Have you ever played the game called, “Never, have I ever…?”  In this crazy game you say three things you have never done and the folks around you try to guess which one is the real deal and which ones are made up.  Lately, I have been playing a different game with myself.  This one is called, “I would have never…”  Unlike the other game, I am sticking to reality on this one and thinking about all of the things I would have never done if God had not packed me up and sent me off to Okinawa, Japan.  From this side of the experience, I shake my head at myself and wonder how could I have entertained even a moment of anxious regret about our orders to this far corner of the world. In four years God has filled my life with rich blessings and experiences I would have never had if I had stayed right where I was.  This is a key thought for those of us who emotionally balk at the idea of change! My habitual thought process leads me to think about all of the things that I will give up, say goodbye to, and let go of when I move.  God is breaking me out of this needs-to-be-gone mental rut.  These days, God is continually reminding me that with each move He adds to my life, not takes away.

There are so many things I would have never done, places I would have never seen, friends I would have never made, lessons I would have never learned, skills I would have never developed, and directions I would have never received if I had stayed where I was.  Just for fun, I am going to start a list of things I Would Have Never…”  Today, my list has to do with bits and pieces of the things that have to do with living in Japan.  In many ways this is a great way to share with you somethings about my current corner of the world.

If I had not moved to Okinawa…

1. I would have never adjusted to life  in a small concrete house with a “one-butt” kitchen and 1/4 of our belongings.

Though not attractive, these houses feel very cozy when typhoon season rolls around.

No judging–this was after making dinner for a group of folks. Here is The One Butt Kitchen is action!

2. I would have never  experienced the freedom of driving a junky car–no worrying about scratches, dents, mishaps with telephone poles, or bothering to keep it clean.  My current car is the least junky I have had (my other car died-surprise, surprise) .  Cars here on Okinawa have funny names like Cube, Naked, FunCarGo, and some, like mine, have fun sayings written on them.

I hope you can read this. Who wouldn’t want to drive a car with such a happy saying on the door!

3.  I would have never gotten to enjoy the amazingly beauty of the beaches here.  Sometimes I stop by for just a few minutes on my way somewhere just to feast my eyes on some of the loveliest landscapes God has created.  Just because I can.

This is taken at Okuma.

4. I would have never  learned what a Shisa dog is–or how to spell it.  Shisa dogs are on most every Japanese building.   A cross between a lion and a dog, they come in pairs, one to ward off evil spirits and one to keep good spirits in.

This is from a pottery festival, which is why you see the price tag (in yen).

5.  I would have never worn a kimono.  These are a work of art and are not for the faint of heart to parade around in.  It is not like wearing a bathrobe!  And those little wooden sandles that are way too small for this American girl’s feet are not exactly comfortable.

Here I am with my Aunt, sporting our best summer kimonos! Feeling like a Kokeshi doll.

Just in case you want to get a pair.

7.I would have never  used a squatty potty!  I can still pass on this one.  Japanese bathrooms come in an amazing variety of amenities.  There is the most basic–the squatty potty to ones that have motion detectors to activate music to disguise any sounds your bodily functions might make (The Beach Tower Hotel).

This is a “squatty potty”

8.  I would have never made Japanese friends who have enthusiastically shared with me the joys of their culture and cooking.

My friend Akemi taught Cathy Bush and I how to make several Japanese yummies.

9. I would have never traveled to places I would have never even thought of visiting from my suburb in Virginia–Seoul, Kyoto, Thailand, and Cambodia.  These trips have blessed me with a rich appreciation of different cultures.

The Golden Temple in Kyoto

10. I would have never developed a love of fun Japanese signs, sometimes affectionately referred to as Engrish.

Smorking anyone?

Do you think all of this is on the menu? Wonder if it is a hot or a cold dish?

In light of all of these things I would have never done, I love the wording of Romans 12:1-2 in The Message:

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

One of the ways to embrace what God does for us is to appreciate the unique blessings that are part of each season of our lives.  As I think through these things I would have never done, I am challenged to look forward to the things I will never do if…

I stay where I am.

This is the name of a resaurant in Kyoto. Not sure I want to eat at a place named “Infection.”

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