As the past "visual merchandiser" I have become the office decorator- so far for Christmas and for New Year's. (For reference on Japanese New Year decoration customs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadomatsu). We get a fresh wreath shipped from Washington DC every year as a gift, and it was sad to take it down after Christmas! New Year's is the grand cleaning time in Japan (like spring cleaning in the states, but I think more common). It's common for companies/offices to also take part in the grand cleaning, so that's how the last day work day before the New Year holiday is spent. Then we got to go out to lunch at an Italian place and have a many course meal, as a thank you for your work/New Year's lunch from the company. I'm impressed at everyone's appetites here, I'm normal! We all finished our starter plate with bread, then pasta, pizza, fish/steak, and dessert, and espresso just fine.
This weekend I spent some time with Japanese students I met in the states who are back in Tokyo now, and then with the youth/young adult group from my church here. I'm slowly working on my grandma's packing this week, and spending New Year's Eve and New Year's with her. I'm pretty into food as you may have noticed, so even if it's just the two of us, I'm doing all the New Year's traditions. If it were just me I probably wouldn't, but it has been many years since she's been able to spend the holidays with anyone so I want to make sure she is able to enjoy every part of the holidays that she grew up with too. In the states I'm a "foodie" but here I'm average. Enjoying food is a means of connecting people and an important part of any holiday or celebration, so even though my grandma might not care as much about particularities of flavor differences and limited seasonal items, she misses those traditions that include the food. For New Year's Eve, most likely along with the rest of the country, we watched Kouhaku Utagassen, an annual Japanese New Year's music contest that covers a huge range from enka to pop, while I made a few dishes for tomorrow's feast. Then right at midnight we had Toshikoshi Soba ("year-passing soba noodles"), another tradition to eat soba noodles as a family to start the new year. I just learned this year that the long noodles represent a wish for long life. New Year's Eve is very different here; rather than parties to celebrate it is much quieter either spent at home with family or at a temple, as they ring the gong at midnight.
I talked to the youth/young adult pastor brainstorming about art ministry opportunities, and I might continue my verse interpretation type paintings in large scale in Japanese ink going along with the passages he uses for sermons. That was actually his idea, and I told him I had been doing pretty much exactly that before I came to Japan. Besides that I'll be designing fliers for events, but the painting part is really exciting! So far I've never had an avenue for using painting in church, because painting during preaching would be awful since I'm uncomfortable in front of people. There's a huge art store in Shinjuku that I'll go to as soon as possible to get supplies for Japanese ink painting. BUT one thing at a time. First: grandma packing. Second: design fliers. Third: move. Fourth: ink painting.
I've been thinking about this passage pretty much nonstop for a long time now. What specific skills/talents has God given me, and how can I use them for His purpose and other people instead of keeping them to myself? There are things I could do, things anyone can do to fulfill a need... but God made each person differently gifting them in different ways, and I want to continue to use what He specifically gave me (painting/drawing).
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
I still catch myself wishing I were the outgoing charismatic one, wishing I could speak comfortably in front of people, wishing I had different gifts, but God sees the big picture, composing each piece to have a specific function so He knows exactly how I fit in with my specific strengths and weaknesses. As long as I'm still alive, that means He's not done using me so every day is a new adventure, whether or not I'm abroad. With that in mind, I'm looking forward to this upcoming year. It's now 3 hours into 2013 in Tokyo. Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! (Happy New Year!)
I hope to live by my favorite passage:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21