Wednesday Mush

When I get home on Wednesday afternoons, I’m usually not good for much but to put my toddler down for a nap and climb in bed myself for an hour. This nap time is the deepest I sleep all week long. 

So, what is it I do on Wednesday mornings?  A simple two-hour discussion group on the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala.

That’s not so bad, you’re thinking.

You’re right.  It’s a great time– we worship together, discuss and read Scripture, pray together and then have lunch that we’ve all brought along.

It’s very enjoyable- I love it- and I’m excited to see faces that are encouraged, light bulbs that come on, hearts that are challenged and hear testimonies how God is changing their lives.

But I’m not of any use after that– because it’s all in Japanese. 

There are a lot of hours that go into the preparation.  First I read the chapter in English and then read in Japanese.  I underline words I can’t read and then I spend time going back and looking up all the kanji (I’m not gonna lie, it’s not fascinating work). Then I go back and highlight portions, etc., that might be good to quote for reference (I don’t have the ability yet to easily scan a page to find what I am looking for quickly).

Next comes the discussion questions, which we already have from the book. The process is similar to above. 

Pray.  Pray a lot for wisdom to lead it and hear what God wants to share– an encouraging story or verse to start off with. Translate that.  Pray.  A lot more.

Each time I lead (I co-lead with another Japanese girl– she has toddlers too and so we go every other week), I ask for favor (mercy) from the Japanese, because I know that sometimes they have to put 2 and 2 together to make 4. We joke about question marks pinging above their heads when I’ve said something particularly confusing. The good thing about not being super competent yet is that God gets the glory for anything good that comes out of it. And usually, there are times when I feel like God just flows through me and communicates with ease what He wants to say- it’s literally not me and I seem to be aware of this in the moment. It’s usually something that I hadn’t planned ahead of time and these are my favorite moments of all.  Today I had one of those moments. It’s so cool to see God at work and to be a part of that. 

As an aside, I don’t always recommend leading without language competency.  It’s important, especially when sharing the Gospel and with a new Christian that we share with competency and clarity in the language– not only because the Gospel is worth the effort and care, but so that we can correctly lay the foundation. 

The weeks that I don’t lead are spent in preparation for the next time that I do.  And during those meetings, I quietly translate to English for the one participant that doesn’t speak Japanese (during the weeks that I lead, I do the English for myself too, but my co-leader translates people’s comments to English).

By mid-lunch, smoke can be seen drafting from my ears.

I’m excited to hear some of what God is doing though.  When I see the ladies throughout the week, I hear comments like-

-I really took what I learned to heart- I realized that I haven’t been waiting for God to respond.  I just pray and dash on about my day.  The next time I prayed [after that meeting], I stopped to be quiet and wait for the Lord.

-It’s actually pretty exciting to just talk to God about any little thing throughout the day.

There are others but I can’t recall right now. 

It’s good to know that God can the weak things of the world to do what He wants to do in the hearts of His people.  

Human Ants

So I haven’t forgotten my promise that I would post about the moving company.

I know you’re all dying to read all the details. ūüėČ

But it is a new experience for us, and a facet of living in Japan! ¬†And hey, that’s part of what this blog is about!

We realized that we would need a moving company early on in the process. We realized that we didn’t have the man power to get all of our stuff downstairs and into a new place– nor did we have a truck.

I had no idea about moving companies- but I had heard that they offer all kinds of services, including a company packing up all your things, moving it and then unpacking it for you in your new location. ¬†I hear now that they do also offer this service in the States. ¬†I wouldn’t have known– I’ve always done it the cheap way. BUT of course the rich and famous can afford to have someone take care of it all for them… I can’t really see celebrities packing their own boxes.

So. One night on the train coming home from Tokorozawa, I googled in Japanese about moving companies and came up with some page that should give you quotes once you put in all the furniture you own. ¬†I filled out the form, clicked “receive your quotes” or the equivalent thereof, and literally within 5 minutes, I already have 7 emails from different companies and about 5 phone calls. ¬†Now this was about 10:30 at night.

I was on the train and answering your phone is a big no-no. I let a huge breath blow through my teeth, turned the silencer on and said, “I’ll figure this out tomorrow”.

But this is basically what the next week looked like. ¬†Phone calls every day, all day long. I did answer one. ¬†And during the conversation, I thought I was asking them to call me back the next day between 1 and 3 because I would have a friend who could speak better Japanese and help me out. ¬†I found out the next day that they had actually come to our apartment to do a consultation of some sort. But we weren’t home.

I don’t know where I missed that whole facet of the conversation, but apparently I did.

Finally, Vicente had a friend help him schedule about 3 companies to come do in-house consultations.  They came, they looked in closets, made notes, pulled out calculators while we sat waiting on the couch. They showed us whole catalogs about their companies, talked about why they were the most secure company, offered us deals if we accepted right then and there.  They pulled out tiny little printers to print us their quotes.

From one company, we received a “gift box” of cleaning spray and rags. ¬†From another company, a bag of rice. ¬†The quality of it was actually pretty good. From another company, we received nothing.

Humph.  See if we hire you guys!

And we felt the awkward foreigner moment (I wonder how Japanese feel in these moments) when the sales guy bowed multiple times for about 5 seconds in position.

Seriously, what do we do during that whole time?  We just kinda looked at each other questioningly.

At any rate, we contracted a company that we felt most secure and had the best deal. I was a wee bit nervous to make a decision, but we later heard from some Japanese that they were impressed that we got such a good deal with a great company. Ari-san (for short) is the name of the company.  Literally it means Mr. Ant.

Boxes and stuffing and tape was delivered to our door and the packing began.

We did have to get the AC unit we had bought for Rosalyn’s room uninstalled, which required a phone call and scheduling before moving and scheduling reinstallation. Not too painful, but I’ll admit that I was wary to answer the phone not being sure what company was going to be calling me.

The actual moving part was pretty amazing! They came in, checked that we had it all packed and what was awaiting them, we paid and then the ants invaded.

Not only did they set up foam walls to protect both apartments, but they took their shoes off coming in EACH TIME and put elastic blankets over every item of furniture.  I waited awkwardly inside while they RAN in and out and up and down stairs. They were sweating.  Vicente and Rosalyn waited downstairs by the moving truck, Rosalyn directly them to be careful with her things.

It took them about an hour to load everything.  We closed up the house and took the train to the new apartment. Unloading, we directed them what rooms each thing went in, how we wanted our living room set up and other things.  One mover kindly gave Rosalyn back her tricycle to play with.

Overall, the beginning was stressful, especially if you aren’t sure of the terms and conditions of things in another language. ¬†Not to mention the overwhelming typhoon of phone calls from companies. ¬†Did I mention we had a full-fledged actual typhoon come through the day before moving? Yes, yes we did have one.

But once that was accomplished, the actual moving day was made so easy (thank you Lord for perfect weather!). They were unbelievably fast, incredibly careful and very efficient.

We just had to unpack after that. And convince a 2 year old that this is her new home.

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since we’ve moved. ¬†Rosalyn is adjusted and loves being about to pound down the hall, with no worries for us of disturbing our neighbors downstairs. ¬†We’re almost fully past the phase of “have you seen such and such??” ¬†But it’s great to be in our new place. ¬†We’re so thankful!

It feels like home.

Faith: The Glorious and Gruesome

We’re back! ¬†Sorry for the lengthy absence, but we’ve been moving and getting settled and all that that entails… We do have some follow-up posts on that, but first I want to spill out my thoughts on the table so as to organize them all.

Today my NT reading came from Hebrews 11. ¬†And probably like you, I’ve read it a few hundred times. ¬†Even a whole play was inspired in my heart by it (well, technically Heb. 12:1 was the inspiration). But today what really struck me was vs. 39-40:

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

I blame it on being pregnant, but this made me a little blubbery this morning.

I mean, c’mon! These are the heroes of the faith! ¬†The Hall of Faith. ¬†We talk about them at church, we look deeper at their lives, books are written about them. But they are the forerunners, they’ve passed the baton to us, inspired us with their race– but their finish line was not where ours is. ¬†They looked forward to seeing all that we have seen, first and foremost Christ’s triumphant salvation for mankind.

The beautiful and absolutely humbling realization is that God included us in this continuing story.

These stories of faith are the things movies are made of. Check out vs. 33-35a: who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,¬†quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.¬†Women received back their dead by resurrection.”

Can’t get much more epic than that. ¬†These are the stories we love, that make us want to shout a war cry.

But then you keep reading: Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. ¬†Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.¬†They were stoned, they were sawn in two,¬†they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated‚ÄĒ¬†of whom the world was not worthy‚ÄĒwandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.¬†

39¬†And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40¬†since God had provided something better for us,that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

These are the gruesome, grueling stories– the ones we don’t necessarily introduce to our children. ¬†Some of these faith stories deal with serious sacrifice. ¬†Sure, Abraham’s story is one of adventure into a new land (which I can relate to)… but his faith and obedience to God meant leaving what he was familiar with. ¬†Moses’ obedience cost him comfort and prestige and caused him exhaustion and frustration at times.

Today, Christians all across the globe are facing persecution (and I’m not talking “childish”:¬†they make fun of me…)– unspeakable torture, loss of family and home, death– for their faith alone. How much more for those who are actively engaged in ministry? And then when they get out of prison, they go right back to their race.

I think about this a lot. ¬†Particularly since we are serving overseas… but in a pretty safe country. ¬†That doesn’t mean it’s easy, by any means. But I’m not facing the pressures of worrying for the life of my little girl. ¬†But could God call us there? ¬†He could. ¬†And how would I weigh the cost of my obedience? ¬†I have friends of a friend who purposefully decided not to have children, because of the area they are serving in overseas. ¬†May their spiritual children be like the sand on the seashore, they make me want to cry.

Still, going back to the verses, we are in it together with them too to make His salvation known throughout the world.  They are our brothers and sisters, and many times their stories are the gruesome side. Since they are our contemporaries, we need to encourage them in their race and pray hard for them.

That’s a slight rabbit-trail, but I feel like Hebrews 11 is not just in there to give you a pat on the back reminder to have faith. ¬†It is, but if you look closer, it’s sandwiched between calls to endurance with a nice soppy layer of grueling suffering in the middle.

Hebrews 10:32-39–¬†But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,¬†sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.¬†For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. ¬†Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. ¬†For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ¬†For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;¬†but my righteous one shall live by faith,¬†and if he shrinks back,¬†my soul has no pleasure in him.‚Ä̬†But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

Hebrews 12:1-3–Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,¬†looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.¬†Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

I guess to wrap up… we are together in this. We run a race. ¬†Our forerunners are a source of cheerleading for us, in the glorious and the gruesome stories. ¬†We have a goal in our race, to get as many people to join the race with us as we can… to make Him known and hasten His return!

What are the obstacles and considerations in this race? ¬†What are the things we weigh? Do those things become weights? ¬†What holds us back? Is it our home or our American dream? Is it our kids? ¬†Is it fear? Is it family? I’ve had people I respect tell me they wouldn’t let their kids go on the mission field. ¬†Why not? ¬†Are they more important than obedience and faithfulness to God?

I don’t write these things lightly. ¬†I’ve paused with heaviness at many ones. ¬†Any of these things could stumble my race. ¬†My eyes must be on Jesus. Is He worth giving any or all of these things up? ¬†Is He worth my story becoming a gruesome (yet ultimately glorious) one?

Again, a heavy pause.

And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. v. 6

Now faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. v.1

FaithРassurance that He is worth it all.  He is our reward. The conviction that the reward will come, the harvest will be reaped, even if it is not seen.  Even if none of my dreams can be seen, the promise of His Word is faithful.  He is faithful.

And in the glorious and gruesome stories, HE IS FAITHFUL. He is the rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. And Hebrews 11 is not the stories of the great, it’s the stories of God’s faithfulness that somehow, by His incomprehensible grace, extend to us.

So, let’s throw off our weights and considerations and run.