I’m sure you’ve seen those performers who spin plates. They balance plates on the top of sticks, adding more and more plates while continuing to spin and balance the ones already up. The plates spin well for a while, but without an extra twizzle from the performer, the plates fall. For the past year, that is what our lives have felt like.
We and our small children have been in Japan as missionaries for a bit over a year now. While some performers balance many plates, we find it challenging to keep up our five main ones: time with the Lord, time with family, sleep, Japanese language learning, and day-to-day tasks.
When we arrived in Japan, we knew our focus would be on language learning. We expected it to be hard, but we also expected to try hard and succeed. Instead, we’re trying hard and feeling like we’re never succeeding.
It becomes a trade-off. Are you going to get enough sleep and spend time with the Lord? Yes? Well then, what does that mean for family and homework? Or do you read a book to the kids and stay up late to do household chores and finish homework, only to be a zombie in class the next day?
Or maybe take turns and have a rotation. Okay, so it’s Tuesday, today’s the day I let my teacher down, but I buy groceries for my family. Wednesday is the day I let my family down, but my homework is done, and I get enough sleep…
How do we manage? With grace, and taking things one day at a time. Some days that means doing everything, just at a lower quality. We’ve had to be okay with coming to class with our homework only half done, or sometimes less. Our advice is to study Japanese before you arrive. Then that plate may be easier to keep spinning when you get here.
We wish we could say that we’ve figured it out, but most of the time, we’re barely keeping our heads above the water. We’ve realized that the spinning plate of “time with the Lord” is the most important habit to bring with you to Japan. He is our strength, our purpose, our life source. Practice holding on to him now in your own culture, so when the busyness of Japan hits you, you won’t easily drop that plate.
By Nathan and Kaitlin, OMF Missionaries