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.


My Own Beautiful Love Story: A Marriage From A Friendship


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.

“I find Jesus!”


Today Heidi and I were sitting on the couch together. We were enjoying some mostly quiet reading time. I sat with my Bible, a notepad and a pen. Heidi sat with her little Bible, a couple of library books and some crayons. After making sure she had stopped drawing in the library books (again) we actually enjoyed a few minutes of sitting quietly and reading together. It was quite lovely. As her attention span waned I began thinking of a few things she could do to be a little more entertained.

“Why don’t you try and find Jesus? Where is he?” I said, as she sat with her picture Bible. And so she sat, looking at the pages of her Bible, where most of the very cartoony characters looked quite similar. “I find Jesus!” she yelled, as she looked at the story of Moses. “Here’s Jesus!” she said, pointing at Noah. And so on it went. Just about every page had a man with a brown beard in it, and so, each page had the required exclamation. I laughed a little and went along with it. ‘Yes, he looks like Jesus, doesn’t he?” I replied just a few times.

And then I stopped and thought. I had just been reading through the first couple of chapters of Romans. In Paul’s introduction he writes,

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand though his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord”. (NIV Rom 1:1-4)

The meta-narrative of Salvation throughout the Bible comes to a climax in the gospels where Jesus is finally revealed as the Son of God, and the final part of God’s plan for the salvation of his people. The Old Testament stories, the well known ones, the obscure moments, and the somewhat dry parts – they are all there to direct us to Christ, whether obvious or not. To illuminate our desperate need for Him, and His absolute ability to meet our needs powerfully and more wonderfully than we could have ever imagined.

Jesus is on each page of the Bible. When we hear of Noah and the Ark, we can see Noah’s obedience to God and follow his example. But we can also see God’s desire for righteousness, and for his people. When we read of Moses and the Israelites in Exodus, we can see the story of a God who brings deliverance to his people. When we read of Jonah finally obeying God and heading to Nineveh, we can see God’s compassion and patience – both towards Nineveh and Jonah. And so on it goes. Each character, page, moment of the Scripture is leading us toward Christ.

When we meet the Jesus in the gospels, we also meet righteousness. We find deliverance. We experience God’s compassion and learn of His patience towards us. So it seemed quite fitting today for Heidi to point to each page of her little picture Bible and say, “I find Jesus!”  Because He is there.

A Timely Reminder

This morning Paul had a friend come over, like he does each Tuesday morning, to chat, read the Bible and pray together. I was in bed and then pottering around the house as they met. At one point I overheard Paul’s mate Blair say something like, “No one has said to me, ‘Remember what Jesus has done for for you!'” And by that simple sentence I was struck.

Remember what Jesus has done for you’.

Don’t forget the most important thing! In a bid to be better Christians, better people, we often are addressing one issue or another, learning about something we can or should be doing, and maybe reading a few different articles on areas we want to work on. We must remember that being a Christian isn’t about moving upwards toward heaven on our own self-help ladder. ‘The nicer you are, the higher you are!’ Should not be a slogan that represents who we are. We must indeed remember that it is Jesus Christ himself who has done more for us than we could ever do for ourselves.

Romans 3:22-24 says,

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

It is only because of Christ that we are able to come before God with a righteousness that we never had before. I can’t read books by even the best evangelical theologians and be made right. Even reading the Bible doesn’t change my status before God, although the Word is powerful to change and convict. It is actually Jesus who changes my life. And I need to be reminded of this much more than I am.

Doubts Are Irritatingly Persistent

I have doubts that rear their ugly heads every now and then. The main one for me is not a doubt so much about who God is, but that He is real at all. Can this be real? Can it all be true? What if I’m wrong? But I find that these doubts come more frequently when I have not been looking to Jesus, and remembering what he has done.

Encourage One Another

We must exhort one another with the truth. I know my conversations at church, or with Christian friends can be full of catching up on the past week, life, kids, upcoming church events, you name it! But meaning, and a desire to share, encourage and value the truth together is often absent. I can’t remember when I last said to someone, But remember what Jesus has done for you’.

When we look to Christ, more often than not, perspectives on other things become clearer. Suddenly it doesn’t matter so much that my life isn’t perfect, or that things are not always easy. Because eternal things are the things that matter the most. And Christ himself has sorted that out for me.

And so I want to encourage you to simply remember what Christ has done for you. And perhaps ask a friend to do the same. And may we all thank and praise Christ as we dwell on the magnitude of his service, sacrifice and love to us.

The Small Sacrifices

 Paul headed out tonight to a Men’s ‘Italian Oven’ night at church. He was reluctant to leave due to the two in-bed-but-screaming girls he was leaving me to deal with. “Go” I said, “I want you to go”. And so he left. And I really am glad he can be out on a Friday night enjoying some good food (they apparently had Gluten Free options) and some good fellowship. But it doesn’t make it easy. Doing something difficult with the desire to benefit another person is almost never easy. 

And thus enters the dilemma of all relationships, and in particular, marriage. Not that I am saying that marriage is a dilemma. The dilemma is the collision of my innate selfishness with my commitment to love another. Because those two things do not always equate. And it’s everyday. Numerous times. 

I have committed to love Paul. And not in that gushy-infatuted sense. Although there are definitely real feelings involved. My commitment to him is a real, tangible love that surpasses feelings and emotions. Which is a very good thing because they change fairly easily (understatement!). Our love for one another is modelled on Christ’s love for us – a love expressed in selfless sacrifice of the biggest kind. But I guess it is in the every day moments that this love-in-action commitment is really tested. Because I probably won’t be challenged to die for anyone most days. Not even for my husband. But I will be challenged in some ways. There will be smaller sacrifices to make. And smaller does not always mean easier.

I mean, when we first got married 2 of the things we had to work out were which apples we would buy and how we would fold the towels. So simple, so insignificant and yet these were issues we had to actually work through and talk about! When two people come together as one, there will always be areas that are more prone to friction than others. I am so thankful that Paul is such a godly man, and that as such he is acutely aware of his weaknesses and eager and willing to be selfless, forgiving and humble towards me. He is an example to me!

And yet that struggle with selfishness continues daily to rear its ugly head. It’s those every day moments where I have a small choice to make that this battle will be fought. 

Will I give up my Saturday morning alone time so that Paul can catch up with a really good friend who he rarely sees? (But what about me?)
Will I get dinner ready while the girls are sleeping today so that Paul doesn’t come home to a very stressful situation of screaming girls, stressed out wife and no food in sight? (But what about me?)
Will I bother going out to the shops with the girls so as to give Paul some peace and quiet while he has a major assessment due? (But what about me?)

None of these examples are profound, amazing or inspiring. But they are real. And they are the choices and decisions that as a whole will set the tone in a marriage. May we continue to struggle towards making small sacrifices for others, even when it’s hard, really hard.

What are some of the small sacrifices you have made lately?

Spending Time with the Keeper of Time

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14.

A good friend of mine (Martina) and I catch up each fortnight. We catch up while her son goes to Kinder, so that our girls can play together. We alternate whose house we go to, and while we have only done it a couple of times, it seems like it might just be one of those routines that sticks pretty well. We enjoy it, the girls enjoy it, and on the good days, it gives us a chance to connect on a deeper level. As we caught up last time, catching snippets of conversation amongst the distractions of two young babies and two busy toddlers, we chatted about one of the biggest challenges of being mums of young children: With so many demands on our time, how do we manage to spend time with God?

As many of you will know, parenting young children (we currently have a 4 month old and 23 month old) can be exciting, rewarding and fun. But it is, by its very nature, challenging, tiring and relentless. Tonight our 2 have played tag – one slept happily while the other was difficult. Then they switched. We have just had them both awake. One has now settled and the other still can’t get off to sleep. There is no ‘downtime’ in our household at the moment. And when we get it, we are so tired all we can manage is to get to bed before someone else wakes up. So when it comes to the notion of wanting to spend time soaking in the Word, communicating in prayer and reflecting on what Christ has done for us, where (oh where!) can we fit God in?

A common, albeit very kind, word of advice is often, “Don’t worry! You’re a young mum with 2 young kids – just do what you can”. And there is merit to this comment. We live under grace. I don’t need to earn God’s favour by filling a certain quota of prayers, or reading a certain number of pages in my Bible each day. My righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 4:21-26) not through impressing God with my diligence. But at the same time I have wondered – if I am not spending time with God now, when I truly and sometimes very desperately need Him, when will I?

The daily struggle goes beyond simple desire though. If I have 30 minutes, maybe a whole hour that both of the girls are sleeping at the same time during the day, I have to make some choices. Do I catch up on some sleep because I was up at 4am with Pippa? Do I mop the floors because we are toilet training Heidi? Do I try and organise a catch up with a friend? And so the list goes on.

As Martina and I caught up that day we ended up talking about Psalm 19. We didn’t read it together as the girls were getting a bit rowdy, but later I snatched a moment to take a look. Verse 14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”. And I thought to myself, “How can the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to God if I don’t know what He wants me to say and how He wants me to speak? And how can my heart please God if I don’t spend time with Him, meditating on both Scripture and on who the Lord is?” Despite the circumstances of my life, these questions cannot change. This is what I have been by convicted by.

Somewhere in my day, I must make time for God. And I can. The times when I’m breastfeeding Pippa – I can put down Facebook on the iPhone and read the Bible. As I sit down for lunch not long after the girls (hopefully) go to sleep at the same time, I can spend some time in prayer. It is about me making a choice. A choice I don’t always feel like doing, but a choice that represents my priorities and my passions in life. If I spend more time on Pinterest looking for activities to keep Heidi occupied with, or ideas for something (anything!) than I do with God, what does that say about the things that I value in life? If God is really my number one passion in life, maybe my time should represent that a little more?

It has not been easy, and I still have not made the right choice every day. In fact, with health issues, family issues, toilet training and this un-ending, hooooottttttt weather in Melbourne at the moment (and a baby who doesn’t like the heat at all), I often have literally not had a moment to spare in the day. But, I am working hard to change some habits and shift some mentalities. I want to know God more, to love Him, and to spend time with Him. James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (Thanks Colin Buchanan) and I so desperately want that. I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t happen. But I am going to make more of the opportunities that come up in the day, to snatch some quiet time with God. Because He is worth it.

How do you find time for the important things in life? What advice do you have to young parents regarding spending time with God? How does anyone survive having young kids in the heat???