Sunday, September 28, 2008

It can't be avoided

So, tomorrow I'm going to do something I was hoping I could avoid during my first year (if not longer) here in Japan. I'm going to experience a visit to the doctor's office.

I've had a persistent cough this week which has only gotten worse as the temperature has gone down and my exposure to other people with colds has gone up. Going to visit a doctor due to illness is not something I like to do even in the states (no offense to the doctors out there - I've always been treated well - I just don't like being sick) but when you add the language factor and the cultural unknowns - it becomes more of an "adventure". And right now - adventures combined with illness are not my idea of a good time.

Thankfully, I have a fellow missionary friend willing to take me to her doctor, to help translate, fill out forms and see that I'm well taken care of. She's got experience raising 6 kids so - she's really good at pouring out love and care - probably had multiple trips with her kids to the same doctor too.

So - How does "Seeing a Doctor" work in Japan?
We'll go in the morning to the office, sign up on a list, fill out forms and then wait for our turn to be seen by the doctor. We'll go at 9am probably finish around 11am. (we'll see). Since I'm not insured by Japanese national health insurance, I'll be expected to pay in full at the office (3,000 or 4,000 yen - about $30 or $40). Then if a medication is prescribed I'll go to the pharmacy next door to get that filled and pay for it. My US health insurance covers me here -good thing! But I'm sure there will be some lovely paperwork to fill out afterward in order to get reimbursed.

I'm told this doctor also likes to give out Eastern medicine remedies too- so it'll be interesting to see what I end up with.

As I called my host mom today to let her know that I wouldn't be coming to church with her today - and I was sorry to miss out on seeing the family, She said that Ta-chan, her grandson, (pictured to the left "learning" how to crochet) is now in the hospital. From what I could understand of her Japanese, he's in the hospital due to some asthma related cough.

So as you think of it - please pray for Tatsuya (Nicknamed: Ta-chan) and my health.

Japanese Lesson:
風邪をひく =  kaze o hiku =  catch a cold (the first kanji for kaze = wind - haven't learned the 2nd kanji meaning yet)
せきをする = seki o suru =  cough
せき止め  =seki-dome = cough drops  (literally cough-stop)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Autumn is here

A red spider lily in full bloom, signaling the arrival of autumn and the end of summer.

In Japanese it's called higanbana: literally "equinox flower", as the blooms begin to appear around late September.

I saw these flowers blooming at a school playground on Tuesday Sept. 23, on my way to teach the English Children's program at Tamagawa Christian Church.

The 23rd was a holiday in Japan celebrating the Autumnal Equinox. It was a beautifully sunny day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fabric Art Project

My goal was to cover this white wall in my dining room - with something.

While I do have some art work created by my neices on other walls in the house, my wall hanging "stuff"- is still in the states waiting to be shipped to Japan so I decided to create something.

I went to a craft store got supplies: fabric, staple gun, and art canvas frames.
(Side note: I actually had my first real life sighting of a sumo wrestler in the fabric store! He was recognizable by his size, hairstyle and the fact that he was wearing a yukata. I don't think he was a top ranking sumo wrestler. Random, I know - but I didn't have my camera with me at the store.)

I decided on where to place the fabric on the frame to show the parts of the design I liked best. Then cut it to size.

I used pushpins to keep the fabric in place until I could staple it.
Here is the finished project.
Here is a website video that
gives more detailed explanation on how to fold and staple the corners.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taste and see that the Lord is Good!

I just returned home from Tamagawa Christian Church (pictured above) where I worked with 5 church members to teach a one day (10am-5p) English/Bible/Cooking class for kids.

As I said in my previous post I felt like I was leading out of a place of weakness. I was up late preparing for the class and when I woke up today at 6 AM to try to leave for the station at 7 - I felt ill - and wasn't even sure I would make it out of the house. But after prayer and taking some medicine, I gradually made it to the station and was feeling much better by the time I arrived at the church.

When I reflect on the day I wonder - what does success look like? Did we have a successful day? I guess that depends on how you define success.
  • Not throwing-up on the way to the station - success.
  • Not getting lost riding 4 train lines to get to the church - success.
  • Remembering all the materials I needed to teach the lesson - success.
  • Having 12 student take part in the class - success. (Note: the last class we had planned was canceled due to only 2 students registering!)
  • Making 2 types of no-bake cookies - success.
  • Teaching an English lesson to students age 5 to 16 while keeping everyone's interest -success.

But more than that - I think greater strides of success came when you take into account the location and spiritual impact. There are places where success is measured in the number of people who accept Jesus as their savior. Today that number was 0. However, we had other amazing things happen - We had 7 kids come today who had NEVER been inside a church before. We had 3 kids come who only come to special events - like Christmas programs and English programs. We had 1 mother attend the whole day - it's her first time to a church event. Another mother came to pick up her kids at the end of the day and stayed for "tea time" chatting with church members while the kids soaked up some more playtime.

I got to share an object lesson (in English w/translation) about sin (a big topic) made a lot easier to grasp thanks to some cat food and someone else's creative recipe! I got to be part of a group that told these kids and one mom about the one true God who created them, loves them and died for them so they could have a close relationship with him. A God who knows their name, sees their coming and goings and cares enough to counts their tears. We sang of Jesus' love, we sang and talked about prayer and how they can talk to the true God who created them. We invited them to other church events - like Sunday School to have fun together learning more about God.

I don't know what kind of soil the seeds were planted in today but I guess that's why the farmer in Mark 4 keeps throwing out handfuls of seeds liberally so that eventually some of it will produce a harvest.

No-bake Chocolate Oatmeal cookies

The cookies in the photo below is like Rice Krispy Treats - except in Japan we used corn flakes (no rice krispy cereal here!) and the marshmallows taste a bit different. We made them into spoonful size cookies instead of in a large pan cut into bars/squares - It was much easier this way! Can you see the pre-sugar status in the boys in the photo? The are sitting in one place trying not to look at the cookies while waiting for us to say - どうぞ "You may eat now."

They got to taste and and smell lots of new things today like coconut, oatmeal, peanut butter, cocoa, marshmallows, and vanilla. Of course, I taught the kids the American tradition of licking the dough off the spoon after making the cookies! おいしい! oishii! Delicious!

God, Thank you for once again proving your love in so many big and little ways! Thank you for the prayers from around the world that were focused on this event and these kids. Lord, may they continue to taste and see your intimate and passionate love for them!
Encourage and guide the faithful church leaders in this small church who are so dedicated to reaching these children and families. Thank you for reminding me that you can shine through all my brokenness.
Your daughter, Lori

Monday, September 22, 2008

Prayer request

Hi - just a short note to let you know I would appreciate your prayers.
Tuesday - Sept 23 - is a holiday in Japan - which for me means - a day off from Japanese class. It is also an opportunity for me to help a church here in Tokyo with a children's outreach program.

It's a one day cooking class/English Lesson/ Bible story time put on by Tamagawa church. My job will be to supply the recipes (2 no-bake cookies), the English Lessons, and a 5 minute Bible lesson (in English) some games and some songs. The church members are doing a lot of the prep of materials and resources and will lead the main bible lesson, song time lunch, and help keep everything under control.

As I type this it is the night before the program, its been a challenging day (spiritually, emotionally and physically) and I'm feeling like I'll be leading out of a position of weakness. I'm excited to meet the kids but now that half my brain is thinking of the homework for Japanese class I have yet to do this week and not sure yet how to teaching the English lesson - I'm having my doubts about this.

All that to say - please pray
  • for God to work in amazing ways through this program to draw closer to him children who have not yet heard of God's love for them.
  • Pray that wisdom, energy and words would be given to us as leaders
  • that the hearts and ears of the students would be open to hear the message of love.
  • Pray that we would be protected from Satan's attacks.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Driving Lessons

Last week I received the keys to my new car.
It's a silver 2004 Nissan Cube. It can fit 7 people (Though, I think 2 of the 7 would need really short legs!) and has lots of storage space as the back seats can fold down.

While raising support this car was simply a line on the "start-up funds" budget. Now its an actual machine in my driveway. Technically this car is owned by the mission, and was picked out by the property manager, Jeff. He did most of the hard work (in Nara, Japan)- searching the car lots, test driving and negotiating price, filling out paperwork, figuring out insurance, and proving a valid parking spot. He did a great job of keeping me in the loop. What was my role? - I gave my opinions on cars and did a few "test sits" making sure I could see over the steering wheel. (in Tokyo, Japan). Once a car was found there was a phone vote by the Japan field executive committee and then it was purchased.

Once the car was purchased there were logistical issues of how to get the car from the western part of Japan to the Eastern. Well, Sept. 11 that was resolved and when I came home from language school it was sitting in my driveway!

I received some drivers education by Tom and MaryLou (fellow missionaries). (MaryLou was the photographer for the below photos)

Lesson #1- Know thy key ring - - I can start the car without the key in the ignition!

Lesson #2 Know thy power side mirrors - - very important for getting in and out of my narrow driveway!

Lesson #3 - Know thy car width and learn the narrowness of thy driveway.
The driveway at my mission owned house is notorious on the field having a narrow driveway. But being as this is Tokyo, Japan space is at a premium and driveways tend to be tiny.

So here I am driving the car out and realizing my mailbox when opened touches my mirror - even when they are turned in!

Here I am with mirrors turned in trying to "think thin".

With the mirrors turned out - this is how much wiggle room I have.
I couldn't help but laugh!

After accomplishing this - we tried the even more difficult task - backing into the driveway.
Because my house is at the end of a dead-end street - it is necessary to park backing into the driveway. - I'm happy to report I've done this about 4 times this week and have not yet added any "love dents" to my car. (Just for the record though - I still ride my bike & take the train more often than I drive the car. - but that will change when I move to Nara.)

Lesson I'm still learning - Know thy blinker from thy windshield wiper!
This is Japan - after all - where we drive on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Which places the blinker on the opposite side of the steering wheel as in the states. Yep -there is a lot more learning to be done!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wiggle Room

Welcome to the world Brendan Andre'
Born Sept. 15 at 8:40am
6 lb. 11 oz 19 inches

I hope you're enjoying life with a bit more wiggle room!
It was fun to see you within 2 hours of your birth via skype video camera.
I know, these photos aren't the greatest - but I'm told your Auntie Lisa and your Grandma Harms took more photos and will be sending them to Japan for me to see you more clearly!

Photos: top - Grandpa and Grandma Harms (my parents), Jennifer (my sister) & Erik (brother-in-law) with Brendan (1st Nephew) (Brendan's 2 big sisters not pictured)
Bottom: Grandma Harms giving a close up of Brendan with Grandpa looking on in the background.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


10 months in Japan is behind me, and recently I've been at a loss as how to express my thoughts and feelings. It seems my emotions have been swinging from extreme to extreme - excited, exhausted, loved, lonely, connected, isolated, encouraged, discouraged, competent, illiterate. One day I'm telling a friend I'm feeling emotionally healthy - the next day I'm trying to hold back tears on the train. This stage of cultural adjustment is famous for chaos - and while I don't mind some chaos in life - the chaos that's in my head is, well - causing me to do a lot of journaling to try to identify my emotions, grasp who I am in this place and what God wants me to learn in all of this.

So as I try to wrap my mind around the chaos - I thought I'd borrow this "ing" idea I found on someone else's blog post.

Reading - Psalm 61 & 62. as well as
John Ortberg's "When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box" - great book for looking at the stuff in life that lasts FOREVER verses the stuff thats GOING BACK IN THE BOX when you die. Quote from today's reading,
"When God calls people to do something, their initial response is almost always fear. If there is a challenge in front of you, a course of action that could cause you to grow and that would be helpful to people around you, but you find yourself scared about it, there's a real good chance that God is in that challenge."

Drinking - Appletizer - it's apple juice with a touch of sparkle. I was introduced to this drink when on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa - it was love at first taste! I was thrilled to discover that it is sold in the Kaldi's import store at my nearest train station. (Grapetizer= also tasty, Peartizer = hasn't yet made it to Japan)

Baking up a storm. Sunday I made- Zucchini Chocolate Chunk muffins, banana blueberry muffins (with white chocolate chunks), and crunchy Muesli cookies. The zucchini was a gift from a fellow missionary (I heard they are 300yen in the store! which is unfathomable for a Minnesotan!). Most of the ZCC muffins were given to my Japanese teachers and classmates. We have a mutually beneficial relationship - they like eating and I like having guinea pigs to test new recipes on. It was fun to watch them try to guess the mystery ingredient in this one!
The Muesli cookies are thanks to my first trip to Costco (pronounced kosuko in Japanese) where I found oatmeal - I'm loving the recipe! I'm hoping to give a bunch of cookies to the neighbors. The BB muffins were somewhat of a flop (literally they wouldn't come out of the pan - ah, life without cooking spray!) so I'm eating the muffins in pieces this week.

Listening - to "Hello Love" - a new CD by Chris Tomlin, Passion: A Generation United for His Renown - various artists, and "The Wind, the Sea, the Rain" by Brown Eyed Soul - this CD is by a Christian Korean group with amazing soulful harmony! My friend/classmate, Mihwa (non-Christian) introduced me to this group - I'm praying for wisdom on how to use this music as a way to understand more of what she thinks about God.

Wishing - I could be in MN to celebrate the 4th b-day of my niece and greet my nephew who is due make his appearance outside the womb on 9-15.

Realizing my first visit back to the states is 2 years away - in the meantime -Thanking God for Skype video calls!

Making a wall decoration using fabric, a stable gun, and a blank canvas frame.

Killing - lots of ants who have a secret door to my house.

Craving - a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough blizzard
from Dairy Queen. Its probably better for my health that I'm not living near a DQ! But I do have Baskin Robbins within biking distance (there are 850 BR locations in Japan!).

Praying -
in Japanese like a mumbling toddler (minus the toddler's cute factor). Seriously, this is one of the toughest parts of language learning for me - perhaps because its intensely personal and very awkward to do in a 2nd language.

Waiting - for someone to teach me how to drive my "new" car out of the driveway without scratching the car or loosing a mirror. Yes, my new-to-me car was delivered to my driveway today. -Its a silver 2004 Nissan Cube - I was told "turn in the side mirrors before going out or in the driveway, otherwise it won't fit!" My first driving lesson is Monday. (Prayer is welcome!)

Thinking about how difficult it is to live like "Stretch Armstrong" in a game of "Twister" spanning across the ocean - beginning relationships in on one place, trying to maintain existing relationships in another place, concentrating on current ministry (language learning) in one place and preparing for future ministry (TCK education) in another place, while working to communicate with ministry partners in other places. Trying to redefine my expectation of myself a bit closer to reality so as to avoid some of the TWANG. (Any MTI alumni out there?)

Wanting to be better at responding to emails and writing snail mail letters - but being too exhausted to do much more than read the letters I receive. I love you guys and think of you often - even if your inbox/mailbox doesn't show it!

Washing - laundry in the washing machine at 7 am and hanging it out on the balcony to dry before 8 am then eating breakfast and going off to language school hoping it doesn't rain today.

Mailing - my application to take the JLPT test level 3 on Dec. 7. (JLPT=Japanese Language Proficiency Test)

Thanking God - that he is with me always, that I can pour out my heart to him - and he listens, that he is intimately acquainted with my sin and yet pours out his grace, that he places a reassuring hand on my shoulder during challenging times and renews my hope each morning, that he has lived far away from home, faced times of loneliness, and I can read about his struggles and learn from his life. That he passionately and insanely loves me and refuses to let me go without a fight. That he counts my tears and lifts up my head.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the News - Monkeys, Sumo Wrestlers, and Polar Bears

For those of you who have asked - yes, I'm still alive. I haven't written much lately because well I've been too busy doing stuff that is not real exciting to blog about - like writing reports, filling out forms and doing Japanese homework. (Sorry to ruin the mirage if you thought my life was always exotic and exciting!)

So since I'm too tired to come up with a deep thought or interesting spin to the mundane, I thought I'd fill you in on a bit more exciting news going on in Japan - aka stuff going on in other peoples lives - Click on the links to learn more.

  • A monkey is loose in Tokyo. Apparently has been able to hide from police for over 1 month - No I haven't seen the monkey myself - but have traveled through the train stations where it was seen - such as Shibuya Station (see above photo)
  • Leadership Vacuum - After about a year in office - Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan resigned. - I have yet to figure out the ins and outs of the political process of this country - but today it was announce that a female has put her name into the race. The so called "Glass ceiling" in the states is called the "Iron plate" in Japan. -- this could be interesting.
  • First ever firing of an active sumo wrestler in the history of the sport - the reason - busted for drug possession
  • April 10, will be the 50th wedding anniversary of the Emperor and Empress, TV is now showing specials on the life the famous couple - Part 1 the proposal, part 2 the wedding.
  • A Doctor shortage in Japan has led the government to increasing enrollment quotas in Medical schools. The shortage hasn't hit Tokyo as badly as the more rural places where doctors can be found working 36 or 48 hour shifts.
  • For the sake of environment - polar bears "Go Green".
If you have questions about my life here, Japanese or Japanese culture -that you'd like me to (try to) answer - make a note in the comment section - perhaps I will start a Q & A blog post.