Solution

One of the biggest dilemmas of life is this: To understand what you are here for and what you should do about it.

Intertwined into this terribly complex subject matter is the issue of your faith. It is not just about what you fill into the Religion field of a form detailing your personal details. It is the entire trajectory of your life. The sum of all your life choices, convictions and the very core of what makes up your personality. The sense you make of your past. The force driving you to push forward into a better future.

These are such important aspects of your life that they are so hard to fathom. And even tougher to write about.

Yet I feel that I should attempt once again to talk about these things to you, my dear reader. It’s been a long time since I have done this. And regrettably so. But I have had such a hard time sorting out these thoughts in my head for a very long time. In fact, I continue to ponder some of these issues every day. Some questions remained unanswered. But time and again, I have found that I have enough to keep me going, to assure me of things yet to come.

So I am writing this post with the intention of communicating the hope that I have found for myself. That impetus for things unknown. That anchor for the soul.

I am here to talk about my journey of faith and where it has taken me. I feel small, because my tale pales in comparison to so many other more spectacular ones out there. Yet this is my story. And it ought to be the song I sing to any willing to listen. Or in this case, whosoever should read these posts of mine.

There’s so much of background stories to address that I don’t know where to start, honestly. But let’s just talk about what’s happening currently. And then maybe, if the need arises, we can, figuratively speaking, travel through time to help it all make better sense to you.

I am, at the moment, a mother to a toddler on the brink of preschool, and a wife to a man contemplating a career move. I am also a self employed individual, supplementing family income, but at a reduced capacity due to my choice to work at home to look after my son.

I am also the daughter to church leaders. My father is an elder of a small independent Charismatic church, and my mother has been in and out of church leadership roles in support of my father’s position throughout the years. My parents have also played a part in pioneering several churches that are now among the biggest ones in the Klang Valley. This is my legacy and the foundations upon which my life has been built.

I am a Christian, both by heritage, but also by personal choice. I believe in upholding virtues of truth, justice and integrity at all costs. I live my life seeking a higher purpose, one that is determined by God alone and which I believe He would reveal to me if I maintained a close relationship with Him.

I question daily the decisions that I have made to be where I am presently. Did I choose right? Is it affecting my family’s quality of life in a positive way?

One major dissatisfaction that I consistently have is with regards to the state of my spiritual life, because I used to do so much more in this area than what I do today. In essence, I often feel displaced, unsure of my footing and what I should be aiming for. The destination I should be heading towards.

I do not have a lot of the answers I long for. I am frequently cynical when I review my past and what it has made me become. Sometimes I feel somewhat resentful towards God because I was promised a lot in my earlier days, and it doesn’t seem like any of it is materialising at all in real life.

I have reached a point in life where I openly admit that I have no idea anymore where I’m headed in life. I just know, for every given moment in time, what my focus should be and which responsibilities I should shoulder. Currently, I believe my main objective is to nurture my family (support my husband in whatever he does and raise my child well).

What I am certain of is that the decision to be at home with my son and relinquish a full time job was God’s will for me at the time my son was born. What I was (and am) not sure about was how long this would last or what should happen next. I am reaching the point where I need to contemplate what this should be.

Amidst this uncertainty, while I was attending Sunday service, I was prayed for by one of the prominent women in my church. At the time she approached me, I was praying with Luke 5:5 in mind. I was telling God that all I needed was a word. A word from Him and I would spring into action to do whatever it was that He desired of me.

And then this lady prayed for me. Much was said, but the one thing I want to share here is that she mentioned that I was seeking a solution and that God was my solution. A cliche thing, I suppose, to any bystander eavesdropping on us. But to me, it clicked somehow.

I am worrying about how my husband and I will afford preschool for my son. We have yet to work it all out, or to even decide on where to send him. But this. This timely encouragement from a church member who knows almost nothing about the finer details of my life, is what I needed to hear.

I am still working things out over here. But I am comforted.

And this brings me to the main thing I would like to say in this post. The fact that we are always questioning and seeking what God’s will for our lives is. He most definitely has a master plan for it all, but the reasons that He only reveals it partially to us are unknown. What I do know now is that He does this on purpose, and it’s for a good reason. Because if He told all, we’d likely think we are smart enough to make it without Him. But we aren’t. So we need to trust that when He is in charge, it will all be alright.

We need to have faith. To abandon the familiar paths and formulas and conventional wisdom that others tell us is the right way to go. We have to realise that ours is a unique journey, and that nothing or no one can prepare us for it. Yet we have all that we need to make it through. We have Jesus. He is all we ever need.

* * *

Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word, I will let down the net.”

And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

– Luke 5:4-11 (NKJV)

Worthy words

I remember the absurdity of the words once uttered to my husband and I when we were just on the brink of entering parenthood. I was eager to listen, hoping for a precious nugget of wisdom from these more experienced hands, but all I got was this:

Better go and watch as much movies as you like. Once the child is here, you won’t be able to do that for awhile.

And that was all.

I must say, I was rather disappointed. In hindsight, of course, I can understand why this person said what they had, but honestly, missing out on being at the cinema these past few years hasn’t really been that big a deal for me. I know for some it might be, and my husband is one of them, but it isn’t that important to me.

I wonder now what I would or should say to new parents. Would I have something useful to proffer or would it be something they would just brush off as trivial the way I did? What is worth saying?

I probably will have to rethink this many more times, but for now, this is what I can think of:

Congratulations on being brave enough to embark on this long term journey we know as parenthood. It is not without its challenges, but it also has an equally generous servings of joy and fulfillment. Sacrifices will be made. Things will be undoubtedly different. But you will find that mostly the good will outweigh the bad.

God will give you the grace to face each season that comes your way with this child. The world around you will confuse you with its endless streams of opinions and advice. Take what you need, ignore what is unnecessary. You have all it takes to parent your child. Only you know them best.

Let your home henceforth be filled with kindness:

Gentleness and patience to instruct and guide the little one;

Tolerance towards your spouse for all shortcomings, present and future;

And most importantly, forgiveness towards yourself, that on the days you are not proud of what you did in the heat of a moment, you can rest assured that a lifetime of love covers a multitude of mistakes.

Hope and the outcome: Post GE14 reaction

Image source: The Coverage

I am just an ordinary Malaysian, but I am certainly proud to be one at this particular point in history.

Just days ago, our entire nation went to the polls to determine who will govern our country for the next 5 years. It had been such a highly anticipated event that it feels so surreal that it is now all over.

I am not one to write about anything even remotely related to politics, but this election season was truly an emotional and exciting one. So I am not going to pass up a chance to pen down something about it, although this is more of a personal tale and nothing more.

To be honest, having grown up in Malaysia, I had kind of reached a point of disillusionment and cynicism about the ways things are in my homeland. In recent years, things have really gotten from bad to worse on so many fronts. To me, it felt like it had reached a point where it would only just continue to go downhill from here onwards.

Over the years, I saw so many people I know migrating overseas or at least attempting to do so. Not many are proud of the country nor do they see any sort of great future to be savoured by staying here. Government policies and incentives seem to favour luring Malaysians who were overseas back home to contribute to the economy. Nobody seemed to think of rewarding those who continued to stay here. To someone like me who had never left, it felt like we were being unappreciated.

Racial and religion based politics were everywhere. Although my own friends and family were never judgmental or prejudiced in their dealings with me, there was an overarching feeling of disunity that seemed to always linger in the background. Back when I was a child, it felt a whole lot more harmonious living in a multi-racial society, and it was something that we were brought up to be proud of, for the reason that it set us apart from other nations and made us diverse and adaptable as a world citizen. But the older I got as an adult, it seemed like the very foundations we had been taught as children was being undone.

Scandal after scandal was reported in the news, and it felt like the instances of corruption would never end. This not just being within government related transactions, but across all economic sectors too. So many stories, too many unhappy endings.

There was very little faith in the public education system , and most families who could afford it would rather send their children off to study in private institutions, particularly for higher education. I am among those who graduated from a private foreign university. It was insanely expensive, but my parents believed it would be better for me to study there than at a local university.

Public safety has been a growing concern, and the general perception these days is that our streets are not safe at all. You’re not safe in your car. You’re not safe outside of your car. Even when it was a reasonable distance that you could get to by walking, I’d discourage my loved ones from doing so because so much can happen while you are out on foot. We witness robberies and burglaries in the middle of the night. A neighbour of ours was once held at knife point just outside her house while I was at home next door, unaware. I recall a conversation I had with a complete stranger on a flight back to Malaysia. He was a foreigner and was surprised to hear that in Malaysia, it’s not safe to leave your bags on the front passenger seat of the car while you are driving (robbers would smash your window to grab your belongings when your vehicle is stationary at a traffic light).

Back in the days when I was a reporter, I also had to write several news features on very grim issues such as deaths in police custody, reform of the electoral process and urban poverty. It would have likely driven me to depression if it had continued long term (the publication I worked for at that time eventually closed down).

I recall a conversation I had with a senior colleague once, on the issue of gifts and bribery. Although I was never really in the line of fire (I never did newsdesk duty except on tech stories, which were mostly not as controversial or high profile as other kinds of breaking news), I was made to understand that it was such a commonplace practice and done very openly. Money would be slipped in as part of the press kit. People would often ask to vet through drafts of a story before it got published (for which I personally had several bad experiences with regards to). Impartiality was almost virtually impossible, especially in the mainstream media.

On matters closer to home, our household income is barely enough to get by every month, especially since we had a child and I quit full time employment. We are a middle income family, but yet we are not even able to have surplus to set aside for savings. The outlook for future household expenditure did not look like it would get any better in the future.

Being a Christian also, things also felt rather bleak because Christians were often the target of divisive arguments and political agenda. We are taught as believers to expect persecution in the world because of our faith, but there are days that it felt really unfair and sad to see other fellow Christians targeted for no good reason.

These are just some of the issues I had faced as a Malaysian in recent times. And the sentiments they brought about stayed with me as I braced myself to cast my vote in our country’s 14th General Elections.

In fact, just thinking of polling day itself brought anxieties of its own. So much precautionary information was being circulated online. It was helpful, of course, but it was worrying nonetheless. We were told time and again that certain parties would be up to dirty tricks, hence we had to be careful about the way events unfolded as we cast our votes.

Make sure certain polling clerks don’t have writing instruments and voice it out if they do and are seen writing things down. Pay attention to your ballot papers. Do they have smudges, marks that shouldn’t be there? Is there a stamp at the corner of the paper? Ensure that the candidate names and parties are correct. Do everything you can so yours will not become a spoiled vote. There are cheaters out there.

As my husband aptly pointed out on that day, these are not things we should have to worry about as voters. But in Malaysia, it is of concern.

So I went to vote on 9th May feeling extremely sombre and devoid of all hope. I didn’t really believe what I did would make a difference. I dared not dream of change or anything promising coming out of the elections. To be honest, I felt defeated. Like it didn’t matter what we did, because it would not alter the outcome.

But somehow, between the time that I had dropped my ballot papers into their respective boxes and the moment the final results were announced, I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the promising turn of events that followed one after another.

It was breathtaking and nothing short of a miracle. It was hilarious and strangely comforting too, seeing the Prime Minister we grew up with back at the helm. And satisfying to have that glimmer of hope again, that chance that justice will finally be served and past wrongs might actually be made right at last.

I am glad I stayed in Malaysia and grateful that I could witness this momentous occasion that will certainly be a highlight in the history books that are to be written about our beloved nation. I am also thankful for all our local warriors, who in one arena or another paved the way for the change we experienced in GE14.

Life hasn’t always been kind to us over here. But there is hope. As I once used to profess, while we live, there is yet hope.

I look forward to a better Malaysia moving forward.

Fleeting

Dinner is due and there’s still things left to be done in the kitchen. But I feel compelled to write, even if just a bit.

Today has been such a mixed bag of emotions. Jamie and I went to visit another potential preschool today. It didn’t go too badly, but the experience made me realise how much growing up is expected of children these days, even while they are still at a tender age.

It is marvellous to be able to witness a child capable of so much at so early on in their life, but is it necessary? Are we in fact curbing their freedom to just be a child and savour the world as-is by demanding that they are able to meet supposedly age appropriate abilities? How does it feel for a child who isn’t able to comply at the time it is expected of them?

The other thought that occurred to me today is how limited my time alone with Jamie every day is becoming. For what seemed like an eternity, it felt like things would remain the way they are now for a long time more to come, but the reality is these days of being at home with me 24/7 will end soon. Surely there will be exciting times ahead thereafter, just that I wonder have I done enough to equip him for this upcoming next phase.

Here is the startling realisation I have come to after having been at home with Jamie for just about three years: It’s not necessarily enough to just be at home with your child. Being available and being physically present are two different things. I regret to say that often times, I am only one of those two things and not both. It is a sad sort of feeling when you become aware of this. I still have no useful enough remedy to overcome this problem.

It’s true what they say that we have such a short time with our kids before they move on in life. I already feel the weight of this reality. I can only hope that my husband and I are preparing Jamie well enough for whatever is ahead of him despite the limitations we have in terms of time, money and other resources.

Because essentially, I guess that’s what parenting is about: Helping them find their feet and equipping them to be able to handle whatever life throws their way. Building resilience. Shaping character. Leaving them with enough strength to go on, even when the time comes that we can no longer accompany them.

Insights and idiocy

Parenting has its fair share of online content these days.

Everyone and their dog has advice to dish out, promising you a better outcome for this or that issue you are facing with your child.

Then there are those who craft these almost poetic, contemplative pieces that seek to motivate you and inspire you and move you to tears as you reflect on your role as a parent or on the specific details of your child’s life as paralleled in their writing.

Not forgetting too those comedically relayed tales, guaranteed to elicit at least a chuckle, if not belly deep outbursts due to how uncannily similar its depiction is to something you experience on a regular basis.

So much has been said, but sometimes it feels like it’s the shiny, polished version. In retrospect, I often think of particular topics I’d wished someone would have addressed in order to have made it a little smoother of a transition for me into the various phases of parenting that I have experienced so far.

Maybe this identification of gaps in parental discussion is a cue for me to add my own thoughts to the World Wide Mix of Parental Confusion. Perhaps it will bring Parental Clarity. Or I could just be disillusioned in thinking I am any wiser than the next Mum.

Isolation

For some reason, I feel lonely today.

Perhaps it’s to do with having to constantly interact with my almost three year old son’s imaginary friends. Or the fact that out of the blue, a few different friends have decided to dub March as Meet Up Month, calling for reunions and catch up sessions.

Nothing wrong with all these things, I suppose. On brighter days, those may actually be considered good things. Funny things. Treasures to cherish.

But today, for some reason, I feel like I want something else. I want space. I want time. I want the liberty to do things I like. Not that it needs to be for long, or that I need a retreat away from everyone. I suppose I just need that metaphoric quiet spot I used own. That cloud from which to sit upon and dangle my feet, where I can watch the world pass by and think my own thoughts. Be comfy in my own sea of emotions.

I am a melancholic. I guess try as I might, I cannot run from that reality. And when there’s too much noise, too much talking, too many things that vie for my attention that I cannot hear myself think, I feel uneasy. I don’t feel like myself.

Funny that I should be admitting this to you, my random reader and friend. But that seems to be what life is coming to. A senseless bunch of events, strung together like beads on a string. And someday, when the space on the string runs out, its time to complete the loop and say goodbye.

(Okay, next I write, I promise cheerier things. TTFN!)

Countdown to Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

Being Malaysian Chinese carries along with it so many things that make up who I am. As much of a banana* that I am, so many aspects of the Chinese culture have seeped into my life. For instance, the kind of food we eat, the way we relate to our elders, etc.

Add to that the labels and expectations that are attached to being Malaysian AND Chinese, and then there is a whole added layer to what makes up my personality.

Anyway, the predominant thought over here at this moment is that I am not 100% proud of the heritage that we inherit by being Chinese (although only in part by now, since my ancestors have been on Malaysian soil for a good few generations by now), but this is who I am and I guess there must have been a reason for God to have fashioned this background that I have been born into.

This little video here, in some ways, says a lot. Never mind that it’s not about Malaysian Chinese in particular, it still reflects a lot on how the Chinese culture and mentality affects those of us who are born into this ethnicity. Notably, it speaks a lot about Chinese parenting in general: That emotionally distant, tough kind of love, the emphasis on studying hard, that inclination towards mathematics and numbers and money, that dedication to work, and sense of duty towards providing for the family.

Chinese New Year is mostly a family centred celebration. So all these things come up. All these family traditions, histories, imperfections… It is, to me, happiness tainted with a large dose of reality. The realisation that there will always be some family member that is alienated. Another who is indifferent. Yet another who tries too hard to unite everyone. All these things.

The angpaus. The hierarchy of family positions and titles. That emphasis on money. Those seemingly eternal debts: be they financial, emotional or all sorts of other in-between stuff. The polite small talk to mask the years of stories, sometimes buried out of convenience.

Hope I haven’t dampened the cheeriness of your Chinese New Year. These are just my musings. I love my parents. I like certain aspects of my Chinese heritage.I just hope to break the mould and be that bit different somehow.

Not to be that stingy, uncaring, crude person that the world might expect of me because I am inevitably Chinese. (Let’s leave the Malaysian bit for another post, another story – that too has a long list of things to be said about which is not worth delving into right now).

What’s your CNY reunion like this year? Mine’s alright, but a part of me always feels it could still be way better.

* A local slang which is used to describe a person who is Chinese but yet cannot speak/write in any of the Chinese dialects proficiently.