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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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