It’s the Start of a New Year …

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It’s been awhile since my last post – probably before final exams … I’m sorry for the lengthy delay in-between posts!

A lot of things have happened between then and now, so let me run you through a quick recap of the rest of November, the entire month of  December, and January thus far:

FINAL EXAMS

Overall, my final exams went well. They certainly could have been better, but they also could have been worse, so I’m thankful my grades are where they’re at. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and I’ve been actively thinking through ways to be even more efficient with my time. I honestly cannot devote much more time to studying, but the trick is to be even more effective with that time … I’ve come up with a few ideas and got a few more from some of the academic support staff here at Liberty, so hopefully I’ll start this semester on a better foot than the first one.

I never had the privilege of pulling an all-nighter – I know many of my classmates did, but I know that for myself, pulling one would absolutely hurt me in more ways than it would help … so I mainly relied on being diligent throughout the entire year at putting in the study and got up earlier than normal during the last few weeks of studying. I always thought I was a night person, but I soon learned when classes began that I’m definitely a morning person. Once 7 or 8 PM rolls around, I simply cannot focus and my eyes “glaze over,” making it almost impossible to continue studying.

Another thing I implemented this semester and will continue to do is to treat Friday night and Saturday morning as a regular weekday. I generally like to stay up late Friday night and take it easy and sleep in on Saturday … but I soon found that sleeping in on both Saturday and Sunday messed up my sleeping schedule for the rest of the week. Going to bed at a decent hour on Friday and getting up perhaps later than regular (but still early), I can get in some quality hours of study before lunch.

Then Sunday truly becomes a day of rest …. the only morning I don’t set an alarm.

HOME!

Once finals were over, a couple of classmates and I went out to eat at a Chinese buffet to celebrate. We all were thankful finals were over and felt fairly well about how they had went. After lunch, I cleaned out all of my books and study materials out of the library and began to pack my duffel for my flight out of Richmond the next day.

Flights out of Lynchburg were awfully expensive, so I drove over to Richmond, parked my car, and flew out. While going through security, I nearly had a mini heart attack as I thought I had somehow left my driver’s license at the house … it was in it’s normal spot, but I guess I just overlooked it. I caught up on some much-needed sleep on the long flight home … for some reason, I’ve always been able to sleep well on the plane, usually falling asleep before the plane even takes off and waking up right after it touches back down.

When I landed, my family was waiting for me, waving signs … after hugs, smiles, and dinner, we were back at home! It was definitely good to be back in my bed in the “boys room” with Aaron and Toby. After being back home for not even a full day, it was like I had never left. Grocery shopping expeditions, Starbucks runs with siblings, playing the piano, card games, cleaning the kitchen with my “crew,” seeing our funny cat again … life was good.

During my stay at home, we traveled over to Leavenworth, WA a small town nestled in the mountains. All of the buildings are designed to look (European/Swiss-ish) … even the McDonalds! We were hoping for some snow and did get some, but they have a bunch of little shops downtown and some nearby hiking. It was a short visit, but we sure packed a bunch in … the worst part about any vacation is leaving and unpacking the van once you arrive back home.

CHRISTMAS

I think the day after I flew back home, we headed over the local tree farm to pick our tree out. We’re always hoping to get the biggest tree in the lot, but not only does it have to be tall, but it’s got to be wide, with lots of branches. Once we arrive, we all fan out over the entire farm, scouting out the trees and hollering at everyone else to look at “their tree.” Once everyone finds “the perfect tree,” we vote, and through a process of elimination, one person’s tree wins. This year, Amy’s pick won. (I gave my best sales pitch, but apparently, it wasn’t quite enough to sway the voters … it still was a close vote!)

Somewhere in between, I continued a new tradition of making Christmas cookies with my younger siblings. We didn’t have time to make our own frosting, so we bought it this year and all of the “good” cookie cutters were lost, so we only made two types – a tree and … was it a star? There’s an assembly line of sorts that we adopt when making cookies – I make the dough and cut out the cookies, someone does the frosting, and everyone else has a bowl of sprinkles … they turned out pretty good this year, but the frosting wasn’t too good. (Maybe because it was cake frosting?) I think it was our first year that the cookies were gluten-free …

We also maintained our tradition of eating on the floor in the living room picnic-style (rainbow jello, tator-tots, hot dogs, chips) while watching a slideshow of some pictures from the year (Amy put it together), and sleeping under the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve … it’s getting harder to fit everyone around it! I guess it’s been that way for some time, so a few of us had to sleep on couches. After our traditional Christmas day breakfast, we opened presents and generally had a low-key afternoon and evening, just being together.

AARON’S BIRTHDAY

I think it was close to the end of the last day of my Washington visit, but we celebrated Aaron’s birthday. He’s just about as tall if not taller than me yet, and probably stronger than I am by now as all of the studying (i.e. sitting at a desk for hours on end) is not exactly helping to keep me in shape.

He’s been (and still is) a terrific bro, and we’ve done a lot together over the years. I wish we were closer so we could still continue to do stuff, but I guess that’ll just force us to make the most of the time when we are together.

This year, he picked the “turtle cake,” a cake that looks like a turtle and is loaded with candy. I’ve had the same cake for many years … it was one of the few times (perhaps the only time each year) that we got candy. We used to have this cake book with pictures of each cake and I still remember cake … the green frosting and all of the candy on top. It was an easy choice back then and I guess I’ve never really thought to have something different.

TEXAS VISIT

Those two weeks with the family went by way too quickly. Before heading back to school, I wanted to visit the Hopkins family down in Texas on may way back – I had stayed with them during my internship earlier that year and was an intern with Micah, one of their sons, during our internship with the NCFIC back in 2012. So off to Austin I went …

If two weeks go by fast, I suppose a week goes by even faster. We got a few frisbee, Dutch Blitz, and Settlers of Catan games in, vehicle work, good talks, ditch digging, visited the local nursing home and sang hymns, ate at Pizza Hut and walked through a lights display in Marble Falls … among other things. I’m very thankful to know their family and for their friendship.

While I was down in Texas, I was offered to come back down to Texas later this summer by the attorneys I interned under earlier this year  – it was a tremendous, tremendous blessing. I truly enjoyed and was blessed by the internship and cannot wait to come back and work for them again.

BACK IN LYNCHBURG

So, I arrived back in Lynchburg not even a week ago. I caught a late Sunday evening flight out and arrived back at the house at 2 AM I think. Fortunately, the research intensive didn’t start until 10:30 AM, so I had some time to catch some sleep and do the reading for class.

Even though it was only one book that we were going through, I still felt myself quite busy. It’s hard to get back into the swing of things I guess, and at the same time, I was fighting a minor cold (which still hasn’t gone away). At the end of the week, we were tested on everything we covered in the book, and I felt as though that went quite well.

Over the weekend, I read for Monday’s classes and bought a few office supplies. It was good to be back at Grace Assembly again this Sunday – I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve been there! I’m hoping to meet with one of the elders next week and am having lunch with another man from the church this Friday.

Okay, so that was a long post!. Hopefully that catches you up … it was a good Christmas break – the only thing I wish was that I got more sleep – one of my classmates was worried because I had bags under my eyes …. but I guess I would rather be tired than to have missed out on something. So there you go.

Hope you all have a blessed rest of your Sunday!

Last thing: found this Spurgeon quote that really stood out to me – thought I’d share it:

“Blessed posture! Waiting truly and only upon the Lord. Be this our condition all this day and every day. Waiting His leisure, waiting in His service, waiting in joyful expectation, waiting in prayer, and content. When the very soul thus waits, it is in the best and truest condition of a creature before his Creator, a servant before his Master, a child before his Father. We allow no dictation to God, nor complaining of Him; we will permit no petulance and no distrust. At the same time, we practice no running before the cloud and no seeking to others for aid: neither of these would be waiting upon God. God, and God alone, is the expectation of our hearts.”

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Now the Real Work Begins …

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Classes just ended Friday and Thanksgiving break officially began that afternoon … for the undergrad students at least. Technically, we have about a week and a half off, but considering that it’s our first semester and our first final exams, the majority of us are skipping the typical Thanksgiving festivities and are hunkering down to polish up our outlines and attempt to file everything we’ve learned into our brains …

Speaking of which, aren’t brains amazing? There’s not really a “cap” to how much information you can store in it. It’s not limited by a certain amount of terabytes … we have the responsibility to ensure that what we put inside that unlimited data bank is … “true … noble … just … pure … lovely … of good report … [virtuous], and praiseworthy. (Phil. 4:8, NKJV). 

Regarding Thanksgiving, I’m not exactly sure what my plans are. I’ve already received a few invites from a family at church, an upperclassman, and my roommate for dinner, but depending on how my studying is going, I may just go out to eat at a restaurant with a friend, perhaps.

It definitely hurts to not be back home with my family, taking the ferry over on a chilly morning, talking, laughing, strategizing for Black Friday (but never doing anything), playing music, eating all of the Japanese food along with the traditional American food, seeing relatives … or, as has been the case for the past two years, getting together with friends from Texas, getting in a game of volleyball, playing music … I’ve thought about all of the things I’ll be missing out on a few times this past week, and if you know me, you know how hard it is for me when I have to break a tradition. It sure is tough! 

But … this is where God has me at this season of life. He made it possible for me to get here, do “ok” in a full semester of classes, and already knows how I’ll do on my final exams. Does it mean that it’s all happy and cheerful over here in Lynchburg? No, not necessarily. Like I said, sometimes I feel miserable and want to quit because I can’t stand missing out on everything. But, there is contentment in knowing that I know that this is exactly where God wants me … how can I be so depressed when He’s blessed me and given me so much? I have: an awesome family, friends (and new friends), a good church, good health, a battered (but working) car, a great living arrangement, fantastic professors and classmates …

I think those two things, (1) knowing that God is sovereign and that I’m here at the law school for a reason, and (2) He’s blessed me with so much definitely make the sadness definitely more manageable.

This verse sums up everything that was said above very succinctly – couldn’t have said it better: 

 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances (yep, even when you miss out on Thanksgiving festivities – why?) for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (exactly – ties in the sovereignty aspect.)

Well, I’m about ready to head over to church. The skies here are grey, it’s 48 degrees over here, but it looks like they’re snow clouds. 

Have a terrific Thanksgiving day wherever and whoever you may be celebrating it with, folks!

Last Week of Classes – Here We Go!

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Tomorrow begins my last week of classes! Once over, I have roughly one-and-a-half weeks of Thanksgiving break to study for my five final exams stretched out over a nine-day period. I’m definitely going to need all of that time as there’s always more you can do. Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve revised, revised, and revised my outlines (essentially the course condensed into the “bare essentials”). Each of the outlines are roughly 20-25 pages right now but need to be further condensed into probably about 10 pages by exam week. 

As you might expect, it’s quite impossible to expect anyone to be able to memorize over 100 pages of content. For me, memorization will pose the biggest problem. All of the revising and reviewing helps to memorize without even thinking, but I definitely need to start ramping up as far as memorization goes. 

Temperatures have dropped dramatically this past week – I’ve had to scrape frost off my car nearly every day this week. The first time it frosted, I couldn’t find my ice scraper so I was using my fingernails and a rag … it didn’t work too well. Thankfully, Mr. Lovell (our “land-dad”) came out and gave me one of theirs. Since we’re inside all day, I don’t mind the cold temperatures. 

So, I have definitely become a big advocate of the “early to bed, early to rise” schedule. Getting three, solid hours of studying before my first class has allowed me to play to my strengths (I’m a morning person) and generally, get more accomplished in the day. Sure, I go to bed at 9:30 usually, but having clear roads in both the morning and evening and getting the best parking spot are always positives. 

I know I’m jumping around a lot in this post, but I’m quite happy that my sister Amy is the proud owner of a Macbook Air! We FaceTimed for a bit yesterday, which was a first for the Tanaka family.

You know, (yep, jumping around yet again), it’s so critical that you be intentional about spending time with family. You’re always going to have your family – you can’t ever run away from them! Chances are, they’ve done much for you that you can’t help but reciprocate the favor.

Yesterday was a full study day. I arrived at Starbucks at 6:40 am, stayed there until a little past noon and spent the rest of the day at the school. Jon (a fellow classmate) and I worked on diagramming some of the concepts from contracts and managed to make it down to the final Liberty football tailgate party. I guess we were one of the first ones to arrive because we each got a free bubblehead of their mascot. You can’t beat free burgers, chips, and soda! We managed to get some good work done and then went out to dinner with Tate to Ruby Tuesday. I’ve never been there. It was kinda pricey, so Jon and I split a pasta dish and I got an unlimited salad bar for $3. I got my money’s worth, that’s for sure! Our original plan was to go to Buffalo Wild Wings, but Saturday nights there are ridiculously busy. The wait time alone last night was 45 minutes … anyway, it was a full but good day yesterday.

Church today was good – we covered most of the only chapter in Jude, discussing apostasy/”imposters” within the church. Like it or not, there’s people who are there to lead people away from the faith, to introduce unbiblical doctrine, and to stir up dissent. May we be people who strive for unity with others and defend the sufficiency and infallibility of Scripture. I invited Jon to come today, which he did. He seemed to enjoy it …  

To the pictures!

It’s Been Two Weeks …

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Well folks, I’m sorry for the sizable gap between posts. A week ago, I was in Asheville, North Carolina, for the annual NCFIC Conference. It was wonderful to see a lot of friends from all over the US – it’s interesting, two years ago, I really had never ventured outside of Washington State and didn’t know anyone outside of the Pacific Northwest. Last week, I reconnected with friends from Texas, Alabama, North Carolina … all over. I have made many friends while at law school here in Virginia, but it was so good to see many familiar faces. 

I ended up leaving at 12:30 p.m. that evening, which was honestly the latest I could have left. I had classes at 8 a.m. the next morning and it was a four-and-a-half hour drive. Well, it ended up taking longer than anticipated to get back. I was going about 70 miles-an-hour on the highway heading back – obviously, there was a total lack of light. It seemed somewhat cloudy at the time. Abruptly, on the left side of the highway, I saw a deer half-standing in my lane, half on the shoulder. His face was turned towards the grassy patch separating the oncoming cars. I don’t know if he even saw me or if he was simply “frozen in the headlights,” as the saying goes. Anyhow, everything happened so quickly. I saw it, realized it was a deer and that it was in my lane, that I was going to hit it if I didn’t do something quick … and then I hit it. I don’t know if I even reacted – it all happened so quickly. I remember hearing a thud and seeing fur slide up against my driver’s side window and then it was gone …

I didn’t think that anything happened, but wanted to pull off and double check that everything was fine with my car. Physically, I was fine – it seemed as though I had light swiped the deer. I pulled off to the shoulder and attempted to step out … when I realized my door was jammed shut. So, I climbed over into the passenger’s seat and walked out in front of the car to survey the “damage.” Well, my left headlight was smashed to pieces. I actually cut myself on my hand several times … my hood was dented and pressed over the headlight, and the “plating” (not sure what the technical term is here) above my front left wheel was dented and was shoved underneath my door, thus preventing it from opening. I attempted to tug at the metal with a rope but it didn’t seem to be working. I was still at least a good hour from home, so I picked up the pieces from the broken headlight and completed the journey, making it back home in one piece, but incredibly tired. 

I ended up only getting about 50 minutes of sleep that night before classes, and, as you might expect, had trouble staying awake through those classes (I fell asleep for brief periods in each class). However, I was very thankful that other than my door being jammed and damage to the hood on my car, I was physically fine. If the deer had been any closer to my car, I would’ve felt the full impact of the deer, my windshield would’ve have been shattered, there would have been greater hood damage (and probably serious “internal” damage as well). However, there was none of that. Other than a broken headlight, dinged hood, and a jammed door, my car was fine and I was spared from death or serious injury. Life truly can be over in a second. I literally had no time to react. I don’t know if I swerved or not. It was a matter of inches, literally. 

Timothy 4:13-14 says: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

No kidding, folks. You don’t know when you’ll die. But, it’s coming, whether you’re ready or not. Live intentionally. Don’t wait to repent  of sin, to confess sin to others, to share the Gospel, to be a good steward of your time and abilities.

It was certainly a good reminder of that fact.

Well, I’m gearing up for our first final exam, which will take place in just over three weeks … it should be good. My parents bought me tickets so I can be home for Christmas, so I’m definitely excited about that!

Alrighty, well, I know this post is short and there aren’t any pictures today, but I have to write a few emails before I call my family later this afternoon, so perhaps there will be more in next week’s post.

It’s a beautiful day here in Lynchburg! The fall colors are still here, but they’re definitely muted and the leaves are steadily continuing to fall off. 

Have a blessed week, everyone!  

Even More Pictures …

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I promised my family I’d post these multiple times this past week – here you go!

These are from hiking Sharp Top Mountain, a quick excursion today, and just random pictures from the past week … 

 

Four Weeks Left

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Well, we’re only four weeks away from the end of the semester and finals! 

I feel like I’ve been doing “well,” but there’s so much more that needs to be done … I think a new goal for this week is to get up at 3:50 AM and aim to arrive at the law school at 5 AM. I know I work best when I break up my day into manageable chunks. For instance, instead of studying for 10 hours straight, I would prefer to do two, separate 5-hour chunks. The same applies with how I study. I do enjoy listening to instrumental music while I study, but I can only handle it for about an hour before I can’t focus anymore and the music hurts more than it helps. I feel like I’m definitely a morning person, so I’m going to give this a shot. This past week, I’ve gotten up at 4:50 and arrived at the school at 6 AM. It’s worked out really well, so I’m excited to push it back an additional hour this week. Of course, there’s also ways I can be more efficient in studying and completing my homework quicker than what I am now. 

Every day is so important. In the academic environment, missing a day of class, falling behind in homework, even if it’s only a day, can really wreck the rest of your week. It’s truly important to make every day matter and be diligent to complete the objectives of the day. Law school is a marathon. Just this past week, we discussed in one of our classes how slacking off now and just doing the “bare minimum” could really hurt you down the line when it comes time to take the bar exam. Having that long-term perspective is important when your focus gets stuck on the ground in the daily grind of homework and classes instead of the on the horizon, where it should be. 

Writing this makes me remember one of my Dad’s favorite verses which I believe is quite relevant:  Continue reading

Fall Break Is Over …

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Well, this week was abbreviated as after class ended on Wednesday, we had the rest of the week “off” as far as classes go. Some of my classmates immediately left to drive places and such. Me? Washington State was a little too far so I used my fall break to visit a few coffee shops scattered across the area and put some additional work in on my courses. 

I attempted to get off to an early start Thursday. Wednesday night, I found online what seemed to be a great spot in downtown Lynchburg. Unfortunately, there was only 1-hour parking available and while there was a parking garage, I didn’t feel like forking over cash just to park somewhere. In addition, the whole area seemed somewhat shady. Maybe not, perhaps I’m just used to a different part of Lynchburg … 

While Thursday didn’t start off the greatest, I ended up finding this little coffee shop called the Bean Tree Cafe. They have a rewards system like Starbucks where you buy ten drinks and they give you one free. One neat twist is that they have a daily trivia question – if you answer correctly, you get an extra punch. So if you’re smart, you could buy five drinks, answer five questions correctly, and get a free drink. Speaking of free drinks, I just saw that Starbucks is offering two stars for every Continue reading