So Easy to Forget..

For over a year I have prayed every day for a job. My contract ended June 2016 and I needed a new one. I watched as we neared the summer, telling myself that maybe more schools would hire in June. I talked myself down during July and told myself that there were always last minute hires.. maybe in August. I braced myself to face September.. my first September in a looong time where I didn’t have a contract. I comforted myself with the idea that “anything could happen” and a mid year hire was possible. I scoured job sites, explored fields other than education, and prayed every day.

God didn’t answer my prayer immediately. He didn’t answer it the way I thought he should answer it last Spring but he did have a plan and while I’m sure I don’t understand all of it, I see now that he had some work to do in me.
So the past year was trying and difficult and humbling and frightening. Every month I had bills to pay and spent a lot of time talking to God about my bank account. I had never been in that position before… needing to pray for literal daily bread. (well not totally literal.. bread is bad) But I had specific financial needs that I needed help with. And God provided! It was amazing!
Since I didn’t have a busy full-time job (I was supply teaching) I had lots of time to read. I read a lot. My morning time with God was no longer rushed and that was a good thing. I noticed my prayer life was changing too. While a year ago I was a bit more demanding about the kind of job I wanted and the particular school I was hoping for, my prayers changed to asking him to put me where he needed me and where he could use me. My heart was changing and shifting and my relationship was deepening. I moved from praying for the ability to trust him, to actually trusting him.
And now things have changed. I have a job. It came just in time and so far it seems like a great fit for the next year.
I am excited about the future and I am so happy to be working again. I am also determined not to forget all that God has done for me. I don’t want to wander slightly because things are good at the moment. I don’t want to forget the moments that I nervously checked my bank account to see if I had enough to pay a bill and found that the money was there! I feel protective of this past year because it was the year I experienced him in a totally different way. So I’m writing things down so I don’t forget about that time that God took care of me and showed me amazing kindness and love when I needed it most.

Bratty Behaviour

Oh, how fleeting our happiness can be! It seems as though lately I have been bombarded by the idea that nothing in this life can truly satisfy us. No person, job, condo, vacation, clothing item, accessory, toy, can ever cause us to be completely happy. For a little over a year I’ve been praying for a job and simultaneously living in a state of minor terror. When September rolled around and I wasn’t working, I was shocked and fearful. As the year went on, I went through varying degrees of fear but deep down I told myself that once I had landed a job– all of my problems would be solved. I believed that true happiness would be found in gainful employment.

And so, one day in early March, I received word that I had indeed gotten myself a job! I was ecstatic! I was thankful! I could see God working in the details that made this happen for me! I was finally able to sleep at night and wake up in the early morning hours without worrying myself into a dark hole.

BUT – that happiness rather quickly disappeared and my worry for a job was way-too-quickly replaced with my desire for a really great boyfriend. It had only been a couple of days! My employment dream had come true. The key to my supposed happiness had been given to me and I so quickly forgot. I figured I had at least a couple of weeks before I was yearning for something else to make me more satisfied but no.. we are strange creatures that way.

I know that should I ever meet a tall, bold.. wait that’s my coffee order.. but should I ever meet the right man, I will be happy but then inevitably I will be wanting for something else. We are never satisfied. I feel like such a brat but I also recognize that this is what C.S. Lewis was talking about.. this is the very “desire that nothing in this world can satisfy” and the indication that “we were made for another world“. Or as Paul David Tripp wrote in his book New Morning Mercies: “Of course you haven’t been fulfilled in this world. It’s a sign that you have been designed for a world to come.

So I will continue to be thankful that God has blessed me with a job and when I feel that annoying longing for something new, I will tell myself that this is just a symptom of the human condition. Sure, those things may bring some happiness but they will not stop me from wanting more. Only God can satisfy our hearts and only He can bring us to a place where all of our yearnings and desires will be completely met.

 

Vibes Schmibes

I have a friend who is into vibes. Really into those vibes. She sends happy vibes, positive vibes, affirming vibes, shining vibes into the universe all the time. She sends them my way (I kind of wonder how that is actually done) and she instructs her social media followers to send similar vibes in all sorts of different directions. Her world is a vibey place.

 

Along with that she is all about speaking things into the universe. She believes that when we speak positively and throw things out into the great unknown, the universe will hear us and bless us. The universe is just waiting for us to name and claim things and once we let the universe know that we really want good and happy things— they will happen. It’s magic!

 

Now, I know that this happy positive vibey universe engaging philosophy is a weak kind of “religion” and I know that blessings are from God and not from the universe and it doesn’t matter how much we implore mother nature for sunshine, God controls everything… but what about the power of positive thinking?

 

You see– it’s been a weird year for me and it’s been a year where at times I have not been feeling very positive or deliriously happy or able to hold onto the belief that good things are comin my way. I spent a lot of time fighting for the ability to be okay. Some days that was easier than other days.

 

BUT THEN — I suddenly felt like things were changing. Dark clouds were clearing. I was feeling happier, lighter, healthier. And the thing is– it wasn’t because of all the vibes people were sending me, it was because God was teaching me some big things. It wasn’t about my flinging the dreams into the universe, it was about me trusting God completely and me finding joy in the act of doing so. It was about me finally being able to truly and fully believe that God is good and God is for me. That’s what filled me up and that’s what made me smile and that’s what gave me true joy. So yes, the world is right when it recognizes that seemingly positive people seem to attract good things but it’s dead wrong when it comes to understanding why. So I will never send positive vibes your way, but I will pray that whatever you’re going through, you will be able to “consider it all joy” as you trust in our great God to bring you through whatever it is you’re facing in the days ahead.

Two Become One.. but not like that.

I have kept a journal for ages, since I was about 9 years old I think. While during some stages of life I was more diligent about writing in it, I’ve always had one on the go. I remember in high school someone introduced me to the idea of a Prayer Journal and I thought that sounded appealing too. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t want to give up my personal journal and combine it with the prayer one so I have had two on the go for many, many years.

If I examine my reasons for this.. well back in the day I wanted to write in my personal one about .. well “personal” things. It was mostly about boys and friendships and the daily dramas I was going through. I didn’t want to mix that up with God stuff because, sometimes I liked boys that I didn’t want to pray about and sometimes I had very ungodly and mean feelings about people in my life. So I felt like I had this double life of journals going on. I also had the far-fetched idea that I was going to be a famous writer and when I died and my journals were published, I preferred that the public read about my ever-so-exciting life of being unable to decide between two boys and musings about my humdrum life instead of see my inconsistent prayer life. Ridiculous.. on so many levels!

So this kept up for a very long time. I would write prayers to God in my devotional journal and then I would pick up my other one and scribble out anxious thoughts about men, jobs, friendships, etc. Recently, I have been writing way more in my prayer journal and it’s started to turn into a personal journal too.

One of my consistent spiritual struggles has been trying not to balance on the fence.. keeping one foot on either side and I think the separate journals is a very tangible depiction of that. I am now “all in” but my journals were not.

SO… today I started a new journal. Just one. A journal where I can record my life and talk to God about it at the same time. Imagine. I’m pretty excited because not only is it quite pretty, but I finally am at the point where I can see how I need to be transparent and open with God about all the areas of my life. I am hoping that this will be a good thing and I can’t wait to see what ends up being written on the pages.  It’s one life… so one journal.

 

 

Goodbye September

September was not my finest month. My circumstances were not ideal and neither was my attitude. You see, for the past 11 years I have always had a full-time teaching job in September. I am used to being slightly stressed and overwhelmed while scrambling to learn my new student’s names and organize myself and my courses for the year. I am used to long, tiring days and trying very hard not to start any sort of countdown. For the first time, in 11 years, I did not have a job on the First Day of School. And that rocked me.

 

I had been praying for a job for September since pretty much the previous September and spent time believing that God was going to provide just that for me. As I approached the summer, I was slightly nervous but still pretty confident that I would be working on the first day of school. As August started to show itself, I was growing a little more tense, but then a job opprotunity presented itself and I was SURE that it was what God has in mind for me. I interviewed and then spent the week panicking until I heard that.. Nope, it was not to be. Devastating. Yet I consoled myself with the fact that it would be okay.. I’d be working by September. And then it was the last week of August, the first week of September, Labour Day and then the first day of school. The only thing on my calendar was a hair appointment mid afternoon. For the first time in 11 years… I was unemployed.

 

I was upset. I was stressed out. I was panicky. I worried about my future, my rent payments, my RRSPs, my long term savings that were dwindling… I was a mess. I felt like a loser, a failure, way too similar to people I had previously judged. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t wake up well. It took me a long time every morning to get to a place where I felt something that resembled peace. Maybe it wasn’t quite peace but it was something that resembled being okay enough to face the day.

 

I kept praying the same thing: “God, please give me a full time job and please help me to trust you.” The prayers didn’t really seem to be working.

 

A side note is that I am not entirely unemployed. I am on a supply teacher list at my previous school and happily, I was being called in quite a lot. I also had some friends in town and I enjoyed being free to spend time with them during the day. And, I have a good friend in a similar situation to me and we did meet up occasionally and discuss how this was only temporary.

 

One day I noticed the fact that September was nearing its completion, fall had started, the weather was changing, and I just wanted time to stop. I was dreading October because that means that a whole month has now gone by where I’m not teaching. What a depressing thought! But this is the thing! I basically spent the summer not being able to enjoy myself because I was so stressed out about a job and I spent September the same way. I know, deep down, that this is all temporary and that the supply teaching gig is actually pretty sweet. I know that I may never have time like this again and I suddenly realized, I can’t keep dreading the future and spending day after day miserable and stressed out. I can’t let one thing that isn’t going the way I want it to go to dictate my thoughts and mood on my entire life.

 

Also, I started to think about how there are so many things I’ve wanted to do that I was unable to do because I was teaching or too tired from teaching. But now– I have time. I actually have time AND energy. I don’t want to waste that. I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in a unique situation, one where I actually have time to write the things I want to write and to read the books I want to read, and to cook the recipes I’ve been eyeing and to get back into running and yoga and all of the other things that I never used to have time to do.

 

I want to actually enjoy the fall. I want to spend time happily working away at projects that I’ve ignored for far too long. I want to enjoy being able to meet up with a friend in the afternoon for coffee. I want to remember that God has me in this moment in time, in these particular circumstances, for a reason and I want to be able to calm down and relax in that. He’s got me.

 

So now I’m looking at October, 31 whole days, and maybe I’ll get a job and maybe I won’t. I am determined to make use of this month either way, and to live each day purposefully and well.

 

I haven’t had my “doom and gloom” early morning freakouts for a while now and my prayers are no longer me begging God to help me trust Him. I realized the other day that finally… finally after ages and ages, I actually DO trust Him. I’ll keep praying for wisdom and guidance and direction and a job but while I pray, I hold onto the fact that I serve a good God, with a perfect plan and I can trust in Him for all things.

 

One Year Later…

So it has been a whole year since I packed up my stuff in Tokyo and moved back to Canada. It’s been quite the year. I was having drinks with a friend, who is still living the overseas dream and quite seriously entertaining the idea of moving back to Canada, and she was asking me all about the transition back home. So in lieu of that conversation, I figured that perhaps I would jot down the highlights and lowlights here.

First of all, I think that because I really wanted to be back home and had grown tired of the overseas thing, my transition has been more positive than the ones of those who came back reluctantly. I was actually relieved when August rolled around and I didn’t have to go spend $300 at Wal-Mart stockpiling tampons and deodorant and then summon up the emotional energy to do proper airport goodbyes. It was nice to just glance at Facebook and see that my friends were checking in at the airports and heading back to their second homes and realizing that, nope, no August jet lag for me!

And that’s when the fun began. I got to experience Canada and family life for the first time in a decade. I was able to see Canadian September and be around for all of the birthday celebrations, instead of just reading about it or enjoying photos of them from afar. Thanksgiving, Easter, Long Weekends…It was fun to be able to jet home for any random weekend and join in on basic family life stuff. Also, being in the same timezone as my family and friends still excites me! I don’t need to do clock math in my head to figure out when is a good time to text or call.

It was fun noticing seasons and actually being able to order Pumpkin Spice Lattes in the fall and drink them while wearing boots and sweaters. (I’m actually totally over that beverage… way overrated) But it was awesome experiencing these things.

I also still get a total kick out of being able to understand the world around me and if I don’t understand something, I can call someone and they can explain it to me. I can make my own reservations and appointments and ask for something to be added or taken way from my meal at a restaurant (although I try not to do that because frankly, that’s annoying!) I’m not limited by limited language and that feeling of independence and belonging is still quite thrilling. (Also, I can totally eavesdrop on people’s conversations and actually know what they are talking about and that’s pretty fun for a Nosey Nelly like me!)

I had a one year teaching contract at a private school in Toronto and that was a positive experience too. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with Canadian kids as I’ve only taught International ones but once again, the lesson I continue to learn, all over the world, is that a teenager is a teenager, and while location may cause a few little changes, they are all pretty much the same. So that was a relief! And it was good to get some Canadian teaching experience.

In terms of the not-so-good parts. There are only a couple. I was a bit surprised how much harder and how much longer it took to find a community in Toronto. I am so used to international communities, that for better or worse, adopt you into them the moment your feet hit the foreign soil. It was strange to show up at work and no one cared where I was living or if I knew where to buy decent spinach. Most people had a real work/life separation going on and so there wasn’t that natural social group waiting for me. It was a bit refreshing at the same time as I didn’t NEED to be friends with that strange rude girl or really weird guy, I only had to be polite at work. But I noticed that people don’t seem very aware of what it means to be embracing of new people or how to be inclusive. So yeah, that aspect was a bit harder but the closer I looked, I realized that there are a lot of lonely people in this city and so, slowly but surely, I’ve been making friends and getting some good people in my life.

I also miss the rather reckless way of spending money and taking extravagant holidays. That doesn’t happen anymore. Gone are the expat days of spending money because we could and going to fancy places because that’s what everyone else was doing. Introducing this strange thing called A Budget.

The travel itineraries of my colleagues and new friends are a little more mellow compared to my colleagues of the past 10 years. But there is something to be said for being able to just pop home for the Long Weekend, a small thing that still makes me very happy.

I think that while there are some adjustments and moving back really has been like starting over, I have not regretted for one moment my decision to move back here. (Well, maybe that one time when my bank balance kinda bothered me) I am absolutely loving living in Canada and among “my people” and being around for important occasions. I love that my whole life is in one place and I’m no longer feeling like part of me is here and part of me is across the ocean. I do not regret my decade abroad for one second, nor do I regret my decision to move back.

So there you have it… a year home and still very happy about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Minute Notes from Japan

Tomorrow I will be getting on a plane and flying back to Canada. I’m coming home! It’s been a whirlwind last few months here and yet, the day before departure has finally arrived. I am feeling more excited than anything, although as the days wind down I’m am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that there are people, places, and aspects to life here that I will indeed miss terribly.

It has been a good 4 years. I have learned a lot about myself, people, and most importantly, God. I have had a lot of exciting opportunities through work and been given the chance to really get involved in life here. I have joined a hardcore bible study and gotten to know some incredible women outside of work. I learned to run. I learned to coach. I learned to be a Head of Department (let’s never let that happen again!), and I learned what it means to trust God with every detail of my life.

With this as my third “international post”, I feel that I have some experience with goodbyes. This one feels a little bit different because this goodbye involves me handing in my Foreigner Card. I’ve been holding onto that baby for 10 years and now, it’s time to hand it in.  I feel like I’m not only saying goodbye to Japan, but also in a sense to the expat life. There is some sadness there but at the same time, I am really looking forward to being done with emotional airport goodbyes, massive Wal-Mart shops for 6 months worth of tampons, toothpaste and deodorant, and long long flights. I’m looking forward to understanding what’s going on around me, being able to easily make dinner reservations, and being able to buy shoes any time of year! So true, I am saying a major sort of goodbye, but I’m also saying a really happy hello!

I feel very blessed for the way the past 10 years of my life have played out and I am really excited about relocating and living the next 10 in my home and native land!