Monday, September 27, 2010

Inventory: Expectations

Today my mom told me that I’m a reflective person. When she said that, I started thinking about whether it was true or not. After a lot of thought and consideration, I came to this conclusion:

Yep. It’s true. I am.

She mentioned my reflective ways because my American homecoming is fast approaching (Saturday, November 6… EeeeeEeeeeEEEEeeeeee!!!). It’s officially less than six weeks now until my feet are reunited with the glorious soil of my homeland. “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…” I’m still narrowing down which patriotic anthem I’ll serenade my fellow passengers from Beijing with. I feel like they’d really like Home on the Range or This Land is Your Land. Or maybe Empire State of Mind. We’ll see.

As this season in Qingdao wraps up, it’s only natural that a reflective person such as myself would feel the need to take an inventory of the last several months. I thought of making a list of regrets, victories, things I’ve learned, etc., but that felt hard. And I really don’t think my experiences can be categorized like that. Everything was so intertwined; successes contributing to bouts of self-reliance, failures leading to significant breakthroughs. I think to try to make it cut and dry would diminish the overall experience and somehow discount God’s ability to translate everything into something useful and worthwhile. So, instead I am (or have very good intentions of) writing a series of blog entries highlighting some of the different aspects of my experience. I’m calling it “Inventory”. I feel like I should create a graphic for it. This installment covers expectations…

I honestly didn’t approach my time in China with a lot of expectations. It was a step of obedience and I knew there would be a lot of trusting God, but in terms of particulars, I really didn’t know what to expect. Spiritually, I think I thought one of two things would happen:

1)     I would fail miserably.
Journal Excerpt – October 13, 2009
I’m having to trust the Lord like never, ever before and something in me is so resistant. I’m in turmoil – inwardly desiring to be obedient and dangerous for the Lord, but scared out of my wits to risk so much. I feel like Indiana Jones stepping out onto that invisible bridge. I don’t know what I’m so afraid of losing. I’m not wild about going to China by myself. I’m not adventurous enough. I’m not courageous enough. Why in the world would God send me? All I can think is that God must see something in me that I am missing; something I can’t see. He believes in me – and probably more than I believe in Him. But I’m scared. What if I can’t trust Him enough? What if I blow it? I’m not good at this. I’ve always played it safe. I’m afraid that I’ll be too afraid to accomplish what He sets before me; that I’ll fail or chicken out.

2)     I would have a yearlong summer camp experience.
Journal Excerpt – January 11, 2010 (on the airplane to Qingdao)
I’m feeling pretty unlikely these days. I just wonder what God sees. He’s sending me off to China. I’m going because I’m terribly compliant and I really do want to participate in what He’s doing. It’s wild that He would anoint me for this assignment knowing all my shortcomings – those being what I tend to dwell on. But He doesn’t. He’s sending me because He sees my heart and He sees something workable. He sees a willing heart. He sees, not just potential, but the absolute realization of all He’s purposed me to be. Not some theoretical, non-existent future, but the me today who will walk in obedience and set the pace for tomorrow. I want to grab a hold of the Jaime Jesus sees… No more fear, timidity and passivity. I’m taking hold of the fearless, bold and assertive woman God has made me to be. I’ve been picked and I’m going to have to deal with that and rise to the occasion. No more saying what I’m not, because whether I believe something is true about me or not, I’m doing it. I’m being adventurous. I’m being brave and faith-filled. Sometimes actions disprove attitudes and you realize you’re something other than what you always thought. Lord, I’m looking forward to our year together. 
My journal tells quite the interesting tale of emotional ups and downs. These entries were written before I got here. I’m sure you can imagine the roller coaster post-arrival. Needless to say, neither of my spiritual “expectations” were fulfilled in their entirety. I didn’t fail miserably. I was apparently brave and adventurous and faith-filled enough to make it; to live here and accomplish something. But I also haven’t been living on a mountaintop this entire time. I didn’t always grab that fearless, assertive Jaime by the ears and run with her. To my own shock and dismay I am still a work in progress with lots more for the Lord to prune and refine.

Overall, I would say that my lack of expectations in the particulars led to me being continually humbled by the open doors and opportunities the Lord set before me. Here are some things I never would have expected:
  • ·       Teaching the Bible 2-3 times a week at my English school.
  • ·       Obtaining the most colorful & beautiful apartment in Qingdao.
  • ·       My first marriage proposal (don’t worry, I said no).
  • ·       Unmerited favor in ridiculous measure.
  • ·       A newfound love and increased tolerance for spicy food.
  • ·       Above & beyond abundant financial provision.
  • ·       Resolute faith in the face of ridicule and opposition.
  • ·       A new smile.
  • ·       Numerous conversations with students impacted by the Gospel.
  • ·       Incredible friendships that will transcend continents and time zones.

These are just a few… I could tell story after story (which I should have been doing on this blog on a regular basis) of all the wonderful and unexpected opportunities and encounters I’ve had. And my time isn’t up yet! I still have several weeks to see how the Lord wants to punctuate this experience. These are exciting times, my friends.

Exciting indeed.