Monthly Archives: August 2017

Jia You 加油

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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.

A nature walk from days gone by. Beautiful Colorado. There were no mosquitos.

Enjoying the last few *months* of summer.

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.

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.

Anniversary lunch date.

Fourteen years and a few months ago. Yunnan Province, China. We look the same, no?

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?

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.

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 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.

 

 

 

For Such a Time as This

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It’s not a perfect day for blogging over here.  Jeff and I are running on little sleep from the last two nights.  The (almost) two year old is tantruming right now because she wants her homemade popsicle,  but she doesn’t.  None of us can figure out what she wants, least of all her.

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One of my eleven year olds is tantruming right now because he wants to be a part of us, but he doesn’t. He can’t figure out what he really wants either.

My firstborn is rip-sticking in the house, and two of the younger kids are rollerblading- one of them just tried to rip-stick with rollerblades on – and all of it is basically rendering me unable to think because I don’t do well with chaos. (Says the mom of seven kids.)

I just had to re-start supper because the Instant Pot wasn’t coming up to pressure correctly. My afternoon coffee is lukewarm now (see all of the above).  Oh, and we have to go pick up our 45 lb dog from the vet this afternoon.  He was attacked by a neighbor’s dog a few nights ago, so there we were at 4am, Jeffrey and Me, hosing off his mud, batting away mosquitos, and assessing his wounds.  And now he has to be inside the house, convalescing for two weeks while he heals.  Sigh.

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Oh. And we have a guest coming for dinner tonight.  I hope he doesn’t mind the mess. Or the dog.

As I said.  Not exactly conducive to blogging.  But I’ve had a few things on my mind I needed to process here.

Sunday morning, halfway to church, Jeff got a text from our pastor asking if I was going to be there for service.  We had a new family visiting.  They were Chinese, and he didn’t think the wife spoke English.

Wanna know where I was?

Home with half the kids, who still had hacking coughs and sniffles.

I gotta be honest, I was bummed.  I had a few raw moments with the Lord about it as I was standing over the sink washing something. Here I had been for countless months, praying for God to bring some Chinese friends into my life and the Sunday that this family shows up, I’m not even going to be there.

For years this is something the Lord has been refining in my heart.  I struggled for a long time with feeling like I had lost my purpose, or I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I used to do things I felt mattered.  Things that involved nations and gospel and souls and ministry.

Standing over the sink, the Lord quickly reminded me of the lesson He has been teaching me for a long time.  I am right where He wants me, doing just what He wants me to do.

I am here with my family and my growing kids  – not biding my time until I can do the important things.  These are the important things.  I am here for such a time as this – the time when my children’s souls are most pliable and open to the gospel.  The time when their hearts are still close to ours and their character is still being shaped.

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A friend and I were just talking about this the other day.  I hear this so often from young moms and I have said the same things: I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t even know what I like to do anymore. I’m so busy just being Mom, I feel like I’ve lost myself.

And truly, we have.

But I’ve come to believe that is really the way it’s supposed to be.

When we get a few years into motherhood, we begin to feel “the old me” slipping through our grasp.  Our days look different.  Our bodies look different.  Our minds feel sluggish. We are losing ourselves.

This is like a cocoon phase.  Yes, we are losing who we used to be. But I really believe the “answer” isn’t to bide our time until the kids are older so we can get back to our old selves.  And the goal isn’t to get enough “me” time to reclaim ourselves.

Moms, I think God is putting us through a metamorphosis.  I believe it’s by His design that we die to ourselves, that we be refined through motherhood, and begin to be transformed into a new person, with a new purpose.

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We’re reading through the Bible this year with the kids, and a few nights ago we finished up the book of Esther. It was refreshing – and sobering –  to be reminded that she was willing to lose herself in order to be the instrument God wanted her to be at that time.

Sunday mid-morning, Jeff and half the kids went on to the service. I finished washing whatever it was at the sink and decided I wasn’t supposed to meet that family at church – at least not that day.

That day – and today – with all the chaos and the tantrums – I am a different me.  I have a different purpose. And I have no job skills to bring to the table except being completely dependent on His strength in my weakness, trusting that He’ll give me whatever I need to be right here where He has me, for such a time as this.

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