The Parcel

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So, exactly eight weeks ago, I mailed a parcel from Vancouver to my home address. In good faith I decided to do without the tracker. After all, I’m writing my own home address – surely I can’t mess this one up. The lady told me it should take 4-6 weeks. 2 weeks later, I was home and the wait begun.

4 weeks came and went. Then 6 weeks. A sliver of panic rose. Maybe it had been delayed – that’s hardly uncommon. Just in case, I dug around for the receipt and to my horror, realised I had shredded it along with the others from my 6 month trip, thinking they were no longer needed. The panic rose just a little more – the parcel contained 6 months’ worth of souvenirs for loved ones and supporters. More than just a good sum of money, the parcel held intentions of love and blessings, now facing the threat of forfeit.

As usual, I started praying. It wasn’t long before the answer came.

“8 weeks. It’ll arrive by then.”

And if not, I’ll start calling my Vancouver friends for help as Plan B. But of course, I was really hoping Plan B wouldn’t be necessary. More than that, it was yet another test of this whole business about hearing God. ‘Did I imagined the answer? Did I misinterpret what God said?’ As I counted down to the end of 8 weeks, the questions raged louder and increased in intensity, battering the weathered door that is my faith. Every new day brought fresh rounds of fight, and I found my convictions wavering between belief and disbelief.

In the midst of all that, cling I did onto some faith milestones of past – ‘Father, You’ve always done what You said You will. Let not the frailty of my faith displease or discredit You.’

Sunday. No parcel. 8 Weeks have passed. What do I make of this? Still unwilling to give up, I wrestled in my personal time with Abba about the entire matter.

“You mailed it on a Tuesday, didn’t you?”

But of course, I did! And since Vancouver is one day behind Singapore, 8 Weeks ends officially only 2 days later on Tuesday. 2 days. It seemed puny compared to 7 weeks and 5 days, but I was willing to take a chance on God. He always does what He says He will.

Monday night. Bible study quiet time on Joshua 23. As I journalled, somehow it came round to this:

“Ave, you are more concerned about whether you are hearing Me right than communing with Me.”

As usual, being God, He’d hit the nail on the head. How subtle, how deceptive, and how damaging. I’d traded in the Giver for the gift. It has become apparent that such lessons require multiple learnings. I repented in dust and ashes.

Tuesday came. I was wrapping up things at work when the text message came from my dad.

‘Yan, your parcel has arrived.’

My heart leapt. What more was there to say? Abba had proven Himself again – should I be surprised?

I came home to the happy unwrapping of soap bars, accessories, pouches, notebooks and a few other assorted souvenirs. That night, I slept with the lingering fragrance of Bali soap in my room.

There's no soap like Bali Soap (:

I learnt that hearing God wasn’t so much about the art of hearing itself, but the desire to draw near to the One who speaks. In the process, my puny faith in God was also challenged and stretched to the limit. A parcel may seem small in comparison to some of life’s bigger decisions, but I’m discovering that God can teach us lessons through things big and small, and sometimes, the harder lessons come in the small things. Or perhaps they’re just preparing us for the bigger (and harder) ones to come 😉

A Human Life Redeemed

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It’s been 2 months since DTS ended. Probably a good time to wrap up all updates with a final one. Here’s what I would tell you, if I had a few minutes to summarize 185 days of my life.

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Yes, I could start on the incredible cultural exchange I had living with 8 other nationalities under one roof, but that would be just scratching the surface (it was an incredible experience and I love my new friends, but no, that’s not the essence of those 185 days). I could talk about some of our amazing exploits as a team, the encounters we had, the miracles we saw, the gargantuan obstacles that we overcame and grew through as a team, and the 101 incidents of God speaking to me (wait, that’s actually getting close).

If I only had a few minutes of time, however, I would tell you this:

I came just an inch deeper into contact with unconditional love, the divine sort that no human being can ever give, or actually even begin to grasp just how much we really need.

If one started spending some time with the Creator of the Universe and of all mankind with a stilled and receptive heart, what does one expect to hear? I expected many things, among which included (but not exhaustively) the blueprint for my life and how I can become a better person.

But God was not interested in telling me how I can become a better person. Instead, He wanted me to know this:

“I love you more than you can ever know. I love you just as you are. I delight in you. There is nothing more you can do to earn My love.”

It takes a really stilled and receptive heart for that message to sink as deep as is needed, and still deeper it needs to go even after.

Time and time again, God spoke, and He had the same words for me. You see, it’s easy to think you know the Creator of the Universe loves you deeply, wholly and unconditionally after having all the encounters with Him that I’ve had, but that message, it seems, gets squelched out much too easily by the hundred and one distractions life can throw at you, not to mention some voices that are adamant at insisting that His love is not true.

The reason He wasn’t telling me how I could be a better person was this – I can only really start moving in that direction after I have received His love. I’ve already spent too much of my life successfully out-performing majority of the human populace and having my ego inflated with accolades and achievement, Christian ones included. I’ve spent sufficient time working on me to clean up all the inner messes created from years past and come as squeaky clean as I can. I’ve been told excessive times, through direct and indirect ways, that I need to get better, do better, be better.

But that wasn’t His plan for this trip halfway around the world.

I left for a 185 day adventure expecting a transformational kind of experience. I got what I hoped for. It just didn’t come the way I expected it to.

It wasn’t some show-stopping miracle, some earthquake, fire and thunderstorm encounter, or some preacher singling me out during a sermon and delivering some stomach-flipping prophetic utterances (I wouldn’t half mind if any of that happened, actually).

God’s love came, instead, as whispered messages of love in clouds and dandelions, as gentle tugs on my heart from unremarkable little incidents, through words and written notes from newfound friends (and family in a way), and most strikingly, as an almost tangible hug and an invitation to dance with my Creator during worship.

God’s love came as crashing waves and a torrential downpour as I sat crying in lecture because I connected the dots and understood the roots of my sense of unloveliness. It came as I forgave people who have hurt me deeply and as I discovered new ones to forgive. It came as I uncovered and experienced grandfatherly love and motherly love in a way I’ve not previously known.

It comes now as I live daily, stripped of any sense of importance from my surroundings, humbled by the phase of life I am in, and learning to rest my loveliness in my Abba Father, in Jesus Christ alone. It comes as I battle the daily temptation to skip spending time with my Creator and allow the mostly gentle, sometimes urgent, and occasionally insistent, persuasion of the Holy Spirit to win over.

I invite you, if you’re a hungry soul like mine, in search of truth that is relevant yet unshakable and foundational to all existence, to come and know the One who made you. Satisfaction comes only from a relationship with Him; fulfillment, from knowing Him and being known by Him; and life, from Him who created life itself and sustains it alone.

‘Are you happy?’

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My eye was caught by two of the cutest stuffed giraffes of very huggable sizes too. Their affectionate hugging pose triggered thoughts of a very specific someone and led on to imaginations of having this delightful pair grace my eventual house and bring some of that warm, sunny, yellow joy of theirs into what I hope to be a haven for my family to-be. The only problem? They will set me back by a whopping $60.

That should have been warning enough to drop them and leave, but no, being the hard core negotiator that I am, I stood around long enough for the lady to deliver her sales pitch. Amongst other things, she mentioned that what’s important is that they make you happy, because happiness is, in her words, ‘very important’.

Strange. Only about half an hour ago, I’d been sitting in one of my favourite ice cream parlours with a scrummy cup of a sweet treat in front of me, waiting for my friends to return from their brief errands, when the question came,

“Ave, are you happy?”

Being King and Creator of the universe, let’s just say He’s pretty good at picking moments.

The kind of question I’ve never asked, because it’s a pointless question to me. I don’t make my decisions based on whether they make me happy or not. Happiness is a by-product that is great to have, but non-essential to decision-making. Whether something is good and right I find more crucial. And yet, it was the precise question required to burst my bubble of illusion.

For the first time in my life, I responded to the question of happiness with great solemnity, feeling the full weight of what was being asked.

“No, I’m not.”

I’m not because as of late, I’ve been looking to a whole myriad of things for my heart’s satisfaction, everything except that which is truly essential. Despite knowing better, I’d lost that life-giving connection with God.

It wasn’t too long ago (a little more than a month) when Abba clued me in to what’s happening with my soul. In Hangzhou He’d asked, “Ave, do you love me more than good things?” My honest answer then, was that they were coming close to His once undisputed place in my heart. And now, a month plus later, it seems all efforts at turning the tide have been unsuccessful.

So here’s my confession: I messed up, and once again, am in dire need of rescue. Thank Jesus I have another chance (and a few more to last the rest of my years) – his life, death and resurrection guarantees it.

The climb back into Papa’s lap begins, though for some who might know better, they’ll say I’d never really left.

A Sacred Love…

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I was ready to settle. You wouldn’t let me. You told me You wanted to give me a good wedding, even if it’s nothing more than a gateway to the real thing: a lifelong commitment to another one of Your precious children.

Because I am Your daughter.

Before I get lost any further into the details, before I start playing mental films of the big day and scrutnizing every little detail and adjusting it to perfection in my imaginary movie, help me get this one thing right.

“they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing” psalm 34-10

“my soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him” psalm 62-5

“my soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand doth upholdeth me” psalm 63-8

“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” psalm 63-1

No man can ever satisfy the thirst and hunger of my soul; only You can. But I forget that too easily and tire myself out running after things, even good things, things that cannot satisfy, shadows of the real thing – You.

Above, below, behind, in front, all around and inside – You hem me in. I cannot run from You, even though I still try. You keep calling, keep wooing, keep pursuing, keep chasing, until Your love overtakes all that is within my view. In those breaking moments I finally give in. I stop running. You’ve caught me. And as I open my palms to receive my due punishment, You press into my hands Your tender, merciful, everlasting, surpassing love and tell me:

“It’s time to come home.”

Oh I am so bad at this, Abba, so bad at loving You, so bad even at being loved by You. I have become convinced that Hosea’s wife is every one of us. And what hope is there left for a harlot like her?

Only Your redeeming love.

Love Story

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9 months. What started out as an uncertain exploration of a possibility has flowered into a full blown, lifelong commitment. I love you and cherish you, your heart, your dreams, your faith and your love. Thank you for being mine. You are, truly, Abba’s greatest gift to me, outside of life itself, which he gave through the costly purchase made by His Son, and this I know you’ll readily agree.

I love that look of joy and bliss I catch on your face, especially when I’m in view. I’m beginning to fall in love with your boyish charm and gestures – it’s all growing on me. I love how you reach for my hand every single time, as though you’d never tire of holding mine, love how you make it a point to buy me red bean milk tea, love how every single simple little thing in life becomes such a pleasure when I’m with you.

I love how hard you work for us – gosh, you work too hard sometimes, and those headaches come, and it’s all I can do to not get upset and work on helping you get rid of them. I love how effective my efforts are at getting rid of them (: I hope they’re really as effective as you make them out to be, and that you’re not just pleasing me.

喜欢你的认真,how you chase after truth and hunt it down from the furthest corners that it may reside in, and make it a part of your understanding and your faith. I love how you never let go till the answer is convincing enough, never for settling for something less than sound.

Love how you’re willing to eat whatever I push to you in my bowl (or plate, or cup, and whatever else for that matter), and love how because of you, I’ve found joy and pleasure in street food, even more so than those classy places I’ve come to favor so much in the past few years.

I love that perpetual spot I have on your left in the mornings and at night; brushing my teeth becomes a much welcomed routine when I’m with you. I loved your willingness to carry my bags even before we dated, and now I feel the warmth of that willingness extended to moments when I’m too tired to walk. I love your gung-ho-ness in jumping over that sidewalk river with me on your back, and love how those same muscles form a welcoming embrace for a wide-eye little bunny (:

I love your willingness to appreciate the things I value, even if they don’t always make sense to you, love how you never allow our disagreements to escalade into conflict, love how you gently coax me out of my stubborn corners, love how you love me even when I’m anything but lovable.

I love the person I am when I’m with you, and love too, the person I am inspired to become because of you. You make me want to be a better person.

Perhaps our love is too quick and has not allowed time for our loved ones to keep up with the changes that have taken place within us since we took our first step together on this journey, but I pray that in the days and years to come, they will witness that in our lives as we take the rest of the steps needed to finish this journey together.

I love you, Jere. You are God’s best for me, and I am thankful, ever so thankful, that He didn’t compromise, not one little bit, when He wrote our love story, a story that has been more than a dream come true – it super-ceded the wildest of my imaginations – and a story that makes me hang on to every word and the turn of each page.

For that, and everything else to come, I am ever so thankful.

Happy 9th month anniversary ❤

I love you.

Abba’s Jere-Avey’s Avey

…dropping anchor.

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The waves are getting choppier than ever. Decisions from the past are coming back with a bite. Pressure mounts on many sides. But then, the real question is, am I still following you, Lord?

So long as I am, it doesn’t really matter. I’m dropping anchor under the least favorable of circumstances, or so it seems. What the world sees, I see. But what only eyes of faith can see, do they see? No, they cannot. Only the yielded heart knows the voice of One calling even in winds of constant change.

Yeshua, you are my anchor. Apart from you I have no security, and apart from you,

I have no good thing. Psalm 16:2

It takes three.

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Two years ago I was bemoaning my singleness and lack of suitors.

A year ago I was pulling all stops trying to catch the attention of one blissfully unaware guy. Then we got to Pekan Baru in July and he’s not known what’s hit him since.

Today, I have been happily engaged for 2 weeks. I say happily, but truth be told, there has never been more innocent yet simultaneously beguiling a word. An engagement marks the first step to a lifelong commitment, one that has too often been satin wrapped topped with a pink bow, or dismissively referred to as some kind of a tragic end. Tragic, of course, for those who don’t understand that it take more than two to make a marriage work.

You, me and him. It takes three.

To some we may seem clueless and overly rash, but if anything else, we’ve got that one thing right.

Abba, we want You – we need You – to be at the center of this. There has never been more urgent a cry from our hearts, nor more sincere a plea. Jere and I cannot make this work on our own – as two fallen human beings, we are slated for disaster on our own. Our love is not big or strong enough, but Yours is.

It was Your love, after all, that lifted us both up and out of the muck and set us on clean, new ground, wiped us clean, scrubbing furiously at the spots that are stubborn and take a while more to go away, and clothing us with a new set of white robes – righteousness, Yeshua’s righteousness.

We stand as two once horribly messed up people now put the right side up, but still learning, still growing, still being refined.

Help us to love each other like You do. Help us to see the person behind the excitement of planning a wedding, and remember that we are saying ‘I do’ for the rest of our lives. Help us to remember that You are holding our hands even as we walk along this path, that if we should stumble, You will be there to stand us on our feet again. Most of all, help us to glorify You with this significant decision we are making together as a couple, and every other one that is to come for the life ahead.

We love You. Let our marriage begin with that declaration.

Abba, we are Yours.