31 May, 2012

Follow-up on the recital

Thank you for everyone's interest in how the recital went yesterday. I made it through. Thankfully, as my son was the youngest student, we were first up. Not too much time to get sweaty palms.

I found a Youtube video of the piece we played yesterday, to give you an idea. (I played the bass, or on the left.)

We of course played it better than this :-) It is to be "lively", so we played it faster. My son's teacher also gave us the interpretation that the fast notes or quavers (US=eighth notes) were to  be played in a DOO-ba rhythm, rather than even in length and emphasis. These two do that a little, especially towards the end. But I think we managed it the whole way through.

I've just replayed the video my husband took of our performance and I'm happy with how it went. Not perfect, but pretty good none-the-less. For those of you who are my Facebook friends, we've posted our video there.

Now I just need to work on keeping him motivated to practise through the coming long summer holidays (starting next Friday). His teacher has another duet for us to tackle, so that should be fun. And hopefully I can get him to show-off to our families when we're home.

I'm not really a sentimental sort, but there was something special about playing with my son in a performance. Piano can be a lonely occupation. To have the opportunity to do it with other people is special. It is quite something to be able to help pass on a skill that I've been given to my son and then participate with him (kind-of like playing a sport with him). We'll see how long it is before he overtakes my ability, though! He's only seven, so I've probably got a few years at least!

Can't get to sleep...

Last night it was nearing midnight (well after my Cinderella hour) and I couldn't go to sleep. I realised I have a lot going around in my head, so I did the writer's thing. I put it down on "paper"

Stuff that's going down around here this week:

  • A boy's birthday. Very positive, not too stressful. A little bit of obsession by all the boys about playing the game that was received as a present.
  • Conference with teachers of one child. Not great news, not totally sure what to do about it, though. Praying.
  • Not good news from one of our supporting churches. (Deliberate vagueness here in this public forum.) Praying.
  • Excitement of everything coming up — elementary field day (bit like an Australian sports/athletics day), two camping trips, boys going to summer camps for the first time, trip to Australia, Uluru, mother-in-law visiting us for the first time in Japan.
  • House sitters suddenly on the horizon for our Tokyo house during our visit to Australia (changes how much we have to tidy up before we leave).
  • Recital yesterday
And then, after waking up this morning, I had a yucky headache (probably hormonal) and then at breakfast one boy had a bit of an emotional meltdown with new a loose tooth that prevented him from thinking about anything, including eating.

And the end of the school year is upon me (next Friday), way before I feel ready for it. I think it is a calendar confusion thing, mid-year just doesn't seem the right time of year to finish school, even though the season is right (but no Christmas or cricket)!

And I just look at all the things that keep landing on my desk to do, and wonder how it is all going to work once they're all at home again.

Just a bit too much. And I haven't told you everything. A bit of work stress, too, there is a certain magazine due to the presses in a few weeks...

Just keep plodding onwards, that's what my husband tells me. And praying!

30 May, 2012

A bit nervous

I'm about to head off to my son's recital. The thing is, I'm playing a piano duet with him. Should be fine, we can almost do it with our eyes closed, but you never know.

I'll be back later to let you know how we went. (And I'm guessing an American might say "how we did" here?)

29 May, 2012

Another miracle in my friend's life

A few weeks ago I wrote about miracles (here) for a friend of mine whose husband was waiting for another miracle — a new heart. He actually ended up receiving a new heart hours after I posted (and no, I had no idea that that was about to happen).

Last Wednesday he finally returned home to his family. You can check out his blog here.

28 May, 2012

Mother of teenager? Not I, not yet...

This week I become the mother of a teenager. Well, it's one of those things that's been coming for 13 years, but, it just seems as though it has arrived too quickly! Aren't I too young to have a teenager? Well, no, technically not. On the one had it doesn't feel all that long since I was a teenager myself, but then on the other hand it feels like another life.

But, then, so does my pre-child life — I can hardly imagine them not around now.

Last week I enjoyed the mostly-single life (we still Skyped daily). It's 15 years this year since I was officially single. That also feels like another lifetime ago. Shopping for food for one person last week was weird. Cooking and cleaning up was a breeze! Meals were lonely.

I don't know what is ahead, but the last 13 years of parenting haven't been a breeze. I doubt that the next seven are going to be either. I guess the only way forward is how I've made it through the last 13 years — by God's grace and with lots of prayer.

I'm thankful that we start these years with a good relationship. One of us spends alone-time with him every evening. Ostensibly to read the Bible and his Bible study notes with him and pray (with the compulsory back-rub), but those times often turn into discussions that otherwise we wouldn't be having. It's great! He hasn't always been so open or willing to engage in spiritual disciplines with us, so I'm enjoying this current stage, most of it anyway.

In the meantime, our house is in a frenzy of birthday-anticipation. That is one of the fun things of multiple-children-families: they get to celebrate their sibling's birthdays almost as if it is their own. That means in our case, three birthdays each! Such fun!

27 May, 2012

Book Spine Poetry Meme

Meredith has tagged me in a Book Spine Poetry Meme. I had to go a-looking here to find out what she meant. Basically it is a photo of pile of books where their titles make up a poem of sorts.

Here's two attempts of mine. Which one do you like best? (The top book is the title of the poem.)

A product of my editing

Maybe you wonder what I do as an editor. Well, I can show you one product I helped edit. It has been posted here. The author is a part of my editing/critique writing group. She's been a big part of helping me to learn how to edit.

26 May, 2012

Snooping in the library Part 2

Today I'm travelling back to Tokyo. So I thought I'd use some more photos I took of our bookshelves to give you some more snooping fun.

Here we have more books on Australia, including an old encyclopedic-type book. Window on the World is an Operation World-style book for kids and quite useful. There is a Puffin Treasury of Australian Children Stories that I really should get rid of. The stories are extracts.  Enough to give you a taste and want you to read more, but of course we don't have ready access to an Australian library where we can get the books themselves! Intensely frustrating.

There are some origami books here as well as a couple of useful devotional books: 10-minute Time Outs for Moms and 10-minute Time Outs for You and Your Kids. I've used these personally, with the kids and also sometimes when I'm called on to do a short devotional at a parents-in-prayer meeting at school. On the left are a bunch of not-needed magazines and brochures that are useful for those occasional bits of homework that say, "Find pictures of rectangles." or "Find examples of ...".

Here is our downstairs collection of mostly picture books. It is good to have this close to the table when we have the occasion guests with younger children. There are also some Enid Blyton books that we're reading through as a family. The spiral bound book has been with us for over a decade. It is a book of classic board games, with counters attached. Brilliant book.

Here is a dusty shelf in our lounge room. We have some more serious books here. Theology, prayer, missional-topics, history of the church etc. But there is also a book of Rex Stout mysteries, and the Complete collection of Yes Prime Minister. And a book that's been very useful: Raising Your Spirited Child.

I might have to go upstairs for our next snoop. Any of you bloggers out there want to do a snoop in your house?

25 May, 2012

Like heaven

My socialising "tank" is very full now. I've had wonderful conversations this week. Here are some highlights:

Meeting a fellow OT (Occupational Therapy) face-to-face for the first time (we'd communicated in other ways previously). And finding her family and mine have surprising similarities. I also enjoying chatting "OT" with her, it's been a while . . .

Catching up with folk I knew from our first term in Japan.

Meeting new OMFers. Loving the diversity of this international mission.

Putting on my managing editor's hat and having discussions with writers. Talking about future contributions with future contributors. Exciting!

Reconnecting with the first Japanese person I ever really knew. I used to take Saeko to church in my old car back in my university days when she was at Bible college. It is amazing to think we're both serving in Japan as missionaries with OMF now. I'm not sure either of us would have predicted that 20 years ago.

Getting to know other missionaries better. In an organisation of 120 people, spread out across thousands of kilometres, it is easy to know the names and something of the ministries of people, without actually getting to know them. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to spend time with them and go deeper.

I often feel that despite the challenges and difficulties we face as missionaries, we have the best job in the world. Now that is a very general statement! When Christian brothers and sisters from many different countries get together there is definitely a feeling that we're getting a taste of heaven.

Maybe you think I'm exaggerating? There is something about being an outsider in the culture you live in that means you are always thrown off balance (even in our home countries we no longer feel like insiders). You can never get too settled or sure of yourself. Sure, that is a humbling and often humiliating experience. But at the same time it gives missionaries a sweet depth of personality that is really often quite special. When a bunch of missionaries get together we have a shared experience of being outsiders and the struggles that go with that.That gives us a special connection.

Tomorrow morning I head back to the "big" smoke of Tokyo. But I'm really quite tired. Hopefully I'll get a good night sleep before I face the "mob" again.

24 May, 2012

A panel, flowers, and Kangaroo-do

The end of the fourth day of our training week. Only one day to go!

Our meeting room, during a break.
Today we had a four person Japanese pastor panel who answered various questions that were put to them. The questions ranged from: "The church in China flourished after the missionaries were forced out in 1950, should we missionaries all leave Japan?" to more theological and missiological questions. Thankfully I was able to get access to translation as the 2 1/2 hours of Japanese would have mostly gone over my head, I'm afraid. I caught bits and pieces here and there, but I got a lot more out of it with greater understanding.

One of the encouragements we received from them was not to be too worried about our foreign-ness. That is it actually an advantage (gives evangelism opportunities that Japanese people don't get). And that it isn't so much how good our language is or how conformed we are to their ways that speaks to the Japanese, but that our motivation for being there, our love for them and our sacrifices to be here speaks loudly to the perceptive Japanese. Of course that doesn't give us licence to trample all over this culture or refuse to try to grow in our understanding of the people and culture of this land, but it does mean that we don't have to be weighed down heavily with guilt because we can never be as Japanese as the Japanese.

Tulips, I didn't get a photo of azaleas.
After that heavy morning, we had a longish lunch, so I took the time to go for a 20 minute walk. It was a sunny day, and really quite pleasant to be outside. It surprised me to see the flowers that are in bloom. Before, when I was living in Sapporo, I had no idea how the timing of flowers blooming here is a little unusual. In Tokyo there is a distinctive order of flower blooming in the spring. I cannot tell you them all exactly, except that tulips and azaleas don't bloom at the same time. They were today!

I'd also forgotten that snow-country architecture feature that has a double entry. You can see it here in the front. There is more than a roof over the door to the house, there is a little covered room. Reason is simple. If there is a snow storm during the night, you might be snowed in and unable to open your front door in the morning. The doors of this little extra entry are always sliding doors and usually glass.
See the extra little glass room before you
get to the front door.

This afternoon we had discussion groups, talking about this morning, then we had the weekly OMF prayer meeting. It is an institution that we enjoyed during our 3 1/2 years up here. A great time of worshipping and praying together as well as fellowshipping.

Today they invited each of those who don't normally go to this prayer meeting to share about our ministries for two minutes. Most of them have heard my name, because a couple of my jobs has involved emailing everyone, so it was nice to help them put a face to a name.

After prayer meeting we also enjoyed a pot luck meal, after which I swallowed my shyness and made an effort to meet as many of those whom I didn't know (and there were a lot, because this is where the new missionaries come first to study the language). I'm pretty tired now!

But one humorous photo before I go to bed. Yesterday at the shopping centre I found this upmarket bag shop: Kangaroo-do! I wonder what they'd think if I told them what an Australian is likely to think of immediately they hear a name like that?

23 May, 2012

A spot of shopping

We've had the afternoon off today. I wondered what I was going to do with myself. Work? Play? Go somewhere with someone? Well, everyone seemed to have their own plans, and my brain was pretty tired, so I decided to take myself off for a bit of rare slow-paced shopping at the local shopping centre.

I rarely take time to just wander around when shopping. Either I'm with boys (who don't do shopping like that), or I have a very specific purchase in mind.

I don't believe I've written here about the Japanese custom of omiyage. "Souvenir" partially describes it, but it is more of an obligation here. It was described to us as something you take back to anyone who has been "inconvenienced" by your absence. So, this especially includes workmates. There is a short explanation here. And a more detailed explanation of it here.

So today I did some omiyage shopping for my kids (I have my husband pegged, his I will get at the airport on the way home). I don't know how she knew, but the lady who served me at the shop asked if these purchases were gifts (and it wasn't a particularly "gifty" shop). When I said yes, she gave me a selection of wrappings and did them up nicely. One of the things omiyage must have is nice wrapping. I'm looking forward to seeing the boys open their gifts, I think they'll be pleased!

I also did some rare clothes shopping. Someone noted the other day that though my favourite colour is green, I don't actually have a lot of green clothes at the moment. Well, I've improved the odds on that today. Check out these green "sunflower" pants:

And yes, these are full-length pants. I have short legs! I do actually like buying pants in Japan because they are usually perfect in length for me!

22 May, 2012

Missionaries being cultivated

So, we're two days into a five day training week. They've titled it "Missionaries Under Cultivation". I certainly feel as if my brain is under cultivation. There is a lot to take in and think about.

Here's a short, and slightly random glimpse:

Yesterday we had quite a bit of history, which was great. I love history. It was history of the church in Japan as well as some reflection of OMF's work in Japan. We also had a very experienced Japanese pastor talk about how to prepare a missionary-led church for the big change to a Japanese pastor. It is a time when many churches in this country have floundered, but this pastor had some great things to say that will hopefully help ease this transition in years to come.

Today was harder. We heard about Japanese religion and its impact on mission. Difficult. Even the word "religion" isn't a terribly helpful word in Japan, it was made up to accommodate foreigners who wished protection to follow their own religions in the mid 1800s. Japanese "religion" is largely "functional religion", meaning: "religion primarily in terms of what it does, that is, what it does for its adherents or society at large". Christianity is a "substantive" religion: a religion embodied in a formal set of beliefs and doctrines relating to the spiritual realm".

We spent quite a bit of time on contextualisation. This is something that continues to come up in missionary discussion. It basically means, planting churches that are not just imported from overseas, but are, hopefully, seeking ways of planting churches that are indigenous to the culture. That is an issue with the Japanese church that most visitors to Japan notice pretty quickly: that most churches here look pretty much like their Western counterparts, and the service styles are too. It is a challenging issue for many, many reasons. A couple of reasons are that Japanese actually love to import foreign ideas, and that once they start doing something one way, it isn't easy to change it. So for most Japanese Christians, this is how you "do church". Suggesting making it "more Japanese" is hard.

The last session was on Japanese ancestral rites and was interesting, but I'm afraid that with all that had gone before it, it didn't all make it safely into my head!

It's been fun seeing people I haven't seen for several years. Many were surprised to see me. You see, OMF Japan is a field divided. We have two regions, basically Hokkaido and everyone else (who are in Yokohama and north on the island of Honshu). Only once every three years do we all get together at a National Conference. On the other two years we have regional conferences. If you aren't in leadership, it isn't often that you go to the other region. So, I haven't been up here since the last National Conference we went to, which was five years ago (we missed the last one while we were on Home Assignment in '09-'10).

It is both exciting and slightly daunting when you see how many new faces there are up here. OMF Japan has a lot of new missionaries come in in recent years, and they just keep coming. Compared to the language school when we attended (when we were two of only three students for about a year), it is so large. 15 or more students! The extrovert in me wants to go and meet them all, the shy side of me holds back. I'm hoping I'll meet some more of them, though on Thursday at the weekly prayer meeting that this region holds. At that time those of us from down south get a short time to at least put a name to our faces and small summary of our ministries for the benefit of everyone else.

But now I must give up and go to bed. I'm tired. New beds don't help me much — I'm hoping that the third night in this bed will be better!

21 May, 2012

Amazing love

It's been a busy, but good day in Sapporo, and it isn't quite over yet. I'll have to post tomorrow about what I'm learning and people I'm meeting. Thankfully I have something up my sleeve to post here:

I posted a link to this video on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, but I want to put it here too. It is too precious not to share it with you. What an incredible testimony this couple has, love and commitment that most would find difficult to understand. They were a serious couple, but not yet engaged when the guy had a motor vehicle accident and sustained a brain injury. They've since married. Amazing story!

20 May, 2012

Not quite what I expected . . .

Wow, interesting graphic. TAA was
an Australian airline when I was
a kid a few decades ago...
Well, I made it. Four trains, one plane, one bus, and a car ride and I'm here. It only took five and a half hours.

The "here" isn't quite what I expected. You see OMF has a guest home in Sapporo, and that is where I figured I'd be with ten or so other folk. However because of this training event, they are full-up. The overflow goes to the two apartments on the top floor of our Hokkaido Centre. That's me, and three others. When I was dropped off, I was the only person in this large three-storied building (which also contains offices, language school, and a large meeting room). So much space!

But I didn't really know what to do with myself. Generally my life is pretty full and there's always something to do, someone to prepare something for etc. But this afternoon I didn't really know what to do. I did have to go and shop for one, then bring it back and cook for just me.

I remember feeling like this with regards to school-day lunches when my last child started school two years ago. Now I've gotten into a groove with lunches. But dinner? Nooooo. It's been a very long time since I cooked a meal just for myself at dinner time.

Oh well, at least it will be quiet in the evenings so I can get some other work done (like magazine editing). We'll see how the week pans out.

Hokkaido impressions
My other impressions for today belong to Hokkaido. It is spacious, quiet, and somewhat bereft of people. I remember a friend who's lived in Tokyo for a long time saying that when we were up here for language refresher six years ago. I didn't really understand what she meant by, "Where's all the people?" But now I do. Especially now that I get out and about on trains in Tokyo more. You just expect lots of people in Tokyo. When there aren't people around, you get a bit concerned.

Gazing out the window of the bus from the airport to the city was wonderful. They actually have large paddocks here! And large areas of green grass that isn't park-land. Wow.

In the city, they have many more wide footpaths than Tokyo (US=sidewalks, UK=pavement?). And really, it looks a bit bare. I guess that comes from a Tokyo eye that is used to seeing so much squished into such little spaces. Sapporo also needs to leave room for the huge amounts of snow that they get. You've got to put it somewhere!

I'm thinking that central Australia in July is going to be a distinct shock for us. Probably very good for us, but shocking still.

So . . .
No boys to put the bed, no husband to spend time with, what shall I do? I do have a whole library to myself up here. Perhaps I shall read?

19 May, 2012

Going "home" to Sapporo for a week

Sapporo one summer day, yes, it could
be chilly next week!
Tomorrow I'm going to Sapporo for a week. Sapporo is the capital of the northern island of Hokkaido.

Sapporo holds a special place in most Japan OMFers hearts. It is (for most of them) the first city in Japan where we lived for any length of time (it is where our language school is). It is the place where we struggled through those difficult days of language study and culture shock. For me, it is also the place where my middle son was born. It is a little bit like our "Japanese home town". I haven't been up there for five years. It will be nice to be back, even if only for a short while.

I'm going to an OMF training week that has a scary name: Indigenous Biblical Church  Movement (IBCM). This phrase is a part of the OMF International Vision Statement. For those who are interested, here is a little bit more about IBCMs.

At first is seems a bit strange for someone who isn't involved in church planting to be going to such a training week. But as I look through the programme, it is more about understanding Japanese culture than it is directly about church planting. We have topics like:

  • Lessons from Japanese Mission History 
  • Japanese Religion and its Impact on Mission
  • The Bible, Contextualisation, and the Church in Japan
  • Japanese Ancestral Rites
I'm looking forward to learning more about Japan and Japanese culture better. But I also think that I'll be packing some cross-stitch to do (and maybe some knitting too, that is the new hobby I've tried this week) to keep my hands busy during many presentations.

Which leads me to the next thing: I desperately need to pack my suitcase (it is 5.30pm). I'm leaving directly after church in the morning. I've prepared what I can for David and the boys for the coming week. They have enough frozen meals to last them, plus lunch-box snacks too. Now I need to take the time to prepare myself. Strangely enough that is the hardest thing I find about going away, mentally detaching myself from this crazy mob and thinking about me!

18 May, 2012

Rechaagi is very good Japanese

Yesterday I walked into a Drugstore. Yes, Aussies, that's what they call them here. It is like an Australian pharmacy, except that it is also the place that you buy household products like cleaners, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, nappies (US=diapers) etc. Larger Drugstores have food and drink as well.

And it is also a good place to buy batteries. But not rechargeable batteries, apparently.

I stood for quite a while examining the batteries, trying to discern if any in the size I required were rechargeable, but largely failed. So I did, what I hate doing in Drugstores, I asked. Usually when I do this they don't have what I want or they have no idea what I'm talking about. This was almost one of the second variety, but turned out to be the first.

Firstly I used the word my dictionary told me was Japanese for "rechargeable battery": niji denki. The shop assistant looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. My back-up was Japanising the English: rechaagi dekiru  (the second bit means "be able to"). She understood perfectly and immediately answered that the batteries I was holding could not be recharged.

It turns out that you can only buy rechargeable batteries at Electric Goods Shops. I think they are a little less entrenched in the culture here than they are in Australia.

But I was amused at how Japanese has this double layer. They have official Japanese words for most imported things and concepts, but they don't always use them and the often don't even know them.

My husband found this at the mechanics. I wish I could remember the word he specially researched when we were at language school. He used it, they didn't understand, but because he was pointing, they countered with a Japanised version of the English word.

Sometimes you think you could just about get by with only English, but then you quickly realise that isn't true. Their language is smattered with Japanised English, but glued together
with truly Japanese words (like dekiru in the above example).

You also need to learn how to put vowels between all adjacent consonants. So Australia becomes Au-su-to-ra-ri-a. Oh yes, and Ls and Rs become the same! I introduced my English Bible Study folk to the concept of Syllables in English. They of course know the concept, Japanese is a syllabic language. However they never thought that English words also have syllables too! They found it hard to figure out which words were four-syllable words in a list. I can understand their perspective after living here for a decade. How many syllables does "Australia" have in English?

You folk who've lived in Japan, can you think of some more examples of Japanese words that have both a Japanese word and a Japanised-English word associated with them?

17 May, 2012

A bad example

One of the things I'm a bit tired of is seeing leaders set bad examples for those of us who follow them.

We have to consider what we are passing on to
those who follow behind us.
Some leaders, and, let's face it many people, don't prioritise well. They take on too many things and then work is a higher priority than almost anything else in their lives — over family, over rest, even over doing the best job they can at the work they have to do.

Then, if it gets too bad, they start to make excuses to other people. Excuses about why they can't complete things on time, excuses about why you must accommodate them. Excuses that sound valid, but basically mean, "I've said yes to too many things, and now you have to excuse me because I haven't got enough time left to attend to what I promised to do."

I understand that leadership is a demanding role. And I understand the ever-pressing demand that comes from living in a land where 99% of the residents don't believe in Jesus. I know that God has given different people different amounts of energy, health, and different family situations. He's also give us each different levels of ability to cope with work.

And I understand that I can't compare my capacity to work with someone else, but these leaders (or even people who go before, who are further along on their journey in life) aren't helping those who follow or who come behind them.

What they are subtly saying with their actions is that this is the way you should work, this is the way you should live. Whether we realise it or not, people watch how we conduct ourselves and sometimes take that on as a model for how they live. When leaders set poor boundaries, I feel pressured not to set good boundaries. When they don't take time off to rest, I feel pressured to do the same. When they pile so much into their schedule that they have to produce a lower quality of work, I'm tempted to do the same.

I wrote the following back in this post about stress-factors in the missionary lifestyle:

Balance between family and ministry
This is a challenge any family in ministry faces. Not just that you have to set your own limits, then you have to refrain from criticising other people's decisions and from comparing yourself negatively with others.

Hmmm, so I need to try hard not to criticise others, but it is hard when it impacts on my work as well as makes it difficult to set clear boundaries for myself and my family. 

Probably the best thing I can do it pray for my leaders, and pray for myself, that I'll be able to discern where to draw boundaries, how God wants me to lead my life, and especially, what He wants me to say "yes" and "no" to. And pray that I'll be a good example to those who come after me, and not a stumbling block to them.

16 May, 2012

Snooping in the library Part 1

Several years ago we played detectives in someone's house. We snooped around trying to discover who it was who'd let us stay in their house.

We were visiting another city while doing our rounds of churches as missionaries and the local church put us up in someone's house. Except those "someones" were away for the weekend and no one had told us any more than the names of the home owners and that they had little boys, just like us.

It is a strange feeling — to tread on a someone else's private space with their permission or presence.

The main thing we did, on the snooping front, was look at their books. It is amazing what you can tell about someone from their book collection. As it was, we found out these two people's profession, the sorts of things they like to read, and that one of them had their Ph.D.

It isn't the only time this has happened to us, by the way. I guess people figure they can trust missionaries? But it is always a slightly weird experience.

Anyway, I'm going to show you a bit about me by showing you my library!

For starters, it isn't large, at least it isn't as large as it would be if we were living in Australia. We tend not to acquire books that we won't read more than once. We often rake through our collection looking for books to offload at Thrift Shop.

Because we live close to an English library (CAJ's), we mostly read library books, so our shelves are biased towards non-fiction, reference-type books.

So, let's have a snoop:

 Here you can see that I like craft. Actually, I think I like the idea of craft more than the actual getting around to it. I haven't done any stamping or quilting . . . yet! I do really like paper craft, and we have a number of origami books around the place. Japan's a great place to live if you like origami, the paper is so cheap here in comparison to Australia!

You can also see quite a number of music books. I don't play as much as I'd like either, but I'm happy to still have these on my shelf for those times when I do.

Now a bit of my Australian side comes out. Colleen McCullough is an Australian author and I'm a bit of a fan. This is only a small selection of my collection of her books.

And I'm an OMFers, note the J. Hudson Taylor biography!

365 TV-Free days is a great book. So many ideas. I think this one will be coming with us on our 7,000 km road trip to Uluru.

And one non-book element here is Nessy. Can you see her? We once had a short-termer visit from Scotland who gave us this cute ceramic gift.

Not the best photo, but we have more Colleen McCullough, plus a Scrapbooking and cardmaking book (more craft-type projects that I rarely do), cross-stitch book, Japanese Fairy Tales, and some coffee table books from Australia.

For Janet, there are some Footprints magazines stowed there on the left and a Bible Promise Book that has come in handy when writing cards for people.

Now here's a shelf that I frequent when I'm writing and editing. There are a number of books there on the right that are fabulous. In the middle are some more coffee-table type books that we love to show visitors. On the left of them are a whole pile of magazines that I frequently flip through when thinking about various editing and layout issues. On the left are some more cross-stitch books as well as some Occupational Therapy assessment forms. Phew, this shelf is stacked!

And here we have some Bibles, including our Japanese-English Bible. Plus various "helps", including a large Japanese character dictionary, and our Australian dictionary. Can you guess what we like to do in our spare time?

The non-book item is a plastic origami case. Terribly useful.

I think that's enough snooping for now, I'll do another snoop another day.

Surprised by anything? I think I was surprised at how many crafty books I have on the shelf. Now I'm wondering if I really need all of them . . .

15 May, 2012

Juggling — the story of my life!

I'm up to my neck in editing. This managing editor job has so many angles on it, as I've mentioned before (here and here), but the one I'm up to at the moment mostly involves interacting with authors to get the best product I can from them (and the right sized one). This month has been complicated by the fact that my editing boss is in America, and barely stationary for more than a couple of nights at once. Add to that a guest editor for half of the magazine and a fairly new production team, we've had and got some significant challenges.

We are still in the throes of moving the burden of day-to-day management of the magazine over to my shoulders and there are still a number of things I need to ask him to decide. I'm thankful for the ease of email, yet it can build up unrealistic ideas that someone is easily contactable, no matter what they're doing. As it is, he's been less free (and with less internet time) than he imagined and it's been a challenging time.

I guess we'll have the reverse of this when I go to Australia next month. It is shaping up to be a pretty intense time of it, and I can't see myself doing much editing during that time, regardless of whether we have internet access or not. So many people want "a piece of us". We have a lot of friends. We also have family, who rightly want to spend time with us. Our families aren't centred in one spot, so just getting to their geographical localities at the right time is a challenge. I hope we don't disappoint to many people. For this is also our annual holidays: the time when we kick back and relax a bit, recovering from the year behind and preparing for the year ahead.

It is hard to get a balance when we visit Australia for a short time on holidays. That is one reason we don't go back every year (besides that it is very expensive for a family of five to fly). It is just too hard to find time to relax there when so many people expect so much of us. I also expect a lot of myself. I WANT to catch up with too many people, many who mean the world to me. Argghh.

So, having said all that — I'm up to my neck in editing, I'd better drop this and go and do it! See you.

14 May, 2012

Visiting Australia in Tokyo

Today was my first visit to the Australian Embassy in Japan (I've once visited the Australian Consulate in Sapporo, though). I must say it didn't feel really a welcoming place. There is a tonne of security, though I guess that it probably the case for any embassy — I'm not really familiar with embassies. We did visit the Japanese consulate in Brisbane. They didn't require our passports, but they did make us leave our phones outside the room!

The security guys at the Tokyo embassy didn't search me, but I felt like it was in an airport: passport presentation, bag search, and the x-ray-arch to walk through. Thankfully they didn't ask me to remove my shoes or belt and I didn't have to throw away my water bottles either!

Once past the large outside walls, we found a bleak courtyard surrounded on three sides by an office building of glass and concrete. It was not clear where we should go, we even had to squint a little to read the cryptic signs. What I wanted was a friendly Australian to meet, but there were no people. We made a wrong turn and ended up outside a darkened conference room called Acacia.

The only person we saw the whole time who wasn't behind glass was someone watering a few pot plants. He, thankfully, was friendly and pointed us to the right office, just inside the front gate (obviously they don't want the ordinary Australians coming anywhere near the nerve centre!), where we found a Japanese-looking lady behind thick glass.

My purpose was to get a new passport for our middle son, who was born ten years ago this year in Sapporo. Yes, he was born in Japan. That doesn't mean he's a Japanese citizen (as I'm sometimes asked), but it does mean that he cannot just take a birth certificate into one of these situations. He has to take his birth certificate (which is just a certified copy of the form my husband filled in at the time of his birth, notifying whomever that our son had been born!), plus an English translation of that, plus a Certificate of Citizenship by Descent.

In all, though, the "interview" took less than 20 minutes. Basically it was paper-pushing and a cross-checking exercise. Now we wait and see what the powers-that-decide in Canberra have any problems with our paperwork. In the meantime, they hold our son's passport in their possession. That always makes me feel nervous, what happens if we need it . . . but it felt less scary than the other option she proposed, and that was cancelling it altogether. The third alternative was that we keep the old un-cancelled passport, but that meant I needed to do another two-hour round trip to pick up the new one. So I went for the middle ground and asked them to keep the old passport and post us the new one.

So now we're home again, after our brush with overseas Australia bureaucracy. My son has enjoyed a rare day-off school with my full attention. We've travelled the trains, eaten lunch at McDonalds, and enjoyed each other. I taught him a bit more about navigating around Tokyo too. I told him what signs we needed to look for (like "Exit 2" or "Toei subway line") and he enjoyed that. I also gave him the map from the subway exit to the embassy and he got us there. I love that kind of hands-on learning. He can be a challenging person to get along with, but as I've found with all my kids, they're much nicer and easier to get along with one-on-one than they can be in a mob.

13 May, 2012

Less than seven weeks till we fly

I'm excited. I'm going to see my Mum in, well, let's count . . . about seven weeks, give or take a couple of days. Not your most usual Mother's Day sentiment, but that is unfortunately the lot of missionaries. We're so often not there on special family days.

But let's focus on the positive. We're going to Australia next month and I'm excited, and not just because we're swapping a good portion of Tokyo summer for a mild Queensland winter! We're flying on the 29th of June to Australia for five and a half weeks. We'll be spending about a week in Brisbane, our "adult home town" and several days in Toowoomba (100km west of Brisbane, my childhood home and the base of my family. Then we're picking up a six-berth motorhome and driving up to see David's family for a brief time and then into the unknown — a trip to the Red Centre of Australia, Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock).

David and I haven't previously been much further inland than a couple of hundred kilometres, so it is truly going to be new turf for us. As will be travelling in a motorhome. The total journey will be a round trip of 7,000km (from the Gold Coast)! Hopefully it will be enjoyable, though after being parents for 13 years we're under no illusion that all will be rosy all the time. It will certainly be memorable.

One thing that is appealing about this trip is that where we'll be will be the total opposite of Tokyo. No buildings, people, or even much vegetation. No internet access either! We'll be able to see the horizon. It's been a long time since I saw the horizon without it being obscured by buildings. We'll be able to drive for hours without seeing traffic lights or pedestrians or bikes or trains! It's going to be an amazing experience and one that, we hope, will give us a mental break from the stresses of living in one of the largest metropolises in the world. Not to mention, helping us and our kids reconnect with the country of our nationality.

We're looking forward to lots of good Aussie barbies too (BBQ). It was one of the first Australian things that grabbed us when we came back last time: the smell of a barbecue!

After we get back from our long trip, we'll spend a bit of time with a supporting church south of Brisbane. Pop back to Toowoomba for a few more days and then to Brisbane before our departure back to Tokyo.

But for now, I'd better finish up this post and see if we can raise our mums on Skype on this special day!

12 May, 2012

Off to the police station again

Yesterday I read a post by John about his experiences with Japanese bureaucracy. He's an OMF British missionary in Japan, married to a Japanese lady. They are trying to get a visa for his wife to go to Britain, and it's proving to be a challenge. So many hoops to jump through! But there have been some unexpected hoops provided by the Japanese government.

It is only after we came to Japan that we realised how much a privilege we enjoy in our home country. And, it seems, the freedom Australians enjoy in Australia isn't enjoyed by Japanese in Japan. Without even considering the need for a visa and passport to live in another country, and the importance of renewing those documents in a timely fashion, in Australia you have the freedom to live where ever you want without having to register with anyone.

Sure, you need to change your address with, it seems, seventy million organisations, but at least as in Australia you don't have to register with the local city hall or police. You don't have to change your car registration plates, or get permission to park your car if you more to a new locality! Anyway, John writes it much better than I can. Go and have a look here. And don't stop before you get to his last paragraph where he longs for Japan to move into the Internet age!

11 May, 2012

Hyperactive, me?

Meredith wrote this great post over here. She's called it "Getting Kids to Multitask". I think of it more as using little physical (but rather mindless tasks) to help them to focus their minds on what was being said.

I've mentioned before, I think, that I'm a rather hyperactive person. When I say that to people who know me a bit, but not very well, they are surprised. I don't jump around, I don't appear to have trouble concentrating. But the truth is, that I do jump around a lot, especially in my head. I flit from one thing to another. It is a pest when I'm doing computer work because I'm easily distracted from what I'm doing by a whole variety of things (while I've typed this post, I've printed out a couple of different documents, read an email, and opened another tag on my internet browser).

And I'm also quite a fast thinker and I get bored easily, that means that I finish people's sentences for them (in my head, if not aloud), that I often grasp the meaning of things pretty quickly and jump ahead too fast in a conversation.I think that this either impressed or drove my Sunday School teachers mad. It can be a big advantage, but it also can be a drag when I'm supposed to be quietly listening to someone. "Be still and know that I am God" is a real challenge for me.

My husband will tell you that when we got
married, I "ran circles" around him. I had a
lot of energy. Kids have slowed me down
a lot, though recently he's wondering if I'm
starting to return to my pre-kids level of
energy. I don't think so yet, they still
drain me lot!
I also have trouble sitting still. It isn't so noticeable anymore, because I've grown up. But if you watched me carefully, I change position quite frequently. Especially if I'm in a less-than-comfortable chair. I used to get in trouble for this in church. Mum hated it. In fact she's told me that if ADD was "invented" when I was a kid, I may have gotten that diagnosis. Probably incorrectly, because, although I have those tendencies, I'm able to manage successfully to overcome them. I had a look here at a webpage on adult ADD/ADHD and it doesn't actually describe me very well. I have tendencies in these directions, yet manage to be fairly organised and self-controlled.

However, back to what Meredith wrote. She talked about giving kids something small to do while they listened to a Bible message or some other lengthy verbal address (like in a classroom). It is a strategy that I've employed for myself quite a lot, and I also apply it to my kids, especially my squirmy, intelligent eldest.

As a teenager I used to colour in the church bulletin to help with sitting through a long sermon. As an adult I take cross-stitch to long meetings. It both helps me to sit still and to keep my mouth shut until an appropriate moment comes for me to speak (yes, that is a problem for me). And I'm not the only one who does this. A leader in our mission knits during long meetings, according to his wife he doesn't knit anything particularly, but just knits for the therapeutic value.

While I'm reading at night time after dinner, if our book happens to be a little bit slow, it can get rowdy and I refuse to read over noise. So often I encourage the boys to do origami while I read. Or some other quiet thing to fiddle with while I read. It keeps them quiet, and yet busy in a non-disruptive (or destructive) way. I really don't like other people reading at that time, I have trouble myself listening to the story without rushing off to do something, so I really do understand how my son feels.

How about you? Do you find you need to do something with your hands to keep your body still and mind focused at times like these? What strategies have you found works for you, or for your kids?

10 May, 2012

Busy editing today

I'm not really going to be here today, I'm busy editing my article after all the great feedback I got on yesterday's post. Thanks to all who contributed, it will be a much stronger article as a result!

Someone commented that I was brave, asking for comments on my work. Some writers get annoyed or hurt when others critique or edit their work, but I've learned that it is really worth listening to other people's opinions. We writers get too close to our work and cannot see the wood for the trees at times. Other people's perspectives are so useful, thank you for yours.

Actually I was totally stoked at the response. Sometimes blogging and writing can be a lonely process, a one-way process. To have some community happening over here in this little corner of blogdom was really fun.

09 May, 2012

Your turn to edit me

Okay, I'm looking for some constructive feedback. I'm writing an article for our denominational magazine, it's due on Monday. I'm going to paste it below and ask for your feedback. You readers are a fair mix of missionaries and supporters-of-missionaries. Do you think the tone of this is suitable? Do you think I've missed anything? Is there something there that I should reword? Is the structure okay (it's pretty loose)? How do you feel about the conclusion? Here's your chance to edit my work!

What missionaries want from their supporting churches

The whole issue of supporting missionaries is a tricky one. What does it actually mean? How does a church go about doing it? And you know I’m talking about more than finance.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, but I’m going to tell you rather how missionaries love to be supported.

We want to know what you're thinking
We love to know that we’re remembered. And because we aren’t there, it is hard to know unless we’re told or shown. Emails, letters, postcards, Facebook messages etc., are always welcome. Phone calls or Skype calls are sometimes difficult to fit into busy lives, but they can be especially encouraging.

We love to know that you’re praying for us. Again, we don’t know whether you are or aren’t praying for us and sometimes when you’re lonely, and haven’t heard from anyone in a while it is easy to believe you’ve been forgotten, even when you haven’t.

Support beyond words
Love isn’t just words, it comes in care packages too, especially ones that have been thoughtfully put together. A surprise is good, but a care package is even better if it contains items that we especially want, so it is good to ask your missionary what they’d like.

We love to receive practical care when we’re transitioning in and out of the country. A full pantry speaks volumes when you’ve just landed back in your home country and cannot face grocery shopping yet. Finding accommodation and transport, setting up telecommunications, and finding local services are ways that you can help your missionary when they’re coming back from overseas.

Pay attention to details
We love it when we find out people actually read and remember our prayer letters.  And believe me, we can tell when we talk to people whether they have. There’s a joke in missionary circles about the people who come up to us and enquire about X country, when we’re actually serving in Y and have never been to X. We joke about it, but it really isn’t funny.

We love it when we’re received back at the church as if we haven’t left. That’s hard to do, of course, especially when the church has gone through changes since the missionary left, but we love to be welcomed as a local who’s been away for a while.

We love it when we’re included, whether we’re in the country or not. That takes creativity, but can range from just being informed of what is going on in the church to actually being asked for input to a Bible study or for some photos to show at church while a missionary spot is being conducted.

We love it when we’re given a reasonable amount of time to talk about what we’ve been doing in front of the whole church.

Thoughtful conversations
We love to have one-on-one conversations with you, be that on Skype while we’re overseas or over coffee when we’re home. We love to visit you in your homes, and reacquaint ourselves with members of the church.

We love it when you ask us thoughtful questions and stick around for the answer, even if it is a bit lengthy.

And inconvenient pastoral care 
And here’s a way-out-there idea: we love it when we get visitors from home, particularly people who are praying for us. Consider sending one or more members of your church or leadership team to visit a missionary your church supports, particularly if they are members of your church.

It's up to you
How you manage all this as a church is up to you. You can have a missionary committee, you can have one person dedicated to missionary care. You can have a mission-minded pastor who promotes mission as a matter of course. You can have, as we do, a small group dedicated particularly to helping and advocating for each missionary family. You can have regular missionary “Spots”, a missions night, or weekend, or month. You can have mission displays around the church. You can distribute literature or summaries of prayer letters.  Missions prayer meetings.

There are many ways to go about it. However we've found that it really needs to come from the top. Unless the leadership of a church is mission-minded, it is difficult for a church to be mission-minded. We ourselves have lots of individual supporters, but not so many mission-minded churches.

 It is easy for missionaries to feel that we're out of sight, out of mind. But missionaries are still a part of the body of Christ, we're the hands that are overseas. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:25 "There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other."


So, what do you think? Can you suggest ways to make it better?

The 360 degree leader

I picked this book up from BookSneeze because I find myself inching into leadership roles as well as finding that I need to figure out how to better work with leaders above me. I've never read a book on leadership before, so it was a little bit of a culture shock. Missionaries seem to work in a different way to a company. I'm tempted to say, less professional, but I think that is the wrong scale to measure us by. More on that another time. Nevertheless, there were many things to learn from this book.

360 degree leader is the concept that no matter where you are positioned in an organisation, you can lead. You can lead people below you, people who are the same level as you, and even people who are your leaders. Interesting concept!

It was the "leading up" principles that intrigued me most. The author tells us that the starting place is to lead ourselves well. This includes managing your time, emotions, priorities, energy, thinking, words, and personal life well. The author rightly says that if you can't lead yourself well then you generally have no credibility with others.

Then you need to

  • lighten your leaders load by doing your own job well
  • find solutions to problems you find rather than just going to the leader for a solution 
  • succeed with difficult people
  • admit faults but never make excuses 
  • understand your leader's personality
  • earn your leader's trust, learn to work with your leader's weaknesses 
  • know when to push and when to back off etc.

This book is so full of phrases that are great principles that it is difficult to give you a good overall impression of the book. What I've included here is just a small sample of the content.

He also talks about leading across, that requires

  • taking an interest in people, respecting and caring for them
  • healthy competition, I wonder if this is where Christians don't seem to have the same edge that a secular company does. It is like working in a volunteer organisation. We're all paid the same, no one is shooting for the top, therefore sometimes there is a lack of striving for excellence, I think
  • avoid in-house politics
  • expand your circle of acquaintances, especially beyond your personal prejudices: we've noticed that missionaries are often too busy doing their work to do this very much amongst other missionaries.
Leading down seems the most obvious, but even in this section I learnt some things
  • slow down – leaders are often very quick mentally and tend to move and think quickly. The further away you move from the top, the slower people tend to process information and make decisions. To lead down, you must slow down to match other people's speed.
  • have a healthy balance of personal and professional interest. It can be difficult to find a good balance in this area. I've known leaders who bring too much personal into the situation and make it difficult to get business done, but others who have a very clear line that prohibits personal being a part of work at all and makes it hard to get to know them.
  • give reward for results. This is a challenge in missionary circles too, where we're doing things with minimal expense. Praise is a big key, I believe, in these circumstances.
He wrote that the qualities of a 360 degree leader are these:
  • adaptability - quickly adjusts to change
  • discernment - understands the read issues
  • perspective - sees beyond their own vantage point
  • communication - links to all levels of the organisation
  • security - finds identity in self, not position
  • servanthood - does whatever it takes
  • resourcefulness - finds creative ways to make things happen
  • maturity - puts the team before self
  • endurance - remains consistent in character and competence over the long haul
  • countability - can be counted on when it counts
So, it surprises me in some ways, that though I've never considered myself a leader, I've really been leading all along. Rarely have I held a position that puts me in a supervisory position (though as a mum, I've been a leader in that capacity for nearly 13 years now).

This book was well worth a read. I'll be keeping it on my shelf for further reference, it is so packed with good principles and advice that it is hard to take it in in just one reading.

This is another review for http://booksneeze.com/ 

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review by Thomas Nelson Bookshttp://BookSneeze.com. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

08 May, 2012

A new "boot" on my bike

Today it is easy to find something to write about. I've been out on my bike doing groceries and other bits and pieces. My bike's been upgraded with a new "boot" and it is great.

This is what I used to cart all my groceries in:
It looks a bit strange, that is because it is a child seat as well as a basket.
However it is a very long time since it was used as a child seat! You cannot
see, but it is metal covered in plastic, except that in many places the plastic
has deteriorated and fallen off, leaving metal exposed that rusted.
And this is what I've got now:

Showing the rear wheel stand
that lifts the whole back
of the bike off the ground.
 It gives a lot more stability
when loading a child or
heavy groceries onto the bike.
I can hardly believe I waited so long to change. This new basket holds more than the previous one. It is awesome. I no longer have to worry that something might fall out the side. (I recently had to ride back over my route from the shop to retrieve a milk bottle that dropped out onto the road.) I fetch groceries home on my bike three or more days a week, so this is a significant improvement. 

Where I park my bike. It is the easiest to
access of all the places we squeeze our
bikes into at home. I get the privilege
because I'm the primary hunter and
The only thing I miss is the handle on the front of the old basket, which helped me get the back wheel up when putting the stand down (you can just see the stand at the bottom of the photo). When there is 8+ kilos on the back of the bike it isn't easy to lift up, especially when I get home and park it in the little space beside our car.

Here's an older post where I also talk about shopping on bikes.

07 May, 2012

A lost parrot, tornado and microaggression

I'm a bit short on inspirational blog topics tonight. I didn't get to the computer until pretty much my Cinderella hour (9.30pm), so you'll have to put up with some links to some interesting recent Japanese news and blogposts.

A lost parrot who chirped his address to police, see the story and video here.

Yesterday a very unusual tornado hit a city just north of Tokyo and killed one person, injured quite a few others, see the story/video here. Yesterday was a strange day. Mid afternoon the sky went very dark. Where we are we had a bit of thunder and a bit of rain, but not a lot. The temperature also dropped considerably.

The same blog posted a story about a change in the system here, meaning we won't have "Alien Registration Cards" anymore. There are a number of changes coming and I'm not really clear on what they all are, but many seem to be positive. I just think it will be positive to not be officially an "alien", which is a rather harsh word, really.

And here's a strange one: nearly three times more people die while in the bath in Japan than die in automobile accidents! Go and have a read here.

And a new word "microaggression", explained here is defined as: 
"Microagressions, particularly those of a racialized nature, are, according to Dr. Derald Wing Sue in Psychology Today (Oct. 5, 2010), "the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to (visible minorities) by well-intentioned (members of an ethnic majority in a society) who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated."
 In Japan this includes people regularly saying to foreigners, "You speak such good Japanese!" — after saying only a sentence or two, or being surprised that you can use chopsticks.

Now I'm headed to bed. Sorry this has been a rather disjointed post today.

06 May, 2012

Costly baking goods

Here is one reason I buy some things from Costco and the Foreign Buyers Club. It isn't always because I can't buy them locally, it is to do with price.

Here we have 40g of cocoa that cost 228 yen or AU$2.76. Barely enough to make a chocolate cake.

And a bottle of Ginger powder. I don't buy herbs and spices at Costco because they come in huge portions, too large for an ordinary family. But this little jar cost me 285 yen or AU$3.45.

How do these compare to Australia?

I have to say, we're looking forward to coming back to Australia next month (we land on the 30th of June). There are some Aussie foods that I'd love to have again . . .