Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 28

Yesterday after meeting with some friends for brunch, lunch and fellowship, I went shopping for some birthday presents. Since we meet in Namba, I went shopping at Namba Parks. I was happy to be inside since it was cold and windy!

When I entered one of my favorite stores, this is the first thing that caught my eye.

The first person I thought of when I saw this tea pot and cup was my grandma Reed. I don't know if she actually liked purple pansies, but in my memories of her she does! Soon after having that thought, I thought of Grandma Benton. I don't know if she actually liked purple pansies or not, either, but I know that she also loved flowers.

Both of my grandmothers loved flowers. They had lovely gardens full of flowers and enjoyed the beautiful world that God has created. I suspect some of my love for nature comes from my grandmothers' influence!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 24

Today has been a lovely day! First, it didn't rain! I feel like rainy season has started way too early this year.

Second, I had a great English Bible study time today. My friend shared about how God is answering her prayers. She is learning that He doesn't always answer right away. Sometimes we have to ask several times. Sometimes we have to ask many times. And, His answers usually come in unexpected ways. She was beaming as she shared how God arranged her day yesterday and because of that new schedule, a prayer was answered for her relationship with a coworker.

God loves to surprise us! It is such a blessing to get to experience God's blessings through His blessings to others. (Was that too confusing of a sentence?!)

Third, today was AGC. I love getting to sing with these ladies! Today two new ladies joined our circle. Also, today was my day to lead the warm up. I showed them how I learn Japanese songs by adding actions. They kindly followed along and learned a bit more about my way of thinking through the actions I attached to the words!

Oh, and fourth, my neighbor stopped by and brought me some 'butaman' - steamed rolls with pork inside- just because she remembered that I like them! I was glad I had made cookies a couple of nights ago so had something to share with her, too!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 21

Yesterday we had our quarterly area prayer meeting. Pastors and missionaries from the Kyoto/Nara/Osaka area gather for prayer and fellowship. We had a special addition yesterday as the Stollers, Carol, and Amber joined us, too.

After the morning of prayer we usually go out for lunch. This time Mrs. Yuzawa had made reservations at an Italian restaurant. After we were all seated she said that she wanted our help to 'toss' her husband. (You know, like they do to coaches when they win the Japan Series!) Next week is his birthday. In Japan the 70th birthday is a big deal. But, last year for Yuzawa Sensei's 70th birthday the celebration didn't work out, so we got to do it this year!

We didn't actually toss Yuzawa Sensei! But we did sing happy birthday, twice.

After the meal, Carol, Amber and I joined Mr. and Mrs. Yuzawa for a stroll through the park across the street from the restaurant. I have been to the park before-in May when the red azaleas were in full bloom. Because the winter has been cold, the plum blossoms have not quite opened up yet. So, we walked around the garden using our imaginations, but also enjoying the other beauties of nature.

All throughout the day I caught glimpses of Mr. and Mrs. Yuzawa's love for each other. It was fun to see!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 17

This week my friends' 6 year old daughter had her third brain surgery. She has been fighting brain cancer for over a year and a half now. Throughout this time I have seen the love of not only a family but also of a community. We have all seen this in different places, I am sure.

My friends live in Canada so I feel like I can't do much to help them during this time. However, thanks to technology, I can keep up with how the surgery went as quickly as they can update various social networks. Also, through technology I can see other friends taking time to care for the other children, provide food, house cleaning, and a variety of other services.

As I watch people care for my friends in tangible ways, I can see the love they have for each other. As I see the reminders of prayer and comments of tears being shed, I see love, too. This is the way I can participate in this community.

I am thankful for technology and the way it helps us stay connected so well. There are many ways technology is not being used wisely, however, there are many ways it is, too. Thank you to all of you who use it to stay in touch and let others know how your life is going!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 14

Today is Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love. As I was taking a few minutes to write to my sponsor children, I was praying that they feel the love with which I write. But, more importantly, I pray that they experience and accept Jesus' love for them.

Then I was reminded of a blog post, well, two actually, that the Peruvian leader of our Compassion tour wrote recently. I thought of my time in Peru and how much love I experienced there. One of the greatest things I learned about love came from the volunteers at the Child Development Centers. These volunteers truly love the children who come to the centers. They show the children love each day through their teaching and just spending time with the children. They get to be with the children and hug them, wipe their tears and laugh with them. I live thousands of miles away and only send letters sometimes and money. But, on my behalf, these volunteers show my children love, God's love.

I saw it written all over their faces and in their actions. Love. Oh, how I pray that people see that in me, too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 12

I am enjoying the love hunt this month. All throughout the day I see God's love and come up with blog post ideas. Then, I sit down in front of the computer and most of the ideas have fled to the dark corners of my mind where I can't quite reach them. So, I stare at the computer for a while. Sometimes they come back, or a new idea comes.

Thursday evening I made brownie bites to take to choir on Friday. As I was baking I was listening to the CD my sister sent me. It was wrapped in Christmas paper, but I know it was really an early Valentine's day present! As I baked and listened, I thought I should subtitle this post "Giving Love, Receiving Love."

Last summer we had some friends who are in member care come visit Japan and talk with us. We had one session where we single missionary gals met with Judy and talked about our love languages. Giving/receiving gifts is one of those love languages. Although it isn't my main gift, I do like a present now and then ;) I am pretty sure my sister has the gift of giving gifts. She always knows just what to give! One of my favorite skirts of all time (which I have since retired), my sister gave to me. It was an at least once a week part of my wardrobe when I was teaching elementary school, when I was a short term missionary, and, I think, even in seminary. It was colorful and went with so many of my other clothes, both winter and summer. I think the slit in the back was getting a little longer than it should have been and, after years of washing, it was fading badly. But, I loved that skirt! I would probably still wear it if it was in my closet now!

I think my main love language is spending time with someone. When people take the time to spend time with me, I feel loved and valued. I have learned, being so far from many of my friends, that this can be fulfilled by even a short email, or better yet, snail mail. I know this sounds a bit like words of encouragement. However, in this correspondence or time spent together, I do not have to hear anything about myself. I just want to hear regular, everyday things that are going on. (There is something about opening the mailbox and seeing an envelope with a stamp and familiar handwriting that makes me feel closer to someone even though they are thousands of miles away. Anyone else?!)

So, as I enjoyed my sister's gifts, I had fun baking for my friends. Even late at night, there is something invigorating about baking, although I do prefer to bake earlier in the evening! I agree with Julie from Julie and Julia, there is something comforting about adding eggs and sugar to flour and cocoa, etc, knowing that in a short time you will have something delicious coming out of the oven. And, I especially like knowing that it is being made for someone who is going to enjoy it as much as I do!

Well, this has gotten wordy! So, I will close with a, "thank you, Shonda!"

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 10

I love where I live. Tonight when I got home I walked up from the garage chatting with a man who lives somewhere in my building. When we got to the elevator, a lady who I haven't seen before but who apparently lives here, and a lady who I often meet in the elevator. We all chatted and wished each other well as we exited the elevator on our respective floors.

I am learning about what it means to love your neighbor as I go along this journey, and my time here at Unilife Izumi is helping in this learning. It is good to learn from my neighbors!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 8

Today I spent the afternoon with a friend from gospel choir. She is a songwriter. In fact, she studied composing in university! She has been writing some songs and wanted a little help with the English. Two songs she wrote in Japanese and wanted to write English for them, too. Another song she has written all in English. I am really impressed! I can't even write a song in my own language let alone another language. We had a fun time talking about the songs and how to say things in English-although our conversation was all in Japanese!

God's love was clearly evident as I read her songs and we talked about them. Music truly is a way to share love!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 7

Today I was reminded of God's love through others in ministry. Twice a month the Komyo staff and Kongo staff meet together for planning and prayer. Today was another encouraging time of sharing. Iron sharpens iron. As I hear each one share about how God is working and how each desires more from God, I am challenged to take a look at my relationship with God and how it is growing-or not.

This evening I got to spend time with Yuri praying for Tohoku. Since last spring we have been meeting once a month to pray for Tohoku. Although no one else has been able to join us, we have had good times of sharing and prayer.

I even got an email from Melissa today, which was also encouraging!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 4

Today I finally got to attend the women's gospel group in Osaka. About a year ago a group of ladies started to meet to sing gospel, share God's word, and pray together-followed by a meal together, of course. I had heard about it from one of the leaders and two of my friends from AGC. I have been wanting to attend and was finally free on a Saturday when they meet.

(The picture above is from one of our AGC Christmas concerts!)

What a great time of singing and fellowshipping! We worked on two songs in Japanese, which tested my language ability. They were both musically challenging as well. After the official meeting time we went to lunch together at a nearby Chinese restaurant. One of the gals who attends is from Taiwan originally and was able to chat with the gal working in the restaurant-in Chinese. The gal from the restaurant said that this group is different from others that come in and we explained why.

I really enjoyed the time together, the singing, the time of prayer and the fellowship and honest sharing. I was super excited because the leader today was Mukahi Kaori, a Christian singer here in Japan who I have admired for quite some time. It was wonderful to meet her and learn from her!

When I got back to my station, my friend, Miyoko, was waiting for me because I had picked up some things for her at Costco earlier this week. She and I had a nice time chatting and encouraging one another as fellow women in ministry in this area.

I am so grateful for the way God showed His love to me today through the fellowship I was allowed to enjoy!

A Month of Love, Day 3

Since I started this journey of blogging daily about love this month, I wanted to write even though it is late and I have had too many late nights in a row.

This evening I experienced God's love through some of my missionary friends. We gather about once a month to fellowship, pray and play together. As we prayed together tonight, I truly felt the love of God enveloping me and encouraging me. I have been on a quest seeking answers and reasons for a lot of different things recently, but tonight was not about answers or absolutes or right and wrong. Tonight was about God's love being shown to His child through the actions and words of others. I am grateful that God keeps on loving me and allowing me to experience His love daily, hourly, moment by moment.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Month of Love, Day 2

The story of love I want to share today is the story of a town, a small, idyllic, mid-western town, the town where I grew up. It is a town that had only one stoplight-where I had my only car accident-and no McDonalds until long after I'd graduated college and moved on. A town where neighbors knew each other, looked out for each other. A town where we could ride our bikes freely until sunset, when we were all expected to go home and eat dinner with our families.

The biggest excitement in our town was Crazy Days in the summer and high school and college sporting events. One year, in the 80s, I think, Miss South Dakota was from Madison.

It was a lovely place to grow up. Many of my friends still live in and around the area because it is a great place to raise a family.

Being on this side of the world, thousands of miles from this idyllic town, probably makes me even more nostalgic. But, Tuesday (Wednesday, here) I was reminded of all of these wonderful memories.

As I started to read facebook updates and listen to the local radio station streamed online, it was like a movie plot unfolding. Except these were real people with names and faces I knew, personally.

What an outpouring of love for our high school English teacher and his family as I read one facebook status after another. The fond memories. The encouraging words. Lives touched. A town united.

Yes, we are like any other town and have our share of differences. However, we are also like many other towns when one of our own is hurting, we join together and help out.

Honestly, before yesterday, if you had asked me about my 9th grade English class, I would have told you I didn't remember much from that class except that our teacher scared the tar out of me. Thankfully, I also go to know him in other settings that helped to change that image! But, as I listen to friends and think about Mr. Johnson more deeply, I am reminded of a man who loved his family, loved his job, and cared for others.

Mr. Johnson will be missed. His family will receive love and support from friends and fellow Madisonites. Because, deep down, we humans want to share love.

Thank you for praying for our town and the Johnson family.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Month of Love

Today I saw love in parent-child relationships. My student and her daughter, who is just about to graduate from university, came to class together. It was fun to watch them interact and hear them talk about things they do together. Then at Starbucks I saw a mother and her son enjoying some time together. They made each other laugh.

I know my parents love me. I experience it often-like in the lovely package they sent me which arrived today. Somehow, though, as I watch other families interact, I can understand my parents' love for me in a deeper way. Not being a parent myself, I am not sure I will understand this as fully as those who are parents, however, today I got a little better grasp on it.

And, now that I am sitting in front of the computer waiting for news of what is going on in Madison, I can understand a bit better how they must have felt on March 11, 2011.

So, I wait...