Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Faithful Friends

We are moving. After living in Tianjin for the past 15 years, the Pines are going to be uprooting and planting ourselves in a new place to call "home". This move is not a surprise to us. We have been praying for God to open a door for our family to move to Gansu province for the last three years, and He has answered. We got news last week that Charly received a Chinese government scholarship to pursue his PhD in Minority Studies at Lanzhou University. We plan to move the beginning of 2011.

Since hearing the official news of the scholarship, we have had a mix of emotions in our family. This past Sabbath, Charly led us in a time of reflection and discussion of both our praise and sacrifice related to this move. Friendships here are one of the biggest sacrfices we will make!

I have always been intrigued with the deep bond of friendship between David and Jonathan. Their friendship is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 18:1, just after David defeated Goliath. We see evidence of Jonathan's similar risk-taking faith in the LORD when he bravely attacked the Philistine camp, accompanied only by his armor bearer, saying, "Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few." (1 Samuel 14:6)

David and Jonathan shared an amazing faith in their mighty God, and I believe this was the foundation of their friendship. While his father Saul wanted Jonathan to take the throne after him, Jonathan believed that David would be the next king, and fully supported him. When his father was out to kill David, Jonathan went to find David "and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 'Don't be afraid,' Jonathan reassured him. 'My father will never find you! You are going to be the next king of Israel, and I will be next to you as my father is well aware.' So the two of them renewed their covenant of friendship before the LORD."(1 Samuel 23:16-18)

This friendship reminds me of Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings movies. My boys love the action and battle scenes of these movies, but I love the character that Sam plays! He is completely committed to Frodo and to doing whatever he can to help him on his mission. He is not concerned about getting glory for himself, but only in being a helper. Sam's heart truly grieves for Frodo as he sees his burden becoming greater toward the end of the journey, and he selflessly offers to carry the ring for him. Even when Frodo is deceived by Gollom (that seriously creepy character) into thinking that Sam is trying to steal the ring, and angrily sends Sam away, Sam returns as a true loyal friend, and stays with Frodo to the very end.

God has blessed us with friends (like Jonathan and Sam) who have been so supportive, faithful, and committed to helping us become all that God wants us to be! God has already given us experience with close long distance friendships, and we trust that He will sustain our special Tianjin friendships through this move. We also have hope that God will bless us with new faithful friends in Lanzhou.
Our trust is in His faithfulness!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing an Apple Tree in a Paper Cup

I needed the perspective of my 11 year old daughter this week!

Jordan has always loved to grow things and often asks if she can try out her different ideas. She has had a dream for some time now of growing an apple tree from the seeds of an apple core. My response to this dream has always been skeptical, and I have given her a handful of reasons why she shouldn't really hope for an actual tree to grow. On Monday morning though, as we were getting ready to go to the gym and I was fighting fatigue and a bad attitude, I heard Jordan shriek from our balcony, "Mommy!!! The apple tree started growing!"

Sure enough. There was a little green shoot coming up in her outstretched paper cup.

Thank you, God, for the faith of my child, and for her wonder and amazement over seeing the beginnings of an apple tree.

On Tuesday I came home from one activity and was planning what I needed to get done before the next activity...check the kids' homework, set the table, get ready for Bible study...when Jordan excitedly called to me from her room. "Look, Mommy, it's a rainbow!!!" I stepped into her room and wondered why the floor was covered with newspaper. She was standing in the sunlight squirting a spray bottle of water into the air and gazing up at the beauty she could see. "That's nice," I told her as I started to tackle my LIST.

But instead, I chose to turn around and enter Jordan's room, because I hadn't really seen the rainbow and I was sure it must be there. "That's right," she told me. "You have to see it from this side." So, as I stood in the right spot, looking into the beam of sunlight from her window, she handed me the spray bottle so that I could shoot the water up myself.

I did see the rainbow that day, and it was beautiful.

I'm so glad I didn't miss it, as I'm afraid I miss too many "moments" because I get consumed with what needs to get done.

I've been thinking more about what I wrote last week about biking and constantly offering up silent prayers for the protection of my children. This week, God has helped me to see that I need to let go of the What Ifs. They keep me from being relaxed and from enjoying the moment.

And I need to let go of the LIST sometimes as it robs me of life, and keeps me from enjoying the moment too.

I'm thankful for the eyes of Jordan, and that God has been helping me to see life through her perspective. She knows how to enjoy the moment and to see the beauty around her. God knows how much I need a childlike wonder and faith!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All That I Can Do

I find myself constantly lifting up silent prayers for protection as we're biking the streets of Tianjin, and I see my children (following the example of their father) biking more aggressively than I wish they would! Sometimes, I see something that especially frightens me, and I just can't keep silent. The other night as we were biking home from visiting friends, a crazy motorcyclist ran a red light and came dangerously close to running over Joshua, so I yelled out his name from the other side of the intersection.

Biking here provides me with constant reminders that our lives are in God's hands, because I know that I cannot physically protect my children (or my husband!) from each potentially life-threatening scenerio on the streets. All that I can do is pray (and sometimes shout warnings).

When we were in Malyasia over Chinese New Year, God provided me with a different kind of opportunity to learn this same lesson about accepting my limitations and recognizing my dependence on God. One morning at high tide, our family decided to kayak out to a nearby island and explore. Because the hotel only had one single person kayak and a boat that could barely seat three people, I volunteered to swim while the rest of my family used the boats.

I was grateful that day for Joshua, who paddled just in front of me in the kayak on the way to the island, guiding me and and giving me words of encouragement. On the way from the island back to shore, however, the sun was right in my eyes and I couldn't see or hear anyone! Somehow we drifted apart from each other.

As I was swimming back to shore alone, I started panicking about the kids and whether or not they were all ok. After about half an hour, Charly paddled up with no kids in his boat (because he was concerned about me) and told me he'd left Joshua and Jordan, swimming toward the shore in the middle of the ocean.

I have to say that while I was really thankful to see Charly and to be rescued at that moment, I also seriously questioned his judgement! I quickly scanned the scene and did not see our children anywhere. As I paddled with all my strength in the direction that Charly said he had left them, I had visions of them going under the waves and our never seeing them again.

Even though the kids and I had been swimming laps regularly for the past several months, I still doubted their ability to swim in the ocean, and I feared the unknown scary potentials in the ocean water. Just moments before Charly had rescued me, I had encountered some unknown scary something myself (either a big floating blob of mud or a jellyfish!) That was why I was so glad to see him, and was one of the reasons that I feared for my children!

Fortunately, God has blessed me with a level-headed husband who is not easily given to panic and whose mind does not fill with images of the worst case scenerios. Just as he had surprised me by rescuing me immediately after my scary encounter with the mysterious blob, so he amazed me again by guiding our boat to the exact spot where Joshua and Jordan were swimming away quite happily. (I was still blinded by that sun, however, and did not see them until we were almost on top of them!)

Thankfully, our children take after their father, and saw their situation as an adventure, not a crisis! They had no fears about being left alone in the ocean to possibly be eaten by sharks or to be pulled out to sea by the current. I tried not to let them see how relieved and thankful I was that they were still alive, and quietly traded my place in the boat with them so that I could swim the rest of the way in to shore with them nearby in the boat.

Added to my fears of Joshua and Jordan drowning were my fears of CJ flipping his kayak and having no one close by to help him. He had paddled on ahead by himself in the single person kayak since our rental time was up. Thankfully though, I was the only one in our family who had any worries during our outing, and our whole family ended up safely on the shore in one piece.

I decided after our little island adventure though that I definitely prefer swimming in the pool than in the ocean because it feels so much safer (and I do like to feel safe!)

Before Charly had rescued me, while I was swimming with the sun directly in my eyes, I just kept praying that even though I couldn't see my family, God would keep them safe. Just after we had left the island (and before we drifted apart), Charly had told me that there were three tall buildings on the shore that I could use as my focal points. How thankful I was for those wise words! I just kept swimming toward those buildings and asking God to replace my worry with His peace. I could not physically do anything to help my family. But God knew where they were and He was able to keep them safe. My job was to keep swimming toward the goal and to not worry about all that could happen. Trust Him.

I love the way that David prepared for the building of the Temple that his son Solomon would build. David said, "using every resource at my command, I have gathered as much as I could for building the Temple of my God." (1 Chronicles 29:2) David did all that he could physically do, and then he trusted the rest of the work to God. He prayed, "Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, decrees, and principles, and to build this Temple for which I have made all these preparations." (1 Chronicles 29:19)

I too want to do all that I can do for my family, and leave the rest for God to do all that He can do! Like David, I want to be clear on what my part is and what God's part is. I think a lifelong lesson for me will be to learn to trust God completely for what is out of my control (which includes most things!). I know that nothing good comes from worrying, but I have to fight that response, as it comes quite naturally to me!

Our lives are completely in His hands, at every moment, wherever we are, and I can rest in that truth.

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