Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dear new parents,

Today is a day your life will change drastically. I can only imagine the long process of waiting, preparing, and anticipating this day to arrive. And now you have a beautiful little girl to call your own and be a fixture of joy and adoration in your home.

This has been a big step for you. It's not easy to counter a culture that doesn't easily accept or understand adoption, and for you to decide you want to take another's little girl as your own is commendable. You know there will be difficulties. The adjustment period will not only be hard on you but on her as well. Unlike other parents who grow their babies inside them for nine months before they come into the world, your little princess has not known of you until today. It is my hope that she who has known love and security in our care for the past year and few months will recognize the love and security you wish to give to her, and transfer her trust and affection accordingly. She has been much loved, and much doted upon, as I trust she will continue to be.

You, too, have not had the chance to grow accustomed to her from the very beginning. Neither of you yet know each other's habits, quirks, temperaments. She will learn quickly--maybe even faster than you learn about her--and I guarantee you, there will be new things for you to discover every day. The way she screams when she is excited, perhaps. Or the way she waves to herself and dances in the mirror. The way she pretends to refuse to eat another bite because she's testing your will. But you, too, will learn, gradually, and it will be up to you to not be afraid of all those new things which you may not yet know.

Dear parents, let her be your joy, just as she has been ours for these many months. Be gentle with her, for she is a gentle, sweet spirit. She will in turn, reward you with her confidence and love as she has given us, perhaps reaching out to hold your hand from the backseat of the car, or crawling up from her nap to give you kisses. Cherish each moment dearly, in light of the early milestones that you have missed--the ones we had the privilege to witness: first tooth, first steps, first babblings. You are now yet experiencing with her the biggest milestone of her young life--being together with a forever family. And oh, let it be for forever.

And so, our prayers and thoughts of blessing go with you as you make your new life together. I will think of her when I wipe the little knee-high hand prints off the mirror, imprints like those made indelibly in our hearts--unmistakably hers. We have treasured the memories, held her dear.

Thank you, thank your little princess, thank God for this unspeakable gift.

With love,


Sunday, July 27, 2014

new home, new blessings

Our landlady likes Ikea (okay, we do too).

It's been over a month now that we've moved into our new home. It's taken me this long to write about it because 1) it took forever to unpack and 2) I am very lazy about getting pictures to illustrate. But I do want to share with you the blessing that God has given us at this new place.

We didn't have much time (or energy) for apartment searching, but we had hoped we would have a place set by April. April came and went, however, and still no apartment. Some places we inquired into fell through, but B kept looking for online listings. He came across this one (I don't know why it's still up), among others, and we went to look at it after church one day. After comparing with different ones we'd seen, we decided to make an offer to rent. The lady was very accommodating (actually, she agreed to give us the month of May without cost) and soon, before the first week of May was over, we had the keys in our hands.

Later we found out that a brother from our church also lives in the same building. After mentioning it to him, he offered us his parking space to use (since he doesn't have a car). This is a HUGE blessing since it saves us a good fraction of expenses to not have to pay a monthly parking space rental fee!

B and I were stressed about our upcoming move. We didn't know how it would work to haul all our stuff down 5 flights of stairs, or if we had enough friends with vehicle space to help, or how many friends could actually come and help. But the day of our move, God continued to bless us by sending reinforcements when others suddenly couldn't make it, and one of them even brought a small SUV that carried a good portion of our boxes over! And while it rained pretty steadily in the morning, we prayed for it to stop for our move, and it did--just at the right times for the guys to load up our stuff in the vehicles and to unload at the new building.

Bookshelf full of a portion of B's notes

B's study (with my sticky notes of verses)

Living here has been, as my friend C likes to say, "nice times ten." Although we still dealt with broken or unusable appliances (we were in laundry limbo for a few weeks and had to borrow friends' washing machines), there are a lot of things I don't miss about our old apartment (and hence am grateful for their absence in our new one). No more springtails eating away the grout between the vintage counter tiles in the kitchen. (If you don't know what a springtail is, be warned before you look them up: although they are tiny, they look kind of scary in close-up pics). Better yet, no tiles on the kitchen counter at all. No more walking past decades-old peeling paint in the stairwell or ignoring the cracks and chips perpetuating the apartment. No more feeling beaten by the unconquerable dust and grime that came with living next to the oil refinery. No more being confined to one bedroom for the whole evening where the only working AC unit is.

I know, I make it sound like it was an awful place, don't I? But actually it was a blessing in itself. I'd been asked several times what I'd miss about the old apartment, and at first it was hard to say. But I know I DO miss a few things:

1) Being on the top floor, having complete access to the roof to sun-dry freshly laundered bedding (it would only take a couple hours of good sunlight!)

2) The space. We had tons of it. We started our Friendsgiving tradition there with a big group of classmates who were comfortably accommodated in our large living room. I could stuff random junk into a far-away drawer and forget about it until I needed it again. Now our stuff battles each other for prime real-estate in our much smaller apartment. I also had my own work-out space, which doubled as our guestroom.

3) Being in a quiet, old-timey neighborhood. Many of the residents in our former place had lived there for at least two generations. One grandma especially befriended us and brought us traditional food for the winter solstice. It's a different feel now that we live in the city.

4) The morning market down the street. Even though I never learned enough Taiwanese to bargain, I learned to look for my preferred vendors and expect how much to pay for what I wanted. Now that we're in the city, it's been hard to find a suitable equivalent that's both inexpensive and convenient.

5) When all's said and done, it was our first home we made together.

guest bed
B and I are excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives in another new environment. It's going to be a challenge to make this apartment the most space-efficient (especially after baby comes!), but we are definitely grateful for the clean, cozy feel we get to have here, even if we are truly living the "city life" now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

it happens

In the event you find yourself in a foreign country, accosted in your car by a belligerent man spouting off dangerous but unintelligible language and threatening to beat you (with your unborn child) with his scooter helmet because you accidentally cut him off in a hasty turn into a parking lot, do you:

A. Stay in your car with doors locked until the situation somehow clears

B. Speak with him in English

C. Leave car running and crack the windows slightly, then walk to the front of the car so that front-view driving recording device can record the whole exchange

D. Call the Foreign Affairs Police

E. Calmly apologize, then act as if going about your regular business until the workers at the social services building (where you parked) come out and apologize twenty billion times for you until he goes away. Go home and investigate on taser buying options in your country of residence.

Yup, this happened today while I was driving a social worker to take a TXE baby to visit her birth mom. Guess how it played out? I think the worst thing about it was that the poor baby was terribly unsettled afterwards and had an unhappy visit with her family.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The beginning of an end, and new beginnings

It's about time I wrote about our news.

Most of you have already heard -- from us or via social media, likely. But there's more to tell! I have not one, not two, but THREE pieces of news to share with you!


There's a bun in the oven--or rather, a bao zi in the steamer ... B and I are having a baby!

Baby Chen is due in early/mid October. So far I haven't had any morning sickness but have battled about 2.75 immobilizing colds/infections along with being extremely tired. Also some back pain has flared up from a previous injury. But things are on the upswing now (thanks to rest, B's care, and the chiropractor), and they say (as I hope) second trimester will be better!


First, some back story:
This school year has been one of the roughest teaching years so far. Nearly every day I went home with feelings of discouragement and defeat for the first half of the year. I wrestled with different things: building something logical and sequential out of non-existent unit plans, making lessons meaningful for students who didn't care, differing viewpoints from those outside the music department with those within, and rowdy, disrespectful middle schoolers. By second semester things started looking up--God graciously gave me the inspiration, strength, and resources I needed to make great gains and start owning my classes in a way I'd never experienced before. Teaching became rewarding.

A few months ago my colleague (the other music teacher) confided in me that she had decided to leave at the end of the year. At the time we had not made news of "bao zi" public, and I was still debating whether or not to continue teaching with baby on the way. Knowing this changed things a little--I found that if I wanted, I could choose the classes I taught in the next year, and fulfill my hopes of teaching the lower elementary grades.

It was a tough decision. But in the end, although I felt it was hard to give up something that had become dear, B and I knew that I will need to be more fully available when the time comes and that there will be something greater to receive in turn, and love. God may lead me to go back to the classroom someday, but right now I'm just taking it one step at a time.

Just the other day as my fifth graders were playing an Orff arrangement I learned at a workshop, I heard two comments coming out of my students' mouths that went straight to my heart and warmed it over:
"We sound good!" (they were actually listening!)
And when it was over, "Let's do it again!"
It was a gift to hear them say that--a gift of gratification that I can close this chapter in my life knowing that I did at least something right.


In the past I've written bits about my experiences at Taiwan Xi En, formerly known as His Hands. I've had high regard for this ministry ever since I heard about it, not just because of the adorable babies but because their mission is to reach out to some of the most stigmatized and shunned individuals and magnify God's glory. So, when the director of the ministry asked me casually one night at Bible study, "What are you doing next year? We have an opening for an assistant." My eyes lit up and my heart jumped inside. What? Work for Taiwan Xi En? Pick me!

As admin at TXE worked to put job details together, several weeks passed before I heard anything more about the position, and I had no idea how possible it would be with the job requirements and our upcoming lifestyle change, so I put it aside in a corner of my heart. A few weeks ago they asked me to go for an interview, and that very day they offered me the position. I was so excited to say yes but I made myself wait a few days to make sure it wasn't on an emotional impulse.

Even so, it's still taken a little while for it all to sink in--leaving my work at MAK and some self-doubt for the new job has filled most of my thoughts, but the truth is, God brought everything together just in our time of need. I've been hesitant about completely stopping work because honestly I'm afraid of going a little crazy with a newborn by myself in a new neighborhood (we're planning to move apartments in June) with B guaranteed to be gone for the better part of every day. But I also knew I couldn't commit to teaching with all the time and energy that it demands of me (even part-time). I know so many women out there do it all the time and I deeply admire them, but even so, I am doubtful about my own abilities/what I can handle. The way He times everything is perfect. I made the decision not to re-sign with MAK, and then God gently opened another door for me to walk through. The position at TXE will be just the right kind of flexible and the icing on the cake is that this is a ministry that our family loves and supports with all our hearts. I always catch a glimpse of God when I go there, and now I have this privilege to play a small part in the work He is doing!

So this is the beginning of an end, but also the start of new and exciting adventures. Of course it's not always going to be smooth sailing but we are looking forward to the lessons God is wanting to teach us.

Sometimes it can be quite thrilling.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Notable links from around the web:

Ten Thousand Things We Can't See: this was a prescient reminder to hie me back to the Psalms as quickly as possible, every day. No matter what I'm facing, there is always something there to speak to my heart and remind me who my God is.

Why our kids need time alone: So many truths resonated with me in this excellent article. While I don't have memories traipsing in the woods by myself (I was too afraid of ticks and Lyme's disease), there are times in my childhood that I look back fondly upon where I was allowed unsupervised play with my friends. Little do we know how needed (and vital) this is and how much we've lost in our mad scramble for security and safety. Some quotes:

"It is perhaps natural that trust in general has eroded, and that parents have sought to control more closely what they can—most of all, their children."

"Practicing psychologists have written (in this magazine and others) about the unique identity crisis this generation faces—a fear of growing up and, in the words of Brooke Donatone, a New York–based therapist, an inability “to think for themselves.”

"We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time the panic rises."

On the current political situation in Taiwan:
Things are a bit dicey, and it's not easily explained for those who don't read Chinese (like me). But here is a good (relatively short) BBC article on what is happening, and here is a longer, slightly more detailed blog about the protesting student movement. The political air is charged and many thoughts and opinions are held--the most important thing for us to do is pray that Taiwan will be unified and that God will raise up leaders who are honest and unafraid to walk in justice!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

International Orchid Show

A couple weeks ago I heard about the Taiwan International Orchid Show happening in a city nearby and I *begged* B to take me. After months of stumbling around in a haze of bad air pollution, I was dying to lay my eyes on nature-wrought beauty. We ended up going the last weekend it was open, along with thousands of others, walking our legs off the entire day. But it was so worth it.

Unfortunately we forgot our camera at home in a confused rush to get to the train station on time. But when we got there we looked around at all the ASIANS taking photos EVERYWHERE that we decided it was probably for the better. We witnessed visitors trying so hard to get a good shot that they weren't even looking at the flowers themselves.

Taking the train was probably the best decision ever. I was enthralled by the picturesque scenes rolling by my window; each montage bringing fresh new surprises. When we took our lunch on the train I felt like we were having a picnic. Groves and thickets, vegetables cropland--corn, leafy greens, rice paddies. Mango trees and fish ponds, a blue and green river--green from some kind of plant--maybe watercress.

The romance was enhanced rather than detracted by the old, dilapidated buildings left abandoned since bygone eras of railway history. The oldest and most decrepit of which inspired a sense of mystery and magical melancholy--all but dead and brown with rotting, fallen beams and hidden stories of lives long buried.

A pristine white egret in a vibrant green field, docile brown cows standing in a patch of yellow grass, an old banyan tree standing tall and strong over a crumbling brick wall as if loftily saying, "Let's see who stands the longest." A burst of fiery fuchsia blossoms amid a garden of green, a small canal of water shaded on both sides by rounded trees, thick with green.

The poetry followed us to the festival itself, and although less pastoral and organic, the show was nonetheless dazzling. It was truly amazing to see such a grand event dedicated to just one kind of flower--and how many different species of that one flower there were! Orchids flat, frilled, tendriled, cupped; orchids spotted, striped, blushed, solid; orchids orange, green, gold, magenta, and every shade of purple -- as well as ruby red ones, before unseen, in the "New Breeds" section. My favorite was the orchid clouds and golden jungle, where orchids, massed together, hung upside down to greet and delight admiring eyes.

B and I came home physically tired but aesthetically satisfied. I never really realized how my soul craves beauty until I moved to an urban jungle. I know it still exists in different forms around me, but I have to be more vigilant in looking for it. From now on I want to go about with my eyes wide open in order to see it right in front of me.

I looked for some pictures around the web for you from the show. Enjoy!

Image from Taipei Times

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Happy Chinese New Year! Just came back from a lovely trip to the east coast to visit Taroko Gorge with some friends! We rented scooters and rode the path up the river into the mountains. The crystal clear blue water and the rich green, jade-like cliffs were breathtaking.

Maybe I will do another post later about the trip and our CNY dinner. In the meanwhile, here are a few links I've come across lately that are worth one's time:

#1) Most of the world's people are friendly and decent.
Taiwan is one of the top countries that welcomes foreigners with open arms.

#2) Most places are as safe (or safer) than home.
Every time I hear news from the U.S, it seems like it's getting more and more crazy out there.

#3) Most people don't know (or care) what America is doing.
Yeup. Most people, except Taiwan, which cares about (and wants to adopt) all the wrong things...(like bad theology)

#4) You can travel long-term for the price of rent and a round of drinks back home.
Not that I know much about rent and rounds of drinks in the U.S, but our years in Taiwan will cost only a fraction of what it would back home and keep us debt-free when B finishes med school (a direct answer to prayer).

#9) 'Travelers' and 'Tourists' are different.
I want to be a traveler and engage the culture. 

#12) Don't bank on paradise.
Too true.

#15) Long-term happiness is a pretty complicated emergent property that has little to do with money.
Little to do with money and a LOT to do with God.

 I think I'm beginning to experience #16, too... ("When you challenge a person's assumptions it can really piss them off.")