On Earthquakes and Fear

BeStill BWsmall

Fear is one of those things that each human has to face. There are many famous quotes about fear. There are many passages in the Bible that deal with fear. But I, for one, feel like fear is one of my greater struggles.

For example, in 2010 I was in a car accident that I caused because I fell asleep. Ever since then, I have had a fear of driving. I don’t have to face it when I’m abroad, because I rely completely on public transportation. Or, when I watch documentaries about food and the arguments for strictly eating organic vegetables and grass-fed meat, I become fearful of what I put into my body because there are no options for organic here.

But then there come seasons of earthquakes in a part of the world where earthquakes are not a normal part of life. The city panics. The people panic. My students are crippled with fear. In the last month we have encountered 4 earthquakes and for some reason, people in my city are convinced that tomorrow (?!?!) there will be an earthquake. They have canceled some schools, parents are coming to fetch their children, panic. The advice I was given was to buy instant noodles and water. Perfect.

How do you face a situation like this? No one really knows what’s gonna happen. Actually, there could be an earthquake anywhere in the world and God, will still be sovereign. But when everyone around you is responding to their fear in serious ways, what do I do?

I talked to some family members, they gave their suggestions for “what to do”. Yet, there are no ideal places to go here for “safe shelter”. This city is comprised almost entirely of high buildings all made with tons of concrete. I teach on a high floor, and live on a high floor. There’s not a whole lot that you can do– oh and the people on campus don’t know what to do either.

I sat and talked to my heavenly father. I wanted to turn to the Psalms but I didn’t know which one. I asked and I turned to Psalm 34, started reading, then smiled. Comfort from truth is like none other. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” // “Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” This fear is a totally different kind of fear from what the people around me experience. This is a healthy fear, this is the fear that I want to have. I steady my heart on the truth of His promises, I don’t want to live any other way.

In life or death– my anchor holds. And hey, What ever happens, I’m headed to a place that won’t be shaken (heb 12:28).

My hope is not in these buildings, this city, or what people say, but in the maker of the universe. He’s got this.

Advertisements

Aware | v

image_6
[ A little morning market action– veggies and breakfast for the win… ]

I recently saw  a little cartoon sketch saying that November is the month where people give thanks, but the rest of the year they complain. Let this not be so. Giving thanks should be a lifestyle. So here are a few of the many things I’ve encountered recently that cause my heart to give thanks.

Cheers to the neighbor who hides cake in my fridge, not one but two slices– you make my days bright with little surprises like that. Cheers to the people who just sold me oranges, yelling at me and not letting me chose what I wanted to get… you help me to see my sin and my selfishness which I’ve seen a lot of lately. Cheers to the friends that have birthdays this month, you remind me why life is such a sweet gift and worth celebrating, your lives are a testimony to faithfulness and the sovereignty of God. Cheers to the people who welcomed my father home after his many months, studying and serving abroad. Cheers to a sweet woman who has brightened this last week with her heartfelt emails. I’ve never really had a godly mentor-type woman in my life but this woman is all that and more. Cheers to the morning market breakfast stalls, fresh food is fun (who cares about cleanliness anyway?) and walking along being greeted (I mean stared at) by all of the old people is also fun.

What are you grateful for?

Touch

Image

I spent the morning working in my office. While in the office I was trying to find my water bottle that vanished last week. I was so sad that it wasn’t anywhere to be found because that was a gift I received at Christmas and I happened to like it a lot. I sat there and racked my brain to think of any possible place that I could have been between my home and office where I might have set it down. It suddenly dawned on me– maybe it was at the copy center? 

I left my office after the bell rang and was surrounded by a throng of students trying to get from one building to the next. It’s something like trying to fit tapioca pearls through a funnel.. they get stuck and squished in the process. But that’s okay. I got to see some of my students I taught 3 years ago. I love seeing those students and getting//giving hugs galore. I went to the copy center — (getting copies made here is not as easy as 123.. or maybe it is– we have to take our copies and have other people make the copies for us. We order what we need and come back in a few days to fetch the papers. This requires advanced planning which isn’t exactly easy sometimes.) I told my friends hello and tried to communicate to them that I was looking for a yellow bottle that I lost last week. I can never remember how to say “last week” correctly. Someday I’ll learn. The man was adamant that there was nothing there. The lady knew it was somewhere around. They looked around, grabbed a key and unlocked a cupboard and behold there was the cup that I had given up hope in finding. Bam. It was back in my hands. Off to class I went. 

After class I headed to the gate to catch the bus. You see, I live on the outskirts of city that is spread out. It could take 2 hours just to get through the city. I’ve never been to the far north. Anyhow, with other workers from my school we got on the bus. I like this bus because my school provides it making it free– and you get a seat! For this long-trek it’s not fun to have to stand the whole way which is usually what happens if I take public transit. I was planning to sit by myself and read a book that my mom sent over. Other plans were in the making as I was nudged in the leg. Whaa? Oh! It was the lady from the copy center. She scooted over and I sat with her. She speaks no English. We conversed about life, about the holiday tomorrow and our plans for our short vacation. It’s relationships that we’re made for. This is apparent. The ride takes awhile, I took a short nap and then we arrived downtown. We got off the bus and she grabbed my hand to go walking into town with me. This is normal for friends, this is a sign that you’re accepted by that person. Touch.

She went her way towards her home telling me to go safely and I crossed the major road. I jumped onto another bus, heading to my next destination. I got off a stop early but not far from my destination. Walking along I feel a tap on my shoulder. Touch. 

In a city of 7 million what is the likelihood that I would know someone in an area and hour away from where I live? It was my student. We were headed for the same mall. We walked along and talked about life and the day. We tried not to get killed crossing yet another big road and headed to our destination. For him it was to work, for me it was to meet friends to enjoy lunch together. 

People need other people in their lives. We’re not made to do life independently. I continue to learn that relationships are necessary. Relationships are messy, but we need each other. I’m so thankful that I haven’t been left to do life alone. In some ways life does get lonely here. I live on my own. I cook for myself and often eat my meals by myself. But even then I’m not alone. I’ve got the greatest companion with me at all times. That makes my heart sing just thinking about it! 

Well, I got some apples on the way home and need to go put em in the crock to make apple sauce. You mean apple sauce doesn’t come from the jar? Nope, not in these parts it doesn’t. — I peel and roughly cut them up, I don’t add water, just cinnamon and what ever spices I feel like adding then turn it on low. After a few hours I mash them with a potato masher. Bam. Applesauce not from the jar. And total cost for me? 65 cents. 

All is grace. 

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?

baishan_welcome

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).

baishan_student

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.

baishan_snow

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!

baishan_grandpa

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.

baishan_snow

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.