Today is the day…play responsibly!

Today is the day…play responsibly!

For those of you that get that reference, lay off on the lottery playing, fools.

MOVING ON: I just downloaded approximately 47 million photos off of Facebook in my year-end harvest of anything valuable I wanted to take with me. Part of me cringed at the photos I chose to post to the world–however small I thought it was when Facebook first started–but part of me thanked Past Caroline for diligently documenting her little life because seeing those old pictures of Theresa, Sarah Ann, Mary Lou, Jess, Joe, Katie & Ben was priceless. & now they’re all downloaded to my computer.

(prime blackmailing material available, fair price, inquire within)

The boxes are packed & we’re moving to Analog Land where you can best reach us by phone, email or smoke signal. Or letters…seriously. & of course this little corner of the web.

Where, by the way, I’ll be sharing monthly photos like THESE from now on:


You can always join by entering your email in the Follow box or keeping in touch in more interactive ways.

For what is a world without friends with whom to share it?

If you’re far away, share it with us here.
& if you’re ever close enough, come share it over dinner & a game of Yahtzee; we play every night.

Dimples & Hiccups

Life these days has pretty much been about those two things.
& it’s so good.

Skye is 6 months into stealing our hearts & shows no signs of slowing. We’re willing victims…obviously.

We went glam a few days ago & got a photo shoot from our sweet friend, Rachele.
(Japan friends, if you are here, get her to take your family’s photos. You won’t regret it. Just do it.)

Wanna see? I thought you might…

That little pink dress was mine as a baby. Seeing the full circle like that makes me happy in a way I couldn’t possibly describe with this mortal language.

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye6

We also got into the Christmas spirit & this child looked like a fairy-elf from the Christmasland of my dreams…

The white dress was a gift from her birth parents that she wore at her dedication when she was way too small for it, but now it’s perfect. Another full circle that fills me with a joy indescribable. This baby y’all…

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye6

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye6

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye6

This kid is too glam for me…

& now that I have you all here…lured in by cute pictures of Skye, I have something to tell you. It’s not a big deal (that’s why I’m tacking it to the end of the REAL big deal–see above image), but I figured if you’re reading this, you would want to know.

As of Jan. 1st, I will be leaving Facebook. My account will be deactivated & due to the fact that Oakie is not even on FB at all, the Osborne family will be off social media entirely. My Instagram still exists, but I haven’t used it in over a year & don’t plan to in the future. Now, wipe those beads of stress-sweat off your forehead brought on by the thought that Skye will have disappeared from the internet because I will be updating my blog (admittedly, a form of social media…sue me) with MUCH more regularity (similar to before we got her) & I have this old relic called an email address (caroline.ceg@gmail.com) that I will be checking, ya know, like every day. I also have an actual geographical address & ask my friends that like to write (looking at you, Emma), I’m a corresponder. WE CAN SO BE PEN-PALS.

PSC 704 Box 3638
APO, AP 96338-0017

Anyone who would like to drop us a note will be informed of our new addresses as we move around!

There’s just so many more wonderful things I could share, but suffice it to say, we are enjoying our 2nd Christmas in Japan & our 1st Christmas with Skye chan. Life is good & we are revelling in the joy of Jesus this year.

His name is Mr. Ron…

His name is Mr. Ron…

I’m not sure I can do this.
I’m not sure I want to.

Putting words to these thoughts & emotions & mental processes seems limiting & endless at the same time. But I think it’s time…

I lost someone two days ago. He was a mentor, a second dad, a friend. He was all of those things & a thousand more. He was the reason I chose to do theatre professionally. He gave me my first teaching job. He was a living legend who, unlike so many, was appreciated in his hometown…well, home-state anyway. His name is Mr. Ron.

He was a normal-looking guy, about 6’2″ with dark hair & prominent ears. But when he smiled, with that little head shake, he was a hero. He wasn’t perfect…I mean, he was missing a little piece of his middle finger on his right hand because he stuck it in a snowblower. What kind of moron sticks his hand in a SNOWBLOWER?! The best kind. His name is Mr. Ron.

I always thought I’d grow out of calling him Mr. Ron, but I never seemed to be able to. First of all, my mother would have written me out of the will, but secondly, when you’re little & you learn someone’s name, it’s hard to learn it another way. And he told me one day, that really, he kinda liked that I kept calling him that. You see, his name is Mr. Ron.

He had a whole history before he ever stepped into mine, but for me, it started when I was 9. I was enrolled in the Springer Theatre Academy summer camp against my will & I was doing my best to avoid eye contact with every human I encountered that first day. I was walking out of the Saloon, down the big ramp by the green room, when my ground-gazing eyes stopped on these giant tennis shoes. I looked up & he said, “Hi!” & waved with just one hand, fingers closed. I’m sure there was other conversation in there about how my first day was going & if I liked “chicken thangs,” but mostly I just remember not being able to believe that the big guy who ran everything had noticed me. And for the next 17 years, he just kept noticing me. His name is Mr. Ron.

I could keep writing. I could try to pen a tribute that fits him, but I know I will never be able to & that, in & of itself, is a testament to his magnitude in my life.

So, instead, I will just do what 12-year-old Caroline learned from Mr. Ron:
Do my job well & treat people nicely.

I love you, Mr. Ron.

Forecast: Sunny With A Clear Blue Skye

Forecast: Sunny With A Clear Blue Skye

Two weeks ago we got a phone call.
Phone calls have a way don’t they?
A way of changing your life forever.
You never know what you’re saying hello to.
We certainly didn’t.

We were asked one question:
If time weren’t an issue, if everything could be wrapped up by the end of year, would the two of you be open to adopting right now?

It was asked this way, because we’d thought about it; we’d prayed about it. The timing had been an issue before. We just didn’t have two years post-adoption to spend in Japan. We had seen the door close & we had made peace with the sweet window-view we got of others’ adoptions.

But then, you see, we got this phone call. We had 48 hours to decide what our answer would be. 48 hours to make a call on a re-opened door.
We said, “Yes.”
We walked right through.

Guys, I’m introducing you to our daughter, Skye Elizabeth Osborne.
I doing this because we are adopting her.
We heard about her 2 weeks ago.
We met her & her birth parents 3 days ago.
We brought her home with us today.

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye

Every adoption story is unique & in that way they’re all alike.
Ours is no exception.
There are many details to this story that we’ll be happy to share in a more intimate forum than this blog that reaches MILLIONS a large number of people we know & a smaller number of people we don’t.

Suffice it to say that this baby was a crisis pregnancy that, save some intentional intervention, was going to end. We had no idea she even existed until two weeks before she was born. Her birth-parents loved her enough to know they could not provide her with everything they wanted for their child so they made the gut-wrenching, but incredibly selfless decision to give her up. By God’s grace & the obedience of His people, she came straight to our door. She couldn’t knock for herself, but by the grace of God, someone knocked for her. We never opened our door to a cuter person. Sorry to all the cute people we’ve opened our door for…but come on:

We’ll never be able to fully explain how all of this happened this fast & in this way, but we know the One who can & we are just happy to be included in part of His plan. We are full of joy to give Skye Elizabeth Osborne a forever home & absolutely humbled that we get to be the ones to do that.

Praise to the One from Whom comes “every good gift and every perfect gift […], coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

He knew it all along, but we never saw her coming out of the clear blue Skye.

View More: http://rachelefrickeyphotography.pass.us/skye

P.S. All amazing photo creds go to our sweet friend, Rachele Huonker-Frickey! Thank you so much!!

Thailand is for Tigers

As many of you got a chance to see, tigers were unleashed into our story not too long ago in a little place called Thailand. But allow me to back up a bit…
We chose Thailand for our Spring Break trip after Cambodia fell through. We’ll get there one day, but today: Thailand.
We were there for one week & packed a lot in…our suitcases. jk. our trip.

To be honest, my knowledge of Thailand only extended to their food. I love me some good Thai food. This was enough to make me REALLY happy we were going, but what I found when we got there was so much more. I mean, THE FOOD. But also, EVERYTHING ELSE.

(& yes I’m talking about the tigers, but just HOLD YOUR HORSES…AND YOUR TIGERS!)

First off, we left 30 degree Japan & landed in 95 degree Thailand. It was glorious.IMG_2972

We landed right in the middle of Chiang Mai…& Thailand’s New Year celebration, called Songkran Festival. Translated directly to English, this means “nationwide water fight”. I’m not kidding. I mean I AM kidding about the translation, but NOT about the very serious business of hosting a water fight for THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. It was mayhem. And hilarious. And sopping, soaking, dripping wet with the barrels of canal water being sloshed on you at every street corner…& every street…& every tuk tuk ride. We purchased SuperSoakers at our earliest convenience & joined right in. I would love to say I got epic action shots of this water fight situation, but camera + water = insurance plan. No thanks. It will live on in my water-logged memory though.

CALM DOWN. WE’RE GETTING TO THE TIGERS.

Other than the water fight, Chiang Mai offered a host of enormously fun activities.
Like riding enormous elephants on a jungle trek, for one. This I have pictures of…

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We also got to bamboo raft down a river and sunbathe, something the Thai people laughed at me for.
Beauty standards truly are arbitrary.
Tans are not desired in sunny Thailand & I was asked multiple times why I didn’t have an umbrella & did I want one to maintain my perfectly pale skin?
This (half) Mexican got a tan.
& a coconut with a straw in it.

We travelled for most of the trip with Jesse & Donnie, two friends we met in Japan who have cameo-ed on the blog before… Jesse’s the one squatting on the rock. Donnie was our raft-pole-user for a hot minute. (Does anyone say “hot minute” anymore?)

I feel like there was one other thing we did in Chiang Mai…what was it again?
Ugh, I’m totally blanking…
Oh yeah!
A cooking class! I know y’all wouldn’t want me to leave THAT out! My heart is pumping just REMEMBERING. Talk about thrills, ammirite? (alternate spellings include ammiright, am I right, & am I rite. I obviously chose the hippest. go & do likewise.)

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We got to cook in an open air kitchen at the Baan Hongnual Cookery School. Our guide, Kuan, was so friendly & kitchen-savvy. She took us to the market & we got to buy all of our ingredients fresh from the vendors. That was a unique experience on its own, but chopping it up & cooking it was straight off of the Food Channel. I was living my Chopped dream.

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Also, I got to use a wok & now I must have one.
#7monthsuntilchristmas
#andmybirthday
#wokwishes

Later that day we visited some ruins that have been discovered in Chiang Mai within the last decade! Some are over 700 years old! Plus Oakie tried on all the hats at the handmade goods & wares markets we went to…

We then moved on to Bangkok & got to visit an Elephant Park & the floating market. There were baby elephants so this chick was loving every second.

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And on our last day in Bangkok, we made a special trip to see the largest reclining Buddha in the world, located at Wat Pho. “Wat Pho holds the distinction of having both Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha image and the largest number of Buddha images in Thailand.” We also found the original “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” monkeys at the Temple of the Dawn.

Definitely a highlight. And yes, we went to the Temple of the Dawn at dawn.
You should feel silly for asking.

Also, full disclosure, I just listened to Amarillo Sky by Jason Aldean while I typed because my sister, Sarah Ann, just planted a garden & now she thinks she’s a farmer & it seemed like the right thing to do.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M STALLING THE TIGER PHOTO REVEAL?!
*YOU’RE* STALLING THE TIGER PHOTO REVEAL!!

fine.

Yes, there are 40 pictures here.
Yes, you can click on them to look at them all up close.
Yes, those are real tigers.
No, they were not drugged. Just hand-reared & well-fed.
Yes, 60% of my smiles have a hammering heart behind them & are masking real live fear.

In all seriousness, this was the most intense experience of my life.
And I’ve been sky-diving.
These animals are massive.
You think you can imagine the size of their heads, but you can’t imagine how you will feel when you’re sitting next to those heads and reaching out to pet them.
They were majestic, glorious, imposing.
They were precious in an over-sized kitty way, but entirely demanding of every ounce of respect you’ve ever had for nature.

They aren’t as soft as you might think.
Every second in their enclosure, their turf, was like borrowed time.
It felt like I was giving them access to my life & hoping they’d let me walk back out with it.
I would apologize for being slightly dramatic, but have YOU ever sat down next to a 200 hundred pound tiger & processed how that made you feel?

As we were standing outside the cages looking in at the next group we’d get to pet, Donnie said to me, “It’s like a small glimpse of how we should feel about God.”
C.S. Lewis was on to something when he made Aslan a lion.
I was terrified, awestruck & giving my absolute attention & respect to that creature when we were encountering each other.
It had the ability to crush me, to maul me, to utterly change my entire life in half a second. If it had really wanted to harm me, no guide with a 12-inch bamboo stick could’ve stopped it.

It reminds me of a story about Jesus in Mark 7:24-30. It’s the story of a Gentile woman, a Syrophoenician woman, approaching Jesus to be specific. Reminder: from the Old Testament we know that God chose a specific group of people through which to show the world who He was & His plan to rescue us all. They were the Israelites. The Jews. When Jesus shows up, He wants to give them an opportunity to be a part of the grand rescue of the world first; not exclusively, but first. Any Gentile would know this. The long-awaited Messiah was of the Jews & for the Jews, as far as they knew.
Ah, but that Syrophoeneician woman had a problem. Her daughter was ill. Her daughter was possessed by a demon & she needed help now. So when she hears that Jesus, that crazy Jewish guy who can heal anyone, is in town, she goes.
She walks straight into the cage with the tiger.
And she asks Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
And He tells her what might appear to be an insult on the outside, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread & throw it to the dogs.”
And she says right back to Him, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”

What is happening here? Tim Keller puts it this way:

“One key to understanding it is the very unusual word Jesus uses for “dogs” here. He uses a diminutive form, a word that really means “puppies.” […] Jesus is saying to her, ‘You know how families eat: First the children eat at the table, and afterward their pets eat too. It is not right to violate that order. The puppies must not eat food from the table before the children do. […] I was sent only to the lost lambs of Israel.’ […] He was sent to show Israel that He was the fulfillment of all Scripture’s promises […]. But after He was resurrected, He immediately said to the disciples, ‘Go to all the nations.’ His words, then, are not the insult they appear to be. What he’s saying […] is, ‘Please understand, there’s an order here. I’m going to Israel first, then the Gentiles (the other nations) later.’ However, she comes back with an astounding reply: […] ‘Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I do not worship the God that the Israelites worship. Therefore, I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that. […] But there’s more than enough on that table for everyone in the world, and I need mine now.’ She is wrestling with Jesus in the most respectful way and she will not take no for an answer.

In western culture, we don’t have anything like this kind of assertiveness. We only have assertion of our rights. […] But this woman is not doing that at all. This is rightless assertiveness, something we know nothing about. She’s not saying, ‘Lord, give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness.’ She’s saying, ‘Give me what I DON’T deserve on the basis of YOUR goodness–and I need it now.'”

She walks right up to the tiger & asks Him to use His power to help her & not hurt her.
He is majestic, glorious, imposing.
He is precious in His gentleness, but entirely demanding of every ounce of respect she’d ever had for authority.
Every second in His presence is like borrowed time.
She gave Him access to her life & hoped He’d let her walk back out with her daughter’s.

He had the ability to crush her, to maul her, but instead He chose to utterly change her entire life in half a second.

Being beside those animals was the closest I’ve ever come to the kind of awestruck fear that the Bible talks about.
Real talk, there was a minute there where I had to walk out with tears in my eyes because it was all just a little too scary.
It was amazing.

And I get to know that the God who came up with the idea for tigers is on my side, a lion to my enemies: Fear, guilt, anxiety.
And a lamb to me.

I get to pet the Tiger.

When Family Comes To Town…

When Family Comes To Town…

This is me not apologising for taking two weeks off from blogging.
Mostly because, turns out, this big ol’ world keeps right on spinning without my weekly internet contributions and that’s a good reality check for me.
But also because, SOMETIMES LIFE IS JUST TOO GOOD TO WRITE ABOUT IT INSTEAD OF LIVING IT.
So live it, we have. With gusto, joy & a lot of travelling. And now, back home in my beloved sitting/setting/sewing/only room with our tiny box tv where I can hook up our iPhone to play Blacklist on Netflix while I sort through 1,000 photos, I’m back to the keyboard. It’s nice to see the world…and it’s also nice to sleep past 6am. OAKIE DON’T PLAN NO RELAXING VACAYS Y’ALL.

Ahem. Anyway, as the title alludes, my mother-in-love, Jill, came to visit April 2nd-11th & it did this heart good. Homesickness is a funny thing. I very much feel like we are home here, but I do so miss the comfort of familiarity, family & friends. Seeing Mama Jill took the edge off that pain and for that I am eternally grateful!
Mostly, we caught up and chatted about life and drank coffee together in the mornings. It was amazing. But per Oakie’s MO, we also planned some fun things to go see & do. Amazingly, she kicked the jet-lag like a pro & we were ready to hit the town just two days after she landed!

First off, a City-rama Tour of Tokyo (isn’t that a fun name? I want to use that suffix for so many things now: Dinner-rama, coffee-rama, puppy-rama, sleeping-rama. Don’t you?).
We went to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, a Shinto shrine with beautiful grounds right in the middle of a huge city.

That large Tori gate in the top photo was made out of two humongous trees brought to Japan from Taiwan. Wowzers.

Pro-tip: If you ever want a closer look at any photos I post, simply clicking on them will bring up a slideshow version in a larger size & show any captions I might have attached.

Next up, we got to see the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. The Emperor was otherwise engaged, but his gardens were simply lovely.

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And lastly, we went to the Sensō-ji Buddhist Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo; the oldest of the Buddhist temples in Tokyo. We were there at the height of cherry blossom season, so it was a treat to experience the festivities and scenery.

We covered a lot of Tokyo ground; I mean, we City-rama-ed that place.

The last weekend Mama Jill was visiting, Oakie planned a bullet train trip to Hiroshima! We had never been before so it was an exciting destination for all of us.
Also, bullet trains are the best. Better than planes as far as leg-room, open lavatories, and seeing the sites. Downside: No in-seat entertainment, but this girl was asleep the whole way there so whatevs.

We stayed at a beautiful hotel, the New Hiroden, in downtown Hiroshima, just a streetcar (named Desire, as Oakie kept saying) ride away from the Peace Memorial and A-Bomb Dome & Museum. It was charming and roomy. I especially loved how the in-house restaurant constantly had string instruments playing classic ’40s music. I felt like I should be wearing a dressing gown and commenting on the morning news to my husband. #moviestardreamsofthe1940s

Our first day we roamed a massive department store with shops like Chanel, Tiffany’s & Lacoste inside. It felt like you had to have a minimum $100 tag to get a spot in this place. Needless to say, this was mostly a window-shopping excursion, but I’m a window-shopper at heart so it was all good. I later found out, this was the department store in front of which Sadako Sasaki’s friends fund-raised for the present-day Children’s Peace Memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

After that, we caught a ferry out to the famous Tori gate in the water on Miyajima Island. We explored the area, hiking the whole mountain (it felt like) & watched the sunset over the water. Probably my favourite part of the trip. Spring was in the air & being on that mountain was life-giving in a way nature hasn’t been for me before. Winter feels long in Japan. I heard that GA has already seen 80 degree weather, but here, we’re still waking up to 40 degree mornings IN APRIL. I know this is called “spring” in other places, but it is hard on this southern girl. Winter blues got me this year, but being in the sunshine with cherry blossoms & wild deer that let you feed them & warm air & wilderness was therapeutic.

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We spent most of Saturday exploring the Peace Park area, but we started with a walk through the Shukkei-en Garden. This was originally a castle garden in the 1600s, but was destroyed in the A-bomb. It was reconstructed and donated to the city. It is an oasis in this city and we easily spent two hours just roaming the grounds and breathing in the peace & beauty we found there.

We then headed to the Peace Park area. We had been advised to save this for last & I’m glad we did.
We started with the A-bomb Dome, one of the only remaining structures after the explosion because it was detonated almost directly overhead. This caused all the force outward leaving what was directly underneath standing.
When I was about 11, I was cast in a production called A Thousand Cranes. It is the story of Sadako Sasaki who was 2 when the A-bomb decimated Hiroshima. She & her family survived and everyone seemed healthy afterwards, but by the time she was about 11, she was showing symptoms that led a doctor to diagnose her with Leukaemia. She was a brave, strong-spirited girl & she fought with hope and joy, folding 1000 cranes in the hopes that the old tale was true: That if one could fold 1000 paper cranes, their wish would be granted. She folded well over 1000 & by the end of her life was folding them so small she needed a needle to complete them. She died at 12 having folded about 1400 cranes. We told this story as children, for children & it has forever impacted my life.
On this day, I travelled to her town. I saw the damage. I saw the cranes she folded and the notebooks in which her doctors tracked her decline. But I also saw the hope & regrowth she inspired in an entire country & today people from around the world come to read her story and remember. This was a sobering day; the museum made me nauseous. But I read something I will never forget: Scientists thought nothing could ever grow from that shattered earth again, but within a few months new life was growing where old life was gone. It was considered a miracle. It gave the people of Hiroshima hope.
Sadako’s story has circled the world. It made its way into mine. It humbled me and chastised my selfish heart. The atrocity of war must never be forgotten. For that reason I am grateful for places like this that remain to remind.

On Sunday, we had a free day so we rented electric bicycles and rode around the city, stopping at a park for a hike, eating dinner at a riverside cafe & seeing parts of Hiroshima most tourists don’t see…ok we got lost, but it was so worth it! I mean, if you haven’t tried biking with a motor to help you, you haven’t biked the best. It was awesome.

Our last task was one I needed to do, so we found some origami paper and we biked back to the Peace Park and we each folded a paper crane for peace. The skill fell back into my hands more easily than I had imagined it could after so many years laying dormant & I taught my husband & mother-in-law and we put our cranes in the memorial basket where they collect them. IMG_2970We folded them for Sadako. We folded them for peace. We folded them in hope.
This side of heaven is broken and falling under the crushing weight of something gone wrong. It is awakening in us a homesickness for something we’ve never known, for a peace & wholeness that can’t be found here. But it exists. God tells us it’s written on our hearts. It’s the reason we don’t feel quite right here. Home is coming for us. His name is Jesus. He came once to show us the way & He is coming again to make everything right. 1000 cranes won’t fix your life, but the idea of striving daily, hourly, minutely to see the ground-roots of His kingdom on earth, the small foretastes of what is coming, the hope that gets us up in the morning? That’s a life I want to live & through it I hope others see the substance behind this shadow, the sun that causes these rays, the God-man that gives me life: Jesus.

He is coming to fulfil the hope these memorials speak.
The hope of peace, harmony, loving-kindness.
He is coming to make all things right.

 

Fuji Safari Park & Easter in Japan

Fuji Safari Park & Easter in Japan

Thanks to a society that prioritizes obeying the rules, there are places like the Fuji Safari Park in Japan where you can actually hand-feed lion & tigers & bears (say it with me now: OH MY!). There used to be places like this in American zoos but kids these days…this is why we can’t have nice things, AMERICA.

ANYWAY, I digress. We got to feed fruit to bears & meat to lions & thanks to my current re-reading  of The Chronicles of Narnia, the feeling of the lion’s breath on my face when it ROARED SIX INCHES AWAY FROM ME was accompanied by equal amounts terror/screaming & awe/wonder. And by equal parts, I mean all the terror/screaming & a dash of awe/wonder once we were far, far away.

Easter is not a holiday that most Japanese celebrate, which in a way is really nice because CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE CRAZINESS THAT IS PUBLIX THE WEEK BEFORE EASTER?!
I shopped for Easter dinner ingredients on SATURDAY and all 12 of us at the commissary & Japanese grocery stores had plenty of room for our carts. #winning

This Easter was necessarily different for us because we’re, ya know, six thousand nine hundred & sixty two miles away from Columbus, GA & seven thousand two hundred & eighty seven from Winter Haven, FL making the trek impossible on a two-day weekend. So it was our first Easter just the two of us. Our pioneer Easter. But you know about pioneers, right? They simply never travel alone. And we didn’t either.

Our Easter was full of other pioneers, some of whom are home in Japan & some of whom are in the same transitory boat as us & it was beautiful.

First, my friend Ms. Judy (who has told me to just call her Judy, BUT I CANNOT DO IT), invited me to a cookie decorating class. I’d never done this before, but oh my goodness I’m now saving up to open up my own cookie bakery. It was the most fun I’ve had where food colouring was involved.

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*all photos of me with the cookies were taken by Oakie who would hereby like his photography to be known as PhotOAKraphy.

*this is not true. He is not even home right now. I made this up. But he did do a stellar job on those photos.

Secondly, every year on Easter, our church has their service in Kinuta Park, Tokyo, but this was the first year that it’s lined up perfectly with the cherry blossoms bloom, so we praised Jesus in Japanese & English under the blossoms and the blue sky.

And then we had a picnic. I don’t know if some of you had ever had an Osborne picnic, but we PIC.NIC. Mostly this is especially thanks to one of my all-time favourite Christmas gifts ever: Our Picnic Backpack. This is exactly what it sounds like. A backpack with everything you need for a picnic: pretty plates, silverware, cups & cloth napkins, salt & pepper shakers, a cutting board & cheese knife and of course a blanket. Hannah & Cody, three years in & we’re STILL loving it.

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We ended the day with an Easter dinner at our friends, the Thitte’s, home; complete with ham, asparagus, squash casserole, a killer asian salad, mac & cheese with Easter noodles, a chocolate cake (with homemade icing-GO ALLIE!) and lemon meringue pie. It was more then we deserved and better than I could have imagined.IMG_4999

Plus, I cracked the second twin-egg I’ve seen since we moved to Japan…so there’s that.IMG_6136

Jesus died to give us something of so much greater value than all the things I’ve written about: A restored relationship with the God of the universe, victory over death, hope for the future, adoption into the family of the Most High King.

& then He gave us all these things beside.
He is a good, good Father.
Happy Easter! He is Risen!
Bonus Video: The Unexpected Letter

 

 

The Problem With Guilt

The Problem With Guilt

We’ve been laying low in these parts for about a week and a half now.
It was time for some rest so we took a little break from “going hard in the paint” as Oakie likes to say…what does that even mean?! It just sounds messy…and weird. #absurdadages ANYWAY…I’ll be back with more adventures (& completely amazing, stunning, magazine-worthy, life-altering, earth-shattering photography) later this week. For now, just take this little exhale that I wrote a few weeks ago.

I shared this as a devotional for the women’s Bible study group on base recently & hope you will find in it a few cracks in your idea of me because through those, the light of Jesus will shine all the brighter.


I’ve had to pray for sleep lately. This is strange for me.

Sleep has always come easily, effortlessly. I’m the one who “can sleep anywhere, anytime.”

Plane rides, no problem.

Car rides, no problem.

Bedtime…roadblock.

It’s like a processing delay that takes advantage of my bedtime to catch back up. Everything I’ve pushed aside that day comes back to be processed & categorized & put away.

The Bible tells us that safe & restful sleep is part of our reward.

Proverbs 3:24- “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Psalm 4:8- “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

I’ve experienced this gift in abundance all my life, but now…now I have to ask for it. This humbled me. In fact, for at least a week straight of eyes-wide nights, I didn’t.

I tried sleep meditations.

Focusing on my breathing.

Quieting my thoughts.

Everything but asking God for it. And then, I did. One night, I was at the end of my sleepless self and I just asked. No lie, I was asleep in less than 3 minutes.

So, I wonder. What does this say about me?

Firstly, why am I struggling to sleep in this season?

Secondly, what is the root of this hesitancy to take my burden to Jesus?

In the moments before sleep finally won me over, the thoughts racing through my mind were, in part, excitement about the future; what the next day held for me. But those thoughts were easy to dismiss; to set aside as lower priority than my sleep.

It was the haunting, foreboding thoughts that lingered & gave me no rest.
In those quiet times before rest came, I was visited by griefs of the past.
Embarrassing moments.

Guilt over past sins.

Grief over the death of Romy. Consequential questioning of God’s plan for me & guilt for not “being over it already” or for “not trusting God enough.”

On the night when I asked God for sleep, & He graciously answered me without delay, it was as if a veil was torn away & I saw my sleepless nights for what they were: a death rattle of the enemy’s lies that have held me captive for so long.

It should come as no surprise that transitional periods tend to bring into the light elements of your life that have been tucked away. Moving to Japan has certainly done that for me & a large part of my recent sanctification has centred on my sin of guilt.

Guilt is a slimy sin that is deceitful in its essence & therefore, perhaps, more dangerous than blatant sins. Guilt tells you that this is your lot in life because of who you are, what you’ve done, etc. It tells you that it simply accompanies your sin kit & caboodle so there’s no way out. “If you sin, you get guilt forever” says its warped logic. And I sin…so I’m guilty. This makes sense…and I believed. Hook, line & sinker.

This has followed me my entire life. It has trained me to keenly observe other people’s words & actions & reactions as they apply to me so that I can measure up & be saved the guilt of letting them down. This has a name in society that I believe is, all at once, a misnomer & deadly accurate: People pleaser.

But really, I believe, it has made me incredibly self-centered. If every interaction with another human is really just an attempt to “read” them so I can appropriate the desired response (them liking me; me not having guilt that they don’t), then how in the actual heck am I truly listening? Caring? Loving THEM? You see…I’m not.

Guilt’s lie is that that is how you succeed. You listen to others only to the point that you can determine how to best make them like you and then you become that

or do that

or say that

and leave with a massive sigh of relief that you didn’t embarrass yourself or commit a faux pas.

Do you see how this completely leaves out of the equation a single thought about the other person except in the context of YOU?

But, you see, you pleased them, so it was good.

It was ok.

It was enough.

This is an accurate portrayal of my life. This was my modus operandi. My MO. My plan of action. My mission.

And it BLINDED me.
I looked at ‘selfishness’ as a sin of others.
I mean, here I am, doing everything I can to make others happy, so selfishness? Not my vice. Not my problem. Not my thing.

NOT THE TRUTH.

The enemy had me pegged.
He could get me to obsess over myself & count myself among the selfless all at once. A perfect recipe for an ineffective witness.

I was my own undoing.

I was my own stumbling block.

HE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO GET ANYONE ELSE INVOLVED.
This chick can handle HERSELF.

She can put herself on the sidelines of this cosmic game for people’s souls & I can get busy derailing somebody else.

BUT GOD.

Perhaps the most powerful words in Scripture.

It doesn’t matter what comes before those words because what comes after them will always change everything.

He didn’t leave me in that pattern; in that blindness; in that sin.

But He sure didn’t snatch me out of it either.

Scripture says God is slow to anger. But I sometimes wonder if the truth is shorter…God is slow.

This tempo is our salvation; were He not slow, we wouldn’t exist & we certainly wouldn’t know Him.
But it is also our chagrin. Why doesn’t He move faster? Why isn’t He immediate? Instant? Quick?

Then I look back & realize—almost in an instant—that I, too, am slow.
Made in His image, I reflect this truth about our God.
If He rushed me, forced me, dragged me to His conclusions, I would run, resist or resent Him…but God is slow.
He is patient with me. 1 Corinthians 13 says only two things that love is, before speaking about the rest of things that love is not: Love is patient & kind.

If God is love; then God is patient & kind.

God is slow.

He brings me along, as I am able to follow.
The past (almost) 3 years of marriage have been teaching me a lesson that I’m just now able to articulate.

I am not guilty.

I. Am. Not. Guilty.

I AM NOT GUILTY.

Most of the conflict in my marriage to date has revolved around the vestiges of guilt that I’ve carried in from my life before. These vestiges look like shame & defensiveness & an assumption of guilt. Oakie has slowly, faithfully, steadily shown me remarkable, immeasurable, boundless love that literally has NOTHING to do with what I did or didn’t do.

This has been mind-blowing.

How is his approval not determined by my action or inaction?

His mantra has become, “We’re on the same team.”

He reminds me that he is for me.

There is no need for shame because he knows everything & loves me.

There is no need for defensiveness because I am free in his love to do as I wish without defending my position.

There is no need for an assumption of guilt because he only ever assumes that I’ve done well & have acted with our best interest in mind.

In the beginning, this was nonsense to me.

Eventually, he would stop saying this. Eventually, he would be disappointed when I inevitably let him down & THEN all this guilt would be well deserved. Eventually, we’d start trading in this currency I know too well.

Guilt + Pressure = Desired Outcome

But three years really wears a girl down.

He’s been going strong with this, “I am for you. I trust you to make decisions for us. We’re on the same team,” nonsense for THREE YEARS.

So…maybe he’s telling the truth?

Maybe he actually, really, truly trusts & respects my opinions?

Maybe he really, really isn’t going to flip when the credit card bill comes in?

Maybe he honestly loves me after mistakes & hasn’t once “made me pay” in the form of guilt?

SHUT. UP.

Because here’s the thing…if human Oakie can do that…then divine God can do that.

And that means I’ve had it wrong this whole time.

You see, I believed the gospel, but I mostly believed it was for someone else.

I’ve kept church notes in notebooks for over a decade now and I have hundreds of pages filled with the gospel & its applications.

I can’t really explain this BECAUSE YES I KNOW IT’S CRAZY, but I always wrote my notes to a future “reader” and sometimes when passages came up about the freedom from shame & guilt we have in Christ, I honestly believed they were true for the person reading, but not for me.

Not for me.

That thought accompanied my writing.

“There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus…” but not for me.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, […] nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…” …but not for me.

I wrote them down.

I understood them.

I yearned for their truth to woo unbelievers unto Himself…but not for me.

What was for me? The suffering & the trials & the tribulations that must be endured to be one of His. I knew & understood the pain you have to bear to be loved by someone. That’s how it goes, right? You try to be good enough, but you fail & He begrudgingly loves you anyway because He has to. He’s your Father…

But the freedom & unconditional love & acceptance in the Bible? Not for me.

I LITERALLY BELIEVED THAT.

Y’all.

How blind do you have to be to literally miss almost every single point of the gospel when you’ve written it down yourself for over ten years?

Like, coke-bottle-glasses-blind.

But God is slow.

So it’s ok if I am slow.

And now, I am awakening to this wild idea that all those good, precious, earth-shattering truths are for me.

I am walking in a brand-new confidence, but it’s not in myself, it’s in HIM. He already loves me, so now I can love me.

I can be ok with myself.

I can sin & not live in fear of the gauntlet or the new level of begrudged love He has for me. It’s counterintuitive, but do you know how much easier this makes repentance?
I always HATED the idea of repentance.

It always looked to me like a guilty kid ‘fessing up & accepting the new, diminished love that she deserved.

WHY WOULD I PUT MYSELF THROUGH THAT?

I’d rather avoid the unpleasant business altogether and stick with THIS level of love…

But now, repentance is an act of inviting Jesus into my sin (I actually say those words in my heart) and asking Him to grant me MORE forgiveness & grace than I had before. And there’s no danger of sinning more so I can get extra grace because each time I receive it, I walk away with a deep gratitude that motivates me to give Him more of my life lived in love—which, as we know, is patient & kind.

I want to be more patient & kind after repentance than I did before & that, in & of itself is reason enough to keep coming back.

Isn’t that how we want to live?

With patience & kindness?

So if repentance is the road, then I will pave it with daily invitations, asking Jesus to take my sin & in its place give me forgiveness & grace.

And I will leave with more than I came with.

More patience for others’ sin.

More kindness for myself & those around me.

& More love for my incredibly generous Saviour, Jesus.

So THIS is the gospel I keep hearing about.

“There Is Only One Encounter”

“There Is Only One Encounter”

Oh Japan. How thou hast sweetly wooed this western heart…
(little too shakespeare-y? note taken. moving on.)

In my time in Japan, I’ve had my ideas of beauty radically shifted. I mean, I’ve always had a deep-seated wanderlust & I’ve intentionally set out to let seeing the world change me, but MAN. I just didn’t see this fool coming!
From the first day when 3 men helped us roll our bags to a waiting-on-us bus & we drove into a Tokyo sunset, I was awestruck. & it hasn’t stopped.

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“Send me the sunset I love the most…when I’m in Tokyo”

It’d probably be silly to make a List Of All The Japanese Things I Love The Most…
[1. little kids in matching caps
2. tiny coffee shops
3. vending machines with cold coffee
4. Starbucks on every corner & in every train station
5. coffee (too obvious?)
6. best everyday fashion I’ve ever seen (& I spent 5 weeks in Italy. Sorry, Japan wins.)
7. ALL THE RESTAURANTS: indian, ramen, yakiniku…ALL OF THEM.
8. walking & train-ing everywhere (thanks to Allie, for the verb-age)
9. mountain sunsets every day!
10. overwhelming societal kindness]
…right? Ok, good. Then I definitely won’t do THAT.

Recently, I’ve had what I deem to be more than my fair share of beauty in distinctly Japanese packaging. There is a saying at Japanese tea ceremonies, “There is only one encounter.” The meaning behind it is essentially that you should be motivated to serve your guest tea as if they were the only person you would ever serve tea, thus giving it your all every time. (& we thought we were being clever with our YOLO. HA. Japan’s had that on lock for CENTURIES.)

Isn’t that beautiful?
This day.
This moment.
There is only one encounter.
What about my life would change if I served others as if they were the only person I would get to serve?
There is only one encounter.
Would I go slower?
There is only one encounter.
Would I be so preoccupied with what’s coming next?
There is only one encounter.

The traditional tea ceremony takes over an hour.
An HOUR just to drink tea.
To take time to serve and be served.
To revel in the goodness of that warm cup & the kindness of your friend.
To demonstrate, in a tangible way, how much your guest means to you.
There is only one encounter.

Enjoying this day with Chieko-san & Mieko-san warmed my heart in a way that only lavish hospitality can. This welcome, this invitation, this lingering spoke of something we are all longing for: to belong to each other; to be welcomed into something greater than ourselves; to be given a place at the table.

At what table are you sitting today?
To what table can you invite the one who doesn’t belong?
To lavish on them the grace of hospitality? The welcome of a friend? The invitation?
I created another iMovie of our tea ceremony. It’s 6 hours long. SIKE! Less than 5 minutes. Please enjoy if you’ve ever been curious about what it’s like & let the simplicity encourage you to offer what you have to another.
It need not be elaborate; only enough.

Tea Ceremony Video

The Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival:
(WARNING: I’m about to bomBARD you with cherry blossom pictures. If these are not your thing or might incline you to say, “I mean REHLLY, there are simply TOO many photographs!” in a British accent, please scroll.) (I would also like to point out that the spell check gave me the option of changing ‘British’ to ‘brutish’ and DAHLING, that REHLLY set me to LAUGHING!)

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There was a geyser that went off several times a day and we made it! #winning
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I. Love. Rainbows.
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when all the work trucks are matchy, but not TOO matchy…

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This tree hadn’t turned all the way and I liked it the best. The Almost Tree.

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Pinecones anyone? 3 for $10!
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I put a cherry blossom in my cherry blossom ice cream and was the talk of the town…I assume that’s what they were pointing and talking about…
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GUYS! I FOUND NANA FROM PETER PAN!
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This is a 1,000 year old tree…
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let that sink in…
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It’s customary at temples to leave all the trees untouched.
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Sections might die, but the tree grows around them & all the dead & broken parts become part of its beauty. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.
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More hina dolls!!!
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Oakie wanted this picture included because it has a tire in it & that reads redneck to him.
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Also, this hotel bus we passed as we stopped along the coast…

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Oh Captain, my Captain!

This day was as close to perfection as it maybe gets this side of heaven:
Perfect weather.
Beautiful cherry blossoms.
Ice cream that TASTED like cherry blossoms.
A walk by the sea.
1,000 year old trees.

…and I thought I’d seen beauty already.
It’s everywhere y’all.
Look for it today & if you don’t see it, create it.
Invite that friend or that almost-friend.
Watch their face light up when you ask them to tell you their story, their favorites, their bests.

There is only one encounter.

 

 

All Things New

I’m trying something new this month.

I’ve moved to a new site that will, hopefully, better facilitate my blog/help this poor girl format everything without wanting to throw everything I own outside…and then stomp on it.

I will continue to post my Weekend Updates (I 100% totally came up with this completely original title myself. All rights reserved ©.) about Life in Japan, but I’ll be adding a new element on a (semi-) bi-monthly basis (I make no promises on the frequency of this because, you know…I just don’t). It will be more along the lines of a personal essay about my life & the work that Jesus is doing & I will post mid-week.

I am by no means, an expert in Jesus. As Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…” in Philippians 3:12. If Paul hadn’t obtained it yet, this chick certainly hasn’t. The writings I will publish have one goal: To encourage you to press on. To obtain it. ‘It’ being our complete rescue by Jesus. The implications of this are infinite. If you have already experienced the initial rescue, the implications will continue to reverberate throughout your life as it becomes more complete. If you haven’t, they haven’t yet begun, but I invite you to “taste & see that the Lord is good.” See it through my writing, my imperfections, my weaknesses, my utter failures. Let them show you, by contrast, the surpassing worth of Him who loves & loves & loves me &, my friend, you too.

*This was originally written in January 2016 so some of the references are long past.

Daily Bread

         So the preacher says, “And to all you young, single girls plagued by body image issues…to all the business men who hesitate to be bold for the gospel…for the young mom feeling tired and left out…” & then he efficiently, skillfully applies this week’s sermon to their lives. Their real lives.

But he doesn’t say, “To all the young, childless couples living abroad for a short season, travelling most weekends so you can see & experience people & places, customs & traditions, religions & rituals you’ve never seen before…this is how this week’s sermon applies to you.” Because, you see, most people aren’t in that category and for the sake of time the man’s got to speak to the most people. So on this Tuesday, I’m wandering through a season of wondering what faithful living looks like here. Now.

Because, I actually am in that category.

I’m in an in-between.

A not-yet.

An almost.

I’m not a young mother…yet. I’m not a young single 20-something…anymore. I’m an army wife living in Japan for less than two years, yearning desperately to DO something; to live out the gospel.

Now, if I’m completely honest, this is a premature rambling. We’ve been here for 6-ish weeks and are still finding our sea legs (I mean, this IS an island). I’m still gasping every time I get a little too close to the left side of the road BECAUSE DRIVING HERE IS TERRIFYINGLY NEW. I understand it’s all a bit early to be dwelling on…but then I’ve never been good with timing. So instead of subduing this feeling of urgency to GET TO IT ALREADY, I am just acknowledging it.

Our lives are not ordinary. They are not typical. Yet they feel quite mundane some days. We’re settling in & getting to know our neighbors, but we’re also going on wild adventures, to places I’ve never even heard of, almost every weekend. We’re trying to build a church community, but we’re missing most Sundays because we’re “travelling” & “seeing the world.”

Do not misunderstand me. THIS IS THE DREAM. I understand that. But it does pose an odd predicament as I strive to grow in my faith. As I read books like:

Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman

& For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

& Carry On, Warrior by Glennon D. Melton,

I’m struck by how outside I feel to these normal-life-doers encouraging other normal-life-doers to continue in the good & normal work before them. Encouraging them to not miss the little moments & the small beginnings & the brave everyday of kids & school & small-town living…& I think to myself, “That couldn’t possibly be further from my reality.” So how in a world of books on normal life, do I glean wisdom for my not-so-normal life?

& then, I just sit back & allow the Lord to direct my memory.

He will, you know, if you let Him.

It’s, like, His favorite thing to do.

We’re just so darn forgetful. You give us five minutes & we’ll be up in arms about the wait in the Starbucks drive-thru right after we just raised our hand to a praise & worship song that “just really resonates with me.”

We. Forget.

We forget the goodness of the Lord.

His faithfulness.

His promises kept.

His lavish love & abundant provision.

We just forget.

& so, He helps me remember.

It was a Thursday morning. We’d been in Japan for 4 weeks. I was invited to a women’s Bible Study group by my neighbor. Just the day before I’d met a wonderful lady, whose husband was a chaplain & she had a daughter at COVENANT COLLEGE. And she was leading a book study by TIM KELLER. & the more we talked the more her eyes said to mine,

“I recognize you. We belong to each other.”

She knew my people, my places. She spoke my language & I came home & GUSHED to Oakie about the gift God had given me in her.

& on that Thursday morning, I met Chieko-san…well two actually. Chieko-san 1 & Chieko-san 2. This is about Chieko-san 2. She introduced herself & we talked & she continued to be floored that I was kind to her because she was

“so old” & I was

“so young” &

“why would you want to spend so much time talking to me?”

& I just smiled and told her that her age brought her wisdom & I’d be a fool to pass her friendship up. & so now we’re Facebook friends and she’s going to teach me the traditional Japanese tea ceremony AT HER HOUSE. (teaser alert: this weekend on the blog!)

But you haven’t even heard the magic yet. Another young Japanese woman I’d been talking to pulled me aside later to make sure I knew that although Chieko-san had been attending this bible study group for some time now, she had never become a Christian. She encouraged me to pursue this friendship with that in mind.

But I forgot. I pondered life here & finished book after book & wondered what was for me? What’s my faithful living look like, God? Where’s my work for the gospel? I’m not working & I’m not a mom & we keep missing church & my neighbor is ALREADY A CHRISTIAN &…&…&…

Be still & know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

 

& He reminded me.

Don’t you see, little one? I am God. I know My plans for you.

I have good works already lined up for you to walk in them.

Don’t you think I desire “faithful living” for you as much as you do?

Be still. I am already at work and you don’t even remember.

All things, child, all things are working for your joy & My glory.

 

So I am resting & resisting the temptation to fret & fear & flounder.

I am embracing the small that comes with not knowing the answers.

I am walking in the small, short, steps He has given me.

 

It is “daily” bread after all, is it not?

 

What are you fretting & fearing & floundering about?

Is there a chance it’s because you’ve forgotten?

Have you taken some time to let Jesus help you remember?

Remember His goodness.

Remember His past provision.

Let that dissolve your fear as it’s overtaken by His big, complete faithfulness.

 

Have you never met Jesus?

Have you never investigated whether or not His claims are true?

Maybe it’s time & reading this was the latest “sign.”

I am, of course, available over the internet to talk about it & if not me, I would encourage you to find someone you know to be a Christian & ask them.

“His arm is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” -Isaiah 59:1