Saturday, March 21, 2009

The meaning of a rose...

Well. It's finished. I need to clean out my classroom, but I'm done teaching now. I've received my last paycheck. I've said my goodbyes.

I'm still in a bit of a transition period. Since I'm not leaving Japan, it's rather strange for me. I'm waiting to see what my next job will be. (I've put out several applications but I haven't heard anything back yet.) The good news is I don't have to move, I will be able to continue living in the house next to the church for at least a year. (Very good news, this saves me lots and lots of money. God is very very nice to me.)

I was busy right after finishing so today was my first down day. I rested a lot.

I also had some time to think. And remember.

One interesting thing kept coming back to me. On Wed, at the good-bye lunch with one of my classes, one of my adult students gave me some flowers picked from her garden. There was one rose bud among the bunch. She told me, "It's the last rose of winter. Or maybe the first rose of spring."

How fitting. I feel very much like that rose right now, wondering, am I the last rose of winter? Is this a symbol of an ending? Or am I the first rose of spring? Is it a symbol of the new future ahead of me? And the answer is... yes. Both. That is the beauty of seasons. Even if it's the last rose of the winter, this doesn't mean that all is finished. Seasons will come again. Roses will bloom again. And of course spring is the symbol of new beginnings and growth.

So here I bloom. The last rose of winter, the first rose of spring. Remembering the seasons I have spent here. Looking forward to the seasons I will spend in a new situation.

It's a very comforting thought for me right now.

Thank you for all your support.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The things words cannot express...

Today was the big "Hello/Goodbye Party." This is the party designed to send off the old missionary (me) and welcome the new ones. But like most parties of it's kind, the focus is mostly on the person leaving.

Usually one would not be in charge of one's own goodbye party, but I tend to do things my way, so I took control of this last event. This was my last big event. We had a huge pot luck lunch after church. There was so much food! So many people came. There was standing room only. There were kids running around, students, church members, families and random people from the band all there. It was wonderful.

And in the middle of it all, I'm trying to eat while talking to everyone who wants to talk to me. Needless to say, I was kept very busy. Kids wanted to play with me, there were tons of people I needed to talk to, plus I was "in charge." haha.

There was a short presentation time from the church, giving gifts to me and the three new teachers. It was very nice. Then more mingling, eating time (with more people trickling in every minute.) By this time church members are trickling out. Haha.

We moved upstairs eventually where there was a kind of "speech" time. I gave a short speech and made a poor church member translate for me on the spot with very little warning. I still need work on my Japanese. I can do simple things, but something complicated like trying to express your feelings about 4 years of working someplace I just can't do in Japanese just yet. Then the new teachers gave a short introduction to themselves (we also made the same woman translate for them too! She get's the good sport award for the day.) There was a chance for anyone else to talk, but no one did. Instead it turned into a chance for the kids to give me homemade presents and take pictures. I got some beautiful keepsakes from the kids and their moms. And also a huge bouquet of flowers. After a few more presents, we played a game.

The game was a bit hard to follow I think, but we had a list of 40 facts (10 for each person) of me and the three new teachers, and the students had to guess which facts were for which person. There were two teams and they raced to put sticky notes with the facts on each person. It was a bit confusing, but we managed to finish it.

Then the highlight of the day (at least for me) was that Trash Box Jam came to play. I had actually asked them come to two events before this, but they had been busy and unable to come. When they found out this was my last event, they promised they would come no matter what. I was very thankful for that.

It was really a beautiful performance. I just finished reading one of the comments from one of the fans that came. She said that it was such a warm feeling, like God was watching over us. For them not being Christian, it was an amazing effect. I felt God's love for me during that time. All my stress and worries about the party melted away. I was free to be enveloped in the music and atmosphere. I don't know if I have ever felt more loved in my life. I was in a room, surrounded by people who were brought together because of their connection to me. It was humbling, that God would allow such a thing to happen to me. I'm so thankful. I just can't express.

I can't believe how lucky I am. I know that no other fan has had the experience of the Band coming to an event and playing there. I'm so blessed.

My favorite part was watching the room transform from restless children and people to being mesmerized by the band. The children gathered up front to listened, and for the most part sat through the whole thing. The grumpy baby stopped crying when the music played. And what I believe is a wonderful gift from God is how wonderful they played.

Of course, I think Trash Box Jam is wonderful, but they aren't pro's yet. They still make lot's of mistakes and such, but they make up for it with charisma. But today was their best performance, ever. Even Sing said so after it was finished. It was like God's present to me. Well, that's what it felt like anyway. The room just felt full of warm light, and the music seemed to surround me, and the love felt tangible.

I hope that I will be able to remember that feeling for the rest of my life. But sadly, it's already fading away...

But I have many mementos and pictures that won't fade away (as fast). I'm so thankful for my time here. I'm so thankful for the people who came today. I can't ever express my thanks enough. I'm so thankful for God who orchestrated all of this. And I'm so thankful that he gave me a seat of honor in the midst of it.

And now is the bitter-sweet time to move on to the next part of my life. I pass the baton to three new people, and I hope that they are able to receive even greater things than I did. (I do really hope that, but I must confess that I'm still jealous that they get my students... It's a mixed feeling of wishing them the best, and wishing I could keep doing it...) So hopefully I can watch them as they succeed, and rejoice with them (instead of being jealous. haha) That's my dream.

All in all, it was a stressful day, but a wonderful day. During the party, I thought it was a pretty crazy event (crazy busy, out of control feeling) but then afterward I thought about it a little bit and realized that most of the other people were probably pretty relaxed. I was just in the middle of it all, trying to juggle too much. But that's my style...

After cleaning up and organizing all my presents, I was able to hang out with two of my friends, and that was really helpful to let me ease my way down from the event. But now I'm just tired. Physically. Emotionally. Everything. But satisfied. The world is not a perfect place. And I know that I received today more than I deserve.

Ok, I've entered into "ramble mode." I think it's about time to wrap this up now. I just wanted to write it down while it was all fresh in my mind.

Tomorrow I go to the doctor for more migrane medication, and I have to continue my job search after that. (prayers greatly appreciated for finding a new job before April.) Then I have my last two days of work. Three more days. The end of 4 years is coming to a close...

I wonder what the next adventure will bring...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Last Week of classes

Today is the beginning of my last week of classes. Yeah, it's strange to start on a Thursday, but that's how it worked out.

I start saying goodbye this week. This prolonged departure thing is rather difficult. And to make things even more strange, I will continue to live in this house next to the church so it doesn't really feel like I'm leaving anything. So I'm saying goodbye, but not really.

ahhh, the vagueness of it all. haha.

Since Saturday, I've been having a pretty good week, God really blessed me. We'll see how I hold up starting today. As of right now, I still feel fine. I wonder if I'll cry today. haha.

Ok, here goes. Last Day of Class number one....

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Leaving something of yourself behind...

Today was the last day of "site training week." This is the week where I "trained" the new teachers that will be taking over my job come April. There have been a lot of changes lately. The biggest one is that starting in April, there will be three missionaries/English Teachers who will be working at my church/school. They will all come on different days and they all live in Tokyo. (I guess I should find it flattering that they need three people to do the job that I did alone. hahaha, just kidding, I'm not that egotistical.)

It's been insanely busy here. I've been going to work early every day this week, meeting with the new teachers, trying to remember everything I need to tell them, and juggle new schedules, help make a new calendar and new fliers for the English School. Trying to figure out what all needs to be done to prepare for the change is a big challenge for me. I'm used to doing most everything myself, and now we have to juggle three people and figure out how things are going to get done now.

I've been under a bit of stress.

But usually the business is good, it keeps me from thinking. But several times this week I've been suddenly hit by the fact that I'm leaving this job. I will be talking, or making plans for next year and I will suddenly stop and realize "These are not my students anymore." I'm so used to planning and such than this is coming as a huge shock to my system. I'm finding that it's much harder letting go than I thought it would be. Several times this week, I've had to fight the feelings of not wanting to let go, not wanting to trust the fate of "my" students to the new teachers, and ultimately God. But I know my time here is finished. And I'm quite aware that God's hands are a much better place for them to be in than in mine. They are not "mine." They are "His." It's good to remember that.

But I find that even in letting go... I'm leaving something of myself behind.

It's hard to move forward sometimes...

Thank you for the times I have had with these students for the past four years. Thank you for giving me the time with them. Please continue to be with them and watch over them. Bless their relationships with the new teachers. And teach me to love and let go without being taken over by jealousy. Your Grace amazes me every day. Thank you for everything.