Bless The Country

Last week, a typhoon hit China. It was close to Wenzhou where I am at. Luckily, it turned hours before it hit the city, however, other cities in China were not as lucky. In Wenzhou, we had high winds and quite a bit of rain. There was no flooding and object flying around. After the threat of the typhoon had passed, I went back to work, and practically forgot about it.

Yesterday, I went to a small fishing village located on an inlet that leads to the ocean. I had been there the week before when the typhoon was just beginning to approach China. At the time, there were several shops along the warf where the boats were stationed. Yesterday, the shops were gone, completely destroyed by the wind and rain. In fact, there was still so much water in the inlet, that at night, when the tide comes in, it floods the beach again and fills it up to the point, where it looks like just another lake.

In Fuzhou, a place where Hidden Treasures Home, a home for orphaned special needs kids, is stationed, flooded. The water came up to about mid-calf. The small town in Fuzhou is used to a lot of rain, but this was more than they could work with.

I might not have been affected, but others were. Please continue to pray for this country and it’s people. They need the knowledge and wisdom revelation of the Lord’s love for them.

One thing I have learned since I have been here is that, the Chinese who are christians, rely on very little to believe the existence of God. When I was in Fuzhou, God said to me, “I love each and every person here. I tell them that every week. The continued revelation of my love for them is all they need to keep worshiping and loving me. Why then do you, does your country, need to lay out a new fleece every day to know my existence? Why do you need to see a miracle to love me?”

That hit me hard.

One of my students was showing me a bug bite on her arm, and I noticed a bruise right below it. I asked her if that was a bruise, and she said, “Oh yeah! My mom got mad at me and she–” she imitated her mom poking her in the arm repeatedly. I had two reactions to that. The first was: How could a mom do that to her child? The second was: Eh, Chinese culture. I hardly thought about it because my student laughed. It wasn’t until later when I thought about it more.

I tell you this story because I want to show you how disguised love is here in this culture. I have seen it displayed and expressed a hundred different ways. I’ve watched one mom coddle her two year old daughter, and I’ve seen one student who is constantly picked up from school by his sister, and I’ve heard one student say he has no choice in what boarding school he goes to in the U.S., and I’ve heard one student say she is majoring in Law because her father told her to, and I’ve seen a grandma feed and teach a five year old everything he knows, and I’ve heard a parent yell at a student for not listening in class. Finally, I’ve seen a student with a bruise on her arm, given from her mother.

I don’t know the why behind any of these. I do know honoring ones parents is crucial, and I know parents want their kids to do the best they can in school. The word love is hidden under the word respect and honor. The act of love is hidden under the act of correction and punishment.

It is no wonder that all a person here needs is the knowledge of Jesus’ love to know he exists.

For I so loved the world that I gave my one and only son that whosoever believes shall not parish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

I have never heard someone say, “I love you” here.

When God says it to me, I know I feel all warm and fuzzy and loved. I think to a person in China, hearing “I love you” is a miracle. Isn’t it sometimes the same way in America?

“I love you.” Let that roll off your tongue.

I can’t say that in the classroom, so I say, “I am so proud of you.” I don’t know if my students know what that phrase means, but I tell them that everyday. I’ll get close to them at the table, make it a one on one conversation, and say, “_____, you are so smart. I know you are, and I want you to show me. I am so proud of you.” Before they even displayed anything to be proud of, I was proud of them. I’ve seen it change several students in a matter of two weeks. Students who wouldn’t sit still or listen to me, I would tell them I was proud of them for sitting still for five minutes or for listening to me for five minutes.

My mate May, is my hero. I tell her everyday. She helps me with everything whether it is shopping, changing the class schedule, learning the names in class, translating, or cooking. I’ve said, “I love you” to her once, and she didn’t reply back, but now when we go anywhere, we sit together, she hugs me, and we talk comfortably. So that she isn’t uncomfortable, I say, “May,” at the end of the day, “you are my hero.” All she says is, “Oh, okay.” That is enough.

This country needs love. Above all, this country needs God’s love. Displays of God’s love. Words of God’s love. Gifts of God’s love.

This typhoon was just another eye opener for me.

I hope it is for you too.

Please continue to pray for them and for me.

么么哒。

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End of Junior Year

I’m sitting here drinking a blueberry iced tea (my new favorite drink) eating a blueberry muffin that is definitely not gluten free. (Dang, I sound like your stereotypical college girl blogger.) For the sake of the blogathon challenge (which I ended up losing), I was going to recap the month of April, perhaps I still will, but then I realized that it isn’t just the end of April, but it is the end of the semester, the end of my Junior year.

To recap: At the end of the last semester, I labeled it as the worst semester of my life. Now, at the end of this semester, I can say this was the best semester of my life. Partially because I don’t remember much from Freshman year, and partially because it was genuinely a good semester. For example, I realized the other day that I didn’t cry during this semester, except for the one time I called mom about Spanish. It was a “I didn’t cry because I don’t cry” but more of a “I didn’t cry because nothing gave me a reason to cry.” And trust me, I was stressed out enough several times to cry, but I would take deep breaths and remind myself not to worry about what I can’t control because ultimately I know God is in control.

Monday (April 30) I had four exams. I didn’t finish them until 8:17pm and I didn’t get back to my room until 8:30pm, dropped my stuff and went straight to Walmart. When I got back I looked at all the money on my desk, counting and recounting the coin, and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this weekend.” I could feel my chest tighten, I was beginning to see all red, and then I just shoved all my money–cash, card, and coin–to the other side of the desk and said, “The weekend is five days away. For now, Lord, I praise you. You got me through today. We did all the exams. We did and for that I say Hallelujah.” I sat down and started watching TV.

Even now, I’m done with all my exams, and I am still expecting favor from the Lord on grades. He is good.

And my God will supply all your need according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

I came across this verse in the beginning of the semester. I don’t know exactly when, but I know it was early on. I read that and wrote down all of my needs in the margins of my Bible. I wrote them as close to that verse as I could get them. Today, I have crossed off every single one.

Praise the Lord, for He is good.

It’s Killing Me

I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit’s hole, and it is a long way to the bottom.

The lady in front of me is tall. Her hair is white from both age and stress. Clearly, at this moment, she is the rabbit. Although, these halls are so familiar, I feel that this is my hole. Everything from the waiting room to the computer in the small alcove are all mine. I have them all precariously placed on the ledges of my hole, distant memories begging to be reviewed. Everything is about to crumble.

I see me, about seven, twisting and turning in the green and gray patterned chair, stalling on the next math equation my uncle is begging me to finish. I’ve been doing school in the waiting room for so long; I’m tired of playing with all the toys set out for kids ages two to five. Aside from my sister who is too young to care, I am the only one who hasn’t been allowed to see Grandma. I have been told what she looks like, but I can’t imagine her with tubes hooked up inside of her.

I want to drink the elixir that makes me shrink. If I could disappear I would, but I turn right, following the rabbit’s quick paced steps. To the left is that computer and straight ahead is the nurse’s station. To the left of the desk are two halls I’ve been down a hundred times. I close my eyes and remind myself to breathe. I don’t remember drinking any shrinking potion, but now it feels like my lungs can’t or won’t expand to their full capacity. Now I want to eat the cake and grow. Right now I would give anything to grow to climb out from this place.

We are at the nurses station. Please, turn right.

We turn left.

Please don’t take the right hall.

We take the left.

I am led into the ICU. There is no secret key I have to retrieve or keyhole I have to climb through. The rabbit steps right up, and the doors open at her presence. The place smells heavily of antiseptic. I want to tuck tail and run.

“Here we are,” says the rabbit.

I wish we were late.

I see me in my black turtle neck. (I hated that shirt.) I pause in the doorway, not sure if it is safe to walk in. There’s the tube in her throat, and she is barely aware of what is going on around her. None of the descriptions mom gave me before could have prepared me for this moment. The moment my lungs stop and my heart can decide whether to speed up or to slow down. I’ve skipped to the end of the book, and before me is the jabberwocky.

“Hello, Grandma,” I say. She turns her head toward me, and she moves her mouth, and a frog croaks instead. I grab her hand, and rub my thumb in circles. Her skin is wrinkled, bruised, and feels like velvet. I look up and smile. “I love you too.”

“She was t-boned,” the rabbit says. “This is her second time being in a coma, and she doesn’t want to be revived. She doesn’t want to fight to live.” I muster my strength and respond back in a controlled voice. The conversation is short. It is clear I am eager to leave. The trauma of being in the hospital for eight years struggles to resurface. The memories try to cave in and burry me alive.

I am relieved once I leave the rabbit hole, this not-so-wonderful land

Let’s go back….

Elizabeth:

It’s a little to get sappy, but I was just thinking back on the summer we graduated. Summer of 2015. Honestly, that has so far been the greatest year of my life. I was motivated and doing things. I was routinely taking my vitamins, running outside (almost) regularly. We went on our first vacation by ourself in another state. That summer I was so happy. I took on the world that summer. We both did.

I dunno. I still am. I still can. But now, I just feel a little less motivated.

A lot less. Everything has fallen so perfectly into place, even with the hardships. I’m so thankful for everything God has done in my life. He has blessed me so much, and I know Hew will continue to do so. But now I don’t feel like I have anything to work hard for. The world has already been conquered. There is no Sherif for me to fight, no poor to give back to. Naturally, I want to si I’m lost, but I’m not. I know what God has called me to, but I don’t feel like there’s much to do if, anything to reach that now.

I’m just kind of really restless.

I want to go back to 2015 and feel that rush of excitement and success as we go down the highway in your sketch van with John Farnham and Ed Sheeran blasting through the speakers. If just for a moment, I want to feel that rush again.

~~~~

Abby:

I get that. I dearly miss that summer with all my heart. But it’s normal to feel restless. I know that’s a cliche thing to say that doesn’t help much, but it’s true. Feeling restless doesn’t mean you don’t still have adversity to face and opposition to conquer, it just means you’ve gotten used to it. You’ve gone through the training period, like in all those movies where the hero trains, and is finally ready for the battle. You’re ready now to face what’s been planned, so look forward to that. There is still so much unknown and I’m very excited to see how you excel in everything God throws at you.

No matter what age you’re at, it’s easy to feel restless. I think what my friend said applies to all of us. There is still so much unknown that God has yet to reveal to us for us to adventure into. Don’t give up.

BREAKING NEWS

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*Trips on the red curtain as I move to take center stage* Quickly catches myself and straightens the imaginary crown on my head. *waves fancily* “Hello my lovely readers and strange narrator. Here is a quick recap of what has happened since we met.” *crickets from the empty audience* “Haha! Of course I’m not really going to talk about the past three months. More like the past week. Let’s get started.”

This is week has been disorienting as heck. I had some intense spiritual battles Monday and Tuesday night (nightmares and dissociating) and I’ve been scared to go back to sleep since. So what have I been doing? Binge watching Parks and Recreation. *naturally**as one does* ALSO I–the healthiest person alive–have a cold. I feel betrayed by my own body. It’s kind of annoying, but whatever. It’ll end soon.

I’ve barely been getting my posts up for the blogathon, but I have done them. I think I have missed one day. If I’m wrong, correct me. I’m not upset about it though. I’ll be happy to buy Tae dinner. Which, speaking of Tae, he redesigned his blog! Go look at it! I’m about to go do that. He’s amazing and if you’re interested in travel, you need to read what he’s writing about.

I finished another book. (It’s actually a book I bought last weekend on my birthday.) The book is Ryan Higa’s How to Write Good by (you guessed it) Ryan Higa. It was actually really good and inspiring. I’ll put a review of it up eventually. I’m about to start another book Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn. It is the second book in the series The Tales of Shikanoko. Look forward to another beautiful cover.

Monday will be the start of dead week. (It’s crazy to think I have two weeks left before I move into this most beautiful mansion.) Surprisingly, I’m not stressed at all. I know God has things under control. As I keep reminding myself, His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Already two classes have ended. I’m studying hard for Spanish, and I should be studying more Chinese. Things will work out. I trust God.

Keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in mine.

I love you all! 么么哒!

Dream Big

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This is one of my favorite poems. I don’t know how many times I would tell my mother all of the crazy things I planned to do. She would get all skeptical and look at me out of the corner of her eye while she cooked. She never discouraged me though (maybe about becoming a world famous singer.. kind of gotta be able to hit a note for that one). All she ever told me was to dream big, and so that’s what I did. I dreamed bigger and bigger every night.

Mamma always said, “Dream big, baby.”

So I did.

I dreamed that one day I would be happy.

Now here I am,

And I can’t imagine being sad.

“Dream big, baby.” Mamma always said, “Dream big.”

IHOP Mom – Narrative

This is based on a lot of truth I heard as I talked to IHOP Mom–rather, as IHOP Mom talked to me. She inspired this short piece, and is the star of this narrative.

IHOP Mom walks by and swiftly removes everything from the tables. She had been around for seven years and isn’t about to make a mistake on her job. She is fast and efficient. She loves the students who come in during their freshman year, and she watches them grow and graduate from the college down the road. She calls me baby, and says she heard me reading. While she talks to us, their is a smile that lights up her face. It carves crow’s feet around her eyes and in the corners of her mouth. When she turns around I watch the smile fall from her face. She is focused on the work ahead, and the long night she has to get through. After she is done here she still has a home to go to. There are other people to feed, not just random strangers and college students that wander in past curfew. She has a family too: grown children and grand babies that require her attention and stretched smile. She is worn thin, but she is far from frail. She is a strong cornerstone. She is someone who remains consistent in the passing students with last minute homework and the police officers that come through the doors for a late night coffee pick-me-up. She is here at two in the morning, and it will be a while yet before she goes to bed.

Celebration of Discipline – Book Review

This was honestly such a good book. (And if I’m being completely honest, I finished it at the beginning of January. Oops.)

Richard J. Foster so excellently takes the reader on a journey of spiritual maturity all while keeping it–as Pastor Beth Jones would say–basic. It was easy to understand, instructional, relatable, and very simple. Foster explained fasting, prayer, solitude (or silence), simplicity, celebration, and other disciplines in a way that made it easy for new and old Christians to begin inserting in everyday life. I suppose “easy” isn’t the right word, as we are talking about discipline. Any discipline is difficult and takes commitment (which really is a discipline in itself). I loved the book so much, I can guarantee you I annotated the pages. I underlined whole paragraphs, wrote notes in the margins, and exclamation marks in areas that really meant a lot to me.

One of the best things about the book is it is completely scripture based. It is not Foster’s ideas or opinions, but what he has seen in his life, in others’ lives, and read in the Bible. Jesus is Foster’s prime example, and he mentions him a lot.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is trying to do monthly resolutions, better their life, or just needs a new revelation from the Lord. As I said, this is good for the new Christian and the “seasoned” Christian. Get it. Annotate it. Tell me what you think!

Empowerment

I was at the gym last night, and went for a 20 minute run. I had just come around the track and finished a lap when three other girls were just getting on, and as I passed them one of them clapped and said, “Keep going! You got this!” That pushed me to run just a little bit further.

That’s not the first time that has happened to me at the gym, but let me tell you, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should: from me toward other people, and from other people toward me. In fact, I should be hearing it from someone at least once every time I’m there, whether it is directed toward me or not. I know some people go to the gym with headphones and use that time to get alone and to think, but I hear groups of friends there all the time, and instead of encouraging each other, they tease each other and make heavy competition, as if that’s going to make a person work harder. I get a little competition is good, sure, but sometimes a person needs to know they’re doing well or that they can do well. Even my sister and I, while competing, always encourage the other saying how good she’s doing or by telling the other we’re proud of her.

With that in mind, I want to challenge you to encourage someone today, tomorrow, and this week. Whether it is at the gym or at Walmart, let someone know that they’re doing a good job, that they’re beautiful (you too men), and that you believe in them. Sometimes that is all a person needs to keep going.