Sometimes, what breaks us is what seals our heart together; what we nearly lose, is what helps us treasure what we always had.
 
Perhaps what we dread most, is what we most need. And what we try all our lives to run away from, is what runs us down and calls us to live.
 
As I held our baby, sleeping like a kitten in my arms, as I was wheeled on a creaky wheelchair down the colorful corridors of the busy hospital, tears dammed behind my eyes as I feared what would happen next.
 
Recurrent fevers. Anxious nights. Nursing her to sleep in busy paediatric clinics. Rushing back to work. Rushing back to the clinic. Bad news. “Your baby might have a renal abnormality.”
 
Renal. Abnormality.
 
What?
 
As I held our little kitten, all I could think of was what the senior pediatrician and the nurses at the hospital kept telling me, “She’s such a special little girl.”
 
They kept saying how special you were. You weren’t just “another girl”.
 
You see, when you were born, Mama was ecstatic. You were the perfect baby. Easy to carry in the womb. Easy to deliver in a record-time home birth, with just four minutes of pushing without pain relief . You slept through the night in just days.
 
Then, Mama brought you out to get some sunshine, but walked, unbeknownst to us, into insidious snares. Whenever we went out as a family, some stranger would poke a nose into our way and say, “Another girl?”
 
Another: used to refer to an additional person or thing of the same type as one already mentioned or known about; one more; a further.
 
Like it was a bad thing.
 
And if Mama didn’t run fast enough, I’d be asked, “So you must be thinking of trying for a third, no?”
 
“It’s good to have a boy and a girl.”
“Oh, but you NEED to have a boy.”
“A girl? Oh, but she looks just like a little boy.”
 
And then the worst, “It’s okay, you’re young, you can keep trying.”
 
Keep trying? For what?
 
Like our present was a bad thing. How can it be bad to have two of a good thing?
 
How they stung. Those uninvited words. Were we cursed?
 
I promise, I always wanted to retort- for you, for us. In my grandest imaginations, my chest and face erupted and ballooned like the hulk and my words spat out like fire from a dragon, and chased them away.
 
In my dreams, they never dared come back.
 
But reality was different. No matter how Mama hid, how smart Mama tried to be, they never went away.
 
They’d trap me- in a lift, at the supermarket counter, in a taxi… and say the same things.
 
Another. Girl.
 
Some days, I went home and cried. They never knew, that Mama, too, was a second girl. That while growing up, I once heard a story that my birth had caused great disappointment.
 
Another. Girl. Is that what other mothers were, are made to hear, too?
 
Like me, did they have to give away boxes and boxes of unthinking gifts of boys’ clothes, even when we didn’t know and never announced your gender?
 
That morning, as they wheeled us together to the radiography room, I felt all alone. I was tired, from sleeping on the sofa the night before, as I didn’t want my tossing and turning to keep Papa up.
 
Consequences of the invasive, radioactive test searching for renal abnormalities flooded through my mind.
 
At that moment, you were far from “another girl”. A little girl’s birth before yours does not make your birth any less special. You are ours wholly, not a filler- No one is waiting for another birth because of who God made you to be.
 
“Oh Lord,” I thought, as they told me, “Your baby will scream flat out for about twenty minutes as we catheterize her, pin her down and then inject the radioactive dye to take X-ray images.”
 
Suddenly, I wanted to go home. I wanted to not know the results. Based on what the pediatrician had told us, it was very likely something was wrong- we were just there to find out to what extent.
 
Perhaps what we dread most, is what we most need. And what we try all our lives to run away from, is what runs us down and calls us to live.
 
“Lord, help me,” I said.
 
Maybe it was my fault. Maybe somehow, during the pregnancy, I did something wrong, didn’t love you enough, and somewhere along the way, it affected your growth. Ah, the lies.
 
My insides churned when I found out the doctor on-duty was a fresh graduate. Reading my thoughts, he said, “Don’t worry, I do this all day, really.”
 
The next twenty minutes were a blur. As you were pinned down to the table by three adults, as the X-day plate came clamping down close to your face, as the radioactive dye got shot into you, I held back tears singing the best rendition of “Jesus loves me” I knew to you.
 
For twenty minutes, as your eyes locked onto mine from under the crevice of the X-Ray plate, you giggled as I sang.
 
Giggled.
 
As the test drew to a close, the doctors and nurses looked at me incredulously.
 
“You have the most remarkable baby,” they said. “She is simply remarkable. We’ve never seen a baby like that.”
 
And then, “Usually you have to wait four hours for the full report. But I can’t wait to tell you- your baby is normal. Everything is normal.”
 
Normal!
 
In this season of COVID grief, I am learning the same lessons you taught me. That sometimes… what we fear most, picks us to be brave. What we’d never pick for ourselves, picks us to be strong.
 
Sometimes… we learn what we need to, by journeying through what we least want. What we think would crush us, revives us to live stronger.
 
What we receive from what the world rejects, often is gold. A special treasure wrapped in God’s breath.
 
Perhaps, what the world thinks we need, is exactly what we don’t. And what we so desperately think would fix everything, is the last thing we need.
 
Perhaps, what we feared, was never meant to be feared at all.
 
I am learning, Esther-Praise, that you are far from “another girl”. Just like Queen Esther in the bible, you have shown the world great courage in the face of darkness; Just as your name says, you’ve learned to praise, and giggle even, in adversity.
 
For that, we celebrate your life, for being God’s special gift to us- not just another girl, but a queen of tremendous courage and audacious praise.
 
We may not be able to have that big birthday gathering Mama really wanted to have for you, but we thank God, for the gift of you- for being unashamedly, unabashedly, our girl.
 
Happy 1st birthday, sweetheart.
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Five weeks ago, at the peak of the COVID crisis in Singapore, my heart weighed heavy.

I tried to work it away, to no avail.

That sadness found its release through a set of drawings, borne from tears, inspired by PM Lee’s first speech in early February, about what made us Singaporean.

Since then, our panic has stopped. We have received international praise.

Our hearts have still been heavy, the economy has slowed, work has doubled for many of us, and yet, we have soldiered on- together.

Gifts of encouragement have inspired us and our watching world to continue to live with hope.

Five weeks later, what divine timing it was that the scrawls I did for my own healing and to encourage a small circle of friends were picked up by Infocomm Media Development Authority to be turned into a short animation.

Dedicated to all my fellow Singaporeans standing in the gap. To our amazing leaders, and every one of you around the globe making our world safer, better, more loving, more hopeful. All of you are heroes.

Truly, we are all in this together. Let’s not leave anyone behind. This is what makes us Singaporean. This is who we are.

With special thanks to Robot Playground Media Pte Ltd and Kathryn Cheng for bringing my vision to life with your gifts, to Infocomm Media Development Authority – IMDA for envisioning my scrawls in animation before it came to be, to our leaders leading this fight, and to Cliff Tam for being with me through it all.

 

When we returned to Singapore as parents, how overwhelmed were we to find ourselves floundering in a new community. Reverse culture shock and several other adjustments made the transition difficult.

Yet, how amazed are we when we look at the people who came to celebrate our firstborn’s birthday- every one, a new friend since we returned; every one, an angel God used to bless us and be part of the village to raise our children, to love on us.

 

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I hope you like the Noah’s Ark Mama made you, sweetheart!

May your years be filled with His joy, strength and blessing.

May you always remember His rainbow after the rain.

2019 was a year of multiple transitions. With every transition, came uncertainty. But with every uncertainty, came faith and God’s faithfulness.

Today, as we embark on a new year, we give thanks for God’s amazing grace in seeing us through these various milestones, in the past year, believing He has more in store:

  1. Of starting the Kitesong podcast, which was birthed through pain: http://www.kitesong.sg/2019/01/kitesongs-podcast.html

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  1. Of witnessing God’s spectacular love even in a dark pregnancy, and becoming parents all over again, after yet another beautiful and memorable home birth in Canada that taught me the deepest spiritual lesson on pain.

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  1. Of saying goodbye to a home and neighbors we so love in Canada, and saying hello to a series of inconceivable miracles- God’s thoughtful provisions on a long-haul flight with two little ones, Sarah-Faith’s miraculous healing, God’s lavish love through Community.

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  1. Of returning to Singapore to a journey of bountiful and specific blessings, each one thoughtfully given by our Abba Father.

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  1. Of starting work in medical school, under gracious and loving bosses, who are more than superiors, but spiritual parents. Of being able to give back, and sharing my life journey through Kitesong Global with doctors-to-be.

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  1. Of strengthening our marriage, of reinstating date nights, and going for inner healing together, breaking down the walls of hurt and miscommunication accumulated over the years of tremendous transitions and uncertainties. Of supporting one another, through each other’s depression and healing.

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  1. Of seeing our children grow in love and togetherness. Of seeing Sarah-Faith blossom into an older sister who cannot stop kissing Esther-Praise. Of seeing Esther-Praise be a witness of being an unreasonable outcome, who is growing into a giggly, loveable, sweet baby who brings joy to strangers and loved ones.

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  1. Of reviving our heart for the mission field, to see Kitesong Global brought into the nations, to the poor, underprivileged and needy.

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  1. Of admiring my husband more, as he grows in his identity in God as a father.

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  1. Of trusting God for more to come.

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Thank you Jesus, for the miracles you have done.

We love you.

An unreasonable outcome, is who she is.

Her laughter, a birdsong, the gurgling rush of rainfall down a river in dry heat.

Walking along the streets, or sitting in a crowded train, we’d see the deepest furrow of volcanic frowns lift and erupt to become joyous smiles, bursting into hearty chuckles of, “Your baby is laughing at me!”

Down the sterile aisles of the hospital, past the grim faces of worried families, Esther-Praise’s giggles lit up the face of every stranger she passed. An auntie runs towards us, startling me, “你的宝宝一直笑!不停的对我笑! (your baby is smiling, she can’t stop smiling at me!)”

But who would have thought. Nothing pointed to this outcome, this unreasonable outcome.

You see, just a year ago, back in the womb, the nights were a torturous tunnel of death. Antepartum depression was a black room, and I, a corpse groping in the darkness, searching for a door handle to pry open.

Medication would affect the fetus, but avoiding it might end our lives. Life was a prison. Words cut more often than they helped. It was better to have company than advice.

Those who tried to help warned that the depression would affect the fetus, not realizing how those words cut further, deeper and left one wondering, night after night, if ending it all for the two of us would make things better.

Why live on if the fetus would be affected so negatively? Why hold on if the outcome would be tragic? And so lies these questions in many of our lives- why hang on if our dreams within us have little chance of making it to birth?

But Hope won. And with it, came an unreasonable outcome.

I am learning, that God works even in the tiniest shred of hope, the littlest bit of faith. He loves to boggle minds, unravel expectations, overturn logic.

Halfway into my dark pregnancy, I remember a complete stranger sitting next to me at a conference and the most bizarre words he said to me.

Had I been in any other situation, I would have scoffed. But that dark day, this stranger looked at me in the eye and said he had a vision of a magnificent rose in a glass jar, like that in Beauty and the Beast. He said that vision was for me, that he felt God wanted to encourage me not to worry about protecting my baby, because He would do it. He left shortly after, not realizing how much those words, however crazy they sounded, meant to me at the time.

Counting down the days to labor, I sometimes wondered how I could possibly live. The odds were stacked high- antepartum depression dictates a higher rate of postpartum depression. With a toddler, a newborn, an impending move cross-country, how would we thrive? There was no logical way, that the darkness would lift.

All circumstances pointed logically to a poor ending. Yet, in one of a million possibilities, God chose the unreasonable outcome.

The day after I delivered our baby, my mother-in-law, who didn’t know a thing about this incident, arrived at our doorstep with a vase of 7 of the most beautiful red roses I’d ever seen, each blooming as large as an open palm, just like the one in Beauty and the Beast.

Goosebumps rose all over me, as I felt God speaking, “Do you remember what the stranger told you? I’m in control. I’m protecting your baby. No human logic will explain this baby’s outcome.”

Ten months later from her birth, I stand and marvel at the faithfulness of God, at the incredible cheer and infectious joy this baby brings, to family and strangers alike.

Such is her unbreakable bliss, her tenacious joy. A mockery to the enemy’s derisive ploy to destroy.

Who would have expected this miracle? A miracle that ran contrary to everything that made sense? That the baby would surely be born listless or sullen, that surely the move to another country to finish my work contract would be a poor choice.

But God knows. He loves to write the twist in the plot. He writes Hope in the sand we walk on, the same sand we sometimes feel like we’re sinking in.

I marvel at this photo. At the joy of Baby Esther-Praise, and the healing of Sarah-Faith.

After all, just months ago, our toddler was covered from neck to ankle with angry red welts of eczema that left us feeling helpless, in spite of the best medical advice and torturous moisturizing regimens.

Walking in the thick snow one day, I remember crying out to God in desperation for her healing. Then came the well-meaning but cruel words, “Be prepared for it to get worse in Singapore.”

Three days after touchdown in hot and humid Singapore, the persistent, unabating eczema that left us anxious for months dissolved like a mist. What is left now, are merely remnants of an evil ravage.

Friend, no one may know what you’ve been through in 2019- the darkness in the nights, the words that cut deep, the thoughts that bring the death of the past to the present. Those who do, may convince you that your past and current circumstances will lead to only deeper despair.

Yet, one thing remains certain- our tiniest hope in God unleashes His power to bring redemption to our tomorrows, even when our past and present cry “Despair!”

Though the year past may be filled with poignant disappointments, empty petitions, unanswered prayers, our God of hope is still working towards a future we don’t yet know or see.

Just as how it made complete sense for a dark pregnancy to produce a listless child, the heat of a tropical country to worsen severe eczema, God is the expert of overturning logic, of rewriting our tomorrows with hope, hope that defies reason.

He is a God of unreasonable outcomes. And because of that, we can have hope.

I shudder at times when I think about what would have been lost, had I believed in those reasonable conclusions, and taken both our lives.

At the brink of a new year approaching, as you fiddle in the dark for a door handle, as you fall to your knees and cry out for the answers you spent all year searching for, know this- God is in tomorrow already, and His tomorrow holds unexpected beginnings.

While Hope may not be here yet, it is coming. If you’re losing hope in lost dreams you’ve been carrying, let Him carry them to birth for you. And when you look back, you’ll see how Hope always been there- like a candle in the dark, a rose amidst the thorns, fingered letters scribed in the sand.

Trust Him.

This new year, may 2020 bring you the assurance of His hope, and Faith in unreasonable outcomes.

SF and EP

So close to Christmas.

And it felt like I had committed a crime.

With one violent contraction, triggered by a massive bawl, the colorful contents of a toddler’s tummy were all, in three projectile instances, spewed all over the floor.

I felt like the worst parent in the world.

Smothered in guilt, my face flushed with shame.

In more parts of the world today than ever, spanking is frowned upon.

That evening, however, after repeated warnings, Cliff and I agreed that the repeated acts of boundary-pushing warranted discipline. We had spanked before. There would be an explanation, a controlled, un-angry spank, tears, a debrief, hug and life went on.

We had read books on this, discussed it, prayed, spoken to mentors, thought this through.

But that day, little did any of us expect what happened next.

Perhaps there were gastrointestinal factors at work. Perhaps I was a little more heavy-handed than before. Perhaps I was simply a bad mom.

But spank, I did. And the bout of projectile vomiting that ensued after, triggered by a choking sob, traumatized the both of us.

On my hands and knees to wipe the mess and calm her at the same time, I couldn’t stop saying, “I am so sorry, sweetheart.”

I apologized, explained that that was not my intention, explained that I had meant to discipline, but wasn’t expecting this.

“I am so sorry, sweetheart. Mama did wrong.”

I am learning- that the longer I am a parent, the more a certain black box of shame inside of me has the propensity to grow, if left unchecked.

Shame, for the things I had done wrong; shame, for what I thought people would say of me; shame, for the things I did out of the best of my intentions which went sorely, sorely wrong.

It was an ironic sight.

The more tears dammed behind my eyes, the more composed my two-year old toddler became.

While I was on my hands and knees wiping up the mess, my two year old stood firm and hugged me, “It’s okay, Mama. I forgive you.”

There was no resentment, no holding back. No bitterness.

“Does your hand still hurt?” I asked, certain that it was still smarting.

“No, Mama. Jesus healed it. See?”

That night after I had put our little trooper to rest, Cliff held me as tears streamed down my cheeks.

At once, I felt God speaking to me about the freedom of forgiveness and the purity of a child’s faith.

When I became a parent, certain childhood incidents shaped the narrative of my own parenting. Having been spanked when I was little to the point I lost continence, I promised myself I would never be heavy-handed; Having been raised by a series of domestic helpers while growing up, I promised not to make the same choices my parents had to in their time.

But when this happened, I was unraveled. In a moment, I saw how the best of my intentions were all for naught.

In a grand moment of generous mercy, my two-year old perfectly modeled what extravagant forgiveness looks like, and the freedom it brings.

She made me wonder- how different our lives would be if we gave forgiveness as freely as she did, not only to others, but to ourselves.

As my toddler held my hand, at once I learned a lesson from her- that perhaps, the greatest gift we could ever give to our loved ones this Christmas is the gift of forgiveness.

Forgiving our parents for the way we were brought up, for even their best intentions may result in unintended consequences.

Forgiving our children, again and again, for the cups they break, the lies they tell, the mess that never ends.

And forgiving ourselves, for the crimes we commit, the mistakes we make, our brokenness within.

This year, as we look back to year of major transitions, moving countries, moving homes, from being a stay-home mum to a working-homeschooling mum, and as we look towards a new year of potential transitions back to a developing country to serve… we could question and berate ourselves for the many choices we made and will make for our children.

Would they grow up resenting the choices we made, the lives we lived, or embrace them fully? Only time would tell.

So many people had raised their eyebrows at us, given our untraditional model of homeschooling, full-time daddying and full-time-flexible-work-mummying.

Yet, in that moment, as Sarah-Faith held my hand and said, “I forgive you, Mama” and days later, said, “You are a good Mama,” as she nestled her little head into my lap like a kitten, I learned one thing- that perhaps, all God and our children require of us, is not perfection, but a willingness to be perfected.

And all we can expect from our own parents, whose parenting journeys might have ended, are not perfect ones, but journeys of imperfection that can spark redemption and grace in ours.

That day, my two year old taught me a deep lesson on forgiving well.

That to forgive well, requires celerity, before the root of bitterness springs up. How quick she was to say, “Mama, I forgive you.”

That to forgive well, requires empathy to affirm, to assume the best of the other person, even when circumstances don’t suggest it. “Mama, you are a good Mama.”

That to forgive well, requires a faith in God’s power of restoration and redemption and thus absolves us from the need to have our debts repaid by another. “No, Mama. My hand does not hurt. Jesus healed it.”

This year end, as you look back on a year of failures and hurts, heartaches and regrets, would you join me in learning to forgive well, too?

For all the joy that you bring- Blessed Christmas, little one.

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In a world that sells sex, love and romance like the next IT thing, many of us are drowning in lies sold as truth. I’m amazed at the boldness of Kallos Magazine, a ministry that has so fearlessly called out the lies of our culture.

We might talk about love and romance to our young people. But few of us dare to broach the difficult topics on sex with our young women today. Young women who will grow to become wives, mothers and women wielding power over more lives tomorrow. How crucial it is for us to find our identity as women of God.

If you know a young woman desiring to seek TRUTH in a world selling us myths, share this with them.

Hear true stories, have real conversations- this is a place to bring your uncomfortable questions, your darkest thoughts to find hope, life and truth. Sign up at: bit.ly/RealTalk2020

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Quoting Cliff:

Tomorrow, we will be married for seven years. When we first got together, I thought we were a team. I didn’t realize what working and living life together really means until we had two little Tams in our midst.

 

Thank you, Wai Jia, for being the MVP in Team Tam. You are a great (ministry) partner, a helper, and a great friend.

 

I am so thankful that we get to travel the world, serving Christ together.

 

May our marriage be deeper, richer, and more surrendering in Christ for His Kingdom’s sake in the coming years.

 

Amen!

 Wai Jia + Cliff - Engagement Session by Contagious Design~21

Having left Singapore for three years, it sometimes hurt my heart just thinking of Grandpa Zhou, the elderly busker with cerebral palsy who walked with a limp, who had left such a deep imprint on our lives.

We had left him while I was pregnant. Now that we had returned, we had had two children.

During our time away, a few precious friends and blog readers who visited him would try to video call so we could say hello.

Now, visiting him with two of our children in tow was surreal. To think what a crucial role he had played in our lives, that contributed to Cliff and I marrying, when I first witnessed Cliff’s authenticity in helping the poor.

Back then when we met, I was a medical student. Now, a big part of my work involves mentoring medical students.

Tears dammed behind my eyes as he shared with us in that old candid way in Chinese, “Shortly after you left, I fell very sick and never left home. I’ve never played my harmonica again outside. Chronic dizziness. Doctors say I’ll never get better.”

Sarah-Faith seemed to understand. In that cramped, dark living room in his home, she never flinched nor complained, as if she understood the reason for our visit- to tell Grandpa Zhou we cared, and to deliver an air purifier amidst the terrible haze.

“GIFT,” she said. “FOR ZHOU YEYE (grandpa).”

My six-month old infant couldn’t stop giggling and smiling at him.

“My right eye is blind, but I can see your little one loves to laugh!”

His old house, once filled from ground to ceiling with trash because of his hoarding, was now clean, neat and decorated with beautiful furniture, donated from his neighbors upstairs- a reflection of the transformation which had taken place in his life over the years.

Some things had changed drastically, his life never the same after the fragrance of Christ touched his once hardened heart.

And some things, never changed. “Did you bring my steamed yam cake and chee cheong fun (a local dish)? Did you get my red medicated oil?”

Today, on our second visit, we brought along some young people with a heart to serve. Young people who had taken notes from me about Grandpa Zhou’s likes and dislikes, who arrived an hour earlier to buy the food he liked to eat.

“I used to never like visitors. But Wai Jia, now I do feel lonely. I like it when people visit- ask them to come okay?”

As we left, how my heart swelled with warmth when our two year old walked right up to Grandpa Zhou, who must have seemed intimidating in some way, and gave him a confident high-five.

“XIE XIE ZHOU YEYE. GAI TIAN JIAN.” Goodbye Grandpa Zhou, she said. See you again.

And as we left that familiar corridor, we saw his wispy frame leaned against his metal door, saying, “Come again, come again.”

* To those of you who have asked about Grandpa Zhou, he is doing all right but always appreciates company. If you would like to visit him regularly to encourage him, take him for a walk outside or to church nearby on a wheelchair or bless him, please let us know.

More about his story on: http://www.kitesong.sg/category/grandpa-zhou

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