How Relationship Strengths Relate to our Relationship with God

We each relate to others differently. Maybe you love thoughtful conversations. Maybe you are good at figuring out what other people are thinking or what they want. Maybe you don’t talk much to others, but communicate through actions.

I’m laying this out to make a point. Whatever your strengths in relating to people, they were given to you by God. But here’s the thing: we can use them not only to understand and know people better, but also to know God better.

If you are great at picking up what people want or are feeling, are you as sensitively attuned to what God wants? Or would it take a burning bush for Him to get your attention?

If you can dive into a deep topic of conversation, is your prayer life equally thoughtful? Or is it filled with pleasantries, stand-by phrases, and platonic statements?

If you are great at doing things for others, do you put effort into doing things for God? Or are the things you do for Him rushed and incomplete?

Whatever your strengths in relationships, apply them to your relationship with God. Interestingly, when we choose to pursue God in this way and in others, we find that He is actually easier to get to know than people are. (Understanding Him is a different matter . . . He is transcendent, after all.) Unlike people, God never conceals His nature or will from us. He revealed Himself to us and wants us to keep learning more about Him. He gave you these strengths so you could deepen relationships. Use them to deepen your relationship with God.

Winter Memories

Since moving back to sunny South Texas, we haven’t had much in the way of cold weather.  The winter temperatures here are mild, the wind-chill factor unimpressive.  While temperatures like this are certainly far more comfortable than the frigid air of a Beijing winter, Gloria and I were reminiscing happily about the fun we used to have playing in the ice and snow.  Remembering it was such fun that I decided to post it here, on my seldom-used blog.

We lived next to a river in China.  The river was pretty gross normally, but when it snowed it looked beautiful.

We built this snowman right after moving to China, during our first week there.  It was the first time any of us Texas-born kids had seen snow!  (Except for Peter, who went on a trip to Maine with Mommy and Daddy when he was a toddler.)

The picture actually doesn’t show all of the kids who built the snowman.  This was only some of us.  Snowman building is a team effort!  (Especially if you want the snowman to be taller than you, because that bottom ball cannot be moved by only one person.)

Snow-fort building is a team effort, too.  Unfortunately, only one person can get in it at a time — unless you want to get really serious about dragging snow from all over the place to the building site.  This was in 2012.

What do you do when you’ve heard about how sledding is so much fun and want to try it, but lack a snow-covered slope and a sled?  Why, you make use of an old metal dustpan and the ice-covered parking lot, of course!

All snow must be played in, of course, but powder snow doesn’t pack well (unless you have some slush handy, as Elisabeth and I figured out…).  What could you do with it then?

My guess is that you wouldn’t have thought of what the boys did …neither did I… but their solution took the form of a miniature golf course.

And finally, sometimes in the winter we would get to go chair skating on a frozen lake in Houhai.

You could ice skate too, but usually only Gloria did that.  Chairs were more fun anyway.

There are lots more winter memories, but I’ll leave you with these.  Which is your favorite?

Entering the World of Chicken-Keeping: Part 2

In the post prior to this one, I promised a part 2 that would be posted “soon”.

Clearly I have a heavily flawed definition of “soon”.

In fact, my definition of “soon” is so flawed that I have waited for months to even begin writing this post.  It’s a little shameful to admit.  Not to mention, this post was supposed to track our chicken’s development from where I left off in the last post until the present.  But as present became ever-farther from the date of my last post, and young chickens continued to grow, I hadn’t a single picture on my camera that accurately depicted how the chickens really look in the present.  This lead to me having to take more pictures, which meant more photo editing and uploading, which means posting would take too long, which means I continued to procrastinate.  Yup, just a little bit shameful to admit.

Anyway, long-awaited as this post has been, I figure I should stop apologizing and start updating!  So, where was I after last post?

Ah yes, the chickens had just moved into their coop permanently.  Well, here’s a picture of them when they first did that:

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a picture of them now!

Clearly, they haven’t been wasting any time growing into their adult feathers, or growing up in general.  Also, we’ve officially confirmed that all of them are hens!  This is great news for us, because roosters are not ideal neighborhood pets… for obvious reasons.  A hen can and will lay eggs without having a rooster around, so we were delighted to learn that all the six chickens we bought would grow up into egg-laying, non-crowing hens.

They’re not quite there yet, though.  In the mean time, it’s lots of fun to watch them grow.  Wanna see some more pictures?

This is Autumn, an Easter Egger chicken named by Gloria.

This is Merry Poppins, a Barred Rock pullet that Mommy named:

Nellie, our other Easter Egger, was named by John.  Don’t you love her bright orange feathers?

This is Mumthers, a Buff Orpington pullet.  Daniel named her after a character in a book who could cook anything, and make it beyond delicious.  He reasoned that with a namesake like that, his hen would lay the most delicious eggs of any of them!  So far, she seems to be pretty food-savvy; she sticks around us even when the other chickens are off playing, hoping to get treats!

Sunshine, also a Buff Orpington pullet, was named by Daddy and looks a great deal like Mumthers.  Her feathers are a slightly lighter hue, pretty much the only indicator we can use to tell them apart.

And finally, this is my hen, Bobbles.  She, like Merry Poppins, is a Barred Rock pullet.  She’s also a big eater and the fattest hen of the bunch!

Having chickens has been a blast so far.  And now, having fulfilled my blog-posting duties, I’m heading outside to go feed them!

Edit: I wrote this post a long time ago and only just now bothered to post it, so the chickens are actually even bigger than you can see from here.

Gloria Broke Her Finger…

Yup, you read that right.  Gloria has officially become the first person ever in our family to break a bone.  Although that’s not typically the type of record that you want to set, doesn’t she look proud of her cast?

So, how did she break it?  That’s actually kind of interesting; it appears that she was playing outside with Daniel.  They had been pretending to be Indians, and were hunting while acting as animals, in order to get the animal powers (I’ve no clue where they came up with that!).  While pretending to be a lion, crawling on all fours, she stepped on her hand — resulting in a broken index finger.

She says that it doesn’t hurt anymore, which is good.  The cast will probably be taken off in a couple of weeks, and until then, she doesn’t seem to mind not having to wash her hand, not having to practice piano, getting helped with everything, and being allowed extra-large helpings of dessert.  Yeah, I’m sure she’ll be just fine.

Entering the World of Chicken-Keeping: Part 1

As of 5 weeks ago, we have some new pets.  (And they are most definitely pets, not future dinner!)  We have entered the world of backyard chicken keeping, and are enjoying it immensely.

Our chicks are growing up quickly, and due to posting-lack-of-frequency, I’ll only show you their first days here.  For bigger chicks, more recent pictures, or simply a continuation of their overwhelmingly adorable cute-ness, check out Part 2!

Our chicks started their life in a hatchery in Ohio, and spent their first day traveling the 1,000 something miles between there and Texas.  While they made the journey, we waited anxiously at home for our very own “peeping package”.  Though we were worried that they might not make survive the trip, every one arrived alive and healthy,  and were soon introduced to the brooder; a strange, newspaper filled place that was to be their home for the next 3 weeks.

First came a drink of water…

…then their first taste of food…

…and finally, some cuddles.

Also, a great deal of sleeping, which I didn’t take a picture of.  After eating, sleeping, drinking, and being cuddled for three days, the chicks were ready for some adventure!  After all, they had crossed the country during their first day of life, and though the brooder and its heat lamp were more comfortable than that journey, they were not nearly so exciting.  Mumthers, a little yellow chick named by Daniel,  thought that maybe we would let her out if she gave us her “cute face”:

And she also tried to get all the others to join in!

We understood what it was like to have cabin-fever, and accordingly introduced them to a gigantic place called “backyard”.  Though they weren’t too sure about it at first, the bolder ones soon took a liking to it, and helped their friends to overcome their fears.  It wasn’t long before some of then began to enjoy sitting on the grass, taking a dust bath, or scratching at the ground.

After 3 pleasant weeks, they moved into their permanent coop and run.  How did they adjust?  Take a look at Part 2 to find out, coming soon!

In the Treetops

Do you remember the tree I mentioned in this post here?  Well, those guys have improved on their climbing skills since then, and have reached the treetops!

The branches aren’t as thick up here!

They weren’t the only ones, however.  Upon reaching those lofty heights, they discovered that something else — something creepy — had made it there before them.

A not-so-friendly-looking couple of caterpillars were up there, and they didn’t seem too happy to be disturbed. Daniel and Gloria snapped a couple of dead twigs from the tree’s less-healthy branches, and carefully shoved the caterpillars off the tree. The little creatures had a strong grip, though, and didn’t yield easily. Back on the ground, Daniel and Gloria inspected them more closely. To their surprise, the white and gray, camouflaged topsides were not all there was to the caterpillars; they both sported brightly colored, striped undersides!

They’re a very pretty pinkish-purple underneath.

A couple days later, after getting over the initial “danger in the tree” paranoia, John, Daniel, and Gloria ventured up the tree again.  I learned why shortly later: they had bought another new rope, and had been busy improving their safest spot in the tree, Comfy Cradle.  It was so safe, they insisted, I could climb up there effortlessly, fall asleep once I was up, and still wake up perfectly fine.  Their argument was very convincing, so I decided to see if I could get up there. Apparently I could!

Now don’t be too impressed by my decision to climb the tree again, the boys offered several other arguments and I was quite the scaredy-cat all throughout the climb.  It turned out to be so easy, however, that I plan on doing it again, this time without nearly and hour of  constant urging.  They even tied special knots in the rope at just the right spots for them to act as handles!  Yes, they are pretty serious tree-climbers.

The Season of Lizards

The season of lizards is early spring through late fall. A long season, at least around here. But for the past month or so, the wild lizards that can typically be found around our backyard have been inactive. As a result, there have been no new additions to Daniel’s collection of reptiles. That lizard-less season has come to close, however, and both he and John caught a Green Anole!

One of these Green Anoles is looking greener than the other…

Those aren’t the only new lizards, though. Toady, one of Daniel’s three Texas Spiny Lizards, (named for her extremely fat physique, giving the impression that she’s part toad) was looking much slimmer the other day. A quick investigation of her cage gave the explanation: 19 newly-laid eggs! The picture below is the bowl full of warm soil that they’ve moved the eggs into.

We had actually been expecting this for while, but we weren’t expecting 19 eggs, nor the knowledge that they’ll take 2 to 3 months to hatch.

Honestly, having lizards in the house wasn’t always pleasant for me. I didn’t always appreciate the spiky, scaly creature that leaps out of Daniel’s hand and into my hair when we’re trying to watch a movie. But seeing how much excitement and happiness they bring to Daniel and Gloria makes up for that. And you know what? I’m looking forward to having 19 baby lizards in the house.

Knitting

If you were to ask me what I’ve been doing in the past week, I could answer you with one word: knitting. I’m recently obsessed with knitting, and I want to do hardly anything else. Not even read books! (A huge change for me, the bookworm who could be found sitting on the couch reading for eight hours a day only a few weeks ago!)

So, you may ask, what have I been knitting? I made a pair of slippers for Gloria and am now working on a second pair for Aunt Anna.

Besides that, I found a nice, simple sweater pattern and it’s coming along nicely.

John got interested after watching me knit non-stop for a while, and I taught him how too! After mastering the cast-on, knit, and purl stitches, he got to work on some really lovely i-cord coasters. Aren’t they so pretty?

DSCN5145

Gloria is getting interested too, now, so I may end up teaching her as well. After all, there can never be too many knitters in our family!

A Pomelo for a Snack

Every Wednesday Mommy buys fruit.  While she typically only brings back apples, pears, strawberries and the like, she recently came home with a pomelo.

The pomelo, alternately called the 柚子 (pronounced yòu​zi​) in our family,  is a huge, citrus fruit about the size of a small melon (such as a honeydew or cantaloupe).  It’s sweeter than most grapefruits but a bit more tart than the oranges that you typically buy in America.  We used to eat them pretty much every time we had people over or we went to someone’s house, at potlucks, for a snack, etc.  Since we’ve moved back to the US, however, we’ve been unable to find them.  Until now, that is!

Yòu​zi​

Needless to say, we were all pretty excited about it and the pomelo didn’t last long after Daddy peeled it.  It was sweet, juicy, seedless, and everything a pomelo should be.  Don’t you want some?