hugs and snorts

I’m exhausted. Totally drained.

And I’m reading into it… SHOCKER! Me? Read into something?

Couldn’t it just be from the high 90 degree temps with extreme humidity? Or perhaps the fact that I’m still experiencing culture shock…

While I’m sure all of this is part of it, I admit that I was anticipating my new work to be completely energizing and wonderful and so very perfect for me…

womp. womp.

This week, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that it’s just a j-o-b.

This is huge for me. I don’t hate it and for the most part it’s a good fit with my strengths and personality, which is important. But I’m always looking for deep meaning and purpose and now I’m seeing the bottom line: it pays my bills. And for this, I’m incredibly grateful!! But in my let down over the other part, I turned to Ecclesiastes and found so much comfort in Solomon’s words.

And in my ponderings and tiredness, I realize I’m so darn tired of taking life so seriously. And I’m tired of the pressure I put on myself to make a real difference in the world.

True to Cyndi Lauper’s song, this girl just wants to have fuh-un.

True to Solomon’s wisdom, this girls wants to eat, drink and be merry!

And I know that this is what my Father wants for me, too!

So what does He do?

He gives me the most beautiful friends and precious relationships.

This week I had dinner with someone I met on the train during my first week here. I had been trying to get together with her for about a month and in the midst of the planning, I discovered through Facebook that she is friends with a friend I’ve recently made at Eriko’s church. It turned out they are friends from high school who hadn’t seen each other for a year and a half.

nami and atsuko

And I’m also making friends with some of my clients… and yesterday, one of these friends was laughing until she was crying…

We started laughing (over nothing really!) and it became one of those moments where it wouldn’t stop… and she laughed so hard, she cried. While I, on the other hand, couldn’t keep from snorting!!

SNORTING!! Crying would be so much more graceful… but I went with it and it created an opportunity for her to expand her English vocabulary!!

AND, as she left, I couldn’t help myself… I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her!!

This, after attending a training the week before in which I had to respond to the question of how I will adjust my teaching style or personality to be sensitive to the Japanese culture. And my answer had to do with being very mindful of not touching them during lessons as I know my tendency to touch someone’s hand or arm during conversation.

HA! I failed to take into account my big tendency to hug!!

It’s unique connections when the world becomes so small, moments of freedom when laughter comes for no reason and when hugs break the rules that I’m reminded that my life is exactly as it should be…

This is the kind of stuff life is made of… relationships that fill my heart and make a real difference in my world.

xoxoxoxoxo

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:29-31

Destination or Journey?

Sigh…

It’s August 1 and what a month July was…

1. I kicked it off with my Residence Card in hand from the Japanese Government

2. And the following week, I woke to an email with the news that someone who I loved with all my heart is in the arms of Jesus

3. That same week I boarded a train that ended up being a ‘rapid service’ one and not a ‘local’ so I ended up rapidly flying past my stop and arriving 45 minutes late for my engagement

train

4. The following week I began training for my job as an English Instructor which proved to be more challenging than I anticipated

5. The week that followed I woke to an email with a sonogram attached of my nephew!!! Yes, I’m going to be an aunt!!!

6. And then in that same week, I taught my first set of one-on-one English lessons and also decided to stretch myself just a little further outside my comfort zone by committing to teach a weekly English class to a group of adults ranging from 50 – 83. After teaching that class, I boarded a train that was a ‘local’ one instead of ‘rapid service’ so I stopped at every station along the way and arrived home 45 minutes later than I should have

No doubt I’m living and learning… in so many ways…

7. Finally, to end this month, earlier this week I was introduced to someone who has a heart for women in the sex industry and when he pulled out his iPhone to share the scripture that was laid on his heart around it, I braced myself because I knew it would hit me and sure enough tears began to flow as he read:

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
 I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
    as she did long ago when she was young,
    when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master.’ ~Hosea 2:14-16

God highlighted these verses to me about two years ago before the week-long retreat I was off to attend to complete my Holy Yoga Instructor Training. And He has used them over and over since then…

His Word is so active. It breathes life into me when I need it most…

hosea 2

I still can’t believe I’m in Japan… obviously, the last month has been full. And I’m not sure what all is to come…

But that’s where the biggest lesson is for me…

I learned awhile ago that it’s not about the destination, but the journey… but now, I’m learning that it’s not really about the journey, either…

It’s all about the One who is by my side through it all…

And I’m discovering that that right there is the abundance of life that He promised.

train couple

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

Christmas Cake in July

I hate being evaluated, being watched. I detest it. I also do not like role-playing.

Role-playing isn’t natural, and being evaluated and watched makes it hard for me to be natural… to be free.

Last week, I began training for my job as a one-to-one English Teacher. And this may sound over-dramatic (probably is), but in the role-playing and evaluation portion, I felt like I was in a lion’s den. Seriously, the level of anxiety I felt was so intense and so horribly uncomfortable.

And what I’ve heard in times past was heard again, “Just relax, Michele. You’re too hard on yourself. You’re over-thinking.”

And maybe I am.

But I don’t know anything else.

At the same time, I’m embracing the ambition in me. I don’t want to reject it because it’s how He created me, to seek excellence in what I do and that’s not a bad thing.

What I’m finding is that in seeking excellence, I am seeking Him because I can’t do it on my own.

A short summary of my time in Japan: I can’t do ANYTHING on my own.

I have never been more aware of my need for Him in every aspect of my life as now.

When I’m at the grocery trying to make sense of things, when I’m in the midst of training for my new position trying to make sense of things, when my building manager stops me on my way out and goes on and on in Japanese and I’m trying to make sense of things…

Jesus, help!

I need Him… every hour I need Him.

During training, we were advised on several topics that should not be discussed during lessons. And age was one with the disclaimer of how especially sensitive this topic can be regarding women…

According to Wikipedia: In Japan, women had traditionally been expected to marry at a young age and those who were unmarried after the age of 25 were sometimes scornfully referred to as Christmas cakes (unsold after the 25th).

So shortly after realizing I was a Christmas cake, I went to the restroom and looked in the mirror to see a gray hair sticking out plain as day.

Really???

It  was actually quite funny to me… so I hope you are laughing about it, too.

And the bottom line is that I so want to be a strong and patient little Christmas cake.

But I’m not going to lie. It’s been really hard lately.

And this one I don’t even attempt to make sense of…

In this case, I rest. I rest in His goodness. I rest in what my Father spoke to me months ago in Mozambique as I tried to make sense of it:

I’m not holding out on you. I’m just not ready to share you… I am jealous for you.

Oh Jesus, thank you. I need you. Every second of every day. I need you.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Matthew 6:6 MSG

This is not Christmas cake, but it is the dessert I enjoyed with this beautiful friend to end my week!
Obviously, not Christmas cake but next best thing… delicious desserts enjoyed with beautiful friends to end my week!!

Knight in Shining Armor

Nearly five years ago, he arrived on the scene. And not too early, nor too late, but just in time. He saved the day, helping me navigate the decisions that had to be made and rescuing me from the mess I was in.

I first met his wife while we were both volunteering in the nursery at church and I knew from the moment that I met her that her love was pure and limitless.

So, as a couple, that made for a whole lot of that love.

God totally brought us together in His perfect timing and this precious couple became a steady, loving presence in my life.

gparents

Man, I love how God works. How He intersects our lives just when they need to cross. And I truly don’t know what I would have done over the last five years without them.

I even call them Grandpa and Grandma. What an honor and privilege that went beyond the title. They filled this role in my life, but more importantly, my heart, where there was a definite void.

He is so faithful to fulfill our every need.

And in a land far from home, I received an email yesterday morning with the news that Grandpa is no longer with us.

He went home. He is with Jesus.

As I mourn this loss, it uncovers the depths of my gratitude for Grandpa. I learned so much about God’s grace through his heart. He poured out his love and concern over me in a way that had me constantly wondering what I did to deserve it and also trying to figure out how on earth I could pay him back time and time again…

But grace doesn’t expect anything in return, nor did he. Grace simply gives… and gives… and never stops… because that’s what grace does. Grace doesn’t know anything else.

And Grandpa knew no other way.

He was my knight in shining armor. The grace he came armed with rescued me. And from that point on, my heart was never the same. I will forever be grateful for the love he expressed to me in countless ways on this side of heaven.

And I’m grateful that Grace always rescue me.

gpa

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. -2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Love this.

…There is a vast difference between devotion to a person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause— He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted bondservant motivated by love for the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not truly devoted to Jesus Christ. No one on earth has this passionate love for the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Spirit has given it to him. We may admire, respect, and revere Him, but we cannot love Him on our own. The only One who truly loves the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and it is He who has “poured out in our hearts” the very “love of God” (Romans 5:5). Whenever the Holy Spirit sees an opportunity to glorify Jesus through you, He will take your entire being and set you ablaze with glowing devotion to Jesus Christ.

The Christian life is a life characterized by true and spontaneous creativity. Consequently, a disciple is subject to the same charge that was leveled against Jesus Christ, namely, the charge of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines…

Taken from Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest

Down to my last yen

I do my best to maintain a positive outlook on life and it helps that I’m wired to lean towards optimism. So whenever I write, it can be pretty upbeat and ‘flowery’ (pun intended after my last post!).

But today, my intent is to share that this journey isn’t always a bed of roses. Nor am I always incredibly positive about my life. Because at 35-years old, this is definitely not what I imagined.

Last night, I had to take money from a ‘stranger’ because my debit card did a disappearing act.

So allow me to explain…

Yesterday, I awaited the special delivery of my visa paperwork. My application was approved this week!! YAY! So I will start working soon, but still have a few more steps in the process to complete.

This is great news, right??

Well, for some crazy reason… I started to freak out. I started to doubt the nature of  my new job, which in short is independent contractor work. So I will be teaching English and paid per lesson taught. The more lessons, the more money. But, also, there isn’t any guarantee on my scheduled lessons as it is primarily dependent on the client’s choice of instructor.

So, the freak out begins… Will I be able to pay my bills? Will I have to eat ramen (by the way, instant noodles were invented in Osaka so I guess the good news is there isn’t a better place for me to be in this case!!)?

And then it got really good… How much longer will I have to suffer like this? Will I ever make the kind of money I used to?

Pathetic, I know.

And while I’ve come so far, there are still times when I am burdened with feeling that I’ve let my parents down. Not to mention, the concern I have over what others may be thinking such as, 1) Poor Michele. I hope she eventually finds her way 2) Weirdo Michele. She’s gone off the deep end with her faith 3) Oh Michele. If she could only understand that there is no perfect job or circumstances.

And oh my… as I write out the crazy talk in my head, I feel so much better. Because 1) I know that not all who wander are lost because it was when I wasn’t wandering that I was completely lost 2)Yes, I have gone off the deep end and there’s no turning back 3) This is not breaking news to me.

Whew. Now that that has been handled, I can get back to my story.

I literally had cents to my name yesterday…. see?

last cents

This is equivalent to about $2.50. And I tried to use the ATM to withdraw money (this was the first time I’ve had to do this). Well, the ATM wouldn’t work. So I did further research only to find out that not all ATMs here take international cards.

Thankfully, I had enough on my train pass to get me to the next station over where an appropriate ATM was. I easily located it and approached it with much anticipation only to open my bag and discover that my debit card was nowhere to be found…

Really, Michele? You left it sitting at home??

So I went back home to get it… only to find it was NOWHERE. I’m telling you NOWHERE. And a great benefit to my teeny tiny place is that I could quickly conclude it was nowhere.

All the while, I had dinner plans for the evening with someone I had just met at the church I visited last Sunday, and I felt like a complete moron with the first impression I was making by texting her all my drama!! But she was patient and I’m so glad didn’t let me cancel on her…

Because it was an amazing evening and ended with my beautiful new friend sending me on my way with some cash.

The End.

Can you say humbling???

So be careful what you pray for. I’ve asked God to make me completely dependent on Him… and like a good Father, He is answering.

Another moral of the story: Don’t wait until you are down to your last cents to get money out of the ATM in a foreign country, or any country, for that matter.

PS. Please don’t judge me. I can’t believe I let it get to that myself!!!! So grateful He always has my back!!!

Don’t mean to get all flowery…

I’m so overwhelmed with my new home. In such a good way.

Who knew I would love public transportation so much? It’s one of my new favorites in life.

And whenever I get on the train, I look out the window and reflect and get so stinking emotional over my life. I cannot believe I’m living in Japan. Three weeks in and still having to pinch myself.

But on that note, the transition hasn’t been easy so those emotions are definitely a mixed bag. I just barely made a turn. Culture shock definitely had me. There is little to no English anywhere. I have had to play the guessing game right down to the basics… it looks like salt… it smells like salt…Image

But is it salt??? Sidenote: And I can’t even believe I felt sorry for myself. Why should there be English anywhere? They don’t speak English here!!

And I’ve never lived in the city and I’ve moved to the third largest one here with 2.5 million people residing in it so this has been a big adjustment.

Image

Needless to say, I have been incredibly humbled. I have never felt like such a little girl in such a big world as I do now.

And yes, the world is big. BUT, I have an even bigger God.

And in my smallness, it’s all the more humbling that to my Father God, I’m His world and that’s what’s keeping me from getting completely swallowed up. He’s so amazing and beyond what I can wrap my brain around, but I know that I mean the world to Him.

And I marvel at His hand in my life…

The last 24 hours were spent with my super smart and sweet and amazing friend, Isabella. She’s German. We met about three years ago in Phoenix. At that time, she was living in Freiburg, Germany and I was in Scottsdale, Arizona. But now, she lives far from home in San Diego, California and I just moved to Osaka, Japan.

And she just happened to be presenting some of her research (like I said, she’s super smart) at the 11th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry that just happened to be held at the Kyoto International Conference Center, which just happens to be about a 45 minute train/subway ride away from me… and did I mention I’m loving public transportation?

So a train ride and a transfer to the subway with another transfer later…

Image

And for me, Kyoto was a sushi restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale where I’m not even sure I fully remember my last time there because I drank a little too much sake!!

But now?

Kyoto is a beautiful city and one of the most visited by tourists in the new country I’m living, where I met up with my brilliant friend while she was meeting with brilliant people from around the world.

And I have a confession: I ate some sandwiches at the conference provided by the sponsoring pharmaceutical companies. And since I wasn’t an official conference attendee I probably shouldn’t have helped myself to the sandwiches even though it was Isabella’s prompting.

And not to split hairs, but, ten years ago, I was working for a pharmaceutical company handing out free food… so I’ll choose to view today as reaping what I had sown… free food benefits!!

Oh my… I’m chuckling at my new life.

That couldn’t be more appropriate actually. I am reaping what I’ve sown.

My life is blossoming like never before and I couldn’t be more grateful.

In fact, Isabella was staying at the Hana Hotel in Kyoto.Image

Hana = flower, and the room came with a tiny, beautiful origami flower.Image

And the Kyoto Botanical Gardens just happened to be next to the conference center so we decided to spend our day there.Image

So flowers was our theme. Totally unplanned by us. But totally the day our Father had planned all along. He’s so kind.

And I’ll take this because why not?

My life is rich beyond words. It is colorful and precious and intricate and fragrant…Image

And so beyond anything I could have imagined…

Image

What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? John 3:10

So far, so good.

I’m waking up to my third day in beautiful Japan.

Say, what??

Yep, I’m here in Japan. And I’m “saying-what” to my own self.

IMG_4145[1]

Seriously. I never would have dreamed in a million bazillion years that I would be moving anywhere outside of the United States.

And it’s not that I was opposed to crossing the U.S. border, I have always been open to travel and even lived overseas when I was younger.

But at 35-years old, to give it all away and pack it all up and move to a non-speaking English country far, far away…

Whoah. That’s all I can say.

But I’m here and as I pulled my luggage along at the train station upon first arriving, I felt like one of those proverbial characters in a story who leaves their small town roots and moves to the big city to follow their dreams.

IMG_4149[1]

That’s pretty much me.

I have left my small-minded roots and I’ve moved on to dreaming big and following the Dream Maker.

And it’s already proving to be such an incredible ride.

I sat next to a precious couple on the plane who spoke very little English but enough to invite me to the beach town where they reside! I’m currently being hosted in the home of Eriko’s parents who are incredibly kind and gracious. I’ve finally met the wonderful man Eriko is going to marry and have been spending time getting to know one of Eriko’s sweetest friends.

And in the midst of meeting all these amazing people, my surroundings feel completely surreal. The jet lag is likely adding to my haziness, but the reality is I am in a completely different world, one that I’ve never been in before and I can’t rely on my ways or knowledge since I have absolutely none with regard to this place…

And the one person I know here is in the final hours leading up to her big special wedding day, and then off to her honeymoon…

So where does that leave me in this new place?

With Him.

And there is no better place to be. I’m learning to depend on Him all the more. Trusting in Him to navigate my way since I can’t read the signs. Literally. Trusting that He is in the teeniest tiniest, most seemingly insignificant stuff…

Because there is no other way for me and truth be told, this previously small-minded girl would never have made a move like this all by herself because she knows her tendency to get overwhelmed with such things…

But when you make promises, you keep them. And I promised to follow Him wherever He went. And He promises to be with me wherever I go.

And so far, so good…

And it’s so God, that I have come so far!!!!!!!!!!!

Sending my love from Japan and missing you all!!!!!!!!!!!!

xoxo

This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Why Japan?

February 17, 2012… after giving away everything but my car, I said good-bye to to these two favorites of mine…

IMG_0028

He said, “Go.

So I went.

And it proved to be beyond colorful.

IMG_0060

Everywhere I turned was a scene right off of a postcard.

IMG_0204

And He gave me a wonderful opportunity working on cutting edge technology in a super hip office while also filling the void of leaving my dog!

554269_323352311055557_1276628_n

Within a month, it was clear that the position was not a good fit, but some amazing connections were established while a key re-connection was made resulting in an inter-continental friendship, which began to flourish via Skype.

IMG_1565

And then, I was offered a great job at this place…

IMG_0642[1]

Values I could easily stand behind…

photo

But, He had other plans…

I thought I would be planting roots in Colorado, but it turned out to be a much needed watering hole.

IMG_0911

And a launching pad to a continent I had never been with the opportunity to make more beautiful connections…

IMG_1819

And another key re-connection.

IMG_9319

But the deepest connection of all…

537169_10152766456720355_1717562242_n

My Father’s love for me sunk into my core.

I experienced His delight in me like never before in Mozambique… and I’ll never be the same.

428045_10152766509225355_998854169_n

I know I can’t live one second without Him, so when it was clear He wanted me to go to Thailand, I went.

IMG_3485

And it was in Bangkok that the desire to live overseas began to burn inside of me. So within a month, my car was packed all over again.

And Colorado bid me farewell with this…

IMG_3911[1]
Surprised by His love, He led me forth, breaking open the way into a beautiful broad place! I’m rescued! All because He delights in me! Psalm 18:19
And I received a warm welcome back to Arizona…

IMG_3921[1]

And an even warmer welcome into the Valley of the Sun.

IMG_3931[1]

And in less than a month, I will journey onward from the Valley of the Sun to the Land of the Rising Sun…

japan flag

When you let go of all that you ever thought and all that you had, you open yourself up to all that you are and receive more than you ever thought was possible.

Trust me… better yet, trust Him… and brace yourself for the ride of your life…

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

The joy of a sandwich

As I get caught up in doubt, anxiety, and fear… it’s just like my Heavenly Father to pour out His grace on me and bless me in every way imaginable.

When I doubted that I would receive the financial support for my trip and missions school in Mozambique, within four days, the amount I was lacking was fulfilled!!!

Big sigh… and really?

But, OF COURSE!!!! Oh me of little faith!!!

The checks I received and words of encouragement that came with them blessed my heart in ways I cannot even put into words. I’m just humbled, so very humbled by God’s love for me through the people He has placed in my life.

And while I will return to Colorado on December 8, it’s unclear how long I will be here, so I want to make sure I make the best of the time I have in this great state.

This past weekend I climbed my first 14er – a mountain that is 14,000 or more feet high and Colorado boasts 58 of these peaks in six different ranges – Mount Bierstadt 14,065ft.

The climb was tough, but I was so grateful to have a dear friend to keep me going!  At the beginning of the hike, she casually stated, “We’ve got this, we’ve so got this.” And she continued to encourage me along the way, as did many others we passed!

Sarah and I basked in the beauty and vastness of God’s creation the entire day, while also sharing the parallels of our hike and faith. Good stuff and great times.

And just when I thought the summit was in sight and I gave everything I had to get to it, I collapsed on this boulder when I realized I still had a little further to go… poor pathetic me!!!

I saw the following quote after the fact that seemed so fitting for this picture: The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don’t give up.

Though exhausted and feeling defeated, I pressed on and was soon sitting on the mountain top enjoying an egg salad sandwich. And life in that moment could not have been better. My profound words to Sarah were, “I’m sooooooooo happy right now eating this sandwich and sitting on top of the world!!!”

I love Jesus so much. No doubt all things are from Him through Him and to Him.

So as I am completely overwhelmed by the wonder and amazement of His love and provision…

And His creation and glory…

I don’t EVER want to take anything in this life for granted… I want to be in awe of Him in all things… to experience the fullness of life He promised…

So an egg salad sandwich enjoyed in His presence with gratefulness makes me the most blessed of all.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36