I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

…and I don’t know when I’ll be back again. With a pair of chopsticks for beginners, some notes from beloved new friends in my bag, and a heart full of memories, I have 4 hours and 33 minutes until I land in Seattle. Yesterday was filled with tears and hugs. One of the most difficult parts was saying goodbye to Anton, whom I have come to love and adore almost as if he were my own child. When the time came to leave, I choked up with sobs and so did the nanny. He was crying and she was squeezing my hand and I was telling both of them that I love them, and they were saying the same to me. I didn’t know you could learn to love someone so easily without words, but you can. All things hold together under Him.

I’m nearly ready to be home, but I don’t know what to do with a very heavy heart—a heart heavy with thanksgiving and missing people aged 2 to 55 already. I’ve never been a part of a Christian community in such a powerful way as I have the past 6 weeks. People showed genuine respect for each other despite their age and position; we were humbled by prayer and consequential miracles. We were united by love for the people of China. I cannot help but think that we all were made for such community as is described in Acts, in which the believers share their lives and possessions with each other without hesitation. If nourishment and provision (both physical and spiritual) are what is needed to keep one’s own body alive, then how much more so the body of Christ? I learned we need to be looking out for each other in truth, no matter how uncomfortable or humbling it can be at times. We need to let go of being obsessed with doing everything ourselves and allow ourselves to be unified with others who may not be our first choice of family members, because “In him we move and breathe and have our being.”

I was asked this Thursday in our final intern meeting what key things the LORD had taught me over the past two months. The answer came to me almost immediately, though I didn’t know I had one. I’ve finally begun to learn something I’ve tried to accept for years now, and the lesson came in the most unexpected and subtle, humble ways this time. I learned that genuine, real, true, deep, the best love is not earned. It is freely given.

It finally clicked in my mind that if the best love we can give each other is Christ’s love, then that love must be ridiculously un-earned, un-deserved, un-assuming. If we are truly to love each other as Christ did, then the initiative is ours; we must not wait for others to earn our love or trust or affections till we begin to love each other—just as there is no way we can earn or should try to earn the love of Christ. To do so would mean carrying the weight of the world’s sin upon our shoulders, dying for the world in love, and coming back to life to reign over the universe. None of us can do that, so none of us should try. It must be the same with our love for each other. These past few weeks, I was in a small way at the mercy of the Chinese people and the Westerners who allowed me to share in their lives. I couldn’t possibly earn the Chinese workers’ or children’s love, because I could not persuade them with words or gifts or give them anything they needed physically. It was the same with the Westerners—it was their choice to welcome me and invest in me despite the fact that I would be leaving in 6 weeks.

The wonderful, amazing, humbling thing is that both Chinese and Westerners alike opened their hearts and arms and homes to me without reserve and without hesitation. The Chinese people I worked with made sure I ate on time, that the kids behaved respectfully towards me, that I knew I was appreciated by having someone translate their love for me into English. The Westerners poured the love and knowledge of Christ into me, along with their food, homes, time, and friendship. The interns I was with invested deeply in each others’ hearts, constantly lifting each other up in prayer and with Scriptural encouragement and hugs. The best way to love is to love without abandon. As one who has spent a lifetime trying to earn the love of both God and humans, this is an incredibly freeing and mind-blowing lesson.  I pray and hope with all my being that I can continue to grow in that truth He revealed to me through children, foreigners, and Chinese brothers and sisters. 1 John 3 says “There is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  

I would like to thank each of you for reading this blog and for caring for me and investing in me. I love you very much. May you walk in freedom and love without fear, for it is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free!

He Knows My Name

Yesterday, one of the most joyous scenes of my life occurred–Anton learned to dance.
I started playing kids cds for him and watching his little body slowly yet unconsciously learn to move to the beat. It’s cute to see his head bobbing while he spoons rice into his mouth or sits on the floor with books. His therapist came in yesterday morning, and I turned on an American classics party cd. We sat down and held his hands to help him stand and wiggle to the music, but when “You make me wanna SHOUT!” came on, there was no going back. We stood in a line, Anton between us, holding hands. Zoe, his therapist, and I began to slowly stomp and kick our feet, tapping his legs to get him to do the same. Soon, we were all giggling like two year olds, stomping and doing the can-can to “oh hoh you make me wanna SHOUT! Hallelujah, now…” His therapist is not very confident in her English, so we don’t talk much, but for the duration of that one song, it was as if we all were the same. Joy flooded my heart as I danced and laughed with two Chinese friends to a hopelessly American traditional tune. God is so good to let me experience that—it truly transcended all of our differences, uniting us in Joy. It was pure, and it lasted for 4.5 minutes, but it was enough to remind me that moments like those are one of the millions of reasons to delight in life and keep living, despite confusion, despite darkness, despite despair.
Another thing God has been reminding me of lately is the importance of names. He knows our name like a shepherd knows his sheep; He calls us by name, His name is our stronghold. I see a shepherd every day, several times a day, on my walk to and from the foster home. He holds a whip in one hand and a cell phone in the other, but not one of his sheep strays or is missing. He leads them beside the waters of a creek and gives them good things to eat. How much more does our Heavenly Shepherd lead us in paths of righteousness, of goodness, for His Name’s sake?
This week, a new little 4 month baby girl arrived at the foster home. She has a cleft palate and a heart condition, and she is so beautiful. The foster home interns were given the privilege of naming her, and you would not believe the excitement with which we awaited her arrival. We named her Lena, which means Gentle Peacemaker. She is absolutely gorgeous—she looks like a tiny rosebud flower child, to say the least.
It’s good to know He knows my name and delights in it, as the perfect Author of Love. It’s even better to know that His name is my rear guard and goes before me, illuminating my paths. Blessed be the NAME of the LORD!

China, Lately

Here are some of the most recent things I’ve seen and experienced within the past three weeks. Enjoy!

Like a Child

Hello, dearly beloved! I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this, so I will try to give you some of the highlights from the past week and a half. Thank you for reading! Last Friday, the foster home took a fieldtrip to the Olympic Water Cube—the sight of the swimming competitions of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

http://newdaycreations.com/foster/album/trip0711/pic.html

The kids were excited as they only get to go swimming once a year. I was paired up with Serena, a beautiful ten year old girl with a mild mental handicap and an infectious smile. After only a half an hour of singing songs like “Joy to the World” together, Serena pretended to call me using my cell phone. Our conversations went something like this:

Serena: “Ring Ring Ring!!!”

Me: “Hello?”

Serena: “Hello! I’m going swimming today.”

Me: “Really?? Me too! Let’s go together.”

Serena: “Okay. Lub you bye!”

Me (tearing up) : “Love you, bye.”

We had a great day together; I helped her swim, she showed me small things that taught me the art of delighting. I should probably mention that I was wearing a horrendously tacky swim costume similar to those displayed in a Beijing On Ice performance, due to my unfortunate lack of American swimsuit attire. Yikes.  At one point, I found myself holding hands with three Chinese handicapped girls and their non-English speaking nanny, spinning in a circle in the water, giggling, splashing, and treading water for balance. As a clutzy Caucasian female jumping and laughing in a Beijing Ice skater queen outfit, (who can barely hold chopsticks yet alone wield them), I certainly didn’t fit in. But somewhere amidst Serena’s helpless falling and my anxious protecting, that ceased to matter. All I needed to know was how to splash uninhibitedly and how to save someone from a face-plant by scooping them into a watery hug. What if the rest of life were that simple? I am starting to believe that maybe it is.

Lately, God has been teaching me what it means to walk blindly and by faith. He has done this in a big way through teaching me His perspective as I care for kids who are dependent on me. Tonight, as I was feeding Andy his dinner, I was literally saturated with joy because he was communicating with me verbally. We said “Uh oh!!” together every time something fell from the spoon or from his mouth. He used his fingers to point at which bite he wanted next; he mumbled and spoke gibberish and looked up at me, pleased with himself and reaching for high fives. It was pure communion, and it didn’t take much. There was a friendship between us that resulted from his dependence and my desire to love. Isn’t that the same way with God? We often assume He requires perfection of us before He deigns to commune with us, but that simply isn’t the case. If a few mumbled words and a smile from a two year old can fill an imperfect 21 year old girl with unspeakable joy, then how much more is a perfectly loving God delighted by our mumbled prayers, our teetering steps of faith, our falling and reaching for Him? Don’t be afraid to approach Him as a helpless child in need of a Father! His strength and love are made perfect in our weakness. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

 

 

The View from Here

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us!

Hello, Friends and Family!

Thank you for continuing to read and for lifting me up before the Father. I can feel your love and see the results of your prayers each day as He fills me with His strength, patience, and love.

I have grown closer to the community here this week, especially the 5 girls with whom I share an apartment. There has been much laughter, mistaking-of-packaged-Chinese-foods-for-Craisins disasters, and godly fellowship. I am so thankful for each of them.

My week at the foster home was more difficult. I was sick this week, and I have been growing a bit weary from the early mornings and picking up and swinging and singing to very needy kids all day. I guess I thought that I would have endless strength and energy because of my love for them and desire to serve them, but the limits of my physical body have been discouraging my heart and spirit at times. I have been asking Him for strength and energy for each day that is not my own, because it often feels like I have none left to give.

Another little girl came home from the hospital into the critical care unit where I spend my days. I will call her Bella. Bella has epilepsy; a few nights ago the nannies told us she had over 200 seizures. It is heartbreaking to be holding her and feel her body tense up and twitch, to watch her face contort in pain and not know how to help her. Yesterday I held her hand in mine when she slept because I didn’t want her to feel alone. It probably helped me in my helplessness more than her. Would you petition the Lord on her behalf? She needs rest; she needs peace, she needs to grow mentally and physically.

Yesterday, I got out early from my foster home duties. I was feeling kind of down because I wanted Andy to like me—to never hit me or refuse my love, to know that I was here for his good and not to restrain him—to know that I hate placing an oxygen mask on his face and watching him cry almost as much as he hates wearing it. But there is no way to tell him that other than to hug him, to serve him, to kiss his cheeks and dance with him, hoping he will understand my love. I was walking out the front door when Andy and his nanny passed me on the steps. He smiled and reached his arms out for me and started crying when I tried to leave. I kissed him and he blew me a kiss, as well. A friend who was with me said, “Now THAT has to make you feel good!”

I answered, “It does, but I don’t understand why or how he can kiss me one moment and then literally turn around and slap my face when he’s mad at me.”

As I walked away, it struck me that that is precisely what I do to God every time I sin—every time I refuse His love. I seek Him out, I cherish and long for His presence, and the next moment I slander His name, I lose my temper, I refuse His love, I slap His face. How this must break His heart. How deep HIS love must be to never give up on me, as I have been so tempted to give up on Andy.  Yet His love is higher than the heavens, farther than the east is from the west, deeper than any sin or pain or confusion we experience as humans. We sang this song in church last week, and I believe it affirms what God taught me this week. I pray it blesses your heart, as well.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure!
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life–
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom

Because of Your Great Name

Dearly Beloved,

Greetings!

My first week working in the foster home was exhausting and very rewarding; it went by in a blur of spoon feeding and ball tossing, so I will give you the highlights. Thank you for reading!

I chose to work in the Critical Care unit of the foster home, which is a wing of the home for kids who either just returned from surgery or are not healthy enough to join the other kids. Right now, there are two kids in there and two in the hospital who should return next week. I have had the most fun and interaction with a two year old boy with a cleft lip, cleft palate, and breathing and heart problems who has also stolen my heart. I have therefore decided to steal him at my own risk and pack him in my carryon for the journey home. I cannot tell you his name due to privacy laws with adoption agencies.

I am learning Chinese baby talk and basic sign language in order to communicate with him and the nanny on duty who is also in the room with me. This week, I have been helping him feed himself. Needless to say, there has been much laughter and throwing up of the hands; I love when he and I are able to laugh uproariously at funny sounds and dramatic head motions and body flailings. Love is pretty much the universal language–and that is no cliche.

 

 The other child is an 8 month old baby girl–a literal Chinese angel baby who underwent four surgeries by the time she was 4 months old. Her spina bifia ruptured at birth, leaving her virtually paralyzed from the  belly button down. She cannot feel a thing and is not expected to be able to move her legs. This week, God has been bringing the verse Malachi 4:2 to the forefront of my mind. It says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” This verse was received from the Lord during a prayer time over this little girl’s recent surgeries. The part “Like calves leaping from the stall” is especially poignant due to her dead legs. She undergoes therapy on them every day to strengthen her legs and neck muscles.

Yesterday morning, she started wailing. I held her and began to rock her. As she looked up at me with wide eyes and a grin on her face, her legs began to slowly twitch. Soon, she was kicking. “It’s a miracle!,” cried Amy as she walked into the room. And it was. She fell asleep slowly flexing her legs with a look of utter peace upon her face. Tears came to my eyes as the thought that I was literally holding a miracle came to mind. “Like calves leaping from the stall,” He said, and He delivered.

Isaiah 55: 10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

The boy with the pink balloon.

I’m in China! Thank you all for your prayers. Today was a long day–after lying awake for most of the night (thanks, jet lag) some of the interns rented a van this morning which took us an hour away to an international church in Beijing. Worshipping with a room full of God’s people from many nations was beautiful. Although I knew in my heart it was true, I got to witness with my own eyes that the body and unity of Christ truly does transcend and shatter cultural barriers. We all were there for the same reason, worshipping the same God, taking communion and tithing as Christians have for centuries and, I hope, will continue to do.

But my favorite part of the day was when our van stopped outside of a grocery store. I was sitting with a few other people in the van–the doors and windows of which were open, when I saw a little boy and his mother across the street, squatting on the pavement with a Starbucks cup held out for money. The boy was playing with a partially deflated pink balloon, the string of which was three long deflated balloons tied together. He was dirty but smiling and waving his toy with vigour. He looked up and noticed me watching him from the window. I smiled at him and waved. He smiled and tottered across the street towards me in his worn pink foam sandals. His mother had told him to go to me as a begging tactic; she scooped him up and held her cup through the window at me, indicating that she needed money for her boy.

I felt stupid. A little boy had trapped me with his smiles and wiles and his mother was using him to twist money and love out of my heart. It worked, but not in the way I expected. You see, I couldn’t say no. I wanted to, but hey–I guess my motherly instincts kicked in or something. I put three notes in her cup–she thanked me and took her boy across the street,  but the boy wasn’t done with me just because his mother was. He proceeded to smile bashfully and wave his balloon at me. I made exaggerated happy faces at him and waved out the window until his mother picked him up and brought him towards me a second time. “I don’t want to give more money,” I thought, Wasn’t once good enough for her?

“He love you,” she stated simply, pointing at her son. I kissed his sweaty, smudged forehead. His fingernails were dirty and he had a scab under his eye. He was beautiful. We hit the balloon back and forth through the window until it was time to go. I was reminded that loving people like Christ did isn’t easy–especially when you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, or like you haven’t been properly rewarded for your efforts. But Christ was spit upon, mocked, beaten, rejected…and still He died for the same people who betrayed and crucified Him. He tells us not to store up treasure on earth, like the praises and rewards of man, but to store up treasure in Heaven, where mortality is swallowed up by eternity. And yet, He in His supreme mercy often does reward His people with joy in love given and received…like a little boy with a pink balloon.

The LORD, Who Sends.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s […]