Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Story for Valentine's Day

Today's coffee: meh.

Mom and I went out for sushi a few weeks ago with some people who are special to us: my cousins’ grandparents. Not the grandparents I share with them—the grandparents on their mom’s side. I’ve lost all my grandparents now, so I’m glad I have these two.

My cousins call them Ba (short for Obaasan) and Pa. He calls her “darling,” and she calls him “honey;” they are devoted to each other even after more than 60 years together.

I’ve always admired Vic and Yasuko, but now that I’ve been living in Japan, I especially admire Yasuko’s courage as she left her family and her home in Japan and made a new home in the US with her husband. Like me, she lives between two very different worlds.

Over lunch, we got the two of them talking about how they met. I don’t actually know my own grandparents’ love stories, so that motivated me to write their story down.

During Yasuko’s childhood in pre-war Japan, one of her relatives studied abroad in the US. When he came home to Japan, he brought clothes for her as a present. The style and quality impressed her, and she began to wonder what sort of place America was.

Yasuko’s older sister had an arranged marriage—she already had a boyfriend, but she had to break up with him and marry the man her parents had chosen for her. Yasuko suspected that she would follow the same path as her sister. She left home and found work as a telephone operator at an American air force base (Misawa, in Aomori prefecture) after the war.

Vic was stationed at Misawa from 1951-1952. Once when he was making a phone call, Yasuko connected his call. She has a cute voice, Vic thought to himself. He started asking around to find out who the cute voice belonged to. Eventually he found out, and asked Yasuko to meet him.

Yasuko didn’t know Vic at all, so she hesitated. A mutual friend reassured her: “He’s nice. And his family is nice, too. He always gets good packages from home.” So they met up in the “usual” way: “I’ll be the one wearing such and such.”

I interrupted the story at this point. “So what were you wearing?”

“A dress, one that was fashionable at the time, and a little bolero jacket.”

“And what was your first impression? Was it love at first sight?”

“Well, no… I certainly thought he was handsome, but there were lots of handsome young men at the air base. I knew that a good heart is much more important than good looks, so of course I didn’t know right away.”

(She was quite mature for age 18, I thought to myself.)

Vic chimed in between mouthfuls of edamame, describing one of their first dates. Vic loved soba, but strict rules forbade servicemen from eating local food—there were concerns about contamination from the practice of fertilizing fields with “night soil” as was done at that time. (No need to be worried, they don’t do that anymore…)

“Yasuko and I were sitting in a soba restaurant, and I was really hungry. We ordered our food, and out it came, and I was just about to take my first bite… when a big Texan officer threw open the door and started shouting at me. He dragged me back to base, leaving Yasuko crying her eyes out, thinking I was going to be executed or thrown in prison.”

“Did your parents oppose?” I asked Yasuko. It was right after the war, after all.

“They did at first… but then God intervened, and I got appendicitis.”

I looked at her blankly. She continued. “My mother came to Misawa to take care of me after I was discharged from the hospital, and Vic came every day to visit. He brought lots of flowers and presents. His kindness and care for me won her over. Then she convinced my father.”

There you have it. It's been a blessing to have these two as a part of our family.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Which world do you see?

Today’s coffee: peppermint mocha from The Well. Yay! (We’re in Vancouver for Missions Fest)

Last week there was no post. I was busy writing other things… a sermon, in fact. It was a big sermon. I chose Isaiah 6 for my text, and started researching and writing back in October. It really was the culmination of everything I’ve been thinking about during those three months… so yeah, a big sermon, but somehow, surprisingly, I fit it into about 35 minutes, which is a reasonable length.

I said some crazy stuff and challenged everyone to take a leap of faith with me—to say “here I am, send me” with conviction. I’m praying that God will continue to work in the lives of those who listened, just as he worked in my life as I wrote.

One thing that went into my sermon that has continued to stick with me this week was this bit: “Which world do you see—a world full of the intoxicating nearness of God’s glory, or a dark and empty world in which everything is left to chance? Do you see God, and can you hear his voice?”

When I preach, I am preaching first of all to myself. I think most people who preach are like this. Keith certainly is. Although I wrote the part I quoted above, it continues to challenge me—especially as I was hit hard by adrenaline letdown after the sermon was over, and as I continue to struggle with not-being-in-Japan-right-now. Unfortunately, it has not been a great week…

My temptation at such times is to turn inward, like a pillbug, into a self-protective ball, but then I’m really not in a posture of listening or observing. If I’m going to thrive during these remaining four months in America, then even when I’m in my pillbug-like state, I need to be listening to God and looking for signs of his nearness. And then I need to get out of my funk and be present here and now, with the people who are part of my here and now—because God speaks to us in community.

If you’re interested, here are links to recordings of my sermon: you can listen or you can watch. (If you need any more incentive, I had the fabulous Mel McIntyre read an excerpt from The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald… complete with rolled r’s. Awesome book, awesome reader.)

Finally, for those of you who like books and such, here are some resources that have shaped my thinking over the past several months as I have been working on this sermon:

  • I Once Was Lost: excellent book on evangelism to people of my generation. It’s not a method or anything like that, but rather gives a roadmap for how many postmodern people come to Christ… with lots of helpful suggestions for those who are walking with them. I wrote a lot about this one here
  • The Listening Life: about listening, mostly listening to God through the many ways in which he reveals himself. More about this one later, I think, since I’m still reading it. 
  • Introverts in the Church: I wrote about this one a lot in my last blog post. This book has been very helpful as I make sense of what I should and should not expect of myself and why. I also took the suggestion that I “lead as myself” when thinking about how I would put the sermon together. 
  • The Message Solo: This is a devotional book I’ve been using in order to learn Lectio Divina—an ancient discipline of praying and listening through the scriptures. 
  • The Princess and the Goblin: One of my favorite children’s books. It deals with the concept of faith in a way that was very helpful in illustrating what was happening in Isaiah 6. And it’s just a great story. And you can get it free for kindle! 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Forgiving Myself for Being an Introvert

Today’s coffee: Tully’s

If you read our blog and follow our lives, you will probably know that we went to Urbana last month. It was this completely wild event—16,000 Christian college students and pastors and missionaries gathered together for worship, Bible study, prayer, networking… and if I had wanted to, I could have been at workshops and seminars and gatherings and whatnot from 7 a.m. until past midnight.

Keith and I were approached by our leaders to represent OMF Japan at Urbana, since at past Urbana conferences, there has been a lot of interest in Japan. I waffled as to whether I wanted to go, or whether we should go. 16,000 people… long hours of meeting total strangers… awkward social situations… very little time to rest. But, Urbana got a rave review from my brother and others who had gone. They spoke of challenging messages and spiritual growth. What ultimately tipped the scale in favor of my going was the discovery that Jeff, one of our IVCF leaders from grad school in Boston, was going to be there. (And out of 16,000 people, we ran into him right at the front door. Awesome!)

But as the time grew nearer, I got more and more nervous. “God, I can’t do this. Please make me an extrovert,” I prayed.

This wasn’t just my plea for Urbana. It seemed that the longer I spent in North America, the more exhausted I got… and I was beginning to think that there was something seriously wrong with me. I had been spending delightful, thought-provoking, inspiring times with friends, family, and supporters. I was constantly aware of how loved I was and how well supported, and perhaps that made the feeling that I “wasn’t getting anything done” even more frustrating—that I was letting down the people who loved and supported me. The sheer amount of rest I needed to recover from the previously mentioned delightful times with people seemed far more than what was “fair.”

It was at Urbana, in a moment of quiet respite from the OMF booth, where I had been meeting students and answering questions about OMF and Japan, that I was browsing the bookstore. A title caught my eye: The Listening Life by Adam McHugh. What I found even more intriguing was that this Adam McHugh was also author of a book called Introverts in the Church. So, I went looking for Introverts in the Church and found it elsewhere in the bookstore. Hiding in my room after dinner that night, I read the first chapter… it was like he had been reading my thoughts. Observe:
For several years, my introverted friend, Emily participated in a Christian community where extroversion was normal. Hailing from Japan, Emily was accustomed to a culture where deference to others and servanthood were considered highly desirable qualities, and she felt displaced in an American culture that valued self-promotion and aggressiveness. She had positive relationships with people in the community, but she was always considered to be on the fringe because she spent a lot of time to herself (McHugh, Introverts in the Church, 17-18).
And the lightbulb came on in my head. That’s what it is. That’s the source of my exhaustion and reverse culture shock this time around. I had been thriving in life and ministry in Japan, where introverted characteristics are valued, and deep, loyal friendships are formed slowly over time and through shared experiences. Social interactions tend to have more silent spaces in them, and that’s okay—just being together or doing something together is considered to be a valuable experience. I’ve written about this before, but I didn’t realize at the time why I felt so comfortable with my Japanese friends.

Then I came “home” to my hometown, where I thought I would be less tired, since I was using my native language. But I struggled with American-style social interactions, where there is little silence in which to collect my thoughts—if I stop to think, the conversation has already moved on. To make things even more difficult, of course we are dealing with an absence of four years. It’s not easy to catch up with each of the hundreds of friends and acquaintances we left behind when we went to Japan. There have also been faux pas, such as
Me: Nice to see you!
Acquaintance: Yeah, it’s been a long time. Were you really gone for four years?
Me: Yeah, four years. It seemed really fast though. How’s your husband?
Acquaintance: Actually, he left me…
Me: (gasp) I’m so sorry, I didn’t hear!
I really had that conversation. Stress.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that Japan is good and America is bad, or that all Japanese are introverts and all Americans are extroverts. That is not the case at all… not to mention that I have committed my fair share of faux pas in Japan.

But I have to say that in recognizing this cultural difference, I have also recognized God’s grace in putting me in a place where I would thrive in friendship and in ministry. I have begun to realize that God made me the way he did so that I could be a blessing to others. It wasn't a mistake. No more pleading for a personality change... just a change of heart.

While I am eager to return to my friends and work in Japan, I am also eager to accept God’s grace where I am now, even, or perhaps especially, when God’s grace means spending more time in prayer and reflection and less time “getting stuff done.” I trust that God will give me the grace (and the energy) to bless my friends here in North America and be blessed by them as well.

I still have times when I am frustratingly exhausted, but I think my prayer now is “God, thank you for making me the way you did. May my life bring glory to you.”

I went back to the bookstore the next day to buy The Listening Life too. Thanks, Adam McHugh, unmet friend.

(By the way, Introverts in the Church is not a whiny book about how we introverts are being exploited by extroverts. Not at all. I wouldn’t have liked it if that were the case. I found it to be empowering, practical, and filled with great suggestions for introverts to be involved in the life of the church. Perhaps that is a subject for another post.)

Friday, January 08, 2016

めでたし、めでたし (Joyous, joyous)

Today’s coffee: Belltown blend from Street Bean coffee (So delicious! Sometime I want to visit their café… too bad it’s a bit too far from home to be my regular spot…)

Well! I have a new nephew, born yesterday (January 7). Nephew #3, but the first on my side of the family. (Way to go, little brother, passing on our genes to the next generation…) He’s also the first of our nieces and nephews we were able to see right away. Break out the red-bean-rice!

No, we are not his parents. His parents were exhausted. Family photos later.
He's a cute little guy!
The most important news out of the way, let’s go back a few days.

Since we spent the week before New Year’s at Urbana, I wasn’t able to make a full-blown osechi this year. Thankfully our friend, Hiromi did, so we ate New Year’s Day osechi lunch at her house.

Hiromi-san's Osechi
Traditional music... お正月の感じです。
I felt a bit sheepish turning up at Uwajimaya on January 2 to do my own osechi shopping. A bit late, but not too late for a January 3 mochitsuki party! I made ozōni, nimono, kuromame, and kurikinton. Friends brought some other dishes, too.

Of course, the purpose of a mochitsuki party is to pound (and eat) mochi. 5 years ago I had a delightful surprise when my dad and brother made me an usu and kine (hollowed out log “mortar” and gigantic hammer for pounding mochi), so we decided to put them to use since we were home this year. I think we made a total of 18 rice-cooker cups of rice into mochi. That’s a lot.

This party was the easiest party ever from the host’s perspective. I was delighted to discover that the two Japanese families I invited knew each other! I just got out the food and kept it coming, and the guests amused themselves with mochi pounding, karuta, and the various musical instruments that live in our house. That’s not to say that I wasn’t amusing myself too.

Keith leads the kids in Totoro Karuta. The English-speaking kids found it to be pretty difficult...
The day of the mochitsuki was also Jiayun’s due date. We thought perhaps a little exercise would be good for her… heh heh heh.

Jiayun and Colin got first crack at mochi-pounding while the family watches. Colin kneads and wets the mochi to keep it from sticking while Jiayun pounds. Jiayun's whole family was able to be here for New Year's, but unfortunately her dad and brother had to go back to Texas while she was in labor. Sad face. Her mom is here for a month, though. Happy face!
Family time, familiar foods, friends… all of this helped cure my homesickness a bit. I’ve been pretty homesick for Japan the last couple of months, although I rarely experienced homesickness while we were in Japan. That’s just one of the many odd parts of our crazy cross-cultural life.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Urbana and New Year's (and monkeys)

Today’s coffee: some beans my mom got for Christmas

Happy New Year! It’s the year of the monkey, or it is in Japan, anyway. It’s still the year of the sheep for a few more weeks in the rest of Asia.

Wild monkeys on a roof near Lake Kawaguchi, last July. We saw them crossing the street on the power lines... and kept our hotel room window closed  after that...
We’ve just finished a week in St. Louis at Urbana 2015. I felt kind of bad for leaving our colleagues behind at the busiest part of the conference, but as wave after wave of tiredness hit me on the way to the airport, I think I made the right decision. I slept in my own bed last night and woke up in time to watch the first sunrise of the year (that’s a Japanese tradition), as the sun peeked through the familiar trees in the forest surrounding the house where I grew up.

This is the view from my parents' front porch. I could finally see the sun 40 minutes after it came up.
But I was so overstimulated from Urbana that I think it will take weeks to get un-wired…

I already look a little strained, and this was the first night...
A lot of good stuff happened, and a lot of hard stuff too. It’s not easy being an introvert at a conference with 16,000 college students, lots of flashing lights and loud music, and 6 hours each day of talking to students whom I was meeting for the first time, engaging them about missions and Japan and explaining over and over what I do and why I do it. I wonder how many of them noticed the deer-in-the-headlights expression or the slurred speech as I grew more and more tired and wired at the same time. I pray that God can smoothe over all my mistakes.

And yet it was a privilege to pray with probably 20 students and young adults who have a passion to show God’s love to the Japanese. I cried with a young Chinese woman as we talked about the way God has been using our Chinese missionary colleagues to bring reconciliation with Christians in Japan, overcoming a lot of painful history. Yesterday morning, we had coffee with Jeff, who was one of our InterVarsity leaders in Boston. It was so good to catch up, encourage each other, and fill him in on just how much he and his wife, Tara had equipped us for the work we’re doing in Japan. We also met Andrea, a new colleague, for the first time—she will be in Japan from February! Exciting!

Ironically, another wonderful thing that happened was finding a book called Introverts in the Church in the Urbana bookstore. (I felt like I should tell the people at the register to pray for anyone buying this book at Urbana, because they are probably struggling.) More about this book later, after I finish reading it...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Gyoza

Merry Christmas! (It's still Christmas until January 5, then it's Epiphany, in case you were thinking I was a little late.)

I just realized it's been over a month since I last posted. I guess I've not felt very inspired lately in my writing. I'm also homesick for Japan. So, since food always inspires me, I'd like to share my recipe for Christmas gyoza, which is definitely not traditional in any place where gyoza/chaozu are typically consumed. I just made it up myself, taking inspiration from traditional flavors as well as the delicious ham we had for Christmas last year.

Gyoza with dipping sauce. The one on the left was cooked according to the method here; the other was boiled. That's also an option.

Christmas Gyoza

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 red onion (125g)
  • 120g mushrooms (button, cremini, or maitake)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 30g almonds
  • 20g ginger
  • Zest of one orange
  • 150g cabbage or nappa cabbage (hakusai)
  • 1 small carrot (50g)
  • 85g dried cranberries
  • 1 egg
  • 400g ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon port (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 60-70 gyoza skins
  • Vegetable oil
Note: No need to be exact on the measurements. These quantities are suggestions. Once you gain a bit of gyoza-making experience, you can make them by instinct. But I've provided measurements for those who aren't yet confident in their gyoza skills. :)

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, mince the red onion and mushrooms in a food processor. Transfer to the frying pan and sauté them until they are fragrant and softened. Allow to cool somewhat.

Mince the garlic, sage, almonds, ginger, orange zest, cabbage, carrot, and cranberries in the food processor. I recommend doing the nuts, orange zest, and sage together. Transfer to a large mixing bowl as you finish processing each vegetable.

The food processor makes this so much easier. 
Add the mushrooms, onions, and the remaining ingredients (other than gyoza skins, of course!) to the mixing bowl and mix. Using your hands is kind of gross, but it works pretty well. Adjust the consistency with additional cornstarch if necessary--you don't want it too wet, or your gyoza will disintegrate before they make it to the frying pan! Taste test and adjust the seasoning by microwaving or frying a bit of the filling.


Lay out your wrappers (or you can make them from scratch if you're really ambitious) and spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling onto the center of each one. Wet the edges with a bit of water and pinch shut.

This time we did have handmade wrappers. Yay!
The nice-looking ones were not wrapped by me.

Heat a dollop of oil in a large frying pan (you will need one with a lid) over medium-high heat. Arrange the gyoza in the pan, allow them to brown a bit, then add about a centimeter of water to the pan. Quickly cover and turn down the heat to medium low; continue to cook until the water is mostly gone. Remove the lid, flip the gyoza, and allow the other side to brown slightly.

Ready to flip!
Jiayun flips the dumplings
Serve with dipping sauce:

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 c chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
  • A pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)
  • A few pinches of hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
Instructions:

Melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat; add the onions and allow them to soften a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Christmas dinner hors d'oeuvres. I think they went over pretty well. Maybe this will become a new tradition!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Newsletter

Seasons
Newsletter #30
November 10, 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

We’re already four months into our home assignment, with only six months left! Time flies. This time we thought we would give you a home assignment update and answer the question:

“What are you doing, anyway?”

We get this question a lot. To be fair, we didn’t really know what to expect when we were planning for our home assignment--we’re figuring things out as we go along. Really quick, though, I’ll tell you what home assignment isn’t: a year-long vacation. Nope. We work six days a week.

At our pre-home assignment workshop last January, I think there was some sort of mnemonic device for the tasks and purposes of home assignment with words starting with “re.” We can’t actually remember which ones, but as a joke we started writing down as many “re” words as we could think of… including words like reeking, regurgitating, and recomposting--is that even a word? Surprisingly, a lot of the other words we came up with applied to our situation. So, what are we doing, anyway?

Reconnecting: This is probably our highest priority this year, since four years away means a lot happened in our friends’ and families’ lives while we were gone. As we are living with Celia’s parents, we are enjoying lots of family time; we’re looking forward to Thanksgiving with Keith’s family. Meanwhile, we are meeting up with lots of friends and people who have been praying for us, and making new friends as we connect with people who are considering their involvement in missions.

Relocating: We had to move out of our Ishikari home to come “home” to Seattle… and while we’re here, we’ve been all over the place to meet up with people.

Having high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada... a break in the midst of attending conferences and visiting friends...
Leading worship at the OMF 150th Anniversary celebration in Victoria
Retelling: We have a lot of stories to tell from our first term in Japan; telling them is probably our biggest task this year. God is at work in Japan, and it’s exciting how we were able to see this. We want to share these stories with people in the US and Canada who have been praying for us… and we’ve had lots of opportunities, both informally over a meal or coffee, and in presentations and preaching. Presentations and sermons both take lots of work to prepare--since we know from experience that well-crafted stories tend to stick better than lists of prayer points or general overviews of our ministry, we put a lot of effort into preparing presentations that will engage the listeners, and hopefully encourage them to praise God for his goodness and pray that his glory will be known throughout Japan.

Keith tells stories at our Newport Covenant Church presentation
Our friend, Pastor Kyota Takahashi helps lead a game at the NCC presentation introducing English loadwords in Japanese.
Rehashing: We call this the elevator speech--not nearly as nice as “retelling,” and we have to do it all the time. The elevator speech is the answer to the question, “If you had to explain to someone during the length of an elevator ride what you were doing in Japan and why, what would you say?” Usually I (Celia) say, “I work at a Japanese church.” That might get me a wide smile from a fellow Christian, polite disinterest from a salesperson or server at a restaurant, or a glare from someone who has baggage with Christianity.

Replicating: Many of our friends and supporters are interested in our Japanese Culture studies, especially tea ceremony. We’ve already had a few chances to demonstrate tea ceremony and Japanese music, and to show practically some of the ways we use the traditional arts for God’s glory. Recently we also replicated one of Wakaba church’s youth group movie nights for friends here to experience.

Celia teaches high school students about tea ceremony.
Celia performs Japanese folk songs on the shamisen at the NCC presentation.
Restocking: Back in summer of 2013, we went on a hiking and camping trip to Rebun and Rishiri, two remote islands in the sea of Japan. On the very first hike, the soles fell off Celia’s 15-year-old hiking boots, and we discovered that they were completely rotten. When we got back to Sapporo, Celia went shopping for new hiking boots… and discovered that there were no women’s boots to fit her (rather average) size 8 ½ feet. So she bought men’s boots. But for most other clothing needs, men’s clothing doesn’t work so well. Thus Celia, who dislikes shopping, is in the process of replacing four years worth of threadbare, faded clothes.

Relearning: America has changed a lot in the last four years. We are finding that things are not the same as when we left, so we are experiencing some of the same kind of exhaustion that came with culture shock when we went to Japan. Don’t expect us to know any recent TV shows, movies, music, etc. We haven’t even heard of them, let alone seen them.

Reconquering: Inbox overhaul is in progress. Celia is finding many emails she should have answered years ago. Sorry.

Relinquishing: We’re busy, so we’re learning to drop the stuff that can get dropped while keeping our priorities straight--people and relationships are the most important.

Reading: While in Japan, there was rarely time to read. So, we’ve been catching up on a stack of books we’ve been wanting to read, while also continuing with Japanese study.

Relishing: Mexican food, good cheese, eggnog, and other delicious foods that are hard to come by in Japan.

Refreshing: We try to get some rest. Wednesday is our day off. That’s when a lot of the reading and relishing takes place.

Rekindling: Even while we’re in the US, we are also preparing for our next term of service. Part of this task is to refresh our hearts--to hear sermons and attend Bible studies in our mother-tongue, and to spend more time privately reading and studying the Bible. We have been learning to lean in--to listen closely to the Holy Spirit’s voice as he convicts and comforts. We hope to go back to Japan next May rekindled with holy fire to serve God and his church in Japan.
***

Prayer Points

  • We thank God for the pledges of support that we have received for our next term. Many people have re-pledged from our first term, and we are also blessed with some new financial and prayer supporters. We have 62%; please pray with us for the remaining 38%.
  • Pray for opportunities for us to share about Japan and raise awareness of Japan’s prayer needs.
  • Our second term placement seems to be coming together. Please pray for good dialogue between us and the OMF leadership in Japan. We may come to a decision later this month.
  • We were blessed to reconnect with many friends during our trip to Canada in October. Pray that we can continue to have quality time with friends and family during the remaining 6 months of our home assignment.
  • We are excited to take the train from Seattle to Grand Forks on the way to spend Thanksgiving with Keith’s family in Iowa. Pray for safe travels and good time with friends and family.
  • Please pray for wisdom in determining an appropriate balance of work and rest.

***

Tea Bowl: We have 62%!

The money jar from five years ago has a new look. This time we’re filling a tea bowl (chawan) with tea! We need 100% pledged monthly support for our second term before returning to Japan. If you plan to continue your support from our first term into our second term, thank you! Please be sure to let us know again in person, by email, or through the OMF website: omf.org/us/partner (go to “update info,” and enter “re-pledging” in the comments). Our deadline for 100% pledged monthly support is March 23, 2016.
***

Home Assignment Schedule
November 16-December 3: North Dakota and Iowa trip
November 29: Shamisen and Tea Ceremony, Grace Lutheran Church, Fort Dodge, IA
December 6: Celia preaches at Newport Covenant Church
December 26-31: Urbana missions conference
January 10: Keith preaches at Newport Covenant Church
February 28: Tea Ceremony for Newport Covenant Church youth group
… and we’d love to see you too! Please contact us.
***

Language Corner

We’re living in native-English-speaker-land now, so thankfully we have a backlog of interesting signs and such from Japan. This one was found in a rest area bathroom. It reads: “Troubling a janitor lady is like troubling your friend’s mom.” And you wouldn’t want to trouble your friend’s mom, would you?


***

Thanks again for praying for us. May you also be rekindled with God’s love.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

Friday, October 30, 2015

Autumn in Vancouver

Today’s coffee: I don’t know what it was, but once it’s gone, I can open the coffee I bought at Murchie’s!

It’s been a while. We went to Victoria and Vancouver, and since we’ve been back, we’ve been preparing for an event at church this Sunday—Japanese Culture Day. It will be lunch, stories, games, shamisen, and more! Fun!

I started writing something last weekend while we were on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria… but I kept getting distracted by the horrible children’s show that was playing on one TV, and the hockey game on the other.

I did, however, manage a poem, inspired by our day-off-date location last week, Van Dusen Gardens, where we went on lots of dates when we lived in Vancouver. It’s a tanka, a Japanese form, 5-7-5-7-7. It’s longer than a haiku, so I like that I can say a bit more.
Fat raindrops splatter,
Crying my unshed teardrops,
Flooding the dry ground.
A brief moment passes, then—
Sun flickers through golden leaves.
I’ve written several tanka lately. I like about tanka and haiku that I can use an image from nature to reflect something I’m thinking about or feeling. Autumn gives lots of possibilities, if I pay attention. The weather and scenery at Van Dusen Gardens suited my state of mind very nicely.




Last week was crazy. I’m still tired. We met lots of friends, hung out at home in our old house with our landlord-family, presented at a couple of missions conferences, and I preached at our Vancouver church home. There were so many wonderful moments of fellowship, mixed up with waves of grief as we remembered the life we left behind there. Our friends’ kids got so big! And everyone sang the hymns at church with such joy… I cried at least twice during the service, thankfully not while I was preaching.

Our friends' kids got so big...
That’s our life: a crazy mixture of joy and grief. The reason the grief hurts so much is because we have loved and been loved so much.

On an entirely different note, one fun surprise from our trip was meeting Mimi, whose husband, Jamie Taylor, was the keynote speaker at several of the events. (Of course, we enjoyed meeting him too.) Mimi is my sempai at Boston University—she studied music there too! It was such an encouragement to talk to her and to hear her sing. Of course I’ve met other missionaries from Regent, but she is the first I’ve met from BU.

Our Vancouver-based colleague, Gary, Mimi and Jamie Taylor, us, and a great big birthday cake for OMF!
I can't resist a couple of food pictures too. We ate really well.

High tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. The most recent Empress to have tea there was the Empress of Japan, in case you were wondering.
Pumpkin pie brûlée at The Shaughnessy Restaurant, next to Van Dusen Gardens. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tea ceremony, Pacific Northwest style

Today’s coffee: Rwanda (still drinking Tokumitsu coffee, which I’ve been hoarding…)

Yesterday was a long day: I did a tea ceremony presentation for high school students at Missions Fest Seattle. There were a lot of preparations, but what resulted was a uniquely Pacific Northwest style of tea ceremony. (It wasn’t necessarily “correct,” but sometimes it’s fun to be creative.) Let me explain.

Here's my setup. Unconventional, but that's not a bad thing.
Tea ceremony can be pretty expensive. There are lots of valuable (breakable) tools and accessories and clothing, so I try to get things used whenever possible. Here in Seattle, it’s hard to get tea ceremony equipment at all. But I have discovered some work-arounds for these problems, or, to put it in inappropriately casual terms, life hacks for tea ceremony.

There is a precedent for this way of thinking. Sen no Rikyu, the founder of tea ceremony as it is currently practiced, repurposed everyday objects for use in tea ceremony: peasants’ rice bowls became tea cups, tubes of bamboo became flower vases, and rustic iron cauldrons became kettles for tea water. I’m just putting Rikyu’s wisdom into practice… is what I say to justify myself.

I collected various tools in Japan and brought them to Seattle, but a hearth (furo) was too large and heavy. I figured I could find something comparable. Thankfully, the fruit stand at the bottom of the hill was selling their planter pots at half off for end of season clearance; I purchased a large (despicably heavy) brown clay planter.

This setup needed some work, though. First, I needed an electric burner to keep my tea kettle warm. I found one on Amazon for $13. Sweet!

Next, I needed a slab of wood to keep the planter from damaging the picnic mat I sit on when doing tea ceremony. The picnic mat itself was a life hack, since transporting tatami mats from Japan would have been nearly impossible. I asked my dad if he might be able to cut a cross section of a tree and clean it up a bit. In typical fashion, he took my simple request to a whole level beyond what I had expected. Dad chain-sawed a round off a log from a tree behind our house (part of the tree was rotten, so it had to be cut), then cleaned it up in his workshop.

The log.
Dad working on the cross section of log to make it pretty.
The gigantic coaster, as we started calling it, and the matching insert to adjust the height of the burner and tea kettle, turned out gorgeous.

My kettle (tetsubin), which I brought with me from Japan, hanging out in its new home (planter pot fitted with two slabs of maple tree). The tea tray in the foreground came from the same tree. And of course, my beloved picnic mat and tea basket.
I also needed a tea tray. I could have easily brought one home, since they are light and small, but my dad can make guitars, so a tea tray ought to be child’s play, right? Dad used many of the same techniques he uses for guitars (bent sides around a book-matched piece of maple from the same tree as the previously mentioned coaster).

Dad bends the side of the tea tray with his bending iron
Of course, I couldn’t imitate Rikyu properly without also scouring the house for interesting objects to use. I re-discovered a painted screen which had adorned my grandparents’ living room fall for decades, and set it up behind me to give the feel of being in a tea room. Keith carried sweets to our guests using a wooden tray my grandfather made. I also found a cute flower vase from our exchange student’s hometown in Wernigerode, Germany, which Mom filled with late autumn flowers from the garden.

We didn’t have enough chawan (tea bowls) for the number of guests we expected. Solution: Say hello to my first project in pottery class.

It's a bit lumpy, but it worked out fine.
Then of course we needed wagashi (Japanese sweets). Since it’s rare to find proper wagashi outside of Japan, my Seattle-area teacher makes all her own wagashi for our classes (I look forward to them every time!!) The only thing to do was make them myself! It’s autumn, so it was perfect timing to make the kuri manjū (chestnut buns) I learned to make from a friend at church. I also tried making kuri yōkan for the first time. (Mine didn’t look as pretty as hers.)

Here's what they looked like before they went in the oven. I forgot to take an after picture. Preoccupied with other stuff, I guess.
Finally, I needed helpers. Keith was an obvious choice for the hantō role, carrying tea and sweets to each guest while I prepare the tea. He had to kneel and stand 2 or 3 times in front of each person (about 30 total guests), amounting to the equivalent of about 80 squats. His legs are pretty tired, he says. After a last minute crash course (the day before), Mom took on the backstage helper role, standing at the back of the room while making tea and washing tea bowls, since I couldn’t go fast enough by myself.

Last minute practicing in our living room

Yesterday, I got up at what seemed like the crack of dawn to do final preparations, and off we went!

I thought there would be 10 high school girls for tea… but far more showed up than expected. After the first 14 or so, Keith started taking down reservations for a second session. Thankfully, I brought more than twice as many kuri manjū as I thought I needed.

This was session #2.
I served tea as part of a presentation in which I told stories about our life and work in Japan, talked about the history of tea ceremony, and then invited everyone to enjoy some quiet, reflective time while I prepared and served the tea. No rest for Keith or Mom, though. They were working hard the whole time.

This morning I had tea ceremony class. I enjoyed being served by my teacher and fellow students after experiencing firsthand the extent of the preparations for an ochakai (tea gathering). Next time there should be fewer tools to make from scratch, though.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Vancouver and Victoria Trip, October 17-25

Guess what? We're going to Vancouver and Victoria! For those of you who live there, we can meet in person!

We'll be participating in the following events:

Heart for Asia Victoria conference (OMF)
Saturday, October 17, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Saanich Community Church
4566 W. Saanich Rd., Victoria
We'll be leading worship and presenting briefly about our work.

Sunday Worship, Vancouver First Christian Reformed Church
Sunday, October 18, 10:30 a.m.
We'll be tag-teaming the sermon (mostly Celia)

Heart For Asia: Youth 2 Young Adult Night (OMF)
Friday, October 23, 7:15-9:30 p.m.
Evangelical Chinese Bible Church
5110 Marine Dr., Burnaby


Heart For Asia Vancouver (OMF)
Saturday, October 24, 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Evangelical Chinese Bible Church
5110 Marine Dr., Burnaby
We're presenting a seminar on some of the challenges to evangelism in Japan.


OMF 150 Years Anniversary Celebration
Sunday, October 25, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Emmanuel Baptist Church
2121 Cedar Hill Crossroad, Victoria

Please come! (Or send us an email if you want to have coffee together or something...)