Saturday, July 27, 2013

And then it hits me...

We have had a wonderful week away, and I'll write more about it later, but I think I've hit a transition wall. We are in our fourth place to stay since we landed two weeks ago. Each one has been comfortable and welcoming.  But I am feeling sad today.

At the time-share where we stayed this past week, we had several occasions to answer the "where are you from?" question. Stan even said he felt he was becoming a "TCK" (Third Culture Kid) as he realized he changed his answer depending on the circumstances.  This prompted a conversation about how we are truly "homeless" right now. (To be fair, we have a rental home in Charlotte waiting for us.)

As I walk around a corner of a bedroom in this current home, I see a cutely painted height chart on the wall.  And then it hits me--we don't have a place to return to that we call home.  The closest was our cabin on Japan's eastern seacoast where we marked a beam with our kids' heights starting the summer of '99.  But now we've left that behind. Dear new owner, if you ever tear down the cabin, please send us the beam.

I have been mulling over Psalm 84 during this season. As we continue on our pilgrimage, we need to remember that we are not the only ones who yearn for a place to settle. We have made the choice to follow Jesus where-ever he leads us, and it is good. Even to Charlotte, North Carolina--who would have ever thought!

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; 
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God 
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  
For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor; 
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Psalm 84:10 & 11

Monday, July 15, 2013

Now what?

The last couple of days in Japan we spent quite a bit of time crossing things off our list. 

Having tried to cancel a credit card by phone and being totally frustrated with the language aspect, we were able to handle it at the service counter of the department store associated with that card in less than 10 minutes.

We closed all but one bank account -- discovering that we were able to do that quite easily with only our signature seal as proof of who we were at one bank.  Another one took our identification cards and spent quite a bit of time assuring themselves we are who we are. (Folks in Japan--the Postal Bank is more secure...)

We filled out paperwork for the sale of our car, and I once again was grateful for online deposit with our US credit union as we handled that check electronically.

But the most challenging job was the final luggage balancing job. We had really hoped we could come back "lighter" that usual...but when it came down to it, we had to use our full 8 bag checked luggage allotment. And we're using bags that will hopefully make it to Charlotte, even though they have seen their best days in many trips ago.   We have traveled with more -- when we came back from our last home assignment we paid for three extra bags had had several bags deliberately overweight.  At least we didn't tip the scales this time!  And that takes skill, I believe.

We also made time for some personal closure.  There is one special place in Japan that is particularly sacred to the two of us (and our daughters) We went to spend a little time there that last afternoon.  As we remembered our time of hardship and grieving, we were ministered to by the words of "When Peace Like A River" performed by Chris Rice.  "It is well with my soul..."

We also were gifted with a few final visits with friends. Good friends of ours have just returned from a year assignment in a special member care program and we were able to meet them for breakfast that final day to catch up on how God used the experience in their lives.  It also got me thinking about member care again, after several months of laser focus on moving.  And then we got a request from friends to drive us to the airport. We had planned on taking a bus--but it was so nice to have that personal touch as we headed on this final journey from life in Japan.

We have landed in Los Angeles, and will be here off and on for the next three weeks. Our boys begin their MK Transition seminars this week, and we are planning on catching up on some sleep while scheduling visits with friends and family here and there.  So much of my energy the past few weeks has been single-focused in preparing for departure, I haven't thought much about this time.  

Stan and I enjoyed worship at Cornerstone Bible Church in Glendora this morning, and lunch at "Legends" on Route 66.  We took a nap and then took a son (who flies out at 6:25 a.m. tomorrow morning) shopping for a few clothes.

I will probably not be writing much more the next few weeks. We believe we have left well, and are grateful for all the affirmations we've received along the way. And we are confident that God is leading us to a significant ministry building on our 30 years of ministry in Japan. Now is a time to rest and personally reflect -- doing some self-care for two "old missionaries." 

We got the senior discount at lunch today, without asking for it...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Another special goodbye

Stan and I have been at Takayama by the Sea, the missionary resort where we have vacationed for many summers.  We have enjoyed being here one more time.

On Tuesday morning we took a walk around to see the beaches. The weather was absolutely perfect--far nicer than Tokyo this week! This is the "surfer's beach" and we saw a few people bobbing up and down waiting for the waves.

Walking through to the other beach, we passed the Takayama Chapel where we have enjoyed many years of Sunday services and Annual Fun nights.  I have often felt like we were surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses when we sat in this open air chapel.

We made it to the "little beach" and because the tide was low, we were able to walk a little further than we usually do.  It has been very quiet this week--vacationers don't really start coming until next week, but we have enjoyed the quietness, the sounds of the waves and the chatter of birds.

However, tonight we invited folks from our mission team who are working in the area to stop by the cabin for a farewell dinner. They were able to arrange time in their full schedules to spend time around the table and the grill.

We loved being with these folks. They are each working in  partnership with Japanese pastors and in some relief efforts here in this area. We also enjoyed that watermelon is in season!

Because people were coming from different locations at different times  we were pretty flexible around the table.  

We were glad to get a couple of group photos, too, as families just barely overlapped in being able to come and having to leave.

We took our final photo as this family got ready to leave. These kids have school tomorrow--thanks for spending the evening with us!

In the keeping it humble category, one of the young girls who came in and saw our rustic cabin whispered in her mom's ear, "are they poor?"  No, today we feel very rich in friendships and good memories!

Tomorrow we pack up and leave to return to Tokyo. It will be sad for us--this place has been our refuge over many years.  Yet it is time to go. We have a bit of business to complete on Friday, and we are on a plane Saturday evening heading from Japan.  This long season of goodbyes are coming to an end.

The final piece in building our RAFT is to "Think Destination."  Our first stop is Southern California, and then we'll get into Charlotte late on August 6.  Its time to turn our thoughts in that direction.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Could this be the last time I use this skill?

I love this Christmas photo from the mid-80's, but for anyone who has lived in Japan, you would know that we were missing some paper in our shoji (paper shuttered) door.  How well I remember the popping sound of this little girl repeatedly piercing the paper with a pencil... as well as my frustration of not knowing what to do. At this point, I just cut out the whole panel.  But somewhere along the way I learned how to replace the paper.  And I have done so many times.

Usually when we move from a home, one of the things we do is replace torn shoji. This time, I was the one who lost my balance (in the first few weeks we lived here) and fell into the door, causing one of the spines to break and a huge tear in the paper. We managed to wedge the spine back together again, and I just never got around to changing the paper...until today.

The first step is to remove the old paper--which Stan did for me yesterday by taking the doors into the shower and wetting them down. The paper peels right off, and the doors are left to dry.  Today I began with the dry door, and lined the new roll of paper up. I then used a handy glue dispenser with a guide to run along the edge  leaving a bead of glue on all the wooden spines.

Once the glue is on, I rolled the paper over it, and smoothed it out with a tool for this purpose.  I then used a box cutter to cut off the edges that were outside the bounds of the shoji door.

When I completed one door, I leaned it against a wall to dry and repeated the same process with the other door.  (In this room were two other windows that I opted not to redo.  They either had no tears or the ones in them were minor.

Once both doors had dried, I placed them back onto the track covering the full size window in this room. I think they look good enough -- certainly better than they did before!

I'm thinking there are nearly 26 years between the first photo in this blog and the last one. Back then I thought I couldn't possibly do this. Now its just a routine that takes time and the right materials. So, will I ever used this skill again?  I don't dare say "never" but it quite possible could be the last time. 

And on the moving update--we have just a few hours of work left in the house tomorrow.  The men got everything out today, and we have all the main rooms completed.  A little work on the hallways and entrance as well as a final cleaning outside, and it will be cleaner than it was when we moved in.  Plus, it has this nice shoji door in the downstairs bedroom.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

It's starting already...

Tonight I'm sitting surrounded by folders and files, looking for the boys' Japanese medical cards...

One of my biggest fears in relocating is losing track of important information. I have been trying very diligently to collect everything I need while challenged to keep these out of the movers' way so they weren't box up.  I was feeling pretty good about it last night.

Tonight I am collecting all the paperwork we need for our visit to the City Office in the morning to check out. I've got everything but the boys' medical cards.

I'm pretty sure I know where those medical cards are--and thankfully I don't think they're in a box on the docks at Yokohama waiting for a ship.  But they didn't make it over to the guest house. I am hopeful that they are where I think they are in the suitcase that is set up to be my "portable filing cabinet." I expected it to come back with us, but it is still sitting in the downstairs bedroom. We'll have to stop by tomorrow morning with enough time for me to search for them.

The movers spent 2 1/2 hours at our place yesterday and completed their work. It turned out to be quite nice to have them come a second day--we both found things we slipped into the "pack" pile that we had missed the day before.

Today I had two friends come and help with cleaning. It was very encouraging to "close off" the third floor after we finished cleaning it, and get a major portion of the second floor done.Stan helped me with a few things this afternoon. I had hoped to finish the kitchen, but still have a bit to do when I get back from the City Office tomorrow.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thoughts on moving after day 1

Day 1 of moving is coming to an end. We are sitting in a clean, well furnished missionary guest apartment, and are feeling refreshed after a shower.  We have stayed at this place both coming and going on several home assignments, and it feels comfortable physically and emotionally right now.  Plus, it has chairs.  Yesterday Stan sold the chair right out from under me... (its okay, we were hoping to sell them.)

We have been preparing for these two days of movers coming for some time now.  Last evening I went around to our neighbors to explain that we had moving trucks and a crane coming so they could get their vehicles out before the road was blocked.  Our consultant at the moving company had said there would be three trucks today. In reality there was only one that stayed the whole day, and the crane...

If you've followed our blog for more than three years, you know that when we moved in we had to rent a crane to get our refrigerator, dish cabinet and sofa up to the living room (which is on the second floor) thanks to a narrow stairway with tight turns. So of course, to get it out we needed to rent one to reverse the process. The crane truck belongs to  a piano mover (there were two upright pianos on the truck). It was as amazing to watch things come out as it was to watch them go in.

The moving company had three packer/movers. One was a 73 year old guy, who was as strong as the other two (if not stronger). Each one took a floor and started packing. My job over the past two weeks has been to clear out as much of what wasn't supposed to be packed as possible, so that they could do their job and we weren't sorting while they were packing. Sometimes I've thought it would be easier to pack it ourselves, but they do an excellent job, and I've done a lot of work getting ready for them. (Plus we can't get insurance for things that we pack...)

At their lunch break I went down and took a picture of the room where we had all our photo albums, some files and lots of other sentimental family items. This is what it looked like. I can tell you that I would not have been able to get this together in three hours...

This was the view from my kitchen toward the living room at lunch time.

This was the view at 3 p.m., after they had cleared out today's boxes. They will be back tomorrow at 9 a.m. and finish the packing. I'm guessing they'll be out before 3. They've completely cleared out two rooms, and have a little in three others.

If we were just leaving for a year, this would probably be a little easier...but since we won't be moving back, we have to liquidate all our furniture, and lots of very useful things. I've spent quite a bit of time the past two weeks posting things on Tokyo's Craigslist, as well as Facebook.  

We even had an "open house" on Saturday.  Some things have gone, and we are most grateful. But we're having to dispose of others.  It is hard to "throw away" things that are good. But that is our choice at this point.  If we were in the US we would take things to Goodwill or AmVets, or some other service. But not here.  Feeling particularly guilty about this the other day, the Lord put on my heart that I should instead be thankful for the many years of good service these items have given us. 

What's next?  
  • Tomorrow is day 2 of moving. 
  • Wednesday we have several friends coming over to help us clean--and the furniture and small things left in this room have to be taken to disposal.  It may involve numerous trips unless we come across a small truck. 
  • Thursday we go to the City Office to notify them of our departure, cancel our health insurance and then go pay our taxes for this year. 
  • Friday and Saturday are our extra days for whatever we haven't completed by then. We close out of the house Saturday.