LIJ Episode Lives

Living Well in 2020

The way you define “living well” depends greatly on your cultural background and personal likes and preferences. For some, living well could mean a life of travel and adventure. For others, it could be a meaningful relationship and fulfilling work. Yet for others it could be a life of seclusion, peace and quiet. And then there are some who think if they get famous and/or rich, they will be living the good life.

Whatever lifestyle you were pursuing, 2020 just threw a wrench into that pursuit! The world shutdown like never before (at least in modern history). And many places that were shutdown and coming out of lockdown are now entering into a second shutdown. We’re just not out of the woods yet. It seems like a good time to take a step back and reevaluate things.

A good life at home has never been so important. It’s hard enough to deal with all of the drama of society today, if you have to deal with too much drama at home as well, it’s enough to take people, marriages and families to the breaking point (which unfortunately is exactly what is happening for many families). Therefore I believe with all of my heart that those who experience truly good living in 2020 are those who have their home lives in order and work at living at peace with those closest to them.

This is why the Bible is so precious to me — it’s my manual for operation, my standard to live by, my measuring stick for the morals that I hold and teach. It is not a book of rules — furthest thing from it! It is a way to live in which we experience the fullest, richest life that God designed us to have. It is the best return for your time and effort and the rewards are not just for this life now, but will go on for all eternity. It is the way of peace and love, a way of healthy, fruitful living that is not the easiest way to live, but certainly the most rewarding in the long run.

God is the one who made us, and He made marriage and the family to be a reflection of His very own nature. The devil likes to take that and break that. The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus comes so we can have life in abundance. Our families can stand strong when we do it God’s way, by His Word and with His own power (His very own Holy Spirit). God has not left us alone, He has not abandoned us. He is for us, He is with us, and He is with you. Try calling out to Him for help. It starts with a simple prayer “Jesus help me!” And watch what happens next… the merciful presence of God in your life, in your family, in your marriage that can lead to a good life that you never thought was possible — for 2020 or any other year for that matter!


Camping in Japan

It finally happened — we had our first one-day camping excursion in Japan! We’ve been planning this for a long time, but then came society shutdown of 2020 and everything changed :). Now that we’re in July, enough of the restrictions have been removed to allow us to go camping nearby. And we had a blast — and did all this for cheap! We enjoyed the sights of Mount Fuji, local wildlife, fun parks and of course the staple of any camping excursion: the campfire. We even got hit with a rainstorm in the night that really kept things lively. We ended up pulling out of the campsite early because of the rain, but it didn’t damper our time. We had an epic one day trip!

So now we can’t wait to do it again — but July has done nothing but rain. In fact other parts of Japan have been hit so hard that major flooding has happened. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected — we know what it feels like to (almost) lose everything. We were threatened with flooding just last year during the massive typhoon that brought so much damage to our area.

This year has certainly been a difficult year for many reasons, and never before has it been so apparent our need for God, his love, his protection, his care and his peace in our heart. The love of God given through Jesus allows us have peace in the storm and special moments together give us a glimpse of what eternity with Jesus will be like — away from pain and destruction, away from fear and viruses, where we can get lost in the moment. God gives us glimpses of eternity in everyday life, but it’s easy to miss if we’re not looking for it. Where are those moments for you? Is it out camping? Out in nature? Is it while driving or walking? Is it while putting on some great music or reading a good book? Singing your child to sleep? There are many ways this can be triggered, but it all points to the eternal purpose we have in God.

LIJ Episode Lives

Language Learning

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? If English is not your mother tongue and you’re reading this — congratulations!! That’s a major accomplishment! Learning another language broadens a person’s perspective more than perhaps just about anything else out there. And there’s nothing easy about it.

It took me about a year of full-time study of the Portuguese language before I had enough of a foundation to learn the rest by studying and using it on my own. The more I immersed myself in Portuguese with Brazilian friends, the better I did in Portuguese. When I moved to Japan I knew I was in for the same thing — only greater.

But that “greater” was even bigger than I thought. Coming from English, a language that is a mix of romantic, Germanic and Scandinavian languages, there was little in common. Kanji is new. The grammar is completely different. Verb tenses are different. Pronunciation is miles apart from English. Even English words, when used in Japanese, can take on a completely different sound. (How about “Kurisumasu” or “Sutahbukusu?” — Christmas and Starbucks!)

But as with anything, if you keep at it and never give up, even if the progress is little, there is progress. Future gains become bigger and bigger, and when things click into place, other things follow behind in a quicker fashion. This is the curve of learning any new skill. Lots of effort with little to show. But keep at it long enough and the curve turns around and with less effort, greater strides are made. That gets you to an intermediate level, where the curve begins all over again.

So if you’re working on a new skill — whether it’s learning a language, an instrument, a new skill or even starting to learn the Bible or a new culture — keep at it! Before you know it, you’re going to hit that curve that propels you to an intermediate level and be so glad you did.

LIJ Episode Lives Videos

The $ and ¥ Talk

I have to admit that I am very fortunate when it comes to finances. I grew up with an unfair advantage: my dad was a hard-working accountant who knew how to control money without being controlled by money. Not only did he know it, but he lived it and taught us to do the same from a young age. The only way I am able to afford living in one of the world’s most expensive cities with such a big family is not because I have a huge income — it’s because I was taught how to use the income I have.

I wasn’t handed a bank account full of money. My parents encouraged me to get a job and start earning money for myself. When I first started making my own money, it was mowing lawns of the neighbors around us. I got my few hard-earned bucks and Dad sat me down for the money talk. He taught me to put a percentage of my money away in savings, a percentage of my money to go to the church and a percentage I got to spend. Learning this from a young age, my dad set me on a course of staying out of debt, saving for the future and being generous with my money with God and others. And when you’re generous with your money, God is generous with you. With scholarships, hard work and some saving (from me and my parents), I was able to do college debt free.

In this week’s video Is Tokyo Affordable for Large Foreign Families? I talk a bit about how we make it work for us. There are places where we tighten our belt and other places where we splurge a bit. When all is said and done, we make sure we’re spending less than we’re making (even if it means we live in a house much smaller than what we would prefer).

Now that I’ve been counting my calories to lose weight recently, I’ve been amazed by how much it lines up with finances. You have a certain income (daily caloric intake) that if you exceed, you gain weight that slows you down and makes you unhealthy (you go into debt), but if you’re able to closely count your calories that you consume (your expenses) and balance those against additional income (exercise) and that total is less than your income — you’re going to lose weight (get out of debt). Make sense? In both situations, the key is tracking what’s really happening and exercising self-control.

The process of putting a budget in place, or starting to count calories, is not fun at all. In fact the first implementation of it is time intensive and it feels restrictive. A total downer. But once in place and operating correctly, you’ll be surprised to see where your money really goes. And with enough time the results start to speak for themselves: a life much more full and free of weight, debt and unnecessary excess. It frees you to enjoy life on a whole new level.

LIJ Episode Videos

Immersed in Japan

Moving to any culture outside of your own is a huge adjustment, and the amount you have to adjust only increases as you cross oceans and go from a Western country to an Eastern one (or visa versa). If you already know the language of your new country, it’s a HUGE advantage, but very few people move oversees that way. One of the fastest ways to adjust, although perhaps the most difficult way, is complete cultural immersion.

If you’re single and able to house with a native speaking family (a homestay or exchange program), it is by far the fastest way to learn a new language and culture. Growing up in America, my family often had exchange students living with us for 6 months at a time. It wasn’t easy for those students, since everything they knew was different. Often it wasn’t just their first time outside of their country, it was also their first time outside the home they grew up in! That’s a lot of stress, even if you like that sort of thing! But if you can handle it, it is by far the fastest way to adapt to a new country.

If you’re moving with a family, then the extent to which you can immerse yourself in a culture will be more limited. We opted for enrolling in language school — 3 hours a day of Japanese language and culture taught to us by locals. I did 2 years of this and I am very glad I did. The speed of your adaptation is up to you: being brave and asking for help from strangers and making friends goes a long ways towards learning faster. We have found the Japanese people to be very helpful in this regard.

Our kids are even more immersed — they get to do authentic Japanese school, although without the help of Japanese parents. They are adapting to Japan in such a natural way that it is astounding. We believe this will be a big advantage for them later in life, building bridges between our cultures and being able to feel at home in Japan or America, fluent in Eastern and Western cultures.

For us, we’ve had tremendous support from friends and family back in the States and — I can’t overstate this — from our church family here in Japan. Our Paz Church is an awesome international community and the loving relationships that are developed there have helped us immensely. It has been an anchor for us as we navigate the stresses and ups and downs of adjusting to a new country and culture. There are days that are so exciting. Then there are days when you just feel like moving back to the familiar. You need support in order to stay healthy and flourish.

We don’t want our kids to lose touch of their roots as they grow towards their God-given destinies. Our church family gives a strong foundation and identity for our family to build upon, and it makes our lives here in Japan that much more rich and fulfilling.