Birthday/ House warming via China Post

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I really love it when there are pretty things for me in boxes.  And my best friend knows what I like!  Do you see that Texas?  With the “imy (I miss you)” on it.  She has China on her key ring.  The Lord truly blessed me when He crossed our paths. 

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Cam’s mama also filled two boxes with things we love.  Things that will make school not only fun, but pretty.  It was like Mardel in a box.  We got the cutest file folders, burlap organizer, magnetic bookmarks, and all other sorts of fabulous things that you will see when I get the school room put together.  

 

sbox3 This box was sent by mama and filled by people from Northridge BC, my sis-in-law, bestie, and mama.  It was a big box and full of things that made squeals.  They will also make fat thighs.  I am sure it will be worth it though…

There was some white tulle so all our gifts will be decorated beautifully when we give them, some lime green sheets to make Ellie’s dreams more Shrek-ish.  A vase from my sister that I know what chosen because it looked just like something I would love, full of colors and flowers, and simply beautiful.  It didn’t make the trip in one piece, or even three.  More like a hundred.  I almost cried when I saw the pieces.  Especially because it was packed so well…surrounded with bubble wrap, stuffed with soft socks, surrounded with cushy things, yet it still crumbled.  Sometimes that is a little like life…put together on the outside, packed with perfection, but crumbling on the inside.  I am choosing to not see the broken pieces but rather to see the love with which it was chosen and sent to me.

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I have said this before, but I really love notes in boxes.  The boxes yesterday all had notes.  Handwritten notes that said “I love you”.  You know…you could send us letters just like normal…someone sent me a Christmas card last year (thanks Ash!) and it made our day/week/month!  

Ellie also received her first real Bible after deciding to believe.  Cam and I ordered it and had her name imprinted on it, then Kelly put it in her box for us.  She is very excited to have her own Book to read, and we are very excited for her to start this journey of diving into the Word that will never end.

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Cam’s Mama sent him shoes.  I love the picture that it brings to mind.  I don’t think you ever get too old for your mama to shop for you.  Our parents are so great about providing for us, even in our 30’s, with 3 kids, living across the ocean.  The love of a parent doesn’t fade.  And we have the best parents.  When I think of Cam’s parents and the journey we have been on, I can’t even imagine having better in-laws.  In fact, I don’t like the term “in-laws” because it feels like not enough to describe the love I have for them.  I am blessed to have 2 moms and 2 dads that love me equally.  It’s pretty awesome.

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Gracie got to celebrate her birthday again, and she has eagerly awaiting the moment!  (The pics of her in the black dress were on her actual birthday in Chengdu).  I made my first Old Navy China purchase for her, and it was a win!  Those of you with tweenies know how hard it is sometimes to guess at what they would actually like…

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Cambry (her cousin) sent her an owl picture that says something about best friends.  I love that after almost 2 years, they still think of each other as best friends.  I hope that never fades.  Ever.  Mama sent her the new American girl movie and iTunes money.  They have had the digital code for a week now and have watched the movie a dozen times…enough to know all the words.  

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Kelly rocked out the gift this year.  She sent Gracie some Miss Me bermudas and a fun island tank.  And a bracelet that Gracie LOVES.  It all fits fabulously and Gracie seriously loves the choices.

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She looks pretty cute in them too!

I have been reminded so often in the last week how much we are loved.  Both by our Father and by our friends and family.  This was just another display of that overwhelming love in action.  

 

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New city. New roles.

A week ago, we moved to our target city.  The place we have longed to be…have worked hard to get to…have dreamed about.  It is as beautiful as we remembered and as lovely as in our dreams!

Caught in the midst of chaos in the house, there hasn’t been a lot of words in my mind that would really encapsulate what these past 7 days have been, but I will try.

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This is the view from my living room in the mornings. The red tiled buildings are in our complex and look just like our house.  The darkness at the bottom is a lake surrounded by palm trees, but the sun was so magnificent, those faded…

Beautiful.  

It truly is gorgeous.  You can look around and see the majesty of our Father at every angle.  The mountains rising, topped with fluffy white clouds against a backdrop of baby blue.  Our sparkling turquoise pool set in the middle of a lake.  Palm tree lined walkways right outside our door.  Water that stretches into the horizon as  you stand on sandy beaches.  It is humbling to know that His desire is for us to do life here.

Lost

Taxis have been our primary mode of transportation since we have arrived.  While riding in a city we don’t yet know, you really feel the dependency on language and faith.  The people here don’t quite understand what we are saying, so there is usually a bit of difficulty getting our needs communicated.  We are also completely at the drivers mercy because, for me especially, there is a lack of landmark recognition.  I just have to trust that I will arrive where I need to be.  While in these taxis, it is hard not to notice the idols set up for display on the dashboard.  I can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that these people don’t see The Creator displayed in full glory all around them.  He is evident everywhere you look, yet they are still so lost.

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Inconvenient

The lack of a vehicle has been shockingly crippling.  Within walking distance, we do have two markets.  One is nearly a mile away, the other much closer.  However, as you enter the closer market, you see a trash dump.  The smell is less than appealing to buy food.  We have been shopping in these outdoor wet markets for a year and a half and this one made me hesitant to buy meat.  So hesitant, in fact, that I couldn’t actually bring myself to buy any.  Within walking distance, we do NOT have a grocery store.  No bread, milk, flour can be bought easily or quickly when we run out.  In fact, fresh milk isn’t readily available in this city.  I think one store sells it and it is almost $3usd for a quart.  We buy the UHT box milk instead…which isn’t much cheaper,but it is more convenient and safer to drink.  I have dreams of Gandy’s milk…and a car with air conditioning.

A friend here offered to take me to the places she goes to buy things like cheese, pepperoni, ham, butter…you know, all the things westerners like to eat.  Probably also the things that make us so much bigger than the local people.  Ha!  The picture above is where we went to go to the restaurant/hotel supply place.  I found cheddar cheese, ham, beef patties, mustard and some other random items.  I thought it so odd to be in the middle of a small village buying the things we would find in big cities elsewhere.  Seemed a little backward.  I also learned that the only way to get here is to own a vehicle of some variety.  A taxi won’t take you all the way down…not great news for me…or the friend whose car I was in for she will now have to be my “ride”!

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Y’all.  This place takes hot to a new level for us.  The humidity makes it a little hard to breathe at times.  And the sweat that pours from every pore of my body makes me gag.  It isn’t a pretty little glistening.  It is a…my hair is wet, make-up is running, clothes are drenched as though I exercised type of sweating.  So I don’t wear make-up.  I always wear deodorant (you’re welcome).  I layer the shirts so the under one can mostly contain the sweat.  Sunday, I was wearing a dress…you know, thinking it would be breezy.  We had some shopping to do (outside, no AC) so I was trying to be proactive about the sweating.  At one point in the afternoon, the sweat was running down my legs.  Like pee.  Gross, I tell you!

Friendly

I have been pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the people in our close vicinity!  When we came to find a place to live, the people would barely speak to us.  I remember feeling pretty dejected, thinking this was going to far more challenging that I was ready for.  However, on one of our first days, Cam made a friend in the bike shop owner and has already been invited to go out riding with him and his friends.  The ladies in the stores nearby have been welcoming and kind.  There is a older man that walks his fat weiner dog every morning and he always has a big smile for me as I pass by.  I pass him multiple times…

Dreamy

Even with the inconveniences and the bright shining sun that causes us to glow, I wouldn’t trade it.  I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be here, in the midst of darkness, shining Light.  As I look over the water, to the mountains with the sun beginning its ascent from behind their rounded tops, I am reminded of how big my Father is.  How encompassing His love.  How holy His name.  And I am honored to be here.

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Flying like monkeys

Imagine soaring through the jungles of Thailand with nothing but a harness and some cables.

Imagining it?

Pretty awesome isn’t it?!

We had the unique opportunity to zip line through the jungle as a family while we were in Chiangmai for some meetings, and it was amazingly memorable!  Our faces hurt from the smiles we wore all day, and I think all of us would go back in a second.  Sit back and enjoy the recap Cam made to share!

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Nothing Ununusal

Sometimes being a foreigner has great advantages.IMG_5590

The girls and I had a lunch date yesterday at a new mall near our house.  By near, I mean we walk to the bus stop outside our gate, cross the street Frogger style, pausing on the yellow line for the second half of the street to clear up, wait patiently for the correct bus to appear, quickly gauge whether or not we want to press on with the hundreds of other sweaty, non deodorant using people or wait for the next one with hopes of empty space, then go four stops down, get off, dodge water puddles that may or may not actually be water while remaining aware of speeding scooters that won’t hesitate to maim you.  Finally, the golden arches beam like a ray of sunshine calling out to all the naive people who haven’t been reading the news.

Apparently while we were gallivanting across Chiangmai drinking a years supply of Manao, the factory that produces the food for McDonalds and other popular chains was shut down due to hazardous health practices.

Awesome.

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Their menu was “limited”.  They weren’t joking.  We had 3 choices.  Egg McMuffin with cheese.  Egg McMuffin with cheese and ham, or a fish sandwich.  Hash browns or fries for the side.  Good thing we don’t have a problem eating fries and ice cream for lunch!

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As we were finishing up our well rounded, healthy meal, I was approached by a woman in a sheer green gauzy top wearing a big smile.  She began to say something like this, “blah blah blah (in Chinese) your kids blah blah very pretty blah blah take pictures blah 2nd floor.  So, all those English classes about context clues in high school?  They are remembered.  I made up the rest of the sentence in my mind and pretended that I knew exactly what she was trying to say to me.  I told her I would ask my friend when she returned and if she was willing, we would come up to see them.

Seeing as how we were in an adventurous mood having braved the “limited menu” already, we headed up to let people take pictures of our kids with secret hopes in our hearts that one day we would see them on the side of a bus.  Not really.  Because, well, we are moving.  Translate that into packing all morning, not getting dressed until 10 minutes before walking out, and let’s be realistic.  The mamas will also be in the pictures.  BIG white people.  And I was in a hat because my hair looked like I played with electricity.  And makeup is overrated these days.  I did, however, find my earrings on the table as I walked out!IMG_6137

As we were ushered into a fabulous new restaurant, we quickly found out that they wanted to give us a free sampling of their menu.  We only had to enjoy it and allow them to capture it on video. (We did explain to our children that they had to mind their facial expressions when they tasted something a little odd).  We needn’t have worried.  Our tables were soon filled with ice cream served in martini glasses, lattes, mochas with sprinkles, yogurts, noodles, more ice cream and then a magical flower tea party. The girls had a blast!  And as the only coffee drinker, I truly enjoyed all the coffee and had bountiful energy the rest of the day.  Gracie was asked to pretend to choose a book from their little library and read a bit.  They were all in characters, so she had to dig fast for her acting skills.  To complete the experience, we got to sign the wall and ham it up with a thumbs up and highly exaggerated facial expressions as we all said, “Fei chang hao!!” (extremely good).

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China never seems to disappoint when it comes to adventure making.  A lunch date to McDonalds sounded fun, but my imagination couldn’t have fathomed the memories that would be made!

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