I was baptized as a little child and grew up with parents who had strong faith. God was always present in my life. I saw him as generous, loving provider who is always there for me. As I have done with my own dad, I took God for granted. While I acknowledged God as someone who protected me from harm and helped me a better person, I believed my personal growth and career successes were due to my own good planning and hard work. In preparing for adult Confirmation in Shanghai, I vividly remember not being able to relate to others' stories of overcoming significant life challenges and their reliance on God. I remember being little embarrassed to share how sheltered I've been in life and of my immaturity in relationship with God. Perhaps "God's grace" did touch me with the sacrament of Confirmation as I found genuine friendship and shared purpose through church while preparing for the sacrament. In place where I didn't know anyone but my newly wedded husband, I'm was grateful to have had your guidance and be among friends who indeed brought warmth and light to others. Through you and others like you, I found myself working on projects to help orphans, migrants and even lepers. While I was completely new to service work, a path to achievement seemed familiar. I was goal focused, task driven and transactional in my service. Even when doing "God's work", I equated work done to my own resources and effort. I see now that what little I achieved is not of my doing, but through God placing me at the right place, with right people, at the right time. If it makes any sense, I saw those I tried to help in China more as "them" vs "us". Without intending to minimize their struggles, I now see that some of their challenges are not too different from those that I struggle with in my life.
It's been five years since I abruptly left Shanghai with the birth of my son Nathan who has significant special needs. In Shanghai, I used to reflect on humility and even asked God to help me be more obedient and humble to him. With the arrival of Nathan, I thought God for sure found the surest and most profound way to humble me. Additional life challenges quickly followed one after another.
I miss the unflappable joy, committed energy and hopeful enthusiasm I once had. I aspire to be like my mentors in Shanghai who brought so much "warmth and light" to the world around them.
More recently, I've been reflecting more on God's constant presence and grace in my life. While I might highlight life's complications and what I lack in relationship with God, my life is more dynamic and my life filled with God's love and generosity. I have found joy and strength in caring for Nathan. Yes he is what I call "high maintenance", but he is also our "lucky star" that brings life's many blessings, a "glue" that binds our family together even stronger, and a "magnet" that attracts strangers' warmth and smiles. How else would I have been able to spend three precious years with my dad before he passed away? How would my children have found comfort in grandpa's gentle strength and selfless love? Abby grew up missing dad but surrounded by fun cousins, aunts, grandma & grandpa. As Nathan's sibling, Abby's more compassionate and thoughtful. Without Nathan, how would I have had courage to go for Helena? Despite my age, past infertility challenges, and problems during pregnancy, God blessed us with another miracle baby! And Nathan himself, despite all his medical issues including down syndrome and cerebral palsy, he is incredibly smart, full of life, and really really funny.
God continues to bless me.