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!*

Chicken Jiaozi Soup Recipe

I read an article a few weeks ago about how even if you aren’t Chinese (I’m clearly not), you don’t currently live in China (not yet) or haven’t been trained to cook Chinese (I haven’t), that doesn’t mean you can’t still bring China into your home, and one amazing way to do that is to cook.

Today I really needed a creative break from editing pictures in this busy season, so as I’m want to do, I marched into the kitchen at 2:30pm to make some very late lunch. I threw in items I’d read go well together in Chinese dishes and improvised the rest from what I had on hand, a true comfort soup that still tasted Chinese to me. It was so delicious!

I hope you enjoy! Click the print button to the right of the recipe! 23599890_10214798959670852_1073011026_o

Chicken Jiaozi Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chicken Jiaozi Soup

{Serves 4}

In 1 medium pot on medium low heat, heat 1.5 TB butter or oil (I used Canola)

1. Sautée:
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 small carrots, cut into coins
2 garlic cloves, minced

2. Add in:
1 dash of Hoisin sauce (or soy sauce)
1 TB chicken bouillon
1 tiny bit of horseradish
2 shakes of Chinese 5 spice
1/2 tsp garlic or kosher salt to taste

 3. Stir until combined.

 4. Then add:
1 portobello mushroom, chopped in blocks (not diced, you want chunks)
3/4 cup chopped cabbage

 5. Let cook down for 2 mins until cabbage is wilted

 6. Add: 1 cup of cooked diced chicken
1 quart (or more) Chicken stock or broth

 7. Bring to a boil and then dump in 1 14oz bag of frozen chicken jiaozi/gyoza.
Once the soup is boiling again, turn down to medium high and let cook with
lid on for 5 mins or until dumplings are plump and slightly translucent.

 8. Serve and enjoy! Leave me a comment if you make it!

*I buy the DayLeePride Chicken or Pork Jiaozi/Gyoza “Potstickers” (they’re dumplings, trust me) from our tiny Asian market locally. They’re made in the USA & don’t have MSG in them! They’re completely delicious and I love to fry them as well!*

Even little puppers agree! Look at that little tongue when she moved into the frame!  23600003_10214799251718153_547480743_o

– JM

World Adoption Day 2017

I remember walking away from my dear team leader as she was mid-sentence, thinking I was going to be sick from the story she was telling me softly and stumbling onto the bus, sinking down in the seat to weep harshly. It was as though the evil of the world opened up and I saw the orphan crisis for all the darkness it holds, and it broke me in ways I didn’t know could break.

“Jesus,” I whispered against the cold glass, “Don’t let it be true.” But was.

The truth is that there are 15 million children today who are orphans or have been abandoned. Weeping is the right response, because God the Father weeps over them too. When our China team came home, I had all these pictures and stories and nowhere to go.

“Just wait”, our team leader said to comfort us, knowing what was coming. Then a few months later, their files were released. I had e-mails stacked on e-mails and would drop everything in the middle of drives or plans to stand in a friend’s bedroom for 30 mins to talk to adoptive parents on the phone and pray over them.

Then I saw “our China babies” finally in their parents arms after the long wait. I watched videos of them meeting each other, crying and laughing in the arms of the ones who loved them so deeply. And I finally fully understood how great of a gift we’d carried with us.

How great of a gift advocating was, how great of a gift meeting orphans was, how great of a gift going was, and how great of a gift being a little part of the telling of these children’s lives was.

And I wept. 

Because God had known all along. God had seen, God had heard all our prayers, and God had planned each son or daughter for each family JUST SO. Truly His ways are perfect and He does what He does best, putting the lonely in families and bringing them together, and using us in the middle to rejoice at His love.

He is Abba; Father to the Fatherless, He is the One Who calls us to go, and He is the One Who will One Day bring every orphan safely Home. What an honor to be a part of advocating for the orphans in our world and truly the best privilege of my lifetime and my future.

-JM

{all FIVE China babies pictured are ADOPTED and so loved every day!}

 

Buy a Print to Sponsor my Trip!

 Simply e-mail me at herecomesjean@gmail.com with the print request name (or a screenshot!) of which image you’d like, {or several!}, and send payment via mail. Prints will be shipped to you or whoever you’d like to gift them to!

All photos are Jemmie Photography images {taken by me} on my first trip to China, March 2016.

All photos are 5×7, full resolution, high quality prints at $25 apiece, including shipping/handling. 

“Black Dragon River from 30,000′ ” Black Dragon River from 30,000 feet


“Great Wall Landscape B&W”
Great Wall B&W


“Gardens at the Great Wall” 
Great Wall in Mist_


“Great Wall on the Ridge B&W”
Great Wall on the Ridge_


“Great Wall Village” 
Great Wall Scenery


“Cherry Blossoms” 
Cherry Blossoms_


“Magnolia White” 
Magnolia White


“Spring Comes to Xi’an”
 Spring Comes to Xi'an_


“Springtime in Shaanxi” 
Springtime in Shaanxi_


“Tulip Magnolia” 
Tulip Magnolia_