This has been a week of the unexpected. Unexpected trials and unexpected joys.
None of them particularly huge, but that’s kinda the point of this post. Sometimes it’s the little things that make living overseas stressful, and sometimes it’s the little things that take that stress away.
OK, here’s what happened…
On Monday my friend Tre took me along to the nearby Costco store to stock up some essentials. We eat some freebies, buy super-sized goods and head to the car park. As we’re putting our shopping into the car I turn around to see a crow taking a big beakfull out of my minced pork multi-pack.
That’s right, a crow had swooped into the two of us, hopped into the trolley, and was eating my freshly purchased raw meat.
Then it flew off like an utter punk coward. I mean, if you’re going to steal a man’s meat, at least have the stones to fight him for it.
I have ranted about the crows in Japan a bit before. But it’s worth re-mentioning that they are quite simply living embodiments of everything wrong in this world . . . with wings.
Honestly, they drive me insane. They’re everywhere, squawking away, and they swoop down on you from behind and try to peck you in the back of the head.
In a way, Japanese crows represent the culture stress I experience in Japan.
I saw ‘stress’ rather than ‘shock’ because I think there’s an important difference there. Some aspects of living in Japan really are shocking when you first arrive. And they take a little while to get used to. But other tough aspects of living in Japan never go away. And I don’t think I’ll ever get fully used to them. It’s not that they’re surprising, or odd, it’s that they’re really annoying.
For instance, leading up to the crow incident, I had two days in a row where I was asked the same question by a Japanese person. It’s a question I am often asked when people hear that I’m from the UK.
“Is it true that British food is horrible?”
Because you know that’s an acceptable thing to say to a person you’ve just met.
My point is that by Monday afternoon my culture stress meter was on the rise.
But by the grace of God I was able to overcome that stress.
And by ‘grace of God’ I mean ‘mature cheddar cheese.’
Because Costco had cheese. Mature cheddar cheese.
Yes, it was twice as much as it’d cost in the UK. No, I don’t regret buying it at all.
Because cheese is amazing. And mature cheddar is the undisputed champion of cheese. If I were to have to compare cheddar cheese to a Street Fighter 2 character (and I kinda have to in order to satisfy a promise I made), it would be Ryu. Sure occasionally you’ll play around with Blanka/Brie and there’s also that one weird friend who claims to genuine prefer Zangief/Red Leicester . . . but deep down we all know that Ryu/Cheddar is the only sensible choice. No pretense. No fanciness. Just straight-up-dragon-punch-you-in-the-mouth brilliance. (See Priss, told you I could do it).
Anywho, I’m aware that the cross-section of people who love both British cheese and 90s beat em ups is probably quite small, so I’ll get back to the whole culture stress point.
Here’s the thing. I believe that everything good in this world comes from God. He gives all of it to us. And we’re meant to enjoy it. It’s meant to de-stress us.
Laughing with friends until your sides hurt . . . kicking your way through piles of autumn leaves . . . getting giddy with excitement over the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron . . . melting cheddar cheese over a bagel . . . all of these are good gifts from a good God. And all of them have helped me to deal with the stress of trying to live for Jesus in Japan.
Yes, I absolutely believe in the power and importance of prayer. I believe in the need to be reminded of the simple amazing truths that make up the good news of Jesus Christ. And I believe that the main battles I face are battles of my own heart. That’s a large part of writing this blog: to encourage folk like you to encourage folk like me.
Yup, words have the power to strengthen souls.
And so does cheese.
No seriously. Because cheese is a physical reminder of the fact that God cares for me and that He provides good gifts. And when I’m stressed that’s the truth I most need to remember. When it feels like the world is against me mature cheddar says, “God is for you.” It reminds me not to focus on all the negative stuff, but to enjoy the good stuff. To give thanks. Be grateful. Smile.
So there you have it. When crows attack, I fight back with cheese!
OK I’m feeling a bit vulnerable having exposed all my crazy, so it’s sharing time.
What are the little things that help you to battle stress? What is your equivalent of mature cheddar? (And don’t say Red Leicester!)