Friday, January 20, 2012

Chapter 13: Angry

If I could see red in anger, today I would have seen it. If I could see red in anger, last night, I would have seen it.

I bought a very nice and very decorative duve/sheet set and a body pillow from a co-worker who is moving last week and left it in my foyer, the pillow in a large Ikea bag and the duvet/sheet set in the original clear sturdy zipped plastic bag. I left many items in the foyer because— quite frankly, I can. I live alone and my foyer is very spacious. It is where things are out of the way and where I leave things when I get home until I’m ready to deal with them.

Apparently, I left my new suitcase, new jacket that had my class ring safely in the zipped pocket to make it easier to get through security at the airport, my large decorative bag I use for shopping, though it is not a shopping bag. It is a nice duffel bag and my new electronic water boiler.

I didn’t notice when any of those items went missing because I assumed my housekeeper had just stored them in normal places when she cleaned up. No big deal. Who wouldn’t want someone else to put their luggage away and store their new linens?

A week passed and I couldn’t find my purple jacket or my class ring, though I did not make a connection between the two at all, nor did I think my housekeeper touched them. I really thought I had left my class ring in the states from Christmas. I was beginning to worry that I left my new purple jacket in a restaurant or something. I searched through all of my laundry piles many times to no avail. I sadly let it go. It wouldn’t be the first time I left something I liked on a bus or in a foreign country never to see it again.

I decided last night that I would put my new linens on my bed, but as I scoured the house, I couldn’t find them. Suddenly, I realized that my body pillow and my new linens were not in my house and I searched every crevice again and again hoping to find them. I realized that the only other person with access was my housekeeper. I can’t even describe it. I was livid. So angry I could hardly breathe. I assumed she thought that I intended the linens and pillow as trash and threw them away—or maybe she thought they were there as gifts for her and took them. Either way, I was so beside myself that I laid on the floor to calm down. It had nothing to do with the money I spent or the objects themselves. I couldn’t care less about the money and I could certainly do without the objects since I had never even used them, but something about the situation left me—fuming.

Finally, I allowed myself to pray about the matter—that I would be able to let go of the anger. I remembered that what she had done was most likely not done in malice and even if it was, her offense against me was nothing compared to how I offend the Father every day of my life. Every time I use His name inappropriately. Every time I gossip. Every time I put someone or something above Him. The notion helped me to calm down and release the indignation for the night.

I dreamt that I woke up and found the items on a shelf that I had missed the night before. When I really woke up and was getting ready for work this morning, I remembered the dream, and again, I began to feel incensed. I prayed and let it go.

At work I spoke to a co-worker about it and he advised me to ask our housing director to call her (She ONLY speaks Chinese and he speaks English and Chinese) and ask about it. He emailed me back and told me that she thought I was going to ask her to throw the items in the garbage so she took them and gave them away. Wow, I thought. But then again, I am probably editing my thoughts.

She sent me a text shortly thereafter, which I had translated by a friend. It simply said she found my items and wanted to know if she was expected to work next week during Chinese New year. It felt to me that she was downplaying the situation. I was briefly incensed again, but quickly let it go.

Then I got home and found not only my two bags of linens/pillow in the living room, but my new suitcase as well. I did not even realize it was missing yet! I opened it and found the new electronic water boiler I just bought last week (something I was looking for, but thought it just got lost in the pile of stuff I brought back from the states which is located the spare room—stuff that I didn’t feel like going through quite yet) and the nice duffel I use on shopping trips. I pulled the body pillow out of its bag to wash the cover and found my new purple jacket rolled up in the bottom of the bag. I found in the zipped front pocket of the jacket, my class ring that I have been missing.

Suddenly I was fuming again. I prayed but new I had to write. Now, I feel better. I’m thinking of letting her go. I have had a few other issues and it just feels too stressful. Anyway, I’m grateful I have the opportunity to have help at home here. It’s definitely a blessing I know, a blessing that I will likely not have in the states.

God is teaching me stuff. Not exactly sure what today, but I’m sure it will be good. No, it will definitely be good.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter 12: Ashes to Beauty. I know that's HIS plan

Two blogs in one. This week has been a challenge in many ways. The two stories I have below will show you why. However, it has been an amazing week as well. I have been shown how I am to serve while here and it is AMAZING. The two stories I have below are things He has allowed me witness so that I can be strengthened and inspired for His glory. They are motivating and I am so grateful for the place I have been blessed to be in in my life.


I don’t cry much, but when I feel helpless, I cry. This evening, I cried.

I walked out of Jeff and Sonda’s apartment building after a refreshing and uplifting talk with Sonda (My matronly Chinese-Aunt-but-not-really-Chinese-nor-actually-my-aunt-because-she-is-from-Oklahoma-but-we-met-in-China) to walk to the bus stop to head back to my apartment. As I stood on the corner of the lightly treaded street, I saw on the corner across from me a man beating a woman. I looked around to see what the other people around were going to do, specifically the male passerbys, but no one did anything. I was appalled; I ran across the street, walked up to him and from a place deep in my chest and far too baritone to be a girly scream shouted at him with a burly “HEY!” I stared at him from about three feet away as he kept his grasp on her, then he dropped something and let her go to pick it up.

I was hoping that my mere presence and lack of fear would deter him and send him off, but it was clear that their relationship went deeper. As I still stared, enraged, like a dog protecting his master, not stepping back for an instant, he just looked at me, angry, but shocked very briefly before he grabbed her by the neck again and dragged her down the street.

My immediate reaction was to call 911… but there was no 911 and even if I could get ahold of the police, they probably wouldn’t speak English. So I followed their quick pace dialing my Chinese friend to ask for help. No answer. I called my other friend who is seeking to serve women in China who has been here for a few years. No answer.

They turned a familiar corner, which happened to be the way to my bus stop and I followed. I saw a guard in the nearby parking lot and ran up to him, pointing to them, speaking in English “Police” “Man beating woman” “Help” and mocked the motions of punching someone in the face. He shook his head and pointed to the building across the way with the open door. I quickly looked up to notice I was losing them and ran desperately into the open door. “Do you speak English?” I frantically shouted and with seeming incomprehension, the guard said “No.”

I kept running in the direction they went but when I turned the next corner, they were gone. There were so many turns they could have taken, buildings to enter, buses to jump on. There were other people around. They were gone, camouflaged in the crowd. I crossed the street, looking between the buildings to no avail. Just then, my Chinese friend called me back. I answered and told her what had happened and how I didn’t know what to do; though she was concerned about me, she made it very clear that in China, the police would do nothing to interfere in domestic problems. “You’re not in America anymore.” Her words were honest, yet filled with compassion for me. She said that in China, if someone is laying on the ground, no one will do anything to help. “It’s just China. It’s the way it is… Are you crying?” she asked. I broke.

“Well sort of” I replied and my voice cracked. I crouched to the ground against the building crying as I talked to her. “I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. In no place is it okay for a man to beat a woman in the face and then drag her down the street by her neck. I don’t care what country I’m in.”

I got up and when we got off the phone, I decided to walk home instead of taking the bus. I was shaking and crying and needed to be free. It wasn’t that far and I take the walk all the time. It was barely dusk, still visibly light and beginning to rain harder. I was disturbed and cried for several minutes as I walked down the sidewalk getting more and more wet.

The cold rain mixed with the warm tears until I was no longer crying, just emotionally numb. The walk was about thirty minutes and I did a lot of thinking. Suddenly I was more angry and filled with regret. I wish I beat the crap out of him, I thought over and over again. He was a wee little man. I could have taken him. I really didn’t care if in response, I got punched, kicked, slapped, stabbed, or thrown into the street (but not shot. I pondered his possible weaponry before approaching him, remembering he likely had no weapons or at least no guns… according to Chinese custom. It was a consideration. It just passed very quickly). I just wished I got one jab in. I wished she could have seen a woman saying no. Then I thought, I know that is not what God would want me to do. And still, I had wished I had done it. My flesh cried for justice.

Towards the end of the walk, I decided that I just needed to pray for them. Maybe no one had ever stood up for that woman before and maybe she will never forget that I did. I prayed that God would use that experience to make a change in her… and him too, though my compassion was centered on her. I guess I just have to accept that I can’t change the world with my flesh, but with my prayers, God will change hearts.

I met with the ladies from my fellowship for coffee. We interceeded over our plans to start serving women of the night-- so to speak. We went over plans for me and Sonda to begin an ESL study of the Word. We went over plans for the fellowship band to go on tour. We went over plans for the Women's fellowship to begin an intercession team for the many functions. I was asked to head up that team. I accepted. Many of His puzzle pieces came together on Tuesday night.


It’s so hard. Hearing the shrill screams through the thin walls of my apartment. I live in a nice place even, not expected. Not knowing which apartment they are coming from or if they are even coming from an apartment. Maybe they are coming from the ground, thirteen floors down. A male screams. A woman screams. She weeps. He weeps. Or does he mock her? I can’t tell. It goes on for fifteen minutes.

The emotions I go through are overwhelming. I go to each wall and window, listening for sound, trying to determine its source. It’s impossible to tell. Has someone just received news that a loved one died? Is there a screaming match beyond anything I have ever witnessed? Is there a wild beating occurring? Is there any help? There is no one to call, at least for me. No one to tell. No one who BOTH could and would intervene because it’s domestic and the laws are different here, at least the extent to which they are followed is different.

It’s not the first time I have heard this. I must have forgotten before, but as soon as the weeping and screaming began, I knew it wasn’t the first time I had heard it. I prayed the blood of the Son over the family in trouble. The noise softened. I became calm.

Again, tonight, I felt helpless, completely with nothing to do to help except pray. Really, isn’t that all we really have? We can intervene in people’s lives to help them, but we can’t change them. In the end, our prayers are what counts. Perhaps rather than seeing this as the only thing I can do, I should see this as the one thing I must do, first, always.

Perhaps there is no other believer in this apartment building. Perhaps there is no other believer in this apartment complex. Here, it is very likely. Perhaps, I just need to pray.


This has been an amazing week despite the things I have witnessed. I am being shown where the need is so that I can serve. More on that soon…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CHAPTER 11: For My Faithful... Apparently more than a few: A blog so ordinary and boring I’m embarrassed to publish it

For My Faithful... Apparently more than a few: A blog so ordinary and boring I’m embarrassed to publish it

I seem to be looking through a peculiar lens this week. Everything I do and observe, I am narrating like a book in my head.  I am so excited about writing that I am writing as I live—like an outside observer at times. I can’t tell if it’s healthy or not. If I could manage to hold onto the stories long enough to record them, perhaps it would be at the very least, productive.

I also can’t tell if I’m merely jet lagged or thrilled about life. Of course I am generally sleepy at 7, asleep by 10— and awake at all hours of the night (though normally I sleep until 7:30 or later, shower, dress, walk quickly to work and arrive barely on time at 8:15— usually cranky because I forgot breakfast and coffee)—  However, my sleeping patterns are amplified right now.

This morning I was awake very early but managed to sleep in until… 4:45 AM. I was ready for work, much more clean cut than normal two hours early. I read the Bible a bit and expounded upon a few verses in Genesis for what turned into a two-paged, single-spaced, analytical devotional essay.

I got to work early and cleaned up much of my paper work around the classroom—a hefty task that I usually don’t even consider tackling anymore. I taught my classes with much vigor, feeling like an effective educator most of the day as I beamed at the group discussions I was eaves dropping on that were mostly on topic and quite analytical. I had many proud-of-my-student moments today. I graded more assignments in one hour than I have graded in weeks (winter break aside), had a conversation a with student about grades I had been dreading, spent three hours absolutely engrossed in a book in a coffee shop after work and all the while—I couldn’t stop smiling— all day. It’s like I’m in love, but not, clearly not because I was incredibly productive. It was creepy. I’m still so keyed up at almost 9 PM that I took some supplements to help me get sleepy because I can tell that it is going to be a restless night. I hate restless nights. I love this productivity and I don’t want it to end, but I do want to feel sane and balanced, sort of like before… but maybe with an extra portion of both. The good side is that I’ve been so productive and not bored due to my new book habit that I think I’ve lost a few pounds. If I keep that up for say… ever, it’ll be good.

I feel like I’m rambling but I want to keep my promise to blog even though I don’t feel like I have anything very interesting to say.

Speaking of my new book habit… It’s not that I didn’t read before. I just read different stuff, more… Christian stuff if you will. You see, I recently discovered a guilty pleasure that is taking up more time than I should allow. It is something I felt shame about for the first few days and now I just want to get it over with so I can move on with my life. It started with the movies this summer, but I just couldn’t stop there. I turned to the books on my flight home last week—simply out of curiosity… and the cat is dead. It’s Twilight—the vampire saga. Not my style AT ALL. First, I don’t like fiction. Second, I don’t like fantasy. Third, I don’t like reading ANYTHING that is not realistic and spiritually and emotionally uplifting and yet, I can’t stop. I’m addicted. But it might be a good thing. I have only been absorbed in a book a few times in my life and I think it is merely because I have tried the wrong books. I am actually excited about reading FICTION—other fiction, no more vampire series… once I finish this one of course. I found myself sneaking pages in between classes… and then reading during class when my students were doing group work—not a good teaching strategy, but that was yesterday. Today I was good, mostly.

I managed to finish the first book yesterday afternoon and then decided to take a break. I wasn’t going to start the next book until I had a long weekend. I got a list of thrilling Christian books from a friend at work and I was going to read those instead in the mean time. But as I sat on my lunch break, looking at my Kindle scanning from Francine Rivers to Twilight: New Moon and back again and I simply couldn’t focus on another series until I finish this one. That was at lunch. I went to the coffee shop across from my school after work and sat in a corner from 4:30 pm until 7:30 pm reading.

My boring rant is over. Well not really.

I started to write a personal memoir last week after praying about what to write about. Yesterday I prayed for guidance in writing as well and then I had an idea for another book, a biblical allegory. I even got the inspiration and ideas for a whole allegorical series about our relationship with Christ. I got started. Then today, I prayed for guidance and ended up with a long analytical essay on some verses so I can’t say I’m not writing. I can’t say I’m not praying about it. I can’t say I know where this is going… Oh well, God does.

Suddenly the growling within me is reminding me that I forgot to eat dinner.

God Bless

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chapter 10: A Trip Home

Words can’t express what it feels like to hold the little ones in your arms with absolute contentedness. I miss it already. My visit home was fulfilling and refreshing. I spent a lot of time with my sister and nephews, which was nice. I didn’t spend as much time with everyone else as I would have liked, not even my parents and grandparents. I miss them already. I will make sure to do that part better next time.

The first week, I got around a little to see a few people. The second week, I stayed home (my sister’s house) in my new fuzzy robe. Most of the immediate family was on vacation from school and work so it was nice just to do nothing. Unfortunately, I did a bit too much of nothing that week and paid for it my third week. I had many lunch and coffee dates and not nearly as many as I would have liked. I rushed to visit with friends and some family, missing seeing many I wanted to see. I rushed to get packed and to my great disappointment, left a mess, once again, though not as big of a mess as I did last time, for my sister and brother-in-law to clean up. I had to go through my things and determine what to keep, donate, and toss. I left three huge piles in the basement each labeled accordingly in addition to many mini-piles around my old bedroom. Once again I procrastinated; it affected others, and I got angry at myself for it. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever break this terrible habit. Sometimes I wonder when God’s grace for my failures will run out. Then I remember it will never run out.

The trip back was… productive. Let’s just call it productive. 36 hours. 5 airports. 4 plane trips. I’ll never take the cheapest ticket despite the itinerary again (if I can help it).

It started at Reagan Airport. Actually it started long before that, around the time of my birth, but for the sake of time, we’ll say it started at the airport. My mom drove me to the airport and after getting all of my luggage securely on the luggage cart, we hugged and kissed good-bye. I disappeared in through the automatic doors and she got in her car and pulled off.

Once I obtained my ticket and checked my baggage, I reported directly to the security line. The security people were all very nice… and thorough. One of the guys asked me where I was headed. “China,” I replied. “China. Wow. China… Why?” This is the typical response. Suddenly another security personnel appeared with a hand held hand scanner. “Excuse me mam, We’re doing random security screenings. May I see your hands please?” “Uh… sure.” He ran the machine over the palms of my hands and my fingers. “Thank you very much.” “Uh okay.” Smiling, I added “May I ask what that does?” “Oh it just checks your hands for traces of dangerous chemicals.” Confidently and with a smile, I nodded and responded “Okay.” It happened very quickly. I continued telling the other guy that I was a teacher.

As I continued through security, I was gently padded down. My bags were scanned, dissected, and rescanned. The security woman reached in my purse and found a large fancy glass ice cream dish that my dad had turned into a candle holder by melting wax into it and given to me as a gift. She looked at it closely, held it up to the light, turned it slightly, sniffed it, and placed it back in my purse. I was free to go.

Once I boarded the plane, I was relieved to see that my seat was an aisle as I had requested. I flew to St. Louis and met the most barren airport I had ever seen. It’s not even worth describing. It was nice. I like barren airports as long as I’m not hungry. Less than one hour later, I flew to Los Angeles in the same aisle seat on the same plane. I had to go through security again in order to transfer to my next plane.

I practically tripped my way through. As I started to exit the security line, feeling disheveled but successful, I realized I didn’t have my passport and boarding pass. I frantically went through the pouch I normally keep it in. I went back to security and searched through the pile of bins where I had been. I told the security guy I think I lost my passport and he replied with a tone of unconcerned, but hopeful sympathy “You’re passport huh?” And walked away. The man behind me looked concerned but there was nothing he could do. He said “good luck finding your passport” with a genuinely concerned tone before exiting the security gate. I found it in my purse a few moments later.

Once I reached my gate, I felt relieved and realized I was hungry. I knew the flight would be long and I didn’t know whether or not the airplane food would be edible, so I went to the only restaurant that was opened—Burger King. The line was long and the service was slow. Really slow. Unnaturally slow. I thought about ordering whatever was already ready, but  didn’t. I ordered a salad with chicken—crispy chicken and a Whopper. It took twenty minutes to get the meal. Apparently they had to cook fresh crispy chicken because when I finally got it, there was a package with a freshly cooked crispy chicken patty torn apart by hand in the bag with the salad. I ate the salad and saved the Whopper.

To my disappointment when I got on the plane, I was in a center seat. I cursed under my breath without thinking and then hoped the guy next to me didn’t hear me. My anxiety immediately went up and only soared higher when I was about to sit down and my money, a lot of American and Chinese cash went flying all over the airplane floor in front of everyone. “Ooh money” the guy next to me said. I quickly gathered it up and shoved it in the pouch remembering to zip it completely shut this time. I uncomfortably sat in the cramped middle seat with my huge book bag under my feet. I was eyeing the aircraft, looking for empty aisle seats to move to. Just before takeoff, I asked the fight attendant if I could move to the one just  across the aisle. I did.

I took some Nyquil hoping to sleep and not to have so many ear problems and I was out like a light within minutes of takeoff. I woke up to the sound of meals being passed out but too tired and disinterested in the menu to care, so I pulled my mask back over my eyes and drifted off to sleep. I slept most of the night and woke up very hungry. I ate my cold whopper and went back to sleep. It was the best plane ride of them all.

In Beijing, I gathered my luggage after the longest wait of my life. It took nearly an hour for all three checked pieces to make it to the luggage belt. They seemed to be sending the luggage from the plane to the customer one bag at a time. I had just enough time to get the bags, clear customs and immigration, check-in for my connecting flight, go through security again (where I almost forgot my Kindle and Laptop in the tray), find my gate, get a cup of coffee and piece of Apple Pie because I couldn’t find any appealing breakfast, and board the plane.

The final plane ride was nice. I read a book for most of the flight on my Kindle. Mike and Christina met me at the airport after I got my luggage. I was walking through the gates and saw the crowds waiting for the arrivals. Immediately,  I spotted Christina and waved at her. They were standing in the center of the crowd in the front row. We took a taxi to my apartment and they helped me bring my luggage up. There were clothes all over my apartment from the day I left and I wasn’t even embarrassed.

While I was packing three weeks ago, I tossed clothing to and fro. There were shirts on the living room floor. Socks on the couch. Socks on the sink. Shirts in the hall. Clothes everywhere.

After Christina and Mike left, I had to do something about that terrible odor that emanated from me after being in 5 airports in two days. I smelled. I hadn’t had time between any of the flights to freshen up like I usually do. It was embarrassing how strongly I smelled.

When they left, I took a shower and then called Sonda. She offered to heat me up some homemade soup if I came over. It was like being home. Chicken tortilla Southwestern heaven. It made a wonderful end to the traveling day. We chatted for a while and then I walked home. It was a good 45 minute or so walk. Right now my ankles are still swollen like golf balls. I have bruises from I don’t even know what during travel, and blisters on my hand in the odd shape of a line—from dragging luggage on wheels that was so heavy I had to stop for breath.

All in all it was a productive travel experience. I wrote a lot for my book during the flight form St. Louis to Los Angeles and got a lot of reading done. God provided. I made all of my flights, got all of my baggage, made it here safely, and didn’t fall once… just everything I was holding fell.

Tomorrow I teach. I don’t know what I am going to teach but I’m sure I’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4 am to figure something out. J