Well, today marks 30 years in the books for me! The big 3-0. In some ways, 30 feels old, and in other ways, I feel my life, even at 30 is just beginning. I was feeling reflective today, so I wanted to write 30 things I am thankful for (in no particular order, except for number one and two).
1. My God. He is bigger than I could ever hope or imagine and his outpouring of grace in my life has been incredible. Every time I think about what he’s done in me and through me, I am amazed that he would use someone insignificant like me for his glory.
2. The cross. This Roman symbol of torture and punishment now stands for life and hope because the cross wasn’t the end… the resurrection was. I am thankful I serve a Lord that lives and that has defeated the grave forevermore! I am grateful that by his wounds, we are healed and that his righteousness is now our own. God’s plan of salvation through the cross is beautiful.
3. My husband. God’s grace has never shone so bright in my life as when he brought me Trent. So much healing happened through him and I have been so blessed by him. I love my husband and am thankful for every moment we get to spend together!
4. Our baby. Trent and I are so excited to be parents and we can’t wait to meet baby Jedidiah! What a blessing pregnancy has been for me. We’ve loved every stage, but are anxious to meet our little guy soon!
5. Family. We are super blessed to have two incredible families here who love and support us. But family goes deeper than blood. We have been a part of many “families” who have loved us and taken care of us over the years. I had many host families when I was traveling abroad in college and we certainly had families we were a part of in China. I am thankful for ALL of our families.
6. Travel. We have had so many opportunities to travel in the past several years, even before China. My country count is up to 17 and I think Trent’s is up to 12. We’ve also had the chance to travel a lot around the states and to visit many cool places.
7. Friends. We have been so blessed to get to know and love people all over the world. We have friends and loved ones in so many different places and we are so lucky to have so many great people in our lives.
8. The Church. When I say this, I do of course mean to include the church we attend, Revolution Church (in Selma, TX); but I also say it to include the entire body of Christ found all around the world. When we were in China we had the opportunity to be a part of a house church that in so many ways, represented what we will see in heaven before the throne of Christ: people of every tribe, tongue, and nation bowing before the throne. It was such an intimate group of believers who studied God’s word together, held each other accountable, met each other’s needs, and lifted each other up. It will be hard to find that here. That being said, our church (Revolution) is so wonderful and we are so glad to be back there! God speaks in powerful ways and is moving through our church. Lives are being changed and people are being saved. Thank you God for what you are doing through Revolution Church!
9. My Small group. Ever since I moved to Texas 7 years ago, I have had the opportunity to meet with the same small group of girls every Tuesday night. We share a meal together (we take turns cooking) and then dive into the Word. We lift each other up, hold each other accountable, and challenge each other to go deeper in our relationships. I am so blessed to have these ladies in my life!
10. Living debt-free! Our two years in China allowed us to pay off ALL of my student loans (about $40,000 dollars) and both of our cars. We had to be very intentional about paying down those loans, but now our house is the only thing we owe on. Thank you Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University! I’m so glad that God put it on our hearts to attend this class just at the right time to make things happen for us. Living debt-free is awesome!
11. Being able to take a year off of teaching. So, BECAUSE we were able to pay off all of our debt, now we can successfully go down to one income. With Jedi coming in just a few short months, this is a huge blessing for me. If we still had debt hanging over our heads, there is no way that I could go without working, but since we don’t have almost my entire paycheck going to pay off these monthly bills, we are freed up for this! I get to have the best job ever (next to teaching)… I get to be a stay-at-home-mommy! This means more time with Jedi, a higher likelihood that I’ll be able to breastfeed longer, and no paying for expensive childcare! Praise God!
12. Being a teacher. Now, just because I’m not working at a school this year, does not mean that I’m still not a teacher. I have been so blessed by the kids I’ve gotten to know and to work with. I really enjoyed my time with my Somali kids when I was doing ESL in San Antonio, and I also had really awesome kids at QISS in China. I can honestly say that this past year was my best year to date of teaching. I had great kids, great families, great co-workers and we had SO MUCH FUN!!! I feel good about taking my hiatus now and leaving on such a high note!
13. Clear skies! After spending many a polluted day in China, we no longer take clear skies and fresh air for granted. There are many days as we walk outside that we simply marvel at the sky. It is blue! We can see clouds! We can breathe! Ah, the little things in life.
14. American food. I never thought I’d say that, but after living in China for two years, I love the variety of foods that we can get here! It wasn’t that there wasn’t any good food in China… we ate a LOT of good Korean food, but more so that we never really knew what we were going to get. It felt impossible to know where our food came from and if it was organic or not. There were a lot of food safety issues and quite frankly, the food in Shandong is notoriously bad. At least here we can go to HEB (our local grocery store) and know what we’re getting. Being pregnant, this is a huge relief for me!
15. Technology. Cell phones, maps, translating apps, Skype, WeChat, blogs… you name it. We’re grateful! Living in China, we had a lot of problems with technology… Skype would cut out or the sound or picture quality was terrible, Google was blocked, we had to use VPN’s (when they worked) for nearly everything (Facebook, blogs, Shutterfly, YouTube, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful for what we had! I imagine people who traveled abroad 10 years ago when they could only send snail mail back and forth to family and loved ones; we were definitely lucky to have been able to Skype or e-mail or chat on Facebook once in a while. But being back and having high speed internet that actually works at high speeds (imagine that) and not having to worry about different things being blocked has saved me hours and hours of my life. Posting blogs or photos to Facebook takes only a fraction of the time, we are able to access things like Pinterest or YouTube for teaching resources, the list goes on and on… thank you Lord for technology!
16. Photos. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I take a LOT of photos (probably too many by most people’s standards), but I LOVE being able to look back at the memories and say, “Wow, remember when we did that?” It helps me remember people, places and adventures that we’ve had all over the world. Now I just have a lot of catching up to do making photo books!
17. Being “cultured.” All the opportunities that we’ve had to travel have afforded us many opportunities. I have learned Spanish fluently and some survival Chinese. We have been able to experience many different cultures, foods, languages, and peoples. Traveling certainly expands one’s worldview and it helps you to see the world differently. I’m thankful that traveling opened up my mind and heart to so many different people, places, and things.
18. Cars! After being in China and having to take taxis everywhere (at least until we got our scooter), we are so thankful for the convenience and independence that having our own cars allows us to have. We spent so many hours of our lives waiting for taxis… sometimes in the blistering heat, other times in the freezing cold, other times with masks on to try to save our lungs from the disgusting pollution! It took so long, it was so hard to communicate effectively where we needed to go, and it cost us quite a bit of money (thankfully our school reimbursed us for most of it). I love being able to jump in my car for a quick errand (there was no such thing as “quick” when we were there). We are blessed to have our own vehicles!
19. Our health. So many people have health issues and are struggling with diseases and cancer and other things. I am grateful for every day that we are healthy and happy!
20. Birthing Centers and Midwives. After being in China and seeing how they “do” birth there (pushing for C-sections), I am thankful for the choices I have here on how my baby will be born. I am grateful that we’ve found a great birthing center with awesome midwives that we really like and trust. I’m thankful for the freedom to choose to have a water birth and to have midwives who want to honor my choices.
21. Freedom of religion. Being back is somewhat of a two-edged sword. On the one hand we can worship freely, on the other, I would still say that there is a lot of religious “persecution” even in our own country. But we can gather freely without fear and worship our God openly here. For this, I am grateful.
22. Our kitty cat. When we left for China, we had two outdoor cats that we adopted when they were very little. They were born in our backyard shortly after we moved in and they were the first batch of kittens that we had to “tame.” It was a very time-consuming process but we grew to love these cats. Several batches of kittens later, and lots of fixing of cats and adopting them out, we kept our two originals. When we returned last summer, both cats were still around, but sadly this summer when we came back for good, only one was left. We don’t know what happened to our other kitty… she was super sweet and affectionate so we’re hoping that someone took her in, but truthfully, who knows? We ARE however, grateful that Little Grey is still around. He was the least affectionate of the two before and much more independent. He would hang around but didn’t seek out human attention or affection. My how things have changed! Now that we’re back, he has been so much more attention seeking. But we love it. Every time we come home, he is waiting for us by the back door. He flops down on the ground for us to pet him and wraps himself between our legs if he feels like we’re not giving him enough time. I love our kitty cat.
23. Work. We are so thankful that Trent has a job! God really provided for us and gave Trent a good place to work. I am thankful for all the extra time I have had to be able to help him (now that I’m not busy doing my own work). Thank you God for provision.
24. Our home. Trent and I have lived in the same house since we were married. It was a house that belonged to his grandmother but sat vacant for years. When we moved in, we did a LOT of work on it. We put a lot of sweat, labor and hard work into it. We did a lot of renovations and painted the entire house from floor to ceiling. When we left for China, we had renters. Coming back, we had to do a lot of work again, and spend way more money than anticipated to get the house back to the way it was when we left it, but we are thankful to be back in our home. It’s not just a house to us, it is, has been, and will be our home (and we can’t wait to make Jedi a part of it!)
25. Spanish. For me, going to China was like going to a Spanish-speaking desert. There weren’t many Spanish speakers there and so I felt like I lost a lot of my verbal speaking abilities and vocabulary. But being back, I can surround myself with all sorts of Spanish-speaking friends, books, music, etc. And already, I feel like I’ve bounced back from my 2 year deficit. We’re even reading to Jedidiah at night from a bilingual toddler’s Bible. We’re certainly hoping to have a bilingual son (and his daddy seems to be picking some up as well)!
26. English books and music. Being away was hard. We had some coffee shops that had English books that had been left behind that we could borrow from, but certainly not the choices that can be found in any book store or library here. Same with music. Of course, it can always be downloaded, but we are certainly 2 years behind the times with music!
27. Air1 and KLOVE. These two Christian radio stations were a huge encouragement to us while we were away. Even though we couldn’t actually “tune in” while we were in China, we could still listen and be encouraged through their apps. They were a huge blessing to us while we were away and of course, still are a blessing now that we’re back. Trent and I made the decision a couple of years ago to listen primarily to Christian music. We realized that the junk we were putting into our ears and our hearts was eventually junk that flowed out of them. Ever since we’ve made the change, we’ve noticed a big change in our attitudes and actions and so we’ve been more intentional about guarding our hearts and minds against the “yuck” of this world.
28. China. Even though our two years living in China were full of difficulties and hardships, they were also full of joys, excitement, and fun. Trent and I grew so much more there than we would have if we had stayed here. God called us to something greater, and we followed. We are so thankful that we did! The people we met there, the school we worked for, the opportunities to travel to different parts of the country were all awesome and we wouldn’t change our experience for anything!
29. Adventures. Just because we had lots of cool adventures these past two years doesn’t mean that our adventures end there. We will very soon be embarking on a new adventure called “parenthood” and along with that, I’m sure we will continue to travel and have other “adventures.” I’m thankful that God gave us adventurous spirits! We’ve learned and grown so much through all of our cool experiences.
30. I am thankful for 30 years of life (and ironically, 30 weeks of pregnancy)! Not just any life, but a BLESSED, ABUNDANT life. Thank you all for being a part of it!
What are you thankful for today?