16 March, 2018

Wonder soap with a story

I've got a story about this cleaning product.

Two of our boys went to a local kindergarten in our early days in Tokyo, over a period of nearly four years. They had two uniforms, one that they wore on formal occasions and also on the way to and from school (except on Wednesdays). When they got there they changed into their play uniform, which consisted of a white teeshirt and blue shorts. I never dressed my family in white, especially for play! But that's what we had to do for kindergarten.
The kicker was that the playground was basically dirt. Gravelly dirt! You can see both the uniforms and the playground in the photo below and on this blog post of mine from 2009. Believe it or not they also had a "mud pit", yup, not a sandpit, a dedicated mud pit! You mothers out there can imagine what sort of state our kids clothes came home in! Keeping eveyrthing white was a huge deal. 
But the PTA was on top of the situation. One of their fundraisers was selling a wonder soap: this "blue stick". We Marshalls we so concerned that we might run out of them that bought a lot. And ended up with a stockpile. A stockpile that's lasted nine years post kindergarten graduation.

You see, I don't buy my kids white clothes, so once they graduated, we had much less use for the wonder soap!

It is so wonderful that we had to buy some more just recently. No longer from the kindergarten's PTA, but just an ordinary "Drug" store. So if you live in Japan and have light-coloured clothes that need stains removed, this is the product for you!

15 March, 2018

Care package for Australia

I'm still struggling with my cold, complicated, as always, by asthma. However this afternoon if I sit quietly in my "relaxing chair", I feel pretty close to normal. In fact I've gotten through a fair bit of computer-based work in between resting over these last couple of days. I'm very thankful that this was going to be a quiet week anyway (it's incredibly rare that I have almost no meetings or appointments scheduled for an entire week, but that's what this week looked like). I'm trying to be patient with my body and thankful for the time to rest.

After yesterday's depressing post I wanted to write something a little more upbeat today. Not much has been going on that's worthy to write about this week. It's Thursday and I've left home just once since Sunday morning!

Here's my meagre offering:

We've gone the full circle. When we arrived in Japan over 17 years ago my mum sent us care packages (she still occasionally does, but usually around birthdays and Christmases). Now we're about to send our first care package to our son in Australia! I was surprised that it was pretty hard to find stuff to send. Perhaps we're not Japanese enough? 

But really, we don't eat a lot of packaged stuff, and that's all one can send to Australia. He'd love us to send onigiri or curry rice or yakisoba, (rice ball or Japanese curry or Japanese stir fried noodles) but these would never make it through customs. I wish I could send him some homemade biscuits!

One day soon I'll get back on my bike and get this to the post office!

14 March, 2018

A bit overwhelmed

Today is a gorgeous day. I can see it out the window. I can even feel the temperature rise inside. At 10 a.m. I have no heater on, something that hasn't happened for months.
Our son and his friend last year in November when we visited his
home town for the weekend.

But I'm sitting inside. My nose is drippy and my breathing ragged. Periodically an asthmatic cough forces its way out.

To make it worse, I've been crying.

Not because I'm sick, but because I keep remembering...

Remembering that friend who whispered, in the midst of a hilarious board game last month in Australia, "You can't go—you realise that!"

I'm remembering the friends who couldn't say goodbye at the shopping centre and I had to say to them (after I'd hugged them), "I love you and will miss you. But now I'm just going to turn and walk away . . . "

I'm remembering the friends in Japan who lovingly plied me with questions last week about our son's transition. One who said she's been reading my posts and crying as we made this transition.

On Sunday we spent an hour on a video call with our son. The first time we've done that since I returned to Japan. It was great, but left me sad, missing him more than before.

Then last night one of his good friends who is studying at a uni in Tokyo stayed overnight with us. That was both strange and wonderful. But when I realised that he and our son hadn't connected since our son had moved, I sought to get our son on another video chat. It was a wonderful time of reminiscing for them. I learnt new things about our son. But it also made me sad, because, time has moved on and the group that they had in high school has been scattered across the globe. Yes, I know that is the way of life. But it was a reminder that this is still a time of transition for them. Our guys are yet to connect with others in their new environments in a deeper way.

So I guess, in trying to sit quietly and not work too much this morning, I just got overwhelmed with the brokenness. All the goodbyes that we've had recently. Things that won't be fixed. Can't be fixed. Because of distance.

12 March, 2018

Retreat musings

This year's theme: "Leaving a Lasting Legacy".
Though it's left me pondering whether thinking about
leaving a legacy might be the wrong tack to take, but rather following
Jesus to the max might be better and the legacy will take care of itself?
Before too much more time passes, I want to write about the retreat I went to last Wednesday to Friday. It's the ninth time I've been to this women-in-ministry retreat and I love it every time. It's a time to go away, be with friends, worship in English, and rest from work (although I usually come back tired, but not from work).

One of the friends who greeted me with a hug when we arrived.
It's part of my missionary-life survival kit. I especially love being with friends who know what this missionary lifestyle is about. No explanations are necessary. Though this time I did spend a lot of time answering the question, "How's your son settling in Australia?" That's what I get for blogging and putting my life up on social media!

But friends who've known you for a while in this mobile environment are worth their weight in gold. This was the 25th time this retreat has been held and as part of that they had photos from many of the past retreats, as well as videos from several ladies who've been a part of the leadership team in the past, but are no longer in Japan. It was bittersweet to see these as they are friends who I can no longer share sweet fellowship with.

"Red" sister fellowship.
However, keeping it positive, I enjoyed the friends who were there. One lady asked me, in a slight panic, on Facebook a few weeks ago if I'd be at the retreat. She saw me preparing to go to Australia and wondered if I'd be back in time. I was surprised that someone who I didn't know super well would be so concerned, but encouraged nonetheless. Missionary women go deep fast. Very often we know little about one another and don't have a lot in common (aside from where we work), but we can have deep, honest fellowship regardless. I don't fully understand it, except perhaps that we're bound together by our shared experience of living and serving outside our home culture and thus are more needy and willing to lean on others?

I felt very tired this time going into the retreat. (Maybe I've been overdoing it recently?) It was hard to stay awake during the first night's worship and teaching session. Sometimes I find it's easy to concentrate on the words of songs, but other times, like Wednesday night, worship is singing without engaging the brain very much at all and I've learnt that that's okay. It was great to praise God in English and I was glad for a nice mixture of old and newer songs that I knew as well as ones I didn't.

The retreat has an overabundance of slippers and
rules about where you wear them. They have dining room
slippers and toilet slippers, but also hallway slippers and
chapel slippers! To get from the main building to the chapel
 you change into outdoor shoes and then into slippers again!
The post I wrote at the retreat (here) contained some of the things gleaned from the speaker. I didn't take notes this year, simply trying to soak it in. Probably being so tired made me a little more grumpy and picky with this year's speaker than usual (I was getting grumpy at cliques and a little frustrated that she didn't spend more time in the Bible).
Retreat is usually a time that includes tears for me. Often during worship time, or during times of sharing personally with others. This retreat was no different. Obviously saying goodbye to our son was still quite raw, but the speaker's husband died a few years earlier, so she talked about grief and the loss of Christians in the prime of ministry also brought up tears. She also emphasised that we have a choice in how we react to painful situations: certainly we need to grieve, but beyond that we can choose our response to pain.

Thursday night was enjoyable, it was a celebration of the 25 years of Women in Ministry retreats. We heard from ladies who had gone before us and a little of the history of the retreat. We sang and prayed. We were entertained by a group who'd learnt a new song that day and a spoken piece by two sisters. And we laughed at two ladies who did a skit/song routine that showed the full span of a missionary lifetime, with tongue-in-cheek. Then we finished up with cheesecake (my favourite dessert).

I'm afraid that is a bit of a piece-meal review of the days away, sorry if it comes across like that. But I've come back to Tokyo refreshed in spirit and my love-tank full. I feel ready to deal with the challenges of life again (though I wasn't ready for being hit by a cold first day back at the "office"). I'm thankful that we're planning to be back from home assignment in time to go to the retreat again next year too (Lord willing)!

11 March, 2018

Seven years on and recovery that has happened

Today, seven years ago Japan was hit with one of the largest earthquakes recorded, which triggered an enormous tsunami, and which also flooded a nuclear power plant and caused it to overheat. A triple disaster. A day that thousands died. And thousands more have died since March 2011 due to post-disaster stress.

It's not a day that we're likely to forget in a hurry. Here's a post I wrote the day after the earthquake. We received no damage here, but the psychological effect of being in the same country as such a disaster is not to be ignored. You see a little bit of that in this post 11 days after the earthquake and this one about unexpected emotions.

There's a part of me that doesn't like the way media dwells on past disasters, but I can see how this comes about. We don't want to forget those lost, indeed forgetting a disaster like this is dangerous because it leads to bad decisions about the future. However, recycling the horror of that day isn't necessarily helpful.

I'm glad, therefore, to be able to show you the following video, about hopeful things that have happened in the disaster zone. This is not a video about the hope that Christians have brought to people in the area, though there is also plenty of that too. 

Praise God that as people across the world prayed for this nation in 2011, God called some to serve here, both in the short- and long-term. It's now not unusual to hear the triple disaster included in the testimony of how someone has come to serve in Japan in the last few years.

Praise God that his name has been heard by many in the area who had never heard of him before. 

08 March, 2018


I decided early in January to ponder and write about the commands given to Joshua at the start of his ministry as the leader of Israel, as recorded in the first chapter of the book bearing his name. Verse nine, especially. But February has come and gone and I've not done it. Of course I've been distracted by some significant life events. But how easily distracted we are from pondering God and his Word! I need to do some refocusing.

Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified
Do not be discouraged

Why? Because "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Today I'm at a women's retreat, specifically a women-in-ministry retreat. It's always a much anticipated event on my calendar, this is the ninth time I've attended in the last 11 years. But I have to admit that last week, when I looked ahead to this week's calendar, l groaned. I was already feeling pressured with my To Do list, but a week where I was at home for only a day and a bit? (I spent Monday at our mission's monthly prayer and fellowship day.) so I think that if it hadn't been already booked and paid for and such a fixture in my year, I might have demurred.

Actually it's part of my "strategy" to remain long-term in Japan. Really, an element that helps me to remain afloat amidst the challenges that are part of this life and calling of being a missionary. So cheating on that really wasn't the best long-term option.

I was also tempted to bring my computer, as I would to a workshop or conference, but I decided that my retreat would just be hindered if I allowed work to intrude.

So here I am. Waiting to see what God will do. Seeking to be his servant by taking time out.

Back to Joshua. I have to say I am a bit terrified of what this year holds. That's not quite the right word...more like overwhelmed. And worried that I'll "drop a ball".

My husband will tell you I've been bouncing from topic to topic recently as I've tried to deal with "balls" as they come to mind. Scared to let them be for now lest I forget. Things like:
• booking plane flights for April, July, August, September (yes, I'm flying in all those months, also in October and November!)
• registering for a conference in October
• booking church meeting for August, September, etc.
• accommodation during our transition to Australia in July (holiday in the Sydney area)
• transport between Sydney and Canberra at the start of September

As you can tell, there's a lot to organise. And I'm not being very organised about organising it all!

So back to what God might be wanting me to hear during this retreat, during this break from my regular life. These things came up this morning:

* Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit" (ESV).

* People are watching you as you deal with the challenges in your life.

* Do you trust that God will equip you, enable you to do what he has for you to do?

*Build up your faith. Take care of yourself. Build a firm foundation

Yes, all good things to hear and ponder. And keep pondering.


Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified
Do not be discouraged

Why? Because "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

06 March, 2018

A Japanese hair cut

One of the things I didn't think about before coming to Japan was how it would be getting my hair cut by Japanese hairdressers.

For a long time my hair was long or medium, but pretty much all the same length, so I went long periods without haircuts (I admit to cutting my fringe myself to facilitate that). My main beef with hairdressers back then was that they invariably blow-dried my hair completely straight. To the point where my family were shocked. My hair isn't curly, but has a little bit of a wave in it . . . and I like it like that.

But now that my hair is short, it necessitates much more frequent trips to the hairdresser. I'm thankful that we've got cheap hairdressers in our area now. One hair cut costs under AU$20.

Most of the time I'm happy with the result, or at least satisfied. But last time I was not. Usually I have to "fight" with the hairdresser to get them to cut off enough, but last time even after some "fight" she still barely did more than a tidy up. So I was back there today after only about five weeks!
And it was only today that I realised that they expect that you'll be back in a few of weeks for another centimetre off your hair.  Asking them to take more off is akin to asking them to halve their profit margin (which I imagine is pretty slim anyway).

Today the hairdresser I got was refreshingly straight to the point. After I said I wanted two to three centimetres off, he asked, "So, you won't be coming back for two to three months?" Thankfully he was fine with it and did a good job (though was a little rough with the ears). I'm about as happy as I get with my hair straight after a haircut (and before I wash and style myself). 

Being unwilling to spend over an hour and much more than AU$20 on a haircut, I'll have to continue to try my luck at getting a decent cut, but be willing to "fight" for more off and if I don't get it, just go back for another cut a bit sooner!

I do wonder how strange Japanese hairdressers find it to cut my hair. I haven't had many comments, though I know my hair is finer than they are used to handling. Certainly the blow-dry-it-till-it-is-as-straight-as-Japanese-hair betrayed how little they'd seen of non-Asian hair. I did have one ask if I coloured my hair and was surprised to find that this is my natural hair colour. I guess they don't ask that now, because there are plenty of grey hairs to prove that it isn't coloured.