Thursday, December 6, 2012

Getting Closer....

 As of now we are days away from receiving medical clearance to return to the field.  The girls have been interviewed and formally accepted for enrollment at the Christian Academy in Japan.  Yesterday we set the date for the movers to gather our stuff to "crate" overseas, and today we got word that an apartment has been found in the suburbs of  Tokyo.  The tide is certainly pulling us toward Japan.

Fall months have been filled with off-to-school early mornings, mid-morning trips to the gym, hectic homework afternoons/evenings, and a myriad of doctor appointments. Heather has patiently endured her "lab rat" season being assessed, tested, medicated, and re-assessed, as we get a handle on her personalized blend of ADHD.  We feel like we've finally arrived at the right remedy, which is medication-free and activity-intense.  Picture Heather rolling back and forth on an oversized yoga ball as she recites vocabulary definitions, and you'll know what we mean.

Future House Site
Our land, from the roadside
While stateside, we held out hope that we could explore opportunities to buy land here in Middle Tennessee, with an eye toward our eventual retirement.  God answered -- in fact, he surprised our socks off!  A local realtor took us out to look at land, and within 3 hours' time, we found a parcel of acreage that we knew we couldn't pass up.  12.5 acres set on a wooded hillside.  One step off a county road, lie 2 pastures separated by a creek bed.  From there one slowly climbs up a hillside to a clearing that's perfect for a house.  The  remaining property is wooded all the way up to a ridge line.  Not far from the house site sits a pond, which on that day was surrounded by fresh deer tracks.  As we explored the property, we startled a flock of wild turkeys that immediately launched into flight, and Stew knew we'd found the right piece of land.  The owners offered private financing, which is "huge" because as ex-pats we don't get loans easily when we don't have a stateside geographic address to provide to the bank.  

Fellow Cookie Monsters
Now with the holiday season in full swing, we want to maximize family time and focus on "leaving well."  We spent Thanksgiving in coastal Alabama with Stew's parents.  His dad, C.J. (81) suffered a stroke in early November and was recovering in a rehab center near home, so we made daily or twice-daily trips to visit him, in and around Thanksgiving dinners and birthday celebrations.  Stew's mother, Marge has been recovering from her own spate of medical setbacks, and now faces a role reversal as she becomes C.J.'s caregiver.  They can certainly use our prayers in the coming months.  During Thanksgiving, we did not visit a single "Black Friday" sale.  Instead, we spent our time with Papa and with extended family, knowing that this visit would have to "last us" for the long haul.

We anticipate Christmas with excitement since we'll have all four daughters, a son in-law and another "serious" boyfriend under our roof for several days.  Expect a lot of talking, laughter, eating, and we hope, some serious future planning during this family visit.  The adult "kids" have not seen our land yet, so we look forward to introducing them to the family property.  Stephanie and Ben only have a few days with us since her vacation time is being split between our family and Ben's.  Leslie and her boyfriend, Josiah, have a more open-ended timetable, so we will invite them to stay with us as long as they wish, up to our final day in country.  We expect to fly to Tokyo by the first week of  January.

Blessings to you this Christmas!  May you spend it with the people you love most, doing things that fill your heart with meaning and purpose.  We will post here again after the new year, possibly from Japan!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

In Between Two Worlds

We're now over halfway through our stateside assignment.  During our initial  months, we were fully absorbed in "being here" in the U.S.  We made two trips to the Gulf Coast to check in on Stew's parents.  Stew's mother was in pitiful shape when we saw her in early May.  She had been unable to eat for 3 solid weeks and was barely coherent.  Stew took her to the E.R. for treatment, while Lissa stayed back at the house and cleaned.  We saw them a second time in July, and she was looking somewhat better.  She'd fallen multiple times, and we discovered that her medications for high blood pressure and diabetes had not been adjusted, though she'd lost 80 lbs.  She switched to a new doctor who immediately curtailed all of her medications, and she subsequently regained her appetite, slept less, and acted more fully engaged in her world around her.  We were extremely grateful to have returned to the States at such a critical and needful time.

Stew walks Stephanie down the "aisle"
We also drove twice to Virginia for family visits/college graduation/wedding, and again for meetings and vacation.  We have spoken at several conferences, both here in Middle Tennessee and elsewhere in the Southeast.  Brief days or weeks of respite in between trips have been equally filled and fulfilling.  Doctor's appointments, frequent visits to the gym, trips to our friend's furniture store, Japanese language lessons on summer afternoons.  As you can see, we have spent very little time "sitting around" looking for something to do.  We relish these months, indulging ourselves in all of the comforts that we'd craved over the years in Asia.

I sensed a definite "shift" in our mental outlook sometime during mid-September.  Our activities switched from being entirely U.S.-focused to straddling both the U.S. and Japan.  These days, Jenna and Heather arise at 6:00 a.m. to catch a 6:45 a.m. bus to middle school.  They have become entirely self-sufficient in their early morning routine, waking up to their own alarm, fixing their own breakfast, and carrying lunches that they prepared the night before.  This new routine not only teaches them responsibility for today, it also prepares them for "tomorrow" when their daily routine will include a commute by train to and from their international school, the Christian Academy of Japan (CAJ).

Stew and I go out shopping at least twice per week, and every shopping excursion nowadays seems to be oriented towards Japan.  Grocery trips alternate with shopping errands to upgrade wardrobes that had grown a bit ragged after several years.  Our clothing purchases anticipate a shift from a sub-tropical climate in a very casual society, to a cooler and more temperate climate in a society that values dress and appearance.   We've purchased household electronics and kitchen appliances for our future home, since these purchases are much less expensive at U.S. prices than they are at current Japanese prices.  Our friend's furniture store now warehouses several rooms' worth of furniture that we have systematically ordered over the months, for our still-to-come Japanese apartment.
Furniture we've ordered for our apartment in Japan

One moment we are signing assignment books for the girls' homework, and the next moment we are scanning application forms to email to the admissions counselor at CAJ.  Mornings often find Stew filling out expense reports from the previous weekend's speaking engagement, while he spends the afternoon meeting with our pastor, obtaining a letter of recommendation to send out to the Japan Baptist Mission.  Both past and future co-exist within the activities of today.  

In these temporary circumstances, it would be easy to overlook opportunities to be fully engaged in the present.  We make a special effort to connect with local friends while we are here to enjoy them, inviting friends over for dinner and visiting with them at their homes.  We participate fully in the life of our home church, attending Sunday school, Sunday worship and Wednesday night Bible study.  We talk regularly on the phone with our parents and family members, as well as with Stephanie and Leslie.  All because we can...because we are here on U.S. soil for a brief season....and because these are the things we will miss, once we head back across the Pacific for our next assignment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Welcome to our new blog!    Having wrapped up 8 years in one big Asian country, we are looking ahead to a new sojourn in the Pacific island nation of Japan.   We have endured a bittersweet season of much letting go and much left behind.  And yet, much more awaits us as we eagerly follow the Master's lead.  New country, new adventures, new culture and language.  New foods, customs and challenges lay in store for our family.  We hope you will join us in this new online digest of reflections, story telling and photos.  Come along with us as we move forward in obedience and faith!