Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lessons in Dependence

Sometimes it just takes one more thing to make everything seem like a big deal. This time it was a cell phone that (again...) randomly wouldn't get the confirmation text code I needed to use on a confusing Chinese website (Taobao). Being up 'til 11 PM didn't help matters. And I suppose I was due another "nothing makes sense" moment after a "this feels like home" day and post. ;)

Ryan was up late working on a project for a recently announced close deadline, so I thought I should see if I could find a picture for our living room wall. Its blankness has been begging to be filled since we got it painted, but the colors are hard to match. After days of on-and-off searching, we'd finally ordered one, only to have it arrive MUCH more red than it looked online (we needed something orange!), and it was pretty low pixel quality. There went more money... With the website and seller all in Chinese, we weren't about to try figuring out a return, so it went to the trash pile in hopes someone could use it. To do anything here just costs more.

So, after 30 pages of "sunrise decorative paintings,", I had some options for Ryan to help narrow down. We landed on a perfect one... peaceful, not over-powering, and even pulling in the color of our mauve couches. So I set about the 10+ step check-out process, only to run into issues (of course) on the payment part. Really, as I copy and paste and try to make sense of weird - and often hilarious! - translations, I'm surprised we get anything... But 90% of the time time, stuff shows up at our door a few days after ordering, and it's the only way to get some things, so we still try.

Our bank card's security step needed something installed, a special Chinese character set. We have it installed on a different computer, but after looking like it was going to give out for months, the computer's power cord stopped giving charge. Sometimes not having a Best Buy or even a Walmart close by is really annoying, but just 3 weeks and we'll be able to replace it...

So, there went that. The "click to download" of course didn't work (with Chinese pop-ups we couldn't understand so we just tried clicking what seemed to be the right buttons). Ryan would have to sit and try to figure it out later, so hopefully that order could be completed in a day or two.

I should have given up there, but since Ryan was still going strong (the effects of an afternoon coffee for this purpose!), I thought I may as well look for an oven, since I never have the brain power to figure out Chinese sites while Hadassah is awake. Not that I ever really figure them out! ;) But, I know myself... Being up late makes me think less clearly, and I should have just stopped.

But... but our oven has not been working well for quite sometime. I thought it was just because it's basically a big toaster oven (almost the only thing available here), and that it was just losing heat or not able to heat up enough. While we've gotten used to really soft pizza crust and it taking 15 minutes to make good toast, I'd given up making bread after they always fell and never fully baked through, despite cooking for longer than the recipe required. And roasting veggies for over an hour still left them hard, and I almost always had to use the broiler to get cookies even somewhat baked. But two friends recently had excellently baked things in their big toaster oven, which were incidentally the same brand as each other's. So, although Ryan kept asking me "what are the specs?" in Chinese with translation it's REALLY hard to know what's good and what's not, so I thought I'd just go with a brand that seemed to work. They weren't super expensive either, and there was even a deal to buy one for a 1/3 of the price if I started the order that night!

But this seller required me to join something before buying (not really sure what...) and the fields to fill out were never right. It kept giving me an error pop-up message that (of course!) couldn't be selected and copied to translate. Ryan helped me try and fill out the right things, only to have the verification code I had to put in for my phone number expire. And my phone refused to receive another text.

That's when I gave up. I was up too late and hadn't even gotten anything ordered for all the hours of work and sacrificing sleep. We have 3 weeks before we leave for 2 months in America, which is exciting and a bit terrifying, as whatever we don't get done now likely won't happen for a long time, as we'll be bringing a one month old back...

Tears came as I tried to sleep. Partly because I cry more easily when I am over tired, and partly because I'm pregnant. But mostly because I just feel so incapable here. And things like this - being able to read and understand websites in Chinese (plus those popups you can't copy!) - will likely never get better.

I was fast in America. Capable. I ordered things online in a snap, or found good bargains on sale or at thrift stores. But as I tried not to think about it and Ryan tried to comfort me, everything little - but big in that moment - came flooding in. The fact that I haven't been clothes shopping since January. (It's too hard figuring out the size difference or knowing what is and isn't good quality, not to mention time.) I'm not lacking clothes, but my female side does miss shopping for something new now and then. Or the fact that I was down to one pair of good sandals for this summer, that completely gave out a few weeks ago. I tried to find new ones then, but the largest size stores sell don't fit my wide (not to mention pregnant!) feet. I have some not great for walking and also starting to fall apart to get by until we get back to the land where my 8 1/2 size feet aren't considered abnormally large, but when I have to walk so many places, I notice the lack more. My husband is currently wearing shoes to work that pinch his feet since his gave out and this was the largest men's size stores carry. My little girl is wearing mostly shirts that are stained, which no one really notices but me... But the local supermarket doesn't carry simple, normal looking (to me at least) t-shirts, children's boutiques or American brand stores are so expensive, and size and quality - not to mention the website in Chinese - is a headache to navigate online. And the photos I picked out to hange on our walls would have been uploaded and printed weeks ago, but right now I'm just trying to find time and the where-with-all to go to a local shop and try to point at things...

And there are other things... Like I've had to have two different Chinese friends pay bills for me recently, since moving messed some things up and online payments don't work for me. After a while you just get tired of asking, even though so many are happy to help.

It all seems rather silly now, though. I mean, we're fed and clothed and it's good to learn to do with less. I like not buying a lot of stuff. These "sufferings" are so minuscule compared to what millions endure. But the bothersome-ness of it all still pops up in moments like these... I never asked for these challenges to be on top of the full life of caring for a home and family.

But as the pity party thoughts pressed in, I realized that the root of it all is lack of reliance on God. There is so much to do and often not enough sleep, that lately time in His Word has been hit or miss. And as I try to cross things off of my lists, I slip into trying to do them in my own strength. The pride creeps in when they work, and the despair and "I can't take this!" hits hard when they don't. When really, God has all things under His control.

I have a suspicion that part of His plan in putting us in China was to teach me that I can't do it all. For an always reliable, likes-to-check-things-off, and I'll-figure-it-out-myself woman, this lesson is a hard one to learn, one I keep continuing to struggle with. "Capable Anna" just keeps wanting to be seen. But really, what I am here for is for others to see Christ in me.

I couldn't sleep, so took refuge in His Word. Lamentations 3:22-27 - "...the steadfast love of the Lord never fails... Great is His faithfulness... it is good to bear the yoke while young." The Psalms. "Hope in the Lord... His purposes never fail... Wait for Him." And while I wanted to stay mad and irritated at these challenges I never asked for, slowly my soul was stilled. And my pregnant, restless legs were eventually stilled enough too to allow me to sleep after getting up again to stretch. ;)

Why share this? To show that I still struggle (a lot!)... to mortify pride... to ask for prayer. God has been so good to allow us to return to the states for a short time, to have a baby where life makes a little more sense, and have a chance to buy things like shoes that fit and clothes at thrift store prices. But the enormity of trying to remember and buy everything we need in certain areas for our whole family for the next year... Between seeing friends and family and, oh yeah, having a baby (!) can seem overwhelming. Not to mention always questioning how much we should buy in America when our salary is in RMB and the exchange rate has gotten worse due lately. But hey - at least I'll be able to order online from websites in English using a payment method not requiring faulty text message verification. :)

Lord, please teach me more reliance on You and give me the discipline to look to You first and prioritize You more than my never done to-do lists...

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