Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chapter 41: Of Spring Break and a Surprise Party

Last night we had a surprise birthday party for one of the teachers here. We made lots of good food (chicken tetrazzini, sourdough bread, and I made Cajun-fried zucchini), told lots of stories, and laughed a LOT. A big part of the merriment was the fact that today is the first day of spring break. I love the feeling at the beginning of a break - when the time stretches before you like a Kansas highway - and you feel weightless and excited.

I really love teaching here. It's a great fit for me. But it has also been a bizarre week for me. I've been crabbier than I have been since moving to China, and I was pretty much busy non-stop. So this break is coming at the perfect time. It will be a good chance to get caught up on school work, Chinese, and rest. I'm looking forward to it.

I don't really have a big overarching lesson that I've learned from this. I could probably make something up about time management (though that seems like it would be beating a dead horse at this point), or the joy of community, but I'll leave it as a simple sharing of what is going on in my life this week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chapter 40: Being a Glimpse Behind the Mask

Lately I have been noticing an discomforting amount of pride in myself.

Not necessarily the I'm-so-much-better-at-life-than-you pride, or even the look-at-what-I-have-done-and-accomplished-aren't-I-just-the-best type of pride. Instead, I've been seeing, in myself, the I-have-to-do-my-best-because-then-people-will-really-be-fooled-into-thinking-I-have-it-all-together sort of pride. Which is prolly the worst kind.

 As a way to deal a cutting blow to my pride, let me freely admit: I do not have my act together. I am a less-than-consistent friend, I am awful at following through in my classroom, I am an ungrateful son, I am miserable at regularly devoting time to him, I am selfish with my calendar, I choose momentary happiness over eternal joy, I value my way more than His way, and I stink at sports. And that is only off the top of my head. Were I to delve deeper into my habits and patterns of life, I would surely be able to rattle off a list of areas where I am lacking until the pigs have built their flying apparatuses and flown to visit their cousins on one of the moons of Jupiter.

(Now if you ever see or have ever seen me doing any of these things on this list, please feel free to stop and admire, not me, but Him. For any time that I have any smidgen of success in any of these areas, it is 100% due to His strength flowing through me.)

I think one of my new favorite verses is in the book of Zephaniah. A teacher shared this in fellowship on Sunday in the midst of a discussion about how 8 out of 10 people,* when asked the question, "What does the Father feel when He looks at you?" will answer "Disappointed," "Angry," or some other negative emotion. This speaker was arguing that the answer is "Unconditional love."

Zephaniah 3:17
"The Lord is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing."

Yep. He will. And certainly not because of me or my positive attributes (see list above for proof), but only because of the blood that covers me. 

So even though my list of faults is long indeed, and my mask of pride feeds my insecurities, I can know that his love covers me always.

Which is jaw-droppingly, heart-flutteringly, desire-changingly, and knee-bendingly awesome.

*fake statistic used to get my point across

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chapter 39: On Time Management

It seems I tend to make this life into a dance in which I continually push the beat of the drum faster and faster until I am struggling to keep up with the movements.

I am not as overwhelmed as I have been in the past, but I just keep adding things to my schedule. Good things, too. Really good some of them. But when you don't really have time to add even the really good things, it causes a stressed out me who only wants to sleep, watch movies, or read a book.

(I promise that my purpose is not to whine or to complain about my stress level right now. Rather, it's about how I have been learning how to prioritize.)

Before moving to China, I had never really thought enough about how I spend my time. Since coming here, I have had to pay much closer attention to the clock or else it surreptitiously turns its hands to a point some hours in the future without me even noticing. And then I am left wondering how on earth is it that time already!?

One of the things that has been helpful for me has been a paradigm shift in my attitude about time. I have gone from paying virtually no attention to my time management, to the point where I now am creating a time budget - allowing some minutes for this and several hours for that. It seems a very Western thing to do, but it's helping.

Another thing that has helped was something a friend shared with me last week. She was talking about how she has a list of goals for life in China, and if an event or project doesn't fit within those goals, she won't usually get involved. Obviously, this is not a rigid system with no freedom of choice, but it does help her to feel better about saying no.

So, I hope for you the same as for myself - that you are able to manage your time well so that you are the most effective tool for Him that you can be. It's all for Him anyways.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chapter 38: The One with All the Sickness

I am not Phoebe Buffay.          
Shocking, I know.

When Phoebe is sick, she sings with this real raspy, smoky voice that sounds . . . great (according to her). Sickness actually "improves" her singing voice.

When I am sick, on the other hand, I sound like my vocal chords have been put through a meat grinder, piled in a dark corner until the mangled flesh is covered with mold and rancid decay, and finally placed back in their proper place by Picasso. In other words, I can't sing (or speak clearly). 

If you have ever spent more than three hours with me, chances are you've heard me sing. I sing a lot. Too much, some might say.

Random tangent on that note: My bathroom is particularly resonant, so I like to sing in the shower. I found out a month or so ago, that my neighbor two floors down can hear me crystal clear when I sing in the shower (like, she can understand the words I'm saying. Thank you, Mr. Sawyer for giving me clear enough diction to be understood through several layers of concrete). I turned all kinds of red after finding that out.

Okay, back to the main point of this random and somewhat nonsensical post: I currently can't sing.

Because I sing so much on a regular basis, I have unconsciously been exploring other methods of musical expression. I realized several minutes ago that I have been whistling, almost non-stop, for several hours. How did I realize this? Because my lips are sore from being puckered so much, and my ears are sore from hearing so much whistling.

Oh brother.