Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Friendship that caused a stir in my life

December has been a great time of reunion for me: I met up with my British guardians in Singapore 3 weeks ago. This lovely couple took care of me during my A-levels when I was studying in a boarding school south of London. As I was feeling home-sick and depressed in a foreign environment, my brother who was then working in Newcastle contacted his friend who worked for OMF. Subsequently, this dear brother got in touched with Ray & Carol, the OMF prayer partners in Guildford. Ray & Carol, who had no idea who I was, took an out-of-the-ordinary step to drive down to my school and offered me a weekend home with them!

Back then, I did not realise how much God has played a role in providing for my needs and moulding my character. This godly couple had not only shown me God’s kindness but they were willing to go the extra mile by giving me advice in areas which I needed most. In fact, all through my life, God has planted numerous friends who acted as advisers to me, though I might not welcome them then. On retrospect, I am truly grateful for the special roles that these people had played in my life. I could still recall that when I had wanted to skip church on Sunday and concentrate on my study, Ray’s words rung through my ears “Give God your Sabbath! Don’t let your studies reign your life but God.”

Besides Ray and Carol, I have also met up with one of my secondary school friends in Singapore who had also played an influential part in my life. She took the risk by pointing out areas in my life that could be improved. At this time and age, it would be difficult to find such gems in our lives. Afterall, people are too busy with their own lives than to take time off, to think about another’s problem, let alone offering advice. With technology at the tip of our fingers, face-to-face communication has become secondary and avoidable. The essence of friendship is diluted through smses and emails, whereby one’s emotions had to be second guessed.

Thank you God for blessing me with godly friends who made a stand for you, as without them, I might have been swayed in the wrong direction. Today, I pray that you will bless my children with godly friends, who are willing to risk their friendships by standing up for what is right.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Lunch

Every Christmas, we would be busy shopping and buying gifts for our loved ones. But this Christmas, I am glad that it is different from the norm, partly due to the fact that I am carrying an extra burden of an unborn baby of 5 months and therefore, finding it tiresome to walk and hunt for gifts (PTL!); and mostly due our company’s sponsorship to provide a free lunch for a group of underprivileged Orang Asli kids (OA) at the hotel.

Initially, I was going to skip the luncheon as I had taken leave to move house. However, the organizer had sent me numerous reminders that saying no had become difficult. When I arrived at the hotel coffee house, I saw close to smiling 30 OA preschoolers, chatting away. They put on their Sunday best as it was their first time stepping into a hotel. “These children had been pestering us, asking us if the BIG DAY to the hotel is tomorrow for an entire month!” explained the organizer. Unknown to me, these kids had experienced their many first that day: First time stepping into a hotel, first time having a western meal, first time seeing and tasting ice-cream! From the look of their joyous faces, I would have no idea that they came from families who were too poor to send them to school and feed them regularly. Some of them only get to eat chicken once a year and even then, the portion would be very limited. The volunteers did a great job in ensuring that the OA kids were well behaved. As the children put on their party hats and blow their whistles, I realised that a simple lunch had brought about much joy and hope to their lives.

As I reflect on my own children, I am grateful that God has blessed me with the means and the ability to provide for them. This Christmas, may I be inspired to pray and think of ways to bless those who are less privileged.

And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' Matthew 25:40

Friday, November 19, 2010

Waiting

As a parent, I found that an astonishing amount of my time was spent on waiting. Just the other day, I commented to Clarissa that I spent on average 2 hours waiting for her. On an normal day, I would spent half an hour waiting for her in school before she get picked up, another half an hour would be spent ferrying her to tuition class. Night time, I would be waiting for her to finish her dinner so that I could go through some of the tougher homework with her.

I have never thought about such time spent on waiting until I found myself repeating the same sentences day after day like "Please have your dinner now!" or "Please start doing your homework now!" Unfortunately, my "patience" was not always reciprocated. If Clarissa wanted something from me, she would want it now, without a moment of delay. In fact, it came to a point when I had to explain to her that I too had to spend time waiting for her. Initially, she found it hard to believe and began to itemize every single event that took place throughout the week. To both our amazement, there was only one instance that she actually spent time waited for me. I won the "competition" of waiting hands down, without a doubt.

When I examined my own spiritual life, it came as no surprises that I treated God, like the way Clarissa behaved towards me. "Dear God, it would be great that my prayers could be answered ASAP (read NOW)! But as to my shortcomings, I need a bit more time before I could surrender to you!" or "Lord, I am tired of always waiting for You to answer my prayers (and I have no idea that You have spent a long time, waiting for me to listen to what You have to say as I was too busy with other less significant matters in my life!)" Being a parent made me realize that our Heavenly Father had made more sacrifices than I had realized.

Lord, please help me not to take you for granted. For every moment that I spent waiting for Clarissa, remind me that You are also waiting for me, to pray and spend time with You.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Risk Taking


All of us take risks when it comes to parenting. It all comes down to how much risk we are willing to take. When it comes to Joseph, I admit that I am more risk adverse than I would be to Clarissa as the thought of him complaining and whining, would made me think twice about it!

With his school concert just round the corner, I was shocked that the teacher had selected him for a key role in a play: the Prince in the Frog and the Princess! “How could the teacher forget how difficult he was, when he was two! He was just crying throughout the time that he stood on the stage!” I was complaining to myself. “Ok, now that he is five, he might have improved very slightly but in my opinion, he is not up to that role!” I concluded.

Here is my strategy: In front of Joseph, I would try to put up a brave front and assure him that he could do it, while behind his back, I would convince his teacher that this is a risk not worth taking! “He put up his hand for the role himself.” explained Ms Teoh, his school teacher. “Are you sure that you didn’t see the wrong hands? He has been complaining everyday about his role to me, telling me that he can’t do it!” I insisted. I mean who in the world would take a child seriously about such things right?! To my dismay, my attempt at trying to change the teacher’s decision has failed. Now, I have only one option to go, which is to convince Joseph that he can do it! But, who is there to convince me that he can?

For the week leading up to concert, I had to brace myself for the worst. On the first day of the rehearsal, Joseph was crying in the hall, making a scene. In the next rehearsal, he was wailing and refused to step onto the stage. Although I have been praying with him every night, that God will grant him courage to perform, both us were not convinced that such “courage” could come on time.

On concert day itself, I had to dragged him to the hall with other parents staring. There were many children much younger and all dressed-up, surprised that this big Ko-Ko was behaving strangely! For the next half hour, I was desperately praying as I didn’t want him to mess up the play…afterall, there was no Prince on reserve! There was no turning back! As the clock ticked, Clarissa began to felt uneasy on her chair and whispered to me “Mum, I think I heard Joseph crying! Do you think he could do it?” “Pray for him, that he can do it.” I said. With that, she too was clasping her hand and praying away. Finally, when his turn came, Joseph was a transformed person. After giving a short speech confidently and clearly, he proceeded with the play with other teammates. I was clearly amazed, as I didn’t recognize such confidence and courage existed.

As Joseph excelled in the performance that day, I was humbled and ashamed by my lack of faith in God. I am now beginning to see Joseph in a different light. All of us, on our own strength, we could be weak and vulnerable; but when God gives us courage and faith, we will be transformed and be equipped to do things that we have thought to be impossible. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Secret Place

Every evening, I target to get my children to sleep by 9.30pm. As all of us are sleeping in the same room, its easy to see what are they are up close to bed time. One evening, after our usual devotion, I realised that Clarissa had sneaked out of the room. “Where did Clarissa go?” I asked. “She must be in the living room with Gong Gong (or grandpa).” Joe answered.

Recently, as part of a tin-mining museum contribution project, my dad has been busy with the building of a miniature palong. As Clarissa loves art and craft, she has taken a keen interest in the project by observing what my dad does every night and helping to pick up rubbish scattered all around his work station.

As the time ticked pass bedtime, I was wondering if I should get Clarissa. Afterall, I was glad that my dad had found himself a young fan and it was not frequent that they shared some thing in common. When the hour hand hit 10pm, I could hear Clarissa coming into the room. She was pacing up and down in the bedroom, looking thoughtful.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Gong Gong is having some difficulties in assembling his palong. He needed to find a medium to support the stilts, so that he could put it all together.” She said while giving a frown. “There must be a way. I have to help him with this.” Again, she was walking around the room, thinking. I was amazed at her determination. More importantly, I was touched by her keenness to help. I could almost imagine myself in her shoes, trying to resolve a problem “for God”, whether at my work place or with my children. My response would have been “There must be a way! I must pray and ask for God’s help!”

While I was getting absorbed in my thoughts, Clarissa turned to me and asked “Mummy, do you know of any suitable material?” I suggested “How about plasticine or play dough?” Immediately, she left the room to tell Gong Gong the options. Although Clarissa was too young to come up with a solution, I was profoundly moved by her intentions and actions. If my dad were in the room to see how troubled she looked, he would be moved. Similarly, when God sees us, in our secret places, how burdened we are over His people, His church, His designated workplace for us, He will be immensely moved too.  And when we turn to Him with our problems through prayers, He could but only help us.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)








File picture of a palong:-
palong-blog.jpg

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Old Job vs New Job


Sometimes, I like to day-dream about my previous job. I enjoyed the nature of my work: playing with figures. I also got on very well with my colleagues and my bosses. On retrospective, I thought I had the perfect job! The only imperfections were: the hours were long and I was making lots of money for my corporate clients who were already filthy rich to begin with! The latter rendered my career meaningless, to a certain extent. I loved my work but I didn’t like the idea that I was making money for a selected few at the expense of many. That was when I decided to quit and embark on something totally different.

Now, I am still seated at a corporate office. God has blessed me with great and dedicated colleagues and of course, I also get on with my bosses, who happen to be my father and my brother. I loved the environment and the quality of life, except now, I dread and even have nightmares about my work! Afterall, dealing with PRs and damage control are not my forte; I was only good at figures. Therefore, for sometime, I had been struggling with my work unconsciously until last Saturday.

We met up with R and S for dinner. Although we haven’t really spoken for more than three years, our conversations certainly went deeper than any other conversations we have had for the 10 years that we have known one another! They shared about how God had provided for them, each and every step. And the most amazing part was: when R had to go overseas for 9 months to pursue his master, S was left to take care of their already ballooning overdraft without a permanent job, and it was within the 9 months, that God had helped them to clear all their bank overdrafts! When R asked me how I was doing, I shared with them my work dilemma. “Although I don’t enjoy my work as much as I did before, I find it more meaningful as I am actually helping my colleagues.” I finished off with a sigh. “Well Fee, you never know. God might have placed you where you are, to train you up for a greater purpose!” R responded immediately.

Not only was I taken aback by his remark, I also realised that God was speaking to me through this brother. It was as though God wanted to reassure me that I was walking on the right track as on the very next day, He again reminded me of these verses through Rev Marvin:-

“That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

It was precisely that I am not good at what I am doing, that I have learnt to rely on God so much, including praying through each and every obstacles that I face at work. If I had relied on my own strength or wisdom, I would no doubt fail miserably.

Thank you God for blessing me with friends, who remind me of who you are and your assurances, that all is well in your hands, including my career.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rainbow in a Different Form


My week kick-started with an unexpected tragic incident that occurred at my workplace. As the week progresses, bad news continue to flood in. In fact, just yesterday, as I was putting damage control to yet another problematic customer, I began to feel discouraged and downcast. Out of the blue, I received a call from one of our internet providers, that they had just arrived for a meeting. “I wasn’t informed of this beforehand! How could they just drop by to see us!” I said to my colleagues, venting my frustrations. After a few days of fire fighting, I was not prepared to meet yet another party to hear about their assessment of our “problematic” internet cabling or poor equipment.

I dragged my feet grudgingly to the meeting and prayed “Lord, I don’t think I can handle another meeting that might require another round of damage control! Please help me to be nice to them and give me strength for this!” I had earlier on prayed for some blue skies and rainbow to cheer my day, but this meeting was definitely not the answer I had anticipated.

At the meeting, I was surprised that the company’s reps were all politeness and they were in fact, giving me a list of suggestions, as to how we could improve our internet services to our customers. For the first time, I was just happy to sit back and listen to their advice, and the best part was, they were also offering their help and cooperation, so that in the event of complaints, one of their technicians would be here to standby to trouble shoot (for free)! So far, I have been trying to solve endless problems with my team of already overloaded IT staff. To be offered assistance at a critical time such as this is truly God sent! The amazing part was: one of my key IT staff needed to go on leave for a week when we were expecting maximum usage. Just as I was thinking how I could get experienced part-timers to cover for the week, the answer landed on my lap, literally!

Sometimes, blue skies and rainbow come disguised in a different form and I couldn’t thank God enough for this, which was way beyond my expectations!

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:10)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pleasure in Donuts


First thing in the morning, Joseph came to me with a big smile, normally a prerequisite for a request. “Mum, I feel like eating a donut today.” He looked at me with his soft eyes. Usually, I would brush such request aside and try to distract him with food that was already in the house. Today, I felt like making an exception.

I recalled seeing a dunkin donut outlet on the other side of the highway while sending Clarissa to Boys Brigade. That would mean that I had to use the highway on the way back and drop by at the donut place. Not only was I incurring additional toll charges just to get a donut, I was also surprised to find a price surge in them. “How could people spend RM2.40 on a donut!?” I murmured to myself. 

But when I arrived home, I couldn’t wait to see the look on Joseph’s face. I could just imagine the joy on his face. “Yummy! This is the best donut I have tasted!” he exclaimed while munching away. For that, I was willing to go back to the highway store again and forget about the inflated cost of the donut.

In many ways, our Heavenly Father too loves to surprise us with gifts, especially when we least expect it. Thank you Father for Your unending love for us. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Praying for our Leaders

Lately, apart from constant challenges from work, I experienced a foretaste of what it was like to be a target for bad publicity. It was a mixture of fear, anger, injustice and a great burning desire to set things right. However, people in general give more credit to “an apparent” victim, rather than question about the real truth that lies behind.

In fact, I have to some extent lost faith in our local media and reporters. I know that this may not apply to every reporter, but sometimes, reporters are only reporting selective facts that a certain party would like the public to know. Never mind about accuracy and the other side of the story. Forget about verification of facts. The important thing is to get the story on the headlines and the nine o’clock news. Little considerations are given on the repercussions involved.

I suppose such are the news that would sell. Now that I have the sacred opportunity to be standing on the other side of the balance, I realised that readers and viewers have both been fooled. It was also at this time that I caught a glimpse of how Jesus must have felt when his own people turned against him and misunderstood him. It was an awful lingering feeling that made blue sky seemed dull. It behaved like a shadow that followed me wherever I go, except that this shadow was constantly throwing false accusations at me!

Suddenly, I realised how wrong I had been, when I too was hurling stones at our politicians and leaders, whenever they were “caught” doing something questionable. It was definitely easy for me to criticize, to judge and to form a seemingly right opinion. My dear brother recently reminded me with this timely advice “Be part of the solution in our society and our country! Don’t criticize our leaders but pray for them! We don’t know the full picture of what went on in their lives, but regardless, they need our prayers! Its easy to just stand there and judge but it would take someone with a bigger heart to pray.”

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior”1 Timothy 2:1-3

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Supplier, New Challenges


Recently, I have been quite preoccupied with problems encountered at work. A few months ago, I was given a proposal to change our existing internet provider to a new player in the market. As we have been facing many unresolved problems with our current supplier, the opportunity to consider an alternative was like a breath of fresh air.

After much praying and seeking the Lord, I felt that we should give this new player a chance. This would involve considerable risks on our side as more than half of our customers will be utilizing the new services provided and I am sure that there will be oppositions from them. Therefore, as with every new venture, I expect some teething problems but not to the extent that I had perceived. Soon, I was informed that students had been complaining about us on their blogs and facebooks. Complain forms piled up quicker than we could resolve them. Efforts to resolve complaints had been futile. Advice from the new supplier didn’t work.

Not long after that, I found myself awake at night, chasing endless trains of thoughts. At one point, I even thought that I had heard God wrongly about taking up the proposal. A few nights ago, I was going through the same roller coaster ride when out of nowhere, I could hear a still small voice telling me “Fee, why don’t you talk to the supplier again, telling them that you can’t seem to implement their internet service?” “But Lord, that’s not within their scope of service, I will be asking them for an extra mile, which they might not give due to legal implications. But I guess there is no harm trying.” I replied.

The next day, I called T and explained to him again, that we are facing more problems that we could handle. Almost immediately, he said he would bring his technicians and troubleshoot the problems with us. The team came yesterday and went on to investigate the connections at some of our problematic houses. Throughout this time, I prayed that this group of experts could identify and solve the issues at hand. Then to my greatest relief, at the end of day, they came back and informed me that there were some cabling problems, which needed rectification from their side. Therefore, not only did they help me resolve at least part of my problems, but they have also agreed not to charge my company for this entire period until the cables had been rectified! In addition to that, once they have resolved their side of the issues, they would come back again to help us look at our problems!

Well, I think that is a great milestone for us and for the team to take this extra mile, I have no doubt that there is divine intervention behind! As expected, I slept like a baby last night!

 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  (Psalm 23:6)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Delightful Fruits


As we were travelling back from the children’s music class, Clarissa was happily enjoying her portion of delicious honey sweet mango. “Who gave such delightful mangoes to you?” she asked me. “Its one of our friends from KL.” “Where did your friend find these mangoes?” “She must have bought it from her usual fruit supplier.” I was beginning to wonder where this conversation might lead to. “How did the supplier know that these mangoes are so sweet?” She asked again, popping another slice into her mouth. “The supplier must have tried it himself before recommending them to Aunty Helen.” I replied, hoping that this would be the end of it.

However, she continued, “The supplier must have tasted the mango and found it to be sweet. Then, he proceeded to plant the seed, from which the whole mango tree grows. Now, he has a whole tree full of sweet mangoes to sell!” She said matter-of-factly. “Only a good tree can produce sweet mangoes!” That was her conclusion.

I must admit that I was surprised at her profound findings. There I was, providing some superficial answers, hoping that they would satisfy her; but Clarissa was searching for the “truth” behind.

Our Lord Jesus had also commented on a good tree bearing good fruits 2000 years ago:

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45

A while ago, one of my non-believer friends shared with me about her Christian friend, who was engaged in immoral activities. I recalled telling her that although this friend might profess to be a Christian, she was unlikely to be committed to the Lord. “If she is truly dedicated to Jesus, she would find it hard to betray her husband.” I shared. At that point in time, I had forgotten about the “Good Tree” teaching by Jesus.    

Indeed, if anyone is in Christ, it would be quite impossible for him to produce “bad fruits”. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

No Rocket Science

Ever since stepping into the F&B industry, I found myself reading more and doing more research. In fact, I have never ordered books in the internet until I discovered that most of the notable F&B textbooks are available on Amazon. I have even subscribed to restaurant owners.com to tap into their numerous audio resources, articles and monthly magazines.

Having armed with all these useful information, one would think that our F&B outlet must be doing exceedingly well. On the contrary, we are barely surviving (hence, the research)! Over time, I realised that all these knowledge are futile if I don’t put them to good use. Therefore, meetings were set-up to discuss about our operations, and what we can do to improve the performance of not only the outlet but the staff too.

Once we start to apply the theories, the pieces begin to come together. Revenue is now charted on a positive gradient and the staff is beginning to see an improvement in the management. There was no rocket science really but it took me a few months to realize the importance of fervent practice and continuous application!

In fact, after I have been through the process above, my comprehension of what Jesus spoke regarding the builder who built his house on the rock versus one who built his on sand, took on a new level.

“Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6 46-49

It is amazing what was spoken more than 2000 years ago by our Lord is relevant in so many areas of our lives, including our work. If I could put in so much effort to improve my work performance, surely I would place even more emphasis when it comes to my spiritual life and eternal destination? Sadly, this doesn’t happen all the time.

Thank you Lord for showing me the importance of active obedience and putting to practice what I have learnt from your words. As much as our F&B outlet has benefited from the application of proven theories, our lives would be transformed for the better when we choose to obey you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Saturday Encounter

This wasn’t how our spent our typical Saturday night but to show our support to our church’s Boys Brigade, we bought tickets and attended their 10th Anniversary Dinner. Thinking that this would be a dull evening, I was pleasantly surprised when I found a friendly mother seated next to me, asking me about what I thought of Boys Brigade.

“My son is turning to be quite rebellious and upon my friend’s recommendation, I decided to enroll him on BB. So, how do you think BB has impacted your daughter’s life?” Melisssa asked curiously.  I told her that we enrolled Clarissa so that she would be more willing to try out new stuff. She has always been quite reserved but through the numerous activities organized by BB, she has learnt to be more independent and helpful at home. She has also grown to be more socially aware of the poor and needy.   

Over the course of time, she began to be more open and started to tell me about her Christian friends. “I could really see how your religion has impacted my friends’ lives. Through hardships and heart-breaking reconciliations, I could see their faith at work! I wouldn’t know how to cope if I were put in their shoes, but I can really see that Christianity is a real source of spiritual and emotional support in their lives” She shared without hesitation.

“Well then, this shows that God has been knocking on the door to your heart, asking you to open the door to let him in. What you had witnessed was more than mere spiritual support, but rather its God at work in their lives, which is supernatural power.” I responded. “Now, the same God is standing before you and reaching out to you through your friends. It is not just help that He is offering, but eternal life and forgiveness from our sins.  One day, we will all face judgment after we died and God will stand as our judge and determine our final destination. Therefore, it is important that we are reconciled to Him before its too late.” When I explained to her that her salvation was just a prayer away, she was amazed.

Although we had since gone on our own separate ways, I prayed that God will continue to touch her life and more importantly, that she would one day, open her heart to receive Jesus as her personal Saviour.

"And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Joel 2:32

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Putting Up a Struggle

I love peace and quietness at home. In fact, after Joseph turned 2, these were rare occurrences at home. I would be quite happy to trade hard-to-win compliance from him with just peace and quietness.

However, teaching obedience comes with a price; it quite often comes with a struggle. It didn’t matter to Joseph that I was driven to my limits nor that I had in fact a pile of office work waiting for me to digest and especially not that I was exhausted from a day’s work. Joseph was determined to have his way. He would use a hammer to bang on the room door until it was dented, or he would roll on the floor if he found himself in a lying down position, or he would stomp on his feet if his two feet were conveniently standing, and his most powerful weapon would be his relentless, insufferable, aggravating cries!

I found my authority challenged, emotions drained, sanity pushed to the limit. Years ago, I read a book entitled “Boundary with Kids” in which the author encouraged the parents to stay firm and not give in to their children as one day, these children would “give up their stand” and choose to obey instead! For about two years, I was clinging onto this advice but more importantly, I have been praying to our Heavenly Father almost every night out of desperation.

To my surprise, I realised that the first person who needed changing was not Joseph but me! Through the crying sessions, God taught me about patience and staying focus. Moreover, my love for peace and quietness was in fact a reflection of my self-centredness. As soon as I put aside my expectation, I found his wailing sessions easier to bear.  Over time, I began to learn that part of the reason why he cried persistently was that he was afraid to lose my love. Therefore, despite feeling annoyed, I had to assure him that I loved him.

Recently, my mum commented to me “Did you realize that it has been some time since Joseph cry?” Much to my amazement, my mum was right! In fact, I thought that every one of us has a chapter similar to Joseph’s. First, we who are stiff necked, turned away from God and went after our own dreams. God through his patience and love, continued to pursue us until one day, we decided to return to Him in repentence. Over time, through the working of His Holy Spirit, we learned to obey God lovingly and willingly. Our lives display the work of His hands. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!

“Trials have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slowing Down

Due to my professional training, I placed great emphasis on deadlines and carried undue urgency in completing an assignment. Therefore, the phrase “learning to take my time” was alien in my work ethics, until my children came along.

Simple tasks like getting them to bed could take one hour or more, and weaning them to sleep on their own, at their own bed, has taken me more than 8 years and so far, I have yet to succeed! I used to take 15 mins to get ready before going out; now, I am delayed by having to pack and getting Clarissa and Joseph ready; and if any one of them were to interrupt my train of thoughts and instruct me further on what to bring, I would have forgotten what I was engaged in at the first place!

Through parenting, God has brought home a valuable lesson to me: Time is no longer of essence but how I bring up my children is of paramount importance. I could almost hear Him whispering into my ears “Fee, you need to slow down and listen to your children. You need to walk in step with them, otherwise, you would not be able to appreciate them as you ought to.”

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit and watch Clarissa and Joseph taking their swimming lessons. To my amazement, they had progressed much more than I had expected. Joseph, my five year old, who could barely float 1 month ago, was learning free style!

Up till when Joseph was four, he was known to be difficult. His cries used to drive all of us up the wall and away from him. Now, I realised that he has shed his old ways. His dreaded trademark is replaced with cheerfulness and cheekiness. Most of all, he is able to listen to reasoning without losing his cool. I can’t help but smile when I see him kicking in the water despite his constant complains of chill. His ability to put aside his dislikes and emotions warms my heart.

Such reflections made me realize how much both of them have grown not only in physique but also in character. I used to make it my daily goal that they are trained to sleep in their own beds; now I am enjoying the warmth of their bodies and the sound of their breathing next to me every night. Thank you God for blessing me with Clarissa and Joseph and using them to change my worldly values.

Children are a gift from the Lord: they are a reward from Him. (Psa 127:3)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Losting Sight of our Core



As part of my work requirement, I have to read up on restaurant operations, F&B costings, marketing and hospitality. Recently, I was particular drawn towards an article entitled “Losing Sight of Our Core!”.  One of the main reasons why restaurants failed was that the operator had lost sight of what made it successful in the first place! In my heart, I was thinking: “How silly is this? You mean someone can be so accustomed to being successful, that he had forgotten what gets him there in the first place!?” I sniggered at the thought.

But then again, this is perfectly logically too. After having “made-it”, we took life for granted, thinking that we are above the game. I can confess to a daily checklist that I used to make up as a benchmark to measure “my happiness”! Good health – checked; Children with good exam results – acceptable and checked; Wealth building up – could be better but checked; Fine weather – checked!

And when most of our checklists are checked, it is no wonder that we thought that we could be invincible! However, we are mistaken and I have erred. I, as a mere created being, have no control over the status of my health. I can’t even lessen the strands of hair that fall off every day! As to my kids, I could give them many dull hours of tuition but if they couldn’t wise up and improve on their results, there is nothing I could do about it too. Wealth, majority of the world’s population is living below poverty’s line, so what made me different from the rest? Could it be pure chance that I was put, of all places and countries, Kampar in Malaysia? Finally, I can’t even prevent leakage caused by torrential rain in my house and therefore, I will confess that I am no weather woman.

Having evaluated my own checklists, I realized that I too, have lost sight of my core. I am in fact trying to build up wealth in this world more than accumulating rewards in heaven! This is a struggle that Paul had been through. Having spent so much time pursuing what he thought to be important, he finally realized that his CVs, credentials, and praises earned were rubbish (or dung!) compared to knowing Christ. Its through Christ that we gained a new lease of life and a new standing before God. Its through Christ’s death, that we are guaranteed a place in heaven. Therefore, we must not take our salvation lightly and continue in our sin. Afterall, what we amass on earth would only be temporary, but what we accumulate in heaven, would be eternal. Its easy to lose sight of eternity and focus on the “for now” but trust me, once we passed on, we would have an eternity to regret on the “what ifs”.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” Philippians 3:7-8

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Street Appointment

During my student days in the UK, I joined a church nearby for their weekly street evangelism at an underground station. I found that approaching strangers to talk about Jesus was a struggle and had always admired those who were articulate. Loss for words, fear of saying the wrong stuff and of rejection were amongst the many constraints that I faced when deciding whether to step forward to intercept a pedestrian and start an “out of this world conversation”!

“Lord, I don’t know how I should do this, but I would like you to take the lead!” On some occasions, I didn’t manage to speak to anyone, probably due to my hesitation and fear; On others, I was told to go away in not so many words. However, there was this incident that made me looked at evangelism differently – that it was definitely a divine appointment.

On one particular winter Sunday, Grace and I have been standing at the entrance of the underground station for some time. To keep ourselves warm from the icy cold winds, we were hugging ourselves and occasionally, jumping on the same spot. Just then, a spectacled Chinese walked past us. “Excuse me, could we speak to you for a moment?” The conversation started with Grace telling him about Jesus, how he came to the world to die on the cross, so that we could be reconciled to God. During the conversation, we discovered that he was sent by his country on a scholarship to pursue a PhD at a renowned university in London.

Almost immediately, I started to feel small. Here we were talking to a person with exemplary academic results, hand-picked from a nation with a population of 2 billion (or thereabout). He must be cleverer than both Grace and I put together! Much to my amazement, he was very interested in what we had to say. “What do I have to do to be saved?” He asked earnestly and unexpectedly. At that very moment, I quickly whispered to Grace “People like him probably need to think about it. Why don’t we invite him to our Mandarin speaking church and ask him to go there to find out more?” I asked Grace who concurred with my view.

Almost immediately after he had left, I began to regret that I didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer with him on the spot. Afterall, a good PhD student would find very little time to attend church, no? So for six months I prayed and hoped that he would find his way to church. 

One day, I went to church early while the Mandarin church was still having their worship service. While waiting at the foyer, I started to chat to a friendly lady who was also waiting for someone. “Where do you come from?” I asked. “I came from China. My husband is studying here in London.” She answered. As the conversation continued, she told me that her husband came to this church because someone had shared with him one day at an underground station. I could feel myself choking back my tears as I listened. God had given me great comfort in knowing that the man did come after all. Before I knew it, I could hear a familiar voice calling from a distance. “Hello! How are you? I am so glad to see you here as I have been meaning to tell you that God has changed my life! I am so grateful that you have shared about Him with me!” The man came smiling, extending his hand to me! I was speechless! At that very instant, God has not only redeemed this man and his wife, He has also freed me from my regret! I am so humbled that God has used an imperfect being like me to bring His message to those who needed to hear it.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. 1 Corinthian 1:25

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Common Trademark

Ever since I became a parent, I found myself repeating instructions to my children. The other day, after I had finished showering Joseph who was whiney after a nap, I told him "It is time to get out of the bath tub!" But when I saw him standing stone-like, seemingly oblivious to what I said, I began to get annoyed and repeated loudly "Can't you hear me? It is time to get out of the bath tub!" Upon my second irritated command, he reluctantly stepped out and walked slowly out of the bathroom. "Did you not hear me the first time?" He nodded "Then, why didn't you obey me?" I was vexed by the fact that both Clarissa and Joseph had succeeded in turning me into a CD player that keeps playing the same "tune".

I have always wondered why children do not listen and obey at my first and kindly offered instructions. To begin with, I am normally patient, happy and at ease. Somehow, after a series of seemingly futile string of words, I become uncontrollably vexed, not to mention furious at times! I am almost inclined to think that children tend to react quicker towards an infuriated adult as compared to a loving and kind mummy. As I was digesting this irrational trademark of kids, I was reminded of my own spiritual walk with our Heavenly Father. I wondered if I had also taken advantage of His sound advice and chose to ignore them, whenever I think I could get away with it; and I am not surprised to discover that I behaved just like my own kids!

There is something in each of us that caused us to rebel against authority and it has a lame name called SIN. As much as I thought "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Joseph would just move (like a puppet) upon my first command. He would be happy and my emotions would remain unchallenged!" Unfortunately, as every one of us is not a puppet and is given a free will, we quite often make the wrong choice. As a result, we upset people around us and most of all, dishonored God. Therefore, before I start to wonder why my children do not obey me, I must instead examine myself and pray for His forgiveness!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Loss is Gain!


Listening to my dad talking about how he survived through financial crisis and business failure is similar to me reading about how God had brought His people to their Promised Land. It is nothing short of miracles after miracles! Although my father is not a Christian (yet), he would often say that "Someone Up There" is looking after him. From his wealth of experience, he developed his unshakable faith.

Whenever an undesirable situation landed on our lap, my first reaction would be to calculate the costs and establish the probability of failure, so that I could work towards the upside; while my dear father would look at it from the most positive angle imaginable! He has faith to pull through any situation as he has been through worst. Ashamed that I am, I realised that God is using my dad to teach me a profound and yet untapped territory in my Christian walk with our Heavenly Father: I must believe in the impossible in every areas of my life, even if this means that my "professional training" might be challenged. Now, it is easy to believe in the impossible on behalf of someone else (like my dear friend, Liz) but to apply such belief in myself and our company's performance, would take much convincing altogether! "Would God be interested in businesses? Surely He would be more interested in those who are suffering because of their faith or involved in great calamities!" I told myself.

Ever since I moved back to Kampar, I have been learning that God is interested in every aspect of our lives, including the part that generates income! If our businesses/careers are going well, I know that we don't deserve such blessings but instead, we must humble ourselves before Him, who gives and takes away freely; If our businesses/careers are going in the opposite direction, we know that everything belongs to Him, and He would only have our best interests in mind. Problems arise when I start to put confidence in our material success and value our earthly dwelling more than our heavenly citizenship.

Recently, the local authorities gave us some problems despite our compliance. The impact could be devastating if not rectified. However this time, I am learning to look at the situation with faith rather than with fear, as I know He is in total control of the situation and steering it for our good. The God who took care of Abraham and my dad, will surely take care of me too.

"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" Philippians 3 : 7-8

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When Failure Isn’t Important


Ever since Clarissa was enrolled in a Chinese school, I have been struggling with our local education system. Now that she is in primary 2, the standard of Chinese and Malay taught are unreasonably high whereas the English is still lingering within the region of kindergarten and primary 1! Teachers are geared towards the students' academic results rather than their overall development. I am not saying that these are all bad. There are still some good values inculcated such as respecting the elderly and even providing for our parents in their old age as a form of appreciation of what they had done for us! Such values may be regarded by many as outdated but in reality, these are important and would help to resolve many of our social problems.

I have never been so active in evaluating our education system until now. I need to amplify and reinforce the good and at the same time, critically evaluate and examine the "not so good". My most recent struggle had been to deal with Clarissa's overly poor performance in her Chinese and Malay papers during her mid-term examinations. "Clarissa needs to brush up on these 2 subjects. Otherwise, she would be lagging behind once she hits P3" advised her form teacher, Ms Ng. "It is unfortunate that she finds Malay challenging. This is accentuated by the fact that her Malay teacher, being a vice principal of the school, is regularly called away by his other commitments, resulting in an inevitable neglect of the subject in class." My heart sank as I realized that the school would not be able to help her but rather, I was expected to send her to the "right" tuition class.

It's a common strategy adopted among parents with children struggling academically. If one tutor is not adequate, get two! Therefore, most of her classmates are sent to tuitions 7 days a week. The term "childhood" is non-existent at this stage; and if anyone were to mention extra-curricular activities (like me), astonished looks would be cast. "After all, there is no time left to pursue anything. If there is, then your child is not putting enough effort in her studies!" commented a parent to me. But I am determined to be different. I would like my child to take up sports, enjoy music and attend BB so that she could learn about problem solving, team work, leadership and most importantly, God's words. All such activities come with a price tag: lower grades. "As long as Clarissa did well in English, Maths and Science, I must learn to be contended. Forget about the grades, class ranking, perpetual work and no play!" I kept telling myself and Ray.

Today I was feeling down as again, my values had been challenged when I discovered that Clarissa had failed her Malay test. "Should I cancel her music class so that I could send her to more tuition?" I kept asking myself. I had no choice but to turn to God and asked Him if I had done the right thing by refusing to conform. As I opened my daily devotional book, the verses sprung out:

"Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever."Daniel 12:2-3

I could almost hear God telling me "Fee, you are not preparing Clarissa for her years at the primay school alone. You need to be focused on preparing her for her adulthood and eventually, if she would be regarded as one, who will shine as the stars forever!" Such words brought immense comfort and relief to me. After all, no parent would want to see her child fail in any way but after these verses, I realised some failures are not important; but there are some which are critical. May God grant me the wisdom and determination to distinguish between the two!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When Dreams become Reality


After finishing my professional exams, I took a farewell trip with some of my close friends in UK prior to my permanent return to Malaysia. We went to the Lake District and I was totally caught by surprise by the beautiful scenery displayed by the lakes and the hills at the backdrop. We went hiking one day and unknowingly, I found myself walking up the nearby hills. As soon as I turned around, I saw the vast lakes with mirror reflections sparkling before my eyes, the dotted cottages were blooming with summer flowers and creeping plants. Such breathtaking view spelt tranquility and peace. At that very instant, I could feel my soul talking to God "If only I could work in a place like this! This would be my dream indeed! But, I know that this is not possible as there is no such village in Malaysia!" I ended with my habitual sigh.

Upon my return to Malaysia, I settled in the KL quickly and found myself pursuing a demanding career. Years went by; I got married and had children. During this period, although I was in Malaysia, I didn't have much opportunity to see my parents who reside in Kampar due to my heavy work schedule. With the clock ticking and my parents advancing in years, again, I told God earnestly "Wouldn't it be great if I could spend more time with my parents? I left them since I turned 10 and it would be my greatest regret if they were gone before I could get to know them! But, I know that this is not possible as Ray, being a typical city person, would have difficulties adapting to a small place like Kampar!"

When Joseph turned 2 three years ago, there was an opening for me to move back to Kampar. The most amazing part is: God has been preparing both Ray and I for the move. For Ray, He had to show him that his career was not in KL and when He called his nanny home, Ray felt that he could go wherever God led since he needn't be around to take care of his nanny anymore. For me, I had quit my job in KL and was looking for a job that offered both challenge and quality time with my children. Therefore, this opportunity came at the right time.

When we first moved back, I noticed the mountain range near my house but didn't give much thought to it. In fact, I thought that it had looked out of place for a small town! But when I saw the many lakes nearby, I was reminded of my "dream job" conversation that took place 10 years ago. Looking back, that wasn't just a casual conversation, but one that God took seriously. In fact, He had never took it otherwise as He knew all along that my dream job would materialize in His leading hands. I felt like I was unwrapping a much anticipated Christmas present while our Father must be thinking all along "I can't wait to see the smile on your face, when you realized what I had in stored for you!" In this instance, I had opened 2 presents at one go! Praise Him for His faithfulness and everlasting love!

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer is from the Lord. (Proverbs 16:1)

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Better Person

When Joseph is caught doing something wrong, he is prompt to apologise; Clarissa on the other hand will take her time to analyse the situation to ascertain if an apology is due; if so, she would apologise 24 hours later, when she is done being angry! As a parent and being in the receiving end, I welcome my children's apologies like morning dew as they help me to diffuse my anger. Clarissa noticed that I praised Joseph for his quick response despite the fact that his next course of action might betray his sincerity.

Once, Clarissa questioned my love for her and even challenged me, if I had favoured her mischievous brother more. "I like the fact that Joseph says sorry when told to do so. This shows that he knows that he is wrong." I began my attempt at explaining. "But, he will do the same thing again!" she objected. "Well, he is still young and is likely to make the same mistakes again. We all make mistakes now and again. The important thing is: we must remember to say sorry and say it quickly" I persisted.

I didn't expect her to change as I know that it takes more than mere words to change a person; it requires divine intervention. However, I believed that she had taken my point seriously. After that conversation, I started to pay more attention to her love language (primarily food). Then last Saturday, while we were having dinner at a restaurant, everyone's order had come except for mine. "Hi mummy, are you ok? Would you like some of my food?" she offered kindly and totally out my expectation! "Why? What a sweet offer!" I was touched beyond words. Later, I asked her about her behavior during dinner time and she replied "Mummy, I have decided to be a better person. For example, I will try to say sorry quickly whenever I am wrong and be kind to others!" And for the rest of the weekend, whenever she did something wrong, she would apologise even before I asked her to!

Her action has inspired me to be a better person too as I realized that if God can work in her; He can surely works in me too! There will be the occasional failure of course, but it's encouraging to see that one is never too young nor too old for character moulding!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hope for the Hopeless


Over the weekend, my soul was warmly refreshed by a conversation I shared with my cousin, El. El is the same age as me and was brought up as a Catholic. Despite our different upbringing, we got on well as kids and now that both of us are married with children, we could still chat like old friends.

We were on the challenging topic of educating our children when she confessed "I didn't have a personal relationship with God until recently. I would like Nicholas (her 7 year old son) to go to a Chinese primary school but up till two days before the new semester was due to start, I still didn't receive any acceptance letter from the school (located in the heavily populated suberb Puchong). To make matter worst, when Nicholas asked me which school he was going, I couldn't answer him. In fact, I was close to tears when I heard his question. There and then, I told him that we would pray and ask God to show us. And the very next day, we received the letter of acceptance from the school!" I was so touched that our Heavenly Father has been working in her life. "From then onwards, I could really see that Nicholas has developed faith in God" she added.

As the conversation continued, I realized that there was so much that I didn't know about her. "My husband was a staunched Christians many years ago but now things have changed. During the birth of both my children, he went to see a traditional feng shui master to obtain "good fortune" names for the children. When he came back, El was informed that her children are not the studious type and are mostly to fail in their education. Therefore, El was advised not to place too much hope in them! I could imagine the shock and disappointment El faced back then. Afterall, both of us in our younger days, despite being in different schools, were competitive as far as study was concerned. To top it all, El's mother was a secondary school teacher in one of Ipoh's most well known schools. And to think that our childrens' future could be determined by a stranger and worst, accepted by the husband!

"I am all out to prove him (the feng shui master) wrong!" she said emotionally. My own emotions were in turmoil as I listened to her struggles: I could hardly contain my own anger. The only thing that was holding me back was that I realized that God is playing a big part in her life, giving her strength and answering her prayers! In fact, her discovery of God reminded me that I should not take my relationship with God for granted. He is REAL and ACTIVE.

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" Romans 10:13

An additional love language – food!


As I am not a food lover, I can't imagine nor appreciate the joy and satisfaction one could derive from having a sumptuous meal. I eat for survival but I noticed that Clarissa eats for enjoyment and indulgence! Over time, I realized that for Asians especially, we must not overlook that our children can speak the love language of Food!

After a series of conflicts with my girl, I realized that the topic of food could quite often melt her hardened heart. Once, we had some frozen Australian abalones from a friend. My mum did the simple tasks of boiling and slicing them into thin slices but the response was totally out of this world! "Its heaven to me! Now, please could I have another slice of heaven?" exclaimed Clarissa after the first slice landed in her mouth. I was both amused and surprised that one piece of abalone could draw such praises and smiles of appreciation from her!

As a parent in this generation, I must learn to be sensitive towards my children, especially towards their love language. Afterall, I need to know their soft spots, in order that I could stand a better chance of winning them over and building a lasting, influential relationship with them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Which of You Forgot to Pray?

Every year, the month of May brings forth many challenges (hence my silence and limited blogging). This is the time when we are busy with new students checking-in. My previous experience tells me one thing: expect the unexpected! Everyone, students and parents alike, has different views on one single issue – choosing the right room. And if they are not satisfied with their choice of rooms, they would come up with many reasons as to why the room is not suitable. As the management company, we could only stand firm and explain to them our position. On a good, prayer-filled day, students or parents tend to accept our reasoning with little resistance.

Today, I forgot to pray. Well, after one week of hassle-free check-in (close to 1,300 students and families were served), I didn't anticipate any further problems and had taken it for granted that the week had been a breeze! I had forgotten that it was God who heard my prayer every morning and He had been at work, in people's hearts. This time last year, our whole team was under mountainous pressure, due not only to the sheer volume of work but also the emotional stress imposed by our tenants. We were working flat out and our faces carried only one expression – burnt out! I could still recall candidly that one of our senior staff's advice prior to the peak period " It is time to put on our armour, as we are preparing for warfare!" At that point in time, it did not occur to me that I could have called on the Lord of Hosts to fight alongside with us. This year I remembered until today.

As I went to the office and expected things to be running smoothly, one of my colleagues said "Well, I think one of us had forgotten to pray today! Its only 11am and I have had 4 major complaints!" I turned my head towards her and before I could say anything, she asked "Did you forget to pray to your God?" "Actually, this morning, I was in a hurry and I had forgotten to pray!" I confessed.

Immediately, I felt ashamed for taking lightly the power of prayer! Indeed, as Christians, we have the most powerful weapon in our hands –prayer! Time and again, the Lord has shown me that He is interested in all aspects of my life, including my secular work and parenting! Dear God, forgive me for being complacent in my prayer life as I realized that much trouble could have been avoided, if only I had spent time praying, rather than "doing".

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Conflicts

It is tough to live with negative feelings, at least for me. The recent episode of conflict between Clarissa and me has made me examined my relationship with God and thanked Him for His forgiveness, especially for each of my repetitive failings. In addition, I could see the good that this has brought upon Clarissa. A few months ago, she was so upset by Joseph (ie the usual annoyance that a little boy could bestow on his big sister) that she had started to keep a journal of the wrongdoings that he had done!

"For all the misery he had caused me, I will no longer buy anything for him from my school, not even a sticker or an eraser!" she exclaimed infuriatingly. "What if he pleads for forgiveness?" I asked, feeling sorry for my mischievous boy. "He doesn't mean it (the apologies) as he will start annoying me all over again!" she answered adamantly. I tried to show her some bible verses about forgiveness but to no avail.

Finally, God gave me an excellent opportunity to teach her about forgiveness. One day at the start of our tutoring session, she had agreed to be well behaved but within 10 minutes, she was slamming her pencil, giving me her usual "bad attitude" treatment. "You see, you have promised to be good but failed. And if I were to keep a record of all your misbehaviour like the way you did for Joseph, I could also deprive you of many things. Therefore, it is important that you forgive your brother, just as I am going to forgive you." I said seizing the opportunity. Immediately, she was quiet. In fact, from that day on, she had stopped keeping track of what Joseph had done to her although her complains remained.

More importantly, as a parent, I recognize the need to draw on God's infinite resources of love and forgiveness so that I could carry on loving her, in the presence of conflicts.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Small Step


I came from a family in which my parents, apart from sending me to the right school, had no idea how I was performing, academically. They hardly asked me about my exam grades and if I had problems with any of my subjects, I was expected to sort it out on my own. Right from the start, my mum explained to me the importance of education and that was that!

Now, it is my turn to oversee Clarissa's education and I find that I am feeling it more than her. If she were to fair badly, which she had for her mid-year exams, I felt a certain failure probably more than she had ever felt; There was some inexplicable sadness hovering over me as I realized that whatever time and effort that I had put in for the past 6 months were inadequate! Instead of viewing it as her failure, I felt that I had failed her in many ways. I couldn't pin-point why but I could certainly feel the weight of the responsibility behind.

Suddenly, I began to examine my teaching method, and to a certain extent, my parenting skills! Was I wrong to allow her to indulge in her favourite programme? Did I give her too much room to decide how to utilize her time? My mind was filled with numerous questions including if I had found her the right tuition teacher!?!

First, I had to come to terms with my own "failing" and accept that Clarissa is weak in certain topics. Then, I have to garner enough courage to persevere in my effort. Unlike her classmates who are being tutored 24/7, Clarissa would still need to continue in her extracurricular activities, being BB, art and music classes. Both of us would need to work out some time for her to do some practice worksheets and yet at the same time, she could still have the space to read or go to the park. She is at this stage where her co-operation is to be sought rather than imposed.

A friend reminded me recently that the journey of a thousand steps begins with one small step. Parenting a child, who is struggling academically, does require one small step at a time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unwavering Love

I know that as a parent, I can't always expect my child to share the same view as me. However, under certain circumstances, I would secretly pray that God will make Clarissa listen to me and take my view! It was May and mid-term examinations were round the corner. Instead of focusing her effort on revision, Clarissa seemed to have found one hundred and one excuses to prevent her from picking up her text books. First, I tried the soft way, giving explanations along the way and coaxing her to do some test papers-This was met with defiant stare; Gradually, I began to lose my patience and start to raise my voice and insist that she finishes a certain number of chapters a day-she did the necessary work without giving any thought to it, resulting in numerous, pointless mistakes!

How I wish I could throw in the towel and say "That's it! This is your life, you can do whatever you want with it. If you pass your exam, I am happy for your; If you fail, I can't do anything to help you!" At this stage of parenthood, I am torn between allowing the child to "take the lead" for her own school work and spending the time, laboring and tutoring her. But at the end of each of these so called tutoring sessions, I felt a great need to be counseled myself.

Afterall, I was trying my best to teach my child but she looked upon me as though I was torturing her! My every good intention had aroused her bad temperament, resulting in unnecessary conflicts. My explanations and ideas had met with great disapproval from her. But if I were to turn the table around and asked her if she would like to improve her presently low grades, she would give a positive "Yes!"

Well, I guess I am no different at times. I would have loved to be taintless and obedient to God but due to my limited understanding, I would at times disobey Him and questioned His perfect intentions for me. This is the real crunch: As much as Clarissa mis-interprets my good intentions, I too have misjudged God's will for my life. And the amazing part is: He never gives up on me.

Dear God, thank you for loving me with your everlasting love. Your love is perfect. Help me now to love my own child with Your unwavering love.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"1 John 3:1

Friday, April 30, 2010

What are the odds?


In our recent management meeting in which we discussed about the complications that would arise during students' check out from our managed properties, one of our key executives highlighted "We have to brace ourselves when the students refused to pay penalty or compensations towards any damaged furniture." "What are the odds?" I asked worriedly. "Well, based on our experience, 4 in 10 students would have had caused some damages, one way or the other. Since we are expecting an exodus of students, close to 750, we will have to deal with the many arguments that are forthcoming" she answered thoughtfully.

I did a quick mental calculation, and realized that a huge storm is anticipated. In the days leading to the check-out, this issue of conflict has been brewing at the back of my head. 30th April, the day in which their tenancy ends, sees close to 300 students coming to do check-out procedure. Unlike the conventional hotel checkout, once a student hands in his set of keys, we would need to send our maintenance guy round to his house unit, do a quick inventory check and if there is any damages, to estimate the cost involved. On a normal day, this procedure would take about half an hour. Today, well, its hard to tell but it would take a lonnnnng time.

Somehow in the morning, God reminded me to pray about the check-out, including the students and their parents! In the days preceding, we have had some problems but they were nothing too major. Today, the "weather forecast" was not too promising and I had the privilege of assisting at the front office! There were so many people and they have all been waiting for close to 3 hours. We had had a few hiccups, such as running out of numbers in our queuing systems, lost keys and even lost forms! Students kept pouring in, their parents had only one look - impatience. Everyone of us was in robotic mode. When I heard that a partimer had messed up our queuing systems, my first response was "Great! All hell's let loose!" But to my greatest surprise, there was no shouting, heated argument, slamming of tables or even raised voices!

There was only one major complaint and even that was handled smoothly, with no further argument that could arouse onlookers' participation. This is a real miracle! Despite being exhausted after a long day's work, I couldn't help but marveled at how smoothly things went! In fact, I was reminded of what David did when the Israelites were confronted by Goliath. Unlike the rest who were trembling at the thought of being slain by the giant, David was the only one who stayed God-focus! If I were constantly God-focus in every aspect of my life, including work, then when a Goliath appears, he will be squashed by God's mighty hand, just like how God helped David to defeat his Goliath!

Thank you for helping me to see that You are at work in every aspect of my life and reminding me that it is important for me to stay God-focus whenever a problem arises. Only You have the power to change the odds!

"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1Samuel 17:45)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Am I Dreamming?


Recently, my mum asked me "How do you know, that it is God who is speaking to you?" I was sharing with her about my struggle with our latest project in Kampar – setting up an international school. After numerous visits and a string of conversations with those in the "business", I was told that an international school in Kampar is almost Mission Impossible. First, it would be hard to lure teachers to come work in Kampar, since Klang Valley itself is also facing shortages. Next, most people don't even know where Kampar is, leading to many huge question marks hanging over its feasibility & sustainability. Third, we are not in education business and to find someone to run the school, would be very difficult since the best of the best would choose to stay in the Klang Valley. The list of "no-goes" seems mountainous, even for a pessimist like me who is used to receiving and accepting negative feedback, finds it hard to swallow.

But, I feel convicted that this is what God wants me to do! One night, as I was pouring out my heart to God, I told Him very frankly that I have had many "realistic conversations with some very wise people" and their response had been "Your motive is noble, even idealistic! It would be tough!" Out of nowhere, I felt a still small voice telling me "I have prepared people for you, people who have been praying for this project and who have been waiting for this to happen." I was shocked by this response and was wondering if it were God or was I dreaming?! "But, Lord, this idea was only conceived 2 months ago, how would it possible that people have been praying about this?" I was puzzled by the statement as it didn't make sense to me.

In the days following, I realized that I had made a big mistake: it wasn't my idea to start a school, it was God's idea! A few days after the revelation, my dear friend Mrs Liew called me at 10.00pm one night "Fee, I have found a principal for your school. Mr Liew and I have been praying about this person, and we feel that she is the right one!" This conversation is the first fulfillment of what I received days ago! Last night, I called one of my friends and asked if she would consider coming to Kampar to teach. She was an ex-teacher herself. Her exact reply was " Fee, we have always wanted to come to a small town like Kampar! We have been praying and waiting for God's timing!" I was shocked as I realized that it was God who had prepared her and her husband, without my knowledge whatsoever.

So, when my mum asked how did I know it was God who spoke, I just have to say "Time will tell, if it was God who had spoken. He will not fail us and whatever He says, will come to pass!" The last two months had been one of the most awesome time for me as I began this exciting journey, to see how God will manouver through these seemingly difficult obstacles to bring the school to fruition! It was a timely reminder for both Ray & I, that God is alive and well, and He is in our lives, leading us!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Picking My Fight


Over the past few months, I noticed that I have had numerous fights with Clarissa and all of them revolved around her studies! The list under this category seems to be endless, such as she would watch TV while doing her homework, or she would be day dreaming during my tutoring session with her, or she would get agitated if I corrected her too many times!

This morning when we reached school, I realized that she had forgotten to revise for her Chinese spelling (or "listen and write"), containing 20 characters! I could almost hear myself sighing at her before I consciously decided to let this one go. This is the challenge: I have to pick the right fight. In the midst of my agitation, disappointment and even anger, I have to allow my mind to rule over my heart. Children will always make mistakes; but as parents, I have to choose when I should step in or just walk away. This morning, I walked away.

I guessed it did actually take more strength to walk away than to stay on and insist that she should revise for her spelling. By choosing to walk away, I am allowing her to make mistakes and learn from them. Most of all, I am learning to let go and allow God to work in her more. Meantime, I pray that I would have wisdom to pick the right fight.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Burden or a Transformation for the child?

Recently, I received a vision from God. It didn't come as a dream, or an image perceived during prayer. It came in the form of a movie known as "The Blind Side". For a long time, I have been struggling with the local education system. Despite being burden with loads of homework, Clarissa is still unable to catch up with her school work and had to go for additional tutorial sessions. The worst part is: I fail to see the upside in the overemphasis in academic performance at the expense of her childhood. Whatever happened to holistic education involving the development of character-building, problem solving skills and creativity in art? Where I came from (a kiasu nation down south), homework is necessary to achieve results and understanding; it is not meant to burden the students, and definitely not the parents!

The movie "The Blind Side" confirmed to me that education should bring transformation to a person, not just on his academic aspects but in all aspects. Such was the conviction that I had when I was younger until Clarissa started her Primary One. Suddenly, a new set of values were introduced: students should be grind, punished, pushed, burdened and rewarded just to achieve academic excellence!

Prior to watching this movie, my boss (who also happened to be my dad) suggested that we should start an international school in Kampar. Being an accountant, most of my business decisions were made based on business cashflows. In this case, I felt that such a school would not fare well here in a small town and therefore, had secretly prayed that his interest would soon fizzle out. Little did I know that God was actually using my dad to speak to me and since I didn't get it, He threw in the movie as well.

I was sobbing towards the end of the movie, happy for the child who was rescued from the ghetto but sad for the many Malaysians who struggled with our education system. Out of the blue, a thought came to me "that is what an international school is for, to bring transformation to My children!" "But Lord, Kampar is such a tiny town. Who would want to take up this challenge to work in Kampar? Who in their right mind would send their children to Kampar?" My business logic started to kick in. For the next few days, I was sleepless as I felt that this is Mission Impossible! However, over time, I felt that God is sovereign and He will bring to pass what He has intended. Now, I am really excited to see how this school will unfold. Do pray alongside with me, that May His Will Be Done!

 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another Wednesday Revelation


For the past few months, I noticed a trend: every Wednesday, I discovered a new revelation. I might as well call it my Wed Rev! This Wednesday was harder to tackle compared to the previous ones. Clarissa was laden with unreasonable amount of school homework, and to make matter worst, she had to attend her weekly music and art class.

Normally, the administrative staff at her music/art class would assist her with her Chinese homework but this week, Sandy had to help teach as well. Therefore, she was unable to help Clarissa. Little did I know that over the past months, Clarissa had grown reliant on Sandy and got used to having Sandy as her "private tutor". When I arrived to pick Clarissa and Joseph up, I was shocked to find Clarissa sulking. She was immensely upset that Sandy did not help her at all with her homework.

"Nobody loves me! Everyone has abandoned me!" she cried uncontrollably in the car. "Why should I listen to you anymore? Why should I attend music class? Why is there no one to help me when I needed help?" she kept complaining and started to switch the root of her disappointment to me. As I sat through her complaints, I became upset. In fact, I could feel myself burning with anger! When we arrived home, I told her harshly that she should get a grip of herself or she would regret what might come on next.

The entire Wednesday evening could be summarized as "both Clarissa and her mummy had eaten explosives" and everyone, including my mum and Curly tried to keep out of our ways. The next morning, I went to the Lord with my inexplicable anger. As I prayed, memories of my childhood came flashing back. Suddenly, I could taste the raw, hurtful feelings that I had felt when I was on my own. I could visualize myself screamming for help in a foreign land (as I was away from home since I turned 10) but to no avail. I was expected to grow up "overnight" and handle emotional issues like an adult. It was at that very point in time that God spoke to me and revealed Himself to me. There was no one who could take away my hurt and the void in my heart, except Jesus. Only He alone knew how I felt as He had experienced abandonment before.

The resentment was deep rooted and stay buried for many years until yesterday. I had to come to terms with my own feelings before I could deal with Clarissa's hurt. The amazing part is: after I have prayed and cried before our Father, I felt released and healed.

Ever since becoming an adult, I know that my parents had made the right decision to send me away to Singapore to study; but what I didn't realize was that I needed to be set free from my emotional burden. Thank you God for using Clarissa to remind me that I have some unreconciled issues to deal with. Most of all, thank you for setting me free from feeling abandoned!

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Flip Side

Sometimes, I feel that as a parent, God has given me many impossible tasks. For example, I find it impossible to stay sane and happy while tutoring Clarissa on her English and Chinese. However, it was also when Clarissa started to apply what she had learnt that made me feel that I should carry on, as her every small achievements made me proud!

Every tiny step forward, every small improvement, whether in her studies, physical achievement or character enhancement, brings such immense joy that I find myself smiling silly as I doze off to sleep at night. However, if I were not involved in all these minute details of her life, I wouldn't be able to be a partaker of such happy occasions. There is thus a flip side to every struggle that I go through as a parent. And it just depends on how I view it, really.

During the last school holiday, my brother brought his brood back to Kampar for a few days. On the day of their arrival, the kids were making so much noise that I found it impossible to catch a nap. Their voices could be heard resonating throughout the house! Finally, I gave up trying to nap and went to the TV room and found my dad alone, watching his favourite show. "Its impossible to rest when there are so many kids in the house!" I exclaimed. "This is what I call a prosperous family! If there were no noise, there would be no life!" he answered with a smile.

I found myself chewing on this profound and yet simple truth. As a born pessimist, I realized that God is slowing using my children to mould and change me to think positively. Never in my wildest dream would I ever think that God would care to look into my pessimism! But, I am excited that He is putting me through this process where I can discover joy in my struggles, delight in my failure! What a total contradiction to my character. Thank you God for choosing the best mean to transform my weaknesses.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book." (Psa 139: 13-16)

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Child’s Fear

Clarissa has a fear that she knows that she has to deal with. Despite her seemingly calm demeanor on stage, she suffers from immense stage fright, one which I could totally identify with. Therefore, despite being the only English speaking person in her class, she will decline firmly whenever the opportunity of English public speaking is presented to her.

Her teachers were at a lost. I am at a lost. Two days ago, she announced to Ray & I that she had again declined the offer presented by her teacher. "My classmates told me that I could do it, but I know that I can't!" she said. "You know, you are the only person who thinks that you can't do it. Even your classmates, teachers and your family think you can!" I tried to explain the root of her fear to her. "In fact, Satan wants you to think that you can't do it. He wants you to think that you can't do anything!" as I recalled the daily devotions that I have been doing with her for the past few days carried the common theme of how Satan implant lies in us to make us feel defeated.

She looked troubled and sad. The bondage of fear was slowly taking root in her life. As I too suffer from inexplicable phobia myself, I know that mere words alone could not convince her; only God's words could deliver her. Today, I had to use Ray's car to fetch the kids from the music class as mine was in the workshop. Driving a different car, gave rise to different songs and different perspective.

Later in the night, Clarissa came to give me a hug. "Mum, I have some good news for you, should I tell you?" She said teasingly. "Of course you must tell me!" I said "Well, on the way back from my music class today, I heard the song that said "God Will Make A Way Where There Seem to be No Way". Then, I lifted my eyes and saw in the sky, untold peace. At that very instant, I could feel that God was telling me that everything is well and I Need Not Fear!" she related her experience happily away. "Most of all, I feel that I am prepared to take up the challenge to stand on stage!" Not only am I immensely proud and relief for her as a parent, I am also greatly humbled and grateful that God has chosen to deal with Clarissa's fear like a loving father.

I feel helpless many a time when confronted with the weaknesses or fear of my children, for I don't have the power to change them; However, I take great comfort in knowing that Our Heavenly Father not only has the ability but the sensitivity to handle a child's worst fear. Thank you God for showing me that I can always turn to you whenever I feel inadequate as a parent.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gratefulness


Every Wednesday, the night life in Kampar comes alive! The night market here sells a wide range of yummy food, such as the Taiwanese sausages, Ipoh famed salted chicken, Clarissa's favourite chicken fingers, Joseph's must-have-ice-jelly, Daddy's weekly treat of Cameron Highland sweet corns and Mummy's cheap supply of honey sweet mangoes! However, there is one set back – it always rains on Wednesday nights!

This Wednesday was no different. Having left the house with a promising sunshine to fetch the children back from their art & music class in Gopeng (another town 15 min drive away), we were greeted with dark clouds as soon as we entered Kampar. Soon, we could see small and sparse drops of rain on our car windscreen. My normal response would be "Oh well, we don't want to get ourselves wet and our feet muddy right? Let's head home." Today, after a period of absence at the night market, I made an exception. "We are going with our umbrellas!" both Clarissa and Joseph were delighted at my suggestion and were eagerly anticipating their purchases.

Once there, the rain began. Despite having our umbrellas and moving as fast as we could through the crowd, we were wet and our feet were, well, covered with sand. We made our intended stops at the stalls as fast as possible. At one point, a lady (who was my mum's friend) commented "Wow, you were brave (read crazy) to come with your children in this weather!" Our last stop was the mango stall. By then, I was struggling with holding my umbrella, carrying our goodies and keeping Joe inside the sheltered area. I could barely reach for my wallet without dropping any of our bags. "Well, this is it! I have spent all my money and we are soooooo wet!" I exclaimed to Clarissa as we headed back to the car.

Despite being drenched, the children were very happy with what they had bought. When we arrived home, Clarissa came up to me with a RM1 in her hand and asked "Mummy, where is your wallet?" "Upstairs. Why?" I said. "You have used up your money in buying things for us. This RM1 is taken from my piggy bank and I would like to give it to you to show that I am grateful for all that you have done!" she spoke like an adult, no, scratch that, she spoke like a saint! I was profoundly moved by what she said!

If I could have my way, I would relive the drenched moments just to get her to say this to me once more! I wonder when we show our gratefulness to our Heavenly Father, would His response be the same? Afterall, our thanksgivings may seem very insignificant compared to what Jesus had done on the cross for us. At that very instant, I felt that the answer is yes, God would be moved too. That was why He had used this sacred moment to reveal to me how a child's response could bring tremendous blessings to the parent. Thank you God for blessing me with Clarissa and yes, I would want to be grateful for everything that you have done for me because whenever I do so, You would beam with pride and pleasure!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Agitation


Its always the small things that get to me. For sometime in my heart, I have been "boasting" to God. "I am just really happy to be able to attend church, join in the worship and absorb the sermon. I am oblivious to church politics and the crisis that has been encircling our church. I don't have much to ask but just to dwell in Your presence!" so, I have been telling our Heavenly Father.

This Sunday was no different. As I was preparing to join in the worship, I saw from the corner of my eye, three foreigner helpers took seat behind me. Before I knew it, they were happily chattering away. As the chorus reached a crescendo, so did their voices. As soon as the song came to a halt, their conversation would end aptly, until the next song began. This continued for some time until I became really agitated. I couldn't hear any tunes except their foreign languages resonating in my ears. Instead of focusing on God, I began to focus on myself and the need to "worship"!

Well, I had a dilemma. "Should I go up to tell them politely to not chi chat during worship or should I continue to mentally block out the noises and focus on singing?". One side of me felt that I should "stand-up" for God and inform the three ladies that talking during worship was a form of disrespect to God; while my other side kept saying to me "What if I am wrong? What if they were not Christians and had come to church along with their employers, and worship was the only time that they could afford such exchanges!"

This went on throughout the singing session and suddenly, a thought, almost instilled by the Holy Spirit came "Don't do anything that you would regret for the next few days!" With that, I decided that my dilemma came to an end but not my frustration.

The very next morning, during my morning quiet time, I was shocked by the verse from Micah 6:8 that appeared:-

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

I sighed a relief, knowing that it was God who had enabled me to make the right decision during the worship yesterday. The best part was: I was actually worshipping by choosing to do what is right! When I related the incident to my other half, he replied wisely "Next time, you just have to inform me and I will exchange seats with you; or move to other seats!" However, I wasn't sorry for what I have learnt during the worship time.

Joseph, Humble, Kind & Thoughtful

Today, I was in the car with my sister in law CY.  She commented she will be running out of petrol in car soon. "Joseph will remind me ...