Bryan’s Amazing Yard Improvements

Rocks, cement blocks, huge tree stumps, pesky moles, and lots of weeds.  These are some of the challenges that Bryan has faced in trying to improve our yard over the past two years since we moved here.  In Japan, it’s very common to have no yard or a very small one.  At our old house we had a tiny strip of gravel to call our yard, but at our new place we have a much larger plot of land around our house (though it is still a very small yard by American standards).  However, just as the house has needed quite a few improvements, the yard has been a bit of a fixer-upper as well.  According to neighbors, before we moved here the yard was a total jungle.  In order to make the place more attractive to renters, lots of the foliage and jungle-like aspects of the yard were removed, but it was still just a weed patch with moles when we moved in.  My wonderful do-it-yourself husband has turned the weed patch into a nice lawn, created a small vegetable garden space, built an outdoor storage shed, and created a lighted pathway with stepping stones.  We still have some rubble left to remove (which is not simple in Japan because you can’t just throw it away), but the yard has improved tremendously since Bryan started working on it.  The kids love having their own patch of grass to lie down on or play around on and they have become very enthusiastic gardeners and weed pullers.  Here are a few before and after photos of our outdoor living space.

Reflections on Mother’s Day

“I am thankful for Mommy because she makes great food!”  “I love Mommy because she’s an awesome snuggler!”  As we munched on the delicious chocolate cake that Bryan brought home for Mother’s Day on Sunday, these were some of the sweet comments that the kids made as they reflected on why they are thankful for me.  In addition to encouraging words from Bryan and the kiddos, I was given handwritten love notes from Austin, Ethan, and Katie which they put into the mailbox so I would think the postman had delivered them.  And, at school Katie painted a portrait of me and made a hanging decoration in the shape of a caterpillar with my face on it. 🙂  What priceless gifts!  I felt very loved and appreciated on Mom’s Day this year!!

I especially appreciated the loving words and notes from the kids because, to be honest, it’s often easy to struggle with feeling that what I do every day to take care of and nurture my family is not all that meaningful and important.  Shouldn’t I be out doing a “real job” where I can receive accolades and a salary?  In my heart I know that what I do for my family is extremely important.  I am making myself available to them, caring for their physical and emotional needs, putting bandaids on owies and cleaning up barf in the middle of the night when someone gets sick!  I am their kindergarten and elementary school teacher three days a week (actually, every day of the week) and I sacrifice my own free time, sleep, and other needs in order to give myself to them while they are young and need me the most.  But when I’m washing the same dishes and laundry day in and day out, knowing that I’ll have to start all over again tomorrow, it can be discouraging and I can wonder if what I do really matters.  So, it’s affirming when my kids tell me that I’m the best mom in the universe and shower me with hugs and kisses.  And it’s encouraging to see them starting to mature and become wonderful little people who can (sometimes) serve others and make good choices.  And some day (I hope!) they will be positive influencers in the world because they had a mom who wholeheartedly invested in their lives and made them a high priority.

A Bible verse on this topic that has encouraged me over the last ten years since Austin was born is this:

Mark 9:33-37 (NIV) 33 They came to Capernaum. When he [Jesus] was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they [the disciples] kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

It’s easy to feel like mothering is a pretty thankless job a lot of the time and it’s easy to wish for something more public, more “great”.   Moms are, without a doubt, servants to their families in many ways and I don’t know anyone who has ever told me that they are aspiring to be someone’s servant!  But Jesus says that it’s the servants of others who are actually the greatest in his kingdom.  And he says that when we welcome little children (with their constant questions, spills, messes, runny noses, bad table manners, and sibling arguments that never seem to end) we are welcoming God himself.  Wow, if I could only keep that perspective when I’m picking up toys and washing the fifteenth load of laundry or dishes for the day, I wouldn’t struggle with wondering if my job is significant or not!

I recently ran across several different online articles about the value of mothers and this one in particular was very encouraging to me about the significance of my role as stay-at-home mom to my three precious treasures.

I am also extremely thankful for my own wonderful mom who juggled working full-time with caring for my brother and me in sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances.  She is an “energizer bunny” type who is passionate about her work and the causes she cares about.  And she has always done a great job of making me feel loved and accepted by her for who I am, even when my choices have sometimes been different than what she would have preferred.  She is also an incredibly enthusiastic grandmother to our kids and a cheerleader for our family.

Thanks for giving me life and sacrificing yourself in countless ways for me over the years, Mom!  I love you with all of my heart!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.