Green is also the colour of hope

One day, I had a dream in the day, maybe it was a vision or an imagination, or a subconscious thought:

I am running a race but at a leisurely pace because I tell myself to take it easy and not get stressed. So I take a break and rest on the green pastures. The rest is nice and relaxing, but I look back and noticed all the mistakes I made. I try to tell myself all the things I will make right the next time but I can’t seem to stop rehearsing the past. Finally I look up and I see everyone, even close friends, all running past me. I try to say “Hi”, but they seem to have no time to pause. I’m still resting on the grass and everyone is going so fast. I start to envy their speed, their progress in the race. I also get angry that they are leaving me behind. Then I start to wonder – will I still receive the prize?

ENVY. It was an ugly image of ‘envy’ – growing quietly like a weed, growing quickly. I thought I was just making comparisons or I was just a little jealous. But this ‘weed’ was competing for a space in my thoughts and it was corrupting my heart. It was messing with my mental health. It was time to cut it out of my life. As with any plant, this ‘weed’ has a root. I asked God again and again, what is the root of envy?

God told me but it took a while for me to acknowledge it. The root of envy is ‘fear’.

This ‘fear’ was no stranger nor an unfamiliar feeling. This fear had manifested itself in different ways before:

  • fear of letting history repeat itself
  • fear of making mistakes again
  • fear of never being good enough
  • fear of never feeling truly whole
  • fear of not being loved
  • fear of losing out

Thankfully, where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20). God replaced that ugly image with His beautiful word:

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:13-14

Recovery is a continuous journey of discovering one’s true self, healing from hurts and learning contentment. The first thing I did was to start a ‘Gratitude Journal’, noting down once a day for 365 days, one thing I was grateful for. I needed to forget the past, I needed to focus on the present, on the here and now. I’m running a race, a race of His destiny for me, towards my heavenly prize.

God has created new faith pictures of me:

  • I am a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.
  • I have peace with God. Jesus’ love has cast out all fear, even the fear of failure
  • I am enough. Jesus is my more than enough.
  • I am the righteousness of God through Christ. Jesus has forgiven my sins.
  • I am God’s beloved. He is my good father and and His love endures forever.
  • I can tap on God’s unlimited supply. He supplies all of our needs.

There is a prize for everyone – there is a prize for me.

But like a weed, if you’re not watchful, envy can start creeping back in again. Only ‘hope’ can cut out fear and anxiety and bring forth LIFE:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out it roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of the drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

There is hope. There is life. A life that is not struggling and striving with envy but living and thriving with hope. Green might be the colour of envy but green is also the colour of HOPE.

Listen, listen

In 2018, I envisioned the word, ‘Flowing” my life, in 2019, “Gratitude” and then in 2020, “Rest”. The word for 2021 is kind of unusual, because it has been on my mind for the most of 2020. On New Year’s Day, many people made comments like ‘good riddance to 2020’ but for me, my word for 2021 seemed to be a continuation from the events from 2020. It’s like the work in 2020 is not over and God still wants me to focus on this in 2021.

The word, “listen”, has been nudging me since the beginning of 2020. That was when I was working on illustrating my first children’s book “I Hear You”. It is a book about connecting with a child’s emotional world. Having been a mum for 10 years, I still have much to learn in parenting. The process of illustrating the book, inspired me even more to be mindful of hearing my children’s emotions.

Interestingly last November, when I was preparing for a children’s process art workshop about “I Hear You”, I was reminded of the Chinese word for listen, , which shows the symbols of an ‘ear, ‘king’, ’10 eyes’ and ‘one heart’ – perhaps to mean “to listen to my King wholeheartedly with my ears and eyes”. And the timing couldn’t be more apt that on the last Sunday of 2020, I read this beautiful verse in church:

And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth

Deuteronomy 28:1

Both words “hearken” and “diligently” are the same Hebrew word, “shama”, which means to listen. May 2021 be a year that I listen and listen continually to His word wholeheartedly with my ears and eyes and may that listening inspire me to obey His voice and listen to my children’s hearts.

My small village

When I decided to become a stay-home mum, I thought it was a job that suited me very well because I am an introverted homebody. I even had the nickname of ‘anti-social’ during my university days and the number of friends whom I hung out with regularly could be counted within one hand.

However just 6 months into my new job, the monotony of doing the same things over and over again and facing only a baby at home, made me realised that it was the toughest job I ever took on. Furthermore, most of my peers were either unmarried or had no children. I didn’t even have a smartphone which could take non-pixelated photos nor access Facebook. But I still manage to stay the course and persevere for about 7 years because gradually there were friends who came along to support me.

In my 8th year, my social circle started shrinking. At first I didn’t care much about it. But suddenly, my few close friends went back to full time work, some went back to part-time work and then others just stopped contacting for no reason in particular. All this happened in about 3 months.

My counsellor friend recently reminded me that ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ have different meanings. You can be alone and not feel lonely. You can feel lonely even when you’re not alone. As an introverted homebody and anti-social person, I’ve always been alone. But for the first time in my life, I was alone and lonely. Loneliness is a terrible and scary feeling because it makes you focused only on one thing in your life – your negative self – all your weaknesses, past hurts, wrongdoings and fears. The loneliness then manifests itself as anger, envy, depression. And that was when I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

One day, God brought to mind a good friend – one who stopped contacting for no particular reason, and no longer active in the group chat. I was not in the mood nor in the ‘right mind’ to contact someone else but somehow I couldn’t stop worrying about this friend. Since she didn’t respond to my messages, I decided to write her a letter – a very honest letter – I asked how she was doing and I ended up telling her I had a problem. I think she was the second person (besides my husband) who would then know about my mental health state.

She read the letter and contacted me and we met, for one entire day. There was no drama of crying on each others shoulders, no aunty agony giving advice session but we had a very real conversation. After that meeting God brought to my mind a few other friends whom have been my support – actually only 2. But that 2 was enough to take away the focus on myself. I still felt alone but when I reached out to someone else, I didn’t feel lonely. I could live life again.

I can still count my close friends whom I can find support from, within one hand but now I’ve another hand for those whom I can reach out to. Even when you’re not okay, you can still reach out to others. It takes a village to “Live Life”, even it is a small village.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them

Matthew 18:20 

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:25 

Valley faith

I thought I was walking alone
The dark
The nights
The cold

All along You were there
Beside
Holding
My hand

All along You were there
Before
Leading
My steps

All along You were there
Above
Covering
My head

All along You were there
Behind
Watching
My back

Now I see You in the valley
Now I know You in the valley
Now I believe You in the valley
Now I trust You in the valley

You are not just God of the valley
You are God with me in the valley
The valley of sorrow and death
Is also the valley of hope and life

faithandhope

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” – 1 Kings 20:28

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. – 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful – Hebrews 10:23

For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. – Galatians 5:5

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:21

Mealtime devotions

In view of the current COVID-19 situation, staying home more often now means eating at home more often and gathering together more often too for meal times. We like to have conversations during dinner, maybe too much sometimes for the kids and they take really long to finish their food. But I truly believe that conversations are even much more important for such a time as this, particularly conversations about Jesus.

The idea of ‘Mealtime Devotions’ came up one day when I displayed a lettering artwork of a bible verse on the wall that’s next to our dining table. Prior to that, I have not display my artwork at home. Usually I would just file it up after it dries. But after reading Deuteronomy 6:7-9, I was inspired to display it on the wall, hoping it will be an invitation to talk about Jesus.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:7-9

The first day during lunch, my 5-year old daughter  enquired about what I lettered as she has not learnt to read yet and we had a wonderful time talking about the verse. And then a few days later, during breakfast, my 8-year old son asked me as well and we had the opportunity again to talk about the meaning of the verse during breakfast. He then subsequently asked if I was going to put up new artwork with new verses. 

That inspired me to come up with 3 more and I digitalised them into printable cards. If you will like to kickstart conversations about God during meal times, you can purchase a set of these 4 Devotion cards (in PDF Files) at this link: https://payhip.com/b/23tB

Simply download and print them out on cardstock. The photo shown below is an A5 size design that is printed on A4 paper and then folded into half so that it can stand. On the back, there is the passage from which the lettered verse was take from and a simple reflection. 

IMG_8400IMG_8441Collage_Fotor

With these simple cards displayed near or on your dining table, I hope your family meal times will be full of conversations about Jesus’ love for us.