God of Expectations, His Surprises and Lessons Learned!

This week’s devotional comes from our dear friends, Audrey and Shiori Sakamoto, who moved to Oakland at the beginning of April. Here’s the story of how God led them to move.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding”
 –Proverbs 3:5We had been members of WCCC for 47 years. Our expectation was to grow old with you and we were enjoying being seniors, seeing the next generation take leadership! But when we became octogenarians, our bodies forced us to think of our future. We had to face reality with God’s grace, trusting him to guide and direct us. ”Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Learning to pray in earnest, “Not my will but yours be done” (the prayer that never fails according to Jan Karon’s books) brought much peace. And the miracles began to happen.

The first miracle was in 2020 when Sayuri married Tor Valenza, and they began a ritual of facetiming with us every Sunday evening. We enjoyed our weekly conversations so much that in 2021, Tor and Sayuri suggested we move to Northern Cal so we could eat together every Sunday evening! That was never in our plans for the future! Yah, yah, we replied, maybe in 2 years when Shiori turns 85 (one way to put it off). But Tor persisted and started counting down the months for us! Then, unexpected health issues started. Audrey fell in July and fractured her arm and in December 2022, Shiori had to have a stent put into his “widow-maker” artery. That did it! God can do anything, you know! Far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:20). That same December, miracle number 2: Tor and Sayuri told us that a unit was available in the same condos that they lived in, on the same floor. In disbelief, I said, “Keep dreaming; we can’t afford to buy it until we sell this house.”

Miracle number 3: Shiori got a call from a former colleague who had recently retired and invited us to lunch on December 21st. As we discussed our retirements, being much younger than we, they told us to call them any time we needed help. We casually mentioned the remote possibility of moving, but only if we could sell our home. That’s when they said their daughter and son-in-law were looking to buy a house in Claremont. The rest is history. Miracle number 4: By God’s grace, we were able to move from our home of 51 years to Oakland in 3 months. God heard all our prayers and protected us. He gave us strength we didn’t know we had. The best surprise of all was your warm and loving send off–by our beloved Harvesters group and the farewell prayer in the church service. We were truly blessed.

Neighboring Alameda, Adjustments and Lessons Learned. One great unexpected discovery for which I (Audrey) thank God every time we drive to Alameda, a neighboring city on an island connected to Oakland by a short tunnel (where Shiori was born): The speed limit is 25 mph in the whole town! We’re thinking of going to Alameda’s Buena Vista United Methodist church, 4 miles from home. A huge Trader Joes, Safeway, Target, a Grocery Outlet and my Okinawan hairdresser are there!! It has been 6 weeks of great adjustment to our new life. One lesson learned: Be open to God’s plan, no matter how wild it seems. Another lesson, move/downsize while your body is still able. And move while you have some memory working! It’s been challenging learning how to use all the different appliances, find new places for everything, learn new streets and, most of all, remember new faces and names in our new community! So, a life of exploration and new challenges, grateful ever more to be living with trust in the Lord.

Audrey & Shiori Sakamoto