Sarah Joy Albrecht

Japanese Azuki Pepsi: Red Bean Paste Flavor

Oct
31

God is Everywhere

Oct
31

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My children were in kitchen, washing dishes and having a theological discussion on God’s omnipresence.

Micah, four years old, said, “I’m standing on GOD! I’m sitting on GOD!”

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Unemployed, Broke and Scared: A Prayer for Heather

Oct
24

Recently on Facebook, I reconnected with my friend Heather from college.

We shared the same women’s dormitory, Hauser Hall. She lived across from me. Fun-loving, always smiling and with a slight edge, she brought levity to shared classes and to our residence.

We chatted about great memories like doing up our hair for the Christmas Banquet, as well as scary ones – like when a paramedic had to be called because she had an allergic reaction and her throat closed. (Obviously, she’s still with us!)

As we caught up on ‘where we are now’, her story broke my heart.

She was unemployed, unable to pay bills, and was really struggling. Heather was coming to terms with some things in her past, but combined with her current situation, it was all overwhelming her at once. She couldn’t sleep. Her nighttime was my daytime, so I talked with her until Facebook Chat became to get too flaky to continue.

Not wanting to end the conversation, I wrote her a note. I prayed as I wrote, and jotted down my prayer. I imagined I was sitting right next to her, holding her hands in mine as we prayed together.

Today, she IM’d me with this news:

I am now working 4 days a week as a nanny and my boss is amazing. She is an old family friend and told me if I EVER need to take out a loan towards my paycheck she does not mind at all because she knows me and believes in me. That was such great comfort! I was about to lose my cell phone cause I could not pay the bill and instead she added me to her plan where I only have to pay $10 a month. I can honestly say I think about you every day and what a huge blessing you were that night because I was at a COMPLETE breaking point.

My eyes filled with tears as I read this. To get such a wonderful answer from God! And, to be working for someone so kind and giving! We only want what God has in store for us… nothing else is as good.

I asked Heather if I could share my note to encourage my readers who are in a similar situation during these hard times. She said that she didn’t mind at all, and that I could use her first name.

Dear Heather,
Send me your resume, and I’ll help you brainstorm.
Get some rest!!!! ♥

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for my friend Heather. It is so good to reconnect with her! Thank You for not giving up on her in hard times, but instead drawing her close to you. Thank you for your mercy to all of us. It is humbling to recognize sin and to repent of it – thank you for sending your son to bear our sins so that we can even do this in the first place. Thank you for the encouragement of Heather’s honesty and transparency. So many times, we try to pretend that all is well when it is not, but you know our hearts.

You are the keeper of all of the money in the world (Haggai 2:8), you made all of the food in the world. You have the power to move mountains and change the hearts of kings. Lord, I ask that you please provide for Heather’s needs during the time of hardship – financial and even basic needs like food.

Please show her the job that you would have her to do – we only want what you have in store for us, not things because we forced them to happen. Help us know when to push for things, and when to be patient and to wait on you.

Lord, please comfort Heather and keep her faith strong. Help her to physically rest, as she rests in you. In the words of Victor Hugo, “God is Awake”. You are handling things even while we sleep.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

If you’re reading this and need some hope and encouragement, please send me an email. I’d like to help if I can. It’d be an honor to pray for you, too.

Remember, as Heather did, the Bible says, ” You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. ” (1 Peter 5:5-10)

Photo Credit: Syna and Summer by Hlkljgk via Flickr.

Fan Dance in a Secret Garden

Oct
22

For the past two months, my children have been running in from playing outside to report that the landlady was at it again — fan dancing, that is.

“How do you know?” I asked one day.
“Oh, we were watching her through her window!” said Aiden, with matter–of–factness.
“Eek! Yeah, um, how about you not look through other people’s windows!” I scolded, knowing they probably couldn’t help themselves. My children wouldn’t have had to crane much, while they rode their bikes down our shared driveway, to see inside the ground-level windows, often open to let in the breeze.

Secretly, though, I wished to see her, too.

Athough she’s a farmer’s wife, and occasionally helps in the fields, Sasaki-san, my landlady, has a certain poise about her. Her hair is always neatly coiffed, and she daintily walks her white fluffy Coton de Tuléar, Lamb (pron. “Ra-mu” here), down the driveway to visit with her husband while he works in the fields or under his blue tarp-covered gardening tent.

One sunny day after days of rain, while I was pinning my laundry to the line, she brought me a small poster about a neighborhood rice-harvest festival on October 4th.

She was speaking in Japanese, and kept pointing to herself and then to a time on the event schedule. I had understood the word “matsuri”, but not much else.

She paused for a moment to think. Then, she started air-fan dancing in front of me! (I am so thankful for her patience and mercy towards me!) “Hai, wakarimashita!” She was going to perform a fan dance at the festival and was inviting us to attend.

The festival took place at a hidden little community park less than a mile from our house. Even though it was practically in our back yard, I’d never noticed it before. In the flat openness of the rice fields, unless you’re up close, the garden looks like a mere rogue clump of Japanese Maple and bamboo from the outside. Yet, nestled inside is a secret garden, boasting a quaint tea house and many stone statues of frogs… and it’s other-world beautiful.

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As we walked down the pebble paved path from the narrow road toward the garden park, our landlady shuffled in her geta over to us – clothed in a floral-accented emerald green kimono.

She was lovely, and seeing her made me hope that I age as beautifully as she.

Sasaki-san directed us to a tent-covered picnic area, with a great view of the stage. Then, she excused herself and went back stage – she was next to perform.

What’s a Girl Gotta Do To Get Some Lunch Around Here?!

Oct
16

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“Mom, I need some mac m’roni!”Leah, bursting into the kitchen at lunch time, as if she’d just crashed through some saloon doors, announcing her hunger.

October Giveaway: Japanese Obento Set

Oct
09

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(NOTE: “Obento” is the word “bento” with the “o” honorific. Either usage is fine in casual conversation, although I noticed that women use the “o” honorific more frequently than men do. I’m still learning all this language stuff, so if anyone would care to set the record straight, please do so!)

October’s giveaway is pretty nifty, if I do say so myself. (Sorry for the delay in posting – I was looking for a punch to make cute little faces with food (nori, lunch meat, thinly sliced veggies, etc.), and found a set of punches yesterday at the Great Superstore! This giveaway just wouldn’t have been complete without them! The face-maker isn’t in the original pic, but it’s included at the bottom of the photo stack for your viewing pleasure.

One of my favorite characteristics of Japanese culture is the careful attention to how things are presented to, and therefore experienced by, the intended recipient. Appealing to as many senses as possible is key and food presentation is no exception. There is no such things as boring ‘brown bagging’ here. Instead, bento, or portable food is somewhat of an art form. Aisles are dedicated to lunchbox embellishments that appeal both to the eye and palate.

Here are some favorite links for bento eye candy, how-to sites and thoughts on aesthetics in Japanese culture:

Japanese Lunch Boxes – Kids Web Japan

Just Bento: Bento Basics

Adventures in Bento Making

(Oct. 19 Update) NY Times | Beauty and the Art of the Bento Box

Now imagine making and eating your own cute creations with these:

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Flower cups

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So…. you want to win this awesome bento set?

Recently, I took a cooking poll of my readers on how they learned to cook. Ten people answered that they were self taught, versus being taught by a parent.

When asked about the importance of teaching children to cook, seventeen answered that they “see teaching cooking as part of nurturing children.”

Continuing with this thought, in order to win, please leave a comment to this post with your tips or encouraging thoughts on teaching children how to prepare food. You don’t have to be a parent to share the best idea you’ve heard or maybe an example of you cooking with someone else’s children and how you made it fun.

Maybe you have a tip on teaching a child a cooking concept – like cracking eggs. Perhaps, you have special kid-decorated aprons for each of your children. Or, maybe you’d like to share a heart to heart conversation you had about life over making brownies. Inquiring minds want to know!

From the list of comments (and yes, you have to make a comment in order to qualify!) my children will draw the winning name.

BONUS: If you mention this giveaway in your blog (send me a “proof” link) or Tweet (via @mrsalbrecht), you will get ONE extra entry. (C’mon! I know some of you get a little carried away with this stuff and I can’t keep track of THAT many tiny pieces of paper!!) PLEASE do me a small favor and post a “proof link” or copy of Tweet so I’m sure to not to miss your extra-entry qualification. (Thanks!)

My hope is that this giveaway will inspire you to help children learn to cook, and maybe, if you’re lucky, even to eat their now-cute rice and veggies!

Please leave your comment by 9PM EST, Friday, October 30th.

The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in October, 2009, you can’t enter again until October, 2010.