Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why do Emperors Wear Pearls?

My question...
Our guide's response:  Pearls signify power, peace, prosperity and perfection in China.  How amazing that Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price is all of those.
Matthew 13:45-46
 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

A Roaring Lion

Our guide was very superstitious.  She knew enough to say that lions are dangerous.  She reasoned that you should never even take your photo with the statue of a lion or it could bring danger to your doorstep.  How like an unbeliever to not understand that the Lion of Judah is also as gentle as a lamb and we fear not when we are beside him. 
Interestingly, all the lion statues in the Forbidden City had balls under their paws. The balls symbolize the world.  Indeed, the Lion of Judah does hold the earth in its orbit.  The ancient Chinese seem to be so close to the truth, and yet miss the mark.

Lucky Dogs

According to our guide we were "lucky dogs", because December 14 was a blue sky day in Beijing.   We did not fully appreciate this statement.  Only later we came to realize the rarity of what we take for granted.   After that day, there was a heavy smog festival that lasted the rest of our time in northern and central China.

Today our guide took us to the Forbidden City.  She was dressed in a red coat. Thank goodness, she was easier to spot in the crowds.  She wore the ever popular black leggings and boots.  This time she had orange Ugg-style boots.  She displayed her nod to status symbols by carrying a red Coach purse.  
Today she also wore diamonds, but this time in her hair.  She had a diamond encrusted banana clip.  I haven't seen one of those in years. 

Our high energy guide probably has been to the Forbidden City hundreds of times.  Consequently, she didn't like us to dawdle.  Or in other words, her pace was faster than I preferred.

There is absolutely amazing symbolism between the Forbidden City and the work of Jesus to allow us to enter the Heavenly Forbidden City.   We had no access to Heaven because of our sins separated us from God.  The commoners in China were unworthy to enter the Forbidden City.  There was a center gate in the walls of the Forbidden City which only the emperor could pass through.   Jesus became our gateway.  Through Jesus perfect life on our behalf, he allowed us to be clothed in royalty- princes and princesses in the only kingdom that endures.   We can enter where we were once unpermitted.

  Our guide said the emperors of China had tasted the most sumptuous feasts (daily meals had over 100 platters), had coffers full of jade, pearls, and gold, had wives to satisfy their lusts, had power to exercise their will...but they longed for what they didn't have.  Any human that has "arrived" can understand this.  Possessions, pleasure and power are no substitute for peace. 

Peace as in deep contentment in God, peace as in knowing that without a doubt their souls would be safe, peace as in knowing they are loved more than they can imagine and forgiven more than they deserve. 

The emperors wished for what all humans wish for...the unattainable.  According to the guide, the emperors sought longevity.  Alas, they missed the significance of the Prince turned commoner who unlocked the gates to the true Forbidden City.  Eternal life and right standing before God had become attainable in the death and resurrection of Jesus before their dynasties had ever been established. 

The building placements in the Forbidden City were very reminiscent of the Old Testament (OT) layout of the temple.  Only the emperor could enter the inner sanctum.  Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  There were outer courts and a place to burn incense to please the spirits.  What fragrance they wasted on false gods. 

There were huge bronze basins that held water just like in the OT.  To the Chinese, water represents stillness pervading.  In the OT, water was important to cleanse the unclean.  I know from my own life that stillness of conscience pervades only when I grasp that the water that flowed from Christ side is enough to clean the full wickedness of my heart.

Jesus being the High Priest took on new significance through our trip to China.  He entered the inner sanctum so that the Forbidden City is open to me and to you.  Chinese Christians must really love the parallels between Scripture and their culture.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Breakfast Makes All Things Right

Saturday, December 14th
Okay, I told you the rooms were less than I expected from the package booked four and five star hotels...
Well, the breakfast was super deluxe, amazing.  It was an enormous buffet with the finest ingredients.  Smoked salmon, smoked trout, puffed pastry, caviar, Perrier, 6 types of dim sum, fried noodles, eggs every way you can imagine, waffles with whipped cream, bacon, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, new potatoes, dried apricots and plums, yogurt in 5 flavors, white kiwi-like fruit (one of my favorites), melons, citrus, baked beans, fried rice, wonton soup, heavenly jasmine tea, fried bread sticks, warm milk, fresh squeezed juices galore (which didn't taste bitter because I forgo the mint), raw vegetables beautifully displayed.


Hotel lobby in daylight

The Hotel

The hotel Radisson had a large Christmas tree in the lobby with colored light flashing impatiently like everything else.  Next to the tree was a 3 foot by 3 foot gingerbread house that looked incongruous, because it didn't seem to be in a hurry or even moving.

Within a mere second of making our way to the hotel desk, there were 7 small orange juice glasses on a tray ready to be consumed.  (The 7th was for our guide.)

I am not sure why, but I unwrapped a mint, also from the counter, popped it in my mouth and then proceeded to swallow the orange drink.  Maybe it wasn't tasty, but it definitely wasn't tasty with a mint.

The rooms were dark.  We didn't know how to turn on the lights.  The bellboy told us we put our single key card in the wall switch to activate the lights.  No waste is very big here.  When you leave the hotel room of course you must take the key, therefore, the electricity will go out.  Overhead lights, wall plugs, everything.

Even at 2 in the morning the toilets seemed to cease flushing.  Water also is not to be wasted.  You can fool the toilets by filling glasses with water from the sink and dumping it into the toilet.

Back to the hotel room, with the lights out the room looked patient enough.   However, the flip of a switch made the room hurry back in time- maybe the 80s.  My first impression was that the carpet was camel colored and there were green and red tortilla chips on it.  Yeah, after traveling for so many hours, nothing makes sense.  Well, the small entry hall didn't seem to belong either.  There were colorful glass 1/2 inch tiles which looked like they had been stolen from the Miami airport.  My first real visual was that the bed was bigger than I expected, but there was only one of them. 
In the adjoining room, there was only one bed too.  2 rooms and 2 beds.  6 people and 3 in a bed.

All our in-country travel was arranged by other people who knew the size of our family.  It seemed like there might have been a mistake, but we were too tired to care.  We pulled the red oversized chair that was poorly slipcovered into the adjoining room.  A challenge...since the doorframes were Asian-sized and the chair was not.

With the two red chairs joined front to front, we had a little crib for our baby, sweet Jane.  I am sure if I knew anything about Feng Shui, we broke all the rules.  Regardless, we slept as if we were hovering on air, perfectly balanced with the ugly surroundings.

Our Guide

Friday, December 13th
Our guide stood on the edge of a corded-off barrier where more people than I could count were appreciatively staring at our strange party.  It was like a narrow street with spectators on both sides.  People were jostling, pointing, jabbing, talking in foreign tongue.  I was much relieved to see our petite guide, who measured in about Fritz's height, in her fluorescent green belted coat and in knee high white boots with diamond bracelets at the ankles.   She carried a sign that bore my name.  For one amazing moment I didn't feel lost anymore.  Then she greeted us and asked our names, all the while telling "the babies" to stay close.   Her warning fresh in our ears, we watched her fluorescent green back weave skillfully through the masses and her white boots carried her further from us. 
I haven't learned the art of pushing strangers and without white boots of my own, my feet felt like lead.
When we connected with our ground transportation - Master Shifu didn't wear white boots, but we soon found that he had the uncanny ability to glide through pushing traffic as if his tires were his second skin.  He waited for no one and that is the reason the ride from the airport to the hotel (all in Beijing) took an hour and a half instead of three.
The hotel seemed very far away form the mythical tortoise dragon airport.  The streets were packed as if all 20 million inhabitants were hoping to arrive somewhere.
The Summer Palace in Beijing, our guide with the kids

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Arrival

The Beijing airport was a hustling pool of humanity.   We were greeted with unapologetic stares.   We walked in a close group to avoid being separated, but we were far too American.  We didn't push enough so we found we were losing our place in line.  I have never felt so outnumbered.

(My poor Teddy may find his senses and sensibilities overwhelmed when we first meet him.)

After endless walking and being funneled through a booth that said "foreigners", a man studied our big noses and then opened our passports one by one.  He flashed a Caucasian photo at us and we dutifully pointed to the real life person.  The clickety slam sound of the metal stamp sounded menacing in our ears.  No words were exchanged, and with the sixth stamp we entered into China.

We walked some more and Ben commented he had grown taller leaving American and put on weight on the plane.  True, we both felt like giants.  Directionless, we followed the mass and found an airport subway. 

We watched groups push onto the empty cars and overspill the intended capacity.  Before the train moved its doors would clamp shut on someone's briefcase, boot or backpack.  The doors would open again and the people in the glass box pushed even closer together to accommodate the one too many.  The doors would shut again.  The train was off.  The next train the process was repeated. I can imagine there would be nasty lawsuits if subway doors shut on something or someone in America.  In China, schedules seem more important than individuals.  There seems to be a great impatience to the Chinese as if they were about to miss a golden opportunity.   When the third train arrived we knew what had to be done and rushed in.  It was frantic, but no one got separated.

Hidden Insight: Chinese make impressive ping pong players, because their bodies have been trained to react quickly due to the subway doors which might just amputate your arm if you don't.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

We're HOME

With our new addition.  Last night after 22 hours of travelling we arrived back in the USA. 
Meet our son, Teddy  
He is a precious seven year old.  If you ask him in English if he speaks English he nods his head yes.  If you ask him in English if he speaks Spanish he nods his head yes.  If you ask him in English if he is a skilled metal worker he also nods his head yes.  You get the point, he doesn't understand a word we are saying. 
 Well, I kept a small journal of our two weeks in China and took more photos than I can possibly edit.  Check back for segmental updates and how God proceeded our journey, sustained us and is working in our new adventures.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reckless Love

We are in the airport headed to China.  In just a few days we are going to meet our gift son.  We have received such an unexpected present this Christmas.   The timing of our adoption will always keep us mindful of the Father who gave his Son at great expense so that we could be adopted into his family.   To the far corners of the earth God pursued us and now we get to share in his mission.  It is crazy to love a child who doesn't even know you, but then again who of us knew God.  He knew us and loved us before we were a glimmer in our parents' eye.  My Heavenly Father's love was reckless and unrelenting.   I am the most privileged of adopted daughters.   May in due time Teddy also know the reckless love of The Incomparable Father.
Please pray for us to keep our focus on Christ as the next few weeks will be full of transitions and lots of unknowns.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saturday Puppies Work Hard for a Living

In the midst of the snow and ice storm two puppies were abandoned at our house. 
The girls were given dog food from the neighbor and have fed and cuddled the poor things.
This is our fourth day of school cancellations and the roads are still slick with ice.  The landscape is starting to look like a threadbare white tablecloth in some spots and a stained one in others.   From this morning's photograph, Fritz's snow bridge still stands.
Yesterday the boys helped me chip away ice from our driveway for a few hours.  It was back-tiring, arm-aching work. 
One of the ice bricks from the driveway.  That ruler doesn't lie.   We gained two inches in our biceps and lost two inches on the pavement.
Hopefully today more will thaw, because tomorrow ....well, that is another post.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Pinch me

To make sure it is real


Fritz enjoying the neighbor's dog

Back in the warmth, making a pancake breakfast
Somebody took a photo unbeknownst to us

Goodmorning Snow