Monday, February 2, 2015

January- Routines, Hamsters, Date Nights, and a Birthday Party!

January in Japan

After we said goodbye to Mimi & Papa our lives were forced to return to "normal" the very next day. Taking a break from school, studying, laundry, cooking, dishes, etc. to visit with them was exactly what we needed... but it was a difficult transition to jump right back into our busy routine while we were still grieving their departure. Many of you prayed for us during this time- thank you for your prayers! The Lord was definitely with us as we grieved and reestablished a healthy rhythm for our family.

Our family spends each day in language school, private school, public school, Japanese lessons at home, making new friends, hanging laundry, hand washing dishes, changing diapers, riding trains, studying Japanese, finding & buying groceries, paying bills, learning to drive on the other side of the car and road, cooking meals, homeschooling kids, reading books, and playing with toys, etc. in a foreign culture and in a foreign language. We are very, very busy and very, very overwhelmed. We are so thankful for your prayers for our family to have endurance, strength, perseverance, humility, and patience with each other and with ourselves.

We have learned so much and we have so much more to learn. 

We watch the sunrise over Nagoya every morning as we gather together for family devotional.  Matt is usually awake around 5am to study Japanese so the girls & I get up at 6:30am and cuddle under blankets and read scripture together and pray. We are reading Long Story Short and we highly recommend it if you have older children.  You can find it on Amazon by going here.
I have a two hour Japanese lesson with Keiko every Tuesday in my home. We are working our way, slowly, through the first Minna no Nihongo textbook. With Keiko's help I am slowly but surely learning to speak a little bit of Japanese!! Praise the Lord!! Keiko is a sister in Christ, a friend, and an incredible teacher. I'm so thankful for her and just about every missionary at CBI can say the same thing! Hannah has a one hour Japanese lesson with Keiko after she gets home from Japanese public school on Tuesday as well.  Keiko is teaching Hannah important school words, cultural differences, and how to handle situations that arise in the public school setting. These lessons have been a huge help to Hannah's success in the classroom.
This is my laundry "area" in the corner of our only bathroom. With five people, one washing machine, and no dryer (deep sigh) it's a miracle if I ever see the bottom of that laundry basket. Speaking of no dryer- it's not that big of a deal in the summer but during the winter... it can take up to 24 hours for one load of clothes to dry (another deep sigh).
Lots of dishes without an actual dishwashing machine means that we wash dishes by hand two, three, four times a day. This is what my sink looks like after dinner.... ( 
This is the girls' "play area" in their room- you can see why it gets cluttered so quickly... and why I have to brace myself every time I walk into their room. 

We have been in Nagoya for 7 months and we still can't get over how beautiful our view of the sunsets are every evening. After a busy day, taking a moment to stop and reflect while watching the sunset has become my way of realigning my priorities and counting my blessings. We are privileged to be serving the Lord in this country and we don't want to take anything for granted... even the mundane tasks and long hours of studying Japanese.

A typical weekend...

Matt makes pancakes for us every Saturday morning. He has perfected the fluffy pancake recipe! Saturday morning is our only morning of the week in which we get to "sleep in" and relax. We take it easy in our pjs, watch cartoons, and FaceTime with the grandparents. Saturday is our favorite day of the week!
Hannah is an artist and we are learning that she also likes to display her creativity through her outfits... this was what she picked out to wear for church one Sunday morning. 
Abigail just wants to wear pink.
We love attending our church, Mustard Seed Christian Church, on Sunday morning. On any given Sunday you will come across about 20 different nationalities! We worship the Lord in Japanese and English- it is beautiful to hear so many different accents sing to the Lord!
We recently sang "God of This City" by Chris Tomlin, it is the cry of our heart for Nagoya. Next time you hear this song- will you pray for Nagoya, Japan?

Josiah- 2 1/2 years old...

Josiah is growing and changing so much! I know that both of our families in Texas are really missing out on some cute and memorable moments. The life of a missionary is such a paradox of emotions. We feel excited to watch him grow & learn but that excitement is always mingled with sadness knowing that his grandparents are missing out on these times. I have tried to capture as much as I can with my camera so that I can share our sweet, loving, joyful, affectionate, silly, & rambunctious two (and a half) year old little boy with our friends and family....

Hannah & Josiah have become quite close over the last few months. He adores her and is constantly asking her to "come play wiff me Hannah!" She dives right into his world and builds towers, pushes cars around, puts together train tracks, and pretends to be puppy dogs with him. 
Oh, my little blue eyed boy. I just love him so much. He brightens my day with his big smile and joyful eyes! I try to soak up his hugs, cuddles, "can I hold you Mommy" and "read to me" requests as much as I can because I know from experience how fast time goes by. 
His Nanna sent him a Lightning McQueen umbrella and rain boots for Christmas. They are, by far, his favorite gifts. He wears his rain boots almost everyday, rain or shine!
Making silly faces while looking in the mirror have begun. The kissy face is usually followed by tooting sounds and motor boat noises.... and then spitting. 
His Nanna also sent him a Lightning McQueen race car driver uniform!! He has a pretty cool Nanna! He watches his sisters dress up every single day so he is pretty excited to have his first official costume! 
If you were to walk into our apartment at any point during the day you'd probably find Josiah rocking out on his puppy dog guitar. He has been playing this guitar for over a year. He loves it. He watches the guitar player intently at church and we have this feeling that guitar lessons are in his future. 

Coming of Age Day at the Mall...

We had a holiday on a Monday and I wasn't sure why- there are quite a lot of holidays in Japan. I decided to take the kids to the mall to get them out of the house so that Matt could study in peace & quiet. When we arrived at the gigantic Nagoya Dome mall there was no parking which should have been a clue to go back home but I was too curious. What's going on at the mall today? We never really know and it is always intriguing to learn. This is a picture of the food court area on the 2nd floor. It was quiet chaos! As we walked around in awe struck wonder of the massive crowds we started noticing young women dressed in beautiful kimonos all over the place! Then I remembered an article I had read about Coming of Age Day! It is a national holiday in which young Japanese who turned 20 during the previous year are officially recognized as adults. 
The girls began noticing the "Japanese Princesses" as well and asked if they could take their picture with them. These sweet "princesses" were more than happy to pose for a picture. I'm so glad we got out and learned more about Japan's cultural traditions & holidays. It wasn't easy by myself with three kids but it was something that we will always remember. 

Mom, I want a hamster...

We visited the pet store while we were at the Nagoya Dome mall and Hannah met a hamster. I might have mentioned that I had hamsters when I was young but she had already decided, after looking into those beady little eyes, that she was ready to be a hamster mom. We didn't want to make it too easy on her so we asked her to do some research to learn all about hamsters. She watched Youtube videos, read Hamster blogs, and created a presentation for us. She shared why she wanted a hamster & how she'd take care of it. She did a fantastic job and after five days of "listening to Mommy the 1st time" she earned her first pet, a teddy bear hamster.
It was quite a long process in which we learned that it is illegal to mistreat our hamster or to let her loose in a field. We signed a document stating that we would care for her as if she was our own child or something like that :) and then we had to buy all of her accessories! Hannah, with the help of Hiroko's translating skills, was able to make all the choices on her own. 
She chose to name her hamster Staples,"because when hamsters bite your finger, it feels like a stapler got you". You might think this is a weird name but as a child I chose to name my hamster, Stitches. She is her mother's daughter for sure!
Thank you, Hiroko, for your help in translating the process of adopting our first Japanese pet... Staples the Hamster! Welcome to the family! 
Hannah is a proud "Hamster Mom" and has done such a good job feeding and taking care of her hamster's every need. Staples is overly loved and receives lots of attention! She's quite a character!

Praising God for our car...

I'm incredibly grateful for our car and for our parking place. So many people prayed with us and the Lord performed a miracle right before our eyes! I've never been more thankful to finally have a car. It is a blessing that I will never take for granted again. On a cold, rainy day this month I was sitting in my heated car protected from the rain and I snapped this photo that turned out to look more like a painting than a photograph. It received a lot of attention but my only purpose was to praise God for His provision for our family.

Josiah is warm and so much safer in his carseat than strapped on the front of a bicycle. He still points out every train, bus, and motorcycle that he can find! 
We are able to provide a ride for my friend Miwako & her daughter, Shiori, to Abigail's kindergarten after our Language Exchange group on rainy days. It makes her commute to pick up her son, Arata, so much easier. Isn't Shiori so adorable in her little rain coat outfit?! 


Spending time reading God's Word, for me, has changed a lot since living in Japan. It is a lot harder to find quiet moments to read & pray but it is more important than ever to be grounded in Scripture.  We live in a very dark, spiritually oppressed country and the enemy's schemes to kill, steal, and destroy are much heavier on the front lines of the battlefield. We wake up early as a family and I go to bed late. I have so much that I try to accomplish in a day and unfortunately I tend to forsake reading God's Word and choose lesser things instead. I want to establish a new rhythm in my life in which I choose to be Mary instead of Martha even if that means that my time in the Word is surrounded by trucks, tractors, and choo choo train sounds. Will you pray for me to be consistently grounded in Scripture and to make a daily conscious decision to be Mary rather than Martha? 
Another very important thing that has been difficult to come by for us are date nights! Matt is literally taking Japanese language graduate school courses that require hours of studying on a daily basis. We have very little alone time together and it has been a difficult adjustment for both of us. I love my husband so much and sometimes all I want is to just be in his presence and not talk about Japanese language and cultural difficulties. We desperately need date nights in order to reconnect, laugh, enjoy good food, and enjoy each other. Since we can't call up the grandparents to come over and watch the kids anymore we have to get creative & find babysitters that are FREE (which is really important for missionaries)! So, we started a date night rotation with Chad & Hiroko Farmer. We went on a date night to a burger place across the street from our apartment this month and discovered the best burger in Nagoya! It was a really refreshing time for both of us and it's so good for our marriage to have times like this together.
 High Farm Burger makes organic beef burgers with local produce! If you are ever in Nagoya, we highly recommend that you check it out!  
I am hosting an IF:Local group in Nagoya for the IF: Gathering women's conference next month. We will be streaming the recorded sessions from the conference the weekend following the actual event. So far, there are about 24 women who have registered to attend. I am so excited to bring such a powerful, encouraging, uplifting, God honoring conference for the women who are serving in Japan and for the bilingual Japanese believers that we know. IF:Gathering plans to translate the conference into many different languages this year and Japanese is one of them!! This is so exciting for us as there are so very few Christian resources for women in Japanese. Will you commit to pray for the women who will be attending this conference on February 13 & 14? Please pray that their faith would be strengthened, that they would be refreshed, renewed, and encouraged to be strong and courageous! Thank you!!

Amilia's 3rd Birthday Party at Mitt's Coffee Stand...

This is Mitsuaki "Mitt" Abe. He owns our favorite local coffee stand in Nagoya called Mitt's Coffee Stand. Matt met him when we first moved to Nagoya on a quest to find the best cup of coffee in the city. Mitt has become a good friend not only to our family but to the Farmer's as well.  He opened up his coffee shop after closing hours in order to host Amilia's 3rd birthday party!
Many of the new friends that we have made in our community joined us at the party to celebrate the precious life of Amilia. She is an absolute joy. Our family loves her as if she was one of our own. 
You can learn more about the Farmer Family by visiting their blog here. Serving with them in Japan has been an absolute joy. They love our family well- we are incredibly blessed by all three (soon to be four) of them!
This is a wonderful group of people that we have come to know and love over the last 7 months!

Thank you for following our family as we strive to honor and serve the Lord in a foreign land. We are laying down roots in our community, making friends, sharing the Gospel, and learning Japanese with all our hearts. It is a privilege to be here and we do not take it lightly. Thank you to everyone who supports our family financially. We wouldn't be here without you. Through your gift to our family you are apart of everything that happens here and we hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated. 

We also want to say thank you to everyone who mailed our family a Christmas card this year! It was such a special treat for us to open so many cards and see familiar, smiling faces! We miss you all so much- thank you for remembering our family and for buying so many stamps!!! 

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