I have this love hate relationship with this season……I love the sun, the warmth and the lovely blossoms ……but I hate what the season does to me: the itchy red eyes, constant sniffling and the persistent cough.
But that’s life….you do get the bad with the good, there are two sides to a coin.
Besides the dreaded hay fever, spring also brings back memories. Just a chorus of an old familiar hymn; a smell of certain food can open a floodgate of memories both happy and sad.
As the saying goes “no pain no gain” and I certainly have collected a few precious nuggets along with growing pains. I have definitely done some growing up in the past 11 years: from a mom, to a mother in law and now a grandmother.
So what wisdom have I attained along the way?
I learned not to spend time on the “should’ve, could’ve and would’ve”…..it is definitely a waste of time and energy.
I have learned to choose the hill I am willing to die on for there are too many battles out there and I need to choose my cause wisely.
I have learned to love a little harder, hug a little tighter because you never know what will happen in the next moment.
I have learned that even I feel lonely sometimes I am never alone for He is with me all the time.
I have learned that life without him is miserable and life without Him is unthinkable and I am so thankful that He has promised to be with me for eternity.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified.. for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:16
Jan 29, 2016
Someone asked me a while back what my resolutions are for the new year, and I told her that I do not believe in making them as I know for certain I will fail by the end of the first month. I don’t know how many times I had tried with good intentions to have a change or improvement for the coming year, and the well written plans would always end up in the garbage or tucked away somewhere in a drawer.
However this year I aimed to try a new thing. It is not a resolution ( even though it might sound like it) but more of a choice. It is to see things from a different perspective. Each night I am to put a slip of paper in a jar and on it I am to write down a blessing from God, or how I see Him in my life that particular day.
I have to say that it was relatively easy the first week of January, but as I got busy and distracted by other things it got a little bit difficult to come up with something to write. Someone said it usually takes 40 days to develop a good habit, and only three days to get into a bad one and I am glad to say I am almost half way to that important timeline. To “encourage” myself to be on track, I had put the jar on top of my dresser so I can see it right away whenever I walk into my bedroom. Sometimes when I am too lazy to put in my daily contribution, that jar seemed to have developed eyes all of a sudden and stare at me until I “feed” it.
There have been days filled with all sorts of negative emotions and the jar definitely has helped me not to be consumed but turn them off long enough to search for one good thing out of a seemingly difficult day. Yesterday was one of those ugly days, it started off rainy and depressing and I had to drag myself into the car to go to work. The rest of the day was pretty well the same, dreary and unmotiviating, but then as I drove up the hill in late afternoon, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the sky. The rain had finally stopped, and the clouds started to part and in a far corner there was a hint of a beautiful rainbow and it reminded me that whatever storm I might be going through, His promises always stands.
This is not a resolution, I am not starting something new but to make a daily choice to see things differently. It is to stop long enough each day and get off the hamster wheel to look around to find my burning bush.
I think this is going to be quite an interesting year.
July 16, 2015
This morning as I was waiting in line to get my morning coffee, I had a very “unusual” conversation with a young man in front of me. While I was standing there patiently all of a sudden he turned around, smiled at me and started to talk to me:
“Hi, how are you this morning?’
“Good”. (Do I know you?)
“Where is your dog?”
“ummm…he is at home.” (Really, do I know you??)
“This is the first time I see you without your dog!”
“Oh?” ( but I don’t think I have seen you around before….)
“Yeah, you are always with your dog.”
“Oh? I hope it is a good thing.” (I am searching my memory bank frantically but I don’t recall your face at all !)
“Yes, it is! I can tell you love your dog very much!”
This is one of those conversations that caused me to dig deep and search my heart. It is obvious I am being “seen” by people even I might not realize it. This is not the first time either, for I have people walked up to me in the grocery store and told me that they have seen me around in the neighborhood. I guess after living in this area for over 10 years I have slowly become a familiar sight as I walk the pooch three times daily in rain, snow and heat.
I am being seen and noticed, and they can tell I love my dog from my actions. I am thankful that I have never behaved irresponsibly and my neighbors have considered me as a “nice” person with a mellow dog. But the question that kept going around in my head for the rest of the day was ” Can people tell by the way I live that I love and follow Jesus?”
The biggest complaint about Christians these days is the fact that we do not practice what we preach. For sure our actions speak louder than our words. My challenge as from this morning’s experience is to remember exactly this point. How do people around see me? It is my prayer that I will be His good witness, for to some people I might be the only copy of Bible they will ever read.
I have lost track of the number of times I take these routes on a weekly basis, but every time I drive by these familiar sights I am usually preoccupied with my to-do lists or wrapped up in thoughts. I am often too distracted or too busy to notice the beauty around me…..
Once in a while…like today I will get a nudge from God: to stop, to inhale, and to worship the wonders of His work.
Today we released 10 blue balloons into the sky. It is our way to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his passing with his favorite color.
A lot had happened in the last decade: the family celebrated graduations, weddings and births. And sadly said goodbyes to couple of our beloved members. During these occasions his absence was particularly felt as that vacancy in our lives will never be filled.
The other day a good friend asked me how I am doing as this day approaches. Ever since then I have been doing some reflecting, mainly asking myself how have I been changed, or grown since the beginning of this journey. To honor his memory I have decided to challenge myself to list 10 things I have learned….one for each year:
1. I have learned that my cup is not half empty nor half full. My cup is overflowing with His grace and mercy, as He pours out blessings upon me daily.
2. Adversities will either make you a better or bitter person, the choice is up to me.
3. I have discovered that “you will get over it” is a myth. For you will never get over a loss, but will get on with life. After all these years, I have slowly learned to live my life differently.
4. I have learned that peace means I am able to rest in the eye of the storm, the winds might be howling, the waves might be high but I know that Jesus is right there in the middle of it all.
5. I have learned never to stay mad for over a day, for who knows if tomorrow will ever come.
6. I have learned that while I can choose friends whom I want to remain close to, but I cannot do so with family. I might not like what they have done, but I have to love them regardless.
7. The most important thing to leave behind is my faith legacy.
8. God does His best work in the desert of my life. He light shines bright in dark and broken places.
9. The best way to show empathy to hurt souls is to sit and cry with them.
10. I might feel lonely, but I am never alone.
The reflection has been a healthy exercise. I realized I have gathered a number of nuggets over the years, and the above are the ones which stood out. In the beginning of the journey, I had often questioned God ” Why me?”, and now at this junction of the road I realized I will never understand the reason, but God is the Author of my life, and He has the plot planned out. He is telling His Story through His children. Our life situations and circumstances might be different, but the message is the same, it is all about His Love, Redemption and Restoration.
With all the busyness, challenges and distractions over the last half year, I have not been writing in my blog as often as I planned to. Even so, I was able to accomplish two major feats during this time period. I managed to fund raise for two causes which are very dear to my heart. By selling my crocheted and knitted products, I was able to raise money to support a village in Laos for a year, and also a donation for Ebola orphans in Africa. I had never done any fund raising before, and this certainly made me feel accomplished. I am most happy to know that I don’t need to run, bike or swim and yet I can contribute to some greater cause in the comfort of my home.
Knitting and crocheting are more than hobbies and ways to help others. A quick search on Google will tell you that these crafts are therapeutic. Crafters have claimed that they can cure everything from gout to weight problems. Most importantly, they improve one’s mental health as the brain follows a pattern and exercises to focus on one thing. Because of the affects on the mind due to relaxation and meditative qualities, these crafts are increasingly used in hospitals, schools, barracks and even prisons. They are now affectionately called they New Yoga.
I can attest to the benefits of these crafts for they have helped me navigated through some dark times and redeemed some things which were lost. It is also my way of expressing love to friends and families. I have at times feel there are some spiritual aspects to them and for the longest time I could not put my finger on it until I read an article from Christianity Today.
I have tried to “teach” some of my friends these crafts and often people find the repetition too “boring” and too “mundane” . They need more stimulants in their lives and something fast-paced which they don’t see in these crafts. However, I love how the author of this article sees repetition in comparison of Ecclesiastes 1 to Psalm 19. “The repetition of movements of days and seasons are not boring and tiresome, they are reminders of God’s faithfulness to His word.” And for sure I found the repeats of rows and stitches reassuring and soothing to the soul as they provide and remind me that one can find some kind of stability in the middle of chaos. There have been many times when the day’s event would cause frustrations and even anger, and when I finally settled in my chair with my yarn, needles or hooks I could find some solace in my soul. It helped me to reconnect to God in my brokenness as my soul strive to reach for some kind of wholeness.
I do believe this communion with God came through prayers. As my hands and mind engaged in knitting and crocheting , I slowly regain calmness and in my silent “oasis” I have room for the Spirit of God to reach, to correct and to guide. As the author puts it ” ….I find my spirit soothed, my anxious thoughts subsided, my mind free to think and even to pray.”
These crafts are not often “relaxing” for there have been times I had to rip my project apart due to some mistake and would take hours to go back to where I had left off. Correcting a mistake and starting over again is not something I welcome, but over times I understand the merit of being patient, and the fact that mistakes are opportunities for me to learn.
I am glad that I stumbled upon this article and realized that knitting and crocheting are not just for “little old ladies” and as she puts it so eloquently : we can “knit our way to a prayerful life and find comfort in blessed repetition”.
With the busyness of ministry and unexpected events in my life, this summer certainly feels like one perpetual ” Mad Tea Party”. I am referring to that classical ride in Disney World which spins you around crazily in a menagerie of color and sound. It is supposed to be fun and you can actually control the direction and speed of your spin depending on your adventurous spirit. But unfortunately in my case the ride was totally out of my control, and I could hardly call it enjoyable. I have had this yearning inside me all these months to run off somewhere and sit under a tree. My good friend did encourage me to do so and it was so very tempting. However, obligations and responsibilities took over and prevented me from this daring escape, all I could do is to think about it fleetingly. It was not until recently I realized my EQ indicator was flashing red, and I was scraping from the bottom of an almost empty barrel. I am the kind of driver who is overly conscious of my fuel gauge and I never let the indicator falls below a quarter of the tank. As I had the misfortune of being in someone’s car when the fuel tank was empty and we drove on fumes for seemingly eternity. It was not a good experience and I was determined after that not to be in that situation ever again. Similarly, I have been keeping a close eye on my emotional and spiritual indicators and when I see the warning signs I know I am riding on empty and I need to take some serious actions. I don’t know if it was a sign from God, or I might be overreaching but the other day as I was cleaning out the bookshelf in my office I found this book “From Hectic to Healthy” and it certainly looked like the handwriting on the wall. So many people I know let themselves burned out like a piece of bacon when they frantically filled their lives with activities instead of looking inward. They ran like hamsters on wheels, going nowhere fast until they crashed. This can happen to anyone in the name of doing good, as we are in a performance driven world, and it takes a lot of courage and sometimes detrimental events to make one stop. I know in order to avoid that horrible pitfall and for me to be effective I need to take time to take stock and revert my focus. I needed my “R”s badly, and that is to retreat… so I can be : refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated….. for without a doubt I am not good for anyone around me unless I learn to live a healthy and balanced life. In light of my condition, I decided to run away last weekend which was perfect timing when it so happened that the family decided to take a trip to the Islands for a birthday celebration. I know some people like to retreat in solitude in the wilderness, but for this city mouse anything out from my routine is a retreat. It is to take time away from life and situation and to allow myself some space for peace and calm and give God the room to speak….
I am so thankful for that few days away, it was a gorgeous weekend filled with love, sand and food. It was a time to sit and enjoy God’s handiwork. To be reminded that the same God who put stars in the skies, filled the oceans with strange and wonderful creatures, calmed the wind and stilled the storm is the same God who is very much in control of my life. He is there in the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I might not understand it sometimes, but He cares about me deeply. He has my name engraved on the palm of His hand and loves me unconditionally even though I might not have performed well, or made it to someone’s expectation or standards. It is amazing how a little time away can do so much for my soul. When I finally stepped back and let God be God. When I slowed down enough just to breathe….to exhale the staleness of life and inhale the freshness of His being, and to seek shelter in Him, then I got my “R”s.
Robin Williams was one my favorite actors, and his passing last week was shocking. So much have been written and said about his life and his death, particularly the demons which had plagued him. One of the most poignant thing I heard was ” it is inconceivable that a man who brought so much joy suffered so much .” He certainly hid his pain well with his “zaniness” and humor, he could make jokes out of anything including his pain.
On the day of his death, a psychologist on CNN had urged people to talk to someone if they are in pain. The call is for people to reach out and get help. This is a horrible disease which has inflicted so many people, and there are many I know who are victims of depression one way or the other. As it is important to talk to others, it is imperative for people to listen with empathy. I certainly have my share of people who might have the best of intentions, but some how can turn me away from talking about my struggles. Nothing is more demoralizing when they tell you that ” your troubles are not that bad, someone has it worst”, or they are more interested in telling their stories, or offering you a quick fix. Each person has his or her own pain and to have it trivialized is like adding salt to one’s wound.
I saw this quote the other day which says volume about this: ” Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I could not agree more, the best gift we can offer to someone who is hurting is to listen without judging, it is only when we are able to listen well we can then earn our right to speak.
At 3:30am on July 6, the last thread was woven and her tapestry is finally finished.
As you look at the completed work, you can see mostly dark threads with the occasional bright ones inter-weaved in it. She had a difficult childhood; challenging adult years and an unhappy marriage. Her life was not smooth sailing at all. But through it all, even to the last breath, she showed herself being a person of strength, and definitely a survivor.
Just as the poem says, we cannot choose the colors in our weaving as they are parts of the Big Pattern only to be understood when the canvas is finally unrolled. I used to wonder why her life was so difficult, but now I realized it was only through those challenges her characters were being developed. Now it is no longer about why life was so unfair for her, but how she was able to stand up in face of adversities. I remember recently as I massaged her sore muscles and reminisced about our past. She opened her eyes suddenly and in a no nonsense tone said ” Forget about the past and move on!” That was the very last piece of mom’s advise and one I will cherish forever!
During the time when she was gravely ill, she never once stopped to care for the people in her life. In those brief moments when she was pain-free, she would tell me how much she worried about her children and her siblings. She never once mentioned about her own discomfort. She taught me a very important thing which characterized the essence of Christ’s followers : it is never about us, it is about others—the ones who are created in His image and dearly loved by Him.
Rest in peace mom. The tapestry of your life is the legacy you have given us. I am so grateful that God has given me a mom who had taught me so much through her life, and in her death. I might in the past not willing to listen to your advise, but I will definitely take the last one to heart and continue to move on and make your proud.
“13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13
I came from a traditional Chinese family which is assiduous in ancestral worship. It is a ritual that has been passed on from previous generations to show honor to our forefathers. So it was a huge disappointment to my parents after I became a Christian and refused to participate in this practice. To them I have disobeyed and betrayed the family. It took them many years to accept that Christianity is not just a passing fancy and I am serious with my “religion”.
I was told in the early years by my mother not to influence anyone else in the family with ‘my’ Jesus; it is a warning that has been hanging over my head like a cloud. In my own mind I figured that if I could lead my parents to the Lord then it will be safe for me to evangelize the rest of my family. I was holding on to the promise from Acts 16:31
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
For over 38 years I have prayed for salvation for my parents, and God will give this family another Christian. Sadly, my father passed away 27 years ago. Even though I did have the opportunity to talk to him about Christ, the end result was quite ambiguous and I could only leave it in His hands. My mother‘s heart on the other hand was still very hardened, and at one time she had proclaimed “I’d rather go to hell then believe in Jesus!” Her rejection made me felt defeated and discouraged. Every time when I heard how God answered someone’s prayer for their parents I felt sad that He does not answer mine. I could not understand why He would not listen to my prayers for my family. Am I good enough? Is my faith not strong enough?
When I heard that mom was not doing well a few weeks ago, I flew out immediately to be with her. We thought that she would not survive the week. On the flight I had pleaded with God to give me one more chance to talk to her about Jesus. Throughout the recent years, I have suspected that even she was vehemently against the faith; somehow she believes the existence of God and His power. Why? For during the times when I was shaken by life circumstances she would tell me to pray and trust God. And many years ago when we almost lost my youngest daughter in the mall, she had cried out to Jesus for help. It appears she knows that Jesus can help in life’s most difficult situation and yet she refuses to have Him in her life.
During the week of my visit, she was in a lot of pain and discomfort. Her grandchildren would be around to spend as much time as they could. I could hardly find the appropriate time to have this pressing conversation with her. Finally on the day of my departure, I prayed and asked God to give me one more chance to spend some alone time with her. I knew that I would regret forever if I had not done so. God answered my request, and just moments before the rest of her grandchildren came to see her, I was able to share from my heart. I told her that many people from church have been praying for her. But the most important prayer need to come from her, as she needs Jesus in her life. I reminded her how much her late son-in-law and I have wanted her to have Jesus in her life, as He is the only one who can give her peace and comfort. Mom was receptive and we left the matter as it was when others started to show up. I had peace, at least for that moment. But after I came home, I started to have second thoughts. There were so many “could haves”, “should haves”, somehow I felt that I have not done enough. But then God took care of my doubts in the most amazing way:
During the early stage of her illness, when the family was trying to come to grip with this crisis, my sister-in-law decided to leave her husband because of unresolved marital problems. This could not come at a worse time when the family is under such duress. Mom took it really hard, and evidently this turn of event added more pain to her emotionally. When I heard about this, I was very angry. The anger has well consumed me and kept me up at nights. But during the time when I was visiting mom, the Spirit touched me in an unexplainable way. I know that it takes two to tango, and there is more to this situation than I can perceive. I know it is not my place to judge, and even though I am angry, I need to reach out to my sister-in-law as one human to another as God wants us to love others.
My sister-in-law has come back to Canada and is living in a small town on her own for the time being. I had to pester my nieces in order to get her number. And I called her up the next night after I came home. We talked on the phone for almost two hours. I started the conversation by asking how she is doing, and updating her with mom’s situation. Never once did I ask what had incurred between the two of them. I did however in the course of my conversation mention that I am praying that mom will no longer suffer. And at the mention of prayer, she suddenly took the conversation down a different path by telling me she has been searching and has known Jesus for quite some time. This totally blew my mind, for all these years she has never once mentioned Jesus in our conversations! Apparently her mom on her death-bed accepted Jesus after she had read the testimonies of her late son and daughter-in-law, both had died from brain cancer. Because of the faith of these three people, the granddaughter in Australia has also accepted Christ! My sister-in-law said after their conversions she started her own search for Jesus, and now that she is on her own she has been going to worship, fellowship and has had meaningful conversations with the pastor. The turning point for her was what I had told her how I overcame the sudden death of my husband and found the strength to go on. I had said that the reason is because of Jesus in my life. That brief conversation has basically changed her mind and steered her towards Him. Who could have known that such a brief statement would make a big difference in a life!
She told me even though she understands the love and the greatness of God; she is still hesitant to confess her faith. She knows and understands that as a Christian she will not be able to carry out the ritual as demanded by the family. She feels torn between her faith and the tradition. This made me think of my mom, and I realized that she too has lived in this tension. The only thing I could tell her is not to let tradition becomes a millstone around her neck, and a stumbling block to Jesus. I told her God looks at our hearts and He sees and understands our struggles. I encouraged her not to stop going to Jesus, and to trust that He will show her what her next step is.
She also started to pour her heart out about the problems she has been experiencing with my brother. I told her that I cannot judge, nor take sides but rather pray that God will change my brother and their situation. I told her that whereas humans are powerless to change another God surely is able. God does work in mysterious ways that our human minds cannot understand! And the fact that He answered my prayers of 38 years showed that He does listen to the cries of His children. I told her that I am so happy and relieved to find out about her faith in Jesus, and if He was to take me home right away, I will die with a smile on my face!
After our phone conversation, I literally danced in the air ! My daughter figured that I have been under a lot of stress lately, and God wanted to encourage me with this amazing story! Yes, I am encouraged and over joyed, but most importantly are the lessons I have learned. I see God in a different light now! For years, with my own limited understanding, I have boxed Him in and so determined to have things rolled out in my own way that I almost missed Him in the process. I have learned that God has His own plans, and when prayers seemed unanswered it is His way of telling me to wait and rest in Him! God does not need me to complete a task, such as the case of leading mom and my family to Jesus, all He wants of me is my faithfulness. I am to do what I should do, and leave the rest in His capable hands! He has everything in control, and just because I cannot see it, it does not mean He has not listened!
Finally, I also learned that our worst enemy is this monster called “self”! If I had not been willing to let go of my anger, my pride and my sense of what is right and wrong, I would have been denied of this knowledge of answered prayer. The fact that I had taken the step to reach out to someone whom I was angry with, God blessed me with this precious gift. I discovered that God has silently worked in the background and called a person whom I least expected to Himself. He has answered my prayers of 38 years in the most amazing way!
“Glory to God in the Highest!”
I am filled with gratitude and I pray that this story will bring you hope and strengthen your faith as you wait patiently for your answers.