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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 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.

Hope and Dream

Two weeks ago, I submitted the application for a job at Compassion, an organisation I have always admired, and a workplace where I used to work for five years in Thailand. For a long time, after realising that qualifications and experiences from back home as I know it seemed to be irrelevant to the workforce here, I had stopped hoping for a better job as I seemed to always run into brick walls.  So I settled for anything that would provide us with income. I battled with a lot of self doubt, wondering if I really have anything to offer. Then, a little ad on Facebook sparked something in me again. A job that would get me jump out of bed every morning. An environment where I can proclaim freely of God’s love. And a ministry that would give meaning to my existence. I dared to hope again…

As I prepared my application, I was praying…because I knew full well that I would either get it or I wouldn’t. I did not want to fall hard onto the ground and curse God when the latter happened. I prayed that His will would be done, whether I was successful or not…because, ultimately, it is not what I want but what He has in mind. Like Jacob, I wrestled. I struggled to find the balance in this tension. I tried to tame my desire because I did not want to be disappointed. But God reminded me that expressing my longing to Him is healthy; and the important thing was not whether my wish was fulfilled; but knowing that God…my Father…the God of love knows me and will lead me to a destination so richly saturated with His presence…that there will be nothing in this world I will want more, but Him.

SoI waited. I dreamed of finally leaving my days of washing dishes and standing in front of steamy bain marie behind, and spending my time advocating for children around the world. Joel and I talked about the possibility of moving to a new town, where winter is not harsh and the sea breeze caresses our faces. We chatted about which church to go to in the area, and how I appreciated Joel’s willingness to give up his own security so I could have mine.

It was all but a dream.

My days of dirty dishes and hot bain marie are not yet over. We will plunge into this winter along with everyone else in Canberra. I would be lying if I did not feel stung by the rejection, or disappointed by another failed attempt in getting into a field I am passionate in. But the prayer that has been upholding me from the beginning, the knowledge that not only God but my family and friends are all in this journey with me, strengthens me. The knowledge that regardless of what I do, I am still the daughter of our God and King, keeps me walking forward with purpose and peace.

During the time of preparation, Proverbs 16:9 was the anthem to me, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” To this day, I am still not sure where I will be going professionally, but one thing I know is that whatever career I am in, He will want me to demonstrate my faith and commitment to Him in the most tangible ways possible. Whether it be doing dishes, serving old people or teaching children, it is all for the glory of the Lord.

Thank you for praying and dreaming with me.

Valentine’s in My Kitchen

It was a long  day, and we were both exhausted. I opened our front door, and the first thing I saw was the sink full of dirty dishes, messy floor and crumbs on the kitchen bench. Fuming, I stomped into the kitchen and started cleaning without talking to Joel. I thought to myself, “What a great valentine’s day we have”. My husband, noticing that I was upset, asked what he could do, and then quietly went about coating the chicken drumsticks with flour and frying them for dinner.

As the chickens sizzled away in the pan and all the dishes were clean and put away to dry on the rack, I became calmer and realized that I could have treated Joel more kindly. You see, I was hoping for some sparkling romance. I was expecting a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolate. I wanted to be assured of Joel’s love by this physical expression. Yet if I had looked more intently, I would see that my husband loves me through his quiet servitude – when he gets up early so he can take me to work; when he gives me a back scratch because my sun-burnt skin is peeling; when he sits with me through a chick flick to keep me company; when he drives out of the way so we can get Thai food; or when he chooses cookbooks as gifts because he knows I love cooking.

For the past year and ten months, marriage has taught me that love is a commitment between the two of us. Yes, there is the romantic aspect that comes with candle-lit dinner and sitting under starry night. But, most of the time, it is the display of fierce loyalty to one another and the overflowing of grace and forgiveness in this household. In this dirty kitchen, we are truly rid of any pretense. We recognize our imperfection; and we strive to love better by imitating Jesus Christ.

I am slowly learning to keep my words few and my attitude kind towards Joel; and to make space for God in this relationship so He may fill us up with the depth of insight into how He loves. After all, dirty dishes can be cleaned in a few minutes. But broken heart may take months, if not years, to heal.


“And this is my prayer: That our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
(from Phil. 1:9-11)

Dressember: how can a dress a day end modern day slavery

My mom has been a dressmaker for over 30 years. As a girl, I remember watching her design the clothes, make the pattern, cut the fabric and sew the dresses. Sometimes I helped her sewing the hem with  my stubby little fingers and a needle. I grew up with mom’s handmade clothes. In those days, though, I would rather wear leggings and t-shirts from the Body Glove brand than putting on some neat little skirts that my mom lovingly made for me.

Yes, love. For mom, making dress has always been about love. The love for creativity, for the career and for the people. She lavished her love on me and my sisters by making matching dresses for us to wear.

Sadly, there are many girls who are stripped of this love and care they deserve. There are those who are sold into sex business because their parents are poor; those who are constantly molested and violated by their very own relatives; and those who are physically abused day-in and day-out within their own homes.

This is why I joined the Dressember Foundation this year. I was introduced to this organization through a friend, who posted her pictures wearing different dresses for the whole month of December last year. Seeing her in those dresses somehow triggered my childhood memory, of my mom’s dresses. So I made a quick comment in one of her posts that I would like to join.

And here I am.

To be honest, I am scared of fundraising because I hate asking people for money. Yet a wise friend said to me, “Do not assume what other people think. You have to put it out there, because otherwise you may be robbing someone of their giving” (paraphrased). So this post is to inform you about what I do; and hopefully it will help you make a decision whether or not you want to join in this cause.

The core of Dressember is to advocate for the dignity of women all over the world. Its mission is to “oppose the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women”. It has aligned itself with the work of International Justice Mission and A21. The money raised has gone to support the work that these guys do to put the end to the modern day slavery. You can read about them more here.

My part in this is to wear dresses everyday for the whole month. It is challenging because sometimes I would rather just wear tank tops and shorts in this heat. But I am now committed.

My goal is to raise $300 by the end of December. If you would like to join in with me and consider giving, visit my page here. Click on “Donate” tab and follow the prompts. You can choose how much you want to give by clicking on the amount the site provides, or type in your own amount you are willing to donate. Remember, there is no such thing as too little when it comes to supporting good work.

The other way to get involved is to pray. There are still many girls and boys trapped in brothels, mines, orphanages or even their own homes. They need help. Pray for them to be rescued. Pray for the workers’s boldness and protection. Pray for healing. Pray for justice. Pray for grace and hope to shine lights into those dark corners of the world.


This is one of the five dresses that mom made for me. I have had it for over five years now. This dress went with me to Chiang-Mai, New Zealand and now Australia. 

P.S. I will be posting my picture on Instagram and Facebook at least twice a week until the end of this month. Feel free to comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions.


In the Honour of King Bhumibhol

The night was dark and cool. There was not a single sound outside. I was plunging deeper into my sleep when I felt Joel calling my name. “Mink. Read this.” Wincing at the glow of the screen, a big bold headline wrote, “King Bhumibhol, the king of Thailand, died at age 88.” My heart dropped. Tears streaked down my cheeks. Though I knew this was going to happen, I still wished it was a dream. It was October 13, 2016. 

It has been a month since. I have wanted to write something to honour my late king, but words escaped me. Whenever I started typing, nothing I wanted to say seemed sufficient to describe what I felt, what most Thai people felt, when we heard the news. The sadness runs deep, but more than the sorrow is the realisation that we will no longer live under his reign anymore, this history-maker king.

King Bhumibhol had reigned over the kingdom of Thailand for 70 years. He and his wife were barely getting out of their teenage years when the coronation ceremony took place. They were confronted with poverty problems and political issues. With determination, perseverance and grace, they penetrated the walls of all social classes and united people together. They rose early and retired late, working doggedly alongside their staff and the local people. Their shoes were caked with mud as they trudged into the jungle; their pants dirty from sitting on the dirt floor, and their hair windswept and dusty from spending time outside talking to villagers as they brought medical aid and farming advices to villagers.

For most Thais, we have spent most of our lives living under King Rama IX’s reign. We celebrated his birthday every December 5. We listened to his speech. And we watched about his works and activities that ALWAYS involved the people of Thailand on TV. When I was young, every Friday afternoon before school finished, every student in the school would stand in line outside their classrooms to sing the king’s anthem together. Even in cinemas all over the country, before the movie starts, we would have to stand up for the king’s anthem. As a child, I did not really see the importance of all this. But as I grew older, the knowledge of his goodness and the understanding of how much he sacrificed for our sake has given me appreciation of and deepest respect for the king. 

Sometimes I wonder why we mourn so much for him, the king whom most of us had never met in person. I wonder why a multitude of people are willing to stand in the sun for hours only to see the van that carried the late king’s body to the grand palace. And I wonder why there is such hollowness in my heart since he has been gone…

The only answer I can come up with is because King Bhumibhol loved us so fiercely that he dedicated his life for the country. We see his love through his deeds. His genuine interest in the well-being of Thai citizens took him to the most dangerous part of the country, where he was vulnerable to harm. He didn’t care about whose sides people were on, whether they were democratic or communists. In one of the interviews given to BBC, he was asked if he had won over the communist insurgency by managing to build a dam in the area. He said,

“Oh I don’t know. But we are winning against hunger. This is what we are doing. We are not fighting against people. We are fighting against hunger. We want them to have a better life. If we make this and they have a better life, the people you call ‘communist insurgency’ will also have a better life also. So everybody is happy.”

As a Christian, King Bhumibhol had helped me understand what Jesus’ love must have meant for his disciples and the people in his time. I am not saying that the king was god or even had god-like attributes. Rather, his attributes and traits that portrayed selflessness and enduring love had captivated our hearts. His love makes us want to be better – to drop the differences, to stop fighting over things that do not really matter and to unite for the better of our country.

I am so thankful to have lived under his reign, to have witnessed his majesty and to be able to carry this heritage to the next generation. When we have children, I will tell them of our Thai king, the man who devoted his life for the people of our country. More than that, I will also point them to the God-man, King Jesus, who is the ultimate model of selfless love, when he gave his life for the people in the whole world as well. 

Today my heart weeps with the people of Thailand again because I have remembered that king Bhumibhol is no longer with us. He spent 88 years on this earth with excitement, enthusiasm and unapologetic way of serving. He gave his all for his family and his countrymen. It is now time for him to rest. What a privilege for me to be a part of this glorious historical period. Yet what a loss for us all…

Recently, hundreds of thousands of people gathered to sing the king’s anthem at the royal field near the Grand Palace for a major music production, and to show solidarity and honour to the late king. The singing was loud and full of emotions. Usually, after singing the anthem, we usually chanted “long live the king, long live the king” over and over again. But on that day, there was no more chant. All we could hear was the deafening silence that echoed in everyone’s heart. It is still echoing in my heart today…

My Job Search Experience

Before I came to Australia, I painted a beautiful picture in my head, of me working in a respectable company and earning sufficient income to send money home to pay off my debts and support my family. For some reasons, I thought finding a job would be easy. 

In my first week here, someone told me to beware of discrimination in workplace, especially because I am Asian. Naively, I laughed and brushed it off, thinking it was their own prejudice against the society. Now I am wondering if they were right…

My job search experience has been one of a crazy ride. In my first month, I almost got a job at a restaurant but my pride kicked in and I denied the job because the pay was too low. Then, I spent three hours doing a job trial at a cafe, thinking that this could be it, only to be informed later that they found someone with more suitable qualifications. Unwavered, I kept sending out emails with my resume attached, hoping to hear something from someone. I put up with hours of filling out forms that basically ask for the same information already provided in my resume. And nothing but”We regret to inform you that we will not take your application any further…”, without so much of explanation why, came back to me.

In my last post, I mentioned about a waitress job at a Thai restaurant. It also fell through. I did go in to work for two days, quickly learning the menu and the way they took order; floating between tables, serving food and taking away dishes. Everyone was nice to me. The only issue I had was that they took advantage of the casual staff members, who worked for five to six hours everyday but were paid below a minimum standard. You may think I am a fool for not enduring like others do; but I simply could not tolerate the practise, where my value is at stake.

So I had to start from scratch again. More emails. More rejection letters. What is more disheartening is that even chain companies, like supermarket or hardware store, turned me down. It is demoralising to be told, “We are not looking for senior staff, only junior.” Whether I am under or overqualified, the message is blatantly clear – there is not a place for me. Not yet anyway.

I can understand from the employers’ point of view why they are hesitant to hire me. I have only been in the country for less than three months. I have no relevant local experiences. And I am on a temporary partner visa. There is no guarantee that I am a good person or that I will stay committed to them long term. 

At times like this, I am thinking of my sister’s word before I departed to Australia, “This is the way you chose. This is your path now. Don’t worry about us here.” What else can I do but keep chipping away at this thick wall? I have to swallow my pride, grit my teeth and keep putting myself out there. 

Sometimes, though, I run into an existential and identity crisis. Stripped away from my roots and connection, I am at a loss. The things I once thought was my passion seem irrelevant. I am not even sure what I like to do or what I want with my life. It is selfish of me to think this thought since we need another income, whatever job it may be. But in the deeper part of my romantic heart, I am afraid of living to just get by, of falling into a status quo.

Joel’s squash team member, who is from South Africa, told me that when he first arrived in Australia, it took him eight months to get a job. I do not wish to have to wait this long, but at least someone had already gone on before me. It was comforting to know that I am not alone in this plight. He is now working at a government agency in a respectable role.

When I feel crushed from rejection, I read and I cook. This explains why there are plenty of updates on my Goodreads reading progress and also lots of food photos and videos on my Facebook profile. These activities give me solace as I meditate on my life’s problems and personal struggles. Reading puts me in someone’s world and gives me a different perspective towards my circumstance. I am currently reading Elizabet Bard’s “Lunch in Paris: a Love Story with Recipes.”   She is an American, who married a Frenchman and left her home country to make a new home in France. Like me, she asked questions about life, purpose and passion while trying to make sense of the new culture and fitting in. And like her, I go to food for comfort. Cooking purely gives me something to have control over when my life spins out of balance. I can add more spices if I want to in my meatball or reduce the amount of sugar in my cookies. Making food that is whole and delicious, and being able to feed people makes me happy. It reminds me that there is more to life. I am a better person because of it.

Burger Night with the youths from church. The food was supposedly “Montenegrin-inspired”.

Spanish meatball with roasted potato, carrots and green apples

What now? A friend from church, who is from Ghana, told me to work towards something. With no acknowledged qualifications, the opportunities are limited here in Australia. So get whatever job I can find (trust me, I am praying for one), save enough money for education and chase my dream…

The question, though, is what is it, this dream?

Spring Update

Finally, the weather is kind to us. A few days ago, while driving home, I spotted white on a mountaintop. I turned to ask Joel, to which he affirmed, “Yes, it is snow.” Since then, it had been wet, rainy and cold to the bone. For a moment, I thought we were back in winter if it had not been for the blooming flowers in our host’s garden. But today, the sun came out bright and strong. The breeze is warm and soft. So I thought I would come sit out on the bench in the garden, enjoying the daylight, the beautiful flowers and the warmth of spring.

Life has fallen into rhythm for us here. Joel is working three days a week for the church: organizing and teaching youths, visiting with patients at a hospital, playing music at a mental health foundation, and preparing lessons and sometimes sermon. On days that he does not work, he applies for a second job, plays squash (which he recently won the first set of the season! Though he lost the game, this was his first win. We were all stoked!) and watches movies with me. I am continuing to look for work, but most days, I follow Joel and join in the activities he is doing when I can. I also participate in the ladies’ bible studies on Friday, tutor Thai to a friend once or twice a week, and go to farmers’ market on Saturday.

I intend to make the most out of this “free time” as much as possible because who knows how often I will get to sit in the sun and listen to music on a weekday like this in the future. However, there are days when I feel like I am wasting my time and being unproductive, especially when I see people around me working insane hours and coming home exhausted. I have a tendency to put myself through unnecessary pressure. I keep hearing a voice that tells me I am not worthy if I have not got a job. I know that this is a lie because I used to identify my value with what I do. The higher the job title, the more money I make, the better I feel about myself. That is why I have been picky about choosing the jobs I want to apply to here. Yet God has taken me on a humility journey – to show me that what I do does not matter as much as the attitude I bring into what I do. So, although I sometimes feel guilty when people ask me if I have got a job yet, I am enjoying my time of resting, of recuperating from the stress of visa application and long wait, and of being refreshed in my spirit.

With that said, though, this evening I have got a job trial at a Thai restaurant in civic called “Lemongrass”. When Joel and I were in town the other day, we stumbled upon a Thai sign saying “Staff wanted” posted on the restaurant’s door. Instead of just writing their phone number down and calling them later, we thought why not ask them now. So with our noses plastered on the door, we peered inside to see if anyone was there (the restaurant was closed at that time). When I spotted someone, we knocked on the door until someone poked her head to see what this madness was all about. We made a gesture saying that I wanted to inquire about the position. The lady slowly walked out and asked me my name and my phone number. She told me she would have her boss call me, which she did that evening! We talked  a bit about why I am here in Australia, and she asked if I can come in on this Friday (today) to try it out. I am excited! Though I was initially adamant at not getting any waitressing job ever again; as mentioned before, God has taught me that it is not what I do that matters but the attitude I will bring into the job.

You probably wonder why I did not want to wait the tables again. Here is why. I am 32 years old. I would rather do something worthwhile, something that enables me to develop my skills and talents, pursue my passion and contribute to the well-being of others. My dream job would be to write for a cause, similar to what I did with Compassion, because there are many who need someone to speak for them. I want to be able to communicate in order to bring change to people’s lives. But since I am a new kid in the block, I will need time to get to know people and learn about what is needed here. Meanwhile, I wait tables, play music, get certifications and accreditation needed for what I want to do, write on my blog, and volunteer at places that they do need help.

There you go, our lives in a nutshell. Please keep praying for us to grow closer to God and to have a better understanding of what He tells us to do from the Word. We are thankful for His provision, and happy to be back together. There are plans we would like to get done by the end of this year, like me getting a job and moving into our own house. Pray that it would all happen according to God’s will.

War of Words

The house was still dark and quiet when I woke up to the sound of rain. Joel was softly breathing, still deep in his sleep. I carefully slid myself out of bed, put on my faithful worn jumper and tiptoed into the kitchen. The  gentleness of the morning lingered in the air, and I breathed in the fragrance of the coffee, rich and dark. I wrapped my hands around the cup, and I sat, still, dwelling in this moment of peace and quietness.

Recently, I have been thinking about noises. We live in a fast-paced, microwave-it society. Everything is just a click away, and news travels faster than light. Everyone has an opinion, and we are quick to defend what we stand for, sometimes with unfiltered thoughts. With the conveniences of technology, we are wired and equipped to do multiple things at the same time: talking to someone while watching the news on TV and replying to a text message on the phone (Funny enough, even my husband who claims that he cannot multitask constantly does this).

I recognized that the world has changed; and what we have definitely make our lives so much easier. What would Joel and I have done during months apart if the only way to communicate was a snail mail? Or how would I keep in touch with my family in Thailand in the real-time, face-to-face conversation without Skype or Facetime? There are benefits from the digital technology, but it also has its own pitfalls. With information easily accessed on the internet, we learn more about issues that go on in the world almost firsthand. We hear about war in Syria, election in America, nuclear program in North Korea and the refugee crisis in Australia. We also hear about gay marriage protest, pro-choice campaign and euthanasia movement. We pick our interests and we choose what we stand for, based on our personal belief and life background.

However, in light of the benefits of discussion and debates, what I see these days is how entitled we are to our opinions. What I miss is the respect shown towards one another on the internet and, sometimes in person. I have heard people say, “You don’t need to respect the other’s opinion if it’s wrong,” or “This is my opinion. You either take it or leave it,” without being intentional about taking into consideration of what the other person is saying. This readiness to disregard the other person’s views is alarming. It forces us to shout louder so someone would hear and listen to what we have to say. Tragically, what I see afterwards is rude comments directed to strip the person off of his dignity or people being oppressed to keep silent because they are not loud enough.

I am troubled by what I see. There has to be a balance between the freedom of speech and respect. To be anti-politically correct, “just say it for what it is”, is not going to cut it. What is the purpose of expressing our opinions? Is it to stand for the truth? If we answer yes, then we had better define what truth is; and whether our opinions align with the truth. Often, we jump into hot debates (a better term should be “argument”) because the media or the majority of people tell us that such and such is right or wrong; and we put forth our two cents so passionately that we have forgotten why we started in the first place.

I think what we miss today is humility. Having been raised in Thai culture, we are taught to listen to the elders. Even though I realized that some elders do not act worthy of respect and their opinions are sometimes useless (and we can be hypocritical with our “respect” towards them), the practice of listening has its merits when we enter into the wider world. When we listen, we do not only gain knowledge about what is being spoken, but we get an insight and understanding about the speakers, what they are like, where they come from, and how they draw the conclusion. Listening allows us to be less judgmental and more understanding.

The scripture from James 1:19-20 from the Amplified Bible makes it clear,

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]

James wrote this letter to the Jews who were dispersed among the Gentiles. So his message was directed to the followers of God. In the midst of troubles and challenging life circumstances, James instructed these people to live a life that would reflect the glory of God, one of which is through being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. For Christians, the standard of our lives is Christ’s love that compels us to do the impossible, including giving up our own “right” so that others may come to know His love. This may simply mean not having to win an argument, or carefully choosing words to speak, or deciding whether to say something or keep quiet. We do not always have to be right, if the desire to be right comes from pride.

I am not saying we should tolerate untruth or lies. Truth needs to be proclaimed. But often what we speak may not always be the truth. It is an opinion that is perhaps based on truth, but our own views nonetheless. Therefore, it is our responsibility to present our opinions as accurately and fairly as possible while remembering that others may view it differently, simply because we wear different “glasses”, and we just have to respect that what the other person says has values. It may go against what we are wired to do nowadays because of our entitlement to a lot of things, but for Christians, there is a higher purpose. Christ did not die so we can battle in war of words. He died so we can be reconciled to God. He died so we can live as a witness of His love. If what we say is not edifying the body of Christ, perhaps we should take a vow of silence for a break.

A friend of mine once said to me, “Mink, I look forward to the time when we are old, when we both will sit on rocking chairs with a cup of tea in our hands and recall all the things we have done in our lives.” I still remember his words because it paints a picture of simplicity and of peace. One day, we will be old and our voices will be just whispers in the wind. One day we will die and no one will care whether or not we vote for the legalisation of gay marriage or euthanasia. What people will remember is how we treat them; how we show them respect, honor and dignity. The world will not remember our words. They will remember our deeds.

“Do It Anyway”

By the end of this week, I will have completed my three weeks in Australia. People often ask me how my transition goes, and I usually (and genuinely) say fine. I do not really enjoy the weather, but I can cope with lots of blankets, jackets, socks, hot drinks and cuddling with my husband. I mostly have no troubles understanding people when they speak English to me since I have been using it regularly. Our housing situation is adequate and efficient at this stage, thanks to our kind friends. I am on a job hunt and it seems to go well. I have not gotten homesick (yet). And Joel and I are back together, readjusting and relearning about each other, which is awesome. Mostly, I am fine.

But then there are deeper things. Mainly, the matter of the heart. Having been here for almost a month, I realised that the novelty of the newness is starting die away. The weather conversation is getting old, seeing that it is always cold in Canberra. The excitement of being in a new culture is being replaced with nervousness as I am phasing out of the vacation period and entering into the real life – getting into a routine, making new friends and trying to find my place and a sense of belonging here.

I do realise that there is a place for me here, that God has brought Joel and I here for His purposes. But to feel like one truly belongs does not happen over a night or in a month. It takes time, determination and courage to invest in establishing a life here. One aspect of life is relationship. It is challenging, to say the least, to enter into a place where everyone knows everyone else, and you are still trying to match names with faces (and my husband does not make it easier since he knows probably the whole congregation). In the youth meeting tonight, when we talked about visiting different congregations and started to drop names of people and places that are foreign to me, my mind was getting foggy and wandering into other trains of thoughts irrelevant to what was being discussed. When you are a new kid in the block, there is uncertainty as to how people are going to receive you. With that comes insecurity.

From my outer appearance, I may seem capable of holding conversations, but that is the byproducts of having moved around in the past few years and of marrying to an outgoing person like Joel. Though I feel nervous inside every time I enter into a new building or talk to a new person, I have learned to be friendly and approachable. But what I really crave, and which allows me to strive and thrive best, is a deep relationship with someone – that kind of relationship that involves understanding and history that goes way back, like when you look into someone’s eye, you know what he/ she is thinking. But to acquire that, I gotta be bold. Yet to be bold, I have got to overcome all my insecurities and wondering.

So one night I prayed that God would show me how to be bold. The phrase “do it anyway” jumped up at me. It was the theme I picked up from church last Sunday through stories of Paul and Silas with the Philippian jailer, of Micah the prophet and of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We know the story from Acts 16, how Paul and Silas converted the jailer, but the point Joel talked about was how they did not run away when they could have (the angel even told them to) in order to ascertain that the jailer would not be punished or kill himself, which consequently led to his salvation. They could have run but they stayed anyway. The sermon was focused on the life of Micah the prophet, and how he went about proclaiming God’s message. I was reminded of how many other prophets of Yahweh did the same thing, and ended up in a trench like Jeremiah or Ezekiel. They were confronted with hunger, suffering and shame, but they did it anyway. Later, during the bible study, we explored how the church was like at the time Paul wrote the letter, and why his exhortation was so intense and emotional. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul wrote about his hardship and how he continued to serve the Lord in “great endurance”, “in distress”, or “in sleepless nights and hunger”. He could have done other things in life considering his quality, but Christ’s love compelled him. In fact, what is a better example than Jesus  who could have saved Himself, yet He gave His life as a ransom to many, including me. All these people “did it anyway” regardless of the costs. Why? Because they loved the Lord.

My situation is not as extreme, but the core message can be applied. God calls me to live for and serve Him, period. Our purpose – Joel’s and mine – is to make Him known in whatever we do and wherever we live. However, I will not be able to do that unless I start being bold.  So besides getting through the culture shock (which will eventually pass), I have decided to overcome my insecurity by doing “it” anyway. Instead of waiting for someone to talk to me, I will try to initiate the conversation even though a voice may be shouting in my head, “who are you to speak? you are just a newcomer! they’ll eventually lose interest of you.” (Believe me, this voice is real.) When a negative though comes into my mind, I will brush it aside and pray. When I doubt in my existence and purpose here, I will look to my husband and know that this is where I belong. This is where we will take root and call home.

Loving God can be expressed in many shapes and forms, whether through being committed to a church, feeding the poor, encouraging the downcast, giving money to those in need, singing songs, playing sports, teaching His word, you name it. We do all this in obedience to Him regardless of the costs because we love Him. At this stage of my life, the expression of my faith may not be as “heroic” as I wanted it to be, but the obedience to do “little things” like initiating conversation or overcoming negativity is my mustard seed. I hope God will make it grow.