Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shenyang

In my previous post I mentioned an opportunity to go to a women's conference in Shenyang.  Initially, I expected nothing to come of hearing of this conference, so I was pleasantly surprised when two of my teammates said basically, "Why not! Lets go."  They offered childcare.  So off we went, three girls ready for adventure, toting Xavier along.  


Weddings were everywhere this weekend.  In fact, we passed a wedding procession before we even got our first taxi to the train station.  


We had a few dilemmas along the way, which provided more opportunities to trust Father.  The first involved Erica's ticket being purchased with a previous passport number.  While Kristalyn and Erica petitioned the ticketing agent, I talked to Father.  He cares about everything.  The agent was very kind and helpful.  The whole process of fixing her ticket went unusually smooth.  


We boarded the train behind us, and I sat between my friends so Xavier would be surrounded.  He mooched pb and J from Kristalyn on the way there.  Once we arrived and disembarked, our hotel was a convenient short walk from the station.  


So many weddings!  In fact, several took place on the same floor as our conference, which made for amusing background music.  


They have Papa Johns in Shenyang!  Xavier ate his first whole piece of pizza :)


Cute little signs everywhere.


I was so thankful for the childcare.  Two of the best things about the conference were the intimate and glorifying conversations I had with my teammates and the time I spent in our room while Xavier was away having quiet time to myself, and reading a book I had been wanting to finish.  One  of my goals this year is to read more.  There are so many great books out there, and I just finished two:  Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem by Dennis and Barbara Rainey and SisterChicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn.  I'm currently reading The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst.  After childcare was over for the afternoon, I headed on a walk with Kristalyn, and Xavier fell asleep.  Lately, he falls asleep more easily on stroller rides.  We  got to sit at Starbucks, and enjoy peaceful conversation while actually sitting, not having to chase and corral him.  It was delightful, and he is adorable :)


That night we had a buffet dinner at a hotel a short walk away on the 28th floor.  This was our view.
Although, I must admit the style of presentation of the conference was not what I'm used too and challenging for me to appreciate, there was so much there for me to be grateful for.  The  music led by medical students from various parts of Africa was uplifting and beautiful, the times we spent talking to Father we focused on lifting others, we stayed in a very nice room with yummy food provided for an amazingly inexpensive price, we got to meet people from around the world, including a new connection in our own city, and it was refreshing to get away and appreciate home.  Nothing was wasted.  


Xavier likes to push his own stroller these days.  The last session ended around 3:00, and we had about 5 1/2 hours to kill before our train left, so we chose to walk to a nearby mall to walk around and have supper.  Xavier had been so good up to that point, that I received many comments about how calm he was and such a great traveller.  He really is, but even a great traveller can only handle so much, and when that great traveller is a toddler, at some point you can expect a meltdown.  This occurred at the mall, we found a grocery store.  He decided he was hungry.  A well-meaning salesperson gave him an orange sample on a toothpick.  He decided to lick it instead of eating it.  I finally couldn't stand it any longer, and took the treat away.  I had visions of him poking his eye or the back of his throat with this toothpick, and having to quickly find the nearest hopspital here.  I didn't see a trash can anywhere, so I swallowed down the orange, and put the toothpick in my purse, at which point X started screaming.  He had giant tears rolling down his red face, and I'm pretty sure I got some misunderstanding looks.  This was the beginning of several hours of discontent for poor Xavier.  While supper was delicious, it was not eaten in peace.  


We still had time to kill afterwards, so we walked around with grumpy X.  Then we found it, the oasis.  On the fifth floor, there was a beautiful new area with a room full of IKEA toys and completely void of children.  Xavier got to play, and release his overstimulation.  The place was clean complete with rooms with cribs, nursing rooms, changing station, and a scale (what?).  The lady running it was enthralled with Xavier, and gave us to opportunity for my Chinese speaking teammates to have a meaningful conversation with her.  


On our way out, we found some fun photo opportunities.  Eden loves to draw the Mona Lisa, so I took this pic for her.


Erica did lots of shopping ;)


My friends said I looked a little tooo happy here!

So... we got to the station relaxed, and lined up to get our tickets punched when the ticketing agent noticed they were for the next day!  This all would seem like an "Ooops!"  However, I called Jacob to intervene on our behalf while Erica and Kristalyn went to figure out what to do.  We missed that train, but wound up getting the one that left 15 minutes later, and arrived 20 minutes earlier.  Hurray!

Xavier fell asleep at the station, slept the whole train ride, and taxi ride!  The taxi ride was another answer.  Many times at night from the station, taxis want to bargain, and charge outrageous prices, but we got a great taxi who used the meter moments after another driver said we would never get one and wanted to charge almost triple the cost.  

Showers of Blessing:
Getting away with girls
Kind ticketing agents
My good little traveller
Yummy treats
Time alone to refresh my heart
Nice cheap place to stay
Fun little amusing signs
Childcare
Sweet conversations
Inspired authors who write great books
Beautiful music
The Oasis
Mona Lisa
Great friends
Happy "accidents"
Honest taxi driver
Precious family to come home to
Husband who made the most of time with older kids
A Father who cares about the details, His plans are better than I could possibly imagine

Friday, September 5, 2014

Welcome Back! Have Some Chicken Feet.

We are home.  The goodbyes were so very hard, but I knew once we made it to the other side, we would be okay.  For one, after about 24 hours of flying and layovers, it's great to be on solid ground.  It's good to be back to our own space, to enjoy old routines, and to make new ones.  The kids were happy to have their own rooms again, to practice piano, to have family story time, to have the freedom to run outside and play with their friends everyday, and to eat jiaozi (dumplings).  Jacob and I were thankful to have our own place again, feeling more like home than ever.  We missed the fruit market and all the fresh fruits and vegetables that we enjoy, and we missed Chinese food, even the funny things that are strange and memorable to us, like the chicken feet we were served today.
                                                  
We have hit the ground running with Jacob starting classes this week, and I started homeschooling the kids.  The hardest thing for them is waiting for recess when I release them to go play with their friends.  They are both doing well, and Ephraim, so far, is handling cursive better than I thought.  He's even a bit of a perfectionist with it, wanting it to be right the first time.  Our team has changed this year, but I look forward to seeing how Father is going to use us all.  Much brainstorming has already occurred from great minds with passionate hearts.  Last week, we had a slight glitch.  We encountered an unexpected problem with Eden's visa.  We planned to get her a new passport after we returned since it was easier to do here, but we found out you have to have 180 days left in your passport to get a visa, and Eden had 170.  We made an emergency trip by train to the consulate in Shenyang.  Friends kept the boys, and we left early, enjoying Ikea where we purchased a few items like kids plates, coat hangers for the wall, a hammer toy for Christmas for Xavier, and magnate cannisters for the fridge (my favorite purchase).  I'm still deciding what to put in those.  We also enjoyed their yummy hot dogs, which cost about 50 cents.  
                                        
At the consulate we met up with friends from Changchun getting a passport for their baby.  We were able to get Eden an emergency passport that day which is good for one year.  We also applied for a 5 year one that will be ready in a few weeks.  While we were there, we made some very meaningful connections.  An American man who has lived in China for many years was able to connect Jacob to a public speaking group in our city, which would be so beneficial to help prepare him for his speaking class next semester.  We also met a young woman who told me about a seminar for foreign women.  I and two of my teammates are now hoping to attend this.  When all was said and done, Eden had to make three trips to the visa office, but if these issues had not occured, we would have missed the opportunity to hear about this public speaking group and this seminar.  Sometimes, what we see as hindrances from the enemy, are an opportunity to trust Father, and lead us to His sweet gifts.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Amazingly enough, I only had a few moments of anxiety throughout this whole visa problem.  Most of the time I felt His sweet peace, resting assured that He wants us to be here.  
Showers of Blessing:
The joy all around of being back
Precious friends for our kids to play with
3 different breads and fruit from 3 different friends waiting on us when we arrived
Fresh fruits and veggies
Chicken feet, yes, even that!
Teammates, old and new with a desire to serve
Ikea food and goodies
Familiar faces
Public speaking group
Seminar
This moment, right now, at my favorite coffee shop, having just had a quiet time with Father