Three Months Absent

Does it surprise me that I missed April, May, and June in this year of writing a post every month? Considering that we pulled off a move in a foreign country with our four children in that time, including new school enrollments for all of them, most of the paperwork in Japanese — no, I’m not surprised. But I am disappointed. The time since my last post has been filled with packing and unpacking, rearranging, relearning, lots of other re-somethings.

I read the other day that everything in life will eventually become stale, everything except Jesus. Almost to my mid-30s, I could say I’ve had my first taste of that reality. The things that used to pull my attention or ignite my inner drive in college or my early 20s have waned, and when I first realized that, I’d often wondered what I’d done or changed, as well as what I could do to recreate the experiences or feelings of the past. But I am seeing more and more the wisdom of that statement, of everything growing stale but Jesus. I am seeing the need to pursue new passions, find new subjects to draw the attention, build new habits where old ones have begun to fail.

I can distinctly remember the seasons where I have felt most alive, and they were congruous with the times where I felt the most purpose in my day-to-day activities: working on my thesis in college, my first years as a wife and mother, two years of Japanese language study, unschooling our three littles for a year, our preparations to open Second Story. They were all seasons where I was learning new crafts and expanding as a person. Our oldest dropped out of the Japanese school system about one year ago, in the middle of his 5th grade year, and we planned to teach him at home. This plan set the trajectory for the next 10 years or more of my life, as I knew all of my kids would eventually reach their limits in Japanese and need to be educated in English. I started excited, wondering if it would become another season of my life where meaningful work would overlap with daily logistics. But just a few weeks into it and I could clearly see this plan was not going to pan out — learning at home with a 6-year-old and his younger siblings was very different from learning at home with an adolescent while his younger siblings each had their own school schedules. Our boy needed friends, and mom was just not cutting it.

When we moved to Japan in 2008, just before our second wedding anniversary, we were very committed to making Shizuoka our second home. We were determined to grow roots there; in fact, we saw it as tantamount to our ability to remain in Japan. In his book A Christian Theology of Place, John Inge says that place is “the seat of relations and of meeting and activity between God and the world” (p. 68). We sought to understand the reality of that transaction while we lived in Shizuoka. Whenever I felt homesick or lonely, I would remind myself that the trees in my yard, the salt-spray from the ocean, the wind, the mountains I could see from the park — they all belonged to God. He created the place in which I was standing, so it could be my home as much as the place in which I grew up. This was a comforting reality to me, and we worked hard to become connected to the neighborhood located on that section of earth, with it’s shops, schools, views, and people. So it was no small effort to imagine, decide, and then prepare for a departure from this second home.

It used to be that when I was in Shizuoka, I would long for the big skies of Nebraska, and when I was in Nebraska, I would long for the mountain and ocean scenes of Shizuoka. Now I’m in this third place, longing for both and feeling uprooted. With a clear plan for the educational needs of our kids as they grow, I’ve fully accepted this new place as the answer to our family’s needs. But I’ve yet to unravel the roots of our lives in Shizuoka. I don’t feel the same need or call to dig deep into this current city as I did when we first came to Japan. All the thoughts and feelings about this feel somehow very precious, like I should keep them in an oak chest and bring them out to inspect them only when it’s sunny or no one else is in the house.

What is next? What new subjects or passions are on the horizon? I’m waiting. Our plan for the next years of our family life was different than God’s plan, and so the path has opened up before me in a most unexpected way. I feel I’m standing in the lull, pausing before the winds whip my hair and toss new ideas at my feet.

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