Tag Archives: coffee

To anyone who’s mourning summer…

Summer is almost over and I keep wondering if it’s possible to stretch it out somehow.  I have felt a bit like, especially between moving and teaching and all those damn doctor’s appointments, summer has somewhat passed me by.

And yet, the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve been able to live into the summer a bit more by cultivating what I might call “a vacation state of mind.”

What is a vacation state of mind, you ask?

Well, it’s a mentality that yields to the rhythm of summer strokes, that relishes the sacred pause, and thrusts the busy life a swift kick in the pants!

In the past few weeks or so, I’ve seen my productivity soar in fewer work hours, more coffees, and more listening, and I’m starting to trust that we’re not meant to put our heads down in the sand and hustle, but lean in (yes, I’m stealing and repurposing this stupid metaphor) wholeheartedly to the people and the conversations that God places in our paths.

I know this sounds idealistic, but I am heading out of summer with the spiritual practice of cultivating a vacation state of mind this fall.  I’m going to find time for the good stuff in life and expect the grunt work to feel lighter and to fall (hehe) into place.  I’m going to look around and appreciate and trust all that God is doing now rather than scrambling to prepare for a future that has nothing to do with present gifts.  I am going to be the vacation version of me, because life is too short for any other mentality.

So, I dare you, if you cross my path this fall: please, invite me for that cup of coffee, and I pray that I’ll have the wisdom to say yes!

IMG_1245
Because really, what says vacation state of mind more than this?!  My photo.
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The morning: my sacred space

The other day I read a post from one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, entitled, “Creating a Lovely Morning.”  In it, Leo Babauta talks about how he combines just a few tasks, something to look forward to, and mindfulness to create a lovely morning.

If you read my blog with any frequency, you’ll know that I’m a self-proclaimed morning person, like Babauta, and that I get such an inordinate pleasure out of greeting the day that I relish knowing I have the whole morning in front of me at five or five thirty am.  Mornings have all the joy of possibility, confirmed by the beauty of morning light, the emptiness of the world, and the solace of the silence when the world has yet to wake.

Simply put, mornings are my sacred space.

Coming off of a relaxing vacation, however, I’ve been sort of lacking the energy to jump into action in the am.  So, following Babauta’s lead, I’ve put some thought into what my lovely morning might entail in an effort to to reframe those early hours.

5:00/5:30

Rise and watch the sun rise with a tall glass of water, some music, and my latest devotional read, Ellen F. Davis’ Getting Involved with God.

6:00

Brew a mug of decaf espresso and begin writing my introduction to my dissertation (this is the project I’m currently putting off because it scares me, but in my ideal morning, I tackle it head on!).

7:30

Take a break to peruse websites, blog, or pray.  Make a nice plate of scrambled eggs and grab a second mug of coffee.

8:00

Wake up my daughter and feed her out on the porch in the open air!

9:00

Take a long walk with my little girl, in which we get to see turtles, lots of birds, deer, and a great blue heron on the D& R Canal (even in my dreams, I’m greedy about my nature!).

10:30

Visit with a friend on the porch while my daughter naps (it’s my lovely morning, so in it, the little girl naps!).

Are you a morning person? If not, when’s your sacred time and what would your lovely morning/afternoon/evening look like?

 

 

 

 

Virtual Coffee Date

There’s a blogger I read and like who does an occasional, reoccurring post entitled Virtual Coffee Date.  She borrowed the idea from another blogger, and I, who love coffee, also love the idea of pretending we’re sitting down here for a sacred cup and gabbing like old friends.

I admit, in the same breath, that I’m kind of intimidated about a post whose very premise seems to suggest that I have this busy, interesting, important life to keep up with, but then I’m reminded how instrumental this blog has been to process this (and many of life’s) transition(s), and I’m thankful for a space to spew some of these fears, hopes, and prayer requests, and especially humbled by readers who attend to them!

A typical morning scene for this gal.

So if we were sitting down to coffee I would tell you all about the dissertation, how much it strikes fear into my heart when anyone mistakenly asks if I’m done yet (I’ve hardly just begun), and how paralyzing it is to think of synthesizing a life–anyone else’s or the one that I had in China–into a word document.  It’s mostly difficult for good reasons: my life in China taught me so much, not just about culture and childrearing, but about God and humility and faith everyday.  So I’m a ball of nervous energy and excitement when it comes to this daunting project!

I’d tell you how much I’m looking forward to fall here in Princeton, how welcome the crisper, cooler mornings are to a girl who was previously living in the tropics, and how I can’t wait to bring on the pumpkin spice, the leaves on the tow path, chunky sweaters, my October birthday, and getting cozy with warm coffee.  I love and have missed all of that!

A foster mother and her daughter in Guangxi, Nanning.

I’d tell you about my friends in China, and my best girlfriend who is in crisis and constantly on my mind, and how hard it is to be away.  Please pray that she feels closer to God and God’s peace and also pray for the mothers, fathers, children, and orphanage workers there.  Pray especially for a twelve year-old girl who will be adopted in the coming weeks to a loving family in the states and for the joy-filled foster mom who has raised this soulful, mature young woman.

I’d tell you (and thanks in advance for listening) all about this course I’m excited to take at Princeton on modern Chinese intellectual history in Chinese that I’ll use to work out my Chinese and my mind this semester.  Feeling pretty blessed to be at one of the best Chinese language program’s in the country and looking forward to speaking and writing more competently about my research in Chinese through this course.

And finally, I’d tell you about the brokenness in my home church, where huge changes are stretching everyone’s patience and faith.  I grew up there and out of that wonderful place of diverse thought and acceptance sensed my own call.  And my deepest prayer is that those in the church find a way to love one another and be one in Christ despite the hurt and the pain.  Healing takes time, and as a child of the church, those suffering are ever in my thoughts and prayers.

My lunch view here on Princeton’s campus. Gorgeous!

And I’d ask you to praise God for finding me here in New Jersey, for God’s persistent call on my life, for the depth and the breadth of experiences these past few years, and the possibilities that remain. 

Saturday morning thoughts from China

Ah, Saturday morning…

…when my husband and I flop onto the couch in our South China highrise, gulping down as much coffee as possible, and feigning as though we have all the time and no cares in the world.

My husband having coffee and breakfast in Yangshuo, China, on our anniversary, 2011.

Sure I came in last night on the train late from Guilin, my body covered with bites from God knows what that lives somewhere there in the orphanage, my pack on my back and my heart heavy with signs of hope and despair among the children in foster care and within the orphanage walls.

And here now we sit in the mess of our half-packed apartment…

…but–deep breath–all that can wait for another moment.

For now it is Saturday morning in sunny South China, our second to last one, in fact, and I’m turning my thoughts to the ones that let giant hope leap into my heavy heart.

As in I’m thinking and praying about the children with Down Syndrome who I met, so happy in foster care with their foster mother, and being put on the list for international adoption.  Praise God!

Foster siblings playing.

And the little eight-year old autistic girl I met on the last visit of the week on Thursday, down a little country road, where in view of the setting sun she pronounced characters so clearly and deliberately, reading and knitting for us, with her foster mother looking on, proudly grinning from ear to ear, and going on and on about how gifted her child is.

A view of Myanmar from the remotest of country roads in rural Yunnan. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Gifted.  Not disabled, not strange, not marred.  Gifted, good, and beautifully and wonderfully made.

A foster mother and her foster daughter.  Photo by Evan Schneider.

And that’s when the tears came, plump stinging ones, the kind that are impossible to control because you’ve been reminded so deeply, so palpably in your gut what love is again, and it’s so beyond our human capability, and yet so plainly visible in our midst.   And you’ve been reminded of our limits as humans but of God’s ability to do great things with our smallness.

And so I might be sitting on my couch here, wondering how I scarcely lived without coffee this past week, how I went without a mirror, how I endured the bug bites and the dirt and the grime, not to mention the heartache of these children, but I also know in a matter of just a few weeks I’ll be somewhere else wondering how I will be able to live without China.

Holding a tiny baby just placed in a foster home.

God, make me to breathe deep this breath of God in all its goodness, because all things are for a season, and in this season I have been richly blessed by China, these families, and your goodness in a world of suffering.  Amen.

America the beautiful

I’m realizing that this whole ambivalence that comes with leaving another country that’s been your home for the past two years isn’t necessarily the best fodder for the blogosphere (sorry).

I figured I could take advantage, however, of the mixed feelings, by listening to the leaps my little heart does when I think about some of the more frivolous (and not so) aspects of calling the U.S. of A. home.

So, with no further ado, here are some of the little things I miss and am looking forward to in our reunion with America in just a month:

Idyllic, isn’t it?
  • Grass, and walking in said grass, getting it between my toes and feeling the earth under my feet (cheesy, I know).
  • Pastries: scones, muffins, you name it, and the opportunity for some real baking in a real oven (which I hardly did before we left the country, but now it sounds great!).
How’s that for a chocolate cake?
  • Being in the same time zone as friends and family, i.e. being able to pick up the phone in mid-afternoon and give one of them a call!
  • Libraries full of books and movies in my native language.
  • And along those lines, quiet, solitude, and the great outdoors.
  • Worshiping at a Presbyterian Church.
  • Good draught beer, burgers, sandwiches, grilling out, and other all-American fare.
  • Going to the gym (and knowing it will have air-conditioning and be relatively BO-free!).
  • Gorgeous bathrooms and bathtubs where one can just linger…
  • Good coffee and wine!

What did I miss??