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.

Joseph restoring joy to a friend

We were at a family retreat at Cameron Highlands. Children were having a fun time playing frisbees when one child, Ashton, threw the frisbee...