Saturday, March 24, 2012

His Love

I have been reminded over and over again over the last week about His Love. The love He has for His children and the promises that come from this Love that He pours out over us. If you read the last post I wrote, you would know that this time last week we were asking the questions of why and what and how of living life here, and then He begin to really show us the answers through different venues... through ICF, through the good people living among us, through my students, and through His Word.

We stay super busy at school. I am going  running between classes in the Kindergarten and Elementary. I love it though.. most days. I love the children. I love their hugs and their smiles and I especially love walking into the room when I am bombarded by greetings of "TEACHA BA-RYNN!

This week magic was happening in the classroom though and I actually slowed down long enough to watch it.  I stood back in awe of my students speaking English. Being that I teach the lowest level of English at our school, my students came to me knowing the very very basics like, "Hello. How are you? I'm fine. Thank you. And you?"  As I stood before them this week, listening to them talk about what they had for breakfast, what they wanted to do this weekend, what the weather was like outside, answering how are you with not the "robot-like"  "I'm fine", but with "I'm happy, sad, ok, so-so, sleepy, etc."  It was truly miraculous and so fun to see the progress my students have made this year. However, while this was very exciting, as I ate lunch with one particular student I was saddened by his reality. He began to tell me that he did not have a grandfather or a father. His face was so sorrowful as he told me about his family. Here it is not very popular for families to be broken or separated.. In fact, it is largely not accepted, although I believe it is growing trend. While it is common in the West for many children to come from broken families, it is not the norm here. As I looked into this usually a troublemaker's eyes, I was filled with love for him; a love that I knew must have come from the Father. And I was reminded that just as my student needed the love and discipline of an earthly father, we all need the same from our Father. And while my student's father had abandoned him, the Word reminded me this morning that our Father will never leave or forsake us. He is always with us. He holds our right hand and He is our Strength and Shield. With Him, there is nothing that we should fear or worry about because He is our Father and He is caring for us better than we can even imagine.

And while there are days that we will ask the question, "Why?" It is a great comfort to know that He is faithful and He is with us. He desires for us to sit before Him and receive all of the blessings that He has for us. In those moments, we will let go of the things that hold us back. Our hands will be opened before Him so that He can give and take away.  And we can trust that even on the bad days, He gives good gifts to His children; He cares for His children; and He loves us abundantly more than we can even imagine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

His Plans

It is often easy to find myself in a pity party living here. This past Saturday was one of those days where it seemed as if nothing could possibly go right. After an epic fail earlier in the week of trying to get money transferred to our American bank account for the second time, I’m learning all the more that we can NOT do it. I don’t mean get the money transferred because we’ll try doing that again in a few weeks with the correct paperwork and I feel confident that eventually we will get that money transferred. I just mean we can NOT do anything the first time correctly or with ease. Ok, I’m sure there are some things that we can somewhat manage and do without much trouble. However, the things that would be a piece of cake at home now take hours upon hours or may even not be done the exact way I want or expect them to be.  Ok, so back to Saturday morning, we woke up excited about enjoying a day at home, getting some things organized, hanging up some new artwork/shelves, and my sweet, dear husband was planning to build a cajon drum.  So, the day began and we went into full swing doing the things around the house we had planned, but it was not long at all that Cody began to run into trouble in building a frame for a bulletin board like thing that we were going to hang in our hallway and display a ton of pictures of you guys.  Now, this seems like quite a small problem as I sit here and type it, but in the moment, it was huge. It was huge because it seemed once again we really cannot do anything just the way we want or expect to do them. We are completely out of control of the things that we face each day.  The day continued to go in that direction as we began to tackle the agenda for the day.  When we thought we were wrapping up everything for the day and we were about to sit down to eat quite a successful dinner, if I do say so myself, we decided to hang up our new red shelves in the kitchen. I pulled the shelves that we bought weeks ago out of the closet and sure enough one of the shelves was a different color red than the other two.  In two minutes time, I went from being excited to being completely bummed. In the States, it would have been no big deal, we would have hopped in the car driven down the road and exchanged the shelf that didn’t match. It just doesn’t work like that here. If we could have even exchanged the shelf, we would have had to take bus rides and taxis for at least an hour, maybe more depending on traffic, just to get the store.  However, getting there is only half of the battle, we would arrive and we would say, “We have the wrong color and would like to change it for the right one?” But who knows if there would be someone there who could understand this and the problem is that we just don’t speak Chinese. (We have started working on this problem though… ever so slowly…) So, we decided that we would hang only two shelves that matched and maybe we will put the other red shelf in one of the bedrooms at some point. I guess it is ok just not exactly like I wanted it to be, but I'm learning that that's ok and maybe sometimes even better. We went to bed that evening feeling a little defeated and asking the question yet again, "What are we doing here!?"  but still with that calming peace knowing HE is why we are here, and HE is the one refining us even through the most mundane challenges and situations. 

Sunday morning we woke and ran out the door for a day of adventures. We went over to a different part of our city that we have yet to visit. This is where the International Fellowship is located. We have not had an opporunity to visit this fellowship yet because it is so far away and it is at a bad time with the taxi shift change and traveling on a Sunday evening is pretty slow considering everyone is headed back home to get ready for Monday morning. Next door to the fellowship is the Garment District and some friends had gotten some garments made the week before that needed to be picked up so we went with them, got ourselves measured for some awesome Asian attire and then headed over to fellowship.  Ok, sorry, let me get to the point. The fellowship was led mostly by Africans and one guy from Mississippi. It was such a beautiful time of lifting our voices to Him.. in French, in English, in a native African language... all the while in the Middle Kingdom.  I wish I could put into words the experience that we had in that concrete building, but I can't. Just trust me in saying that HE was there in the midst and it was beautiful to see Him moving in the hearts of people from all over the world. In those moments, I had forgotten all about the frustrations from the day before because I was reminded of His love and His goodness; and in the light of His suffering, I have not suffered at all. The message was a message of fishing for men, ordained by Him because the night before I had gone to bed wondering why in the world do we live here. We are all called to be Fishers of Men; He just led us to be Fishers of Men here instead of there.

He continued to remind me of himself and his plans for me as I sat and watched a really remarkable live broadcast of a special banquet honoring good people that have moved the hearts of others in our province. I went to a neighbor and coworker's apartment to watch as none of the foreigners here have cable because we wouldn't understand anything on there anyways. The reason I was watching it because our teammates were invited to attend the banquet. They have been featured in various tv shows, newspapers, radio stations, etc because of the life their family lives. They have 5 biological children and soon to be 6 adopted Chinese children. This brings a lot of attention to them because it is counter-cultural in many ways. Anyways, the broadcast highlighted 11 people who have done something to move the hearts around them. The stories were amazing. I was blown away by the sacrifice people have made in order to help others. It was rather inspiring and a great reminder once again of why I am here. One particular story that penetrated my heart deeply was the story of a family who has taken care of around 180 children in the last 3 years. The children are not necessarily orphaned, just parent-less. A growing trend here is that young couples in the countryside will leave their village for long periods of time, possibly even years in order to find work in the cities, leaving their children behind with grandparents or maybe an older sibling. However, this man saw a need for the children to be parented and cared for and that's exactly what he has chosen to do. He currently has 32 children living in his home. I thought about the work that they must have to do each day to care for that number of children... cooking, cleaning, clothing, loving, etc... I cannot imagine the immense load that he and his wife carry each day.  I was truly amazed and humbled by the life that he lives, and eager to jump on the next train to go visit his family and find out how we (our team) can support the work he is doing with the children. I was reminded yet again of His plans for us here and where He is leading us and the path that He is making straight right before us. And sure, my Saturday didn't go perfectly planned as I had expected neither does any of the other days, but my troubles are only light and momentary and small in comparison to the burdens that many others carry around the world.

May I be willing to lay my life(my plans, my dreams, my desires) down to serve others. May it not be about me, my selfish desires of comfort or happiness, may it be about glorifying Him with my life regardless of the cost.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from Him and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body His death so that His life may also be revealed in our body."  2 Cor. 7-12

Sunday, March 11, 2012

His Ways..

As I have wrestled with fear over pretty much the last year of my life, I have begun to learn about different characteristics of the Father. It seems that when we experience different seasons in life He shows us different aspects of which He is and then the characteristics that we have known in our minds about Him become so true in our hearts. He brings that characteristic to light and we then know Him as that; up close and personally. It is not a foreign concept anymore. It is who He is.  He is my Healer.

Yet, even when I know who He is and who He has been for me, I am sometimes filled with questions; afraid to surrender to His ways. So many things that I do not understand, if He really is who He has proved Himself to be then why do these bad things still happen?

His ways are not our ways…
I’ll never understand
The many dark nights where I laid awake begging Him to heal me and He didn’t. 
But His ways are not our ways…
Or why an innocent woman would be shot and killed in her own backyard and her child and husband were left with only scars in their hearts and memories.
But His ways are not our ways…
Or why tonight as I lay asleep in a safe, warm bed, children all over the world are suffering, lying in the cold, tortured by memories from the day and the hideous lies that they believed, trusting adults that promised them a better life.
But His ways are not our ways…
Or why there are 147 million orphans around the world without a family, without love, without hope, without a future…
But His ways are not our ways…
Or how is it possible that a woman begs the Father over and over again for the last decade for a child to be hers, yet a woman down the street is pregnant yet again with a child she doesn’t even want.
But His ways are not our ways…
Or why a tornado, hurricane, earthquake would come and tear it all away, leaving destruction, broken pieces, and broken lives.
But His ways are not our ways…
Or why He would call us to a foreign land completely unequipped, away from family and friends, surrounded daily by obstacles and trials, and yet…
His ways are not our ways and His ways are perfect even if I don't understand.

As hard as it is for me to say, I know it’s true, “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” And even when these questions arise in my heart I know that I can trust Him, I can trust His Word, I can trust who He says He is. He has proved Himself faithful over and over again.   Just when I am ready to give up, it is in my brokenness that He shows Himself. He heals the sick and the broken hearted.  He delivers people from the darkness. He promises that He is the Father to the Fatherless.  He sets the lonely into families.  He remembers His people. He hears the cries of His people.  And I know that when my sight has failed me, I can walk by faith because He is there walking with me. He will never leave nor forsake me even if the going gets tough.  And while I don’t understand it all, I am thankful that His ways are not our ways because He sees the whole picture and I only see but a small segment of it.  He never promised us that this life would be easy and that it would always make sense, but He did promise He would meet us where we are and one day we will stand face to face with Him and from then on our lives will be perfect and all of the sin that causes all of this yucky stuff here on Earth will be no more.  Where tears and doubt once filled our hearts,  joy and peace will take their place, and we still stand before Him knowing He really is who He says He is!

His ways are not our ways.