Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in my apartment

Here are a few pics of Christmas in my apartment this year. As always, I had a fun time decorating and have enjoyed looking at the decorations this month. I even got to share them with a few friends and students as they came over for classes and fellowship times.

One of my friends from the U.S. sent me some of the ingredients for homemade hot cocoa. This is my first batch in front of my Christmas tree. This was an easy and fun Christmas present. Thanks for the help, Donna!

My advent wreath on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Having this on my table gave me several opportunities to talk about waiting for Jesus' birth and how important His birth is to me.

The nativity scene in my entry. The angel in the back is new-thanks Cindy! I like the battery operated candles I got at the dollar store last home assignment. I can keep them lit while I am gone, too!:)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saturday trip

On Saturday evenings I teach an English class to a very interesting and fun group of people. Last month we made plans to go to Universal Studios on the 13th to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. Everyone else has been there before and two students even have season passes. I was excited to go for the first time!

The word of the day, according to Mrs. Fujiwara, was 忍耐, patience. I would have to agree!

We arrived at the entrance of the parking lot about 4PM, our planned arrival time. However, the parking lot was full. So, we went to another parking lot nearby-line of cars around the corner waiting to get in. Okay, how about the one by the station. Same situation. Well, let's just go down the train line to the next train station! Yes, there is a parking lot and only three cars were waiting to get in. It is now 4:20PM. At 4:50 the first car in line finally gets into the parking lot. Finally, at 5:20, an hour after getting into line, we get into the parking lot!

We take the train back one stop to the park and finally get in around 5:30PM. By this time everyone is hungry so we are about to head to a restaurant when we realize they are just lighting the Christmas tree. There is supposed to be a neat show beforehand, however, we missed it. It's okay, I saw parts of it on TV last week.

Finally, we start off walking through the park to a restaurant. The couple who have season passes have a restaurant they like so we follow after them to the other side of the park. We get there and the restaurant is closed! Okay, choose another restaurant. We end up at a Japanese restaurant-which has a line and at least 20 minute wait.

Finally, we get a table-for six on a busy Saturday night in December! The highlight of the meal was the fun drinks we ordered with blinking ice cubes! Naohiro, the engineer, took it out and figured out how it worked-we women just enjoyed the wonder of flashing drinks.

(Can't see the blinking light so well in the picture:)

There was a special at the restaurant to get an express pass for one ride and a dessert so we got that. Finally, at 7:30 made it to the Jurassic Park ride. Since it is a water ride and it is winter we bought the over-priced plastic bag to put over our coats so that we wouldn't get wet. The ride was fun-the drop at the end was way better than I'd expected.

Two ladies didn't ride so we spent the next 15 minutes trying to find them-I was mostly watching the Peter Pan show while others were looking. By now the roller coaster was closed. But, the shops were still open-and overflowing! So, for the last 45 minutes at the park we walked through shops. Fortunately, we did not try to stick together!

My first trip to USJ has left me wanting to go back for more. One gal said to me several times that we will need to go back for a whole day in the spring so we can go on more rides and see more shows and really enjoy ourselves-I agree!

Mrs. Fujiwara (the one who wanted to eat at the Japanese restaurant), Atsumi (the one with the season pass), and Chika (the gal who wants to go back)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

saving space

How we save space in Japan...

Yes, that really is a road, an expressway, right through a building in downtown Osaka! Apparently, the highway department bought two floors of the building so they could put a road through it.

Gotta have some way to get from point a to point b!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Japanese Husbands

National Chauvinistic Husbands Association
This is the name of an actual group in Japan! But, before there are any negative comments, let me assure you that they are not using the word chauvinist in a negative way. (That is the word they used to translate the Japanese on the English version of the news and then they explained what I just said.)

Every year this group has a shouting meeting at a busy train station in Tokyo. Each man who shows up shouts out his love for his wife. Now, this is a pretty incredible thing in a country where most couples don't even say "I love you" to each other.

In the news report they interviewed one 63 year old man who is part of the group. He said that when he and his wife had been married about 20 years they began quarreling a lot because they didn't understand each other. They decided that they would share their feelings with each other about everything, no matter how small the matter.

The man showed his membership card that contains the three rules of the group:
1) Don't hesitate to say "Thank you."
2) Don't hesitate to say "I'm sorry."
3) Don't be shy about saying "I love you." your wife.

A pretty amazing group for Japan!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

pie sheet cookies

Today two of my friends from choir came over with another friend and their daughters-4 little girls. We had a fun time making easy cookies from prepared pie sheets. Pie crust is not something I do.

We rolled the pie sheets out thin and then cut out Christmas shapes. Then place a piece of chocolate on one shape cover it with its mate and seal it together by pressing the edges together with a fork. We wiped them with beaten egg and put a slice of almond on the top.

The girls loved it! With the edges they chopped up some chocolate and made the dough chocolate chip, formed their own shapes and baked. It was a fun afternoon!

First batch is finished and ready to eat!

Cookies and hot chocolate!

Friday, December 5, 2008

fun with friends

Last weekend several of us from choir got together for cheese fondue and conversation. It was a fun evening hanging out and learning more about these ladies.

A visual delight and delicious feast!

How to help a dog fall asleep!

Final fun! Cleaning up and going home.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New CD

I just ran out to throw out my trash before going to bed and found I had a little present in my mailbox! The new Alathea Christmas CD. So, instead of going to bed as I should be doing at this hour, I am listening to my new CD, checking email, Facebook, and my blog. I am really enjoying it! You can check it out here

Monday, November 24, 2008


It was my turn to share the message on Sunday morning. We are working our way through John and I finished up chapter 4 this week. I focused on the word believe. The kanji (Chinese character) for believe is really cool and has an interesting history, according to Mr. Suzuki, one of the former teachers at the Karuizawa Language School.

The kanji looks like this:

The character is made up of two parts. The left side means person and the right side means word. However, the character for word also has two parts. The top part is heart and the bottom is mouth. Mr. Suzuki said that the whole character, therefore, came to mean the agreement of a person's deeds and words which come from the heart. (I think Jesus said something about what comes out of one's mouth comes from the heart-see Matthew 15:18).

This character is also one of the two characters in the Japanese word 'faith.' The other character means to look upward at something or someone, to look up to someone or to God, to respect, and to adore.
Just a little Japanese lesson for you today!

Friday, November 21, 2008


"What is impossible with men is possible with God." Luke 18:27

I started with that verse because what I am planning to write about seems to be an impossibility. Praise the Lord we serve the God who loves to do the impossible!

In the summer issue of Japan Harvest, the magazine written for and by missionaries in Japan, one missionary wrote about the annual report of the church information service. As many of you already know, I am not a numbers person at all. (The running joke in our mission family is that Shan can go into a convenience store, buy a drink, and not remember how much it cost when she gets back into the car!) So, as I comment on this, know I am looking at the magazine right in front of me and trusting the author of the article to have explained it properly.

According to the report there were 8,665,000 people in Osaka in 2007. (I am just commenting on Osaka since that is where I live.) For those 8.6 million people there are 574 churches. According to the chart that means there is one church per 15,000 people. In this prefecture of 8.6 million people about 26,000 attend church regularly.

Looking at the number of baptisms last year in all of Japan it averages out to one person becoming a Christian every hour. However, in that same hour 115 people die without knowing Jesus.

As the author of the article said, this paints a pretty gloomy picture of Christianity in Japan. (His predictions of what the future looks like if we continue in this same rate of growth paints an even darker picture.) However, he choses to look at the positive side and use this data as a wake up call.

The future of evangelism in Japan needs to be different. Lay evangelism needs to become a central part of outreach here. We cannot leave evangelism to just the professional pastor and missionary. How do we do this in a culture based on hierarchy in relationships, in a culture based on respecting and not questioning leaders?

I don't know. But I do know that I serve the God of the impossible and He will continue to guide and teach. And, the picture of the future of believers in Japan is getting lighter!

Pray to the God of the harvest to send workers-including lay leaders!-into the field!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vote for me!

Okay, you have seen my picture with the leaves. The real reason I took the picture was for a contest on Coffeegirl Confessions' blog. So, go to the blog link on the left side of my blog. Click on Coffeegirl Confessions. Then check out the cool entries from around the globe. There are others that were better than mine, I think. You don't have to tell me who you vote for...:) But, if I win they will send me baking supplies to use for the holidays!!!! Check it out! And, while you are there check out a few of the blogs listed there and find out what God is doing around the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A walk in the Leaves

Yesterday took a little walk through the leaves. I knew it was going to be raining today so I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather to enjoy the fall colors. I went to Starbucks and got some iced chocolate, it was that nice out, then went across the street to the walking path up to the local pond. The path is lined with trees so it provides great leaf crunching and kicking opportunities. My sister and I used to walk to school trying to find the deepest leaves to kick up as we walked. Yesterday's walk reminded me of those days. And, I came home with just as much junk in my shoes as we used to when we were little! It was fun to just enjoy God's creation and creativity for a few minutes in the middle of a busy day.

This was about as close as I could get and still get all the great crunching leaves in the picture. And, about as far as my camera would zoom and still look decent!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What it's all about

Today I got the question every believer wants to hear, "Can you explain the plan of salvation to me?"!! After our Gospel choir rehearsal one of the ladies asked me this question. A song we sang at our concert last month included those words, 'plan of salvation.' She had been thinking about it for a long time, I guess, but we hadn't had a chance to talk for a long time. (She is the same lady who, after last spring's concert, read the Gospel for the first time because she realized she should find out what it is we are singing about.)

So, when she asked me after choir and I gave her a look she realized that this is not something that can be explained in one sentence. I asked if she had time and I pulled out my cell phone strap-like those Gospel bands with the different colors to explain the plan of salvation. It was her first time to hear it. There was another gal who is a Christian standing nearby so I felt like if I got stuck with Japanese I could ask her to help explain. Another lady was standing there, too, who has an interest in learning more about God, so the four of us talked for about 40 minutes. Amazing! God helped me know the Japanese words I needed to say and gave new understanding to some precious ladies whose hearts are being softened by the Holy Spirit.

Plus, it was a huge encouragement to me! I have been in one of those moods where you wonder what in the world you are doing here, wasting a bunch of people's money, wasting God's time, wasting your own time for no apparent reason. Then, out of the blue, someone I would not have even thought would ask me about my Jesus, asked me point blank! God is awesome!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Persimmon and Nashi

Another great thing about fall in Japan is the fruit. I come from small town South Dakota where plums and blackberries are exotic fruits. We buy huge bags of oranges and apples and big bunches of bananas, those are our staple fruits, add watermelon in the summer. So, when I moved to Japan I found a whole new world of fruit!

One of my very favorite Japanese fruits is the nashi, also known as Asian pears. This fruit is shaped liked an apple, usually a light brown almost tan color, and tastes wonderful. I was so excited when my family was able to be here during nashi season so they could taste this wonderful fruit.

The other autumn fruit I have come to love in Japan is persimmons. I had heard of persimmons before moving to Japan but would never have known what one looked like until I got here. (Before my dad knew what they were, he asked about the orange square tomatoes at the grocery store!) I also got to introduce my family to the joy of this fruit while they were here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I love my kotatsu

Today I spent the day rolling my carpet back out in my living room so that I could put my blanket on my kotatsu table. One of the nice things about Japanese winter is the kotatsu. A kotatsu is a coffee table with a removable table top so that a blanket can be placed between it and the frame, which holds a little electric heater.

I found this picture on Wikipedia. It shows the way we live under our kotatsu here in Japan in the winter. It becomes our desk, dinner table, a place to read and even take naps.

I have had a lovely evening sitting under my kotatsu, hopefully the first of many this winter!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Time with the fam

Well, the days of my family's visit are flying by and I haven't posted about it for a while. Since we are running around all day and several people are sharing computers it is more difficult to have a chance to blog.

Mom has been working hard to remember the names of my friends. She has little notes written that she studies as we go from one place to another-being distracted by the sites outside the window as we go. Dad is amused by the names of cars. Paul wants to know all about things about which I haven't a clue-construction, cost of electricity, etc. Shonda is taking it all in and trying to remember the things I taught her on her last trip and over the years to share with her husband.

Yesterday was shopping in downtown Osaka while I went to a school board meeting. (Paul and Melissa Ewing tagged along to help be the tour guides in my absence.)

Dinner at the Hawaiian Hamburger place. (Have to take a break from the Japanese food sometimes:)

Mobleys in the cosmos

Wednesday was my Gospel song and English Bible study. Since Paul, my talented brother-in-law, is here I put him to work teaching us a song. At the end he also sang a couple of songs for us.

Tuesday night was sukiyaki dinner with the Ewings.

Monday was a trip to Tsu for a missionary prayer time with Pastor Steve Newman from our NAB church in Lodi, CA. Even though it was their first day in Japan, Paul and Shonda came and Paul & Paul led us in a time of worship.

I guess I have a couple of pics from before Shonda and Paul got here that I haven't shared either. Dad took a good series of pictures of some people harvesting rice near my old apartment in Kyoto. We went their last Friday to meet the pastors I had worked with and do a little sightseeing. I'll post the rice harvest another time. Here is our crab lunch, Pastor Aoki and his wife with Mom and Dad, Mom at the rock garden...

And one more of an English class. This group is an incredibly entertaining group. Even though they don't really speak much English, we all seem to be entertained by each other! (I do a lot of translating for Mom and Dad in this class:)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finished Desk

Dad finished the last drawer of the desk while Mom and I made dinner the other night.

It will never be this cleared off again!!

Wednesday was baking class. Since Mom was here we made "Joy's Lemon Squares," Mom's recipe that I found in the Whispering Oaks cookbook submitted by Jean Ewing! Mom told the ladies that it was actually Grandma's recipe. And, we found them to be very sweet so enjoyed the English breakfast tea directly from London from Mrs. Kihara.

Mom made pot holders for each of the ladies and we showed them the prayer quilt she made with her group at West Center. It was a fun morning!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A busy weekend

Mom and Dad's jet lag is getting better, they are staying up after 9PM making it more difficult for me to get around to blogging at night since we are talking so much! Here is a recap of our weekend...

Saturday afternoon, Komyo Church Kids' Club... singing, games, snack and story

Sunday, putting together an Ikea desk (Dad is now really impressed with Ikea:), baking cookies, and church...

And Monday, a choir concert (and dinner:)!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 2 Choir Practice

Today we started the day with a walk in the park and a little relaxation. Then we spent the afternoon at Gospel choir practice getting ready for our concert on Monday. Here are a few pictures to tell the story...

Relaxing with the computer and a book.

For one song in the concert we divided the choir in half and are each singing a different song. The group I am in is singing a song in English and three of us are doing sign language along with it. This was our practice before rehearsal.

Mom got in on the action of my favorite part of rehearsals!

Practicing the encore.

It's been a good day!