Category Archives: Journals

mountain of contentment

From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the author and perfecter of my faith.

I love sitting outside on a bench that faces the mountain that’s near to my house and having my quiet time. I sip my coffee, munch on a bagel or cereal, watch Finn pounce on all the plants in my yard and spend time with the Father.

Mountains have always held a special place in my heart, for a little background, click here

My view of the mountain from my house isn’t a clear-cut view. There are electrical lines that frame my view. I could focus on these and complain about them and ignore the perfectly wonderful view I have.

The Lord showed me today that it’s the same with life. I can let small things steal my attention from the bigger and more beautiful thing – the Lord.

These small things take away from appreciating and enjoying all of things God has blessed us with.

My neighbor’s garden is visible from my morning breakfast perch. I haven’t ever felt this way, but I could choose focus on what he has and not what I have been blessed with. He has beautiful purple flowers on a vine that is landscaped just right. This could, if I had inherited more of my grandmother and mother’s green thumb, distract me. It also could enhance my view, and it does. I’m grateful for it.

Don’t allow jealousy to give you tunnel vision.

There is a longan tree (longans are a Thai fruit that you peel) just outside my fence. Instead of looking at the whole picture, I could just admire the fruit trees and my neighbor’s yard and forget how they act as a beautiful frame for the mountain.

Spiritually, I could praise God’s creation yet neglect to praise Him.

Sometimes the clouds hide the view of the mountain. Does that mean the mountain is gone? Not at all. Just because we cant see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sometimes we can’t see God as clearly as we do on the sunny days. He is still there, as firm and solid as before.

Mountains are a symbol of contentment. God gives contentment. As Oswald Chambers so eloquently put it, we must look up into His face and that is where contentment and joy comes from. (I’ve learned a great deal from Oswald – I wrote another post about a devotional he wrote that the Lord used in my life.)

Looking up to the mountain reminds me to look to God for contentment.

I pray you’ll look to God for contentment too.

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front porch

There’s something about sitting on a front porch – a porch that’s older, much older, than you and most anyone you can presently think of. It’s a porch that’s heard many a secret, as the house’s inhabitants, and those who simply pass by, rock gently in red rockers and share stories from time’s past and time present.

There’s something about sitting on a front porch that makes you feel like the Time Traveler in H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. Stories of buggies, family trees and family mishaps are remembered. Children listen wide-eyed to the matron share of a time they’ve only read about in worn textbooks.

The present is discussed, of course, at length. “Did you hear about …” and “I wonder what … is up to.” The future is hypothesized — what will become of the family in the years to come, who so-and-so will marry, what will the grandson, niece or daughter become when they grow up.

Sitting alone, on this same porch, does the soul and spirit good. It soothes the worries, the aches and rejuvenates the weary.

Jus’ sit a spell, I can hear my aunts and great aunts say. So, I do. I sit, I think, I wish and I pray. I read too, I’ve decided nothing quite can top a good book on a front porch.

There’s something healing about the gentle rock, the bees humming among the hydrangea and the hummingbird’s thousand-calorie wing work out. Birds call to one another among the pine and magnolia trees. For a spell, one can hear the distant drone of machines tending to the tobacco a mile down the road.

Old glory, hanging from one of the white house’s columns, persists in tangling herself and getting knotted in her own affairs, much the mirror of the country she represents.

The wind flows gently, through the blueberries, waiting for their debut. The crape myrtle mingles. The surroundings are awash in green, thankful for the recent rains.

Peter Rabbit came to visit, though not to sit a spell. Bambi too – his mother nowhere to be seen, just like the movie. A turtle makes his slow journey across the country road, praying the pickup trucks will manage to maneuver around his slow journey.

Spanish moss, hanging from the tree that’s as old as the house, is tickled by the same wind that tangles the Stars and Stripes. Chinkle, click click. The beach shells, attached to a homemade chime, awaken when they wish and remind the rockers of days spent in beach chairs, with toes dug into the sand and arms extended for a suntan.

I sit next to the tiny rocking chair, reserved for the children, grandchildren, now adults, and the great-grandchildren. I sit next to the wooden angel whose expression never changes. Her dress changes with the season and holiday. Her spirit never sags.

1668. The Lyons. The house that’s remained the constant in my life of world travel. I’ve moved often and lived in more residences than most. This house has stayed the same.

The magnolia tree remains – the one I climbed and sat in, watching the country coming and goings, giggling and how I was hidden. The dirt road, where I squatted on many an occasion will always be “the dirt road” a road that harbors my doodles, dreams and prayers.

Granddaddy’s old store still sits, eclipsed by the trees, drooping with age and memories. It holds memories I wish I could be a part of — how would that work, you ask. Well, I am reading The Time Machine. Perhaps Wells’ secret works in the 21st century in the Lowcountry.

The fishing pond out back remains, though it is fish-less now.

Then, there’s the path through the woods, coated with fallen pine needles, that leads to more family land. Look up, I say, the pine trees swish and sway to make room for unknown lofty passersby. Crunch, you stepped on a pine cone. Ah! Don’t worry, as arms flap, fighting an invisible enemy, it’s just a spider’s web, newly spun this morning.

Walking down this path transforms me into a character from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia — I’m discovering a new land, don’t you know, and Reepicheep awaits, I’m just sure of it. No, it’s just the fox.

Rhythm. Motion. Wood on wood. Rocking. Thinking. Reading. Cogitating. Remembering.

It’s the front porch at 1668. Residence of the Lyons.

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Beijing blast from the past

If home is where the heart is, then my home is in Asia.

I am at home in the pungent Thai marketplace and Hong Kong’s Stanley Market. I am at home sailing down the picturesque Li River with a backdrop of mountains holding centuries-old secrets. I am at home on the train in Taiwan and the MTR subway in Hong Kong.

Whether it be perched on a waterfall ledge in northern Thailand, or wedged in a cable car ascending to the Great Wall— I am at home.

But, I am discovering the part of me that is American too.
I studied abroad in Asia this past semester. I enjoyed it immensely.
Oddly, I am finding myself ready to go back. I am missing my friends, and I am looking forward to my senior year.

Written in 2008 in Beijing

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Soccer strands, and unites Beijing reminiscent, part 2

I managed to get Olympic soccer tickets for a preliminary match in Tianjin. Tianjin is a city an hour away from Beijing.

We took the bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin—it was only 30 minutes. It takes more than an hour to go some places in Beijing!

We cheered on our U.S. men’s soccer team and I felt the bond many feel when watching their country compete in the Olympics, only this time I was experiencing it firsthand.

Tianjin missed the memo about transportation and major worldwide sporting events. Not only were there not enough trains going back to the host city, none were leaving late enough for fans to make it and see the entire event they paid money for. We had to leave the Nigeria v. The Netherlands game we had tickets for early.

Our theory was Tianjin wanted to make money off the tourists by creating a situation where tourists would be obligated to stay in their hotels and not take the 30-minute bullet train back to Beijing.

As my friends and I talked, taxi after taxi passed, already carrying passengers. We enlisted a “bread box van,” as they are called in Chinese, to take us to find a taxi. The driver collects six-inch stools from private drivers who rent them for events like these so they can sit and listen to the event on their radios.

When we found a taxi and finally got to the stadium, we had missed our train and the last train after it.

We were not alone. Many other foreigners and locals found themselves trapped in Tianjin.

Our numbers grew, and before we knew it, we had a posse. A Chinese friend, American teacher and another student joined us, followed by the teacher’s brother and another English teacher and their new-found Ugandan friend.

The ticket sellers we could wait for the 3 a.m. train and purchase standing room only tickets. We decided against this. Ten minutes after this they sold out.

Two women wearing the official American soccer jersey and a father and son from New York joined the ranks.

I admired their jerseys and remarked how we had tried to find American jerseys in the markets in Beijing and were repeatedly shown David Beckham’s L.A. Galaxy jersey.

One of the ladies is the wife of one of the U.S. coaches and they opted to stay in Beijing instead of Tianjin with the team.

I tried to make small talk with a 10-year-old boy who was there with his father. He had caught a grasshopper in the stadium and was toting him around in a box with holes poked in the top.

What did you feed it? I asked.

Grass, he said.

Also included in our numbers was a middle-aged Indian couple who had tickets to events every day of the Olympics. They, along with the soccer wives, were sold tickets earlier that day for a train that never left, or left early.

While our Chinese friends tried to strike bargains, my friend and I made a deal with a Tianjin taxi driver to take a group to Beijing. We sent the soccer wives and father and son in that taxi.

Our Chinese friends told us that because of the restrictions for the Olympics, they might not make it to Beijing. In an effort to keep crowds down, Beijing set limits on cars coming into the capital that weren’t registered within the city.

“We are calling the government,” someone informed me.

Right.

The police called us an eight-passenger van for the 13 of us who remained.

Our head count now stood with, three American teachers from Ohio, a young, four- months-pregnant couple from Ohio, one Chicago native, one Ugandan soccer player, two Chinese students, an Indian couple, an Oklahoman, a third culture kid and our Chinese driver.

We wedged into the van, some sitting and squatting in the decade-old van. The driver told us to be careful of the middle seat, it is not secured, so the passengers in the backseat supported us.

We began to feel like illegal immigrants. The driver told us that what we were doing wasn’t legal. He wasn’t supposed to drive into Beijing because he has Tianjin license plates. We would have to stop and be searched he said, and may not make it in.

I found out that the three Ohio teachers were believers and have mutual friends in Beijing.

The Chicagoan works for an animation company and frequently travels to North Korea, and may get to attend their “opening ceremony,” that is supposedly going to copy China’s.

In the dark, the Ugandan man smiled and his teeth shone in the dark as he told us his wife is expecting a baby. They now live in Australia. With the windows open in the van, I missed the soccer connection in his life story. Throughout the entire ordeal, his face always wore a smile.

Soccer talk further united us during the van. We talked about that night’s game. We discussed our favorite football clubs and players. We swapped stories about playing soccer and injuries we sustained while playing.

When we stopped at the first checkpoint we decided to take a group picture to commemorate our one and only evening together. After applying for a traffic permit and being waved through a checkpoint, we made it to the outskirts of town.

The first taxi called to say they made it safely. We finally made it safely too.

Not only did we get to see Olympic soccer, we had the kind of adventure movies are made from.

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A step back in time

I thought I’d share a series of journal entries I wrote during my study abroad in China in 2008.

January 9, 2008 — Written from Nanning

So much is uncertain about this semester, and yet, God is giving me a peace. I know it will be good, but I am not sure what the semester will look like. In February, I will be making the move up to chilly Beijing to settle in to a semester of intensive Chinese.

Yesterday we went with the good friends of ours to a small, ancient village in the Chinese countryside.

After a very long and bumpy van ride, we came to the impoverished Song dynasty town. Houses from the Ming and the Qing dynasties were still standing. The houses have plaques with English explanations of their historical value and significance. Sun Yat Sen, known as the modern Father of China, was supposed to have made plans for an invasion in one of the dwellings.

The town had so many elderly people—with wrinkled and weathered faces—not dissimilar to the state of the village. Many of the backs of the elderly were stooped over from carrying the weight of decades.

I marveled about the history they have seen. Some probably were born around 1911 when China became a republic. They all lived through the Cultural Revolution. One woman we talked to was 94 years old. The town had no cars, and the China she lived in was a struggling republic. She may have been in the village when Sun Yat Sen came through.

We also saw new life. Puppies scampered in the streets like it was their domain. Many toddlers waddled around in layers of sweaters that would rival Randy’s layers in the movie “A Christmas Story.” It really wasn’t that cold, but the Chinese believe children must be dressed to the hilt in January– regardless of the outside temperature.

We ate delectable local seafood on a boat. Next to the boat, women spent their afternoon washing their clothes in the muddy banks of the river in metal washbasins.

The trip was an interesting peek into an old town trying to attract tourists.

Stay tuned for more installments from 2008…

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