Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oh yes! He did!

My sweet husband does love me just THAT MUCH!!!
Last Monday was my birthday.
John always makes me a birthday cake.
It is always delicious!
This year he also prepared my birthday breakfast.
Those of you who read our newsletter (posted below) got a bit of the story behind the breakfast. I thought you might like to see the finished product - just before we devoured it!! The platter was slathered generously with freshly whipped cream, the lovingly cut waffle letters were placed on top of the cream, Reeses's Pieces were strategically sprinkled around (I love pnut butter!) and it was all finished off with a drizzle of warm vanilla butternut syrup.....

Then it was off to morning class for the Chef.
I am off on Mondays so stayed home doing pretty much what ever I felt like ;-)
John got back just in time to take me out for lunch.
We went to a shop that had all-you-can-eat pizza, plus a pasta dish, salad and beverage.
Then, before my Sweetie had to head back off to more classes, he whipped up this taste treat for later after he got back home.

 I had been telling him not to make a cake because with just the two of us here we would never finish it - his cakes are never on the smaller end of the scale.
Also, on the evenings he has later classes we usually don't have a real dinner, rather just some sort of snackie type food to tide us over.
So he opted for a cream cheese 'cake', and a ritz cracker side dish.
With pineapple pieces and chopped walnuts mixed in, coated with walnuts, and trimmed with cherries... shaped in a heart, because he loves me so much... and with two candles - one for 'totally' and the other for 'completely'!
(his words :-) <3 )
It was the perfect end to my very special day.
Thank you God for giving us each other to share it all with!

I received phone calls, emails and more FB wishes than I could count.
God is so great and blesses me so much more than I can ever imagine.
Thanks to all who make my life special by being a part of it!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feb. from Nagano

God’s Blessings to you Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
            I don’t know about you, but for us the year is going by TOO FAST!  Can you believe it, February is almost over!  I kid my students that Christmas will be here soon.  This time of year is a time of uncertainty to so many Japanese people and because of that also for us.  The school and business year conclude at the end of March and restart the first of April.  Japan is very much a ‘transfer’ country as MANY companies transfer workers every 3 to 5 years.  We have a difficult time justifying the transfers, but it is accepted by those here.  The trouble is twofold. First, it is common for the company to give the employees less than 1 month notice of transfer. Can you imagine?!  Your husband comes home March 10th and tells you, ‘hey honey, we are moving to Osaka and we need to be there by March 30th’!  Now you are forced to do many things; pack, find new housing, new schools for the kids and close out and reopen so many accounts!  We are not sure why they give such short notice, but it does take away the element of worrying!  THERE IS LITERALLY NO TIME!  The second and, to us, most troubling problem is that when the children enter junior high school the mother often refuses to transfer with her husband.  Thus the families are separated to the point of the mother and children living in one location and the father living in another and having the opportunity to visit only occasionally throughout the year!  It is so sad, and really difficult for us to understand.
            Now of course we don’t have to worry about transferring, but the schools here do the same as companies.  Every 3 to 5 years the teachers rotate to different schools.  The same is true for them, they usually don’t know until the end of the school year (March 15th) where they will be teaching on the 1st of April.  Normally they try to keep the transfer to a distance of less than 45 kilometers so they don’t have to move, but there is so much uncertainty.  Unlike in the states, a teacher here (elementary school) teaches the same group of kids for 2 to 3 years depending on the school.  For instance if you have 30 students this year as a first grade teacher, next year you have the same 30 students and teach them as a second grade teacher, and in many schools, you will continue with the same 30 the third year.  Very difficult for the teachers as every year they have to teach a new grade.  This years 6th grade teacher maybe next years 1st or 3rd grade and so on.    
            In the high schools, children must take entrance exams to each school, and these tests are not universal but different for each school.  The children are allowed to take the test 2 times, and also can take exams for entrance to private high schools, just in case they fail the entrance test to the public schools.  This is where our uncertainty comes in.  Kim teaches at 3 elementary schools and one private high school.  Presently the schools don’t know what teachers will be coming/going, or in the case of the high school how many 1st year students.  Now mind you, school will be starting in just over a month!!!!!  The 3 elementary schools have set their schedules for next year, but unfortunately one school demanded to change English to Friday, a day Kim presently had another school.  Luckily, that school was willing to reschedule to Tuesday.  The unfortunate part there is Tuesday was when she had 6 classes at the high school.  Since they don’t know how many students they have coming, or how many classes, they have NO IDEA whether they can schedule the classes on either Monday or Thursday.  So we will live with the uncertainty of Kim’s schedule until the end of March, only a week or so before school starts!  The trouble with that is, it doesn’t leave anytime to find any alternative classes.  So please pray that the high school will be able to schedule the classes for either Thursday or Monday next year.
            As you know, we use ‘The Raven 4 God’ as the title of this letter, plus for our email address.  We relate so well to the ‘raven’ as mentioned in the bible.  In Leviticus, the raven is called one of the despicable birds.  Well, like all of us, we definitely often feel that we are probably despicable in many of the choices we have made in our lives, and definitely not worthy of His wonderful love, yet so thankful for His unfathomable grace.  When you read the story of Elijah (my favorite prophet), God chose the raven as the bird to feed him.  So we can easily relate to the fact that God chose us (no matter who we were or are) to feed (spiritually) His people.  The final use of the raven comes in the story about worry.  God even takes care of the ravens, so certainly He will take care of us!  PRAISE GOD!  That is SO TRUE!  As for most people, our main stimulus for worry often comes from financial concerns.  For us, we are concerned yet DON’T WORRY about that!  Like the ravens, God continually takes care of each and every need that we have!  It is so INCREDIBLE!  We have so many examples of needs that have been supplied often by people we don’t even know!  So concerning Kim’s work next year we don’t worry, we know that God has a perfect plan….whether it’s teaching or giving her more time for outreach, it will all be in His perfect plan and with His perfect timing!  The same holds true for EACH OF YOU!!!!
            The last couple of Sundays we have been talking about the ‘Joy of being a Christian’ and how Satan tries to steal that joy EVERY DAY!  This past week, I had a stark example of how it worked against me.  Now, we don’t worry about the big things, but it is amazing how even the smallest things Satan can use to try and cause worry in our lives.  Last Monday was Kim’s birthday, and I always make a cake for her.  Well, Monday she is home and I have classes most of the day, so there was no time for the surprise cake!  So I decided I would use waffles and cut them up into letters and make her breakfast with waffles spelling out     ‘H B-DAY KIM’.  It seemed so easy, and we had frozen waffles in the freezer!  Cool! For many nights I laid in bed thinking how I could cut the square waffles into the right sizes and shapes to spell out the birthday message.  I worried about how many, how long it would take and how to make the B and D with the square waffles.  Many nights, my mind was thinking, robbing me both of sleep and the basic joy of surprising her Monday morning.
            I woke up Monday morning, Kim took her shower, I was checking my mail and news on the internet, not worrying about the waffles, it was taken care of!  (at least I thought).  After her shower, as we do every morning we read our devotionals together, listened to a couple of chapters from the bible and prayed together.  Now it was time!  I went downstairs to get the waffles and start my creation!  I opened the freezer, reached into the box and found ROUND WAFFLES!!!!!!  So don’t waste time worrying!  God can use the smallest things to teach us NOT TO WORRY! 
P.S.They came out GREAT!!!  
By His grace, God continues to equip us for every challenge and opportunity that He presents. 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.  In addition to our needs, if your heart leads you to send us financial aid for the 3/11/11 victims please make a note with your love offering that it is for the on-going disaster relief. Thank-you all so much for your prayers and giving hearts.
We hold you always in our hearts and prayers with praise and thanksgiving.            
In His love & always walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch   

Monday, February 18, 2013

If I want to...

Today is my birthday.
It's been a very wonderful day of being shown and reminded of how super blessed and much loved I am. My heart is happy!
For some unexplained reason, since early this morning this little ditty has been replaying itself in my head....
It's my birthday, and I'll smile if I want to, smile if I want to, smile if I want to...
You would smile too if it happened to you!
I know - not the way the original was written - but I rather like this version ;-)
It was snowing lots when we awoke today and has continued all day. I've sort of just enjoyed watching those flakes fall and gather together to cover everything in their beauty. Makes me think of the way God's grace and blessings continually fall all around us, covering us with His wonderful and pure love.
For all that I have and all that You help me to be I thank you!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Difference

After ten years, there are still lots of moments when I stop and wonder just how it is that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose us, to "go out into the world" and help spread His word. Just another in the long line of examples that He does not choose the equipped, rather He equips those He chooses!
As in all things in life our experiences here have their ebb and flow. There are times when there are many, many people joining in the activities we hold/help with, and times when we think maybe we must've forgotten to tell anyone else. It's the life of a missionary. And although we still have to remind ourselves once in awhile, it's all part of God's big picture. He uses every single opportunity to achieve His purpose and we are merely vessels He places in His plan. Whether the group is many or few God is always there!
The Tuesday Bible Study that John leads was the two of us, the Pastor's wife and one church member when we first came to Nagano. In time it grew to more than 20 regular attendees! Recently it has dwindled some for several different reasons; transfers, kids schedules, health issues, work schedules...     In the group that regularly attends now there are a few that have been coming for several years. At least four members, that are not yet Christian, really believe in the Bible and the story it tells, yet for different reasons haven't taken the "leap of faith" to become Christian. We continually pray for each one.
For John it sometimes gets very personal. (Not only for the Tuesday group but also the Sunday service he leads) Meaning that he listens to them each week and watches them and how they respond and react to the readings and to their questions and answers. He spends lots of time with God to determine how to deliver the message each week to reach the members and help them hear the answers they are searching for.
Sometimes God gives him a glimpse of the positive difference he is making. This week was one of those times. He shared with me how the day's message had touched the group, and one member in particular. She became emotional and felt she should excuse herself. This is a normal response here. Emotion is not something openly expressed as a rule. As she got  up to go out, John got up, walked over and told her he thought she just needed a hug - and gave her one - then sat back down..... and so did she! She DID need that hug! That reassurance. God's love! She thanked him later and told him how much it means to her to be there each week and how it is helping her in her daily life.
I wanted to share this with you because I know it is often a struggle to realize that in Japan missionaries are needed and make a difference. For this person, on this day, one missionary made a difference! A postive difference in letting her experience God.
We thank you each for the prayers you pray for us and what we are here for. Every single prayer makes a difference! God hears them all.
Wishing you blessings,
as we are, walking before Him