Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer 2015

Not only was it my longest stay in the States in four years, it was Tomomi's longest stay in the States ever, not to mention our longest stay as a married couple.

Whereas with past visits, it felt like we had barely unpacked before we were on our way to the airport to return to Tokyo again, this time we were able to get comfortable and make ourselves at home.

And yet, the past 52 days slipped by swiftly and silently.

In retrospect, we fit quite a lot in during our time in the States:

We visited my brother and his wife on the East Coast.  Ben had just finished up his first year at Yale Divinity School, and we were able to fly out at the end of June and spend a few days with him, and a day with Hilary (who had been away at a wedding for most of that week).  Highlights of our time on the East Coast included a day of sight-seeing in NYC, the opportunity to tour around Yale, spending time at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, where Ben works part-time training high-school aged "interpreters" who show visitors around and deliver presentations on various exhibits, attending church at St. John's Episcopal, eating legendary New Haven pizza (really--it's a thing!), going to see Inside Out, and of course, having plenty of time to visit and catch up with Ben & Hilary in person for the first time in nearly a year.

Next was our cross-country road-trip!  On June 30, we flew to Minneapolis, where we met up with my parents (who had flown in from Seattle an hour before us).  We rented a car and drove out to Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  We spent the next day visiting my sister at Honey Rock, a beautiful summer camp affiliated with Wheaton College.  Lea had just started her job as an administrative assistant and even though she had the day off, it was still interesting to have a glimpse into her world for the summer.  She showed us around the camp and took us out on the lake in a canoe.  We even got to watch her perform in a skit for the campers!

The next day saw us back on the road, heading west toward Washington.  Highlights of our road-trip included singing hymns to stay awake on our first night of driving, visiting with my dad's 98-year-old Aunt Lois and cousin Tim in Mankato, MN, visiting Dordt College and one of my professors for the first time since 2008, rediscovering the beauty of South Dakota (visiting the Badlands, the Needles Highway, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore), visiting Yellowstone for the first time and catching up with my 75-year old high school biology teacher who still works summers as a park ranger (and still teaches Senior Biology the rest of the year, for that matter), visiting my mom's 95-year old Aunt Betty and cousins in Eastern Washington, and taking the scenic Cascades Highway home on the last day of driving.  Most of all, it was a precious time for us to spend with my parents, showing Tomomi a much larger portion of America than she had ever seen before.  She has now been in 14 states!

We arrived back at my parents' house on July 8.  At that point, it was time for me to really buckle down on my Master's coursework.  Woods Coffee became a daily destination, and to ensure that we weren't just sitting all the time, Tomomi and I began an enjoyable routine of walking 5k along Lynden's lovely walking trail each day before settling down to work at Woods.  It was primarily at Woods that I finished work for my two summer classes: one on the usage of educational technology, and the other on learner development & principles of learning.

Over the past month, we also had the opportunity to celebrate both of my parents' birthdays, catch up with extended family at my great-uncle's 80th birthday celebration, celebrate my pastor and his wife's 50th anniversary, complete two 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, enjoy a day-trip to Seattle, catch up with several of my own teachers, enjoy meals with several good friends, and watch many-a sunset from the hill in the field behind my parents' house.

Nearly every day, Tomomi and I would climb into my old Ford Taurus, a trusty car which served me well for three and a half years of college in Iowa.  We would drive to Lynden taking the back-roads.  While these quiet country roads add a few minutes to the drive, the extra time has always been worth it, in my mind.  As long as I can remember, I have preferred this route to the quicker and more direct drive down Hannegan Road.  There is something magical about being one of the only cars--and sometimes the only car--on the road; something peaceful about the sight of cattle grazing and resting in a pasture to the side of the road, watched over by Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters on the Eastern horizon.

I came to a powerful realization as I drove this route just a few days ago: I may live in the biggest city in the world, but I am, and always will be a country-boy at heart.  Tomomi wrote on my mom's birthday card that she feels ready to move to America at any time, and that it all depends on my feeling, and our sense of calling... so what is my feeling, exactly?  What is our sense of calling?

Let me be clear: I still feel called to my work at CAJ.  We still feel called to our life in Tokyo, to our home-church (and Tomomi's work) at Grace Harbor.

At the same time, as we talk about the future, we talk about Tomomi's visa as an eventuality.  We talk about a house with a big yard.  We talk about planting a garden.  We talk about owning a dog.  We talk about raising our future children in close proximity to nature.
Deep down, we fully expect that one day, we will move to the States... we just don't feel that God is calling us to make that move quite yet.

And so, we cling to God's calling and rely on His timing.  Getting on the plane tomorrow may be more bitter than sweet (especially as we anticipate the nasty heat and humidity we are returning to), but we rest in the assurance that we are going back to where we are supposed to be for now.

We also know that this is not 'goodbye' to Washington--we will be back to visit soon enough.

And one day, we will come back for more than just a visit.

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