A Bump in the Building Process

12122781_10153182667147467_5860218688400431935_nThinking about the building process of our new home, I can’t help but reflect on the applicable life lessons and challenges that have crept up.

For example, the unexpected bump that shakes your confidence.

Things have been going along in a predictable, not-very-exciting way. A few delays in the actual construction here and there, but there’s been steady progress overall. All of the paperwork has been submitted and reviewed (or so we thought.) A phone call in the morning assuring us that everything was great. A phone call later that afternoon about a detail that might affect EVERYTHING…WHAT?!? Nothing has changed. We didn’t have another child or open seven new accounts since all of the paperwork was filled out. How did a detail suddenly change things???

Blame it on inexperience or the sheer amount of personal situations that have unfortunately happened to this person in the last several months. The reasons for the delays in returning our phone calls were due to emergencies. And we understood. There were several of them; not sure what the circumstances were, but we accepted that they were dire situations. Except that it was affecting our confidence in the professionalism and attentiveness of this person.

The most recent situation was a house burning down of someone who works alongside this person. A tragedy for sure. We sent our heartfelt condolences when once again a delay was explained by this happening.

But why this would affect us? (I mean outside of a human-to-human level of feeling awful that something like this happened to someone else and hoping that they recover from this quickly – that the insurance goes through speedily and that they have all of their immediate needs taken care of…)

Outside of the business aspect of the relationship mentioned above, this type of scenario plays out in many other types of relationships. The friend that bails on you because a dramatic situation came up yet again. The family member who is notoriously unreliable, always with a handy excuse. Does this sound like someone you know?

There’s a balance in life. Things you take responsibility for and things that fall outside of your responsibility. Things you choose to get involved in and things you step away from. Things that bring peace to your heart and things that twist your gut. And when your gut gets twisted, it is IMPERATIVE that you listen to it. It’s not a lack of compassion when you choose to take a step back from a situation and/or person that robs your peace and feels unsteady. I think it’s wisdom to do so. Only from a place of stability can you wait for the confusion to clear up and assess the situation clearly. Then you can take the steps to help yourself as well as possibly benefit the person who is caught up in the turmoil/drama/challenge. I have had to do this in several personal relationships and now with this situation. So that, along with our house being settled, my heart is taken care of and not led on an emotional rollercoaster. Yet again.

A New Season

1231545_10151652567112467_1549183529_nWe just found out the closing date on our new home, which is in two months. Interestingly, we will be moving out of our current rental just about four years to the day we moved in.

The seasons of life.

Four years ago, we didn’t know what state we would be living in…in more ways than the geographical location. A job opened on the west coast but we were visiting family on the east coast, while our belongings were still in Colorado. Slowly the picture came together, and we were able to secure this rental in Colorado.

A charming home in a neighborhood with many friends, it was a soft landing place and enabled us to slowly build back our lives.

I have such fond memories of our first days in the house! It snowed heavily right after our POD was delivered, and I didn’t have a shovel. So I used a small boogie board to clear snow off of the van in order to get to the store! Our neighbor took pity on us and left his array of shovels on our walkway. The kids and I slept in sleeping bags in one of the bedrooms, drawing comfort in snuggling together as we unpacked our treasures and set about establishing our new home. Knowing people in our neighborhood helped make the transition easier – friends dropped in with balloons and treats to welcome us back to Colorado.

I am so grateful for the time we had in this home. We had an awesome management company and great neighbors that helped make our time here special. As we transition to our forever home, I will recall the lessons I learned about God’s faithfulness throughout our time in this house. He saw us through job changes, physical and emotional storms including unexpected tornadoes that threatened to devastate us. New ideas and opportunities blossomed here, like the roses I tended to, some with thorns that had to be dealt with carefully. We laughed, we cried, we danced and played hide and seek…many special memories were made within these walls. Thank You, Lord, for sheltering us here.

Lost In Translation Part 2

You didn’t ask for this
Nobody ever would
Caught in the middle of this dysfunction
It’s your sad reality
It’s your messed up family tree…

No, this is not your legacy, this is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you
This is not your meant to be
I can break the chains that bind you

You’re my child
You’re my chosen…
And I will restore
All that was broken
You are loved, You are loved
“Family Tree” by Matthew West

An assignment in my Contemporary/Choreography class a few weeks ago: a 30-45 second original dance to the theme “My Story.”

In life and with all aspects of my art, I passionately believe in pouring my heart into it completely. I don’t do mediocre. It’s pretty much all or nothing with me. I am compelled to give it my all.

Though this was “just an assignment for class,” for me in was the first time I pulled back the veil in dance to share a portion of my story. The week leading up to class was emotional, as I cut music and worked on the choreography. I felt so vulnerable. Raw. Sad. The truth of what I experienced and lived through, things I don’t think about often, brought to the forefront made me cry.12308589_10153255462172467_5097045190231507033_n

I had my back to the class as the song started. With my wrists bound with a long red scarf, I slowly turned around. Then I danced the struggle and the torment. Crushed by hopelessness. With no one to help me, no one safe. I was alone.

When he sings, “I can break the chains that bind you,” my hands were set free, and I raised the red scarf over my head in victory. Next the scarf gently draped my head, and I wrapped each corner around me in an embrace.

The song makes this declaration from the Lord: This was NOT my legacy, NOT my destiny. Yesterday and the family system I grew up in DOES NOT define me. What they said about me was NOT my meant to be. I’m His child, I’m His Chosen. I am loved. I am loved!

The Lost in Translation part, similar to my art class assignment, was the same sensation of blank faces staring back at me. The lack of response or feedback. Maybe they didn’t understand what I shared and how significant it was for me. But I did the dance for me and for the Lord, to declare what He has done for me. He is continually restoring me, all that was broken and damaged. His hands are gentle, His voice is soft. He is dependable, kind and loving. He is my Father, a very Good, Good Father.

Sowing A Smile

75923_10151151524047467_976533850_nOne of our favorite holiday traditions as a family is to go shopping (on Black Friday and throughout the Christmas season) and to SMILE.

At others shoppers (the grumpier, the better!) Cashiers and employees. The poor guy in the parking lot trying to herd stray shopping carts. Drivers on the road. It’s one of the best gifts we can give, and it seems to leave a positive impact. Just this morning, the cashier at Target remarked that it was so refreshing to have happy customers and to see our smiles! We had just missed a huge wave of shoppers, and even the barista at Starbucks seemed a little overwhelmed by the recent stampede!

Let’s all remember that the true spirit of this season is JOY. And may our countenance and behavior reflect the many blessings we’ve already received – things that just can’t be found underneath the Christmas tree.

The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

10835381_10152501393112467_7581139893709728809_oThanksgiving in my childhood years was. Stressful. Not because of the cooking and the cleaning and the avalanche of family members – the weird uncle and obnoxious cousins, pinched cheeks and ugly sweaters. Sigh. I only dreamed of those things!

Stressful because we usually spent the day at the house of an older couple my parents knew who didn’t have any children. They were warm and put out quite a spread, but it was a nerve-wracking day in their pristine house with formal furniture and lots of polite conversation without a comfy corner to recline in or let down your guard for one minute to be a kid. After dinner options were either hanging out with a group of older ladies gossiping about menial things or in the living room with the men passed out in front of the football game. FUN.

In my older teen years, Thanksgiving…WASN’T. Those were the years when my parents’ marriage was a war zone. My mom had by then adopted the habit of not speaking to me for months at a time, when hitting me was no longer an option (since I was big enough to at least stop her and/or intimidate her, though I never retaliated back) to take out her frustration and all consuming rage. My father retreated further into his passive shell and only poked out to go to work and back.

One particularly memorable Thanksgiving, my dad was away all day “at work” (a part-time job he had at a hobby shop that enabled him to be away from home every day after his regular job.) The house was silent (since this fell in a period of time when I an “untouchable.”) Suddenly my Mom and sister drove away in the late afternoon, just as the sun was going down on this miserable Thanksgiving day.

A few hours later, some high school friends called me to ask if I wanted to go out. Relief and joy washed over me as I got ready. And when I answered the doorbell, my friends were standing there with paper plates loaded with food from their Thanksgiving dinners!

I cried as I gobbled up the food in the car, so thankful for friends who gave me this incredible gift. To know that I wasn’t alone. That someone saw my pain and stepped in to extend love and warmth and to share from their plenty. This was the worst but also one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.

Art Reflection

12003375_10153145910447467_5916296914883676272_nThis is my favorite painting.

The texture of the tree bark. The significance of the large tree sheltering the medium tree with another one growing in the background.

It speaks to me of legacy. strength. time and patience. nurturing. and roots that go deep.

Each time before a blank canvas is somewhat terrifying (like a new blog post!) But after a deep breath and a moment to look within, a picture starts to take shape and words begin to flow. I am in awe of the process of creating and feel so privileged to be able to dabble and scribble and express my heart! These times of reflection and drawing out, sacred moments, are an act of worship and thanksgiving.

Lost In Translation

10991604_10152691024337467_6638588084589114508_oI grew up in a bicultural/bilingual family and moved to the United States from Japan when I was eleven years old. My American grandmother visited us in Japan when I was seven years old, and one of her favorite memories was of me switching from English to Japanese mid-sentence. I thought everybody spoke the way that we did at home (in both languages) and couldn’t believe that she didn’t understand me!

Several months ago, I had an assignment as part of an art small group to share about myself, using any medium…I felt inspired to tell my story with pictures and photoshopped my face onto numerous cultural images (this is just a sampling of them.)

With my large eyes, I didn’t resemble my Japanese relatives but I also didn’t look like my American family either. I shared about a personal epiphany I had at around age eight when I saw a picture of a lady from Pakistan who had almond eyes, nose and fuller lips like me – I must be Pakistani! Something clicked within me at that moment, and I used to drape my bedsheets around me like a sari in an attempt to express my newfound cultural identification! Though I knew I really wasn’t from there, it was a tremendous relief to know that I looked like someone.

Depending on the length, style and color of my hair and whether I was tan or more fair, I was mistaken for being many different nationalities. It was comical at times when someone insisted that I was a certain nationality and therefore SHOULD be able to speak that language. But the times when someone made the assumption that I was a snob for not engaging in conversation in the native language, therefore treating me rudely, was challenging.

All throughout my growing up years into adulthood, I pondered the purpose of not looking like anyone in my family. Not quite Japanese and not American either. I eventually drew the conclusion that this was the intention of my Maker and that He had a specific purpose for creating me this way! I didn’t fit in anywhere because it was His intention that I fit in everywhere!

10425075_10152196619107467_7367656048212684475_n

These rough and tumble kids were affectionately known as “Miki’s Sheep;” they waited for me daily and we would play games or have lessons together.

I helped a friend teach ESL (English as a Second Language), and some middle eastern ladies were quite welcoming to me because they thought my family was from that part of the world. When I worked overseas in Ethiopia and Bulgaria with an international humanitarian organization, I was often assumed to be part something…and it often gained me access to people and places.

The art small group (that I told the story of my background and the photoshopped pictures with) didn’t seem to understand what I shared and how significant it was for me…at the end I felt like a bunch of blank faces were staring at me. But as the picture and purpose for my life has come into sharper focus, I KNOW what a unique gift it is that God has given to me.