Jul 29, 2012

Random friend feature

I'm doing this because on my birthday in JC1, when I walked into the Math classroom, you passed me the cutest soft toy bear; I took it, said thank you, proceeded to sit a seat away, and didn't speak to you the rest of the lesson.

Also because in JC2, I walked into Econs class in a horrible mood. You asked what was wrong; I ignored you for a long while, and then proceeded to pour out a fiery rage, and then went back to ignoring you, and it was only quite some time after the lesson that I realised it was your birthday.

And because you've endured the worst of my moods. You've listened to me rage unceasingly about the same thing over and over again. I've ignored you countless times, not because you did anything to upset me, but because I just wasn't in the mood. And every single time, you were so patient. So full of concern and love. Just wanting to see me happy. All your random magic tricks and sudden bright moods in an attempt to make me smile. Your willingness to wait it out with me. You never fired back even once, or gave up waiting.

But mostly because I suddenly feel like doing this. And you take such good photos.

So, Derrick, I was in a pretty crappy mood the whole week, and I thought it was probably time to meet up with friends I've known for a longer time, friends who know me well, friends with whom I feel completely comfortable, whether in silence or in endless conversations. I knew I had to meet you and WL soon, spend some quality time together and remind myself that I have people who truly understand and love me, and friendships that have proven to (and will) withstand the test of time.

So here's a list of random memories I have of us.

- Raymeo, Teressa, you and me in the front row of the classroom, and the way we blatantly passed notes to one another on a daily basis. A whole foolscap paper at a time. Four-way chats. I remember the time Raymeo kept writing about being 'lovesick' but not wanting to reveal who he liked...because she was sitting right beside him!

- The time Mrs Foo was giving an English spelling retest for those in the class who had failed it, and we were one of the very few who didn't need to do the retest. So we were passing notes to each other without even bothering to pass the foolscap paper under the table. And she was standing right beside you. I remember we somehow ended up writing stuff like "F*** ah" "FISH ah" "FOOD ah" in increasing size, trying to come up with four-letter substitutes for the F word, and then all of a sudden Mrs Foo took the paper and looked at it for quite some time, and I was just like oh no, we're in trouble. And then she seemed to be chuckling. And then she put it back on your table.

- I think it was when we were in the hall for assembly in P5, during the period of time we were in that Gunbound craze. You passed me a piece of paper with all these complicated calculations. For your favourite Grub machine, you were able to determine how far you should press your space bar to attack, depending on the wind speed and the distance between you and your enemy. Or something. I was just like, WHAT?! NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!

- The time I suddenly felt like you were gross and I started to avoid you. I can't remember why, but according to you, it's because you had told me you liked me HAHAHA

- Your angmoh eyes and your fat face in primary school.

- I think I've seen you in your secondary school uniform before! When was that? We didn't go for tuition or anything together, right? No, wait, there's a hole in my memory. I know we talked from time to time in secondary school, but I can't remember a thing.

- Lisa, you and me at West Coast Park after the O's, going crazy on that spinny thing.

- Taking the train to school together in JC1! I remember in the beginning we were just crazy about AC. Doing AC cheers in the train. Most mornings you'd find me in my half-awake state on the train, groaning in sleepiness and incapable of registering your words.

- Your birthday (left), when we went back to Jurong West Primary and weren't allowed to enter, and your birthday dinner with the JWPS pals!

- Your sky-high Econs marks for every exercise. Mdm Yati loved you. I'd look at your 8/10 and stare at my 3/10, wondering what I'd give to have your brain...

- One day in Econs class, another one of those days I was ranting to you, and you went "Haiya...why is love so hard..." and before I knew it, although you were sympathising with me and listening with all your sincerity, your carefree and happy nature had lifted my mood too.

- H1 Math class, when during one of the tests, you got 22/25 or something, and I got 11/25. And I kept vowing that I wouldn't fail the next math test, but I failed three times in a row. And once I got 12/25 and went "HA! I PASSED!" and you went "Um, 12/25 isn't a pass...wah you really fail at math."

- You topping the cohort in H1 Math, while I got a C.

- You showing me your coin trick in math class. And your iPhone card trick. And various other random tricks. Usually when I was in some bad mood. You'd be quiet for a while, then suddenly your face would brighten up and you'd say "Eh Karen I show you something." And your desperate enthusiasm alone would be enough to lift my heart.

- That night in Macs before the exams, with you helping me grasp all the Econs concepts.

- One of the days just before the A Level Math paper. YOU GOT ME TO RIDE ON THE BACK OF YOUR BIKE AND WE CYCLED TO GEK POH! I remember screaming throughout. It was the first time I had ridden as a passenger on a bicycle, standing at the back with my hands on your shoulders. That was insane. Anyway,I hadn't touched Math since the mid-years, and I was determined to get an A. I kept bugging you every couple of seconds because I couldn't do a single Math question. Thank you so much for being so patient with me and answering every question I had, even though you probably didn't manage to get any studying done in the end.

- I can't remember if this was on the same day, but we were also at Gek Poh and you set us a little contest for speed and accuracy with each question on the Math paper. Thanks so much for always trying to help me, for making studying fun.

- Lisa and you and me at Jurong Point for dinner, and I was suanning you so much without realising that I had, again, forgotten your birthday.

- Your random gifts to girls when you meet them, because you're such a gentleman. Hershey's for Lisa and me, and a lollipop for me when we met for the birthday dinner I owed you.

- And, lastly, today, an awesome chill day with your camera and going to random places and just hanging out and enjoying the company of a friend. Love your photos!

And where are the lousy photos I took of you?! Now I only have your photos of myself to put here!

Jul 27, 2012

Wings of fire

From Antoinette of fire and colour and vibrance to Bertha Mason in the closet in the cardboard home, a secret. A lifetime of passion and fever-burning love hides behind those closed doors. You will not tell that story. Jane must never know anything, any of that magical escapade that resulted in tragedy. She must never know, other than the fact that it was a mistake.

Does she know you? How much about you did you reveal? How far into your soul did you let her reach, in between the jokes and the teasing? Does she know about me? Was there anything to tell? Or is it all untranslatable, only that the images flash through your mind when they shouldn't? Did I tarnish your soul? Do you wish you could erase it all and get on with life? Do you wish your white slate hadn't been stained with blood? I shouldn't have let it.

(I do love Jean Rhys. Who she was, her brokenness on paper.)

your name a film of tears on my lips

I woke up to memories of you today. I let myself indulge in them for half an hour. Not the daffodil sweetness of the beginning, but tulips, young sunflowers - my arms around you in the lift that last night; "aww, what's this?". Your arms around me so tight, the way your eyes looked so close just before you closed them. The December night we started talking again, my voice struggling to hold together, your every word. The little scrapbook I gave you as we bade goodbye, and your comments on it weeks later. What have you done with it since? How many times has it seen light? In a movie, it would've been thrown away - the pain of a gift and the memories it holds - but I don't believe you'd do that, especially after you said that I shouldn't have made it. You'd be courteous enough to keep it, right? Perhaps I don't even want to know. I don't know why you shut me off so completely. I know you cried, and I want so much to know when you've cried for me. Simply because I've cried more in those few months than I have the rest of my life, and I deserve to know when you shared that pain. I know there's no hope of a future; I don't even want it; it'd be too painful. But I wish you'd tell me your side of the story. What I've always wanted to know. The questions you smell a mile away, those that send you hiding.

Jul 26, 2012

This is me.

I present me to you in a basket on the floor. Not a pretty, pristine bundle - unwrap me and you'll find a red and black infested gross mess. The healing power is at work, though, trying to piece me back together. Will you accept all I have to offer, and run a reassuring hand over the shattered glass?

Jul 22, 2012

arrows part 2

I stand in the open, surrounded by a ring of both familiar and nameless faces. Innumerable faces. They hold their arrows. A sea of them hits me at once. Here I stand, with all that I stand for. Arrows of fire pierced into my chest like the back of a porcupine.

Then the Lord Jesus Christ, so full of goodness, love and mercy, the Lord who knows every bit of me - my hopes, my dreams, all my weaknesses - the God who created the earth, who knows every inch of ground and every living thing and everything about every person ever lived -

the Lord Jesus Christ, all God and all man, steps into the circle and stands beside me. He pulls the arrows out of my chest and pierces them into his own. The Son of Man standing with me, pushing my arrows into his own body. Bearing my pain.

What sick image is this? I am disgusted at myself. Guilt rises in me. No, God, don't even do that! I can handle it. They're my arrows. Please don't hurt yourself. I'll take care of it! You're God, and I'm just me! Who am I, who am I that you should do that for me? 

This. Is the most amazing video. Heart-wrenching. It's a little slow-moving, but impactful beyond words.


I've been feeling like waves of fire have been hitting me recently. Waves and waves of debate and fiery questions with regard to my future university, my church and my faith, both directly by my friends and indirectly by posts online. Like arrows, each one deflates my heart a little.

It's not that my stand and beliefs are easily shaken. I know what I believe in; I can talk things out with people. It's just that one of the institutions is going to shape my tertiary education and my path ahead, while the other is the place where I have found God, and where He has moulded and changed my life. I love both tremendously. Although university hasn't even started while I've been in this church for four years, I find my home in both; in both I feel comfortable. I have dedicated myself to being a part of them.

And here I am, listening to what people have to say, telling me why my belief in them is unfounded, not right. Telling me that I need to wake up. Start thinking a little more. Stop being so blind, stop swallowing mouthfuls without chewing first. This thing about the public having a negative perception of my institutions isn't exclusive to these two cases, either. The public's perception of my junior college is improving, but still not the best. Party school. Rich assholes. Ragging incident and toilet saga all over the papers. The media loves us because the public hates us. I didn't have the best impression of the school myself - until school started. ACJC isn't perfect, but I definitely don't regret making it my home. The same applies to my university and my church. I know what I've experienced in each of these places, and I can't see myself anywhere else.

I stand firm in my decisions and beliefs because I have thought things through myself. These questions that people fire. I've gone through them in my head before they talked to me about the issues. I am, after all, a thinker. Choosing to stand by the institutions is a decision I've made after a lot of pondering. That's why I'm standing strong now - my beliefs are founded on something solid, after all that deliberation.

But the fire, the arrows, of course they still hurt. You commit your life to these things, and people continue to shoot those arrows; they don't believe in what you've committed yourself to - what you've decided to call your home, your family - and they choose to attack instead of support.

Stick to those who choose to pray instead. Find those who support, who continue to prove to you what you already know, and who help to protect you against what's unnecessary. You might even want to confront those who hold the arrows. If they're willing to listen, and you're willing to hear out each other's views, go for it. In all things, stay in the atmosphere of love and care. Seek only to build up, and focus on those who seek only to build up too.

This is such a badly-structured post. I'm sorry. It's because this entire post went off-track from the second paragraph. I shall start anew. New post!

Jul 16, 2012

Slippery bricks

Four years ago I thought I was flying, but I was flinging myself down a well instead. One day I realised I was in a pit of nothingness. I tried to climb out, but the bricks were too slippery. I grabbed onto what I could, desperate to get out of the wet and cold. I vowed never to let my grip loosen on the bricks as I slowly climbed upward. But then I fell again. And again. And again.

They always say they're sorry, but then they come again. And you can't even put the blame on anyone except yourself. You let them.

Each time you let yourself slip you hate yourself for it. You fall all the way back to the bottom of the well. You hit yourself hard. Your bones don't break but your heart does. The cement at the bottom is hard and unforgiving, and the icy water soaks you through. Slowly, you have to get up again. Make that arduous climb back up, ten metres, fifteen metres - how high will you climb before your next fall? Your heart doesn't even have time to heal.

Lord let that be the last time. I don't want to fall anymore.

Into Your hands / I commit again

Jul 12, 2012


(a continuation of my previous post)

"The change in my attitude was the result of realizing the implications of belonging to Him. The Son of God died for me! He came to free me from the hopelessness of living for myself. That had to change everything..."
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Joshua Harris)

With my baptism, my old self shall no longer be revived. It has died with Christ, and I have been risen again into a life with Him.

So why Hannah? Hannah Karen Ho isn't the most elegant-sounding name - I could be Karen Elizabeth Ho, or Karen Danielle or Karen Esther or Karen Catherine Ho. I considered all these, for various reasons. (I put Hannah before Karen partly because it reflects putting God first in my life - but, I admit, mostly because Hannah Karen Ho sounds better than Karen Hannah Ho.)

Because I was resolving to live the rest of my life for God, I wanted to search for a biblical character whose problems I could identify with, yet who brought herself out of them, so that I'd remember her in my own struggles. My weakness lies in emotional dependence, in the need to feel needed. That hole in our hearts...my heart is torn flesh, raw and yearning. I was searching for a fallen character who was able to hold on to God's promises and strength.

Hannah's story is told in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. Hannah was one of Elkanah's two wives - the one who couldn't bear children. Elkanah's other wife would taunt Hannah for it, such that Hannah would be reduced to tears, unable to eat. One day, she came to the Lord "in deep anguish, crying bitterly". She prayed that if He were to look upon her sorrow and answer her prayer with a son, she would give that son back to the Lord; he would be His for life.

"But I am very discouraged, and i was pouring out my heart to the Lord... I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow." - 1 Samuel 1:15-16

After doing so, and after receiving Eli's blessings, she "went back...and she was no longer sad" (1:18). Soon after, when she slept with her husband, "the Lord remembered her plea, and...she gave birth to a son" (1:19-20). She called him Samuel (asked of God), because she "asked the Lord for him" (1:20). And when Samuel was three, she brought him to the temple.

"I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. I asked the Lord to give me this boy... Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life." - 1 Samuel 1:26-28

And then comes the beautiful 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah's prayer.

My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
No one will succeed by strength alone. Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered...
He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.

Those who know me well would understand why I fell in love with Hannah's story. When I read her prayer, I knew this was it.

I sense Hannah had her problems - infertility, inferiority to her husband's other wife - and she seemed sensitive and emotional. Hannah gave herself the space to cry. But she lifted her problems to the Lord, and promised to give her blessing back to Him. Imagine the joy of having a son after so long! Yet she remembered her word and sent him to the temple to live, dedicating his life back to Him. (And she was blessed with five other children later.) And after it all, she rejoiced in God's strength, declaring that no one succeeds by their own power.

I am very sensitive and emotional. I give myself the space to be sad, as anyone who reads my blog can tell. But do I let it end there, sad and lost? Or do I turn them over to the Lord, leave my life in His hands, and promise to follow Him all the days of my life? I am so weak, and my greatest need is inner strength. This is God's greatest potential in my life. There is no greater anchor for my soul, and my aching heart, than God and His unshakeable love and promises.

And when God blesses me with His strength and grace, do I remember Him and my own promises?

Here I declare it: as my old self has died with Jesus and I come to a new life in Christ, I will seek to follow You all the days of my life, as You love me. I am still weak and imperfect, but I will let You take control. My heart will continue to break as I falter, but Your grace will see me through; I will not succeed by my own strength, but by holding on to Your perfect love.


And I will sing forever - Jesus, I love you

Finally got baptised on 30th June, together with four of my cell group mates. I first went to Sunday School when I was four and stopped going after P6. When I stepped into City Harvest in 2008, I realised I had never really been a Christian. Although I had been calling myself one, I was really just praying to the walls; I didn't know anything about the Bible; I never let God be my guide; He was never really in my life. Slowly, I learnt about God, and fell in love with Him. I was really on fire for Him at one point. I'd fast for various things, and read the Bible during recess.

Then I broke up with my ex, and then I became really angry at everything. At one point I remember feeling helplessly trapped. God was everywhere, watching my every move. There was no way I could escape Him. I couldn't even escape in death; in fact, I would have to face Him then. What could I do to get away from this all-dictating, all-powerful God?

Other times I was a Christian who was very critical inside. I kept doubting and questioning. I knew Jesus was real. My cell group mates felt Him at church services, falling under His power, tearing in worship. But what about me? Why couldn't I feel Him? What did I have to do before He'd let me see Him? I remember wishing I could just brainwash myself. Accept everything without question; be a Christian who accepted everything with faith. Faith seemed blind.

But slowly, I began to realise that my questioning heart wasn't meant to separate me from Him. As I questioned, I sought answers. Faith became something grounded in logic. Something strong, not shallow. With every time I questioned and found, my roots grew that bit deeper into the solid earth. I'm glad I didn't fight the questions and force myself to be brainwashed. I'm glad I question. It is then that you find the truth.

Because I'm only being baptised after almost four years of truly being in the faith, it means so much more than repenting and accepting Jesus as my Saviour. With my baptism, I am declaring that I will dedicate my life to following Him. Perhaps that's why I wasn't ready to do it all this while. To me, it was a big declaration. What if I slide back when I'm older? I didn't want to commit myself to something and abandon it; what was the point of it, then?

But I'm ready now. I know there's nothing more I want than to hold on to Him the rest of my days. Even when I feel away from Him, there's no way I can deny His existence and love. Nothing compares to personal experiences, to the way He touches your heart, to the little beautiful miracles and the peace that overwhelms. With His grace, I will strive to make myself His lighthouse, being His representative on Earth. I will falter. I continue to fall, but my weaknesses are God's greatest opportunities, and He can turn the worst things around for His good use.

(This post is too long. Shall divide it into two.)