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.