Never so far

This year we did something really cool for Chinese New Year: a dinner cruise on an all-teak Chinese junk the night of the fireworks over the harbor. And no, it was not easy for this mama to leave Willa for that long (6+ hours) ... given that she's none too happy about taking milk from a bottle, nor is she very happy in general during the evening hours. But we managed, and she managed, and maybe most importantly, our babysitter managed. (And she's still our babysitter!)

And it was cool. Did I say that already? A beautiful night (just a bit chilly after the sun went down), we got to hang out with friends and enjoy good food, an open bar, and impressive fireworks. Sans children. We met a couple from Canada who had not only heard of Crookston, MN (the tiny town where Matt grew up) but had been there, repeatedly. And then sat next to an architect couple, one of whom is designing an important center here in Hong Kong and the other of whom is from Iran and is willing to talk to Matt's students about an Iranian book they are reading.

Standing under a swinging red lantern on the boat's deck, surveying the skyline and the impossibly huge apartment complexes, I couldn't help but think about how different our life will look one year from now. We don't know exactly where we'll land, but early February will most certainly not see us on a dinner boat cruise, watching Chinese New Year fireworks with people from all over the world. And though we long for what February will bring us--snow, cross-country skiing, sitting in front of a fire--we feel sad too. Yes, yes, I know I've said this repeatedly, but I have a feeling it's going to be a theme these remaining months: excited to go, sad to leave.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, recently interviewed on Speaking of Faith Being, said that mindfulness is a way to slow down time. So that's the goal--to really live each of the moments we have left here and not let the time just pass by. Which is not always easy, given that the moments are so often filled with foot-stamping, toy-throwing, attention-seeking tears (and not just from Finn. Ahem.) And hungry, end-of-the-day tears (and not just from Willa. Ahem. Ahem.) Except then I realize that there isn't much more in-the-moment than the tears of a child ... in fact, I often find myself wishing I could get both of them to see a bigger picture. (I know, I know.)

Jon Kabat-Zinn also says that "living with children is probably the most powerful spiritual practice that anybody could ever be engaged in." He goes on to compare our children to little Zen masters, "parachuted into our lives to push all our buttons and see how we're going to work with the challenges they throw at us." And though I'd be hard-pressed to call Finn a Zen master, I have often remarked at how much I am learning about my own anger and lack of patience through these kids. And then all I can do is rest in the grace that God is the ultimate parent not only to my children, but to me. Full of grace and love not only to my children, but also to me. Ready to give chance after chance, both to my children and to me. And as I seek again to model God's love to my children, I accept it as true for me too.

You are never so far that my love can't find you
You're never so far I can't see your face
We are never so far, let me remind you
We're never so far from our loving place

Greg Brown, Never So Far 

May it be so for all of us, never so far from the people and places that we love, and never so far from the One who loves us.


Liese said...

How precious your words--so honest, ringing so true to my own experience. The photos catch extra-ordinary beauty. Of course you will miss the specialness of these years in Hong Kong!Yet, even as you expect, life in all its fullness will go on and your appreciation of each facet of this diamond existence will bring sparkle to you and thru you!

I'm taking advantage of some days of FEET-UP life. Both feet had surgery yesterday. All's gone sooo well. I'm filled with thanksgiving. So Ken's in charge of my stay-at-home vacation!
Love, Liese

Christa said...

I love your words about children being like little Zen masters... sometimes I find myself beginning to fume because of the antics of my three year old students. THREE year olds! This week it was two little boys with rudimentary English, joyfully poking each other with the markers they had discovered in the pile of pencils. I had to figure out how to non-linguistically, non-joy squelchingly, redirect them. Ah, Zen masters indeed.