Building Strong Family Ties

Building a strong family doesn’t happen by accident, and a lot of work needs to be done in order to have the family of your dreams. I have a goal of always improving as a husband, as a father and leading my family to realize their full potential (which is something that requires God’s help to do). But part of building a strong family is spending quality time together. That’s where weekends and special holidays are critical. The tendency is often to fill this time with whatever we as individuals (or as a couple) want to do. But a strong family is built when we do things that strengthen the whole family, even if those things are not our first choice personally. A happy family is well worth the sacrifice of personal preference, because it won’t matter what you do, you’ll have a blast.

Golden Week vacation begins!

But trying to do fun things with the family during Golden Week can be a huge challenge. Why? Because that’s when so so many other people are off and out with their families. The roads pack with traffic and camping grounds and vacation destinations fill to the max with visitors. It can really be a deterrent to a good time. But even in the midst of these challenges, we visited 2 new parks that were well worth the hassle of Golden Week. One of them had one of the craziest slides I’ve ever experienced!

Braving Golden Week to discover 2 must-visit parks was an adventure to say the least

But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, we’re going to make the most of it. You can be in a field of weeds, but if you know what to look for, you can find the beautiful path that leads on to things you’ve never experienced and places you’ve never gone. Thinking about the blessings in life will prepare you to experience more and more of those blessings in the future. It is something that you have to train yourself to do. But the more you look for blessings and praise others for their good attributes, the more you’ll live a positive life.

LIJ Episode Lives Videos

The Japanese Only Challenge

A while ago we challenged ourselves to speaking only Japanese for a whole day. This was a big challenge, especially as parents who, in some situations, need to communicate clearly and quickly. The kids understand Japanese pretty well (especially Rebeca & Anna) but Dad & Mom, in spite of a lot of study, still have a lot to learn. We did our best and made a video about it, and that video really connected with people here in Japan and around the world. So recently we decided “Let’s do one day in Japanese again.” And so we did.

While I wish Japanese just rolled off my tongue, most of the time for Ruth and me it’s a still a big challenge. But in the challenge of doing this video again, we’ve come to realize just how far we’ve come in the last couple of years, and that’s encouraging. It gives hope that in the not so distant future, our whole family will be perfectly comfortable in Japanese as well.

Here we go — again! Does our Japanese sound any better this time?

But speaking Japanese isn’t the only challenge we’re up for. Recently I made a video about how we celebrate Easter here in Japan. Yes, there are chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs in the stores, but by far those who celebrate Easter are Christians who remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the challenge is, how do we go about celebrating a predominately Christian holiday here in Japan?! Well, with a big party and lots of kids, of course! And you can’t forget the Easter story.


BIG Changes

Big changes are in store for the Reutter family, as after 6 years at our local elementary school, Rebecca & Anna graduated elementary school! Not only will they be moving on to Junior High school (be steady my heart…) but Joshua graduated kindergarten and is moving on to join big sister Sarah in elementary school. The amount of change that this brings to the family cannot be understated, as so many other Japanese parents who have done this can attest. But before that happens, we have a blessed pause in the craziness that is Spring Break. This short break is like the eye of a typhoon (or hurricane, if you prefer), where for a brief moment you can take a breathe of fresh air and rest up for all that is about to take place.

As break finished up, we prepared ourself for the plunge. Both Joshua and Becca & Anna had their entrance ceremonies on the same day. We were baptized in new information, all in Japanese, about the coming school years. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least, but we did what we do: take it with an attitude of faith that with God, anything is possible. And so here we go..


Japan’s Sakura Delight

The beginning of Spring is declared with great fanfare in Japan by it’s beautiful Sakura trees. And if there’s one thing you could argue that Japan loves, it’s the Sakura! This time of year is also the time of year when the old business and school years come to a close and a new year springs to life. It’s all beautifully captured in the symbol of the Sakura.

Watch the wonder of the change from winter to spring in Japan

I have always lamented how short the work and school breaks are in Japan. Growing up in the West, we value our 2-3 month summer breaks and several-week winter and fall breaks. Not so in Japan, because just as quick as the Sakura blooms and falls, so too the breaks come and go, and it’s time to move on. Whether it’s vacation or the Sakura, you have to enjoy it while you can!

When Spring break and the Sakura bloom line up in Japan, it’s a beautiful thing

Raising kids is a lot of work, but it’s a MOST important work. Schools and jobs, bosses and colleagues come and go, but family relationships are forever. These little moment may seem insignificant, but they are key moments to embrace. Engage with your kids and family when you have a chance, and as they grow they will remain engaged!


Big Transitions

This year 3 of our kids are not just moving up a grade — they are moving to new schools and a new era. Joshua graduates from Japanese kindergarten — the same Japanese kindergarten where all of our kids attended — and Becca & Anna graduate from elementary school, ready to move up into junior high school.

At the End of Winter in Japan, we see snow, plum blossoms and final school events

When we originally came to Japan nearly 8 years ago, we made a big decision to put our kids into Japanese school so that they would learn Japanese fluently and be able to bridge cultures. We knew we wanted them to at least finish elementary school in Japan, and then when junior high school came we would reevaluate what we thought would be best for them.

The big graduation ceremonies for Joshua, Becca & Anna

As we move forward, we’ve decided to keep the girls in public Japanese school for now, and let them see what junior high school is like here with their friends from elementary school who are moving on with them. But we have also started to supplement their education with a healthy dose of a Christian online education in English, which will help fully round out their knowledge in the areas where the Japanese education is weak. Our goal is for them to be able to navigate the different cultures naturally and gracefully. It’s the same goal we have for ourselves personally, and they are well on their way with many advantages!