Bound, but not bound

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my Gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.  But the Word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:8-10

 

There is something that always stirs inside my soul when I read those words—But the Word of God is not bound!

Praise God.  It’s powerful, transforming lives… it transformed and transforms my life!  It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, what season we’re in, what’s going on in the world—the Word of God is not bound by anything.

It’s not bound by Coronavirus.  It’s not bound by location.  It’s not bound by governments. It’s not bound by enemies.

The Word of God is not bound.

I was always so awed by this idea that I kinda just stayed in the afterglow of this thought and breezed past the next one.

Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

I endure everything.  Everything.

It prompts a great question—what am I willing to endure for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel?

Am I willing… no, really—am I willing to endure chains for the sake of the Kingdom of God to go forth?

What is my “everything”?

That’s perhaps easier to answer from the comfort of my couch.  Sometimes we romanticize, imagining ourselves in that valiant role, standing solidly on our faith as a gun is pointed at us.

But what if it’s not physical chains we’re bound by?

I’ve been reading some books over the last few months about missionaries and burnout.  One, specifically for women… one, a general book.

Last year at our organization’s conference, we learned that every year, 7000 missionaries leave the field.  Seven thousand.  That’s 20 a day.  Almost one per hour.

As one missionary said, “It’s hard out there.”

In his book, The Mind of a Missionary, David Joannes says,

-In a survey by the Journal of Psychology & Christianity in 1983, 90% of women and 88% of men said they were more stressed working as missionaries than they were beforehand, with women bearing a higher brunt of that stress.

-In 1967, psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, began to study whether stress contributes to illness.  They surveyed more than 5000 medical patients and asked if they had experienced any of a series of 43 stressful life events in the survey in the previous two years.  Each of the units… had a different “weight” for stress.  The patients marked the events that they experienced and tallied their marks to find their overall score.  The higher the score, and the larger they weight of each event, the higher the probability that the patient would become ill….

The original 1967-1970 study found that if a person reached a level of 200 on the scale in a year, the cumulative stress would have consequences for some time to come.  In fact, they found that 50% of those who reached this level were hospitalized within two years.  The reasons included heart attack, diabetes, cancer, and other severe illness.  If a person reached a level of 300, they were almost certain to end up in the hospital within two years.

In 1999, doctors Lois and Larry Dodds of Heartstream Resources began to study the levels of stress on the mission field using a modified version of the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale.  First term missionaries were found to have scores peaking at a whopping 900, while veterans maintained 600-plus year after year….

Joannes goes on to say “…while the average person requires a decent amount of self-care, rest, and rejuvenation, and a person in the danger zone requires even more, a missionary realistically requires a bare minimum of at least 3 times the amount of attention to self-care than the average person.

Now, I don’t know how that’s possible.

But it’s true that the stress is immense at times. I’ve taken the test, which didn’t include half of the things I consider stressful in my life… and my score was around 400.

Specifically for our field, Christ Bible Institute Japan’s Brett Rayl and Michael Oh write, “Serving for years amid great spiritual oppression with little to no apparent spiritual fruit has led numerous missionaries and entire agencies to abandon Japan or transfer the work to another field. Supporting churches and sending agencies have often discouraged missionaries from pursuing ministry in Japan. The words of one recruiter for another mission field summarize the thoughts of many: ‘Japan had its chance.’”

Japan has long been known as a missionary graveyard— not a physical one, but a career graveyard.

Remember those 7000 missionaries that quit a year? Many not only quit the field, they quit their faith.

Again from David Joannes’ book, “Upon crossing cultural, linguistic, and geographic barriers, global missionaries are faced with tremendous and often unforeseen pressures… When asked about the emotional struggles on the mission field, one of my missionary friends, who wishes to remain anonymous, responded with a barrage of one-liners that she confronts: ‘Rejections, betrayal, territorialism, competition, and homesickness.  Guilt of not being with family during crises; guilt over never doing enough or doing well enough, disillusionment and fear of failure… unrelenting standards and unrealistic expectations…”

Whew.  I won’t go on. There’s a lot that could be said and things that have been written that say it better and have more insight than I do.

But in this very real struggle, I’ve learned something about endurance and how it works.

It’s the “why” of it all.

It’s for the sake of those who have yet to hear.  It’s for the sake of His Kingdom.  It’s for Him.

Now, I “knew” all those things before.  And again, in my romantic notions and comfortable setting, it was easy to give the “pat” answer.  But having gone through my own struggles, I’ve learned it.

And I’ll probably have to re-learn it many times.

Hebrews 12 encourages us to run with endurance.  To look at joy that is set before us.  That enabled Christ to endure the cross and triumph in spectacular glory.

To endure, I need to cast my eyes to the glory of God and to the goodness of who He is.  To His triumph that gave me life and allows me to triumph over sin, over distress, over opposition.  It allows me not just to conquer these things, but to be more than a conqueror…. And “having done all, to stand firm.” (Eph 6:13).

I’m not going to give you a spiritual pat answer either, because I despise pat answers as truly unhelpful and often insincere.

There are practical things that need to be done to self-care.  There has to be rest.  There has to be times to cool off your brain and shake all that stress out.  There really needs to be trusted people you can talk frankly with.  Some work needs to be delegated so as to spread the burden out. Stress will fog your ultimate vision and wear you down from running the race. Speaking of running, even in training for a marathon, rest is necessary to both recover and run more effectively.  

So, yes, those things are needed.

But under it all… turn our eyes, Lord, to the “why”.  And then help me to answer my questions.

Am I willing to put up with intense ongoing stress?

Am I willing to face opposition?

Am I willing to trod a seemingly unfruitful field?

And am I willing to put up with all these things that feel like chains for the sake of those who have not yet heard?

 

Lord, though I may be bound, I have your word in my heart, and your Word is not bound.  Help me to be more than a conqueror.  Help my brothers and sisters, wherever they are and in whatever they are going through, to learn patient endurance.   Let us hold to the hope and joy of your glory shown in our lives, conforming us to your image and likeness, and may all who see and hear also put their hope in You.  To YOUR NAME be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

 

Quoted:

The Mind of a Missionary by David Joannes

I also grabbed a few quotes from this article.

 

Anthems of the Season

Life is seasonal.  It’s contrasting. Light and dark.  Mountain and valley.  Short term and long term.  

We’re getting ready to head into the rainy and humid season where it will take days for our clothes to dry on the line. With a newborn and two preschoolers who firmly believe in “playing hard”, I’m a bit concerned that our apartment will soon resemble a dense jungle of uniform shorts, socks and bed sheets hanging from every conceivable ledge and knob.

It’s only seasonal though.

Have you ever had one of those songs that just seems to really say everything that you’re walking through at the time? You know… that one song that just sucker-punches you in your gut and you just give it all to God every single time you hear it?

A few years ago, it was “Oceans” for me. I knew the song but then I walked through a season where God really challenged me to trust Him and the song just broke me every time I heard it. I still remember the goodness of God in that season everytime I hear it.

Well, we’ve been walking through a season. A long, grueling season where at times I intensely longed for quiet, a hot cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer and a porch swing overlooking a picturesque view.

And quiet. Did I mention that?

Every day a battle. Every day discouragement, lies from the enemy. So much to handle with care and caution, precious few things made easy. Every day being kept in the fire, waiting for a Word from the Lord.

Tears.  So many tears.

While my baby was napping and I was cutting quilting pieces the other day (my surprising therapy these days), I was playing worship music in the background. On came a song I hadn’t heard before and- *gut punch*… I’d found the anthem of this season.

“Another in the Fire” by Hillsong seemed to say all that’s been pent up for me. Both a look back at God’s grace and power and a reminder of His presence with me from the beginning.

The last version of the chorus still gets me. Every. Single. Time.

There’ll be another in the fire standing next to me

There’ll be another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding 

How good you’ve been to me

I’ll count the joy come every battle

Cause I know that’s were You’ll be.

Many moons ago in youth group, I heard that apparently in ancient times, the Romans would train their war horses by making them stay put in a fiery building until their trainer released them. They had to hold it out, sweat draining from their bodies, overcome fear and worry and to just fiercely re-focus on orders from their master.

I’ve recalled this so often. But praise God, He’s with me in the fire. He’s always been with me. He’s always been so good. I have to look back and remember. “Remember the signposts,” they told us in missions orientation. Remember the times God spoke, God moved, God did the impossible. “You’ll need that map”, they said.

And we did.

Over the last year, God has continually brought out a theme in my readings. Suffering and glory.  Endurance and the image of God.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. -Romans 8:18

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. -Romans 8:29

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:9

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

These are all just snippets of the rich and deep paragraphs they are part of. I could share a message on each of them, they’ve come to mean so much to me. But there has been a theme. Not one I’ve particularly enjoyed, but one that, beneath all the ash of the dross that is being burned away… somewhere beneath that, I can find joy and strength in.

In my weakness and frailty, and humble and unimpressive form as a jar of clay, I can find the power of God that raised Christ from the dead. And going back to clay…. God’s ultimate work in and through me will be conforming me to His image.

Hudson Taylor, an incredible missionary to China said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence with them.”

And so, as we still face battles and hurdles, we know that, come what may, God will have the ultimate victory, that He will use the hard and painful things to conform me to His image, to develop yet more endurance, and to truly know the power that robbed the grave which is in me and with me.

So, I can count the joy in every battle, in every impossible situation. Because I know He’s with me… and He’s the God that makes paths through the sea (or oceans… if you will!).

Christmas Again

In all the hustle and bustle of December, I am surprised to find that I have a few minutes of peace and absolute quiet in the house.  Vicente took the girls to the park and I finished some errands and have the grand luxury to sit and do something that I’ve been wanting to do for a number of weeks.

I really enjoy reading about personality types, particularly those of my family.  I recently saw a little graphic that said that the comfort zone of my personality was “order, stability, a completed to-do list, knowing your life is under control, and peace and quiet.”

Well, you can’t always have everything, but I’ll take the peace and quiet for now.

It’s a busy season for everyone, and one of my favorites.  I love decorating, baking goods, scarves, warm cups of coffee, Christmas music and parties.  It’s just such a unique, festive and hopeful time of year.

This year, this season has meant taking a new look at faith for me.  I got started a couple years ago doing the Bible in a year, but didn’t begin in January.  So I finished one “lap” through the Bible a couple months ago or so, and finished the Christmas accounts in Luke not too long ago.

Having gone through all the Old Testament and the prophecies especially, I am really reminded of the incredible maneuvering it took to make everything happen.  That sounds like a man-made word- maneuvering– but really it was a supernatural word. Abraham and Sarah having a baby, Rahab becoming part of the lineage of Jesus, Ruth coming from Moab to meet Boaz and become part of the lineage… Mary’s trip to Bethlehem to deliver to fulfill the prophecy… and hundreds more!

There is just so much to marvel at.  As a person who loves details and is interested in how things come together to work, I see such a capable, sovereign hand making this “come to pass”.

God surely has all the events and times of man in His hand.

But I’m also reminded that the players in these prophecies didn’t necessarily see all the necessities of these things.  They didn’t see the end picture.  We see it from a hindsight perspective, with the glib attitudes of “I knew it all along” from a comfortable distance of 2000 years.

But had we been the actual players…?

Almost to my 3rd trimester myself, I would have seen the census as a huge inconvenience and annoyance.  A manger would not have been my ideal “birth plan.” The social shame at being pregnant with the Savior of the world, embarking on a new journey with sneers from neighbors along the way, her prospective match for the future in danger… That’s quite a roller coaster for a pregnant lady.

This verse about Mary just jumped right off the page at me:

“and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 2:45)

Christmas is about the incredible sovereignty and majesty and goodness of our Faithful God. It’s about trusting God to fulfill His Word.

Do I believe that God will fulfill the things He’s spoken to me? 

He didn’t and doesn’t promise that it would be easy.  So, when life is tough and I don’t understand why things are going the way that they are and don’t know how things can work out, I can trust that God has a grand scheme going.  I must be willing to say to the Lord, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

As Mary carried Jesus in her womb, “God with us”, so Jesus has given us His Spirit and has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us.

And as I go along, I see a little snippet into Mary’s tactics: she pondered these things in her heart.  She treasured them up.

We don’t always comprehend what’s going on.  We don’t see how things are going to work.  But we don’t have to.  We can focus on the inconveniences and pain and complain about it all.

Or we can take the trinkets and treasures God gives us in the moment and store it up in our hearts as we have to move forward.

So.  That’s my Christmas reflection this year.  God did amazing things to bring about this Christmas night… hundred of years worth of prophecies fulfilled in a more-than-Disney magical night. But He wasn’t done by any means.

And He’s still not done.  His birth is the reminder of His power. His entrance into our lives is literally “God with us”, our source as the Prince of Peace, confidence of the everlasting Father.

He has a mighty work still to accomplish in and through us.  It’s not going to be easy.  I’m not going to understand.  But I can be confident of a future glory by His grace, as I put my faith in Him and treasure up His goodness in my heart.

 

Video Newsletter

Well, I hope everyone has enjoyed the holiday season!  I just love the wonder that fills the Christmas season.  It’s just such a wonderful season… the hustle, the bustle, the parties, the decorations, the cookies… and a snowy Christmas Day or New Year is just about the best thing I can imagine.

I tolerate winter way before before Christmas and New Year than after.  What about you?Once the afternoon of January 1 rolls around, I’m done with winter and ready to move on.  January always seems to drag along, cold and frozen and unappealing.  I’ve never really liked January, I casually observed to my husband the other day.

I still feel that way, but I’m trying to use this slow, cold time to make sure I’m setting priorities right for the coming year.  We have a lot to do (I feel like I’m always saying that) and get done, a lot to think of and plan for… and even though we’ve been preparing in prayer to bring this year in, it’s been a good time to soak in some good heart-to-heart time with God.  Especially since I spent most of Christmas break at home– Christmas colds made their way around the house.

Anyway!! I came here to post our latest video newsletter.  We’ve been slowly transitioning the way we communicate, hoping to be more effective and let you experience what we’re up to and what it’s like.  We hope you’ll enjoy it!

202 – Japan Insider from NipponAlva on Vimeo.

Christmas Socks and Cell Phones

It’s been a looooong time since I posted on here.  But you’ve been on my mind.  Tonight, I have a few minutes and my brain is still in semi-functioning condition.

Part of what has been keeping me away was a major (for me, at least) project that I was working on– a bilingual children’s church curriculum for next year, with a ton of resources that all had to be edited, put together and even produced.  No, I didn’t translate it– my networker-extraordinaire friend Kayo hooked me up with a friend to work on this project.  This has been a naptime and all-night project, pretty much every day for the last 7 months.

There will be more about that later, in newsletters and such.  It’s really cool, and it seems like the Lord is opening doors for it.

But the other thing that has been keeping me away is just LIFE.  Life with kids, life with your spouse takes time and commitment.  But living life here, with kids, a spouse, ministry and a long list of must-dos that you wouldn’t expect to fall under that job title– it just takes up every last minute and every last brain cell.

Not complaining.  It’s God’s grace that allows us to be here.  It’s also just a matter of prioritizing what can realistically get done in 24 hours and letting other things fall to the side.

For example, I just got back from spending over an hour at the phone store.  Our contract is ending and we have to decide what to do next– what’s the most economic route.  We’d been trying to go all week, but something would always come up.  I knew I needed to go alone to focus, so I put dinner on the table and snuck out the front door, leaving my husband to watch the girls.

The sweet girl behind the desk took her time to explain the system to me and what my options were.  Sometimes she’d explain, I’d say ok….. Then I’d squint my eyes, look at what she wrote, pause, think some more, wait for the full connection to happen and then say, OH. Ok. But at the end, I did understand everything.

However, it took me only 15 minutes to explain it to my husband when I got home.  There’s a big disparity of time there.

Last week, my daughter’s teacher called.  Our conversation went something like this.

Teacher: Hi, This is so and so teacher from school.  Is now a good time to talk?

Me: Yes!

Teacher: Ok.  This week at school, ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  ROSALYN ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Christmas sock ~~~~~Fill it with candy~~~~ Sorry it’s so late ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is this ok?

Me: A Christmas sock (stocking)?

Teacher: Yes

Me: So I need to send a Christmas sock to school with Rosalyn.

Teacher: Yes, please.  Sorry it’s so late to ask for it.

Me: Ok, so what size do you need?

Teacher: Well, the bigger the better.

Me: Ok, when do you need it by?

Teacher: We’re going to work on it on Friday, so can you send it tomorrow? I’m so sorry it’s so late.

Me: Yes, I will send it with her tomorrow.  Thank you.

Teacher: Thank you.

 

Roughly end of the conversation.  I look at the clock, load up the kids on the bike and head up to the dollar store to buy a Christmas stocking before dinner. Rosalyn picks it out, we stand in an unending line with a toddler who wants to rearrange every item in the store, and finally head home.  I debate where to write her name on it, fold it up nicely to put in her bag and clear my brain of the task.

The next day, my husband comes in from picking our daughter up from the bus station.

“The teacher [another teacher on the bus] says you need Christmas paper for tomorrow.”

“Christmas paper?  What for? What kind?  How big?”

“I don’t know.  She got really nervous and couldn’t really explain it.”

Thankfully, right about that moment, my neighbor chimes in my phone with a message.  “I heard the conversation Vicente had with the teacher explaining that you need to bring [wrapping] paper from the dollar store to make a Christmas stocking tomorrow.  I’m sorry you brought the wrong thing. I have a lot here, please use mine if you want.”

And I think, Good, because I don’t have time to go to the store again today!

So, she knocks on my door early the next day to let Rosalyn pick which paper she wants.  I thank her multiple times and formulate a plan for repayment thanks– you always, always, always reciprocate any kindness. For repayment thanks, that weekend I bake her some sweets and deliver them to her door.  She returns the plate in a bag the next day, along with some juice boxes.  Her little repayment thanks.

There’s just a lot of little things like this that pile up and create long to-do lists that never end.  It takes time to make sure we understand correctly, to do what’s asked of us, to figure out how to respond, to plan events, connect with people, make decisions about budgeting and taxes in two countries and how to balance and make the most of the framework we’re working in, pray and plan for future ministry endeavors, do newsletters, study, etc. etc. etc. etc.  (there’s no particular order to this list, btw– and it doesn’t even include family life).

So, that’s where we are.

Now that some big projects are closing up for the year, I’m looking forward to Christmas break and hopefully a little rest for our brains before preparing for 2019.

We are really praying for what the Lord has for 2019– so please pray for us and for guidance from the Lord and that we will be bold and courageous and see this land for Him!

 

 

School Mom in Training

We’re well into the preschool year here.  It’s created a whole new set of routine life for us.  Rosalyn enjoys it immensely and comes home, repeating the phrases and songs she’s learned, hundreds and hundreds of times over.  I’m amazed now, watching her interactions with the other kids at the bus stop and the kids at church.  She uses what she knows and isn’t afraid to try anything, anywhere.  She’s even occasionally called me “Okaasan” (mom), which gave me a double turn.

Speaking of Okaasan life… boy, it’s a new dynamic!  I am so thankful for our neighbors– my next-door neighbor’s older child is a 3rd year preschooler and enters 1st grade next year.  So, she’s beginning the process of preparing for her son to enter elementary.  To that end, I’ve been with her when she’s stopped another mom in the complex to ask about rules and “how-tos” of elementary school.  Yet another mom in our building was asking recounting her experience searching for a “randoseru” (bookbag) for her daughter– that she will use during the 6 years in elementary school.

As you can imagine, the bookbag with such a life as this, comes with a price tag– anywhere from $300-$800.

I had to take a deep breath after writing that sentence.

So, 9 months in advance and moms are already looking for the right randoseru.  I asked about a certain store close by where I’d seen bags in the $300s and I kinda got the squinty -eyed blah look about their styles.  Mental note to mark that down as “not cool”.  Apparently the decent ones should run us some $600.

Anyway, that’s the future.  We’ll start saving now, but that’s the future.

There’s a lot to pay attention to for school right now.  I frequently reference the file folder bin on my refrigerator that has all the paperwork sent home from school throughout the week.  Every month I have get a paper with the list of dates that I need to know.

Ok, kids are having dental checks on this day.  She needs her toothbrush packed.  They’re doing water play on Tuesday and Thursday this week– she needs her specified pool bag with towel and swimsuit.  Bento days are also on Tuesday and Thursdays.  I must do laundry as soon as she gets home on Fridays so that all her bags and shorts, uniforms, socks, towels and handkerchiefs are clean and ready to be sent Monday morning.  (We don’t have a drier, so I can’t wait until the last minute to wash things).  Parent-teacher meeting on this day.  This form needs to be filled out and sent to school with her by this day.  Money for this must be signed, stamped and sent to school with her on that day.

Occasionally, I get emails from the school with important announcements or happenings.  For example, the kids at school grew cucumbers and eggplant (which Rosalyn points out at the grocery store every time now) and they made some kind of soup for the kids.  That’s pretty cool!

I have a Bus Stop Group on the messaging app we use here.  In the group, the 4 of us moms let each other know if our child is sick, will be absent for X reason or if we’ll take them directly to school that day.  The other moms will communicate that to the bus helper, who communicates that to the school.  Although– if it’s a school lunch day, I have to call the school too.

I also have a Class Moms Group.  We have 3 moms who are official… somethings… in the class.  They help organize something, though I don’t recall exactly what.  One thing they are doing though is organizing a group lunch for all us moms of that class, which is next week.  One mom reserved the spot and sent us the menu and we had to reply with our order and if we were bringing younger children.  So, we’ll see how that goes!

Back to the bus stop.  We typically gather about 10 minutes before the bus is expected.  So, it’s 20 minutes a day to chat with the other moms, which is a great chance to learn and develop more friendships as well.

It’s very interesting how everything works.  I feel mostly like I have the hang of things, though that’s in big part thanks to my neighbor and another class mom at our bus stop.  I see how the cultural dynamic of “sempai-kohai” works.  It’s kinda like a mentor-mentee system, but a lot stronger.  I can feel the kohai-ness of my position.  I feel like the system in general can be so complicated that this dynamic of sempai and kohai are necessary.  It’s a lot of food for thought as I explore this dynamic in a personal but still informal way.

Well, it’s time to head to the bus stop to pick up my kiddo.  Sayonara for now!

Preschool Prep… my part time job

I stood in front of the rack of plastic-wrapped packages, one hand on my forehead, one holding the open book in front of me.  I glanced up and studied the rack.  I looked back down and studied the book.

Five minutes later, the scene was the same, only my kiddos were nearing the end of their patience.  I looked around and spotted a lady with an elementary-aged kid.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t work here.”

“I know, but you have a kid.  [awkward pause] Can you help me?”

I had a whole list of things to buy, some of the packages looked like they might match the pictures in my book, but without labels, I couldn’t confirm. Everything made sense to all the Japanese moms, who knew instinctively what they were but I was at a loss as to why I needed so many separate bags.  On some of them, the measurements and shapes mattered.  Some didn’t.

I bought what I could confirm I needed and texted my neighbor on the walk home.  A few days later, she helped me figure out what all I would need, what fabrics were used for what types of bags and where I could pinch pennies and just get it at the dollar store.

Gee whiz!  The next couple of weeks were spent at the sewing machine we borrowed, sewing labels onto my kid’s uniforms and even writing names on socks, shoes and undergarments.  The socks (I was advised to go dark colors) needed a special white oil pen and were best written on the arch of the foot, but as it wears out easily– I was warned I’d be forever doing this.

After finally redoing her uniform jacket’s sleeve adjustments multiple times, I finally called it a season and started to put away the pile that had become “school stuff”.

I began to look to the Entrance Ceremony.  I was expected to wear a first-lady looking suit, with a corsage.   Spring colors are chic for entrance ceremonies, black is better for graduations.  Store that somewhere in my mental file cabinet of pertinent particulars. My husband would need a suit and tie for the occasion.  I added these things to my checklist.  Incidentally, I just learned that the corsage is not a real flower but a fake flowery thing… most of them too phoo-phoo for me.

I sat with our instruction booklet and a lady from church who went through each page with me.

“On Mondays, you’ll take all these bags.  You put this, this, and that in this bag and the rest go on that bag.  On Wednesdays, the towels (with the little loop you sewed to the center) will come home; wash it and send another back on Thursdays.  School lunch is Monday, Wednesday and Fridays; you pack a lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Still, go ahead and send the cup/bag each day because the kids get thirsty. Notes home from the teacher will come in this pocket.  Check it everyday. You can send notes to the teacher in the same pocket on this type of paper; don’t call the school except for X, Y or Z reasons.  The school will withdraw the money from your account right around the first of the month, so make sure it’s deposited.”

The specifications went on and on.

Thankfully, in all this process, it’s been so wonderful to have a lady from our church and my next-door neighbor to help answer the many questions I come up with.

This morning, I spent 30 minutes searching in near panic for one of the pins I’m supposed to put on her jacket. I stopped, prayed, and happened to look down at the book and read right at the spot where it said I would receive this pin at the entrance ceremony.

Whew.  Did I mention I had a dream in February sometime that it was the first day of school and I had done none of these preparations and my kid was the only one standing out completely unprepared?

Yeah, I had that dream.  It was occasioned by a note in the instruction booklet saying that kids experience a terrible shock when they realize they don’t have what they need and everyone else has– so please be careful to make sure you prepare your child well.

Yeah.

Well, I think we are all ready for tomorrow.  Rosalyn certainly is, and I think that’s the main point.  After months of preparation, I think we’re ready to embark on this first leg of the journey that is full-time school life in Japan.

Home, in a nutshell (part 2)

The day before our trip home, during the trip home and even a few days after arriving back in Japan, our three year old let us know several times just how happy and excited she was to be going back home.  When I asked why, she would always answer, “Because Japan”.

I suppose that’s a good enough answer.  I’m sure we’ll realize it more as the girls get older, but we can start to see different ideas forming in their heads.  For us, home is here, of course.  But home is in America.  That concept is fluid for us, at times.  But for the girls, home is here in Japan.  Here is where their friends are, their lives are.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy the time in our “home”, but here is where home is for them.

Even our [now] one year old woke up on her first morning back in her room.  Vicente tells me she was smiling and laughing the whole time, looking around and didn’t know what to play with first. She knew she was home.

I don’t know anything about this though.  After counting down the minutes from 11.5 hours, we got off the plane, and I had one of the worst headaches– migraines– ever.  But we made it. I took a drivers-license-worthy photo for the immigration desk, grabbed our lonely, waiting luggage off the side of the claims area and made it out the official doors to Japan.

Then, we had 10 minutes to make it from the upstairs bus ticket counter to the downstairs bus stop with 6 suitcases, 7 carry-ons, a stroller and two kids who weren’t exactly feeling the rush.  We came home, after a hectic hour in which we put screaming kids to bed and ravaged through suitcases to find the immediate necessaries (re-set up the monitors, wash the bottles, where are everyone’s pajamas?, quick, let’s make the beds!), I went to bed at 7:30pm on Friday night and got up at 8am on Sunday morning.  There were a few brief periods of consciousness, but they were few and far between, riddled with fever and chills and the voice of a bullfrog.

Welcome home!  Love, the flu XOXO

Sunday morning, we made precious cups of coffee and when the kids began to make noise, we went in to find a baby with a fever and snot everywhere and a 3 year old who have vomited in the middle of the night and now had diarrhea.

Fantastic.

Thus proceeded the next few days as the flu took over our apartment and we went into quarantine, as much as possible.

Except, that is, when I got a call from Rosalyn’s preschool letting me know I desperately needed to go in to pick up paperwork.  I knew about this, but explained that we all had the flu.  Apparently, that wasn’t as important as picking up the paperwork and opening an account at this certain bank so we can pay her tuition. With a sigh, I agreed to pick up the paperwork on Tuesday when Vicente got home from a meeting and could watch the kids.

With barely a voice and mask donned amid snow piles, I picked up a giant bag of school uniforms and lots of papers.  I sifted through them at home to figure out what was important and realized that surprise! today was the deadline to turn in all bank paperwork and forms on Rosalyn’s personality and health history, as well as other necessary forms for schooling. No wonder they were in such a hurry to have me pick this stuff up.

Great. So, Vicente called the pastor and literally an hour and a half later, was beginning the process of opening a bank account for the purpose of paying the school.  Two hours later, he rushed home and I finished up the paperwork while he printed a picture I’d just snapped on my phone of our daughter.  Quick!  Grab a gluestick and paste it to the form!

I grabbed my coat, ran outside, jumped on my flying carpet bike and peddled my hiney off to the school.  Six minutes before the deadline, I turned in all the paperwork, came home and collapsed.

Apparently, we’re back to Japan, where deadlines wait for no one– especially not moms with the flu.

I think we’re fully recovered now and can begin the process of figuring out life again.  Besides a surprising lot of official things that have to be taken care of over the next several weeks, we have to re-adjust to life again and all our old relationships and cram our unpacked suitcases back into the nooks and crannies of our apartment.

Because, we’re home again.