Feelin’ Twenty-Two

except not really….I mean do you feel your age? I guess you can feel the joys & the pains but do you really feel your age? I love Taylor Swift, (slight guilty pleasure) but Taylor, I don’t feel twenty-two. I feel like a young woman who is celebrating her birthday in a foreign country, I feel grateful and cherished, I feel joy.

I decided today I want to share twenty-two things I am grateful for today on my second birthday in China:
*in no particular order

1. an amazing team to live with in China
2. the call to this life
3. people like YOU who have donated, prayed and supported me this past year
4. the Chinese people
5. the babies
6. my family
7. enormous amounts of Dr. Pepper that people gave me for my birthday
8. warm clothes on cold days
9. my bed & sleep
10. hot coffee in cold hands
11. blue skies
12. music
13. the Bible
14. long talks with good friends
15. hugs
16. good home cooked food
17. the opportunity to chose Christ everyday
18. my future that is in His hands
19. hard and joyful laughs
20. good friends
21. sweets
22. Jesus and the Cross

thanks for being apart of my special day wether you are in China, America or any other foreign country around the world. pray for me as I pray for you!

i am a sinner

Sometimes the past weighs on me. For some reason this week it really has a lot. Doing what I am doing often puts me in the spotlight, my life is literally on a pedestal at times. This challenges me, as it should. Putting my life on this pedestal makes me remember what my life was like just over a year ago. I was caught up in a life of sin, I was living one way while proclaiming something different. This life of sin was easily covered up by my smile, hiding in my own little apartment and bringing up Jesus instead of my failures to people. I did not want to be a failure, I wanted to be “perfect, happy maggie.” It was  not until Jesus literally called me to “walk on the water” did I realize just how far I had fallen away from Him. I needed Jesus and because I agreed to saying “yes” He has given me the grace to change things in my life and truly make decisions based on Him and not my emotions.
Different topics have come up this week with friends and I have had the chance to talk to a few different people just about how much I desire to not go back to this life of sin I was living. Sharing different parts of my story with people here, my teammates, my Chinese friends and even people back home is not always easy but I know He works through the power of my testimony. As I was thinking about it last night during a time of silent prayer I asked the Lord to help me open up the Bible to what He wanted me to read, this is what I got…
“Some were sick through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress;
 he sent forth his word, and healed them,
    and delivered them from destruction.
 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wonderful works to the sons of men!
 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”
-Psalm 107:17-22

What beautiful words He had to offer! He has delivered me from my past. My praise and thanksgiving are a worthy offering to Him. What an awesome God we serve, my simple acts are pleasing to Him. My desire to change has given me the graces necessary. Don’t get me wrong, life still has temptations. Temptations I guarantee I will buy into, but I pray that the temptations will be limited because I will be relying on Him for strength now instead of myself. I also just recently finished a wonderful book that I suggest to any young single woman, “How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul” by Jason and Crystalina Evert. Jesus truly spoke to my heart through a paragraph near the end of the book…
“Trust in me alone, and do not despair. My love will never fail you. I know how you desire perfect love. Know that this desire–and its fulfillment–come only from me. Give me your heart completely every day. Make me the object of your hope. If you lack peace, it reveals that you do not trust fully. To the extent which you know my love, you will trust me….I will cleanse your heart so that you may live with the grace to do my holy and perfect will with a spirit of rejoicing. You have seen your weakness. Come to without hesitation during your time of need, and I will fill you with my divine strength and love…”

The parts I didn’t include are just as beautiful and Jesus sure does know how to inspire me. Let Him change you from the inside out, all you have to do is say “yes.”

on our semi-recent trip to  Hong Kong

on our semi-recent trip to Hong Kong

stretched in more ways than one

This past week I was given the awesome opportunity of traveling with one of my Chinese friends to her hometown village. We went home to celebrate the moon festival and her father’s 58th birthday. My other two teammates had gone for a few days to visit two of our other Chinese friends home and I was told on more than one occasion to prepare for both my heart and stomach to be stretched while I was there—this was no understatement.

The journey took 10 hours, 2 1/2 hour travel from my home by bus and subway, 5 1/2 hour train ride, and 2 hour bus ride to her village. Although the journey did not feel as long as it actually was my sore arms and legs told me differently the next morning.
Upon arriving to her home I was welcomed with my first of many meals (I was fed the amount of food for like 4 americans lol) prepared by her hard working mother where we ate at their table the size (height and length) of an american coffee table and upon stools that come up to my calf. All meals at their home are eaten outside and praise the Lord the weather was generally beautiful the entire time I was there.

one of the many meals prepared for me

one of the many meals prepared for me

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finished project

finished project

Later that evening they had prayer where women and men from their village come to their home and they read two chapters of the Bible each night to learn more about Him–how inspiring! The people here are thirsting. Although I couldn’t understand the majority of what they were discussing I was still blessed by His words and that we are all UNITED through the Bible all over the world. The same words we read are the same words that touch people in every crevices of the globe.

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During my week visit I felt humbled on more than one occasion. For   the past month or so I have felt challenged to really discover what “the fear of the Lord” means to me. I have read a lot of scripture on it and prayed a lot about what Jesus wanted me to hear. After talking to my spiritual mentor a few weeks ago I decided that the Lord was asking me to pray about being humbled. I have heard countless of times from different people “don’t pray to be humbled, the Lord will definitely do it more often in ways you don’t want.” I confess I was afraid of what He would do and told Him that NO, I would not pray to be humbled. But, of course He did it anyways. [One story is really great and if you ask I may tell you] But, I was humbled only multiple occasions being the first foreigner in every home I stepped into besides my friend Joy’s. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, I was photographed (including during mass while kneeling after communion). I was photographed with babies, in a ladies shoe store so they owner could tell everyone she had a foreigner there, “secretly” [I mean I can see you from 2 ft away from my face], in restaurants, etc. The first few times I was photographed I thought about how “cool” I was to be the foreigner who came from America and realized one night in prayer how prideful I was! Then I realized that instead of being prideful I need to be humble. The next few times I was asked to take a picture with someone I thought of how cool it is I get to be His hands and feet and not just the “cool” American in China.

one of the many families I  was asked to take pictures with

one of the many families I was asked to take pictures with

On another occasion I was asked to sing to a group of around 15 women. If you knew me during high school and at church choir you know I love to sing but I hate doing solos. I turn the color of an apple and my voice gets so shakey that everyone probably thinks I am actually an awful singer. But when these old women asked me to sing all the nerves were gone and I sang Amazing Grace realizing it wasn’t about what they thought but about what I could do for Him with the gifts given to me.

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When Joy’s family found out I was from America and from a city they immediately decided they would have me do a lot of different things. I was able to pick corn, apples, peanuts and pears from their fields. They taught me to make some pretty impressive Chinese food that I’m sure I could never do by myself, use an outside toilet the entire time I was there, attend a chinese bbq, ride their motor bike, take the kids to school (all the kids shouted “American!!!!”), and a lot more. I was also really blessed to attend their dad’s birthday and see how the whole family comes back for such an occasion. All in all I had a really blessed trip and the Lord stretched not only my heart but my stomach as well. 🙂

making chinese bbq

making chinese bbq

picking corn

picking corn

picking apples

picking apples

the cute little lady who owned the pear orchard

the cute little lady who owned the pear orchard

pickin' peanuts

pickin’ peanuts

weather reports…or not?

today my team and I learned we should check the weather before we leave….

you know I wondered why it felt so cool when we left on our bikes this morning to the baby home


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Yes, this is me after 20 minutes of riding my bike in the POURING rain 🙂 

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We lived and gave our Chinese teacher a laugh arriving to class soaking wet. 

Thanks for humbling us, Lord. 

Thought I would share a poem I read and liked today: 

You are who you are for a reason.
You’re part of an intricate plan. 
You’re precious and perfect unique design, 
Called God’s special woman or man. 

You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake. 

He knit you together within the womb,
You’re just what he wanted to make. 

 

The parents you had were the ones he chose, 
And no matter how you may feel, 

They were custom designed with God’s plan in mind. 
And they bear the Master’s seal.

 

No, the trauma you faced was not easy, 

and God wept that it hurt you so, 

But it was allowed to shape your heart

so that into his likeness you’d grow.

 

You are who you are for a reason, 
You’ve been formed by the Master’s rod. 
You are who you are, beloved, 

Because there is a God. 

 

june begins

….it’s june! WOW. Almost 5 months have flown by for me! I never ever thought I would be away from my family for 5 months and not be homesick. Sure, some days I wish I could cuddle with my mom or watch Natalie play some volleyball, go to dinner with my extended family or watch the latest tv show with my best friend but the Lord’s grace is endless. Since I chose Him, He rewards!

We are on a pretty constant schedule now and loving the babies every chance we get! Right now it is a crazy small world with all the preemies in our preemie unit–I think we have 10! Since being here we have only had around 1-3 at a time and having 10 is so crazy! But, my heart is for those little ones and I am enjoying every minute of it.

 

preemie

 

Although we are pumped about all the babies we are extremely excited about two things!!! 1. In 13 days we will have a couple and their baby come visit us for a few days! 2. In 19 days we will be boarding a plane to the Philippines!! We will be reuniting with our two groups of friends who live there and our friends from India! This trip is exactly in the middle of our first year and we could not be more pumped about seeing everyone and having a good reminder of why we are here. Please be praying we have a blessed time and I am sure I will come back with beautiful pictures of both the beach and waterfalls!

Wanted to share some lyrics of a theme song of my life right now! About 6 months until I will be home and hug all of you!

In HIS unfathomable love,
Maggie

blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Blessed Assurance

a lesson learned

Living in a foreign country is a blessing, a huge one. Living in a foreign country and serving the Lord is an even bigger blessing. Before leaving to China, I wasn’t told that my “job” would be easy, in fact I was told some days would be hard. Some days I really miss my bed, my family, my friends, my food, and especially my Dr. Pepper. But, I literally can’t get much closer to Christ than I am right now. I will admit it, sometimes I forget that and my selfishness comes right in, a temptation I buy into.

We were asked about a month ago if we would help tutor three of the boys in our group (foster) homes. Since there are three of us it was of course a perfect fit and very hard for us to say no. The little boy I tutor four times a week is named Jerry in English. He is a very comical 9 year boy. His attention span is the same of any other 9-year-old boy you probably know, not the best. But he is a character. Jerry was born with spina bifida and did have surgery but his lack of regular physical therapy has left him unable to use his legs. When outside he uses a wheel chair but around the house he pulls himself on the ground–he’s actually really fast and can climb up to chairs, etc. all by himself; he just can’t walk.
The reason we were asked to begin tutoring them is because they were recently transferred to a bilingual school where the teachers speak only in english. Jerry knows a few english words but I know not enough to understand instructions given to him. The two other boys and himself depend on the other chinese students to tell them what to do in chinese. Since we had no idea the actual level of their english I asked him to recite the alphabet and his numbers the first few classes. He knows the majority of the alphabet and I think now could identify every letter (capital & lowercase) if shown and can write almost every letter when asked verbally. He knows all his numbers up to 100, we are still working on anything above. He also knows all his colors (basic) and knows a good majority of foods and veggies. We just learned today about family; I showed him pictures of my brother, big sister, little sister, mom, dad, grandma, etc and then we learned how to say older, younger, big, little, etc. He really enjoyed the pictures. I pray that by the time we return to the states his english will have rapidly improved and we can have full on conversations together.

So back to my selfishness…
Today after our chinese class in the afternoon we took the bus home like usual. We have to cross the street after getting off the bus and still have about a 5-10 minute walk back home. Living in Beijing we don’t often see poverty. Sure, it is around us just as much as it is around the states but it’s just not as hand on as it might be in Mexico or Ecuador. Well, today we passed a lady sitting on a curb and as I observed her I saw she only had one shoe on, I looked around her and did not see the other shoe anywhere around her. Immediately I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to take off my own shoes and offer them to this lady even if I couldn’t speak the language very well. Instead I thought of myself and how I would have to walk so far without shoes! I decided I was crazy and her other shoe had to be somewhere…I continued to walk home and forgot about the lady on the curb.
After returning home, grabbing my tutoring materials and a quick break I headed to tutor in an apartment building a few away from mine. I came upon Jerry, his foster mom and his fellow foster sisters and brother outside. What immediately struck me was how cute I thought his mom’s shoes were. She picked up Jerry from his wheelchair, brought him inside and I wanted to impress her with my little chinese, “wo xi huan ni de xie!” (I like your shoes!) She smiled (half laughed at my probably incorrectly pronounced chinese) and took off her shoe for me to try it on, I smiled, laughed then put my shoes back on. Jerry and I had our tutoring class and just at the end she walked in the door….the shoes I told her I liked were washed and in a bag that she then placed in my hands. I immediately shook my head, told her I didn’t need them multiple times and begged her to keep them. She refused over and over, kept telling me thank you with the biggest smile on her face and putting them back in my hands the entire time. I took the shoes, hugged her and then told both her and Jerry I would see them next week.

I walked out the door realizing the lesson Jesus taught me in this: when I ask you to do something, do it. I will always reward you for obedience. Jesus had asked me less than an hour before to give a lady my shoes knowing that the foster mom would be giving me the shoes literally under her own feet. I felt ashamed taking them but blessed that Jesus loves me even when I choose to ignore Him.

feasting on thankfulness

I was having a really hard time a few weeks before Lent began to decide what thing I would give up during this preparation before the Resurrection of Our Lord. I decided it needed to be something meaningful this year. Giving up Dr. Pepper I knew would result in failure…I had a feeling some students from Franciscan University in Ohio would be coming to visit China during Lent and I had a feeling Dr. Pepper would be hidden away in their suitcase. I admitted to my team mates the minute they arrived I would have grabbed one and run into the bathroom to hide the fact I was breaking my Lenten commitment. I also wanted to do something real that I could apply at all times during the day. My freshman year of college I gave up the elevator since I always took it and I lived on the fifth floor. But I am pretty sure I begged my roommate to let me break my commitment more than I desired to do it. Although I said to those who walked up the stairs with me, “Jesus died for my sins, the least I can do is walk up 5 flights of stairs.” I was really thinking in my head, “why did I decide to do this again?”

So, I knew I needed to do something that wouldn’t be hard to break, something that would challenge me spiritually and something I wouldn’t find an excuse for. I confessed to my friends I couldn’t decide what to do and of course I was directed to prayer. The day after I prayed that God would show me what he wanted it was decided I would visit our friend about an hour travel away. My gift for directions has seemed vital to our team and so without objection I would be traveling alone to my friends home to help her for the day. The possibilities would be endless, I could help her organize a closet, maybe help with a study, or play with the babies in her care. I was excited to do whatever she needed—she has become one of my favorite people here, always joyful and reliant on the Lord. When I arrived I was ushered into her office where she asked me if I was familiar with the program PowerPoint. Many years in a catholic high school with various projects allowed me to answer a yes. Although I went in ready to serve I was quite dissatisfied with the fact that she wanted me to create a PowerPoint on Lent. As I worked away entering in the little information she provided and searched online for pictures and more information I could hear the babies crying just outside the office door. All I wanted to do was walk out and offer to soothe the crying babies. But that was not what I was asked to do. As I complained in my head I came upon the slide that she wanted titled “What to give up and what to feast on instead…” The one thing that stood out said give up complaining and feast on thankfulness. Wasn’t I just doing that…complaining? Shouldn’t I have instead been feasting on the thankfulness that God had given me a really good computer teacher one summer in high school who taught me all the tricks to PowerPoint? The Lord put the teacher in my life so that I could help this lady create a PowerPoint that she could use to teach people what Lent is.

I knew five hours later when I began my journey back home that I would be giving up complaining and instead feasting on thankfulness. Jesus has really been showing me how selfish I am as a human during this Lent, there are so many things I desire that will never give me the satisfaction He offers simply in His love. Instead of complaining about certain situations I instead look at how blessed my life is. Instead of complaining about the fact that I am often cold in our apartment I am thankful that I have another jacket I can put over my shoulders. Instead of complaining that I don’t know the language I rejoice in thankfulness when I actually get a word right. The list goes on and on but I think I would be dwelling on my complaints instead. 

The other day I started the book, “Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” about Mother Teresa. The beginning of the book focuses mainly on the quote that is seen under the cross at all of the different homes of Mother Teresa’s sisters, “I thirst.” I know when I say I am thirsty the majority of the time I am complaining, “gosh, it is so hot outside I am soooo thirsty.” But, was Christ complaining in saying “I thirst”? Of course not. In this book the author describes the “thirst” Christ has is for us. Christ desires to love us, he “thirsts” for me. So instead of complaining this Lenten season, I am thanking Him for His love and for His death on the cross. I hope in my little “yeses” to do everything He asks of me every single day I am satisfying at least a little bit of His thirst.

 

            “How to approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret—the closer you come to Jesus the better you will know His thirst. “Repent and believe,” Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even know, in your heart and in the poor—He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time. Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Mary Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete. Let us pray, God Bless you.
                                                                                                                                            -M. Teresa MC