Week 21-25: the God Who calls –

It has been 6 months. Half a year. 25 weeks. 176 days. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-8

It has been 25 full weeks. 25 full weeks in China. 

6 months, mountaintops and valleys.
6 months: joy and sorrow, tears and laughter, hello’s and goodbye’s.
6 months building deep relationships and earning the trust of 56 Chinese orphans.

Tomorrow I get on a plane and fly the 16 hours home and I find myself constantly in tears. Today I whispered over Shi Wenli “how will I ever leave you? how could I ever leave any of you?” and yet I’m going back to my house in my land where I grew up.

Yes, I want to take them all in my suitcase. It breaks me that I’ll be away from them.
It breaks me that they know how to do goodbyes so well. It breaks me that they know someone they loved walked away from them for various reasons. It breaks me that they don’t all have families who will never walk away from them. It breaks me that I’m leaving. 
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The way things change….

The first month I was here, I thought I couldn’t do it. I cried more days than not. I questioned every decision I thought led me here and thought “What in the world did you just do??” 2 weeks later, I was bouncing around in the back of a Shepherd’s Field van on the floor giggling and thinking “I never want to leave.” How quickly things change. 

Month 3 or 4 I had a conversation with my boss and friend in a taxi on the way back from WalMart that went along the lines of “If I wanted to extend my stay, could I?” It was a definite yes. I knew I had the means to do it if I watched my funds, and I absolutely wanted to! I cried a little bit talking about why, and she got it, she 100% got it. 

I began hemming around decisions my parents asked me “oh, yep, maybe, we’ll see” and didn’t make any plans for the Autumn. I looked at changing my flights so many times, and I talked with many friends about staying. Most of all, I prayed deeply that the God Who called me here would make it plain to me if I should stay.
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Not my will but Yours….

What followed was 2 straight months of debilitating sickness that rendered me a shadow of the person who bounced around campus singing and hugging the kids. Not all of them were life threatening, but some were pretty darn close. Breathing is important to life! 

What has become made very clear is that although I longed to live here longer term like so many of my wonderful coworkers did, that China was not life-sustaining for me. 

In fact, it has given my body and my health a serious run for its money, hahaha. 

Not even a trip to Shaanxi was feasible since I only recovered with 3 weeks left in my stay, and so much to do in that time. When I was well I thought “I can do it. I can fight it. I can stay.” and when I was sick, I knew. God would sustain me to make it, but I needed to go home.

God doesn’t call us to ruin ourselves physically to make His will work better. 

His answers come in different ways than I would want, but I know that He knows that it would take something as strong as my health failing to lead me out of China. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-23

The God Who leads us on….

When I got back from Australia with 6 weeks left, I made an “Onward Home” playlist that I have been playing occasionally to remind me of the joy of going home. I was doing pretty well until a few days ago when it all hit me, and the deeper agony of “see you later”s is crushing me. I keep texting SF friends “how did you do thiiiiissss?”, and I think the answer is you just love as hard as you always have, take a million selfies, and get on the plane knowing you gave your heart and soul to the children at Shepherd’s Field. 

It SHOULD be bittersweet. It SHOULD be hard to say goodbye, and wonderful to say hello to your family back home. It SHOULD feel like you should be reunited one day because that is how family dreams. “See you again soon” isn’t an empty promise. We mean it.
We mean it because we can’t imagine a life without them anymore. They’ve become our family, they’ve become our siblings, they’ve become impossible to live without. They’ve become children I love deeply and long to see adopted into forever families!

A few weeks ago a friend & coworker asked me how I was processing going home, and I was so thankful to talk with her about it, and I want to share the words I’ve felt deeply for weeks:

God has been faithful to call me to China and is now calling me to come Home. He has shown me that even though some people can live long term in China, I am not one of those people and that is okay. It doesn’t lessen or take away the beauty of the season of these 6 months in China or how God has used me here (thank you Katy for that). It is good that I’m able to go back in joy, knowing that God is perfect in all His ways and perfect in His timing, and my time here has perfectly come up. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-24The God Who calls us continues to call us, continues to lead us, through EVERY SEASON.

…. He is calling me home. 

You take me in, You lead me out…

One of the songs I’ve loved singing while here in China is “Mountain to Valley” and part of it says “You take me in, You lead me out, what a journey walking with You, God.” 

That truth has greatly impacted my realization that God has led me here, and now is leading me home! Seasons don’t have to be permanent nor does one ending lessen my love or commitment or presence. This has been a beautiful and hard season, in a land I love so deeply, and now it is ending, but because all of God’s ways are perfect, it’s the perfect time for it to end. God knows that my prayers and advocating for these kids will go on. 18.7.19 SVCF campus-45My time here in China has cost me deeply. 

It has cost me physically. It has cost me deeply emotionally. It has cost me mentally.
It has cost me blood, sweat, tears, breath and family reunions. It has cost me more than I thought it ever could. It has cost me things I didn’t want to give up. 

And God was in it

And it was worth it18.7.19 SVCF campus-84

It has been an adventure, and it has been an honor and privilege to get to know these children, to build relationships, to earn trust and to leave knowing I left my whole heart and soul and love and life and on the line for these Chinese orphans who live so vibrantly. It seems impossible that 6 months flew by so so quickly. What an amazing season. I’m SO grateful and thankful to have lived & served here, in the good and the hard. I’m so thankful to have made it to the end without going home, that is such a gift! And I’m deeply thankful to be seeing my family again so very soon. I’m coming back!!!
I really am rather fond of the US of A, and I’ve missed my loved ones sooooo much!!
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I have seen Him. 

I have seen His face in the faces of orphans. I crossed oceans in His name and served for His glorious name, and don’t think I could ever get over all the ways He’s faithfully cared for me, provided for me, answered our deepest life-saving prayers for the kids, and shown Himself through creation and through the world’s “least of these”. 

I have SEEN Him, I have known Him more, and I have deeply trusted Him with my life.
He has been tangibly present, breath-giving, life-sustaining, ever-good, always kind. 

Oh, how His love provides for me! Oh, how His love leads me on in joy!
Oh, how His plans cannot be thwarted, and oh, how He reigns in victory!
His name, which nothing can stand against! His kingdom, which spreads to the nations!
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“Love lead me on, love lead me through, take me back Home, back Home to You. 
Love lead me on, love tried & true.” 

– JM

Continue to keep in touch on my Instagram (on the right in the sidebar), because I’m doing a special introduction project on there about these sweet and precious orphans!

Week 13-20: This one brief holy moment.

It was May 19th. Moody Bible Men’s Choir was visiting China and stopped by for a few days to visit SFCV and gave a short concert on a Saturday morning for the kids.

Isaac ran over and clambered up into my lap, and I hugged him tightly, unwilling to let him go. Tomorrow he would meet his new family and I longed to get every bit of love into him that I could. I pulled Leonard {Ling Daiwei} up next to me in his chair, so excited for him to hear some real live music since the kid loves good music. I amped them up “Time for the concert! This is so exciting! Yay!”.

I watched Daiwei’s face closely to see how he’d react to an all men’s acapella choir singing….his face looked like a thundercloud for the first song. I think it was too much? Then the second song started, and his face burst into sunbeams. Tears filled my eyes.

He understood.

The three of us sat there, our own little joyful club. Isaac entwined in my arms, Daiwei with his ever changing expressions on his face, and me watching and listening to it all.

It was in the middle of a rousing rendition of “He’s Never Failed Me Yet”….
“I know God is able, to deliver in time of storm.
I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm.

Trust and never doubt, Jesus will surely bring you out, 
He’s never failed me yet, He’s never failed me yet.” 

… that I looked down. Daiwei had been waving his arms triumphantly with the music, and was now resting one arm over the side of his wheelchair, and Isaac was holding his hand. Isaac saw his hand was empty and slid his own in to be a friend. 

I gasped.

Brothers. 

I put my head down between the two of them and sobbed.
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They held hands for 10 minutes while I absolutely lost it. 

all I could think is……this one brief holy moment.

The video I took in those seconds, you can see it all over my face, the “whole world in my eyes”, the moment it all made sense and meant so much that it did. Suddenly all the months of hard work fostering 55 kids and hugs and goodbyes and hurts and prayers worries and heart wrenching stories and a million other things melted down into this one brief holy moment when I saw “strangers” be brothers and friends.

“He’s never failed me yet….”, nor does He ever have any intention or promise to.
He will always be Himself. He will always be unchanging Love, always be kind King, always be merciful and good, always be steadfast in every season, always be our Savior.
The God Who became little and small to be our Brother, the Brother who bought us one dark day with nail scarred hands, the second Adam who walked out of the grave, and the Father to the Fatherless to the millions of orphans worldwide.

To bring together orphans into families and boys into brothers and us to Himself.

Brothers: Leonard {Ling Daiwei} and Isaac {Dang Mengyang}. All my heart. 
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.6.13-5

No, He hasn’t failed me and He never will. 

These words have been coming back to me over the months since May 19th. They were with me the day after when I sobbed behind my camera bittersweet tears of Isaac meeting his family and leaving. They have been with me every time since that I have seen Daiwei and seen his face light up with a million smiles.

I was reminded of how quickly it all can change and how months together can become your “brief holy moment” when a child is transferred back to their home orphanage. I was in Australia when I got a text that made my knees buckle and tears stream down my face. Maya was recalled back to her home orphanage. I was heartbroken and crushed. I would not be back in time to say goodbye to sweet Maya. Others cried over her at her going away party for me.

Maya, who taught me more about the Gospel than anyone I’ve ever met. 
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Suddenly all the pictures and videos and long back-aching moments bent over her seemed even MORE worth it….they became holy moments spent serving one of the sweetest, bravest and most tender among us.

She is receiving such good care back at her orphanage and several of our eating therapists have been able to visit her caretakers to teach them how to specially care for Maya. I was surprised and incredibly thankful, and then I thought of how just like our God and Father that is. How tenderly He cares for the littlest and least of these.

I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm….”

oh, how He loves us.

The weeks have rushed by so swiftly and now I have just 5 weeks left. It has been awfully rough being in China due to being so sick, and yet it shatters my heart to leave these precious and vivacious kids who I so long to see grow up and have families.

This whole season in China has been so incredibly worth it, filled with victories and joy, hugs and tears, friendships and laughter, jokes and memories. I’ve been blessed to serve.

It has meant something in these orphans lives as I’ve captured their lives in photos and built their files, memories of a past and hope for a future. It has meant something for Jesus and His Kingdom. It has meant something: a million somethings to my heart.

It has seemed like so little and it has been beyond what I could handle. It has been agonizing and good. It has been brief. It has been long. It has been quiet and faithful.
It has been full of doing many “small things with great love” {Mother Teresa}. Many unseen moments of ministry. Many moments too deep for words or pictures.

It has been one brief holy moment in China.

and I’m so thankful to have been here through it all.

-JM

Week 4-12: The Good in the Hard

Quick explanation for being so faraway: I haven’t known how to get ALL the things done, so I simply haven’t. On the “recovery weekends” after such busy weeks, blogging is at the very bottom of that list, underneath things like “get laundry done”, “take a shower”, “sleep” ,”meal prep”, “answer e-mails” “yay, a walk outside” and “don’t be dead”. Somehow we all turn into pseudo-parents when we get here. We’re excited to go to bed at 9pm and love showers and love having clean laundry and get really excited about weekends. So forgive me for being absent….Instagram is the place you’ll learn the most about my daily life! (just click the pictures or link in the sidebar to your right). 

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“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone but in every leaf of Springtime.” {Martin Luther} 

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Spring has come to Northern China at long last. Even though Wintery days still crop up, green is covering the trees, puff balls of flowering trees are floating in the air and blossoms are bursting from all the trees that looked so very dead just a few months ago. Blue sky days have been appearing, along with Spring rains (plus fireworks), gentle breezes to blustery winds, and grass starting to grow. The world coming alive again. 30705194_10216127771970329_631693198506328064_o

I moved to China in the Winter on purpose. I wanted to see Spring come to China. I didn’t realize how hard that Winter would be, and now that Spring is here, I don’t know how to fully explain all it means to me. It continues to feed my soul with beauty and lift my heart with praise to our Creator who deeply loves beauty and gives beautiful gifts. 30728271_10216127772370339_3041541164369969152_o

The days are long, the weekends are short, yet I’m almost halfway through my stay, and I can’t imagine leaving. I long to see orphans become sons and daughters in person, I long to see all that God will do here, and I long to love on these children as they grow up.

Yes, it’s hard work. It’s so MUCH work, it’s hard work, it’s exhausting work. And it’s GOOD WORK. It’s work that is building a child’s future, it’s work that is sustaining a child’s life. My work in photography….it is work that is retaining memories in the hope that a Mother or Father will look on these pictures and see their son or daughter. It is work that is capturing all the things any proud parent would: the moment he learned to rollerblade after weeks of practice, the moment she smiled, the moment he took his first steps, the days after his surgery, the smiles on the playground, and the grumpy haircuts too. The naps, the lunches, the bottles, the ayis’ kisses, the moments that make up childhood life. 

It’s invaluable. It’s connection giving. It’s my job. It exhausts me. It’s worth it.

Something I’ve been thinking about heavily is this:
“Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t where He has called you to be.” 
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I know without a doubt that God has called me here, and that only He could have made a way for me to return, only He could write such a story for me. At 4 weeks, I wondered what on earth I’d done to my life and wondered if it would ever get easier. At 6 weeks I was bumping around in the back of a van and thinking I never want to leave!

So I learn to look at the hours and hours and yet more hours of work and see it all as GOOD because it isn’t for my glory at all, it’s my calling by the Father to the Fatherless. It’s for another’s good: it’s work building and shaping an orphan’s future and memories and the best tangible gift I could give them. So I get up in the morning tired and go to bed tired and do the very best I can, all in the name of love, to show the world how lovely they are. What an honor. What a gift. What a privilege. 30728605_10216127772690347_2446272887716315136_o

Along with watching Spring come to China, and feeling at a loss for words to adequately explain…I haven’t known how to fully express how wonderful, sweet, energetic, smart and amazing these kids are here at Shepherd’s Field.

How do you advocate well when the rest of the world can’t possibly know all a moment means? How do you explain the wonder of one happy bite of a puff and how a video of the sweet girl eating that puff will reduce you to the happiest tears while standing in a Chinese restaurant? I tend to move towards the “it can’t be overstated deeply enough”, and it’s overwhelming to know how to tackle it, so we sit together and share stories and laugh and cry and “aww” and rejoice with each other here on campus. But I long for you to know, to really know how much it means and how much they mean to me, to us. 

Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is a dream come true for any orphan. And yet. Everyone here longs so deeply for these kids to be adopted into forever families. 

Like Ella (Song Yuxuan), with her precious face and gentle eyes, loving, cuddly & sweet.
Ella Song Yuxuan 宋宇轩 18.3.19-1

Brody (Hu Minpeng), an intense learner and full of never-ending poses & smiles.
Brody Hu Minpeng 胡闽鹏 ChineseNewYear 18.2.15-1

Charissa (Ling Deting), incredibly smart and caring, full of spunk and laughter.
Charissa Ling Deting 灵德婷 18.3.26-4

Flynn (Zhao Angpen), brave and curious, full of mischievous joy and sweetness!
Flynn Zhao Angpeng 赵安朋 18.2.28-4

Francis (Dang Guanxin), courageous and smart, & the best sound mimic I’ve ever heard.
Francis Dang Guanxin 党关心 HopeRanch 18.3.15-3

Hanna (Song Yicai), who stole my heart the moment I saw her, full of joy and light.
Hanna Song Yicai 宋怡彩 18.2.13-4

Hector (Dang Guobu), one of the best, uncomplaining, kindest & fun boys I’ve ever met.
Hector Dang Guobu 党国部 EasterEggHunt 18.4.3-7

Leonard (Ling Daiwei), my pal & treasured friend, joyful, special, great encourager.
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.2.28-3

Isaac (Dang Mengyang), tenderhearted, full of hugs & energy, adventurous & sweet.
Isaac Dang Mengyang 党孟洋18.3.11-4

Jean Marie (Kong Huangbei), full of sweetness, loves the outdoors, snuggles & kisses.
Jean Marie Kong Huangbei 孔黄贝 18.2.14-12

Lael (Zhang Youqing), those cheeks! precious one full of curiosity and inquisitive looks.
Lael Zhang Youqing 张又晴 18.3.19-14

Levi (Han Qiannan), sensitive & tenderhearted, full of the best laughter and hugs!
Levi Han Qiannan 韩乾南 18.3.5-5

Matthew (Zhu Wenlian), dearest little guy who loves to “just be” with you, gentle, joyful!
Matthew Zhu Wenliang 朱文梁 18.3.26-1

Maya (Dang Guan), teaches me what the Gospel is. Brave, strong, beautiful, courageous.
Maya Dang Guan Ai 党关爱 therapy 18.4.9-2

Olive (Zhang Rongxuan), tiny warrior, full of the best soft coo’s, mighty, beloved.
Olive Zhang Rongxuan 张荣轩 Therapy 18.3.6-3

Oscar (Shi Yitie), one of my best little pals, with the best smile ever, full of laughter.
Oscar Shi Yitie 石毅铁 18.3.4-2

Russell James (Song Xiping), the real life Russell from UP, shy, darling, loves cuddles!
Russell James Song Xiping 宋熙平 18.3.20-6

Rocco (Zhu Jingfen), contemplative, runs to give you hugs, sweet, adventurous, smart. Rocco Zhu Jingfen 朱景奋 18.4.8-1

Samuel (Dang Liming), excited to play with his friends!, oh those dimples!, a helper.
Samuel Dang Liming 党利明 therapy 18.4.10-8

Simeon (Shi Wenjia), loves to tease, playful, curious, smiles with his whole face!
Simeon Shi Wenjia 石文佳18.2.13-1

Wes (Ling Wudao), a great teacher of the long-haul friendship, smart, loves Pooh Bear!
Wes Ling Wudao 灵婺道 18.3.5-13

Zack (Shi Wenli), sweetest boy, steady, gentle, giver of love, full of light and joy!
Zack Shi Wenli 施文黎 18.3.5-10….. and this is only half of our incredible and precious kids!!
Feeling moved to tears and smiles? Me too!! Every day, every week. They’re incredible.

The best tangible gift you could give to these orphans? Sponsorship. Prayers. And advocating for their adoptions! On the other side of the world, it might seem like so little. To Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village’s kids? It’s HUGE. Please contact me if you’d love to know more! 

– JM

Week 1-3: His Love provides for me

Hello dear friends! 

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Well what a ride these first 3 weeks have been, let me tell you. It feels more like 3 years, to be honest. To give you an explanation first off, I’ve been locked out of my e-mail accounts since I got here and only just last week have I tentatively gotten access into one of them, thankfully the one that allows me to blog here!! Seriously SO thankful it was this one, because I was aching to write to you all and share what’s been going on!

Since landing in China 3 weeks and 1 day ago, it has been some of the busiest, most pressurized and hardest 3 weeks of my life, haha. I know some of you have been picking up on that and sending the sweetest messages and hopefully following along on my journey through Instagram! (check out the sweet feed on the right of this page!) There have been so many firsts, including going through my very first earthquake, just a baby 4.3 one, “suddenly, I am on a boat! this is unexpected!”; it’s been a whirlwind of events to put it mildly.

I hit the ground running and have been shooting SO MANY pictures/editing/delivering/running all over campus/memorizing 55 kids’ names and faces!/learning a whole new workplace/schedule/town and not until 6 days ago did I actually do anything normal like laundry or write an e-mail or sit down with no immediate work deadline (oh wait, that was today). For all my photographer friends: it was like shooting a wedding and delivering it in one week instead of 3 months. HAhahaha. SO CRAZY, to say the least! Holiday weeks are busy times here, especially Chinese New Year festivities! The work load is heavy but Kingdom-filled, and I’m grateful to be needed even though it’s a lot!

A quick art picture with my parka on and laundry strapped to my back. (2.17.18)27993603_10215614947710043_2178580867688122792_oI landed in China expecting an immediate emotional connection of “I’m Home”, and although so many things here are the same, so many more seem different. I didn’t immediately FEEL “Home” for the first time in China, and wow, it tripped me up so badly. For the first few weeks, I vaulted from “this is so amazing here!” to “what on earth have you done, moving to another country for 6 months, you are CRAZY.” hahaha. Oh my.

According to a fellow American friend I met here who also lives in China, this….is normal. But I didn’t know it was normal. So I spent a lot of time freaking out. (surprise, surprise) China is really big (again. shocker), so if you think Shaanxi is Alabama, and Hebei is New York, (both 13.5 hours from each other) add in the different cultures, food, landscapes, (not to mention people and my China kids) then you’ll have a better perspective of how thrown off I was to arrive here when I was expecting B-City.

And not until my dear friend Martha showed up VERY unexpectedly for a visit (the very best gift ever for all time), and I physically walked China’s lands with her again, and introduced her to some of the kids here and watched her love them did it actually feel as if this could be Home too. What I came to realize through many conversations about not comparing the two places is that God did an amazing work in B-City, and will do an amazing one here too. It doesn’t lessen the beauty or the emotional connection or the way B-City will always feel like Home to me. I was called here to Shepherd’s Field for an important reason, and I know Who called me, and I will wait to see and know how He will use me here. 20180209-DSC_4470A few days ago I sat holding the hand of one of SFCV’S little China warriors who hasn’t been feeling well, and as I was praying for her healing and singing over her, I was compelled to write this down. I had just turned on “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe, a song that has carried me through loneliness and loss, and as I sang along, I wrote this: “I am not alone. You will go before me, You will never leave me. The Jesus Who called me back to China and made a way for me across the seas is the same Jesus Who will walk with me every day into every room. He will continue to pour out His love through me because I go in His name. I am not alone.” 20180209-DSC_4518The SFCV staff and all the people here have been so welcoming, honest and kind. The walls in the Inn are covered with Scripture and encouragement and stories and I don’t think I’ll get it all read in 6 months, but there is so much here that is full of beauty, even in winter, even in loneliness, even in trials, even in fears, there is beauty here.

There are sparrows that remind me that God sees me, there are magpies being raucous, reminding me of Colorado and to laugh, there are strong winds that rustle the bamboo to remind me we are not alone, and there is a greenhouse that feels like instant Florida when you step inside it. There is hot water, warm rooms at night!, and comfy beds to snuggle into. Children’s laughter rings out here and you only need to step into a house to be accosted by hugs and smiles. The sweet ayi’s laughter floats up to my room every morning as they get off shift and greet the day. And best of all: Spring is coming. 20180214-DSC_4991It has been hard here, not because this is a hard place, but perhaps because I threw myself headlong into this work in China and didn’t consider fully how much the Enemy does not like me being here. My friend Edwina said “talk about confirmation that you’re where God has called you to be!” which is by far the best perspective I could ask for.

Because it’s been one thing after another, non-stop. My prayer warriors have been getting hit up, day by day. My parents overloaded with texts. From e-mails to health issues to realizing “oh hey, everyone at SF isn’t just like you and that’s good and you all have to work together at your different jobs” which everyone probably realizes at some point in this kind of work and hey, JM, you’re in it.

I’ve also just discovered there’s someone here on staff who DOES like hugs, so she will be getting ALL my stored up hugs from now on. 😉 So guess what? China is nothing like Florida. More than you even knew.20180212-DSC_4747So in the midst of these trials, I did what I’ve learned to do, I cried out for rescue to my sovereign God and yes, I’m here to tell you: He was there, and He provided for me. Every step of the way, every day, every hard thing, every trial, every tired moment, He was beside me, He was behind me, He was before me, He was there, and His love provided for me. In more beautiful, astounding, tangible, needs-met ways than there are spaces here to say. The God I trust will not fail me nor will He ever fail me. He is my Jehovah Jireh, the God Who provides, and His love for me will take care of me all the days of my life. It’s a promise that will not end, and wow, it’s a powerful one.

Power is something I’ve been hearing 24/7 since I arrived in China; I’ll tell you how. Fireworks by day, fireworks by night. Gunpowder popping and exploding constantly. A nice little worship walk, it’s so peaceful out here…..*explosions 15 feet away and I can’t hear anything for the next 10 minutes, it’s fine*. “Chinese New Year”, I’ve said hundreds of times while rolling my eyes and sometimes pulling the pillow over my head at 2am. I love fireworks at night, even after 3 weeks of it, I still look up with a little smile on my face (it’s an everlasting wonder why). 20180215-DSC_5601You realize Who is the powerful one when all you feel is weak and needy. It’s not you, it’s the One Who hung the planets in space and who created everything from nothing. And that powerful Gospel love that God gives His people and gave me a China love and a love for orphans is the same love that fills these people working here. It burns inside me, in every room, for every child. It’s a powerful, explosive, cannot-be-contained love, and I want to be pouring out more of it every day, since more and more every day I am humbled at my little human love, spent so easily and quickly. I need Jesus love. I need long-term, showing up when it’s hard and continuing to spill out when I want to hold in-love.20180215-DSC_5706

Jesus, how I need you. 

28162303_10215596576690779_6184502002032579738_o6 days ago, I wrote these words: “God loves beauty and even on the really hard days, He is still giving us good things. I was so encouraged by these verses this morning, especially that line “He will not forsake His saints.” He will not allow us to fall, He upholds us by His righteous right hand, our steps do not slip because we are kept by Him.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For WITH YOU is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue Your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!” – Psalm 36:5-10

“I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsake or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and His children become a blessing. For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints.” – Psalm 37:25-26, 28

He has not. He will not. Though my little place in China feels like I’ve moved to the dark side of the moon some days, there is a light here, all day, every day, and it won’t go out. It won’t flicker, it won’t fail, it won’t dim and it cannot be extinguished by famine or drought, neither harmed from arrows by day or terror by night. It will always burn, a comfort for us, steadfast, never changing, never failing, never losing ground, never covered up, never put out. It is fueled by a powerful victory that can never be undone.

For it is He. He is the Light of the World, and He is calling us to be at Home in Him. Abide. Dwell. At Peace. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” – Psalm 46:5

Oh, how His love provides for me. 20180215-DSC_5622– JM

12 Days Until China

It was back in December when I was at the “Behold the Lamb” Andrew Peterson concert (my favorite) when I heard Andrew speaking about God being glorified in us when we are weak and using us in great ways when we rely on Him for our strength to do mighty things. I remember being moved, even to tears. I remember typing it into my phone.

That was early December. This is January 19th. It didn’t hit me until yesterday as I was hurtling down the highway what that meant in the here and now. I immediately pulled out my phone and recorded a voice memo to keep the words clear, but it didn’t feel great.

It’s all very disappointing, really. 

I might not ever be good at Wanderlusting.

Hold onto your hats. I’m starting this off with incorrect grammar. I know Wanderlusting isn’t a word.

“Wow, you’re moving to China? That’s amazing! You’re getting to see the world!” I’ve been hearing it for months, and yeah, I get shivers of joy and excitement every single time. But until I wake up actually IN CHINA, there’s been a mountain load of preparation to do, and guess what, ladies and gentlemen: IT’S BEEN HARD and NOT AT ALL PEACEFUL.

I’d watched all the travel tip videos from “Hey Nadine” on YouTube, I’d ordered things on Amazon Prime that made no sense to anyone unless you were headed into Asia (a smog mask? yes, I’ll take one of those, oh and also some lovely outlet adapters, and don’t forget 6 bottles of hand sanitizer). I made lists and re-read all my China info and started seriously studying Mandarin. I’d studied hiking pictures for months looking for the perfect hiking clothes & boots, I freaked out over the cold and bought boxes of fleece and leggings and yet more fleece. (yes, I’m a Floridian moving to a province just a hop, skip, and a jump from Inner Mongolia, also known as the sub arctic. This should go well.)

I ordered boxes of shoes and jeans and a several parkas amid a peaceful time I like to call PARKAGATE where I actually FaceTimed a best friend AT MIDNIGHT to influence my choices and talk me out of my chaos and show her some problematic pockets right after I tripped on Parka #4 on my floor. I was literally swimming in parkas. “There are so many parkas in here, it could be the Parks and Rec department!” 

What I didn’t take into full account when I started all this is that traveling out of the country for 2-3 weeks is NOT the same as moving to another country for 6 months.

You’d THINK that would have been clear …………………………………… it wasn’t, Janet

There hit a moment when I texted a friend who is going to SFCV and arriving the same day as I am this nice calm message: “I’ve realized all those YouTubers that say how easy it is to move to another country are FULL OF LIES.” I was like: “I’m going to be one of those wanderlust bloggers who zips away with no cares!”

NOPE. 

Take the opposite of that, add in a lot of emotional crying, 2am wake ups to worry, piles of fleece and uncertainty, huge stress, endless “I AM CRAZY.” moments and you get me.

China, the World that is not like mine.

I love China. From the minute I sobbed out some goodbyes and cried for 2 hours flying back to some semblance of North America, I mourned ever leaving. Going back is one of the most thrilling and peaceful things I can think of. She’s like a home I haven’t known long. Which is odd, because she is nothing like mine.

I wrote out a list (all in Caps Lock at the time, because I feel things very passionately) that I thought might help people understand why a completely organized and independent  American woman might feel a bit thrown off if she’s also the poster child against change:

List of Things I’m Changing:

1. Changing Churches 2. Changing Jobs 3. Changing Bosses 4. Changing Countries
5. Changing Languages 6. Changing Currency 7. Changing Holidays 8. Changing phones and texting 9. Changing Freedom & Rules 10. Changing Cultures 11. Changing Clothes and Climates 12. Changing time zones 13. Changing transportation 14. Changing availability to be present 15. Changing lives 16. Changing all familiar for the unknown.

It’s enough to make one dizzy. Or you know, an emotional wreck. It’s been stress and chaos, anxiety and tears and days so full I get excited about a 15 minute break to stare at the blue sky. It hasn’t been peaceful and it hasn’t been easy. There’s just been SO much to get done and not a lot of time to do it. As I speak, I stare at a bed full of things I need to have packed in 11 days, and it feels overwhelming, and I don’t know how I’ll do it all.

Wanderlust, make room for weakness.

Wow, even that header looks like disappointment.

The most common question I get when talking about China is “Why?”. To be fair, it’s a valid question. Why would I leave my perfect, calm, privileged, American, well-ordered yet impulsive life with my own company and dream job, surrounded by great friends and all my family and a wonderful church to a country I can’t speak the language and only know a few people in?

The answer is: because God is calling me, and I’d give up all of this to follow that call. 

Yet this has NOT been an easy transition for me. I assumed this 2nd trip to China would be identical in stress and preparation (with more packing) to the first trip. It is not. 

My first trip to China was just a few short weeks, and although there were tearful goodbyes, and yes, I left my parents with “See You in Heaven” letters plus my formal written will and funeral plans (just in case my plane was shot down), I knew I’d be probably be back home soon. But this time, I’m leaving everything and everyone for 6 months. You don’t have to tell me that a lot can happen in 6 months (or 6 days). I’ve probably even thought of it already during my 2am wake up calls from 1-800-Insomnia-You-Are-The-Worst. 

It’s surprised me how much this hasn’t been easy for me and how much I haven’t measured up to my own traveler stereotype of “travel the world, buy the ticket and go!”.

It’s surprised me how much I didn’t like that I wasn’t immediately good at packing up my entire life and moving it to another country for half a year. (insert eye roll) I didn’t like how much I felt like I wasn’t being enough, doing enough, and how I was failing all the strong women who had gone before me. I remember crying one night out of sheer stress and saying “All I want is to pack everything into one go-bag like Liz Bacon or The Archibald Project and just BE THERE!”

I didn’t like that I didn’t project the perfect image, and I didn’t like that I knew it. 
I didn’t like that my weakness was on display instead of my own strength.

Yesterday? Barreling down the highway? I thought of that time Andrew Peterson talked about God’s greatness in our weakness, and I thought about how my weakness HAD been on display (private or public!) but how I’d missed the opportunity to praise Him for making me weak and openly relying on Him for my power instead of being so dang frustrated that I wasn’t God Almighty.

The High Road means nothing if Jesus Isn’t on it.

Our American culture tells us to be strong all the dang time, so I guess I’m not surprised that we’ve equated public bravery with greater worth than a humble “I’m not the One who should be glorified right now.” Honestly even typing up this article feels a little bitter and a little like loss, a little like you’ll know more about me when you see that perfect picture of me standing on a Chinese street and think “Wow, she’s really in China.”.

Thank God that Jesus is in the business of calling us to serve and build His kingdom instead of our own. 

Even though I’d tried so hard to be the perfect traveler with no cares or worries, I’d simply pack it all into one bag, zip away to travel and never be sick!  Oh, and hike the Great Wall like you’ve been working out and have angels’ wings lifting up the soles of your brand new tennis shoes that fit you perfectly (these don’t exist. I’ve looked)! Even though I’d tried so hard to be so strong when emotionally and mentally I was just DONE, God had a bigger purpose in allowing me to realize my weakness, and I’m so glad He did.

Why would we choose frustration and that impossible Wanderlust image and loneliness when we could have Jesus and all His comfort that He will be who we cannot be? That He will teach us and guide us in all the ways that we fail? And that He will USE our proclaimed weakness to make us strong in Him, and bring him glory?

The choice is easy when you remember that when He calls us to lay it down, He doesn’t need us to pick any of it back up again. His burden is light upon us, and His care for us runs deeper and longer and wider; He will not leave us or forsake us when we are weak.

We can rest and sleep and walk an uncertain road for the next half a year and all the rest of our years knowing that our Sovereign God is working it all out for our good, and we don’t need to look good while doing it, we just need to point to the King worth praising.

The part where I wrap it all up because it’s 2am.

There are two things that drove this all home to me in the past 48 hours:

The first is this paragraph from my “Hope When It Hurts” devotional by Wetherell & Walton: “There is only one God of all comfort, and He does not sleep in your house or park next to you outside your church. He is Jesus. We cannot find true and lasting comfort in anyone but Him, and when He is all we have left to turn to, we discover He should have been the first one we turned to. By removing the earthly comfort of those around us, the Lord moves us in one of two directions: toward a deeper intimacy with our Savior, or toward the unveiling of an unrepentant heart – one which ultimately desires comfort more than Christ. So if you feel alone in your suffering, thank God that He loves you enough to allow this time in your life to draw you nearer to Him.” 

and the second is this from Melanie Shankle’s newest book “Church of the Small Things”: “God has a script written for each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done or how ill-equipped for the adventure we feel. 

We are all climbing our own versions of Mount Everest and have no idea if our oxygen will last or if an avalanche will come, but God does. We can never underestimate the grace and the strength He will give us for whatever He is calling us to do and whatever challenges we’ll face. What He has planned for us is higher and deeper than anything we could ever hope to achieve on our own. 

It’s too much. It’s too much for us to do in our own strength because we will mess it up, but He knows that and uses us anyway. It’s never about creating or doing or being something that’s perfect. It’s not about having all the right answers. It’s about being His. It’s knowing that He who has called us is faithful. 

I’ve always loved this verse: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17). Notice how clear it is that we’re NOT the ones who are supposed to hold everything together? God is holding it all. He is before it all. He uses the sinners and the weak and the ordinary things that this world views as broken and hopeless. But in Him all those things come together and enable us to do things we never dreamed possible.” 

Do things we never dreamed possible, indeed.

“But He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

This week I found my rest in the reminder that the Sovereign God Who is calling me back to China doesn’t need my own strength, instead He delights in me resting in His.

And so I gratefully lay down my wanderlust hat, tie on my non-angelic shoes, strap on my 25lb gear backpack, and walk humbly and gratefully onto my China bound plane in just 12 days. He doesn’t call me to look like Instagram, He calls me to look like Jesus.

China, I’m coming, and I can’t wait to love on you. 

-JM

 

Fully Funded on New Year’s Eve!

In honor of leaving one month from today, as of yesterday’s mail, I’m FULLY FUNDED for my 6 month internship to China!!! I’m amazed and SO so thankful. Any donations past this will still be SO appreciated, as I will be looking for ways to bless my community and unseen needs while at SFCV.

THANK YOU for sending me, THANK YOU for following God’s leading to give, THANK YOU for having a heart for orphans you’ve never seen or met, and THANK YOU for your prayers. (and THANK YOU for all your notes and words of encouragement to me!)

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, “Remember not the former things, no consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

-JM

Real, Raw & Undone

Everything makes me cry. 

My pictures of China make me cry. I hold that chunk of our tree with the C grown in it, and tears gather. Every single picture of my China babies growing up in America make me drop everything to stare in wonder at their smiles and how big they are, and I mostly hold the tears in. I bawl openly over “gotcha day” videos of “my China kids”. I look at this picture above and my heart just free falls into awe over his dearly loved life now, and how stunned I was the day I knew he was adopted and so! much! chubbier! my tiniest little baby he was: so much bigger and stronger!

I go out and put on my gold CJ necklace, and it warms against my chest, and the tears stand out in my eyes. I pull up his picture in church sometimes, just to see his face and the tears fall unchecked, because when I think of God loving me as a parent, I think of me loving CJ. 21762612_10214369145365763_9140063069527356946_o

I watched an adoption video several nights ago by the Archibald Project and cried and cried and cried, the kind of ugly sniffling cry where you try not to wake your parents up.

All the songs, all the worship music, all the Christmas music I’m defiantly listening to too early. I get weepy over every happy announcement of babies coming soon and the “fullness” feeling of being around my nephew. The simple way my assistant pastor’s kids say “Good morning” in Mandarin: “Zao shàng hao” on Sunday mornings makes me “feel all the feels” in the best way. The encouraging texts and e-mails from my China team leave me bawling in the lobby at the doctor’s office. My friends hand me checks and buy prints and just a few days ago, some friends told me they were sending money for a photography session as support for China, making me stop walking in the middle of a park to look at my friend and burst into tears. Hit 10% of support? Cry instantly.

The tears slip down my face unseen in the night.

Everything makes me cry. 

Going back to China is a Gift.

My pastor’s wife asked me recently if I was excited, and I hesitated (I mean, YES?!, but) I waved my hands in the air in a helpless gesture, because I didn’t have the words. Finally I struggled out through a throat thick with tears: “It’s a gift.”. She looked at me with the knowing eyes of woman who has been to countless countries on missions and served with her husband so many long hard hours for Jesus, and she said “Yes, it is. It really is.”

I haven’t known how else to explain…..this. Haven’t known how to write, to share.

But hear THIS: I completely and wholly feel that it is a gift I don’t deserve.

I haven’t waited for China with worship and praise to Jesus every day. I’ve been angry at the new NGO laws and I’ve definitely cried many long agonizing nights that weren’t filled with joyful patience. I’m not the poster child of missions, by far. I haven’t waited well, and I haven’t looked to Jesus in Hope every day. I haven’t done the good girl “mission in waiting things”. Some days I just sat in bed with one verse and cried because the ache was so strong I didn’t know how to put it into words and only Jesus knew. DSC_0486

I’ve been broken. and I’ve been weeping. and I’ve been aching. and I’ve been confused.

I’m more shocked than anyone else that I’ve been given the gift of returning, and I’ve never understood the gospel as A GIFT more than the night I knew I was going back. I hung up the Skype call, walked into my bedroom, fell on my knees with my head against the floor and gave in to keening sobs of pure relief.

I texted my friend “I don’t deserve this.”
But since when did any of us deserve any of Jesus’ marvelous gifts?  

Jesus, with His beautiful Savior heart, and God with His never failing Father love, and the Holy Spirit: all 3 in One Who wouldn’t let me let China go. Who spoke to me like He promised He would and used His word, His people and praise songs to move me to Him day after day after day through all the seasons……

 He’s sending me back. 

and I’m continuously on my knees, weeping in gratitude.

I recognize this undone feeling.

We joked amongst our China Team in 2016 that we “overprayed for God to break our hearts for what breaks His”. There wasn’t a day at least one of us didn’t completely lose it and sob in another’s arms. One time I’m pretty sure all the restaurant waiters were genuinely concerned about our entire table crying at one time, and served us extra gently some tea, hahaha. We showed up knowing it would be so hard and it was.

We showed up open and ready, and raw, and God used our “overprayed broken hearts” in the most beautiful ways I won’t ever forget. I believe we were a hundred times better prepared to understand and compassionately love those kids with our breaking hearts.

And so I recognize the real, raw, undone feeling that is stealing into my heart and leaving me an emotional mess who cries over everything and holds an ache that can’t be explained. It is the Holy Spirit, readying my heart for how He will use it to love His orphans in China. It’s a joyful heartbreaking, because it means I’m going back to China.

In 77 days, I’ll be boarding a plane and returning to walk again in China’s lands. DSC_0491

Trying to think about it all, the huge, amazing, unbelievable story….I’m undone. And so should I be, and so should I speak of the gift of the Gospel in the very same breath.

It’s a gift, a gift I don’t deserve, a gift to be able to serve, a gift to carry the name of Jesus.

A gift of a calling only He could give. A gift only He knew about. A gift so close to His heart.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus to orphans in another land not my own, bearing His name in His call to care for orphans in their distress and the least of these among me. Fulfilling a great need in an orphanage of what I already love to do? It’s beyond words or dreams.

It’ll be hard. But I recognize the One whose nail-scarred hands lead me, and I see the cross where He died for the nations to come to Him, and I cry some more raw tears as I wait 77 more days in hope of all the ways He will use me and all the things He will do.

*Want to join the team sending me? Click this link, or send me a message to chat more!*