Prototype: A Book Review

When I describe to friends how I know of Jonathan Martin I typically say, “He’s a pastor I follow on Twitter who’s not an ass.” While “not an ass” may not seem like much of a compliment, it is actually a rare distinction. Many Christian leaders, despite what they may intend, just come off as total jerks on social media. I find it to be so common that when I see a person who doesn’t fall into that category, I take notice.

As I saw that his tweets and blog posts were consistently theologically deep, critical of the status quo and yet gracious and gentle without fail, I knew that I was encountering something special. When he announced that he was working on a book, there was no question that it would go to the top of my list.

In Prototype, his voice is consistent with everything else I’ve read from him. The book packs a theological punch while remaining deeply personal. I read the entire book in just a couple of sittings – that’s how readable it is. However, as I have been away from it for a few days, I find myself wanting to go back and read more slowly, taking some extra time to digest the things that were especially meaningful for me.

One of those would have to be the chapter on sacrament and what he refers to as the “bodily gospel.” He gives us a glimpse into the scandalous nature of the way that Jesus interacted with the world, and then helps us to feel the significance of a God who cared to touch His creation. The experience of foot-washing brings that connection to life:

“When I feel the touch of human hands on my hairy toes and calloused soles, it is terrible in all the ways it must be for Christ Himself to touch my most unlovely places with His tenderness. Every time, the tears burn my eyes. And as my self-consciousness and self-confidence begin to crumble, it’s not just my feet that are being washed; it’s the love of God like a warm balm on a bruised and battered soul” (160-161)

This was just one of several pictures painted in this chapter that really spoke to deep places in my soul. If I’m being honest, I long for the touch of God and His people and have found that need to be mostly unmet. So when I hear him say that if we’re “going to get anything about Jesus, you can never graduate from the wonder of human touch” something inside me shouts to affirm that.

There is more that I could say, but I’m not going to ruin it for you🙂 You can read more about the book, including the first chapter here.

(I received a copy of the book through Tyndale and agreed to post a review. I did not promise to review it favorably; the opinions above are entirely my own.)


31 Things I’ve Learned

I’m a little late on this, but here is a list of 31 things (in no particular order) of things that I’ve learned in my 31 years of existence.

      1. Always say “Please” and “Thank you” to everyone. It’s called common decency for a reason.
      2. Learn to touch type.
      3. Cable TV is a waste of time and money.
      4. I have never regretted waiting for a deal to buy something.
      5. “No” is an acceptable word to say to others.
      6. “No” is an acceptable word for others to say to you.
      7. Trust yourself to make big life decisions. God gave you free will for a reason.
      8. Respond to people in a timely manner.
      9. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
      10. Life is scary. Get used to it.
      11. There are no magical fixes.
      12. Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy. 
      13. Make eye contact with the people you’re talking to.
      14. Learn how to laugh at yourself.
      15. A real man is comfortable with himself. He does not fear the color pink, tea parties, makeup, princess play time or taking his daughter shopping. Anyone selling you another version of a man is a fraud.
      16. Get over yourself. You are not the center of the universe. Yes, God loves you and you are made unique in His image, but He is bigger than you. Don’t think that you are irreplaceable to the mission.
      17. “More” is the answer of anxious people. (@yosoykristy)
      18. I’ve never regretted saying “Yes” to God.
      19. Be a person of gratitude.
      20. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
      21. Take the 30 seconds to hang up your clothes.
      22. Tell your family you love them. Everyday.
      23. Running is an excellent stress reliever.
      24. Be teachable. You don’t know everything.
      25. Have the posture of a learner. You can always learn something from someone else.
      26. Playing Devil’s Advocate for the sake of it is old and tiring. Don’t do it. You’ll have no friends.
      27. Don’t be a leecher and pull your own weight. Don’t be that guy who always bums a ride but never offers to drive. Don’t be that guy who sits while everyone else cleans up. Don’t be that guy who never offers to pay for a round. You are selfish and greedy and no one will like you.
      28. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.
      29. Have an open mind and learn to appreciate different things. There’s a difference between appreciating something and liking something. If you don’t know the difference, let that be 29(a) for you.
      30. Learn and know basic grammar. (That includes typing it out. Don’t be lazy.)

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      31. Always, always, always side with your spouse and never complain about them to your parents.

Thirty-One

Taken by Day7 Photography

Taken by Day7 Photography

Today is Mr. Poon’s 31st birthday! As you know, I always like to do something on our bloggy blog to celebrate Jason and his awesomeness. (Right now he’s teaching Eden to do a “hook-em”… see, awesome!)

This year has brought changes (hello, new baby in the house!) but one thing that hasn’t changed is Mr. Poon’s amazing service to his family. Every year, day after day, he does so many things that love and serve us well. In honor of thirty-one years, here are thirty-one ways that Jason faithfully serves his girls:

1. Picks out Eden’s outfits for school

2. Takes out the trash each Thursday

3. Learns about investments so we can be good stewards of what we have

4. Re-negotiates our insurance rates every year or so, so we can do more with our money

5. Makes my aeropress coffee each morning (I think he’s better at it)

6. Makes sure the diaper bag is properly “loaded” before we leave the house (Diapers, snacks, etc.)

7. Wipes table, countertops after dinner

8. Does the laundry often

9. Changes most of the diapers

10. Finds ways to earn Amazon credit so he can buy things for his girls!

11. Carries heavy stuff for me

12. Finds books and learning materials for Eden

13. Will do anything so I can go out with a friend or have some time for myself

14. Washes lots of dishes

15. Gets up early to exercise so he doesn’t have to take time away from the family for that

16. Handles our investments

17. Manages our automatic bills and makes sure everything is paid on time

18. Took up running because I liked it. Now he kicks my ass… So that backfired.

19. Mows our yard

20. Finds and plays music that Eden likes

21. Gets up early to work, so he can take a longer breakfast with the fam

22. Often cooks us breakfast!

23. Goes to get me things that I could get for myself when I’m too lazy to get up🙂

24. Gives Eden baths

25. Prioritizes my contributions and re-arranges things so I can engage with my ministry team

26. Takes the car in for repairs when needed

27. Does stuff to make my computer run better

28. Researches gadget-y stuff and helps me decide what to buy

29. Does our ministry reimbursements each month

30. Suggests new shows for us to watch that he thinks I’ll like

31. Gives me some sweet lovin’😉

I could’ve probably listed many more things, because that husband of mine is a rock star! The only problem with making this list was it had me asking, “What do I do?” He does so much!
I love living life with Mr. Poon – he’s amazing and the perfect partner-in-life for me.

Happy birthday, Jason!


Ariella’s Birth Day

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Ariella Wai Ying Poon
8lb 6oz., 22in long

This is the story of Ariella’s labor and delivery. It’s not graphic but, still, it’s a story about birth. You’ve been warned🙂

For about a week, I had been having contractions every night around the same time. Every time, I tried to simply go to sleep so that I would be rested in case it was the “real” thing. But until the night of the 29th, they never progressed in intensity or proximity. Then on Tuesday night, I texted my doula (Ashre) to let her know I was having contractions. I tried to keep it pretty nonchalant, just in case, but I suspected that this was the beginning. The next morning, I called her to let her know that this was indeed the real thing, although I knew it was pretty early on.

For the rest of the day, I just tried to relax and have a normal day. I finished up a few things and emailed some friends with some last-minute labor prayer requests. That afternoon, I was even able to sit in on my weekly virtual team meeting. Throughout the meeting, I sat on my birthing ball and would just breathe through the sporadic contractions I was having.

Two hours after that meeting, I started crying for no discernible reason. Then, I really knew we were getting somewhere. I immediately called Ashre and told her I was ready for her to come. My mother-in-law had also just arrived, and Ashre had warned me that my labor would probably progress quickly once I knew she was here and that Eden would be taken care of for the night. It’s crazy how our bodies just know! Sure enough, pretty much right when my mother-in-law walked in the door things “got real.” Jason had been casually putting things together and getting ready to go. When he told me he would put the carseat in after dinner I said, “No. Do it now please.” I knew there would be no dinner that night.

I was incredibly emotional at this point, and feeling very sentimental about it being the last bedtime routine that we’d be a family of three. So I tried to make it through the books and songs of our nightly routine with Eden. When that was over, Ashre arrived and we grabbed our things and left for the birthing center. It was harder to stay on top of the contractions and I knew progress was being made. On the way to the center, I told Jason how happy I was with the way that labor was going. I knew I’d hired the doula I needed, and I felt like many of my prayers were already being answered. In addition, I just felt very in tune with what was happening. Although we weren’t timing contractions, I knew when it was time to call Ashre, and I knew when it was time to leave for the center. Later, I would tell Ariella “it’s almost time, sweet one.” No clocks needed!

When we arrived, we were put into the room they had open (which was the room I wanted) and it turned out that the midwife I wanted to attend my labor and delivery was the one that was on-call. More answered prayers! I was checked pretty immediately, and was dilated to a 5 or a 6. Not bad for just a couple of hours of “real” work! (It was around 7pm when we arrived.) I had already cried tears of gratitude, and I would do that several more times. Everything just felt so perfect. I felt so loved and the birthing room was so calm and peaceful – just Jason, Ashre and me along with the midwife’s watchful presence. Between contractions, I was given water, encouraged and kissed. I saw my amazing husband “studying” the letter I had written him filled with tips and words he could say to encourage me. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him for doing that, but I was past speaking at this point. Still, it filled my heart and gave me strength. Ashre said, “there’s a lot of love in this room.” And I felt it. It was overwhelming.

A little before 10pm, my water still hadn’t broken and things were getting really really hard. I was crying a little from the pain, was vocalizing more and felt a bit more out of control. I looked at Jason and said, “I feel like I’m failing.” He assured me that I wasn’t and it was during a contraction very soon after this that I let out a vocalization that sounded close to a growl. My midwife immediately got up, knowing that things had changed.

Because of a risk factor I had, I was praying that my water wouldn’t break until very late in labor. It still hadn’t broken at this late stage and after my semi-growl, my midwife checked and I was completely dilated. My water broke right as she checked me, then it was time to push! I got into the bed and began to push my sweet Ariella into the world. As her head was coming, I held back and we took things slowly to minimize the trauma to my lady-parts🙂 Her head emerged and I reached down to feel and hold her as we waited for the next good contraction. When it came, I pushed, reached down and delivered my baby into the world and into my arms. She was so beautiful! So tiny and perfect and beautiful!

Just 15min after my water broke, it was over. I just kept saying, “My beautiful Ariella! My perfect baby!” and let the tears of joy flow freely. All of my prayers had been answered. Not only was she healthy and safe (the most important thing!), but the birth was exactly what I wanted and, as I would tell some friends later, far more than I deserved. I will never forget those moments.

She was born at 10:15pm, and she never left my arms until it was time to do some footprints quite a bit later. Until then, we just rested and enjoyed our new family member. By 6am the next morning, we were packed up and leaving the birthing center to go rest in our own beds. It was such a difference from the unplanned hospital birth we had the first time around!

Of course, Eden’s birth was wonderful too and definitely what I needed at that time in my life. It was during that process that I gained so much confidence in myself, God and a woman’s body. I emerged from that experience absolutely convinced that there was nothing I could not do. For Ariella’s birth, though, I knew I wanted and needed something different. The Lord granted me that, and I had the beautiful, connected birth that I had prayed and prepared for.

And now I’m watching my perfect girl sleep. She looks so much like her sister, but not! She has different eyes, but the same hairline, nose and mouth. And though she is tiny because she’s a baby, she was 8lb 6oz and 22in long at birth. Another big girl! I don’t know what it is but, despite our relative size, I guess Jason and I grow big babies.

Thank you for praying for us. Please keep praying for Ariella to stay healthy and for our family as we transition. We feel so loved and we’re thankful for you!

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Baby Poon Update (She’s Not Here Yet!)

I don’t think I’ve written a single thing about this pregnancy. If baby Poon had arrived closer to her due-date, that would still be the case. But since I’m a few days “over-due” I will break the silence. I guess.

Just a warning, though: this will be mostly a stream-of-conscious update followed by a few prayer requests.

Now that I’ve done this whole being-pregnant thing twice, can I just say that it’s cuh-razy to have a total life-altering change coming AND YOU HAVE ZERO IDEA OF WHEN IT MIGHT HAPPEN?? I’m not sure that it struck me the same way last time. Maybe it did and the sleeplessness of the next few weeks overshadowed those late-in-pregnancy thoughts. But this time, I feel like I go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking, “this may be the day/night that changes my life completely.” It’s strange. And wonderful. And annoying.

For the vast majority of the time, I’ve enjoyed pregnancy this time around. It’s been less stressful and I’ve Googled far less than the first time😉 There have been some bumps, of course, and it’s not over yet (apparently) but I’ve felt mostly at peace and thankful for this time where we’ve just enjoyed being a family of three.

A family of three that sleeps.

I’m going to the birthing center again. Some of you may remember that was my plan with Eden and, somewhere after the 36th hour of labor or so, she just wasn’t descending so I transferred to the hospital. After all that, we didn’t do anything special at the hospital – she just decided to come. I was still able to give birth naturally which was my desire, and I was so thankful! However, lesson learned: next time I will just get in the car and drive around🙂

I think I have prepared myself well for birth and done everything that I can do to have an experience that I think is safe, happy and healthy so now it is simply up to the baby and God to determine how it all plays out. I believe in birth and the power of a woman’s body to do what it’s been designed to do, but I also believe we should have open hands. I have accepted (or tried!) that I’m not in control and will simply receive whatever happens as from His hand.

But I am hoping and praying for a few things! Here’s where you can help!

I’m praying for:

1. Most obviously and most importantly, Baby to be healthy and safe!
2. The ability to stay connected to my body, to labor and to baby. That may sound hippy-ish, but with Eden’s birth process being so long, I was worn-out a little out-of-it by the end. It was still a wonderful experience and I’m so thankful for it, but I would love the ability to be more alert and connected throughout the process.
3. Her to schedule her arrival in the next week or so! I have 2wks past my due-date before I have to be transferred to the care of a hospital. While that’s clearly not the end of the world, it’s also not my preference. (Plus, I’m a little afraid of pitocin-induced super-contractions! Eek! They were hard enough the first time!)
3. My water not to break until very late in labor, if at all.
4. Eden to be taken care of well while we’re away and for her transition from being an only child to a big sister! She knows a lot about the baby coming and seems to be excited about it, but it’s hard to tell what a 2yr-old is really thinking or processing.
5. No sickies in the first 2wks! Fever in infants under 2wks old automatically grab a 2 night hospital stay, while they do all kinds of testing. We had to do this with Eden and, short-story, it sucked. It was scary, expensive, scary and scary!

Thanks so much for reading and for joining us in prayer! I truly am looking forward to meeting this person I have carried in my body for these months, and looking forward to introducing her to the community of love we live in.

Come join us, little one!

 


Sound Mind Investing

You may have noticed (but probably not) that there’s one “ad” on this blog to a company named “Sound Mind Investing”. It’s been there for a few years now and one that, despite my general disdain for ads, it’s one that I feel very good about having on this site. Some of you may know from various Facebook statuses or my previous posts on this blog that Sound Mind Investing (SMI) changed my life many years ago. It helped me get my financial house in order, and taught me how to give, save and spend appropriately and without any guilt. I love SMI and what they stand for so rather than just a passive ad on the side, I wanted to write a little more about them and how you can benefit from their services too.

Take a look at their mission statement:

Sound Mind Investing exists to help individuals understand and apply Biblically-based principles for making spending and investing decisions in order that:

  • their future financial security would be strengthened, and
  • their giving to worldwide missionary efforts for the cause of Christ would accelerate.
In other words, we want to help you have more so you can give more.

I have been a faithful subscriber to their newsletter since 2008 and my only regret was not discovering them sooner. As a subscriber to their monthly newsletter, SMI gives their monthly investment suggestions and I simply follow them. Not every pick has been a winner. I recall my first year with them and I lost something to the tune of 24% of my portfolio (but the Dow and S&P 500 lost an average of 38% for comparison). But I never panicked and was actually very excited about that because I had 40 some years for that investment to bounce back and because I believed and was taught the principle of “dollar cost averaging” through their handbook.

Which brings me to the other offering that SMI provides that I have found to be invaluable in every way: the SMI Handbook. Being new to finances back in my early twenties, I picked this book up off a recommendation from a friend and decided to go cover to cover in a week. (Something I don’t actually recommend.) I was young and hungry, so I devoured it, learning everything from how to save to mutual funds, to the differences between stocks and bonds, from asset allocations to understanding mortgages. Whenever I show people the book, they immediately get intimidated. Not going to lie, it is a thick read with lots and lots of pages. What I try to remind people and encourage them is to treat this as a textbook and handbook, not a novel to be read straight through. From time to time I still pick the book off from my bookshelf to scan a few sections to brush up on topics that I need or want a refresher for.

But what good is a financial newsletter recommendation without some facts? So just how good have their picks been? Since I started investing and following their picks in 2008, I have seen my portfolio grow 33% overall. But more importantly for me and TJ is that our financial house is in order and we have NEVER fought about money during our marriage. Never. We have no debt (minus a mortgage). No car payments. No student loans. We have an emergency fund. We are saving for “retirement” so that we can be self funded ministers of the Gospel in our latter years. We have college savings for our children so that they can graduate from college without the burden of debt. But the best part of all? Our giving has increased every year too. Yes, we have been able to save more but the best thing for us has been enabling ourselves to give more to the causes that we are passionate about.

For anyone who is interested in subscribing, I would highly recommend you do the web option for $9.95/month. You get the digital version of their newsletter via email AND you get full access to their website with other helpful articles and readings over various financial topics. The print only version is $79/annually and the dual version (which gets you both the printed newsletters and web access) is $79/annually plus $4.95/month.

Would you like your financial house in order? Would you like to be worry free about the future and your “retirement years? Would you like to increase and give to all the places where God is asking you to?

If you answered “yes” to the previous questions, why not give SMI a try?


A Wedding “Dance”

I recently attended a wedding and was seated at a table with many of my good friends. It just so happened that I was the only Caucasian person at the table – all of my friends were Asian-American. Working with Epic and being married to a Chinese-American man, this is not an uncommon occurrence. I may not have even noticed, except that something quite extraordinary happened that brought it to my full attention.

It came time for the wedding attendees to toast the bride and groom. All the tables began to prepare by distributing the sparkling cider that had been placed squarely in the center of each one. At some point, it dawned on me that the bottle was not within my reach and I had just started to wonder how I should go about getting my glass filled.

At that moment, I looked up and realized that a dance was already happening around me. A dance in which everyone knew the steps and their part without a word being spoken. I watched as glasses were being passed seamlessly around, including mine, until everyone’s was filled and placed before them. Before I had even fully processed that I had a need, it was already being met.

Beautiful.

In Epic, we talk about how every culture reflects part of God and how, if we only experience one, we are missing out on experiencing different aspects of God that are reflected in cultures other than our own. At this wedding, I received a visible representation of this truth and instantly saw the Lord’s character reflected in the mindset of my friends.

I was thinking about my own glass. Everyone else was conscious of the needs of the group and was working together to make sure that those needs were met. I am quite sure that, if Jesus had been at my table, he would’ve been participating in the dance of glasses happening around me. How like the Lord, to anticipate our needs and be arranging to meet them even before we are aware that we have them!

I’m not sure anyone else at the table processed this. In fact, I’m certain they didn’t – to them, it was just normal and routine. I noticed it because it is different from me and stood in contrast to my Anglo, individual way of thinking and living.

I love this, and I need this. I need to be in places where I can see and receive His love through my interactions with people that are different from me. Otherwise, I would miss out on the beauty of a culture that sees the needs of the people around them and works to silently meet them. I would miss out on seeing a visible representation of the God who is working to meet our needs even before we know we have them.