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17 Ideas for a More Meaningful Holiday Season

  1. Make a plan before the holidays overtake you, and stick with it. Discuss and decide with your spouse/family/roommate, or make a written list of your plans to guide you when the days get busy.
  1. Give anonymously. Each year our family chooses a person or a family with a special need that year (unemployment, broken heater, etc.) and we have fun finding a sneaky way to buy and deliver to them a needed gift.

  1. Choose this year to decorate a little less. Clean out your decorations and deliver the still usable ones to a local charity. The very process of thinking through what you don’t really need feels good and helps strengthen your priority to simplify and focus on what counts.

 

  1. Give socially-conscious gifts that give back. Of course we love the Nozomi Project, knowing that all proceeds go to help the artisans and the community in the region where the 2011 tsunami struck. The theme of hope and beauty in brokenness makes for meaningful gifts (photo below). Other items from social enterprises we think are great: Trades of Hope offers great trivets and leather world map journals; table runners and flannel/kimono infinity scarves (Megumi Project); awesome leather satchels (Redemption Market);  soup and cornbread mixes (womensbeanproject.com). 

  1. Make homemade gifts! For adult projects we like these ideas: for your kids try some of these. Our personal family favorite annual gift is homemade candied pecans. We buy 18 pounds of pecans at a large warehouse store, and spend several evenings making these as a family and then giving them to neighbors, teachers, and friends. Really – these have become more popular than any store-bought gifts we might give! 

  1. Start a gifts-we-already-have-list (annvoskamp.com). Tape up a big piece of paper on a wall or door and throughout the season have members of your family write down the many blessings you are already thankful for this year.

 

  1. Who doesn’t love receiving a gift card? Surprise your family, friends, or coworkers with a gift card from one of these meaningful online shops: Raven & LilyTen Thousand Villages;  Nozomi Project. (Did you know you can buy, sell, and exchange gift cards here?)
  1. Friends of mine made up rules for living for one year, and carried them out through Christmas: buying only items that were local, used, homegrown or homemade. Choose any of these ideas for gift-giving and find joy in your choices. (See Craig Goodwin, Year of Plenty).
  2. Choose to help a child this season: become a monthly sponsor of a child, or send a financial or wrapped gift to a child in need. (Our family has personally been involved with Watoto orphans in Uganda; Compassion has children in need all over the world).
  3. No time to put together an Advent calendar of gifts for your family? Make a simple Advent wreath for your table and use this for a weekly gathering time to read the Christmas story together over four weeks as a family.

  1. Think about giving life enriching experiences. A membership to an arboretum or museum; ballroom dance classes; Rosetta stone language lessons; dates with your kids; gift certificates to audiobooks.com; concert tickets.

  1. Get a group of friends together and change up your normal holiday party plans: meet at a senior center to go caroling, with each person bringing a wrapped gift of socks and a new Reader’s Digest; then go back to someone’s home for eggnog and dessert.

  1. Choose a wonderful holiday story and carve out twenty minutes before bedtime each night to gather together and read the story. A few favorites: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis); The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson); The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry); A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens).
  1. For setting perameters on gift-giving within your own family, we really like these guidelines: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. For this last category, last year I found a book list with themes of kindness that I used to buy books for our four children.
  1. When we pull out our stockings, we read our letters to Jesus that we wrote  back in January, as we were taking down the holiday decorations. These are letter/prayers we each write individually, beginning the year by asking Jesus to help us with a particular struggle or weakness. Even our youngest takes this seriously; it’s a great way to start the year dependent on Jesus and end it by celebrating growth.

  1. Give goats for Christmas! We decided with one group that we always exchanged gifts with, to instead pool our money each Christmas and come together and shop from catalogs – choosing to buy things like goats for a family in Africa; or mosquito nets for a village in the Philippines. Our kids AND the adults have loved the chance to not focus on us but give to those who really do need gifts like this. A few options we have used: World Vision Catalog; Compassion Catalog; Samaritan’s Purse Catalog

  1. Finally, please don’t try and do all of these things! Choose a few, live more simply, and make some new meaningful and wonderful memories this Christmas. What are YOUR favorite meaningful holiday traditions!

The Potential of Beauty in Brokenness

This week our Nozomi team received the most precious of gifts - an amazing watercolor painting done by an amazing artist!  Carrie Waller (carriewallerfineart.com) lives with her family in Japan, and through a special friendship with us we have had numerous times to connect.  Carrie generously offered to paint a picture for Nozomi Project that represents who we are.  We absolutely love how this painting represents all of the potential of beauty in brokenness! 

Carrie brought her two boys and another Nozomi friend from Tokyo, and it was interesting to see our surroundings through the eyes of friends who have never been here before They were sobered by the many places that still show the foundations of homes that were washed away in the 2011 tsunami, such as this fishing village surrounding one of our favorite cafes by the ocean (HamaguriHama).

It was while exploring here that her son started digging around, and not surprising, found handfuls of broken pottery.  (People ask if we are still finding pottery -- the answer is yes!)

 As friends of Nozomi reach out to us;  as customers share their stories or receiving hope; as our staff continue to find healing and community at the Nozomi Project, we see so much potential in beauty from brokenness!

An Experiment in Holding Hope

I recently went on a short seven-day trip to the U.S. I decided to buy four of the newest Nozomi 'holding hope" necklaces, and look for people who might need them.  The price ($25) and packaging makes them easy to buy, and easy to give.

It wasn't too hard to find people who needed to be reminded of hope!  A friend dealing with a very sick husband; another friend who shared about her own hope deferred; my flight attendant on the way home who went out of her way to help me. I have the last one in my bag right now, waiting for the next person I meet who needs hope.

Who do you know who needs hope? Multiply your investment! In addition to helping sustain our Nozomi team, we are donating $2 from each necklace to stopping human trafficking in Japan.  

Let's work together to give hope - it's contagious!  Find our Nozomi necklaces here

 

What can happen when women work together

As we approach celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Nozomi Project this month, we want to highlight the skill and artistry that our Nozomi team has developed. We couldn't be more proud of how this team of women have worked hard to create some of the finest pieces of pottery jewelry in the world. 

The heart of our Nozomi workshop is the grinding room.  This is where the pottery is cut, ground rough, then finely ground to perfection. Our team of seven are creative and seek to make the most beautiful items possible. 

Our Sara hook earrings have remained our best-selling collection. We've made over 7000 earrings! And they just get better and better. This morning we had a new set of earrings ready to go online, and look at these beauties! It's the first time in my memory that we have seen heart-shaped earrings (not in a frame). The skill! the beauty! This month we celebrate the craftsmanship that can happen when women work together. (Get them while they are still here!) 

 

 

Stories from Nozomi Project...

We love this blog post done by the Ethical Unicorn. Do you know the answers to the following questions?  Read this excellent post and find out!

  • How are the names decided for each style?
  • what is the process of making a piece of jewelry?
  • What are some of the milestones of the Nozomi Project?
  • How is the idea of hope changing for the Nozomi team?
  • What does community look like to the Nozomi women? 

Here is a wonderful quote from one of our staff:

‘I really love looking at a piece at pottery and thinking “how could this become jewellery?” It’s amazing that something dirty and ugly can actually become something really beautiful.’

Check out the beautiful photos and this article and other great blogs by the Ethical Unicorn!

 

 

     

     

    Nozomi Project's Story from the TedX Stage!

    Nozomi Project's founder and director, Sue Takamoto, was invited to speak at the TedX Waseda event on July 2. The event's theme was "Ripples to Waves" and Sue's task was to share how the idea of creating something beautiful out of broken pottery has turned into a five-year-running social enterprise employing 13 women, training them to craft beautiful jewelry. She also called listeners to choose together to see beauty in their own brokenness.

    At Nozomi, each team member names a line of jewelry after someone who is important to her. Many of the ladies have named lines after their daughters or mothers; one named a line after her sister-in-law (Rumi) who was lost in the tsunami of 2011. In her talk, Sue weaved together the stories of three women who are either currently working at Nozomi, or have worked with us and moved on to fulfill different dreams. She gave a glimpse into how each woman found beauty in her own brokenness. 

    Sara's grandfather is an unsung hero from 3/11 - when the waters were rushing in, he threw his wife and his grandson, Sara’s brother, onto the safety of a passing firetruck.  He did not survive the 30 feet wall of sea. Sara’s mom finds healing by working every day with broken pottery that she makes beautiful. 

    You can view the Sara collection here.

    Mika couldn’t leave her home for about a year because of severe PTSD and depression.  She was able to slowly come to Nozomi as she was able, finding through that process a place of healing and wholeness.

    You can view our Mika collection here.

    Misa's mom was Sue's shyest mom friend on the school yard, struggling with the challenges of a son with autism.  Over these 4 years of working at Nozomi, she has gained so much dignity and confidence.  She says her worldview has been changed - she recently shared at our staff meeting how she used to view autism as a curse;  now she sees what a blessing her son is to her and her family.

    You can view our Misa collection here.

    You can hear what some of the attendees had to say about Sue's talk here.

    And in Japanese here.  

    We will let you know next month when the talk comes out on YouTube!

    Great job, Sue!

    Chance to Receive Ishinomaki Coffee!

     As we remember the triple disaster that struck Japan 6 years ago this month, we are excited to introduce Ishikawa Coffee Company and give our support to a fellow local business. We are currently sending two Ishinomaki coffee filter packs to our first 100 customers*! Watch for beautiful, new designs this month and take advantage of this chance to drink some delicious coffee, blended right here in Ishinomaki! (*with online purchases of over $20).

    Ishikawa Coffee Company owner, Mr. Ishikawa, takes care to choose only top quality, fresh coffee beans from around the world to skillfully blend in his shop. He says what he likes most about the blending process is being able to take different types of coffee and create new and unique tastes. 

    When Ishikawa Coffee Company first began, they were operating out of a 107 square foot building. The company has grown through word of mouth and now has its own coffee shop that serves simple dishes and delicious desserts in addition to their on-site blended coffee, which is also sold at 2 other locations in Ishinomaki.

     

    All of the coffee gift packages include a picture of a famous place in Ishinomaki paired with an "Ishinomaki" special blend (written in Japanese characters).

    We hope you'll take advantage of the chance to get this free gift, enjoy a cup of coffee, and feel the love from Ishinomaki!  As always, all proceeds go to the Nozomi Project women and the continuation of the project. 

    Shards, Brokenness & Hope Six Years Later

    We are coming up on six years of the triple disaster that washed away half of Ishinomaki.

    We are frequently asked if we still have broken pottery left to use for making our Nozomi jewelry.  And the answer is yes!  We still have crates of pottery gathered by hundreds of volunteers during the first few years; we are also receiving boxes of broken or unwanted pottery from nearby neighbors, friends, and second-hand shops in the area. 

    Recently, one of the sons of a Nozomi team member was out playing in a field by his home and came home with a bag of broken pottery.  "Mommy!  I found jewelry!'  

    He carefully washed each piece and laid it out on a tray for the Nozomi staff to make into something beautiful.  Each time it rains, hidden pottery becomes unearthed, constant reminders of both the tragedy and the hope that has emerged since.  

    Those pieces are now being cut, ground, shaped, and remade into something beautiful.  

    While each rainstorm brings new reminders of an unforgettable tragedy, it also brings hope.  Beauty in brokenness.  

    17 Ideas for a More Meaningful Holiday Season

    1. Make a plan before the holidays overtake you, and stick with it. Discuss and decide with your spouse/family/roommate, or make a written list of your plans to guide you when the days get busy.
    1. Give anonymously. Each year our family chooses a person or a family with a special need that year (unemployment, broken heater, etc.) and we have fun finding a sneaky way to buy and deliver to them a needed gift.

    1. Choose this year to decorate a little less. Clean out your decorations and deliver the still usable ones to a local charity. The very process of thinking through what you don’t really need feels good and helps strengthen your priority to simplify and focus on what counts.

     

    1. Give socially-conscious gifts that give back. Of course we love the Nozomi Project, knowing that all proceeds go to help the artisans and the community in the region where the 2011 tsunami struck. The theme of hope and beauty in brokenness makes for meaningful gifts (photo below). Other items from social enterprises we think are great: Trades of Hope offers great trivets and leather world map journals; table runners and flannel/kimono infinity scarves (Megumi Project); awesome leather satchels (Redemption Market);  soup and cornbread mixes (womensbeanproject.com). 

    1. Make homemade gifts! For adult projects we like these ideas: for your kids try some of these. Our personal family favorite annual gift is homemade candied pecans. We buy 18 pounds of pecans at a large warehouse store, and spend several evenings making these as a family and then giving them to neighbors, teachers, and friends. Really – these have become more popular than any store-bought gifts we might give! 

    1. Start a gifts-we-already-have-list (annvoskamp.com). Tape up a big piece of paper on a wall or door and throughout the season have members of your family write down the many blessings you are already thankful for this year.

     

    1. Who doesn’t love receiving a gift card? Surprise your family, friends, or coworkers with a gift card from one of these meaningful online shops: Raven & LilyTen Thousand Villages;  Nozomi Project. (Did you know you can buy, sell, and exchange gift cards here?)
    1. Friends of mine made up rules for living for one year, and carried them out through Christmas: buying only items that were local, used, homegrown or homemade. Choose any of these ideas for gift-giving and find joy in your choices. (See Craig Goodwin, Year of Plenty).
    2. Choose to help a child this season: become a monthly sponsor of a child, or send a financial or wrapped gift to a child in need. (Our family has personally been involved with Watoto orphans in Uganda; Compassion has children in need all over the world).
    3. No time to put together an Advent calendar of gifts for your family? Make a simple Advent wreath for your table and use this for a weekly gathering time to read the Christmas story together over four weeks as a family.

    1. Think about giving life enriching experiences. A membership to an arboretum or museum; ballroom dance classes; Rosetta stone language lessons; dates with your kids; gift certificates to audiobooks.com; concert tickets.

    1. Get a group of friends together and change up your normal holiday party plans: meet at a senior center to go caroling, with each person bringing a wrapped gift of socks and a new Reader’s Digest; then go back to someone’s home for eggnog and dessert.

    1. Choose a wonderful holiday story and carve out twenty minutes before bedtime each night to gather together and read the story. A few favorites: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis); The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson); The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry); A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens).
    1. For setting perameters on gift-giving within your own family, we really like these guidelines: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. For this last category, last year I found a book list with themes of kindness that I used to buy books for our four children.
    1. When we pull out our stockings, we read our letters to Jesus that we wrote  back in January, as we were taking down the holiday decorations. These are letter/prayers we each write individually, beginning the year by asking Jesus to help us with a particular struggle or weakness. Even our youngest takes this seriously; it’s a great way to start the year dependent on Jesus and end it by celebrating growth.

    1. Give goats for Christmas! We decided with one group that we always exchanged gifts with, to instead pool our money each Christmas and come together and shop from catalogs – choosing to buy things like goats for a family in Africa; or mosquito nets for a village in the Philippines. Our kids AND the adults have loved the chance to not focus on us but give to those who really do need gifts like this. A few options we have used: World Vision Catalog; Compassion Catalog; Samaritan’s Purse Catalog

    1. Finally, please don’t try and do all of these things! Choose a few, live more simply, and make some new meaningful and wonderful memories this Christmas. What are YOUR favorite meaningful holiday traditions!

    Gospel music sings out hope to Nozomi Project

    This past week we have loved seeing how gospel music has encouraged our Nozomi staff in great ways!  

    Over the past twenty years, the genre of gospel music has grown tremendously popular across Japan.  Most Japanese will tell you how much they loved the movie Sister Act when it came out in the theatres, and since then it has popped up in both secular and Christian circles.  

    It was a great privilege last week to have Ken Taylor come and share with our Nozomi Project staff.  Ken and his wife Bola have been credited with helping to start the rise in popularity of gospel as they established many gospel choirs across Japan the last twenty years.  

    Last year, Nozomi Project partnered with the Taylors in donating to several cancer awareness causes in Japan, particularly as Bola spent her last few months on earth debilitated by cancer.  It was Bola's wish that the proceeds from her memorial concert be given to the Nozomi Project; last week Ken was able to present this amazing generous gift to our staff in an incredibly touching staff meeting.  We are thankful for the Taylor family and how they have used music to bring hope and joy to so many; and for this latest wonderful donation to the Nozomi Project in honor of Bola.

    Then this past Saturday, Nozomi Project set up a special sale for a large gospel choir from Osaka (Kansai Gospel Choir) that was visiting and singing in this region. These new friends LOVE Nozomi Project, and we love them!

     They had a great short time shopping, and at the end we were the fortunate recipients of one of their beautiful gospel songs, accapella style. 

    For information on how you too can give hope by donating to the Nozomi Project, please visit us here.