I do not need to keep trying. I do not need to earn His love.
I woke up this morning remembering the church service I went to a couple months ago where one of the leaders said that God will meet you in the place you are at. You do not need to keep trying, you do not need to be better before He comes.

Like the prodigal son, as soon as God sees you walking in the distance, He hikes up his robes and runs at full speed to meet you. If that’s not passion, what is? God is passionate about us! Do we realize the deep longing He feels for us?

Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, nothing. Not life nor death, angels nor demons, not height to depth. I don’t have to earn it, I don’t have to be perfect to receive it. God is waiting for me to come and be filled with His love, He is anxiously waiting to bless us with the love that transcends any other love we could possible imagine.

I do not need to keep trying, or earn His love.

It’s free.

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2012 in review

In the last days of 2012, i find myself looking back on this eventful year, and notice the many changes in and around me.

In February, my beloved gramps finally passed away. He was 96, I believe, and died in his sleep. He is my father’s dad, so of course I felt some connection to him, beyond a typical grandpa-granddaughter relationship: I always had him on a pedestal, always loved him more than I could describe. Visits to his farm were filled with warmth, comfort, love and I will never forget his cute laugh or his strong hands. But over the years, Alzheimers took its toll, and he slowly forgot. And I moved away to college in 2004, so i only saw him only a handful of times since then. So it’s not surprising, really, when I did get a chance to visit him: “who are you? lois’ kids?” “no, we’re Robbie’s kids” “Oh, where’s Robbie?” “He died..” “Oh…” Sometimes mom would tell him Robbie just went to the store, because it was too hard to replay this conversation ten times or more during our visit. I think it was the last time when he thought we were from some magazine or something.

So when my mom called me after church to tell me he died, of course I had to go home right away, and I have no regrets about that, though it was costly, short, and sad, and another outcome was much less than desirable, I am very glad I went. My aunt and uncle also decided to have his memorial in the end of March, thankfully on my holidays, so I also went back to ontario for a week then.

March was an interesting month. I decided to not wash my hair with shampoo the entire month, just to experiment. It was gross. Will not do again. I also expanded my horizons: travelled to Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal! Got to see some old friends and new places. Will do again.

In May, I got into a pretty intense fight with my (now ex-) roommate/friend, had two other (then mutual) friends get involved, as well as some family, a lawyer, and my nanny family. The short story is: I did what I could do to make it work with ex-roommate, let my friends bully me into doing something I really didn’t want to do, my mom helped us come to a compromise, but the friends couldn’t believe I would do what I did, and forwarded a personal email to my roommate, who promptly kicked me out with thirty minutes, threatening to call the cops had I not vacated in that time. Luckily my nanny mom came to my rescue, I got most of my stuff, and moved in with my nanny family until July.

During May, June and July, I was trying to iron out plans for the fall: I wanted to go to college to get my ECE diploma, but it seems God had other plans for me. That fell through, and I thought it would be good to spend a year working before going to college.

Then in August, I went to Uganda on a mission trip. This trip changed my life in two ways. 1: opened my eyes to God’s faithfulness to those who continue to trust Him, even though it a) takes a very long time and b) seems impossible. 2: I met the man of my dreams there, and have quickly made plans to move to uganda next fall. That was an easy decision to make anyway, because Africa has always been on my heart. Before I even thought about going to Japan, I’ve wanted to go to Africa. I felt God saying one day, after hearing about a mission trip my church had sponsered, that “yes, I would go to Africa” so in my heart, I just set it aside until it could become reality. (I’m hesitant to say “God said I would go”, for a few reasons, but at the very least, I felt confident in the impression that I would be going, but not yet, so just wait.)

When I returned, I stayed with one of the ladies who came with me to Uganda, and she freaked out that I wouldn’t leave her place, and it was awkward between us.

But then, in September, I was able to move in with a close friend, someone I admire and enjoy. We’ve been good friends since 2008, and rooming with her has been amazing. I’ve been challenged and encouraged in so many ways, even in the past four months we’ve been rooming together.

And now, an end and an new beginning. I wonder what the next year will bring.

The Pearl of Africa: W5

Who

For most of the past year, I had been volunteering at the CHAI Centre for New Immigrants, where I met Alan Wiebe. One fateful day in March, he told me about an upcoming mission trip he was leading to Uganda. You may or may not know, but I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, even before I had any inkling of desire to go to Japan. I’ve always considered my first “mission call” was to go to Africa. So when he invited me to go, I jumped at the chance, he sent me the application form, and with a few hesitations, I filled it out and was accepted to join the team. We were eleven on the team to Uganda: Alan and Brenda (the leaders), Toni and Rob, Preston, Coralee, Debbie, Katherine, Gail, Tymin, and myself. An eclectic bunch were we, who didn’t even know each other until the first meeting (and I was the only one from another church!)

What

We met a handful of times before we departed Canadian soil to “plan” our activities and decide who could bring what, etc. But as we quickly learned, one must be flexible in Africa. Just two weeks before we left, we learned that the property of the church we planned to build in a village was already marked for government use, so we ended up going to an entirely different district — although the mission to build a church and do children’s ministry was the same.

When

We left Canada on July 29 and returned on August 12th. Those are actually the only dates I am sure of: no watch or phone were the leading factors to the detriment of my ability to keep track of time. Also, I was having so much fun, and working so hard (haha who am I kidding? I was just working). It took about 36 hours to actually get to Uganda, and about 48 to return to Canada (I think… again, hazy on the times..). We spent eight days working in the village, helping to build the church (really we just moved bricks) and do children’s ministry, hand out mosquito nets (we distributed 750 to the community around the church) and hold a medical clinic (which served 386 children from the community around the church). We also spent a couple days in Kampala: we visited a few orphanages, went to a tourist market (ugh, tourists), saw the sights, were accosted by guys selling things as we crawled through Kampala’s traffic (one guy was selling knockoff sunglasses, and had a pair exactly like the ones I was wearing. it was so funny, he was trying to sell to Tymin, and said “you can look like sister”, pointing to me). Gosh, Uganda is so dirty! I remarked to Ivan. Even though there was dirt everywhere (even on the savages skin! wow, they were dark!), it was — unless it was garbage dirt — beautiful, red dirt. Then immediately upon speaking those words, I saw a sign on a building: “See Dirt Differently”, and now Ivan is always joking to me to see dirt differently. whatever, it’s funny to us. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this so late at night, I’m pretty tired, and just typing whatever comes into my mind. So I’ll take a break here and continue tomorrow after work.

Where

We knew we were going to Uganda, and those in charge of the decision were looking into what village we’d go to. We were told such-and-such a place, but in true African fashion, as mentioned before, that changed, and we ended up serving the Lord in a small trading centre, Kalagi. Samuel and his wife (Mama!) and children moved there seven years ago and started Christ Our Vision Community Church.

Why

The main purpose, we were told, of the mission, was to help build a church for the local believers. That struck us all as amusing, because there were three men and 8 women on the team. “Why would God put 8 women on an 11-man team for a construction job?” Toni asked one day. We all laughed, and realized it was because there were hundreds of children in Kalagi who needed to be cared for. We had set aside one day for children’s ministry, and at least 100 kids showed up in the morning, and by the time we had finished our activities and were heading home, a couple more hundred had arrived! We quickly lost track of the groups, but it didn’t matter anymore: the kids were happy, we loved loving them, and everyone had a fantastic time! There was not one complaint among the team, we were so thankful that we could be a part of God’s great work in Kalagi, Uganda.

And there was more to it than just having fun and blessing the kids with a little, plastic diamond (representing how God cherishes them as we cherish a little diamond) and some stickers. One the last two days we were in Kalagi, we decided to have a medical clinic. Some doctors came in from the city, Coralee is a nurse, and one of our translators, Rogers, was studying to be a doctor, and Toni is a dentist’s assistant. We set up the clinic in the half finished church (Preston was even helping with construction while we were doctoring these children! Oh, Africa!),  and the kids went through a couple stations: 1) Registration: record name, height, weight; 2)Spiritual Care: receive a gift (wordless gospel bracelet or stickers) and prayer; 3) Doctor Visit; 4) Dental Check (Toni brought 200 toothbrushes and little packs of toothpaste, which she ran out of after the first day, so we just didn’t have this station on the second day); and 5) Pharmacy, where they received medicine the doctor prescribed. At first, I was stationed at the registration, taking the height and weight while Brenda recorded it. But Katherine, who was at spiritual care, was reeling from the emotions of praying for each child, she was very sensitive. So she asked me if we could switch, and then for the rest of the medical clinic, I was praying for the children. And my friend Faqim, who previously called me his muzungu mother (muzungu means “white person”, or “whitey”, as I like to say!), came and sat with me. He fell asleep, and I sat there with him for over an hour! Oh, Faqim! When we first showed up to the church, everyone was waving with huge grins on their faces. And there was one little, pantsless boy shyly smiling at the muzungus. He disappeared for a while, then came back with heavy sweat pants on! Then at the welcome speech made by Pastor Samuel, he sat with me, and became my African boy:)

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and I am so very glad I could be a part of it.

 

resentment

There is so much to be resentful about. To God, for allowing sin in this world; to my dad, for dying when I was so young; to people who have hurt and betrayed me; the list goes on.

This morning, my 2-year-old nanny boy was yelling at me to stop talking when I was trying (calmly, I thought) to explain to him why he couldn’t play with the CD player’s plug in his room. I put him in his bed for a time out, and left thinking that I had two choices.

1) Stay angry and make the rest of the day miserable;

2) Get over myself. Realize he’s only almost three years old and didn’t yell at me because he hates me.

After seeing these two choices and their consequences so clearly, I realized how deeply resentment affects us. Recently I had a huge argument with my roommate, and it doesn’t look good for our future. We have been friends for almost eight years, but I can’t foresee a future for us anymore. In the midst of our argument, I could only see two options (because although I was willing to compromise, she wasn’t, so it was all or nothing):

1) She would resent me; or

2) I would resent her.

Somehow, it is easier for me to deal with my anger towards her than having her be angry towards me. I hate the way our situation has turned out, and either way it would have been difficult. What’s done is done, however, and I have to deal with the consequences (a.k.a., do what I said I’d do), and work through my emotions. I am consumed by frustration (for not being understood) and anger (for how she talked about me to other people by not telling the whole truth to people she told the situation to, thus making me out to be a tool).  I have two choices.

1) Be like Saul, and let me resentment and anger destroy me.

2) Be like David, and let God bring me through this.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to submit to the offender again. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with them. Yes, you have to be kind (love your enemies, anyone?), yes you have to treat them with respect (everyone deserves respect), but that doesn’t mean I have to talk to her, be friends with her on facebook, or anything. I will keep my distance, and hopefully it won’t effect my social life too much (it has affected two of our mutual friends, as they took her side and the three of them couldn’t understand my position).

But if I let resentment towards her (and towards the aforementioned two friends) build up and consume me, I will lose my joy and contentment that I once held so dear. Maybe this is why I have been struggling in the joy department this past year. Maybe moving out and being free from her will allow me to blossom again.

What’s done is done. I have to let it go, or I will lose myself. I have to say goodbye, or I will keep resenting her.

oh, my life

Why do all life changes seem to happen at once? Since I started being a nanny, there have only been a few major life changes up until mid-February. I started Japanese lessons, winter came… nothing else really comes to mind.

And then. February 12. I consider this the first of many events that are shaping my future.

After church, I was chatting with some friends, and my cell rings. It’s my family. Odd, they know I don’t have a long distance plan. Oh, what’s that? Grandpa died this morning? Well then. Off to the airport Sunday evening to go to his viewing, and returned on Tuesday afternoon. It was good to be there with my family, and although it was expensive, my family did help me out a bit. I’m so glad I went.

Two weeks later, I went to calgary to see stephanie and go to a conference. I wanted to go mostly to see my friend, and secondly to see a new city and expand my horizons. I wasn’t really looking forward to going to the conference, but carl medearis was a very encouraging speaker, and what he talked about was the next step in what God has been teaching me about being in relationship with him.

Two weeks after that, my sister came to visit, and it was so nice to see her. She arrived on Thursday, we spent the next three days together, and I could tell that we were going to get in a huge fight soon. But we both realized that it wasn’t worth it (especially because she was only going to be in town for a couple more days!), and carried on.

I took Susan to the airport to catch her flight home, and I was so lonely on the way home. I got home, checked my email, and found out that I was on the team to go to Uganda! So, July 29 to August 11 will be spent in Africa (!!), helping the Ugandans with..life. My dream will be fulfilled! And then, I found out the flight to Uganda goes through amsterdam, so perhaps I could spend two weeks after Uganda visiting my distant family over there! This is going to be an interesting summer!

Four days after that, I went to Ottawa to visit Dana, montreal because I could, and Toronto, for my grandpa’s funeral. (this trip has definitely made it into my “TOP3 best trips. Ever.”) I actually had the courage to ask my uncle to tell me some stories of my dad and grandpa, and he obliged. It was so sad to hear them, but healing, nonetheless. I haven’t wanted to ask in the past, because I’d probably start crying.

And in that last week, my nanny family has said that it would be too complicated for me to work with them next year, so I need to find a new job. I applied to Red River College to study ECE, and am also going to move out of the Kelly House. (To Flatlanders Inn or Mona’s place.)

So, last week, I thought I’d be working on the green team at church this summer, and then working with my nanny family, travelling 3 hours every day to get to work, where I’d be working less, but filling my time with various activities (like writing, crafting, volunteering), saving money to go to school next year.

But God said, “stop dicking around, jenn. get to it!” and now I’m going to work with my nanny family until the end of june, take July off and work on fundraising for Uganda, relaxing and hanging. August will be spent travelling, then I’ll hopefully be attending college full time in the fall.

Life will be totally different in about two months, and then again in two more months. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Being Canadian Again

Well, it’s been about two months since I’ve arrived back in Canada. It’s been a whirl-wind adventure! The first three weeks was spent in southern Ontario, with the family. Two of my cousins got married, and so I got to see most of my extended family, which was beautiful. It was kind of weird, seeing my very pregnant sister for the first time. Exciting, definitely!

Then a day after my 25th birthday, I took the bus to Winnipeg. It was a very long 30 hour ride, but I survived. And it was worth it. After three years of separation, I was finally able to see my great friends again! God has given me a great job, too. Even though it’s far from my work, the bus comes in good time, even though I have to wake up super early, I get to walk lots too. It’s perfect for now. I’m working at a daycare, as an assistant, so I’m not teaching, but I’m using this chance to watch the teachers, learn and soak up the things that they are doing with the kids. God must be preparing me for working with kids later. After teaching mostly kids in Kumamoto, then working in a daycare in Winnipeg, something involving kids must be in my future.

But I still need to find a church here. I went to Mona’s Chinese church a few times, but I don’t want to go there every week. I need a more charismatic church. I hope I can find one soon. I really miss my church in Kumamoto!! I need to write more about my feelings of coming back. Today it’s just the normal, day-to-day stuff.

Till we meet again!

*Note, please forgive the bad punctuation/grammar. Whenever I press a key on the keyboard for punctuation, it enters something totally different from what the key says!

The past couple weeks have been crazy. In moving out of my apartment, goal Friday, actually happened on Sunday, I have been so busy, and then with finishing work and going to the youth camp in Kumamoto, then going to Kyoto and Tokyo, I have finally been able to settle down, catch up on some sleep and rest for a bit! Except last night, this girl in my “dorm” woke me up at 4.30 because she was snoring. Loudly. Ugh, what a way to start the day!

Anyway, lets review last week.
Saturday was my last day of work, and so I was playing games with the students, and taking lots of pictures. At least until my battery died, and I didnt bring my cord to recharge with me. Bummer. But I still got all the pictures I wanted. After work, I was not in a hurry to leave, because I didnt really want to say goodbye to everyone, and I was really full from lunch still, so I figured Id try to arrive before 7.30, just in time for the service to start. I didnt tell anyone that I was going to be so late, so my friend phoned and offered to pick me up, but I took the bus anyway, and got there a bit after seven. I was talking to her on the stairs to the second floor of the church, when one of the guys opened the door, saw us on the stairs, and quickly shut the door again. Everybody suddenly got much quieter. But I tried to ignore it, and Kinu and I talked for a few more minutes. I guess they were getting impatient because they checked two more times before Kinu just went up the stairs, closed the door and went in. I was pretty sure that there was a party, and sure enough when I walked in, they shouted and had party crackers, and then we had a soubetsukai, farewell party. Ahh, Im going to miss everyone at 242.

Sunday was my last service in Kumamoto Harvest Church for awhile, too. They prayed for me, and I made a speech, and nothing else was really different from that. Even though I couldnt really understand a lot of Yojis messages on Sunday morning, Im really going to miss his sermons. He is a very passionate pastor.

I had to run lots of errands on Monday — going to work to get my last paycheck, go to city hall to tie up loose ends, go out for lunch with a friend, have an impromptu meeting with another friend before I go, say goodbye again to everyone at work, go back to my friends place, where I was staying inbetween moving out of my aparto and leaving Kumamoto and cook them dinner. Tiring day, and I wasnt able to go to the post office or get my train ticket to Kyoto, but it all worked out in the end.

I spent Tuesday morning packing and re-packing my suitcases, until they were finally 23 kgs. I ended up having to send two boxes… one to Ontario, one to Manitoba. I hope they arrive promptly and in good condition! I said goodbye to c and j tuesday afternoon and went to the J-impact camp with my church until Thursay morning. So much happened at the camp, I think Ill have to write another blog just about the camp. For now, let me just say it was amazing, and I did UPGRADE. Now, I hope and pray that I will stay upgraded and not revert back to my old self.

I was originally planning on going to Fukuoka with the FHC members and stay in an internet cafe overnight, but my pastor got wind of those plans and invited me to stay with his family Thursday night instead. I made them pizza, my trademark, and they made okonomiyaki. Kinu also came over, and we talked a bit about speaking in tongues, and had lots of fun.

Friday morning, Kyoko took me to nishi nihon ticket so I could get a cheaper train ticket to Kyoto, but they didnt have any for friday, only saturday, so I bought a ticket to fukuoka. So I got on a train that went right to shin-osaka and then took a local train to kyoto. I found my hostel, checked in and stored my luggage, then went to kinkakuji, the golden temple. It was nice to walk around in the wooded area around the temple.

Saturday morning, I woke up, skyped with sj for a few minutes before she got sick and I had to check out. I went to Kyoto station to meet some old students for lunch. We ate obanzai, a specialty in kyoto. You order a main dish, and they have a buffet for the side dishes. It was so good and I stuffed myself to the brim! Then they helped me figure out the bus/train to Tokyo, and fushimi inari shrine. Fushimi inari shrine is the famous one with lots of the red gates. The path of red tori went up a small mountain and into the woods, and I really enjoyed being in nature! I also think I finally got some happiness back. I have been so so so sad over leaving Kumamoto, seriously, why did I leave? I spent about an hour or so walking through that shrine, then took the train back to kyoto station, found some earrings that I have been wanting for a loong time, got my luggage, bought my shinkansen ticket to tokyo and left kyoto.

I saw a glimpse of Mt. Fuji on the ride up here, and am thinking about going to see it properly tomorrow. I did hear, hoever, that it is a two hour bus ride, so I might not. There are a fair few more long plane/bus trips in my near future. But I finally left tokyo station for my hostel at 7.00, met an old friend from high school, we havent seen each other in 8 years! She walked with my to my hostel and then after I checked in, we went to dinner. natsukashikatta! I invited her to come with me to church Sunday morning, and so we made plans to meet in Harajuku station at 12.45.

I was hoping to catch up on more sleep last night, but I was awoken at 4 fricken 30 because one of the girls in my dorm was snoring SO loudly. Am I really the only one who was woken up by it? Ugh. And Im a little surprised that I was able to type this whole post out, because this computer it pretty frustrating. It looks like a Japanese keyboard, but does not move like a Japanese keyboard.

So, until later.