Tuesday, September 04, 2018

If I were the man at the pool

What if I was the man by the pool of Bethesda? (John 5)

Laying there for 38 years. There's nobody to help me get into the pool. The only proximal hope that I will be healed. And even that is far away when your community decides the distance is too far to travel. That act of moving me from this grounded mat to the life-restoring pool is too big a burden for them to shoulder. They have all moved on to baking bread, bathing infants, and bringing wares to sell at market. The longer I bake here in the sun, the lighter the burden feels for them. Amazing what time can do. For many, it heals. For others, it commits the pain. Time only heals wounds when they've got healthy people injecting antibodies of community into the pain of another. This replaces the pain with moments of joy. But, for some of us, it only replaces our pain with more recent pain.

So, where does that leave me?

I know. It leaves me stranded on this island of a mat, longing for the life of the waters. Yet, the waters remain a mirage to me, while a reality to others. I hear the cheers of others as they are lowered into the pools and raised with sores healed and limbs moving. I hear the jubilation of family members who thought the prison doors of a stroke would remain forever locked.

Here I lie. 

The scuffles of the poor and lame have become a cadence of hopelessness to me, Until, that is, the swirling fog of dust settles to reveal feet standing at my eye's level. Someone stops. The cadence of passing strangers halts. For me. They halt for me. Certainly I will be asked to move while someone else is brought to water's edge.

A voice.


Both speaking to me. 

"Do you want to be healed?"

I'm not even sure I know. I've resigned to the plane of hopelessness for so long that sitting upright in healing expectancy...I can't even visualize it.

"Get up, take your bed, and walk." 

After this man, those eyes, that offer to be healed, I found myself rolling up my mat. As if I have been transfixed by his presence. I pick up the mat that has held my life in its straw. I actively tell my mind how to move my toes. Movement has been archived for 38 years. 38 years is close to life expectancy for me, but I have very little to expect from life.

Until now.

I put one foot in front of the other; cautious at the potential betrayal of my healing. For so long I have seen and heard victory for others. I have abandoned the idea that victory was for me. My body seems to be the object of other people's gratitude. I've heard it, "I am grateful that my body has not failed me  like that man's on the. mat."

But not today.

Today is victory! It's my turn for victory!

My walking pace quickens as if my synapses have woken and am remembering how to walk. I swing my head around to thank the man and he is gone.

No name.

He simply healed me and went about his day. He restored my body. He restored my life.

I want to know about this man that require me to walk in my healing and nothing else.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Project Based Learning-Creating Books!

**This is a class assignment for a certification I'm getting*

"I'm getting married in white culottes, never working in an office, and I want to be outside." This was my fourth grade checklist for the adult version of me. Thank goodness the school system I was slotted into had a track that held Project Based Learning (PBL) up as a virtue. 

This is my all time favorite Ted Talk. My desire as a teacher is to teach my students to take their peer reviews and teacher feedback not as criticism, but provisions to get them to, "Embrace the Shake." Within writing, this means finding their voice and way of communication that meeting the requirements and yet remaining true to themselves. Some students melt under the fire of critiques. I want to foster a classroom that constantly, embraces the shake, and works through our weaknesses to turn them into strengths.

Image result for refugee camp

PBL encourages the strengths and stretches the weaknesses of each student. In any PBL, there will be sections students enjoy and other sections they merely get through. My hope with this PBL, is that they will learning not only to improve their writing and research skills, but also learn about the world outside of their own.

PBL-Refugee Camp Book

Project Theme and Goals: 

This is an English class project for secondary students. The students will be empathetically researching the lives of children in refugee camps. As a group of 4 they will put together a collaboratively written book of short stories that will touch on key areas of a refugee’s life. 

Before starting, each member of the group will read a different book written by a refugee. They will share with their group things they learned in that book. As a group, they will need to do thorough research on a specific people group who are currently living in a refugee camp. 

The objective for this project is to get the students to understand the lives of other students who are struggling with different and yet, maybe, similar issues. Also, to get them to think through how studying literature can help a group of people in need. The end resulting book should have an underlying theme, tying the entire project together. For example, the theme of hope or family. Another objective is to learn about all the elements, processes, and staging in publishing a book. This needs to be a professional quality book that we would see on Amazon. 

While I am looking for a professional, end product, I am also looking to challenge their perspectives along the way. The entire process of researching and understanding refugees, receiving peer feedback, and teaching editing should foster humility in my students.

While PBLs can be fun and creative, they still need feedback. I've outlined a detailed rubric and monitoring plan here.

Here's a link to another PBL I did. We are walking through Joseph Campbell's, Hero's Journey. 

I love Campbell's discussion about the process a hero goes through in a story. In the classroom, we would walk through C.S. Lewis', The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The links are here for a unit lesson plan.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

How Obligation can be a Generosity Thing

***I'm guest blogging today over at JacksonWu.org. ***

I've been thinking on the concept of obligation for a few months now. For most of us Americans the idea of being obligated to someone makes us want to flash mob Times Square while singing, "You Don't Own Me."

But since moving to China in 2003 I've learned that obligation doesn't bind me with shackles, it binds me with mutual generosity.

Go over there and tell me what you think. It's not an easy pill to swallow, trust me. The night my now husband and I had the "Determine The Relationship," talk, I quickly responded with, "Just because we are dating now, don't think that means I want to see you everyday."

I get it, friends. I totally get the panic that can come with being obligated.

And with that, I appropriately leave you the last chorus of Lesley Gore's song:

I don't tell you what to say
I don't tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That's all I ask of you
I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
And don't tell me what to do

Monday, January 02, 2017

Thrive Interview: Contentment

Contentment. At times this has been Diet Dr. Pepper and cheap animal crackers. Other times it has meant sitting with my 3-year old on a tire swing at the park, not swinging. If there was swinging involved, there would be no contentment on my part.

I've written for the ministry a few times and am grateful for their extended reach to women all over the world. Their content is honest, Biblical, diverse, and thorough.

Below is the interview I did:

Thrive interview: Contentment

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Letter to the Christian Parents of Overseas Workers

Dear Christian Parents of Overseas Workers-

First off, this isn't a passive-aggressive right hook to my own parents. They have truly become a loyal and faithful support system to our family. But there's a thing happening. It happens every year starting the second week of November and not letting up until January. Christian parents are saying things like, "We wish you were here eating turkey with the family." Or, "I can't believe we will be celebrating Christmas this year without the grandkids." Or, "I can't wait until you're home next year so we can all celebrate as a family."

These seem like benign phrases that merely express a longing to be together as a family. The problem is that your child who is overseas feels the loss even deeper than you'd think. They see messages like these and wrap their holidays in guilt, homesickness, longing, loneliness, isolation, and want. For many of us, we don't have a community to even eat a bowl of rice with, no way a Thanksgiving spread is gonna happen. We teach English classes on Christmas and worship to a youtube video. And the thing is that these can be godly, holy moments if we allow them to be. But when we have family and friends talking about us returning "home," all the time (especially during the holidays), it becomes infinitely more difficult to be present here.

Christmas is the time we need you to remind us of why we are here. This season is busy, exhausting, and requires every bit of Holy Spirit to choke back another decorated sugar cookie. But when we are present, we get to open our lives up to the community and share the most radical birthing story in the history of the world. When our head is in the game, this glorious season becomes a launching pad to engaging our community in a more meaningful way. As a Christian parent, please remind you kids that their time and energy is worth it. Sure, tell them you miss them. But end that sentence with a, "But God needs you there to be Jesus to your people. That is the most wonderful gift I could get this Christmas." Don't wish them home. Trust me, there are many days their heart is already on that plane. Your kids know it's not easy on you either.

They need believing parents in their corner of the ring praying, wiping up their bloodied noses, and telling them to get back out there.

                                                   Yours Truly,


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Creating our own Glass Ceiling

I’m frustrated this week. Frustrated at low cut jeans, because well, I’m a 40-year old mother of 5. I’m frustrated that a new computer charger costs $100 here. I’m frustrated that I can’t eat bagels because my stomach has turned into a tantrum throwing 2-year old. But maybe something of a little more consequence has tagged me this week. I’ve been frustrated with my gender.


I’ve found myself more and more unsettled as this election has rounded out. This is not a political post, but a call for women to stop. This is my proverbial shofar call to stop talking about voting for Hillary because she was a woman. If you agreed with her platform and voted for her in response, then great. If you went to the voting polls and cast your vote for her BECAUSE she was female, that’s less than great. If we as women want to continue to make progress in salary equality and gender imbalances, we’ve got to stop doing things like this. While I haven’t asked Hillary Clinton personally, I have a hard time believing that she wants your vote simply because she was born with two X chromosomes. She would rather you make a smart, thoughtful decision about a person and a platform, not a gender. The former is simply patronizing. Like when the P.E. teacher picks the uncoordinated, awkward kid as captain of the dodge ball team. It’s a pitied choice.

Voting for her simply because of her gender isn’t actually breaking a glass ceiling, it’s reinforcing one. It’s walking up to that ceiling and smashing your face on it, looking childish and uninformed. I saw a similar phenomenon when Sarah Palin was first toying in public politics. People blindly followed her lead without having any clue as to what she thought on issues. If we as a gender want true progress, we’ve got to prove ourselves through education, information, question asking, intelligent dialogue, and working insanely hard.

We aren’t going to earn more respect in places by whining, remaining ignorant, complaining, and knocking one another down based on superficial criteria.

We are better than this. We can scream loudly for change when we actually have something worth hearing, otherwise it becomes screechy white noise.

While I disagree with some of her politics, I truly admire her culmination of 30 years of public service. My mom has worked in a male dominated industry for over 30 years also. It takes wisdom, intellect, perseverance, and gutsiness. These are the characteristics we teach our daughters. We don’t want them to expect doors to fly open simply because they are female. We want them to walk through doors because they’ve earned it. And when you walk through a door knowing you deserved it, you’re head is held high knowing you didn’t get there based on an invitation of pity.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Hardest, Shortest Word we Have to Start Saying.

I was published on Thrive a few weeks ago. But because I turned 40 yesterday, I get to claim things like old age and sore shoulders from rolling over on the couch too quickly. Those are actual things, friends.

Get up earlier. Read your Bible longer. Journal—better yet, do an art journal and use highlighters with different colors for different grammatical structures. Have a retreat; make sure to date your husband. Listen to sermons while doing dishes.

Read More

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Living Overseas isn't an Adventure, it's a Life

Maybe it's the fact that I turn 40 this year and I am waving at the people-pleasing thirties in the rearview mirror.

Maybe it's because I'm living overseas and I get to post things like this online, not having to watch the facial expressions of my friends as they read my ridiculousness.

Picking up the calling to live and work overseas is not an adventure. We need to stop using that word. We try to sweeten the grief of saying good-bye to our passport country by using the word, "adventure." It's been written in letters of encouragement; put on index cards and surrounded by butterflies; tagged on a Facebook post with mountains while wearing red North Face jackets and black-strapped Chacos.

Let's make it all stop.

Each time we say these things to another person moving overseas, we are setting them up to stay short term. As they pack their bags and dream of "adventure," they are slowly telling the Lord, "This had better be fun or I'm out."

I realize that some people intentionally sign up for one or two years overseas, and that's great. But here's the reality, if you love Jesus and are moving overseas in order to make Him known in a new country than this is going to take a longer commitment. With a life commitment overseas, most days will not be filled with adventure.

Your pictures might look adventurous, but there are actual moments behind those crusty pagodas and exotic jumping tribes. Are there adventurous days? Yes. But there were also adventurous days when I lived in a suburb of North Houston. When you see pictures of your friends backpacking through Cambodia in order to find an unreached people group, you also need to know that they most likely camped in a cave and wore wet socks for three days.


They most likely reached their destination and failed to find a single villager. This is not an adventure, it's a frustration. But this frustration is worth it and that is why we do it.

Honestly, I get nervous for many of these young men and women raising their hands in an emotional flurry, committing to move overseas. While it's exciting to move to a new country, we need people to actually stay and that is going to require us getting over the adventure piece. If you stay for a year, you will probably return feeling like it's an adventure. But what we need over here are people who stay for the long haul. People that learn language, buy local, pee in outhouses at their friend's home, and become ok with rolling power outages. Adventure needs to take a back seat to real life. Life is only adventurous to the degree that we allow the Lord to intersects our lives with others.

I have loved all the moments of life overseas, but I will say that I've loved them because of how they have refined me as a Christian woman and not because they've all been fun. We have to start believing that God wants us to stay overseas for more than a year or two an that's going to require us to recalibrate our expectations. For some of us, that will mean that we will remain single for a really long time. Others of us have signed up to raise our children thousands of miles from their grandparents. These realities are very much not adventurous, they are simply hard. But the hard is where the Lord meets us to fold our lives into His.

And that is always the adventure. 

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Letter to my friends

To my friends from my passport country-

I'm sorry that we sat by the campfire that night and I didn't know what to say. Our lives have been piling forward on different continents for some time now. I desperately want you to understand my life in China, but my stories of duck blood hot pot or 6 am wedding processions seem to be a compilation of snippets rather than a constructed life story. I've tried to mold my life experience into something palatable for you, but I'm afraid that I've failed over and over again. A decade has gone by since I've been able to call you at 8 and meet with you by 9.

Friends have attended your baby showers, I have commented on Instagram.

Your small group brought you dinner when you were sick, I sent you an emoji of a penguin in hopes it made you smile.

I walked with you through grief in a few 45 minute Skype conversations.

I realize it's been hard to be friends over the internet. But what I want you to know is that my lack of physical presence doesn't mean I don't need you in my world. I think it's easy for us both to forget that as our lives press forward, there is a person on the other side of the world who loves us and needs to hear from us. I've failed at this more times than is possible to count. Time zones have made me late to wish you happy birthday. By not checking Facebook, I've totally missed your son's broken arm.

Don't give up on those of us who live overseas. We are all thankful to God that technology allows us to text you from 8,000 miles away. While it might seem we are living these radical lives for Jesus, we need you to ask us hard questions.We need you to see the person and not just the job we've been called to.

One of the things we crave overseas are people with whom we have history. It is balm for the soul to have a friend who knew you when you stayed up too late while sleeping on a pier. We still love hearing about the time you cried when the grocery store ran out of Cheez-its.

I get it. This friendship is hard. But thank you for sticking it out with me.

I might present myself as stoic, but in reality I am needy.

We need your prayers.

We need your perspective.

We need your presence.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Gluten Free cooking in China

After grieving the loss of homemade bagels and pumpkin spice coffee creamer sent lugged in suitcases, I decided to put on my big girl pants and learn to cook gluten free in China. I could almost live on bread alone, so this has been quite a journey for me and my stomach. About a year and a half ago my stomach took an early retirement from all the things I was feeding it-straight up packed a bag and moved south. After exiting denial, I found that I've really enjoyed eating GF now. Doing this in China can be tricky, but not impossible. You just don't have to opportunity to spend $85 on a loaf of gluten free bread. You simply have to make it. 

A few of my favorite websites:

Tons of recipes that are relatively simply. I’ve been using sunflower seed oil instead of grapeseed oil (or any of the other specialty oils she uses) and it’s worked fine. I actually use sunflower oil for all my cooking. I noticed a huge improvement in my stomach issues when I switched oils. Even olive oil was causing me issues. I can find sunflower seed oil locally, but if you can't, I linked it to TB. 

Lots of Indian recipes. Friend, she even has one for paleo Naan. I'm gonna name a house plant after this woman. We’ve been into curries lately, and her website is a definite go to for us. 

There are millions of great GF websites now. These are just the two I've been using lately. Really and truly, once I got used to cooking this way, I’m able to take standard recipes and make them GF pretty easily. 

Here’s the almond flour I get off TB:

This is for about a 3 cup bag. I just order 6 at a time and they’ve stayed fresh for awhile. I usually use them within a month and have had no problems with them going bad. When we were in the States last fall, I used Honey Mill almond flour. This flour is a little denser, but still works great. 

I also like to use buckwheat flour (荞麦粉 qiao2 main fen3)It has a little bit of a nutty flavor, but it binds really well. I failed miserably with a buckwheat bagel because I put more buckwheat than almond flour. If you add too more buckwheat than other flours, your bagel will taste like shoelaces. Trust me. 

Almond flour is pretty pricey, so I usually try and cut the almond flour with another type of flour. When you’re cooking for 7, I can’t justify spending 100 kuai making muffins. But cutting the almond flour with buckwheat has been a good cost saving shortcut. I have a local friend who can bring it to me, but I imagine you can buy this on TB. It imagine you might be able to find it locally as it’s a pretty common flour in Asia. 

I’ve also cut recipes with millet flour (小米分 xiao3 mi3 fen3), sweet potato starch (use in small amounts 地瓜粉 did gua1 fen3), corn flour (玉米粉 yu4 mi fen3. Some places, this word is also used for cornstarch. You just have to look at the color and texture ), mung bean flour (绿豆粉 lv4 dou4 fen3)。 All of these I’ve found at local stores pretty easily. Mung bean flour also binds well, but has a little bit more of a beany flavor, so I just don’t add as much. Try and look for the character 纯 (chun2), as it will let you know that the flour is pure. I haven't found that to always be the case, but for the most part, it's accurate. Oftentimes these flours will be mixed with wheat flour or they will be almond flavored wheat flour. The Chinese words can be the same, which can get a little tricky. The 纯 character should help clear some of that up. 

When I make pancakes I use corn flour 2/3 and buckwheat flour 1/3 together. and they’ve turned out wonderfully. I throw in several mashed bananas, some eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, sometimes a little coconut milk and mix it into a batter. I have conformity issues, so very rarely do I stick to a recipe. It's a life long issue, I'm working on it. Kinda.

Soy sauce:

This is the bummer one with living here. But with these two sauces, I’ve really been able to make anything involving soy sauce. It made me super happy the day I found these on TB. I vividly remember sending texts to several people telling them what I found. These are both really big bottles. I do a lot of Chinese cooking, so I order a bunch at a time. They do have smaller bottles in the Braggs.  

Liquid Aminos. A lighter soy sauce flavor. 

  Tamari GF soy sauce. A little darker.

Tapioca Flour. (木薯淀粉  mu4 shut dian4 fen3) time I ordered a Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca flour Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour and loved it, but it’s too pricey. This one below is really more like a starch. You can find these at local stores pretty easily. I ordered this one on TB, but most of the time I just buy locally. Sometimes I use this as a filler, but only in small amount. It can make things a little pastey if you add too much. 

I’ve loved learning to cook with coconut milk. We’ve learned how to make awesome coffee ice cream. I also use it in my curries and add it to pancake batter to add some good fats. This TB store seems to be much cheaper than other places I’ve seen. 

Coconut flour:

I loved this flour. You pay a pretty price for that love though. All the other coconut flours I’ve found are more like coconut powdered drink. Because the Chinese is the same, it can be a ton of hit and miss finding these flours. 

Flaxseed (golden flaxseed: 黄金亚麻籽 huang2 jin1 ya3 ma2 zi3)

I just stick these seeds in my blender and turn them into flour. If you’ve ever cooked with whole wheat, think a similar texture when using flaxseed flour. It’s pretty coarse, so you don’t want to use a bunch. (you might already know all of these little suggestions. If so, just ignore me and take the links :) )You can sometimes find flaxseed at a local store that sells grains.

Both flaxseed and chia seed (soaked and ground) are good for binding things. This can be helpful as one of my daughters has an egg allergy. But sometimes you have to rely on science and use these egg replacers. They are gluten free, wheat free, no preservatives, artificial flavorings, sugar, or cholesterol because they are all chemicals. Awesome.

I would love to use chia seeds, but I haven’t found them affordable yet. I’ll let you know if I do.The tricky thing about GF baking is the binding. You can use Xanthan Gum to help it too, but I've found I don't often use it. 

Our whole family enjoys eating this way now. It took a little bit for me to learn how to cook so that my kids didn’t feel like they were missing out on everything. But now, they really do love it and even comment on how yucky they feel if they do eat wheat at a friend’s house. It really is hard at first, but stick with it. You will get there. Promise :)

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