31 December, 2011

Looking back at 2011

One image from 2011. The superhero who didn't save
Japan from the March disasters.
In the fading hours of 2011, it is only fitting that I think back to this time last year and the things I anticipated doing during the year. Before I go back and look, I'm going to see what I remember.

From memory we/I'd planned to

  • go camping – yes, did that three times and it went brilliantly.
  • have visitors from Australia – yep, they came. It was a frantic time that I found more stressful than I thought I would, but overall it went well. I learnt a lot about myself and our family.
  • continue editing Japan Harvest. Yes, did that, but much more than I thought. Especially with the Disaster edition in May. Taking on almost total responsibility for that edition from scratch was very challenging and twelve months ago I couldn't have believed I would do that in 2011.
Um, I cannot remember much else, so here goes to check it out.

Here's the list I posted on January 1st this year:

  • After a good start with developing a new Occupational Therapy service here, I'm hoping to get more established and contribute more to CAJ in this area. This has been slower than I anticipated. Changes are needed internally, but I cannot easily change that from where I stand.
  • Getting more into the editorial side of the magazine Japan Harvest, including regular meetings with the editor. Yep, actually it even looks like I could be moving into a greater level of responsibility with the magazine in 2012 (yet to be confirmed).
  •  Continuing my freelance writing, I'm hoping to have something else published for which I'll be paid. Yes, one more paid article, but it hasn't come out until Jan 2012. More unpaid articles published, though.
  • I'd like to play the piano at home more, but there are so many other things to do. I even have a standing invitation to play a friend's baby grand that I am yet to take up. I have done this a little in the latter half of the year. Still working up to play that baby grand.
  • Friends, with their two children, from Australia are planning to visit for two weeks mid-year. We're all looking forward to this. As mentioned above.
  • The pastor and his wife who married us are in Japan for a year and we're hoping to get together with them soon. Nope, didn't managed to get together with them. I'd like to blame the March disaster, but I'm not sure that would be fair. Their schedule and ours didn't match very well.
  • We're hoping my parents will visit this year. It would be great to have them for Christmas, but we'll have to wait and see. Nope, this didn't happen.
  • We're thinking about getting an seasonal pass to a local amusement/water park - particularly for the long, hot Tokyo summer that is coming our way. Yes, did this and have enjoyed it very much.
  • Striking out on a new level of adventure, we'd like to get some camping action (tents) happening. Yes, and it was great!
  • Two women's retreats plus our annual regional mission conference. One women's retreat and one regional conference. Both were great. The first happened only days before the March disasters and therefore was wonderfully timed.
  • And maybe more, only God knows! Oh yeah. God knew.
The "more" included a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster just over 100km from us. This brought the unexpected decisions of whether or not to evacuate from Tokyo or even Japan. Dealing with a serious lack of goods in shops, a lack of railway services, and a shortage of car, heater fuel, and the threat of rotating power blackouts (which didn't end up happening in our corner of Tokyo).

It also included watching natural disasters in our home state in January. Flooding of huge proportions, a flash flood in my inland hometown, a cyclone further north. This was much more emotionally difficult that I could have anticipated.

January took a bit of recovering from emotionally, actually, with the natural disasters and other personal events that I don't wish to dwell on here. Here's one post from January that I'd forgotten, but want to remember. Amidst the busy-ness of 2011, I've had an underlying emotional pain, the pain of feeling like a failure in one particular relationship, of being accused and disliked, of feeling incredibly frustrated. And being unable to change the situation. The only thing I can do is change how I think about the situation and not forget that I am loved by the One who will never turn His back on me.

On a lighter note, January also held my first ever solo crossing of Tokyo! In fact 2011 was a watershed year for me personally getting around Tokyo on public transport. In October I  caught public transport back from south of Mt Fuji — all by myself. Amazing. The editorial staff  of Japan Harvest also held our first Writer's Retreat/Workshop. It went well and our next one is planned for April.

Well, that is enough for one year, I'd reckon. I wonder if 2012 will be less eventful? I hope so. Tomorrow I'll write a list here of what I think might happen for us in 2012. Bury it for 12 months on the internet and dig it our again this time next year. I have at least one friend who admits to not being very reflective or introspective. I guess that is something I could be accused of, actually I quite enjoy it.

30 December, 2011

2011 and this little blog

One of the blog I follow is a Japanese News blog. This week they've featured their most read blogs of the year, so I thought I'd go and have a look at my little blog. 

No surprise really, the day that the most readers came this way and read this blog was March 15, four days after the giant earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. Here's a link to the post on that day.

Not really much to do with my "brilliant" writing, more related to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster news. Oh well. 

This is the graph of page loads from the 6th of March for about a month.
Actually it is a bit depressing. Because other than this scary crisis, the other big page-load day occurred in January when I had an emotional blowout in a relational conflict. Something I don't want to dwell on at all.

Is it really that people are attracted to bad news? Well, yes, it would seem. Japan isn't on most people's radar and mission isn't either, so my blog isn't all that popular – except that Japan was very much in the news back then. Certainly my family in Australia had enquiries about our wellbeing from people who almost never contact them at all (read distant relatives, for example). But it has had the effect (at least short term) of getting more people praying for Japan. Some people found this blog as a result of that tragedy and have continued to follow along (no idea how many).

But this whole blog isn't really about numbers. Though lots of readers would bolster my self-esteem and probably fuel my pride . . . It is more about telling the ordinariness of my story and helping those who do come this way to see that missionaries, while seeming to do something extraordinary, are really quite ordinary people. It has also had the side effect for me of the discipline of writing something every day (or almost), whether I feel like it or not, whether something dramatic has happened or not. That practise has to have be good for me as a writer. (And this is the 367th post this year. 998th post since I started back in March 2009.)

I've had some interesting, somewhat unexpected things come about as a result of this blog. 

One is as a result of speaking somewhat frankly about the challenges of parenting my not-quite-ordinary kids, I've ended up meeting regularly with a group of ladies who also have at least one challenging child. The honest sharing that has gone on in that group of ladies has been refreshing and encouraging.

We have gained new supporters via this blog (and Facebook connections). New people who pray for us, receive our newsletters, and want to help out.

I've also managed to recruit a new design editor for Japan Harvest. Not that I directly set out to do that with this blog, but things progressed in such a way that she found out what I do through this blog and we had a conversation one day that led us down the path towards me recruiting her. The story is here.

I've had some great "real" and "virtual" conversations with people as a result of what I've written here. I've also found out good information. At least two magazine articles have been written and published from things that started out as "just another blog post". In November one of my posts was featured on another blog (Women of the Harvest Writers Blog) and writers were encouraged to "do a Wendy"!

I'm sure other things have happened as a result of this blog that I'm forgetting or not even aware of. Maybe you know of them and can tell me. One that encouraged me this week was a post by Karen here where she writes about this blog being a part of the journey towards a greater involvement in mission.

I'm looking forward to see what happens with this little blog in 2012.

29 December, 2011

Amusement park fun with some surprises thrown in

Today we did go to the amusement park we went to during the summer (see here). Of course the outdoor pools weren't open. But there was plenty to keep us busy for about five hours and even though it was chilly, it was much more pleasant than in the summer when the heat threatened to knock you out.
I didn't ride this one, but four of our "kids" did.
I even got bold and tried out three rides I haven't been game to do in the last five times I've been to this park (we have an annual pass and utilised it well). However, I'm a bit dizzy this evening! Our younger two boys loved it and tried out new rides too. Our 12 y.o. inherited my dodgy vestibular system and isn't so much into G-forces, but he was a good sport and tagged along, enjoying what he could.

My two boys on the end and our "adopted" daughters 
next to them.
 While waiting in line at the dodge-em cars, we met two sisters (14 & 11 y.o.) who were there on their own. They chatted a little with me and, after riding on the cars, asked us if we'd mind them tagging along with our family. They said it wasn't much fun with just the two of them. I'm wondering if they were looking for some parent figures? Or maybe our boys were just cute? Not sure, but for few hours we had five kids and our boys had some adopted sisters. They didn't fawn over the boys, but just enjoyed them and it turned out to be a fairly good match. Biggest problem. They didn't speak English and our boys hardly speak Japanese now (much to our regret). But some things don't require words and amusement park rides are one of them.

This isn't the first time this has happened to us in Japan. When we were at Disneyland in July with our Australian friends we met a Taiwanese teenage girl who was there on her own (actually, with her parents, but had gone her separate way for the day). She linked up with us for most of the afternoon. That didn't seem so odd because it was her first day in the country and she didn't speak Japanese.

We stopped and saw a free dog circus act. The dogs were pretty good, but it was the costume of the trainers that caught my attention. They were in thin pastel overalls. It was a strange effect. The surprise was when they brought out a framed certificate to show that this group has made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the number of dogs skipping at one time. We happen to have the 2012 Book on loan from the school library and checked it when we got home. It has a picture and everything there. 13 dogs "skipping" at one time! Record recorded in October 2009.

Mt Fuji, taken through glass, but not a bad view!
We left not long after 4pm when it started to get dim and many of the rides shut. On the train ride home we could occasionally see the western horizon and with it, glimpses of the outline of Mt Fuji surrounded by the changing shades of sunset. Spectactular. Knowing that our "home" station has a Mt Fuji viewing platform, I was willing that train home before we totally lost light. This is what we saw when we got there.

Overall a great day. I'm glad we made to effort to get out (and believe me, it was an effort with some "fireworks" at home before we left).

The P.S. on the day was something totally different. We booked a motorhome to drive to Uluru when we're in Australia in July. We've been thinking and dreaming on this one for a while, so it is awesome to actually book it! You can see the motorhome we've here. Should be an amazing trip. And an amazingly long one too. We can't wait. Now we just need to get to Australia to pick up the vehicle . . . 

28 December, 2011

A better day

Just popping in for a moment tonight to say that we've had a much more positive day. Last night I prayed with the younger boys that they'd use their imaginations more today, and they did. 

At breakfast I announced that we had "free play" this morning and then after lunch we'd have a compulsory ride to a local shopping centre for a couple of errands including the 100 yen shop. Then after we returned home we would sit down and indulge in the Top Gear Challenges DVD that the boys received for Christmas.

We had a lovely morning. They played, imaginatively, we pottered around and leisurely did various things (no sewing). 

We monitored the cricket. Enjoyed the rapidly falling wickets of the Indians this morning, didn't enjoy the rapidly falling wickets of the Aussies this afternoon. Oh well.

After lunch we did as I'd outlined and it all went smoothly. They were happy, we were happy. The Top Gear DVD was hilarious, even though we'd seen a lot of it before we still were doubling over in laughter. My face hurt and tears ran! 

Now they're all tucked up in bed and we're indulging in some Plum Pudding and icecream. Ah, lovely day.

They really do appreciate having a rough outline to a day. A totally blank, spontaneous day occasionally works, but more often it fails badly.

Tomorrow's plan? Maybe our "local" theme park with our annual passes. The weather is cool (around 10 degrees), but blue skies are great and if it isn't too windy then it isn't too bad outside at all. Lovely not to be bound by school schedules, though, I must say.

27 December, 2011

A mishmash of a day

Today we've had no plans, no plans to go out. That usually ends up being a bad thing, even if us adults are craving a quiet home day, the boys usually are not. It is two days post Christmas and they've hit a bored patch. 

David and I, however, are hitting our holiday strides. I pulled out those third pair of tracksuit pants (US=sweat pants) that I've been intending to make, and tried to finish them off. After several unpicks, I'm up to the elastic and the hems. Any luck and I might get them done before I go to bed. Trouble is my sewing table (aka card table) is packed away in favour of the Christmas tree and with nowhere else to put the table, I'm relegated to hoisting my sewing machine on and off the dining room table to accommodate the hungry hoards five times a day!
David and I are also busy looking at possibilities for travel in July and early August. We're planning on visiting Australia during CAJ's long summer holiday. This is mostly a holiday and time to visit friends and family, probably with a bit of deputation thrown in. We've decided to rent a motorhome and drive several thousand kilometres into the red centre of Australia to see Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). None of us have been there and it really is a pity, especially as we keep meeting non-Aussies who have! It is also great opportunity to show the boys something of the essence of their passport country. 

But again, it is the possibilities that we find exciting. Both of us enjoy planning that sort of thing (although David is better at nailing down the details than I am). Strangely enough it looks like we'll book the motorhome a month or so before we book the airplane tickets! The travel agency we consulted today doesn't open the books for July until late January, early February.

So it has been frustrating to deal with bored boys when we're having a great time ourselves. Thankfully our youngest son had a friend over for a short while this afternoon. However they couldn't find enough stuff to do. 

Actually all four boys plus my husband ended up in the lounge room at about 3pm. My husband was helping the two Grade Oners with a science activity (Snap Circuits) the older two were just bored and causing trouble. This room isn't big, has paper-lined floor-to-ceiling doors on one side and the opposite side sliding cupboard doors that are also paper-lined (although slightly more sturdy). At present there is also a heater, and a Christmas tree in there too, besides our small TV. It is the only room in the house with carpet, so it is a magnet for boys wanting to wrestle.

But it just is too small for wrestling and indeed, that many restless boys. It is days like today that I really miss Australia with its larger houses and backyards. In fact we ended up throwing the middle son out of the house with his older brother who decided to do a mile run. The middle one isn't into running, but I think he rode alongside his brother. When they got back about 15 minutes later, I fed them and then allowed them to watch their new Top Gear DVD. Peace . . . for a little while, anyway! But I won't bore you with the rest of their painful antics today.

My big achievement is that I did actually finish those pants just after dinner. I was really desperate to finish them. I just wanted this project done and over with! I've decided that while I'm handy with a sewing machine, sewing isn't really my gifting.

My husband asks, "So, what's your next (craft) project?" Well, I have material for a tablecloth for our new extending table, but I think I'll wait on that until I can put up my sewing table again (in the lounge room!). I have a small cross-stitch that I'm framing and probably should get on with doing some more stitching. I have a large backload of small projects that people have given me over the years. They are easier than the larger ones, but the start up and finish (that I'm bad at) take up lots of time and slow my enthusiasm for them. 

Tomorrow, though, I think we'd better concentrate on the boys a bit more. Today's reactive parenting hasn't worked well.

26 December, 2011

Boxing Day reflections

Yesterday felt like a very normal Christmas to me. That is because it began in a very similar way to the Christmases I grew up with. We got up, ate breakfast and went to church. When we came home we had some Christmas cake (British-style home-made fruit cake) and then opened presents. 


  • It was 1.5 degrees Celcius outside when we got up and hence we put on quite a lot of clothes before hopping on our bikes to ride to church. Note to self: buy better ear muffs to avoid frost bite.
  • Riding to church was of course different. Who does that in Australia? 
  • Church was at 9.15, not 8am like it was growing up. 
  • Church was in Japanese, with carols that were familiar, but translated into Japanese.
  • We ate a hot roast turkey dinner with home-made cranberry sauce. I cannot remember having a hot Christmas dinner as a child. Neither did we eat turkey or cranberry sauce.
  • We spent time talking to family on Skype. Growing up we usually had a very nuclear family Christmas on Christmas Day. So Christmas here being "just us" isn't so strange to me. (Maybe that shouldn't be in a "differences" list?)
  • Somehow I have more of a melancholic streak over Christmas than I ever had as a kid. Back then it was mostly pleasure. These days I usually have a mixture of feelings, including sadness and disappointment (and no, it isn't because some people continue to give me pink presents).
  • Oh and of course I'm the mum now, not the kid. That means I get the pleasure of giving the presents and seeing their joy. I'm also the one who, at the end of the day, gets to make them stop playing, clean their teeth, and go to bed.
And today, Boxing Day (non Commonwealth readers see here for an explanation)? That feels strange. No cricket on TV, no travelling to see other family (a feature of Christmases since I've been married). And if I venture out to do some grocery shopping, I'll see it is a normal work day in Japan. All the Christmas decorations would be gone and Japanese New Year preparations are in full swing. No Boxing Day sales either (not that I usually patronise those, I hate shopping in crowds).

So I guess, in the absence of much else going on, I'll pull out a couple of projects that have been waiting on some spare time. A pair of pants to sew and a small-but-important cross-stitch to frame.

24 December, 2011

The most dangerous sport...

Back to that dangerous sport that we tried out on our holiday. In all the sports we did, our family had the least falls in skiing, next most dangerous was ice skating. That had them shaking in their boots. But probably the lack of fear is what made Curling the most dangerous of them all.
Yes, it is an Olympic event and we went Curling at the venue
of the Nagano Winter Olympics of 1998. Photo courtesy of

Curling is the ice world's lawn bowls. It involves pushing a 20kg granite "stone" (called a "kettle") from one end towards a circle (called a "house") at the other end of the "lane" (called a "sheet").

You don't even wear skates. You wear a sliding surface on one foot. The other foot simply wears an ordinary sneaker. But it is ice, after all. The whole thing looks very slow and tame. The game itself, however, is quite complex. And the ice is slippery and the rocks are heavy.

I have this slow-mo video in my mind now of my 9 y.o. standing in the middle of the "lane" next to one of the kettles. He had his woollen beanie on (hat) and seemed to be in another world (not uncommon for him). Why our attention was focused on him was that my husband had pushed another kettle down the lane but not noticed that our son was standing directly in the path he'd chosen for the kettle. Our son didn't hear us shouting at him and, as he was standing in the middle of ice, we couldn't run to intercept the smoothly gliding kettle. He just stood there as the kettle smacked into his ankle and toppled him over, smashing his head on the ice. It looked comical, if I didn't realise it had hurt. 

He limped for a while, but got back in the game after a bit, just long enough to take another tumble! Our eldest son also fell and knocked his knee. I, with my slightly strained knee, didn't put on a "sliding" shoe, but just used sneakers. I was very cautious and didn't fall at all. I think that's what was missing, a cautiousness that came automatically when they were on ice skates.

All the danger aside, it is a game that's sometimes called "Chess on Ice". That probably explains why our chess-loving 12 y.o. got so involved. He really enjoyed it and had impressive accuracy for someone who'd only just begun the sport. He also couldn't believe that our time was up after we'd been there over an hour. "But we've only just been here 10 minutes!" was his protest.

I've been rather distracted today and not been able to get much down here. So I'll leave it at that on this Christmas Eve.

23 December, 2011

We're back in the big smoke

After six days and nights in the mountains we're back home again. During our time there we went ice skating, skiing, sledding, and curling (explanation tomorrow). We "discovered" an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant (thanks to a friend's recommendation), played at the Lego shop and cycled around in near 0 degrees temperatures. We met a group of foreigners at the local International Chapel on Sunday afternoon (and I ended up playing the piano for their meeting).

In between times we watched a couple of old movies, played board games, read, and did jigsaw puzzles. In case you were wondering, there is a lot of energy going in our family. There is also plenty of blogging fodder there, and I'm not going to write about it all today. In fact I'm going to write about very little of it today.

Now I'm back I'm glad to see a number of responses to my competition. I'm looking forward to some more entries, you have until the 4th of January!

I'm glad we got to spend the week away from home doing some unusual things because the boys are pretty crazy leading up to Christmas. Some energetic distractions were very helpful to us as a family. Here are some photos from our week away.
The easier of the two jigsaw puzzles we completed over the week.
Ice skating. No one was very good, but they all had a go (except me,
with a strained knee, I didn't get to skate or ski).
Sledding fun after a day of skiing.
The slope the boys learned to ski on.
All-you-can-eat restaurant, included fairy floss, cook-your-own meat
and several flavours of icecream.
Board games
I'll be back tomorrow with more details, including the most dangerous sport we encountered...and it wasn't skiing or skating.

22 December, 2011

Pondering Joseph's heart

This is one of my favourite Christmas songs, particularly when I need to lead a devotional time. Take a moment to slow down and ponder Joseph's heart.

20 December, 2011

So, what sport did you play?

Me in Senior
This is often posed to me by Americans as we witness various school sports encounters. It was asked of me last week as we watched school alumni play the school's Varsity boys basketball team (varsity=top school team).

Whenever that happens there is usually a pause as I struggle to find the right answer. How much info do they want? Because the American system is much more intense and formulated than the Australian system I grew up in as I explained here

I wonder, What can I say to simply answer their innocent question? I usually start with 'track' or the one time I represented our school in cross country. If they hang around I might try to explain some of the differences in the systems or mention netball (which most have never heard of) and my rebound-volleyball-in-a-squash-court days. If they are still around after that I judge that they are genuinely interested in me and I might talk about how music kind-of took over my high school after school hours. Still it is a challenging conversation in the midst of a sports event. 

If they're up for an interesting cultural comparison conversation, I might bring up the fact that we don't have "concession stands". That usually provides confusion – where do you buy food then? I can concede that there is often a shop of some description, but it is never called a "concession stand".

Nonetheless, we enjoy going along to these meets. Especially when they are just down the road at the school and the "concession stand" provides us with an easy evening meal (Japanese curry rice or hot dogs usually) and free entertainment. At the same time we're supporting the seniors towards their ministry trip in Thailand next March (profits from concessions go towards their costs). There isn't much to lose, except your sanity as you answer tricky questions!

19 December, 2011

Reminder about the holiday competition

This is a Christmas memory of my own.
The first Christmas I spent with the man
who is now my husband (not counting
the Christmas we spent in Indonesia
on a short term mission trip).
I'm on holidays this week without internet access, but I thought I'd drop a reminder in about the holiday competition that I've got running. Here's the link. I can't wait to hear your childhood memories of this time of year.

17 December, 2011

Off on holidays, but not in a tent.

A prior winter holiday in the same spot.

This morning we're off to the mountains and snow and the "land" of no internet. This time we'll be in a warm house, not a thin tent. I've organised a few posts during our time away, but I'll see you when we get back. 

I'm looking forward to seeing your entries in my competition.

16 December, 2011

A holiday competition

My boys and my husband are now officially on holidays from school for 2 1/2 weeks. Yay! To celebrate, I thought I'd run a small competition.

I have four of these The Upper Room meditation magazines (Jan-Feb 2012 ed.) to give away. On the 28th of January they've published a meditation of my own (that's why I have these to give away). There's no limitation on where you live, I'll post anywhere in the world!

My meditation talks partly about childhood memories of a warm Christmas yet singing carols about snow. So what I want you to do is to write a comment on this blog before the 4th of January detailing one of your  childhood memories of the Christmas-New Year period. Or you can write a blog post about a memory on your own blog including a link to this blog, and post a link in comments on this blog so I know you've done it. 

I'm planning to recruit a judge or two to help me decide which blog posts should be the winners. Any volunteers?

So get to it, tell us a special, funny, strange, or favourite memories of the Christmas-New Year period from your childhood. We'll pick the best four and I'll send you a prize.

Intriguing culture

Today I was chatting with a Korean-American and a Japanese lady. We ended up on the topic of sibling relationships and both the American (she's not much Korean) and I had seen a number two child being jealous of the attention the eldest child received. Our Japanese friend was surprised. She said it was the youngest in Japan who got the most attention. She seemed genuinely surprised at our experiences.

Intriguing. I'd love to know if this is indeed different in different cultures. Probably, because it is even different in different families. For example, our middle son doesn't ever express jealousy toward his big brother, but our third son does. However I'd never thought about it having a cultural element before.

15 December, 2011

"Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge

I picked up this book at CAJ's Thrift Shop in October. My husband had a negative response to the author's "Wild at Heart" aimed at men. But this is the one for women (and John Eldredge wrote it with his wife) and I was intrigued.

My reaction is a bit mixed. But here are some good things I've taken away from it:

The authors contend that Creation moved towards a great crescendo. That God moved to greater and greater creations. But after man was made, God wasn't happy. Something was missing and that something was woman. The authors call woman "God's final touch, his piece de resistance" (sorry, cannot figure out how to put the proper bits on top of that). We women can therefore say to ourselves, "The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me." p25 Quite a thought!

Women tell us some things about the character of God. 
  • He is relational, he has a heart for romance.
  • He longs to share adventures with us.
  • He has a beauty to unveil. Nature is primarily beautiful, not functional.

They have some good things to say about beauty, that it is powerful for the following reasons (and there are more in the book):
  • Beauty is powerful, that is why we are drawn strongly to nature, to art, etc. Of course sin has perverted this and we're also drawn to beauty that is only skin deep in people. But God's intention is that beauty in a woman is much more about her soul than about her face.
  • Beauty comforts. That's why we give flowers at times of illness and death.
  • Beauty nourishes. That's why when, after living for months in Tokyo, I finally get out and go camping, for example, I feel like my soul is being fed.
  • Beauty invites. That's why we listen to a great piece of music again and again. Or why we get stuck in a captivating book or long to go back to see that sight again.
  • Beauty has caused so much pain in this world, but it was intended for good. And women are intended to be a part of that in God's plan. To bring beauty into the world. That's why we're the ones who make a home out of a house, we bring relationship and beauty into it.
  • Beauty is primarily soulful. It flows from a heart at rest, a heart that isn't trying to hide, that isn't cowered by the fear of being rejected. A woman of beauty knows in her heart that God finds her beautiful, that she is enough.
The authors claim that Satan has a special hatred for women. Ezekiel 28:12-14 indicate that Satan was beautiful before he fell. In fact it was his ruin. He became prideful about his beauty. Therefore his mission is to attack beauty in the natural world (don't we see that in all the natural and not-so-natural disasters all over the world) and in women. So he attacks us in many ways, physically, emotionally, relationally, etc. This was definitely a new thought to me, but it seems to make sense.

Another thing the book helped me with is understanding other people. They explained that men's essence is Strength, a soul strength, and that is what we as women long for from men. We long for them to use their strength to rescue us, to intervene for us, to 'go in to bat' for us. This explained a lot for me. So often at home when I get into battles or have challenges with the boys, I so long for David to rescue me, to take this situation and deal with it for me. 

They also say this, "The scariest thing for a man is to offer his strength in situations where he doesn't know if it will make any difference. Or worse, that he will fail."p140 I think I've seen this. It is good to know, as a wife and mum of three boys.

On the other side of the coin, "The scariest thing for women is to offer our beauty into situations where we don't know if it will make any difference. Or worse, that we will be rejected."p140-1

I learnt too that women often deal with hurt in their lives by being either dominant "I don't need anyone" or desolated "Shut down" or a strange mixture of the two. That helps explains some people who've disappointed me in my life.

The main thing I didn't like about the book was the assumption that everyone has been badly emotionally wounded (intentionally or unintentionally) in their childhood. I don't think I fit that category and hence there were things I struggled to relate to well.

There are other things I could say about the book, but this has already rambled on for too long. For those of you who've read it, I'm interested to hear your feelings about the book.

14 December, 2011

Confused about me

Yeah, I can get a bit introspective. Bear with me for a moment. 

Recently I've had people probing my personality. Questions like that intrigue me.

In the last month I've had:
"You cannot be an oldest child"
Me, "Why?" 
"You aren't bossy."

Well, my sisters would correct that assumption. Presumably I keep that part of me for my editing because my magazine boss keeps saying (among other things),
"You're so direct." 

Interesting because as a young adult I was berated by supervisors for not being assertive. Perhaps I've matured? Perhaps my 12 1/2 years of parenting experience have changed me in this area. If I'm not direct and clear with minimal words, my boys don't respond.

On the editing front, I've had a few years experience now, with my work being critiqued by other writers in my critique group and also by editors to whom I've submitted. I'm getting used to separating myself from my work. Not to take critique so personally. And, so put me in an editorial position and I tend to assume others have learnt the same thing. Wrong assumption. 

It turns out that most writers I encounter here on the mission field have never had their work critiqued or tried submitting their work in the competitive "real world" Not sure exactly how to deal with that little dilemma. 

I'm still left with the question, "Who am I?" or more specifically, "What are my strengths?"
Am I organised? I don't feel so, but others keep telling me I am.
Am I a leader? Again, I don't feel so, but . . . 
Am I a manager? Um, the only real experience I have in this is managing my family.

Maybe those of you who know me can give me your perspective on the mystery that is Wendy.

13 December, 2011

Shopping, Mt Fuji, Christmas party, etc.

Can you see Mt Fuji in the distance?
Today was a Costco day. I drove for more than an hour spent more than a hour in the car on the way there. Maybe 1/3 of that wasn't driving, just sitting at traffic lights. It was faster on the way home, for some reason. A definite highlight of the drive was seeing Mt Fuji as I drove along a local road. Unfortunately the best view wasn't at a traffic light and as I didn't have a passenger, I couldn't take a photo (it's not easy to stop on these Japanese roads), but here is a partial glimpse from one set of lights.

I bought up on various things that are not available closer to where we live or are cheaper at Costco. I nabbed a pack of TimTams for a touch of Australia these holidays. I also bought a packet of chocolate melts to make chocolate fudge, another thing I traditionally make at Christmas (it makes a good present for teachers too). I bought some healthy stuff too, like grapes (in the middle of winter!), zucchini, and meat. The Japanese don't usually buy much at any one time. When they see a foreigner at Costco, they often do a double take because often our trolleys (US=cart) are very full. My large shopping trolley was stacked and I had one person actually speak what everyone else was thinking, "Wow, look how much she has!" 

Once I got home I had to put it all away, including dividing the meat into meal-sized portions (one of my most hated household chores) and squeeze everything I could into the chest freezer. Then I toddled off down the road to supervise my boys doing homework in the library before joining my husband at the annual Staff Christmas party. 

The other day when I wrote about what makes Christmas feel like Christmas for us here, I didn't mention that there are a handful of events that we attend every year that help us feel like it's Christmas. One was last Friday, the Middle School Christmas Concert. One was the party this afternoon. It is an enjoyable kid-free time to socialise with people who are often too busy to do much more than shout hello as you pass them at school.

There was childcare, but no food for the kids. So, though Mum and Dad came home at 5.30 stuffed full of yummy food, the boys needed feeding. Our tradition is for me to bring a large pizza home from Costco for dinner that evening, so it wasn't hard to feed them tonight. My, they are growing, though. Look how much the three of them, 12, 9 and 6, ate of the 18" (45cm) pizza!

After that we had to get them to concentrate long enough to have a shower, clean teeth, do devotions and get that light off. 

After that I was able to have a long chat with my youngest sister on Skype. The first time in quite a while and it was good. But now I'm tired and ready to hit the sack with a good book. See you tomorrow!

12 December, 2011

I'm dreaming of a more balanced school calendar

I'm feeling tired and more than ready to step off this constant roundabout of school for a time.

Over the weekend I realised that we're in the 16th week of school, without any decent break. We've had several long weekends, but nothing more than three and a half days (for teachers and hence, teacher's families). Where I come from people grumble when there is a school "term" longer than 12 weeks! I think I'm legitimately tired.

CAJ has a long summer break, longer than any Australian school. And then their school year is only broken by Christmas (2 1/2-3 week holiday) and Spring break (1 week holiday). That makes it a bit of a marathon. 

The first "term" is the longest. Then Christmas to Spring break is 10 weeks, with one four day long weekend. Spring break to the end of the school year is also 10 weeks, with two long weekends (3 or 3 1/2 days). And then about 10 1/2 weeks summer holiday!

This is the sixth year we've been at CAJ and we're getting used to it, but still, my Aussie soul longs for four short terms and regular decent breaks (10 days-two weeks)! But I do understand something of the reasoning behind leaving it as it is. A number of teachers and other CAJ families dash home during the long summer break and that is their only Home Assignment time.  We're planning to take advantage of that ourselves in 2012. But sometimes, just sometimes (especially at the end of this long first "term" and at the end of the long summer holidays), I just wish for a more balanced calendar.

11 December, 2011

What do you do to make it seem like Christmas?

Tiny bit homesick today. Been baking my Mum's Christmas cake while listening to my husband talk to his Dad on Skype (with his broad country Queensland accent). My dad-in-law was watching the cricket at the time and they discussed their beloved sport. Actually, one of the things I miss most about an Australia Christmas is kicking back and watching (and listening to) the cricket.

Today we had an American ask us about what we feel like doing as Aussies, to make it feel like Christmas. One is that yearning to listen to cricket. it was possible for a few years, via broadband, but now they've put in place all these regional restrictions, which means that unless you're in Australia or a couple of other countries in the world, you cannot listen to it via the internet. :-(

We might take the cricket bat down to the local park and play some "backyard" cricket. It isn't quite the same, however, without the grass and the heat.

No, we don't particularly feel like going for a swim. Both of us spent have spent all our lives in inland places at Christmas time, so we don't really personally associate the beach with Christmas Day. Neither of our families have pools, so neither of us really have swimming as a personal association. Running through the sprinkler, maybe. But that has been taboo in recent years due to water restrictions in Australia.

I don't really miss the long distances of travel that I've done routinely, especially since I started hanging out with David all those long years ago. Instead we're currently arranging "Skype" appointments and will stay home to talk to family. Thankfully this time most of them will be in only two spots. This year Christmas is a Sunday, so we'll be at church in the morning too, which will delay the present unwrapping frenzy somewhat! 

Food we miss includes Mum's plum pudding, hot-weather food like pavlova (Australian meringue dessert), jelly (US=jello), fruit mince pies, punch, potato salad etc. Oh and the boys always miss Weetbix, no matter the season!

I don't miss the Boxing Day sales (for non-Commonwealth citzens, that is the day after Christmas, explanation here, the sales are somewhat similar to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that the US "celebrates"). I've rarely gotten involved in these. Often on Boxing Day we've been driving from Central Queensland to Toowoomba on lonely country roads or the reverse, a whole day's drive. No time for shopping when you have family so distantly situated. Not that I enjoy shopping in frantic crowds. Never mind the sales, I find sales at other times of year!

Nor do I miss watching the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Cricket is much more interesting!

But truly, we've developed this bi-cultural, bi-hemispherical Christmas in our family. When we're in Australia, we do the "Australian" version of Christmas. It mostly involves visiting family and driving. In Japan we have just us, no family to run around and visit. So we have a very simple day (after frantic present unwrapping, with David saying, "take your time") with a hot midday meal, and Skyping with family. And some Australian Christmas fruitcake. Which reminds me, I'd better go and check the cake in the oven.