Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

Today’s coffee: “Autumn colored blend” (秋色ブレンド)

I’ve been drinking my Kyoto souvenir (Kona from % Arabica) at home for the last couple of weeks, and it’s almost gone… but so nice to extend our time in Kyoto for a bit even after coming back home! We also have been enjoying yuzu miso out of a cute yuzu shaped jar—it’s so delicious on stewed tofu and daikon! So in any case, today I’m at Tokumitsu to get my coffee allowance for the next two weeks.

Here are a couple of the yuzu miso jars at the shop where we got ours.
Today is Thanksgiving, but here it’s a normal work day. I started the morning with cello practice, and when I’m done writing here at Tokumitsu, I’ll make bento for supper, head to rehearsal, and then OMF prayer meeting. That’s a typical Thursday for me. Turkey will happen tomorrow, since coincidentally, my church is holding a turkey-roasting class at the same time as my family will be eating Thanksgiving dinner in Seattle. Technically, it’s the women’s Christmas event, but given the timing, Keith, who was roped into giving a short talk, will be speaking about Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.

So today, I want to take some time to be thankful, even if the day is full of appointments and work. What am I thankful for? In no particular order…

I’m thankful that there is world-class coffee down the street from my house. And that it’s a quiet place where I am welcomed to come, sit for a couple hours, and get work done. Yay!

My cello has returned home! It sounds better than before the accident—it probably needed some adjustments for climate, and it got them. I’m also thankful that I was able to use my baroque cello for the conferences and concert in October; that worked better than expected, and I learned quite a lot from playing “modern cello” repertoire on gut strings. And I also discovered (10 years too late?) that the height of my chair (and shoes) makes a huge difference for intonation. I will be dragging around my own chair to concerts from now on… Not an easy situation, but I’m thankful for what I learned along the way.

I’m thankful for 3 years in Japan, or 4 if you count our time as short-termers. I’ve now lived here longer than I lived in Canada. I love this place where God has brought us! The past 3 years have been full of exciting challenges as I learned the language, made friends, started work, and learned all kinds of things about my new friends, about Japanese culture, and about the natural beauty of Hokkaido. This is not to say it wasn’t hard… because it was, and it will continue to be. But I trust that God will continue to provide for us as he has in the past.

On that note, I'm thankful we could go on vacation to Kyoto and Tokyo.

Kinkakuji in Kyoto, in its beautiful setting. Thankful I could get this shot without a mob of tourists in it... :)
Pickles! We love them. We love many Japanese foods, but pickles hold a special place in our hearts. I'm thankful for pickles.
I'm thankful for beautiful gardens--this is in the garden at Hakone Museum of Art.
I'm thankful for tea, and tea ceremony. We went to an お茶会 (Japanese tea party) while we were in Tokyo. Part of the event took place outside!
I'm definitely thankful for this guy. He makes my life so interesting. (This was taken in the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.)
I’m thankful that my language level has sufficiently progressed so that I can now watch and enjoy the NHK Taiga drama on TV—that’s the year-long historical drama that the national broadcaster produces every year!

I’m thankful for new small groups at church! It’s been exciting to see the cooperation and excitement among the leaders, and the desire to see our church grow in maturity and in numbers. The synergy from working with like-minded people is exhilarating. I’m thankful for the youth-group leaders too—in preparation for our youth group Christmas party, we had a fondue taste-test. It was a blessing to have table fellowship with youth group leaders and their spouses, while considering the details of preparing for the Christmas party. (I’m also thankful for the awesome lunch after church last Sunday!)

I’m also thankful for a lot of other things, but it’s time to make bento now.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Trees, and peace in my heart

Today’s coffee: Kona from % Arabica (which we bought home from Kyoto!)

Our coffees last week at % Arabica in Kyoto
We just got home from vacation on Saturday—since my cello was ready to be picked up in Tokyo, we took the opportunity to spend some vacation time there; we also caught the beginning of autumn leaf season (紅葉, koyo) in Kyoto. A change of air and scenery was refreshing, although vacations to places like Tokyo and Kyoto do not tend to be very restful. There are lots of things to see and people to meet!

In some ways, spending time with Japanese friends has influenced my thinking. Last month was super busy; I completely missed autumn leaf season in Hokkaido. Of course, when we went out, I would see trees changing colors, but I didn’t get a chance to sit outside and quietly enjoy them (until it was just a little too late). I didn’t really think about doing such things before I came to Japan; leaves changing colors just meant it was the beginning of the school year, and a marker of the coming of winter. Now I feel that if I don’t spend time to enjoy each season, my year feels incomplete. That is why last Monday we made an emergency trip to Hakone, in the mountains above Tokyo. (Tokyo doesn’t have much autumn color just yet.) Now I have experienced fall. Bring on the winter… kotatsu, mikan, hibernation… and Christmas concerts.

At Hakone Museum of Art
Even more than the actual museum, the grounds were beautiful!
I've finally experienced autumn this year!
We made another attempt to see Mt. Fuji... and we saw more of the mountain than last time we were in Hakone... but we had another no-show.
A few weeks ago, after September and October’s concerts and conferences, etc. had finished, the weather was pretty good, so we headed for a nearby leaf-viewing spot. And… the weather was not as good as expected, the leaves were almost gone, the onigiri (rice balls) were too salty, and park staff members were using noisy leaf-blowers all around us as we had our picnic.

At Taki no Ue park (滝の上公園) in Yubari. Not many leaves left.
Of course, the picnic included tea.

Although I was disappointed, somehow the experience became an object lesson. Peace does not come from our surroundings. If it did, no one would ever know peace. Rather, it comes from a heart rooted in God.

I return time and time again to Psalm 1, which we read at our wedding. We read it a couple of weeks ago at our church Bible study. The psalmist encourages the readers/listeners to avoid the path that leads to destruction, but instead to be a person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

At first, my image of this well-rooted tree was one of quiet serenity, but I imagine that like all trees, this one also experiences bad weather, drought, earthquakes, maybe even forest fire.

But it has its roots in the right place. Nothing is going to shake it. I want to be like that tree. I wish I had been a bit more like that tree during the busyness of the last month—to spend less time worrying about having too much to do and not enough time and spend more time rooting myself in God’s goodness and resting in him. Let’s hope I can remember this lesson during next month’s Christmas rush!

Here’s a couple of Kyoto pictures; more later! (Probably.)

With our friend, Sharon in Kyoto's bamboo forest
This is in the garden of the Imperial Palace--usually it isn't open to the public, except by application. But it was open for just a few days, and we were there at the right time!