About Me

My photo
It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh ye of little faith...

Sometimes trusting that God will be faithful is the hardest part of the day. Having faith that his grace is and will continue to be sufficient. He has proven himself to millions over the centuries, including myself, and still doubt finds its way into my heart like a poison, threatening to take over and destroy me. I have several friends who don't like to talk about Satan. Saying things like, "Now I don't like using the term satan, but..." when the topic can not be avoided. This is an odd concept to me as I was raised to be aware of his presence in our world. To be aware and on guard was necessary for me as a child as I experienced many spiritual attacks growing up. When I moved back to America I realized many people were uncomfortable talking about Satan or spiritual warfare. If I brought it up it was as though I was either talking about dungeons and dragons or the ouija board. From what I can gather, people don't want to give credit to Satan. Maybe it's the independent, self-powered American attitude, or maybe it's that our six-year-olds dress up as him for Halloween. I don't know. I'm not going to lie, I often find myself believing I am safer from Satan's attacks here in the States than when I lived in China. Perhaps it is less obvious, or perhaps I am just less aware, but the fact that I may be experiencing spiritual warfare is often one of the last things on my mind.

Today it hit me. I recently had a break through in my walk with God. Not a everyday-is-sunshine-and-everything-smells-of-roses kind of break through, but a new and unique awakening to his magnificent presence in my daily life. Not long after, I've found myself continuously hounded with discouragement. Whether physical, mental, emotional, or relational, I feel it tearing at my spiritual. It's probably not anymore than usual, but I feel each hit hard, beating me over the head. Bringing up fears, insecurities, and doubts I forgot existed or thought I had overcome. My purse, which contained only my personal and cherished Bible and a book of teachings I was about to start reading, mysteriously disappeared. Seriously, not a trace. Now, I have been known to forget my own birthday, but when it comes to where I put something, I can usually retrace my steps fairly accurately and find it. As far as my purse goes, I don't even have a recollection of steps to retrace. Whether Satan hid my purse, or I am just forgetful, it's discouraging no less. Each day I find myself faced with only two options. Run to God, or run away. My first thought is, run to God of course. But my first instinct is, run away!

It's been awhile since I've found myself physically numb with fear, only able to pray the word Jesus! over and over, knowing that Satan could scare me, but he could not touch me. I now find myself experiencing a different kind of numbing fear. Reading God's word is a struggle, and praying even harder. So I call Jesus! over and over, knowing Satan can scare, belittle, and tease me, but he can not touch me. Really it's not so easy, this call to have faith that God's grace is sufficient.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh the twos....

I have a confession to make. Up until last week, I think I truly believed that I would get by without experiencing "the terrible twos". It's not that I thought my parenting skills were above it, I see my weaknesses even more than I'd like to admit. And it's not that I thought Aiden was perfect, I love him dearly, but I am not in denial of the human conditon. Aiden has had his obstinate days and thrown his fair share of tantrums, but nothing that left me standing there in shock without a clue of what to do. When I've seen it happen to other people, I've felt compassion, but always had several ideas of what I would do if it were happening to me. Too bad those ideas don't feel so bright when I am the one in those situations; my child screaming at me and even hitting me over something as insignificant as offering the wrong kind of snack, or heaven forbid, trying to help him take off his jacket. Everything I try seems to make it worse. And its not like it just happens once or twice a day. Everything is battle! I can't even seem to ask him if his oatmeal tastes good without a, "No mommy!" His voice contorting into a low growl that resembles that of a very temperamental goblin. When bedtime finally arrives and I leave him screaming in his room, I allow my exhausted body to collapse on my own bed and try not to cry myself. Or I just let myself cry. I replay the scenarios that stick out the most and try to think of how I can handle them better the next time. Then I think through the last week, trying to figure out what could be causing this sudden outbreak of terror. What have I been doing differently? Is he teething? Is he not feeling well? Is he tired? Is he being controlled by sadistic aliens? Nothing I can think of seems to fully explain it. Except, perhaps, that he is two.
I often get down on myself when things get hard, like it must be my fault, that I am doing something wrong to be so weak. I know I have plenty of reasons to be exhausted. I am pregnant, not sleeping well, sick, and caring for a toddler. What scares me is, there is only more to come. This week all I could think was that I can't wait for my energy to return, but then it hit me, when I am not pregnant anymore, that means I will have a newborn. I will still not be sleeping, I will be drained from breastfeeding. What if Aiden is still going through this? In the summers we hardly see Aaron, will I be able to continue to do this on my own? Today during nap instead of doing several productive things I had in mind, I decided instead to eat a chocolate glazed donut and watch Parenthood. I allowed myself to eat the half I thought about saving for Aaron and cry about other people's drama. Although I don't think this is a healthy way to deal with most things in life, it certainly felt good for today. As the credits began to roll and I snapped back into reality, reality didn't seem quite so bad or as draining as it could be. Today was at least better than yesterday, and really, today is the only day I can worry about right now. As that cross-stitch hanging in my parent's bathroom says, "Do the best you can today and don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of it's own." Or something like that. So today I will cling to the fact that my son still ran to me for comfort when he fell, and my kisses still made his hurt hand feel better. I'll pray for the wisdom to look to God for strength, instead of focusing so despairingly on my weaknesses. I will probably need your prayers as well, as I can be about as stubborn as a two-year-old.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Me. My biggest fan, my harshest critic.

By the end of a day I sometimes wonder, why did I have to get stuck with me? It can take people years to decide to commit to another person, but in an instant it is decided for you that you will have to spend a lifetime with you. That's a big commitment. I mean, shouldn't we get some kind of choice in the matter? Normally, I think most people think they're pretty lucky to end up with what they got. There is always someone who ended up with worse. But then there are those days when you find yourself scanning facebook update after update, reading more useless information about people than you ever cared to know, just to avoid the inevitable. You.
Whether we love ourselves or hate ourselves we are constantly trying to prove ourselves. Through careers, clothes, relationships, it doesn't really matter as long as it ultimately reflects well upon the person we are. Or want to be. And I think most of us don't even really know what that is. Who we are. Who we want to be. I am not saying this is bad. Or good. Or new. It just is. We are a self-consumed, insecure little people, and we have an unquenchable desire to be affirmed by others. Although, I think more than anything we're just trying to convince ourselves. After all, if we can't convince ourselves we're worth being around, how can we convince anyone else? We tell ourselves we have this cover. Cool and collected. Confident. Little do we know our insecurities are screamed from our very own mouths. We put ourselves out there saying, "This is me! Take it or leave it!" But you better take it or I may punch you in the face cause I am worthwhile and you can't tell me otherwise! Please like me... 
I get so tired of myself that sometimes I try to reinvent myself. It doesn't take long for me to realize that I'm still the same me, just maybe with a different haircut. Honestly, if I could have a vacation from me, I think that might be the cure. If for one day I could look at the world without a big picture of me blocking most of the view, I might get a new perspective that could change a lot of things.
Ah, wishful thinking...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Good Day.

Today I am thankful for the warm sun, the company of a particularly handsome toddler, and the fact that my husband, though working several hours away and I will not see him till tonight, is working hard and doing what he loves. I thought today was going to be awful. My husband left early this morning for Greenville for a tree job and I had no plans of my own. I've seen a lot of him this winter, and having him go back to full-time work again this week has been a hard adjustment for me. Can I just say, parenting is so much easier with two parents! I stayed up late so that I could spend time with Aaron while he got some last minute things together for today's job, knowing that I probably wouldn't see him till late tonight. I spent most of the time venting about how hard it is to be a woman, and pregnant, and have all these emotions I don't know what to do with. He listened for a long time and told me that though he can't understand, he understands. Somehow that made sense in my clouded mind and I felt like I could rest again. 
Today the fog has shifted. My mood has brightened. I mean who can stay angry while out doors with no need for even a sweater? Ok, so maybe I finally made room for God-time in my busy nothingness and started my day out right. Not that a quiet time is a guarantee for a good day, but starting your day with truth as opposed to self-pitying lies definitely doesn't hurt your chances. I am still sick, but have made the decision not to let it ruin another beautiful day for me. My mother always tells me to think positive. This is my least favorite advice. The last thing a pessimist wants to hear is "think positive!" on an extra crappy day. Today, however, I will do just that. But not because she told me to. Because I want to.
Being sick actually has an upside. Not being able to breathe through my nose has saved me from many a foul smells the last few days! Even though I was feeling nauseous last night, my husband was allowed to freely fart near me with out me feeling the need to express how disgusting his natural bodily functions are. Today while eating lunch, I was able to continue eating and enjoying my sandwich despite the fact that Oliver was pooping on his little potty next to me. And the inability to taste has moved me to chose yogurt over the very large, succulent looking chocolate chip cookie that rests not 10 feet away. I will eat it later, but the decision has made me feel pretty good about the present moment. I can't find anything positive about my sore throat or the cough that constantly agitates it, but I'll let you know if I do.
I know none of you really know how deeply depressed I have felt the last few days, but I am hear to let you know, I am back! But not in that annoying, peppy, nothing-will-ever-get-me-down, kind of way. Just that life's-not-bad-at-the-moment-so-I'm-gonna-enjoy-it kind of way. I hope it lasts awhile. But when it does pass, I hope I'll use whatever strength God gives me to look upward instead of inward.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sick of being sick.

Today I am angry. I shouldn't be. My husband has work again, it's gorgeous outside, and I have chocolate in my pantry. I should be giddy at the beauty of being able to pay bills, giving into life's most decadent craving, and the thought that spring's charming look-alike has decided to come and stay for the week. Instead I am sulking. I am mad because I am sick. Again. This is the fourth time in two very short months! I have had my bouts of fatigue, discomfort, and insomnia during this pregnancy, but I have been more than happy to keep my head up, holding to the happy fact that nausea did not follow me through my second trimester as it did last time. But now, after two months without more than a few days of recovery between each cold, cough, or stomach flu, my head has firmly planted itself low in my misery. I am mad that my husband can't be around to help me when I feel like crap, that I can't taste the perfectly dark chocolate that sits uneaten in my cupboard, and that I would rather be in bed than enjoying the warm sun on my face. I don't want comforting words or promises of prayer. I want to stomp my feet, stick out my lip, and be the miserable, pitiful mess that I know I am. I don't want the bigger picture, or hope of the future, no matter how near it may be. I don't want to think of anything more than my own little problems of the right here and now. I think this may be about more than just being sick. I know it is. But for today I am only allowing myself to be angry about one thing. And that is being sick. I am sick of being sick!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Willing To Be Changed

   "You can never really know the Scriptures until you're willing to be changed by them." -The Heavenly Man (pg. 297)

   "The Great Commission has not changed. There are many churches trying to create a heaven here on earth, but until the Western church obeys the Great Commission and takes the gospel to the ends of the earth, people are just playing with God and are not really serious about the truth. Many churches look beautiful on the outside, but are dead where it counts, on the inside. If you truly want to see God move, the two main things you must do is learn the Word of God and have the obedience to do what God tells you to do." - The Heavenly Man (pg. 298-299)

I've been tempted to quote the entire book, but instead chose just a snip-it that has especially convicted me. This book has spoken to me in ways I didn't think possible. Stories such as Brother Yun's are not unfamiliar to me, but God has used this particular story to convict me and challenge me to the core of my being. I am almost hesitant to go on publicly, because if I were to end this chapter of my life unchanged, it would now be evident to any I share it with. But I type on because God is faithful, when we grab on to him, he never leaves us unchanged. And hopefully in my failures, which are bound to be many, God's strength and mercy will be evident.

As I read this book, I felt the ache in my heart grow stronger. I grew up as a missionary kid, mostly in China. To this day I think the longest I have ever lived in one place is two years (which feels like a very long time). If we were not moving to another city or country, it was at least another part of a city. When I was young I swore to myself that I would never do what my parents did. I would give my kids a "normal" life filled with stability, and definitely in America. I idolized America. My American friends had  the same friends for years at a time, they knew who Leonardo DiCaprio was, they went to school, they got new clothes, they even fit in. These were foreign concepts to me and very attractive. When I was 16 something changed in my heart. I honestly cannot remember most of the details, but I suddenly longed to continue in missions for the rest of my life. When I turned 18 and began preparations to return to the US for college, I found that my heart was suddenly afraid of that "normal" life I sought after for so many years.

The Great Commission is not a difficult calling for me to grasp. I have idolized missions for many years and assumed it was only a matter of weeks, months, or only possibly a few years before I would be called to join my brothers and sisters overseas in winning lost souls for Christ. Exotic places, tribulation, and adventure were in store for me, this I was sure of. I was convinced that my upbringing was a clearly set up to prepare me completely for the mission field. Well, six years have passed since I used that one-way airline ticket to start my life as an adult in the States. I have been to Asia once since then, and was severely humbled by the experience more than anything. The last few years of distractedly and agitatedly waiting on God, I have learned many things. Things I continue to learn over and over again. But mostly it comes down to, I am not worthy. Too many times I have tried to take the great commission in my hands and claim it for my own. Don't worry God I've got this, you can count on me. Only for him to humble me yet again and remind me what the great commission is. I hear him asking me, Are the souls in Asia and Africa more precious to you than those who live next door? How can you share my heart, when you do not even know me? I had decided to accept the great commission, but chose to down play the calling to know God's Word and truly be changed by him.

I do not know what the future holds. I think God has placed a love for hurting nations on my heart for a reason, but I do not want to ignore where he has me right now. As of now the only thing he has clearly commanded me to do is to seek him, encouraging me that he will lead. He has proven himself faithful again and again, but still this is difficult. It takes me out of the spotlight. I find myself relating to Brother Yun when he was in prison. Not in the sense that I am suffering greatly, in most aspects my life is quite the opposite of Brother Yun's, and my faith much, much smaller. But several times when he was imprisoned he first felt despaired and even angry that his work was interrupted, how was he supposed to "go to the West and the South" as God had commanded him in the first place? However it was never long before God revealed what he brought Yun to prison for. To reunite his soul to Christ, and to share God's truth with his fellow prisoners. The way God humbled Brother Yun and drew him close while in prison spoke louder than any words he could of shared himself. God's ways are not our ways. No wonder God rarely gives us more of a glimpse or an inkling as to what our future holds, because we try to take control and reach the destination the way we see fit. I often have to remind myself, I cannot teach myself and especially not others what I have yet to learn. We will find ourselves places we never expected to be and it is in those places God teaches us to rely on him. In choosing to do so, God reveals himself greatly.

Cha Siu Bao

There is an hour and forty-five minutes left for my dough to rise completely, yet I find myself continuously peeking beneath the lime green dish towel where it rests to check its progress. I am not a patient person. For that reason I have not made bread dough from scratch in I don't know how many years. When we first moved to China there weren't any bakeries or stores that sold regular bread for things such as toast or sandwiches, so my mother used to make loaf after loaf of delicious home made bread from scratch each week. With eight children, 4 of which were ever-ravenous teenage boys, the loaves never lasted long. The symphony of mixing, kneading, rising, and baking seemed to be continuous in our home. She made it look so easy. I would help some, but mostly I just did the eating. Now as the mother of my own home I try to make many things from scratch, but this is the first time I have attempted to make bread dough without the help of a break maker. What has driven me to such madness? Homesickness. Or something to that effect.

I always miss China. Although technically not "home" it feels about as much as home as this will ever feel. For some reason when I'm pregnant this homesickness gets a whole lot worse. I crave the food, the smells, the crowds, the deafening summer rainstorms, and the feeling of catching the last bus of the night. Some days it's almost uncontrollable. This last weekend we took a trip to Charlotte to visit my family for superbowl weekend. Not that any of us actually watch football on a regular basis, but it was a good excuse to see family. While there my brother and his wife introduced us to the area's newest addition- a Chinese market! I prepared myself for minor disappointment, but as we entered the store I was greeted with an exact replica of the average modern Chinese grocery store. I had forgotten it was Chinese New Year, so I was pleasantly surprised to also find myself surrounded by Asian faces, the Chinese language effortlessly flowing from their mouths, filling my eyes and ears with familiar sights and sounds. I was even more excited to see that a local school of dance had put together a lion dance in celebration of the new year and the market's grand opening. They loudly beat their drums and danced to the center of the store while we all happily followed, soaking up the experience. Holding Aiden in my arms, I watched his face fill with awe, and I had to stop myself from crying. I hadn't realized how much I wanted for him to experience the culture of my childhood. Whether from the loud music or the sudden lack of space with the weight of Aiden resting on my womb, Gabriel kicked with extra force, flipping and rolling as though he were doing a dance of his own.

I paced the isles, pointing out all the food I hadn't seen in years. We bought sweet bread from the bakery, reminding me of the countless mornings while running late to school I'd stop by our neighborhood bakery and buy those same breads for breakfast. Then, the best surprise of all, we made our way to the cafeteria where I ate the most authentic Chinese food I have ever had in the States! I couldn't quite muster up the courage to speak in Chinese with the hustle and bustle of the lines and the cashiers didn't seem to notice that I understood when they slipped up and used Chinese to talk to me. I was just content to find I could still understand the majority of conversations going on around me. I ate there twice that weekend, hoping my cravings would be satisfied until I could make it back again. Unfortunately, it's been more of the opposite. I find myself craving Chinese food even more than usual, longing desperately to be enveloped in its beautiful culture, and reminiscing constantly about my friends who are so far from me now. This is what has led me to make dough from scratch. I am attempting to make "cha siu bao", a Chinese steamed pork bun that is usually eaten for breakfast. I crave them often and have not had one in about four years. I am a little nervous, as though the outcome of these buns will determine something important. As though each bite might allow me to experience a little of the China that will always remain in me. Or make the distance even more of a reality.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Hope of Spring...

As I lazily scan through pictures of my friends whose cars and houses are covered, if not completely buried, in snow, I feel my heart filling with gratefulness. Like anyone, I enjoy a good snow day now and again, but usually by the second day I am ready for it to melt and be summer already. Lucky for me, we are not getting the snow so many of my Northern friends are experiencing today, but instead a lovely sunny and 46 degrees! This morning while Oliver, Aiden, and I waited for the temperature to rise to that comfortable number, we glued cut out shapes and colorful yarn to paper and scribbled with crayons. It's amazing how civil little boys can be when they are not busy tackling each other to the floor. They seemed quite content to share their crayons, and thought it was hilarious when the shapes stuck to their fingers instead of the paper. When one thinks something is funny, the other thinks it's even funnier.

Around 11:00 a.m. I stuck my head out the front door and deemed it safe to exit the house without more than a fleece for each of us. First we headed to the goats, bearing feed and fresh water. The boys helped me push the gate open and kept the goats preoccupied while I looked around for their food bowl that always somehow makes it's way somewhere hard to reach. With thrilled squeals from Aiden and Oliver and even more thrilled bleating from Earrings and Ellie, feeding commenced. The boys excitedly pet the goats' soft backs and pointed out all the poop as though it were the most amazing thing they'd ever witnessed. If they could count higher than single digits, I would not have been surprised if they had tried to count all the pellets they could find. Honestly, I don't know that I could count that high.

After visiting the goats we got out the dump trucks and the boys began their adventures in the mulch, slowly made their way to the rocks, and then finally to the mud. It has been so long since they've been able to play in the dirt that when Aiden caught a glimpse of his black hands he brought them to me to inspect, perhaps wondering what to do with them. I told him to keep playing and if they bothered him just wipe them on his pants. He liked that answer.

Now, I've been kind of in a slump this last week. The weather has been grey, cold, and wet, and my body more and more pregnant. I have felt exhausted, fat, and unmotivated to do anything but the least I can get away with doing. I needed this sunny and 46 degrees more than I could have imagined. Sitting there in the sun, my dogs at my feet soaking up the attention I was so freely giving them, watching my son and his best friend have the time of their lives in the left over muck of yesterday's rain, I could not help but feel excited about life. I started imagining plans of a garden. Both flowers and veggies. Ignoring the fact that I'll have a newborn come May and will probably not have a lot of free time, not to mention free hands. I looked to the trees, hoping for a glimpse of anything green and budlike. Nothing yet. But the sun was still warm, and that was all that mattered. I know it is not yet spring, but its hope has been planted and now I'll attempt to wait patiently for it to bloom.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sometimes, you just have to fake it to make it...

The air outside is filled with a fine, misty rain, the sky a grim grey, and the trees a depressing array of bare branches. The fog drifts its droll and dreary self over our mountain, resting in our little cove for a time before drifting on down the mountain to sulk some place else. Perhaps this should be romantic. I should be sitting next to my fire with a warm beverage and a book, drinking in the moments I have to myself before my toddler wakes. Even though I just came from a boisterous play group with Aiden and should be soaking up the silence, I somehow feel very alone and deprived of fellowship. I should be taking pride as I devour the left overs of the best chicken soup I have ever made, while looking forward to the fresh cookies I just baked, and relish the fact that I have the time to make things from scratch again. Instead, I stare into the cold screen of my computer, typing words, looking for comfort where I know it doesn't exist. Is this the plague of a stay-at-home-mom? The eternal quest of a longing heart? Or simply a season that will pass along with the weather? Since I cannot answer those questions with more than a vague "perhaps" or "maybe", I'll choose instead a book to accompany my visit with the fire, coffee and a cookie (or two) to comfort my soul, and hope that if I make my life appear romantic, it will feel that way too.