26 September, 2017

Spiritual recalibration

I took the morning to ride to a coffee shop (got 55 minutes of riding in, equivalent to 9,350 steps according to this website) and spent a couple of hours doing some spiritual recalibration.

My main take-away? That the rest in verses 28-31 of Isaiah 40 may have been eluding me because the awesomeness of God that the earlier part of the chapter lays out was not as much in my thoughts as it should have been. And that I can fly (vs 31) not because of who I am or because I'm gifted or in control or appreciated but because of who God is and because he, by his great grace, is committed to saving me.

The other take-away is that this kind of recalibration needs to happen again and again and again. It is not a sign of failure, it is a sign of human-ness (and the sin that indwells all of us) and that is no shame.

25 September, 2017

Fascinating map of the future

This is a map on a wall at school. Marked are all the places that the seniors who graduated from the Christian Academy in Japan in June planned to be going after high school. You can see that most of them went to North America or stayed in Japan. Our son is definitely in the minority.
You can see on the school profile here, that the school has 29 nationalities amongst its students. It is interesting that even many of the non-US students go to North America for college.

Another point of note from a non-American perspective is that no degrees are mentioned here. It is yet another point of the American system that I don't understand. In Australia you aim for a degree, not necessarily a university. So I went straight into Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, and that is what I would tell people if I were asked what I was going to do (of course, I could only answer with certainty about a month before uni started, not months before I graduated, like many US-bound students). Ask an American year twelve student what they're doing after graduation and they'll say something like, "Going to Biola." Assuming, often, that you'll know where that is. They rarely mention what degree they're aiming for. That question confuses, instead the correct question seems to be, "What will you major in?"

I guess by the time we've been here a couple more decades I might understand better . . . but for the meantime, I'm happy to be in the minority and with a son heading into a tertiary system that I've got a better grasp on.

And I love this map!

24 September, 2017

Photographic proof

This week I feel like I got over the hump of things that have been on my urgent list. For months now I've felt driven by an overwhelming to-do list. This week that seemed to ease up, I guess partly to do with getting two projects "done" (see here). 

I think that probably about since I wrote this post back in April, I've been working in a higher gear than I'm used to, or comfortable with. It is a great relief to find that light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully things will be a little more manageable in the foreseeable future.

But this week, after I realised that I was over the biggest, most urgent things for now, I hit the other side of the mountain: freewheeling down. It meant both relief as well as a greater sense of fatigue. I also realised on Friday that I was reacting to small things at work with a greater sense of inner irritation than usual. It was then that I realised I needed to lay low this weekend. Hence I've stayed away from email and this computer.

Thankfully I was able to read for several hours yesterday afternoon on my bed and again today, as well as drop off to sleep. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be feeling a bit more normal.

As a result of all of this, I've not blogged as much as I would have liked to. But below I've added some photos from the last week, photographic proof, if you like, that things have been happening in our house and that I've been taking time-out.

This week we had another boy-birthday, so we now have the three-year-gap balance back again: 12, 15, and 18 (we have two boy-birthdays in April-May and the other in September). The birthday cake was my extra rich Chocolate Cheesecake.

Our eldest son has continued to work 28 hrs a week in the maintenance department at school. Varnishing this picnic table is one of the projects he's helped with recently.

On Thursday, with the pressure of the overwhelming-urgent projects over for the time being, I felt able to take time out to ride to the park about 30 minutes away. It was a gorgeous day; the sun was hot and shade pleasant. Yet there was a breeze that only comes with autumn. As usual, I took my camera. There isn't a lot of splendour at this time of the year, with the freshness of summer fading and leaves gradually dying. But I found a few spots of beauty.

There were a few people in the park, not heaps, but not sparse either.

I loved the blue sky. This open field always makes me stop and admire. It's more like "back home" than most things in this big city.

Then yesterday we got up early, as usual, for this season, to watch our boys run in this gorgeous place: the Tama Hills Recreational Facility. This is our seventh year visiting this beautiful spot in Tokyo (see here for an older post about the facility). We went camping there in March this year also. It's only 45 minutes from downtown Tokyo, but not a destination for most Tokyo residents, because you need to be US military or have special approval or sponsorship to go in (and show ID).

The history of the place is quite something. Briefly, it used to house munitions factories during WW2.
Tama Hills’ history dates back to 1938 before World War II (WWII). At that time the Japanese Imperial Army established a munitions processing and storage plant under direction of Arsenal Headquarters in Itabashi located in central Tokyo. Historical records reveal that the plant constructed exclusive chemicals. By the end of WWII, It became an independent facility in 1940 with 2,085 people, three facilities, housing, dormitories and warehouses.
The Tama arsenal was built according to German specifications. It resembled facilities in Bavaria, a province in Southern Germany. Processed bombs were stored in numerous concrete “Bunkers” throughout Tama Department, many of which remain today. The Japanese Army took full advantage of the natural concealment to hide the facilities. In fact, it was so effective that the depot was undetected during the entire WWII. (From here.)
Like many military facilities in Japan, it was taken over by the US military when Japan surrendered.  Here's one of the bunkers as it looked on Saturday.

I'm hoping to take some time out one morning this week for a bike-ride-coffee-shop mini retreat. I need a bit of space to think a few things through. Life continues to be very busy. Our family's October calendar has lots on it, so I'm going to grab this little window before it closes.

22 September, 2017

Kids Musings September 2017

Here's another thing I published this week. It's my desire that you use it and pass it on to anyone it could be useful to.

20 September, 2017

Two are better than one

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. I'm glad we celebrated back in August by going away, but today we're just in the midst of everything and there's not much room for celebration. 

However, in the midst of the everyday, was an encouragement. This morning, as we usually do, we read the Bible together using the Our Daily Bread (ODB) notes. Today's short reading was Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: 
Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10
The short ODB article today referenced the 2016 Olympics where two 5,000m athletes helped one another when they collided. A picture of mutual encouragement that many across the world saw.

Though the notes didn't mention marriage, but that is of course where our minds went. How many times have one of us helped the other throughout these last 20 years! Our marriage is very much a team event, we wouldn't have made it this far if it had not been for a strong mutual commitment to one another. 

I'm so thankful. We're not perfect and neither of us is very romantic, but I'm grateful and content with what we do have.

19 September, 2017

Celebration of things achieved

Before I move on to the next things on my to-do list, I want to celebrate the things achieved.
Cover of the new magazine issue.

In the midst of the last week of travel and workshopping (and illness), two projects that have taken considerable amounts of my time have gone to the printer:

  • The latest issue of Japan Harvest
  • A greeting card for the use of our Japan Members for mobilisation of prayer
It's easy to peck away at the keyboard here day after day and forget that things I'm working are actually moving forward. The magazine issue I've been working on since May. The greeting card came out of the realisation that the prayer calendar I usually produce for the field was going to be cost-prohibitive this year, something that I discovered back in March. It is easy to just say, "They're done" and move on to the next project, but actually THEY'RE DONE! After months of work, they are actually completed.

Other things that I've also produced have been published online in the last week:
  • Three blog posts for OMF Japan: 
  • And I've been getting more active on social media too, with re-posting relevant things on OMF Japan's page. One of my fellow workshop attendees muttered, "What used to be just for fun has become work." It's true. I'm doing Facebook for work now! That changes the things a little. Although, I guess, in a way I've been doing social media for work for a long time, this blog being a big part of that.
And of course now I'm already working on future projects:
  • The next issue of Japan Harvest has been in the works for more than six weeks now, but thankfully I've only got one issue on my plate, instead of two for a few months now.
  • More blog posts continue to come in for the OMF blog
  • Another printing project for OMF Japan is on the horizon, I just need to kick-start it
I find it easy to think that I'm not doing much, but it's a lie. Perhaps I'm not doing what I do as fast as I'd like to, but I am not fluffing around doing nothing. What I need to find is a better rhythm. I'm not doing much in the way of exercise just now and it isn't helping my stamina nor, probably, my mental state at all.

18 September, 2017

Explaining is a key part of parenting

It's a relief to finally be sitting at my desk during a work day with (almost) everyone gone from the house and with energy to work. It's been more than a week since that happened!
I also did this on the weekend: supported our two younger boys at
cross country. Parenting is hard. Parenting TCKs is also hard, with an
extra layer on top that we wouldn't have had if we've brought our kids
up in the country of their passport. Interpreting elements of both cultures
they are a part of is one part.
Another is that we are their only family in
the country, though I know that many children in their passport countries
never have extended family at important events (I never did).
But we do feel it's important to be there for them at events like sport.
TCKs have more transition in their lives than I ever did and we, as their parents,
are two of people in their lives that don't move in and out of their lives.

Here are some slightly random thoughts from the weekend:

As a parent you're always teaching. But I wonder if parents of third culture kids spend more time explaining? I've mentioned this before: helping them explore Australian food and translating for soft drinks.

Yesterday in a short period after church I found myself explaining to them several other people's reactions to them.

This month our oldest son has started playing guitar for the singing part of the service at church. Yesterday I chatted briefly with one of the young mums who told me that there was a lot of admiration for him from the young parent's group. 

When I passed this on to our son he was a little confused. First of all he didn't understand the Japanese word used by the lady, then he was thoroughly embarrassed by the attention and didn't understand why they admired him. We explained that parents of young children look at families with older children who are "turning out okay" and wonder if that will happen to their own kids. Even hope desperately that it will. That's why is it great to have friends in a variety of stages of life, it is a great encouragement to see that the stage you are currently in ends and there can be better things ahead. Once we'd explained this, he understood and was happier about it, even slightly bemused as he pondered what we'd thought of him when he was younger and looked at older kids.

We've also received a lot of positive comments from the staff at school about him. He's working 28 hours a week there on the maintenance team, doing all sorts of things from shifting heavy things around, to weeding, and cleaning air conditioning vents. Apparently he's really appreciated, not just for the work, but for his reliability and quiet, but thoughtful nature. I'm thankful that he's not only earning money, he's making himself useful and genuinely helping others. Not to mention that obviously he's encouraging others by his general character. 

I'm also thankful that he has this meaningful work to do in this period of waiting. It's good for his brain to have a rest before embarking on the next stage of the journey, which is going to be far from easy. I talked this afternoon to a Japanese CAJ mum who's son graduated with ours. He's gone to Canada and is finding life and study there very challenging.

Why are they staring?
The other reaction of our kids that I fielded after church yesterday was this:

"Why must old Japanese ladies stare at us?" 

In fact the boy that said this was quite upset. We were sitting at Mister Donuts waiting for our order and a couple of older ladies were having quite a stare at me and my three white boys. I politely greeted them and they replied in turn. Sometimes someone would want to have a bit more conversation than that (where are you from etc.), but yesterday these two just looked. It's an age-old problem for foreigners in a land where you don't look like the locals. 

I said, "Just smile and wave." But that seemed to upset him more. This did surprise me. I thought that they were used to this by now, having grown up here, but obviously this is something that is bothering this boy just now.

So there you go: my random thoughts for the day. Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear how explaining is a part of your parenting. What have you had to explain to your kids in recent days, about other's reactions to them?