Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Capsule

Here are some random thoughts floating around this Christmas. I am recording them as a verbal time capsule, so I can look back many Christmases from now and reminisce about these little years.

1. Christmas is perfectly and wonderfully mundane this year. And it's nice. Our celebration awaits us next week when the family comes together. Our Christmas Eve activities included soothing a crying baby and nursing a lot -- hey, that's probably what Mary did! I am happy to announce that our babies have at least one thing in common -- they are both humans.

2. What I consider a monumental feat at this stage in life: Having empty laundry baskets and shiny sinks at the same time. Monumental? Yes. Worthy of my pursuit? No, not really. There are greater mountains, more important ones, to climb.

3. Something incredible: I have a husband who does not complain about his empty sock drawer. What is even more incredible -- that he married me in the first place. Being so systematic and organized, he probably would not have married me if he knew the acuteness of my non-systematic nature. I knew he was a kind and compassionate man, but I was not aware of just how kind and how compassionate.

4. Herod's soldiers killed all boys ages two and under in Bethlehem. Emeth and Yohanan are two and under.

5. Yohanan recently developed so much in his awareness and curiosity for his surrounding. I find him so funny nowadays. Having number two is like watching my favorite movie all over again. Except this time, I notice the subtle humors and not worry too much about the story line. The best part? The ending is still a mystery to me.

6. The son of our university's president died of a rare strand of the flu yesterday. A sudden heart attack, they say. He left behind his wife and two very young sons.

7. I've been fighting a cold and an awful cough. The best thing about this cold is that I don't have to hold my breath while changing Emeth's diapers. An incredible gift. I better appreciate it while it lasts. And yes, I am that plugged up.

8. I had a hard time hearing today, an added bonus of this cold. I could hear Yohanan's screaming just fine though. Along with his curiosity and motor skills, his will to fight off sleep also had a huge growth spurt.

9. My right hand gloves for washing dishes tend to get ruined within a couple of weeks. I have a collection of left hand gloves in good condition. I used two left hand gloves to wash the dishes tonight. One was blue and the other was yellow. The world did not end, and my hands stayed dry. A Christmas miracle.

10. Dear future Me, I made a batch of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies tonight and I think you should make some too. Remember to brown the butter, they are crispier that way. Also, I hope that you still get to kiss the boys' cheeks as much as I do. Their cheeks are the most lovely and soft in all the world. Perhaps nights are silent where you are, they most certainly are not where I am. I am guessing though, the first Christmas was more like mine and less like yours.

The kettle is whistling. Good things await.
Merry Christmas, dear friends.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Watery Grave

Hans lowered me into my watery grave today.
I proclaimed my death. I was buried, and I was raised.
Among God's people, I declared my testimony:

It was Easter Day 1982. Among a congregation in Indonesia, my parents brought me before the Lord in baptism. I was around Yohanan's age, about five or six months-old. They offered me to the Lord in faith and according to their conviction. This was their love for me.

As I was growing up, Pa and Ma continually taught me the way of the Lord. They reminded me daily that my life belonged to God, and that Jesus is always near. They taught me to treasure the Word of God. Christ was the foundation of our home, I never doubted this. I stand here today, because of my Papa and my Mama. I am who I am because of their labor and their love.

When I was around 14, I was slowly awaken and made alive in Christ. His Spirit became real to my young mind. I realized the evil that was in my heart, and asked for his blood to wash away my sins. My sister Jean told me that for the first time in her life, I treated her like a sister -- I was actually nice to her. Ouch.

On Easter Day 1995, I underwent confirmation and began partaking the Holy Communion. I looked forward to this every month. This, too, was precious to me.

Six years ago, in 2004, after many months of studying the Scripture, I came to a different understanding of baptism. I came to believe that baptism is a believer's proclamation of repentance--a turning away from the world--toward faith and obedience to Christ. In baptism, the believer identifies with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Thus, immersion, the dipping of the entire body in water, is our public proclamation of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

What immediately follows is this: I realized that I have not been baptized. I was not a believer during my infant baptism.

That was six years ago.

Accepting the truth that I was not baptized was most difficult, most painful for me. If I indeed believe that I have not been baptized, then I should, right? Because God commands it in his Word. But for a long, long time, I could not bring myself to do this.

Surely, the Lord would understand how difficult this is for me. Surely, he would make an exception for this disobedience. So I brushed the thought aside; I hid it under the carpet, hoping that no one would ask, no one would notice.

This act of my parents, bringing me before the Lord in baptism left a deep impression, a lasting mark on me. It was a sign of God's faithfulness and my salvation. It was my parents gift to me; it signified their promise to bring me up in the way of the Lord. These things were precious to me and I did not want to let them go. These things were more dear to me than my immediate obedience.

I felt like a man who was given a gem. It was blue and it was gleaming. He thought was a sapphire. He placed it in his treasure chest, loved it, and admired it for many years. Years later, he finds out that it was not sapphire after all.

When someone first proposed that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe, I am like the people who refused reason and rejected all evidence.

Admitting that I have been wrong was hard; changing was even harder.

During this Christmas season, I think of Mary and Joseph, Peter and John, and the first disciples, even the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus' day. Each had their own conception of a Messiah -- how he would look like, the way their savior would come, how their King would deliver them. No one imagined God as a helpless baby among sheep and goats. No, not a God-man crucified among criminals.

To have faith was to first admit that they were wrong, that they did not have the right understanding; and to believe the words of Christ, that he was indeed God in human flesh.

The Lord is kind and patient. He is a merciful God. He is gentle in the discipline of his children. So very gentle.

I was wrong. So the gem was not sapphire. And that's OK, because the light it reflects is still true and still real. It is still blue, gleaming and unchanged. The Earth was neither flat nor were we at center of the universe. And that's OK, because the sun rises every morning, and the God who made the stars is unchanging.

What my parents gave me was not baptism, but this does not change their gift to me -- the knowledge of the one true God, and he is real.

He remains the same -- every Easter, every Christmas.
My life has never been my own, because He has always been my Creator.
I now belong to Christ. I now bear the mark of his death, burial, and resurrection.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Somebody at the Door

The boys and I were playing at the table this evening. Out of the blue, Emeth pointed at the door and in his urgent voice, he said, "Jesus knocking!" My mind was scrambling, thinking about how I should respond. He interrupted my thoughts and cried again, his finger still pointing, "Somebody knocking! Jesus! Mommy open door!"

"Mommy should get the door?" I asked. He nodded furiously. "Jesus is at the door?" I asked again, just to make sure I understood him. He nodded again.

I know this is silly, but fear shot through my heart. I was afraid to open the door. Afraid that I would find Jesus standing there, staring back at me.

I couldn't do this by myself.

So I knocked on Hans' door. He was in the room studying at the time. "Honey! Jesus is knocking at the door!"

Hans, my dear, sweet husband, rushed out and headed for the door, "Well, why is Jesus standing outside? Let him in!"

He opened the door.

Hans preached a sobering sermon last Sunday. Most of the time, he said, we live for the things of this world as though they are real -- wealth, stuffs, beauty, recognition, respect, the attention and affection of others, even the comfort and health of our earthly bodies.

We worry, we labor, we love, we hang onto them for life. But these things are imaginary. They are fleeting. They are not real. They will not matter.

Yet, towards the One who is real, we speak and act as though he is -- imaginary.

The hallway was empty.

"Where did Jesus go?" Emeth asked, disappointed. I was a little sad too, I think. I was half expecting Jesus to be there. Hans replied, "Jesus is here, sweetie, he is always here. Jesus is in mommy and daddy, and someday, we hope Jesus will be in you and Hanan."

Emeth pulled up his shirt and stared into his belly button for a while.

Hello, Lord.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On patience, or the lack of it

For as long as I can remember, Ma reprimanded me for being too slow. "A little faster, Ling. A little faster," she would say. All my life, I've been trying to catch up to the next big thing. Somehow, I missed Ma's lesson on how to be patient. She must have known much about being patient having to raise four girls. Four!

This flaw of mine has been haunting me lately, as it is becoming painfully obvious. "Be patient," I would tell myself while grinding my teeth, "be kind."  Yet, something tells me that merely keeping myself from boiling over is not being patient.

Self-discovery has not been flattering. My sweet children, who bring me worlds of joy and delight, helped me discover a tyrant in me. I did not see this coming.

Hello, meet Mommy the Dictator.
You. Must. Obey.
Like all other dictators before me, I want control.

Wait, I thought parents are suppose to control their children? That's good parenting, right? Producing unfussy babies who eat in three-hour-intervals and sleep through the night at two-weeks old? Well-behaved children who obey my every command and say please and thank you? Who eat organic food and are always bacteria-free?

Where did you get that?
Um. Books?
What books?
Parenting books. Bestsellers... And the internet.
Wait, doesn't the Bible say that I should know how to control my children?
Actually,... no.
So, am I suppose to just let them run wild?
Um... no. But it has plenty to say about teaching the them to love the Lord, and love others. And that includes being patient and kind.


I am seeing a pattern within my heart. The more I want control, the less patience I have, the less kind I become.

This was why, perhaps, the newborn stage with Emeth seemed so difficult. For the first time in life, we had to take care of this little person who belonged to himself, with his own desires and will, and who did not speak English, yet. Also, perhaps this was why Yohanan felt easier as a newborn, because I learned that toddlers are even harder to control. And it was helpful that Emeth taught me some babies do not eat at three-hour-intervals.

So, perhaps, this is the first thing I need to learn.

I have no control.
None of the kind that lasts anyway.
I cannot cause them to grow anymore than I was able to cause them to grow in my womb.
So I made him say sorry, or I trained him to sleep through the night, etc.
So what? I am not able to change their hearts.
I have no control over my children, my husband, or whether I will be alive tomorrow. And I should be grateful that it is not up to me.

We are merely keepers, in our Savior's Garden.
We name, we plant, and we water. We must.
We pull weeds, we prune, and we build trellises for our precious vines.

He is their Creator.
He is their Redeemer.
He causes them to grow and bear fruits.

And so I wait and I watch,
Cry a little and laugh a lot.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Nose and an Old Song

When Emeth was a baby, we were very, very careful about germs. I remember his grandfather wore a mask during one of his visits for fear of passing his cold to his precious grandson. And we appreciated his effort.

We've been fighting at least two or three strands of viruses in our household for the past two months. Yohanan does not have the luxury that his brother once had. Emeth has no restrain sneezing and coughing into his brother's face. Not on purpose, of course, but he is after all a two-year-old with limited hand-to-mouth coordination.

After withstanding several rounds of colds and coughs (yay for mommy's milk!), Yohanan finally caught something two weeks ago. His poor little nose. Oh, and he is teething too.

He was sitting on Hans' lap earlier today and within a few minutes, Hans was wet with drool and snot. Hans, who comes up with rhymes of all sorts, said in response:
One nose to spray them all,
One nose to goober them,
One nose to sneeze on them all,
And in darkness slime them.
This reminds me of the song we made up for Emeth a long, long time ago.
OK, it seems like it was a long time ago.
I am ten months going on eleven months,
I know that I'm naive.
People I meet may tell me I'm sweet,
And willingly I believe.

I am ten months going on eleven months,
Curious as a bee.
Sharpness of metals, heat of the kettle,
What do I know of these.

Generous with my smiles am I
To face my world of fans,
Whimpering, crying, and sad am I
When I am left alone in my playpen.

I need someone bigger and taller,
Play with me, change me, feed me.
You look like a pretty friendly person,
Would you please take care of me?