Luke 10:27-28 “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” 28…"this do and thou shall live.”
Thinking that this is so basic and not thoroughly applying consideration to what this means has allowed me to cruise past this reality. If I love God with all that I am, that love is not unrequited. I actually am giving Him back what he gave me in the first place. If it is good, holy, and righteous it comes from God, so we know not love outside of, or apart from God. It seems my role then is in exercising my God given free-will choice to genuinely express that love extended back to the One who loved me first and to those around me. This action is singular in nature.
When we open ourselves to full unbridled love of the Lord, we find ourselves in a state of nakedness before the Lord. It seems that this state of exposure is the only place I have ever been able to understand the reality of His Love for me. In an unconditional state of surrender, where the totality of my sinfulness is apparent to myself and my God, I find myself loved. Maybe this is one reason why God hates pride…it never allows me to see the reality of self and of His love for me. His love is where I am, and it draws me in more powerfully the more clearly I see myself. At this point I feel love and find that I am in fact loveable. A basic truth of this is that I can not love others without first loving myself, which is not selfish, but simply a natural order of the flow of the Lord's love and its outpouring. He loved us first, and we were worthy in His eyes of the ultimate expression of love:unrequited, unrelenting, self-sacrificial love expressed through suffering the most debase of deaths imaginable.
In this is the magnetic force and relevance of a Christian walk; a walk that was defined by a person who loved when no one loved Him back, a walk that is to be characterized by people who intimately know what it is to be loved and to love in a manner that places others ahead of themselves. Our Christ, our role model, and the namesake of our walk, put my needs before His own. The night He was to sacrifice Himself for us and hours before we would deny we even knew Him, He knelt before us and cleaned our feet.
That changes people on the inside, not by forcing skin deep conformity of behavior, but by loving them regardless. So, what is the greatest heresy, e.g., the largest log in one's eye, to fail to love not knowing the reality of love, or to have known love, to have accepted love, and to proclaim I am one of the loved and yet fail to love. On this I am the greatest heretic, and I fail on every account…yet I am still loved. Wow!
So, some of you might think this a bit shallow: my New Year's resolution wasn't to save the world, adopt a dolphin, or plant a tree...nope, it was to re-pierce my nose. Before you scoff, you should know that the first time I had it done it really hurt. But, I really liked it and so did Chris. In other words, it was an exercise in bravery to have it done again.
But first a little background: Carrie, my sister-in-law, suggested we get our noses pierced last year while we were all in Pampa. Labor Day in the Panhandle of Texas requires some added diversions--Hannah was not yet adopted, and most frustratingly, our husbands didn't think we had the nerve to do it. Indeed, we probably wouldn't have gone through with it had they not challenged us. So, we jumped in the car ready to make the hour long drive to Amarillo to a piercing place we weren't sure we'd be able to find. Our pride was on the line, so we couldn't turn back...and then the boys called and said they would go with us. We were committed.
It really hurt. And the place was a dump. And Carrie and I talked non-stop about our amazing feat of strength for the next three hours. I think Jake and Chris were rolling their eyes behind our backs.
About two months later, Chris and I were in Massachusetts, and I accidentally pulled the ring out with a wash cloth. Chris tried to reinsert it, but just the thought of him having to twist it made me apprehensive.
This New Year's, while we were in China, each of us told what our resolution would be. Someone said to be content, another to be more loving, and I...well, I wanted my nose ring back. I suppose some would say this is trivial compared to contentedness and love. However, I bet I fulfilled mine more quickly than anyone else. Poor suckers!
So this weekend my parents came to see us, and of coarse Hannah was the Belle of the Ball. Her opening act was Thursday night which was followed up with an encore every few minutes until she and the folks left Sunday after lunch. This little girl can absolutely melt me. I have decided that I really should have a boy since apparently I cannot tell her no. From my perspective, she really does not need to be told no--she really does no wrong. That is not the case at all, of course, but it is in my eyes. I always wondered how I would respond to having a little sister. Growing up with three younger brothers, I always felt protective and responsible for them, but even the idea of having a sister used to run tingles down my spine. The idea of having a daughter does this to me now. Not because I didn't want a sister or now don't want a daughter. I have to admit that I am scared to death that it would break me. Maybe I should trust the Lord more in this respect; that He would take care of them and that it is not up to me to protect them from all that is not right with the world. But, who can look at these pictures of this little girl, or any child for that matter, and it not break their heart that this world is not perfect for them.
For Christmas, my sister-in-law, Carrie gave me a pair of earrings. She told me that these particular earrings were made by women who were rescued off the street by an organization called the Starfish Project. Besides my affinity for jewelry, I was really impressed with what this group was doing for these women. I asked Carrie, in a separate conversation, what happens to the orphans that aren't adopted. Most of the girls turn to prostitution once they are turned out of the orphanages. They are not trained for any job or skill, and so they are forced to survive on the streets. This group goes out to the "massage parlors" and similar type places and befriends these women. They offer shelter, food, counseling, medical assistance, Bible studies, and job training. I asked Carrie what the best way would be to help support this group. Aside from buying lots of cute earrings, she told me that being able to sell their products over here would be a great opportunity for them. I don't know any shop owners here, but I'm pretty sure they could use our prayers. If you are interested, check out their website: http://www.starfish-project.com/index.htm. You can read what their mission is, see what a typical day for a girl in the shelter is like, and shop for jewelry. My birthday is in November, but I'm willing to accept gifts anytime.
Chris and I are still fighting off whatever interesting bug we picked up in China, as well as enjoying a rather uneventful weekend together with just the two of us...plus two furry creatures. Instead of regaling you with tales of our respiratory illnesses, I will tell you how busy our lives have become because of one small change: the puppy. I didn't realize how easy Trudy truly was being a year old when we adopted her. In truth, we've only had Miss Sophie a week, and she's already going outside most of the time to use the bathroom (thank goodness for doggie doors). No accidents so far today.
She bites Trudy incessantly, eats like a linebacker, and whines alot. I love her. So does Chris, although, he's less likely than I to admit it. I've bought her about 10 different stuffed animals to bite so that she won't chomp on us...so far Trudy's slaughtered 3 of them. We've introduced her to a leash as well...she cried out like a stuck pig when we tried to walk her. She's a social little thing, and already seems to know that I'm the one to go to if she wants something...how do they learn that so quickly? She spent one night in the bathroom with paper all over the floor--the next night she was with us in our room, snuggled up next to a disgruntled Trudy. Fortunately, she slept all night.
We will be having company next weekend (Chris's parents are coming with Hannah), so hopefully next weekend is more exciting than this one. When I told Hannah I got a new puppy she said, "why?" That's a good question, Hannah. Children have an amazing ability...they don't beat around the bush. I'm pretty sure my parents, who are the official dog sitters when we are gone are asking themselves the same question.
The picture above is Sophie sleeping on the couch.
Now that I've finally recovered somewhat from jet lag, I should relay my last evening in Beijing which was the absolute best. Caroline (Carrie and Jacob's friend from Montana) told Carrie and I about a spa she'd gone to with some of the Chinese girls. We immediately knew we wanted to indulge, and so Caroline and Ellie (who volunteers as a nurse at the orphanage) decided to join us in our girl's night out. We left the guys to their own reckless pursuits...which included ordering mystery dishes from a Chinese restaurant without an interpreter. Somehow, I think we chose the better activity.
Anyhow, I know I wasn't expecting the grandeur of this place, especially since we were heading away from downtown Beijing and into what appeared to be another village. Upon spying the hotel/spa, I was suddenly gratified that we had arrived in a nice black car instead of the van we typically traipsed about in. I should describe this van, so you don't think I'm completely vain: the front seat is broken so that when you arrive at your destination, you feel an intense need for a deep-tissue massage. As well, the windows are so smudged, if it is cold at all, you can't see anything but halos of light.
Back to the spa: Carrie and I likened it to the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. Only the inside was much prettier, with a dome covering what was essentially a botanical garden. The different pools lie throughout all the greenery.
Another aside: the Chinese women dress very modestly here...in the unlikely event they wear a bikini, it covers more than most American women would deem necessary. Caroline lent Carrie and I 2 pieces of swimwear: all bikinis. Since foreigners are common in Beijing, but not so likely in the outer provinces, we get stared at alot. Thus, we four entered the communal dressing room. Where, God bless their hearts, the women tried not to stare at us, but I don't think they could help it.
After donning our suits and the ever present slippers, we trekked to the rose and milk pool to warm up. It smelled lovely, but the reason I was so willing to come to the spa was because there was a fish pool. First you dip yourself in a pool that is a greenish, brownish color that smells of a wash cloth just beginning to mold...but it is all worth it when you get into another pool filled with fish that nibble this treat right off you. There are two pools: one with 4-5 inch fish and another with 2-3 inch fish. The smaller fish were actually more aggressive and covered Caroline and Ellie's legs. Carrie and I weren't so popular as fish bait, but still, they enjoyed us. I might add that it really tickles to have a fish nibbling between your toes.
After this delightful experience, we needed to warm up again because the water the fish were in was relatively cool. We found ourselves outdoors and lo and behold, there were deer in a big enclosure eating hay. I've never pet a deer before, but the sight of an animal being well-treated and not used for food, gave me great joy. I put my hand in between the fence of the cage and Bambi walked right up to me and began to lick the water off my hand. His nose was cold and kind of squishy. Exactly how I'd imagine a deer nose to feel. I wasn't sure what to do next, but then I had a bright idea: perhaps deer liked to be rubbed on the ears like a dog. Well, I grabbed Bambi's long old ears and started rubbing them...he loved it. He kept nudging me for more. It was difficult to leave him behind, but it was time for a massage.
Inside now, we laid down on a heated marble floor where we received a head and upper body massage. Ellie had a foot massage. It was amazing! After 45 minutes, they asked the three of us if we wanted a foot massage. We all said no, but then they went away, and I suppose we were feeling a bit bereft because we asked Ellie to tell them to bring them back. For some odd reason, the girl massaging Ellie's feet thought we were crazy. Why didn't we say we wanted one in the first place? It seemed pefectly normal to me. Don't Chinese girls change their minds as often us American girls? If not, they're missing out.
So began our foot massages that were more like water torture than a soothing rub. We finally had to ask them to ease up a bit as I was grimacing through the whole thing. It was much better after that until I was summarily introduced to cupping. Unless you are Hulk Hogan...or someone really tough, don't do this! First of all they put alcohol into a small glass cup, then they light it on fire and stick it to the arch of your foot. Ouch! Then they move it around. It feels fine on your heel, but not anywhere else. My feet were sore for a couple days afterwards.
We ended our spa trip with hot showers. Other than the cupping, it was the best massage, spa experience I've ever had. I should probably add that I've never been to a spa, but, I really can't imagine it being much better. Perhaps it was the company.
This is Sophie. She's the newest addition to our family. Just before we left for China the Hackett's (the pastor and his wife) informed us that their dog just had puppies. I've been begging Chris for another dog for about a year and have always received an emphatic "no" as the answer. I figured this was meant to be since the puppies weren't going up for sale immediately, but around the time we got back from our trip. They brought three to church this morning, and there just wasn't any way to resist. Trudy needed company anyway. Chris says this one will be his dog...we'll see. So far Trudy's handling the new addition like a champ...the puppy is a bit afraid of Trudy, but I imagine they'll be fast friends soon.
Yesterday we trekked back to downtown Beijing for some last minute shopping. Jacob opted out of the shopping, went upstairs and got a beer and a foot massage. I have to admit that that is probably better than roaming around five hundred stalls with people shouting at you to come look at their booth. Sometimes bargaining is fun, but other times, when you know you are being taken advantage of, it is wearying.
We didn't have lunch plans, but fortunately, we had Carrie and Jacob's Chinese friend, Nancy with us. We stopped at a restaurant that apparently specialized in fish. Now, the fish around here in Beijing are slightly frightening looking. I've seen what they sale in the market, and it doesn't look very fresh or very appetizing. The particular fish dish that everyone around us had ordered was cut up into large pieces with the head and placed in a huge white dish surrounded by green onions and soaking in a sweet sauce. We were the only Westerners in the restaurant, so the owner hovered around making sure we liked everything. We ordered bread which they dumped over the fish dish to soak up the sweet sauce. It was amazing! I think we had two more bread orders following that one. The owner was a gregarious type who came over to Chris and rubbed Chris's belly speaking in Chinese and laughing. Nancy told us he was saying Chris was too thin and needed to eat more food. Unfortunately, he did not tell me I was too thin, which isn't surprising considering the huge quantities of food I have eaten since I've been here. He also seemed to take a particular fancy to Carrie and told her she could come back without Jacob! He was quite amusing.
The Chinese are really particularly friendly to us. Not just the ones we are giving business to, but also the ones who live around here. They make the most steadfast friends as I've observed of Carrie and Jacob's new friends. A truly amazing people. I feel like we've known Nancy and Ricky (their friend who took us to Night Market) forever.
Today is our last full day in China. We plan on going to the foster home for a bit to see the kids one last time. This trip has been a very interesting experience. I hope that someday we can come back.