The Eating Thing

Wrinkled. Weathered. Worn.

These were the hands that held out a piece of corn to Lois and I. I smiled and tried to politely refuse. (It never works). I took the corn. Neal has taught me that when the Chinese give you food, you eat it. Simple as that. To not eat it is rude, showing a great disrespect. I shoved all hesitation from my mind and enthusiastically chomped down. I shared with Lois and she ate more vigorously than I.

We were just there to get some pictures printed. I didn’t even know her! She didn’t know me! Why would she do that? It’s so…

I chuckled to myself. This custom is one I would have to learn to love.

Neal was going to be a while at the print shop so I stepped out into the courtyard of the small shopping complex. Little stores lined the square with tiny homes nestled above each one. The occasional dog could be found making a meal of the garbage littering the street. Bikes and scooters crowded the small, uneven road.

I ventured across the street to buy my favorite bread. These warm, round creations are made by my friend with two very brown front teeth whose name I’ve yet to learn. We always share a smile and a nod. At first I wrinkled my nose at his filthy shirt and his dumpy shack. I batted at the flies and whined about the black pit he was baking the bread in. I dared to ask, “Does he wash his hands after touching the money?” Apparently he keeps a damp cloth beside him and taps it between serving customers and patting out his dough. But now… now I don’t see the flies. Now I wake up craving this bread and when I’m in the area I can’t help myself from picking up a few pieces. I grabbed four. Lois and I strolled back across the street.

I stopped to make conversation with a young lady standing outside her little restaurant. She touched Lois’ white skin and asked me a thousand questions. I smiled and nodded. I introduced Lois and used every word I knew. She could see I was trying and we smiled as I repeated the same things over and over. We drew a crowd. Several people peered out of the windows above while others poked their heads out of their shops. Some simply walked right up and tried to join the non-existing conversation. My newfound friend disappeared into her restaurant and came back with a treat for Lois. Go figure. She shared a small pastry and a bottle of juice. We shared a few bites and sipped a few sips. Pure joy flooded across the girl’s face. What is it about this eating thing?

As we enjoyed our snack a familiar face appeared. Mrs. Lee,  a sweet friend of the family owned a little shop and home in that complex. She beamed and excitedly chatted while scooping up Lois. I pointed at Neal (still in the print shop) and tried to figure out where she had come from. She grinned from ear to ear and pulled me to her shop. Out came a peach for Lois and a coke for me. I chugged. Lois chomped. We’ve got this eating thing DOWN!

The courtyard soon became a buzz. I shared my “nang” bread and watched Lois get hugged and fed.

Neal finally finished his business but our afternoon was far from over. We were soon ushered to the little plastic table sitting in the middle of the courtyard. Before I knew what was happening a large bowl of noodles, cucumber and tofu was placed in front of me. (And another coke). Neal and I dug right in. It was delicious. Even more impressive than the noodles, however, was the gesture. It absolutely made their day to be able to share their food with us.

I wrapped my arm around Mrs. Lee and struggled to thank her. I looked around at the sweet faces that had shared with us that day. Their houses were a single room above a tiny store. They gave what they would normally be making a living off of. They showed a desire to be a friend to someone who couldn’t even talk to them. “Thank you” was so small. I wanted to say, “You are just the sweetest to do all of this for us and you absolutely didn’t have to and I’m just so overwhelmed with your kindness and you are just so nice and thank you so much for being my friend when I can’t even talk to you.” I was humbled. I gave a smile and a squeeze in hopes that my meaning would be felt.

Neal and I finally left with bags of yogurt, cokes and gifts. More importantly, we left feeling loved, welcomed and accepted. The food thing had worked. They had expressed their friendship and we had accepted it.

Another day in China down for the records.

When Reality Hits

It’s not like a wave that gives you ample time to prepare to brace yourself against it. It doesn’t loom and roll and crest before making it’s final foaming crash. You can’t see it coming.

It’s more like thunder during a storm. It crashes all around you in a surprise event. It catches you off guard and shakes your world in a matter of moments.

It hits when you aren’t expecting it: reality.

The first time it reared it’s unexpected head was before we left North America. I had spent the day at the park with my sisters and their kids. I helped my niece climb every ladder to the very top rung. I watched Lois smile and clap as my sister gently pushed her in the swing and talked sweetly to her. I gave my nephew the world’s best under-doggie as only Aunt Beth can do.

As we strolled away, reality hit. I will never do this again. That had been my last time to take a trip to the park with my family. Lois wouldn’t grow up playing with her cousins as I had always assumed she would. Time with my sisters would no longer be readily available. I was leaving. Leaving for good. I put on my brave face and swallowed the lump in my throat.

The next unexpected crash didn’t occur until after we were in China. I was video-chatting with a friend about the simple things in life. I told her about our apartment and she told me about work. She told me about the bulletin board by her desk. She told me she would put our picture there and tell everyone about her friend in China. I cried. I won’t be the lunch-date friend anymore. I’ll be the picture… the one that sits on the desk and gets talked about. The face that never actually gets seen. 

These moments just hit.

I love my life here. I’m sincerely the happiest I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt sometimes. Leaving did hurt. Leaving does hurt. Hug after hug tore my heart out. More than once I felt a physical pain for having to say good-bye.

These little epiphanies continue to happen as I realize my life has changed forever.

My friendships consist of smiles and hand gestures.

I have no Wal-Mart(But I do have a Wu Mart) 

Nobody even noticed that I’m wearing different make-up. 

Ground beef is a thing of the past.

Along with these moments, and in greater supply, are the moments I realize the abundant blessings we are and will be receiving. Many of them I can’t express in this blog, but they are real and worth it. Two of these blessings involve an elderly lady (who we have adopted as Lois’ Chinese grandmother) and a teen-age boy. Their “forever” has been changed for the better and that alone has been worth every good-bye, every missed birthday and every memorable moment that would have been.

So, these moments are just that: moments. They come and pass. Just like thunder, they crack and then they are over. And once gone, the sun shines again.

I was writing this blog late Tuesday night. Suddenly our internet stopped working and we haven’t had it back until today. I didn’t know while I was writing it that a dear friend of mine, Joel,  was in an accident in Holland. I did the math with the time change and realized that he probably died in the same hour that I wrote these words.

I re-read my blog post today and realized how petty it was. I came to the realization that life is short and we only get one shot at it. I scolded myself for having cried over my “problems” and thanked God for the awesome privilege of just being His child.

Joel’s wife, Collette is one of my nearest and dearest. She has stood by Joel’s side and been an example to me. She has shown wisdom beyond her years and she has encouraged me more than I’ll ever be able to express.

colletteThe reality is that she has taught and will continue to teach me. The reality is that I have nothing to complain about. The reality is that I need to stop these little pity parties. The reality is that we’re blessed. The reality is that next time a little “moment” pops up, I’ll remind myself of Joel and Collette and how much serving Jesus really matters. In light of that, everything else fades to almost nothing.

Reality is that Joel would’ve counted it a privilege to die in Holland.

Reality is that he lived his dream and today he’s in Heaven with his Creator… and that is a beautiful reality.

Introducing my Neighborhood in Beijing

Some things I may never relate to. Some things delight me. Some things intrigue me. Here are a few of those things:

DSC_0247This is how she makes her living. She totes her baby and her cart of plastic balloons around.

I’ll never relate to it.

DSC_0279This dad (ba ba) and daughter (nu er) fell in love with Lois. They stopped us on the street for a chat. I didn’t tell them that in America we’re really nothing special. We quickly became friends and they even told me my Chinese is good. I believed them for a brief moment of bliss. Reality then smacked me right upside the head to remind me that I’m not so fluent.

I’m delighted with it.

DSC_0284We eat fresh fruits and veggies. Every day the farmers bring their produce to town and set up shop on the street corner. I pass an average of ten or more vendors on my half mile walk to the market.

I’m intrigued by it.

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And this I have no words for. The local garbage bin was full. Problem solver: dump it all on the street.

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All for the Love of Eggs

A toothless, wrinkled face stared blankly at me. I tried to explain, but it was pointless.

The wu mart (yes, that is actually what it’s called) down the road is my favorite grocery store. It’s close enough to walk to and it carries all the necessities: milk, butter, bread. Oddly enough these items can be difficult and expensive to find here in China. So, there I was shopping. I stared at my list. Eggs were at the top.

Crates of eggs. Eggs in plastic containers. Eggs in flat cartons. Eggs in bags. Eggs were everywhere. Which ones are the “normal” eggs? I figured the eggs in the packages were “special” eggs so I made the executive decision to draw from the crates. Now I just needed a bag. I glanced all around for plastic bags. None. I spotted a man with two in his hand and asked, “Where did you get those bags?” Blank stare. “The bags. I need a bag for my eggs.” Quizzical stare. Now what?

Finally I started gesturing and drawing an unnecessary amount of attention to myself as I tried to get my point across. The man finally caught on to my need and held out one of his bags to me. Embarassed, I took the bag and explained, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to give me one of yours!” I chuckled. He had no clue. I figured I’d better apologize in Mandarin. “Bu ke chi.” Oh wait, that’s “don’t be polite.” I tried again,Dui bu chi!” Oops, that was “excuse me.” Oh well, close enough. He gets the point. I shrugged. He shrugged. I filled my precious bag with eggs.

I took my eggs to the attendant to weigh and price them. I waited patiently while he helped another customer weigh her melons. He finished with her then went back to his work. Hello! I’m standing right here with my eggs! I looked expectantly at him. No response. I held up my eggs and pointed at the scale. A blank stare answered me. He continued to help another customer. How dare he! He is just totally ignoring me! Well, I’d had enough of that. I walked right in front of him, “Can you please weigh these for me?” He got animated and began rattling off in some unknown tongue. His arms flew one way as he pointed at the trays of eggs and then he whipped himself around and pointed at the crates. It was my turn to give a blank stare. A bystander came to the rescue. “He says you have to buy the tray of eggs.” Her English was clear and welcomed! “WHY?” I asked, frantic and confused. She rattled off to him and he rattled back with his flailing arms. “He says that the crates are the eggs they use to package and price the trays for the customers.” Seriously? Apparently I’d made a poor choice. Shoulda picked the “special” eggs. 

Finally that disgruntled, wrinkled old man took my little bag of eggs and placed them on a scale. He rudely laughed and shook his head while muttering out a few choice words. I imagine he ways saying things like, “This dumb foreign girl just doesn’t know how we do things here in China.” He wouldn’t have been far from the truth!

I smiled and thanked him, “Xie xie.” Got that one right.

I left wu mart with my head held high. Mission accomplished! I had done it all by myself.

Seconds after leaving the store I had a little mishap. I peered down at my highly-faught-for bag of eggs to find several of them cracked and broken. They were oozing all over my precious plastic bag. Shoulda got a tray.

Spotted this little guy on my daily walk. He stared and I stared back. Then I acted like a tourist and snapped a picture! (He’s far more interesting to look at then a bag of broken eggs.)

My Willows In Beijing

They line the road like a band of grandfather’s watching over me. Their long branches sweep and sway in the smallest of breezes. They hold warmth, vibrant colour and secrets. They’ve watched many people walk by under their protective branches. They’ve been through the changing of seasons and they’ve endured many generations. They’re my willows.

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If I had a dream yard, it would be one with a large, looming willow tree. I’ve always loved them. I’ve always been intrigued by their whimsical look. Whenever I see one I always let out a little squeal of excitement. “Oh, look! A willow!” Without a doubt, they’re my favorite. They seem to pull all the stress right out of one’s life. They bring about a calm sort of relaxing feel. Most importantly, they remind me that I’m loved. They’re my willows.

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God knew I loved willows. He also knew that I would live my life without a yard. Living in China means apartments. Apartments means no yard. I’m fine with no yard. I’m even fine with no willow trees. Yet, God in His sovereign omniscience knew that I loved willows. I like to believe that He planted this particular line of trees right outside of my neighbourhood just for me. He knew that I would walk this stretch of road every day. He knew I would see these trees and smile at them every time I walked by. He knew they would remind me of His love for me. He knew they would confirm that He cares about the little things. And that’s why they’re my willows.

Adjusting?

Lois is snoozing in her playpen. I’m having a quiet moment all to myself. These moments have been rare since we arrived here a week and a half ago. I’ve managed to clean all the dishes and do all my laundry. I even ran out to the market today. I was looking for avacado and zucchini. I came home with green melon and cucumber. Close enough. It seems that every time I go out to hunt (that is literally what I do, hunt) for something specific, I can’t ever seem to find it. The grocery store was a bit of a scare. While they didn’t carry any of my beloved colby jack cheese, they did have pig snouts, live shrimp, dried fish, hundreds of spices, noodles galore and kellogs corn flakes (those were oddly out of place). I picked up a bag of chips and said to Neal, “These look like sour cream and onion.” He replied, “No, they’re green tea flavored.” Huh. I opted out and got the cucumber ones instead. I’m having really good luck with cucumber apparently. I tried to meal-plan for the week. Instead, I bought what looked familiar to me and hoped it would get us through! Bisquick doesn’t exist. I’ve made biscuits, pancakes, taco seasoning, cake and tortillas from scratch! Call me Martha Stewart. The good news is, we have fresh vegetables with no preservatives or pesticides. And of course, green melon and cucumber.

Often people look at me and start rattling off in Chinese. Why do they assume I speak it? I simply smile and talk back in English. Occasionally I throw in my limited Chinese and we get somewhere. Most of the time we just end up awkwardly smiling at each other until Neal comes to the rescue. I really am trying. Every day I learn new words and phrases, and every day I feel SO lost. I’ve learned the alphabet (talk about feeling like a child) and now when I hear words, I try to spell them out. At times I’m successful. Oh, to be able to speak! There have been many occasions where I would have loved to just tell someone I liked their blouse or ask them about their children, but I just can’t. For a girl who likes to talk, I’ve been awfully quiet. This motivates me to learn. I ask Neal a lot, “How do you say…”. I get the most help from the children. They’re always happy to teach me. I point at things and they say the word. I repeat and they giggle. I giggle too then I practice it over and over. This is the first step to communicating. Maybe it seems humiliating, but I’m just so eager to talk that I’ll do anything! At the market today I pointed to the mangoes (the only fruit I know how to say) and said the Chinese word for mango. The lady nodded. I then pointed at another fruit and she said the name of it. I repeated it. It’s slow, but sure. Everything is this way. Everything takes time and effort. I feel a bit like a prisoner. When I communicate just a little, I get a taste of freedom and it makes me work harder to escape this silent life! Language school will be a relief!

I elbowed my way onto a bus the other day. I learned fast that you have to be quick and a little pushy to get anywhere. We use public transportation all the time. Buses, taxis and subways get us to where we need to go. Getting onto a city bus is almost like a game. Everyone waits at the bus stop and when the bus starts to approach they all start walking toward where they think the door will end up. You have to be a good judge of speed and distance! People start moving faster as the bus slows down and as soon as those doors crank open, it’s every man for himself. Neal grabs one end of the stroller and I grab the other and we just charge on through the mob! I stick my elbows out and get my foot up on the step to block everyone else (in the kindest way possible) and we haul ourselves on in. Waiting isn’t an option. Waiting means everyone thinks you aren’t getting on. Waiting means you miss the bus. Waiting means you lose the game. It’s just the way of life and I’ve gotten rather used to it in this short amount of time.

Once on the bus (or subway) Lois is usually the main attraction. I’ve had people lean right in front of me to get a better look at her white skin and blue eyes. I usually hear them comment about how “pretty” or “cute” she is. Those are words that I’ve gotten quite used to identifying! On the subway I can usually count at least ten people with their eyes fixed on her. It doesn’t matter what time of day or where we are going, they always love to see her. If I put Lois on my lap she usually tries to grab the person next to us. This brings on a flood of ooohs, aaaahs, smiles and laughter. I always smile back. I’ve got a friendly little girl. From time to time certain people will hold out their arms to hold her. Lois goes willingly. Then the cameras come out! Everyone wants a picture with the cute little white baby. We’re going to have to work hard to keep her humble! I find it so amusing to watch as people surround her while we’re shopping. One day I counted seven grown ladies bent over in a circle around her stroller. Neal and I were trying to look at couches. All the sales reps were trying to look at Lois. What a dilemma. We just smiled and snickered. They always ask Neal how old she is and how many teeth she has. He’s a proud daddy and loves to show her off. I’m a task-oriented woman and I just think, can’t we just buy a couch! One day I’ll be able to speak and bringing Lois everywhere will provide a lot of open doors.

Just the other day a man tried to talk with me while I was holding Lois. It was useless. After finding I couldn’t understand him, he then decided he’d just like to hold Lois. I hesitated. He was filthy. I looked at Neal and he nodded his approval. I handed Lois off and the man grinned from ear to ear. That moment changed me. I was reminded that Lois wasn’t mine. She has just been given to me for a little while. I will cherish her, nurture her and do my very best to take care of her, but if I teach her to be friendly and to love people, she will have that forever. She was sweet to that man. I would’ve turned the other way and probably not’ve even noticed him, but a small door was opened as  I learned a lesson through my baby girl. I was also reminded that everyone is precious in HIS sight. Nobody gets overlooked. I accepted it and tried to change my attitude and outlook. IMG_0018

After we finally made it on the bus.

I’ve learned that if I pull her out of the stroller and hold her, I always get offered a seat.

(Don’t spill the beans on my little secret!)

I’ve had my challenges for sure. Every day I wonder what I’ll learn. I still have little moments when I miss home and family. I wait for the moment when something feels, looks, sounds, smells familiar. I’ve finally figured out how to get around in our apartment complex and that was a victorious moment! Baby steps. God has been good through it all and although I feel like adjusting will take several years, I AM adjusting… little by little. Hanging my clothes to dry is feeling normal, I’m developing a taste for fresh fruits and veggies (not hard to do) and stopping to let people talk to Lois is becoming old hat. I love it. Listen to me… it’s as if I’d been here for years!

The Journey to China

An old Chinese man snored loudly with his face pointed to the ceiling of the plane. The lady behind us smelled… interesting. The flight attendant was irritable and no matter how many sleepy smiles I cracked, she wouldn’t return one. Lois had a friend, Lily, who she shared her cheerios with. They sat on the floor by the exit row trying to grab each other’s faces and sharing a language that only the two of them understood. One kind lady continually smiled at me as I strolled up and down the narrow aisles with my baby girl. They fed us eggs at four A.M. I hardly ate. I hardly slept. Neal hardly slept. Lois slept like a baby, literally. Altogether, the flight was a good one. I prayed specifically for three things: an extra seat for Lois to sit, play and sleep in, our luggage to arrive safe with nothing missing and an easy pass through customs. Each of those prayers was answered above and beyond. My God is just like that. He answers prayers exceeding abundantly above what I ask or think. The wheels of the plane hit solid ground with a gentle thud and I knew we were there. Neal reached and pulled the blind up the window and I gazed out, drinking it all in. Four years is a long time to not see a place, yet so much of it became immediately familiar. The grey, rainy, Beijing sky welcomed us. In some ways it seemed more like it was daring us. Daring me. Daring me to build a life there. Daring me to tackle the tough, foreign language. Daring me to accept the people and culture. Daring me to try to make a difference. I was excited and intimidated all at once.

Before long we were stepping off the plane and onto Chinese soil… or concrete. Whichever is more fitting. Then it hit me in a wave of familiarity: the China smell. It’s nothing that can be described as good or bad. It’s simply different and there’s only one place in the world you can smell it. It was strangely comforting to me. I liked feeling familiar with something. We took a narrow escalator up to our floor. On the way up I stared out the glass windows. With Lois on my hip and bags slung over my shoulder I pointed outside, leaned in and whispered in her ear, “Look, it’s our new home.” The last word came out as more of a choked mumble. For the first time, I was calling this place home. I was emotional for many reasons. One, we were finally there and God had been so good. Two, I was calling a place home that I knew relatively nothing about. Three, I was exhausted. Five hours of sleep in forty-eight hours doesn’t help anything. I continued by smiling and sighing. This was it. We sailed through customs with only one person ahead of us. (We were moved up to the VIP line. Coincidence? I don’t think so.) We picked up our four bags of luggage (yes, only four. One of us has awesome packing skills. ahem.) and we were on our way.

A Chinese man, a friend of the family, met us in the airport. He quickly grabbed my cart and pushed it for me. I was thankful. I smiled and said “hello”. He nodded. I thanked him for taking the cart. He nodded. He and Neal struck up conversation and organized our way home. I had forgotten how loud the city was until we stepped outside. Every vehicle was seemingly honking. People everywhere were chatting on their phones and zig zagging to make their way to their destination. Our Chinese friend stopped to take a picture with Lois. I smiled. She was popular already. It all happened so fast for my still-sleepy brain. I found myself on over-drive as I absorbed the smallest of details. I noticed a lady walking by with brooches on the sleeves of her shirt. I smiled at a small girl with mouse faces on her shoes. I eyeballed a man in a suit who seemed to think he looked sharp. We were soon ushered to the van and on our way. Lois and I sat by the window and the smoggy air provided a welcome breeze. She was soon sound asleep in my lap.

The Ray’s apartment looked like Heaven. It was a place to stretch out, get cooled off and just relax. Lois explored the entire house. I listened as her hands patted the tile floor. She was never too hard to find. She finally slumped into a restless, jet-lagged sleep and Neal and I contacted our families. The lonliness set in. I couldn’t talk to anyone. The helplessness set in. I couldn’t understand anything. The exhaustion set in. I slipped off to bed for a night of crying from Lois and hardly any sleep for me. This was the beginning of our journey. After getting some rest I found my excitement. The next day was filled with little moments of joy and pleasure as the realization of our future dawned. This is the life we are called to, and it’s a good one. Jesus said, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” In many ways the life that I once knew and was so familiar with is lost to me. I am now on a journey to finding the life God has for me. I’m about to carve a new “normal” out of this intriguing culture. How exciting.

The Unseen

There’s nothing like a family.

In the last month I’ve had four individuals tell me that they pray for me every. single. day. None of them are related to me or have even known me for more than a few years.

One lady upon meeting me for the first time said, “I have been praying for the Rays every day.” Talk about humbling. Another sweet lady that I’ve known for a few years was very convincing in her assurance, “Beth, even though I don’t always tell you this, or talk to you often, always know that I pray for you every day. I’m not just saying it. I actually do it. I don’t do it for everyone, but I do it for you.” I found it difficult to swallow after hearing those words. She taught me a lesson that day. While at a conference I happened to glance at the phone of a gentleman who was talking with Neal. He had a note page open with a list of prayer requests on it. My eyes fell upon this simple phrase: Beth language school. I smiled. Since then that man has kept in close contact with our family. He constantly asks Neal what he can pray for. I had the opportunity recently to bump into a lady that I’ve known since college. I haven’t seen her in about a year, yet she made a point to tell me that she has been praying for me every day. I love to hear that. She said, “I pray for YOU, Beth.” A specific prayer means so much.

Now that’s what I call a family. It’s a special bond that begins the instant you meet a brother or sister in Christ. I never take it for granted to be a part of this family. I can always use the prayer. I know it has seen me through many ups and downs and has probably protected me from many hurts and sorrows. Often we don’t physically see the results of our prayer. We simply pray… believing. God does the rests. He protects and empowers. He gives grace and comfort. He heals the unseen hurts. As we pray, He answers.

Not long ago I was driving our van to give Neal a break. A break was not exactly what he experienced. Rather, I thrust him into a state of unrest as I nearly ran our van off a very steep exit ramp. To this day I don’t know exactly how the “greyhound” (my name for our minivan) stayed on the road. I’m content to say that many people have been praying for us. That day God was answering those prayers.

Neal and I have been trying to get an apartment in China. We had the “perfect” place all picked out. It was amazing. It was more than we could have asked for. We were overwhelmed by the beauty, size and price. Shortly after an offer was placed to rent the apartment, the landlord took the apartment off the market. We were disappointed. It seemed SO RIGHT. We prayed and left the situation in God’s hands. Just a few days later the Lord provided another apartment. It was smaller, more worn down… less expensive! Maybe not the seemingly amazing place that we had looked at before, but we are certain that it is a far better place. It’s the one God gave us and to His all-seeing eye, it is way better than the other. We don’t doubt that many diligent prayer warriors have helped to protect us from a situation that wasn’t good for us. We may never know what God was protecting us from, but we are ever grateful for faithful prayers and God’s perfect will.

This family isn’t exclusive. It’s open and welcoming to all. It’s a network that encourages and uplifts. It is God’s plan and it. is. perfect.

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he. is. enough.

Two months. My “newborn” is two months. She’s turning into a little person. She holds her head up, smiles at me when I talk to her and adores her bath time. Life is different with this little girl. Traveling is now filled with quick stops to feed, changing diapers on the back seat of the car and finding a place to set up the playpen. Meetings are now filled with getting paged to the nursery, trying to keep track of who’s holding the baby and looking for a seat that is relatively close to the exit. Down time is now filled with scrubbing the lovely yellow stains out of bed sheets, playing baby einstein on the tablet and telling my baby girl how much I love her. Our lives have changed and we love it.

Since my last blog, We’ve had Neal’s ordination, Lois’ dedication and my brother’s ordination. In that order. Neal was interrogated on his position on life after death, communion, salvation, Heaven, Hell, baptism, church membership and all kinds of other things. I sat and listened with a proud heart. He answered with confidence and lots of Biblical support. The following morning we brought Lois up before our church and dedicated her to the Lord. She’s His and He is simply letting us take care of her while on earth. It’s a privilege and a huge responsibility! She got a little pink Bible. We’ll keep it forever. That night at church our pastor, Neal’s dad, my dad and several other men laid their hands on Neal and prayed as he was ordained. I had been strong all weekend but when they began to pray for him my heart just overflowed with excitement, emotion and a huge sense of responsibility! The tears flowed. I cried mostly out of a thankful heart. God is going to use Neal. I just know it. He is going to use him in a great way and I am so blessed to be a part of it. I am so blessed to take care of His little girl every day. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to go to China with him. I’m excited about it, emotional about it and yes, I feel the weight of responsibility.

Lately I’ve been pondering our future. China. Small word, big meaning! For me, it means learning a new language. Yeah, I’m scared. I always pray, “Lord, I know I can’t do it, so you’re going to have to do it! Work a miracle!” China also means that I’ll be raising children in a completely different culture. That means more to me now that I have a little baby. I grew up playing baseball in my backyard, having waterfights with neighbourhood friends and ice skating in the winter. I imagine my little girl riding subways, playing with Chinese kids and spending a month listening to fireworks at Chinese New Year. Of course, China means a new home. My home won’t be in Canada anymore. It won’t be in Jackson, Tennessee or on the road. My home will be with my little family. It will be a little “Can-Am” in the middle of Beijing. It will be colourful with fun quotes on the walls. It will be the place that my children will make their memories. It will be the perfect cove when life is getting tough. It will be a banquet hall for the  many friends we will make. It will be a place where God will grow our family and our ministry. Oh I can’t wait! I feel as though my heart is already there. I’m already picturing myself in China and loving it!

I’ve cried often over the last two weeks. Life can be overwhelming at times. I miss people. I miss having a home. I fear the unknown future. Yes, it is too much to bear at times, but thank God, He. is. enough. A wise woman reminded me of that just recently. We are never enough. No one is. Only HE is enough. So when life is crazy busy and there’s so much to worry about…don’t worry. You have a God who is enough.

In love with L.A.

Little tears gathered in my eyes as I stared at that perfect little face. Tears of joy. Tears of wonder. Tears of amazement. Tears of relief. Tears of exhaustion. Tears of excitement. It’s hard to sum it all up. There was so much to absorb as I held my new baby in my arms. She was fresh out of the womb and as soon as her head touched my chest she stilled her flailing hands and quieted her cries. I was her mommy and she knew me. I couldn’t believe it. Her sweet little eyes fluttered. Her little body snuggled up to mine. My baby.

 

My sister Jess explained how she had a whole speech prepared for when she first saw her baby, but when the moment came, she couldn’t say a thing. I was much the same way. I had a perfect little welcome speech to give to my baby, but when I saw her, my heart melted and my mind whirled. I can’t hardly remember what I said. It was just babble. Everything that came to my mind, came out. “She’s beautiful!” “Look at our baby!” “She’s perfect!” “Neal, she has your nose!” It was a wonderful, life-changing moment. I can remember thinking how long she looked, how perfectly her head was shaped, how she looked so much like my handsome husband… how blessed I was.

It’s been over three weeks now and I’ve been adjusting to life with a newborn… hence the lack of blogs. Those three weeks have been exciting and filled with exciting moments. Lois met grandma. She had her first visitors, Pastor and Mrs. Savage. Daddy changed her first diaper… and her second… and the third. What a man! I put her first dress on her. I kissed that perfect head. I snuggled her through the night in the hospital. We spent our first night at home without power. She ate by candlelight :D. She went to church for the first time.  Three aunts came over at once and spoiled Lois rotten! She loved it. We even managed to sneak in some shopping and eating out! She skyped with Aunt Klara. Daily pictures and/or videos have been sent to mawmaw and pawpaw Ray and grandpa and grandma Wood, along with Aunt Natasha and Aunt Heather. In the week previous to, and following her arrival, Lois received way too many packages. Of course, I got to open all of them. :D.

One night Neal and I found ourselves with a few moments together. The baby was sound asleep and we were finally getting some time alone. We talked and snuggled, but before long we found ourselves at the foot of our bed, peeking over the side of hers. With our faces side-by-side, we just stared at her and smiled. Our hearts were over-flowing with love for this sweet “bean”. We still can’t get over it! Just tonight I told Neal, “I love her more and more every day. As I get to know her and become familiar with her face expressions and her personality, I just become more excited and more in love.” A good friend of mine explained it like this, “the littlest thing I’ve ever put my whole life into.” How true it is!

We are blessed. We are thankful. We are overjoyed. We are in love with Lois Ann.