Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Every year I have wonderful intentions of getting family pictures taken and sending out Christmas cards... you know, before Christmas, but it just never seems to happen.  So this year, I'm aiming for a New Year's newsletter... we'll see how it goes. ;)  In the meantime, please click on the link above and enjoy this Christmas greeting from the Woolery family! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Happy Thanksgiving!  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch yesterday with the students from my English class and a dear family from our church.  It was such a blessing to have my students share a special day with us in our home... we are so thankful for all our friends around the world who have become family. 

We also finished our "Thanksgiving Tree" yesterday, so here's the final list of all the things we were thankful for this last month.  We had so much fun doing this together every day at breakfast...  I'm excited to make this a tradition every November. :)
Woolery Thanksgiving Tree 2011
(in no particular order)
Thank you God for...
the Bible
singing and dancing
our oven, washer, and dryer
the cars on the road
family days
our family
hearing us
your peace that surpasses understanding
our beds
old friends and new friends
your peace
macaroni and cheese from Ms. EmiLou
our bathroom
opportunities to serve
trees and branches
talking cars
our Thanksgiving tree
gifts of food
our food
candy and costumes
our 2 little pumpkins
Noah and Justin
the leaves on our Thanksgiving tree
Giraffe and Lamb

Now, it's time to decorate for Christmas! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Giving Thanks

November is a month to celebrate Thanksgiving, and this year we are trying to be good representatives of our passport country by not decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving... please understand this is very difficult for us.  After living in the Philippines, I feel like all our Christmas decorations should have been up for at least a month now (Christmas decorations hit the malls in September in Manila!).  And even here in Japan, all the stores transition from Halloween to Christmas promptly on November 1.  We're also not used to celebrating Thanksgiving on the actual day... in the Philippines, we celebrated on the weekend, because the actual holiday was just a normal work day....but since most of our congregation here gets to celebrate on the actual day, we're slowing getting back in the correct mindset. ;)  But, I recently read a book that encouraged me to cherish this special time of year even more...

If you haven't read this, I HIGHLY recommend it... it's the story of how a woman's life was changed by intentionally and habitually thanking God, every day, throughout the day, for all the big and little things in her life.  I haven't started my "One thousand gifts of thanks" journals yet,  but our family is starting a new tradition this year, thanks to this book and my recent obsession with :)

Justin calls this our "Thanksgiving Tree."  Every morning at breakfast we write one or two things we want to thank God for that day and hang them on the tree.... this is how it looks so far!
 It's been so great starting every day with this, and it's so much fun to see how Justin has embraced it and looks forward to it every morning... I'm really impressed that he's also trying to remember what has already been written down so he can think of something new every morning.  We're also really looking forward to Thanksgiving day this year.  Since the English class I teach normally meets on Thursdays, we are just going to have class at our house and practice English conversation as we eat a Thanksgiving meal!  Some wonderful friends from our church are going to help us get the food and share in our time together.  The six Japanese ladies in my class are so excited to experience this holiday, most for the first time, and I am so excited for them to be in our home, meet Brian and the boys, and share our family's traditions as we give thanks to God for who He is and what He has done in our lives... please pray for our time together, and pray that I remember how to cook traditional Thanksgiving dishes. :)  What do you thank God for today?

The amazing Justin SUPERHERO

Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon....

Friday, October 07, 2011


Right now our ladies Bible Study is reading Believing God by Beth Moore. One of the greatest things about this study is the section at the end of each day's homework assignment entitled, "Godstops". It's a time for you to reflect at the end of the day where you have seen God working in and around your life. It's a great practice to build the habit of seeing things through God's eyes... that even in the normal routines of life, God is active, and amazingly, he invites us to join Him in His work.

We've only been doing this study for a month, and of course, God is showing up and doing amazing things! Over the last few days, I have been amazed at the many opportunities God continues to give our family in our place of ministry here in Okinawa. Of course, leading an international congregation is more than a full-time job, but we've always seen that as only part of the reason we're here. We live in Japan and are striving to learn Japanese and build relationships with the Japanese people God puts in our lives. Japan is very different than Guam or the Philippines; it takes much longer to meet people and build relationships, and it can take a lifetime to learn the ins and outs of Japanese culture... but our God is so much bigger than these things! He continues to provide us with opportunities and friendships that don't fit the norm, and daily, He is overwhelming us with His guidance and grace. Here are just a few examples:

*The pictures you see are the daughters and nieces of the wonderful Japanese family who lives next door to us. They have given us such a warm welcome to Okinawa and are always so eager to help us learn how to live in Japan. Even though we saw them frequently, a few months ago, Nami-san asked me if they could come to our house twice a week to work on English and Japanese language skills with our children... not only did God put us next to this family, but they asked if we could have more time together in our home! Please pray that as we continue to share life together, they would see Jesus in our family and seek to know Him.

*As we looked at language schools when we first arrived, we were overwhelmed by the cost. Brian studied on his own for a while, and I was able to take a 3-month conversational class at a local language school, but it was just too expensive to continue. A year ago one of our church members introduced us to a Japanese minister who offers Japanese language classes and gives a discount to missionaries. Brian and I are now both taking classes from him, and the other day I realized that the money I make teaching English every month is the exact amount we need to pay for our own language lessons!

*Our Japanese teacher's nephew has been living in Okinawa the last year to study English intensively before he starts college in mainland Japan. He asked Brian to tutor him, and they have been meeting together every week for the past 6 months. Sho doesn't know much about the gospel, so together they have been studying the Bible as a way to practice his writing and conversation skills. God continues to use this time each week to draw Sho closer to Himself as he learns more about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. Please pray for Sho as he continues to search!

*Just last night our Japanese teacher introduced me to 2 college students who just returned from going to school in California for a year. They are not believers but have previously studied the Bible as a way to learn English. Since they don't want to lose their English skills, they will now be coming over to our house once a week so we can study the Bible together in English. Please pray for Ryoko-san and Erina-san as we get to know each other and talk about the difference God can make in their lives!

There are so many more stories, but I will save some of them for Brian to tell you about. :) Honestly, at times in the last few months I felt like I was in a fog and just going through the motions of life with no real meaning... but as I look back, I know people were praying for me and praying for us to keep going and keep trusting God... thank you so much for your prayers! We are partners together as we seek how God can use us right now in Okinawa. Again, God is doing so many amazing things, and we are humbled that He asks us to join Him. Please keep praying for all our friendships and interactions!

Psalm 146

1 Praise the LORD!Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;

8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Sometimes you just need to get away...

We were so blessed to visit family in the states this summer, but it was a pretty hectic time, so we never had a chance for the four of us to just relax. It's been super busy the last couple months and we were all feeling pretty tired and drained. So, my wonderful husband (yes, I'm going to brag just a little) recently informed me that for the last couple years he has been saving all his coins at the end of every day and then changing them to cash every few months. I had no idea he was doing this... I just figured he eventually spent them. :) Anyways, he saved enough money for our family to get away for a couple days, and last weekend it happened! We found a good local rate at a hotel about 30 minutes away, and we had a wonderful 48 hours together of just us, relaxing, sleeping, exploring... just what the doctor ordered. :) Even though it was cloudy, we still got in some beach and pool time... here are a few pics of our handsome boys enjoying God's blessings...

God is doing so many amazing things in and around us... maybe I'll actually post 2 blogs in a day and tell you more! I am so thankful for these wonderful boys and my incredible husband... God's blessings are overwhelming!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Typhoon days...

Well, it's typhoon season once again, and we're in the middle of a typhoon right now... literally. :) After 8 years of living on islands in the Pacific Ocean, we're pretty used to typhoons coming and going, and now that we're in a developed country where there's not much destruction at all, we kind of look forward to typhoon days... think of it as our equivalent of a snow day. :) So right now Typhoon Muifa is still slowly moving past Okinawa... as in we've been in the middle of this typhoon for 24 hours, and the winds seem to be getting stronger tonight... it will eventually move on, but here are a few pics of how we've been spending our time...
Brian and Justin have spent hours building airplanes, airports, towers, etc. with duplos (Legos for younger children) and then they eventually let Noah destroy them. :)

making pictures of trains with stamps

playing Brian's new X-plane game

watching movies

During a lull in the wind this afternoon, Brian and Justin decided to enjoy the wet weather and get rid of some energy on our back porch...

Noah wanted to join them SO desperately :)

and tonight we even watched a movie while we ate our snack-y supper.... :)
So even though we've been a little stir-crazy at times, we're really enjoying all this time at home together... but we do want to leave the house again someday... happy typhoon day! :)

Children's Fellowship with Urasoe Church of the Nazarene

Last weekend one of the Japanese Nazarene churches on Okinawa invited us to be part of a summer children's fellowship... So about 20 of our kids, youth, and parents went to their church and enjoyed an amazing evening of fellowship and making new friends!

Urasoe Church of the Nazarene

This is Tomoyosei-sensei, the pastor of the church.
We began the service by singing songs in Japanese and English, and then Brian gave a message.

After the service, we played a game where the kids started to get to know each other.... and for the rest of the evening the new Japanese/American friends were inseparable!

making a craft together...
Justin was so excited to be part of all the big kid activities. :)
And then it was bbq time - oishii!!!!

After dinner they played one more game, and it was so great! The kids were blindfolded and given a bat... similar to a pinata, but they were hitting a watermelon in a plastic bag on the ground... when the watermelon finally broke, everybody got to eat it... so fun! :)
We had such a great time making new friends, learning about cultures, and worshiping together, even though few spoke the same language... how great is our God!

Deep in the heart of Texas :)

We had such a great time with friends and family on our short trip to Texas! Things were very busy with Brian at NYC the first week and then relatives coming to visit, but it was so good to just relax and be with family. Our first visitor was my dear friend from college, Lynette, and her beautiful daughter, Morgan!
We spent our few days together talking, shopping, playing at the park, and lots more talking, of course. It was so fun to watch our kids play together and become fast friends!

riding the train at the park!

Brian also got to reconnect with friends at NYC (Nazarene Youth Congress)...
another wonderful friend from college, Josh!

He and Acy, our good friend from East Timor, represented the Asia-Pacific region.

A surprise reunion with Uncle LeBron :)

always fun times with other NYI leaders from around the world :)

AND he got to hang out with our friends from Asia-Pacific!

He had a great time, but he was very happy to meet up with us again in Texas.... and then the relatives started coming. :) We were so blessed to see Brian's parents, his brother, Justin, my sister, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Andy! So, what did we do with them? Well, Noah spent most of the trip being held by adoring family members....

And Justin almost never stopped moving... He was so ecstatic to have a yard to play in, new things to explore, and endless new friends to play with...
He learned how cool and fun Uncle Justin is...

And he got to build a bird feeder for Grandma Jill with Papa Dwayne!

He had a blast with Aunt Jessie....

playing games....

reading books...

and throwing rocks in the river!

Justin and Noah also got to meet Jonah, the adorable son of my childhood friend, Marcy... As I look back through the pictures of them together, there are none of them looking at the camera... they just had too much fun playing!
We love being with family... thanks so much for coming down to Texas to see us, but now it's your turn to come to Japan! :)