Jan 2, 2019

2018: looking back

The last few years weren't really Jan-Dec years. (Then again, they haven't been since 2013.) I would consider the past few years as such:

2016 Sep (Unity worship night + Dennis' death) - 2017 Aug (when I finally confronted the disappointments and distrust that had been brewing in my heart since then)

2017 Sep - 2018 Nov

So I guess I'll start with 2017 September. In September I finally finished reading The Single Issue by Al Hsu, which Ivan had introduced to me in August. I loved the book and it helped me feel so liberated from my dependency / fear (which had been with me since 2008-9), and so completely okay with where I was at that point in time. It brought so much release, just as Theology of the Body had brought much revelation and wonder.

That month, our cell group was going for a mission trip. I was totally not feeling it. I also didn't feel like I could fully trust God yet. Despite the big turnaround moment God had just given me, there was still the whole year of doubting God's goodness and withdrawing my trust in Him. I told Yang Hong about it after church one day, on a sofa at the Hotspot, and he simply said "take your time." I love how his responses are simple, light, and liberating. There isn't a need to strive to be okay. It takes time and that's just how things are. Many things happened during the trip and I was so privileged to be a part of it. He showed me His grace time and again–I received a prophetic image for (almost?) everyone I prayed for, someone received Tongues, Alister brought so much anointing to the meetings he spoke at, Siyi's and Jer's courage to share about their lives vulnerably blessed me so deeply, the church I was speaking at on Ezekiel 16 was named 'Bethel' and its banner said "intimacy with God," which are 2 of the most important themes in my life, etc etc. I elaborated a bit more about it here.

In September, I also went with Rachel to Japan, where we witnessed a stunning sunset in Shirahama over rocks and sand and water, had a fantastic lunch at Yajima Sushi with Adlin, had amazing matcha in Kyoto, etc. Many lovely memories from that trip. (Ok I really need to make a photo album for the pics.)

In October I began training to be a teacher at the enrichment centre I work(ed?) at. Prior to that I'd just been working on the curriculum, improving the worksheets, etc. On Day 1 of training my bus got into an accident and I had to walk, and I was late. Lol. It was an enriching three months, and I grew to really enjoy my time with my fellow trainees.

In November I learnt that a few Yale-NUS people had come to faith, and a few friends were received into the Catholic church. In November I also met Kenneth for the second time. We had first met during a Bruised Reeds gathering, when the editors were calling for contributors (a schoolmate had introduced me to the group). Kenneth had been sitting beside me then. When I met him in November we sat on a bench in Chijmes and he told me about his past–how he had been bullied, his children's church and family experience, etc. My heart really went out to him and I kept trying to engage him from then on, get him to give my church a try, confident that my church family would not treat him the way his did.

In December I had my first candlelight service with my new cell group. Previously, as I was leaving Yale-NUS, I prayed for a true spiritual family that I could find refuge, discipleship, growth and home in, and most importantly, one that I could bring / introduce friends to in confidence that they'd be well taken care of and that it was a good group to be rooted in. And the new cell group had been nothing but a fulfilment of my prayers. In them I found vulnerability, commitment, genuineness and a heart bent on walking right with God.

In December my cousin also got married, and almost the entire maternal family congregated in KL, which was quite a feat–from as far away as Australia and the US. It was lovely seeing everyone again. In December I also attended SWAT camp, probably for the last time ever–I'd attended AnnTIC / SWAT 5 times from 2013-2018. It was alright, I was glad to be there, I got to chat extensively with a Catholic deacon (and James publicly declared I was getting too much airtime, but ey, pet topic #2 lah), and Xueyin, Lance, Peter and I also had a good chat on the last night.

In January this year, I started taking my eight full classes at the enrichment centre. Two weeks into it, my introverted self started crying out in exhaustion. I'd always thought that teaching was all I wanted to do, but I never expected to teach kids, and I also didn't realise how much more introverted I'd gotten over the years. Saturdays, I learnt, were exhausting: four two-hour classes back to back, with an hour for lunch.

However, a breakthrough also came in Jan. The managers agreed to let me end work 2 hours earlier every Friday, which meant that I could go for cell group. I was elated. Previously I had to spend my Friday nights in the office instead, marking while Whatsapp-calling the cell group. I was and am very, very, very thankful for such thoughtful and kind managers.

In January, Xueyin, Lance and I also took Peter clothes-shopping on a mission to transform his appearance that we called Project Peter Potter. I've been very blessed by our friendship since.  Jon Chew also left for a sem abroad, and Ronald left pretty much forever.

Towards the end of January I was wondering what my purpose at work was. At the Yale-NUS CF dedication service (where Isaac Ong gave a KILLER SHARING WOW about his journeying with Gary Cao), I realised I was like salt that had lost its flavour, and I really didn't know what I was doing at work.

Then on 2nd Feb, at an Emerge session, Pastor Zhuang spoke about how our role was to pass on the spiritual baton to the next generation. There I was, in the perfect position to pray for the next generation through my students. And I should pray for all my students; that was the least I could do for them. The very next week at work, my manager, in trying to help me manage my workload better, gave me a marking tracker with every one of my students' names on it. The perfect tool to help me pray for them and record down my prayers. I couldn't believe my eyes. Jesus was so specific, and so thoughtful.

By February the workload was absolutely killing me. I just couldn't seem to mark my students' compositions quickly, and I was often marking till 3.30 in the morning. Some Friday nights I'd be marking until 6am, and then have to wake up at 7.30am for 8 hours of almost-non-stop teaching on Saturdays. One day, my P3 class was being incredibly difficult to handle and I decided to tackle it by praying for each of them. And I got prophecies for nearly all of them in that class, and clear visions for a few of them, especially the most difficult ones. I wrote them down and gave them to the parents much later on.

In February, Jerlynn also got baptised and there were a couple of beer sessions with Cheryl, Malcolm, William and Chris. Valentine's Day was spent with them at William's house with 60 nuggets and wine. (Also, Pastor Aries' VDay sermon was about SINGLEHOOD. About affirming singles and walking alongside them by helping them discover their giftings and flourish in them, rather than just focusing on getting them dates. OMG!!! I was so so happy.) On Chinese New Year (also at William's), Kenneth joined our cell group's gathering for the first time. Also at Unity Worship Night, Nicholas Quek and Xueyin very courageously shared their testimonies and I was blessed by them. That night, that I slept over in Xueyin's room and Peter came by, and we prayed prophetically for each other, and Xueyin said to me, "Jesus is looking intently at you, and He's waiting for you to meet His eyes. A little sad. Where is your bold love? Yet a little happy, that you have not totally left Him." I was so convicted. Indeed, my fire in university seemed to have long left, and now I was just struggling to make it through each day, giving no thought to ministry, trying to pray for the kids at most. Was I even still living a life of dedication and consecration, or just going through the motion because I should?

Also in February, Josh opened his Bugis place for a sleepover with the cell group. I had been thinking about how it seemed that a couple of the people I had been there for, that I had come to give my heart to and genuinely see as friends, didn't reciprocate that friendship. They only wanted me around when I was needed, it seemed, whether I was an emotional crutch or a wallet. Someone said something that seemed to confirm it in my head, and I went up to the bed and cried over it. It seemed that I was too often a bad-weathered friend. People didn't care to have me in their life during the good times. The next day, Chris came to me at the Sky Garden after church and I told him how I felt. Chris helped me see how the aim was to be like Jesus when he healed the ten lepers. Out of the ten he had healed, only one came back to give praise to Jesus. Yet it's not like Jesus held himself back based on who would and wouldn't reciprocate. He was free and happy to give anyway. The aim was to be so full within myself, having received in abundance from God, that I'd be happy to give without needing to receive their thanks or friendship in return. It's okay. It doesn't matter. I have much to give, and I desire their friendship but I'm not any less because I don't have it. I shouldn't need to hold back for fear I don't receive in return. The Father gives me more than enough.

Uh, according to my journal and Instagram, not much seemed to have happened in March. Still drowning in work. One night Cess called and came over and she was extremely distressed. At the foot of my block I sat with her and prayed with her for a long, long time. She said at one point when I was praying for her she felt like she was struggling internally so much she was going to implode. Nearly let go of my hand. It felt like my hand was burning. Then suddenly there was an instant release. Was it spiritual oppression? Not sure, but thank goodness it was all quiet and there was no outward drama. I've never cast out spirits and I probably would've been afraid. That night, God also spoke to her very clearly about four things, and she had prophecies for me, too: one about something I was feeling that very moment, and one about the near future (which was realised in June, with both visual and spiritual correspondence). Easter service was pretty hectic and I wasn't prepared for how many people there was going to be. Quite a number of people had agreed to come and I wasn't able to get good seats for anyone because the hall was filled so quickly, but in the end everyone got to sit somewhere, phew. Tiffany joined us for the first time, and from that day onwards she started attending our cell group.

April was pretty happening. In April one afternoon after church I was chatting with Josh and I suddenly felt a lot of anxiety rising in me, like panic, and I needed to go somewhere outdoors to calm down. We sat on the steps of the Esplanade's outdoor theatre and I plugged my earphones in and lay down and tried to seek God, asked him desperately what it was I was to do with my life; there had to be more. And suddenly for a split second He gave me an image of an abortion clinic. Me waiting in a chair. A young, troubled girl walking out, and me going up to her just before she left, putting my arm around her. And then I burst into tears. I was overwhelmed; this was a ministry I didn't want at all. So much about it was just–I couldn't. I don't think this is something I would be able to face or handle. Everything about it. But I kept it at the back of my mind anyway. (This was probably partly inspired by a chat I had had with a friend the month before.) I had to take a cab to my family dinner, with Josh trying to provide some comfort and me bawling away, and then desperately trying to look okay afterward. Since that day I've been giving a lot of thought to adopting children that would've otherwise been aborted.

In April I also gave a sharing about singlehood in Pastor Yilun's zone, based on stuff I had learnt in Theology of the Body and The Single Issue. It was a great blessing to be able to share about a topic I loved, and to share how the marriage between Christ and the Church informed even our singlehood. Leading up to the sharing, I wasn't feeling God's presence at all. In the days before it, I was crying out for God's presence like a parched desert. Even when I was at the venue itself, I was feeling very cut-off from His presence. But as soon as worship started, I felt His presence come so intimately, and it was beautiful to dwell in. After the sharing some people raised their hands to be prayed for, and I got very clear and distinct prophetic images for each of them. One image struck me of particular: of the person I was praying for bent over in bed, kneeling over completely, her guts spilling out. It was a stark, ugly image. The person wasn't dead, just pouring herself out wholly before the Lord. She had been trying to keep up this image of strength and perfection, but Jesus wanted to hear the real her. She could be completely herself before Him, and let it all out, all the ugly bits of herself she was afraid to show. Another guy's image came in parts: a brick wall was half taken-down, but it was still half standing. It wasn't blocking anything, mind you, but half the wall was still up and he had to let it all come down before the breakthrough could come. And then later I saw that there was a white figure (a girl / angel) on the other side of that wall. She could only come to him once the wall was all down. I talked to him later and found that it all spoke to him very accurately, even the half-wall that I was absolutely clueless about as to what it could mean.

In April, I was also agonising over whether I should make a job switch, and Josh said that the choice I made didn't matter, because God lay not in the path but in the child that walked that path. Kenneth confirmed the word. I didn't get it then, but I get it now. I felt the same way for someone else I prayed for in December, through another prophecy.

In April I realised with a shock that Kenneth hadn't submitted an entry for Bruised Reeds!!!! I'd submitted my entry and my ghostwritten piece earlier in the year, but I felt like if anything, Kenneth's story HAD to be told. So I asked if he would let me write it. So on Sunday, he attended church with us for the second time ever, and after that we went back to my house and I interviewed him. That night I got down to writing, and we were done by Monday night. On Monday night (aka Tuesday morning) I sent it to the editors, with the sole purpose of convincing them to have it read out at the book launch. It was too late to include it in the publishing, but at least it could still be read out???? Zhiwen wasn't optimistic, since obviously, stories featured in the book should be featured at the launch. But the editors were very impacted by Kenneth's story, and by Tuesday they'd agreed to let Kenneth read it out at the launch. SUCCESS!!!!!! I was so so happy. My hopes didn't end there, though. I wanted Kenneth to read out his own story, but it would be really difficult for him, since it's hardest to talk about your own life in front of an audience of strangers. But he agreed to read it out, and my heart was so so full.

In May we had a blindfold prophecy session at cell group, which was pretty cool. I got a very specific image and word for the person in front of me, and although all was quiet and I was blindfolded I knew who it was for. The word given to me, "calling", was also apt for what I was considering and going through at the time–both with my job and with the abortion thing.

In May, I got invited to a wedding by the fiancee of a guy who had, in my opinion, been an asshole to me. I was quite taken aback, and it took me three full days to think of a reply that wasn't too spiteful. (Even then I didn't totally succeed). I thought it absurd that three years on, I was still trying to forgive him, agonising over it every time I was reminded of it. I mean, he had only attempted to pursue me for a couple of months, and then ghosted me quickly after. Nothing had even happened with him, even though I fell very hard, despite me trying my best to heal and be self-reliant in that period. I felt unjustly treated, and he never felt apologetic about it. In May, I also had an argument with Kenneth, and as a result I was quite obviously despondent at work. Hisyam noticed and asked about it, and I realised that I'd been completely emotionally stable since August, which was such a rare thing. Thought that was worth taking down because I used to be such an emotional wreck all the time. (But as we shall see later, being emotionally okay doesn't necessarily mean being okay all around.)

In May, something I read in my study bible struck me: in the footnote for Song of Solomon 5:8, it read "she is referring to her desire to be with him, and to the way that she... can feel overwhelming physical weakness at the thought of her beloved, sometimes described as making the knees go weak as water."

That puzzled me for a bit. Wasn't it a bad thing to be so dependent on someone? Wasn't it sin? This was my sin, the thing I'd been striving to avoid and my greatest weakness. This was what I thought I'd been liberated from in Aug / September. Why was this in the Bible?

And then I realised that this, too, was a reflection of our relationship with Christ. The female is the representation of humanity in our marriage with Christ. Our emotional longing is a picture of how without God, our heart grows faint; when the presence of God is absent in our lives, we grow weak, listless, lifeless. We can't do without Him. Even my weakness, when seen rightly, is a holy picture. My longings weren't just sin; they revealed an aspect of eternity, if I lifted them up as such.

The most exciting thing that happened in May was that Bruised Reeds was launched!!! More importantly, at the launch, Kenneth read his story out (do give it a read if you haven't!), all trembling hands and nerves but also so much courage. My cell group and a few friends were there to support him, too, to show him that we knew and it was totally okay. That we wouldn't judge him the way other people in his life had.

In June, I went to the UK with Kevin to visit Sau and Maurice. Met Lance for a day too. It was so much fun. I loved my time there. I got to have my Kanada-ya fix, watch Matilda, comment on the ducks at Hyde Park, walk the dogs at my mum's friend's place in Oxfordshire, explore Abingdon on our bicycles, walk around Oxford with Khai and his girlfriend, stay in an Oxford college, visit farmers' markets in Edinburgh go hiking-ish and so much more! It was so so fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. And Kevin and I didn't hate each other by the end of it, which imo was a miracle (yknow how sometimes trip thingies don't go well; usually for me they turn worse rather than better). Yet when I came back to Singapore, I felt extremely far from God. All the telltale signs came: not wanting to fellowship with the CG, feeling a profound sense of darkness and purposelessness, trying to search for meaning in everything but church. I was puzzled, because in the UK I'd still kept to my quiet time, spent time reading the Word and praying, etc... I guess I was just cut off from the fellowship of the saints and not soaking in His presence. My focus was also off. I was drifting back into this black hole. It struck me how easily I could lose it. That night in my room I cried out in desperation to God, knowing that I couldn't bring myself back; I couldn't cross that gulf if He didn't bring me across it. I needed Him to restore in me a sense of worth and purpose through connection with Him. That, I have found, is usually my indicator that I'm far from God.

In June, Alister asked me if I happened to know any ghostwriters (I was like.. yes, me?) because he was looking for someone to ghostwrite his story. Now, this came shortly after I had the thought to become an adjunct rather than full-time teacher in 2019, to leave more space to ghostwrite (inspired by Kenneth's thing). I had shrugged off this thought simply because at that time I didn't have any ghostwriting assignments, neither did I have any clue where any other ghostwriting opportunities would come from. And then here this proposal to write a book fell into my lap, and I was like, oh. \

A thing also happened in June: due to a series of unfortunate events, I was left stranded in Vivo past midnight and cabs were really expensive ($40 on Grab); besides, no free cabs were coming my way. A thought came to me to pray, so I said a quick prayer for a cheap cab ride somehow as I was unwilling to pay so much for a ride. Two minutes later, an NS guy came up to me and asked where I was going. He said he was calling his parents to pick him up, and offered me a ride. His parents ended up driving me all the way to my house. I was floored. God was good.

In the second half of June, I also interviewed for a research position at the National Museum. By the end of June I got an informal offer, and they wanted me to start in August. I was ecstatic, but also a bit uncertain and panicky because I had just told my enrichment centre that I'd continue taking my 8 classes the rest of the year. I was also getting a lot better at managing my marking, and I no longer had to pull late nights. Eventually I decided to go with the Museum anyway.

July was spent adjunct-teaching my 8 classes, which was the life. I loved being able to wake up late and mark in my own time, and go to the centre only when I had to conduct classes. Plus I was earning a lot more. I got to meet friends for lunch and tea more often, and mark in cafes. It was the life. I was also starting to really enjoy my Monday classes, and was feeling pained over having to give them up in August. Pastor Aries also preached a good message in July about being real in church, not just putting up a facade. ("God can't work through a fake you.") So important! Yet he also acknowledged that sometimes it's also the fault of the leaders that we don't dare open up. (Bruised Reeds moment right there... /tears up) This year Pastor Aries has been so real and so much more bold in addressing issues that are uncool yet important, and I've been so blessed by it. Also Emerge happened! Also, some saga happened with a friend following Pinkdot, but all was resolved and okay in the end.

August: I started work at the National Museum! Had a farewell picnic for the classes I was dropping. I loved having the whole room to myself and just spending entire days reading and looking up stuff. As compared to teaching, this was an introvert's haven. I had still agreed to take on the 4 Saturday classes till the end of the year, though, so I had to get used to working 6 full days a week and waking up early every day. Also in August at a church-wide prayer meeting I felt something more about children (specifically in the child porn industry), and after the meeting I asked Yang Hong to pray about my future and His confirmations about the things I'd been thinking about since April sent me bawling. Really apt and important words that I must remember to keep in my heart. Also in August I realised that some secular music I can listen to on end, but with some artists after a while I get really uncomfortable and uneasy and start having all these strange thoughts. Basically there are some artists I can listen to for hours on end, and some I can't without getting quite uncomfortable. Then I realised that the English-language secular artists I listen to for hours on end are Christian / have at least one Christian member, and those I've tried to listen to for hours on end but been unable to because I eventually feel too uncomfortable are quite un-Christian. I thought that was really interesting, because I didn't realise this before I started looking up the artists individually, and from the lyrics / music alone you wouldn't have been able to tell. Flaky much? Shrug. Just something I observed that month in particular... I don't listen to many artists for extended periods of time, anyway. Daryl also got engaged. Sweetest thing ever. (And THAT RING!)

In September, Yan Ling got baptised! I also found out a bit more about my grandma, which is always nice, because I don't usually converse with her very intuitively but I really enjoy her stories. Also in September, during a cell group prayer meeting as I was playing the guitar, Kenneth had a vision of a diamond ring around my finger. Married to Christ. That was a really apt and sweet image considering my love for Theology of the Body.

In October, one cell group when I was playing the guitar for worship, I was suddenly hit by a profound sense of unbelief in God. And I mean, this thing isn't uncommon for me, but it was a bit strange to struggle with the thoughts even as I was playing for worship and supposed to bring down the presence of God, and thinking again about how if Christianity was true, all this would be worth it, but if it wasn't all this was just a waste... God, please, please help me believe again, please help me hold on. And Yang Hong called out a few groups of people for prayer, but then at the end of worship he asked "just now during worship did anyone feel unbelief creeping in?" Someone else and I raised our hands. And he said "just now during worship I felt it, but didn't have a word to address it there and then. And then I realised that the whole message for today is about it, so this word is for you." He talked about Luke 4, Jesus in Nazareth when he read out the Isaiah scroll. Later on YH said that he felt (prophetically) like there were some parts about me that I felt were good and that God could use, and some parts that weren't so good, that I'd rather hide; but God wanted to use my whole person as a blessing. I was a bit puzzled by YH's word because I didn't feel like it was happening in my life at all. I felt like all was okay. I wasn't sure what he was talking about. But I wrote it down anyway.

Two days later, at a sharing at a church, Raphael shared two things about sin that struck me: "If I feel my longing I'll struggle. If I harden my heart I won't struggle. Then I'll obey God. But in hardening my heart I also feel more distant from God. When I let myself be tender-hearted I feel God more acutely." and "We have to be comfortable with our own messiness in our lives before we can effectively minister to someone else's messiness, because if we can't deal with the messiness in ourselves, when someone else comes to us with that messiness we tend to brush it aside, want to just get rid of it." That struck me because I realised that when some people came to me about their struggles, I was very quick to dismiss and be legalistic about them, even though I could also very easily imagine myself being in their place. I started to realise that there might be certain things I'd buried deep in my heart, that I didn't dare look at because I didn't believe they should be there. The next three days I argued with Jer and Kenneth endlessly about it. Why must I think about it. Even if I start to feel all these things again, it's not like my circumstances are going to change tomorrow. It's useless to think about it. Better to just bury it. Jer said, "Maybe God would rather have the real you than a robot." I still refused to bow, yet I was beginning to cry at work every day. There was something inside me and I had to get it out. I started to address the things I got bitter about, and then I realised that there were certain things in me that I hadn't yet addressed since 1-2 years ago. Was God good? That was a question I had sought to answer for myself in 2018. I realised that I still did not fully believe that God's plans were the best. Secretly, I still coveted sin because I believed that there was where happiness lay. I realised that when I think of happiness, I don't often think of God, and when I think of a life in Christ I don't often think of happiness. I started to uncover a lot of untruths and unaddressed feelings in the core of my heart, things I thought weren't problems anymore.

(Also in Oct I finally got to use a microfilm reader and I managed to access JJ's 1997 Silkair story.)

In November, I told a person a thing, and it was okay. (Oh also, a friend told me that I should work on my appearance. The next week I spent like $120 on my hair and $160 on clothes. Hahaha. Has it done much? I don't know. I'm glad for it, though, for the most part. Okay also in 2018 my complexion has been much better. No breakouts, and regular sunscreen and more masks / self-care. In 2017 it was crazy blackheads and acne, and this year it's been much clearer thanks to a better skin care regime.)

Also in November we had a zone retreat. Besides wonderful fellowship with the cell group, zone retreat itself showed me so much about myself, too, and I'm so grateful. I've already spent 5 pages on this in my journal so I won't go too much into it. On Saturday morning, we were each asked to select a postcard, and ask God what He wanted to tell the person who was going to get the postcard. (We'd give the postcards back and the committee would hang up the postcards, and at the end of the day we'd each choose a postcard.) I really wanted to take the postcard of the diamond ring, because ~theology of the body~, but Cheryl wanted to take it so I took something else to write on. Then I secretly resolved to take that diamond ring postcard at the end of the day, so I'd get to keep it. Heh heh.

After that was breakfast, and someone told me a thing. It hit me right in the heart with all the things I'd been thinking about recently–the feelings I was repressing, all the pain of having to revisit them. I forced myself to remain open, keep my heart dilated to receive it and acknowledge its beauty. By the end of it I couldn't take it. I went to the swimming pool and cried and cried, and then cried somemore in the toilet, and then cried again when I eventually made it to the hall. Jerlynn brought me out and sat beside me as all the feelings and hurts and bitterness came back. Slowly I quietened down, started to breathe a little easier. And then later Kenneth came out and sat on the other side of me too, and when he did I instantly thought, "ah, what a blessing it is to be surrounded by those I love."

Anyway, so I was in the midst of confronting all these messy emotions and un-repressing again, and acknowledging that I was in a very messy place but that was just the way it was; it was better to bring them to God than to keep them within myself and continue to be a robot. At the end of the day, we were supposed to choose our postcards. My group was the fifth to go and I was hoping that no one would take the diamond ring postcard, even though it was one of the prettiest and I was certain someone would. But no one did! So it was mine. To my surprise, the message that Cheryl had written said nothing about love or marriage to Christ, but it began, "It's okay to be frustrated, it's okay that things aren't great or aren't where you hoped for things to be..." As soon as I read the first sentence I was so moved. God knew. God knew.

Anyway, after telling the person the thing earlier on in the month, I thought, "okay, now what?" I considered the issue a little more, and concluded that maybe I should do something for myself, too, instead of waiting for opportunities to drop into my lap. In November I gave a dating app a try for a couple of weeks, despite having been very biased against them before. I wanted to know if my biases were true, or whether I was unnecessarily cutting myself off from something that could be beneficial. My conclusion was that I didn't like it indeed. I started to get disgusted at everything–at the people, at myself–and yeah, I concluded that I didn't like the way it worked. The way you make quick judgements about a person based on a picture and a profile. The way you skip friendship, skip the unbiased opinion and the charitable gesture of trying to get to know someone better before you decide whether you want to continue talking to someone or not. I didn't like how people were treating me, and how I was treating people. I also started to get extremely socially exhausted. Wow, I have become such a tremendous introvert. It was probably also the fact that I was working 6 days a week.

Okay, so that was my November. I also talked to Yang Hong about all of this, and he said he wished I had fewer words, or that I didn't try to intellectualise everything. He also asked me to consider joining the intercessory ministry, which I think I'll make my 2019 goal. Oh in Nov I also got a new guitar! Ah, and I also started to think more about something Lance said: "when a child has a healthy sense of ownership over something, he/she will be more wiling to share something when given the choice". I realised that I probably have an unhealthy sense of ownership, which is why I'm always afraid that I'll lose something, even something as perpetual as a sunrise.

But yeah in my opinion November marks the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. I realised that the things that had been brewing in me since Sept 2016 still hadn't been fully resolved, as much as I thought they had been. The revelation I got in Sept 2017 was still relevant to me, and I was still thoroughly enjoying my singlehood and space to myself and my freedom, but I realised I had been holding on to it a little too tightly, burying certain things in the process, becoming overly defensive because I was afraid to descend into toxic dependency and all the things from before again. I thought I'd been delivered and released, but ah, life isn't that simple.

December was a month both of lots of warmth and of more social exhaustion. We gave Jerlynn a surprise party at my place, and it was worth every ounce of effort because the fact that she's made it to the age of 21 is already a curse broken and cause for celebration. Had a Christmas dinner at Tiff's place. Christmas Day was spent with the cell group and at Tiff's place again.

But also there were a couple of disappointments in December, and I was frustrated at God again. Why should we care about others? What's the point of caring? Yes, we get to share in Jesus' heart, but Jesus holds infinite joy and sorrow in Him. I'm a finite being. Can't I want to minimise my hurts, lessen the risk of disappointment? I started to get really emotionally worn out–in a single week I fought with two very close friends and had to face yet another money issue with one. I started to question, again, why I should give myself to people like that. So often I just wanted to leave my phone at home, or go on airplane mode the whole day, or delete certain chats off my phone. But I've been too addicted to my phone to actually do that successfully, sigh!!!!

I have been trying to give myself more space and not feel pressured to reply messages. There is much blessing in just being able to lie in bed and not do anything, y'know? Trying to identify who is good for me and who is not good for me, and just not feel like I need to spend time with anyone. I hope January will be a month of healing. I don't know what I need to do to find healing in my soul and regain that energy to go on, but I trust God will lead me as I seek him.

--

Anyway, this year,
music: a lot of Audrey Assad and LANY, also discovered Eric Chou and Ronghao Li

shows: started watching this Korean show called Master In The House (probably the only Korean show I'll ever watch? Maybe I shouldn't speak too soon, sigh.), and was really impacted by a movie called Beasts of No Nation (also i loved the short film Bao), and LOVED Kimi No Nawa (yeah I was late to the party.. i was literally screaming as i watched it LOL)

ministry: nothing much, prayed for the kids sometimes and played the guitar for cell group a lot more... still trying to adjust to work life, and working 6 days a week was NOT fun. but YH and Rita both spoke about ministry so i guess that'll be my 2019 goal

friendships: became a lot closer to Jer and Kenneth, William, and Cheryl? Have been really glad to have Kenneth, Tiff and Bao in the cg!!!

work: teaching and researching. I feel so enriched constantly learning new stuff at my new job hehe. Plus after leaving YNC I was hoping to be able to do more research on SG because I knew so little, and I get to do that 24/7 at my museum job. But the teaching job was also an invaluable experience that taught me so much.

grateful for: so so much. and it's 3.40am and I really need to stop. But off the top of my head, I'm grateful for friendships that have enriched me, taught me, and blessed me. Friendships that have nourished my soul and added eternal seeds. I'm grateful for having such great, kind, thoughtful managers. (Such a blessing!!!!!!!) Grateful for a wonderful CG and perceptive, prophetic, caring CGL. Grateful to be able to spend more time with family / at home, and for mum's cooking.

2017: CG mission trip (Malang)

Was doing my year-end review and realised there was too much to say about the mission trip, so I'm putting it in a separate post. There's so much more to say about the trip, but I guess I have most of it down in my journal already, so nevermind. Maybe some other time I'll edit this post and add more stuff.

--

Towards the end of September, I was due to go for a mission trip with my cell group. I was totally not feeling it. I also didn't feel like I could fully trust God yet. Despite the big turnaround moment God had just given me during my KL trip, there was still the whole year of doubting God's goodness and withdrawing my trust in Him since Dennis' death. I told Yang Hong about it after church one day, on a sofa at the Hotspot, and he simply said "take your time." I love how his responses are simple, light, and liberating. There isn't a need to strive to be okay. It takes time and that's just how things are.

I realised that I was afraid to pray for anything because I was afraid it wouldn't come true. So I took a step of faith and prayed for just one thing: that as a result of the mission trip / God's work through us, one person would give up (a specific thing I shan't say here), and dedicate him/herself to (a specific thing). This I did not witness during the trip itself, but two weeks later one of the people I had met in passing felt led to contact me (she got my number from someone else; I hadn't even given her my number, and why me specifically?), and through a phone call and subsequent texts God's work was done through her. God was faithful indeed.

Anyway, that was after the trip. So when I left for the mission trip itself, I was already jaded and not expecting much, not trusting that God would impact me or work through me during the trip. As soon as we got out of the airport and met the leader of my church's missions arm, he looked at us and said we were going to receive much on the trip or something like that. Then he looked at me specifically for a bit and said, "you too, but you need a bit more faith." And for every single person that I prayed for on the trip (except one as far as I can recall), I got a prophetic image. On Day 2 I prayed for someone to receive Tongues and she got it, just a little bit. (When I received Tongues it took me a couple of weeks to get it fully also. And previously another person I prayed for also had the same result, only in part at first. I think it's not a very good anointing I'm passing down ah maybe someone else should pray HAHAH) We also followed a bunch of homeless ministry workers around, walking through the streets giving out coffee to people around and inviting them to the service on Sunday.

On Day 3 I was scheduled to share a short message. I had prepared something about Ezekiel 16, about God as our Husband and our intimate relationship with Him. And WHO WOULD'VE THOUGHT, as soon as I stepped into the church I noticed a big banner across the stage that read "INTIMACY WITH GOD". The church was called BETHEL (the name I want to give my future child–"House of God"–we are all temples of God) and they had a lot of Jewish elements–the menorah, the star of David somewhere, and someone even blew a shofar. Day 3 was also the homeless ministry service, where Siyi shared her testimony (so blessed by her courage and vulnerability) and Jer shared about her own story of self-destructive behaviour, suicidal tendencies and abuse, and how now, God is fighting her battles for her: it doesn't remove the obstacles on the journey, but there is freedom and victory in knowing that you aren't fighting it on your own.

Many other things happened on the trip, including this one school where the demonic presence was so strong that all of us felt it individually while we split up and prayer-walked separately, eeps. But it was already better than the previous time the missions wing visited the place, and apparently now (a year later) it's much better.

Dec 28, 2018

有没有那么一种永远 永远不改变
拥抱过的美丽 都再也不破碎

I really resonate with Mayday's 转眼,知足,如烟 etc, because they talk about the desire to grasp at what will pass. How do you own a rainbow? How do you embrace a summer's wind? If I fall in love with your smile, how do I keep it, own it? 转眼 goes, I don't need to live forever, I just want not to forget my memories. I'm not afraid of death, only of forgetting. Our memories are where we live.

Somewhere inside me, I, probably like many other Singaporeans, fear that what I have will be lost. Maybe it has something to do with growing up with a sibling and having to share. Maybe it has to do with my snacks disappearing if I don't eat them quickly enough. Or my stuff never coming back to me if I lend them.

Hmm or maybe not. Maybe, rather, my fear makes me extra jittery when that those things happen. When people take things that are mine, even if they're replaceable, I tend to get a little uncomfortable or annoyed. I'm very protective over what is mine. I don't expect others to share and I tend to keep my stuff to myself too.

Maybe it's a money issue. I'm not as thrifty as your average auntie but I do think I spend rather frugally when I'm not with other people. I usually get grumpy when I end up spending more than I need.

Either way, I've come to realise that I have what Lance would call an unhealthy sense of ownership. He once said, "when a child has a healthy sense of ownership over something, he or she will be more willing to share something when given the choice."

That struck me a lot. When one always gives readily, they probably do so in the reassurance that they'll always have enough for themselves. If one refuses to give, it might be because they think that if they give you, they won't have it anymore. I'm comfortable with giving when I know it doesn't require me to compromise, but when a treat costs more than I expect or someone takes even just something small that I like, I can get pretty grumpy. This tells me that there's something wrong with the way I think about what I have.

I am terrified of forgetting. I have terrible memory, which is why I document everything. If I had a particularly good or bad day, or an important thought, I have to journal every bit of it. And that's great, because this year I got to look back at my 2013 journal and things that I would've forgotten came back to me vividly. I could suddenly remember, for instance, the day he cried and grabbed my hand and apologised, and then she opened the door, and I awkwardly left and ran down three flights of stairs to my room, leaving my slippers and phone there. Later on I wanted to know if they were done so I ran back up into the adjacent room, opened the door because j wasn't in, pushed open the window and stuck my head out. The top of a head, and a shoulder. So I ran back to my room. Later on I realised I wasn't sure if I had turned off the light or closed the window, so I ran back up to the adjacent room, but out of instinct opened his room's door instead. Two heads turned to stare at me, tear-filled. Oops. I left, still leaving my phone and slippers behind. Later she called me down to her room, and my slippers and phone were with her, and her cardigan was off. Too much mucus, she had said. I was the second person who'd ever seen her arms.

Anyway, all that I would've forgotten if I hadn't documented it all in such detail. Every single thing I fought to capture, because time turns my memories to dust. This June in London, Kevin and I had a good conversation after visiting the Sky Garden. About morality and what made that man in the glass box / a drug cartel leader / Matilda's father so evil. An hour later, we concluded that Kevin's base standard, the ultimate consideration of life, was morality. Morality was important because people needed to learn how to live with one another, and so everything in life revolves around how to live life morally. Religion was constructed because people were too lazy to think up their own moral system. My base standard was that God was God. Everything revolved around that, mattered because of that -- morality mattered because God was God, self-worth and self-love and dignity mattered because God was God -- in other words, how we treat ourselves and one another (and God) mattered because of that base standard. I was going to document that conversation down in as much detail as I could remember afterward, but I never got around to it, and now I've forgotten most of the details.

Anywayyyy. Unhealthy sense of ownership. Deep down, there's always this sense of instability. That the things I have and my memories might suddenly disappear–not all at once, and not in an overwhelming way for my material possessions, but just every time it happens I get a bit triggered. Say I bought an expensive snack for a party and it didn't get eaten, so I brought it home. It's usually something I wouldn't treat myself to, so I leave it in the larder for a particularly good day. Next thing I know, it's gone because someone ate it. It's a really small matter; it's not like I can't buy another one, but it makes me feel like there's a hole in my wallet and money's just falling through when I'm not looking. Recently I had finally reached my goal of saving a certain amount of money, and was really happy about it. Comfortable. Not worried anymore. And then things happened and I had to lend a few thousand to a friend to save her from a desperate situation. Money also went here and there–charity, my uni loan–and then soon I was left with a fifth of what I had amassed. I was really pained. I want to save up what I can because in the future I *might* have/adopt children, and I want them to not have to worry about their university fees or learning journeys. My parents always provided for me, and we were never in lack when it came to the essentials; we always had enough, although we were also conscious not to spend unwisely. And when I realised that not everyone's parents could provide for their families in that capacity, and their kids–my friends–had to find their own way to finance their education, afford their school trips, etc., I wanted to make sure that I'd be able to provide for my future children, too.

Instability. So many things aren't constant anymore, and when things change for the worse it's a sad thing. Backsliders. Breakups. Miscarriages. I don't know who is and isn't in church anymore; I've learnt not to assume. I don't take the initiative to bring up people's relationships because I did that a couple of times and the response was "actually we broke up a while ago". Miscarriages–recently I made small talk with a colleague and deliberately didn't explicitly mention her pregnancy because I was afraid she might have miscarried and it'd be taboo to talk about. What a weird thing to fear, right? Yet I've heard about it happening so many times that it seems rarer to actually have a successful pregnancy. I dare not assume anymore. The things one has might vanish in an instant. It's safer to keep hope at bay.

I realised how absurd my unhealthy sense of ownership was one night, when the moon was particularly beautiful. As I usually do with beautiful moons and sunsets, I took a picture and went wild about it on Instagram, getting people to look out of their windows. And I was unnecessarily anxious about it–like, GUYS LOOK OUT THE WINDOW!!!! YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS. And then I thought, the hell, the moon is going to rise every day for the rest of our lives. And we're going to have beautiful sunrises and sunsets for the rest of our lives. Why am I anxious about it?

Even with natural phenomena, I fear losing them.

In Shirahama last year I sat at the edge of the rocky cliff for what must have been at least twenty minutes, staring in astonishment at the waves that crashed again, and again, and again. Each time was full of force, but it was never the last time. And it was going to continue being that reckless, that full of energy, for years and years to come. It'd never end.

Yesterday the waves were calm and it was lovely listening to them. And I had to remind myself, again, that they'll always be there. That I was free to appreciate them, and not have to worry that they'd go away, that I had to grasp at them out of insecurity.

It's so strange, realising that I fear losing even natural phenomena. That's how bad it is.

Dec 13, 2018

Why did Jesus have to die?

(re: C. Khew's FB post on Dec 11: Why did Jesus have to die? If love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), why does sin require a sacrifice - isn’t the love of God enough?)

Heya, Vange shared smth with me about how Orthodoxy views salvation and Jesus’ death that’s different from the penal substitution view we’re used to, so I thought I’d share a bit of it (sorry vange if inaccurate pls feel free to add / correct!)

“A sinner is cut off from life because of turning away from God. Sin is a turning away from God but God is the sole giver of life, so sin results in death. Death begets more sin and we are sick in mind and body and spirit because of being cut off from life. Christ enters our humanity to raise up human nature with him to life and destroy the death and its hold on us and to heal all aforementioned sicknesses. Sin tends to be seen more as a sickness than a moral state.

My understanding of Jesus' finished work is he has taken on our nature and entered into death and destroyed it, and raised human nature up with himself, making a way for us to enter into true life upon our death. He makes a way by sitting beside the Father in heaven as God and Man, bringing human nature into heaven.”

I guess my personal, Protestant, off-the-top-of-my-head response (more an emotional one than a biblical one?) is... considering the terrible state of human nature, if God is just, there’s no way He can just wave his hand and say it’s okay. So many things about the world are *not okay*, and it would be ridiculous to pretend they’re right and fine, let humanity continue to ruin itself and run far away from its purpose. Don’t we all feel grieved and a desire for vengeance, to right the wrong, when something unjust is done? While vengeance is pointless, justice isn’t. But no amount of justice done upon us can atone for our fallenness; no amount of righteousness, either, can make up perfection. So God had to do it Himself, take on all the evil and the filth of the world, and say, “let it be as if it were all done by me. I take on the identity of their death; in exchange, they can take on my identity of life, where there is only perfection and completion.” The price has been paid by God himself because we never could, and the point of it all is to experience a fullness of life. If we were created for the purpose of communing with God, then that’s where we find our fullest human experience. Therefore the death of Christ was a necessary step for us to experience the fullness of life, which, because of our created purpose, is in an everlasting relationship with God.

I think reading your earlier comments about why the wages of sin had to be death.. Vange put it well: God, who is perfection, is the source and essence of life; we are hence cut off from life when we’re cut off from perfection. Sin is like a sickness because it takes away from life. Because of sin, death—the absence of life—enters like a corruption. Seen neutrally rather than with the horrible connotation we attach to it, it makes sense?

Oct 22, 2018

修炼爱情—JJ Lin: The Backstory

In Dec 1997, a 16-year-old JJ Lin—or Wayne Lim, as he was known then—was surprised to learn that his photographs were found among the wreckage in the wake of the SilkAir suicide crash. They were photographs he had given a church friend. She had said that she liked him, but he didn’t feel for her that way, although they remained friends. She brought his photos with her on that trip, and she had died in the crash, she and her parents. During his Sec 4 graduation ceremony, his form teacher passed him an envelope from the girl’s aunt. They contained the pictures, with scratches on them; when he took them out, he could still smell the fuel mixed with seawater.

For his album “Stories Untold”, he decided to revisit this moment of his life. It wasn’t something he talked about much, as he didn’t know how to grieve back then. He’s talked about this story in a few interviews since then, and the last few seconds of this song’s music video mentions the victims of the incident, and his friend, Chue Fern. 

Anyway, this incident, and his story, was also written about in the papers. The article appeared in The Straits Times, 28 Dec 1997. I’ve always wanted to read the article but it isn’t accessible online; it’s in the twilight zone between old digitised copies available in NewspaperSG, and more recent news articles archived by AsiaOne / other news websites. Today I had to use the microfilm for work, so I took the opportunity to dig up this article, too. Here it is:


(xiu lian ai qing / Practice Love)

What is your relationship with your body?

In 2014, during the Jerusalem LAB, we watched an animation that explained how the Second Temple was built. In the video, there was a portion that showed how the men lugged those tremendous cylindrical blocks that would form its columns. They used some sort of contraption to make it possible to transport those gigantic discs at all, but even so, it was a gargantuan, arduous task. I don't remember much of the technical details, because what struck me was the immense physical effort it took, as evidenced by the look of suffering on the workers’ faces and how they strained to pull the stone along.

"Wow," I thought. "So much effort put into the building." But of course; it was the temple of God, the one place the Spirit of God was said to reside. Even now, Jews from all over the world flock to Jerusalem just to dahven before the Western Wall, the wall closest to the Holy of Holies.

And then it hit me: we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. 

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?–1 Cor 6:19 

All that honour and effort given to the house of God was simply because that was the one place His Spirit dwelt. But as Christians, we believe that the Spirit of God dwells in all of us. My body is a church.

When I look at a church, I would never deride it, no matter how simple or modest. Instead, I often find myself commenting, "What a lovely place. The Spirit of God is there." Why, then, do I not take the gracious attitude towards my body? Would I criticise a church building for being short? Ugly? Simply average? I detest my eyes, the way they droop, and my fat cheeks that will sag with time. My skin tone is uneven, and still holds the acne scars of ten years ago. Would I look at a church in the mirror in the morning and despise the way it looks? That's not even the point. I love it simply because God is there, and that is the same for us.

That night, I resolved to treat my body with the same graciousness, honour, and kindness as I would a church. No longer "wow I'm so damn ugly," but "wow, how beautiful. the Spirit of God resides in you."

May 6, 2018

love conquers all

Note: This piece was written for a book, Good News for Bruised Reeds: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends. The book is a collection of personal stories targeted at Christian leaders, a rallying cry for our churches to love our same-sex attracted friends better. Besides the pieces that I contributed the book, I also helped a friend write his story, but it didn't make it in time to the editors for the first edition's publishing. However, he did get to read out his story at the book launch. Check it out here.

---

Somehow, Cecilia got the permission to use the air-conditioned library room. I settled down in a chair and, as usual, watched as she did her homework. There wasn't much I could help with, although I guess in this case, it wasn’t so much about what I could teach her, but about being a friend, a confidant, and perhaps a role model.

“Eh Karen, I got a boyfriend,” she said out of the blue.

“Oh. Uh, okay.”

What else was I to say? What did I care? She went on with her work.

As she continued with her Math worksheet in silence, though, a strong urge to tell her about my first relationship crept up on me. I tried to shake it off. Fought the urge in my heart. Why would I do that? There was no reason to. It wasn’t relevant. She was going to think I was lonely and in need of attention, telling anyone who would listen about my scars. Or, worse still, might she think I was trying to say that I was interested in her? Might she become wary of me? Was the friendship worth putting at stake, all because of a silly impulse?

But if this was from God and I decided not to do it, I’d be missing out on the opportunity to be a blessing.

What strange ways God worked through. What did God want from me, and did it require me to put my heart out there like a fool? Did God come in these ways: strange, vulnerable, foolish?

I quelled the battle in my gut.

“Um,” I blurted, breaking the silence, “I was in a lesbian relationship in secondary school, but that was a long time ago.”

She met my gaze. I noticed a flash of curious realisation in her eyes, still shrouded in caution, like a puppy realising that it just might be safe after all.

“Really? …I have something to tell you… the boyfriend I was telling you about, it isn’t a boy. She’s a girl.”

A peep of Christ’s wisdom unveiled itself to me.

Cecilia went on to reveal that she had been feeling terribly guilty about it, and that she felt unworthy to be in the presence of God. (oh, but darling, we all are.) The previous two Sundays, she would go to church, but sit outside the hall until the service was over. At that moment, my heart felt like a flask that had been shattered to release its aroma. I knew why the Lord had grown this particular revelation in me, the purpose of the fruit of my own travail, why the Lord had brought me to her. These are the lengths Jesus would go to to tell somebody He loves her.

“You know, I might do a lot of things that make my father angry. I keep coming back late. I don’t spend much time at home. I’m not a great daughter. But what would be worse than these things is if I were to stop talking to him altogether. Nothing beats the relationship. No matter what you do, it isn’t as heart-breaking to God as cutting off the relationship with Him.”

Tears welled up in her eyes, and I could feel Jesus’s love for her. He brought me into her life by a stroke of chance, all so I could tell her that He loved her when she couldn’t hear it herself.

---

I was in a lesbian relationship when I came to Christ. I was invited to a youth service, and as I watched everyone lift their hands high in worship, I realised that they actually knew God. I realised that I had been living a lie; that although I called myself a Christian, I didn’t actually know Him at all. I never prayed in earnest, never read the Bible, and scarcely even thought of Him as a real being. That night I gave myself to Christ in tears, wanting nothing more than to know Him. The season that followed was peppered with joyful fasting, where I spent my recess breaks reading the Word. No one at church spoke to me about my relationship. They must have known, since my girlfriend and I attended church and hung out with the cell group together. Years later, I found out that my cell group leader had told the other youths, “If you’re wondering about Karen, just give her time.” Because of that, I was given the space to experience the love of God unhindered. I pursued Him with joy. And as I pursued God, the desire for sin began to fall away. As I read His Word, revelation poured into me. Love was always gentle, and Love’s edifying Word wrapped around my sins with a weighty beauty. It wasn’t “Don’t do this, this is wrong” that convicted me. It was “Don’t you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you?” I didn’t know what lay ahead, but I knew that the Word was slowly shaping my life with its beauty. Transformation is not about debating what you can and cannot do. Transformation is “not I, but He”. Under the weight of His beauty, though, the problem spots naturally surfaced like red blisters screaming for the soothing balm of repentance.

One day, in the midst of yet another argument with my girlfriend, I called my cell group leader in tears. He finally said, “I think you know what you need to do.” By then, there was barely any positive feeling in the relationship to hold on to. I blamed God for a while after we broke up, of course, because it’s always convenient to put your blame on one who cannot fight back. But neither He nor my church had done anything more than to present me with a Love that was so much greater.

A non-Christian told me some time back that he couldn’t comprehend why a Christian would refuse to date him, even though she had made it clear that she had feelings for him. “Amor vincit omnia,” he had declared, an accusation. Love conquers all. Yes, it is true; Love conquers all. Under the light of the Greatest Love, all other loves stand or fall. As for me, my life and my body are Christ’s; He has given Himself for me, and I give myself to Him.

***

It has been ten years since Christ first dropped His love into me. Recently, I’ve been diving deeper into the Theology of the Body, of teachings about sexuality, and about the role that gender and marriage play in shedding light on the marriage between Christ and the Church. One December, as I prayed about the upcoming college semester, God told me that I was not to think about boys. “Focus on loving Me as a husband.”

As a husband? I was perplexed. A silly thought cropped up: If I loved God that much, where would I have the space for my earthly husband?

And then it hit me that that was the devotion God demanded: the singlemindedness of a spouse. I was to love Him with the exclusive devotion that I would give my future husband. Like a doe, I was to be focused completely on Him, looking neither to the right nor to the left.

But oh, God. How is that possible?

There in my room, I had a vision of a wedding. In the vision, I am wearing a white dress, a white veil. There are white flowers in my hair, and the same white flowers line the aisles. Jesus the Bridegroom stands before the altar, his eyes fixed on me, smiling. Slowly, I take one step down the aisle, and then another. And every step I take down the aisle is a step of sanctification, until at last, my life is done and I am right in front with Jesus. Jesus lifts my veil, and I see him face-to-face.

Jan 22, 2018

soul-windows

The first time we met, we stared into each other’s eyes for a full twenty seconds before we said a word. In two years’ time we will stare into each other’s eyes and have too many words, too few. I will not know the depth of what you have experienced. I don’t know that girl’s name. I won’t want to. I won’t want to know what happened. Every experience is its own, and I must not feel like I am any less.

You were there when he tried to hold my hand. You witnessed the different stages, sat with me in the end. You won’t want to know, either. You walked away when I tried to tell you. You won’t need to know. I have found that these recounts do nothing good for the other.

 When I was young I had a fanciful dream that I would marry the first guy I liked. I was nine then. Every night, once I got to bed, I imagined that there was a telepathic connection like a shiny telephone line that connected me in my room to him in his. That ship has sailed, and other experiences have been branded into our skins. We will stare into each other’s eyes and only be able to glimpse the depths, and that’s okay. Each is infinite, and the final one is none the lesser. You will be infinitely special in your own right, and I to you.

Dec 26, 2017

un-christmas

it’s the most wonderful time of the year. capitalist vultures pounce on the opportunity to get you to blow your money on shit no one needs. the roads are decked out in sparkly lights, instagrammable moments complete with a scoop of haagen dazs and kids yelling at parents for that $400 lego set. “to give is to receive,” a watch ad reads, as you walk by an old man playing the harmonica. families reunite. tears are shed. some go to church. carols are sung, more in the spirit of nostalgia than of devotion. some people insist on saying “happy holidays” instead, and perhaps rightly so. historians say Jesus wasn’t born in December. the Romans just stole some pagan holiday. apparently Jesus was born somewhere between late summer to early fall, June to September, some hot day in a small dusty village.

somewhere in June you are rushing to complete the stack on your desk. get home late. get into an argument with your parents. they wish you’d come home earlier. you shut the door. waste an hour or two on instagram. God is far from your mind. in a dimly-lit bedroom across the street, someone is slitting her wrists. another is gaping at pictures of anorexic girls on tumblr. a bunch of schoolboys hang out at the void deck, debating whose pussy they’d like to eat. two thousand years ago on a hot dusty night, a baby boy was born in a manger.

Dec 7, 2017

yet

"Wait, where do you work again?" The doors close and the lift hums its way up twenty-one floors. I know the hum. I know the dim lights and the whirr of the fan.

The name of my company sounds foreign the moment it is out of my mouth. Detached, like I know nothing about that place. That's funny, I think. I spend five days a week there. Forty-six hours a week I sit at a desk amidst the quick footsteps of little children, think about ways to make the lessons as engaging and enriching as possible, stand in front of a class, ask for examples of precise verbs, remind eager students to raise their hands before they speak, dish out encouragements. A drop of ink makes a million think, a quote on the wall reads. I know my kids. I genuinely adore (most of) them. I  pray for their flourishing. I go to bed laughing about their silly / ingenious responses. (Sometimes the line between the two is not clearly defined.) But right now I'm back here and the chicken porridge tastes just like it used to. As expected, the soft boiled egg has become hard because it was left out for too long. The view from the twenty-first floor is just as expansive, the apartments like dominoes, a glimpse of the sea beyond. The mighty wind at the landing tousles my hair all the same. And right here, right now, the name of my company sounds like a scrawl in a foreign language. I pronounce the words, I see the letters form, but they mean nothing mean to me. I stare at the name, perplexed.

--

I was in this room less than a week ago, too. My car had decided to break down in the parking lot at Star Vista, and Jerlynn and I needed a place to worship after dinner, so we headed to Elm. As I stared at the walls of Xueyin's room, I caught myself wistfully missing my own dorm room. It was a space that was truly and fully mine. I felt absolutely free to be myself in that room, to sing in worship without fear, to say my prayers out loud. When I lay in bed under the twinkling fairy lights and gazed out the window, the sky beyond felt like an extension of me. The silent, breezy afternoons and the lamp-lit nights were all mine, all me. I could stare at my Caravaggio painting and talk to God in my head. I could kneel and speak my heart out loud to my Father. I had Christian suitemates, Xueyin was one floor away, and Serena's room was saturated with peace. I could spend the night in the tranquil company of a trusted soul if I wanted to. I miss having that space that was fully mine. (I have a room to myself now too, but it isn't the same. This house isn't mine in the same way, I'm not in a Christian space, sound travels far more easily throughout the house, and my room has stuff from the past seventeen years, not all of which feels like a part of me right now. Heck, even the me four years ago feels like a different person. Freshman me was far more excitable, far more foolish with my trust, far more volatile.)

The second I caught myself missing my dorm room, though, I let the thought go. Yale-NUS is no longer mine. In fact, very little of me remains attached to what it is now, I guess. Save the fact that I have many friends there still, the Yale-NUS that it is now is not the one I knew then. My Yale-NUS was a community of 150 that all sat together at lunchtime. We'd go up from the CAPT Auditorium after our CC lecture to the RC4 dining hall and sit with whomever, because we were all a family. We left post-its on each other's doors and carolled with ukuleles down the corridors. We shed tears on each other's floors and bared our souls to the core in the dark of night. We curled up on each other's rugs and had sleepovers in the common lounges. Our uniform was sleepwear. Even the profs wore sandals. The Yale-NUS that my school has become is a very different one, and I no longer belong to it. And that's totally okay. It's flourishing healthily and I am glad for it (for the most part). But the present Yale-NUS is not the one I tie my love to.

So what is this limbo now? No longer here, but not on the other side enough to own it, either. One has become a foreign community, and one is yet a foreign name.

--

"Something slip," Nathan says during our Taboo game. "It's a guy."
"Freudian," I say instantly.
"His first name too."
"Sigmund Freud," Xueyin answers. Nathan moves on to the next card.
"Wow," Jon Chew muses.
"Nah, just Yale-NUS," I reply candidly. Not all of us are psychology majors or whatever, and not all of us might remember Freud's theories in detail, but we all remember enough from MST to spill his name and a cursory statement or two. That's the liberal arts in a nutshell, we sometimes joke.
"It's true," Xueyin laughs.

Some things remain, like the frustration over certain common curriculum modules and the excitement over certain dedicated professors. Many things have changed. I remember Yale-NUS for what it was to me, and what it did for me. It was an incredibly transformative four years, but the time has passed. My mission field has changed, I know that for sure. While I used to devote my attention, service and prayers to the campus, I am now called to be His light in a different place. And with that, I get up, lift my cross back on my shoulder, and go.

Nov 2, 2017

fire alarm phobia

I used to fear two things: capital letters, and mechanical voices. Even beyond my JC years, fear would creep up on me whenever I had to call for a Comfort taxi, because I'd have to encounter that mechanical female voice. Whenever I had to call a cab, I'd put the phone on speaker mode, leave it on the table, and sing to drown it out. People always gave me weird looks when I told them what I feared, but I got tired of trying to explain them in rational terms.

In Year 1 of college, the fire alarm went off a couple of times. Initially, I didn't have a problem with the shrill scream of the alarm bell. What I had a problem with was the announcement that followed the ring: a mechanical female voice that declared that the alarm had been activated (duh), and commanded us to remain calm (how?!). Whenever the alarm sounded, I'd jump into bed and lie like a plank and stuff my fingers into my ears. I think so, at least. I don't really remember. What I remember is staring at the damn speaker on my wall in the afternoon light.

In Year 2, the fire alarm went off very frequently. I don't remember exactly when my fear of mechanical voices transitioned into a fear of the fire alarm itself. I was still alright in Semester 1. I know this because I remember that the fire alarm went off as The Scheduling Club was making its debut, and I managed to continue filming their performance without budging.

One particular night, I remember hearing rumours that there was going to be a fire drill at 10pm. I really needed to pee at 9.40pm, but I decided to hold it in just in case the alarm went off early. At 10.10, there was still no alarm, so I made a dash for the toilet. As I was peeing, the alarm went off. For the next two weeks, I dared not leave my room after 8pm.

In Year 2 Sem 2, I was sitting in the Wellness Office's suite on Level 4, typing away on my laptop doing whatever I was doing as a Student Associate. The next thing I remember is the shrill ring, the black of my eyes squeezed shut, and my realisation that the wild scream I was hearing was my own. I remember being hunched over, my fingers in my ears, and a kind Wellness Office staff member trying to pry open my firm huddle in order to get through to me. She guided me down four flights of stairs, an arm around my back in a half-embrace. Later on, I said that I was embarrassed by my meltdown, and that I was sorry. She said it was okay. It was okay to feel scared. Her response reassured me considerably, and the gold crucifix around her neck provided an added layer of comfort. I wasn't just receiving her love, but also the love of Christ through her.

In the summer of Year 2, The Wallets had to go back to school for a practice with Prof. Fenn on the day that they were testing the fire alarm system. Before we began, I let everyone know that I had a phobia, and that I was sorry in advance. Halfway through our Medley #2, it rang. I must have shouted the F-word, or shouted something, because the next thing I knew, my world had gone quiet and everyone was staring at me. I had crumpled to the floor, and I only know this because the last thing I saw before my tears began to fall was a towering Amanda hurrying over, her knees bending as she approached, her arms open and ready to receive me.

"Okay, it's time, we're moving," the rest of them said, and they started to head towards the corner of the room to get their bags. I gladly followed them to the corner, but didn't want to move after that. For goodness' sake, the bell was out there in the corridor. I remember feeling entirely sober and rational as I said that I would stay here instead. I didn't even realise I was acting irrationally until Amanda said "no, no, we have to go, Karen." She kept her arm around me as we walked. Carmen scurried to the bathroom to get me a giant ball of tissue. When we eventually reached Cendana Common Lounge and got ready to resume practice, I realised that it was my turn to take the solo*. Prof. Fenn asked, "Are you ready?" I said yes, and I felt ready, but it was only when I began to sing that I realised my heart was still pounding, and that slivers of flight-mode adrenaline were still coursing like tingly glitter through my veins.

In the beginning of Year 3 Sem 2, I had a suite all to myself. I was afraid. I was afraid of everything. I could see the fire alarm from my room, and it terrified me. I instructed Carmen to check on me every time the alarm went off, because I'd probably be alone in my room, paralysed in terror.

However, my fear of the alarm was only an exacerbation of another fear, an embellishment on the tiered cake of something deeper. What I really feared was loneliness. The previous semester, a boy had decided to weave his way into my life, like a worm squeezing down a tunnel-hole. Three, four nights a week, we'd spend hours studying together. Then at the end of that semester, he disappeared. Now, my fear of being alone in the suite was really a fear of being alone. The fear amplified itself, calling out to me from the shiny red bell outside my window, from the empty space around me, from just beyond my door.

I felt too small for my room. My presence couldn't fill it. I slept with the light on. My music was always on, through the night, even in the shower. I consciously strove to keep fear an arm's length away. If I wasn't careful, if there was a second of darkness or silence, I just might fall into an irredeemable pit.

Now, somewhere in Week 2 of this semester, I decided to bring my fear of the fire alarm before God. I don't know why I had never prayed about it prior to this, but that day I finally admitted that I was afraid of the sight of the alarm from my window. And I felt God say to me, "Don't worry; I will protect you."

And I thought, what on earth does that mean? Protect me from the alarm? How? Make me deaf? Cut off my ears? I'm always in school, and if it rings it rings; I'd definitely be able to hear it, no?

But that week, the fire alarm went off twice (? thrice? four times?), and it just so happened that I was off campus both times. And I almost never leave the Yale-NUS campus, so you can imagine my surprise when Carmen texted me and I hadn't heard it at all. Twice.

That semester, the fire alarm went off very many times, and I was never around to hear it. Sometimes I was at home (and I rarely went home too!); other times I was in Kent Ridge (for what?? no idea why I was there) or coming back to campus from UTown (why had I even been out??). Once, I think, I was in the car with my schoolmates when it happened; we had spontaneously decided to go get some fresh air. Every single time it happened, Carmen texted me to ask if I was okay, and every single time I said "Oh, it went off? Praise God, I'm not around!"


One Thursday in Year 4 Sem 1, the day of the first proper CF session, I was informed that there was going to be a fire drill at 9pm. I had two options: to leave CF early and escape, or to stick it through. This time, I decided that I was ready to stick it through. God was bigger than my fear, and God was more important than my fear. I had two options that day, and I chose to trust Jesus.

That night, I marched down the corridor with the rest of CF without covering my ears. I was redeemed from the fear that night. It was a night of victory. Since then, my fear for the alarm and for mechanical voices seem to have gone away. I haven't felt the same fears since. Nothing remotely close to that intensity, at least. Praise Jesus, that we have redemption; praise God, that He protects us until we're ready to be strengthened. He is gentle and patient, and He wants you to grow.

"On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. /
You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot"


--
* Interestingly enough, the song I was solo-ing for the medley was Xi Shui Chang Liu, the most well-known Xinyao song! This was before I even know what Xinyao was! And I ended up doing research on Xinyao (and interviewing the guy who wrote/sang this song) for my capstone! Heehee fate has a way of working out wonderfully.


P.S. Nat '19 created a fire alarm remix. I'm not kidding. Link here. (I'm not listening to it tonight, for obvious reasons, but you can have a go)

Jul 2, 2017

today was a lovely day :,)

1st july 2017

i never really do the "this is how my day was" sort of posts, but today was a lovely day in a simple way, so i'm just going to record it for myself.

Yesterday night's cell group meeting was transformative. The presence of God was a thick cloud. Holy, holy, and I knew I was royalty and deserved nothing less. Holy, holy, I wanted to be a strong woman for God. I wept in God's presence as soon as I paused to let the words I was singing sink in: "greater are You / over the worst of pain". All the way home I was listening to the voice recording I had taken of cell group, going back to the praise and worship session, and letting God fill my heart to the brim even in the train. His sweet song was at the tip on my lips as I walked home.




A post shared by Karen Ho (@queerkidslane) on

At night, cell group and its songs and the message kept playing over and over in my head, and I found myself chuckling. Laughing at the thought of "greater are You / over the worst of pain", "You dance over me / while I am unaware" and other verses that were extremely strange to laugh at. And I realised: I usually say that I cannot receive the gift of holy laughter, but that's not true. I simply receive it in a different way. When my pastor touches my churchmates with the power of God and everyone's rolling on the floor laughing, I'm just standing there like a rock. But Pastor Ming shared once that holy laughter is simply one's natural response to the joy of God. When one encounters that touch, it comes bubbling out of them and they laugh in pure holy joy. And I guess this, too, is it. Me thinking about the astounding magnitude of God, that He covers all sin and all pain, and laughing in lighthearted worship.

It took me a very long while to fall asleep, because I was still tingling with the excitement of His presence. I was singing, praying, because it was an outflow. Sleep was the last thing on my mind. I eventually fell asleep at about 4am, which worried me because I had a morning wedding to attend today, and I definitely didn't want to be late.

But God was good today. He woke me up at 7.30am, half an hour before my alarm. I was So. Awake. In a peaceful way. I couldn't believe it was 7.30, and because I refused to get up so early, I continued to laze around in bed until I was later than expected. (Tsk, taking a gift from God and throwing it aside in favour of my sleeping-in habits.)


Also, I'd been spending the past few days thinking about whether to go for PinkDot or not. I felt like going for it made a very big statement, not all of which was true of my stance. There is more nuance to my stance than the simple act of going for PinkDot can convey. Would my going be misinterpreted as condoning? Would my not going be misinterpreted as intolerance? I told Sau last night that I was still unsure, because I felt like these events tended to divide rather than unite, and while I would try to change the mindsets of the people around me within my means, putting myself in this public situation potentially made a statement about me that I wasn't willing to back. Kevin agreed; he said while he supported what PinkDot stood for, he mightn't be too keen on getting himself into this whole public political thing. Sau said it was about making a statement to the government, especially this year where foreigners are banned from participating in PinkDot, that locals, too, cared for the rights of LGBT individuals. I did see where she was coming from, but the turning point was when I was suddenly reminded of my dearest spiritual mentee this morning. As I fixed my outfit in the mirror, Serena – and the way she loves – came to my mind. Serena is such a blessing to the LGBT individuals in my school because she loves them wholeheartedly. She is wholeheartedly a lover of Jesus, and wholeheartedly a friend to many. In that instant I decided I would go. I immediately texted Sau to say I was going. To my surprise, Kevin said "me too". Guess that settled it then!

Got dressed and made up; got a GrabHitch to Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church for $14 (from PIONEER!), which was very reasonable. Arrived half an hour early, and the bridegroom himself, my former cell group leader Daniel Lee, greeted me, and we had a nice long chat with his brother Sam (who is also a very good friend). It was so lovely seeing everyone again.

It was lovely seeing Daniel finally getting married. A holy marriage between two strong persons of God is a wonderful thing. Daniel has been a very important leader in my life: as his cell group member, I spent every Friday night at his house for years, I was always able to share my heart openly with him, and I also appreciate having had the opportunity to witness him walk through various stages in his life. I remember Daniel once telling me that he feels it's very important to have children, so that we will understand our Heavenly Father's love for us. As a lady said while praying for them today, "let them walk through the rest of their lives together gazing upon You."

So it was a very lovely morning witnessing a holy event with my spiritual siblings, hearing Pastor Bobby preach and sharing my ngoh hiang with Alister and sitting with my old cell group members and seeing Auntie and Uncle so proud and also feeling so proud for Sam, and also being able to share about my new cell group and my Yale-NUS CF experience with a girl who's going to become a cell group leader soon.


Then I changed from my white dress to a pink one (there was a dress code for the wedding, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing white on PinkDot day), and left for Adlin's Hari Raya lunch thingy. I arrived pretty late, but the rendang was still great (and not spicy!), and the Yale-NUS people were chilling out and chatting. It was so lovely to be among all these people I was close to and /or were generally comfortable with, Kevin Rachel Abel etc., because I generally feel quite awkward at gatherings but this one was really comfortable and natural, and I enjoyed being in the presence of these people and just chatting about jobs and Orientation at Yale (still?!) and things. I was also pleasantly surprised and grateful to see Nat there. It was wonderful that she was there, and that she appeared very much at ease. (Unfortunately no pictures of the afternoon, just an instastory video that doesn't really do anything.)

We left Adlin's place at about 4.30, and the bunch of us who were going for PinkDot walked over to Nat's house, getting a corrugated board and vanguard sheet from a stationery shop along the way. Abel and I picked out all the pink things in the shop (party hats, paper bags, ribbons, balloons) and tried to think of ways to cover Kevin's stupid green tee. (He declared that he'd wear green to PinkDot and I still don't understand why.) In Nat's pretty room we used cheap nail polish to cover the vanguard sheet in glitter – a terrible idea, because the fumes were crazy and her room didn't have a fan – and cut the corrugated board to form a sign that said "LOCAL & VOCAL". (no foreigners allowed? no problem!) As we left Nat's house we were discussing the perplexing question of why people pee in HDB lifts (don't you live in the same block??? can't you just pee at home??? or find a secluded tree????), and at one point one of us made a casual comment that perhaps we are all actually passed out from the fumes in Nat's room and just lying on the floor, and only hallucinating that we're walking to the MRT station. And Kevin was like, well in that case that'd be a pretty well-coordinated hallucination. And Abel was like, no Kevin, maybe you're the only one that's passed out, and you're just imagining the rest of us here when we're actually all in Nat's room trying to wake you up right now.

I'm going to miss YNC chatter heh.

Reached Hong Lim Park at 6.30pm and walked right into the Class of 2017 Yale-NUS crowd, because they'd camped themselves right at the MRT exit. The premise within the boundaries had reached full capacity, so we just hung around beyond the barricades. I mean, not much happened in particular. Sam Rui sang; Nathan Hartono sang; we ate our snacks and Abel and I casually talked about how our presence at PinkDot wasn't actually making a difference at all, since we weren't even being officially counted with the crowd within the barricades, and who was actually going to care about a bunch of people gathering once a year anyway? Policymakers? Psh. Perhaps we were just all trying to feel better about ourselves, feeling like we were doing our part to make a change, but actually just wanting to be a part of the collective effervescence. Perhaps the government is happy to let us make our way to this crowded Speakers' Corner, feel like we're participating in politics and being active in voicing our stand, but not actually making so much as a dent in the policymaking arena. Well we stayed anyway. After all, for me it wasn't about the politics but about the LGBT individuals that I know, and the message I want to send across to LGBT individuals as a Christian.


We couldn't really see what was happening beyond the barricades, so we just chilled out. Our time there wasn't terribly special or exciting, but it was nice nontheless (it's always nice chilling with YNC people, and the great thing about it is that we don't need to be doing anything at all). I bumped into my brother and his girlfriend, which was amusing considering the number of people there. Mark was wearing Kat's shirt, and Kat was wearing my mum's top.

Went for dinner with some of them at the hawker centre, chatted about whatever, went home. I don't know why I typed this last sentence, but I want to remember it. Yale-NUS has become such a comfortable space, such a family, that even just hanging out is a time of peace that is well-cherished. Nothing ra-ra about it, just one another's company. I mean, today was pretty chill. I wasn't always super engaged in the conversation; I was just around people that I've missed and am comfortable with. Maybe that alone made it such a great day, so lovely that I'm writing this long blog post that's taken me a couple of hours. Tomorrow's going to be another lovely chill day with my new cell group: after service we're going to stay back for Malcolm's singing competition finals, and go watch a movie. Thank you, God, for community.