Monday, April 30, 2012

A few of my favorite things--Daily Reads with the Kids

There are a few books that we read our kids almost every day.  They are edifying for all of us and I highly recommend them to any Christian family with one or more children, ages 5 and above.

1.  Big Truths for Young Hearts, by Bruce Ware--this is a systematic theology book written in concise, simple language so that children and adults alike can understand "big truths" about God.  I wholeheartedly agree with A.W. Tozer who said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  In my opinion it's never too early to teach kids the truth about God.  They think about Him and ask questions about Him, themselves, reality, heaven and more--so why not lay a solid groundwork from the very beginning.  Additionally, you as a mom or dad will learn a ton too.  Other than the Bible itself it's my highest recommendation for parents of school age kids.
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God

2.  The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones--awesome kids' bible.  Let me be frank: there are a lot of stupid kids' bibles out there.  Don't get one of those.  Be educated and get your kid a bible that isn't going to water down the character of God.  Most kids' bibles make the sovereign king of the universe look silly.  This kids' bible is beautifully illustrated, well-written, theologically sound, and captures the picture of Christ throughout both the old and new testaments.  Mark often reads it to the kids before bed.
  The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

3.  Operation World: The Definitive Guide Prayer Guide to Every Nation, by Jason Mandryk--this book will broaden your worldview and increase your concern for people around the globe.  After a quick theology lesson from #1 above, the kids and I always read the nation listed for the day in this large book.  It has opened our eyes to countries and people groups we never knew about.  Each day provides a brief lesson in social studies and church history.  Together we pray for the countless people around the world who are poor either spiritually or physically.  It's truly eye opening.

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Operation World Set)

If you don't want to get the book, Operation World has a great web-site including Prayer Videos for many countries.  These are 3-minute videos highlighting the nation's prayer needs, as well as a national praying for their country.

4. And don't forget the Bible.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A few of my favorite things--Adoption Books

I hope this blog is an encouragement to anyone pursuing or contemplating adoption.  Here are my favorite adoption books, which I heartily recommend.

1.  Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore--this book gives the theological framework for adoption: we adopt because God first adopted us.  It provides a robust paradigm for adoption from the Bible plus the author's personal experience.

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches

2.  Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care, by Tony Merida and Rick Morton--this book calls the church back into the act of caring for orphans, either through adoption or myriad other creative means.  It's a great resource for anyone burdened for orphans but unsure of where to go or what to do.

Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care

3.  Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge--I just read this book a couple months ago and felt like I was reading about our very own family.  It is tough, but truthful.  The author herself is adopted.  I'd recommend it to anyone who has had their adopted child home for a couple of years (it may be too overwhelming if you just brought your baby home).  It was an encouragement to me.  Eldridge also has a website at

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

4.  After the Dream Comes True, by Michelle Gardner--this book gave a hopeful and realistic look at what adoptive families can expect and prepare for.

After the Dream Comes True

5.  Here's a resource I haven't yet taken advantage of, but plan to study along with my friend and fellow adoptive mom starting very soon (by the way, everyone needs one or two or ten adoption buddies--it's a blessing to walk the road with others):

This tool is a Christian's guide to the book, "The Connected Child"--it looks like a 12-section guide for the book, along with Bible study tools grounding your methods as an adoptive parent in the Word of God.  I'll let you know how it goes.

6.  The Bible

I have read about 5 billion 20 books on adoption and could have easily listed a few more.  A lot of them say relatively the same thing.  A lot of them pertain to people adopting babies, not 12-year-olds, so I skimmed them.  There is a lot out there.  My main encouragement to potentially adoptive parents is to walk closely with the Lord and depend on Him alone for strength, wisdom, and guidance.  The book of James says that God gives "wisdom generously to all without finding fault" (James 1:5).  We have found this to be true many times when we have been confused and uncertain about what to do.  

I also encourage you (and ME!) to pray that God, "out of his glorious riches may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians 3:16).  The strength to parent is not within us.  It comes from God alone.  And this feels even more true when parenting a wounded child.

Lastly, dwelling on our Lord as an adoptive Father and meditating on the Cross and the lengths God the Father went to adopt us is hugely peace-giving.  I am a sinful, imperfect parent.  But He is not.  He beckons me when I am distant.  He pursues me.  He provides for me.  He loves me.  While I was His enemy, He sent His son to die for me, that I might be His child.  That is Truth.  Meditating on Truth gives new life to this adoptive mom every time.

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[a] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Email Update

Since we are missionaries here in Okinawa we rely on the prayers and support of the people of God who feel called to invest in the Kingdom through our ministry.  We try to keep those who are interested updated via email and snail mail updates.  I am copying our latest email update below.  If you didn't get it, but would like to be on the email list, please let me know.  Also, we sent out a snail mail letter at Easter.  If you didn't get that, but would like to be added to our snail mail list, please let me know.

Thanks so much for praying for us and visiting my blog!!

Dear Teammates, 
We pray you are well and had a great Easter!  Did you get our Easter letter in the mail?  If not, please let me know so I can add you to our mailing list.  

Today we wanted to share a brief story with you that exemplifies what the  Lord often does in the lives of military men and women who move to Okinawa.  

Drew (in the Air Force) and his wife Cassandra moved to Okinawa five years ago.  At the time they did not know Christ.  Through our ministry on base (the chapel) and off base (the Harbor) God pursued them with HIs relentless grace.  Within months they both were sweetly rescued by God, whom they began to treasure.  Drew and Cassandra grew like weeds, they became leaders here, and began ministering to others.  As we discipled them, they discipled others.  Last month, Drew was diagnosed with Melanoma.  They are now in Hawaii so he can receive radiation and they will be moving to the US for a year of chemotherapy.  We are indeed sad to see them leave and we mourn this trial.  But, Drew and Cassandra are firmly in the Lord's hands and they are actually walking in joy through this valley as they see God use it to strengthen them, purify them, and reveal Himself to others.  They are living out John Piper's message, "Don't Waste Your Cancer" (found here:  

We praise God for redeeming them here, growing them here, and sending them out from here to declare His goodness, even in their trial.  We are humbled to be on the sidelines praying for them and praising Him who holds everything together.  

This is my women's leadership team.  Cassandra is top right.  I call her as my stunt double, because she has stood in for me so well whenever necessary.  We did ministry together daily and I will miss her! 

Last year Mark took several former Harbor leaders to a conference, along with Drew (second from left).  Drew has been ministry-focused for years and is using his cancer for God's glory.  He, too, was a great encouragement to Mark and will be missed by this community. 

Thank you, friends, for praying for us and supporting us as we share Christ with the military here.  Your involvement in this ministry has multiplied disciples.  We cannot thank you enough for your investment in eternity, through the Harbor! 

With gratitude and affection in Christ, 
Mark, Jen, Rebekah, Zoe, Abby Grace, and Hannah Oshman 

Stay in touch! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Calm My Anxious Heart

The Harbor women's bible study is starting a new book tonight:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment (TH1NK Reference Collection)

"Calm My Anxious Heart" by Linda Dillow changed my life about 12 years ago.  I strongly urge you to get a copy.  It's easy to read and full of grace and truth.  It'll change the way you think.  If you're on Okinawa, come over tonight at 6:30 to begin discussing chapter 1. 

A couple quotes to get you thinking: 

"In the words of the well-knonw theologian J. I. Packer, 'Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God's hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good.'" (page 17)

Speaker and author Elisabeth Elliott says, "Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good." (page 17)

Giant Desert Centipede

They're baaack.  These freaky bugs come into our home every spring and summer.  I hate them.  Our first year here we found several under Zoe's crib, which was enough to make this new mom stay awake all night.  We've never been bitten but hear it hurts and makes you sick.   Since that first year, I've been praying Psalm 91:5-6 (I'm sure that centipedes were on the Psalmist's mind when he wrote those words, right?!).

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interesting Info

As I said yesterday, my best homeschooling advice is to do it if God tells you to and to not do it if He doesn't.  The information below was sent to me by our friend and Department of Defense teacher Ron Coia.  He blogs with my husband at, as they review the books they read each week.  Considering he's a public school teacher and uses his great sense of humor to sort of poke fun at our homeschooling ways, I appreciated him sending the info along.  Go to this link if you need to see it larger.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My best homeschool advice

My best homeschooling advice, free of charge, is: seek the Lord every year.  You should pray every year for every child and provide that child with the education that you feel is appropriate given your resources, your child's needs, and your capacity.  Each child is different and each year you will be different, as well.  As God grows and sanctifies your family, you will have new needs, joys, and challenges.  Our Father leads us all in unique ways, listen to Him and what He has to say one year at a time!

I homeschooled Rebekah for two years and then we enrolled her in Okinawa Christian School International.  She has been attending there since January of this year.  While it has been challenging for her, it has also been a blessing and it is exactly what we believe the Lord led us to do.  It's meeting some of her needs in ways we never could.  It's blessing her and growing her in ways our homeschool could not.  But we may homeschool her again in the future--like I said, each child, each year, seek God.

I am wary of people who make blanket statements such as, "All Christian parents should homeschool" or "All Christian parents should put their kids in public school so they can be a light."  Since when did our Lord call us all to the same thing?  His is creative and we are a diverse body.  

I do indeed believe that we as parents have a high calling to shepherd our children well.  I would encourage all my mom friends not to automatically follow our society in raising kids.  Pause often and ask God what His will is.  Schooling is one of many opportunities for moms and dads to either do it yourself or to prayerfully delegate it to another party.  Either way, though, they are your kids and their education is your responsibility.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

So why do you homeschool anyway?

I grew up in a family of public school educators.  I highly valued my diverse public school education.  I planned on seeking out the same for my own kids.

We moved to Okinawa with Zoe when she was a newborn.  We put her in Japanese preschool and that was sort of a disaster (but that has nothing to do with why I homeschool, so let me get back on topic).   The summer that Zoe turned five and was heading into kindergarten I had a wake up call.  Mind you, at this time I also had a three year old and a newborn and was doing full-time ministry--so thoughtful moments were few.  In July of that summer I realized we didn't have plans for Zoe's kindergarten.

Because we were not active duty military we did not have the privilege of sending her to the Department of Defense School (well, we could have for a fee of $18,000 per year).  There was one private school option, Okinawa Christian School International.  In fact, the bus stopped right in front of our house and they had a discount for missionaries.  We learned that this option would cost us around $5,000 per year and also that kindergarten was all day--so Zoe would be gone from 7:30am to 3:30pm.  This option did not sit well with me because the price seemed steep for kindergarten and I really didn't want to send my five year old away for eight hours a day.  We didn't feel good about putting her in Japanese public school because we do not speak the language and didn't want to be unable to converse well with her teachers.

So there we were: no American public school, not a great private school option, and not willing to do the Japanese public school option.  I honestly sat down at my kitchen table, pulled out my laptop, and googled "homeschool."  That's how I got started.  Not very inspiring, is it?

I was overwhelmed by the options, as there are so many now.  Over 3% of American kids are now home schooled and the market is flooded with curriculum options and tools.  Not only did I need to wade through the available options I also had some personal bias and misconceptions to get over.   After talking to many wise and older moms and also meeting some incredible young adults who were the product of homeschooling, my quest became less overwhelming.

I settled on purchasing a curriculum that did a lot of the thinking for me.  We use Sonlight.  I like it because everything I need for the entire school year comes to me in a box (from books to science lab materials to handwriting paper, it's all there--which is a must if you live overseas).  I also love that Sonlight tells me exactly what to do in every subject every day for a 36-week school year.  It takes all of the guesswork out of the painful wondering of whether or not I am teaching my kids what they're supposed to be learning.  I know there are many, many other excellent curriculums out there.  But I am not inclined to window shop, so I'm sticking with what's worked for us so far.

In August 2008 our first Sonlight box arrived and we started our homeschool career.  I was really surprised when I LOVED it.  I had a blast teaching Zoe.  She and her sisters now also really enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong--most days are fairly messy, it's all far from perfect--but we're learning together and having a great time.

I have a few more things to share about our homeschool journey, but I'll close for now.  The main point I want to make today is that homeschooling has been a surprising joy for me.  I'm four years and four kids into it now and I really like it and so do they.  Homeschooling isn't reserved for ultra-conservative jumper wearers on society's fringe--anyone can do it and I think almost anyone would find they enjoy it.  We found ourselves in a situation where we didn't have much of a choice, but for those of you with a buffet of choices, I would encourage you to think outside the box and not robotically follow what the US Department of Education says you should do.  They're your kids!

Zoe and Abby Grace sitting at our school table drawing a bean sprout in their science notebooks. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hannah's Birthday

Today my youngest, Hannah, turned five!  Because we homeschool (which is going to be the theme of my post tomorrow, so come back, if you're interested in why we do) and several of our friends do too, we had the party during lunch today, Wednesday.  It was a Butterfly Birthday Party.  The kids played "catch the butterfly," which is a game Mark and I made up just like "pin the tail on the donkey," and then we gave everyone butterfly nets and they went to the yard to catch real ones.  It was a fun time!  I was blessed by how sweet and delighted Hannah was the whole time too.

As a side note: this morning when Hannah came out to find me reading on the couch she cuddled in my lap as I wished her a happy birthday.  It suddenly donned on me that she is FIVE.  A quick memory check reminded me that most of the parenting literature I have read says that children need the issue of authority resolved and solidified in their hearts by the time they are five.  In other words, life will go much better for them if, but the time they are five, they know they are not in charge, mom and dad are, and they are willing to obey mom and dad.  I've read it many times--it's what "they" say!  So, remembering that I said, "Hannah, who is your authority?"  She replied, "God."  Wow, I was genuinely surprised!  I know she said it because she's heard me say it so many times, not because she genuinely feels that way.  Then I said, "Right.  And who did God put in your life to help you learn to obey?"  She replied, "Mommy and Daddy."  Whew!  It appears that, by God's grace, authority has possibly been established in her life.  Not that she won't rebel--she has several times since this morning and I'm pretty sure she's going to be the most colorful of our bunch--but it was encouraging to at least hear her parrot what I've said to her many, many times!

Hannah took the camera from me and took several shots of her feet in these new high-heeled hand-me-downs, that she loves to wear nonstop. 

Super easy cake! They are just cut up 9-inch rounds. 

Catch the butterfly (pin the tail on the donkey).

Catching the real thing. 

Sweet birthday girl!  What a blessing she is.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Home from Thailand

Rebekah and I made it home today.  I am really glad we went.  I do think it's invaluable for adoptive parents to do their best to keep their child connected to their birth families and birth countries.  I've been convinced by the literature that an adopted child's identity is always completely wrapped up in their birth family--even if they were adopted right out of the delivery room.  It's better for them to have a more complete picture of who they are than to wonder and be haunted by questions and gaps in their information.

We went to Thailand with the agenda to see Rebekah's birth family, orphanage, and other family friends and to eat a lot of Thai food.  To those ends, the trip was a success.  When Rebekah has been asked what her favorite parts of the trip were she has said celebrating Songkran (the Thai new year and water festival during which everyone in the country engages in a three-day long water fight) and seeing her friends at Im Jai.  Her visit with her friends was pleasantly surprisingly really sweet.  The visit with her family was painfully surprisingly discouraging.  The Thai food was wonderful.  Seeing family friends was great.  And Songkran was the icing on the cake.  Interestingly, Rebekah was able to understand all the Thai that was spoken to her, but unable to respond in her native tongue.  Only English came out--much to the chagrin of some and the hilarity of others.  Enjoy the pics below of our visit.

At Im Jai with friends. 

At the Botanic Gardens with family--two half-sisters and grandma in the front row. 

Goodbye with the family. 

The kids at Im Jai are constructing an adobe building and Rebekah got into the thick of it. 

She wanted to play piano for her friends. 

She crocheted them headbands, which they loved. 

Songkran with the Rathmells in the back of their truck. 

Water fights at the moat downtown. 

I am super sick now, by the way, from this festive event.  The girl next to me in the truck is too. I'm guessing we got a mouthful of moat water and some germs too.  Such a bummer.  May need to go see a doc tomorrow. 

Last dinner in Thailand with Jen Rathmell and her kids.  Their family was a great blessing to me and Rebekah.  I am so glad the Lord moved them to Thailand, because it's really handy for me. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thanks for praying

Well, friends, Rebekah and I have been in Chiang Mai for three days now. We have visited with her grandmother and two of her three half-sisters. We have also been to her former orphanage and eaten much Thai food. The visit has been fun in several ways. It has also been surprising and very discouraging at times. It's really Rebekah's story, so I cannot say what's been hard...but as she talks about it more I will try to share a little more too. In the meantime, please pray for God's healing work in her life. She is a gift and a blessing and I know the Lord has great things in store for her. I am so glad we made this trip and I one God will use it for His glory! Tomorrow begins Songkran. We're fully participating. If you don't know what that is, google it and then pray that I would score some serious "cool mom" points while we're at it!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Going to Thailand

A few months ago I was convinced by this book to do my best to help Rebekah maintain a connection to her birth family.
Making Room in Our Hearts: Keeping Family Ties through Open Adoption

We're flying to Thailand tonight and will arrive tomorrow morning.  We'll be staying with my best friend, Jen Rathmell, who moved to Chiang Mai last year.  Two out of Rebekah's three half-sisters and her grandma will travel by bus to visit with us on Wednesday and Thursday.  It'll be an adventure!  Stay tuned and pray for us, please. 

He is Risen!

The resurrection of Christ is where I put all of my hope.  Not in my husband or health or kids or citizenship or wealth--but in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead.  Without that truth, life would be hopeless and senseless.

"For us, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"--Romans 5:10

God gave us a great celebration here at the Harbor today!  We are blessed to celebrate Jesus' victory over death with the military in Okinawa, Japan.  They are precious people.

The big buffet

Rhyse and Maddox are very proud of their jelly beans! 

The boys digging in the coolers. 

The dads manning the grill. 

Tina, Rachel, Michelle

Adorable Easter desserts

Hannah on the hunt

Zoe on the hunt

Rebekah helped to hide the eggs. 

Hudson (or Hudsycup, as we like to call him) on the hunt.

Abby Grace on the hunt. 

Me telling the kids the resurrection story using the Resurrection Eggs.  They love it every year!

CJ was bringin it. 

Mark was bringin it too. 

Sean and Paul brought it. 

A great day!