Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lolipops on the windowsill

I've had this post sitting on my mind and in my post list for a little over a month now, as I've scoured through literally thousands of photos, trying to find just the right ones. I think part of the hesitation in writing it also signifies a change that I don't know if my heart is fully ready to make.

We are in a place of transition at the moment. We are in the US this summer for what we'd planned to be 6 weeks but is now turning out to be more like 8 or 9. When we return to Beijing, our cozy little cottage at New Hope is packed up and we are physically ready to move to an apartment in Beijing...where we do not yet know, but hopeful we'll figure it out when we get there! My emotions, however, may follow behind a bit slower.

One of my favorite things (and mind you, there are many) about living where we've lived, both at Maria's Big House and at New Hope, is the constant sound of children in our midst. When I lived at Maria's, I loved sitting on the couch in the 4th floor kitchen and hearing children down the hall...laughing, crying, jabbering on as small children do, their sweet voices echoing into the room. I didn't always have to be with them, but I knew that they were there.

I loved sitting in the office when I was working on a piece or project and having kids run in and go straight for the middle drawer in my desk knowing that's where I kept my stash of Dum-dums for them and their friends. We'd go through a daily routine where they'd gather enough for themselves and every child in their nursery who was old enough to eat a sucker. Suckers were my way of making friends with those kids who were a bit slower to warm up, so I was always sure to keep a bag around.

When I moved to Beijing after we got married, our little home was located at the entrance of New Hope Foster Home and although we weren't in the same building as the kids, we were still on the grounds with them and the sound of their presence around us was still evident and full. Because I started teaching full-time at a school last year, I wasn't able to spend as much time getting to know the babies there as well as I had at Maria's, but it was still a sweet comfort knowing they were there. Saturday mornings were generally full of laughter coming from the playground that was located right
outside our front door.

At one point I remembered that I still had a bag of suckers and made my attempt at winning the hearts of some of the kids there too. I was quickly reminded that if you feed them (sugar), they will come! :) So it wasn't long before we had a little canister of loli pops on our windowsill, ready for any wandering toddlers we might have at our door. 

 I know that even in my current job teaching I am around kids all day, but there's something that I will forever treasure about the opportunity I had to live with and share my life with these special little ones. Even though my experience will likely never be able to be recreated, it is my hope that this is not the end, but rather just a change in getting to be a part of these precious little lives.

As we continue to transition, please pray for us; for guidance as we move forward in Mikey's schooling and desire to provide counseling for NGO and Christian workers abroad, for me as I begin a new school year, to be content there on days when my heart longs to be elsewhere, and for us to experience peace in the midst of change and uncertainty.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Morning by morning

This week we begin packing up the cottage as we prepare for our trip to the US and upon return, our move into the city. I know it will be a week filled with many varied emotions as we pack up memories and close a chapter in our lives and welcome a new one. As many of you know, we have spent the last year living in a cozy little cottage on the grounds of Hope Foster Home. Mikey has worked for New Hope (alongside of Show Hope) for the past 6 years and just recently ended his time of employment here as he pursues his Masters degree in counseling and further opportunities in that line of work. Once we return from our summer trip to the US, we will look for an apartment in Beijing city, closer to the school where I teach. Even as I type, I hear the sounds of little voices outside, laughing and yelling as they enjoy the beautiful weather outside. This, I believe, is one of the things I will miss the most about our home.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to return to MBH for a few days and to stay in my old room for the first time since I’d moved away. It felt somewhat what I imagine going back to your childhood room after being away for some time (my parents moved when I went to college, so although the bedroom pieces at their home are the same as they were when I was growing up, it’s still a different house and room). Many things in my old room at Maria's were just as I’d left them, despite others having lived and stayed in there. One of the things that stood out to me the most that had remained was the writing that I’d left on the bathroom wall. Shortly after moving there, I had written the words pictured below as a reminder of his daily faithfulness in bringing me to this place.

Shortly before leaving, I went through and erased all of the writing in preparation for the rooms’ new summer inhabitants. As silly as it may sound, it somewhat felt like a very small and feeble act of worship, an acknowledgement of the grace that had been shown to me in that place but also a letting go of something I have held so tightly, and an acknowledgement of the grace that continues day by day, morning by morning, regardless of where I am.

Now, as we pack up our little cottage, I am sure I will be nostalgic as we sort though the memories we’ve collected over this year. It has been a challenging year for sure, but as I sort and celebrate, probably cry a bit here and there, I hope to be able to look back and celebrate the ways in which his faithfulness as been shown to us, morning by morning.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Your Story Must Be Told

It has been nearly a year since I last posted. I have had so many thoughts that I've wanted to get down, but the time and the energy to do so have often been lacking. But I am realizing that for me, for now, this is a very necessary step. So if you are reading, thank you for taking the time to do so. It is my hope to get back into the habit of posting as life seems to be somewhat settling in. It has been a challenging year in many ways, but also one worthy of celebrating. I haven't done a very good job of celebrating this year; to be honest, I have sulked in place of celebrating and grieved even in times when I should have been rejoicing. It is my hope that through God's grace and through writing these posts I can celebrate the moments that he has given us and, even if in hindsight, see the grace that our Father has chosen to so lavishly pour on us. 

I am coming to the realization that over the past year, maybe even earlier as my time in Luoyang came to an end, that I began to believe that my story no longer mattered/matters. Somewhere over the past few years I have discovered a love for writing. It was never something I really enjoyed that much in school (when it was assigned), but something I’d come to really enjoy when given freedom and liberty with it. I don’t think I’m a particularly great writer or that I have really engaging things to say, but for me it has been a great outlet and a means of communicating what is on my heart and mind when spoken words don’t seem quite right or fitting.

But back to the belief that my story no longer matters…

I recently finished a book that a friend sent me last fall. The book’s subtitle is “thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way.” When I first got it, it sounded quite fitting for the season of life I was currently in (especially the part on change…wedding, move, job change, all in a matter of a few short months…and probably the bit about learning the hard way, too). But I wasn’t quite ready for the part grace yet. My heart had experienced so much change and in some ways perceived so much loss (in the midst of so much gain) that I just couldn’t open it up quite yet to receive the grace that we as followers of Christ are so freely offered.  Sometime after the beginning of this year though, something in me began to change, maybe to break or to soften, and became more open to beginning to receive this grace. 

I began reading the book my friend had sent and many of her stories of loss and grief resounded with mine, although in very different contexts. I have realized that in my own pain, I have somewhat closed myself off to the pain of those around me; of dear friends who were also experiencing seasons of change and loss, but which I missed because I had become so consumed in my own. To quote the author, “sometimes pain makes us selfish, myopic, and utterly unable to understand people whose pain is different than ours.” She ends the book with a chapter titled “your story must be told.” It was at that point that I really began to realize that I had believed a lie that my story no longer mattered. I had begun to believe that because I am no longer working in a day-to-day, life-to-life context with orphaned children, that no one really wanted to hear my story anymore. I didn’t feel like what I was doing was really all that purposeful anymore, so therefore no one would really care to read or hear about it. I confess that there was (and continues to be) a large sense of pride in those statements (and not the good kind of pride…) as if what I was doing there was more important than what I am doing here. And maybe for me it is, I really don’t know, but that is what I am trying to work through now, day by day. I had over the past several months of grieving (and sulking…) made the story about me. To quote the book once more, “I was afraid, then, that it would always be like that. I was afraid that this was the new normal, that seasons of lightness and peace were over in my life, and this brittle, fractured way of living would last forever.”

But the reality is that I am a part of a much larger and grander story that begs to be told. And regardless of what I am doing, whether I’m teaching orphaned children or caring for my husband or cooking a meal for friends, if it is done in light of his Kingdom, then it does matter and it is a story worth being told; not for my own acknowledgement, but to bring light to a greater story that I am a part of. 

As I write this, I think I have come to realize, at least for me, that there are times when I need to be the one who is writing and sharing my stories…and then there are times when I need to sit back and hear the stories of others and of God’s grace and faithfulness in their lives, and to be reminded that the same grace and faithfulness has and continues to be extended over my own. 

So this is my attempt to “get back in the saddle” as they say. I don’t know if anyone will read this, but if you do, I hope it in some way encourages you. But I know that in this season, the writing is very much also for me. “I believe in mining through the darkest seasons in our lives and choosing to believe that we’ll find something important every time…So now I’m mining through, searching for light, and the more I look, the more I find. I see the moments of heartbreak that led to honesty about myself I wouldn’t have ever been able to get to any other way.” (Niequist, Bittersweet)

So as I write, I hope to encourage and challenge myself, and anyone who has made it this far in reading:
“If you are a person of faith, it is your responsibility to tell God’s story, in every way you can, every form, every medium, every moment…when we tell the truth about our lives- the broken parts, the secret parts, the beautiful parts- then the gospel comes to life, an actual story about redemption.” (Bittersweet)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wrestling with purpose

         A few weeks ago we attended a church in Beijing where the speaker was talking about purpose. It had me a bit uneasy as I thought through what my purpose is…I mean, I have been living in the middle of China in a house full of precious children, children who have been orphaned.  This should be an easy answer for me.  But when he asked us to share in small groups, I got really nervous and wondered what I would say. Kids? Orphaned children? Teaching? Somehow none of those answers really seemed ”right” (not that there is a right or wrong answer, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…
They went around the room and few people shared their answers…fighting injustice, the lost, etc…then my wise husband spoke up and said that our passions all lead us to the same thing, and that is desiring to restore right relationship with our Father, our Creator, as it was intended to be. So whether with children, with adults, with prisoners, or elderly, ultimately our purpose, our hope, is for things to be the way they should be, the way they were intended to be; our purpose is redemption.

As I spend this summer moving out of my role at MBHOH and into a role as wife, making our house a home, into a new teaching job, there’s a lot of processing that is and will be taking place. I truly grieve the loss of moving from something that I genuinely love, but also excitedly welcome this new season. I think I need to realize that just because I am not living in a home full of orphaned children, it does not change my purpose. Regardless of where I am and what I am doing, my heart should always seek restoration; whether it is for myself, or those around me, for my husband, my students, my future children, for those who suffer from injustice, or children who are orphaned.  

In the past month, I've been reminded in simple ways of God bringing me to China. Although there was pain in leaving, it was so clear. One of those reminders has been Ephesians 2:10 and remembering that He still has good works prepared for me, regardless of where my physical location is. 

A part of the story

(This was written about a month ago, but since posting a blog in China can often take f.o.r.e.v.e.r, I've been storing these until we were back in Hong Kong where internet is fast...)

This time is a bittersweet one as I learn what it’s like to be genuinely excited about this new season in life, while slowly learning to let go of a season that taught, grown, and challenged me in so many ways.
            This week brought such joy to be back in a house that has become my home, where I know and am known in a country that remains very foreign some days, and with children whom I absolutely adore. It also brought sadness as I think about slowly letting go of these precious ones that have become a great joy to me over the past year and a half.
            Although it would take countless paragraphs and many pages to share all that I have learned and am mentally “sorting” through, one thing that seems to be a constant is trust. Trusting in the sovereignty and goodness of God when things just aren’t as they should be. When children are sick, dying, and without their families to care for them, some days trusting in that goodness is very hard. When you have to simply relish today because you don’t know what tomorrow, next week, or next month will hold for a child that you dearly love, trusting is difficult.
            But in the midst of the difficulty, I cannot forget that He loves them far more than I ever could. And somehow, in the blurriness of their futures, I have to remember that He is redeeming all things. No they are not now as they should be, but one day they will be.
This week we had a team with a group of teachers who wanted to teach preschool. I was hesitant at first; mainly for the children who would be uneasy with strangers, but on a more selfish level realizing that it was a step in letting go of something that I dearly love, and also trusting that someone else would love and take care of the kids in a way that I perceive and believe they should.
Needless to say, the week went great, classes were awesome, and the kids had a blast with our visiting teachers and new activities. In a very simple way, it was a reminder that He will provide what they need and that their care goes far beyond anything I can offer or provide them. I am simply invited to be a small part of their story and they a large part of mine...

Judah making a shark with Kelly
Lillian and Delyn
Hope's shark
The love The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Fahlin and Charlotte decorating butterfly wings

Could he possibly be any cuter?

        There is a little guy whom has captured my heart over the past few months. He has the chubbiest cheeks and he loves to cuddle and give kisses. He recently learned to walk and it was so exciting to celebrate with his nannies as they showed me what new things he’d learned while I was away. I told Mikey the other night (in wishful, not really-realistic thinking…) that we should adopt him (we say that often about many of our kids). After saying that I thought about the fact that in reality it would be quite a long time before he would be “ours” if we did adopt him (or any child). But then I thought about the gift that I have in getting to hold him now, in getting to see his first steps now, in getting his kisses now. Regardless of whether or not they are our children, we get the opportunity to relish and delight in these stages in the lives of our kids.

...Once again reminded that I am invited to be a small part of their story and they a large part of mine. Ultimately we are all invited to be part of a much larger story than our own; I am grateful that my part involves the lives of these precious little ones.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

As seasons come and go

Where the time has gone is hard to say. I cannot believe this much time has passed since my previous posting (8 months...seriously). Fall and winter, spring now into seems like nearly last week that I wrote the last post. And to think of all that has transpired since…

I read a blog post a few months ago titled "Much to Say" and I immediately thought "Yes! I can definitely relate!" But then busy-ness and planning and transitioning crept in and more and more time passed.

So here, in a nut-shell is the recap on the past 8 months and hopefully a kick-start back into the writing that I love to do.

So here we go....

Most of you know that Mikey and I got engaged while we were both home last November (old news, right?)...

Another highlight of the visit home was getting to these some familiar faces on the other side of the globe...

"Jillian/Jiji" at MBHOH, now Breana

Isaac, one of my precious preschoolers at MBHOH

"Cadence" at MBHOH, now Jack

"Jeremy" at MBHOH, now Jon

Christmas back in the Big Blue House...

Our Chinese teacher, Bei Bei, helping wrap slippers for the nannies

Loved a visit from sweet friends Meredith and Brandon Greer on their way to pick up their little Ella Hope

 Lots and lots and lots of slippers

Christmas morning with the Martins

Then a mid-morning flight to Beijing to spend time with my fiance', his mom and brother, and our Beijing family...

Our snow-covered cottage
Seeing winter off and welcoming Spring....

In China, it is customary for families to make jiao zi (dumplings) on New Years Day

I won the jiao zi making contest :)

Fireworks galore' all night long!

Celebrating with some of my favorite little peeps

Getting to eat the jiao zi, yeah!

Following day we were off for a park outing

Sometimes a large group of foreigners can draw quite a gets a little unnerving ;)

Ending the day off at one of our favorite Western stops!

As spring arrived, wedding planning and prep was in full effect. Planning a wedding in China had its challenges, but the end result was nearly perfect! We made it to May and welcomed many family members and friends that came half-way across the world to celebrate our wedding with us.

By the way, if you'd like to see all of our wedding photos, please visit, go to portfolio, and click on McCoy/Shook wedding or either of the China albums. Our friend and photographer, Ginny, did an amazing job capturing the week for us.

Mikey and I are now living in Beijing at New Hope Foster Home, in what we like to refer to as our little cottage. It is actually a guard house turned home, but we have made it homey and ours, and we love it. One of the best parts is hearing babies from the foster home playing on the playground just outside our window.

We will be traveling back and forth to Luoyang this summer to help with Show Hope teams and then I will begin a teaching job at an international school in August. I will be teaching 1st grade.

Married life is great, though we are daily reminded of how selfish we can be. I have a sweet husband and we have much to be grateful for. 

Needless to say, transitioning out of Maria's Big House of Hope has been/continues to be difficult and I know it will take a lot of processing as I leave a place and children that I dearly love. My hope this summer is that even as I transition I will be able to share through this blog and that it will continue to be a way to process through all these changes (and hopefully be somewhat of an encouragement to those of you who are still reading...)

A few nights before I left MBH for the wedding, I was sitting with some of the kids in the Tinkerbell room. There is a little guy in there who cries when I simply look at him; if I say his name, it's all over! This particular night, sweet "Fahlin" was sitting on my lap and when I looked at "Colin", he began to frown. I told her, in my minimal Chinese, "he doesn't like me very much." Her sweet hands grabbed my cheeks and she looked me in the eyes and said:

“Ni bu shi lao wai, ni shi Becca” 

Which means "you're not a foreigner, you're Becca." My eyes welled with tears and I held her close and I thought about what she had said; essentially, she knew that I was saying that he didn't like me because I am a foreigner (and he is scared of me), but to her I am no foreigner, I am just me and that's all she sees. These were such sweet "parting words" from one whom I have grown to love so dearly.