6 Years

I first met my husband 10 years ago, on January 9, 2008 to be exact. While I cannot remember the entire conversation we had on that day (mostly trivial exchanges like where we studied and what major we were taking), I remember he asked my name at the end of the conversation; nothing unlike any other exchanges I had with people I newly encountered at church.

A few weeks later however, after one youth session, I got locked in the ladies’ restroom. The door’s knob decided to go out of order just after the last lady had left and there I was, violently turning the knob while imagining the worst and panicking for what if no one even realized I was locked in the restroom. (At this point you might think that my now-husband came to my rescue like a knight in the shining armor, but no he did not.)

Before I started shouting for help, another lady came to use the restroom and upon finding the door locked, she said, “Hello! Why do you lock the door? Open up please!” Thankfully, I replied, “Hello! I got locked in here, please help me out!”

The security guard was called and one of the brothers eventually broke the door open by force and saved me! Nope, that brother was not my now-husband either. In fact, while others went to join the hoohah, he was eating his dinner at the youth-receptionist table, just 10 meters away from said restroom.

Now that I was back to the youth group, everyone was asking whether I was alright, and was saying that it was a glad thing someone found me and got me out. But there was this one guy who, half way into his dinner, asked,

“Didn’t you have your phone with you?”

“I left it in my bag.”

“And where was your bag? You left it on the chair here in this room.”

“You know, it’s inconvenient for girls to bring their phones around with them all the time lah.” Thanks to one of the sisters who came to my defense.

“I know, the problem with girls and their phones.”

The problem with girls and their phones! In my entire life, there had been only two men who had ever talked to me in that manner over my not keeping my phone with me. The first was my father, this guy was the second. Both were known for their unfriendly faces and no-nonsense style of speech.

I was quite dumbfounded that a man could actually talk like that to a girl he barely knew. “Very well,” I thought to myself,  “Tough guy huh? I’d very much like to see what will become of him when he gets smitten with a girl – if a man like he would ever be, that is.

And the rest is history.

Six years into our marriage and I still leave my phone out sometimes, and he is still the man who makes sure I have my phone in my bag AND my bag with me all the time. He doesn’t pull that stunt in the photo anymore though, it’s not friendly to his back. … fine, I do gain some weight, but mainly because it’s just not too good for anyone’s back.

Truly I thank God for the past 10 years of knowing each other, 6 of which as husband and wife. To have a beloved to share those years with is a good gift, and “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

May the gracious Lord grant us many more years together. ❤

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New Year Resolution

It was “Wake Up at 0600 Everyday” for 2016 and “Learn Latin” for 2017. And three weeks ago I purchased a digital piano and was determined to master the instrument in the next 12 months. Yet, as many can testify, most new year resolutions don’t survive long. At the best, they start on the Western New Year and end on the Chinese New Year, hence the name. This is extra-specially true for moms with very young children, it may not even last a month! Because, plans and children don’t mix. (Parents, let me hear Amen!)

The eldest was still wide awake, the alarm was set to go off in 7 hours, and if she didn’t sleep you didn’t sleep, and the baby was going to wake up intermittently throughout the night, and when you did manage to get up at 6 there was a very high chance your preschooler would too, and if she was up everyone was up and woohoo! the party started early with everyone lacking sleep and cranky by midday. “Wake Up at 0600 Everyday”

60 minutes, was how long the kids took their nap, it was also the maximum amount of time you got to do your stuff without interruption. You have heard the anecdote of how people without kids thought it was blatant lie when their friends with (very young) kids said they had no time for virtually anything. Very truly, they live in two different time dimensions. Without kids, daily housechores take 30 minutes, meal preparation takes 1 hour. Add kids into the equation: You say, “I am going to mop the floor” and you spend the next one hour picking up toys from said floor, settling childish squabbles, cleaning the kids because they poop, and two hours later you are done with the floor looking not much different from before you started that you half-suspect if you have not indeed mopped it. So, 12 months later and I was still at page 10. “Learn Latin”

What do you think children do when they see you sitting before the piano? Right, they climb up to your lap and run their little fingers all over it. When they are finally bored of the piano, they climb onto your back. Every. Single. Time.

It may be hilarious to read, we have all laughed sympathetically as parents worldwide shared how their world is turned upside down by their kids. But I can tell you that at the real time, to our own horror, we have secretly wished that these kids were non-existent. We have decided that they are a nuisance, a burden, they get in our ways to success. No, we will not say it out, but we have believed that they are out to ruin our plans, to scrap our resolutions, to hinder us from fulfilling our potentials. We think they are the reasons we cannot be our best. We bark at them as we see their intrusive coming, we blame them for our failure to achieve the previous year’s resolutions and name them the reason to our hesitation for the new year’s ones.

Alas! How could they be deemed with such apprehension when the Bible has esteemed them to be a blessing from the Lord? Oh they say, time has changed too much from when the Bible was written, the society has changed, children are no longer needed to labor for the family’s finance, modern women have the rights to maximize their skills, hence children – or the absence of children, has become the kind of blessing that is subject to individuals’ interpretation.

Has it? Or can it be that I miss the whole point? What if living better is not mainly about waking up earliest and being productive with my time, what if it is not about acquiring new languages, what if it is not about learning new skills, upgrading my resume? What if to be a better person is all about being more patient and kind; about freedom from envying others’ accomplishments and from searching for reasons to boast in pride; about not insisting that my time must not be interrupted at all costs; and not being irritable or resentful when it does get interrupted; about repenting from wrong doings and rejoicing with the truth; about bearing the little ones in constant hope and trust in God? What if to be a better me means being more like the Love Himself?

That must be it! For how else do children bless us but by presenting us, in their sincere and very forgiving nature, numerous opportunities to be more and more loving everyday, every year? For in God’s wisest providence, they have been put in our lives to mold us into our very best – into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:28-29 ESV

Don’t Follow Your Heart

“Mommy, Mulan says ‘My duty is to my heart’ and ‘Follow your heart.’ What does she mean?”

Firstly, it was not really the heroine Hua Mulan of the Ballad of Mulan (木蘭辭) whom my daughter was quoting above. It was the Disney rendition of a Mulan who disapproved of the culture of arranged marriages of her time, produced as a sequel to the splendid animation of the heroic tale of the Disney’s 1998 Mulan.

Viewed in such context, what this Mulan was trying to say was “Go marry the one your heart really loves.” Freedom, be true to self; the value which was very much American during my childhood years, and one that is widely and readily embraced today.

Yet, appealing as it sounds, I have to tell my daughter that to follow our own hearts is to tread down the path of dangers. How true, or rather, how misguided our hearts can be, surely we can all attest to ourselves.

How many of us whose hearts have justified losing the first ‘love’ in our spouses yet finding it in someone new? How many of us whose hearts, in the name of being true to self, have led our loved ones into utter ruin and anguish? How many lives have been broken by those who claim the right of doing things as their hearts please? And to bring the matter closer to the one asking the question, what would have happened had a four-year-old decided to go about her day following her own heart?

“Our hearts are sick, it cannot tell us what we must and must not do. But there is a Person whose Word can tell us what we must and must not do, and that Person can heal our sick hearts. He is the One we should follow.”

“I know! That Person is God!”

“Indeed.”

Indeed, as was the prayer we had been reciting at the end of our family devotion weeks ago:

“My heart is deceitful above all things
and desperately sick.
Heal me, O LORD,
and I shall be healed;
save me and I shall be saved,
for you are the one I praise.”
– Jeremiah 17:9,14

Heal our hearts, O LORD.

Before 30

I turned 29 this year. On my birthday, my husband came back with a DVD of the cinematography legend Akira Kurosawa’s “Sichinin no Samurai” or better known as “Seven Samurai” in English. Our youngest had been sleeping through the night and so Husband decided to celebrate the two happy occasions with a movie night. A luxury we had not had since our eldest was born.

We have since been spending weekend nights with Kurosawa’s classics – black and white movies depicting life and man’s ambitions and questioning their meaning. Despite their monochromatic colors, these classics are far from boring. In fact, they capture their audience and leave them in deep contemplation. At least for me.

Much like everyone else, I have had my own dreams of what my life should be before 30. There were lists checked: graduate with a university degree, work a steady job, get married, have children. There were lists left yet to be checked: have a third child and be done with it, travel the world, start a business, earn big dollars, and maybe go check out what all the hip of an avocado toast is about. Because, life is about that, is it not? Get successful! Have the most fun! Before 30.

Alas, or rather, fortunately! Dreams are what they are: dreams. They are not, at least not yet, the reality. Because the reality is, I may or may not even get to 30. There is no guarantee. Heaven only knows. And with such realization, I may see my reality, and therefore reorient my dreams, with better clarity and purpose.

The poor farmers depicted in “Seven Samurai” were awaiting death and destruction by bandits, their faint hope lay on the seven poor ronins‘ swords whom they paid with 3 meals of plain rice daily while they themselves ate millet. For the farmers it was their basic needs and survival, for the samurais their values and virtues. That was what life was about for them.

In “Ikiru” the protagonist learned he had only 6 more months to live. And only then did he realize that he had not really been living before. What is life? What does it mean to live?

Many have asked, and I too, have myself asked, “How should you decide to live your life, is it best to stay at home with your children and forgo career opportunities, or is it better to earn corporate status and money yet miss your children’s growing up moments?” I had grown up thinking that the latter is better, I had spent the past four and half years doing the former. But eventually, how one is to live one’s life is a matter one should honestly ask one’s self with death in mind. Time is not ours to own, “Should I die tomorrow, would I leave regretting how I had lived my life?”

It’s very inauspicious to speak of death in light of a birthday. Yet, death gives birthday its wisest admonition. Be it 20, 30 or 40, each added number brings us closer to death. May it bring us also to a truer meaning of life.

Unsupervised Childhood

“I stay home with my kids, but sometimes I still feel guilty for not spending enough time with them,” confessed one of my good friends.

I could fully relate with her. When I first quit my job to stay home with my baby, I too had thought that it was my new job to be always with my child, to fully engage her and to always be in tune with her needs. And of course, I wanted to excel in my new career, as all moms do.

It took me a while to realize that my baby had outgrown her newborn phase and as she grew, my constant presence and supervision were no longer as required. In fact, it would not do her good if I kept hovering over her and deprived her of age-appropriate autonomy.

Big Nona climbs the tree.

I remember my own parents were always busy at the shop, as all the adults that I knew in my childhood were. Instead of expecting our parents to keep us entertained, we would find the neighborhood kids to play with. It was an everyday thing for us to run around the alley or to play at one another’s house.

“Auntie, is so and so at home?” The parents usually didn’t bother with what the neighborhood kids did. We’d play upstairs, or outside, unsupervised. I guess, it was just the way things were in the olden days. The particularly good old days with fond memories for me.

I was definitely not the kid with the best behavior in town. Besides getting into fights, I did many funny things I am sure my parents wouldn’t be proud of. I remember leading a few neighborhood kids to knock hard at a neighbor’s door before running away to hide. We would giggle among ourselves as we observed the auntie coming out cursing and swearing. Yeah, I don’t think I will ever let my own kids do the same (who’s the sane parent that would?).

The Nonas putting on lipstick without Mommy knowing.

On other occasions I was messing with my uncle’s pet animals. My cousins and I used to stay at our late grandma’s place after school until my dad fetched us home in the evening, so we had plenty of free time in between. My uncle kept some caged birds in my late grandma’s house. These cages were hanging down from the ceiling. Once, we (okay, I was the one suggesting it) poked at the bottom of those cages because we wanted the birds to flap their wings instead of just perching still in there. They did and it was fun, until I poked too hard and one of the cages dropped on me. Not only the cage but the whole bird’s droppings too! Thank God they were dry! The floor was an entire mess but I was glad the bird didn’t escape or that would have been the death of me. We managed to put everything back up and had the mess cleaned up without getting caught.

I was not always that lucky though. Besides birds, my uncle had pet fishes too. They were kept in two separated aquariums, one at the second floor and the other at the third floor. The smart me assumed that nobody would ever know if I swapped those fishes, they all looked the same to me anyway. So I went ahead and netted out some fishes from one aquarium, went up the stairs and put them into the other, and vice versa. When my uncle came back that evening, I watched as he went up and heard my name yelled out shortly afterwards. How could he have known? Not so smart of me, apparently.

Those were probably some of the less than desirable deeds resulting from my boredom. Other times we would be scouring the ditches for interesting finds, or jumping over wide ‘longkangs’ to see who could or could not make it – my brother once failed and fell; spending pocket money on doughnuts and young coconut water while watching some snake-handler putting up a show was also one of our favorite pastimes.

Doing kungfu while singing Wong Fei Hung’s song.

Despite the many hours of unsupervised childhood, I didn’t grow up as a delinquent, I don’t abuse animals, and at least am a decent citizen who pays her tax; the same can be said of the rest of our peers. My own parents, especially my dad, had very strict and high standard for their children’s behavior, as most Chinese typically were. So I think it kind of balanced out the whole thing. I couldn’t imagine, if he had been supervising me 24/7, we would probably have driven each other mad.

Now that we are in the modern age of parenting, leaving children unsupervised even for a short time is seen as a risky and dangerous idea. In fact, in some countries it’s considered as case of abuse where the parents may be sent to jail and the child(ren) to foster care under the charge of parental neglect. We are told that it’s in our full responsibility, or that we are totally in charge of what our children will become in their adulthood. And that’s just a hairline away from assuming that parents can fully control how their children will grow up to be. This in turn, has become an immensely heavy burden on the parents’ shoulders. We even have the term “helicopter parenting” coined. Can this play a part in making our modern parenting so stressful for both parents and children?

Time has indeed changed, but perhaps it would make parenthood more enjoyable for me and childhood more memorable for my children if I could more often just look away and say nothing and let the kids be kids as they do what children do, as if unsupervised.

Little Nonas eating dirt. Just kidding! :p

Gender Equality, Social Constructionism and Leveling the Differences

On the surface, the clip portrayed itself to be rallying for noble cause: Gender Equality and Inclusiveness. The message here is that babies are not supposed to be influenced by any external norms (social construct) based on their genders, instead they must be allowed to grow as they genuinely are, to be their real selves, regardless of their genders, free from any pressure of the society.

I totally support that all women and men in any part of the globe must be treated equally in their rights as humans. No women should be denied education, or the rights to be involved politically, and no women should ever be subjected to any kind of abuse just because they are women. Likewise, while the gender based injustice towards men are not so readily perceived, no men should be discriminated against just because they are not women.

Yet, when such a zeal towards the betterment of humanity is reduced to leveling gender differences and a perceived freedom defined negatively as immunity from any social norms, expectations and pressures, we should carefully question ourselves if we are treading down the right path.

Social construct is not without errors, and the many injustices victimizing both genders can be the direct product of corrupt social norms. But social construct does not create the genders. Babies born male or female are inherently different by design, at least biologically. A good social construct acknowledges and maximizes the potential of this difference for mankind’s flourishing.

As Professor Esolen has pointed out in his book “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child,” it is an easy task to raise up adult males and adult females. “…whether boys and girls like it or not, their bodies will grow to adulthood eventually. Whether they become men and women is a different matter.” (p.195) Babies do not grow up to be men and women being left to themselves without any coaching from other real men and women in their lives any more likely than athletes becoming successful if left to their own will without pressures and moulding from the coaches and rigorous training.

Yes, we absolutely need a world where real men and women are treated equal in their worth, dignity and rights, as they inherently are. What we don’t need are adult males and females who have been so used to choosing their own views over the society since their babyhoods. The former have always been and will always be contributing positively to mankind’s civilization and society, I doubt the latter ever will.

As for the tagline #NoMoreBoysAndGirls, there’s no need for equality and inclusiveness when we are all just the same. It’s not equality, it’s uniformity in the name of embracing diversity. And that is such an irony.

They Know

“Why did you spank me that hard?”
“No. I know that it was not too hard.”
“But you were angry and that was not the right way of doing it! And you didn’t really like me when you hugged me afterwards!”

Her words sent a chill down my spine. She knew.

When we had our Bible discussions with fellow parents about “how to properly discipline our children,” she had been listening. When I spouted out all the doctrinal truths which I ought to have adhered to, she had been taking note. When I disciplined her without yelling, yet without love, she felt the absence. When the reconciliation hug was just a mere going through the motions, she knew. And, especially as an Asian, if I spank her to “save my face” and not for her restoration, she will know. She always knows.

I like to tell my children that I know them best and what is best for them, but what I didn’t really realize was that they, too, know me best. My day to day attitude, my response to things, my emotions, speech and deeds; my life is always at full display before them. I can write, say or show others what I want others to think about who I am but it’s my closest ones who know who I really am. Or more profoundly, they know whether what I write, say or show to others is what I really am.

Such realization is a constant cause for both trembling and joy. Trembling, because I will inevitably leak out to my closest ones the ugliest side of my sinful-self, and how I am so full of potential to lead them away from the faith I profess. My greatest fear is to have my children see me as a hypocrite and by hypocrisy subject them to condemnation.

But thanks be to God who is faithful and promises victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. He has not only designed for us parents to be His authoritative representation to our children, but has also set family as a place where gospel is continually portrayed. We are fellow sinners to our children, who constantly offend them in our sins and must constantly repent and seek their forgiveness. I thank God for He made little children very forgiving, they do not hold grudge and they forgive freely. To be forgiven and be genuinely loved despite my failures is a joy unspeakable. It is the gospel.

I wish nothing more than to have my God and my children find me faithful and truthful. May God help!