Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LION HEARTED...


"There are so many ways to be brave in this world.
Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life
for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. 
Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known,
or everyone you have ever loved,  for the sake of something greater. 
But sometimes it doesn't. 
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain,
and the work of every day,  the slow walk toward a better life. 
That is the sort of bravery I must have now."
Veronica Roth, Allegiant  
 
Perhaps I think too much; I wonder.  Thoughts stick in my head; go 'round and 'round...not that I worry but I think and think about them.
 
One that doesn't go away is: how brave am I?  How much courage do I, would I have when it comes to standing up for what I believe?
 
I've never been challenged to lay down my life for a thing or person.  I've changed my life drastically, left family...friends; especially touched me to leave my mother.  Moving to China was not frightful; nor was introducing God to the Chinese when it was forbidden.  We did it for the sake of something greater. 
 
And what came of it?  Many who never knew Him became well acquainted and He's now their Father...like M...like me!  If we hadn't gone perhaps someone else would've but that's beside the point...we went...and we stayed.  Through the good times...through the SARS times when the other Americans left.  Our care was heavenly...all the way!
 
I'm no heroine but death looked me in the eye...not once but twice.  Once w/o Michael...once with...the with is better...I wasn't afraid.  I suppose I was too ill to be afraid...that seems to be when I am the strongest.  Again, my care was heavenly...all the way! 
 
It's a no-brainer when things are going 'my way' but oops!  It's quite a different take when there's opposition...what if I'm wrong; don't like egg on my face or mud in my eye...what ever! 
 
The news often has 'show and tell' concerning ISIS; their practice of killing Christian's...lives on the line if they don't recant and convert.  Off with their heads or other heinous forms of disposal.

I wonder...what would I do...could I turn my back on my faith?
 
What about Malala, the young Pakistani girl who stood up for her right as a female to be educated?  Fifteen years old; the Taliban forbade girls to attend school...no education for them. She fearlessly blogged her opposition to the edict (under another name) and continued attending school.  One day, as she was returning home from school, a gunman boarded her bus...shot her in the head.   They were that afraid of a young girl with books!
 
Malala Yousafzai
You know her story...among other honors she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize...she has spoken at the U.N. and she continues being the voice of all girls like her.  Early on she delivered a bold speech... "How Dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education."  Talk about brave?  Brave indeed, Malala! 
 
Michael and I are reading the book written by the Brantly's, "Called for Life." 
I don't think you need much background on this couple and their struggle with Ebola. 

Dr.  Kent Brantly & his wife, Amber
 
It takes courage to do what many are doing in foreign countries...here at home as well.  I've read some words that condemned Dr. Brantly for bringing 'his Ebola' to the U.S. for treatment...discounting his heroism as it put his countrymen at risk.  I think it heroic for anyone who chooses to remain in a 'lion's den', if you will...when one could be home with some semblance of safety!  These days are there any safe havens?
 
These are just two examples of the many with hearts full of courage and brave deeds.  There are courageous people all around you and me...lots and lots of them.  Friends, neighbors...ordinary people doing extraordinary things...locally, nationwide...near...some are far, far away in strange places.

Getting back to up close and personal...when the rubber meets the road, am I a chicken or a brave-heart? 
 
I asked Michael what he thought about this...what if push came to shove and you were commanded to deny God and convert to................?   If you chose to stand up for your faith in the face of death, could you do it?  His reply was "I don't know...I can only hope I would but...in reality, I just don't know." 
 
I think I'm probably the same ~ I like to think I'm brave...I like to think I would positively refuse to deny my God...but...as yet, this is not reality...not yet. 
 
I dislike arguing/debating...but facing strong opposition I like to think I would stand up for what I deem right...regardless of the consequences.
 
I admire Abraham Lincoln; I believe he was on target with these words;
"Be sure you put your feet in the right place; then stand firm."
 
Truthfully? I'm thinkin' my feet are in the right place...but...my 'firm' is more of a quiver!
 
Wishy-washy won't do, will it? Might be my turn for courage...might need to go for it! 
 
What do you think?
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca  

Monday, July 20, 2015

TAMING DRAGONS...


"Always speak politely to an enraged Dragon."
 Steven
Brust
 
I've never seen a dragon...read about them...heard songs about them...yet, I've never seen a live one...wow, what a relief! 
 
One of my favorite songs was Puff, the Magic Dragon; I've read inferences it was about smoking pot, etc.  The writers consistently denied it...stating it was an innocent song about a dragon and a little boy!  I choose to believe the latter.  If I'm naive...so what...perhaps some naivety is healthy!
 
I've had what I call 'dragons' in my life...quite a few and I imagine you're the same.  I don't know any 'perfect' people, do you?
 
The following quote, posted on Facebook, struck a chord as I feel it defines much of my life with Michael.  I've taken the liberty of changing "She" to "I"...hopefully I'm forgiven!
 
"I looked back and marveled how far I had come...
 I didn’t wonder how I had made it, I already knew the answer.
Only by God’s help had I powered through;
for without His strength I could do nothing."
 
Before Michael:
I feared doing anything alone...honestly, terrified me! 
I was afraid to speak in public...my heels always tapped loudly!
Physical problems should have prevented me from having children!
I feared confrontations of any type...no arguments for me!
I was very insecure; never understood why, I just was!
 
Oh yes, "I looked back and marveled how far I had come.

After Michael: I flew alone from Oklahoma to Ethiopia and back...alone again from Oklahoma to Germany and back and once more! 
 
I've spoken to women's groups (practicing for China, was I?)...stepped it up to teaching more than 300 Chinese university students each week...in China, no less!  Hot weather...no a/c...cold weather...no heat...aargh. 
 
We've four sons...all safe and sound...loves of my life...Michael's too!  The boys and I weathered many storms successfully...life lessons learned.
 
I took GM by the horns...confronted/challenged their top people w/o earthly assistance...and won...whew! 
 
Stressful dragons in my life?   You bet'cha...I've been off and on the hot seat.
 
 
Well yes, as a matter-of-fact, I do...learned to 'speak Dragon' with M out of the country.  I was in charge of four teenage sons (bigger than me)...that was a dragon of a challenge but as Nelson Mandela said, "The best solution is to sit down and talk."  And talk we did...lots of talking and the boys became awesome men!  How 'bout them apples?  Yay! 
 
These days I talk to myself, standing up!  That's the ticket...talking and rationalizing as I go.  Whatever works, right?  Right!

I'm an ordinary person, same as many others! 
People, we all have problems! 
We've trials, hiccup's, etc. and we make it.
I made/make it with God's help; that's how I powered through for without His strength I can do nothing. Am I problem free? 
Ha! By no means... but I've done a fair job...and guess what? 
Tamed dragons can be
downright fun...good companions!
 
From my thankful heart...to yours, Vasca

 
 
 




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

KEEP WORKIN' IT...;


 
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper,
he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,
or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts
of heaven and earth will pause to say,
here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
 
When you were growing up what did you want to be?  What?
 
When I was growing up I wanted to be a nurse...for awhile.
Then I just wanted to grow up...for awhile.
Then I wanted to meet Prince Charming...for awhile.
Then I met Michael and forgot the prince.
Then I wanted to be a wife...until I wanted more.
Then I wanted to be a mother and a wife...forever!
 
Opportunities were around in my 'young life'...just a tad different from today.  An ordinary person can be almost anything they want if they work at it hard and long enough...you know, like give it all you've got.    
 
There are catches though...catches throw monkey wrenches into the best of plans. 
 
Graduate from high school and what's next?  College for some, trade schools, apprentices for others...jobs...work...it's rather a necessity.
 
Thinking way, way back...life was simple until the first couple messed up and got themselves evicted from the wonderful Garden of Eden.  That wow moment was followed by an even bigger one...a thing called work reared its head and lives changed.
 
Work, work and more work...all kinds of work.  Population increased introducing  more change...even the 'pecking order' came into play.
 
 
Fast forward to this year.  Work, for many, is difficult to find...company loyalty to employees isn't what it once was.  I only know a few who were able to spend their entire career working for one company...job security is shaky at best.  Buy-outs, bankruptcies...cut-backs...re-structuring...take-overs...talk about stress!
 
Michael and I were fortunate to see China close up; we taught those young Chinese college Freshmen and Sophomore students conversational English.  In many of the Chinese colleges they only study their majors.  In our case, the kids were English majors so all they studied was English.  How's that prepping them for living and working in society?  We couldn't imagine and actually those graduates found there were few jobs.  So, many were introduced to the 'dishwasher's society'. 
 
People in China looked down on those positions...as they do in many countries.  Rather like a big 'caste' system; are we all snobs?                             

 "Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. 
A man who works hard stinks only to those who have nothing to do but smell. 
Laura Ingalls Wilder  
              



                           
The Martin Luther King quote I've posted used street sweepers as an example; in Changsha they were our friends!
 
In our housing complex we had two sweepers who rotated days.  A man and a woman...we think they were husband and wife. They lived in a tiny room attached to 'the sweeping/storage closet'; part of the deal with the housing complex. Up early ~ working late...they were also the 'garbage collectors'. 


Our kitchen, with windows, was at the front of our apartment enabling us to watch the fascinating Chinese world go by; they also watched us crazy foreigners in our space!  Much laughter on both sides...such a fun time.  


The sweeper kept the area spotless; he/she would begin every morning picking up boxes and bottles before the scavengers arrived...they were neatly gathered and sold.  Our trash...worth time and money!  Imagine that.


I always watched for them...opened my window and sign languaged a conversation.  We understood each other (sort of) as I passed specialties for their 'pick-up'...a rusty old wheelbarrow.  Talk about the smiles...we beamed and it made the days! 

Our neighbors and friends looked down on them...never noticed or paid any attention to those two who did the 'dirty work'.  Until...they watched our relationship blooming and eureka, the sweeper's became 'people'. 

Those two sweeper's did their jobs...did them well and the earth smiled. 

It doesn't matter what jobs I dreamed of...what matters is I always try doing my best...whatever it is at any time!   Whether it was...as an apprentice at my mother's feet...as Michael's wife...as the mother of Steven, Jeffrey, Patrick and Scott...as a friend for any season...a teacher...a 'big-nose foreigner' in foreign lands...God's child...my prayer is this: "That all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived Vasca who did her job well." 
 
If I could I'd whistle while I work...unfortunately I've never been able to whistle...so I sing and talk to myself instead.  Whatever works, right?
 
Here's the wrap-up; I never aspired to becoming a writer...but wouldn't you know it?  Life's full of surprises!
 
And while I'm not as successful as Snoopy...hey, I'm a writer and I love it!






From my thankful heart...to yours,
Vasca