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 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...