The joys of early parenthood are rich and many, caught in priceless moments that would only flit away on the wings of time, should one fail to pause to marvel at His bundled miracle:

A scoopful of pure bliss, milk-drunk, and a smile worth a thousand smiles, every day.

I often wonder, what you’re dreaming of when you break into that signature smile deep in your sleep whenever I call your name, that reaches to the ends of the earth, just like Papa’s.

I thought I would struggle with the transition to early parenthood and postpartum blues, what with the hormonal changes, our first time parenting, and transition to a new place.

But you make Mama smile from the inside, like a sun that never goes dark, as you, like a sunflower, reaches for to magnify her light. You make loving you so easy and joyful.

We can’t thank God enough for you, our happy baby.

We love you, Sarah-Faith.

Love,
Papa and Mama

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No one told us how much joy and fun there would be in caring for a newborn.

So grateful to have Baby join us at church on her 4th day of life, as all 3 of us gave our testimony of God’s goodness at our home birth.

The most common comment we received?

“Look at that hair!”

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In Cliff’s words, “My wife just finished the race and look at the prize she won!”

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We are so grateful to God for this miraculous experience of a natural home birth, and the gift of a beautiful child to love and to steward for the rest of our lives.

Thankful for an amazing husband, who presented a medal to me at the end, “as a symbol of your courage and strength for finishing this race, and for embarking on this new and sacred beginning of parenthood with me.” 

unnamed (4)Thank you Cliff, for journeying with me.

And thank you God, for making all of this possible.

 

Labor sounded like a scary thing.

It looked excruciating on television, and the plethora of drugs and interventions we learnt in medial school to alleviate its suffering only attested to the reality of its ferocious reputation.

Yet, the idea that labor should be a beautiful experience lingered. Part of me was fascinated by its possibility, but never knew if it could be reality.

After all, having delivered babies at hospitals, assisted in C-sections in the operating theatre, and sutured episiotomies myself, the myriad of unfortunate outcomes etched themselves deep.

The idea of a drug free, natural home birth was exactly that- an idea, an option for hippies perhaps, but not people like us.

Or so I thought.

After all, this was our first child. We were moving to a new place with an unfamiliar healthcare system. Logically, it didn’t make sense.

Yet, through it all, we felt God guiding us graciously. He was with us from beginning to the end.

Never have I felt so desperate to want pain to end and yet be so eager to embrace it. Never have I understood God’s heart for us when we experience pain, that it very often is a friend we need to embrace, not a fiend to push away.

Never have I been so consumed and overwhelmed by suffering and yet so assured of its purpose, so aware of its temporality. Never have I felt so torn apart from my own flesh and yet never closer to the rawness of its reality.

In that space of magnified reality and surreal dreamspace, I found God right by us, filling the room as He led our entire labor, from the beginning to the end.

As much as we felt it was one of the most audacious decisions we’d ever made in our lives, one which we never knew might materialize because of the real possibility of being transferred to hospital anytime, we also knew it felt strangely right, God-led in so many ways:

…that we found a midwife at all so late in my third trimester when people said it would be impossible was a miracle in itself, to find out that she was Director of her own clinic and willing to go on-call for us because we were a “special couple,” to learn that she loved home births and she actually asked, listened to and understood why a drug-free experience was so important to Cliff and I, our “stumbling upon” research advocating why a natural birth is so beneficial for mother and baby… All added up to His way of showing me that He cared about my prayer of wanting to know if labor could be a deeply beautiful and profoundly spiritual experience.

Through labor and its pain, Mama learnt many lessons, lessons that she hopes would also touch and transform your life as you make some of your own audacious, counter-cultural decisions for God someday.

Perhaps the biggest lesson Mama learnt through pregnancy and labor, is surrender.

The week you were due, Mama got increasingly anxious because people kept asking about you, and she had no clue when you might arrive or how.

Surprisingly, most doctors we met in Canada weren’t supportive of home births. Two we chanced upon gave their unsolicited opinions- “Labor hurts like hell, so get your epidural early on. You won’t endure it otherwise.”

“It’s your first birth, so make sure it’s at the hospital. A umbilical cord could strangle your baby and your midwife may not be so competent.”

One complication, and off to the hospital we might go. An epidural, pitocin, and a C-section might ensue.

Thinking about the endless possibilities only drove me up the wall, and it was an act of surrender, to say “God, You’re in control, You’ve led us this way thus far” that gave me peace to know you would be born beautifully at home, surrounded by His presence and angels to welcome you.

The day Mama started feeling contractions, Baby, Mama wasn’t even sure if it was the real thing: Papa took her out to a Hong Kong cafe for her favorite fish dish. After that, we went to a supermarket to get our groceries, and our last hour-long walk in the wintry woods blanketed with beautiful snow and magical sunlight. Papa needed winter gloves, so we went to get those, and then Mama forgot avocados and popcorn, so we stopped by a second supermarket to shop. All this while, Mama had contractions on and off which stopped her in her tracks but our day went on. Mama went home, made dinner for Papa, and texted our midwife you might come the next day perhaps.

But right after dinner, our midwife arrived, and was shocked to find Papa and Mama still laughing between painful contractions, because well, Mama was very much dilated and close to active labor!

What followed after was a blurry blitz, Baby.

A wave of pain hit Mama like a ton of bricks, then another and another. She remembered the naysayers who said this was all a big mistake, that labor should happen at a hospital, under intense monitoring, with an IV drip, epidural, pitocin and CTG monitoring, not in the warmth and comfort of a cosy apartment overlooking the starry skyline and city lights.

It was then that Mama remembered, that what is right for everyone else may not be right for you, and vice versa. And with that, with God’s provisions, peace and leading up to that point, I knew you would be born right there in our home without any medical intervention.

The key is- you have to know what God means for you uniquely, and have the trust and faith to follow Him through it, no matter how crazy, absurd or illogical you or other people think it is.

That lesson applies to your calling, Baby, which we have been praying for you every day even before you were conceived, and is probably one of the most important lessons Mama hopes you’ll ever learn.

You see, if you are made and called differently to a unique destiny, then you’ll have to do things that are different, things which other people will object to and discourage you from.

The fact is, at the end of your life, you’ll be accountable to God, and yourself. Not the throngs whose chatter and banter made your head spin, or the naysayers who trumpeted their beliefs.

There’s one road out there that’s meant for you, preordained from the beginning of time by your Heavenly Father, and it’ll fall right in place with your heart’s calling if you stay true to who you are and what you’ve been called to.

Know that, Baby.

Having a home birth with Papa and you was the best and most amazing decision we ever made. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for us.

Papa was involved in every contraction when labor hit Mama, he held and stroked and rubbed her till he was sore all over. He was there to set up and pack up with the midwife. He was there to catch you when you slid out and cut your cord. Papa was involved in your labor in every way from the start.

It was the most beautiful and memorable experience and we would not have had it any other way.

Baby, we pray every day that you’ll be a resilient child, one who’s not afraid to follow God and put aside what naysayers have to say. Because our lives aren’t going to be easy. We’re going to go on adventures to places where God calls us to, and some of these places won’t be safe, or clean or where people call them responsible places to bring a baby.

Mama and Papa are going to get flak and face opposition, just as how Mama was told she was “medically irresponsible” twice, once when she let Papa go to Uganda when he couldn’t take the yellow fever vaccine because of his liver transplant, and secondly, when she and Papa decided to have you at home.

In the one year we served in Uganda, Papa never got malaria, or yellow fever, and was probably the healthiest he’s been all his life. That’s not called luck or coincidence. It’s called God’s grace, protection and favor when we obey Him.

You survived a home birth and did so well throughout, without any heart decelerations, umbilical cord issues (we just untangled your cord round you as you got out), or breathing problems. Mama didn’t suffer any post-partum haemorrhage or need an episiotomy. Mama never tore, she could cook, pee, poop the very next morning just like any other day. In fact right after delivery, she had a piece of cake and walked by herself to take a shower.

It’s not called luck or coincidence, Baby. It’s because we prayed, God led, and we obeyed.

Mama and Papa have been praying for you every day, that you’ll be so filled with joy and peace, resilience and hope, that you would so enjoy the adventure of following God obediently, and be faithful from the womb, just like your name says.

You are Sarah-Faith. A child filled with faith, who will become a mother of many nations. You are ??, a child whose heart is filled with love, truth, compassion, thanksgiving and God’s grace.

In life, we cannot avoid pain, Sarah-Faith. But we, very often, can choose the kind of pain we want to endure. What we end up choosing, then determines the lessons we glean and take away.

Not one kind of pain is superior to the other, lest we become proud, sweetheart. You see, Mama wouldn’t say that a home birth or long term missions is for everyone. Just because she and Papa chose it, doesn’t mean they’re going to become hard-sell advocates of it.

Everyone is different, and we’ve got to respect that. But you just got to know what God has called you uniquely to and the values He calls you to, and stay true to that. Because that’s the only way it’ll get you through the pain you’ve chosen.

God’s call is seldom pain-free, dearest. But remember, what He does call you to, He will provide you the grace and joy you need to carry you through- from the beginning of active labor till the end, it took only 3 hours to have you, a record timing for a first time mum having a home birth, according to our midwife.

God was with us, He will be with you too.

So whatever pain you choose in life, remember one thing- make sure it’s what God has called you to, be it stepping out of your comfort zone to invite someone you dislike to your first birthday party because you know it’s the right thing to do, or something bigger like giving up your life to serve in the mission field.

It doesn’t matter what people say or think, as long as you know you’re obeying God. You can weigh in on their advice and consider them. But never, ever let them discourage you.

If Mama and Papa had listened to the things people had assumed and said to them, you would not have been born this way, or born at all.

One other thing which helped Mama in our drug free home birth, when the pain sent her to her hands and knees, was remembering that pain is temporary.

Pain passes, Baby. But God is always there.

The first crescendo of every contraction is always the most intense, and they get more and more so nearer the end, as one engulfs and overrides the other.

Just like pain in a triathlon, (which was partly what brought Papa and Mama together by the way), however, pain never lasts forever. You train for it by making decisions every day which make you resilient to it, so that when it comes, you’re mentally focused to deal with it. Up to the day of labor, Mama was exercising every day even when she didn’t feel like it, even when people said she shouldn’t, because she knew labor would be a marathon.

When Mama was in labor, and when Mama and Papa were in the mission field, there were times she wondered if they would pull through. There were times Mama wanted to quit and go home (Papa did better, of course.) But like many things in life, pain is transient, sweetheart.

It could be your heartbreak over your first boyfriend, your disappointment with unanswered prayers, or your first rejection letter from a position you applied for- but it will pass. For every peak of pain that Mama thought would debilitate, crush and destroy her, Mama just told herself that it would pass. Even when one contraction crashed into another to magnify itself, Mama kept saying out loud, through her exhaustion, “It will pass.”

You see, no pain lasts forever.

What will last for eternity, however, is the character, values and lessons you walk away with from the pain, and the attitude you carried through it.

During labor, our midwife kept asking us why we were so joyful, even when the contractions got so intense, hard and close to each other. She couldn’t believe it that we had spent the afternoon out and about, visiting a cafe, two supermarkets and a department store, and by the time we had called her, I was already 7 out of 10 centimeters dilated and ready to deliver.

You see, when you’re so grateful for what God has given you, yes even pain, that attitude of thanksgiving is going to bring you a long way through life.

That’s why your Chinese name is ??, which represents a pure heart of thanksgiving and praise.

From labor, Mama learnt so much.

She learnt that Pain exists to weaken and humble us, but only temporarily, so it’s up to you to glean and retain those precious gems and lessons which you can keep for life. The sad thing is that very often, we are humbled by pain temporarily and get all proud again when it ends. Don’t let that happen to you, Sarah-Faith.

Pain is precious. Remember why you chose that pain, what it taught you, and God’s grace in enabling you to overcome it.

Don’t let the world tell you that you can numb your pain through success, wealth or prestige.

Rather, let the reality of life’s pain always shape you for the better, however bad it seems at the time.

Through this drug free home birth, Mama became a stronger person, she learnt that she could get through anything in life with Papa, God and you.

For every wave of pain, Papa never let Mama go. Papa rubbed her back with the same intensity that the pain hit Mama, a pain she had never felt before in her whole life.

When our midwife told us we might need an episiotomy if your heart rate dropped at what she called a “sticky point” of the birth canal, that was when Mama knew this was business. Every push had to count and be worth it’s full worth.

The midwife told us, that her most memorable moment was when, at the last bit just before midnight, Mama cried out, because she was so exhausted, “Cliff, please pray!”

And as soon as Papa did, you slid out like a fish, not gasping or crying, but calmly and beautifully, with a thick inch-long crop of long, jet-black hair, and suckled immediately as you were placed skin-to-skin on Mama’s chest. You never cried, never fussed. Just went straight from womb to breast in one fresh breath of life, as the stars above us and the city glow below twinkled just before the clock struck midnight.

I was surprised later to hear from our midwife say, that she’s never witnessed a quicker home birth for a first time mum, nor one who had never asked for some sort of pain relief. It was all God’s provision, His grace, His presence which overwhelmed the room.

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t, because it’s difficult or “hell.” Determine first if its what God wants for you, and if it is, you can count on it being the most supernatural, miraculous and incredible adventure you’ve ever had.

I know it was that way having you.

And if we had to do this, naturally at home, all over again, we would say yes again in a heartbeat.

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I don’t remember ever feeling so embarrassed in a public place.

As eyes fell upon us, staring, my face turned a deep shade of blush. I felt caught in the act, and wanted to bury my head in the ground.

After all, it must have seen so absurd.

There Cliff was, kneeling down next to me in a public place, removing and putting on shoes for me, in a grand Cinderella moment.

Seeing how my growing bump had made it challenging for me to bend over in close proximity at times, my husband had, without prompting, knelt down swiftly to help me try on a pair of winter boots, much needed before the anticipated snowstorms arrived.

My bump hasn’t always been obvious, so I could understand why we had attracted stares. And even with a bigger bump, this must not be a common sight.

As I asked him to get up, he would not, only doing so when the job was done, with his signature grin on his face. How my face swelled with heat.

Yet, a different kind of warmth arose from within me, gently overpowering that in my cheeks.

In that moment, I suddenly realized what he had done. In his act of humility, love and servanthood, he had redefined what being a husband meant.

Suddenly, a roll of memories flashed through my mind, as acts of his tender service played out: not merely the usual “husbandish” things a father-to-be would do for his expecting wife- doing the dishes and laundry, offering to fulfill her peculiar gastronomic cravings, sending her to work… but more.

Him, on his knees, smiling cheekily, taking off his wife’s shoes in spite of what people might say or think, epitomized his husbanding.

“Husband,” when used as a verb, means “to use frugally; conserve” as in “to husband one’s resources.”

It all made sense to me at once, why people kept commenting on why and how I didn’t look tired, bloated or nauseated during our pregnancy. It made me realize I was expected to look and feel that way, but did not.

With the major transitions of 1 job change, moving into 2 homes over 2 continents, travels to 7 countries, and the seismic changes pregnancy would bring us through, I had imagined pregnancy to take its toll on me.

But it suddenly dawned upon me, what a difference Cliff’s redefinition of being a husband made, that in “husbanding” me the way he did, with his manner of meticulous love and humble service, he had in fact, conserved, sustained, nourished and grown his wife.

I had imagined pregnancy in the midst of several major transitions to exert great strains on our relationship.

Yet, he proved me wrong, causing me to marvel at the profound impact the prayers of a praying husband has on his wife and family.

Through the past 9 months, he has prayed for the two of us every day, at least twice a day. His prayers have not only transformed my countenance, shaped our journey ahead, but have moulded his thoughts and actions as a husband and father.

Our pregnancy should have been dreadful.

I should have had worsening mood symptoms with the raging pregnancy hormones, what with a history of depression; my scoliosis back pain should have worsened; I should have been drained working full-time, speaking at different public platforms, and packing an entire home on our own back in Singapore.

Yet, the hallmark of our pregnancy has been an inexplicable joy which continues to confound us, day by day. It has been a delicious journey, one I will be nostalgic to have end very soon.

I am learning, that when a husband takes on pregnancy to be as much his charge as his wife’s through prayer and acts of humble service, it makes a profound difference on the journey. When he sees his leadership as a liberating opportunity for servanthood through prayer and service, it changes everything. When his bended knee takes on regularity in a marriage instead of only at a proposal before the wedding, transformation takes place.

Every pregnant woman is familiar with the “down days”- insensitive comments which scathe, feeling ugly, not being able to do the things she once could…

But a husband’s love, like a salve, soothes them; his sensitivity, like a warm bear-hug, cradles his wife’s new curves; his gentle humour, like a balm, soothes her aches, hurts and discomforts.

His prayers lift her spirits to a God who is ever-hearing and ever-seeing.

His prayers morph into little acts of profound thoughtfulness- unabashedly admiring his wife’s bump when she’s feeling insecure about her changing body, shopping for dresses on her behalf because she doesn’t feel beautiful, helping her ease heartburn and insomnia in the wee hours of the night, doing the laundry when she’s napping, reading piles of books about parenting and breastfeeding so she never feels alone, insisting on giving her a back rub, and patiently moisturizing her skin every day, twice a day.

His prayers anchor a journey of a lifetime ahead, in spite of the instability, uncertainty and fluctuation of pregnancy and transitions-to-come.

When a husband husbands that way, a wife has no choice but to grow and glow into each passing trimester of pregnancy till she blossoms.

So thank you Cliff, for making pregnancy double the fun I expected, half the discomfort, and twice the joy. Thank you for redefining “husbanding.”

I can’t wait to have Number Two together with you.

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It had been on my heart for us to capture memories of our pregnancy in an outdoor shoot in the Canadian winter. But with exorbitant photography prices, I wasn’t sure if it would happen. With a spate of unpredictable snow, freezing rain, fog and cloudiness this winter, suitable weather also seemed improbable.

As I continued to pray for the opportunity, I received a phonecall one evening, which floored me completely.

How filled were we with thanksgiving to God for the unbelievable opportunity for this winter shoot, done without charge by a photographer who provided everything needed for it. Not only did she offer to travel quite a fair distance down to meet us, the location she had in mind was, in breathtaking ‘coincidence’, uniquely special to us as Cliff had brought me there on walks every time we had to visit Canada.

That morning, turned out to be the one single morning there were blue skies and magical sunlight, in a month filled with grudging grey clouds and awful freezing rain.

It has been raining, foggy and overcast ever since,

without the slightest hint of a blue sky or snow.

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Thank You God, for this wonderful gift of memories. 

And thank you Cliff,

for making pregnancy such a memorable and wonderful experience I will dearly miss.

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 More to come.

Celebrating our firstborn’s imminent arrival with loved ones was a desire I held close to my heart- but knowing we were moving to a new country late in our pregnancy, I buried that prayer, assuming that chances of a baby shower in a new community would be paper-thin.

How touched were we then, by an unexpected Baby Shower Surprise.

What moved me deeply was being told by Cliff’s friends how faithful a friend he has been, how loved he is, and how that love naturally extends to his wife and soon-to-be family.

The homemade food, hand-made decorations and most importantly, the presence of friends who loved us, made the occasion perfect.

Thank you for such beautiful memories,

and God,

for Your lavish love as always.

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Lovingly handmade decorations, with the most thoughtful pictures

Baby Shower 3Wonderful friends and memories

You are deeply loved, and highly favored,

Baby Tam.

With every year, comes its highs and lows, disappointments and joys.

Life is not perfect, I often struggle with disappointments and at times, grudgingly ask God why.

Yet, with a heart of thanksgiving, I believe we can always rejoice as we give Him thanks for what we’ve been blessed with. We may not understand everything, but as we count our blessings and thank Him for them, I believe He draws us into deeper trust, and greater faith.

This year, I am most grateful to God for, in no order of priority:

1. Baby Tam

I remember the time we found out we were expecting, after a heartbreaking disappointment a few months before.

We never expected pregnancy to be such an enjoyable, exhilarating experience. We didn’t expect it would bring our marriage closer together, and draw us deeper into understanding God’s ways, His goodness and His love for us as a Father.

Carrying, nourishing and growing Tiny Tam has been an amazing privilege.

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2. A Miraculous Pregnancy

Pregnancy has a notorious reputation of causing heartburn, back pain, emotional turmoil and a host of other discomforts and inconveniences.

Yet, by God’s grace and under the covering of a prayerful husband, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing a supernatural journey. Pregnancy not only healed me of my scoliosis pain and premenstrual symptoms (which ought to worsen), but taught me many precious lessons about learning to rejoice in all circumstances, and caring for myself and a new life.

Now in my third trimester and nearing full term, I’ll have to say being in my third trimester (the one everyone hates) has been my most enjoyable.

As crazy as it sounds, I will certainly miss pregnancy when its over!

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Back at 6 months

3. A Loving Husband

Through a year of ups and downs, where we faced many hard decisions about moving, staying on, applying for numerous scholarship /study /residential / immigration forms, what made the biggest difference in my life was God’s blessing of a loving husband whose steadfast faith and leadership anchored me deeply.

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Back at 32 weeks or so

4. A Cherished Opportunity

Being accepted into Johns Hopkins, receiving the Fulbright scholarship and finally, and having the opportunity to actually pursue it next year in the States with my husband and baby was a great blessing I still find surreal to take in.

Without God and Cliff, none of this would have been possible.

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5. A New Season

As we enter a new season, we are so grateful for all the blessings God has showered upon us as we undertake all things new.

It seems apt for us to be experiencing winter at the moment, as we take this season to rest, reflect and ponder over what God will do in the coming year.

Trusting that as we continue to surrender our lives to Him,

that He will reveal and draw us closer to the greater, eternal purposes He has for our lives.

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May He do the same for you,

as you surrender all to Him in 2017.

Good advice is what it is- good.

Yet, I wonder, if the hardest and greatest lesson I’ve learnt in the past year, has been learning to discern “good advice” from God’s best.

Looking back at a year of bizarre and bewildering events, I can only marvel at how, even in my own folly, ignorance and blindness, amidst a thousand voices echoing each of their own well-intentioned opinions, God led us to where we are now, a place I would never imagine being in- living out of two suitcases, in a country 40 degrees colder than my own, with the wintry snow pouring outside, and a warm baby inside me.

In a world preoccupied with pursuing one’s dreams, following one’s heart and amassing the world’s topnotch advice to get to the top, I am learning, that perhaps the more important thing is to learn the restfulness of surrender, so we can seal off the cacophony of voices and in the quiet, wait and trust that God will reveal His best plans for us, far better than what we would have planned ourselves.

If I had planned my life in 2016 according to what I had deemed as good advice, what I knew and was sure of, things would be vastly different from what they are now.

For one, I would not be halfway across the globe, in my third trimester, preparing to deliver a baby and embark on further studies in yet another country. If I had planned my life according to what seemed safest and good at the time, based on our calculations, measurements and good judgment, we would still be where we were, no less than 3 weeks ago, running the same routine we had been running.

More importantly, we would not have had the privilege of being on a breathtaking roller coaster ride called Faith where His surprises keep surpassing one another at a breathtaking rate.

Don’t get me wrong- Good Advice is good. Ignoring it comes at the price of pride or folly. After all, it helps us prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for what is to come. It helps us count the cost.

Yet I am learning, that if we allow it to lead us like a shepherd, if we follow it on a tightrope line on our tippy toes instead of moving into the radical step God calls us to take, we would find ourselves still on that tightrope, walking out the fulfilment of mass predictability, circumscribed by the opinions, thoughts and recommendations of what others and we ourselves thought was Good.

By the measures of Good Advice and our own reality, we should be financially strapped and stressed out from having stopped work, moved continents and homes in pregnancy, with a 5-figure debt of study fees to pay for and a baby on the way. Whatever we did should have been the stupidest thing we did, seeming last-minute, unprepared and haphazard. Every step we took was counterintuitive, grating Good Advice the wrong way. According to it, I should be having a mental breakdown right about now, if not some months ago.

But by God’s grace, His gentle hand nudged us out of our comfort zones.

Instead of holding desperately onto what was familiar, 2016 taught us to wait in the darkness, to be comfortable in the unknown and to embrace uncertainty. Because in that blank, dark space of restlessness, is the certainty of God needing to swoop in to take control. In that premise of uncertainty, is the opportunity to see His love take the shape of reality.

When we did, I discovered that God’s reality far surpasses our own.

God’s reality confounds human expectations, unceremoniously overturns human predictions, and leaves Good Advice looking at best, its worst.

People have commented that they’ve gone out of breath watching the pace at which things have moved in our lives in the past few months. After all, it was only in a few weeks span in 2016 that we found out we were expecting, accepted into Johns Hopkins, that we might then need to stay in Singapore, then may have to move to Canada and the States thereafter, that it wasn’t for sure my leave would be approved by the government so we don’t know anything for sure, and two, no three of our lives were in limbo, and seriously how were we going to pull this whole thing off?

Good Advice told us all the above was a cauldron for disaster, brewing a storm of mental, marital and familial stresses, depression, and a huge financial burden ahead of us. It exposed our limitations, pointed out a series of closed doors, overwhelmed us with “but”s and “maybe”s.

Discerning Good Advice from God’s plans was hardly a straightforward process. We waited, listened, made mistakes, went back, waited, and re-listened again. Yet, the journey was well worth the effort.

Yet, we know that the only reason why we were unrushed, uncrushed and unfrazzled was not because we outsmarted or outwitted Good Advice.

It was because in the eye of the storm of reality was a place of abundant grace, where God’s reality overturned what ours should have predicted.

God’s reality has the power to give birth to unimagined possibilities, spawn new resources, create life out of nothing.

The fact is- Good Advice is good. It could be lifesaving, even.

But do we believe that when we are called differently to a level of faith that calls for a risk greater than what our minds can conceive, that God’s reality surpasses our own, in ways beyond our imaginings?

Is it then unreasonable for Him to ask us to take the step of faith off the tightrope first, to lose our way that we may find His?

Who would have known nor imagined that He had divinely planned our baby’s birth in the same month as term would start, such that my application for an online Masters program could not only be deferred, but be converted to an on-site program which would then make it eligible for financial support through scholarships?

Who could have timed with such clockwork precision my application to Canada, such that baby would receive free healthcare just when we landed? Who else could have measured the announcement of the approval of my no-pay leave from the government with chronological precision before we had to fly, with just the right number of months needed for Cliff to fulfill his residential healthcare needs in Canada before we had to move again?

And with what almost seems like metronomic rhythm and consistency, He provided a perfect home, and people eager to bless us with everything we needed for Baby’s arrival when we arrived, making Good Advice blush.

I am learning, that a life of waiting in uncertainty and moving when Faith calls is unnerving, and can look haphazard, last-minute and irresponsible, even. We’ve had our fair share of are-you-out-of-your-minds looks.

But it is surely not chance when ripple chains of divine doors open with contagion.

When we are willing to take the risk to trust that an invisible God has plans ready to happen beyond what we can think or imagine, perhaps we may find that His script for our lives were written way before our birth, before we knew what we thought we knew about what we wanted.

Above all, when Good Advice comes our way telling us to slow down, to toe the line more carefully, to keep, save, store more, are we willing to pause to reflect and discern its source? Are we willing to take it in graciously, not bark at it with self-righteous pride or defensiveness, and use it to power our prayers to usher in breakthrough after breakthrough in our lives?

With a new baby, new homes, new countries, and a new professional endeavour to embark on in 2017, we know that it’ll be a great deal to take in. Yet, in this uncertainty, we can hold on to the assurance that as we wait in open expectation, God will never fail to provide, show up and surprise us with His reality.

What realities have Good Advice circumscribed for us in the past and new year?

I am learning, that Good Advice is good and should probably not be ignored… just up to the point where His reality surpasses our very own.

This season, I was reminded of the similarities between both Christmas and Baby’s arrival- celebrations, food, endless gifts, and endless cheer.

Yet, in a very cold and frosty winter, with the lights and fanfare melting into a different, quiet kind of white Christmas this year, I began to reflect upon the kind of Christmases we would have when we become three.

I wondered how life would be like with you, if you would enjoy being part of our Team, traipsing the world to follow God’s call for our lives.

I began to wonder, if someday you might wonder why we lived the way we did, if you might question us for bringing you to the mission field. If maybe, we had stayed behind in one place and earned more to afford more, let you make friends from one country primarily, let you grow up “normally” with things other people had, you might be happier. I used to wonder, if our decisions, now and in future, might cause you to lack in some way.

This Christmas, I’m reminded that you have a better Father and parent than we could ever be to you. Did you know, that on the morning Mama was looking for a second-hand bassinet for you online, we went to church that day and a lady we met only the week before came to us with an almost brand-new bassinet and said she felt led to give it to us? I never told her or anyone else we needed one- not even Papa knew.

Did you know, that last Sunday, we went home with 3 big bags of clothes for you from a couple who wanted to bless you? I was a little apprehensive while opening the black trash bags, wondering if the clothes were weary and worn. They were trash bags after all. But my, were they beautiful, Baby. They were the cutest pieces from Baby Gap, Tommy Hilfiger’s and The Children’s Place, places we would probably never shop at for you on our own.

I was reminded, that Jesus was born to shepherd parents, who delivered him in dire circumstances of desperation. They had little, but they had Much.

And Jesus grew to become the Son of Man not because of what His parents could afford Him, but because of the greater, eternal purposes His Father had for Him.

Mary didn’t have money to buy fancy baby things, do private cord blood banking, or hire a confinement nanny. Joseph didn’t stress himself over buying Fisher-Price cribs, bouncers, diaper bags, playpens or Jolly-jumpers. They didn’t stress over buying childcare insurance or decorating the nursery.

They raised Jesus the best way they could, and God did the rest.

One day over a social gathering, I went home shaken, after learning I was earning less than half the income of my peers because of the decisions we had chosen based on God’s call. My face was flushed when put on the spot.

That very same evening, however, I returned to a very large house, and was reminded how His providence takes different forms. We might not have a better paycheck to buy you better things, Tiny Tam, but remember this, that God provides in ways beyond our imaginings. When the owner of our previous home asked us to house-sit his bungalow for free for a year, it would have cost us more than double my salary to rent it per month.

We are learning, that money may buy us what we want, but not what we need, Tiny Tam. And we can’t let it define us.

Mama understood this better just a few days ago, when she started to panic because Papa and Mama have stopped working to study full-time. Work is very important to people like us, Tiny, because it gives us a sense of importance, security, purpose- and things. Mama likes to work. I was scared to suddenly be without work, to prepare myself to be fully available to you, the tiniest human being we know.

But I am learning, that money doesn’t guarantee us sufficiency. God does.

We might not earn like we would have, Tiny. Christmases might not mean holidays overseas, endless gadgets and toys under the tree or branded clothes.

But Mama and Papa can tell you one thing for sure, that God’s hand is never too short to provide you with things. And the best part is, that things aren’t even the best part.

The best gift you could ever have, for Christmas or otherwise, is the gift of knowing Him, through and through.

The best gifts in life, are often not what you had to earn for yourself, but what was given to you, freely and liberally, by grace.

It’s Mama’s first white Christmas ever in her life, and we are both amazed at how God carved out this precious season of our lives to await and prepare for your arrival. That’s priceless, isn’t it? That’s something Mama’s career can’t buy for our family, can it?

So Mama and Papa’s prayer is that someday when you’re growing up, you’ll come to experience for yourself how good God is, how much thanksgiving can explode into a million bits of joy in our heart far more than any brand new toy, and how little there is we can provide for you that will truly be enough.

We pray that for all your life, God will be more than enough for you no matter where we are, that Christmas will be more than gifts or things, but the fullness of knowing His heart.

God is our sufficiency. Merry Christmas, Tiny Tam.

Love,
Mama

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