Desert Life

I can hardly believe that this time last year I was kicking off my final month in Japan, nursing a sprained ankle over a missed step because I was so overcome with tears all while wearing a beautiful kimono (a memory I’ll never forget marked by my deep emotions and His deep love)!!!!

**See my friend's arm holding the ice to my ankle!!!! Also, see the puffy eyes from the bawling that just went down.
**See my friend’s arm holding the ice to my ankle!!!! Also, see the puffy eyes from the bawling that just went down.

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And now, I’m back in the desert with much CONTENTMENT. Ah yes, I unwrapped this precious gift a couple months ago shortly before this selfie was taken.

contentment

My Father surprised me with this one. In fact, when He gave it to me on top of this mountain, I wasn’t even sure what I was receiving but I responded with tears of joy hidden behind those big sunglasses! I’m so grateful that He knows exactly what I need.

And apart from His love, this could be the second greatest gift I’ve received.

Being back in Arizona has been nothing short of amazing…simply because when you have received the gift of contentment and circumstances would try to dictate otherwise, you cling to it with all that you have and amazing is all you receive in return.

So that being said, the last few months have had its struggles…

My job challenges my mind and emotions on every front. I deal with people at a level like never before. The financial need I tend to wears on me bringing out some ickiness within…and the ickiness I have to face in others can bring me to tears like nobody’s business…effectively dealing with mean people is a skill I’m cultivating in my new line of work!

And last month, I said good-bye to the very best of friends here. She moved on to a beautiful and exciting adventure, which took her and her husband to another state…

photo

I decided to give e-harmony [another] go round. My three-month membership expires this Friday and in the last three months I have had no dates and am still single…that’s the short and sweet update on that!

So on the heels of my last post, with all sincerity, I can say that I am full of so much joy and peace because these are the gifts that contentment brings…

Sidebar: Except when I’m on social media…HA! Without getting into too many details but enough to keep things real here…between all that is going on in the world (since sadly, this is mainly how I know what is going on in the world)…and all that is going on in the lives of others (which of course always seems to be moving along in such a more desirable way than my own), social media can really overwhelm me with questions, and pain…and comparison and envy…and just lots of icky things…

But I’m not giving up on social media because He never gives up on me. And all those icky things surfacing through my many circumstances are working themselves out because my Father is the Giver of Grace and I am Grace’s greatest receiver.

He has given me new eyes to see the beauty of the desert like never before. What used to be dry and desolate now represents much beauty and life.

desert place

A most remarkable friend so sweetly encouraged me that “some beautiful things only bloom in this place…the cacti (so prickly) bloom too” and shortly thereafter shared this spectacular picture posted by our mutual friend on Facebook (another reason to not give it up…there is good to be had there!).

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And I rest in the hope of that…that in the ickiness and prickliness within and around, beauty blooms…

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of helping a new friend launch her summer line of clothing for her amazing business…in which another incredibly talented new friend captured this…

because im happy

There is so much life in the desert. There is so much joy found in contentment. I’m beyond grateful.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. -Hebrews 12:1-2

Working the Plan

Like many, I’ve clung to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 through life’s ups and downs. But yesterday, the stakes just got so much higher.

jeremiah

Phoenix marks the place of a lot of loss for me. And when I got the green light to leave here, I never imagined coming back. But I also never imagined going to all the places and nations where I’ve been since I left.

Wanderlust has definitely left a mark on me, so there has been a little resistance to live here again. Not to mention, my biggest fear in leaving Japan was that I would lose the complete dependency I became accustomed to and truth be told, comes much easier in a foreign land.

But perfect love casts out all fear and complete dependence is just the life He intended for me to live no matter where I am.

And trust me, I need Him now like never before. I may be back where I was, but I’m not who I was. And everything I had then, I don’t have now.

Suffice to say, had I known I’d be back, I would have planned a little better. But my plans never went as planned, anyway.

But His?

Well, let’s just say when I left Arizona, I didn’t plan for any of this…

Hiking so many different spots in Colorado and basking in all the beauty of that place with old and new friends.

colorado

Making deep connections in Pemba, Mozambique where language was often a barrier, but love and kindness were always exchanged.

pacheco

Hanging out and meeting new friends on a street of the Nana Red Light District in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Being dressed in a most beautiful kimono one special afternoon in Japan by one of the most precious women I’ve ever met.

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kimono

This life. It takes my breath away.

And it’s not that I didn’t have such beautiful experiences before this, but life lived with such a deep awareness of the love of the One who made it is so much richer.

And though I’m back in Arizona, I know that the adventure doesn’t end here.

Because when you have no plans, everything is an adventure.

And when the Master Planner is your Everlasting Father, and you’re His favorite girl, you can trust that it’s only going to get better.

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

Where do I go from here?

Where to begin…?

I came here to help me sort out all that is in me. I arrived in L.A. about 72 hours ago, and have slept for the majority of that time. And when I’m not sleeping, I’m doting over Conrad. Oh my. I’m deeply in love with my nephew. Everything about him is so perfectly perfect. He started crawling since I arrived!!!

And I sure do miss the beautiful baby girl I got to spend a lot of time with over the last three months. Within 24 hours, I was in Japan squeezing her telling her how much I’d miss her and squeezing my nephew in Los Angeles telling him how delighted I was to be home with him.

babylove

But where is home, anyway?

Great question!

That and what I’m going to do next is yet to be determined…

And the mere fact that I am completely at peace with this is a miracle in and of itself, but He promised me that:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; Isaiah 55:12

So may the search begin!

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

I’ll be searching things out in a treasure/Easter egg hunt fashion. Indeed a treasure is what I will uncover, and while eggs are hidden in clever places, the intent is not to make it impossible to find.

And I’m certain my Father’s heart is just like that. He hides His treasures in places that aren’t so obvious, but offers enough adventure that I’m having fun searching rather than losing sleep.

So that’s my latest and greatest in its simplest form, but at some point, I want to share all about the epic adventure I had with two of my favorite people during my final month in Japan. For now, I’ll just say that His promise to go out in joy was fulfilled in a big way (Isaiah 55:12). Here are some pictures to give you a little teaser:

walking

joy

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I also want to summarize what the last year in Japan has meant to me in a future post. And here’s a little teaser for that:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Ephesians 3:20

In both of these cases, words could never ever capture all that I want to say, but I’m going to rise to the challenge and do my best to put into words what I can…

Stay tuned…

And in the meantime, be loved… take it from me, there’s no better way to be.

1 John 4:19

xoxo

Finding My Way

I have so much to say. And the best part I’m not going to save for last. Last month, I held this little guy in my arms.

connie

My most precious nephew. He’s the best. THE. BEST. My heart has reached a new capacity to love and in turn my heart has extended its capacity for more of my Father’s love. And life just never ever gets better than that.

So I could stop right here… but there’s so much more to share.

I spent three weeks in the States and returned back to Japan at the beginning of the month. A friend who spent three and half years as a missionary here warned me that readjusting could take double the time I was away. So doing the math, that would be six weeks. I’m on week four, and it doesn’t help that I have been living in a new city since I returned. And it’s a beautiful one in which I’ve traded convenience and isolation for living on a mountaintop in community. Definitely a trade-up, but it is taking some adjusting.

And in the last four weeks, I’ve had quite a few firsts…

First time striking up an acquaintance with a stray cat. I call him Graceson and he’s about the friendliest feline I ever did see. And for the record, I’m not sure that he’s actually a he.

Graceson

First time eating matcha soba, which is a spectacular first for someone as obsessed with matcha as me. Oishi! (Delicious!)

matcha soba

First time in a hospital in Japan and first time meeting a precious one within less than 24 hours of arrival! Kawaii! (Cute!)

baby

First time eating robata with chicken intestine and kidneys as a main highlight. I’m still trying to digest this one. Pun intended. I don’t know, maybe just one day this experience will come in handy… like when the Travel Channel looks to replace Anthony Bourdain?!

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First time filing taxes in Japan. God bless you, Kenji, my tax angel and non-English speaking friend!

kenji

And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

One big first that I’ll add is that last week I booked a one-way ticket from Osaka to Los Angeles. That was a first.

Yep, you heard me right. One-way. I’m coming home.

A year to the day I left, I’ll be on a jet plane back to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

It’s crazy, and hasn’t fully set in. And did I  mention I have NO IDEA what I’m going to do and where I’ll live? But, I am so at peace. I mean, beyond at peace… and we know where that peace that passes all understanding comes from. Thank you, Jesus.

So going back to the mountaintop I’m currently living on. For the last month, probably 90% of the time I have walked up and down the mountain to get to and from the station. And it’s been a precious time for me to slow down, while speeding up my metabolism!! Kidding aside, inconvenience can make room for much patience and clarity… if you’ll let it.

Last night, walking up the mountain… this really spoke to me.

signpost

I can’t read any of it, except the obvious.

And so it was as I sought Him for my next step. Only one thing was clear… the still small voice in my heart that said, “come home.”

But this came just when some of the things near and dear to my heart have started to happen. Last week, I met with five others who have hearts for those working in the sex industry.

And last Friday, this happened.

yoga

Technically, I didn’t lead a  Holy Yoga class. But a friend wanted to host a yoga event and asked if I would help. So I opened and ended the class sharing some of His heart and prayer, while my friend handled all the yoga instruction. And I also had the opportunity to distract two precious ones during the class so their Mom could be free from distraction. And I would say that that’s all pretty holy.

outdooryoga

So how can I leave now?

And that’s where His peace enters along with some new perspective. These things that I’ve been making the end goal, I’m now understanding to serve as guideposts. They’ve helped guide my steps, and confirm that I’m right where I should be.

The end goal is always Him, and always His. That’s what I’m beginning to see.

This was also taken on my walk home last night.

highway

When I reached what you see at the end of this photo, I met a woman walking down the mountain with her two dogs. She asked me if I passed any wild pigs. I assured her I hadn’t.

Apparently, boars are pretty prevalent but so far, I’ve been in the clear. Just as I should be…

There will be a highway
    called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
    is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
    impossible to get lost on this road.
    Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
    no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
    Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
    will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
    unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
    as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night. Isaiah 35:8-10MSG

I’m going home, and it’s definitely bittersweet. Yet what seems like the end for me in Japan, could very well just be the beginning…

I’m not really sure but I’m all the more sure that Jesus is really crazy about me. And I may not know what’s around the bend, but I know it’s going to be so, so good.

bend

“Set up signposts to mark your trip home.
    Get a good map.
Study the road conditions.
    The road out is the road back.
Come back, dear virgin Israel,
    come back to your hometowns.
How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?
    How long before you make up your fickle mind?
God will create a new thing in this land:
    A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!” Jeremiah 31:21-22MSG

Comfort Food

Tempura. Get in my belly.

tempurasoba

Actually, all Japanese food, you are so welcome with me… well, except maybe tako aka. octopus. It’s a bit too chewy and doesn’t do much in the way of flavor as far as I’m concerned. (Can you spot it below?)

tako

Though I discovered it’s quite nice battered and fried. But of course, what doesn’t taste good fried?!?

Much to my liking, Japanese food is beautiful and fresh.

sushi

And healthy.

healthy

And exotic.

okinawa

And clean and simple.

chaie

And altogether wonderful.

onigiri

If the way to my heart is through my stomach, then Japan, you have my heart!

In fact, I am visiting the States next month and instead of looking forward to food back home, I’m wondering what I’ll do without Japanese food at my fingertips… or shall I say, chopsticks!

Last week during a worship gathering, someone shared the image of the banquet table God has prepared for us. She encouraged us to close our eyes and meditate on that to see what He might reveal.

And when I did just that, what did I see???

tempura

This image is exactly what came to my mind. This was an ever so scrumptious tempura and rice bowl that I enjoyed last month in Tokyo.

And not only have I come to realize that tempura is my go-to comfort food, but this was a special meal. You see, I had been craving tempura the night before I was getting ready to leave for Tokyo. Unfortunately, there was no tempura at the station for me to eat.

So the next day I began to enjoy the amazing city of Tokyo thanks to my super generous and thoughtful friend. She had all our plans laid out and it was on the agenda to have lunch at a pizza place in a ritzy shopping area of town. But knowing my craving for tempura the night before, she suggested a special tempura restaurant in the area where we were doing some sightseeing. Apparently, it’s unique because it’s fried in sesame oil.

I just know it was really good and really comforting, and quite popular! We happened to arrive just as it opened and the line was beginning to grow. We waited but five minutes…

So this was my banquet table where I was reminded that:

His timing is perfect.
He fulfills the desires of my heart.
He exceeds my expectations.
He knows what I need.
He is such an intimate God.

And that’s why I love Him so much. He is in every detail… fried food and rice.

Nothing is too big or too small for Him because He cares for me that much. He knows me, He sees me and He loooooooooooooooves me.

And that’s the Good News.

Seems so simple.

Yet, there is nothing simple about a love SO EXTRAVAGANT.

Oh Jesus, you’re the best. xoxo

He escorts me to the banquet hall; it’s obvious how much he loves me. -Song of Solomon 2:4

Living My Story

This week marked six months of living in Osaka, Japan.

osaka

WOW. Seems like all I can say…

Thank you, Father, for your grace. There is no other way… is what comes next…

Most times, I’ve been flying high. But I’ve had my share of moments where I’m curled up in fetal position, bawling my eyes out.

But that couldn’t be further from me. I feel everything. Deeply. So if there is joy, I’m the happiest of them all, but when there is sadness, I’m the one with the biggest pile of snot rags.

snot rag pile

And I don’t want to live my life any other way. I am most alive when I’m feeling deeply. And I’m so grateful that I’m becoming more and more free in this.

This morning, I woke with the news alert on my phone of the death of Nelson Mandela. And this part of the article really spoke to me:

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself,” Mandela said in 1999 at a tribute to billionaire businessman Douw Steyn who had made his Johannesburg residence available to Mandela as a retreat after his prison release in 1990. (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/05/opinion/battersby-nelson-mandela/)

The writer went on to say:

To this day, Mandela’s weaknesses, his turbulent youth and his sometimes tempestuous relationships with women can still detract from the iconic status that Mandela achieved in his own lifetime.

But, the responsible airing of his weaknesses — including his own acknowledgment — in fact humanized Mandela and focused on his extraordinary strength of character and commitment in overcoming both his weaknesses and adversity in his own lifetime. It augmented Mandela’s greatness.

Shortly after God continued to speak to me through this:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:17

Earlier this week, my CNN app alerted me of the tragic news of Paul Walker’s death, which happened on his way to an event for Typhoon Haiyan hosted by the non-profit organization he founded. I read more articles in the days that followed and was touched by how he lived his life fully.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Indeed, there is no other way to live than with a heart wide open to receive the fullness of life He offers. And in receiving this, to embrace the shifts and changes that come in the process.

The last six months have stretched and grown me in ways beyond measure. Yet, much of the time, it’s like I’ve regressed. Because if I had to sum up how I’ve felt, what comes to mind is: helpless. dependent. inefficient. inept. frustrated. exhausted.

But with surrender comes so much joy and peace, plus an infinite supply of love and grace.  And that’s what makes it all worth it. This life is all mine and all for me.

While I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be a blockbuster movie star or the president of a nation, I’m living my life completely and authentically. I’m sure of the way I’m walking and I trust the One who is by my side with each step.

And I say this, not because my current status involves living in a foreign land. This experience just happens to be a part of my story as does everything that came before… and it’s all much different than the story I was writing!

But boy oh boy, is it a beautiful one… here’s a recap of the last chapter:

friendshhip_1friendship_2friendship_3

THANK YOU, FATHER. Thank you for life entrusted to you that is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you for writing the best stories.

~Your favorite daughter~

xoxo

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; -Hebrews 12:2

I’m #1

A friend told me that it sounds like I’m experiencing classic culture shock… “Typically with culture shock there is a honeymoon, then a low period where all you can see is the bad, then a period of embracing both the good and the bad.

I think I’m in the period of embracing both. Last week was three months for me! Woo hoo!!

Three months in but I’m still pretty helpless. For starters, I’m so grateful for my incredible apartment and the grace of my landlord. Money has been pretty tight so when I asked if I could split up September’s rent payment, he obliged.

I was supposed to pay the remainder last Friday, but as my day progressed, I didn’t find myself near a proper ATM. So, he gave me more grace… and I tried again to make the deposit on Saturday, but I arrived to the bank as they were closing. So when I realized there was no one to help, I spent about 10 minutes at the ATM pushing random buttons hoping I would miraculously make the deposit.

atm

But, I didn’t… so then I went to a restaurant near my apartment where I met more language barriers but this time, a very kind stranger having lunch in the restaurant met me outside and offered his help. He was from a country I had never heard of… Kyrgyzstan have you?

Anywho, he shared how he has been living in Japan for eight years so obviously knew the language very well. I shared that I had decided on other lunch plans but asked if he could help with my ATM deposit. To which, he kindly obliged.

Unfortunately, I was still unable to make the deposit. But he totally went out of his way and tried!! And I made a new friend and learned about a new country I was not aware of!!

So on this Monday, I went to the bank and in true Japanese customer service, I was welcomed with the most gracious kindness, but then anxiety set in when I started speaking in English… yet in her anxiety, the dear woman who greeted me helped me. It took her awhile to figure out just how, but she did and the remaining amount of rent due was deposited! Yipee!! Check that off the to-do list.

I walked home feeling so accomplished and so grateful for the kindness of the people here…

Only to learn that the worst case scenario for my job had played out… as I mentioned in a previous post, I HATE being evaluated, which is the case for my current job. I hate the pressure to perform and there is a scale of one to five stars. Five being the best. One being the worst…

I got a one.

one

And upon first discovery, I didn’t care, which was good. But after five minutes… things changed.

Oh my. The crazy talk started… I’m terrible at teaching English… and what am I doing in Japan, anyway? It’s time to pack it up and go home. I suck… and so does this job…

But then, my dearest friend came in just in time to put an end to the crazy talk… reminding me that Jesus’ evaluation NEVER changes…

And I recalled His Word(s)…

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! Jeremiah 31:3

Keep me as the apple of your eye; Psalms 17:8

Bottom line: He loves me and evaluates me with a one… because I’m His #1.

And yes, I’m teaching English. And yes, my clients are paying for the best of English lessons. So I will learn what I did wrong and do my best to make the necessary adjustments.

But at the end of the day, I know I am loved and I rest in His evaluation. An evaluation that never changes.

The Cross proves that.

So I stood at the foot of the Cross, and taught more lessons this evening with the assurance of His love upholding me in the midst of this evaluation… and for an overachiever and people-pleaser like me, that, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle.

And that is what True Love does. I’m so grateful to be loved.

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!!