November Reflections

30 11 2009

Twenty-seven days ago (we started November 3), a friend challenged me to National Blog Writing Month. I decided to take the challenge, because I had tons of free time, right? Well the last month has been insane (in a good way). Just before that I received my first Japanese course book and began work on that, meaning that I would be spending (I had no idea of this at the time) about 2 hours a day working on one lesson (I think I picked a book that was too hard).

November recap:
• 27 blogs written
• 11,000-ish words written to my blog (they were added up in excel, which died when I had to restart my computer) – I have a friend doing National Novel Writing Month (50,000 words), I had to see if I was anywhere near her word count – nope, but I’m super happy with what I have.
• Shortest blog: 30 words
• Longest blog: 652 words
• 19 of 20 lessons completed in my Japanese book (did one and a half today)
• Great improvements in Japanese. I was actually able to hold some very simple conversations in Japanese today!
• Several Skype records broken, including the longest conversation I’ve had (over 6 hours) and most people in one conversation (at one point we had 5 people in on our conversation)
• Getting involved with a really amazing church with a pastor who’s words challenge me (via a translator)
• 3 Wednesday night Mini-volleyball meetings (super fun!)
• Attempts at riding a unicycle
• My first times driving in the snow
• Conquered the heater with the “magical rocks”
• First school festivals – my elementary school students are so incredibly cute!
• Getting clothing that is warm enough for Hokkaido winters
• Watching the 2 year anniversary of a good friend’s death come and go
• Cooking Natto – and getting to hear the story over and over after
• 115 hours spent on Skype  How did I ever have the time to do that? That’s just phone time, not chatting with friends time. That does, though, include some amazing Bible Study time and a few epic conversations with a friend
• 13 hours spent on a train getting to Wakkanai and back (and visiting the most Northern point in Japan)
• As of this weekend I officially used up the original $10 I put on my skype account when I first arrived in Japan (August 2)
• Christmas presents ordered to arrive at my house in the states for Christmas . . . and December hasn’t even started yet!
• Lots of growth in the Lord
• Discovering some of my passions

It was a good month. I think that writing everyday was a positive distraction for me from the homesickness I was feeling a lot in October. Will I continue to blog everyday in December? Probably not, but I think I’ll be blogging more regularly. Flickr is next on the to-do list. It’s been since almost a month since I added any new photos and I’ve taken plenty since then

How shall we end the month? Maybe with a fun story about the last point. I was talking to a friend and I said something like “I think I’m passionate about writing.” Her response? “I knew that.” I had no idea, but there was one day when I wrote two blogs and I think I wrote a poem (plus my prayer journal). That’s when I realized it. I’m sure you’ll see me writing more. I went from being the kid who hated writing and could barely get a clear thought down on paper, in Middle and early High school, to a grownup who loves to write. How did that happen? I’m thinking the Lord has something to do with it. How will he use my writing in the future? I have no idea, but I’m excited to see where he takes it.


Childlike faith

29 11 2009

Today I attended my amazing Japan church. We were in Isaiah 7. The king is shaken as he hears that other kingdoms are coming to take them down (that’s me simplifying most of the chapter into one sentence). They were focusing on the things around them rather than focusing on the Lord and knowing that they are ok, because he will take care of them.

As I re-read this in an attempt to begin to work on tonight’s blog, it occurred to me that this is what children do. Something happens and when they aren’t sure how to react, they look to mom or dad. If mom or dad freak out, then they start crying or screaming. If mom or dad are calm, they remain calm.

We’re called to have a childlike faith. So, if we’re supposed to be focusing on the Lord, how should we be reacting to our surroundings? Should we be freaking out? Does the Lord freak out when he hears that someone is coming to “take his chosen down”? No. He knows what’s going to happen. Just as a parent knows whether a kid really needs to cry over the small thing, the Lord knows whether we need to freak out over the things in our life.

We are called to give these things to him and have his peace. He says it over and over and over again in the Word (believe me, I’ve been finding a lot of these references lately – think He’s trying to say something?). But when I actually do what I’m told and look to him, I have more peace than I’ve had in a long time.

He also said (as translated): “Look at God and go to God’s word. Put your heart there. Don’t put your heart where the problem is. That will always bring anxiety. Who can fix a problem by dwelling on it?” It’s time to let go of these things and keep my focus on the Lord. He will provide the answers I need.

One of my favorite worship songs: “Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging, your love is a mountain firm beneath my feet.” I love that. He is unchanging and steady. I just need to hold on to him and he will give me the peace that surpasses all understanding.

An amazing day!

28 11 2009

Today was an amazing day. Here are a few of the highlights: **

Chatting it up with the crazies on skype for a total of about 6 hours. Using Google wave to carry on private conversations, map a route to my house, beginning another quote book, Barats & Bereta theme song.

Getting to talk to my family on the break, in between the two conversations with the crazies. Having dad challenge me to a bowling wii game.

Talking to my friend, K, until I absolutely had to leave for my supervisor’s house, about some good things. Leaving at absolutely the last minute and arriving at my supervisor’s house EXACTLY at 6 (as planned).

Going to my supervisor’s house for dinner with her and her family. Including amazing food – sukiyaki (there was beef, dad!). I was actually able to communicate most of what I wanted to in Japanese and gestures (getting better each day!!!). Good conversation with my supervisor and her family. Their absolutely adorable Toy Poodle. Amazing non-American cheesecake, but this one didn’t have a nasty pie crust and it actually tasted good. Then Wii, which I sucked at the sports, but did amazing at the other game we played. Learning a trick for Wii bowling (maybe I’ll beat you after all, Dad!!). I had a blast.

Arriving home to discover not only the package from my family, but a Thanksgiving card from my aunt. Inside the package? Amazing, exciting things. My sister made me a couple of adorable gifts and wrote me the sweetest letter. Acne stuff that I somehow didn’t bring with me to Japan. Maybe I’ll actually have clear skin now!! Chocolate. Bandaids and Neosporin. I can now handle any cuts that come my way!

A wonderful day. I feel so loved! I wonder what the Lord has in store for me tomorrow?

**Please note my apology for the overuse of fragments and exclamation points. I was quite excited about what an amazing day it was and wanted to share with all of you. The Lord has been bringing me through plenty of hard times lately and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget to share the good too.


27 11 2009

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here, but I didn’t really celebrate until today when I got to talk to my extended family on Skype.

So today’s blog is about all the ways the Lord has blessed me, because while it’s hard to be so far away, the Lord has also blessed me in a ton of ways.

In a country where less than 1% of the people are believers, I have a JTE who is not only a believer, but also is willing to bring me along with her to church any Sunday that I’m in town.

Church. Through my JTE I have found an amazing church that has a heart to see people grow in the Lord. Both their own members and to reach out to others in Japan. They also have an American missionary who can translate for me. So I actually understand the message!

Work. I have a job. So many people in the world are struggling to find a job so they can pay bills and support a family. I am able to not only pay my bills, but save and pay down my school debt.

Japanese. I am understanding more and more everyday. With that understanding also comes more ability to communicate with people, which is so exciting.

Friendships here. I have been able to connect with a few of the other teachers in my schools pretty well. They still don’t have the western culture of “hey, want to do something tonight?” but I have been able to have them over and they’ve had me over.

My town. The people here care about me. If I were to voice a problem, they would help me find a solution. They also pay half my ticket home once a year. Which is HUGE.

My supervisor. Her family has adopted me a bit. I get to have dinner with her family tomorrow and she’s taken me with them to Furano several times to shop and go to her son’s baseball games.

Other JETs. I have made some good friendships here and have been able to travel some to see these friends. I haven’t left Hokkaido yet, but there is a whole lot to see even here.

Bible Study. Because of the Christian Jet Fellowship, I was able to get connected with 3 other believers and we have Bible Study every Thursday night. It has been an amazing time to grow in the Lord and build one another up.

My family. I have an incredible family who cares about me a lot.

My home church. Where many of the people not only care enough to pray, but many care enough keep in contact through letters and email.

Friends. I have amazing friends at home who haven’t let the distance get in the way of our friendships.

Skype. I have been able to talk to my family and SEE them despite the fact that I am so far away. It’s hard not to be able to give hugs, but it’s also been wonderful to be able to not only talk to them for free but see them too.

Many of my blogs may be about tough things the Lord has brought me through, but he has also put so many blessings in my life.

Thanksgiving Blog

26 11 2009

I spent my blog-writing time booking a hotel for the day before I fly home for Christmas and the day I return after.

I’m exhausted and going to bed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gender Identity In Japanese and Western Culture: The Definitive Something or Other*

25 11 2009

Today I spent another day with my Junior High School students. It was a good day. But as I stand there often not involved in classes except to read for the students to repeat (human tape recorder, we call it), I get to observe my students. This is always an interesting way to keep my mind occupied.

As I stand there, I frequently notice that the boys in the class have some very “girly” school supplies. Minnie Mouse Folders, pink pencils and plenty of other things. Why is it that guys in the US think that these types of things would make them less “manly”? Why is it that American society deems these things “girly?” Why do we have to separate things and jobs as feminine or masculine?

The differences continue outside the classroom. Construction equipment here is often cute. Elephants, frogs and monkeys hold up bars to keep people seeing the edge of the road. The lifter things that help people reach power lines, painted like giraffes.Why is it that construction equipment at home is never painted in pastel colors? Or pinks? Or any of the colors we deem “feminine?” Or is it because animals are “childish?” If that’s the case, who quit liking animals after they were an adult?

In the states, we also seem to classify jobs this way. How many male elementary teachers have you met? There are usually one or two at any school, clearly outnumbered. How many women do you know going into computer science? I know a handful, but I know way more men. Why is this? Didn’t God give us each unique talents and abilities? Why would women not be able to do some jobs and men not be able to do others?

I may be crazy to share all of these thoughts, but at home I get annoyed when the boys in the classroom think they can’t be good at reading or writing because they’re “girl subjects” (or sometimes even school at all), or when a girl thinks she can’t be good at math or science because they’re “boy subjects.” Students seem to choose this way of thinking all the time (or did when I was subbing).

I’m not trying to say that women should be better than men at everything or vice versa. I just get annoyed with the way we box things into gender. Why are school supplies, colors, school subjects and professions categorized into genders? They have no gender. They’re inanimate objects.

Will we ever be able to disconnect these things from gender? Would lifting these boxes that we have put ourselves and those around us in change anything? I’m not sure. I would hope that it would make everyone help to be themselves. Help them to dress in the colors they want to. Help them to do a job they love rather than shying away from it because it’s not something they should be doing.

*Title thanks to: Elizabeth, author of Futons, Fish, and Ferries and one of my regular blog editors

Never Look Away

24 11 2009

Yet again, I find myself floored at how a song speaks to me. This song, another by KJ-52, is called Never Look Away. KJ-52 is not an artist I would normally listen to, yet the Lord used it.

“I once was lost but then You found me and loved me
And I’m never gonna look away
No I’m never gonna look away
You paid the cost You showed me how You bought me
And I’m never gonna look away
No I’m never gonna look away”
–Never Look Away (KJ-52 featuring Brynn Sanchez)

There are times when life is difficult and it’s hard to be so far away from all the people that I love. But every time this starts to feel overwhelming, the Lord reminds me that I need to keep looking at him and he will provide for me. Whatever it is I think I need, he will provide what I need. And usually that looks like peace. Peace amidst troubles. Peace amidst worry. Peace against all odds.

“I’m never gonna look away.” So easy to say and intend to mean. But most of the time when the distance feels overwhelming it’s because I’ve not realized I’ve looked away. I start to focus on the worries of this world instead of the things the Lord has promised.

I can do all things in Christ – Philippians 4:13
He has good plans for me with a hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
If I trust in Him with all that I am and don’t lean on my own understanding, he will guide my steps. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Cast all my cares on him, he will take care of them because he cares about me – 1 Peter 5:7
Seek him first and he will supply for my needs – Matthew 6:33
His power works best in my weakness – 2 Corinthians 12:9

These are paraphrased by me. They seem that much more real to me when I repeat things that the Lord has spoken to me in the past and recently.

His provision? It’s here. From making some closer friends here, to finding a JTE who goes to an amazing church. It’s not hard to see. I just have to remember to focus on the things the Lord has done in my life and not let go of those things when the storms of life hit.