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The Bridged Life

This is the post excerpt.

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The bridged life….what in the world is that supposed to mean?  Two parts of your life have been joined together?  An inter-racial marriage?  You have two totally different jobs or passions that you are somehow linking?

No, no, and kind of but not really.  Actually, I am really into bridges.  Seriously, they are some of the world’s most amazing feats of engineering.  The world’s longest bridge is the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China which spans 102.4 miles.  The world’s highest bridge is the Duge Bridge also in China.  It stands at 1,854 feet.  The longest suspension bridge in the world is the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan with 6,523 feet of unsupported span.  Woah.  My bucket list includes a trip to each of these bridges because: They. Are. Awesome!

I am actually a big fan of building bridges too.  With help, I have built everything from little bridges across creeks to really solid bridges in bad weather to totally unwanted bridges that will hopefully reveal their purpose sooner rather than later.  The bridge I am currently working on spans 8,110 miles.  Yeah, you read that right: 8,110 miles!  You’ll be able to drive to China in 2500AD baby!

You are probably sitting there right now wondering why, for the love of Cheese Its, I wrote a blog post about bridges….and why you are still reading this blog post about bridges.  It’s probably because deep, deep down, you are also stirred by the spectacular stature of bridges!  I’m sorry, that was too deep.  I get it.  I shouldn’t point out the embarrassing things that move your soul in a blog post.  Moving on.

Before you make me out to be some kind of daydreaming wonder dork (I am a dork, just not a wonder dork), let me say that the bridges I am talking about are relationships.  The long one I mentioned has a lot to do with culture too.  My husband and I are a young, small town American couple living and working in little, big town China (seriously, all of our friends here think this city is small and boring, but there are 4.5 million people!).  So, everything that we do and every new friend we make is contributing to that 8,110 mile bridge.

To be honest, doing life here can be hard.  Though I am here physically, I am still worlds away from understanding this culture and the totally different thinking process these amazing people have; hence the colossal bridge-building project.

If you think about it, we are all living a bridged life as we communicate and fellowship with other people of various backgrounds and experiences.  The purpose of this blog is to serve as an outlet for the lessons, experiences, and hardships God is teaching us as He builds this bridge and many others in our lives.  Having said that, we are young grasshoppers often learning things the hard way; so if you have any bridge-building wisdom or stories you would like to share, we would love to read them!

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Quick Qualms

You know that feeling you get when you are sure that you are confident in the temporarily permanent decision you made; but then you begin to second guess your sanity?

via Daily Prompt: Qualm

You know that feeling you get when you are sure that you are confident in the temporarily permanent decision you made; but then you begin to second guess your sanity?  Yeah, my husband and I had bouts of those “quick qualms” when we missed the first plane to China and had to reroute the whole trip (piece of advice: never get to the airport forty-five minutes before your plane takes off; even if your airport has only one terminal).

Honestly, I would like to say that I am almost always calm and collected when life throws its curve balls, but I am not.  I often have a “quick qualm” or two flash through my mind which causes frustration.  Then I become frustrated about being frustrated.  Thankfully, God gave me to a husband who is able to discern this cycle in me before I fully realize it and gave him the balls to confront me about it before I become a swirling vortex of doom.

Having said that, its the catching-a-monkey-wrench-to-the-face times in life when I am immensely thankful for a God who holds everything in His hands.  In Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34, we read that Jesus told us not to worry because God holds it all.  Instead, we ought to be seeking the kingdom.

Everywhere I look, I see people buying things or planning to buy more things (life is incredibly materialistic in the developed regions of China).  It is easy to convince ourselves that we “need” something.  I do it often.  But after the euphoria of finally buying a dehumidifier passes, I am looking at the upgrade or worried about keeping the one we bought in working order (it is of legendary Chinese quality).  Thus, I find that chasing after stuff simply gives me more to worry about.

With this in mind, I look at Jesus’ words in these passages as more of an invitation than a command.  I think Jesus is inviting us to rest in the Father’s provision and to be content with what He has given us in this life rather than commanding us to never ask questions or condemning “quick qualms.”  Moreover, we have already been given the kingdom (Lk. 12:33)!  Therefore, we should be living contentedly and giving freely to the poor in this life while focusing on Jesus and investing in kingdom values and treasure that cannot be spoiled or stolen.

As for being tricked by “poor” people, there are ways to avoid this in most situations.  Offer a meal, drink, groceries, or a tank of gas instead of cash.  The people who really need help will probably appreciate this.  But what if you do give them money and they just spend it on their addiction?  I have a better question for you: what do you think God will say to you when you stand before Him and say that you have never been tricked into giving money to someone who didn’t really need it?  Is God more interested in the money He gave you or your heart?

So for all you Christians out there, whenever you have a “quick qualm” about your possessions, remember that possessions should not possess you.  Rather, the One who holds all of Creation gave you those possessions to enjoy them and bless others.

 

Collaboration = Hay

This is why I can’t complain about being a teacher.

via Daily Prompt: Collaboration

Growing up, family time often meant work.  Hard, sweaty, nasty work.  Whether it was mowing the fields and yards in the summer or chopping wood in the winter, we always had something to do on our small ranch.

The most laborious work of all was hay hauling.  A day of hay hauling would actually come after two to four days of cutting and rolling the hay on our open-cab tractors.  Basically, that means you are sunburned, dehydrated, and sore before you get to the real work.

The hay hauling itself required every member of the family and anyone else crazy enough to join us.  Mom would drive the truck and trailer, Dad and Grandpa would toss the square bales up to me and one brother to stack tightly for transportation, and the other brother would drag stray bales to where they could be picked up.

After the trailer was loaded, we would pull it home, back it into the hay barn, and unload the trailer to stack it on the final hay stack.  It was nice at this point to not be under the beating sun, but the barn had almost no airflow so the dust just hung in the air.

It was hot and gross.  I always finished the day thinking I had inhaled more hay than I had stacked.  Oh, and this process happened about three to four times every summer depending on the weather.

So why?  Why on earth would a family put themselves through this torture?  The easy answer is that we had a ranch.  Lots of horses, rabbits, chickens, pigs, and cows needed that hay for food and bedding in the winter months.  But, there is a deeper answer: life lessons.

My parents wanted my brothers and me to grow up on a farm doing grueling work together as a family.  They wanted us to practice collaboration so that we knew we could rely on each other no matter how sucky the job was.  Over the years on that farm, we saw how our hard work paid off by how efficiently things worked, how fat the animals were through the winter, and how warm our house felt each night.  Even when a tornado blew so much away my junior year of high school, we knew everything would be just fine because we would get to have more family time.

Chinese Hospitality

via Daily Prompt: Hospitality

I did most of my growing up in a small town of about 200 people in the middle-of-nowhere Arkansas.  This basically ensured that I have the ability to make awesome sweet tea, bake deliciously unhealthy snacks you can’t turn down, and keep a conversation going to entertain my guests.

For the last year and a half or so, my husband and I have been living and working as university teachers in Southern China.  Now, before I continue, I must say that China is huge and is comprised of fifty-six people groups.  With such diversity, it is not surprising that the Miao people in Hunan Province have very different customs than the Han people who make up about 91 per cent of the population.  Moreover, the generational gap is also huge.

So here are some major aspects of Chinese hospitality:

  1. Eating together is investing.  Chinese culture (especially Southern Chinese culture) is extremely people-oriented.  When you need to find a plumber, they never simply call a random plumber.  They will ask a friend who asks his friend who knows a plumber who did a good job at their house.  Many Chinese believe that you cannot trust someone who has not been tested by someone you trust.  Therefore, relationships are super important.  How do you make relationships?  You eat.  Chinese people love their food.  In the south, lunch or dinner will potentially take two or three hours.  It will be very loud (the loudest table is the happiest) and people will get very drunk.
  2. The chicken head. Oh, and being the guest, you may be offered the chicken head to eat.  Turning it down may be taken personally, so just enjoy the experience.
  3. Pouring tea.  When pouring tea, the host or hostess will pour tea for everyone except themselves at the beginning of the meal.  If you want more tea, you must pour it for those around you before yourself.
  4. You are not allowed to pay.  Reputation or “face” is immensely important to the Chinese.  One person will often pay for everyone else’s meal in order to display his or her generosity.  As the guest, arguing to pay for your own share is considered shameful for both you and the host.  Some younger people are more open to splitting the bill, but definitely not the first time.
  5. Opening the home.  For a Chinese person to invite you to their house and cook for you is a huge honor.  It is a treat only offered to those the host truly wishes to deepen the relationship with.  Also, the host or hostess will often not eat anything during the meal in order to ensure that you have had plenty to eat.  For this reason, it is polite to leave some food in the serving dishes to indicate that they fed you well and so that they have something to eat after dinner.
  6. Escorting the guest.  Whenever you are finished eating or doing an activity with someone, it is a Chinese custom to “send you off.”  I don’t mean just walking you to the door and saying goodbye: they literally escort you out of the building and to your taxi, bus stop, or bike.  In other words, it is not easy to make a quick getaway (kind of like trying to escape from an agile host or hostess in the American South).
  7. The cost of receiving hospitality.  Everything about Chinese hospitality comes down to “face.”  A person’s reputation is judged based on how generous their hospitality is and how the favor is returned.  Thus, every relationship is a balance of favors being given and returned in like kind.  This sounds ridiculous, but you probably do it without thinking about it.  Take Christmas for example.  It is kind of embarrassing in American culture to give a gift to someone that really doesn’t measure up to what they gave you.

Hospitality is a fundamental part of every culture.  For the Chinese, it is a vital and beautiful part of life and relationships.  Perhaps we can learn a lot about hospitality from Chinese culture.

Chinese Hospitality