Land of Sky Blue Waters

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Did you know that Minnesota means “Land of Sky Blue Waters?” Actually, I think the original Native Americans meant it more like “cloudy waters” but we like to ignore the cloud part and just focus on the awesome blue skies. Minnesotans are positive that way.

When most people think of Minnesota, they think things like, “Why would anyone want to live there? Doesn’t it snow most of the year? Isn’t that in Canada? Is that even a state? Where is Minnesota?” All valid questions. Sure, the winters here last about 5 months and they can get so cold your nose hairs freeze together, but the rest of the year makes up for it, and that’s what we get to enjoy right now.

And enjoy it we are! I’m not an outdoor girl. Honestly, I could live in a bunker and it wouldn’t affect me much as long as I had enough room to run around. But there’s something about Minnesota in the fall that does a soul good.

The mornings here are cool – this morning I could see my breath at 7 am. The days are temperate and sunny, you can smell fall in the air, the leaves are changing. The pace of life here is slower, people you don’t know wave at you from the other side of the road or greet you as you pass by. When shopkeepers tell you to have a nice day, they actually sound like they mean it. And look at this picture, taken while visiting some friends who have a cabin near our cabin. This is a picture of the pond in front of the lake where their cabin is. This is their view, and what a lovely view it is.

All of this restores my soul, as it says in Psalm 23. God is using Minnesota to re-stock my soul with life-giving things.

God knew He was making a good thing when He made the land of sky blue waters.

The Homeschool View

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One of the most frequent questions I have heard throughout our transition is, “Are you going to homeschool in America?” On the one hand, the thought of homeschooling in America sounds SO much easier than doing it in China, so why not? Hello libraries! Hello fast internet! Hello Amazon Prime that comes to my door in two days! Hello even more people who homeschool! Wow – that looks like I’m really excited, and also, quite friendly.

On the other hand, there are schools here. Schools that don’t ask me to decide between sending my child to 5th grade or her freshman year of college for tuition. Schools where our kids could learn things I don’t teach them, where they could have experiences they don’t get at home.

I’ve never been a hard core homeschool mom. Our decision to homeschool was more out of necessity than choice. That said, I don’t regret doing it; I see only good things that have come from it.

But as we look to Orlando, we’re considering the options. Florida itself is not known for its stellar education system (#48 out of 50?!?) but there are other choices besides public schools (and even those we haven’t ruled out). When we head down there in a few weeks, I hope to look at one of them in particular. I had previously written it off, but it’s run by someone we know and our dear friends’ kids go there, so our kids are all for it.

For now, we have three baskets full of books, binders and curriculum in the kids’ bedrooms. They mostly work at the desks in their rooms or on their beds. So far so good, but who knows how much longer we’ll have this view? 

Lest you forget

Gina Butz faith 2 Comments

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers . . . with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:10-12

The first time these verses struck me (as Christians why are we always being “struck” by scripture? It seems so violent) was our 5th year overseas. I was in a great place. My mojo was strong – the kids were getting out of the tough toddler stage, my language skills were decent, I was able to use my gifts in fulfilling ways; in short, I loved my life. So I knew it was going to change.

I knew it, not because I think God is out to spoil my fun, but because of these verses which I had been studying at the time. I knew I was in a place where I was really comfortable. I didn’t feel like I needed God. I was in danger of forgetting Him. So God saw fit to move us, four months later, to Singapore, where . . . well, let’s say I felt my need.

But that was then. In reading this again now, I think of our current situation. This is the land o’ plenty, and I feel like I could get pretty used to it. I like showers with consistent water temperature and washing machines large enough to hold a person. I like blue skies and non-threatening traffic. I like speaking English. I like friendly Minnesotans.

So how do I not forget God here? How do I stay aware that even in the seemingly best, most comfortable, most easy places I am in desperate need for Him? I don’t have the answer to that yet; it’s what I’m pondering this morning. I just know that He is God here as much as He was there, and I need Him.

Who will you be?

Gina Butz faith, transition 1 Comment

will you put your hope in the Lord?

Prior to moving back to America, I read the story of Moses sending the spies ahead into Canaan.

All but two of them came back with a report that, although the land was flowing with milk and honey, the people there were strong and the cities fortified and large. These latter things were unappealing to them.

But then Caleb stepped up and said, basically, “We can do this.”

Joshua seconded that with, “If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us . . . the Lord is with us.”

I read this story around the time when our son seemed to be struggling the most with our future life in America. He’s a realist, like me (it sounds so much better than pessimist), and he was seeing the difficulties of transitioning to new friends, new places.

So I shared that story with him because when I read it, I felt clearly that God was saying, “Who will you be like Gina?

“Will you look ahead and only see the obstacles, or will you look ahead with faith and hope because you believe that I am leading you to this place?”

It’s hard to go into an unknown place after one you’ve loved so well. But this morning as I sat on the deck, warm sun on my face, I was encouraged by recalling this story. I’m not saying Orlando is the promised land 🙂 but it is the place to which He is leading us, and we will trust in His goodness as we anticipate life there.


If They Only Knew

Gina Butz transition 3 Comments

This morning I was just another runner in a race on a typical Minnesota fall day.

I was just another mom watching her kid play soccer.

In both, I felt a little like the secret weirdo.

I mean I was the only person who didn’t blink an eye when I saw that the three stalls in the women’s bathroom didn’t have doors. I was probably the only one who was breathing a lot easier during that 5K, or noticed that people were cheering in English.

During the game, I have to say I was pretty proud of Megan, who despite her only experience in soccer being bi-lingual coaching from a Swiss German with dredlocks alongside a gang of Chinese boys, seems to be one of the most skilled on her team. If not, then at least the fiercest and most determined. I didn’t feel like explaining all that to any of the other moms.

Let them all think this is as normal for me as it is for them. They don’t need to know how many times I’ve used bathrooms in the full presence of strangers, how I’m used to people staring at me like I’m insane when I run. They don’t know that we’ve never seen this many American kids playing soccer in the same place before, or that Megan’s not used to her teammates calling her name.

If they only knew.

Tap water and other novelties

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America is novel to me right now.

This morning I watched a line of 5 cars creeping along behind a truck on a quiet road. The road was wide enough for three cars, and I thought, “In China, all of those cars would have gone around him, even if there had been oncoming traffic.”

Last night I threw a melatonin pill in my mouth and immediately realized it was not the kind you suck. Ack! Ack! What to do? And then I realized – I can drink this tap water. I have to say it wasn’t the best tasting water seeing as it was in the bathroom, but people, it was tap water. I walked around feeling weird about that for a little while.

Did you know that they make peanut butter Cheerios? And vanilla nut? Or something like that. I feel a little badly for regular Cheerios, like they aren’t good enough.

They have Crystal Light single packets that come in mixed drink flavors now like margarita, because nothing says, “Soccer mom who’d rather be at happy hour” like fake alcohol in your water bottle.

The grapes are big but there are no seeds, and the skins don’t feel like something you need to cut through with a knife!

America really knows how to do paper products. I feel like I’m wiping my nose with a blanket.

The internet is crazy fast here!

Yeah, I’m enjoying it all.

Ready, set, go

Gina Butz transition 0 Comments

I really didn’t want to run this morning.

Usually, the night before, I am looking forward to a run. I envision myself running farther and faster, people staring in awe as I fly by (actually that last part would never happen, but that’s ok). Come morning, I am a little less enthusiastic.

This time, I wasn’t even excited last night, so I didn’t have a great deal of hope for the morning. It was only the fact that I am running a 5K on Saturday and don’t want to fail miserably that I forced myself out the door.

To my surprise, it was a good run. It helps to have a gorgeous route and cool temps. At the turnaround point I was tempted to go further, but decided not to push it. Good thing too because I always forget how long and steep is the final quarter mile back to the house.

Why am I telling you all this? Well because it perfectly illustrates how I am feeling today about homeschool. In all the craziness of packing to leave 13 years of life behind, this “having to teach to the kids” thing kind of snuck up on me.

I really don’t want to homeschool this morning.

Yesterday I was a madhouse of planning, preparing, and buying last minute materials. I am hoping to ease into it this week but with the amount that we are going to be disturbed in our schedule this year I know we can’t afford to not dive in head first next week. I don’t want to say goodbye to all my free time and hello to being a teacher again, but we can’t have feral, uneducated young’uns running around.

But who knows? It could be good. It has been before. Yes, it’s tough, and there are steep hills to climb, but I think we’ll get into a groove soon enough.

So here we are. Ready, set, go.

Project 365 August

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

Here is our last month in China, in pictures. I missed a few because of all the moving craziness, but I caught a lot of our last moments. 

Cool gate along a country road

Guyaju cave dwellings

Longqing Gorge

Fruit vendor

relief on a hot day

Taking a bath

Scout Court of Honor

Hutong door

Old hutong

Ancient woman in the hutong


This is MY toy

To do list


Garage sale

Our door

mowing the grass with a weed wacker

Someone’s collecting branches

A game of cards

Reading the news



Waiting to be taken

A last bag of my favorite snack

Where the white boards were

This is how boys say goodbye

Scout looking forlorn as she heads across the ocean

Nope, I didn’t take this but it was worthy of inclusion

Last photos with friends

When Does It Feel Real?

Gina Butz transition 2 Comments


I live in America. I live in America. I live in America.

No matter how many times I think it, it doesn’t feel true. Granted, I’ve been on American soil just over 24 hours, but it doesn’t feel even remotely true. When will it?

I have moments when I realize that it is true, but mostly I have to remind myself. Like when I feel this need to buy everything we need in a mad rush like we usually do when we’re back for a visit. When I sign up for cell phone service, and not just the one month kind. When I see a clip on the Today Show about China and have to tell myself, “You don’t live there anymore.”

I suppose it will become more real when I pick out paint colors for our house. Certainly it will be more real when we move our furniture in there right? When we change our permanent address, when we buy plants for our yard, when we get a year long membership at the Y, when we hunt for a church, when we get Florida driver’s licenses.

Then will it be real?

What We Won’t Miss

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There were things we loved about being in China and things we didn’t love. I guess I had this feeling that as we left we would be clinging to all those things we loved (and we did – our friends being the primary thing) and forgetting all the difficult things. But then, right as we left, China decided to throw in a few doozies just to make us a little more willing to go. I’m not sure who to thank.

The first thing happened as we were leaving our house. We had just started off but had to run back because Erik had forgotten something. We double parked right at the mouth of where two roads converged, with the car running. After a few minutes we heard the unmistakeable crunch of metal against metal, and realized that a woman had tried to pass us on the left and scraped our front bumper.

She fared worse than us

She tried to insist that it was our fault that we were parked there, but I pointed out what seemed to be the obvious fact that I was IN the running car and she could have just asked me to move. Not ready to give up face, she insisted that we call the police and have them decide. Eventually we were able to convince her that the police didn’t need to get involved and that we could deal with it all ourselves. Ethan crying and my anxious, “We really need to leave” face might have helped matters speed along.

So we sped along directly into a traffic jam. Not just any traffic jam, mind you, but my favorite, favorite kind, caused by someone doing something illegal without considering the ramifications for other drivers. In this case, it was the classic, “I don’t want to wait in this long line. I’ll just go into opposing traffic and drive to the front” move, only he managed to front end a bus which was rear ended by a van which was rear ended by another bus. And then to make it even harder to navigate the police car who came chose to park in one of the two lanes on our side of the road. This meant that people turning left onto our road had to try to drive down the one lane that we could use. Brilliant.

The van that caused it all. Notice that he is on the other side of the double yellow lines and the silver car is on OUR side of the road

Finally, the police car realized his position and moved, and we were able to grab onto a little bit more time with those friends we love and will miss dearly. The other things, yeah not so much.