My family moved to Japan the summer I turned six. It’s in Tokyo where I learned how to walk busy city streets, ride a bike, squish into a packed subway, and read line maps to travel to see friends all by myself.
In the beginning, Japan’s unfamiliarity elicited fear in me, but with struggle and time, I would come to fall in love with the way she smelled and tasted — from the scent of dashi sneaking from homes and restaurants, the way cold zaru soba noodles slid down my throat on humid summer days to the unmatchable joy of opening a foil-wrapped, steaming, roasted sweet potato from the yaki-imo truck that graced our street on crisp autumn days. Though I wouldn’t have chosen her, Japan fed me through my formative years.
My parents spent hours telling me what Japan would be like before the move, and I resisted all of it with every ounce of my kindergarten wits and strength by frequently stomping my foot on the ground and giving long five-year-old speeches about how I wouldn’t move and why it was a bad idea. No matter what I said or did, they listened, but we packed up and moved anyway.
Over the last eleven years, my husband and I have witnessed all three of our kids learning to face transitions and change. As we’ve watched them barreling head-first into whatever new scenarios have come their way, we’ve held our breath and remembered the ways we resisted transition in our own lives. Fear can have a rigid, tight grip, and it’s hard to forget how it holds us down and tries to keep us.
So, last spring, when our family of five was sheltering in place for the first time, I watched how each of our kids responded to the unfamiliar. Every change and transition in those slow months of spring-turned-summer, was another blow. The initial tenderness and hope alongside the fear, anger, and grief melted and melded into a weight of pure exhaustion for all of us. It felt like none of our bodies and minds could ever catch up with the news or all of our feelings. It reminded me of the way moving to another culture starts with a honeymoon phase, then moves into a phase of hostility, slow adjustments, and eventually, adaptation. After the novelty of the honeymoon phase, the newness feels more like one punch in the face after another.
Sometimes I want my kids to move through all of those stages as quickly as I can explain them. Sometimes I still expect that of myself. I expect the information and my own experience to be enough of a guide for them and me. But it’s the experience of living through each of these stages and meeting God’s new mercies day in and day out that draws us near to God, beckons us to surrender, and has the power to transform us.
In the midst of our world facing the ongoing devastation and impact of a global pandemic, the tension of our upcoming national election, and the severe polarization of people in our nation, we’re all responding differently: our hearts hang heavy for the world, we resist our own national and personal shifts, we grasp for control or distraction, and our hostility towards one another rings loud and clear.
Nothing is the same as it was back then. Seven months later, here we are, however fractured, exhausted, angry, or adjusting, and all of us are offered new mercies each day.
Leaving Japan wasn’t the last time I left something kicking and screaming. I look back now, and see how the gaping blank space of every loss wasn’t just stretched wide for aching but also for a holy remaking.
After our move, my mom started adding her own version of Japanese curry and tongkatsu to our weekly dinner rotation. Instead of city streets, I got used to finding glittery snail trails on the driveway of our Californian rental home, visiting the little avocado tree in our backyard, and enjoying weekends at the beach.
We invited Japanese college exchange students to live in our home with us, and every time I watched them bow or slide their shoes off at the front door in exchange for our Korean house slippers, it was as if someone handed me a tiny balm of healing.
Through every stage of shock and transition, God is with us. He is the one who listens, steadies us, keeps us, shelters us, and moves us forward anyway. He is the one who offers to take all that was, every tear shed for what was lost, and all that now is, and make something new. No matter how homesick we feel or how acutely aware of how far from home we are, God gives us little homecomings to sustain us along the way.
We’ll get there — one morning of mercy at a time, even if it takes a little while.Leave a Comment
kathleen burkinshaw says
Thank you so much for your words of comfort, that remind and encourage today.
God is our only constant and his gift of grace never moves away.
Keeping you and all readers in my prayers.
So lovely to read about your time in Japan!. I’m hungry now after reading all the delicious food I enjoy.❤
I’m glad they provided some comfort, Kathleen. Thank you for entering into this story space, and taking the time to read. I love that you know the foods, scents, and tastes I wrote about! Grateful you are here.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
No matter what part of the world we live in. No place like home. I thought I like to work in a children nursery in Belfast. Only 86 miles from my own family home. Live with my Grandmother. Who was so good to me. No matter how much love she gave me. This was when I was 17. I loved the job. My Grandmother was so good to me all those years ago when alive. But I was never as home sick in all my life. I can remember telling my Mum when I came home every weekend then get the bus back home on Sunday for work on Monday. Stay with my Grandmother during the week. She loved the company. Loved having me to look after and feed. I loved staying with her. My Grandmother was so good to me. But I was so home sick. I told my Mum. My Mum said Dawn your going to have to tell your Grandmother your leaving and the Job because your so home sick. I did not like having to do it. As I knew it would break my Grandmother’s heart. As she got used to having me stay and looking after me and the company. The Nursery was sad also as they loved me. As much as I loved the job but understood why I could not stay. When I was so home sick. My Grandmother took longer to get over it. As there was empty space in her heart no me too look after. I then believe it was right thing I done leave and it was God’s will that I left and went back home. As shortly after that a year later I met the man I was going to Marry and He is saved like me. We are still Married 27 years later. Plus during that time I came home my Grandmother took ill. We were still very close. If I had of stayed I wouldn’t have met the man I was to Marry in God’s eyes. I would have saw my Grandmother take ill go down hill. Even though she looked great for my wedding. She was not well. I broke my heart. I would never got over her being so ill. So God timing was perfect for me to leave the job in Belfast. Go back home. Even if it did brake my Grandmother heart. I didn’t like leaving her. Now looking back at it. Now my Grandmother is not here and gone to be with Jesus I can see God hand in it all at the time. Even though telling my Grandmother was hard. My Mum said Dawn. You have to do it. As you can’t stay to please your Grandmother especially when your so Homesick. It will only make you very sad. You will be putting on brave face for the wrong reasons and making yourself ill. I know now God would not have wanted to do that. I am Glad I did tell my Grandmother.
God hand was in it all. Thank you for today’s reading. Love Dawn xx
It can be so difficult to step towards change and even more so to see the impact it has on others. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your story here, Dawn.
Becky Keife says
We’ll get there. One new mercy at a time. Yes. Thank you for these words of comfort and understanding, Tasha. I had such a hard time with transitions as a kid. Maybe I’m not so different as an adult. I’m so grateful we don’t have to navigate each burden or change on our own. Jesus walks with us.
Thank you, Becky. Yes, I often think I’m so different now that I’m older, but some of these pains and memories keep. Maybe they stay this fresh so we can tend our empathy and offer comfort to others.
I am so glad that through all the changes and uncertainties around us, that God never changes and He is always with us. Thank you for you comforting and encouraging words.
Tona, me too. It’s such grace that we can remind ourselves and each other of this, no matter how often we need to. I’m so glad you are here!
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you for the reminder, Tasha, that “all of us are offered new mercies each day.” THAT’s what I want to focus on: the new mercies, not the new frustrations. Gratitude is a powerful antidote for what bothers us!
Nancy, it’s so easy for me to forget that God has an endless supply, and that I might need his new mercies each day. Thank you for reading.
Patricia Raybon says
We’ll get there–even if takes a little while. Thank you so much, beautiful Tasha, for this lovely reminder. Your encouragement soothed my soul!
I’m so glad to hear that Patricia! I’m trying to remember to be gentle with myself, along with others. This time we’re in can urge us towards the opposite, and I’m finding that God’s mercy is needed more than ever.
Beth Williams says
Change is never easy. Not many of us like it. We kick & scream like a little child begging it to go away. We want life to remain constant. That rarely happens. Life is constantly changing & moving forward. Thankful we have Jesus who is the one constant in our lives to steady, shelter & move us forward. The best thing we can do for our country now is pray. Ask God to help us through this dark valley to the other side. Great devotional.
Thank you, Beth!
Didi Hegnauer says
Beautiful piece…Our ability to adjust really reflects the point of where we stand in our relationship with Christ. Do we stick tight in fellowship & in His Word every day, able to easily move into submitting or are we the ones charting our course?
Thank you for this special writing!
Thanks, Didi. I’ve found that God pursues us and steadies us in transition – the intimacy with him in these unfamiliar times is a gift of such grace!
Renee Swope says
Your words are a balm of comfort to my weary soul and hopeful encouragement reminding me God’s new mercy each day will be enough to carry me through.
Thank you, Renee. I’m so glad.