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The Potter’s Hand On My Heart Again; “…ate Chinese spinach, but it was OK…some fruit, black beans and rice…. chicken a little tough…it was a rooster!”

29 Sep

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During August, 2010, for the entire month, Terry was in California helping to prepare her Mom for a move out of Sacramento and in with Mike and Adona in Danville.

I was in Davie, Florida getting ready to preside at her dad’s funeral in California in September, while also sending out information in search of a job….and listening every day to the song The Potter’s Hand by Darlene Zschech. I wanted to be placed where we were needed and wanted…and ready to go whenever and wherever required.

China was in the back of our minds, only barely, having received information in July about the need there, but not really thinking it was likely since we had tryouts planned. We also were not sure it was possible to decide and raise funds quickly for a December 14 decision if those other situations did not work out. The waiting was difficult.

I have been listening to that song every morning for the past two weeks between 9:45 and 9:55 a.m. while standing at the top of the steps outside Teacher Building #1. Many of the students come by with their usual smile and friendly wave and greeting: Hi, Gary.”

The words? I know for sure all of my days are held in Your hands, crafted into Your perfect plan. You gently call me into your presence…teach me…. to live all of my life through Your eyes. I’m captured by…calling…set me apart, I know you’re drawing me to yourself. Take me, mold me, use me, fill me. I give my life to the Potter’s hand. Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me. I give my life to the Potter’s hand.

That is what Terry and I want again, as we move toward a final decision for 2012. I know finances have been difficult in America this year, and it might be tough for some, but we are hopeful our plans can move forward in a positive way and it becomes absolutely clear where we need to be. We are keeping our options open, like my Dad always taught me, and are comfortable and not afraid of what might be ahead. 🙂

Thank you for your partnership in this effort we share!

When we made plans to come to Jingzhou,  we asked about the weather. We were told it was comparable to Tennessee, and have found that to be true., within 3-5 degrees.

With a weather change, we have brought out some of our long-sleeve sweaters and shirts, and I found many of them no longer fit me. Looks like J. C Penney and Wal-Mart will have a happy shopper in early January. It is nice to be able to wear some of these clothes without heavy coats over them…we never really had spring last year, it seemed. It went from 35 to 85 pretty quickly.

As it gets cooler here (not cold by any means yet!), the students will text Terry reminding her to put on the proper clothes and take care of herself.” It is so nice of them to feel as if they need to take care of us.

The theory of evolution has come up with some new students. It is difficult for them to consider anything else when they have been taught all of their life how the world came into being.

I have to share a story: Howard, one of our teacher friends from the 5th floor of our apartment, came down to arrange a time this week Terry will talk to one of his classes about America, etc. (As reported in the last newsletter, her classes now begin in 26th instead of 5th, then 12th…then 19th….well, you get the idea.)

He studied abroad a few years back in Montana, and is quite style-conscious and wears many of the ‘brand name’ shirts. As we had finished our discussion, he pointed to the Abercrombie symbol on his shirt and said “A friend bought this for me in America and brought it to me. It cost $90 (USA) but I paid only $30 (factory discount store, I am sure).  Then, with a huge smile on his face, he added, “It is made in China.” We all had a big laugh. 🙂

Terry had an upset stomach part of the day, and answered my question (What did you eat that might have caused it?) this way: “I ate some Chinese spinach, but it was OK, and some fruit and black beans and rice….the chicken was a little tough…maybe it was a rooster!”

From Terry: One of the teachers gave me a small cloth purse she bought during her travel this summer. It is very pretty.

Our neighbor, Howard, asked me to speak to his freshmen non-English majors on the West campus this week; all but four were male students, just the opposite of my classes. They were very attentive; many had never seen a foreign person before. Several had their pictures taken with me. After  class four students walked me to the front gate, secured, paid for and directed a taxi to take me home.

The other lady that was sharing the taxi was carrying a Mary Kay tote bag. I asked her, in Mandarin, if she sold Mary Kay and she said gave me her business card. I gave her my card too. I have finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo. I watched the movie Miss Potter about the life of Beatrix Potter. It was like traveling to another place and time. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes and sets. Peter Rabbit is one of my favorite children’s books. Yea!

My schedule has changed for the better. I now have only one 4:00 p.m. class, no more than two classes a day and only have to catch the city bus two times on the way home. This is very good. I am thankful.

I did have another interesting thing occur: on my third day of classes I noticed when arriving that the students were the same ones from my class the day before. Thinking I had entered the wrong room, I spoke to them and found out that all of my classes meet twice per week instead of once a week. It’s OK except that I did not know it at that moment and did not have the attendance book and seating chart for the day…well, life goes on. A typical miscommunication that occurs when everything we receive from the university is only in Chinese and we do not know what questions to ask to be fully informed of the process. 🙂

I got to Skype with Mother about an hour the other day. It was so good to spend time with her. She looked great and is doing well. Because of schedules and time difference it had been a while since our last visit so we caught up.

My eyes stung just a little bit when I passed by the place where Aiden spent a lot of time playing while he was here this summer. I could almost see him climbing on the “old castle”. It is a good memory.

“All and whatever”; that is a statement from the latest book I have read, The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang. It is a Christian romance novel about a family dealing with fragile x syndrome. The story brings out the fact that our creator promises to be with us through all and whatever happens in our life.

I have had a great first week: enthusiastic, dear students, again very few males. Many said I am the first foreigner they have ever seen. Others said I am their first foreign teacher.

There is construction on the street in front of the West Campus where I teach so things were a little different. I caught the right bus at the right time but I was at the wrong place (by just a few yards) coming and going on my first day. The dear bus driver (same as last semester) saw me and picked me up anyway, bless his heart. And so I was taken care of. First times are always so “fascinating”.

Gary met me at the gate the first day after classes and took me out to lunch. It was very thoughtful and appreciated. In the last report I failed to mention that it was Ralph Waldo Emerson that said “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”— Love, Terry

The students were given time off from classes one morning so they could elect the local area’s national representatives. Many took part, standing in line while listening to some adults present themselves through loud speakers. They commented “it is difficult to feel as if we know them well enough to really vote.” (Sounds like something we also say in America).

China NewsChina plans to introduce a new grading system for its restaurants, awarding a smiley face to establishments that score high grades for hygiene, and an unhappy face for those with a food safety problem, the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday.

Restaurants in China are famous for producing mountains of delicious food, but a look behind the scenes at the state of the kitchens can make even the hungriest diners lose their appetite.

China’s State Food and Drug Administration is drafting new rules to force restaurants to display simple stickers to  inform customers how safe it is to eat there. A smiley face will represent  “excellent,” a straight face means “good,” and an unhappy face indicated average.

Inspectors will grade restaurants after inspecting food materials, sanitation and hygiene, the report said.

China will launch an unmanned module next week, paving the way for a planned space station, a spokesman for the space program said on Tuesday.

Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, will blast off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province between Sept 27 and 30, the spokesman said.

The 8.5-ton module, and the Long March II-F rocket that will carry it skyward, were positioned onto the launch pad on Tuesday, signaling that the project has entered the final preparation stage.

“Scientists will conduct final tests in the next few days before injecting propellants for the launch,” Cui Jijun, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, said.

The program spokesman said that Tiangong-1 will serve as “a target spacecraft” for rendezvous and docking experiments.

Can We Be Happy?
In a world filled with sorrow and suffering, where pain and disappointment assault body and mind, where discouragement seems to attend every worthwhile endeavor, eventually we are led to ask ourselves: “Can We Be Happy?”

Is “happiness” just a word? Or, can it be a reality in this world?

If there is a truly common, universal desire, it is the desire to be happy. People seek happiness, “work hard” to obtain it, go to great lengths to ensure it, and, yet, it seems to elude so many.

One of the problems is one of definition – what is happiness? What does it mean? You can’t hardly obtain something if can’t identify what it is you re seeking.

Happiness means different things to different people. It is a personal, individual matter. It involves our interests, our personal goals, our likes and dislikes. What makes one person “happy” could have little effect upon someone else.
We realize that there are many unfulfilled, unhappy people. They desire what they cannot achieve, at least as far as they can see. But, possibly, much unhappiness and discontent could be dispelled and overcome by a redefining of what we seek and a better understanding of what true happiness is.

One person described “happiness” this way: “Happiness is a state of mind or habit where we have pleasant thoughts the greater part of the time. It is a built-in mechanism within us.”

On reflection, as we look around us in the world, many people seem to have so much to make them happy. But, they are not happy.

On the other hand, we may think of some one who has few of the ingredients necessary to be happy – but, still, they seem to be so.

It leads us to conclude that happiness is, indeed, a state of mind; one that is not necessarily conditional upon external circumstances. It is as Paul said for himself: “. .I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Where does a sense of contentment, of peace, of happiness come from? It must come from within us. Solomon learned long ago that external wealth and other things cannot insure happiness. In contrast to Paul, Solomon had discontent and dissatisfaction where, we might think, he would have much happiness.

Happiness and trouble stand at everyone’s gate. Our choice is which we will invite in. Can we be happy? The answer is “yes,” if we make up our mind to be.

Daily thoughts and convictions that stretch into eternity are man’s greatest hope and source for happiness.

We receive guidance and instruction from those in the past to know that we may have joy.

Happiness is never found in wealth, power, knowledge, or physical enjoyment. Not that there is no enjoyment, or pleasure, or sense of accomplishment in these things. They can be fulfilling in their own say, as can the things money can buy.

Each of these things has a legitimate place in our lives, but which of them belongs at the center of our lives?

Here is where many people look to achieve happiness, but, ultimately they fail to achieve a lasting joy or contentment in their lives.

Happiness is often found in simple things. What appear the simplest things in life can be the source of much happiness. Children reflect this when they set an expensive toy aside and play with the box it came in.

The joys and beauties of everyday life can effect us profoundly, and they cost us nothing.

Happiness is found in worthwhile work well done. Eternal happiness will come from a job well done.

Happiness and satisfaction are often found more in the pursuit of an objective than in its attainment. Thinking about, and working toward, a goal can be a time of happiness a real fulfillment.

Achieving our set goats is good, and brings joy into our lives, but, setting goals and applying ourselves in gaining worthwhile objectives gives life a special meaning.

Happiness is found in being more concerned about others than about oneself. When we forget ourselves and work for the good of others, we find the greater satisfaction and happiness.

The late Batsell Barrett Baxter tells this story:  “During my college years a graduation speaker told of an immensely rewarding experience. A lady in the church of which he was minister baked a chocolate cake and brought it to the church office, saying that she wanted him and his family to have it. He expressed his appreciation and then, since it was mid-morning and not yet time to go home for lunch, set the cake on a table beside a window which opened on a vacant lot where neighborhood children often played. During the morning he happened to notice that several boys from the not-too-well-to-do neighborhood had stopped their game and were looking longingly at the cake. On an impulse, the minister invited the boys in and shared the cake with them. It was soon gone, but the wonderful memories of a happy group of neighborhood children never left him; he told our graduating class months later that he was still enjoying the cake. A generation later, I am still enjoying a cake which I never saw or tasted. And now that I have told this generous-hearted story, people all across this land will long enjoy a cake which they never saw or tasted. How different the destiny of this cake if the preacher had kept it for himself and his family.”

We can never experience real joy until we give of ourselves for the sake of others.

Ultimate happiness is found only on the spiritual level. There are physical joys and satisfactions, but, the highest level of happiness comes from the spiritual, not physical, side of our nature.

Why this is so, is easily explained: we are more than just a physical body; made in the image of God, we are a spiritual being as well, a soul destined for existence eternally. Our spiritual nature must be accounted for if we are going to be a complete, fulfilled person.

Our relationship to God, or lack of same, has a direct bearing upon our happiness. In life, when a relationship breaks off, we feel unhappy – if it was a satisfying relationship to begin with. So it is with ourselves and God. A very important part of our nature and make-up needs a relationship with Him who made us. When our relationship with God is a good one, we can be happy. Look to God and be happy in what we have from Him.

Conclusion — Happiness is possible but not always attainable at once. Life can burden us greatly, and there are times we may even feel it is useless to even think about ever being happy

But, when life tumbles in, remember:

He is still supreme and still cares about us and for us.

Someone sacrificed Himself that we might live forever in eternal peace and joy.

An eternal home awaits the obedient soul. It is a place where nothing burdensome will ever trouble us again.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Jingzhou

 

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