Chapter Excerpt 2
According to Plan?
Christmas Eve finally arrived. We’d been sick for the week beforehand, but managed to recover a few days prior to it. I spent that time cooking. Many traditional Christmas foods and desserts weren’t readily available in Okinawa, so I made virtually everything from scratch.
On the morning of the party we got a call from Higa sensei.
“Peter, can you play violin for one of our church members? We will be going to see him this evening, before carol singing.”
“Carol singing starts at 7:00 p.m.?” Peter queried.
“Yes. Can you play?”
“Yes, I think so.”
The call ended.
I wigged out. “Our party was supposed to finish at 7:00 p.m., and now you’re going to be leaving before it’s even over!”
“Don’t worry,” Peter said calmly. Too calmly. “Okinawans have a way of working everything out. Timing won’t be a prob—”
“Now I’ll have to hold down the fort all by myself because you can’t say no!”
I had organized this great event, but now it was in ruins, like all of my other plans of late. I’d planned to be a lifetime missionary with our former organization, then I’d been injured and undergone a long recovery, they’d cut us loose, and now the party plans were in shambles too. What was the point of even making plans?
Eventually I calmed down, resigned to the coming disaster. God was going to do whatever He was going to do. Though I didn’t see much point in making plans, I knew it was futile to fight Him anymore.
Four o’clock rolled around, and the doorbell rang for the first time. I invited our guests in, had them sign our guestbook, and gave them apple cider. Most people started arriving at 5:00 p.m. (an hour late), at which point I served dinner. We had a main course of chicken, ham, rice pilaf, honey carrots, cranberry sauce, bread, stuffing, gravy, and potluck contributions; after which we played a game with ¥100 gifts, equivalent to presents from the dollar store.
Everyone took a randomly-assigned number and then either chose a gift from the central pile or stole someone else’s. We’d been worried the Japanese would be too polite to steal, but after we went first there was quite a lot of exchanging between moms for some hand soap. At the end, the kids pulled chicken wishbones for a few leftover gifts.
Then we had dessert: chocolate truffles, candy canes, shortbread, maple cookies, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and sugar cookies with an icing-and-sprinkles decorating station. At this point, Higa sensei arrived. He and Tsuneko sensei were able to meet the new people, enjoy dessert, and join in the group photo.
After this, some of our guests made their exit. The rest went with Higa Sensei to sing at the church member’s house. It was some distance away—requiring a car ride—so I stayed at home. Peter later told me that the fellow was rather old and infirm, and not able to get to church, but was a new Christian. Greatly encouraged that they would go to him, he gave Peter two scarves as Christmas presents.
A few minutes after everyone left, Patrick showed up. He’d just finished work. I gave him dinner and dessert, though not in that order. We chatted a bit and then he left, choosing not to go carolling.
When everyone else returned from the church member’s house, we walked to some local stores and sang Christmas carols outside. It was 18°C, but our friends were all cold. After the first place, Higa sensei was ready to stop but everyone else wanted to go on. So, we sang another two songs down the street outside of a convenience store.
Peter was playing violin, so he saw more than I did; I was concentrating on my song sheet and just trying to get the Japanese words right. The classroom by the convenience store opened up its windows and people poked their heads out to hear; several in cars rolled down their windows; some passersby stopped to listen, while others cast glances over their shoulders as they strolled on; and one man riding a bike started to veer into traffic before stopping to have a cigarette and enjoy the music.
After Higa sensei and Tsuneko sensei left, the younger generation came back to our place to warm up. We served hot cocoa and homemade apple cider, and watched the cartoon version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Peter explained to Daniel what rhymes are.
It was a school night, so our friends and their families left for home. Peter and I cleaned up everything in less than an hour. Then we hit the sack: souls full, and hearts grateful.
At one point in the night, I woke up.
“Wasn’t that a good night?” God said.
“Your plans don’t work out because they’re too small. I want to bless you, Valerie. I have better plans.”
I bowed my head.
“Trust Me, Valerie.”
I repented. “Yes, Lord, I will.”