than to give in terms of hospitality, though I try to bring something I've baked to give out when I can. :)

We're always tired by the time we get home in the mid afternoon. Take today for example : by 7 PM, both Hadassah and Ryan were asleep; she, because she skipper her morning nap, and only got 1 1/2 hours at best at someone else's house in the afternoon and he because he's had a long work week, catching up on missed hours while his parents were here. I'm up for a special skype session with the folks camping back home, but bed is definitely where I'd be otherwise! But, again, fellowship with the body of Christ is worth it. We are so grateful to have found that fellowship here, and to be still remembered and loved by the bodies we've been apart of in America.

Thank you, Lord. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More like home...

Last night we had our landlady, her son who was home visiting from college, and her friend that helped us a lot when we moved in over for dinner. They enjoyed the chicken tacos it seemed, but we got exclamations of how good the banana pudding was, so I'll have to remember that for future company. ;)

It was fun to get to talk more, now that we're not in the throes of coming off of scarlet fever and the craziness of moving overseas with a baby. We really enjoyed meeting them when we moved in, but we were also not quite "there." Now, I feel more relaxed, more able function. Still tired (but who isn't with an almost one year old?) but more energized.

While walking Hadassah to the fruit stand the other day, past the familiar shops, seeing the familiar faces of the shopkeepers, I realized this is truly feeling more like home. So when our sweet landlady asked if it was, I was able to say yes truthfully. Maybe it's because the different sites aren't that different to me now. Maybe it's because we recently had family in our home here. Maybe it's because I'm starting to understand a little more Chinese, and know enough to say a few things when out. Maybe it's because we've been here almost 5 months (really??). Regardless, I definitely count it as God's grace to rarely have days now where I just want to go back to the US. They still come - just not as often. Though when I think of so much of my family and friends going camping this weekend, it's hard not to want to be there. ;) But, this is our home. We don't know for how long, but it is for now. And we are blessed.

It is hard still. In many respects, it always will be, because this world isn't our ultimate home. Highs and lows seem built into life in this world, so I keep looking forward to the place where all of us who belong to Christ will be together, worshiping around the throne with every tribe and tongue and language and people... And we're praying that one day we'll see our Chinese friends there too.

Saying Goodbye

 The little model showing off her new outfit from her grandparents :)

 I think she knows she's cute ;)
We said goodbye on Wednesday after lunch. We walked them to the main road to catch a taxi, Hadassah gave them sloppy kisses, and we waved goodbye. On the way back, Hadassah fussed a little... kept saying "Gggg" which is the sound she uses in conjunction with them or their picture. I think she understood they were going. She's looked around for them some since then, too, often checking after her nap to see if it's just mommy here or if her fun playmates are around. The regulars in the square in our complex and at the vegetable stand also asked where her "Nainai" and "Yeye" were, so I had to tell them they'd gone home to America...

But, it's good to have life a little more back to normal. We LOVED having family here, but we also enjoy our little life with the three of us. Hadassah's getting back into our routine, "helping" mommy again with chores, and we're enjoying time together. I am missing the way the dishes almost instantly got washed and the laundry hung though. ;) Thanks again, Mel and Rhoda, for all of your amazing help and for how you blessed our family with your time here!

Rewards in Rutherford vs. Revelation and Romans

We're going to sing this verse on Sunday:

[a] The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom's face
[b] I will not gaze at glory,But on my King of Grace—
[c] Not at the crown He gifteth,
But on His piercèd hand:—
[d] The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel's land.

Definitely an interesting song.  What I'm having trouble with is the apparent contradiction between verset [b] and verset [d].  If the Lamb is all the glory [d], then how is it that we will not gaze at glory [b]?

A little background: this hymn was adapted from the letters of Samuel Rutherford (a Puritan active at the height of Puritanism) more than a century after he wrote his letters.  His letters are awesome.  And you definitely pick up this theme from his letters.  Take, for example, this quote:
[L]ove nothing for itself, but only God for Himself. Our love to Him should not begin on earth as it shall be in heaven; for the bride taketh not, by a thousand degrees, so much delight in her wedding garments as she does in her bridegroom; so we, in the life to come, howbeit clothed with glory as with a robe, shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the Bridegroom’s joyful face and presence. [1]
"Nay, whether God come to His children with a rod or a crown, if He come Himself with it, it is well. Welcome, welcome, Jesus, what way soever Thou come, if we can get a sight of Thee!"; "For there is nothing out of heaven so necessary for you as Christ"; "Lord, bear me witness, if my soul thirsteth for anything out of heaven, more than for your salvation."; "Nothing has a nearer resemblance to the color and hue and lustre of heaven than Christ loved. "
But this theme of there being all sorts of sub-Christ-ian glory around in the realm of heaven that we have to turn our gaze from seems to be pre-Edwardsian, doesn't it?  Yet it's obvious from verset [d] that Rutherford knows that there won't be any such glory.  So why is there this tension (apparent contradiction) in Rutherford's doxology of heaven?  The two themes are (1) the glory of Christ is the glory of heaven in its entirety, (2) men will have glory.

The glory of Christ
As for the first fact, what is its scriptural support?  Let's look in Revelation for that:  The fact is that since Lamb is the one supplying the light and glory, then:

"The eschatological Jerusalem and the temple within it will be illumined only by 'the glory of God' (21:11, 22). Then, as it reflects that glory (21:24) and so fulfils the prophetic vision (e.g. Is. 60:3, 5, 19-20), 'the glory and the honour of the nations will be brought into it' (Rev. 21:26)." [3]
In heaven, even our own glory will just be an extension of his glory.  Romans 8:18 says that "the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed to us."  Moo comments on this last phrase ("shall be revealed to us") by saying:

The dynamic meaning of αποχαλύπτω, combined with the fact that Paul does not noramlly use είς with the meaning of εν ("in"), suggests that we should probably not translate "to be revealed in us" (KJV, NIV...).  However, the main alternative translation, "to be revealed to us" (NRSV, NASB, TE), is not much better, for it suggests the idea, normally conveyed by the dative, that believers are simply the recipients of revelation (see, e.g., Matt. 16:17; 1 Cor. 2:10).  Paul's choice of είς (this is the only place in the NT where είς follows αποχαλύπτω) suggests that the glory reaches out and includes us in its scope (cf. Michel).  Perhaps the NEB captures it best: "which is in store for us".

The glory of men
But yet, there is a distinction made, isn't there?  There's no getting around the fact that we will be in heaven.  It won't just be Christ?  Why will we be there?  Is it wrong to look on others?  Why are we looking on others if we are in a state of glorifying God in the highest capacity possible?

John Piper sums this one up very nicely!

The reward to which we look as Christian Hedonists for all the good we are commanded to do is distilled for us in Romans 8:29: "THose whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, on order that he might be the firstborn among many brother." There are two goals of our predestination mentioned here: one highlighting our glory and one highlighting Christ's.
The first goal of our predestination is to be like Christ.  This includes new resurrection bodies of glory like His (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinithians 15:49).  But most importantly, it includes spiritual and moral qualities and capacities like Christ's (1 John 3:2-3).
The second and more ultimate goal of our predestination is "that Christ might be the firstborn among many brothers." In other words, God aims to surround His Son with living images of Himself so that the preeminent excellency of the original will shine the more brightly in His images.  The goals of predestination are (1) our delight in becoming holy as He is holy and (2) His delight in being exalted as preeminent over all in the midst of a transformed, joyful people. [4]
In other words, the scriptural reason for our glory is that it glorifies Christ even more! So our glory is not a bad thing.  It will just point all the more to Christ's glory.  So, in heaven, looking on the glory reflected from us will be a happy, wonderful thing.  So I don't think this is an "either or".  I think scripture presents it as a "both and."

I will not gaze at glory,     
But [and] on my King of Grace—

[1]  17 (VII. To LADY KENMURE) of CCEL's "A Selection from his Letters".

[2] Ibid.

[3] R.B. Gaffin, Jr., "Glory", New Dictionary of Biblical Theology

[4] Desiring God, the 2003 copy, p. 137-8

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1st Birthday Party for our Hadassah Daisy!

Hadassah will turn 1 on October 29th... seems crazy because the year has gone by SO fast! But because Ryan's parents leave tomorrow, we thought we would celebrate a little early.

Best decision ever, because I think grandparents must be THE key to party success. They brought things I ordered and sent to their house, bought even more party decorations, spent 2 hours on Sunday afternoon helping us assemble and hang the decorations, and then helped me all day Monday while Ryan was at work!

Pinterest gave the ideas, which turned out even better than I had hoped! I try not to spend a lot of time on pinterest, but it is definitely a very helpful site when planning parties!

The whole spread - simple, cheap, easy to feed many people, and fun!

We had cauliflower soup, tomato basil soup (with parmesan cheese and homemade croutons), flower pb&j sandwiches, and flower fruit and veggies.

Rhoda probably did 6 loads of dishes that day... I kept messing up the kitchen cooking and she kept cleaning it up so wonderfully!

Not one to venture into cake decorating yet, I wanted something cute and simple, and this was it! Delicious vanilla cupcakes with natural food coloring - tumeric for yellow, strawberries for pink, and spinach for green - easy and delicious!

Ryan brought Hadassah her first flowers. :) Fitting too, as we call her our 'Dassah Daisy, as she brings such joy and brightness to our lives!

 Ryan was amazing making at least half of the cupcake liner flowers for the lights!


Flowers were blooming everywhere in the house! So much fun. :)

 The little miss was so ready to eat!

 We invited our neighbors and some co-workers of Ryan. Both families had little boys that Hadassah likes. She was SO excited to see everyone! :)

 One little candle...

 She was so dainty, lightly touching the frosting, then not sure what to do with it ;)

 But she tasted it and liked it, though after a few bites was all done :)

 Hadassah was tired from not napping that afternoon (due to teething or too much stimulation or something!) so was a little dazed during all the presents. Her mouth kept opening in an "oh" when she'd see something else, but she kept playing with her first gift, plastic velcro food, despite all the others Daddy opened. ;) We joked that she probably thought she was dreaming!

 My parents skyped in from Alabama, waking up at 5:15 AM their time to join the fun. It was really special to have them be a part of it too.

 All of the kids enjoyed the favorite toy!

 We love her.

 They do too!

 Finishing the night with a song :)

 Our 'Dassah and her daisies!

We're still enjoying the beauty, and I plan to re-use it all... the decorations are perfect for brightening Hadassah's room year round. :) So maybe I went a little overboard for a baby's first party, but I just had too much fun decorating, and could only have done it with all the help I had. :) Making paper flowers is more addicting than you'd know!