December- Part 2; Blessings Abound!
The Lord has blessed our family tremendously this month in so many ways! I (Katharine) stand in awe before Him for hearing my cries for help and for answering me in such beautiful, exciting, and tangible ways! Thank you for your prayers for our family, for your support, and for your encouragement! You are apart of our struggles and joys as we live out the Gospel here in Japan in hopes that many Japanese come to know the saving grace of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ!
Because we weren't able to secure a parking spot in November I had to continue to bike Abigail to school and it was beginning to get really cold and windy. Josiah had this terrible cold that he just couldn't shake and I had a feeling that it had something to do with exposing him to the wind & cold for 2 hours a day, everyday. I prayed and asked God for help having no idea that my friend Sayaka was praying for an opportunity to serve. I received a text message from her a few days later asking me if she could serve our family by picking up Abigail & taking her to school in the morning until December 16th. I started crying tears of joy as I read & responded with YES!!! I wrote this post on my Facebook page...
"The Lord heard me & answered my prayer for help!! He sent my friend Sayaka Nakakuki to my rescue. She has driven to my house each morning this week & a few days last week to pick up Abigail and take her to Youchien (kindergarten) for me!!! This means that I didn't & don't have to bundle us up & bike an hour round trip in 30 degree weather every morning until winter break begins!!! What an amazing blessing & an answer to many, many prayers!! Maybe we didn't get a car when we thought we were going to but The Lord has ministered to me in countless ways since to remind me that He cares-even about the small things. Thank you Lord & thank you Sayaka!"
Katharine's 32nd Birthday
My family loved me so well on my birthday. It was a birthday that I will not forget. The Lord really blessed me through thoughtful gifts, texts, emails, hand written letters, and a HUGE surprise!
A few days before my birthday we bundled up & took the train as a family to our favorite 100yen sushi restaurant! I'm so thankful for these moments in which we can all be together as a family out in the community. Matt overheard & understood a Japanese lady tell her friend that she would totally get married if she had a husband as helpful as that guy (Matt). People see something different in our lives and they are curious to know what it is... I can't wait until we are able to converse in Japanese so that we can point them to the Reason!!! Matt is studying so hard with strong motivation & great diligence. We are eager to speak their heart language so that we can share the Good News!
Because everyone was in school on my birthday my new, sweet, beautiful friend Jenny Rodriguez hosted a birthday brunch for me! She made my favorites: chocolate scones, quiche, and fruit salad! She even served me coffee in a Texas mug! Then she sent me home with a frozen meal so that I wouldn't have to cook on my birthday!!! She has the gift of thoughtfulness, hospitality, and a servant's heart that is out of this world! She is the wife of our pastor at Mustard Seed Christian Church and she loves & serves the children in our church so well! I am so blessed by my new friend who loves Jesus so much!
I came home to this beautiful bouquet of flowers from my family and this beautiful handwritten note from my 7 year old daughter, Hannah. She blows me away with her thoughtfulness!!
She wrote, "Mom, I love you. Thank you for everything. You will always be my mom. You are my star. Your family loves you so so so so so much. I am thankful for you. We love you." This proud, thankful Mommy cried happy tears and I hugged my girl tight. She gets it- and I'm so thankful!
Then this happened....
Matt surprised me with a date night to a yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant after we put the kids to bed. You order raw cuts of beef and grill at your table. There are different dipping sauces and spices that you can use. It is such a fun experience and the meat just melts in your mouth. I highly recommend trying yakiniku during your visit to Japan!
On our way out the door Matt asked me if we could check out a parking lot spot that one of our friends was interested in. I honestly didn't think much about it as we aren't the only family on our team looking for a spot to park. When we arrived to the area Matt just stood there smiling and then it hit me- the car parked in the spot was the 2004 Toyota Noah van that we had test driven last month!!! I started jumping up and down with joy! "Is this OUR spot?!?! Is this OUR car?!?! How did you do it?!?!" and he beamed with pride and joy as he told me the miraculous story that had only unfolded that very morning. I wrote this post on my Facebook page...
"My amazing husband surprised me today.... The biggest surprise! A parking spot opened up next door to our building this morning & with Hiroko's help he was able to secure it!!! And our van is parked in OUR spot!!!! I am speechless!!! The Lord literally opened all the right doors this morning & it just happened! Perfect timing! I can't believe it but I totally can! Isn't God amazing?!? What a fantastic birthday surprise!! Thank you to everyone who prayed for a miracle parking spot for our family... Because we literally got the only one!!!"
Please praise God with us for answering the prayers of SO many family members, friends, & supporters!!! This vehicle will be such a blessing to our family!!
We had heard that Nagoya gets snow on occasion but it never sticks. So when we read our weather app that there was snow expected during the night through the next day we didn't think much about it. Then we woke up to this....
Winter wonderland in the city! Over 21cm (8 inches) of snow had accumulated during the night! We started checking with friends to see if there would be school closures and everyone laughed at us.... my friend Tamaki wrote to me, "I don't think that the school is to be cancelled only by snow piled up." Cue culture shock!!! Matt had to walk & take the subway to school and Hannah had to walk to school through 8 inches of snow... which just felt wrong to these Texans! Abigail was already out of school for winter break so I took Abigail and Josiah outside in layers of clothes & cotton gloves to play!
So many children were home for break already so we joined in the neighborhood snowball fight which turned out to be so much fun! Josiah & Abigail had never seen so much snow in their lives so it was quite an exciting adventure!
Our teammate, Chad Farmer, took his daughter, Amilia, to Tsuruma Park to take some photos of the snow... he was able to take some amazing pictures. You can go here to see my favorite photo and you can visit his Instagram to see his visual perspective on life in Japan.
The Lord has blessed me with some amazing women that not only serve on the CBI team with us but that have also chosen to live in the same building/neighborhood as our family. We got together to celebrate December birthdays at a local pizza restaurant. We talked for hours and eventually realized that they were closed & cleaning the kitchen! I can't tell you how refreshing it is for all of us as moms & missionaries to get together and just relax, talk, pray, & enjoy good food.
Heart & Soul Cafe
Christmas Carolaoke Event
Our friend, Josh Curl, is a super talented missionary with CBI that serves at Heart & Soul and ministers to Japanese through Karaoke events! His love language is karaoke so he is sharing the love of Jesus through karaoke! Genius! He has put together several Karaoke events at Heart & Soul but his best by far was the Christmas Carolaoke event!! It was a huge success and we are so proud of him for living out his dream!
A Japanese student made balloon animals for people at the event... I think that Hannah & Amilia were frequent customers!! Abigail was busy singing Jingle Bells over and over for everyone's enjoyment...
Josiah woo'ed all the ladies with his cute, hipster look! Thank you to Katharine's sister, Andrea, for the new clothes!!
Establishing a New Christmas Day Tradition & Fighting Illness!
We decided to try something new to celebrate Christmas Day... because Katharine had strept throat we weren't able to attend Christmas Eve service at our church & then Abigail woke up on Christmas morning with a fever and started throwing up. We opened gifts that Katharine's mom sent via mail (Thank you so much Nanna!!) and then we just laid low and tried to rest. Being sick during a holiday break is such a bummer but being sick on Christmas day- that is the worst!!
We wanted to do something special so Matt went to the store and bought all of the ingredients to make homemade sushi rolls and Japanese Christmas cake! We prepared all of the ingredients and took turns creating our very own rolls. It is quite easy and so much more affordable than going to a sushi restaurant! We wanted to incorporate something from our new culture into our tradition of reading the story of Jesus' birth. Abigail wasn't up for eating anything, obviously, so she watched... and then immediately threw up after we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus! Poor girl!!
Merry Christmas from the Elkins family!!! We are grateful for your prayers, support, & encouragement!!! Thank you for following our journey!! It is a blessing to share our everyday adventures with you. Life in Japan is beginning to feel more and more like home. The holidays definitely bring about homesickness and Katharine has been struggling with that a lot lately but the Lord is so good to bring peace & comfort for us even in those hard moments. We miss our friends & family dearly. Thank you for reaching out to us during this month and for blessing us tremendously!