So we are having a lot of fun with our baby chicks! They were one week old when we got these Nagoya Cochins (apparently they are a famous breed from the Nagoya region – well known for the tasty meat and for their nice brown eggs. We are interested in the eggs…) We now have names and can tell all eight apart, although as they grow some of their previous indicators are changing. With a combination of names contributed from our whole family, let us introduce to you: Mochi, Rosie, Ethel, Nancy, Lacy, Lilac, Nugget (yes, really!), and Sasha. We are keeping them inside under a red light for six weeks, so you just gotta have some fun. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite photos of our girls!
I have not written a true blog entry here for numerous years, as I’ve ended up posting most stories or events of note on Facebook. But something this week has made me want to chronicle as we have marked ten years of the 3.11 triple disasters. There are so many stories and faces and feelings whirling in my head; it is a gift to be able to separate and share just a few of them with you my reader friends.
24 hour team prayer… carving out time with Annie and a friend late night on Wednesday, then starting Thursday morning with an hour of prayer. Psalms and prayers and heart cries. I couldn’t get through everyone on my heart in my time slots.
Our local schools had decided to close down for the day; we followed suit with Nozomi Project.
The morning visiting numerous friends. The photo below is with our friends – standing where their home used to be. It is now a walkway built on top of a barricade to lessen the impact of future tsunamis. (They gave me permission to use this photo). She shared about watching with horror from the second floor of their home right by the ocean as houses floated past and got snagged by this bridge. The earthquake had actually called the land around the bridge to sink 12 inches. She could not help; she could only watch.
Delivering more cookies – the neighbors around us, friends nearby who had lost a mother, a daughter-in-law, a father. To them it seems that ten years is not a relief but rather contained an added stressor of having to watch the constant news play back images of that day. Chances to give love in the form of hugs, and cookies made by friends across Japan who could not come but wanted to share their hearts and prayers. These were truly such beautiful, beautiful gifts.
K. and I stopped a bit randomly at the home of a neighbor a few blocks away. She came outside and was so happy to have friends just BE with her. Tired of watching the news, she wanted us to hear her story of ten years ago. Oh, how she suffered! Trying to escape with her neighbor who fell into a manhole when they couldn’t see what was in the road. They hung onto fishing nets until they could get to a safe building. Her son rescuing a mom friend and her son who were left stuck on a pole by tsunami waters. Her house tossed virtually on its side. Wearing the same wet clothes for ten days, no warm food or fresh water.
Remembering and telling is so hard but so important. We prayed and we hugged and she received our cookies.
More visits and cookies to other neighbors, the vegetable lady; several families who we knew from Nozomi; a friend of our youngest son who hasn’t left his house for many months. Eric and other teammates going out across town, and to different towns, to remember with people. Going to the site where our friend A-san lost his wife.
Maybe just letting them know that they aren’t alone. Being present.
Eric and Joey led a small gathering for those who wanted to be together at 2:46 when the siren would wail in remembrance of the 18,500 lives that were lost that day. I loved the simple old hymn that we sung. What a good reminder of his presence.
While we were out visiting, two friends made a big pot of tonjiru (pork soup). We didn’t have an official meal time planned, but it was good to have hot steaming soup available to put into sagging or empty or sad hands of anyone who came to be with us that day.
That evening, close to 40 of us gathered at 6:30 for a final time of prayer, worship, and bringing our hearts to God. It was rather informal, but it was one of my favorite times of worship in a long time. We gathered in small groups and prayed together. I loved it that two of our neighbor friends from Indonesia came to this service. One of our dear friends had recently lost her husband; she could cry and we could pray and those tears were mixed with tears from others who were also grieving loss, whether new or old.
The gift of lament. We could not do this every day (it is so exhausting!) but such a gift to do this together.
We are serving in Ishinomaki, Japan with Asian Access. We have been living in Japan for over twenty years, and moved up to Tohoku the year following the 2011 disaster. We have four amazing kids who bring us daily joy. We have been partnering with Be One for the last nine years to bring help and hope to our community here. With the gifts and partnership of many people, Sue and members of our team started the Nozomi Project, a social enterprise making accessories and jewelry from broken pottery that was left in the wake of the tsunami. We’re thankful for the beautiful ways we see God at work around us!
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(Day 4: my “beauty and brokenness” perspective to illustrate the state of things in Ishinomaki five years after the disaster. One photo of something beautiful around me, and another of something that represents what is still broken or resulting from the earthquake and tsunami that hit here. I feel thankful to have the privilege of living here and bring able to share the state of life here.)
My beautiful entry for today… there are inlets and rivers and canals surrounding us. This is what made the tsunami so incredibly damaging in our city — the water just travelled inland through a myriad of channels. But these bodies of water are so beautiful, especially with the bridges and the boats and the buoys and all that makes this a fishing city.
My brokenness entry:
This was my iPhone app yesterday when a 4.7 quake jostled us – a frequent occurrence. We all pause whatever we are doing, look around, and wait. When it seems clear that it isn’t going to be a really “big” one, we continue with what we are doing. But each rumble is a reminder of the loss of five years ago. PTSD runs rampant here. One quake a few weeks ago brought instant tears of fear to one of the friends I was with. One of the women i work with said last week, “It is hard that there are so many earthquakes recently. They just remind us even more of how terrible things were five years ago, and everyone wonders if it is going to happen again.”
I decided this next week or so to daily share my own “beauty and brokenness” perspective through photos on Facebook that help illustrate the state of things in Ishinomaki five years after the disaster. One photo of something beautiful around me, and another photo of something that represents what is still broken or resulting from the earthquake and tsunami that hit here. I feel thankful to have the privilege of living here and bring able to share the state of life here. Here are the photos and summaries of the first three days…
Day 1, 3/5/16 Beauty, and Brokenness
Day 2, 3/6/16
Beauty: Perhaps because of the strong sea winds, the clouds and sky are so beautiful in Ishinomaki! Brokenness: This is the back of our kids’ nearby elementary school; the blue line represents the height of the tsunami waters. These blue signs are everywhere around our town, perhaps making sure people don’t forget the danger that exists living in this coastal town. Probably an important reminder, but it means everyone everyday must see these signs and remember…
Beauty: This is our neighbors’ home, the Aizawas. (Our home is the yellow one in the background). Their garden had been a place to cheer my heart since before we moved in. No matter what season, it is well-maintained and even in the frozenness of winter there is something blooming! They told us that five years ago this garden became a parking lot for trucks and cars that got dragged this far in by the tsunami waters. So many have chosen to find ways to plant and grown new life where there had been terrible destruction. They are my heroes. Brokenness: This is a small piece of the parking lot on the other side of our home. Every time it rains, more broken pottery is brought to the surface, a vivid reminder still five years later of so much that has been broken.
My friend Tim Miles (I’ve never met him but still consider him a friend!) wrote a blog a few weeks ago challenging us to do something creative and unforgettable on Leap Day. It sort of bugged me because I have been in the deficit in terms of emotional energy the past month or so, feeling incapable of coming up with anything creative besides a dinner plan each night. But I at least TRIED to brainstorm.
I thought about the crazy idea of wisking Eric away today by bullet train, going down to Tokyo for lunch, and coming back before the kids came back from school, but – nay, not likely. I wasn’t sure we were ready for a $400 lunch…Strike one!
So my back up plan was to call the nicest restaurant in town with the torches lit out front to get reservations for lunch. We’ve been wanting to go for a year – leap day would be perfect! Alas, they are no longer serving lunch. Strike two!
So, instead, we had a fun lunch at a cow tongue restaurant (yes, you read it right – it truly is one of our favorites), and then got 30 minute massages. I was ok with this not-super-creative Leap Day date because of the idea I had come up with the day before — to create a family Leap Year Time Capsule! This would satisfy my creative inklings and maybe, just maybe, be ok for Tim Miles too.
So tonight at dinner we talked about it. I have to say – it took awhile to get everyone enthused. As our friend Jeweliann said, who was eating with us – it’s a lot funner when you get to OPEN the box, than when you are first making it. But eventually everyone was IN.
Our oldest did some online research for ideas of things that we could put inside. We gathered our items together (see photo below), including: a newsletter and family card; pictures of our friend Megan who got married, our friends Cam and Ayami who had a baby, our family schedule from the fridge, the kids’ school lunch menu, Owen’s christmas list (it was still hanging on the fridge); a token from the trolly Eric and Owen rode last year in Philadelphia, an airplane boarding pass, the bulletin from my dad’s funeral, half of Annie’s only sand dollar, a Costco receipt, sea glass that we got off the ocean floor in Kauai last summer, Olivia’s old school name tag, and a (new) pair of underwear that were a funny gift to Eric from the Nozomi staff…
We also typed out a list of answers to questions like: What music are we listening to this year? Whats been our favorite tv shows/movies? highlights of the past year? saddest thing of the last year? closest friends right now? favorite foods? (they inevitably bring up the peanut butter noodle stir-fry dish I made TWO years ago, ONCE, that goes down as worst meal EVER, so we had to create the worse food category, even though, let me say again, it was TWO years ago!); predictions of what they will want to be doing or good at in four years; what we’ve been learning from/about God; who of our single friends will be married; what pets we will have. We had some silly answers, and some more serious ones.
When the ground dries up from today’s rain, we are planning to bury our time capsule in our yard, with everything double ziploced inside a tin can. In four years, we will dig it out, read it, and add to it… and hope it’s a ritual that continues for many leap days to come. We’ve decided that if we move, we will take our capsule with us and bury it in our new location… Hopefully we won’t forget where we buried it.
Have you ever done a time capsule? Before we bury ours, are there any other items you suggest we include? Happy Leap Day, everyone.
I have managed to (mostly) complete my January hustle – to organize and label our kids’ books all together in a more prominent place — the living room.
Until recently I had hoped that having books placed in different rooms in the house would encourage our children to read in those various locations. But we have been disappointed that our kids still don’t all really enjoy reading, and due to their main education being in Japanese they are behind in their English reading levels.
So we pulled out a deep Ikea bookshelf perpendicular to the wall, and used both sides to create a simple library that now serves as a separator between our open living and dining rooms. I’ve pulled all of our kids books to one prominent location, and bought a cushy beanbag chair and lamp to go there. I made very simple color-coded categories that I used to label and tag them: early readers, story books, history, science, animals, Japanese, bible stories, chapter books. I have a basket in front of the bookshelf in which I’m placing weekly favorites, as a way of pulling out books to catch their attention.
It’s been great to see the kids at various times of each day just “hanging out” with the books. Even our oldest has had fun revisiting some of the books that had been read to him when he was younger. Books are just so awesome!
Over the weekend our friend Jordan was telling us about an NPR show he had listened to that talked about the importance of available books in a home determining the academic success of children. We’ve always loved books, and so I hope that this first-month-of-the-year hustle will help kick our kids up to new levels of discovery.
The past two weeks’ return to life in Ishinomaki following my dad’s death has felt rather complex and challenging. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but we hit the ground running, with me starting back at Nozomi Project the morning after we returned.
It has been a different working and home environment upon coming back. I realized that THREE (3!) of my coworkers from the fall are not working side by side with me, and I feel that loss sorely. (Lora, Hannah, Ayami — I miss you each!! And Beth too!) I don’t like doing work and ministry alone, and much of the past two weeks has felt like that. How thankful I am for the team that remains and how they are juggling a lot to help out! Yet I have felt a much greater spiritual weight in my daily work without my co-workers’ daily presence. (Please pray with us for more help at Nozomi Project and a teacher to help with our home schooling kids!)
Yesterday morning I had our weekly bible study with two of our Nozomi staff. I wasn’t excited about needing to do this alone (Lora and Ayami used to co-lead with me). But God surprised me! My two Nozomi friends, T and C, ended up ministering to me.
As we were starting our study, C. began to reflect on how she has changed so much through our study together the past two years. She has a junior high son with autism. He was mainstreamed through elementary school (in my son’s class), but now in junior high he is going to a special needs school.
C. said that throughout her son’s life she has felt embarrassed and worried that her son’s condition has bothered people or put them out. She loves him dearly, but didn’t really know how what to think about his autism and special needs.
Over the past two years, however, her thinking has changed 180 degrees. She said she now realizes that her son is a special gift from God. D. and his autism are gifts from God to her and to others as well. She no longer resents his autism but she is able to embrace it. His innocence, his unconditional love, his smile (Oh, I wish you could see his warm smile when I come to his house!) are all part of the special package God has given her – and our community – in her son. Her experiences with God as a young believer have changed how she views the challenges in her life.
These words touched me so deeply. God IS at work in our midst. He can change how we view challenges, and show us his workings in the midst of them. We can better value the parts of our lives that may feel like a handicap but which God wants to use to bless us and others. A message I need to hear!
I’m praying for the daily grace to embrace what is before me. I’m thankful for C. and T. and God’s sweet reminder of His work in our lives.