CHRONICLES OF CHINA

CHAPTER 11

It was creeping up on me.  I started to notice that things got to me faster, that my tears fell a lot harder than they should.  The funk I found myself in wasn’t to be shaken off so easily.

Thirteen.

The milestone that all kids look forward to.  The one that changes things.  The beginning of the years that bring the most changes, the most growing up.  And she would never know them.  would never get to see her go through those changes.  See her have her first boyfriend, her first kiss, her first dance.  I won’t ever see her fall in love in Jesus.

Because she is with Jesus.

I know I shouldn’t ask for more.  Because what more is there?  She is living the dream that we all long for, but, really, deep in my heart, I long for her.  I want to know who she is.  I want to know what His purpose was in those too short four months.  I want the big picture, because the little picture just hurts.

She didn’t get cake or balloons this year in her honor, and she should have.  It was the first year we didn’t follow tradition.  We talked about her a little…she was on my heart, is always on my heart.  I held in the tears, the weeping that was going on in my heart was hidden from the world, but I felt it.  I was being shredded inside because she just felt forgotten, but, the thing is, is that I won’t ever forget.  I won’t forget her first kick, her first breath.  The sounds she made when she was happy, the way she smelled.  Sometimes I smell something that reminds me of her, and it comes flooding back.  Everything.  How she loved baths, the way her hair curled.  How she loved to be carried outward, facing the world, not wanting to miss a thing.  Like she knew.  She knew she needed to get as much in as she could.

I don’t wish she never happened.  Even if I knew the end of her story, I would’ve wanted to be a part of it.  The overwhelming joy she created in my heart far outweighs the pain.

Happy Birthday, Chloe Michelle!

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Chronicles of China

CHAPTER 10

The unimaginable happened.  My world was rocked to its core, and I felt like I was living in a nightmare.  I am living a nightmare.

The phone rang while I was on the back of Cam’s scooter.  We took a vacation day to celebrate our “one year of living overseas” anniversary, so we had plans to eat out together and do some Christmas shopping.  My first thought was that it was my mom, because we talk every day and that morning I hadn’t heard from her.  I knew she had a party to go to, and she was probably just calling to tell me she loves me.  Since we were out, the phone was ringing from 3G and service wasn’t good, so I wasn’t going to answer, but it rang again.  Then a 3rd time.  So, I grabbed my phone from Cam’s jacket pocket and looked.  It was my brother.

Weird.  He doesn’t call me.

As the phone started to ring, my stomach started to knot.

This can’t be good.

He asked me if I was in a place I could talk.  He said reception was bad.  I told him I was in the middle of the city, not anywhere near home.  He accepted that and told me that Dad needed to talk to me.

What happened?

As my heart began to race, and worry filled my heart, I knew I didn’t want to hear whatever it was he was going to say.

And I didn’t want to hear it.  Life as I knew it had been irrevocably altered.  Questions filled my head and heart with what the next step should be.

Should we move back?

Can I get a flight today?

Can this be real?

WHY?

My heart hurts.  My eyes feel like they are full of razor blades and there is a constant pounding in my head.  Pretending for those around me that I am okay is too hard.  Not letting the tears flow hurts, but I have children and life still continues around me that I must participate in.  It feels like the world is spinning…like I can’t get off.  I can’t slow it down.

I want to reverse time and prevent what would happen on December 12, 2013.  This time of testing is too hard.  Being able to hear Him over the emotions screaming in my head is almost impossible.  Choosing to have faith and follow Him when I hear Him asking me ,

Do you love ME more than you love your mom?

I’m not sure I can answer the way I know I should.  The way He would want me to.  The battle is raging and I’m not sure I am winning.

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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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Chronicles of China

CHAPTER 7

The house was still and silent, with no one needing anything because no one was here.  My Father was beckoning me to His feet, so I went and rested there.  The music was on, my eyes were closed, and I felt Him.  It was one of those wondrous moments that I long for…that I wish would occur every time I worship Him, but they seem so few because of my own distractions and inability to truly focus.  But today.  Ohhh today, my heart was overflowing with His goodness.  I got up, feeling as though I were floating on air to start the days chores. This house was going to be cleaned top to bottom with no one to interrupt or ask for something or make a mess after I just finished cleaning something.  It was going to be magical.

As I was dusting my room, I came to my husband’s side table where I saw his journal.  I had his permission to read it any time I wanted to, but it felt so private.  Like I was invading on his thoughts and going somewhere that maybe I didn’t need to be.  I cleaned around it and under it, and then sat back and pulled it into my lap.  As the pages fell open, I felt it…

It felt like Satan had unleashed a league of demons to attack me.

My heart began to race, tears began to pour down my face, and my heart was filled with a nameless fear.  The peace that just moments before I was reveling in, was shaken.  It was fading fast and I had no idea what was happening.  I began to pray and seek His peace and comfort.  I began to ask out loud for Him to send his angels to fight this battle.  I gritted my teeth and growled at the devil that he remove his demons now.

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.                              -Samuel Chadwick

This kept rolling through my mind, and I recalled the struggle I had in the past of establishing daily times of quiet, and my reasoning was always because the days that I made an effort, and got up early, or blocked out time, those were the days that were the worst days.  Now I see with clarity the reason my days were bad.  Satan was attacking me on all fronts because I was praying in earnest.  Today was one of those days and if it took everything in me, the evil one would not prevail!  My God is bigger.  My God is MIGHTY.  He moves mountains and the seas bow to Him…what is one little fallen angel to Him?

So I began to pray harder through the tears.  When if felt like I was running a marathon and my heart would burst out of my chest and the fears would begin to overtake me, I would recite His promises and cry out to Him fervently to send His peace.  To rest my heart and remove my fears.  Songs began to fill my heart and move through my lips, then another attack would hit.

It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, but I knew exactly what it was…

War.

As a follower of the Mighty One, I am waging war daily in everything I do.  When I am closest to Him, the war’s intensity is increased.  When I begin to share my heart, the opposition rises with newfound energy.  But.

I John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God, and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 

I serve a Mighty Father who is greater, stronger, and higher than any other.  He has called me to battle and, you know what, the battle won’t be fair.  The enemy will distract me, discourage me, scare me, and try to beat me down.  But you know what else?

I am equipped for this war.

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

1 Peter 5:8-9

I have been warned and it is now my job to be alert.  Especially when his attacks are unexpected and come from angles that I never would have seen.  The enemy isn’t stupid.  He knows my fears and weaknesses, and he is cruel enough to exploit them.  He is cunning and evil, and he steals joy.  He steals the high moments when my feet are off the ground and I feel light and free and excited about my future in a land not my own.  He lets the air out of my balloon and snickers as I feel the air slowly leaking out, and the despondency and old fears I thought were in the past resurface.

Then he shakes with rage and trembles in fear when I call out the name that is greater than all other names.

Jesus

He pulls at his hair, stomps his feet, shakes his fists and watches, knowing he is powerless.

Jesus

I am on the winning team.

 

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Chronicles of China

CHAPTER SIX

You communicate using hyperbole, and it’s a problem.

As the words left his mouth I felt my face grow warm and the tears well up.  Who is he to tell me how I communicate?  I don’t talk with him often enough for him to judge me.  Who does he think he is?  I felt outrage and embarrassment.  As he started to throw example after example into my face, I felt trampled on.  Beat up.  I felt misunderstood.  I felt like, if given a chance, I could explain.  As my tears spilled over, the chance never came.

Later, as I read this:

Hyperbole (/hˈpɜrbəl/hy-pur-bə-lee;[1]Greek: ὑπερβολή hyperbolē, “exaggeration”) is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.[2]

I felt justified.  I felt that my use of hyperbole was really quite creative, and he was taking it way too literally.  So it was his problem. Not mine.  As I crossed my arms and let out a “harumph”, a ball started forming in the pit of my stomach signaling to me that I was about to have to admit I was wrong.  I was going to have to be humble and look inward to see the dirty, ugly parts of me that need to change, but it could wait.  Wallowing in my self-righteous, you hurt me so I hate you, attitude is okay for a little bit.  Right?

I woke up the next morning still feeling sad.  Still feeling trampled on, despite an email that apologized for the bluntness and delivery of said criticism.  In my mind the only things I could remember from every meeting I have had here, with him, was that I left feeling like I should just quit.  That this life wasn’t really the one I was called to live.  That, obviously, I wasn’t good enough.  That I wasn’t accepted as I am, but that I had to change to be who these mere men wanted me to be.  I spent the day in a funk that almost cost me an opportunity to shine my light.  The light that I had successfully hidden while rolling around in my self-made pity party.  The party that was serving up dishes of selfishness and pride with a free flowing pitcher of hyperbole.

Then I realized it.

He was right.

My Father put this man in a position that is harder than most I can imagine.  He has the responsibility of relaying to us the things HE tells him to say.  I know, without a doubt, this leader of mine is closely attached and holding firm to the life-giving Vine.  I know the things laid upon his heart that are meant to mold me into the image of the Almighty aren’t his own ideas.

It must be hard to deal with someone who cries every time you give suggestions of improvement.  It must be hard to see the tears and feel hearts break.  It must be hard to be obedient when doing so brings hurt and causes doubt of the very One who gave you the words to speak.

It must be hard to be MY leader.

I am prideful.  I don’t like it when someone criticizes the core of who I am.  I don’t want to be told that something I do regularly needs to be evaluated because it may not be glorifying to the One who gave me life.  I’d rather be comfortable and live in my bubble of perfection that closes out anyone who doesn’t like me.

But I can’t.

As I worked through the initial emotions and dismissed the voice of the evil one who wants me to run away, I knew, deep in my heart, in the places no one can glimpse, that He had spoken to me.  It wasn’t a mere man.  It wasn’t criticism…even if it felt that way at the time. It was my Father, who loves me more than I can fathom.  Who died for me even though I am a filthy, no good, rotten excuse for a daughter.  He wants to change me into a beautiful creature, inspired by the Holiest of Holies, in order to bring the Most High the glory due His name.  And you know what?

I am honored.

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