As I sit to write this blog I am grabbing an hour inbetween taking my friend Laura to the airport and heading to my church for morning worship.
I am, honestly, exhausted.
This week has been both beautiful and tiring in equal measure.
There is so much to be thankful for. My heart is joyful. But there's probably a couple of days sleep to also catch up on! And seriously, not just because of the social stuff…
Not long after she arrived, Laura got pretty sick (she blogged about this herself yesterday so I think it's okay for me to do so too). Anyway, things came to a head of Tuesday morning and we ended up spending a day in Japanese hospital getting her sorted out. Ayumi and Kayoko were just incredible… Both because Kayoko is seriously the most connected person in the world and got us into a specialist hospital with no waiting time, and because Ayumi's translation skills for medical Japanese excelled themselves at every corner! And because they both love people unconditionally in abundant and stunning ways.
I was humbled by the support that not only overflowed from these women, but also the other friends who gave me lifts to and from work when needed and just made everything easier.
Sapporo is full of some of the true greats, it must be said.
Anyway, by Wednesday morning Laura was a ton better and we headed off to a luxury onsen (remember the onsen?!) hotel for a few days… Which was quite frankly well needed.
Oh man. It was amazing!!
Like, I've stayed in some nice hotels before, but this was just above and beyond.
It had a pillow 'gallery' when you arrived so that you could test out, try and choose from a selection of about 25 varieties of pillow in order to get the one that really suited your sleep style.
The buffet. Was super-super-delicious. I am considerably fatter than I was when I arrived.
It had an indoor open fire from 7pm, which existed for the sole purpose of allowing you to melt your own marshmallows and enjoy them in your pyjamas in the warm communal living space. Marshmallows and melting implements provided.
And there was a live harp performance as you toasted said marshmallows. And she took requests.
And the onsen… There's something totally indescribable about sitting in an outdoor onsen, a natural hot spring, chatting into the late evening, whilst you're surrounded by white mountains and the snow flutters gently all around.
Hokkaido is stunning.
And I now feel like I am spoiled for hotels of substandard quality. (Kidding).
You know, my experiences in the week running up to staying in this hotel actually made the days there all the sweeter.
Not only had we had some sleepless nights and hospital trips, but I'd also spent two nights staying in two different hostels. As in, imagine an English-youth-hostel, of the nicer variety, with a few design quirks.
I stayed in the first one for an event my school was running, and the second because my friend wanted me to write a review… In one week. Like you do. And don't get me wrong, both were super-ace hostels. Clean, fun, full of great people and great friends and great times…
But still involving me sleeping in a dormitory and using a communal shower.
I mean, I don't mind slumming it… Especially when people feed me nabe and takoyaki as part of the proceedings, but the contrast between any kind of hostel and a 5* hotel is… Well, quite a contrast.
But all the prior experiences, whether they were stressful (like the hospital) or fun (like hanging out with friends in a hostel), were all preparation to receive the greatest gift and the greatest experience in the right way and with the right heart.
My hotel experiences were sweeter because of what preceded them.
Isn't life like that sometimes?
Or at least, shouldn't it be?
Because we have a choice about how we deal with our regrets and our mistakes and our past… Our past in it's totality. The painful stressful stuff and the fun stuff and just the normal stuff. We have choice. We can choose to live in the complaint and the offence… Or we can choose to believe that God will use it to mould us and position us to receive what He is calling to in the right way.
I'm not saying it's always going to be a metaphorical 5* hotel at the end of a stressful week. I can guarantee that I'll stay in many more hostels in my life. I'll even do it willingly. They'll probably be more hospitals and sleepless nights involved at some point of my life story, whether for me or for others. But…
Life shouldn't pull us from God or the hope in His promises. In fact, it's those promises that we should cling to and trust in more when life is dark.
We don't forget in the darkness what we knew to be true in the light.
Kristene Dimarco, in stunning clarity, sings it like this.
The darker the night, the brighter the day.
The fiercer the fight, the stronger the faith.
So I place my hope in You.
The deeper the sin, the stronger the blood.
The more to forgive, the more reason to love.
So I place my trust in You.
In Your ways oh God, redemption is so much better than perfection.
In Your ways oh God.
Over and over, You prove You're so faithful.
Over and over, You prove Yourself a Redeemer.
I'm so thankful that those words are a picture of the story of my own life. My past has and still does push me to pursue Jesus, even in my brokenness and my weakness. The darker the night, the brighter the day.
That is my testimony.
And it's a beautiful messiness.
A beautiful silliness.
And a story of a God who restores greater than anything that was lost.
And in case you missed yesterday's photo wheel, here are a few of my favourite shots from this last week! 🙂
It's possible I gained about 8 kilos… 😉
Love you all so much! Happy Sunday!
Jesus is so wonderful to us!