Taking My Husband’s Life

Taking My Husband’s Life

Eight years ago today, I married this man.

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I am so ridiculously blessed.

That day in our small city was just like today in our expansive city: sunny, warm, a bit breezy. In a word, perfect.

Fast-forward six years. My husband and I were happy and content, raising three kids in a good town surrounded by amazing people that we love.

Then, over a year ago, Josh and I began talking in earnest about the possibility of moving to China. No concrete opportunity had presented itself, but his company was getting a new CEO and restructuring a bit, so it appeared that something could open up.

I was intrigued at the idea of a change but also extremely hesitant, for several reasons.

One day early in the summer, I got a babysitter for the kids and took my monthly required “retreat of rest”, as my supervisor called it. I walked through a local garden and spent some time talking with God. While there, I was reminded of a concept that I had lost hold of during the ups and downs of six years.

During high school, I attended a church where we watched videos featuring Ray Vander Laan. He had traveled the Middle East and connected Jewish culture with the life and teachings of Jesus. So much more about Jesus made sense when understood in context.

In one of the segments, Vander Laan explained the traditional process of betrothal. Of course, the process was intricate and the fathers of the woman and man were involved, but what struck me was the moment of the “ask”. The man took a cup of wine, drank from it, and offered it to the woman. This gesture was as if to say, “Here is my life and everything that it holds. Will you accept it?” If the woman drank from the cup, she essentially took the man’s life as her own. Whatever the “cup” of life held in store for them, they would take it together.

On that summer day a year and a half ago, I pondered what it meant to take my husband’s life. Not in a “bumping him off” sense (obviously!), but with the idea that the course of our lives would be one. Whatever he would be called to in the future, I would also be called to.

I couldn’t honestly say that Josh’s interest in China blindsided me. After all, he had studied Mandarin in Beijing for two years, we met at a picnic for new Chinese international students the summer that he returned, he talked about China all the time when we were dating, and for our one-year anniversary he took me to visit Beijing. I could not claim ignorance. I knew what I was getting into.

And yet, I had forgotten. I had forgotten that when I said, “I do”, I accepted his life. His course and direction would also be my course and direction.

Let me clarify. Josh is not the kind of man who would dictate that I bow at his feet and yield to his wishes. I knew before I married that I needed a husband who understood my calling and could encourage me in it. In fact, the second time that we visited China together, it was because I realized that even as a mother, I had to continue to grow personally and to keep my love for the nations alive. And so it was that Josh took time off and we brought our toddler and several college students to China for a month.

But the truth is that it’s hard sometimes to bend, to give a little or a lot, to live out the opportunity or dream of your spouse. Sometimes we ask the unvoiced question, “What about me?” I read a great book recently entitled Just How Married Do You Want to Be? by Jim and Sarah Sumner. They rightly noted that marriage is not a competition. Because you are ONE with your spouse, whatever success your spouse gains is your success as well.

China bride and groom

A while ago, we saw this bride and groom arrive to an apartment complex, preceded by shots of fireworks. I’m sure, like most of us, they felt full of anticipation, hopeful for their future together. Do any of us really get what it will mean, what it will cost us, to take on someone else’s life? Their successes, their failures, their dull days? Probably not. I think it’s the same for those of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ. We don’t really get what it will mean, what it will cost us, to exchange our life plans for His plans. And yet, like marriage, this commitment sets us off on an unparalleled adventure. It’s totally worth it.

A friend asked me last week if I’m happy that we moved to Shanghai. I don’t know. However, I do know that I am happy to share this adventure with my husband. And because of that, there’s really no place I’d rather be.

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Happy anniversary, Josh. I love you lots! Isn’t it ironic that we married during a Chinese holiday? I guess God has a sense of humor…

Roundabout Route, Part 2

Roundabout Route, Part 2

If you didn’t see it yet, you can read Part 1 of this story.

 

Wednesday 7:30pm Pacific Time.

Los Angeles to Chicago.

Flight 3 of 4.

 

Abigail sleeping on plane

Abigail thankfully fell asleep right away and snoozed the entire four hours. Mid-flight, Tammy came to me, saying that Asher’s legs were itching and that he was having a hard time sleeping. I realized that Asher was half crying, half screaming. I switched spots with Tammy with the plan to help Asher sleep.

 

One exhausted, itchy three-year-old. One tired, stressed out mama. This was not a good concoction. Asher would not stop cry-screaming no matter what I did or said, and the more he cry-screamed in the dark, quiet airplane, the angrier and more stressed out I became. At one point, I literally wanted to shake him. I held myself back but hissed forcefully into his ear, “Stop crying and go to sleep!” Not my finest mommy moment.

 

Even with that, Asher pressed into me and drifted off as I rocked him. I am often thankful that God is not like me. He does not get tired or stressed.

 

Lord, forgive me and make me like You. Sometimes I am so far off.

 

When my kids cry-scream externally, God is not anxious about what judgmental thoughts other passengers or bystanders might bear toward my children or me. He gives grace to my kids, holds them closely, and speaks to them gently. He has compassion on them, and He is good.

 

Dear friends, when you or I cry-scream internally because we feel weary or because life is beyond our control, God does not flip out or react harshly. He gives grace to us, holds us closely, and speaks to us gently. He has compassion on us, and He is good.

 

May we press into God and rest in Him, receiving His grace so we can give grace to others.

 

Our family finally arrived in Chicago (with Chaya falling asleep standing up, but Asher and Abigail wide awake and excited to run around!) and spent four short hours in actual beds at a nearby hotel.

 

Ironically, it took us 20 hours to fly from Sioux Falls to Chicago, when we could have driven there in nine.

 

Thursday 10:30am Central Time.

Chicago to Shanghai.

Flight 4 of 4.

 

The kids did amazing well on the 14-hour flight. They enjoyed the toys and snacks sent along by their Nana and two of their aunts. Chaya beamed with excitement about being able to walk around on the big plane. Little things were tough but manageable, like not having any kid meals because of our last-minute rebooking. The only things Abigail ate were two buns.

 

Friday 3:00pm Shanghai Time.

Friday 2:00am Central Time.

 

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Tired and a bit bedraggled, we stepped foot in Shanghai. We made it to our temporary apartment roughly 48 hours after we started our trek.

 

Overall, all three of the kids traveled incredibly well. Josh and I were so proud of their adaptability and willingness to step up to help out. Tammy was a lifesaver, with the kids and with luggage. And Josh’s leadership made everything go as smoothly as possible within our given context. I’m just glad I didn’t have to rebook our flights!

 

Apart from the obvious mechanical problem, I don’t know why we were diverted from China for an extra day. For now, we’ll just chalk it up to a good lesson in flexibility, for the kids and the grownups alike.

 

Asher outside

And, Asher and I had fun together on the van ride through Shanghai. I love you, Asher! I’m so glad to be your mom. Thank you for giving me grace even when I am ungracious.

 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” – Isaiah 40:28-29