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?!

chickenguts

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

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!!!