Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Tearful Goodbye and A Season of Change

There's a chill in the air, and all around me scarves and woolen clothing are making their fall debuts. Fall is upon us! And I have to say, this special transitional time doesn't feel the same in Taiwan as it did in the U.S. Because of the humidity, that crisp fall "bite" in the air is muted. There's no leaves appearing in vivid reds, oranges, and yellows (not that I saw much of that in California anyway), and there isn't much observance of Halloween -- or any observance of Thanksgiving! I miss the feeling of Autumn in the U.S., that smell of fireplace and cider. But I've learned that in order to stave off the homesickness, I can make my own little "world of American holidays" in my apartment (if I can find the proper supplies). So yesterday I bought a few small pumpkins at the store and strategically placed them around my living room. It's not much, but it's something.

Speaking of homesickness, the departure of my grandmother (for those of you who don't know, she stayed with us for about a week) brought on a tough bout of it. Usually I don't feel homesick, probably because the deafening roar of the traffic and the bright lights of the city drown out any homesickness. Usually I prefer living in Taiwan and don't really miss America, but with three exceptions -- In-N-Out Burger, Mexican food, and my family. Especially my family! I had almost forgotten how much I missed them (thanks to the fact that I can easily talk to them whenever I want via Skype). Then my grandmother came and added all of her grandmotherly touches to our apartment. Previously it had resembled more of a dorm room with our stark walls and bare floors. We also didn't have curtains on any of our windows and had to remember to turn the lights off whenever we wanted to walk around in our underwear. Almost immediately after she arrived, she put up curtains, bought a throw rug for our bedroom, hung a painting on the wall, and filled the apartment with plants -- seriously, you would think it was the Amazon if you walked in here! She even bought us a TV, which we haven't had in months (hence my sudden interest in blogging). Even the nagging (which didn't come very often and was always dispensed in a lighthearted, grandmotherly way) was a welcome reminder of home. For example, I think she was a bit surprised that we NEVER cook. We just eat out for every meal (not entirely unheard of in Taiwan). Our kitchen is a mysterious corner of the house covered with dust and cobwebs. Well that's not entirely true -- it houses our refrigerator and we boil water sometimes. Anyway, sometimes our meals aren't very balanced. I came home with a pizza the other night and my grandmother said, "What about a nice green salad?" I had no idea where I would get one of those. Needless to say, my grandmother keeps saying she's going to start sending me recipes. Maybe Ian will try some of them.

I was savoring every minute of having my beloved grandmother nearby, and then she left as quickly as she came. I hadn't realized how much I missed my family until that premature departure. It was like ripping a band-aid off of a cut that hasn't completely healed yet. I thought I was used to being so far away from my family, but maybe that's something you can never fully get used to. After she left, I cried for two hours. I was really despairing because my dear family is in a place where my purpose doesn't lie. Then this made me question my purpose. "Am I where I'm supposed to be, Lord?" I think it's always good to seek re-confirmation for this question. And in the midst of my sadness, I felt closer to God than I had in a long time -- as if sharing in the pain of loss, although His was so much greater than mine could ever be, let me know Him more. "Is this the cross I must carry, Lord? Is this a part of me that has to die so that your desire for my life can live?" Although I love living in Taiwan, I don't know if I could sacrifice so much to continue living here for the sake of my own shallow love (it's so convenient, the food is good, the culture is interesting, I can make a decent salary and only work 3-4 hours a day) of Taiwan. But for my love of Him, I can.

For my love of Him. For His love of the Taiwanese people. This is why I am here, this is why I live. But my life hasn't reflected this in the past year and a half. There has been no sense of urgency concerning my purpose, and every day I've slipped further into my lifestyle of apathy. But with one tearful goodbye, my perspective has changed. If I'm going to carry this cross, then let it be for my love of Him or not at all! Why should I subject my family and myself to such pain unless I'm doing something of eternal value? As the seasons are shifting from Summer to Autumn, so must I change from living a life of apathy to one of lasting purpose.

The signs of Autumn approaching are beautiful to behold. Vibrant colors, the almost-forgotten feel of a wool sweater against your skin, and cozy fires. I like to think that the shifting of my attitude towards life is equally beautiful in God's eyes. What will the visible changes in my life look like? For one thing, I am going to be focusing a lot more on my Chinese study. I will be attending the Mandarin Learning Center at Chinese Culture University two hours a day Monday-Friday. I see now that this is the single most important thing I will be doing in my life right now, and I need to treat it as such by giving it the focus it deserves. Unless I learn this language, I won't be able to reach out to people. And even if I didn't have an eternal purpose in mind, how would you feel if someone lived in your country and never bothered to learn the language (and made more money than you just because they happened to be born in a country that speaks English). That's just plain rude! So for as long as it takes, a lot of my energy will be going into studying Chinese. In addition to that, I need to spend more time with God, and start taking care of my body more as well. Maybe I won't have as much time to blog (I'm not really sure what my homework load will be like yet). But whatever changes may come, I know that I can't go wrong if I align my actions with God's vision for me. Please be praying for me, as I know it'll be tough for me to devote so much energy to learning Chinese (especially when I teach English). Please pray for Ian as well, as he's looking for a new job right now. Thank you, everyone, for being so supportive and encouraging. I look forward to seeing what the new season brings!


  1. My battery is almost up so this will be short. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am sorry you are missing family. I pray God fills the void with His love for you and the people you have been called to.
    We have gotten a little cool weather but in Louisiana we don't get the full season change either. So don't feel bad.
    If you put on a pan of water and add cinnamon, orange peal and cloves and turn the water on med--you will get a lovely fall smell.

  2. Hey! Another connection. I lived in West Covina for 10 years. So when I was reading your blog (Fall does make me a bit homesick, too, but you learn to find things here that take it's place)and you mentioned In N Out burger...well, that was just about all I could stand! It's been way too many years since I've had one. My husband knows nothing about them. Isn't that sad?

    When we first came overseas, the kids would start talking about the things they missed in the states. I never discouraged that. We would sit and describe what we missed and then get this far-away look on our faces as we relished the thoughts. Now we do the same things with some of our Asia memories. It just takes some time to build a history here as well.

    I know what you mean, though. There's nothing like the States during the holiday season. It's been almost 10 years since we've experienced it. Next year. It will be fun.

  3. thanks for my are such a sweetie.

    I am going to write you a note back...there is much I want to tell you ;-)

    Sending a hug for now and praying that God continues to direct your path.

    hugs and a big KISS
    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  4. Hi Cahleen! I'm so glad you stumbled onto Pollywog Creek this weekend. I will be honored to pray for you and for Ian. My best friend's daughter and her husband and baby daughter moved to Thailand over the summer and even though they are confident of their call to be there, she has been very homesick and her family in the states has missed them terribly. Skype has truly been a Godsend. I think that Piper's book will encourage you, because you have already made the decision to do the hard sacrifice your own comfort for a greater purpose. I live in south Florida, so we are probably experiencing the same kind of "fall" here as you are having over there. I will add your blog to my blogline subscriptions so I can keep up with your prayer needs. I do hope you will come back to Pollywog Creek for another visit soon! Blessings!

  5. You expressed some of my own thoughts and feelings quite well. :)

    Prayed for you this morning.

    You CAN learn chinese through Christ who strengthens you!! I made my language study a serious matter of prayer and pleaded for supernatural help in becoming

  6. Cahleen, what a beautiful moving post. Your grandmother sounds like a dear!

    I like how you said, "But whatever changes may come, I know that I can't go wrong if I align my actions with God's vision for me."

    So true. I just said a prayer for you and will continue to keep you in my prayers as you move forward in the Lord.

    Your cyberfriend from Pennsylvania, USA,

    P.S. Talking about hot cider, you can maybe make a little taste of home by visiting my other site,

    I have a great recipe for hot apple cider, and I'm not much of a cook, but this one is sooooooooo worth it. Your whole house will smell like Autumn! And the taste? Out of this world!

  7. Sharon,

    Your suggestion made me feel so much better. I'm going to try it this weekend!


    It's nice to find someone who understands the magic of an In-N-Out burger. I feel sorry for people who've never experienced it! But even more wonderful is meeting someone who understands what it's like to miss your family terribly. Thank you!


    Your encouragement always blesses me. Thank you so much, and take your time with the email. I know you have your hands full! =)


    I'm so glad I "met" you! I will definitely return to Pollywog Creek for a visit. =)


    It's so encouraging to know someone who's "gone before." Your encouragement means so much to me because I know you've struggled with the same issues. By the way, I forgot to tell you that my grandma, to my surprise, loved my hair.

  8. Susan,

    Thank you so much! Maybe I'll try it this weekend along with Sharon's suggestion. I want to "fallify" my house!


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