31 May, 2015

Large Cross-stitch Project finished at last

It's been a huge weekend. I'm both tired and elated. Tonight I just want to share one small aspect of it, but I've worked towards this moment for 2 ½ years. 

I've completed a cross-stitch of a bouquet of Australian wildflowers for my parents. I gave it to them at a family gathering on Saturday evening. They've already got it up on their living room wall at home.

29 May, 2015

Transition mantras

I'm periodically feeling overwhelmed at all we've got to do before we leave in four weeks and two days. Contrary to what you might think, packing is only a small concern. We're doing things like:

  • supporting two high schoolers through assignments they're struggling with
    Sometimes during transition I feel as unsettled as waves
    on the beach. Constantly astir, never settled, not able
    to settle and somewhat unpredictable.
  • getting last minute medical stuff done
  • organising travel insurance 
  • renewing drivers licence
  • selling stuff we don't want to store
  • sorting stuff we do want to store
  • celebrating a boy's birthday
  • organising things to be ready at the other end (car, internet, phones, holidays before school starts in August etc.)
  • organising final meetings with individuals
Ongoing ministry things like:
  • answering email
  • writing prayer letters
  • writing articles for magazines
  • absorbing information about OMF Japan's restructure (taking effect Monday)
And daily life things like:
  • grocery shopping
  • cooking meals
  • taking boys to school, youth group, wrestling, exams
  • physio
  • helping friends
  • deciding if boys can attend various events

Here's a post about 10 things to tell yourself during transition I came across a while ago, if only I can pay attention to some of the good advice. Here are her headings (slightly edited):

  1. Breathe and push forward.
  2. Ask for help.
  3. See how much you feel your need for God right now? (That's good.)
  4. Transition = Transformation (even when it just feels like chaos)
  5. Your emotions are like concentrated lemonade (Ed: yes, a bit of an American analogy, an Australian might say unsweetened lemon cordial).
  6. Stop and connect
  7. Believe God will be enough.
  8. You will stumble and flop, and that's okay.
  9. Transition, like birth, is the beginning of both joy and challenge.
  10. Take every fear and fret, every hope and dream, and turn it into a prayer.

At the moment I'm just trying to breathe. This weekend is a bit crazy. We've got an interclass wrestling tournament at Lang Park, a trip to Toowoomba, birthday celebration with my parents for our eldest who's turned 16 this week, 25th school reunion, final speaking engagement at the church I grew up in, and a "see you later" lunch with good friends. 

Yep, emotions will be potentially a bit out of shape in all that too. But it is our last weekend away. Hopefully things will slow a little in June, with no more overnights planned until we fly on the 28th.

27 May, 2015

Working to death

Another busy day . . . at the coffee shop (well, I did meet another person, and then did some writing, took a boy to the optometrist, did some birthday present shopping and birthday cake baking), but almost no time online to blog.

So here's a video clip and an article, both about Japan and work. The first is often posted on social networking by people saying, "We can learn something about work ethics from Japan."

I get annoyed at that because it doesn't tell us what is highlighted in the article, that the supposed great work ethic in Japan is actually killing people!

26 May, 2015

Minister of toilets

This was the toilet in our old house, obviously
when I still had little boys (note the covered
small toilet seat). A cool feature of many
Japanese toilets is that you can wash your
hands with the water filling up the cistern
for the next flush.
Today we did our third last deputation meeting: a teacher from our church invited us to take her Yr 11 Bible class at a local Christian school. One of the things we did with them we call "The Toilet Game". It involves people having to decide which toilet to use based on the sign out the front, in languages they don't know.

Inevitably people get it wrong and it is a lot of fun in a crowd.

Toilets are in the news in Japan, it seems, just now. You've probably heard about amazing Japanese toilets: warm seats, bidet functions, and a number of other functions designed for your toiletting comfort. But not all Japanese toilets are like that. 

In fact public toilets can be a bit of a mess, just like they can be in Australia. There are still many squat toilets, especially public restrooms in places like parks and these seem to get dirtier than most . . . people can't aim well enough? 

But it seems that now a female politician has her sights on improving the state of Japan's public loos. See the article here.

25 May, 2015

More than 50 coffees

Two of the precious friends from "long ago".
A couple of people have asked recently how many churches we've visited this year in Australia. I've just gone through our records and the answer is 20. 14 of which are in south-east Queensland, Sunshine Coast or Toowoomba (which is probably south-east Queensland).

In addition to that we've been a part of more than 15 meetings of varying sizes and lengths (as speakers). Ranging from weekend conferences, to a play group, two schools, a nursing home and several prayer groups.

I haven't kept clear records of who we've met and when, but from what is recorded and my memory, we've had meals or "coffee" on at least 50 different occasions, with more than 50 family units (not including time with our own extended family). We send our prayer letter to more than 300 email addresses every month, so I guess we should be thankful that we've only had individual meetings with less than a third of that number.

Phew, no wonder we're feeling a little peopled-out!

A friend asked me yesterday who all these churches and people were, and how we came to be invited to all these places. 

Most of the churches are ones that we've built relationships with over the years, but especially that we connected with in the 2 ½ years we took to build our support base before we left for Japan in October 2000. Most have come about via personal connections, churches we've attended in the past, connections through OMF, or our denomination.

The individuals have mostly been personal friends who we've met across the years. Some are people I've known since childhood, others are newer friends that we've met along the journey. The friends we've had for a long time are very precious, because it isn't every friend who will put up with four or five year absences between meeting! Most are Christians, but I've also had the privilege of catching up with a few friends who aren't in those circles at all.

We've also spent time getting to know members of our new home church, at church events like weekly Bible studies, volunteering at Youth Group and Kids club as well as hosting BBQs at our house on a few Sundays.

Thought it's been fun, I'm ready to go back to my more private life in Japan. A life where we eat at our own table most nights, sleep in our beds except for holidays and a couple of conferences a year, and don't drink quite so much coffee.

24 May, 2015

Japanese change trays

It's been a busy, but good weekend. Lottttts of people, with plenty more to come in the next eight days. 

So here's a cheating blog post linking to a Japan Times article about something so common that Japanese people hardly notice that these are there. But, for the record, I really like them: change trays.

22 May, 2015

Transition: an unfinished jigsaw puzzle

Transition is like a jigsaw puzzle that isn't complete until the transition is over.

Coming back to Australia for home assignment these last two times we've not had a car until almost the last minute. Second time we came back we didn't have a house until days before we arrived.

This time we're doing quite well in this department, things are falling into place well. It helps a lot that we've had house-sitters in Japan (who've paid rent) and we'll be able to move back into the same house with only a little bit of furniture moving and sorting out. We also will have a car waiting for us as we lent our car to some new missionaries for the year. We're so thankful for these provisions!

The one biggish piece of the jigsaw that hasn't been discovered yet is a place to stay for three or four nights in our local area in Australia while we finish up at the house. We're praying and waiting.

This is part of the emotional rollercoaster of transition. The agony of waiting and the thrill of jigsaw pieces falling into place. The challenge of not being as in control as you'd like to be! It's hard not to feel anxious.

This article is where I borrowed the analogy from, you might like to have a read.

At times like these I'm glad I had prior experience in these big transitions. Not only do I continue to pray and remind myself of God's faithfulness, as he promises in his Word. But I remind myself of how he's specifically put pieces into place for us in the past. For example, those two cars that were provided for us for our times in Australia!

21 May, 2015

Multiple emotion days

I saw this today on someone's Facebook page. It was contrasting men and women, but that's not why I put it here. 
I'm usually fairly steady in the emotion department. But it's in these times of transition that I experience more strong emotions over the course of a day than usual. Add to that a teenager who's struggling with assignments, a husband who's away, and a bit of illness and you end up with days like this.

I'm coping okay, but reminding myself that this is normal (if uncomfortable).

20 May, 2015

A parenting strategy that's worked

I'm a single mum for a few days while David visits his dad one last time. His dad lives about nine hrs from here by car, but thankfully David flew up, leaving me with the car. 

It isn't too bad because the boys are at school, but on the other hand it's been a challenging time in parenting, even with two parents around a lot of the time. We're finding the teenage-type behaviour difficult at present. 

But I'm thinking I've found one strategy that seems to work, if you can be fast enough to use it.

Turn their complaints about you into your complaint about them.
Sounds bad, but it's really helping them to see a situation through your eyes. For example, the other day I was accused of raising the hopes of one boy and then dashing them. It was a case of me not having all the information I needed to make a decision, but not knowing I was missing information. 

However yesterday I was able to use that same statement back to my son when he refused to do a job he'd practically volunteered for (in his defence, he didn't specifically say yes to this job, he just insinuated he might say yes). His attitude change was dramatic (a hallmark teenage feature that he's exhibited most of his life, but recently it's become even more dramatic) and the job was done for me. It caught me by surprise but with David away I was very happy to receive our son's help.

19 May, 2015

Complex Japanese

Someone asked me again today if I was looking forward to going back to Japan. It's a hard question to answer. Last week in our ministry debrief the psychologist asked me how I felt about going back, my honest response was, 
"It's the next thing to do."
"Pragmatic," she said.

Yes, I have mixed feelings. One of the reasons is language.

Japanese is hard. One area of complexity you address different people in different situations using different verb endings, depending on the status you have in relation to each other. For example, a customer and a sales person, or an employee and a boss, or even two neighbours of different ages. 

This article gives too much depth for most of you who don't live in Japan, but a little bit is enough to give you some understanding of the complex nature of the Japanese language.

I'm not the first missionary who wished all Japanese people spoke English!

18 May, 2015

Our seventh funeral

Periodically these days I'm feeling icky, and it's primarily related to what I call the "funeral effect". I wrote about it in March last year when we were going through it then.

It happens when you're leaving. Everyone talks to you about leaving. It can be like a living funeral. The collective effect of all these conversations is sadness. Friends also stop talking to you in quite the same way, they don't want to talk about future events that you won't be a part of, so you are gradually eased to the edge of the community.

I guess it helps everyone cope with the emotions associated with parting with friends, but it isn't nice. Especially when it happens so often, this will be our seventh international move. It does help that I can see the pattern, that I know what's happening here and can name it, but it still hurts.

I also know a small taste of what it is like to not have that grieving period. After the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in March 2011, many of my friends evacuated from Tokyo. Decisions were made so quickly that goodbyes weren't possible. That hurt too. Each morning I'd turn Facebook on and find who else had left without saying goodbye. So in a way I appreciate that we do have a time to farewell and make the break, but that doesn't make it painless.

This is what I wrote in March last year:
 We're going and there is pain in that, and people will miss us. Praise God they will miss us, that means that we've meant something to them. It's hard enough to leave, but when you have repeated conversations . . . it does tend to make it even harder. On Thursday afternoon in the space of a couple of hours I had multiple conversations about us leaving. It just left me feeling empty and sad.

17 May, 2015

Headed home by Naomi Reed

I’ve finally got around to owning and reading this book by Naomi Reed (I quoted from it in a post this time last year, though I hadn't read the book I'd seen the quote in a Christian periodical). 

A friend sent me her first two books in this series several years ago (My Seventh Monsoon and No Ordinary View). I was amazed. Here was an Aussie woman, an Allied Health Professional, a mum of three boys, and a missionary who writes. How I identified! At the time I was feeling God directing me into writing, but I was also feeling particularly passionate about how few women missionaries were out there writing biographical type material.

I loved this book too. It is about the journey of settling back into Australia “permanently” after six years of service in Nepal. Though we aren't in that phase of life yet, I did understand the struggle with the definition of Home. Yes, it's something of a theme that's come through on this blog in the last year or more.

Here are some thoughts that especially resonated with me, not all of them, just a selection.

Outsider p 41
Naomi talks about being an outsider, about not quite fitting, though you look like you should. Yep, we experience that all the time. 

She ends each chapter in a prayer addressing God personally, honestly. The prayers are excellent. 
Oh Lord, . . . Reminder us that it's normal to be the outsider — that we should expect it. Remind us that Jesus was the outsider and he never said that we would be defined by our ability to fit in or our sense of acceptance or understanding, or our talent for making cheese scones. instead, the Bible talks about being strangers and aliens.
Comparison p 86
In the Christian life, we don't ever have a scale to measure up to. We don't have work reviews, reward points, pay rises or grades from 1 to 10 — which is good. But maybe the temptation is to look over our shoulders in order to figure it out. How am I doing...?
Yes, this is great temptation, perhaps even greater as a missionary when you find yourself in the public's eye more often. When there are fewer to compare yourself against on the mission field and often higher ideals to strive for.

"We might not get another chance" p106
This is a phrase her husband uses often. It's one that isn't said often in our house, but I do think in that way. It's a good way to think about interesting opportunities.

God doesn't just use our 'personal best' times p 138
I especially liked the prayer that followed a chapter about her perceived failure in something she felt God was leading her to do:
Lord, we're all a bit hopeless. Some days we wake up and our legs are weak, our eyes are tired, our necks hurt and our voices are shrill and scratchy. We can't speak well, write well, paint well, sing well, cook well or do anything well at all. We're just 7s. We want to do things that honour you and speak of you, but often we don't feel as if we can. . . Lord on those days lead us gently. . . Reassure us that you'll do something in the middle four hopelessness — you'll provide what we need. . . So Lord, help us today to keep walking forwards, or keep speaking, or keep writing, or keep recording, or keep singing, or keep working, or keep parenting . . . or keep doing whatever it is that causes us to shake and tremble with nerves, but that brings honour to you. Amen
How often I feel fairly hopeless. Especially every time someone asks about my language ability, about my boys' language abilities. Every time someone says, "I don't know how you do it, this moving back and forth between Australia and Japan." I want to grab them and say, "I don't know how I do it either, but one thing I do know, I often feel incompetent and weak and have no idea how I'm going to make it over the next hump."

She finishes the book well, coming back to look at the enigma of the concept "home". She considers the thought that the between-home status that we often experience could be a gift. In that it causes us to face our homelessness as Christians. We're not home yet, none of us ever will be on this earth. But we are on the way home.

But in the meantime, we stop in places and make them home for a while. The places, people, and roles in those times are given to us as gifts. "We grow to love and understand them. . . But during the whole time, wherever we are there's a small part of us that is still the alien and the stranger, that is still longing for something more deeply satisfying."

16 May, 2015

Too much travel

Yesterday and today have been relatively quiet. With a slower pace, I've felt more tired than usual (though admittedly we still drove more than 60 kms today). When I think about the previous two weeks, I can understand why I might be a little weary.  

It's been more hectic for me than usual. David's education students are on prac, so he's been at home, with the car. Therefore we've scheduled in more mid-week things than we did in during Feb-April.
This is our van in Japan. It serves us well, but not as
much as our van has this year in Australia. We're
looking forward to taking possession of it again when
we return, we've lent it to new missionaries for the year
 we've been away. I'm so thankful for the vehicle we've had
here in Australia. It's old and rattly, but it's done the
 job with little fuss, and we've not paid a cent for it,
except for petrol and a little maintenance.

  • inspected and bought a shipping container
  • supervised its installation on a farm (David) 
  • saw a physio twice (my knee and head are still giving me issues)
  • had coffee, lunch, or dinner with four different individuals/couples
  • saw psychologist together (took several hours due to travel)
  • represented Japan at a local play group
  • drove our eldest son for exams at a friend's place (a correspondence maths subject he's doing to bridge between curriculum)
  • had a dental checkup
  • did some clothes shopping, stocking up for the trip back to Japan
  • saw a doctor for an infection
Last Saturday we also went to Toowoomba for a joint birthday party with a friend I've known since I was a baby. Both our families were there as we all knew each other as children. It was a great get together that we really wanted to do, but a tiring day.

In total we've driven over 1,000 km in the last twelve days, and none of that has taken us out of the south-east corner of Queensland. (Actually David did 200 of those without me, but still.) No wonder I'm tired. I'm know I'm not a wonderful traveller, but I'm increasingly realising it really does stress me. Even if I don't know it, my body often tells me. I've had a number of urinary tract infections this year (sorry if that is too much information for you), most of them were associated with long journeys or stressful days.

Sometimes people ask what I'm looking forward to in going back to Japan. Less travel would be close to the top of the list. Our car only gets occasional outings in Japan and usually only for these reasons:

  • trips to wholesaler Costco every two months or so
  • driving students to inter school sporting events
  • holidays/camping
  • conferences (a couple of times a year)
By the way, I'm not writing to garner your sympathy, just explaining what has been ordinary life for us recently.

14 May, 2015

How is your psychological health?

We surely don't know the road ahead, all we can do is look
behind and be thankful for what we've received.
Yesterday David and I drove over an hour for a ministry debrief with counsellor/psychologist couple.

It's a long way to go, 84 km (on the fast road). But this is who we were asked to see. All the missionaries from our state are supposed to, pity they aren't situated more centrally! Not long after we were married 17 years ago, we had to undergo a psych. assessment as a part of our application to OMF, they were the ones who did it. They told us we made them feel old, coming back 17 years later! 

Somehow we’ve managed to dodge a professional debrief during our first two home assignments. Interesting, because I think we probably could have used it, especially after our first term.

In any case we did it yesterday. It was intense, they asked hard questions. Questions like, “What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about yourself in the last 17 years?” Like really? How do I even start to answer that?

But what stood out to me was their curiosity. Yes, I get that they are professionals and they were digging to see if we had any serious issues that needed dealing with. I guess they mostly see people who aren’t in a good place, psychologically speaking. They were curious about how we’d managed to survive, perhaps even thrive for three terms in Japan, a mission field that is well known for its high attrition rate for missionaries.

So I ended up talking about a lot of the things I write about here (especially in the series I did back in 2012 answering questions for a friend’s bible college essay). They asked about our mental self-care. Saying no, setting up boundaries, knowing myself, knowing my limits, ensuring I’ve got support networks.

We also spent quite a bit of time talking about the stress of parenting. I think that that has to be up there vying with top spot for the most stressful thing in our lives over the last 16 years: parenting children while living and working in Japan.

Happy to say we seem to have a clean mental-health slate. They called us survivors.

It's easy to be proud of such a status, but I really feel thankful. God has given us good mental health (and physical health too), He's given us the abilities to cope with all the stress that's come our way. He's give us the resources to cope with this challenging lifestyle in a difficult environment. Nothing I have is something I can boast about, it is all a gift from God.
"For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not" (1 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)?

13 May, 2015

Quirky bag a new favourite

We've had a few big days recently, catching up with more people, as well as continuing to tick off the boxes of things that need doing. Tomorrow I'll tell you about our debrief with the psychologist, well I won't tell you everything, but just a bit.

In the meantime here's a light post that won't take much to write (or read).

A couple of weeks ago I met a friend at a local cafe, it is run by the Salvation Army and next door to the cafe is a second-hand shop. After a delightful catch-up time I slipped over to quickly browse their current stock. 

This was an unexpected find, but I'm loving my new $5 bag! I can't tell if someone's made it out of a denim skirt, or if it was manufactured to be a bag. It looks like a legitimate skirt, in that it even has a size tag inside the band. The pockets are handy and the shoulder straps are a perfect length.

12 May, 2015


We once stayed in a house while on deputation. It was an occupied house, but we didn't know the owners and never met them because they were on holidays. Actually this has happened twice, though the first time the owners came back before we'd left. Both times we crept around the houses seeking clues as to the owners of the house. We felt like interlopers crossed with detectives. 

The things that especially gave us clues were what books were on the shelves and what they had in their kitchen.

Last week I snooped around our house, wondering how much evidence lay around, after almost a year away from the country, of our strong connection to Japan. Without too much effort this is what I found lying around (and I didn't go into the boys' bedrooms):

Seaweed and flavoured seaweed sprinkles for rice sent to us
in a care package by my best Japanese friend.
Old New Year cards.
A Japanese sudoku book (with odd English).
Japanese bandaids (very convenient finger-sized ones at that).
Japanese bowls, that we eat Japanese noodles out of
They also make good soup and ice-cream bowls.
We brought these with us a few years ago.

Origami on top of my dresser. Remnant of one of our Japan-nights.
Japanese pimple cream (Clearasil).
My cheap Japanese coffee maker (AU$1.10) and our saucepan
An banana-shaped eco bag.
Then we start to get into stuff we use for our deputation.
Authentic origami paper plus old Japanese kindy name tags.
A map of Japan in Japanese and the Gomi Game (a game
we made up for this year in Australia).
Authentic chopsticks in our drawer.

Prayer cards
And the pile of stuff we use during our meetings (books, pamphlets,
display items, etc.).

11 May, 2015

Grocery shopping gets harder

I love our walk-in pantry here. Pity it will soon
have to look as bare as this again.
Grocery shopping at this end of home assignment is tricky. I don't want to buy large refill bottles and only use a small portion of them. As it is we'll give a good amount of partly-used pantry and household items away in our last week. 

Shopping early on in our time in Australia, after I got over the re-entry culture shock, was fun. I could buy all sorts of things that I only dreamed about in Japan. We've enjoyed endless bread rolls, chutney, Mars Bars, BBQ sauce, Shapes, etc. Now it is trickier. 

More so, I think, than when we're leaving Japan. Japan specialises in small packets. That often drives me barmy as I'm catering for a hungry family of five. But when you only want a small amount of something because you're closing your kitchen down soon, it is great.

This morning I had to buy 50g of mustard power. That was the smallest amount I could buy. I doubt I'm going to use a quarter of that in under seven weeks.

The up side is that we can give this stuff away to people who will appreciate it. Our church family, several of whom live very close to the line each week.

In the meantime, I'm trying to be careful not to indulge. But it takes brainpower, and self-control. 

But grief also walks alongside me as I struggle to control my trolley in the long aisles. I'm going to have to walk away from these Australian delights soon. But it does help to remind myself that I was pretty happy in Japan without them (and a little thinner).

09 May, 2015

Unexpected meal-time conversation

Last week we had a real meal-table conversation that didn't include bodily functions or computer games, or any other boy-type conversation. 

It was so unusual that our eldest son walked away from the meal saying, "That was weird!" 

I walked away thinking, That was awesome, maybe they're even getting the whole concept of conversation. 
Conversation around the table, not as easy as you
might think, when you're the only girl in the family.

When I found out the new princess' name before breakfast the other day, I took it to the breakfast table with me. We talked about those names, as well as their own names, family names that we could have called our boys, etc. For the entire meal (all of about 10 minutes, because these are teenage boys who eat breakfast fast).

Here are some other conversations with the boys from a couple of years ago. It's interesting to go back and read these. This post included one that will make you giggle. (Hint: where do young boys think that women get their shape from?)

08 May, 2015

The significant endless roll

I pulled out this roll of wrapping paper this morning to wrap my mother's day present. My husband said, "Oh, the endless roll."

And he's right. It is the same paper we've wrapped all the birthday presents, Father's Day presents, and almost any other sort of present with all year. With one exception: we had one roll of Christmas-themed wrap.

To me it symbolises how temporary our year in Australia has been. We've lived simply. Not bought unnecessary things that would end up in storage next month. We've borrowed rather than buy. Made do, rather than buy. We're now preparing to give some more of our stuff away, including some presents we received for 21st birthday celebrations and our wedding (17 ½ yrs ago). Things that would probably have a place in our home if we were planning to make our home here in Australia in the near future, but we aren't.

It is different to the life we lead in Japan. There we have a greater sense of permanency, though we still try to live simply. Life as a missionary in a rented Japanese house forces restraint on you.

I seem to recall that if I were to get any more gadgets in my Tokyo kitchen (like a coffee maker), then I'd have to give something away just to fit it in my cupboards. Not that I have a large number of gadgets, but Japanese kitchens aren't built for storage. Mind you, I have a large kitchen by Japanese standards!

But we do have a whole drawer of wrapping paper.

Here we've borrowed camping chairs and sleeping bags. There, we've just bought three more of each (secondhand, to replace old ones we've outgrown).

Here we're giving away most of the few toys we own, because they will have been outgrown in three years time. There we have a lot of toys and games the boys are looking forward to being united with again, especially Lego.

Here we live with our suitcases in easy reach. There the suitcases are more inaccessible.

One day we'll return to live in Australia and then we'll invest more in material possessions. Just now, though, we're living with other people's things. Mostly we've not been able to choose much of what we live with here, it's been lent in response to an appeal for "the missionaries who are coming home". 

And it's been gratefully received. The cost of setting up a home just for a year would have been a waste of money. Storing all the furniture and all the other things that go into a home would have been prohibitive too.

Please don't get me wrong. We've had a comfortable year, an amazing year. It's just that every now and then something like a roll of wrapping paper reminds me that we're just temporarily here and that's affected our choices.

But again, I'm reminded of these verses: 
19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being" (Matthew 6, The Message). 
So, heaven first, then (at present) Japan, and third comes Australia. Sounds weird, but put that way Japan is home just now, still a temporary home, but it feels slightly more permanent than Australia.

07 May, 2015

Come and meet us

20 June, sometime between 11am and 3pm

@ Rocks Riverside Park, Seventeen Mile Rocks.

What to bring: your own picnic. If you wish, especially for those with children: frisbee, balls, scooters, togs (not sure if the water feature will be still open in June).

If you've not yet seen us, or want to catch up one last time, this is the time to do it because we fly to Japan eight days later.

No RSVP necessary.

06 May, 2015

Cross-cultural stress

The grocery store I visit most frequently
in Japan.
Here is an article "I prepared earlier"! Published today by Thrive in their online Connection magazine. It's about the cross-cultural stress experienced by cross-cultural workers and how they can manage that stress. 

Because Thrive is an organisation committed to supporting Global Women, the article is aimed at these women, but I'm sure anyone who knows someone living and working overseas will find something in this helpful.

04 May, 2015

The problem isn't struggling with leaving

People have started to ask me if I'm okay, given what I've been writing here recently. Yesterday it was eight weeks until we fly and yes, I'm starting to feel the pressures that come with leaving a place that you've settled in.

I read this article this morning. It is largely about re-entry (i.e. going back to the country you originally came from), but it talks eloquently about leaving.
Our front door in Tokyo. It's hard to
believe we'll be going through it in
just over two months.

Even when such a transition is expected and positive from the outset, loss is loss and there is a very real grief that comes with the changes. You aren’t losing it. You don’t need to just move on and get on with the next phase of your life. 
This makes a lot of sense:
Jesus whispered into my heart, “Beloved, did it ever occur to you that the depth of your pain and sense of loss is simply a reflection of the depth of your love and My heart poured into you for those cared for and served? The problem isn’t struggling with leaving. The problem would have been if you didn’t.”
So I don't apologise for sounding like I'm a bit up and down, that's what life's going to be like for a bit. It's because I've invested myself here with people and it isn't easy to leave. 

Someone asked me which country I'd live in, if work wasn't an issue. I said, "Australia, it's an easier place for me to live." Yes, leaving Australia hurts. I leave behind beloved ones and a place where communication is easier for me. 

What eases the hurt is that I do remember that leaving Japan hurt too. There are people there who miss us when we're gone. I also know that our boys are keen to get back, so that eases the transition too. If they were desperate to stay in Australia that would make it doubly difficult to return.

The third thing that makes it easier to go back is that we're a little tired of talking about what we do there. Our schedule here makes us look like we're very social, but it isn't our preference to be out socialising as much as we have this year. We're looking forward to resting a little from visiting people and churches, and just doing the work God's called us to do (which is actually less social and public than we work we do when we're in Australia).

So, we do need to move on and make this transition, but that doesn't mean we can't feel the emotions that go with it. 

03 May, 2015

Another birthday

This last week we celebrated the second birthday of the year: our youngest son's. He turned 10! I'm still pinching myself. A decade since my last baby was born!?!

Can you guess what we tried to imitate with this cake? (David did the planning and decorating, I just made the cake and mixed the icing.)

01 May, 2015

The other end of answered prayer

I periodically talk about answered prayer here. I certainly try to report on answered prayer when I write our monthly prayer/newsletter. But today, I'm thinking about earlier, the time when I don't yet have an answer to my prayer.

The story of this house's provision for us
in 2010 and continued provision for us
as of July this year is a story I need to keep
telling myself.
That is a hard place. It's a place where you lack control. You don't know what's going to happen with that particular need or desire. You are left with trust. Trust in prayer and trust in the God who provides.

I have to admit I haven't had to wait for really big answers, like healing from a terminal illness, or the protection of a loved one from violent death or even for a child to be given to me. 

But I have had to wait for jobs, cars, houses, a husband, for financial provision after quitting a job, for permission to do what we've been telling everyone we were going to do (become missionaries in Japan), and for the provision of shelter and furniture  for my family as we change countries every few years. I've had to wait for my children to go through difficulties at school and at home, wait to see the results of the parenting I try my best to do. Wait for smaller things like someone to take care of my kids at a key moment when I don't have any family in the country, or for someone to give me or my kids a lift school in the rain.

I have discovered that in the waiting is value. While I wait, I grow in my trust in my heavenly father. Because I've waited for God's financial provision, I'm less stressed next time such a situation occurs. Because I've seen God answer these prayers, I know that He can provide for me. When I retell myself the stories of the last time He answered my prayer, I relax a little. I relinquish my desire to control the outcome. And I put my eyes back on Him, waiting for his provision for me.

It still isn't easy, because like most people I like to think I am in control, and not knowing how something will work out means I have little control. It makes me anxious and frustrated.

But I try to cling to the knowledge that my God does care about me and He does provide all I need, even if it isn't in the way or with the timing that I imagine would be best.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.“As the heavens are higher than the earth,    so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So, what I imagine and plan for this transition back to Japan, may or may not be the way it works out. 
Romans 8:25, 28, 31-32. "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. . . . And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. . . What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
So, I'm here today to remind myself to: 
Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."