Saturday, August 23, 2008

A New Beginning

On Thursday of last week, Stan and I loaded up the van with four pieces of large luggage, carefully weighed on our bathroom scale, three pieces of carry on and three kids and headed to Narita airport. All those "idealized" images of how one goes about saying goodbye to a daughter as she heads to college on the other side of the ocean went out the window when her brothers turned out to be wired for chaos. Perhaps that is how they could cope with her leaving?

We got there with quite a bit of time--so after checking our bags in (and rejoicing that they were all under maximum weight) we went up to the observation deck at Narita. Again, her brothers were a bit squirmy, but we were intrigued when a young Japanese university student came up to us with a clipboard and asked if one of us would fill out a questionnaire on bathroom habits...

Shortly after we left the observation deck, a thunderstorm rolled in, and our flight was delayed in getting out of Narita by nearly 2 hours. A and I were both pretty tired and she fell asleep in the waiting room, then on the plane while we stood on the tarmac, through take off and about an hour into the flight. We dosed off and on the rest of the way to Los Angeles. We were greeted by her older sister and spent the last 36 hours shopping for college dorm room supplies. I feel a bit poorer!

So finally the day has come...

So this morning we loaded up a groggy girl, and her older sister and headed down to their university in Orange County, California. They both had some anxiety--B more than A--about meeting their roommates and getting settled in the dorm. The University has a great welcoming program (all the screaming shouts of welcome were a bit of a culture shock for them) and had people who unloaded the two cars we used to bring their belongings to the dorm. They both seem to have good starts on roommate relations, and we're thankful for that.

Meanwhile, A is struggling with jet lag--she's slept well at night, but was so exhausted before she left Japan, she hasn't caught up with sleep yet.

We got this photo just before saying goodbye (no tears--that will probably come next weekend when I am ready to get back on the plane and head to Japan). There are all kinds of activities going on the next week for them. Classes actually begin on Wednesday.

If you pray, pray that they will get good sleep--in spite of scavenger hunts in Downtown Disney tonight, and a Beach blast on Monday (their campus is three miles from the ocean...) and mandatory dorm meetings late at night for each of them.

Tomorrow my sister and I fly to Tennessee to visit our dad, with a longer stopover in Dallas to see our brother and his family.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Yukata Sunday

One of the challenges we've often faced with going on vacation is returning on the weekend with Stan preaching on Sunday. This year, however, the service was put together by women from ICCS who shared on the importance of Prayer.

Janie led the worship--she did a great job of directing our hearts toward the Lord--in both English and Japanese.

What surprised the women planning this was how full the church was. Our attendance has been a bit lower in the recent months--primarily because of people leaving Japan. But we had two "returnee" families, relatives from out of the country, and nearly everyone else coming on the same day. It was a blessing to see how encouraging this was to those who had planned the day.

The idea for this Sunday came from a Facebook post by Betty, above, who commented on a photo of a friend of hers who was wearing a summer kimono--called a yukata. They lamented that they didn't have many places to wear these, and perhaps they should have a yukata Sunday and the women could run the service. Betty may be more careful about her comments now that she knows the pastor's wife reads them...

Actually, this was a welcome opportunity for five women who shared testimonies regarding different facets of prayer, others who read scripture and prayed.

Even the young women were involved in the worship team, and greeting at the front door.

And yes, life would be dull without Sarah and Mari bringing their joy into the event!

Betty, this was a great idea! It was a blessing to us to not have Stan preparing a sermon while on vacation--and even more to hear from many in the congregation about their experiences with prayer. Lets do it again!

A mini-ICCS Barbeque

At one point this summer, we had four families from ICCS at the Missionary Resort--three of us were staying at cabins next to each other. On the one night when we were all there (Stan had come back from Sunday in Tokyo, and another man was heading to work in Tokyo the next day) we brought all our chairs and tables and had a potluck barbeque party on the lawn.

Our Norwegian friends had her parents and their best friends with them. They seemed to really enjoy their week at the beach--and we enjoyed having them sit with us at the BBQ.

The life of the party (usually of ANY ICCS party) were with us this time, too. Sarah and Mari do everything with enthusiasm.

Damola and his wife hosted her parents for part of the week. Her mother attended chapel on Sunday morning--the first time ever in a Christian worship service! We hope this helped to lower the bar for her to come to join us at ICCS in the future.

No BBQ is complete without the roasted marshmallows.

Stan got a fire going in the hole created by burning out a stump in the back yard of our cabin. This was the fire that finished the stump off. He spent an extended time tending the fire while dodging kids with wires and marshmallows...

We stayed together until around 9 p.m. enjoying the fellowship. We can't do this in an apartment building!!!

God's grace on vacation

As we left for our cabin this year, the boys were dreading the time. After last summer's snake incident, they seemed to shut down with activity outside the cabin. So this year, they packed up an electronic game system (and we packed up their summer reading requirements). I dreaded the possibility of day-long video and game sessions when we were in the middle of a beautiful location.

The game system was confiscated by me four days after we got there after a timing confrontation...[how many times do I have to say stop?]...and taken to the car for the duration of the vacation. (Am I mean? I don't think so...but this reminds me that I need to get the memory card out of the glove compartment.)

The first weekend after we got there, the folks who own the next cabin came with their son--a classmate of our boys. This gave them someone to do things with--as long as it was only one of our boys at a time.

The next thing that happened was was that our boys are old enough to join the "teens" in their game night activities. As soon as the "scout" showed up at the door to invite kids to the chapel for games, the boys were on their way. From that first night, they knew the schedule.

And finally, God provided a special connection between our boys and a couple that have been mentors of ours for years. They work in another country but vacation in Japan. Having raised three sons, they were very perceptive in connecting with our young teens. Over the course of two weeks, our boys would pop into their cabin "to use their toilet" and then be given snacks, and challenged to various games, etc. Not living near grandparents, this came as close to having a grandma and grandpa nearby as they've ever experienced.

J, J & their friend sit on the couch of a friend's cabin waiting for dinner to be ready

On our oldest daughter's last night in the country, the wife of this couple invited our boys and their friend to dinner and a couple of games so that we could go out to dinner with the girls. Her input into the boys lives will become evident as time goes on, I am sure. I feel very blessed to have had this dear woman stand beside me for this summer as an encouragement in the process of raising these young men. Truly God's grace!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wrapping up vacation

We've been up at our cabin in Miyagi Prefecture the past three weeks, and I've resisted writing during this time. However, I'm in the store at the Takayama Beach Company where I'm taking cash payments this afternoon as the Financial Secretary of the Executive committee --and during the down time am writing a short note here.

Last night we took the girls out to dinner, since the oldest one was leaving this morning to return to the US after a great summer in Japan. A dear friend invited our sons and their buddy to join her for dinner and scrabble so we could have this special dinner, just the four of us. We had hoped to go to a nice restaurant, but the girls wanted to go to Saizeriya--a lower budget Italian restaurant chain that we frequent often---because it was "comfort food" for them.

We talked about expectations, since both girls will be attending the same college beginning with orientation next week (August 23). It was good to hear from both of them.

This morning we gathered the crew for one last shot before us girls took the train to Sendai, to put the oldest on the bullet train. The boys ARE smiling... Actually, they've had a great summer at Tak, and we are blessed over and over again by the change from last year. Maybe I'll write more on it later.

We bought platform tickets so A and I accompanied B to the bullet train. She ended up on a two-decker--on the bottom deck. We stayed and waved goodbye. She took a 2 hour ride to Tokyo, and another one hour to the airport. We got two calls from her, and now she's in the air.

The family packs out of here (Tak) tomorrow night and then our second daughter and I head to the US next Thursday! The boys start school on the 25th. Lots ahead! But its been good to be here together.