yes

Saturday, November 17, 2012

sunshine and yellow butterflies


feel like watching a video?
all you need is love.

i often struggle in knowing if i should share what god is doing in my life, or rather what i am doing in honor of being in his, because of the verse, “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”

i don’t want to sound haughty, am fearful to find personal pride in what good god has done or has allowed me to do, and would much rather have a heavenly reward than an earthly one.  i do wonder if i should share more and am trying to figure out a balance.  this story though, is not about me at all, only god and his love for me.  

my huangshi girls (leslie and camille) and i have been reading captivating by john and stasi elderidge in our small group study (thanks to camille who brought the books from home).  we meet every wednesday for dinner and discussion.  this book has rocked my heart, mind, and soul.

what’s so crazy about this is that a couple of months ago i started to realize that although i have sung, jesus loves me, since i could speak, 36 years later i am still not convinced that i truly know what it means to love him.    i’ve attributed this unfortunate case to the fact that i’ve done so many things in my life of which i am not proud.  i’ve sinned against people, made terrible choices, and sinned against god.  i reasoned, i was the reason for this disconnected love.  i prayed and hoped god would restore me.  

aaron, one of the guys in our group, and i were engaged in a discussion one day after church (which is at our house) and he mentioned something like, “i can tell that you really love jesus.”

really,” i thought to myself?  do i?  i don’t think i even know what that means.”  or rather, “i don’t think i even know what that feels like.”

so i started the mission to find out.  how would i enable my heart, mind, and soul to truly love jesus?

turns out it wasn’t about me.  turns out it was about how much he loved me.

and by love i mean in love.  definitely seems a bit weird, even for me, a lifelong christian.  but as the book so poignantly explains, the god of this universe IS LOVE and loves us deeply, not because he is god and he has to, but because he is our father in heaven and wants to.  

the beginning of last week was busy.  we had been away with our zhong relations friends in wuhan the previous weekend and in the commotion i never received the week’s small group reading assignment and questions.  camille kindly typed up everything i needed and sent it to me in an email on monday. 
but there were so many other things going on!  i had graduate school stuff that needed to be done.  i had to prepare lessons for my english classes.  i had a baby who seemed to be awake whenever it was my turn to be home.

by wednesday i had yet to get started.  leila charis so considerately fell asleep for her afternoon nap and i started reading.  i wanted to make sure that i did not hastily try to get through the chapter.  i really wanted to focus and thus be impacted, so i decided to take notes in my journal. 

30 minutes later lc woke up, but i wasn’t finished.  i tried to squeeze in a few minutes here and there when i could.

the book mentioned that we needed quiet time, alone with god, away from kids, telephones, distractions.  brad got home from his afternoon of classes around 5:15 and i asked him to take leila out to wherever it was he was going to get dinner.  i let the girls know i would be late, and i finished as much as i could in the next 45 minutes.

the chapter was entitled, “romanced.”  stasi was writing.  she shared a story of her husband.  one time when he was out-of-town for work he needed to get away.  he went to the beach by himself for prayer and time alone with god.  as he was alone, sitting on the sand, he saw a massive amount of water shoot up into the sky and a huge humpback whale appeared right before him, very close to shore (this was after the annual whale migration time had passed).  he knew instantly this was a gift from god.  he returned home and shared his story with staci.  she was so happy for him, but wanted a gift as well.

stasi went on to say that soon thereafter they were speaking in northern california.  she snuck away to the beach and asked god for a whale.  “I know you love John, Jesus, but do you love me too?  That much?  If you do, may I have a whale too?” (pg. 117) 

after a while of waiting she got up to leave, rounded a corner, and saw a beautiful orange starfish.  she stopped, appreciated, and thanked god for her personal, perfect gift.  then she rounded another corner. 
                “There before me, behind me, surrounding me, were hundreds of starfish.  Zillions of them.  
                 There were purple ones  and orange ones and blue ones, all sizes.  I burst into joyful laughter,
                 my heart exploding inside of me.”

He Loves Us - John Marc McMillan
amazing, right?   how he loves us so. 

at the end of the chapter she told her readers to get some “worship music that moves you” and then went on to say that “one friend just told [them] that her current favorite [was] ‘All I Ask of You’ from Phantom of the Opera” (pg. 126). 

as i was still journaling, i tried to think of a christian song i really loved.  i came up with “your love oh lord” by ThirdDay, and then felt challenged to come up with one outside of the christian music box.  by this time i was starting to rush a bit.  i didn’t have much time left and i still needed to get to the questions. 

i had a song in mind that i had heard recently a few times on pandora.  i wanted to get that song again.  i knew that god would give it to me immediately, because that’s how i’ve found god to work.  in the past, when i’ve done my best to get all my things done in an honorable way, he has helped me out a little in the 
end.   i knew that he would help me out this time by giving me the song immediately. 

but he didn’t.  he gave me something better.  and as pandora was displaying the lyrics, I had those too:

I Won’t Give Up On Us – Jason Mraz
When I look into your eyes, it’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise, there’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars, I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are, how old is your soul.

I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up


i stopped there and cried.  i truly believed those words were from jesus just to me.  he hadn’t given up on me and he knew that i “had come so far” to be right where i was with him.  i also liked that he called me an old soul.  i sometimes wonder if i am a sort-of old soul - i really love 70s music and because of that feel a little different from many others in my same generation.   just as the book was trying to tell me, jesus knew me and loved me perfectly.  

i quickly got through what questions i could and went off to the girls’ apartment.  through our discussions it was revealed that i was not the only one who had received a special gift. 

lesley was at her school, sitting outside on a bench while she was doing her study.  she asked god to give her something special, something for her.  just then the sun came out from behind the clouds (it was a rainy and cold week).  “is that it?  that’s for me, isn’t it god?  i am always cold, and hate being cold, and that sunshine is just for me, isn’t it?  thank you so much!”  but, like stasi’s experience, it wasn’t over yet.  she got a ride home from school that day (about a 20 minute drive – her school is far away from the city’s center) and it seemed the sun kept following her in the car – shining through the passenger side window, shining down and playing with the view in the distance.

and camille.  she has a special story.  she sees yellow butterflies.  once when she was going through a difficult time she asked god for something special, to let her know he was there.  god gave her a yellow butterfly.  she still sees them, even in china.  whenever she is having a rough day, god sends her a yellow butterfly. 

i can’t tell you the last time i’ve seen a butterfly, no less a beautiful yellow one.

amazing, right?


Want to listen???
that sure is something beautiful.













now for a little home video....

video
A song story.  Check it out on vimeo.
 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Operation fly to China, Take 4



This was the way of the airplane ride, the airplane ride, the airplane ride.
   
This was the way of the airplane ride so early in the morning.
 (Sing to "This is the way the Ladies Ride")

A little after 3 AM Saturday morning I felt that Brad, Leila Charis, and I were successfully packed so I climbed into bed for my night’s sleep.  At 3:30 AM my father knocked on our door to wake us up.  Not intending at all to make his presence in my life undervalued, I did not in fact wake up until my mother did the same thing with a little more directness at 4 AM.  Operation fly to China take 4 commenced.

Dad stuffed our four 50lb-ish bags, 2 carry-ons, and 2 personal bags (diaper bag + backpack) into my red rodeo (not sure if I’m actually still able to call it mine)  and got the coffee ready, while mom helped with Leila.  We piled into the car (which now equaled 4 pieces of luggage, 2 carry-ons, 2 personal bags, 4 adults and one baby in car seat) and set off for the airport with just over an hour to spare before our 5:30 AM flight.
        
At the airport we found a big luggage rack, loaded our bags on, and dad drove away to park the car.  The elderly porter then approached to let us know only he was able to control said luggage cart.  He would have to walk our stuff the five steps inside for us.  (In retrospect, this could have been his plan: early morning travelers…leave the cart outside…once they’ve done the initial heavy lifting onto the cart, BAM let ‘em know it’s mine!)
        
We got into the short line and it was soon enough our turn.  Mr. Porter took our suitcases off the trolley and placed them at our feet (Don’t hurt yourself, Buddy) and then amicably engaged me in conversation until he received his tip.  Brad took the reins to get us checked in.

Operation Fly to China Take 4 almost didn’t happen.
        
The lady at the check-in counter had nothing on her screen to indicate that Leila’s trip had been paid for.   It had.  She got on the phone to talk to somebody about it while I pulled up our confirmation email on dad’s i-phone which confirmed Leila’s ticket purchase.  She wasn’t interested and acted as if we were being rude while she was on the phone.   About 30 minutes later, frantic that we were going to miss the flight, we (thanks mom and dad) were forced to pay over $300 again for Leila to SIT ON MY LAP and fly.  We had minutes to catch our flight and were told that the plane would NOT wait for us.  Off to security check.
Our chill Leila Charis, just enjoying her day.
        
The line was short which made me hopeful.  How silly of me.  We were awake the previous evening until 3 AM because I was packing and repacking the formula that Leila would need until her 1st birthday in February.  I ended up putting some bags, creatively I thought, into our carry-ons in order to disperse the weight.  Who knew that had to be pulled out and treated like liquid?  Not me!  And since it wasn’t dumped into clear plastic baggies to be scanned through, one of us - me  - had to go through a WHOLE body scan.  Up one leg, down the other… switch legs please, put the other one slightly forward; bend your knee… up one leg, down the other. 
        
During those 5+ minutes I spent in my security scan (you’re welcome all other 5:00 am passengers who got to pass right through) Brad kept putting our bags through the scanning machine.   Beep.  Beep.  I finally finished but our bags did not.  Beep.  The last call for our flight was announced.  Beep. Beep.  Our perfectly packed bags had thrown-up into multiple gray bins. 

We were finally cleared.  We threw things together where we could as fast as we could.  We grabbed everything our arms could hold and Brad’s right pinky finger grabbed the rest.  We dashed to our gate.
We got there as the lady was locking the door.
        
“This is our flight.”
       
 “Are you the Hedgepeths?”
        
“Yes.”
       
 “I will go and see if you can still board.”  Being amazingly gracious, she opened the door and went down the hallway to the plane.  “I’m sorry,” she spoke upon her return, “the gate has been locked and no more passengers are allowed to board.  I’ll look to see what other flights you can make today.”

“Thank you,” we replied, taking a deep breath and realizing we hadn’t made it after all.  We sat down and waited and I actually started to relax and just be ready to wait.  I’m obviously not that great at making decisions.

She came back to us.  “You can board,” she said.  The gate door was thrown open from the outside in and our original, not nearly as gracious, checker-inner hastily motioned for us to move quickly.  Again we obnoxiously grabbed all of our stuff and waddled as fast as we could down the ramp.  As we thanked the ladies for their help our checker-inner continued to mumble angry checker-inner jargon at us.  I guess we hadn’t given a great start to her day!  We got on the plane and had to walk all the way to the back.  Most passengers were not impressed, of course, but a couple actually congratulated us for making the flight.  Brad apologized softly to each row as we made our way to our seats.   We had made it.

But there was still more drama for this mama.

More Drama 1: Our first ticket was issued for Charleston to Toronto.  Too bad there was a stop in D.C. that hadn’t been accounted for.  Since the flight number was the same I guess CheapOAir assumed it was the same flight.  It wasn’t.  We had to get off the plane in D.C. and board a new plane to Toronto without a boarding pass.  How was that about to happen?  Brad was able to get us squared away… or so we thought.  When we went to put our carry-on baggage on the roll away cart, the guy wouldn’t take our stuff (with no ticket) and sent us back up the hall to the gate.  We had to be escorted back down and given special permission to allow our bags to be put on the plane.



More Drama 2: In Toronto we opened our bags and noticed that one formula pack must have been ripped during the mess at the security check in Charleston.   Baby formula was everywhere, including on our new computer.  I should have taken a picture of my socks at the bottom of the suitcase.  Ridic.  Fortunately Toronto had these cool “traveler friendly” tables set up in front of their security gates where we found extra plastic bags.  It took us about 20 minutes, but we got everything cleaned up and squared away in new baggies.  Another crises averted.   

Leila taking a little rest.
More Drama 3:  Our bags almost didn’t make it to China.  We had to wait, and wait, and wait with a very select few others from our flight for our bags.  Finally they did come and we were able to leave… BUT because the mass of people had already departed on to their next flight, we had to navigate our own way.   Brad again tried to follow signs and ask for help, but no one was really interested in taking extra time to talk to a waigoren (foreigner).  We eventually found our way…out to the general area of the airport and had to go through the process of getting ourselves checked in again… and through the security check, etc… grrrr.  

And saving the best for last…
More Drama 4:  More Drama 3 really wasn’t that much drama, but was needed to defend that once again our minds weren’t clear… that and of course we had now been awake for 24 hours…
What I’m trying to say here is that I neglected to change Leila’s diaper one last time and didn’t think about it until we were in a crazy long Chinese line trying to board the plane.  Worried about finding enough overhead space for our huge carry-ons, we just went ahead and proceeded through the line.  
Leila playing, waiting for Beijing flight.

What else is important is I had changed Leila’s outfit once we got to Shanghai (after customs check, before getting the luggage) and put on this super-cute one piece outfit that my good friend Beth Silverstein gave me/her at her shower.  I was so excited about it because it was her first time wearing a 6-9 month size and it looked so cute on her!

Well, she had her first ‘blow-out,’ but I found out a little late.  Let me recap: Pretty soon after the plane took off I really had this urging to change her diaper.  She just felt wet sitting on my lap… ha!.  I asked to get up – I was in the aisle seat  - and then had to take a super leisurely walk down the aisle (we were in the 2nd row of close to 30 rows of seats) because they were serving dinner!  Every few rows I had to stop, allow the Chinese passengers to look and coo at the waigoren baby, and then move two rows.  Everyone got a good look at Leila, that’s for sure.

Baba, are you asleep?  But we're playing!
So we got to the bathroom and I started to change her diaper, only to find out that the mess was A.L.L. O.V.E.R the inside of her cute new outfit!  What was I to do?   First things first, I popped my head of the stall and asked for a bag.  The nice male steward (?) searched high and low and came up with one that was big enough to fit Leila into, no less her messy diaper.  At least they knew why I was in there.

I tried to wash the outfit out in the sink but found out after a minute that the sink drain was broken!  OH no, Oh no, not draining.  Yellow, baby poopy water, not draining… not draining…. Where else is there water????  The Toilet!  YES!  Creative me put the full-body onesie into the toilet and held onto it with my left hand as I flushed with my right.  ABORT! ABORT!  I didn’t realize that airplane commodes ONLY use air, no water.  Makes total sense – but I just never realized!  The commode did its best to suck my whole outfit away but I held on tight!   Leave it to the waigoren to be the girl who clogged the sink and ruined the one toilet at the beginning of the flight! 

Baba?
PULL. PULL. JUST KEEP PULLING!  The sound of the battle between the toilet and me was enough to get the whole plane on edge, at least the back two rows.  KEEP PULLING.  What was it like… I don’t know, some weird, loud, creepy sound like the death cloud on LOST, or Jabba the Hut in battle.  KEEP PULLING.

You’ll be very proud to know I WON the battle with Jabba the Toilet, though the outfit got ripped. Booo.  BUT,  J People could tinkle in the future if needed.  Phew.
But Leila… I had NO new clothes with me!  I stuck my head out of the door.  All clear – no one waiting.  I stepped out with my once clothed, now naked (though with diaper) baby, as nonchalantly as possible made the swift walk back down to Aisle 2, and put the babe into her third (and final) outfit.

To recap, as it turns out: 1) cheap flight websites don’t always get it right, 2) formula powder is equal to liquid, 3) airplane commodes don’t use water, and 4) the Griswolds got nothin’ on us.
Baba!  Wake up!



And so was the way of the airplane ride, the airplane ride, the airplane ride.
And so was the way of the airplane ride so early in the morning.


p.s.  if you're still reading, you're crazy.
p.p.s. mom and dad finally got their money back.