What I miss most

Sunday, April 29, 2007

While I was writing my blog yesterday I was thinking about each of you. It was Sunday night here in China, which would have been your Sunday morning. I figured most of you were getting ready to go to church or maybe, if you don't go to church or if you go to church on Saturday, you were sitting down with a cup of coffee reading the Sunday paper. That thought sparked a memory for me. One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning was to look through all the flyers that came with the paper. I'd pick out my favorites (Target, Wal-Mart, etc) and then lounge on the couch looking through them for 30 minutes or so. Thinking of that made me think about a few of the other things I miss while living here in China....

1. Going to the library and checking out books.
2. A disposal & running an orange or lemon through it to make your sink smell better.
3. Going to a movie theater to watch a movie & buying a popcorn & coke to go with it.
4. Getting in my car & driving myself to the grocery store (or anywhere for that matter).
5. Watching HGTV.

The purpose of this post was not to complain...I enjoy my life here very much! I just didn't realize how much I took for granted those types of simple, everyday privileges. I am blessed that one day I will get to do all that again, but I know that I will have a greater appreciation each time I am able to do them. Unfortunately it took moving half way around the world to realize this....Lord, I pray that I will have a heart that never forgets and that I will always appreciate the blessings and privileges you allow us, even in the simplest things.

P.S. I didn't list family and friends on this list because that is a given!!

Why China?

Someone left a comment a few posts back asking the story of how I came to live in China. I wish I had some exciting story to share, but God led us here through my husband's job. What may be more interesting to know is that this is our 3rd move in 2 years ~ we moved from Corpus Christi to Borger, Texas in September 2004, and then to Springfield, Illinois in December 2005, and then to China in August of 2006! God continues to bless my husband in his career, has allowed him to find favor in the eyes of those he works for in the company, and has given him opportunities to grow in a variety of positions. I'm not sure where we will end up when this is over, but I trust God will lead us just as He has with each move. There have been many times I've identified with Abraham, when God called him to "leave your country and your people and go to the land I will show you". But with each move I take comfort in Acts 17:26 that reminds me, "he (God) determines the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." There is a chorus to a song that I think sums up all my relocations: "I will leave everything behind, I will follow you for all of my days. You alone, my heart's desire, I will leave everything behind, I will leave everything behind".

In addition to asking me about the history of my China move, this lovely person also inquired if I was a missionary. At first I laughed at the thought, but the more I think about it and the current environment I am in, I would say "Yes!". The dictionary defines a missionary as a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christ. I may not be sponsored by a church or a missionary organization, but as long as I am surrounded by people who don't know Christ then I am a missionary. Each one of us are missionaries as we live lives that promote Christ. Too many times we think that a missionary has to be someone who travels to a foreign country, and for the most part that is true. However we can't forget that there are mission fields in our own backyards regardless of where we live. We are all commissioned by Christ to be missionaries in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go an make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

I have enjoyed every move in which I have followed my husband and my God around this world. I have gained insights and experiences that have caused me to grow in ways I never could have staying where I was. For that I will always be grateful. However, the best part is getting to share them all with you! Thanks for allowing me that privilege.

What Could Be

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Treat a person as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat him as he could be and he will become what he should be." - Jimmy Johnson, former football coach.

I came across this quote last week and reflected on how true that statement really is. I also wondered, do I take the time to treat other people that way, especially those closest to me? It is so simple to do if you stop and think about it-- it's those encouraging words spoken to someone for who they are and the potential you see in them, or it's the way you act towards them that directly or indirectly relate your belief in them. Regardless of how you treat them, it is like the pebble that drops in the water, the ripple effect can go further than you imagined because of your one small action.

This quote touched me personally though when I had my quiet time a few days later. I was reading in the first chapter of John and came to the part where Jesus was calling out his disciples. In verse 42 when Peter came to Jesus, "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which when translated, is Peter)". In Greek, Peter means Rock. Anyone who was familiar with Peter at the time, knew that he was impulsive, unstable, and nothing like the rock that Jesus was calling him. But from the moment Jesus met Peter he treated him not as he was, but rather, as he would become. And he didn't just do it with Peter, Jesus treated everyone as they could be and it's amazing to see how they changed and lived up to his belief in them! After thinking about it for awhile, I realized that even now Jesus does the same for me -- when he looks down at me or speaks to me, it's with eyes and a heart that knows what I could be. The only problem is that I would rather dwell on what I am now and what I was in the past rather than see myself as Jesus does. To see myself in that light isn't always easy, and I'm sure it wasn't all that easy for Peter either. So what made the difference for him? Spending time with the Savior, listening to and obeying his teaching, trusting him for what he could not see, and following him wholeheartedly is what helped Peter become the Rock upon which Christ would build his church. Each day, I must do the same and pray that I will become all that I can be for Christ.

Whether we treat someone as what they could be or whether we receive that same treatment, the choice is ours ~ we can change what could be into what should be. I'm starting today.

Good to be back!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hello blogging world! After 2 long weeks I am back! Don't get me wrong...I loved having my dad and his girlfriend here with me. We had a wonderful time!! I think they really enjoyed their China adventure and I was delighted to share my life here with them. We travelled, did the "tourist" things, and shopped A LOT, so after they left I took a few mental health days to rest and have some time to myself. Now I'm up and running and counting down the days until my next trip -- our summer R & R at home in the U.S., only 55 days to go!

Today, I thought I'd share a few things that I came across during my 2 week break:

1. Since I love great quotes, I am always looking for them. I came across these 2 and thought I would share them with you. Hopefully they will encourage you today!

"Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions..." - Aung San Suu Kyi

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble." - Helen Keller, letter to a 5 yr old.

2. Remember to appreciate your surroundings. I didn't realize how mundane my surroundings were to me until I started sharing it with others. I have seen these sights, the same buildings, gates, and towers before, day after day, for the past 8 months. But as I told the stories and the history behind them, it all became beautiful to me again, just like the first time I had seen it. And I thought to myself, why do I let myself get so bogged down that I don't see my surroundings each day as if it were the first time? If I did, how much more would I appreciate them? I have been here for less than a year, but what if I lived here 5 or 10 years? I hope my awareness and new found appreciation will spur me on to spend each day looking at my surroundings with fresh eyes for as many days as I have left here.

3. Don't let time, or your lack of it, keep you from what you enjoy. Spring is in full peak here in China. The flowers and trees are blooming and each day brings new colors that paint our community with beauty. Like many of you, this is my favorite time of year. I love to visit the nursery and pick out an assortment of flowers to decorate my walkway with. Sometimes I buy potted plants or sometimes I buy those that need to be planted. Before my company arrived I bought 3 beautiful potted arrangements, and found a few others that I would like to plant in a great spot in my yard. But rather than going ahead and purchasing those I would like to plant, I let my brain talk me out of it. This was my thinking: I only have 8 weeks left, why bother planting them when I won't be around to enjoy them? Needless to say, my thinking win out. But then it dawned on me, why rob myself of that enjoyment just because I only have a short time? Isn't 8 weeks better than nothing, which is what I have right now? And although I won't be able to enjoy them beyond the 8 weeks, couldn't others in my community enjoy them while I'm gone? Not only that, I am denying myself the joy I gain from actually planting them -- I love digging in the dirt and taking something that is overgrown and shabby looking and transforming it into a thing of beauty. So, after much better thinking, I've decided to go to the nursery this week, buy those plants, and give myself some joy for the next few weeks. I refuse to let wrong thinking, excuses, and lack of time rob me of my Springtime pleasure!

Sorry, this post is longer than I expected so I'll stop here for now. I have a few other "thoughts" to share, but I'll save them for another day. Glad to be back with you...I missed you!

My first visitors!!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I am so excited today! My first "official" visitors are coming. I'm leaving in 15 minutes to catch the train to Shanghai to pick up my dad and his girlfriend. They will be here for 2 weeks. I am so happy for them to have this opportunity to visit China -- it will be an unforgettable experience! I am also excited to be able to share our life here with them too. We are so blessed to have this time here and I wish I could share it with everyone I know! All that said, my blog entries will be hit and miss for the next 2 weeks -- sorry! I will write when I can and pray that during this time of entertaining and tour guiding, God will reveal Himself to me in amazing ways and hopefully I can share it with you. I'll miss writing but look forward to meeting you on the page again soon. Blessings....Liana

A view of contentment

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It's so good to be back! The doctor finally gave us a clean bill of health this week and it was great to wash my hair again. I even went to the beauty salon and had a special treatment done to my hair since it had been "ignored" for so long! Thanks so much for your concern and prayers...I really appreciate it!

This week I was also blessed to see a view of contentment unlike I've ever seen before. I recently joined a volunteer group at our school that raises money to provide needy children with a 9-year education. The government has not been providing this service so it is the family's responsibility to pay for their children's schooling. With the extreme proverty that plagues this country, not many children in the rural areas get the opportunity to have a chance at a better life. Since it had been several years since they had visited the children they sponsor, they decided to go see them this past week. I was blessed to be able to make the 3 1/2 hour trip north of Nanjing.

What I saw was a mix of heartbreak and admiration. These poor kids were amazing, considering the circumstances they live in. Their school is nothing but concrete buildings, and dirt playgrounds. Their classrooms have no heat or air conditioning. I am confident I would NEVER see a school like this in the States. The classrooms had a chalkboard and at least 35 desks. There were no lockers and all their books were piled on the desks. No cute reading corners and no colorful posters on the walls, just the bare minimum. As I looked around I noticed that there was no cafeteria. I asked where they ate lunch. The students said they go home everyday for lunch and return to the school. Some kids ride their bikes 40 minutes one way to get to school so I knew that going home for lunch is not always an easy task. Later, as we were visiting homes, we came to one of the student's home where he was cooking his own lunch! But in all of this, these children had a smile on their face that melted your heart. We brought little chocolate treats and stationery to give to them -- they thought it was Christmas! I was touched by their joy in so little.

The other part of our trip was to visit homes that the organization had provided special needs for. Because these families live in the rural countryside, they don't have the same privileges as those who live in the big cities. Our organization, in association with some foreign organizations, gave several families solar heat panels so they could have hot water and/or bio-gas tanks so they could have gas to cook with. We visited 5 homes that had one or both of these provisions. I was not expecting what I saw. The homes were 2 small buildings -- one being the kitchen, the other the "living" quarters. The kitchen consisted of a large stove that was heated by coals and a small counter for food prep. The living quarters was one, maybe two, beds and a dining table. That was it. The floors were rocky, dirt floors and they may have had one or two windows that were cracked and not insulated. Although they had electricity, they only had one or two lights available. Usually these homes were occupied by 6 or more people -- grandparents, parents, and children. They only had toilets if they had bio-gas systems (bio-gas uses waste and turns it into gas), and they only had showers if they had the solar panels. I also noticed that they had no refigerators and only a handful of clothes. The thing that impressed me the most was the great contentment these people had. They were very grateful for the services that had been provided to them and very hospitable to allow us into their homes. But the smiles on their faces showed their true feelings. If nothing else were given to them, they would die happy. How many of us can say the same? How many of us could have that same sense of contentment in those circumstances? It was a great opportunity for me to get a new view of true contentment.

I know that this trip and the things I saw will forever be etched in my mind and heart. I know that there will always be the poor among us (Deut. 15:11; Mark 14:7) and though we give already, I know that there is more that I could do. If anything I think this trip helped me to be aware of my own self-indulgences and my own lack of contentment with the riches I have been blessed with. I pray God will use this experience to grow me in new ways. As I rode home and reflected on everything I saw and learned, two verses kept coming to my mind:

Proverbs 15:17, "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."
Proverbs 17:1, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."

I saw these verses lived out in the lives of these Chinese people this past week. I pray that we can all live it out in our own lives this week and in the future.