I know that some of you reading this are non-Christians and I really ask that you would not read this out of mockery. It took a lot of courage for me to publicly post this because I don’t normally post such things. This post is meant to encourage. These are my beliefs, and this is my hope. This is how I choose to live my life and these are the values I stand by. If you believe in today’s era of human freedom and liberty, then I ask that you read this respectfully.
This blog post was not intended to boast about anything that I have or am. I just want to show you what God has done for me in the past year and what I am thankful for. You might say ‘Well, it could have just been life. Life just happens; no need for a God.’ Well, if you knew my life story, then I might be able to show you that this is how God has worked in me and shown me His love.
This is what God is to me. This is my God.
I was one of the university and college open day representatives today, and the more I brought people around college, the more I realised what an amazing place and university Durham is. This year, Durham has become the only university to have all its subjects ranked in the top 10 for all lists. We’re 4th in law in England and my college is absolutely beautiful, especially so when the sun is shining on the massive green lawn that we have in the middle of the college grounds. Yes, I said it, Mary’s is the best college in the best university 🙂 In the beginning, I created a facebook album for the school year, and I never thought that I would have added 150 pictures to that album!!
Looking back, I know full well that God has blessed me. I am so, so, so thankful to be in Durham.
It’s truly a place that I know God dwells. I can feel Him here. I can feel Him when I walked down to the town, or even when I’m sitting under a tree in the botanical gardens. As Daphne and I agreed, Durham is God’s little town! I’ve met so many Christians who have been led by God to come to Durham and I clearly see their divine appointments in Durham.
So, my first year in Durham has ended. Many of my friends frequently asked me questions like ‘So what was the highlight of your first year?’ ‘What’s been the worst experience?’
In particular, ‘What are you thankful for this year?’
At first, that question struck me, and I really had to think about it for awhile. and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was only one answer: everything.
Yes, I am thankful for everything.
My relationship with God:
In Singapore, there was always the hustle and bustle to be distracted with. The roads are always noisy, the shopping malls crowded, the skyscrapers looming over me. Many times, my prayers revolved around the city life and all its worries of success, grades, career and expectations. You always had to keep moving in Singapore to catch up with the rat race, and if you stopped, someone might climb over you. Sometimes to me, living in Singapore was like having a constant heart attack.
However, ever since coming to Durham, I have experienced a more ‘primal’ relationship with God. Here, I stop: to do quiet time in the gardens amongst the flowers, to ponder over His love as I overlook the river wear and to be awestruck by God’s power and majesty as I walk through the hills and fields. To see creation mirror God in all His glory; to see the sunlight peek through the trees in the forest; to behold the delicacy of the flowers that God carefully crafts. As cheesy as it sounds, I sometimes feel like I am rejoicing and worshipping together with creation! These things I marvel and in these things I realise that God is both the Lord of power, strength and majesty as well as gentleness, grace and love.
Initially, I was afraid of homesickness. When I first lived overseas a few years ago with my family, I was severely homesick. Back then at 14, the change of environment and the absence of my friends made me very distraught to the very point that I was determined to go back to Singapore by making myself fall sick. So, I was especially afraid that I would now be even more homesick this time because I was away from my family and everything I was familiar with. To top it all off, it was a 20 hour flight plus train away from home. Wow.
However, within the first month of coming to Durham, I had already been blessed with FIVE families! My family, my Durham family, my Singapore Society family and my college family. They were my emotional and spiritual support, the people I had so much fun with and received loads of advice from. They really looked out for me and for them, I am so thankful.
(My durham family celebrating my birthday. My home away from home)
Most of all, I was reminded of my heavenly family – my church and iFocus. They were all my brothers and sisters-in-Christ and although I may never see some of them again, James reminded us all of our heavenly union.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
(iFocus group on a weekend getaway with the REAL farm smells…)
God has been especially wonderful to me by blessing me with amazing friends. During orientation week, I was afraid because I was an international student, I wasn’t sporty enough to be cool (yes, such a silly thought…) and I didn’t drink much. In such a different culture, would anyone want to be friends with me?
Yet, I got along really well with the first friends I made and we’re now good friends. They are people who make me laugh and smile. They’re the shoulder I lean on when I fall asleep. They’re the people who give me chocolate when I’m sad. So thank you Charm, Amy, Grace, Atifa, Gaby, Natalie, Ada, Rachel, Helen, Ilina, Theo, Daphne and Alethea.
Thank you Theo and Daphne for being wonderful sisters-in-Christ. Thank you for those coffee meetups where we spend hours talking about Christianity and praying for each other. Honestly, I was quite afraid of talking about God so passionately in an open area, but you guys have emboldened me and to be less self-conscious. It’s a free country, anyway!
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1
This is a verse that God showed me when I had disputes with one of my friends.
As a Christian, I sometimes felt that there was a certain criterion or checklist to be a good Christian. I steered away from people I thought were different from me, and I chose my friends carefully. Yet, people are not defined by their outward appearances or lifestyles. Getting drunk, body tattoos or smoking habits do not define a person. God loves them just as much as He loves me. In fact, my hypocritical self was no different from them.
People are who they are for certain reasons, be it their background, their culture or their experiences. There is always room for understanding, sympathy and compassion. I know I have much to learn, but I am thankful that He has showed me how to love others more. He has showed me what it is to be more like Jesus in love and character.
Yes, I am thankful for my future – my unknown, misty future. Yet, I put it in God’s hands because He is my anchor. This year, God has given me so many opportunities that I could not have ever imagined. I would never have thought of being selected for certain programmes and internships. Surely, He has blessed me and I am so thankful.
Not to mention, considering I’m already in Durham (you jolly well know where Durham is! 3rd oldest university in England, 4th in law in England), I suppose my prospects seem pretty bright! But again, not by my strength, but by His love, grace and power.
In retrospect, particularly in the light of my testimony of how I came to Durham (found here: https://ihaveareasontosing.wordpress.com/about-2/), I have come to realise that regardless of all the blessings that have happened this year, I am and should already be thankful for everything. For He has already given me everything and more, even before I came to Durham. He already provided everything for me, so there is no need to only look at the things that have happened this year and be thankful. I am already thankful for everything.
So, there. I am thankful for everything. I know that many of you were rather puzzled or dismissive of my generic answer. Well, it’s ‘everything’ is a specific answer, and I hope from this post you can better understand why.
I have a reason to sing, for He has given me everything and more.