Life as I Know It

It has been six months since I’ve returned to the US from living in China. Almost everyone has asked me the same question, “isn’t it great to be back in the US?!” You would think that I would have formulated a good answer by now or I would just say what people want to hear, “yeah it’s great”. But my answer is not that simple. My answer is no and yes and some days. My life looks drastically different than it did exactly 1 year ago from today. A year ago I was an English teacher at an extra curricular English school for Chinese students. A year ago I was still serving with a women’s organization. A year ago I walked everywhere I went, or took public transportation.

This year is completely different. In January I returned to China from Bangladesh. In February I returned to Arkansas from China. In March I moved to central Arkansas. In April I started a new job. In May I applied for graduate school for the 2016 semester. In June moved in with two of my sweet friends. In July I celebrated my birthday stateside for the first time in 2 years. In August I started graduate school (I was accepted and pushed up to Fall rather than Spring).

My life is a stark contrast to the one I was living before. Recently I was telling someone stories from China, Bangladesh, and my testimony. She looked at me and said, “you’ve really lived your years.” It made me feel wonderful and weird all at the same time. My stories don’t seem crazy or extraordinary. They seem normal. They are my normal.

Remembering the past two years of my life feels like I’m looking into someone else’s life. How was it just six months ago that I was living somewhere completely different. I can close my eyes and still see the mountains from my apartment. The smell of cilantro still makes me want to eat 牛肉面 (beef noodles). I try to find excuses to speak Chinese everyday because I’m afraid I’m going to lose my ability to converse. Last night I dreamed in Chinese, which hasn’t happened since living in China. It is the small things that take me back to grocery shopping at the market up the street from my house, going to work to see adorable little Chinese faces staring back at me, or even spending time with friends once a week regularly.

My life is still busy. It is still full. It is still great. Sometimes it just seems as if my life is that of different people. I’m a person who wants to spend the rest of my life in another country. Living anywhere doing anything under any conditions. I’m also a person who is going to graduate school, has a salary and benefits, who is studying a degree that could lead to amazing job opportunities in the future.

There are days when I wake up and hope to open my eyes to my room back in China. When I open them, I am in my house in Arkansas. I’m not mad, a little sad, but I know that the Father has brought me back for a reason. He asked me to follow Him to China. I went. He asked me to follow Him to Bangladesh. I went. He asked me to return to America and I cried. I fought. Then, I returned. Now that I am here I keep trying to leave (already, yes). My job allows me to work with individuals from all over the world. International education is incredibly important to me. It is at the core of my being.

Before returning to the US, I sat asking the Father why He wanted me to return. Why is it I’m coming back. I felt He gave me three words: Educate. Empower. Encourage. It applies to so many things, but specifically for me to women and children. Educating women in who the Father is and who He has said they are. Empowering them to live in light of His truths. Encouraging them to teach that to other women. It also applies to low-income populations (in the US and abroad). Educating those without quality education. Empowering them to learn, grow, and create a better (town, city, country). Encouraging them to use their education to make change in their cities and countries.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have it all figured out yet. I’m here because I was asked to follow. I’m here to live and to trust and to follow where He leads.

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Battle of the Hippie Soap

SoapAs of late I’ve become more aware of how unhealthy my lifestyle was prior to moving to China and even since returning. Everything I eat is loaded with sugar, factory made/processed ingredients, and now dairy; because, China. I’ve also realized how stationary my life is/was and how pretty much everything I use is manufactured. As my family says, I’ve kind of become a hippy – but one who refuses to give up chocolate.

In China I decided to stop using shampoo and conditioner, I used baking soda and water. It made my hair feel weird, but it curled so well and I felt better about my looks. Yes, yes I did. After a rough day of odd reverse culture shock, I decided I’d start using shampoo again, but I wanted to use something that wouldn’t take away from the new found curl and bounce and happiness from my hair. I found this amazing shampoo. It is paraben free, mineral oil free, and (something I can’t pronounce or spell) free. It makes my hair feel and smell good.

Last night I ran to Target to get a few things I was running low on and remembered I wanted soap (and about a bazillion other things, because Target). I found soap that was much like my shampoo in being free of a lot of things. Plus there is coffee in it! (I heart coffee). The soap was a little more expensive than what I’m used to paying for, but I noticed it was pretty large. Larger than your average bar of soap. So I took that into account. Not terrible for me, win. Costly, not so much a win. Large enough to be worth the money, win.

I came home, ate dinner, and decided to break in that new bar of soap. Little did I know that the bar of soap would try to break my ankle … While showering and trying to figure out how to wash myself with an awkwardly large bar of soap, I dropped the bar. No worries, it just made a lot of clunking noises that made the family wonder if I had fallen and couldn’t get up (I have old lady tendencies …). Thankfully no one came to the door. Then I dropped the bar again. This time, the bar went straight into my ankle. It went for the kill shot.

At first I didn’t really know what had happened. It all happened so fast, I thought maybe one of the cats had come in and starting biting my ankles, but no. There were no cats. The stream of pale red, almost pink blood like water was coming from the bar of soap. Its battle scar of falling and throwing itself into my ankle was mocking me as it said, “you tried to keep the other bars of soap from killing you from the inside, I’ll make up for it on the outside.”

I made it out of the shower and limped away. Once safely away from the bathroom and telling the family about the terrifying experience I just had, I noticed a welt right below my ankle. It is the size of my thumb. Although my soap attempted to kill me outwardly with force instead of inwardly with cheap manufactured ingredients, I will continue using it until its dying day.

The soap may have won that battle, but it won’t win the war…

Being Feminine – A Modern Meaning

I am working on a blog series called, “It’s Ok to be Pretty”. My hope is to explore the modern ideas of beauty and the beautification process as well as what we can see in the Bible and history.

But I need your help!

What do you think it means to be pretty? What makes you feel pretty? What is femininity? What makes you feel feminine? Etc.

Tell me below:

Ebenezer – Stone of Help

Something I have come to realize is that the Father has blessed me in so many ways. Not always in ways that can be seen as much as felt. Yet as I sit here procrastinating to finish packing my things for yet another adventure, I realize He has blessed me with adventure. He has blessed me with love and provision.

Coming back from China wasn’t easy, and isn’t always easy in the day-to-day. I’ve noticed it does get easier. In my return He has given me odd jobs to give me a little extra money. I’ve cleaned houses, I’ve babysat, I planned to wash cars – then it snowed. He has given me friends that are willing to store furniture I purchased. He has given me friends who want to give me their furniture and are willing to store it until I get my own place to live. He has given me friends in my new city that have parents willing to let me stay there until I find my own place. My friends are so different from one another and they each have their own gifts and they love in their own way. In my efforts to tell them I’ll pay them back or I want to do something for them, they laugh and say, “this is what community looks like”.

I’ve seen what an Acts community looks like. They have sent me out so many times and welcome me with the biggest arms, hearts, and smiles. They have done what is written in Acts, they have shared what they have to benefit others. They share their time and their resources. They share their love and their hugs. They freely pray. They freely give. They freely love.

They prayed along side me for the Father to provide me a job. He did. They prayed along side me for a place to stay in the new city. He gave. They prayed along side me for the Father to provide me a vehicle. He provided. Now we pray for financial things to be taken care of. I know He will …

In praying for many of these things and seeking through scripture, I found the word “ebenezer” and its meaning “stone of help”. My car’s name is Ebenezer* (or Ebby for short), because it is a reminder to me that the Father answers our prayers. He hears us when we call out to Him. He has not forgotten any of our needs.

As I get ready for a brand new adventure, and I feel blessed to have so many of them, I realize that He is my stone of help. He is my rock and my salvation. He will never leave me. He will hear my cries. He is my God and I am His girl.

I’m incredibly thankful for the journeys He has given me and this new journey to come.

Bringing Bailey Back

It has been a month since my return from China. It has been an interesting journey thus far.

The flight back proved it was going to be quite the interesting return. I flew from China to Qatar, Qatar to Chicago, and my flight to Memphis was cancelled due to weather. I was rerouted to Little Rock. Making it a 45 hour trip (minus the two day stay and drive to my hometown). Weather there wasn’t much better than Memphis but at least I would be able to stay with a friend until I could make it back to my hometown. The trip back started with being well loved on by sweet friends in China and arriving to a sweet surprise of seeing and staying with a friend in Little Rock. Trips are enjoyable to me, even this one being 45 hours. I was able to meet so many people from so many places. I read books and chatted with friends on the phone. This trip also allowed me to see friends and family I might not have been able to see nearly as quick in my return. Yay for surprises!

Making it back to my hometown was different. It has been labeled my hometown because I have grown up here, but it feels like anything but home. When I left the first and second time to go to China, I thought I’d never be coming back to Arkansas. At least not for more than a few weeks. Now that I’m here, I know I’m not supposed to stay in my hometown, at least not long term. That isn’t to say my hometown is bad or unwelcoming, because that isn’t it. Sometimes we just aren’t meant to be in a certain place our whole life and I feel like that is true of my current situation.

This means, I’m moving again.

I’m moving to a new place, with a new job, and a new life.

Something that gets forgotten about people returning to the US after living abroad, they don’t all have the means to start their lives over again upon their return to the US. This is where I am right now. Prior to leaving the US two years ago I sold everything I had. I sold my car, my furniture, my kitchen things, … I sold everything. So now I have to start over.

He has been incredibly faithful and has provided for each need as it comes. That provision looks different with each need. My largest need at the moment is a car. I’ll be moving to a new city next week and I still am car-less. I’ve kicked myself, argued with myself, and have done everything short of actually physically beating myself up about coming back not fully financially prepared for this next phase of life. During this transition I’ve realized, and many friends have told me, it isn’t as easy to transition back into American life financially as it was going to China. The dollar is more than the Yuan. So going with even a little money was easier than coming the other direction.

When abroad I wasn’t on financial support (meaning I wasn’t regularly supported by individuals or organizations) and made little compared to what life costs coming back. So I’ve been working some “odd” jobs since returning to help pad my financial situation. The Father has been so gracious as to give me friends and connections to clean houses for and babysit for and bake for … I’m so thankful and love seeing how the Father provides for me. He truly is Jehova-Jireh, the God who provides.

I have been and am willing to work and earn, . Some times He blesses us with gifts. He has been gracious enough to allow that to happen a few times too. People have been amazing and have shared their time with me, they have bought me lunch or coffee, some have even given me cupcakes (my love language).

Currently, I’m selling t-shirts to help me have a little extra income to pay for some of the start up costs of restarting a life in America (car down payment, apartment/house deposit, general housing needs, food needs, etc.).

In honor of just returning from China, the design on the shirt is the Chinese flag and the verse the Father has put on my heart since I’ve come to know Him. My goal is to sell at least 50 (or more) shirts. (Shirt design is below!)

To purchase the shirt, click here!

 

 

I Flew South for the Winter

I took flight and south with the birds. I left my cold, snowy, mountainous home in north western China and headed to warmth, poverty, and humility than I’ve ever known in Bangladesh.

Being there taught me that just as a folded garment has many folds, so holds each experience in our lives. There is much I learned, much more than I could even begin to explain, but I shall share a few new creases in the garment I wear called life.

Saying I was poor in college is inaccurate.

Saying I’m starving before a meal is inaccurate.

Saying I’m sick as a dog when I have a cold (or even the flu) is inaccurate.

I sat with malnourished children, who know no different.

I saw young pregnant women who are afraid that eating too much will make their baby fat and cause them a hard delivery.

I entered homes built with mud bricks and date tree leaf thatched roofs.

I ate biscuits and drank tea from some of the poorest women I’ve ever met.

I heard laughter from little girls who had been brought out of brothels and into the safety of an all girl’s home.

I watched as people burned their dead family member.

I wept with a dying man.

Bangladesh taught me to use my words wisely; to be more generous with my time and my laughter, to love those unknown to the rest of the world.

I would love to say I lived among them, but that would do them an injustice, at best I lived near them in a more comfortable situation. To many a month of cold showers, no wifi, washing clothes by hand, sleeping in a concrete room, traveling roads that are dirty and broken … is counted as living among them.

But it is something altogether different to sit in numerous unfinished homes in a village as women bring out any tea or biscuits they have. Like a mirror forcefully thrown to the ground, it breaks your heart into tiny shards that threaten to be broken smaller still…

Standing on their broken roads looking at the water pumps awkwardly positioned between groups of homes, because those homes don’t have running water. Watching the women bucket bathe their children under the pumps, carry large clay or metal pots of water back to theirs homes to be boiled and made safe for drinking. To see them hand washing the little clothing they have right there at the pump; thankful, truly thankful, they have access to water so near…

To walk into a girls’ home full of little girls and young women whose mothers are prostitutes, to see that they have hope of an education. Hope of a future unlike the past of their mothers. Knowing that there are more girls waiting to come. Waiting for space at the home. Rejoicing that the sister of one of these girls was rescued from being trafficked. Knowing there are more like her. Tears welling up in your eyes, anger swelling in your heart at the injustice of these little girls’ pasts…

Holding babies and seeing pregnant women waiting to give birth in an orphanage. Looking in the faces of the babies as your told most of these children will grow up without families. Then choosing to hold as many of them as you can so none of them are left never having been loved…

Seeing an uncountable number of mangled homeless people, knowing that many of their injuries came from the “shelters” in which the stay. The gang members and “shelter” workers maiming them to turn higher profits from them on the streets. Being told that giving money to the maimed, the homeless, the children will only continue the vicious cycle. Choosing instead to carry extra biscuits to give to children that beg and look hungry. Watching some of those children take the snack and try to exchange it for money, while others eat it as fast as their hungry little bodies can chew and swallow…

Realizing that to make an impact, to make a difference, all that is required is parting with a few resources, giving my full self, and leting go of ridiculous self absorbed things.

To be there and want to fix all the problems but realizing there wouldn’t be a problem if people loved, truly loved each other.

Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

When you love someone or something, you do not actively try to destroy it. You do not disregard it; as so many people in Bangladesh were tossed to the side to be someone else’s problem or dealing. To love, to truly love someone is to serve them. It fulfills the law. You do not murder someone you love. You do not commit adultery against someone you really love. You do not … fill in the blank.

As I walked the streets, I realized something was missing. Something was causing this problem.

Love.

Bangladesh taught me what it is to love a place, a people that I know so little about.

I flew south for the winter, with the birds that migrated.

The Man with Two Bananas

This place is my home. The newness is gone. The streets have been walked.

The people are familiar. The sounds resinate within me.

Yet there is a part that goes on unseen. A crowd of people that would barely be noticed.

They are looked at, without being seen. They are heard, without being listened to.

There is a man among them.

His clothes equally tattered and worn. His hands and face equally as dirty.

This man is poor and dirty, but the richest man I know. For he possesses something so many of us lack.

Two men walked by him and chose to see him. They pulled out two bananas and handed them over.

This man. This poor and dirty man, is the richest man I know.

He took one banana, and gave the other to a poor and dirty man.

For this man, as poor and dirty as he may be, is the richest man I know.

This man possesses something many of us lack.

He gave away half of what he had been given. He loved someone more than he loved himself.

He trusted he would eat even without the second banana.

He is the man who had two bananas, but loved enough to only keep one.

Even Them …

Few things touch me quite like hearing languages foreign to these ears.

Sitting in a tiny space with over 20 locals and hearing them joyfully
pouring themselves out in song reminds me, Even Them.

These are His people. The people unknown to the rest of the world, but held closely to His heart. These are the unforgotten. These are the remembered. Even Them.

These are the voices of the nations.

He came for them.

Even Them.

This is one of those moments my heart is not quiet. This is when my heart beats so loudly it almost drowns out their voices.

Yet with every beat of my heart, I hear: “Even Them”

Bodies sway.

Eyes closed.

Hands outstretched.

Tears fall.

Hearts open.

Minds focused.

Even them. “Even Them”, I hear whispered in my untrained ears.

They are His. Even Them.