Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Because we weren't meant to say "good-bye"

I'm supposed to be packing/cleaning/getting ready to move. But I can't seem to motivate myself to do it. My heart is haunted by the curse of "good-bye." (that's a slightly melodramatic way of saying I'm a procrastinator.)

Last Friday was my last day of work. I said good-bye to as many students as possible. The second year English teacher had all the students in the second year (13-14 years old) make message cards for me. Also Friday one of my friends left the country. Because of circumstances I couldn't' say good-bye. Saturday we raided the apartment of another friend and said good-bye. Saturday morning a different set of friends left the country without me seeing them.

Graduations, new jobs, new chapters in life......tragedy.

The pain of saying good-bye and the grief of not being able to.

It hurts.

Why does it hurt so much? Why do we have to say good-bye?

ah. Because... we were not created to say good-bye.

We were created for fellowship. We were created for community. We were created for joy and love. But sin is the father of "good-bye." The first good-bye was when we left God's presence and plan for us. I can't imagine the pain of the first good-bye. And the responsibility.

Now we live in a cursed world. Why do bad things happen? Why are there earthquakes and tsunamis? Because the very ground was cursed because of sin. Sin has caused all our pain and strife. Sin separates us not only from God but from each other. Loneliness. Hurt. Emptiness. Good-bye.

We are promised failure. (stole this thought from John Eldridge) We are guaranteed pain. There will always be another good-bye.

So what's the point?

Because in the midst of a cursed world, God still provides. He promised death, but He bestowed time. We are all going to die. It's our common bond. When, where, how and why are all irrelevant. He has still granted us a small reprieve. We are all on death row, but we still have time to appeal. Time. Between now and death.

But we don't know how long. We don't know when the last meeting will be. What would I have said differently if I had known that was the last time I might see her? Now she's in America, and I can talk to her on Skype and video chat. But it's not the same.

Tens of thousands of unsaid good-byes are being buried in this country.

Pain and separation.

The wages of sin is death. But with Christ there is eternal life.

I don't fear death. I don't remember ever fearing death. The process of dying might be a little scary. But death doesn't threaten me. Because death is only a partial good-bye. I will say good-bye to the people here. Many of whom I will not be able to see again in eternity. That's the good-bye I fear with death. But for me I will also have many hellos. Hello to my Father and Savior, King and Husband. Hello to all those I had be parted with before. Never to say good-bye again.

But that is my future, and not my present. How many more good-byes will there be before I get there?

I'm thankful for the chances I've had to say good-bye this past week, because I was able to say it. They are still alive. They still have Time. Maybe...

I'm thankful for the times I wasn't able to say good-bye this week. I am reminded of those who face a greater pain of unspoken good-bye than myself. I understand a little more what it might be like. I understand a little more how God's heart must also be in pain...

But I'm most thankful to know that good-bye is not forever. Hello will be.

(a collage of pictures from my last week of school.)

I'm going to put up one more song by my friend Sing. He wrote this song the week after the disasters. He was told he should write a song to help people cheer up, but he instead wrote a song expressing the pain of unspoken words. I like it because it's real. So many people want to ignore the pain and keep moving forward, almost like it never happened. He's been told a couple of times that it's just too sad of a song, and not appropriate. But I think it is. It's important to have a voice for your pain, and someone to express it for you. Today, instead of cleaning and packing, I translated the song into English. (if you want to see the Japanese lyrics, you can look here at Sing's blog)

English lyrics here (please read while listening to/watching the video)

If you've read this far, I applaud you. Now I have a request. Don't let the time you have go to waste. What if you never get to say good-bye? How many people will be absent in Eternity? How often do I sit at my computer instead of trying to love people? How often do I begrudge the opportunities I have? Is that really OK? The words of the song are real, the pain is real. But it doesn't have to be.

Because we weren't meant to say "good-bye."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Message ~ pray for Japan

(This song is written by Sing from Trash Box Jam, the band that I talk about a lot. He also made the video. I translated this song a couple of years ago, so here is the English.)

Message (English)

hey boy, you're standing on a hill in order to take off into the sky
but you are scared, somethings not right,
you just cant take that last step
maybe you regret your conceited, empty dreams, or maybe they hurt you
even the letter addressed to yourself, written to encourage you to keep going, is knocked down

then from somewhere you can hear a song, a voice telling you not to give up
it hits you square in the back, an ache that suddenly makes it seem like you can fly...

these music and words well up from somewhere and overflow out of this body
we want to tell you, want to convey to you, want to offer to you
our clumsy message
until the voice of A Thousand and One Nights disappears
it's ok if you laugh or if you cry or if you close your eyes
we are always going to keep singing beside you

hey girl, you're standing in front of the florist's shop staring at all the colorful flowers
murmuring that no matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to blossom like that
but maybe you are a small flower in a field, just a poor, small, nameless flower
but your beloved is searching for you, so you need to blossom in all your splendor

then from somewhere you can hear a song, a voice telling you it will be ok
and inside your chest something bursts open, and it suddenly seems like you can blossom...

these music and words well up from somewhere and overflow out of this body
we want to tell you, want to convey to you, want you to help you blossom
our clumsy message
until the voice of A Thousand and One Nights disappears
it's ok if you loose sight of things, or if you mope or if you break down crying
somewhere in the world we'll keep singing

so even if you cry, it won't change a thing
understanding this, you wave your hand, wiping away the tears with a smile
take all the worries and troubles and throw them away into the trash can on the roadside
starting today, starting tomorrow, believe that you can become a different you
you are just beginning to walk, look, the sun is rising in your sky even today

this message I'm singing for you...
don't loose, it'll be ok, don't give up
you can still give all you've got, it's fine if you rest for a little while before continuing on your way
your goal is waiting for you
there's going to be unavoidable sorrow
while you are halted by doubt and hesitation
in order that you can keep searching for the strength to be yourself
this is my message for you

As I watch this video, and I notice that this slogan is everywhere lately, I'm struck by the choice of words. Pray for Japan.


Now Japan is not Christian. And most religions pray. Japanese are this funny mix of Shinto, Buddhism and modern philosophy. Shinto is polytheistic so Japanese have no problem praying to who ever or what ever. They go to shrines to pray to pass their entrance exams, or to buy protection charms for a baseball game. There are shrines dedicated to lovers, animals, and a host of other things. I'm sure if you have a need, there is a shrine or temple somewhere that has a lucky something or another for you.

But Japanese are not completely superstitious. Most people I know do these things because it's fun, or traditional, or because it couldn't hurt. I know very few people who really believe these things.

But people want to believe. Or rather they want something to believe in. Something bigger than themselves.

Japan is according to some statistic I read years and years ago, the most densely populated area of unsaved people on the face of the planet. This doesn't mean the most people, it means the most people in one small area.

How convenient. This should make them easier to access.

But Japan is also called the Missionaries Graveyard. It's so hard to see change here. People are polite and listen, and accept Jesus as one of the many other gods that are hovering around. Another nice good luck charm. Let's celebrate Christmas because it looks like fun. And Christian weddings are really pretty and in fashion, so let's do that when we get married. It's said people are born Shinto, get married Christian and die Buddhist. There is lots of movement and activity, but not so much life here. Real Life. It's not just a Missionary Graveyard. It's a living graveyard.

But here is this country, with maybe little over 1% of the population Christian, crying out for prayer.

Pray for Japan.

Pray for Japan.

Now of course I said before, most religions pray. And Japanese don't really care WHO you are praying to.

But this is an open invitation. Japan is looking for a Savior. And crying out for prayer.

Now is the time to truly pray for Japan. I'm not talking about feel-good prayers, or moments of silence motivated by pity. Half-hearted murmurings to the sky, hoping that someone or something will hear and take pity on this poor country.

I'm talking about REAL prayer. Prayer to a God who Loves Japan and who longs to gather the people under His wings as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Prayer to a God who cares more about healing the broken than perfect children. Prayer to a God who has a plan ready for Japan.

I of course care about relief of the people who have lost their homes and are cold and hungry. I care about the people affected by radiation. But, only praying for that is too small. There is more at stake than these people's hunger or bodies. Their souls.

How many people were lost!

Father, look with mercy upon this country! Save the people and call them Your own!

So if you are reading this, I ask you also. Pray for Japan. Look at Japan with the eyes of God. Pray for His will, for the salvation of this country. My long standing prayer has been that Japan will be so radically changed by God's presence that it will no longer be the most densely populated area of lost people in the world. It would instead become the most densely populated area of Light to the world. God can work miracles!

And the people are crying out themselves, asking for Prayer. It's a invitation screamed from broken hearts who have seen their brokenness.

It's so powerful because it's asked for.

Pray for Japan.

Listen to the cries of the people. Allow them to break your heart. Allow your heart to hear God's heart for these people. And Pray. Pray like you've never prayed before. As you would pray for a child dying of cancer. Because Japan is also God's child. A lost child.

Let us pray for restoration and redemption in addition to relief.



Pray for Japan.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome to my Advent

Advent??? Advent??? Amber, I hate to tell you this, but I think the quake has you a little more shaken up than you should be. It's Lent. Not Advent.

Yes, yes, I know that's what you are thinking. But don't worry. I'm always this crazy.

I've never really been one for holidays. Well, I suppose as a child they were a big deal, but there are no set traditions in my family, so I guess growing older, and with no family of my own to share them with, I just kind of loose interest in Holidays. And the church calendar isn't so different.

I realize the church calendar is important and useful. But I also don't always see a need to stick to it completely.

So I here by declare, that while most of the world might be in the season of Lent, I am in the season of Advent.

Why? you ask... Ah, I would love to tell you. :-D So glad you asked.

(Get comfortable. Take a seat. Have some tea.)

This post has been a while coming. I've been thinking a lot recently about how I feel like I'm not in a season of Lent at all, but more like a season of Advent. New job, new apartment, new roommate, new students, changes with the band... All these things are on their way.

And I am waiting.

Thus, this is my season of Advent. I'm waiting for a whole new life. The earthquake has even added more dimensions to this. Now I'm also waiting to see what Japan will become after this.

So much is changing. What is being born here?

I'm anxious to find out.

I have one week left of school. All our moving attempts have been postponed until at least the week after. It seems like everything begins in April.

So close, yet so far away.

Good thing I'm getting used to standing in lines. ;-)

It has been a crazy long week. Well, that's an understatement. But it's the best I can do.

Thursday and Friday I managed to make it to school mostly on time. The morning trains seem to be getting better. Getting home is always up in the air, but at least I can get to work. I've been getting rides from one of the teachers to the station that has running trains to get home recently. Opportunities to be blessed.

Saturday, I was tired, from lack of sleep from the insanity and stress. It would have been nice to have a day to get ready for moving. We were supposed to take a car load over Friday night, but because of the gasoline shortages, that was canceled. So we decided we would have to move as much as possible by bicycle. (it's not so far, only about a 25 min bike ride.) The only problem was, I needed to be at my new church for the Aloha party (good-bye to the old teachers hello to the new). We took care of some needed stuff in the morning, while waiting for the black out that was supposed to come. (I found out later that we have been reprieved of black-outs during the weekend. While I am very grateful for this, I wish I had known early enough to do laundry...) But I did manage to find some pants on sale, in my size! which is almost impossible! Opportunities to be blessed.

Then the small headache that I woke up with was getting bigger. Yep, it's going to be one of those migraines today. But I can't stop working because of a migraine. Nothing to do but keep moving forward.

After lunch, I get ready to go to the party. I was going to try to leave a little early because of the uncertain trains, but the short nap I took to try to combat the headache went a little longer than I expected. But I managed to get there almost on time.

The party was good. The current teachers were evacuated last week, so they couldn't attend. We instead set up the computer with skype and everyone was able to video chat for a while. It was a good way to include them in the party. I even had kids climbing up in my lap already! Wow. (Japanese kids NEVER do that!) I made lots of new friends with the kids, and got to know a few of the adult students I will inherit. I'm just hoping the next event I'll be able to be fully present at, instead of battling a crazy migraine at the same time. (the last even I went to last month I had the same problem.)

But I had kids in my lap. Opportunities for blessings.

We had another earthquake while we were cleaning up, so the trains were running slowly on the way home. At this point in time, I just felt like crap, but you gotta get home, so you can only keep moving forward. I made it through the first transfer, but only made it to the first stop on the second train before I had to get off so I could throw up over the ledge. But the good news is that I didn't throw up on the train, which is gross. And I made it to the ledge, so I didn't throw up on the platform either. Last time I threw up twice on the way home, but this time I only had the one time. I'm thankful for small mercies. Came home and went to bed.

12 hours later, it's so wonderful to wake up with a pain-free head. You just want to lay there and enjoy the sensation. It's so much easier to be thankful after pain. Opportunities for blessings.

After church, I announced we were moving, and because of the gasoline shortage we would be attempting to move by bicycle. We are looking into a way to cheaply move our washing machine, but we need a driver. We quickly had a new High School student and another lady offer to help us move by bicycle. Then another offered to help us with her car as well. Next Sunday we will decide who will drive the truck we want to use to move the washer. Moving has now become a community effort. A great way to connect better with the people at the church. (this is a great thing for me, since I am very bad about reaching out, or engaging with people. I'm also bad at asking for help, but this was a can't be helped situation.) Oh yes, opportunities for blessings.

And I had been contemplating about how I would like to see the band. They are taking a month off to find inspiration or something like that. And I think about how long that is, and how much I'd like to see them.

And after church I get an e-mail from Sing. Tomorrow is a live. It was decided at the last minute. Wow. Tomorrow is a national holiday, and it's supposed to rain, so we can't do moving stuff. Wow. Blessings are raining down on me. I get to see the band tomorrow! :-D

God is good.

No, God is way more than good. God is amazing. And cares enough to show me more about Himself in the ups and downs of my week. From allowing me to be in a place to be needy, just so that my needs can be met.

The comments I had been dreading finally showed up on my Facebook page this week... "When are you coming home? Why don't you leave already? If it were me, I'd pack up and leave..." It's hard to respond to these comments. I know many people are just concerned for my safety. But...

Most of all, I guess I was afraid of what my parents were thinking. That they were freaking out because of all the media reports. (Don't get me started on my opinion of the state of journalism in the world.) I was afraid my parents would want me to go back. And my parents are the only one's I can't say no to.

So I e-mailed them, and we talked on Skype (another great arrangement by God I might add, since I got home early that day, thanks to the teacher driving me.) And I got the best blessing of all. Understanding and support from my parents. I didn't have to ask for it, or argue my case. My parents accepted my heart, and that means so much to me. I never told them that this is my home now. But somehow they knew. I never wanted to say that, because it feels like it somehow makes them less if I say it. But they accepted it anyway. Of course, they would rather have me nearby where they can see me and be with me. But they also want me to be happy. And they have accepted my love of Japan. They may not share it or understand it, but they accept it, and support me in it. That is amazing. There is so much relief in my heart, and now I can be fully at peace here and in this time. That is the best present I could have ever asked for.

Opportunities for Blessings to be rained down.

Japan has been confirmed as my home now. So I can say it. I'm from Texas stock, and in Texas you don't run away when someone tries to take away your home. You fight for it. So this is where I stand, fighting for my home in a land that is not my own. I will stand against what comes my way, until God tells me it's time to go. But for now, this is my home.

I am so blessed.

I don't know what the future will hold. The ground is still shaking here. We aren't sure how we are going to get everything done in the next two weeks. But in the midst of all the waiting, expecting, fearing and preparing... God is Showering me with Blessings. (Feels like a baby shower arranged by God! Maybe my friend was right about the labor analogy after all.)

I'm hoping for a chance to volunteer in one of the areas hit by the tsunami during my spring break. If we can get moved quickly, I might have a little less than a week free that I could try to volunteer during. I would appreciate any prayers for that direction.

I say good-bye to my current school on the 25th. We are having a home party for the band while we still have a house we can do things like that in on the 26th(we hope). I go back to my new church for an English school Open House on the 27th. We have a full out moving day on the 28th. (car trip in the morning, bicycle trips in the afternoon. 3 people scheduled to help us) I start teaching my new students on the 8th. Things are coming quickly.

It's the last few weeks of Advent that are the hardest!

Here are some pictures of the continued impact of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis in our area:

I found this on my way home. The area was in the middle of a scheduled black-out, but this is a rather busy and dangerous intersection. Up until now, they had just had several police officers directing the traffic when the power was out. Friday they decided to hook up a generator to the traffic light. Good thinking!

To help conserve power, many stores are either closed or on reduced hours. The stores that are open are trying to help save energy by using reduced lighting and such. There are many places where escalators are not working to save power. Here is a department store with half the lights off. This is a common sight these days.

You never really consider how much electricity we waste or take for granted until there is a shortage of it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Feels kinda like a war zone" AKA When realities collide

Today was not nearly as much fun as yesterday.

Another difficult morning commute with lots of waiting involved. I did manage to make it to school a whole 20 mins earlier than yesterday however. I suppose that's something. Fortunately I didn't have any morning classes, so I didn't miss anything.

Everyone's in power-saving mode. We spent most of the day with most of the lights off. I noticed the station was doing the same, and I even went shopping at a convenience store in the dark.

I decided later that it was probably this blocks turn for the rotating power outages that have been implemented.

But shopping in the dark was fun. Good news was there was food! (especially good news considering I didn't have a lunch for today.)

I spent two hours waiting for my transfer, because the one train line only runs in the early mornings right now, and then stops until 3PM when it starts to run at 70%. The problem is my connecting train, which today didn't start running until 9:45. And then it was late.

And then trying to get home has been fun too. Today they decided the night trains would run at 10:30pm! insane. Fortunately a teacher drove me to the connecting station.

Who knew just getting to work could be this complicated?

Then we have the rolling black-outs. We are all divided up into 5 groups that take turns having about 3 hours of black out at a time. Today we had a black out while school was going. Then I came home to my group in a black out.

There's no gasoline right now. Can't buy batteries or flashlights etc.

And you wait. Stand in line and wait.

I've never been in a war zone, but it kinda feels like one to me. Like those old WWII movies you see, where everyone's rationing things and you have to wait in line for bread.

So I was commenting to my roommate tonight, Japan's physical reality is finally reflecting their spiritual reality, and even emotional reality.

And this is what happens when realities clash.


(Just kidding.)

Thankfully the black-out times are also rotating, so while we had the most inconvient time today for a black-out (coming home to no electricity means you can't cook or, more importantly, use the internet!) they won't be as bad for the rest of the week I think.

Tonight I decided it would be the perfect chance to play guitar in the dark. That was fun. I had my computer on battery power for my light, and played songs from memory. Makes for a nice atmosphere.

Then I thought I would go to bed early, but decided to look outside to see what no electricity looks like from the outside.

Wow, just turning off a neighborhood's lights let's you see the stars so much more clearly. The moon is bright tonight.

Then I noticed that there was light coming from the church next door. They were having English class. A beacon of Light in the night. How beautiful.

This has become her last class in Japan. I just got an e-mail that the missionaries in the Kanto (around Tokyo) area are being evacuated to Kobe. They were told this morning.

This is devastating for them, and I ask for your prayers. They are all scheduled to leave the country anyway in a couple of weeks, and this is robbing them of their chances to say good-bye.

Please pray for God's love and mercy to surround all those effected by this decision.

Everyday brings new revelations of reality...

I wonder what tomorrow has in store.

(I'd be happier with a smoother commute.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When reality comes crashing in...

Nothing like trying to get to work to help open the door for reality.

Today I woke up early, determined to make it to school. Today was the graduation ceremony for the 3rd years (15 years old). If I didn't make it to school today, it was possible I would never be able to see these kids again and say good bye. Times like this make you value being able to say good-bye.

So I dressed nicely (aka not practically, which is not fun when there is a high probability of train complications...) and made my way to the station early. Yesterday the station had been packed. I was expecting something similar.

I arrived to the station, to find... very few people. Kinda creepy actually. But the trains were scheduled to run. The line I needed was actually scheduled to start at the very time that I usually leave. I was about 30 mins early, so I stopped by the convenience store to see if I could find some things I forgot and might need for the day. I was surprised to find food available. It was fully stocked with rice balls and sandwiches. I purchase my supplies and head to the nearly empty platform and wait.

The train was on time, and I was surprised. I guess you just expect them to be late. Well, there had also been two earthquakes this morning, so I hadn't been sure the trains were going to be running still. So I got on, even got a seat, and it felt almost like a normal morning commute.

Until it's time to transfer.

At the transfer station everyone is being made to leave from a selected two wickets only. On the other side, there is a large herd of people waiting to be let in. They want us out as fast as possible it seems. (I'm guessing they were enforcing one way traffic here.) Only when we get to the front, they are telling us something about not being able to use our pass cards or our tickets. So I have to just walk out without the machines registering my electronic card.

I go to transfer lines, only to find no trains are running. Of course. I mail my company to let them know, and wonder what to do next. I don't think I want to try to join the herd going back in the direction of my house. And I'd really like to make it to school today. But I'm definitely NOT wearing walking shoes. I knew I was going to regret that... Sad.

I go to try to talk to a station attendant, since I have some difficulty understanding what they are saying over the speakers, and usually they can use simpler explanations if I ask them directly. I am told that if I walk one station over, there are trains leaving in the direction I want to go.

YES! I can still make it.

This station is not so far away, so it's only a 15-20 min walk. Find a map, easy enough to find, and I begin my trek. Outside the station, the line waiting to get on the train goes on and on and on. Japanese people are VERY good at making lines (except for school children, who don't seem to think they need to follow rules for some reason... or perhaps it's the teachers who feel they don't need to enforce the rules...)

Make it past the enormous line, which was beginning to move forward at this point, and I make my way to the next station. Only to find...

You guessed it.

Of course there are no trains actually running there. I'm not sure if there were never any trains running from there, or if I had missed the last one or what. In any case, the next station is over 3kms away, and that's definitely impossible to walk in the shoes I had.

Stop and cover my options. My company said it can't be helped and I could go home. Only problem is I'm pretty sure there's no way home at this point. The trains are only running in the morning, and I don't think I'll make it back in time to join the herd. I'm stuck. But I really want to make it to school. I really want to make it to school. What can I do?

Well, for now, let's send an e-mail to Sing. He has a car and lives in the same city as my school. Maybe he can come pick me up and take me to school and I can make it in time. Problem being is that he's a night person and often sleeps late into the day. I wonder if my e-mail on his phone will be enough to wake him up... Probably not, but here goes anyway.

E-mail sent. Let's find a place to sit. Oh look, McDonalds is open. Buy some breakfast and sit down outside because all the seats are taken inside. Not wearing as much as normal because I was trying to look "nice" for the graduation. Slightly cold.

One hour passes. No e-mail from Sing. I don't think that's going to work. One last try. I'll e-mail him saying sorry for bothering him, and hope this one wakes him up.

Another hour passes. Spend some time contemplating if I am asking God with enough passion for the things I want. Not sure where the line between waiting patiently for God's grace and the widow's persistence is. Have a little talk with God about this problem.

It's cold. I've probably been camping out at McDonalds a little too long. Besides, the cigarette smoke is getting to me. Walking will warm me up. Lets find an ATM and maybe search for batteries or see if the book store is open. It's gonna be a long time until the trains start running again.

Halfway back to the other station, Sing wakes up. :-D God is funny. Sing tells me he'll come pick me up. Rescue! Get money from the ATM and make my way back to the station to wait. Found a place that sold AA batteries on the way! (all sold out in all the convenience stores. Drug store had a few left.)

Sing drives up and takes me to school. He tells me to send him an e-mail later when I find out more about the trains.

The day is suddenly better.

I make it to school just before 11AM (Left the house just after 6AM). I was stranded for a grand total of 3 hours. Makes for a good story. ;-)

I rush into the gym in the middle of the last song. And the graduation ceremony is over. But at least I get to see the kids. It's good enough for me.

After the graduation, there's a final "send off" for the graduating students. We all mill around outside for a while, saying good-bye, taking pictures etc. I can say good-bye. This is enough.

This is from the stragglers who just didn't want to go home. The kids were free to go after the send off, but many stayed behind for last minute pictures, book signings, etc.

The boys were exceptionally fired up. When they noticed me taking the picture, they decided to pose for me. I was happy, because many of these boys weren't so happy with me when I tried to make them behave in class. But in the end, they were shouting at me to not delete the picture. I promised I would put it up on my blog and treasure it. They are my cute students. I'm gonna miss them.

The festivities being over, I go back to the teachers room to eat my lunch. There's basically nothing to do for the rest of the day. I search the internet and find out the trains will start running at 6:30 in the evening, so I'm stuck until then. School decides to be finished at 3.

I e-mail Sing.

He offers to meet me for coffee and wait with me until the trains start running. One of the teachers drives me to his station, and then we go off in search of a coffee shop.

There is a Starbucks in front of a home center (type of shopping center, where you can find things for your home... Japanese stores are strange.) so we decide to walk through the home center to see what they have. They have a lofted bed which might be better than the other one I've found for my new room, but not quite sure yet.

After the home center coffee. But Starbucks is closing at 5 today because of the earthquake and energy problems.

I still have an hour and a half.

So Sing suggests we go look at plum blossoms. He knows a good place. So off we go. Not such great weather for looking at flowers, overcast and close to dark, but it was still nice.

Tons and tons of flowers, with their sweet smell filling the air. We were the only one's there. It was very peaceful. And all too soon, it was time to go.

As we make our way back, the power for that area goes off. Driving in darkness is something I haven't done in a really long time. I'm from the country side, so I'm used to driving in dark nights. I miss that sometimes. As we get closer to the station, he realizes it's his area that is having the black out. He hadn't figured out his block yet. :-D It's always funny when I know more than actual Japanese people.

He takes me to the station and makes sure the trains are running and checks some info for me. We fix my pass so I can use it again, and I finally make my way home. Exactly 12 hours from when I stepped on my first train of the day. (I just now realized that!)

This time I make a painless transfer.

On my way home. All in all not a bad day. Grab dinner for me and my roommate (my week to cook) and get home. But tomorrow I have to get up, check to see what trains are running, and see if I can't make it to school on time. Hopefully I won't get stuck. Only 9 more days of school.

Check the news, and find out two nuclear reactors have exploded and my city has now been exposed to 40 times the normal levels of radiation. (we aren't so close to the reactors, but the wind was strong I guess. Tokyo to the south got a bit less) Nothing to panic about yet, but still... disturbing.

Hmmm... not sure the visit to the plum trees was the best choice ever...

And then you realize the magnitude of what is happening, and it dawns on you. Life is never going to be the same. Not really. I'm writing this blog and there have been at least two earthquakes large enough to rattle our dishes. This is one of those events that you mark your life with. Our parents ask each other "where were you when JFK was shot?" We asked ourselves "Where were you when the planes hit?" And now I have another one... "Where were you when The Quake hit? When The Tsunami hit? When the reactors blew?"

It's funny, because I recently noticed this all started on March 11th. It reminds me of another 11th not so long ago. I was in college and an RA for my dorm. My friend's (then) boyfriend came to my room, opened my door (before guy hours) and told me the news. Classes were canceled. I remember it was a different friend's birthday. His birthday always to be remembered as the day the Twin Towers fell.

This also happened at school. Hours before we had just sang "Happy Birthday" to a newly turned 13 year old girl. Her smiles were tears the next time I saw her; her birthday never the same again.

But life goes on post 9-11.

Life will also go on post March 11.

But it will never be quite like it was before.

Father, have mercy on us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Becoming more real. (part 2)

Here's the picture of our water that I couldn't add to the previous post for some reason.

Becoming more real.

Today things are becoming a little more real.

I woke up and tried to go to work this morning. I was expecting some trouble with trains, and I was pretty sure I would be late, but when I got to the station, this is what I found:

No trains were running at all yet. I didn't know yet, but because of the power outages scheduled, the JR company (which runs the trains) decided to only run minimal trains today. There were no trains going north, so I was unable to go to work. My roommate was also unable to get to her school, so we were forced to come back home.

(There was a news station filming the people at my station, which is a major station for my area.)

Taxis became a popular option for trying to get places. This is the taxi waiting area, and in the morning it is usually half full of taxis waiting for customers. Today there was a line stretching the entire length of the station waiting for taxis. I was happy to be allowed to go back home.

I was also fortunate to find a news feed in Japanese and another in English on YouTube and Ustream respectively, so we've been able to keep up on what's going on for the most part.

It looks like the rolling power outages have finally started, but we might not be effected until tomorrow. Hopefully we'll be able to go to work tomorrow, since tomorrow is the graduation ceremony for the 3 year students. I'll wake up extra early to try to make it tomorrow.

We filled up as many containers as we could with water today and bought some food supplies like nuts and boxed vegetable juice that doesn't expire quickly, so we can go for a while with that if we need to. Then we packed up some clothes, blankets, water and other various supplies and took them over to our new apartment. We now have two shelters where we have access to in case something more serious happens.

When we got to the apartment, we found there was a little structure damage, some broken tiles and some plumbing issues, but there were workmen there already fixing it when we go there. None of the damage was inside our apartment. Some of the sliding doors had been shaken open however.

We did find a little surprise from our rental company waiting for us: two water bottles outside our door with a note. That was really nice of them.

Later we decided we would like to buy a few more supplies and decided to walk to the shopping center, only to discover it was closed today. We met a little old lady along the way who was very delighted to practice English with us. Then she gave us broccoli from her garden and told us we must cook it tonight. I'll do that once I'm done blogging. ;-)

We are very lucky where we are. I have a friend who is married to a Japanese man, who is very kind in passing along information in English for us, and we have found plenty of news access and have some translation tools for figuring out basic stuff.

I am very thankful for all we have been given. The future is still very much uncertain, and we still have several weeks of aftershocks that could be quite large until we can really start to see how things are going to be for a while.

All I know is that I'm sure this is going to impact life here in Japan for a long time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not quite real...

It's a strange feeling living in Japan in an area with virtually no damage right now.

I have friends who are without water and food, trudging down to a canal to haul water by hand in buckets so they can use their toilets. (rather joyfully trudging I might add.)

I was late home one night, but made it hope safely. Even if I hadn't of received a ride home, I worked in a city where I had at least two options of people I could contact to stay with until trains were running again.

We had no damage to our house, and only a few things knocked over.

Even the bicycles were still standing.

Yesterday and today we didn't have to work, so we didn't have to brave the trains, but I know one girl who came to church by train from Tokyo and didn't have problems today.

There is almost no visible damage in our community. Although we are still feeling aftershocks.

The only things that prove this is really a disaster is a few shops that are closed, endless reports on the internet and TV, and random sections of the grocery stores vanished.

There is no bottled water anywhere. Lots of other drinks, sodas, teas, juice, but no water. Bread is gone. (we bought fresh baked bread from a bakery today instead.) Instant ramen is scarce (which is strange if people are afraid of having no water...) Strangely there are no bananas or tofu to be found. And the last store we went to had no milk. And no canola oil.

Flashlights can't be found in stores.

I'm not sure if it's because people are buying these things, or if it's because they can't be delivered right now.

The food center where lunches are prepared for my city is damaged, so I have to take my own lunch to school tomorrow.

But life here goes on. We continue to prepare for our move. We laugh and tell jokes. The sun shines and the temperatures are raising. Day after tomorrow our third year students will be graduating.

But there's a sense of strangeness about it. Like I shouldn't be doing normal things. There should be a sense of shock, or panic or something.

I worry that my heart shuts down on me at times like this. In fact, I can from my place of detachment, notice that this is how I always dealt with death in the past. No real mourning or distress. Just calm acceptance and then going on with life.

But I wonder if this is really life.

Can I really be living if there is so little passion in my heart? Am I not supposedly in love with this country and her people? I have a friend that is so distressed that she can't be in Japan during this disaster. She wants to help and comfort people and just be present with them in their grief.

I live surrounded by normalness. The people here are not wounded or grieving. It's like watching reflections of myself.

And I am disturbed by my own detachedness.

Sometimes it feels like this is not real. Like it's far away in another country. Like New Zealand or Indonesia. Egypt or Libya.

My friends on Facebook in America who were concerned for my safety, have already gone back to their lives. Basketball games and retreats. Spring flowers and antics of children. American news reports on the earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis, followed by Charlee Sheen's financial crisis.

Such a strange state of limbo.

Just not quite real.

And by that, I think I mean my heart...

Please pray for Japan. Because no matter how real it doesn't seem, it is real. Those are real dead bodies. Real people with no food and water. Real damage and real need. The physical state of thousands and thousands of people have finally been brought to the same place their spirits have been: broken and needy. Pray for God's Holy Presence here. Pray for His Hand and His Wisdom. Pray for grace, love and mercy to abound here.

I understand how difficult it is to pray from a place of safety and comfort. Pray that our hearts can also be opened to feel even a little of what God's heart feels for these people.

Let our prayers be real, for the suffering and need is real. Finally, the false lies of self-sufficiency have been washed away. There is only grace.

Thanks be to God.

PS: I have two good friends who live in Fukushima right now (Haidee and Cindy). They are both safe, but sustained far more damage than anything that happened here. They are not close to the nuclear plants so that is good. Here is a link to Haidee's blog if you would like to read more from someone who is living closer to the actual "disaster."

By Faith in Fukushima

Friday, March 11, 2011


Well, I can now say I lived through the biggest Earthquake in Japanese history to date. 8.9
That's big.

It was 240 miles north of me, and we've been feeling aftershocks since 2:45 this afternoon.

Trains are all stopped, so a teacher offered to drive me home. Took us 4 and a half hours to get home. I'm sure he's still driving to his home thanks to the traffic and Japan's poorly planned street system.

My roommate and I are safe, as are most of the people I know. There were a couple more big quakes in Fukushima where two friends of mine live and their church. I haven't heard anything from them since those quakes hit, so prayers for them would be appreciated.

And prayers for the coastal areas of Japan hit by tsunami, esp Sendai and Ofuneto.

God be with us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Battle vs tournament.

The contemplative streak continues. I think I might have already passed last years mark for blog posts and it's only March. Well, I'm sporadic like that.

Today I finished reading the Journey of Desire. I had many thoughts during the day. About what my desires are really saying. What my fears are telling me. What lies I believe in my heart....

It's overwhelming.

My friend had just commented on my last blog. (Once again I haven't replied to her, sorry! *waves*) She was encouraging me. And I really really appreciate her words. It's good to be affirmed. It's good to be recognized.

But as with most things in life, you get in a few hits on your enemy, and then you end up taking a few right back. Today I was taking hits.

My commute home was particularly hard today. While trying to find out what my desires are really saying, I came across questions that don't have answers yet. And left myself open for assault.

My desire to not be single is perhaps at the core of things lately. Why do I want to find love? Because I want to be recognized and affirmed as a woman. Not by other women. I want to feel complete. I want to feel chosen. To be special. To be a treasure. And I want it to be from a man. Someone who will cherish me, and desire me, and walk with me and enjoy me and put up with me. Not from obligation, but from choice. Yes, the way God desires to be desired by us.

But why can't I allow God to fill me? That is the question that taunted me today. And I heard the answer.

Because He's God. Because I know and believe that God is Good. I was made and created by God. He is my Father. This means... He has to love me.

This is the same reaction I have to my parents' love. Of course I appreciate my parents' love. I have never doubted they loved me. And I am thankful for all they have done for and given me.

But somehow, because they are my parents, it's just different. That love doesn't care what I do, or how I fail. It doesn't matter if I am beautiful, because I am their daughter, I am beautiful to them. Because I am a daughter, I am valued.

But I don't want to be valued as a daughter. I want to be valued as a woman.

And so this is the dilemma I find myself in: How can I accept love and value from God, if it is His nature to give it? He doesn't give it only to me. He gives it to everyone. In a treasure room full of treasure, how do you value one small piece, when the whole room is full of equally valuable treasure?

And so the fight in my heart began again. Me trying to not kill my desire, but not allow it to rule me, or become an idol; The enemy trying to convince me that I am worthless, and dead inside so I should just give up. The ache inside my heart growing, yet dying at the same time.

I'm tired. My spirit left without strength.

I don't know which way is up anymore.

And that's when it hit me. Not the enemy, but a little chunk of clarity perhaps. I think it came from the bleachers. Bleachers? you ask. Yeah, I was surprised too. Suddenly I was aware that I was surrounded by bleachers. And guess what, you are sitting in them. You and all my friends, and lots of others I don't know. I catch my breath, and then realize I'm in the middle of a tournament. I can see other matches going on around me. Only, I don't know the rules. I'm not even sure what kind of fighting we are doing here. But I'm in the ring and my opponent is taunting me, trying to keep me from getting back up.

Oh yeah. I'm fighting for my heart. That's what I'm supposed to be doing, right?

Time to get back up I guess.

But my body doesn't seem to listen to me. My muscles drain of strength. I only hear garbled noise from the bleachers. And the jeering of my opponent.

Man, I'm tired. I've never been good at things like this. What happened to a few days ago? I remember cheering when I landed a couple of good punches. But now I'm on the mat. A couple of good punches don't count for much in the end.

But is this really what it's supposed to be like? Isn't this supposed to be a battle??? Where's the army? Where are the troops? Where's my armor and my weapons? Why am I in a tournament instead?


I watch a lot of anime, usually young boys' anime. There's always fighting of some sort involved. And in 90% of anime with fighting, it always turns into a tournament of some sort. One-on-one. Of course you have teammates. But you always fight one-on-one, with your teammates off to the side, either fighting their own battles or cheering you on and worrying about you. (It doesn't even have to be fighting, it could be baking even!)

But is that really what we are supposed to be doing?

A tournament is different than a battle. In a battle, you are dealing with chaos, and masses of enemies coming at you. But you aren't alone. You are fighting with your battalion. You have friends and formations to cover your back. You see a comrade in need and without thinking shoot down his enemy for him. And a different one comes and does the same for you. "A strand of three cords is not easily broken."

Wow. That was a smart move by the enemy there. Somehow we've been convinced that warfare is not the answer. Well, we are aware that we need to fight now. He can't do anything about that. But if you change the game a bit, we are at a disadvantage. Fool us into thinking the only way we can fight is in a tournament, and he's practically won.

All the strain and injury of a battlefield, but without the advantages.

That's trying to fight with only my own strength. And I think we've already established I'm not strong enough to do this on my own strength. I'm not smart enough to figure out all the answers. I'm not devoted enough.

I can't make it on my own.

Enough with this tournament stuff. I quit. Hey, you, the guy in the corner talking trash to me, I quit. Say whatever you want. I'm not listening anymore. I think I'm going to go find a machine gun, or a tank. Or at the very least, some armor and a sword. And pick me up a few troops while I'm at it. This fighting alone stuff stinks.

I'm not trying to win a tournament. That's stupid. I'm fighting a war.

Big difference.

What are you fighting?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What if you really were a Princess?

When I was a child I devoured books. Before I started school, I apparently taught myself to read. I was so advanced in my reading skills that in Kindergarten they would make me go to 1st grade reading classes, and in 1st grade I went to 2nd grade classes. I wasn't allowed to compete in reading contests at school.

(I think this is where much of my social awkwardness comes from...)

Even as a young child, my heart yearned for something bigger than reality. When I wasn't reading, I would daydream. I imagined myself as a character in my favorite series. I never imagined myself as one of the already established characters. I always imagined that I myself would be transported into that world, and interact with the characters. I would always become someone essential to the story after I entered. I would have some special power or knowledge that would make me valuable to the characters. And they would love me.

Sometimes I would even pray that God would magically transport me into one of these worlds.

In those stories, my heart came alive. They were so much more real than going to school, or cleaning my room, or doing chores.

I didn't often read princess stories, but recently the idea has been floating around in my head (again, I have to credit John Eldridge for this latest bout of blogging). What if I really was a Princess? How would that change the way I live? How would it change the way I act? How would it change my relationship with God? What if it were True?

Have you ever thought of it? If we are Children of God, and God is a King, that makes us Princes and Princesses. That means we have glory, we have grace, we have responsibility. And we have access to and the delight of our King.

What if I am a Princess? How does that change my heart? How does that change my thinking?

Suddenly my head is held just a little higher. Fear of rejection and disappointment fade. I am a Princess.

With a mission.

My Father King has sent me to become an ambassador to another country. A country I begged Him to let me go to. A country He also loves and wants to form a Covenant with. It's a rather large country, so He chose many of my Brothers and Sisters to come with me. But He gave me my own area to be an ambassador to.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot that's what I was doing. It's easy to forget, or never quite realize that you are a Princess.

The Truth was cleverly hidden in this mess we call reality. And I doubted my glory. I doubted my worth. I doubted my heart.

But the stories call out to me again, and make me remember. They give voice and form to long forgotten yearnings.

And this time, I see. I see the Truth hidden in the fiction. And I find a measure of Peace again today.

Today I decided to re-read the book "The Journey of Desire" by (you guessed it) John Eldridge.

This may come as a surprise to you: Christianity is not an invitation to become a moral person. It is not a program for getting us in line or for reforming society. It has a powerful effect upon our lives, but when transformation comes, it is always the aftereffect of something else, something at the level of our hearts. At it's core, Christianity beings with an invitation to desire.
- p 35

In other words, eternal life is not primarily duration but quality of life, "life to the limit." It cannot be stolen from us, and so it does go on. But the focus is on the life itself. "In him was life," as the apostle John said of Jesus, "and that life was the light of men" (John 1:4 NIV). Notice that the people who aren't so good at keeping up with the program but who are very aware of their souls' deep thirst are captured by Jesus' message. Common folk tear the roofs off houses to get to him. They literally trample each other in an effort to get to this man. I've never seen anyone acting like this in order to get a chance to serve on some church committee or to hear a sermon on why dancing is "of the devil." People act like this when it's a matter of life and death. Crowds trample each other to get out of a burning building; they press into the mob to reach a food line. When life is at stake and the answer is within reach, that's when you see human desire unmasked in all it's desperation.
-p 39

I look at my fellow "siblings" here in Japan. So many are dead inside. Sundays are spent filled with hollow services that have very little resemblance to actual worship to them, followed by meetings and obligations. Sundays are the only days off for some people and spent further sucking the life out of church members, keeping them in impotent bondage.

I feel so much frustration with it, but also I feel frustrated that I don't seem to be doing anything about it either. I'm upset with their blindness, or rather their inability to understand that their blindness can be/has been healed, but I'm also upset with my impotence.

This wasn't the Romance I imagined.

But now that my own blindness has been lifted, I can roll up my sleeves, bend my knees, and start pouring out my heart again for this country that I still love, that I still want to see in a Covenant Treaty with my Father.
To the weary, Jesus speaks of rest. To the lost, he speaks of finding your way. Again and again and again Jesus takes people back ot their desires: "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matt 7:7 NIV). These are outrageous words, provocative words. Ask, seek, knock - these words invited and arouse desire. What is it that you want? They fall in deaf ears if there is nothing you want, nothing you're looking for, nothing you're hungry enough to bang on a door over.
Jesus provokes desire; he awakens it; he heightens it. The religious watchdogs accuse him of heresy. He says, "Not at all. This is the invitation God has been sending all along."
-p 37-8

What do you want?

I want to be restored as a Princess.

And to resume my abandoned and misunderstood job as an Ambassador.

I want my heart back.

And I want to pour it out for the people of this land.

I want to love.

For Real.

Just like a real Princess.


Monday, March 07, 2011

What it means to be a missionary.

The road we travel will take us into the battle to restore beauty in all things, chief among them, the hearts of those we know. We grow in glory so that we might assist others in doing so; we give our glory to increase theirs. In order to fulfill the purpose of our Journey, we will meed a passion to increase glory; we will need love.
~The Sacred Romance p 158

Today was the day after tests, so all the teachers were handing back tests. Which means I don't have to go to class. I sat at my desk all day instead. Which gave me lots of free time to read some more John Eldridge and ponder love and the meaning of life. I even fit in a couple of naps at my desk.

The quote above really struck me today. John Eldridge talks a lot about the need to reclaim our hearts. We need to live from our hearts, for that is from where love flows. And that is where Christ and the Spirit reside as well. The heart is central. This is his main theme of all his books. It is of the greatest importance to live from the heart, out of communion with God. We are children of God, and therefore share in His glory. A glory bestowed upon us to reflect Him. Fear and confusion don't glorify God. Life filled with love does.

If you look at the highlighted part of the quote, you'll find what grabbed my heart today. "chief among them the hearts of those we know." In a battle to restore beauty to the world, in a battle to gain back memories of Eden, the most important places are in the hearts of those we know. Stop for a moment. Put faces to this. Who do you know? I know lots of people. And I love many of those. These are the people God desires beauty for. God desires for their hearts to be healed and redeemed. Suddenly this is much more real than distant theology. This is so much less abstract than "evangelism" or "missions." This is important. These people, these faces, they are important to you. They are more important to God. And God wants to use you to help heal them.



I can barely wrap my mind around this. God loves me. Therefore He wants to heal my broken heart. He wants to set me free from fear and cowering. And He wants to cover me in glory. So I can share Life with others. Not nameless, faceless others. Others I know. Others I love.

Among these others is a member of the band I listen to, Mako. He's the drummer, but he also does solo work. He wrote a song called "Arigato" (Thank You). This song has been haunting me for several years now. This was the song I requested played when I left the VYM missionary program 2 years ago. It's a song expressing unsaid thanks to a person close to you. The person who is always there, always supporting you. The person whose tears can bring to life the dying flower in your desert heart. The Life-giver.

The reason I chose the song when I left was two-fold. I wanted to thank the people who had helped shape my time in Japan for all they had done for me (although since the song was in Japanese, I'm not sure that feeling was properly conveyed.) And secondly, and the reason why the song haunts me, is because that is the person I wanted to be. A life-giver. Someone who is always present, giving and supporting. And my heart ached when I heard the accusation that I could never be that. I wasn't good enough. It was too far of a goal. It was beyond me.

And this is why I could never really be a "good missionary." I had no life to give. My own heart was a cracked desert with a dying flower.

But today my heart heard Hope. That is not my destiny. It is not what God desires for me. God created me to be a life-giver. It echoed so loudly in my heart because of the truth it held. I don't know what a "good missionary" looks like. But I do know this: as a child of God, I have been given a glory of my own. I am no longer bound by crippling fear. I am no longer left suffering in the desert. I am free to be a woman who gives life. I can stop striving and manipulating and fearing, and in my newly filled and rested heart, I can give. The very thought fills me with courage and peace.

I think now of all those I love. Those who are fellow Children of God, who are struggling with their still wounded hearts. Those who don't know God, and pretend like they aren't wounded at all. Right now those who don't know God are so many. I can't convert them. I can't suddenly make them understand God or their need for God. But I can be life-giving. I can be unashamed of my Glory, and be at peace, and bring a little piece of Life to them. Where they can rest. God is always with me. And even when I fail, He will sustain me.

And it's OK for me to love them, and dream for them. And it's OK for me to accept glory from God.

It's so easy for me to become overcome with fears. Fears that I'm not good enough, I don't please God. I haven't produced enough fruit. The other quote from today is this:

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
-Romans 8:6

Any "word" or suggestion that brings discouragement, condemnation, accussation - that is not from God. Neither is confusion, nor any counsel that would lead you to disobey what you do know....the voice of God is never condemning (Rom 8:1) never harsh or accusing. His conviction brings a desire for repentance. Satan's accusation kills our hearts. (2 Cor 7:10)
-Waking the Dead, 105-6
There have been some things I've been debating in my heart recently. What am I allowed to do as a Daughter of God? But thanks to the things I have been reading lately, my heart has arrived at a place of peace. I don't know if I have everything figured out just yet. But it's OK. As long as I keep seeking God, He will never abandon me, even if I'm a little off course. So I'm free to Live.
I'm free to Love. I'm free to Dance and I'm free to Sing. (yeah, I'm stealing from Ginny Owens now...)

Hope has become my friend instead of a tormentor. I no longer fear disappointment. (for myself, or God's disappointment in me.) And just a little, I've started to become a Life-giver instead of a Life-sucker.

I'd say today was a rather productive day for having no work to do. :-D

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Just another day

For a woman to enjoy relationship, she must repent of her need to control and her insistence that people fill her. Fallen Eve demands that people "come through" for her. Redeemed Eve is being met in the depths of her soul by Christ and is free to offer to others, free to desire and willing to be disappointed. Fallen Eve has been wounded by other and withdraws in order to protect herself from further harm. Redeemed Eve knows that she has something of value to offer; that she is made for relationship. Therefore, being safe and secure in her relationship with her Lord, she can risk being vulnerable with others and offer her true self.
Captivating 181-182

I have been bathing in grace recently. It's better than a Japanese bath! Last weekend was so good for restoring my soul to a place of peace. God is amazing with how He works. I was blessed by being with people, when that was the last thing I wanted. My fears were calmed and I felt peace from my stress.

I was in a good mood yesterday it seems. I was goofing off with some of the 1st years (who are really cute) when one boy asked me "Did something good happen?" I was surprised why he would ask that. I guess I'm not always so cheerful. Sad. He could see the change in me easily. Wow.

Yesterday we paid the deposit and all the fun stuff for our new apartment. We now have the keys and everything. This month will be a month of moving. I'm trying hard not to think of all the things that need to be done. This month will be a month of saying goodbye. I'm trying not to think of all the people I will no longer be blessed through. This month will be a month of new adventures. I spend perhaps too much time thinking of only the fun parts of the month. ;-)

One of my friends referenced a blog by Ann Voskamp today. I've been reading her blog for a few weeks now and am often inspired by it. Today's blog was about how being pushed out of your comfort zone is a blessing, because it is the only way to experience God in more intimate ways than can be done when everything is hunkie dory. (Hey, I've still got some Texas in me! Horray!)

Looking at my past month, and even farther back, I can agree with that. It is in my pain, in my stress, in my fear when I cling to God the most. It is in these places where I find new aspects of God and learn more about who I am. I can become vulnerable, because I am forced to. And I can grow. And I can be closer to God.

When things are comfortable and routine, I forget. I let things slide. I become lazy.

So mercifully, God shakes things up for me, reminding me that the best place is to be in His strength, not mine.

Today I read the quote at the beginning of the blog. It's so true for me. I am Fallen Eve. But thanks to this past weekend, thanks to being thrown out of my comfort zone, I've found a place of peace, where I'm not striving to be filled by others. I think that's why I was able to accept the blessings of the past weekend. I was too tired to strive anymore. I just accepted.

I notice that I am Fallen Eve often. I try to manipulate people into liking me, or pitying me. I want people to fill me and support me. And I judge those who don't. I judge all the time, critical of those who don't measure up. And I become miserable. I look at myself and see how ugly it all is. And I mistake it for myself.

But I don't need to do those things. I don't have to fear. I don't have to struggle. I don't need to be filled. Not by people. Not by manipulation. Not by judgment. And when I chase after those things for too long, God will shake things up a bit. So I can meet Him and be filled by Him. And experience peace.

Things seem clearer with peace.

Until I trip because I'm spacing out. :-P

Today, right after coming to these conclusions, I got mad at the Elementary school I'm supposed to go to tomorrow. They canceled the English classes that were scheduled for tomorrow, and I thought I had lost my chance to say goodbye to the kids. So they gave me 20 mins with the 5th graders to say goodbye. But then, at 4:00 today, they ask the Japanese teacher to prepare lessons for the 4th graders. All 3 classes of them. The 4th graders have not studied English yet. What kind of lesson do you prepare the day before? I leave at 4:45. We had about 20 mins to come up with a plan. This happens a lot in Japan. This last minute type of stuff. And I was frustrated that they don't bother to plan ahead. The Japanese teacher is currently preparing for the final exams and now she also has to prepare everything for a completely new set of kids last minute.

The other teachers were kind of surprised that I got mad. The Vice Principal gave us chocolate to make us feel better. They wanted to know if I wanted to call the Elem school and yell at them. That's not the problem. I just wanted to vent. We made the plan. It's just the way they think that bothers me.

And I get confused if this is my American culture taking over. I don't know where humility goes. Japanese humility is not always healthy. But am I just judging again?

I get lost in the currents of culture.

I lost my new-found peace so quickly.

But this is just another day. Tomorrow will also be a day of rediscovering God and peace, and falling, and getting back up. I may never understand Japanese thinking. I may never be able to separate my own culture from tainting the Truth.

But, there will always be the blessing of being pushed out of my comfort zone, where I hope to one day become a Redeemed Eve, who is a life-giver and a place of peace for those around her.

Even when I trip.