Friday, July 11, 2014

Shang-highs and Shang-lows

The title is a term a co-worker of Ryan's used when we had him over for lunch today and he asked how it was going. He's also an American, so knows the fun yet difficulty of living in a different culture.

It is fun. These are precious times giving us memories and experiences that will stay with us the rest of our lives.

Yet it is difficult. There are days I just want to be done with it all - and we've only been here less than 2 months! But those difficult times are also good, as they're growing perseverance. 

And though I hesitate to call them "sufferings" (as they're very minor compared to what others face!), I want to have the attitude of Romans 5:3-5: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (ESV)

But I don't always. Recently, it seems like I often don't. And I've hesitated to blog about it because 1) it's humbling, 2) you probably don't need to read about my struggles, and 3) I don't want people to just respond with "you're amazing - don't beat yourself up" because while I do beat myself up more than I should sometimes, I know that this struggle is real, and something to be fought. It's the struggle against sin. Against selfishness. Against pride.

Many of the struggles, the lows, aren't all that different than what I'd face day-to-day in America. But somehow, they seem more pronounced here. Or maybe God is just using this place to draw them out of me, to make me see more of my need for Him.

I don't like it. I'm used to being able to "roll with the punches" and be "sweet" all the time. But lately, my stinky attitude has come out more than it should. I've not wanted to be real with my husband and been resentful of how much time my daughter takes from doing what I feel I need, or at least want to do.

And that's what it comes down to: focusing more on doing than being. An age-old struggle.

Life takes longer in China. EVERYTHING it seems. We've spent 3 evenings on our own and another long evening with our neighbor trying to order from a site (that's only in Chinese) that sells things more in bulk and at better prices only to run into issues again. I finally got a phone after a month here without one, but it took us 4 1/2 hours! And the shopping and cooking and cleaning and endless dishes seem to consume so much time.

But then I realize: we're all given 24 hours. We need to sleep. God's given us work to do. We can't always control what gets thrown in our path and changes our plans. But we can make a choice in our attitude, in how we're going to respond. And best of all, we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us the mind of Christ and make us more reliant on God. Because that's often where I fall short. Instead of letting Him work through me, I rush around trying to do it all. And I can't.

So there are lows. I wasn't looking forward to my birthday this year. More often than not when I thought about it in the week leading up to it, I'd start to cry. I was far away from so many people that I love, and far from my family as some face tough things. And it seemed we were too busy to have any time to celebrate anyway...

But then God gave me a beautiful birthday. He held off the rain and gave me an hour in a Chinese gazebo (a place I certainly never thought I'd be!) to journal. He gave me a husband and daughter that made the day so special just because we were together. He took care of Hadassah more, picked out pastries from the local shop for me to enjoy, and just made me feel so loved. And I realized that that is what I wanted anyway. I'm in a new season, and it is very sweet, especially if I focus on the blessings and being thankful. My goal for this year of being 24. :)

Yesterday was another low. Hadassah woke up very early. Again. It threw the whole morning off as she was cranky and so was I. Mothering is tough. I don't like finding my joy in how well Hadassah is doing - I know it's not wise now or ever! - but too often I do. Ryan and I didn't communicate well and while we asked forgiveness and he treated me so gently, I felt so unworthy of the love. Hadassah then had a short nap and woke up in the middle of my Chinese lesson very fussy, wanting attention while I was trying to learn. Not a good combination...

But grace... God's grace. It's amazing.

Hadassah went back down for a long nap after my teacher left, and woke up pleasant and refreshed. I got an email from a friend in the states sharing some of her own mothering struggles, making me realize I'm not alone. Ryan brought home flowers. I don't know how he does it, but he does. 

And I made the choice yet again to choose joy instead of focusing on what I wish was different. May I do that more often.

Besides, if I focus on the joys of motherhood and what fun my little girl is instead of all the work to do - while still teaching her there are times Mommy needs to do chores and she needs to entertain herself - it's better for both of us.

So this is kind of a hodge-podge or ramblings you probably didn't need to read. But maybe you did. Maybe you're thinking that because we moved overseas we're a different kind of Christian, who doesn't struggle. Ha! Not at all. We're sinners saved by grace. Glorious grace that we want to share with others. God, give us the opportunities and the words.


  1. Mrs. Anna, I know it has been a while, but you taught ( and are still teaching) me so much more than ballet. Your humbleness and passion for the Lord is always so inspiring. And I am so glad that God has given you such a wonderful opportunity to learn from Him, and I love it that you always find the time to let us in on what you have learned. Thank You! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Your first birthday in China, what a special occasion! May God bless you and your family as you continue your pursuit of Him!
    Love, Mary Smith

  2. Happy birthday, Anna! I pray that God will bless you richly this year! Thanks for being so real--I love that quality about you.

  3. Hi Anna, this is one of your best posts so far. I know you long to be home with your family right now. I'm praying for you and them.
    Donna Jo