Thursday, September 30, 2010

Five joys and one frustration

Today was a rare day where I had the option to decide what I was going to do with my time. Armed with a list, I took off to do a variety of shopping. This is pretty amazing considering I'm an "I hate to shop" girl.

I started with some errands, which included a stop at a local department store. This store used to be a moderately nice store, but it has gradually gone through a shift as a well-known US store has taken it over. We saw "price roll-backs" and signs with smiley faces pop up here and there through out the store over the past few years...but today...

I saw the first advertisement for their new credit card with the actual Walmart name. They promise 1% off any purchase you make using the card, with 5% discount on the 5th and 20th of each month... I don't need another credit card.

After this stop, I took off for the Jusco shopping center beyond our local Costco. It had been a number of years since I'd been there, and I was surprised at how small it actually was, but was able to make two purchases which excited me very much.
  • The first one was a pillow! I am pretty particular about my pillow, and had taken my favorite one to the States. It had lost much of its appeal by the time we returned to Japan, so I threw it away. When we got back, I couldn't find the same type of pillow anywhere! But I found it today. I'm so looking forward to going to sleep tonight with my new pillow!
  • The second purchase was cafe curtains for our hall windows. We have three sizes of windows on the street-side hallway. All but one window is frosted glass--and that one clear one is just outside our bedroom door... I've considered making curtains, but haven't had the time. So when I found three lengths of the same style of cafe curtain--the actual three lengths I needed--I bought them. I took a little stroll after I put them up to look at our house from a distance and it looks good.

After leaving the shopping mall, I headed east, only to remember that I actually wanted to go west back to Costco. As I decided on my route back, I saw a home center. Since there were some things on my list I hoped to find there, I stopped. I made two more important purchases.
  • I got a storage container for my garbage to put outside my kitchen door on the balcony. Since we have to separate our garbage, and have an elaborate collection schedule, it can build up. This case has dividers in it so I can separate and store, close it up so it doesn't get rained on or blow away...and keep any smell inside! I have one like this at our cabin, but hadn't seen any in this area since we got back.
  • I also picked up 30 meters of power cord. We have decided to run a very long extension cord from the one outside outlet in the front of the house (first floor) all the way around to the opposite corner of our balcony (second floor) in order to be able to put our freezer out there. I mentioned in an earlier post how this was one frustration we were trying to figure out how to overcome.

I finally back-tracked to Costco, eager to pick up the printer we had seen last week...only to find that model gone and another one, for at least $50 more, in its place. I had so been looking forward to finally having a printer I could use at home... Its a bit complicated to buy a printer here--I need to do online research to see if I can find an English driver for the printer before I purchase one. I had done my homework for last week's printer... I came home without one. Once again, I have to work through some frustration.

There is one more joy. We were able to sell our American dishwasher this week. A friend suggested we try advertising it on Craigslist for Tokyo. Two days later we were contacted by a couple who had once had a similar type when they lived in Canada. It left the entry way yesterday!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Respect for the Aged Day...

We opened up our worship hall to the Enoki-Cho neighborhood association about three years ago to use for various events. Since then they have had meetings here at least once a quarter. Initially people were uncomfortable about going to a CHURCH for their meetings, but our facility is a large open space hall. The cross on the wall is the only real "give-away" that this is a church.

Recently Japan had its annual "Respect for the Aged" day. The Enoki-cho community (our church's neighborhood) has an increasingly aging population, and the neighborhood association organized a lunch to honor those who were old enough to be called "Aged." Since they were holding this at the church, they invited Stan to join them (top row, center, white shirt) even though they said he wasn't really old enough--to our great relief!

One of the leaders of this group, Mrs. S (bottom row, second from the left), has been a part of our church fellowship for many years. She was the one who initiated the relationship between ICCS and the association.

Stan was able to see a former shop-keeper who owned a store where we would go caroling in our early years. A number of people mentioned how much they enjoyed the caroling--and others wanted it at their homes next year. Several have begun attending English Bible classes at the church, and a few come to special events at the church. There were one or two who were inactive Christians--having been out of church for decades, but who have begun attending when they can.

Next month a lay counseling center opens using our facility. They will be having individual and group sessions focused on helping people who are dealing with depression. This group has received the pamphlets and met the director of the program.

As we look ahead to the future of ICCS, we see how God has been preparing Enoki-cho for His work through His people. We are thankful for the privilege to focus on this one area, knowing that God desires that these people hear the good news and have the opportunity to choose to follow Him.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today we had a very special baptism. Special because we've been praying for this for many, many years.

Dami, standing on the right, first came to ICCS 14 years ago, after walking by our church and reading our schedule posted outside. Dami, who is originally from Nigeria, has a brother who is a pastor in New Jersey, and his brother told him he needed to "get right with God."

He met and married Ayako after he moved to Japan. His interest in Christ, and eventual belief and baptism was a challenge for her. They had two children, and she gradually began attending church, making friends with other young moms.

Over the course of the last few years, their children have begun attending the Christian Academy in Japan--and when they brought home the Bible verses to memories, Ayako started learning what they were learning. There are some Christians who are mothers of her children's classmates, who spent much time in friendship and outreach with her. And then Ayako got a job using her graphic artist skills to help in the production of the Manga Messiah series at New Life League.

When Stan asked her about the new job before we headed on home assignment, she said "I'm in the Word all the time!" She told me today that its been a slow and gradual awareness that Jesus is now her Savior. Her decision to be baptized came fairly quickly to us. Dami's elderly mom has been visiting from the US, and Ayako wanted to be baptized before Mom returned home.

Ayako's daughter, Mari is standing right next to her mom, watching her be baptized.

And then gave her a big hug as she came out of the tank. Standing in the doorway is Lisbeth, in whose Alpha course Ayako watched others come to Christ, even while she was translating.

We have a "closed table communion" in our church, meaning that if people haven't been baptized they are asked to refrain from taking communion. At baptisms, the person who has been baptized is given communion, along with those who have been involved in their spiritual growth. Here we have Dami, Stan, Ayako and Dami's mom.

We have prayed that God would bring us Christian families. We have many in our congregation who are the only believer. How we rejoice in God's work to create this Christian family! Pray that Ayako's parents will make a profession of faith. One of the obstacles that she had in coming to faith was that she would be separated from her parents after death. Lets pray that they join her in eternity with Christ!

Making Progress

Last week I wrote about how challenging it has been to overcome some obstacles in getting settled. We've managed to make a little progress here and there--especially in the living room/dining room/kitchen. I have no doubt that God has honored the prayers of our friends and enabled us to not give up.

This week we ended up rearranging some of the furniture to make the room feel bigger. We've also emptied boxes in this room--the one you see above holds a display case that we'll put on the wall this week.

We realize how relatively small this space is-- but we are thankful for the insights over the week as we've pondered how to put things together. There are still things to do--hemming up some curtains, dropping them on others. That can happen later.

We have a few pieces of furniture to replace--we need to get chairs to go with our old oak farm dining table. The office chair will eventually find its way to another room.

I had fun opening up a box of the Japanese Kokeshi dolls and Russian Matryoshka dolls.

Here's the washer/dryer closet I wrote about before. One door is closed to show you how it looks. The washer is on bricks, which makes it a little high for me--but I can still reach over to get socks on the far side of the wash tub. The dryer, on the other hand is above my head... I can pitch laundry into it, but to get it out I have to climb a step ladder... As a matter of fact, I'm on the step ladder a lot in this kitchen!

This week? I think that we are going to seek inspiration for how to deal with the boxes in our bedroom closet.

Yesterday I was out in the area of our storage space and decided to stop by. Stan had been out there with the movers when they loaded the trucks, but I hadn't seen what was left. He had taken photos, but I had to get a feel for it myself. I was very encouraged when I realized that there are only three air conditioners (anyone in the Kanto plains need some inverter AC's?) a couple of things to take to the cabin next month, and a desk. That's not bad. And back here at the house, as I walk through the tatami room--the one with the boxes that have been unopened for years, I'm growing eager to start going through those things.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why is this so hard?

We had the refrigerator "dropped in" a week ago, and we've been staying in the house since Wednesday, yet, we don't feel we've made much progress. I don't remember having to be so inventive or innovative before in moving into a home. While this is a four-bedroom home, and it does have some nice closets, they are different from what we've had before, and our storage systems don't fit.
  • It took me three days to figure out how and where to get my dishes into the built in cabinets without purchasing additional dish cabinets.
  • There is a lovely closet for the washer and dryer--but we've had to improvise a dryer stand, there have been a couple of plumbing issues with the washer drain and the faucet, and this requires working in a space that is just inches larger than the washer...we're still not quite finished.
  • We have a lovely walk-in closet in our bedroom, but no chest of drawers. We've got off-season clothes stored in special drawers and containers in the other closet in that room...
  • Our standard size curtains haven't quite fit the windows--either they are too short or too long for the windows in the house.
  • The sinks for washing up are large--one even is called a "shampoo dresser" in that it is wide enough, deep enough and has a shower head so that we can wash our hair in the sink. But there is no place to hang a hand towel in either washroom. Our portable towel rack works near the bath area, but at present we bump into it if we bend over the sink...
  • We kept our small upright freezer on the balcony at our apartment, and there is a perfect place for it on the balcony here--but there is no electrical outlet on the balcony, and none on that side of the house. The windows are airtight, so we can't run a power cord out through a weak seal. Stan is still working on finding a way to get electricity out there...
  • We have a few pieces of furniture we want to sell--they don't fit or we don't need them here. We don't have good places to "stash" them while we wait for them to go.
I confess that there have been some very discouraging times recently. I know that when my environment is cluttered, my mind and my emotions are also cluttered. I have always made it a practice to straighten up the living room before I go to bed--lately I've been heading to bed before the teenage boys--and waking up to a living room that wasn't kept the way I would have kept it. Now that I have the kitchen essentially the way I want it, I strive hard to keep the counters cleared off and dishes done. At least ONE room looks put together!

I do not want to complain. As a matter of fact, I am extremely thankful that we didn't ship anything back from the States this time. We still have one suitcase that needs to be emptied and that by itself is almost one-too many.

We talk a lot about being resilient in Missionary Care circles. Merriam Webster's definition is as follows:

Definition of RESILIENT

: characterized or marked by resilience: asa : capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or ruptureb : tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

I have often considered myself to be resilient. But I am feeling like the timing of recovering or readjusting is taking much longer the older I get. And I do remember that it was just over a month ago that my Dad passed away. There is grief work going on too. I am grateful that the promises we have are that God is with us. He knows how we are made. He understands. He love us. He's not judging us for not having it all together yet. And He is walking with us through these hard times.

Sunday we had two friends over for two meals. They were dear people who allowed us to have boxes in the window seat and still encouraged us. At the second meal, we were recounting some exciting developments in ministry--which we'll share in a day or two. It struck me that I hadn't been thinking about the other things that God is doing while I had been stewing about getting our stuff to fit... It was good to verbalize these developments. God is good. He is doing good things.

Does that maybe contribute to getting settled being so hard?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Closing a circle

We moved out of our last Japanese apartment the middle of June, 2009. We moved out of our previous house in June of 2004. Today we opened boxes from both those time periods.

There were two boxes of special dishes that I had never taken to the apartment from storage, and it was with some eagerness, anticipation, and a bit of forgetfulness that I went through them today. I have been collecting blue and white dishes--which are produced in a variety of Asian countries. As I went through this box, some were like seeing old friends. Others were strangers that looked like they fit in, but I don't remember when they became part of my collection--did I buy that in Thailand? Did someone give this to me? Did I pick it up at an antique sale?

And then there was the discovery--we knew they were there somewhere--of the shoes that I wore the day we had the movers pack us up in 2009. They had asked me something about shoes, and had asked it again, and I said, "go ahead" to what I thought they asked. It was only as I went to leave the apartment for lunch that day that I realized what they really asked...because my shoes were no where to be seen! Gratefully there were some beach sandals on the balcony that I grabbed to wear out.

Today Stan found them!

Tomorrow night we sleep in the house.

Monday, September 06, 2010

What's that? Up there in the air?

We took Sunday off from the moving process to celebrate the Lord's Day with our church family. We also celebrated Stan's birthday.

Today we were back at it before 9 a.m. First the cable company came and did all the set-up for our cable/internet/phone at the house. I had been told it would take three hours--but within an hour they had completed it all. I haven't found the wireless router, and am second guessing whether it was ours or one that came with our internet service last time. We'll stop by the local "PC Depot" to look for a new one if we don't discover the one I'm imagining. Meanwhile, we can use internet via LAN line.

By 10:30 a.m. we were concerned that we hadn't heard from the moving company about the crane that was supposed to be coming, so we had a call made to the moving company. At 11:15 we got the call that they would be there between 12 and 1, so Stan and I drove over to a convenience store to pick up lunch, and a thank you gift for our neighbor whose driveway would be used by the crane. We just barely finished our sandwiches around 11:45 when I noticed the crane outside already.

I am on our third floor balcony looking down at our neighbor's two-car driveway where the crane (from a piano moving company) is parked.

First up--our refrigerator. Its just been launched.

Remember, I'm on the third floor balcony, and am looking straight at the frig. And it keeps on going up!

At this point, it must have been about 4 to 5 stories high--I'm not totally sure why such a tall trajectory, though there are lots of wires that they had to avoid, so maybe that's why it was up there. About this time I was thinking, maybe I shouldn't be standing under it...

The frig was swung over our roof and down between our house and the one behind us. Lowering it slowly, so the mover on the second floor balcony could direct it over this wire.

The movers took advantage of the angle to bring it directly into the room through the sliding glass door.

Next came the top of the china cabinet. Notice the mover, on the railing of our 2nd floor balcony, in his stocking feet (shoes were left at the entry way on the first floor), without a spotter. He's talking to the crane operator by cell phone, giving directions since the crane operator can't see from where he's at!

Finally comes the love seat.

So we have all our furniture in the house now. We've got the frig plugged in and had ice made by the time we left. I got the cover on the love seat and set it up. The china cabinet sits empty because its going to take some concentrated time to optimally use the space.

Some places are starting to look like they're livable.

We are targeting Wednesday evening to be sleeping in the house.

My next challenge is to figure out where to put the everyday dishes. The upper cabinets in the kitchen are all above my reach without a ladder. The lower cabinets are actually major pull-out drawers, and I'm trying to figure out if there are ways to use them efficiently for the everyday dishes...or do we need to get a smaller shelving unit for those (and if so, where do we put it?).

We thanked our neighbor with the gift before we departed tonight. The wife is very pleasant. The husband is more distant. We hope we're off to a good start with that relationship. Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Moving day 2

I promise not to bore you with a day by day update on the moving process, but when I stopped last night I was feeling quite down. I know that is usual for the day of a move, but add to the emotions both cultural and linguistic stress, and the fact we discovered some furniture can only be used if we get a crane next week to lift to the second floor.

Before I go on about today, I think it might be interesting for you to see the road and one of two moving trucks that contained our belongings. I believe I heard the movers say this is a 4-ton truck. This road is a two-way road. Our neighbors' driveway that needs to be used for the crane on Monday is the tan bricked area to the left of the truck. Essentially we blocked the three houses beyond us and this neighbor's house so no one could drive in (they were all out when the movers came).

After a somewhat fitful night, Stan and I headed back to the house this morning. I took a few photos of what the place looked like when we got there. This is the living room.

There were two rows of boxes here, marked in Japanese, either for the kitchen or things that would have come out of our living room in the apartment. I found two boxes of draperies, and I am eager to start putting them up. I haven't, however, found the hooks... If I had packed, they would have been in the same box. I wonder where the professional packers put them!

Stan and I spent the morning going through these boxes. Those that are "living room" related got moved towards the window, and those that are "kitchen" related got moved toward the kitchen or opened. Since I don't have my dish cabinet yet, I am a bit stumped about how to go about storing things. Actually, I have a little less storage in this kitchen--either that or its just different, and I'm going to have to spend a while thinking it all through. Hopefully that won't keep me awake tonight! We were exhausted when we started this morning, and even more so by lunch time. (We are having record heat, and that must be adding to the weariness, though we've kept the air conditioners running in the rooms where we're working.) I think we would have just as soon gone back to the guest apartment and slept the rest of the day away. But we didn't...

This is how the room looked when we left this afternoon. (I realize now that I need to adjust the clock on my camera from California time!) Of course not everything we need is here yet. The Ikea Love Seat comes by crane on Monday, I think. But where are the slip covers for the love seat? Haven't found them yet! We're looking forward to the window seat, too--I actually fit lying down on it head to foot.

Just to prove that we've made progress, I shot this photo of one of three stacks of flattened boxes from today.

Oh, the dishwasher, my precious dishwasher that we brought from the States five years ago...we've decided we need to sell it. Our kitchen comes with a "mini dishwasher" installed, and this is taking up too much floor space. Anyone in the Tokyo area interested? Send us a note...

We left the house at noon to go to the office for lunch. While there, Stan talked to our business manager about the anxiety I was feeling in asking the neighbor about using his driveway for the crane. Mr. Kiguchi offered to go with us to do the introduction and help ask the question. He is a dear man, and we appreciated his willingness to walk us through this. He came back to the house with us, and helped make the appropriate introductions with the woman of the house, Mrs. K. She was friendly, and said it is okay to use their driveway. We also met two other neighbors.

With a great sense of relief, we tackled the next project. We headed upstairs to the third floor, to our bedroom. It was wall to wall boxes and plastic storage drawers. We began by moving clothes from wardrobe boxes into our closet. Then boxes of hangers, then the plastic drawers, and finally personal files that will be stored in our room. Once the center of the floor was cleared, we set up our bed frame.

It was so wonderful to be able to get the bed set up. There are no curtains in this room, but there are windows on three sides, so we have a few things to get finished before we feel ready to sleep here. (Where WOULD they put the curtain hooks?) We were feeling very accomplished at this point, and when Stan played the CD "Abide" of piano music performed by my dear friend, Ann Barkley, on the sound system we had just set up, I was blessed.

So we have our bedroom waiting for curtains, the living room waiting for the love seat and dish cabinet, and the kitchen waiting for inspiration. The other bedroom upstairs wasn't filled too much, and we've been able to to store bedding and lamps in one of the closets. That leaves two rooms untouched. The downstairs bedroom has part of that dish cabinet in the middle of the floor. When that is gone it will be easier to get to the remainder of the room. It shouldn't be too bad to unpack those boxes. There are a number of chests of Lego's...I wonder what their 15-year old owners will say about them now...

But then there is this room. It is the "tatami" room, with Japanese mat flooring, and this one has all those boxes we packed up five or six years ago. As I walked through the stacks this evening, I see that there are two major kinds of things--photo albums of our 27 years of marriage (as of next Friday), and personal mementos of each of us. Included are a container of our sons' "twin clothes" when they were little, our daughters' "American Girl" dolls, my wedding dress, school records for all six of us, children's books our kids enjoyed many years ago. These are the things that are hard to open and hard to determine their next place. With our daughters now young adults, and our sons heading that direction, we need to find ways of preserving their treasures well even though we don't have a permanent place to keep them. The cost of shipping is very high right now, too, so we need to keep in mind that sometime, a fair amount of the content of this room will need to cross the ocean!

So we feel much better tonight. Stan took one son out for sushi when we got home. The other is at an overnight with a new friend. Tomorrow we'll go back--I'll be working to bring more order to the kitchen. Maybe Stan can continue to open other boxes. Somewhere we should find the curtain hooks!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Moving day 1

Well, day 1 of moving is over...the house is wall-to-wall boxes. We feel pretty embarrassed at the volume, but we have to remember that we had the Movers pack us up a year ago, and things did not get "condensed" like we would have done them.

I opened up one big box and found the plunger and some toilet paper rolls... We also have things that were in storage for five or six years that haven't been gone through--there are boxes with our girls names on them, many boxes of photos and albums, and too many boxes labeled "files." I have to remember that compared to what I saw in some American's garages, we still don't have a lot...

The saddest part is that our refrigerator, dish cabinet, and Ikea Love Seat didn't fit up the stairs to the second floor Living Room-Dining Room-Kitchen... The stairway has two turns in it, was just too narrow. We now have to ask a scary old man neighbor if we can use his driveway so a crane can be used on Monday to bring those three items to the 2nd floor veranda (there is no room in our "yard" for the movers to take the stuff back and hoist it)...

To be honest, I (Faith) would rather just scrap these things and get new ones that fit, but we probably couldn't replace them for the 36,000 yen ($425) it will take to hoist it. Pray that we have courage to ask this man...

So now, Stan and I are back at the guest house, ready for a night of sleep. Tomorrow we'll go back, and try to talk to the man, and greet our other neighbors, and then start clearing boxes out. One thing we do know is that we'll be staying a couple extra days at the guest apartment. It is so nice to have this place to come back to!

And the cable folks came to the house before the movers arrived, so I was able to focus on those conversations.

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Moving day's coming!

Today we went to our new house with key in hand. We were grateful to see that the real estate company had truly arranged to have the tree trimmed, and were surprised to see that the rest of the yard was cut back and cleaned up.

Stan and I spent the day working on the kitchen/living room. He scrubbed the stove-top and grill and I washed walls. We had negotiated to have the professional cleaning fees waved -- which would have cost us around $1,000. Instead we will supply the elbow grease for this one. The house isn't filthy (though Stan had the worst job) but it does show surface wear and "environmental" dirt.

Tomorrow at 9 am, Stan will meet the movers at our storage space. They will be filling up several trucks with our household belongings--everything we moved from our apartment, along with things we had kept in storage the last six years because they didn't fit in the apartment--and bringing them over to the house. I will be there directing the movers to where furniture should be set up, and where boxes can be stashed. This service is worth every yen we are paying for it!

We are going to need some prayer, though. Even though we may not be physically carrying things up and down stairs, our brains will be taxed as we communicate or attempt to communicate everything in Japanese. Those friends who can help linguistically through the process aren't available to be with us. Thank you for holding us up from wherever you are!

In the middle of this, the cable company is coming to work on a contract and check to see if they have to do additional work to connect their cable... I'm not sure if I've requested the right options for the IP phone they'll install. Sigh.

We are excited, but also know we will be tired for some time to come. I wonder what treasures we'll uncover as we start going through those boxes!