March 11, 2015

Four Years Later

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Japan, Just Life tagged , , at 9:13 pm by catsinboxes

There are some dates you will never forget.  Today is one of those dates.

*Originally published on March 11, 2011, at the LEX Language Project blog:

It started with a faint rumbling. I could feel the floor vibrating under my feet. Around the office, people stopped work; there were exclamations, and then everything really started shaking. Within a few moments, I was sitting under my desk and listening to the sound of cabinets and everything else in the office being shaken by the earthquake.

This was my first earthquake in Japan. I knew Japan had earthquakes, so I was a bit surprised when my supervisor told me I should let my mom know I was okay. Wasn’t this a normal earthquake?

In the hours since then, and one powerful aftershock later, I have come to understand that this was much more than a standard earthquake. In fact, this was the largest recorded earthquake in the history of Japan . . .

I was in Tokyo when it happened.  It doesn’t seem like four years ago.  In many ways, it feels like only a short time ago.

Then, and in the following days, God was faithful.  Just thinking back brings a rush of memories.  Listening to Praise You in the Storm and not getting it, on my way to work that morning.  Listening to it the next day, and understanding.

Reading Isaiah.  Remembering Isaiah 41:10.  Remembering God’s promises, and though I was scared, not being afraid.

Singing You Raise Me Up in Japanese with believers that following Sunday, joining hands and praying.  The power in that calm moment.  “Do not be afraid; I am with you.  Be not dismayed . . . I am your God.”

Four years later, and all these memories can slip, but they come rushing back.  They come on March 11.  They come at other times.  So please, take a moment, and do not forget.  Remember Japan.  And say a prayer because, 4 years later, many people are remembering this day.


April 7, 2013

Ukraine: What Did I Know?

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Japan, Just Life, Korea, Ukraine at 5:41 pm by catsinboxes

Disclaimer: This is more of a personal post than a list of facts.  For those of you interested in size, population, geopolitical status, and other such information, this will not satisfy you, but I hope to write a post more to your liking in the near future!  

As I got ready to leave for Ukraine, I considered writing a blog post about what I knew -so far- about Ukraine.  It didn’t happen; time and creativity did not meet while waiting for my flight to Kiev at Chicago O’Hare.  Once in Ukraine, there was so much to write about, so much to learn, no time for writing THAT kind of post.  Now that I am home and have had some time for reflection, I am glad I waited.  It is so neat to see how God has been preparing my heart and working in and through my trip to Ukraine.  So, let me tell you, what I did know about Ukraine.


3 Years Ago

Ukraine was part of Eastern Europe, I knew that much!  I was too busy getting ready for a trip to Korea to think about Ukraine.  Korea was another trip that had fallen into place, not as quickly as Ukraine, but it was a country that God had given me an excitement and curiosity about, the details had come together, and I was going to Korea!  Ukraine?  No, I wasn’t thinking about Ukraine.

 2 Years Ago

I had been home less than a month from Japan.  My head was too full of Japan and uncertainty to think about traveling anywhere besides back to Japan to resume an internship that had been cut short by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.  It was a time of uncertainty, so many questions as to what lay in my near future.  Would I go back to Japan?  Would I stay in the States? What would I do during the summer?  Thinking back, there were so many questions and tears, but God was at work.  He taught me patience.  He taught me to rely on His plan, a plan that would not include a return to Japan.  His plan would involve becoming a member of a wonderful church.  So life continued, summer passed, autumn came -and went- and then winter came.  And at about that time, I started to hear about a ministry, a ministry called Reece’s Rainbow which advocated for the international adoption of children with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome.  My mom had visited their website before, and as winter progressed, she did so with increasing regularity.  So I started to hear about children, a number of whom lived in Eastern Europe and Russia.

1 Year Ago

Ukraine?  Oh, I knew about Ukraine!  I had read blogs about Ukrainian adoption, I was praying for Ukrainian orphans, I had started to learn statistics and facts about the Ukrainian orphan crisis.  On March 6, I did my first blog post mentioning Ukraine.

Ukraine had separated itself from the blur of Eastern Europe.  I did have foggy recollections of what I had known about Ukraine, the Orange Revolution of 2004 was slightly familiar as were the faces of Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, but I only knew faces, I couldn’t have told you their names!  Who I could name was every child available for adoption and listed on Reece’s Rainbow in one Ukrainian orphanage.  I prayed for them, wished we could add someone to our family, wished I could do more!

And so spring passed, and days grew warmer.  I was still involved in our wonderful church, at that point serving as an interim small group leader in our youth group.  At one youth group, as an icebreaker, we were asked the question, “If you could do anything and go anywhere in the world for one day, what would you do?”   I knew my answer right away, and I almost felt guilty for having such a kitsch answer, but I knew it was true.  If I had one day, I’d go to Ukraine and visit an orphanage; I’d spend a day with the children.  That is what I would do!  (Wait, why not Korea or Japan?  I knew I needed way more than one day in each of those countries, and a trip to either was doable, while this, on the other hand, was a dream.)

Was this something that I developed of my own volition?  I truly believe God was behind it.  He is the one who gave me a heart for orphans over a decade ago.  He is the one who began to stir this love and awaken a desire to learn more and to help orphans, especially those in Eastern Europe . . . particularly those in Ukraine.

In the past year, I read more.  Pieces and facts about Ukraine began to fit together.  Chernobyl happened before my generation and I hadn’t known about it, not until following March 11 as BBC and other newspapers began ranking the situation at Fukishima with other nuclear disasters, the worst of which -to my recollections- was Chernobyl.  I’m embarrassed to admit that as I learned about Ukraine I had two light-bulb moments.

First, connecting Chernobyl with Ukraine -I had thought it was southern Russia.  (Granted, it  was USSR, but we won’t go there right now!)  Then as I learned my Ukrainian geography, came the other realization.  Wait a minute, Crimea is in Ukraine???  That’s where the Crimean War was, all those times I was reading about Florence Nightingale, the whole war was taking place in Ukraine!!!

I learned even more about Ukraine late last year, when my family become involved with New Horizons for Children, a Christian orphan hosting program.  While we hosted two boys from Latvia, many orphans in the program came from Ukraine.  So, I pieced together more, including the reoccurring fact that Ukraine had roads in need of a lot of repair!

Yes, the roads do need work!

I also learned sobering facts: statistics of what happens after orphans age out of the system, the bleak future that any orphan faces, the realities of life after the orphanage.

Early this year, when we decided to host again through New Horizons, Ukraine became more personal because Pasha was from Ukraine.

We will be hosting Pasha this summer; I can’t wait to meet him in person!

I was learning all the time, small facts, more than I could write here.     Some people speak Russian.  The trains can be bad.  The chocolate is good.  People don’t smile at strangers.  There are mountains in western Ukraine.  There are coal mines in eastern Ukraine.  The number of flowers you give someone is very important. . . . Little things, but they were adding up!

Then came the opportunity and at first the uncertainty.  I might be going!  It was so exciting, it was unbelievable, but I didn’t want to get too excited.  Then it was definite, the tickets were booked, it was actually going to happen!  The suitcase was packed, a phrasebook purchased, and a small travel guide downloaded.  Then, less than 48 hours after learning of the opportunity, I was on a plane, headed for Ukraine!  On my last flight of the day, sitting in a window seat on Ukrainian Airlines, surrounded by a lot of people speaking more Ukrainian and/or Russian that I had EVER heard before, I quickly read through my travel guide.

What did I know about Ukraine?  When it came to adoption, quite a lot.  When it came to other things, not that much.  But I learned so much on my trip, and I do not intend to stop learning anytime soon.

Soli Deo Gloria

March 11, 2012

Looking back, Looking forward

Posted in Faith, Japan at 10:00 pm by catsinboxes

A year ago I was awake after spending the night at my office in Tokyo.  I was horribly tired, and I had realized that the earthquake I had experienced was not normal.  I had seen video clips of the huge wall of water hitting the coast of northern Japan, but I had no idea the amount of damage, the loss of life.

It doesn’t seem like a year ago.  I remember so much, the big things and the little details, like the coffee I bought at the convenience store near my office.  (It was Starbucks, and I was splurging!)

I remember getting home to Wisconsin after the US Department of State recommended that all US citizens leave Japan.  I remember going to church with my family, a new church for me . . . and singing Blessed Be Your Name.  I remember tearing-up as I sang,

When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the name of the Lord . . .

You give and take away, you give and take away . . . My heart will choose to say,

“Lord, blessed be your name.”

I remember the uncertainties of looking ahead and wondering what the next step would be, wondering what the coming months would hold.

I still get questions about Japan, about how everyone is doing, about what it was like being there during the earthquake.  This post isn’t an attempt to recap what happened, it isn’t going to be an account of what Japan looks like one year after March 11th.  Instead, as I started working on this post and thinking through what I wanted to say, I realized most of all this is going to be a post about seeing God’s work in my life.

In the two months leading up to the earthquake, I belonged to Tokyo’s Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group.  We were studying Isaiah 40 and onward.  In the days, weeks, and even months following the earthquake, I’ve loved and hung onto the verses from Isaiah:

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed for I am your God.

I will strengrhen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . .

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name;

You are Mine.

(Isaiah 41:10 & 43:1)

Was that a coincidence?  I think not!  I love God’s timing and His providence.

Looking back at last summer, I remember all the uncertainty.  I remember wrestling with the fact that God was in control, the I had to depend on Him.  I wanted so badly to be holding the reins!

Now fast forward to the present.  I have learned so much!  Am I there yet when it comes to resting fully in God’s plans?  Not at all!  But I have come a long, long way.  This past week I found out what my summer is going to look like . . . I’ll be a counselor at a Christian summer camp.  I’m very, very excited!  At the same time, I am so glad that I have been relying and resting in God’s plan and not my own.

I’ve found myself being challenged in different areas, in areas that I have really not expected.  I’ve found myself constantly going back to the Gospel.  I am not perfect, I fall short so many times, but it’s so neat being able to see God’s sanctifying grace in my life.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.

~Micah 7:7

April 27, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

Posted in Japan, Just Life, Theology/Christian life at 2:11 am by catsinboxes

March 11, 2011 . . . just another Friday.  On my way into work, checking my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a link for a music video.  It was for a song called “Praise you in this storm.”  I listened to it, and I thought it was pretty good.

March 12, 2011 . . . Walking back to my host family’s apartment, I listen to the song again.  I really like it.

April 26, 2011 . . . So much going on my life, a lot of uncertainty.  While I work on this post, I listen to the song.  I’m grinning wryly because I used to be a bit of snob when it came to Christian music.  Looking back, over the past month, I can see where God has been working in my life.  I know He has a plan for my life, I know His plan is perfect, but I’m used to also having my own gameplan.  It’s not like that anymore.  I don’t know what next week will be like, where I will be in two weeks, but I know He is in control.  One verse that I love and that I often think of during this time is Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

To be honest, right now part of me is screaming, “But God, I WANT to know what’s going on!”  But the other part is saying quietly, “God, you know my heart.  You know I’m not very happy, but I know that you are in control.  Please give me strength to praise and glorify you during this time.”  And so I pray, and I write, and I praise God during this “storm” in my life.

*Looking for the right video to post, I came upon this.  It’s hard to watch, but I thought it was right.

March 15, 2011

Quick Update

Posted in Japan, LEX Internship at 6:59 am by catsinboxes

Since the earthquake on the 11th, I’ve been posting regularly on my Lex Intern blog.  I’m sorry for not updating this blog sooner. Please follow this link to my Lex Intern blog to read current posts:




February 17, 2011

Look at the Snow!

Posted in Japan, Just Life, Uncategorized at 2:31 am by catsinboxes

Two nights ago (that would make it Valentine’s Day!) it started to snow as I was heading home from work.  This isn’t a common occurence in Tokyo, not to mention the fact that the snowflakes were gorgeous, so I took lots of pictures.

Ogawa Station


Looking up the platform

It was really coming down!

Right outside the station: look at all the umbrellas!

Walking up the street . . . lots of snow!

February 6, 2011

Weekend Thoughts

Posted in Japan, Just Life at 1:32 pm by catsinboxes

Once again it’s the weekend . . . I’ve been in Japan for three weeks now, and time seems to be going by very quickly.  I keep thinking that once I get to the weekend, I will have time to post on my blog.  As you can tell, it hasn’t quite worked that way!

Reading my blog stats, I was intrigued to see that on January 27, I had 19 page views.  What happened?  I’m certainly not complaining!

In the coming week, I’ll be doing a post with pictures from around my neighborhood in Japan.  Besides that, I’ll be posting some posts that I found yesterday.  I was going through my archives, and I happened upon a few posts that I had written but never gotten around to posting.  So, I plan to post them with with notes concerning when they were written!

I’ll bring this to a close for the present.  I’m sorry it’s so short and choppy, but I do want to post something rather than nothing!

P.S.  I’m not out of touch with reality.  I realize it’s Superbowl Sunday and so . . . . . .


January 24, 2011

The Week in Review

Posted in Japan, LEX Internship at 11:11 pm by catsinboxes

Looking back over my first week in Japan, there’s quite a lot I could say. On Tuesday and Wednesday I was able to experience normal days of office work. Right now LEX Japan is getting ready to send delegate application forms to the US. My job has been to go through the forms and make sure that delegates have adequate health information. Often there is additional information attached in Japanese. One of the women I work with will translate this for me, and then if necessary, I add this to the form. It’s a fun job, involving a bit of conscise word crunching.

The LEX office

I love the environment in the LEX office, and the best way to describe it is to relate a slight misadventure of mine. On Tuesday morning, I took the subway all by myself. I was okay until I arrived at Shibuya train station. (From Shibuya I walk to the office) Shibuya is a very, very large train station, and I realized that I had no idea which way I should leave (north, south, east, or west). I found a pay phone and called the office. The lady I work with, Hiroko, told me the name of the street I needed to find and advised me to ask one of the station workers. I was a little worried because usually the station workers don’t speak English, but the man I asked did speak English very well. He gave me directions in perfect English; it turned out I was just down the street from where I needed to go, and off I went. When I walked into the office everyone (and there are at least 30 people!) started clapping! It was very funny, and I had to laugh.

After three days of work, I was ready for a fourth, but on Thursday morning matters took a different turn. I woke up sick and with the unhappy knowledge that there was no way I could head into the office. My bug, some kind of cold and fever, continued through Friday and over the weekend, making things pretty low-key!

By Saturday afternoon, I felt well enough to attend my host family’s Hippo Family club meeting. Afterward there was a party at the home of the LEX fellow for an exchange student from Korea. At the end of the party, as I was getting ready to leave, he asked me how long I was staying in Japan. I answered, “8 months”, and then I asked him when he was going back to Korea. He laughed and said, “Next week!” It made me smile; I really am here for a while!


My host family's LEX Family Club

I do feel like I’m coming along nicely learning Japanese. I still have a very long way to go, but on Saturday I was finally able to remember several phrases that have been evading me all week. There was quite a sense of achievement!

That’s all for now; come back soon for pictures that I took on a walk around my host family’s neighborhood . . .