Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Things I've Learned from my Grandma

Alice Jean Harrison 
July 16, 1922- June 17, 2015
Grandma, You were loved and showed us how to love. 
We miss you but rejoice that you are with Jesus! 

Here are some photo's I've found in my digital files. . . .

Grandma came to visit Lisa and me and see the house we bought in St. Paul, 2003.

Out to dinner October 2007, right before I moved to Japan as a career missionary.
Grandma was a faithful prayer warrior and 
would often fill my mail box with encouraging letters. 

Visiting in Rochester with Lisa & Mom, while I was on home assignment 2010.

Christmas 2012 during another home assignment.
(Can you see the resemblance?)

Things I've Learned from Watching my Grandma
*How to eat pop tarts for breakfast. 
(also known as:What happens at Grandma's stays at Grandmas! )
* Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies - can be considered breakfast food 
(They contain oatmeal, right?!)
*Celebrate and have fun - if you don't have a reason - think harder!
*Do your best with what you have.
*Treat others as you would like to be treated.
*Magnets are awesome souvenirs from travels.
*Life may not turn out the way you planned, but God is faithful.
 *People may not agree with your decisions, show them love anyway.
*When in doubt eat dessert first.
*Look both ways before crossing the street.
*Take time to stop and smell the flowers.
*No one wakes up earlier than Grandma.
*One can never own too many cookbooks.
*Dogs, are not just pets, they are also vacuum cleaners, speech therapists, exercise trainers, and a source of entertainment and love.
*If you have an empty room in your house share it with someone who needs a home.
*Living with people of other cultures broadens your worldview, opens your heart to God's people, and adds awesome recipes to holiday traditions.
*Letter writing is a source of encouragement; even if you don't hear a reply, keep writing.
*Spending time with those you love is a gift to be treasured above material processions.
*When spending time together isn't an option -you're never too far away to pray.
*Above all things, be true to your commitment to God.

July 16, 2012, at Grandma's 90th birthday Celebration with (almost) the whole family! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Prayer Update - end of June

Thank you for your faithful prayers. 
  1. Continue to pray for the students. Some students come from non-Christian homes and don't have spiritual support at home. Others are from Christian homes and struggle with making their faith their own. Over the summer pray for Christian mentors to build into their lives and for students to develop a hunger for reading the Bible and living out what they are learning. Pray also for the incoming teachers who will be loving on these students in the next school year that they would connect well from the start. 
  2. Praise God for the energy, wisdom, patience, and joy to navigate the last week of school. 
    • Exams were given, graded, and returned (June 8-9). Report cards done (June10) (*Insert happy dance here!) 
    • Mission meetings were attended (one via Skype) and transfer of KCS responsibilities was completed. 
    • Senior Farewell Dinner (June 9) was a sweet time of remembering the Seniors and their legacy at KCS. 
    • The class party (June10) turned into a student organized surprise farewell party for Ms. Smith & me and was a bitter-sweet time of seeing the students pour out their love, express appreciation for our service at KCS and say good-byes.  
    • All-school cleaning day (June11) went smoothly for 7 & 8 grade. The classroom was cleaned out, as well as the Library, computer lab, school entrance, balcony, 2 kitchens and stairwells! (So many amazingly diligent workers in this group!) (In case you're wondering: our school doesn't have a custodian, so the students help clean the school for 15 minutes daily, and then have 2 big cleaning days throughout the school year.)
    • Spring Program and Graduation (June 12) went successfully and even had live streaming online for family and former teachers around the globe to watch. So blessed to promote the 8th graders to high school. Loved this class! They will hold a special place in my heart for years to come.
  3. My grandmother (age 92) passed away peacefully on Wednesday, June 17. Her funeral was held June 22. Her obituary can be found by clicking hereThank you for praying for my family during this time. I did not go to the States for the funeral but was able to Skype with many of my relatives the day before and after the funeral. I'm so thankful for the way technology connects us despite geographical distance. 
  4. My main tasks for the next month are to assist my roommate in moving into her new apartment, and pack up the mission home where I live in preparation for home assignment. Pray for discernment in knowing how to sort through belongings, discernment on how to best pack/store items, and perseverance to use  the complex garbage/recycling system in Japan.   
  5. Praise God for time to renew relationships. Since school has finished, I've been enjoying the opportunity to go out to lunch/coffee/dinner with friends in town and reconnect with people that I haven't talked to in months around the globe via Skype. 
     Hydrangea in my back yard and rice paddy next door.
    Everything is so green thanks to the rainy season!

    Sunday, June 14, 2015


    On June 3, KCS staff gathered to celebrate Kobayashi Sensei (center of photo).
    Photo taken at the retirement dinner for Kobayashi Sensei. 26 years of incredible, selfless service to KCS. In every conversation I've had with her I've walked away with a new Japanese word learned, and a deeper appreciation of the art of teaching. Thank you, Kobayashi Sensei!

    Here's a photo of Kobayashi Sensei and me in 2009 when she graciously helped the teachers and female students have the experience of trying on silk kimonos. 

    There are 4 teachers not renewing contracts for next year.
    Besides 1 retiring teacher, Ms. Smith (center), Ms. Wimer (right) and I will be saying good-byes at the end of the year and transitioning to other ministry.  It's been such a joy to work with these ladies and to encourage one another along the journey.

    Ms. Wimer (right) has been the 1st and 2nd grade teacher and my classroom neighbor. She is the most positive and energetic person I know.  As Mentor Teacher, I have been meeting with her on a weekly basis to go over educational, behavioral and scheduling related topics.  We shared student stories and laughed at the unique personalities God's allowed us to teach this year. She is transitioning into a position at a preschool.

    Ms. Smith (left) has been my roommate the last two years. She has been the 5-12 grade English teacher, drama director, and led professional development for the staff this year.  She is a compassionate teacher who understands each of her students well and is able to draw the best out of them. As my roommate, I've gotten to know her well and am thankful for the friendship that has formed. She will also be transitioning into a teaching position at a preschool.

    The above photo was taken at the Senior Farewell Dinner. (from earlier photos we changed a few things with the color of yukatas and belts.) Saito Sensei (right) gave us the yukatas (summer kimonos) as a farewell gift and helped dress us. 
    What a special way to remember the time we've had at this school!
    There are many co-workers that are also friends that I will miss working with but can't put all the photos here. I'm thankful for the time that God has allowed us to work together and the joyful experiences He's given us during this time. I'm praying for those who are staying as they minister to the needs of the students and pour out God's love into their lives. 

    Just keeping it real - here's a photo of me at my desk in my classroom the last week of school.  We were in the midst of trying on yukata's and I needed to check something on the computer. The chaos & mess that is captured in this picture: stacks of papers to grade, books to be inventoried, etc. - in addition to the fact that I wasn't aware my roommate took it -speaks a bit to the chaos of transition.

    Sunday, June 7, 2015

    Prayer Update

    Praising God For Answered Prayers & Trusting in His Future Grace

    Thank you for your faithful prayers. As we head into the last week of the school year I'm sending out an update to help you pray more specifically.
    1. Praise God that the All-School Camp-out went well and the students had a great time bonding with one another and learning about God's presence in times of trouble through the story of David and Goliath.
    2. Praise Him for students drawing close to God as the school year comes to an end. As students lead morning devotions - I am in awe at the spiritual growth and boldness they show as they witness before their peers to His enduring love.  Some students come from non-Christian homes and don't have spiritual support at home. Others are from Christian homes and struggle with making their faith their own. Over the summer pray for Christian mentors to build into their lives and for students to develop a hunger for reading the Bible and living out what they are learning.
    3. One more week of school! This week is packed with Final Exams (June 8), Japan Mission Executive Committee meeting (June 8),  turning in grades for report cards (June 9), Senior Farewell Banquet (June 9), class end of year party (June 10), meeting with incoming staff (June 10), cleaning out the classroom (June 11), Spring Program and Graduation (June 12). After 6 years at KCS this week will be filled with good-byes and transitioning of responsibilities.  Please pray for energy, wisdom, patience, and joy to navigate the transitions well. 
    4. My grandmother, who has been in hospice over the last 5 months, has been declining rapidly in health. It seems like her passing is near.  Please pray for peace and comfort for her and special blessings for family members who are with her at this time.  It is hard to be so far a way at this time but I'm thankful for the witness she has been to God's faithfulness and joy throughout her life. 
    5. Praise God that pieces of the home assignment transition puzzle are coming into place.  I have a place to stay (in Minnesota) and a car to use. Next step is buying plane tickets. Thank you for praying for the transition ahead as I relocate to the other side of the globe for 6 months. 
    If you would like to sign-up to receive prayer letters via email please send me a message through the comments of the post. THANK YOU! 

    Sunday, May 31, 2015

    10 Random Things About Me

    My brain is filled with end of school year lists and I want something fun to do before tackling another stack of grading. So I thought I'd make a list of random stuff about me you can't learn just by reading the "about me" page.

    10- Random Things About Me 

    1.  Jelly Belly jelly beans are my "go to" snack while grading papers, but I'm picky about the flavors I will eat.

    2. My bookshelves are filled with non-fiction books and children's books.

    3. Mail in my post box makes me smile. (unless its a bill ;0]

    4.  I own a TV but only rarely use it to watch DVD's. (It's not connected to cable or local TV).

    5. Watching musical theater live is pure joy for me.

    6. Chocolate covered strawberries and ichigo daifuku are my favorite desserts.

    7. I find the nightly serenade of frogs during spring and summer relaxing.

    8. I typically cook on weekends and don't mind eating the same leftover foods all week long.
    (Crock pots are wonderful!)

    9. If I could travel to a place I've been to before I'd go to South Africa.

    10. I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer or teacher of deaf and hearing impaired kids when I grew up. (Now I just take photos of my students. Sorry, for privacy reasons I can't post student photos online.)

    This is the view from my window today. 

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    How to mow grass in Japan

    Step 1. Start with out-of-control grass, a few wild daisies and lots of weeds.

    Step 2. Gather your favorite cutting tool. 

    Step 3. Hack away until you can see the stepping stones below the weeds.

    Step 4. Bag up clippings and do research to figure out how to throw them away.
    (They are rejected if put in burnable trash, any local Japanese friends wanna give advice?)

    Step 5 Enjoy the hydrangeas and a conversation with the farmer who is flooding the rice paddy in preparation of planting rice. 

    I learned he works as a Junior High English teacher in a neighboring town. Studied American Literature in University and had noticed I was talking in English to my computer on the balcony earlier that morning.  So he decided if he saw me outside he would say hi to me. 
    He told me I spoke "English beautifully!" =0).  
    Turns out he had seen/heard me as I was Skyping my family in Minnesota 
    and I was showing them (via my laptop computer) the rice paddy. 
    My 6 year old nephew had yelled out "Hi, Farmer Guy!" 
    I guess you never know just how far 'Minnesota Nice' will travel! 

    Sunday, May 24, 2015

    Camp Out

    Leaving behind the assignments, tests, and lesson plans, students and teachers traveled off campus and enjoyed 2 days, one night at a camp grounds about 40 minutes away from school. 

    We were blessed with clear skies on Friday. 
    It has rained at almost every camp I've attended
     in the last 6 years so the sunny skies were enjoyed by all. 
    The carp flags were waving at the camp site 
    as decorations for Boys Day/Children's Day  in early May.
    The huge field was well used by students playing team building games, catch, and Ultimate Frisbee.
    Students also played tennis, explored the playground, conquered obstacle course, and went on a hike. 

    I went with the group that went on the hike. 

    I was with 4 middle school girls who enjoyed finding bugs, 
    climbing trees, going off trail and having the freedom to use their outside voice.

    Mainly the time spent on the hike was a relaxing time for conversations.

    Our dinner, served in the lodge, surprised us with the fancy layout and delicious selection.
     Pork & beans, salad, potato, vegetables, soup and bread. 

    Clear skies stayed allowing us to build a camp fire and worship under the stars.
    It is wonderful to have 1st through 12 graders together to worship.
    Our guest speaker energetically retold the story of David and Goliath. He even built a model the height of Goliath (WOW, he was tall!)
     and he encouraged us to follow David's example: trusting in God to help us face our challenges.   

    One unique part of camp that many students have never experienced 
    is roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. 
     I love this part of the evening, introducing an American summer tradition to the kiddos! 

    The sugar high took a bit of time to wear off but we enjoyed playing some games back at the lodge until lights out. (Pit, Life, Scrabble, Rubik's Cube, Truth or Dare, Go Fish, And "who can most creatively paint your teacher's fingernails".) 

    Breakfast the next morning was a bit more Asian in style. Delicious, but I must admit after we  cleaned the lodge and loaded the students on the bus for the train station, my roommate and I stopped at Starbucks for a cinnamon roll and bit more caffeine!