Regarding Transitions…

“Before you go, will you teach us… ?”

Two years ago, this time seemed very far off and possibly beyond our reach. How did we manage to journey long enough down this road of language learning to be ready to leave our language school, our first launching pad? Did we really learn all the things? Can we truly say we speak Mandarin? Can anyone ever fully speak a second language though? It seems to be a never ending task of tweaking and perfecting. Absurdly, my teachers are confident that I have reached the point of being sent off on my own to continue the learning, out in the world, haha! (Mark, being a native Cantonese speaker, graduated over a year ago and has been patiently waiting for me to hurry up. *smile*) So in just six weeks we will be waiting for my final exam results and packing up the apartment – preparing to start a new chapter,  in a new city and province, in Southern China. The place we have told you about, you’ve shared our hopes and dreams and joined with us in our vision for helping people while learning about them and their culture. Sanya, the beautiful and tropical place that we’ve longed to plant our roots in, where we hope to live for many years to come, with a new and one day thriving business that brings light and love to all who enter!

But in order to get there, we must first leave here. Xi’an has been a place of growth for our family. It has held many treasured memories of firsts and friends that became family. This giant city (twice the size of Sitka, AK, the largest city in the USA) has been a place of learning, both language and culture, as well as some harder life and spiritual lessons. And it’s also been a difficult place, so very overwhelmingly so at times that we could hardly catch our breath. The kind of place that forces you to hold tight to those that will still love you when the fires go out and the flood waters fade. We have learned to be brave and strong and to love our family fiercely. Thankfully, we have also learned to be gentle and vulnerable and to be more lovable when others come alongside us… In the midst of these reflections, my thoughts are interrupted by the pressing needs. Packing, organizing, purging, cleaning, studying, grading, doctors (oh so many doctors this year!), translating doctor reports, newsletters, work reports, charging the scooter, buying groceries, cooking, bathing, etc, etc. 🙂 How does one simply pack up their whole life and family and start fresh in a new place, in a foreign country… all over again?!

This is our ‘normal life’ friends. Although we hope this is our last BIG move for a long while, we have grown accustomed to it over the last eight years. Eight years of constant transition. What I know for sure about it is, we must leave well in order to start over well. Our race isn’t over, but our time in this place soon will be. So how do we manage that time? It starts with preparing our hearts and our spirits to say a lot of “See you later”s to dear friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers that have become family. This can take a lot of prayer and it can hit you by surprise when the ones you least want to leave start to, as great friends will, become excited for you. They ask you questions and talk about a time when you will be practically on the other side of the country and doing new things. They want to hear all the plans – and all you can think is “But then I won’t see you every single morning. Maybe not for many months… or even years! I will miss you dear one!”

That’s about how my week was going, rather by the book so to speak. Then came the new line of questions I had never prepared for. ~~ “Before you go, will you teach us more about raising kind and helpful kids?” “We want you both to help us with pre-marital counseling while you’re still here, do you have time?” “Maybe you can write a book or come back sometimes to teach *Word & *Truth classes?” “I can gather some friends, I think it’s very important that you give us a marriage seminar. How about after the holiday – but before you move?!” ~~ You see, most of our language teachers like to ask us questions during class. Things they really want to know, but also to get us to answer in Mandarin using new vocab and grammar. We never expected that they would miss those talks or that those conversations were much more than curiosity about the foreigners’ ways. Yet, over the months of daily classes, some of our teachers have really poured out their hearts and in turn we have shared ours freely. Not only will we miss those precious moments with these very dear ones… but we desire to grant every single request we possibly can before we make this big transition from the big city (Xi’an), to Sanya (Which is SMALL by Chinese standards, but still about the size of Jacksonville, FL (the 5th largest city in the USA by landmass).

And how to finish well? We are choosing to be purposeful and loving in how we prepare ourselves, our kids (their transition stuff is a whole other post full!), and our dearest friends for our departure. Between the travel, phone calls, emails… amid rental agreements, class time, grading papers and doctors… we have scheduled time out of packing and studying for special lunch visits, game nights, play-dates and even a friend’s wedding. We have plans to take our kids on one last adventure trip with friends during the upcoming school break (although not together – half of us are going north and the other half south). And yes, we will teach a marriage seminar, we will counsel other friends in preparation for their wedding (which we hope to come back to attend next year!), and we will take time to pray and fellowship with many more beloved ones that have become our “China family” these last two years!

Maybe after the move I will think about writing that book. Let’s start with just getting back to writing here on this blog once a week. Or even once a year, that would be good! Guess I don’t have to tell you what being a full time language student and homeschool mom living in China has done to my “free time” or rather, my “writing time”. *grin*

 

-JK

 

Advertisements

standing Brave, it’s what she does

Singing in the midst of life’s engulfing fires, fighting back the treacherous storms of her heart & dancing through the unforgiving pain of failing strength… there she stands. She is brave. Braver than most. Fierce as lions. It’s just what she does. Simply because that is who her Creator made her to be. A mighty warrior, a celebrated princess & a light in the darkness of fear.

Who do you know that matches this description? I have been blessed to have so many strong women in my life. Some are family, some are friends & others I have scarcely met for moments. All of them encourage & inspire me with their talent for finding their moment. That moment of grace where Father steps into your situation & just takes over your response to it. When you face that which is meant to destroy you, without giving in or falling back. The day you finally stand tall, despite the attacks & the traps of the enemy. Bravery. It’s not the absence of fear or even the presence of courage or strength. It comes from something truer, deeper. A place of forgiveness & grace. A place of knowing, of been there/done that. It comes out of surviving & choosing to thrive. This, this is the difference that sets apart the lucky ones that made it out somehow from the BRAVE ONES that chose to never give up or give in or give out.. ever again.

I’d be writing for hours if I sat her listing all the people (guys too) I know that are the picture of bravery tonight. Instead I will tell you about the three I am praying for as I go to bed. Please, if you pray to our Father in Heaven, mention these dear ones to Him. He will know them, so I will leave out their names.

  1. A dear sister who has stood BRAVE in the Valley Fire that continues to rage here in CA. Her family evacuated from the area only moments before their home was completely destroyed. They have only the clothes on their backs with them. Every “thing” they ever owned is gone… She & her husband pastor a church, which was also overcome by the flames. The cement steps & metal railing are all that remains… Yet she is working tirelessly to put aside her own needs, in order to tirelessly care for those around her who are also facing the pain of loss & starting over. So very brave. Because she has spent time with her Father, she walks confident in KNOWING who holds her tomorrows & who restores all “things” in His time. He gives her beauty for the ashes she surrenders to Him. Beyond what she could ever even ask or imagine. She just KNOWS. The confidence of knowing makes her brave when everything around her is in ashes. There is a peace that she knows, beyond all human understanding. The soft voice of the Spirit, telling her He is never letting go of her. Surely she must BRAVE the winds that throw the flames, as she hears only the voice of peace that guides her ‘home’. A place she knows not where. But she casts aside all doubt, in exchange for bravery born out of past experience. He will DO what He said He will do.
  2. A friend who IS my sister. (If you don’t have one, I’m praying you will soon!) This week she BRAVELY walks into new things, a new job, which brings a new lifestyle of sorts. It stretches her. It strengthens her. It launches her out of her comfort zone fast & furiously. Yet she embraces the challenge & confronts her old thinking in order to make room for newly improved approaches. She takes time to evaluate the why & where of questions like ‘How did I get here?’ & ‘Where should I be going next?’. Instead of running from the change & newly found accountability, she took on even more by telling me about it all. Knowing full well that I will also ask her ‘So how’s that going?’ in the days & weeks to come. All this while raising her children in the fear of the Lord, & serving her husband & her mother in every way. She exemplifies a life of prayer & trust. Brave is the one that walks WITH the Lord, following His lead even into the high waters where her feet cannot stand. She has an understanding that others have not reached. One that comes only from being carried through the storm(s) once (or twice) before. The fear of the unknown is not a stranger to her, nor is it a crippling distraction. Rather, it is simply a reminder to refocus on the One who leads the way, remembering that His way is straight & narrow, & there will always be grace enough to travel it. And she REMINDS HERSELF that she will never walk alone. She is BRAVE, because He is WITH her always. She is His & He is hers.
  3. image

  4. My daughter. From the moment we first saw her face we knew, this one is BRAVER than most. Tiny, frail & weak. Yet full of such power & fight. She will not back down or give up on herself or her love. She survives. At all cost. Her world has been capsized more times than I care to count. Her heart has learned to fight love to protect her, & now it’s learning to let love in… to heal her. What whirlwinds have tossed them about, She & her heart. Often they have been bruised & battered by the very ones they thought would treat their wounds. But her Creator has placed a love in her, deeply knitted into her soul, that no evil or pain could remove. Buried in the rubble of breaking trusts & stolen dreams, that love is emerging & reaching for the light. Every day she finds new strength. She is tiny, but so very fierce in wanting only to love & be loved. She has felt the Father’s touch. I see it in her eyes. I saw it before I met her & it shines brighter each day. Surviving is her gift, it birthed in her a BRAVE SPIRIT that will not quit. What horrors & sorrows she has felt, we may never know. But the love that spills out of her we recognize. The Author of her soul has written her new song. She sings for me sometimes, a song of forgiveness, a song of renewal. She sings to Him too, praises & anthems of His glory & goodness. She bravely lifts her head & walks on broken legs, into the safety of His presence. Each day we see her overcome new obstacles that once stood between us, she is not waiting for ‘someday’, she walks on. One foot after the other, with a band of brothers following close behind. Her steps are not always sure, but she will not sit still while there are stairs to climb. Up & out of the sadness, she climbs higher than she could ever dream. Far beyond what her strength allows, she swims to the depths of grief in order to bring it all to the surface. The Spirit that dwells in her deepest parts is guiding her to wholeness & healing through His mercy & grace. Not every broken part of her can be casted like her legs, but she is LEARNING that she WILL BE MADE WHOLE one day. From the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. Ten she will dance in the freedom that come from understanding how He brought her out of bondage & pain, & into the freedom of His love!

Think of the ones that inspire you friends. Tell them. Encourage them. Then go out & find that strength to face some things that are meant to destroy you. Walk in the knowledge of He who made you. Tell the mountains to move & the giants to fall. Be strong & courageous, in the face of your fears friends… BE BRAVE…

-JK

reaching, touching, Loving {1×1}

Mr. and Mrs. Au (sounds like “ow”) live with their 4 children in a room that is less than 40 sq.ft. Mr. Au works 6- 12 hours day, 6 days a week at the vegetable outlet nearby to earn about $1100 USD a month. That’s what keeps the Au family off the streets, this is how many families in Hong Kong survive. Their rent and utilities often take about 50% of their monthly income. On top of that, Mr. Au has the burden & duty of supporting his parents financially in rural mainland China. We met Mr. & Mrs. Au last November, nine years after they moved to HK. Some of our elderly friends from an older sub-divided flat had moved into the flat where the Au’s live. It was during our weekly visit with these friends, that we met the Au’s & others living there.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

Mark & his volunteers took the Au Family to dinner one night last year for their weekly visit.

The whole unit is about 700 sqft, divided into 11 cubicles with plywood walls & doors. Each unit fits 1 or 2 bunk beds & a mini-fridge, with about 3 feet of floor space left over. The bathroom, kitchen & laundry ‘rooms’ are all ‘common area’ shared by all 11 units. The Au family is blessed with one of the larger units. Still, they manage to squeeze 3 small children, a teenage boy, mom & dad all into their 30 sqft cubicle, which is almost twice the size of their neighbor’s. They pay a pretty penny for the space too. The average sub-divided unit costs about $1800 HKD/m ($230 USD), which comes to approx. $6.60USD per square feet. To put that in perspective, the rent for our home in HK (about 680 sqft) is only $2.50USD per square foot… Our house in California is currently rented for less than $1 USD per square foot…

1x1 logo copywrightGetting to know new families in need is a regular part of life for us. It’s wonderful to bring groceries & deliver hot meals, but to really know someone & show them you care about them is to really make an impact & offer hope that brings new life! We want to impact our world, one family, one person, one SOUL at a time. {1×1} We have lived in HK for over a year, but we are only now beginning to see tiny, life changing moments that come from years of prayer & faithfully chasing after the dreams placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Ours is not a swift journey nor a race for sprinters, it is a long & meticulous trek… meant to be run with endurance, patience & diligence. Paying attention to details & knowing people by name, caring for the individuals – which one day will make all the difference in the world, even if only to that one special person that God chose YOU to reach, touch or love for Him! We may not be able to save them all, but as “The Star Thrower” reminds us: “It made a difference to THAT ONE!

This family was fairly friendly from the start & the little ones looked forward to the little treats Mark brings on his weekly visits. In conversation with Mr. Au, Mark learned that Mrs. Au had struggled with depression when they lived in China. Part of her husband’s decision to move his family to HK was her health. He needed to go where he could earn enough money for his wife to be at home with the kids, where she wanted to be most of all. Instead of needing for both parents to work, only to never have enough to live on in China. It was clear to Mark, this man wanted the very best for his family & he loved his wife & children very much… So now we pray together for the Au’s often, the Lord puts them on our hearts 3-4 times a week. I enjoy hearing the updates after each of Mark’s visits, since I have only been out to their house once so far.

A couple months after meeting them, Mark invited Mr. & Mrs. Au to bring the whole family to a field trip & banquet day that he had organized through our work. They all came to the Pun Choy event in Jan., except for Mrs. Au who was not feeling well that day. I was excited to see them again & as we went through the different tours, I watched the kids laughing & playing with their dad. Over 300 people that we serve attended the outing, Mark & Kum Gee (“Gum Gee”), his co-worker,  had over 40 volunteers to help keep things in order. (The boys & I were there trying to help, but we certainly need to work on our Cantonese before the next time!) We toured a bakery that specializes in a Chinese specialty called “Wife Cake”. Then we took buses to an older area of HK where we had a walking tour of a “Heritage Village”. It was very neat to see a bit of Hong Kong’s colonial days through the old buildings that connect to each other with tiny, intertwined alleys.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Mr. Au & family eating at the Pun Choy with volunteers & other guests.

Last stop for the day was the main event, the Pun Choy Dinner. Basically, it’s a huge pot of enormous amounts of food all cooking together over a small table top burner. While everyone ate, we had our team entertaining & teaching them. There were games & raffles, worship songs & prayer, & then a testimony of God’s faithfulness in the life of someone who had been part of our program in the past… This all ended with a time of fellowship while finishing the meal. Then came the opportunity for anyone that wanted to pray, for anything at all. Mr. Au prayed for his family & he prayed for Christ to change him & his life. He was instantly adopted into the family of God! What a wonderful day for the Au family!!!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ!

Mr. Au prayed over his son & made a decision to follow Christ while a volunteer prayed for his daughter.

When we go out in the world, we hope to make a difference. When we go home to our families, we hope to make a difference. The difference Mr. Au’s decision is making for his family is eternal. We are excited to walk with him through this time of change & growth. He will need support & encouragement, just like you & I do. This story is not the first of it’s kind, but it is one that touches my heart to the core. So many husbands & fathers make tough choices to help their families, thinking they are doing all they can. Striving in their own strength to get things right & make ends meet, wanting to teach their children right from wrong… Only to find out that it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough without Jesus. But now Mr. Au is getting the help, the peace, grace & power he’s been needing all these years. We’re so happy & excited for him, we’re blessed to be walking this journey with him! You might not think knowing this family is a big deal, but them knowing the Savior IS! When you & I make the time to love others, He makes ALL the difference! And He usually does it ONE BY ONE{1×1}

Recently we brought a Chinese children’s bible to the Au kids. On a later visit, the 5 year old told Mark that they had been reading it together (the 3 younger kids), & sometimes Mom was reading it too. What a sweet family they are! Will you join us in praying for the Au family? We just KNOW that God is doing a miraculous work in our midst, what a great day to be alive, a day when lives are changed & Christ is glorified!

-JK

what Duck Commander is really selling

“Money. Family. Ducks.” – “We ‘X’ out ‘money’ and write in ‘faith.’” Faith is key in understanding the Robertson mentality and why their families work.” — This is a well written post about Duck Dynasty & the important life lessons about faith & family learned from the Robertson family! -JK

Rob's Ramblings

Duck Dynasty

Phil Robertson may not appreciate me writing about his business or his family.  I’m what Phil would derisively call a “yuppy.”  I don’t own camo, hunt, or have a beard.  That’s not to say I’m some granola PETA-type; I’m a devoted carnivore who loves gumbo, fried fish, and even the occasional boudin link.  Phil lives off the land and, frankly, doesn’t think very highly of the lifestyle the rest of us non-outdoorsy types choose to live.  I dwell comfortably in the suburbs buying my groceries at Kroger where the butcher kindly dresses my meat.  In some ways, Phil and I have about as much in common as Snooki and the Pope, which is why it may seem odd that I have been sucked into Phil Robertson’s world via the uber-popular Duck Dynasty reality show.

Phil’s story fascinates me.

Decades ago, Phil kicked his wife and kids out of his house…

View original post 1,058 more words