Life is a struggle, but we need not struggle with it.

Life is a struggle. And even more so when one becomes stronger in faith and commit as a believer in Christ.

I haven’t wrote much here, not much to be introspective about when one goes on coping with life’s struggle. But the concept of ‘life struggle’ is no longer verb for me, but a noun; meaning to say that even as we go through this experience of life struggles or challenges, we no longer struggle with it.

While happiness is a temporal state which is unsustainable and fleeting, attaining peace despite life struggle is possible.

This year was challenging for me. Other than taking care of a sick elderly parent who’s recovering from various illnesses, there were also personal battles I had to deal with. One was letting go of company that was not good for me, and learning to say no to them. Secondly, it’s the battle within, letting go of negative thoughts that have inevitably accumulated over the years due to grief in the family.

On the surface, I may project this strong image of a warrior princess who has minimal emotions and feelings. But beneath it all, I’m still a vulnerable woman who has delicate feelings that I hide from the world, or rather learnt to put under covers.

Life is never perfect. But despite all my cynicism about the world, i often look at it with childlike hope.

The bible offers a lot of sources of solace about struggles and suffering.

Good times, bad times, the only rock is my Christ my Lord.

The moment I saw Him as a constant in my life, that’s when I stopped struggling in life struggles and found peace, love and joy in a heart that’s tattered many times over.

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Keeping calm amid a storm

jesus calms the storm

My elderly father, who’s going to be 74 this year, had a major operation on his colon almost a month ago. Initially, my family was afraid that the care at home will be daunting once he’s discharged because we have to take turns to take care of him during the recovery process.

This includes learning to drain a stoma bag, and changing it. Watching his diet and keeping watch on his bowel movements. This is on top of juggling with our other commitments in life – work and personal life.

While this isn’t the first time we had to take care of sick parents, it’s really God’s grace that we were able to find peace and calmness amid the storm of doubt and uncertainty.

This calmness was a deep contrast compared to the last time a similar event happened during my late teens.

During the times when both my parents fell ill while I was still studying in school, I was constantly in a state of deep panic and worry. Back then my faith in God wasn’t strong. Much less the little faith I had in myself. I often felt alone and abandoned in managing that difficult period.

However, unlike the past, this time I told my sisters that we can still balance our role of caregivers as well as live our lives.

Life doesn’t stop when an obstacle or even suffering in any form happens.

In fact, it’s precisely because things can be so daunting, that each of us needed time out for self-care, which includes spending even more quiet time for prayer.

I imagined myself to be like Jesus, being calm during the storm.

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Honestly, he’s the source of my strength as my family received grace and mercy from him many times, even when we had little faith in him.

I do feel blessed and thankful that my father is recovering very well despite his age. And thank God for everything – for the peace instilled in our hearts as my family rides this storm together.

“35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)

 

 

 

 

Trusting in divine providence

trust in god providenceThere was a bird personality test we once took in school which shows everyone’s inclination. (http://richardstep.com/dope-personality-type-quiz/) Apparently, I’m supposed to be a Peacock and Eagle. Yet, few would know that I’m actually a closet owl, who hates interruptions and love structuring my time.

Perhaps this obsession to avoiding disruptions and overplanning came from a childhood full of series of misfortunes.

As a child, I felt a lack of control in my life, where I was passed around to different caregivers (this is so as my parents were both working), and not feeling a sense of stability in my life. My first 5 years was with my late grandmother, but she later fell ill and so I was taken care by some aunts now and then, until I returned home at age 6 back at my parents’ place.

There were many events in my teens and 20s which were beyond my control again. My mother died, and there were financial debts incurred from her health problems and long hospital stays, broken relationships and friendships, and even persecution at various workplaces. Some of these personal problems took place so close to my A Level examinations and university examinations, that it is really a miracle that I did decently well in the former to get into my choice course.

And so it was that amid all the madness, the logic that once guided me to “self-control” and “self-help” broke down.

It was only until recently I slowly learnt to truly surrender to the cross. Trusting in God’s divine providence.

Of course all these happened slowly over the years to change my mindset of controlling events in my life. But it was a recent meeting with a fellow baptised Catholic friend whom I haven’t seen in years but is full of fire in her faith that I was enlightened by God’s grace and mercy.

Suddenly all fear dissipated and that dreadful feeling of discomfort where I’m fearful of random misfortunes went away, especially after how a priest told me to always trust in God’s divine providence during a confession.

I didn’t tell my Catholic friend about what the priest said during the confession, but she said the exact same phrase to me during dinner after we attended the Friday mass and stations of the cross.

Perhaps God has always been trying to reach me with this message – to take comfort in his plan and to trust in him, but it was only now that epiphany hits me.

And whenever I feel insecure about the present or future, or even let down by my past, I feel comforted knowing that it is best to “Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.” (St Augustine of Hippo)

 

 

 

 

Soul mates might not be the best people in your life

My first encounter of unconditional love was with my Nonya grandma who took care of me when I was a sickly child. We also had this great telepathy where with one look, we know what the other is thinking or feeling, especially for her. Before I was able to verbalise my feelings in words, she would speak my thoughts aloud and knew how to assure me.

Perhaps it was with this loss of my first best friend when I was just 9 years old, that I kept looking for the same type of unconditional love and the ability to read my thoughts and feelings without prompting from me.

Needless to say, I was naive in thinking that soul mates are the best people to be in my life.

The first person who was able to do so was a very toxic person I dated for a very short period in my mid twenties. I stubbornly thought that he was the one for me, just because he could read my mind effortlessly. But alas, some sense hit me after a few years before I moved on.

Around the same period, I had a best friend for around 7 or 8 years. Her quirks and mannerism reminded me much of my grandmother, if my grandma was actually the same age as me. There are many things we shared with each other that we know we can’t share with our other friends. But with such intense connection, perhaps the disappointments mount as expectations are sky high. We eventually stopped being friends after a series of quarrels and disappointments.

One year after this best friend exited my life totally,  I dated an older guy for a couple of months. From the first time we met, we could not stop talking and connected in ways I haven’t felt in many years. We both have similar passion in writing, and intellectual curiosity for movies and music. In many ways, looking at him was like a male reflection of myself. At times, I did feel that he was my other soul mate half, if there’s such a thing. But alas the timing was a little off, as both of us were going through difficult times in our lives. And so we cut things off.

At first it was very difficult for me as I cared a great deal for him, and never been so close to someone within such a short period of time. It was almost as if my grandmother was taken away from me again.

Perhaps what I was grieving was a repeated drama spinning in my head over what happened a long time ago.

And with time and God’s grace, I slowly learnt to let go and made peace with my past.

Slowly, I got distracted by work and things happening in my life, and surely, time healed all wounds and I never thought about him for a while.

And then he suddenly reappeared with a text, asking me how have I been.

I was surprised how detached I felt, perhaps in his own words, I have already “filtered him out of my life”.

Honestly, I have forgiven him for what he did, and am open to being just casual friends.

But I highly doubt that I could place him on the same pedestal as he was on earlier this year

Perhaps the notion of soul mates does set it for a failure, because it is after all an ideal, something flawed humans can only hope to emulate.

Or rather in a very romanticised view, it is best to leave it as tragically incomplete.

“The last word of love is … goodbye.” (Carroll Bryant)

 

Learning to be happy

Happiness is often elusive, if not especially for those of us with a more dreamy old soul stained by past traumas and disappointments.

Emotional baggage is the worst of scars to deal with when one has to grapple with issues related to abandonment, loneliness and losses (financial, deaths, etc).

It becomes a painful exercise to remain happy, contented even as one has to deal with a sea of emotions, especially dark ones that linger or cause one to relapse occasionally to depression.

2015 has been a challenging year for me as I balanced work with studies, tempered my expectations with reality.

But ultimately the learning lesson here is that happiness is meant to be transient.

What’s more important is to find ways of means to respond well to the waves of highs and lows of life.

It was a challenge for me to face undesirable emotions, the sting from unexplained sense of loneliness and abandonment which I get from time to time without any explicable reasons.

But my solace is often prayer and surrendering all these pain to God.

This is something that has never failed me so far.

The simple act of faith, and trust that with His grace, I can eventually be healed, and let go of whatever is holding me back.

Remember who you are

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One of my sisters’ favourite movie was Lion King since she was 3. She used to watch it many times a day, almost obsessively. And so I became too familiar with this cheesy movie. Yet the phrase “Remember who you are” speaks volumes in my life.

Like Simba, I found myself running away from painful past memories, because they hurt very badly.

But it was through God’s love that I confronted these different layers of pain.

Though I’ve always acknowledged the painful loss of my grandmother, the one that hurt me more insidiously was the emotionally challenging relationship I had with my late mother.

My mother was a gentle and cheerful soul, but she wasn’t ready to be a mother at a young age, and so I never once felt motherly comfort with her. She was emotionally cold towards me for most of my childhood, until I went to primary school.

And finally when she was no longer around in my late teens, I subconsciously detested every part of me that reminded me of her.

I didn’t realise that I suppressed that side of myself (that reminded me of her), not because I hated her. It was more of a painful grief of losing someone whom I emulated a lot.

While it’s true that we can become a changed person, denying who we really are isn’t the way to go either.

God made all of us beautiful, and we are all meant to fulfill his purpose and flourish in his gifts in this world.

It took me a long time to recognise these simple facts of life; but as Lion King puts it, you can either run away from your past, or learn from it.

In a way, living my life in a genuine manner and not being ashamed of the traits which are similar to mum would be a way to learn from her, and keeping her memory alive.🙂

Surrendering to Christ has given me the peace, and allowed me to remember who I am.

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A father’s love

daddy and I

It is more often to hear a tribute to a loving mother as opposed to a loving father. I do recall a survey done by Hallmark or one of those card companies that when they offered prisoners free Mother’s day cards, they were all snapped up. However, when the card company tried to replicate the same success with Father’s day, they were met with a lukewarm response instead.

Often or not, I find myself being very fortunate to have a very loving father. My dad isn’t one of those mushy, emotionally demonstrative type of parent. But he’s always there for his children at the most important moments. He may not say it with sweet words of affirmation to show his love for us, but he makes it all up with actions. Being there when we’re sick. Zealously taking photo  during family events or helping with a last-minute request to help fix my laptop or print something for me. Or even placing a handkerchief on my head whenever there’s a little drizzle, when I was little girl, so that my head won’t get drenched.

In fact, because my character is almost like a mirror to his, we often disagree when it comes to life issues, politics, and religion; but he was never one who asked me to shut up and listen. He never discouraged me from being intellectual. During my upper secondary school and jc days, I enjoyed those car rides to school in which he’ll fetch me, and we’ll have a good conversation about current affairs or just some mundane talk about our family members.

Being the eldest, I also witnessed more of the early years of marriage struggles my parents faced. I do respect my father’s devotion to the marriage despite the difficulties he faced, this is especially since he had to take care of a sick spouse and at the same time, take care of his children, even after my mother passed on when my sisters were still very young.

In some ways, I have to thank my father for allowing me to experience a deep father’s love, because it allowed me to understand the love of God, the father almighty.

There were times my dad will restrict us from doing certain activities, and while he seemed draconian, my sisters and I knew it all came from the right place – love and protection.

Just as how we cannot understand how God the father puts us through difficult trials or confusing moments where we can hardly feel his presence, it’s always good to remember God, the father, also has our best interest at heart.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us…. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his [children].” (Ephesians 1:3-5)