Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Happens While I Am Away


I was away for the day for a meeting in KL. Upon my return in the evening, I was dismayed to find a half eaten burger on the living room table. Joseph, my cheeky one, was still munching his fries from lunch!  Pre-empting my negative response and attempting to deflect it, Clare gave me a friendly smile and asked if I had watched Home Alone 3 as it was then showing on TV! “This is such a funny show mum, you must come and watch!” she said.

The living room was in a mess. The food had gone stale. Struggling to put on a smile (as I did miss them dearly), I was telling them how disappointed I was to see the place left in a mess. Before I spent the next hour lecturing them as I normally would have done, I felt God telling me that its time to teach them something from the bible since I had the perfect setting!

“Tonight, I have a great story to tell you!” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic rather than annoyed. Quickly, I turned to the parable of talents and read through:-

“Again, it (the kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
   19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
   21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
   22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
   23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
   24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
   26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
   28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 24.

As I related the story to them, Clare was quick to point out that she had heard it before. As the parable unfold, I realised that God was speaking to both the kids and me. As much as I had been away and expected the kids to behave in my absence, I was reminded that God had invested His words in me and expected me to allow His words to change me. If I were to ignore His teachings, I would eventually lose out on the life that He had called me to lead.

“You might think that I am away and both you and Joe could do whatever that you wanted with no restrain, but you are wrong. God is actually testing you, to see if you would behave in my absence. If you do, then He will trust you with greater responsibility; If you don’t, then you might have to relearn the lesson again.” I explained in a manner as simple as I could.

Thank you God for teaching both my children and I on the valuable lesson behind the parable of talents. Although we may apply this differently, all of us are in need of you and your words to change us for the better. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pleasant Surprises


One of the activities that I enjoyed doing with Clarissa is fishing. Its through this that I discovered that she possesses both the patience and focus required while waiting for the fish to take the bait.

Yesterday, we embarked on an unexpected trip to the fishing pond as her cousins from Kuala Lumpur dropped by to visit. While the rest of the children were complaining of their ill luck and started to become restless, she stayed focus and explained to me her tactic: Plan A is to throw the bait as far away as possible; and  should this fail proceed on to Plan B, which is to drop the bait gently near the shore. I felt like I was being educated, as yours truly had no idea how fishing works apart from the waiting duration!

At one point, I watched and couldn’t help myself from giggling when her bait (ie bread) fell from her hook. “Mum, if the bread that had dropped off from my hook disappeared from the surface of the water, you know that the fish is nearby and it would eat from your hook next!” she explained in a serious manner. “Don’t you think you might want to consider using an alternative bait as afterall, cat fish is known to stay at the bottom of the pond but bread floats.” I said trying to outsmart my girl. “You know when fish food is cast to the cat fish? The fish food floats too and the cat fish would swim to the surface to feed?!” That crashed my theory!

As Clarissa ran off with Joseph to inspect the other side of the pond, I was left to keep a watch on the lose bait. Before I knew it, I heard the sound of bubble and the small piece of bread went under the water! Suddenly, my fishing rod started to jerk uncontrollably. With one hand carrying Priscilla (I know I shouldn’t be carrying her but I also didn’t expect to be able to catch a fish that quickly!), I held the rod excitingly while calling out for Clarissa’s help!

Indeed, we should never underestimate the capabilities of our children. Sometimes, instead of getting them to do workbooks (which I am rather fond of), let them explore nature and play with animals! There are always surprises waiting to be uncovered!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

To What Extent


To what extent are we willing to go for our children? A friend of mine, a mother of 6 kids, wife of a pastor, not only home school her children but is taking up violin lessons so that she could teach her offspring to play. This is on top of her teaching them to play piano as well! I am dumbfounded when I heard this. In fact, I could feel strips of fatigue striking just by imagining the amount of work required, not to mention the amount of patience and perseverance required! To accentuate this even more, my friend G does not enjoy the luxury of having a domestic helper!

Closer to home, I have recently started playing badminton with Clarissa and Joseph. This was necessary, as I would like them to inculcate healthy habits. Currently, both of them are spending far too much time watching TV and eating too much junk. The only challenge is: I don’t play badminton very well. Therefore, in a hall filled with players, I could safely conclude that our family spends the most time picking up shuttlecocks than actually hitting them!

Although we play only 2 hours a week, its enough to send me to bed by 8.30pm with aching shoulders. One night, I thought to myself “Isn’t it amazing that we are willing to go the extra mile for the sake of our children?! If it were up to me, I would not have chosen to play badminton at all but now, I play the game as though it’s the best game in the world (well, at least in Malaysia)!”

Before I could continue patting myself on my shoulder, I was reminded that there is someone else who deserved greater praise. Two thousand years ago, someone had given up his royal throne to come and dwell among us, teaching us the right from the wrong. Instead of being shown gratefulness, he was persecuted and eventually died on the cross for our sins. He came so that we could have an eternal relationship with Him. I think there is no one else who could beat Jesus when it comes to sacrificial giving. Through parenting, I have certainly tasted how great is His love for us.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Eph 3:18)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Footprints of a Giant


It has been difficult for me to blog, not because I don’t want to but purely because I am dry. When Liz passed away, I was reminded of the countless number of times that she had inspired me, one of which was blogging! I could still remember that when she was first diagnosed with 4th stage lung cancer more than 2 years ago, Clarissa was also diagnosed with H1N1.  We upheld each other in prayer with her encouraging me over the phone: “Fee, you should start blogging and share about God’s goodness like I am doing now!” So, there I began! She was more excited than I was with my blog!

Such were the ways that she had touched me. Through the months, she had become my prayer warrior. Whenever my kids were plagued with illnesses, she was there to encourage me through her smses and prayers. There was much to learn much from this faith giant: I didn’t know much about persistency in praying until I started keeping tabs of her blog. She has indeed taught me to never give up in praying, even when circumstances show otherwise.

Now that she is in a better place, I am stuck in a bitter-sweet situation. Although I would love her to be with us, I know that God has a better plan for her and for me. Afterall, this is only a temporary separation. I would need to run my race here, so that I could fulfill what God has in stored for me; Liz has finished her race faithfully, touching many lives. Great is her reward in heaven. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Learning From Our Mistakes


I think mothers should be saluted! Afterall, they get persecuted, misunderstood, blamed for being ruthless when in fact, they were trying to do everything out of love, albeit against the wishes of their children.

As Clarissa grows, I realize that we have more issues to argue about. Over the past year, it was over her computer playing time. Admittedly, I was soft hearted and wanted to give her what she wanted (this is love, no?). But alas, her grades at school starting falling. As a result, I had to drastically limit her games’ playing time. In exchange, I became her “most hated” person for the day(s)! How could I be loved at one moment for being permissible and became hated the next, over the very same issue? Didn’t she know that spending more time in games than in her schoolwork would cause the latter to suffer? Apparently not.

As a mother, I struggled over loving my child the way she would like to and she should be. It would have been easier for me to say no right at the beginning when the request was presented. However, as a typical mother, I take risks and hope for the best. Sometimes, it worked out but on times that it didn’t, I wished that I had done things differently.

I guess this must be how it is with God. Knowing that something could hurt us more than benefit us, He allows us the sacred gift of choice. When we make the wrong choices, we blame Him who made us but forgot that it was us, who stubbornly pursue our desires.  It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realize how much our wrong actions must have hurt Him. Still, He pursued us and loved us. Our Heavenly Father deserves our salutation. Indeed, He who never fails had to put up with our consistent failure. It would have been easier for Him to take away our free will but He didn’t.

My greatest joy is when Clarissa chooses to obey me, despite knowing that she could have done otherwise. To help her catch up with her school work, both her tuition teacher & I have to spend hours coaching her, motivating her to do extra reading and exercises. Initially, she was reluctant but when she sees that her hard work pays off, she began to put in the hours willingly. Her recent exams results were an indication that she had improved. Although she was both pleasantly surprised and happy by her new grades, I was the one who was kept awake at night, smiling at the thought that she had learnt from her mistake! I have always wondered if God too would be smiling down at me when I have learnt from my mistake but after last night, I have no doubt that He does too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Pneumonia Blessing


For the first two years after we had moved back to Kampar, our kids were plagued with serious illnesses. Joseph at 3 years old was diagnosed with viral pneumonia despite having just had vaccinations against bacteria pneumonia just six months before. (Apparently, I was later informed that the probability of him getting this was a mere 33%).

Barely a year later, Clarissa was down with suspected H1N1. On both occasions, I was immensely blessed with a very experienced and sympathetic pediatrician. However, at the point when they were being treated, I felt that she could have been more confident, at least towards me as I could tell that she had reservations that made me feel insecure and nervous. For one thing, I was under the impression that Dr J would always assume the worse!

Just two weeks before Priscilla was born, I had a false alarm and was rushed to the emergency unit for immediate admission. Much to my surprise, I saw Dr J at the registration counter. Co-incidentally, she had transferred her clinic to the same hospital to where I was due to deliver. At that very moment, I felt a strong sense that God was speaking to me: “I know that you have been wanting to switch to a new pediatrician for Priscilla. But let me remind you that Dr J had treated Joseph and Clarissa in their most critical moment. Her track record is more important than how you feel towards her.”

As much as I had wanted to do otherwise, I felt that I should obey this inner voice, which had never fail me. Therefore, when Priscilla was born, Dr J was extremely pleased to see me in her new work place and gladly gave me her hand phone number for any emergency.

Now, on retrospect, I know why God has spoken. Just one week ago, Clarissa was down with high fever. Sensing that she might be down with something serious, I brought her to see Dr J. In fact, I was in tears when Dr J told me that Clarissa had pneumonia as my heart was laden with guilt, self-reproach, worry and fear. After staying up for 3 nights in a row to monitor Clarissa, I was at the verge of a breakdown. I thought I had made a difference to her condition but in reality, I didn’t. Instead of relying on God and seeking Him, I was busy doing what I thought was best.

In the days that followed, I had never been more grateful to a doctor than I had with Dr J. Fearing that the germs had spread to other members of the family, which it had, Priscilla was instantly put on strong medication. Dr J took the extra step of discussing with our family doctor in Kampar so that the right medication could be given to my elderly parents. I wasn’t spared either but the bad news given to me was: I had to stop breastfeeding for 5 days completely! For a split second, I thought my world had collapsed on me (again)! “My milk supply will surely stop and poor Priscilla would have a hard time adapting!” I pleaded to our local doctor. “There is no choice but to stop” he insisted.

Although breastfeeding may not mean much to a man or even to a mother, to me it meant taking away what was best for Priscilla. I begged for an alternative medication but there was none. On the way back from the local clinic, my mum, upon sensing my despair suggested “Why don’t you call Dr J now? Ask her for her opinion?” It was almost 6.30pm. Dr J would have left her clinic and I would be infringing on her private time by calling her hand phone. Much to my surprise, she answered my call. I could tell that she was with her kids. Quickly, I told her my dilemma and my lack of alternative. “Tell me what medication are you given?” she asked, without a hint of annoyance. As soon as I told her the name of my medicine, she gave me the most reassuring answer that I had ever hoped for! “Its safe for Priscilla. Don’t worry, you could continue to breastfeed!” Hope that had gone was instantly restored!     

Now, I am sitting in my room, marveling at the swift recovery that Clarissa is experiencing in the hospital; enjoying the thought that I could continue to breastfeed Priscilla; thanking God that He had seen what was to come. He was working behind the scene, bringing Dr J to the hospital to where i was due to deliver, renewing our doctor-patient relationship and even granting me extra favour by her giving me her hand phone number with no hesitation whatsoever. I couldn't imagine any other doctor who would do the same. He is our Great God indeed, seeing what was to come and preparing me for it. He cared my children more than I could ever fathom. I can’t imagine a life without Him.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who is in need of change?

I have never blogged about Ray until a recent event prompted me to do so. As a reader, you will be pleased to know too that I have sought his permission to share here, which was generously given.

In the past year, Ray picked up a new hobby, well at least to me it was new. He was into remote control cars, not those from Toys’ R Us but those there were specially made for hobbyists (never knew that such a term existed until now)! In fact, he began to develop such an appetite for RC cars, that not only did he procure many units, he also started to assemble his own by buying “complete knocked down” units from shops and played them in front of our house whenever he had any spare time.

Soon, the burnt in our pockets began to matter. As a typical accountant, I thought splashing out money on hobbies was illogical and profligate. Afterall, being a normal household, we have bills to pay, bank loan to service and occasionally, bank overdraft to settle.

Gradually, I had allowed this new hobby to creep into my relationship with my husband and eventually, blinded me from distinguishing what was important from the less. Its almost as though someone had moved a statue into my vision, that prevented me from seeing what was beyond, and this statue was situated right in between our marriage. This statue has a name called bitterness.

For a long time, we couldn’t come to a compromise and tension began to build: Ray couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let him live his childhood dream and I couldn’t fathom why he needed to fulfill his dream. I have even started to pray that he would not be carried away by his passion, not realizing of course I was the one who was carried away.

Finally, one night, he came up to me and suggested that we should set aside a budget for him to spend on himself for special occasions. “Let me think about it.” I replied with a grudge. That night, I went to the Lord in prayer. “Lord, I think it should be adequate to give Ray a small budget since he has already splashed out so much. Plus, there are many more needy areas such as uncountable number of charities that we could consider giving money to.” I tried to justify my action. However, I felt somehow that God was telling me to be generous to Ray.

After a weekend of struggle with God, I decided to obey His prompting and gave Ray a generous budget, which caught him (& me) completely by surprise. Immediately out of the blue, I felt my heart lightened. As though scales had fallen out my eyes, I began to see how much good this hobby has done for him and our family.

Joseph was amazed that daddy could build and paint such beautiful models, that he would sit on Ray’s lap to examine how cars are put together. I have never seen such a tender bonding between them until now. In addition, I noticed that Ray had been busy fetching the kids to and fro school and tutorial sessions during my confinement period without a word of complain. The best part was, he even offered to continue the ferrying process after I returned to work! “I quite enjoyed fetching the kids to school as it was something that I had never experienced with my own father when I was young.” He said. I had never seen this fatherly side of him before. Then it dawned on me that bitterness has prevented me from seeing what are the more important issues in our marriage.

Perhaps Ray has always been who he is but I have not been who I should be. I felt greatly humbled by such revelation as I discovered that God was telling me that it is me who needs to be changed. This would not have been possible if not for our Heavenly Father who had granted me the willingness to obey Him and wisdom to be generous.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3: 17-18

Monday, June 13, 2011

Even Little Babies Can Be Teachers!


Welcoming Priscilla into our world turns out to be more exciting than I first perceived it to be! Afterall, I have had two previous experiences and babies are babies, they feed, sleep, poop and cry. The latter is a bit harder to adapt since I have had almost 6 years of peace!

To begin with, everyday is a day of struggle. For example, I dread to spend hours feeding Priscilla, that could sometimes take up to 6 hours at one go! Therefore, when she was able to feed with a gap of 2 hours, I was jumping with joy and my mind began to fill with all kinds of stuff that I could do during the short duration! But alas, I realised that when she wasn’t sucking, she was crying and begging to go to sleep but couldn’t! So, instead of happily replying emails or catching a nap or even taking a shower, I was busy trying different means to put her to bed. 

By the time that Priscilla had finally dozed off to sleep, I discovered much to my dismay that I only had half an hour before her next feeding! Sometimes this precious half hour was shortened when Joe stepped into my bedroom, proclaiming his return from school, which subsequently jolted Priscilla out of her nap - the cycle repeated itself again.

It would be easy for me to vent my frustration on Priscilla, but miraculously, I didn’t! “Why are you so patient with Priscilla? You weren’t so with Clarissa and Joseph!” observed Ray one day. “Well, I am just happy that Priscilla is healthy and normal! Plus, she will be my last baby and therefore, I cherish her even more!” I replied with a smile on my face.

At that moment, something clicked at the back of my mind. As I was struggling with Clarissa and Joseph’s school exams revisions, I had secretly wished that they could be smarter, more teachable, more disciplined, more obedient, and etc. However, I forgot that when they were babies, I was ecstatic over their daily little small achievements such as being healthy, pooping, feeding and growing well! I could almost hear God telling me “Fee, whatever happened to being thankful for having healthy and happy children?” Indeed, as time progresses, I as a mother has started to compile a list of expectations from my children, that has blinded me from seeing God’s greatest blessings on them!

Thank you Heavenly Father for using Priscilla to remind me to be grateful for seemingly small but clearly enormous blessings!

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.
(James 1: 17)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Misunderstood to understand

During my maternity leave, I had more time to observe what took place at home. In particular, I noticed that Clarissa was quite often rude to Mary, my Pilipino domestic helper.  Demands spoken in an irritated manner like: “Mary, I want to bath now!” and “Hurry up and come now!” were disturbing me immensely as they reminded me of myself when I was at her age. Despite my repeated requests and explanations that she should speak to others in a polite tone, Clarissa seemed to fail miserably.

Therefore, one day, instead of my usual requests and even threats (!), I decided to adopt a different approach. “Clarissa, why are you rude to Mary? Did she do something that offended you previously?” I triggered my “why” strategy. “Mum, whenever I asked Mary to bath me, she would take at least 10 minutes to respond whereas you would only take 2 minutes. During dinner time its worse, she would take 20 mins just to serve dinner!” I was taken aback by her answer as I realised that she had inherited my gene of “being demanding of others including herself!”

“Clare, you know that Mary is not very smart and she takes more time compared to say, you, to do a task. Therefore, if you are irritated by her, why don’t you try to do the task yourself, for example showering yourself?” I explained carefully. “Its important that you recognize her weakness, so that you won’t be upset by her constantly.” I continued. Much to my pleasant surprise, the next time, she made an effort to be polite to Mary.

In this instance, her poor attitude originated from her expectation of how long a certain task should take. Therefore, if someone failed to meet her expectation, she became disappointed and irritated. As I analysed her underlying character, memories of my childhood came into my view.

Like her, I too was rude to my baby sitter. Understandably, such action was judged severely by my mum. However, it was uncommon during my time for a parent to ask the child, the big “why” question. Hence, misunderstandings such as this occurred quite frequently, leading to much dissatisfaction and tension between my mother and me.  Through this recent episode with Clarissa, God had revealed to me that poor communication had a great part to play in my childhood. Strange as this might sound but I felt healed and set free from an invisible knot that was tugging my heart all these years. Moreover, I felt more understanding towards my own mother compared to before.

Thank you Jesus for helping me see what was the underlying cause of Clarissa’s behaviour and through this process, I experienced healing and restoration of my relationship with my own mother.   

When we involve God in parenting, it becomes an exciting journey of self-discovery, making right what was wrong and through it, one could experience healing and restoration! Praise the Lord for He is indeed the greatest healer in relationships.

"Praise the Lord, oh my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" Psalm 103: 1-5

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pray for Patience to be Patient

After becoming a mother of three, I realized that I would never be able to spend quality time with my older twos (at least for now) unless I multi-task! I was put to the test during my confinement period, which unfortunately also coincides with income tax return due date, Clarissa and Joseph’e mid-year exams, and Ray’s laundry business accounts’ submission.

It was as if God had sent Chia Yiu, my sister-in-law to pre-empt me for this abnormally demanding period, as I could still recall her sharing with me “Fee, when God put you to the test, instead of the usual moaning and sighing, ask God for strength and you will be surprised at your ability to handle your trials. If you are tired, just a nap! Soon, you will realize that you have managed more than what you think you could!” And how true that was!

Initially, I was relying on my own strength to breastfeed Priscilla (which seem to take forever), chair staff meeting from my house, rush out the income tax returns, wrap up Ray’s accounts and revise with the children for their exams.

By the third week, I found myself getting impatient with my older twos as they were constantly forgetting what they had learnt the day before. To top it off, Priscilla had been unusually difficult by refusing to sleep and being fussy for more than 6 hours in a stretch.

One night when I felt that my world was collapsing on me, I found myself crying to Ray that I couldn’t handle the work and motherhood all at one go! In reality, I was looking for sympathy and wishing that he could take over. At that very moment, I was reminded of what Chia Yiu had said “Take a nap when you need to!” Such simple words but that was the solution that I needed. It was then that I remembered to turn to God, pouring out my complaints, struggles, guilt and pains. “I wished that I could be more patient with Clarissa and Joseph! I shouldn’t have over-reacted by shouting at them.” I confessed through my tears. “I couldn’t stop myself from being a demanding mother.”

God took all my tears and pain; and replaced them with peace and rest. The very next day during my quiet time, He reminded me with these words:-

“My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
Psalm 130:6

“I pray for the patience to endure times of trial, to keep anticipating, keep hoping, keep believing. I pray for patience to be patient” by Philip Yancey

It then dawned on me that I needed patience to adapt to motherhood, patience to learn to be less demanding of others and of myself, patience to learn to be patient. May God grant me patience to learn all of these. If you are wearied and burdened, take a nap and seek God, you will be surprised at the treasures that He has in stored for you!

Meantime, I owe Clarissa and Joseph an apology.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Miracle Baby


Nine months of mental preparation is still inadequate for me to welcome No 3 baby into the family. Well, its wasn’t that I am not looking forward to have another baby, but the pain and fear of death (!) experienced during my C-section and thereafter are constantly haunting me.

However, I know that God is with me and He will grant me strength and courage to pull through the dreaded 1st few weeks after birth.  The idea of being an invalid for the 1st couple of days after the operation reminded me of how vulnerable we truly are.

At this point where I am counting down to my BIG DAY (only 4 more days to go), I should remind myself of God’s grace and provision in the past 9 months. For a start, both Ray & I were pleasantly surprised when I was pregnant with no. 3 as we had doubts if I could still conceive at my age! That was when we decided to call this our miracle baby!

Not long after our discovery, I went for a site visit and without giving it a second thought, I lifted a wooden structure that had appeared deceivingly light. Almost immediately, I could hear my boss telling me that the item should be left alone due to its weight. In the split of a second, I could experience some abdominal pain but I told myself, that I was carrying a miracle baby and that God would protect her: The pain left almost immediately.

Well into my 2nd trimester, I received a complaint from a pedestrian in my office that she had stepped on the rusty metal drain cover located right in front of my office, resulting in a major fall through into the drain that required 18 stitches on her legs! She was here demanding for a compensation. I took a look at the metal drain cover and sure enough, it had rusted to the core and was fragile. It could have been me that stepped on the metal drain cover since it was just in front of my office! Without my knowledge, God had sent His angels to protect my footsteps! Praise Him for His faithfulness!

As I was entering into my 3rd trimester, my doctor informed me that Priscilla (the name given to our miracle baby) wasn’t growing and was on the small side. This was despite me eating more and piling on weight too! Finally, instead of feeling down and worried, I asked the doctor if her machine has marginal error.  “Yes, very likely! In fact, I have just delivered a 3.8kg baby when the scan estimated that the baby was only 3.2kg!” she replied with a smile. Since then, I began to cling more onto God’s words than the high tech scanning machine.

I thank our Heavenly Father for His protection on me and Priscilla for the past nine months. I am sure that there were more unnoticed incidents that He had diverted to protect me! One thing I know for sure, since its His idea to bless me with Priscilla, He would see to it that I would have a safe delivery and for that, I am deeply grateful and touched. He is indeed a GOOD GOD!

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Keeping the Right Focus


Out of the many precious lessons I have learnt as a parent, I must say that keeping an eye on my kids’ future is one that keeps coming back to me. Over time, I discovered that parenting is more than just meeting the physical and emotional needs of our children now, it also entails planning and praying for their future. Therefore, whenever Clarissa or Joseph faces minor setback eg failing in school exams or poor performance, I would subconsciously put on my binoculars for the future and try to see what I hope to achieve or rather, they could achieve and work backwards from there. It could be rather daunting at first but it sure puts things into perspective for me.

Recently, Clarissa did poorly in her exams, in particular her Chinese. Although this is nothing new as kids too could have their ups and downs in their school work, I would still spend a significant of my time evaluating what went wrong and how I could have help her better. This exercise quite often drew me to the conclusion that the wrong emphasis is being practiced in our present education system. At P3, her level of Chinese and Malay are frankly, way beyond what should be reasonably expected from a nine year old; in contrast, the level of English taught, as quoted by Clarissa, is “only marginally more difficult than her kindergarten!”

As a result, like most parents, I would like her to excel in her Chinese and Malay but unlike most parents, I wouldn’t want to place undue pressure on her by either sending her to more tuitions or giving her more workbooks as I am convicted that ultimately, English is more important. There are thus two value systems at work here: I expect both my kids to master the English language at a level that is higher than what was taught in school; at school, the teachers expect them to have strong command of Chinese and Malay.

The above exercise reminds me of what Paul wrote in the scriptures:-

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corin 4:18

As much as I tried to practice looking into the binoculars for my children’s future, I should also try to fix my eyes on things that carry eternal values. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan


A few weeks back, the History Channel broadcasted a documentary about how wicked the Japanese were during World War II. At that point in time, my aunt from Canada was visiting. So, there we were, Clarissa, Aunty Audrey & I, watching the gruesome program at the edge of our seats. As expected, Clarissa started to ask what torture meant, how were the Chinese tortured, how hanging could kill a person etc. Aunty Audrey did most of the explaining as accurate as she could and even added that much more barbaric actions were conducted than those documented, such as de-skinning! I could barely took in such information without shedding a tear or not feeling some resentment against the Japanese.

Fast-forward 4 weeks later, the Japanese is now facing its greatest crisis after World War II. My heart really went out to the nation, who is encountering disaster after disaster. When the earthquake first siezed the country, I told Clarissa about Japan. “I know as I have heard it from Shara (her cousin) at Boys Brigade.” She said matter-of-factly. “Don’t you feel sorry for them?” I asked feeling surprised, as she was normally more compassionate than this. “Why? They were wicked people, remember?” she replied.

I was ill-prepared for her response. I had wanted to tell her about innocent kids becoming orphans overnight as the Tsunami had swept away their parents; I wanted to highlight that many lives had perished, close to 10,000; the entire Japan is facing a crisis like never before. However, all of these tragedies were displayed during World War II except that the role was reversed. Clarissa understood the documentary on the History Channel, World War II and its implication.

Now, I need God’s wisdom to teach her about forgiveness and being compassionate to others, who may or may not be deserving, as only God could be the ultimate judge. We are called to love and forgive even when it hurts us to do so. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mean what I pray


Every night, I prayed with Clarissa that she would grow up to be a God fearing woman, who serves Him, and I meant every word that I prayed…at least, I thought I did.

A few days ago, I was looking through Clarissa’s homework. Apart from the unusually difficult Chinese, she had to juggle with the unreasonably high-standard Malay being taught in her school. At home, I would encourage her to read English books and write English essays. For a nine year old, I thought that having to cope with 3 first languages was quite a mountainous task. To make matter worst, we don’t speak a word of Malay at home. Therefore, she would have to literally memorize every Malay word that she learnt in school. One big chunk of my heart really goes out to her.

However one day, she told me excitedly, “Mum, I have been selected to distribute food vouchers in school!” At the back of my mind, I thought she was already doing enough for the school by being the cleanliness officer in her class. This meant that she would be spending almost every recess in her class, with little or no opportunity to play in the field. “What? But you are only distributing the food vouchers for your class right?” I asked, without sounding overly bothered. “No, I am actually distributing it for the entire school!” May I add here that her school comprises of 18 classes, sprawling over three buildings, one of which is three-storey high! The food vouchers are distributed to students who come from poor family background and entitled the bearer to free meals in the canteen.

“Where do you find time to do this and how long would you take to distribute all the vouchers?” I asked worriedly. “Well, I do it during my Malay class and unlike my friend who took 40 minutes, I took only 20 minutes!” she replied proudly. “What? You are already struggling with your Malay, now with 20 minutes less Malay a day, you are bound to have difficulties!” I couldn’t hide my dismay, much as I tried. In fact, I began to rehearse at the back of my mind, my lines to her class teacher to persuade her to appoint someone else for this duty. “Oh mum, don’t worry! I have everything under control! To ensure that I don’t miss anything, I would ask my classmates upon my return. Moreover, I think I am down to do this only twice a week.” She replied reassuringly.

For the next couple of days, I struggled with this. I just couldn’t bear the thought of my poor girl running around the school with food vouchers in her hand, and missing Malay class. Finally, this morning during my quiet time, I felt a still small voice telling me “Fee, why are you sad that Clarissa is serving me? Do you think that it is more important for her to obey you or for her to do what I have chosen for her?” I felt ashamed that I had forgotten that Clarissa was in fact doing a meaningful work. Without food vouchers timely delivered, the underprivileged kids would not be able to enjoy their free meals. Afterall, I should learn to release her to do God’s work as I have prayed daily. Thank you Heavenly Father for your timely reminder. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lessons from A Child


I know that I shouldn’t be surprised when God use my children to reveal what is in my heart: but it’s a form of discipline that I find it hard to swallow.

It was Clarissa’s birthday last Saturday. Two of her close friends, since her kindy years, showered her with presents; and I too would reciprocate on their birthdays. It was easy to repay those who were kind and generous to my kids.

However, 2 days ago, upon learning that I had to make a business trip to KL, Clarissa started to make a shopping list for me, to get birthday presents for three of her classmates! “Did they get you anything for your birthday?” I queried. “No, but they are my special friends.” She explained. “Did they know that it was your birthday last Saturday?” I insisted. “Yes, but Jia Yu (her class monitor) said that since my birthday is now over, she would get one for me next year! And, mummy, these are their requests….” She continued, oblivious to my point. “Jia Yu would like to have 36 colour pencils, similar to the one I have and the neon colour pencils too. Ah Jian would like to have colour pencils too on his birthday and finally, Kai Sin would like to have a mechanical pencil.” As she was iterating her list, I was struggling with God.

As Clarissa insisted on the same brand of colour pencils that I had bought for her, there was no way that I could cut corners. Grudgingly, I bought these in KL but throughout this time, I was wondering if Clarissa was being taken advantage of. I wouldn’t want her friends to think of her like a Santa Claus! Finally, I decided to have one last heart-to-heart with her on this issue. “Clarissa, do you think that your friends might be taking advantage of you?” I asked tactfully. “Mummy, didn’t God say in His words that we should help the less well-off? Jia Yu comes from a poor family. She had to share her colour pencils with her siblings, resulting in her having to borrow from her classmates. Ah Jian too is the same. In fact, he doesn’t even have any colour pencils!” As she continued, God was revealing to me how selfish I was! I had allowed my “protective motherly” instinct as an excuse for me to withhold my kindness and generosity to my “neighbours”. I was indeed greatly humbled by this occasion; in fact, I thought I had failed miserably!

It was no wonder that Jesus said in His words, that we should be like little children, in order to come before Him! Adults like me are too complicated, so much so that we ended up judging others, whether knowingly or unknowingly, whether out of good intentions (but really read ill beneath) to rationalize our actions. God have mercy on me.

“Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Role to be Proud Of

After her 1st day in school this year, Clarissa announced that she did not put her name forward to be nominated as the class monitor or team leader. “Both roles involve quite a bit of work. I have been a team leader for the past one year and I don’t wish to continue in this role.” She began her lengthy explanation. “So, what do you have in mind?” I asked, with a typical parent mentality, fearing that she has grown to resist responsibility.

“Well, maybe a prefect or a librarian.” She said doubtfully. “I am not sure yet.” I didn’t want to push her into any roles that she was not willing to take up but at the same time, I didn’t want to appear passive. After some thoughts and based on my understanding of her character, I decided to let go of the issue.

A week later, after she came back from school, she declared proudly that her teacher has handpicked her to be the cleanliness officer! I was quite taken aback, not because she was handpicked but rather, I wouldn’t have thought that cleanliness officer would be a role that I would be proud of! After all, I have no interests in sweeping or dusting (since both actions arouse my sinus). However, I was pleasantly surprised by her enthusiasm….she was selling the idea to me and succeeding! “Mummy, I will be the only student who has the privilege to roam into class whenever I like during recess (while most are prohibited to stay in class). I would have greater authority than the prefect, who is only on duty once a week! I am on duty for the full 5 days!” She began to list down the advantages of her role.

“And I have to inspect the classroom everyday to ensure that its clean.” She continued. “What if it is still dirty?” I asked, worrying that she might have to pick up the broom every day (not that this is a bad thing of course, but she would have less time to eat should this happen!) “I will inform Ms Ng (her form teacher) to let her know which student did not perform his duty. I would also get to organize contest, to see which group did the cleanest job!” Clarissa was clearly oblivious to my concerns.

“Do you have to reward them too? Are you going to use your pocket money to buy presents?” I was beginning to get worried since she would be on duty throughout the week, the cost of the presents could mount up! “Oh no, Ms Ng will reward them based on my recommendations! Isn’t that great? I have even prepared an exercise book, to note the performance every day!” As much as I would like to look supportive and encouraging, I couldn’t hide my doubts. “How would you find time to buy food from the canteen?” I asked again. “Oh, I could bring food to school and eat quickly!” She had it all figured out! “But, daddy still thinks that I should have gone for the prefect role! He didn’t know that my role is more important since I have to be on duty for 5 days!” she said convincingly.

“Well, since you have it all figured out, I think you have landed yourself a fantastic role! Its great that you have it all planned out so that it would not jeopardize your own recess time.” Finally, I was bought over! Throughout our conversation, I could tell that she was eager to “sell” me the idea that her role is the best! Afterall, there could only be one officer (with no assistant as emphasized by her) and she was handpicked. I could almost foresee the day that she announced her career path to me and my immediate reactions! However, I am sure glad that God is giving me these mini-rehearsals to prepare me for the bigger decisions that she would make in the future.  Afterall, it is of paramount importance that I do not impose my preferences or dislikes on her.  And I must say that I am proud of her, taking her role so seriously.

When An Apology Is Due


As a parent, I demand apologies from my children whenever they have disobeyed me but recently, I find that God has been speaking to me, about offering my apologies to my children when I have wronged them or over-reacted. I must admit that when it comes to my turn, I struggle with it. “Afterall, my children should understand that it was them who gave me an unreasonable request” or “They should know when not to aggravate me, especially when I have told them that I have had a long day at work.”

Being brought up in a strict Chinese family, apologies from parents are almost unheard of as I have always been told to be understanding: When kids have committed a wrong doing, they must apologise immediately; if adults have done something wrong, they have their reason and its always a good one, which they do not need to explain to the younger generation!

As I pray the Lord’s prayer with Clarissa and Joseph every night, I am reminded that I should forgive my own children for their wrong doings or unreasonable requests. Similarly, I should also ask for their forgiveness for my misbehaviour as a parent (which occurs quite frequently too)!

As much as I yearn to be reconciled to God over my disobedience, I should not delay my own reconciliation with my kids, so that they too could experience restoration in our relationship. Children might not know when to ask for apologies from us, but we as parents, we would know if we have overstepped the boundary from the expressions or agitations in their behaviour. An apology could be due from us, and let us not hesitate in offering it to our children.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When I Am Not Aware of What I Need


I didn’t know that my old bedroom was too cramped for our family. Since moving back to Kampar, all four of us, had been sleeping in one room, which played the multiple role of being the kid’s TV room and dining room! In fact, we could store so many toys and stuff in this room that most of the times, I would give up looking for them as this would mean, moving out the mattresses and boxes of toys!

When the time came for us to move house, I was ill prepared. In fact, I was 5 months pregnant and packing was the last thing on my mind. However, my dad said that we MUST move by Monday, which gave me a good 24 hours to think about what to pack and load! As soon as we got to the new house, I was amazed at the amount of space we were offered! In fact, I thought our bedrooms and Ray’s study would look very empty since we had “very little” to begin with! However, much to my astonishment, we have somehow managed to “stock-up” the rooms with little effort, containing solely of stuff from our old house!

“I wondered how you have lived in the old house, cramped in a small room, with so much stuff stored away for the past 3 years!” my mum exclaimed as she examined the condition of our new habitat. Then, it dawned on me that God had provided a new house for us, with much more space, even without my knowledge, knowing full well that we are in need of it! In fact, moving house was my dad’s idea (or God’s instilled) without our requesting for it. But, isn’t this the way it is with God? He gave us risk-taking miners to extract minerals, famous inventors who had helped to enhance our lives and hardworking farmers to provide us with food, most of whom we have not met and without our asking for them? For He knows what we need even before we enter into His presence.  Thank you Heavenly Father for your generous provision.

Matthew 6:31-33 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

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 ...