Four months ago, every night was as quiet as when the baby’s gone to bed early. Four months ago, all we had to assure us of his coming was one very round belly, a car seat, and a crib. We were full of expectations and fears—a hard birth, sleepless nights, a world that would change dramatically. And it was all true.
What we could never have anticipated is just who he is. It’s hard to believe that the person we were waiting for was this babbling squeaking little person, so full of life and opinions already. This little person who dissolves into a puddle if he doesn’t get to bed on time, and who wakes up in the morning by wiggling and kicking for an hour before he opens his eyes with a smile. What we were missing in our expectations was the joy.
Every moment since his arrival, the long newborn nights and the days full of wonder as he awakens to the world around him, has been full of joy. His loud vocalizations, the smell of his wispy hair, his round soft cheeks (just perfect for kissing) have all been so much more than I could have ever imagined. Watching this small being learning how to smile, blow bubbles, and coordinate his hands makes me smile every day. I can’t believe it’s been four months already, John Quincy! We love you so much.
Can you believe it’s already the end of 2015? Where did the year go?
Just back last January, we were in China. Winter was seeming really gray and really long. So apparently I spent a good deal of my time blogging, as , in some un-repeatable feat, I wrote a total of 11 posts. Most popular of those posts was, of course, Whither Sex?. Other than writing blog posts, though, I was busy finishing up grading for the year, visiting some interesting places in Beijing, and then jetting off to Xi’an to do a little sightseeing. For some reason, my least popular post in January was this one. I guess people don’t like reading about dishes??
I don’t know what my favorite picture from January is. Probably this one, of the cathedral in Xi’an:
It was such a welcoming atmosphere, to worship with the people of God in another land.
In February, Chinese New Year was the main event. We heard fireworks for weeks! Of course, another exciting thing was that I got pregnant with John Quincy, which meant that all the sudden Jared told me everything I wrote sounded like I was complaining. However that may be, my favorite picture from February is definitely this one of the fireworks. They may have been loud, but they were pretty to photograph!
Favorite picture for March is definitely the one of the girl kissing the horse. She was so cute!
In April, apparently not much happened. There was Easter (which was of course busy at church), we visited Marco Polo Bridge which is called something else entirely in Chinese so no Chinese person will know what you’re talking about if you call it that (though I digress), and the most popular post was one about how China lost our mail. Fascinating stuff going on here, folks!
My favorite picture for April, though, is one of the pretty spring flowers. When you’re living in a place like China, where the buildings aren’t beautiful, you’ve got to cling to whatever beauty you can find–and the flowers definitely had it.
In May, my most popular post was on how to grow up. We also visited Tianjin and got a taste of another Chinese city. And that’s all I blogged about, though I’m sure my days were filled with more teaching, bike riding, and grading.
Favorite picture in May is of the man fishing (though I still wish the angle had been right to get the No Fishing sign in the picture!).
Bonus picture: little tiny JQ (it sounds nicer to say it that way than big fat me!).
In June, the most momentous thing was that we decided to go back to the US for the summer. Of course, we were keeping it a secret, so no blog posts about it. It was a fun surprise! Since I wasn’t blogging so much (looking back, I mostly remember being pretty busy with teaching all the time!) I got in a guest poster who would write something funny for ya’ll. I’ve tried to get him to do more, but whaddaya know? He’s even worse at turning out regular blog posts than I am!
Apparently I didn’t upload any pictures on to the blog in June, but here’s one of our anniversary dinner: some kind of Chinese tasty beef.
We actually hiked the Great Wall in June too, but I didn’t write about it till July. As that was the only thing I posted in July, due to visiting relatives (it’s hard to find time to write when visiting people!), pictures are rather scarce. Looking back, I find it hard to believe that I actually did that hike when I was five months pregnant. Maybe I was slightly crazy!
Since that picture was actually taken in June, I’ll give you a real July picture too: Jared doing one of his favorite things.
In August, we were visiting another set of family and I gave you the rundown on the crazy that was my life. I also got asked questions like “Would you rather have Jared or a shark?” Tough decision, folks!
Favorite August picture: Colorado sunset.
In September, the big news was moving to London! (Yes, third continent in one year.) We stopped by Iceland on the way there just to do some sightseeing as well. I also was so pregnant that I decided there were some things that pregnant women shouldn’t have to do. (One of my more popular posts for the year.)
Favorite picture from September? Iceland.
In October, I wrote my most popular post ever. That was definitely the most exciting news of October. Just kidding.
Actually, John Quincy was the most exciting thing of the whole year. And he definitely merits the October picture. Except, he’s so cute I don’t know which picture is best. So you get the one that was most exciting for me–when he’s about three seconds old.
Santa Baby definitely takes the cake for December. Everyone loved him.
And that’s it for 2015. Just a quiet year involving three continents, a move, and having a baby. Who says you need to be single to have adventures? Let’s hope 2016 has just as much joy and maybe slightly less excitement.
So I know you all are dying to hear more of what China is really like. Well, I’m here with the scoop.
China is a great place to live. Not only are there five gazillion people everywhere all the time, but there are some things about China that you just won’t find anywhere else.
1. Trees in the middle of the road.
I don’t know what this country’s obsession is with trees, but they have them everywhere. In parking lots, sidewalks, the middle of the road. . .
They’re all like, “Ooh, wonderful tree! Who cares if I nearly cream my car just getting into the parking lot?!” (And don’t ask about getting out–let’s just say I’m thankful I don’t have a car here.)
2. Funny little garbage bicycles.
These trike thingies with a bed on the back still look funny to me every time I see them. Surely it must be more efficient to get rid of garbage in huge trucks than on teeny bicycles? But no–bicycles are the way to go. Plus, you can stack them like crazy to fit even more stuff on!
3. Parking on the sidewalks
When your parking lots are full of trees, where else are you supposed to park? Well, the sidewalk is a good place to start.
If you can’t find an empty space in the parking lot, just find your closest sidewalk. If that’s been taken, well, the middle of the road is probably your next best option. Just let the pedestrians and bikers figure out how to get around you. It’s their problem, not yours.
This person couldn’t decide whether the sidewalk or the middle of the road was best, so they settled on a compromise.
4. Random junky areas.
Cats are celebrities here. There’s one who is always sitting outside when we go by on our way to the swimming pool. He usually has a few Chinese girls petting him and leaving offerings. He’s almost like the mascot cat.
This junky-ness also happens to be a cat shelter maintained by one of the neighbors. In the summer, the cats bask on top of it in the warmth of the sun. In winter, they disappear. I assume they’re slumbering within the depths (what, you say I shouldn’t use pretentious words when I tell my students not to? Hooey.) or waiting for their next meal to be brought to them by their lady-in-waiting. I think there may be around twenty cats that use this shelter regularly.
I hope you enjoyed my little tour through three blocks of China. That’s right–all these pictures were taken within three blocks of each other, on a university campus, no less. It’s even scarier out in the real world!
I’ve been doing far too much grumbling lately. It’s easy to think only of everything you wish were different.
When everything is changing and a move to the other side of the globe is imminent.
When you’re given a trial that you never anticipated and never understood until now, and it seems as though everyone is judging you for it.
When you’re given kindness in the midst of hardness and all you want to think about is the hardness.
When all you want to focus on is everybody else’s faults.
In times like these, it’s easy to forget, to see only the small thorns in the midst of glory. And yes, thorns are still thorns—they’re poky, and they hurt. No one wants to keep walking when every step rubs blisters raw, even in the midst of the most glorious scenery.
But if you do keep walking, keep feeling the poke of the thorns, the blisters will turn into calluses and even the most obstinate thorn will become dull. And the beauty will still remain—the beauty of adventure, of friendships, of relationships, of character shaped and molded through trials.
No one’s promised an easy life, where beauty can be taken—stolen, almost. What we are promised is a beauty that will never fade, a glory that cannot be dimmed when we’ve fought through the trials and the pain of the blisters. So be thankful for your thorns—they’re leading you to heaven.