Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Has Arrived

Cherry Blossoms

A Lilac Bush, My Favorite Flower

The Playground at School

View from My Classroom Windows

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Some thoughts rolling around in my head....
  • Learning to be content when His plans don't line up with my expectations.
  • Being totally surrendered to His's much easier said than done.
  • I can't say, "God take this desire from me". Maybe when I'm holier I can. But I can say (almost ready to) "God, I desire you more than my desires."
  • Do I really believe God has my best interest in mind? Even when He's not giving me "the desires of my heart"? 
  • What do I smell like? Do I smell like life or death? Do my words speak life or death into people? See Proverbs 18.
  •  I seem to be constantly praying, and yet NOT enough apparently, "Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3
Nothing profound. Just some things that God and I are talking about. Well, He's talking, I'm mostly listening. Except when I don't. But that's a whole different post.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Yes, that's what I'm doing now. Avoiding. I have a stack of papers stacked as high as the Empire State Building sitting on the table in front of me begging to be graded and I'm refusing to do it. So what if grades are due tomorrow? So what if I don't have any grades recorded yet and we're halfway through the 4th quarter? So what if I get in trouble? So what if I lose my job? So what if I have to move back to America? And have to live on the streets. And use cardboard boxes as blankets. And make friends with a guy named One-eyed Joe who lives on Slim-Jims and ginger ale. And makes me clang cymbals and dance to circus music while wearing clown makeup and a monkey tail. So what.

Fine! I'll do it! I'll grade. But I'm not happy about it. Not happy at all.

Just know that I'll be checking my email every few minutes in case something important comes along. And I'll have to look at Facebook to make sure I see if anyone's commented on newly posted pictures or my status update. And it's quite possible that I'll have to play a game or read the news just to break up the monotony of grading. 

I'm going, I'm going.

But if you need to get a hold of me, feel free to text. Or email. Or Facebook...or comment here. I promise to respond as soon as my grading allows immediately.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Beginning

Two men,
gleamed like lightening.
Do not fear!
He has risen!
He is not here!
Go, tell!
Running to the tomb...
Strips of linen.
"Peace be with you"
My Lord and My God!

Make disciples,
Baptize them,
Teach them."

"...the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Longest Day

Yesterday was hard:
Today is harder,
a remembering of it all.
Yesterday was death.
Today is the new reality
of life without
his laughter,
his friendship,
his promise.
Yesterday he was here.
Today he will never be again.
Yesterday, there was hope.
Today, hope is gone.

Today, we have a memorial for the little boy that passed away three weeks ago. We will celebrate his short life on this longest day in history. This day, where two thousand years ago, things seemed the darkest. It really did happen, he really is dead. The moment when you wake up and realize, it wasn't a dream. All the pain and noise and blood, yes blood, was real. The deed is done, you are no longer in it, you are able to look back on it and remember. And feel the loss, the hurt, again and again and again. A new reality has begun.

Tomorrow, the tears are wiped away.
Tomorrow, there is new life.
Tomorrow, He is alive.
Tomorrow, Hope comes.

We know how this story ends. This may be the longest day, but tomorrow is the Best Day.

And this little boy is already realizing his tomorrow. He has Hope. He has new life, a whole and complete body to fully praise his Creator, his Healer.

So, we can mourn. We can weep. We can long for and miss. But we can also rejoice. We can rest assured that this is not the end. We can celebrate a new life, a new beginning for this little boy.

And for us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The End.

The garden.
Horror and deep distress.
"My soul is crushed with grief."
Mobs with swords...
Betrayed with a kiss.
False witnesses.
Are you?
"I Am."
Condemned to death.
Rooster crows.
King of the Jews?
Crucify Him.
Crucify Him!
Purple robe.
Crown of thorns.
Hail! King of the Jews.
Dice thrown.
Sign posted: King of the Jews
Save yourself.
Darkness fell.
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
Breathed his last.
Curtain torn.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Now Scanning: Mixed Emotions

In the good 'ole days, when I used to have an iPod touch (arg!), I had this app called a "Mood Scanner". It was like a digitalized mood ring. Except that it wasn't. It was totally random and not based on body heat whatsoever. But still a fun thing to do. In fact, my friends and I used it all the time. It usually varied between "In Love", "Angry", and "Mixed Emotions".

Let's talk about "Mixed Emotions", shall we?

I will be flying to Colorado on June 7th for my summer home. This is a strange thing for me to really grasp. It's been two years since I've seen my family, since I've driven a car, since I've known how to get around town, since I've been able to find all the things on my grocery list.

It's going to be two months full of traveling all over the US, seeing friends, visiting churches, loving on family (new babies!), re-acclimating to being in a place where I speak and read and understand everything around me. It'll be exhausting too, living out of a suitcase, driving thousands of miles, entertaining people and being entertained.

I'm quite happy with my life here. I've got a good routine, a lovely home, my own space, great friends. It's a place where I know what to expect and what's expected of me. It's all defined and familiar.

Going back to America is going to be constantly changing. It's going to be a time of redefining relationships and "catching up". I'll spend a lot of time telling the same stories and explanations of my life here in China. I don't know what to expect or what expectations there are for me in America. And I'll have to say "goodbye" all over again. Who knows for how long this time?

I will be honest and say that it makes me a little unsettled. I've become used to a life far removed from America (and all that entails). And it's been a fantastic life. To be back there again, and really remember, be confronted with what I've been makes me feel unsettled.

But at the same time, I'm so very excited to see everyone. To love them and be loved on. To sit on the couch and talk with my parents, to be picked on my brother, to be jumped on by my dog, to hold my new little cousin (second cousin to be exact), to laugh loud and long with my friends, to sing worship with my team, to be teased, to reminisce.

I can't wait to see the mountains and the wide open spaces, to smell fresh air and drink tap water, to sit on the beach with the crashing waves, to blend in with everyone else, to be heard and understood every time I speak, to drive when and where I want, to come and go as I please.

Yep, mixed emotions. That's the best way to explain it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Grossest Thing I've Ever Seen

I am totally addicted to this blog. She is stinkin' hilarious. I stumbled (and by stumbled I mean "blog stalked") upon this post that she wrote several months ago about gross things her kids do. The stuff she described wasn't so bad, but the comments, oh the comments under her post...I may never be the same. I literally almost wet my pants because I was laughing so hard. You MUST go read them. Be prepared as some of them will cause you to throw up in your mouth a little bit. BUT it's totally worth it.

Just in case you're too lazy to click on this post, I've copied and pasted a few of the comments listed. Be prepared...

"The first time we took our kids to Disneyland they were 2 and a half. My girlfriend's 2 and a half year old son licked every railing in sight when they were there. So by the last day I was so proud my son hadn't licked a single thing. We were on Main Street first thing in the morning, you know how they wash the streets down every night? Well everything was still really wet. I look over and Andrew is lying face down on the street sucking the water out of the hole where an umbrella would go. All the dirt and germs from "The Happiest Place On Earth" right in his mouth! BOOO!!"

He must've been thirsty?

"When my daughter was a baby, she sampled cat poop from the litter-box. MORE THAN ONCE."

No words.

"Cockroaches! We went to a similar exhibit in LA when my daughter was quite small and in love with all creatures (who am I kidding, she's 10 and still is!). She held and... KISSED one of those hissing cockroaches. I literally got teary eyed trying not to throw up/freak out/something other than think it was adorable -- which it kind of was in a hugely gross way. Then she wanted to hold the babies and give each of them a hug and a kiss (baby hissing cockroaches that is)."

Have I mentioned how much I hate bugs?

Okay, there are about 30 other REALLY funny comments that you must read...

In honor off this very disgustingly funny theme, I thought I would share the grossest thing I've ever seen.

I've lived through some really foul things in my life. I think that just comes with working with kids. I've cleaned up vomit. I've washed down a bathroom filled with poop pictures (poop smeared on the floor/walls with pictures drawn in it by little fingers...on more than one occasion). I've changed explosive diapers, handled maggot covered trash (probably the second grossest thing to ever happen to me...think Raiders of the Lost Ark in reference to the amount of maggots), and a lot of other things. But there's one particular memory that still makes me want to gag every time I talk about it.

I was a freshman in college, working at a day care. My boss, we'll call her Darb, kind of took me under her wing. To this day, I'm not sure if this was a good or bad thing. And when I say "took me under her wing", I mean she had me over to her house several different times to "help" her clean one mess of a house and/or babysit her kids. I don't really know why I went along with it. Maybe because she was my boss, maybe because she was a single mom, maybe because at that time in my life, I had no idea how to say "no". Regardless, I became a sort of fixture within their family for my first three months of college.

Towards the end of our relationship (she was let go from the daycare) we went on a picnic to the park. It was a beautiful fall day. A chill in the air, colorful leaves. Perfect day to be outside.

Let me take a moment to share something with you. I can't stand snot/boogers/mucus. Cant. Stand. It. Just thinking about it makes me gag. Hearing people snork and then spit, knowing it's in their mouth, uggugugug, I just gagged writing this.

So, I'm at the park with this family. The bebe kid had a cold. I mean, little kids are snotty anyway, especially when it's cold. I get it. And they hate having their nose wiped. I get it. But thi
s was above and beyond the normal drainage. No matter how much you wiped, it was there, consistently replenishing itself. I'm quite sure her mother had given up, I mean, who can stay on top of a gushing river? And who was I to take over the much needed wipe-age?

Park. Picnic. Playground. On to the playground. Little Girl with snotty nose is running around like a wild-woman, the collection on her top lip getting worse and worse (think green slime). Little Girl wants to go down the big slide. Now, she's only two-ish so Darb and I choose our posts. I'm at the bottom of the slide, she'll take Little Girl to the top of the slide. Darb walks Little Girl around to the ladder and helps her up, follows behind her, kind of acting like a shield.

At some point in this two-some, when they're face to face, Darb notices Little Girl's nose "situation". Darb has no kleenex on her but Little Girl is on the verge of drowning in the goo.

So what does Darb do?

She takes her hand, mind you I'm watching all of this happen in slow motion, she takes her hand and squeezes ALL the SNOT out of Little Girl's nose INTO HER OWN this point I am HORRIFIED. No breath is coming out of me. My mind is racing...something about "a mother's love"and "doing things you'd never thought you'd do when you become a mom" and "desperate times call for desperate measures"...I couldn't look gets worse.

She squeezed the snot into her hand and THEN?????

LICKS. IT. CLEAN. Like an afternoon snack. No biggie. I-just-slurped-up-my-weight-in-my-daughters-mucus-lets-send-her-down-the-slide...

This is not a picture of the real little girl. I found it on the internet. And gagged.

I gagged and gagged and gagged and gagged. I left abruptly. Gagged in the car. Gagged when I got home. Gagged every time I thought about it. I didn't tell anyone about it for days because I literally couldn't get the words out of my mouth.When I was finally able to verbalize it, I gagged every time. Everyone I told it to took me years, YEARS to get to a point of being able to talk about it without almost throwing up.

So, that's my story. Are you okay? Seriously, the last time I told this story, I had a roomful of upset stomachs. Awesome.

I recognize this has nothing to do with recent posts or really in-depth stuff...just thought you might enjoy a good story. Sorry for the abrupt shift.

Any stories you want to share?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stolen Poem- Emotional Idiot

Came across this poem and laughed out loud.

I'm an Emotional Idiot
so get away from me.
I mean,

Wait, no,
that's too close,
give me some space
it's a big country,
there's plenty of room,
don't sit so close to me.

Hey, where are you?
I haven't seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren't I enough for you?

You're so cold.
I never know what you're thinking.
You're not very affectionate.

I mean,
you're clinging to me,
what am I, your *&%$ cat?
Don't rub me like that.

Don't you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don't you have any interests?
Sailing Fly fishing

There's an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don't you go?
I'll loan you the money,
my money is your money.
my life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I'm nothing.

Move in with me
we'll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don't get in each other's hair or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I'll have my own bedroom,
it's nothing personal
I just need to be alone sometimes,
you do understand,
don't you?

Hey, why are you acting distant?

Where you goin',
was it something I said?
What did I do?

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me
I mean,
~Maggie Estep

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The "M" Word

It runs in my family. It's been one of my biggest struggles (there are so many). It tries to control, succeeds more than I would like for it too. It's part of everyday life and yet for me, it can become my life.

Moodiness. Emotional overdrive.

For years, I think I just figured it was normal. It was a teenage thing. A girl thing. An irritating thing. Now, for many recent years, I've defined it as the thing that gets me. It takes me over, squeezes the balance out and leaves me, and sometimes others, in shambles.

Let me define what I mean. My emotions aren't swinging in bi-polar motion. It's mostly happy and then a little indifference sets in and moves on to quietness. The need to be around but not really a part. Like the invisible friend. Like the emotion has been sucked out just a little bit. It doesn't usually last for long, just a day or so but long enough to disrupt my life and sometimes my relationships.

When I was in my mid-twenties (the fact that I can refer to "my mid-twenties" makes me want to barf), one of my good friends so bluntly pointed out that I was moody. It was reconfirmed by several other friends in several other eye-opening conversations. I was shocked, offended each time it was said. Not me. I'm passionate, yes. I'm opinionated, yes. I feel things deeply, yes. But moody? Heck no!

But God has ever-so-not-gently been working on me over the last 5ish years or so. Showing me that what I like to call "the need to be quiet" or "indifference" or "desire to shut the entire world out" is really just my way of defining moodiness. And over the last 5 years, I've really worked on being balanced, not allowing myself be controlled by my emotions.

Wow,that's a really short sentence to sum up some of the biggest growth in my life. Ever.

Here's the rub though. I'm pretty much a one-track mind. I can multi-task. But when it comes down needing total concentration, only one thing can be done at a time.

So, even though we've (me and God) mostly (totally my fault) overcome my "being controlled by emotions", when God is working on me in other areas, I have a really hard time handling the emotions that come along with it. I become so aware of how I treat others, how out of control my tongue is, how infinitely un-perfect I am, arg, I just want to crawl in a hole and make it stop. Since that's not really socially acceptable, I (like every other person on this planet) go to work, build relationships, spend time with friends, do ministry all while He is changing, molding, remaking...and sometimes it's just too much.

Does that even make sense?

The inner turmoil, the God-working thing, takes over. Which is awesome. I want Him to work in my life. But it's like being back at square one with the moodiness thing. Apparently, we've (God and me) only passed Emotions 101 (my fault). Isn't it weird, that a weakness, a struggle, a sin, whatever it needs to be called, has been overcome until He begins working on other areas? And then it just pops it's little head up again. Arg.

It relieves me to know that it's not up to me to "find" joy or contentment or peace. I don't have to create them. And they're not emotions. God is joy, he gives contentment. He is peace. A lot of the time I know that and remember it. Sometimes, I just need a good kick upside the head.

Hello to this week.

God and I are in the middle of an argument about real trust in all areas blah blah blah so I've been a little (say it!) moody.

We can still be friends right? Even with my little bit of crazy? It's endearing, right? Right?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You Are My Sunshine

Spring has finally sprung. Leaves are unfurling, flowers are blooming, umbrellas are opening. Yes, umbrellas. In China, the whiter, the better. Most women wear hats, sunscreen and carry around large umbrellas to shield every nook and cranny against the sun.

Moving was our school-wide soccer tournament. Our six schools from all over the country came to Qingdao to compete and I came out to get some sun to watch. It was a perfect day to be outside.

This tree made me happy.

My friends and our picnic lunch.

My view from the sidelines.

The little one that calls me "Brown-Jenny".

The umbrellas.

P.S. I'm regretting not centering these pictures but it's too much work to change them now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Behind The Smoke Screen

So I 'had' to discuss the "English Corner Experience" with my students today. I polled one of my classes and almost half of them believe in aliens, many believe in magic, several believe that the end of the world is coming soon (I even got a post-trib comment)...the scales have fallen off the eyeballs. Apparently, there are A LOT of people who have the same sentiment as those last night. Who knew? Not me. I live in a no-alien-unmagical-Jesus-is-comin'-when-He's-a'comin-unelevatored-to-the-moon-world. Hm, doesn't sound very fun.

I did do some research and here's what I found...

About the magic school in America: It actually exists. Kind of. It's an online, uncertified school. It seems like there's some bath-robe wearing but besides that, it's on the up-and-up as far as online magic schools go. More info can be found here. My class discussed it and we decided that the reporter (the one who wrote the article that The Intellect read) didn't do all of his homework in finding out if it was a REAL school. Anyway, there you go all you Harry Potter wannabes.

As for the elevator to the seems little too geekish for my taste in reading but feel free to go here and here if you want more information. Apparently, it's a pretty well-discussed topic.

What about you? Any thoughts on aliens or elevators or magic? Do tell!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things I Learned At English Corner #1

English Corner. Ever heard of it?

Per Google and Wikipedia: The phrase English Corner commonly applies to informal periods of instruction in English held at schools and colleges in China. These sessions are sometimes led by native Chinese teachers or less often by teachers who are native speakers of English.

It's quite popular as an expat, to participate in English Corners. It allows one to build relationships with locals in a casual setting.

I've just started going to an EC. Each corner works differently so I can't speak for all of them but we meet at a coffee shop for a couple of hours once a week. It seems to be (I can't really use the word "usually" since I've only been there twice now) an average of 5-6 Westerners and anywhere from 15-25 Chinese people all sitting around tables drinking coffee, taking turns asking questions. There are a several groups within the big group as the foreigners are usually spread out.

My first time I went, the questions centered around who I was, what I did, what they did, where we're from, economics and American religion. It was all very proper and semi-boring. I suppose I could've taken some of the talk to a deeper level but I just feel like there needs to be relationships built before any real openness occurs.

Tonight...tonight was the best night of my life (a little bit of an exaggeration but not much). I'm almost willing to bet that I will never have another EC as awesome as this one was. Before I get into topics, let me tell a little bit about each of the people that go.

  • Kelley- expat teacher, good friend, reason I started going to EC
  • Brian- Canadian, a little volatile, interesting, not pertinent to this post
  • Funny guy- Chinese man with a sense of HUMOR
  • The Intellect- older Chinese man maybe upper 70's, always asking about meanings of words, quiet
  • Has a Girlfriend- Chinese student, I only use this as his defining characteristic because he leaves tomorrow to travel with his girlfriend all over southern China. Her family is really traditional so they have to have a chaperone on the trip. Who's the chaperone? Her very traditional father.
  • Smooth- young Chinese guy, very Westernized, cute and knows it
  • No Name- a nice Chinese woman, don't know her name, doesn't have any defining characteristics
I will probably add to this character list as time goes by but these are all the important players. Now on to things discussed tonight.

It started off with embarrassing moments. We each went around and shared a little story. I told about a time I fell getting on the bus and landed on the bus driver. Smooth told about how he was schooled at basketball by his younger and smaller cousin. Has a Girlfriend shared about how he gave a speech and used the phrase "Aunt Flow came for a visit" in the wrong context but the whole class erupted in laughter.

Then we moved on to important moments, meaningful moments. No Name talked about a time when a man asked her to move out of the way and called her old. Has a Girlfriend shared about how he used to light paper airplanes on fire and throw them out the window. He burned his neighbors nicely drying cloth diapers to the ground. Apparently it was the first time he ever told anyone and I couldn't help but laugh a little. I shared about demolishing a bird bath in our rented house when I was 6 or 7.

Then we moved on to acronyms. We started throwing them out... asap, lol, brb...and then The Intellect brings up UFO. I ask, "Do you believe in UFOs and aliens?"...and it all just goes down hill from there.

The Intellect: Oh yes of course I do.
Me:Really? Why?
The Intellect: Because there's so much space out there, there must be aliens.
Then Has a Girlfriend jumps in....
Has a Girlfriend: I don't believe in UFOs but I believe in aliens.
Me: No UFOs but aliens?
Kelley: How do the aliens get to earth?
Has a Girlfriend: They are magic. They have magic. Did you know that there's a school in America that is working with kids that can do magic?
Me and Kelley: [not smirking] No, really? I had no idea. They can really do magic?
Has a Girlfriend: Yah, they have special powers....[he goes on to explain something about humans getting these special powers from aliens or something but I can't really remember. My mind is so blown by this point...]
Kelley and Smooth were privately discussing the issue of aliens. Smooth didn't believe in aliens but when asked if there was anything he believed in, he mentioned the end of the world in 2012. So then Kelley...

Kelley: Does anyone else believe in the end of the world in 2012.
Has a Girlfriend: Yes, I definitely do.
Me: Wait, what?
Has a Girlfriend: I believe the world is going to end in 2012.
Me: So you believe that you have 7 months to live?
Has a Girlfriend: Yes.

This prompted a discussion on "if you only have 7 months to live, what would you do differently". Has a Girlfriend says he's going to collect documentaries and books and bury them. Funny Guy says he's going to create the contraption that will allow him to live (which led to an entire discussion on surviving in hot air balloons if the world was covered in lava). The Intellect also said he would build something that would allow him to survive but he was quite adamant that he didn't believe in 2012. Actually, the general consensus of the group was that yes, there were aliens but no, the world wouldn't end in 2012.

Anyway, while we were in the middle of all this discussion of only having 7 months to live and survival and aliens and magic, The Intellect leans over to me and says,

The Intellect: I've been reading a magazine that predicts that in 20 years, US scientists will have built an elevator to the moon. There'll be a launch pad right here in China, in Beijing.
Me: Wait, what? (apparently this is the only phrase I can come up with when in shock)
The Intellect: In 20 years, there will be elevators to the moon., well, what will we do on the moon?
The Intellect: [looks at me like I'm crazy] I don't know. The magazine didn't say.

I, of course, had to share this with the rest of the group and ask their thoughts on it. Funny guy, who actually does build elevators, joked that he "would in fact be in charge of building the elevators to the moon and that all instructions would be in Chinese. And that the official language on the moon will most definitely be Chinese. We'd (Kelley and I) better practice now."

It was the most entertaining and semi-disturbing conversation I've ever had. Several questions come to mind.

  1. Do they believe everything they read in the newspaper here? Magic houses and elevators to the moon...
  2. Do they think every movie in the West is based on reality? Harry Potter, The X-men...
  3. If they really thought they only have 7 months to live, would they really only work on finding a way to survive? There isn't anything they would change about their life now?
I'm really excited about this group. They're fun and willing to share. They seem open to discussion. I'm hoping to have a chance to get deeper and really talk about issues. Maybe talk to them about some Truth. We'll see.

Man, I have never learned so much in one conversation. Can't wait until next week (mostly because Has a Girlfriend will be reporting on the trip with his girlfriend and THE CHAPERONE).

**I'm afraid of what this post is going to make you think about these beautiful people. They are not stupid or uneducated. In fact, most of the people that come to EC are the wealthy, college graduates. I'm not sure why they believe what they believe. I think it'll be interesting to find out as time and conversations allow, where they learned it and why they hold to some of these ideas. It's like a puzzle. It doesn't fit yet, but it's because I don't have all the pieces. It'll probably take years to put it together. In fact, I hope it does.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Banquet 2011

Just a few pics of the Spring Banquet. I didn't really feel comfortable putting up pics of my students so it's just some of the staff. The bravest ones.

The theme was "Fashion Week: NYC". ???

Stolen Poem

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

-Ellen Bass

Monday, April 11, 2011



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy Day?

I'm leading worship in the morning. I get to do it once a month and I LOVE it. And loath it. Okay, I don't loath it but it really is one of the hardest things I do. I always enter it with a little trepidation. It's this weird mix of feeling inadequate and unworthy. I'm not great at what I do but I love to worship. And I'm learning about myself that I love to lead others in worship.

This week has been really difficult to choose songs. It's Easter month, a celebration and remembering. But it's still a time of hardship and loss for my community. It's been two weeks since Tim died and I'm not sure what's appropriate to sing about. I've really struggled with choosing the right songs. Can we praise and have fun? Is it okay to get a little rowdy?

Arg. I don't know.

The opening song is called "Happy Day". It's super peppy and so fun to sing. It almost makes one want to dance.

The greatest day in history
Death is beaten, you have rescued me,
Sing it out, Jesus is alive!
The empty cross, the empty grave
Life eternal, you have won the day,
Shout it out, Jesus is alive
He's alive

Oh, happy day, happy day,
You washed my sins away
Oh, happy day, happy day,
I'll never be the same
Forever I am changed...

It's a great song. A happy, joyful reminder of Christ's sacrifice. But even as I write this, I'm at war with myself. Is it appropriate to sing at this time? Or is it Happiness? If it is, is that okay?

I was talking with a friend about it and she said, "Jen, in times like this, I have to CHOOSE joy." That really stuck with me. I don't even know if I know what that means yet. I can choose to understand. I can choose to be content. I can choose peace. I can choose acceptance. But can I choose joy? I'm talking personally here. Can I, have I, chosen joy? In spite of circumstances, can I still be joyful about what God has done for me, in me?

That's why I decided to keep the song in my set list. Because I want to choose joy. Not happiness. But joyfulness. I want to remember what He has done for me and be joyful about it.

The second verse says, "When I stand in that place, free at last, meeting face to face, I am yours, Jesus you are mine. Endless joy, perfect peace, earthly pain finally will cease. Celebrate, Jesus is alive. He's alive!"

Those words are really powerful if I really believe them.

As for the rest of the service we're singing- Sing to the King, Unchanging (Raise Up Holy Hands), My Savior My God, Stronger, Overcome, and My Jesus I Love Thee.

I'm hoping to remind us not only of Christ's sacrifice in death and power in His resurrection but also that He cares about each of us, individually. He is unchanging, He is our strength, our Overcomer. And He deserves our praise.

Pray. Pray is what I need to do.

Remember That One Time...

When I mentioned that I sang those one songs in that one place? Well, here they are.

I think my favorite things are Thony (to the left of me) and the background singers/yellers.

This recording was more about the people watching me. It didn't turn out very well. But you can kind of get the idea.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I've been called a lot of names in the course of my life...Jennifer Christine, Jen Brown, Jen, Jenny, Jenny-benny-poo-bear, Jen-i-faaaaah, Jennabug, Ferfer, JB, Satan (truly), and a whole bunch that are probably not appropriate for this blog. But recently, a new one has emerged. And it might be my favorite.

Last week, I had a few friends over for dinner. One of them was Jenny-lea, who is important to this story because her name is so similar to mine and another was Sonya, a two year old little girl who is maybe one of the smartest things I've ever come across.

Sonya and I have spent time together on a couple of occasions but it's been awhile. She and Jenny-lea are together quite often. Having us both together, Jenny-lea and Jen, made it very difficult for sweet Sonya to remember who was who. So, her solution? Make up a nickname for me.

Brown Jenny.

Yes, that's right. Jenny-lea and Brown Jenny.

My new nickname given to me by a two year old- Brown Jenny.

It sounds a little...wrong. Doesn't it?

And yet, awesomely funny.

Of course, it's only cute coming from her mouth. Her sweet little two year old mouth. Coming from anyone else and I might have to hurt you. So don't get any ideas.


Today is the last official day of Spring Break. I still have the weekend but it doesn't really count because I have meetings to go to and worship to lead and papers to grade and lessons to plan. Because of course I put everything off to the last minute. That is Jen Brown.

It has been a lovely week full of laughter, movies, sightseeing, buses, not enough sleep, good conversations and friends.

It's been a defining week, relationally speaking. My friendships have been tightened and reaffirmed. Much needed quality time has been spent with those that build me up and make me want to be a better person. I have shared my heart and mind with those that care about me. I have learned how to love my friends better and how to communicate with them in a deeper way. I've added accountability and openness to already healthy friendships.

I've had times in my life where good, deep friendships have been lacking. Don't get me wrong, I've always had a lot of friends, people to hang out with, laugh with. But there have been definite times where even within those groups that I've felt isolated or alone. I think that's just part of my personality- to be the fun one. The one that's leaned on. The one that leads and laughs. I love those roles. I fufill my duties with pride. Let's laugh and play and have good discussions. But sharing my heart, the real deep me, well, it doesn't happen often. It's not expected or asked for. That's not my role. And I can accept that.

So it makes me happy that I have friends here, in a land far away from what's comfortable or normal, in a place where it's easy to keep casual friendships because of the transient-ness (new word), friends that I can be 'me' around. People that push me to grow and love and change. That allow for honesty and mistakes. I recognize how unusual and valuable it is to have what I have. I also recognize that I may not always have it...sometimes I think God is preparing me for harder roads...but that's another blog post.

I am thankful that I serve a God who knows how important relationships are to me and has provided the very best for me. Even in this foreign land.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bullet Points #2- Spring Break

Every time I do this kind of post it means that I'm making myself do it. Blogging for me is like cleaning the house. If I don't keep up with it, things pile up so high I think "what's the point?". So, "bullet points" is a drive-by cleaning of sorts.
  • It's Spring Break and I've had a lovely week. My friend Abby came to visit from Wuhan and we've had a lot of fun. I definitely laughed A LOT.
  • Monday we had a Disney marathon. We watched Mulan, Tarzan, Lion King, and Aladdin. Good times.
  • On Tuesday, Abby and I decided to take the ferry over to Huangdao (Hooahngdow). It's the other peninsula across the bay. It's about a 45 min trip across the water. It was supposed to be a day trip to the beach full of sunshine and reading and relaxing. Instead it was full of searching for the ferry, bus rides and lost iPods. It took us 5 different people, a closed yacht club, a taxi, a bus, a REALLY long line, and a 45 min. ride on the ferry to get to the island. A total of 4 hours. We then ate dinner, walked down by the water, and then left. A total of an hour and half. Yes, really. And within that measly hour and half, I lost my iPod. It was an adventure for sure.
  • Did I mention I lost my iPod? My dear sweet iPod? The love of my life?
  • It's like God's trying to teach me to live without technology.
  • I've now lost 2 cellphones, have a broken laptop and camera and now the iPod.
  • Arg.
  • You know how some people aren't morning people or night people? I'm not an after-noon person. From 1-4pm, stick a fork in my, I'm done.
  • I have some friends that play in a band at a restaurant in town. Tuesday night they had me come on stage and sing a couple of songs. I Will Always Love You and My Heart Will Go On. Why? Why would I sing THOSE songs? I know, they make your ears bleed. Two things. 1. The Chinese LOVE them. 2. They're the only songs I know the lyrics to.
  • I've decided that sweet & sour pork is my FAVORITE Chinese dish. Ever.
  • Good conversations. I love good conversations. I've had lots of them this week. It's been a good week.
  • Have you seen the movie "Red"? You must. It is hi-larious.
  • So, when you get a new cellphone, you have to buy a phone number. Different numbers cost different amounts. If it's an unlucky number or contains unlucky numbers, it'll be cheap. But if it's a good number, it can cost an arm and a leg, I prefer cheap and unlucky...of course, I do keep losing my phone. Maybe I should reconsider.

That is all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ah Snap!

Have I mentioned how much I love my students? Today, I decided to show them how playing an April Fool's Day joke on them. :)

It was test day in one of my classes. We've been studying the Byzantine and Middle Ages for the last few weeks so I needed to get in the test before Spring Break. Yes, I'm one of the those teachers, cram it all in before break, that's my motto.

So, I decided to make two tests. One "awesome" test (a.k.a. fake) and one legitimate test (on another note, we're going to see how many times I can use the word "test" in this post). The real test was actually pretty hard so I thought if I give them an "awesome" test first, they'll be on their knees thanking me for the real/hard test.

They come in to class, we review for about 10 minutes. Then I have them get out two sheets of paper which is pretty unusual for a History test. It's not like you really need scratch paper or anything. At this point they're kind of making the Scooby Doo noise, Hhhrrrhhh?, but they don't really say much. I have them clear of their desks and them I tell them not to turn the test over until I say. I pass them all out, face down. Here's what the test looked like...

Please write a 1000 word essay on the Byzantine Empire and the Middle Ages including the following terms:

100 Years War
The Crusades
Pepin the Short
Charles Martel
Leader of Catholic/Eastern Orthodox Church
Magna Carta
Black Death....and about 15 more terms.

I told them they needed to organize the info, write an intro with a solid thesis statement, several body paragraphs and a closing- number their pages, and a few other details.
They didn't say one word. Not a sound. A couple of them had faces like, "You're kidding right? This is an April Fool's Joke, yes?" I told those faces to "Get to work."

They were so serious. Most of them started writing, a few organized. I decided I was going to wait 5 minutes or until someone started crying before I stopped them.

No one cried (to my disappointment) so at the end of 5 minutes, I went to the front of the classroom and said in the most serious voice possible, "I need your attention for a moment. Please stop working...April Fools! This isn't your real test!!!!"

All 15 of them literally yelled a relieved sigh. Some of them were shaking, a few were sweating. I had to turn off the heat and open the window, they were so hot. It was awesome.
It took them at least 5 minutes to calm down before I could give them their real test. And they were pretty happy with the real test....comparatively speaking.

I'll confess that I'm a little nervous about retaliation. I suppose I kind of deserve it. Kind of.