Chronicles of China

CHAPTER 9

The phone screen lit up the darkness and found its way to the tender part of my heart.  Immediately, sleep left my body and energy flooded in as the memories took over my mind.

It was from my best friend.  Call when you get stirring.

As soon as I heard her hello, the days faded away and it was as though yesterday was the day I had felt her goodbye embrace, smelled her caramelly scent, and admired her red wool hat.  I could hear the smile in her voice and I am sure mine echoed the same joy.

Distance will never never separate us from the gifts God gives us.

She called just to tell me thank you.  That an impact I had made on her years ago had trickled down to others and was changing their lives.  Tears bubbled up and spilled over as my heart swelled with her kind words.  She couldn’t have known how badly I had needed encouragement.  How I was questioning everything about my life and wondering if it was even worth it.  How it seems like all I do could never be enough to make an impact for His glory.  How I had a date later that afternoon to teach my neighbor to bake cookies, but I knew it would be frustrating and hard because we don’t speak the same language.  How she was thanking me for doing that very same thing with her.  The very same thing.  Her words felt like Jesus was speaking to me, telling me that I am enough in Him.  That He has given me gifts that He will use.  I don’t have to change who I am, I just have to give myself to Him because He has already made me perfectly.  That teaching my neighbor to bake will show her His love, because He will use me, and through me He will show her Himself.  That she will always remember that day the foreigner taught her to bake.

I will always remember that day.

And this day.  This day that my friend called to say thank you, because right now, He is teaching me to be thankful, and what better way to want to give thanks than when you receive it?  I can’t help but to want to share that feeling and bless others, bless HIM, with gratefulness.

As my mind drifted back to the day before when my tutor told me how she celebrates Thanksgiving, even though her country doesn’t recognize the day as a holiday, I realized how much more she has it figured out than I do.  I, whose holiday this belongs to.  She said she calls her parents and tells them thank you.  She calls her best friends and tells them thank you.  She calls her siblings in Him who have helped her and thanks them.

She gives thanks.  

I eat pie and get frustrated that all anyone wants to do is watch football.

Not this year.  This year, I am choosing to have a grateful heart.  This year, I will remember those who have helped shape me into the person I am today, and I will thank them.

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Chronicles of China

CHAPTER 8

“I need to tell you something.  And Daddy.  And you have to be together.”  Ellie said.

My mind started to race and think back over everything she had said that day.  Did she get into trouble?  Did she break something?  Did she have a bad day at school?  My face must have been a mirror of the questions running through my heart in that moment of time because Ellie said,

Don’t worry.  It’s good.”

When had Ellie ever reassured me?  What could she need?

Cam came over, and I grabbed Ellie’s hand to offer her the emotional support that I needed so badly.  While she may only be six years old, I caught of glimpse of the future that is fast approaching of the day when she will have an announcement that will change the way life looks from the instant the words leave her mouth.  I met someone.  I’m getting married.  I’m going to college in New York.  I joined the army.  I am staying in China.  I’m pregnant.  So many statements that leave a lasting, forever kind of imprint on your life.  This one was no different.

I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”

Impact.  Forever changed.  The fear fled and 6 years of answered prayers came flooding over my soul.  The tears started to form in the recesses of my eyes as I willed them to stay put.  I didn’t want to miss a second.  I wanted this moment to forever be engraved on my heart.  As we began to ask her questions, her growth and understanding of scripture and of who Jesus is was so obvious when compared to what she knew just a few short months ago.  She said she wanted to follow Jesus because

“I love Him”

My hope and heart’s desire is that she never forgets this love she has.  That her knowledge will grow and her heart will remain pure for Him.  That she will cling tightly to the Father when the world lets her down and when we let her down.  That His love will forever be enough.  Enough to carry her through the joys of life, the sorrows of life, the every day living of life.  That this childhood faith that believes because her heart is full of love for the God who sacrificed His entire life’s breath for her, will always be the faith she holds on to.  That she won’t ever have doubts or disbelief that draw her away from the Father, but rather that she has crises of faith that drive her straight into His arms with deeper understanding and wisdom.

As she bowed her head and in her own words gave her life to Jesus, the tears started to fall.

May we all remember the simplicity of following Jesus because we love Him.

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Book Character Day

IMG_7266Instead of Halloween and loads of candy, the girls had book character day at school.  I LOVED it!  They had to think about books that they liked and who they could dress as with what we had in the house.  We thought and thought and started to plan, then got letters on the Monday before the big day that let us know each class had a theme.  Whaaaatttt??  Good thing I hadn’t done any work yet!  Ha!

IMG_7267Ellie’s class had an Underwater theme.  She wanted to be Ariel, so I started looking around the house and online for ideas on how to pull off an Ariel costume with no Hobby Lobby or Target on the continent.  I pulled out a roll of teal tulle (my favorite) that my mom just happened to bring me and quickly made her a tutu.  I planned to make some purple seashells to attach to her purple halter top shirt and even found these arm covers that were teal with flowers inside, making them look all underwater-y.  However, true to Ellie, she changed her mind the morning of.  She has done this every. single. Halloween of her life.  So, with her tutu on the floor, she went for a dressed up Ariel.  Basically, she wanted to wear the beautiful dress my aunt sent her and the white high heels my mom spoiled her with.  She asked for makeup (blush) and curled hair.  The results left me with a little girl who didn’t look so little, and my heart may have broken a little bit.

IMG_7268Gracie’s class had a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs theme.  She took the opportunity to thrill my heart and dress as a cupcake.  Again, cruel and unusual punishment is making a costume with no Hobby Lobby.  Luckily, we have a bookstore downstairs that has all sorts of random stuff like hula hoops, balloons, and poster board.  And, again, I had some tulle that mom threw in the box to bring.  So thankful!  She turned out super cute and even won one of four awards at school for best costume!

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Faith’s class used Narnia for their theme.  I am not a Narnia reader.  Just not my cup of tea.  So, that meant I had NO clue what to do to help her out!  I asked some friends who gave me some great ideas and started to think of some possibilities when she came home with a big blue piece of fabric her teacher had given her.  She said her teacher told her she could be a water fairy.  Ummm…okay?  I hear fairy and think wings.  So, I pulled some wings out that I had picked up at IKEA for a Christmas gift  and gave those to her.  She had a crown because a few weeks earlier I was in a generous mood and bought a crown for all the little girls in our group here when I saw them at a local store.  Hers happened to be blue.  She dressed in her frilly blue skirt and we wrapped her in the fabric.  I am not real sure what a water fairy is, but I am pretty sure it is nothing like this.  However, she looked adorable and felt great about her outfit, which is all that matters to me!

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Sanya. Finally.

Because we have the best bosses around, who want to bless us and encourage us, and who see us, and by us, I mean me, falling apart, they sent us back to Sanya the week after the airport puking incident.  The point was to see where we will eventually get to live and get a feel for it.  I fell in love.sanya1The food wasn’t too different than the food we have here, but the noodle shop had these burger things that were mouth watering good.  I can’t wait to have those on a weekly basis!Sanya2We also had some ice cream that was made in front of us on a frozen metal thing.  We chose the fruit, they blended it, added some sugary cream stuff, and handed it to us.  We had mango, pineapple, banana.  It was good, but I wasn’t ready to replace my chocolate ice cream with it.  Then we went back, and Gracie got an apple/orange one.  Oh wow.  It was so refreshing and wonderful, and I can’t wait for more of it!  sanya3The beach made the girls so happy.  Faith was in seashell heaven, and Ellie got a little exuberant in her sand playing and ended up needing help getting it off her face, but it didn’t even slow her down.  They love the beach and everything about it.  This got their hearts a little more ready to leave the school they love and the friends they adore.sanya4

The day we spent at the pretty beach was beautiful!  The other days were a little overcast, but this day was all blue skies and full sun.  It was fabulous!  Our other bosses traveled down to spend half a day with us and meet the girls.  They made quite the impression when the came bearing pink sand toys.  It was a relaxing day that settled my heart and gave me lots to look forward to in the future.sanya5These are some random phone shots…well, all the pictures are random phone shots because I remembered the camera when we arrived the airport.  Hate it when that happens!  The first picture, if you squint just right, you will see it…we are sitting on the floor indian style around a low table.  There was a hole we could put our legs into if we didn’t want to sit cross legged, but it was too fun not to!  We had sweet and sour something and some candied potatoes and a little bit of chinese tortilla things.  They need Rosas to come give lessons!  Ha!  It was super neat experience, and I am sure a place we will return to often.  The second picture was just pretty.  The palm trees, the water in the background.  It’s an island kind of life.

While we were in our future city, we scoped out the grocery stores and availability of butter, because, well, that is important!  We visited a few markets and went to the city beach (not the pretty touristy one, but the one where locals go).  One evening, we went down after dark and the girls played tag in the sand while Cam and I sat on the steps and talked to the people around us.  It was relaxing, nice, and I hope a glimpse of what life will be like in a year or so.  We really enjoyed our time there and came back refreshed and ready to study hard in order to move there!  However, that said, I want to say how much we really do love the city we are in.  It is convenient and big and full of so many people who have become family.  I know when the day comes for us to say goodbye, there will be tears and promises of visits to see one another again.  We aren’t quite ready to end this chapter and start a new one, but we do know that the next chapter is definitely something to look forward to!

 

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A birthday celebration

We had some friends over to celebrate his birthday American style.  We asked what his favorite food was, and he told us a few things.  Ha!  We ended up making pizza (pepperoni and hawaiian), cheeseticks with marinara sauce, grilled wings BWW style (thanks to some great wing sauce!), and french fries.  And cake.  Chocolate cake.  It was quite a spread of fattening, yummy food, and judging by the fact that there was none leftover, I would say it was accepted well!Peiran1We hung the birthday banner and blew up balloons, because the girls insisted a birthday could not be a birthday without both of those things.  Of course.Peiran2I was frying the best fries in China when Faith really had to tell me a story.  I’m sure the story was as awesome as her big grin.  Well, probably not that good, because her smile lights up a room.Peiran3This is mainly for documentation for the purpose of showing her first serious boyfriend.  He has to know what he is getting into, and I just want to help out.  I am sure she will never outgrow her antics though.  Her personality is way too fun to be hidden or changed.  Just like Cam will always be a master griller.  It’s just who they are.Peiran4My girls love our friends.  She actually works at their school, and in the mornings, we can see them trying to convince her that she really should sit with them on the school bus.  It warms my heart to see them so taken with friends over here who are different from any friends we have ever known before.

IMG_7236People here have cakes just like we do in America, with candles and wishes and gifts, but he seemed so surprised!  This cake was my favorite chocolate cake, but because we, apparently, like to eat things with an overload of sugar, and this country doesn’t, I toned it down a bit by filling it with sweetened whipped cream and topping it with what was supposed to be chocolate whipped cream, but turned out more like mousse.  It was soooo good.  Think light and airy ding-dong.  It was an accidental, last minute cake that may have been the ugliest one I have ever made (another story, another day), so I am not sure it is reproduce-able, but I will most certainly try!

Peiran5He was making a wish, and it took a really long time, so we started laughing, then he wanted to tell us his wish, but we wouldn’t let him, and then the candles wouldn’t blow out, and it became one of those belly laugh moments that you think back on and giggle when you are alone, so you get stared at by strangers and laugh harder.  Almost as great as that run-on sentence.  Really.

The whole night ended up being really great.  And if you knew how the day started and how awful my attitude was going into the evening, you would be as surprised as I was by the outcome.  There really is something to say about serving regardless of your “want to”.  Serving someone else will always end up with you being blessed far more than they.

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I am so thankful for these parks

The weekend we were supposed to be in Sanya, you know, the weekend my parents were flying back to America without our last hugs, we visited a really great park.  It was so needed that week and such a good reminder to me to find beauty and to see HIM in spite of myself and my bad attitude.

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I love the picture of Ellie because it is a picture of how I feel about fishing.  Don’t get me wrong, I think fishing is fun when the fish are biting, but I am a fair-weather girl.  If the fish are uninterested, then so I am.  Ellie wasn’t catching anything, and her chin was in her hand…she was giving up.  Lucky for her, Cam stepped in the picture, and, of course, he caught a fish for her in 2.2 seconds.  He was totally in his element in this overcrowded fishing pond.  I think, if it weren’t for me and a schedule for later that afternoon, they would have stayed all day!

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I was cheesing it up just as much as the girls were as they caught fish.  You’d have thought they won the Superbowl singlehandedly the way we were all grinning.  But, those grins weren’t wasted, as many people were taking pictures of the foreigners in their land.

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She still loves fishing.  We have pictures of her at all ages fishing and doing outdoor things.  I wonder if it will change?  She (or her sisters for that matter) are certainly not grossed out by stinky Chinese bait or taking the fish off the hooks.  In fact, they weren’t even interested in washing their hands afterward.  I was using up all the antibacterial gel just watching and imagining the slime and goop that was being transferred to their hands every time they took a fish off the hook or added fresh bait or even petted the little darlings in their red bucket.

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Faith was the queen of the pond.  She was reeling them in!  I love that she did it all with a purse on.  A perfect mix of girly and…not girly.

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And the wildlife we saw!  The bare booty is for your benefit.  It never gets old, and we always laugh when we see bare cheeks, but it is a multiple times a day occurrence.  You really would think there weren’t public bathrooms nearby…

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There were also paddle boats.  The girls each had a turn driving and peddling us around the pond.

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Cam and I got to enjoy the scenery without any work.  It was fabulous.  Almost like a date, except for the 3 little girls who couldn’t stop giggling, of course.

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I almost forgot we were in China, but then we would catch a glimpse of a traditional building and remember where we were.  And why we are here.  And how these people have a sense of art that we didn’t see too often in America.

IMG_7117And back to the fishing one more time because I love this picture.  I love the smile on Ellie’s face and the studious look on Faith’s.  And I really love that Cam is teaching them.  He isn’t doing it for them, but he is there, with them, helping them.  What a picture of what our Father does for us!

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Notes from home

dana1Letters from home are always so fun to read!  We got our first envelope of letters a few weeks ago (one other envelope has been sent but never seen…) from Tim, Dana, Kerri, and Nikki.  The girls, and, who are we kidding, Cam and I were SO excited!

ImageWe each got our own letters, and some of us had joy bubbling inside that was leaking out as we read them over and over again.

ImageOthers were very serious and intent on devouring each and every written word.

ImageAnd others wanted help reading the beautiful loopy writing.

ImageI love that they sat in a circle with everything in the middle and there was…silence.

ImageThen the pictures took us back and made us remember, and there were stories told and giggles heard.  My heart was full with the remembrance of what a blessed life we have lived.  How were we the fortunate ones who got to live life with so many people we truly love?

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A few days after the envelope arrived, the most beautiful box we have received arrived.  Not only was it pink and covered in daisies, it had a note that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEPHANIE.  I mean, what else could be better?! 😉mybox2Inside, were gifts.  Special gifts.  An owl necklace to remind me of home, because our hearts will always partially belong to the home of the Owls (Joshua, TX).  A Vera coffee cup with a note tucked inside to remind me of my favorite Kerri who knows my favorite things.  Serendipity spices because the name is fun and because it is a throwback to Dana and all the things we love about her.  Pankits because I am an awful pancake maker and Dana knows this.  And because it reminds me of breakfast by the pool that I’m not sure we ever got to have.  Heart post-its because the whole box was packed with love.  It was the best belated birthday gift I could ever ask for, and I love the senders with all my heart!

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