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.

Advertisements

Home, in a nutshell (part 1)

I’m currently standing back in the flight attendants’ kitchen area bouncing my baby to sleep while on our trek across the Pacific. It’s been a good and exhausting trip— 6 plane rides for a total of 30ish hours crossing the skies, many hugs, way too much food and an ever fluid schedule.

Everyone asks how our vacation is going. “Vacation” is a debatable choice of words— something which our missions pastor and we laughed about just a couple days ago in his office.

I don’t really know how to describe trips back home now that we have kids. There’s a whole new spectrum both we and our kids go through on these trips.

We are house guests (well cared for, by the way). So we mind our Ps and Qs and are thankful that our wonderful hosts use ear plugs for our middle of the night rendezvouses (sp??) with our kids.

It’s a new acclimation to the American way of life.  Finishing laundry in 2 hours is something that will never get old.  I secretly doubt people who tell me they love to line dry their clothes.  Clearly, they’ve never hung wet clothes in the winter and waited days for it to dry.  Besides, drier-dried clothes are so much softer.  And my jeans go back to their correct shape. 🙂

We’ve been gone for 3 years now, and while our hosts ask us if there’s anything we’d like from the grocery store– I find myself trying to recall what American grocery stores actually have in them! They’re huge though.  HUGE.

Both our kids went through bodily changes during their stay. A change of diet, new foods left little tummies unhappy. And— all American formulas are apparently enhanced with iron, which required us to figure out solutions for.

Pedialyte: life saver for both our kids. I think I will buy it first thing off the plane in the future. Maybe in bulk.

New schedules, new beds.

New people! Many of whom know them, but aren’t known by them.

Reuniting with grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins. Sometimes facilitating that relationship was hard and painful. Sometimes it was easy. We made quite a scene at the airport when my almost 4 year old clung to grandma, saying she didn’t want to leave, she wanted to stay or go together.  We held up the security line as we sniffled and got our tickets and documents together and tried to do the right thing for everyone involved.

This same four year old everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, asked for our schedule. “Where are we going mommy?” “Are there friends there?” I think her having a grasp on the schedule for the day was her way of feeling in control of her new environment.

New names. We joke because everyone she referred to as “hey guys”.

But overall it was an enjoyable experience. Not without many considerable difficulties— imagine a screaming, sick baby for hours on end on a flight. Or the many hours spent after the kids went to bed preparing diaper bags and activity bags and extra clothes and baby food and formula and carriers and whatever souvenir gifts or paperwork needed for the next day.

Supply lists, choosing when to run errands.

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

That’s one of those good things (coffee and creamer…. what a dreamy concoction!). We had lots of great fellowship with people, great events, and so much love and support from people. People were so kind and understanding toward our kids. Many times, trusted friends would entertain our kids (when they allowed it) during events or at church missions tables.

And we survived. We learned. We grew through it.

And we thank our home communities for their love and support, to make our “not so vacation “ a very enjoyable trip.

Absence and Order

Sorry for the long absence.  Honestly, for the last two months or so, I’ve just completely crossed the blog off of my mental list of things to keep track of.

Wherever you are, life is busy.  However, sometimes I feel like living in another country means that “basic living” is another part-time/full-time job.  Then throw in kids, household responsibilities, ministry, and practical correspondence on its multitudes of levels and you’ve filled in every single hour of your day.

I don’t say that to ask for pity or ring my own bell– I’m rather just explaining that some things… many things… I’ve had to cut from my list of things to think about. The blog– as much as I enjoy writing– has been one of those cut things… for the time being.  I’ve read that for a blog to be viable, you need to post 2-3 times a week.

Whelp.  That can’t happen in this season.  But I will post, as theme and energy allow.  🙂

I’ve found a personal strategy for ordering our life so we aren’t swimming in chaos.  I’m not good in chaos.  I feel it’s of the Lord– and He totally does these things.  I feel like He just drops these things in my brain.  It’s happened so many times lately– just the wisdom of the Lord– the creative plan of the Lord will drop into my mind and all the pieces just instantly come together.

A few months ago I wrote down a list of all our responsibilities.  Like, everything.  It was intimidatingly long to us.  Then I tried to start prioritizing them in my mind and figuring out a way to live that reflects those priorities.  There’s so many necessary things pulling in so many directions! But throw in a couple babies and all goes to the wayside.  Something sturdy but flexible was needed.

So I’ve alighted on having scheduled “theme days”.  For example:

Mondays- grocery shopping for the week, family time and household needs

Tuesdays- Rosalyn’s English preschooling done by yours truly during baby’s morning nap

Wednesdays- An extra English preschool day; Ministry needs that have to be addressed and other errands; doctors appointments

Thursdays- Meeting up with Japanese contacts– usually moms

Fridays-  Rosalyn’s Japanese preschool and preparation for Home Fellowship

I’ve given up on the weekends.  They’re nonstop.  This isn’t rigid–it revolves around the kids and their needs.  Sometimes I have to rearrange, but this schedule has really helped bring some order to the ocean of to-dos and people who want or need our time.  And– it’s just what works for us.  I’m not trying to sell it.

 

I keep a list on our refrigerator of major things that need to be worked on after the kids go to bed, etc. There’s usually 1-2 major projects a month that I’m working on.  In the coming months, 3-4 a month– and none of those are negotiable– they just have to get done.

This stuff is just my schedule– it’s not even my husband’s schedule.  I have no idea how he keeps up with it all! His schedule is much more demanding.

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me (or us), that’s what’s going on.  We’d appreciate your prayers.  For wisdom, for energy, for endurance, for more of the Lord’s working in us and the lives around us.  Also, please don’t feel like you shouldn’t drop us a line if the mood strikes you.  Actually, we need to hear from people!  Sometimes it takes us a while to get back.  We (and probably most missionaries) have few people who reciprocate communication, and though we can be late to reply, those emails touch a special part of our hearts.  It might not seem like much to you, but it does mean a lot to us.

Well…  Baby is up for a middle of the night feeding so…  Gotta scoot!

Vision: The Art of Sight

Vision: “the faculty or state of being able to see” and “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.”

One of the topics of conversation that has buzzed around our household significantly over the last two years has been the topic of vision.  We’ve approached it from every angle.. what it is, what is isn’t, is it good, is it bad, how you form it, where it comes from, ad infinitum etc.

We maintain that vision is absolutely necessary– that a clear idea of direction and method is necessary for the growing and successfully functioning minister/ministry.  It does not inhibit being led by the Spirit but is a result of it.  The direction will inform the method, but it doesn’t work the other way around– that’s how you build up religion and create a slow death of your ministry.  To develop vision, the general answer you’ll need to provide is to the statement: “describe the final product/fruit that will be produced through such and such ministry”.

Per our discussions… and convictions… here is what vision is not:

-A haphazard thing— it’s not… or rather ought not to be… something that is produced because one thinks “oh… we probably need a vision statement”.  It’s not a pretty collage of words because we want to justify what we’re doing or because we want to impress or excite people with what we’re doing.

-A Self-decided thing— If we live by faith, walk by faith, walk with the Lord, then we do not walk by our own understanding or reasoning.  Vision, because it is such an all-encompassing thing like sight, ought first to come from the Lord.  We do not decide.  We pray, ask, wait and listen. We experience His guiding, in whatever way He guides you… since we’re all different.  But it will certainly reflect and clearly exemplify and in no way contradict or preferentially interpret Scripture.

-It’s not about what you can accomplish. Name one time in the Bible that the Lord gave someone a task that they could do on their own.  … … Right?And if it were all about what you could do, you’d get all the glory.

So, vision is purposeful and is about glorifying God.  It ought to be from the Lord and it will certainly be bigger than what you can accomplish on your own or by yourself.

Here’s what vision does:

-It informs your decisions. If God has called you or has given you vision, then you’ll make the practical decisions that will keep you focused on the path God is leading you on. For example, the apostles delegated work in Acts 6 because they knew they were to dedicate themselves to the Word and to prayer (v.4). Granted, He does things that are counter-intuitive at times.  I knew that God was eventually calling me to Asia, but I felt His leading for missions training in Mexico.  What came of that?  Well, I married a Hispanic man (after I ended up in Asia, by the way).  He wanted to give me tools and experience that I’d need for the future.

-It motivates you (and others) to give your best.   As a leader, not having a clear vision with a focus on glorifying and obeying and walking with our God to a specified destination together, you will- at best- produce a bunch of apathetic, but sincere, people… or initially zealous, but eventually discouraged people.

-It keeps you from putzing around.  God is a God of plans.  He’s always had a plan, He’s always doing things. We don’t know it all, but He usually gives people clues as to what He’s doing in the Bible. We are to have ears to hear and be wise as to what the Lord is doing.  Vision from the Lord will keep us from idleness.

Vision is not a mystical thing.  Let’s go back to the first definition of vision: “the faculty or state of being able to see”.  That’s pretty down to earth, right? Vision is sight.  Here, it’s seeing with the eyes of faith.  Not what you want to see– that’s called delusion.  But it’s what God wants to see, how He intends things to be.

I think this can be found all over Scripture.  There’s more I’ll post on this in the future, but at the moment, Ephesians 4:11-16 comes to mind.  It’s full of all these things talked about here– description of the final fruit, method, function, destination, what it’s not, etc.

 

 

So… if you’re looking for vision, for what the Lord has for you and what the Lord has for your life, ministry, marriage, parenting etc…. I’d recommend the following course of action:

  1. “What does the final product/fruit look like?” Propose this question to the Lord.  Pray.  Wait.  Listen.  Search the Scriptures.  Rinse and Repeat.  Don’t rush.
  2. As so many were instructed to do in the Scriptures: write down the vision.
  3. Submit it to the Lord and repeat step 1.
  4. Ask the Lord, “Ok, Lord, how are we going to get there?” and “What do you want me to do/how am I to obey your voice?”
  5. Trust the Lord.
  6. Give it your all.  Be faithful in everything.

Of a Piece or All to Pieces

Tonight, I sat rocking our little baby back to sleep.  I was thinking about how different her and our older daughter are.

Rosalyn sucked her thumb.  No matter how many times I’ve tried, I cannot get Eliana to suck hers– she likes her binky.

Rosalyn decided cold turkey at 4 months she didn’t want to be swaddled or rocked to sleep anymore… much to momma’s dismay.  Eliana likes to transition slowly into change.

Rosalyn never spit up. I had soooo many spit rags that I never used.  Now, I always have one within reach because Eliana spits up ALL the time.

Rosalyn was very outgoing and a performer from infancy.  Eliana seems to prefer her momma and people she’s familiar with.

Rosalyn was always pretty easy going and calm.  Eliana likes to be on the move… and she moves a lot!  On the other hand, Rosalyn moved all around while sleeping– she rolled around whole bed.  But Eliana stays in one position, moving only her head, even when she’s not swaddled.

I often say that Rosalyn was such an easy baby.  And she was.  But it implies that Eliana is a difficult baby.  Which isn’t necessarily untrue… but what it really comes down to is that I’ve had to grow more this time around than I had to grow with Rosalyn. Sure, I grew in all the normal ways you’re forced to when becoming a parent for the first time.  But this time around, I’ve been challenged on whole new playing fields.  I’ve had to level-up not only my own parenting skills but my own personal life.  I’ve learned so much more this time around.

They say that each child is different and you can’t parent the same.  I knew that coming in.  And yet, I still approached caring for Eliana and parenting her with the same skills and tactics that worked for Rosalyn.  Even though I knew that it would be different.

I think it’s normal to approach things with what skills and knowledge you already have about you.  We approach life according to our own understanding of how to do things.  We approach situations, people, circumstances with our own comprehension.

Some cases it works well.  But in other cases, it can leave us completely frustrated and unsuccessful.

Scripture tells us to lean not on our own understanding. Don’t lean on what you’ve already learned, what you’ve already accomplished, what skills you’ve already acquired.  Yes, those things are useful, but they may or may not work.  But don’t approach life and circumstances solely from that angle.  Because that’s when we’ve stopped learning… it’s putting a cork on learning from the Lord.

Instead, approach the Lord.  It may be that He’s already given you the skill you need through some other circumstance.  Or it may be that He wants to give you a new tool or change how you use a tool you already have to better fit what you’re going through now.

It’s growing and walking together WITH Him.  It’s learning from Him and walking in His power.

For me, it’s learning to grow with my child.  It’s learning how to be a better mom because of the grace of the Lord.

It’s learning to walk together– with Him.  With my husband.  With my kids.  With believers.  With unbelievers.  And if I get the first one right, all the rest flow through.  If I walk by myself, according to my own might… well, things might just go to pieces.

 

Pre-Preschool

So, I’ve been promising a post about preschools in Japan and my foray into that world.  I don’t have a lot for you yet but I’ll tell you what I’m finding out.

A lot of preschools have a pre-preschool program that helps kids become familiar with being with the teachers and the format of school and being away from mom.  Sometimes kids will go one to two times a week for an hour or two for the year before the child enters preschool.

Kids typically enter preschool when they are 3 (April to March is the way kids are divided so our daughter is one of the oldest right now). There are 3 years of preschool, no kindergarten and elementary starts with 1st grade.

I knew about these programs but I wasn’t planning to get Rosalyn involved (and I didn’t know they started so soon– I thought it was still a few more months down the road). But after watching our daughter in some interactions with other kids around, I really wanted to help her become accustomed to the Japanese language and way of doing things.

People say that kids adjust quickly and there’s no worries. And that’s true.  Especially with our outgoing little one.  But because she is a foreigner and Japan is a country all about fitting in, I want to set her on a good path from the beginning.

The program is fun, with play time, songs and little dances and a self-introduction every week.  I try to help her along with that and we practice a few times a week, mimicking their routine and what all she’s supposed to say.  Unfortunately, they do typically change one of the questions that the kids answer every week.  So, there’s always that moment.  The teachers are very gentle though and it seems they have some experience with a few kids who don’t speak Japanese upon entry to the school.

Anyway, there’s a craft or an activity and the kids practice their skills and have a lot of fun.  It’s one of the highlights of the week for Rosalyn and she wakes up ready to go to school.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

For me, it’s a gentle intro to the world of School Mom in Japan.  I have a lot to learn, different things to keep track of and prepare for, different things to bring each week for her.  When she gets into school, she’ll have a few different types of uniforms and a bunch of things that apparently I have to make or sew.  At least that seems to be the thing to do.  All the kids have the same style of water bottle so I went and got her one (which she is thrilled about) and don’t get me started on bento lunches for kids.

For me, it presents a lot of questions.  And not even just about how to fill in paperwork. Every week the teacher gives a short speech with important info to the parents for the next week/month.  Trying to wrangle an excited 3 year old and keep a noisy baby happy and pay attention to what they’re saying usually presents a conundrum for me.  Almost every week I have to confirm what I thought I heard and what I need to do with another parent or the teachers.

Anyhow.  There are other questions too.  How much am I going to try to integrate both myself and my daughter?  For example, I wear make up every time I go and am careful to dress my daughter really well.  Most of the moms look effortlessly chic.  I don’t think I achieve effortless, but I try to nail the “put together” or at least just “together”.

But again, where is the line of adjustment?  How can I help my daughter the most?  She will soon outstrip me by a long mile of her knowledge of how things work and language, but will trying “too hard” or “not hard enough” have any negative effects?  You might wave me off, but I’ve heard of foreign kids here- in preschool- getting made fun of for having goldfish in their lunchbox.  That’s a totally normal lunchbox snack for an American.  But not here apparently.  And everything here in Japan is about conformity.  There are young kids my daughter has played with in public play areas that have been mean to her because she didn’t speak Japanese.  This is within the last few months.  She was a little oblivious to it all, but she won’t always be.

Hence our decision to get her involved in different activities and get her out playing as much as possible with other Japanese kids.

So, it’s a learning curve…. a BIG learning curve for both of us.  It’s fun and I do really enjoy it immensely.  But it gets me thinking a lot about how to make this a successful experience for everyone.

Come October/November time, application time for actual entry to the school will begin.  There will be more to come then.  I’ve heard a lot about the different things I have to do… and have been advised to get a sewing machine in preparation.

So.  There we go…  Paper forms.  Uniforms.  Sewing machines.  Bento boxes.

This next year should be interesting!

It’s a Small World After All…

Recently we met (re-met?) some folks from our home church in California… but on this side of the globe.  It turned out to be a series of interesting surprises on both our sides.

I say re-met because we actually met this Japanese family briefly on our trip home over a year ago.  We chatted for a while after a service, but then that trip was so incredibly busy that we never were able to connect again.

Our home church has been featuring a different missionary every month, which has been pretty fun to see.  We were able to skype in at like 1:30 one Monday morning for us, to attend the 9am service back home.  It was really refreshing and we were able to chat with some folks in between services via skype out in the courtyard.

Anyhow, the wife of the family stopped by our table and asked if we would be attending a certain event in Japan.  We had heard about it and she was going to be a translator, so of course, we definitely wanted to make sure we showed up!

A month later–  My husband went to the event (I couldn’t with the kids) and connected.  Turns our this great Japanese couple had gotten saved in America and then when some natural transitions happened in their life, they began searching for a home church closer to home.  They were looking around but hadn’t really decided anything.

They visited our church and upon walking in the door, our names/faces (?) were on the screen: Missionaries to Japan.  It was very striking to them, and their expressions telling the story are always big each time. For them it was a sign, that this church had a heart for Japan.  That night there happened to be a night of prayer for the missionaries and they decided they wanted to go and participate and after that night, for them, their new home church was decided.

We had no idea this was going on.  We weren’t even in the country.  Anyway, Vicente and I were amazed to hear the story!  Praise God they were able to connect to a wonderful home church!!

The next Sunday, I show up to church and Vicente helps me with getting the kids down the stairs and tells me that their family is here.  EEhhh?  (It’s a Japanese sound of surprise and questioning). Well, we chatted a bit after service and invited them for a meal at our place later that week.

The wife was still translating at events, but her husband and daughters came.  He told us another amazing tale. Apparently this is his hometown.  Right?  Of all the places in Japan! A few years ago, he was on a visit and attended a small fellowship of a few people some stops over on the train line.  He looked for it again when visiting this time but couldn’t find it.  So, he decided to check if there was any Calvary Chapels in the area and was surprised to find one in Tokorozawa.  He and his daughters showed up for the service.

What they didn’t know was that we are working at the same church!  They knew that we were in the Tokyo area, but weren’t sure where.  And we only just recently updated in the info on our home church’s website.  So, they were able to connect with us, we had dinner and fellowship and a time of encouragement together as we shared testimonies.

This week the husband will return home, though his wife and daughters will stay on in different places in Japan.  Today they came to church again and said their goodbyes.  They waited for Vicente, who had run to the store after service, to return.

He left us with some words of encouragement– I know Japan can be a difficult place.   It can be hard.  But keep working hard– keep persevering!

After such a story of connections, our heart is amazed at how God works things.  Neither of us were aware of how God was setting things up and maneuvering things to lead us to where He wanted us to be.  The words from this couple who we feel like God has obviously connected us with are one of those things that we’ll put aside in our hearts as a mile-marker along the path we walk.