🌿 ”Becoming” for each of us 🌿

As my March schedule nears to the end, I found myself a little bit scared to turn the next page. I try to refresh my mood and get ready for the new life, while locking regrets of “what ifs” and “I could haves” in a corner of my heart. 

March was perhaps a mixture of anxiety and hope. 

The other day in Santa Clara County, Northern California, where I live, the COVID cases tracker color codes went down from purple to red to orange. Schools started meeting for the first time in a year in person, and cities and churches suddenly became abuzz with activities toward the Spring of joy. Now our bodies and minds are in full throttle to get adjusted to the new changes, with no room left to reflect back on the past year.

10 years ago I encountered this Dallas Willard’s quote. 

The most important thing in your life is not what you do; its who you become.
Dallas Willard

Ironically I feel like I spent the half of the 10 years since, seeking “what I can accomplish” and “how to become worthy”. 

It’s not that I intended to strive for a lofty goal to “accomplish something”. I think I was just envisioning small and seemingly attainable hopes, plans, and ideals within my capability and resources.  But at one point, I was able to come to a stop because of a “forced power off”, and looked back on these words to ponder what kind of a person I really wanted to be. I think God has led me to a journey to learn “the most important thing in my life” so that He can set in motion “God’ plan”, which is far more spectacular than my little wishes and plans.

 

We go and get new uniforms and suits for a new semester, new life, and in a new place. We receive this university’s or that company’s IDs. At home we wear our uniforms as wife, husband, or parents and set out for the new semester with fresh minds. From that point on, we make efforts to achieve, following the suit of people who are ahead of us and around us, and try to change ourselves. We try frantically, even skipping the process of setting our own pace and adjustment, maybe because we want to establish our standing and feel secure once we put on the new uniform.   

 

A few months ago, during a Spiritual Direction session, my SD (Spiritual Director) asked; “Did you put on the uniform yourself? Or is that something somebody else has put on you?” I had thought that I have handily managed being in and out of several uniforms, and I looked rather good in them. Up until then, I sometime received grace and privilege because of these uniforms, and felt proud of them. At other times I was hurt, lonely, and in pain. When I looked closely, I realized my uniforms were getting pretty raggedy. Yet I didn’t feel ashamed or repulsed. Rather, I even felt that was “like me”, just like a vintage that increases its value with the passage of time. 

 

When I closed my eyes next, it was as if God’s warm eyes and Jesus’s hands were extended to me, and I imagined myself reaching out to take that hand. 

Then:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The words of Mark 1:11 came to my heart and several months from that point, I pondered these words numerous times and I felt myself gradually being freed from the strong attachment to the search for “my style”, “my role”, and “my worth”. 

 

I used to constantly wonder “what if…”, but now it doesn’t feel like such a big deal

even if I lost these uniforms,

and couldn’t find out if I put these on,

or others put them on me,

or what is “truly me”.

This is because I was able to embrace that there is nothing greater than the joy of knowing myself as “God’s beloved”. When Jesus met Peter, he said in Mark 1:17:

Follow Me, I will have you become fishers of people. (Mark 1:17)

This is the word with which I dedicated my life to ministry, and I realized for a long time I’ve been clutching on to it. Probably because I felt like there was nothing else I can be proud of, such as my worth or accomplishments.  

Peter didn’t receive any uniform or company ID, admittance notice or Visa, other than Jesus’s words and that he was made a disciple. So, maybe sometimes we become anxious and try to obtain an ID.  

For some people:

・To be acknowledged as a good disciple and a Christian. 

・To be a capable boss or a subordinate. 

・To be a wife who can perfectly execute house work and child raring. 

・To have a personality to get along with everyone. 

・To be a master fisherman whose ministry always leads to people’s salvation. 

・To be a preacher who can knock out a hit every time. 

・To be a person of love who can meet any needs. 

・To be a person of integrity who is trusted and relied upon. 

・To have mercy and a capacity deeper and wider than the ocean. 

 

If possible, I want all of these IDs, but I would be weighed down and could hardly walk. 

The words Peter received from Jesus were just “follow me” and “I will make you…” That was also a promise to make him become  an original being, which only Jesus could do.

From the beginning, it was not about achievement by my Doing, nor did I need to obsess over Being in my style. He just invited me to “follow Him”, so that I can joyfully enjoy the journey with the one who lives alongside me.  

 

After I came to a stop, I gave up the method of reading the Bible as if it was a duty or a discipline. Instead, I begun to yearn for the experience of deep fellowship with the One who speaks to my soul through the Bible reading. My desire is to live in that joy every day. 

 

For me, meditations and Lectio Divina that I learned from Sachi Nakamura over a long period of time, and participation in the spiritual exercise and contemplative retreat were helpful. Before I know it, my grip on the questions of “who is my true self?” “What kind of me is the most authentic me?” become loose. 

 

When I desire to enjoy and rejoice in the rich time I spend with God, I lose interest in various identifications and titles that I used to want. Moreover, God has shown me my daily transforming self (soul?), and set my heart free. Then I became assured of my never changing identity as “God’s beloved” even when I struggle to fit and get adjusted to the uniforms that change as I moved across three countries, lived in different places (country and area), and belonged to different entities (school, company, organization, and my space).  To the question, “who I want to be”; it’s not that everyone will be the same, but if Christ was formed within each of us, church will be a wonderful temple of God in the age of Phygital Church, too.  

 

Some time in silence, and other time through service, each of us rejoice in the life of profound fellowship with the one who make us beloved children. I hope we can always listen to the word of Christ, who journeys with us, daily atones us, and continue to make us, and together rejoice and enjoy.  

 

I would like to share with you 5 words of Jesus (Matthew 14) as we turn the new page in April with our souls oscillating in various emotions such as anxiety, wariness, impatience, tension, hope, and joy .

  • 🌿Take Heart      
  • 🌿It is I           
  • 🌿Do not be afraid   
  • 🌿Come        
  • 🌿Why did you doubt?  

 

Which word resonates with you today?

 

I hope we can embrace the fellowship with the one who comes alongside my heart and speaks to it, above all else this coming month.🌿

💐🐣Happy Easter🐇💐

🌿Restoration of the heart🌿

In the United States, Valentine’s Day is followed by a one week break from school in celebration of President’s Day (third Monday of February). This year, the break comes earlier, overlapping with Valentine’s Day, and it would have been extra special.

However due to the stay-at-home order, gatherings at schools and churches have not been permitted since last March. Currently the area of activity is limited to 150 mile radius, and if we were to travel further out, we need to self-quarantine for 10 days. So we spent our winter breaks and holidays at home without going out or a break from the daily monotony. With my heart being left somewhat restless, I watched seasonal merchandises in stores come and go, and was surprised by the passage of time that brought the seasons to a full circle once again.
Yet in this “remote life”, I am now able to participate in seminars in Japan over ZOOM, hop on a virtual bicycle to visit a town I’ve never been to before, and chat with people from all over the world at the Clubhouse. The world and my weight have drastically changed since Amazon and Door Dash have enabled us to live in convenience.
We get used to the status quo, even gaining some free time, and our life’s routine is protected, though it was initially disconcerting. Still, we find that our hearts are slow to recover and stress remains. How are we to restore our relationship with God, our family, and people we haven’t been able to see?
Now, this has become the task on hand, as we look towards the restart of the world.
To restore is to repair or to recover. As you know, it also means to return something to its rightful owner, or to replace it to its place of origin.
The other day, I found a Valentine’s Day’s special sale, and got my husband a mug cup with the word “RESTORE” written in the bottom for his birthday.

This is a word my husband picked for this year’s theme, but since it was the Valentine’s Day’s special sale, the person who receive this order might have wondered if it’s alluding to a restoration of marriage? or maybe it’s a mug cup of remorse??
What I hoped to remind him by placing this word at the bottom of the cup were:
  • To always cherish the time with God, and return to the bosom of God.
  • To pray together for the restoration of this world and our hearts.
  • To return this cup to the kitchen when he is done drinking.
In this pandemic, as the values held by the Church and the World are rapidly changing, our hearts are tossed around and shaken by things unseen. It is easy to forget the importance of reconfirming our identities in order for our hearts to be restored.
As if I’m acquainted well enough with God’s love for me, that I should now move on to gaining the Bible and other book knowledge, praying, receiving blessings through participating various conferences, and getting involved with the work, which would win the approval of others. And to think these, would be far more important and meaningful than to receive that “I am loved”.
Not knowing where to take my invisible anxiety and loneliness, I have tried self-restoration and aimless attempts at stress release.
In the past, after an incident, I started experiencing extreme nervousness and anxiety for public speaking, going out alone, and getting on an airplane. The trigger was “What if”.
I became anxious with imagined situations that haven’t happened, and feelings invoked by words people haven’t uttered. One moment I beat myself up, and the next jump to a possible solution to resolve the issue. My mind raced to figure out how to achieve my own ideals and others’ expectations, and urged me on to actions by something other than overflowing joy or gratitude. I became hypersensitive to words and actions of people around me, and as my heart reacted acutely to them, it soon affected me physically.
Even in the midst of all these, God was ever near to watch over me:
“Wont you rest with me?”
“You are my beloved child. In you I am delighted.”
“Now, shall we go together?”
“You are alright. I am with you.”
In the stillness, God has given me timely words.
It might be difficult to restore the tired and wounded heart, just by going somewhere away from our daily lives to forget our troubles and empty our minds. But how important it is to return to God, who created my heart and body, to rest in his hands, to listen to his voice, and to have Him be the core of my heart.
We are not as strong as we or other people think we are, so the experience of our past failures and hurts, no matter how old, can at any moment threaten to become a trigger to swap our identities. Yet it is the privilege of the saved to be able to realize the presence of Christ, who is with us, every single time. So in such a moment, I try to look through this list, like a child who is trying not to forget anything while packing.

Who are we really List

  1. I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
  2. I am a new creation. ( 2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. I am a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)
  4. I am created by God to do good. (Ephesians 2:10)
  5. I am free in Christ. ( Galatians 5: 1)
  6. I am chosen and loved. ( 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
  7. I am the light of the world. ( Matthew 5:14)
  8. I am not ruled by fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  9. I am forgiven. ( Colossians 2:13)
  10. I am God’s possession. (Titus 2:14)
  11. I am free from the desires of the flesh. (Galatians5:24)
  12. I am a light in the world. ( Matthew5:14-15)
  13. I am secure in him. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
  14. I am loved by God. (1 John 4: 10)

Even when our hearts are shaken by “what ifs”, and our traumas and the anxieties of unknown future try to overpower us, let us remember our identities and have our hearts restored, sine it is so clearly written in the Bible.

🌿 Who is the true me?

🌿 Who is with me here, right now? 

🌿 Who will process what I’m going through alongside me?

I was able to gain unspeakable peace in my heart by knowing these.

Valentine’s Day is not just a day to communicate our feelings to the loved ones. I believe it is also a day to commemorate the significant people who have poured love into us, and the love of many people. As we look back on our identities of God’s beloved, I hope our wounded hearts recover, get filled with love, and then be restored to freely share with people around us from the overflow of that love.
In the coming month, may we truly enjoy the journey, in which God walks with us. 🌿

 

Makiko Nakao
Wife of Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church’s pastor
Mother of three daughters who were born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸
Hobby: Observations of her husband, aimless change over of her home decor.
Stay-at-home-mom blogger https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/ (Japanese Only)
Preparing for a silent retreat cafe, as she operates an imaginary cafe.

Make space for God to work in your heart

Hello. My name is Makiko Nakao. I live in northern California. In Santa Clara county (population of 1.9 million) where I live, we’ve had 75,297 Covid-19 confirmed cases so far and 1,000 new confirmed cases each day. It has been 10 months since we have been unable to meet at the church for worship. Although the new year has begun, we are still under the stay-at-home order, have to wait in long lines for groceries, and are unable to dine outside at cafes and restaurants. 

Despite these ongoing challenges, I would like to share a little bit about the blessings I have experienced during this time of mostly staying at home, how I have been spending my time, and how I am enjoying this journey with God each day. 

One of the books I picked up before the pandemic mentioned these four rhythms of dealing with stress and fear.

– 🌿REST: Retreating from the various things that surround us.

– 🌿RESTORE: Exercising our mind and body.

– 🌿CONNECT: Sharing laughter.

– 🌿CREATE: Reviving our old talents.

Incorporating these four rhythms in my life has made me want to create more space in my heart where God, and not myself, can work to free me from negative thoughts, false self-perceptions, and comparisons with others.

REST and RESTORE are rhythms that allow us to input the peace that Jesus fills into our inner being. CONNECT and CREATE are rhythms that allow us to output and let go of our false values and assumptions. 

 

Through them, we find new joy in our relationships with those around us. I believe that practicing these rhythms can help us in overcoming the stress and anxiety from whatever “season of life” that we find ourselves in.

 

Seven and a half years ago, our family moved to a new city due to an unexpected job change. A year later, after finally feeling settled in, all of a sudden, I experienced burnout. It forced me to examine myself to understand how and why this happened to me. 

 

Through this struggle, I discovered about the “rhythm of grace” where Jesus rests with me and walks with me. Moreover, I learned that I had been given a “yoke of joy” that was made especially for me. Although my daily life has since been greatly affected by Covid-19, I would like to share about my “daily life” under the Corona pandemic.

 

In the rhythm of REST, the important first step is to “take inventory.” When I say inventory, I’m not talking about cleaning or tidying. The first thing to do is to look back at your past steps, face them carefully with the awareness of God and His perspectives on them.

 

1) When did I feel alive and well?

2) When did I feel tired?

3) What gifts has God given me?

4) How is he involved in my life currently?

 

As I took inventory of my heart, I began to feel that I sincerely wanted to know more about God’s thoughts on those matters, not just out of a sense of obligation or responsibility.

 

Life has not been normal since the start of the pandemic in March. I found myself spending more time at home and having more free time. But in reality, the change and anxiety led me to keep myself busy to the extent that I could not be aware of God’s perspective and His voice in my life.

 

At that time, I came across these words.

 

I’m tired of helping others enjoy God. I just want to enjoy God for myself.

I felt as if they were my own words from my heart. I realized that in order to respond to God’s dynamic calling for my life, I needed to first and foremost be aware of the cries of my own soul and take better care of it. Caring for my soul so that it can rest, relax, and enjoy the Lord is more important than any responsibility or service that I have been given, and it is something that only I can do.

You may be feeling the need to “download” and process your feelings and thoughts, but your mind is saying that there is “not enough free space.” So you are left to let everything pile up. Eventually, you reach a point where you cannot tell what is important or what you need to throw away. Your mind’s capacity has filled up and has frozen. When this happens, as much as you dread it and hate doing it, you have to push the “force quit” button.  Otherwise, even the important things that are going well will end up disappearing from your life in a flash. 

 

Is this what God really wants for us?

There was a time when various ministries, both within and outside of our church seemed to be going well. As many new needs were arising for the church, someone wisely said to me,  “Before we start something new, it might be good to review what we have done before, and to consider if there is anything that we need to stop doing in order to start the new thing.”

 

What should I be doing at such a time as this? This advice helped me to discern what I ought to pursue in my life. Those words really stuck with me, and I am still reminded of them often. Whenever I was not sure if I should do something, I asked myself, “is it really necessary for me to do this?” or, “what is driving me to do this?” in my prayers.  

 

There were times when I had to let go of something in order to take up a new challenge. But the result was always a feeling of having a burden lifted up. I felt at peace to let things go, knowing that as long as I am “joyfully yoked” with God, He may allow me to take it up again in His time. 

 

Perhaps we all need to take inventory of our minds and make sure to leave some free space so that we don’t reach the point where we need to “force quit.”

 

I think it’s easy to confuse “what I want to do,” “what people expect of me,” and “what God wants me to do,” from each other when we are too busy each day.  I understand how hard it is to discern what is truly best for us.

 

I have heard that people who are born and raised as slaves do not know how to rest. That is why God has ordained the Sabbath for us, so that those of us who are “slaves” will learn that we need to consciously strive to rest.

 

My tendency to try to be productive can quickly turn me into a “slave.” Therefore, I need to intentionally work on restoring my identity as God’s beloved “child (daughter/son).” 

 

As the Corona pandemic has drastically altered our sense of normalcy, God spoke to me through a sermon recently. The message challenged me to view the current “moment of pause as a time of blessing.”

 

We are quick to turn to things and places other than God to make us feel at home and find our value. However, what our souls truly need is a safe place for rest, enough space in our hearts, and comfort.

 

I am cherishing my time with God where I can slow down and eagerly listen to Him speak about His wonderful plans to me. 

 

Therefore, it is my New Year’s resolution to enjoy resting in the Lord by stepping back from my immediate responsibilities for a little while on a regular basis.

 

I know that it sounds like a tedious task, but I need to start the New Year by taking inventory! I must do this in order to create enough space in my heart where the Holy Spirit can work freely.

 

Scroll to top