Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Greenes!



It's been pretty busy around here, but we're doing great.

As of December 18th, I'm officially done teaching.  They've hired a replacement for me, so that felt good to hand it off.

Nathan has three semesters of his masters under his belt.  One more to go!  The fall drama went well and now we're looking at spring.

Lizbeth is excelling in Kindergarten, though she often gets bored :-)  Hard to keep that girl challenged.  She absolutely loves everything artsy or crafty, taking after her mommy.

Matthew doesn't love school, so we're pulling him back to three half days now that I won't be teaching and can get him at lunch.  But he still loves anything cars and has started declaring he wants to be an astronaut.

Fun times all around!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Desires of Our Hearts

Anyone who knows Matthew knows he is all about cars.

For the past few weeks, Matthew has endlessly asked to "race the cars on the racetrack".  A new mall where we live has a Carrera store with a racetrack that you can pay to race the cars.  His favorite thing is to spend a half hour (more if I'd let him) walking around the shop looking at every model car they have.  He then asks to race them.

The problem is, it costs nearly $10 to race for 20 minutes.  As much as he would love it, we've talked about it and just don't feel it's a wise use of money.

But every day, he asks again.  We again explain that it costs a lot of money to race the cars.  He says he'll save up his allowance (his allowance is about 50 cents a week).  We explain that even so, it would take a long, long time to save that much money and we don't think it's a good use of his funds.  He sticks out his chin stubbornly.

Friday, he came home from school excitedly.  The school recently started a book reading program.  If they meet a set "goal" for reading X number of times a week for a month, they earn a prize ticket.  The ticket can then be redeemed for one of five prizes.  He had turned in his reading log a few days previously and was anxiously waiting for when they would hand him his prize.  I didn't remember the options, only that one of them was for a bag of cookies, so I was hoping he would not be disappointed after all his hard work.

He hopped of the bus happily.  "Mom, I can race the cars!" 

"Honey, we've talked about this, and it's really too expensive.  I'm sorry, but you can't race the cars."

"No, mommy, I got my prize ticket today, and one thing I can do is race the cars!"

Sure enough, he pulled out his ticket and listed as a prize redemption was one free 20 minute turn to "race the cars".

This brings tears to my eyes, because it has been so difficult to tell his tender heart "no" over and over again.  I had questioned our decision.  After all, we have $10.  Or maybe we can use some his Christmas money from his grandparents.  Or maybe he can do extra chores.  Or...but I just came back to that it just didn't seem like a good use of money.

He has truly worked hard to meet his goal.  Although he obviously can not truly read on his own, he has remembered most days to ask us to read to him.  Other days he has sat on the couch and "read" to himself, turning page by page, carefully studying every picture.  Some simple books he has mostly memorized and will "read" pages or lines of them to me.

It felt so perfect then, that after his hard work he had won such a perfect gift. 

It also provided a perfect opportunity to talk about how the Father meets the desires of our hearts.  He is usually reluctant to praying outside of meals and bedtime, but he happily got down on his knees with me and thanked the Father for this wonderful and unexpected gift that we had not even thought to ask of HIM. 

Thank you, Father, for providing even these silly things for which we don't even think to ask.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Creative Decorating

They have some creative decorating ideas here in the East.  After spring, summer, and fall flowers fade away they decorate with different colors of cabbage.  While I've always found this strange and kind of funny, I also appreciate the added color on dreary winter days!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Markets

We have a really great market in Qingdao.  The great thing about this market was that it had several grain sellers, who would fresh grind the grains for you.  So if you wanted to be fairly positive you were getting 100% whole wheat, this was the place to go.  They also have lots of other grains they are willing to grind, such as soy, rice, millet, ect.  Unfortunately, while it was fairly convenient to get to from our old apartment, our new apartment is a two bus, 45 minute one direction trip away.  Once you are laden down by 20-30 lbs of produce and flours, you don't really want to bus the return trip.

Just the other day, however, I accidentally found one just 2 miles from our home.  Two different buses can get me to it in about 10 minutes (15 including walking).  Super exciting.

While the grain section is not as exciting, I did find one stall with lots of options.  He seemed to have many of the same grains available, if not displayed as prettily as the other one.  It is also a fun place to walk around with lots to see!








Friday, November 20, 2015

Pictures!

I finally was able to get pictures from my phone to my computer.  Hurray!

A few weeks ago we had a family date night, and it was Matthew's first time Ice Skating.

 Ready to go!
A lot of the night was of course spent like this:

But he had fun too.
 Lizzy had recently learned to roller blade, so going from that to ice skating was a piece of cake.
 And of course we had to end with ice cream!



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sorry You Missed It

It was a great show.  The kids really stepped up at the last minute and everything came together.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Hard Facts of Life

A few days ago Matthew had a rough day where he found out a few very important truths.

1. If you suck on a whistle lolly pop, after awhile it will no longer be a whistle.  (He cried about this one on and off for about an hour)

2. Eating cold ice cream fast gives you a brain freeze.

3. There is no way to have warm hard ice cream.  If you ask mommy to warm it up, it will turn to sweet milk.


No amount of talking could convince him there was just nothing mommy could do to change any of these facts.

**As I write this, I realize I gave him a lolly and ice cream in the same day--what kind of parent am I? :-) **

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A little story to make you laugh

So, still no pictures.  Need to figure that out.

The past few days have had their humor.  Sometimes not always funny when it happened.  For instance, last night after ordering a pizza, we waited an 1 1/2 hours (though we called a few times) before they told us they accidentally gave our pizza to someone else...if we wanted to wait another half hour, they would make us a new one and give us a whole 20% discount!  (This was already 8:00PM, an hour past our kids bed time)  Needless to say, we declined.

But today I had an experience that truly showed my lack of Chinese.  I was at the hospital for some general check-ups (the international clinic is in the hospital).  I thought, hey, the play next weekend needs some patient clothes for one of the costumes.  From a past experience where a friend had to have an emergency appendectomy in the middle of the night, I knew you could purchase them at the hospital, at least during daytime hours (the middle of the night crisis get to wear their skivvies).  So I started wandering around, trying to figure out where to buy them.  Found the little convenience store, not in there, so asked the teller.  She motioned me out the store and to the left.  No sign of another store, so I asked someone else.  After several people, I finally end up at a window, where they teller says, "Yes, here! 42 kuai!"  (in Chinese of course)  So I hand over my money and he hands me my change and a receipt...no clothes.  Turns out you have to be a PATIENT to obtain clothes.  But I've already given him my money, and I don't exactly know how to explain that I needed them as a costume and don't have a department to obtain them from...so I eventually go back up to the International Clinic to beg mercy.

Well, they laugh their heads off with me, but don't really know what to do about it.  A friend walks up and we laugh about the story, and we ask if we can buy the clothes for him (as a patient) which he will then give to me.  They're not sure if this will work.  In fact, since they are simply an out patient clinic, I don't think they even know where to find them.  So they call around to some nurses they know and find someone willing to trade my receipt for some clothes.  They scribble down her department and name (in the equivalent to chinese cursive, nearly unreadable to a foreigner) and give me some broken instructions, half in chinese and half in English about where to go.  So off I head across the hospital again, back down to the 2nd floor.  Can't find this department.  Start showing the slip of paper and asking around.  Finally get instructed to use the other elevator (the one I had just used only goes to floor 4) to get to floor 5.  Apparently you have to use one elevator to go down to level two, walk across the hospital, and use another to get to level 5.  Of course they have half the elevators turned off, so in this elevator lobby there are about 40 people waiting to get on elevators.  I talk Matthew into taking the stairs.  Finally get to the 5th floor.  We're apparently in the cardiatric unit, but there's two sections.  Ask around the first, they don't know what I'm talking about, send me over to the second.  These doors look scary, and the sign above says Intensive Cardiac Unit...um, am I allowed to just walk in here?  So I wander in, Matthew in tow, wander down the hall, past the surgery rooms, ICU, ect.  Finally find the nurse who was expecting me. 

"What size?"  She says.  I tell her about my size.  She hunts around forever...and comes up with an XXL.  what?  I know Chinese sizes run small and all...I try to get her to go smaller, but she is insistent that I need this large.  I ask her if it's a women's XXL, nope, just a general one.  They don't differentiate between sexes for these oh so attractive patient clothes.  I ask her for a M size, she shakes her head and gives me a XL.  "Pang!" she says, which means "fat!"  Okay, this is the first time I've been called that in China...

After I left (XL in hand, I had given up by now) I finally realize I had been wearing my heavy winter coat, carrying two bags, two umbrellas, and a bunch of other stuff.  I probably really did look "pang" to them.

Well, our poor Korean student will be wearing an XL set on stage next week.  We'll have to make it work because I am NOT going through that again :-)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Technological Issues

Uhg.  These past few months have been trying, especially in the technological area.

I am under some sort of curse.  Or at least being challenged.  And I haven't always responded well. 

Now that I'm getting into the swing of living here and working part time, I've been wanting to get more posts up, maybe even put together a newsletter of sorts.  Unfortunately, I've been thwarted at every take.

For instance, today I had sweet pics on my phone of Lizbeth and her close friend huddling under an umbrella on the way home from school today.  I thought I'd quickly upload them and give you a few notes about our changing seasons here...unfortunately, my phone is Chinese so it does not have gmail and I can't get it to talk to my computer through either the cord or bluetooth.  So...no pics today.

This is my third phone since moving to China, trying to get one in the affordable price range that does what I need (both works well and has a high connection speed--seems to be I can't have both).  Each time I switch or reset the phone I have to re-enter all my phone numbers and contacts...so basically I don't ever have the phone number I need.

Before we left America we invested in a high quality computer that I hoped would do everything I need.  Two weeks ago, it worked great.  The next morning I woke up and the keyboard didn't work.  After exhausting every option, I have had to buy a wireless keyboard to use instead.  Turns out my warranty is only good once I step back into the good old US of A.  Which I don't plan to do anytime soon.

Shortly after that, my sewing machine quit.  Was sitting at it, sewing.  Stood up to go iron the piece I was working on, came back and it no longer worked.  

Last month I was in Beijing and basically couldn't get on the internet through my phone or computer no matter where I went.  Completely unexplained.

So...I'm frustrated.  Trying to be patient.  At times I even find humor in it all.  But it definitely doesn't help my ability to get things done.  You can pray for me.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Where Am I?

So, a flurry of posts, and then almost two weeks without one.  "What happened?" you might ask?

I started teaching.

Now, maybe many of you don't know, but I never planned to come back and teach this year.  In fact, I got rid of 90% of my professional clothes over the last two moves we made.  Making the last 3 blouses and 2 black skirts work four days a week has been a challenge.

BUT, we are currently in immediate need of an elementary teacher.  Over the past two years, BOTH of our full time art teachers have moved away, leaving just one local staff behind.  So, after being asked by the Head Principal, the Preschool Principal, many parents and fellow staff members, then finally the Elementary Principal, I agreed to teach for the first six weeks while hopefully they can find another full time Art Teacher.

Anyone interested in teaching abroad?  Know of someone who might be?  We would love to hear from you.

I am actually really enjoying teaching again, but with two little ones and a husband in masters, it is not a sustainable position for me right now.  Plus, as part time, I can't fully meet their needs even as it is.  How full time working moms do it, I will never know.  It is exhausting! 

So if it is a little quiet on here, you'll understand why.  I have lots of pictures to update you all on, but not the time to do it.  Alas, always the problem.

Friday, August 14, 2015

First Day of School!

The kids were very excited to start school this year.  Lizbeth already did two years at our pre-school before we went to America, so for her it was like returning home.  She was so excited to be back with her friends, thankfully most of them are still here.  We were a little concerned Matthew only wanted to go to school to play with cars, and wouldn't like it once he realized he has to do certain things (stand in line, listen to the teachers, ect).  After four days they are both still loving it!

Here are a couple quick shots, and a video of the song Lizbeth spontaneously started singing as we walked to school.  Super proud of my two little students!





video

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting Gas

The other day Lizbeth and I took a taxi.  After we drove for a bit, the taxi driver announced he had to stop for gas!  Since we don't drive here in China, only a couple times have I ever even been to a gas station.



Not sure why, but they made us get out of the car while they pumped the gas.  They also opened the hood and pumped right into the front.  Had never seen that before. 

Always something new!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Safety Restraints? Not here.

Before we moved into our apartment, they had someone come over to fix the main air conditioner.  I walked into the living room to see this:

To be clear, our apartment is on the 4th floor, and that is outside our window.  Not sure exactly what he was standing on, but there's not much.  I took this from another window.





It's hard to see because of the glare from the window, but he definitely was not tied on.  Amazingly, this is one of the tamer things I've seen a worker do.  Somewhere I have pictures of window washers sitting on a rope swing cleaning windows at least 15 stories up...


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Laundry has been a challenge for me coming back.  After three weeks we finally have a working washing machine as of four days ago.  Until then I had been running back and forth between a friend's apartment to borrow her washing machine.  However, even when I would get it washed, getting it to dry was another challenge!  We don't have a dryer (not standard here) and the humidity is so bad that sometimes it would mold before it would dry.  Super frustrating.  Our house has been looking like this alot:


Now that we have our washer I am trying to get caught up on the many loads that had built up!  Of course finding spaces large enough to hang the bigger pieces is even more fun.  :-)


Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Home!

We finally moved into our new home on Monday!  It is large and nice and we are super blessed. 

Hopefully I can get some pictures up of it soon, but we're still working hard to get everything in order.  We still have no dressers so funny enough we are still living out of boxes and suitcases for a bit. 

Since we knew we would be be living in a temporary apartment for a bit when we first arrived, I packed everything we would immediately need into the last two suitcases.  That made opening our boxes from America super exciting.  None of us could quite remember what we had packed into them so discovering just what we had brought along was a lot of fun.

A few funny things were discovered.  I had managed to pack a charger to a remote control car we didn't end up bringing.  Lizbeth still has her 27 dresses, but I hadn't realized how many other clothes I packed for her too!  She probably has more clothes than any of us!

I had also forgotten where I had packed some things.  Nathan emptied a box halfway and discovered a bunch of toys at the bottom so handed it over to the kids.  A few minutes later Lizbeth came into my room.  "Mommy, I found one of your...things...it's so pretty!"  I had forgotten I had packed some of my softer intimates in to cushion between toys!  Thankfully it was one of the more modest pieces and I was able to rescue the others before more questions were asked :-)

As for more about our new apartment, we are super spoiled here.  It was definitely worth the wait.  Although I dislike using landlord furniture (little room for the furniture we already own or the ability to pick out things we like) it has worked out in this case.  We have a side by side american style fridge (I've only seen one other ever in China, but I guess they're getting more popular), and an automatic hot water heater for the kitchen and a secondary tank hot water heater in the master bath.  We have a bathtub in the master and a shower in the extra bathroom.  There is an air conditioner unit in every room (also never heard of!) and a nice sized flat screen TV.  In addition to the clothes drying porch, we have second smaller enclosed porch off the kitchen.  The apartment is spacious and comfortable, and we even have an elevator!

It's good to finally be "home".

Saturday, July 18, 2015

11 Days In

We are still here.  We are still in the temporary apartment, but several other issues have been worked out.

5 days in I got phone service.
6 days in we got internet.
8 days in we got a bank account.

We still don't have an operating washing machine, oven, or microwave.  Since we don't know exactly how big our beds will be or what the color schemes will be, I have not yet purchased sheets, dishes, towels, curtains, ect.  We are currently using borrowed of almost everything and have not unpacked most of our boxes and suitcases.

Last night I was finally able to see the apartment we will most likely move into next week.  I actually really like it, and with some fixing up I think it will be great.  I'm super excited to be moving into our own home in the near future, and it helped a LOT to see it in person.

We are not living in the same area of town as we did before, which will require some adjustment.  New buses, new stores, new neighbors.  But there are pluses and minuses of both areas and we are looking forward to the good things of this area.  A major one is that it is half as far from the school, so Nathan is planning to ride his bike to and from work more.  Another is that it is right on the main  road that goes east and west in our city, right on a major bus stop, so getting around by bus is much easier.

The kids are okay.  Matthew is struggling with transition.  He misses America very much and keeps asking when we can go back to Nainai and Papa's house.  We have major meltdowns over very small things, and are working to give him more cuddles, quality time, and security where we can.  Lizbeth is doing well and is enjoying seeing her old friends, though I think she too is a bit stressed as she finds much joy in annoying her little brother!

I struggled a lot the first week with the many "lacks" (no phone, no internet, no oven, no dishes, no apartment, ect) but have had a very necessary attitude adjustment and am now moving a bit more with the flow of things.  Nathan is his steady self and seems to enjoy being back and going out and to work every day!  No more long hours in the basement :-)

Friends are trickling back into the city as their summer holidays end, so that is fun, and new staff has already begun arriving.  It's about to get busy!



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Curious Minds

Traveling back with Matthew has been fun because he doesn't have much memory of our time here before.  Everything is new and curious to him, and his questions are endless.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Why do the cars park on the side walk?
Why is the toilet in the shower?
Why is the washing machine in the bathroom?
Why is there Chinese on my cereal box?
Do they have french fries?

Things are coming back to Lizbeth slowly.  She recognizes things in a more abstract way, will smile broadly at a face she remembers but not remember their name.  However, our first day back we had this conversation:

L: Mommy, it feels good to be back in China.  It feels...
Me: Familiar?
L: No, not exactly, it just feels like...
Me: Home?
L: No, no...it just feels good.  Like I know this place.

I am starting to feel a bit out of sorts.  We knew they did not have an apartment ready for us, but were hoping it would just take a couple days.  We also thought if it did take longer we might have a part in picking one out.  Unfortunately, neither seems true.  They do have one, but it is going to be at least two weeks before we move in, leaving little time to get settled before school starts.  We're working to make where we're staying comfortable for the next couple weeks, but definitely don't feel like we can really unpack or even buy things.  It is a frustrating feeling to suddenly have so much time and not much to do.  We still don't have internet at our apartment (hopefully we will by the end of the day) and Nathan just got a phone.  Hopefully as these small things are taken care of we will feel more settled despite not being in our permanent home!

One last note, turns out Gmail is not currently working over here, so if you want to e-mail us, it is best to do so through our work addresses.  If you do not have these, please get them from one of our relatives :-)

Always something unexpected...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

We Are Here!

Well, we made it.  Almost exactly 24 hours door to door, but safe and sound and all our bags/boxes in tact!

We were super blessed along the way.  We weren't charged for our guitar, they even checked one of our heavier carryons for free for us, and all of our flights were on time.  As a super extra blessing, we happened to be on the same flight from Portland to Seattle as our pastor in Austin!  What a fun surprise.

We are in a temporary apartment while the school figures out exactly where we are going to live, and we're off and running today to get a few logistics in place and catch up with friends.  We should have more consistent internet in a couple days, and cell phones as well.

Thank you for all of your farewell blessings and care for us as we embark on the next chapter of our lives!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Time

Time is short.  We officially have our visas and plane tickets and are leaving in just over five days...

We are cramming as much into this time as we can, while packing and sorting and cleaning and shopping...boy I hate moving.

Two weeks ago we spent the day with my parents and sister, and went hiking up near Multnomah Falls.  Other than my mother, husband, and two kids abandoning the rest of us for a couple hours, the day was quite fun.








Friday, June 5, 2015

A few of my not-so-favorite things.

I just spent over $100 on pollution face masks.

Ugh.

In case you hadn't heard, we did indeed miss graduation.  In fact, we are STILL waiting on paperwork, though we are promised to be in the final stages!  Hopefully we will be ready to apply for our visa in SF in the next couple weeks.  We have a tentative leave date of July 5th.

As we prepare, I am reminded of the things I do not miss about China.

Pollution.
Super expensive meat.
No personal car.
Expensive and hard to find American desserts.
Communication difficulties.
Difficulties finding a taxi or waiting endlessly for a bus.
Nathan's long work days and the fast pace of the school activity calendar.

Hopefully the good will outweigh the bad! 

It is hard to be in limbo but the past couple slow weeks have been good, if tedious.  I've had a lot more time with my family as my father retired.  Not only does this mean I see him more, but he can also watch the kids so I can go spend the day with my mom!

Today I had a quiet day home alone with the kids and I knocked out several things on my to-do list.  (Thus, the purchase of pollution masks.)

Please continue to Think of us and please contact us if you would like to hang out one more time before we leave.  We will miss all our friends and family here (another thing that I do not miss about China-long distance communication!)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Active Waiting

Here we are, 10 days later and still waiting to hear about our return date.  If we do not receive our LOI (an official letter of invitation from the Qingdao Government) by the end of Monday (tomorrow here, today in China) we will miss graduation.

I have very conflicted thoughts about all of this, which I may digress on in an upcoming e-mail.

But in the meantime I have been attempting to "Actively Wait".

This year in BSF we studied the life of Moses.  This covered the period of time that the Israelites wandered in the desert.  At all times they had to be ready to leave on a moments notice.  They lived 40 years following the leading of the Cloud/Pillar of Fire.  Sometimes they would remain in a place for a day, sometimes months or even years.

I can't imagine.

This living on the edge is starting to get to me.  I have used this model (with appropriate planning in place when possible) for our travels this spring, and it has brought me great comfort to rest in the Peace that the Father has us in the right place at the right time.  He has over and again confirmed to us that He has a plan.

But as we draw nearer to returning to China, and don't know if it is one week or one month away, I am growing weary.

Does that mean my faith is not strong enough?  No wonder the Israelites are known for their complaining.

In the meantime, I am attempting to balance being present in the moment while at the same time preparing for the future.  This week we celebrated Lizbeth's 5th birthday (where has the time gone?!-also in a blogpost hopefully to follow with some pictures).  I am also helping my parents move, an arduous task as they have lived in their past home for 22 years!  But at the same time, I am making shopping lists, to do lists, sending emails, preparing documents, purchasing high quality shoes, researching pollution masks, and the list goes on.

It's hard to live in two places at once.  At least after today we will have a better idea of a leave date!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait

Last week we were finally given the news that the first step (and apparently most important step) of the visa process was approved.  Hurray!  This important step means we will most likely be headed back to China this summer.

After waiting 2 1/2 weeks for this answer (not to mention the months leading up to even starting the process), this set us into a flurry of activity to get documents mailed to China and copies scanned and e-mailed to the appropriate parties.  This all led up to...more waiting.  The past few days have been quiet as we wait for the next step of paperwork to be processed on the other side of the world.

Once the next two steps are completed in China (in the next week or so) we will once again rush around to plan a trip to San Francisco to complete our visas at the consulate, then off to China we go.  Latest word is we might even be back in time for graduation, which is in three weeks from tomorrow!  Yikes!  Talk about moving fast.

As we muddle our way through the process I am a mess of emotions.  It has been a good year.  It has been so wonderful to be near family again and build/renew relationships in the community.  We have been so blessed by everyone here.  It has been exciting to share our vision with others and meet so many people interested in what we do. 

On the other hand, I am ready to move forward.  I am ready to rejoin our community in China.  I miss my friends.  I miss our activities.  I miss Lizbeth's preschool and being involved there.  I miss our restaurants, setting up my own home, living near the ocean.

But in many ways, I still feel so many loose ends.  I have not completed my DONA certification yet.  My parents are in the middle of moving.  My brother is recovering from an accident.  We haven't been to the zoo recently, or camping with the kids, or up to see my grandmother's grave.  We will miss a huge Greene family reunion, a cousin's wedding, a friend's reception.  I will miss the clean air and quiet countryside and the freedom of driving my own car. 

So, yeah, a mess.  You can Think of us during the next couple weeks as we are saying good-bye to so many people, places, and things.  And if you live in the area, you can even stop by to have a cuppa, cheer me up, or even help me pack :-)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Whirlwind

Ontario OR- one night
Denver, CO- two nights
Dallas, TX- 3 nights
Houston, TX- 1 night
Austin, TX- 9 nights
Albuquerque- 2 nights
Los Angeles- 6 nights
San Francisco- 2 nights

4 illnesses

$1000 in car repairs

20+ starbucks or McD's frappes

Uncountable amazing friends

Is it cheesy if I end this post with "Priceless"? 

Truly, the trip was incredible.  We feel so encouraged, loved, exhausted, happy, cherished, blessed.  Thank you to all of our amazing friends who hosted us, took us around town, spoiled us, broke bread with us, celebrated holidays with us, and drove to see us.  We appreciate you all more than words could say.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Springtime in Austin

We've been enjoying the warm weather here in Austin (almost a little too warm for March!).  Yesterday we even went swimming.  Today I took advantage of church clothes to get a couple sweet shots of the kids.  Unfortunately, by the end of day Matthew was running a 103+ fever.  We are hoping it goes away as quickly as his sister's did last week!







Friday, March 27, 2015

A Tribute

When we were returning to the States, everyone wanted to know where we would live.  When I replied that we were considering living with my in-laws, most often the response I received was "Don't do it!"  No length of explaining or persuasion could convince them of why this might work in our situation.

Now that we've been living with them for 9+ months, the most common question I get is "so...you live with your IN-LAWS.  How's THAT going?"

The truth is, in the spectrum of absolutely terrible to perfect, we would be very high on the "great" end.  Not to say that we don't have conflicts, and we do, but my in-laws, and my relationship with my mother-in-law in particular, are so amazing that people find it hard to believe.

One of the things I value most about her is her ability to bring up difficult topics and her humble attitude about the issue.  This is an area I can definitely learn from, as I tend to like to sweep things under the rug and move on.  Her direct honesty and tenacity, combined with her humble love, is what makes our situation so doable.

To make sure we keep talking about things, she "insists" on having family meetings once a month to talk about issues we're having.  These might be good things or rough things, but as you can imagine, at least once a month there is usually at least one conflict that needs working out.  After one rougher discussion, the following day she mentioned she needed some affirmation, and felt I did too.  She proceeded to email me a several pages long list of all the things she admires about me.  I was humbled and affirmed.  It was wonderful, and went light years towards restoring hurt feelings from the previous conflict.

I can definitely learn from this woman.

I wish every wife could have a mother-in-law like I do.

In the spirit of communicating to the world just how amazing she is, I've decided to post my list here.   This is just a small picture of her amazing qualities, and I am honored to be her daughter(in-law).

Diana

Generous: shares her food, her clothes, her belongings with me and my family.  Allows us to live in her house, in her space, use her truck, for months without need for compensation.
Sacrificial: eagerly gives up her space, even her bed, for us so we can be more conveniently near the children.
Intelligent: knows her Bible, finished her masters (with good marks!), able to network at various levels.
Brave: gave up her corporate job to pursue ministry, even for years without much compensation.
Tenacious: works hard no matter what.
Faithful: clings to the promises God gives her.
Humble: always willing to listen to the other side, always willing to accept that she might be wrong.
Verbal: able to talk things out, able to voice her needs, even if I don't want to hear it.
Forgiving: easily forgives her loved ones for harms against her, broken candy dishes, loud children, crack in back bumper.
Protective: will go to bat for any of her children (including me, the in-law!).
Accepting: has accepted me fully as her child, welcomed me into the family with open arms, invested time, energy, love, strength, patience, the list goes on, into my life.  Cares about ME, not just my husband. 
Patient: doesn't get upset by laundry left in the living room, toys scattered across the floor, breakfast dishes left on the counter, ect.
Respectful: respects the way i raise my children, affirms me as a good mother, does not undermine my authority, allows my husband and I to work out differences privately.
Follows through: even when I would like to brush something under the rug, she follows through to make sure an issue is worked through and even follows up with affirmation.
Honest: will always tell you the truth, even when it hurts, in a loving way.  Does not manipulate facts to serve her own purposes.
Servant hearted: seeks to serve more than receive, will go out of her way to make our lives easier.
Forward Thinking: before we moved in, she asked for advice from friends who lived in similar situations and set into action procedures to make our living situation smoother.  Created a family calendar, cleaned her belongings out of "our" space, set up family meetings once a month to discuss issues.
Loving: won't let small things get in the way of her relationship with her children. Fluently speaks every love language, quickly and easily gives a hug, a kind word, a listening ear, a special present when you're down, an act of service.

I love you Mom!  Thank you for loving me as one of your own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Travel

Well, we are more of a third of the way through our month long trip.  In the past 8 days we have stayed in Ontario (OR), Denver, Dallas, Houston, and now Austin.  It has been an amazing week of encouragement, reconnecting, and long, long, long drives.  Prayer has carried our car safely to each of our destinations, and friends have come from far and near to see us.  It is exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. 

We are hanging around Austin for this whole week.  Next week we have two nights in Albuquerque, then almost a week in LA, a short stop in San Francisco, and then hopefully back to Oregon in time for Matthew's and my mother-in-law's birthdays on April 12th. 

What I've discovered so far:

1. The drive between the Cascade Mountains and Dallas, Texas, is really really boring.  No REALLY.  Sure, you have 10 minutes of beautiful red rock formations in Utah, and maybe Colorado is pretty when it is not so rainy/foggy that you can't see anything, but other than that...desert.

2. Two and a half days is not enough time in Dallas.  We should really learn our lesson one of these days.  Seriously, our friends here are amazing and wonderful, and two days is not enough time to adequately see them all.  Of course, a month might not be either.

3. My kids are awesome.  Sure, there's been the usual if not more than usual periods of whining and meltdowns, but seriously.  They are 4 and 2, and have been stuck in the car for 40+ hours in the past week.  They are troupers.

One of these days I'll try and pull pictures off my camera and post a few, but for now, please continue to pray for safety and timely meetings with friends and strangers that the Father brings to our path during this time.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Seasons

Well, it's been 9 months since I last blogged.  Wow. 

Last night I was talking to my sister about seasons of our lives.  Some seem busier, harder, faster paced.  Others are filled with contentment and refreshment.

This year in the States has definitely been a mixed bag.  Some weeks have been nice and slow, times when I can sit back and sew on the porch while my kids play in the sun.  As we gear up to (hopefully) head back to China, we are once again in a fast paced, how much can I squeeze into this day, kind of time.

This week alone, we've had my grandmother's memorial service, entertained three out of town sets of relatives, hosted Lizbeth's mini piano recital, had two sick kids, two doctors appointments, two wet beds, a coffee date with a friend from China, car maintenance, car break down, tax preparation, piano lessons, Nathan's final exams, and on top of it all I am preparing decorations for a conference hosting 700 women next weekend.  Whew.  Oh, and we're speaking at a church tomorrow, which involves practicing piano and guitar, preparing and printing cards, and putting together a powerpoint presentation.

At the same time I have been blessed by family that listens to me verbally process everything, old friends who sit on the porch with me to cut out those 500 flowers for the decorations, and sweet calls of encouragement from new friends I just met last week. 

We are so blessed.

So, where are we now?  Living At His Leading.  Nathan is 3 quarters into his 8 quarter Masters program.  Last month we had a wonderful trip to New York to visit Nathan's brother and his wife and our dear friends the Carmans that we knew from China.  In just over a week we head off for a month to drive around the western USA and visit more friends, churches, and schools.  During this time, we are beginning preparations to head back to China, hopefully in May.  We are still waiting to hear on visas.  It is in the Father's hands whether we receive those visas and head back on schedule, or are denied for a year, in which we will remain in Oregon until the following May or June (2016).  You can be Thinking of us during this time as we truly turn over our future to Him and patiently wait for His leading.