So Ready for You, 2018!

Hello the internet!
I have not blogged in more years than I can count on three fingers... that is, three years!
As 2017 comes to a close in a few days here, and 2018 starts (where the heck do years go?? Do they get stashed somewhere, like, just sucked into a black hole?) I have really felt motivated and excited to start some things afresh, and one of those things is writing. Writing, blogging, and just taking the time to focus on things that are important. Things that I don't need to share, but rather, want to share, just because.
I've long LOVED to write, mostly creatively (the occasional school paper is fun, but I haven't had to do one of those in over a year!), and I love to go back and reread my own thoughts, and to see where those thoughts took me.
As I jump into 2018, I want to better myself. I know that nothing worth my time is possible on my own, and I am hungry and ready for God's help in everything I do.
Here is my list of resolutions. It will also be written up and slapped onto my bedroom wall, so I can have a constant reminder of the things I want to accomplish. I never want to view my resolutions as "rules," or, things I must do. Rather, I want to view them as guidelines that are going to push me along in the direction I desire to go. I think these 10 are a good place for me to start.

1. GET HEALTHY. I have dealt with being sick all of 2017. Tonsils, come out, and never speak to me again.
2. Read through my entire Bible. No ifs, ands, or buts.
3. Recommit to my walk with God.
4. Work on my constant, what feels like, NEED for attention. All the wrong sorts of attention, too (read: boys). I know this won't ever fully go away, but I want to be better at living without it.
5. Write.
6. Drink more water. I've been doing much better at this throughout 2017, and I'd like to keep it up and get even better at it. Everything is better when you are hydrated.
7. Focus on, give my full attention to, and pray for the people that matter most to me. Be there for those who needs me to be there. And develop a willingness to help people around me, whether they mean something to me or not. We are all Gods children.
8. Be able to do 55 tricep push-ups in one go!
9. Email my two sets of grandparents once a month.
10. Call each sibling once a month at the bare minimum.

This is just the beginning, but we've all gotta start somewhere, so why not start with a brand new year?; and a year with no mistakes in it, too... yet.
Here's to 2018, come at me!
All things are indeed possible through Him who gives me all the strength in the world. If only I ask for His hand to hold mine through whatever does come my way.
xx, AJ


farewell for now Suzhou.

Farewell for now Suzhou.
You slip in and out of things like summer… without realizing how much time it took to get there and how fast it came. Before you slip out you find yourself at a high. Your theme word for those few months is “bliss” and it fits. Even so, you can remember how the first few minutes back in your country felt. Uncomfortable. You felt like, why was I in such a hurry to leave? Once it slips away, you move onto missing it. The missing gets less and the ache fades… and then you realize that the reason for the decreasing ache is because the next summer is already in order. You slip in and you slip out and it feels like forever and it feels like not enough time. The next summer comes… and the next. You get three summers being a guest in your home state and nothing, no matter how good it is could be like those three summers.  
You slip in and out of things like Suzhou. Three years sounding like more than they really are. The first few weeks of those three years you feel lonely. Excited. Uncomfortable. Happy. You look back on those first few weeks and all you can seem to remember are things like, the way everybody jumped up whenever someone came to the door. The way the city felt like a maze. The way that that maple spread we packed in our suitcase tasted, paired with bad Chinese bread. Feeling uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time because we were IN CHINA but we were together and we were where we were supposed to be. Living in a foreign country became more like living in America after a while. It was obviously very different but grew ever more familiar with each passing week. One day you’d venture out a little further than the day before and find something else to fall in love with, like the way 60 people could fit on a public bus and that already seemed like way too many when… oh look… 10 more people were trying to push you further into every other person behind you. Uncomfortable yes. The way there was a wall around the oldest part of the city and that part of town still had 2000 year old paved rock streets. The way a new skyscraper would go up before your eyes which you didn’t even notice until it was done and then it just looked strange standing where a field used to be. And the way the Chinese people you choose to live life alongside of became more and more understandable. More like friends rather than foreigners. The language more like Spanish to an English hearing ear rather than Alien-ese to a human. The faces more and more varied and recognizable and warm and beautiful.
You can really fall in love with a city and falling in love is kind of like not wanting to ever separate from that place or person or thing you fell for. I didn’t fall for Suzhou’s charm right away. It actually took a while. I think part of the reason I fell was because I figured out how to get around by myself and how to be perfectly unafraid of doing so. It feels good to be independent. It feels good to go somewhere and know how to get back home after you’ve gone adventuring. I wasn’t so bold at first but that came and now knowing the buses to and from each place I go (mostly) and knowing that the subway is so easy… you can go one way or the opposite way; there’s only one line!… and knowing that I can get back to my house?… this is stuck in my head. In 50 years it could still be stuck there. It’s not too hard to remember anymore.  
You think back to some days and you can’t help but account the thoughts that were going through your head. Unpleasant, unfiltered, sad, scary. Walking around feeling kind of listless (sometimes because of a boy) and waiting for something. Sometimes you don’t really know what. Those things drift away though and when you look back at a normal week living in Suzhou the easy, fun, adventurous and likable memories often take precedence over the ugly ones.  
Even if you’re overseas, living far from people you love, they live their lives. You arrive in America and find everybody living out their life day by day, just not in your presence. 
So now. We’re a week away from leaving Suzhou and it’s Thanksgiving. We’re spending the weekend in Shanghai celebrating with our family. As I lay in bed at night I try to remember all the things I want to do in my last week in Suzhou. I need to go buy new socks for the airplane because I always do that. I need to ask my teacher for my midterm test scores. I need to eat at the canteen a few more times. I need to find bracelets for the dance I’m going to. I need to…  But most importantly. I need to thoroughly enjoy every last second of living in Suzhou. I need to take an extra bus ride so I won’t have bad withdrawals (;)). I need to realize that goodbye is not for good, but it’s still goodbye. I need to be the best friend that I can be and the best daughter and sister too. And I need to remember that He brought me here for a reason. He knew that I, with my family would move to Suzhou and that we’d move away too. If He knew that all along then isn’t it and wasn’t it the right thing to do in the first place? Isn’t the next step supposed to be hard and wonderful at the same time? I hope so. I’m thankful that now I am comfortable here. That I am a resident, not just a tourist (check my visa). That I did get the chance to be a guest in my home state of Colorado for three summers in a row. That I got to return to China after each of those summers. I’m thankful that I can call Suzhou home. One of my homes at least. And I’m thankful that I DO have Him to be my guide. Through everything. Through every rich + high time. Through every poor + low one.  
You slip into things like Summer and Suzhou and it comes so fast, you live in it so thoroughly, you remember hard times and you remember easy times, and you love it. You slip out of things like Summer and Suzhou and you move onto missing it… and thanking Him, because after all you were finally comfortable there… and He is the reason for comfort.  
So. Thank you Dad and Mom, for everything. Thank you Becca and Beth, my best friends. Thank you Andrew, my music partner and brother. Thank you Matthew, Ben, Rachael and William, my favorite people living in America. Thank you boy cousins, Maggie and Uncle Jon + Aunt Judy, my Shanghai family and cheerer-up-ers. Thank you Una, my Chinese sister. Thank you university schoolmates, you guys are so fun. Thank you high school buddies, you made science worthwhile. Thank you Chinese people, you made this city bright. Thank you house #235, my only home in PRC. Thank you Suzhou, I’ll be back. Thank you China, of course. And thank You Jesus. You always said I’d love it here.

Photo taken and edited by me with my iPhone.
**I wrote this post in the weeks before I moved away from Suzhou (on my iPhone at random creative moments) and I posted it on my tumblr a few days before we flew out of China. I haven't blogged in forever (since my "first day of university" post!) and so I wanted to share this "farewell for now Suzhou" with you all so you at least know that I no longer live in China. I love living in America but man, this moving away from China thing hurts. I miss it a lot each and every day and can't wait to go back again in the future. I'll write again soon.
x, a.**


university / week 1

Monday morning, September 9th I woke up early and picked out an appropriate first day of university outfit. I packed my new navy bag with my Chinese books and a fresh brown paper notebook for notes (and doodling obviously...).
I jumped on the 120 bus and put in my earbuds and turned on something that made me feel alive and jittery. Or maybe the jittery feeling was because I was starting something new.
40 minute bus rides in the early morning have become really nice. I love having some time before school starts to just think and dream and watch and feel. And to be by myself and to know exactly where I'm going. It feels good, and I love the feeling of independence. 
I got to Suzhou university and went to the 5th floor of one of the buildings and found my classroom and walked in. I surprisingly am in the same class as one of my friends from school last year, and that makes me happy.
Class starts and we speak, speak, speak, and listen, listen, listen. Being here three years has given me somewhat of a head start in the class but I'm also learning things that I don't know and that I definitely need to know. So let's just say my first week of learning Chinese hasn't been too hard, and has been pretty much just fun... and I love learning a new language.
After class I met up with a friend from church and we went out for Coco and to get to know each other and personally, the meeting new people from all around the world part is definitely the best part about this experience for me so far. I'm a people person, so being around tons of people everyday? Yeah, it kind of gets me going.

Add Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday doing a lot of the same things and you have a really good first week of university.
And that's just how university / week 1 should be.
First day of uni picture. By Becca Jones.

Early, foggy mornings on the bus.

Clean and clear skies and the city that I love.

Walking into the campus.

I spend lots of time on the bus nowadays! The 120 is a second home of sorts. ;)

Thank the Lord I have gorgeous views the whole way there.

Blackboards, chalk and homework assignments.

x, a


Colorado missin'

Driving over the mountains and down into Denver, Colorado. I miss that day. I miss my big brothers. I miss my sister. 
 I miss days spent swimming in the river. Laying on the rocks and sand, tanning my legs and face and chatting with friends whom I hadn't seen in a whole year.
Driving up to Glenwood and sitting at Bluebird Cafe or Starbucks (sometimes both) for hours and every once in a while getting a refill of iced coffee. 50 something cense is hard to beat ;)
Walking over to Target to say hey to a new friend and maybe just maybe to buy a new shirt.
 Eating pizza with all my siblings (except Andrew who stayed in China!) and watching the sunset.
 Sleeping on the porch in our little garage/house made summer home. Watching the sky and the million and one stars in it until we fell asleep.
 Listening to good music and taking blurry selfies with seat belts over shoulders and all.
 Eating frozen yogurt and wearing sweaters in the evening. And that lovely Colorado weather.

I miss it all, yes but I like the thought that instead of waiting a whole year and going back for another summer there, I'm going back in December and I'll finally get to see it in the snow again. And this time, (if my guess is right) I won't be leaving CO. At least for a while. 

I'm moving back.
x, a


up so high

Those times when I'm flying I think about how the world is below me. Every state in America and every big city and small town... and beyond that, foreign countries and mysterious oceans. I stare out the window and think about how somebody might be looking up at the airplane that's taking me to another place... and how airplanes always appear to be going so much faster when you're on the ground looking up at them ;)
 Whenever I fly I think about how chaotic some of the streets below me are. The ground, yellow lines on the roads with cars and bicycles weaving in and out of back streets and crossing those lines to get to where they need to be. And all the while I'm just floating over them higher than any mountain on earth. I listen to this song and there's a part where it says "as the dead moon rises and the freeways sigh, let the trains watch over the tides and the mist, spinning circles in our skies tonight". I ask the one who loves us to watch over the trains and cars and bikes beneath my seat... thousands of feet below me. Or maybe the sea. The ocean filled with life. Boats and ships gliding over waves, leaving trails of unsettled water. Then the song says "let Your love be strong and I don't care what goes down, let Your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder clouds"... and those words are perfect for airplane rides and perfect for making you feel all fluttery inside. Because come on, flying is so exhilarating and to think that He is watching over you, up so high in the sky and the rest of the entire world living out their lives below is beautiful.
Flying is like removing yourself from the world for a period of time. Up so high, you can't do anything but keep yourself busy while sitting silently in your seat. You have to wait until the plane lands to move on towards your destination and until then you're stuck at 30,000 ft. trusting a pilot to get you there. No wonder I feel like hugging the pilot when I'm walking off the plane at our gate. How often though do you get the chance to leave the surface of the earth for a while? How often do you get the chance to be above the clouds rather than underneath them? And looking at the ground rather than walking on it...? Like it or not, it's a pretty amazing privilege and I can't help but feel blessed when I get to fly. But don't get me wrong, I can so see how it can get boring and tiring (especially when it's an 11 hour ride and you have jet lag waiting for you on the other end) having to fly so much. 
For me it's just enough. I'm not tired of it at all but it's not new to me anymore. I still love it though (even if it does freak me out a bit) and I'm happy that it's a small part of my life.

Next plane ride for me: Malaysia in December! Then on to Europe before flying home to Colorado just in time for Christmas with my family. SUPER excited.
Until then I've got a lot to accomplish here in Suzhou.

x, a


the significant // the insignificant

These are some of the beautiful things that I've been experiencing lately. Significant and insignificant.
And something to come ;)
Small, round mirrors in buses and me and my cheeky sister snapping a picture in one of them.

Night time in College Town.

Dreaming of December and getting back to Colorado. 

Coffee in the morning sun while I chat with friends who are still awake on the other side of the world.

Getting ready for my day. It almost looks like there's snow inside of my (dirty) mirror. 

Curtains that let in the light and tall apartment buildings for a view.

Taxis which I swear never slow down.

And the city at night.

And knowing that we booked tickets to Rome in December.
And knowing that I'm blessed.

x, a


The best summer (I'm pretty dang sure) part 1: Bellevue WA.

Hey, I'm back!
I flew into PVG airport (Shanghai) on Monday night... stepped out of the airport into 90+ degree weather and haven't stepped out of it. 
You'll hear more about Suzhou soon but for the next few posts I'll be talking about my vacation. My absolutely blissful vacation... that I had to come back from. 

We flew into California at the beginning of June and spent two weeks there. I wrote my last couple of posts there and since I don't have many pictures from my time there I'll go ahead and start with Washington. After the first two weeks in CA. I flew to Colorado and spent a week there but I still didn't have my phone working then. I got my iPhone working in WA and that's when I started taking a million and one pictures. SO, the pictures are all taken and edited with my iPhone which is actually pretty cool ;)

Bellevue is so gorgeous. The whole time I was there the weather was so nice. When it rained it was beautiful and we would walk in it with no umbrellas and pretend like we were Washingtonians. Surprisingly it hardly rained at all though. We stayed at this cozy, spacious house right on the water and everyday we'd walk down the hill and swim. We even swam at night sometimes. The house was so nice and the whole place was pretty much like a resort. And we got to spend a week there :)
Seeing my cousins again was amazing as well. One of my only girl cousins was getting married which was why we were there and spending time with her was sooo fun. The other ones are all boys and all 6 of them are probably some of the coolest guys I know ;)

Alyssa's wedding day came and three hundred or more people squeezed into the church. No air conditioning and big windows that let in almost every inch of the afternoon sun. It didn't matter though. Everybody there was so happy and seeing my gorgeous cousin as a bride was perfect. She and Matt had asked me if I would sing at the ceremony and of course I said yes, so I was really nervous for the actual wedding day. I sang two songs and my Dad played the guitar for me. It ended up going so smoothly and I was so happy that I'd done it. I faced Alyssa and sang to her and Matt. I felt blessed to be a part of their wedding and I don't think I stopped smiling much that day.

The next few days went by quickly like vacations do and we finally got brown and our hair finally got light. Looking back the days seem to blend together... but if I take the time to remember each one clearly I can see how good of a time I had. It was so good. 
L to R: Bethy, me and Alyssa at the nail salon getting our nails done :)
Living on the water.


Night swimming!
My favorite 3 year old Maggie in the world.
At the wedding with my Daddy :)

...And more swimming.
x, a