Sunday, August 21, 2016

Our kitchen is functional!

Today’s coffee: Tanzania

Has it really been two weeks since construction on our kitchen started?? By Tuesday night (August 9) the kitchen was functional again, and I started unpacking the kitchen on Wednesday… all kitchen boxes had been unloaded by Saturday! (This is a big deal... we've already been living in this house for 2 months...)

Our house. The old kitchen is sitting on the sidewalk. (Not our car, by the way. We have a Forester, which is in the garage.)
End of day 1 construction: new drywall and back-splash; new insulation underneath!
The state of things when we came home from class on the second day.
Main part of the kitchen is finished and functional! (Except that we have a propane take sitting in our kitchen until Thursday...)
Meanwhile, our friend, Shino’s dad, Inoue-san has been building us a bar counter. Around cabinets that match the other side of the kitchen, he is attaching red cedar paneling (from BC!) and the counter itself is gorgeous red Onko wood (Japanese Yew), which comes from an ornamental tree which we also have growing in our yard. Inoue-san is cutting all the paneling pieces to size by hand--he has mad skills with the hand saw.

Installing the frame of our bar counter
Attaching the counter itself
Lots of clamps and braces... and a cooking magazine. We're living here, after all.
Clamps came off... so pretty! Now we just have to do something about the ugly wall...
Current status: red cedar paneling in progress.
The idea is to make our kitchen more than just functional--friendly and welcoming so that when friends come over, they feel like they can walk right into the kitchen to hang out while I’m cooking, or relax at the bar counter having tea or appetizers. We’ve had a few friends in our house even while things are under construction, and the counter already seems to draw people in.

Another exciting part of the kitchen is the DISHWASHER. We have a (tiny) dishwasher!! They are becoming more common in Japan, but most people still don’t have them. We had a friend over last night, and being able to put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher made such a huge difference in my ability to be present and relaxed. I can already see how the combination of a more open kitchen and dishwasher will make showing hospitality so much easier. (After a movie night with the youth group, it would usually take the two of us more than an hour to wash all the dishes.)

Keith starts the dishwasher for the first time!
We’re still waiting for the range hood and for propane tanks to be permanently installed outside, since we’ve chosen to have a gas stove. Right now we have a temporary fan and a propane tank sitting on the kitchen floor. We’ll also need to paint, since the walls… have 40 years worth of grime on them… yeah. We’re thinking red, and possibly part of one wall with chalkboard paint. But painting the kitchen is rather low priority. First we need to finish the bedroom, and probably next move on to the two rooms with flaking wallpaper and rotten tatami…

In the midst of all this, we are continually reminded that this kitchen, while being in our house for our use, is not only for us. This kitchen is a gift from God so that we can welcome people into our home.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Learning to Wait

Today’s coffee: “Hana” blend--that’s the signature blend at the new Tokumitsu shop (right next to church!! First visit!!)

It’s Monday, but I needed to get out of the house. Right now all the parts of our old kitchen are sitting out on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, three guys are busy in the kitchen replacing the insulation and messing with the pipes and wiring. Tonight there will be no kitchen, so we will eat leftovers out of the fridge, which thankfully didn’t need to be moved out of the kitchen.

Out of focus, but here's what things looked like this morning.
When we came home from class, this was in progress. We learned that Japanese houses are built quite differently than American ones. (Keeping the awesome 1970's lamp.)
Also, the bedroom is still in process. Keith is busy making preparations to paint… still. It’s been quite the task ripping down the wallpaper. The only other place I could retreat to is the “tea room” where we are currently sleeping, and which is hot as a sauna, since we thought it might rain, and thus closed the windows before we left for class this morning.

It hasn’t rained yet, but it needs to. Not that we are hurting for water, but the air is hazy and kind of stinks like it did a few years ago when there were forest fires on a neighboring island. Rain would be nice, to wash away the haze and maybe cool things off a bit.

A few weeks ago in class, I wrote a poem about waiting for rain. As I wrote, I recalled last summer in Seattle, when haze and stink from the seemingly endless fires in eastern Washington drifted west into the city. We waited and waited, but the rain didn’t come. And yet, at the same time, we knew that in Seattle, there would be no autumn without rain.

My poem, however, didn’t work very well in its original form. The idea of waiting for rain in the summer seemed obvious to one such as myself, having experienced many US west coast summer droughts. In Japan, summer means rain, but that rain doesn’t always bring relief from the heat. “It’s already hot, and you want it to get humid too?” a Japanese reader might think.

Thankfully, my teacher suggested a very descriptive word (炎天下 entenka) which fit both the necessary syllable count and the feeling I was trying to get. It literally means “under the burning sun.” Here are the first and second drafts, for those of you who can read Japanese. Let me know what you think. I’ve had some suggestions from another poetry-writing friend, so I will probably make some more changes later.

Draft 1:
浮雲が (Ukigumo ga)
空飾るのに (Sora kazaru no ni)
空頼み (Soradanomi)
心、かさかさ (Kokoro, kasakasa)
雨、いつ降るの?(Ame, itsu furu no?)
(A floating cloud decorates the sky, but it’s a fleeting hope. My heart is dry. I wonder when it will rain?)

Draft 2:
炎天下 (Entenka)
心かさかさ (Kokoro kasakasa)
空頼み (Soradanomi)
浮き雲ひとつ (Ukikumo hitotsu)
雨、いつ降るの?(Ame, itsu furu no?)
(Under the blazing sun, my heart is dry--fleeting hope. There’s a single floating cloud; I wonder when it will rain?)

I think perhaps the second version expresses more hope than the first. I probably felt better after talking through the poem with my teacher, so perhaps that’s why it ended up that way.

I’ve written lots of poems about perseverance and waiting. It would be nice if it rained today, but more than rain, we’ve been waiting for the new kitchen to go in so we can unpack… so we can cook… so we can start inviting people over to eat with us. We’re waiting for a lot of other stuff too. I’m learning (not always gracefully) to be content with where I am while at the same time not giving up on eventually getting to where I want to be.

Monday, August 01, 2016





  • きゅうり 675g
  • 玉ねぎ  2個(小)
  • にんにく 4片分
  • 粗塩   25g(野菜の3%)
  • 氷    適量
  • A:
    • リンゴ酢   240㏄
    • 砂糖     240㏄
    • ターメリック 小さじ1
    • 粒マスタード 小さじ1
    • セロリシード 小さじ1/2
  •  ディル  小さじ1/2


  1. きゅうりを5ミリの斜めの輪切りにする。玉ねぎは縦半分に切ってから、4ミリの千切りにする。にんにくは3ミリのスライスにする。(好きな野菜を是非加えてください。人参もおすすめです。)
  2. 1をガラスのボールに入れて、上に粗塩(野菜の3%)を振り掛けて、上に氷を敷き詰める。そのまま一晩置く。
  3. 2をざるにあけて、水気をきる。
  4. Aの材料を大きめの鍋に入れて、弱火で混ぜながら砂糖を溶かす。中火にして、煮立ったら、3を入れる。また煮立ったら、弱火にして、10分煮る。火を止める。ディルを入れて、ひと混ぜする
  5. 消毒した1Lの保存瓶に入れる。冷蔵庫で3,4か月以上持つ。


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Participation, Attendance, Service (and coffee)

Today’s coffee… was at school. 3 cups was probably too much. But considering the number of mistakes in my translation-work pre-coffee…

Speaking of coffee, it’s been hard to get to a café to write lately, since I’ve been in Japanese class every morning (and there’s a coffee pot always on, hence today’s 3 cups). By the time I get home, I’m too tired for the next several hours to do anything other than sit on the couch and stare out the window. Thankfully, Keith has finished peeling the annoying lace-patterned film off the living room window, so now I look out on a garden full of wildflowers, bamboo grass, boulders, and trees. (I think it was worth renting this house just for the garden…) So by the time I recover enough to go out to a café, it’s too late to drink coffee (and I already had 3 cups… I do want to get some sleep tonight…)

But I have been writing--a lot. Sometimes in my journal, sometimes poems which ostensibly are part of “Japanese study.” I included several poems in a short devotional talk I’m giving at our friend’s graduation from language school tomorrow. The biggest project I’ve been working on (also as part of my Japanese study) is translating my CD liner notes into Japanese. (Japanese version coming soon!!)

Translation work sucks--even though I’m just translating stuff I’ve written myself. I think it’s especially hard for those of us who are decently good at writing. Whereas I’m fairly eloquent when writing in English, in Japanese, I am not. This is frustrating. I know exactly what I want to say, and what nuance I want it to carry, and yet… Japanese is a completely different language, and some things just don’t translate. I found the same to be true when translating Japanese folk song lyrics into English for the CD liner notes.

Today I was working on the story which accompanies Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. (It’s a version of the main article in our February newsletter.) As I was expanding the explanation of what I had hoped to accomplish with my Regent arts thesis project and coming up with a translation for the title, I ran into a slight difficulty. The title is Praise the LORD with Stringed Instruments: Instrumental Music as Participation and Contemplation. After some discussion with my teacher, I translated the subtitle “器楽による礼拝への参加と黙想” which specifies that participation and contemplation happen in the context of worship. But this translation might not stick.

To give you some background, my arts thesis project was my response to a push in North American worship-leading circles for congregational participation. This has always been a big thing for us Protestants--we are the “priesthood of all believers,” so inviting everyone’s participation in corporate worship is hugely important. However, I found the definition of participation in most books I read to be troubling: most focused on doing and completely ignored being. Singing, moving, reading, speaking, and praying (out loud) were okay, but listening (sermon excepted), art which doesn’t communicate propositional truth, silent prayer and just being together in God’s presence with one's church family didn’t rate very high. Furthermore, spoken word took precedence over everything else, leaving little to no space for reflection. Therefore I explored nonverbal means of participation, especially through instrumental music, in my project. Vastly oversimplified, but that’s the basic idea.

The reason the translation of my title (and a lot of other parts of my arts thesis, if I ever get around to translating it) might not work is because, as my teacher explained, in Japanese we do not use the word participation (参加 sanka) to refer to what we do in worship. We use the word which means attendance (出席 shusseki). You don’t participate in worship, you attend worship. The most important thing is that you show up, even if you sleep straight through the service. (There was an interesting article on this phenomenon throughout Japanese society on BBC news recently. Not that I really have any right to complain about this. I was always the worst offender for sleeping in class through undergrad and two master’s degrees.)

And participation? That’s called service (奉仕 houshi), which means more like cleaning the church once a month or teaching Sunday school or taking your turn leading the service or doing your part for the church bazaar. Some kids in our youth group confessed that they didn’t want to get baptized because then they would be expected to do “houshi.”

It seems like a first step for arts ministry in Japan might be to redefine, together with my friends at church, what participation in worship looks like...

Edit: I just want to add that regardless of what it's called, many (most?) Japanese Christians do "participate" in worship. I was moved by the hearty singing at church last week. :) I'm looking forward to many conversations with friends as I seek to understand what worship means to each one.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Green Glory

First blog post from our second term in Japan!

Greetings. It's been a long time, and we're in the midst of transition. I had hoped to be "further along" with various things by this point, but various other things happened.

(Quick update for those who are interested: we decided to live in the house our friend offered, but it needs work. We moved in on June 11. New "system kitchen" to be installed in August, currently working on stripping wallpaper in the bedroom in order to paint. Finally got a car last Friday, which enabled us to get bamboo roll shades for the living room and tea room. Meanwhile, we've been visiting various churches where we have friends, brushing up on our Japanese with a 3-month refresher course, and attending the OMF Japan field conference.)

I actually wrote the following over a month ago, on the morning of my first Japanese class, as I was preparing attempting to prepare for class. At that particular moment, this experience was a huge encouragement and reminder as to why I am here and what I ought to be doing.

Being in Japan, I have grown and changed in many ways. Japan has affected my aesthetic sense. I have learned to love (and cook) different foods. Seeing the Christian faith through the eyes of Japanese friends and in the Japanese language has given me a whole new perspective on my faith as well.

Reading hymn texts in preparation for a Japanese class, I had one of those perspective-shifting moments. My eyes came to rest on word 栄える (sakaeru), which means to flourish or prosper. This reminded me of another word, 栄光 (eikou), which literally means (as in, directly translating the kanji) glorious or flourishing light, and is a common Japanese expression for God’s glory. Many other words for glory use one of these two characters. But before I learned the noun, eikou, I learned the verb, sakaeru. You can use this word to describe what a flourishing business does, but "sakaeru" is also what a flourishing garden or a tree or a person does. In fact, the faithful person in Psalm 1 who is likened to a well-rooted tree “flourishes”--in the Japanese Bible, that’s the same verb, sakaeru.

In English, the concept of “glory” in my mind was gold-colored. (I wasn’t even aware that words and concepts went with colors for me, but apparently they do.) Streets of gold, bright light, and so on. This isn't an entirely positive connotation for me, since I prefer silver and shade… which reminds me of another delicious Japanese word, 木漏れ日 (komorebi), which means sunlight filtering (literally leaking) through trees. But I digress. I was surprised when I recalled that the Japanese word for glory included the character 栄, which in my mind was definitely green. It has a tree (木) in it, after all.

My understanding of glory was that it was something blindingly bright, unapproachable, and distant. But if I think about God’s glory as expressed in the flourishing of trees that he created, then I am in the midst of God’s glory every day. God is near. His love flourishes and grows in his creation and in the lives of those who are rooted in him. I hear God’s glory in the rustling of leaves outside my window and breathe in God’s glory in the cool forest air on a hike. It’s spring (or was, a month ago when I wrote this), so the evergreen trees have bright new growth--God’s glory grows and expands and flourishes.

Maybe my understanding of God’s glory was too small, and I needed to learn Japanese to understand it more fully. To me, glory is now a lovely shade of spring green.

Speaking of hiking, here's a few pictures from a recent hike to シャクナゲ岳 (Shakunage dake, which means Mt. Rhododendron).

Shakunage dake's namesake rhododendrons, growing on top of a big rock near the peak
The trail was rather wet.
When I think of the tree in Psalm 1, it looks something like one of these.

Friday, May 20, 2016

May Newsletter

Celia and Keith Olson
Newsletter #32, May 19, 2016

Sunny birthday hike: Celia is 35!
Dear Friends and Family,

Just a few days until we are back in Japan! We’re excited… May 23!

Over the last ten months, we have spent a lot of time pondering first what sort of ministry we will do in our second term, and then, where we ought to live. Should we choose to live closer to church, or closer to where Keith will teach? As we got to the point where we needed to make a decision about housing, I (Celia) spent a lot of time during a family vacation “praying,” as in, demanding that God tell us where to live when we go back to Japan. But I eventually felt that God didn’t want me to demand answers. Time spent together with God comes first, so I quit asking questions and started listening with all my senses. God led us one small step at a time, and although we aren’t completely certain, we think we will be renting a house near church. (We’ll send updated contact information with our next newsletter.) Please pray with us as we continue to take our re-adjustment to life in Japan one step at a time.

In the midst of seeking God’s will for where to live, I wrote this reflection on our ume (Japanese apricot-plum) tree and what it means to put down roots.

Uprooted Again

Our ume tree is getting too big for its pot. We bought it thinking that we could nurture it and enjoy it in its pot until we had a place to plant it. Our dream even three years ago was to put down roots.

It’s too cold for a potted ume tree in Ishikari, so we brought it inside for the winter, where, of course, it started blooming far earlier than anything outside—in February, when the snow was still several feet deep. We brought it into the living room to enjoy its sweet scent and beautiful blossoms. Once the petals started to fall off, we put it in the entryway since it was making a mess. As we rolled it across the living room; it released a flurry of petals—hanafubuki (flower petal blizzard) inside the house!

Blooming ume tree in our living room
Our ume tree is getting too big to move. It barely fit in our car when we dropped it off at our friends’ house for them to look after during our home assignment. I want to plant it in the ground when we go back. It needs to put down roots.

But putting down roots is a dangerous business. Remember our garden? The memory of digging up all my precious plants to make way for cars still stings. All the work I did, gone. It wasn’t “my” house. I shouldn’t care; I should be flexible, I keep telling myself. But I do care, and that’s why uprooting hurts.

We OMF missionaries are pioneers: we go to the unreached, lay a good foundation, and then move on when our ministry becomes self-sustaining. And yet, I think we make light of the tremendous investment of time and energy it takes to build relationships and really get to know a community and a place, especially in Japan. Some of our Japanese colleagues have served in the same church for decades. Is our flexibility too western for our context?

There is a tension between a godly willingness to go anywhere at any time and a godly rootedness that affirms the goodness of God’s creation and life in community. My profound desire is to stay in one place and put down deep roots. I struggle to understand if this is sin and selfishness or if it is God’s call to rootedness. I have been through eight major moves since becoming an adult, but I’m not getting accustomed to it; each move seems to be harder than the last. I’m praying that this move will be the last one for a while—that we can build deep friendships and produce fruit that will last.

Prayer Points

  • We give thanks for financial and medical clearance to go back to Japan on May 23!
  • We rejoice that Celia’s concerts with Shino in March and Keith’s class at Regent went well.
  • We praise God that Pastor Takahashi’s daughters, M and A, were baptized on Easter. Please pray for their continued faith journey as A starts her first year at university and M starts work as a preschool teacher.
  • Please pray as we start up life again in Japan, especially during the first week (May 24-29) before our refresher classes start (May 30): we need to buy a car, sign up for cell phone service, register with the city, shop for appliances, and most importantly, make a final decision about where to live.
  • Please pray for our language refresher course, that we relearn quickly what we have lost, and that our studies prepare us for our new ministries.
  • Pray with us as we look for a good balance between our outside ministry commitments and our involvement at Wakaba Church. 


Tea Bowl: We have 100% Pledged Support!

We have received financial clearance. Thank you for your prayers, donations, pledges, and re-pledges. We couldn’t do this without you!

Recent Happenings

This month, we have lots of pictures!

Concert with Shino at Newport Covenant Church, March 5
Shino joins the Wilson/Olson family band!
Celia plays shamisen for "Japanese Storytime" at Japanese Presbyterian Church, where our friend, Satoru Nakanishi is the pastor.
Tea Ceremony in our living room for Pastor Nakanishi and his wife, Hiroko and Celia's parents, coordinated by our awesome teacher, Tanaka Keiko-sensei
Dinner-date with nephew, Calvin. Look how big he's gotten!
With Keith's sister, Becca after her wedding

Language Corner

This time, we would like to introduce to you the Japanese Tanka poem. It is similar to a haiku, but has 2 extra lines. The syllable count is 5-7-5-7-7. Celia wrote two for your enjoyment. Give the Tanka a try; we’d love to read your Tanka poems too!
Raindrops fall, and leaves
Quiver from gentle impact—
Lush spring abundance.
Lovely things your hands have made;
My heart overflows with green.
Tiny moustached birds
Carry twigs to build their nest,
Hidden and secure.
Heavenly father, I pray,
Please build my home close to you.

Over the course of our home assignment these last ten months, we have missed Japan a lot, but at the same time, we count many blessings for which we cannot show enough gratitude. We treasured the time we were able to spend with supporters, the gorgeous meals we shared, housing and cars, trips to visit family, being present at the wedding of Keith’s sister, fellowship and worship at church, tea ceremony and theology classes, and praying together (in person!) with friends who have interceded for us faithfully over these past five years. We thank God for each of you who have walked with us during our home assignment.

Love in Christ,
Keith and Celia

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Today’s coffee: “Sunrise” Kona (for those of you who visit Kauai, it’s the house brand of Living Foods Market—best coffee I found on Kauai!)

Today's coffee.
We’re counting the days. At this time in 2 weeks, I will hopefully be sleeping soundly at the OMF Sapporo guesthouse. Or, I might be waking up already, since it gets light at an ungodly hour at this time of year in Hokkaido. In any case, less than 2 weeks until we leave!

But first, we are leaving for Iowa today to visit Keith’s family, since Keith’s sister, Becca is getting married on Saturday! (I will be wearing my iro-tomesode kimono, which is the proper kimono to wear to the wedding of a close family member… and isn’t really appropriate for anything else. Glad I have an opportunity to wear it!)

As our home assignment draws to a close, I’d like to share with you a couple of thoughts that have been occupying my mind lately.

Last fall, I took the opportunity, at my friend, Jane’s invitation, to take a pottery class. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, pottery class would have been on it. In the midst of life-transition-reverse-culture-shock stress, whacking huge lumps of clay against the table was pretty therapeutic, as was getting my hands all covered in mess while I tried to make something beautiful… “tried” being the operative word.

My goal was to make a few chawan and a few other small implements for tea ceremony. I didn’t do too badly with hand-building, which is the method of choice for certain types of chawan. They certainly looked like the work of an amateur, but a good first effort.

Hand-built scraffito chawan, in progress
My first hand-built chawan. Not bad!
Then I had my first try on the wheel. I had watched my teacher’s experienced hands form a beautiful little chawan according to my description, so I tried to do just as she had done. She advised me not to be too picky with the shape or size of my first efforts—to call them “happenings” and decide what they will be used for after I see how they turn out. Some of our best pieces are the ones that go “wrong,” she explained. Just play around and enjoy… and if it’s really useless, just throw it (at the wall. Throwing pots. Ha ha.)

Drinking coffee during class out of the chawan my teacher made. I shaped the foot and did the glaze. (It's actually supposed to be for tea, but there was coffee, and no other cups.)
My first try was probably beginner’s luck: I managed to make a nice straight cylinder. But this “luck” didn’t last. My long, skinny fingers seemed to be a liability rather than the asset they are when I play my instruments; to my surprise, my strong cellist-fingers were not strong enough to control the clay. They got stuck and spun around, giving my perfect cylinder a couple of funny divots in its rim. My teacher, observing my work, declared that I had made a little flower vase.

My "happenings": cream pitcher, vase, and... sermon illustration?
I tried again: just when I thought I had succeeded at making a chawan, once again I caught one of my fingers in the rim. “It’s a cream pitcher,” enthused my teacher. Last try: my chawan was shaping up nicely… and then the clay got too wet and the whole thing collapsed. I decided to keep it anyway, to practice glazing (and maybe to use as a sermon illustration).

The sermon illustration. (Any other suggestions?)
I gained a whole lot of respect for my teacher, and for anyone else who can successfully use the wheel to make what they actually intend to make. I realized that using the wheel takes a lot of practice to develop strength and skill—in an 8-week course, I wasn’t going to get there. My teacher, however, had been practicing and honing her skills for years.

I also know the importance of practice. I have been practicing cello regularly since I was ten. If I stop regular practice because I’m busy with something else, my skill and my strength both decrease. Seven years ago, I started learning Japanese. After previous language-learning attempts, I’ve concluded that the best way to learn a language is to live in a country where that language is spoken, because opportunities to practice will be almost inescapable. Although I’ve been working hard at keeping up my Japanese level these last ten months in the US, I’m kind of scared to find out how far I’ve fallen…

But there’s one more thing I’ve started practicing this year: listening. Listening also requires practice, whether I am listening to God, to other people, or even to my own thoughts. I’ve learned repeatedly this year that before I demand that God give me answers to some problem I am trying to solve, I need to spend time with him, remembering who he is and what sort of relationship we have. There have been many big decisions to be made this year, and all of them seemed to take especially long—probably because I needed to first learn to listen. And I’m sure I will re-learn this lesson many more times.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Introducing the OMF Blog, and my Q&A post

Today's coffee: Kauai Coffee, Poipu Estate (Just a few more weeks, and I'll be back at Tokumitsu!! And great news: they've opened up a new shop, right next to our church. Praise God...)

Not much blogging going on around here. I've been writing a lot, but mostly my own personal thoughts as I sort out some stuff about going back to Japan--mostly about where we're going to live. Nothing blog-worthy (yet).

One recent "writing assignment" was a Q&A for the OMF blog about arts ministry in Japan. It was helpful to write this, because I was able to summarize my past ministry, my hopes for future ministry, and also opportunities to serve and pray in a pretty concise format. I'll probably post the whole article here later, but for now, I'd love to advertise the OMF blog, so go read it there! The focus this month is Japan, so you may find other articles that interest you from my colleagues.

While we're at it, I also recommend this article on the OMF blog about the importance of theological education in Asia. Our friend and colleague, Dr. How Chuang Chua is quoted, and HBI, where Keith will be teaching (and where How Chuang taught until his death), is also mentioned. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Sabbath means giving my work over to God

I found this today when I opened up my prayer journal (which lives on Google Docs) for the first time in over a month. I thought about sharing this right away, but I kind of didn't want "only had 3 days of rehearsal time" to deter anyone from attending the concerts... :)

Shino arrived safely one day after I wrote this. And the concerts were pretty good!

I hope you find this encouraging.

Tuesday, March 1

Shino was supposed to get here yesterday… but Sapporo winter happened. Now she’s rescheduled to come tomorrow. It’s a good thing it wasn’t today because the flights for today (which was yesterday in Japan) all got cancelled too. Praying for better weather tonight. It looks like the snow is supposed to be lighter today… don’t pull anything stupid, Jetstar.

All this has been very stressful for me. I imagine it has been for Shino as well. We’re losing 2 rehearsal days when we haven’t played together since last May.

But somehow as I was praying and griping to God about Shino getting stuck in Sapporo, I was filled with a sense of peace and the thought that this situation is an opportunity for faith in God’s strength--and I kind of got excited. Three days of rehearsal before a concert doesn’t seem like enough, but we are doing this in God’s strength, so even the impossible can be done.

Then there’s the CD project. I don’t know why I thought releasing the CD at our concert was a good idea, since it meant I got very little sleep last week. I waited to long to order labelled CD’s, so we ended up having to do lightscribe at home. That was really the only option without buying a whole new printer. But it’s old technology… and not compatible with Windows 10 as advertised. Suffice it to say, I spent about 4 hours yesterday trying to get the stupid drive to talk to my laptop. It wouldn’t. Thankfully Dad has Windows 7 on his computer, so he has it working. 2 discs successfully labelled! 98 to go… One of us will be sitting by the computer all day feeding it discs.

But last night when I went to bed, we still hadn’t gotten it working, and in the process of updating settings on my laptop in a vain attempt to get the lightscribe drive to work, the keyboard stopped working for a while, and then some of the buttons got messed up. With the whole project up in the air, I didn’t sleep well.

(Actually, the whole project was not up in the air, just the possibility of having the discs look slightly more professional than writing the title on them with sharpie. My pride was at stake, that’s all.)

Worry crept in again. What if Shino’s flight gets cancelled again? We’d have to cancel the concert. Anger, too, directed at my stupid computer’s inability to talk to the lightscribe drive. Desperate for sleep, I forced myself to pray, repeatedly giving Shino’s flights, our rehearsals, the concert, the CD, the lightscribe drive, and everything else into God’s hands. I repeated Deuteronomy 31:8, which is also the lyrics to one of the songs on the CD, over and over in my head: “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” I reminded myself of the peace I had felt the previous evening.

In the midst of worrying and wakefulness, this thought came into my mind: “Sabbath means giving my work over to God.” Yesterday was Monday, which is usually our day off (Sabbath). I would not have had a day off if Shino had been here, but I was getting one, to my surprise--the silver lining in the cloud. Sabbath is about resting, of course. But I’m not going to be able to rest without allowing God to be Lord over my work, and over the rest of my life too. I can’t do this alone. I lack the strength. I drifted off to sleep as I gradually relinquished control of my various tasks and stresses.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Music and Stories

Today’s coffee: Street Bean Belltown Blend (but right now I’m drinking Burdick’s Hot Chocolate!!)

Everything always takes longer than I think it will. I thought it would be okay to release the CD on the same day as the concert… and ultimately, I managed it. However, it took several very late nights in a row, a lot of frantic emails with friends in Japan who were helping me with translations and such, a lot of fussing around with MS Publisher, even more fussing around trying to make a DVD/lightscribe burner talk to my Windows 10 computer (it wouldn’t), and many visits to kinko’s… followed by frustration that all the italics in the booklet has mysteriously disappeared and the pictures had moved around. At that point, I gave up trying to fix anything else. (It’s a good thing, too. I fixed the pictures and italics before printing the second batch, and it took about 4 hours…) I wouldn’t have gotten it all done if Shino hadn’t been delayed by 2 days due to a snow storm in Sapporo… which was a stress of a whole different magnitude.

But it’s all done now, sort of. The concerts are finished! We did it… despite having only 3 days to rehearse! I handed out a whole bunch of CD’s at the concerts, sent links to download for the tech-savvy, and mailed out a whole bunch more CD’s. I am very nearly recovered and caught up from the month in which nothing got done that wasn’t urgent. Now I just need to translate the booklet into Japanese. That will be an easy task… ha ha.

The concerts were pretty good, despite lack of sleep and short rehearsal time—one of our better performances, I think. It was cool (and encouraging) that a wide variety of friends came to the concerts, including people I hadn’t seen for a long time. Our concerts took on a similar format to what we usually did in Japan: I chose the stories I wanted to tell, then we chose pieces to fit the stories. This time Shino played a solo piece and told her own story, too. I thought she would speak in Japanese with translation, but she decided to speak in English—as she put it, there’s less of a barrier with the audience that way. (Now Shino has a lot of sympathy for what I usually have to do!)

Shino and I had fun being together and playing together—I was reminded again what a blessing our friendship and partnership has been. When it comes to music, two is definitely better than one (unless you’re playing unaccompanied Bach).

After the concerts were over, of course we went and did all the things I never get to do unless we have out of town guests. I’d never been to the Chihuly museum before. Fun times! I had a huge adrenaline letdown during lunch at Ivar’s. After that, I couldn’t eat normally for several days… so tired…

Thanks for praying for us! Things went really well, despite some setbacks, which we managed to overcome. (I didn’t mention that one of the piano’s jacks broke during dress rehearsal…) I’m looking forward to our next steps when we’re back in Japan!

And now, Celia and Shino's crazy Seattle concert photo album! Enjoy!

No time wasted: we started practicing right away! Here we are in my parents' living room, rehearsing with my great grandmother's piano!
How to cure jet-lag: get sprayed in the face by a massive waterfall.
Jingis Khan! Shino brought the sauce.
Concert #1 at Newport Covenant Church. Of course we had to get our signature shot with the two of us sitting on the piano bench. (This was the piano I took lessons on when I was little.)

Shino gets to tell her story!
We also played at church the next morning.
Concert #2: Japanese Presbyterian Church!
Our friend, Satoru Nakanishi is the pastor there. We studied together at Regent. Since it's a Japanese church, we did the whole program bilingually. (Satoru is an awesome translator... I would know.)
This church is so gorgeous. It's so Seattle, and so Japanese. It would fit really well in Hokkaido, I think.
Concerts are over... time to take Shino to our favorite Seattle spots!
Space Needle, as seen from the Chihuly gallery
Lunch at Ivar's, of course!
Standing in line with the rest of the Japanese tourists at the original Starbucks...
Cherry blossom season! Shino was lucky... they were super early this year!
We had to get a family picture, of course.
Last activity before going to the airport: walk in the woods near our house!