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. ūüôā 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

 

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ramblings of Encouragement in the real world

Do you ever have moments where the words you speak to encourage others end up being just the ‘life breath’ you needed to get you through your own day? This has been happening to me a lot lately. What gets me is the truth I speak to others came out of me… but I needed to hear it… again. So often we learn things, even well enough to internalize them & live it out… but we forget that we know them when we are discouraged & we simply try to ‘journey on’ feeling worn out & pulled down by the weight of ‘toughing it out’. I’m not sure I’ve learned to do it differently, just that today I am acutely aware of the truth that is IN ME & I’m choosing to allow it to encourage MYSELF in the Lord today. One day at a time, we all are learning new things, & then some days we are re-learning all over again. Like reading a favorite bible verse & suddenly getting completely new & fresh revelation from it… Today I choose to learn good & beautiful things, not forgetting the ugly & evil I have learned – but rather replacing it & vowing to leave it behind me. “Not turning back, moving ahead – I’m moving, moving forward!” (love that song!)

My recent Facebook musings that were meant to encourage others & have also encouraged myself:

Encouraging yourself in the Lord-

Last night someone asked “What do you do?” My answer is simple: I do the things that I have heard/seen with my Father in heaven. (John 8:38) (ie. serve the poor, care for widows & orphans, etc.)

“And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‚Äú Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.” -1 Kings 18:36

Know that your Father has gone before you & made every way straight, including this one…

Yes, the price of a life (cost of adopting our daughter from China) – but the truth is… she’s worth that & so much more to her Father in heaven. We know that He wants to give her good gifts, we know that He led us to her & so we trust that He will also provide the ransom for her rescue!

Encouraging others in the Lord-

When talking with others about their faith walk (or lack thereof), it’s important to hear them out & get a feel for where they’re coming from. A person’s background tends to really color how they think & what approach will either interest them or turn them off the topic completely. Listening to them also give you time to pray & wait on the Holy Spirit for the right words – a critical step! Usually it helps the other person to relax & know that you are a trustworthy friend that will love them unconditionally, if you interrupt at every turn they will begin to feel like it’s the ‘all about YOU’ show instead of you & them sharing together… Never come right out & tell people they are wrong about their faith/theology unless you already have a long standing & trusting relationship – like a best friend… Anyone else you are ministering to will immediately shut down. Conversation over, no second chances. Try a more gentle way of showing them new ideas, allowing them to choose them for themselves.

It helps me a LOT to think of people as children who have never been taught. If I can choose to be gentle & loving in everything I say, then I will get through to them faster & with more impact than any other approach. Not sugar coating, but affirming the things they DO get right & suggesting new ways to think, as a new concept… like “have you ever considered what God was looking for when he created man? Do you think maybe he wanted companions that would be in relationship with him?” That might help a person rethink their idea that if they are a ‘good person’ they don’t need to really worry about reading the Word, praying or even knowing God enough to have any kind of relationship with Him.

It’s also very important to “speak life” into & about the situation. Especially when you talk to people you want to encourage & edify (teach). If they feel preached at though, they will say forget it, & then your conversation (& opportunity) is over. Listen to the spirit for the balance. Sometimes not talking & just hearing them out will give you so much more insight, for your prayers & for the next conversation. Treat every conversation as a divine appointment. Assume that God’s been working on their heart & that He will provide you with the right words that THEY need to hear…

I often think we over complicate talking to people. If we can simplify then we can hear the holy spirit telling us how to get to the heart of their issue. Rather than debate or argue… choose to teach in love… People get defensive & shut down when they think we are correcting them, but they listen when they feel affirmed because we are approving of something & then we slip in new ideas, challenging them to think for themselves & search the Word out for answers. Teaching them to apply God’s truth & Kingdom principles to their own lives. In essence, you wouldn’t spoon feed your 10 year old, you teach him to do that himself when he’s young. Likewise, you hope that the lessons you teach your 16 year old will help him choose wise actions when he’s working his first full time job at 25. What if he couldn’t choose well, because he had never learned to think it through for himself? Would he know what to wear? How would he wake up on time & find his way to work? Would he forget to get his lunch?

God has commanded that we make disciples, that can also go out and make disciples… He didn’t say to go out & correct people all day w/o teaching them how to self-correct. We don’t have time to be everyone’s Mommy right? So let’s remember to point to Jesus & teach them how to read the map, rather than being their personal guide while they sit in the backseat & stare out the windows of life, never learning to navigate or drive on their own. Don’t worry about reaching the masses, speak to people one on one, build relationship & walk through life together WITH them, in doing so you will make a disciple who will do the same. This is how we reach the world with Jesus’ hope & truth, by loving & teaching one by one. {1×1}

One last thing, an important thing I learned many years ago: If you feel you are in over your head with a conversation, like it’s gone beyond your personal training or knowledge of God (or the other person’s theology has you caught w/o an answer… ie. talking with a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness or Muslim person etc.)… PRAY silently, find a graceful exit & seek Godly counsel from someone you trust! Take this as a chance for YOU to grow & seek out wisdom & training for the specific kind of conversation needed… We don’t send soldiers to the front lines without serious & extensive hands on training from masters of their skills… why would we try to fight a spiritual battle without the right tools & weapons or without excellent training? We are talking about the life/death of people’s souls. Let’s take it seriously friends!

Serving Others/Getting Hurt –

Q. – How is it that you can walk with people through the death of a child and siblings, the death of parents and in-laws, adoption of children, disabling injuries, marriages that are almost destroyed, drug and alcohol addictions, and when as soon as you say something they do not agree with, you are suddenly their ‘former pastor’??? How do we inspire loyalty?

A. – I know people that are living this daily, they are called to a community that didn’t ask them to teach them, doesn’t want to be challenged & pretty much thinks they have all ‘arrived’… being new in a town/country is lonely/hard enough, but each time they think Father has finally sent a true friend, they’ve been mistaken…¬† —¬† I have experienced this at times myself. In the midst of it, I was so blessed in growing even closer to Him. Looking back, I am blessed now, in how He is able to strengthen/protect our marriage/family in EVERY season, despite the adversity set up against it/us! As for loyalty, we need to point others to Jesus, not ourselves or our programs. If we can model loyalty to Jesus rather than man, then we are already halfway there. Like you would redirect a child, constantly be redirecting the people you serve. Remember to be a SERVANT leader as Christ is, & remember that if it is Christ they should be loyal to, then you can take it a little less personal when they walk away from you so easily. Let’s just pray they don’t completely walk out on HIM! We all need to be constantly re-learning to KEEP HIM as our BFF, our source & the only one we strive to please & be loyal to! Be encouraged friends, He SEES our struggle & He’s walked it Himself, He gives new grace for each day… Amen?!!

Bear with me friends, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. I’m still learning all of this, I have certainly NOT ‘arrived’ yet! – So, it’s good to repeat it to you, as that helps me do it better myself! – I’d love to hear from you all, the truth is “Iron sharpens Iron”, we are meant to encourage & strengthen one another – just not made to depend on each other for our entire faith walk!

-JK

gifts of Love for Christmas

Are there any people around you that may need help this Christmas? Is there someone who you could bless? I know it’s a bit last minute, but I want you all to think outside the ‘gift boxes’ for just a minute…
In the bible, Jesus encourages us all to take care of the poor, the orphans & the widows. Our family has spent time this week serving the poor, bringing them groceries & meals & even a very special gift to one young family that we wanted to encourage. The boys & I are also planning to use some of our leftover chocolates (we got a HUGE box from friends!) to wrap up & give to our neighbors here on the 51st floor of our apartment tower. We will wrap them up in some tissue paper, put a handwritten note & a story about Jesus (in English & Cantonese) inside & tie a pretty bow on the outside. We hope to catch each of them when they are home, but if not, we’ll leave it by their doors… Seems like such a ‘country’ gesture in this slick & fast moving city – but maybe, just maybe it will open a door to new friendships right down the hall! This is how we teach our children to love others, think of others & have a servant’s heart like Jesus. One day, we pray they will become servant leaders, in many ways – they already are… Makes a Mama proud to hear them brainstorm how to bless those around them instead of themselves!!
I’ve been spending so much time looking through pictures & files of “waiting children” on all these adoption websites. It makes my heart ache because so many of them aren’t even in that “too fragile to handle” category with their Special Needs… but there they sit, waiting for someone to call Mom/Dad because their conditions sound/look so scary… While praying for God to show us the RIGHT ONE for us, the one He’s already chosen for us – thinking of ways that I can make a difference for another family RIGHT NOW… that makes me smile & lightens my burdened heart just a little. A lightened heart is the gift that God gives back to us when we give from our hearts & even our brokenness & sacrifice in the midst of our own pain & need. That is part of the Christmas gift that IS Christ! You see, He gives us a choice to become more & more like Him everyday. He’ll do the work in us, but only if we choose it!
This year, instead of buying tons & tons of gifts for your family… instead of over drawing your credit cards… instead of sitting on Facebook all day “Sharing” things that other people did or said… think about how you can give something from your heart, even if you don’t have the money or the time to give a store-bought gift. Most likely you do though.

christmas is love

Here’s some ideas on how to help &/or to find a few extra dollars. Use these any time of year, not just at Christmas! If you still think you just need to share on FB – then please share this post so others can ‘pay it fwd’ & ‘be blessed to be a blessing’ while sharing the love of Jesus just like you! I dare you to try some of these & see how Jesus’ love flowing through you just might actually change, heal & bless YOU! Be transformed friends! – Be sure to tell us how it went in the comments – your story will inspire countless others!

Time & $ Saving Gift Ideas:

  • skip a few trips to Starbucks to pay for a gift for a poor family in your community. Ask your church if you don’t already know who needs help. {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • get the kids involved, explain that one less gift for each of them = they can pick out one gift for a child in need. Call a children’s hospital & see what age kids they have with few visitors. A prayer & a smile go a long way!¬† {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • keep a ‘help the poor’ jar all year – throw all your loose change in, it adds up quick. {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • with the money you save, help the kids fill a box (or 2 or 3) for “Operation Christmas Child” with Samaritan’s Purse. (for info & drop off locations go here.)

  • call a local church & sign up to help their holiday outreach. {No $$$!}

  • ask if anyone know of a clothes collection.¬† {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • go out for dessert instead of dinner or skip a few McDonald’s trips. (remind the family who the saved $ will go to, “remember, you’re helping me buy/make cookies for the neighbors!”) ¬†{No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • give plates of cookies to neighbors, using a real plate – say something like “just bring it back when you’re done!” – when they do, invite them in for coffee & maybe a new friendship will emerge.¬† {NO TIME shopping!}

  • keep only ONE of those store-bought boxes of goodies (chocolate, popcorn, etc.) that you get at all the various work, church, scouts & family parties – open the rest, divvy it up in left over cellophane or tissue wraps & hand them out! Works great with a ‘track’ about Jesus & a hand written note saying you’re praying for them! {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • send the kids out to rake leaves or shovel snow – give them cards to hand out when they are thanked “I’m blessed to be a blessing! Merry Christmas!”¬†{NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • call your MOM! (or someone else’s Mom that is a blessing to you!) {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

I could probably go on & on, but the point is for you & your family to get together & make YOUR plan! Then PRAY for the people you’ll be blessing. Then go out & DO IT! I guarantee it will get you all smiling & totally help reduce your stress! The whole point of Christmas is Jesus! The whole point of Jesus is LOVE – HIS love for ALL of us – so go SHARE ABOUT THAT!!!

‚ÄúThe King will reply, ‚ÄėTruly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.‚Äô -Mathew 25:40

-JK

well done Jamie

This morning we’re blessed to know that our sweet Team Member Jamie Lund has finally received her healing, she is resting & rejoicing with her precious Jesus in heaven! While we are sad at not having her with us, we rejoice in the hope & truth that we WILL see her again! Now she is free from the pain & struggle of this world, she will dance before the Lord after hearing “Well done, thou good & faithful servant!”. Let’s celebrate that for her!! We praise Him for her unrelenting faith & her sweet spirit that was shared with all of us, for her example of praise, even as she walked through the darkest valley… Please join us in prayer for her husband Danny & her 2 very small children, may the Lord cover them with His Spirit of peace, love & grace today & always.
I can think of no better way to honor Jamie, than the words of one of her very best friends. Please have a look:  The Ransoms in China
With love & honor,
M&J Kwong