20 days into the New Year, our lives changed forever. On an otherwise normal Thursday, life went on around us as we raced to the hospital, to end up having our sweet girl delivered right into the arms of her daddy in the hospital parking lot. An exhilarating and fantastic, Hollywood entrance into parenthood. In the days following her birth, we could not help but marvel at the miracle, the gift.
In February, challenge met us, like a doctoral program for which we had no prior background. We relied on each other, on our faithful family, on piles of books, on our closest friends, on our God. On a rigorous feeding schedule that left B stumbling through exhaustion, T still struggled to gain weight. The emotional toll of not being able to meet your child’s needs, the determination to making nursing nourishing, the support of family in town, the unavailability of local resources—a bucket of muddled confusion, thanksgiving, frustration, joy, desperation, laughter, tears—a marvelous challenge.
On March 11—the event that defines 2011—Japan was hit with the largest earthquake in its history. Then an ensuing Tsunami, both literally and figuratively. What proof it was that we are not in control, nor do we really know what tomorrow holds, schedule as we will. That night, T and B were home, watching the city struggle to function, without trains, without phones. D was part of the aftermath, supporting our Japanese ally and cautiously making his way home. Five days later, with talk of radiation a real threat, T left the arms of her daddy to visit the US. Lives were devastated far beyond ours.
The entire month of April, our family spent our days miles apart. A tumultuous ocean held blessings in the rough. There was a peace of mind and heart about the decision we made to leave. T spent quality time with her grandparents, met her aunties and cousins, and received kisses from friends we thought she might not see for years. B received the much needed support, professional and emotional, that she needed to overcome the nursing challenge. D met new friends in the local community and experienced the mystique of the cherry blossom season—a season that offered a sign of hope and life for a devastated nation.
May brought us a reunion, sooner than we had dared to imagine. By the time B and T set foot in Japan again, D had spent more time apart from his new baby girl than with her. Our prayer as we lived apart, connected only by Skype at odd hours of the day and night, was that T would remember her daddy from the first moment of reintroduction. And, what a sweet reunion they had.
We spent most of June relearning how to be a family of three again. As we slowly remembered what life together was like, we let the breeze of the routine of daily life in a foreign place rush against our skin and inhale the refreshment that the normal can bring. We carved out time for the true ocean breeze too, with a much appreciated time of reconnection as a family and treasured moments with good friends, in Hawaii.
In July, D was offered the opportunity to start a new department at work. He now spends his days giving advice to commands that do not have a lawyer—sometimes they even take it! He enjoys working with great commanders in the forward deployed Navy. Eventually, each day gives way to an evening in his other new role as daddy, spending quality time with his little T.
Living overseas sometimes seems like the first day at a new school, every day. Though being illiterate and unable to speak provides daily obstacles, we truly appreciate the adventure each day brings and have committed to discover Japan. For T, most of her discovery is from her “Hawk” carrier or, beginning in August, from her hands and knees. August was also the month to add some checkmarks to our list of “things to do in Japan” that we created when we first arrived. Along with our imouto fusai, we explored Hiroshima,Kyoto, and more of our local area.
It was not just in September but throughout the entire year that a theme of community has marked our days. From so many different positions, we find ourselves involved with and striving for community—a group of people with whom we can share life. A trip to the States filled us with the warmth and closeness of old friends and family. The typically ephemeral Navy relationships have blossomed into life-long friendships. Family visits offered familiarity, support, and excitement to the daily norm. Slow progress in Japanese and their skilled English has opened windows to new local, friendships. We threw parties and hosted small group meetings. We went on trips and shared dinner around our table and theirs. We went on outings as moms and kids and as couples. We have even found that little T has started to find community of her own.
Almost nothing could look more different about this year than the daily routine and day-filling thoughts of B. A chapter as mom, as wife, as friend. While this shadows the woman of the recent past—the leader, the strategizer, the achiever—it provides space for her as the creator, the servant, the adventurer. It has taken a reflective year to wrap her mind and spirit around this shift. And sometime around October, a settling took place. She will take the diapers, errands, creating, playing, educating, zoo outings, baking, planning, learning, exploring, reading, new friendships, and she’ll leave the rest for another chapter.
November marks the beginning of one of our favorite seasons. The weather cools. The trees give way to nature’s beckoning and provide a brilliant canvas of red, yellow, and orange. The scent of spice and warm drinks fills the air. And, it is a season of gratefulness. So many moments this year, we have been stopped in our tracks by a sense of gratefulness to our God. For being together. For friends, new and old. For family. For the world as discovered by little eyes and little hands. For the opportunity to live outside of our comfort and yet be so sure this is right where we are meant to be.
The Birth that we celebrate this December is so much more meaningful to our little family this year. The pangs of labor, the rush of fear and excitement, the nakedness and vulnerability, the growing child. What a magnificent yet simple story God wrote for us, God was man. And how much more poignant it is to us now, this year, that God would entrust His child to the care of the world, to a regular man and woman. And, then that this little child would grow up to be a man, a friend, a redeemer.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.