Hard to believe, but January just flew past us. It’s already February. Can you imagine; one twelfth of the year is already gone! As I grow older I become more acutely aware of how quickly time slips by our fingers – or perhaps I start to realise how precious every second of my life is, and how easily I let it go. Time waits for no one. I do wonder how eternity will be like – when there’s no time, no sense of beginning and end. I wonder how God’s world is like.
In any case, there are some posts that are long overdue, which I should have written way before this. The most obvious one, is of course, my reflections for the year Y2013 that has just passed – did you notice that I haven’t made one mention of it just slipping by! So I promised myself that I would write something up – and now I will attempt to here!
Y2013, in a nutshell, was like a “void” year to me. It felt like this “blank” in my life, that happened, but passed so fast, without anything much memorable that is worth remembering. In fact, I could say it was a year of endings and terminations for me… I stopped BSF, which I had been faithfully attending for a year; I halted my masters for a semester, due to my inability to juggle both my work and studies well, I took a brief break from ministry in church (in order to focus on my work and studies) and eventually I terminated my service with my branch. Looking back, I felt like there were so many low points in the year: I felt miserable in the Committee in which I was Head Secy and was supposed to lead, I felt humiliated during every monthly Committee meeting, I harboured a secret crush on a colleague that became too close for comfort, I couldn’t get along with a new colleague who I felt disliked me, I was becoming restless at my single status and not knowing how to deal with guys who asked me out (I passed off a guy’s invitation to “hang out” because I wasn’t sure how to deal with it, how silly of me!), I began seriously questioning my future and wondering where or what I could do – I liked working at my work place but I didn’t see a long term prospect in it. So yeah, I sound like a wet blanket when I talk about Y2013.
But wait, don’t go away thinking I’m that pessimistic and negative – because I believe, and I’ve personally experienced, that every struggle or difficulty we go through and overcome, becomes a banner of victory behind us. Even though I felt like I went through a lot last year, it was also the year where I had the most realisations, the times when I leaned on God the hardest and cried out to Him the loudest, and the emotions that were so vivid and made me so alert and alive.
Ok, so anyway, back to the main point, what I really wanted to write about is what I learnt over the past year, some of the things I’m grateful about in the past year, and some of the resolutions I’m gonna put in place this year. So here goes!
Things I learnt in Y2013:
I learnt that….
- It is OK to take care of yourself. Don’t be ashamed of loving yourself! I spent the longest thing feeling guilty for spending money on myself, pampering myself, having difficulty saying “no” to others’ requests, etc, but then I realised that the rest and pitstops I take along the way, helps me to go on further. And it’s really ok to be nice to myself. If I were to know how to treat others, I should start treating myself as such too. J
- Prayer really works. It’s all pretty vague to me now, and I wished I had made a note everytime one of my small or seemingly insignificant prayer gets answered. But I do remember, in small snippets, of occasions when I realise in a jolt that a small prayer I made a day before came to pass – for instance, praying for my dad to eat the dinner my mum prepares (and he really did, the next day, and the day after, etc! and till now, quite often), praying for YX’s pregnancy (and next we heard was that, she’s already pregnant!), praying for friends in NUS (and promptly receiving a text from a ministry member who would be starting work in Jan in NUS), and so on. There were small prayers, and big prayers, and when I take extra notice, I do see that my prayers get answered. Too often we pray about something, and then move on and forget about it – I think that’s why many times I don’t realise that my prayers have been answered. But looking back, every small prayer answered gives me confidence and assurance that God is indeed at work in my life, and that I should never, ever, stop praying.
- God’s love can be so tangible. I think there has been a long period in my life when I’ve been lukewarm about things, and when I’ve just allowed them to stay status quo even though it isn’t quite where my sweet spot lies. But during all those months when I felt so lost, and hopeless, and worthless, and meaningless, it was also in these depths that I felt God’s overwhelming love holding on to me. God’s love can be tangible, through Himself, through the words He whispers to me into my spirit man, through the books and words I read, and through the kind and thoughtful actions of my friends. Again, I regret not noting down specific examples when I felt such tangible love from God, but I sure hope I continue to experience this, in the present year.
- Accept yourself for the way you are. All through my life I’ve looked in the mirror and hated the person I saw opposite me. It was as if how I looked didn’t match with how I felt I looked. I felt beautiful, and kind, and all things good, but when I looked at my reflection, I only saw flaws, imperfections, blemishes. I saw failures, disappointments, weaknesses. I found it hard to imagine how others could love me for who I am. I found it difficult to open up and be vulnerable to others, because I was afraid they wouldn’t like what they see (I still do, in many ways). But then I also realise that a starting point for allowing others to love me for who I am, is to first love myself for myself, period. And in that sense I still have so much to learn from God. I cannot for the world fathom how God can love someone as imperfect as me, but I know He’s God, and we’re called to be like Him. This year, I’m trying to learn to just accept myself for who I am – my pimples, my shortness, my lack of hair, my complexion and skin colour, everything. I’m not perfect, but if I find peace within myself to tell myself that, I am enough, that should be a good starting point. And God, I know you have made me to be enough, for myself, for somebody else.
- Never underestimate the importance of your health. This is just a reminder to myself to keep healthy, to have enough sleep, to eat healthy, work out, etc. etc. At work last year I witnessed my colleagues falling ill left right and centre, it seemed we were in a race to see who was the last man standing (miraculously, I didn’t take a single day of MC from June I think, until my resignation). I might have appeared hardy and strong, but I felt anything but that. I was mentally and physically exhausted, I was undergoing immense emotional stress, losing hair, witnessing eruptions of acne on one side of my face (which I then jokingly referred to as the pacific rim of acne, you know after the pacific rim of volcanoes). Looking back, I know I was giving myself an unnecessary amount of stress – on hindsight, I should leave work on time, take time to exercise, eat right, take care of my health, etc. Easier said than done, but I believe it’s a matter of cultivating good habits and good discipline, and I should try it this year.
- Learn to make productive use of your alone time. This sounds like some rip off one of those “Productivity” lists readily available on the internet, doesn’t it? In actual fact, I think it might have been (Heh). I can’t quite remember why I noted this down as a learning point last year, but I think it is good advice to myself. You know in the hour before bed, or during the weekends when I have no external appointments with friends, I better put in something useful to do (such as learning to cook, playing the piano, enriching myself with a book, etc.), rather than whiling away the time playing Candy Crush on my iphone, or scrolling through Facebook looking at the inconsequential posts. Even something simple as reflecting in my journal (as what I’m doing now) would be better than Candy Crush, for sure.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Last year after I had finally made and conveyed to my boss my decision to resign from my Branch, in the following weeks I was submerged under a deluge of conflicting emotions all swimming in my head and around me. All at the same time I felt excited and afraid. I felt hopeful and despairing, I felt joyful and disheartened. I was engulfed, suffocated. I was confused. I think that’s all a part of stepping out of where I’m comfortable in, and I had this picture to constantly remind myself, that I need to step out, in order to get someplace better.
- Set clear goals everyday on what you want to accomplish for that day. OK, this is probably another rip off from a Productivity list, but I must say I need to do this. especially when I’m in such an ill-disciplined state.
- Cherish the relationships you have. I realised sometime halfway through last year that I might have been neglecting the relationships around me – not hanging out with friends or turning down invites to meet up, not being at home enough to help my mum with the chores, etc, not being open to forming new friendships or relationships with others. I do hope that this year will be a year when I can refocus on my friends and family, and be there for them when they need me.
- Get your priorities right. This is an advice I would come back to time and again. My inferiority complex makes me flawed in a big way – I am often a people-pleaser. Sometimes my own happiness, my sense of what is right and wrong, and even my self-worth, is contingent on how pleased people are with me, how many are impressed or happy with me, how “popular” I am, how well-liked I am with others. But this is a dangerous trait, because this means that a lot of what I do are based on my feelings, as well as my perception of others’ feelings towards me, which should not be the case. My self-worth should come from a knowledge and revelation of who God says I am, my happiness should be a choice I make internally, and my priorities on what to do should be based on convictions of knowledge and truth rather than on feelings. There are times when I don’t feel like doing things, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do them, because if they are right, I should go ahead with it. There are times when I don’t dare to proceed because of my fear of how others would view me, but that doesn’t mean I should pander to my fear, instead I should learn to make a godly assessment on whether something is right or wrong. I’m learning this, over and over again. I hope to be able to do it well this year.
- You can do everything, but not all at once. This is a piece of advice I picked up, during one of my more despondent moments over the course of the past year, when I was feeling miserable while in the throes of struggling with both my classes and my work. I wasn’t disciplined enough to excel at both concurrently, I was mediocre at best in both areas, and I was disappointed, angry, and discouraged with myself. I had been holding on to a book written by Tina Seelig (a professor in Stanford University), titled “What I Wish I Knew When I was 20”, reading it in bits and pieces, and bemoaning the fact that I was closer to the big Three-O than 20. Somehow I went online to search on her profile, and stumbled upon a set of powerpoint presentations (either prepared by her or someone else), which doled out nuggets of wisdom in short sentences. And right smack in the middle of the slides was that sentence in bold. It hit me like a speeding car, colliding with my haywire senses. I knew then that I was biting off more than I could chew, and I should start having a more realistic view of my abilities and inclinations. Fast forward a year later, I have now left my job, and am only taking one module this semester – I hope I will be able to devote substantial time to it and excel in it.
- If something needs to be done sooner or later, do it sooner, rather than later. This is a very good piece of advice, for any procrastinator out there. In fact, I’m still trying to learn from it. If I need to do something sooner or later, just do it now, rather than wait till later. For instance, emailing my Prof on my thesis! :S
- It’s OK to share your problems with others. A problem shared is a problem halved. I’m usually a very private person, and I hardly ever share any internal struggles with others. Last year, during the depths of my despair, I started pouring out my emotions and struggles with my cell group members and close friends (Meiling, Rachel, etc.), and I’m glad I did, because their support, prayers, word of knowledge, and encouragement have been instrumental in helping me get over my despair.
- Always remember to give back; don’t let your blessings sink into a dead sea within you. This struck me when I took a break from serving in the first half of the year last year. I realised, then, that not serving took a substantial amount of joy from me. Serving others, and most importantly serving God, keeps our spirit alive within us.
Phew. That was long. I shall come back to write my next few notes soon.