Tag Archives: friends

Why I don’t regret the regrets

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion*

When I hear people proclaim the motto “no regrets,” I can’t help thinking that it’s a little prideful, short-sighted, and disingenuous.

I’m not advocating for living life on the bench, or engaging in some sort of flagellation that leaves not only the body, but the soul with real wounds.  And I appreciate the zealousness of trying to live life with vigor and intent.

But I think a healthy dose of introspection, when it comes to our mistakes, can also be enlightening.

With a foster family in Hubei.
With a foster family in Hubei. Photo by Jason Fouts.

Last night, as I realized that it’s been almost a year since we left our life in China, all I could think is if I had it to do over again, I would have spent more time at the feet of the foster mothers, hearing the trials of their lives during the Cultural Revolution, the story of each baby they’d raised, and their fears about the future.

I wish I’d looked out the window more often at those soaring karst peaks and endless fields of green rice paddies, because who knows when I’ll see them again?

Guangxi1

I wish I’d accepted every invitation to a bowl of rice noodles, a strange feast of chicken feet, or a home out in the countryside without running water or electricity.  It was in these places that I saw life lived with an irrepressible human spirit…and ate some of the best dumplings of my life.

With a dear friend.
With a dear friend.

I wish I’d told my friends all my fears and hopes and dreams, because I treasure the secrets they shared with me.  I recall them and revisit them like precious gems when I miss their friendship and their confidence.

I wish I’d made far more trips to the market, taken many more jogs around South Lake, and sat many more hours peering into the square from our balcony, and all despite the sticky heat.

Beside South Lake Park in Nanning, China.
Beside South Lake Park in Nanning, China.**

In short, I wish I’d slowed down to only love the people in front of me and nothing more.  I wish I’d treasured the normal days, for one knows not how many there will be.  I wish I’d known how extraordinary China and its people were before I left it.

One might call them regrets.

But I’m also left with gratitude for the simple joys God afforded me while I was there and some wisdom for living this life tomorrow.

*Special thanks to my friend, Kate, for posting this poem the other day.
**Bottom three photos by Evan Schneider.**

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Praise.

It’s just one of those weeks where despite the busy-ness, and the ups and downs, I’ve felt God’s presence so palpably, and I’m giving God praise.

On Plymouth Harbor.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
On Plymouth Harbor. Photo by Evan Schneider.

I give God praise for speaking into the silence, for meeting us simply and whole-heartedly.

I give God praise for listening ears and spiritual guidance on the journey.

And I give God praise for fellowship.  

Last night I had a phone call with a few girlfriends from seminary in which we got to affirm one another’s call, talk through challenges, and pray together.  It reminds me how much we were meant as human beings to rejoice together–in community.  And it made me realize all over again how powerful experiencing grace is, and how deserving of praise our God is for granting us grace.

When we look around and can see God’s hand in our lives, let us not take that for granted–let us praise God.

Amen.

China…in pictures.

I’ve been cleaning off my hard drive, and these images of people and places in China just ring truer than any words at the moment.

So, without further ado, allow me a brief look down memory lane…

Meeting Christians in Lijiang, Yunnan, that first November 2010 with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship.
Children playing in Guangxi, Yulin.
Constructing homes in Lincang prefecture, Yunnan province.
On the road in Yunnan.
House boats on the Yong River in Guangxi, Nanning. Photo by Evan Schneider.
Young girls play in the Li River in Guangxi, Yangshuo.
With friends in Nanning. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Full Circle

I realize I’ve never told the story of how we got to China.

There’s more to it than can fit in one post, of course, but last night a good part of the journey kind of came full circle.  You see, back in 2009 when I was searching for a city in China to meet foster mothers and study foster families and was shooting off emails to anyone I knew who had any connection to China (and fretting about taking a trip to an unknown place where I knew no one!), a friend of mine came through with a list of close to forty names of friends who might be helpful.

And I sent practically everyone on that list an email, but as it sometimes goes, I got only a few back.  One was from a family that had lived in Nanning a few years ago, and the woman said she knew foster families.  We started corresponding by email, and I’ll never forget how she called me up out of the blue in March of 2009 and said, why don’t I just go with you, why don’t I take you to meet my friends?

Visiting Angel House in Nanning in 2009 with friends.

We met up with she and her husband in Nanning for the first time in June of 2009, and true to form, she introduced me to everyone she knew, people who would become my research contacts, my tutors, my trusted friends.  And many thanks to she and her husband’s introductions, when it came time to choose a place to do my research, a place for my husband and I to make our home for the next two years, there was no question in our mind that Nanning would be the right fit.

Camping with our friends in 2009.

We camped with our new friends and their four kids in August of 2009 in the states and moved here the following one.  And last night, our friends who played hosts to us in Nanning that first summer had the chance to return to Asia for a brief trip, and share a meal at our apartment in China.

We filled them in on the adventures of our lives over the past two years here: our experiences traveling in Yunnan and meeting with minority Christians, the ways in which my research with foster families has unfolded and grown, and the countless learning experiences in faith and culture we’ve shared in this place.

Minority children in the mountains of Yunnan.

We teared up as I recalled the way this woman, who has become a lifelong friend, embraced my project as her own three summers ago, marching around the city and in her limited Chinese asking everyone and anyone whether they knew foster mothers. She inspired me so much, teaching me what it truly means to be bold and serve others and trust God.

Our friends prayed for us as we prepare to leave China, and we had a chance to thank them for their commitment and goodness to us.  I told them how my friend who’d emailed me all those names awhile back recently reflected that she’d almost failed to include their family’s information, fearing they’d be too busy or wouldn’t have any connections to China.

And when I think on God’s intricate plans, I know there are none more excellent.  It was so meaningful to hear their blessings prayed over us last night, people who in so many ways are responsible for the success of this journey.  And while it will be bittersweet to leave this place, the foresight of God to bring these people into our lives across the distance and over the years reminds me that God has been and will be faithful in this and every step of the journey.

Weekender in Kunming

The title of the post is not completely accurate.

Strolling down pedestrian street in pleasant Kunming weather.

My husband has the lovely schedule of teaching just Monday through Wednesday this term, which means we were able to fly away for just a few days to Kunming this past week to see some dear friends before we leave China at the end of July.

Water lilies nearly in bloom on Kunming’s Green Lake.

The weather in Kunming makes us Nanning-dwellers decidedly jealous.

Temple en route to West Mountain.

Caitlin and I trying to translate the names of the deities.

We enjoyed the brief respite from our balmy climate, the hiking, the Western food, the city in bloom.

But it did rain, a frightful downpour, that actually made West Mountain, and its roaming temples wonderfully ominous.

We made the best of it, of course, despite the loud claps of thunder and blasts of lightning that came too close for comfort!

Down the mountain we came, to dry off, and enjoy the rest that Kunming had to offer.

But I daresay the blog may be a bit blank for awhile.

Tonight I pick up my family from the airport in Nanning…and China awaits them.

Photos by Evan Schneider.