Let me just take this time to testify that God called me to Japan. He knew He was going to call me to Japan long before I put my papers in. He knew when I was born. He knew He was going to call me to Japan even when I wasn't acting like a missionary. He wants me here, serving the people of Koga. I know this for sure!
God was preparing me for my mission in Japan long before I stepped into the MTC. I remember once in Young Women's, Sister Ashby, a teacher near and dear to my heart made an awesome analogy.
She said when her oldest daughter was a year old she had a favorite blanket. She took it with her everywhere. And one time, Sister Ashby washed this blanket. Her daughter was distraught. She just threw herself on the ground and cried and cried when she couldn't find her blanket. Sister Ashby's heart broke. Even if she did explain to her daughter what a washing machine was and that everything was going to be okay in the end, her daughter wouldn't understand. What was worse was when Sister Ashby tried to hug her daughter and comfort her, she pushed her mother away. She continued throwing a tantrum and refused to be consoled. She said that life is a lot like a washing machine. We don't understand it. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and they just sit in front of the washing machine and cry. Most of the times everything turns out okay in the end, but we don't understand the in between. We can't understand all the "why" of life. Sometimes a red sock gets into our load of whites and everything turns pink. Our clothes shrink. And all we can do is shake our fist at life and wonder why. But God understands the washing machine of life. He knows everything is going to be not just alright but better in the end. He can't explain the inner workings of life because we really can't understand even if we wanted to. But He always wants to comfort us. This sister testified that it is always better to allow ourselves to be comforted by our all knowing Heavenly Father than it is to sit and cry and push Him away. I remember hearing that and vowing to myself that I would never refuse to be consoled by my Heavenly Father. My first instinct is to pray. Through this practice I've come to know that God is the source of all good, and He loves us all individually. I must've heard this story when I was around thirteen, but it's stuck with me ever since. I recreate this analogy in Japanese! It's helped a ton of people! Thanks Sister Ashby!
Lately, I've felt a ton of pressure to improve my language skills. That well-meaning lady still hounds me. When I don't understand something, that pressure resurfaces. Heck, I'll ride my bike around town and feel pressure to study harder just because I'm surrounded by Japanese characters and I don't know what they mean! I've found a ton of comfort in this short story titled "His House" by C.S. Lewis:
"Imagine yourself as a living house and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that hose jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-throwing out a new wing here, putting on a extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace He intends to live in Himself."
When I was in the MTC, we had a brilliant speaker named Sandra Rogers come and visit us. It was just us sister missionaries. She took off her watch and held it up for all of us to see. "The only thing that's the same between me today and me forty years ago as a brand new missionary entering the MTC," she said, "is that I'm wearing the same watch."
I was aghast. The only thing?! She changed completely? Will I change completely? Why? I'm a good person. I'm no criminal! Yet I'm going to completely change after my mission? Can't I keep some things the same? I was scared. I didn't want to believe her words, but it sunk deep into my heart and I remember it clearly.
It's so true! I'm changing so much! It hurts. I am painfully aware of all my pitfalls, but when I improve upon them, I feel happier and closer to God. And for some reason, God put me in an area where I'm painfully aware of how inadequate my Japanese is. Which it isn't! Don't get me wrong I can speak Japanese! But I know I could be better. In other areas it would be easy to just glide under the radar. I can get by with the Japanese I have. I could get away without a scratch. God wants me to be better. He's pressuring me to push myself. It hurts to have to try and speak Japanese all day day in and day out but I know that's what God wants me to do. It's so hard! It's painful! I feel like holes are being dug into me all over. But for some reason, God doesn't want me to just glide by, to just know enough Japanese to get by, He wants me to be pretty darn close to fluent. God doesn't want me to just teach my friends so that they understand, He wants me to become a master teacher. So while I still feel like holes are being dug into me, I know that those holes are going to turn into pools one day. My children will swim in these pools that were painful to dig out. God has something huge planned for me.
One of my favorite scriptures is D&C 58. I like verses 1-11, but I'll share 3-4.
3 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God [washing machine]concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
4 For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.
I know that God keeps His promises. I have the faith, the resources, and the prayers from all of you I need in order to become fluent. It's going to sting, but we can do it folks!
Funny Japanese mistake: When people tell me I'm pretty, I'll respond with a word that I thought meant "dido." Turns out, it means something more like "me too." So, for the four months I've been living in Japan, whenever someone told me "I think you're pretty" I replied "Me too." No matter what you're going through right now reader, I hope you laughed at that.
See you soon,
P.S. Still teaching 21 lessons/week. Next goal is 30.