Saturday, May 31, 2014

Apartment: Found!

Wow. When friends said things can move fast in China, they were right. We found our apartment today! Our God answers prayer.

Both Friday and today, we walked around for 5 hours each afternoon, looking at apartments. Some were obvious no's, others were ones to consider. But none clicked like the last one we looked at...

We tried to see it earlier. We waited at the door for a while, finally sitting down, at which point the neighbors invited us in. The mom spoke English and they had a 17-month-old son, so it was fun to converse with her. She was really friendly too, so the thought of possibly having her next door was great. So we waited and waited, only to finally learn that there was a mix-up with who the key was given to, and the owner wouldn't be back for another hour. So, these sweet new friends gave us a tour of their place, saying the set-up of the other one was similar.

Instead of waiting for the owner to arrive, we walked to see another place. Only to find that the owner of this one had left, since we'd waited so long at the other place. Oh well - we hadn't really been interested in that one anyways. So we walked back to the other place... Hopefully it'd be worth it.

And it was!! Right away we both felt that this was it. Open, clean rooms, airy and cheerful, with more modern furnishings . The master bedroom even had a more western-style mattress - not thin and hard like all the others we'd seen. It fit pretty much everything we hadn't liked about the other apartments: the tv's were small, so they'd fit easily in a closet (we didn't watch tv in the US so we don't plan to start here!). The 3rd bedroom didn't have a bed so we'll have more space (one guest bed should be enough!). The furniture already had guard things on the corners because the previous renters had a baby - it's like it has been prepared for us! Little things like the curtains in the living room and kitchen just made me happy... It should only take Ryan 5 minutes to get to work on an E-bike (kind of like a motorcycle but cheaper) and is close enough that I could walk it! And to top it all off, we've already met the neighbors and at least one speaks great English!

The owners are also really nice. They teach at the university (which is across the street) and want to make sure things are kept nice. Having seen many very dirty apartments as we searched for one, I'm happy to keep this one nice as we find it so! They're very caring and told us to call if we needed anything and promised to fix a few things that were broken. We are blessed!

The only downside: it's on the 3rd floor and there's no elevator. So, we'll get nice and strong over the next few years! ;)

Knowing that our favorite from the previous day had JUST been taken by someone else, we went ahead and told the owner it was a deal. We'll sign the papers and put the down payment down on Monday.

We have a home! I nearly skipped as we made the trek back to the subway. I did sing with all my might "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!" Ryan accompanied with some cool clapping patterns, as he'd completely lost his voice. Walking for hours and talking with people isn't the best treatment for a bad sore throat... my man is amazing.

We celebrated at McDonalds - the only thing by the subway. And never had those Golden Arches looked so good!

As we rode towards our hotel, I leaned close to Ryan and said, "I can picture it now! We have a home!"

And boy does it feel good.

Thank you Lord! And thank you to everyone who was praying - we could definitely feel it!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Longing for Home...

"I'm longing for a City...
Not made by human hands.
And I'm longing for a Garden...
Where God once walked with man.
For eternity is written on my heart;
And I'm longing for a day,
When we'll never be apart."

Yesterday was hard. It seemed like one thing upon another was going wrong... I was just getting better after being sick for 3 days with fever, chills, and an awful sore throat, and now Ryan was coming down with the same thing. This wasn't our plan for our first week in China. We'd planned to see the city, try new food, and enjoy the experience! Have I mentioned that a hotel room gets boring after a while to a 7-month-old?

Food was hard to find - especially when we weren't sure what we could trust (hearing that contaminated food is more prevalent these days) and wanting something fresh since we were sick. Fresh and safe is expensive in Shanghai. Going to CarreFour for fruit & veggies we could peel had almost resulted in me fainting, as I was in the midst of fever. Then we'd finally found some lettuce at a store that looked safe but when we brought it home, it was covered in bugs. Red bugs. Black bugs. Minuscule bugs. And the worst - gooey white worm bugs. Not just one bug here or there, but multiple bugs on every leaf. They didn't wash off with bottled water either, since there's no strong pressure...

There was more. We really really wanted to get into an apartment, where we could have more room to spread out and get organized and have Hadassah sleep in a separate room so we didn't keep accidentally keep waking her up with our movement. Plus, after 2 months of traveling, we are SO ready to be settled again. But getting an apartment in China requires that you know an agent who can take you to see some. Most agents speak Chinese. And how to get in touch with them? Ryan's work was helping some, but it was going slow... all they'd offered so far was out of our budget. 

We laid on the bed as Hadassah napped, and whispered our frustration. We just want to be home. We miss Iowa. We miss being able to make our own food. We miss when getting groceries for a week took just over an hour - now just getting ONE meal takes that much time or more! We miss having our own home, with a car that Ryan would drive 5 minutes to work. Trying to find an apartment close enough that he can walk or bike home for lunch seems like an impossibility here... We miss blue sky. We miss having a dryer. We want to be home...

But then we decided to count our blessings:
     - We hadn't gotten sick at the same time, so there was always one of us with enough energy to play with Hadassah
     - Hadassah hasn't gotten sick!
     - We're in a very comfortable hotel
     - We're together
     - This time will make us stronger
     - We're learning to rely on God more

I admit, it didn't make things all better. The list of blessings seemed shorter than the list of frustrations. But it also reminded me once more that this world isn't our home.

Yes, soon, Lord willing, "home" for us will refer to an apartment hopefully close to Ryan's work. But how long will it last? Three years? And even if we then move somewhere else, it will still be temporary. So we started to think about our true Home:
     - We won't need the sun, because the Lamb, Jesus, will give us light
     - There will be green grass for Hadassah to run and play on
     - The air will be completely pure
     - There will be no sickness
     - There will be no contaminated food - instead, we'll feast with the Lord!
     - There will be no more tears
     - Best of all, we'll be with our Lord, worshiping Him with family and friends and Christians through the ages forever.
     - There will be no more longing... we'll be home.

"Behold, the tabernacle of God will be with man;
He will be our God, and we will be His people.
And the Bride she will marry the Lamb...
But until that day, I'm longing for the new Jerusalem."

*lyrics by Matt & Alexia Gilman

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Happy 7 months!

Look who's 7 months! Hadassah is becoming such a big girl, and her personality is really coming through. She's so sweet, gentle, funny, playful, inquisitive, and people-oriented, always looking for people to look at and smile at (and finding plenty here in China!). She also loves other babies - when she sees pictures of them, she smiles a cute smile and reaches out, and when she met a little boy on the subway, she reached out to hold his hand.  She fills our lives with joy - we're so thankful for our little 'Dassah!

 She stuck the leaf in her mouth JUST before I took the picture - silly girl! ;) But oh so cute...

Dimples!! Just when I thought she couldn't get any cuter!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Taking a break from our usual non-theological posts, I thought I'd reflect on something.

Earlier this evening, a man came up to Anna and I and said, "Are you all Christians?"  He had a Ukrainian accent and it turns out he was Ukranian.  "How did you become a Christian?", I asked.  His reply started out good enough, "Well, I used to be Orthodox."  He meant upper-case "O", but, according to his next statement, should have meant it to be lower-case.  "Then I heard from some Jehovah's Witnesses and I started to get into some of that stuff.  Now I'm here in China wanting to preach and teach."

Sickness to the stomach.  I was so sad when he belied this information.  The one thing everyone knows about JW's is that they follow the Ebionite heresy of denying Jesus' deity.  We made small talk for as long as possible.  But as we started to get into the conversation (about Jesus' deity), I started to realize how much this doctrine shapes and informs every bit of worship and Christianity for me.

Anyways, I gave him the typical prooftexts (Jesus forgives sins, Thomas calls him Lord, people pray to him in Revelation, etc.)  It's true that it's not something the NT ever talks about at length.  But it's always there.  Recent examples of where I've come across it are Romans 1:1 (Grace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord) and Hebrews 1:8.  In Hebrews 1:8, the author takes the passage Psalm 47:6-7 where it says "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever" and applies it to Christ.  Of course, in its original context, they were not saying that the davidide was God.  In its original context, this was just to specify that the Davidic King was the vicegerent of Israel's God.  But in Hebrews 1, the author applies it to the Son as a way of demonstrating that he is superior to the angels.  Especially given the immediate context, where we are told that the Son is "forever and ever" and as the "Lord" who created the universe (vv 10-12), this is an attribution of deity to Jesus.

In any case, it was a good experience to realize how much I really am attached to this most core of doctrines.  And it really is core.  I don't know how or why anyone who doesn't believe Jesus is God could or would call themselves Christian.  I told my Ukranian stranger friend the same thing, more or less, in words a little more polite.

Seeing Shanghai

 What to do when you don't have a working phone and don't have a watch, yet need to keep track of the time? Put the time stamp on your camera on, look a clock to calculate how much you need to add/subtract to know the local time, and take a picture every time you need to check it! ;)

On our way to People's Square! So fun to see sites Ryan's been to years before!

People - everywhere people. One day I want to be able to speak their language.

I've definitely had more fried rice than ever before! ;) And I agree with Ryan that in some cases real Chinese food isn't as palatable as "American" Chinese food... but I know our tastes will adjust eventually! All-in-all, thinks have been pretty good!

I was taking a picture of Ryan and Hadassah when someone else walked up to take a picture of them. ;) And yes, that is a pear made out of rubber duckeys - don't ask me what for!

We are blessed to see many new sites and have new experiences!

A Pictorial Journey

 Since when I posted our last post, pictures wouldn't upload to go with it, here they are from our trip:

4:30 AM at the airport in Montgomery, AL - my parents were so amazing to come and see us off that early!

 If Hadassah was fussy on the flights, sometimes I'd just hand her to Ryan and she'd cheer right up. That girl loves her Daddy!

Hadassah liked having her own seat! Since Ryan's company reimbursed us for this flight, we went ahead and got Hadassah her own seat. And we're so glad she did! She's a little independent, so having somewhere to put her down to play was wonderful.

We could tell people were praying because Hadassah slept! She hardly ever will sleep anywhere except her own bed or her carseat. But on two of the flights, after a little fussing, she went peacefully to sleep in my arms. Though after a while my arms got sore, it was so precious to have that time holding her close.

People told us we looked like a happy family :)

On the 14 hour flight from Detroit to Shanghai we put Hadassah on the seat between us. The airplane pillows and blankets provided her with a cozy little nest where she played and slept!

The last 2 1/2 hours of flight and all through the airport Hadassah refused to sleep... but in the taxi I was playing with her toys in front of her when suddenly I noticed she had drifted off...

And yes, this is what I look like at 4 AM body time after 24 hours of almost no sleep. ;)

The view from our hotel room - skyscrapers stretch for miles! Hadassah loves sitting in the window watching the cars go by. ;)

Safely in Shanghai! So blessed to be together.

We made it!

We arrived in Shanghai just 3 days ago... but already it feels like we've been here forever. :)

Just surviving in a new city with a different language takes a lot of time, and jet lag with a baby is not for the faint of heart. ;) But we're starting to see light - and sleep! - at the end of the tunnel, and are grateful for all of God's blessings.

We could definitely feel everyone's prayers on our flights. We'd booked one that would take the least travel time, thinking the sooner we made it the better. While that was good, it also meant connections were crazy. In both Atlanta and Detroit we had just enough time to go as quickly as we could to our next gate and join the boarding line. We were supposed to have 2 hours in Detroit, but our plane from Atlanta sat on the terminal waiting to leave for the longest time, since there was rain and some concern over whether or not we could land safely as the brakes had some issue. We prayed a lot that it would leave and we'd make our connection, and, praise the Lord, we did!

Hadassah was AMAZING. Despite all my worries about a baby on a plane for SO long, she was good enough that multiple people commented on how well she did. ;) Getting her up at 3 AM to make our first flight at 5:40 AM I think helped make her tired enough that she slept on each flight, first in my arms, and then on the seat between us. She was so cute - she'd lay down, I'd cover her with the blanket, and she'd put her thumb in and go to sleep! Now, there were definitely moments of meltdowns, but they were just that: moments. Though the last 2 1/2 hours of the 14 hour flight, I was definitely watching the minutes of the "time remaining" count down and even reverted to putting on "Lady and the Tramp" for Hadassah to watch to distract her. Despite it being Midnight body time, she wasn't interested in more sleep and toys had lost their attraction. ;)

We got through the airport smoothly, though we waited for a long time at the gate once we got off for our stroller that never arrived. Finally we moved on to claim our baggage and put in a missing baggage claim form. And, the next day, it was delivered to our hotel! Between it and the ERGO, Hadassah has nice transport and places to nap when we're out and about trying to find basics like food and a phone.

Hadassah also seemed to enjoy her first car ride without a car seat. Yes, the thought of what would happen if we were in a crash and she's not secure is a little scary. But in a place like Shanghai, carrying around a car seat just wouldn't work. Plus, we're taking the subway more often since it's a lot cheaper. ;) But in the taxi on our way to the hotel Hadassah looked in wonder at all of the cars going by and raised her hands in glee as she felt the breeze through the open window before conking out of my lap. It's moments like those that I want to remember.

Sleep is still a challenge, but better than I thought it would be. After the first night, when Hadassah got up and wanted to play at 2 AM and from 4:30 AM on, she's gone mostly right back to sleep after nursing. Though, her getting up 3-4 times per night leaves us rather exhausted, we're getting there. Switching a baby's schedule by 12 hours isn't fun.

And, I definitely have the most amazing husband in the world. Night after night of little and/or interrupted sleep doesn't mix well with my body, and I've gotten some pretty awful headaches. But, Ryan, even when he's exhausted himself, massages me and makes me relax, taking care of Hadassah so I can rest. And today is the first day I haven't had a headache! But I am coming down with a sore throat... travel, lack of sleep, and not as much fresh food makes things hard. It's kind of discouraging, but Emergen-C, cough drops, and one of Ryan's old friends here that out of the blue offered to bring us a smoothie tonight plus the knowledge that God is in control gives hope.

Shanghai is pretty cool. Ryan is incredible at navigating, so I've just had to follow and enjoy the sites. It's definitely a beautiful city with some lovely trees and the tallest buildings stretching for miles... Temperatures have varied from warm to cool to quite steamy. There's definitely more smog than we're used to, but not as bad as we expected. My legs feel the effects of all of the walking, but it also feels incredibly healthy.

While having moving overseas with a baby is definitely harder than if we were alone, I can't imagine it any other way. As Ryan says, babies are a universal language. Everywhere we go people stop to smile at Hadassah and she's already had her fair share of pictures taken by random strangers. Despite my best efforts to dress her in pink and put bows on her head, people still ask "boy or girl?" and want to know her age.

I can't wait to learn the language, as it feels weird not being able to communicate with pretty much everyone around us. Ryan does an amazing job making himself understood and I just smile and point and nod. ;) The Chinese Ryan learned has definitely come back to him, though, and I keep asking him to teach me certain words, though the pronunciation and different tones make it hard. So, I will be excited when we're settled and we can find a language tutor.

Speaking of being settled, finding an apartment is high on our list of things to do this coming week. Ryan's work is supplying us with two weeks in a hotel, which is great, but nothing compares to when we'll finally have our own place.

By the way, if you have tap water that you can drink and a dryer, don't take it for granted! ;)

(Photos to come later if blogger will cooperate - we finally gave up after 45 minutes of it still not uploading them!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday Ryan!

Happy 30th birthday to my amazing husband! I am so blessed by his constant devotion to the Lord and to us. He is an amazing husband, father, leader, provider, protector, friend, and he always keeps me laughing  He's built his life on God's Word, which we wanted to show with his birthday cake. All credit for the cake goes to Creative Cakes by Katherine

 These books are some of the ones Ryan's gone through the most in the last year, plus the Romans commentary that we just started reading for this year. I am so blessed how Ryan studies God's Word with me!

Despite scattering 30 candles all around the cake, Ryan still got them out in one blow by running around the table ;)

Monday, May 19, 2014

3 more days in the states...

It's real! We got the visas on Tuesday, made our last long car trip, and are preparing to fly to Shanghai on Wednesday, May 21st! Our first of three flights leaves bright and early at 5:40 AM. The last of the three will be almost 15 hours in duration. With an active almost 7-month-old who doesn't fall asleep easily in places other than her own bed, this isn't on the top list of things I want to do. ;) But I know that God is in control, and that He will bring us there. He's brought us this far!

A great way to say Goodbye to the US was to see a sunrise at the beach... We got up early while visiting Ryan's Granddad to make it to the beach. It was cool and windy, but worth it.

 God's beauty is majestic....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

She'll Call Me Mommy...

All my life I dreamed of this day -
I'd have a baby and it wouldn't just be play...

Now it's here. And it's sweet.
The joys and the milestones can't be beat.

Those days when I carried a doll everywhere
Are replaced with a real live baby so dear...

And she coos. And she laughs.
She'll call me Mommy in another year's half.

But these first six months with a baby to hold
Have produced challenges I'd have never foretold.

But the Lord - He's so good!
He's given me grace to do more than I could.

And the best part of all, though a mother I be,
I'm a wife first and foremost; parents are WE...

And he's great. The best dad.
To go through life with him makes me so glad...

Forever. In the Lord. Together.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Learning Patience...

The process of moving to China has definitely been a lesson in patience. First, it was waiting to see if we would get the job. Then when I knew we'd be moving to China, I wanted to know when, so I knew what to prepare for. And while we knew early on that it would be mid- or late May, we've been waiting.... and waiting... and waiting... We don't want to buy plane tickets before we get visas, and before we got those we had to submit all kinds of documents to get an invitation letter.

Today I thought we might know. Ryan left at 4:30 AM to drive 4 1/2 hours to Chicago to go to the Chinese consulate to get our visas. We were told if he submitted the application by 11 AM and paid for it to be expedited, he might be able to pick them up that afternoon. Though he made the deadline, after waiting in line for 1 1/2 hours, he was told they were too busy to process them that day, and he'd have to come back on Tuesday to pick them up. So, we still can't get tickets and our leave date!

But, each day teaches me to rely on God more. He knows. And each day brings us closer. The reality is hitting that we'll likely be in China in under 2 weeks! But, more and more the realization grows that this world is not our home. We sometimes don't even know where we'll be the next day. But if we've trusted Jesus as our Savior, we know where we'll be spending eternity: in heaven with Him. I look forward to that day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Busy Days... but Joy!

It's a busy day! Final documents just arrived to allow us to get our visas - finally! Trying to look at the options to figure out what we need to do. Add to that the need to finish packing our boxes to prepare to ship over... But seeing this sight in the morning just makes things not seem so major. We are so thankful for our little bundle of joy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Cairo to China...

June 11th, 2013. Ryan and I were in Cairo, Egypt for a time of prayer and seeking God's direction for us. We were visiting a team in Cairo to see how they worked, with the potential of joining them one day. But after a week, we both sensed that this wasn't the right fit for us. So, we were asking, "then what?"

That morning as we read the Bible and prayed, I asked Ryan, "What about China?" Since college he had intended to live there one day. He'd been there 4 times, including a semester studying abroad, had studied the language enough to get around, and had gone into engineering partly for the purpose of being able to live and work overseas. And every time he'd tell me about China, his face would light up...

But his eyes had turned to the seemingly greater need in the Muslim world. For the past few years he'd been looking to going there. But when the place he'd focused on wasn't seeming to fit, he replied he'd been thinking about China too. So we prayed...

A few days later we were riding in a taxi with an older gentleman named Bob who had spent his life working in the Muslim world. Surely he would see the great need there and encourage us to pursue it. As we were discussing things with him, conversation turned to the city we were in. Ryan mentioned that he loved big cities, and, having spent time in Shanghai, that "it is the city of my heart." "Then what are you doing here?" Bob asked. After explaining our reasoning, Bob nevertheless encouraged us to look into China again.  Incidentally, his own daughter had gone the China route - so he was able to speak to us from experience. Hmm... coincidence?

So we continued to talk and pray. For months. We made pro & con list to compare staying where we were in Iowa, moving closer to family, or going to China. We went in circles, as they were all good options, all with opportunities for ministry.

There were other things to think about, though, as our first baby was due the end of October. So we prepared for the birth, while talking to people about the possibility of moving to China. We thought of getting support to learn the language and then looking for a job. But things just didn't seem like they'd work out with that scheme. Hadassah was born and we settled in the craziness and joys of parenting. By January, after a LONG trip to go see family, we decided to just look for a job closer to parents. We wanted our little one to know her grandparents!

So the job search began... writing a resume, getting it critiqued, and submitting it to any and every relevant company within a few hours of our parents. Nothing. Time was running out as our lease in Iowa was up the end of March and we wanted to move by then. But then, things were coming together! An in-company transfer was opening up for Ryan to move to their southern branch. We'd be directly in between our parents. What could be better?

But on a whim, Ryan had submitted a resume to a Chinese engineering company at the beginning of February. Hearing nothing from them, we put it out of our minds. Finally it looked like we'd be moving south! As we began looking for homes to rent in Alabama, an email rocked my Monday morning on February 25th. The company in China wanted to talk to Ryan? My brain, which was already gearing up to move closer to home, went whirling. But when Ryan saw the email and began jumping in joy, I knew it was something we'd pursue.

Things moved quickly. In less than 2 weeks he had 3 phone calls and exchanged lots of emails. At the same time, the in-company transfer was lining up... We were torn. And confused. Which one would actually be happening? But amid the confusion, we had peace. We knew God would bring us where He wanted us to be.

Monday, March 12th dawned early for us. If we didn't get a job offer from the Chinese company, Ryan would be signing on for the transfer South. I got up early and checked email... nothing. With the time difference, it was already late evening in China - after working hours. "Does this mean we're moving to Alabama?" I asked Ryan, and he confirmed. We were both excited now, talking about houses and budgeting and when to move, and how exciting it would be to be closer to family and friends. We read the Bible and prayed and made breakfast. I also couldn't help but email family and close friends sharing the news of our exciting move!

But then, not 20 minutes after I sent that email, Ryan was getting ready for work while I sat down to see if anyone had replied. That's when I saw the email in the inbox, from the Chinese company, with the subject: "Job Offer." "No" - I thought - "No - we were so sure... Ryan!!!!" And so he jumped up and down again. We laughed and agonized and prayed. It seemed crazy - we'd wanted to move closer to home, not half-way across the world... But when would another opportunity like this come?

So Ryan accepted the job. He put in his two-weeks notice at work. I wandered around the house wondering where to start... I was supposed to pack to move to China? We freaked out together later that afternoon, feeling a little sick to our stomachs realizing what we were giving up. We wondered if it was the right decision, and prayed for peace. And God answered. Ryan's parents told us they'd store stuff in their basement so we wouldn't need to get rid of our barely-a-year-old wedding presents. One of my close friends said she'd come to help me pack. My parents said they'd come to help us move out.

Thus began the process of listing all of our furniture for sale on Craigslist, making bags and bags of things to donate, and boxing things to store, while making a smaller pile of things to bring.  Within 2 weeks, on March 24th, we were pulling out of snowy Cedar Rapids... on our way to Shanghai, China.

I'd finally be getting to see the place that had captured my husband's heart. And though I was still nervous about all that was left to do, I was excited!

We aren't there yet. Work permits, visas and final packing take time. We've been blessed to have weeks to see family and friends to say "Goodbye". At least for now. There'll be yearly visits home, and we're planning to evaluate again after 3 years. But, we know this is where God would have us be. It's been a crazy lesson of faith to get us there... And we can't wait to see the rest of the story!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Picnic at the Park!

Amid busy days of many errands to run, we combined going out for shoe shopping (since we hear our sizes are hard to get in China!) with a picnic at the park. It was a great half hour of introducing Hadassah to the slide and just sitting in the shade with those we love most, smiling, talking, and encouraging Hadassah NOT to eat the grass she kept picking. ;)

Even though it meant we got home later than expected which threw off Hadassah's nap... It was worth it. :)

 It's pretty safe to say she was THRILLED with the slide!

 Posy in the sun

These are times to cherish...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday Serenity

Amid all the details of preparing to go overseas and SO much screen time researching, ordering, typing lists and correspondence... It was nice to get outside today and just enjoy God's creation.

 Sunny on the Ohio with Grandparents!

 The little cutie tries to put everything in her mouth ;)

 We are such a blessed family!

 We discovered you can STILL dip kiss with a sleeping baby in an ERGO! ;)

Somebody woke up :)

God's creation is amazing... and so calming.