The Good Old Days

When life is hard and you’re down in the pit, how do you cope? When all you have is taken from you, when you are not in the best of health, when ‘friends’ mock you, when you wish you were not born or hope for death sooner, what do you do?

I’ve been reading Job the past week. His first response when he lost everything was praise (Job 1:21) He went through a week of silence (2:13), then he had lots of conversations with his friends. Before that he had a short conversation with his wife: You’re foolish. Should we only accept the good from God and not the bad? (2:10)

He also had lots of one-sided conversations with God. God did not reply him until chapter 38. It must be difficult to hear nothing from God and all condemnation/justification from his friends on why he’s suffering.

Job coped with having lots of self-reflections as well. He spoke out his thoughts to his friends even though they were not good counsellors at all. He told them: you’re all sorry comforters. What a comfort you are to me. (16:1-2, 19:1-2)

Today I read chapter 29. Job thought of his better days. He recalled the good old days when God blessed him with good things, when friends and family were with him. He remembered the good things he did, how he helped people. He reminisced how he was treated by people all around him – how their favours were upon him.

I believe this is one good way to cope when one is in the valley of the shadow of death. When I was deeply in despair, when all seemed dark and grey, it helped me cope to remember the past when God saw me through. It helped me to focus on God’s faithfulness – that He always comes through for me. It is good to look back and remember.

Dear friend, when the way is dark and the tunnel seems long and unending, when you cannot see what is ahead, it is good to look back – to remember there is a Light behind you. Jesus said I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). It does not mean that we will not experience hard times, but it is an assurance that we will find our way when we get lost. Jesus shows us the way to go through dark times.

 

Advertisements

Aging with Grace

We often say ‘Life is short.’ when someone dies unexpectedly, especially when he/she is too young or not old enough to pass on.

On the other hand, for many elderlies, the days drag on, and time passes so slowly. 
A Chinese saying comes to mind: 求生不得,求死不能. I ask for life but I cannot have. I ask for death but it is not possible.

Such is our mortal body. A long life filled with physical infirmities is such a weary life. An old soul without a mate or friends to talk to is such a lonely life. A helpless and useless life without a sense of purpose is such a meaningless life. A person, young or old, without Christ is a lost soul without hope of experiencing peace and joy even in the best of circumstances.

I pray that when I get old, I will remember to rejoice in the Lord always. May the joy of the Lord be my strength. I hope to be a cheerful person so that I will be a friend to the lonely. Let me be a prayer warrior so that life is still purposeful and meaningful.

My mother is my example. Even when frail, she went about doing the tasks of a wife, mother and homemaker. She bonded with friends; and shared the good news of Jesus whenever possible. She prayed with friends over the phone. She prayed for her children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. She also often prayed for my mother-in-law and my sister’s too.

17-best-images-about-grace-quotes-on-pinterest-god-grace-o-93684.jpg

Please Lord, help me remember that even when I am old, you are my Hope, my Peace and my Joy. In You, I will be strong living life with a sense of purpose – to be light and salt to the people around me.

Written April 17, 2015

I wrote this piece less than a year after my father-in-law passed away. These thoughts came when I saw how my mom-in-law lived with dementia and how our family struggled with this challenge. It’s been 4 years since she was widowed. Today at 94, by God’s grace and mercy, she is weak but healthy. She has a good appetite. She is often sleepy. Although she’s not chatty, she still responds when talked to. We are thankful for these blessings.

I wonder though how I would feel and think should I get to live to her age. Not exactly something I look forward to. 😀 I hope Jesus returns soon.

 

 

A Mom’s Musings on Graduation Day

Yesterday was the graduation day of my daughter, Abigail.

What a day… finally… 22 years from a preschooler to kinder grad to post grad… a long journey looking back and a gratefully hopeful one looking forward… all by God’s grace and mercy.

abi

I would not have thought that the little girl who watched E.R. with me in quiet attentive fascination would someday be a doctor. When she was young, she was hospitalized 3x – not because she was sickly but because of her stubborn refusal to take meds. It often took her mom, dad and granny to hold her hands, feet and head down to give her meds.

In her first year at preschool, we had to take the photo for her school ID in a studio because she did not want to take it at school. During a sports fest in kinder school, I was surprisingly and sadly disappointed to see her seated by herself on the bench. When asked, the teacher replied my inquiry that it was because she did not want to participate.
It would seem that my 2nd child had characteristics of the so-called 2nd child syndrome… the hard-to-handle-difficult one… one that challenged this phlegmatic mom to get out of her comfort zone to do something more than it was in her nature to do. Yet what a transformation for both of us by God’s grace and mercy!

Out of her seemingly stubbornness stems a determination to persist and hold on to her dreams. I remember one time I dropped something behind our bed and could not retrieve it. Abi got a cloth hanger and did not stop until she got me what I dropped. When her siobe (Hokkien for younger sis) Mimi asked: Dichi (2nd elder sis), what’s your backup plan if you do not become a doctor? She said: No backup plan. Only one plan – to be a doctor.

More important than sheer determined persistence and perseverance is her heart to help and heal. When she was still young in early grade school, she saw me crying on our bed in the dark – in the corner of the room. She did not say or ask me anything. She just went to get me a tissue and sat by my side. She is the favorite caring granddaughter of her grandparents (all 4 of them). They all knew how she loved them with her kindness, patience and love in word and deed.

She did not graduate with honors – no medal, no special awards. Did she have any failing marks? Sure, she had. Was she sometimes lazy? Yes, she was. Did she ever rather sleep than do her homework? Many times. In the last year that she had her clerkship, she’d rather sleep than eat. A med student friend wisely told her – when you’re a clerk, you need to choose only 1: whether to sleep, eat or shower. Was she ever sick? Yes, she was. She was so sick – she had pneumonia and still had to report for duty in the hospital. Why? Because she had to make up for the lost hours if she were to be absent. For 9 days of absences, she had to make up for more than 100 hours in holiday and Sunday duty – missing much family time, worship at church and all other things we take for granted.

So what’s the point these seemingly weaknesses and failures? Again, it is all by God’s grace and mercy that graduation day becomes a reality.

On the other hand, God helps those who help themselves. We all need to do our part – Abi needs to do her best to persevere, to run the long haul. Here in the Philippines, the academic journey to become a doctor is at least 12 long years – 4 years of pre-med/undergrad college course, 6 years of medicine course (including 2 years of clerkship and internship), preparing for the board exams and at least 3 years of residency. During times when she did not do well, she had to comfort and encourage herself. She moved on – she did not linger in the failures. She studied and went on to the next tasks. She did not let the blames and dirty works of clerkship put her down. Medical education is not about pure grades; it’s the mindset to learn and keep learning. It’s the positive attitude to make a difference to the sick. There are no quantifiable marks for these internal abstract factors of a med student.

Looking back, I can only attest to the transforming power of God’s grace and mercy, the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit – that my little girl is who she is today… Dr. Abigail Lim Go… the journey has just begun. The road is still long.. another year of post-grad internship, then the board exams before residency in the specialization of her choice.

My dear Abi,
May God use you for his glory to fulfil his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Remember to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Let His love motivate and help you to love others as yourself till Jesus returns. Amen.

2013-0922-kg02-the-people-who-know-their-god-jeremiah-9-2324-abridged-2-638.jpg

May God’s loving kindness, justice and righteousness follow you all the days of your life – to make you a loving, kind, good and righteous doctor – healing those who are sick, body, mind and soul!

graduation5

Abiding in the Shadows

6cfe0891c7a8d55cfe690170518461fd

In the shadow of your wing, I will praise you, O Lord. This is the song my theology professor often led us to pray before we start each class.

What is a shadow? A shadow is the dark shape of the object formed by the same object when it blocks the light. As there is light on one side of it, it has its shadow on the other side.

As I look back in time through my life, I want to thank my Shepherd, for leading me through the shadows of life: my sins He forgives, my tears He dries, my wounds (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) He heals. In my failures, He teaches me lessons, lessons that I could not and would not have learned in plain sunshine.

Growth is a process. In life, it is the struggle that makes a beautiful butterfly. The cocoon is formed by a plain caterpillar. What is it like to be in the dark cocoon? How does it feel to squeeze and wrestle out of the dark cocoon? How often I wish if only God would free me from this bad and sad situation, or change this difficult person(s) so life would be easier. Instead, it is me that He is changing. God wants me to dwell (to stay, to linger) in His Shelter. He taught me and is still teaching me that it is possible to rest (stop struggling) in the shadow because as He is my light, and I am in His shadow.

In life’s there is and will always be light and shadows. Thank u, Lord for your light to guide me in the shadow. Help me Lord to abide in your shadow. And in the shadow of your wing, I will praise you, O Lord.

The Good in Suffering

Why me? Why is life so hard? Why do I have to suffer? What good is there to suffer? God must be punishing me. These are some valid and logical questions to ask when one is facing difficult situations in life.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm. It is a psalm about the value of God’s word, his laws and his promises. Who wrote this psalm? It is unknown but most scholars agree that it is David, Ezra or Daniel. Why? Each of the 3 suffered much in life. Many verses in the psalm describe plots, slanders and taunts against him (23, 42, 51, 150 ), persecutions and afflictions he faced. (verses 61, 86, 95, 110, 121, 134, 157, 161; 67, 71, 143, 153) https://www.gotquestions.org/Psalm-119.html

From vv. 1-88, 4 verses mention suffering/affliction (患 難,受苦). These verses teach us the right perspectives of a person who faces difficulties in life.
What good is there in suffering?
1) Comfort of God v. 50
You comfort me in my suffering,
because your promise gives me new life.
這 話 將 我 救 活 了 ; 我 在 患 難 中 , 因 此 得 安 慰 。

It is in my cancer that i experienced God’s embrace the most. It is when my parents were dying that God’s promises sustain me. Job sought God’s comfort in his sufferings. David found refuge in God when enemies sought his life.

0bba898d613d363e5e39b05cca49dd54

2) Knowledge of God v. 67,71,75. I have witnessed many times how people turn to God when they are in the pit. My brother-in-law read the Bible everyday when he had cancer. He came to know God as he went through the valley of the shadow of death.

Arthur Pink in his piece The Afflictions of the Godly describes 3 kinds of heart in these 3 verses in Psalm 119. https://www.gracegems.org/Pink/afflictions_of_the_godly.htm

2.1. An honest heart v. 67
Before I suffered, I did many wrong things.
But now I carefully obey everything you say.
我 未 受 苦 以 先 走 迷 了 路 , 現 在 卻 遵 守 你 的 話.

This verse is a confession of an honest repentant sinner. Sufferings brought sinners to turn from their waywardness to obedience to God.

2.2. A grateful heart v.71
Suffering was good for me; I learned your laws.
我 受 苦 是 與 我 有 益 , 為 要 使 我 學 習 你 的 律 例 。v. 71

How do I see suffering? Only a thankful heart sees it is good for me to suffer. A grateful person realises God’s laws are good. I learn so many lessons in life when I was in the deepest pit and the darkest valley. I experience God’s peace beyond human understanding in my radiation treatments. I experience God’s timely provisions when I was bed-ridden and nothing else to do but pray. I would not exchange these lessons for an easier path.

2.3. A discerning heart v.75
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. (NASB)
耶 和 華 啊 , 我 知 道 你 的 判 語 是 公 義 的 ; 你 使 我 受 苦 是 以 誠 實 待 我 。v.75

An honest heart knows oneself. He knows his sinful ways. A discerning heart knows God. He knows God’s ways are righteous and just. A wise heart admits that God is right when he punishes with affliction. While it is true that not all sufferings are God’s punishments for disobedience, it is real that sins have their consequences. God disciplines us when we do wrong.

So what good is there in suffering? I get to experience God’s comfort. I get to know myself and I get to know God more.

52058-Ram-Dass-Quote-Suffering-is-part-of-our-training-program-for.jpg

Post Birthday Musings on life… given or taken…

Yesterday as I sat in our living room, looking around the walls of my home, I thought and prayed: Let me remember this day in this moment of peace, security, contentment and joy. Let me not forget that all that I have are by the grace and mercy of God. Let me remember always the God of grace and mercy who has taken care of me through 56 years of life.

On the first day of my life, God saved my mother from bleeding to death. What a different life I would have if I were to be an orphan on my birthday.

On the first year of our marriage, on the 5th month of my pregnancy, I lost our baby boy – Gabriel – our little angel. When the medical staff came to our room to ask what to do with the body telling us they named him (If I remember right, it was Jose) hubby and I didn’t even know what to do nor did we think to bring him home to bury. The thought and feeling of what would have been, could have been, should have been … I do not know how to put a word to it. For years, I looked at other parents with boys with envy and longing. I went through years of prodding and hints, subtle or not, pressure from my mom-in-law to bear a son – so that her son would be taken care of – like she would be in his old age. If Gabriel were with us today… he’d be 30 years old… there would be no Hannah, no Abi and no Mimi. I cannot imagine nor do i want to ponder on how life would be without my three girls!

On the day that I learned that i had cancer, I thought and prayed, Lord, if you still have anything else for me to do on earth, you will see me through. If not, I am at peace with it. Today, it’s been almost 9 years since I had lumpectomy, since 34 sessions of radiotherapy, 7 years of cancer med maintenance and more than 10 years of annual mammography and ultrasound. Each negative result is God’s grace and mercy, His gift of life to me.

451413853ba2274d57ffeb1b914b8960.jpg

Today, my prayer is Teach me Lord, to number my days so that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) Let me live wisely to make use of each opportunity – each moment of each day to live out your purpose for me. Let me “Be very careful, then, how to live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Help me not to be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph 5:15-17). So help me God. Amen.

e7ffa60dffaf040c35bae4e96e1224c4.jpg

Musings on the 32nd…

There are at most 31 days in a month. In the Filipino-Chinese community, we used to say when one reaches 31 years old that he/she’s getting off the calendar. It seems to be a transition period from youth into adulthood. The next number would be the max limit of the thermometer – 40! Hi fever to reach 40, isn’t it?  But life is said to begin at 40.  What about marriage? What’s the magic number for the promise to love, to cherish and to hold  – in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, till death do us part?

On FB, there are often professions and confessions of love and devotion, through thick and thin, cheesy and warm declarations and greetings of anniversary celebrations filled with smiles, seemingly all things bright and beautiful. Indeed wedding anniversaries are a milestone to be happily and thankfully celebrated. Yet behind each marital journey, there are always tears and heartaches along the way. Life is not a bed of roses. Even as there are roses, roses have thorns. It would be unreal to just see all sunshine without the rain. Even when the rain does not fall, black clouds loom in the horizon that threaten to dampen the way.

Hubby and I are entering our 32nd year of the journey called holy matrimony. Looking back the 31 years of being together, there was certainly much sunshine as there were storms. There were tears as there was laughter. Going through the marital path is about seeing both sides of the coin not just fuzzy idealistic lenses but also with a bare and clear realistic perspective: that man does not love perfectly. We are flawed no matter how much we love. And no matter how much we strive to be the ideal partner, we often fail. Honeymoon does not end after the first few months or even the first year or in spite of the kids’ arrival.

Is there a formula to a joyfully strong and ideal marriage? Hubby being good at Math, came up with a simple equation for our special dates. My birthday is the sum of his birthday and our anniversary. We are both born on the same year in the same month – only 17 days apart. Today is our anniversary. Basic algebra will give you the answer to our birthdays. It so happened that in the year we got married, 17 was a Sunday. But our love story is more than just numbers on the calendar.

Long story short, there is a simple formula that seems simple and yet profound. It does not take two to tango. Ours is a love triangle. Perhaps I could borrow some geometry to describe our marriage. It’s like a pyramid with God as the base and God as the peak. It’s God that holds us together by His grace and mercy. If there is one thing that is more important or just as important as our love for each other, it is our common faith – we both have Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We both receive God’s gift of salvation and eternal life to be lived on earth as it is in heaven.

Let me give practical illustrations on having a dual lens of the marital adventure. It’s like some paradoxical mystery with God as the puzzle mastermind.

Two but One

First, it is a fact that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. A man and a woman are different even as God created Eve from Adam. They are called to be one flesh from two bodies. And so my first dual lens is that we need to affirm our individuality yet find our way to be one. It is more than just about me eating ice cream and hubby having hot soup together. It is also not about him trying to fix things and find solutions each time I tell him a problem. It does not have to end with him feeling helplessly frustrated at finding  a solution. Why? Because more than a fix, I just need a listening ear or bluntly a sounding board. So how do we traverse this paradoxical issue? We need to accept one another. It is easier said than done. It takes lots of practice on self-awareness and other-thoughtfulness. And this leads me to the next paradoxical secret.

godly_marriage_two_shall_become_one_flesh.jpg

Head and Heart

There are many truths about love and marriage that we know in our head. We can get so theoretical, rational and logical – we reason and argue with this and that – how right we are or how wronged we are. The head needs to be balanced with the heart. Sometimes the distance between the head and the heart can either be very short and near or long and far or even boundlessly unreachable! So how then do we deal with head and heart thing? We need to read God’s Word and practice what we read from it. James speaks of looking at the mirror and not doing anything about what you see in the mirror. Reading the Bible is like looking at the mirror to see that your hair is not in order. Not practicing what you read is like going out of the house without combing your hair. Love is not a thing of the heart. It is more than just warm fuzzy happy feeling that you have – when your spouse is so lovable and thoughtful and doing all the things right and serving you in the way that you expect him/her to do.

8e7caf05ff503665bc898eca7b73bbe1--strong-marriage-biblical-marriage

Love is being kind and serving hubby food even when I do not feel like it – even I think that he does not deserve it… even when I feel like letting him starve or even when I wanted to storm out of the house and not appear again for a day or two to let him taste what it would be like to go a day without me! Love is a decision in the head – a choice to make to do what the Bible teaches me to do. It is thinking of myself less and more of what God wants more. The Bible teaches me to submit to my husband. It is not about being a slave – oppressed and depressed either. It is about making a choice to be humble and patient. Again it is easier said than done. Where is the line between humility and inferiority complex? How do I get past these obstacles of hurt, pain, wrath, frustration and disappointment?

Forgive and not Forget

What to do then? I practice to let the sun go down and not holding on to the wrong, the hurt, the pain etc. How am I doing with this lesson? Perhaps just a little higher than the passing mark or sometimes even way below the borderline. It is hard to let go of the pain. It is not easy to hold my tongue and not justify myself or defend myself. If I hold my tongue, I need to let the tears fall. It’s my way of coping. But again practice makes perfect even if perfection seems to take practicing forever. And it’s not about forgetting either. It is perhaps about remembering less and less the wrong. Love does not keep a record of wrong. How to remember less the wrong? How about remembering more the good? I need to remember the good words that hubby said, the good traits that he has, the good deeds that he does.

forgive and love

And before this piece gets too long, I need to stop and practice some more. 1, 4, 17, 21, 31 or 32 or more… these are just numbers. Many things in marriage cannot be counted – they are abstract and difficult to appraise. Yet these priceless stuffs are what count.

As husband and wife, we need lots of practice – to be different yet united, (through acceptance), to be rational and yet emotional too (in our loving), to let go and to hold on (in our forgiving/appreciating). Let God be the base and the peak.

prayer.jpg

As man and wife, pray this prayer together… Together, we can do it – you, me and God!