Friday, March 18, 2016

Through a Better Winter

 Spring. It's finally here.

Oh sure, there are the days I still wear my winter coat and get blasted with wind and say "it shouldn't be like this in MARCH!" (Southern girl that I am!) But we've had more and more lovely weather and enjoyed more walks on campus to see the flowers, like the pictures in this post from last week.

Our VPN was down for 10 days again, so we were without access to Blogger, anything Google, Facebook, and Youtube. Thus, the sudden quiet on this blog. If you live somewhere where you can go to any site on any device without any problem, be grateful. You don't realize what a blessing it is to have open internet until you live somewhere where things are restricted.

But... spring. We're all so glad to get out of the house without heavy jackets when we can! On really nice days, Ryan leaves work 30 minutes to an hour early to really let us enjoy it as a family before we lose the sun.

 But we made it. Another winter is past. One that was so so much better than our first one here.

God answered prayer. This apartment was so one million times warmer than our first one. We could get by with just a sweater and I usually didn't even need to wear slippers, unless I was doing laundry. Someday I look forward to a laundry room not located on a porch! ;) But it was minor in comparison to last year. Despite the weather here being the coldest winter in 35 years in Shanghai, we were warm. Friends who got their living room heater replaced said that getting warm "changed his life in one day." It's amazing what just warmth will do.

 And... I've relaxed. The first winter here I would hardly venture outside if the AQI (air quality index) was over 150, which is the time "unhealthy" appears on the air warning. I had a baby to think about, after all! But, being stuck inside for days on end... It just wasn't good for anyone.

 Now I have two little girls to think about, and getting out of the house when both were awake and the weather wasn't too cold was the biggest challenge. So 200 - "very unhealthy" - became my new AQI threshold. We couldn't be outside much longer than 30 minutes at a time with Ellie's naps anyway, so I figured it was better for us all to get some "fresh" air (even if it was a tad unhealthy!) than keep a full of energy toddler inside even more. And, it did help. This has been a healthier winter, I feel, even if most days did hover just around/above 150.

 But the best part, I guess? I didn't check it compulsively. I didn't feel like was my jailer anymore, keeping me inside unless the color on it wasn't red or purple. If everything worked for us to get outside, I rarely consulted it unless it really looked hazy. The air still isn't great; I am glad I won't have to think about the effects of living in it long-term, and feel for those that are. But I feel I am more balanced.

 But the biggest blessing of this winter?

 Community. Hands down, community helps perspective and attitude and just general encouraged-feeling way more than anything. Living close to a few families we know and enjoy, having weekly get togethers, actually seeing friends during the day - sometimes so many times I have to turn down invitations just to have a morning with just my girls at home (which is good for Hadassah I've learned).... What a huge blessing and answer to prayer.

 We're continuing to enjoy the "Purdue guys" as we call them, too, here for this semester. Hadassah absolutely loves two of them in particular. The pictures above were the faces she was making as one of them talked to her when we ran into them on our campus walk. It's fun to see her connecting with "uncles" here as we're far from family back home.

God is good. Winter doesn't last forever. What felt so bleak and hard last year has been exchanged for yes, new challenges (life is full of them!) but so much more encouragement and blessing. I continue to look for things to be thankful about  - writing down number 4,206 since the start of the year - and God is so good beyond imagination. Seeing spring blossoms - especially against such blue sky (still more rare here) - helps me see that even more clearly.

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