Writing/A part of yourself/snippets

These are some confessional quotes excerpted from my daily writings. Writing is evocative in that it reaches deep in to parts of yourself you never thought you had. :)

I did what I could in the best manner that I could. I did my best, and if I still failed, I couldn’t have done any better…and in the midst of making a choice, a clear thought shone through, “I’m crazy, yes, but I am crazy about my God. Not anyone else.”

When we learn not to see the things that don’t matter, when Jesus comes to the forefront of the picture, when we look at Him only, life can become sweet once more.

…the clarity prefigures the clearness that He will enable me to see when I come face to face with Him. For now we see as through a glass dimly, but then we shall know just as we are known.

The past and present and our thoughts toward the future make us, make who we are, and we should not paint over things about ourselves which we wish to be gone from our lives. Because that makes the record real, and it makes our existence genuine, flawed, us. Perhaps that is why I write, to clear my thoughts, to rally thoughts and strength, to pick myself up, to find strength that God has ordained to give me through His Holy Spirit.

The sword may be stuck to the hand, but we cannot slacken, because help will soon come and the battle continues, it must be fought.

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Running

I don’t know how but I’ve started running again–instead of taking long hourly walks. I didn’t really plan for it, I just did it. This time I have no particular expectations of myself, but I hope to do this regularly.

Yesterday I got caught in the rain, ran to a bus shelter and while waiting for the shower to diminish I sat there watching vehicles on a misty looking road splashing carelessly through the puddles where the water pooled. I remember it used to be a pastime of ours–me, my cousin and auntie who drove to surf right through the bigger ones when we were young. The fun part was the spray of water. It seems somehow graceful to see the droplets array in an arc as they fly.

I have felt a need to elucidate on my previous poem, but I will refrain. No self-respecting writer does that. So all I will say is that it was written months ago, and the emotion revealed is indeed more than the words. This probably sounds crazy, but that’s how it is. The poem is more than the sum of its parts, and what it means to me won’t be the same what it means to you, and I’d like to know what sentiment it evokes in you, and what it makes you think about. Most of the time we try to find out what the poem means to the author, but if you think through and feel the sensory part of the work, you will probably be closer to the intended meaning than you will ever be if I told you exactly what it meant to me. That’s the fun part about poetry, I think. I guess I’m beginning to understand how writers work.

It seems to defy logic how someone younger than you can understand or even empathise with the pain of someone much older, a child as to an adult, but it’s true it’s possible. There are some kids who are good kids and are a comfort, and they are special, a gift from God. It’s for such a kid that my heart feels the first flutters (for lack of a better description) of a long buried emotion I thought I had not the ability to feel again. This kid often makes me cry. I hope I can continue to protect her even as I wage my own battles. All my life I have been on the side one who reached out to others while they were down and out, but this kid, she has done what I’ve always tried to do for others, is it a coincidence or a gift from God? (What would you think?) You know what I think.

A song of sadness using tropes

wait for me, the sun rays are fading
the bus stop is empty, and the students have gone home

wait for me, the shower is past
the yellow petals are scattered all over the roadside
like a burst of autumn fall

wait for me, do you know why they’ve gone
and aren’t coming back again
we’ve latched the doors and shut the gates
the halls are empty and no one’s reading

as my world collapses into the rubble
the way dreams are razed
wait for me because it’s a long way home
and don’t go alone.

***

‘Wait for me’ is a song of longing, a longing to shield a child from hurt and harm. This is a poem of emotion, can you feel it?

I don’t claim to understand all poetry. But I believe the best poems leave you changed after reading them in some small way.

Believing requires commitment

I was feeling a bit teary today.

This is a year of many firsts for me: I broke my personal rule of taking on a student from church, staked myself out for a group of kids despite great personal costs, severed, let go and buried feelings for a person I am not meant to care for, started to interpret for church, am a RE teacher in training at church. My work with tutoring that struggling student in English is concluded today, and I am wondering how he would fare for his coming English exams. To be accurate, he hasn't been obedient during lessons except when he felt like it and that hasn't changed much. After much deliberation I decided to take firm measures by stopping our lessons about a month before his exams, so that he can do some self-revision instead of whiling away lesson time with me thinking I would do everything for him. I don't know if this is a judicious plan, or whether I am taking too big a gamble. But I am certain he will pass and I'm hoping for a mark beyond the fifties, maybe 60. You can imagine my trepidation, but then sometimes we have to let go of the string for the kite to fly higher, and also that's why I've been praying a lot. I don't know for certain if I'll be asked to teach him again next year (his secondary school years) as this arrangement was agreed on for only this year. I only did what my logic and instincts impelled me to do–I had to take some drastic measures or his inattentive attitude would endure and be beyond tangible help. I don't know for sure if the parents would understand what I'm doing though, or if they would have some sort of shared frequency in line with my thinking.

Believing in someone is something that once you start to do, you cannot give up, because if you do you would fail the very principles that prompted you to it, yourself, and the person under your care. There are conditions guiding this and preclusions of course, but I am not going to delineate them here. This is a general principle I work by. Coming to such a decision I've had to harden my heart and not give in to possible whims and cajoling by the parent, and I also have to ask myself, am I giving my student up by being hard on him, something I hate to do and have never done? Am I pushing him away and leaving him to fend for himself? Some of these are hard and too piercing to answer, I can only trust what He has given me to know, my gut instincts. Perhaps I am not such a great teacher, but if there's anything this teacher knows, it is prayer and faith and a strong reliance on God. Yes, this is my strong suit.

Thus I am sending work we have done together over the year to him which I've filed in a paper folder with a typewritten note inside, "Study hard. You can do it. Immanuel". I don't know if that's going to make any difference though…I hope it will.

Hard work pays off

So I've been focussing more time on tutoring a 12 year old these few months, who told me he had failed his English semestral exam in May. I later found out that he didn't, but had just passed, which elicits a sigh of relief. For one, I don't believe in helping him improve just by teaching him how to be exam smart, english is a language and grammar foundation takes at least a couple of years to build and become a good habit, so I'd told his mom that I would focus on enriching his language base and get him interested in reading and writing. It's been really hard the last few months not seeing much results; I really thought I was losing the engagement with him. Besides he always resists writing when I ask him to write some–it would benefit his composition component in his school leaving exam. But to no avail, and sometimes he would while away the whole two-hour session with me if I tried to get him writing at the start.

But these two months I've seen a marked improvement in his diction as we work through L'engle's Wrinkle in Time together, and that day he reported that his aural test grade had improved from a passing mark to 21/30. I could also see a peaked interest in the subject he 'hates' and said he would 'never be good at' which is English. This is an encouragement to the one tutoring him.

But all this has taken more than half a year. These days he asks me all kinds of questions on general knowledge, current affairs, math and science, and when I professed that my love was always with language and the humanities, he pooh-poohed that and said it wasn't brainy enough like mathematics and science which made me laugh. It is certainly interesting to see the ones you teach progress as you try to scaffold their learning journey. I really don't know how things will turn out, and I don't have very high expectations just yet, but I'm praying that he'll pass the national exam in English, and if it's God's will, we'll take it from there. :)

An impasse, a breakthrough

Sometimes there are issues because we struggle to reconcile with them. To be or not to be, to do or not to do? We all have different reasons for wanting–or not wanting to do certain things, and sometimes it boils right down to willingness. When there is a tough call we must make/take, do we merely feel obliged or perhaps cornered, are we aware of our choice in the decision–are we conscious of it? Of course the honest way to deal with difficult situations is to struggle with it, facing it head on, frankly. But then we know that struggling with an issue and trying to turn things around isn’t for the faint-hearted, it isn’t easy, which is why so many would rather avoid it altogether. Sometimes it takes years of struggle without making any headway, and it is just status-quo, status-quo, like forever. You are wishing for things to turn around, you aren’t throwing in the white towel nor do plan to, but your efforts seem in vain. You think this will go on forever and your might have to resign yourself to the proverbial ‘fate’.

And one day as you face the daily deadlock you have been faced with for a very long time, your endless tries at making things work, a ray of light breaks through the grey. And your thinking shifts; it is not things which have changed but you, you have changed.

That is something worth celebrating over, a small victory. That is a turn of events even if actual circunstances haven’t changed. Somehow you find the strength to carry on. You know what to do now.

Maybe it never was about the problems. Maybe it was just finding the willingness to do the things you were meant to do, and be the person you always were but was afraid to be.

Sadness

Sadness is like a ball of emptiness you can’t quantify but can feel. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing inside you. I’ve been sad because a string of events have happened and I didn’t really know how to cope. But thank God, I didn’t dwell on things too much and I wasn’t alone. Through the love and prayers of the people around me, the people in church, I didn’t go through it alone.

It’s hard when others expect you always to do your best and be good while they slack off (with anything, but especially in character and moral obligations). And when there is a call of duty they abandon their obligations and abandon you. I don’t really understand them though I feel pained. Sometimes pain is all I feel.

But i guess this is life, and there is a time for everything, quoth the Bible. For me, that’s just the period I’ll have to go through right now. One day, it won’t be all that bad. I can’t wait for that day of joy.

Don’t let me get you down, I feel much better actually. Have really been busy. A student I am tutoring failed his English badly and he is due for the PSLE (=primary school leaving examination) in September. Just for him in preparation for his exams, I have loads to do and worry about. 

Life

I reckon that some of our lives are meant to be painful. We will never have glory, easy days like some people, or smooth-sailing roads. But I reckon we are better people for it, and I think that’s how it’s meant to be for us. Don’t be afraid, don’t think you are getting the lesser of the lot, because God intends better for you. Much better.

Something sad, something victorious

These three days I’ve been to a wake for two nights and a cremation service today. A young sister in our congregation had passed on at twenty years of age and it was a sad affair. 

On Wednesday night it was announced after service that her bout of pneumonia requiring surgery had seen a good turn after the congregation had prayed and fasted for her the previous Saturday, and that she was better. Her illness had been ongoing and with blood cancer it was a tough fight. But because we hadn’tbeen hearing any public updates about her condition many of us assumed things were status quo, but not that bad. I think only the visiting preachers and the pastoral team knew the details of how she was doing. Wednesday night I went back home and prayed in earnest for this young church sister I had not been praying for in a while, and resolved to encourage her not to give up on her faith with a card and a cup made from ceramics. Thursday morning I headed down to my teachers’ studio to work on a cup and left it to be fired, hoping to finish everything within one or two weeks, Thursday night she was called home by the Lord at around 8.30pm.

In one previous post I’ve written that I haven’t really experienced the death of a close one. I think this was quite close. It is hard to explain, and it did affect me. Somehow during the wake services the sadness of the bereaved parents bore on me and I felt the pain of their loss. The feeling of grief is hard to describe. I did not really grasp why God did not answer our prayer of faith and couldn’t help but ask, is she saved? Did she give in to the tempter in the fierce spiritual battle for her soul?

Then on the final day of the funeral during the service after which her cortege was due to leave for the columbarium (most of us cremate here), our resident preacher comforted the congregation saying that a sister had prayed to understand the will of God in taking sister Jiahui away and dreamt that two angels had brought her away, and she was borne away, leaving the words to the one who dreamt the dream, “Tell my parents not to be too sad about my passing.”

I think God is merciful and gracious to His church and this is His way of telling those who grieve that she was saved, rather than being brought away to the nether world. This testimony only bore its impact on me when I reflected about it tonight–God is faithful and has answered the question I had in mind. If she was brought away by angels, she must not have given up in the spiritual battle for her soul. And that means, she was victorious. All praise and glory be unto His name, amen.

Breathless

A month has gone by since I last wrote. Things seem to have taken on a roll and I feel breathless. Seems like there are so many things to handle and helm. Right now I’ve promised to make thirty cups for senior members’ day before end June and I am feeling that the time is rather tight. I really hope the cups turn out well enough to be gifted as souvenirs for the oldies, and that the oldies/elderlies like it as a memento.
So I’ve been heading down to my ceramics teacher’s workshop for the last three days consecutively, hoping to churn out sufficient pots for my daily quota before the 24th, which is sort of like the day where the teens we teach will help to glaze the fired (1st firing) pots. I thought I would enjoy this work, but it’s more stressful since I promised to deliver, and I hadn’t known I had such a short time. Some of the RE teachers at church want to chip in to help, but having to teach them while ensuring that I do quality work feels like added work. Besides, pottery for me is a quiet and focussed activity — I like to work in solitude. I’m not sure if I will be able to focus and enjoy the work if there was too much camaraderie and chatting? Praying that He would hold my hands and heart as I do work for Him. 

So I was at the workshop today, and one of the older ladies learning pottery (she has been around there for eight years) was chatting to me about religion and faith. Frankly I find it extremely hard to speak to people I don’t really know that well about religion or preach the gospel. Because testifying about my faith is so personal and you never know what views others hold or if you have said too much. Because it takes so much honesty, and who knows if others can have the same frankness with which you face your religion, your God? Because it always takes a lot out of me. Well not to say that this lady wasn’t a nice person, but I have come across many people who aren’t as open as they purport to be, and their minds are already closed before you have begun any discussion. And it just ends up going one big circle and returning to status quo. According to her she has had it hard early on in life, and the influences of her elders and neighbours was stronger than a cold God preached to her by people who didn’t properly live out their faith, so she felt that she could rely on herself to tide through the hard times. This is obviously one strong and admirable lady. I usually don’t want to come across to strongly so I just listen to their stories. Maybe that’s why I usually get written off by the ones with strong views as weak and effective though that’s not the case. To me preaching to others is more than gaining one more member for the church, it is about loving another person and sharing God’s love with him/her, it is also saying to Him, Lord, lay one soul on me. And it probably takes years and the best of you to bring another soul to Christ, I really don’t think it is statistical. Everyone counts.