Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Starting over...first steps

This photo was taken close to two months ago, as we visited with friends at Baseline Community Church in Claremont, CA.  It was posted just this week, and I thought it was a good one of the two of us! We had just come back from our week away in Vegas and were looking pretty rested.

We have been in Charlotte over a month and a half -- I promise I won't count them down too often, but as we've looked at the transitions involved in a cross cultural relocation, it is helpful to keep tabs on where we are in that process. We are now "North Carolinians" by legal documentation, we have local phone numbers and get mail at our rental house.  We have visited six churches--one of those we've visited more than once. We've participated in an SIM candidate screening program, and taken part in several meetings at the missions office that relate to our upcoming ministry assignments. We've received pre-approval for a mortgage, and have looked at several houses (and chose not to follow up on the one I referred to in the last blog). We have a garage half-full of our belongings sent from Japan and California. Within a month we will add belongings that come from Stan's parents' home in Rhode Island.

We did a good job of preparing to leave Japan.  We thought less about how to start over when we arrived here. Certainly we've been working on the basics -- many of which I've just mentioned.  We also realized how really tired we were when we arrived.  Emotions run near the surface for both of us -- gratefully not often at the same time.  We had hoped for a little more freedom from day-to-day parenting so we could more easily travel though it appears that will take longer.  But now we are ready to build some relationships. 

Two weekends ago we had three meals with coworkers and friends who live in the area. On Labor Day another couple introduced us to a great Nature Preserve on the lake near us and we headed there for a lunch picnic again one recent weekend.

We've been able to connect up with two different couples who used to serve in Japan with us -- this couple met in Japan over 25 years ago as short-term missionaries with LIFE Ministries (now called Asian Access).

And this couple served in Japan as church planters and in administrative positions until 12 years ago. They also were a part of our church, the International Community Chapel of Saitama (ICCS).

This week I've taken another step towards starting over. I've attended two women's groups from different churches.  

One meets in a home almost around the corner from where we live. We had an interesting discussion revolving around the Pastor's sermon series in this cross-generational group.

The other group is at a church about 25 minutes away. Called Moving On after Moving In, it is geared specifically for newcomers to the area and is using the book pictured as the basis of the class. There must have been at least 20 women in the room this morning--each coming to the Charlotte area with different experiences, concerns and challenges. The leader has led this class many times, and along with others will be a good coach and encourager to those of us who have things to figure out about living in a new place.

I found myself fighting tears BEFORE I got there. Guess I still have some processing to do here...  

On the ministry front, I am working with SIM USA to plan my transition into the Member Care department.  I am praying, dreaming and planning in anticipation of what God wants us to do to equip and support our missionaries to thrive in ministry and life. In two weeks, Stan and I will be heading to a Pastors to Missionaries Conference, where we will be able to interact both with other SIM member care personnel, but also people serving missionaries through other organizations and churches with a like heart. We look forward to being able to attend this together.

So as we make these first steps toward starting over and "moving in" we look forward to seeing God's work in us and through us.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37:3-6

Friday, September 20, 2013

Looking back on a very full day!

Shortly after we arrived in the States, we heard that the new iPhone was going to be announced in September.  Looking at the prices of the phone plans that were being offered two months ago, we decided to wait a little longer and pay the same amount for the "newest" phone.   

Today was the day the new phones went on sale at the stores. We arrived at the local Verizon store around 8:30 and were #28 in line.  By 10 a.m. we walked out with our two new phones. I headed home to sync my phone with all my previous phone data while Stan headed to the doctor for his physical.

When he was done, he called me (yeah!) to come and pick him up.  We went to lunch and arrived home in time to meet up with our realtor to go look at three houses.

When we returned home around 4, we discovered our NC driver's licenses had arrived--so we hurriedly headed out to the DMV (department of motor vehicles), arriving with minutes to spare to get the title changed and our NC license plate for our van. All that went smoothly (gratefully) and we headed back to pick up Stan's suit at the dry cleaners, arriving a few minutes before closing. It was just around the block from where we started the day at the Verizon store...

Tonight we have been able to sync Stan's phone. Meanwhile, we are praying about whether to pursue one of the houses we saw today.  It wasn't originally on our list for today but after seeing it I remembered it was one that I marked as a "favorite" on the Zillow app a few weeks ago. SO...if you're a praying person, please ask the Father to give us clarity and peace.

A full day with more to follow...

                     ... tomorrow Stan heads to Rhode Island and Massachusetts for a week and a half.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A timely word

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply

    and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

Today we received a short text message from someone we met at a church a few weeks ago. We had shared briefly about some family concerns after which this man prayed a powerful and gracious prayer for us. 

We are grateful for the timeliness of this note, and even more for the prayers that it represents. 

It reminds me of the time in June of 2011 when Stan and I were wandering around the neighborhood of our cabin, looking at the devastating destruction that was all around in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. We were struggling with burnout personally and stunned by what we saw. A van with several westerners drove by us, and then backed up.  They were chaplains from the Billy Graham association who had been ministering to relief workers in the area.  One of them stopped and prayed a mighty prayer for us--and we sensed the love of Christ in a most welcome way that day.  We cannot remember what he prayed but we know that God was present in his prayer.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Celebrating 30 years ... plus ...

Yesterday was our 30th Anniversary.  It seems we spent the day eating -- and we're feeling a bit uncomfortable, though we thoroughly enjoyed it at the time!  We started at Cracker Barrel, that great American highway-side restaurant with abundantly carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts and lousy coffee.  We took a little time on the rocking chairs outside afterward.

It felt right to be rocking...

Because that morning we saw the first photos of ...

our first grandchild, due in early March. We grandparents and the aunt are all elated.  The uncles are a bit unsure. 

It is hard to be so far away from this family, and even harder to think of being away while this little one grows up. I think we'll have to start a travel savings account.  I've already booked a week in the UK in November to be with the parents-to-be.  We should have someone in our family working for an airline...

Those of us who have followed Christ's call to serve overseas have to count this as part of the cost. Somehow it was easier to be the one to leave as we did when we went to Japan one year after our wedding. It is harder for me to be the one "left behind" now. Yet I will rejoice in Skype and Facetime, which were not available when our babies were born...  And the fare to the UK from the east coast is a bit less than the fare from Japan.

Friday, September 06, 2013

One month ago...

The Charlotte, NC downtown skyline
...we landed in Charlotte.  It seems like a very long time ago that we left Japan, thought it is still less than two months.  How life has changed!

Meeting with friends that go back to
Stan's college days in Rhode Island
We are on a "home assignment" or a sabbatical while we get ourselves somewhat settled in Charlotte. Stan and I have begun connecting with people from the mission and friends from the past. We are church shopping. We are handling various start-up requirements and still need to get our North Carolina  Driver's licenses. After hearing horror stories about the closest DMV we are trying to decide how far out of town we'll need to drive to be able to get in and out easily.  It would be nice to have that settled by the end of this coming week.

And cell phones... we arrived here a month and a half before Apple releases their newest phone. We don't want to pay full price for the current phone when we can pay that same amount in a few weeks for the newest one. This leaves four of us with two pre-paid cell phones, and a Google voice number shunting calls to whichever cell phone we designate.  Gratefully we haven't had to go into too many separate directions.  I have also used my Skype on a store WiFi to contact Stan carrying the cell phone.  Sometimes we have to be creative!

This week our shipment from California arrived. Last week our shipment from Japan came. Our garage is full of boxes, and Stan is much more eager than I to get into them. He found his tools and set up on a tool bench in the garage--the first time he's had one.  In a couple of weeks he will take one of two trips to Rhode Island this fall to help his brother clear out his parent's home.  At the end of that second trip, we'll have more things in our garage. Hopefully sometime in the next few months we will have discovered a house to buy that we can call home and feel the freedom to unpack all those boxes!

Meanwhile, our boys are experiencing isolation without friends and a hesitation to step out and make friends right now.  While many of their high school classmates are starting college , they are taking this year as a "gap year." One of our boys has worked for three of the last four weeks on the grounds crew at SIM. The other boy has discovered the challenges of online job searches. After four weeks of no work, he seems eager to find something.  If you are praying person, please remember their adjustment and pray that they both find ample employment and begin to develop community somewhere.

This week we've had the privilege of sitting in on SIM Start, a five day candidate screening event.  We have been able to hear some of the presentations that explain more of the SIM vision and the mission's history. Tomorrow's topics include finance and support raising.We have enjoyed visiting with the candidates and hearing how God has led them to this time of discernment. We especially enjoyed sharing about Japan with one couple who are seeking God's direction of their field of service.  This is a taste of what our future ministries will be as we are a part of the mandate to Connect God's People to God's Work in the World.

Yesterday we celebrated Stan's birthday, and next week (9/10) is our 30th wedding anniversary. We have hoped to get away for a few days. We are sensing we need to have someone to be available for our boys during our time away and we haven't discerned who that would be. We would appreciate prayer as we try to figure out how to manage a worry-free get-away!

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:2