Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Proverbial Truth

"The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil."
 ~Proverbs 19:23~

The Fear of the Lord: Knowing He is boss. Trusting Him absolutely. Believing what He says. Obeying what He commands. Honoring Him in life. Giving Him glory in deeds. Reverencing His name and making it known. Hating what He hates. Loving what He loves. Surrendering everything to Him. Laying down my life, dreams, desires and taking up the ones He has for me. Acknowledging His presence and purpose in everything around me. Seeing with His eyes and responding with His heart. Being quiet. Speaking up. Taking risks. Having dangerous faith. Dying everyday so He might live through me – or rather, I might live through Him.

The fear of the Lord is life.

Satisfaction: a constant state of being filled and fulfilled. Confidence and peace. Worry-free living. Knowing where I’m supposed to be. Doing what I’m supposed to do. Being who I’m meant to be. No wondering. No wandering. No doubt. No regret. No fear.

I will stand tall and walk boldly. I am an ambassador of love and truth and life. I am a carrier of the supernatural. Evil cringes at the sight of me. It cowers in defeat. Aimlessness and frustration have no place in my life. I know my God. I fear Him alone, and I am sure of the good things He has for me. I will abide in His satisfaction. No one and nothing can take it from me. My God is bigger and stronger than the thieves that seek my treasure. They do not stand a chance. No way. No how.

The fear of the Lord is satisfaction.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cool Ranch & Greener Grass

I’m not sure what it says about my life (or me, for that matter) that the absolute highlight of my day was stumbling upon this delightful bag.

I just opened it, and I am now savoring each and every little green and red MSG flavor fleck. I am experiencing the “ballistic Doritos crunch as it unleashes an explosion of cool ranch flavor in” my mouth. It’s awesome.

It’s like being home.

Until the bag is gone.

I find myself searching for familiarity a lot these days. Mostly in food… I suppose because it’s the most tangible way to “experience” the familiar. I’m actually texting my roommate right now about all the great import products they have at the Hisense grocery store near the seaside (we cope in similar fashion). I’ve also spent a good deal of time lately taking in episodes of 30 Rock and The Office on DVD, and now with my fancy, outsmart China VPN thing, I can trick the internet into thinking I’m in America and watch anything I want on Hulu! So between Hulu, Facebook, and a Chinese website called,, I can waste tons of time escaping into mindless television shows and movies. Just what I intended for my adventure-of-a-lifetime move to China.

I’m having a little bit of a hard time.

This morning I went to church and I found myself agitated and pouty throughout the entire service. All I could think about was how much I wanted to be at my own church. I thought about how great the services are, and how I could walk through the Courtyard and be stopped at any point by people who love me, and how I never had to sit alone because of my three incredible best friends. I thought of being hug-handled by Mary Ann, watching Joe dance at the door as he welcomes people to service, saying “hello” to Brooks in his walk-by way of saying it, sharing a workspace with Christy and Kristen and having fun visitors (you know who you are) sit on the blue couch to discuss important “work-related” matters, making coffee with Rhonda and learning how to be like her someday when I grow up. I thought about NLMI and Starting Point and worship and communications and being a part of something so authentic and exciting and impacting. And I thought about how I traded all that in for this life I have in China.

Did I do the right thing?


Am I doing the right things now?

That’s where I’m unclear.

I know I was supposed to come here. Leaving everyone and everything was not easy (it still isn’t), but I know it’s what God was asking me to do. And I know He was asking me to because it was right in the midst of SO many good things. I wasn’t running away. I liked my life. I was doing something worthwhile and living a pretty great life with amazing friends and family. I was living it up in green pastures… at least that’s how it feels now that I’m on this other patch of grass.

Honest moment: I don’t like teaching English. I’m not very good at it. I feel like I’m an insult to the profession. Real teachers are incredible people with incredible skill who spend time and energy and money refining their craft and using their amazing abilities to impart knowledge. I show up at work, pull a blue folder out of a cabinet and follow an outline to teach people about cooking methods and business telephone etiquette. The blue folder tells me everything I need to know, except how to explain nonexistent grammatical rules and how to define everyday words that, in the moment, seem completely indefinable. I like to write in and speak the English language, not teach it. But here I am in China teaching this strange and complex language six (!) days a week. Did I really sign up for this? Or did I mess something up?

Even telling the Bible stories is proving terribly challenging. The thing about Chinese students is that if they are not impressed or amused by you, they have no problem walking out of your class (if they have the option). The other day my English Corner began with about 12 or 15 students. Slowly they left, one by one, until only four remained. It was SO hard not to take personally. I truly, honestly do not know what to do. I know that I need to spend more time preparing and praying and trusting that the Lord will show up and do something unseen. I guess I just want Him to do something seen. I want the people who give me condescending and “isn’t she so cute for believing that” looks to come face to face with the God they scoff. Not to be put in their place, but so that they can know Him. I don’t want to just tell stories about God. I want to put God on display. I want his love and power to be demonstrated…

“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” Mark 16:20

This is what I want.  But I don’t just want this in the classroom. I want this on the city streets, in my apartment building, on the bus, at the beach, in restaurants and shops and street markets. I want to leave a trail of miracles and hope and life. I want to leave the reality of Jesus with every person I pass.

Unfortunately, I’ve brought a bit of complacency to China with me. I thought it would be easier to be spiritual here, away from everybody and all the things in life that are usually so distracting. Turns out, distractions can present themselves anywhere. And I’m not just talking about 30 Rock and The Office and movies on youku. The real distractions are my own sense of inadequacy and failure, my fear of intimacy and loneliness. My laziness. So rather than face these things and combat them with the truth, I escape into the tidy world of twenty-two minute sitcoms, where bite-sized life problems are easily resolved and wrapped in humor. It’s easier that way. Until I leave my living room and collide with my own reality.

I probably won’t stop watching TV. It’s not the problem – plus it’s funny. But what I need to do is begin to prioritize what is important to me here in China. I need to kick my distractions in the face and stop being a baby. Do I want to go back to America having learned nothing? I can be faced with many lessons and choose not to be shaped by them. Do I want that? Do I want to live here and miss God opportunities because I’m too busy wishing I were back at home languishing in, what appears to be from this view, greener grass?

Why am I here?

What’s it all about?

Am I finally ready to press in and find out, or will I continue to mope and escape and stand around while God is waiting for me to take ground?

“How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?” 
Joshua 18:3

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Digs

I’d like to begin by apologizing for leaving you in such suspense.

I’m sure you’ve been waiting, hoping and expecting each day these last two weeks or so to find another update from me that captures the shiny wonder of my new apartment. I will do my best to never fail you in this way again.

Please find below a link to (maybe overly) detailed footage of my new digs. I tried to muster all of my cinematic skills for this shoot. You should feel nauseous. It will enhance the experience.


Oh, and you’ll notice that I now have a housemate! I invited my coworker, Kelsey, to come and stay with me for her last two months in China. She is from Michigan and has been in Qingdao since August. Her living arrangements were less than stellar, so I thought she might enjoy living it up with me for her last bit of time here. She is lovely and fun. She likes chocolate, she watches The Office AND she’s already watched the entire second season of Full House on DVD since living with me.

Did I make a good choice? You got it dude!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Fabricated Birthdays and Princess Apartments

I am officially 30 years old.

I don’t know how it happened, but according to my mother and the State of Washington and America, it’s true. China doesn’t believe it though. China thinks I am 22… and this is why I love China so very much.

Most of you know that my birthday is on Leap Year, so this year I didn’t have an actual day to mourn the loss of my twenties. It’s always a little bit tricky on birthday “off” years to decide when exactly to celebrate. Usually I opt to occupy both the 28th and the 1st with festivities (or maybe the entire week, depending on how deprived I am feeling). I wasn’t sure how all the celebrating would pan out this year since I’m in a foreign country without all my people to gush and compensate for my lack of a day, but it turned out to be quite lovely.

Side Note: Having a Leap Year birthday is actually pretty awesome. People feel really sorry for you and treat you extra special when your “should be” birthday arrives. I probably shouldn’t tell you this. Oh no… Never mind. Please feel free to continue to feel sorry for me.

On Sunday, the 28th (the first day of my sort-of birthday) I decided to be very brave and venture out, unaccompanied, to the International Church. It’s an English service hosted entirely by foreigners, mostly American. It was SO refreshing. I need church, and I need it in English. I’ve attended Chinese services every Sunday since coming to Qingdao, and while they are perfectly lovely, I cannot understand a lick of what is being said (except for the occasional word here and there). I mostly just feel tired and eager for the service to end when I’m there (I’ll still attend the Chinese church’s Friday night youth service though – they have a great English study that meets every week). The International Church service is very similar to what you’d experience in most churches on any given Sunday – music, message, mingling, etc. I had the opportunity to meet some great people, including three (!) families from the Seattle area! One of which was gracious enough to allow me to crash their lunch plans. This particular family has lived in Qingdao for eight years, they have three very blond, very blue-eyed children (who all speak Chinese), and the husband serves as one of three elders in the fellowship. They were so great! They gave me lots of tips for China living and even ended up being a great connection in my apartment hunt (more on this later).
After lunch, I went back to my hotel. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that a moonpie might be as close as I would be getting to birthday cake this year. And I was okay with that.


But then my friend called and said that he was on his way to see me. When I opened the door he wished me a Happy “Fabricated” Birthday (because they prefer fabricated over “fake” here) and presented me with dinner and birthday cake, complete with birthday crown and candles!!

(Does that look like the face of a 30 year-old? Come on!!)

It was SO nice!! And to top it off, the 28th marked the end of the Spring Festival, so the sky was lit up with fireworks all night long. I choose to believe they were set in celebration of me and this incredible milestone (sort-of) birthday of mine! Either way, it felt pretty special.

Day two of my birthday meant that I was actually 30 (I don’t become a year older until March 1st on off years). I was surprisingly emotional and had several weepy spells that morning. As if turning 30 isn’t potentially traumatizing enough, let’s try and do it in a foreign country without family and friends. It was a little harder than I thought it would be. But I powered through my morning and made it off to work where I could forget my woes in English grammar (never thought I’d say that). Work was a great distraction, as was the post-work trip to Dairy Queen!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yep, that’s right, I said Dairy Queen. Good ole DQ. My co-worker, Kelsey, who is from Michigan, took me there after work to celebrate with Oreo Blizzards. It was awesome. It’s funny how DQ can feel like an old friend when you’re living someplace where familiarity is rare.

Oh, AND the birthday fun will extend even further as I anticipate the arrival of a package from all my favorite people in America. It will be a package bursting with wonderful surprises wrapped in pink polka-dot paper (courtesy of Michelle). I can’t wait!!!

In other news, this week I have been very busy searching for the perfect apartment. I am SO ready to be done living in this hotel. It’s a very nice hotel, but it’s a hotel. It feels transitional. You can’t settle into a hotel… not when you’re anticipating moving any time. I want to feel settled and like I have a place of my own. And, my friends, I think I have found that place!!!

Remember the lovely Seattle family I was telling you about? Well, they connected me with this darling Chinese gal named, Ice (her Chinese name is Bing, which means ice in English), who offered her services in helping me find a suitable apartment. I met with her Wednesday afternoon and we set off together with my friend, Bojun, to see what we could find.

Throughout the course of the afternoon I think we viewed upwards of 15 apartments!!! I tried really hard not to be too picky or to impose my American standard of living on what I saw. Some of the homes were actually very nice, but none of them really stood out as “the one.” A lot of the bathrooms and kitchens seemed dirty and dingy, and some of the homes felt dark or cramped. I obviously don’t need anything huge. I’m going to be living by myself, but I am anticipating a few guests this summer and I’d like to have a nice home to welcome them to. Plus, part of me just wants my home to not feel like China. I hope that’s okay to say. I want my home to be a refuge where I can feel free to be as American as I want. If I can somehow manage that without being pretentious, then that’s what I want.

It wasn’t until we viewed the very last apartment of the day that my hope for this reality came into view. We were all totally wiped out, but decided to look at one last place. It was on the 28th floor of an apartment building located in a courtyard where an outdoor farmer’s market comes and goes everyday. Outwardly the building was very unimpressive, the lobby was dank and dirty, but when we arrived on the 28th floor and the apartment door opened, we were transported to another place - a place where everything was new and shiny and pretty. The apartment was absolutely gorgeous! The whole interior had been completely redone: new floors, fresh paint (green even), new doors, remodeled kitchen, all new furniture and appliances, new tile, new everything! The two bedrooms were bright and spacious (and fully furnished), the kitchen was roomy (by Chinese standards) and the living room area was big enough to have friends over. The wet bathroom provided an actual space to stand while showering and a fancy showerhead that falls directly on you like rain from heaven. Just stunning! Plus, it’s only about a ten-minute walk from my work (all on main roads)! But here’s the real kicker (don’t be jealous)… All of this loveliness could be mine at the (truly) low-low cost of $350 a month!!!


Needless to say, I was ruined for any other apartment. I wanted to take it right then and there, but apparently that isn’t how things roll in China. Ice informed me that it’s standard to wait one or two days before making a decision. So, she arranged for us to view a few more apartments yesterday, which honestly felt rather futile since I had my heart set on the pretty one. But we looked, and I considered a couple of back-ups in case my princess apartment was no longer available.

Home hunting in China is stressful. It overwhelms me. I realized today that I have never had to make this kind of decision on my own. I’ve always lived with other people. It feels like the stakes are increased by ten thousand when I’m making all these kinds of considerations in a foreign country all by myself. I want to live somewhere safe, somewhere convenient and somewhere shiny and pretty. That’s all I ask. And I think that this apartment offers all of these things.

But then enter my friend, Bojun. He is probably the world’s greatest worst-case scenario worrier (that’s why his friends call him Whiskers… anyone?). He likes to use dramatic scare tactics to help me “understand” Chinese culture. When he offers “advice” and things for me to “consider” it usually includes me being crushed in some natural disaster or being robbed or killed or left for dead with no one to help me because I don’t speak Chinese (the latter point being the most frequently emphasized). He will go on and on about these things, but then end the conversation with a supportive, “You have a good brain. You will make a good decision. I only give you things to consider.” Oh gosh, thanks. That’s not stressful at all.

So, here’s how I decided to play this one out. I told the Lord that I really really really really really really wanted the pretty, pretty princess apartment. It just felt like an absolute gift from Him – the kind of place a father prepares for His daughter because He wants the very best for her. It’s like a little Chinese Barbie Dream House, without all the pink and plastic furniture. So I told the Lord that if there was something bad or terrible or unseen about this place, then I needed Him to make it completely unavailable to me. I’m way too sold to be reasonable or rational about it now. So if I shouldn’t move there, then I don’t want it to be an option.

It was an option.

Ice called the agent this morning and we met with her and the landlord, a lovely woman who has a son living in America. The apartment was originally for him and his new wife, but he decided to stay in the U.S. instead of returning to China. She was thrilled at the idea of renting to me because she said it feels like I’ve traded places with her son (basically, she wants to mother me, and I’m totally down with that). So, we met and went over some of the details of the rental agreement. The rent will be paid in three-month increments (which is something I had specifically prayed about since most landlords require an entire year’s rent in advance), and she will pay for my cable and for a thorough deep-cleaning of the apartment before I move in. I’m meeting her at the apartment on Sunday to tell her how I want the furniture arranged (so crazy) and to sign the rental contract.

I’m really excited! This apartment is SO much more than I ever could have imagined finding in China (Jack & Shirl, you will NOT be disappointed). And as far as all of Bojun’s concerns, I honestly don’t believe that the Lord would send me here and then allow me to walk right into danger. I have many lessons to learn in China, but I don’t think that is one of them. And all the terrible things Bojun imagines could happen to me anywhere I live, even at home (minus the not speaking Chinese part). And just in case you need your mind further eased, I did ask my Chinese friend, Deanna, to come along today and her impressions of the neighborhood and the apartment were very good. She did not seemed at all concerned for my safety. Bojun has a history of overreacting to the big decisions I’ve needed to make in China, and after they are made, he usually agrees with me. I’m sure that will be the case with this one too. He’ll learn.

So barring any big huge doors being slammed on the deal, it looks like I’ll be moving in next week!!! Yayayayayay!!!!! I took some pictures, but they really don’t do the apartment justice, at all. As soon as I can, I will shoot a short video tour for everyone to see the beauty. It’s jaw-dropping.