Soaring with God

I think that this half yearly blogging thing is working for me, no pressure just a chance to write out what I am thinking every once in a long long while.  Since the last time I blogged I have been to Thailand and Cambodia and then I spent most of my summer back home working in the ever familiar Campbell Nelson VW store. I would like to make a quick aside here that while going home to visit is lovely moving back under your parent’s roof for four and a half months is a mite difficult, no fault of my parents just of myself.

So here I am sitting in my dorm at Trinity Western University (the school that I am now attending in Langley, British Colombia) and I have been here for only two and half weeks and it feels like I have been here for about twice that time. To put it simply school here is awesome, I love everyone in my dorm, I love my profs, and I love actually studying my subjects in English!!!!But, to leave the cursory summary aside, I was thinking a lot today about where I am in my walk with God.

Last year I was so filled with the joy of the Lord and most days I woke up so excited to see what he had in store for me and what I could learn. But this summer I let the monotony of life get in my way and I forgot to be excited and praise him for the life that he gave me and instead I just let myself slip back into my old routines. I still read my bible and went to bible study but it became more and more route discipline as the summer progressed. I saw it happening and it made me frustrated but rather than put in the work to fix the situation I just got mad at myself and I became a lot more prone to anger towards the people around me.

Getting back out on my own has me so excited, but I am also really worried about my faith. I don’t feel like I am starting on the right foot and I haven’t found a church yet and I know how easy it is for me to slip into an attitude of apathy. It would be so easy for me to think that I am getting enough of God just through my surroundings and to abandon a daily walk with him for more of a group mentality.

So this week I have been humming the song “Still” by Reuben Morgan. The lyrics are as follows:

Hide me now/Under your wings/Cover me /Within Your mighty hands
When the oceans rise and thunders roar/I will soar with You, above the storm/Father, You are king over the flood/I will be still and know You are God
Find rest my soul, in Christ alone/Know His power, in quietness and trust

 When I have heard this song before the image that has always been present has been that of seeking Christ out in the middle of sorrow and trial. But when I was reading these lyrics today I realized that storms aren’t only found in sorrow and trials but they can be found in just the craziness of life. And while that craziness isn’t bad in and of itself the fact of the matter is that unless I am resting in Christ and purposefully seeking out quiet time to grow in him I am going to get swept away in storms good and bad. Christ isn’t just our rock and shelter for the times that this world is a trial but he is our God whom we owe worship to in every circumstance. 

Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint.” Sometimes walking through life I don’t even realize that my strength is gone until I am flat on my face and it is at those points that God picks me up and puts me back into the race of life. But I know absolutely that I don’t want to live a life where I only look for God as I am falling, I want a life where I am looking forward at God every step of the way. I know that I will still fall and trip and that there will still be trials but I don’t just want to walk mundanely anymore. I want to make a point everyday to soar with my Lord and Savior through the ups and downs of life. I want to be powered by his joy and driven by his love for the world. I want everyday to be a journey with him, growing in him so that I can do his will in TWU and the rest of the world.

 

After the Earthquake

So I know that I have abandoned this blog for about six months, but then it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t procrastinate for incredibly ridiculous lengths of time. I am actually writing this post because while Facebook is great for getting out short updates a blog truly is the best when you have something longer to say (and when you have grandparents who don’t Facebook and friends who have given Facebook up for lent).

As anyone who watches the news or reads a newspaper knows this last Friday there was a large earthquake just off the coast of Japan, it was the largest earthquake in the history of Japan and somewhere up there in the top earthquakes of all time (I keep hearing conflicting opinions on its exact place). The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.9 and triggered a tsunami that hit the Northeastern coast of Japan between 15-30 minutes later. The tsunami was felt as far away as California where it killed one person. The earthquake has also caused concerns at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, where one reactor has already experienced a core meltdown and others are experiencing continuing cooling problems. Citizens in the area are being evacuated and treated for radiation poisoning. That is a brief overview of the situation, you probably already knew those facts and you can read more if you are interested at most news sites.

However I didn’t write this blog just to reiterate Japan’s biggest news story; rather I am writing this so that I can tell my own personal earthquake story.

When the earthquake hit I was in my dorm room. I had slept late that morning because I was absolutely exhausted from traveling with my family for 10 days and I had just seen them off the earlier morning. I was actually still in my pajamas trying to motivate myself to be productive when I felt the first tremors. My first reaction was to just sit it out, we have had a couple of earthquakes since I have been here and so far I have just ignored them, they usually end very quickly. But when a minute had passed and the earthquake just got stronger I followed voices out into the hallway to see what to do. I found three Japanese girls screaming (more for fun than out of actual fear) as the building shook and bags and boxes fell over.

The earthquake lasted for a good 5 minutes and when it was over the first thing I did was run back to my computer to see if anyone had recorded the magnitude, thinking rightly that it was the largest earthquake I had ever been in. After checking for a few minutes I decided to hop in the shower and check again when I got out. So it was right as I got out of the shower that the second earthquake/aftershock of 7.2 hit and we were asked to evacuate the building (in japanese, it took me a bit to figure that out). It was after this that things started to get a little frightening.

As we came back into the building every channel was flashing tsunami warnings and english news websites were referring to the immensity of the quake and were showing pictures of rubble and stories of building shaking and ceilings collapsing in Tokyo. After that the television started rolling footage of the tsunami wave that washed over Sendai and many other towns on the Northern Japan coast. There were pictures of building burning and boats crashing into houses, reports of thousands missing and cellphone service down. The whole night Tokyo was plagued with over 100 aftershocks, making it hard to ever really find my feet again and feel stable after the first quake.

I have heard about multiple natural disaster before this one, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile just last year, the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia and the surrounding area, and I was even in Seattle for the 6.8 earthquake in 2001 (granted so young I don’t remember much of the details). However the difference is huge between being thousands of miles away and/or safe in your home country and being in a dorm where your roommate is gone and you can’t understand any of the emergency instructions.  It was easy for me to feel lost, I only understood half of what was going on, my roommate was and still is in Fukushima and while she was confirmed safe after the earthquake I still haven’t been able to reach her and she is very close to the nuclear reactor which has me worried.

Fortunately in all of this I have been able to find an unending solace in God’s peace. On Saturday I was able to spend 2 hours praying with other Christians and today (Sunday) I was able to attend church at my pastor’s house (our church building is temporarily deemed unsafe). In between these two larger gatherings I have stayed over at Jessica Tekawa’s house and I am incredibly thankful for her hospitality and friendship.

Living for even just a few days doubting the stability of the ground beneath my feet as been an experience I am not sure I want to repeat. It makes me realize how much I take for granted the fact that I can put one foot in front of the other without falling over. This experience has opened my eyes to the reality of the fact that nothing in the world is stable except for God and his love for us. Whether the earth is shaking or standing still if I have my faith planted in the earth and the things on it then it will be impossible for me to stand. Isaiah 7:9b says “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” And that was never more clear than this last weekend.

God promises that this earth will shake and crumble (Isaiah 24:19-20) but he also gives us comfort for these times. Isaiah 54:10 reads ” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ […].” ` Out of everything that this experience has brought for me so far, personally, it is this truth that is the most comforting.

My prayer right now is that the Japanese people would be brought to realize this truth. As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world Japan is very much self-dependent, it is a country proud of its work ethic and the results it has achieved. Japan is widely acknowledged to be the country best prepared for earthquakes, they have strict building codes, evacuation plans in place, and emergency supplies in strategic locations. However all of these plans and preparations were not able to prevent the destruction this earthquake wrought. I pray that out of this tragedy many Japanese people would be brought to a place where they realize that they need to put their faith in something far greater than themselves and their efforts and accomplishments. This is something that isn’t true only for the Japanese but something that I too struggle with.

I would like to end this blog by asking that everyone who reads this would remember Japan and the people living here in your prayers. We need prayers for our spiritual and physical health as people are struggling up North to survive and people all over Japan are attempting to cope with the loss of family and friends and the fear of the unknown. On a more personal note starting tomorrow I will be attending the Campus Crusade for Christ Change Conference in Tokyo and I would ask that you could pray for everyone attending as some are traveling in to Tokyo despite the challenges presented by the quake. Thank-you so much for all of your prayers and thoughts, I am incredibly grateful.

~Jessica

Hiking in Mitake

I am not a city person. I know that may shock some of you but really, I DON’T  do cities.

When I applied to ICU I was blissfully ignorant as to the fact that not only is it IN Tokyo but that Tokyo is in fact the largest city in the world… If the campus wasn’t as wooded as it is I would probably be blogging from an insane asylum right now, but luckily I can look out my window and see trees and when I walk to school I get to walk through mud and grass.  But even that isn’t enough for complete sanity, so this last Sunday I went hiking west of Tokyo in Mitake. It was the perfect day only 70 degrees farenheit and sunny. I had been planning on going Thursday, my day off, but after looking at the weather report I decided that Sunday would be a much better option.

Getting to Mitake takes about an hour and a half from the Musashi-Sakei station. I left the school at about 6:51 am and between buses, trains, cable cars, and tourist traps I didn’t really start hiking until 10. Being a foreigner I was bound to stick out no matter what but apparently I had failed to read the very specific dress code for hikers.  First rule being that no matter your age you must wear khaki shorts, spandex leggings, hiking boots, and saggy cotton socks. On top of that you must be equipped with walking sticks and a small to medium-sized backpack as well as a bell to scare bears away. Wearing a tank top, black jacket, and khaki pants didn’t quite meet the bar, on top of that lacking in gear as I was I made do with a plastic bag in lieu of a back pack. It’s a good thing I gave up on fitting in a long time ago.

One of the reasons that I chose this hike was because it was referenced in my Lonely Planet guidebook as a five-hour round trip hike to the summit of Mt. Otake. The guidebook failed to mention that there are a million and one side hikes and detours and that all of the signs are in Kanji with the only maps available being completely unproportional. So in the end while it was a five-hour hike it was five hours of hiking lost in the wilderness up and down random mountains in search of some sort of summit or conclusion. I did make it to the top of Otake-San eventually and I got some pictures of the trails I explored. It also felt absolutely amazing to be stuck in the wilderness surrounded by silence and a clean breeze. While there were others hiking, apart from the anti-bear bells it was the most peaceful atmosphere I have enjoyed since landing in Japan almost a month ago. As it is I look forward to the day when I can go back and explore the waterfalls I never made it to.

Since I went by myself there aren’t any pictures of me but I hope you can enjoy a few of the pictures I took of the area!

A Post about everything in the past week or so….

So yes, as I am sure many of you have predicted I am a completely sporadic blogger. However in hopes to make up for my lack of communication I shall attempt to convey here the happenings of the last week or so without boring anyone. Last weekend was mostly pretty basic, on Saturday I woke up with just enough time to shower and eat before I headed off to my third Kendo practice which, despite it being a sport, I am really enjoying. On Sunday I spent the day at Starbucks pouring over vocab and grammar for the upcoming week of Intensive Japanese. That evening we had a Kendo welcome party where we headed off to a restaurant where the draw was the drink menu. For an all-inclusive cost (which was paid for by the other club members) you could drink whatever you wanted and as much as you wanted off that menu which was 90% alcoholic. Seizing the opportunity I tried a few alcoholic drinks but not even close to an amount that would make me tipsy. Anyways as it was my first alcoholic experience (barring my mother’s purchase of alcoholic lemonade the first night) I thought I should blog it lol.

Last week was long, way too long. Monday started with a foray into Tokyo to see the Imperial Gardens with one of the OYRs (one year regular students) who is in the Kendo club with me. We got out to the gardens with relative ease before getting caught in a massive rainstorm without an umbrella, apparently that is unheard of in Tokyo because we were the only ones in the station literally dripping. Tuesday was defined by hours and hours of studying for a Japanese test that I still failed but as a bright spot in my day I did get my foreign registration card which means I am here completely legally!!!! Wednesday was the test…. no more no less and needless to say I don’t relish remembering it. Thursday we had the day off but because of the torrential downpour and lack of power on campus I had to retreat once again to Starbucks where I could find a light to read my book. Friday was more Japanese and more Japanese and Saturday was more Kendo. And because Sunday was so long I’ll just write a second blog 🙂

Kendo!!!!

Today was my very first Kendo practice!!! For those of you who don’t know what Kendo is here are two definitions:

Wikipedia’s: Kendo (剣道, kendō?), meaning “Way of the Sword“, is a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or kenjutsu[2]. Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.

Mine: The Japanese version of fencing where you get to yell and whack people with bamboo swords.

Anyways today was the first practice that I attended and the group attending was fairly small, there were five new students with me being the only girl. We just learned some of the very basic exercises but we also got to watch the club members practice duel. My favorite part was when we got to whack our partners stick and yell “MEN” it seemed fairly appropriate 🙂 The practice was two hours of a good workout and I can easily say that I will plan on heading back again Thursday. Sunday is the welcome party and if I can make it till then I think I’ll join!

P.S. I love it when spellcheck only tags words in the Wikipedia definition lol

Too lazy to create a title…………….

I feel like I should be writing something infinitely clever here, such as a connection between literary character and me or some philosophical discovery or at least some minor wit. But I figure most people would rather have something than nothing at all so I will just deign to share some of my experiences this last week.

I started my Intensive Japanese classes on Tuesday and there is no way I am making it out of this semester with my mental facilities intact. That class is beyond death… I am  the only one who has never taken Japanese before and most of the time I just stare at the teacher and nod my head stupidly. But I can’t give up now! Just moving forward and up, I plan on seeing this through no matter how many times I sound like a simpleton in class! So most of my time these past few days has been spent studying, napping, and then studying some more. Don’t I sound like such a good student? lol

Today I had my second class, International Human Rights Law, and despite the fact that I was in class from 8:50 until 6:45 that class was definitely a bright spot in my day. I love my teacher, she has a really fun french accent and a great personality. Not only that but I am finding the class really interesting and relevant to a lot of my interests. I am the only freshman in the class but the other six students seem pretty nice so I don’t think it will be that big of an issue.

Tonight I also got to go to worship night on campus and it was really relaxing to be in the midst of a body of believers worshipping in English and Japanese. There are a lot of really nice upperclassmen and I hope that I can make some good friends. After worship a few of us went out to dinner and I definitely discovered that riding on the back of someone’s bicycle is NOT the ideal way to travel. But I did make it to dinner and back before curfew and that is all that matters.

Tomorrow I get to spend the day with my parents and I promised my sister lots of pictures so I will be sure to post them tomorrow night. I hope that everyone back in the states is doing well! I miss all of you!!

One Week Down the Rabbit Hole

As of tonight I will officially have been in Japan for one week and it seems like a year ago that I left the US but at the same just yesterday. The school has kept me busy everyday with orientation activities that include hours of lectures covering things we have already read, club orientations that are more than slightly overwhelming, and my personal favorite: the three hour line to get my foreign registration card. Today is the last day I have “off” before classes start so I thought I would take this opportunity to blog about everything up to this point in quick summary style

The airplane trip was… well it was an all day experience in sitting, walking a bit, and sitting some more. I don’t think there is anything more to describe. Once we landed in Tokyo we were instantly assaulted by the heat and humidity, even before leaving the airport. We made our way as quickly as possible to our hotel where I had my first alcoholic drink that my mother accidentally purchased out of the vending machine. Needless to say I slept for eleven hours and was quite bright and cheery the next morning ready to forge my way into Tokyo and to find the ICU campus.

My parents and I met Sumika (our exchange student we hosted two years ago) at Shinjuku station and we could not have been more grateful for her help. Shinjuku is a massive labyrinth of train lines filled with people rushing here and there. With Sumika’s help we navigated the trains and buses and made it to ICU in no time. 

My first impressions of ICU are non-existen.t I just remember thinking that the walk to the dorm was ridiculously far and that it was too hot and humid to be healthy for anyone. Which made my new air-conditioned dorm, Zelkova, heaven on earth. It is a lovely dorm and if I ever have the time and inclination I will be happy to post pics, but until then you could always see them on my father’s blog…

After that everything has blended together, I have had lots of orientation meetings and a few tentative explorations into the behemoth of Tokyo that lies outside the university. Starting tomorrow I will begin my classes, which should keep me busy sometime into the next millennium. I am taking Intensive Japanese 1 as well as International Human Rights Law and a required Basic Exercise course. It is a tad over a full course load but I am confident that with a little bit chocolate and a lot of prayer I can pull through.

I have really enjoyed my time here so far and despite some minor culture shock I have been adapting well. I miss everyone at home and I am so glad that I have gotten to Skype so many of you. So until next time, Sayonara!!!

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