Secret Santa

When you give out of love instead of an obligation, a budget doesn’t seem to work very well. Was given a budget of $30 for tonight’s gift exchange. Planned weeks ago on what I would give to my first ever close friend – pretty much within the budget.

Wanted to gift her with a new experience that she would probably enjoy. But days after I made the decision, she decided to help whoever-it-is by adding in a wishlist, that was totally different from what I would want to give. Decided to go ahead with a surprise gift anyway, and designed a personal invitation/voucher this morning. Which, I think is quite a miracle considering my lack of artistic talent and reluctance to do this if given a choice. But on a second thought, just a moment ago, didn’t want her to go home tonight without a gift when everyone else has something in their hands, so I got her something else. 

While grabbing the gift, I knew I’m exceeding my budget by 100%. Yet, it didn’t take me too long to decide to get it anyway. 

She’s definitely worth more than $30. And I’m just thankful to have another chance at giving to her – I was her secret santa 2 years ago too lol I laughed when I saw her name again this time.

During lunch with the LG today, we talked about giving angpaos at weddings. Someone had asked if they would give an amount to cover the cost. Another person said he wouldn’t, because he gives everyone the same amount. For me, my principle is to give with a sincere heart.

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Secret Santa

Nothing

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

When was the last time I’ve gone the extra mile to love people?

Nothing

Faith

A friend asked about the purpose of baptism in a group chat just the other day. To my surprise, these Christian guys whom I last remembered as playful boys gave convincing replies. I was bought over by what they presented as well. Apparently, they had thought long and hard over it.

That made me question my faith. Where am I on this journey? I don’t think I’m anywhere close to talking about it in such a manner. How well do I actually know my Bible? Not much, really.

Thankful that I have Christian friends outside my own church though. They help me to see beyond the bubble called “my church” and spurs me on, each in their own ways.

On another note, I need to learn to present truths to others with gentleness and not so in their face. I do love, but let love be communicated outwards the way it exists within.

Faith

Love again

Was reminded of how Jesus loves me during service today. Unreservedly. He knew that I may never acknowledge Him, yet He chose to die for me.

This has been a lesson for me since last year. To love, to love, to love – that’s what God has been teaching me through the example that Christ led. Along the way, I probably thought that okay, learnt this, and I forgot to look at it again when circumstance turned around recently. Been trying to not get so invested again, lest I go through another bout of pain. In fact, I kept the pain as a reminder to be on guard. Funny thing was, when the reminder came, it wasn’t even during the sermon but just part of the service chair’s speech.

And this line from JPCC’s None Like You resonated with me as well: For God You are my strong foundation. Something clicked as we sang that line. I suddenly recalled what one of the speakers shared during a finance talk held in church. He shared that he saved up a million dollars in CPF, and because it’s secured (and reaping him high interest rates), he can invest the rest of his money with greater confidence. Even if he should lose his investment, he knows that he has the amount in his CPF to tide him through retirement. In a weird way (weird is an understatement I know), what CPF provides for him is like the strong foundation that we have in God – if we do it right by having God as our anchor.

Love boldly, invest all you can in people. That’s what I got out of it. Interestingly, I’ve always looked upon the time I spend with people as an investment in their lives since I was 12. Not so much the part of getting back something from them, but the part of giving unto their lives. The fruits, I guess, will be refreshment from the time spent with them.

It also somewhat answers a question I had amidst the struggle I had a few months back – how am I to love people while bearing in mind that they will fail me and only God is faithful. If they should fail you, so be it. Deal with the pain, but know that you’ve not lost everything you have, because your strong foundation is in God. Love again.

Tough lesson to swallow, to be honest.

Love again

Touch(ed)

This has been on my mind since Friday, partly because I told myself I got to write it down.

Previously, I talked about a colleague who added a human touch to this organisation. It’s not just the “secret-telling”, but… I can’t really put it in words how she makes us feel. Reb was with us for 10 days, she said it on her own accord as well that this colleague is special in the way that she relates and makes you feel comfortable. There’s just something in her.

When we had our skating lesson, I thought the way she watched out for us had to do with her part-time occupation as the kids’ skating coach. Yesterday, though, was my first time relating with her in the office ever since I injured my ankle last Wednesday and then went for a 1-week MC (or rather work from home), and the experience helped me know this person a little more.

After lunch,

O:
How have you been getting to work?
Me: Oh J have been sending me to work.

And because J just flew off for the weekend after dropping me off at the office on Friday morning, she asked,

O: Then how are you coming to work on Mon?
Me:
Good question, I haven’t thought so far ahead.

I mean, I’ve been having to think ahead about how I’m going to get around each and every place for the day, how I’m going to get food with crutches in my hands, etc. and it’s too much to think about if I have to plan several days in advance.

O: Do you want to cab on Mon? We can share a cab! I come over and find you at your house?

感动有没有! J also made me feel that way with the daily picking up and sending home. And ya, this colleague made me feel quite touched as well. The thing is, we are not close; somewhat far from close too (just wanted to use this oxymoron). Yet, she’s willing to spend, to make that effort for me.

I didn’t react too strongly to that, or rather I just didn’t express that 感动 la haha but yeah, it’s something that left somewhat a deep impression. Something that keeps me thinking about it.

It’s a… hmm genuine care and gentleness? It’s nothing that she has to show, but it felt like something from within. It’s… her. And when that reaches out to you, it does something to your heart as well.

I can’t really express this well, but mm, what a special and wonderful creation of God. I hope you come to know God. The tender loving care that He has given you would draw people into His love.

Touch(ed)

Late night thoughts

Went back to look at some photos from a year ago. Missing some people. And also realised that I’ve changed – for the worse maybe haha ohno. Definitely more of a loner these days, regretably. 

‘Regretably’ not because I feel lonely. In fact I’ve gotten used to being alone. But I regret because lately, I realised I’ve forgotten how giving spurred (naturally) by love is like. And it seems like I’ve reverted back to being my INTJ, the awkward self in expressing itself.

Hmm.

Late night thoughts

Bye 2016, Hello 2017

While the new year “feel” is still here, I thought I should get down to writing down the gains and losses in 2016 and my hopes for 2017. Briefly reflected on my spiritual birthday about a month ago, but didn’t get the time to sit down and write them down properly.

2016 was a year of many changes. So many that it felt as though years went by when it’s only been 365 days. Just the other day when I took a look at my organiser, I was surprised/shocked/stunned to realise that many events took place only this year. I would say 2016 was marked by two significant changes – a friendship, and graduation/start of work life.

In fact, when I went back to look at when was the day I decided to be committed in building this friendship, I was surprised to see that it was just last October. So the friendship had only been 8 months and it’s gone. In thinking of what to write here, I just did a flip-through of my organiser from January to December 2016 and I saw how a name kept appearing in the first 6 months of the year, and it suddenly disappeared in the second half of the year. Disappeared, entirely.

The realisation was, painful. That’s one of those friends that I valued a lot. If not, I wouldn’t have persevered in resolving each of those conflicts we had. I remember, in one of those fights we had, both of us couldn’t believe how I stood undeterred despite having harsh words hurled at me. We both agreed that anyone would have left under that circumstance. I was surprised at how I was, and I remember saying that I couldn’t believe that I stayed to talk it out still. If the friendship did not matter, why would anyone in their right mind persist in situations like that?

Each of those times we fought and reconciled, that feeling was sweet. We fought because of differences, but I’ll never agree that differences should be a reason for quitting a friendship. Certainly tiring when conflicts happened, nonetheless sweet when reconciliation happened. But this time round, tried but there’s nothing I can do with a wall erected.

The other thing that marked 2016 was graduating for (possibly) the final time as a student, and becoming a working adult. Responsibilities are certainly different, and to some extent, burdensome. I remember feeling overwhelmed just by the thought of that before work even began.

And then came challenges to my values and principles as a Christian. I had to take a step back – many times – to re-look at my values and principles. There were times I doubted myself and wondered if I’m just a naive fresh graduate with an idealistic world in mind. In fact sometimes I still do. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been in this long enough – well, it’s only been 7 months – to draw a valid conclusion.

It is also because of these challenges that I asked myself what it is that I really want in my life. To put it another way, what would make me feel accomplished? My director talked to me about getting to a managerial position before turning 30. Well, sounds great and why not? I certainly don’t mind that but at the same time, I came to realise that that thought didn’t really excite me. I figured that what excites me is seeing people grow, seeing people learn. Since the day that I worked part-time as a life coach, I’ll always recall the growth I witnessed and the sparkles in the eyes of those youths I worked with. What makes me feel accomplished would be adding value to others’ lives.

Still dealing with these challenges. And honestly, it’s been a lonely ride. Brutal as it may be, but the fact is most friends can’t be bothered. Mainly because they have their own lives to deal with as well.

And to be really honest, there was a period of time I even doubted the genuineness of the love in the church. These are definitely nice, good and well-meaning people. But sometimes I felt that most of the friendships in church are restricted to the boundaries of a cell group. Once we transit into another cell group, these people are done with being part of your life and they are gone. Very few would even check back. This is very different from the friendships I find outside the walls of a church. While I can’t say these friendships outside are about unconditional love (in that you love someone despite their flaws, weakenesses and even sins), these friends are at least people who look forward to going a long way with you.

But thank God, that I can say that there’s ‘very few’ who would check back rather than ‘none’ in His church. These were the people who made it impossible for me to tell God that His community is not genuine. I figured that a church that loves genuinely and cares for one another regardless of whether you’re in the same cell group or not is an ideal. We are rather far from that. But there are people who live that out. So I stayed put because my accusations couldn’t stand valid in view of these people that God has placed in my life.

I still wasn’t fully convinced until the day at Amanda’s birthday party. When I looked around and saw that those friends from church were the ones serving food and helping out with decorations and stuff, I saw that they were like family to her. It’s like as though they took Amanda’s matters like their own. These were not people from her cell group, so I guess, no obligations? haha But yes, that answered the challenge that I posed to God. Thank You God :)

Guess my conclusion is that while the church is not where God wants us to be, those of us who believe in that vision should continue striving to love others in that way. In the midst of struggling with that, I did find people who felt as torn by that as I did and it’s an encouragement for me to know that there are people who minded that.

So, those were the two major changes in 2016. Pretty tough I would say. But. As I wrote down in point form the things that took place and what I learned, I saw God in every part of the journey. How He allowed me to run away from Him because I hated where my thoughts would wander to whenever I stayed silent, how He pursued me by giving visions to a stranger and an acquaintance regarding me, how I had no one I could turn to but He’s always always there for me. Always. I experienced and learned what it means to call Him my Refuge, my Comforter, my Rock, my Anchor. My God is faithful.

Spent some time with God before this. One of the songs I sang to Him was Potter’s Hand, and I told Him honestly, I feel scared whenever I say to Him, “Mould me.” Because it seems like He always take that seriously. And it’s, more often than not, painful. I asked Him if moulding could ever be enjoyable – I have no idea man. So yes, singing that song to Him on Day 1 of 2017 was rather… nerve-wrecking. 2016 was already tough – yes to the extent that I actually felt maybe death isn’t that bad afterall because at least I’ll be done with the pains on this earth – so I can’t imagine a 2017 that’s as tough or tougher because I already am feeling tired. But at the same time, I trust my God, my Potter, the One who turns ashes to beauty, who picks my broken pieces and turn these into a beautiful art piece.

And going ahead, instead of setting a yearly resolution, I decided to set up checkpoint number 1 in March, for these 3 things:

  • Establish a daily rhythm where time is set aside for God.
  • In establishing that rhythm, have 2 days a week in which I exercise.
  • With regards to that friendship, to let go and let God. I don’t know what this entails, honestly, but I asked that God lead me in that.

Beautiful Lord, wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are
Held in Your hands
Crafted into Your perfect plan
You gently called me into Your Presence
Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord,
To live all of my life through Your eyes

I’m captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know You’re drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord, I pray

Take me, mould me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand

Bye 2016, Hello 2017