The Woes and the Joys

Week 22

This evening, I was watching a TV program where the female presenter was cruising down a river in Europe sipping wine, eating handcraft chocolate and living the glamorous life. And I am thinking, “I wouldn’t mind going on a luxurious cruise and sipping wine in Europe right now.” But the reality is that whatever snaps of comfort I would find in my sleep i.e. no trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night, no vomiting, and no leakage, I consider luxury.

My belly is expanding quite rapidly. I cannot see my toes anymore. I have a few maternity clothes that I have bought or been given that I can wear to go outside. But most of the time when I stay at home, I have resorted to wearing Joel’s shirts, jackets and my own track pants with ugg boots.

One of the joys in this pregnancy for me has been feeling our daughter’s flutters more prominently in the last two weeks. I have begun to recognise the times of days she moves around, and I am now looking forward to feeling her. I still feel a bit awkward talking to her (and so is Joel, probably) but we are getting better at it. Practice makes perfect, eh? I am really looking forward to seeing the movement on my belly in a few weeks time.

Aside from the flutters, pregnancy has continued to pose its challenges on me. In my first trimester, I had a full-on morning (afternoon) sickness, when I would vomit at least 3 times a day; and spend most of the time in bed feeling exhausted. Coming up to the 2nd trimester, I started off feeling almost back to normal. Then, since a month ago, I have been struggling with severe reflux that would make me cough persistently. Initially, I thought I was catching a cold seeing that it is winter. But when I went to see my GP, he just smiled and said, “I think I know what you have. It is probably reflux. But let me examine you first.” He proceeded to check me, and then said, “Yep, reflux. I can prescribe you some medication but it is nothing to worry about.” So here I am, sitting as straight as possible, chewing my dinner like a cow would chew its grass, and avoiding laying down even though I am sometimes so tired that I can barely stay up.

Just like at the start of my pregnancy, when I was so naive thinking that I would never get morning sickness, as I entered the 2nd trimester, I thought I would also get away with reflux. But I am learning this a hard way. There is no getting away from what I cannot control. So instead of feeling embarrassed, miserable and grumpy, I have chosen to accept my condition, breathe deeply, do my kegel exercise, and invest in good panty liners because I am going to need several of them a day!

In my struggles, I have been reminded by the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 about our current suffering. Although our contexts are vastly different, the point he made in verses 17-18 has been of encouragement to me.

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

For Paul, the eternal weight of glory was worth every beating and every shipwreck for he lived with the eternal perspective – God’s kingdom. In my pregnancy, even though I feel like I am just slogging through with the physical discomfort in my ever-changing body, I have begun to grasp the sense of peace that only Jesus can bring. For in my current struggles, there is a new life within me that is constantly growing and developing. Even though I cannot see our little girl yet, she is my perspective at the moment. Yes, it is hard, taxing and sometimes lonely, but God is with me and he gives me enough strength to endure each day as it comes.

Please pray for Joel and I as we are getting to know our daughter better. And for me to have the strength and stamina to endure the hardship that this pregnancy may bring.

 

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Update on my pregnancy

Winter is here upon us in Gosford. Though the weather is not as brutal and freezing as the minus degree that Canberra is going through at the moment, I find that I struggle with the clammy and rainy climate here. For two weeks now I have been experiencing dry cough. It is nothing harmful, but annoying as hell, especially when I am 5-months pregnant with my bladder being so squished and low.

Anyway, yesterday Joel and I went to get the 20-weeks ultrasound done. People kept telling us, “Keep it a surprise. It’s your first. Do a gender reveal later.” But we are not big surprise people (although I do appreciate a well-planned surprise party occasionally). Plus our lives since the end of last year up to now have been full of surprises, almost out of control, and full of uncertainty that if there is one thing we can be certain of, we are going to do it. So we found out the baby’s gender.

It is a GIRL…

Which means that Joel was right. He had a dream one night that we would have twin girls (thank goodness we only have just the one). Throughout my first trimester, I always thought it was going to be a boy, considering that I craved salty and savoury food like steak, chips, curry, etc. My body has proven the craving theory wrong because even now I still have no desires for much sweet. The only thing I keep wishing for is Laab – a Thai meat salad with ground toasted rice, chilli, lime, fish sauce and herbs. I had one since I came back from Thailand, but it was below average, to be honest. I am going to have to make it myself.

Although I am thankful to be carrying our daughter, I have found pregnancy to be very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. I don’t understand pregnancy glow and the maternal instincts because I feel bloated, exhausted and annoyed. What is worse – I have very little control of what my body will do in moments of exasperation. One of the most frustrating things is leaking. Because the uterus is expanding, my bladder has very little space left. With all the relaxin hormone and other hormones going through my body, whenever I cough, and I do  a lot as I mentioned earlier, I either have to try my best to hold it in (which is impossible) or run to the bathroom and cough on the toilet. Though Joel is understanding, I constantly feel embarrassed.

Talking about maternal instincts, is it normal to not immediately feel connected to the bub or share that bond? Don’t get me wrong, Joel and I are over the moon that God has answered our prayer by giving us this child; so grateful that she is developing strongly and growing healthily. But we don’t share the same excitement that we often see in movies, or even among our friends. We are still unsure how to talk to our daughter. We haven’t been looking for baby clothes, or even thought of making a list of things we will need for our daughter’s arrival. I don’t even keep track of my bellow grows each week. I suppose these things I mentioned are parts of enjoying the pregnancy journey. And I guess it would be okay to to not feel the pressure of having to be or do like others. I know that the bond will come as we hold our  beautiful daughter in our arms.

I do want to make more efforts to write, though, particularly about this new journey of parenthood Joel and I are on. It would be a shame if I let all these weird and wonderful questions and pondering go by without putting it down in writing in this season of life. It may be full of complaints initially as I am getting adjusted to being pregnant and preparing to be a mother. But I also hope that it will reflect my thoughts, emotions and our life as it unfolds with honesty, wit and humour. So bear with me if there is too TMI posts!

Love,

Mink


My Backyard Garden and Goodbye

There is something sacred about saying goodbye. In our normal days, we rush and barge through days, full of energy, ready to tackle everything with all of our strength. But in goodbyes, we slowly walk through every memory and pause to linger in those sweet hard-earned moments.

Gardening has become my lifestyle since last year. I had always been hesitant to start a backyard garden because I was always sceptical of my skills. A black thumb, I called myself. But with my Canberran friend’s encouragement and generosity, I have become a veggie garden addict. Initially, I had absolutely zero knowledge on what makes a plant grow. I thought if I watered it every day, it would grow and “nature would do its thing”. Well, I killed my first tomato plant because of it.

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My first tomato plant before I killed it by watering it too much

I did not know how to turn the soil, what seasonal planting means and how light and heat all add up to productive veggie garden. I just sowed seeds into my very narrow patch where there was little light and hoped for the best.

But I am a determined (aka stubborn) woman. So I pressed on. And I have learned that knowledge and practice is the key to success. After we moved to Moree, I spent about 2 full months observing our backyard – the direction of the sun, how many hours of light (and heat!) it gets, what kinds of birds live around our house, and what sort of water is used in the area. I read up lots on what is best to grow in the region, how to prepare the soil, how to attract bees and companion planting.

And here is my 2nd year garden.

There is so much joy in going outside to tend to these plants in the sun. And I am about to reap the fruit of the sorts like tomato and zucchini. But we are saying goodbye to Moree, which means leaving our house and my beloved backyard.

As much as we have loved getting to know the countryside and the people, we have not been able to settle into our roles. There are moments we feel like failures, but Joel and I believe that God does not make mistakes. So we press on.

Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We don’t fully understand why it is the way it is, but we have learned to follow Him one step at a time. We hope the transplant of our roots will be gentle, and that we will be able to thrive in the new environment. We trust that God is a good gardener, and that He also takes joy in looking after us and doing what is necessary to grow us, even when it means pruning.

Our next adventure will be in Gosford. We have set the date to leave Moree on February 16. We will be boarding with a couple from Gosford church initially, and start looking for jobs when we are in the area. Here’s to my third garden (whenever it can happen), stepping into the unknown and beach time!

And as always, we ask you to continue praying for us.


A Better Way

We have been in Moree almost two months now. It feels so much longer. When we decided to move up here, we knew it would be hard, emotionally, financially and spiritually. But I did not realise the weight of burden that would take its toll on me.

Recently, I have noticed myself to be extremely obsessed with keeping the house clean, tidy and well-presented. It is not a secret that I am a generally tidy person, but it has become more obvious to me that my efforts in scrubbing everything spotless is actually an attempt to have control over my life…because everything else I see in this town is foreign and very messy.

Burnt houses. Streets strewn with tall grass and broken shards of whiskey bottles. A deserted basketball court nicknamed “the rape cage” because there is only one way in and out. Kids smirking at you after successfully manipulating their way around. Girls and boys talking about bashing each other like it’s normal. Road rage. Drunkards. Yelling at night.

Uninhabited government houses tend to get burnt down by children.

It seems that wherever I turn my eyes towards, there is chaos. Kindness is hard to come by. Patience is rarely bestowed. And it gets to me. I have been on edge at night, unable to detach myself from the encounter I had during the day. When I try to wind down, the hostile gestures or the hurting words haunt me. And I know that to keep going at this rate, I will wear myself thin.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

How did Jesus do it? To show compassion and demonstrate love even in the midst of enemies? When the Son of God saw the mess we made, how could He still submit to God and march onto that cross? That this powerful Creator, whose voice broke darkness and brought forth all the living things, would allow Himself to be led like a sheep to the slaughter is beyond what my mind could comprehend.

I suppose the answer to my questions is simple. God loves us. So. Much. It is the rock solid kind of love; the fierce devotion; and the ever-standing commitment. Love is not just spoken, but demonstrated. God acts on His love. And so should we.

Picking up children from school and tutoring them afterwards

Visiting church in the remote area to encourage one another

Preparing 100-120 meals to hand out to children in the community

Fruit to give away

Because of this love, Jesus’ path was always leading Him to the other side of town, the part where people told Him to stay away. He was indeed a friend of sinners. He would easily be found in the slum of Bangkok, the drugs rehabs in Sydney, or here in Moree. He would know what to do, and what to speak to bring hope to those who so desperately need it.

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life (John14:6). Wherever He went, He showed the people that there is a better way to live; and through Him alone would they find the truth and life that they were looking for. For many people in Moree, their lives have been filled with manipulation and lies, whatever they have to do to survive. That may mean using drugs to dull their senses, toughening up to show others they are stronger, or causing troubles to get attention.

As a Christian, I guess my job is to point them to a better way. It is easy to succumb to retaliation (and I have noticed that I haven’t hesitated to express my anger and frustration), but Jesus has called us to demonstrate the same sacrificial love to everyone, including those who oppose us. There will be time I fail, but my hope is that people would see Christ through me and every Christian in town through our failure, repentance, grace and diligence. My prayer is that my life will be a pointer to God, who can truly liberate all of us from the bondage of sin and death.


Love When It is Rough

We were in a van – the three of us – A, Joel and I. The morning sun was gentle on our cheeks as we drove on this dusty country road. We waved at cows; danced to the blasting music and simply enjoyed the little short ride together. Watching the two boys with wind-swept hair in the front seats having a time of their lives filled my heart with joy, especially when we are constantly reminded of brokenness around.

Having been in Moree for a little over three weeks, Joel and I have come to realise that the brokenness runs deeper than what we see. At the initial glance, it is a quaint little town with charming country houses and amazing artesian pools. But the more we get to go out into the “other” part of town, where we have been warned frequently not to go near, the more we understand why a Christ-centred ministry is so needed.

The other week, we went to the community day, where plenty of organisation stalls introduce their services, programs and resources provided for all kinds of people in need. The poor. The disable. The addicts. The youths. Even the suicidal. They offer a great range of activities that I have no doubt can make a positive impact.

But a program cannot simply fix the problems here. They can definitely provide steps to break away from the cycle, but the person needs to want to change to start; to recognise that there is a better way of life. The issue here is stemmed from an unrepentant heart. People are victims of it.

Who could explain to me how a 12-year-old girl came to be using drugs and could look like she was bearing the weight of the world? Who could help enlighten me why a young boy would look me in the face and throw the perfectly good bun on the ground when that might just be the only warm meal he had on the day? What about the druggie who grew up just like any other kids, but now cannot even manage to care for his own laundry?

Yesterday, we had a real encounter with four local kids, who bitterly reminded us why we decided to follow God out here. They were demanding, taking advantage of our offer and being completely rude in our own home. As we were pulling out of the driveway to drop them off, they had a change of mind (for maybe the 3rd time in that hour), we let them go and decided that if they came back, we would not do their bidding this time.

It was a hard decision, but we all needed to learn boundaries. When to say yes, when to say no. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering if they would be safe on the street.

As we reflected afterwards, feeling rattled, we asked among ourselves how they came to the point where they are full of anger and try to manipulate their ways in this world. And I am talking about 10-13 year-old children. Their rude manner made me want to lose all my Christian ways and just kicked them out of the door. They deserved it…

But so did I.

I was exposed to the fact that I am just as broken, manifested in different ways. I may be better at hiding my emotion and being pretentious. But I am just as much of a sinner who needs grace and forgiveness as those are. Though I do not go out and do all the hard-core stuff like getting drunk, selling myself, or killing others, the ways I sometimes indulge myself and entertain certain thoughts are just as sinful, if not worse.

This morning, God reminded me through Proverbs 10 that, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” It is so easy to react to people’s behaviour. But Jesus challenged us by the idea of loving our own enemies because that is where love is most needed. So as we prayed for them, we asked God to soften our hearts for these children; and for love to reign so that they will see Christ through us and know that they are forgiven and loved.


Grief

Clear blue sky. Sunny day. Warm gentle breeze. We are now in Moree.

We drove 13 hours last night from Canberra to Sydney to here. It was exhausting physically and emotionally. Last night, as I was about to fall asleep, my mum messaged me saying that one of her dogs was run over by a car and had died. I have only heard of her, but her death shook me. The news unleashed the emotions I had tried to keep under control.

Grief.

Memories. Faces. Scenery. Laughter. Tears. They all came flooding like a broken dam. The “needle” or the Telstra Tower on the Black Mountain. The Parliament House. All the round-abouts. And the lakes. The misty morning. The golden sunset. Canberra felt very different from when I first arrived.

It was home.

I am grieving because of all the goodbyes. Work. Friends. Church family. Our house. Our old car. One of the ladies from church who recently passed away. I was so caught up with busyness that I did not have time to process any of them until now.

Grieving allows me to let go of control. It helps me to make peace with the past, whether good or bad; and acknowledge the reality of life – nothing is permanent. Grieving also allows me to depend on God, to bring these raw emotions to Him, and ask Him to fill in me a sense of gratitude and joy.

Parting is never easy, but it is normal. It really sets our perspective straight; and helps us see what matters the most – relationships. With one another and with God.

There is time for everything, as King Solomon said. This season for us is a time to uproot, and a time to mourn. We are in it, but we do not lose heart over it because there will be a time to plant,  build and dance again.


You Say, “Stop worrying!” But How?

We were in our car, running some errands. I was yawning and rubbing my eyes even though I had a solid 8-hours sleep the night before. As each minute went by, I was becoming increasingly irritated at everything. When the conversation turned to dinner and Joel was overflowing with ideas, “I wonder if there is curry in the Honduran or Hungarian cuisine. You know, something new but still familiar,” I became so overwhelmed that I burst into tears. Confused is probably an understatement on Joel’s part. Bewildered, more like. “I just wanted comfort food, something that feels like home,” I cried.

He cooked red curry for dinner that night. Bless his heart.

After finishing the errands and sipping hot coffee on the way home, we reflected on what was happening to me before. Surely it was not just the unhappiness of having to eat weird dishes. The thing was I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. Changes, as we all know, can take a toll on us.

The past month had been a whirlwind – leaving our jobs, saying goodbye, dealing with a broken car, scrambling to find a new car (and thankfully found one), transferring the car registration and insurance over, organising logistics on the moving day, hiring a truck, getting rid of things, packing and cleaning. (Not to mention dealing with my nerves from having to drive the truck interstate at night while it rained immediately after I got my full license!) I would tick off one thing from my to-do list and add another back pretty immediately. Last week, when we were 90% finished with our packing, I looked around our house and all I saw was a mess. I said to Joel, “I feel like a failure. It is not even done. How do you feel?” He replied rather proudly, “I feel accomplished!”

Some of our belongings 

Our last night in the Calwell home with our bed propped against the wall and stuff everywhere

Oh how different were our perspective! Obviously, mine needed to change. Often, I unnecessarily burdened myself with too much pressure for no reason at all. I want things done certain ways, and it has to be perfect. Neat. Spotless. Yet what this perfectionist mentality did to me was making me discontent and unhappy. I am reminded again of these classic verses from Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Mulling problems over in my head does one thing – making me anxious, and not getting me close to achieving any goals. But it is fair and simple to say, “stop thinking!” and hoping that the anxiety would go away. The reality is it won’t. Something I learned from Joel recently, based on his work with the drug and alcohol addicts, is that you have to replace that thing you ask a certain person to stop doing with something else. “Don’t use drugs” Maybe fill your time with sports? “Don’t eat lollies” How about trying some berry smoothies? “Don’t be anxious” Let’s pray! To tell someone to stop doing something, one should do their best to present an alternative, an option, a way out.

Of course, it is never as easy as it sounds. We all have our struggles. More often than not, we resort to what we are used to doing; and keep on struggling. But God knows our hearts, and understands our human nature. He is caring and forgiving. He does expect me to get better, but when I stuff up, He does not turn His back away from me. Instead, He gave me Jesus and His better ways. Paul urged the Philippians to stop worrying because he trusted in God’s power to deal with all kinds of situations. He encouraged them, and me, to present their requests to Him in prayers, with a thankful heart. We are undermining God’s great love and power when we fret while knowing full well how capable He is, and what He can achieve in, through and for us.

I am thankful that Joel and I have been granted this last week in Canberra after having driven up to Moree and unloaded our belongings there. We are able to take a breather, to catch up with the people we would not have had time to do otherwise, and to mentally prepare ourselves for the next phase of life. Yes, the uncertainty is scary, but being gripped with and disabled by fear is even more terrifying. Through Jesus, we have been gifted freedom. He has emboldened us, even amidst our fear, to follow Him even when we can’t clearly see. And I suppose, that is what faith is all about.

The roadside bouquet – a token of goodbye and anticipating reunion

The drive to Moree


“Why Moree?”

If you have not heard already, Joel and I are moving to an outback town in New South Wales called Moree (catch a glimpse of what we will do here). We both made the decision as a team. We talked and prayed about it. We even went up there for a week to work with the people we would be working with. Eventually, it was clear that it would be foolish not to go.

A lot of people I talked to at work asked, “Why Moree?” Is there more money there? Do I get help with my visa in return if I go? When I replied that we would be working with the church, their look was puzzled. And I get their confusion…because as the day of our moving is fast approaching, I second-doubted our decision. The thing is – our lives in Canberra is comfortable. We live in a spacious flat for $240/ week with all utilities cost included. We have lovely neighbours who look after our garden when we are away. Joel is settled in his full-time work and finds fulfilment and satisfaction in it. We are not rich, but we are not struggling either. All in all, this is not a bad place to be.

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Church in Moree, where people from many places gathered

 

But if I had learned anything from the life of Jesus, it was never about His own comfort; and always about God’s kingdom. Jesus travelled from one town to the next bringing the message of peace through healing, performing miracles and proclaiming the Good News. He said to those who wanted to follow Him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” (Luke 9:58). Following Jesus costs. His road is not the way of comfort, but of suffering. Of partaking the sorrow of others. Of acknowledging and overcoming evil. Of dying constantly to ourselves for His glory. Jesus’ disciples did not gain any glamorous rewards in following this Son of God. Lots of them died horrible deaths; some as strangers in a foreign land.

And we are taking this road. We do not really see it as being more special than any others’ for we believe that God calls us to do different things and to make impact wherever we are. For Joel and I, following God is simply doing what He asks us to do. It is being willing to pursue His dream, and making it ours. It is no more noteworthy than what you are doing. It is every day Christian-living, acknowledging our flaws and leading grace-filled lives…praying for and touching people with His love along the way.

Even though this decision may seem puzzling to many of my friends at work, our blessing is God’s peace. When I voiced my doubt to Joel the other day, he said, “I do love my job, but God’s work is more important. We can get jobs anywhere. This, though, is Him calling us.” So we ask for your prayers, not just for the transition, but for our lives, work, relationships and interactions with others in Moree…because we know it won’t be easy.

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Joel and Mink Gough (Photo credit: Veronica Gearhart)

 


Why We Should Talk About Suicide

It has been a long time since I have been on a swing, feeling that elation of swooping up high and swinging down low, hearing my heart thumping in my chest all the while. There is something about being on the swing – the sense of peace and freedom. When you push yourself up really high, you are exhilarated with every new height you reach; and as you let gravity take you as you come down, you shred every care in the world into the wind. The gentleness of the breeze that caresses your face; the soft whisper of birds calling one another as evening approaches; and the golden setting sun – these are all happening here. On this swing.

For a brief moment as I was in the ecstasy of reaching the new height, a series of thoughts flashed into my brain. The time I was caught in a rip at Bondi Beach and the realisation that I could drown. The blog post I read this morning about finding joy in every circumstance. And the most recent encounter with the darkest thought I have ever had in my adulthood. I have wrestled about whether to share it. I decided to do so as communication always fosters connection and understanding. It is my hope that this entry might do just that.

The other day while on the way home from work, a sense of despair hit me very hard, so sudden and unexpected. I felt like a failure, a hypocrite, and a liar. It all became unleashed because I didn’t pass my driving assessment. That sounds rather silly, I know. But it wasn’t just the a driving assessment, was it, that undid me? Failing the review unearthed something I buried deep inside – the nagging voice that said I am a loser; and I cannot achieve anything. I have got my permanent visa application waiting to be done. I still have to enrol to study but the amount we have to pay is ridiculous. And I need to book more driving lessons so I can get my license. My friend, Lisa, put it perfectly when she said, “I think that when a big thing is paired with a bunch of other things that are going wrong, then it can quickly become overwhelming.” At that moment,  I was on the verge of drowning… that when I stopped paddling, I would be dragged down by the powerful current to the bottom of the ocean.

That sense of despair made me contemplate suicide for a brief second. That if I would end it all right now, I would be rid of hurt and pain. I felt very alone as I trudged home, thinking that no one would be able to help me bear this load because everyone else has got their own happy lives to live.

It was very fleeting, a whisper-in-the-wind kind of moment. What was worse, though, was the shock from the realisation that the thought even passed through my mind. I cried big fat tears when I got to the house, gushing out shame, because I should have known better – that my life is meaningful, precious and worthy of love.

Thankfully, God pulled me out of the depth. I was reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice – his life for mine on the cross. Feeling ashamed is an understatement. But God’s grace is sufficient for me. His presence, though not as forceful as a strong gale of wind, made its way into my heart and softened it. He reminded me of the things worth living for – my husband, my mum, my sisters, and my friends. I thought of Joel’s gentle touch and fierce devotion; of my mum’s long months of pregnancy, strenuous hours of hard labour and difficult years of raising me; and ultimately of Jesus, who gave up his life so I can live it to the full.

In a sense, I am thankful for the experience because it provides an insight that helps me sympathise with people who either might be contemplating suicide, or even those affected by someone’s attempt.

Here is what I learned. Loneliness is dangerous. What you see portrayed is not always what goes on inside someone’s heart. Loneliness is the biggest reason why people choose to take their own lives. We prefer snippets of chats online to real time conversation. Our interaction with each other is brief and polite but we don’t linger because we are so overprotective of our time. We lose touch with people we love because we are so busy. One by one, we slowly find ourselves at the centre of the stage, surrounded only by a handful of people who are generally there like our spouses, children or parents. We are overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities that we cannot see past what is just in front of us. We’re trapped in our own head, our own space…and that’s where it all goes wrong.

This suicidal thought can happen to anyone at the most unexpected time. It is such a terrible thing to think about that we become so afraid to even mention it as it seems cowardice, irresponsible and reckless. We think it will pass. So shame keeps us silent. I urge you – do the opposite to what you feel and choose connection with people.

If you would rather stay inside to pick your wound, go for a walk; otherwise it’ll fester. If you think you are worthless, look around for notes, letters, emails or pictures that your loved ones gave you. If you would rather keep silent about it, find someone you trust – a friend or partner or family member, and tell them in the rawest, simplest words of how you feel. (It is difficult sharing this, even at this moment, because I constantly feel like a coward; and that I am disappointing a lot of people by admitting it.) And if yelling, crying or smashing things help you knock out those nasty emotions you bottle up, go ahead. You’ll be a better person for it. Remember that at the end of the day, it is not just your life you take but those around you as well.

I don’t know where you are at the moment. You might either be someone contemplating suicide; or you might have lost someone. I will not say the cliche, “It is not your fault” because I don’t think it is true. I will say this, though, that whatever happens, we all share in the responsibilities of looking out for and after one another. God has created us in his image; and intended for us to share this beautiful world with one another. It would save us using the “should have” if we are intentional about staying connected and nurturing relationships.

I wish life was simple, the way it was in my childhood. That I could kick back in the swing, and not have to worry about anything. But as we grow, our responsibilities increase with us. And we have to take each day as it comes, constantly reminding ourselves to pause, breathe deeply and enjoy that swing ride we love so much.

Seriously, when we have our own house, I’m going to put a swing set in our backyard.

P.S. If you find yourself in a dark place, feel free to shoot me an email at mink.mijji@gmail.com. I am no councillor but I have got two ears, a willing heart and prayer for you. Please do not seclude yourself.


A Sitcom and Hope Revealed

Hope, it is a strange thing. It fires people up even when there seems not much to cling on to. When one loses it, though, it is almost impossible to muster up strength to hold on, to fight, to stay. One of the ladies where I work is on the brink of despair.

I have known her since I started work. It took her a while but she finally knows me by name. We don’t really have much to chat about because most of the time I see her is when I do morning and afternoon tea rounds. Our conversations are limited to, “Hi, how are you? Would you like a cup of tea today?” Recently, it has been, “Hi, a cup of milk?” because that has been all she wanted to drink for the past few months.

Two weeks ago, her husband passed away. He was admitted into the hospital shortly after I started work, and returned for only a few days before he took his last breath. I heard the news via the company’s text message. When I went back to work the following week, there was a flurry of visitors – her children, grandchildren and friends – to check up on her, to keep her company. Her room was bright with colours from balloons and flowers, but her face was pale. Despite the effort, it was obvious that hope started to seep out of her and took the blood that usually shed her cheeks pink away with it. She begged, as one of the staff members went in to assist her this morning, “Let me go. It is time. Let me die.”

I tried to put myself in her shoes. If I had to battle cancer alone in an aged care facility, nearing the end of my life without Joel, I would probably be begging the same thing. I really don’t know what is going through her mind at the moment, but I am praying hard for peace and a glimpse of hope to shine in her again. That when she sees the faces of her loved ones, she would realise that there is so much to live for – that she has a reason to stay.

Maybe it is selfish for me to wish that for her. Maybe all she wants now is to be reunited with the love of her life. And to try to keep her is just delaying the inevitable.

Today’s event made me look at Ecclesiastes 3, where King Solomon wrote,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (3: 1,2,4)

Though it was difficult seeing someone willing herself to leave this earth, I was still reminded of joy through a 92-year-old war veteran, who beamed at the picture of his great-grandson and who continued to tease my ability to balance all the cups and plates in one hand. I was blessed to hear an old lady, who I had passed off as being paralysed and mute, address me in a very clear and precise manner (I was almost knocked off my feet when she spoke to me! I was seriously yelling joyously inside, “she talks and she eats all by herself!”).

Yes, I often complain about my work, and blame God about being stuck in a job that I don’t want to do. But from time to time, when my heart is clear, I can see His hands in my life; and His face in the residents I serve – from the “three musketeers” ladies, who  laughed at my sneeze, to the grumpy old man who always lost his glasses (and guess what, they were in his shoe!).

Going to work is like watching a sitcom, really, except I am in it. There is stress, oh yes, but there is also humour. There is all these emotions, but at the end of the day, when I come home, I am thanking God for the rich conversation I get to have with Him throughout the day; and for the part I get to play in these people’s lives even though it may seem insignificant at times.

And I suppose that is hope for me – not that I will get another job soon, but that whilst I serve people food here, God would continue to build me up spiritually so that those who surround me may see Him at work in my life. And isn’t that something we all should strive for? To make God known wherever we are in everything we do.