Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Birthday Blessings

The day before my birthday last week, I was reading my devotional book, Jesus Calling, and the author was talking about giving thanks.  She said, "See how many times you can thank Me [Jesus] daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings."  This was on my mind and God overwhelmed me with many things to be thankful for over the next few days. 

The story of my birthday cake actually started right when we got back from the states.  Last year I started eating a gluten-free diet, which isn't that different from the normal things our family eats, but it can be difficult sometimes... especially when you can't read any food labels. ;)  So it was nice to be in the states with other gluten-free friends and enjoy some treats I normally wouldn't have.  I remember even lamenting to Brian on the plane ride home that it would be years before I could eat gluten-free bread or cakes again, since we haven't figured out where to get those ingredients in Japan.  When we got home, I was wandering around the house, trying to remember where everything goes, and I opened the pantry and immediately started crying... it was filled with gluten-free baking goods! Our short-term volunteer missionaries who filled in for us while we were gone also eat gluten-free... our church blessed them with pantry items when they arrived, but they received more than they could use while they were here.  So they left the rest for me, and it was such a blessing.  The boys and I made a cake together that the whole family could enjoy! 

We are always blessed by churches in the states that support us with prayers, cards, emails, etc.  This last year a lady from a church in Indiana has made our family smile SO many times... she sends us hand-written cards, puts things like stickers and balloons in cards for the boys (and they go crazy over it!), and her church sends care packages with our most favorite things. :)  Brian got to meet her when he was speaking, and it was such a blessing.  I received a birthday card from her the same day I read this devotion - such a reminder of God's love and presence in our lives!

The actual day was filled with many blessings from Brian and the boys.  They each made lists of "I love you because...' and 'Thank you for...' and gave them to me throughout the day (Brian even had them on cute scrapbook paper - very amazing!). 

Brian took the afternoon off work so we could all spend time together... we went to a coffee shop, took funny pictures in a photo booth at the mall, ate at our favorite restaurant, and enjoyed a walk on the seawall.  I'm SO thankful for my guys and the many little things they do to show their love every day. :)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  Psalm 100:4

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We're home!!!

Yay!  We're back home in Okinawa. :)  People keep asking me how our 3 month home assignment was, and it's hard to come up with an answer.  It was great to be with family and friends, great to make new friends, fun to travel and speak at different churches, and fun to visit places in the states we had never been to before.  But it was also tiring to travel so much, stressful living out of a suitcase and staying with other people for so long, and wearisome trying to keep the boys entertained and happy as we lived without a routine and were constantly dealing with new situations (people, places, food, etc.).  So, as I've started answering, "It was really good, but it's also really good to be home." :)

Now we're trying to remember our routine and pick up where we left off, but a lot can happen in 3 months.  God stretched and challenged us while we were gone, so we return slightly changed, refreshed, and ready to see what He has for us next.  Families in our congregation moved away while we were gone, so it's a slightly different church we're coming back to.  But it's exciting to see how God stretched and challenged our church family while we were gone; new people have/are taking leadership positions and we're thrilled at the possibilities and opportunities God has for them while they're here.  This last week we've been reminded how rusty our Japanese language skills became when we didn't use it for three months, so we're praying for motivation to make regular study a habit again.  And we really want/need to get better at regular communication about what God is doing in Japan with our friends around the world.  We were reminded so many times of the need to share not only the good things that happen, but our struggles in life, also; we have so many friends, supporters, and prayer partners that are a huge part of our life here, and we need to do a better job of keeping you a part!

So please pray for us as we transition back and start life again with bigger boys, more developed goals, and a constant desire to be changed and used by God as He shows our friends and neighbors in Japan how much He loves them!