Gollum, Japanese Photo Booths and the Battle with Beauty

Once upon a time I was compared to Gollum. Please feel free to chuckle along with me, because if those aren’t the words every woman longs to hear, then I know nothing of my fellow females.

In case you aren’t sure who Gollum is, here he is, in all his glory.

The cliff notes version goes like this: several years ago two friends (a guy and gal) and I were enjoying lunch when one of his friends joined us (it was at event that provided free lunch). In all fairness, he did start by saying “You have nice eyes” but ended it with “…like Gollum’s.” (Yep, he was 100% serious too) Any hope of that coming across in a positive light was destroyed when Smeags was thrown in. Who knows, maybe he watched Lord of the Rings the night before. We shall never know. Yes, it was hilarious, but definitely one for the books.

Fast forward about 10 years when my two good friends and I were exploring Japan. They have photo booths, so we obviously took part:

1. Can we talk about the size of my eyes (see top right). I mean good jolly, I look like a puppy (or Gollum right? ;)) We laughed for a solid amount of time. Do you blame us?
2. We barely figured out how to work the machine, so the captions on the images? No clue. Although we did get the date right. Woot!
3. It blows my mind there are photo booths out there that give you the “perfect” skin, make your eyes bigger and make you and your buddies “glow” like you’ve never experienced uneven skin.

It would be easy to toss this aside and say it’s a cultural thing, but it’s not just in Japan. Recently on Facebook an ad for an app to “fix” your face popped up. You know, so you can have the perfect selfie. I knew this would make for some interesting discussion, so I investigated further and apparently there are several options and one even featured a toddler in the before and after how-to.

Lord help us.

It seems like there’s always something thrown at us about how to look, what looks good and how we should portray ourselves. Will there ever be a day where there isn’t something to make us question if we’re good enough? I think it’s safe to say we all have dealt with this in some way or another. It comes in all different ways too. From the anonymous internet user, to a person you know, to the advertising monster taking over culture.

We all have our experiences. Some are similar, some so very different. But I can’t completely blame the outside world for the battle with beauty and of being enough. For over a decade I didn’t wear a cap because when I was 16, a guy told me I looked like a boy with a cap on. Yep, it took 11 years for me to move past that. Nothing like high school to haunt you right? Or the times after a breakup? Questioned myself for weeks. Or when a pretty woman walks into the room and, even if it’s for a brief second, inadequacy hits?

Am I the only one who has ever struggled with this?

I so often have to do a heart check and ask myself why these things creep on me. They shouldn’t bug me, but when they do, I know it’s because I’ve missed it (once again). Where do I find my value? Where to find my worth?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the wrong areas. What I do or don’t look like doesn’t really matter. Whether I have a six pack (that’s funny) or have to buy a size up in jeans. Whether I love or hate makeup. My value is found in something far greater and more perfectly beautiful than I can ever imagine.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
That right there. It’s all that matters and it’s a promise.

When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
What a promise!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
The Lord made me and values everything about me. That is enough.

To quote “Crooked Smile” by J. Cole: “We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still.”

And I just quoted a hip hop song after Bible verses. So there’s that.

But what a beautiful and wonderful hope: I’m God’s chosen – holy and beloved. And He will never leave nor forsake me. What more do I need?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Has there been a scripture that has gotten you through feelings of inadequacy?

Family Life, Travel Adventures

A Japanese Legacy

One of the favorite parts of my trip to Japan this past summer, was when we went to hang out with Mariko’s grandparents.

We hopped on the train and headed over to their house (which they’ve lived in forever) and spent such a relaxing and wonderful afternoon. Do I speak Japanese? Nope. (Unless you count “I eat rice in my house,” then yes, I’m fluent). Do Mariko’s wonderful Grandparents speak English? Nope. But were we able to have an amazing time? Why, yes we were! With Mariko translating, it worked out perfect.

There was one time during lunch when the chopsticks weren’t being my friend, so I attempted to be stealth and just grab the cucumber with my fingers. I figured that was better than trying to stab it with the chopstick. Totally thought no one was paying attention to me, but nope…totally busted. How’s that for immersing myself in the Japanese culture? But they simply laughed.

But more than that, I’m so thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from them, be encouraged by them and simply get to know more of their story. A legacy is the only thing you’ll leave behind and I promise you, the one they have started has already made an incredible impact on the world!

My hope and prayer is that this glimpse into the lives of Shizuko and Saichi Ohashi inspires and encourages you as much as it did me.

As a teenager during World War II, Shizuko still can recall the constant bombings on her city and watching the B-29 Superfortresses fly over their city. It’s hard for me to even imagine what that would have been like. To have a never ending fear of a bomb falling from the sky. To not know when it would end. What if my country, instead of unleashing the power of the A-bomb, was victim to it? How would my heart have handled losing such a war? I believe she said it best: That while losing was a blow to Japan, simple put, war is never a good thing.

Yet, even while having lived through that history, joy abounds from each of them.

But our time there wasn’t all sadness and dark times from decades past. Most of the time we spent chatting about family, our adventures and faith. Both came from Buddhist backgrounds, but after their two daughters became Christians, they started going when they were in their fifties. At first they started going because Christianity wasn’t about money (as their experience with Buddhism had been). That led to discussions with several pastors and finally one led them both to Jesus.

Two quotes that stuck with me? “Believing in Jesus and being a Christian is joy” and “We have Jesus to protect us.” Said with such conviction and decades of life experiences behind them, it was such a great reminder of Truth.

What a joy and privilege it is for me to be able to share some of their wisdom, story and to spend time with them, even if only for one summer afternoon.

To end, I’ll close with a very special 4 Questions with Shizuko (some the same, some a bit different!)

1. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
When I was growing up, I didn’t have the option or choice to get an education. If I could go back, I would like to study all kinds of topics. I especially want to learn to speak English so I can communicate my grandchildren, great grandchildren and more American friends.

2. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
As you know it is very important to have a son to carry on the family name in Japan. We didn’t have boys, but God blessed us with wonderful and God-loving son-in-laws.

3. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I want the next generation to know this most important thing: If they could, meet Jesus when they are young and memorize as much of God’s Word as you can.

And you know me, being the romantic that I am, tossed in a couple of extras for the interview!

4. How did you and your husband meet?
I was sewing clothes for family and friends with my free time back then. There was a country rail road employee apartment near our house and Saichi asked the apartment manager if he knew a good seamstress to sew his clothes. She recommended me to him, so he started to come over and that’s how we met!

5. What’s your advice for a lasting marriage?
Trust each other. Don’t talk back to each other, but share your opinions. Care for each other, especially when it comes to healthy living.

(Interviewed with the help of Kumiko Barnes)

We’re best friends now.

Thanks so much for reading! I never get tired of hearing people’s stories! So who has inspired you? What about your grandparents?

Travel Adventures

Bambi and Baboons | Miyajima Island, Japan

We liked Miyajima Island so much, we went twice. Plus the hour long street car ride from Hiroshima is perfect for recovering from adventures, people watching and being in air conditioner. Known for the numerous deer that like to be your friends, one famous gate and a beautiful view from a top the mountain, this place reminded me once again how incredible this country is.

The sweet little guy
Ohtorii Gate in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

The first day we made it when the tide was low, so we were able to take pics right by it. We came earlier on day two, so tide was high and it looked so pretty floating on the water!

Then we took these to the top of Mt. Misen and guess what? Beautiful! We didn’t really know where we were headed, so there were surprises left and right!

Sometimes the ride was a bit shaky…
Beautiful view!

On our way back to the ferry we thought we’d skip the bus and walk back down ourselves. We missed the turn (obviously) ;), so we ended up having an added nature walk as part of our adventure. This was where we spotted a baboon. I froze, slightly panicked and then began prepping my ninja moves. Why you ask? I mean, have you searched baboons on YouTube?? Once I was convinced my life was no longer in danger, I added that to the list of cool things I’ve seen in Japan.

Okonomiyaki is a dish this part of Japan is known for and even though I really had no idea what was gonna happen, I dove right in. Mom and Dad you can add that to moments I’ve made you proud. It was tasty too, so thanks Japan for the food adventure!

Oh and if you’re ever eating at the Spanish-inspired restaurant by the train station in Hiroshima, “cheese fries” aren’t fries covered in cheese, but rather fried cheese balls. That’s our free lost-in-translation lesson for you ;).

Travel Adventures

August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. | Hiroshima, Japan

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m., an American B-29 bomber dropped the first atomic bomb used against humankind exploded about 600 meters above Shima Hospital in Saiku-machi, utterly destroying all people and property below it.

Among the burned ruins stood the skeletal of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (now the A-bomb Dome), a grim reminder of what had been (*info taken from plaques around the A-bomb Dome).

Because the blast struck almost directly above, some of the center walls remained standing, leaving enough of the building and iron frame to be recognizable as a dome.

The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. By December 1945, over 140,000 people died as a result of the bomb.

Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

“I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears.” Yoshito Matsushige
The children’s memorial
“これはぼくらの叫びです これは私たちの祈りです 世界に平和をきずくための”
“Kore wa bokura no sakebi desu. Kore wa watashitachi no inori desu. Sekai ni heiwa o kizuku tame no.”
“This is our cry, this is our prayer: for building peace in the world.”
“Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”
This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer of peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.

Lord, may your peace reign.

Travel Adventures

Another Day, Another Adventure | Kyoto, Japan

Hello friends! Thanks for joining me on adventures :)!! Day two in Kyoto included conquering the beastly heat, seeing the oldest temple in Kyoto and exploring Gion. Just so you know, the day included a nap too – I know, we’re pretty awesome!

Kiyomizu Temple is the oldest and most visited temple in Kyoto. It’s made only of wood and they didn’t use a single nail. Wha?? I really would like to have seen it being built. I mean, I can barely get legos together. So yeah – pretty awesome. It’s more than just a tourist place too. Many people make the trek to worship.

I think I might need to come back in the fall – I can only imagine how gorgeous it is!

People pay for holy water throughout the temple.

No nails people. No nails!

As we walked the streets of the Gion district, there was so much to take in. Whether there were random shrines, cranes or people bustling through the streets, there was always something to see.

And here’s one of the two amazing ladies I get to explore with. And yes, every picture we are glistening ;).

So anyone want to pay me to travel and take pictures yet? Anyone???

Travel Adventures

A Little Piece of Kyoto, Japan

What a city, what a country! The history and tales of Japan are both fascinating and intriguing. Whenever I’m outside of America, learning of another culture, I’m blown away by how old things are. Like our country wasn’t even a twinkle of a twinkle of a twinkle in England’s eye compared to Japan’s history. But before y’all turn away because of my history nerdiness, here’s some pics and tales of Kyoto adventures.

First thing you must know about Japan is they ain’t playin’ when it comes to heat or humidity. Yes, I live in the great state of Texas…but I don’t stand outside all day in the summer heat, so walking around a city, climbing hills and catching buses = the three of us looking like we ran a marathon. I didn’t know I could sweat so much folks. But I promise I’m not complaining, this trip is amazing!

These are from the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, home to the bamboo forest and other pretty sights.

A lot of students came up to us and asked us a few questions to help them learn English. It was fun. 😉

The Golden Pavilion – what a sight! It’s surreal I got to see this in person, it really is stunning. The Kinkakuji Temple is gold plated and looks so beautiful against the green backdrop.

Before heading back we stopped by the Imperial Palace and apparently they didn’t get the memo that the three of us were in town because it was closed. Um..rude!

I kid folks. I kid!! I guess you have to sign up beforehand. Details. Details. And here I thought the Lapeyrolerie name carried more weight. I’ll chat with the Emperor soon on that one.

But instead of seeing the Imperial Palace it started pouring rain. Y’all we could not stop laughing.

This is when we decided to make a run for it after the rain stopped.

Internet, I’m not sure how much longer Japan can handle this crew!

So speaking of travels, where’s a place you’ve been and love??

Travel Adventures

Jet Lag and Hilarity in Japan

Since jet lag is still hanging out and we’re up before things open, what better thing to do then blog? So here’s a few iPhone pics of the adventures so far! We’re in Kyoto for the next few days and I know it’ll be amazing. The history of this place is incredible (Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years) and I can’t wait to explore!

My first Japanese sunset on the way to Nagoya from Tokyo.

Erin and I arrived after (for me) about 26 hours of travel. It was so nice to have the three flights finished!

Kicking it off immersing ourselves in the culture 😉

The Bullet Trains and insane! When one flew by as we were waiting for ours, it came by so fast and loud, it scared the McDonald’s out of me.

Our hotel was only 10 minutes from the station, but it may have taken us an hour and a half to find though. What! What!

This is the prefect picture of how we felt while sweating our faces off searching for our place 😉I almost passed out when I saw they had a Cafe du Monde in Kyoto!!

The photo booths in Japan are hil.a.r.ious. They made our eyes huge! We could not stop laughing!

Alright internet, thanks for sharing in the hilarious journey so far!