To not belong

We have arrived at our Asian home and recovered from jetlag enough for a celebration to suit our boy who turned 8.

He is all about dinosaurs- so a trip to the small science museum was just the ticket. We are so thankful and blessed to have good friends, who are really like family, to celebrate with. I watched our sons running from one station to the next enjoying each one, and it made me sigh with such deep contentment. As hard as it is to say goodbye to family and the home of my birth – it is also hard to explain fully how good it feels to return to our other home and to embrace our friends and loved ones here. Sometimes, it can make me feel like I have dual banjos playing in my heart. To call two places home. To have so many loved ones I call family. To cry when I leave and cry when I stay.

My kids really amaze me. They seem to embrace both sides of their lives with ease and grace. Moe and Little Man both totally believe they can not speak Chinese – and if they are around Americans or Europeans they don’t. But the Chinese lady that comes to our home every week to hang out with our kids while I teach – well, they have full conversations with her too. She doesn’t speak English. They say thank you in Chinese to the vendor on our street corner and answer the questions from our neighbors. Flipping between the two languages comes so naturally that they are not even aware that they are doing it.

These two worlds that they flip between – they belong and they don’t. I have white kids who have lived most of their formative years in Asia and Asian kids who think white because of their parents and family culture. I could write a whole book about that in itself. But today what I am pondering…how my third culture kids teach me to embrace life and call no where home.

Want to watch my kids squirm….ask them where they are from. They know you would expect them to claim a city in America, maybe one of the rural communities their parents identify with, but I can assure you what flashes into their minds are beds in a small apartment in a city of more than a million people. But is that home? Can we call it home when we have to get a visa to stay and our passport is from a different country? Not really. We are keenly aware that this also is not home.

The more I strive to live life well, to be righteous and to lean into who God has made me, I am learning that “homelessness” should be my goal. I belong no where. It is hard to type those words and even harder to wrap my heart and mind around the truth that God sets out for all believers. We are not of this world. Heaven is home. A place I have never seen and a place I can not comprehend.

I want to let go of the things that tie me down and pull me away from having a heavenly mentality. Desires. Comforts. Culture. Thoughts. Expectations.

I heard a sermon in college by Dr. Kinlaw that still bounces around in my soul. He said, “Your eternity can start now.”

I have been letting that sink in for the past 20 years and yet I still uncover ways that I should lean into it more. I want to embrace my God given gift of eternity…now. I don’t want to belong to this world. I want to live fully in righteousness my heart turned towards heaven. Lord Jesus make it so.

A birthday to remember

I am one of those moms. You know the type. The sappy (let a few tears drip into the frosting as I make cupcakes for my babies who seem to grow a year older behind my back) momma. But this birthday celebration – a few tears did not do it justice. Every time I looked at our new son on his birthday, tears sprang to my eyes.

We have missed 13 birthdays with this boy. 13. Adding emotion to that fact, we have been counting down the days to this 14th birthday. It was the deadline. If we did not have all of his adoption paperwork completed by his birthday, it was a no go. By Chinese law children are unadoptable at their 14th birthday.

We adopted him 10 days before his birthday.

Can I just type that sentence one more time so that you can feel the force of its drama? 10 days before his birthday he got a family. His miracle (and ours) happened 10 days before it was too late. That is worthy of many grateful tears from this momma. Amen?! Call me sappy if you want.

We enjoyed celebrating our new son on his 14th birthday which happened to fall on Chinese New Year’s Eve due to the lunar calendar. We made cupcakes and had gifts, but added making dumplings (traditional Chinese New Year food), staying up till midnight and setting off fireworks. It is a birthday, for many reasons, that we won’t forget.

A few more photos of our dumplings and Chinese New Year celebration….

and a few more words about how our transition is going.

We were preparing for a rough road with a teenager who hasn’t lived with a family. Instead, we are experiencing grace filled days with a delightful young man who is embracing his new life….and our family. We feel incredibly blessed. Maybe it is the honeymoon phase – but we are taking every moment and storing up these sweet memories that will be treasured and will help if harder days come. We would appreciate your continued prayers as we get to know each other and find a new normal for our family. We are starting the Chinese New Year with thankful hearts for all that God has done to make our family and with great hope of all that will come to pass in this year of the dog!

The best birthday gift would be….

IMG_1381I turn 40 this week. (My phone calendar even sent me a reminder just in case I forgot about it!  HA!)

I have given it a lot of thought and have decided exactly how I would like to celebrate getting old. Because, my head is not buried in the sand…I have a teenage son, a daughter who knows what is cool (and I do not) and I am pretty sure my body creaks when I get out of bed in the morning. I am not even going to tell you the story of when one of my dears during homeschooling asked if I knew any of the Pilgrims.  How old do they think I am? All that to say, I admit I am getting old.

 

I am embracing this birthday and I want to celebrate big.

How?

So glad you asked.

I would like my birthday gift to be a forever family for one of my favorite students.  His birthday is this month too.  He turns 4 years old.  This month also happens to be Down Syndrome awareness month and his super power is Down Syndrome. Finding out that he has a family and will be adopted….that would be the most amazing gift!  Would you pray that happens? Would you pass the word that he needs a family?

So let me tell you more about him….

He is beyond precious and may have one of the sweetest personalities ever known to man. He lives in a group foster home and attends kindergarten for special needs children.  He knows his numbers, enjoys finger painting especially with the color yellow and always helps his teachers clean up  after class.  Although he is non-verbal, he expresses how much he loves his teachers by blowing kisses and often claps for his classmates to cheer them on during a project.  He dances to music, is learning sign language and has a very large sweet tooth.  Not surprisingly, this little guy is an orphanage favorite and the staff hopes he finds his forever family soon.  

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I wish you could meet him in person.  The way he sticks his tongue out as he paints….well, it has captured this art teacher’s heart!

I would consider it a birthday gift if you would say a prayer for my 4 year old friend.  Pray this is the last year he celebrates his birthday without a mom and dad of his own.  Kids need families.


If you’d like to learn more about how you could adopt my 4 year old friend or other children like him who wait, please contact me.  I’ll be glad to put you in touch with the folks at CHI who can tell you how to get started.

Growing up – With photos

You ever try to write a blog post, edit photos, answer homeschool questions with a four year old rolling around under your feet?  I shouldn’t.  I did which resulted in me hitting “post” rather than “save as draft.”  Here is the full post with photos from Little Monkey’s special day.

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IMG_9096During our travels in February we celebrated the birthday of our sweet Asian beauty.  I truly love watching as she grows and matures, but I must admit that each milestone also brings my heart a twinge of pain.  Eight.  Sigh.

To further confirm my theory that this child is growing up fast….she has a bucket list of things she wants to do/see in her lifetime.  What 8 year old does that?!  One of the things on that list was to see the Terracotta Warriors.  We just happened to be traveling through the city where they are located around her birthday.  It was such a fun way to celebrate our girl!  We spent the day learning more about the buried army, Chinese culture and taking many photos to remember the day.  Not sure which we like better…the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors.  Each soldier made around 221 BC has a uniquely carved face.  Cool.   But the Great Wall is the biggest man-made structure in the world and also constructed way before power tools.  Unimaginable.  We love the history and rich culture of this country!

 

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Don’t let Soccer Dude’s “been here done this” look fool you.  He acts to cool for school when I ask him for a photo, but when it comes to reading about this stuff and watching the work of the archeologists….He might have enjoyed our day more than the birthday girl.

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Now the other two kids…they might not be our history buffs, but they can make anything an adventure.  Here are my two crazies making the day just that much more fun.

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We wrapped up the day with a trip to McDonalds for burgers.  We can’t get burgers in our city so it was a treat.  Little Monkey was a bit put out that I couldn’t make her a cake in our hotel room, so a surprise fruit topped cake compliments of our hotel was a fantastic way to end our day.

I could tell you so many more stories…like how we decided to save money and take the public bus out to the Warriors.  We were the only crazy expats on the bus and the driver decided he didn’t want to finish the route and just dumped us out in the middle of no where.  We ended up on a mini bus with a bunch of grannies who had never seen white people on their local buses and where sure I didn’t know how to parent since my children weren’t wearing enough clothes.  You should have seen the look on their faces when I clued them in that I understood what they were saying and respectfully told them in mandarine that the kids weren’t cold and that many American families have four children.  I love shocked expressions….followed by conversations with locals! Wink!

All in a day in the life of a crazy family who live cross-culturally.

Traditions & Changes

pbear2We have entered a new season of parenting.  It has slowly snuck up on us in small ways.  At one time we enjoyed a silent apartment once all four kids when in bed by 7:30, I understood all of the Math in his school lesson and I was fussing over booster seats.  The changes aren’t all bad.  Now, I have a night owl who rattles off random facts from NPR and is a responsible babysitter.  It’s just taking some getting used to and I am thinking through this next phase with our young man.

It is time to give him some more freedom – but the idea of that totally freaks me out.  It is time to let him test out what we have been trying to plant in his heart – but I lay awake wondering if he has learned the lessons we have tried so hard to pass on.  It is time to let him stay up passed 8, but ya’ll seriously, how do you get a private moment once you have a teen in the house?!  sigh!

 

We don’t have all the answers.  Tak’n it one day at a time, but what we have figured out….he might not need us hovering over him at bedtime, but when he does seek us out we need to drop everything to listen.

This prompted us to start a new family tradition.  One on one time with his dad seemed like the best gift we could give soccer dude as he enters his teens.  So they packed backpacks and went to a nature preserve in the south to celebrate Soccer Dude’s birthday.

They saw lots of pandas, ate hamburgers and just hung out.

 

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I dreamt of them having deep conversations about what it means to be a man (I tend to be an idealist).  That didn’t happen.  But the shared jokes, memories and the idea that “I am worth dad taking time off to hang out with me” hopefully will have a lasting impact.  (The girls are already planning the 13th birthday trip!)

It was a good reminder that we need to be spending one on one time with each of the four kids.  Just being honest, we have great intentions, but with the business of life, homeschooling and work….it is one of the first things that slips.

5 more years, people.

That is what we have before this guy will be off to college.  The first 13 years have gone so fast.  I want to make the most of these years enjoying the fruit of what we have been working towards.

 

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Soccer Dude made dinner the other night.  He was frying eggs and pancakes for us.  I walked past the kitchen door and he called out for me to watch him flip an egg in the air.  As I watched him and laughed, I was taken back to the cafeteria at Asbury College.

There was a cute red head who was pretty proud of his skills.  He could make a perfect omelet at the egg bar. (Yes, that is a thing.)  Half way through he would flip that omelet in the air.  I fell in love with that boy.

If Soccer Dude turns out like his dad…..I will be one thankful momma.

I am tempted to worry.  How will he turn out?  Are we teaching him the right things?  Are we giving him what we can and pointing him to the One who can meet all of his needs?  Will he get off track during these confusing teen years?

My goal is to turn my worries over and simply enjoy the next five years before he catches the eye of some sweet girl in a college cafeteria.

 

 

Just another day

It doesn’t matter how many years I live here, I will never get used to Christmas being just another work day (or get used to being away from family over the holidays.  You might think we are great adventurers, but we do get homesick.  Just say’n.)   A few days before Christmas the stores put huge Santa head signs on the doors, but I am the only one shopping in the toy section for my kids.  On Christmas eve many young adults go out to eat and fill the few western restaurants in our city which makes it feel like we are the only ones making a feast at home and reading the true story of Christmas.

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How do we make it not just another day?  We spend much time hosting and using every opportunity to share what the story of Christmas is about.  We have had cookie decorating parties for Hubby’s students and for the kids at the orphanage.  Sugar cookies are seriously one of my favorite foods, but I have made so many batches of them and baked them in our toaster oven sized oven (that would be 6-8 cookies at a time if you are counting.  I was.) I can hardly stand the thought of eating one now!   As much work as it was….we had a ton of fun sharing our holiday with all of our students.

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So we might feel like we are on our own celebrating Christmas, but really we are not.  There are several other expat families in our huge city.  The holidays is a great excuse for us to come together and celebrate.  Since we are from all over the world the ways we celebrate vary drastically, but that is part of the fun.

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Our girls participated in Christmas plays at the international school and at our Sunday fellowship.  Roo sang her first solo and rocked it.  Soccer Dude had a christmas recital with the group he is learning guitar with and Little Monkey sang in a choir and had a line in the play.  She worked at getting over her fear of the stage.  Proud of them all.

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Little Man was also supposed to be a sheep in one of the plays.  I was starting to sweat the morning of the performance.  “Mom I think I should be an elf who shakes his booty NOT a sheep.  ”  hmmmm.  Then, a package came in the mail from my parents.  The kids were thrilled with hats that my mom made for them.  Little Man’s is a lion.  “Mom do lions eat sheep?  Now I know!  I will be a lion in the play and see what the shepherds will do!”  No matter what I said he walked around the apartment practicing his lion growl.  I guess a growling lion/sheep is better than an elf/sheep who shakes his booty!?  I was wondering what this loose cannon would do on the stage.  In the end he got cold feet and took a nap.  I won’t say that I was disappointed – relieved actually, to have another year before he has a live audience.  This kid.

 

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I might never get used to Christmas not being a holiday here, but it did save my tail when I forgot (again!) to buy batteries.  Thankful for all the ways we were able to celebrate.  Over and over again I was thinking of how JC is with us.  Immanuel.  What a special holiday.

 

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Thinking of all of you on the other side of the world and wishing you a blessed holiday season as well!

39

cake“So, old people keep on having birthdays?  Seriously?”

That is the question that my loving four year old threw at me this morning.  That boy.  His timing is just perfect.  At 39 that could sting a bit,  but I have decided that with forty breathing down my neck – old is relative.  On my 29th birthday I went and got my hair all chopped off  thinking short and spiky hair would keep me looking young.  For 39 I have decided to go a different way.

My girls set up a “spa” in their bedroom for me today.  They drug in our comfy chair, had a bowl of hot water and marbles waiting for my feet and a display of nail polish ready.  I happened upon them in the kitchen pulling out honey and a ripe banana that they were fix’n to use as a homemade face mask.  These girls.  They know how to be sweet, in very creative ways, to their momma.

I think it was as I was trying to hide my giggles at the thought of being smeared down with honey by my seven year old that I made the decision about 39.  It is going to be the best year ever.  As Little Monkey smeared cream into my face she gently told me, “Mom, if you don’t scrunch your forehead you might not notice those wrinkles.”

It’s unavoidable – isn’t it?  We get old.

My grandma, one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world, once told me that the beauty of getting old is that you stop caring about some things and think about what is important.  Now, the whole story.  She was passing on this bit of wisdom to me as she ate Cheetos out of the bag using a toothpick (so her fingers wouldn’t get cheesy)!

The wisdom stands true.

For 39 I want to care about what is important.  No crazy hair cuts for me this year.  Instead, I am going to be crazy about the important things.  It started with letting my girls smear goo on my face.  Not sure where it will go from here, but I am looking forward to seeing where JC will take it.

Yes, dear son, old people keep having birthdays.   Here’s to another year….the best yet.