Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

More to come later on, but for now...

Merry Christmas from the two youngest (and cutest!) members of our extended family!

All of Anna's family (all 7 siblings included!) are together for Christmas for the first time in a LONG time. So blessed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Since we're leaving tomorrow, I stopped by the vegetable stand this morning not to buy food but let our friends know we'd be leaving for America tomorrow and returning on January 7th. The fact that I knew how to say that in Chinese made me happy. :)

The vegetable stand lady and Hadassah are good friends. She doesn't always want to go to her (she's a big momma's girl right now) but she always has fun and they have little games they play together. The vegetable stand man laughs and watches, as he's given up on getting Hadassah to go to him. ;) But as she held Hadassah a little closer this morning knowing she wouldn't see her for a while, he motioned for her to give her a Qiǎokèlì (cha-co-lee) that was sitting in the back with some fruit. Probably his treat for later. It touches me how generous everyone is. Especially to Hadassah... this isn't the first time she's been given chocolate and almost every time I buy fruit or vegetables, we get a little something given to her for free. I was happy to be able to give a little back, bringing them Christmas cookies earlier this week.

But seriously, the generosity of people isn't helping me teach Hadassah that when someone else is eating does NOT mean that you are entitled to some as well! She's perfected the art of walking closer and looking up with pleading eyes, so if they weren't offering food to her already, they definitely do then! 

 If she'd known how to open this, she would have...

She kept it in her hands while we were outside, and kept putting it in her mouth and say "um um um!"

I must say, though, having Hadassah often means good things for me. I mean, I wasn't about to let her eat a chocolate bar, and it'd be a shame to waste it, right? ;) 

There's only one "ornament" left on our tree, making me smile each time I see it. One more day!! I'm not looking forward to the flight, but am so ready to be with family. And in a little warmer house too. ;)

Please do pray as we fly. We fly out of Shanghai at 5:55 PM on Saturday and arrive in Alabama at 10:30 PM Saturday. Yeah, figure that one out. ;)  We have a 13 1/2 hour flight from Shanghai to Dallas, and then a 2 hour one to Montgomery. All with an active one year old in my lap. We're hoping that flying over her normal night time means she sleeps for at least part - maybe even most of it, or that if she ends up being awake, it means she adjusts to jet lag. I researched a while online on how to help toddlers with jet lag, and pretty much everyone said just expect a few days of misery.

So, prayers are appreciated. Especially that we don't get sick - it's unlikely we'll get much sleep on the plane, and likely Hadassah will wake up quite a bit during the new night (that used to be day for us!) so it will be a while before we get much sleep. And plane rides are pretty good for picking up germs, especially in the winter. But, we know that God is in control and are trusting Him. This may not be much of a vacation rest-wise, but we are looking forward to getting filled up with fellowship. It will be worth it.

We may not post much here while traveling, so Merry Christmas! :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Creating Christmas Cookies

Wanting to not just delay celebrating until we got "home" to America, I decided it would be fun to make Christmas cookies to give out to Ryan's co-workers and some neighbors. After all, the Chinese people seem to enjoy learning about traditions, and this is one I enjoyed doing with my sisters many years. Plus, having something to give at Christmas, along with a letter explaining the true meaning of Christmas, seemed like a good plan.

I invited my neighbor to join me, since she really enjoys learning more about baking and I knew that making and decorating a whole batch of sugar cookies would likely make me go crazy! I'm so glad I asked... Projects like these are definitely not meant to be done alone!

She came over on Thursday to help roll and cut out the cookies. She brought some cookie cutters she had, and we used ones I'd brought here. The recipe I used was great - these were the easiest cookies I ever rolled and cut out! Must have been all of that butter. ;)

It only took 6-7 batches baking in our small oven before they were all ready. By that time, I'd had time to make the frosting and the cookies cooled quickly in the cool house. ;)

 The pretty colors ready to be used...

We were able to decorate about half of the over 80 cookies that night too, finally calling it around a night around 9 PM. While we baked, Ryan and her husband talked for quite a while, getting on some really good topics, truth being shared and discussed. Then he took their son back and Ryan went to get some music ready for Sunday (Hadassah having been in bed for some time already) and it left Y and I with some great time to talk. It's rare that we get uninterrupted time, as one or the other of us is usually busy with a child. :)

 There's something about making something pretty that is so relaxing. Christmas music played in the background, giving some starters for conversation here and there. Y remarked that it had been a stressful week at work, but that this was so restful and fun. As I decorated a sheep, I asked if she'd heard the phrase "counting sheep." She said yes, and that in China they joke that Americans must count sheep because it sounds like the word for sleep (how did I never make that connection?). So she said in China people say to count dumplings, because the word for boiled dumplings sounds like the word for sleep - same spelling and pronunciation, just different tones. It made us both laugh, especially when she said you're not supposed to count too many dumplings, or you'll get hungry and won't be able to sleep!

I enjoyed learning more about Chinese history, sharing some stories from the first Christmas as the music played, and hearing some ancient Chinese stories that are similar.

The next evening, she came over again, to finish decorating the cookies. It was just us, along with music, and as we worked and talked, she remarked on how nice it was to do something creative with a friend. And she truly is a friend. I am realizing how blessed I am - I've never had a friend as such a close neighbor!

We got to know each other more over Christmas cookies. She shared some hard things that have happened in her family. I asked about what they think about life after death, and shared about the peace I have about that in Christ. As music played that my students had danced to, I shared some of the memories. I told her about my favorite and last production, "Creation's Promise" and described the Creation dance. She wanted to see it, so after we finished up the cookies, we watched the recording, as it portrayed creation and the fall. It's really cool to see how things I did in the past - really, God did - are being used even now.

We now have 22 smaller plates of cookies, stacked and ready to give out to Ryan's co-workers. Ryan edited the letter yesterday, to clearly explain the message that brought so much hope so many years ago. There is a reason for this season - and there's a reason why we're here.

Lord, use these cookies, to glorify You, as You already have... 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life in Random

On Tuesday night, one of Ryan's co-workers invited us over for dinner. We enjoyed the tasty dishes his wife prepared – over 6 different things all stir-fried, enough to feed the 10 people that were there! He just got married this year, and said his wife knew nothing about cooking before she married him. She'd evidently learned well, as everything was delicious. They told us she cooked with tea tree oil, which definitely made everything feel more healthy.

While I'm discovering more and more Chinese dishes that I really like, it's hard to eat them. Why? Well, first there are the chopsticks. I've gotten better than I was with my first attempt 7 months ago, but I'm still quite slow. They assessed last night that Ryan used chopsticks better than I did. ;) Then there's the set-up: all of the dishes are arrayed in big bowls on the table, while each person is given their own rice bowl. Then with each bite, you take something out of one of the big bowls with your chopsticks, maybe mix it with someone of your rice, and eat it. For each bite. It wouldn't be so hard, if it wasn't for the last reason: Hadassah. She keeps me busy feeding her when we're home and all I have to do is cut it up and keep her plate filled. But with Chinese food, I also have to manage to get food to her with the chopsticks, and by reaching across the table to grab whatever she can eat. By the time I've gotten it to her and broken it apart, she's usually ready for the next bite. I've actually had to tell Ryan we can't go out with groups to Chinese restaurants after church, because if you have a large group, they add in another element: a rotating part of the table, where the dishes are constantly going by. I never manage to grab enough to fill both Hadassah and me. So, it's tasty, but a lot more work than our “normal” way of dining. :)

The weather this week has been warmer, which is nice. It's helped the inside not feel so cold, as the outside air definitely seeps in through the not-well-sealed windows. Plus, when we're able to go outside more in nice weather, it gets our blood moving so that when we come in, it feels warm. A friend at church also asked, “Well, don't you have heat lamps in your bathroom?” when I was telling her our cold woes. And I realized... those are what those super bright and hot lights I never imagined why on earth were in the bathroom when we first moved in in the summer. It doesn't change everything, but it helps. Though, through cold trial and error we've discovered if we turn our hot water on too hot first thing, it completely goes off and we have to restart the system. Life is never boring!

We got a space heater and wool socks, and ordered slippers. We're getting better about layering. And slippers? They make my feet happy and my whole self feel warmer - it's wonderful!

It's only 8 days 'til we leave now, and I was able to go through things and make a list of what we want to buy while in America. Chocolate chips, spices, vitamins, toiletries I can read, shoes (my foot just barely fits into the largest woman's size here)... it's the little things that are so much more expensive if you buy them imported, and that really help make it feel like home. Is it crazy that I'm super excited about going to Walmart? Never thought that I would anticipate it so much, but to go in a store where I know where to find things and all the signs and labels are in English sounds heavenly.

Our internet decided to not just be slow on Wednesday, but to stop working all together. Seems like it's always something. :) They fixed it yesterday (praise God for an English speaker on the help line!) and today the VPN is actually working too!

Life with our little cutie who's trying to talk so much, mimicking so many animal sounds, playing games like hide-the-dolly and copy-cat (even realizing SHE can be the leader sometimes!) continues to be such a joy!

 She learned how to climb up the steps to the slide our neighbors gave us to borrow, so I've been keeping it against the wall except when I can supervise her. Tonight, she climbed up, and then started going down headfirst. I held her ankles, and she giggled the whole way and did it again and again and again... it is so much fun seeing her discover life!

Yesterday, though, I was mixing up cookies in the kitchen and came into the living room to find she'd managed to squeeze around and climb the stairs, patiently standing at the top waiting for me. Nothing's safe any more. ;)

She helped me unload groceries that were delivered today. Online ordering is really nice when I get around to doing it. It doesn't take as long now, but the thought of ordering in Chinese just makes me procrastinate. Hadassah was SO happy to take things out of the box (since one of her favorite things is to empty something!) and bring them to me. She helps me peel oranges now, as I give her the peel and she drops them in the garbage. She also is quite good at tearing apart a lettuce leaf and putting the pieces in a bowl when I make salad. I love my little helper.

There are so many moments I want to capture, to pause time and savor... her little voice saying “quack quack”, the light in her eyes when she sees daddy do something funny, the joy when she runs to give me a hug. She is growing so fast!

Lord, thank you. For so many blessings in life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

December Cold

Colds aren't the only cold we're getting around here.

People warned us that the winter was cold. Coming from the north, and looking at the average temperatures and the fact that it hardly ever snows here, we laughed just a little. I mean, how bad can it be?

We're not laughing now.

It's hard to complain much. I mean, we just came from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where snow covered the ground from November to March. The fact that it's only been this week that I've hesitated to take Hadassah walking outside due to it being really chilly says something. We like this climate weather wise. While the recent 37* F morning e-bike ride to work for Ryan is really really cold, it's still crazy to think he's riding a bike in December!

But we had the excuse to try out Hadassah's big coat a friend gave us. No, we can't find her hands in it. We call it her marshmallow coat. :)
But, it's cold inside. Like really cold. Knowing the fact that I couldn't get warm and my feet felt like they were freezing all day made me want to get some numbers. The heater in the corner of the living room and bedrooms was set to 78* F and even turns off and on, suggesting it reaches that temperature, but it definitely is NOT that warm in the room.

So I pulled out our alarm clock (which is a story in itself - ordering stuff online in Chinese going by pictures and Google translate sometimes means you get a clock that only plugs in via usb - huh? - or if you run it on batteries doesn't stay on so you have to hit it to see what time it is) which also happens to tell us the temperature. Made for cold indoors, maybe? We'd noticed that our bedroom seemed to hang around 57* F, only getting up to 59* if we ran the heater all night long, so I was curious...

Hadassah's room is, thankfully the warmest. We run the heater almost constantly in there, she has thicker curtains, and her room is 64* if the door's open or 66* or even 68* if the door's been closed while she sleeps. That combined with her thick, fuzzy footed pajamas means she sleeps warm. The living room comes in second, reaching 64* if the heater has been on and the sun is shining through the window, but usually hanging around 62* with the heat on.

Our room is by far the coldest, and the bathroom? I had to check, since my feet felt like they were going to stick to the floor from the cold when I got up in the middle of the night. The result? 53* F. It did warm up some during the day (if you call 57* warm!) but still... I now know why people didn't use to take a bath all winter. And what was the logic in installing a huge window right next to the shower?? I haven't had the heart to give Hadassah a bath in over a week...

This is what your husband will do (cover you in blankets) if he finds you curled up, shivering, not wanting to cook in the cold kitchen. I speak from experience.
Yeah. It's crazy.

And yes, we're taking steps to make it warmer. Catching up on computer stuff last night, I sat on my feet for 45 minutes and they finally thawed out! I felt warm for the first time all day! We're wearing lots and lots of layers, and hopefully getting warmer socks and slippers soon. We're also planning to buy a heater or two at the secondhand store this Sunday, though I'm not sure how well it will work. And Ryan's favorite part of the day is his morning coffee. Almost made me contemplate drinking it... but nah. I may try to start liking tea though... we'll see. Because when you drink water that's been put through your filter (and thus at room temperature) it makes your insides freeze!

So, if you have warmth this winter, be thankful. Be thankful for the heating systems installed in American houses, or at least a fire as a spot to get warm. I never realized how much I took for granted.

And pray for us. It is so easy to start complaining again, to say "I'm done. I've had enough." Ryan gets to escape to work where there is, thankfully, central heat, but sometimes I feel like I'll never be warm. Except at night, after the initial plunge into icy sheets, our many blankets do the trick making it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

However, God is still good. God is still faithful. With so many earthly comforts being tested, I'm realizing how much I have to look to Him for joy. After all, He is the only thing that lasts. I fail so many times. But, our God is a patient teacher.

But... I'm also dreaming of a WARM Christmas...

A tale of a nose

Poor Hadassah has had a tough week...

On Sunday evening we were having a quiet time as a family after a busy weekend, when the night got crazy with cries. Hadassah slipped on a book (I think?) and fell into the lower shelf of the coffee table. While it's now covered with padding, it's never something I thought was dangerous... But she managed to get a nice cut on her nose. 

We were scared. She was crying harder than she ever has, blood was gushing, we couldn't clearly see what she'd done as she was thrashing around in pain, and we were trying to stop the bleeding and determine if she needed stitches or what. It's our first cut as parents and it's so hard to see your baby in pain!

Medical care is harder to access here, especially for foreigners. While there are some (more expensive!) hospitals geared toward westerners, for emergency situations, you have to go to a local hospital. Which requires translation. So when we finally got Hadassah quieted down with videos of her as a baby, we decided to go next door to ask advice, knowing we'd need them along if we had to go to the hospital.

When we got over there, the grandma immediately took over. Swiftly she pulled out some solution, a tool to quickly slide the skin back in place, and cut a bandage down to size to fit snugly. And I remembered - she used to be a nurse! God provides. She told us (through her daughter-in-law's translation) not to worry, that it wouldn't leave a scar, and how to care for it.

Hadassah calmed down, and went to bed easily, not waking up once. In the morning we found she had pulled the bandage off, so we were able to get some pictures to send my dad and Ryan's aunt. It's pretty nice to have a doctor as a dad and THE expert on wound care as an aunt! They both confirmed that it didn't look too serious.

 With a band aid, she still pulls off the adorable look quite well!

 Her owie still looks pretty nasty, but it's continuing to heal, Hadassah hasn't picked at it as I've explained it's not something to touch, and she's hardly acted like it's there.

But the only thing more pitiful than a baby with an owie on her nose is one with an owie AND a snuffly nose! Tuesday night we awoke in the middle of the night to loud cries (it's rare these days that she wakes up, thankfully!), and the next morning we could tell she definitely had a cold. A bad cold. So she hasn't napped as well and hasn't been in the best mood, understandably, these last few days. Meaning that at night she's pretty tired. The above picture was taken two nights ago. She was laying on the floor with her nigh-night lamb a full hour before bedtime, saying "nigh-night..." So we put her to bed straight away. :)

Ryan has the cold now, but thankfully so far I've escaped it. Prayers appreciated that Hadassah fully recovers soon, Ryan gets better, and I don't get it!

And this momma is ready for her baby's nose to not have anything else happen to it... ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Paper Christmas

You never realize how much you enjoy seeing the sites of Christmas spring up around you until it's no where to be seen. Aside from a few local shops that have snowflakes and "Merry Christmas" in their window year round, and the hotel our church meets at that has decorations in their lobby, I haven't seen much.

When packing to come, I just brought a few small Christmas items, because I knew we were planning to go home to visit family for Christmas. Looking back, maybe I should have brought more. Because when what you put up is all you see, you really want it!

But... it's fun to see what you can do with paper. :)

 I did bring a few Christmas lights, and they definitely cheer up the room. And making paper chains, I learned, is a lot of fun. Hadassah "helped" me with some of it too. :)

 On a whim I tried making a tree out of paper, and it worked! The "ornaments" have numbers on it, counting down 'til we fly to America. Each day I take one off. We're at 14 today!!

 I had to put something else on the wall, and this is big and bright and reminds me to seek joy. Because we have SO many reasons to be joyful - the biggest one being our Lord is here with us!

 I brought our manger scene friends gave us for our wedding

And I always wanted to make sure I had mistletoe in the house when I was married, so the cheap one I picked up last Christmas got packed too. :) And the snowflakes may be the only ones we see over here this year, which is fine with me! I tried to show Hadassah how cool they were, but she was more interested in eating the bits of paper I cut out of them, so I had to distract her while I finished them. ;)

It doesn't feel like it's really in 20 days, but the decorations and Christmas music I play almost constantly when Hadassah is awake helps. It also fills me with memories, since many of the songs are ones I choreographed for my students. It may be 2 years since I last taught (already??) but I'll never forget "my" girls. 

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Chinese Thanksgiving

 It worked. God blessed. We're tired, but we're so thankful. We had a houseful for Thanksgiving... it felt like family gatherings in the past, but all of our guests were Chinese. It is amazing to realize how many friends we've been blessed with in just 6 months!

Ryan was wonderful in watching Hadassah much of the day so I could clean and cook. It was so much fun, too, knowing I was preparing for a big group! Everything got done in time, turned out well, and Google was definitely my friend - you CAN make Thanksgiving food without many things... no evaporated milk for the pumpkin pie, canned soup substitute for green bean casserole (I had one can Ryan's mom brought, but needed to double the recipe), and everything was created without an electric mixer or a rolling pin. But hey, forks and chop sticks work! :)

The turkey was super moist and so delicious! It cooked 8 hours in the crockpot, with lemon, garlic, sage and rosemary tucked inside and around. And wow. Wow. I'm doing it that way every time I'm the one making a turkey!

The spread. I'd asked everyone to bring something to share, so we had some Chinese food for Thanksgiving this year too! Everyone enjoyed it, too. I thought I'd have a ton of leftovers, but besides the large turkey carcass in my fridge, I just have a tad of this and that left!

A family from the baking class I taught came! They are so sweet.
Ryan's boss came, and helped Ryan carve the turkey
We had a time after the big feast but before dessert to share what we were thankful for. Everyone really got into it, making eloquent mini speeches and clapping after each one shared.
Everyone we invited came - 3 co-workers of Ryan's, our next door neighbors, our upstairs neighbors, a family from our church and my Chinese teacher! A total of 26 people including us!
Thanksgiving would not be complete without pie. I made them on Friday, and while they were cooking, it truly felt like it was Thanksgiving with the smell...

Not having tapioca to thicken the apple pie like I always did in the past, I had to find a new recipe. My Idaho friend mentioned she was trying a new recipe when we skyped recently, and when I searched, the same one was one of the top picks. So, I tried it, and am so glad I did! Apple pie was always good, but never the one I'd go for first... but this one was out of the park! Almost made me like it better than my favorite, pumpkin!

 Everyone was in good spirits, and the party dynamics were so good. It was loud, which meant people were having a good time. :) The kids played together, people enjoyed looking at our family pictures, and when they were leaving, one remarked how nice it was to meet new friends that live close by, that it was a very friendly atmosphere.

Hadassah was definitely more unsure. Poor girl had a rough day. Between teething and less napping than normal, she was pretty fussy and cried if I left her side for a moment. Though, as the evening continued and toys were out, she got a little more confident. I'm learning it's harder to host as a mom! But, it's so worth it. It's good for her to learn some flexibility. And I was thankful for her early bedtime being at home - she always loves going to bed at night - as soon as I put her in her pajamas, she was smiley and happy and went right to sleep despite all the noise!

It truly was. One to remember.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Joyful Thanksgiving!

 Our God is a good God. My day began with some tears. But it's ended with much joy.

 I struggled through the morning, praying for joy... It is so hard being away from family, but I could feel the love and prayers from friends and family. I talked with my sister-in-law on the phone, enjoyed the beautiful blue-sky day with my daughter, and skyped my sister by heart. And somewhere along the way, God gave joy.

By the time Hadassah woke from a long afternoon nap, I was singing silly songs and dancing for her just because I felt so light-hearted. Joyful.

We went for a walk when Ryan got home from work, and saw the most amazing sky. We talked about the day, and it was just so wonderful to be a family. And it's so incredible being married to my best friend!

As I got supper on the table, I was singing... "You turned my mourning into dancing, put off my rags and clothed me with gladness; my heart will sing and not be silent - I'll sing and not be silent. Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever..."

I made chicken pot pie soup for supper, since the big turkey meal will happen on Saturday. The stuff is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Seemed to be a good combination of Thanksgiving ingredients, without all the work (it just takes about 20 minutes to make!). And, I'd saved two pieces of pumpkin pie from my "test" pie last weekend (okay, I just wanted an excuse to make more pie!) so in the end, it tasted like Thanksgiving. After the soup and the pie, Ryan said it felt like his taste buds had "one amazing explosion after another." That's good enough for me. :)

Hadassah colored her turkey hand, and we made ours together, to prepare examples for our Saturday group craft.

And, to top it all off, the internet has worked all day! I was able to finish a Christmas present photo project that I'd tried to do at least 7 times only to have it fail in the upload process, even if I left it alone and didn't do anything else all day. But it's done! It worked! Wow!! We serve an awesome God.

I didn't "need" these blessings. I wanted to be thankful even if it meant tears all day. But, God has given me little gifts that show me tangibly how much I am loved. What an amazing Father we have!

Happy Thanksgiving from one continent to another! :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Recently, it's been easier to focus on things to complain about rather than the things we are blessed with.

It's easy to do. The little things pile up, until you hit the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back."

Case in point: last Saturday's date night.

It was a mostly great day. We got some rest, more time reading, some projects done, and enjoyed throwing a frisbee in an open field - it doesn't get much better than that.

We got some cute pictures of Hadassah...

And she got surrounded by group after group of touring high school students, getting her picture taken by probably at least 75 of them while all she wanted to do was just play with rocks. ;)

Then, we headed out to eat. Not wanting something we'd done before, we decided to try a place that looked popular... and ended up walking out before even getting a menu. So then we decided to try the place right outside our complex's gate. It also looked popular. Stepping inside and seeing rows of raw meat to be grilled ourselves should have clued us in. But Hadassah was going to be crazy if we didn't eat soon... surely there was something there?

The exposed raw meat with flies buzzing would surely not pass any food safety inspections. We ended up grilling some broccoli, and eating what seemed the "safest" food there: fried egg rolls and chicken nuggets. Yeah, not the healthiest... There was sweet watermelon (in November??) that we were thankful for... but overall we ended up feeling sick and rummaging the fridge when we got home.

Oh yes, when we got home Hadassah promptly covered herself in a pool of pee as I was changing her diaper, so I handed her off to Ryan for an emergency bath and brought her clothes to the laundry room only to find the load I'd run earlier was sitting in a tub of water because the machine had stopped draining properly. Great.

By the time the little one was safely tucked into bed, we were ready to just crash with a movie... something to de-stress. But our VPN wasn't working (the internet here has been really really bad and inconsistent lately) so YouTube wouldn't load, and YouKu (the Chinese version) didn't have any good, free movies in English. So we resorted to using our external DVD drive to connect to our laptop (did I mention our computer is also pretty slow and inconsistent?) to watch one of the two DVDs we'd brought with us... and discovered that wasn't working.

So we sat on the couch and aired our woes, yes complaining some... We couldn't even post the funny status to Facebook about our date night failures because it wouldn't load. But we ended up laughing through the moans of our upset stomachs, thankful to just be together.

Thankful. Thanksgiving is here. It's a quiet day, as Ryan has work as usual. But we've got 13 adults and 6 children coming on Saturday for a Thanksgiving feast, so there is celebration ahead. And I have my weekly skype date with a dear sister of the heart, and this evening, we'll be together. Our small little family. That's something to be grateful for: usually as a young family you're never alone for holidays, as it's such a good time to be with extended family. I like big large family gatherings, but it just hit me that this year we get time to make memories with just us... and that is something to be treasured.

We went for a walk on Sunday afternoon, and while we started out complaining - after all, if it isn't the yowling cats keeping me awake for 3 hours in the early morning, it's the mosquitoes buzzing in our ear at 3 AM - but we decided to try to focus on things we were thankful for by specifically being in China:
 - A good job for Ryan, that is growing his skills, giving him way more responsibility and leadership than he'd have in America, familiarity with more things than he'd be able to work on at a larger company, and growing his career
- Good colleagues and a great work environment, with no cubicles making things more social and collaborative
- A nice apartment - we really are blessed with a great one that we enjoy.
- A daughter - cute, expressive, inquisitive, bright, and such a joy. We're pretty amazed that we get to be her parents!
- Good neighbors. I mean, who would have ever guessed we'd live right next to people who spoke great English and were so interested in being our friends?
- Each other. We're learning more about each other and growing through the "trials" and are thankful for these experiences.
- Our church. Though we don't like the distance, we never expected to find a church we meshed with so well in Shanghai.
- Nature. We really live in a pretty, well landscaped place, and on Sunday discovered a hidden path by a river with the most gorgeous fall trees...

Right now, this seems like a very hard season. But I know one day we'll look back and it will be one we remember with fondness, that we're thankful for. And I want to be thankful now.

I'm thankful for the fact that it's teaching me to do with less.

I'm thankful for the time with my husband and my daughter. I do get more time with them because there are less friends and family to be with. Long term, being without community is not what I'd chose. But, this is still a sweet season.

I'm thankful at the opportunity to see the Lord's faithfulness. Sometimes it's hard to see why how this move fits into His grand plan, but we know it does, that nothing's wasted, and that this is part of our loving Father's good gifts to us.

I feel like complaining a lot more over here. I fail in looking at the bright side so often. But I'm thankful for this opportunity to learn more perseverance.

So Thanksgiving dawned in China with memories of family, missing them, and shedding some tears. But, I'm learning to be thankful through the tears... realizing how hard it is to "be thankful in all circumstances" but that is what we are called to. This lesson is a good one to learn.

Lord, help me to be more thankful...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Golden Way of Grandeur

There's a road where fall is showing...

I call it the Golden Way of Grandeur. Yes, there's a little bit of "Anne of Green Gables" in me that just has to come out sometimes. :)

 *sigh* Isn't it majestic? Ryan gets to ride past this every day on his way to work.

 The only way to get her to sit for a second for a picture was to give her a leaf ;)

 Why sit still when you could go off and explore?

That seems to be her motto these days. ;)

 But she smiled for a picture with mom!

The leaves are falling fast... but all the better for us to play!

Ryan showed me this place as we've started walking for 30 minutes (with a 10 minute run in the middle for him) right before or after dinner, in an attempt to get him exercise. So when Hadassah didn't fall asleep for her morning nap today, I knew where to go. After 45 minutes and still hearing little noises (the fact that her nigh-night lamb was hanging up to dry instead of ensconced in her arms probably had a lot to do with it... sometimes I just really want a dryer!) I wasn't feeling like doing chores anyway, so I got her up and we headed out in the beautiful 60 degree weather. :) 

Thank You, Lord, for beauty in your creation to enjoy....