Saturday, December 31, 2005

Alan under the 300-year-old Sotetsu tree in Kikai. Didn't know it was there. But it's been there a long time...
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Alan and Aub at Shitooke Beach.
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Alan w/ a big stick.
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Kaki, Aub, two of Aub's co-workers (Umibayoshi and Michiyo) and Erica at Umibayoshi's house, enjoying the traditional mochi food. I take it that many Japanese eat mochi around New Year's.
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Mr. Umibayoshi pounding rice into mochi w/ his huge mortar and pestle.
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Wintertime in Kikai. Friday, only the wind made it chilly, but the wind was pretty strong.
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Kaki and Erica enjoying some fresh and sticky mochi.
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One w/ Chee-tohs, one w/ a tiny orange. In the mouth. You make the call.
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At Onotsu's swimming beach, where we enjoyed a windy picnic lunch.
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Aub and Erica enjoy their latest reunion.
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Waiting for the bus on the main road in the middle of town. Ready for picnicking outta town.
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Aubrey celebrates the reception of tons of gluten-free snacky foods from friends in America. Seriously - she has months' worth of supply. Thank you thank you!
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65 minutes to go!

Howdy! As of right now, only 65 minutes remain until the end of the worl- I mean, year. And I'm sitting here w/ a full stomach. A stomach full of sukiyaki, which is a lovely dish. And also s'mores. Yes, we had s'mores tonight, w/ marshmallows melted over a gas stove. Don't laugh - it turned out OK.
Anyway, our friends Kaki and Erica are here - Kaki from Oklahoma by way of Hong Kong and Erica from Kagoshima. And we're chillin'... We got a late Christmas load of gifts from our iMPACT group in Oklahoma (thanks for all the great stuff guys!) from Kaki's luggage and since they arrived we've been having a great time sometimes doing nothing and sometimes making our own fun and sometimes doing stuff w/ island friends.
They arrived on the all-night ferry earlier than we expected on Friday, but we were able to get to the dock not too much later than when they got there. We gave them a bit of a tour of the island and we opened presents and we ate a picnic lunch at the Onotsu beach and ate a big pot o' chili for dinner. Today we went to a friend's house to see how mochi is made (basically, you take a big pot o' rice and put it in a big pestle and smash it repeatedly w/ a big fat wooden hammer) and then took a very long island tour in another friend's car. And tonight, sukiyaki, sparkling grape juice, and s'mores. Just good.Later tonight, we're following our librarian friend's tip and are going to go up to the hilltop Shinto shrine at midnight. Apparently, there is some kind of ancestor worship or whatever going on up there, and we want to observe it. We'll also probably go up to the shrine tomorrow for a while - New Year's Day is a really big holiday for Japanese people. Aubrey's boss described it this way (loose quote follows): "We go to the shrine for about 5 minutes, usually dressed up pretty nicely. Then we put some money in the money box and pray for good luck for the next year. Then we pull the rope and we're done - it all takes about 5 minutes." If anyone out there still wonders why we harbor a deep spiritual pity for these people, may I present the preceding quote as a powerful exhibit?
Anyway, we look very much forward to more fun w/ Erica and Kaki over the next few days.
Finally, I would like to call attention to (w/ a nod to the Westminster Confession of Faith's Chapter XXV, sub-point VI) this photo of Satan Claus. And all this time you thought I was making it up!
Happy New Year! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Garrett and Hunter all over Dad while Mom looks on. That is a "Yes, that's funny, and I'm also glad it's you and not me" laugh from Mom on the right.
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The Maricles and host family at Chili's. It was really weird to be in an American restaurant w/ all the Americans around. Our waitress was actually Japanese but her English was really good.
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A busy offshoot covered market section of the Kokusai Street section. We got lost in there a few times.
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An expensive kimono on display in a store on Kokusai Street. Aubrey didn't try it on.
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Part of Kokusai Street.
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The little store where we ate some actually-pretty-darn-good Indian tacos for lunch on the 27th.
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The lovely and talented Aubrey on another part of Kokusai Street.
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Alan's momentary death-by-Lego-monster on the 26th.
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Caleb, Barry, Chloe, Dede, Aub and Alan on the evening of the 26th.
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Caleb got a camouflage hat for Christmas, and so I invited him to trade me for mine for a moment. My head's just a TAD bigger, so it made for a funny pic.
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The view from the pastor's friend's balcony on Christmas morning.
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Alan and Barry on Christmas afternoon. I had just finished showing him where Kikai is on the map that I'm holding in my left hand.
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It's about 10 pm and Aubrey is enjoying a well-deserved cold creamy (and all-natural) snack.
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Our Saturday night loot in one of the Okinawa base Shopettes. Yes, Cheese Nips and Breyer's Rocky Road ice cream make great midnight snax. Only Aub could enjoy the ice cream and only I could enjoy the Nips, but you take what you can get. The gaijin on the right is Pastor Bo - it's a great shot of his back.
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The ferry to Okinawa was really big (8000 tons), over twice as big as the ferry we usually take between Kikai and Naze or Kagoshima. So we were really high over everything when we were on the top deck. This is the Naze port, just before our 4.5-hour-delayed departure.
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The Friday sun setting over Naze.
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Aubrey enjoying a caramel macchiato at the cool surfer-style coffeehouse we discovered in Naze. The barista guy (Hiro) was a surfer, too, from Osaka.
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While in Naze, we attended a volleyball tournament for Jr Hi schools (forgot to mention that in the original entry). This is the team of one of Aubrey's most-visited Jr Hi schools, w/ our friend Midori on the bottom left helping to coach. The team got blown away, but it was fun to watch anyway.
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Our Christmas in Okinawa

Time to count some blessings. As I mentioned, we went to Okinawa for our Christmas break, and we were treated like kings! It was really cool. We took our first ferry trip to Naze and hung out there all day on Friday. It was a bit boring, actually... we didn't have a bunch of ideas, but we found a cool coffeehouse and did a little shopping and just kind of walked around. We stayed at our friend's house and then took the ferry the next morning. Only it turned out to be delayed 5 hours (original departure time was 6:30 am) b/c of, I guess, bad weather and high winds. Bummer. So we got on the ferry and it left around 11 am. For 8 hours we were pretty bored, but we got to spend time in prayer and reading and relaxing and stuff. This was a pretty big ship, and they even had a shower facility, so we enjoyed that!Once we got to Okinawa, our friend the pastor sent his son to pick us up and he drove us to the pastor's friend's house where we would stay the 1st night. It turned out to be a pretty nice house w/ a really nice bed and nice furniture and stuff. We felt like we were in a Bed and Breakfast! The next morning was Christmas morning, and the pastor's wife picked us up at 10 to go to church. Yay, church! Once at Koza Baptist Church, we found it to be a large Western-style building filled w/ mostly Americans, who seemed to be quite friendly. Many of them talked to us, and apparently quite a few knew who we were. Church was really great, and the pastor was nice enough, after the service was over, to preside over the ordinance of the Eucharist, which was our 1st time in 5 months. After the service was over, we went to one family's home, who was preparing a big Christmas feast to share w/ us and the pastor, his wife, and his son. This family also has two kids, 11 and like 8 or something, and they were really cool kids. We ate and ate and then played around and enjoyed coffee on their 2nd floor balcony. We really hit it off, and the kids also enjoyed my abilities in imitating the voices of Yoda and Gollum. Yes, my throat was hurting. That afternoon, Dad, Caleb and I played Risk, which was a Christmas present. The day after Christmas, we went onto a military base and we went to the Commissary, which is similar to a non-super Wal-Mart. We got some nice stuff there, including Chee-tos and American breakfast cereal! Mmmmmmmm. I also got me a meatball sub. All this time, it was really cool to be let into this family's life w/ such love and fellowship, and that was relaxing. Walking into this Commissary store was weird b/c there were so many Americans around. It was really crazy to say, "Excuse me" when I got in someone's way instead of "Gomen" as we must say in Japanese. I gotta tell you, you hear about missionaries who retire and go back to the States to live and never fit in again, and feel really strange until they can return to the country where they spent so much of their lives. I can relate, even after just 4 months... and I remember similar feelings when I came back from France. Just a fact of life for the international traveler, I guess.Later that day, we went to the other family's house. This family has 4 kids and the father is an officer in the Marine Corps; they live on one of the many military bases on Okinawa. I am accustomed to being a little taller than most people on Kikai (though not everyone) but found myself looking WAY up at the father, who is a big guy, and really nice. They made a really nice dinner for us including BANANA BREAD (that would be Alan's favorite!) and invited another cool couple from their church small group over to hang out.It may sound a bit boring since we didn't go anywhere special in terms of touristy stuff, but we really felt refreshed by the love and fellowship we experienced.The next day Kelly the mother was nice enough to corral all 4 kids in the minivan and take us the 1hr 15min drive into central Naha to drop us off on Kokusai Dori (International Street). The drive up was crazy, not from the driving per se, but rather from entertaining and being entertained by the 8, 6, 4, and 1 year old kids. I think my favorite part was when I videoed each kid and asked them random questions to see what they would say. The results were quite good. Also, the 8 year old took some time to explain quite reasonably why I couldn't eat the 4 year old even if I really was an alien. He made so much sense that I did not go thru w/ my plan... Kokusai Street was a pretty cool place w/ tons of shopping, and we enjoyed walking up and down it. We had some Indian tacos for lunch that were quite tasty, and later on we had some real Starbux coffee. I was SO glad that this Starbux had soymilk - I really enjoyed my almond latte, and Aubrey quite enjoyed her caramel frappuccino. We were able to do some post-Christmas shopping, mostly for Aubrey's family, and we found what seemed to be outstanding gifts for most everyone, which was encouraging since I think we were kind of in despair on that count. We also found a jeweler (out of the 12 we asked) who was able to engrave the kanji symbol of our baby's name (Sora) on a pendant, which I've wanted for a month. 4 hours later, Kelly the mother picked us back up and we drove to the Chili's Restaurant on base. Wow - a bloomin' onion and a cajun chicken sandwich did wonders for my tummy. Aubrey quite enjoyed her nachos and blackberry tea, while I was singing for joy at the taste of strawberry lemonade. I was REALLY full though - I forgot how big American portions typically are. Not always, but often.
So that was our trip. I hesitate to mention the 16 hour ferry ride on Wednesday to return to Kikai, but it coulda been worse - at least the ferries were on time and we got home by 11:30 pm on Wednesday (we had boarded the ferry at 6:45 am, just to give you an idea).
Many thanks, again, to the families who hosted us! We are so thankful for the love and welcome you showed us, and for your prayers.

At any rate, tomorrow Erica and Kaki join us in Kikai. Yet more coolness awaits! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christ-mas!

The lovely lady beside me in this pic is actually away at one of the ubiquitous End-of-the-Year parties, this one for her office.
Which leaves me alone to blog! 'Cause we all know that I much prefer to sit all alone in a cold apartment and type than be w/ my beloved wife. Oh yeah. Whatever.
Anyway, that's our Christ-mas tree behind us, a store-bought plastic one that has fiber optic wires for lighting and pre-installed colored plastic ornaments. Yes, it is GHETTO. But that's what we got, man, and that's the whole thing. Thanx to friends, however, we also have some cool snowman candles, two little doll figures of Mary and Joseph, some nice-smelling candles (most of which we gave as presents to others, but a few of which we kept) and, um, what else? We also bought a wreath which we hung outside, and we took in the strings of blinking Christ-mas lights that had previously been lining our front patio and put 'em up inside. So we've had a nice Christ-mas ambience for quite some time now. Add to that the gift CD of Handel's Messiah and we're Christ-mas Central for Kikai. Now we just need an animatronic Satan Claus to move around and say "Ho ho ho! Buy stuff!"
OK, so the weather here is LOUSY. The winds were gusting to 40 knots today and the ferries were all delayed at least 4 hours in the region. Which means that, if the same holds true tomorrow, we'll not be able (read: have to) to lave on the 4:50 am ferry from the faraway town of Somachi. Oh DARN IT!!!!!!!!! You mean the ferry might be delayed and leave at 9 am rather than 5 am? Hmm, delays.
On the other hand, rough winds mean rough seas, and so we go armed w/ plenty of seasickness meds. And we're definitely praying for smoother seas and no delays the next day when we go from Amamioshima to Naha, Okinawa. The bummer is that the ferry leaves in the morning, which means that we can't sleep overnight or anything. On the other hand, even on a night voyage, the lights in the common sleeping rooms never turn out, so you have to have a blindfold, or you just have to bear the lights on. All things considered, these ferries aren't that bad, but the way they just leave the lights on is a pretty big downer. I'm not fond of the way certain older men seem to think that a ferry trip is a great chance to get schmammered w/ their buds and talk loudly the whole time. Is it just me, or does the prospect of consuming 5+ cans of beer on a rocking, pitching ship sound a bit nauseating? Maybe I just don't have the right sealegs yet. Once I do, tossing back a few cold ones on board will be no sweat. Mondai nai.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing several things, such as partaking of the Eucharist at the Koza Baptist Church in Okinawa and fellowshiping w/ other Christians and actually going to church. Should be cool. Culinary delights also await - one of our friends has promised me a loaf of homemade banana bread. Oh yeah - I like the sound of that. Also, American restaurants w/ American burgers and stuff are there. And Chee-tos (hopefully/probably). That's not to say I can't make a good burger here at home and that our homemade French fries aren't pretty dang good (especially now that we have some Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning - thanx Mom and Dadd!) or that the snack foods like chips aren't great here, but there's just sthg about an American burger sometimes. And I'm a Chee-tos freak. So there you go.

On another note, I'm glad to be done w/ the Christ-mas presentations at the schools. Glad we got to do them, and we did like 16 of them total. Oooff. But now over a hundred people know the story of the Birth of our Savior who didn't know before, so I praise the Lord definitely for that.

Finally, I take a bit of time here to reflect on our recent miscarriage, since many of you our friends have asked and certainly more wonder about it. Aubrey is 100% physically healed up and feels good. Emotionally, I am the one who more often gets sad/melancholy over the past 2 weeks (we both felt fairly sad the first week). I don't always know why, but sometimes I see Sora's kanji name or think about her, or miss Aubrey being pregnant. Stuff like that, and I get a bit somber and reflective. Aub is quite understanding and is great at comforting me, to be sure. One might expect the woman to feel more of those feelings, I guess, but that's not the case so far. But I repeat that God is really helping us to move continually to an attitude of thankfulness for the gift of 8 weeks of pregnancy and also thankfulness for His having taken her home when He did. What can I say? He is all-sufficient and all-loving.

Praise be to God for His great condescending love and grace in clothing Himself in frail human flesh so as to save us, His good creation who have occupied ourselves w/ making ourselves less and less good every day. All thanks to Jesus, the Infant Savior! See you around New Year's! Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 19, 2005

I know what I want for Christmas!

I used to wear WWJD bracelets quite a bit when I was younger, so I gotta dig it.
And I'm only 10% joking, since it is clear that the violent tendencies for Islam are a logical conclusion from its teachings. Last but not least, let me register yet further disgust for the Palestinian people, who recently fired off AK-47s into the air in celebration and handed out candy on the streets. No, I'm not talking about September 11th, though the same thing happened then too. I'm talking about when Ariel Sharon fell ill w/ a minor stroke. Is it a noble thing to celebrate in such a way when a man has a debilitating illness? Sickening.

Speaking of bombs, the bomb was safely removed from near our house. We had to leave at 9 am on the coldest day yet of the year and go to a friend of a friend's house. So it was us, 3 Chinese ladies speaking sometimes in Chinese and sometimes in Chinese-accented Japanese, and their two kids in a super-cold house w/ only this heated table covered in blankets. We sat around the table covered in blankets and tried not to think about how our legs and backs were aching (Aubrey and I, that is. Don't know how the Chinese ladies' backs and legs were holding up). Seriously, that's one thing that I can maybe get used to here, but never like - sitting on the floor so often. Can't take it.

Mon-Wed I'm going w/ Aub to her schools and we're continuing the telling of the Christ-mas story (I'm sorry, I meant to say "solstice story"). It's great b/c like maybe 3 kids/teachers have ever heard the real meaning of Christ-mas. It's sad on 2 levels. 1) Nobody teaches the kids about Christ-mas, and so they won't learn about Christ. Which means that they may never hear of the One Who can save them from their sins. 2) Nobody teaches them about OTHER religions/worldviews either. Just a thought - it's for DANG sure that my kids (God willing) will know what Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Emperor Day, etc are.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Bomb in Our Backyard, or Say Hello to the CIA Blog-Reader Bot

You'll never guess what WE get to do tomorrow!

OK, I'll tell you. We have to spend at least 3 hours outside of a 300-meter radius, whose epicenter is actually 25 meters away from our house. Why, you ask? The answer should be obvious. But for those of you who still haven't gotten it, I'll explain. It appears that a WW2 era unexploded bomb has been found 25 meters away from our house, and the bomb squad is coming to remove it. But just in case it blows up, all residents need to be out of their houses and businesses from 9 am to whenever on Sunday morning.

Merry Christmas!
OK, sarcasm over. I admit to being more than a little dumbfounded that this is happening and that this bomb has sat 25 meters away from our house for 60 years. And that it's so large that the authorities want everyone to move 300 meters away in case it detonates. Whoof. I'm VERY tempted to move my computer and other valuables to a place a bit farther than 25 meters away from the bomb's location.
We were going to go chill somewhere, like the community center, but it appears instead that one of my adult English students will take us on a several-hour driving-around-doing-whatever tour of Kikai, which beats sitting on our bums all morning.
The little comment about the CIA is just a sad doubt at all in my mind that the word "bomb" is going to register in some US Gov't blog-reading software, and maybe some agent/operative/bureaucrat will read it to make sure I'm not a wacko. In that case, Hi! Hope the weather is OK where you are! How was church last Sunday?

Just thought you all should know. Weird stuff happens even on Kikai.
Wish me luck and a smoooooooooooooth stroke tonight - I'm playing in a ping-pong tournament in Kamikatetsu (another town) tonight. Should be fun - I've never played in an actual tournament before. I went to practice on Thurs night and there were these two elem school kids there, one of whom was not a whole lot taller than the table itself. He had a good forehand though. I wish I'd been as good as he is by the time I was in seventh grade (and he's probably in 3rd).
Christ-mas is approaching - we're quite looking forward to it! And many thanks to Lana and Tak for the big box of goodies - we already gave tons of Christ-mas CDs and stuff to Aub's coworkers and students. And we very much enjoy our new Handel's Messiah CD.
Also many thanks go out to Aub's grandmother Meme, who sent me a birthday box o' bountiful blessings. Not the least of which was a box of Frosted Mini Spooners. I've always been quite partial to sugared hay.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Basket O' Kitties, or My Wife Is So Smart!

So, what’s up?
Not too much here, though it appears I may well be on the verge of writing a long blog post. Thing is, I wrote this nice post last night and then hit “Publish Post” and it promptly did NOT post. So now I have to redo it. When will I learn to type my posts out on MS Word!?!?!?!?

So this one I’m typing on MS Word, just FYI.

OK, so we posted about the pathetic state of our wild kitties and of our kitty pity last time. I’m considering all these ways I might help the kitties out – build a shelter for them, like a doghouse out of wood or something, I don’t know. Then Aubrey goes the next day and buys a laundry basket and a welcome mat-style rug. In the back porch is a covered area near our washing machine that is protected on three sides from the powerful (these days) wind and from the rain. So she takes the pretty nasty green pillow on which the kitties were formerly often napping and puts it in the laundry basket, partly b/c kitties in general just really like nappy green pillows (don’t they?) but mostly b/c they seem to be attached to it. So she was inviting them in. And it worked! Now the kitties are staying in there like all the time, and like 5 at a time sometimes! As you can see here, Tabi-Tabi, Shoyu, Satin, the newly-named Speckle (the kitty formerly known as Peng and No-Name Kitty), and Austin are cuddling for kitty warmth inside their new home. Aubrey’s brainstorm wins her the Brilliantly-Smart-Good-Call-Cutie-Pie Award for the week.

So yesterday and the day before I went w/ Aubrey to her schools in Somachi. They love us in Somachi, and we like going there even though it’s like the farthest away from our town. It takes quite some time to get there via bus. Anyway, we decided to explain the Christ-mas story to the kids in class, and the teachers were quite happy to allow us to do that. So we started off by explaining that Christ-mas is NOT all about Santa Claus. And the kids are like, “Really?” And we’re like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “Oh.” And we’re like, “Yeah.”
Clearly a deep level of English was going on.
Anyway, we explained the Christ-mas story to them. It was cool b/c at the elem school the teachers aren’t able to interpret well, and so we had to do it mostly in Japanese. And it showed us that we are making progress in the language, so that was encouraging. The kids really liked it when I played Mary and Aubrey was the deep-voiced innkeeper and King Herod. And they loved it when I was the 3 Wise Men on the camels. I would clop clop clop around and occasionally “spit” at them and they would go wild w/ laughter. It reminded me of that scene in “Aladdin” where the Genie says, “…on your brand new… CAMEL! Watch out, they spit.
Anyway, we’re hopeful that this presentation caused some to think. One of the teachers asked me in the office when Satan Claus came into the picture, and I told her. And then she was like, “Well, why is he such a big deal for Christ-mas?” Exactly. Seriously, we’re getting pretty sick of Jolly Ol’ SC, but anyway, I explained that Jesus is God and that means that we are responsible before God. SC is just a jolly old grandpa who gives us gifts and demands nothing from us. And in one of the classes, when we had opened for questions, one of the kids asked why Jesus came. Well, if you insist…

A few joyous things:
1) Kaki is in Hong Kong. We can’t wait for her to come here, and our friend Erica from Kagoshima is coming too! Coolness.
2) We get to stay an extra day in Okinawa. Instead of leaving the morning of 27 Dec, we’ll leave the morning of 28 Dec b/c there is a different ferry. We hope that we’ll be back in time to make the connection to the 2nd ferry to take us to Kikai that night. Here’s hoping.
3) I had a bad day yesterday from when I woke up to the time my first class started at 2:45 pm. And usually I don’t have a great time in my classes. But yesterday was the 1st day I really enjoyed my classes, and all 3 of them! So God used that to turn my attitude around, and I’m really thankful.

Catch you soon! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Kittypix as metaphor of Christ's mercy on us

As the weather has grown colder here in Kikai and the wind has grown stronger, our wild
kitties have not flourished. Here is today's picture of Austin, the newly-named Peng (he's the black-and-white one on the bottom of the catpile [since it wouldn't be proper to say "dogpile"], or as we say, "the pile o' kitties"), and Satin, the grey one on our left. They rested for most of the day on this spool that is behind our house. We have left a pillow on it upon which the kitties often lounge.
Today we were struck w/ a strong sense of compassion and pity for the kitties. Kitty pity. All joking aside (well, almost), these three kitties have gone from pretty darn healthy kitties to looking fairly sick and unhappy these past three weeks or so. Tabi-Tabi, for example, has exhibited mild asthma for quite some time, but now all the kitties have it. And they are all getting runny noses, and as you may be able to see, all three of the kitties pictured here have eye infections. Satin's are especially bad - they are nearly closed due to swelling and are encrusted w/ mucus. Austin's right eye is looking bad. Peng's eyes are red and his face has a few sores on it. Each's fur is looking much more matted and less shiny and clean than just a few weeks ago.
Today we gave them a whole bunch of food, which they seemed to appreciate, and yet that was all we could do. We don't know what to say to them to find out what hurts or why their energy is seemingly sapped. We don't have any idea how to fix their obviously-painful eyes. We can't communicate w/ them to let them know that they could rest inside our entry hall for a while, where it's dry and warmer, if they wanted, and that they would not be in danger inside. As it is, they are suffering.
It reminded of how we are beggars before God. We would love to become cats for a little while to extend an invitation of safety and peace to these wild cats outside our house. We could communicate w/ them in a way that they would better understand. It's an imperfect (or, more properly said, "lousy") metaphor of the Event that we will celebrate in mere days - the birth of Jesus Christ, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, in human flesh and in realtime. He went from indescribable riches to being the son of a poor carpenter. He went from a throne room where he heard praise round the clock from all sorts of angelic and beautiful beings to the dust and stench of ancient Roman Judaea, to wicked men who willfully misunderstood why He had come and eventually executed him in one of the most horrible ways possible.
Isaiah 53:5-7;

"But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth."

Strange that some stray kitties tugged at my heart today, but sometimes it's the simple things. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 09, 2005

Nearly Christmas thoughts

So what's going on?
I, for one, am glad to be in a country where it's OK to say "Merry Christmas." I won't get sued by the ACLU or fired by my company if I do. In fact, most people won't even understand me!
Well, so this week Aubrey has returned to work and she feels pretty good now.
We went out last night and got a plastic Christmas tree which has fiber optic lights on it and cycles through a cavalcade of colors, so we like it pretty well. We're gonna take the Christmas lights from our back patio and hang them inside our living room today and put out other Christmas decorations to complete the ensemble.
Kaki has left Oklahoma, carrying a suitcase full of goodies for us. Among said goodies are gluten-free cereal bars and gluten-free cereal (both for Aubrey), some long-sleeve shirts (since we don't have lots of cold-weather clothing), some Chee-tohs (for me), some Heath bars (b/c we miss them), and some other requested items. When she arrives, it will be total Christmas. Too bad she won't come until 29 Dec, but that's OK - at least she's coming! She'll be in Hong Kong for 3 weeks, so pray for her time w/ her family - only her little brother is a believer.
Last night, Aubrey was w/ a friend for Japanese tutoring, so I decided I'd go to my favorite restaurant for one of my favorite dishes (it's called "okoge" and it's to die for) and read a good book for a while. While reading, an acquaintance came out of a party room behind me and we talked for a while. I tried to explain the topic of my book (which is J Budziszewski's What We Can't Not Know, on natural law), but that proved pretty tough. Don't know if he caught it or not. Anywho, he asked if I wanted to join his party for awhile, so I said sure. Afterwards, everyone had gone on to their next destination (some kind of nightclub, I imagine) but Deki stayed there and we talked for a long time about Baby Sora, which led to the peace we have about her passing, which led to the Gospel. So we praise God for this divine appointment! We pray that he will take up the challenge to ask God if He is real that I laid before him.

Finally, we have been extended an invitation to join friends from a Baptist church in Okinawa to join them for Christmastime. We're pretty excited about it and are pretty sure we'll take them up on the offer. We'll have to take the ferry down there, which will be fairly long, but overall it should be OK as long as we eat light and take our seasick medication. And hopefully the weather will be nice so the boat won't rock UP UP UP UP UP and DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN all the time. Fortunately, the ship to Okinawa is 8000 tons, whereas the one between here and Naze (Amamioshima) is only 3000 tons. I think the larger size makes the boat substantially more stable. Cruise liners don't have very much rocking motion, I don't think, or at least not usually. That's b/c they're so big.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Our day in Naze

Tuesday was our day in Naze, our day in the sun. Except it wasn't very sunny.
We got up at like 3:45 am and went to catch the ferry boat to Naze. W/ bad weather, though, the ferry doesn't come to the port which is right near our house. Instead, it comes to the port which is clear on the other end of the island. Argh. So we had to ask our friend to take us there, which she did graciously.
Given that the weather was so windy, the seas were pretty rough. Aubrey hadn't been bothered by that on the way back from Naze last week, so she figured she didn't need a seasick pill. I knew I did and was glad to have bought some, so I rested more or less peacefully during the ride. I woke up halfway thru to find Aub coming back from the bathroom - she had been very seasick and had to, um, expel her stomach's contents several times. Poor thing. But since she couldn't keep anything down, there was nothing to do but wait for the end of the 2.5 hour trip.
Once arrived at Naze, we spent just over an hour at the hospital, where the doctor gave Aubrey a clean bill of health. That's great, b/c she's had a ROUGH week. First the miscarriage and the recovery. Just when that started to get better, she caught a bad cold for two days. Just when that started to subside on the third day, she got terribly seasick (today). Sheesh.
Having left the hospital, we just walked around Naze for a while. When we passed my favorite convenience store, called "Everyone," where they have a good bakery and these WONDERFUL sweet rolls, we ducked inside for me to grab some. Yummy. While we were resting and I was noshing on my rolls, an older Japanese man wearing older, tattered, and dirty clothes started talking to us in Japanese. He didn't seem ALL there, but he wasn't really freaky or anything. I didn't want to talk to him much, but Aubrey reminded me, "You were praying for divine appointments, right?" Good call. So we talked and found out some more about each other, and I found out a whole lot when I asked what was in his ice coffee bottle (since it was far too clear to be coffee). "Oh, it's sake," was his reply. Ah.
Anyway, I asked him later what restaurant he would recommend for lunch, and he told us to follow him, which we did w/ some trepidation. He took us to a hotel restaurant and ordered us two keihans (which we love, and which were quite good) and a big bottle o' beer. We had told him we don't drink, but the waitress brought three glasses...and left only one. So we talked some more, and he seemed quite reluctant to talk about anything more than surface level stuff. Too bad, really. We had given him a Christmas music CD and a "Digest Bible," which is a summary of the teachings of the Bible, about 25 pages or so. Anyway, he said "See you later" after a while and walked out, and we thought that was strange b/c he had offered to pay for our lunch. We protested a bit, but we've learned after 4 months here that protesting is useless. When he left, we thought that he'd taken us for a free beer. Oh well.
We relaxed and read there a little longer, and while we were preparing to leave, he returned. We said goodbye again and it turned out he HAD paid after all - I guess he was just a really nice guy. But I was pretty concerned about him, since he had downed about 16 oz of sake by 12 noon and then 20 oz of beer during "lunch," during which he ate nothing. And then when he stood to walk away, he slipped a flask of whisky into his pocket. We couldn't help but wonder if his wife's death a year ago (which we are pretty sure he said) had driven him to the bottle.
Later we sought out a cafe that Aubrey had seen during a previous visit to Naze. We did find it, which is surprising. We spent about 2 hours there - a cute place w/ pretty decent coffee and really good hot cocoa. We spent alot of time conversing w/ the owner, and it turned out he was born only one day after my dad was born, same year, same month and all! He was surprised to hear that and so we had a good time talking. It was really funny.

The weather was chilly, a bit windy and sometimes a little sprinkling rain, but generally was fine since we had adequate clothing for the weather. So except for Aub's seasickness, it was a good day. We BOTH took a seasick pill on the way back and were in good shape when we got home (yes, we went home that same night on the ferry. And another friend was nice enough to pick us up at the faraway port). Actually, *I* felt a little unsteady on my feet from seasickness the next day. I am happy to say that last night (Wed night) Aubrey felt good enough after a day of work to spend a half hour modern dancing in our living room while I was cooking dinner. That's great! So we're so thankful for her physical recovery and for your prayers!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ferry joyous occasion

For those of you who like bad puns - there's my contribution for the day.

So tomorrow we're going back to Naze on Amamioshima for a Dr. checkup for Aub. She was still feeling lousy today, but about 11.5 hours of sleep overnight and then a 2.5 hour nap and then some nice Tylenol w/ Special Ingredient Not To Be Named Here has got her feeling much better. Thank the Lord for that! She's had a really rough week, what w/ the miscarriage, the recovery, and then the cold.

The weather here is UGLY. It's been way windy for two days, w/ intermittent rain, and pretty cold. The ocean is getting all whipped up into lotsa waves. Speaking of fun waves, we're taking the ferry to and from Naze tomorrow! Which means that we may be getting into da boat at 5 am. And normally the ferry leaves from the dock near our house, and that's really nice. Unfortunately, when the weather is bad (like these days), the ferry docks at Somachi, which is the complete other side of Kikai island. Which means we have to impose on a friend to take us there and pick us up (which we do have, and which is a huge blessing!) and which means we have to get up at like 3:45 am or sthg to make sure all is ready - it's a 30 minute drive there or something similar.
And last week, taking the ferry back from Naze in bad weather, I got pretty seasick. It goes UP and then it goes DOWN. Then UP. Then DOWN. Then a little UP and then a little DOWN. Ugh. I was pretty green despite my usually-effective seasick medicine. Aubrey was in fine shape though, which is ironic, since she had been the one under medical treatment just beforehand. Hopefully tomorrow she'll be in good shape too. I'm thinking that it'll be another tough trip, based on how rough the seas were this evening.

Oooofff... not looking forward to it, but we'll see how it goes. Hopefully we can find a petshop in Naze where we can buy a larger cage for our cute little songbird.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Word of the Day

Well, it's Sunday night and we're kinda frustrated/bored.
Not that we don't have stuff to do at our house. We have a good amount of interesting books we can read. We can always study Japanese, which is usually at least intellectually stimulating. We have a nice computer w/ broadband Internet. We have playing cards. We have a guitar. We have each other.
But when there's no energy, it's hard to do that stuff. And Aubrey right now lacks alot of energy. Her body is still recuperating AND she has a cold, which is making her pretty miserable. AND the weather is really lousy outside - it's like 55 F, w/ really high winds and a bit on the damp side. So we don't want to go outside. I mean, we DO want to go outside, and we DID for about 10 minutes, but Aubrey's still-not-70% status and the lousy weather mean that we're stuck inside.
So it's kind of a junky day for us. Hope tomorrow's weather will be nicer and Aubrey's cold will be gone.
Also, I was just talking to a friend who was driving up to the highest point on Kikai in order to pray to some dead relatives in heaven. He said that the higher he goes, he guesses the easier it would be for them to hear him. But he's not really sure about it. But he's going anyway. And he's going to offer them some candy. And this is a well-educated man - a schoolteacher.
The word of the day is, therefore, frustration. Write it down.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Some lost youth

You know, theology does matter.

This is pretty much beyond words. I am sitting here asking Aubrey just what we could say to help illustrate.
I guess I'll leave w/ this from Aubrey: "Germany doesn't surprise me anymore. Just b/c their society is stable..."
Amen to that. It's really ironic that this is taking place in Nuremberg. Nuremberg, you may recall, is where the world came together to say that there is a Law and the Nazis had broken it. How the mighty have fallen!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hours of fun

If you love the Bush Administration, read this.
If you don't love the Bush Administration, read it anyway. It's pretty funny. Man, I gotta get me one of these things - it would be great for the 10-minute airplane ride to Amami next time I get over there.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Our baby

Hello all. Christ is risen!

As you have read, we made the announcement recently that Aubrey was pregnant.
Monday, however, Aubrey began to feel pain and to bleed, so we eventually took her to the hospital in Kikai and then flew to Naze (on Amamioshima), during which trip the pain and bleeding grew worse. Our baby did not survive the trip - at only 7 and a half weeks, she passed away due to a miscarriage.

Aubrey has had to endure quite a bit of physical discomfort and pain, including the labor-like contractions on the way to the hospital and the surgical procedure to remove the remnants of our baby and the baby's development from her uterus. We returned home w/ heavy hearts on Wed morning at 12:40 am and have been resting at home since then.

We are sad at our loss. Baby Sora ("Sora" means "sky" in Japanese) had already occupied a place in our hearts, though we had never known much about her, never seen her on an ultrasound, never heard her heartbeat, never felt her kick or move - she was far too small for that.

Talking to a friend after we had heard the news, our friend offered words of comfort, that Christ is risen, that Sora is w/ the Father and will never have to suffer, that God will bring good out of our pain. Then she added a qualifier: "...though all of that may seem to be empty right now..."

That, friends, is just the point. These are NOT empty platitudes. Empty is what we'll hear from those around us, most probably, in the next week or two. "It is so sad." "It will all work out." "Cheer up - you loved your baby and she knew that." "All things pass."
Empty is what the world offers, what is full of misplaced hope in whatever comes to mind, what is designed to re-direct our minds from the truth. And what could people who know of no truth about the afterlife offer in terms of comfort to the bereaved? This is precisely why Christ's "I am the resurrection and the life" is not empty but full, of promise, of true hope, of love, and of compassion.

[Aubrey's thoughts before, during and after the loss] The bleeding actually started Sunday night (light and little pain). We decided to wait and see how I felt the next day. As I did my quiet times with God, He kept bringing a lot of verses about trust and strength into my reading.
I was actually drawn to the passage in John 9 about the man born blind. The Pharisees were arguing among themselves and with Jesus if it was the man's parents or himself sinning that caused the blindness. Jesus told them that none of that was true but that the man was born blind "that the works of God might be displayed in him"(John 9.3b). Over and over that struck me but I didn't know why at the time.
As I began to get worse, Alan wasn't near me but at the store buying lunch for me. I texted him to come quickly. Providentially, the only other American on the island, Ariana (who speaks excellent Japanese), grabbed her sister-in-law who was a nurse and they drove us to the hospital. Kikai doesn't have any OBGYN facilities and I was surprised they even had an ultrasound device. It wasn't of such good quality
so, they urged us to catch the last plane (there are only three a day) to the neighboring island, Amami, to the hospital there. My pain had lessened and the bleeding was not so much but as soon as I landed in Kasari (50 minutes from Naze where the hospital was), I was in tears and was rolled out in a wheelchair to the airport entrance. Again, we were provided with another American who had not only superb Japanese but
had also had two kids in Amami and new that medical vocabulary. She drove us to the hospital. On the way, I experienced probably the most pain I have ever had. It was rush hour but no one was in a rush. In Japan, the roads are narrow and you can't really just put on your blinkers and pass...people just would slow down and cause more problems. Shelly took as many side roads that she knew to cut down the time. Each time,
I kept hearing 'trust me' over and over. The pain came in waves. I had guessed by now that the intense pain was actually contractions. I tried breathing and cried out to God out loud and silently...His presence was there amidst my pain. Alan was with me the whole time. I was admitted immediately when we arrived and after the test was done (internally), I knew. The Japanese doctor was kind but his eyes
were heavy. He spoke the little English he knew to confirm that I had indeed miscarried. As I tried to take in the blow, my body sunk into Alan's and the nurse's arms...I momentarily passed out. We stayed overnight there and it rained the whole time. Shelly was a super great help with interpreting. I think what stood out the most was that God was still there. I wasn't abandoned. He still loved me and His peace
plummeted me even deeper into an understanding about Him: He is still good, sovereign and working even though we see only darkness. His ways are higher than mine. And so, the blind man in John makes sense now. I wait to find out what wonderous works will be displayed even through Sora's death. We grieve and still are grieving but we have hope...because He has risen, so has she also; and that is the best comfort and truth I have ever known to be real-even in sorrow.