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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A New Phase in Life

Back when I was a teenager before I knew Christ, I would never have imagined my life to be this beautiful. I've always thought that I would be miserably lonely and depressed, wishing for death every second. Being happy even when I spend big portions of my day alone at home was simply impossible back then. Being able to rejoice in spite of difficulties was totally beyond me. Being at peace even though there are many frightening changes in my life was equally unimaginable.

Within the year 2007, there were so many tremendous changes. I left my church which I have been attending since I believed in Christ a decade ago and joined my husband in his church, leaving behind a wonderful choir ministry and old friends. I became the owner of my very own 3-rm flat, got married and a month later got pregnant. Now, after months of roller-coaster physical metamorphosis due to the growing miracle of God in my womb, I'm resigning from Youth for Christ where I extremely enjoyed the work of evangelism through using the gifts that God has endowed me with, leaving behind co-workers and friends whom I've come to cherish and love. All these parting pains to answer the call of God to be a full-time home-maker and provide godly care for my child who is to come.

I am reminded of the Bible passage in Matthew 8:23-26 when the disciples were panicking in the raging storm while Jesus was sleeping soundly in the very same boat. I do not want to be a woman of little faith and therefore I cling on tightly to God amidst the drastic changes and take comfort in His constant presence. Pregnancy had been tough for me: hospitalized twice, staying at home for two months alone coping with the severe nausea, frequent fainting spells, enduring a strict diet of crackers and Ovaltine. It is simply amazing the joy that I had in the Lord during those quiet moments spent with my loving heavenly Father.

Oh, and to suffer the sadness of having one of my two best friends gone to Australia to pursue her dream, destiny and desires during the time where I would greatly appreciate her physical presence. Though I'm truly happy for her and wish her all the best in her endeavors and new found love life after so many years of waiting upon the Lord, there is no day that has gone by without my missing her so much. And now I'm facing the pending separation from my other best friend as she contemplates going to the States to find a fresh start in life. Wishing the best for her, I pray that she'll be able to do so soon, even as I begin to grieve yet another loss...

Indeed, there are great many challenges ahead for me. I need to devote much prayers and energies to adjust to the life of a homemaker. I need to continue to strive to establish my own friendships and ministry in my new church. I have to forge new relationships with other Christian young mothers and homemakers so that I can grow in my godliness as a wife and mother with their support.

It is all so scary when I see the enormous task ahead of me. But my fears are quelled when I see how much greater my God is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Testimony


Song: Remember Me

(Verse 1)
A shining star fallen from the sky
Turn from glitter to a glimpse
Open bright with your eyes
See my warmth flows into dreams
Come closer now

With a song to you
To the truth in me
I treasure what you gave to me
I care for you

(Verse 2)
I called you in a whispered sigh
Could you promise one last time
Never chanced birds fly high
Wait a lifetime for this try

Remember all the joy with me
Under the sun
Remember all the pain
As piercing darts to me
Your love in my life
Remember me
Remember me

       Yes. Remember me. That had been my drive for significance. I derived my significance from my relationships with people around me. However, at the same time, my deepest wounds came from these very same relationships.

         I am the eldest and was the only female in my generation back then. Perhaps, many of you will identify with the Chinese culture I was brought up in. Every time my extended family had a gathering, I would be delegated the job of taking care of my younger brother and a horde of impish cousins. I often felt like a mother hen; trying to keep them in line while at the same time wanting to fit in with my cousins. That was a formidable task. Since I was responsible for them, whatever mischief they got into, I was blamed and punished for leading them astray. I was just a child in my elder's eyes and yet I was the tattle-tale big sister who was supposed to watch over the young ones. I belonged to neither generation.

My brother and I used to be rather close when we were young. I fondly remember his numerous questions when we stayed up the whole night talking, such as ‘What is the universe?’, ‘How big is the universe?’ and ‘Where do babies come from?’.

Being the intelligent, experienced and mature older sister that I was, I told him what my Mom always told me in answer to his last question: from the rubbish dump.

However, I was often punished for bad behaviour of my brother and I was usually made to give in to his whims just because I was older and a girl. Gradually, I developed a great resentment against my parents and brother. And how did I take revenge? I bullied him when my Mom was not looking. I used to gang up with the boy next door to frighten my brother. Maybe that was why he had frequent nightmares when he was young. Wasn’t I vicious?

            Because of my status as a girl and the first child, my parents would naturally be extremely protective of me. I remember the time when my social studies project group wanted to meet at one of the teammates’ home, which was just next block. My mom thought that it was too far away from home for me and refused to let me go. If there were any outings with my classmates or friends, I would be the only one who was unable to attend because I could not gain my Mom’s permission. This caused me to feel left out and alienated from my friends. I was angry at their restrictions, being a very adventurous person by nature. Unable to go out with my friends as often as expected among my peers, I was sort of labeled as anti-social. Because my brother, though 3 years younger than I, was allowed to go out and do things I was never allowed to do when I was his age, I resented their favouritism towards my brother. I thought I was really treated unfairly.

Since young, due to constant interaction with my brother, male cousins and childhood buddies, I was very tomboyish. Though I very much wanted to have intimate female friends, I could not mix well with them. Each time I could finally bond with a girl of my age, she would have to leave me by moving to another part of Singapore. Each time, I grieved inwardly for I knew that I would never see them again, because my parents would never allow me to visit or go out with them. Thus to begin with, it was very difficult for me to risk being vulnerable to girls.

To make matters worse, I had a crush on my childhood buddy. After keeping it to myself for 2 years, I took up the courage to share it with a female friend I thought I could trust. Before I knew it, the news was spread throughout my whole class and I became the laughing-stock of the year. Being young and unable to handle the situation, my guy friends began to avoid me. I had nowhere to turn to. It was too embarrassing to share it with my family and I have lost faith and trust in relationships.

       One of my main weaknesses is being tactless and blunt with my words. Thus, I offended people easily. Because I had offended the popular girls in my secondary school and they began to spread ugly rumours about me. They said things like ‘I was out to seduce guys’ because I was much closer to guys than girls due to my background. Needless to say, those close guy friends I had stayed away from me so as not to be gossiped about too. I was deeply hurt that most people believed them but I refused to show the hurt or even try to explain myself. To escape the world, I feign illness whenever I was depressed so that I did not have to face the reality of isolation. I developed the reputation of being aloof, sickly and moody.

            The worst could have happened to me was that I was rejected by people. I tried to be the class clown to make people laugh and strive for acceptance but it backfired. I had sarcastic nicknames such as ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘林黛玉’ (A Chinese story’s female lead who was famous for being sickly and pitiful). Those remarks though spoken casually by my friends, cut deep into my heart and wounded my spirit mortally. Instead of getting the approval of people, I was ridiculed. Gradually, I convinced myself that I did not need anybody and I became a lone-ranger.

            To my closer friends in secondary school, I portrayed myself as the big sister whom people confide in. To earn their respect, I always set myself up as invulnerable and I seldom confide in them how much hurt I was going through because I was afraid to be totally vulnerable to them. The times when I did share, things seemed more depressing as I realised that such matters had no solution to them. Gradually, I built an emotional armour to protect myself from further hurt. I hardened my heart and convinced myself that I didn’t need anybody, though in the deepest recesses of my heart I was bleeding to death.

Song: I Lied

(Verse 1)
Someone used to tell me
That I seemed so very strong
Just because that
I had never cried when someone hurt my pride
And she asked me what’s my secret
Well I told her that I don’t need anyone

(Verse 2)
To the others I looked like
Someone who is made of steel
When they see me hold my head up high in heavens
Even when they try to bring me down
I have yet to fall I still remain standing tall

I told them I’ll never falter even when they sneer
I told them that nothing could bring me down
Even when they jeer
I told them I am a lone tree
On an island needing nobody
I lied
Yes I had lied

There’s a part of me that yearn for the warmth
I am still a human who needs someone to love

            I was an avid reader for it was the only way to escape my lonely and sheltered world. By the time I was in Secondary two, I had gone through most of the books available in my neighbourhood library, the only place I could go unescorted. I was extremely attracted to books on the occult and witchcraft as I yearned to control my life and environment. Repeated failure to find a niche of belonging for myself drove me further into the world of fantasy. However, the spiritual realm was no fantasy at all. As I continued to dwell into such practices, I began to see spirits and had recurring nightmares. I heard voices in my head and it was not long before I started to converse with those voices. At the same time, I met a schoolmate who was into such psychic and occult activities too. Together with a few others, we performed experiments of other-worldly nature. Gradually, I noticed my behaviour towards my family became more and more rebellious. When I could not communicate my thoughts and feelings to them, I ended up quarrelling with them, nursing my bitterness towards them. It came to a point when I could not speak to them at length without arguing violently.

            Everything my family did seemed unfair and cruel to me. I insisted on my own rights and opinions and was frustrated when I could not make them see my point. I hated them so much that at times I woke up in the middle of the night holding a kitchen knife with the desire to plunge it into their sleeping bodies! But each time, I was stopped by something I could not understand.

            My most cherished dream then was leaving my family and never seeing them again. But I was too young to survive on my own. I had to wait till I was old enough to launch the escape plans that germinated in my young mind during many sleepless nights. I wrote down the revenge I would inflict upon them when I grow up. I’d torture my parents when they grow old or abandon them when they need me most. Many a time, I had packed my bags, ready to run away from home but I backed out the last minute. A small voice told me that I would regret it.

            I was a borderline case in school. I was in one of the SAP school and hated the competitive environment as it drained all pleasures from my studies. I wanted to go to a neighbourhood school, but I still wanted to please my parents by obeying them in their choice of school for me. I was dying to finish my education so that I could go out to work and live independently.

            Secondary three saw me emotionally, mentally and physically a wreak. The voices in my head went on incessantly, causing me to have insomnia. I was plagued by fears and hatred. I was hopelessly estranged from my family and friends, but my friends never got close enough to realise the extent of my hatred towards my own kin. To these friends, I appeared confident enough. The truth was that I was nearing a mental breakdown and was emotionally dying. I was living a lie and only my family knew the horror that I became.

One day, after seven years of trying to win back the trust of the boy I had a crush on, I finally had the courage to ask him out on a date. I was rejected and not long after which he got himself a girlfriend. That was what pushed me over the edge.

 Finding no purpose in life, I lost the will to go on living. Obsessed with the idea of dying by slitting my wrist, I bought a new penknife and waited patiently for a suitable opportunity to end my life. The rare chance came when my family went to visit my grandparents for the weekend. As usual, I begged illness and stayed at home alone. I prepared a basin of hot water and sat on the kitchen floor musing my dying thoughts. I asked myself what was the meaning in life and I could not come up with a satisfactory answer. 'Everything in life is temporal and the human race is so ugly, selfish and cruel. Is there hope?'

Just as I was about to plunge my first cut into my wrist, the phone rang. I was curious at who in the world would call at a time like this and I went to pick up the phone. It was my choir mate telling me to meet her at the usual place so that we could head school for practice together. After she put down the phone, I said to myself, “This will teach you not to take me for granted. You wish to see me tomorrow? I’ll make sure you won’t!”

I scurried back to my apparatus, burning with anger and despair. Yet again, someone seemed to call out to me, beseeching me to wait. It seemed to say, ‘Hang in there. There is still hope but you have yet to know it.’ I was confused. This was a still quiet voice that I could not recognise. It was different from those voices that plagued me day and night. In fact, those telepathic “friends” were encouraging me to end my pathetic life. ‘They” were in as much despair and disillusionment as I was.

After what seemed like eternity, I lost even the will to commit suicide. I thought maybe I was not fated to die yet. I packed up everything and placed my penknife into my pencil case, just so that I would have it handy.

I thought a lot after that aborted attempt at suicide. I asked myself why I'd become such as wreak. I began to desire a peaceful, normal life and I suddenly realised that my involvement in the psychic group was not going to help me do that. I began shying away from them. I did not do it graciously though and hurt them in the process. People began to say that I had betrayed my friends who took me in when no one else wanted me. I was deeply wounded but I pressed on. No more seemingly talking to myself during break time, no more responding to the voices that screeched for my attention in my mind, no more reading those books on the occults.

I tried to change. Truly. I desired to be a good person so much that I wanted to clean up my act in my studies and family life. I thought if I don’t respond in kind and remain silent when they provoked me, there would be peace. After all, it takes two to clap. But being bad-tempered, I could only keep the silence for no longer than before.

I bought an organiser so that I could organise me life and plan my study schedule but I ended up not following through what I started out to do. I could actually forget to look at the book even if I managed to remember to write down the things I wanted to accomplish. After numerous failed attempts, the book laid in my drawer collecting dust.

Unceasingly, I tried and tried. I tried being less hypocritical towards my friends, I tried being more feminine, and I tried doing good. I still thought that I could change myself just by sheer will power alone. I thought I could do it. Finally, I had to admit that I needed help. At that time, my father was very enthusiastic about his religion. As I respected my father’s rational mind, I went to his religious meetings.

However, the whole ritual left me cold and fearful. Instead of finding peace, I became more susceptible to the voices in my head and there was an increase in the frequency of my nightmares. I sincerely tried all that they suggested but it only grew worse.

In the end, I refused to go back to the religion, widening the gap between my father and myself.

In my Junior College, things were not much better. I only wanted to have some fun for the first three months before going to polytechnic but I met a bunch of friends that truly accepted me for who I was. The closest to me was a Christian, which was ironic because I usually had a very bad impression of Christians and would disassociate myself from them. To me, Christianity was the most misled religion in the world. I thought it was crazy and humiliating to humble oneself to be a servant to a “god”. I felt these people were fools to give so much and obey such strict rules for a man-made illusion. The Junior College was a mission school and I was very insolent and disrespectful during chapel, obviously hurting my close friend. I could not care less.

The short but blissful three months went by and during the second intake, these friends all went elsewhere and I was left alone again. Since those months were my happiest moments in life, I chose to stay to retain whatever pleasant memories I had.

The days were hard to get by since I could not click with my new classmates. I was once again the lone-ranger. My grades were so bad that I had to bring my parents to see the principal. I ran the risk of being retained. The situation at the home front was unchanged. Every time I fail, I would regret the time when I hesitated to end my life with that fateful slash of the knife. I lived a day at a time, without meaning, purpose or joy. Just like a living corpse. Even my passion for singing, writing, composing songs and acting could not fill the great vacuum in my heart.

I felt so miserable that I began to blame others for my plight. I blamed my family, my friends and most of all fate and God for allowing such ugliness and pain in my life. I challenged God to prove that He existed and many nights, I vented my frustration on the silence of the unseen and seemingly apathetic God. It was just so convenient to push the blame on the impersonal fate. I never truly expected any reply.

Song: Can there be someone?

(Verse 1)
I see them going around in groups
Surrounded by such life
I can see their blissful happiness
But the joy no matter how
Can never touch me
I never knew it
Just out of reach

(Pre-chorus 1)
The world feels cold to me
I do not hold the key
Nothing belongs to me
Nor am I ever free
No longer have the strength to
Keep melancholy at bay
It does not to pray

(Pre-chorus 2)
Invisible to them
Though I am also a friend
Heedless my soul they bent
Will they ever relent?
O God is it really too much to ask for a kind soul
To keep away the cold

Can there be someone
Or do I hope in vain
Can there be someone
To keep the pain away
O is it true
Or I’m a fool
To wish for someone
Who cares for me?

          In my second year of my JC life, I was placed in the same group as a classmate of mine. She was a quiet and unassuming girl who never caught my attention. Strangely enough, despite our differences in personality, she began to care for me as a friend although I was considered an outcast in my class. I was intrigued by her actions and tried to “read” her with what I learnt from my involvement with the psychic world. However, I could not fathom her at all. I began to be truly touched by her love and care for me though I could not understand her. I could only understand the language of love. Gradually, I confided in her and I could tell that she was concerned about my past.

I discovered that she was a Christian when she told me that God had told her to show me His unconditional love even though she did not like me in the beginning. She tried to share her faith with me but as usual, I mocked her faith, the way I did to other acquaintances and friends who tried to do the same. I was rather angry and insulted her for thinking that I actually needed a God to forgive me when I believed that I could always earn my salvation through my good deeds outweighing the bad. Yet, something she said to me lingered in my mind. I felt that something was beginning to happen to me. Something familiar, warm and yet so foreign to me. Something that I could not grasp comprehensively with my mind…

Song: Haunting Dream

Chasing fabricated illusions
Just to survive
Silence never broken until you
Shatter the lies

One day I walked down the streets
Of a place where I swore that in the past
I have seen
You see me trying to capture the feeling
Until suddenly I thought I hear it

Calling me, calling me
Turning around and there is nothing there
But a facet of dream
Still it’s calling me, calling me
Turning around and it is not there anymore
 But the wind…

…Fading away

         What happened next, I could never fully explain. It was as if God started to peel off all my pretence, self-deception and calluses that I developed to protect myself from further hurt. All my self-anointed moral values and belief systems about the world and myself just crumbled to nothingness. I saw myself for the first time the rebellious and sinful child that I was. I realised how insignificant I was and truly saw the fiasco that my attempts in life were. It was then I realised that God has indeed been working silently in my life all along. He was the soft, gentle voice that called me every time I ventured too near to the point of no return. He was the One who brought to me Christian friends who showed me His unconditional love. In the face of such love, I broke down and wept.

Yet, I had so many unanswered questions in my mind such as the reliability of the bible as God’s Word and the reason why there is still so much suffering in the world if God is so good. My rational mind just could not contend with all those doubts.

Even so, I was at the end of myself and I knew that I had tried everything else to live a fulfilled life but had failed miserably. I yearned for the unconditional love and forgiveness that had been promised. I yearned for the acceptance, the significance, meaning and purpose in life that I never had. Thus, it was by faith and faith alone that I told my friend two weeks later that I wanted to receive Jesus into my life.

Song: Faith

(Verse 1)
Would You see me as worthy
Of the love You have given to me?
Would You see me as holy
And not someone who has sinned helplessly?
Can You see me when I am lonely?
Can You see me when I am down?
I long to see Your face
Then I’ll know that I’m always Yours

(Verse 2)
Would You lead me far away
From temptations we meet everyday?
Would You tell me not to stray
From the path before You lay?
Can You find me when I am hopelessly lost?
Can You forgive me when I am found?
I want to feel Your presence
So I’ll know that You’re my Source

Now I know I don’t have to question
You’ll be there for eternity

           When I prayed the sinner’s prayer, there were no discernible changes that I could feel in myself but I had the mentality that I would try this out for some time and I could always back out if all those proved to be my imagination.

Amazingly, my life began to change and turn around. I could no longer hear voices in my mind for the blood of Jesus covered me and I ceased to have recurring nightmares. Slowly but surely, I began to develop a spirit of excellence in my work attitude through the fact that I wanted to please God by doing the best I could. He gave me a genuine love for my family that I never had and by the power of the Holy Spirit that was given me, I began to change miraculously, something I could not do with my own strength. My parents disapproved of my conversion especially at the beginning but they were the very ones who could really see how much I'd changed since I received Christ. At the end of the year, I had results that ensured me a place in University. Praise God! Never at any moment had I regretted my decision to trust God with my life. As I grew in Christ and spend time with Him, I began to clear all my doubts about Him. 

I am indeed leading the full and abundant life that God has intended for us to enjoy. Though the negative circumstances in life are still there, by God’s grace and strength, I can weather through the refining fire and come out stronger in my faith in God. God has never short-changed me when I gave my life to Him and trusted in His son Jesus Christ’s work and sacrifice for our sins. He can do the same for you too!

I do not know how your life has really been for you or how God is working in your life because He has created each of us unique and special. Neither do I know the doubts or issues that you are struggling with. What prevented me from knowing God was pride. Pride in my own ability to control my life and my surroundings. Pride in my intellect and rational mind that say I know everything that I need to know. My pride proclaims to the world that I do not need anybody let alone God. Who is this God anyway? I thought that only weak people needed a religion which, ironically speaking, turns out to be true, for only those who can finally admit that they are not in control can know and experience the One who is really in control: God.

I beseech you to consider the questions you have about God and ask someone to clarify these doubts. God says in Jeremiah 29:13 “You will see and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Thank you for reading this and may God bless you!

Song: Children of God

(Verse 1)
Some people disbelieve that Jesus resurrected then
They think that all these are just lies
But He did
Our Father’s good and gracious
He gave His only Son
For us all sinners once
The children of God

(Verse 2)
Sometimes we may turn away from God and what He means
We think He no longer loves us
But He does
Our Father never leaves us
He’s always by our side
He loves the world so much
The children of God

(Verse 3)
We praise and glorify His name we know His words are true
He provides for the needs we have
Yes He does
We place our lives before Him
As servants to our Lord

Jesus died on the cross
Or we would have been lost
Thankful that we’re
Children of God