Boldness.

I’m reading a Beth Moore book. Not a huge surprise, I love Beth Moore. We share a common love for Jesus, His Word… and studying. Man I love a good study. I’ve done her studies, read some of her devotionals- but this time I’m reading a book by her- called Audacious.

It. is. wonderful.

Coming upon one of the first few chapters I came across a paragraph that spoke right to me- not in a soft “Kristen focus on this” kind of way- but like a SMACK right in the face!

It was one of those painful truths. I finished reading the paragraph- put the book down and came right here to write. It was that powerful. I love how God can use a good book opened at just the right time- so does Beth Moore, she said so in the beginning of this book actually!

For some context, we’re talking about boldness. Not obnoxious boldness- but being bold in Christian humility and love. She said:

 

“Boldness says that we don’t see every little obstacle as some big hindrance. We’re not too fragile to adapt and too finicky to accept. Boldness says that each circumstance is up for rent as opportunity. What we’re willing to do with the room we’ve been given is up to us. Boldness makes the best of it.”

 

Immediately Japan came to mind.
It took me forever to accept that Japan is our mission field. It’s not what I had in mind, not what I had planned – at all! But here we are- getting ready to move there within the next few years. The phrase that really got me in that paragraph was “too fragile to adapt”. Ouch.

I want to have the faith of Abraham and just get up and GO (Genesis 12:1).   I want to say “Here I am Lord, send me!” as Isaiah did. (Isaiah 6:8)

But I say no, or wait… let me think about it.

Jesus talks about this very thing!

“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.'” (Luke 9:61)

Yah know what happened to that person?

Jesus left! He missed it! That person missed out on the most incredible journey of a lifetime!

He said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61)

That’s pretty serious.

Though people don’t get turned into pillars of salt anymore (Genesis 19) for looking back- think of all the missed opportunities.

Think of all the people who could have been reached but weren’t. Or I think of all the satisfaction and growth that could have happened within my own life that didn’t because I was “too fragile” to adapt.

Boldness.

I need some of that boldness. Boldness to adapt- to trust. To know that God has my best interests at heart- so if that means jumping on a plane and moving 7,440 miles away- then I’m not just going to drag my feet and submit.

I’m going to get on that plane with purpose, with joy, with thankfulness that I, of all people, was chosen for this particular journey. I’m going to use every opportunity because life is hard and people need Love. (Ephesians 5:16 sort of)

So next time any of you hear me complaining about the distance, or how hard it is to learn the language, or yada yada stuff- tell me to go back and read this post and get on my knees and thank God that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) – that I can always come back into His loving embrace no matter how many of His opportunities I miss. And to thank Him, from the bottom of my heart, that I do not have to stay as I am. I do not have to remain “fragile and finicky” because that doesn’t have to be “just the way I am”. In Christ I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17):

 

A Fairly Long-Winded Update:

Sometimes one of the hardest things a person can do is : admit they’re wrong. I think at times this is especially difficult for Christians. I have a hard time with it, I assume that whoever I tell with think “well she must not really know God or else she would have known His will to begin with”. I know it’s silly, but it’s true. Yet I don’t think we should be like that. God uses everything for good. I recently, well actually a few months ago, watched a sermon by Francis Chan. Not out of the ordinary for me- he’s one of my favorite speakers. But what he said in this particular sermon really stuck with me, it’s something I think back on often. He was explaining how Christians often don’t do anything unless they “hear from God” to do it. He challenged to err on the side of doing instead, until God tells you to stop. Especially when it’s something the Bible says to do. If the Bible says to do it, then we shouldn’t have to wait until God specifically tells us to- He kind of already did. For example, caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27). It’s in the Bible. It doesn’t say, care for them IF I tell you to- it says care for them. This may look different for different people. It may take the form of bringing baked goods to a widow you know personally, or mentoring a fatherless child in your congregation. Or it may be something more radical like going to a third world country and loving on the orphans who are not only fatherless but stricken by poverty as well. But either way, we were given the word that something is to be done by each one of us to care for our neighbors.

For Matt and I, it looks like becoming Foster Parents! How did that come about? Read on and see!

When we got back from Japan, I was so ready to live “Mission Hearted” as my last post explained. I was ready to pour myself into preparing to move to Japan and into the community we have here before we leave. So I applied and got accepted into an amazing Seminary and I took a job with a wonderful organization. Thus, leaving myself with no time to actually study Japanese OR invest in my community in the ways that I wished to. I was on the right track though, or so I thought, that’s what people do right? Go back to school and get a higher paying job. Right?

That was my comfort zone anyway. I love learning and I love working. Working brings me a ton of joy and fulfillment, I’ve been working for over a decade (which is a long time for someone my age), sometimes even juggling three jobs at once. This is what I know.

Work and study. Work and study.

Throughout this past summer working full-time, I was grateful for my job. I loved the people I worked with. But little things kept popping up that really tried my heart.

We’ve always wanted to adopt. I remember Matt and I on one of our first dates sitting on the beach talking about how we’d both love to adopt. I remember when I was a little girl on my way home from dance class, telling my mom that I wanted to adopt when I grow up. For years I’ve been looking into adopting from Japan, trying to at least form a timeline or figure out what is needed.

I learned a lot. Adoptions in Japan are difficult. Though there are tens of thousands of children living in orphanage type “institutions”, most never to see their parents again, and yet they are NOT up for adoption. The parents’ rights are not terminated. The children are stuck in a system that they cannot be adopted out of. Some of it has to do with the fact that many of the Japanese worship their ancestors. It’s just the norm there. But raising a child in an institution with no chance of having a mom or dad ever tuck them in at night? Heartbreaking.

I found this out a couple years ago and check back often to see if things have changed. My last check revealed that Fostering is taking hold in Japan. Though the parents have to agree to let their child live with another family before the child is approved to be in foster care. So one can see how that would be a rare occurrence.

Ministering to women and children are what God has put on my heart to do in Japan. I am hoping Japanese parents agree to let us foster their children. We have a chance- it would be a free english lesson for their child. That’s valuable over there.

Until then Matthew is building his teaching resume so we can move and I’ve been praying about what God would have us do here while we prepare for Japan.

I was convicted of my “work and study” tendencies. What about the doing part? What about showing what I have learned, instead of insecurely comparing myself to people who have grown up in the church with rock solid foundations of faith? What about the sometimes mess of a town that we call home here in America? What can we do here with the time we have left before we move overseas?

All of these things were swirling beneath the surface all summer long, most of the time, I was blissfully unaware of that. I didn’t take the time to put it all together. It wasn’t until the week before putting Archer into school, a wonderful Montessori School, that I put his little backpack on him to send him off and I just couldn’t do it. He’s only two I said to myself. My little boy. I reasoned that most mothers react this way and I just needed to get over it. After all, we needed me to work. Didn’t we? No. Literally the only reason I needed my job was to afford grad school and Archer’s daycare.

Suddenly I just could not come to terms with being a working mom if it was just so I could go to school for a degree that wouldn’t guarantee a job in Japan. (Disclaimer: There are many parents, noble and brave parents, who work so they can go to school to better provide for their families. Their kids do great in daycare and thrive amongst their friends. And I am proud to be their friends, you guys are GREAT parents! And your little ones are proud of you, I know it.)

But seeing Archer with his little raccoon backpack and realizing I wasn’t going to be the one to teach him his ABC’s, absolutely broke my heart. Especially because it wasn’t necessary for our family to survive.

That’s when it all started coming together.

If I am working 40 hours a week and getting my Masters, when am I going to have time to do all of the things that mean so much to me? The things that matter? When will I have time to spend with family before we move? To put James 1:27 in action? Having my Masters would greatly enrich my life, I’m sure, but if I want to Foster when we get to Japan and I want to minister to neighbors and friends there… I had to ask myself…. is it necessary?

A mentor of mine suggested perhaps I made the decision to go back to school out of fear. Fear that my faith foundation is not strong enough to withstand a cross-cultural, global, move away from my faith family. When really I should be trusting God and focusing on learning Japanese to effectively communicate what I do know- to communicate how God has changed my life and is in the life changing business.

So I had to take a step back.

Before we made any decisions, we talked over the budget. Ironically (or I’d claim Divinely) we had the exact amount of money, (if I withdrew from school), to become foster parents- right now! I had been praying about this for quite some time but could not figure out how to work it in with everything I thought I needed to do to prepare for Japan.

What better preparation for caring for the women and children of Japan than doing so right here and now? My heart BURST with joy. This is it! I’ve been trying to find a way to impact our community and I can think of no better way!

I wrote this post for many reasons.

There are some of you following this journey of ours who are wondering when on earth we are moving to Japan and why we would commit to something like fostering as it will keep us here for a couple of years. All I can say is- we’re following God as best as we know how and we’re trying to follow His will the best that we can.

Though we long to be in Japan, we’re grateful for this time here to prepare. To learn the language so when we get there we’ll be able to effectively communicate our faith. So we can live life alongside the Japanese.

I can see, even in our twists and turns, how He has used every decision in our lives to bring us closer together and closer to Him. I am grateful I went back to work full time this past summer, our family needed me to do that. I’m grateful I was able to choose to go back to being a Stay at Home Mom; I feel less resentment as my “work and study” mentality is slowing turning into “slow down and show love” discipleship. And I love it.

Lastly, I could not write this post if it were not for my husband. Matthew has been nothing but supportive and I am endlessly grateful that the words “I told you so” or “I knew better” have never crossed his lips. I am so grateful that he has supported my decision to go back to work and my longing to stay home again. I cannot express how amazed I am at his humble go-with-the-flow attitude. He always leaves room for me to grow and never judges just how much growth I need. Thank you, Matthew for guiding our little family and adapting to whatever God has for us here and now and in the days to come.

Prayer Requests:

If you’d like to join us in prayer, these are the areas we’re specifically lifting up:

-As always, the people of Japan. (Specifically the children living in institutions. We pray that their government will be convicted of the injustice of their adoption process).
-The families of the little ones we’ll be fostering here in America. (Healing, Restoration, Reuniting with their babies, finding Salvation and the Freedom of Grace).
-The children themselves. (Healing, Comfort, that God brings people to guide them on their walks with Jesus after they leave our home in case we are no longer in contact with them).
-Matt, Archer and I (To love as Jesus loves).
-That we get through this process of taking foster parenting classes, getting everything ready for the foster baby, and pass our home inspections.
-That we remain diligent in our language studies.

Thank you again, for all of your support as we try and follow God’s will for our lives. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

-K

Mission-Hearted

We’ve been back in America for three months now. Much has happened in that time. Many decisions have been made that bring us closer to Japan and prepare us for ministry there.

Yet it worried me how quickly we fell back into the day to day “American Dream” mentality when we got home. We were going through life with the Mission in mind, but not always in heart. My heart still longed for that little house with a white picket fence where I could sip sweet tea on my front porch and read books. There may be a time in my life where I’ll be able to live in such a way, but as for now, that is not what we have been called to.

Life in Japan will be very different from my Southern Living dream of comfort, ease, and lemonade. But God has been reopening my eyes to His Mission; to why I’m here. There’s too much at stake. There are too many lost people for me to sit back as if I’m already in Heaven. There’s a war to be a won and I’ve only been given a short time here on earth to do my part to help win it. I cannot justify such dreams of comfort and ease now that I’ve been reminded of all the lost in this world. All those who don’t know that they’re loved, who have never heard that they were made with a beautiful purpose, who are unaware of a beautiful Savior that can break chains, bring healing and bless them with unspeakable joy.

It’s actually kind of sad. I’ve been to third world countries, I’ve seen poverty first hand. Yet how quickly I forget. I needed to see first hand the of the toll of the spiritual poverty that wreaks havoc in Japan.  It’s not as obvious to the eye, but the heart can see that it is undeniable.

So as we prepare for our departure, though it seems a lifetime away, we will be diligent. We won’t lose heart. We will be mission minded as well as let the mission live in our hearts.

In preparation we will study the Word, we will study Japanese and we will live as if we’re already there. The time we have in Bradenton/Sarasota is just as vital as the time we will spend in Japan. There is brokenness running rampant in our very neighborhood. There’s so much to be done if only we’d open our eyes and hearts to see.

Lord help us see. And help us love. Help us love deeply those who washed their hands of “love” long ago. Help us show them Your love and the restoring indescribable difference it makes on the souls of man.

Help us love as You love.       -K

Hello from China :)

One flight down- two more to go! Our next one is 16 hours, we’re hoping we’ll be able to sleep on that one.  Matt and I don’t really have that “fall asleep anywhere” knack. But we’re hoping that it’ll kick in just this once. Well we’ve got about 5 and a half hours until our next flight- so I’ll post some pictures.

Below is a picture Matt took just moments ago when we landed in China. He said it still doesn’t count as being in China because we’re not leaving the airport. (Totally counts).

Now rewinding back to the last few days in Japan:

Below is a picture I took as we were exploring Kyoto. It summed up Japan for me- here’s this little old wooden building and they built this shiny modern building around it. Japan, at least the part we saw, is an interesting mix of old and new.

 

Below are some more pictures of our adventure in Nara 🙂

Well it’s taking about 10 minutes per picture, so we’ll post some more later!

Sayonara Japan, また会うまで

Our last three days in Japan went by far too quickly! We spent a day riding bikes around Kyoto and exploring the area. The 5 story Bookstore downtown was AMAZING and inspired me to try harder to learn Japanese so I can someday read those books! (They had about an 8 foot section of books in English).

Then the next day was by far my favorite! We managed to figure out the train system to get about 45 minutes north to meet with a missionary who has lived in Japan with his family for 20 years! We got to know each other over Green Tea Lattes and Coffee. His stories were inspiring and convicting. His advice was challenging and encouraging. We definitely found a kindred spirit in Japan!

He shared with us some of the different ways of getting to Japan- with an organization like the one he is with (Converge), verses being a “tent maker” missionary and getting a job in the country. There are positives and negatives to both.

Then afterwards we had a very sobering lunch at Subway (we thought we were doing pretty well with Japanese until we had to make 45684756 decisions about a sandwich in Japanese). We’ve got a lot to learn. (Rephrase- Matt has to brush up and I have to learn more than the 27 words I learned in Archer’s Japanese alphabet book!).

We then hopped on a train to Nara where we walked around the beautiful deer park! They were everywhere! I loved them 🙂

It was a refreshing break from the city life of Kyoto to spend time in the hills and mountains of Nara out in the fresh air. Since our trip to Nara we’ve been letting all of this new information sink in and “counting the costs” before we build in either America or Japan. We’re so grateful to have had the chance to come to Japan and see firsthand what God is doing over here and what the needs are. We appreciate every one of you for helping us to get here and even though this trip was short, it was so valuable to us and we’re beyond grateful! I’m not sure how the wifi will be in China (8 hour layover), but we may post from there too with some more pictures of our travels 🙂

Prayer & Ramen

 

こんにちは! Above is a really cool picture I found by some missionaries in Tokyo. They did a great job laying out The State of Missions in Japan and I really wanted to share it here! Below is the link to the pin, they get every bit of creative credit on that one!  🙂 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/540502392766342501/

On to our journey here- we’ve already found some favorite places, the grocery store (located in a giant mall), and made a few awkward attempts to communicate in Japanese. (I feel like my awkwardness is magnified times 10 here). But it’s fun! We’ve also walked more in the past 2 and a half days than I have in such a long time. DID I MENTION, The Ramen Street. OH MAN. It’s got like 10 different Ramen Shops, all a different type of Ramen from a different area of Japan. I have never had such Heavenly goodness  before and can now never go back to those 99 cent packaged Ramen imitators in America ever again! Oh my goodness.

Jetlag has given me a couple of opportunities to spend time with God in the quiet of 2 am. At first it was frustrating to be awake in the middle of the night but I’ve come to savor these quiet moments alone with God. Before we left I was reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and we’ve kind of taken him along on our journey so to speak. I brought a few of  his other books and was listening to some of his sermons last night. I love how God works. The things Tozer has been preaching on seemed to be unrelated to our journey here, but the more I think about who God is and who I am in the context of some ideas presented by Tozer, the more I feel I’m able to adapt to life in Japan and love the Japanese people even more. It’s amazing how at home we’re beginning to feel here even after 2 days. (Though of course we miss our little boy more than anything)!

We’re still spending quite a bit of time praying, we’ve done some prayer walks and randomly pray as we’re out and about and see the need (a perk to no one really speaking your language is you can just walk along praying out loud and they just assume we’re in conversation only with one another!). It’s kind of weird for me because most Mission Trips I’ve been on were service oriented and we were constantly working and serving the people. It’s been a little hard for me to adjust to our Vision Trip, I keep thinking that I’m not doing enough, but I’ve been reminded of the power of prayer, that just because I may not be actively serving a certain group of people, I can still make an impact. I kind of had the notion that we would set foot off the plane and immediately know if we were to pack up and move to Japan or never return after this visit. Of course God doesn’t work like that. So we pray. And we listen. And we explore and listen some more. And take a ton of pictures… and of course, eat Ramen.

-K

Our First Friend

Hello all, this is Matthew posting from Japan! We’re finally here! After a long flight and using my super rusty Japanese skills to find out where we needed to go, we are settled in at our hostel. Despite having arrived around 8pm Japan time, and going to sleep not long after, my body woke me up at 2:30 am. So there I sat for 4 hours, waiting for the sun and Kristen to get up. But, I was able to use the time to refresh some key phrases in Japanese.

As for our first day here, I have to admit it was a little over whelming. Right off the plane we were hustled through customs by a small army of employees; pointing, typing, and directing. A short whirlwind later and we had arrived, officially in Japan. Crowds and colorful posters abounded as Kristen and I tried very unsuccessfully to find a place where we could stand out of the way and figure out what were doing. After some searching, and a couple of failed attempts, we managed to buy our train tickets. (Which then lead to a fun game of ‘watch the foreigners try to figure out how to use the automatic ticket gates’.) Once through the gates and on, our best guess of, the correct train we found that it was mostly full and there were not seats left next to each other. So Kristen and I spent the hour train ride sitting next to strangers on the train.

Now to preface the next section, from what we’ve learned of the culture in Japan, they are a very ethnocentric people. Often, outsiders or foreigners are treated, not with hostility, but with and general disregard or understanding that they don’t quite belong. From the start we’ve gone in with an understanding that building relationships with Japanese people would be difficult and they may never quite accept an outsider on a deeper level. I was determined not to let that, or my fear of embracing my self by speaking terrible Japanese, stop us from trying. So when I found myself on an hour train ride sitting next to a young Japanese girl, I figured this would be a good a time as any to start. So after I finally felt confident I could say ‘Do you speak English?’ in Japanese, I turned to ask her just in time to see her put her headphones in and close her eyes to go to sleep. Well, that was a good try.

Fortunately, I was given a second chance when, after returning from the rest room, the young lady asked me in English if the sun was bothering me as she offered to pull the curtains shut. Since she seemed to have a good understanding of English I chanced a conversation by telling her I actually enjoyed the view because this was my first day in Japan. At this her eyes brighten and she began to ask me questions about our trip. Once we had finished some recommendations she had for us we moved on to backgrounds and differences between Americans and Japanese; including politics, English classes in Japan, and the embracing lack of perspective that Americans often exhibit. (Which she agreed with haha.) She even helped me brush up on my Japanese a little. All in all, it was a great conversation, better than I’ve had with many Americans. But most importantly, God showed me that no one is beyond His reach. For all the fear we have of being outsiders and not being accepted, of failing to build meaningful relationships, or of not knowing the language well enough, God has reminded me that He is greater. What’s more, the more adversity or greater the challenge, the more we get to see His mighty power at work. If this mission field was an easy one, what would we need God for? No, this is the perfect place for God to show Himself, so that no one can question whether it was Him or not. Only He is capable of breaching that gap and reaching out to his children in Japan, and in His unending grace He has allowed us to be a part of what He will accomplish.

As for the girl on the train, I never even got her name, but I will always remember her as the first friend we made in Japan, and not the last.

And continues….

“You go where you’re sent and stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got until you’re done.” -Jill Briscoe

I got to hear Jill speak at a conference I went to recently with some of my Bethel family. I had never heard of her before but she quickly became my favorite speakers. She’s a British woman who I’d venture to say is in her mid 80’s. The above quote is one she gave at the conference. I had forgotten that the IF conference had given us little card reminders from our weekend. I found this card yesterday as I cleaned out my purse for the trip, it the was perfect timing and I put it right with my passport in my snazzy passport holder that Chelsea got me.

I’ve read it a couple of times already and I have to say I find such comfort in her frank and to-the-point words. Especially coming from a woman who has spent so many years devoted to Christ. Here’s this woman in her 80’s still traveling the world, diligently going where she’s sent and doing what she is called to do.

Inspiring. Truly. Godly advice and encouragement seems to be so much more impactful when it comes from the lips of someone who is producing fruit. Who is living it in an undeniable way. So as we sit here, waiting to board our third and final flight that will bring us to our destination, I can’t help but hope that our little family is just as devoted to God and willing to go where we’re sent for the rest of our lives, not just this one trip. But a lifetime of “yes, Lord”.

Another thing Jill said was that when you get where you’re called- unpack as if you’ll never leave. 

That was huge for me. For the past 3 years since we’ve felt called to Japan, I’ve felt in between. We wanted to go, we were trying to find a way and  yet at the same time we started a family and bought our first home in America. It didn’t seem to add up. But I’m learning to be more flexible, well, to try and be more flexible and accept that I just can’t see the whole picture. But Japan is on our hearts, and we’re finally going!

So this week while we’re in Japan, we’re going to unpack like we’ll never leave and give all we’ve got! We pray we remember to be intentional with our time there as it is short. We pray that we make the most of every opportunity and see everyone we meet as God sees them.

Thank you for following along this far and praying with us- your prayers have power! Praying this last flight goes well and passes quickly.  As a dear friend reminded me, we may not necessarily like flying, but it’s part of the job.   -K

(Watch for our next post- Matt will be writing our first impressions of Japan!)

 

The Journey Begins

Today is the day! We’re on our way to the airport for the first step of our journey! As I sit in the backseat soaking up the Florida sun and listening to Oceans on Rachel’s iPod, I’m reminded of the first time I heard it and our call to Japan immediately came to mind. Three and a half years to get to this point. Three and a half years to get here. It seems so much longer and yet so unreal that we’re finally here, step one of our long journey to Asia. We’ve equipped ourselves with entertainment for the flights- though I’m praying that during these flights God prepares our heart and minds for what we will find when we land in Japan.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders, let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me- take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

That was my prayer then and I smile as I see just how big of a prayer it was. Bigger than I had ever imagined. We’ll be updating as we go along and we thank you all again for your support and ask for prayer that our hearts would be prepared and our minds focused and open to the task before us. We pray for the Japanese people, that God stirs in their hearts to be open with us even though we are “gaijin” foreigners.

さようならフロリダ Sayōnara Florida!    -K