Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joy to the World!

I love the Christmas season for many reasons. Let me tell you why!  I begin listening to Christmas music on November 1st; I know it seems I am totally skipping Thanksgiving, but I feel like the two are somewhat combined. Also, you can only listen to Christmas music for such a short period of the year, so I feel that I better get as much out of it as I can. I absolutely adore Christmas decorations from Christmas trees to Christmas lights covering homes, stockings, ornaments, garland, and I could go on.  I love the Christmas parties, my grandmother’s sugar cookies, good food, the excitement and joy of children, hot chocolate, Christmas movies, etc. I love any excuse to gather my friends and celebrate; any excuse to buy presents for the ones I love. I just love the Christmas season. There are two things I love more than anything about Christmas though. The first is my family. I love our traditions, our get-togethers, the love that feels our homes, and feeling like a child again.  But even more than that, I love the opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas.. . the real Christmas Story.  And living here, talking about Christmas has been a great way of sharing about the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Savior, and the King of Kings. We are preparing our students for a Christmas play that will take place next Thursday.  My students will be performing our own version of Rudolph while the other English classes will be performing different Christmas stories, including the story of the Prince of Peace.  At the conclusion of our performance, all of the classes will join together to sing, “What Child is this?”  I must tell you that hearing my precious (or not so precious, depending on the day) children singing this song completely melts my heart. There is something about it, and I have asked Him over and over again, that this truth will penetrate their hearts and that somehow they would understand who it is that they are singing about.  May His light shine brightly as we celebrate His birth!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Beautiful Day!

So, at our school, each semester there is a teacher's field trip. It is a Saturday when all of the teachers go out together to some place that turned out to be pretty cool. I'm not gonna lie though we were not so much looking forward to this outing simply because we have not had a Saturday to ourselves in many, many weeks. However, once we arrived, we thoroughly enjoyed the day! The weather could not have been more perfect and to see so much grass and trees in China was a welcomed treat. I will share some pictures from our day! 


This is the team that we have been incredibly blessed with!


I had thought that I would ride this camel until I got up close. It was a sad, pitiful camel that had a ring through its nose as a leash. Once I got closer, I just couldn't bear to get on the poor animal. It would've been fun though.

We got to shoot bow and arrows. Cody was pretty excited about this and pretty good at it too. He even hit the target while riding a horse! (see below)


I was not nearly as good. I didn't enjoy it either... it hurt my hand!

We enjoyed watching some traditional Chinese dancing... If I had known then, what I know now, I would've watched a little bit closer so that I could have picked up some tips for my big dancing debut!

I so enjoyed taking in the nature around us. It has been some time since I have been able to do that... too many tall buildings!



We climbed this mountain, which doesn't look so bad from the picture, however it was terrible, to enjoy a quick slide down.. I still haven't decided if it was worth it or not.




Thankful for the beautiful creation that He has made and thankful that He speaks to my heart through it. Thankful that He knows better what we need when I thought I needed a day at home, He had a better plan!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Learning to Dance

I am learning more and more just how much I need Him. He is not something that I need occasionally, every other day, or even just daily, I need him every hour, every minute even.  I have been completely exhausted after the last six weeks or so. We flew home for a quick trip to be with my family during the loss of my grandfather. We hurried back after four days to be thrown right back into the rat race here. And just when I thought, ok, I cannot take on anything else. I was told that Cody and I have to DANCE! Dance, of all things, really!  I immediately had visions of us in tutus and ballet shoes and it was NOT a pretty sight! For those of you, who know me well; know how much I do not like dancing.  I mean, I really do not like dancing.  It is probably one of my biggest insecurities.  As a cheerleader in high school, I would do everything I could to find myself in the back of the formation… and now here we are in China sticking out like a sore thumb preparing to dance in front of many, many, many people! AHHHHH!!! So, thankfully, in some regards, we have practice three nights a week cause we all know that we need as much practice as we can get, however, did I mention how tired we are!?  By the way, this is not just any kind of dancing or the kind of dancing I am even accustomed to, this is traditional Chinese dancing, and everything is taught in Chinese.  So, we spend a few hours having no clue what is going on and attempting to dance. I am often seen doing the very thing they were saying not to do because I was just copying what the coach just did. Oh my! It is ok to laugh at the thought of Cody and I dancing… Go ahead, you know you want to! Feel free to lift us up on January 6 as we stand on a stage to dance!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Month in Pictures

Crazy Hat Day!                        




Meeting Jon August... We both took a nice little nap together!




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Confession: The Christmas tree has been up for a few weeks already. I know that it is wrong, but we just had to! :)


The Thanksgiving Spread!


We had a lovely thanksgiving dinner at the H's. We invited several co-workers and friends to join us in giving thanks. While it wasn't the same as being home with the fam, it was an absolutely beautiful thanksgiving. After we ate, we all went outside to join in a little football game. Some cheered on the sidelines, while others ran until they could run no more. Then, it was time to head back in for dessert!  






Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankfulness.

I know it is the season of giving thanks.. well, actually I guess we have moved on into the season of joy. However, I've been so busy cooking and teaching I haven't taken time to give thanks.. on the blog anyways.

Cody and I have said multiple times over the past six months just how blessed and thankful we are. We have been thankful for big things like family, friends, the people that we have been blessed with here in China, among other things.  But one day last week, as I was teaching my students about why we should be thankful. I became overwhelmingly grateful for the small things, which really aren't all that small... the things we take for granted like food and a place of shelter. I got to thinking how I never have to worry about getting food on our table or every day things like that. Many around the world face the dilemma of having no food for the family daily. We have so much to be thankful for. 

Today, I give thanks for my husband, who is probably the most humble, servant-hearted man I know. I am thankful for the way he encourages and challenges me daily; and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to walk through the adventure of this life with him by my side.

Today, I give thanks for my family; for the love and support they have given me; for allowing me to chase my dreams when it causes them to sacrifice; for loving me when I am not so loveable; and for building the foundations of faith as I have walked through my childhood into adulthood.

Today,  I give thanks for the friends who I cannot imagine my life without. The friends that I love to laugh until we cry with; friends that have challenged me with the Truth; friends that have helped mold me into who I am; friends that support me, lift me up, encourage me, listen to me, and walk through life with me.

Today, I am thankful for my faith family at home. I am thankful that we have many brothers and sisters that lift us up as we live here. I am thankful for those that have encouraged us and challenged us along the way; that have pushed us to live out what He has called us to.

And today I am thankful for the family that He has blessed us with here in China. I am thankful for their graciousness, for their listening ears, open arms and hearts, and the way they love us even on our worst days.

Most importantly, I am thankful for the Risen King who has given up his life so that we might live. I am thankful for the forgiveness that he offers. I am thankful for the hope he restores to his people. I am thankful for the joy and peace that he gives us here on Earth so that we can have abundant life. I am thankful that He has not left me in the mess that He found me, but has chosen to change me over and over again so that one day I will be made perfect in heaven.  I am thankful that He is slow to anger, compassionate, willing to sacrifice, patient, mighty, and awesome. I am thankful that He has gone before us and prepared the way..... And I could go on..

Today, I am thankful. My cup overflows.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"May the G of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him."

So much to tell you... When I signed on here to post this blog, I realized it has been nearly a month since my last post. I'm sorry that I have not posted before now. There is so much to catch up on. So, snuggle up cause it's gonna be a long one.

Well, since our last post, we have not slowed down one bit, obviously, since I have failed to post at all this month.  We have truly hit the ground running here and we are running full speed ahead. As you guys are getting ready for a week of rest, family, and food, we are gearing up for parent-teacher conferences, evaluations, and a full week of precious children that are just as exhausted as we are. So we look forward to this week with anticipation, looking for opportunities to show His love and to shine His light in spite of our exhaustion or any feelings we may have. He is our strength and in Him we have all we need to carry on. So, I will update about the past month and then tuck myself into my warm, hard bed and sleep like a baby until our alarm goes off and we snooze it a thousand times before our feet hit the cold floor and begin the rush of another beautiful day here in China. 

So, just as we were thinking we would enjoy a break from the craziness as basketball ended and Sports Day came and went, we were thrown into the week with Crazy Hat Day. Crazy Hat Day is our celebration of Halloween and Harvest.  The students all came with hats that were handmade and they were crazy. (I'll post pictures soon) The children were absolutely adorable though. After our Crazy Hat competition, the students went around to different stations where they did different Halloween related activities and we concluded the day with a round of Trick or Treating throughout the school. The day wasn't all fun for Cody and I though. We found out in the middle of the day that my grandfather, Gan Gan, had gone home to be with his Heavenly Father. While he had been sick throughout the semester, this caught us all by great surprise. When our principal found out, she immediately asked when we were leaving and wanted to help us book  a plane ticket. We have been blessed abundantly with our administration here. They are compassionate and take great care of us. We booked our flight to leave the next morning for America and finished the day somewhat in a fog.

And I guess we would remain in that fog for the next couple of weeks. It was crazy. We were going to America; that Friday I probably said that a thousand times. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it, but we boarded our plane, and then boarded another one, and another one, and lo and behold, we are in Memphis, TN! We were greeted by Cody's mom and no luggage.. it was still in Chicago. But we headed onto Oxford and arrived around midnight on Saturday night. It was a bittersweet time for many reasons.  We got to meet our sweet, adorable nephew, Jon August, for the first time, we enjoyed our precious families, and ate up some of our most missed favorite foods. But we couldn't forget the reason we were there. Those good things could not hide the sting of death.

My Gan Gan was home.. in a place where he could run and dance, sing and tell jokes, which I am positive he is doing all of those now. He was such a joy for those who knew him. There was never a moment when he did not have a song in his heart and a joke on his tongue. He always had a good story to tell, whether it was true or not. But most importantly, He had a love for His Father that is real and evident in the way that he lived. He has impacted my life, and many others, in ways that have eternal value. He has always taught his children and grandchildren about the one who gave him a reason to sing. The last night we were in America, we had gone to eat with our famillies including our grandparents. As I said goodbye to Gan Gan that night, he began to sing "Until We Meet Again," an old hymn that talks about the day we will see each other in heaven. Tears began to stream down my face, as we both seemed to know, that we would see each other again, it just wouldn't be this side of heaven. I am thankful for that moment we had together. And I am thankful for the late night skype date I had with him and Big Mama while he was in the hospital, when I had the opportunity to tell him I loved him. I will hold onto those memories and hold onto the fact that he is far better off than we are here on this Earth. He is missed greatly and I look forward to the day that we will meet again.

Our week or acutally 4 days at home went far too quickly. There was not enough time to see and spend time with all the people we desperately wanted to spend time with. And I simply could not get enough of my family. To say that we were excited to board the plane and head back to China on Thursday morning would be a complete lie. We know we are in the center of His will here, but it's not always easy. I am learning that when we are obedient, we often face many trials. I was a wreck for several days and our sleep schedule was terribly messed up which didn't help my emotional state at all.  It has been the quite the lesson in Trusting Him and knowing His plans are good. We are learning to cling tight to his promises, to fight off the enemy with His Word, and to find joy in anything and everything that comes our way. So, when you think of us, lift us up, it will bring us great strength in Him.

We walked back into our life here and my children were quite excited to see me. It did my heart good. The whole room stopped when I walked through the door and then a stampede of little kindergarteners attacked me with hugs and kisses and "TEACHA BA-RYNNN!!!!"  It was food for my soul. Over the last two weeks, we have had some cool conversations with people that have been sweet moments and encouraging and helping us to see our purpose and helping us to see what HE is up to in us and through us.

So, it is time for me close these heavy eyes, but hopefully, I have covered everything. Keep us in your thoughts.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Busy, Busy Week.

We have been busy this week with basketball games, Sports Day, birthday party, and school. It has been a fun week. Cody is playing in our company basketball tournament. His team, comprised of foreign and Chinese teachers from our school, has won all of their games so far and are now heading into the semi-finals. It has been fun to watch and cheer them on. On Friday, we had Sports Day at school. It was a fun day. I've never seen anything like it. We had performances by the students for the opening ceremony which were absolutely incredible and super cute. I just love those little children. After the opening ceremony, they competed in different events throughout the day. It was fun to see them in a different light than just in class. Friday night, we celebrated one of our teammate's birthdays. She turned 12 years old! We had a wild party at the H's. There were around 20 children there. We had fun celebrating with them. Here's some pictures to tell of our week a little better.

Cody's Basketball Team

My sweet class lining up to begin the opening ceremony at Sports Day.

Let the Games Begin!

Striking a Pose! Too cute!
Another adorable performance by our students!


Getting ready to run! First competition of the day.

The Birthday Crew!



Happy Birthday, Madelyn!

The Father is Speaking.

I sat and held a precious kindergartener today. He was so upset because he had lost a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  It really wasn’t about the game, it was more the fact that he was worn out, and, to be honest, I was too. In that moment, there was absolutely nothing more I wanted to do than sit and hold this precious child.  I explained to him that sometimes we don’t always get what we want and we don’t always win the game.  I explained that when this happens we must choose what we want to do with it; we can choose to accept it and turn it into something for the good or we can choose to allow us to become sad and it will be used for the bad.  Of course, I said all of this in English and it did absolutely nothing to lift his spirits.  At that point, it was as if the Spirit took over me. I couldn’t help but sing J- Loves me.  In that moment, He took me back to the moments I spent in Maria’s, holding the babies and singing these same words over them.  I began to lift this sweet child up to Him, I asked that He would know Him someday, that He would experience His love and His peace. I begged for Him to move in this little one’s life.  What was amazing to me about this moment though was how clearly He was speaking to me through this child.  I’ve been thinking about how He speaks to us… He speaks to us in so many different ways, through sunsets, through songs, through words, through children, through people, through His Word, through however He needs to in order for us to know how He feels about us.   This moment with my student challenged me to look and find Him in everything that  I do... to search for Him in every circumstance, whether it’s on a crowded bus or sitting in my class holding tightly to an upset 5 year old. He is speaking to us, but are we listening?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Field Trip Fun #2

So, one of the exhaustions perks of being a teacher in the Kindergarten and Elementary school is that I get to go on both field trips.  Our Kindergarten trip was to a farm where we picked super yummy oranges off trees and dug sweet potatoes out of the ground. It was a lot of fun really.  I was exhausted, but fun was had. One of my students, Sara, did not want me to be anywhere out of her sight. It was so fun to hear her yelling, Teacher Brynn, the whole day, wanting me to pick oranges with her, walk with her, and do whatever she wanted me to do.  Here's a few pictures from the day.




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Field Trip Fun

So, last Friday, the elementary school took a field trip.  I was assigned to my crazy, wonderful first graders. We went to a place called Polar Ocean World. I would say it is China's version of Sea World.. sorta. .Anyways, we had the best time. It was such a fun day and  I am really hoping we can go back without being responsible for so many precious children's lives.  Here's some pictures of our fun day. 



My ever so active class... This is us! Never a dull moment.
 

Two of my sweethearts and our school music teacher


A penguin and a student!


Yep, there we are in action! Like I said, never a dull moment!


My sweet director and friend. We have been so blessed by her and her precious family.



Always styling and profiling..



A fish carousel


Riding a ride like the teapots, but somehow "oceany"

My lovely African student


We were all worn out on the way home.. myself included.