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.