This Mother’s Day, I want to encourage all caregivers that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Behind those happy moments we post on social media, are the hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears, the tiredness, guilt, disappointment, anxiety, bitterness and hurt. But let’s take courage, and know that we are not alone. Take the time (not just today, but it’s start!) to anchor our faith deep in God.
Slow down, take time Breathe in He said He’d reveal what’s to come The thoughts in His mind Always higher than mine He’ll reveal all to come
Take courage my heart Stay steadfast my soul He’s in the waiting He’s in the waiting Hold onto your hope As your triumph unfolds He’s never failing He’s never failing
Sing praise my soul Find strength in joy Let His Words lead you on Do not forget His great faithfulness He’ll finish all He’s begun
And You who hold the stars Who call them each by name Will surely keep Your promise to me That I will rise in Your victory!
Lyrics from Take Courage. Published by Bethel Music, written by Kristen DiMarco, Jeremy Riddle and Joel Taylor.
LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
You made all the delicate, inner parts of the baby’s body and knit her together in her mother’s womb. Thank you for making her so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous—how well I know it. You watched her as she was being formed in utter seclusion, as she was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw her before she was born. Every day of her life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Search us and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. Point out anything in us that offends you, and lead us along the path of everlasting life.”
Adapted from Psalms 139:1-6, 13-16, 23-24 NLT
Four years old. These precious moments with B remind me how he’s growing up. Though mama has less time for him, he finds every opportunity to catch up together, to the point of “moving in” at night and talking a LOT about his “day” (which could mix a few days up) when he didn’t use to before 🙂
B got off his chair and ran over when he saw me return from work:
B: Mama! Hug 20 times! (We totally did). Missed you, mama
M: I missed you too, B. Mama’s not feeling too well unfortunately….
B: Wait, I get you something (Runs off, returns with the thermometer). Here, let’s check
M: Thanks B, so thoughtful. Pray that mama recovers over the weekend, OK?
B: OK. I pray that the germs go away. Mama gets well soon and we can play.
After dinner, we make time for music (violin, sometimes piano), read (alternating between Chinese and English), then wind down for bed. Just when I’m snuggling down in my room, B comes inside, bearing another book, his pillow, blankie, soft toys…
B: Mama, see I brought all my things over. I’m sleeping with you tonight!
M: You know, B, you’ve been sleeping on your own since you were one. Don’t you like your own room? Where’s daddy going to sleep?
B: I like my room but I want to sleep together mama. Maybe until I’m 20 years old (!) (Heads out to find daddy).
B: Daddy, you sleep in my room, ok? I’ll leave the door open for you
At the end, he talks about “his day” while we lie in bed in the dark:
B: The other day at school, N and I came early. We ate something and then biked around. N told me I was going the wrong way. But I was right, he was wrong, and we banged each other.
M: Oh no! Did any of you get hurt?
B: No. Wait, maybe. N fell off a bit and cried.
M: Was he OK? Did you say sorry?
B: Well, I said sorry when we banged. And then he stopped crying and asked me to say sorry again, but I didn’t because I alrady said sorry. Then we played some more.
M: Hmm… It’s good you apologized. Please be careful the next time! (Note to self: Check with N’s mom and teachers). How was lunch?
B: Good. We had pasta. With chicken rice.
M: Pasta and chicken rice? Are you sure?
B: Errm we had pasta, peas, carrots, corn. I like corn. Also, some chicken. I ate all my food.
M: That’s good! Did you eat fast like we’ve been talking about?
B: I ate faster than J! I said “Hurry up, eat faster!” But J doesn’t like corn. So he ate slowly.
M: Besides J, who ate with you?
B: (Tells me who sat exactly where and in which table)
B: Mama, mama! I’m still talking. Are you listening?
M: I’m listening, but I’m quite tired too. Talk more tomorrow, B? Love you, good night.
B: Love you. Good night, mama. (Starts humming while I fall asleep)
My annual leave starts this week. I look forward to disconnect (as much as I can!) from the day-to-day hecticness, and reconnect with who and what matters the most to me.
“LOVE makes our friends a little dearer, JOY makes our hearts a little lighter, FAITH makes our path a little clearer, HOPE makes our lives a little brighter, PEACE brings us all a little nearer.”
JOY: While passing through US airport immigration last week, I flashed a smile to the duty officer, relieved to be done with my 15+ hour flight. I was taken aback when he aggressively challenged me “Why did I smile? Was I not taking him seriously? I can decide to let you in this country, or not!” How do we remain joyful in a world filled with suspicion, superficiality and self-centredness? B may be little, but he is one of my biggest sources of joy as he reminds me to keep a cheerful disposition, and don’t let negative moments or thoughts ruin your day. Christmas is a time to make spirits bright, to laugh and sing, just like this song says!
PEACE: As I spend more time than ever with my parents in their golden years, I’ve been reflecting on the peace of mind that only family and community can offer, and also the inner peace that comes when you care for and center yourself. It could be as simple as sneaking in some self-reflection, reading a devotional like this or this, expressing gratitude and praying each day. For busy bees like myself, Christmas is a time to place the important ahead of the urgent for a change. Let’s look in, up and outwards – and gain perspective and a measure of peace as we do that.
HOPE: Harsh words, unexpected news, broken promises, lack of trust from others or self-confidence are difficult issues to deal with. In those moments, I’m encouraged by how my siblings stand by each other through life’s ups and downs. Two weeks back, I placed a tearful call to my sis after a particularly rough day, and she gave me exactly what I needed – a listening ear and affirmation. We pay her a visit when things come up, and don’t let her be overwhelmed alone. I also look forward to catch up with my brother and his family everytime I’m in the US for work. For me, Christmas is a time to cultivate those relationships and build a faith that give us assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.
LOVE: I’ve been tugged in many directions by my various commitments this year, and often felt that I’m running on empty with no reserves left to give. As we prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas, I’m thankful for the man who walks beside me in this journey of love. It’s not been easy, as we are both so imperfect. I appreciate his support to let me refuel on me-time and the things I’m passionate about – causes, family, good friends and new discoveries.
Wherever you are this season, here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with joy, peace, hope and love. Do share with us how you’re celebrating this season and holidays too as we continue this blog train on:
Next up is Valerie:
At Mums In Faith, she shares her passion for books with other mums through a convenient book-lending service and reviews on good Christian resources. She also writes articles giving an encouraging Christian perspective on issues pertinent to modern-day mums. Together with her co-founder Danessa, she hopes to build a vibrant community of Christian mums who will love and pray for each other, providing the support we all need as fellow warriors in faith.
As a full time working mom again, I find that I have more focus as my daytime schedule, work and family priorities are very straightforward (sick days and school closure days aside). I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling and am grateful that all the transition and support planning has worked out. When I was away for 10 days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!
Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays. Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life. As B had just turned 2, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s 3, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂
Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:
1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night. As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.
2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day). Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add more stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:
3) Advent Calendar: Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. Although this calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game, we could always just repurpose this once more if I run out of time…
HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too. Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.
4) Christmas books: This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore. B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California – and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂
Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!
Kids should have good role models and parents who can walk the talk while being transparent in handling failure and success. This morning I asked B “who do you want to be when you grow up?” and to my surprise, instead of “teacher, firefighter” (his usuals), he said “I want to be like mama” (yikes!) While that stroked my ego as I’ve been trying to be more intentional about building faith and character with B, I’m painfully aware that as a flawed individual, I always fall short! You don’t want to be like mama at all times B, really….
Mistake #1: Underestimating CHARACTER. If there’s one thing I hope to get right in my children, it’s their CORE. Character, moral fiber, an inner compass… these things lay the foundation for a happy, healthy future. They matter more than any report card or trophy ever will…. We know that what will matter at 25, 30 and 40 is [not what they achieved but] how they treat others and what they think of themselves.
If we want them to build character, confidence, strength and resilience, we need to let them face adversity and experience the pride … when they come out stronger on the other side. It’s hard to see our children fall, but sometimes we have to. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether intervening is in their best interest. There are a million ways to love a child, but in our quest to make them happy, let us stay mindful that sometimes it takes short-term pain to earn long-term gain.
It dawned on me at a recent church camp that my parenting journey is not meant to be walked alone, isolated from community. Furthermore, the best lessons are “caught not taught.” We all can and should help to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)
In this case, our “village” is our local church which partners with parents to set a solid faith foundation for their marriages, families and the next generation. I’m especially blessed by those serving in kids’ ministry who are super engaging and energetic, always ready to patiently manage restless kids and answer those tricky questions. As I occasionally help with our weekly cell group, I realise how tough it is to catch the interest and hold the attention of kids, especially between preschool and primary school ages!
With me having less time with B and hubby still away a lot for work, I’m keen to better integrate B with our “spiritual family” here. Besides family and casual friend interactions, we are trying to be more consistent with Sunday School. B joined our church’s Sunbeam program at 18 months and then graduated to unaccompanied classes at 30 months. We sat in with him for the first two N1 sessions. The first time we dropped him off, he cried but was okay after a few minutes. The second time this past weekend was better, no tears, although he still wanted a big hug and clung to mama as I left. B said afterwards that he likes Sunday School, sang many songs, and even quoted (and adapted) his memory verse to “I love and obey God!” and later at home “I love mama and daddy!” 🙂 To be honest, I was kinda stunned that he paid enough attention to recall and put it to practice. Me of little faith!
After he turns 3 and/or can tahan till 1030p, we may bring him along to our Friday cell group for a once-a-week late night out. After all, a village isn’t a village without fun, food and fellowship, right?
Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my children the strength to face weakness; the courage to face fear; the grace to accept honest defeat; and the humility and gentleness to accept victory.
Make me the father who will show my children not a path of ease and comfort, but the ability to accept the challenges of stress and difficulty. Use me, I pray, to be the example of one who can stand up in the storm, and there learn compassion for those who fail.
Make me the father who will teach his children the value of a clear heart and a high goal; to look in the mirror of their own faults before they find fault in others; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to cry; to reach into the future without ever forgetting the past.
Make me the father, O Lord, who will show my children enough sense of humour, so they will always be serious but never take themselves too seriously. Give my children humility, so they will always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
After all these things are theirs, add for me, I pray, the wisdom to show them the dubious value of titles, positions, money and material gain; and the eternal value of prayer, the Word of God, a godly Christian home, and a saving relationship with Your Son Jesus Christ.
And lastly Lord, make me the husband who loves my wife, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Make me a loving, gentle, supportive and faithful husband You called me to be, so that my dearly beloved wife whom you have given me to love and cherish, to have and to hold, to guide and to guard, that she may be the hey child, wife and mother that You have called her to be. In so doing, o Lord, may we as parents model Christ, model love and model the godly Christian family to the children you have blessed us with and entrusted to us for our love, care, guidance, protection and stewardship.
Then I, their father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Adapted from published prayers of Thom Rainer and General Douglas MacArthur.
Recently, I was asked by a mom of multiple kids whom I’d just met: “Just one boy? Don’t you want more kids?!”
Sigh. If only she knew.
After missing my otherwise regular period by a week, feeling early pregnancy symptoms, testing and retesting, I suspect I’ve had a chemical pregnancy. I’ve not felt our ongoing failure to conceive again so acutely since last year’s miscarriage. Honestly, it’s hard NOT to be emotional when you’re surrounded by friends who are pregnant or just delivered. I would say I’m a fairly resilient and independent gal, but perhaps, there’s more to it all than to keep monitoring my cycles closely, timing it right (and frequently), taking folic acid, staying radiation and stress-free, and living healthy.
Enter: Supernatural childbirth. Whaaat? If you’re thinking this is about seeing visions of heaven, hell, angels, demons, and everything in between, errm, not quite. Instead of trying NOT to think about conceiving (which is quite frankly, impossible), Supernatural Childbirth is a book that encourages us to actively stand on the bible as God’s Word and believe that “Children are a heritage from God, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” (Psalm 127:3).
Although my faith is at a low after this “barren” streak, as a Christian, I still believe there’s truth and power in the bible. So today, despite my ongoing frustration and setbacks, I’m thankful for B, the child that I DO have, the friend who gave me this book, the author and women who shared their testimonies in it, and a God who keeps His promises that:
1) God’s perfect love casts out fear! Past failures bring future fears but the opposite of fear is faith : “I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4), “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37)
2) You can do anything when rooted in God’s Word. Pray in agreement with the Word before even trying to conceive: “For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
3) Barrenness is the exception, not the rule. All the barren women of faith in the bible conceived: “He makes the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.” (Psalm 113:9)
4) Conceive, carry and deliver without fear of pain and loss: “God will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field! (Malachi 3:11)
5) Focus on being a healthy mother and having a healthy baby, not about where, how or what others have done: “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life — life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
“For this child I prayed and the Lord hears my cry! You have formed and fashioned our baby in my womb, and at the right time You will separate my baby and carry it gently from the womb. We will train our children up in the way they should go, tender to God, the Word and the things of God, and honouring their parents, and they will not depart from these when they are old. Amen!”
What does it mean to live a peaceful life? IMHO, the key is to work towards peaceful relationships in your home – with your spouse, kid(s) and if you have any, your domestic helper. But how to do this when we’re struggling with being at peace in our own lives? As parents, we’re often busy, stressed, sleep-deprived, sick whenever the kids get sick, and lacking any personal time or space. Here are some thoughts:
With your spouse: Sometimes, a little time out gives much needed perspective when emotions are frayed. There are days when I still struggle with giving up a traditional corporate career and the (seemingly lack of) ROI on all my years of education – resulting in a rather bitter attitude towards my constantly away hardworking hubby. I’ve been trying to reflect and approach situations with a more peaceful and rested heart. Also, as parents, we should TRY not to let our issues (anger, disappointment, concern, etc.) with each other surface too frequently in front of the kids. The very young ones can pick up on the emotion but may not understand the context or even think it is about them, i.e. something they did wrong. For me – someone who often wears her heart on her sleeve – this is hard. Just as we teach our kids to use their “indoor voice”, I too need to remember that being peaceful means to talk and not shout, to smile and not frown.
With kids: Give our kids the foundation to develop and learn to be a child of God – peaceful, cheerful and contented. As B adjusts to nursery drop off and soon, taking his mid-day nap there as well, we’re trying to re-establish a routine that provides comfort yet fosters independent growth. Kids thrive in a secure environment with familiar surroundings, playmates and caregivers, regular healthy meals, designated quiet times with spaces to play/read on their own, unique yet diverse experiences AND perhaps most importantly, adequate sleep – ideally by 9p. I’ve ALWAYS been asked about B’s early bedtime, as in “why can’t he come out, stay later, wake up later instead” To me, sleep is sacred. When kids sleep well, we all sleep well, so why change what ain’t broke?
With the helper: Let’s face it. We are lucky, spoilt even, in Asia to have foreign domestic workers who assist us in chores and if you need, babysitters and nannies at a reasonable rate, be it part time or live in. Yet too often I find employers who do not treat their helper in a way that leads to a peaceful living and working relationship, while they maintain high expectations on their deliverables and attitude. B asked me once: “mama, daddy, ama, kong kong is family. What about aunty (our helper’s name)?” I told him “We live together in this house, we should treat her like family too.” I wonder if he understood that, but he does now include her in his prayer requests at night and asks where she is when we go out on our own or on her days off.
The more centered we are on Christ and not self, the more we’ll be at peace with others and ourselves.
I’m trying to be more intentional about faith with B this year as he’s developing his own childlike understanding from observing people and situations. At our nightly prayers before bed, he started making his own requests (e.g. “pray for dada working, tired,” “Jesus loves ama and kong kong”). So I decided to reinforce the lessons around fruits of the spirit from Sunbeam, our church’s kids programme, with simple activities and practical applications at home.
Here’s what we learnt and applied:
Joyful parenting doesn’t come naturally. It’s not a product of the flesh but the spirit at work, bearing fruit in us. We need to cultivate thankfulness, remember that our child’s identity is in Christ, and look ahead with hope and faith for the fruit God promises to bring through our efforts.
A joyful heart is about attitude, a contagious attitude from having a positive outlook in life. We talked about being joyful and strong even when we’re afraid and upset. I encouraged him to use words, laugh or sing instead of crying and screaming… and it’s been working! In fact, he’s been a trooper during his separation at school and this recent bout of coughing; and he’s also cheered my ailing mom who was hospitalised earlier this month with his singing, dancing and funny antics.
To be joyful is to be thankful. I’m glad that B’s gotten into a habit of saying “thank you” or “谢谢” (if you’re lucky). At one point, he’d even say “thank you” when giving you things 😉 At nights, when we pray together, we also first thank God for each other and the day’s events – no matter how challenging the day has been, e.g. we’ve been sick, tired, angry. I’m still working on teaching him to say family grace before meals to reinforce gratefulness and obedience to God, although this one’s tougher as our family is of mixed beliefs and/or rarely eating together.
Since I’m on a quest to improve both our Chinese lately, I’ll end with these Chinese characters: When you’re happy (开心 kai xin), your heart is open but when you’re sad (伤心 shang xin), your heart is wounded. I’m glad that our son is learning how to turn to God and rejoice in the midst of his terrible two years; and that he is also opening the hearts of those around him.
Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the Lord makes me strong!”