Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back in Meiguo

After the longest Saturday I've ever had, I finally got home at 1 am Sunday morning. I was luggage-less, but very happy to be outside of airports. Let me tell you, traveling through five airports in one day is not recommended! Nor do I recommend transferring from international to domestic at LAX. My 3+ hour layover was just long enough to get through the lines there. Because of a delay at LAX, I ended up getting in 40 minutes late in Chicago. Not a good situation when you only have a 45 minute layover. As the plane sat 50 feet from the gate for about 10 minutes I was close to wanting to scream. As soon as the plane pulled the rest of the way to the gate I sprinted for my next gate, and discovered I really need more cardiovascular exercise. Breathless and panting, I arrived at the gate, only to realize they had closed the door three minutes earlier. A few minutes later, another woman from my Chicago flight jogged up to the gate and I shared the bad news with her. The two of us headed off to the ticket counter, and were lucky enough to get some of the last seats on the last flight to Indy that night on United. She was sweet enough to let me use her cell phone to call my parents. I love the kindness of strangers here! And the fact that I can communicate with them! :)

Speaking of the kindness of strangers, I had the neatest encounter as I ran errands on Sunday. I was in a candle store (I found a cinnamon and spice candle that is going to make my apartment smell AWESOME in the fall) and I struck up a conversation with the cashier. After talking for a few minutes, she asked if it would be ok to lay hands on me and lift me up. This simple act was such an encouragement!

I'm now down in Florida and am getting in a full dose of my 3 month old nephew Ethan. Before Aunt Katherine came, he would nap only in people's arms. Not that I don't love a sleeping baby in my arms, but this high-maintenance behavior was going to be altered if at all possible (I had the full approval and encouragement of my sister in this endeavor). Sure enough, in this first full day with me I've gotten him to take a nap in his crib and his swing. I should be taking advantage of this time to work on my essays for grad class...but, updating the blog is more enjoyable. Pictures of the little guy to come soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

America here I come! Tomorrow at 6 am I'll begin my 30-some hour journey back to the States. This year, I'm going by way of Changchun...and Korea...and LAX...and Chicago, before arriving in Indianapolis. :) Five airports in one very long day! It will be fun to travel with the Clements family part of the way (to LA), though.

These last couple weeks have been jam-packed with final get-togethers, parties, performances, grading, grad work, and saying goodbyes. It's all left me at the moment feeling quite tired and a little bit numb. This year has been defined by refining, overwhelming faithfulness and tenderness from the Father, and then more refining. There has been so much happening in my heart and my life that I'm looking forward to getting away from my normal environment for a bit to process all that's happened. This summer will be filled with lots of activity and catching up with all of you wonderful people...but I'm also looking forward to some quieter moments where I can just sit and be still.

Thanks for all of your encouragement! I'll be seeing all of you soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy everyday

I recently finished reading the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It's a book that will probably leave me thinking for a long time, but there was a particular passage that jumped out at me in light of where I'm working. One of the common phrases in Chinese is "happy everyday" and it is quite common for students to say, "I wish you happy everyday". When my students write in their journals about their hopes for the future and their purpose in life, their answers often revolve around happiness. First and foremost, they want their family to have a very happy life, and secondarily they wish to have a happy life. In no way do I believe being happy is a bad thing; however, I would argue against having it as a sole aim and purpose of life. Huxley's words seemed particularly fitting for this Chinese mindset:
But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose--well, you didn't know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes--make them lose their faith in happiness as the sovereign good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.
Last weekend, the team took an end of the year retreat to Shenyang. Despite the fact that I began the trip with a 100 degree fever, it was an awesome time of relaxing and reflecting. I sometimes forget how vital it is to "get away" for a little bit, even if things are incredibly busy. The short trip gave me a final boost of energy for this last push of the semester. I'm in wrap-up mode--and will be getting on a plane in 15 days!