Wednesday, February 03, 2016

And... it's 2016!!!

So the last time we posted a blog was in May... of 2015. And that was quite a while ago.  Needless to say, this last year flew by, and it's already February! I try to update our facebook every now and then with things that are happening and prayer praises and concerns, but I think it's still good for me to look back at life since last May and just share what God has been doing in us and around us... so here we go. :)
at Mark's graduation
Brian and Mark in Kyoto
Last summer we were blessed with opportunities to get out of our daily routine and spend time with friends and family... and it was wonderful. :) Brian actually took two different trips to mainland Japan.  Our dear friend Mark graduated from high school, so he and Brian explored Kyoto for a few days before Mark left for college.





Brian and Junichi - prayer retreat

Then a few weeks later, Brian met our friend from seminary, Junichi, at a friends' cabin and they spent time together praying for each other and what God is doing in the different ministries he has called our families to in Japan. Brian immensely enjoyed both trips and the time in mainland.  While we LOVE Okinawa, it's always fun to explore other parts of Japan, and it's always so good to have time with very special friends.



eating our favorite ice cream in Okinawa
We also got to receive some special visitors at home in Okinawa.  Our friends, the Tsutada family, whom we visited in Tokyo in March, came to Okinawa for the first time!  Mami had just graduated from university (Yay, Mami!), and we had so much fun showing them our favorite parts of Okinawa and talking and laughing together... a lot. :)

having fun at the aquarium
ready to fly across the ocean!
Then in July, we went on a family vacation to Texas! This was not normal for us... we usually go to the states for work responsibilities, but God blessed us with good ticket prices, and we were able to just relax with family for 2 weeks... and it was wonderful. :) Brian's parents came from Florida, and Julie's sister and brother-in-law came from Colorado.  It was so great to just relax together... we will be back in 2016 for our home assignment, but since we are traveling and speaking most of the time, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity to simply have vacation with family.
with Aunt Jessie and Uncle Andy
with all the grandparents at the Farmer's Market


first day of school








This has been a big year for Noah because he started school at OCSI!  He was very ready to join his brother every day, and Justin was excited to have him there.  The boys continue to grow in so many ways - academically, spiritually, and physically.  They both have a huge love for each other, school, teachers, friends, family time, and Jesus - we are all very blessed. :) 
performing in the school Christmas play together


























Brian and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary in October.  It is always so fun to look back and see the amazing adventures God has taken us on in our marriage.  I can't believe we have been overseas almost that whole time... we are so blessed and can't wait to see what happens next. :)


We also got to take another trip in October! Our region held an event for cross-cultural ministry workers, and it was such a huge blessing that our whole family got to go together.  We reconnected with many friends (who got to spend time with the boys for the first time), met many new friends, and enjoyed some time with God, away from normal routine.  Again, simply wonderful. :)
 So, what's been happening in our normal routine that we've been taking vacations from? ;) Well, like I said, both boys are in school full time now, so that was a big adjustment for our whole family... but it was a good adjustment. :)  We all have continued in our Japanese language study (even Justin and Noah!), and things at our church are going well.  It's hard to believe we've been in Okinawa 6 years!  One of the hardest parts about our current ministry assignment is how often we have to say goodbye to people.  Since a lot of the families in our church are in the military, we are rarely together for more than 3 years at a time.  While it's hard to say goodbye, God is so faithful in always bringing new people. Even though things are constantly changing (and I do mean constantly), God continues to give us his vision for our church and how we can show God's love to the people of Okinawa, no matter how long (or short) we have time together. :)
annual Trunk or Treat on Halloween

annual women's Christmas progressive dinner

Father/child park day
Our church also did something new at Thanksgiving this year.  Many Japanese people are very curious about Thanksgiving, so we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our Japanese friends.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship and an opportunity to share interesting parts of American culture and the hope and life we have in Jesus.
LOTS of great food!

fun conversations in English and Japanese








God also continues to provide opportunities for relationships outside of our church activities.  For the last few years, Brian has attended the OCSI high school camp as a sponsor, and he loves the chance to interact with the students and teachers.









I was also able to teach another Motheread class to parents at OCSI this last fall.  We had a wonderful time building relationships, working on English skills, and just sharing life together.












We have also started to have monthly gatherings at our house for young adults from our church and the other Nazarene churches on Okinawa.  We have prayer and Bible study (sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English, and sometimes in both languages) and eat and play games together.  It's a great chance for us to support and encourage our Japanese Christian friends, and it's a good venue for them to invite other friends to who want to practice English. :)

Well, even though this is insanely long, this was actually just a brief recap. :)  I'll try to be better this year about posting more regular updates.  But we are very thankful for the amazing and abundant life God continues to give our family. While things are busy and we are always learning, God reminds us of his love in so many ways... thank you for all of you who pray for us!  You are a BIG part of what God is doing in Japan... we're just privileged to be along for the ride. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring!

It's May!  When 2015 started I looked at the calendar and thought this will be a nice, uneventful few months before summer... well, let's just say I was very wrong. ;)  While the last few months have been wonderful, they have been anything but uneventful!  Here's a little recap of what we've been up to...

March began with a short trip to Tokyo and Osaka! We spent a couple days in Tokyo with dear friends from seminary that we hadn't seen in 6 years.  Two days was definitely not long enough, but it was such a blessing to be together again.  








Then we took the bullet train (SO fun!) to Osaka for the Japan Nazarene District Assembly.  It is always great to see the other pastors and families and have opportunities to practice our Japanese.  This assembly was also special because our friend Anderson got ordained. We are so grateful Anderson and Jana are serving in Okinawa with us and it was so meaningful to be part of this time in their lives. 
 After assembly we spent an extra day in Osaka for some family time.  We love exploring Japan! :)




As soon as we got home, life was filled with preparation for new and fun events.  The first was at Justin's school.  As a follow-up to the Motheread class I facilitated last fall,  the PTF hosted a 4-week Family Reading Campaign for the elementary school.  We had a kick-off assembly, decorated the library, held weekly competitions to encourage families to read together, and ended with a Family Reading Night event for students and parents.  It was a lot of work but I was so grateful to be given the opportunity to work with my passions (literacy, family support, even planning, etc.) at a school I love to support.  Many of the moms from our Motheread class helped with all aspects of the campaign, and it was so fun to work with the teachers and provide ways for families to have meaningful and positive interaction at home.  And now that we've done it once, next year will be a lot easier. ;)








 

The other fun event that happened during the Family Reading Campaign was something new we did for Good Friday at our church.  We normally serve a dinner and have a Good Friday service.  But this year we had prayer stations set up throughout the church, and people could come any time throughout the day.  The prayer stations followed the crucifixion story from Luke and each station had a different topic with reflection questions and a focused prayer time.  It was very meaningful and we are excited to use it again in future years.  



And of course normal life has also been happening.  We're thrilled the weather is getting warmer so we can spend time together at the beach and our awesome parks.  School will finish the second week of June and we're very ready for summer vacation!




 Thank you always for your prayers for our family.  God continues to teach us every day how to love others like he does and depend on him for everything we need.  We will update more soon!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

God's Promises - Weeks 7,8,9

Well, I'm obviously a little behind on sharing a promise of God that I'm thankful for every week!  But our schedule hasn't been normal recently, so I'll use this time to catch up on my promises and fill in some of the amazing things God has been doing.

A couple weeks ago I was privileged to attend a Thrive retreat in Thailand.  Thrive is an organization that supports women serving around the world.  It was an absolutely incredible time - resting, refreshing, and I really feel some of the reflections God brought were life-changing for me.  So the first promise I'm thankful for comes from the scripture our speaker used at the retreat...

I Peter 1:6-9:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

There are so many great things in these verses, but I am so thankful for the joy that comes from God. Peter writes about this inexpressible joy as he is talking about trials... difficult trials and tests.  And as I reflect on the past year of my life, it has been filled with a variety of trials and tests.  One thing our speaker challenged us with is to remember that trials are temporary.  Joy doesn't come from our circumstances, it comes from our standing with Jesus.  It comes from Jesus himself, no matter what is going on around us.  And I am so thankful for that joy - I need to remember this in many aspects of my life... joy does not come from my circumstances, it comes from Jesus.  And I am so thankful for His joy!
view from my room at the retreat
Mangos!!! This brought back wonderful memories from the Philippines. :)

The second promise I'm thankful for is God's gift of community.  Last week we studied community in our church women's Bible study, and we were looking at the relationship of the trinity in John 17.  But as we read these verses, they suddenly took on a new meaning for me.

John 17:20-26

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

I have studied these verses numerous times and still feel challenged and inspired by how Jesus talks about unity and what it means to be one with each other.  But I think it can also refer to the unexplainable bond that is found among followers of Jesus.  At the retreat we were put in small groups and we met each day to reflect, share, and pray together.  I was simply in awe of the incredible bonds that God brought the women in my group after only knowing each other for four days.  And there is no other way to explain it except that God brought us together, helped us be open with each other, and created relationships that will extend far beyond the time we were physically together.  I am so thankful for God's gift of community and gift of 'oneness' with those who love and follow him.




 And, speaking of God's gifts... I am so thankful for gifts that God gives us.
Matthew 7:11 - If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Tomorrow morning our family is flying to Tokyo to see friends we haven't seen in almost 6 years!  These friends are another example of incredible community that happens in Christ.  We were together in the Philippines and I don't know how we would have survived seminary without them. :)  We have meetings in Osaka this weekend but decided to take an extra couple days to spend time with friends.
At our seminary graduation 6 years ago!
 So I'm thankful for God's gifts of community, connections, refreshment, friendship, and of course, my incredible family... Brian and the boys had lots of fun while I was gone, but it was very special to come home and be greeted by these... :)