19 October, 2018

A typical week?

Keeping my eyes heavenward is often a challenge,
but essential when feeling unsettled.
It's been an interesting week, not typical, but then I don't think we've had a "typical week" since we've been in Australia. 

It started with a painful ear infection, and interrupted sleep. I didn't do a lot on Monday or Tuesday, and felt guilty for seemingly being lazy. I wish I could shut down that part of my inner dialogue that accuses me of such things. My body and mind was simply not up to work, and I should have just been able to accept that rather than fight against internal judgement.

Wednesday, though, I got back into work and spent time with David planning upcoming speaking opportunities. It's amazing how much time can go into preparing 10 minutes of talking! The familiar iceberg illustration comes to mind!

I also finally got to writing the editorial for the upcoming Winter issue of Japan Harvest. Writing the editorial is really hard. I'm aware it's often the first thing many people read when they pick it up...no pressure! However, once I decided that it was okay to use a wrestling illustration (after checking that I hadn't actually done that before), it all flowed out.

I did some baking, continuing on my quest of baking
my way through a small Women's Weekly Chocolate cookbook
that I bought in 2013. These are Mini red velvet whoopie pies.
There's been a lot of email and instant messaging traffic this week on a wide range of topics, from our organising our upcoming trip to Perth to ingrown toenails (don't ask!).
It's been a rainy week. A delight after so much dryness.

Wednesday evening also saw our youngest son finally get back to the wrestling club he was a part of last time we were in Australia. His eyes are on preparing to join the CAJ team as soon as we get back in January (that's the main month of competition for the middle school team, but they start training there soon).

Then yesterday, between the two of us, our car barely saw the garage between 8am and 3pm, then went out one more time at 8.30. Our eldest son was here from 3 till 8.30, it was delightful, but a little unsettling to have him around. I struggle with knowing what to do with myself. One wants to make the most of the time, but how do you do that with a 19 year old boy without making him feel uncomfortable? Intense, prolonged conversation isn't the way to do it. 

We've been doing our best to feel our way through this new stage of having an adult son in the same city, but not living with us. We see him every week or so, but often just for a couple of hours. It's great that he's really settled in his life and doesn't need to rush home and hang out with us. It's just taking some adjusting to for us all. Last week we went to McCafe for a decadant afternoon tea. We sat around doing word puzzles in the newspaper that was lying around for customers. It was great fun. So much so, that we're going to try that same thing again next week.

Today I've been at the regular ladies Bible study at church this morning and working on various email, writing, and editing tasks this afternoon. Oh, and Japanese study. Yes, I'm spending at least an hour or more on that every day these days.

Tonight is our regular Scrabble date at a local restaurant while youth group is on. Tomorrow we may or may not be getting up early to take boy/s to a Park Run (starts at 7am). But then leaving after an early lunch to go up to Toowoomba for one more ministry meeting there on Sunday. We'll stay the night at my parents' house and come back home after lunch. So before we turn around it will be next week!

Those are many of the physical things that consumed my week. My thoughts and emotions have been roaming around in various other territories, including—friends, boundaries, secularism, judging, Christmas with family, and, of course, the sad news about new abortion laws in Queensland. In general I've continued to struggle with feeling unsettled and feeling unable to settle. I'm guessing that that feeling will persist well into next year when we'll, hopefully, be back in Japan.

How's your week been?

16 October, 2018

Thoughts on home

After our recent camping trip we drove back to David's sister's place for a few more days. As we drove in the front gate we said, "We're home." That quickly got edited by the family into: "We're back at our home away from home away from home."

Our home-away-from-home-away-from-home.
Does that make sense? If you trace it back, Tokyo is "home" and Ipswich is our "six-month temporary home-away-from-home" and their aunt's place was our even more temporary "home".

Yes, "the question of where is home" is an ongoing theme in our lives. We were on the receiving end of a Q & A session at the church we spoke at on Sunday. It's another church that has been journeying with us for nearly two decades now. A wonderfully mission-minded bunch of people. We fielded many excellent, thoughtful questions. One was related to the question of "home". David quite simply stated that "We have two homes now."

It's very true. They are different in so many ways, but each has enough of a quality of "feeling at ease" in it that we can call them both home. We have spent enough time in both places that we have significant memories stored away for both. 

But the "home away from home" feeling that our boys expressed about Australia is revealing. Australia isn't a place that our boys feel so much at home in. They have spent much more time in Japan than Australia and don't have the years of memories of growing up here that we have.

At another time recently I was reading a passage in John and noticed Jesus using the word "home":
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23 NIV).
What a wonderful thought: that God comes and makes his home with me . . . which really means that no matter where I am, no matter where I call Home, I'm "at home" with him!

15 October, 2018

Other photos from our rural Queensland holiday

I lost a couple of hours sleep last night with pain from an ear infection and so I'm not firing on all cylinders today. Here's a post I've been meaning to put up with photos from the rest of our time away (i.e. the not-camping bit) on our recent holidays. There's quite a few photos, but not much text. So sit back and enjoy.

Carnival of Flowers
This is an annual event in my hometown that will celebrate it's 70th year next year. Its two main events are a street parade and a garden competition. In the week following the parade, the private gardens are open for the public to wander through and enjoy. Mum and I did just that when we were there a couple of weeks ago. Here are some photos, starting with the Japanese garden at the university.

My mum enjoying this small garden that was
completely packed with plants. 

This garden included a number of whimsical non-floral items. 

Central Queensland
The next day we travelled up north to visit David's family. It had been a while since we'd travelled these outback Aussie roads, where there are almost no passing lanes and not a few large trucks. I got my adrenaline going a few times passing trucks with two trailers.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law manage a property between Emerald (13,500 people) and Springsure (1,100 people). It's a vastly different locality to where we usually live in Tokyo.

An outback sunset from my sister-in-law's house.
Their house. The only other house in sight of this is their boss', just to the right of the photo. 
View out the front of the house. 

My sister-in-law also breeds alpacas. Such fun to photograph: they were very curious and friendly. 

My sister-in-law with her passion: alpacas.

Our youngest mowing the lawn (that was only green because it was watered with bore water).
On our last morning, the boys climbed one of the silos. Pity we missed the sunrise, but it was still spectacular.

My sister-in-law's verandah is a place I sometimes daydream about in Tokyo. Very
peaceful, just a little dusty at present, with a dirt road only 100m away.
The main street of Springsure, the closest town to where my husband spent his first six years of life (on a property).
Guinea fowl. These are fun birds to watch. Quite hilarious when they run. They move around in groups and function as "guard dogs" alerting people to danger by loud "hooting". At night they roost in trees near the alpacas, so if
something like a dingo shows up, my sister-in-law and her husband know about it. 
Three cousins enjoying the trampoline in the cool of the early evening.
We received great country hospitality and it was a relaxing week. Here, on my last day, I enjoyed a cup of coffee enjoying the view and hoping those clouds would bring rain soon to the parched land. Getting out of the city was wonderful, though. I didn't take my computer and didn't check email for a week. It was a much-needed break.

13 October, 2018

Acquainted with grief?

I have a few blog posts that I want to write, I just haven't got here. We got back from our holidays a week ago and have barely stopped since.

My heart is feeling a bit raw, but also encouraged by various things. It probably doesn't help that I'm dealing with physical pain (ear infection) as well as generally being tired. 

On Wednesday I took the morning to visit our mission's psychologist to talk about some difficult things (unfortunately their offices are more than an hour from where we live, so it's quite a round trip). She was encouraging, and, as always, asked excellent questions. I've now got homework, though! But that homework is, hopefully, a way forward in some areas that have been weighing heavily on my heart in the past few years.

One of the things she brought my attention to was that Jesus was "acquainted with grief".
He was despised and rejected by men,    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;and as one from whom men hide their faces    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(Isaiah 53:3 English Standard Version, ESV).
Here are two friends I had to say goodbye to in June in Japan.
One of my challenges is to think about becoming acquainted with grief, as in not thinking of it like a foe, but rather an acquaintance. That's going to take some pondering. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? How we can become more friendly with "grief"?

I've always thought of that phrase as an old way of saying that he knew what it was like to experience grief, not that he thought of it as anything other than an enemy.

Our lives as missionaries mean that we know many hellos and goodbyes, some bigger than others. That can wear you down, especially if you have a lot of turn-over in friendships. I've been longing for more stability in the friend-department, but somehow need to become more at ease with how much grief I've been called to.

I'm not really here with answers today, more the case that I'm just airing some of the things I'm thinking about and keeping it real.

Today's been a delightfully quiet day (aside from a trip to the doctor and a session with our very noisy vacuum cleaner). By God's grace, I'll have the strength for another big day of driving and speaking tomorrow.

Next week is looking a bit more sedate, so I'm looking forward to that (and perhaps you'll see a bit more blogging from me).

10 October, 2018

Camping adventure

It's time that I posted about our camping trip last week. We camped for two nights at a dam I'd never heard of: Teresa Creek Dam. It's about 20 km south of the small town of Clermont and nearly 1,000 km north-west of Brisbane (see map below). No wonder I'd never heard of it, having never lived further than 200 km from Brisbane.

It took about 2 1/2 hrs to drive there from my sister-in-law's house. We didn't get away till late because she was busy on the day we left (actually, she's generally very busy!) and ended up putting up three tents in the dark! Thankfully we'd brought a pre-prepared stew with us, so we didn't need to do that, but it still was quite late before we ate (late for these city-dwellers, anyway).

The four of us camped with David's sister and mum and our nephew. His brother-in-law was busy harvesting, so reluctantly had to forgo the trip. Also, our eldest son had uni that week, so was also unable to join us. We made the best of who we had. 

But we did get an open fire, a rare thing in Japan (and even Australia in these drought conditions).

View from our bed.
We were very grateful to be able to "piggy-back" in our sister-in-law's camping, because it meant that we didn't need to borrow or transport all the necessary gear (we don't own much camping gear in Australia).
Two of my favourite colours! And why I am no longer afraid to wear green and blue together.

Tuesday was our full day at the dam and we did little. Lots of relaxing—reading, snoozing, and some gentle wandering. The two youngest cousins swam for a couple of hours (you can see their heads in the centre of the photo).

It's a beautiful spot. Lots of bird life, a large campsite that wasn't overpopulated (advantage of being further from the main centres of population), and the showers and toilets were clean and well maintained. There wasn't even many insects (probably because it's been so very dry). The one drawback was the wind, which coated us and everything in the camp with a fine layer of dust.

Sunsets always capture my attention. It's fantastic being in outback Australia where you can see horizon for 360 degrees! The first night's sunset was even better than this because there were some clouds in the western sky, but I was busy trying to help set-up camp in the dark.  

This is what the countryside looks like. Typical Australian country: gum trees everywhere.  Pretty dry, though. The only green on the ground out there is close to the dam or has been watered. It's such a contrast to come back to the coast and see green grass in many places that haven't been watered.

This is another view of country we drove through. It's the most barren country we've seen in Queensland.
I'd been hankering after a camping trip and realised while we were there that it was nearly 12 months since we'd been able to get away under canvas. I'm so thankful for these couple of days away.

Last, but not least, the campsite had a cafe where they serve very decent food. We ate lunch there on the last day. The photo is of a steak burger. I chased my lunch down with what I thought was going to be an iced coffee, but turned into more of a coffee milkshake. Frappe, I think they called it. It was huge and a bit too much sugar, maybe I should have gone for their latte instead?

09 October, 2018

Another friend passes away

In August an American friend and fellow missionary passed away in Japan from a brain cancer. She'd battled it for nearly two years (I wrote about praying for her in this post in 2016). She and her husband were long-term members of the CAJ community, and also our Japanese church. She'd taught our boys and served us in the library many times. We watched the memorial service on our computer.

Last week another important person in our lives passed away from cancer. Carole was our pastor's wife at our church in Australia in the late '90s. She and her husband did pre-marriage counselling with us, and Geoff married us and baptised our eldest son in his strong Irish brogue. 
When I met them in Japan in 2012.

They were a great encouragement when we were just taking baby steps towards becoming missionaries. We served on the church's missions committee together and my husband served with Geoff in leadership at the church. During that period they also had a near-fatal accident and I visited Geoff in the spinal injuries ward. Then later they themselves came to Japan as short-term missionaries, teaching English in a rural church. 

They were always encouraging us and standing behind us as we continued on this missionary journey. They were always full of questions and keen to know how we really were. I wrote here about when I met up with them in Japan when they were visiting in 2012.

Carole was a bright, lively spark. There was never a quiet moment when you were having a conversation with her—her words often tumbled over one another like a waterfall. When they first arrived in Australia from Ireland (1996) it was difficult to understand her Irish accent spoken at quite a rate. It's hard to imagine that spark has now been snuffed out...at least on this earth. I'm sure that she's now livening heaven with her beautiful enthusiasm and passion.

As I write, David is at her memorial service. Another funeral I couldn't attend! The timing of it conflicted with school pick-up and having called in one favour from a friend for that yesterday (we had a work-commitment), didn't feel like I could do it again today. 

In April I wrote a poem called "Dates" that I published here on my blog. The final stanza read:

There is no end, indeed, on this sad earth. 
The dates keep piling up and I can no longer keep up
The worst are the farewells that can only be marked as "thank you for what you were".

But I rejoice for those who've been called heavenward, for as Paul says in Philippians 3:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the powerthat enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (vv.20 & 21 NIV).
Carole and Lois were both ladies who lived significant portions of their lives in countries that they weren't born in. Their true citizenship, however, was in heaven. They've truly, finally, gone home. We miss them, but we also must be happy for them, for they are now in a place that has no "death, mourning, crying, or pain" (Rev. 21:4 NIV).

26 September, 2018

Weekend synopsis

I'm struggling to get time for this...the weekend was busy and I wanted to write a bit about it, but I've come back to the reality of several important things (including a magazine to finish) to do before we go away for holidays/visiting family.

So this will be a quick one. On Friday afternoon we drove just over an hour to a place we've been to many times before: Tamborine Mountain. It's a little plateau that Wikipedia tells me is eight kilometres long, five kilometres wide and 525 m high. Not really a mountain by the standards of most of the world, but we're talking Australia here, the flattest continent! 

It's a place that, for more than 60 years, has hosted Christian conferences and camps. Mount Tamborine Convention Centre is a familiar place to us, though we've rarely been there in the last 20 years when we were in our young adult years we often went to camps up there. The weekend was nostaligic in many ways, not only did the place bring back many memories, the event did too. In 1998 we attended a missions conference there, International Outlook, as newly weds. It was that weekend in March that we began the long journey to becoming missionaries with OMF, we started filling out application forms.

Over the weekend we also met a number of people who we have known for many years. The furthest back was a man I knew as a child, he left to go to uni when I was around 12, but I saw him one further time when I was around 19. It's been a long time! 
The property is beautiful and well cared for. Eucalyptus trees everywhere. When you've never left Australia you don't really notice them so much as we do. In Japan we rarely see these trees, but they are everywhere in Australia. I can't stop taking photos of them! The weather over the weekend was gorgeous too.

Times have changed in 20 years. A barista at a missions conference!
More packed bags and in the backgroudn is
an exhausted boy asleep (he arrived
back from a school camp just before we left
for the weekend)
It was different being there with teenagers. They would have preferred to stay home, though our youngest soon found a couple of other missionary teens to hang out with. There were actually few teenagers around. I can understand why parents of teenagers don't bring them to events like this, though. We had to be there for work and had no other option but to bring our guys.

We spent a lot of time talking with people. I'm not sure how much good we did. The journey towards mission is long and involves lots of conversations, so who knows what part we played. This lady in the photo browsed our OMF stand and picked up our prayer card. She then sat down and read it. I was intrigued. I'm pretty sure I had a conversation with her the next day about Japan and students.

This is a former WW2 aircraft hanger, the main meeting room, about which we also have many memories, including that first step of getting application papers for OMF (not dreaming we'd be back there 20 years later as "seasoned" OMF missionaries).

It was a good weekend, in that we were reminded by the main speakers of the great need for the gospel in this world. Many still have not heard and have no opportunity to hear the gospel. It's the message that booted us into missions in the first place, it is good to be refocused on that need again, especially while living in Australia where it's relatively easy to forget the needs of the rest of the world.