31 March, 2010

Australia - the land of the free car park

Even after nine months I am still a little shocked to find so much free parking in Australia. In Japan we paid to park our bikes at the train station. We paid to park our car to go to church (church has no car park). Our doctor had a tiny free car park, but half of the time it was full and I had to go to a paid park up the road.

Last weekend in Canberra we went to three big tourist destinations - all of them had free parking and only one had an entry fee! I never have trouble finding a park at the doctor here and I don't think we've met a church without a car park in Australia (though possibly there are some in inner city areas).

We're enjoying this land of wide open spaces. A house where we can let visitors park out the front of our house or in the driveway - where they can park with no fear of blocking the road. Amazing!

29 March, 2010

Why Japanese don't use clothes dryers.

On a post I wrote last week about Japanese washing lines, Mrs Q asked this:
"I wonder why there are not many dryers? Is it lack of space to store a dryer?"
The answer to the second question is no. Our Japanese 'made and bought' dryer sits on a stand directly above our washing machine, so it doesn't take up any extra space. You can even by 2 in 1 machines now that both wash and dry.

I asked the first question of my Facebook friends (quite of number of whom are Japanese or are married to Japanese or live there). Here are a few representative answers:
"It's just not worth the cost. Too much electricity being used on too little clothing."

"Japanese homes have good places to hang out clothes, even if it rains."

"With 4 people in the house now it's tempting to get one...especially on rainy days like today it'd be handy. But then again winter is so dry, hanging up wet clothes inside adds some humidity to the air. We go with the "the sun and wind are free so why bother with one" crowd."

"A lot of Japanese homes I have stayed in (including future in-laws) hang dry things in doors in bad weather...  If they aren't drying well, they take them to the coin laundry to finish them up..."
I wonder if there is something of a traditional angle on this too - we've always hung it out, so we'll continue to do so? Japanese homes and apartments are certainly (almost) always built with a place for hanging stuff outside.

I'm even wondering if Americans will be forced to start hanging stuff out again, due to the expense and cost to the environment?

Left-handed pencil pretty cool

I got my Yoropen pencil in the mail last week. I mentioned previously that it was coming courtesy of Simply Lefty in exchange for writing a review of the pencil.

My first reaction after the excitement of it arriving in the mail was disappointment. But only because it was not a mechanical pencil (like a Pacer), but instead has leads in little plastic holders that you switch around. I hate blunt pencils and these kind go blunt fairly quickly. The refills can only be bought from the company itself. At $3.00 a per package of refills plus postage, it is a little expensive.

But putting that emotion aside, I tried it out and it was pretty cool. With a straight wrist I could see a word or two previous to the one I was currently writing. As a left-hander I've never experienced that before! I can only imagine what it might be like to learn as a child to write this way - many stereotypical left handed hooks might be prevented.

The rubber grip is comfortable and not too restrictive. Some grips force you into a specific grip that some person has decided is the best, but it rarely is. This one is a basic triangle in shape and very nice. The only difficulty is that instead of grabbing a pencil up and writing straight away like I usually do,  I have to check out that the tip is pointed the right way.

I let two of my right-handed sons (10 and 4) road test the pencil and they both thought it was pretty cool. They had no problems using it.

I might be interested in trying out their pens. Certainly I'd consider recommending it to a left-handed child who was struggling to see their work and developing bad posture as a result.

28 March, 2010

Unusual conversation opener

Today's classic conversation opener:

(After looking me up and down) a lady addressed me with, "You wouldn't have much trouble buying clothes in Japan, would you?"

She had me speechless for a short while. She obviously had inside knowledge. Just recently she'd met friends of her son, who've been missionaries in Japan for 17 years. One of their difficulties is buying clothes in Japan. I'm only 156cm (about 5"2') and not large in proportions. This family is much taller(and broader?), so they struggle to find clothes. I find that I'm looking on the upper size level (LL for t-shirts, for example, when I buy about loose 12 here), so I'm not surprised.

Funnily enough it turns out that we've met this family. Their daughter and our son were in the same kindergarten for 1.3 years in Sapporo in 2003-4. Small world?

In addition to this, I was greeted at the church door by a Scottish gentleman in his kilt and started the morning with a short conversation about how good Japanese pipers are!

After the service I had conversations with a Japanese man who grew up in Canada but has now settled in Australia with his Australian wife. A Korean lady doing her PhD on something like Westerners in Korea early last century. She's also married to an Australian.

I refreshed the memory of a man whose learning to count to 10 in as many languages as he can - including Vietnamese from his green grocer. Not bad from someone who appeared to have some limitations in his intellectual and physical abilities, but none whatsoever in his social skills (he was incredibly polite).

A nicely multicultural experience for the fine city of Canberra.

Tonight we present something of a cross between of our informal Japan evenings and an informal church service. It'll be interesting. The Japanese man's wife is making sushi for the bring and share meal beforehand - something to look forward to.

27 March, 2010

Going to the Bank

Today I have a guest post by one of OMF's church planters in Japan, Lorna Ferguson:
Today David went to the bank. No big deal, you may think. But going to a bank in Japan usually involves a lot of queuing, a lot of form-filling and a lot of waiting. The other day David had to go to the local city office to make some minor changes to personal documents - and it's the same story there. The wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly. Interestingly, for a land where everything is hi-tech and mobile phones can peform almost any function, there is still an affinity with doing things the old way - forms, paper, photocopying, double checking by the person sitting at the next desk. At banks the ATM machines can do all sorts of things at the push of a few (actually sometimes quite a lot) of buttons. But if you need to do something the ATM can't do, then you need to battle with the forms and the waiting. The staff though are always very cheery and helpful. Maybe there is a parable in there somewhere. The Japanese love to embrace gadgets and technology. Yet there is also still a holding on to the old-fashioned ways. Tradition matters here. There is a rich and complex culture. The surface looks modern and hi-tech - and it is. But beneath that veneer of gadgetry, the traditional way of doing things, and doing and saying and thinking things in the right way is highly valued. We need patience and grace and a teachable spirit to understand the culture and the people and then be able to share the good news of Jesus in appropriate ways.

25 March, 2010


We went shopping in-between doing other things today and got some bargains. 50% off skirts at Katies, 20% off tops and pants at Target and cheap stuff at Lifeline, like this tent (for our camping trip at Easter), which we got for $15!! It is only missing the poles for the front canopy. I think that is a pretty good bargain.

We live fairly frugally, but it isn't hard. Particularly if you ignore luxuries like manicures, this year's fashion (go for classical instead) and eating out a lot. Many publications these days have hints for saving money. We laugh at most of them, they are so obvious! The rest we could have written ourselves.

Nine months gone. Three to go.

Today it's nine months since we left Japan. That means we're 3/4 of the way through our home assignment. Phew! It's gone fast. When we were leaving Japan friends were saying, "A year is a long time to go away." Yes, a long time, but also a short time. Time is a relative thing, really. It has passed quickly because we've striven to pack a lot into it.  That has been evident in recent weeks when we have been able to accept no school friend's birthday parties or able to help at our church's working bee.

Now people are saying, "You're going so soon!" Especially people with whom we're only just building relationships. This is tough. You meet new people, develop new friendships and then you're off again. In a sense it is easier for us than them. We have something we're going to, but they will just have our absence when we leave.

But longer term friends too. Nearly every time we've visited good friends, our boys say - "When can we come back to visit them again?"  In many cases - it'll be four or five years!

So, as the last 1/4 of our home assignment arrives, we've very aware that goodbyes, tough goodbyes, are just around the corner. But thankfully hellos are close too - we have many we miss from Japan and look forward to saying "Hello" to them again.

24 March, 2010

What do you say to yourself?

I just finished this book. I'm pretty impressed for a book that I almost randomly picked off a Christian bookshop shelf!

Actually it felt like the author had taken me away for a weekend's chat. I loved it.

I know that I talk to myself a lot. Some of it good, some of it not. The book highlights lots of things we say to ourselves and gave good practical ideas on how to make that talk godly.

I'm fairly careful over the words I speak to others, but the book highlighted that I need to be just as careful about the words I speak to myself. She quoted Paul:
"Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone." Colossians 4:6 NLT

She pointed out that "Everyone" includes me.  How often do I quietly shout the word idiot or you really stuffed that up to myself? I even say such things out aloud to myself, but in the hearing of my boys. Wow - I'd never say such things to other people, how could I do that to myself?

Jennifer includes seven chapters on topical issues. Like, "Calm Down", "Chill Out", "Look Back", "Look Up" and "Press On", teasing out the topics of peace, rest, remembering God's goodness, hope and perseverance.

All the while she's pointing her reader to her Lord. Tells us the way to improve our self-talk is to replace it with godly wisdom straight from the Bible. And she gives us heaps of verses and passages to ponder.

I thoroughly recommend this one to any one, really. It helped me to understand other people too, why they act the way they do (because of the way they are talking to themselves). And to be cautious when I believe one thing about myself and everyone else is telling me the opposite. This is a good time to review whether I'm telling myself lies or not.

23 March, 2010

Japanese washing lines

This is how Japanese (and us when we live there) dry their washing if they cannot hang it outside for some reason. Most don't have dryers. Australians usually put them on airers, which sit on the floor, however that doesn't work so well in the small houses and apartments of Japan. The problem with hanging it inside like this is the raised humidity makes mould a problem. We also had an electric piano in this room, so avoided totally drying our clothes here.

This is how most people in Japan hang their washing out on the good days (of which there are many less than Queensland has) outside:
They've also got their beds out there - can you pick them?

This is a view down the skinny verandah (pretty typical) that I used to negotiate to hang out the washing. Long poles are supported on the "U" shaped slots. I started by pulling in the poles daily, but gave up after a while and just wiped the poles down everyday instead. I also tied the poles to the framework with wire so they didn't blow away.

You can see why I luxuriate in standing on grass and having such a large amount of line on which to hang the clothes. If I want to do it in my PJs, I can too - the neighbours cannot see me. Not so in Japan - you can see how close the houses are. Additionally just to the right of this last photo was a road - anyone could see me!

Australian washing line

I love "my" washing line. I'll miss it when we return to Japan.

22 March, 2010

Jesus a girl?

Bedtime with our 4 y.o. and 7 y.o. last night:

4 y.o.: Mummy, why was Jesus a boy...(pause) and not a girl?
7 y.o.: Oh, that IS a hard question!

I didn't have to say a word. Praise God for discerning older brothers!

21 March, 2010

Great, but a bit embarrassing

Today we spoke at a largish Baptist church we've never been to before. We didn't quite know what to expect as we'd received limited information. Primarily we'd been asked to promote a short-term team going from the church to other missionaries in Japan. A tiny bit strange, but nonetheless we faithfully went. We didn't expect a lot, perhaps that's why we were bowled over.

First of all I didn't expect to meet our 7 y.o.'s teacher...who happens to be the senior pastor's wife! Just as we were gearing up to sit down we ran into a family from our 4 y.o.'s school class. Then realised we were sitting in an auditorium of over 200 people (unusual in our experience of deputation).

The next shock was an unexpected success resulting in embarrassment. We only had five minutes to say our thing, but I managed to tack a book promotion onto the end of my bit. We are basically a travelling circus (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) so we tend not to stock many of any book as it is too hard to cart it all around plus organise three boys and all their stuff! Anyway, I think we only had three copies of this book with us and they sold out before I could fight my way through the crowd to our mission stand at the end of the service. Hastily gathering myself, I started compiling a list of those who wanted "that book that you mentioned". Someone even lightly chastised me for not having enough faith that my endorsement would work. Smile.

It wasn't just the books, we had stacks of conversations and ran out of some 'free' brochures as well. I'd set up a separate "origami table" where people were free to do origami. Our kids ended up 'manning' it all alone as we were so busy (I'd put no pressure on them to do so) and were swamped with visitors. What an amazing morning. Our usual deputation appointments are in churches between 50 and 100 people and our usual 'after church' time is a handful of conversations and maybe one book sold.  No wonder we were a little shocked.

We were billed to speak at two services this morning and one this evening. I would have loved to go back this evening with David, but decided in the interests of our boys to keep them at home so they don't start the school week already tired.

Praying that through all the craziness, God's plans for the day were realised. It is a funny thing, deputation. How do you define success? Certainly the best successes (people challenged to be more involved in mission in any way) cannot be measured by book sales or even numbers of conversations.

20 March, 2010

Homesick for Japan?

The first boy I saw this morning rolled into bed with me and moaned into my ear, "I want to go home...back to Japan."

Now he IS still recovering from gastro and has a sore stomach and a depressed head that hasn't had enough to do this week, but it is also true that he longs for 'home in Japan'. This week as we considered the 49 photos of the inside of the house being offered to us, he was peering over our shoulder. The house's architecture looks a lot like the house we've spent the last four years of his life in (like this photo of our previous house's lounge room). It looks like 'home' to him.

Our youngest was moaning yesterday, "I want to play with those toys we packed away in Japan."

Our eldest moaned, "I don't want to do this class talk." Yet he chose the topic Japan. When I asked him the main point he wanted to get across he said, "That Japanese need missionaries." (He's been listening to a lot of missionary talks along that line recently!) He had so much that he wanted to say on Japan, that the five minute limit seemed impossible.

Yes, our boys are not totally Australian. They are TCKs Third Culture Kids (see this post for a definition). Here is a blog post by a missionary family who are American, but have also brought their three boys up in Japan. It highlights how these kids live in both worlds, but are not totally comfortable in either.

It is a challenge for parents to help them stay emotionally balanced. The tendency is for them to consider the place where they are not living to be superior to where they are living. Contentment with the present is something we need to cultivate in order to keep our joy.

19 March, 2010

Path through the wobblies

The blog posts on this blog are imported onto my Facebook page and often more people comment over there than here. This blog post about my wobbly emotions, especially in regards to finding a house in Tokyo to live in produced some helpful discussion and prayer.

Here are the remarks:

BD: Praying for God's peace to guide you-He knows the right place and He'll show you at the right time.

PK: I've just prayed for you too for housing and all that surrounds a return to Japan. God has provided before and he will continue to do so - houses as well as peace and contentment.
W: Thanks, both of you. I have no doubt in God's provision, I do doubt my own ability to know which one is His provision, though! Lean on Him, Wendy.
Ros: Praying for you too Wendy - it must be hard to belong to two places and have no fixed address in either. Greatly encouraged that you are so real in admitting that you are emotionally wobbly - good on you - it helps us others who experience wobblies too - to be real. We all trust God yet in the tough doubt ourselves I think. Keep looking up to His Face and the earthly does keep better context. Blessings.
W: Isn't it great, Ros, that God could use my wobbles to encourage you! How amazing is that? Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!
Ros: Thinking of you on and off this morning and remember that Louie Giglio in a series about Knowing God's Will says that often we think there is only ONE right answer when God doesn't really care which house we choose since we are obeying Him in going to Japan. So maybe just HAVE FUN CHOOSING.

JH (fellow missionary): We're facing the same decisions but we won't be stuck as long as you I guess. I can never normally make a decision without seeing it first so it's a big step for you to make about your housing before you get there. Prayer is the best thing so I'll be praying for you!!!
Hope you get your "land legs" back.

What a blessing to had all these women praying for me, especially for wisdom and peace.

Not long after these comments were posted, David came back from his time away with his dad. As we looked at the CD of photos of the house and the house plan together, we began to feel like it all might work and that is might be okay. A few more things to settle yet, but certainly I've regained a lot of peace and my "land legs". Thank you for your prayers and advice.

18 March, 2010

Living for something else.

I've just finished this book, recommended by Simone. I didn't find it an easy book to read, but would like to read it again soon (I have such a pile of books I want to read...).

Last night, though I read this:
"The true Christian life is about living for something else. It's about having a vision for eternity that makes sacrifice now worthwhile. It's about having confidence for eternity that makes risk now worthwhile...When we act not on the basis of any immediate personal benefit, people will wonder what we're doing. It'll seem strange to them. They'll start asking questions. Evangelism just got a whole lot easier!" p 206 The Ordinary Hero by Tim Chester.
 I have a couple of reactions to this. Firstly it helps me to understand why I struggle daily - all around us calls us to make decisions based on immediate personal benefit. To go against that calls for a struggle, not only against everything we see around us, but an internal struggle too.

Secondly, I'm scared. Because it is the Christians who seem to have a lot of questions (granted, I have more contact with Christians than non-Christians in Australia). Why does our life cause so many questions for Christians? Why does our life of living for something else seem so strange to them? Why is it so hard to communicate our "vision for eternity"? Is it that most Australian Christians have lost that vision?

Then he writes this:
"Our life is but a moment, a breath. It's the tick of a clock. A blink of an eye. A click of the fingers.
You get one life, one chance. And there's no replay, no rewind.
Don't live for the moment. Live for eternity.
Your suffering and your shame are for a moment. Your reward is forever.
The area in which you live now is for a moment. The location where you spend eternity is forever.
Your temptations and your sin are for a moment. Hell is forever.
Your pride and your achievements are for a moment. God's glory is forever.
Your career is for a moment. God's 'Well done, good and faithful servant' is forever.
Your home now is for a moment. Your home in your heavenly Father's house is forever.
Your pension is for a moment. Your heavenly inheritance is forever...

Think of the trials you are undergoing. Think of the price you pay to serve Jesus. Think of the price you refuse to pay to serve Jesus. Think of the risks you take. Or don't take. Imagine looking back on this after a million, billion years of eternal glory." p207-8
 Hmmm. Think, indeed.

The other day, a lady I am in a Bible study with, shared that she is afraid to teach her Grade Oner about hell. I disagree. When I was a child I was vividly aware of hell (must have been all those Presbyterian church sermons I heard). I was also clearly aware of the eternal nature of God and ourselves. I used to try to get my head around it all, especially that God never was not. I wonder if that that early understanding of these things underlies my present fervour for things eternal. Possibly it does.

I wonder if our culture has so consumed us with the present, that Christians have lost a vivid sense of eternity? It is something every one of us needs to fight against, that's for sure.

17 March, 2010

Hanging about at home

Still stuck at home with a sick child. Actually I have a lot of sympathy for him because it looks almost exactly like what I had last week. A 'bug' that makes you vomit on the first day and then torments you with stomach cramps for several days afterwards. Especially that you feel better in the mornings than the afternoon and evenings!

So, instead of going shopping, like I'd planned, I shopped on-line. I bought these two books from Fishp#nd.com.au and some clothing labels for school (yeah, exciting shopping) and a personalised pencil case for our 4 y.o.'s birthday next month from Stuck #n Y#u. (Sorry for the Os being replaced, I just don't want to be spammed.)

David gets home tomorrow around lunchtime. Things haven't gone as planned for him either. He went to be with his Dad after his hip replacement, all were expecting him to be discharged early this week, but alas, his recovery has been slow. At least David could take some of the burden off of his sister in the visiting stakes (she has a young son and they are all a long way from the homes in the country).

Decision still pending on the house, it's on my mind a lot. At least we'll be able to talk about it once he's home.

16 March, 2010

Emotionally wobbly

I've got some emotional issues running around my head today:

The first is a biggie. Housing. The Lord has abundantly supplied for our year in Australia with this house, but now I find it hard to think about going back to Japan. Terrible that I'd be so tied to material things, but there it is.

We've been offered a house to rent (second photo) that is close to school (one of our criteria) and the price is right. However there are drawbacks. It is not as large as I'd envisaged (you know how bad it is when reality doesn't match our dreams). It only has three smallish bedrooms. No spare room for Lego, visitors or laundry. It is somewhat dark (according to reports). The bathroom is potentially very chilly in winter (it is over the garage).

I'm praying for wisdom...and the ability to let go of my petty material yearnings. As I pray I see more positives about the house. Its layout is better than our previous house. It has two toilets. The kitchen is pretty large (all is relative, you have to understand - moving from my current kitchen which sports something like 3 metres of bench to something where you struggle to find a place to put the toaster takes some adjusting) and the bathroom doesn't look all that bad, even if it is tiled in yellow.

You can see how complicated this is! Add to that the implications of this decision - if we say yes, then we are stuck with the decision for a while. I doubt that we're going to want to move again soon! If we say no, then we're back to the uncertainty of the drawing board - what else will we find, and when? I hate real estate decisions (and I've never faced buying anything).

More emotional issues: I got a weird email from mentally ill friend. Less said the better. But things like that make me feel more emotionally wobbly than usual.

Today I also have a sick child forcing me to be him-centered, instead of me-centred and doing the things I'd planned to do. Terrible, isn't it, how self-centred we are!

And of course my husband is away in the midst of all this. He's my sounding board, generally, and helps me sort out these emotions, just by listening. Amazing man! I don't like this association of vomiting children and his absences, though. Thankfully there aren't any more of his planned absences on the calendar.

15 March, 2010

A website for left-handers to check out.

You read earlier that I've found a place to get free books, as long as I read them and post a review on my blog. Well, now I've won a promotion by  Simply Lefty  who will send me one of their writing products free, after I've "blogged my view on them" here. But I have actually already mentioned them in a previous post. Although I was wrong on one thing in that post, they do ship overseas - and they were very keen to tell me so.

As a left-handed Occupational Therapist interested in helping kids with handwriting, their products do interest me. They've even got a Singaporean website.

Never having tried any of their products it is a little hard to comment, but I am keen to see if their pens help me to write. Writing left-handed does have its challenges and I don't actually do it much any more, I'd rather type. But as I plan to go back to Japan at try to help children at CAJ with handwriting, I'm sure I'm going to come across some 'lefties'! If these products are helpful, then I can pass the link onto others.

14 March, 2010

Another common assumption

Another common assumption people make about us it that we somehow don't have a life outside of speaking in church groups. As in, they don't realise our kids are in school and that we actually have a house we call 'home' in Australia (even though it is rented, though lots of people call rented places home!).

The conversation usually goes something like this at the end of a time spent with a church (in this case a church out of Brisbane):

"So, where are you off to now?"

"We're headed back to Brisbane. The boys have school tomorrow."

"Oh...I suppose they do. Do you have a house there?"

"Yes, a rented place in..."

The conversation usually veers off now onto, how on earth we managed to rent a place (like that is so unusual!) or how the boys are doing in school or how they manage switching schooling systems etc.

People generally have no idea how ordinary our lives are! How relatively easily they can connect with us. They don't have to ask us questions about Japan all the time! We live lives that are not unrecognisable to themselves.

I just find it slightly amusing that they obviously think we've got these three lively boys on holidays for 12 months or something.

My Mum was shocked when I mentioned this to her today. Shocked that people thought that way and shocked that we end up with at least one conversation at nearly every church which goes along the lines of the above one! They should all read my blog, don't you think?

12 March, 2010

Getting better

I'm gradually getting better. Got out and got my hair trimmed, finally, though it doesn't look much different. At least she didn't blow-dry all the wave out of my hair, like Japanese hairdressers do. (Generally I come home from Japanese hairdressers and my family doesn't recognise me.)

But frankly, I'm sick of lying down. I've spent a good portion of this week flat on my back. My head's still been working fine, but body let me down. I tried to read, but don't have a good novel going at present (there's a story behind that). I've been trying to read Christian non-fiction, but there is only so much of that that you can take in at one time. I played lots of sudoku on our hand-held electronic game. I'm getting better at it!

I also thought a lot about various conversations I had on the weekend. For some reason the one that keeps bugging me was the weird one with an evangelistic home schooler. I still can't make a lot of sense of the exchange. One story my husband told sparked her off - a brief mention of one of his students and how if CAJ (Christian Academy in Japan) wasn't there, then this student's parents might not stay on as evangelists in Japan. Somehow this story prompted a discussion that led to an exhortation from this lady to encourage missionaries in Japan that home schooling works! I cannot figure out how we ended up there, but there you go. I hope she felt satisfied that she'd done the right thing!

Anyway, I'm now going to attempt to walk to school and back (over a hill)to collect the boys. We'll soon see how well I am and whether I'm ready to take on the solo parenting task that becomes mine after David leaves tomorrow morning (he's going to help his dad in recovering from a hip replacement) for five nights.

11 March, 2010

Flush away your problems

This video is both funny and sad - a 'holy' toilet in Japan to flush away your problems.

Feeling very ordinary

To be honest, I'm feeling even more ordinary than usual this week. After our hectic weekend, I overdid it a little on Tuesday - gym, riding to the train to see a doctor in the city, op shopping and riding back up the hills to our place in 30 plus heat kind-of did me in. Or was it the noodles that I ate for lunch? Not sure, but my gastrointestinal tract hasn't been the same since. Yesterday I spent much of my day on the bed and today I'm alternating horizontal with vertical, but still not feeling wonderful.

All those plans I had for this week are on hold until I feel more energetic. I do need to get to a hairdresser soon, though...

10 March, 2010

Japanese Bike parking

Every now and then I run into interesting things on the internet. Today I found this short article on bike storage in Japan like I've never seen before.

This is where we used to park our bikes after we rode to the train station. No moving parts here!

08 March, 2010

Not before breakfast...please

I've known for some time that I'm not great before breakfast. I used to think I was a morning person, but actually I'm not - at least not before breakfast.

My first glimpse of this was at uni. I lived in a residential college and it was not uncommon for people to go off jogging around the university, which was bordered by a river on most sides. In my first year my neighbour used to go jogging before breakfast and I thought I'd have a go. Not a good idea. I ended up nearly collapsing and hitch hiking, for the first and only time in my life, a lift back to college.

Since then I've been relatively careful about breakfast. I've never understood how people can just skip this meal. I just don't function. And I'm not talking about coffee, in fact I rarely drink caffeinated coffee before mid-morning. I'm talking about real food.

But I made a big mistake yesterday at church. I've never been to a "Brekkie church" service before (read 7.45am). A service where you eat toast, drink coffee and worship at the same time. It was a unique experience. Unfortunately, we were not just attending, but speaking too. In perfect hindsight, I see that I should have stopped praying earlier (we read the Bible and pray together in bed before most days) and gotten up to get some food into me before we left home. Alas, I didn't and I barely had time to jump into my clothes and slap some make-up on before we left.

When we arrived (just as it all started), we ended up with a table at the very front - the opposite corner to where the food was. So, while my husband dealt with tricky technical stuff (getting our Powerpoint presentation to work), I dealt with trying to get not only myself fed, but my boys too. It wasn't easy to thread my way between chairs, back and forth between our table and the kitchen several times, while, at the same time stuffing myself with as much toast as I could manage. All the time aware that I was the guest speaker and people were probably watching me.

Then I had to stand up and say my thing. Thankfully it was fairly well written out, though, by some lack of forethought, we'd manage to schedule one of my more emotional stories so I nearly cried too.

The end result - I don't know how everyone else felt, but I ended up with a mama headache! One that didn't end until after lunch and medication and a good lie down.

If God did work in anyone's heart it certainly wasn't through my strength!

07 March, 2010

Someone didn't want us to come?

I wrote yesterday morning about my lack of enthusiasm about what we had to do this weekend of deputation. I am a fairly conservative Christian and don't tend to say things like, "I think Satan did this or that." But I'm wondering if he really didn't want us to come up to this church this weekend.

This is why:
  • this church is involved already in diaspora ministry and only this last week sent back a Japanese student who was keenly interested in the gospel, having poured as much into her as they could manage before she had to return to Japan
  • I had three separate people talk to me about possibly going to Japan to serve
  • the church is in the process of setting up a missions committee and becoming proactive in the support of mission
These are just the things we found out about. What else God is doing in this lively congregation, we don't know. It seems likely to me that God may have used us to stir people's hearts for mission this weekend. It seems likely that the enemy wouldn't like such work. Praise God for the health and energy to push through and continue to serve.

06 March, 2010

Mixed bag of emotions today.

All sorts of emotions:

I am packing again...
but it is for a weekend of deputation at a church that could be getting excited about Japan and mission. And includes a Japan night tonight - Japanese food, kimono, origami, videos etc. FUN! Tiring!

But it means packing and deciding what to wear (too many factors to consider) and sitting in a car for too long with three boys. It means getting everyone to a 7.45am service tomorrow and then pushing them through a whole day at church.

But I'm excited that Mum and Dad have just arrived back safely from an adventure to Peru visiting a missionary from their church. I couldn't imagine them doing such a thing 20 years ago! Glad they're back, though. Imagine what they go through watching us do all this overseas stuff.

In this mix, I have a dreadful sense of lethargy. Not really ready for the 'beginning' of my working week (although, as you know from this previous post, I really haven't had a quiet, non-working week). It often seems in this kind of work that the week is the relative down-time and the weekend is the time you work really hard. Opposite of most people (except others in church work). Again, we're on the edge of ordinary.

Trusting God will help me wade through the emotions and get on with the work he's given.

05 March, 2010

Second success in the pursuit of Heart Health

I baked these Oat Cake biscuits from here the other day. I've had varying reactions (children who like them one day but not the next and visa versa), but generally positive. They are tasty enough for me to put them in my picky recipe selection.

I also baked some meatballs in the slow cooker last Friday and they tasted great - practically no fat!

Someone told me about this website, which I'm just starting to explore and I also got a couple of recipe books out of the library. I'm trying to be as low key as possible, though, I don't want my family to think I'm too crazy or to start rejecting food because it is too healthy!

04 March, 2010

My week - the interesting bits

As I showered this evening, I mentally reviewed my week. It hasn't been one full of appointments and meetings, for once, yet it is intriguing (at least it intrigued me) to see how I filled my days. Don't worry - I'll not bore you with the intricate details of toilet cleaning, meal preparation and so on, but just the interesting bits.

  • Usual school drop, groceries and gym followed by wrestled for a couple of hours with a newsletter that refused to cooperate.
  • Found out that Mum and Dad had made it out of South America and were headed back to our side of the Pacific. Praise God, had been feeling a little anxious.
  • Started the child-free part of our day with a meeting with my husband to talk about our upcoming weekend - a three-presentation Sunday plus a mission night on Saturday followed by a prayer meeting on Monday.
  • Then I began our monthly prayer/newsletter. Which, in the absence of children managed to complete (so I thought) before they came home. 
  • Also had an encouraging conversation with our youngest's teacher about missions and ordinary Christians. Wonderful to find other Christians out there who believe that every Christian should be interested in mission.
  • Loved it that it rained all day.
  • Completed the day with a long conversation with a friend about our joint plans to go camping (roughing it!) at Easter. Exciting plans.
  • Went to the gym. Marvelled at the changeable weather, which turned out to be a hallmark of the day. Sunny one minute, pouring rain the next.
  • Started the morning with the intention of sending our prayer/newsletter off straight away and starting on our quarterly kids newsletter. Then realised that I'd written the lead article on the same topic as something I wrote in January. Had to come up with a new idea. Managed to get it sent off before the end of the day.
  • Took a while before I got onto my kids letter. But I did get it finished, ready for the editor's eyes (my family) before the end of the day!
  •  Spent several hours talking with a retired missionary over coffee and our photo album. Sweet time!
  • On the way home, an hour past my usual lunch time and feeling shaky, splurged on an Aussie meat pie. Yummmmm!
  • A conversation about one of our children who's struggled, not academically, but behaviourally at school in the past. Realised that he's doing really well at present. Praising God and praying it'll continue through our transition back to Japan.
Now I'm planning to bludge in front of the TV. Conscious that our next few days are busy and full, I need to take some down time before we take the plunge.

02 March, 2010

Another piece of reverse culture shock

I just renewed my drivers licence - from my own home, on my own computer in under 10 minutes. I can hardly believe it. This is why:

The last time I renewed a licence it was my Japanese licence and it was a massive affair.

It involved me organising for my middle son to be picked up from kindy at 2.20 and taken care of, as I wasn't sure how much of a WHOLE DAY it would take me to do. It involved asking a bilingual Japanese friend to come with me to help smooth the way through the myriad of interactions required at the Japanese licensing centre (it rivals an international airport, believe me). It involved driving more than half an hour to the licensing centre and parking a long way from the centre. It involved sitting through an hour lecture about driving safety - in Japanese. Next time I'll have to sit through three hours of lecture, because I've a minor traffic infringement to my name.

But at least I'll know that whenever my Australian driver's license expires again, I'll be able to do it all from home!

1st birthday

Today, a year ago, I stumbled into blogging. It's been an adventure I have thoroughly enjoyed. The challenge of putting my experiences and thoughts down for others to read has been good. I love the chance to interact with others, some of whom I've never met. And I'm looking forward to another year of showing that I'm on the edge of ordinary, though perhaps not as different some might expect.

01 March, 2010

But I couldn't do what you do...

Three times yesterday in conversation at church, different people said the equivalent of "You're amazing, I couldn't do what you do..."

My response to this kind of unhelpful admiration is to point out that God is the one who allows us to do what we do. He doesn't give everyone the gift of being able to lead worship, similarly he doesn't give everyone the ability to work for him overseas. So yes, you are possibly right to observe, "I couldn't do what you do..." but possibly not to observe "You're amazing..."

If you start thinking missionaries are amazing, then you forget to pray for them. For surely we are just as ordinary as any person. (And I'm hoping this blog goes some what to help prove that.)

If I start accepting such praise, then I'll have a (worse) pride problem and depend even more on myself instead of God.