Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Monday! What a perfect day for packing a truck and driving 10 hours! Weather was beatiful!
Friends to help load the truck - AMAZING skills! 3+ hours to pack the truck and my car no space left unfilled! The roads were smooth. We arrived about 1am and after some sleep unpacked this morning (Tues). It took only 45 minutes to unpack. I'm enjoying my new place in Nara and am learning some new driving routes. I was surprised by a visit from the Uras - (read about when I met them here) who stopped by today to welcome me and help me unpack. They live just a few minutes walk from my new house.

Still lots of unpacking to do. I'm visiting friends and using their internet but won't have it at home for a little while. So no pictures in the post until then. Thanks for your prayers for my safe arrival and adjustment!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

going off line

Dear Readers,

I'm packed and ready to move to Nara but wanted to remind you that I'll be offline for a while and may not be able to update the blog or answer emails until internet is connected in the new place. I appreciate your prayers for this transition (including 10 hours of driving! loading and unloading) and patience as I may not reply to your emails right away. I look forward to updating you when I get back online!

The blogger,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Final Countdown

I leave Monday -
I'm moving from Tokyo - where I've been doing language study the past 15 months.
I'll drive 10 hours to Nara - where I'll be teaching 1st and 2nd grade at Kansai Christian School (to clarify, language of education is English, I'm teaching all subjects).

In order to be ready to leave Monday - I have to be packed by Saturday evening. =0) Here's a description of the final countdown. . .

Thursday - Today was the day to get all the "stuff" packed and in boxes. I typically procrastinate this, as denying the packing seems to deny the move - but I'm happy to say, I'm surrounded by boxes and I'm going to be able to enjoy the last few days!!!
I couldn't have done it without the help, encouragement and sense of humor of my friend Mihwa! 美花さん、本当にありがとう! She has been with me at the house for multiple hours this week helping put all the stuff - into all the boxes - as we chatter on in Japanese. =0) This evening I visited the Ellison's (BGC missionaries) - for some good food (My kitchen is packed!) and have Tom double check my Japanese tax forms.

Friday - I will visit 3 places to finish the process of submitting my Japanese taxes (yippee!), pay to have the couch in my house removed by the city's"big garbage" collector, run some errands, make some phone calls, then go hangout with former classmates and teachers from language school for our last lunch in Ochanomizu. I'll be staying overnight at Ellisons until Monday.

Saturday - is the day to clean the house, take apart big furniture items (bed, tables, etc) in the house and say good-byes to neighbors.

Sunday will be a worship service with my friends at Yurigaoka then a "separation" potluck. (I hate to call it a farewell party as I seem to keep returning. This is my 4th time leaving this church). After eating the good food at church, I'll go have the "last supper" with my host family and hang out with the host nieces and nephew.

Monday is "D" day.
I'll be loading the moving truck with the help of friends in the morning - grabbing some obentos at the nearby super/conbini for lunch, saying some good-byes around noon and then drive my car/cube as Tom drives the Truck about 10 hours south west to Nara. (This is the longest I've ever driven in Japan and my first time on the expressway/tollway so it should be an interesting road trip!) When we arrive, I'll unload a futon and sleep in my empty, but new place.

Tuesday - is the unload day -
Then Tom drives the moving truck back to Tokyo (お疲れさま!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Developing Passionate Patience

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us - set us right with him, make us fit for him - we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: we throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand- out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. quite the contrary - we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't and doesn't wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we're at our best just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Looking back over the message I "preached" on Sunday (photo above)- I realize I could have just read Romans 5:1-11 (quoted above from the Message) and would have saved everyone a lot of time and energy! Paul says it way better than I did! The Message version is such fresh way to look words that we often slide past due to over familiarity. (If only the Japanese Bible were that easy to read!)

This scripture echos in so many ways what I was trying to say on Sunday -
  • I feel like I'm "in the wide open spaces of God's grace."
  • My troubles adjusting/adapting/ learning is "developing passionate patience in me, which keeps me alert for whatever God will do next."
  • I can't round up "enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into my life through the Holy Spirit!"
  • Having so little Japanese abilities - I've often felt this year that I'm of no use whatever to God - but "God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him," and gave us this gift of "this amazing friendship with God".
Thank you to those of you who prayed for me as I gave the sermon. I felt more relaxed giving this message than I have giving any of my speeches for Japanese class - even though this one was much longer and more complicated! Definitely a result of God answering your prayers!

I was blessed to have 5 visitors (not yet Christians) come to church to hear my sermon -my host father, host sister, former English student, friend from Japanese class and her daughter. Continue to pray that God would speak to their hearts that thy may throw open the door to see him standing there waiting by the open door.

Last photo is a group photo of some of the people who were at church Sunday (some people left before the photo was taken).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Here and There

I don't know how to describe it fully, but I feel like I have my feet in two places at once.

Thinking Destination
in 7 day - I will be loading up a car and truck and driving for 10 hours from Tokyo to Nara -
I'm moving to a new home, new ministry, new location, new church. I'm moving into a home which other missionaries in my mission used to live in before they retired - so it's a neighborhood that has already proven to be friendly and welcoming. I visited in February and am exciting about the location and wonder what new friendships will develop.
Photo above - will be the view I have when I step out the front door of my house in Nara.

Saying Good-byes
Right now - I'm living in a maze of boxes as I pack up my house and making various trips to see friends for lunch "one last time" and attending farewell parties. (I'm hoping the "weight lifting" of boxes will help me work off at least some of the calories I'm gaining from these gatherings that revolve around food!) I'm realizing the prayer that many churches prayed for me when I first came to Japan - for meaningful relationships to develop - has been answered in the form of so many friendships.

Photo: The view looking from the end of the street I currently live on toward the (lt.green) house where I live for now.

Settling in to chaos
This will be the 3rd or 4th move in 15 months (depending how you count it) - I'm not really excited about going through the chaos of adjusting to a new place AGAIN - but am thankful that it looks like I'll be in this next house for quite some time. (Lord willing!) I'm looking forward to getting a little more settled. I'm looking forward to moving into the educational ministry I've been preparing for over the last 13 years! I'm looking forward to future trips back to Tokyo to visit friends and thankful for technology that will keep us in touch while we're apart.

Now, to go find motivation to pack another box!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Challenges of a family portrait

My host family had a special occasion on Sunday - Tomo (host sister) and Chiri-chan (host sister's 7 month old daughter) were in town. They live in New York so it was the first time that all 3 cousins/grandkids were in the same place at once. Of course such a big event needs to be documented and since the cameras in this family outnumbered the kids 2:1 we had a grand-ol' time trying to get a good shot.

Chiri-chan with "baba" Mrs. Kimura

Ever try to take a family portrait with kids?
No matter how photogenic they are before you take the group photo . . .
me with prince charming (Ta-chan)

no matter how much they ham it up on their own - Ta-chan striking a pose - Chiri-chan with her "save me from my cousin" face

when the time comes for multiple kids to be in front of the camera,
at the same time - good luck!

Tomo realizes that the true photogenic moment
is all the paparazzi like adults behind the scenes trying to make the kids smile!
My host family - this is as good as it gets!

Chiri - 7 months, Mion - 6, Tatsuya - 3,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Joy in the Waiting Room

Deciding on a scripture text = 1 week
Writing the sermon in English = 3 days
Translating it into Japanese = 7.5 hours
Sermon length = 20 minutes
If people actually understand it and respond = Priceless!

I've been struggling to prepare a sermon for church for March 8th.
I'm beginning to think that this is definately going to be one of those times where God will have lots of my weaknesses to shine through, as I'm attempting to do this in Japanese. But I love the people at this church - they've become like family to me. I want to share what God's been teaching me (especially throughout this year) as I've been blessed so much by this church's acceptance and patience with me and my baby skills in the language.

But given the fact that I'm not a skilled sermon writer in my native tongue let alone my 2nd language- this is quite a challenge! I'd prefer teaching an elementary class overflowing with rowdy students any day over writing a sermon! Uff da! I have new respect for people who do this every week! The spiritual warfare. The topic selection. The desire to stay true to the text. The challenge of knowing what to include, what not to include and how to best present the information so its actually understood. The balance of trying to find application for Christians who've been on this journey longer than I have, at the same time, speak without using too many "churchy" words with people who've never been in a church before. On top of all this, the different Japanese humble/honorific vocabulary one uses when describing ones relationship God compared to other human relationships - just adds more "fun" to the equation.

I am predicting that in the end - I'll be the one who learns the most from this sermon. Meditating on Psalm 37. Realizing how God has given me so many of the desires of my heart. Reflecting back on the past 13 years - from the time I felt He "catched me" to serve Him in Japan, to the place I'm in now, 2 weeks away from starting my teaching ministry as a career missionary in Japan. Seeing how many times I wanted God to just "hurry up - and get me there already!" And realizing there's another step, another time of waiting. Learning the oh-so important lesson of "being still before the Lord" as compared to before my calendar, before my expectations. Learning to delight myself in God -rather than the gifts I'd like to receive from him.

Talking with others and seeing how much of a blessing it is that we even met, let alone became friends and have walked this path together during this given amount of time. In so many little and huge ways - God's timing has been overflowing with signs of his intimate and unique touch, that I can truly say JOY is found in the waiting room!

On a slight side note - A huge THANK YOU goes out to my teacher and friend, who offered 7 1/2 hours of her time and way more patience than I deserved as a ministry to me to help translate the sermon into Japanese.

March 8th - Please mark it on your calendar as a day to pray for me - the words I say and how they are received! If you're in the Tokyo area that Sunday and are looking for a church to attend - you're welcome to join us at 10:30am!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Graduation! (part 2)

Oliver, and Kent - Giving speeches, me receiving my graduation certificate.

After 14 months of language school - I've graduated! Such a great feeling of accomplishment.
I have also recently learned that I passed level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. JLPT - a test I took back in December. (to see previous post click here). I scored highest in listening skills - not much of a surprise!

After graduation we had a potluck (sign on the cake says congratulations)
and then went to sing our hearts out at Karaoke.

Like I said earlier - I've not mastered Japanese and am not done learning but the full time aspect of it is done - at least until summer comes. =0)
My speech was "Blessings learned through failure". If I get time, I may type my speech for you in English - maybe. But you'll probably enjoy the Karaoke photos more, stay tuned.

The photo above includes, teachers, students, Kent's wife and daughter, and the college student on the far right was a former English student of mine.

Yamamoto - sensei was unable to be at the graduation due to a car verses scooter bike accident earlier that week. Me missed her wonderful smile and bubbly personality!
She's still in the hospital after her wrist surgery. I hear she is doing well with her rehabilitation and I'm looking forward to seeing her soon.