Monday, October 24, 2011


i feel like i haven't been productive this week at all. yes it's only Tuesday afternoon. and yes i am STILL without a team and trying to just rebuild my ministry from last year by myself. but i hate feeling unproductive, and as i read newsletter after newsletter of other STINT friends and i see all the ministry things they are doing in their other countries, i start to judge myself. i start to think, "what am i doing?" and i start feeling guilty and lazy and soon enough Satan's amplified that into lies that i'm not a "good enough missionary" and i'm disappointing God. of course that's not true. it is by GRACE we have been saved (ephesians 2:8), not by works. God doesn't love me less because i watched the Rangers World Series game instead of watching an online sermon. (besides- God's a Rangers fan, right?) so why are we always beating ourselves up? i had an epiphany the other day and realized i try so hard to meet the end result, i focus so much on the the product, but then i'm just thinking of myself, of making myself better, not the relationship with God that leads to that end result. when i just think about my sanctification or improvement, i'm just thinking about myself and not just loving God. and if we just think about the end result, it's just about us, and we'll never truly understand God's love or our relationship with Him.

we talked about the prodigal son at church on Sunday. my pastor pointed out that the son had so many apologies prepared for his father, but his father wouldn't even let him say anything, because it didn't matter anymore. what mattered was that he came back. he came home. his father overwhelmed him with his love and wouldn't even let him apologize for his actions, but immediately called for celebration. and that's what God does for us. He doesn't need our apologies. His grace overwhelms everything we've done and everything we will do in the future.

this is a song we sang and reminded me what my relationship with God really is, entitled You Are My Father:

the first verse says:
"It doesn't matter what i've done
Your love's for me
You wipe away my tears, You lift me when i fall
My life is saved by the mercy of Your grace..."

it's so true. and yet so easy to forget in this world of individualism and working hard and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and proving to people that you are worthy. ESPECIALLY in Japan. if you think it's bad in America, Japan is 10x worse. your identity is COMPLETELY based on your works. and if you fail at all, you've dishonored your family. that's why there are over 100 suicides every day in Japan, why there is one suicide every 15 minutes in this broken country. because they are working so hard to achieve impossible goals and if they fail, they feel that their lives are worthless. because of the grace of God, we are NOT failures. we are new creations even on our worst day! even when we've done nothing to deserve it. on Saturday i went to homeless church and gave Tanaka-san (a little old lady who's been homeless over 30 years) a little present from America- some almond hand lotion b/c her hands are always so dry, some chocolate, a little silver "Cross in my Pocket", a card that said "God loves you"...nothing too fancy. but she almost refused to take it, exclaiming, "But i have done nothing to deserve this!" i wanted to yell in exasperation, "that's why it's a PRESENT!" then she forced me to take some chocolate and nori (dried seaweed). she never allows me to give her anything unless i take something in return. it's such a Japanese culture thing to not accept anything for free, to not accept a present unless you can give one in return. it's so aggravating and exasperating. but it hit me- how many times do i do that to God? i beat myself up because i feel unworthy of His love and i try to earn it by doing good things. it's like me telling God his grace isn't good enough to cover my sins and i still have to prove myself.

"All that trying to prove you are enough has already been proven." - John Lynch

this is a video i've posted before, but i watched it again today and, like every time i watch it, it made me cry. if you've got 30 minutes to spare, watch it. it changes your whole perspective of what grace and freedom is:

may the Lord bless you and overwhelm you with His grace and freedom every day!

PS CoE update: still no CoEs. please please pray God provides them this week so my team can finally get here! but good news- my roommate Christina finally got her cast off her arm, so she's got two arms again! praise God for healing! and selfishly, i'm excited that i no longer have to do all the cleaning and laundry etc. by myself...

Monday, October 17, 2011

3 Weeks Later...

3 weeks ago i left America to begin my 2nd year of STINT. unfortunately, the rest of my STINT team did not leave with me, and thus i began my adventure alone. i thought...well i guess i didn't know what i thought, but i definitely did not think that 3 weeks later i would still be without a STINT team.

and yet that is the case. 3 weeks later, and no word about my team's Certificates of Eligibility needed to get their visas. i'm in Japan for my STINT year, but it doesn't feel like my STINT year has really begun yet because my team isn't with me. it's lonely, to be honest. and it's so different than how i expected my 2nd year to begin. of course, there are very few times in my life when things go exactly the way i think they will. God always reminds me that His plans are better than mine. and yet, during times such as this, it's so hard to understand His plans. i never realized how difficult STINT would be without a team. yes, i have a wonderful roommate (such a blessing that she is here with me) but she's joining JCCC Staff- she's got her own priorities, mainly language school right now. she doesn't go to campus with me. when i go to campus, i'm alone. it's not fun. i've pretty much just been reconnecting w/ students from last year, going to Paddy meetings and Samurai practices, but still, going to campus by yourself all the time is not easy.

i know i sound kind of whiney...i'm so blessed that i actually get to be in Japan. i know the rest of my team is way more frustrated than i am. at least i'm here. i'm able to do ministry in Tokyo. i should be thankful. and i am. i just wish the other members of my team were here as well.

this past week i've been really homesick, which i think may partially be because i'm by myself here. last year i really didn't get homesick until Christmas. but i've been so much more homesick this year. i'm not really a fan. i was sick all last week too so that really didn't help- being sick in a foreign country always makes you appreciate home a lot more.

but in all this i'm reminded that we cannot store up treasures here anyway, that this earth is not our true home, and that wherever i am, God is with me. there's an Owl City song that has been some comfort here. i imagine God singing it to me, and He says:

"Circle me and the needle
Moves gracefully back and forth
If my heart was a compass, you'd be north
Risk it all 'cause I'll catch you if you fall
Wherever you go
If my heart was a house, you'd be home..."

here's the song if you're interested in listening:

please please keep praying my team's CoEs will arrive this week and they'll be able to get their visas with miraculous speed and they can get to Tokyo by next week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Could Have Been...

this post isn't really about Japan. but i guess Japan was an instigator.

some of you know, some of you don't, but i used to be a competitive gymnast. i started gymnastics when i was about 2 1/2 years old, after teaching myself how to do a forward roll while watching the World Championships on TV. after that, i lived and breathed gymnastics. a tape of the World Championships with my idol Kim Zmeskal was labeled "Kimi's Favorite Gymnastics Tape." i got asked to join my first team when i was 4 years old. when i was 5, i moved to World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) where i spent the next 6 years of my life working my butt off with the dream of an Olympic medal. i had 2 mats, a beam, a chin up bar and a trampoline in my room. gymnastics was my identity. i was training Level 9, and in another few years those Olympic dreams might have come true. but i quit. because all the other girls on my team started homeschooling and i didn't want to. i didn't want to completely give up my life for Olympic dreams. because what if they stayed just that- dreams? i didn't want to take the risk.

last night i went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and saw the US Women's Gymnastics team win the team final at the World Championships. it was so exciting, but i felt almost detached from it all. maybe because deep down i wanted so badly for it to be me on that podium. i looked at those girls, 6-7 years younger than me, and i saw a dream i'd never get. i googled USA Gymnastics tonight and one of the first images to come up was an iconic poster of Kim Zmeskal in a signature pose- a poster i had on my wall for years as a child, a poster i looked at every day and thought "someday, that's going to be me." and it made me look back and wonder what might have happened if i hadn't quit. would i have been on that 2004 or 2008 Olympic team. the past 2 Olympic All-Around gold medalists (Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin) were from my old gym, WOGA. could i have been with them?

it's hard for me to say i regret quitting. because i quit gymnastics, i was able to reclaim my childhood and lead a relatively normal teenage life, i fell in love with dance and theatre, i had friends outside of gymnastics and enjoyed normal middle school and high school activities. i was able to go to USC and discover who i really am and rediscover a relationship with Jesus. i'm in Japan right now because of USC Cru. i wouldn't have had any of those experiences if i'd stayed in gymnastics. and i was still able to do high school gymnastics and became the first girl from my school to ever make the Texas National Team and compete at Nationals. i ended my career on a good note. making the National Team was one of the best moments of my life. but still... it's hard not to wonder, especially when i watch a huge gymnastics competition.

i seem to have this thing where because i enjoy many different things, i never really commit to one thing. i used to think that it made me unique, but i'm not sure if it's actually good. because i think it gives me an excuse to never really take a chance. never really give it my all. i could have been a great gymnast. but i quit. and watching Glee tonight, i realized i never really committed to theatre or dancing either. i didn't really quit those either, but i never put in as much effort as i could because i was doing 20 other different things. and now i'm in Japan, and i love it, and i know God has called me here, but it's hard not to see my friends in LA or New York living their dreams and not wish i was there too. but at the same time, i'm a bit afraid that if i was, would i be good enough?

isn't that what we're always wondering? am i good enough? what if i'm NOT good enough? thankfully we have a God whom we don't have to compete for, we don't have to try for, because He loves us already. He loves us even when we fall, when we fail, when we screw up. and that alone should make us good enough.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


one week ago i left for Japan for my second year of STINT (Short-Term International Intern) with Campus Crusade for Christ. yesterday i realized that it was my one year anniversary of when i arrived in Tokyo last year. it was weird. and cool. and crazy. and once again, just weird that it's been a year.

when i arrived at my apartment, i was greeted by Jessica, an International Campus Staff (ICS) who lives 2 doors down from me, and my new roommate Christina, who is also an ICS. right before i arrived in Tokyo, Christina broke one arm and sprained the other in a bike accident so she had one arm in a sling when i arrived. we've gotten very close this past week because i've had to help her a lot but her right arm (the sprained one) has gotten so much stronger and she can do a lot more by herself now. Wednesday and Thursday i spent getting paperwork in order to renew my visa, and Friday i submitted all my paperwork.

these past few days i've been feeling the impact of the responsibility of being the only Japan re-stinter. i never really realized how much i relied on the re-stinters last year, to answer questions, to take me places, etc. now i'm the one who has to know where to go, like our other Japan CCC office or the Immigration Office. i've been learning to get to as many places as i can so i can show my team once they arrive. one exciting new place Christina took me to- a soft cream shop in Mitaka! the owner is sooo nice and i got pumpkin soft cream. sounds weird but it was delicious!
i've also been slowly easing back into ministry- Friday night i went to Paddy (Waseda English Club) for the first time and it was such a joy to see old friends and meet new ones! it was a bit bittersweet though- i definitely missed my former teammate Ariel- he was the one who first introduced me to Paddy and brought me up as his Paddy protege. and now he's gone and i'm the one to pass the torch to the new stinters. it's weird. i feel old. and once again, responsible.

Saturday i did some laundry and cleaning and spent several hours sorting through and translating the 180 emails i had on my phone from Odori Samurai, my traditional Japanese dance group- they have a mailing list that they use to send emails to all 150 members, and while many of the emails were about practices or festivals i missed while i was in America, there were about 50 that i had to struggle to translate or have someone else translate for me so i could see if they were important. it was rather tedious to say the least, or as we say in Japan, "mendokusai"(or めんどくさい). missing 3 months of practice and festivals has left me very behind. i'm planning on going to practice at least 3 times this week to try and get caught up a bit. they've learned some new dances that i'm not sure if i'll be able to learn, but i'm hopeful. they are about to transition into new leaders for the year, and the new president/leader is my friend Rock, who speaks English relatively well. i sent him an email saying i was back in Tokyo, and he asked me to call him, so i did, and i realized that he probably hasn't spoken english since i left Japan. he sounded a bit nervous on the phone. but i really appreciated his effort. it is going to be a challenge to catch up though, which makes me nervous since i always feel a bit behind already since i normally don't understand what's going on during practices. i'm going to go to practice tonight for the first time and not gonna lie, i'm nervous. i hope they're excited that i'm's so easy to believe the lies Satan puts in my head that i'm annoying or am a burden to them. i'm excited to see them though- they are such wonderful crazy Japanese people.

Sunday i went back my church, New Hope, and it was such a blessing to see everyone and worship together. the hula praise team performed too which is always a treat-
it's such a blessing that even though i'm halfway around the world, i can still worship God with other brothers and sisters. please please please keep praying that my new team of brothers and sisters can come to Japan by the end of this week! still no word on their CoEs...and 4 of them are still raising support. if you would like to support them, please go to and search either Amanda Sever, Christine Harada, Amy Ledin or Nikki Maldonado. (as of now, Amanda and Christine need the most support)

thank you for your interest in God's work in Japan! God bless!