Monday, March 27, 2017

Caught In A Snowstorm In Japan

Michelle and I have been taking “onsen holidays” in Japan annually for the last six years. Both of us are hot-spring addicts and Kyushu offers some of the best ones in the whole of Japan (and the world). Going on such holidays refresh, recharge and help grow our marriage. The long drive from one mountain resort to another allows us plenty of time to talk, pray and praise God together. Staying in such remote locations meant that there is nothing else to do except to spend quality time with each other. Spending such time together helps us to build a Maximum Marriage, which incidentally is the title of my new book, which is due to be launched May 2017.

Let me share something interesting that happened during our last visit in February.

The weather was beautiful when we landed in Fukuoka. It continued that way for 7 days as we stayed in 6 different ryokans (Japanese inns) nested on different mountain ranges. On the 8th day, we drove to Kurukawa, a popular onsen (hotspring) town in the Aso mountain range, to stay in a small family-run ryokan. When we arrived at around 3pm, the sky was bright and sunny, just like in the last 7 days. With the temperature around 8∘ C, it was another perfect day for soaking in the onsen and enjoying time together. The ryokan manager warned us that snow was expected over the next 2 days. We did not give much thought to what he said.

Our room had a nice outdoor private rutenburo (outdoor hot spring pool). Needless to say, we dropped everything (yes, dropped everything that was on us) and went straight into the pool to enjoy soaking in the warm spring water together. This was followed by a great dinner (kaiseki) with good sake (Japanese rice wine). We enjoyed ourselves very much before retiring to another night of good rest.

Things took a drastic change overnight. We woke up to a very cold and very white morning. An extremely cold wind blew from Russia and China overnight and blanketed the island with heavy snowing. The mercury dropped to around -5∘ C and the sky dumped up to 100cm of snow over many prefectures. The news channels showed the impact; traffic were disrupted by many accidents and roads and highways were closed. Many Japanese were caught off guard.

At our locality, about 30cm of snow fell overnight. Almost everything outside our room turned white. In fact, the snow did not stop falling for another 2 days. It was so cold for us that even getting to our bathroom became a challenge, let alone soak in the rutenburo. We had 2 more days and another ryokan to visit before we go home. We thought that our beautiful holiday was going to end disappointingly early. But my biggest concern was how to drive 100 km back to the city to catch our flight home.
Coincidentally, I was thick in the midst of proof reading the final draft of Maximum Marriage. An interesting thought came to me - the situation Michelle and I were in seemed to portray a very cold phase of our journey to a Maximum Marriage (pun definitely intended).
Thank God that Michelle was so encouraging and that made me determined not to let this expected storm mar our holiday. We agreed to view the sudden snowstorm as a blessing - we assured each other that things would surely work out well.

To begin with, we chose to relish our very first caught-in-a-snowstorm experience. We told each other that while the weather was chilly, our love for each other was not. While the sudden snowstorm disrupted our plan, we decided to respond positively and make the best use of the situation instead of reacting negatively.

And so, we applied ourselves to the challenge - we decided to go ahead with our favorite activity, that is, to soak in the rutenburo. We were not going to allow the snow and sub-zero temperature stop us!

It was a real challenge though – when we stripped naked and walked towards the onsen pool, we had to overcome the chill that immediately and completely engulfed every pore on our body, contributed by the sub-zero temperature and snowflakes hitting our skin. When we reach the pool, we had to pour the 41∘C hot spring water slowly over our body to prevent a temperature shock, before we fully immerse in the pool. But once the water embraced our body, we begun to warm up. In fact, we started to feel very comfortable and we could even stand up and let the snowflakes fall onto our body without feeling chilly any more.

The reason was simply that our body had warmed up sufficiently and the chill was not only bearable but it became fun to let the snowflakes fall onto our naked body. Not for long though, as the ambient temperature was low and the wind was blowing, we felt cold again. Then we dipped and warmed up again. And we stand up again…and we enjoyed the chill again, then we dipped again.

And I thought to myself, “Hey, Steven, there is a great lesson to learn and share that can surely strengthen marriages and help couples achieve a Maximum Marriage. “

So dear Lovers-in-Arms, here it is.
When a storm comes upon your marriage, be determined not to let it mar your relationship with each other. Take a different view of it. Think of how together, you can learn from that experience to move towards a better relationship. Don’t let the chill turn you away from each other. Instead, brave the cold and walk together to find that hot spring and dip in the water to warm your relation up. Be determined, as a couple, to fight the cold.

With this mindset, your relationship will warm up sooner than you know and you will be ready to stand up and face another storm. Deliberately dip into the hot spring again and again. This cycle of warming your relationship with your spouse builds your marriage and gives it power to withstand the attacks.

It is not if, but a matter of when, you will experience storms in your marriage. It may spark off simply from a wrong word, a bad body language, cynical or sarcastic remark. Such seemingly trivial stuff can cause some of us to react inappropriately and become either defensive or offensive towards our spouse. Both are bad reactions to our relationship. So do all you can to avoid getting caught in either one. 

If that fails, do all you can to respond appropriately. How do one respond appropriately? That will be the subject of my next few blogs ... so stay tuned or better still, subscribe to this blog and you will receive an email notification every time I post a new article.  

Meanwhile, keep a positive mindset about your relationship. Think good thoughts about your lover. Be determined to move from just being husband wife, to become lovers for life!

God bless.


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