Pippa’s Joke

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Warning: This post contains information about *poo* by a small child. Reader discretion required.

I sat on the couch and saw 21 month old Pippa standing in front of me, clearly pushing something out into her nappy.

“Poos” Pippa stated.

“Do you want to go on the toilet?” I asked.

“No” she replied.

“Do you want to go on the Potty?” I asked again.

“No” she again replied.

Pippa looked at me with a sly look on her face.

“Carpet” she said mischievously. She then added, “Funny girl.”

I laughed.

It didn’t take long for my not quite 2 year old to grasp onto the fact that toilet humour gets easy laughs. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Partnership Development: The Highs and Lows

Japan Jesus

What a week. I’m so glad that it’s Monday and a new week had begun. Let me explain.

As many friends and family will know, at the start of the year we began what we call “Partnership Development” (PD). PD is the process of trusting to God to raise up prayer supporters, long term individual and church gospel partnerships, and financial partners to enable us to serve long term with OMF as missionaries in Japan. Phew – even that sentence feels exhausting!

So we have embarked on this process that feels sometimes like we run our own business, in the sense of always having more work that we could do! It also feels like we need to promote ourselves and impress people at times. But what this experience mostly feels like is being on an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows as we battle moments of discouragement paired with moments of great encouragement.

When we began PD I was definitely anticipating the hectic, intense nature of it. But I wasn’t anticipating it being such an emotional process. I can have one day of being so encouraged and thankful to God, feeling like “Yes! We are going to get there?”, and then the very next day I can wallow in doubt, wondering “Is it even possible?” And it’s a tiring process.

We have had a discouraging few weeks. Nothing in particular happened to cause us to be a bit down about PD, but we have just been feeling a bit weary. And in that state of weariness and discouragement we were not particularly looking forward to more busy-ness.

Paul’s major essay was due.
We were speaking at MST (Melbourne School of Theology) Chapel, where Paul studies.
We had to put together a 3 minute clip about Japan.
We were speaking at Valley Presy in Doreen: I was doing the Kid’s talk and Paul was preaching.
So, I needed to write a Kid’s talk and Paul needed to prepare a sermon.
We also were sharing at our own Growth Group on Sunday afternoon.
Plus LIFE with two young children and everything else. So we were feeling weary.

And yet, every. single. time. the same thing happens. We are weary, and we come before God and say “We can’t do this in our own strength. We can’t do this at all! Please help us Lord. May we glorify you.” And each time, we get there. We share, and we serve, and we are blown away with encouragement.

After sharing at MST we both had conversations that we came away encouraged by. It’s such a privilege to share with people on their journey to discernment for the future, and as they wrestle with the cost of discipleship. We felt like God really used us to convict people of the need for the gospel to go out to the nations. And for that we were thankful!

Yesterday we shared at Valley Presy, and felt absolutely privileged to be able to have almost a whole service to again share about the need for the gospel in Japan. Never had we felt so encouraged by a church that seemed eager to form a long term partnership with us, because of their vision and passion for Jesus Christ.

After that we shared at our Growth Group and had such a lovely dinner together, of delicious home-made Okonomiyaki.

It was a great day, and we continue to be flabbergasted at the ways that God uses His people to encourage us at just the right times, and in just the right ways.

Father’s Day Reflections

The first Sunday in September is the day for celebrating Fathers here in Australia. So yesterday the girls excitedly gave Daddy their handmade cards and crafts, while he received them with smiles. I tried to do a “Let’s talk about the things we love about Daddy” kind of thing, but let’s just say that at 3 and 1 years of age, that didn’t go super well. We enjoyed a lovely morning at Church, followed by a long, leisurely family lunch in the sunshine. I called my Dad later that night and had a nice chat too.

It was a great day, but I didn’t really do anything for Paul. He’s not big on presents (that’s an understatement) and Father’s Day isn’t a big deal for him. But I was reflecting on what to blog about tonight, and I want to write this post for him. To say thank you for all of the ways that he is a wonderful father to our girls.

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1. I love the squeals, laughter and pure delight that erupts every time you come home. Daddy coming home is the highlight of the day some days and it’s beautiful to watch.

2. I love that even though you grew up in a household of boys, you now love your household of girls, and wouldn’t want it any other way. You may not have had sisters growing up, but that doesn’t stop you from being a big softie who is happy to sit and have a cup of tea, comment on a cute hairstyle, or join in a ballet dance. You’re man enough for that.

3. I love that you are so capable, even though it sometimes makes me feel insecure! I have no hesitations whatsoever when you have the girls by yourself.

4. I love the way that even though you are a serious guy, you light up and joke, play and get some good silly going on with the girls, because you love them.

5. I love the way that you enjoy the time in the mornings when it’s often just you and Heidi up. A special quiet time in the morning with your daughter, and rather than seeing her as an interruption you cherish that time together. That’s beautiful.

I could go on. But you are waiting to chat with me, so this must come to a close. You are a great Daddy, a great Husband and my very best friend. I love you Paulie.

Writing Again

The problem with not writing for a long time is that it becomes overwhelming to start again. It’s impossible to fill in all of the gaps, but surely I have to say something about what happened in the midst of the blogging-abyss? I didn’t mean it. I didn’t intentionally stop blogging – I just wasn’t sure whether I should keep writing. I read books about blogging and being professional and writing the most awesome blogs ever and making billions of dollars on blogs and became crippled with indecision and inability. I couldn’t decide what (or perhaps more accurately, who) my blog was for. I couldn’t dedicate time and money to it so that it would become the worlds absolutely best blog in the world. And so I stopped. And once I stopped it was hard to start again. But lately I’ve wanted to have something slightly productive to do with some time that I have. Blogging came back up as an option, and even though I haven’t actually worked anything else out about why I’m writing, and how I will do it, here I am again. It feels good!

<<Insert Obligatory Update Here>>

Well… We are currently Candidates/Appointees with OMF International, aiming to leave for Japan in January 2015 (4/5 months away!) and have been doing Partnership Development since the start of this year roughly. Of course, Paul continues to study full time, and is in his last Semester of his Masters of Divinity. Heidi now goes to 3 year old Kinder twice a week (a total of 5 hours) and I continue to look after the girls full time. Pippa is almost 2 chronologically, but most definitely almost 2 in terms of the developmental challenges that parents face with 2 year olds. Enough said!

As I sit here writing, I realise I have a lot more to say about things, but just want to keep this post short. So, thanks for tuning in – I look forward to getting back into blogging a bit more!

Parenting and Humility

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Once when riding a train in Japan with my husband, 15 month old daughter and my 6 month pregnant belly, I was on the receiving end of that delightful thing called judgement. My daughter was exhausted, and while we had a little pram for her, she had been in it for most of the day, so we let her out of it while we were on the train. She was really tired and despite our best efforts, she was inconsolable. So Paul was trying to calm her down by holding her, rocking her, whatever he could do. I would normally have done this for a while too, but it had been a long day, and my body was tired. There were two non English speakers (clearly not Japanese people either) sitting across from us on the train, and while I couldn’t understand all they said, I did catch some Japanese words that they used. More importantly though, I caught the glances, the hushed whispers and the darting looks of judgement across the train. They offered me some food (a small packet of small crunchy things!) for Heidi, which I refused up to 4 times before giving in, and smiling politely, received it from them. Very reluctantly I let Heidi have some. Let me say, we did have food for her, but knew she wasn’t hungry, but just exceptionally tired. After an initial interest, Heidi then spat it all out. As horrible as it sounds,  I did a little internal jig! We may have only been sitting across from them for 15 minutes, but the way they were suggesting to one another, “Why doesn’t she do this? Why is the Father holding her? Surely the Mother should comfort the baby?”, I was quietly seething with rage. And let me just say, I don’t anger too easily. I often have to think for quite some time to remember the last time I was angry. So for me this was big. Let’s just say that when we got off the train, Paul was concerned that he had done something really wrong. I’m pretty sure he sighed with relief when he learned my anger was directed elsewhere.

Somehow parenting has become one of the most keenly debated topics of society today. Dummies, bottles, ‘breast is best’, slings, prams, cloth vs disposable, sleeping through, control crying – the list goes on! There are  many contentious issues regarding parenting that it can be hard to find your way and when books contradict one another, different parents experience different things, and everyone else seems to know what is right, unfortunately judgement is rife. Add in cross cultural differences, generation gaps and linguistic barriers, and it’s any wonder those ladies on the train in Japan had something to say to my apparently horrendous parenting skills!

In some ways judgement is understandable. If parents are making informed, considered decisions on the way they raise their children, many times parents have chosen one option over another. And let’s face it, as human beings, our default position is that our choice is the right choice. Of course I think it’s right to (insert parenting issue here), otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen it! But does my ‘right’ choice mean that your choice is, in fact, ‘wrong’? Why has parenting become a matter of right and wrong? Of course, there are some things which should have no grey areas. Child abuse, be it physical, emotional or sexual, is always wrong. But for the most part, parents judging other parents is not about a huge concern for a child (although that can happen) but is primarily about feeling better about your own parenting decisions! Judging others can lead to an ego boost – “Look how poorly they are doing” translates as “Wow, I must really have it together!”

Like most sin, judging others is easy to justify, explain and permit. It makes us feel good while making others feel bad. It lifts ourselves up, while dragging others down (even if just in our own minds). Judgement on others and how they parent is not living by the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, discernment of our own parenting styles is important. Yes, we will be different to others. And yes, we should be concerned about the welfare of others. But as Philippians chapter 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Christ has shown us the ultimate example of humility, and it is that kind of humility that we are to imitate. False humility is no good. I can’t pretend to think others are better than me, that’s just plain old patronising. We are to truly consider others better than ourselves. It’s not easy, and I by no means do this as I should. But it is what we must strive for. Judgement is also damaging because most of the time we don’t have the full picture. We’ve all done things in moments of pain or desperation that we would never normally do. But if that’s the only snippet that someone sees of you, what kind of judgement might be made? We don’t know of sicknesses, extended family worries, marriage struggles, work issues, LIFE issues – there is so much going on for everyone and often we can assume all is well when people are doing it tough. Instead of offering a listening ear and an understanding heart, we make a quick judgement based on an external thing like clothes or appearance or whether the child has a dummy or is eating a hot chip. It’s just not right.

Parenting is an ever changing, constantly evolving thing. Just as you think you have things figured out ‘for now’, everything changes again. None of us have it worked out completely. And we are all human and don’t know everything, all the time. But we can collaborate with one another, as parents, and share with each other, encourage one another and really understand one another. We are simply trying to do our best in a big, busy world where thankfully we have an even bigger, much more capable God who we can trust on and look to for help. Instead of judging one another, let’s remind one another of the humility and sacrifice of Christ, and of the work He has done. Let’s try and follow his example, and give sacrificially to those around us – humility and love are a great place to start as we discuss parenting in a godly way

Next time someone shares with me the struggles they are having with their children sleeping, instead of offering unsolicited advice, I might just offer to look after said bub while Mum has a sleep herself.

I love to hear from those of you who read my blog, so if you have a moment, please feel free to comment and share some ideas of how we could encourage (and practically help) one another in this difficult parenting game? Or perhaps you have experienced judgement in regards to your parenting: If so, what is something helpful that the ‘judger’ could have done instead? Thanks again to everyone who reads my posts – it’s very encouraging to me and I love being able to share some thoughts with you all!

My History with Japan

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My heart is deeply connected to Japan. It’s not that I am a keen ‘Manga’ person, entranced by the sub-culture of ‘Anime’ that exists in Japan. Nor am I only besotted with the thought of the East meeting the West in one big melting pot of cultures colliding. I don’t have any Kanji (Chinese characters) tattooed on my body. I’m not a culinary artist convinced that Japanese cuisine is food in its purest form. I am not any of these things, and yet Japan is encased warmly within my heart.

An Education Begins

When we moved house from the city to the country when I was 10, I found myself in a class studying Japanese. Everyone else could read and write Hiragana and Katakana, but I knew nothing. And I didn’t like it. So I got some flash cards and as a 10 year old I taught myself the two alphabets one weekend. This was the first place that Japan started becoming a part of my life – an elementary introduction to Japanese.

In High School I continued studying Japanese. We had some less than brilliant teachers, until Year 9 when we not only had a great Australian teacher, but also had the first of a stream of Japanese assistant teachers, who were in fact, Japanese. I had actually now met a Japanese person! Or two or three. As I continued studying, my interest in Japan grew. I did well in school, despite probably not being able to have much of a conversation in Japanese. There were numerous opportunities to travel to Japan during my teen years, but I was never able to go myself.

As I graduated and began studying Podiatry at University, the opportunity to continue studying Japanese passed. I was unable to fit Japanese classes into an already hectic study schedule. This didn’t sit well but it seemed to be just the way things were.

At University, partly due to my involvement in the Christian Union, I began to have a significant interest in Missions. I wondered if this was something I could do in the future. God continued to impress upon me the need for the gospel to be proclaimed amongst the many hundreds of thousands of people groups who are yet to know Him.

After my first year of Uni my heart was not in Podiatry. Neither was my head – my brain struggled with the scientific and mathematic side of things, which was not a surprise to me at all. And so I followed my heart (and my head) and began my Arts Degree, hoping to major in Japanese. So my study of Japanese continued, but it was off to a difficult start. Despite having taken a year off from Japanese and being incredibly rusty, I had no choice but to be placed in the advanced class and I struggled my way through that first year. But I made it and was hopeful of making Japanese my major. Until I learned that you needed a certain grade to continue, and I hadn’t made it. I was unaware of this during the year, and was quite devastated when I realised my plan was not going to work! As much begging and pleading as I did, the Faculty would not be persuaded. And so it seemed that despite having lodged itself firmly in my heart, I was unable to pursue my interest in Japan and Japanese through my studies.

Although my studies had ceased in a formal way, God definitely knew what I needed to keep my interest going – people. He brought a few Japanese friends into my life and my heart was slowly, almost imperceptibly being changed. Ayako, Kazumi and Wakako have a lot to answer for! Their kindness ,fun and generosity of spirit gave me a glimpse into some of the positive aspects of the heart of Japan. And as this love for a people grew (rather than a language or idealised culture), my heart for Jesus and for seeing his Word proclaimed grew as well. But strangely enough it took me a while to join the dots – until I was faced with the decision of what to do when Uni finished. Having studied an interesting yet perhaps directionless Bachelor of Arts I had some thinking to do. And my thinking wasn’t working – I still had no thought as to what to do. So when the opportunity arose to combine my love for Jesus and my love for Japan, I accepted it with wide open arms.

An Adventure Begins

I moved to Japan for a commitment of two years only about six weeks after finishing University. I had an opportunity to work for a small Mission organisation in Japan, teaching English in various churches each week. The time had come when I was finally able to taste and see what Japan had to offer and was really about. And while I most definitely had my struggles (“What am I doing here?” thoughts about 2 hours after getting off the plane for example) it was an overwhelmingly positive time. I took to Japan like a duck taking to water. Occasionally I may have felt like I was swimming in circles and stuck in a dirty, algae covered pond, but mostly the swimming was good and the water was clear.

I only had two major episodes of culture shock. One is probably a normal experience: Picture me in a meeting with only Japanese people, trying to plan some ideas to move forward with our organisation. We’re sitting in a circle and after about an hour of quiet time to think, pray and prepare, we begin to share. I’m the last to share. As we go around the circle I begin to think that perhaps I got something wrong  – that something must definitely have been lost in translation. Everyone else had made fairly vague suggestions of what might possibly be an OK idea (their wordings), whereas I had a list of actions to plan from here on – very concrete, direct thoughts. It was at this meeting that the full strength and impact of Japan as a communal society became obvious, and where my inclinations for individualism came to the fore. I hadn’t misunderstood the language, I had misread the cultural situation. I had not waited to “feel the air”, as some Japanese have expressed this to be. I was confident in my suggestions, and was not considering if I would cause someone to lose face by having to disagree with me. I had a lot to learn! Actually, I still have quite a long way to go!

The other episode of culture shock may have just been plain old shock – I’m not sure. I had been invited to spend two days with one of my students. She was an older married lady who had no children and lived in the countryside. She and her husband had such kind hearts, and were so generous to me. But I struggled through the whole time. Culture shock is indiscriminating like that – it appears out of nowhere and sticks to you whether you like it or not. It began pretty much as soon as I arrived. A couple of other ladies from my class and I arrived together. I had not brought a gift. That was a big cultural faux pas right from the get go. And this was followed by dogs. Yes, dogs. The shock was great. Her front room, where I was staying, was full of dog memorabilia. Statues, figurines, soft toys, photos, pictures – whatever you can think of, she had it. It was, to say the least, overwhelming. And then there were the real dogs! She had two miniature poodles that were like her children. They ate at the low table with us, barked nonstop the whole time, and they kind of smelt too. But I guess they why is not so important – either way the culture shock was terrible. I wanted to be gracious and thankful to all they were doing for me, but this nasty thing clinging onto me made it a real struggle.

Anyway! Other than that, I had a pretty easy cultural transition. There were moments of loneliness, frustration and struggle, but those things can happen anywhere. God used the two years that I was away to grow deeply within me a love and a passion for Japan and the Japanese people. So much so that I really wanted to stay and not come back after my two years there. But some wise friends from my church at the time encouraged me to come back, get some perspective and perhaps prepare a little more if I wanted to stay longer. I somewhat reluctantly took their advice, knowing that it was the right thing to do. I had a plan to do a year of study at Bible College, and then head back to Japan as soon as possible after that. And while I did do my one year of study, and still intend to go back as soon as possible, it was five years ago that I returned. So sometimes plans can look differently to what we expect, while still being faithful to the Lord.

I will stop there for now, with another post in about a month continuing from when I got back to Australia, to my (current) plans for the future. Thank you for reading a part of my story, a journey into Mission and a record of the way that God has been working in this particular way in my life.

 

My Own Beautiful Love Story: A Marriage From A Friendship

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My husband and I knew each other for about 6 years before we got married. For probably 4 of those years we were really good friends. Not the kind of friends hoping for more, or just waiting to start a relationship. We were just good friends. We saw each other at Uni, hung out with the same friends, traveled on mission trips together, were in Bible studies together, and enjoyed catching up here and there. But one of the moments of our friendship that I treasure (albeit a long moment) was over the time that I lived overseas. We emailed at least monthly – more often fortnightly –  for two years. Those emails were often long, sincere and encouraging. And still just as friends.

On our first Wedding Anniversary, I had the ingenious idea to compile all of our emails over that time into a bound book. You know, year #1 about paper and all, I thought that would be pretty cool. Paul loved it. And I loved it when he handed me the exact same gift. I am not kidding. Somehow, we had both thought of the same, somewhat abstract gift and secretly made it and gave it to each other without having a clue about the other persons identical idea. We laughed. And we read. It worked out really well, as we had each included some emails that the other didn’t have, so when you read them side by side, there is a very comprehensive record of our correspondence.

Today, as I hunted for some Superannuation details in a box in a cupboard, I stumbled upon our books. I pulled them out and read through them. What precious memories. And I couldn’t quite believe the things I was reading. We wrote about relationships – who we had crushes on, who we were dating, how we were feeling post-dating. We wrote about Jesus – the passion for the gospel that we shared, but looked very differently as I lived and served in Japan, and as he worked in a secular, financial, government area. We wrote about the future, and the dreams and hopes we had. We joked together. We encouraged each other about the greatness of the God we both shared a relationship with. We wrote about challenges we both faced. And more.

As I read through those emails, with some passing of time and changing of circumstances, clarity descended. We were fundamentally passionate about the same things. We shared the same desire to see Jesus proclaimed wherever we were. We helped one another to focus on Jesus when others things threatened to consume. We laughed, joked and enjoyed one another. We were good friends to one another – speaking hard words in love when necessary, keeping in touch well, catching up and visiting when possible. We appreciated one another.

And it’s these things that haven’t changed. And it’s because of these things that we enjoy a special, meaningful relationship as husband and wife. We have the same passion. We keep Jesus as our focus. We help each other when that is threatened. We have fun together. We are friends. We speak lovingly, even when the topic is difficult. We touch base, and connect with each other. We value and appreciate each other. We are by no means perfect, and fail at these things at times (too often). But with a foundation of friendship, our marriage is a gift from God. It is a beautiful love story that only God Himself could have orchestrated. Neither of us would have believed it all of those years ago, and I certainly hope that we can look forward to what God will do next. Because He certainly does some wonderful things.