Thought I should write a post saying that Jason and I are headed back to China in August.  I will be going for one month to take part in a 2 week medical mission in the city of Xian (8 hours away from Shiyan) and when that’s done Jason will join me to spend some time visiting our old friends in Shiyan and Wuhan area.  We’re totally pumped about getting back there; yep, I was looking for an excuse to get there and I’ve always wanted to do medical missions.  It’s why I became a nurse in the first place so to have the chance to get some experience in China?  Nothing could be better.  I leave August 3 and Jason leaves August 13.  We’ll be back Augsut 31.  Whew, just in time for the Labor Day Classic.  We get to stop on our way back and see HK Harm’s hood.  The month of August will be a sweet one.

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This day marks the one year mark since we returned to Canada from China.  And even having typed that and knowing that it is indeed a reality makes my mind swirl.  It makes me happy to know that it has been that long, I have survived the worst of the culture shock!  And it makes me sad to know that it’s been THAT long since we’ve been away from our dear friends there.  I also wonder as I look at the time, how can so much happen in one year; and so little?  I had to go back and read this post again.  I wrote it the night before we left Shiyan.

from June 24, 2006

Last night in Shiyan

Well, it’s 3:30 am on our last night in this town, and I guess we’ll be heading to the train station in about 12 hours (which has me realizing just how short on sleep I’m going to be by the time I get there!). This week has been a wonderful one, full of surprise visits and meaningful last times with friends here. It has crossed my mind many times how and why loving people can be so painful though! Having to leave our dear friends here, those who we have journeyed with for a few years, feels honestly like some kind of pain! I remember back to having to leave our families for the first time and how hard that was, but I knew I’d see them again in a year’s time! It’s pretty tough to know that I may not see these special friends for a long while…and many things will have changed when we meet again. We can never come back to this time and this place with these people. Our hopes for them are many, and our experience tells us that He is faithful beyond expectation. We will keep asking that He continues the good things he has begun in their lives, and wait to hear the details of it! This little town has brought us so many blessings. It all seems so surreal that tomorrow we will leave the home and culture we’ve had for three years and return to our homeland. While thinking about leaving and what we’ll miss from China, many things come to mind…-falling asleep to the sound of thousands of croaking frogs-late April when the smell of jasmine flowers fills every corner of campus-the variety and freshness of the vegetables and fruit that can be found-heat and humidity (beats goosebumps anyday!)-being on the high end of the pay scale (when will that ever happen again?!? )-being within train distance to anywhere in Asia

-the extra status you being a foreigner and that people usually listen when you say something

-walking out onto any street at midnight and meeting vendors willing to cook you delicious meat on a stick, fried rice, or whatever you ask for!

-the amount of people that can be seen in any direction that you look (so much activity to watch!)

-the MSG that gets loaded into the dishes in every restaurant that make them taste SO good (haha, this one was a joke to see if you were still with me, we won’t miss that too much)

But all these pale in comparison to how much ache our hearts feel at having to leave the 15 close friends we have here. I can’t find words for it at the moment. It is purely selfish on my part, but I can’t help wanting to be around to see what happens next in their journeys. They each have a unique and powerful story to tell and it is not over yet! But our part in it is finished for the time being, perhaps we will find out why in the future. He is faithful and has never failed in giving a child what is needed when it is needed.

We will return to Canadian soil in one week, and there are many things we’re looking forward to, but at the moment they seem a world away and hard to put our minds on. We will have a few days in Beijing and hope to try to get our minds around the changes that we are in the midst of. I will have to write a happier, more excited blog about things I’m looking forward to in coming home, but that will be in a few days. For now, I just know that tomorrow will be a tough one because loving people a lot hurts, but I will be taking comfort in the fact that no one knows this better than our heavenly Father. And He still chose to love extravagantly and never regretted it for a second.

I’ll end with a quote from the dear Mother Teresa, someone who followed the Great example and found one of the secrets to loving:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

I’ll keep working on it I guess. Goodnight for the last time from Shiyan…
-s

Party in Shiyan

So now here we are a year later.  In the midst of my depression (and it was bad enough to call it that) this past year, I couldn’t see why I was as low as I was.  I had nothing to give others, and I couldn’t even offer up any prayer much more than “help!”  Now that God has helped me out of the darkest part of that valley, I can see the reasons that I was where I was.  What I missed the most were the individual people.  In the three years that I knew them, I can honestly say that I poured my heart into those kids like they were my own.  I did not hold back…I knew why I was in China.  I was not gifted with t he things that Jason was gifted with.  I was not a great teacher and I was not a good storyteller or entertainer.  I was limited and at times I wished that I could have the talents that others had so I had more to offer in my short time there.  But I do know that the reason I was in China was to love and to give.  Some say that in life, some things you don’t understand until you are a parent with your own kids.  And to some extent I feel like I can understand some of those things.  For three years my life was wrapped up in little else but their walks, their needs, their happiness, their worries, and looking for ways to be used to bring them to more understanding and faith.

I can still remember vividly the train ride from Shiyan to Beijing, after leaving all our brothers and sisters at the station.  It felt like my heart had been separated from my body.  I don’t know how many test messages I sent during that train ride, but there were many.  I slept with the phone.  Of course I felt that they would be well taken care of; and I was not worried for their faith or their futures.  I just knew I would miss them dearly for a long long time.  And that it was going to hurt me.  So I do know why I have been so down this year.  And to be honest it kind of feels good to know that I’ve had a reason to be where I’ve been.  When you’re in the midst of depression you can’t really undersand why you’re there.  If you could you might be able to find a way to get out of it, but at the time, it just feels like you’re in a place you know you shouldn’t be and that just adds to the stress of thinking that you can’t do anything right.  So anyway…I’m admitting that I’ve been in mourning this year.  Mourning being so far from my “kids”, mourning knowing the purpose of my days (a tangible way to spend my time), and mourning a way of living life that I came to love… living life in community, being close on a daily basis with others who are all trying to be Jesus to those around them, and I miss the encouragement that that brought to me.  But it’s ok to be there, and to have been there, and I’m giving myself permission for it.  After all I’m 30 now, and I figure the older you get, the less you have to ask if anyone thinks you’re ok or not.  I know that it won’t last forever, and I do recall a few distinct instances along this past year that even though I did not feel God’s presence in my life, I know that he was there with me.  And I recall the clear mesage that he gave me through something I saw or a thought that crossed my mind.  They kept me going and remind me even today that he has a plan for me here.  And I will cling to that hope because if i don’t have that I don’t have anything.

Today i am taking a ‘music bath’, which means that I’ve pulled out some favorites and immersed myself in some loud tunes that I enjoy in order to relax.  Jason’s out at his hockey tournament (yep, I’m cheering from home) with Andrew, and Matthew and Tamara are out for the day so I have the whole house to myself, which rarely happens around here.  So I’ve made cupcakes, danced around, sang pretty loud and bad, and got some odds and ends done.  An “oldie but a goodie” came on and it made me stop and listen more closely.  You know when you hear a song that totally expresses where you are at the moment?  Somehow it is able to express what’s in your heart better than you ever could with words.  Music is so powerful like that; it can say things more clearly and with the emotion the words need more than you could ever express if you were to just say them.  I feel like this song (classic dc talk) talks about my life and desires this past week:

I keep trying to find a life
On my own, apart from You
I am the queen of excuses
I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do

What’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a girl in need of a Savior

I wanna be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light
All I want is to be in the Light

The disease of self runs through my blood
It’s a cancer fatal to my soul
Every attempt on my behalf has failed
To bring this sickness under control

Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a girl in need of a Savior

Honesty becomes me
[There’s nothing left to lose]
The secrets that did run me
[In Your presence are defused]
Pride has no position
[And riches have no worth]
The fame that once did cover me
[Has been sentenced to this Earth]
Has been sentenced to this Earth

Tell me, what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a girl in need of a Savior

[There’s no other place that I want to be]
[No other place that I can see]
[A place to be that’s just right]
[Someday I’m gonna be in the Light]

[You are in the Light]
[That’s where I need to be]
[That’s right where I need to be]

 

What a perfect picture to represent this concept of closeness with Jesus.  Yeah, I gotta get back there.  It’s so easy to talk about it, blog about it, read books about it, but why are we so so bad at doing it?  (I won’t say I’m the only bad one, I know I’m not alone on this one, but at the moment I really suck at it)  Is it laziness, lack of faith, my priorities, what? Now I’m just rambling.  No need to figure out why, only need to turn it around.  I’ll stop on this for now…


I had a lovely St. Paddy’s Day because Mom and Dad were up again and I got to spend it with them.  Dad had an eye appointment yesterday so they spent the night yesterday and we had some time together.  Since I had nothing green, green (I’m more of a blue girl) to wear, my proudly Irish mother lent me her bright green beads to wear and a HUGE shamrock keychain which I had to wear for the day.  Yeah, thanks Mom.  We did have a nice day together shopping and meandering about downtown…and I did get a nice green shirt out of the deal.  Now I’ll be prepared for March 17, 2008, thanks to my great Irish mama.

Matthew and I also repotted some shamrock plants (green and purple!) for the occasion and they are beautiful…one of the best St. Paddy’s Days I’ve ever had I think.

Jason and I joined the Regina Ballroom Dance Club last fall… I have watched too many fun movies (starting in the 80’s with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Dirty Dancing, Shall We Dance, and many others) and I wanted to give it a try.  It looked like way too much fun on the big screen.  I never went to any school dances and I grew up in pretty conservative ‘sit on your hands and don’t make any noise’ church, so at the beginning of class we were both pretty out of our comfort zones to say the least!  But luckily we’re not the only ones in that boat.

We’re been learning a few of the most basic dances since the fall, and 6 weeks ago an older gentleman with the dance club convinced us to sign up for an extra class to do a performance in April for the whole club (500 people) at the last dance of the year.  Knowing us, you might ask us what he did to convince us to do such a thing.  I still don’t know why on earth we signed up for this…it’s laughable even when I think of going through with it, but we’ve been having fun at our practices!  So we’ll look like this by the end of it all…

 Just kidding…maybe something more like this…

We’re doing a swing routine- not latin quite yet.  Less than a month to practice, but it’s pretty fun to know the steps well enough to have fun just dancing.  Our group that we’ll be performing with is with 5 other couples and we have less than a month before showtime.

More practicing to do and shoe shopping are on this week’s list of to do’s.  If anyone can give me tips on how to walk in high heels that’d be a great pre-requisite for learning how to dance in them.  What a silly idea.  AIYAH!  If I don’t fall on my face it will be something! 

And you should see Jason’s moves…move over Ricky Martin!

It’s pretty tough to be down in the dumps for too long when you have weather like this to remind you of all the good there is in life.  This weekend I have been grateful for the warmth of sunshine, the songbirds in the morning, for the brown grass that’s peeking through the melting snow, and the cheeriness of many who are affected positively by the same.  I’m thankful for people who show that they care about me when I don’t feel loveable (through emails and prayers, comments left on this thing, or visits), and I’m thankful for good books that can take me into another world and give me something else to think about besides myself and my own perspective.  I just finished reading “Morrie: In His Own Words”.  This is the book of wisdom and words of a man who is 77 and whose body is slowly degenerating from ALS.  ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease that weakens and eventually destroys motor neurons, which connects the brain to the skeletal muscle tissue.  So this short little book is about a man who has been given a death sentence and how he lives in the midst of that knowledge, reaching out to family and friends, how he grieves his losses and helps his friends deal with the one they will face, and how to develop an inner space for meditaion and spiritual connection in the midst of having little privacy with his caregivers ever-present.  He shares his experience of fully living while dying and shows that it’s never too late to be the person you’d like to be. 

This book was a timely one for me to read…last weekend I attended my cousin’s funeral.  Chris Tucker, just a year older than me, died in a car accident this month, so the thoughts occupying my mind most recently have been questions of life’s purpose, why there has to be suffering, why our world is so messed up that parents have to lose children at all, and the finality of death (in a nutshell).  There’s simply no way for me to articulate the things that have been running through my mind since I learned of Chris’s passing, but more recently since reading Morrie’s book, I have been giving more thought to living.  How does one live well?  What does it mean to live well?  We’re all in the same boat, as Morrie puts it, and it’s going to sink sooner or later.  One hundred and ten years from now no one who is here now will be alive.  And I really like what he says next:

The best preparation for living fully and well is to be prepared to die at any time, because impending death inspires clarity of purpose, a honing in on what really matters to you.  When you feel that the end is near, you are more likely to pay close attention to whatever you treasure…

So that leads me to consider what it is that my life is worth.  What do I treasure and if I’m not in the place I’d like to be, what do I need to do to get there?  Not many conclusions have been reached, but Chris’s death and Morrie’s life/death have reminded me that life is a gift and time here should not be wasted.  I have been also reminded this week, with all the good around me, that God is good and He has always given me what I need in the past, when I need it.  Why do I doubt His presence and ability to work in my life and why do I remain sad when I have nothing really to be sad about?  I woke up yesterday and decided that I am tired of being sad.  I’m sort of tired of trying to do life by myself.  It doesn’t work, and I know this because I’ve walked with God in the past; I have known sweet companionship with Him, and to walk without Him for any length of time after you’ve experienced His closeness is just stupidity.  Don’t know why anyone would choose it…don’t know why I did.  But I want to be done.  Seems so much easier to let Him take the control, let Him fill me up with His love, his peace, and his joy, because I certainly can’t seem to muster any of it on my own, or at least any that lasts.

So that’s what I know today…if you made it through those ramblings, well congratulations you were really bored.  And thanks for caring enough to do it.  I’ve been really bad about reading the blogs of others in recent days…you know, that self-centered thing.  I fully admit to that.  More of Him, less of me.  I’ll try to do better this week.

I’m so bad at this blogging thing.  It’s not that I don’t think about things to write about during my days, it’s just that I’m too much like my mother and I don’t sit down enough to write them down.  Too many distractions, too many things around the house to keep my hands occupied and too many urgent things taking the place of truly important things.  So as I sit to write tonight there are about a thousand things I could write about from the past month, but what would be most meaningful?  I guess since this blog is mostly for me I guess it’s time to do some real relfecting on my life and where I’m at (ooh, but that sounds painful…but it’s so necessary).  I’m having more and more moments where it feels like I’m close to falling off the edge of something.  I feel like I’m not the person I thought I was when I was in China just a year ago.  Some images that have come to mind to describe myself are these…

a piece of toast- dry and crumbling

a pig in mud- content to be in a mess and not do much to get out

a train skidding off the tracks- making all kinds of screeching sounds and awful noises as it tries to plug along as best as it knows how

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this for so long!  Boy this year being at home has been hard so far.  If I didn’t have my brothers and Carly and Tamara around for at least some social interactions and some unconditional acceptance I think I might have been a complete basket case by now.  Feelings of instability are so frequent (when I take the time to stop and think about it).  In fact when I think about my overall health and well being, there are moments when I can say that the only part of me that is really healthy is my physical aspect.  In that way I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and feeling physically better than ever (thanks to Body for Life), but my spiritual life is in the pits and it affects everything else.  EVERYTHING else.  My perspective, attitude, mental capacity, ability to handle stress, and socially I’m just not a nice person anymore.  At least it feels like I have no fruits of the Spirit at the moment, and I suppose it’s not hard to figure out why that would be.  The worst part about my distance from God is the apathy that I sometimes feel about it.  I just feel too tired to do much about it (this is where the pig in mud image comes in).  I must not have a clear understanding of His love and grace at the moment, and maybe if I were a parent myself I would understand better how He feels about me and that would motivate me to moving closer than I am now.  It’s hard to know the reason for my depressed state right now..is it because my faith is weak now that it is affecting everything else, or is it reverse culture shock that is having an effect on every part of my life and making things so tough.  I don’t know why and I don’t know if it matters that I figure it out.  I guess I knew this year would be tough in some ways, but I just didn’t realize how it would play itself out.  I’m not meaning to complain, just saying where I’m at…so I can keep moving.

 I guess I’ll end with a famous quote (but I forget who said it) that I’ll keep in mind for now:

 “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

We returned last night from a weekend spent in Brandon, MB for a quick visit with Stewart and Taralee (& Siena!) and Liz was able to join us from Dauphin too.  We had a short but sweet chat with Brian and Charla and kids too before we hit the road.  Our drive home, which is normally 3.5 hours to Regina, took us over 5 because of the blowing snow and low visibility.  I don’t know how many cars we counted in the ditch on the way but there were a lot; mostly trucks and semis.  Those big boys think must they can do anything!  Our little car made it safely and we stayed warm the whole way, even with a tasty iced cap in hand!  It was nice to have the extra time to chat and listen to some good mucis on the way.  I loved getting away for the weekend and spending some time with some good folks in Brandon- it was short but it reminded me that we do have so many good people in our lives in many different places.  Man, we’re blessed more than we even know, sometimes it’s only when I stop to think about it that I realize it.

Last time I posted (like a long time ago) I think I said something about not making any new years resolutions.  That’s sort of true because I didn’t really make any on January 1, but it did get me to thinking what things in my life I’d like to change.  There are many, but I decided that the most important one I could make is to make relationships more of a priority.  It’s kind of been tough to be “fully present” here in Regina when so often my thoughts and heart feel like they’re back in China, and I don’t want to stop caring and thinking about my family there, but in order to be what I think God wants me to be here, there’s no doubt that I need to be more available to the people and ways that God is working here.  I just decided that I want to make it a huge priority to be a better sister, a better wife, and a better friend to those around me.  I want to be a better listener and be more perceptive to others’ needs, and to those I don’t know I want to be just an all round more accepting person.  I think if Jesus walked the earth, that’s what he would be; now definately there are some things he would not accept, but he would accept every person and make sure that in his interactions with them he communicated love and a genuine desire for a better life for them.  The ways he treated people are something for me to strive towards…there’s a lot of things I will never be able to do or be perfectly in my christian walk, but I don’t know that many things for me should be placed above this one.  So that’s my one big change that I want to make in 2007.  I hope I can say at the end of it that some changes were made in my heart and actions.  Having said that makes me think of that time when Gandhi said something about the life of Jesus and compared it with that of his disciples.  He was fascinated with Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount and with the life he lived, but when he looked at the people who claimed to follow Jesus, he was disappointed.  Sometimes they feel worlds apart- I guess a true follower must never take his eyes off Jesus.  It’s way too easy to get sidetracked in this place though.

 Another thing that I’m trying to do is get in better shape and build some muscle.  It’s not really a resolution as much as it is an experiment.  Jason and I started the ‘Body for Life’ challenge last week and I’m pretty excited about sticking to it for the 12 weeks and seeing what happens.  I’ve kind of been lifting weights since we returned from China…I had time on my hands so in the summer I used to go over to J’nea’s house almost every day to lift.  She was a great trainer and motivator (have you seen her lately?!?) and then Jason and I bought a weight machine in October and started doing it semi-seriously.  Doing the challenge and really going after it hard excites me because I’ve never really been a goals person.  I think I’m too laid back and am not really a go-getter as much as I’d like.  But I’m going to try to do the 12 weeks, combining the exercise, nutrition, and supplements plan that is outlined in the Body for Life book, and see what happens.  I say that it’s experimental because if I actually do complete this, I’m expecting to have a huge sense of accomplishment (!) and will probably feel like there are less limits on me as to what I can do if I put my mind to it.  That is IF I succeed/ finish!  I’m completely planning to and I think I’m quite committed, but we’re still in the beginning stages and usually what happens is that when something gets hard I give up.  But it’s already gotten hard and I haven’t quit yet! 

So that’s it for now…hope it’s not too long til I’m back on here.  Wan an (goodnight)!

Christmas 06Here I go…three weeks since the last post…most of you can  understand how that happens.  Christmas was pretty nice, we spent some time in Gravelbourg for Christmas and then in Estevan after Christmas.  Low key, but it was nice to be back at home for the holidays.  There’s something about being back in Mom’s kitchen that feels so comfortable.  And it never hurts that there’s always a mound of irresistible Christmas treats piled on every cupboard.  Hmm, maybe that’s why I never left the kitchen…heehee!  Everyone was home in Estevan except for Ange who stayed in YK this year.  That’s ok, we’ll have our real family time in May with Matthew and Tamara get married.  We’ll have to get another family pic taken probably, which is good because the last time we were all together was about 5 years ago, and we’re all much better looking now anyway.So yeah, Christmas kind of came and went, and New Years’ kind of came and went without much hurrah.  It didn’t feel much like a celebration for some reason, and that disturbed me a little.  It was probably just me and my inability to get too excited about much lately, but Christmas totally is a reason to celebrate.  I just couldn’t get my heart to feel what my head knew was true.  Or the more likely reason that I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit was because I have been way too focused on me for a long time and what I need, and that’s the opposite of what Christmas is about.  Isn’t it easy to get caught up in the few small things you’re lacking, physically or emotionally, instead of counting your blessings?  We just don’t compare ourselves much with the less fortunate in the world; instead we compare ourselves with those we see in the movies and our things with the things we see on billboards.  That’s why we’re never content.  I should make it one of my new years resolutions to watch the World Vision channel more often so I can keep my life in persective.  Man, even after watching 10 minutes my level of contentedness and thankfulness shoots sky high.

 I didn’t really make any new years resolutions this  year.  They don’t usually last with me.  If i want to change something I need to spend some time reflecting on why I want to change it, how much I want to change it, and making a plan on how to do it.  Takes some time to make a plan of attack.  I have a few changes in mind that I’ve been thinking about for a week or so, but writing them down and making them known is risky!  Even so, I think that’ll be my next blog, hopefully sooner than this one was! 

 OH, I gotta say too that I have truly been loving my two brothers…Andrew moved into our spare room a couple weeks back so we see him and Carly way more now and it’s awesome.  And Matthew around lots because Tamara lives downstairs.  Last weekend we had a movie night where we stayed up until almost 2 hanging out, looking at flyers (the Tuckers are all a little weird), and eating popcorn, baileys ice cream.  It has been so much fun to have a house where we can have special times like these at a moment’s notice, and I feel so blessed to have such times with my brothers and the exceptional women in their lives.

It’s been awhile…see this is how I journal.  I get on a roll and then I leave it.  What a lazy butt I am.  Plus I’m weird.  I wonder if everyone kind of wonders if they really are a freak sometimes or if that’s normal for people.  Yeah, I can’t shake that weird feeling.  One of the hardest things about being back in Canada is the lonely feeling I have.  I desire deep relationships but at the same exact time don’t feel like pursuing anything like that.  Haven’t figured out if my spirit is lazy or tired or almost empty, but it’s still bugging me.

Anyway, I’ll have lots of time for contemplation on the bus tomorrow…I’m going out on a mobile clinic to Swift Current for 2 days.  Supposed to be very busy I’m told.  Get to ride on the ‘blood bus’!  Sounds sweet hey?

More later…

Words I Love…

Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Where You Are

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