I hope everyone had a good summer and managed to find some quality time with friends and family. In Japan we have year-round school, but we do get about a month off for summer vacation. I felt so blessed to spend the majority of that time with my family back in Iowa.
Whenever I’m in my hometown, it conjures up images of my childhood: playing in the backyard with my brothers, family gatherings with my extended family, and carefree days. Whether I was running through sprinklers or trying to catch lightning bugs, I remember a childhood full of fun and simply living in the moment.
During my trip to Iowa this summer, I also enjoyed making fun memories with my niece, 3 nephews, and the rest of my family. One of my highlights was definitely the day I spent with my parents and both brothers’ families at the Des Moines Blank Park Zoo. It’s not every day that I get to see lions and penguins, but then again, with living abroad, it’s not every day that I get to see the joy on the faces of the little ones either. I love my job and serving in Kumamoto, but spending time away from family is definitely one of the biggest challenges of my job.
I did many fun activities while I was back but, I also found the experience very eye-opening. When I was a kid, my biggest concerns were scraping my knee or having my brothers tease me. On Sunday I’m turning 30, and now I’m convinced that the older a person gets, the bigger their problems seem to get. While I was back, I witnessed the hardships my parents experience every day in coping with an elderly mother whose dementia is rapidly increasing, and two other elderly parents who have health issues piling one on top of another. I don’t know if my grandparents will still be around by the next time I get back to Iowa, and that is a hard reality to face. Even just seeing the daily difficulties my brothers and their families experience, shows me that life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
So where does this leave us? What do we do when there is so much beyond our control and when we see problems that seem so overwhelming? For starters, we have to acknowledge that we can’t deal with it alone. We need the constant support of family, friends, and a church family. We need to have people in our lives who we can confide in when we’re really struggling or who we can turn to at a moment’s notice and ask for prayer. We need to rely on God for our strength and hope, when we feel weak and vulnerable. All our problems won’t magically disappear, and we can’t go back to the carefree days of our childhood, but God wants to help us through whatever struggles we face.