Cliff had warned me, the chances would be so slim.

“It’s not what you think, Wai Jia. Literally, so many factors would have to be aligned for this to happen as imagined.”

As much I didn’t want to hear it, I knew he was being kind. 

By mitigating my expectations, Cliff was alleviating the disappointment I would most likely face.

Yet, like a child, I hoped and prayed with a heart full of passionate naïveté.

More than two years ago in my third trimester, as we moved from a sweltering Singapore to wintry Canada, I had hoped and prayed for a maternity shoot in the snow. Having grown up in a tropical country all my life, I was unduly fascinated by this magical season.

But it didn’t happen. That winter, was the mildest in years.

Now, two years later in winter again, with a different baby in my womb, Cliff knew I was hoping the same hopes again.

This time, he didn’t have to remind me how unrealistic my expectations were- I could see them clearly now:

The snow would have to be as fresh as cream, before it turned quickly into muddy slush. If it snowed too lightly, the ground would not be fully blanketed, leaving ugly pimply pockets of grass and tarmac. If it snowed too heavily, traffic would be disrupted, schools would be closed, and the photographer and/or makeup artist would not be able to travel down and we’d have to reschedule. Too cold, and we wouldn’t be able to withstand it; too warm, and the snow would turn into slippery ice, forcing us indoors anyway.

The chances of all this happening for the prescheduled time of the shoot was nearly impossible, since the weather forecast was so volatile.

Then, after an epic effort to coordinate multiple appointments between Cliff, myself, and my in-laws to make it for our shoot, the photographer cancelled on us last minute.

Frustrated, I went silent.

“This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?” Cliff asked.

“I guess so, but it’s silly though,” I replied. “In the grand scheme of things, this is so insignificant, so stupid to be upset over.”

This time, instead of reminding me of the cosmic impossibility of having the snow shoot I had dreamt of, Cliff said instead, “Why don’t you trust God about this, Wai Jia. Just trust Him.”

I looked at him like he was crazy, thinking- surely, God has more important things to do than coordinate our maternity photoshoot.

In the end, the day our shoot got cancelled turned out to be one of the warmest winter days- all the creamy, fluffy snow that had accumulated beautifully over the week disappeared in a wink.

“See, the cancellation turned out for good. Just trust God,” Cliff encouraged me, “Just see what He’ll do.”

By this time, I held on to little hope. Seeing how just a touch of warmer weather could melt thick, dreamy blankets of pristine snow into piles of grey, muddy slush, I came to accept that my idea of a magical snow shoot was an unreasonable expectation, a silly dream by a little unrealistic girl who had grown up in a tropical island her entire life with a disproportionate fascination with snow.

Days later, with my heart still heavy, Cliff continued to encourage me, “Just trust God.”

The day before the re-scheduled shoot date, milky pearls rained down from heaven like a magical play. It snowed so heavily that schools were closed. Everything was bathed in white, glorious lustre.

I was nervous, preparing myself for another cancellation. Surely, something would go wrong.

The next morning, it was cold enough for the snow to remain, but not bad enough to disrupt traffic. Because it was windy, not many people had left their homes and the snow remained pristine. Because it was snowing only lightly by then, roads functioned. The makeup artist who had told me she couldn’t make it said she rescheduled her medical appointment because she wanted to be there for me. Miraculously, the photographer showed up.

We went out, and it was glorious.

For half an hour, the sun glistened through the trees in our backyard and all at once, I was overwhelmed.

Surrounded by speechless beauty, I felt God tell me that He answers prayers in His own time and way. It didn’t happen two years ago when I first prayed hard, or the week ago during the scheduled date, but it happened in His time, gloriously, beautifully and so perfectly.

Almost with dramatic candor, as soon as the last few pictures were taken, the photographer’s camera stopped working because of the cold, and a terrible snowstorm raged down. Had we started just minutes later, going out would not have been possible.

God’s timing was perfectly magical. And magically perfect.

I am learning, not to despise prayer or to look down on the little things we hope for, in the secret places. They may seem silly, insignificant even, but just as how a parent longs to see his/her child smile, our Heavenly Father, too, longs to fill our hearts with joy.

What may seem pithily insignificant or overly extravagant for us to ask for, could be the very way God wants to reveal His tenderness and exceeding fatherly love to us.

Now that winter has nearly ended, I marvel at that perfect winter day that never happened again.

So often we hold onto the false belief that our secret hopes are too small for consideration for a God who has to take care of the universe. Yet, we forget that He has infinite time, and infinite resources.

Surely and thankfully, not everything we ask for gets granted.

But I am learning, that when we release gumption and self-entitlement, the heavenlies unlock special slivers of spectacular moments that take our breath away, that show us a glimmer of how good He is, and how His ways are beyond our understanding.

We may not understand when, why or how those hopes may get granted, but we can be sure, that every heart cry is heard.

This coming Spring, may you experience a sliver of His spectacular love, one that might take your breath away.

Wai_Maternity086

8 years ago on my 24th birthday, I was in tears.

I should have said “No” firmly and ignored the hounding calls. But my insecurity, inexperience and most of all, a deep sense of fear that everything I had been through would go to waste bound me.

So I allowed an aggressive, interrogative news reporter to hound me up till midnight, threatening me to drop the news story if I didn’t give her what she wanted.

For my birthday that year, I had envisioned it would be beautiful that I should be interviewed about my recovery journey which culminated in publishing “A Taste of Rainbow.” It seemed uncanny that my birthday landed on Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

But the reporter had different plans- her goal was to publish a sensationalist story about a medical doctor who had anorexia, and the juicy details of the sickness which every health professional had cautioned me not to share, for fear of triggering those with the illness among the public.

That night, in desperation, I remember calling Cliff who was still in Canada (we were still only penpals then)- and I’ll never forget the verse he said to me over the short conversation, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20.”

Right after that, the aggressive, threatening calls stopped.

The story was dropped, my book never got news coverage that week, and I felt like a failure- as if my vulnerability had been a complete waste.

Yet, that verse stuck to me. And over the years, I stand amazed at the ways God has used the book I most despise and am embarrassed by, in His own time.

In those 8 years, it was the first title to undergo reprint, the first to enter America and most recently, Canada to be used by treatment centers formally to help patients in therapy, and the first that opened doors for me to be invited as a keynote speaker in USA.

This year for my birthday, as I reflected upon the ways of God, of how He turns our pain into purpose, I pre-recorded my birthday podcast entitled “The Purpose of Our Pain”, together with a special series of 5-day interviews and messages with experts in the field to answer the many, many questions I’ve received from those struggling and their loved ones over the years.

Based on Genesis 50:20, it is an intensely personal message of how God uses the pain in our lives to give us the victory and authority to bless and heal others.

This time, I wondered, again, if all my efforts of creating these resources (amidst planning Sarah-Faith’s birthday party and baby shower that week) would be of any use to anyone, if my pain would be a waste.

I thought the thought silently, but God must have heard it loud and clear.

Yesterday, on the morning of my birthday, Cliff and I decided to do something different, and visit a church nearby run by our friends.

As usual, I brought Sarah-Faith to the children’s Sunday school, and expected to sit through a lesson of crafts or of stories I had heard many times over.

As I sat there, my hair stood on end, as of all verses that could have been taught that Sunday, the lesson that was taught to a group of rambunctious kids in a place I decided to visit once was exactly the verse that was spoken to me on my birthday 8 years ago by Cliff, the same one I had used to share my birthday message on the podcast that weekend- “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20.”

As I sat there in awe, tears built behind my eyes, as I thought about the incredulity of this all coming full circle.

I felt God speaking to me, that He knows what He is doing, and that He doesn’t need our striving to bring His plans to pass.

As I turn 32, my hope is that these series of messages will be a blessing, to those who are struggling and to those who carry the heavy burden of seeing others struggle.

If you know someone who might be blessed, please share these series of messages this week with them at www.kitesong.com/podcast

And to those of you know the taste of sorrow, know this- that God uses all our pains for His purposes, and they shall never be wasted in eternity.

 

On our special 5-day “Faith, Hope & Recovery” Series, we’re answering questions sent in by our brave listeners from the Kitesong Podcast!

 

With a power-packed week of inspiring interviews and messages, join us as we unpack how our pain has a purpose, in light of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

 

We have RaeLynn Spanagel DeAngelis, the Founder of Living in Truth Ministries sharing a powerful story of recovery; Amanda Stutz, a mental health counsellor from McCallum Place, a treatment center in Missouri USA, and our very own Founder Wai Jia sharing their wisdom and experience with us.

 

Share this with your friends and family who need a word of hope, especially if they know someone struggling with an eating disorder.

 

_Your pain has a Purpose. Hold on._

About a year later from that special day, I stand back and marvel at the incredible miracle that happened.

A little bashful dream to celebrate your 1st birthday and share a story about a kitesong in a little classroom with a humble homemade cake with a few friends, through prayer & Providence, turned into a public event at the largest function hall of an Ivy League university, with sponsored cake and pizza enough to feed 200, professional videography whose cost was waived because the staff adored you, and seats filled to overflowing into the corridors that summoned the attention of security guards… all because of everyone’s great love for a little baby they claimed to bring them so much joy.

Truly, when we present our littlest of dreams into the world, could it be that it is more than chance that listens, but God Himself who intervenes because of His great love.

As you turn 2 and Kitesong Global turns 1, as you leaf through Mama’s books, sit on my lap and insist I read them to you (“BOOK!! BOOK! MAMA BOOK!!”) my eyes tear with wonder at the time that has passed-

– at the time a towering four-year old boy screamed at you at the public library when we first moved to a new country and everyone froze, watching you, certain that you would melt and cry… my arms were wide open to receive you, but you stood your ground, and for the first time ever in your little life, you summoned all the courage in the world to wag your index finger at him with a triumphant “no-no”, and ran back to me with a big smile on your face, leaving the staring crowd of grandmas and mamas laughing in stitches and cheering you on, all at 16 months of age.

– at the time Mama was certain her nose bridge had broken when you fell on my face at a bad angle by accident, and you disappeared suddenly- only to have me realize that you had independently climbed two flights of stairs, walked to the kitchen and (who-knows-how) found a ziplock bag and walked down by yourself again, dabbing my nose with it because you had remembered how I had dabbed a ziplock bag with ice on your head previously when you fell, all at 18 months of age.

– and at the times you fell and just laughed, the way you prayed before meals and bedtime and made your bear-friends do the same, at the times you could shake off the dust from all our crazy house-moving and transitions and just laugh with wide-eyed, awe-inspired wonder at the days to come…

… all before you turned two.

For all the miracles of faith that have happened in your little life filled with big dreams, for all the hearts that you drew to His even before you spoke a word, for all the smiles and laughter you bring to all around you, for all the wonder you carry- Happy 2nd Birthday Sarah-Faith.

We’re looking forward to celebrating it with Mama’s this weekend- May all your dreams be set free, to light up our world, as you already do.

Love,
Mama

Wai0024

I cried at the door,
When you turned me away.
You said with my child, 
I wasn’t welcome to stay
At your conference,
I’d longed all year to attend.
But now our plans we have to amend.

Alas, a nursery I see,
I sigh relief, a place we can be!
“Your child is 22 months, just under two,
We only take children two and over,
We have no place for you.”

Pregnant and tired, my tears hit the ground,
We peer through the back door,
Without any sound.

Last year on the podium,
I was the conference speaker.
An entourage followed me,
You were an autograph-seeker.
But now that I’m pregnant,
With a toddler in my arms,
You turn us away without any qualms.

“Woman, if your child makes a sound, out you’ll have to go,”
I’m perplexed- we didn’t come to create a show.

So I went to the store
To purchase a book.
But it was a mistake,
When I saw your angry look.
As my toddler giggled and grinned while touching your wares,
My face burned with shame as I felt your hot glares.

“Woman, so are you buying all of this or not?”
I tried to hide my face, rather distraught.

O Child,
Some days it’s hard being a mother,
When to everyone you’re clearly such a bother.
Back in the days when Mama was a doctor,
People worshipped at her feet,
Said, “No one would mock her.”

Now that I’ve exchanged that badge for a label,
Known as “Mom,” I’m known as Keeper of a cradle.
In the eyes of the world, I’ve turned from gold to dust,
Yet I’ve gained more within that will never rust,
Of compassion, humility and plenty of grace,
And treasure for an eternal glory that will help me finish the race.

So though they might say I’ve lost my shine,
Let me neither complain nor even whine.
Even though to them I’m worth little now,
I’ll leave the stage gracefully, and take a bow.

One day, when you hold Mama’s wrinkly hand,
Up to the podium amidst an applause so grand,
Let us remember all Mamas in the audience,
And tell them and their babes, that they aren’t a nuisance.
You don’t belong to a dark room, a corridor or behind the hall,
Nobody here should make you feel small.

But for now, let me wipe my tears,
And not make a scene.
Your smile is my greatest reward when I see your eyes gleam.
We’ll kneel by the door just at the back,
We have play-dough and crayons,
To keep us quiet without lack.
Let me give up the glamor,
The rancour and clamour,
Let me surrender my rebuttals that serve to hammer.
For none of this will really matter,
In the face of pride that needs to shatter.
Perhaps one day they will see,
That Mamas are human too,
Our hearts are glorious and free.

So let me choose to revel in these days,
That set my burning heart ablaze.
After all, when this weary world fades away,
And my tears see what’s true,
Its all right that I now mean nothing to them,
When I mean,

Everything to you.

Love,
Mama

Wai0064

Dear friends, 

 

Thank you for your wonderful encouragement and support through the years on our journey through Kitesong.

 

As some of you might know, we’ve recently launched Kitesong’s podcast.

 

With listeners from 9 countries, my prayer is that it may be a tremendous blessing to you and others all over the world, to continue to seek and pursue God. If you might have 2 minutes, I’d love to hear how this podcast has touched you through your note/review on iTunes.

 

If you know someone who might be blessed by it, please share this with them. 

 

This week, I will also be collecting questions from listeners for our upcoming season that grapples with depression, identity, eating disorders and most of all, recovering and living with HOPE & JOY.

 

Please send your questions to hello@kitesong.com. I would love to hear from you and send a chosen someone a copy of a book of their choice.

Be blessed.

 

Love,

Wai Jia

The night I wanted to walk out into the unforgiving winter cold and never come back to my baby, I knew I should have called it what it was.

But I didn’t.

I thought it would pass, and willed it away. But months later, it lingered.

Everyone was so happy for us. They had written for me a story with a happy ending- how could I ruin it?

I did not want to ruin the narrative that as someone who had triumphed over depression before, I was battling it all over again postpartum.

So I denied it. By sheer will, I would be okay. Or so I thought.

Shortly after, I was interviewed by a newspaper from back home. The story was the same as all the previous times- “young doctor battled depression and goes on to lead an inspiring life in humanitarian service.”

Thankfully, after months of struggling through a dark patch of undiagnosed confusion, the move to the States and starting an intense graduate school program helped somewhat. Ironically, the support of an artificial academic environment which I thrived in became its own form of self-medication.

Eleven months later, after a fanfare-filled graduation filled with glitzy achievements, we moved countries again, whizzing through Canada and USA, and back and forth again, through 5 homes in 5 weeks with a toddler in tow. When the glittery dust faded, I became disoriented, homesick and constantly felt ill.

Exhaustion hit. Years of fatigue, stowed away in the trunk, finally caught up and hit the brakes. I found out I was expecting again, and unlike the first pregnancy which went smoothly, this one was marked with utter exhaustion. Unlike before, I now had a toddler to look after full-time, as my husband entered an intense new job. Not being able to drive in a foreign place, it was a struggle to find a sense of community.

Shortly after, I was properly diagnosed with antepartum depression.

Ironically, it was around the same time that I was interviewed on a regional paper about my “success” as the Founder of an international nonprofit and scholar. Everyone was so happy for us- for our upcoming baby, my recent achievements.

But inside, my world was falling apart. I blamed myself- why should I have reason for this mad sadness?

“Oh, you should be so happy that you’re not working.” 
“You ought to be grateful to be a stay-at-home mom.” 
“You don’t even know how lucky you are.”

The voices, some articulated quite plainly by real people, were deafening. In the night, I felt suffocated by a sense of overwhelming guilt, like a tiny pea squelched under a 6-tonne hippo.

“You’re a terrible mom.” 
“Your unborn baby and toddler deserve so much better.” 
“Your family would be better off without you.”

When they became so loud in the cold winter nights, I felt that urge to disappear forever, again.

The difference this time was that I wanted help. Soon.

Then, a bizarre phenomenon happened.

Soon after my diagnosis, doors in Canada and the States started to open for me to speak on podcasts, conferences, treatment centers and hospitals about my journey and Kitesong Global.

The discrepancy was jarring- deep inside, I felt most inept to do any sort of inspirational speaking. Yet, God had chosen me in that exact season to do so.

As time passed and the year tipped into the cusp of a new one, I began to reflect on our journeys through struggle, pain and victory. I began to reflect on the narrative that our world so often loves to portray in a success story-

“Person breaks through insurmountable challenge and overcomes and now leads a successful, happy life.”

As I pondered over interviews, past and recent, I began to see that the problem with this narrative is that our lives then become framed in a narrative of straightforward success-post-failure, when in fact, it is a story of chaotic brokenness and great redemption, of bewildering darkness punctuated by unexpected moments of great light.

It’s inspiring when our stories become framed as past challenges being resolved and thus, worthy of celebration. But the problem occurs when the struggle re-emerges in new form- leaving one shocked and ashamed even, and the narrative, devastatingly ruined.

Interviewing me on my struggles in the past tense, usually because I’ve received a recent award or scholarship, reinforces the fairytale ending that depression and our personal struggles are a full stop, rather than a chapter in a book that is still being written.

While it gives exuberant hope for a final release from what can be a haunting, crippling struggle, it also leaves no room for reality- relapse, what I call “failing forward” and moving on.

The truth is, one past victory does not absolve us from harder battles ahead, or discount us from the opportunity to fight for valor and victory again.

Our lives are not a black-and-white pre and post war- every day is a battle for hope, for faith and for joy.

As I walk through the snowy forest behind our home this season (photo attached), I am reminded that winter did not end when 2019 began, just because societal narrative demands that a new year must have a new beginning. Instead, spring will arrive here only in late March, reminding me that we all deserve to give ourselves time and space to journey through our own struggles, even repeated ones, in our own time.

I am learning, that our courage to embrace cyclical seasons of struggles is a strength, not a weakness. Sometimes we fail not because we’ve displeased God or done something wrong. Sometimes, unexpected life-twists or accumulated stresses intensify exponentially and circumvent round our old coping mechanisms and simply demand a newer, deeper way of dealing with them.

Sometimes, after constantly working and grinding day after day for years, God calls us into a season of winter to rest, reflect and be refreshed.

I am learning, that this is exactly how God loves to use us- He brings us through winters before spring, so that the drought and cold can send our roots deeper to be established further, more firmly than ever before.

I am learning, not to doubt our value even in these seemingly fruitless seasons, for He loves to use the broken and the contrite. When we are weak, that is when He becomes strong.

Just because your journey doesn’t fit into the world’s circumscribed narrative, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Instead, it gives us a fresh perspective to see God as our true Author, continually refining the plot and ourselves.

With that, I recently started Kitesong’s podcast in 2019, which are a series of messages and testimonies on hope and faith from my journey, not of success, but through brokenness.

If you are entering the new year, burdened and disappointed from pains carried forward even before January is over, know that God has a different narrative for you. You are not limited by the world’s plot for you to be “happy and successful in the new year”.

As you become the pen in His hand, the pen of the world will lose its grip on you to allow Him to write a fresh adventure of incredible realness and courage, set in His own time and seasons.

For in His book, comes the light that gives us hope, the glory that gives us faith, for a fresh narrative that will challenge even the most circumscribed of plots.

As I navigate through my own brokenness into hope, you’re welcome to join me on a journey of faith on https://www.kitesong.com/podcast. Feel free to share this with your loved ones who need this. Be blessed.

50276842_10161274415265635_1433307165942087680_n

Recently, God opened doors for me to be invited to speak on an interview with EDHope. If you have a friend who is struggling this new year season, I hope this will bless their heart.

 

Love,

Wai Jia

 

Weekly Hope welcomes Dr. Wai Jia Tam to the show to talk about global health advocacy and her recovery story.

 

To find out more, visit www.kitesong.com or follow Wai Jia on Facebook at “Tam Wai Jia”. 

 

Wai Jia’s books are now available on Amazon at https://amazon.com/author/waijia

Grudgingly, I gave in.
 
It wasn’t the first time we had had this discussion, and it didn’t make sense to me to escalate it into a full blown argument.
 
“Okay fine,” I uttered, “But only if I get a good second-hand deal.”
 
For a house with an active, buoyant toddler, our home was pretty empty by most standards.
 
One day, like a loud gust being released from a pent-up can, Cliff finally declared, “We don’t have ANY toys in our house!”
 
While I thought it was an exaggeration, it was not far from the truth. I knew what he meant- all our friends we knew in North America who had kids had houses filled with toys- kitchen sets, train tracks, interactive toy models. Besides a few picture books, stuffed animals and Chinese word cards we’d been given, you mightn’t know we had an exuberant toddler running around our turf.
 
For a long time, I had put my foot down. Having lived among the underprivileged in Nepal and Africa and seen the face of poverty, I didn’t want to be sucked into the insatiable lure of buying more and more for our own children. The children I had lived with there were happy, not because of what they owned, but because they learned to cherish and enjoy what they had.
 
Defiantly, as Sarah-Faith grew, I made kitchen play sets out of my baking trays and raw pasta, tugboats out of cardboard boxes and string, and animal shapes from my own cut-out drawings.
 
“It wouldn’t hurt to buy SOME toys,” Cliff reasoned, “It’s not wrong.”
 
“It’ll be never ending,” I argued. “They get bored, we get another, and another. She’s a happy baby, we don’t need MORE.”
 
The truth was that, deep down inside, I felt a little guilty- guilty that maybe I WAS wrong after all. Maybe our toddler did deserve better.
 
But a part of me didn’t want to give into a materialistic, first world culture that my experiences in humanitarian work and living among the poor could not agree with. Besides, it hurt the environment, I argued- all that plastic, ah!
 
Knowing that someday we would, God-willing, return to a developing nation to serve, I didn’t want our children to suddenly feel deprived then. I want them to grow up knowing that we could be happy in abundance and in lack, and that God would always provide sufficiently for all our needs, without us spending more and more for ourselves. Deep down, I really wanted them to know that we could live simply, and enjoy the pleasures of a simple childhood without buying more.
 
But I gave in, not because I agreed with my husband’s philosophy, but because I saw his heart- filled with an extravagant love to bless and love on his child, the same love that pursued and won me over when I said no to him at the start.
 
I never told anyone about this discussion we had. Over the next few days, I didn’t find any good second-hand deals online either.
 
That very Sunday, an elderly lady we hardly knew at church came walking towards us, her hands full.
 
In a hurried fluster, she unloaded her bags on the floor and panted, “I know this is strange, but this week I was at my friend’s home and I felt God telling me to ask her for toys for your family. I don’t know why I asked really, it was so weird for me to do so, I’m sure you have toys- but I hope you don’t mind I did. These are all for your family.”
 
In shock, I stood there for a moment, before she hurried off, as if half-embarrassed. As I looked at the large bags, I saw colorful LeapFrog and Fisher-Price musical learning tables in mint condition, a musical turtle that sang as it spun round and round, an interactive ladybug that belted creative tunes about numbers and letters, and countless entertaining wooden puzzles of animals and cars and trains for our child. In total, they must all have amounted to hundreds of dollars.
 
My jaw must have dropped to the floor. Pressure built up behind my eyes. As my eyes met Cliff’s, I saw the biggest, widest megawatt grin spread across his face.
 
Suddenly, as I held back tears, I was overwhelmed.
 
It was then that I felt God’s unspeakable love wash over me like an avalanche.
 
His extravagant display of love astounded me- Cliff got his wish as a father to bless his child with lots of fun toys, Sarah-Faith was thrilled beyond her understanding, and I didn’t have to spend a cent feeling guilty for one moment for buying into our materialistic consumer culture. They were given to us, after all.
 
In God’s glorious out-of-the-box way, we all got what we wanted. It blew my mind.
 
Suddenly, I had flashbacks of all the blessings we had received from God over the year.
 
I had been worried about burdening our growing family financially by going to grad school as a young mother, but God astounded us with sufficient scholarships to graduate from my Masters program at Hopkins debt-free, with excess remaining for our family’s needs.
 
When we moved to USA when our baby was 6 months old, we had to travel light and live simply- I felt guilty for not having enough clothes for her or a proper crib. She slept in a hand-me-down play pen, and it was beginning to sag under her growing weight. But the moment we pulled into the driveway at our rental home, our new neighbor from across the street came over and said, “I have a two year old daughter and we have so many clothes to give you. Would you like some?” When I opened the large bags he gave to us, they were mostly 6-9month old clothes, the age group that I needed most urgently. Later, he said, “Why don’t you come over and take a look at our crib? My baby doesn’t want to sleep in it.” So that brand new $600 Toys R Us crib which we never would have afforded became Sarah-Faith’s.
 
When we moved to Canada, I felt guilty for not knowing where we would stay. Within the first two months, we were gifted a home we did not, still do not, deserve. When we discovered the home did not come with air conditioning and I worried about how the hot summer would trigger Sarah-Faith’s eczema, we found out our housing agent had installed a brand new air conditioning system for us as a housewarming gift, a gift that we later found out cost him $3000.
 
When I started Kitesong Global, there were people who told us not to, that it was a mistake. Less than a month later, a random donor wrote us a cheque to cover all our legal set-up fees and more. Before the year closed, as I dwelled self-piteously upon self-doubt and whether what we were doing was meaningful or not, we received another donation from a donor who said, “Your work is an encouragement to many.”
 
All this while, God astounded us with His lavishness- even through my moments of resentment towards Him, through the hurdles of multiple transitions, depression and pregnancy challenges. Yet, as I stood in awe of His love for our child, amidst the bags of toys, I realized that it was a reflection of His love for me, too.
 
It reminded me that every day, He is watching over us, listening to our needs, even when those prayers are only uttered in the innermost depths of our hearts, when we can’t find the words to express them, even.
 
It reminds me, of the lies that are overthrown in the light of His miraculous provisions- that He is too busy for us, that there are more important things in the world for God to worry about than whether my child has enough toys, or my job woes or whether we’ll have a roof over us, that He doesn’t really care for me.
 
They’re all untrue.
 
When I get overwhelmed just thinking about how we will cope with yet another newborn and moving back to Singapore later this year, for me to start work and finish my contract as a physician, where we will stay (we have no house in Singapore anymore), where I will work, how I will cope as a working mother of two, I am reminded of God’s lavish provisions and His promises when He says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
 
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Mt 7:9-11
 
So this new year, as you grapple with the disappointments, hurts and failings of the year gone past, I hope that His still small voice gently reminding you of the blessings you’ve received might give you fresh perspective on the incredible love God has for us.
 
Our lives are messy, broken and filled with unresolved circumstances.
Yet, God gives us an unwavering hope that He cares for us
intimately, passionately and extravagantly.
 
As you enter the new year with joy and thanksgiving,
our prayer is that you might experience His lavish love and provisions
as a Good Father for all you need, and more.
 
From our family to yours,
Blessed New Year.
Wai0071

The tension grew.

As I stood my ground, the lady across the counter became increasingly annoyed, saying once again, “You need to have the other forms.”

“No, I’m only here for the ultrasound to see my baby,” I said. “So I’ve only got one form.”

As her voice got louder, and her tone, more irritated, I explained myself, “ I don’t want the blood tests, I’ve chosen not to do them.”

She frowned, rolled her eyes and then tsk-tsked at me. In one moment, I felt thoroughly uneducated.

I understood her frustration. The tests came in a set and she wanted the full set of forms, but as a patient, I had the right to decide whether or not I wanted to do the full Down syndrome screening for our baby.

Given we would keep our baby in any case, and tests would not be fully conclusive, we made the personal decision not to do the extra tests. Our midwife had assured us this was fine. My medical background told me this was a patient’s right. Administrative bureaucracy was secondary.

But it was too late. By this time, a belligerent, matronly lady who looked like her supervisor had trudged up to me, her sleeves rolled up and her arms folded.

As she towered over me, a little Asian mom in her shorts and lululemons stained with my toddler’s yoghurt handprints, with little Sarah-Faith trailing behind me, a loud, dragon-like bellow echoed through the waiting hall, “Look lady, you gotta have ALL the forms okay? You understand me?”

“Yes, I do understand,” I said quietly, a little intimidated and embarrassed, with pressure behind my eyes.

With my face flushed, I half-whispered to her, “I’m a medical doctor. I understand these tests and their implications very well. But that’s exactly why I only want the ultrasound, and not the blood tests.”

Immediately, both sets of eyes fell onto the desk. Within a second, the air, fraught with tension, had dissolved into a furious typing and scribbling. “You’re next.”

As I walked back to my seat, Cliff gave me a look and a huge “yeaaah” smile. He knew, I had put a trump card on the table.

But it felt awful inside. I never, ever like to have to tell people that I am a medical doctor, especially not under these kinds of circumstances.

As I sat back down on my seat, I was overwhelmed by the difference a label meant. My request had not changed. I had not changed from my exercise tank top into my lab coat. I had not become angrier, more demanding.

All I did, was let them know, that in my past life, I was a doctor. That I was well-informed. That I spoke English with an accent but it did not mean I was uneducated.

Everything changed in that moment. Suddenly, I was no longer “just a mom”. At once, I was somebody smart, somebody useful to society, somebody worthy of respect.

Was I not all those things before?

As I stared blankly into space, Cliff, perhaps not entirely oblivious to how overwhelmed I was, tried to lighten the atmosphere by his usual joking. He leaned over and whispered, “You should have told them you were chosen in ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’. And you’re top ten percent of your cohort at Hopkins.”

I took weeks to get over this incident. It played over and over in my head like a nightmare.

No shred of smugness that I had “won” comforted me in any way. This was not a victory, but a brutal revelation.

It was a friend who articulated it for me- that there are differences between “jobs of success” and “jobs of significance.” While they may not always be mutually exclusive, the world tends to look to jobs of success, even when we have left them to choose a different kind of job that is of deeper significance to us.

Like being a full-time mom, or starting a non-profit without salary, or serving the poor in a humanitarian setting.

Weeks after the event, I felt an unusual rage. Somebody called me “Mom” at a play center non-maliciously and it made me angry. Suddenly, I had so much to say- I wish that people knew that moms, too, were, are people with a trajectory- that I once scheduled your grandmother’s cataract surgery, and wrote your father’s prescription for his discharge medication when he was admitted for a heart attack. That I recently started a global non-profit that I hope could make our world a better place.

But above that, I found myself in an existential crisis. What if I hadn’t been a doctor before, what if I had never won all those accolades and awards, would I still be worth the same to others? Would people treat me differently?

The incident over the counter shook me, because it spelled out these answers with brutal and chilling honesty.

So who am I now? Now that my peers are earning five figure salaries and using their higher degrees to buy cars, go places. Who am I, this little mom who now gives her little one hugs and kisses at a neighborhood library, who works at her next book behind her desk when her little one is asleep, who cries at times because there are days she misses her old life, that old, crazy-busy, high-achieving, no-time-to-process-life kind of life.

It took me a while to remember, that heaven is a place that measures everything differently. It preserves only what cannot rust and what moth cannot destroy on earth.

And while it may not keep record of the wealth, or status or privilege that we’ve accumulated here, the love we have sown as seeds on earth, things which our human eyes see as fading and small and meaningless, grow as eternal fields of gold there.

In heaven, our deeds and character, not our earthly success, become fields of eternal significance.

Perhaps you’ve stopped working to look after an ailing parent, to look after children. Perhaps you’ve taken a pay cut to be with your family more. Perhaps you no longer work as an architect or a lawyer, but as a chef or a teacher or a swimming instructor, because it’s what you love. It’s what you find significance in, to bring joy to others.

You may be invisible to a world so eager to applaud a strictly-circumscribed definition of success. But you are not invisible to God.

To Him, you have always been the same you. And His love never changed for one moment, not even when the world stopped clapping.

In the recent Fall season when all the trees changed into incandescent golds, when they started losing their leaves and a bit of their glamorous summery lustre, I learned, not to despise but admire them for the season they were in.

Because Spring will come again, and they will grow and blossom soon.

I am learning, with excruciating pain on some days, that my worth is not dependent on my productivity, my identity, or on my label that day as “Mom” or “Doctor” or “Award recipient”, that my ability and inherent value do not diminish because I am doing “less”.

I am learning, that everyone goes through different seasons in life, and we can all be kinder, gentler, more gracious to those who are going through Autumn, because even winter will come and fly by.

And at the end of everything, we will come to see, that God made seasons for a reason, and He made everything beautiful in His time. We will see, that our inherent worth lies not in what we’ve done or achieved, but in Whose we believe we are.

Somewhere up there, fields of gold await.

Wai0014

 

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