Monday, January 28, 2013

Not 50-50

Having grown up in church and attended numerous weddings, I've heard countless sermons on marriage and the marriage relationship. Most of them are based on the Ephesians 5 passage which says both "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" as well as "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." This submission thing doesn't sit well with some women!

I've heard a lot of good explanations about it but the one I read this morning has to be one of the best. I very much liked what the author, Dave, had to say: submitting to the husband doesn't mean the husband is boss. God is boss. Submission has nothing to do with someone being in an inferior position or less worthy of respect. Instead, it means "voluntarily yielding to another in love". As for the husband, loving his wife "just as Christ loved the church" means "taking the initiative in sacrificial, loving, servant-leadership to protect and to provide". NOT lording it over her and roaring, "What I say goes!"

Dave used the imagery of a dance to bring this point home. In a dance, the man leads and the woman follows. This doesn't mean the woman is weaker, or not able to think for herself. It also doesn't mean the man is superior, or knows better. They simply have different, but complementary roles, and mutually help each other to move to the rhythm of the music, sharing a common goal.

But this is what really made a light bulb go off in my head:

    In His covenant with us, God says: “I will be your God and you will be my people. I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Marriage is also a covenant when we say to our spouse: “I will be your husband and you will be my wife. I will never leave you nor forsake you. All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you.” It is something exclusive between a man and a woman and permanent for life. It is not a contract. In a contract, we say: “This is my part of the deal, I will do this and you will do that and if you do not do your part, the deal is off.” A contract is basically an agreement between two people for the purpose of protecting their rights and limiting their responsibilities. A covenant is an unconditional laying down of our rights, giving up our own agendas for the good of the other, for the happiness of the family before God.
    (emphasis mine)

My mother once told me that the best marriage advice she ever received was that marriage is not 50-50. You cannot think, "I'll put in 50% and he'll put in the other 50%." No, it's 100% all the way. After reading what Dave wrote, I have a clearer picture of what she meant. Because, if you think the 50-50 way, you'll get upset when you think he hasn't done his 50%. It's natural for a wife to think, "He doesn't do this, why should I do that?" But it's not a deal, as Dave says. Not a contract. It's a covenant to give all of yourself to another.

I do urge you to go to Dave's blog and read the whole thing, because there's some other great stuff there, particularly when he explains what it means to be united and becoming "one flesh". His example of Starcraft II made me laugh out loud!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Be who you are

It's crucial to know who you are.

Over the past few years I've been thinking a lot about being vs. doing. In our Asian culture, we're very geared towards doing. Appearances -- "face" -- is important. Image is important, reputation is important. When it matters so much what people think, doing becomes the be-all and end-all. You have to be seen to do what is acceptable and praiseworthy... it's not about doing it because you are that kind of person, it's about doing it because you should do it or are expected to do it. Duty. Obligation. Responsibility. And lots of pressure.

We forget that doing ought to flow from being. If you are a generous person, you don't have to remind yourself to act in a generous manner; it comes naturally. And if you are not a generous person, but force yourself to be generous for whatever reason, you tend to resent it, to feel put upon, to struggle to give and let go.

Don't get me wrong, of course we need to cultivate good habits and there will be times when we have to make ourselves do things we do not want to do. There's still such a thing as doing what is right, and being human, we aren't always inclined to choose that particular path. So yes, I'm not saying that if you're not a generous person, it's a good excuse to hoard and keep all the goodies to yourself. But I'm saying, perhaps one should work on becoming a generous person, rather than work at cultivating the appearance of generosity.

But it's not just about what kind of person you are, it's also about who you were made to be -- your innate gifts and talents, your natural inclinations, your passion. When you listen to people advising teenagers about career choices, what do you hear? "Be a lawyer, you can make a lot of money." ... "Try medicine lah, you'll never be out of a job because there'll always be sick people." ... "Teacher also not bad, you get a lot of holidays."

See, "success" -- defined in this context as being financially stable and respected and enjoying a comfortable, if not luxurious lifestyle -- is something we think we should have, and we allow it to drive our decisions. But we're not thinking of who we are, who we were made to be. What happens? We end up in jobs we don't like, striving and striving, pushing ourselves, going through the daily grind and the rat race, climbing up the ladder, feeling exhausted and never quite satisfied. We feel we have to "get there", and however much we do it's never enough, however much we achieve it's never enough, however much we acquire it's never enough.

But if you know who you are, if you know what you were made to do, if your doing flows from being... your doing comes naturally, you are not striving, you feel you're in the place you are meant to be, doing what you're meant to be doing. There's joy, there's fulfilment, there's purpose. And peace. Above all, peace. Because you don't have to prove anything to anyone. Because it's not something you HAVE to do; it's something you WANT to do. You want it, not because you think you should or others say you should, but because it's part of you.

As a Christian, I think this is even more crucial because, if I truly believe that God has a plan for my life, I need to be who He has made me to be in order to fit into the destiny He has in mind for me. God's purposes for my life cannot be fully realised until I find my identity in Him and am doing what He made me to do, in the place where He's called me to be. That's because, if I'm uniquely crafted, I've been given specific talents and gifts, and I'll have an inclination towards certain fields or areas of interest; and if I fight these, or leave them to languish by the wayside in favour of more seemingly desirable achievements or skills, then how could I possibly be effective in the way He designed me to be?

So, identity is a big deal -- it's really important to me. To know who I am. To be true to myself. To be doing the things that God wants me to do. Not to simply go with the flow. Not to do what appears most logical or practical. Not to fall in with others' expectations of me or of what is acceptable and proper. Not to be seduced by the lure of "success" and money. Not to listen to those voices in my head that tell me I need to do more or be different in order to be significant and valued.

It's a struggle. Still a struggle, I would say, although less than before. But here's the point I've been trying to make: That core in you, the part that makes you uniquely you, was placed there by God. Why do we let other people, other things, tell us who we are supposed to be or who we should want to be? He made you. He knows you. His is the only voice you ought to be listening to. In Him, you will be most authentically yourself. And there's security there. Because, once you know who you are, you can never be shaken. Let people say what they want to say, and suggest what they want to suggest. You'll know you are doing what's right for you, and, deep within, a peace will settle over your heart. And I think God will look upon you and smile.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

All it takes is one click...

I was talking with a friend recently about keeping personal information safe from prying eyes online, and he said, "Not everyone is scared to have their information out there; I have friends who share everything about themselves."

The mere thought of it boggles my mind. I've always figured that those who are lax at guarding their personal info are either careless or ignorant of the dangers, but I suppose it could also be that they're simply comfortable being that way. I just can't understand that!

Even in the early days when I blogged under my real name, I used my first name and a poorly masked version of my last name. The whole idea was to make it more difficult for people to find me via a search engine like Google. Of course, if you were to discover the blog, and you already knew me IRL (in real life), it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to make the connection and figure out I was the writer. But if a stranger were to look for me by running a Google search of my name, my blog wouldn't show up in the list of results.

It wasn't that I was ashamed of what I was writing, merely that I thought it prudent to be cautious. When you have stuff floating out there on the Internet for any Tom, Dick or Harry to see, you don't know who's reading it, so it's wise to be careful. If someone stumbles over it that's one thing, but if a person were to dig around for stuff about you, that's another. Bear in mind that whoever is industrious enough to go looking for you is going to be a stranger and you have no idea where they sit on the scale of insanity (boringly normal, interestingly quirky, mildly eccentric, disturbingly strange, flat-out weird, scarily delusional, bat-shit insane). Yes, most people are fairly normal and well-balanced, but all it takes is for one bat-shit insane person to get hold of your personal information, and you're screwed!

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I prefer to think of myself as being *cough* security-conscious *cough*. Ever heard of the adage, "better safe than sorry"? Maybe it's because I studied law and then worked with the media, and so have heard enough stories to make my hair stand on end!

In this day of social media, I think it's even more important to protect your personal information, because it's become a thousand times easier to trace you or dig up your various online profiles. Ever since establishing this blog, I've had two distinct identities on the Net: one as Sunflower, which I also use on Twitter and online dating profiles, and one under my real name, which I use on Facebook and elsewhere. Basically, I use Sunflower whenever I don't want to reveal my real name. My friends know who Sunflower is, of course -- it's not exactly a secret -- but random people wouldn't know. And again, you wouldn't be able to find stuff posted under the Sunflower name when you google my real name. This way, I have some measure of control over who sees what and who knows what about me, and I like that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Adventures in being an aunt

At 5 weeks

Meet my brand-new nephew. Is that not the most adorable little face?

I've always thought babies are little miracles. When you come to think of it, each little one starts from a single cell that the naked eye cannot even see... how did that tiny being manage to form so perfectly with everything in the right place? Each time I look at a baby, I'm amazed all over again at what a marvel of engineering they are and am bowled over by the greatness of God. And wasn't He also so smart to make them so ridiculously CUTE?

Yesterday I babysat my little nephew for four hours while my bro and SIL went on a date. It was my first time caring for him solo with no back-up. He's only 12 weeks old, how hard can it be, right? He can't even turn over yet, let alone crawl, so he can't possibly get into mischief... it'll be a breeze, feed him, hold him, change his diaper, watch him fall asleep. Nothing to it!


Maybe I was just projecting, but the poor boy seemed unsettled by the new environment and absence of both parents. He rubbed his face in my T-shirt several times and started fussing, as if to say, "Hey, you smell different! You're not my mummy!" He was wet, so I changed his diaper, and then couldn't figure out how to fasten the new one. I was aghast. "Good grief, how hard can it be? This isn't rocket science!" I told myself, but in the end only managed to fasten one side. Defeated by a diaper! Never thought I'd see the day!

Of course, it didn't help matters that he was making protesting noises all through the process. "I'm sorry, I know this is so undignified, but it has to be done, okay? I'm getting you all nice and clean. Hang in there," I told him as I wiped him down, holding his legs up to get to his bum. As he continued to protest, and I fiddled with the diaper, I was like, "Shhh, shhh, almost there. Sorry, your aunt's not an expert, have patience with me, okay?"

I fed him and he fell asleep on me (finally! lol) and I was hoping he'd sleep for awhile, but in half-an-hour he woke again and was fussing, so I started singing to him, dredging up all the old Sunway School songs from memory. That seemed to calm him down :)  When I ran out of songs, I started quoting Scripture to him ROFL. It's amazing when you tell a baby that he's fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God knit him together in his mother's womb; it really brings things home the truth of the words and causes you to marvel at what God has done. Like, wow, how awesome is God and how precious is this little one!

From that we segued on into prayer (how could we not?) and then it was time for another feeding, and diaper change -- this time I managed to fasten both sides, woohoo! Progress! Today my arm muscles are aching from all the cuddling and carrying, but my heart is full ♥

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Looking back

Should have cross-posted this from Facebook earlier. Didn't think of it till now :p

2012 in review:

1 Jan: Starting new year in new apartment! A place of my own, finally!

2 Jun: Submitted Master's thesis! After more than 5 years! (started Dec 26, 2006) First goal of the year achieved.

29 Jun: Presented a paper at a conference! First time ever. Would not have dared to do so without the encouragement of my awesome thesis supervisor.

28 Jul: Completed Elijah House Basic School 1 & 2 (except for one last class on 4 Aug that I couldn't attend). Second goal of the year achieved.

4 Aug: Played keyboard with a worship music team for the first time in... only God knows how many years. Survived the experience thanks to huge support from everyone esp. lead guitarist and bassist, and very patient worship leader. Humbling experience :)

28 Aug: Submitted corrections to thesis :D


27 Oct: My li'l nephew is born -- I'm an aunt! ♥

16 Dec: Travelled abroad for the first time in 7 years! (Last passport stamp: 24 Jan 2005 in Bangkok; I told myself I was not allowed to travel as long as The Thesis remained unfinished.)

*      *      *      *      *      *

As you can see, it's been a year of milestones. I'm so, so thankful for all the blessings and all the wonderful people in my life. God has been very gracious to me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Which side's winning?

Going back-and-forth on a "should I, should I not?" dilemma...

I've always considered online dating a viable way to meet someone. It's just a point of contact. You're supposed to meet up face-to-face eventually (sooner rather than later) and take your communication off-line. Is it dangerous? My answer to that is, how is it any different from meeting a stranger in a pub or bar? Everything is potentially dangerous, including driving and walking down the street -- it's what you do to minimise the danger that counts.

So anyway... online dating has always seemed like a good idea because 1) I like the Internet, which is to say I use it a lot, even if I still don't have a smartphone and therefore don't have 24/7 Internet access wherever I go; 2) statistically, it would raise the chances of meeting that special someone, given that there's a wider pool of people to communicate with; 3) I'm a writer and communicating by text is, well, one of my favourite things to do, although sometimes I worry I write too much and make my readers go tl;dr ("too long, didn't read").

But after years of sporadically trying my luck online, I'm starting to doubt that this is the way to go. Aside from all else (like not getting any reply after sending out an email, or receiving creepy messages), the transition from online to off-line is often rough and things don't work out. Last year I had lunch with someone I was excited to meet and I thought the meeting went well, but he didn't seem interested in pursuing the connection after that. And I didn't understand it -- still don't -- because we talked for three hours and seemed to have a really good conversation, like it wasn't about surface stuff, you know? If you are not interested, why share with me personal details about yourself and your family?

I've been rather discouraged ever since that incident, and I've thought of giving up on Internet dating altogether, but then I think, what if? What if there's someone out there and I just haven't met him yet? What if the next person is the one with whom everything will sort of click into place? If I stop trying I'll never know.

On the other hand, what if this is not the avenue through which I'm meant to meet the guy, and I'm wasting my time and energy? And money... which brings me to the next thing.

Yesterday I received a notification from saying that someone had sent me an email through the site. If you're a free member, you can put up a profile and look at others' profiles, but you can't send or receive emails. Which means that unless I fork over some moolah, that email is going to languish in my in-box, unread, since I can't access it. This is the dilemma: To pay or not to pay?

My curiosity is driving me crazy; I want to know who sent the email, and what it says. My sensible, practical half is telling me: most likely nothing is going to come out of it, as always. My hopeful, idealistic self is whispering: you never know, maybe this could be it! My wallet is saying: are you sure you want to do this? Is it worth it? -- which, of course, is the million-dollar question. It all depends on the outcome, which is uncertain and unknowable.

If I become a paying member (which I was, briefly, for three months in 2010) it wouldn't mean just reading this one email, it would also mean I could contact others on the site and try my luck. But I just don't know. It hasn't worked for me before, what makes me think this time will be different?

Should I, or should I not? I don't believe in regrets; my personal stance has always been that it's better to give things a try than to look back and wonder and regret. On the other hand, sometimes I also think that I'm just clinging to forlorn hopes and am deluding myself that something will happen! Isn't the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Does not compute

I hate it when I'm illogical.

I was mulling over this idea for a story: It would open with the bad guy having captured the good guy somehow. But, to throw a wrench in the works, the bad guy is forbidden by the laws of their world/universe to physically touch the good guy, so he has to find creative ways to torture/maim/kill the good guy.

I thought, oh well, then he can just use knives and swords and stuff, can't he? Not that hard. What's so interesting about that?

Laying that aside, I thought again. If he can't lay hands on the dude, how did he capture the good guy in the first place?

Easy, I told myself, he sent his minions.

Well, if it's that easy, why didn't he just send an assassin after the fellow? Why does he need to find creative ways to do away with him?

I was stumped. And annoyed at myself for coming up with such an illogical plot.

As I was writing this blog post, though, I realised that I could have it such that the good guy has some kind of power that only the bad guy can extinguish. Erm... but I still don't have an answer for what's so interesting about using knives and swords to off the bloke. If I extend the limitation and make it so the bad guy can't harm the good guy in any way, whether by physically touching him or other means, then his minions would also be ineffective, because they're extensions of him and doing his bidding, so how did he trap the dude in the first place?

Grrr, this is so ridiculously annoying. And to think I was all set to start writing out the first scene!