Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

I'm back in Nara after a fun Christmas break road trip to Tokyo with my friend Lisa, visiting friends and adopted families. I have so many photos I'm not sure where to start (hopefully some will make it to the blog) but as it is the end of the year I thought I'd reflect.

I first posted some reflections on 2009 due to the idea I saw at my friends blog, Maupin Moments. To read last year's go here. Soon it will be twenty-eleven! So, let the fun begin.


Q: What is the best thing I did this past year?

A: Spent a week with my parents, siblings, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew in a cabin near Brainerd, MN. Traveled from Minnesota to Mississippi with a friend (and 2 of her kids) to visit another friend. Road trip from Nara to Tokyo with "my-other-sister-Lisa" to visit 'family' and friends.

Q: What is the best meal you had?

A: Minnesota Walleye at the Knapp house!

Q: Who did you meet this year? Any new friends?

A: Met my nephew in person for the first time. New class of 1st and 2nd graders. Carrie (fellow Minnesotan), and Michael (new teacher at school who motivates my students to behave with yo-yo tricks).

Q: Who did you say goodbye to this year?

A: Four students who transferred to different schools/ moved to different countries. Too many good-byes to count as my 2 month home assignment often meant hello and good-bye was only separated by a few hours.

Q: What did you learn this past year?

A: How to drive to Tokyo from Nara. Contentment and Joy. God is more concerned with my character than my to do list. New respect for parents with young children. Making friends takes time and work - when using your 2nd language or maintaining friendships long distance it often takes more time and more work.

Q: What was the scariest thing that happened in 2010?

A: Getting into a car accident in Japan and trying to explain what happened to the police in a 2nd language. (FYI, It happened last June. No one was injured. No major car damage. The other driver and the police officer were very patient. Insurance covered everything. I learned what little Japanese I know is reduced to nothing when in stressful situations.)

Q: What did you do in 2010 that you want to do next year?

A: Take lots of pictures, prioritize Bible reading, take risks, explore Japan.

Q: Anything you did that you want to do differently in 2011?

A: Invest more in relationships. Be more proactive about learning Japanese. Print more pictures. Get more sleep.

Q: How did you grow closer to God this past year?

A: Started a Bible study with the high school worship team - am learning to respond to their tough questions. Tried a new method of journaling. Listened to English podcast sermons.

Q: Give me five words that describe you.

A: joyful, introspective, learner, dreamer, teacher

Q: Did your wish for 2010 come true? (That my non-Christian friends and students would better understand the intimate and unconditional love God has for them)

A: Yes, I had 2 students respond by choosing to follow Jesus in 2010.

Q: What is your #1 wish for 2011?

A: Have at least one family member visit me in Japan.

*Photos: of reflections, bridge in Nara Koen, skyscrapers in Ginza, Tokyo

Friday, December 24, 2010

For to Us

Student quote:
"They put baby Jesus in the box where you put the animal food.
What do you call that again?"
Teacher: Manger
Student continues: "Yeah, because they didn't have a baby bed."

For to us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders,
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shine your Light


I'll be stepping away from the blog to enjoy time with friends and my adopted families over the holidays. Whatever corner of the globe you call home - I hope you enjoy celebrating the birth of our Savior in a special way this year! Thank you for faithfully reading this little blog.

Let's be about shining our lights for His Glory!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winding up to Wind down

Quote of the Week:
"Only 2 more days of school before Christmas break," announced the teacher.
Students' moaning and whining followed.
"You're gonna make me cry!" replied the second grader.
"Whoohooo!" shouted one first grader.

Students have designed Gingerbread men ornaments (Thank you Mrs. O! Our awesome art teacher!) and decorated stocking ornaments (with Ms. Y, our remarkable 3 & 4 grade teacher). We've survived 1 of 2 Christmas parties with only one meltdown (thankfully it wasn't the teacher!) and multiple sugarhigh, bouncing off the wall students. This Christmas cake was decorated by the 2nd Graders.
Monday we have our "Outreach Day" where the school divides into 3 groups and students minister among elderly at nursing homes in our area.

Tuesday is our Rehearsal day and then evening Christmas program. I'm helping with various aspects of the music. We're praying that it will be a fun time of worship and fellowship! There promises to be a few KCS alumni at the event which always ads to the joy! Oh- the dessert potluck afterward is a plus, too!

Nuts, Crackers and Sugarplum Fairies

Last weekend I was thoroughly spoiled! An amazing seat at a ballet! A former KCS student, Miyu, (with incredible dance skills) is now part of a ballet troupe that just happens to be performing the Nutcracker this season. I'm a huge fan of this ballet and Tchaikovsky's music. If I had the chance, I would make seeing this ballet a yearly tradition. So when I had just finished teaching about Tchaikovsky to my elementary music students and heard that my friend had extra tickets to the ballet I grabbed one! "Kurumiwari Ningyou"

Sadly my friend was not in the group performing as she had injured her knee previously. But otherwise it was a delightful evening. What I understand of the community of dancers is that it is a very competitive group and building true friendships is difficult. Please continue to pray for my friend. She is a Christian shining her light in a stressful environment in a dark country. By God's providence the fact that the doctor has instructed her to rest her knees has enabled her to attend some Hi-B.A. (High school Bible club) meetings, fellowship with friends, and will allow her to go to an end of the year camp with the group. I love watching how God can turn some seemingly bad news - knee injury, into good news - spiritual refreshment.

^As a side note - my sister, Lisa, dared me to bring nuts and crackers in my pockets to "The Nutcracker" performance. When I told her I didn't have pockets in the dress I was wearing she said, "OK, put them in your PURSE, then." And if you know my sister - I'm sure she cringed when she said that P word. I couldn't resist - I had nuts and crackers in my purse. Of course, I waited until after I left the building to enjoy the snack.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Stained glass" holiday candles: Part 2

Here are photos of some of the 1- 2 grade students and their art work from yesterday's post.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Stained glass" holiday candles

Found this amazing art project at "Art projects for Kids" and decided to try it with the KCS 1-4 graders. Not only do I love how it turned out and will be hanging up the finished projects in the Hall for our Christmas program - but I think I had as much fun preparing the art project as the kids had doing it. Creative time is a gift!
^ Step 1: With pencil draw a candle in the middle of the paper, then draw one candle on each side of the middle candle.
Step2:Divide the background into sections using many diagonal lines across the paper.
^ Step 3: Using a thick marker trace the lines.

^ Step 4: Let the coloring begin (we used crayons and/or cray-pas). I required all students to use red for the flame and yellow/orange for the glowing circle around the flame. The background colors were up to them.

^ When the coloring was finished we mounted them onto black construction paper. This is a picture of what I made. Even though it was "just diagonal lines", the students' finished projects were an amazing display of their unique personalities.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Smiling: Eating: Playing: Meeting

Field Council: When all the missionaries on the field gather for business meetings, fellowship, prayer and lots of food. This year we are meeting in the fall and the spring. These photos are from November 26-27 in Tsu (a city east of Nara, southwest of Nagoya in Mie prefecture). We met at the North American Baptist Mission Center.

^Smiling: Our field coordinator John, finished his Ph.D. program, so we celebrated his becoming Dr. John. He's holding a pen which the Ellison's made from a tree branch.
^ Eating: For our "Thanksgiving" meal we went to "Pure-na" an amazing buffet (or viking as they call it) of various Japanese foods with natural ingredients.

^ I sat with Ellen & Grace and their Aunt Joan. (Joan works with North American Baptist church in Japan and joined our mission for the fellowship).

^Playing: After eating dinner we went to a local park to play before eating some pies. It is a game that you can play about anywhere with sticks and plastic bottles. Good times!
^ The rules are simple enough to catch on quickly but too complicated to explain here. Basically you want to knock down as many bottles on the other side of the field as you can.

^Meeting: I am field secretary so I didn't have time to take photos during the meetings (just imagine tables surrounded with people and computers.) But here is one more photo of our mission plus some friends eating pie - french silk, pumpkin, cheesecake and Christmas cookies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Serious Retreating part 5

Day 2 of the Retreat after a morning of serious discussions we headed to the mountain. (With our cameras of course - this is Japan after all!)
^ Ms. Z - Or as we know her Ms. India (Middle School and High School English teacher)
^Altus at altitude
^Bethany testing her balance
^ Mr. H "hurdling" the fence (High school Math & Science Teacher)

^The view

More Photos from the retreat.
Because I've recently been told . . .
"It is interesting seeing your photos, I had no idea japan was such a beautiful country. I'm not sure what I expected it to be, all I had ever seen was the big cities."
^ The retreat ended with a rainy day on the mountain

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Serious Retreating part 4

At the KCS retreat we talked about spiritual issues facing staff and students and spent time in prayer listening to God and seeking God's face.

"Susuki" or Japanese pampas grass

The nature and beauty that surrounded us was awe inspiring and reason to sing his praise.
We were blessed with days of sunny skies. On Day 2 we went for a hike up "Kameyama" Or Turtle Mountain.

^ The video gives a panoramic view with Kameyamaike (Turtle mountain pond) in the valley.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Serious Retreating part 3

Kansai Christian School had a staff retreat at National Soni Youth Outdoor Learning Center.

^Morning view near our cabin looking towards the roof of the gym, cafeteria,
ofuro (public bath) and meeting rooms.

The details:
^The Cafeteria - which reminded me of my days as a study abroad student in Japan.
^ The food - breakfast - each meal offered a variety of foods so no one left hungry, from fish, rice and miso soup to scrambled egg stir fry and bread with jam.
^Map in our room:bottom shows the building map, top shows how to make the bed.

^ typical room had 4 bunk beds and could sleep 8 people.
The "cabin" we stayed in could easily hold 60 people had a toilet and sink area but to shower or bath everyone went to the public bath in the evening at our assigned "KCS" time. A unique type of fellowship in Japanese culture.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Serious Retreating part 2

video^ Because it was a national learning center we were required to attend the morning flag raising ceremony, and the evening lowering of the flag. At 7:30 am after the flag raising is also morning "rajio taiso" or "radio exercises". Here's an idea of what that was like.
Each morning and evening all the families, schools and groups at the center also did a group introduction. The students in the photo here that are in super straight lines - were a friendly group of students from China in Japan for 1 month studying various parts of Japanese culture.

Serious Retreating part 1

Kansai Christian School had a staff retreat at National Soni Youth Outdoor Learning Center. About 2 and 1/2 hour drive from the school is this amazing mountain view lodge.

^Staff enjoying the view from the parking lot.
^some of the KCS Staff and families.
^ The Clarks - Amazing mountain climbers - faithful servants of Christ at KCS (for 35 years!)

^The view outside our "cabin"