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Posts Tagged ‘Godknowsleh’

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

This week, I enter 50 with gratitude for God’s goodness in my life.

Today also marks the final session of my dad’s cancer treatment and our numerous trips to hospitals over the past 6 months through diagnosis and treatment. I thank God that he is in full remission and well now.

A Time to Heal…

The signs around point me to a new season as I come out of 5 years of dealing with cancer – for myself, with my mum and with my dad. Through it all, we have been blessed with amazing doctors and healthcare staff who have brought us healing and our clean slate.

A Time to Build up…

In these past 14 years as an author, I have experienced God’s favour throughout the 40+ books that I have been privileged to write and the precious relationships developed along the way.

A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

In the past 23 years since I was first inflicted with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a strange voice disorder, I have gone through many times of silence. It’s only with God’s strength that I have able to get through many times of speaking at numerous public events (even though it still comes with some fear and trembling). I am thankful for how He has given me a new voice through my writing.

So, I enter the gates of 50 with thanksgiving, and with the hope of making my life count for more as I prepare to walk through new God-given doors opening my way.

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This has been such a full week in so many ways that I need to time-mark it here:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-7

A Time to Mourn…

We mourned Ben’s cousin’s passing in hospital last Sunday. She’s such a steady lady who has been so take-charge with her own health conditions. She even texted me in her final week to let me know that she was not going to pull through and to ask for prayer. Her sister arranged for us to video-call with her since we could not visit due to Covid restrictions. I’m thankful that we had a chance to pray for her two days before she passed on. Though she was already in a semi-conscious state, she opened her eyes several times to look at us when she heard Ben’s and my voice. Rest in Peace, dearest Siew Choo.

A Time to Embrace…

Ben and I celebrated our 23th wedding anniversary over the weekend with dinner out at a restaurant in town. After diligently eating at home for the past few weeks since Singapore’s latest circuit breaker measures, I decided to embrace a meal out for our special occasion. As the restaurant wasn’t crowded, we were blessed with a private room that would normally sit 10 persons. So, we had the ultimate safe-distanced meal out, with a bird’s eye view of Orchard Road.

A Time to Laugh…

Okay, I’m one of those parents who let out a loud cheer when I heard about the cancellation of year end exams for the Primary 3 and Primary 4 kids. This year of multiple school disruptions has been taxing for teachers, parents and children alike. For me, the schoolkids getting through all the safe-distancing measures and multiple curriculum changes is good-enough reason for all the kids to move up to the next year without the exams.

A Time to Dance…

Yes, I danced with joy when I received news that my Little Series won the Silver Medal for Best Picture Book Series at the 2021 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. This sounds like a child, but I’m thrilled that I can stick award stickers on all three Little books!

A Time to Plant…

Three months ago, I started sensing that a new season is before me, through a few key signs of nature around me.

This week, I had a glimpse of that new season. Whilst I feel somewhat inadequate, I know that God will equip me if He has called me to this time to plant anew.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

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This week, Mum would have turned 73 years old. We commemorated her birthday with a family dinner in remembrance of her.

I interviewed Dad on his and Mum’s story for his book My Life, My Stories, which I recently published for Dad’s birthday two weeks back. The interview on Mum was the hardest, yet most precious for him, as we recorded memories and gems of their dating life and marriage of 52 years.

This is an extract:

“My favourite memory of Joyce:

Joyce and I often went to Satay Club in our younger years. On one occasion, we were both seated on a stone bench at the Esplanade looking out towards the sea where Marina Bay is now. This was a few months into dating, and Joyce took my hand and suddenly popped a question to me. She asked if I would ever leave her. I said, “No, I will never leave you.”

I had two other favourite memories:

  • The first was when I took Joyce for a very formal police annual dinner at Hyatt Hotel. This was after we were married. Jack was already born but Emily was not. Joyce was dressed in a long gown and wore a wig. She looked so elegant and I felt very proud to show her off.

  • The second was an incident that happened during my dating days with Joyce. A former girlfriend Veronica turned up at a Victoria Memorial Hall party which we are at. I had stopped dating Veronica by then, but she showed up there to scold me anyway. Joyce out-shouted her and fended her off.

Other fond memories:

  • Joyce cared more for my health than her own. It was always that way. She did not take care of her own health.
  • Joyce always gave her best and bought the best things for our family (for our children and grandchildren) – medical treatment, milk powder etc. It never occurred to her that giving more to us meant spending less for herself.
  • Joyce was generous by nature. She supported my first brother’s eldest son through his university education and made me give my eldest sister’s son Ah Dan $1,000 to pay for his wedding, which was a lot back then (about 30 years ago). She also helped her brother James and paid for his maid to take care of their mother during the times that she stayed there.
  • Joyce was very hot-tempered by nature. But after each flare-up, she would make it up to me by buying things for me and I always had to hold her back from buying too much.
  • Joyce was very trusting, and she liked to help people. She never expected favours, rewards or anything back in return. I was always concerned that she would be taken advantage of. She was generous towards others and not extravagant in lifestyle. She was happiest when designing her own clothes. I followed her to many tailors through the years, from the first one in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee to the present tailor Mdm Leong at West Coast Road.”

Happy Birthday, Mum! As Caleb would say, Mama is having Heavenly laksa and Heavenly nasi lemak – which are all healthy in Heaven.

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At the end of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020 (Singapore’s version of a lockdown), I found my conversations with my dad had become everything Covid-related. I felt we needed to change the conversation. So, I decided to write his life story.

I interviewed my dad over a series of scheduled interviews (although we live in the same house…LOL).  I recorded and transcribed each interview (my wannabe journalist instincts). Then, I sat down to put it together into a manuscript.

The project came to a pause earlier this year when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. For the next few months, we were in and out of hospitals for consultations, tests and scans. He’s just completed his last cycle of chemotherapy, in time for his 77th birthday. So, it’s been timely that I was able to publish his legacy book in time to celebrate both his birthday and end of chemotherapy treatment.

I blogged last year about how my grandparents moved from China to Singapore in search of a better life around 1940. After World War 2, my grandfather wanted to heed China’s call for their people to return to rebuild the country. He felt a strong sense of duty to his home country.

When my grandmother did not allow him to do so, it led to a heated argument which led to him taking a chopper and chopping off the last finger on his left hand to show his resolve to go back to China. Grandma gave in when he threatened to cut off another finger.

This was what happened next in my dad’s words:

“Father took my two elder brothers and me back to China. Unfortunately, the ship that we were on sank shortly after leaving Hong Kong harbour. I learnt that there were two ships at Hong Kong harbour at that time. There was a storm brewing and that other ship stayed in the harbour. But the ship that I was on set sail and sank shortly after.

According to records, on 19 July 1947, U.S. destroyer ‘Myles C Fox and Hawkins with British escort ship HMS Hart saved the crew and passengers of SS Hong Kheng after the passenger ship had run aground on Chilang Point some eight miles north of Hong Kong. Six motorboats, two from each warship, and two skiffs from Hong Kong made 76 trips to save some 1,800 survivors.’

I was about three years old then and too young to remember. Both my older brothers remembered that when the ship started to sink, my father used a rope to tie all three of us to him to keep us together. My first brother Poh Chan said it was so that we would not get lost.  My second brother Poh Chiew said that the real reason was that if one could not survive, it would ensure that we would go down together.

My family was rescued and brought back to Hong Kong. We subsequently made our way to Xiamen, Fujian and back to our village.

According to an old newspaper clip Straits Echo & Times of Malaya, dated 22 July 1947, “the ship ‘Hong Kheng’ had 1,800 passengers. After the passengers were removed, the ship caught fire spontaneously and all luggage on board was destroyed.””

Grandmother eventually brought my dad back to Singapore and my two uncles remained in China with Grandfather.

This and many more stories of my dad’s and grandparents’ generation are what we’ll pass down to our next generation.

It took the pandemic for me to pause and produce this legacy book. I’m glad that I did as I am richer for it in experience and memories.

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Last week, I encountered several signs of a new season approaching, which came into sight after I met singer-songwriter Crystal Goh at our Read! Singapore panel session two weeks back.

We caught up for brunch today to fellowship as she also sensed that she was entering a new season.

Crystal and I had first connected in 2013 when she first contacted me to ask for permission for her Diamonds on the Street collective to stage a performance based on Prince Bear & Pauper Bear.  She and fellow volunteers were working with a group of children from the Prison Fellowship Care Corner to perform a music drama adapted from my book in a closed door performance to families and friends.

Crystal was afflicted with Spasmodic Dysphonia, the same voice disorder that I came down with – a condition as rare as mining diamonds.

Our meeting as fellow panelists at Read! Singapore this July is the first time that Crystal and I have met in 7 years 7 months.

I shared with Crystal how the bible verses Isaiah 55:12-13 came to mind (after she and I reconnected at our panel session):

12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” – Isaiah 55:12-13

And how these verses came alive for me through three signs of nature that were around me during Phase 3 (Heightened Alert):

  • the plant in my veranda that flowered for the first time,
  • the barren tree trunks that sprouted new leaves for the first time in over 5 years and
  • the Munia bird family that left the nest in another potted plant once Phase 3 started. I last saw the birds on the last day of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

After hearing this, Crystal showed me the lyrics of A Beautiful Sight – a song which she had written for the Prince Bear & Pauper Bear musical performance 7 years ago. It read like a summary and confirmation of what I had just shared with her:

A Beautiful Sight

I am looking at my future

From the ending point I see

Trees have blossomed, there are grapes on the vine

And the fields have come alive

Everything that once was barren, all restored and now abundant

From the ending point I see

A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful sight

Look and see, look and see at the birds in the air

None of them will fall outside Your care

I believe, I believe I am worth much more

That You only have good things in store

I’ll be brave, I’ll be brave when the darkness surrounds

Yes I know that a new day will come

I am never alone, one day I’ll see

That all will be beautiful

Many times, my future seems to take

Such a long time to come

And my hope fades, oh my heart aches

Tomorrow when will you, when will you come?

Tomorrow when will you, when will you come?

I, I will wait patiently

It won’t be delayed, it won’t be delayed

I, I will wait hopefully

It’ll surely take place, it’ll surely take place

A new day awaits, a new day awaits

Yeah my future awakes

So I won’t give up on hope

I won’t give up

Everything that once was barren, all restored and now abundant

From the ending point I see

A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful sight 

(Lyrics by Crystal Goh)

This week, I also received a visit from a beautiful bird that I saw for the first time. A White-crested Laughingthrush came strolling along the ledge of my veranda, where my potted plant just flowered for the first time. Learning its name brought me joy and laughter. And this bird was a beautiful sight.

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The past week has been a week of two signals.  

My dad had a very rough week, on the health front. From this, I’ve had to learn that I can do nothing but wait things out and pray about it. I’ve been focused on the “doing” with my dad’s health issues and missed out on just “being”. So, I reset my compass and called on prayer reinforcements from close friends to get us through this week’s very choppy waters.

Providentially enough, I’ve been surrounded by good signs that I will be entering a new season.

I saw it all around me but did not connect the dots until after the Read! Singapore panel session that I was on last Friday. Four of us panellists – Singer-songwriter Crystal Goh, Flutist Calvin Chong, Artist Favian Ee and I, moderated by poet Aaron Lee, shared about how we have kept going creatively since the pandemic in the context of creative hacks from one of Read! Festival’s selected books: Keep Going – 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by bestselling author Austin Kleon.

Read! Singapore’s panel session Keep Going: Staying True to the Creative Process. From left: Moderator & poet Aaron Lee, Singer-songwriter Crystal Goh, myself, Artist Favian Ee, Flutist Calvin Chong

Aaron asked if any of us had a response to Creative Hack #9 – Demons hate fresh air (to exercise is to exorcise), which is a nod to a pop-culture reference.

I started regular walks five years ago because I was unable to sleep during my chemotherapy cycles and also got into the routine of sitting on the balcony in the mornings to take in the greenery during my quiet time. But I passed on that question because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say.

I also missed the point of Hack #5 till panellist Calvin Chong pointed out that in the book, Creative Hack #5 Slow Down and Pay Attention also referred to “paying attention to the things that we usually pay attention to”.

Some of the book’s creative hacks have spiritual angles to them, which I pondered further after our ‘phygital’ session – a blend of an in-person physical event with an online audience, which saw over 300 people tuning in digitally through livestreaming – a new normal in these Covid-19 times.

I had briefly chatted privately with panellist Crystal Goh and we acknowledged that we both seem to be headed into new season. She subsequently texted me this week to ask how I knew I was entering into a new season. I replied that it was just a sensing, not a revelation ie. no specific signs.

It was as if I had to say that out loud before I saw the specific signs.

The following morning during quiet time, the bible verses Isaiah 55:12-13 came to mind. These are significant verses for me which I have read and re-read over the past 5 years after a friend pointed me to them when I was in hospital recovering from cancer surgery.

Then, 3 things got my attention:

First, I noticed that the potted plant in my balcony was flowering for the first time since I sat facing it daily 5 years ago. I didn’t know even know that this kind of plant flowered. It had suddenly sprouted three sprays of flowers during Singapore’s Phase 3 Heightened Alert.

Secondly, the skinny trees in our garden had sprouted new leaves on their barren trunks, again for the first time in over five years. The leaves have only been growing nearer the treetops all this time. This also happened during Phase 3 Heightened Alert.

Thirdly, the Munia bird family that had their own SHN (ie Stay Home Notice period) in my potted plants during Phase 2 Heightened Alert flew the coop on day 1 of Singapore’s Phase 3 Heightened Alert. (I managed to photograph the family on the last day of Phase 2, also the last time I saw them.)

Is it a coincidence that all these 3 signs of nature happened in Phase 3, and for the flowering and new leaves, for the first time in 5 years?

My family has gone through a whole series of major health issues these past five years – one after another consecutively – which mostly involved 3 of us spending lots of time going to hospitals.

These 3 signs, when seen together, seem to point to a God-incidence – coincidences that seem to have happened by God’s hand.

I noticed these because after our Friday panel session, I paid attention to what I usually pay attention to (Creative Hack #5) and they have all been signs from Nature (Creative Hack #9). To flesh out Creative Hack #9’s “exercise to exorcize” to my personal situation, I believe I should exercise my faith to exorcize the demons of fear and doubt that crept back in, causing a chokehold over my voice in the the past 3 years from the day of my mum’s cancer diagnosis.

I read these God-incidental signs as the signs for a new season. And it comes with the assurance in Isaiah 55:12-13 of joy, thanksgiving and new flowering.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.” – Isaiah 55:12-13

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30 years ago, Ben gave me a log which he had smoothened and carved my name with his army knife. He time-marked it 29 June 1991 and gave it to me as a gift. We decided to call it the day that we “went steady” (it’s as 1990s as it sounds).

In carving the wood, he cut his thumb very deeply and it bled profusely in-camp. It left a mark on his thumbprint.

Today is exactly 30 years from that fateful day. We decided to celebrate it with a simple breakfast of our favourite bak chor mee at the corner coffee shop at Geylang Lorong 11 (it’s as senior-moment as it sounds).

What I had forgotten was that the Geylang coffee shop, which Ben brought me to 30 years ago, was down the opposite end of the same lane. Ben had brought me to Mong Kok coffee shop on our 2nd date. After we finished 5 plates of dim sum, he asked if I was full. I said “No” and ordered a couple more plates. He said that he was so impressed with me because I was the first girl he met who not only didn’t push food to him but even ate his food. (I had thought it was my wit that bowled him over but it turned out to be plates of dim-sum.)

We dated 7 years and have been married for 23 years since.

We’ll gone through mountain-top experiences as well as valleys.

Through sickness and health. Through thick and thin.

For “the God in the mountains is still God in the valley” and He has seen us through good times and bad. God’s grace and mercy has marked our 30 years together. And I’m thankful for it all.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. – Ps 84:6

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:12

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