July 2017 :: We’ve taken a big leap and opened a coffee roasting business in our neighborhood: Second Story Coffee Roasters. (You can also order online!) People have said numerous times how engulfing and beautiful and stressful starting your own business is, so we know the crazy is normal, but it still doesn’t make it easier to walk through. And with four kids under 10, we wonder why we are doing this now? But a big proponent for us was, if not now, then when? Let’s not wait to do the things we are passionate about until life ‘slows down,’ otherwise we might end up waiting too long. This step has stretched us in numerous ways.

March 2015 :: We’ve chosen to take our family and plant our roots in this country that is very much NOT our own. Its been a frustrating, enlightening, exciting, wouldn’t-trade-it-for-the-world adventure, and has turned this shy, perfectionist introvert into a risk-taking, mistake-making *still* introvert. What do you mean, you can’t ride the subways in New York without help? YOU SPEAK ENGLISH, DON’T YOU? That’s really all you need to get around. We have entered year EIGHT of life here. After all this time, I remember more and more that I will no longer feel at home anywhere, but it upsets me less and less.

November 2014 :: Three months away from SEVEN YEARS in Japan. That makes me feel old. I remember how I looked at the other expat wives here when I’d arrived, and they’d been here six or eight years. I was falling all over myself, drooling at their ability to read a school letter, or find a cooking ingredient I thought was impossible to get, or rattling off an incomprehensible Japanese sentence. From this side, it’s much less glamorous than it looked. I’m also weeks away from delivering my fourth baby — third time in Japan, same amazing midwife. I’ve come to understand my own needs for cross-cultural living a little bit better and have demanded pleaded kindly made it known to my husband that I NEED to leave the country for at least three weeks a year. I just do. Life sucks without that break-which-really-doesn’t-look-like-a-break-but-somehow-is-one. (Planes, children, living in not-your-own house and all…)

May 2013 :: Two years, really? What everybody says about life with three kids is true — you don’t have time for anything else anymore, just survival. Hopefully, with little Harper about to turn two, that will be changing shortly. We have now lived here as a family for over five years, been in the Japanese school system for three, and been hosting college students in our home for the same amount of time.  Though there is still plenty I don’t understand, I would say that my comprehension is about 80%, give or take some on context. (Reading is another matter, entirely.  That is maybe 30-40%, if you can believe it.) Japan has become to feel like home, but the tolls of life with three kids, away from our family and support system, make me constantly feel like I need a vacation.  We’ve made valiant attempts at creating our own support system here, and we are so thankful for those that surround and help us.  I still have days where I want to quit and go home, but the Holy Spirit is kind to remind me in those times that my problems would go with me — they just wouldn’t be drawn out by cultural circumstances.  I have never been one to long for comfort, and my passion is easily aroused when thinking about doing something courageous — but something about the pain of parenting makes me long to find the easiest situation possible and just wait it out.  Loving kids through all the transitions of life will be tough, and I’ve only just finished my first six years at the job! It is all just so very grown up, and I can’t help but feel that I’m not mature enough for the task. I suppose this is what maturing is — growing into what we are called to do.

March 2011 :: Three years down, however-many to go!  A baby GIRL due to arrive in three months time — looking forward to her birth at the midwife clinic Ezra was born in, eager to meet and greet her.  Still struggling to find a space I can use for relaxing, reflecting, processing in our new home, though we’ve been here for a year.  Jones has been in preschool (youchien) for one year, and is doing really really well — and it has helped me flourish within the culture here, giving me an “in group” to be a part of, which isn’t available outside the school system.  I am less lonely and feeling a little more “normal”.  My seriously overwhelmed breakdowns are decreasing (thank you Jesus!) and I find that life here is becoming just MY LIFE, rather than a strange alter-life in another culture.  I still look forward to our once-every-two-years trip to the states, but have become a seasoned and somewhat bitter air-traveler.   Let’s just say its not the highlight, and flights don’t hold that element of excitement for me anymore.

February 2010 :: We are on the cusp of year three in Japan, and just a week away from moving into our new home for this next season of life.  Good-bye language study, hello ministry! (At least for Bryan — I’ll still be spending the vast majority of my time being mommy, cook, seamstress, and creative chief of the O’Donnell home.)  The new place is just down the road from where we are now, and though packing up all our boxes just to move a 10-minute walk away is a little annoying, we are so thankful for the way God has provided for us in this season.  Absolutely EVERYTHING has fallen into place — every detail has been taken care of, and it has been a message to us of God’s care for our lives and the perfect timing of this move. (We originally thought we’d be in our current home for one more year.)  Examples: 1) We made some new friends a month before finding out we had to move, and those friends have connections and we’ve gotten all our boxes and packing materials for free — and they own a 2-ton truck we can borrow on moving day.  2) We can paint in our new place.  And do whatever we want to it.  This is VERY rare in Japan with rental property and something I just thought I was giving up in moving here.  Thank you, Jesus.  Though life far from home remains difficult, You provide all we need.

June 2009 :: My ideas surrounding life here continue to change.  I’m so thankful that things have taken a turn toward normalcy, it looks like year two won’t be as tumultuous as year one.  I like it here.  Its far away from home, but I’m learning to enjoy the differences and hopefully will let them change me.  I’m eager to give birth here, to welcome a new little one into our home, to plant roots and be invested in Japan on a deeper level.  We don’t know quite what that means for our family yet, whether we will stay in Shizuoka or move to another city for our 8-year assignment, but we are excited at the possibilities — we feel happy to go anywhere, so we are eager to find out where that will be.

October 2008 :: Yesterday, I was driving through Shizuoka, on my way to do a little sitting, reading, pondering, and praying at Starbucks, and I thought for perhaps the first time that I loved living here.  This, my friends, is a miracle.  Whenever God blesses you with insight and a thankful heart, it is nothing short of a miracle!  Today I am praising Him for the ability to look around me at all the differences, the challenges, the new things, and say, “I love it!  Thank you for bringing me here!”

March 2008 :: This blog is sort of a companion to The Seed, which I use to update family and friends on the life and ministry of the O’Donnells in Shizuoka, Japan. The previously mentioned confusion about my loyalties between the two blogs has been officially resolved:  I’m going to post here.  I like this place, and I don’t want to give it up.  So, to avoid being elusive, our little family of three moved here in February 2008 — already, I’m amazed at how much can be communicated with hand gestures, facial expressions, and that ever-so-important “mom connection.”  Right now, Japan and I have a love/hate relationship.  My feelings are drastic and change at the drop of a hat.  Whatever the emotions, though, the country and I still maintain a friendship, and I’m certain I’ll discover part of who I am whilst living here.. perhaps for a very long time, who knows..  I’m just glad God will give me what I need to handle life here.  Sometimes I really enjoy it, but sometimes I’d give anything to go home.

5 thoughts on “Japan

  1. Man, Jamie, I like you. I like reading your blog entries. I finally was able to do so this evening, and they all made me smile and sometimes tear up 🙂 Especially the one about Jones running around in his new home grabbing your leg and patting your back. Love you guys!! Look forward to a chat soon…I need to get a phone card. And I need to figure out Skype. Anyhow, I love you and miss you and was delighted to see photos of your life and read snippets!

  2. Pingback: The winner « high countries

  3. Hello Jamie, I was glad to find you, when your blog was featured through WordPress early starters. Japan has always fascinated me & I’m interested to learn more. I too, am an INFJ, but married to an ESFJ, which makes life & marriage most interesting!

    But please, don’t ever say Bryan is ministry, thinking you aren’t. Mothering & homemaking ARE ministries, and perhaps even more important. In looking back (our kids are grown & we have (almost) 9 grandchildren, I wish I had realized that even more. On the discouraging days remember what you’re doing counts for eternity, for our children are eternal beings. And how can you know you’re not raising the next Hudson Taylor, Amy Charmichael, Ester, or Joseph? So keep up the good work!

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