Around this time last year, I was posting the announcement for my return to China for the 2016-2017 school year at my little technical college in the Hubei Province.
I titled the post ‘Another LEAP’ because, honestly, that was what it felt like: A giant leap of faith. It was one of those, “yeah I really like it here but I also just wanna go home where I have reliable electricity and insulation.” I had to fight my want for comforts in order to trust that the return was indeed the will of God.
The Spring semester brought me new friendships that became my final encouragement for the “yes” response. They were exactly what I needed in order to be completely confident in that second leap back into this land of everyday adventures, both good and bad. Something told me that the ride wasn’t over….the growth challenge wasn’t complete.
I say growth challenge because that’s exactly what I’d call this chapter of my life. If I told you I wasn’t challenged by many pressures/encroaching insecurities/debilitating anxiety and cultural differences, I’d be dishonest. I miss my family, especially my two precious nephews who are not waiting to age on my behalf (although I wish it could be so). I am in a long-distance relationship that takes every bit of effort that can be given. We are two imperfect humans that really really like each other. And I’ve missed him.
The negatives do seem to outweigh positives some days but that’s just part of the journey. That doesn’t discredit the overall beauty of what this season has been, trust me.
Let me get more into that!
In my previous article, I claimed the hope of completely diving head-first into the next year. I didn’t want a tip-toe lifestyle, avoiding the discomfort of trying new experiences that stretch you and make you get those funny little knots in your stomach. I wanted the knots! I said, “Gimme some of those belly knots, please!” Because I had already grasped the concept of the rewards that come with the challenges. And, boy, have I had many-a-knots in my belly these past ten months! From speaking in front of a thousand young students, completely unprepared, to gripping onto the seat beneath me in a minivan trekking down a narrow, bumpy mountain road, I’ve been provided with many breath-taking moments that will be etched into my memories for the rest of my life. And sandwiched in between all of these moments were opportunities to share the beautiful truth that makes me who I am and how I am. I got to explain what gives me the boldness to overcome my fears and face the unknown. I’ve gotten to explain the Matthew 5:16 tattoo on my right shoulder and have deep conversations about what faith means to me. I’ve gotten to share the message of hope with so many people simply because of the “head-first” attitude that carried me through the times of doubt.
This season also brought something that I didn’t expect: family. We call each other the “foreigners group,” because we are a collective of ESL teachers, from various countries, that all have the common thread of being strangers to this land. And most days we feel very foreign. It may be our skin color, or our inability to hold a conversation in the local dialect, but we are definitely looked at as an outsider; and rightly so, if we’re honest. But this “outsider” label has united us in a way that is so powerful. We may not have the same first-language, skin color or cultural background, but we have all made the decision to come to China and become better people by it. That means something. And some days we have to wonder what in the world we were thinking as we gather around the dinner table and tell stories of our “crazy week.”
We are each other’s confidante’s, advice-givers, encouragers and security blankets for the days that seem hopeless. To me, they are God-sent. They have awakened in me a new passion for the people in, not only China, but all the world. They remind me of just how alike we all are. That we have this invisible thread weaving through our souls that connects us in ways that are easier to discover when you have open and inviting conversations. When you drop the “my country is better at ____” and actually open your mind to the possibility that your way might not be the only right way, it’s beautiful. It’s a glimpse of heaven.
“the greatest part of family is it’s inseparability by mileage.”
And then there are my sweet, loving China-natives. The people that took me in with open arms and tried their very best to make me feel at home. They led me through wild adventures and made me get out of my little protective shell long enough to truly experience the joys of life.They welcomed me to their homes, offices and lives in general without hesitation. They showered me with praise that I didn’t deserve, but was all-the-more thankful for. Every day I’ve learned something new and am amazed by all this place has to offer.
China will always feel like home to me, and for that I can only praise God.
He gave me opportunity, the guts to do it, and the gifts that followed.
But now is the time to LEAP back to the States. I say leap because it is going to take equal faith to go back home as it did coming back here for the first and second rounds. Now that I’ve finally gotten accustomed to the culture, language and relationships, I am officially LEAVING? I find myself going back to re-check the time of my departure and thinking is it really that soon!?!? And I get weird butterflies (or knots, if you will) in my stomach every time I think about it.
This tells me something: It was worth it. All those times of doubt, vulnerability and blind-trust in God totally led me to the best years of my entire life. I didn’t have to wave a magic wand or buy an expensive beauty product to find happiness. All I had to do was be present to the joys that God wanted to give me.
For those who have been following my journey: Thank you.
Thank you for your care, support and prayers.
You’ve helped me thrive.
Also, please keep them coming as I re-integrate back into an American lifestyle.
With earnest and relentless prayer, we can change the world.
The Travelling Aunt