Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our 2008 Christmas poem

Several things in our lives have made it rather hard

To organize and send out a traditional Christmas card

Instead I will narrate our year with some poetry

And conveniently send it out en masse electronically


We began the year with 5 in our clan

We outgrew our car and bought a minivan.

The kids thought it was cool to have a new ride

Mommy loved the practical space we had inside.


In February Christopher came down with the flu

I also felt sick and just figured I caught it, too.

Weeks went by and I still felt all wrong

Until a sonogram showed I was nearly 12 weeks along!


You can imagine the surprise and all of the fun

Of hearing this news before Hannah turned one.

Another McCracken would be added to our number

And she would be born some time in September.


In early April, John got in a wreck

Someone ran a red light and totaled our Buick.

Thankfully John walked away without much harm

But a few days later, Christopher broke his arm!


After a cast and 4 weeks, you know how boys do

His arm healed up fine and he felt good as new.

We drove up to PA for the whole month of May

To visit my family that lives too far away.


We returned to Texas in the heat of the summer

After perfect weather in PA, this sure was a bummer.

We spent most of our days at the neighborhood pool

Sarah learned to swim while we tried to stay cool.


Christopher developed an obsession that went way too far

He poured over books to know all about dinosaurs

Before we knew it, he was reading very well on his own

His interest in fierce and wild animals has grown and grown.


At the end of August, homeschooling had begun

Though I was nervous at first it has really been fun.

We learn lots and work hard in the first part of the day

While his sisters distract us with their loud and hearty play.


On September 11th we got to meet face to face

With our new little bundle - precious Mary Grace.

Now 3 months old she is chunky, happy and bright

But most importantly of all, she sleeps through the night!


Hannah is walking, talking and charming with her looks

She loves for us to read her lots and lots of books.

Sarah loves to color and put puzzles together

She also takes good care of her sisters and brother.


John’s been the pastor of Trinity for more than 7 years

While he’s still not yet 40 he has lots of gray hairs!

We love our church family and are excited to find

How the Lord will work in our church in ‘09.


While sleep-deprived and busy we must tell you this,

We love you and wish you a Merry Christmas!

We hope you’ll stop and wonder in the midst of all the fuss

That the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't Be a Scrooge about Christmas

Here is an article on Christmas by RC Sproul that pleasantly surprised me. I like it.  

Here is a snippet:
Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn't biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas?A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus' parade and assume an Olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Read the whole article.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On omnipresence and incarnation...

Christopher, our 5 year old, has asked me on a few different occasions if God is bigger than Jupiter.  I've told him that God is bigger than the entire universe.  Not able to get his mind around that, he asked, "How can God be bigger than outer space?"  I said, "Well, remember God is everywhere."  "But how can God be everywhere?"  I said, "Well, God is a spirit and is bigger than everything He created and...well, that's just a really hard thing for little people like us to understand, isn't it?"

The other day while the kids and I were driving down the road in the minivan, Christopher asked me, "Mommy, if God is everywhere, does that mean that we are driving over God?" Chuckling at first but then wanting to give him a serious answer, I confidently replied, "No Christopher, remember that God is a spirit and doesn't have a body like men."  I was hopeful this would satisfy him since the answer recalled one of the catechism questions he has memorized. But no.  He then said, "So does that mean we are driving on God's non-body?"

Today as we were driving home from church, our 4-year old, Sarah asked, "Mommy, is Jesus in the van?"  Happy that I could again refer back to already-memorized catechisms I replied, "Yes Sarah!  Remember, God is everywhere and Jesus is God."  Unsatisfied, Sarah demanded, "No, I said is Jesus right here next to me in this van!"

Then after we arrived home, Hannah and Sarah were sitting together on the sofa reading a book and I noticed that Hannah had something in her mouth.  I immediately asked her to spit it out and saw that it was the baby Jesus from their Playmobile nativity set.  I found myself laughing while saying, "No, Hannah - don't put baby Jesus in your mouth!"

On the one hand, it is true that God is a spirit and does not have a body like men.  This is an incredibly abstract concept for us to grasp, let alone to explain to our children.  On the other hand, John 1:14 is also true - "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."  This infinite God who created the universe and everything in it, entered our world by taking on human flesh.  This is Christmas - God became a man.  I find that my children better understand and grasp who God is when they hear about Jesus.  In Jesus, "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell."  (Colossians 1:19)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!  - Psalm 118:1
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! - Psalm 95:1-2

Know that the LORD, He is God!  It is He who made us, and we are His, we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise!  Give thanks to Him; bless His name! 
- Psalm 100:3-4

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! - Psalm 118:28-29

Saturday, November 22, 2008

8 hours!!!

Well, she finally did it.  I fed Mary Grace last night somewhere between 10:30 and 11p.m. and she slept all the way until 7:00a.m. this morning. I was a little bummed that I didn't exactly feel the immediate benefits of uninterrupted sleep when I woke up, but I am sure this will come as we get a few more full-night's sleep under our belts.  Just like the other 3 before her, Mary Grace has found her thumb - a wonderful soother!  This is sure to cause headaches in the future as we seek to break her of the thumb-sucking habit, but for now I am relieved that she has found this built-in pacifier.

Here's a short video of our happy, chunky-cheek, all-night-sleeper.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sarah's 4th birthday

Our Sarah turned 4 years old today (at 3:36 a.m., to be exact...).  I told her this morning that when people ask how old she is now, she can't say "3" anymore because she's older.  She paused for a second and then said, "But my feet aren't bigger."  I guess she thought she'd undergo a dramatic growth spurt overnight or something.

It is becoming a tradition in our family to celebrate birthdays at our favorite local Chinese restaurant.  After we ate our fill of our favorite dishes (it's funny, the wait staff there can tell us what we're going to order before we do!), we got out the cake and candles for Sarah.  Hannah, as you can see, was very eager to get her hands on that cake.

The days leading up to her birthday, Sarah would tell us that we would sing her Happy Birthday but that she would not.  What's funny is that when people told her "Happy Birthday" today, she would turn around and say to them, "Happy Birthday!"  And when we sang Happy Birthday to her, she sang it to herself several times for fun.
Hannah was victorious in sneaking some chocolate from the cake before the candles were blown out.

Sarah has always been 'famous' in our family for her great cheeks.  We think Mary Grace just might have her beat, however. 

Christopher and Daddy enjoying the cake.  (It's rare to get a picture of Christopher smiling like a normal person these days).

Hannah got more than just a taste of that chocolate cake.

The gift below was one of Nana's finds.  As soon as she opened it and Nana started explaining to Sarah how it worked, Sarah was removing her shoes and socks and climbing into this get-up! She began walking around the restaurant giggling with delight!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2 months old, and we're still waiting...

We're still waiting for little Mary Grace to sleep through the night, that is!  I know, I know.  I ought to give this little peanut a break considering she only wakes up once in the night and is otherwise a great napper and very contented, sweet baby.  Christopher and Sarah slept through the night at 6 weeks and Hannah didn't sleep through the night until she was 10 weeks.  I guess I'm more eager for Mary Grace to sleep through the night sooner rather than later because she's #4 and having 4 kids ages 5 and under leaves Mommy with little to no breaks!  This is evidenced by my silence on the blogosphere ever since my mom skipped town.  I have a free moment now that MG is in the bouncy seat as I type, Hannah is sleeping, and Christopher and Sarah have been given strict instructions not to leave their room until a given time.

Let's see, MG was about 2 weeks old at her baptism (see the last blog post) and today is 2 months old.  The following pictures were taken at ages 1 month to 2 months:

The picture below was taken the day MG turned 1 month.  Don't you just love the spikey hair?

The next two pictures were taken when she was about 6 1/2 weeks old.  Watch those cheeks grow...

The next two pics were taken a couple of days ago.  Christopher adores his littlest sister.
Christopher is making MG laugh.

Today - MG is 2 months old and smiling responsively.

I dressed MG in this little leopard printed get-up on Sunday.  As you can imagine, she attracted lots of attention at church, but the greatest response was from her older siblings.  Christopher thought I actually killed a leopard to get its skins for this outfit, but I assured him the print was simply painted on the material.
I was pretty convinced that MG's eyes would turn brown, but here they are...still blue.

Monday, September 29, 2008

An entertaining and memorable event - MG's baptism

"The heart of a man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
Before the worship service yesterday, I had these grand visions (or delusions of grandeur) of my 3 older children obediently and angelically standing in front of the congregation as our 4th baby would be baptized.  I even "prepped" them for this event by instructing Christopher to stand close to me and Sarah to hold tightly to Hannah's hand since I had to hold Mary Grace.  Being that John would be doing the baptizing, I was prepared to corral the kids on my own.  At least I thought I was prepared.  Kids have such a knack of going way beyond your expectations...but in a completely different direction!

Now why on earth would I have such ridiculous expectations?  When Christopher was our only child, I remember welling up with all sorts of tender emotions during his baptism.  When Sarah was baptized, I remember wrestling my 19 1/2 month old Christopher just to keep him still and feeling a bit frazzled afterwards rather than misty-eyed.  When Hannah was baptized just last year, I recall both Christopher and Sarah having a grand ol' time hopping down the steps of the stage.  Mary Grace's baptism yesterday proved to be more like the last two and less like the first.    

Here you see John and I straining to listen and respond to our baptismal vows that Patrick was reading to us.  Sarah and Christopher walked up to the front by themselves and left me with Hannah and Mary Grace, so John came to the rescue since I couldn't get Sarah to stay on her task of holding Hannah's hand.  Christopher took it upon himself to grab Hannah's hand and keep her from running away, but he tends to be a little less nurturing and gentle than Sarah would be so Hannah resisted his efforts.  Sarah took great interest in the flower arrangements and all of the cool objects on the communion table.  Hannah kept grabbing the microphone on Daddy's robe and pulling it off.  When we responded "I do" to the baptismal vows, Hannah grabbed Daddy's nose for fun.  Then to top it off, I saw Christopher doing dinosaur charades out of the corner of my eye.  

John put Hannah down, picked up the baptismal bowl and handed it to Patrick.  I handed Mary Grace to John and then quickly scooped up Hannah from climbing on the front row chairs.  As soon as the cold water hit Mary Grace's head, she began to wail and John said, "Well, here Mommy..."  The congregation cracked up because as soon as John started to give Mary Grace back to me, he said, "Nevermind" realizing I already had my hands full with Hannah.  As he began to tell the congregation about Mary Grace, Sarah thought it would be great fun to play hide-and-seek underneath his big black robe.  By this point, the congregation was roaring with laughter and we had lost complete control over the entire situation (not sure we ever had it in the first place).  

John quickly tied up his comments and I soon realized that we didn't have a good exit strategy since John had to go back to the pulpit for the Scripture reading.  I put Hannah down, took a loudly crying Mary Grace back into my arms and began to walk them both down to the nursery wing.  Thankfully Patrick had the presence of mind to walk Christopher and Sarah in the opposite direction to children's church.  Maybe we should have done a "dry run" (no pun intended) beforehand, but then it would have been so much less chaotic and therefore less entertaining.   We captured the whole blessed event on video so that we can remember this 3-ring circus in years to come.

The expression on Christopher's face above suggests that he had been scheming and planning this chaos all along.

Here he is pretending to be an Struthiomimus dinosaur.

Being that Hannah is only 18 months old and has no prior experience standing up in front of the congregation, we did expect the most action from her.  

Sarah LOOKS sweet and innocent...

My mom thoroughly enjoyed being the photographer of the day.  I saw her laughing behind the camera during Sarah's hide-and-seek under John's robe.  As we were packing everyone up to finally leave the sanctuary, we realized that we didn't have any pictures with her in them.  We were too exhausted to round up all of the kids who were running throughout the sanctuary by this time, but we did manage to get a picture of her holding Hannah (above) and Mary Grace (below).

All of this excitement even wore out Mary Grace.  What a day!  

Now that I have had a little time to stand back and reflect, I am truly thankful that God's covenant promises are for believers and their offspring as we seek to raise our children up to know, love and worship the risen Christ.  And even though it made for an eventful day, I also think it is a wonderful privilege that each of our children has been baptized by their Daddy.  

"And I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you." (Genesis 17:7)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

MG turns 2 weeks old and meets Paw Paw...

Mary Grace turned 2 weeks old this past Thursday and had her 2 week well check-up on Friday. I was curious to hear how much weight she had gained because I wanted to know if she was going to follow Christopher and Sarah on their rapid growth curves or if she was going to be more petite/normal like Hannah.  Pediatricians like to see babies regain their birthweight (plus a little more, I think) by the time they are two weeks old.  My babies have NEVER disappointed the weight gain expectations.  Christopher was 7 lbs. 9 oz. at birth and 8 lbs. 4.5 oz. at 2 weeks.  Sarah was 7 lbs. 6 oz. at birth and 9 lbs. 3 oz. at 2 weeks!!  Hannah was 6 lbs. 11 oz. at birth and 7 lbs. 9 oz. at 2 weeks. Well, Mary Grace was 6 lbs. 14 oz. at birth and weighed in at 8 lbs. 6.5 oz. yesterday.  She started at a lower birthweight than Christopher but weighed more than he did at 2 weeks...and he chunked up into quite a huge baby during that first year!  
It just doesn't seem possible yet because she is still so tiny and lightweight.  The good thing about chunky babies is that they tend to sleep through the night sooner.  All that fatty milk satiates their tummies, I guess.  Mary Grace gave me a couple of nights where she only woke up once in the night, but then reverted back to waking up every 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  However, last night she only woke up once.  I'm hoping she keeps this up and doesn't backtrack again.
Oh, her little umbilical cord stump fell off yesterday as well so I was able to give her a proper tub bath.  She seems wide-eyed in this picture, but she was so tired and the water was so warm that she eventually fell asleep while I was bathing her!

Last night my mom was supposed to fly into DFW around 9:00p.m.  As with most flights these days, her flight was delayed by a few hours and she didn't land until after midnight!!  This morning the kids were all eager for her attention as you can see in the picture above.  She said with everyone talking all at once and then trying to protect Mary Grace from Hannah, she felt so scattered and didn't know who to listen to.  Yeah, welcome to MY world!

Being that my mom is Chinese, she doesn't know how to stop, slow down and rest while on vacation...so she got right to work.  (As soon as John reads this, he's going to say that I'm one to talk!  Fair enough.  I come by it honestly though.)  Sarah's bangs had gotten so long that we could hardly stand it, so you can only imagine how my mom felt when she saw her.

Now we can see those big brown eyes!

Christopher needed at hair cut as well.  What's funny is that as my mom was commenting on how much hair Mary Grace had, Christopher said, "You need to give her a hair cut, Paw Paw."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Credo: I Believe - preaching on the Trinity this Sunday

As you may know, I have been down since Saturday afternoon with a stomach virus. I am back in the office today but am still feeling weak. My voice is shot from being sick all weekend. I'm sure everyone around me is really happy that I can't talk so much! :) I am especially thankful that Mindy, Mary Grace and the rest of the kids haven't come down with it. I'm praying feverishly that they don't!

I begin this week by picking up a happy burden. This Sunday I have the privilege and, yes, sobering job of preaching a sermon on the great doctrine of the Trinity and what it means for us.

The background to this is also very exciting to me. I am beginning a new sermon series this Sunday on the vision and mission of Trinity Presbyterian Church. It is called "Credo: I Believe". It will be an 11 week series that covers such grand topics as the Trinity, the Gospel, the mission of God, worship, discipleship, community, family and more. I am particularly excited about a sermon handbook that will be given out this Sunday with information about the sermon and a song for private/family worship for each week. A collection of musical accompaniments is also being created today for families to use to help them sing the songs. These will be distributed by CD and/or website. My friend Ben Geist has created some beautiful artwork for these sermon guidebooks as well, so I'm very excited about this resource to put into our church's hands.

Now the first sermon in the series will be on the Trinity. It is the doctrine that teaches that there is only one true God, but that this God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. The doctrine of the Trinity has stood for centuries as a legitimate litmus test of what is orthodox, historic, biblical Christianity. The early church perfected its understanding of this biblical doctrine in its major church councils at Nicea (in 325 AD), Costantinople (381 AD), Ephesus (431 AD), and finally in Chalcedon (451 AD). One theologian has correctly called the doctrine of the Trinity "the most comprehensive and the most nearly all-inclusive formulation of the truth of Christianity." Roughly speaking, the whole Bible is really nothing but the unfolding of the knowledge of the Triune God - in creation (Father), in redemption (Son), and in the church and future (Holy Spirit).

When we speak of the Trinity, we are peering into the most mysterious, most glorious of all realities. And as Cornelius Van Til once famously remarked, "Every truth is nothing but the externaliziation of the personality of the Trinity," which is a very compact, formal way of saying that every truth we come into contact with is related back to the Trinity. The fact that I am an individual but am also so connected with others in deep relationship is itself an expression of the unity, diversity, personality of the Trinity. This doctrine is an expression of the heart and essence of who God really is. It's mind boggling! The Trinity informs us that God is both unity and diversity at the same time. The Trinity informs us that God is both vastly glorious beyond comprehension, but also eternally a very personal God. In fact, if God were not triune, then there could be no salvation for us.

"The verbal expression of the Trinity is the most difficult job man has had to do," said J. I. Packer. I definitely feel the truth of these words this week! But shame on me and shame on the church that we do not preach on the Trinity often enough. (If we all followed the old liturgical calendar, at least there would be one day a year in which all churches would preach on the Trinity. But the modern church has taken away Ascension Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday and replaced it with Memorial Day, Independence Day and Mother's Day. What a shame.) Back to the point: I am very excited to launch a new sermon series on the vision and mission of our church by beginning at the core of all reality: the Godhead. We begin at the place from which all else flows. Our redemption and our mission begin here. So, just as Moses had helpers to keep his arms up as he watched over Israel, pray for me (if you are a praying person) this week as I prepare an important sermon. Pray that my full strength would be restored as well as my voice. And more important, pray that the glory of the Triune God would so grip my own heart this week that my preaching would simply be an overflow of that same glory experienced by my own soul.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

1 week old...

Mary Grace turned 1 week old today, so of course, this became an occasion for photos.  
While pink is not my favorite color, I'll have to admit that it is fun to dress up my little girls in pink and pastels.  

"One of these children doesn't look like the others..." but I promise you that Hannah DOES belong!  Looks like she remains the only fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed kid among the bunch.  Funny how genetics works.

Big bro and big sis enjoying a moment with Mary Grace.

Big sister Sarah snuggling with Mary Grace.

Yesterday evening I took the older 3 kids for a walk to the playground while John stayed home as Mary Grace slept.  When we returned, John met us outside and we began chatting with our neighbors.  We didn't notice Sarah run into the house, but John saw her walking back outside holding what he thought was a doll.  Next thing I know, John says, "Oh!" and begins running up the driveway.  Sarah had scooped Mary Grace up out of her cradle and carried her outside to be with us. Thankfully Mary Grace is just fine...but her parents are still recovering from near heart failure.

You may remember when we found out the sex of this baby, Christopher was sorely disappointed.  He was determined that this baby was going to be a boy and had a hard time getting over the fact that he was going to have yet another sister.  I am happy to report that since Mary Grace has come home, Christopher has said things like, "Mommy, I think Mary Grace is beautiful," and "I want Mary Grace to be in our family forever."

The protective older brother holding his littlest sister.

Since we were on a roll and the kids were so willing, I thought I'd see how Hannah would do with 'holding' Mary Grace.  When I asked her, she immediately climbed up onto the couch and laid down on the pillow, so I laid Mary Grace down next to her.  You see the results...

Of all 3 kids, Hannah has been the most enraptured and curious by Mary Grace's presence.  Whenever I get her up from a long nap and bring her out into the family room or kitchen, Hannah's face lights up and she says, "Ah baby!  Ah baby!" She'll then come closer and speak in a soft, high pitched voice, "Hi baby...aahhhh, baby!"  It's very sweet to see.  

So while our adjustment to being a family of 6 has been a bit of a circus at times, it has also been filled with many sweet and endearing moments.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mary Grace's 1st sponge bath at home...

Thankfully, Mary Grace slept much better in between feedings last night and I was able to sleep for 2 hour stretches at a time.  I know that sounds pitiful, but compared to our first night at home when I received maybe a grand total of 2 hours of sleep, those 2 hour stretches between each feeding last night did me a world of good!

Today while everyone else was at church, I decided to give Mary Grace her first sponge bath since we arrived home.  Now, Mary Grace has a LOT more hair than my other 3 children did at birth, so it was kind of fun having to lather up her head in shampoo!  She did not enjoy the bath very much at all, but was very subdued after I wrapped her up in a towel.

Ah chooooo!!

Hey, that bath really woke me up!

Here she is dressed up in one of the new gowns that Nana got for her.


Phew, that bath really wore me out!

...but that camera flash keeps waking me up!

Ain't she sweet??