Into the Blue

This year our three girls are each graduating from middle school, high school, and college. So for the past month, we spent hectic days, our moods soaring or plummeting with each incoming communication such as “the graduation ceremony will be online”, and “we’ll have prom for our school”.

At the end of May, the Covid infection warning level went down to Yellow. We glimpse a hope of recovery in the next fiscal year for schools and churches, while being aware of new challenges with hybrid operations. At the same time, the back-sliding and hollowing of faith surfaced in the face of isolation from the society and community, which became a commonplace due to this pandemic.

My husband and I received our second vaccine at the end of April, and our children’s vaccination will also be complete by the end of May. The Summer break begins in June but what will the world be like once it starts moving again? What will the church be like once the restrictions are lifted? Still the days of reality with cloudy uncertainty continue.

Since I had already experienced fatigue and fever with the first dose of vaccine, I scheduled the second dose with side effects in mind.

As expected, a severe chill came 14 hours after the shot and I couldn’t sleep. When the chill receded, fever broke out next and kept me up. I experienced these uncontrollable bodily reactions, but apparently it would have been ok if I took fever reducers at the beginning.

How much harder would it have been, if it wasn’t from the vaccine, but from the actual Covid infection or the side effects of the treatment for an infection. I was compelled to pray for our friends and acquaintances who are experiencing incomparable hardship.

I was also moved with thanksgiving for regulations and countermeasures put in place by churches and local government, and the heroic work of medical personnels to get us to this point.

On a different topic, my oldest daughter graduated from college a week after my second vaccine. The weather forecast for that day was  5℃(40F) with rain starting a few hours before the ceremony. There was a thorough check for participants of the ceremony to ensure that at least two weeks have passed since the second vaccine, and also the proof of a negative test within 72 hours. It was said to be the first outdoor graduation ceremony since 1956. We got our spot an hour before the ceremony in the cold rain, armed with rain boots, heat-tech, and rain coat.

I kept checking the weather forecast daily for one week before the ceremony, and even after arriving at the venue I looked at the forecast every 10 minutes with my cell phone.

Suke-san (my husband) said to me,”No matter how many times you look at the forecast, you can’t change the weather. There are rainy days and clear days in our lives. But there must be a beautiful blue sky above these clouds. How splendid that God is showing this to the graduates!”, as he was shivering and smiling at the same time.

In the end, despite my numerous checks on the forecast, the weather did not turn the way I hoped, and we had an unprecedented graduation with umbrellas☔.️

There was also another thing that filled our hearts with heavy rain clouds, even if we actually had clear weather on the day of the graduation ceremony. The reality is that half of the graduating students wouldn’t get a firm job offer until June when the world gets moving. The result for the third interview for an NPO, where my oldest daughter wishes to work, did not arrive even after graduation.

The wall of disappointment we cannot overcome by any human effort.

To look straight at the side effects of emotions bubbling up in our hearts, and put aside the disappointment, frustration, and anxiety.

To look up to God who works through our weaknesses.

Perhaps we can do these when things are going well, but now we don’t even have the willpower left to rise up. It is as if we are under the spell of spiritual Gogatsu-byo (May Blues: a Japanese term for a form of lethargy experienced by college freshman and workplace recruits shortly after beginning school or work).

Even if we had faith, we can experience anticipation followed by disappointment. Our hearts react greatly to that pain, and the recurring pain leads to spiritual backsliding.

When we ask God time and time again the meaning of events in our past and present lives, yet fail to gain understanding. We find reasons to write them off as inevitable and gradually increase distance from those around us and isolate ourselves as if we are spiritual failures.

Since my salvation in high school, I’ve been passionate about serving at church and sharing the Gospel with family and friends, but there was a period in my early 20’s when I fell away from God because of an encounter with a wall of uncontrollable reality and disappointments.

Especially when I’m experiencing a spiritual May Blues like that, I would like to look up at the sky above the cloud and see:

① Not the outcome, but the faith that waits on the Lord himself. 

② Jesus, who is walking beside me hear and now. 

and be reminded many times over that these are given to me.

I’m fortunate to have a friend from my Hi-BA days who will check on me at least once a year, regardless of how far we live or if we are aware of what’s going on in each other’s lives recently. She probably doesn’t know how many times she, who lives so far away with her newsletters, encouraged me and helped me to return to God.

God has placed these people in our lives from the time we were saved, and occasionally reminds us how they have come alongside us on our journey.

Perhaps, to let go of the outcome is to contemplate on Jesus and receive who He is, slowly and repeatedly through that process.

A few years ago I went through a period when my heart was filled with disappointment, anxiety, and anger, and I was disappointed in myself. I experienced the spiritual urge to quickly “let go” and “surrender”. The pressure I felt in my heart was subtle yet it was definitely there. In the midst of that I attended C-WIT and learned contemplative prayer and centering prayer.

EC20B Workshop:  Contemplative Prayer(Japanese Only) by Sachi Nakamura

GRC21 Workshop: Centering Prayer (Japanese Only) by Sachi Nakamura

Since then I gradually started paying attention to my internal processing of what’s going on with me, and how God intervenes in it.

Like a caterpillar through a stage of cocoon becoming a butterfly, I now consider the sudden side effects of my emotions and spiritual May Blues as a purposeful process for recovery.

I also learned that I can enjoy the process in my way, rather than just endure it like some kind of discipline.


Until now, I was compelled to take and eat each “problem dish” that came in front of me like sushi on a conveyor belt; “Eeek, it comes! What do I do!?” (it would’ve been nice if it was delicious sushi).


Since then I recognize a “problem dish”; “Here it comes… This is it”. Even if it was a problem with a premium, I only focus on the Lord and voice the name of Jesus. Meanwhile, the dish keeps moving on the conveyor, so unless I grab at it, it goes away on its own eventually.

This is different from ignoring my own responsibility and ceasing to make an effort. Rather it is me who is unable to trust the Lord and cannot wait for the time and outcome that are prepared for me. I felt freed from the compulsion and anxiety and realized how desperately I have been trying to control the outcome.

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20 NIV

Of course after a while a similar dish comes my way. But as hundreds and thousands of such dishes roll in, instead of pulling these problems toward myself, I find myself being pulled toward Jesus. Instead of solving problems myself, I enjoy the conversation with Jesus who intervenes on my behalf, and look forward to seeing His handiwork.

We shouldn’t rest when we are tired. We need rest before we get tired.

Recently my quiet time changed from an ascetic endeavor of purging anxieties to just being there to receive God’s love. I sometimes even fall asleep. It has become a time of supreme bliss.

On that day, as the graduation ceremony drew to an end, when graduates were getting up on the stage to receive their diplomas, a gust of cold wind came in to blow away rain clouds and blue sky opened up.

It was like a scene from a fairy tale that I have never seen before. No number of pictures could capture the beauty and the wonder of it all.

My eldest daughter came home for the first time in a long time and stayed busy with tests and interviews, and eventually received a job offer from the NPO she wanted. We have had a conversation that this is not an outcome to be grasped, but the blue sky God has shown us as a process to the next step.

Once again, as I remember that beautiful blue sky after the rain, I am excited for the not-yet seen spiritual blue sky God is going to show each of you.

May you see a beautiful blue sky when you look up this coming June. 🌿

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV


Makiko Nakao (Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church)

🌿 ”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. 


“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 (Japanese Only)
Preparing for a silent retreat cafe, as she operates an imaginary cafe.

Scroll to top