Sunday, April 30, 2017

My Yoda

It's hard to know where exactly to start when writing about those that you love that you won't see again on this side of heaven. Thinking through all of the memories, sifting through so many wonderful days, and wanting to get them all down in print so that they never completely fade.

Here is my attempt at recording my relationship with my Grandma Teusink, who went to be with Jesus today at the age of 90.

I remember walking in her front door on 42nd Ave so many times, brushing my hands over the piano keys, grabbing a mint from the glass rooster jar, and knowing that there was either something delicious in the oven or that there would be soon.  The kitchen table in that house always had a project close at hand, whether we were making date cookies, sprinkling paprika on the mashed potatoes for Sunday lunch, or spreading cheese onto crackers. In that house, she also had a cupboard full of games and Sunday school activity sheets.  She was always ready for her grandchildren to visit.

One winter she was watching my brother and I after we had moved across the mountains to Kent.  It was snowing that Sunday morning, but she was determined to get us to church in her old '91 Chevy Cavalier.  We went down the James street hill (slipping and sliding down it, really) and I remember being terrified, but we survived.  What usually took us 15 minutes took what felt like hours, and when we got to church no one was there because they didn't dare go out in that snowstorm.  Grandma wasn't afraid of a little snow. Nothing seemed to phase her.  When I graduated from college and needed a car of my own, grandma gave up hers for me. Driving that old Cavalier was an adventure, but one that grandma definitely understood.

It was probably on that same visit that I tried out some new-phangled brush that I had gotten a few weeks before. It got terribly tangled in my hair (which I desperately wanted to cut), but she patiently untangled that mess, strand by strand, and didn't seem annoyed or frustrated. Not one strand was cut.  She was determined to keep it that way.

As she got older, it got harder for grandma to get around, but she still found a way. I remember when Episode 2 of Star Wars came out in theaters and Yoda hobbled into the scene, only to throw his cane to the side and take down all of the crazies that stood in his path.  I laughed out loud in the theater when I saw it, because I could totally imagine grandma doing the same.  She was my Yoda. A force to be reckoned with. Someone who would proudly stand up for her family and went to bat for us whenever necessary.

Grandma loved fiercely, and she was so proud of all of her children and grandchildren. She went to each of our college graduations, even when travel got harder and her health got worse. She was so proud of all that we had done and all that we were going to do.  I wish I could have know my grandpa better, but from her stories over the years I knew their love well. She was eager to get to heaven and be at the feet of Jesus, with grandpa by her side.

And now she is there. And here on earth, we're rejoicing at her homecoming, but our hearts ache a little.

I will miss her soft hands and contagious laugh. (She always told me washing dishes was the best manicure.)

I'll miss the stories and the sighs as she talked of days and years gone by.

I'll miss the way she said interesting (which meant she really didn't like something).  She never told you that she hated was just interesting and that was that.

I'll miss that last hour of every visit I had with her over the past few years, filled with reading some of her favorite Psalms together and praying for each other.

I'll miss the way she said my name...never Bekah, always Rebekah. Usually when someone calls me Rebekah they don't know me very well...but with Grandma it was just the opposite.  She'd been there for me since day one. One of my biggest fans and greatest prayer warriors.

See you later, sweet Yoda of mine.  Love you, now and always.

May 2009 - Graduation Day

Summer 2016

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Slow down?

For 2017, I have chosen the word 'rest' to focus on, and to be honest I haven't done a great job of actually doing it.

Just when I think that rest might be something close, around a corner, and within grasp, something comes up and I find myself doing anything but resting.

The thing is, that's a choice: my default status is busy.

Not that I'm too busy to talk to a friend or too busy to add something to my to-do list...I'm generally just busy.

I used to love the thrill of procrastinating on a major project in college, knowing that I could whip it out the night before or morning it was due and get a decent grade.

I was blessed with the gift of being able to get things done. And this truly can be a gift, but...

There are too many times where I left myself become busy just for busy's sake...when I don't allow others to help...and where I choose busyness over the opportunity to take a deep breath and rest.

I think that somewhere along the line I decided that being busy and getting things done was worth more than rest. That I should operate under the assumption that I am the super hero that will eventually save the world through all of the little tasks that I can/will get done.

And that's how I've operated for a long time.

It's hard to change from the customized settings back to the default. It's hard to go back to the basics and forget about the shortcut keys that you've programmed in.

But it's time.  So now, as I get ready for hopefully an evening of uninterrupted rest between my pillow and I, I am going to play the piano and forget about the busyness that so often is a cloud over my day.

It's time to slow down.

It's time to choose rest.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Taxi Life

There's something about sitting in a taxi in Chengdu traffic, complete with a driver who has a raspy voice that is the result of a lifetime of smoking that, is so familiarly foreign.

I got in, pronounced my destination slightly different than usual (thanks to a helpful six year old's advice last week), and away we went.

He complimented my Chinese, I did the feigned humility that his generation loves to hear from a foreigner and secretly hoped that there would be no follow-up questions.

His WeChat feed kept lighting up in his 18-friend-strong group chat that he kept speaking into. I understood about a third of what he was saying.

As we sat practically parked on second ring road, he complained about traffic, I said a few words of agreement...we bonded.

Eventually we arrived, and I paid and got out. Once again he told me how good my Chinese is.  This time he added 真的 (zhende) for emphasis.  'Really, you speak Chinese very well.' If only he knew.

And that was that.

This is life in the Du.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The way our minds work is a funny thing.

There was this entrance to the student center in college that always made me feel like I was in middle schooler again. When I walked through it, if I paused and closed my eyes, it was as if I was there for the first time. I don't know how to explain it exactly, but it always smelled just like it had all those years ago.

Similarly, today I feel like I'm a ninth grader, sitting outside the Mennonite Guesthouse dining room in Nairobi. I've got my cold drink and I'm sitting in the shade with my feet strategically placed in the sun. I remember sitting with some other MKs on that day all those years ago, talking about life and friendships, school and all of our homes, and sitting half in the sun and half in the shade. My feet were so sunburnt by the end of it. We were there for hours.

I love the way these memories come back to me. The way they wash over the present and draw another line of connection in this life that I live.

Maybe one day I'll wind up at Mennonite again, sipping on my chai and working on my burn. Until then, this Chengdu sunny day with do quite nicely.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Living in community is often the hardest and best thing about living overseas.

The hard things have many a post about them on many a blog, but today I want to celebrate the thing I love most about it: the family that it becomes.

Let me go back a bit...

I remember as a little girl being so proud of my family.  I'm incredibly proud of all of my biological cousins and their families, and in awe of my aunts and uncles and the things that they have done.  The stories that they tell, the food that they cook, the way I feel at home in any of their houses. My grandmothers are two of the strongest women that I know, and if I had the opportunity to know my grandfathers well I know that they have been the warmest laps for me to climb into and some of my biggest cheerleaders.  My grandmothers taught me how to paint and crochet, how to see mountains as an art project and kitchens as a place of bonding and love.  My family is incredible, and I love every piece of both sides of it differently and deeply.

And living overseas is hard because they're not just a drive away.  I can't pop down for the weekend or drive over to see the plays and concerts.  I have to love them at a distance, often through Facebook posts and text messages.

But when I was small and living in Rwanda, I was surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmas and grandpas...but we didn't share any blood.  I loved knocking on Aunt Carol's door and asking if it was time for tea (and of course if she had a cookie for me).  I loved knowing that Aunt Louise's house was one that I was always welcome in (even in college). I know that Uncle Doctor Grandpa Al was one of the most important people in my dad's life, and as a result one of the most important people in mine.

When we moved to the US in 1st grade, we were finally close to our blood family, but our extended community family kept growing.  Marvi was my grandma, and times at her kitchen counter were some of the best times I've ever had (complete with wheat thins and easy cheese).   Ken and Dawnelle are in a lot of ways second parents to me, with countless stories we could all tell of good times and bad, growth and frustration. Mackenzie and Mattie are my sisters, with so many hours of laughter and far too much ice cream.

College was no different.  Uncle Elmore was my Father's Day date...Aunt Arlene my Jeopardy companion...Aunt Harriet my Sunday lunch home (and wisdom teeth recovery nurse)...Uncle Henry and Aunt Bonnie my weekend oasis.  There are so many more that aren't mentioned here but still played a major role in what makes me, me.

Family is important.  Blood or not.

And here in China, it's the same way.  I wondered when I moved here if I would be the Auntie Bek that I am in the States.  If there would be families that I could invest in the way that I was invested in.

And there are.

This weekend, I got to be Aunty Bekah to some of my favorite people of the planet, Judah, Eden, Zion, and now Elias.

There were tears...there was laughter...there were cuddles...and stories...and love...and frustration...and a whole lot of coloring.

There were the unexpected questions, like "Why do you like us so much?"

And then on Monday as I passed Miss Zion in the hall at school, there was the hug and the exclamation of "Thank you so much for yesterday! I love you!"

And my heart is full.

Family is important, blood or not.

Taxi rides are never dull with these two.

Movie Time

Oh Miss Z

My piano got quite a bit of mileage this weekend.

Sunday Morning Fun

Getting to meet the newest kiddo
(Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The best kind of day...

When I left home for the day this morning at 10:15, it was to grab coffee with a friend and maybe pick up a few bits and pieces at our favorite import store.

It's 8:45 p.m. now and I'm on my way home in a taxi.

I love days like today...

Days where I spend all day with friends that are such an essential piece to my China puzzle. Everyone I was with today is someone that I can be fully me with.  I can be a goof or serious with, be randomly sentimental with, and say "This is going to come out wrong so please interpret as I go...." with and not have them think I'm an absolute lunatic.

Days where I go to my favorite coffee shop and introduce them to my favorite drink from yesteryear and then try something new and different.

Days where I pop in to a friends house for a game of chess with a fourth grader and then wind up staying for seven hours.

Days filled with pictures on phones (both real and pretend) and giggles over the littlest of things.

Days where kiddos watch a classic 90s movie ("Senca, you dead man?") for the first time and love it.

Days where it's a bit rainy and a little gloomy, but yet every face seems to be filled with sunshine.

Days where I cry a little on the way home because it is all so good and I know that change is around the corner.

But today, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

An elephant never forgets...

But alas, I am not an elephant.

Apparently (according to Facebook 'on this day'), 6 years ago I went on a blind date.

Try as I might I can't remember it.  This is good/bad for multiple reasons.

The good:
- Apparently it wasn't a great experience, so clearly my brain is protecting me from the potential horror of remembering it clearly.
- The comments that people wrote after my forgettable blind date experience were encouraging.  Thanks friends.

The bad:
- I'm pretty sure that was the last date I've been on.  It would be kind of nice to have a memory of dating. (Kind of, but meh...)
- What if it's the last date I ever go on and I never remember it?!?!?! (And now I have Sleepless in Seattle quotes going through my mind...) "What if this man is my destiny and I never meet him?" "You're destiny can be your doom, think about me and Rick."

...And now I need to watch Sleepless in Seattle.

Here's to not being an elephant. *raises glass* *tink*

(Also, how fun was it back in the day to use stars around sentences to give voice to your actions.  Early texting was the best... *sigh*)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Caught Red Handed

A few weeks ago, I had a student in my office that was frustrated that I was meeting with their parents because, "If we make a plan together, it seems like it's not my idea. Last week I decided to start trying, and this week you're telling me that you'll all help me try. I don't want to try if it doesn't seem like it was my idea."

Today, I found myself in the same situation, relating to a middle schooler and laughing/crying on the inside over the irony of it all.

It's amazing how much of my days at this point in the school year is spent thinking about the future. I'm making potential schedules, talking to teachers about course load, preparing beginning of the year information, thinking about the best ways to plan the communication of it all, and overall trying to get the ideas in my brain onto paper in a way that seems at least somewhat organized.

And at this point there are very few people who know all of that because it's just not at the "talk about it" point yet.

In the last 48 hours, several people have come to me with ideas of how we can improve; ways that are already on my list and are already in motion...

...but they didn't know about it yet.

And now, you guessed it, it's no longer my idea, but theirs.

And that's frustrating.

It's frustrating to do work and not get the credit you feel that you deserve for it, whether or not you actually deserve it.

And part of me wants to quote that middle schooler mentioned earlier. Sometimes, if it doesn't seem like it was my idea, I'm not sure that I want to try anymore.

I don't mean that.  I do want to try. I want to do the best that I can at my job and help our school be the best that it can be.

That said, I'm learning just how much of my current job is lived behind the scenes....

...and trying not to identify with (or act like) my middle schoolers too much ;)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Night at the movies

There's something about a new take on an old classic that always makes me a bit nervous. I've seen too many of my favorite books made in to less than adequate movies, and far too many of my favorite movies redesigned in such a way that breaks my heart a little.

But wow, Disney, you did it right this time.

I wasn't all that excited for this new version of Beauty and the Beast. Maybe I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I had almost decided that I didn't need to see it in theatres, but when the opportunity arose to go after school today I couldn't resist.

And my was marvelous.

I left the theater and sang with my friend Bekah all the way home. I didn't care who heard and didn't care who stared.

I've always wanted life to be a musical, and watching the movie tonight made it a little more possible, even if only for a few minutes.

And beyond singing my way home, I left the theater with a glimmer of hope. I mean, I know it's a movie. It's a fairytale. First of all, there aren't evil spells cast that turn princes into beasts with enchanted flowers that give them a deadline on finding love. Second, if there were princes that had been turned into beasts, it's doubtful that they would be anywhere near Chengdu. It's a movie. I know. Dose of reality realized.

And yet....still, Disney has this way of making little girls (and grown ones) feel like anything is possible.

Beyond all of that, I think my favorite part of the movie was the relationship between Belle and her father. (The fact that Kevin Kline played Maurice probably has something to do with that.) The devotion, the connection, and the sacrifice that are woven throughout the story (and even more so in this updated version) are just beautiful. And my parents live in I'm sure their little town could break into song just like Belle's did.

Okay, I'm rambling....time to put the iPad away (I left my laptop at school today! Aren't you proud?) and get some rest. I wonder what musical I'll watch tomorrow....

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hello old friend

Have you ever gotten so used to something new that you forget just how much you loved the old? In this busy, electronically driven world, I guess there are dozens of things I could be talking about, but my mind is focused right now on just one: books.

I love books.  The stories that waft from the pages into your mind and paint an entire universe where they live out their existences.  The heros, the villains, the twists and turns...they are all so powerful.

I've gotten caught up in TV shows lately, where I can escape reality and just veg out on my couch not having to think about anything.

But books.  Wow.  There is something so different about getting lost in those worlds.

The problem is, so many of my books these days have been loved through the screen of my kindle or ipad. There is something so different about tapping a screen and having a white glow surrounding the words.  It's not that the words are any less powerful, but there is something about their surroundings that takes away some of the thrill.

I love turning the pages. Seeing the wear and tear. The potential of dog-earring the corner when you don't want to lose your spot.

And don't even get me started on the smell of those pages. (I know...I'm strange.  In the words of a good friend of mine, 'You do you, I'll do me.')

And so, on this smoggy/foggy morning, I'm quite enjoying sipping on my coffee and getting lost in another world. We'll see if I emerge anytime soon...

Quick thought (a few hours later): Finished the book in one sitting.  It's been a long time since I did that.  And my first thought upon completion: What shall I read next? This is the life.