When Words Fail, Let Our Actions Do The Talking

One week of mourning is drawing to a close. I have been drifting in and out of a mixture of emotions the past week, at times more emotional than others. My mind devoured countless of narratives and counter-narratives in the form of articles, forum posts, Facebook posts, that make the landscape of social commentary this week. As an educator in the civil service, we wear our teacher masks and tell our students of this great man and the history he has shaped in the form of our nation. Yet in doing so, we remain intellectually engaged by emotionally detached from the happenings. We all need some time to find words for how we are feeling and thinking. At this point, my mind is still incoherent, and there is little to say, although much has been coming in waves.

I still wonder how this man could evoke such powerful feeling in Singaporeans although we only read about him in our history textbooks and newspaper articles, or seen him on TV. Wouldn’t making him a public icon also render him impersonal and above us?

I think I am most moved by the idea of this man. He stood firm for the visions and beliefs he had in Singapore, arguably, he lived his life for Singapore. It is hard to imagine why someone would do that.

I am also moved by the unity of Singaporeans. Yes there are also negative criticisms that went out of line this week. But in this week, I felt a Singaporean heartbeat. A heartbeat that weakened in grief because a great man who started that heart beating had left us. Whether I was driving on the roads to work or walking in a public place, everyone seemed more resigned, quiet, silent. I hear about kind deeds Singaporeans showed to one another – taking turns to wait in line, distributing drinks, buns and food to those queuing, looking out for one another, practising patience and empathy when paying our respects. I witness how civil servants and NSmen came together to support the same cause – taking 12-hour shifts, putting other priorities and interests on hold for this one purpose, and in our own way, doing our bit to pass on this legacy to the next generation. As educators, we struggled to contain our emotions and transfer our gratefulness and understanding of a shared history to our students in the classroom. Others volunteered to manage the queues, disseminate information, and all these acts driven by gratefulness and appreciation for what Singapore has become, is indeed powerful.

The interview segments that followed the state funeral let the words and actions of a lot of Singaporeans, both young and old, testify to the legacy and influence of Mr Lee. I was pleasantly moved that toddlers and young children, could offer up their own words of thanksgiving and goodwill even though they would only have heard of him through documentaries or their parents. I am heartened that as one nation, we have come together to show our gratefulness for this one man.

In one article, it described us as the politically silent ones who only in his death, are now compelled into action, and given a voice. After watching the state funeral, I am convinced that I need to become less politically-apathetic and stop taking the peace and security in Singapore for granted. I wish we future generations will be able to continue to do justice to this country we call Home.

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Balance

This is my very feeble and subjective attempt to explain my current relationship status. It is by no means accurate or meant to be objective. Rather, it is a way to consolidate my thoughts on what  the terms ‘dating’ and being ‘in a relationship’ has come to mean for me over the years as I was growing up.

I must have grown up indignant about the need for companionship from the opposite gender. My education in an all-girls’ mission school for ten whole years has certainly etched that feminine identity and independence in my fellow schoolmates and I. My parents’ rocky marriage and subsequent divorce throughout my Primary School years must have also played a part to warn me that first of all, marriage and relationships may not last; and second of all, you did not need a man to be complete. (You did not look far beyond my mother to be persuaded – she is the epitome of independence and success, having raised four children on her own during the most turbulent times of her life.)

It was in Secondary School when my family began to go to church regularly and the church became an essential part of my teenage years. Although I started to develop feelings (more like an interest) in friends of the opposite gender during this time, I never acted on it. During this time, I met girls who got squealish and excited being around boys at some of the combined church camps and events. At one camp, girls skimpily clad in bikinis were at the beach playing beach volleyball and water polo with the boys. Needless to say, I was hugely affected by the culture I observed and wrote an article about it, expressing my discomfort at the inappropriate outfit and behavioral choices of teenagers, as well as implying my conviction to remain blameless and pure.

I read my first teenage girls’ magazine Brio shipped monthly from Colorado Springs. It taught me how to be discerning about many things related to my faith. It also introduced me to Joshua Harris, and his huge release, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, a romantically unromantic story about how he and his wife met and kept their love pure before God. What I took from this book was a deep (and probably very misguided) conviction that the concept of ‘dating’ is secular and unbiblical. In fact, ever since, I frowned upon spending one-to-one time with guys I did not know would be my future husband.

It gifted me with a very unrealistic and idealised version of love. On top of that, my mother cautioned me against seeing any boys until I quote, ‘grew up and started work’. She may not have meant it verbatim, but it was a guideline a shy girl would live by. In any case, junior college came and went by too quickly – I had no time to mingle socialise and fall in love. Growing up in a conservative family did not exactly give me reason to challenge these beliefs and guidelines either. I did not know how to look good, use cosmetics, buy pretty dresses or do my hair, and my mother did not exactly have the time to teach me. Everything I knew I learnt via trial-and-error and from my friends. Oftimes I looked like a fool.

In university, my ideal romantic story continued to accompany me. Each time I went out with a guy for lunch or dinner – alone, I would start questioning myself: ‘Did I like him more than a friend?’, ‘What was my purpose?’, ‘What was his purpose?’ and it hardly ended. I over-complicated and over-analysed every friendship I had with a guy, unless (1) he was already attached, or (2) he was not a Christian. I did not envy my social circle (given my very cautious way of managing my friendships), but I did not know how to balance it either.

And sadly, now that I have graduated and started working for nearly four years, there is barely any time to mingle, widen my social circle, meet new friends or invest in friends who could be potential boyfriends. I have fed myself with my own career and self-love that I find it hard to break down the idealised Joshua Harris-love I carried with me for so long.

It is only lately that I admit how imbalanced, and possibly hurtful, this view of love is. We do not lightly invest our heart and mind into relationships, but neither do we hold back from getting to know someone just because we are not sure where it may lead to. The truth is that we will never know who that person may be, and by writing off every single person you might like, just because there is no certainty involved, you are in actuality writing off your future.

It is after all, like our plans isn’t it? We never know the full picture or the final destination, only God does. But that doesn’t stop us from taking the plunge to try something radically different, or giving new ideas a shot to see where it may lead us. I hope 2015 becomes that kind of year. One of self-fulfillment, passion and love.

Hard Lesson #1: Make Time

‘Make time.’

This is a principle I am not unfamiliar with since the start of my working career. All of us have twenty four solid hours in a day, nothing more, nothing less, but we choose to spend them in different ways. Time, in its measurable quantitative value, cannot be made. But Time, in its qualitative form, operates in a strange and elusive paradigm. It can be stretched and compressed, it can pass slowly or quickly, it can be worth immeasurably, or nothing at all.

From the beginning, we were urged to learn how to ‘Make time.’ It served as an effective instruction to manage our various responsibilities and commitments. Of course, it is one of most difficult lessons to master, for me at least. Inadvertently, my time is spent squandered on indulging in the convenience of my introversion and my slothful private habits. Needless to say, my spiritual life, church life, even social life, suffer the most. For my selfishness rules with great tyrannical conviction over the twenty four hours I have been blessed with, allotting minute pockets of time to what may matter most in reality, and giving lavishly to matters of personal indulgence instead. What a shame.

My few achievements and successes in my career cheers my spirit some at the end of each year, although increasingly the value of the reward is little compared to the opportunity costs of it. Each time at the end of a grand year, I experience a rather short-lived reflective period and begin to count my blessings, and remember that it is the Lord God who builds up, and it is the Lord God who sustains the work of my hands. Only in a spiritual drought nearing the end of the year, do I remember that God’s grace is sufficient, His blessings like showers that pour out upon us. Then, I give God the glory.

At a home blessing service this evening, a Bible passage struck me, harking down to the very same principle of ‘Making Time’ as from the beginning.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm 127:1-2

Unless the Lord God wills the house to be built, nothing will be accomplished. Tonight I remember the smallness of our being, and the greatness of our Lord’s might and compassion in contrast. Each time I see a child succeed, I have to give thanks and praise God – not just by my mouth, but with my heart and soul as well.

The curious thing is what follows in verse 2. When we forget who is in control, we tend to be worrywarts. I know I have a strong tendency to want to be in control. It is only then when I feel empowered, assured, and at ease, believing that I pull (most of) the strings of this puppet show. But how silly it is to think that we have access and control over all the puppet strings for the show! How silly it is to worry about those strings, when the Lord God has already promised that His will be done!

I try to, do things, even when I might guess that it is possibly in vain. When the busy season comes, my life extends late into the night, frequently tempering at deadlines, and believing that I am ‘busy‘ ‘toiling‘ away, robbed of the ability to be joyful and thankful and to have rest and sustenance when work gets tough. In verse 2, the Bible states – and right in my face – that ‘the Lord grants sleep to those He loves’. Whether this means a full 8-hour sleep package at night, or restfulness during a brief night’s nap, what it means for sure, is sustenance for the journey.

So with this promise, what God wants is probably the simplest thing from us: to ‘Make time.’ To make time for Him.

This hard lesson #1 is for Twenty Fifteen.

Finding Inspiration

That is the most uninspiring title for someone desperate for some inspiration. In previous years, I have spent Novembers crafting schemes of work, designing potential learning programmes, reimagining lessons and translating those visions into lesson materials for the upcoming year. Novembers would be a period of evaluation, preparation, reflection and creativity. But this November feels like a stalled vehicle with an engine that does little more than sputter and cough.

I spent a large part of November 2014 coming to terms with the emotions wracked up from a number of events that happened this year. I lost a friendship that still leaves me bewildered and embarrassed. I deleted her from my Facebook and Instagram accounts and left all mutual group chats so I need not have to deal with the constant reminder of what we lost. I struggle to accept my deployment for next year with joy, feeling indignation and jealousy toward some colleagues, and at the same time, trying to remind myself to give thanks to God for His providence (James 1:17). I struggle to get down to work – I have lost considerable momentum and inspiration in preparing for the coming year. I stare and stare at the schemes of work or at the resources and feel… nothing.

No idea comes to mind to make it better, or more accessible, or more relevant. No motivation comes either, and I am left sitting in front of my laptop, feeling shriveled and terribly uninspired and bored.

Hence the urge to find inspiration through WordPress. If I look back at 2011 to 2014 and ask myself what drove me these four years, what would I say?

Students who enjoy learning
When they start to pick up confidence in themselves and believe that they can achieve their personal goals, they start to enjoy the process of learning… and in turn, they inspire you.

Being a part of their growing up
Students grow and mature in a variety of ways, and one of the best parts of the job is to simply be a part of their life when it happens. To watch a student participate in a competition, rise to occasion, and win, is gold. To watch them grow in ability and confidence, is pure bliss.

Being thanked for being a part
Sometimes the student turns back and thank you, and most of the other times, the student does not. Nonetheless, you experience joy on both occasions – and you wish for them to succeed over and over again, even if they do not recognise you or thank you for it.

When a programme works
At other times, I also feel happy when a learning programme is implemented and is proven to work – either it reaps visible results that pleases others, or it receives outstandingly great feedback from teachers and students, or students enjoy it so much they ask about it again, or your team of colleagues believe in the project so much they want to do it again, and better.

These are the things that drive me. When I work this holiday, it has to contribute to at least one of the four things that drives me.

But as humans we do wear out and get tired, and I think we need a higher purpose to sustain us in the long run. Colossians 3: 23 and 24 says:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

This principle, although familiar, is different from the rhetoric that we are so used to. The world tells us that we ought to add fuel to what drives us – our goals, our ambitions, our emotions – and these should be in essence, good virtuous things. But this drive is personal, and therefore has to be narrow-mindedly conceived.

On the contrary, the Bible tells us that our goals should not merely be what would give us pleasure. Perhaps one day, I may be called to do something with all my heart, even if it does not interest me. Perhaps one day, I may be called to do what I have personally never dreamed of doing. Instead, we are asked to work at everything with all my heart because we are working – we are living – for the Lord. The last thing we want is to serve ourselves based on our very narrow-minded goals. Our God is omniscient, I think that truth alone is sufficient to convince me to trust in the Lord and His plans for me. (Psalm 3: 5,6)

Coming back to this issue of being inspired, I think what I lack is not inspiration for work, but inspiration to work. And this ill, can only be treated by the spiritual intimacy to bring me back to Christ.

May our hearts be soothed.

Demons In My Heart

This afternoon was another hard battle with the nasty thoughts and feelings of angst and pain from a lost friendship. I feel that her hatred or stubbornness towards me was not only costing the department efficiency, it was also compromising on the quality of students’ learning and my professional outlook. Today I found out that she had shared information on reading programmes with other teachers in the department, but had conveniently left me out. I had a good mind to confront her about everything that has happened, but as I picked up my phone to craft a message, my fears of rejection and anger towards her got the better of me. Once again, that urge to deal with this conflict face to face subsided and is temporarily cast aside. I have to admit, when things happen that remind me of the nasty aftertaste our friendship has withered into, I need to get into my car, drive off and let it all out – sometimes as if I am talking to her, other times as if I am talking to someone else.

I think I have learnt that friendship is hardly ever a constant, and sometimes, relationships can turn sour, even the most unexpected ones. These demons have been plaguing my mind and my heart for weeks, and I really do not know to expel them from within me, if that is even possible. I realised what disgusts me at this point is not the bitterness that we have harboured between us, but the uncertainty of what is to come. I need to know if she expects or foresees a reconciliation. If that is not on the menu, I will then learn to adapt and work around it. What is driving me nuts right now, is not knowing how she is feeling, or what she is thinking. Today she walked past my cubicle, and in her eyes I saw an impenetrable glassiness, maybe even a sense of iciness that she had set up, perhaps to guard herself from wearing her emotions on her sleeves. All my remaining resolve to re-establish contact and speak to her personally melted away in desperation and pain.

This is not the only thing that is creating an unfathomable and unpleasant stir in my heart. As our managers iron out the intricate details of our roles and responsibilities in 2015, I realised a slipping in and out of contentment and discontentment. A good friend of mine  attributed it to seeing how everyone else seemed to be “more in control” than I was. They were assigned the classes they had hoped for and the coordinatorship roles they had requested for. On the other hand, my dreams were crushed when I found out about some of my assigned duties, and that not everything had developed according to what I had in mind for myself.

I was upset – more than I probably needed to be – that my colleague requested for a duty I was given. My role has a coordinator was that simply taken away. There were practical reasons for my colleague to have made that request, but I took offense that she had done so at a meeting in front of all of us, leaving little room for private negotiation or discussion. I took offense that she had earlier asked that I put in a request that she be given the role instead. I took offense that she was inexperienced and yet demanded so much – I questioned how ready she was and whether or not she truly knew what was at stake. I was upset that when our shared concern to refine the Lower Secondary syllabus and assessment gave way to a stronger more balanced curriculum, she seemed to forget that we had pushed for it together. I know for sure that she has reasons to be proud of herself for she had accomplished much. But for what she asked for and was given, I felt she had taken away.

I don’t think I have ever experienced jealousy in the workplace quite so pungently before. Perhaps there never was direct competition.

But I need to pause and reflect again. When writing the previous entry, “Learning to Let Go” – you would see a blank entry right now, which is testament to God teaching me to let go (similar to the title), even when a wonky connection meant that I lost an entire personal entry – I had promised myself never to forget the goodness and grace of God in my life. I had promised myself to learn to let go and let God because there simply isn’t any other way to go toward joy and peace and a victorious life.

Since putting that entry together, James 1:17 keeps coming to mind:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I had prayed and committed my career and my life into God’s hands. I had trusted Him that whatever role and responsibility I was assigned next year, God would teach me to humbly receive and then to humbly give back. No matter how trying that seemed to be, I could trust that God would give me the courage and strength to accept in joy, the good and perfect gift from above.

This soup of unhappiness and discontent and angst that have been stirring in my heart is a concoction of disgruntle and bitterness. I had expected myself to be playing particular roles, to take on particular responsibilities, to be stretched and groomed in particular ways, and when the opposite of that happened, I became upset and found it hard to swallow. Especially when everyone else around me seemed to be happy with their lot. It is easy to be jealous of another’s lot, I realised.

But when I reconfigure my mind and look at my assigned duties and teaching classes as a privilege, a calling, a chance to learn how to serve… and last but not least, as a gift from God – I don’t think anyone can complain.

My soiled friendships may have cost me some opportunities, but I know that when resources are inadequate, God’s strength is made perfect and His resources are abundant. If there are other challenges that may pose problems along the way, I need to be prayerful and proactive in seeking out a new way.

My goal for next year, is to be 1) More proactive – in voicing out problems, suggestions, and making possible things happen. As well as, 2) Be nice. Say what builds up, not what tears down.

I need to trust that even if the workplace politics are cut-throat selfish and competitive, in His own time and way, God will make me.

What Drives You?

I think you are meant to be driven, not meant to drive.

My driving instructor broke into a mild fit of laughter. I always thought he reminded me of some kind of hyena. And with his shades covering his eyes all the time, I found him rather unlikeable.

That happened about 8 years ago when I was learning how to drive a Class 3A vehicle. In the lesson one week before, he had suggested I better buy myself a seat cushion to prop myself up because I was too ‘small’. (Trust me, I am not petite at all.)

I remember those exact words because even though I did not retaliate and tell him off for such an insult – I was, after all, only 19 then – that remark stayed with me and fuelled some kind of drive in me to show him.

I passed my driving test on the first attempt, and 8 years on, I can say I am a pretty reliable driver. So much for labelling your students as ‘drivers’ or those ‘to be driven’.

This was similar to my memory of one of my Mathematics teachers who never really believed in us either. She did not have to spell it out like Mr Shades, she only had to say “I believe if you all put in your best effort, there is still a chance, a chance that you will pass (our A level Maths).”

That remark drove me insane. Nobody would be contented with a Pass for Mathematics, and given the way she was constantly undermining our hard work and intelligence, my incredulity transformed into frustration, and frustration translated into a source of self-empowerment. I would show her that I could get an A for Mathematics, without her help. So instead of attending the supplementary lessons she conducted, I went off and studied on my own, and did exactly what I had promised myself, by God’s grace.

There is always something magical about the power that can drive you when you want to prove someone else wrong and stand up for yourself. Something innately powerful in every living being to actually surpass his or her expectations. May we have the wisdom to embrace and understanding this sense of empowerment, and continue to do good work even if no one believes in us.

Like a Walk in the Desert

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He walked on, footstep after footstep, sinking his feet into the warm desert sand with every step he took. The space was vast, the ends boundless. He turned 90 degrees to his right, and the view that greeted him was completely the same as what he had turned from. He tried again to the left, only to be engulfed in a sense of utter friendlessness and confusion. The longing to escape from this pit of aridity and sameness grew stronger with every gust of wind that swept past his ears. The fear of never leaving that desert and never seeing a colour other than that rust-stained sandscape again made him scream out in wild hysteria.

My mind too has been a wandering in the desert, and has lost its bearings. It has been near impossible to put into words my thoughts and feelings, and the closest that I have come to doing so, is to speak of it metaphorically.

In the past few days I revisited some of my earlier entries recounting my experiences in school. Many of them reflective, filled with a sense of childlike wonderment at the infinite possibilities of teaching in a classroom, and a heart of immense gratitude when given opportunities to shine. I cringe when I read those entries – partly because it makes me feel stupid for being naive then, but partly also because I see in my present self the opposite of that earnest young fellow who wrote those entries three years ago.

There is something more I need to fix, and this is something I have been lying to myself about in order to play down the necessity of it. There is, simply put, no way a person can expect to find his way out of the vast changing landscapes of the desert, without God as his guide. And I guess the only thing one really needs is to be in tune with God.

Porridge for Breakfast

bowl

We have a guest among us these few days, here to share with us the good news from the Lord and the joy of life. Amidst the madness of marking during this exam season, I was blessed with the chance to eat at the same table and partake in the same conversation as Reverend J Tong and my family. This morning we were scheduled to have breakfast with him. I must admit that before this morning’s breakfast my heart was hardened to the idea of spending hours chatting. The prospect seemed almost idle and dishonourable to me – to be spending time in casual conversation, when there is a pile of work at home beckoning for your attention, just because we have a special guest from abroad with us over the weekend. I was not looking particularly forward to breakfast, and no bowl of fish porridge could warm my heart up to the idea.

The magic happened at the dining table having  the bowls of porridge laboriously cooked over the stove for hours that we young people may eat as a family with a servant of the Lord. Our conversation was indeed casual – it scraped the surface of his family, our aspirations and very briefly, our professions, as well as dreams of our relationships.

When he visited last year, his sharing always stir up some greater aspiration in me, like many other youths I am certain. He was always able to live out a sense of Joy in everything, no matter the circumstance. Coming to Singapore, his schedule is packed with meetings, sharing and teaching sessions, with little personal time to rest and recuperate from the jet lag. Yet there is always a certain charm and exuberance he lives out from within him when he interacts with the brothers and sisters, a glisten in his eye that reflects a sense of eternal joy and hope in the world that he lives and the life that he is living.

His thoughts and principles were also equally intriguing and profound. As a psychologist, he knew more than just what we would read from textbooks and encyclopaedias. His thoughts were always lateral and different from what we are used to in a typical Singaporean person. He had the wisdom and joy from the Lord to accompany him in all his journeys. I have always envied at secretly marvelled at the wisdom and joy he could live his life based on. In fact, his principles and sharing have caused me to re-look at the reasons and basis to the way I lead my life, the values I guard so closely in my heart for the past twenty-seven years, and re-evaluate assumptions I have always held confidently dear to my heart.

The call for reconfiguration is necessary and refreshing, however unsettling it may be at the beginning. A simple way of looking from his perspective is in education, a child’s purpose is to learn, and the most basic testimony of the degree of learning that has taken place in a child is by formal modes of assessment to determine how much my child has learnt, to quantify it knowledge and skill. We would always look at the numbers and data, average it to find the cumulative grade for the year, and measure that against the rest of his peers or the national average, whichever you choose. The bottomline is, isn’t there another way to measure how much a child has learned? What about common or general knowledge, the soft skills in communication, problem-solving and team work? What about the ability to articulate the essence of morality and social values? What if a child did not use the given route to reach the same end point – would we be big-hearted and open-minded enough to embrace the wisdom in the child for being – different?

There seems to be examples all around us speaking of this ‘difference in thought’. I just finished watching X-Men: The Last Stand on Channel 5, and no prizes for guessing how the homosapiens reacted when they discovered they lived among mutants – people who were genetically different than they were. What about Divergent – a movie that speaks volumes about how their modes of thinking is so distinct from the others, they cannot be controlled or managed. I see it in education all the time, especially when not all of our students fit the classical way of rote learning in school.

In church, I sometimes wonder to what extent the Bible imposes expectations and regulations on us. Are we not suppose to be yoked together with a non-Christian? Are we suppose to shun those who come to church for the wrong reasons, perhaps to look for a partner or a look for some fun? Should we judge our friends because they proclaim an alternative sexual orientation or condemn those who behave in a certain way? I wonder if we are unnecessarily conservative at times, and this was a time I found myself thinking about the root of these principles.

‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.’ (1 Corinthians 10:23)

There are many things that we can do and we can proceed to embrace, but when we allow ourselves to be protected by the rules and expectations in our church community, I don’t think we are building ourselves up adequately.

Another example is that of offering. As the offering bag pass, an old man drops a twenty dollar bill in the bag. A young lady sitting two seats from him whispers a kind admonishment saying, “Dear Sir, you do not need to offer your money because you are not a Christian”. She proceeds to kick up a fuss because she felt concerned that a pagan’s salary would be used in the kingdom of God, and isn’t offering for Christians? The twenty dollars that was offered help to pay for the lunch of twenty of the little children in the church kindergarten, and the expenditure was used beautifully. Without that twenty dollars, it would have been hard for that church to make ends meet that week. Couldn’t it be possible that God used a non-believing man to help sustain His kingdom’s work? Our God is perfectly capable of creating his own resources, and we should not let our assumptions and expectations hinder that possibility for God to work wonders.

Mum always said it is important to look for a Christian partner. I have grown up all my life believing and expecting to date and marry only a good Christian man. In my mind my heart blocks out any man who is not a Christian as a potential partner because well, it is “unbiblical”. I realised how wrong it is, and this is a guise for many other assumptions we may be making unaware. Although there are plenty of reasons why it is advisable not to, why do we cut off all possible relationships (friendships, even!) with men who may be our potential partner because they are not Christian?

I think it may be a way for us to prevent ourselves from slipping. We are afraid of making mistakes, of falling below the grade, that we install plenty of rules and regulations to help keep our act together. If we have these rules institutionalised to follow, it makes following God easier. But I question that now – would it actually hinder the work of God? If we were truly His children with the Holy Spirit living within us, capable of prayerfully following God’s counsel, do we need the harsh conventional rules and regulations imposed upon us?

God gave Adam and Eve the choice – and they chose to sin. God could have easily taken that choice away so Adam and Eve would have to be given the burden of a task to make a choice – and risk making a wrong choice. But that wouldn’t be loving us and giving us the freedom in our spirit to make our own choices. It cannot truly be a choice be no choice was being made, can it. Similarly, you cannot have someone love you unless the person is free to love another, but chooses to love you instead. That choice, I think, is key to human relationships and life, and we should not shy away from the possibility or the risk of danger.

Tomorrow – there is more food for thought. Let me keep these questions and emotions in my mind where it belongs for now.

Restlessness

4340091-Restlessness

I googled “restlessness” for apt images related to my current status and settled on this discomforting photograph of an empty bed, sheets unfolded and creases intact. Whether it is a scene of a person’s bed before, during and after sleep we cannot tell. We only know as much as the fact that it is in media res, it is at a point of incompletion, it mirrors the yet to be.

They say the three year mark is the point where one wavers the most in their career. You either choose to stay, or choose to leave. We are at our most volatile, because we crave for more – more excitement, more drama, more adrenaline rushes and challenges. We crave for differentiation and change, we crave for new things to anticipate, we run away from stagnation, from the mechanics of routine, and we try not to remain in the same place at one time.

This restlessness is hard to put in words. But I shall try.

I do not know what God has in store for me at this present moment of my life. I am twenty-seven years old this year, and yet I have no clue what God wants or what I want to do with my life. I am beginning to feel boredom in the routine of things we do. Do not get me wrong, I still love being in the classroom and interacting with my students. I find all that meaningful and valuable time spent. I glow when I see the students grow. Yet I feel weary at the writing of reports, the meetings, the presentations, the emails and the office politics.

I have been urged to consider moving ahead in the leadership track in education. I have been encouraged to think about my professional development. I have been blessed to be looked upon rather favourably by the leaders in the school, and hence given opportunities to attend workshops and developmental courses. But when I stop to consider what I want for myself, I cringe in confusion. I don’t think I want to pursue further study in Literature or in teaching Literature. I could – but at this point I have not gathered enough experience to make an informed decision about my interest and capacity for it. I could take on CELTA to earn myself an added qualification from BC, but the teaching of English Language does not fuel my soul and interest. I have had moments where I thought of going to childhood or preschool education, or special education, this (more of) idealism stemming from my inspirational mum, who had an undeniable passion for those two areas in education.

I am in charge of the career guidance programme in my school and yet I remain so tentative and unsure about my own future and career progression.

Recently I surfed around some websites and found a specific area of interest – children’s literature. For some reason, this specialisation calls out to me more than others. It seems like an intersection of some of my favourite areas of interest – Literature, childhood and sociology. If I was keen, I might be able to make it through the applications and interviews to get a postgraduate scholarship, enough to finance most if not all of my further study. If the application failed, I may still likely be able to secure a study loan at the very least. The catch? Children’s Literature seems like a rare breed and I have only read of courses overseas in the UK or US. Thinking of a year abroad to pursue a Masters degree is even more imminent a decision to make.

I also want to carve out some time to well, be available. The elusive new friend I met at the end of last year still creeps into my mind at times and I wonder when God will allow Mister Shao to come into my life. Perhaps I am not yet ready, and my heart and soul is not yet settled in the Lord.

Restlessness? What better word than to describe my current state of being?

 

 

Chin Up… ?

Most of the time the entries I begin typing do not make it to the public blogsphere. By the time I am halfway through my posts, I either A, lose focus, B, have received sufficient therapeutic release, or C, think they are too negative and unconstructive to be shared. (Which may be the outcome of this post too.) They eventually end up as drafts or in the dumps and forgotten forever.

Disappointment 

Just in the past two days, I have received 5 emails from one of my bosses with a list of to-dos. This may have come at a bad time when there were other pressing matters I had on my mind to settle, and the onslaught of emailing what was required of us to do, but it did not sit well with me.

I thought of what I expected a boss to be, and these are some qualities I want to make sure I meet should I end up taking on roles with higher authority in future.

A mentor who nurtures

A leader is not just someone who delegates or gives directives. It is easier to give instructions than to develop and groom your team – the difference being the former does not require a personal investment or interest, while the latter demands your consideration and your time. You cannot ‘groom’ people under you if you do not first care for them and seek to understand them. But sometimes just a genuine concern for your staff can lift them up and drive them to work heartily.

A leader by example

You may not be a charismatic speaker or a highly-influential head of the pack, but if you lead by example, you gain respect among your team. We always speak fondly of bosses who would grind their teeth with you, take on the excess of the load, or just simply not shirk responsibilities. On the other hand, bosses whose intention is mainly to relief their own responsibilities is hardly deserving of one’s respect. Moreover, a leader cannot lead if you did not experience what your team is going through – you cannot relate to the challenges, and you surely cannot guide the team to greater heights without that shared understanding and support.

I am reaching my limits of annoyance because all I see are directives and forwarded emails. There is no evidence of one supporting the team or understanding the task at hand when all one does is email. Furthermore, if bosses do not experience the dirt for themselves, they can not begin to understand the amount of time and effort the task requires.

A person who thinks with his heart and mind

You need to plan and delegate and plan even more. But as a leader, you need to understand that your team members is your resource and your strength – and you must envision plans with your intellect and your compassion. You must understand that your men needs to be encouraged and supported: One may have the ability, but not the heart to do a task. Similarly, one may have the passion in a certain task but lacks the support and experience to do it well with confidence. You need to string all those multiple complexities together and paint a better picture with it. Delegating irresponsibly without keeping in mind your team’s strengths, interests and welfare, is an act of long-term suicide. If you fail to do that, your team may just feel undervalued and annoyed at your perceived incompetency.

Adopt a positive mindset 

That being said, I am trying very hard to adopt a positive mindset towards the excess trimmings of my work and not be bogged down by other inefficiencies and disappointments. A colleague at work reminded me that when we put things in perspective by constantly reminding ourselves that we work for God and not for man, many other things fall more sensibly into place.

I may not see eye to eye with people I work with or work under, but it does not mean that I challenge every rule I am introduced and grumble at every setback I face. When my bosses throw unreasonable and inconvenient demands at me, one response we can have is to cringe and complain and growl in angst and frustration (which I must admit has been my reaction all along), and another (which may make less sense to some) is to suck it up and do what we were allotted.

I hope that this intense period is a time to build up our resilience – and this period ends soon.