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Someday, I’ll get used to this

April 18, 2017

Yes, someday, I’ll get used to this.. leaving home early, working under stress the whole day, coming home late, and feeling guilty all the time for leaving my child at home. And I really mean coming home late, so late that I don’t anymore have dinner, because I either get a stomachache, or am unwilling to eat so close to sleeping time.

Throughout the day, I watch my phone beeping with the notifications from the cctv installed at home. When it does on certain hours, I check and find my daughter going around the house.. either after finishing shower, going to have her meal, or playing on her mat. I feel very sad, knowing that I’ll continue to miss her laughs, playing with her, the feeling of her holding my hands, her smiling back at me, and her growth.

Work is so much stress. Frequently, I cry in my car on the way to work, or back home, feeling disappointed with my husband, for letting me go through this experience. I never planned to leave my child at home. In fact, long before I got married, I planned to accompany my children in growing up so that they don’t feel neglected, like I did when I was young with two working parents. I wanted my children to know that they have parents, who care for them, and are by their side whenever they need us. Now I have failed to provide that to my daughter. I am under much stress from work and the travel, and I become so short tempered in dealing with difficult situations. I haven’t been happy ever since I started working.

I know I can’t blame anyone for what I’m going through. So I just keep this feeling to myself.. feeling hopeless and restless. If I don’t work, I feel guilty; when I work, I feel guilty. Whatever I do is never the right thing. Really, I’ve heard enough of that all my life.

Some people say, money can’t buy everything. I’m a true believer in that, because I never lack money in my life, but am not happy; in fact, the love of money has given me much disappointments. But this world is a broken and sinful world. It’s simply not right if we don’t pursue money, and along with that, if we work, it’s for the money. What a broken and sad world it is we live in.

I try to tell myself, that life is short; forget about your pain, because life will soon pass away. Whatever pain we go through in the world is just temporary. We should long for our eternal life, when pain and sadness will go away. O Lord, how I long to leave this world of pain, and return to your house, being with you forever and ever.

 

To move or not to move

December 12, 2016

Recently, my husband and I have been battling over a decision of our life–to move or not to move to Jakarta. This is not the kind of easy decision I’d make when I was single and free and thinking about myself. In the past, I’d just go if it was what I wanted. Now with a family, there are more than just the 3 of us (my husband, Elysia, and me). There are extended families, each of whose members make a say to what we should or should not do. Aargh, the married life!

When I returned home for good from the USA, my father pleaded with me to stay in Surabaya. After all, I was–and still am–his only child who is in Indonesia. My only sister lives in the USA. When I was about to get married, my husband-to-be made a promise that we’d stay in Surabaya. So things were good, until right after the wedding.

Then my husband got the offer to work in Jakarta. Everything changed. Everything. I wonder if that was the beginning of what’s called the difference between courtship and married life. During courtship, we say the good things, what the other person like, but after married, we forget all that we ever said. Maybe this is just the flow of life. It doesn’t always go the way we want it, and we should just ride the ride.

Long story short, a year and a half from our marriage, my husband got another offer to work in Jakarta. This time it is a permanent move. He’d say that what’s holding him is his self-confidence. He doubts he can fulfill the responsibilities the new job asks of him, and gain the success the company looks for from him. But for me, what’s holding him is me and my family. I mind moving to Jakarta, mostly because of the work and travel time that’ll consume our time each day and being far from my parents. My parents prefer us not to move to Jakarta–though they wouldn’t say so–because we are their only children around, their only hope when they are sick, in need of assistance, and their company (especially during the weekend). Now, we also have their first and only grandchild. It is totally not unreasonable for them to hold on to us.

On the other hand, I can’t care less about what my father wants. Throughout my life, he always asks me to do what he wants, disregarding what I want. Maybe he is selfish, maybe it is me who is selfish. Each one of us is quite selfish in some ways, that is human nature. But really, all I want is to be myself, to find my ways, and be proud of who I am. Right now, I am not, and I keep looking for that place where I belong. Would moving to Jakarta help me in doing that?

My baby, mama loves you

November 25, 2016

26th August, 2016 – That big day finally arrived. My little one was born, tiny and cute, with tiny everything.. lips, fingers, eyes, and feet. It was an emotional moment. I shed tears when I heard the baby’s cry and the doctor pronounced the birth. “It’s a girl,” the doctor said, “Congratulations,” he added. I was sure the doctor noticed I was crying as my tummy was shaking.

The days that came after that were quite rough, I’d say. The reality couldn’t be closer to most things that people say, from “love at first sight”, “her smile will heal you from all tiredness”, to “pumping breast milk till the fridge is full”. I didn’t feel that attachment to my baby right away. I felt in pain, tired, and hopeless, and that nobody cared about me. Worst, no milk came out. What a mom I am without milk, right?

Before my delivery, a couple friends have reminded me, “Just don’t cry in the first two weeks.” Actually, I cried every single day for the whole two months. I was under much pressure from myself and my husband’s family, and not having anybody to whom to talk about my thoughts. I missed my husband every hour and every day, but he wasn’t around. In the evening when he came home, I had to look after the baby while he cleaned himself up and went straight to bed right afterwards. I felt terrible as the feeling of ending my life appeared regularly, although I know I shouldn’t because Jesus wouldn’t want me to do that. That period of time was finally over. I’ll make sure that won’t happen again when I’m having my future children.

I believe the saying “Welcome to your new chapter of life” for marriages is misplaced. It is more appropriate for welcoming a baby. A baby will change your life — completely. Why? These are some reasons:

  • I have to be a morning person even though I am not
  • There’s almost no way to get some sleep during the day. Rest for 5 mins, and the baby cries..
  • There’s very few “me” time. Sometimes I let me nails grow longer.. just because I haven’t found the time to cut them. I haven’t put on body lotion for weeks, because for every extra minute or hour, I’d rather use it to catch some sleep. Even taking that already ‘rushed’ shower in the morning might be interrupted with the baby’s cries.
  • No more dining out and watching the movie, something that my husband and I used to do regularly. Even going for groceries was challenging. I didn’t want to bother cooking for a while, because I was so lethargic.
  • I had to ignore my friends for a while. We used to have a couple friends came over for lunch or dinner, and chat. But with the baby, I couldn’t focus in listening to their stories.

Yes, I used to feel stuck at home, feeling very blue. But with my husband’s support, and my mom’s and sister’s love, I was able to go through that rough period of my life. I am sure I will fall in love with my baby more and more each day, and that she’ll eventually grow to love the one she calls, “Mom”.

This is my baby, Elysia Kayla, at 2.5 months in the picture ^_^

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New year, new hope

February 11, 2014

The new year has arrived. It’s nothing old, nothing new, really; happens every year. But as some take it as a tradition, I’m writing of what have passed in the last season and what to expect in the coming one.

2013 was a year of confusion for me. I encountered “a series of unfortunate events”. My overall memory of it is dark and depressing. However, one should always count her blessings, shouldn’t she? And when I can’t find any good things in myself, I look at those in the people around me and count it a blessing that God sent them to me. I was reminded about the story of The Thorns, which I read a while ago. In all circumstances, God wants us to be thankful and be strong, knowing that even though we do not see what our situation is for, God is sovereign and plans the best for us.

I did however, manage to start last year with wonderful memories. January 2013 was my last month with Starfish, and I was truly blessed with good friends who still called on to me months after I left. Some friendships need not daily texts, not even monthly phone calls, yet the friend’s presence is strongly felt. As my friends often tell me, “I will pray for you, Elian,” so shall I do the same for them. Love you, from my deepest heart and I’m sorry I can’t be there for you as I did.

My short yet phenomenal time with Life Impact was also memorable. Stephen and Abel, my buddies there, welcomed me and literally showed me what a wonderful life we have with Jesus as our Lord. We’re never too incapable, too late, too poor, or too young for God. Just Be Willing. I hate to leave there early, earlier than planned. There were many, many more souls to meet, souls to feed, souls to change, including my own.
At the same time, I met Ree, this amazing young lady who dared to ride with me on a motorbike when I just learned riding it for a couple of weeks :D. No, that’s not why she was special. She is the real life image of what I imagine I want to be like for God. She was a single lady (yes, now not anymore ;)) who put service to God and people first. Influential, shining, and down to earth. Unbelievable. If God is willing, may He brings us together again.

Then the dengue fever struck. I had to leave Thailand early. Then I left my faithful job at ThoughtWorks–for a good reason, to go back to school, but alas, my father didn’t give me his blessing. It’s not a wedding indeed, where I need my parents’ blessings, but Chinese parents will do and say anything–true or false, positive or negative, really, anything–to keep their girls from doing something they don’t like. I have too soft a heart, so I stay. Not a week went by without me feeling disappointed. This series of unfortunate events had started to go south.

Soon I learned that I started to lose friends, for one reason or another. I was struggling, losing hope, and lonely. It is really not easy. One can easily choose to go away so as not to be influenced by negativity, or for the harder part, choose to stay and “walk with me in the fire”. Actually, my true friends stay; they really do, amazingly. But new people are hard to keep; mostly people who are new to my situation. I even have Christian friends who pulled back. It’s ok though, I understand.

In this dark place, I often think to myself, “What is God thinking? Why does He put me here? Does He think I can survive here? What’s His task for me? Will I ever be of use again?” Faith slowly fades away.

Not everything was negative though. My sister has received Christ; how amazing a news. She’s now one of my faithful guiding stars. Ree has been engaged, and now married to a Godly man; girl, you so deserve it. Abel has graduated from music school; Stephen will get his support again. My own family’s dramas haven’t been happening as often. So I have cried less often. Those are positive, right?

This was where I ended 2013 and where I started 2014. Disappointed, stressed, embarrassed, and unable to see a better day; at the same time, eager to try new things, hopeful for what may be on the other side of the open door. I believe this is the time when I need to lean not on my own strength, but on God’s; when I see that “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” I will overcome my trials, because Jesus is my Lord.

Life in this little town Mae Sot was short, fast-paced, and eye-opening

May 12, 2013
A glimpse of the slum. All of the houses were made of wood and rattan. The base floor is raised from the ground, which is often flooded in the rainy season.

A glimpse of the slum. All of the houses were made of wood and rattan. The base floor is raised from the ground, which is often flooded in the rainy season.

Mae Sot is a beautiful town. A part of it is the town, the rest are small villages spread over a large area. This time, God has really let me see life in the villages. I’m so grateful. The views were pleasant to see all the time, except in the slums, which were filthy and smelly at times. I always saw many children. The poor indeed tend to want to have many children as a source of workers (and thus, income), and a sense of security when they get old. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any of the refugee camps, of which there are many in Mae Sot.

Let me start my story with these two pictures.

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The river is what separates Thailand and Burma. The bridge is the official connection between them. The boat is the unofficial one. My visa doesn’t allow multiple entries to Thailand, so I’m glad I trusted my friends to take the boat and thus had got a glimpse of Burma once.

Many Burmese people move to Thailand in search of work opportunities or to flee from the dangers of the civil wars. As with most refugees in the world, many of these Burmese people suffer from no or little assistance in Thailand. Many of them can’t find work because of lack of skills. Some find work but are looked down upon because they can’t speak Thai. Even as good as college educated Burmese are not necessarily appreciated in their workplace because of the stereotypes local [Thai] people have about them. Instead of protecting Burmese immigrants and refugees, the police extort them. Most refugees–even some employees–do not have legal documents to be in Thailand. Only a few can speak Thai. As a result, the police can take advantage and capture them at will. Going out in plain sight and being captured by the police will cost one person 6 months of jail time or 2000 baht (=~ 70 USD, 425 RMB, 665K IDR). That is about a month pay for a labor worker, quite a lot especially for those who don’t even hold steady jobs. These occurrences are not rare either. I know two people who was stopped by the police–and one was fined–during my 1.5 months time there.

At the end of my volunteer time, I was asked, “What is your most favorite part volunteering here?” I couldn’t pinpoint my favorite thing, but one thing I will remember most is people’s resilience and faith, especially in the face of uncertainties and lack of basic needs. Truly, you find more faith, both in words and deeds, in those who have nothing else to rely on besides God. Even when their freedom has not yet come, when their financial security is nowhere in sight, when they cannot see any means to improve their lives, they trust that the Lord will deliver them, that they are to be patient and wait for the Lord, and that God has a plan, a bigger and more beautiful plan than what they can see. Their heart is more on what God wants, less on what they want.

Here is a friend doing coloring with the kids after learning about The Rich Ruler parable

Here is a friend doing coloring with the kids after learning about The Rich Young Ruler parable [1]

I am used to the notion that many poor people are lazy. Not so with the Burmese people I met in Mae Sot. I was lazy in comparison to them. I work five days a week, I prefer to rest at night and in the weekends, and I need personal time. Wow, didn’t I get really tired just trying to follow their activities. Their weekends are full with church activities, teaching, and reaching out to various communities in the area. On some weeknights, they have bible study, visit the elderly, the poor, and the church families. These they do faithfully regularly. Their bodies say tired, their hearts hope to bring glory to God and joy for their brothers and sisters. Not to mention that occasionally there are foreigners, like me, who need to get company and be shown around.
I left Mae Sot 1.5 months early. I’d blame it to the dengue fever, but I haven’t taken care of my health enough that it was finally totally necessary to rest. I received more than I gave. I was blessed more than I blessed. But surely my time there was in God’s plan, and nothing is wasted if it comes from Him.
I was tired everyday, but these beauties refreshed me.

I was tired everyday, but these beauties refreshed me.

Bye-bye Mae Sot. Bye-bye Life Impact’s friends and families. It was short, cut too short, indeed. Thank you for showing me your life and sharing your love with me, a newbie in your town.

[1] Bible text is in Mark 10:17-30 NIV, 汉语

From 21 millions to 3 millions to 47 thousands

March 9, 2013

Beijing, bye-bye for now. I had such a memorable time there, it was truly hard to say goodbye. I planned to leave after 3 months, then 5, at last after 7 months. I met a few close friends, who are also brothers and sisters in Christ, who worked alongside me, taught, helped, and challenged me. I can tell I was at the right place with the right people.

One of the best things was living with a couple, who are now good friends of mine. They showed me it is possible to live simple and humbly, with serving God as their first priority in life. They have full-time jobs to make a living, but they worry not about age, children, money, nor the busyness of the world around them. Hearing the story of how they met each other, I was clear of God’s beautiful arrangement. I had wanted to apply to the Prison Fellowship International for a portion of my leave of work. Instead, God put one of the past counselors to be my housemate. I heard the stories, thoughts, and God’s power in renewing one’s life from the very person who used to meet and disciple the prisoners. Throughout the time, I learned more about this couple that make me feel so privileged to be living together and sharing with them. As a bonus, they often cook and spare me food for dinner, as I often go home late from work.

A man works outside in winterStrolling down most streets in Beijing, I saw people working hard to earn a living. This man’s work station was on a spot I passed by every week. Even during the cold winter days, he worked. Sometimes, he was inside the car, which didn’t work as a car anymore and used plastic bags as the windows. He mended clothes, bags, and more, for just a few yuans each.

While volunteering in Beijing, I also had the privilege to meet two of God’s disciples from Jackie Pullinger‘s ministry in Hong Kong. They are living miracles of the power of Jesus’ name and the Holy Spirit, and their example is not unique to them. To hear the story, struggle, and salvation in Jesus was humbling. It’s hard not to believe.

勿忘我

勿忘我

My friends are very special to me. Each one of their stories is unique and so are the individuals. I have seen God renewed their sense of hope and future, and guided them. Not every situation is good and happy and fulfilling of course. Following God does not mean easy and happy all the time, and His work is not forced nor necessarily immediate, but is surely meaningful and everlasting. In Beijing, I am known as Elian, Alien, 惠红, and 爱连. The last came naturally from a friend who simply translated my name to Chinese, and that’s what she picked. Lovely.

Some of my friends told me to come back [to China] again. A few said “Don’t forget me.” I will surely not forget them, but when I can return, this I don’t know. Thank you, thank you, my friends, for loving me with your very best.

ps: Due to sensitivity of our work and to protect the women, I cannot post pictures of our time together. Don’t be disappointed about this 🙂

~ ~ ~

I made a quick visit to Surabaya, with a population of 3 million people as of 2010. Now I am in Mae Sot, Thailand. The plane I was in, had 11 rows with 3 seats in each, totaling 33 passengers. Ack, it’s too small, but I did arrive safely. Two things are sure: I become more illiterate and God is with me. I could speak some Chinese to live in China, now I can’t even speak or read. Lord, if it’s not Your call, I wouldn’t be here. Actually I still wonder how I got here.. What was I thinking? Help me to follow Your leading, Lord, and meanwhile, please take care of my parents.

In front of the house I stay at in Mae Sot

In front of the house I stay at in Mae Sot

To my slight surprise, I love it here. I indeed wanted to experience living in a small town. I did not know though, that God answers me this soon. This town is probably not very small, but the population and buildings are sparse. The land is very natural and beautiful. There are many farms. Outside the house, there are many open fields, and a number of wild dogs. People walk, bike, or ride motorcycles, and there are very few people (not that I hate people..). There are many birds chirping. At night, there are geckos shouting. Haha, too funny their voices. I can hear the sounds of crickets and other bugs from inside the house, as the rooms have air-thru windows and fans, not closed rooms with AC. It’s like my old house in Surabaya. The air is fresh and clean, but the water is not. Got to drink bottled water. There is a patio in front of the house, with raised benches where I can sit, breathe, and enjoy the view. So beautiful. But hey, this is no vacation. Working and learning new things are coming up. I will do the best I can for God.

On my second day, I learned riding a motorbike. It’s so fun to go around the town riding it and finding new places!

Home, I take a piece of it everywhere I go

February 24, 2013

Everytime I go home, I always need time to adjust, and it’s longer than the time I spend here. Let me tell you what it feels like.

Clean, maticulate house. The house is dusted and mopped everyday. I like to walk barefooted around the house, and I can hear the skid that sounds like wet sneakers on ceramic tiles.
Ordered, organized stuffs. Well, not everything is inside labeled containers, luckily, otherwise this house will feel like a warehouse or a pharmacy store. But books are lined up, dishes are all in the shelves, and random bits are kept in boxes.

My grandparents' house, where we gather each year for new year

My grandparents’ house, where we gather each year for new year

Now you get the idea why I’m both so clean and organized, but also find it hard to think outside the box. I’m used to follow rules and patterns. This goes here, that goes there, do this today, do that tomorrow. Schedules and rules are in place, all the time.

There is a feel of a museum in the house. There are clothes, pictures, books, .. stuffs as old as 20-40 years old. As typical traditional Chinese people do, my parents treasure everything from generation to generation. These days, this would be called hoarding. They obtain goods with long-term use in mind. Our sofas are now more than 12 years old. Our dining table, as old as me. The work/study desks in my parents’ room and my sister’s, as old as 40 years old. These desks were made from real durable wood. Nowadays, furnitures are mostly made from small pieces of so-so quality wood, easier to be eaten by bugs. My room smells old. The wallpaper is new from the last renovation, but the furnitures and items in them are 新三年久三年. I have a few clothes from elementary school. Some are from my grandma and aunts! I don’t wear them (anymore), but there is no throwing out unworn clothes in my family. At least they become a story subject. The computer and printer in my room was since I was in high school. Nowadays, people claim they deserve a phone upgrade after 1-2 years. Yeah.

Leftover prayer sticks, left on the wall of the old house

Leftover prayer sticks, left on the wall of the old house

Some things I do love it here. Plenty of green. My mom planted some fruit trees on our garden. One of my aunts plants in small pots.My bed, is so good! It’s more than 10 years, but feels just as strong as its early years. My body feels good sleeping on it. In India and China, I had a combination of back, shoulder, and neck discomfort. I don’t whine, but I do like comfy bed and pillow.

Some things, I do not prefer here. It’s actually hard to describe this feeling. It’s a combination of: the house is so big I don’t know what to do if something goes wrong, I feel quite lonely in this big house, it’s not convenient to go anywhere without a car, and my life is too protected to the point of me feeling trapped here. I really don’t know anything about life beyond what I was exposed to, which was not much, really. Growing up to be an adult pretty much happened outside this city and country, and I come back feeling like a stranger. Very sad. I suppose I will need to get adjusted from the culture shock, if I ever go home for good.

Door to my parents' old office

Door to my parents’ old office. Nowadays, my aunt’s mom keeps some orchids in the pot by the door.

Contrary to what my parents and other people may think, many things can call me back home. I have so much concern about my family and a number of my relatives. Those who have entrusted their lives to Jesus, they I don’t worry; they already have everything. But the rest, they are fighting this life, fighting to gain things the world require out of them. This kind of fight, whether successful or failed, is very lonely. Though I do think and pray for them when I am away, I am never sure whether I am better doing it from home. Then, I still have to go a thousand miles to overcome some issues from my past.

Home is still home, now or in the future. And I’m thankful for the big family I have. I trust God to use this burden I bear to direct my way.