Friday, December 28, 2012

A token of gratitude

I've never really been great at giving my thanks to people.  For some reason I get all awkward and freeze up, and any words I say to try to express my feelings end up sounding hollow and empty.

To me anyway.

In any case, I had a revelation today.

I am very fortunate to have such encouraging readers.

8 years ago I started my blog, mainly as a way to communicate with people in America that I had left behind.  Unfortunately, most of the people I wanted to share my experiences with, don't actually read my blog.  Somewhere along the way the blog has changed in focus and maturity.  (I cringe a bit when I re-read old posts...)

And somewhere along the way I've picked up followers.  According to Blogger I have 118 people who follow my blog (this doesn't count the people who bookmark it or put it on google reader.)
Of course, the actual number of people who read each post is much lower.  But still, it's way more than I anticipated when I started this.

Sometimes my ego gets the best of me, and I start thinking, "wouldn't it be great if I became a famous blogger?  Wouldn't it be cool to have thousands of people reading what I write?"
Then I start thinking about the consequences of that and begin to think it's not so bad being a minor blogger.  I mean, if I am famous, then people start picking apart things I say.  I have to be careful in case I offend somebody.  And the comments...  I cringe when I go to some sites and look at the comments.

There are so many hateful people out there.

But I realized today, what wonderful readers I have.

Occasionally I get spam messages on my blog, but I delete them quickly enough.  And sometimes I get really strange comments that make no sense.  I have only had 2 or 3 comments that I have removed because they were attacking and not appropriate.

But overall, the people who leave comments here are kind and encouraging.  I'm always gratified to know that people read what I write and resonate with it.  I'm encouraged when others relate to what I'm going through.  And I'm blessed when you share that with me.

Unfortunately I'm not one of those very chatty bloggers, I don't reply to every comment.
But that doesn't mean I don't read every comment I get.  And I appreciate them.

So I wanted to say Thank you today, to those of you who are kind enough to read my blog and return.
and especially thank you to all those who leave encouraging words for me.

I'm glad that even though we may not know who the other is, we can encourage and support each other in love.

In an internet full of hate, I'm blessed to have a small corner that has been blessed with love.

Thank you.

And God bless.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


 I'm always a bit impressed by Mary when I read the Christmas story.  I mean when you look at some of the other big names, (Moses, I'm looking at you.  Jonah, you know I'm talking about you.  Gideon, don't get me started.) you get the impression that...  they don't exactly welcome God's plans for their lives.  God says, "Hey, I'm gonna use you to do something big and important." and they are like "Ummmm....  but...."

So enthusiastic.

But Mary, she is told she's going to give birth to God's son.  Man, just giving birth is a wondrous and scary thing, but God's son?  Right before she's supposed to get married???

Mary's response?  "I am the Lord's handmaiden.  Let it be done as you say."

 Those are some impressive words from a girl whose life is about to be turned upside down.

You know, I bet Mary had dreams, just like any other little girl.  I wonder what she thought her life was going to be like.  I bet she was looking forward to her wedding.  What did she want to do with her life?  Did she have choices, or was she resigned to the life of a woman in her society?

But just like that, with one late night visitor, her dreams are gone, replaced with a new mission.  She gave up her dreams, she didn't know if her fiance would leave her.  She gave up her social standing and the respect of her family and peers.

And she accepted it with such grace.  I'm sure she didn't understand what was going on, or what all of this would entail.  But she allowed God to change her life.

And in the process changed ours.

I had dreams too, when I was a girl.  I had my future all planned out.  There was only one thing I really wanted, and everything else was planned around that.

I just wanted to get married.

I had it all figured out.  I would go to the private Christian university like a good Lutheran girl and I would work hard on my Mrs. Degree.  Along the way I would take some classes that could be useful as a mother, and get some certification as a church worker.

I would get married around 24.  This was a good age, so that I could have a few years to really get to know and enjoy my husband before we started having children.  And I wanted 5.  So around 26 or so, I would start having my little bundles of joy.  I wanted to be finished having kids at 35 so that I wouldn't be 60 with kids still living in my house.

It was a wonderful plan.  Unfortunately the Mrs. Degree eluded me.  I worked for a summer at camp, where everyone assured me I would find Mr. Right.  Call me Miss Wrong.  Even after I graduated and I was looking for a job, I decided to come to Japan, for once slightly thankful that I didn't have a boyfriend tying me down and I was begging people not to tell me I was going to marry a Japanese man and never come back, because it just kinda felt like I was being set up to fail.

And here I am.  33 and still single.  All my jobs until now have been "filler" jobs, just to keep me until I got married.  You see, I never really wanted a career.  I'm not passionate about working, and I have no great talent to pursue.

I just want someone to devote myself to.  I want someone who I can follow.  Someone to share life with, someone to support... someone to open my heart up to and love...

 Mary had her own dreams too, I'm sure.  Moses, Jonah, Gideon, Joseph...

And they all surrendered to God.

I don't know what God has planned for me, but for the first time I'm considering "What if?"

What if I never get married?  What if I have to support myself the rest of my life?  What will I do?  Teaching English is not really a career.  I can flit from job to job, but I don't feel like it fulfills me.  Nor is it the most stable job.

I need something more long term, something I can put my heart in.

I'm still thinking and praying about this, but I'm thinking of pursuing a job working with Japanese orphans.  I'm sure there are things I wouldn't like about the job, but I think that the chance to give love to children who don't have parents to love them would be worthwhile.  It's one of those ideas that just feels like it "clicked" inside of me when I thought about it.

There will be some hurdles I'm sure.  I need to improve my Japanese quite a bit to even consider this.  And I'm not even sure how many places would like to employ a foreigner.

But this is the first time I've had a future to look forward to.

It's not my original dream, but it's a good dream.  And we'll see if this is what God has planned for me.

So this Christmas, like Mary, I'm learning how to surrender, and allow Jesus to grow in me...
                                                                        Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cholesterol of the soul.

I really dislike commuting.  When I get on a train, surrounded by strangers who are in my way, selfishly pushing, not bothering to look around them and be considerate of the people around, pushing their way up escalators, not walking quickly enough on the train platform, standing in the way on the platform, walking too quickly around me on the train platform, not following proper elevator etiquette, not allowing people to get off the train before pushing their way in....  Well, my list of complaints is long.  In any case, I find myself growing more and more irritated as the experience goes on.  By the time I get to the last train station, I'm so irritated I just want to snap at people.

And of course it's all their fault.


If only these people would think about others just a little bit more....

The other thing that really ticks me off is internet, or rather the way internet so conveniently exposes the flaws in other human beings and media.  Internet has somehow made it easier than ever to just say whatever you want to say, promote whatever agenda you wish to promote, and tear down and attack anyone who doesn't agree with you.

Ahhh....  The joys of modern enlightenment.


Hello, my name is Self-Righteous Hypocrite.  You can call me Self for short, or my close friends call me Selfish.

Our modern way of thinking is really messed up I think.  We are so divided into these petty little groups all trying to control the masses with our "morally superior" way of thinking.

One group is advocating "acceptance" and if you don't accept that, then you are not really a human being, you are hateful and because you have chosen to be that way, we of course will not accept you and your beliefs, we will instead attack you and shame you until you join us.  (and then you and your family will be on probation and mildly discriminated against for several generations until we are sure you think the same as us.)

One group is advocating gun control, because guns are of course evil and posses those who are around them to blindly kill each other because humans of course have no responsibility for their own actions.  If we take all the guns away from the "normal" people, of course crime will stop, because all criminals will obey the laws and not buy guns on the black market and then target all the now unarmed innocents.  Lets put hundreds of thousands out of jobs while we are at it, because we don't really care if the unarmed innocents have enough food to feed their families, and I guess if you want to go hunting and kill your own food, get a bow and arrow, but no wait, lets out law those while we are at it too.  Does this sound like the Hunger Games to anyone else???

One group is advocating "World Peace."  Wars are evil and kill people.  Stop fighting wars and killing people.  Peace is best!  Only what happens when only one side stops fighting???  The side that obviously doesn't want peace is going to win, because they will still have the guns and bombs and chemical weapons.  Brilliant.  If all the responsible people stop fighting, then only the people who don't care will be in control.  Yes, I see how this logic leads to world peace.  More like world submission and governments that abuse the people.  Because defending others is bad.  Defending economies is bad.  And who really cares about all the innocent people who will be oppressed if there are no wars?  But yes, war is bad, we hate war.  And while we are hating war with such a one minded passion, our children are killing themselves because they are relentlessly bullied at school.  (Ok, this is a Japan one.)

Lets alienate people with abortion, shaming them, judging them instead of loving them.  Why are the unborn children the only ones that should be loved?  Why aren't we loving the mothers too?

And lets make this an issue about women's rights while we are at it.  Because we should have the choice to do what we want with our own bodies, because sex is not a choice at all.  But lets make it about rape and the danger to the mothers bodies.  And men of course can't have opinions because they are sexist and don't understand and women who disagree are brainwashed and have no pride as women.

Nuclear power, gay marriage, religion, conservatives, liberals, conservationists, green peace, sea shepherd, race.......

I feel sick.

I get so mad.  I want to rip off my "good girl" face and start flinging curse words around.  (the very curse words I try so hard to get my students not to use!)

Now don't get me wrong.  I understand there are legitimate issues and concerns.  There are serious problems.  They need to be fixed by passionate people who care.

But this is not the way.  We are just turning problems into hate.

Like me on the train.  I become the very thing I hate.

“When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change....And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realize that the moral fact comes first.” - Chesterton

I believe, that we all have a choice, no matter what our circumstances are, a choice that goes beyond what happens to our bodies.  We have a choice of the heart, and anyone can make this choice.  (I agree there might be issues when we come to mental health, but other than that...)

This choice is between love and hate.

You can choose to accept people as they are, flaws, differences, everything.  You can love them regardless of their actions or beliefs.

Or you can hate.  You can blame them, judge, attack and even kill.

I can choose to love the people on the trains, forgive those who don't care about me, understand those who brush past me, and love those who get in my way.

Victims and choose to forgive those who hurt them, and continue to love strangers and believe that good exists.

Those in power can choose to love those in need.

We can choose to love the planet we live on.

Or, we can choose to hate.  We can use tragedy to promote our one sided agenda.  We can wound with our words, and harden our hearts so that it takes a heart attack to wake us up.

We can blame others, force them to change.

Or we can change ourselves.

Yes, I'm looking in the mirror right now.

I'm talking to me, myself and I.

Real peace begins in my heart.  Real love begins in my daily life.

Everything else is just an agenda.

Father, forgive me, for I do not love as I should.  Father, help heal this cholesterol of my soul.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Most important thing I learned in Japan - doesn't make sense

 After living in Japan for a few years or so (you know, like 8) you start to get used to things.  But every now and then you still get these stop-you-in-your-tracks-scratching-your-head-"huh?" moments.

My latest "why?" moment came this week when I was on my way to work.  I'm rushing to catch my train and out of the corner of my eye, I see what I think is the Alamo.  I'm understandably confused.  Why would I see a significant Texas historical landmark in a train station in Japan?  Right?  So it must be something that merely resembles the Alamo, right?  Well, I didn't have time to verify right at that moment, but on the way home I checked, and sure enough, there were at least 3 large posters of the Alamo.

Merry Christmas from the Alamo.

Huh?  Why?

Apparently it's an advertisement for Japanese liquor.  Yep Japanese shochu.  Now of course Texans like alcohol.  But Texans drink things like beer, tequila, gin, whiskey, vodka, beer and beer.  But I'm guessing 90% of Texans don't know what shochu is.


I'll probably never know.

this is an extremely ugly apartment building.  Yeah, I don't know why either.
 And this I think is an important lesson I've learned from living in Japan.  I don't know everything, and not everything makes sense.

And that's life.

I don't understand Japanese perfectly.  I can't read half of what I see.  There are things that just don't make sense.  Logic is a lost art in this country.

I can choose to be frustrated, or I can learn to live with ignorance and confusion.  Trust me, you can get used to it after a while.

Recently, I've been dealing with frustration a lot.  I make mistakes, have bad days, and get ambushed by avalanches of "little things."  I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that giving up is not an option, running away will only change the location of my problems, and God is in control.

I've discovered I'm not a very convincing person.  Note to self, never try to make a career in sales, you will fail.

I don't know what my future will be.  I'm frustrated with where I am in life, (or rather where I'm not, married with children.)  I curse "independence" as loneliness and "freedom" as slavery.  I desire to be bound to something other than myself, to a place or a person.  To be able to give up my identity as an individual for the sake of someone else.  I see friends who I used to be at the same place in life as seemingly jumping ahead while I'm stuck on the same level, aging.  I am not cheese.  I'm not getting better with age.  I long for something concrete to anchor me, yet I chafe because I'm not moving.  I feel trapped in darkness of my own making and circumstances out of my control.

I don't understand.  Things don't make sense.

I am frustrated.

I totally get why people can get so addicted to video games.  If you do everything the right way, make the right choices, do things in the correct sequence, have the right equipment, you can pass the level.

But life doesn't work that way.  Sometimes the people who make the wrong choices, pass the level.  Sometimes people who make the right choices get sent back a level.  Sometimes you never get off the level.

And there is no re-set button in real life.

I really, really wish there was sometimes.

I often find myself falling into the trap of trying to make my faith like a video game.  If I say this prayer the right way, then I will pass this level.  If I follow these rules, then I can level up.  If I'm not leveling up, then I must not be doing something right.  If I do the same things that person who leveled up did, then I should level up too, right?


Faith doesn't make sense.  What worked in one situation doesn't always work in another.  Following all the rules doesn't guarantee happiness.

Life doesn't make sense.

It's not fair.

And I'm wondering around with a permanent "huh?" etched into my face.

But that's ok.  I don't have to understand everything perfectly to keep moving.  I don't have to be perfect to be where I am supposed to be.  I don't have to understand Japanese fluently to live in Japan.  I don't have to understand children perfectly to be a teacher.  I don't have to know what is coming to live.  It's ok if I'm just barely treading water.

That's faith.

If I knew all the answers, and followed all the formulas, that is not faith.

Faith is being confused out of your mind, but still trusting.

Faith is believing that God is good, even when you are frustrated and want to quit.

Faith is trusting that even if I don't have all the correct rules and traditions to follow, Jesus will still love me.

Faith is knowing it's ok to fall down, even in the dark when you can't see what you are falling into.

Faith is not beating yourself up as a failure when things don't work out, because God has already accepted you.

Faith is bigger than things making sense.

So I guess I'm doing a little bit of faith training right now.

Merry Christmas from the land of "huh?"!  I have faith God is working in your life too, even if we don't understand what He's doing.  I bet Mary and Joseph felt the same way many many times.

It doesn't make sense.  But it doesn't have to.