Growing Pains at 28

Hey, it’s been over 2 years since I last updated here. Recently I’ve been thinking about my blog and how it has documented the change over time of the things that I find to be pressing on my heart. Relationships, singleness and how to glorify God while waiting on those things have been swirling around in my mind for quite some time now. This post is a long time coming. I’ve had a lot of growing pains and so this post is pretty raw for me. But here it is because I want to be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness and His mercies in my life, which endlessly renew, day after day. I hope whatever that is expressed here may be encouraging and an exhortation to be eternally minded.

So my story picks up after joining a new church upon moving back home after my studies. My spiritual walk with the Lord was refreshed and rejuvenated after a year of stress and hardship. I was finding that the single life is one of blessing because of the potential to have undivided attention and to be fully devoted to the things of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). That’s where I was and it was wonderful.

But, certain seasons come and go, some more quickly or slowly than I would like. This particular season lasted only a few months when all of a sudden… someone piqued my interest. This wasn’t my first rodeo (I’m a little boy crazy, I must admit). But this one was different from the others who I had secretly admired from afar because, embarrassingly enough, he was the first I would have considered a true friend (I’m a late bloomer for sure). Well, it was clear that despite being a kind friend, the lack of pursuit signaled a lack of interest for something beyond friendship. Yet, even with that knowledge the feelings lingered, as they naturally do. I was so disappointed when things didn’t progress and eventually I had to let go. It was a lesson learned to even be ok with feeling sad. I had struggled with feeling guilty that I felt so forlorn, but Proverbs 13:12 became a bittersweet reminder to me that it is normal to feel heartsick. Psalm 119 among other passages was what I turned to and what restored me: “v.25 My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! v.28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” It might seem dramatic, but I am dramatic.

The big question was, “why didn’t you DTR him?” DTR stands for “define the relationship” if you didn’t know. I had another valuable lesson to learn. It was so important to have objective God-fearing women in my life who had been through these kinds of things and made it to the other side, who loved me enough to tell me the hard truths and to shut down any crazy notions I had about the other person’s feelings or vibes. Regardless of vibes, I had come to the conviction that I wouldn’t act on solely feelings of attraction, that I’d want the guy to show leadership and be the one to express interest. Not that there’s never a time to DTR (and sometimes it is helpful to encourage the brother in that way!), but in my situation, it wasn’t warranted. You’ll just have to trust the wisdom from the Lord on that. Because if left up to me and my own mind and feelings, I would have felt completely justified to do so. It was the wise advice I received to refrain, and looking back, it was the correct advice.

After that ordeal, my discipler gave me a book called “Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith when Dreams are Delayed”. A helpful book that showed me that I was in the school of waiting, and boy was I getting my education. I was not alone in this school though. Everyone is waiting for something. The Israelites waited for a Messiah that would redeem them. Abraham and Sarah waited for a son in their old age.The father waited for his prodigal son to come home. And in this season of waiting on the provision of a husband, I am reminded that all this is pointing me to the even greater hope that I wait for: the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus Christ will come back again to bring me into eternity with Him. It was this simple truth that brought contentment back to my heart. Summer had just begun, and with it I felt as if I had just entered a summer break. Various ministries at church were on break while other ministries like our short term missions, one of which I was a part of, were starting to get into full swing. I thought I had entered into a nice long season of peace.

“It is not good for man to be alone.”

The words disrupted the perfection of the newly formed world. Likewise, in my heart, the words disrupted my contentment. They caused me to question, am I lacking as I am in my singleness? I struggled with this a lot. How am I to fulfill my servant-helper role if I don’t have a servant-leader? This puzzled me and I felt lonelier than ever. The discontent I had been fighting was threatening to overwhelm me. Summer was over, I guess it was back to school for me and I had to tackle even more questions. What did I really expect marriage to be? How was I preparing for that now as a single person? What did I really expect my role as a servant-helper to look like?

Honestly, up until now, I’ve had nothing but idyllic, heavily romanticized visions of matrimony. For the longest time, I’ve dreamed of that day when I’d look at a guy with a goofy smile plastered over my face, laughter ringing out from my insides, heart a flutter… and he’d be the reason for it all and reciprocate. But I knew that dreams and feelings are fleeting. Even if they are the building blocks of a blossoming relationship, these emotions are unable to sustain a relationship battered and worn down by anxieties, fears, misunderstandings, and exhaustion among many other things. It’s not an easy choice to make to persist in loving someone more than yourself when the foundation of your relationship is made of butterflies and blushes alone.

Then I realized something. I’ve already experienced choosing to love someone. I’ve understood the heartbreak of unmet expectations. I’ve prayed to love selflessly, as Christ has loved me. These are lessons I’ve learned from through the relationships with my family and my closest girlfriends. We’ve gone through incredible heartache together with torrential tears. We’ve screamed with delight in the face of incredible victory and joy together. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from them.

But a curious thing has happened. God has given me more male relationships, more male friendships and men to do ministry with than I’d ever had prior to this point in my life. It’s been a little much, and I’m sad to report that in my interactions with many of the brothers in the church, I’ve lacked grace. I’ve lacked the same love for the men than I’ve had for the women in my life. I’ve seen a stark difference in how I treat the men I have respect for, or even have an attraction to, and how I treat the men who I don’t have the same attitudes toward.

I’ve been given the answer to my questions but the answers have come through the revealing of much sin in my heart. Of pride, of anger, of frustration, of anxiety, of bitterness, of partiality, of lust, of a lack of true brotherly love. Oh, it’s been so difficult to have this be exposed, and the weight and guilt of sin is so heavy. But the recognition of these areas of sin is a grace that is undeserved. It means the Holy Spirit is at work in me, sanctifying me, making me more into the likeness of Christ. It’s crazy when I look back on the last 10 years of my life and I remember how each year brought ridiculously difficult trials and how I would hope that the next year would be easier, but it would never be. I would grow, but I would be reminded time and time again of how far I was from God as conquered areas of sin gave way to other areas of sin that needed to be addressed. That’s the Christian life though. These days I try to think of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus’ own example for the disciples’ prayer and mine. A prayer that recognizes my daily dependence on God and His daily provision of exactly what I need: enough grace to cover the difficulties of the day and of the moment I’m in.

Ephesians 5:22-24  “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

1 Peter 3:4-5 “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands.”

It’s easy to overlook these verses and say, “it’s talking about wives and husbands, what kind of application would there be for me?” What’s talked about here is Christ being the head of His church, how the church submits to Christ and how the relationship between a wife and husband is to point to the relationship between the church and Christ. Likewise a gentle and quiet spirit describes the submission of married women to their husbands, but it also points to the grander picture of a spirit of a person that is in submission to Christ. I used to hate that description, gentle and quiet. But I had a wrong understanding of what these characteristics meant. I thought it meant I had to be like a mouse, and I’m more like a hyena. I’ve learned there’s a difference between personality and my heart before God. My personality is unique to me, and a God-given gift. But my heart during this season of waiting has definitely been at odds with God, not wanting to submit to His plan for me now which is to be single or His will for me which is to be holy. But as I struggled with obedience to run from sin, to put off bitterness, anger and to forgive and be tender-hearted as it states in Ephesians 4:31-32, I remembered again the example I have in Jesus. Take a look at this:

Hebrews 5:7-8 “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

Jesus, fully man, fully God, had to learn obedience as a son to the Father through what he suffered! What humility! Philippians 2 on full display! What a blessing, what a grace it is to learn obedience through the same (and yet so, so much less severe!!) means. I pray so much for Philippians 1:6 that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. That these trials are for a purpose greater than I can imagine.

This is more than I deserve as I continue on in my labored journey heavenward. I desire to grow in supporting the men in my life to be godly Christian men. Hopefully they will grow into leaders in the church and of wives of their own. It is an awesome privilege to be a part of their growth. Before I was frustrated and bitter. Now I am thankful and with more contentment than I’ve had in a very long time. Praise God for working this growth in me. My relationships now, and Lord willing–a marriage in the future, is all a stewardship that I want to offer back to the one who gave it to me, all to the glory of God.

1 Peter 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 

Growing Pains at 28

Japan STM Day??, Joy Joy Day ???

The days are starting to blur together as weariness compounds. Currently it is the morning of last day of Joy Joy. I’m lying on this insanely comfortable futon mattress and woodenjoy frame. I leared from Maaya yesterday how to say: I’ll miss you. Samishikunaru. Mata aitai. Which kinda just means, I want to see you again. We still have about 3 days left, but even now, I’m feeling that I will greatly miss this church that we have served alongside with.

I’ll briefly recap the last two days: my kids have been so great. They listen, they try hard, they teach me Japanese. They know I am terrible at speaking the language and yet they keep trying. I’ve also gained a lot more vocabulary since last week, and was able to explain to them my prayers. After hearing the lessons twice, I can repeat phrases I’ve heard to attempt at reinforcing the message. Most of all, the kids seem to be really paying attention and trying to learn.

On Wednesday, Alyssa Jeanine, and I went to Et-chan’s house for dinner. It was amazing to receive her hospiality especially after such a long day at Joy Joy. We learned that she had been at joy joy since she was 13 and that her family was comprised of believers. Her sister Tomoko-San was also eating with us and helped prepare the meal. She is the one who shared the gospel with our home stay Yuuko-san. We played Japanese UNO and learned a Japanese card game called Daifugo. Super fun. Kou-San baked us a cheesecake which was so good.

On Thursday I was able to talk to the mom of one of my kids. She explained to me that she has been a Christian for almost 30 years. Her youngest is 9 and going to Joy Joy, but she also has two older sons in their late 20s who are not Christian. That seems to be a big pattern that we have seen among the members. The parents are Christian but the children are not. Please keep the families of the HBC members in your prayers. One of the English missionaries also told us last Sunday that even the believing parents sometimes do not have priorities straight. “Oh my son got into top name university and he is dating a nice girl (non-christian)” is just one example.

We got to explore a bit of Namba yesterday which was nice. No time for pictures. Quick overview for the next few days: today we eat at an HBC member’s restaurant and karaoke, tomorrow church fellowship, hanabi (fire works) and onsen, Monday swimming pool and mall, Tuesday we are back in the states!!

Japan STM Day??, Joy Joy Day ???

Japan STM Day 12, Joy Joy Day 2

Joy Joy is going well! I have an angelic group of kids comparative to last weeks… and yet it’s a bit funny how I miss the mischievous ones. Somehow, the mischievous ones are also the most helpful, and interact the most with me.

The great thing about today was that we had a dinner with our homestay families. For most of us, that meant eating with our respective host families. But for Jeanine, Alyssa and myself, we got to eat with Hamadera Bible Church’s secretary and Joy Joy organizer extraordinaire, Et-chan, her sister and niece who was one of my students last week, our home stay mom Yuuko-san as well as Kat! It was such a great experience. Et-chan made a great spread of grilled chicken, and we had cheesecake made by Kou-san, who helps with crafts for Joy Joy, as well as watermelon which we had brought!

Et-chan is part of a large extended family at HBC with a strong Christian family foundation. She moved to Osaka/HBC around the age of 12, and has been there ever since. We found out that Ayumi-san, one of the Bible teachers, drives nearly 2 hours to and from church (WOW) she lives on a farm!! Her children are really close to Et-chan’s family, so they all hang out together. We explained that we were incredibly encouraged by the HBC members’ faithfulness in serving tirelessly at HBC. Yuuko-san was able to talk to her fellow Japanese speakers to translate everything we had been talking to her about. We had a lot more great laughs, such a fun time.

Deep musings: One thing that has been interesting is that this trip has really been a reflection back on my Christian walk. The question people ask is, why are you going on this STM? What are the experiences that were pivotal in your life? I had to tell some unsavory bits about my past, in order to explain my gratefulness for God’s faithfulness to this day. I’m incredibly encouraged by the testimonies that I’ve read from the other team members and the stories I’m hearing from the HBC members. Yet another reminder that the gospel saves no matter the language or cultural barrier. Getting the opportunity to go on this missions trip is seriously one of THE best things ever!

p.s. No pictures of my kids go on here for HBC policy. I’m too lazy to update pics because I’m actually using my team member sean’s comp because he needs a mac for our ppts and such.

Japan STM Day 12, Joy Joy Day 2

Japan STM Day 11, Joy Joy Day 1

Joy Joy 5 days started with a blast. Each team member took charge of a new set of kids. Forging new relationships is hard haha, especially when you are longing for your previous kids. I miss them! Things went smoothly though, we are more experienced than last week so hopefully that’s why things went smoothly.

We began practicing today for a musical number to present to the church. We will be singing “Power of the Cross”. It sounds incredible, I hope someone will record it. We have got some great harmonization going on. Our men sound like Boyz 2 Men or One Direction. SO GOOD.

A deeeelicious tonkatsu dinner was prepared by Hikawa-mama 😀 we laughed a lot because she is so cute! She loves her husband a lot (oppa/noona). They are the best.

We stopped by the convenience store to get our ice cream fix, and surprisingly, there was a store clerk who ran after us to give us a souvenir! We don’t know why, probably because we were like ridiculous foreigners. I think it was food, but I don’t know because I forgot to get one.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to talk to Yuuko-san. She may think I am weird. Alyssa has a “cool” personality and I have a “hot” personality. We are working against a language barrier, and Yuuko-San speaks way more English than we speak Japanese. But I’m glad she always laughs easily, and that is a universal language for having fun. Alyssa and I have gotten to know each other really really fast 😛 and I am yet again grateful for the bond that we share in Christ.

Thank you for your prayers. Please pray that we would not be content with the level of our performance, but to strive for excellence in loving the children and the HBC members as well as looking for every opportunity to share the gospel.

Japan STM Day 11, Joy Joy Day 1

Japan STM Day 10

Exhaustion is setting in like crazy. Please pray for energized bodies, especially mine. I seriously fell asleep before writing blog post.

Today we visited Iga castle, home of the Iga clan of ninjas, of the likes of Hattori Hanzou. Five of the HBC members kindly drove us to sight seeing. It was so nice to be able to spend some time with them.

I talked a bit more with Maaya, one of the college aged members of HBC. It is difficult for people to grasp the concept of sin or the consequence of hell. That is why, Joy Joy is aimed at showing the children that God is creator of all. I shared that the turning point for my Christian walk was understanding the grace that I had been shown to be able to place my faith in Christ. The second realization indeed was that God created everything for the sole purpose of glorifying Him, and that my highest role is to glorify and enjoy Him forever!

We got to eat delicious Ika udon and conveyer belt/electronic order sushi today. So grateful for your prayers. Joy Joy starts up again tomorrow. We will need every bit of energy to go towards caring for these kids!!

iga ueno
Iga Castle! Ninja museum inside. We also watched a ninja show. It was like Naruto except REAL LIFE. Yes. Amazing-ness ensued. One of our teammates popped a balloon using a blow dart. 
Japan STM Day 10

Japan STM Day 9

Today we had a good time of fellowship at church with the Hamadera Bible Church members as well as with some of the junior high and high school kids at Summer Joy afterwards. Kondo-sensei preached from Revelations 19 on the second coming of Christ.

This morning at breakfast before heading off to church, my roommate Alyssa and I prayed a bit and one of the prayers was to hopefully see some of the JOY JOY children who were not part of HBC come to church. And wonderfully, that prayer was answered. Two of my girls actually were at the Sunday School! As I was waiting in line to get the church’s lovingly prepared curry lunch, I heard a cute little voice go “Kiyari-sensei!” ahhh my heart melted… I am incredibly grateful to know that they did come back to church on their own. Please continue to pray for them to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

After lunch, Summer Joy began. Akira-sensei gave a sermon on the prophesy of Christ in Isaiah and took us through the New Testament passages that showed the fulfillment of that prophecy. Then we played a crazy fun game, steal the bacon + rock paper scissors, Japanese style. The poor American staff stumbled over the Japanese style rock paper scissors (“sai showa gu, jan ken pon –then if you tie– ai kowa sho, sho, sho…” until someone wins…something like that haha)

Then we just hung out and tried to talk to the junior high/high school students. Many of them had been coming to JOY JOY 5 Days for many years, then once graduated, they came to Summer Joy. It was intense learning about the pressures of the Japanese school system… I’d hate to be a part of it. Our girls thought the message was difficult to understand. Earlier that day, I was talking to Fumika, a UCLA student doing an internship in Osaka for 2 weeks who was visiting HBC. She said hearing a sermon in Japanese was very different from English. In English, the Bible to her, evokes a strong feeling. But, in Japanese, the Bible seemed like an ancient text book. I thought to myself, if it felt ancient to a believer, how much more difficult must it be for a non-believer… Even so, I know that the gospel is powerful and if the Holy Spirit works a heart to believe, they will accept the message. It’s only a matter of time.

The Summer Joy “ended” at 3:30pm, but it was nice. The girls that I and some of the other STMers were talking to stayed until around 5pm talking with us about anything. It was just good to know that they didn’t mind “hanging out” with us and it was kinda sad when we had to go. It’s hard, when I don’t know if I will ever see them again.

We then went to Namba, a happening shopping district. Went to Loft to scope out gifts, and split into three groups to eat omurice, ramen, or tonkatsu. Of course I went with the katsu group 🙂 We were all very exhausted by the end of the day.

Tomorrow we go sight seeing again. We head to Iga castle, to see a ninja house. Thank you as always for your prayers.

Japan STM Day 9

Japan STM Day 8, Joy Joy Day 5

Passed out last night, no blog. I’m writing for the team blog, here’s the unedited version. Spelling and grammar mistakes galore.

Hey! This is Carrie. Thanks for taking the time to read. Our STM team is incredibly thankful for your support and lifting us up in prayer. Today was the last day of JOY JOY 5 Days. Hopefully I can recap days 3-5 quickly!
Please see our previous post for an overview of our typical day.
Day 3’s Bible lesson described what was necessary for life, and what God’s hand in creating these things. The craft for that day was creating a wind chime out of a plastic paper cup and a bell attached by paper clips! It was decorated with stickers making it look like a universe.
On Day 3, two of our STMates Camille and Alex went to stay with the family of one of the Joy Joy kids. This was an incredible opportunity to continue developing relationships with the kids, as well as witness to their families, as these were non-Christian families. Ask Camille and Alex about their experience! For the rest of the team, we were treated to a meal prepared by Nishimoto-san, one of the HBC members. Delicious vegetables from their garden! Jeanine and I discovered the wonder of Goma sesame dressing!
Day 4’s Bible lesson was given by the incredibly intelligent Akira-sensei. I believe the lesson was about the physical creation of the world. Akira-sensei talked about the chemical make up of the world, and I think photosynthesis!! I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but later, he would share that many of the children were having a difficult time believing that God had creating the whole universe and everything living in it because they had learned about evolution growing up. Not unlike our own schooling in America. This day’s craft was making paper flower/pipe cleaner flower pencil tops. It was really…difficult. But these would be placed in the pencil case.
On Day 4, 3 more STMers Alyssa, Sophia and Jeanine went to their Joy Joy kid homestays, while Geo, Sean and Josh had a meal with their HBC member homestay family…and the rest went to MacDonalds and Daiso.
Day 5, was DDay. The schedule was unlike any other day. There was a lot more time provided for rehearsal for the younger classes’ songs, and the older kids’ skits. But I had a real privilege of having one of the HBC members Tamie translate the Bible lesson for Sean and my class. Akira-sensei taught again, and he presented the whole, unadulterated gospel using the illustration of 5 colors: Gold, Black, Red, White, Green. Tamie also would translate some of the kids’ questions. They had a lot of good questions like “Are God and Jesus the same?” or “Is it enough to just believe in God to go to heaven?” And 1 kid even said himself, “Everyone has sinned!!”  It was encouraging for me that they received the whole gospel and that they were attentive and desiring to understand. I don’t know that any of them were totally accepting of the gospel, but I am praying that through their time at Joy Joy year after year, that a seed would be planted, that would take root and continue to grow and flourish. One of my kids requested that Akira-sensei would read a Bible passage that talked about heaven, so Akira-sensei told him to read Revelations haha. It was crazy, once Akira-sensei finished his lesson, many of the kids raced to the bookshelf, pulled out a Bible and began sifting through trying to read some of the passages. I am so so grateful to know that they did not leave Joy Joy without hearing the gospel.
The parents of the children also received a gospel presentation, but we did not get to see that as we were corralling the kids in the craft room. One by one, each class would go in to do their song or skit presentation. Then we said goodbye to our kids. It was a heavy feeling for, not knowing if the next time they’d be back to church would be the next Sunday, or this time next year. But I trust that God is sovereign over their lives and will continue to pray for their salvation.
It was not too long until we had some junior high and high school students come through for Summer Joy. A time of singing worship songs, a Bible lesson taught by Akira-sensei, games and dinner. They will be coming back after Sunday service for some more time of hanging out. They are also non-Christian, so this was a really great opportunity to witness to them as well.
Sorry if this was an essay to you. TL;DR – the kids were so much fun. They and their parents were able to hear the gospel at the end of JOY JOY 5 Days.
Prayer requests:
1. The salvation of the children and families who came and heard the gospel today.
2. HBC staff to be encouraged. Pray that we as an STM would continue to seek ways to support and help them. They’ve been so amazing in their efforts, Some of them coming after work, during their lunch break, on vacation days….they work so hard. I am so humbled by their example.
3. Continue to pray for energy and strength for our team members. Praise that we get along so well as a team.
4. Next week we get all new kids, and JOY JOY 5 Days begins again. Pray for the staff involved, and the children and their families.
Japan STM Day 8, Joy Joy Day 5