when we first moved here to Japan, i remember having a conversation with my neighbor and co-worker about kids and language acquisition. she told me about “the silent year,” how most children would spend the first year in a new language environment simply listening, observing, sponging it all in. after enough time had passed for their minds to gain a little clarity, they would begin using the new language more readily.

i feel as if i am in the midst of “the silent year,” in which i am learning a new language of the heart.


it’s hard for me to remember exactly what it was like, to feel heavy with the weight of guilt most days, knowing myself to be inadequate and stopping there, not able to comprehend the grace and freedom on the other side of the Gospel. there were too many walls, too many obstacles.

though the breakthrough was a year in the making, and emotional health is a relatively new thing for me, i can already marvel that i lived under such a cloud with little hope that it could change. i thought life would just be that way for me. deep down, tiny seeds sprouted, and i wished that the freedom i read about in Galatians would be mine this side of heaven. but in my flesh, in my humanness, it seemed impossible that deeply entrenched thoughts, habits, and behaviors could ever be reformed — that the broken could be remade. i was challenged to believe that the impossible could actually happen, that miracles do indeed take place. my belief was rather weak and easily shaken. this can’t possibly be experienced in this life, i thought. lasting joy, real freedom that’s felt down in my bones, wanting God more than i want the things i enjoy in this world. if others truly had that, they must be lying — i doubted. big time.

but God, in his infinite grace and wisdom, He did indeed reach down. i cried out, and he rescued me. it wasn’t an instantaneous thing, and it required a lot of work and guts, but i can’t remember what my life used to be like anymore — the intense fear for the future, the anxiety that kept me up at night, the emotional crumbling at the first sign of pressure. i used to struggle mightily with my thoughts, unable to keep them under control, always hearing nasty things in my head: “you are an awful mom. look at your floors! a good mom wouldn’t have yelled in that moment. a good mom would’ve made a nicer lunch. a good mom would’ve read books instead of turning on the TV. a good wife would think more about her husband. a good christian would read her bible more. a good missionary would have more spiritual conversations.” it was constant. and it was overwhelming and totally exhausting, fighting those thoughts day in and day out. i had no ammunition. everything i tried, failed. i was at the end of my rope. so i cried out, demolished all my plans and ideas, and said, “tell me what to do, God.” and He did.


for each of us, what God will ask of us will be different. for me, it was acknowledging i needed serious emotional help and being willing to ask scary things of my husband: what if we, who said we’d always have two month furloughs, took a longer one? what if we never came back to japan at all? what if it ended up i couldn’t hack it here? would you love me anyway? it also meant doing what others told me to do: go to sleep, cancel this, go visit this doctor, take this pill, tell this person, “no.” it also meant confessing things and going to counseling. it meant taking scary steps in relationships that i’d always taken the easy route in. it meant doing what was hard to do, because God asked me to.

now, from the other side, i can say that it was more than worth it. i would do it all over again. i can say with confidence and trust now that God will help you! He will come to your aid and rescue you! … though i always doubted those words before.

i am free.


living with an unshackled heart is a new thing for me. i have so much to learn — or rather, to re-learn. i had no idea how many false beliefs i held in my heart, how they must be rebuilt with the truth, how simple it would be to accept God’s words with a heart that wasn’t full of lies and doubt.

so this is my silent year, i think. there’s too much for me to take in, from this new vantage point. i feel as if i’m building a new foundation for my life in Christ, and it’s taking all my effort, creativity, heart, desire. i have so many ideas floating around in my mind, but i can’t pin any of them down — i can’t find words for them, i don’t know how to share them, i’m not sure which phrases to use. i am listening, observing, sponging it all in.

when enough time has passed, i will gain a little clarity, and i’m certain i will begin using my new language more readily.

i hope you will wait with me.


ps – this is not an announcement for a blogging break, just a way of describing why things are so silent around here. posts will come when they come. πŸ™‚


One thought on “sponge.

  1. Oh, Jamie. This is both heart-rending and beautiful. Free. What a word. What a truth. What an experience!
    It has occurred to me, recently, that God waits patiently for us to finally admit “I can’t do it. Any of it.” And then he says, “Now we’re getting somewhere.” πŸ™‚ When we finally release our grip on trying so hard to control and channel things to go a particular way. That’s when he shows us his way, a better way.
    Love to you.

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