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My second school year is starting soon and I feel very sad already that I have to leave my family. Sometimes, I think God sent me to Durham partly to remind me that I must put Him over my family. Perhaps, I tend to place my family as my idol and God is teaching me to rely more on Him. Because when all else fades away, all I will have left is my Heavenly Father.

The concept of an earthly family is different from that of a heavenly family where fellow Christians are my siblings-in-Christ and my father is The Father. …sounds weird but I feel  like that’s a concept God has been revealing to me.

But still, my heart aches a bit when I am reminded that I’m flying off soon back to Dirham.

I don’t even know where God wants me to work, and that’s even scarier because I don’t know if I’ll have to leave my family in Singapore.

Oh Lord, you know the heaviness of my heart and my cry. Lord, give me the comfort and assurance and may I sense Your presence ever with me.

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Faith Through Generations

The other night, I sat down at the dinner table: ‘Mum and Dad, serious question – what do you think of the idea of me working overseas?’

I was expecting an extensive analysis of expenses, my roots or loneliness.

But my parents’ reply was simple: ‘Well, it’s up to God. It’s about where He leads you.’

The reply was brief yet powerful, and I am ever so grateful that I have my family as my spiritual support. My family has more faith than me! My parents are more obedient to God’s will for my life, and are willing to let me go where He leads.

For in areas that I am lacking in faith and courage, I know my family does not. And it has reminded me of the importance of family, and specifically a family rooted in Christ. 

Proverbs 4:1-4

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.

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Everything

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.

God bless.

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!!

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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.

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Family:

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.

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(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

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(iFocus group on a weekend getaway with the REAL farm smells…)

 

Friends:

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?

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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.

 

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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!

 

Love:

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.

 

My future:

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.

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Psalm 139:13-16

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 Lace shop in Brussels, Belgium

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa God

Loss but Gain

Day 7 of #24happydayswithGod:

PART I (morning):

This might probably be one of the happiest days in this hashtag – my grandfather accepted Jesus Christ today and was baptised!

After 80+ years, he has finally accepted Christ.

If any of you knew my grandfather, you would have known how painful it was to pray for his salvation and for him to experience God. It took many tears on our part, and many hospital beds on his part to finally reach a stage where he realised that all he needed was God.

Not money. Not medicine. Not happiness. Just God.

 

And I urge you all to never lose heart or lose faith for those you are praying for – your family, your friends, your spouse.

When I woke up this morning and read my text – I couldn’t believe it.

I remember when I was 7, how I always ended my prayers with ‘And please help grandma, grandpa, my uncles and aunties, and my cousins to become a Christian. Amen.’ For many years, I prayed that same prayer and as I grew older, I slowly began to forget that request.

You see, life was catching up with me. I was growing up. Those earnest little prayers soon evolved into ‘Lord, please help me with my exams’ or ‘Lord, there is this boy…’ and I forgot that one of the greatest prayers I could make was not for myself, but for someone else. And more importantly, for their salvation.

I know my family has been praying for a long time, and even though it was the 7 year old me who had more faith than I had now, God has still answered our prayers. He has revealed His marvellous plan, and in that we all rejoice.

Thank you God for never giving up on the hard-hearted.

So remember to pray for your loved ones. It’s never a prayer too late, and it’s never a prayer too small.

PART II (night):

It’s still day 7 of #24happydayswithGod, and I know I’ve blogged about it hours earlier, but it’s also possibly one of the saddest days of the hashtag.

I knew something was wrong when my family came back at 11pm tonight and did not contact me.

My grandfather passed away 6 hours after he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s perfect timing and plan. Yet, I feel very sad. There were many things I had wanted to say in anger, many in tears and now, many in forgiveness. I never got to say them, but I thank the Lord that I will see Him in heaven.

New life. New body. New purpose.

With this, I leave you with an Instagram post that my brother posted of him and my grandfather. May it warm your hearts and bless you all.

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“… rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Luke 10:20

Papa God

As I was watching a youtube video, I was reminded dearly of God as my Father.

The video was an interview with Brian and Jenn Johnson of Bethel Church and their personal journeys with God.
And the one thing that I will not forget, was Jenn’s description of God as a Father.

‘I would challenge everyone to think about what the view of the Father is, because God is so kind, he really is! He’s like the best picture of Santa Claus. He’s just so happy and wonderful and he’s got this big belly laugh like *Haw haw haw haw*’

As much as I giggled when she imitated this laugh, her words remained etched in my mind.

I think many times, we remember God as a GOD, a merciful, loving and benevolent King. Yet, we forget that He is our Father. He’s the one who lawns the yard with you, He bakes cupcakes with you and He even watches tv with you!

I remember one time, when my friend called God ‘Papa’. I call my own dad ‘Papa’ and so, to hear someone call God ‘Papa’ really touched me.

For me, just to sit down, close my eyes and call out to God as ‘Papa’, I can’t explain the immense peace and love that I feel.

From this aspect, I firmly believe that Christianity is a religion different from the rest. Many religions are built on fear (retribution) or self-centredness (finding the way of life so as to reach higher stages of peace), but Christianity is one built on relationship – not relationship with an unknown and powerful God, but a love with a powerful yet gentle God who very much wants to connect with you and reveal himself to you!

I find that my best days are the ones where I commit to the day to the Lord and include Him in my daily activities. Taking a walk down to town with God; sitting at the botanical gardens with God. Sounds silly? Perhaps, but it’s an amazing experience.

God doesn’t literally take a walk with you because He’s omniscient, but just to remember Him in your thoughts as you go through the day is just so wonderful.

I still remember my friend sharing that sometimes before church, she’ll cry out to God: ‘Father, help me find my socks!’ Hahaha.

Just little things like that remind us of a Christian relationship built on joy, love and laughter.

In fact, I think God has a sense of humour!

For example, the very day I gave up chocolate for lent this year, there was chocolate cake for dinner. And while all my friends were devouring the chocolate cake, giggling at me, I set at the middle of the table looking bemusedly glum. I whined to God, but yet, I was very tickled because even in little things, God has a sense of humour. God created laughter, so why can’t He be funny? 🙂

All in all, I am reminded that God is my Father and my church is my family. There are many things that I may not understand in life, and many unfamiliar and unwilling paths that God has taken me on, but I am thankful that because I know Him as my Abba Father, I am His daughter, and He will not let me go.

May I encourage all of you to remember that God is not just your God, your friend and your saviour. He is much more than that – He is your Papa.

Present From Daddy God!

Present From Daddy God!

I cannot explain how excited and happy I am to receive this gift!
Since last december, I have been salivating at all the lovely Cath Kidston phone cases on Amazon. My mum wouldn’t let me get one because she thought it was a waste of money. ‘You already have a phone case, Isabel!’

😦 True, I did. But I really wanted it. So I asked God to get me one.

Coincidentally enough, I got an email from a research centre, offering to give students a 10 Amazon voucher if they completed a survey. I replied them almost immediately and they gave me the link for the survey. Surprisingly, most of my friends didn’t get to do the survey because the research centre almost immediately reached their quota. What a coincidence for me!

I got the voucher soon after doing the survey. Hopped on to Amazon and got a phone case for 9.99 pounds!

So as I was grovelling through my essay today, my parcel arrived!! Oh, God knows how to cheer me up (even in a materialistic way…).

Thank you Father! I love it so much, especially because I know it’s from You. Now, I don’t want to use it because it’s too precious … 😦