Monday, April 11, 2011

A Reflection on Easters Past

When I was little, Easter was a big deal and not necessarily for all the right reasons. I don't remember too much, but I remember it was one of the only times I would go to church each year. You see, my mother never went to church, but my grandparents did and each year I would go with them. Being the only grandchild for about 6 years and even then one of the only girls, I was spoiled (to be honest, still am). So every Easter I would get a new fancy dress with all the necessary accessories to match (bonnet/hat, purse, socks with the ruffles and new patent leather shoes). And Easter morning I would receive a basket which would always come with various gifts from the Easter Bunny, and my other grandparents would give me a new stuffed bunny. My favorite was Pinky, which I'm sure I still have tucked away in a dusty box someplace. 

Easter 1993, with my Papa ( he passed away in '99)

Sassy, I tell you. Easter 1992

Then, each year after church the entire family would gather out on a couple of acres of land for our annual lunch and Easter egg hunt. When I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE (including the 4 and 5th cousins once removed and the relatives you only care to see once a year). To put things into perspective there were well over 100 people there every year. Each family was responsible for bringing around 10 dozen eggs, and mom and I would spend hours the evening before dipping them in Randy's cups filled with colored vinegar and finish them off with stickers. After lunch the adults would strategically hide hundreds of eggs in the field nearby and the children would bury their eyes into the ground and countdown. 5-4-3-2-1, GOOO!!!!! We would take off in hopes of finding the plastic "money eggs" which contained nickles and dimes, or if you were lucky a $1 bill. I tried to stay away from all the real eggs that weren't colored, because rumor had it that my mean Aunt Shelia would bring a dozen eggs that weren't boiled. If for some reason I managed to find one in my basket I made sure to crack it over her head.

My Mom and I, Easter 1990

Found one!! Easter 1992 

Those sure were the days. I don't know how to quite explain it, but I truly miss those years. Even then, at such a young age, those memories stay with you.

The plot of land was eventually sold and the older generation, including my grandfather, passed on. As I got older, our Easter traditions were more or less forgotten and now are only a mere recollection. I'm sure my younger brother has absolutely no memory of these great times. As pagan as our traditions were, they are some of the sweetest memories I have with my family.

Reflecting on the season to come, I realized it will be my first Easter in Hong Kong. Over the past three years, I've had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places for the holiday:

Easter Day 2008, Ruins of Ayutthaya Kingdom , Thaliand

Easter Day 2010, Christ Church, Ilagan, Philippines

Much like my childhood experiences, these too are memories worth holding dear. Although it's unlikely I will be waking up to a basket from the Easter bunny, hunting for eggs or traveling to an exciting new place, I'm thankful for time to contemplate the true cause for the celebration of Easter. In my Sunday school class, I have been discussing with the girls the events leading up to Jesus' death, crucifixion, and resurrection and we will continue the study for the next two weeks. Easter, much like many of the holidays have definitely changed for me over the years, especially after moving to Hong Kong. Regardless as to how different this season may be for me, I'm thankful to have a community of believers to celebrate with... for He is risen, He is risen indeed!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An Observation on Parenting

Tonight we were treated to a wonderful (almost free) dinner with some of our friends who were vacationing in the city from Taiwan. The Franklin's are originally from the US but moved from HK to Taiwan last year. We're so thankful we still see them a couple of times a year. Their 4 year old, Keely is in love with "Mr. El"..! We met them at an Italian restaurant, Fat Angelos, and because of Jacob's saved points, dinner was $40hkd!! They are truly amazing people and such great parents!! They will be spending the week at the Disneyland Resort, or as Keely and Jordan call it, "Mickey and Minnie's House".

After dinner on our way home, El and I met a Chinese boy named Samuel on the train. Samuel (age 5) was sitting in front of us with his mum and dad and just giggling uncontrollably. He had such an addicting laugh, we couldn't help but start laughing, too. He was so happy and expressing himself in a way that I rarely see from children in Hong Kong. Not only was he having a good time, but his parents were engaging in his silliness as well, another unaccustomed sight. Typically children are buried into their video games and parents are ignoring them the same, but not this family. They had an intoxicating joy. They overheard our laughter and the mum looked at us and said, "Kids are crazy!!" We smiled and I asked him his name, eventually I asked Samuel what he did today. He whispered to his mum and then proudly proclaimed, "CHURCH!" This led to even more discussion once we shared with them that El was a pastor. We eventually parted ways once we arrived at their stop and they waved from the window outside as the train pulled away.

In one night I saw two incredible examples of families interacting with their children, one Western and one Asian. In all the hoopla of Western parenting vs. Asian style parenting stirred from this article and book, these two families regardless of culture, have one thing in common. They are Christians. I've always wondered how difficult it would be for El and I as parents. Ellison was raised in a fairly "Chinese" family and myself...well, I was taught "Just do your best!" The question about where we would send our children to school has often crossed my mind. I went to a small, country, public school in Texas and El, a posh British boarding school. Regardless, I now realize we at least have one thing in common...we follow Christ. Although we're not planning on having children anytime soon, we've been discussing our options for adoption. With Christ as the Head, eventually I know we'll make great parents (even if we are so different). We're very thankful for the excellent examples of Christian parenting we see throughout our community!! Thanks to you all!! I'm taking notes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Since I'm allergic to chocolate, I'm always out to find great recipes for PB and Snickerdoodle cookies. I ate Snickerdoodles so often while Ellison and I were dating that I developed the pet name "Snickerdoodle". My favorites actually happen to be store bought. The Pepperidge Farm Snickerdoodles are legit and super soft (I love soft cookies)!! However, I found this recipe on the site I mentioned before and decided to give it a try. Definitely glad I did. I baked these TWICE this week and they were gone both nights. Some of you were asking for the recipe so I figured I would pass it along.

On another note, which has absolutely nothing to do with snickerdoodles or cookies at all..I read/watch the news A LOT. I love being in the know. I don't know if it's because I'm older or the fact that I left small town Texas, but I'm definitely more connected to what's going on in our world. I feel it's my duty as a global citizen to not be ignorant regarding issues that are taking place not only in my area, but around the world. Although a lot of the articles I read are "newsworthy", you do come across those that are somewhat less of a concern. Here are a few I have come across in the past couple of days (mind you these were all front page headlines and on the most popular list)...

Anywho, back to the topic at hand...cookies. Here's the recipe.
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For rolling:
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees while you let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator.

5. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon for the topping.

6. Roll the dough into balls. (I did 1 1/2 inch balls.) Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and press it onto an ungreased cookie sheet. (Not too much or you'll get flat, crunchy cookies!!) Repeat for the remaining cookies.

7. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes (depending on your oven). The cookies may seem undercooked, but will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven. When the cookies have cooled they should be soft and chewy in the middle.

Yum. I made a gigunda one, too!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Deeper Conversation

After my previous post last week, I emailed "S" and told her that I was really encouraged by our conversation in class and that I was happy she had decided to join us. I also expressed to her that I was a Christian and that the freedom and happiness she longed for, I found in Christ. Then I asked if we could continue to meet to practice her English. She emailed me back on Wednesday and said that she was not a Christian but she would love for us meet and talk more. I was overjoyed that she would be returning to my class yet again.

Throughout the week, I began praying for my class and the girls who would be attending. I prayed that God would allow for deeper conversation and that through teaching I would find a way to incorporate the idea of Christianity. So in class today I was to give them mock IELTS speaking exam practice. Basically I would be asking them personal or abstract issue questions and mark their ability to express their ideas. Only two of the girls showed today and it happened to be "S" and "H" (the two from mainland China). I began by asking each girl a question and they would respond. Topics included everything from their families, hometown, to abortion and marriage, to traveling and the one child policy. 45 minutes had passed and we were so engrossed in our conversation that we didn't even pay attention to time. "H" was next and although it wasn't one of the "typical" questions used during the exam, I asked her about religion. "Does you family practice any religion or have any spiritual practices?" After a bit of clarification, she simply answered, "No, not really." I decided to ask "S" the same question. Then came the answer to my prayer.

"My grandmother is a Christian." BINGO! How rare is this? To find a girl from China who has a close family member who is Christian, what a gateway to deeper conversation! She continued... "My grandfather passed away about 10 years ago and my grandmother was very sad. She found faith through her friends and she will attend the church very regularly, each Sunday. Only one time there was a snow storm and she got hurt and couldn't go for sometime."

I smiled because in my heart I knew God was shaping more conversations to come. It was time for them to go to their next class and unfortunately I was sad to know that "S" and "H" would both be leaving this next week to return home to China for a couple of weeks, which means I will not get another chance to meet with them until after I return from the US toward the end of May.

We all traded contact information and the girls have added me on FB so I will surely keep in contact with them and we have plans to go shopping together when we're all back together in Hong Kong. Please continue to pray for "S", "H", "L" and "J" and our new friendship. Pray that God will continue to open the doors that lead to Him.

I'll leave you with a group photo from our Project 180 outreach last weekend. We ended up with 20 people, youth and parents included and we fed 200 people. It was a great start for KIBC and I'm definitely eager to see what's in store for our congregation and this city.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Soon to be Unemployed

As some of you may know, my position at HKBU is coming to an end this month. I have resigned. Not only has it been an asset for my CV, it's been a really great way for me to meet new people and get out of the house. Nonetheless, I was never 100% sold on this job. Now don't get me wrong, I'm extremely thankful for this post (so many people are struggling to find work), however, I'm convinced I was destined to be a domestic goddess, or "taai taai" if you will. Unfortunately there are many things standing in my way of fulfilling my "taai taai" dream. Maybe one day.

In reality, my heart is really set on serving. I pursued my bachelor's degree for a certain purpose, but after moving to Hong Kong I quickly found that the particular field I was interested in working, the area I felt "called" to, was challenging to get involved in for a couple reasons (language being one). After being told "I didn't have enough experience", I more or less just gave up. I've never understood how you gain experience without being given a chance. Anywho..

I then chose the path which is extremely easy in Hong Kong for westerners. Teaching English. These jobs are a dime a dozen. And with the exception of mine, they pay quite well, too. The hourly wage for a NET is anywhere from $30-$70 USD an hour. Not too bad right? That's what I thought. I even received my TEFL certificate for better job opportunities and ended up settling here at HKBU.

After working here for a few months, I quickly realized it wasn't for me. I longed for something more than a nine-to-five. So I began exploring some more options. In order to gain "valuable experience" serving in a humanitarian based organization, I began volunteering on Saturdays at Chungking Mansions teaching English to refugees. Could it be that God was leading down the English path for this purpose? It's been so rewarding and has honestly become the highlight of my week. I'm more convinced than ever that this is the career path I want to pursue, even if it takes me awhile to get there. I'm still young right? I would love to be able to volunteer full-time, but Ellison is pushing me to get a part-time job so I can have my "traveling" money. So I'm leaving HKBU in hopes to find a part time English job which will allow me the freedom to volunteer on a more regular basis, but will still give us that extra income each month.

So for the past couple of weeks I've been on the prowl. Searching websites high and low looking for a part-time English position that would suit my ulterior motive. I applied to this one post calling for a Part-Time English Instructor or Voice Talent which pays around $500 ($65US) an hour. They called me in for a group interview yesterday. Please note, I have NEVER been to a group interview before and pray I never have to again. Here's why:

I arrive to the interview place about 15 minutes early and find another applicant waiting in the room. Is she really wearing jeans? Yep, she is. Nice girl, but could have googled some interview prep advice in my opinion. After reviewing some of the company's publications, interviewee #3 arrives. Cute girl. Asian and friendly as well. Diane (the boss) follows her in and
we begin the interview process. She shows a PowerPoint giving the companies background information and we all listen intently. Then about 10 minutes into her spiel, interviewee #4 comes barging in the door. "HELLO EVERYONE!" In my head I'm thinking, "Inside voice, please." He was 10 minutes late. Obviously he didn't google either. Everyone gets their 2 minutes of fame to introduce themselves, of course I volunteer to be lucky number one. Wow, interviewee #3 went to Berkley and studied at Cambridge. Recent graduate, but still impressive. Where is ETBU again? My degree most definitely fails in comparison. Everyone finishes and we move on. Bursting through the door 25 minutes in is interviewee #5. "OHHHHHHHH, I'M SOOOO SOORRRYYY I'M LATE. SO SORRY, SO SORRY." Really? She sits down and gives her introduction. Middle aged woman from Canada. She reveals to us her entire life story and concludes with a bold statement, "I like to talk....a lot." You think? Story time subsides and we continue.

Each person is to give a 5 minute presentation on the information sheet that was passed out and we have 2 minutes to prepare. Although I find the instructions to be rather ambiguous, I give it my best shot. Okay... that could have gone better. Why did I have to be one of the first people to go? Perhaps if I understood what the lady wanted exactly, I know for certain I could have done better. When someone says "present" the information I in return give a presentation. However, I think what they were looking for was someone to "teach" the information, which I in fact didn't really do. The others follow...

It's now Berkley girl's turn and I'm amazed, to be awfully blunt, at how terrible she is. I don't know if she is nervous or just finds social interaction awkward, but I can't make out the poor girl's sentences. I'll take my ETBU degree, thank you. (No offense, Helen. You're great!!) Outside voice guy does really well, but continues to shout every word that comes out of his mouth.

We conclude the interview with the voice talent reading, which given my 10+ years of theater and public speaking experience, I hope I did quite well. But who knows, it's over!

Although I don't expect to get the specific "instructor" job (there were 3 more group interviews being held as well), it was an experience to say the least. Maybe they liked my voice? Who knows...I did get to go to Big Bite and get a delicious hamburger since I was in the North Point area. WIN!

Regardless, I know I will find the right fit eventually. Just trusting, obeying and praying. All I know is I definitely prefer one-on-one interviews.

**UPDATE** Soon after I posted this, I received an email from the GM at the company I interviewed for and she said I preformed well in both areas as a voice talent and a trainer and that there is a high possibility that we cane work out something. She said she would give me more details next week..! Possibly good news!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A picture says a thousand words...

Every Friday at work I teach an "English Conversation Class" at 11:30. Although there are more than 15 people on the roster, only 2-4 show up each semester. This semester I have had 4 female students (2 from HK and 2 from mainland). Each week I usually choose a topic and we discuss it or I help them with upcoming English presentations/homework. It's extremely casual and they really enjoy the practice. The last class was today, but the students wanted to meet for another couple of weeks. I agreed.

I agreed not because I LOVE to teach English (we all know I don't), but because I've really felt God stirring something in me. As I have got to know them, I feel God continually urging me to share with them the message of Jesus Christ and his love, grace, kindness, power and mercy. But what am I afraid of?

To be quite honest, I can't remember a time I've actually lead someone to Christ. Shocking right? Oh, I've "planted seeds" and prayed that someone else would do the difficult part. I've pointed them in the direction of a church and I've gone on mission trips and taught Sunday School. I've been a youth intern and done VBS, but I've never actually battled with anyone through the questions and doubts and the insecurities for the end purpose of seeing another soul won for His glory. I've never done it. I guess I've always had the mentality that it's about love and relationships and that eventually the Holy Spirit will do the work in their heart. However, what I was neglecting was the part where I connect the two and say, "Hey, let me tell you about this guy named Jesus and what he's done." We can fellowship with them and love on them, however, there's got to come a time in our relationships with non-believers that we step out in faith and take that next step. Hopefully sooner rather than never!

In today's class...I took that next step. I began with a "warmer". Using an app on my phone with a series of photos, I asked the girls to choose 3 photos that best represented their life and to practice their English by telling me why they chose those 3 specifically. The entire time I'm praying that God would somehow open a door for a deeper conversation to come.

One of the Mainland girls (we'll call her S) chose a photo of a guy dancing in the rain. She expressed to me her desire to experience freedom and joy such as then man in the image. AMAZING RIGHT? I'm pretty sure through a relationship with Christ we experience freedom.
"Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace." Romans 6:14
The next photo she chose an older couple holding hands and walking together. She explained her passion for happiness and joy in her life. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The Lord offers that too,
"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24
Another girl (L) chose a picture of an eye and exclaimed that she wanted to broaden her horizons by feeling more and seeing more. All to which would lead her to a more enriched life.
"The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:15-16
We then continued on with our scheduled lesson, but I know God has started something big in my heart and I pray in the heart of S and L, too. Please join me in praying for these for girls (S, L, H and J), for our class next week, for their salvation and that our conversations would be a meaningful testament to His Truth!