The Gift of Time Spent in China

Making dumplings in ChinaIt’s hard to have lived a life no one else understands. Even if it was only a piece of a life, it still matters. It has molded me and shaped me, creating the person I am today.

My experience living in China mattered. While I did not grow up there or spend a decade living there as my dear friend Rosie did, the year and half I spent in the Middle Kingdom influenced me.

It wasn’t just that I got to see first-hand how another culture operates. It wasn’t just that I tried new foods and actually liked them. It wasn’t just that I made friends that I now miss. There’s something more…

I have difficultly pinpointing exactly how I was changed, but I was…

In China, it was normal for me to carry toilet paper in my purse. I drank hot water. I used phrase such as, “take a rest.” I was called “teacher” as a sign of respect. My white skin was considered beautiful. Crowded buses were the norm. Being pushed and shoved in line at the supermarket was to be expected. We called the school cafeteria the “canteen.”

I ate more dumplings than I can count, slurped noodles like the best of them, and danced outside in the square on cool weekend nights. Most importantly, I truly loved people like I was never going to leave.

I realized early on that in order for me to make the most of the experience, I had to say “yes” a lot. I had to accept invitations while fighting the urge to retreat to my apartment with a book and a blanket. Experiencing the fullness of what God had for me in China meant being bold enough to try new things and be willing to look silly.

China helped me come alive in a way I desperately needed.

I needed to step away from expectations of both others and myself. I could be me.

The Gift of Time Spent in China

Amidst the chaos that comes with a country of 1.4 billion people, I learned a lot about patience. I started to see greater value in diversity, recognizing that different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. God showed me unconditional love.

I bring up China tonight as I write this post because I just got off WeChat (essentially, the Chinese version of Facebook) and was reminiscing. When I get excited about China and think back on my experiences there, I realize how few people in my life can relate. Even those who do relate had different experiences than I.

Sometimes when I look back, it feels like a dream. Was that really my life for two different seasons? It was. And I loved it.

Do I miss China? Absolutely.

Even though I miss the overall experience and the individual people and places, I also see that time as a beautiful gift. God gave me the opportunity to step away from the status quo of American life and see the world from a different vantage point. In that time He ignited in me a greater love for Him, His word and His people.

I am forever grateful.

Feelin’ Alive!

What makes you feel most alive? 

Is it doing meaningful work? Traveling across the world? Trying new foods? Having deep conversations over coffee? Spending time in prayer? Meeting someone who “gets” you? Performing well on a deadline? Playing your favorite sport?

Each person is equipped with different skill sets and desires. We each have things in our life that help ignite us and make us feel good. I happen to have quite a few interests and passions, but lately I have tried to search within and realize what I actually like best. There are things that get me excited, but then there are things that calm my soul. I like both. I need both. They each serve a time and a place in my life, but the fact of the matter is that I need to do them. They help me be better.

For example, I know that I need to get a solid 8 hours of sleep per night.

Do I always do this? No. Should I? Yes.

I am just plain better when I sleep well. I am less irritable, more energized and ready to conquer any task before me. So, as funny as it may sound, sleep makes me feel most alive. I need to practice the art of sleeping to be my best.

Another thing that makes me feel most alive is dreaming. Now, I don’t mean the deep in sleep dreaming. I mean the vision process. The idea of pondering the future and dreaming about what could be. I like to pray big prayers and dream big dreams. I know God is working, so why not ask for Him to include me in his mighty plans? The worst I can be told is no.

What’s pretty cool is that when we submit to God, he works in our hearts so that His desires actually become our desires. (Psalm 37:4) I don’t know about you, but I’d rather the author of life and creator of all things give me the dreams to dream because I know they will align with His will! Then, I can pray in full confidence.

I feel most alive when I actively seek God, when I step out in faith, when I build time in my schedule for true rest, when I laugh with my favorite people, when I perform well at work and when I stop and take time to breathe.

Life is so beautiful. It is a wonderful gift. Each day is a learning experience and an opportunity to come alive.

How are you going to let yourself come alive today?

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

I have a weakness. Okay, okay. All right. I have more than one weakness. But, the one I deal with quite regularly is my lack of multi-tasking ability. It’s not that I don’t try to juggle many tasks at once. It’s just that I am not all that effective when I try to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.

Take last night for example.

My boyfriend, Jonathan, came over for supper. When he walked in, I was juggling two different pots on the stove, a pan in the oven and a bowl in the microwave. I was trying to make sure everything was hot and ready around the same time so that the meal would be complete. I was also thinking about how I had not yet washed the grapes that would accompany our pasta dinner.

Being the considerate man that he is, upon walking in, Jonathan made sure to ask me about my day. I love when he does that. It shows that he cares and he wants to touch base to catch up. Except, when I’m cooking dinner, I struggle to come up with answers to the questions. All I can think about is making sure everything turns out just right.

I have to admit that I don’t just struggle with multi-tasking while cooking. While doing just about anything, I struggle to do something else at the same time. Or maybe it’s  just that I struggle to talk while doing other things. I’m not quite sure…

My friends often give me a hard time for being like a dog that sees a squirrel. As soon as someone else says something to get my attention, my focus completely shifts and I forget about my previous conversation. Yet, sometimes, I can be so engrossed in the current conversation that when someone or something else is trying to get my attention I don’t even notice. All I know is that having two conversations at once does not work for me. My brain just cannot handle it.

It’s funny because I used to think I was a good multi-tasker. As a teenager I even prided myself on it. What I realize now, however, is that I probably was not actually multi-tasking. I was likely working in small spurts on one thing before jumping over to something else, then going back and forth. It was all about big bursts of energy and focus for small periods of time instead of truly focusing on multiple things for any length of time.

I have said since I started working my new job that I am glad I do not work somewhere with a cubicle. So many people in one place could be too much for me to handle. Instead, I have a nice little office that’s back in a corner, hidden from the world. When my coworkers go to the kitchenette outside my door to make coffee, I have some interaction with them, but for the most part, I have peace and quiet to work, work, work. I love it.

Being a talker, I like interaction, but in order to be productive, I have to pull myself away and pound out the keyboard. I can be hyper-focused when I am alone, so it all works out.

All this is to say that I think multi-tasking is a myth. It does not work for me. I’ve found that it’s more beneficial to just focus on one thing before moving on to the next. That’s where the real, solid work happens for me.

This Psychology Today article seems to back up my thoughts on multi-tasking.

How about you? What do you think about multi-tasking? Are you more productive when you do multiple things at once?

Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for reading.

 

A Wonderful Night in Muscatine

I have a smile that I can’t wipe from my face.

As I tramped up the stairs just now, my breathing became heavier, yet my smile widened.

I feel at peace. I’m happy and content with this new season of life.

This evening, I returned home to my beloved downtown dwelling after a long day of meetings and writing that ultimately ended with a nice reception event to honor the new community college president. I was ready to take a breather and relax on my new couch. I have to admit that spending time in my living room gets me all excited because having furniture is seriously the bomb. I never use that terminology, but I’m going to use it now because having furniture rocks. For nearly 7 weeks, I lived in an apartment without furniture before moving to my new place, only to wait a handful of days before the furniture was delivered. That being said, I am glad to have a place to relax. :)

I sat down for a moment before realizing that I wanted, and essentially needed, to take a walk.

Walking has played an important role in my life over the past several years. The idea of going out and exploring a new place on foot makes my heart race with excitement. It’s even better if it can be done after waking up in a hostel… Oh, traveling, how I adore thee.

While a wonderful way to experience a new destination, walking has also served as a way for me to decompress after a long day. While in China, the stress of my large workload as well as the language and cultural barriers made walking an appealing outlet. When I was missing my family, home or Jonathan, I would put on my tennis shoes, grab my iPod and walk circles around the campus. Some days, I’d meet up with my coworkers and go on a 4-5 mile walk just for fun. We’d tell stories and laugh about the crazy things we’d experienced. It was delightful.

Tonight, I ended up going out alone. I walked briskly, while taking in the soft breeze and warm evening air. It began to get cooler and cooler as the sun set. I ventured past Pearl City Station and toward south end along the Mighty Mississippi River, passing some faces I knew and other I did not as I went along.

When I turned around to head back toward home, I passed a group of three gentlemen with a lady a handful of yards in front of them. I commented to the lady that it was a beautiful night and that sparked a discussion between the two of us. We ended up walking and talking the rest of the way, which was a real joy.

That’s one of the things I love about Muscatine – the opportunities for community to blossom. While I had never met the woman I encountered, she knew my family. We were able to have a genuine conversation and enjoy each other’s company as we finished our individual walks together.

Living in Muscatine makes me happy. Tonight is just one example of why I adore this river city.

A Labor of Love

3. Ribbon CuttingMan, am I wiped out!  I had a busy week, full of planning for a big event. I work as the Communications Manager for my beloved hometown’s local government and absolutely love my job.

On Thursday, we joined some of our Chinese friends to host the ribbon cutting and opening the Sino-U.S. Friendship House. The house is located at 2911 Bonnie Drive in Muscatine and is significant because it is the home where Chinese President Xi Jin Ping stayed in 1985 when he first visited Muscatine and formed relationships with the people here. To this day, he fondly remembers that visit and has spoken highly of his time in Muscatine, so much so that he even returned for a visit of the “old friends” in 2012.

Here is a little more information about the opening of the Sino-U.S. Friendship House.

All that is to say that this week was full, but also enjoyable. I really appreciate my colleagues at the City. We all work hard, but have a good time while doing it.

I am ready for a little rest and am embracing the mundane. Sitting here in my nearly empty new apartment, I have been thinking about how I live my life. As I folded laundry, did dishes and scrubbed the floors this week, I thought about what it means to truly do everything as if to the Lord.

In my past campaign experiences, I would repeat Colossians 3:23 to myself on hot days as I’d go door to door. I wanted to remind myself to “work willingly at whatever [I] do, as though [I] am working for the Lord rather than for people.” While I did not love every minute of campaign work, I wanted to help the candidates succeed because I believed in their message. Because of that, I volunteered to help. And –Whatever I do I want to do fully as if it’s for the Lord.

I thought about that verse as I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the hardwood floors of my new apartment. At first I was excited to have a cleaner place and knew they needed to be done before my furniture was delivered, but after a little time I was tired. I used that time to blow off steam from the relatively stressful week, but after that steam was gone I was wiped out. It was then when I reminded myself why I was doing it.20150918_215951

There’s a greater purpose behind why we do most things. It may not be clear at first, but as you dig deeper and examine your heart there is a reason. For my life and yours, I pray that the reason would be to glorify God.

It would be easier for me to not clean my floors very thoroughly. It would be easier for me to only eat out. It would be easier to hang out at home and watch Netflix all night. There are a lot of things in life that would be easier than what’s most meaningful and purposeful. But, the easier things may not have the greatest rewards. The greatest rewards are ones of eternal significance.

I have decided that I want my new apartment to be a peaceful place where friends can come and connect. I want it to be a place where deep conversations happen and true fellowship blossoms. That’s why it’s important to spend time cleaning, cooking and preparing a place that is welcoming and inviting. Sure, the alternative would be easier. But, the choice I have made is to labor in love.

I have a vision for a greater source of community, where friends gather and discuss the tough issues.

I’m praying for this space to be a gathering place, where true God-designed community happens.

Furniture will come tomorrow, so for now I will cuddle up with a good book and embrace the calm.