As I have been experiencing the various events of this season, the realities of our current lifestyle, temporary housing filled with an old lady’s stuff, caring for volunteers, and overseeing a new jewelry business – – all of these have very much made this Christmas feel chuuto hanpa— half-done, not completed. We have struggled to get from one event to the next, to entertain well, to help our kids have special experiences; to get christmas gifts and cards ordered and sent –homemade gifts made and give for our friends up here — but in all of these things I have felt like we didn’t quite pull it off as I would have liked. The US Christmas cards got sent off in time for Christmas (I think); but the ones that we ordered locally in Japanese didn’t get in the mail until Christmas day, arriving for our Japanese friends a day late (really not a good thing in this culture when Christmas basically ends on Christmas morning). Yesterday I came across a box of peanut butter kiss cookies that never got delivered to the special neighbors at our new home; tomorrow we are going to deliver two other gifts that didn’t get out on Christmas….and so on.
Our Christmas decorations have in the end felt chuuto hanpa…. — I was able to bring up several boxes of christmas stuff from our Sanda storage during my recent whirlwind weekend down there. So thankful for that! But in this current home we didn’t necessarily have a place to put many things, and we ended up late in the tree game for getting a decent artificial tree (you can’t get live cut ones in Japan) and bought a sweet, rotund live pine tree at a local hardware store on clearance that we are hoping we can plant in the ground at our new home. This tree did get two strings of colored lights around it, but the only other decorations were adorned on christmas day as we took all the beautiful ribbons off of the gifts from Uncle Mark and wound them around our tree. Our other ornaments will remain packed up until next year….
I shipped up from Sanda our three light-up reindeer (one is Rudolph of course with a red nose!) and we were all excited — it was worth the cost, we thought, for the joy our kids and neighbors each year have in seeing these light-ups at night. Eric got the extension cord, bought a timer, and set them all up, plugging them all into the only outside plug we could find. The only problem is that the timer is clearly demon possessed– the deer go on (and off) at strange times of day and night- with seeming no rhyme or reason. When I came home today around 3 pm– yes, the deer were on. Now – nighttime – they are off. It doesn’t matter how we have tried to adjust them. And then on those rare times when they were on and we were home and awake– we invariably blew a fuse when we tried to use the toaster, oven, or rice maker. Chuuta hanpa reindeer decorations.
Christmas shopping was done almost completely on the internet. Many thanks to Amazon Japan, which allowed us to do late night shopping and brought most gifts to us quickly. It was also a convenient year for the Nozomi Project to start, as we were able to buy and send out some of our favorite jewelry to family members and friends. I sort of missed the “fun” of Christmas shopping this year…And there were more friends I had wanted to buy or make gifts for, more cards I had wanted to send. It just didn’t happen….
Having shared the frustrations, this season has also reminded me so much of grace. That God is always wanting to remind us of grace. Despite this, but that. Seeing ways that God brought help at just the right times. I’m still amazed that God brought our friend Megumi in December– she helped us decorate with lights and pull off Owen’s birthday celebration; she helped me plan the Nozomi lunch and helped us get the first week of Nozomi internet products sent off. Our friend Ray came to stay this past week, and has been like family for our kids and a big help to us. Be One Staff Lora came up from Osaka last week in time for her and Beth and us to pull off a candlelight soup Christmas event….The three of them watched our kids so Eric and I could get away for two days. God has a way of bringing help when it is most needed…
My sister Allison also gave me the most amazing Christmas present– she arranged for friends from different parts of my life to send me notes on the days before Christmas this month. These notes have been precious reminders of friends far away who are still so dear, dear to my heart. Reminders of God’s special grace upon grace upon grace in my life.
On Christmas morning, our friends Ray, Beth, and Lora were here to open gifts with our family- it was so special! We ate Paula Dean’s recipe for french toast casserole, peppermint hot cocoa, and enjoyed the joys of opening gifts. As gifts were finishing, our friend Yuko came over – she was having a hard day and it was great to include her in what was happening at our home. In the afternoon, several other expat friends from our community came over… we made everyone’s favorite Christmas foods– and had such a wonderful time. Despite entertaining in a home that I really don’t enjoy or feel comfortable in, and never getting make up on that day! — it was the people who made it special — and I was full of thankfulness. And delicious eggnog!
I know we will look back on this year as one with various challenges but also with may blessings. It is often in our very challenges, and in our chuuto hanpa experiences — that we learn what to really cherish. Health and friendship; walking with Jesus, worship, family, working as a team, sacrificial giving by many — these have all been so significant to us this year. I read the last line from a short story the other day that I really loved (Amy Hempel’s The Man in Bogota): “He wondered how we know that what happens to us isn’t good.” With less than 24 hours before a new year, I toast to the many experiences – half-baked and all- of this past season that really have been good.