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.

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!!