We've been thinking a lot about home lately. After graduating college and being gone for a year, it seems the homes we grew up in will officially be considered "our parents' houses." Our parents may not agree, but it's a line of thinking we can't help but accept. In one way, this is sad; there is a kind of grieving process that takes place over the loss of this idea of "home." But in another way, this is very exciting; we can start fresh, we can live wherever we want, we can do whatever we want, our slate is clean. We can build on a new idea of home.
But right now, home is here. Home is at the Asian Rural Institute, and we are happy to be home. But just like at any home, with any family, we get frustrated, angry, uncomfortable, scared, annoyed, etc. These past couple of months have been especially cold and dark. We've always known that days grow shorter and nights grow longer in the winter, but it has never, ever affected us this strongly before.
When we first arrived in August, the sun would rise over the mountains in front of our window and peak through our orange curtains. Around 6am, our room would be at its brightest, the sun shining straight through our sliding glass doors. We would finish evening work at 6pm (still light), go to dinner at 6:30pm (still light), leave around 7:15-7:30pm (still sort of light), try to go to sleep around 9:00pm (not quite dark). Maybe it was all the hard work, or maybe just the dark night creeping in on our day, but as the months drew on we began going to bed earlier. Since we've moved into the missionary house, we have been frightfully aware (afraid) of the dark. We closed the metal shutters on our bedroom window to try and conserve heat throughout the night, but this has only made our lives darker. We are compromising light for warmth, shouldn't these go hand in hand?
So the past couple of months, we have been waking up in the dark, spending all of daylight working at ARI, then walking home at 5:30pm (in the dark), showering, walking to and from dinner (in the dark), reading The Hobbit to each other (by lamp light) and of course, going to sleep (in the dark) at who knows what time anymore. We are probably the warmest when sleeping, at least there is that (as long as our faces are under the covers!).
Needless to say, we have been struggling a little bit. I feel like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: "This is the dreariest and dullest part of all this wretched, tiresome, uncomfortable adventure! I wish I was back in my hobbit-hole by my own warm fireside with the lamp shining!" It's hard to ignore the creature comforts when you're intimate with the elements like we are.
But the Mirkwood Forest does not span all of Middle Earth. We are seeing signs of a new season: daylight is hanging around a little longer (hasn't quite made it to dinner yet) and there are daffodils sprouting around the campus. These observations have made all the difference in our daily life and attitude. We see ourselves slowly climbing out of this cold and dark place. Nishi also noted that Spring is near because the sunshine is now warm. If a Japanese person in Japan says Spring is near, I believe it! I thought we would be stuck in winter for the rest of our ARI days, but there is hope of warmth and light after all.
In other news, we would like to officially announce the visit of Doug's sister, Kimberly! She will come early June and stay for 5 weeks! And when we say goodbye in July, it will only be for 3-4 weeks. This blows our mind. We are super excited for Kimberly, she will have just graduated high school and be preparing for COLLEGE! We. can. not. wait.
Also, Doug and I have decided to take a week-long vacation and visit Thailand the second week of March. Since we are on this side of the world, we thought it would be worth our while to see and experience another country. It will also be nice to take some time for ourselves to rest and relax before the participants arrive and we begin the next phase of our ARI experience.
So with travels and visits to look forward to, as well as warmer weather and longer days, we feel it an appropriate and genuine time to observe Lent. We can quit thinking about how cold and miserable we are and reflect and focus on things that really matter. Like our own spiritual formation. We have been neglecting our relationship with God and others in our community. The choice to stay later after dinner and chat with our ARI family has been avoided to hurry back asap to the house and feel warmth without the looming fear of having to go back outside until tomorrow. But now, we literally have more time in our day to give to these relationships. We want to discipline ourselves to learn more about this place--our family here, sustainable food production, other cultures--all to bring us closer to each other and to God.
These 6 weeks leading up to Easter, to the Resurrection of Christ, will coincide almost eerily to the arrival of this year's participants. When that time comes, the ARI community will most certainly be born anew. There will be more life here in so many ways: literally more lives will be present here, more cultures, more view points, more ways to live and love, more growth in food and in people, just more life. And until then, there will be quiet. We will cherish this quiet. We hope to be still, and to be quiet, and all the while, to be loving, and serving, and living together.
Thinking of home often,
Doug and Jenny