Home sweet home

Since I was little I was always trying to decorate. Trying as in not quite succeeding. I grew up in a room with my 3 sisters. We had bunk beds  lots of dressers, too many clothes and well, not much room for decorating. My decorating was something like — put all trophies from softball and baseball on dresser, accompanied with those crafts made once upon a time at camp. On the other side I displayed my dollar-store lotions and body sprays. Hey, that was high qual for me in those days. Anyhow, it looked pretty rockin’.

When I was in high school and college I got more serious about art and crafting. I fell deeply in love with re-purposing clothing and almost anything. I would spend hours at thrift stores and choose items that weren’t super desirable with images in my head of what they could become. I made lots of things. I wore some of them when I was home over the winter. I still like them and still keep my “get-rid-of” items to re-purpose.

However, there were also other things I dreamed about as a child and teen. I had every car   make memorized. I could watch the road and name every car. I also LOVED looking at house designs. I would look in my mothers home-living magazines and find the house plans. I would have houses for all my friends planned out. I had our house picked out where I would get my own room and everyone else would too. I also imagined that I would be a rich person.

Times change and life changes. I packed up two black trunks and a backpack with everything I could fit in and boarded a sequence of planes as I headed to my new home. I was not going to have my own car, live in a little vintage house, or be that rich person I once imagined I’d be. Grace. Takes you from finding satisfaction in this life to realizing that this life is such a vapor and there are more eternal things to grasp onto.

After a month of couch surfing and traveling, I got the keys to my first place that I could call “mine”. It was a hotel room of sorts with a “kitchen” in the balcony. Complete with two twin beds, two desks, a large old-school tv on a stand, two night stands, a storage cupboard, gaudy flower wall-hangings and a broom. Someone also gave me a futon. All of that furniture was in a 13×13 space. Home.

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In the weeks leading up to my arrival I did a lot of internet searching to find ideas for how to use a small space efficiently. No home-depot  drill, table saw, or all of those conveniences I had access to in my fathers garage would be available to me. I had to find a way to not just live here, I wanted my home to be a special haven for people, a place where people felt welcomed and where hope was shared.

I stacked the twin beds on top of each other, putting the one base on its side and used it as a book shelf. However, last spring I got a call that my house was getting an overhaul. I was not very thrilled about this because it basically meant I had to take my whole house apart cause they were taking my desks and twin beds and giving me one large desk and a double bed. Whatevs. I liked my room the way it was but I quickly adjusted to the changes and learned another lesson in contentment that in this land– nothing belongs to you.

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This is now what people see when they walk in. I bought a dining table — reupholstered the sofa and the chairs and covered my walls with colorful things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy mother is kind of the best shopper for me. She knows I adore all things vintage and pretty. She got me a large piece of fabric with birds (no I wasn’t intending on my room being bird-themed but it just kind of happened…) and I bought a frame downtown and stretched it over making it into a wall-hanging. My student gave me the lantern, and mom gave me the tea pot//cup (salt and pepper) set. I thrifted the table runner at a vintage store.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the double bed that I now have. I thrifted the afghan last winter and yes, carried it all the way back here from America. Because I loved the colors and the beauty of it. Plus… it was $2.25. Hello! Also the duvet is double-sided — I thrifted two vintage sheets and made the cover while in the states last winter. And of course, thrifted pillow cases that perfectly fit my style. The headboard…….. is still in the winter-era. But it’s still winter here so i’ve got some time to figure out what I wanna do there.

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I want a bookshelf but haven’t gotten one. So I use all sorts of things to house books on. On my desk I repurposed a shoe-shelf to turn it into a bookshelf (ish). And yep, I store my stools (a household necessity) under my desk.

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This is the doorway to my kitchen. It’s not in a picture mode now, so I’ll show you the kitchen some other time. I made the pennant banner before I moved here 3 years ago– and I hand-cut the words above from black contact paper making vinyl decor that gets people talking. Students will ask me.. what does that mean? I tell them what blessings are and we sit around counting them. I have a notebook filled with note cards that have their expressions of thanksgiving.

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This is leading to my front door (oh wait.. my only door leading out..) and my cupboard that I recently quilted a photo display for. It used to have decrepit photos curling up from years of sitting there. I finally gave it an overhaul and am SO glad I did.  The other closet doors have four seasons needle-art made by a woman from my home church. She was moving and thought they best go to the thrift store. I wasn’t about to let that happen. These things are BEAUTIFUL. I love staring at them. Does that make me weird. It’s supposed to be spring now, but pretty sure there are piles of dirty snow and ice outside. So I look at the spring (green) one and dream of the days when this land will have flowers blooming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd across from this is the door to the bathroom and this little bit of happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust an eclectic assortment of things. From a hoop my mom made for me (she’s an amazing artist!!) to the wooden hanging that one of my best friends over here made for me– a quote I wrote down from an incredibly inspiring book I read last week… and so on.

This is home for me. This is where I spend my days, share my meals, and live. I had the biggest party to date here last night… there were 11 people. Yes, 11 in that space. I actually measured with my tape measure this morning, and the entire place is 13ftx25ft (because of the WC on one end and the kitchen on the other– but the main living area is about 13ft x 13ft. Oh yeah, and I think in total for decorating I spent about $40.

I count it a privilege to call this place as my home. This is what my Abba Father chose for me to dwell in. Grace.

So next time you think you can’t have company over because you don’t feel your home is adequate, think again. Hospitality doesn’t have to wait til you’re in a larger home or a better-looking home. Do what you can with what you’ve got. Count your blessings and go bless others.

Stories

Aside

We all have stories. You have some, I have some. Our stories are part of the greater story of our life. Whether we realize it or not, there is a much grander story being woven together as I type. Yes! That excites me and scares me at the same time. Sometimes I think that I’ve got that moment under control. Truth is nothing is under my control. I read in a book yesterday that gravity is pushing me to earth at 9.81 meters per second squared. I don’t even know what that means, so thankfully the author explained that means I’m falling into the earth at 22 miles per hour. Okay does that mean anything to you? That is one way that God is showing me that I am not in control of this thing called my story.

So I thought I’d share a few stories from travels I’ve taken. I don’t really have extravagant amounts of time to go around this frozen city to take dreamy pictures to tell blog land how magical my life is. It kind of is just life. Just like you live your life, fulfilling your purpose– that’s what I’m doing. Just in a different part of the globe.

Okay so I traveled back here after just over a month traveling all over America. I was worn out. Seriously I was not ready to come back. I was fearful of it all. I was overly emotional and tired and just a mess. I think a HUGE reason was that for  three years I haven’t really made rest a priority. I lived a super busy life in college– and that rolled over into life abroad. Not to mention the energy life here consumes to teach and live in a cross-cultural environment. I took none of that into account and thought that I was young and could go at the speed of… well.. what ever I thought I could go at. That speed was sending me straight to burnout.

Before I had embarked on my America journey I had made plans to visit my student in her hometown while I had a week of downtime after getting back. I struggle with pleasing people and not knowing how to say no. Especially when the student already got my bus ticket to return from her city. Well, after several days of resting per my neighbors command I felt like I was ready to embark on a small adventure.

So there I was, in line at the bus station, when I noticed people had their ID cards and I remembered that I totally forgot my passport. Yo. Bad idea! Oh but when I bought my ticket it was no problem. Whew. Got on the bus (no passport needed). Listened to something and read a book and got a little nervous when the bus would kind of hit the rumble strips. Apparently that’s how they do on the highways here?

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Arrived at my students town. There she was with her parents smiling as big as ever that her teacher would COME to her town. She’s such a blessing to me! We ate noodles– apparently that’s the traditional food people eat after a journey to show that the journey was successful. Her mom made the noodles by hand. She’s kind of a cooking pro and her kitchen was spotless (mine isn’t).

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Then it started to snow, like a lot. These towns don’t have lots of snow removal equipment even though it is the frozen land of snow and ice. They made comments of concern that we wouldn’t get out of the town when planned (I had lesson planning and teaching to do! I needed to go home when we planned…). Sure enough, the next day it kept snowing and the buses weren’t going. We considered other options but held our breaths hoping that we could get out the following day when we planned to.

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When it snows, there isn’t a whole lot to do– except visit grandparents, eat food, and watch TV. I love meeting elderly people. I want to hear their stories. I want to understand them, but it’s a little difficult (or a lot). I loved her grandfather. He was precious, precious! His eyes smiled. He told me that they live a simple life but are happy. My heart ached as their house was covered with idolatry and fear, no true sense of lasting peace. Oh that God would Shine on this land and redeem those walking in darkness!

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Eating in one of these homes goes something like this… “come eat!” — go to the table that is overflowing with food that is way more than any of us can possibly consume. You eat until you cannot eat anymore– and the mother commands that you keep eating– it’s their happy-o-meter. If you eat more that means you like it and that makes them happy. Whew. I love eating Chinese food but sometimes I can’t.take.anymore.

Okay well fast forwarding to the following morning– the morning we had our bus tickets.  We could go! Per Chinese tradition you eat dumplings (or Jiaozi) when you depart on a journey, it’s their way of sending well wishes. So we ate dumplings for breakfast. As I said her mom is a pro. Then my student got notifications from others who had    left on earlier buses saying that they’re stopping by the police station to do ID checks. Oh remember who left their passport at home? This one. I sent an SOS to the parents and a close friend asking that they uphold this situation and that I could pass through the police check safely.

We drove across town and stopped. I held my breath. The policeman came on and walked past me and my student, he didn’t even collect her ID. He was looking for people who weren’t students. Oh how my heavenly Father was orchestrating this event that was entirely out of my control. I made it home without any problems.

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The trip was a graced trip. It was a short trip, but there were so many things that HE was teaching me. He was teaching me to trust Him and that sometimes I need to relax. I want to be the one serving. I want to be the one giving that cup of tea and that piece of cake to a guest. He was teaching me how to be a guest and accept their gift of hospitality, just as I wish people to accept when they’re in my home. He was also teaching me how He wants me to be receptive of what He’s doing around me. Slow down. Enjoy. Savor. BE.

Done

I’ve thought about starting a blog for awhile. I debated with myself reasons to do it, and reasons to not do it. I finally decided that it can be an outlet for creativity, to connect with others, to share the ups and downs of life as my Savior relentlessly pursues me. 

As a twenty-something who has chosen to move beyond the boarders of comfort, I can say that it’s not always an easy journey. Someone shared with me last weekend about an elderly lady who faced many obstacles in life sharing that those obstacles were beneficial. I’ve lived so few years compared to that woman but I can say that living abroad has led me to do things I never imagined I would do and to let go of things that needed to go.

You see, this whole journey is not about me– my needs– my wants– my desires. It’s about my redeemer and realizing that my rights in this life don’t really exist. I’m waiting for the eternal reward. Why let the here and now be the end-all when there are far greater things awaiting me in eternity?

I live on a shoe-string budget, as some would say. But really, I have everything I could ever need and FAR more than what I need. I am passionate about managing what’s been entrusted to me in a wise way. Sometimes I don’t make the most wise decisions but I try. I also cannot always control what I eat, as this culture I live in revolves around food. Yet, I try to do what is most responsible with the truth I know about food. I love beauty and creating, yet I don’t want to find my joy in the creations of my hands or peoples hands. I want to find  my joy in my King who crafted the world and holds me with his powerful hand. Life is a gift and I don’t want to wait til I’m in another country to fully live. I want to be
here, all here– fully alive.