Values

As a Chinese Christian growing up, I had my fair share of values being drilled into me. Be it unconditional obedience and respect for elders or to show kindness to my fellow human beings, I am well-acquainted with these teachings that have been highly recommended by many to enlist as my core beliefs. Of those, the most prominent are generosity and humility.

Firstly, generosity-a value so prized it has become part of my holistic education package. The service domain under this co-curricular achievement system ignites passion in the hearts of all youth, sparks student-initiated fund raising events at every school. Six hours of community service a year is a must, not a should. The idea of being generous with our time, effort and money is held in such high regards that schools have only come short of threatening students into it. The multitude of awards and guarantees of higher education institution recruitments beg the question, is it generosity or pretentious flaunts of possessing generosity that society wants to uphold? Generosity means giving something I want to keep to another who needs it. Does anyone need half-hearted and unwilling hands? Does anyone need clicking tongues of sympathy and eyes that gleam with superiority? Smiles that threaten to collapse once backs are turned? While I do believe in generosity, I also believe many of us are taking and not giving, using the needy as our stepping stones to success. Competition was used as an incentive in character building but its rocky foundation has proven to collapse character. As the term itself suggests, character requires building, generosity requires us to have love and empathy, it is unlike sympathy and ambition and takes culture, not lure.

Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost.

– Matthew 9:17, the Bible

Chinese humility is infamous for its sincerity, or lack thereof. Loud claims of gratitude towards the Goddess of luck mask undercurrents of internal pride and smugness that one has done better than the other. Mothers pretend to sigh at their children’s mediocrity while vying for them to reign superior in academics, sports, even height and weight. This virtue is essential to being well-liked, popularity is less likely gained by individuals who acknowledge their outstanding strengths than those who merely smile shyly upon hearing praise. I myself took a few years to learn to graciously accept compliments with sincere thanks instead of dodging them like bullets, carefully manoeuvring the conversation away from these perceived minefields. Let us pause to teach ourselves to take pride in our achievements without feeling superior and to take equal pride were the same success reached by others.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

– C.S. Lewis, the Screwtape Letters

All in all, as many probably are, I am enough to recognise values and yet not beautiful enough to constantly uphold them in true form. However, it is the thought that counts and by His grace, I believe what is meant to come will come. Amen.

Inspired by a school essay assignment question 🙂 No idea how everyone would receive it but here goes nothing. 

Beauty is Internal

I once had a problem of picking at my looks until they become pockmarked with scars of unhealthy self criticism. To my lopsided eyes (they really are lopsided), everyone’s appearance is a work of art at first glance. Some are kindergarten craft projects adorned with uneven patches of glitter and balls of dried glue, others painted with confident, clean strokes of an experienced, steady brush. Meanwhile, I am the remnants of a foiled piece sulking in the recycling bin. Eventually, I learned to notice and appreciate the unique and beautiful details in my own appearance, though self esteem issues occasionally resurface. However, a certain mechanism of my brain remained, the power to warp faces and nudge them into molds that match the impression I have of their personality.

Internal beauty is not a foreign concept, and yet we tune out at its mention because after all the fuss, statistics still show that better looking people are better paid and get away with more nonsense than the less aesthetically blessed. Numbers do not lie. Plastic surgery prevails and thrives, blades break skin and shovel into flesh in search of the gold this lucrative industry offers. The reflections in society’s mirrors scream of beauty that is external, or lack thereof.

I learnt in descriptive writing that ‘perfectly arched brows frame doe-like eyes with luscious lashes’ could just as easily have been ‘brows painstakingly plucked to perfection arch snobbishly above unnaturally large eyes with pretentious eyelash extentions’ depending on the author’s portrayal of a character. These descriptions dance around in the shadows in our minds, undetected by consciousness and all comes tumbling out when summoned by ink on paper. Beauty is internal because the human mind is able to assign meaning to visual receptions based on conclusions we have made about the subject. 

Our brains still trust body language and first impressions because internal and external sync up to a certain extent. While my right eye may not earn a double eyelid from being kind, both eyes can gain dark saggy bags from exhaustion. Some may argue that the external could be faked, and yet the simple action of smiling makes us happier against our will. A sloppy person maybe learn and become more meticulous as one develops the habit of applying makeup, which requires patience and precision. While the external may be changed, the internal cannot help but evolve to match the surface. Beauty is internal because the external is a projection of what’s within.

I look into the depths of my soul and we are back at square one. My soul is a foiled piece sulking in the recycling bin. My flaws glow luminous between the dark clouds of this depressing reminder that I am a human being, not Jesus Christ and thus my internal does not glitter gold nor explode with immaculate light.

Just my personal opinion 🙂 Hopefully the ending effectively conveys my message that even though beauty is internal, everyone has their own flaws and both internal and external beauty deserve to be shielded from judgemental scrutiny. I am hypocritical and fail to refrain from judgement myself but oh wells. Explored the topic as writing practice out of fear of losing the ability to write. Sorry for the brief hiatus, I was literally at a loss for words in response to the events in my life. Feel free to critique, add on to what I wrote or point out and opposing argument 🙂

iComm – Confirmation Retreat 2017 Reflection

In the valley you made, you’re not meant to be.

-Sidewalk Prophets, Prodigal

Nothing happens without a cause in God’s plan. Maybe it means something when lyrics get stuck in my head even when I think it’s no longer applicable to me at the stage I am currently at in life.

So much of this retreat was wasted as I had mostly given up hope and refused to open up. I was so tired of emotional breakdowns at every camp, followed by self-conciousness, wondering if people thought less of me because I felt I appeared to always be in tears. I was so tired of feeling a spiritual high that eventually fades, especially the most recent one from Camp Empowered ’16 that disappeared without a trace once school and “the weight of the world” came into play..

To me, the Lord had always been an empathetic God who provides healing for those who have been hurt. I felt hopeless because no matter how much I told Him that I was emotionally, mentally and physically drained, it seemed to me I was talking to a wall in my daily prayer. I’m ranting to a silent listener who doesn’t offer to help. I seemed to forget that He is also a refiner and purifier who sometimes has to be stern to shape us in His likeness. (Malachi 3:3)

Only on the second night after being quite hysterical about the proceedings of the night session, a sudden realisation bloomed (like the flower of God’s Grace ;)), that maybe I overthink my problems, making them appear bigger than they seem, maybe I am making these problems my excuses for not putting in the effort required towards building my personal relationship with Christ, maybe it is time for me to take a step back from the quicksand of self pity and see the possibilities of gratitude and  positivity, maybe I was not offered comfort because it was not what I needed.
And I did get what I needed, in the form of unwelcome nagging from certain people in my life, and in the form of Almost Every Session in camp- prior to my realisation -which I chose to casually dismiss as unrelatable.

As I come to recall now, He (through the speakers) emphasised the importance of community, the people around us, to have respect for others even when their experiences differ from ours. Who am I to choose to be beyond empathising with others because of my “intellect”? I may have felt like a misfit occasionally and thus subconciously decided to stop trying to understand others as a defense mechanism, but who am I to block out people who did not purposely leave me out but happened to spark certain emotions in me simply because of who they are? I realise I need to stop isolating myself and enjoy what I can of community, especially those that will further nurture the relationship I have with Christ. Human relationships will never not be rocky, there will be some who test the limits of my patience and those who cause me to feel as though I have been repeatedly stabbed, and yet I should remember that he called us to love, regardless. Furthermore, I also recall a sharing about friends acting as harsh but well-meaning reminders for us to question our intentions behind the actions that we take that do not seem wrong which fits perfectly as a description for my sponsor’s criticisms and serves as a reminder to take things from a positive and growing perspective. Of course there will be words that scream injustice and misunderstanding, I pray for the wisdom to differentiate between the two and respond accordingly. I am reminded that while important to keep in touch with emotions, I should not allow feelings to become obstacles in my faith journey. After all, while the Lord speakes to us in examen through emotions, it is important to be clear about who is speaking. Is it really His voice? Or is it my selfish desires speaking over God?

Apart from that, sharings within the group reminded me that I may not have an entirely perfect loving family, but I still have more than some others. My relationship with family has definitely improved and my sister’s return to my school- despite many rough patches -was not as bad as I anticipated. I feel this is something I should be grateful for as I patiently await the complete mending of my relationship with certain family members. I am affirmed it will happen by a testimony also during this retreat.

Finally, while this camp has stood out like a sore thumb in being a slap in the face instead of the usually consolating experiences I’ve had, my overall takeaway is to embrace positivity  and gratitude while eradicating sloth that prevents me from fulfilling my responsibilities as not only a Child of God to rebuild my relationship with Him and refine my people skills but as a scholarship recipient to procrastinate less and better manage time for schoolwork.

School restarts tomorrow, pray for me. Everyone has flaws so please be kind about mine that I shared above. I wanted to do reflection for last years catechism programme camp in this same post but decided that I would share it in another post due to the difference in theme 🙂 Do look forward to my testimonial! ♥

Who Am I? Part II

Have you ever walked through the self-help section of a bookstore, and wondered why there were so many books that teach you to be more like others but none that tell others how to be more like you? If not, congratulations, society, at large, loves you as you are. But for some of us less lucky ones, or just me, it is not as easy discovering ourselves, that we do not fit into any of the prescribed moulds, and having to choose to remain faithful to who we are although it supposedly means we are not destined for conventional success.

What if I never intended to join this never ending race – labelled “prestigious”, where one inevitably ends up disqualified by death, and am perfectly content watering the flowers growing off-trail where the path is less trodden? 

Along the way, I see that a beautiful rare flower’s seeds have drifted onto the trail and budded. I race to reach the flower first, to protect it before anyone else in the race tramples it. I may not be comfortable nor proud of being high pitched and loud but would not hesitate to effectively express the thoughts and ideas that I am passionate and enthusiastic about. 

In others’ mad rush to get ahead, I get overwhelmed by the crowd and allow myself to be jostled into the throng. I then run to avoid being trampled upon myself and once I am safe from that threat, I lose myself wondering how I ended up where I am. To this day, I still get stressed over exams or competitions simply because my classmates fight for it. When I get a chance to take a step back, I realise I do not enjoy the competition and am more interested in learning.

Other times the race comes to a stretch that I genuinely enjoy, maybe it is a magnificent tall bridge across a vast lake, and I momentarily abandon my flowers to enjoy a change of scenery. I enjoy the thrill of competitive running and the satisfaction of post-training fatigue. 

“Oh so you are okay with being mainstream when you’re good at it?”, who ever said I was good at running and bad at academics?

But many do not understand. They think they are doing well by me when they prod and push me to be adopt the form of a sprinter when all I want to run is cross country. Just because we are both running athletes, people assume I would want to emulate the faster runner. Just because we are both students, teachers assume I would like to learn from an organised classmate. No, maybe I am okay with being messy, with doing my homework last minute because I have other passions. Maybe I want to run, read, play the guitar, laugh at bad puns and live life. Maybe I learn better in a mess than with rigid timetables.

This situation is similar to the story of a father, a son and a donkey, there is no way to please everyone so you do you even if it pleases no one else and do not impose your ideals on others ♥ spread love not patronization.

Some people that I had certain respect for have been telling me to adopt the traits of others, leading me to seriously doubt my existence and after much turmoil I re-found and refined my thoughts and core principles so here we are again.

I understand some of my posts lack quality towards the end. It’s just I have so many ideas that I get excited to start and I kind of lose my train of thought amongst the jumble of unexpressed material in my brain. Thanks for bearing with me xx

Who Am I? (Part I)


Loneliness

Last post of February and before Lent starts!

Have you ever felt lonely? Not being alone in the physical sense but a detached aloofness as if no one understood.  I believe most of us have experienced loneliness in one of its many different forms. I myself am well acquainted with a cold, empty feeling in my gut, often manifesting as a hunger that no amount of food can satiate. After all, research suggests that hunger is the body’s way of telling me that I should seek out company as eating has remained a social activity throughout evolution. (funfact)

It is an easy choice dismissing loneliness as merely a nagging negative thought, or an emotion one should not feel. However, everyone’s feelings should be valid and research has shown loneliness to negatively impact mental health. It not only causes increased levels of stress and depression, but also decreased memory and learning. Loneliness can also affect physical health by disrupting sleeping patterns, leading to more daytime fatigue and a weaker immune system. These effects barely constitute the tip of the iceberg of problems brought about by loneliness.

What if I were to tell you now that we create our own loneliness? We are the ones painstakingly building the invisible walls that keep emotions in and care from others out. Perhaps this is our way of avoiding judgement, our attempt to fit into a community of seemingly perfect, happy people; perhaps this is how some of us, as children of Asian families, were brought up, to be stoic, silent, to be seen and never heard.

Though C.S. Lewis wrote in the preface of his book Surprised by Joy, ‘a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receing from one (often more) of those present the reply, “What! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.”’, I believe this is highly dependant on the audience one can reach out to. Opening up to people can allow us to relate to others, and others to us, forging connectedness. On the other hand, multiple attempts to connect with the same community may simply be a waste of time. Apart from that, reaching out to an unsuitable crowd could lead one to feel increased isolation when there is no indication of understanding post-sharing. Instead, one could widen social circles to include relatable people from diverse walks of life, whose paths we may not normally intersect. However, this does not totally eradicate loneliness as occasional pangs of the disconcerting disengagement will still hit as one stands among a crowd of one’s own peers, none of whom one can understand or be understood by.

Humans, as highly intellectual beings, cannot help being aware of the infinite spectrum of experiences which divides us, being aware of how no one can completely understand another. This awareness is the reason loneliness is an inevitable feeling. However, there will be different people who can understand certain fragments of our lives better than others and in those people we can seek solace and comfort.
Loneliness may cause us to think we want to disappear when all we really want is to be found. Sure, it is easy to urge others to emerge from these illusive havens and seek out others instead of waiting for others to find them but I do understand how tiring it can be and how futile our efforts can seem and I am here to tell you that you, if you relate to this post, you are not alone.


I edited the original post to say how I truly felt instead of my approved speech which did end badly. Today happened to be an emotionally eventful day, leading to trembling as I was delivering my speech, perhaps causing my audience to believe I was overly emotional and agitated over a taboo topic. It definitely left me feeling very vulnerable and not getting the highest number of votes futher egged on my insecurities as there could only be two explanations for the voting results. Either no one bothered hearing any of the speeches and voted based on reputation, leaving me to sigh at the heart I poured into this, or I simply was not good enough. I’m not sure which is worse and I really do want to disappear now. Oops!


Life update: Attended my first Ash Wednesday mass, hopefully we will see a Lent  2017 blogpost soon 😉 I have also identified my confirmation sponsor 🙂

Who Am I? 

What makes me me? A story of growth as of Feb ’17.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day! I am still pigging out on the chocolate I have received from friends and classmates, as is the tradition (that I do not adhere to) of an all girls school. I have recently posted and removed a number of posts crafted in the spur of an emotional moment so now for a reflective one that will be here to stay.

I once thought growth comes with age like pulling a rabbit out of a hat as if I would stop liking dolls when the clock struck midnight on a milestone aka 12th birthday. Of course I now know it comes with experience.

In my camp empowered reflection, Dec ’16 I chose not to mention a chat I had where I was posed a question about my identity because I felt it was something more personal. Identity is a topic I choose to dodge and yet I realised it is an inevitable confrontation.

I am an overseas scholarship recipient and was one since I was 14. The world’s mainstream culture is that of being competitive. I went from a society where academic success was valued to one where holistic education was key. Yet one thing remained unchanged, the idea that hardwork pays off, driving my peers and I to launch ourselves into every activity that promised us a better future. Some of us did this to an extent where we had no time to do anything we truly loved, and began to doubt the core of our very existence. In a recent motivational workshop that I was forced to attend, the speaker told us to “just give up two years of your life, cut out people, cut out the activities you enjoy, they do not benefit you, do it for twenty years of good future.”. Some of my friends actually nodded in approval and attempted it. It took me a long time for me to realise what it was about this suggestion that made it so repulsive to me. This was when I decided that living in the present makes me me because I believe tomorrow is not an entitlement for anyone. This doesn’t encourage and justify irresponsible acts by thinking one might be able to escape consequences, rather, this means to live a life where there will be nothing important left unfinished with were you to die tomorrow, to live a life without remorse, to strip away the less important, and to truly live a life one enjoys.

The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.It is the most temporal part of time-for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays -C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

Apart from that, now, a few months after the chat, which included certain dissatisfaction with the dynamics of my family, I no longer despise the situation and family community I have been born into. He has taught me love, by placing me among people I would never have chosen to love and then loving me so much that His love overflows out of my into the hearts of my family members’. While it remains difficult, He has taught me how to love. Family makes me me.

Thinking makes me me. Running makes me me. My love for deep, mature, intellectual conversations makes me me. My appreciation of the minute things in life makes me me. My intolerance for injustice, hypocrisy, inauthencity and ignorance makes me me. The desire to share makes me me, which is why I have this blog, to share a raw and honest version of myself, without any motive to elicit any sort of response from others be it approval, pity, awe etc. and without the fear of judgement. As the same friend told me “Remember, that the only person that should influence who you are, is God. Allow yourself to be moulded by God directly, it will require you to take away some things and put on others. Be ready, because it hurts!”. Our Father Above makes me me, and I am eternally grateful for this anchor that my faith has provided me with in my continuous search of Who Am I? (a story of growth, as of Feb 2017) 😉

Of course there will be parts that I missed out but just a brief reflection prompted by recent events ♥ Feel free to share what makes you you in the comments 🙂

Compilation of Bible Verses 2016

1 Corinthians 12:23 the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty

We are all part of the Body of Christ and should help others without counting the cost nor expecting to receive just as one would not make the feet pay when the hand helps to wear a shoe.

John 1:2 Jesus’ mother then told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Though Jesus protested that his time had not yet come, Maty was the first to have had faith in Him and led Him to perform His first miracle and the disciples then believed in Him. Reminding us that our parents are here to guide us closer to God, as is the purpose for all human relationships.

Genesis 40:20 You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good.

Everyone is given free will and thus it is possible for bad things to happen. However, Our All Powerful Fatger has His ways to turn it into good as long as we turn to Him and let Him guide us to fulfill His purpose.

For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Malachi 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. 

In refining silver, the silversmith must be by the fire constantly as the silver will be injured if the time were exceeded by the slightest. He knows the process is completed when the silver shows his reflection.

John 20:11 Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three in all; even though there were so many, still the net did not tear.

The disciples went back to fishing instead of preaching after the Lord’s death and yet He comes to them as He would come to find us, His lost sheep. The net also did not tear unlike before His death, symbolising that His death will enable salvation for all 153 fish (the total amount of species known at that time representing all humans)

John 21:15-17 Do you love me?

He asks Peter Do you love me thrice to close the distance created when Peter denied Him thrice. Even when we do not know, He comes to us when we have left Him. He is like Google Maps and no matter how many wrong turns we make He will just say ‘Recalculating..’ and give us directions to our destination on the journey to salvation.

Psalms 23:4 Your rod and your staff are there, to hearten me.

Sheep will not move to eat grass even uf the gate is open to a grassy field, they need to be prodded to do so. Just as humans are seemingly blind towards the path to salvation, thus the Lord guides us like the Good Shepherd He is.

There were more verses in my collection but I was tired already/ I did not feel like I need to share those?

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

 

Advent: A Time of Preparation

img_20161205_180016Making way for Jesus in our hearts.

Blessed Christmas! I did a fast on selected social media accounts. Especially those that brought a lot of negativity into my life. For example, snapchat where a certain friend is constantly wallowing in self-pity, or my private Instagram account which follows people who constantly rant etc. It only dampened my mood, and I was of no help as I couldn’t seem to empathise and only secretly thought of these people as making big issues of trivial problems. Since so, instead of doing no one any good while sinking deeper into sin due to becoming negative myself and mocking others struggles, I acknowledge my shortcomings in this area and evacuated losing battle grounds.

The grand problem is that of ‘Unselfishness’. Note, once again, the admirable work of our Philological Arm in substituting the negative unselfishness for the Enemy’s positive Charity. Thanks to this you can, from the very outset, teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them.

Reminder that there should be a purpose behind fasting! Eg forgoing more negative platforms for more positive ones or using the time to help out around the house (which I didn’t do so much) or in prayer.

p.s. I’m quite amused by the fact that I broke my snapchat streaks to build a prayer streak with Him.

Ppppppp

 

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis Reflection

Horrendously disconcerting but genius and humbling. Good book for examination of conscience. Possible ways to fall into wrong, including during pursuit of righteousness are listed in avid detail for us to know thine enemy as we know thineself. Everyone will relate to different parts of the book more, depending on which act one is more prone to. It can be quite draining to read as well. Personally, I was close to tears at certain parts of this book.

*this is a reflection of takeaways from the book, meaning I won’t be quoting descriptions that were relatable to me personally or those that were good straightforward reminders because you can read it yourself, rather the more thought provoking ones and how I interpret it. Those that are too many sentences have also been omitted. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments!

“Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humor and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed. “

Certain sins are very hard to avoid by simply telling yourself to do the opposite. It is like trying to forget an incident by telling yourself “Do not remember that time when..”. Therefore, a more plausible solution would be to admit the mistake and leave the matter.

“Give without fail in your next letter a full account of the patient’s reactions to the war, so that we can consider whether you are likely to do more good by making him an extreme patriot or ardent pacifist”

Supporting a good cause with wrong intentions or reasons is no better than not doing anything. As in the story where the tempter wants the ‘patient’ to develop towards the ulterior motives under the pretext of these causes. HOWEVER, these reasons may be an easier way to lead oneself into wonderful things. (eg friends in church that make one want to go to church which eventually leads one to Christ)

“By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. “

Dishonesty to oneself is dishonesty no less. Furthermore, Genesis 1:31 God saw all he had made and it was very good. Why would His virtue ask of us to doubt His work?

“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it if he would be if it had been done by another.”

And this, is the antidote to envy and the means by which to be generous with affirmation.

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity”

The present is the only point in time where acting is possible. And acting out our faith makes us closer to God whuch is eternity. Let us not be controlled by planning for the future, eg scrimping and being a Scrooge to have wealth in the future nor dwell on the past where there’s nothing to be done anymore, but to use the past as lessons for the present and only refer to the future enough to do what we ought now.

White Cloud Falls, Kubah National Park, 17 Dec 2016

 

Once a term luxury to be home where mountains are in abundance. Most relaxed hike ever. Gentle crunch of the trail, exhilarating rush of current, fascinating ways rocks stack — simple joys in nature 🙂 not forgetting quality time spent with fambam, or the shaky feeling and subsequent very slow pace at less stable trails or my screaming at every suspicious living thing! Of course all the photos turning out exceptionally good added to the satisfaction of this trip. Instagram story camera takes good quality photos.

Favourite Bible quotes will be out on (probably 31 Dec) because I want it to be a 2016 compilation. Meanwhile, drafting Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis Reflection. Quite new to this so I don’t really know how regularly I can keep this up yet!