Blessings that I got through C-WIT

Hello. I praise His holy name.

I am Tomoko Nagata, living in Seattle for almost a quarter of a century.

In March 2022, I participated in Zoom C-WIT for the first time. At that time, I was caught up in work and studies, and even the foundation of life, which is devotion, tended to be postponed within myself due to “lack of time.” I prioritized tasks with deadlines and work over devotion. In February 2022, after successfully finishing school, I was relieved, but I was experiencing days when my heart didn’t turn towards devotion. It was during such a time that I participated in the first C-WIT, where we are invited to be still before God. While I thought C-WIT might be a study group about leadership for adult Christians, I joined with interest because I had been getting more involved in leadership roles at work, and I wanted to know how to exhibit leadership as a Christian and if there was insight from the Bible. However, what I had imagined was completely different. The first session involved learning about being still before God and Contemplative Prayer. Calling out to God while feeling His presence along with my breath was refreshing, and I continue to walk, especially during times of worry in my current life, while consciously breathing and receiving God’s peace.

In the spring of this year,  we shared about having God in our daily routines, and in the summer, we shared about the evidence of God’s guidance in times of trials at C-WIT meetings. After the sessions, we formed small groups and when we discussed what each of us had heard from God, although our individual situations were entirely different, it became clear that God was surely responding to each one of us in unexpected ways.

From those who participated in C-WIT during these three sessions, enduring physically or mentally challenging circumstances, I received the sharing of God’s daily journey. This deeply ingrained in me that God is with each one of us at all times.

As of 2023, I am still caught up in work. Moreover, a family member in Japan has developed health concerns, so my days involve messaging and talking online while looking at screens. Though my family has not yet made a confession of faith, they have gradually begun to listen to God’s words since this situation arose. We pray together, frequently asking for protection in our daily lives. When we first prayed together, it required courage from me. Now, I can pray easily. In my daily life, Jesus is surely with me, guiding me through the Holy Spirit. Just as Yuko Ozeki shared in the second C-WIT, that God’s presence is there while doing daily routines, I also feel a calmness and a sense of God’s presence even when cleaning the toilet. I quietly desire to know more about God, and I want to engage in devotion, reading the Bible and praying, to understand how Jesus guides me. Some days, I sleep until the last moment and devotion is often pushed aside by my to-do list. In my daily life, there are times of anxiety and worry, times when my heart feels overwhelmed. Especially concerning my family in Japan, due to the distance, there’s not much I can do immediately, so I often have to entrust them to God. However, God consistently provides ways to overcome challenges in ways that surpass my expectations.

Through C-WIT, I have learned and continue to learn:

“That the holy God is with us in our daily lives, whether in quiet and calm times or in the stormiest days. To be still before God, to listen to His voice. This relationship is possible because Jesus died the cross, forgiving my sins.”

Working in healthcare fields, I witness situations where individuals who were living normally just yesterday suddenly pass away or their health drastically changes, altering their lives entirely. That’s why being able to welcome the holy God into my life’s daily miracles and blessings and spending time with Him is a reason for gratitude.

Shake, Shake, Shake

Hello everyone!

My name is Yuko OZEKI.

Since the theme of this year’s EC, “Unshakable – Our Firm Foundation,” was decided around this time last year, it has been a year full of things that have made me wonder why I have been so shakable.

The number of appliances that have broken in the past year has been humongous. 😭

(1) Refrigerator,
(2) Microwave oven
(3)Bread maker
(4) Toaster
(5) Rice cooker
(6) Dishwasher

And last week
(7) Washing machine

broke down. Ding. 😂 Isn’t it terrible to have so many breakdowns in one year?

Even if the foundation is not shaken, when the top is shaken, it’s pretty depressing.

At times like this, what has been Life-Giving for me?

(1) Devotions in the morning, when I light a candle and make a cup of hot tea.
(2) Playing ball with my dog at the dog park.
(3) Jogging and yoga.
(4) Eating delicious sweets.
(5) Using a foot massager to prevent swelling.
(6) Meditation while doing the labyrinth walk.
(7) Having a place to share your thoughts and feelings such as bible study and spiritual direction.

I am very happy to be able to do these things. When I write them down like this, I realize that it is “one-off events” that shake me up, but all the things that help me build-up are “routine.”

So by developing habits to energize even when shaken, we can build back up again, broken or not. As long as the foundation is not shaken, you can rebuild as many times as you want.

What is a Life-Giving routine for you?

The following is a quote from C.S. Lewis that O-kun shared with us during the first EC Executive Committee meeting. These words have also been a great support for me this past year.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. 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 those 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 any 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 an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

🌿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.

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