Sunday, April 03, 2016

10 years of blogging, and now is the time...

In early March of 2006, I wrote the following first entry to this blog:

Joining the 21st Century
Some days there are so many tidbits in "life in Japan" that we want to share. Letters don't quite give enough opportunities, and e-mail updates get too lengthy if we insert these thoughts. So, we are going to join the 21st Century and start blogging!

We had returned to Japan from our fourth home assignment, having left our oldest daughter back in the US following high school, and as usual for us in the real estate market in Japan, we had trouble finding a place to rent.  We ended up in an apartment--a strangely shaped apartment--that turned out to be my personal favorite place to live as I reflect on our 30 years in there. My third post was a complete floor plan  and photos.

Over the next seven years, I included sights, sounds, adventures, and stories of our life and ministry as missionaries in Japan. This is an amazing chronicle as I look back on these posts.  Some were about the practicalities of living in Japan, like Cloudy with a High Probability of Wet Clothes, and how we had to hire a crane to bring in our refrigerator to our last house, and then move it out again a few years later... I shared about playing with your food... When I search for ICCS, the International Community Chapel of Saitama, the church that we helped plant and where Stan served as pastor for most of our time in Japan, I get 103 listings. And Asian Access, our mission for the time we were in Japan, comes up in 110 posts.

There were family achievements, like tracking our second daughter's theatre performances  for both high school and college. There was the blog that gave all the time stamps for where our oldest daughter, as a background actress, was spotted in Oceans 13. And one we don't talk about with the two young men involved (and neither should you!) but memorable for the rest of us there...ruining our day at the beach. There are 10 posts that talk about airport goodbyes--THAT is a reality of missions. Before one of those goodbyes, that second daughter went on a Tokyo tour with me. We announced our oldest daughter's engagement, and shared wedding photos, and then were grateful to get our whole family together for our sons' graduation and more recently a family reunion here in Charlotte.

The amazing thing to me is that many of the most read posts were for things that really have nothing to do with our ministry.  Spaghetti Bridges and the Costco Food Court in Iruma Japan top that list.  I still marvel at how easy it is to find seating at the local Charlotte Costco Food Court after my years of that experience in Japan! Others that had a lot of traffic included those weird experiences of juxtaposition--internal angst while seeing something very unusual such as the Santa Parade. Several of our posts for the home assignment where we followed Rt 66 get high traffic as well. 

On the other hand, the second most read post is a very personal one I wrote late last spring, reflecting on the premature birth of twins at the end of our first term in Japan. And then there was the one "Confirmations" where I reflected on how God was revealing and confirming the direction He had for me in Member Care. And then there was the announcement that we were leaving Japan to transition to working at SIM USA's home office. I wrote throughout the transition process, and then on into these last few years of making Charlotte "home" for us.

I have written 656 published entries, and I am grateful for this chronicle of our lives and the opportunity to share it with many.  Yet, I have increasingly found it difficult to write.

  • My work involves the training, preparation, on-field and returning care of missionaries. There are themes to what I do that could be topics of a blog post*, but much of what I do encompasses personal and confidential information. 
  • Our family is at a stage where all the kids are young adults and I need to exercise respect for their personal lives.** 
  • Living in Charlotte has become more routine, and while there are occasionally unique experiences related to being in the US, it isn't quite the fodder for a blog that being an American in Japan was 10 year ago.

I've concluded that now is the time to stop adding to this blog.  If you've come to this page because you want to know something about us, there are links that talk about our ministry and how to be a prayer and financial partner (we still need those important people in our lives!) at the top of the page.

May this stand as a testament to the faithfulness of God through an important stage in our life and ministry. The years described here are some of the more difficult ones for missionaries--the middle years--when children begin launching, when parents are aging, when unanticipated events take place, and difficult decisions have to be made.  And hopefully you find some amusement here as well, since that is part of what helps us to be resilient in the face of ever changing circumstances.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5 & 6

 * I have a member care blog that I am planning to revitalize, which is the right place for these musings.
** I am considering a legacy blog for my family, which would not be public.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

These painful, joyful days

Life often brings us joy juxtaposed with pain. Last week, Sarah Lantz, a surgeon that served at one of our hospitals in Zambia, died following a fight with cancer. Sarah was young, dynamic, very skilled and insightful. My favorite blog of hers described the challenges of being a missionary surgeon written last February.

Sarah went through her Candidate Training program the first fall we were here in Charlotte, and we got to know her a bit. When she was heading to Zambia and needed to clear out her apartment, we inherited some of her furniture.

When she returned to the US in August to find out what this lingering illness was that she was experiencing, it turned out that she had advanced breast cancer.  People around the world rallied to pray for Sarah's healing as part of Team Sarah. She started a rigorous chemo schedule, but over the months was unable to continue this.  It was just a few weeks ago when the Caring Bridge reports started to sound like Sarah wasn't going to be with us much longer.  In the months leading to her death she lived as fully as she could, and friends and colleagues from around the world stopped by to visit her at her parent's home. When we got the news last week that she had slipped into Jesus' arms it was so painful for the whole community.

And as I was responding to this, I saw that another friend's mother was declared officially in remission. Joy and pain.

Friday evening in a country across the Atlantic, terrorists attacked a hotel and killed a number of foreigners. Contacting our people in that country we learned that while our staff was not in the attack, among the dead was  a missionary who was a good friend to many of our people. Grief. Pain.

And the next day we heard that Pastor Saeed, whose release from prison in Iran has been prayed for earnestly by many over the years, was released as part of the prisoner exchange. Joy. Relief.

And with waves of these events coming through it is easy to feel like a pin ball, bouncing off the walls of the machine, with paddles propelling it to the next level.

The app I use for my prayer list closes each session with this:
Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Whenever I get to that prayer, I try to soak it in. His peace helps me through these painful, joyful days.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Diary?

Today will be my final entry for my 5-year diary. If I was in Japan, I would have picked up the next one at the local bookstore, having chosen from a variety of them on a table near the checkout counter.  

When I received this 5-year diary as a gift, I knew that the next five years would be momentous. Indeed, I started graduate studies, we experienced the triple disaster in Japan, our oldest daughter was engaged, married and became a parent. Our second daughter graduated from college and has begun her young adult life apart from us. We became the first Asian Access missionaries to move under SIM. We wrapped up our long-time years of service in Japan and moved to the US to begin serving with SIM after our sons graduated from high school. We became home owners, started new positions, went church shopping, cared for our missionaries through the Ebola Crisis, oversaw the growth of one department. Stan piloted a successful conference between the mission and strategic churches. For starters...

If I was in Japan, I would have picked up the next one at the local bookstore. But we're not in Japan, and the local bookstores had racks and racks of journals, but no multi-year diaries. I had seen some online--my favorite way to shop-- but wanted to go touch them, feel them, see if I could be happy with them for five years...  

Walking up to the check out counter, where two youngish clerks were waiting, I asked, "Do you carry diaries?"  The blank stare on their faces took me back. They asked me again what I was looking for. "A diary." Again no recognition. "A book where you write an entry per day." They asked if it was a journal...and then a lightbulb went off for one of them--"with a key?" she asked. This dread of something pink and girly with Dear Diary written on the outside flashed across my mind...

I grew up with a father who kept multi-year diaries for most of his adult life. I think they're still stored in at my sister's house.  His minute writing would fill the entry. Year after year.  We would get calls, or emails (when that was finally invented!) that would inform us that "10-years ago you did this or that" sometimes being something that I didn't exactly want remembered. I do that to my kids and husband now... 

Since I'm not in Japan, I had to go back to my online shopping options. Sadly, there weren't as many to choose from as I would have hoped, but here is what I have decided to make work!   Yes, it says its a journal... but its what's inside that counts... and what is inside is room to write a short entry over the next five years...  I have to provide the year in the bubble, but I guess I can do that. Its a decent size--not too small (and no lock!)--and it looks like it will travel well.

So here goes, 2016 - 2020!
What stories will you hold?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Connecting with De La Cour family

Stan and I just returned home from a great one-week visit to the North East. We visited friends on the North Fork of Long Island for a couple of days. Over the weekend we enjoyed time with ministry partners in the Providence, RI area and were grateful to share about our work with SIM USA at Darlington Congregational Church in both small group settings as well as in Sunday School and church.

On Sunday afternoon we drove to Cape Cod to spend a few days with Stan's brother, Ed and his wife, Marian. It is so rare that we have been together--if I worked at it, I probably could count the number of times our two families have actually been together in the years we've been married. Living in two different countries and when in the US, on opposite sides of the country has made it a bit challenging for us to connect as we would like.

Ed is soon to retire from full-time ministry, and we had some good conversations exploring what that might look and feel like for them over dinner last night. We are a few years away from that transition, but have recently done some reading on preparing for retirement, finishing well, encore careers, and such. It is good to begin asking the questions and anticipating decisions that need to be made heading to that season.

I also had fun getting to know our first grand nephew a little bit.  The only photo I have of him from our visit is this one, taken as we took a selfie on our way out the door this morning. Stan happened to be up there when this little man was born a couple of years ago, but this was my first time to meet him. Just a few minutes before this photo, we were able to Facetime with our oldest daughter and her little man--the cousins hadn't seen one another for years, and we got to show off our grandson, too!

We are a small "clan" spread far apart so we are thankful for technology and opportunities to tag personal visits onto other trips.

And...its good to be home.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Early Memories and a Sense of Loss

The theme of grief and loss once again crossed my path as I pondered a blog published on Communicating Across Boundaries at the end of last month.  The writer was reflecting on how some of our TCK memories are intertwined with those from whom we "inherited" our toys as their owners grew up and or left our country. It brought back a vague personal memory from when my parents felt led to leave Brazil that still causes me to ponder.

Prayer Card -- my parents would have been in their mid to late 20's.
When my family left Brazil, I, at nearly 5-years old, had to give away my precious stuffed bear (probably along with many other toys).  I have spent several hours today looking for a photo I know I've seen of me with that bear. By today's stuffed animal standards it was fairly unattractive, but it was mine. I remember we went to an orphanage, where I was coaxed to give the bear to another child. In those foggy early memories, being with all the children was overwhelming to me, and I don't know that I cried or resisted but I'm pretty sure I wasn't doing it from a charitable heart.

After my parents returned to the US, they served as the US administrator for their mission and then my father was a teacher at the Bible School where they met. In both situations they were funded as "faith missionaries" receiving little support. Our finances were extremely tight.  I remember stories of God's provisions when the cupboard was bare. (I had a hard time believing that pot of split pea soup was God's provision, but that's another story...)

One year I received a stuffed toy for Christmas--a turtle I named Myrtle. It was several years later I learned my parents  had "shopped" the missionary barrel for our gifts that year. While I wouldn't have ever chosen a turtle for myself, mangy Myrtle has made it to Japan and back--staying packed in a box most of the while. She's somewhere upstairs in one of our yet-to-be unpacked boxes. She represents my parents' sacrifice and love, and provides one of a few links to my childhood.

I don't feel angry with my parents for the choices they had to make in leaving Brazil--I'm pretty sure they let me bring a dolly with me. (I lost her along the way, but still have some of the hand-made doll clothes that were hers.) But there is a sense of  sadness when I think of these things.

Visiting with my Mom the year she died.
When we were going through my mother's china in the year before her death from breast cancer, I asked her about a demitasse coffee service that she had from Brazil.  She told us that she had to sell the complete set of china that went with it when they left, and this was all she could bring with her.  I think that was the point where I realized that she probably left more of what was precious to her than I did.

When we teach transitions to missionaries and those heading overseas for the first time, one of the concepts we talk about is enabling your children to choose what "treasured possessions" they want to take with them. Space is usually limited--but allowing them to choose what to take in their backpack or box enables them to make the transition easier.

I do hope that the child who received my bear found comfort from him. And kids, if I haven't dealt with her, you don't have to hang onto Myrtle when the time comes to go through our stuff...just saying.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Fifty Years and counting!

Yesterday we honored Liz Howard for her 50 years of service with SIM. She is currently a member of our MK ministry, impacting both our babies and our college age kids. She also grew up in SIM, going to Africa at 6 months old. Liz has fascinating stories of life for MK's in those years. She brings great wisdom and a wonderful, positive outlook on life to our Member Care team. Happy 50 years + from today!