I recently took a trip to Penang. Hugged my daughter in the morning (she doesn’t want to go; I don’t want to force her) and said goodbye as best as I can, given the strained relationship at home. And I wondered, in the event if I leave home and never make it back, have I done enough to say a great goodbye to this life and the people in it?
I’ve been thinking about death a lot. I mean, I’ve always been morbid—I carry my organ donation card with me so that the hospital has the permission to use my old body to give someone a new life. But increasingly, I’ve been thinking about death. Call it age. Call it maturity. Call it losing loved ones and seeing others lost theirs.
I don’t fear death, for I know of my eternal hope and destination when I die. But I fear the life that I didn’t live when I’m alive—people who I didn’t show enough love, dreams that died when I do, leaving merely footprints-in-the-sand in people’s lives, washed away as soon as the next wave comes.
I’ve read this amazing story of Susan Spencer-Wendel, who when diagnosed with ALS, decided to leave the best memories for her family. Her year of living with joy. See, more things to add to my thinking-about-death-a-lot list.
I don’t want to wait for an illness to remind me my time is up. Live it up. Love more. Quickly. Nor death’s hand to suddenly come and snatch life away, leaving no chance for goodbyes.
I guess that explains why the change of my perspective during the trip to the market with my mother-in-law, where I see her in a different light.
Why I’m giving on-a-whim mini awards to my husband.
Created a Spotify ‘long drive ahead’ playlist based on his songs request to accompany his driving, quietly enjoying seeing his enjoyment and his singing along.
Also thinking about my work a lot—talent, gifts, contribution, serving, dreaming, opportunities. How do I tie it together, if at all?
So I’ve been thinking about death a lot. And what kind of footprints I want to leave, with God at the center of it all. One moment at a time.
I’ll leave you with this short animation trailer, ‘Inner Workings’ from Disney about living life using both your heart and mind. You gotta go watch Moana to watch the full animation though. C’est la vie.
And this delightful scene of an old man making his work enjoyable. Kinda like the ending in the short animation above.
I remember the feeling when I plunged into something like depression, and I didn’t know who to turn to.
It felt like I’m drowning in this dark void of awful loneliness. So alone. Like everything inside of me, my soul, just sinking into this pool of black ink. Everywhere I look, pitch black—a potent cocktail of desperation and violent rage.
I’ve been wrongly taught by the world that emotions and feelings are not to be trusted. So, I’ve learnt to box them up.
Unknowingly, I became an expert in compartmentalising my pain. I didn’t do it on purpose, somewhere along my life, I just learnt how to function normally.
I went to work ‘normally’, I led my team ‘normally’, I went to church ‘normally’, I laughed ‘normally’, however, I was everything but normal. I was crumbling, and my days just became harder and harder.
I didn’t know how to open up. Who to turn to that won’t:
or worse, ask me to justify my feelings.
I tried to rationalise it away. My problems are small compared to the world.
I tried to pray it away. But the sadness stayed.
I tried to coat it with Words from the Bible. Nothing sticks.
I tried to escape it with Frasier. The laughter lasted only as long as the sitcom.
I felt guilty and weak for feeling this way. I asked myself mockingly, “are you being melodramatic?”
Chin up! The world says.
In fact, someone brutally commented on my blog, “try not to be too dramatic!” I felt at once ashamed that I may be emotional. But angry too, for being judged.
Herein lies the problem.
Some of us are just too quick to pass comments based on our views.
Some of us, too busy to pause and listen.
We have talkers, speakers, self-help, no-help, preachers, teachers.
But we need more listeners. People to listen without passing judgement.
Because pain is lonely.
The shortest verse in the Bible is—
He is not dispassionate. He is empathetic in our weakness. He does not tell us to be less dramatic nor fault us for feeling sad. It is ok not to be ok. We can draw comfort from knowing that.
Don’t apologise for mourning, grieving or weeping. God comes into our pain and feels with us. He will also bring along the right people to walk alongside with us through this wall. Please reach out.
And if you know someone who is going through a tough time in life, please reach out to them.
We don’t need to be a counsellor, but we can be a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on.
We can be the one to give an encouraging smile, send an encouraging note, deliver a bouquet of flowers or chocolates maybe, or just offer help.
We may not be able to offer solutions to people’s situation, but we can be a comforting presence in the midst of their pain.
If you think this article can be useful to someone, please share.
This article is written for married couples in different stages of their marriage; rocky or otherwise. It’s not for those who are in an abusive marriage, a spouse who’s a serial gambler or cheater, etc.
It’s also for those of you who are thinking of getting married.
Let me begin with the lamest duh-mest statement: Divorce is not pretty.
Of course, it’s not pretty, one would say. Breaking up is painful, and it’s a bloody mess. But after the divorce, it should be a happier future, right?
Well…for some of us who haven’t experience living the mess; months on, years on, I will attempt to share a glimpse of life after divorce.
First up, let me clarify, I ain’t divorced. My husband is. I married a divorcee with the sole custody of his beloved daughter.
Secondly, this is a reflection of my personal experience. If you are living a happily-ever-after unscarred life after divorce, I’m happy for you.
With that said, let’s dive into the most important message of this article:
The consequences of a broken family last a lifetime.
Let me repeat, l-i-f-e-t-i-m-e.
If you don’t read on, just remember the above statement.
Here’re the side-effects of divorce which I’m still dealing with after almost ten years, and on a regular basis.
In no particular order:
- Trying to reduce the pain of the divorce for my step-daughter with more love, but.
- Daughter is tired of going back & forth two houses.
- Daughter is coping with having no say in bio-mum & dad’s plans in moving her around.
- Daughter misses bio-mum and misses dad, but they are not together. Torn.
- Me trying hard not to feel rejected, but.
- Handling the backlash that surfaced from years of the daughter being shuffled back & forth her dad & bio-mum.
- Getting angry at bio-mum for regularly not keeping to her words of sending daughter back on days that she said she would, but.
- Feeling helpless when bio-mum insists on her plans and we can’t confront her because we don’t want daughter to be caught in-between.
- Learning to suppress disappointment when we made plans with daughter but bio-mum decided on a whim not to send her back.
(So you think it won’t be complicated to arrange for your kids to be shuffled over the weekends, or holidays to see the other parent?)
- Me feeling like an idiot when husband talks with daughter and the word ‘mummy’ came up and to the eaves-dropper, that word is obviously not referring to me.
- Daughter during her tender age of seven comes home from seeing her bio-mum and cries her heart out because she misses her. And there’s NOTHING I can do to take that pain away.
- People making statements to me like ‘oh, she’s not your daughter, is it?’
- People making statements to me like ‘why don’t you have one of your OWN? It’s different, you know.’
- People asking ‘does she like you’?
- People ‘advising’ me as a stepmum to leave the raising and disciplining of the child to the father.
- Mother-in-law said a few years back ‘when daughter grows up; she will go back to her mother’.
- I’m scarred. Still not able to rub those statement off my mind.
- Me feeling that because there is no bloody umbilical cord, we may not have that kind of bond as mother & child.
- Whenever I chose to believe otherwise, statement 12-16 came back to haunt me.
- Rinse & repeat.
My ultimate pet peeve is the naivety of parents thinking (hoping?) that their kids will be fine eventually.
Yes, they cope.
No, they are affected and will be for the rest of their lives.
And so will your life.
Note: Item #9 happened today. I was angry. Not at the situation per se, but angry at how the world makes divorce a norm; to end what can be reconciled. So it prompted me to write this article.
I’ve Snapchatted and asked the permission of my daughter if I can share this post because I don’t want to embarrass her. She said yes—it would help other families. And ended her message with I love you, and I miss you. My darling daughter, I will always love you.
18 Oct 2016—I’ve received good response and comments not only on Facebook but Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger as well. Thank you to everyone who took the effort to comment. It encouraged our family. If you think the article will be helpful to someone out there, feel free to share it. Never know who may need it and read it. God bless.
I was never interested in faith of any kind. Egoistic and self-reliant, I was an everything-is-possible-if-I-put-my-mind-to-it kind of gal. Paid top dollars to attend seminars by renowned speakers; walked on fire (burnt my toe), read many famous self-help books. Christianity? Definitely not on my list. I thought it’s weird, prudish, weak, rude and definitely geeky and boring. Christmas to me, was party, drink, presents, merry-making, heck-yeah.
This is my story of why I’ve changed, decided to accept Jesus, (remained a non-geek), and how He had changed my life.
First of all. Christianity deal breakers.
Tension and wars among people of different faiths led me to conclude that religion divides. I did not want to have anything to do with that.
Who needs God? God had nothing to do with me. I refused to believe that Jesus has anything to do with a happy life. I’d seen my share of Christian hypocrites. I’m fine, I’m cool. No, thanks.
Then one day, this thing called marriage happened. I got married to a recent divorcee, with a daughter (sole custody with him), and an ex-wife with unlimited visiting rights. Any goon would have run a mile. But not this goon.
Drumroll Introducing … the most miserable time of my life.
Before marriage—Happy and so-in-love.
Instant status of a wife and a step-mother, not pretty.
So naive. I did not realise what I was getting into. I thought as long as I love his then six-year-old daughter as my own, give her a stable and supportive home, we will be a happy family. Nope.
Rejected by his daughter, in-law, trouble from ‘unlimited visiting rights ex-wife’ and a husband caught in-between everything and everyone; are not ingredients for a sweet beginning to our marriage.
I came from an unconditionally loving and accepting family background, so yeah, I had the shock of my life. Slapped awake.
The dreamy-marriage bubble burst. And the nightmare begins.
I was often angry and would burst into a rage at home. I had chest pain from all the outbursts and thought I would collapse from heart attack one day.
Suicidal thoughts started entering my head as the shouting kept getting worse. I was sane enough to not kill myself as I know either it’s 1) It’s painful. 2) It’s messy.
Oh. Then husband accepted Christ one year after we got married. Great! We now had one more topic to argue about!
The concept of surrendering and obeying God in the Christian faith was another deal breaker. I don’t get it. It seemed so weak. To some, f* is a revolting word, to me then, the four letter word is o-b-e-y.
I often cried shaking, angry tears. From a happy person, I became cynical, bitter and felt very alone. I had no one to turn to. But outwardly, I look composed. Still very much a goon, influenced by movies, I kept going away for short breaks thinking that it would help, but that was a lie. The deep pain in my heart did not go away. Hollywood, dang it!
Three nightmarish years later, came the turning point in my life.
Finally, I got so tired of everything, tired of all the fighting, tired of myself. I have nothing left.
I didn’t know when or how, but my hardened heart started to slowly crack. There was a hairline opening in my heart to let God in. I remembered suddenly getting “it”. I’d realised that all the ugliness in the world was done by people, and had nothing to do with the real God.
I also started to question myself: “I’d been living life my way for 30 years, but despite all I had achieved, all I had done, something was seriously not right… I need help.”
I have attended many seminars, I stayed positive, but nothing seemed to work long-term. What else could I do?
One day, I went with my husband to a church’s 2010 Christmas production, “Mad World”. At the end of the production, I followed the pastor to say a simple prayer.
It was weird as I didn’t think about wanting to accept Jesus at all! But I felt compelled to follow along to pray. As I said this prayer in my heart, I felt my cry for help –
Then, I pursue God. I told myself that if I want to find out about Christianity, I should go to the right source and discover once and for all.
So I attended Alpha.
Asked loads of stupid questions like ‘ why the heck God planted the tree-of-life in the first place?’ ‘No tree, no fruits, no eating of fruit, no sin, helloo.’
Finally, after chasing God around, in July 2011, I said, “Yes” again and invited Jesus into my life with the above prayer (scroll up, will ya).
This time, I’m clear and sure. And the exciting journey of getting to know God and drawing close to Him began.
Four years later as a Christian…
I am still in awe of how everything changes when we have God in our lives.
I still talk about Him with sparkling eyes and childlike wonder.
I’m still love-struck.
To someone who is so proud and driven, God has to allow many tough lessons in my life. Sometimes, I do say, boy, being a Christian is tough! Of course, I don’t say ‘boy’ in real life, only Mark Twain will say that.
I struggled daily, DAILY! with God…
I do NOT want to say sorry!
He says: Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
I do NOT want to forgive! Do you know that person is wrong?
He says: Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
How can I love such a despicable character person!
He says: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:7
It’s inconvenient to call, talk, help him/her.
He says: If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? – 1 John 3:17
I want this and that, God.
He says: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.- Matthew 6:33
I struggled and wrestled with God, wanting my way.
He says: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24
But when I obeyed, all the breakthroughs in my life happened. When I surrendered and let God take the steering wheel, that’s when He flipped my life right-side up.
Our marriage. God took our biggest mistake and turned it into something beautiful.
Relationship with our daughter. She doesn’t just call me mom with her word, but with her heart.
Our family. Three musketeers, having fun, loving life, learning from life, learning to love.
My work. Gosh, my work. I thought I gave up my precious start-up, a baby that I wouldn’t let go. But actually, He made way for me to have the best season of my working life.
Serving others. I’m joyfully serving full-time in my church. Hubs and I also started to volunteer in pre-marital counselling at our church.
His ex-wife. We are actually friends now.
And the praises to God goes on.
God is teaching me the meaning of life. I have less to complain.
My blinded eyes were open to see a lot of things which hardened my heart and gripped my life in the past.
I also realised many things that I thought were the norm, weren’t right.
Trusting and accepting Jesus—it is the most liberating thing I ever did. Unshackled my chains. Letting go and letting God into my life.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might LIVE through Him. – 1 John 4: 9
This, is the reason for Christmas.
Here’s the invitation…
His love is for me, you, everyone. It doesn’t matter your past. God offers us forgiveness, freedom, his Spirit to live within us, and eternal life. To accept the gift, you just have to believe and trust in Jesus. It’s an act of faith. If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can pray the simple prayer like what I’ve done (scroll up, will ya). It will be the best gift that you will ever receive. Ever.
The media has played a big part in influencing people on what is deemed to be ‘the norm’. Giving up on a tough and bad marriage is one of them. From Hollywood movies to Hong Kong soap operas, the message is this: If it’s causing great unhappiness to both parties and there’s no workable solution in sight, then the only solution is to get a divorce.
One of my heart’s burdens is the health and well-being of marriages. It breaks my heart to see marriages falling apart and in the process, dragging everything down with them. Families are torn apart. Children are having to learn how to live a ‘new normal life’ when nothing is normal about broken families – despite what the media is saying to us.
Look, I am not trying to make a suffering relationship sound easy. I am a product of a divorced family, as my parents divorced even before I went to kindergarten. Later in my adult life, I find myself living with the consequences of being in a second marriage relationship; my husband’s second marriage, my first. I have seen firsthand how my step-daughter suffered during her earlier childhood; being torn apart from her shuffling between her biological mother and father, who has sole custody of her. I have had power struggle with his ex-wife for imparting different and conflicting values into my step-daughter. I have screamed through bitter arguments with my husband. At this point, I have to say that while society dictates I call her ‘step-daughter’, in my heart, she is no different to me than a biological child. So it is only for the purpose of this article that I am using the term ‘step-daughter’.
“Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”- Ephesians 4:2-3
To cut a long story short, our earlier years together was close to being hell on earth as a new ‘blended’ family. It wasn’t until all of us came to know Christ, starting with my husband, then three years later, where I too decided to surrender my life to Him that He took our biggest mistake and made it right.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
Both of you have to commit to the ‘No exit clause’ in your marriage from the beginning.
We had to learn through the most painful way how not to live life selfishly. We had to learn how to love unconditionally despite seeing how hopeless our relationship seemed to be. I am ever thankful for the lessons, horrible as they were. The hard lessons have taught us to close the exit door of our marriage. We decided that ‘there’s no exit clause’ in this marriage, and we are going to work it out, no matter what.
With our marriage being rooted in God and made stronger, we can give our daughter a stable growing up environment. She has seen the bad and ugly consequences of both husband and wife wanting their way and insisting that their expectations be met. As she is now maturing into a beautiful teen both from the inside and out; I thank God that she too is, growing her roots deeper in Christ. I can’t be any happier for her or love her enough!
By God’s power, I believe that the ‘generational curse’ of bad marriages and divorces from both sides of our family has been broken. It stops at our generation.
My last take on this – If you have yet to make the decision, please don’t give up on your marriage, please don’t get divorced. Get help, seek counselling, pray. Do whatever, but please don’t give up.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10
Some recurring incidents with my teen had triggered these thoughts in me.
Parenting a child is hard.
Parenting a teen is heartbreaking.
I shudder to think if I ever have another child (of my own blood)…
So goes my Whatsapp to a friend whom I know won’t judge me with a wagging finger for thinking such un-motherly thoughts.
She comforted me saying that she knows perfectly lovely parents who want to strangle their kids plus hamster in tow.
“Thank you for making me feel normal,” I said.
My angry thoughts—For what we have done for our teen, the love we gave her, the sacrifices… She can disappoint and hurt us by repeatedly telling lies to our face, be disobedient, selfish (chose own pleasures over other people’s needs)… Despite us doing what we can; talk gently to her, reasoning, punishment, some threats when we get desperate, prayed together… She is still repeating the same mistakes, especially lying. It breaks my heart. How ungrateful of her to repay us with these.
But as I was blow drying my hair, this other thought/voice/conscience came to me—What about me? As a child of God, I’m giving the same treatment to my Heavenly Father. As much as I know how much He has done for me at the cross and loves me, don’t I break His heart time & again disobeying what He asks me to do, or not to do? I’m selfish too, placing busyness and things that are more appealing to my own pleasures over Him? He must be heartbroken too.
Yet He still loves me unconditionally. He forgives. He patiently watches as I repeat the same mistake, and when I’m done, send me some lessons to learn from it. He never falters. With that, I got a bit more different perspective on this parenting situation and felt comforted. Of course, comparing God’s standard and human’s standard is futile. So, here’s my prayer:
Thank You for always being with me. Thank You even for those hard lessons You’ve allowed to happen in my life. I’m sorry at times I’m thick-headed and still insist on doing things my way. I guess, this will never end until the day I go Home to You. But I pray that You will help me to become more mature in my ways. I pray that You’ll help me to obey You more. And place You at the center. Help me and hubs to parent our teen the way You want us to. With a lot of wisdom & discipline built on a solid foundation of love. Let her experience Your Fatherly love through us. I ask this in Jesus name, I pray, Amen.