What a day! We are celebrating 100 episodes of Life in Japan! Life in Japan started on April 28, 2018 and was all in English, no Japanese subtitles from the start. In fact the Japanese subtitles didn’t start until episode 16, when we realized we could broaden our audience by doing so. Our 1st episode was none other than a simple tour through our house. Now, 100 episodes later, we’ve had over 12.3 million views in 138 different countries. I would have never imagined having such a big reach!
To celebrate our 100th episode, we wanted to have a big party, rent a movie theatre and invite all of our local friends to come and watch with us, but the logistics of doing so while still in an extended state of emergency here in Japan was too complicated. Not to worry though — we plan on doing something super special like that in the future! And fortunately everyone can still enjoy the 100th episode from wherever they are and learn along with us how to make the incredibly delicious Japanese pot soup called “Nabe.”
Life in Japan Online Shop
In honor of our 100th episode, the Life in Japan online shop is now open! You can purchase the fun hats and bags you’ve seen us use in our episodes. In the future we plan on adding more items such as clothing, mugs and apparel, so please check it out! Click here to go to the online shop.
We need to plan to live. The better the planning, the better the living can be. Without good plans, the best intentions fail. But plans are a funny thing. We can only plan as well as our ability to see ahead. If you’re driving a car and see a sharp curve ahead, you know to pump the brakes, slow down, and prepare to turn safely. The problem comes when you don’t see the sharp turn and you’re barreling down the road full speed ahead.
We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it.
Proverbs 16:9 The Message
I love this verse from the Bible — full of wisdom! Our own ability to plan will only take us so far. When it comes down to it, we’re at the mercy of God to be able to live out our plans — we’re at the mercy of God to be able to live at all! So what does that mean for planning?
Every year our Paz Team — the team behind our church, our coffee shop and many other noble endeavors — takes a couple days out of our busy lives to prayerfully look down the road and anticipate the curves ahead. It’s best to plan ahead as much as possible. Last year we made some great plans for this year, almost all of which were obliterated by Corona and 2020! But something truly phenomenal happened — the goals we had for reaching more people and expanding the ministry moved forward by a huge rate anyway! It shows God’s hand at work in the midst of all the turmoil of 2020.
In light of 2020, how can any of us be so bold as to plan ahead? I think planning ahead this year looks very different than it did last year at this time. There are things we consider now that we’re even a discussion a year ago. We’ve seen how important it is to stay connected to people, even if we can’t meet them physically. We’ve seen the strain and the stress this year has put on families, homes, emotional health and the general well-being of people everywhere. And we’ve realized we can’t take anything for granted.
This year has refined our values and our purpose. It has put in perspective things that really matter — the “non-negotiables” of life. We can no longer plan ahead without a larger perspective. Living in different countries and cultures will certainly open up your perspective, but the greatest perspective we can have is a heavenly one — the very perspective God has.
In the Bible we read the story of God and his creation. We see how it all came to be, how man messed it up so badly, and how God is bringing it all back together. We realize that the stories of our lives are not individual story lines that criss-cross, but they’re a part of a much bigger story that God has been writing since the very beginning. God invites us into His story, and as we receive His invitation, our future is made secure and our path defined.
Now the question remains — have I let God into my story to change it, to rewrite it as He sees fit? Have I truly put every part of my life before God, surrendered to Him? The result will be a complete transformation of our lives as we are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. I move from fighting to control the story line of my life to letting God fight my battles as I rest in Him and follow His lead. This is what the Christian life is all about, and I love it! There’s no other life for me.
What things make you happy? When you landed the new job you wanted? When you moved into your dream house or when you got into the college that you wanted? Maybe you started that relationship with the person of your dreams? Or maybe you’re one of the lucky people out there who have won the lottery. Or you finally reached retirement. We as humans have a funny way of getting excited and happy about things that ironically cause us much heartache, stress and insomnia in the future.
A good job is a blessing, but even the best jobs will cause stress at some point. And even the best relationships have difficulties — a bad relationship is full of them. And sometimes the things that make us sad: a heart-wrenching breakup, losing a job or even just being quarantined, can actually end up being good for us in the end. Ironic, isn’t it?
My point is this: true happiness is not found in the circumstances of life. These things are fleeting moments that come and go — good moments and bad ones. True happiness is mental state of being thankful for the people and blessings already in our lives today. When you are thankful and content, you are happy.
This doesn’t mean you don’t long for better things in your life. Desiring these things is a powerful force to better yourself, but it means you don’t waste energy focusing on what life would be like if you had those things.
For example, today we all sat down and had lunch together: Ruth made her famous pizza! I was so happy! We talked about our dream house: a big place where we can have people over and each person has space for their things. A nice kitchen and garden for mommy and a nice studio for daddy. A big yard for the kids to play in and have a dog. They are already praying that God gives us the right place! But we don’t focus on what we don’t have. We are thankful for where we do live — we have a beautiful view, a great location, wonderful neighbors, a quite street, a nice little garden, and the list goes on.
Most of all, each and every person in our family knows the love of God personally. They know that not only do daddy and mommy love them, but most importantly God loves them and calls them his children. Do you know that? Knowing the love of the Heavenly Father in Jesus Christ is the key to having lasting, meaningful happiness (which we call joy) that goes beyond any circumstance. But you don’t have to wait until you’re a Christian to start becoming happy — you can become happier by just finding one thing in your life that you’re thankful for and start to thank Jesus for it. Just see what it does to your attitude. We call this worship, and it can change your life.
In Japan, Spring Break is more than just a short time off of school for students. It’s the change of the school year, a time for graduation, moving up to the next level; a time to start new jobs and new endeavors. It’s the time that winter ends and spring begins marked by the blooming of the Sakura. In fact, this April 1st marks the very beginning of not only a new year, but a new era in Japan, the 令和 Reiwa Era! Yes, the old Emperor is retiring and his son is taking his place. The years in Japan are marked by the year of their Emperor. Welcome to year 1!
And this Spring Break meant that Becca and Anna passed the 3rd grade and are moving on to the 4th grade. Not only did they pass, but they continue to improve and are becoming quite the good students. Sarah will move into her last year of Kindergarten before elementary school, and Joshua only has one year left before starting Kindergarten himself. Wow how time flies! So before it flies away, we’re making memories while they’re still kids. We took time off with our Paz team to enjoy some R&R in the mountain town of Karuizawa — a place where people like to go to escape the heat of Tokyo in the summer. Of course since we are catching it at the beginning of Spring, we were glad just to have warm enough temperatures to enjoy the outdoors!
Nobody I know works harder or with more passion and determination than the Paz team here in Japan, so this precious time off was exactly what we needed. There are lots of things that don’t make it into a video like this — the amazing Onsen (Japanese Bath) we went to, some of the sights of a the lava flow park or even a number of the great meetings and times together we had, but this gives you a taste of what it’s like. Enjoy the video below!
Every two years our family embarks on an exciting, unique adventure. This adventure takes us across the world to visit people and places near and dear to our hearts. These places — especially these people — mean so much to us — they’re the very reason we can live in Japan and share God’s love here. This adventure is called furlough, and it’s a chance for our family of 6 to check in and catch up with our loved ones.
While furlough may seem long to some, and to others it seems like a vacation, it is much more than all of that. For in the short amount of six weeks, the kids catch up with 2 years of Grandpa/Grandma time, we speak at a different church each weekend, we travel all over the country to make important visits, we update our legal and banking matters, we raise more support and all while dealing with jet lag. Yes, furlough is far from normal — and the change of pace that is very refreshing at first becomes an impulse propelling us back towards Japan for the next phase of life. In our newest video, you get a sense of the beauty, excitement, business and adventure that is furlough in our next video. Enjoy!
We now come back to a very exciting time here in Japan for us as our church is opening a new coffee shop — a place for the community to come, enjoy the BEST coffee around and connect with people full of God’s love. In fact, upon arriving here in Japan, I (Nate) went off to serve in a weekend retreat our church hosts called “Encounter with God.” It was such a powerful time and so many of the people who participated felt God’s presence and love like never before. We are more excited than ever to be a part of God’s move here in Japan!
Now we are looking forward to this next week and weekend when we will have the grand opening of our brand new coffee shop. This coffee shop will be open during the week and serve the best speciality coffees as well as have an all-you-can-drink special blend coffee — a first (as far as we know) for Japan! Then on Sundays we will hold our church services in the coffee shop itself. It certainly serves two amazing purposes! If you live anywhere nearby or here visiting, please stop by!