Money Matters

We frequently get asked about how we have been able to walk in faith in our service to God as missionaries, and I often get asked how I have managed to adapt from a comfortable lifestyle & upbringing to a much simpler one.

And since money is such a big issue in many marriages and families, I thought it would be interesting to pen a few thoughts here, as well as the lessons I have learnt being a missionary and Nick’s wife. ๐Ÿ™‚

I remember the first few months being married to Nick. It was tough on the both of us! I was blessed to be raised in a well-to-do family, and my parents provided the best for us in every way. I never had to worry about paying any bills, and when I worked as a piano teacher for 10 years, the money I earned was the money I got to spend and save. While I believe I was not materialistic and extravagant in my spending, I still enjoyed eating out and buying meals for others, as well as shopping for nice clothes and items. I also loved buying and giving gifts. These were pleasurable ways for me to spend my money. Nick, on the other hand, is my five ringgit guy. Five ringgit on his haircut, five ringgit on his slippers. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ He does not buy new clothes unless they are really torn and beyond redemption, and ate very simply as a bachelor. He he. He’s been trained in the school of hard knocks, and his nett value really, is in his heart of gold. I love him so much for that.

But all these romantic thoughts aside, practically, it was a challenge for us at first as a married couple. I remember vividly the time we went shopping at a sleepy, old supermarket for some kitchenware. Nick forbade me from buying two bowls. He said one was enough ๐Ÿ˜‚ the bowls cost less than five ringgit each! He reasoned that he was used to having his noodle soups from plates and we just needed one bowl. But in Chinese cooking, we often prepare stews and dishes with gravy. I found this man so absurd and unreasonable! We ended up leaving the store without purchasing anything and having a tiff at home thereafter. ๐Ÿ˜…

But by God’s grace, we slowly learnt to accommodate one another. As Nick slowly became a little more domesticated because of the presence of a woman in the home, he began to recall again the comfort of having home-cooked meals and then slowly understood the need for different kitchen utensils. ๐Ÿคญ

Living by faith and being married to Nick has taught me to be more frugal and prudent. These words that he said to me at the early stages of our marriage will always stick with me – “Sometimes the people who give to our ministry are really regular people making a living; school teachers, university students and even widows. They are not necessarily rich people. This is their hard earned money and we must be accountable for every cent.”. That was quite a humbling thing for me to hear but truly that’s the honest reality. The people who have supported us thus far are ones who have given out of love and obedience to God. We believe that they have not been compelled or pressured in any way. It takes humility to learn to accept such gifts with a grateful heart, knowing that you will never be able to repay their kindness, but trusting the Lord that He blesses those who give out of obedience unto Him.

As a couple, we have also agreed to have only joint bank accounts and ‘one wallet’. There is no ‘my money’ , or ‘your money’. Each large purchase (above a certain amount, say above rm 100) is made together. I believe this contributes greatly to the oneness and unity we have as a couple. It takes trust and courage, at first. But I believe it is the biblical way of approaching finances in marriage. Two becoming one.

I have learned to live simpler and it is actually so enjoyable and rewarding to save every cent we can. Previously, I would not have cared if items were priced a few ringgit differently, but now every cent counts. We compare prices at every supermarket and know which is cheap where. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have also been trained to remember and note how much I’ve spent on groceries, parking, snacks and the like. This helps us keep our spending in check.

Lastly, I must say that Nick has been very kind to me all these years. He makes a lot of personal sacrifices and does not spend much on himself, but encourages me to get pretty clothes and offers to take me out for a treat every so often. I’m really blessed with a husband who really tries to give his best. Love you darling!

Hope this short sharing can be somewhat an encouragement for couples who are about to get married or whom are newly married. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Tang Yuenย 

I never really cared for tang yuen/Winter Solstice since it was not a tradition my family practiced back home. But in the first year of my life as a missionary, I came across tons of pics of it on Facebook. It made me miss home, and suddenly I just wanted that bowl of tang yuen that everyone seemed to have, except I.

We went visiting that evening to our mama angkat’s house and lo, to my surprise and joy, I found a pot of Tang yuen in her kitchen! She, though dayak, had learnt to prepare it from her Chinese mother-in-law. So, I got my tang yuen cravings fixed that night, and that’s how I eventually learnt how to make my own tang yuen too.

It’s winter solstice again today & we are once again far away from home. But we have had two dear people make this for us today; once again reminding us that God loves His people through His people.

Pregnancy Notesย 

I thought I should blog a little more before my hands get full with soiled diapers, milk bottles and a myriad of baby paraphernalia. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some random facts about our first pregnancy

1. It was a surprise. However unprepared we felt, we saw God’s hand in baby D’s life from the time he was conceived. In the fragile first few weeks of his implantation in my uterus, God prevented Nick and I from travelling to Tamong (a mountainous village with treacherous road conditions) through a terrible cold I developed which lasted a week. We would have gone, if not for the dreadful cough and fever that kept me awake for many nights, as I was unaware of my pregnancy at that time. After all, I wasn’t due for Aunt Flo’s visit till the next week. Through this incident, we look back and realise that baby D’s life has truly been covered with the fingerprints of his heavenly Father since the very beginning.

God also revealed to us baby D’s gender way before it was revealed in an ultrasound. At week 5, Nick and I already had a word given to us from the Bible (individually, at different times and through different passages) that we would have a son. (The gender of a baby is usually only known at week 16).

This brought us comfort and joy; knowing that despite our feelings of unpreparedness and inadequacy, God has already ordained all the days of our son.

The day we found out that we were expecting, a butterfly emerged from the cocoon we had earlier kept to observe.

2. I gave my poor Hubby and loved ones a headache during the first 5-6 months of pregnancy with my incredibly restricted diet. I felt too sick to stomach any Chinese food, meat especially poultry, and often craved for Japanese food and McDonald’s. (which obviously, is not available where we were in Kalimantan). ๐Ÿ˜„

Thankfully for my poor husband, I managed to win in two sushi competitions, one which won me a two hundred ringgit voucher at Sushi Tei, and another free thirty plates of sushi at Sushi King. We believe God had mercy on the both of us. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I got my sushi cravings fixed, and our household budget was preserved. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Now, I’m happily making up for lost time and enjoying my ayam goreng, chicken rice, Nando’s and KFC. Tee hee hee.

Our winning entry for Sushi Tei, accompanied by a poem I wrote for it’s caption.

3. I really love the feeling of baby D’s movements in my tummy. It makes up for all the physical discomfort I feel at each stage of the pregnancy, be it nausea and Dizziness, back pains, heart burn or indigestion. It feels so good to know that this precious little one is growing, woven by the skillful hands of His Father in heaven.

Spot the little bird saying hello to baby D ๐Ÿ™‚

4. Despite all the challenges of pregnancy, my friends who are mothers already say that pregnancy is a breeze compared to actual motherhood! I believe them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Nick and I feel so in need of God’s grace and wisdom as we charter into this unknown territory of parenthood.

Nick has been an amazing husband and support during this period, I could not ask for more. So glad that he’s with me in this together!

5. We are also treasuring our last few moments together alone as a couple (every day feels like honeymoon for me still, even after 2+ years of marriage). Hehe.

6. Lastly, I personally feel so blessed and grateful to God for His providence to us and baby D through the love of the people around us. Baby stuff can be so pricey and confusing at times for newbie parents like us, but everyone has been so kind to rally around us with their support, availability and all the wonderful hand me downs and gifts we have received. Most of our baby stuff are pre-loved items from relatives and friends who have generously given/loaned us stuff without hesitation. Personally, we would rather use hand-me-downs for these reasons – we save a lot, we don’t have to go back and forth deciding on the brands, prices and benefits and disadvantages of each product that we are considering to purchase (my husband is extremely thrifty and OCD, haha) and each product has been tried and tested from its previous owner. Anddddd, we just feel really blessed and loved as we sorted through the different items we received from family and friends.

Through this pregnancy, I’ve also come to experience for myself God’s providence for His children. Even though we have chosen in some ways to give up many things in following Him, He has proven Himself faithful to provide & we have never lacked anything.

Can’t wait to share all these stories with you, baby D. See you soon! ๐Ÿ˜š

The Follow up Post…ย 

Dear friends, 

to those who read and prayer alongside me, 

Thank you. 

God truly answered our prayers & our major concern (with the border soldiers) have been resolved. We were raya visiting with one of my student’s family who happened to have connections with the commander at the border. This neighbour travelled 3 hours to the border and another 3 hours back to get us our identity cards which had been held by the soldiers at the border. Talk about going the extra mile. This was on the 3rd day of Hari Raya, and Raya celebrations usually go up to a week with the first few days being the busiest. We are just grateful & thankful.

It also gives me a glimmer of hope that relationships are being built & that our work is somehow being recognised and appreciated (this cute pak cik informed the commander that I am teaching his son to speak English. The commander then replied saying that I should come and give all of them lessons too. Hallelujah!) 

Our water is slowly returning and we are able to get cooking/cleaning and washing again (mostly at odd hours, 10:30pm is the time to get laundry done ๐Ÿ˜). 

Thanks friends, for praying and for your love. We appreciate it. 

I’m Tired Todayย 

Today’s one of those days where I’m so tired that I can’t even cry. 

Our life here sometimes feels like an Amazing Race or a Survival Boot Camp except that our challenges do not last for a month or two. They are continual, this is a marathon. 

It’s just one of those days where we are both battling a cold and tired from a long trip back home. The soldiers at the border did not treat us well this time & were expecting a bribe during this festive season. It was stressful and very draining

We came home to find an unexpected water disruption and for the past 2 days, I’ve not been able to cook or clean and our laundry from the past 4 days (we have been away & I’ve also had to change our bed linen) is accumulating – 2 baskets full. The weather has been harsh with very little or no rain, and this exacerbates our physical discomfort and makes recovery slow

I’m feeling tired, disorganised and disoriented. 

This is just one of those days. 

I hope tomorrow will be a better day. Pray for us. 

Climbing Higher

We don’t choose to go to the “end of the earth”. It is not a pleasant place. We don’t belong there. We miss our home. But we go. And yet, if we go, we want to see some fruit while we are there. We want it to be a garden place where many souls find salvation in our Lord. We want it to blossom. While we don’t want to be there, at least let it be changed into something more tolerable for us. Let it be more like home. Don’t let it continue to be the “end of the earth”. And yet, it is the “end of the earth”.

What can we do? Go home?

Was that the prayer of the psalmist? No! He did not ask to go home. He did not ask for a successful ministry. He did not even ask to be happy. What did he ask? The psalmist wrote, “lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I”. He discovered the secret of climbing higher.

Roger Dixon
Climbing Higher

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Beautiful picture taken by my brother, Dave