Flashbacks

Mother’s Day, May 2001

Nearing the end of my third trimester, swollen, emotional, excited, nervous, hopeful.  I’m standing in church this Mother’s Day morning wearing a light, minty green maternity dress wishing I was already holding my daughter. I don’t know if I am allowed to stand up when they honor moms.  I don’t know if I am considered a mom yet, but I know I feel like a mom.  I am so full of fierce love for this baby I have yet to meet. I want to love her and protect her and cherish every little thing about her. I just know being a mama to this little girl we have named Chloe is going to be the best part of my life.

Mother’s Day, May 2002

An undefined Mother’s Day.  Here I am, pregnant again, without a baby to hold.  The baby that made me a mama is cold in the ground but still warm in my heart.  Am I allowed to stand up this year?  No one can see my baby.  Can I say that I am the mother of two?  As I stand in church, holding my nephew tightly to my chest, I start to weep.  I put him down and race from the sanctuary.  It isn’t supposed to hurt like this.  I should be rejoicing and celebrating motherhood!  I am longing for what should have been.  I miss my daughter, am jealous that other moms are holding their children with smiles on their faces, when my heart is broken into a million pieces and I am expected to be happy.  I am beginning to hate this day.

Mother’s Day, every year

I hopefully wait for this day, loving that I have three beautiful vivacious daughters to spend the day with.  I have a husband whom I adore that loves me with the kind of love I dreamed of having when I was a young girl dreaming of marriage.  These children we have are an overflow of our relationship and a blessing straight from Heaven.  So, every year when the emotions hit me in the face, I feel guilty.  I want to only feel gratefulness.  I want to rejoice and smile all day while doing a little happy dance that shows my excitement at being a mama.  I hope every year that I won’t feel the despair, but every year, there is a moment when I mourn for the baby who died.  I sit and remember her.  I remember her smell and her sounds and the way she felt when I held her.  I remember how my heart felt when I looked at her…and I remember how my heart felt when I saw her for the last time.  I’m not sure why Mother’s Day is the day all the memories bubble out, but maybe it is because her birthday is coming and she is already on the front of my mind.   Maybe it is because Chloe is the child that turned me into a mom.

I haven’t forgotten her, and there isn’t a time that I can remember that I haven’t wished and wondered.  I wish for her when we are experiencing great and exciting things.  I wonder if she would have fit in with her sisters and shared the same tight bond with them that they share with each other.  When I hear giggling in my house, there is a pang in my heart for her.  When someone comments about how my girls look so different, I want to tell them that their sister didn’t look like them either.  That she had a reddish tint to her wavy hair.  I just want the world to know she existed.  That she came into this world and changed our lives in ways that nothing else has ever come close to doing.  Her life, her short, beautiful life, was worth the heartbreak.  I wouldn’t go back and change having her for my daughter, so this year, as I remember and feel, I do feel grateful.  I try to shake off the guilt and give myself permission to cry.  Sometimes life hurts, but He is always a good, good Father who is faithful to gently wrap me up in His embrace and replace my tears with joy.

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Checking out.

krabi

When I search for Krabi, Thailand, this picture above is what pops up.  We are headed there in about 20 minutes!

We have 4 days of blissful beach days with friends planned in Krabi before a week of sem classes for Cameron in Chiangmai, Thailand.  I wanted to let you know I am not falling off the face of the planet for the next couple weeks…just gonna be soaking up some sun.

I’ll let you all know if the picture meets reality 😉

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Movin’ on Up to the NORTHside

moving

Life decisions rarely come easy or quick, am I right?!  A few months ago we were given a choice to move the the north side of the island we currently live on in order to be near our teammates.  It would be a lot easier to be encouraging team leaders if we actually lived nearby.

However.

Our girls have friends in this city.  Not just any old friends, but friends that are perfectly matched to their ages, whom they adore.  These friends are answers to so many prayers that we lifted to the King, and He wouldn’t be asking us to move away from them, from HIS blessings to us, to a city where the foreign kiddo population is far younger than our girls.  Right?

We lifted it up, talked it over and over, from every direction, and decided that, no, He was not asking us to move.  The best thing for our family is to stay planted and grow some roots.

Maybe that was the problem.  The whole roots thing.  Our roots should be in HIM, not in a location.  He continued to whisper to our hearts, never letting the final decision we made feel final.  Then, little by little, the work we are doing here seemed to be wrapping up.  Not in a “we don’t need to do that work anymore” kind of way, but in a way that meant our involvement will start to be less and less as they become more able to move to a healthy place on their own.  Some other opportunities presented themselves and the more we talked through what a move would look like for our family, the more we began to really hear what He was telling us to do.

  1.  We would be able to host teams more easily, and having American brothers and sisters come to partner and work alongside us is priceless!
  2. Our girls were given built-in best friends when they became a group of three sisters so us feeling they are entitled to different friends is exactly that.  Entitlement.  He will bless them and care for them far more than we are able to.
  3. Our girls aren’t involved much in what we do over here (neither am I for that matter!) and that could really change with new opportunities.
  4. Being able to encourage and bless our teammates in tangible ways will help us to truly embrace the role He has placed us in.
  5. We can be much more strategic about where we choose to live, enabling us to be surrounded by more locals.
  6. Being able to run to the beach and run the trails (it didn’t rank high on the list, but come on!  It made the list for sure.)  The prospect of paddle boarding in the deep, blue sea doesn’t hurt either!

These are just a few of the things on our pros list, and we aren’t naive enough to not recognize that almost every one of these things can be done where we are, but we are wise enough (through and by Him alone) to recognize that He has prepared our hearts for this.  As we shared with our girls in family devo time last week that moving was a possibility and talked that through with them, we have been more than surprised as they have come to us at different times expressing that they would be sad to leave their friends, but are excited about the possibility of life in Haikou.

Y’all.

Our Father doesn’t just love us.  He adores us and wants the very best for us.

Shout it.

Go on and scream it from the mountains

Go on and tell it to the masses

that HE IS GOD!

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The truth about DISCIPLINE

I used to always think of discipline as punishment or the consequences of poor choices.  You know, that thing you do to your kids when they fail to put their laundry away after you’ve told them fifteen times.   As I grow older, however, I am realizing that that is such a small facet of what discipline really is.

There are a few areas in my life that I feel are a daily practice of discipline.  Teaching me, stretching me, making me more than I was the day before.

Exercise.

I almost don’t even have to say more about it, am I right?!

exercise

I have these grand ideas of eating healthy and exercising daily while my body morphs into supermodel qualities and I lightly glisten from my efforts.  Reality hits me in the face when the sun peeks through my curtains at 6:15, waking me up and reminding me of my lofty goals.  I roll out of bed and pull back the curtains, hoping with all that is in me that it is pouring down rain so that my excuse for not running is logistical in nature and not emotional.  9.5 times out of 10, it is sunny with no rain, so I grab my workout clothes, ruthlessly wake Cam to join in my torture, then get ready.  I drink some water, eat a quick bite of something, grab my iPod that is loaded with fabulous music from every era, and walk into the stairwell, where I am hit in the face with breath-taking humidity, effectively moving me past the glistening stage of sweat into the full out, dripping down my back stage, down 4 flights, to the beautiful scenery in which I am lucky to live.  Our complex has a circle road, lined with towering palm trees and tropical blooms, that is exactly 1.1km around.  Perfect for measuring how far you hope to run.  The goal:  6.6km.  About 0.3km in, my body tells me it is no longer fun and that I should quit running.  It takes so much discipline to press on.  Over and over I ask myself, “Does anything hurt?”  If my answer is no then I know my desire to quit is purely mental and I have no true reason to walk.  This goes on over and over for 5 laps.  I tell Cam, while gasping for life-giving breath, that I just don’t have another lap in me.  It’s his turn for ruthlessness, so he tells me, at the finish line of our 6th lap (for those of you not familiar with km, that is a little more than 4 miles) to sprint.  Give it all I have to the end of the building.  I shoot daggers, lift my head, and sprint, knowing I can give 20 more seconds.

Discipline.  We can do hard things without quitting if we set our hearts on the prize and cry out to Jesus with every single step.  And if we do quit, we can start again tomorrow.   Grace.

prayerless

Quiet Time.  It’s always been a practice of discipline.  Always.

Why is this one so hard?  I mean, I know why.  The enemy is prowling and what an easy win for him!  We are armed with this knowledge yet continue to allow the devil to take this time from us.  I made a rule for myself that I cannot get on my computer until I have spent time reading the Word and talking to Father.  I made the same rule for my girls.  It has made it easier not to get sidetracked by the world, but then I have the battle that is in my mind.  You know, when you start to pray and next thing you know you are daydreaming about the cake you want to bake later in the day.  Or the cupcakes you ate the night before that were so good.  Or when you are reading scripture and realize you have no idea what it is saying because your mind is elsewhere.  It takes so much energy and effort to focus on the King and give Him what He is due, what He is worth.  Discipline.

And I will be honest with you, the days that I leave my quiet time feeling renewed and refreshed and like I am leaving His very presence, those days are the hardest days.  Those are the days that Satan pulls out all the stops and starts attacking.  I can feel my mood shift and anger start to rise at the smallest things.  He is no dummy.  If I feel like that after a good devotion, then maybe I will just stop.  He doesn’t seem to attack so hard on the days I fail to pray.   However, there is joy in persevering and doing what is right, regardless of the results.

verse

I can go on and on about the ways and areas in which He is teaching me to discipline myself (marriage, motherhood, ministry, to name a few), to push myself out of my comfort zones so that I can bring Him the most glory.  I believe that life on this side of Glory is itself an area that requires an inordinate amount of discipline to live well as a Believer.  Thankfully we are all in this together!

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5 Reasons why I lost touch

There are always good reasons in my mind for the reasons why I don’t carve time out to blog.  I thought I would share a few with you so that you, dear friend, can be my encourager.5 reasons

5.  My life feels uninteresting.  Sometimes life over here is just as mundane as life everywhere else.  My days get filled to the brim with homeschooling all the little ducklings that swim around my feet and dinner preparations where every little thing has to be made with love from nothing.  There are days when cooking dinner feels a bit like I imagine it would have felt to look over the vast emptiness of the universe and start to create wonderfully elaborate and creative things as a human not as God who can do ALL things with just a whisper, of course.

4.  My mind is mush and there are no words left.  You know how it is at the end of a long day, when your children have been asking questions all day and your husband needs attention and love and someone unexpectedly shows up for dinner.  When the moment comes at the end of the day, when all is calm and quiet, it takes everything I have to stay awake until an acceptable time for an adult to go to bed.

3.  The pressure to write something witty and engaging is too daunting a task, so I don’t even try.  Yep.  That’s true.  I will remember this when I tell my girls to just try when they really don’t think they can do something.

2.  I feel like a gross imposter.  I want to be able to write an account of all the marvelous things I did for the Lord and how many times I shared His name and how He moved in my world.  But, honestly, a lot of times I can’t do that.  I can tell you how I didn’t bite my girls heads off when they failed their tests and claimed it as my most successful moment of the day.  Or I could tell you about the one child who admitted to peeing from one end of the shower to the other side of the shower because it could hit the wall and how when I heard that, I put my hand on my face and wondered how they will ever get married.  Then there was the time when the stove burner was turned on while a pan of brownies was sitting on top, ruining the pan that was my Grandmas and ruining all the brownies!  Sometimes the only marvelous thing I do all day is survive, hopefully with more grace than the day before.

1. The Enemy is near.  Hands down, this is the number ONE reason I stay away from sharing my thoughts and my heart.  I have never felt the kind of warfare that I have felt since moving to this side of the world, nor would I have ever imagined the frequency.  I can feel myself slipping into a place that is cold and ugly.  A place filled with doubts and lies that must be crawled out of by sheer will.  I know that I am not alone in that pit, but He trusts me to be able to bear so much more than what feels possible.  There have been some wrestling matches with the Father that I fought with tooth and nail to resist what He was telling me to do, rather than to just let go and let Him carry me into His perfect plan.  When I get to this place, this awful, shameful place, I go silent.  If you could see my face, you would see the tears streaming down my cheeks as I fight against curling up and quitting.  It is here, at this point, that He sends reinforcements and we start all over again.  Sometimes YOU are the reinforcement He uses, sometimes it is chocolate cake.  It is always welcomed and received with gratefulness.

So there you have it.  Five reasons I fall off the face of the planet for weeks at a time.  Hopefully it won’t be so long this time.

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Nifty Fifties!

sockhop1In our city we have four families that all use the same curriculum and are on the same school timeline, so we meet together each week for a co-op.  The relationships that have grown from our time together have been evidence to Father’s faithfulness to my girls, and I am so grateful!  At the end of our most recent unit, we decided to throw a party to celebrate all that the kids had learned.  You know me and parties…I was beyond excited!sockhop3Each child chose a person they wanted to research and then presented their person to us through poster, speech, and/or poetry.  The whole “convincing my girls that they shouldn’t be scared to talk in front of their friends” thing was by far the hardest part of this celebration.  Public speaking is new and terrifying to them, which is what made this the perfect event to participate in!sockhop4Gracie gave a speech on the history of computers.  She did a great job writing her speech (the second attempt was great…the first not so much) and presenting it.  Good eye contact and interesting details.  I actually learned some things I never knew about these machines I am so dependent upon!

Ellie chose Rosa Parks and told us how she was significant to the Civil Rights movement using props to retell the story.  She may have added a few details that were more “Ellie” than fact, but I couldn’t have been more proud of the work she put into her project!

Faith researched John F. Kennedy and made some cool interactive parts to her poster to show his life.  She recited an emotional moving poem about his life that talked of how important he was to giving us all equal rights.  She memorized it and presented it with great confidence.  I think she was channeling her dream of one day being a performer!

scokhop2Faith has some great friends her age that make her feel loved and special.  These are some special guys in her life that are a direct answer to her prayer for real friends in China.  She told me not too long ago that she loves being here because she has so many friends!  I haven’t shared with many her struggles with living overseas, but she has had the hardest time of all my girls.  Her heart hasn’t been here until recently.  The day she told me she was thankful we are here brought tears to my eyes and an overwhelming peace in my heart that whispered, “I have this.  I love her more than you could ever imagine loving her.”sockhop5A Sock Hop isn’t a Sock Hop unless you wear full, fluffy skirts.  We scored some dresses online that weren’t at all what we expected but worked out perfectly, and I made my skirt quickly the night before because my online experience was a major fail.  Faith and Ellie borrowed some incredibly high heels from a local friend to complete their outfits and make their presentations more fun than scary.  It took a week of practice to be able to walk in a semi-normal way, though Ellie still looked a bit like a colt taking his first steps after birth.  Instant entertainment for all!sockhop6Our party had a Soda Shoppe complete with a Soda Jerk, homemade ice cream, and imported American sodas!!  The line was long and didn’t dwindle until the sodas were gone.  These American kiddos got a taste of home and couldn’t get enough!sockhop7Cupcakes, popcorn, leftover Valentine candy, and beautifully decorated sugar cookies (from my talented friend Katie) completed the sugar overload.sockhop9To burn off the energy and calories we all consumed, we danced to some rocking’ tunes from the 50s.  I think we all decided that it may be our favorite era of music!  We learned some sweet dance moves and all felt the soreness the day after from using muscles that aren’t used to moving like that!sockhop8And to complete the festivities…the Limbo!!  I remember when my body was bendy.  It isn’t anymore, but I sure enjoyed watching joy radiate from all the kiddos as they played!

The celebration party was a complete success and worth every drop of sweat and tears that went into making it happen.  These kids (and us mamas!) have worked hard this school year and to tangibly see the fruits of our efforts while watching our babies with the biggest smiles imaginable was priceless!

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Happy 11th Birthday, Faith!

cwars18Somehow, someway, Faith hasn’t had a big birthday party in years.  This year, she wasn’t about to be skipped over and began throwing out ideas months in advance!  She narrowed down all her options and chose to have a Cupcake War.cwar14She planned, and we scheduled.  We made lists and signs, cookies and banners.  We filled our online shopping cart and collected baking goodies that could be used as toppings and decorations; we raided the craft bins to find supplies for decorating the perfect display.  The day of the party, we decorated and set up the tables and got ready for all her friends to enter into the greatest competition of the year!cwar17She had 7 friends come, and all the competitors were divided into three teams:  Pink, Blue, or Yellow.  Donning their aprons and chef’s hats, their creativity was revving up for some intense cupcakes.cwar13They mixed and stirred, adding secret ingredients that fit in with the Underwater theme Faith chose.  While they made messes, the lone man in the house washed dishes and prepped dinner and kept things at least kind of livable amidst the chaos.cwar10There were some gross interesting flavor combinations, and we won’t even talk about how many times I saw fingers in mouths and back into the batter.  I’m pretty sure licking the sprinkles container is a childhood rite of passage as well.  So, you’re welcome, Moms.  You can cross that one off the list.cwar11These kids took their task with the utmost of seriousness.  They discussed and compromised and gestured with inappropriate fingers.  Some of the creative, fly by the seats of their pants teams, had definite fails in execution and had to redo plans.  With the help of some of our adult friends who came to the party, things were set back to order in no time!

cwar12Some teams were definitely more methodical in nature with very detailed plans that were sketched out prior to beginning any work.  Those teams were clean and my favorite. 🙂cwar1The final creations were so different from one another!  They all fit into the theme beautifully and showcased personalities perfectly.  I think the thing that most surprised and warmed my heart was how the kiddos got along so well.  There weren’t any arguments or unkind words spoken.  Everyone was supportive of everyone else and were equally excited about the other teams creations as they were their own.  cwar4Then came the judging.  These dads had their jobs cut out for them.  With ingredients like sea weed, sea salt, and coconut, the cupcakes were bound to be interesting!cwar3We even had a guest judge from another city here to help out (not sure if he felt honored or abused!).  cwar6The kids were super proud of their work and did a great job explaining their flavors and what they did with their displays to the judges.

The Blue team had two flavors to choose from.  One was a vanilla batter with M&Ms mixed in, filled with marshmallow cream and topped with peanut butter chocolate frosting.  The other was the same batter with a peanut butter chocolate filling, topped with buttercream and seaweed.cwar2Something…salty?  We aren’t sure what it was exactly that prompted this face, but everyone in the room got a big belly laugh from it!

The Yellow team went with a coconut mint cupcake, filled with marshmallow cream, topped with buttercream frosting.  They went a little crazy with the mint extract, making for a very tingly, mouth freshening experience.  cwar5The Pink team chose to bake chocolate coconut cupcakes with almond flavor, topped with almond buttercream.  They topped that with beautiful fondant seashells and pearls.cwar7The judges had to confer, and they took their jobs very seriously!  With three awards to be given, it was no joking matter.cwar8The Supreme Creativity Award went to the Yellow Team (Faith’s team)!!

The Ultimate Flavor Award went to the Pink Team (Gracie’s team)!!

And the highest honor, the Epic Cupcake award, went to the BLUE TEAM (Ellie’s team)!!cwar9After all the judging, we got to sing to this cutie and watch her blow out her double candles on a cupcake of her choosing (she chose a Pink team cupcake in case you are curious!).cwar15This party was a long one, starting at 3, ending at 7.  We had pizza cupcakes and watched turned on an episode of Cupcake Wars for inspiration in the middle of the party.  Faith opened gifts and got warm fuzzy feelings when the paper fell away  to reveal treats from America, a fluffy pink tutu, a new handmade cross body bag, and a shiny new scooter from her friends. cwar16As I look back on this day, my heart overflows with the good things He has given to us.  Three years ago, when I was holding Faith as she cried because she had no friends to sit with at lunch, I never could have imagined the heart friends He would give her in such a short amount of time.  His blessings are without measure, and these friends of Faith’s are a priceless treasure!

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A little bit more celebratin’

disney7We took Faith’s gift with us to Hong Kong, since we were there on her actual birthday.  She was SO excited to get her own Fitbit, and rocked out her steps the next day at Disneyland with over 20,000 steps!faithnanny1Right before her birthday, she got a birthday box from her Nanny and Papa.  She got everything she had hoped for and more.

She was shown love by all her other grandparents, great-grands and adopted grandparents included, with cards and gift cards and messages.  We are so thankful to be surrounded and loved so well by our families, regardless of the ocean that separates us!faithnanny2There are so many things that I could write about Faith.  She is kind and creative.  She is sensitive and silly.  She has the best sprinkling of freckles I have ever seen!  She has a giggle that lights up the room and a sense of humor that you can’t help but to laugh at.  She has huge, unhindered dreams and makes friends wherever she goes.  She loves big and with everything in her and feels the emotions of life the same way.  She is brave and perseverant, never giving up even when it is hard.  While I can’t say that her life has been without trials, I can say that she has held tight to Jesus and walked through the rough patches with grace.  She tends to look for the beauty in the world around her, and I couldn’t be more thankful for this little treasure that Father has gifted to my life!

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Disneyland Hong Kong

disney1Ever since we moved to China, we have said we wanted to go to Hong Kong Disneyland while on a visa run.  For some reason, it took us more than 3 years to make it there, but man!  It was completely worth the wait!

*side note…that first picture shows me holding up a baggie that I stuffed cake into.  I did that in honor of Kerri Bruce’s birthday (or that was my excuse to not feel guilty!).disney6It felt as though we stepped through a tunnel that led us straight to America.  My expectations weren’t very high, because most things in Asia that we have gone to have been good, but good on a different level than good in the states.  This place surpassed good and went straight to great!disney5We saw characters and got autographs and ate caramel popcorn and lattes.  We rode exhilarating, fast rides, slow, boring rides, rides that went backwards, and sometimes rides where we were separated from our children so we felt like big dorks riding alone on a kiddie ride.  We smiled so much our faces hurt and laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore.disney2We took more selfies than should be allowed, especially with our archaic phones that take horrible quality pictures, but we fit in just perfectly in this magical Asian Disneyland.disney3We saw shows that brought us a new definition of what 3d movies could be like.  Shows that stirred our emotions with memories from the past and left me feeling like everything in the world was peachy and perfect.  disney9There was pretend time and picture time and time with fairies and princesses.  There was space to run and short lines on every ride.  Some rides we ran back and got on the ride again because the lines were just non-existent.  Then we learned that we aren’t 15 anymore and nausea is a real thing from roller coasters.disney4Hong Kong was having a cold spell the week we were visiting and our bodies, having adapted to the warm, balmy climate of island living, froze while we experienced the magic of Mickey and friends.  Lucky for us, Disneyland was celebrating it’s birthday and was selling ultra-soft commemoration blankets to ward off the chill and chapped cheeks.  And since we were still in Asia, no one looked at us funny when we wore said blanket wrapped around our bodies like a toga.disney10When we got too cold, however, we found a show that was indoors to thaw out a bit.  The Lion King show did not disappoint!  It didn’t have many show times, so we actually had to leave the one long line of the whole park (a whopping 20 minute wait!) to make the start.  It was so, so good.  disney8I would say one of the highlights of the day, the ten hour day, was meeting Tinkerbell.  She talked and talked and talked, until we felt bad for the people waiting in line behind us.  We happened upon the sign for her imminent arrival and were first in line.  She joked with the girls and got their life stories, barely, because of their extreme shyness and awe at her beauty and overall awesomeness.  She signed their books and posed with them and was the most adorable little woman I have ever seen!disney20I love this man who decided to splurge on this day for his girls.  I do not, however, love his hoodie.  As a public service to all who will see us in the cool Fall weather, it will be retired to the trash bin before we head over the ocean, unless he hides it from me.  In which case, I will endure it because I love him so.disney11The grand finale of the night was worth waiting all day for.  The light parade was phenomenal, with music and dancing and flashing lights everywhere we looked.  It was the perfect end to a day filled with the most magical of memories!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine1Sometime in January Father started to stir ideas inside my heart about throwing a party for Valentine’s Day.  I love parties.  You know I do.  But throwing them over here, for a secular holiday that is all about lovers, wasn’t really in my comfort zone.  So, I did what all women do when they want to be talked out of something.  I reached out to some friends.  The thing is, all these friends ENCOURAGED me to have the party.  To spread His love and speak His name.valentine2I tried for weeks to talk myself out of it, but my heart was restless and filled with guilt at the very idea of not having a party.  So, I began to make a list.

I love lists.

I wrote down all the fun ideas I could find on Pinterest (we won’t talk about why I didn’t  just pin them on Pinterest) and all the supplies I would need to gather.  valentine3I asked around to people who have been here longer than me of some good ideas for a story to share.  I had so many possibilities floating through my head that overwhelmed doesn’t begin to even describe it.  I finally just listened to the last friend I asked and went with The Prodigal Son.  I began to listen to it multiple times a day and practice telling it with enthusiasm so I could feel the story in my heart in a language not my own.valentine4The Enemy began to attack me.  For three weeks prior to the party, I felt down.  Lower than I have been in a great amount of time.  I was irritable and weepy, crying at the merest of simple things.  I told Cameron I just wasn’t cut out for living over here, that my heart was aching for America in ways it hadn’t in a very long time.  I didn’t realize at the time that it was warfare.  That realization didn’t come until the evening after the party when all the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders and I felt myself genuinely laugh again.valentine5I wasn’t sure how we would get people to come to our party.  I kept thinking of A Field of Dreams and how if you build it, they will come.  And then I reminded myself that the Lord had laid this upon my heart for a reason.  Either someone needed to hear that He loved them or He just needed my obedience.  Either way (and hopefully both!), He would provide the people.valentine6I had this great plan to talk to my friend about helping me share the word that the foreigners were throwing a party, but, as typical over here, all my plans fell through and every time we had a time set up to get together, something happened and it was cancelled.  So, I did my best to make up a small invitation that we my girls could hand out in the evenings when we went outside to play.  Luckily, I ran into my friend before we passed them out and she told me half my characters were wrong.  Oops.valentine7The night before the party, we made a plan to go out and give out the newly corrected invites.  Cam was going to play basketball, and I was going to chat with whomever would talk to me.  On our walk to the square, Cam and I were talking and the topic got heavy.  My heart was hurting and I was quickly losing all control.  I told Cam I was just going to go home, and the girls could pass out the invitations and whatever happened, happened.Valentine8I barely made it home before the rush of sobs overtook me.  I chalked it up to all the party prep that had went on that day.  I had shopped for game supplies and punch makings.  I had made a bazillion decorated sugar cookies and tied up little bags with bows for prizes.  Everything was mapped out with a schedule of events for the next afternoon, and we were as prepared as we were ever going to be.

I was sure it was the stress causing me to cry.  Not the devil.valentine9The next day, I studied my story some more, but, as you can see, I still took a printout just in case.

Y’all.

Nothing could have prepared me for the chaos that ensued when we showed up.  We started walking over to the square where we were throwing the party, and my doubts were in full force.  I was nervous enough to pee my pants about telling a story to a group of people in Chinese, but add to that, that I wasn’t sure if anyone would even show up, and I was a mess inside.  As we got closer, people started to follow us.  When we arrived and started to unpack our bags, there were nearly 30 people there.  All of them were grabbing things as fast as I could get them out of my bag and all six games I had planned were finished/ruined within 15 minutes.

What in the world were we supposed to do now?!

We improvised and made up new games.  We shot q-tips from a straw into a bowl;  we used toilet paper to fashion beautiful dresses;  we used fingerprints to make bookmarks that said “Jesus Loves You” on the bottom;  we strung candy necklaces;  we hula-hooped.  Kids screamed and laughed and ran in circles.  It was prime party events, y’all.valentine10Finally the time came to tell the story.  I called everyone over and a hush fell over the group.  As I began to speak, they began to speak.   I could hear things like, “who is God?”  “What is this?”  Then they talked to each other.  When that many people start talking, it gets loud.  Fast.  So I started talking louder.  My tones were all over the place.  I was practically yelling.  At one point, I stopped and wanted to just quit because it seemed pointless.  But I know that He is faithful to use everything for His glory, so I pressed on.  When I finished, in record time, mind you, we had a small craft to make.  If you look closely you can see a few of the kids holding them in the picture above.  It is a stick.  One side has a heart drawn on it and the other has the Name above ALL names, Jesus.  When you rolled it in your palms, His name appeared inside the heart.  I told them that I really just wanted them to remember that Jesus loves them.

I don’t know how many people understood the story I told, and I don’t know if anyone will ever come to faith because we chose to obediently throw a party,  but I do know that every person there heard that Jesus loves them, and that, after all, is the best news of all.

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