Friday, April 15, 2011

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts..."

In our women's Bible study at church, we studied the book of Isaiah the last few months, and, as usual, God's timing was perfect. He used so many things in Isaiah to challenge, correct, and encourage me in my relationship with Him. A few weeks ago, I was catching up on a friend's blog and through a whirlwind of thoughts, I was instantly overwhelmed by God's grace and provision... so I must share!

But first, rewind back a few years... I was a sociology major in college. I loved my classes but I never knew exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. Way before we went to Guam, I always thought it would be fun to do graduate studies in child development or child psychology, but nothing ever happened beyond those initial thoughts. After college Brian and I married and God led us to Guam... with no jobs, house, car, etc... but of course God provided everything we needed right away! Within one month of arriving I was working as a social worker for The Salvation Army... and I LOVED it. I could talk forever about that, but let's just say it was perfect for me in so many ways, and God used those 3 years with the Salvation Army to mold me and use my passions in ways I never thought I would be able to.

Then we felt God calling us to graduate school in the Philippines... for Brian. :) Well, long story short, in order for us to stay on campus, I also had to take classes... and I couldn't justify taking classes for 3 years and not getting a degree, so I too studied for a Master's degree. Let's just say I wasn't too happy about this. ;) I don't like to admit it, but I was pretty upset about someone telling me what to do in such a big way... and they didn't have any degrees that really matched with my undergraduate in sociology or the work I had been doing in Guam. But we felt we needed to live on campus, and I was halfheartedly interested in the religious education degree APNTS offered, since I had been involved in various forms of adult education in Guam, so I started the program.

Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVED living in the Philippines, I LOVED our life there, and I still miss it very much... but I wasn't always happy about being in school. I just didn't feel the need to go back to school at that point in my life and the degree I completed wasn't really what I ever wanted to study. However, I never felt God leading me to do something else... and trust me, God and I talked a LOT during my time at APNTS. ;) But when we first arrived, a few people started mentioning the possibility of teaching English as a second language. I had never thought of that before, but it sounded interesting and God opened doors for that opportunity... and I loved it! Being able to teach part-time while I was in school really saved me from going crazy in my little "how dare you tell me what to do" temper tantrum. I loved my students, I loved what we got to do together in class.. it was simply wonderful. :)

When I was about a year away from graduating, the school announced they were launching a new degree program... in holistic child development. Woah, that was what I had always been interested in, but I was too far into my program to change anything at that point. So I was really proud of the school for doing this and excited for the people who started, but I always felt a twinge of regret whenever it was discussed... "Why didn't they have this program when we came?" kept swirling around in my head... but I felt I just had to push through and finish what I had started.

So I finished my thesis, graduated, and then it was time to look to the future. As we began praying with our leaders about where God would lead us next, we talked about a few countries in Southeast Asia... and our discussions about those countries normally centered around the possibility of working with women and children, things similar to what I had done in Guam. Of course, I was thrilled and instantly felt at peace, that this was where God was leading us. But then God surprised everyone... soon after we began these discussions, a very unique Nazarene church in Okinawa, Japan needed a pastor... within 2 weeks we flew to Japan to interview... and the day we returned to Manila, the church formally asked us to come serve as their pastor.

Everyone involved knew this was where God was calling our family. So even though it was to a developed country, which was quite a culture shock, we knew God has amazing plans for us here in Japan... and we were so excited. So we came, and I was pregnant... it's quite difficult to adjust to new life when you're pregnant - just take my word for it and try to never make such a big life change when you're huge and emotional. ;) So, our first 6 months here I was pregnant, then I had a newborn... again, it's a little difficult to really find your routine in a new place. But as Noah's first few months flew by, I started earnestly seeking God's direction about what I should do and how I should spend my time in our new country and new role. It's incredibly easy to make myself busy, but God has been teaching me the importance of seeking what He has for me, more than just filling my schedule so I can say it's filled.

I felt God clearly leading me to focus on studying Japanese... so I started looking for classes that would fit in my schedule with a baby and a toddler at home, and unfortunately it wasn't easy to find. There were plenty of options at night, but that just wouldn't work right now... so I kept inquiring and waited and waited and waited. Finally after about 5 months I received word that a conversation class would be starting. It worked with my schedule and I couldn't wait to begin. I had already met the director of the language school and taken a few private lessons with her last fall. But when she emailed me about the group class starting, she also asked if I would be interested in teaching an English class at their language school. Wow, I hadn't even been looking for that, but I knew I really missed teaching... and this was something that could work with my current life responsibilities. So we prayed about it, worked out all the details, and I can't describe how wonderful it has been to be back in the classroom, even though it's only an hour a week, and begin to get to know 4 amazing Japanese ladies who are quickly becoming friends.

So now, back to why I'm writing this incredibly long blog... a couple weeks ago I was catching up on a friend's blog, and it was an update of things happening through the holistic child development program at APNTS. Without even thinking about it, I immediately felt that same twinge of regret... if only they had had this program when we started... I would have loved doing this. And then the grace of God overwhelmed me... I had just returned from teaching English to 4 incredible Japanese ladies, and I would have never had that opportunity if I hadn't gotten the religious education degree...God led us to Japan, where English teaching is an amazing way to get to know Japanese people, and there are so many opportunities. My mind was filled with the provision and goodness of God - I had no idea why I was studying those things, and I don't know how He will use them in the future, but He is using them now. As always, He is giving me abundant life - so much better than I could ask or imagine!

That week in our Isaiah study we read these verses:
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters....
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;....
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:1a, 2-3a, 8-9

Wow, the words come, listen, satisfy, live... they just jumped out at me and took on a whole new meaning. I didn't always have the best attitude, but I am so thankful God gives us grace to hear His voice, even when we don't deserve it. So please pray for me as I continue to meet with these ladies to practice English conversation. Pray for our Japanese studies and that God would continue to provide us with opportunities to make new friends and practice what we're learning. And pray that we would seek God's direction in everything, listen to His voice, and follow where He leads. If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for listening to me ramble... and pray that God continues to show us where and how He is working in Japan. :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

Justin has spring break this week, so we have been intensely focusing on potty training... and the saying on these incredibly cool underwear (Japanese clothes with English phrases are simply awesome - no other way to describe it) describes our theme this week... believable courage, fighting chance... we believed it could happen, it took courage, it was a fighting chance, and we have been fighting... but we now have a very happy potty-trained boy... with very happy parents. :)
I think this happy boy thinks he will get M&M's every time he correctly uses the toilet for the rest of his life... but we'll deal with that later.
Noah is also a lot happier lately... he FINALLY cut his first tooth and now that he's crawling, he's able to get into many more things he's not supposed to, therefore he is incredibly happy. :)
LOTS of happiness at the Woolery house this week.... ;)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Changing seasons.... hopefully?

When you talk to most foreigners that live in Okinawa, typically something about the weather will come up in conversation... the island is loved, but the humidity is hard for most to deal with.... except us. We are used to high heat and humidity year round... we used to joke that when it got below 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius), we were freezing... and we really were. It NEVER gets very cool in Guam or Manila, and our bodies had adjusted and were quite happy with our year-round humidity. But even though Okinawa is an island, it is much farther north than the Philippines, and we have definite seasons here. So while it has been fun to have "cold" weather (it gets to 50/10 C here... and we were freezing) for the last few months, we are SO ready for warm... HOT weather. :) I've been hesitant to change the clothes in the boys' drawers... what if I switch the long pants for shorts and then it gets cold again? ;) But we've been having beautiful, but not hot yet, weather for the past few weeks, so I think we're on our way back to comfortable. :) Here's the view from our balcony this morning... we are looking forward to the summer and LOTS of time in the ocean! Have a great day!

You can't really see it in these pictures, but the ocean is SO blue and SO inviting today.... thank you God for islands. :)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Funny guys

Is it possible to eat too many bananas? I think Noah is out to test this theory... he LOVES bananas... really, really loves them. He has gone through phases of eating other foods, but his current phase is that anything that goes in his mouth, besides milk and snacks, must be bananas. I stressed out about this for about a week and then decided there are much worse things that could be happening... So he has oatmeal with banana for breakfast, yogurt with banana for lunch, and then I feed him rice and vegetables for dinner... so he holds each bite in his mouth until I also give him a bite of banana, and then he swallows with a smile. :)

And this funny guy just wanted his picture taken... he gets it from his father... ;)

He may be a picky eater, but I think we have a climber on our hands....

Friday, April 08, 2011

Afternoon adventure

A couple days ago the boys and I were on a walk in our neighborhood and we discovered a hidden treasure! So today we went back with Brian and our camera... here's what we found. :)

This is a large intersection a few blocks from our apartment...
And this is a side road with a large sidewalk...
It's mostly apartment and office buildings...
until you happen to turn your head, and suddenly...
this is what you see!!! Think of small streets or alleys between rows of apartment buildings, but these happen to be landscaped with a brook, bridges, benches, and beautiful trees and plants ... solely for the purpose of enjoying the outdoors. Isn't Japan wonderful? :) I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed at the attention given to detail and the importance of aesthetics in our new home... here are a few more pics of what we saw today...

looking for fish in the water :)
Some residents add their own flower pots to the section their home is in (see above picture).

And even when you cross the street, it keeps going...

So much to explore! :)

simply beautiful!

We love Japan!

Growing boys

Yes, our boys are growing...every day they both learn new things and develop in new ways... here's a short update. :)

About a month ago, Noah started moving around a little more on his own...

and he started learning how fun it is to explore new things...

fast forward to today... he is crawling EVERYWHERE and is always anxious to see what Justin is up to. :)
such a handsome boy!
He has gained his older brother's love for cars... mainly because they're fun to chew on...

On to the next challenge....
success! Another chewing toy. :)

He's constantly watching Justin...
and following him around...
much to Justin's delight....
not really... notice how Justin keeps moving his books away from Noah?
the inevitable.... :)

But overall our growing boys are having tons of fun living life together...