Monday, July 14, 2014

I choose to "be home."

Yesterday we crossed the one year mark.  One year since we left Japan and arrived in the US. If you've been following us, you may remember that Psalm 84 was my passage for this major transition.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

While we certainly aren't finished with our pilgrimage, the Lord has blessed us in the process of following His lead to serve Him from the US.  So as we passed this one-year milestone, it seemed appropriate to finally put some pictures on the walls of our home.  

We have collected pictures we brought from Japan, stored in the US or inherited from our parents over this last year, and stashed them in corners not being ready to put them up.  A few days ago I began pulling some of those out and placing them around the house, looking for the "right" place to hang them.  Each one tells a part of our story and in hanging them last night, it was as if we were affirming where we've come from.

In the living room we're still trying to figure out what we want above the mantle, but to the left of the windows is a calligraphy drawn for and presented to my mother by one of my ladies Bible classes when she visited Japan in 1996 with me. It is the Japanese character for Love.  To the right is a block print presented to us by the Asian Access family at our farewell last spring.

We have another "Japanese" corner being developed, where we hung a block print of a Japanese lady presented to us by a Bible Study we participated in with Japanese young professionals. These couples had first encountered Christians in the US and then were brought together by US business professionals who were affiliated with the Navigators.  The block print of Mt. Fuji was one of our "treasured finds" at the semi-annual thrift shop held at our children's school -- the Christian Academy in Japan.

At the landing half way up our stairs we put a cross stitch that I worked on the fall of 1988 as an affirmation of faith in a time of great personal loss.  I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1

In the dining room (aka my "home office") we hung two tributes to my family.  The painting on the left is from Brazil--it hung above my parent's fireplace for years.  The print on the right was bought by my mother when I was back in the US on one of my personal visits while she was dying of cancer. She did several things to get the house "ready" for my Dad before she died and purchasing this picture for their dining room was one of them.

And then we hung two more memories in our foyer. To the right is a cross stitch our second daughter did as one of her senior home economics projects in high school. She started it after I brought it back from  my mother's unfinished crafts pile. Mom had stitched a 1 X 2 inch section, and then folded up and put it in her drawer. To the left, partially hidden by the light fixture, is the thumb print tree that our church, The International Community Chapel of Saitama, gave us at our farewell party a little over a year ago.

And can you detect the habit that we've carried with us since leaving Japan?  Our foyer doesn't yet have a shoe cabinet, but I think we'll need to find one...

As we continue on this pilgrimage, we are grateful for the strength that the Lord gives.  We go from strength to strength until we each appear before God. This has not been a private pilgrimage--we are extremely thankful for each one who has joined us on the pilgrimage through their prayers, encouragement, financial support and friendship.  Even as we increasingly feel more "at home" with our new location, we are still on the journey of following God's call to see people from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of our God.  Revelation 7:9

Friday, July 04, 2014

4th of July Musings

Being patriotic has always been a little bit of a challenge for me. I dreaded Sundays around the 4th of July when we would sing "patriotic hymns" rather than God-focused ones.  Somehow it seemed like God and America were on the same level.

It wasn't until I was at a seminar on Third Culture Kids in '94 that I realized I wasn't particularly unique among people who had grown up cross-culturally. We've lived other places, seen life from other perspectives, and observed how America is viewed from abroad. I am grateful to be American, but not passionate about it.

I  have appreciated my American passport. Coming into the US it is nice to be able to head to the US Citizen lines (except in LAX which is has the slowest and most frustrating immigration processing!) For a while I also had a Brazilian passport in anticipation of a return  trip to Brazil with my dad and sister. Sadly, the trip ended up being cancelled because of a medical issue. That passport has since expired, and that government has made renewal complicated.

I remember when in the months after the 9-11 attacks there was no travel to the US. We were in Japan and had spent quite a bit of time in the previous few years traveling back and forth to visit dying family members. All of a sudden, if we needed to, we couldn't get back to our passport home. That was a strange feeling.  When we eventually traveled back to the US, there were flags everywhere, visually demonstrating changes that had taken place in our passport country.

One memory stands out about the significance of being American.  In 1996, Stan and I flew into New York from Moscow with our newly adopted 1-year old sons.  As we landed and taxied to our gate, shouts of joy and applause erupted from the passengers.  On the plane were a number of Russians immigrating to the US. We have no idea how hard the process had been for them to finally get their paperwork, but they were filled with joy at getting to America. I've never experienced this on any other flight into the US.

So now I am back living in the US. We have a flag flying outside our front door (thanks to Stan who did NOT grow up as a third culture kid).  We will celebrate the 4th of July quietly with friends. We may go see fireworks after dinner.

But don't get me started on that topic! The little beach communities around our cabin in Japan held better fireworks shows at their summer festivals that most I've seen here...

Oh, and I really can't begin celebrating the "4th of July" until today's World Cup quarter finals of Brazil vs Columbia.  Can you guess which country I'm cheering for today?