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

 

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"Fall Walk"

walking, laughing, “falling” with Friends

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

~Isaiah 61:1-3

Spending time with friends and family is one of my favorite things in life. It’s always been a blessing to have so many of them living close to me, so with our move day coming closer, I stole away to enjoy some time with a few of the most wonderful ladies I know… these memories will be treasured like the rest and will bring a smile of ‘knowing’ they are praying for our family when we are far away… the same way we have prayed together for each other over the years. When one ‘falls’ – we pick them up, when one rejoices – we dance with them, and when one is standing on God’s promises – we stand beside and hold up their arms!

"Fall Walk"A few days ago, my Auntie Teri invited all her ‘lady friends’ to join her for the traditional “Fall Walk”. When we ladies join her for a walk through the fall colors & share our appreciation for all of God’s handiwork in His creation!

As we walk, pray & laugh together… we also collect some treasures to take home with us! ~ Learning new things from these wonderful women is just icing on the cake. Today we talked about HOW the leaves change colors and then we wondered WHY.

Someone mentioned how God must have decorated the world for US people, because it’s not as though all the animals would have cared or appreciated it so much…

As beautiful as these berries were, it turns out they are good for more than looking at. I was quickly introduced to the “Annual Berry Fight” that accompanies the traditional “Fall Walk”! Even in the midst of sorrow and days of loss, our Father gives us a Spirit of Joy to laugh and smile with each other… and laugh we did!

This is our best sun/shad pic, after we were tired of throwing berries at each other! So glad I wore an appropriate shirt for this event, some of us were finding berries… buried somewhere in our shirts! But not me! hahaha

On the way back to the house, this little bush caught our eye. Not only was it covered in tiny purple daisies, but with tiny butterflies as well! What a treat!  Again we thanked our Father for His glorious creation… and talked about how it must have been even more breathtaking before ‘The Fall’… and again we thanked Him for His mercies.

With all of our findings spread out on the table, we went in for a delicious lunch before creating our “Fall Decor” out of our new treasures… We were delighted to break the TASTY bread that dipped perfectly into our creamy yellow squash soup topped with butter and brown sugar! Then we each had a project to work on and we set about doing so.

 

Having the company of those that love you is like salve to open wounds. We often manage to share the deepest hurts and greatest triumphs, these ladies and I… What a wonderful thing to have the privilege to walk through the journey of life alongside these dear ones. Each having a different season of life to walk through; one with a life interfering illness, one with a wayward ‘prodigal’ child, one whose ‘prodigal’ is all but restored to her, another stepping into the unknown of a new life overseas, and then there is Gramma who recently released her husband to be with the Lord… Together in pain, together in gladness, we are sisters in Christ!

For dessert we shared the Word, as well as berry pie, apple turnovers and homemade short bread… A beautiful day with beautiful friends, that happen to be family. We do these things together, through thick and through thin. We strengthen each other because iron sharpens iron… May each of you find days like these in the Falls of life…

“… I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” ~Genesis 28:15

Though the leaves may change and even fall to the ground, though the trees are bare and yield no fruit, though the frost has taken the flowers too… yet will I praise You Father, yet will I trust and follow You… even to the ends of the earth, and the end of the age Father. ~ Joy

This song speaks volumes, there is much truth in these words: