Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Thoughts on home...

I gave up facebook for Lent this year.  And it's been really great.  I love keeping in touch with friends and family through facebook, but unfortunately, I also waste a lot of time on facebook.  So I've been using this gift of time to read more... I actually read a lot already, despite our usual busy schedule.  But now I'm really reading a lot.  This is wonderful, but I tend to be a speed reader and there are certain books that need to be savored instead of raced through.  One of the books I'm trying to savor (and not devour) is 'Simply Tuesday' by Emily Freeman.  It was recommended on a blog about books that I've become obsessed with... Brian thinks I have a problem ;).  I'm just reading a chapter every few days, while I continue to devour other novels, memoirs, etc. :) 

I've only read 3 chapters so far, but she is talking about walking with Jesus in all the ordinary moments of life. "What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them."  Such a great reminder!  But what has really struck me about her book is a discussion on home.  She tells the story of passing by a house surrounded by beautiful fields of yellow poppies.  But in a different season the house was surrounded by a dry, brown field.  "Home isn't either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty.  Home is both.  Home is and. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts.  Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are hurt, broken and healed, and made whole again.  And all of these parts are essential as we live in the kingdom of God."

Any discussion on 'home' always evokes a lot of emotions for me.  I grew up in an amazing home filled with loving family and lots of laughter.  I was actually such a homebody I struggled with spending the night at a friends house when I was a kid.... my parents thought I might never leave home. ;)  Then home became college in Oklahoma - another amazing time filled with new friends who became family and life-changing experiences.  Then home became a new family with Brian and over the last 13 years, God led us to Guam, then the Philippines, and now Japan.  Our homes have been so so different from each other.  We moved from a small island with only 150,000 people to sprawling metro Manila with roughly 12 million people.  And now we're back on an island, but we're in Japan, so we can literally touch our neighbor's houses on either side of our house. 

Our community here is always changing, and so we're constantly meeting new people and learning about each other.  And for some reason, over the last 6 months, it feels like I've been getting more questions than normal... How long have you been in Japan?  How long will you be here? You've lived overseas for more than 12 years... how do you deal with missing family? Which country have you liked living in best?  Sometimes it's hard to always be starting over in new relationships, but the questions are good because they help me remember how God has led us and reflect on the amazing home He has given us... everywhere we have been. 
I can honestly say that I have loved EVERY place we've lived, even though they have been drastically different.  And when I say I've loved them, it's not a naive, life was perfect without any troubles kind of love.  Life has been life.  There have been wonderful times and incredibly difficult times.  In each place I have gone through periods of questioning if this is where we were supposed to be.  But every time, God has reminded me that He called us there and until He leads us somewhere else, it is home, because He is there with us, guiding us and giving us grace and peace.  Each place and time has been right because I knew it was where God wanted us... it is so, so good.

Our home right now is surrounded by urban sprawl.  But thankfully Japan values green space and there is a beautiful park just a 10 minute walk from our house.  If you're driving on the road, it's actually easy to miss.  But once you enter the park, you follow a winding path up the side of a hill.  It's amazing how the busy city sounds are instantly muted as you walk in the trees, and you really feel as if you are in a different place.  Once you make it to the top of the park, there is a fantastic view of the city we live in.  It's a great place to pray.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming as I look out over the city and think of how many people are represented, how many people in all those buildings have never heard of Jesus, and how long it takes to learn the language and build meaningful relationships.  But I love that you can see the beautiful trees from the park with the city.  It's like a reminder God gives me that His beauty and presence is there with me even when life is overwhelming.  When there aren't easy answers and sometimes you don't know where to go, He is there... the peace in the park is my reminder that He is home.  "It's good to consider that home is a Person [Jesus] we bring with us rather than a destination we're trying to find." (Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)