After yet another negative pregnancy test, my faith faltered.

Ever since Cliff started work in Canada in June, I had prayed that he would have the chance to serve in his role for a reasonable length of time.

Yet, I knew it was impossible. After all, I was due to fulfill my obligatory work commitments in April next year, back in Singapore.

After receiving a prophecy in January that I would be expecting again “very soon,” I started to lose hope.

Months passed. Every time I thought I was, the test would be negative. I became resentful, wishing that hope was never seeded in me in the first place.

Shortly after we began the tumultuous transition from USA to Canada, where we moved again and again from one basement home to another, I started to feel unwell from all the transitions.

Hopeful but too afraid to be disappointed, I didn’t dare test again till I was certain. Weeks passed.

When I was sure, by my own medical knowledge, that the test would be definitive and not “too early,” I finally tested, only to be devastated to see a negative test, yet again.

As I sat down in tears, I felt ridiculous. It wasn’t a miscarriage, it wasn’t like I wasn’t already a mother.

Yet, the sense of hope deferred from a promise that had lifted my expectations was heartwrenching. As my little 18-month old saw Mama’s grief, she tottered over and gave me a kiss, a rare gift for a busy toddler.

I thought about the prayer I had prayed about having a second child and wanting Cliff to feel settled into his role before we uprooted soon again, and blamed myself for being so silly. I had so much to be grateful for.

On my knees, I then felt God say to yield- to surrender to His plans and ways, even if it meant moving again soon, and even if it meant never having more children.

As I grieved, I lost sleep and my appetite… only to find out weeks later, while doubling over the sink, that I was expecting, and, in fact, had been expecting all this while, even when the test had been negative.

Worried that I now had to rush back to Singapore to deliver a child and start work soon after in April, and that this would mean an even earlier truncation of Cliff’s work, we learnt that the baby would be born just two days before my work was to start in Singapore.

This meant two things- that I was graciously granted a little more additional leave and that Cliff could serve in his role a little longer.

We were speechless. How God answers our prayers in His own uncanny and unexpected ways.

It was then that He spoke to me, that so often when we think our dreams are dead and have no hope, He has in fact already planted a seed to grow the dream, even when we “test negative” and everything points to the fact that we are barren.

It was then that He spoke to me about Kitesong Global, that as much as I had dreams for it to grow and was facing all kinds of setbacks and challenges, He had started a good work and would be faithful to bring it to completion.

No one is more desperate than Him to see our dreams come to full fruition, but only when we are willing to crucify our own plans and surrender them.

Perhaps, with regards to all the hopes and dreams we have and continue to wait to come to fruition, we can take heart. Because even when we don’t see any “positive test” outcome for months or even years, could it be that He has already begun a good work in us, that our dream has already begun growing, even when all we see is nothing.

Whatever your dream is, take heart.

Keep sowing, keep hoping, keep waiting in expectation.

You may not know exactly when,

but a seed may long have been sown,

even before you know it.

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It felt like quicksand.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out. Over time, I blamed myself. The more I did, the worse I felt.

It’s an awful place to be, to be mad at God.

I had rationalized what had happened, talked myself through as if I was counseling someone else. It would work for a little while, but the heart-head disconnect always brought me back to a place of grief, and then anger.

From asking “How could this have happened?”, I began to ask the unspeakable, “God, are You really good?”

After all the extravagant, amazing things God had done, I could not believe finding myself in a place of pain and bitterness. It was stifling. Even worse was the guilt that weighed like a 6-tone hippo, and the frustration of not feeling able to talk about it. I did not want pat answers or worse, Christian comfort talk. There were simply, no words.

Perhaps, we have all been there before.

Then, in the darkness, a ray of light shone in.

Knowing how excited I had been to experience my first real Autumn (since I had grown up in tropical Singapore), Cliff had planned a surprise trip for me to see the changing leaves, in all their colorful, spectacular glory, at a place near our current home called Muskoka, over our wedding anniversary.

Awe-inspired by the magnificence of the endless landscapes of gold, red and violet leaves, I remember thinking about the huge window at our home which overlooks a little forest and said aloud, “Oh, I can’t wait for all the leaves to change into beautiful colors back home.”

Cliff, not wanting me to be disappointed, jumped in quickly to manage my expectations. “They may or may not,” he said. “Remember last year?”

In the States where I was studying the year before, I had gotten all excited about Fall, only to find that the leaves in our neighborhood simply changed to an ugly brown before falling. And by the time I had lifted my head from beneath my pile of books to see daylight again after my exams had ended, the trees along the roads had become as bare as bones. I had completely missed Autumn.

So, Cliff had a point. After all, in that forest behind our home, we had noticed that the trees either remained green or had turned a homogenous yellow. Unlike Muskoka, the florid reds, dazzling purples, and golden yellows against the lush evergreens just did not happen here.

As I took in the magnificence of the breathtaking trees over our wedding anniversary, I said aloud for the first time, “I resolve not to be angry at You, God.” It felt silly, bizarre, futile even.

But something changed. The day we arrived back from Muskoka, something changed. As I walked into our living room, I stood in awe of what had happened.

Right there, in that square of a window we had in our living room, was a red tree, a violet tree, a yellow tree and a green tree all glowing incandescently under the sun.

There and then, I had goosebumps, because in that entire forest behind our home, was only one red tree. And there it was, in that window of ours, to create a beautiful multi-colored picture of Fall.

As tears built behind my eyes, I suddenly felt ridiculous. That for all my rage against God for my inability to comprehend or process what had happened over the months, I was immediately undone.

Yet, I know it was, is true- that in spite all I had been struggling with, in spite of all the theology I had been grappling with, in spite of all the accusations I had hurled at God over the recent season, He was, is, and always will be good.

He cares for us in ways so deeply, and so specifically, that no one else could understand.

I am learning, that even as we grope through the darkness, we are never alone. He is always with us, always caring.

For every situation, He gives us a ray of hope, a red tree to remind us that He is, through it all, good.

He does not give pat answers. He simply, shows up.

If, like me, you’ve experienced pain or disappointment, if you’ve felt defeated or hopeless, don’t give up. It may take some time for you to see, but God has never left you, and He has had your red tree right there, all along.

It was there, green, before Autumn came, it was there before the mess happened. It was there, because He knew it would mean something to you, when you needed Him the most.

May you see your red tree, soon.

Fall

“Yes, these are for you! Sorry I came so late!”

I sat on the stairs and cried.

As soon as he had come, he left in a hurry, leaving me in my own puddle of tears and the three gifts.

You see, we had moved five times over five weeks into five different Airbnbs, over our epic road trip from the States to Canada, of which during our first night we found ourselves scooping water from the basement home we were in at 2am when a water pipe had burst. In the third home, we found ourselves stumbling in with our crying toddler, our hands busy packing groceries into the fridge and unpacking our suitcases, all before discovering the stove, fridge and air conditioning were not working.

Never before had we yearned more desperately for a place to call home, after having moved more than 20 times over 4 countries in 5 years of marriage.

Suddenly, after the fanfare and glitter of graduation, I found myself floundering in a new role of being a full-time mother without a salary, a pastor’s wife (whatever that meant), in a new land, with a new routine that I had little control over. I could not drive, missed home and felt utterly disoriented.

Then, in what was only called a miracle, we were gifted a new home, a place to call our own. A place we did not have any means or rights to own.

The night we moved in, I sat on the steps. It felt surreal.

When the doorbell rang at 1030pm, I jumped.

There the housing agent was, a frazzled grandfatherly old man, huffing and puffing. I was taken aback- was something wrong? Did we need to move out? Again?

Looking quite comical with his hands full, he panted, “I’m sorry I came so late- but I overheard you telling the previous owner of the house about how much you loved her orchids. So I got some for you after my work ended! Enjoy!”

Just a day ago, we had found contractors working away at our home. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, the housing agent asked us to fit a brand new air conditioner for you as a gift for you and your family,” they said.

I found out it cost more than $3000.

As I sat on the stairs, overwhelmed by the orchids, the air-conditioning in a scorching summer, and our first real home, I couldn’t hold back tears.

The orchids could not have been more timely, not only as a thoughtful housewarming gift, but as a gift from God for what they represented.

Just a week ago, I had asked the previous owner how she had cared for her orchids.

“Oh, it’s very easy,” she said. “You just water them once a week. But know this, they bloom for three months and then lie dormant for three months. Most people throw their orchids out when the flowers die, but they actually do bloom again after three months if you water them. I’ve had mine for ten years.”

All at once I had goosebumps, as I felt God speaking to me about this new season- that it might not be one of great fanfare or outward productivity like it was back at Hopkins, but it was an important one nonetheless- one that would grow one’s roots deep, that was regenerative. A season of rest, but not death.

Nonetheless, it was painful.

Suddenly, for the first time in a long while, I found myself on the receiving end of remarks that stung and a different kind of store service because I now go out with a toddler in my lululemons, occasionally stained with mini yoghurt handprints. I have felt the tangible difference between the eager conversations at shops when I still went out in a blazer and my power suit, and now.

But I had never changed. I was and am still the same me, only perhaps more compassionate, less judgmental, more forgiving.

In the same way, just as how my orchids which bloomed for three months are now withering, they are still alive, growing.

They are in a different season, but they are the same orchids nonetheless. And while people may treat us differently and stop watering us as eagerly because of the different season we are in, I am learning, that God does not see us differently.

He loves us in the times when we bloom and flower, and He loves us in the times we need to wither and lay low.

So if you’ve been struggling with a dormant season in your life, frustrated that nothing seems to bear fruit, know this- that it is too soon to throw your orchids away. Keep watering, keep waiting. Remember all the times He came through for you, the unexpected gifts He delivered to your doorstep, and more.

For at the end of this season, will we not see and enjoy yet another season of greater beauty, richer grace and deeper wisdom.

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;

and every branch that bears fruit He prunes,

that it may bear more fruit.
– John 15:1-2“

Someday I will get something done
Without a child stuck to my hip
Hands glued to my knee
Eyes saying,
“Mama, mama, pick me up.”

Someday when my hands are free,
I will get something done.

Don’t you know, little one?
There’s a world of work
Out there to be done-
Emails, crises, meetings to handle,
Laundry, dishes, errands to settle.

There’s a world of Important work to be done,
Don’t you know, little one?

Someday, perhaps, I will see,
All these moments of just you and me,
My lips in your hair,
You twirling with flair,
Were the makings of Important
Dreams to set free.

Your arms I caressed,
Your smiley mess,
Those cheeks like a rose,
And that round little nose,
That I blew and I wiped and I squeezed and I kissed,
Will soon be the makings of
Legacies, missed.

So the days I’d wished I could get something done,
Have actually been all these days clothed in fun,
Between that quiet suckle,
And tying your buckle,
Were Important moments
Under the sun.

Someday when my hands are free,
I’ll have time without you- just me.
I’ll have time for emails to write,
Important people to meet,
Maybe even have eight hours of sleep.
I’ll be important to many again- that’s quite true,
But still, none as Important as I’d been to you.

In a twinkle and a dum, you’ll be grown,
And we’ll see the fruit of great seeds sown.

Today I got some Important things done-
I held your heroic hand,
I kissed a stout heart on the mend.
These seconds and minutes and hours of loving,
Will one day be seeds to an oak tree that’s growing,
For hundreds and thousands and millions of hearts,
To give shade and respite from the world’s fiery darts.

Today,
With hands that aren’t free,
A child glued to my hip,
What many Important things I’ve done

With you.

Love,
Mama

Love, Mama

Seven years ago, I had a dream but buried it.

It was too embarrassing, too outrageous. After all, who did I think I was?

I was little 24 year old girl from Singapore, a country that’s literally a tiny dot on the world map. My name “Wai Jia” was, still is, un-pronounceable to many people. I confess that I had wondered before- what kind of destiny could be found in a name like that? 

But above all, I struggled with shame.

Shame that I had a problem. Shame that I was about to graduate as a medical doctor then but had become a patient.

Most of all, shame because people had told me, “Don’t let anyone know because they’ll say things,” which I interpreted as “Your story does not matter. YOU don’t matter.” 

Struggling through medical school and other family challenges at the time, I first used exercise to cope. But before I knew it, an insatiable pain gnawed at me. I lost my appetite, and what was a harmless thing became an obsessive control tool I used to cope with life. The sicker I became, the less hope I had.

The worst part was wondering, was God really real? Did I even have the right to doubt that? Yet I did. In my darkest times, I did.

During my recovery I painted a series of drawings and but when it was time to publish it, I people told me, “Don’t do it. What would people think of you? Are you a doctor or a patient?” 

I was afraid. Afraid that I would shame my family, my friends, the medical community. Afraid that no one would read this book and confirm that I did not matter.

But God said come. And against all fears, He gave me the courage to step out.

I learned, that courage is not the absence of fear, but stepping out in spite of it. I learned, that faith is not the absence of doubt, but believing in spite of it.

Little did I expect that one day, against all odds, God would send me on 3 unexpected scholarships to Johns Hopkins University to pursue a Masters in Public Health- not because I was smart or capable… because in that room of scholarship applicants, I was probably the only one with a transcript filled with Bs and Cs because of my illness through medical school.

Yet I’m standing here today, speaking with you, fulfilling an incredulous dream I had 7 years ago to speak in America about Hope, because a woman who organized this conference called me one day, because her friend who was the sister-in-law of a faculty member at Johns Hopkins had walked into my professors office and picked up a copy of my book, A Taste of Rainbow, by accident and decided I needed to share my story in America.

We serve an amazing God. He never forgets the littlest of our dreams.

And when God brought me to America, He opened doors for me to pursue another lost buried dream of starting Kitesong Global, an international social venture that uses the power of narrative to inspire people to pursue their dreams and empower underprivileged women and children.

One day, as I watched the sunset and wrestled with a sense of lostness, I asked aloud, “Has this all been a mistake?”

For the first time in my life, I then felt God tell me the meaning of my name.

The background to this is that I’ve always hated my name. When I was five, I went to class telling everyone my name was Christine because I didn’t want the embarrassment of being called something no one would remember or say right. Friends who made friends first were those with easy, catchy names. So imagine the fit I kicked when my older sister went to school and rightfully informed everyone that my name was most certainly not Christine. How prophetic, that back then, I never knew that Christine meant “follower of Christ.”

As I watched that sunset, I felt God speak to me, that the meaning of the first character of my name 蔚wei describes the splendor and majesty of the sky, and 佳jia describes goodness and excellence.

There and then, I heard Him tell me, “Wai Jia” is a reflection of what He wants Kitesong to be, a reflection of God’s goodness displayed in majesty and splendor across the skies.

You might hate your name, you might hate the very essence of something so integral to who you are and think you can never be apart from it. But that very thing that you despise, could very well be the thing that God wants to show forth His glory.

Have you ever thought what yr name means? Have you ever wondered what it means in Ephesians 1:4 when it says, “Even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world….” Doesn’t it blow your mind that He chose us before the foundation of the world began? That He gave you a name with your destiny written in it, and He’s waiting to reveal His purposes to you if you would press in and ask.

Two months ago, I argued with God and said I could never set up an organization in the US. Who did I think I was? This little girl who doesn’t even speak English with a good accent? A lawyer through a friend of a friend of a friend had written an elaborate roadmap for me for Kitesong Global and told me it would cost $6-10K to set up. There and then I threw in the towel and said, “No God, I can’t do it. So there.”

A week later, an elderly friend drove four hours through a snowstorm and showed up at our doorstep and gave me a lecture in our living room. I will never forget his words, “If God heard your little prayer as an 18 year old and raised more than $100K to build a children’s home in Nepal, if He raised $100K for you to come to US for yr further studies against all odds, can you not trust Him for $10K?”

The very next morning, while our friend was still in our home after we had breakfast, I received a phonecall from someone who wanted to catch up. I didn’t solicit, never advertised, never shared it on my blog, and there and then when he demanded to know what I was up to and why I wasn’t registering Kitesong in US, he said over the phone, “I am going to write a cheque for you to cover all the legal costs for you to get Kitesong registered in the States. Keep me updated!”

Friends, God is above and beyond all that we ask or think.

Truly, He does not need perfect people. He wants people who are willing to step out of the boat when He says come. He wants people who are willing to surrender and yield to His wind when He says go. He wants broken people, like you and like me to be a display of His goodness in the skies.

So go, give your littlest dreams to Him and fly.

==

– Excerpt from the keynote closing speech at the HFH Summit in Nashville, Tennessee in June 2018. 

Thank you Cliff, for being the amazing husband and father you have been.

And to God, for making Incredulous and Impossible, Incredible.

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When I threw that dream away, I thought to myself, “So this is what it means, when they say marriage is a shackle.”

I should have expected it. After all, his proposal came at the worse possible timing, just as I was sending in my application to pursue further studies in the States. A year later when I reapplied, God led us to serve in Uganda. Having already spent hundreds of dollars on two university applications that I never submitted, I decided that that was over.

One day, at an award ceremony where an Afghan woman shared her experience building schools for girls in Afghanistan, I had a vision. It was a vision of our whole family in the States. I laughed and dismissed it.

But some nights later, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was flying a kite, and the kite fell. But Cliff ran to get it, and retrieved it for me.

In the dream, he said he would help me fly the kite again.

Little did I realize how prophetic that dream would be, how truly, you have always been a husband with a shepherd’s heart, laying your life down for me, for your family, for your sheep so that we can grow, thrive and flourish.

Because of your unwavering patience, selfless sacrifice and shepherd’s heart, I graduated with awards and honors as a mother and started an international venture because of your faith in me, even when I didn’t believe you. The truth is that, every one of those awards belongs to you, too.

As I walked across the stage, the entire year flashed before me as I saw you waiting at the school entrance carrying Sarah-Faith, a tiny pea in a sling back then, for me to pick her up to class with me; I saw you playing with blocks and cleaning up at home so I could focus on school; I saw you humbly, servantheartedly ensuring all my needs were met- from paying my tuition fees on time to clearing the trash-so I could go to school with an unrivaled focus.

It reminded me of the time a classmate told me with tears in her eyes, “ 你是黑暗中的光芒。(You’re a light in the darkness),” and I almost teared too because I replied, “That’s exactly what Cliff prays for me every morning before I step out of the car.”

It reminded me of all the times you sneaked handwritten hallmark cards into my bag before major tests or when I was feeling low. It reminded me of all the times you said I could do it even when I said I could not, when I said God made a mistake on me.

After the award ceremony, people asked me what my next plans were. Tongue in cheek, I replied with a cheeky smile, not untruthfully, “I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom and support Cliff as he’s just accepted a position as a pastor in Canada.” Some gasped aloud or laughed out loud before realizing I wasn’t really joking after all and apologized profusely- “I’m sorry, it’s just that… what?”

Now that you’re the Executive pastor of a church in Canada, our roles have been completely swapped. I’ll admit, that the transition from being a Type A personality in an intense program to now supporting you behind the scenes has its challenging, tear-jerking, handwringing moments. Yet, every time I have to bring Sarah-Faith out so that you can work or attend a meeting, reminds me of all the times you had to mill around a corridor or mall or library or mother goose program because I had to meet my professor, colleague or attend a conference call.

I am learning- that marriage is no shackle. It may seem so for a little while, in that very moment you wonder why you can’t be out doing some other amazing thing in the world.

But I’m learning, that I can find as much purpose as giving a talk to distinguished professors at Johns Hopkins as I can in waiting for you at the aisles of a drugmart while you finish a meeting nearby, because I know it furthers your calling in God, because I know it’s what you did for me when I studied and ploughed and went up to receive 5 awards and lapped up everyone’s congratulatory wishes, while you wiped and cleaned and waited countless of hours and changed hundreds of poopy diapers when nobody could see or pat your back. There were days you drove from home to school and back three times a day just so Sarah-Faith could nurse from me between classes. Sowing into my life was hard work at times, but you did it because you saw it as more than a job, but a calling to further my calling, too.

When you received this job offer, I was overwhelmed with joy. I never told you, that when I was 18, I prayed to God that I would someday marry a pastor. When I married you and it wasn’t so, I just kept this secret prayer in my heart, folded like an origami love letter to God. He never forgot it.

So seeing you now in your element- organizing, learning, pastoring, leading, connecting and teaching, for once being recognized as “Cliff” and no longer “Wai Jia’s husband” or “Sarah-Faith’s Dad”, has warmed my heart in more ways you know. While the world may shake their head and say what a waste this season of my life might be, I know for sure that it’s as filled with meaning as it was when you were there for me, too. Even now, you’re constantly thinking of ways for me to flourish in a land I feel like a fish out of water in, and pursue my calling to build Kitesong Global, write my next book, or enroll in non-profit leadership courses. And even though we’ll be living out of suitcases for a while, moving from home to home in the next few weeks, I’m thankful to be doing this with you.

As much as people may say that having a spouse or child can hinder one’s progression in life, I know I would not be where I am today without the both of you.

For all the times you bent down and stooped low to pick up my lost kites, thank you for mirroring marriage as how Christ loves the church, for showing me how much joy there can be in surrender, and freedom in marriage.

For the wonderful husband and father you are, Happy Fathers’ Day.

Love,
Your Wife, forever.

Happy Fathers Day

*This post was taken from Cliff’s social media post on 22 May 2018.

For a long time, Wai Jia had dreamed of pursuing a Masters of Public Health at John Hopkins. But I sorta ruined her dreams five years ago when I went to Singapore and asked her to marry me.

 

However, it was precisely when she surrendered her dreams that God could revive them in such a divine way- only He could have orchestrated our journey here to USA through 3 scholarships.

 

Yesterday, she also received 5 honors and awards. Many people ask her, even myself, how does she do it? Her reply is that it is not by her own striving or works but it is all by God’s grace.

Today as she graduated, I learned that life isn’t just about God making our dreams come true. Rather, the oneness that comes with walking with God is what causes us to have the same dreams and desires as He does. This has been her experience in the past year.

 

I am proud of her not just because of her hard work of juggling between being a mother, wife, and student in the past 11 months; I am proud of her not just because of the degrees, awards, and honors she achieved at John Hopkins- I am proud of her because of her surrendering, the closeness in her walk with Christ and the blessing she has been to others.

 

Not only did she receive an academic excellence award for the top 10% of her cohort, she also received the Excellence in International Public Health Practice Award for her work in Kitesong Global, and a Student Recognition Award, nominated by friends and faculty. It was funny to see her and Sarah-Faith go up so many times to receive them!

 

I learned from her that however lofty and noble our dreams may seem to be, we must lay them down before the feet of Jesus. Oneness comes from surrendering our dreams, and surrendering is a strength, not a weakness.

 

Congratulations, my wife! 

Grad pic

 

At school today for our capstone (mini-thesis) presentations, our entire cohort gathered together for lunch and a class photo.

As friends gathered around Sarah-Faith, a classmate of mine approached Cliff intentionally and said, “You know Cliff, I really respect you. It’s so evident that you’re a great Dad and husband. It’s not easy, and… you’re amazing.”

As awkward as it might have seemed, it moved me greatly. Because it wasn’t the first time men in my class had told me that Cliff was a role model to them, as a dedicated father and husband.

For all the times Sarah-Faith and I received added attention, there was him quietly loving on us, showering us with His love so we could thrive, grow and flourish. 🌷

Truly, to a man who comes back with flowers every time I send him out to have some “me” time to recharge from all his duties in study, husband-ing and fathering… My greatest Mothers’ Day present is knowing we have you. ❤️

Thank you.

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Even as I prepare for graduation soon, Sarah-Faith seems to be preparing herself for her own milestone by starting to walk this week!

Thanking God for the year gone by-

what a whirlwind!

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