Monday, December 24, 2012

Best of 2012

Birthday goals

Before my birthday last year, I wrote down some goals/things I wanted to do before my next birthday. I didn't accomplish all of them, but the ones I did I feel pretty happy about. Below are those things taken directly from my list:

1. Get married and enjoy every minute of it
 There were a few times I forgot to enjoy the moments of the process of getting married (getting to the rehearsal was pretty hectic), but after reminding myself to slow down, take deep breaths, and leave it up to God, the joy came right back! Something to remember for everyday, not just during wedding season.

3. Blog at least once a week

Okay, I kept this up for about half the year. But I think that's still pretty good.

4. Fall in love with a new music artist

Yes! And they are...
Katie Herzig;  (especially her album "Waking Sleep," which has accompanied me on innumerable commuter trips on the highway since we forgot to bring other CDs with us) (link to Midnight Serenade; I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what they did with the toms at about 0.618 into the song...turn up the bass amp!)
All Sons & Daughters (not to be confused with Sons and Daughters)

5. Write three songs

I wrote two plus a handful of poems

7. Make a whole meal for my family
Did not do this single-handedly, but doubled up with B in our dream-team to make dinner for our parents

8. Visit the East coast of Taiwan

Had a great time! I want to go back! More on this later

12. Play for a coffeehouse
Didn't make it to a coffeehouse, but I did play an opener to our church's Christmas outreach.

13. Make new friends
Yes. I would say I made more than a few new friends this year. At school, at the university, and at's been a wonderful year for making new friends!

15. Take a roadtrip
To Kenting with B

16. Be better at keeping in touch with friends (email or skype)

Still room to grow, but made myself a little more intentional this year.

17. Grow in my prayer time.
Ditto above...

Since 2012 is drawing to a close, I wanted to do a recap of several of the highlights it brought. In all the joys and sorrows that have come, it's been a very epic year, which I had an inkling it would be (if not just in the fact that this is the year of the Dragon).


2012 highlights

Best Adventure:
Taking a trip to Hualien (on the East coast of Taiwan) with my sister. Sometimes I am incredulous in looking back that I planned everything, from booking the hotel to buying the train tickets, but it's true! Both of us had never been there before and were quite taken by the rugged, tropical beauty of the place, in spite of the poor weather. We took a cab tour of Taroko and biked along the trails at the base of the mountains. Next time, I will plan to go when it's not typhoon season!

Best Meal Out:

One sunny Saturday before summer break I went out to do some last-minute gift shopping with my friends before we were going to leave for the States. We ended up in Siziwan and stopped at a restaurant called Escape 41 for dinner. The back patio of the restaurant sat right on top of some craggy rocks and the rolling waves. We had pizza and mango slushes -- it felt like being on vacation at an exotic destination!

Close second: My birthday lunch at Tavola's, another pizza joint. I loved the quality of their food and they weren't stingy with the calamari or the cheese! I think it's my favorite western restaurant in Kaohsiung now.

Best Dream Come True:

Our wedding was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. (Except maybe the weather and the number of guests we could invite...) Everything worked out perfectly; from the decorations to setup to the food to the music to all the people helping out in different ways. After thinking and planning it for so long, it was such a bittersweet feeling as the whole day panned out just as I had imagined it to be. God is so good to us.

Best Realization:
My sister's MOH toast made me realize that not only was I married, but I was being ushered into the adult world, like it or not. All throughout this year this realization has settled into my brain, that now I am solely responsible for cleaning up my messes; that I am the one making the calls on how I use the resources I have. That I am, virtually, on my own. It's somewhat scary but somewhat rewarding at the same time.

Best Surprise:
I'd definitely have to say that my bridal shower was one of the best surprises of the year. My friends were in cahoots and led me on to believe we were celebrating my roommate's birthday, and when we went back after dinner to the apartment to have cake, A TON of people were there waiting to shout SURPRISE! I screamed and went into hysterics, hid in a corner, and was utterly confused for about 1 minute.

My birthday would come a close second, though -- I was expecting to have a nice lunch out with just B, but when we opened the door to the restaurant, my friends' grinning faces were there to greet me as well!

Best Book:
I read "The Great Gatsby" in anticipation of the movie's arrival next year. I finished it in two days!

"The Namesake" would be second place. I love Jhumpa Lahiri's poignant insight into third-culture kids and their families.

Best Purchase:
My Tatung rice cooker! I use it almost every day, not to cook rice but mostly to heat things up (we don't own a microwave) or steam vegetables.

Best Discovery:
I found our neighborhood morning market while we were running errands one day. B let me out of the car to explore and I was so excited to find such a local place to get our groceries. Since there are so many different vendors that come and go on different days, it seems like I am constantly making new discoveries there! 

Best New Friend:
We've met a lot of wonderful people this year, not only with our moving to a new environment but also with people God has divinely appointed us to meet. In the middle of this semester our school was graced by a lovely young lady from a school in Indiana, here to do her student teaching. She showed me what it looks like to actively love others and bring joy to their lives. I was so honored to get to spend some time with her before she had to go back. 

Best Decision Made:
To be content and joyful where I am, with what God has given.

Best Recipe Tried:

B and I really loved these black bean stuffed sweet potatoes, but I was also super pleased with the taste and simplicity of these chicken enchiladas!

Best News:
Before B and I boarded the plane to Taiwan three days after the wedding, my sister took me aside and told me a secret...she was EXPECTING!!! It was so hard to contain my excitement. It's not a secret anymore so I can say I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome my niece to the world!!

Best Lesson Learned:
This past semester has brought a few challenges and questions to the way I teach and my vision for the music program at school. The lesson is that I need to take ownership of my classes, in what I teach, how I teach it, and who I teach.

So with that, my goals for the coming year of 2013 is  to resolve to teach with vision and direction and be a more intentional, courageous teacher.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year full of God's blessings!

Monday, December 17, 2012

prayer request

One thing I love about being here is that sometimes God presents me with unexpected opportunities to connect with people and to hear their stories. This semester at the university I’ve had this chance with a girl I’ll call Stacey.

I met Stacey for the first time at English Day, which consisted of an hour or two of conversing in English in hopes that students would be inspired to improve their speaking skills. Even though it was our first time meeting, she was very enthusiastic about speaking with me and invited me to the restaurant at which she worked so she’d have even more opportunities to use her English. I sealed the deal when B and I brought a friend to have dinner there soon after. For a long while Stacey was faithful in attending English Day, sometimes even being the only one who showed up specifically to talk to me. I was touched by her friendliness and her openness. During our conversations I learned from her that she was abandoned at an early age by her mother, who apparently "lost her mind" (my guess is demon possession) and ran away from the home, where subsequently she was raised by her grandmother. Now she lives with her coworker near the restaurant, because, according to her, the coworker is like the mother she never had.

These last two or three weeks, Stacey has been absent from school. When she returned today, she only told me that she was going through some emotional or psychological turmoil and had to take a break from everything. And yet today was the last session of English Day for this semester, and appropriately or not, the designated topic was “Religion.” I was able to share the gospel a bit in my explanation of the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Afterwards Stacey broached the subject of ghosts, or spirits. She shared with us some stories of her encounters with them, which reminded me of the stories I’d read in Dead Women Walking and heard elsewhere. If you talk to any missionary in Taiwan, you’ll find that encounters with demonic presences and evil spirits are quite common among the Taiwanese. The people here seem more susceptible to opening themselves up to the spiritual realm, where things usually not seen may become experienced in the supernatural.

As I listened to Stacey sharing, I was deeply impressed with the need to get this girl under the Word of God and introduce her to Jesus. I invited Stacey to come to church with me, and her classmates (three other students) expressed interest in coming as well. As one missionary aptly put it, a powerful way to pray for these people is to pray that in their encounters with the supernatural, Jesus would show His own True Self to them. He’s done it before, and He can do it again. Please pray that these precious friends will come this Sunday, and for Stacey in particular – for her to experience the freeing power of Jesus Christ over the bondage of Satan’s deceptive emissaries.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pioneer Christmas

Sometimes I feel like a pioneer. It comes in the whole "stretching one's resources and finding creative ways to use things in place of others" thing. Like baking without measuring cups, or washing and reusing ziploc bags, or substituting real, accessible ingredients for canned, pre-packaged, American-production-labeled products in recipes.

But take our Christmas tree.

(Without Totoro)

Out little tree is only about 3 feet tall. We got him at Carrefour on a shopping trip originally meant to replace a burned out lightbulb. But we found the Christmas tree section, and, knowing we needed one to remind ourselves of the glorious season, we picked the cutest (i.e smallest) one.

My next dilemma was what to decorate it with. Not having time or resources to go look for the kind of ornaments I like, I racked my brain and dug around for things that I could use.

Two real ornaments gifted at my bridal shower and my owl ocarina
I made ribbon bows and origami waterbombs and made them look like presents.

I even made a tissue paper pom-pom, intending it to be an ornament, but found it was much too big for the tree. So it became the topper.

I imagine it to be a blazing star.

I added some sentimental and ornamental key chains which gave it a very personal touch. This is definitely OUR tree.

For the tree skirt, I draped a red bag around the base (you'd never know!). Of course, Totoro wanted in on the festivities, too.

With Totoro

 In the end, we are very happy with our tree, even if it looks a little reminiscent of Charlie Brown. But we think it's cute!

Here are some pictures from our Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving!

Thanksgiving dinner!

Candid shot of our Thanksgiving friends
Friendsgiving crowd
For some of them, this was their very first Thanksgiving dinner! We ordered a turkey from a big hotel catering company and two friends picked it up in a basket. How funny it must have been to carry that big bird all the way up in the MRT!

Our turkey and my sweet potato casserole! (and some random salad)

Excited about the turkey but not quite sure how to carve it.

Some of B's classmates and upper-classmates

Our spread (people brought food too. It was yummy!)
We each went around and shared something we are thankful for from this past year. It was heartfelt and touching.
We are so blessed to be around such good people. Excited for what this Christmas season will bring, and happy to be ringing in new traditions to celebrate!