Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Living a Good Story

I just finished reading the book by Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand years. It's all about his process of making a movie about his life, and whether he is living a story worth telling. I couldn't stop chuckling my way through the book, his dry humor kept me entertained in those sweet post-children's bedtime-husband engaged in the new Assasin's Creed game-just Cindy moments. He considers the various elements of our lives and whether they are ingredients for a good story. For example, in every good story, the protagonist suffers setback in order to advance his character, which then leads one to ponder whether we sometimes choose uncomfortable paths to live a good story.

With his words tumbling around inside my mind, I journeyed along with some of my friends' roller coaster dramas in the past few weeks, meanwhile putting through my own humble, not-without-its-craziness, life, and saw some amazingly beautiful redemptive stories in the making.

My friends and heroes, Leslie & ZB, are on their way to adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. They've prayed, angst, celebrated, grieved, and moved forward on this journey of international adoption. Little Siri has yet to officially become a part of their family but their faithfulness in pursuing her is a beautiful picture of the way God pursues us - urgent, unconditional love.

Gloria and Brenda - two sisters' stories intertwining in pursuit of a potential adoption of Ladybug - a cerebral palsy baby. Doctor's visits, skype conferences, trips to the Children's Home, and endless phone calls. The details are mundane, but underlying these small steps of faith are big hearts for orphans, for God's calling, for hope. Theirs are the stories of a bond in family, so close-knit to do the impossible for each other, and yet stretches enough to include a little Ladybug.

Lizzy's playmate in China, Adah Morris is fighting an aggressive form of leukemia in the most heroic way. Through all testing, treatment, and chemo, she continues unwaveringly in loving and caring for her sister, her friends in the hospital, her aunties from China, and friends all around the world. Even six year olds can live good stories!

Then I hear of my friend Dave, who has a PhD in neuro something or other, and yet not afraid to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in web design and application. Recent trophy = an iphone game approved! I am so inspired by the story he's living and makes me want to walk with eyes on the prize and away from the fears and anxieties of life.

My friend Marissa - mother of three young boys. She's busy loving on them and yet fulfilling her dream of becoming a published author (and well on her way!). I can't imagine how she juggles in editing in between diaper changes, preparing toddler snacks and supporting her husband, all in the same 24 hour window that I have. Great story. Busy story.

On and on the list goes, and I feel so overwhelmed and privileged to be watching story after story of hope and redemption, to experience the joys and sorrows of each story the way I laugh and cry in my favorite books, and knowing deep in my soul, that each story is a signpost (oh yes, I'm an NT Wright groupie) towards the Kingdom of a good God.

How can anyone think life is boring?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Unique Bond - Logistics

As you can see, I've lost count of my continuing series on Cross Cultural Marriage. We're moving forward with subject titles from this point on. I've gone over some of the theoretical concepts of what it may mean to be married cross culturally and thought it might be helpful to zone in on the logistics.

What's in a name?

Chinese women keep their maiden names, but may be referred to as Mrs. "Husband's Surname". American women generally change their last names after marriage but these days it's kind of your choice. I didn't think about it much and by default took on my husband's name and became Cindy Brandt. Here are some of the issues I know of in picking the right combination of names:

-when people see my name without seeing my actual person they assume I'm Caucasian as Brandt is a German last name, so there's a bit of a disconnect with my heritage.
-If an American woman takes on their Chinese husband's last name, there is sometimes the problem of family/friends not knowing how to pronounce your name.
-choose wisely because once you decide, you better stick with it unless you want to become more entangled in red tape than you already have to be. See upcoming section.

Location, location, location

When you marry someone who is not from your country, you have the joy of deciding where you will live together, and the not-so-joyful process of going through VISA, or RESIDENCY applications. I've ranted about this before, but most people automatically assume when you marry someone of another country, you can easily become a citizen of nation of your spouse. Untrue. Our world may be globalizing but the immigration processes are still developing. In the meantime you'll have bureaucracy to deal with. I think (hope!) things have already improved from when J and I got married, so I hope future cross culture marrieds will have an easier time. On a side note, for some reason unknown to our present selves, ten years ago we decided it would be a good idea for me to apply for the US green card. At the time, we were planning to move to China. So go figure, stupid young Jason & Cindy, what a waste of time and energy. As of this summer, I cut up my green card. Moral of the story? Try to decipher your personal crystal ball and avoid unnecessary paperwork.

Party, baby, party

Cross cultural marriages is a life long fusion event. Your wedding celebration can incorporate lots of fun traditions from each other's cultures, and that's only the beginning. The advice I gave my friends when I had the honor of marrying them was to celebrate all the holidays. That's right, I'm all about partying. In addition to it being plain fun, it's a great way of incorporating both cultures into your family life. Of course, the year calendar might turn into one long party so sensibly you pick and choose. For example, we don't celebrate Halloween, or Valentines, or obscure festivals Teacher's Day. But we do hit most of the major ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. We cross cultural marrieds have to work extra hard to make areas of our marriage work, so we deserve the extra break. Live it up, people.