Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The year is 2010...

The season is Christmas!

The Reason is Jesus!!

So in Jesus name, and in God's love we send greetings of great joy to all.

Christmas for us the last few years has changed quite a lot in comparison to how we spent the season in years past.

Some of that change brings joy and some tugs at our hearts. Sometimes a bit of both.

We grew accustomed to large gatherings to celebrate Christmas. With 6 children we had a fair sized group even before any extended family joined in. It was a special time and the memories are treasures.

Jump to the present -

With John, Ian, Zack and I in Japan, the other 4 children grown up and married with children of their own and living in three different states - we're creating new memories of a different kind...sort of.

Different in that we aren't all gathered under one roof in one location.

Same in that we all care and love one another and still feel all the warmth of that love and know that no distance can rob us of our being family so long as we don't let it.

So while I know I too often let too much time slip by in between contact with loved ones, I want to take this opportunity to let each of you know that I love you and miss you and no one else will ever take the place you individually hold in my heart.

The reality of my role as Mommee and Baba these days isn't what I ever dreamed it might be, but I have to believe it is exactly as God wants it to be, for now.

I miss not seeing you. I miss not being there for birthdays, anniversaries, first teeth coming in - and falling out - just spending time together. I still believe we can be close and create memories to be cherished in future days.

My Christmas gift to me is that I will do better from my end to be better for each of you.

I know with God at my side I can.

So smile big, jump with joy and have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

...another year

Only 25 days left in this year...
I know I've said this before, and it's true, this is certainly not how - in my younger years - I ever envisioned my days being in this stage of life.
That is not to say that how my days are is bad - just quite different than I thought in my past that they'd be.
Of course if I think far enough back... there was a time when I wasn't so sure I'd ever marry, or have children...and grandchildren...a whole other thing that then wasn't even in the running.
Fast forward a ways and with my sweet husband and 6 beautiful children the 'grandchildren' ideas were a big part of those thoughts of the future. Not that I was counting then, but surely if I had been I would've seen us with a nice comfy home where we'd be welcoming in our kids and theirs - 8 grandchildren :-) so far - for family BBQ's, holidays gatherings, baking and crafts and games....
         you know, the kind of things I remember doing with my grandparents! I love those memories.
Obviously, God has His own ideas. So I find myself often reminding me that His plans and timing are always the best. Admittedly easier to say than to feel sometimes.
Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weekends... it's tough not sharing those with all the family we have there while we are here.
Still, I know in my heart that here is where God wants us for this time. Though He doesn't have to, He proves it to us in tangible ways over and over again. Repeatedly we find ourselves in situations that for us look impossible to handle...right up until the moment when whatever is needed appears.
We still are concerned, get nervous - even a little edgy over things that we don't know the answers to. Yet we do not lose our faith and trust in God and His promises.

I would dearly LOVE to spend this Christmas season (or any group of days!) with all our family gathered together! That may someday be a physical reality. It's one of those things I dream about. Until then, whenever, wherever that may be - I do my best to focus and hold on to the joy and give thanks for the immense blessings God grants us every day in so many ways.
             Some days I'm pretty successful and some I slip and struggle with.

I am incredibly thankful for today's technology that allows us the opportunity to pick up a phone and hear the voices of family and friends on the other sides of the earth! To click a spot on a computer screen and be "in the same room" with them while we visit!      
We should do it a lot more often.

Today I'd just like to say that at Christmas when so many are looking for a sign that God still makes miracles happen - HE DOES!!!! We just have to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts and every day we can see that He is still a God of miracles!!! 

As this year winds to an end I pray that each of us will take the time on a regular basis to not only ask God to answer our requests, also to give Him praise and thanks for all that He graces us with  - and to help us be more aware of it all.
May each one truly experience the Greatest Gift this Christmas season!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nagano in November

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!

It looks like the winter season, and with it the holidays are upon us! With the recent passing of Thanksgiving we have so many wonderful things to be thankful for. During last Sunday’s English service we took time to give thanks to God for our abundance that He has blessed us with. During that time I thought of you! How God has blessed us with so many wonderful family members, friends and neighbors that do so much for us each day. Most importantly we are so thankful for the abundant number of people that lift up prayers to Him each and every day. THANK-YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Here we don’t have the same type of Thanksgiving celebration. The 23rd of November is the national ‘Labor Thanksgiving’ holiday, but it is more a thanks for businesses than it is for anything else. In our town they have a large (lasting about 2 hours and close to 10,000 fireworks) fireworks display each year. They are all paid for by the different companies in our town and prefecture. It is always cold but we enjoy watching them each year. On Sunday the 28th, one of our members blessed us with a 22 pound ‘turducken’ that we prepared for the afternoon service. We had close to 20 people join us for our ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner. Probably for us the most difficult time of the year is the holidays. While many if not most of you are able to enjoy it with family, we can only be thankful that God has blessed us with children and parents that understand why we can’t be there. It’s been 2 years now for Kim and 6 for John since we have been able to return for a visit. It truly is the most difficult time. Luckily we stay very busy all the time and the end of the year is the busiest, so it helps to preoccupy us and helps keep the pain to a minimum.

On the 27th, we hosted over 30 parents from Zack’s basketball team to an American style BBQ. We are fortunate that our house is the old church, so we live in the upstairs and downstairs is mostly a large open space divided into several rooms. We have worked very hard in the past couple of years to clean it up (it was pretty much a storage area of STUFF!) and we’re so glad. With the cold weather we could easily seat about 40 people inside comfortably! Everyone had a great time and were so thankful for all of our work and effort. We had 7 layer bean dip, guacamole dip & jalapeno marinated smokies for appetizers; beef brisket, grilled chicken & sausage, pasta salad & onion shrimp salad and garlic toast. For dessert we had apple crisp! Everything turned out great and they are all looking forward to the next time we can gather together.

As we’ve told you before, sports here have no season, but they do stop for the seniors. This past weekend was the tournament for the ‘rookies’, meaning no seniors. Zack’s team easily won our prefecture again, and looks like they will continue to be the strongest in our area for at least the next couple of years. Zack and the other seniors are practicing harder than ever for their final tournament, the ‘Winter Cup’. It is held every year from December 24th until December 29th. There are 47 teams, with the winner from each prefecture invited. In our national Basketball Magazine, they had a good article about the tournament and some of the players. They had a grading system this year to rank different players. Each player was judged on 4 different categories such as shooting, defense etc. and in each category were 5 different things to be judged on, for example, shooting: 3 point, 2 point, free throws etc. Out of ALL the high school basketball players in Japan, our wonderful son was picked as the best ALL AROUND player!!!! We can’t be more proud of him.

December is our busiest month, with many different things going on. December 5th we have our community churches Christmas Party. This year the main program will be a young Korean Pastor that will be coming to sing and give the Christmas message. We usually have about 150 people attend, we hope this year will be the same.

On December 10th, John’s Monday ladies group will be having a Christmas party including their children. It is the first time we’ve done this and everyone is real excited.

On December 18th, we along with Mako will be having our annual Christmas party. Remember for Halloween we had over 180 people, so we are excited, but trying to keep our hopes reasonable as to how many people will attend. There are lots of conflicts with kindergartens and elementary schools this time of year, so we are praying for a good turnout. We always tell the Christmas story, and for many in attendance it will be the first time to truly hear why there is a Christmas.

On December 23rd we will be singing Christmas Carols at the main train station in Nagano City. We usually have between 50 and 75 people join us from different churches in the area.

December 24th starts with me having a Christmas party with a first grade class at a local elementary school that I volunteer at and that evening our candlelight service at the church.

Kim will have a chance at the 3 elementary schools and one high school where she teaches to share the true meaning of Christmas with all the kids. Here it is not forbidden to talk about Christmas, rather the schools almost beg you to tell them. So she will be looking at clever and cute ways to share the story with them. Please pray that His Spirit will lead her and guide her in the right way to help the children learn the true reason for the season. Here they don’t celebrate Christmas as it’s just another day, but all of the stores now decorate and sell Christmas items starting the 1st of OCTOBER! It is only a way to make money. Most kids receive 1 present, and everyone eats Christmas cake and fried chicken. At KFC you have to order 2 months in advance and have a reservation to get your chicken! The pickup time begins at 6 a.m. and continues at 5 minute intervals throughout the day! UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Please pray that all of our Christmas activities can be used for His Glory!
By His grace, God continues to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are necessary to our being here. We ask you to pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.

We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with praise and thanksgiving.

In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch