Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Music

Listening to Christmas music is one of my favorite things in the world.  Living in Asia it is very rare to hear Christmas music played outside the occasional Starbucks. Thankfully I have my iPod loaded with hours of wonderful music.   Here are some of the songs that I've been playing incessantly the last few weeks because of their great lyrics and meanings.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I had a wonderful thanksgiving dinner last night with members of my Beijing community. I made mashed potatoes and the green bean casserole. Here is a picture of the feast we had that included a large turkey!

In the spirit of giving thanks, I wanted to take a moment and share some of the many things I am grateful for this year.
~Being able to be His light in one of the biggest and most important cities in the world.
~Supportive and encouraging friends back in the States
~His timing.  Though things do not always happen like I planned, His timing is perfect and things
 work out much better with Him in control.
~The great progress I have made learning Mandarin this year.
~For a group of friends who constantly amaze me with their ability to love and serve those around them.
~That I am put in situations outside of my comfort-zone which causes me to grow.
~Skype and the internet which allows me to easily stay connected with everyone across the globe.
~Being able to learn something new everyday.
~Growing in my relationship with my Father and learning to hear His voice in new ways.

And I get to have another Thanksgiving meal tomorrow with another friends! I so thankful for the blessings of good food and fellowship.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grammar Lesson

I wanted to share with you all a portion of my language text book so you can see how I am learning to speak, read, and write Chinese.

This dialogue captures a discussion between David and Yamamoto about last night's World Cup game. Here is my translation:

Yamamoto: David, why are your eyes red?  Did you stay up late to watch the World Cup game last night?
David: I'm a big fan of the French team so of course I watched! Did you watch the game?
Yamamoto: I was busy preparing for the HSK exam so I am extremely tired.  Last night I watched the part of the game and then fell asleep.  What was the final score?
David: 1 to 1.  Right at the end of the game the Korean team scored a goal.
Yamamoto:  Really? I thought that at the end of the first half France was winning.
David: During the first half France was playing really well.  But, during the second half Korea was playing well, with France playing poorly.  The more I watched the more anxious and angry I became.
Yamamoto: There's no reason to be angry. That was France's first game, trust that the team will play better in the next game.
David: I hope France's next game will go smoothly. It's the finals and I want to win!

This dialogue introduced thirteen new words and a new grammatical structure. The new grammar point, 越。。。越,means increasingly, or more and more. In the Chinese transcription I have highlighted the 越。。。越 so you can see how often the text reinforces the new grammar point. The underlined words are the new words found in the dialogue.

山本: 大卫, 你的眼睛怎吗这吗红! 昨天晚上熬夜世界杯了吧?
大卫: 我是法国队的球迷, 当然要看了! 你没看吗?
山本: 最近忙着准备HSK考试, 特别累。昨天晚上我躺着看看比赛, 没想到, 看到一半就睡着了。 最好比分是多少?
大卫: 1 比 1。 比赛快结束的时候, 韩国队进了一球
山本: 是吗? 我觉得上半场韩国队踢不如法国队啊。
大卫: 上半场法国队踢得不错。 可是, 下半场韩国队越踢越好,法国队越踢越, 我越看越着急越看越生气
山本: 别着急, 这只是法国队的第一场比赛, 相信他们会越踢越好的
大卫:  希望法国队能越踢越顺利, 最好能踢进决赛, 再得一次冠军。

While not every dialogue in the textbook is interesting or a conversation I will ever have in real life, it is extremely helpful to be able to learn words in context.  These dialogues help me to understand proper Mandarin grammar and phrasing.  I use 越。。。越 on a daily basis.  When local friends ask how my Chinese lessons are going I say "越学越好“, the more I study the more I improve.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pictures of City Life

Typical grocery store layout

My friend and I with the owner of our favorite restaurant.

                                      Going green--who needs a dryer?

                                                      Fun in the park

   Traffic jam in a busy intersection

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Living life in community is a wonderfully messy thing and I recommend it for everyone!  Intentionally sharing life with people challenges, grows , matures and humbles you in the best possible ways.  There are times when it brings me nothing but sheer joy to share life with great people here, to be readily available for others, to invest in them and have them invest in me.  I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that living in community has irrevociably made me a better person. I am more attentive to other's needs, more reliant on the HS for wisdom in how to respond, more careful with my words, more supportive, and a more caring human being.

However, there are times when being in a covenant relationship with people is also draining.  Sometimes I feel too tired to actively engage other people. There are things that I need to get done:  assignments, emails, running errands, focusing on the people around me....wait, in my desire to serve people I can easily ignore the person in front of me.  In my selfishness I can choose to not engage in a conversation that will push me out of my comfort zone by using the excuse that I am "too busy serving people" or "focusing on my min."  And that is what it all boils down to in the end, selfishness.  I am a selfish human being that must daily fight the urge to look out for myself, to put my needs first, to make sure I am taking care of and comfortable before I focus on others. 

Life in community is showing me just how deep this selfish root goes.  As the Body we are called to serve one another, to regard others more highly than we regard ourselves.  This is a hard thing to do because it directly counters our innate self-centred nature.  Living life in community daily provides me with the opportunity to consider others more highly than myself, to put my own needs on the back-burner to listen to someone else's heart.  And getting a glimpse into the heart of another human being gives you a glimpse into the heart, personality, and creativity of our Father.  Every time I talk with a member of my community I am reminded of His astoundingly diverse characteristics: joy, patience, diligence, sensitivity, careful planning, creativity, burden for the lost, truth, encouragement, and justice just to name a few.  

Choosing not to press into a situation or not fully investing in a relationship denies me the opportunity to experience my Father in a new way. So, in the end, not fully engaging is the most selfish thing I can do because I am ultimately denying myself the opportunity to connect to the heart of my Papa and missing out on experiencing His love in new ways.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's All His

It's all His....what a RELIEF!!!

This is the truth that has deeply registered with me these past two weeks.  Every area of our lives is under His control.  We don't have to worry about messing up or missing the mark because it is not our's to begin with.  Each relationship, job, ministry, position of leadership are all His.  We don't have to worry about falling short.  Our job is not to be perfect but to be faithful and obedient to do what He has called us to do.

I am so thankful for this grace! When I miss-speak and say the wrong Mandarin phrase, His grace covers my language mistake.  When I am in situations that require more language skills than I currently possess the H.Spirit is with me and uses my ineptitude to bring deeper relationships with women still in situations of exploitation.  There were multiple times this week when He redeemed my language blunders to bring smiles and laughter into dark places.

What a blessing to serve our Father who does not register our mistakes but celebrates our victories!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Burdened Heart

On Sunday morning we sang the song "Hosanna" by Hillsong United.  The bridge to this song has extremely powerful words:
   Heal my heart and make it clean
  Open up my eyes to the things unseen
  Show me to to love like You have love me.

  Break my heart for what breaks yours
  Everything I am for Your Kingdom's cause,
  As I walk from earth into eternity.

The very next day the Lord answered the pr. I sang the previous morning.  I was spending the afternoon with a local friend.  As we were walking, she simply said "Jennifer, today I am sad....".  She left the statement hanging, like it did not really deserve to be validated or explored in more detail.  Of course I asked her why she felt that way and for the next twenty minutes she confided in me all the reasons why she was sad.  I felt so overwhelmed hearing about all of her problems and was angered by the unjust actions that have adversely affected her.

As I was in my own head trying to respond with wisdom, the lyrics above came to the forefront of my mind.  It was as if Abba was saying: "Jennifer you asked for me to open up your eyes and break your heart, so I am doing it.  This is only a fraction of the billions of things that break my heart each day.  Feel this pain, take this burden to heart.  Only after you sit with the suffering of those around you can you truly know how to love people like I love them"

I know understand His capacity to love like never before. But I am still wondering how to respond to people in situations of injustice.  I can know feel their pain, but what do I do with it?  How can I go from feeling people's burdens to loving them on a practical level?  So many questions that He will answer in His own timing. I had an experience this week with the living G-d who lovingly gave me a glimpse of His heart and will teach me how to use it for His glory.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chinese Learning

The more I study Mandarin the more I appreciate how logical the language is.

Here are a few examples:
  Patriotism: 爱国 (ai guo)
      爱 ai means love and 国 guo means country.
       So patriotism in Chinese is literally "love country".

  Significant: 重要 (zhong yao)
    重 (zhong) means considerable and 要 (yao) means importance.

  Classroom: 教师 (jiao shi)
    教 (jiao) means instruct or teach and 师 (shi) mean room.
    So the classroom is the instruction room.

  Innovation:  革新 (ge xin)
       革 (ge) means change or transform
        新(xin) means new

  受骗 (shou pian): means to be deceived or fooled
      受 (shou) means suffer  and 骗 (pian) means cheat or swindle
      People who are deceived are suffering after being swindled.

As I learn to read and recognize more characters, I am often able to deduce the meaning from new words because I know one part of the character. Thankful for my increasing literacy level.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I love music.  A well composed melody is one of my favorite things in the world.  Lately "Hallelujahs" by Chris Rice has been one of my most played songs. The song focuses on the intricate beauty of His creation.  The chorus says:
   Oh praise Him all His might works,
   There is no language where you can't be heard.
   Your song goes out to all the earth.
   Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

I remember crying the first time I heard those words.  What a powerful declaration of His nature.  He created the entire universe and yet still wants to have a relationship with us.  Every single person on this planet (regardless of ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status) is able to communicate directly with the Alpha and Omega. Circumstances cannot change the fact that each human being on this planet is loved and treasured by Him.

Language and cultural barriers don't exist in the Kingdom!  The more time I spend living overseas the more I am overjoyed by this fact.  Getting on the bus each day I hear multiple local dialects, in addition to the national language of Mandarin.  And the best part is that our loving Abba is able to communicate with His children in their heart languages, the languages people were taught as children. Though I am unable to speak proficiently with those around me He is able to touch their hearts in such an intimate way that my feable attempts no longer matter.  Hallelujah---what cause for celebration!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Choice....six letters that combine to make such a powerful word.  More and more I am coming to realize just how important choice is to an individual, how vital it is to helping a person thrive and live with dignity.

Choice is something that I take for granted almost every day.  What am I going to choose for breakfast?  When do I have time in my schedule to meet up with three different people this week?  Honestly, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the choices I have to make navigating life in a city of 23 million people.  I fail to remember that choice is a blessing, a true blessing.

I know of some women working in situations of exploitation who do not have access to a kitchen.  Their boss brings them their food for each meal and they have no input in terms of the menu items.  These women also have no control of when they will be working.  Their schedule can change on a whim as the boss decides.

I made a deliberate choice to move across the world to work and serve.  Economic necessity forced these women to leave their hometown and seek any possible employment to keep their family financially afloat.  These brave women often leave behind their small children in hopes of seeking a better life.  Once they arrive to the big city they are tricked into working jobs they never expected.  Any form of choice or decision making is quickly taken away.

It often seems counter intuitive that women who are offered alternative employment and a better life do not immediately jump at the opportunity.  When you are not allowed to make basic choices through the day, it is a gigantic step to choose to leave your current situation and make a drastic life change.  It takes time for a woman to build up the self-confidence to start making decisions about their own lives.  This is a long process that takes relationships with stable influences.  More importantly, it takes hours of intercession asking Him to intervene in these women's lives and change their hearts as only He can.  I am so thankful that I have been blessed with the opportunity to be His salt and light to these amazingly resilient women.  I am thankful that I can be part of their healing journey.  I am thankful that how I choose to spend my time ultimately helps another woman make choices for herself.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Language Study

Here a some pictures of my main Mandarin textbook and notebook so that you can see what I am learning in language school.  The English definitions of new words are the only English words in my book. As you can see below, I am now at the stage where I am required to read Chinese characters with no help from pinyin, or phonetic pronunciation guides.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


"Be quick to listen and slow to speak."
"There is a reason you have two ears and only one mouth."

I've heard these phrases all my life and have quickly come up with a list of excuses why I do not need to work to become a better listener:
   I already leave so many thoughts unsaid.
   I have some useful information to contribute to this conversation.
   Communication is a two way street so therefor I can say something anytime I want.

The older I get the more I realize that when I think of listening I think of not talking. I do not approach listening as truly hearing another person.  Since moving into a cross-cultural context, I have realized how insufficient my definition of listening has become.  When interacting with people from a different background it is not enough to simply hear the words being spoken, you must concentrate on the meaning the person is attempting to convey.

Listening is not an innate skill for me.  Talking, expressing my opinion, contributing to a conversation, sharing new facts....basically talking is what comes naturally for me.  While this is not always a bad thing, my natural inclination is away from listening and creating the space necessary for other people to express themselves.  One of my biggest hinderances to being a good listener is my desire to jump in and identify with what the other person is saying, to let them know that they are not alone.  While this is not the worst thing, desiring to identify with people actually hinders conversations by derailing the topic.  It can keep the topic causal and prevent the other person from fully expressing their feelings.

Living cross-culturally, interacting with people form every walk of life imaginable, I am constantly searching for a point of overlap, seeking to find things we both have in common that can bridge the gap between our diverse experiences.  But how much do I miss because I am so intent on seeking a commonality?  Have I prevented the opportunity to learn from another person by speaking too quickly?  Did I miss the chance to speak hope, love, peace or joy into a situation because I did not create the space in the conversation to truly find out how that person is doing?  Did I completely miss what they were trying to convey?

I am on the journey to becoming a good listener.  I am actively trying to speak less, work to provide people with the space to express their hearts and not offer advice before hearing the fully story.  Every time I come away from an encounter feeling proud of myself for not speaking too quickly, there are give other interactions where I know I have come up short.  Though I have just started down this lengthy path, I am excited about this learning process.  By learning to be a better listener I am learning to become a better friend, a more attentive person and a more caring individual.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Weekend with Jeff

I was so blessed to travel to ZhengZhou this weekend to spend time with Jeff.  I still can't believe that we are in the same country!  I really enjoyed the time I was able to spend with him, even though it was too short.  Here are a few pictures from our weekend together.

His bosses paid for us to stay in a very nice hotel.
They also paid for all the foreign teachers and myself to have a steak dinner (my first since moving).
View of the city.
Street vendors selling food.

Look what we found at Walmart!

On the way to lunch we ran into models doing a photo shoot.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I had not spent much time considering what a smile can bring to a relationship or situation until last week. My Chinese coworker mentioned that she loves how my smile lights up the room.  I have never considered myself a very smiley person or pondered what I could bring to a room through my presence before.  Her comment got me thinking about what a smile communicates: warmth, joy, love, respect, and consideration for others.  If you do not like a person you are not going to exert the energy to smile.

As I have reflected back on her words, I am increasingly thankful for her feedback.  Though I am trying very hard to learn the language, my communication skills are survival at best.  I often get internally frustrated by my language limitations because there is so much that I want to say to people that I am currently unable to express in Mandarin.  Smiling, however, makes up for my limited vocabulary.  I do not need to say out loud how much I respect, admire, or am proud of a woman for making substantial changes in their life because that can be communicated through a beaming smile of pride.  I can let a woman trapped in exploitation know that she is valuable, consequential and precious in His sight through my smile.  I can bring His hope into a hopeless situation through my nonverbal communication skills.

Something as simple as moving a few muscles can make all the difference!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Great Wall

This week I went with friends to the Great Wall. Enjoy some of the pictures I took.

Psalm 23

This week at small group we read Psalm 23 from a variety of translations. Meditating on the famous psalm, I was once again struck by the powerful prose. While listening to verses I wrote down the promises contained in the passage. In Him I am:
   faithfully remembered
   given rest
   provided for
   made righteous
   disciplined in love
   surrounded by goodness and mercy

I am thankful for the space to focus on the words that we all know so well and see His loving promises in a new light.  This passage provides hope in the midst of life, knowing that we are provided for and resourced by the Creator of the universe who only has good things in store for us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Charity and Justice

Charles Dickens said:  "Charity begins at home and justice begins next door."

Most people would assume that charity and justice are things that should be done outside of the home, focusing on the needs of others who are less fortunate than those in their inner circle.  Dickens statement, however, challenges us to see each relationship in our life as an opportunity to bless others and show the love of our Creator through our actions.  If we cannot expressly show love to those we interact with the most, how are we going to extend love to strangers?  If I cannot show kindness and tolerance in judging those I work or live with, I am losing a valuable witness to those I spend the most time with. 

By taking the time to extend grace, mercy, forgiveness, and understanding to those I am closest to, I am building up my heart muscles to do the same for strangers I meet on the street.  I need to train myself to be attentive to the needs of others, to consider the consequences my actions will have on them, to seek the best for them.  If I can train myself to extend mercy to those I see on a daily basis, I will then have the capacity to seek justice in the lives of others.  When I have practiced being attentive to the other's needs, it will naturally extend to my neighbors and community members. Justice, then, will not be a particular crusade but a lifestyle of seeking the best for my society.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Les Miserables and The Power of Dignity

Three days ago I was finally able to watch Les Miserables in the theater.  I was looking forward to the cultural experience I would gain from watching the movie but I was unprepared for the core value that was struck during the viewing.  Watching the movie I was enraged that human beings could be treated so poorly, with no forgiveness or chance for redemption offered by the community or political system.  It made my blood boil to watch Fantine be shunned by her community.  My blood pressure spiked when people refused to even be in the same room with a woman who could possibly have a "soiled" reputation.  

The one word that Father has kept burning on my heart since watching the movie is DIGNITY.  Les Mis highlighted the indignity of treating people only as flesh and bones, of refusing to forget the past, of refusing to acknowledge people can change and overcome their mistakes.  I was heartbroken when Fantine's first "customer" used her and then threw money in her face.  After using her this man could no longer acknowledge her humanity, and thus felt she no longer needed basic respect or manners.
This week I've been thinking about the inherent dignity that comes with calling people by their name.  Javert commonly called Jean Valjean 24601, his prison number, as opposed to his name.  By calling Valjean a number Javert clearly stated the power differential between himself, the prison guard, and the prisoner.  Javert was able to use and abuse prisoners when calling them by their prison number, by distancing himself from their  humanity.  I loved Jean Valjean's journey to maturity in the movie because he intentionally calls the characters he encounters by their name as often as possible.

I feel that through this movie Dad has revealed a simple yet profound lesson to me.  Treating people with dignity by calling them by their name is the most powerful thing that I can do because dignity can be conveyed in a short time frame.  I might not have the time or ability to truly pour into a person's life, but I can show them dignity and His love by treating them with kindness, remembering their name, and loving on them as best as I can under the circumstances.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Haerbin Snow and Ice Festival

Last month I traveled with a group of friends to Northern China, along the boarder of Siberia. 
After taking an overnight train we arrived in Haerbin and were able to see amazing works of art at the annual Snow and Ice Festival.