Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's On My Nighstand?

What's on my nightstand? A whole lot of Dan Allender, that's what. I've been reading his book To Be Told. I had partly read it once before, but I picked it up again recently when I re-wrote an outline of my life (something we encourage people to do in our leadership training). It's been helping me identify places in my life where difficult things happened to shape me (as he calls it "Shalom Shattered), how I tried to redeem those places in my own way apart from God ("Shalom Sought") and how God wants to use those things for His glory.

As I'm wrapping that up, I also pulled The Healing Path off the shelf, another Allender book. This one goes more deeply into a lot of the same themes, helping me focus on how God is redeeming me and my role in the process. I feel like both of these books are back in my life at just the right time to help me know and understand my story and my heart.

And as if that weren't enough, as I've mentioned before we have a group of us watching a Dan Allender video series every other Friday night called Learning to Love Your Story. If I don't after all this, I really don't think I can blame a lack of input.

Not the 99%

We've always been a little confused at the number of people who get off on the 11th floor of our building (it's 12 stories - we're on the top). We just figured the people living in those two apartments had a lot of friends.

Yesterday Erik learned the truth - they all live there. 10 families, 5 on each side. We realized that meant that 5 families were sharing the equivalent of the 1st floor of our apartment - probably about 1500 sq ft (yes, we have a huge apartment). It's hard to even comprehend how they share 3 bedrooms (one nested inside another), 2 bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a dining room. It's possible they have renovated it differently than ours, but the fact is that doesn't leave much space for anyone. I mean this includes kids too. You have to really like the other people in the house.

This morning I took the dog for a walk down a country road nearby where there are still row houses - long, one story brick buildings which I doubt have running water or heat (they do have satellite though). I was further reminded that when it comes to the entire world, we're definitely not the 99%. 

We could live here

but at least we'd have reception

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Weeks Between

There is an odd phenomenon that happens here at this time each year. The government controlled heat shuts off on or around March 15th (this year we had it until the 18th). The weeks preceding that, at least in our 12th floor apartment, are quite warm. The kids and I run around in t-shirts without any socks, and we still have to crack windows in order to not sweat. We even resorted to running our AC at night so we could sleep.

After the heat shuts off, it slowly becomes almost as cold inside as it is outside. For us here, that means 30's and 40's at night and up to about 50 or 60 during the day. Then it begins to go the other direction. Today, it is 75 degrees outside, but I am still sitting here with a long sleeved shirt and pants, in a sunny spot of the house (or I'd be wearing more). For the next few weeks, outside will be warmer than inside.

It makes life a little confusing. It's hard to know how to dress. In the beginning, you have to dress for spring inside but bundle up to head out. Now, it's the opposite.

But we can't complain - all this means spring is here!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Project 365 - March 12-18

Day 12 - I'm a creepy stalker. Remind me not to cook in my kitchen late at night or people across the way might pull out their telephoto lenses.

Day 13 - how do dogs know just how you feel? Scout stayed close to Ethan while he was super sick.

Day 14 - Bamboo fencing around a neighborhood yard

Day 15 - guest photographer Ethan caught me with Scout

Day 16 -ever hopeful

Day 17 - this little boy did NOT want to go with mom

Day 18 - Scout being rewrapped at the vet after getting her stitches out

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Have a Little Faith

For the last week, Scout has been wearing the Dishtowel of Shame. She's had to wear it to protect the wound from her surgery last Sunday - we got her fixed (as Megan says, "Because she was broken.") It wore her out - in this picture she was literally falling asleep standing up.

But once she emerged from her anesthesia induced fog, we were told we could go about normal business with her. The vet should have told the general public this information, because we have had no shortage of dirty looks and criticism. Some people look at us like we are cruel animal owners to drag her outside in this condition. Others laugh and comment about her funny clothes, as though we chose this outfit for her.

The most surprising though is the number of people who feel they must comment on the surgery itself. When we tell them why she is wearing a dishrag, they inevitably say, "Oh, she's too young to have that done. You should wait until she's grown." When we tell them that she IS full grown, they respond by insisting that she is a Labrador or a Golden Retriever. If we inform them that she is neither and that she is 7 months old, they tell us we should have waited till she is nine months.

What baffles me in these conversations (you may have noticed I am often baffled in this country), is that they seem to have little faith in the veterinarians who performed this surgery. Do they think that the doctors would not have confirmed her age? Or that they are back alley vets just looking to make a buck off of ignorant foreigners? I'm sorely tempted to tell them that we did it ourselves and we just didn't know. Mostly I just wish they would have a little faith in us and our doctors and our collective intelligence regarding the age, breed, and treatment of Scout.

I'm really looking forward to getting the dishtowel off so we can go back to being a little bit less conspicuous.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Project 365 - March 8-11

Watching our jiaozi steam

Ethan decided to try to stick his hair up before class.

This is what I saw all of Saturday as I lay sick in bed

Scout sleeping off the effects of anesthesia

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Project 365 - March 1-7

March 1 - old man on the street

March 2 - street food

March 3 - Poor Scout

March 4 - kneading bread

March 5 - peeking

March 6 - flag through the school gates
March 7 - the drum ladies are back!

My Secret

Sometimes people say they don't know how I get as much done as I do. Part of it is just how I'm wired - God made me high energy and high capacity. I'm glad He did because I like that about me. Part of it is that I'm also wired to want to look good. Of that part I'm not such a fan, but I'm learning to let go.

But the biggest part of it is that I don't do half of what it looks like I do and that's the truth. I don't do most of my own grocery shopping. I don't do laundry. I don't dust or sweep or mop my floors. I certainly don't get around to washing my windows or cleaning out my cupboards. And yet my house is in a near constant state of order and I am free to go about my day, all because of a lovely young woman named Xiao Xue (those of you unfamiliar with Mandarin pronunciation, I encourage you not to attempt pronouncing her name. You will be wrong).

This is one of the great blessings of living in a developing country - house help is relatively inexpensive and culturally normal. Women will come and clean, cook, and watch your children, for a few dollars an hour. It doesn't set us apart to have someone helping us - in fact, when our kids were younger and I was outside with them alone, people would ask me often why I was watching my children myself, instead of having a helper do it for me. I don't need someone to watch my kids anymore, but I do need someone to clean because the dust in this city is phenomenal, and someone to grocery shop because somehow everything like that takes twice as long here. Why is that?

Xiao Xue came to me "on loan" from some friends who were out of the country for 6 months. She came every weekday morning for 4 hours. Within two weeks, I was secretly hoping my friends would never come back so I could keep Xiao Xue. Unfortunately, about a month in, her husband was in a terrible car accident and almost died. For the next 5 months she had to wait on him constantly as he endured several surgeries. When you have a family member in the hospital here, you are expected to take care of them yourself, so it was a full time job for her. I squeaked by with someone two afternoons a week who didn't work nearly as quickly as her.

By the time Xiao Xue could work again, my friend was back. To our surprise, we found that Xiao Xue was reluctant to work for her because she lived further away. She wanted to work for us instead! Since then, she comes cheerfully into our house every morning between 9 and 9:30 and stays until 1 or 1:30. She and I will chat occasionally. I'll share funny stories of things that have been happening in the house and we laugh together. She'll comment on how she sees the kids growing and learning. Just now I walked into the kitchen and found all my baking supplies on the counter because she was taking the initiative to clean out that cabinet. I would probably never have done that on my own. I hope she never leaves us because I don't know what I would do without her (well, yes I do. I would either clean a lot and do nothing else or have a really messy house. And I would not blog).

So there have you have it. My secret is out. I'm not anywhere near a super mom. I'm just a mom with a wonderful helper.

Friday, March 02, 2012


If thou could`st empty all thyself of self
by Sir Thomas Browne

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself - `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`

Oh that I would be the former!