Saturday, November 05, 2016

Leaning into joy

Today’s coffee was a long time ago. It’s a little too late for coffee now…

I’m sitting in our kotatsu, serenaded by the sound of a hand saw--Keith fitting a frame around the newly-enlarged dining room doorway. Now taller-than-Keith friends will not bonk their heads on this doorway, at least. All the other doors… sorry. Yeah… the doors are exactly Keith’s height. I guess this house is a perfect fit? In any case, I’m really excited that pretty soon we will have a dining room. Flooring is going in Monday, and at some point later on, we’ll plaster the walls using a traditional Japanese method. (Living in a house that needs a lot of work has been great for our relationships with guys at church, and Shino’s dad, too. We have received much cheerful help. Very thankful.)

This week I had one of those days that confirmed over and over again that we are in the right place. It started as an invitation to go hiking. (We now have hiking friends at church!) We said we would go, if the weather was okay. The leader of the expedition insisted it would be fine. We started asking around at church to see if anyone else wanted to go.

The night before, the weather started to look iffy… so the outing changed to “maybe hiking, but definitely lunch and onsen.” Expedition-leader’s wife (who doesn’t like bugs or cold) decided that if there was onsen, it might be okay to come along. In addition, Takahashi-sensei and his wife and daughter, our friend, Noriko, and our colleague, Aaron would join the group.

The morning started with everyone showing up 10 minutes early to our house, and rushing around trying to get ready. Then we picked up two more people and headed into the mountains to take the scenic route to Jozankei onsen… and oh, Hokkaido, how I love you, especially in the fall. The colors! I never experienced fall colors like this, even when I lived in New England. Mist and early snowfall high on the mountainside, providing a contrast to the orange birch trees and larches and brilliant red maples.

Meanwhile, chatting in the car, I discovered that expedition-leader’s wife played violin and piano in her childhood, loves to sing… and loves Bach. She is a new Christian, and she shared how her understanding and experience of St. Matthew Passion changed when she came to faith. (We’re planning to study the Bible together… Matthew’s Passion narrative is definitely on the reading list!)

First stop: onsen manju! At Jozankei, you can get them fresh and hot… and so delicious! Manju are steamed buns filled with sweet bean paste. The dough is flavored with dark brown sugar.

Then lunch. Noriko figured out where to go and what to eat. I didn’t have to do anything or figure anything out. Lunch buffet at an onsen hotel with some of my favorite comfort foods on the menu. (I have Japanese comfort foods now.) As we talked and ate, snowflakes drifted lazily around the bright yellow birch tree outside the window.

After lunch, onsen. Sleepy, satisfied, happy...

Since we got in the car outside our house, I had been suggesting that we make onsen eggs. At Jozankei onsen, there is a special onsen bath for eggs! I wasn’t entirely sure everyone else was interested in sitting around waiting for eggs to cook… but it turns out they were. While the eggs took a 70 degree (celsius) bath for 15 minutes, we took a walk along the river.

Boys' team sat with the eggs. Girls' team went for a walk.

Looking up the river from a very picturesque suspension bridge

The egg bath was really popular, since it was a holiday.

Eggs are done!

This was dinner.
I can really even explain properly why this particular day was so special. We didn’t even get to go hiking. I guess it was the uninterrupted time with people who are special to me and time to slowly enjoy Hokkaido’s natural beauty. While we were on home assignment, we felt like God was inviting us to “lean in” to frustration and pain and not to brush difficult things aside, but on this particular day, I felt like God’s invitation was to “lean in” to joy and thankfulness, because friends, colorful trees, snow, onsen, Bach, and even onsen eggs, are all gifts from God.

It’s taken more than five and months, but I think I’m finally starting to get back into my groove again.


Michelle Paige said...

So beautiful! What a blessed day-- loved reading about it!

Wendy said...

Yay! These things feed the soul. You've been in transition and it sounds like this mind-body-soul refreshment was just want you needed.