What activates your soul?

For me, it’s traveling and meeting people from other countries.  Parts of myself came alive that I never knew existed until I lived in China for five years.  New skills, talents, likes and dislikes emerged that made me feel like I had been a stranger to myself up until that point.  I used to be so immersed in Chinese that I would wake myself up at night speaking it.

Now that I am back in the states, it feels like many of those aspects of my personality are now lying dormant Like a part of myself sleeps. 

Two weeks ago we attended our first dinner sponsored by a Christian organization, but held for international students from the nearby university.  With my daughter on my hip, I snaked along the three 20-foot tables that showcased everything from fried chicken to ma po dou fu.  We joined my husband and three-year-old son at one of about 25 tables in the large church gym, settling down with our plates full of the foods of the world.  I spotted some Asian faces and after noticing they were speaking Chinese, encouraged them to sit with us.

I held back on revealing that I, too, could speak Chinese—partly so I could give them the chance to practice their English, partly so I could eavesdrop on their conversation before they knew I could understand.  When I finally did use Chinese to ask them how they liked the food, they immediately turned from being shy and cautious to being animated and full of warmth. 

My son, on the other hand, who had never heard me speak so much in Chinese, looked terrified.  It was as if someone had inhabited his mommy’s body and taken over.  “Are you speaking English?” he asked, horrified about what was happening.  I tried to reassure him by explaining that this was Chinese, another language, but he continued to look skeptical and begged me to stop.

In addition to getting the chance to speak Chinese again, God gave me a bit of a nudge that night through a divine coincidence.  In China, I lived in one of the lesser known provinces in northwest China.  Many Chinese had been sent from the populated east in the 50’s to develop this desert area of China, but it was far from a well-known travel destination.  By Chinese standards, the capital city where I lived was considered small.  And so I was shocked to discover that out of the 1.4 billion people living in China, I had sat next to a man who was from the very city I had last lived in before leaving China.  Some may call that a coincidence, I call it a tender touch from Jesus Himself, reminding me that He sees me. 

At the end of the dinner, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “You should invite them over to make jiao zi!”  When I mentioned it to our new friends, they all answered with huge grins on their faces that they would love to.

So two of the men and one of their 5-year-old sons, Tu Tu, came over last night to make jiao zi (Chinese dumplings).  We chattered away in English and Chinese and my son and Tu Tu zoned out watching cartoons.  Seeing them sitting together on the couch made me smile—because before marriage I had always imagined my future children would have Chinese friends. 

I’m glad my husband had spent some time in China, because he wasn’t shocked when they asked how much our rent was for this place.  However, he wasn't aware that culturally, our friends wouldn’t eat the snacks we had placed out unless we practically forced them to.

As we bid them farewell, my heart was skipping in a way I can’t explain except that I know some of those dormant aspects of my personality were allowed out of hiding for the evening.   

And this morning, my husband told me I had been speaking Chinese in my sleep again.


What activates your soul? 

What are some areas of your pre-kid life that might shock your children?


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