Saturday, July 30, 2011

If/Then theology vs a really bad week.

It seems lately all I do is complain. Well, I am good at complaining I suppose, but I should probably cut back some.

But I guess this week, or maybe even month, has been giving me lots of little things to complain about. And all those little things built up to what seems mountain-like proportions. And THEN decided to come crashing down in a fashion similar to an avalanche.

Did I mention I also like to exaggerate? (esp when complaining...)

All of this stuff piling up gets me to thinking...

And thinking is dangerous.

Because I immediately start in with what I have labeled If/Then theology. If I do this, then God does that. If I don't do that, then God does this. Because I did that, God allowed this to happen...

Now, I know there are cases when God responds like that. Jonah doesn't follow God's command. There is a huge storm. This is Jonah's fault. David commits adultery and then has a man killed. God takes away his son. Entire cities are dens of vice and violence and God takes them out.

God does and can react to what we do. We pray, and God performs miracles. Waters part, walls fall down, sicknesses cured, the dead walk again.

But sometimes we pray, and God doesn't answer. Sometimes we live righteous lives and God allows disaster to befall us. (poor Job...) Sometimes we do all the right things, and everything God commands us, and life still sucks. (Jeremiah anyone?)

There is no hard and fast rule for when God is doing something in direct response to what we have or have not done, and when He is acting out something that we can't possibly understand yet for reasons that have nothing to do with what we are doing or not doing.

That's where things get hard.

I want God to make sense. I want an easy to follow formula. If I do this, God does that. It's easy. I know when I mess up, there is a punishment. I know that if something bad happens, it must mean I'm not doing everything I should. Maybe there is some unconfessed sin... Maybe I'm not praying the right way... Maybe I just don't love God enough...

And that's such a dangerous way to think.

That makes our faith dependent upon our works and our circumstances.

Life doesn't work that way.

God doesn't work that way.

So I have to remember that I can't work my way to salvation. It's not all about me and what I've done or am doing. When things get difficult, that doesn't always mean God is mad at me.

And no sooner did I come to that conclusion before I was tested.

Man, I should be careful what I think.

Last Wed. was the last day of classes before summer break. It went well, and Wed night I started packing for the kids church camp we were having the next two days. (late night plus early morning equals a not so enthusiastic Amber, even though the majority of the kids were my English students and I normally love camp.) Well it was a rough month.

My roommate asked me how she could pray for the camp, and it caught me off guard, because I hadn't given it much thought. I wasn't involved or invested so much in the planning, so I guess I forgot I should have been praying for it. I gave her what I could think of at the time and she returned to her room to include me and the camp in her prayers.

Next morning, bright and early, I manage to wake up on time and catch all the right trains and get to the station where I was meeting the rest of the group (because I live so far away, I met them part way.) It was perfect timing with their train pulling up just as I got to the platform.

We rode the trains north to an area called Nikko famous for it's beauty. In the mountains, there is a wonderful Christian camp compound that we stayed at.

We were a bit worried about the weather, but the rain cleared up right about the time we arrived.

So far, so good.

Get to the camp (we even were picked up by car from the station!) and we settle in, eat our lunches and gather together for some group time. After group time was scheduled for "water play" time. There is a near by river, and if that is not safe, then the campsite has a fountain that can be turned on.

Right as the group time ended, and we are supposed to start getting ready for "water play" time, the thunder rolls. Seriously, we said Amen, and Heaven answered.

Now I'm from West Texas. Basically our only source of rain is Thunder storms. They are quite beautiful. But they are dangerous. Growing up in a very flat land, I grew up understanding that you NEVER go outside in a thunderstorm. You NEVER go near water, and you stay away from trees. Because it's so flat, all these things attract the lightening. Heck, we never carried umbrella's because there was metal that might attract lightening. Everything was grounded, and you made sure to put on your rubber soled tennis shoes. I loved watching lighting storms... from inside. (actually, you weren't supposed to go near the windows either...)

So coming to Japan was a bit of a culture shock for me when it came to thunderstorms. First was Japanese thunderstorms are short. Like 30 mins and then they are over. Second, no one actually stops what they are doing because of a thunder storm. People are walking around outside carrying metal umbrellas, going on about their business. It freaked me out the first time I had to walk home in a thunderstorm. Even now it makes me very uneasy to be outside in a Thunderstorm. This is deeply ingrained in me.

So it's "water play" time and we have just been greeted by the rolling of thunder. What do we do? Change into our swimsuits of course. And go down to the river. (actually we went up and then down.) And while it was raining, we played in the river. (it was really cold.) Then it starts to really pour, so we decide to just wait it out there before heading back to the camp. And I'm just freaking out inside because this goes against all thunderstorm safety things I've known since I was a child. Here I am outside, in a thunderstorm, in a river, under a tree.


But we made it fine. The rain eventually lessened, we go back to the camp, and they turn on the fountain for some more "water play." Then we can go warm up in the hot spring. I was happy to go to the hot spring.

Then we had some free time before another round of group activities. I rested a bit in my room since I was low on sleep and energy. Group time comes around and we sing and then play a game. It was a "Fruits Basket" type game where we have the chairs in the circle and if a statement applies to you, you rush to get a new chair.

I survived the rocky river, the muddy, steep bank and the thunderstorm. Who would guess Fruits Basket would be my downfall?

The condition was "people who have glasses." I get up, and in my rush to get a chair, I run into the guy next to me. I'm slightly off balance and step on my foot wrong. I feel a slight "pop" and then lot's of pain. I make my way to the next chair, and check my foot. I have weak ankles, so I expected a sprain. I am used to sprains, so I didn't think it would be a big deal. Only it wasn't my ankle. My foot was hurt somehow. I thought it was a strange place to get a sprain, but thought maybe the pain would lesson up like sprains normally do.

The next condition was "people who are wearing underwear." I didn't move because of my foot. I got a few strange looks for that one. Hehe. I did tell the person next to me that I hurt my foot and couldn't move. I just sat with my foot up for the rest of the game. After the game it was time for dinner, but I found I couldn't put a lot of weight on it. So I had to have people help me to the place where we were eating and I propped up my foot with some ice.

After dinner and fireworks and campfire (done inside because of the rain) it was finally time to go to bed. Only now I had to try to climb some stairs. I had two guys helping me, but as I'm a large person, I feel really bad about that. I eventually convinced them to let me crawl up the stairs.

I said a quick prayer, propped up the foot with some more ice and went to bed, hoping the pain would be gone in the morning.

At 2:00 I awoke to the call of nature. I tested the foot and found it hadn't changed. It was in fact more painful. It took me like 30 mins to go to the bathroom that was like 10 feet away. I decided then that I would have to go see a doctor in the morning.

1 car ride, two trains, three wheel chairs, two taxis and 3 doctors later I discovered I have a Jones fracture. This could take up to 5 months or longer to heal. Wonderful. I'm scheduled to attempt to leave the country in two days.

Cut off at the pass again.

I'm told this is a fairly common sports injury. I guess it's something soccer players get a lot.

I got a "sports injury" from playing Fruits Basket. I feel really uncool somehow.

The first part of the day was rather painful, but as soon as I got the foot in a splint (which I had to ask for, Japanese medicine disturbs me sometimes.) I felt much better. I now have crutches and am allowed to put weight on my heel. Half a day of crutches has left me with bruises under my arms and blisters on my hands. Whoo, hoo. Only 5 more months to go.

Anyway, after lots of worrying about whether I would be able to fly home or not, I finally decided that I would try gambling on getting a flight anyway. I have a friend who is going to drive me to the airport (about 2 hours) and once there I should be able to find help with my suitcase.

Tomorrow is packing and getting ready.

All kinds of adventure awaits.

And I'm sure there will be plenty of quiet time to process with God while I'm waiting at the airport with my "acutely fractured" foot, trying to figure out what the next few weeks will look like.

On the up side, I have concrete proof of how awesome my roommates and friends are now. One roommate met me at the station, rode with me to one hospital and one clinic and carried all my stuff brought back from camp. I have been blessed with many people who went out of their way to help me. And my National Japanese Health insurance kept all the visits reasonable. The trains and taxi actually cost more than the doctors.

Prayers for clean healing of my fracture are appreciated. If it doesn't heal properly, it can become a chronic condition. Living so far from a station, and not having a car would make a chronic foot condition very unhelpful.

Next post will either be a (hopefully) triumphant post from my parent's house, or another cut off at the pass post after several days at the airport with no available flights.

Let's hope for the first one. :-D

(on a side note, I told my wonderful roommate jokingly {after she had been lugging around my stuff and helping me right and left} that I'm not sure I'll let her pray for my next camp. {I go back to the same place at the end of August for Church camp} She replied back, "Just imagine what would have happened if I hadn't prayed!" I love having roommates with a good sense of humor.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fighting with Hope

My roommates and I have decided to have a "community night" weekly. We eat, and then do a devotion time in an attempt to feed ourselves physically, spiritually and relationally.

One roommate has been teaching us about the Apostolic Prayers, prayers written by the Apostles in the Bible. Today she took us through two prayers found in Romans 15.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves, as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth, you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (13)

God's an expert at good timing.

The first one grabbed my attention because of the ugliness of my heart today. Today wasn't such a good day, and there were things I'd rather be doing, but I couldn't do because I had committed to community time. I felt the chains of bitterness and frustration wrapping themselves tightly around my heart. Yes, I had felt this way before, whenever my "community" conflicted with my "freedom." I hate having to choose, and I hate the feeling of obligation I have to my Christian community. And soon the bitterness grows, darkening my heart. Community born from obligation is a deformed community. Only Community born of love can be healthy.

And already I was letting bitterness destroy my pillar of our community.

As my roommate read those words, my bitter heart was pierced. Unity. Encouragement. Endurance. All things I was allowing to be crushed by the chains around my heart. The very chains I was blaming "community" for.

How can I glorify Christ with a heart rejecting the unity, encouragement and endurance of the community He so graciously provided me with?

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, the gentle words of rebuke continued to batter at the stubbornness of my self. (Isn't it funny how "gentle" rebuke hurts WAY more than harsh rebuke? Maybe it's just me...)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (13)

Hope. ugh. Have I mentioned how I dislike hope? Hope feels like the ultimate betrayer. Leading me around on a merry chase, just to leave me tired and disappointed.

But my previous post, I was complaining about being cut off at the pass, being attacked and frustrated. Of wanting Life, the fullness of Life, and being lacking.

We had a nice long discussion about Hope tonight. Not sure we got anywhere as a group, but it was helpful for me. Because I finally realized that Hope is what I'm missing. When I'm cut off at the pass. When I'm tired and frustrated. What does any of that matter if I have Hope? Hope offers Joy and Peace.

This is the Life we are talking about!

Life that is not dependent on external circumstances. No matter how awful it is, Hope, Joy and Peace can still overflow. That is the Life I am missing!

Often my hope is selfish and misplaced, and I am let down. Because that is not real Hope.

But my new Hope is to become a woman overflowing with Hope, saturated in Peace and Joy.

How wonderful that sounds.

Well, I'll get to test this out sooner than later, since this week will be a crazy one with lots to do and little time to do it in.

For now, I Hope I can keep Joy and Peace in an uncertain airport next Sunday. :-D

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cut off at the pass...

"Why is it that nearly every good thing, from taking the annual family vacation to planning a wedding to cultivating a relationship, takes so much work?
It's almost as if there is something set against us." (pg 6)

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
"Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons. By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn't just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. In other words, yes, the offer is life, but you're going to have to fight for it because there's an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.
"There is something set against us.
"We are at war." (pg 12-13)

"Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days we will not understand life. We will misinterpret 90 percent of what is happening around us and to us. It will be very hard to believe that God's intentions toward us are life abundant; it will be even harder not to feel that somehow we are just blowing it." (pg 17)

- Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

Recently, it feels like every which way I turn, I'm cut off at the pass. No matter what I'm trying to accomplish, something comes up and stands in my way. Migraines that knock me out for a whole day. Exhaustion. All these little things that add up so that I can't accomplish my goals.

I want to meet friends. I get a headache.

I want to see a different friend, I have a conflict.

I want to go home to America, I'm flying standby and right now it looks like all the flights are booked. I wonder how long I'll be hanging around Narita Airport next week...

And it's not just me. It's happening to my roommates too.

And it's so frustrating.

You wonder, "What am I doing wrong?" "Why can't I just make it work?" "Why am I not strong enough?"

I've been reading John Eldridge for a while now, and this is a familiar theme he has. We are at war. Satan doesn't like us, and is going to do everything in his power to keep us from God and from Life.

It makes sense.

But it makes me discouraged too.

I feel like I've been drafted for a war that's never going to end.

I don't want to be a solider. Heck, I didn't even get a boot camp for training! I'm not even sure if I have weapons!

But that doesn't matter. I'm still be shot at. I'm still being attacked.

And I'm still loosing hope.

War sucks.

Fighting sucks.

I'm tired, and discouraged.

And Satan smiles.


I hate loosing. I hate being weak. And I hate being powerless.

But I hate fighting.

Fighting for others I might be able to do. But when it comes to fighting for myself, I don't have a clue.

This month has been long and full of disappointments and frustrations. There have been ups, but all I remember is the downs. I have been blessed, but all I remember is the pain.

Where is the Warrior who fights for the weak and oppressed? Where are the men? I don't want to be a solider. I'm a woman. I want to support, but not fight.

But that's not how battles go.

So I guess it's time to get up again, and find or make a new pass. One that won't be cut off.

Prayers appreciated.

(I'm attempting to fly standby back to America on Sunday (America's Saturday) but I've been told the flights all appear to be booked full. This is the time of year when Japanese travel a lot. I was hoping this year would be easier to get tickets on standby, but I have apparently picked the absolute worse time to try to go back to America. Unfortunately, there are no other options. I would prefer to not spend my summer vacation sitting at the airport waiting for an open flight. I appreciate prayers for my safety and for my summer.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Feeling Time's perspective

As of today, I have been in Japan for 6 years, 9 months and 21 days. It has been 3 years, 3 months and 21 days since I have last stepped foot in America.

My mom told me before I left America for the first time, "I'm afraid you are going to go and never come back." And I told her not to be silly. There was no way something like that could happen. But in the back of my head, I admitted she might be right.

It's not always easy living as a foreigner, but I have it easier than many. I am a white female in a land that likes white people. (although there's a lot of racism against other foreign minorities here, but it's passive racism, which might make it worse.) I came with a group, and I have been taken care of the whole time I've been here. God has never left me alone. And now I can converse well enough in the language and I have a very basic ability to read.

6 years have gone by in a flash. And it feels like it's not enough time.

I am in love with Japan.

When the earthquake happened and there were all kinds of radiation fears, I had a couple of uncles urging me to pack my bags and get the first flight out. But they didn't understand how that was impossible that was for me. And I talked to my parents to see how they were doing with listening to the media and the fear and the playing on emotions that has become the norm for reporting these days. And they gave me the gift of blessing, and understanding. They gave words to what I was afraid to say before.

This is my home.

I love Japan.

And I felt such freedom and love that they had acknowledged that for me. The words I was afraid to say, especially to them, because it felt like a betrayal of the family that cared for me and raised me. And they heard what my heart was screaming, and said it for me.

6 years, 9 months and 21 days.

I have been blessed.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

On the days that I am frustrated with Japan. On the days that I am frustrated with the financial chains that seem to bind me. On the days I'm frustrated with being an outsider.

I remember.

I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I wouldn't trade my past for anything. When I get caught up in the "what if's", I know that if given the choice, I wouldn't trade. Because everything has led me to here.

If you ask me if I would have changed the way I went to college, so that somehow I had less debt in student loans. Went to a different college, waited a few more years, worked more in college. I consider it, and I remember the faces of the people I've met. The relationships that a price can't be placed on. And I know that if I had done things differently, I would have never been in a place to even seriously consider Japan.

So I accept my circumstances, and rejoice because I am living my dream. Maybe not the dream I had when I was a little girl. When I look at my friends married, with children, living lives that I can no longer relate to, I remember I am living my dream.

I love Japan.

Time flies when you love.

I have one week before I return to America to visit my family. I'll have two weeks to spend with people I haven't seen in 3 years. I"ll have two weeks to get to know my niece and my nephew, my brother's fiance, the adult my brother has become. And they'll have two weeks to try to get to know who I am, for I am not the same person who left Texas 6 years ago.

Time is too short.

But at the same time, it will be two weeks with a Japan size hole in my heart, of longing to return of the pain of separation. And after two weeks, I'll return to Japan, counting the seconds and the miles until I am surrounded by Japanese words I only half understand, and return to my clear cut status as a foreigner in a foreign land.

Time passes slowly when you love much.

It has been 5 months since I have seen the band on a regular basis. The place where I was accepted. The people who no longer think of me as "the foreigner", but merely as "Anbaa." (the Japanese pronunciation of my name.) 5 months without the people and the place that I love have been so terribly long. And I cry out to God, try to bargain with Him, wonder if I did something wrong that they should be separated from me so...

And I imagine.

My mother has been separated from her daughter for 6 years. But she loved me enough to let me be free. Even though I now understand how painful that must be.

Time passes slowly when you love much.

And I remember that things are not one dimensional. I can't force people to be with me because I love them. Because I love them, I have to give them their freedom. And because I love them, I wait, even if they never come back, even if it's only for a little while. Even when it hurts because I want to see them so much.

Because that's what love is.

And isn't that how God loves us? He loved us enough to give us our freedom. He loves us enough to wait for us. To be there to rescue us when we screw up again. And God's Time is much longer than ours...

It will be one month before there is even a chance I'll be able to see the band on a weekly basis again.

And one month seems so far, far away.

6 years have gone by in a flash, for while I love my family, and I appreciate my American heritage, I do not love America. Not the same way.

2 weeks will be both too short and too long.

5 months has pained my heart, and I know there is at least another month to go. Maybe longer.

And I remember God and His promises to the people He loved. How long did Abraham wait for his true dream of a son? How long did Joseph wait until he saw his family again? How long did Israel wait until God rescued them from slavery? God kept His promises. But in His own time.

How long did the world wait for a Savior. the child promised to Eve to redeem her from her fall?

Waiting is hard. Very hard. I really hate waiting. And it's easy to get locked in on only my perspective. And then you start to think unfair things about God. Why is it taking so long? What did I do wrong? Maybe if I did this...? Maybe God doesn't love me enough to give me this? Maybe I love this too much and it's an idol so God has taken it away from me?

But the problem with that line of thought is that it's all about me.

Love, relationships, life, time. They are not one dimensional things.

Does God no longer love my mother because she has been separated from her daughter for 6 years? Of course not.

The feelings and perspective of Time change. To one person 6 years feels too short. To another, it feels too long. They are feelings both born from love.

Well, if you expected a big epiphany at the end of this rambling post, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. I'm just good at rambling. And this is just a snapshot of the things I've been thinking about while facing Time.

But somehow I feel a little freer from the constraints of Time, for just a little bit. It's good to have new perspective.

One week until America. Two weeks after that until Japan. One week after that until I can see the band. Two weeks after that until I have the possibility of seeing them again. And a lifetime of waiting for new things and old things after that.

The waiting never ends (in this lifetime). Only the perspective changes.

The book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is very popular in Japan. I read it because one of my friends likes it very much. It's been several years since I read it, and the first time I read it, I was not impressed. It seemed too universal for me. But there was a impression in it that has stayed with me for a long time, and has kept coming to my mind lately.

The story is about a shepherd boy from Spain, who has a dream about treasure in Egypt. And he decides to follow that dream and find this treasure. And on this journey he learns many things. And he meets a woman of the desert, whom he falls in love with.

When faced with love, he found he must choose. He could continue to search for his dream, and then return for the woman. Or he could stay with the woman and not fulfill his dream. And this is what Fatima says to him:

"I have been waiting for you here at this oasis for a long time. I have forgotten about my past, about my traditions, and the way in which men of the desert expect women to behave. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed that the desert would bring me a wonderful present. Now, my present has arrived, and it's you."
The boy wanted to take her hand. But Fatima's hands held to the handles of her jug.
"You have told me about your dreams, about the old kind and your treasure. And you've told me about omens. So now, I fear nothing, because it was those omens that brought you to me. And I am a part of your dream, apart of your Personal Legend, as you call it.
"That's why I want you to continue toward your goal. If you have to wait until the war is over, then wait. But if you have to go before then, go on in pursuit of your dream. The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That's the way it will be with our love for each other.
"Makutub,(it is written)" she said. "If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day."
The boy was sad as her left her that day. He thought of all the married shepherds he had known. They had a difficult time convincing their wives that they had to go off into distant fields. Love required them to stay with the people they loved.
He told Fatima that, at their next meeting.
"The desert takes our men from us, and they don't always return," she said. "We know that, and we are used to it. Those who don't return become a part of the clouds, a part of the animals that hide in the ravines and of the water that comes from the earth. They become a part of everything... they become the Soul of the World.
"Some do come back. And then the other women are happy because they believe that their men may one day return, as well. I used to look at those women and envy them their happiness. Now, I too will be one of the women who wait.
"I am a desert woman, and I'm proud of that. I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes. And, if I have to, I will accept the fact that he has become a part of the clouds, and the animals, and the water of the desert."

(skip forward many pages to where the boy has told Fatima he is leaving to follow his dream.)

"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving."
But the boy continued, "I had a dream, and I met with a king, I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."
The two embraced. It was the first time either had touched the other.
"I'll be back," the boy said.
"Before this, I always looked to the desert with longing," said Fatima. "Now it will be with hope. My father went away one day, but he returned to my mother, and he has always come back since then."
They said nothing else. They walked a bit farther among the palms, and then the boy left her at the entrance to her tent.
"I'll return, just as your father came back to your mother," he said.
He saw that Fatima's eyes were filled with tears.
"You're crying?"
"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."
Fatima went back to her tent, and when daylight came, she went out to do the chores she had done for years. But everything had changed. The boy was no longer at the oasis, and the oasis would never again have the same meaning it had had only yesterday. It would no longer be a place with fifty thousand palm trees and three hundred wells, where the pilgrims arrived, relieved at the end of their long journeys. From that day on, the oasis would be an empty place for her.
From that day on, it was the desert that would be important. She would look to it everyday, and would try to guess which star the boy was following in search of his treasure. She would have to send her kisses on the wind, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face, and would tell him that she was alive. That she was waiting for him, a woman awaiting a courageous man in search of his treasure. From that day on, the desert would represent only one thing to her: the hope for his return.

Even though I don't agree with everything she says, I agree with many of the sentiments. and I feel like this is what I want to become. A woman who can wait. A woman who can accept waiting. And a woman who can let go of the things she loves, hoping for their return.

So maybe Time is teaching me how to wait. And I wait because I love.

And this is also true of my God.

My favorite quote:

"I'm a woman of the desert," she said, averting her face. "But above all, I'm a woman."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Migraines and Japanese summer

I grew up in West Texas, which has two seasons, hot and not so hot (hot meaning over 100F many of the summer days, but steady in the upper 90's). But since I grew up with it, I knew how to deal with it. Don't stay in direct sunlight too long, drink fluids, etc. But really, I guess it's because our house was centrally cooled, and anytime we traveled it was in our air conditioned car, it just never seemed to affect my my so much.

Then I moved to Japan. An Island nation with insane humidity. Not as hot as my home town by any means of the imagination, but HUMID! And no central AC and no car.

When I lived next door to where I worked it wasn't so bad. I mean I complained, but I lived. Then I started commuting to work, but since it was school I commuted in the mornings before it got so hot and in the evenings when it was cooler.

Now I start work in the afternoon. This means commuting in the worst of the heat. I bicycle 10 mins to the station from my house and then it's an hour on three different trains and a 5-10 min walk after that.

My brain is fried before classes begin.

The humidity makes me sick. I have trouble drinking water, or most drinks because they make me feel ill. I also have trouble eating because it also makes me feel ill. I eat lots of salad in the summer, or cold noodles etc.

In any case, this summer has been bad, and this whole past week I've been trying very hard to not get dehydrated. But last night I came home with a headache, and this morning I work up with the worst migraine yet.

I have never missed a day of work because of being sick or anything the whole time I've been in Japan. (I did miss one day of classes when I was in orientation though.) So 6 years of perfect attendance for work ended today. I had to call in sick and cancel a whole day of classes.

This sucks.

A lot.

After sleeping away most of the day in the living room (the only room with an AC in our house) I'm finally starting to feel better, but still a little woozy, probably from lack of food and water. My poor roommate was exiled to her room while I slept in the living room like an invalid. (She's been very gracious the whole day. I appreciate her help. And she understands because she gets heat sickness WAY faster than me.)

Well, I have two more weeks of classes to figure out how to keep myself properly hydrated while commuting and teaching (on an increasingly smaller budget) and then I'll be off to America for the first time in about 3 years to see my family, and be hit by Texas heat and drought. This summer I'll be able to tell you for sure which summer is worse, Japanese or Texas. ;-)

Now I need to find food that doesn't make me sick so I can go to work tomorrow... :-/

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Out of my control.

My mother and father both have diabetes. Both sets of grandparents had diabetes. There is 100% chance I will get diabetes. And probably soon.

If I don't radically change my eating/lifestyle habits (more than I already have since coming to Japan... in 6 years I have lost 60 pounds...) and soon, I'm going to be in trouble.

Does this fact have me rushing to the doctor to get medical advice? (Japanese doctors just tell me I'm fat, but then again, they like to tell that to all Americans I think. Not even kidding. My skinny roommate gets told she is fat.) Am I suddenly shunning things that might encourage diabetes? Am I trying to get in more exercise (in my already insane schedule...)?

Nope. I still eat Ice Cream. I still drink sweet coffee drinks sometimes. I still take the escalator instead of the stairs (because it's hot, and I'm tired and... I have tons more excuses I promise.)

The change in diet and extra walking that I got when I first came to Japan is no longer enough to change my weight problem. But I don't seem to have the self-discipline or desire to push myself harder. I want it to happen easy and naturally. I want to be like my friends who can eat whatever they want and do no exercise and never gain a pound.

But that's not how life goes.

I've seen other diabetics. They are full blown diabetics (not a pre-diabetic like me) who take insulin, and eat chocolate every day. Or drink soda everyday. Fried food. No exercise.

And you feel like screaming at them. Why? Can't you see you are destroying yourself? All those things just tear you apart little by little.

And no matter how many times you tell them, or yell at them, or cry at them, they hear, but they don't listen. And they don't change.

This is what it feels like living in Japan.

Everyone has a God-shaped hole inside of them, a hole that they desperately want to fill. There are all kinds of ways to fill it. Money, food, sex, fantasy, art, hobbies, other people... But none of those things are going to fill it. Some of it in moderation is healthy. But most are empty calories of life.

Japanese people are very open to listening. They listen when you talk about God. They nod their heads. They make polite comments. And then they never change.

Maybe this is human nature. Resistance to change.

Diabetes of the soul.

And from someone who stands on both sides, and feels the frustrations of both sides... being unable to control or change myself, and being unable to control or change others....

It just feels overwhelmingly frustrating.

And I have to get down on my knees, see my own powerlessness, and know it is out of my control....

But that does not make it out of His control...

And so I am searching for hope and trust in the darkness of frustration.

(In other more encouraging news, I got the tickets today that will allow me to go home to visit for the first time in over 3 years! My 4 year old niece doesn't even remember me at all. I'll get to meet my brother's fiance for the first time before they get married too. It'll be nice to get to go home for a bit before coming back.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

feeling helpless... and grumpy

I guess when you think about it, very few of us are in control of our lives. We control small things, but there is so much that is out of our control.

Living as a foreigner helps make this so clear.

When you are a foreigner, you have less rights than those around you. You are at the mercy of the company you work with. You can't read well, and you don't understand all the legal rights etc you have or don't have.

You are living in a place where you have little control.

Usually I don't notice it, but today was one of those days where things just kinda frustrate me. My roommate's company (my former company) is being a complete pain, and it feels like we are helpless against it.

I feel helpless against my debt that takes a huge chunk out of my not-so-large check (but the working conditions are much better) and stress when I think of how tight money will become when I have to start paying my taxes and health insurance for this year. :-/

The frustration and feelings of helplessness (and probably PMS) leave me quite grumpy.

And I find other things to be not satisfied with, and get grumpier.

And I feel like throwing a tantrum.

God, why are things so frustrating? Why can't life be easier? Why can't you just make my debt go away? Why, why, why?

And I have to stop and remind myself...

Love is patient...

Heck I just wrote that stuff.

and the first day things don't go the way I want, I start pouting like a child. I want, I want I want.

I should change my name to Israel. I'm just about as faithful.

But Love perseveres. And hopes. And is patient.

Even when things are frustrating.

So I have to calm down and accept that God is the God the good days, and the frustrating ones too.

And since I'm not so good at being patient, and even worse at persevering... I'm going to send my grumpy little self to bed early tonight.

And Hope that tomorrow I can Love.