Few people I know are as diversely talented as Caitlin. Artistic. Funny. Bold. Heart of gold. The list goes on. She carries a solid resume on her own but to top it off she picked a good husband too. How can I describe how awesome this couple is? It’s kind of like if Cliff Huxtable and Emily Dickinson had a baby. And then Megatron and Oprah had a baby. And then those babies grew up and got married… on the top of Mount Rushmore… and the wedding was performed by a German-speaking centaur that looked a little like Craig T. Nelson. They are almost that awesome. Seriously, this is a couple that you look at and think, “these people really could change the world.”
That’s not just a hypothetical either. Changing the world really is their plan. Caitlin and Jay are currently living in Japan working with one of my favorite organizations. The goal is simple. Plant churches in some of the largest cities in the world. Is this an ambitious undertaking? Yes. Is it all part of the plan? Of course.
10. I learned that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
This year, my husband and I, along with 8 other Americans, planted a church in Japan. In 2008 and 2009, there was no church; we were all just living here trying to learn Japanese, which is the most difficult language for a native-English speaker to learn. Overwhelmed by culture fatigue, it was really difficult to imagine a church being established. But a year ago, we held our first service at Mustard Seed Christian Church in Nagoya, Japan. And in 2010, God has done immeasurably more than all we asked or imagined. Seven people were baptized, the church grew steadily, and hundreds were exposed to the gospel for the first time.
9. I learned how to make Japanese food from a dog.
Watch it. For real. And if you have further questions about the recipe, let me know.
8. I learned that parenting is really fun.
My son makes me laugh really hard. He’s the most enthusiastic jumper I’ve ever seen, even though he can’t yet get both feet off the ground at the same time. This year I watched him morph from a little slug that could barely crawl into an energetic toddler who can dance, throw a ball and bite other people’s children.
7. I learned that parenting is unpredictable.
Nothing in my life has made me need to trust God more than parenting. I try hard to keep my toddler out of harm’s way. Recently I broke a glass jar on the floor while cleaning my house. I wrapped my son in his Tibetan Rucksack to keep him from getting cut while I cleaned up the glass. Soon after I got the vacuum out, he started wailing. After taking him out of his fabric prison, I saw that he was grabbing his hand. Three of his little fingers had already developed blisters. Without me realizing, he had grabbed a light bulb on a lamp while I vacuumed around it. Good move, Caitlin. I learned that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to fully protect my children from suffering. I’m going to do my best to bandage blistered fingers, but the truth is that he is in God’s hands. And those hands are better than mine.
6. I learned how to play the bass.
Well, I learned if teaching myself out of necessity is considered “learning.” This fall I became the temporary bassist for our church band. In high school I fantasized about being a bassist in a rock band and so after expressing interest to my parents, they gave me a bass for Christmas. I learned the bass line for a Simple Plan song and that’s about as far as it went. So with higher stakes, I actually learned how to play the bass. My Dashboard Confessional t-shirt may have wound up at Goodwill, my cartilage piercings just might have gotten infected and closed up, but the bassist within me lives on.
5. I learned that the harvest is ready, yet it can sometimes go unnoticed.
A girl had been coming to the Bible study meeting at my house for only a few weeks. She had been exposed to Christian teaching over the span of several years because she attended a Catholic private school, but she wanted to learn more. Once the discussion time ended and people began snacking on crab chips and rice crackers, she pulled me aside and asked me questions about salvation and baptism. She said she wanted to be a Christian but she wasn’t sure if she deserved to be baptized. After answering her questions and telling her that God deeply desired for her to be baptized, we told her that she should take her time and let us know the next week at Bible study if she was ready to be baptized. “I know you said that I should wait a week, but I feel like I’m ready. Would it be okay if I got baptized now?” she reluctantly asked several minutes later. I felt so foolish for not seeing that God had been preparing her for that moment in time – especially because I’d often prayed that God would prepare hearts and make ready the harvest. So, I made a dash to the storage closet for my bucket of cleaning supplies and did a speed-clean of our bathtub. We baptized her at 11:30 that night.
4. I learned how to be a city dweller.
I spent most of my life residing in American cities with a population of less than 50,000. Now I live in a Japanese city of 9,000,000. It definitely took time to figure out how city life works, but I think that at some point during 2010, this lifestyle became normal to me. When family from the USA visited us recently, they kept remarking about how crazy it was that I walked or took the train everywhere. I realized that at some point those actions got moved from the “crazy” category into the “don’t ever think about it anymore because it’s like breathing” category.
3. I learned the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Of the books I read this year, this one gets a resounding “booya.” You’ve probably already read it. If you haven’t, you should.
2. I learned that TV isn’t that cool.
So earlier this year, I was watching quite a lot of TV. There was the final season of Lost, of course. We’d watch the Office, 30 Rock, occasionally Glee, a little Letterman here and there, and the ever so often one of the Karaoke competitions/other ridiculous high-sensory Japanese shows. But recently, I have majorly reduced my TV intake and my life is better as a result. I have been filling my mind with more edifying material and trying to be proactive about doing things that have eternal impact. Of course, ringing in my ears is that line that my mom always says, “When my life flashes before my eyes, I don’t want to see myself sitting around watching other people’s experiences. I want my own.” My eyes roll when she says that, yes, but I have to admit, she makes a good point.
1. I learned that the only way to be content is if God is my source of joy and fulfillment.