Friday, August 30, 2013

10 Lovely Habits I've Picked up by Living Here

1. I interrupt people on their phones. I can clearly see that they are talking on their phones, yet I will dive right in to ask them a question. I blame this on every person in the retail sector here. Talking on the phone is merely a hand gesture,  not actually an action to take into consideration when you need something from that person.

2. I push old people around. And oh no, not emotionally, but physically. I used to take a passive stance when getting on a bus or standing in line at a market. While being kind and polite, sure enough, an old lady would come up and push me out of line. She wouldn't even look back to see if I was offended. So I started throwin' elbows. Simple as that. (I am firmly aware of all the things wrong with this.)

3. I reply in 3's. When asked a question, my response is always in 3's. For example, "Are you going to the train station tomorrow?" My reply would be, "Ya, ya, ya." In both languages, my response feels incomplete in 2's.

4. I forget to shave. Culturally it's totally the norm for women to not shave. Chinese aren't particularly hairy people, so this shaving trend hasn't really taken off here. I hated shaving in America and the only reason I did it is because of the cultural pressure put on me to not look like a dude. Cultural pressure gone=freedom to not shave much.

5. I pick up my soup bowl. When I am done eating noodles or even at home finishing a bowl of Tomato Basil, I pick up the bowl and drink it. I realize there's some cross over in cultures on this one. But for the most part, Americans don't pick up their bowls and drink. Especially not as adults.

 6. I like to soak my feet in hot water before bed. It really does help you fall asleep at night. I will also say that my feet are pretty dirty by the end of the day, so it's nice to get into bed with clean feet. It makes me feel better when I don't wash the sheets for weeks on end. At least I didn't drag ground funk into bed with me.

7.  When walking by myself, I slap my upper arms. This is not an every time occurrence, but more often than I'd like to admit to my American counterparts. Slapping your arms, walking backwards, and throwing your back up against a wall is an apparent requirement when seeking retirement. My inner monologue used to ruthlessly mock this habit. Until one day, up came my arm and I decided to give it a go. It really does get the blood moving. I'm a fan.

8. I no longer use contractions in English. When we taught English here, we stripped our English of contractions because they tripped up all of our Chinese friends. Now I awkwardly say things like, "I cannot go to the store today. Let us go out to eat instead." This sounds like an English butler or someone getting their American citizenship for the first time.

9. I take pictures of people without asking or even pretending to be discrete. This is a daily occurrence for our family, so I have found it quite normal to aim my camera straight at someone without a second thought. This is going to get me arrested or on some type of neighborhood watch list when we visit the States. I am convinced that our kids' picture is on the wallpaper of hundreds of iPhones across China.

10. I yell at the waitress to bring our bill. This has taken a long time to get used to. I used to passively raise my hand or follow the poor girl around the restaurant. One day I realized that really and truly it's culturally appropriate to yell, "Hey waitress, bring the bill!"

So there you have it. For you and every one to know that I've got real issues here people. Please tell me that people living outside of the US have morphed in similar ways. It really would make me feel better about my current state of living.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To My Daughters: Insecurity is a Horrible Dance Partner

To My Daughters, 

It's ok to be afraid of the dark. You see, when I walk into a bathroom, my heart still pounds until my fingers inch their way to the light switch. There is unknown settled in the dark. When we can't see in front of us, we question even the things that we do confidently, like walking. Insecurity crouches in darkness. It enjoys the company of anonymity. The minute you pin down an Insecurity, you are equipped with the power to defeat it. Left alone, Insecurity can make a comfortable nest in the dark. And if left there long enough, its second home will be in the silent corners of your thought life.

They whisper. They mock. They sit sullenly in the corners, like at a junior high dance. They sit until you look their way and invite one of them to dance. At first you will feel as if he is following your lead. But before long, the music turns. You begin looking around you, wondering how many eyes are bearing into your soul. You start to question your ability to dance. As the music fades, you realize that you are no longer leading; you are following an uncomfortable flurry of footsteps that Insecurity seems to have memorized from frequent use.

He twirls you passed friends to showcase how effortlessly your life is being led by him. You waltz passed your parents who are thought you looked happy, like you were dancing with that man, Popularity. Your church friends don't recognize you with Insecurity with you, so they call him Humility.

You dance.  For hours you spin and circle the floor with ease. Insecurity can be a good dance partner. As a matter of fact, Insecurity is a popular dance partner. When he faces the crowd as Self-Deprecation, he's met with laughter. When he turns towards the church he can be labeled as A Good Team Player. Turning towards a spouse, he responds to the name, Indifference. But regardless of people's nicknames for him, he was birthed as Insecurity.

Eventually your legs get tired and your eyes dizzied from the blurred world of spinning. You've been turning for so long, desperately looking for a centering point. But Insecurity doesn't stop long enough for you to grasp your bearings. He knows that all he has to do is keep you in the dance.

It's up to you to stop. To bow out of this dance, turn off the music, and go home. Turn off the lights, throw away your dance shoes, and lock the doors. Leave no remnant of this dance because the second you turn around wondering what he is doing, he is right there ready to partner again. Walk away and don't look back.

There are better dances to abandon yourself to.

Pick music that will set your soul. 

Chose Freedom and Restoration. They make better dance partners in the long run. They aren't out to confuse your thinking or make you crave validation. They are out to secure you in grace; to remind you that they chose you, not the other way around. You will certainly find affection from the wrong partners at some point in this dance, but that doesn't mean you have to collapse your life into him. I hope that there is something in the music that your father and I have played that reminds your ears that there is something more real to be had. Find that music, trust that partner, and dance.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making Promises can be Destructive

Ten years ago, I finished up my time working with junior high and high school girls at a church. As wonderful as that job was for me, I discovered that I had picked up one rather destructive habit. My pattern of ministry was filled with promising a coffee date or taking a girl out to dinner and never actually following through on that invitation. My intention was pure. I wanted each and every girl to feel loved and wanted. I wanted to show them that despite their fathers being gone 80% of the year, I wanted to see them smile. With those motives, I opened my mouth and promised to meet with scores of young women. Many of them I followed up on, but sadly, many of them were left as empty promises.

Several years after leaving that job, I discovered this pattern of ministry that had grown in me. Somehow by telling someone that I'd love to get coffee with them felt like I had fulfilled loving them simply because I had extended the invitation. As I look back, the invitations that remained unmet, probably left those girls uttering the words, "Typical."

That makes me cringe just typing that. Just thinking how many girls rolled their eyes after I extended a bouncy invitation to meet them "sometime" for dinner.

This habit has taken years to unravel. It started as my kids began to understand what it meant to promise something. I would promise to play dolls and get caught up in doing dishes instead. Or I would promise to take them for ice cream and then tell them it would have to wait for another day, I was sorting laundry.

I got tired of weaving into them a distrust for promises. 

I started changing my vocabulary first. I began saying "maybe" and "we are thinking about..." a little more often. I kept my mouth shut unless I knew I could open my calender right there and scribble down a time to do that activity or meet with that person. 

This habit has been hard to break and I will say that at times I slip back into offering my time with a closed fist. But more and more I am realizing the damaging effect this has not only on my family, but my community. As believers, we need to follow through because it's gives an accurate picture of God's faithfulness to his children. By touting our promises and not following through, we are building into others that God is a manipulator or even worse, a liar.

When he says things like, "I, I am he who comforts you," a hurting person needs to trust in that even if they don't understand it.

When God reminds us, "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand," a frightened little girl needs to know that shaded darkness won't make her afraid.

I want my kids to understand that when God says, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God," that it doesn't God tolerates them, but adopts them into his family.

I hear people despair when they talk of wanting authentic community. But I also hear people promise to have someone over for dinner or invite them out to coffee and never follow through. Community isn't built on empty promises of intimacy.

 It's built on sitting across the table from someone and entering the messy.

 It's built on sitting Indian style on the carpet and actually doing the puzzle with your 4-year old. 

It's built on inviting your neighbors over for dinner, even if there's play-dough scattered on the kitchen table.

Intimacy is kept by following through. If we wait for the perfect timing to follow through we will never do it. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that the simple invitation is an act of love. It is not. The act of love comes by sacrificing your own time because that other person is worth it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We are Having THE TALK-"The Wonderful Way Babies are Made"

 It just happens. Jokes, questions, connecting dots, and then THE TALK. I have really enjoyed having "the talk" with our kids. At this point, only my 11 and 9-year old have sat with us to talk about the whole procreation thing. I've been biting my lip every Christmas as we deal with the title, Virgin Mary, because my younger ones are asking way too many questions already.

 The Wonderful Way Babies are Made is our go to book when the time finally comes to have, "The Talk."

I'm not going to walk you through how to have this talk with your kids. Sorry friends. I'm scared of the keyword searches that might link people to my blog. And well, you know your kids and your family. The thing I will say though is HAVE THE TALK. Living here, we've seen the hurt young people experience because you just don't talk about these things in Chinese culture. So you have these poor married couples that have no idea how to make babies. Or that this is not just about making babies, but making a marriage. 

About the book. 

These pictures are beautiful and diverse and lovely. It's not just pages of white people. That's reason enough to buy it. 

On each page there are two stories. One is a poem that weaves the stories of procreation in a younger child format. It starts with how God had intention and beauty in mind when he created the earth. Next, he leads kids through how flowers and animals reproduce. Mother hamsters make baby hamsters and so forth.

On the same page is a more detailed description of how all of this works. A little more biology and explanation. The writing describes everything as not just a means to a baby, but something to be treasured and enjoyed because that's how God made us. About 3/4 of the way through, a family is put together through adoption. If we are talking about putting families together through biology, isn't it also appropriate to teach kids about adoption!

The story ends with a reminder that Joseph adopted Jesus. That a beautiful story of redemption was being played out when Joseph took Jesus as his own. 

I highly recommend this book for talking to your kids about intimate issues. The words are beautifully written, carefully crafted, and age-appropriate. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Focusing in on Best Things

I have said several times on this little space that 2013 is my year of boundaries. I'm attempting to shave away good things so as to have a larger space for best things.

This post on Desiring God walks us through some litmus tests on deciding whether or not to take on something new. 

It goes on to say this:

"Questions are mental machetes God gives us to slash through the overgrowth of the world’s demands on us. We are not to uncritically take a new obligation on. We must test it against what we want to become. So we must ask obligations questions like  

Why should I do this?

Why now? 

What is it promising me? 

What kingdom end will it accomplish?

Will it fragment my focus on my primary callings?

Why does it feel so emotionally compelling to me?"

It's easy to think that our motives are pure when we say "yes" to something. For me, asking that last question about emotional compelling is a big one. I have found that many times my yes is a subtle luring of the affections of others. When this is my motivation, that means that my reward is given to me by men on this earth and in this life. That makes void the greater, more fulfilling reward that the Lord promises me from him. Working overseas like we do can be a dangerous calling for the heart.

We can:

--see people as projects simply so that we have something to report.

--invite ourselves into situations simply so that we can tell others that we were there when...

--allow our egos to inflate when people praise our sacrifices.

--feel like we are more important than we actually are.

--look down on the national people that we work with as if they need our constant influx of wisdom and knowledge.

Asking these questions laid out above is crucial to our hearts. It allows our humility to become a committed part of our hearts rather than a platitude said during prayer time.

Asking these questions very quickly becomes not just a way to become less busy, but a way to check our hearts as we submit our daily tasks to our Father.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...