31 January, 2019

Getting settled: even deeper

In the early days of settling into (or back into) a new place, the jobs are many and urgent. For example, here are some of the things that were on our checklist three weeks ago:
Today's a bit grayer than many days we've
had. I rode the river today, about 8 km. I'm
longing for these cherry blossoms to launch
us into spring, our third spring in 14 months.
  • get our official documentation sorted (so we're legal)
  • fill up the larder (grocery shopping, and lots of it)
  • school matters
    • supplies
    • subjects sorted
    • sports medical so boys could join sports teams
  • mobile phones (Japanese SIM cards)
  • internet (we'd cut off our internet before we left six months previous)
  • functioning bikes (eg. tyres pumped/repaired)
  • make sure everything is where we want it to be, so we know where to find it (things had been shifted around due to house sitters)
That meant that those early days, though we were tired and a bit foggy, were also busy, practical days.

Now, we've got everyone at school and things are looking pretty much like normal around here, but there are still a few settling-type things going on.

For example:
  • I haven't yet started back at the gym, though I tried this morning and found they were closed for construction for three days!
  • This week I went back to the doctor for another prescription for my asthma. I didn't bother doing this in Australia because I took enough with me for six months and I'm pretty sure it's cheaper here.
  • Saying hi to people we haven't seen for six months. We're still being welcomed back and that's okay.
  • Finding those harder-to-source goods for the larder. Grocery shopping here is a bit different, especially because some of the things we use in the kitchen aren't garden-variety ingredients in Japanese food. Today I found Baking Soda.
  • Getting settled enough that routine things, like homework and housework the boys are assigned, happen fairly smoothly.
  • Gym's shut for construction.
  • As of Monday I will finish receiving back all the jobs I handed over to other people back in June. That means remembering how to do somethings that are a bit rusty, like uploading blog posts on Wordpress.
Major transition can be illustrated using a basic curve graph (see one in an article about reverse culture shock here). At this end of a transition there's a lot of unseen adjusting and recovery going on. This takes time, maybe up to several months. We're already planning our next getaway camping trip (end of March during the school's spring break), because we're tired and we've missed camping! Transition is exhausting and we've done two major transitions in six months, so it's not rocket science that we're feeling weary.

Jumping into school mid-year also feels like dropping into a rollercoaster as it's going down the main initial slope. It's freefall. Currently, on top of the usual 8.30 to 3.30 school, we've got wrestling training and tournaments, and also a spiritual life emphasis week.

We additionally have our eldest son visiting us for two weeks. That's a joy, but also another thing to mentally juggle. His visit is worthy of another post, I think, pondering what "home" looks like to an adult TCK one-year after moving out of home.

30 January, 2019

Tips for getting started in conversation

Last night I was procrastinating about leaving our warm lounge room and going to bed when I stumbled upon this great article about tips for making small talk. I'm not bad at small talk, though I don't enjoy doing it for lengthy periods. But there are several members of my family who find conversation just a bit harder at times! 

The article had two easy-to-remember tips for starting (or at least not abruptly finishing) a conversation. I reckon I'll have to tell the guys about these tips.

1. Triangulation rule 
"There’s the “triangulation” approach to small talk (named by Kio Stark, author of When Strangers Meet)This method involves three points: you, your partner, and the observable thing in front of you—in other words, your common ground."
So you work at finding common ground and often the easiest is related to where you physically are right then, or things that you're both experiencing. That's why weather is a big feature of small talk, it's neutral ground that everyone in a physical place has in common.

But the idea of the three points, is that you can work at finding out things about the other person that the two of you have in common. That is why people will ask about where you come from, what you do for a job, where you've lived, etc. 

I always think that asking someone questions about them is a safe option for small talk. People are usually happy to talk about themselves and if you're feeling a bit uneasy or unwilling to share about yourself, asking about someone else takes the focus and pressure off you.

2. The improvisation rule of "yes, and..." 

I hadn't heard this one before, but it makes sense. The idea is that you accept the premise that's given to you, and add to it without hesitation.

For example:
“If we’re improvising and I say, ‘Freeze, I have a gun,’ and you say, ‘That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,’ our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, ‘Freeze, I have a gun!’ and you say, ‘The gun I gave you for Christmas! . . . ’ then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.” 
So in a conversation that might look like:
"Wow, it's freezing today."
You reply, "Yeah, I had so much trouble getting out of bed today."
And the conversation can move on from there. Adding a question in gets you bonus points as you throw the conversational ball back to the other person.

The "wrong" immediate reply is "I used to live in Sapporo, it gets way colder there, this is nothing." That reply will probably result in an awkward silence. I struggled with this rule in Australia at times, especially if I was tired or sick of small talk. And yes, when my experience of the world is so different to the person I was talking to. For example, if someone in Brisbane said the "it's freezing" comment, I might have struggled to answer that when the temperature was a balmy 18˚C!

And finally:

Don't be afraid to talk about yourself, even if it is about something that seems mundane. For example, about a book you've recently read, or a movie you've seen. Or perhaps something interesting you saw or experienced as you went about your day.

What tips would you give for working on your small talk?

25 January, 2019

What transition has taught me

It’s good to read about other people’s transitions because in the midst of a major transition it’s easy to feel quite at sea and isolated. Without any regular contact with other people, with many goodbyes having been said, there are few people around to help give us some ballast.

A friend recently described to me her experience of transition as akin to being in a washing machine. And yes, it does throw you around, at times it’s hard to know which way is up and there’s not much predictable, not much to grasp ahold of in the midst of transition. I have felt more like it’s been a rollercoaster, with emotions and energy riding up and down unpredictably. That hasn’t been helped this time by arriving in the midst of term-time. School is in full tilt, church, and OMF also. It feels like we’ve been dropped into a rollercoaster that’s heading down a slope rather fast.

I saw this blog post several months ago and I’ve used it to springboard into my own post today.

A simple life?
The blog post author had hoped for a simple life, but found that a call to cross-cultural mission work means that life gets complicated. However, in the same breath, transition also strips you down. It helps you to see where you are putting your trust and that truly the only place to put your trust in in your Heavenly Father. Our only true, permanent identity is as a child of God.

I agree. Being regularly stripped of the trappings of life, of status, of a residence, of settled routines, makes you re-examine yourself. Moving often and, in our case, living in a smallish Japanese house, means that you tend to be faster to throw things out than you might have been if you hadn’t lived this life. Our lives are simpler in terms of materialistic goods, simply because multiple transitions helps you to see what’s not so important to hold onto.

Leading to growth
The author goes on to talk about spiritual growth. It really is an extension of what is mentioned above: that transition strips you and leaves you to lean on the only true Rock. The shake-up that happens with every major transition rips away those things that you were relying on and hopefully the result is growth.

Trusting God to provide
Yep, pretty much all missionaries have this challenge, some more than others. But there are points about God’s provision that are beyond monthly support figures. Because we don’t have a large budget we rely on others to help us with practical things like moving, finding accommodation, borrowing cars, finding furniture etc. This post I wrote in the middle of our move earlier this month highlighted the many “helps” we received.

Then there’s other things that you have even less control over, that God often provides, like a friend for your child, a sympathetic teacher who will help your child adjust to their new school, a friend who will stop and listen to you when you’re less than likeable, groceries or a meal provided, or help to complete a bureaucratic errand. God provides people and things like these in the midst of transition, at a time when you’re most in need of help.

Because we’ve seen God provide in these ways in the past it gives us more confidence to face the next transition. For all those people who look at us during transition and sigh, “I couldn’t do what you do,” it’s important to understand the context we’re operating under: we’ve done it before and know God’s great provision. It doesn’t mean that transition is a breeze, it definitely isn’t. But it does mean that we possibly do it a little easier than someone who never has and never could imagine doing it.

Holding onto God
The author mentioned God giving her a “word” to cling to during transition. I haven’t had that exact same experience, but I have known God’s special reassurance when returning to Japan. Except for this last time, every transition back to Japan, within a week or so of returning I’ve felt a deep sense that God has called me to this land and will continue to enable and provide. This last time I think that reassurance came several weeks earlier when we were seeking God’s leading in the midst of the financial questions thrown at us late in November.

Where is home?
Transition between cultures makes you question where home is. Another aspect of the experience of transition that makes you realise that our only true home is with God. That’s both an unsettling thought (I’ll never feel 100% “at home” here on earth), but also reassuring that there will eventually be somewhere I feel at home, even if I have to wait a while for it. And that home will last forever.

There are other things I’ve learned through transition, for example, to be an observer and inquirer about culture and “the air”. The latter is great Japanese euphemism for picking up the atmosphere, being perceptive to what’s going on that’s not necessarily being stated outright. After we returned to Australia I wrote a post about what I perceived as being “in the air” in Australia. Some was obvious as it was in newspaper headlines, but others I only picked up through conversations with various people, articles, and observations in the community.

There are other things I've learned too, but this is enough for today!

22 January, 2019

Getting back to "normal" gradually

Looking back at the last several days, I can see that we’re gradually getting back into a rhythm of life that is familiar. Indeed, Friday and Saturday were hectic, but full of “normal” stuff like errands on my bike, grocery shopping, cooking, helping out at a wrestling tournament, and interacting with various people in the international community. Sunday was slower, but again “normal” for us in Japan: church in the morning, our usual Sunday noodle lunch, and relaxing in the afternoon and evening.

Friday morning I went to another CAJ prayer meeting, it was an encouragement to pray with other parents for the school and surrounding community. Then I headed off on, what turned out to be, a whole morning of bike-riding as I did various errands and grocery shopping. 
I ran out of energy mid-morning on
Friday, so bought this iced coffee.
Not as nice as a hot coffee when it's
under 10C outside, but it helped when
I needed it.

After lunch I took an hour to rest on the bed, knowing the next day and a half would be very full. After that I put together Japanese curry rice in the slow cooker for the refs and coaches’ hospitality room the next day at the wrestling meet CAJ was hosting. Then I took our youngest to the doctor with a suspected case of the flu. We sat at the doctor’s for 2 ½ hours (it’s a show-up-and-you’ll-get-seen-eventually clinic). He was given a flu diagnosis on symptoms as his temperature had been rising quickly through the afternoon.

Saturday I spent about 10 hours at the CAJ gym. It was great to be there, but I felt fragmented in many ways as there were several things I was involved in: 

  • Helping with the hospitality room—bringing food, checking the room periodically, helping solve any problems that emerged, then cleaning up at the end.
  • Helping with the administration of the high school event—there’s a lot of writing involved as wrestlers are listed in their weight classes, inserted in a draw, results recorded, bout-sheets written up, etc. All by hand! I didn’t do a lot, but just bits and pieces.

I also tried to meet the parents of new wrestlers as well as cheer for the CAJ wrestlers when they were out on the mat. I had a number of great conversations (as far as the fragmented wrestling-day conversation goes), and met two new families (new to the team as well as to the school). It was especially great just “hanging” with some of our longer-term wrestling-parent friends and also talking with a mum who’s been around at the school ever since I’ve been there, but with whom I’ve struggled in the past to connect to. On top of that I had my own kids to stay in touch with. One with the flu and the other feeling his way around just being on campus at CAJ again. 

It was a satisfying, but tiring day. But it did feel so normal. I had couple of people do a double take as they saw me for the first time in six months, but momentarily forgot that I’d been gone. Obviously we’re such fixtures that it seemed normal to folk to see us!

I’m gradually gaining in stamina. Last week I found myself going too hard at times and then petering out before the end of the day. My emotions are gradually settling down, but I’m still a bit all over the shop on that front. I keep reminding myself that we’re in the midst of transition and that’s going to continue for a while yet, though gradually tapering towards a more steady normal. That’s a good thought.

Today our 10th grade son started back at school. That was another big marker towards getting everyone more established in a normal routine. Our youngest is still out with the flu, but this morning I’ve had downstairs to myself as he slept in and, I presume, has been reading in bed. It’s very pleasant to sit at my desk with no teenagers around at all.

Now I have to get motivated to ride out for some more groceries. It’s a lovely blue sky out there, though I know it is under 10 degrees, I also know that I will be adequately dressed to cope with it. 

Actually that has been a big surprise. I thought that I’d struggle with the significant change from mid-Brisbane summer (around 30˚C) to a mid-Tokyo winter (single digits), but I’ve actually been quite warm. I’ve got no idea what that’s all about, perhaps God’s special grace to me at this time. The other surprise is that three of the four members of our household have come down with colds/flu and I have not. It’s generally me who gets all the colds and the others rarely, but not this time. Of course I might still get it, but I’m thankful that thus far I’ve remained well.

Well, it’s off to put my jacket, scarf, gloves, and ear muffs on.

17 January, 2019

Joy in the small things

Writing yesterday's post made me very sad for several hours afterwards. So today I want to tell you about some joy I had yesterday. 
I don't like housework and spend as little time on it as possible. However, I've found over the years that if I vacuum and clean toilets regularly, I expend less emotional energy in the long run and actually get a reasonable amount of satisfaction at having those two things under control. I've also discovered that routine is also something that also reduces energy spent, so I've developed the routine of doing these two mundane, yet important jobs on Wednesday mornings. It is the morning that school has a slow start for the students. They start at 9.30 instead of 8.30, so the morning is a bit different anyway, with them here later.

Routine is something that was almost completely missing from our six months in Australia. It's a big thing we missed. And, try as I might, I never established a routine for vacuuming and cleaning toilets.

So yesterday morning it was with strange delight that I got reacquainted with my cute Japanese vacuum cleaner. I have yet to meet a vacuum cleaner in Australia that I like as much as this little machine. I even took a selfie with it to show you how tiny it is. Oh, and I cleaned the toilets too. Which, despite most of my house being around 6˚C, wasn't a hardship as I was warm anyway from vacuuming, and then used warm water to clean.

And then I sat down with coffee that I made with my Baccarat stovetop expresso maker (another item that I missed in Australia). A little piece of routine reclaimed and with it, joy. I savoured the moment.

16 January, 2019

Paying the cost of returning to Japan

It was a beautiful wedding.
This time last week we were in the air. Wow! Today I vacuumed our house, cleaned toilets, and baked bread. We've achieved a lot in a week in terms of getting settled. Helped, of course, by the fact that we really hadn't moved out of our Tokyo house. The ten days before we left Australia also contained a lot, especially a lot of goodbyes.

On New Year's Eve we said farewell to my parents (and their home, a place that they've lived since I was 15, but may not live there much longer, hence I was saying goodbye to that place quietly in my head). Then drove 45 minutes to the wedding of a girl who was a baby at my 21st birthday party. She's the daughter of a friend I've known my whole life (here's a post I wrote eight years ago about this special friendship). 

My lifelong friend Melina, mother of the bride.
The whole wedding was held on my friend's property, a rural block far enough from the city that you could see many stars. The reception extended into the night and we were treated with fireworks at 9.30pm. It's the first time our boys have been to a wedding as teenagers, so it was a cultural experience for them.

Fairyland in a tin shed!
We stayed that night nearby at the home of relatives of the bride, actually someone I walked down the aisle with when I was my friend's bridesmaid! The next day on the way back to Ipswich we stopped by my friends' house to say goodbye. As adults we've never lived in the same town and are used to long absences. But it doesn't mean that I don't grieve that I don't get to spend more time with this precious friend.

On New Year's Day we went back to our house in Ipswich and spent the next several days packing up and moving out of our house. We are thankful for friends and church members who helped us with this, especially our home church's pastor who did several trips locally with his trailer and lent us his car and trailer for a longer trip on Saturday. He and his wife also hosted us in their house (with our 10 suitcases) over the weekend.

We took a break from moving on the Sunday and instead had a very social day. Our farewell service (also called our re-commissioning service) at church in the morning and said farewell afterwards to a lot of people one-by-one, including one lady who completely broke down in my arms. Then we attended a reunion/farewell with some old friends for a late lunch.

My parents and another couple who've known me my whole life (whose granddaughter had just gotten married) came to church with us—it was wonderful to have them there. Saying goodbye to my parents is never easy, but we managed it without falling apart completely.

Farewell to this house, which has been a
great base during our six-months.
So many goodbyes. I was exhausted by the end of the day.

Special friends
On Monday morning I met another special friend for coffee to say goodbye. Then after lunch and a couple of small errands we were free to say farewell to Ipswich, the place that's been home for the last six months. We drove to a hotel near Brisbane airport and dropped off our suitcases, then headed to coast for a special gathering of close friends.

I'm not sure how much I can write here about this gathering, I don't want to infringe upon my friends' privacy. Suffice to say that these are also precious friends and it was an unexpected opportunity to meet them all together. The ladies and I have been supporting one another in an online chat group through some really tough things over the last few months. I'm incredibly grateful for their friendships and incredibly sad that we have moved away from where they are both located. The night, of course, ended too soon, and this marked the final farewells. 

Unless, of course, you count our eldest son. He joined us on the Tuesday for a movie and dinner and then we said our last goodbye to him on Australian soil for a while. He's coming in ten days to visit us here, but it was still sad that our time with him in Australia was over.

Recognising loss
In the past I'd have just shoved all this under the carpet and moved on, but I've learnt as I've grown older that recognising all these goodbyes is important to remaining healthy. That was confirmed again this morning by this article a friend sent me. In it the author says that it's not just the big losses that we need to recognised, the small ones count too, though I wouldn't say that saying goodbye to all the above friends in a matter of a few days is a small thing.
But all of us should take time to think about the things we have lost, recognise them and grieve appropriately rather than spend our lives in denial. David rightly said “I will not give God something that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24). Recognising and mourning the loss helps us to give God something of value, rather than something that wasn’t important to us anyway.

15 January, 2019

Surrounded by constant transition

Today I went to my second prayer meeting in two days. It sounds like all missionaries do is pray, right? Well that's not quite true, but it is an important part of the work. Praying with others really helps me to pray more, but also keeps me in contact with others in the international community here. My job could easily result in me spending most days stuck behind my computer in my house, which is not only unhealthy for me (I need time with others), but also would mean that I'd get a very narrow focus on what's going on around me in the world. So it's been very helpful to start integrating back into our community by attending a couple of these.

The meeting I went to yesterday was school-based, and especially focused on 10th grade, the grade our middle son is in. It comprised of five mums from that grade level. I was hit full in the face with culture shock. Not Japanese culture (although a lot of the meeting was conducted in Japanese because that was the language two of the mums were most fluent in), but more the international culture that surrounds people associated with CAJ and missions in general.

Of the five mums present, two of us were transitioning into (or back into) the school this month and two others were planning for home assignment from the middle of the year. We also prayed for two other students in the class who are currently in the US for six to twelve months. That's an awful high level of mobility, when you consider the class is only 40-50 students. But it's the norm in this population. It was a shock to remember that characteristic of this life we've been called to. The only constant, aside from our heavenly Father, is change. And that even if we ourselves stay still, we are surrounded by constant change.

It truly is exhausting. We're just recovering from our own transition, but at the same time relating to a high number of people around us who are in the midst of transition themselves. 

Australian Christmas lunch with the Marshalls. Our
boys have developed a love of cherries (closest bowl),
 which were in abundance during this season.
Today's all-morning meeting was with a couple of dozen of missionary women across various walks of life, some old friends, others I'd never met before. I'm exhausted after that, more so than I usually would be. It's a good reminder that, though I don't have jet lag, I need to be kind to myself in the midst of this transition. Because we've basically stepped back into life as it was before we left, the temptation is to just run at the same pace as we usually do. But I'm thinking that that's not wise, not yet.

As I caught up with friends I realised that I'm going to struggle to find anyone in Japan who wants to hear about all the people I've said goodbye to, they've simply got their own issues to deal with and talking to someone about friends of yours that they've never met is hard and a bit weird. I guess you might not want to hear about them either, but on a blog post, you can take it or leave it, you're not a captured audience.

So here's a few of our goodbyes:

David's family
Cold prawns (US=shrimp) for lunch. Our boys
needed lessons in how to deal with these, ironically
their British uncle taught them about this
Australian-Christmas food.
On the 20th of December we drove all day to David's mother's house where we met up with his sister and her family. The next day we had "Christmas" with them and David's aunt and uncle. It was a lovely family time, busy, but in an Aussie-laid back way.

That night we said goodbye to David's sister and her family as they left early the next morning to drive south for two days to visit members of her husband's family.

On Christmas morning we said goodbye to David's mum and drove south ourselves. Routine, in a way, as we've never lived close to David's side of the family, but still, these were important goodbyes. Thankfully those days we spent with them, we made good memories that we carry with us. I'm glad we took the time to organise this trip.

Wendy's family
We drove straight from there to my parents. Another whole-day drive. My parents have seen a reasonable amount of us over the last six months. They only lived 90 minutes drive from where we were located in Ipswich and in a city where we have a number of supporters. So we went up there a few weekends to speak in churches, and were grateful to be able to see them and stay in their house (the only place our boys have known their whole lives). We also took time during the September school holidays to spend with both David's family and mine. These were "Big Rocks", time that we plan into home assignment time before we plan other things like visits to churches and time with friends. Family is important, and even more so when we're not around often.

We stayed almost a week with them from Christmas Day, which also included a family "Christmas" where my sisters joined us with their families. A rare opportunity for all nine of my parents' grandchildren to get together. We've got photos and good memories of that time too. But again, goodbyes were said. We couldn't tell them when we'd next get to see them, but it's certainly going to be more than one year! We're used to being apart, but it doesn't make it unimportant to say goodbye, to acknowledge that love and separation don't go well together.

We got to see my parents again one more time, but I'll leave that to my next blog post, because there were a lot more goodbyes said between 31st December and when we left Australia on 9th January.

14 January, 2019

Pausing to gather my heart?

Today's my first day back at my desk. Considering we've been back in Japan less than five days, I don't think that's too bad. But we have moved straight back into the same house that we walked away from on June 30 last year, so it isn't too much of a stretch to be dipping our toes back into normal life.

In reality, though, we're physically here, but I feel like it will take a little while longer for my head and heart to catch up. We left Australia in a manner that felt very fast. On January 1 we returned from a couple of weeks of visiting family in Queensland. We returned to a fully functional house. In just three days we packed up and moved out, three days after that we'd completely moved everything out, put our stuff in storage and sent everything else to its next place of residence (including a substantial amount to a secondhand store), and had the house ready for bond inspection. Thirty-six hours after that we flew out of Brisbane. 

It happened efficiently and with significant help from others. But you can't do efficiency with hearts. The goodbyes happened quickly in the midst of it all, and for better or for worse, I didn't have time to dwell on any of them.

So, while I'm physically sitting now in at my Tokyo desk—yes, even doing work (I sent more than 30 emails/messages today)—I need to make sure I take some time to get the rest of me here too. I'm not sure how will looks, though I suspect some of it will happen here on my blog. I'd also like to get to the park on my bike sometime soon. Perhaps a pause at a coffee shop too?

05 January, 2019

My perspective, from a spare bedroom

It's just over a week since I last wrote and I've had a real desire to write today, aided by a quieter day. We only got back on Tuesday from our 2,000km tour round Queensland visiting family. We didn't think that it would be too much hard work to pack up our house and we were right, but there was always a bit of uncertainty because we only had three nights.
This was a quiet farewell. It's possible that, before we
return to Australia again my parents will sell the house
that they've been in the last 30 years.
I only lived there for two years, but it's been something of
a "home base" for me since I left home at 17. Certainly
one of the few places that our boys have had as a
constant in their lives. This piano I spent hours at
as a teenager, with my photo on the top. The piano
will move with my parents, of that I have no doubt,
but the house will be missed by us all.

Today was supposed to be move-it-all-out day, but we had practically everything out of the house by 10am. Most of the furniture we were using was donated to the Salvation Army yesterday, a few pieces went back to their owners, and our bedroom suite went back to my parents via a friend. The rest of our stuff fitted into two trailers and the backs of a station wagon and 4WD this morning, destined for storage our shipping container.

Yesterday afternoon we removed from our house about 150kg of luggage in around a dozen suitcases. This is the stuff, mostly clothing and other personal items, that we will take back to us to Japan.

So, now we sit in no-mans-land. In a spare bedroom, waiting four more nights until we fly to Japan. In the next four days we have less to do, but perhaps more to "be". We've got the time to spend with some close friends and some last-minute catch-ups. That includes our farewell at our home church tomorrow. Hopefully, Tuesday, our last full day in Australia, will be just a rest day.

In the midst of all the busyness we have much to be thankful for. Here are some:
  • we're experienced at these international moves: this is our ninth move between countries
  • a marriage where we understand each other's gifts: a husband who is gifted with a 3D tetris super-power and loves the challenge of packing and a wife who is gifted at networking and communicating (both of which are helpful gifts when doing a move like this)
  • many friends who offer to help
  • an unlikely meal with two families who are dear friends, one of whom is also doing a big move this weekend
  • last time we left Australia we trimmed down our possessions, so it's been easier to move this time
  • people who love us on both sides of the ocean
  • boys who are happy to go back to Japan
Some specifics helps that we've received or will receive:
  • someone who is selling our son's school uniforms on our behalf
  • people who've lent time and their vehicles and trailers to move our stuff
  • accommodation and meals over this weekend that we're still local, but not at home
  • a friend who organised a reunion/farewell party tomorrow afternoon, just to get to see us
  • someone to return our borrowed Australian-van to its owner
  • colleagues who drove our "new" van in Tokyo from Yokohama to our house in Western Tokyo (probably a two-hour drive), then rearranged the bikes in our narrow carport so that they could squeeze the van into the space and caught trains home
  • friends who will store precious photos and other goods on their property
  • a colleague stocking our fridge and cupboards in Tokyo, and also check that our beds have sheets and blankets on them
  • a friend who will pick us up from the train in Tokyo
  • a family who will feed us in their home for our first dinner in Tokyo
So many friends. So much help. So thankful.

Sometimes I think that our job is to get out of the way and allow others the opportunity to serve.

I wasn't particularly well yesterday, but today am okay. At these times of transition I find that I have to expect that there are more waves than usual (both physical and emotional), and that I have to do what I can to ride them out. Emotions are always mixed. Farewells are never fun, but I know that most of them are temporary—most of these people I'll see again. I also know that Japan awaits. One of the most encouraging things about the list above are the people who are waiting for us on the other side of this move. That's a balm to the never-healing wound that these moves always tear away at.

In the end, though, the Lord is my rock. Like King David, I've set my eyes on God:

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken" (Ps. 16:8 ESV).

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:1-2 ESV)