Monday, November 28, 2011


Thanksgiving flowers!

A holiday of celebration, family and bounties upon bounties of food. A holiday of giving thanks. Remembering the blessings and in turn, being thankful for all that we have been given.

My Thanksgiving was spent with extended family and this year the decision was made (unbeknownst to me) that we were going to forego the traditional holdiay casseroles. This may not sound like a big deal, but let me translate. No green bean casserole. No sweet potato casserole. No corn casserole. Thank goodness we kept the mashed potatoes otherwise I might have dissolved in tears. Not really, but kind of.

A man by the river feeding pigeons!
Instead, we basically duplicated Southern Living's holiday feast. A squash casserole (not half bad), deviled eggs (those babies were gone before they were even all nicely displayed on the plate-- notice the finger on the right of the image), broccolini (meh), mac and cheese (s'ok, sry no photos), butternut squash salad (yummo), shrimp and grits dressing (sorry, review unavailable since I avoid shellfish), buttery mashed taters (do you really need an opinion on this one?) and a Big Green Egg (yes, I thought of Dr. Seuss as well) roasted turkey. Oh, and I made some guacamole. All in all, a good spread. I have no complaints (though I missed green bean casserole, I didn't have all that much spare room on my plate for it).

(I put in a slideshow because I had too many pictures of food!)

So much food. So much laughter. Wonderful.

Abraham and I watched ducks from the bridge.
Holidays, for me, can be slightly bittersweet. I can't be with my immediate family, but I find myself still surrounded by love and warmth. On this morning, my uncle, boyfriend and I went for a walk.

My uncle and I on a swing
We went to a park downtown and it was absolutely beautiful. Perfect weather and people were out and about, enjoying the sunshine. We saw ducks and a pigeon man and had a glorious time.

This year I have an abundance to be thankful for (This fact has always been true, but it's easy to forget and not have a thankful heart).

My family is alive and well.

I woke up this morning (somewhat reluctantly, I admit).

When it's cold, I can turn on the heat or grab a blanket or put on more clothes and not worry about paying for it.

I have a college degree.

I have a job.

This is just the start of a list that could go on and on and on. From the basic necessities that are often under-appreciated to the big deal things.

God is so Good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

hiking: eno.river

This weekend I went back to Chapel Hill to spend some quality time with one of my old roommates. Such a welcome change of pace and scenery.

In planning, she told me that she and some friends were going on a hike and asked if I would be ok going as well. I agreed and looked forward to some light exercise and the chance to commune with nature. In my mind, I thought, "Nice. Leisurely stroll through the woods."

The obstacle course of the great outdoors.

There was a little piece of information that I did not receive. Eight. MILE. Hike. Hike, not stroll. Meaning there were inclines and big rocks involved. Eight. 8. 八。Yes. I pulled out the Chinese. Had I known, I would have brought actual hiking shoes.

The progression of fall and winter

Despite my initial shock and mild panic that I hadn't brought water and hoping that it wasn't wet otherwise my fabric shoes were going to make for a very miserable time, it turned out to be predominantly pleasant. Take out the aching of my feet and thighs and knees as I faced the downward slopes that meant inevitable upward hills (signs of my physical atrophy), it was downright fun.

Bare Reflection

And Beautiful. Although the trees had lost the majority of their leaves, there was something captivating about the transition to bleakness and winter.  The temperature was perfect. Not warm, but just cool enough that walking made me shed layers and roll up sleeves.

in a sunny haze

In the end, we only walked about 7 miles. We hadn't quite reached halfway when our trail crossed this little creek with a broken dam just upstream. Can anyone say photo time?

panda meditation: enjoying the sounds of a trickling brook
Eventually, because of time constraints (once the sun goes down, the parking lots are locked), a couple of us decided to turn around and go back and a couple decided to push through to the end. I was in the bunch that turned around, and I must say I enjoyed the chance to take a little more time and not rush as much. Not too long into the beginning of the walk, some friends suggested I take my little panda hanging from my bag and put it in pictures. What a stroke of absolute genius. Why had I not thought of it before? I think I'm going to have to start doing it everywhere now.

panda enjoying the vibrancy of sunset on a heart shaped stump
Any way, this weekend was a wonderful prelude to Thanksgiving. A chance to be with friends, make new friends and appreciate the enormous blessings that God has lavished upon me. Though my family is far away, I have been embraced and loved by many. I have so much to be thankful for.

I hope and pray that you will be reminded of what you have to be thankful for. Remembering the blessings just gives me such a brighter, lighter perspective.

I hope your Thanksgiving (if you celebrate Thanksgiving), is full of laughter and rest and delicious flavors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As If

A teacher deported.
A 17 year old, beheaded as he got ready for school.
A grenade thrown into a home, killing an 8 year old and 25 year old, injuring others. A man, beaten and left to die.
Soldiers, targeting civilians with gunfire.
Light shines in darkness

The persecuted Church.

Of the stories I mentioned above, I can only relate to the threat of deportation. Even so, I never feared for my life or the lives of those I love. It's easy to forget about the suffering and persecution of the rest of the Church when I don't live in the daily reality of active, blatant hatred. However.

Suffering comes in myriad forms. Persecution does not require a threat on your life. Even though I live in the land of the free, this country is still of the world. And the world does not know Christ.

As Sunday was the International Day of Prayer, my church tried something a little different than normal. The sanctuary was rearranged so that all the chairs faced the middle of the room, where there was a low, square platform. Other than the mic for the pastor, no electric equipment was used. As much as possible, they wanted to us to experience worship held in a living room, or open space--a house church. And the pastor spoke on these three verses:

Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Hebrews 13:1-3
(emphasis added)

In the midst of suffering, keep on loving each other. Show hospitality. Remember AS IF.

"The Light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness has not overcome it."
How differently I pray when I am suffering than when I am not. I cry out with a broken heart, yearning for God's hand. Not knowing what to say, but knowing that the Spirit communicates that which I can find no words for.  Have I prayed with this heart and with this earnestness for my brothers and sisters whom, although I've never met them, are as much my family as my blood brother? Though I have not known the confines of a prison cell or the ravages of a broken body, I am not helpless. Though I am not there suffering with them, why should that stop me from praying for my brothers and sisters as though I were? There is power in prayer.

So I pray, that this will alter your perspective as it did mine. That your prayers will be lifted up on behalf of your brothers and sisters as if you were sitting right beside them in their battle and oppression.

I don't want to leave you in despair about this, but to praise God and know that He is working in the midst of intense pain, suffering and persecution. Here is one more story.

A pastor. Incarcerated unjustly. By the power of God and support of prayer, built up a church within the walls of a prison.

Here are a couple resources that highlight the persecuted Church so that we can know what to pray for and how to pray. If you know of other resources, please, share them below.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

roadtrip: Atlanta, GA

This past weekend, Abraham and I road-tripped to Atlanta, Georgia to visit some friends and go to the Atlanta aquarium. It was a weekend packed with fun, laughter, beauty, friends and almost best of all-- delicious food.

I know I usually take pictures of the food to later reflect on with longing as well as to tantalize anyone who views my pictures, but this weekend, the food was just too good and I couldn't spare the time to lug out my camera and get snap happy. Plus I didn't want to make the other people wait. So I have two pictures of food. They will be displayed below.

I know the last time I wrote about a road-trip I used many words and put in a slideshow, but I think today I'm going to keep it to a minimum and let the pictures speak. Happy viewing!

The rays were doing cartwheels through the bubbles!

The penguins would follow your hands as you moved them across the glass

Even if you put your hand above the water, they would try to follow it.

We saw some otters playing, but these smaller otters were having a communal nap time. I couldn't decide if I wanted to join them or take them home. I don't think I stopped "awwing" until we got to the aligators.

I got to pet the rays! I think they liked me.


My plaid kind of clashes with the backdrop, but oh well. At least the whale sharks wouldn't be able to mistake me for food. 

PUTT-PUTT. Ok, so I know this isn't putt putt. I don't actually have any pictures because I was too busy enjoying myself, again. But, this is what we did while we waited for some other people to meet up with us. The boys had to go shoot things. Notice the pink gun. Super manly.

Then they decided to go for an afternoon drive. How romantic! Note: I tried this one too. I think I came in 8th place. Out of 9. At least I beat number 9!

And last but certainly not least, the fooooooooooood!!!

Here is what remained of our Sunday dimsum lunch. After the meal, I remembered to pull out my handy dandy phone. You can tell from the pile of bones that it wasn't delicious at all.  

And here is what we had for dessert. I managed to take a picture because I was already pretty full and not in a hurry to eat this beautiful baby. Though I did. No worries. I savored every delicious, mouth-watering bite.   

Oh, and final addition. We stopped at McDonalds on the drive over and picked us up some chicken nuggets. 50 of them. Who knew they even sold them in batches of 50?!

So, my friends, here are snapshots of my wonderful weekend. What do you think? I hope yours was fabulous as well!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Have you ever wrestled with homesickness?

I have to admit that I have. Seemingly a lot in the last couple of years, but I get the feeling that comes with transition. And, if you are one who isn't sure how you feel about change (as I sometimes am), then homesickness can creep up on you at moments you least expect. Or, sometimes it hits you like a freight train going 60 miles per hour.

Homesickness and loneliness have often gone hand in hand for me. Because, as a wise friend observed to me, in those times of transition, we want someone who KNOWS us. Who we have history with. Who we know cares and is ok just being with us. Something or someone constant in the midst of change.

Just as leaves go through seasons and changes, so do we.
Lately, homesickness converges on me with every little bump in the road. Just one of those days, the ones where nothing goes quite how you want it to and a million little things suddenly seem like a billion big things, threatens to drive me to tears.

But, nearing the end of one of those days, I read something. Something about how when I don't feel at home, remember what is unchanging and "home" even if i'm not at a particular physical location, surrounded by what's familiar. The first and foremost is that I am loved and that the same Spirit that has power over death is dwelling, residing in me. Wow. This particular devotion then advised its readers to make a list of 10 things that do not change, even when your location changes, starting with "1. God lovingly lives in me."

So here is my list.
  1. Jesus is Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, Shepherd, High Priest and so much more. (I know I changed the first one, but I think this one is pretty important. If this first one is true, it gives meaning and value to the second one.)
  2. God lovingly lives in me (God is always with me, in power)
  3. God is working things out for good
  4. God works things out in His time
  5. My family is still my family
  6. My friends are still my friends
  7. I am the beloved creation of the Creator
  8. Always important to know: my address (and if in a country speaking another language, how to ask where the bathroom is.)
  9. Laughter makes things just a little bit better (so does sunshine, but I generally have very little control over that one)
  10. There will be a shop/restaurant/grocery store that has noodles/ramen.
Let me say, this exercise was harder than it may seem. I encourage you to try it for yourself and think about your list. It helps to come back to it on one of those days that you feel like homesickness or loneliness is winning the battle over you.

The top four of my list are directly related to Jesus (there are Bible verses linked to the different colored words, if you want to browse through them). From my experience, He is the ONLY thing that is always constant. Though everything may change, He will not. If you are curious about it, or confused or just want to ask, I would love to talk to you about it. You can leave a comment or ask me to contact you via email.

Hopefully, when you reach a point of homesickness in your life, this will encourage and strengthen you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

fair frenzy

Ever try to point out landmarks in a place where there are
multiples of everything?
Smells. Sounds. Lights. All in abundance.

Though I have lived in China the majority of my life, the chaos of the State Fair is a completely different animal compared to the throngs of people that I have been a part of in downtown Shanghai. Despite my initial overwhelmed-ness, I enjoyed taking in the games, rides and food stalls.

We cleaned it to the bone.

Half the fun of the fair is the food. Deep fried, flavorful rich goodness. I wouldn't have gotten half the things I ate if I hadn't been with other people, but seeing as I was with my boyfriend (Abraham) and his brother, I didn't feel half so guilty because we could distribute the cholesterol clogging of our veins and commiserate together over our indulgence when it came back to bite us. And eat we did. Here is the summation of our menu: funnel cake (smothered in chocolate and strawberry sauce and powdered sugar. drool.), turkey legs (smoked and tender and scrumptious, eaten after the funnel cake, of course), lemonade (must hydrate, after all), smoked corn (don't worry, its nutritional value was negated when a dip of butter turned into a thorough stirring of the pot), fried pickle chips (ones that were somehow missing the pickle ingredient) and chocolate dipped ice cream (i think they skimped on the ice cream, but it's not like we needed the extra calories).

Now,  you might be slightly appalled at the copious amounts of food we consumed, but don't worry, we didn't sit and engorge ourselves-- it was a process dispersed between endless walking and crowd maneuvering.

Whack-a-Mole Winner!
On to games and rides. After finally meeting up with the friends we planned on meeting up with, we strolled around, looking for a game. We settled on a good game of Whack-a-Mole. I was standing there, taking pictures of them playing, when a man tapped on my shoulder. When I turned around, he said "if you want to win, play on Station 1, it's been winning all night." For proof, his daughter stood behind him holding a stuffed animal that was quite possibly larger than she was. Why not? Since I hadn't played yet, my boyfriend insisted I play. After missing a couple, I won! With the high score of 150! To give you a reference point, when my friends played the first round, the high score among them was about 80. Clearly the man's information was correct. We decided to test it again. My friend steps up to the bat and...drumroll... 150 points! I think our laughter and glee tipped off the guy running the booth because he came over, pulled out an offending mole, and restored the station to its normal scoring abilities. Oh well. At least I got a stuffed giraffe out of it!

To finish the evening we rode a swinging, turning ride that Abraham called "the Claw," and watched the fireworks as they shot off in fast succession.

All in all, a very fun, delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

What do you like at the fair?