Playground Lessons

There is an awesome indoor playground, here in Singapore. It has tons of different sections of fun activities: slides, obstacle course, interactive video games, leggos, dress up station, supermarket, building blocks area, ball pit, etc. 

This week, we took J there. I was SO excited to take him. It was everything he loved and more. So before we left the house, we told J all about it. He was so ready and excited for the adventure in store. 

The playground is located in this behemoth of a mall (Suntec). I can’t even call it a mall, it’s more like 3 large malls lined up next to one another. Once you reach the mall via MRT, it’s still a 10 minute walk inside to get to the playground. 

When we reached the mall entrance, we passed by a small, mini playground. It was cute, but compared to where we were going, it was a shack. The main playground could eat this little one for breakfast. 

But when J saw it, he thought that the mini-ground WAS the destination. He was so excited and wanted to play IMMEDIATELY. 

But Joe and I were told him it wasn’t it – we still had to walk further. 

And then…J LOST it. 

He was so upset. Heaven was right in front of him. He was so good up until that point – waiting so patiently. HOW CAN THIS NOT BE IT??

How dare we deprive him of his prize? Why can’t he go to this “awesome amazing super fun” place?

So, mid meltdown, he was toted away. 

It was such a crazy sight to me. Joe and I were coaxing our son away from a dinky playground because we wanted to take him somewhere much more epic. We kept promising him that the next destination was SO.MUCH.BETTER. 

All I could think about was how laughable this was, and how often God must feel this way about me. 

How many times have I prayed for God to work in big, spectacular ways? 

How many times did I get discouraged when I saw “mini dinky playgrounds” pass, thinking that God had also passed me by?

How many times did I expend all of my excitement and patience at lesser possibilities instead of waiting for the true prize?

As I’ve been recently seeing God respond to my prayers with epic, amazing answers, I’m beginning to understand what “epic” and “amazing” actually looks like. And it’s far better than anything I could personally conceive. The plans that I had made for my life, no matter how ideal I thought they were, pale in comparison to the story God has been writing for me and my family. The more I am learning to release my old plans and definitions of good, the more I am able to receive the good that God has been leading me toward.

Here’s waiting for the epic.

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In Awe

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In the past month, one of Judah’s favorite bedtime stories is the story where Jesus quiets the storm. We read from his picture book bible where you see a 2 page epic storm that thrashes a tiny sailboat – inside the boat are freaked out disciples and a sleeping Jesus.

Finally, when Jesus awakes, he goes “shhhh” to the water and storm (How I paraphrase it to my 2 year old).

The next page: completely calm waters

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Every time we turn the page to see the calm waters, I feel this wave of different emotions:

  • excitement that Jesus can be so powerful
  • peace from the immediate calm
  • awe.

In recent months, I’ve felt this passage come true in my life over and over again. Times where the waves roll so high, I don’t know up from down. Times where God brings a stillness that is so impossible, the only word I can use to describe how I feel is awe.

  • I’m in awe that we never deserve peace, yet God brings it.
  • I’m in awe that sometimes we put ourselves in storm, yet God quiets it.
  • I’m in awe that God does not ever become weary, He never changes, He never wanes in His love. 

I’m also learning that this calm does not mean another storm will not come. The storms are endless, but God’s power, love, and stillness are abundantly available. As a result, I’ve been regularly reminding myself not to place my hope in the calm waters, but in the God who calms them. 

Yes, a storm will come again. 

Yes, God will respond.

Yes, I will be in awe…again.

Layers

In college, there was a time when I struggled with an eating disorder.

It seemed like everyone knew but me.

When I look back on it now, the signs were so obvious: overly controlled eating, obsessive habits like going on the scale every 5 minutes, anxiety over being in situations where I cannot control my diet, and a heavy portion of denial.

I would be deeply offended by anyone who remotely hinted at my problem.

I accused people of not being supportive friends when they doubted my health.

I even tried to get my roommates to eat as insanely as I was – if they joined in, wouldn’t that mean that I was fine?

Looking back, it was so obvious that I had a major problem. When I realized how bad things were, I was so embarrassed/ashamed. Why did it take so long for me to figure this out? How did I let myself get in so deep?  How do I move forward from here?

Admitting to my disorder took a long time and it came in layers. Every time I felt this nagging feeling that something was wrong, I would try to short-circuit that moment by labeling my problem something milder and more “normal”. First, I told myself that my type-A personality meant I was hardcore with health. Then I told myself that maybe my dieting is a little too restrictive and I need to relax. Then I told myself that my insecurities might be affecting the way that I ate. Then I acknowledged I had a disorder. But that wasn’t the last layer. The last layer was finally owning up to the fact that this problem can be re-triggered if I let my guard down.

This process took a long time. I freaked out at the thought of having a problem. I didn’t take the needed time to self-reflect, process with others, and really figure out what was going on.  Instead, I immediately rationalized it away so that my “solution” was a bandaid.

Fully admitting to my problem meant taking radical, active measures to put God in the top place in my heart and dethroning my appearance/control/weight.

And that wasn’t easy.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s God’s grace that certain issues in my life were “slow” to surface because it gave me time to get into a headspace (and heart space) to readily respond when God finally peeled back the final layer. It allowed for a preparedness and courage in my soul to follow God’s lead instead of my own. It gave me a longer history with God to trust in His character and to try to dig deeper into His word for hope instead of grabbing at flimsy bandaids.

As I write this, I realize that there is no shame in the length of my journey to recognize and overcome my issues. Each layer took courage and faith to peel back. And with every peel, I got to see God accept me and embrace me as I was: a work in progress. 

Mighty Hero

There’s a story in the Bible of a man named Gideon. He was an unlikely hero who was hesitant to take on the mantle of being a warrior. He put God through 2 tests in order to confirm that, yes, it really was God who was asking him to do this. 

I was reading this story again, half-expecting the “usual” lesson/moral of the story to pop out.

Instead, this verse stuck out:
“The angel of the Lord appeared to [Gideon] and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’” Judges 6:12

Gideon is in the middle of hiding grain from the Midianites when the angel comes and calls him “mighty hero”. Gideon hasn’t done anything heroic yet. But God was going to set him on a path of might and heroism. God knew before Gideon knew. 

And that path was one that required increasing amounts of courage. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t Gideon being set on a platform where the crowds chanted “HE-RO! HE-RO! HE-RO!”. It was Gideon sneaking in the night to destroy idol pillars. It was Gideon going back and forth with God to make sure “God do You REALLY want me to do this?” It was Gideon preparing a mass of soldiers to fight only to have God whittle them down to 300. As he continued on this path, Gideon increasingly accessed the power of being a mighty hero for the Lord. 

God knows who we are to be before we currently see it and know it. And He calls us by who He knows we will be, not by who we currently are.  We are healed, we are victorious, we are mighty, we are heroes, we are chosen, we are wise, we are cherished. we are wise. 

As we set out on the God-given road, we learn to access the power of the identity God has already given us. 

God knows before we know. 

Persistence.

My ear piercings are not even. This bothers me to an unreasonable extent.  

I’ve seen other people with uneven ear piercings who seem very unbothered. For me, more than the asymmetry, what bothers me so much is WHY they’re like that. 

When I was 12, getting my ears pierced, the store clerk did the usual process: take a marker, put dots on both ears for piercing placement, and wait for my approval.

At her first attempt, they were slightly uneven. I asked her to do it again.

So she tried again. They were still uneven. I could feel my heart beating faster and with a twinge of Asian shame, I asked her to do it again. 

I could feel her frustration as she wiped the dot off my ear. 

sigh. how’s this?” 

they were even more uneven than the two other tries. But I felt too bad to ask her to do it again. 

“umm..ok”.

And that is why the piercings are uneven. Because I was too afraid to keep asking. My fear of being a burden outweighed my disapproval of earring placement. 

I remember being so envious of other girls who would share their piercing stories and say how they made the store clerk redo it at least 10 times until they were satisfied. I didn’t know it was possible to be so brazen.

Recently, I’ve been realizing how much I hate to ask “too much” and “too often”. For Lent, I’ve committed to writing out my prayers everyday. They’ve helped deepen the substance of my prayers and also help me remember the things I’m bringing up to God. On some days, I’ll have multiple prayer sessions because there’s so much on my heart that I want to talk about with God. 

One day, right before entering into another time of prayer, I had a flash of “Am I going to God too much?”

As that thought materialized, I realized 2 things:

  1. Wow, what a ridiculous thought. You can never go to God “too much”
  2. If I dare to think this about God, how much more must I think this about people? How much have I established an independent, self-sufficient routine of life? And how much must God want to break that so that I can access an infinitely loving Father? 

There’s a story in the Bible of a persistent widow. She goes to an unfair judge everyday, begging for help. She persists so much that she eventually wears the judge down, and he helps her. 

I love/hate that story.

I hate it because it requires a vulnerability and, dare I say, humiliation (ok, humility), to ask and ask and ask and ask again. 

I love it, because it shows that not all things come immediately, and that God will hear and answer our unrelenting prayers. We can be free to ask and ask and ask and ask again.

May this be the start of admitting to wanting more and persistently asking our good good Father for it. 

Hope.

Hope. 

I remember asking a mentor once about hope and how to pray during seemingly hopeless situations. A friend’s parent was very sick – many of us gathered to pray for him.

“How do I pray? Can I hope and pray for healing when the doctors say that death is imminent?” 

She answered that we can pray for all things and we can hope for the best outcome – our God is able to do anything. But, we cannot feel entitled to what we ask for. 

Sigh. 

Our God can. But will He? 

Sometimes, hope is scary. 

Hope is opening your heart to being let down. 

Hope is admitting that you want things to be better – that you are not satisfied with the current situation. 

Hope is putting yourself on the line, holding your breath, and waiting for something specific to actualize. 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I don’t think this verse’s “hope” is the same hope that I’m so familiar with. To hope in the Lord is different from hoping for a specific outcome. Hoping in the Lord is opening your heart to God’s way, timing, and provision. It means trusting in His character – trusting that He is who He says He is.

Hoping for a specific outcome often requires a hope in myself/others – hope that I will pull through and do what is necessary to get what I want. Hope in myself has born much anxiety. I suddenly start calculating/strategizing all the things that must be in place for things to succeed. I must earn my own hope.

I often misdirect my hope because my definition of “good” is so specific and I’m unwilling to accept any alternative.  My “good” is not universal. My “good” is catered to me and only extends a few layers beyond myself. My “good” is specific to my “here” and I want it now. 

In contrast, hope in the Lord bears strength – because God is already trustworthy, He is already good, He is already in control. His “good” is not only good for me, it is good for the kingdom of God. 

To hope in God is to forfeit my “good” and to wait on His certain “good”. There is true relief because God does not break promises, does not forget, does not fail. This is a hope that restores.

To Be a Tree…

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Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit

A meaningful image for me is that of a deeply rooted tree. I would even go as far as call it a “life-image”. 

Whenever I meet someone who likes to draw, I ask them to make their interpretation of that tree. It’s fascinating to see their different perspectives: from the tree’s foliage, the intricacies of the roots, the structure of the tree, and even its surroundings. 

For a while, when I pictured my version of the tree, the scene consisted mainly of the tree and a complex web of roots that go 3x as deep as the tree is high. 

Lately, I’ve been meditating on this passage from Jeremiah – an ode again to the tree. But this tree is different from mine.  

This tree is planted by water. Its roots go deep and towards the stream. The tree is not reliant on itself and the roots it has sent – it is reliant on the life-giving power of the stream. 

This tree can weather the storm and the drought. Storms are when chaos erupts around you and you feel like you can’t stand. Droughts are when your normal sources of energy/refreshing/comfort are literally sapped – when life’s demands far exceed what your resources can meet. What good are deep roots when the soil around is dry?

Likewise, God does not want me to persist in the same spot – digging deeper into my own heritage or godly values. Yes, those roots are good in keeping integrity and a certain level of endurance. But God wants roots that keep reaching for Him. Roots that stretch nearer to where He is today, not deeper in where He was yesterday. God’s living water moves us. It provides strength to persist, protection from the burn of trials, and yields fruit. 

In dry times, I’m tempted to wonder if I’m meant to be a cactus: aiming to fend for myself on the least amount of resources, and aim for survival. But God comes in and reminds me that no, I am a tree, and He is a river. In drought, I am a tree that is green and fruitful – not because I have made it to be so, but because God is near and He gives me life. 

Promise Keeper

“If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.  But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.” Deuteronomy 23:21-23

God takes our promises seriously. 

I remember the first time I read this, I had a pit in my stomach. How many times had I made empty/ridiculous promises to God? 

  • “God, I promise I’ll become a doctor if you send me on this trip.”
  • “God, I promise I’ll be the best daughter if you give me a boyfriend.”
  • “God, I promise I’ll be the best student if you get me a dog.”

Yes. These are the real-life promises of adolescent Diana: funny and cringeworthy.

And then there are the more serious ones we make. The ones we make because we’re desperate, and we think we mean them. 

  • “God, I will be a radical Christian if you get me this competitive job”.
  • “God, I will give more to the church if you get me this promotion”
  • “God, I will do whatever you want me to do, if you fix my family/marriage/relationship”

I think sadly, there isn’t much integrity in our promises because we severely overestimate our follow through, and underestimate our brokenness. Temptation lulls us to a place where we compromise without realizing it. 

And I think that’s why it’s hard for me to fully believe God’s promises for me. I’ve been on both ends of well-intentioned-yet-unfulfilled promises. I often see promises as an expression of care, and leave it at that. I don’t fully grasp the weight and integrity of a promise.

But God does. 

God holds us to a strict standard of fulfilling our promises. Why? Because He is so much MORE committed to upholding every single promise He makes to us. He carefully speaks each promise, with every intention of backing it up. 

With God, there are no empty promises. No fluffy words. No frivolous things just to make you feel better in the moment.

As I’ve been reflecting on the trustworthiness of God’s promises, I’ve begun praying these promises over myself. I’ve begun claiming them because they are mine. They are not merely Millennial wall decoration in nice cursive. They are real. They are meant to be claimed. They are meant to be known. 


Matthew 11:28-29
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Romans 8:37-39
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
 He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Proverbs 1:33
But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Romans 10:9
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Today, I’m thankful that my God keeps all of His promises. Every single one. 

Weightlifting

When I go to the gym, I make it a point to stick to the safe zone: elliptical, treadmill, and maybe a few resistance machines. This is a quieter area, stocked with amenities like personalized screens to watch shows and distract yourself from the fact that you’re exercising.

The most intimidating area of any gym is the weightlifting area. It’s full of intense people huffing, puffing, and clinking weights. They don’t need the distractions of binge television to stay on track. They lift their dumbbells, swing the kettle bells, and do Crossfit on the side.

In recent weeks, I’ve been going to the gym to get stronger and keep up with my boys. One of my post-natal exercises requires 2kg dumbbells. And guess where they are located – deep in the Wild West of weights. Passed the deadlift area, passed the bench press, passed this small corner where everyone gathers to watch their form as they use free weights.

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stealth picture of the weight lifting area. my weights are hidden by the windows

I didn’t want to go through there. There’s no way to casually go by and see if you have enough courage to dive in or not.  Do I dare make the expedition for such dinky weights? 

Yes. I must.

Not just for my health, but for courage. I remember a season in my life when God was challenging me to work on boldness. What did that mean? It meant identifying fears and facing them. So I set different challenges for myself. I began writing regularly in my blog, I went out on campus each week with a friend to share the Gospel with people, and the scariest challenge: sing in front of a bar-full of people at an American karaoke bar.  

You see, I hate karaoke. Not so much because I’m not good at it, but because I’ve always gone with friends who are incredible singers. Karaoke-ing with good singers is really NOT fun. There’s no being stupid and laughing at how dumb you all sound – not when they whip out Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and sound amazing. Ultimately, my distaste for it came down to an issue of pride. I didn’t want to publicly do something I was bad at – not when there were people of excellent caliber around. And so, I went to the busiest karaoke bar (confession: I tried to go to 2 lesser known ones first, but they didn’t work out), and I sang my heart out to N*Sync with a Vanilla Ice encore.   

Which brings us back to the gym. The thought of doing a simple exercise with tiny weights directly next to a crowd of guys lifting the weight of tiny humans, is laughable. Do I dare enter this jungle?

I dare. 

And I make myself do it every time I go to the gym. Because we all need to start somewhere. And I don’t want my excuses to be lack of courage and abundance of pride. Who cares if there are people who are much better at lifting weights than I am? This is not a comparison game. 

If it were, nothing in life would make sense. If we eliminated ourselves from every place where we thought someone else would be better fit/able, then we would have nowhere to go, with nothing to do. 

Here’s to courage.

Tomorrow’s victory, today.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

I recently started doing a bible study with 2 sisters from my church. We decided to start with the book of John. One thing that makes it stand out from the other Gospel books is the way it starts: a deep and symbolic introduction to who God is. 

We spent a while on these first 5 verses, and something struck my heart. John declares the victory of God – right from the start. Before the book gets into Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, it talks about God’s victory: how God’s light shines in the darkness. The darkness has not overcome this light – this light that is from God, this light that is within us. 

These first 5 verses act like a promising spoiler. They are saying, “You are about to hear a great story of a great God. But before I tell you everything, I must declare – nothing will overcome him. This story you’re about to hear, it’s a story that ends in victory.” 

In that moment, it felt like a promise directly to me from God. As if He was saying, “Diana, no matter what you are going through, no matter how many questions and doubts you may have about how things will work out, My light and My life are in you. Darkness has not and will not overcome you. This story you’re about to live, it’s a story that ends in victory.”

Dear friend, whatever you may be going through, I pray you are comforted by the promise of God’s victory and the mystery of how it will unfold.