Our First Meeting

Tomorrow we go back to work after a one and a half month holiday. For some of us we have avoided returning to our workplace at all costs. The idea of going back to school for meetings is  terrifying and unsettling and irritating for so many reasons. Some reasons I can barely lay a finger on and begin to understand. But I do know that I need every ounce of joy and peace from my Lord that I can find to face tomorrow bravely. I know not what tomorrow may bring but I know that it can bring me closer to my Lord and I will ask for just that. May I graciously give more than I receive, be slower to react and less impulsive in making mental judgments. May I let the spirit of joy and hope flow through my being. May I in faith be affirmed that I labour for my Lord and not for man. May whatever tomorrow brings allow me to see the grace and goodness of my Lord magnified and glorious. :)

Advertisements

Tonight I Just Feel Lonely

Tonight I just feel lonely.

Mum had some guests over for dinner so I made spontaneous plans to meet a friend for movie and dinner. Watching “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” again was surprisingly satisfying – the motifs enhanced, the thrill still very real. Then our dinner conversation drifted to our personal future plans – which stirred up these weird sensations in my stomach.

She has been persistent about my signing up for a “prestigious” dating agency, or for me to go out there and “socialise”. It is not the first time and usually when people raise the idea I brush it away quite expertly. I do believe that God is sovereign and in His time, I will meet someone, and I tell them that unflinchingly, I do not need to spend time or money searching for someone because the idea of “seeking out” a partner seems like a path dangerously wrought with land mines. A partner should first and foremost be a friend, and if two people could be attracted to each other only after one meeting, the questions of what you are drawn to and what the attraction is based on closely precede. It was not so easy to explain this idea in person though, and for a good ten minutes, I was stumbling over my words, a somewhat tenuous but desperate attempt to explain my reasoning, and yet staying very firm to what I believed.

Then she said something that stunned me – because it rang horrifyingly but potentially true – what if, what if I grow old without getting married, without ever experiencing love, and end up like a number of my colleagues at work – single, hard hard workers, who are so alone and narrow-minded and frigid in their thought it scares me. They could possibly be a startling reflection of who I may become in the future. I gasped at the horrendous possibility, and my heart sank at the plausibility of the scenario: twenty years from now, living alone, working alone, and (I can’t go on).

For the whole drive home questions plagued my mind, and strange feelings, almost akin to despair, tugged at my emotions back and forth. I do not usually give in to my feelings in this way, but all of a sudden, I realised that this desperation, this desire for a life companion, is normal and is real. I have had friends talking openly about their fears and hopes in the past, why was it that I could never quite relate to their honest thoughts in the same way? I may have been running away from an idea of “love” for some time, fearing that I could not, or did not know how to accept, respond to and reciprocate that emotion. Given that I don’t exactly have a pair of happy parents to model what true love is since my parents’ divorce, I guess I do find myself wondering how a relationship is actually suppose to work.

There are also these little moments in time when I question my own worth. Am I good enough for a person to spend the rest of his life with, really? Am I nice enough? I find myself thinking sometimes. I also think I do not trust easily. I act like an open book sometimes but the truth is I am extremely selective about what I choose to reveal and how much, and I swing back and forth between hot and coldness. Today, I am just feeling cold.

I turn to the only person I can trust to share all these feelings and thoughts with. Someone who could best understand my apprehensions and fears, my hopes and dreams, and my confusions and conflicting emotions. We were suppose to meet before the new year, but given the busyness of the pre-new-year season, she had to postpone it. Gosh it is awfully selfish of me to feel disappointed, but the truth is, I am. It feels like someone tried to lift but dropped a heavy rock back into my heart (ha).

It is silly. I have begun germinating this dream to live on my own with an adopted dog as a best friend to accompany me through life. I have even began reading up on breeds of dogs and HDB rules on keeping animals as pets. But everyone I share this dream with says it is way too sad a dream to be pursuing.

I have honestly no clue. What should I do to get out of this rut?

For Us

This morning I shared an SMS conversation with a brother whose frustrations reflected a little of my own. May we share in the spiritual blessing of enjoying a foretaste of heaven with our brothers and sisters in Christ by humbling ourselves and investing our time and heart in the kronos, cherished time with our friends and family. When work eats up a large slice of the pie of our lives, we have lesser or close to zero time to share with our friends and family. It becomes harder and harder to relate to others and for others to relate to you, and you become more selective about who you choose to share your social bubble with. It becomes more difficult with time because you grow increasingly distant.

Dear Lord, may our hearts be humbled and open to share what little of our life with others. May we always remember that every second we breathe we live for You, and seek to build up instead of push away. Grant us the wisdom to manage our lives in a God-fearing and God-pleasing way, so that our lives will always be centred around You, not on ourselves or objects of our choice. Give us the courage to share our lives with others even when it gets difficult. Thank you, for being our Saviour and Almighty God.

For Them

About a week ago she shared with us things that bothered her at work. To an extent it affected all of us because we belong to the same unit, the same family. I know it must be challenging to have to keep things suppressed within you for years and years, for confiding in others will only lead to more trouble, strained relationships… and the only other option is to wait on prayer for things to change. It takes a lot of patience and courage I think, to realise that God is not absent when things go bad. What cannot be resolved with human intellect and human reason, can only be resolved by the power and grace of God. 

My prayer is that she finds the comfort that we cannot provide in God; and the affirming knowledge that He is sovereign and is Lord over what man cannot control. What she cannot confide in others, she can take it to the good Lord in prayer, where He will answer. What cannot be worked out by human reason, we can take comfort in knowing that we can work out with God’s help. In time, difficulties and challenges can be overcome and good can come out of it. 

It’s Christmas! May this be the first of many more a prayer a day

The Eve of Christmas

Nativity_tree2011

 

Today is Christmas Eve. Usually there is some hype about the Christmas season – last year we had our relatives come over for a Christmas Eve meal, complete with roast turkey, apple-baked ham, log cake, shepherd’s pie, trios of sandwiches and salads from our family friends and relatives who shared the joy and warmth of Christmas through thoughtful dinner offerings – but this year things are quieter. Contrary to the first silent night in Nazareth, the Christmas period is always bustling with activity and programmes. The activities are still aplenty, but for the few days leading up to Christmas, this year’s Christmas deal is a lot simpler, humbler.

Some of our cousins, aunts and uncles is somewhere around the globe on their Christmas family vacation. When we went to have Christmas dinner with our grandma last evening, it was a simple eclectic affair of mashed potatoes, roasted turkey, mixed vegetables, fish curry and rice. We left before nine o’clock so grandma can give ample rest for the next day.

Today was just like any ordinary day. Some of our friends have begun sending Christmas wishes, but not many. I am waiting to send them tomorrow when the day holds most meaning for more. I spent most of my time the past two days reading off a kindle – one of the ways I chose to spend my remaining LDS this year. The ebooks on the kindle has captured more of my attention than the shows of television or even the happenings on my laptop, making me a very happy reader. For someone who spends weeks (at the minimum) reading an actual book, I have read 2 books in the past four days. I think the kindle has made me a winner. In some sense.

My family are curious but not judgemental about the new gadget they see me wrapped up in. My sister and brother even sounded slightly envious at the kindle. I boast about how fast I have been reading with the kindle. We do have reservations about using a kindle as a substitute reader compared to books, but with the proper balance, I believe it is one with plenty of merits. Its concept is eco-friendly, it is also a convenient companion with you want to travel light but with something constructive at hand to do, it helps to reinforce my vocabulary with the built-in dictionary app, it saves money because ebooks are a lot cheaper (and last longer), and it saves space. There is still an important place for real, paper-pages books though. I would buy books I want to pass on to my children and children’s children for their literary value. The worth of some books are priceless and cannot be confined on any screen.

I logged into my work email a few times to reply some emails and do (a bit) of preparation for work. I also took an afternoon nap hugging my plush hippo Good Heart to sleep. I am deliberately refusing to engage in any proper work until the meetings kick in next week. A tutor, mentor and friend once shared with us that work will always be there; but personal time will not. In that same line of things, you should protect as much personal time and space as possible, since work will always be hanging around.

Slowing down the pace this holiday is a good thing. Many people play up the holiday season and Christmas celebrations with the indulgent partying and commercialised celebrations and present-giving. I remember up till a few years ago log cakes, Christmas turkeys, and thick legs of flavoured ham were always a part of Christmas dinner. This year, I am thankful that Christmas a low-key affair of delicious leftovers and simple home-cooked food. We had my youngest brother’s girlfriend – it feels strange calling her name, L has always been more of a dear sister and friend at church – come over, and now I am sitting in front of the television watching a hallmark Christmas movie in the background. It is pure, simple bliss.

Tomorrow will bring about more time to rest, reflect and wait for the Christmas concert of praise programme we have at church in the late afternoon. My wish is that all people get to experience the love, joy and peace that comes from Christ this Christmas. Blessed Christmas to all!

 

The Magic of Vacation

Months earlier I had plans to travel to Europe with an old friend and her colleagues during the year-end holidays as a refreshing booster and incentive trip as a reward for working so hard this year. Those plans had to be forgone when mum was not keen on the lengthy vacation periods and bore the upbeat enthusiasm of our own ‘family retreat’. I was not convinced by mum’s argument that too long a vacation would only tire us out more than energise us, but I relented. So my personal agenda this holiday was to travel to Bangkok and Koh Samui with three other colleagues (‘batchmates’) for slightly under a week, and a short getaway to Changi Beach Club for a ‘family retreat’.

I must admit that the idea of both these short vacations did not sit very well with me. You must understand that I am a person who loves wide open spaces, mountains, green rolling hills, and cool fresh air, in temperate countries, sheep, goats, cows and horses, sunsets, sunrises, panoramic views of nature at its finest. I try my best to stay away from crowds and built-up city areas where people indulge in hours of shopping as a form of relaxation. Bangkok was not exactly the kind of place for a relaxing holiday. Furthermore, at least one of my colleagues had been (more than) eager to introduce me to the wilder and probably more open side of Bangkok, force me out of my comfort zone, make me try things I may never get to in my little bomb shelter of a life in Singapore. That… really made me uncomfortable because I never believe in the philosophy that we should ‘try everything in life, we live only once’. That is rubbish; we don’t go tempt fate and put ourselves in undesirable situations just because.

Our family retreat to Changi Beach Club was also awkward. Mum has this long drawn out hunch that we need to “detox” ourselves and our relationships with one another, and spend some happy, uninterrupted time away from everything else, and “talk it out” – her exact words. Bam Bam Bam. Put four young adults together and tell them you need to “talk things out” is not cool (ha ha). It is a noble thought, but to explicitly tell us that is akin to telling us that this vacation is a “reflection vacation with this agenda behind it”. Relationships take time to build up and mend itself, and they cannot be coaxed or compelled unless into pretense.

Well, nonetheless, the two trips came and went, and I guess there is some magic in vacation that tinkles its way through the few days we spent with each other. Despite our differences in personality, preferences and opinion, we did not end up arguing or pulling each other’s hair out. In fact, I found that spending time with others away from the usual drones of life does help one to unwind, whether you expect it to or not.

 

1465224_10152060458655465_1796020315_n

 

This is along the Changi Beach, when we decided to take a stroll along the boardwalk to our dinner destination. We walked, the five of us together, as a family, and yet strangely and comfortably apart. Each of us visually looking out for one another, but almost as if we worked it out through telepathy, we kept a comfortable distance away from each other, just enough to give us time to think, reflect, listen to the whispers of the wind and the waves, and pray and meditate. At least, I suppose that was they were doing while walking that evening – I was praying and talking to my God, and it was a beautiful evening.

I realised that although we have our disagreements and fair share of fights and grudges, we are not that much different. We enjoy the time of solitude, and we understand one another when planning the agenda for the day. We are not picky eaters, and we are not stubborn and selfish when it comes to making decisions. The brothers giving in to the sisters and the sisters being considerate to the brothers. We had a good time.

I learnt most of all, that our squabbles often begin from misunderstandings and foul words that sting. When the words we fashion against one another sting, it hurts so bad that sometimes, we would rather let the scar stay as a testament to the grief and wrong we bore, than treat the scar and let it heal with love and forgiveness. Sometimes we forget that God’s love is among us, and we should not stubbornly cradle the hurt and anger.

Mum was right. We did have grudges we were bearing against one another, siblings we tried to avoid communicating with lest we end up exchanging poisonous words again, and we did need some time off to spend together. But the “talking it all out” was not necessary. I found that just spending time away from all things together as a family and praying together (for others) is the grandest cure.

1455043_10152042530085465_1198181079_n

Our trip to Bangkok also came to an end. I insisted not to visit any late-night places which might spell a night life too active for my taste, and with the help of the other companions, we steered away from places which might have make myself (or any one on the trip) uncomfortable. It was a fairly easy trip, travelling light and experiencing new sights and sounds which were novel and exciting. In Koh Samui we took our time to enjoy the slower pace of life in the beach resorts, just staring out at the waves, letting the salty winds blow through our hair and sinking our bare feet in the sand.

Again, I think the part of the trip I would remember most dearly is the conversations we had. Back in Singapore our conversations always ended up trailing back to school, the education system and our students. But right then in Thailand, it almost seemed as if our conversations were uninhabited by locations and expectations. During our six hour wait for the terribly delayed train at Surat Thani, we had a candid discussion about values, character, morality and conscience, and education, and this stemmed from homosexuality and social conventions. I would never have expected to ever engage in such an honest conversation about such issues with them. Pity. These are the precisely the issues we should be discussing, not kicking under the carpet.

They are difficult issues, but if we do not face them squarely and address them, we can only learn how to be content with the repetitive and superficial character development lessons that produces little more than mindless drones who are capable of repeating the same textbook notes back at you.

These two short trips have taught me the importance of doing everything with an open mind and appreciate the moments of honesty, friendship and communication we have with family and friends. It is the magic of vacation and the blessing of God to commune and fellowship with others around you during the holidays. :) Happy holidays everyone.

Don’t Know Where To Go

About two weeks ago I went to Changi Airport to send a friend off. He had come at the beginning of the year and was assigned to work with me. At first a little aloof, we soon warmed up to become friends. It was comfortable working with him and exchanging different opinions. He was also sweet, giving little gifts like a birthday and teachers’ day card, and graciously accepting mine as well. Being able to work well and honestly with someone is something I have learnt not to take for granted. He was a blessing in 2013, and may we go on to bless others as well.

As I sat in the car after, air-con at full blast, staring at the iconic Singapore Changi Airport control tower from down below, watching the number on the clock switch, it suddenly all fell into place: I had no idea what I wanted to do, nor where I wanted to go. I had planned to find a quiet spot in the airport to do some reading and writing, I had brought my novella, my school readings (just in case), my journal, and had even spent hours debating whether I should have packed along my laptop, cable and hard disk (just in case). I was such a person – one who could not really figure out what she wanted, and hence was better off preparing for anything and everything.

Wherever the tides would take me, that would have been my motto. I would do what my heart felt like doing. Well, it turned out that that morning, I had no idea what my heart felt like doing. Maybe it did not feel like doing anything. So I sat there in the car, thinking about where to go and what to do the entire rest of the day, and wondering what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in my life.

In the past, it was easy to sweep away the residue that accompanied the difficult questions and say, Let’s just wait and seeMy priority to teach became my verbal promise to whoever asked about “my future plans” and a weak excuse for my indecision. That really meant that I need not make any effort to get what I wanted, heck, I was too lazy to even decide what I wanted to do. Making decisions require effort, and the actions that are required to follow after can persuade one to run in the opposite direction. But at this moment, I had a few options presented me and they all require me to make some kind of effort.

Further study? I need to do some research, plan some budget, speak to some people, fill up lots of paperwork and apply for the courses. Some of my colleagues and friends have done that – I look at them juggle the workload and I think them mad. But secretly I applaud them for their desire to translate their dream into reality.

A managerial position? I need to do some soul-searching, set some objectives and clearly defined goals, then work towards equipping myself if I prayerfully want to contribute in that area. This scares me because I do not see any like-minded colleagues working with me, in fact, the opposite is true, and the politicking is stifling. But if God calls you to play a particular role, there is nothing shunworthy about it, is there.

Just a teacher, more and more effective? I really enjoy interacting with the students and teaching them. But can I stretch myself in this aspect in this school?

Transfer? There are just so many reasons shouting against it, but I am dying of curiosity to see how other schools are like and if I would enjoy it better there.

Stay? Can I stay and be a more resilient and effective worker, able to contribute to the students and the school?

On a less serious note, a last option would be to focus on finding a partner and settling down. Ha ha ha. Decisions, decisions, decisions, aye.

Resolution

The grapes will always be
sour
whether we share them
or not.

In time,
mindless chatter
will fill up
silent spaces

and

words that tear down
will replace
mindless chatter

and

destructive thoughts
will succeed
words that tear down

and

from Gossip –
springs
anger, malice, frustration
angst, misery, unproductivity
and ill will

so

In speaking
seek to build up
restore, not –
tear down
or destroy.

 

I give thanks for sisters like M who will share in such conversations and gently admonish me only to hold me accountable to my promises. Thank you, M.

Messages

I gained two distinct messages from the trip.

Set higher standards. God will not compromise His plans for you and so shouldn’t you.

The last guy I had a ‘crush’ on had a whirlwind of problems. Mister Shao need not and should not be perfect, but to say that his spiritual life was a roller coaster up and down is an understatement. :/ I had forgotten what it should be like: having like-minded people to engage in edifying conversations. I had forgotten what it felt like to have quality, uplifting fellowship with others, and how much I actually desire it. I had forgotten that it is not enough that someone craves spiritual intimacy with God, or attends church every week or prays every day. Mister Shao needs to live out his faith through his speech and actions, his advice and prayers. Will he be able to lead others in prayer? Will he be able to give out sound biblical advice when others are confused or troubled? I think these things will determine how ready a man is to lead another in a relationship. And I know that God will not compromise on His plans for me and go, “aye, she’s running out of time. How about let’s match these two together, they will do.” So why should I allow myself?

Get your act together. Your expectations slacken because your relationship with God has grown distant.

Obviously if the quality of expectations I set for a Mister Shao are in question, then it reflects my spiritual relationship with God as well. If I am resting in His abundant grace, (1) I would not think that Mister spiritual-life-was-a-roller-coaster-is-an-understatement-guy is acceptable. That, would be settlingAnd (2), I would be so joyful being busy with other things – serving in church, at work, socialising with friends in healthy activities – not trying desperately to get my act together and stand on my own two feet, not constantly asking myself what I need to do to get my life in order. The fact that I am trying to get my life in order and exercise some spiritual discipline, shows just how slack I have become. The only way to understand the will of God, is to know Him through His word. Please, get your act together, hoshao.