Friday, November 30, 2012

Playtime Hospitality

It never fails...every day...sometime in the afternoon...Stacia will ask if the kids can have a snack while they play. I was prepared today with VEGAN peanut butter chocolate balls.   We are also the house the kids come into for hot chocolate and games when the weather is cold and the house where they ask for drinks while they play. I love it.....

I also love Stacia's heart to bless her friends with a tangible touch of hospitality. 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

25 Days

We took some time to read the entries in the Jesus stocking from last year. We all noted Jared's additions and the fact that he is now living in TX. Zander looked up and said, "25 days until he gets here."  ::sucker punch::

We've TOLD all the kids that none of the elder Gherkins are coming home this year, but obviously Zander had not processed the information accurately.  It was so sad to watch him tear up....

There is joy in this. Corinna shared it so well, "Oh the glorious sorrow of loving well."  It is glorious. I love the fact that it hurts when we aren't together. I love that our older kids love each other enough to figure out how to meet in the middle of America to reconnect. I love that our younger ones ache to see the elder ones...but I sort of hate it too. Just keeping it real.

Via Google Images

Look what I found? Ruth, my dearly departed from Misawa  friend, had one of these and she told me she bought it at Yokota's Bazaar. I've looked every time I've been to Yokota and never found a set...but I have found a place to order it online. It's DEARLY priced...but then nativities aren't real common in Japan.  I've written to see if the company has any in stock. I don't mind if I have to purchase after Christmas. I think this might complete my Kokeshi collection - maybe.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Betty Crocker regins from on high!

Hmm....I suspected it may be difficult; but it was harder than I expected. The kids have been waiting to decorate for Christmas; we always do this the day after Thanksgiving. We haven't. Michael hasn't been feeling well and I knew he wasn't really looking forward to decorating. The kids and I decided to do it this afternoon.  I called to be sure Michael was o.k. with us doing this tradition while he was at work. 

Nolan and Arielle organized the crew to bring in Christmas stuff. We left the majority of our Christmas decor in storage stateside. A choice I'm happy we made. 

While they lugged the stuff in, I did some final measuring. There's been quite a bit of discussion about how to get a tree into our living room this year. I've been buying  furniture lately. ::snort::  All the plans involved moving a piano or an elliptical...some involved moving them all the way upstairs. Nolan was a champ and helped me put feet to my plan. We moved this just around the corner from the living room to the dining room. I was fairly sure it would all fit. 

It's always fun to unpack the Christmas books, movies and CD's. These are Stacia's picks...Arielle promptly put on the Christmas music. Then, I suspect she began to feel the "bittersweet" of this season and she put Redneck Christmas on instead...we decorated to great Christmas classics such as, "Grandma got run over by the Reindeer," and "Mama says Santa will have to leave." 

No, it's not a new religion. Stacia found one unused clue in the advent countdown from years past. 

Unpacking THIS - Jared's Christmas stocking -  which we neglected to pack off to college was bittersweet. But I held it together like a good Third Culture Kid. 

I remember when we had 11 stockings

The Jesus stocking....I found notes in there which weren't read last year...we took a surprise trip to the states. We'll read them tonight at dinner. 

Oh-oh - there seems to be a problem...but I took the challenge. I can live with this. 

Zander likes, "Cajun Night Before Christmas"

 Unpacking memories each year is fun. This is a garland with a snowman named for each of our children. We had six children when it was given to us, but Kimberly included three extra snowmen - which are all named now.  Fun to remember friends from past assignments. (They got the lights working - shew!)

I totally let the kids do this - they were great. I didn't  offer a suggestion until the very end. Arielle was insisting they space them out and put ornaments in the back...I thought maybe she should Let.It.Go. I took the challenge.

 I have written about our tradition with photo ornaments before here.  Stacia only has TWO ornaments. I promised her we'd print out the rest before December is over. She'll keep me faithful to my promise (she's already come to see if it's time twice as I've been writing this post).

THIS was a blessing to pull out each ornament and remember....but this is where it also got hard. This is the first year that NONE of the elder Gherkins will make it home for Christmas. We simply don't have the money to fly them over or fly back this year. It has turned out to be good for several reasons, which I'm sure to blog in the near future.  Since Stacia was lacking ornaments she enjoyed unpacking the older kids' ornaments...

Bre at 6 months

Krista at 6 months

I believe Arielle was having some thoughts as she hung this ornament with CARE. 

I've written about our unique tree topper here. In a nutshell the crown of thorns is a visible reminder to us that yes, Christmas is about a baby in a manger, but ULTIMATELY it's about the gift Jesus gave us, the PURPOSE for the baby in the manger, the cross and his coming Advent in the future.

The sparkly ornament was given to me one Christmas to honor a baby we'd lost....and has come to be a special reminder to me of all the babies and loved ones we've lost.

Sweet, SWEET, Bittersweet memories...Jamin at 6 months; Zander let us know he did not appreciate us telling him he looks like Jamin...because he doesn't want to be like a brother who runs 32 miles a day! 

Unpacking this one uncorked my eyes...but it's o.k. the kids know I'll miss them when they graduate. In the blink of an eye he went from his first Christmas (11 3/4 months old) to a freshman in college! 

Nolan  - such fun, fond memories
Jamin and Nolan on Nolan's first Christmas


Stacia thought this was her - but it's Krista at 4

 Josiah began buying this for me and the kids have bought each piece 

Our Japanese nativity - I so want to find a complete one....but it's unlikely

The famous Advent countdown - we'll need to determine how to use it this year. 

Michael has me trained not to hang things from doorways, but Nolan insists this will not hit him in the head! I hope not. It's HIS fault if it does! 

Yuuki's stocking - kids insisted

The corner without the elliptical. I'd forgotten we didn't bring our BIG tree from the States. 

We outgrew the mantle and so long ago adopted the "hung on your door" tradition. 
The Girls' Room

The Boys Room - complete with keep out sign

It did all fit in the dining room. Every other year, we've had two tables in the dining will make for cramped entertaining - but it's Christmas in Japan - all Americans homes are cramped.  I'm not sure I like the all-purpose dining room look; but I may like it better than the all-purpose living room look.  Maybe I'll be able to do ministry Skypes from the Elliptical. I'll certainly be able to keep an eye on school while I work out. 

I decided it was time to make new memories - enough time reliving the old memories. I suggested we bake some Christmas goodies to enjoy while we play games or watch a Christmas movie tonight. Arielle asked for something with chocolate and peanut butter. We got busy....

"Breath of Heaven" came over the system...I was instantly back at Elmendorf AFB Chapel on Christmas Eve as Bre sang this song perfectly in front of a packed house, while Corinna Williams, great with child, walked down the aisle in character. I went to the next room and gave in to emotions for a bit while Arielle finished this. I thought I was sneaky - turns out she knew. I could tell by the look she gave me. She said she remembers that night too. And earlier that season Bre sang it to a video at the PWOC Christmas Tea.

We made No Bake Peanut Butter Bars and remembered Kristin Eastburn fondly....and because I knew I couldn't resist these, we made Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter balls...which are vegan but have the same chocolate/peanut butter oats but no butter or powdered sugar and way less chocolate. In the future I think I will create a vegan Bar like Kristin's using the Peanut Butter Ball recipe without chocolate and covering with about 1/2 the chocolate.

And so...Michael will be home soon and we'll for the family and veggie soup or the last piece of coulibiac for me. I  don't have the energy to roast veggies and make the white/garlic sauce veggie pizza I'd planned. ::snort::  We'll probably watch a new Christmas Movie, enjoy our snacks and plan for the next few weeks.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Precious Friendships

I love how this photo shows Stacia and her friend, Elizabeth, helping each other to sing/read the words to Christmas Carols at AWANAS. 

You can't really see well in this photo, but Stacia's pants are BIG. It was discovered upon investigation she was wearing MY exercise pants. She had gathered them up with a ponytail holder at her waist. So cute. My friend, Dawn, commented it looked like she was wearing yoga pants....which she was.  ::grin:: My friendship with Dawn has been an unexpected joy. She "gets" my food journey, she  has been a "nutritarian" for years. She gives me timely advice, shares her wisdom freely and is always supportive; she is also plain fun. Connecting, as we hadn't in the past three years, is God-given grace gift. I love Dawn and Elizabeth. I still need a good photo of Dawn and me. 

Dawn's comment about yoga pants  reminds me of the dumbest song Tim Hawkins ever wrote -  Yoga Pants...

I realize this photo is not in focus (Must teach camera mechanics this week).  I'm determined to capture a photo of these friends before Christina PCSs in a few weeks. {Christina and Lacey are on notice  we'll have to attempt a retake next week! This is important, remember, as the printed blog is my only photo album.}  Christina and Lacey, have meant  much in my life these past few months. They've listened to bits of my "journey," they've supported me when I made the surprising choice not to teach a Bible study this fall, and we've met nearly weekly to break bread together from  Ephesians this fall.  Christina was "my" PWOC Outreach last year and is an AMAZING facilitator. Lacey is this year's PWOC Hospitality and she rocks it! She also turns the very age of our oldest daughter today. God graces me with young friends to teach me much and fill the void created by not being near our older Gherkins. Christina's Bible Study group continued to meet through the summer. In the fall, when PWOC started, she asked if anyone would like to continue meeting in addition to PWOC. I didn't think I could do two studies and continue my personal disciplines at the level I desired....As it developed, this fall I've been loving on pre-schoolers instead of teaching or participating in a study.  It's been a joy! These little guys fill  a spot in my mommy heart as I reconcile with Jared graduating and leaving home - why DO they keep doing that?  In any event, I found myself not participating in an organized study. I've prayed for a "Life Group" for years...friends to simply read the same passages and share  insights with each other...I joined Christina and Lacey. It has helped to meet my need to be "connected" to other ladies, which isn't being met as well as I'd like as I serve  PCOC (Protestant Children of the Chapel).  We aren't exclusive...due to schedules it has become just us three...and that's fine.  It's been a precious time. I love these friends.  I've grown through the insights they've lovingly shared week after week.  {PS I prayed for Christina's assignment to England, but I really don't want her move. I must remember I'm moving too and life doesn't stay the same...but just the same....I'd be happier if we all left at the same time. LOL} These ladies have truly been Jesus with flesh on for me in the past months. 

As I reread this rather sappy post, I see a couple of themes....
  • Friendships are priceless no matter your age
  • God faithfully meets our needs - often through the body - friends

May God grace you with friends who love you enough to openly rebuke when needed, to teach what you need to learn, to support and love and connect....people with which to play and spice up life. He's graced me with several deepening friendships this fall as I deliberately made time in my schedule to breathe...this post introduces you to three of my grace gifts. 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Capturing Moments

Life is moving fast. I need to snatch at some moments...capture the memories for our family journal...and I also need to go and print out more journals come to think of it. 

Smiling after her snow filled run 

I NEVER complain of trudging away on the elliptical....never! And if I should, watching Arielle come in after her morning runs puts it ALL into PERSPECTIVE! 

I was pretty proud of my Japanese homework. I had to write the romanji under the hiragana so I could READ it. Arielle is able to read it.  See the marks in the upper right? My name....I NEED TO REMEMBER THAT so I can write on waiting lists at restaurants. I've caused great consternation with my misspellings the past couple of weeks. 

The kids and I are having fun with our Advent Module in the PCOC room. We will bring this Fisher Price Nativity each week, trying to get a Christmas tree with names of Jesus on it this week too.....anyway....we had great fun watching the kids play with this. I dearly wish I could post some of the photos but I don't think the photo release covers posting on my personal blog. ::snort:: And THIS is one drawback of not scrapping and printing the many great photos of friends aren't included.  

Note the carousel behind the stable and the dinosaur about to get Baby Jesus and the fallen people....earthquakes. Love these kids. 

"Mall Rats"

Many Christmas One and All from our home to yours! 
The kids were happy to go with me to the mall. "I" thought we were Christmas shopping but it turns out we were looking for snow suits.....and were SHOCKED to find they are over $200. We finally settled on pants (not very warm but workable) for Zander and Stacia. I'll have to try to find something warmer under $200 online. Arielle got some snow pants, as they ARE needed, but they were over $200.  OUCH. Nolan was able to get some insulated coveralls from Homac.

In the end we didn't buy this one as I wasn't sure it was quite big enough. Maybe I'll go back - it was the only one in this size and this was the biggest kids' size we could find. BUT I took the photo so you could see a bit of the charm of shopping in Japan.  Do you see the sign on the back of the wall. There are little slippers provided for you to wear in the fitting room.  And....::snort:: There I am in the mirror.

You never know what you will find that strikes your funny bone when out and about. Please understand I LOVE Japan...and I'm fully aware that my translations to Japanese leave much to be desired and also often result in laughter from native speakers...with that said...

Advice to heed?

We marveled at the Ladies Boutique titled "Boys' Room" but the following photo takes the cake.....just read it....
No comment other than....::snort:: 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Ending the Weekend

We ended our Thanksgiving Down Time watching Tim Hawkin's new DVD, "Push, Pull, Point, Pow."  The DVD hasn't arrived here in Japan yet...but we bought a $5 download and played it from the lap top through our "system". Note this "big screen" is only 1/2 the size of our big screen. ::snort:: 

Sunday found us back in the full swing of Chapel life....we enjoyed both the 1100 and the 1735 services this week. 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...


This apple wasn't overly sprayed with pesticides.....I am glad it's ALWAYS Michael that finds the little friends in our food. ::snort::  It's time to make another trip to the apple stand.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Advent Helps

Please note the All Things Advent index below the tabs above. Eventually, I may create an Advent Page.

Here are a few of the things I've found this year. I'd love to hear what you've found. 

Advent Bible Study - from Good Morning Girls. This is free. It's meant to be done with your family, but you could do it alone. There are Scripture readings, S.O.A.P. pages, suggested family activities. It begins 26 Nov and ends 21 Dec with a Christmas Morning devo included.

Jesse Tree Advent Family Devotional - Ann Voskamp. This is the same package she offered last year. Also Free. These 25 daily readings trace prophecies pointing to the advent of Jesus, the Messiah. You will start in the Genesis and work through the Bible. There are readings, family devos (though you may want to summarize if your family is young), and a great set of colored ornaments to hang on your very own Jesse Tree.  In our family we tend to choose ONE devotional to do and then talk about these ornaments and hang them.....there were years we suffered from Advent Devotional Overload.....simplify. ::grin::  This is written to be used from 29 Nov to 25 Dec - but you can summarize passages and double up as needed if you want to follow the church's liturgical calendar with Advent beginning on 2 Dec this year.

Everyday Emmanuel - from the Buck Denver/What's in the Bible Folks. The same creator as Veggie Tales. We love the series.....this year they've produced a booklet you can purchase for $9.99. There are also combo deals where you can get this and the video below for $15.  This book has readings, activities, devotionals....but it takes a much more relaxed may take 3 days a week instead of 7.  Very doable for a busy family.

Why Do We Call it Christmas - We discovered this $9.99 DVD last year. It's 60 min long and covers lots of traditions and Scriptures about Christmas.

12 Questions of Christmas - links to these are included in Everyday Emmanuel, but you can find them on youtube.  Each quick clip has Clive and Ian (brothers from What's in the Bible series) covering one commonly asked question about Christmas. I'm downloading these to use in our PCOC programs at chapel. They would also be quick and fun to use at home for family circle time.

Family Inductive Bible Study  - FREE. We used this for years and it is great for older kids. There ARE coloring sheets for younger kids. Some years I've had the older kids do the reading assignments on their own and then the younger kids color the pages (making an Advent coloring book) while we all discuss the passages in our family circle. I find this to be a lot of work and some years it has been discouraging as we all fell behind...but it is a GREAT free study if you want to do it on your own, with a ladies study group, or in your family.

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Been Far Too Long!

I offer this post as proof positive I am deliberately making much more time this year for relationships, self-care and playing. 

I did something today which I've not done in decades!  I think the last time I went shopping with girl friends (no kids and/or husbands) was with Beth Bowers and Julie Orrin before Krista was born.  At 0955 the doorbell rang and Marvie and Mandy whisked me away to go SHOPPING AT THE MALL!  Just three girl friends kids, no errands, just fun.   Quite truthfully, through the years friends have gone shopping, done coffee, attended plays and not invited me. They've known how busy I am; they know I spend rare free moments with family...but this year...these two blessed me. First they invited me to go to Korea, spend 12 hours shopping and fly home. I was recovering from the flu and didn't pull it together.... but today....

We hit the mall! 
Marvie, Myself & Mandy

There is a story to this picture. It was so FUN to see a Christmas tree as we walked in the mall (see the doors in the background?) that we stopped and asked the gal there too please take our picture. She motioned for us to move on. Hmmm? We moved ahead and found THIS....guess most don't take their photos at the back of the tree! ::snort:: 

When we moved here I had one weight loss goal: I wanted to lose enough weight to be able to buy cute clothes in the Japanese stores. Marvie and Mandy encouraged me to try on some shirts and sweaters which were 30% off and guess what???? They fit...In fact I even bought some Japanese Medium.  Exciting. A whole new world has opened to me. I can't wait to go explore the rest of the mall. ::wink:: I did find a couple of shirts and sweaters. The irony is that both yesterday and today Michael has mentioned the shirts I was wearing were getting too big...but I've given away 8 boxes of clothes and I didn't want to give away any more...but now....I can replace them with clothes other than BX selections. LOL 

Yes - it is an escalator!

See that huge pile of sweaters? We found an amazing deal! Sweaters which usually sell for Y5498 and Y2498 were on sale for only Y1000 (about $13).  We spent quite a bit of time deciding which ones we wanted - there were so MANY to choose from and so many women to gift. Imagine our shock to discover they were not Y1000 - they were Y1000 OFF.  Ah, the joys of shopping when you can't really read the prices. ::snort:: 

I also discovered the MENS section had more colorful options than the women's section. There were mostly gray and brown shades in the women's department but the men had pink, PWOC turquoise, hunter green, red....I have my eye on a few cardigans... 

We got some Christmas shopping done. I was happy to find cute selections for all the female Gherkins and Shelby. I need to find something similar for the male Gherkins...but again they were 3x the cost of the female options. I'll keep looking. 

Why yes, it IS the same photo - but I wanted closer face photos! 
This was such a fun day! I was thankful Marvie invited me and Michael told me to go.  He put up outside Christmas decorations and played with the kids. 

Click for info 

The new Tim Hawkins DVD released today. I've got it downloaded, the kids are eating leftovers, Michael is putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's sermon and then we'll cuddle up and laugh ourselves silly with Tim.

This has been a very good season for us. I'm enjoying the fruit of hard choices made this fall in many ares of our lives.  In closing....

Many Christmas to you and yours! ::grin:: 

Choosing Joy!
©2012 D.R.G.
~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...