I know I have been absent all summer. I apologize. I am back.  I am continuing on my pathway  of awakening to life.  My latest issue I am addressing is My ” judger”   Why do I judge everything that takes place? I have to put it into a category of my understanding so it fits into my sphere of knowing.

When I am presented with something from anyone I examine how that fits into my realm of belief or understanding. I’m the worlds’ worst judge or best judge of myself as well. When I have a new behavior, thought, or action that is different ,I judge it. I question” is this okay, is this good, bad, wonderful, terrible?”  It doesn’t have  to be this way. I don’t have to judge, I could just look at it for what it is. Do you wonder what the heck I’m talking about? An example is: I had a client cancel so I had an hour to spare. First, I judged the experience of why did they cancel, not just what is “they called and said they could not come.” The next thing I did was leave the office and thought I’d go do some shopping. I drove down the road, walked into a fabric ( which I normally love) and was not a bit interested in being there. I walked out to my car and drove back to the office. My immediate response was “what’s wrong with you?”  Why didn’t you want to look at fabric? You always loved that.” As opposed to “I wasn’t interested in being there.”  I couldn’t just be with what it was I had to judge it. The next example is I wanted to call my husband at work because I was thinking of him. My internal dialogue was “He’s probably busy, or relaxing so don’t bother him.”  I told myself “don’t call he may not want to talk to you and you will feel bad.” Do I have a lot of chatter? You bet! I called him. He was happy I did. These are examples of my natural reaction to everything that enters my existing world. I am challenging my judgments. They don’t have to be who I am or what I do. They can easily just be experiences if that is how I look at them.

The awareness of what I’m doing when I do it is my first awakening to myself and what it is I do. It is my first step., The next step is to name what it is and STOP! Stop before I make a judgement, tear it apart, question and examine it. Just name what it is. ie. “I didn’t want to shop, my client called and cancelled, I wanted to call my husband. ” Simple? Yes, it’s much simpler than listening to the chatter and entertaining the thoughts of right, wrong, good or bad. If you’re a judge, try it , you might like it.

Returning Home

I apologize for not finishing out my trip. I left off the last post with my train ride to Beijing and the miracles of my student Grace accompanying me. I failed to share another miracle that happened while I was riding on the train.

Last summer I met a wonderful woman named Patience from Ghana. She was a true prayer warrior. I believe I wrote about her. I have not spoken to her since last November because she returned to Ghana to visit her family.  While I was on the train praying for angels to watch over me and help me to make my flight the next day I received a beautiful text from Patience. Her text said this “My dear sister how are you? I am sure our Heavenly Father will always take care of you. My sister I hope you will forgive me. I do not have long distance plan, that’s why I have not been able to call you. I just want you to know that I will remember you in my prayers. May you all be blessed, love Patience.”  As the tears ran down my cheeks I knew in that moment that my prayers were being answered. This true angel, prayer warrior was being directed my way at a great moment of need for me. I texted her back thanking her and asking for her prayers in my behalf in returning home to America.  Her sweet prayer and answer was this: “My dear sister, the love of God will always bind us together. After your message I went on my knees to ask our Heavenly Father to protect you and bring you home safely. Let us keep his promise with us wherever we go. Isaiah 41:10 ; do not fear, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand, I will continue to pray till you get home. May you feel peace from heaven. Shalom, amen.”  It is truly the answer I was looking for, a tangible answer and a quick one at that.

I don’t often speak so openly about my faith here but it was such a powerful experience I had to share it. I know that I was very afraid and felt as helpless as I have ever been. First of the all the miracle of Grace even showing up at the airport was amazing. Then, she accompanied me to Beijing. We got the only 2 train tickets left, one first class the other a regular one. She arranged for a driver once we got to the train station in Beijing gratefully so because we were bombarded by drivers following us wanting to take us at a very high price. We made it to my hotel and my other student was there waiting for us and had already spoken to the airlines and made sure my ticket home was approved. “All is well she said you will get on your flight smoothly tomorrow.”  I felt so blessed!!

With my worries gone about getting home I was at ease with going to the Great Wall the following morning before my plane left in the afternoon. It was wonderful to go with 3 of my students and my friend Sharyn. The drive to the wall was beautiful countryside with forests and sheep herders in the woods. There were fields of flowers and it was so green. I kept saying how much I loved the drive there and my students said “we can just turn around Joyce you are so happy with what you are seeing you don’t even need to see the Great Wall.” Not so, it is on my bucket list, a must see while I am in China. I finally got to see it. It was beautiful, a magnificent work in stone and mortar amongst a lush green forest. I am so happy it worked out to see it.

My flight home was great, no problems, no questions asked. What I learned is that God has my back! He is watching out for me. Things didn’t work out like I planned but they worked out. I was not left alone, I was not forgotten, I was not without companionship, I was not without angels, I was completely taken care of.


A Little Help From My Angel Friends

Packing was difficult. I have acquired many gifts and of course blankets to take home. The sending off at the van is always a bitter sweet experience. There were a dozen students saying goodbye all wanted to go with me. Alas, there was no room in the van and the goodbyes began. It’s always so hard to say good bye but I know I’ll be back again and that makes it easier.

When we arrived at the airport with two assistants to help us get tickets, I noticed one of my graduated students there waiting for us. Grace wanted to see me off. She lives in Zhengzhou where the airport is and wanted to say goodbye.  My friend Sharyn got her ticket but they said my flight had changed and I did not pay for my ticket. The hustle and bustle began. Students were running back and forth to the office and the ticket counter trying to clear things up, making phone calls and trying to get students back at campus checking online. There wasn’t any wifi anywhere in the airport and I was unable to call the 800 number in the states to check out why this was happening. It just didn’t work. I could not get on the flight and they don’t take credit cards when I asked to buy a new ticket. I don’t know if it was a smaller airport or what but they would not budge. After a few hours of running around I asked Grace if she would help me get a train ticket to Beijing.

She was gracious enough to get on the bus with me and my three pieces of luggage and take me to the train station. While we were on the bus I was praying that I can get on the plane in Beijing to get home. She looked at me and said “Joyce I have decided I will accompany you to Beijing to make sure you get there safely.” I looked at her and started crying. She said “don’t cry it will be okay.” I informed her they were tears of gratitude! I was not sure how I would maneuver 3 pieces of luggage up and down stairs in the train station or even know where to go when I got there. She was a quick answer to prayer and a miracle.  I felt so lucky that in the middle of a crazy mishap I had a special angel to walk beside me. Remember she was only there to see my off , now she was taking a trip to Beijing! It was so helpful to have her accompany me. She was not able to get tickets on the train together so she got me settled in my seat and then went to hers.

As I sat on the train listening to passengers converse in Chinese I felt tired, overwhelmed, and grateful. I’m in a foreign land, I don’t speak or understand the language, and things don’t work and can’t be fixed with a credit card like they can in the U.S. It was a pretty helpless feeling as I stood there letting my students do all the communicating. Stuff happens, things break, mistakes are made but it seems there’s something to learn and be grateful for. Today I’m grateful to be loved, watched over, taken care of even it is a helpless, vulnerable feeling.


Mother's Reception

Our 9th annual Women’s Symposium was just completed this past weekend. It was a fabulous experience for all those who attended as presenters from America, China, India, and Europe. The students were delighted in being able to present their project presentations as well as being assistants to the guests. It truly is a pleasure and an amazing opportunity for the women of the academy to assist and translate for our guests. They make friends with foreigners and open doors for future opportunities. I was so proud of the compliments they received for their unending service, professionalism and availability to do anything they needed them for. We definitely have an elite group of men and women in the academy that stand out like no other.

On Saturday evening we had a mother’s reception (previously known as the mother’s tea).  At this event the students invite their mothers and families to attend and stand on the stage and acknowledge them for what they have done for them throughout their lives. It is purely an emotional evening full of mostly tears but also laughter from stories shared. Oh, the stories shared were something else.

One of the men from the academy invited his mother to the stage. She was a very shy, humble woman that was obviously uncomfortable being on the stage. He told stories of what a bad child he was, always getting into trouble, he took someone’s motor bike and broke it. His family had no money to fix it so while he was at school his mother fixed it and had him return it when he got home from school. He held up her hands that were rough, weathered and thick and said she had hands like this because she loved him and worked hard in the fields every day so he could have what he needed. She did not even finish primary school, but now he is in college because she supports him.  The whole time he spoke she looked down to the ground and when he told her he loved her and handed her a carnation she smiled and gave him a hug.

A woman from the academy invited her mother to the stage and said she did not get along with her when she was at home. In fact, she did not think her mother loved her that she loved her brother more than her. Since being in the academy she realized she did not communicate well with her mom. She asked her to forgive her and would be willing to communicate more with her and let her love her. They embraced, tears in their eyes and said I Love You.

I pretty much cried throughout the whole evening. As I sat next to another one of my students we shared tissues and cried together. We heard one story after another of the hardships so many of the families have had over the years just trying to feed their children. Many of them were raised by their grandparents because their parents had to work in the city. They are so appreciative of their parent’s hard work and recognize how much they do to make sure their children get an education.

Once again the things I appreciate about these students are their eagerness to learn, their appreciation for their education, the kindness they share, honesty, vulnerability, generosity and willingness to take risks and step out of their comfort zone for growth. It is a great place to be and I am getting very sad to be leaving in a few days.


Open Door Open Heart

I really wish I could have recorded every word that was said to me today and yesterday. My five week stay has come to an end and it is time for good byes. They are never easy but always so genuine and kind. I had lunch and dinner with students and left my front door open all day. They came in through my front door and out again leaving the scent of flowers behind them. I tell them their words are like a bouquet of fragrant flowers. When they say their kind words the fragrance lingers forever in my heart. The memories they shared of our classes together and the things they learned were reaffirming I was here for a purpose and they got it.

One group of students was there in the early afternoon and we all started yawning. One of them said “we all should take a rest because your home feels so warmly.” What is that I asked? “It means we’re so comfortable here with you it is like home. “ My apartment has a little kitchen, a living room and dining room and two bedrooms and 2 baths. It is a comfortable place to be. It has bare walls, no pictures, no rugs or plants and Knick knacks to make it feel homey, just pieces of furniture. I realized in that moment it’s not the beautiful décor we put on or walls, floors and shelves that make it feel like home. It’s our presence. My apartment in China is my home and the students recognized it as such with what I bring to it. At the count of three I went to my room to rest and the others curled up on the chairs and couch. It was nap time.

I had some new members to the academy come visit and remind me that I interviewed them. They brought gifts of course and said they wanted to be with me as much as possible because they just met me. It is such a funny feeling when they say such things. They said their words cannot express in English what they feel when they are with me because it is such a strong feeling. They kept trying to come up with the words and got frustrated and finally said “we just love you and want you to stay.”

After many loving visits and gifts we had a going away party in the outdoor amphitheater. When we entered the stage there was a large heart shape of lit candles waiting for us to stand in the middle while they sang friendship songs and happy birthday. As tears ran down my cheeks I could feel my heart was bursting with joy and love for these amazing men and women.

We played a game where we yelled out a number between 1 and 10, they had to quickly run into a huddle of that number of people. If there were stragglers left they had to stand in the middle of the stage and share a message, dance or sing. We got all three. It was really fun. Then we ate cake and the students find it very entertaining to smear cream on each other from the cake. We all had cold cream faces by the end of the evening and no make up left from the tears. The men and women came up and expressed their thanks and what they loved and learned from me and the others facilitators. Many of them gave little trinket gifts. I imagine a lot of the gifts they gave were ones given to them at one time.

I am at a loss of words like them. How can I translate the warm feelings in my heart? There are not words adequate to describe the love I have felt these past weeks in China. What have I found? I have learned how to love and be loved, share and accept, be open and available and present to each moment, and each gift that comes through my open door.