So you’re probably wondering what that title means. I’ll get to it in a minute.
Is it just me, or did the summer fly by faster than ever? I mean, what happened? I feel like I took a nap and woke up and hey, look, school supplies!
I’m not complaining, though. We really love beginning new things, and we have loved jumping into our new school core. And being halfway through August means we only have about two and half more months of sticky, hot, humid, mosquito-infested weather (fingers crossed). And we are looking forward to doing all those idealistic homeschool things like taking walks, collecting things for our nature journals… reading or journaling or doing art out on the picnic table or trampoline (or sitting in a tree)… when the weather gets nice. So, you know, maybe by early December we’ll be out there. Right now we’re still cranking up the AC.
A nature walk from days gone by. Beautiful Colorado. There were no mosquitos.
Enjoying the last few *months* of summer.
But wow, it still hasn’t slowed down. Doctors appointments, dental appointments, veterinary appointments, new routines, necessary home repairs – the works. And we have a lot of learning curves we’re juggling right now as attitudes get adjusted to a different work-loads and new chores and responsibilities for some of the kids.
It can really feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back when we’re moving towards certain goals and then something unexpected happens to throw some silly-putty into the cogs of our system to bog us down just as we get running smoothly.
Illnesses, late bills, unexpected expenses, car trouble, cavities, burnt dinner, toddler tantrum, dog vomit in the dining room…
You know, whatever.
One of the things the LORD has reminded me of this year is how to “Jia you”.加油
This is one of the many phrases we brought home from China with us and just incorporated into our vocabulary. (note: “you” is pronounced “yo”)
“Jia You” literally means to add oil or add fuel. Think about an oil lamp that’s puttering out because it ran out of kerosene. Or a car sputtering to a stop because someone ignored that little light on the dash board. In order to keep the light burning and the car going, you have to add fuel.
But much like idioms or phrases in English, this has a different usage than just telling someone the obvious: “hey, put some gas in your car” or “hm, I think your lamp needs some oil”
We yell “jia you” at a basketball game when we’re cheering on our team. Or when our kid is running to the finish line and he’s neck and neck with two other runners.
We say “jia you” when it’s the end of a long day and your friend just needs to push through that last bit of work. We squeal “jia you, jia you!” when the toddler is just taking her first steps or the kindergartener is beginning to read sentences.
Basically, we use “jia you” to encourage – to say “Keep going! You can do it!”
Don’t give up.
“Jia you” is something we say and something we do.
Jia you, son! One day you’ll beat Daddy at Mancala.
I was thinking about this Wednesday as Jeffrey and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. Fourteen years doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, especially when I look at my parents, who have been married over 40 years. How do we get to THAT kind of anniversary? By doing what my parents have done for 40+ years. By doing what we have been doing for 14 years and counting – we keep going. We fuel up and keep driving. We add oil and keep the light burning. We decide that we are not going to quit.
Anniversary lunch date.
Fourteen years and a few months ago. Yunnan Province, China. We look the same, no?
There are so many things I’m working on in life right now, wether it be spiritual growth or personal goals or relationship goals,… or building new habits in home management or financial budgeting, … or helping the kids reach learning milestones… or learning something new myself.
To say my life looks a lot different now than when I was single and in seminary or working full time is just a laughably obvious statement. Back in my 20’s I could spend hours of uninterrupted time studying a subject or practicing a skill or learning vocabulary or working on a project.
Now I can’t type a sentence of this blog post without being interrupted. I’m not kidding. One of the biggest frustrations I hear from moms (and from my own mouth as well) is how we can’t finish a project, a sentence, a thought without a myriad of interruptions.
This is what five minutes of quiet looks like – that’s all the gum, unwrapped and broken into pieces. At least it’s not in her hair?
Kids love to join me at the piano. Thus, I haven’t played a song uninterrupted in about… a decade.
Needless to say this infinitely slows down productivity.
But the LORD is showing me as I’m going through this Metamorphosis of Motherhood that we needn’t measure success in the framework of time or checklists.
Here’s an example:
In January of this year, we decided as a family to read through the Bible in a year. We figured out how many chapters we needed to read each night in order to get through the entire Bible by December 31st.
By April we were still reading the Bible as a family almost every single night, but were not able to get through the “right” number of chapters each night. It became obvious that we weren’t going to finish the entire Bible by December.
But we didn’t quit.
It’s mid-August now, and we are halfway through the book of Job. We’ve read more of the Bible together as a family this year than we ever have before! SEVENTEEN entire books of the Bible! And we’re not stopping. Some nights we read one chapter, most nights we read three. And some nights it’s late and we don’t read at all, but we pick it up the next night. We jia you.
We keep going.
We’re determined and committed. We’re too far in to say “nah, this isn’t going how we thought, so let’s can it and pick something else to do during family worship each night.” No. Maybe it will take us two years to finish the Bible together; I don’t know; we’re just gonna jia you.
Would we get to the end of December and look at all our kids and say, “guys, we didn’t make it. We only read all of the Old Testament and half the New Testament – we’re a bunch of losers!” Of course not! I can’t even type that sentence without laughing; it’s so ludicrous. We’re going to celebrate! And then we’re gonna jia you!
We have enjoyed reading through the Bible so much! All the kids look forward to it every night and there is always something interesting we come across. We’ve learned so much already.
As the Chinese proverb goes: It’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey there.
Jeffrey and I aren’t sticking together day in and day out just so we can one day say “look! We’ve been married 40 years! Where’s our commemorative gold-rimmed plate?” No! We’re enjoying all the days, all the moments, just living this life together. I hope it takes forever to get to year forty.
And this lesson transfers over to so many areas of our life where we have our eyes set on a goal. Wether I’m trying to love my husband better or listen to my children more or have a better organized routine- or a better attitude. Wether the 5-year-old is learning to read, or the 11-year-old is learning a new math concept or we’re all learning a foreign language –
We’re going to hit things that slow us down or even cause us to stop for a bit. There are going to be unexpected bumps. And many days we will feel like we’re making no progress at all and want to quit. But as much as we are striving for the end result, it’s also about all the moments along the way. And in each moment we just keep choosing to jia you.
Just like a lamp doesn’t burn forever on a few ounces of oil and you can’t quit hitting the gas station if you want to keep driving your car – we will have to jia you again and again.
And what we’ll need when it matters most is more than a little pat on the back or a self-pep-talk. We need real encouragement, real hope. We need supernatural strength that doesn’t come from within ourselves. We need Living Water.
We need a filling of the LORD’s presence that gives us real courage and hope for the future. That keeps our perspective on eternal things so that we’re able to look away from the distraction of the momentary discouragement and put our hand to the plow once again.
And jia you.
We do this by daily going into the LORD’s presence, getting into His Word. Sharing with Him our hearts, and listening to His.
There we find the hope and encouragement to believe the truth that it doesn’t matter if it takes twice as long to reach that goal as we had originally planned.
As long as we keep going. And keep walking beside Him in the journey.
So if you’re learning a new skill, setting some better goals, or still working towards some old ones…
If you’re teaching your little ones or striving to keep your teen’s heart, or hoping to connect more deeply with your spouse or with the Lord –
Don’t give up, Friends. Jia You.