11:15 PM. My birthday.
I am sitting here in the dark looking out the window of our hotel room in Grand Rapids.
We are in Michigan for the Christmas holiday. Since Autumn and Jackson live in Grand Rapids, we made the drive across the state to celebrate my birthday as a family. A rare treat considering our current living circumstances. In the quiet, I am thinking about where we were this time last year. Preparing for a flight the next morning to Shanghai. Into the great unknown. I cannot even begin to describe the depth of emotions we were all feeling. In a few short hours we would leave our home not knowing what to expect, but knowing it would be one of the most life-changing things we would ever do. Leaving family and friends behind to embark on a new life in the Far East.
Personally, my emotions were set in one direction. Deep sadness and loss. I was leaving half of my family behind. How would this work? Would this sense of loss consume me? I really didn’t know what to expect. It was hard. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it but knew that this was God’s plan for our lives at this time. You know how many times you ask for His divine direction? Well, this time I got it, clear as day and honestly, I was not too happy about the direction He was sending us. But how can you argue when you get direct orders?
Now as I sit quietly and reflect over the past year, I can see His plan. As it has unfolded, I can appreciate the direction in which He has taken us. Would I have ever chosen it on my own? No. But I am grateful for the opportunity as I have seen how much it has enriched all of our lives. Our entire family has grown closer which seems contradictory since we are divided half way around the world. Not only that, but our view of the world has gotten bigger. We have learned so much about different cultures and ways of life. We have also learned to rely on each other and God more than we have ever done before. How could I not be grateful for such growth and richness?
Brett and I have grown closer in our relationship. We lean on each other more than we ever have before. His job is very demanding, so I try to provide him open arms and a place to come home and unwind. We often take long walks to talk and connect. I lean on him and often seek his advice on my crazy ideas. He patiently hears all I have to say and listens with interest which makes me feel loved and appreciated. Before our move to Shanghai, we rarely had time to steal away for long walks filled with conversation. I realize now how much was missing in our relationship since we were often too busy to take time for just the two of us.
Elijah and Jack have also grown both physically and emotionally. Elijah alone grew six inches and wears a size 14 shoes! They have learned to rely on each other. Jack has become very brave. Before we left, he was scared to go upstairs by himself. Now not only does he go upstairs by himself, but he will ask for the bill at restaurants and bargain for good deals at the markets. Elijah has found a love of choir and even tried out and was selected for a very exclusive choir festival in Abu Dhabi! Who would have thought my reclusive son would be traveling to the Middle East to sing in a choir festival?
Autumn, Jackson, and Hunter came to visit and in one month managed to see more of China than many people do in their entire assignment overseas. A few months before their arrival to Shanghai none of them even owned passports! We went tea trekking, saw the Terra Cotta Warriors, and hiked the Great Wall of China all because we moved to Shanghai. Who knows if any of us would have done any of these amazing things otherwise. Brett and I agree that although we do not get to see the three of them often, we probably see them as much as we would living in Michigan since they are all adults with their own busy lives. Plus, we love having them all to ourselves when they come to visit. It is such cherished quality family time.
So many memories have been made because of our move to Shanghai. Trips to Thailand and Lombok. Riding elephants, swimming in waterfalls, snorkeling in crystal clear waters, seeing Rainbow Mountains and ancient temples. Learning about other cultures. Experiencing a different way of life. All of us have changed and grown as a result. A year ago I was not sure if this was a good idea. Now I have no doubt this has been the best thing for all of us. Our world has gotten bigger. Our family bond has become stronger. And our faith has grown. Who could ask for more? I am so grateful to God who knows our paths and guides us into the unknown with His loving hand. As long as we rely on Him, we will never need to fear. I cannot even begin to explain all of the fear and darkness He has brought us all through in the past year. It has been an incredible journey. I look forward to seeing what new adventures the next year will bring!
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.