Monday, June 24, 2013

If only I could throw the whole box of stuff away...

Perhaps what slows us down the most in sorting to pack is the fact that we can't just take a box of stuff to the dump, or toss everything into the dumpster.  I remember how at the end of our home assignment three years ago, I was filling the dumpster with a random assortment of everything.

Instead, we have to literally sort every item by type for appropriate disposal. This book is my guide--I've got pages marked and refer to it frequently.  Its essentially a guide for how to sort and dispose of your household garbage.

Over on the right hand side is the guide to the appropriate page for

cans and bottles


newspapers and other paper products

pet bottles

small electric appliances

burnable garbage

non-burnable garbage

batteries and lightbulbs

large garbage (including furniture)

special items (computers, large appliances, etc).

This can really slow us down. The other day, for example, I had a very old can of shaving cream to dispose of. I had to empty it (there was still something it.) Then I had to pop off all the plastic and put that is a separate bag from the can.   One item, fine. It can be done.  Multiple items and it slows the whole process down. True confessions, there have been times when I threw away some notebooks (burnable) with the metal spiral (non-burnable) still on them. But other times in my good citizen mode, I've gone through the work of ripping off the pages or unwinding the spiral. It is quite tasking, especially if you want to be conscientious. (Or live in a neighborhood with a lady who is a self-appointed garbage cop.)

Imagine your "junk drawer."  I know, everyone has one.  Now look at it and figure out how you would need to separate all the contents into categories above. Tedious...frustrating...and oh, so eco-friendly...

I haven't taken photos of the pages with the illustrations (that are extremely helpful when my reading is somewhat limited).  But just in case we need a quick reference, here is the guide in the back. Color coded (notice the tabs on the first photo), with helpful instructions.  I have consulted this several times this week already.

So the progress is slowed down, but we are making progress... 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our family, Celebrating special people and places in Japan

The past few weeks have flown by, and I wanted to share a few photos and stories from the time we had with our daughters and son-in-law visiting. As part of "buildling our RAFT" we wanted to be sure the girls had an opportunity to say farewells to important places and people here in Japan (Acknowledgements and Farewells).

One place they both wanted to visit was Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983, the year before Stan and I arrived in Japan as a couple. (He had been here before.) I had forgotten how this had been an important place for them--we didn't go that often, but we do remember taking advantage of free and discount tickets for the kids once every other year or so.

Over the course of the years Disney added special features.  ToonTown made an  impact on one daughter ...

This lovely couple posed in the spot where two years ago they became engaged.

And we had to have the group photo in front of the castle.  In the years since we first started going to Tokyo Disneyland, they have opened a second park -- Disney Sea. And our southern California girl has an annual pass and is the expert on nearly everything Disney in our family.  The Winnie the Pooh Ear hair clips are apparently unique to Tokyo.

One thing is for sure--not everyone in costume at Tokyo Disneyland is a Disney character. Our daughter couldn't resist playing tourist to get her photo with them. We weren't sure they understood why...

The day came when we had to send one daughter back to the US.  She is posing in front of the Tokorozawa Train station--which is newly built and much nicer than it ever was when she regularly commuted through here.

The day we sent her off, the other daughter and husband went to Kyoto.

They had a chance to get their photo at the Golden Pavilion, and enjoyed a few other sites during their two day visit.  This daughter was out of the country for the "Kyoto trip" that middle schoolers often take at the Christian Academy in Japan. She had been there once with me and my sister--but was quite young.  Given that they may not be back again, we wanted to be sure they were able get there.

While they were gone, we met with our mission small group for our final time together. It was nice to touch base with them--we'll see each of them again in the next few years.

On Wednesday, we all bundled in the van and headed up to Karuizawa--the city where our oldest was born while we were language school students.

We made sure to get there in time for lunch at the Cowboy House restaurant in Naka Karuizawa. We first met Shin-san and Yasu-san when we lived here 29 years ago. Stan "DJ'd" at a small radio station they had along with our friend, Bob See, on weekends. He also sat in on a Bible study that was held with the guys by another missionary. We always tried to see them when we get up there.  Its hard to think this might be the last time...

We left the restaurant and headed to two tourist sites--Onihoshidashi (a lava flow from an eruption of the local volcano, Mt. Asama, in the late 1700's), and, pictured here, the Shiraito Falls.  We spent the night at a cabin owned by the Karuizawa Fellowship Bible Camp (lovely cabins--when our children were younger we would go once or twice a year to stay there).

The next morning we headed down the mountain and across the country to Miyagi prefecture and our cabin.

Friday evening we got together with a couple of mission families who are are now serving in the area at one of our favorite Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurants.  Favorite because it offers a large-portion, reasonably-priced meal that works for our boys...

It was time for this one to remember summer vacations and share the scene with her husband. It is strange to be there since the tsunami in 2011 wiped out the community below the cabins.  Yet, it is important to say goodbye.

Back in Tokorozawa for the weekend, we stopped for this "Bamboo Forest" photo.... right in front of our city hall...

Finally the day came for us to drop off this couple at the station as they made their way to the airport and on to their home in the UK.  

It was interesting to be with the girls as they would suddenly stop and acknowledge things that were significant to them. Usually it was something that I hadn't considered, but has been a part of the fabric of their upbringing in this country. 

So where is home for them?  Come to think of it, where is home for me? We cannot go back to one geographic place and feel at home.  As we are packing up to relocate to Charlotte, I'm looking for things to take along that will say "home" at least on one or two levels so that even though they'll have never lived there, when they walk in the door they'll know they have arrived home.

As one of my girls said, home is where my parents are.  Guess that explains why heaven is looking more and more like home to me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Celebrating our years of ministry at the International Communty Chapel of Saitama

On Sunday, June 9, the ICCS family gathered for Stan's last Sunday and to celebrate our years of service with a farewell party. The people of our church did an amazing job of inviting many folks from various seasons of our 23 years of ministry at ICCS, setting up a program, and making some special gifts to serve as special reminders.

So, what does a pastor preach on his last Sunday with a congregation he loves so much?  Well, if you know Stan, it came from his Favorite Book in the Bible...which was 2 Peter this week...

Peter writes to remind his readers of what God has given to them already, and how they need to make every effort to grow in qualities of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Possessing these qualities in increasing measure will keep them from being ineffective and unproductive in their knowledge of Christ.

Just as Peter was reminding these readers of what they already know, so Stan was reminding his congregation of what he has taught them repeatedly over these many years.

We were blessed to have people from various seasons of our congregation in attendance, along with friends from the area and all of our children. We asked a friend to take photos of us with many of them, and look forward to going through that portfolio.

At a point in the service, Stan called up the five men who are taking on the leadership of the congregation during this transition time. We had a time of prayer and commissioning for them as they take on these responsibilities.
And then it was time to party. The normal "covered dish lunch" was moved up from the third to the second Sunday of the month and there was a feast. They set up a table for our family and others came by and greeted us.

More than one person said we looked like the "last supper."  

Following the meal, we were blessed with several musical performances by members and former members of the church. These included harmonica numbers, a few Japanese folk songs, a soloists and a couple who perform around Japan. The husband was baptized in our church as a college student, and they sang a song he had written for his baptism.

We were presented with an "ICCS Family Tree" with thumbprints of people who attend the church.

The "I" of ICCS sounds like the Japanese word for love, and so that Kanji Character was used in the title.

We were also given a queen size prayer-quilt, made with traditional Japanese fabrics by the ladies of our church and my Bible Study.  This was an incredible labor of love by people who are not seamstresses by experience.  The ties are tied by members of the congregation as they pray for us and our future.

Both of these gifts will have special places in our home in North Carolina, and will serve as wonderful reminders of the people of ICCS.

After the performances and presentation, we had dessert, which included several commemorative cakes.

We were each given a cake to cut.  The planning team knew I'm a bit partial to chocolate and I was asked to cut that one, while Stan cut the white cake.

We enjoyed spending time with friends, as did our girls.  This was their home church--we actually remembered how old the church was by our second daughter's age--she turned one shortly after it began. Here they are with one of the younger and one of the more long-time members of the congregation.

We also enjoyed visiting with some of the Brazilians who had been part of a congregation that worshiped in our hall several years ago.

It has been a full week since then. It was strange this Sunday not to go to ICCS, but we feel it is important to stay away as a means of allowing them to move on. We will visit other churches in the Tokyo area before we fly out, but we will always have a very special place in our heart for this congregation.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Celebrating our sons' graduation

Last week was a full one as our sons wrapped up their high school careers at the Christian Academy in Japan.

It began with their presentations of their Culminating projects on Tuesday afternoon.

They were noticeably relieved once this was over. Essentially they were finished with high school when they completed the presentation.

On Wednesday evening there was a banquet for the graduates sponsored by the parents.

For kids at an international school, this is probably the last time that most of them will be in the same country together. It was fun to see the guys hanging out with their friends.

Their friends come from around the globe.  Our boys are the third one from either side.  
It was also fun to see them all dressed up.

On Friday evening, we gathered at the school for their graduation.  He looks pretty happy--we were too.

I'm not sure we expected there to be so much relief after the completion of their coursework--but these guys were genuinely more relaxed by the time we got to this night.

What made this even more  special was being all together as a family to celebrate this day!  Our daughters came from the UK and California, and our son-in-law (center back) was also here.  We wonder when this will happen again!

The graduation ceremony is held in the gymnasium to accommodate all the guests. They do a good job of making it a pleasant backdrop.

They receive a Bible along with their diploma.

After graduation there was a reception for family and friends. The graduates then piled into a bus and headed out to the beach to wait for the sunrise (which sadly they said was not inviting since it was cold and cloudy...). Back home by late morning on Saturday, they spent much of that day sleeping.

On Sunday they were presented gifts by the leadership of ICCS. 

They are presently planning on taking a "gap-year."  They will return to the States with us in mid-July, and will each attend separate MK Reentry Programs for 10 days.  What happens after we fly to Charlotte is still unknown. They are interested in working, and have also talked about taking a course or two at a community college.  This is a big cultural shift for them coming up, and it will take a while for them to get their bearings and find friends.  There are also other "right of passage" events they haven't yet experienced, such as getting their driver's licenses.  If you are a praying person, please keep them in your prayers over these next weeks and months of transition.