It has been 6 months. Half a year. 25 weeks. 176 days.
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.
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.
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.
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. The 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. My 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 it.
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!!
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!
“Love lead me on, love lead me through, take me back Home, back Home to You.
Love lead me on, love tried & true.”
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!