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Letter II September 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 9:19 am

Since moving here, I’ve been looking for “a church home.”  I think the phrase “spoiled for choice” could very easily apply to the American church situation, and I want to find the balance between looking for one that matches what I would like and holding out for an ideal that does not exist.  I also want to listen to the Spirit’s promptings in this!

In the title of this post, I’m reflecting on C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a fictional set of letters from one demon to another, offering advice on how to keep a new believer from growing into an effective Christian – and thus showing the reader by contrast exactly what DOES help a believer avoid temptation and grow in the Lord.  The second letter focuses on the church.  Screwtape the demon writes to his nephew, “One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.  That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. …When he gets to his pew,… make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew. … Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. … I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course, if they do – if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player or the man with the squeaky boots is a mister and an extortioner – then your task is so much the easier.  All you have to do is to keep out of his mind the question, ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’” (pages 22-24)

All that is in the back of my mind as I type and proofread what I’ve written.

So far, I’ve visited 5 different churches in my 6 Sundays here (wow, have I only been here five+ weeks?!).  I keep thinking, “If only I could check out Sunday services every day of the week, how much faster this would be!”  But that is not so, of course.  There have been various things I enjoyed about each church, and various others I found off-putting in some way.

Among the good: The Mennonite churches both had lovely harmonized hymn singing, some live musical instruments, and one was quite welcoming and with a Sunday School class I’d like to keep going back to attend if the scheduling works out! (That’s the one I visited twice.)  The Presbyterian church was going through Job, which struck me as a good Bible-centered way to focus a sermon series, and they were attempting to reach out to the local college students.  The two more non-denominational sort of churches I’ve been to so far had some nice modern contemporary songs and were also very welcoming.

At one place I visited, the sermon on forgiveness combined the Word of God with the speaker’s own testimony in such a powerful way that “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” came to mind!  The people of that small church showed such love and support for the speaker as well.  Having listened to so much John Piper in the past few years, that one came the closest to what I’m most searching for in preaching: a place where the pastor opens up the Word of God in a way that leads us to love God more and apply it to our lives.  I get turned off when the message is thematic and just uses scripture to prove the speaker’s point – shouldn’t it be the other way around?  And yet I’ve heard two such sermons so far (along with one quite nice “Missions Sunday” that didn’t give me anything to judge by).  Even worse than the scripture-as-proof-of-my-wisdom approach: if the message’s theme is focused on people who have young children (ie “family” in the mainstream sense) to the exclusion of others in the Body, or if the pastor asserts something I don’t believe is scriptural without making any attempt to show it from the scripture – such as the idea that physical families are the basic building block of the New Testament church (um, no, I believe you’re thinking of the Old Covenant; unlike the nation of Israel, under Christ, we are adopted rather than born into God’s family).  Not that I’ve heard a sermon like that or anything… *ahem*

I’m also really hoping for a place that uses music to worship God in a way similar to those that are easiest for me to enter into.  This is where it gets a little tricky for a couple reasons: tricky because I love BOTH traditional hymns and modern worship music, and tricky because I know that worship is not supposed to be about ME. Still, I’d rather find a place where I can focus my effort on God and not on ignoring how much I dislike the music.  Interestingly on the topic of music, one church was so small that it used videos for the music portion (words on animated backgrounds accompanying the MP3), which got me both ways – it reminded me a lot of our home fellowship in Zhengzhou (yay), while also distracting me with those blasted backgrounds and the quality of drum-and-electric-guitar-heavy MP3′s over a poor speaker system (sigh)… Anyway, a part of me has the idea that I can’t hold out for a perfect place this side of heaven, despite the “ideal” I found in college (a church with a traditional service, a good Sunday School, and a contemporary service – I’d come for the first service and stay through the worship of the second), but with so many possibilities around here I feel like I can’t “settle” without trying a good-sized sampling of them.

And then there’s the body, the ACTUAL church – are there a mix of people at different stages of life?  Or is it mostly families? Are the kids taken care of in some way that doesn’t distract everyone else during the sermon?  Are there ways to interact with people outside of age-and-status pigeonholes?  Are the people welcoming or clique-ish? Do I perhaps already have a friend there, or a co-worker or a friend of a friend, to help with my slow introverted attempts at getting to know others, which really don’t combine well with once-a-week sitting-in-pews-together to build relationships at any sort of livable pace?

And then there’s a theological issue, beyond the sermon issues mentioned above: My understanding of the New Testament’s teaching on pastors being men.  It’s not something I’m a huge fan of in my own wisdom, but I accept it as God’s prescribed path for the church. *pause for effect*  So far two of the four sermons I’ve heard were given by women. *blink blink* Where am I again?  Cue more of that culture shock of returning to (Christian organizations in) the US after almost a decade abroad.  I’ve heard women teach, but this is the first time I’ve attended a church with a female lead pastor. (The other incident involved “just” an associate pastor filling in while the lead pastor was unexpectedly out of town.)  And yet, do I deny their calling, say they and their congregations heard God wrong?  I don’t know.  I know it’s not the only bit of theology that Christendom doesn’t have consensus on.  Am I comfortable being part of a church in which the leaders believe differently than me on an issue like that?  Again, I don’t know.  I’m not a big fan of “denominations” in general, so this would be a good time to live out the idea that we should function as one body rather than get picky about things less central than the actual Gospel message.  Going with this tangent, I do realize it’s important for local churches to belong to a larger body of some sort that can help make sure their theology isn’t getting too far off, and denominational bodies are helpful for that, but that’s about all the good I’ve seen in them till now. Are they also good at helping us find “a place that fits”? Too bad then that the places I’ve fit best didn’t fit any denominations (except that college one, but there aren’t any United Brethren churches in this state… *Google*… SNAP, there are! Even in this city! Hm, with an average attendance of 14 rather than 400 or even 40. Well, it’s still worth a try!)

I don’t know if I have a good conclusion to this post yet.  I suppose it’s just one of those stressors that go with moving to a new position in life that take awhile to settle into any sense of “normal.”  And it’s also just one of those areas that I can respond to God with thanksgiving – for the fellowship he’s provided for me in the past, for his presence and comfort and guidance, and for the answer when it arrives in his timing.

 

Press On September 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 8:14 am

“I see this world through my jaded eyes.
I get frustrated when there is no why.
I put my focus on worthless things.
Even the strong fall to their knees; God only knows what we all need.
I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball. I must confess that I still don’t get it all.
Lord, I believe that all your words are true.
Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with you.
Life goes on, life goes on, but your love will prove
All I need, all I need, I will find in you.
I press on, I press on, I press on when I still don’t get it all. I press on.”

from “Press On,” Building 429

The other day this was perfect. I’d come up against brick wall after frustration after bureaucratic ma fan, and actually let myself shed a few tears before putting the car in gear and pulling out of the parking lot.  The radio was on, and this song played on the short drive home – and I felt more tears, this time of gratitude and thanksgiving that I am known so well, and that God would encourage me at that moment.

Psalm 131 A Song of Ascents. Of David. “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”

As a weaned child who does not understand why his mother has withdrawn his comfortable ritual, but still finds comfort and love in her arms – so I am calmed and reassured in the arms of God when “there is no why” to what’s going on around me.

 

Moving in and moving on August 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 9:14 am

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector, the kind of person who accumulates “stuff.” Why would you throw away something that might be useful one day? Why wouldn’t you buy the item on sale that you know you’ll want to use eventually? And so it goes…

I learned one lesson about “stuff” when I first moved to China and sold the household of items I’d accumulated.  I had moved back in with my parents after I lost my first full-time job, and after 18 months of paying $80/month to store my comfy second-hand couch set, the bed frame and mattress set, the discount-store desk, dresser, and bookshelf I’d put together, the books (oh, so many books!) for my classroom, and the other household items, I reaped about $250 from the sale.  *pause for that to sink in* Yeah, I’ve never done the math on how much I spent on that storage and the moving truck that hauled it back from Maryland, simply because I don’t want to know.  A few boxes of stuff were still stored at my parents’ home – blankets I’d made, the books I liked best, my grandmother’s china – but most of it was gone, and poor though the return was for it, I couldn’t really mourn it (aside from the couches perhaps – they really were perfectly broken in!)  It was just stuff, certainly not heirloom-quality or anything.

Moving back from China has been an interesting experience in terms of my “stuff” proclivities.  I’ve come to realize over the last few years that I would like to be less stuff-oriented, certainly.  It’s just hard to make a change as you go through your day-to-day life.  Having to really clear out my apartment – not just shove it all in boxes to move to the next one on the same continent – was a great start.  Asking myself if an object was worth paying hundreds of dollars to ship an extra suitcase was also a good incentive.  And as I started letting go of some things, it became easier to let go of others.  I brought perhaps half a suitcase of “stuff to keep” back to the States a year ago because I knew this was to be my final year, and then this year I whittled the rest down to six bags under 23 kg each.

Once I found an apartment to move into, it was time to dig out the boxes packed a decade ago (half a year after college when I lost my job), or a year and a half later (when I moved to China). I was amazed as I went through them and saw what I’d kept.  My old tie-dyed sheets and a comforter of forest green, clashing horribly.  A wall hanging I’d bought at a yard sale and saved but now find sadly tacky.  Scrapbooks from trips long ago – those I AM still keeping.  Star Wars Episode 1 memorabilia that I sent straight to Craig’s List.  Books I never read and now no longer wish to.  Drinking glasses I didn’t even remember owning – two sets of them!

I can’t blame my 23-year-old self for thinking these things were worth keeping, nor for shoving them into boxes without thought upon reaching the point at which she just couldn’t deal with any more decisions.  I lost some photos to a purge in China when I hit that point myself this summer – my only packing regret.  But seeing how much my attitudes have changed over the intervening years, on top of all the purging, has led to some reflection:

  • I’m glad I couldn’t bring more from China.  Much as I might miss my spice rack and yarn stash, it’s good to de-clutter.  How many of those spices will I actually buy again and use in the next months?  How much of that yarn would I really ever have used, even if I’d stayed there another five years?
  • I don’t have any definite plans for how long I’m staying here.  Like China, it’s a year-by-year decision at this point.  So why should I build up a household of things that are nice to have but won’t be coming with me when I move?  I have bought a frying pan and a couple sauce pans – do I really need that cast iron skillet and that deep canning pot?  The tie dye sheets may not match, but why buy fancy alternatives when I won’t be taking any of them with me the next time I fly away?  I gave away or sold my favorite book series, but there are public libraries here and the age of the digital book is advancing – do I really need to collect them again?  The urge to re-accumulate will probably never leave me, but I am trying to consciously keep it at this smaller size, kind of like eating small meals after a gastric bypass surgery and not stretching the organ back out again.
  • I have bought most of my current furniture used.  Why get new items – even in a box from the discount store – when I can recycle and save money at the same time? It seems to feel more like home this way, perhaps because, while the furniture in my family’s home may have been new 30+ years ago, it’s certainly been in “used” condition for most of my life.  I’ve decided against several items too – no coffee table, no TV, and just a recliner and a rocking chair in place of any couches.  My small home feels more spacious, and that feels less stressful somehow.
  • I should be slow to judge others’ belongings, or feel superior about my current favorite items in relation to my younger self’s choices.  After all, in ten years’ time, I may tire of this fluffy llama throw pillow or think that the discount-store clock with a picture of apples on it is horribly tacky too.

I believe there will always be special things that I hold onto – pottery handmade by a friend, Christmas ornaments with dates and places on them, a few special souvenirs from places I’ve lived or visited.  But I hope this move will be something of a turning point, a few steps towards freedom from my belongings.

What about you? Are there special things you keep? Have you ever faced a purge and found it liberating? Are you a collector, or are you someone who has never held onto “stuff” very strongly?

 

Adrift in a New Culture August 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 6:15 am

 

For those who live overseas, it is a fact of life that the initial culture shock of arriving in a foreign place is often not as challenging as the reverse culture shock on returning “home” at the end of one’s time abroad. I’ve been aware of this challenge since I was a child, having heard my parents’ conversations with other adults about their difficult transition back to the US from Tokyo in 1989. This spring as I prepared to transition to the US from Qingdao, I wondered what form it would take for me, Adult Third Culture Kid, experienced world traveler, and someone who has visited the US almost every year of my time abroad. I really couldn’t imagine, though I didn’t think I would be exempt.

 

As early as my second day in the US people were asking me how I was doing with adjusting to being back. My answer – one blog post notwithstanding – was pretty much “Ask me after school’s started and I’m a month into my ‘new normal.’ Right now it just feels like a regular summer home with a little job searching thrown in.” Well, a week after moving to my new town, I’ve begun to find out just what it can be like!

 

There needs to be back story, of course. I’ve had two main overseas transitions as an adult. When I first moved to China 9 years ago, I only knew a friend of a friend via email, and he wasn’t in my part of town, so it was something of a rough landing, but the other foreign teachers (who had mostly arrived a month before me) took me for dinner the second night, let me use their shower when my place didn’t have a water heater the first week, and included me in their road trip to Kaifeng a week after I landed. The school also assigned me two student aides who were friendly and super helpful, for example by ordering my first jug of drinking water and teaching me how to get more, and by finding me a large bath towel when all I could find in my limited and overwhelming forays to the supermarket were hand towels. Between the sweet students and the solidarity of “we’re all foreigners together” among the other expats, I found some solid ground and learned to stand, walk, and eventually electric-bike my way around life there.

 

Then I switched to an international school with Leadership Development International. LDI does an amazing job of preparing for and welcoming new people, for example sending lists of what to pack and what’s available on arrival, and providing meals for the first week in-country. Even though I’d already been in China for 4 years and in some ways hit the ground running, I appreciated all the care. One of my favorite parts of each new school year has been helping to host and welcome the new staff. Then when I prepared to leave, the company provided counseling, prayer, acknowledgement and affirmation in large and small gatherings, printed devotionals, and more. Pretty much my only moment of return-to-US crying this summer was when I received their last package and realized I was now “outside” – though when I mentioned it to the person from the home office who called for my debriefing later that month, she told me they’re still praying for us, so I’m never totally “out.” No organization is perfect, but that was pretty awesome, and I knew when I was leaving that it would be a while before I found another community like that.

 

Arriving back in my “home” culture, I spent the summer where I grew up, mixing with other internationally-minded believers and even some friendly Chinese students, so I landed on ground I knew pretty well how to stand on – indeed, I kind of felt unfairly blessed, and I thanked God for the soft landing. But now I’m in a new city, with a new community in my workplace who don’t know me and whose local culture I’m new to, with neighbors who do speak my language but don’t work at my school (instead of either one or the other), where people don’t fit neatly into the two categories of “Chinese” or “expat like me,” and oh, all sorts of things are different, large and small. Various experiences this week left me feeling like I was totally lost and drifting, without anywhere to put my feet, any ground I was sure of. None of it was done “to” me with negative intent, it wasn’t even all negative, but it all hit me out of left field, and by Thursday noon I was sobbing on the shoulder of one of the two co-workers I’ve started to get to know so far, who bless her heart just held me and let me cry.

 

And then at home that evening I opened the Word to my daily-reading bookmark at Psalm 138, glanced across the page at 139, started sobbing again as I felt God reach out and hold me.

 

“No one here knows me” – 1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
you are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

 

“I’m lost in a new place” – 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
9 If I rise on the wings of the morning
and dwell across the sea, (<- exactly what I did when I left for the airport at dawn)
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

 

“How long will it take for anyone to really know me here?” – 13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (<- as one who loves knitting, that verse always feels like it’s a little love-nudge to me straight from God)
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it full well.

 

“I feel overlooked and unseen” – 17 How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast the sum of them!
18a If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

 

“I’m having trouble sleeping in the middle of the night” – 18b I awake, and I am still with you.

 

“I don’t understand how certain things are handled here surrounded by ‘my’ culture.” I won’t write out verses 19-22, but when I’ve heard this psalm preached on, what stuck with me is that after a harsh outburst against those who are opposing God that seems to pretty clearly land David over-the-top into sin himself, David continues with this prayer:

 

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 See if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

 

“O God, search my heart too! YOU are my solid ground! I know that you know me fully, better than I know myself; that you are always where I am, no matter where I move; that you see me completely and think about me constantly; that even in the watches of the night I am still with you — thus I can open up my pain and confusion, not just for comfort, but also to let you gently bring out my own sin in the situation for us to deal with together, and trustingly follow you in the way everlasting!”

 

 

The Prius July 27, 2014

Filed under: Faith,Life — missjubilee @ 4:53 am

What kind of car is your current dream car? When I was younger I wanted one of those strange ones that had a pickup bed attached to a car-looking front rather than a truck cab. Then I wanted a CRV, at least until the nation was innundated with SUV’s and gas became expensive and “bad.”  I probably switched to liking the Prius best about a decade ago, but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought since I was living overseas.  Last fall I started wondering whether I could save up to buy a used one on my return to the US (answer: nope, not yet!), and this summer I rented one for a weekend trip.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with its actual pick-up-and-go power, it felt like the car was working kind of hard at times, but in general I enjoyed it quite a lot, especially the expensive console it had which I would probably not pay for in a car I bought (GPS, bluetooth for my iPhone’s audiobooks and to accept calls hands-free, etc). And of course when I went to fill it up and found how little gas it took to fill a tank that had lasted for so many hundreds of miles, I was quite happy. I’ve been noticing them everywhere on the road these days – for example, I counted 6 of them in 2 miles one day during rush hour, and when I pulled out onto the main road to begin the trip in my rented Prius, I waited behind a pair of them at the traffic light!

But I got to thinking as I drove: Why am I giving so much of my attention to a “thing,” something that isn’t really important for life and just makes me want something I don’t have? We’re told to keep our minds on Christ and to pray without ceasing, for one thing.  For another, I just read Psalm 119 recently and was challenged by the writer’s constant focus on God’s word.  And then again we are told to give thanks in all things.  Could I notice God’s hand at work in my life, his power and beauty evident in the land around me, or other signs of his glory and grace, and THANK him for it, as often as I noticed a Prius?  

Well, I haven’t yet made a complete change of focus, but at least some of the times now when I spot a Prius on the road, after the initial “Oh, another one!” and vague wish to have such a nice car of my own, I am reminded also to find something to thank God for right here and now.  And that may be the best thing of all about the Prius.

 

Keepers of the School

Filed under: Entertainment — missjubilee @ 4:21 am

I just read the Keepers of the School series and have to share how much I liked them! Andrew Clements is one of my favorite writers for the fifth-sixth grade age group. His characters are all interesting in some special way – even the main character in Just Average, a book that was definitely asking to be written after so many stories about students who are in some way extraordinary.  Lately I’ve gotten a little tired of noticing some of his writing techniques, kind of like how I felt watching local plays by the fourth year of college – you can only see the same person pretend to be so many characters before you can’t ignore that the voice and face are the same, unless you happen to go to school with someone like Gary Oldman, and you can only read so many books by one author before you start to tire of certain sentence structures.  An example in my own words: “And that way she knocked on the door? It sounded like a drummer setting the pace for a marching army.”  The grammarian in me is a bit sore from the sentence fragment feeling it gives me.  But I keep reading what he comes out with and enjoying it.

Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School was Clements’ first series for this age level, and while the first couple books felt like he should have just written one longer novel (and I still feel that way after finishing all 5, even though it would be a big departure from the usual length of his books), I feel like he needed all that space to really develop this incredible character.  The student at the center of it all, Ben, isn’t a gifted writer or athlete, isn’t a genius nor an inventor, isn’t rich or famous, none of that, and at first both he and the reader are wondering what his role is at the center of the unfolding plot, and why he’s the leader when his two friends are both quicker with facts than he is.  What he eventually figures out is that his role as leader is crucial to holding the team together so that they can solve the puzzles needed to save their school. Watching him deal with setbacks and frustrations, through Clements’ third-person-limited narration, is a beautiful picture of both leadership and a very mature ability to put aside strong feelings and keep thinking through a problem. I haven’t taught sixth grade myself, but I kept thinking how I haven’t known a lot of children who are at this level, and that there are plenty of adults out there who also struggle with this ability!  One of the students who joins in mid-series is almost constantly annoying in various ways, and Ben succeeds in dealing with it in positive ways almost all of the time, keeping the group working together and the project moving forward, with his thought process there for the reader to see.  Amazing.

Clements also shows his respect for people in not making anyone the “bad guy,” as he’s shown time and again when students have to deal with adults who may oppose them for one reason or another but in the end the students understand that the adults have the students’ best interests at heart, and they are able to respect each other even if they still disagree – generally they’re on the same team by the end.  In this case the opposition is pretty stiff but there is a good conclusion (if a bit too quick), and the while it starts out super-secret among the children, they do get help from carefully-chosen adults and bring their parents into what’s going on.

As for the actual plot, (I know, “Finally,” right?) I don’t want to give much away, but it’s a treasure hunt kind of story, with the students searching for clues to save their school (and town) from developers who want to tear down the historic harborside school to put in an amusement park.  The man who built the school around the time of the American Revolution left behind “safeguards” for future generations to use to protect it, but it’s a race against time for the kids to find them and put them into play against the huge corporation that’s ready to tear it down after the last day of school, especially as they need to dodge the industrial spies posing as janitors who are keeping an eye on them.

 

Be at rest once more, O my soul June 26, 2014

Filed under: Life — missjubilee @ 11:54 am

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you!…
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD – in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Prase the LORD.” (Psalm 116:7, 17-19)

I’m a week and a half into my job search. It’s one of those things in life that you enter with no idea how long it will take to “complete” because it’s not just up to you.  (Come to think of it, in that way it’s similar to the desire to be married – except that at least there are straight-forward ways to “put yourself out there,” network, and negotiate a new job quickly once you find it, whereas the process of finding a spouse is so much tougher to navigate!)  You don’t want to read all the places I’ve tried and responses I’ve gotten or am still waiting to get, and I don’t want to go back over them for that matter.  Job hunting is one of my least favorite things to do, within the realm of my current experience, but I want to focus on TRUST, and resting in what God has done, what he has said he will do, and Who he is in my life.

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you!”

I want this to be my verse for the job hunt.  He has done so much just in this transition, in addition to all he’s done before in my life, and in addition to his great works of salvation and sanctification in my life.

:Realizing that I’m a more qualified, experienced job hunter than last time I sought a job in the US right out of college and then right after being fired from my first job. It’s funny to actually feel like I’m competent at some things.
:Safe flight and luggage all arriving without extra luggage fees
:Comfortable, familiar, and convenient place to stay until I find that job (the house where I grew up)
:Time with family, one-on-one and together
:Generous amount of money in the bank. I am quite capable of spending it WAY too easily and quickly, but I’m trying to be careful and not immediately go out and replace everything I parted with in Qingdao before moving back, nor grab at every special-to-this-location experience such as egg rolls, movies, or Busch Gardens
:Able to give joyfully to various places, thanks to the aforementioned money in the bank
:Car to drive, generally in good shape, and money to rent my dream car (Prius) for a road trip in July
:Plans to see people from fellowship and honor a friend’s wedding on that road trip in July
:Technology to stay connected with friends who are traveling for the summer or still in China, including what I *think* is a good cell plan
:Various international interactions – a party with people who live internationally, a weekly outreach to international students who are working at the beach for the summer, weekly prayer and hearing reports from missionaries,… even just checking that the food is gluten free for mom in Chinese and having the waitress easily switch languages with me, somehow that made me even happier than when people stop to exclaim over my language abilities. J (Plus it was almost like real Chinese food, not just American Chinese food – I’m grateful to the friend of a friend at the party who recommended this new place!)
:And best of all, supportive people – Michelle J, Eric W, Joan C, Beth F & others in that group, my family, and maybe a new friend or two.

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and… fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,…” When I first read this I thought, “When I finish my job hunt, that’s what I will surely do!” But reflecting back on verse 7 and how the Lord has been good to me, I want to thank him NOW before others!  God, you are so overwhelmingly good to me!  My soul CAN rest in you for the future without worry, because I have seen your generous blessing and guidance in my life as well as in the lives of others* and in your Word.

*Footnote: I’ve been reading “Goforth of China,” and I highly recommend it! It had me crying on the plane in conviction and joy, and standing in awe of what God can and will do through one life to touch tens and hundreds of thousands, and how he worked mightily in China ten or eleven decades ago.

 

 
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