Showing posts sorted by relevance for query parenting. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query parenting. Sort by date Show all posts

12 Sept 2017

You are the best parents for your child(ren): when you don't feel very confident about being a parent

This post is for the honest people. If you believe you are doing a near-perfect job, don't hardly get any jitters, never second-guess your decisions, lose sleep or shed tears, move on to a Ted talk or Mr Brown.

This post is for the hungry. Not just a growl in the tum that is settled by a quick wolfing, but those who like to digest things a little, because I am going to try to throw together a dish that isn't often served, and you need time to taste it and examine its nutritional value.

This post is for the happy people, the folks who want to keep getting up and doing stuff better.

This post is about Parental Confidence, which comes about this way: Parental + Confidence.

So you had a baby, she came out all squirmy and the room felt like heaven's entry way. Near exhaustion, you beam as if an angel had scattered gold dust (maybe it has). Congratulations! Just remember this: parenting is never, ever, automatic. It is a decision.

Recently, dear Jason Wong of the Fatherhood Movement/Yellow Ribbon, put out a short vid about not outsourcing parenting.

But guess what? We do.

We need the income.
I need my sanity.
I can't do this.
I'm not the ...type.
My in-laws are free.
I am not a child expert.

Some of these are larger realities and we need to stand together to say 'No' to it. Why for example, does Singapore have to be one of the most expensive cities to live in?

Most of the other reasons fall like cards. A child is a life. A gift. A trust.  God has chosen you to bring her here (well planned or otherwise). It's been said, anyone can be the CEO, but only you can be the parent to your child.

We all know that the family unit is the basic building block of any society, but we don't really believe it. Or we will not be knocking it down so much. From overworked parents, to stressed out children, families have become a mimicry of the corporate or bureaucratic structures of efficiency and order. We fear losing out, we hurry, we spend most of our energies on administration.

We imbibe all the stuff we hear without thinking clearly for ourselves. This is called conformity. There is stern warning about it:

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds..." ~ Romans 12v1-2
Conformity is the enemy of originality, diversity, and of power. When we conform we hand over power. I am not anti-establishment for after all, the home is an establishment and institution. No home is ever one without the need for rules and for members to abide by them. That is not conformity, for a thriving home will have space for discussion and negotiation. The aim of the rules is not provide stability for vibrancy to flourish.

When was the last time we stopped to think if we really needed all that stuff?
Have we spent enough time to really know our child and to be able to nurture her soul?
Are our marriages dying for lack of love that is a slow and daily cultivation requiring sacrifice?

I am truly glad and almost envious for those who are created so specially to be able to build a thriving marriage, family life and work life that is all Instagram sweetness. Just that I haven't really met any in real life.

The thing is, with life, you cannot really look ahead to determine the outcomes. You also can't look back and say you ended up with the best outcome. I have successful friends who watch with anguish as their children become estranged. I have so called less-successful friends who experience the same. Equally, friends across the socio-economic spectrum have good relationships with their children and their home is a haven.

Since we can't predict or retrospect, where does that leave us?

Our values. 

I have no doubt all parents want to be the best parents they can be. What I sense is that most of us don't really know how great we can be because we never really attempted it. 

From the way society and couples go about it, I feel that parenting when placed side by side against so many other things, may not be such a high value. What we don't value, we won't make sacrifices for.

In what way have you chosen to be a parent, despite the odds?

The parenting choice is not a once-off deal too.

As the children grow, I have found that reminding myself of my scared trust is a daily necessity. It means I need to have resources to love, nurture, restore, pray, train, discipline, guide, protect, and coach.... It means that when there is strife, unhappiness, sloth, and a multitude of small and large offenses and challenges, I am still the adult who can influence the outcomes the most. I have been given a strange and marvelous power. It is a huge privilege. (I have asked God many times, why He takes the risk).

Is parenting your valued choice?

Image result for images of growing children asian

No one likes to feel like an ignoramus. But parenting can do that. It is very humbling. It's also too bad that we have forsaken our familiar networks for the nuclear family so that the load is much heavier, especially if we have other challenges.

But confidence can be grown, with time and practice. It also starts with value.

I was blessed to be number 7 in a family of 9 siblings. So I had some practice with nieces and nephews. I was also blessed to have a mother who is very skillful and adores babies. When I had my first child, my mother and my in-laws were in fact retired and available. But I valued my calling and privilege as a parent. I also know how it felt like not to have my parents available to me in my growing years. So I thanked all of them and despite discouragement, became the primary care giver and made the choice to stay-home and be the 'pastor of one' as it were (though it isn't true, folks came to my home when they needed).

Parenting is a very high value to me.

Who else does my child, chemically inclined, want to bond with so as to feel safe?
Who else is going to think through my child's needs?
Who else is going to witness the flowering of this life?
Who else is going to catch the developmental concerns as the child grows?

We need the support and help of others. But infant care and 12 hour child-care is not best way to go.

I like to think that I am one superb mom. As proof, my neighbor whom I seldom see, was startled to see me with my baby girl, and remarked that she had no idea there was a baby because she never heard crying (of course, my daughter cried, just not very much and I think it is largely due to my attentiveness).  But I have lost my confidence many times (my last post was precisely about times when we blow it. . Still, my value anchored me. I pray, forgive myself, learn, pick myself up and grow in my confidence.

Confidence comes with practice. We simply have to build it over time, hard knocks and experimentation.

I don't want to be that bewildered old person who feels awkward with her children, unsure what she has done with all the years she had as a mom, worried about loneliness or worse outcomes.
I don't want to be that parent who believes others can do a better job with my child than me, when she shares my genes and lives under my roof and longs to connect deeply with me.
I don't want to be that parent who blames school, spouse, society for how my child turns out and how she treats me.

I cannot guarantee the future, and I don't need to. I am called to live in the present, where God the I AM dwells closest to us. The present is shaped by our values, what is important to us at the eternity-moment. I am enjoying the moments of deep laughter, peace, stability and even challenges, moments that I have sown into over all the present moments of the years gone by.

It is one thing to occasionally lose confidence as a parent. It happens. It is another to relegate it away and therefore never own the parenting or grow the confidence.

And O, life is one long continuous conversation. I know some who think that they can work and earn first, then attend to the children when they are older. For the sake of the children and the future of society, I really hope the conversation did not get broken. It is hard to pick up a conversation when the sense of intimacy is lost and when the lingo is too different.

Onward parents, let's grow together in Parental Confidence. Our homes and our nation needs us.

Please share this post with every person planning to have children. 

Related posts:
 the slow cooker approach
 previous posts on parenting

2 Aug 2018

You are the best parents for your child(ren): when your kid marches to a different beat and you feel beat

I have been asked to write another parenting book. What shall I call it?

Wholesome Parenting? Or -


Which of these would you prefer as both a description of present and future reality?

Strange we somehow hold on to the idea that a child will grow steadily through the years... while we accept the cough, cold and even HFMD, we balk at so many other things, which cause us to get ditzy, complain, compare and more:

The child who -

isn't the grandparent's bright spark
incurs the ire of caregivers
ruins a teacher's patience
is often friendless
struggles at school
has learning challenges
suffers chronic health concerns

The conditions are varied. Some have labels, others seem to even defy labels.

What kind of parenting are we left with then?

Hopeful . Persistent . Struggling

In every family, the challenges are configured uniquely. When your child marches to a different beat (or can barely march), it is entangled with other issues like finances, marital unity, balancing the care of other children, personal plans and so on. These other dimensions compound the challenges.

I wanted to homeschool my children. My husband did not think it was a good idea.
The mighty teen thinks the kid brother should just snap out of it with sheer willpower.
Well-meaning relatives and friends think that prayer and healing is the key.
And I secretly hope it's just something he will grow out of...soon!

In the meantime, you are reading, sizing up, trying out stuff... and stepping on landmines!

My now-taller-than-me son still struggles with stuff he should be adept at, like knowing what homework to do and getting it done. I cannot keep him at age eight, so he is being assigned chores at home too. He needs guidance and supervision, but as a teen, he wants privacy and space. He needs discipline and direction, but he prefers distraction and de-stressing with music.

The teen years are always tough as they need to grow deeper and larger, but everything within them wants to skip the hard stuff, as if everything gets magically accomplished while they sleep till noon.

And, he gets ballistic.

This is the hardest part. He turns into a different creature. The tender, responsive child flees as the raging monster rears its head, breathing arguments, retorts and negativity. The once languid space can turn into a war zone.

And it gets really tiring.

(The cat just jumped onto the table, as if to suggest that I trade him in for another feline. I am ashamed to confess that the thought has crossed my mind, Chats).

It takes years to get to know your own child's mind and heart.

A life is not a computer program or an excel formula. My son feels like a moving target. He grows, he lapses, he churns out new challenges.

Gracious . Patient . Trying

What do you do when you child-turn-teen loses his zest for life?
You don't lose yours.
What do you do when you don't know what to do?
You do what you know to do.
What do you do when you need everyone to back you up?
You go to them and ask them for help.
What do you do when you feel like you have lost your way?
You talk to The Way, The Truth and The Life, aka Jesus.

I have learnt so much because of this uncommon child of mine.

ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia.
How other parents must struggle and need compassion.
What the school system can and cannot do.
The power of prayer
The power of words
The power of a soft reply
The power of humour
My need for others
The glory and fun of parenting done right

This morning, I was meditating on the prophet's account of how God told him to go and visit a potter.

 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” ~ Jeremiah 18v2

As he observed the potter at work on his clay project, he understood that the clay that conformed to the Potter's skilful work of moulding it as well as clay that turned out to be useless - that is decided by the Potter. The prophet had some sobering words for Israel: their response determined their destiny.

The Potter had the power to pick and choose the clay and work at it. He certainly began with an end in mind and is shaping the ill-defined lump into an object of usefulness and beauty. The transformation of that lump of clay can only happen when the Potter is able to work it and shape it.

This parenting thing, with all its endless spinning of daily routines and familiar battles... I feel as if I am the lump spinning on the wheel. It's a state I must embrace if His good design is to take shape.

It is also where I am a co-potter working on a smaller lump entrusted to my care. As the co-potter, I don't have the full picture of the final design, but at stages, I see what needs to be done, faithfully and constantly. My role is to do just that.

And as I listened to the Scripture account, I saw a dusty old space with a lightly bearded, muscled-man sitting by a Potter's wheel. A light is streaming in and the dust particles are dancing. The Potter's eyes are on the object, his hands pulled away for the moment, as if to consider his next move. I feel an invitation to sit and watch, to converse and understand.

God in his manifold wisdom is shaping me as I learn my role in shaping my children.

I really don't have full and complete certainty that I know what I am doing. I don't know the final outcome anyway. But I do know a few right things to keep doing -
Pray . Love unconditionally . Model . Listen . Set boundaries

It seems to be working... most days.

When things are blue, it is easy to blame yourself. In my case, I sometimes wonder if the financial sacrifice of staying at home was worth it. After all, if we had more money, we could have more options. But again and again, I know that any progress I make is possible largely because of the foundation of deep bond and connection we share. I can appeal to so much memories, goodness, shared love with a nod, a gesture, a knowing look. My tears deeply bother him and my prayers stir him. He may roam, but he knows where is home.

20 Jun 2018

You are the best parents for your child(ren): this thing about Legacy...

She turned 18 yesterday.

She says, "it's just another day".
The law says, "Now young lady, you may purchase alcoholic beverages and smoke and drive".
Her friends say, "time for a surprise, cards, gifts!"

Her parents, yes me and the dh, are predicatably busy and we took her to lunch with some friends who are staying with us. She shared a main course with me, didn't even need some special birthday dish of her own.

This morning, she let me read a couple of sweet cards her friends wrote her. Not to be outdone, I wrote her one, declaring it Da Best Card eva!

Someone wisely said:

we are not leaving a legacy for, we are leaving a legacy in our children.

To leave a legacy for amounts to storing up treasure to hand down. But a legacy you leave in someone, is a part of them, forever. I choose the latter (not to mention the former is a bit paltry).

Honestly, turning 18 must be a big deal. But we are tired from a busy month of work and had guests in the house. She has been studying hard for her upcoming exams...and told us not to go to any expense (see comment above).

I was feeling a tad guilty, wondering if I should have done more. I will ask her again if there is more we can do. For now, I turn to gratitude (far better than guilt friends!).

Then I realised something, as my memory kicks in.

Her birthday is for me (it sounds horribly selfish until you read on please).

The last few months, there have been very significant conversations and happenings. Even as I write this, God is giving me a birthday special for the last 18 years by showing me glimpses of who my daughter is becoming and what I have sown into her life all these years. I'll just share a few:

Last month when I was cleaning out some stuff, I took out a large box where I had kept items from their earliest days: first shoe, first dress from grandma, a favourite book... The daughter took one look and said, "Mom, give them away!".  When she was 13, I thought to take her shopping for clothes, coz most of the growing years we lived on hand-me-downs and purchases by me. After two hours of milling around, we bought two tee-shirts from Giordano and decided that talking over ice-cream was more fun.

Spiritual hunger
More than once, she comes to me with tears, wondering why God feels distant and is silent. I want to bang on God's door to demand passage for her. But he knows the journey she must take. It's a journey that began with spiritual sensitivity even at a tender age. She responded to an altar call at age three, writing to ask for the Holy Spirit. She had prophetic dreams. Then her conscience and her brains took centre-stage as she debated the merits of the faith. Yes this one who asked questions since age seven:
"Isn't it God's fault for putting the tree there in the first place?"
"How can anyone be good enough for heaven?"
"What if it's a hoax?"
We discussed, debated and opened up books and our own lives to her.

I opted for her to do a study program that is broader and she went to a Catholic school. More questions!

Thankfully she does not seem to have my melancholy, but she is very sensitive to the moods, atmosphere, needs and vibes of people and situations. She is the in-house psychologist who makes us take online personality tests so we can put each other in boxes, reminds her parents to go on dates, and worries her little head off about her kid brother who is totally unlike her, and seriously beyond her depth as a result.

She is also many things I am not and I am amazed.


She can clean better than me, take incredible photos, knit and soothe fussing children.

Ok, I still cook better.

When she was still a toddler, God told me he had entrusted an all-rounder to me, and I wondered how I would raise someone like that, my own strengths being quite limited. Quickly, I learnt that parenting is an enterprise best embarked on with God at the helm. At every turn, he assured, assisted and amazed me with His wisdom, gifts and goodness.

We had difficult times.
I made countless mistakes.
Patience wore thin on occasions.

God parented me while I parented her, for sure.

With this birthday reflection piece, I am humbled at how God grew me as a person through my parenting journey.

God also parented her, and in fact He is moving centre-stage as the perfect Parent she needs.

Yes, when reminiscing, it is true we will have a positive bias. It's not a bad thing if it inclines us to gratitude and puts hope in our hearts!

18. Having struggled and surmounted not a few mountains, it feels goo to be able to say that I have grown up with the kids. Now it's time to grow wide and older with them. (O wait, I still have a 12 year-old who is currently playing Minecraft. Tune in for his story!).

Your turn:
What glimpses of God are you getting through your parenting?Where do you see yourself in your children?How can you intentionally impart a legacy that will honour God and serve them well for the world they are to steward?

You can read more about my journey with her here:

The power of planning
It's a wild ride, enjoy it!
Media addictions
the war you must win!
How to bless your children

For all my posts of parenting, type 'parenting' in the search box on the right!

11 Apr 2019

You Are the Best Parent(s) for your child(ren): #4 Let them grow you

Recently I came across an article about Toxic Parenting.

'Toxic' seems to be the word of choice these days: toxic BGR, toxic workplace etc.... It's a harsh word, and I want to avoid it -

"containing or being poisonous... capable of causing death or serious debilitation"
 "extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful"

But alas, I have seen that humans are capable of being toxic. We may not murder a child but we can certainly kill their aspirations. We may not set out to be malicious, but being careless with our words and often too tired to really listen, we can do serious hurt to their souls. We may even set up life to veer them towards success or protect them from heartache only to find that we have hurt rather than helped them.

The human soul is fragile, vulnerable and invincible all at once.

We just need to know when it is which - and respond appropriately.

Much has been said about allowing them to develop according to their pace, and meting out expectations and consequences that fit their age and behaviour. But there is a piece that is often overlooked.

In order to grow under our shade, we need to be a growing tree ourselves.

pics from TreeNation

One form of toxicity in parenting that happens commonly, especially in Asian families is the 'father knows best', 'mother has it all under control' mantra. This form of parenting can occur quite subconsciously in a few ways:

- we are too busy to really listen and discuss things over with our children
- we are too impatient with the issues which feel unimportant to us, so we brush them off
- we are nervous that we don't have an answer, so we offer one too soon

A vivid way to see this happening is what I call the distraction tactic that so many use. When a young child fusses, we turn to a distraction - offer them a toy, point to an invisible airplane, promise them some goody later...There is a place for this with a young toddler who may not be able to manage their impulses. But some parents continue to use this even as the child grows! We change the subject, take them shopping, plan a vacation.... all the while, the pain point is not addressed.

Adults always think we are rather done with growing up, and fixate on not growing old. 

In truth, each of us is such a complex being that there are always areas and facets of us that need to mature. We may hold a post-graduate degree but be pretty infantile about some matters. We may run a successful business but struggle with anger outbursts. We may even be a religious leader but go weak in the knees when we have to manage a conflict.

This is where the children come in so wonderfully.

They grow us in generosity when we save the best piece of chicken for them.
They grow us in simplicity as we embrace the humdrum of simple days in their earliest years.
They grow us in patience when we have to repeat the same instruction which seems to slide off their teen teflon brains
They grow us in character when we have to help them navigate choices that are right for them.
They grow us in clarity when we watch as our cherished dreams come crashing as their unique personalities blossom.
They grow us in grit when we have to be the adult and model the behaviour we want to see in them.
They also grow us in courage when we may have to stand up for them and with them.
They also grow us in faith when we recognise that our parenting season has a limit, and we have to wait to see the full flower in years to come.
The list goes on...

How has your child(ren) grown you?

One thing I like to do on their birthdays is to thank them for how they are helping me to grow. The very first time I did it, their eyes were like saucers, surprised as they were that they have agency and can impact another life!

There is in fact a perfect listing of life virtues, traits of Christ that goes like this:


- and you tell me that your children don't present you the opportunity to grow in these!

In fact, which one of these is wanting to develop in you right now?

In order to let your child(ren) grow you, 2 things are needed:

1. accept your child

Not a single one of us is totally satisfied with our child(ren). I regret to inform you that this is a no-return policy! We love to play games guessing who was responsible for what gene component, which seems somewhat harmless when they are two and we want to know where the curly hair came from. But soon enough, we are talking about personality traits, habits and even automatic responses that trouble and upset us.

To just get a glimpse of my journey with these surprises, you can check these out:

When You Don't Feel Very Confident
When Your Kid Marches To A Different Drum And You Feel Beat

Thankfully, we are more than a bundle of nerves predetermined by our genes. There is the power of prayer and nurture to both call forth and even reverse genetic predispositions! In this, our children present us ongoing opportunities to grow as we search our hearts for what to pray and how to nurture.

The God of the generations marvelously sets us up to grow into and with each other. I winced when I see parents wishing their kids were different and inadvertently convey that!

If you find your child difficult, it means you expect something easier. Question that expectation. Then dig into your soul and pray for your heart to shift. The tussle must give way to a dance, for dancing is what brings momentum, joy and movement.

2. acknowledge your fears

FOMO much? Yes! I am afraid we live in an age of anxiety now. If you use distraction (shopping, socialising, travel) to avoid confronting your own fears, you really won't have much to cushion or process the fears of your children. I regret to inform you this factoid: coitus means you are an adult. Our world has made pleasure such an idol and narrowed its vision to a self-seeking version, that all forms of responsibility seem devoid of pleasure, which is a lie.

There is a satisfaction and quiet joy that comes from doing what is right, staying the course, being the adult.

But those fears, they will sneak up on you. Like the good adult you are, turn and say, "I call your bluff".

To be fair, we can have rational, legitimate fears, like Math (haha)! These too we must face and deal with. I am never going to be a Math whiz, but my children have certainly seen me nearly die trying!

What Kind of Tree Are You?  ~FreePik

I grew up in an era when we thought that the best thing we could do for our parents was study hard and get a great job. When I sensed God call me to become a pastor (what my mom considered a poor church mouse), her heart was quite broken, as was mine. The future of security and financial enjoyment I felt was the repayment for her sacrifice and love for me vanished.

But God shifted both our hearts in this matter.

Her mother love overcame her disappointment. My filial love made me determined to set up a savings account for her. In a sovereign tick-tock moment, my mother openly and cheerily said she was ready to go to church and was baptised within a few months. Our bond of human blood was thickened and strengthened by the Saviour's. We were now able to talk about many more matters, and pray together. We were looking in the same direction towards our eternal hope.

My mother did not have a chance to go to school. She grew up with great deprivation, even toxicity by our standards. But in the amazing Providence of God, she had a quality that shone: she allowed us to grow her. Instead of diminishing her authority or influence, we knew she stood her ground where certain values were concerned (I had cane marks to prove it), while at the same time, being willing to interact with our crazy growth journeys by accommodating and adjusting her schedule, priorities and resources around us. She was reliable but not rigid. She was committed but not controlling. She was encouraging but not enmeshed.

She was our oak of righteousness, and we had such a sense of safety and contentment under her large shade.

She showed us that life comes with hard things and we are not to run.
She showed us that a growth mindset primes us to overcome and succeed.
She showed us that one can always keep growing up, even as one grows older.

So yes, 5 things you must do as a parent. It's not the best childcare centre, not the cord blood, not the is:

#1 build emotional bonds
#2 provide safety and security
#3 build competence
#4 let them grow you

and watch for the last one: I won't reveal what it is yet...

23 Jan 2019

You are the best parent(s) for your child(ren): Take Care To Do These, You Must.

Every parent-child relationship is unique.

Yet all relationships thrive with the same basic ingredients.

Last year at the launch of my first children's book The Seed From Heaven, some twenty eager children, confirmed this for me as they raced to answer my question:

What makes a seed grow?

Yes they all knew - sunshine, water, fertilisers. Care. A Source that gives.

Last night I asked everyone around the dinner table to talk about their average day. Predictably, we all talked about the tasks and the events. As if we are nothing but functionaries. Yea, do you feel it too, that our conversations revolve around tasks, functions, timings? Then when you hit a pause, you feel this vast emptiness or a breathlessness? And before you can examine it, the next thing is screaming for attention?

So we move on from task to task, often not quite clear about the Why, and at times, weariness and even resentment builds up. And our best coping mechanism is to turn to our screens for distraction.

An educator shared with me how teenagers in Singapore when asked about what mattered to them, how they felt about certain things, who they deeply connect with, struggled to give coherent, convincing responses. Most of them quizzically asked if there was a 'right' answer!

Folks, we are


beings. But mostly, we Act (pun intended), and we do so without enough sensitivity to our environment: how the person is feeling, how many things we are managing at one time, what are the real costs involved (besides monetary), who may be affected in the longer-term, what is being heard and imbibed?

In Singapore (and it's spreading), when we tend to make simple equations eg. hard work = good grades, we can lose sight of so much and really mess up!

With hindsight, now that my children are 18 and 13, I believe that if we are to raise proper persons, fullsome beings, there are 5 things we must do. 5 areas we must become adept at. They aren't easy. We can protest that no one did these for us. We say 'there's no guarantee anyway'. But friends, parenting isn't easy. It's the one job you can't put a price tag on. You will tear your hair out at times, cry, be sleep deprived. worry silly... If it requires so much of us anyway, let's use the energy and make the sacrifices count!

We each have only so much energy in a day. I challenge my fellow parents to use it wisely and prudently. With your energy, would you spend it posting on Fb, creating Insta, shopping for deals, or developing your parenting wisdom and muscle? Learn to master these 5, you won't regret it.

#1 Build Emotional Bonds
I still remember asking a childcare teacher why the toddler was crying. She replied, "I don't know, she likes to cry". So I shot back, "Do you like to cry? There is always a reason."

What does an infant, a toddler, a primary school kid, a teen, an adult have in common? Emotions. The full range of it. It's just that we have to be taught the words for them, what they mean and how to master them so that they serve us.

The only way to do this is to acknowledge the emotions, connect with it and help them make sense of it. And even the infant can get this - and this is how you bond.

Emotions are ferocious things. Even adults get into tailspins from them. Affairs? Misdemeanour? Road Rage? Yup, those emotions kicked started them all.

An infant who is soothed, rocked, kissed, spoken to gently will not grow up afraid of her emotions. With each growth stage, we can teach vocabulary, coping strategies, communication skills.

You are feeling sad (to a two year old)
Tell me why are you sad (to a five year old)
What do you feel like doing when you feel this sad? (to a teen)
What is sadness really, what does it point to? (to a young adult)

The seat is saved for you, mom//dad!

When our emotions are not acknowledged, we don't connect. Cue the wife who says ruefully, "he never listens, just want to jump to a solution". Or the boss? Yes, we get it. We long for connection, to be understood, not to be fixed.

This is so foundational and so critical as connection creates a safety net.

Emotional connection is developed in myriad ways. There is a reason why the human baby is so helpless compared with all other animals. Your hug, hand-holding, pat on the back, look in the eye, gentle words, everyday things you do for them...tells the child he is not all alone in this vast and scary universe.  It tells him there is a home base he can return to after he has explored, attempted or failed.This is why it is so important not to let the maid (if you have one) do the work of caring for your child. It is easy to see feeding, diaper changing, rocking to sleep, bathing as mere chores. They are not. They are means of communicating love, affection, care, security. They say, "Your needs are valid. You are important enough for me to stop and meet your need. I want you to be clean, safe, satisfied.". They are opportunities to connect.

image from SingaporeMotherhood

Without these, parents can turn into administrators, finance officers and disciplinarians! How many of us feel a happy connection with these?

Parents, you are the real home your child needs.   

I remember that Dove once did an advertisement where they asked moms and maids questions about their young children. There was a huge outcry when the videos revealed that it was the maids who could answer

what is your child's favourite food
who is your child's best friend
what TV program does your child like to watch

I can understand the many reasons mothers go out to work and so forth. But what a sad commentary, and I fear that there may be a greater outcry later when the kids pull away from the parents or when the relationships remain largely functional and shallow.

Without oversimplification, we can see several social trends that may well be related: working women, increased anxiety in children, families characterised by stress, parents who are suing their children for neglect.

We do reap what we do
What goes round, comes round.

Fear is a bad motivator, so I prefer to tell you this: truth, fun, silliness, and authenticity characterise my relationship with my children. We are drawn to each other. There is enough safety for us to talk about our fears and flaws. As much as I pray for them, they know they can and must pray for me. We look forward to family meals and times away together. They still fight to share the bed with me. I have grown in stature and strength, wisdom and wit. I am thriving professionally.

I did not grow up with much of this. We were poor and heart-to-heart conversations were hard when your parent speaks mostly a dialect while you are more conversant in English. But I have a rich bond with my mom, and now a richer one with my children. My mom modeled amazing parenting with her limits, and I have sought to be more for I have been blessed with more.

You can start by making a simple checklist:

Have I -
_ met a physical need my child has personally with a smile
_ said something affirming and kind today
_ sat with my child quietly for a few moments
_ showered physical affection
_ observed my child carefully for her growth needs
_ done something my child enjoys

My parenting years have not been easy, especially with a back injury. There have been many sacrifices. My children were so different, I had to learn two distinct parenting styles. My marriage wasn't always strong. I have  suffered traumatic losses of loved ones. Yes, there are many fronts to battle. Forging on with some clear anchors has made all the difference. And though the entire journey, I am encouraged and enabled to take the next intentional step because there is fruit - every step of the way, and now, there is a maturing of that fruit. I look forward to the days ahead!

Your journey will be different, but the basic ingredients are the same dear fellow parent.

Please share your thoughts, and help me think stronger with any questions you have in the comments.

Watch for the next post on #2: provide a sense of safety and security: are we rich?
To be sure you don't miss it, fill in your email on the right, and the post will be in your Inbox when I post it - the wonders of technology to serve us :)

And by the way, this is how the Bible describes those who turn to God in faith:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called children of God! 
~ 1 John 3v1

23 Oct 2015

3 tips for happier pre-school years {Parenting / Family Life series}

It doesn't happen often, but yes, sometimes we do things we didn't think we would.

What have you done for the first time - because - you are a parent?


For the Explorer types, parenting can be a lot of fun because the whole world re-opens before you: books to read, places to go, that five-stone game you didn't quite master as a child...

I thrive and even find myself breathless trying to keep up with all the 'good stuff' we can do! Children's art festival, picnics, playdates, indoor and outdoor play, museums, library, wildlife Dr Seuss says, 'there's places to go and things to see'!.

Hey, if you can, don't take on a full-time job just yet, because these few precious years won't come round again, ever. The pre-school years (if you don't make the mistake of filling it up with structured enrichment) is an amazing time to bond, bond, bond!

What's the big deal with a strong, abiding bond? Things are built on it. It's called a Foundation. Loose pieces not quite fitted don't provide the same foundation.

Back to exploring, doing, going out. Just a little sense I learnt in 3 D's:

1. don't exhaust yourself.

Doing stuff is not collecting stars to say you are a better parent. Don't go rushing off to all and sundry activities. Don't get all worked up that you missed that event (especially if it's free) as you gaze at the happy faces of your friends' kids on Facebook.

Tired = grumpy = inattentive = no fun to be with!

2. develop a plan

A plan is a good way to provide some boundaries. Your plan should include: how much time/energy is required. What is the budget? How many activities per month is healthy for you? Are there specific interests or opportunities you want to seize? When my children were young, I had a chart something like this:

Interest to develop
Strength to develop
Possible explore/fun

I made a list of things to do and then see if it fitted my time/energy, budget and schedule. I also thought about whether I was genuinely interested / willing to be interested to do those things; because really, what's the point of plonking them somewhere while we are busy with our devices?

As the children grew older, I encouraged them to plan for the holidays using something similar.

Time is too precious to squander away in front of the TV or just idling. Their minds and hearts are hungry to grow and are being shaped by what they do or don't do.


3. dat was fun!

Never make the mistake of turning everything into 'learning'-- you know, quizzing them. 'So, what did you learn?'. Unfortunately, the school system will make learning take on a negative hue so you will be adding to the burden on their little shoulders. I am huge on learning so this is sometimes an area where I go overboard. I would fret if an activity wasn't really 'useful'. O what a killjoy I can be!

Children have a way of sniffing out fun and liveliness... so just relax and see the fun in it all. Besides, learning is always happening and is most effective if you are genuinely interested and invested in it.

One of our favourite memories is making a big deal of post-rain puddles. We take time to put on raincoats, pick out an umbrella...all to jump in the puddles that formed, and then coming back to a warm bath and snack. Or how about a walk to nowhere in particular for half a hour?

A cautionary note: it's very important to take note of how your child feels about changes. Some kids don't do well with changes, new activities and unfamiliar people. Clearly, that won't be fun. So don't push it. And did we say, parenting is about first-time stuff? Well, for some of us, it will be a first to be genuinely still interested in that story we have read fifty times, "sing that song again?"... Learn to enjoy a regular trip to the playground with endless minutes on the swing. Seriously, if you have a kid who loves the regular stuff over and over; it's a gift as you can actually use that as down time. {do you have any idea how hyped you are most times?}

Well, 'dat was fun!' is the attitude that goes far to bond you! Remember, happy parents produce happy children!

Of course, Explorer types are typically married to Entrenched types who prefer the world of safety, the familiar and planned-way-ahead. In the early years of parenting, the differences in a couple actually get accentuated. Very few couples agree on how to raise their kids, what to spend time on, where to go... even who to hang out with (especially if it's with 'other parents').

So yea, not always a happy camper I. But I'll talk about that another time.

Your turn:
1. What are some ways you enjoy bonding with your child(ren)?
2. If you basically an Eeyore, how can you lift your spirit and theirs up?

15 Sept 2014

Life is ...wild, and we enjoy the ride best when we get out of the engine room..and change track!

Some time around the third week of my marriage I admitted it: it is hard.

I have read the books. They all say it is hard. But I don't bow to fear. I don't cower. I don't back off.
At least that's what I thought.

These few days, I feel again that familiar weariness of laying brick-upon-brick.. and am jarred, angry, teary when it seems like sometimes the whole beautiful structure got kicked over; and I am left standing, wondering if I still want to pick up another brick and keep going. The parenting blues.

I still read the books. In fact, when my daughter was all of the mighty two-year-old, I had read this book, Parenting is a wild ride. It had a roller coaster on its cover. I am terrified of roller coasters but the picture did not deter me. I dug in. Like marriage, I jumped onto the parenting track and started chugging on, down and around.

Perhaps my mantra in life is to overcome wildness with more of the same!

But I am realising there are many kinds of wild, and that over-coming may not always be the thing that works.

I love wild mushroom soup; but all the mushroom we find in our soup cans are not grown or produced without human aid. Today, we veer perhaps towards over-intervention in our need to overcome, be on top, make things work. In fact, we are regulating, controlling, and manipulating so much these days, the wildness of God's wide world is being shrunk as species die... and are precious variants of human thriving dying out too as we tend to box ourselves and others up - today's perfect marriage and children certainly look a lot alike; all facebook happy-clappy.

Souls with skin on can come astir to surprise and shock. 
Souls with skin on can rise to heights and plunge deep and dark.
Souls with skin on are more than what appears to be.

We wish our growth is steady. That our marriages move only upward towards greater acceptance and mutuality. Our children step up towards greater responsibility and sensibility. But then we get the wildness that interrupts the dance steps and we trip into a mess.

Life is wild.  

The wildness of life seems to me to grow in direct proportion to our age. This past year I keep marveling at how after nearly half a century of 'do-ing life' I am not necessarily getting a better handle on things! Perhaps, we get tired, we have had enough... certainly, we never arrive at mastery! There is no sifu among us.

We come to a time when we must stop trying to wish for change but settle down to the giftedness of acceptance. There comes a time when a parent can only watch and pray as the children must make those life choices and watch their lives unfold.

And perhaps it is those who learn how to stop stringing moments into a showcase string of pearls enjoy it better. It is those who know little is already much, that each day is such a Grace-grant to facilitate soul-deepening that smile the broadest.

Of course, while life is breaking out all about us, making us feel a-tossed; it is easy to march to the eternal counter of accountability where we demand (yes, imagine this!) an accounting from God Himself no less! Why this, why now, why me?

Well, friends, this is because.... God is wild. 

Here is the Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition for 'wild':...not cultivated, not subject to restraint or regulation... . That's God, and that is maddening for us. 

My teen daughter this past week has been all excited about this personality profiling app she found. She made both her dad and I take the Myers-Briggs test. I almost don't recognise the excitement: of discovery, of taming, of naming. She is trying to figure life out; and she wants to figure us out too! She is behaving human par excellence!

But God doesn't fit the profile test. He has character and he is the ultimate Integer and hence Integrity; but He is wholly beyond our fully finding and knowing. So, we cannot list all His properties and 'make use' of Him. This is not to say we won't keep trying!

So we are as the old man Job said, 
'born for trouble (as surely as) sparks fly upward (Job 5v7).

This one-liner is not a statement of damnation or cold logic. It is as all truth is, an invitation to jam the brakes and consider.
Man's troubles are not an external imposition by an unhappy God. It is an internal logic that contradicts. We live in a wild world ruled by a wild God (please take care to understand this properly); but we are bent on fixing everything just-so in order to meet our needs and satisfy our wants. Can you hear the gears jamming?

What are we to do?

Get out! Yes, We need to get out of the engine room.
Stop pretending like we are in charge.
Start recognizing that "In the Beginning, God.." means God started it all, not us. We answer to Him, not the other way around.

Then we need to get on the right track. We are born with rail joiners that have fastened us to a hyper-speed track headed for oblivion. All long the way, there is an alternate track we can choose to connect with. It is the Recipient's track. On this track, we must remain in the passenger coach and take in the sights. It is the best way to travel the world because we get to see so much more. After all, didn't we begin life by receiving? The first breath, the first suckle, the first kiss..our first hopes, dreams, every-day Grace... and Love.

Then see what happens.

The engine room is a place of grave responsibility and dire control. Ultimately, there can be one final Engineer. But often, the engine room is crowded. In a marriage, a couple fights to rule and run life essentially. Strip away everything and that's the nub. Parents fight children because we are afraid our kids lose their way and get side-tracked. Our genes, sacrifices, wisdom, money says we should hang on and stand our ground in the hot stuffy engine room.

But it's all too much.

It's all too much because life is wild and we just don't have enough within us to answer every situation. If we saw our spouse and children as fellow passengers with whom we share bread and gasp at the view together with; wouldn't the ride be more wondrous? We don't have to fix, answer for, explain, cover every ground. We cannot anyway.

I still read marriage and parenting books. There are days the wildness of life still stumps me and it's all the more Grace that I can laugh, write, pray and then reach for another brick to keep building and to stay on the right track.

photo credits:

20 May 2015

Power, powerlessness,and Prayer in mothering (and 3 Qs to stare down your fears)

M is for motherhood. It is also for Mystery, misgivings, mistakes and marvelous things!

A new mom is always a good friend to an older mom - because - the older mom, has chalked up more mistakes; and she can lose the light of wonder if she is not careful! 

An older mom is a good friend to a new mom - because - the new mom is facing fears hitherto unmet; and she needs to know there are more fears to come and what seems so puzzling can be untangled with a little dexterity. 

So here is a little something from an older mom to my younger mom friends (and my older mom friends who agree & may need a little reminding :) 

With mommy-ing, you have stumbled upon an awesome power. It begins with the marvel that a life is being formed within you each living, brehting moment. As you cradle and care for the budding life, you get to see now that you can literally lift and shape a soul... and soon enough, you have those moments when you have feel you could go the other way and wreck it: when you lose it, when you are not sure what to do, when nothing seems to go right? Those days when your fears, anxieties and guilt bundle up and nearly suffocate you? 

Moms live with this strange tension of being powerful and powerless at the same time. 

And then, there are fears. 

Remember when you thought you crossed a threshold, jumped a hoop... you find something else coming around the bend. When they were small, I was afraid they didn't drink enough, eat properly, sleep safely through the night. They grew through all of that. Then -
I was afraid of nasty bug bits that left large painful welts, accidents, stranger saying strange things to my kids, other kids who may bully... 
Then I was afraid that she would be lonely, awkward, too strong, too meek...
I was afraid that she would be last in class, lose her things (for the tenth time), feel too stressed, not feel motivation, not really learn, not enjoy herself...become rude, selfish, mean..
I was afraid she would dislike church (waiting so long for us always), be mad at God for stuff that happened, live with cray expectations as a pastor's child...
I was afraid that she would not develop with gender confidence; feel weird around boys...mix with the wrong company...
I was afraid that she would develop an attitude, acne, act up.

 I see it now with trained eyes -- the fears won't end.
But -

fears can be fabulous things. Yes, really. Fear tells you what matters. And, Mothering matters; a lot. A mother who studies her fears and picks her battles is leaning into her maternal shape, hollowed out by trying one-more-time: a magnificent shape that cuddles, coddles, coaxes and coaches another little budding soul into ferocity (boy) and flower (girl).

You can stare down your fears. Like Max here:

where the wild things are {click to enjoy this video version of the famous children's book}

The supper was there, and it was still hot.

I am sure us moms will do just that. Feed our kids hot food even though we were fuming bad... and God our Father does the same. The food of our mothering joy may be delayed due to our silly antics; giving rise to many fears... but He will yet have a hot supper waiting for us.

What we need to learn is that when the fears come with the scary eyes, claws and teeth; we need to look at them squarely and take charge -- not of the child -- but of ourselves!

The answer to Parenting-power lies in managing oneself. 

I learnt that the fears will step back, quieten, and not be able to lay claim to me if I sought for the right answers through asking the right Questions -- nothing cuts through the fog like an incisive question, and nothing clarifies and emboldens like an honest answer.

Here are 3 questions to help take the bite and bloodiness out of the battle.

Q1: what is it I truly value and am afraid of losing here?

Every battle is energized by what it is afraid of losing. Will are you afraid of losing in this situation? Is it worth the battle? Will you really lose what truly counts? 

When I have asked this Q, I often find that what mattered most to me was the quality of the relationship: is there honour? is there honesty? is there humour?  I see what is at stake and recognise that things are not as messy or serious as I initially feel.

Q2: what can i really do about it?

It's good they eat all their greens and follow their routines. But is it fair for this particular child? Every child is a unique human person. What are my options with this child? What difference can i actually make at this point? How can this be done without jeopardising what truly matters? 
Do i need to learn a new way to think/feel/speak in order to make the right difference?

Q3: what am i really praying for?

Most of us pray 'rescue me' prayers. If we rescued our kids from every predicament; they will never grow. Why do we expect God to rescue us, when He wants to train us?

Also, are we praying for what truly matters? Good weather, the ability to handle the exam is all good. But what of creative solutions when caught in the rain and an excellent attitude to learning and revision? 

Rescue prayers happen because we are going so fast we step into potholes we did not anticipate. 

This is why reading, prayer, reflection, and talking to other parents are all very necessary parts of the parenting journey. It is far too easy to just shuffle between work and home, just catching one's breath. It is equally easy to be bogged down by meals, deals, and squeals (of protest) that we get all fogged up and end up drained and ineffectual. 

The only way is to slow down - enough - to pray through the first two questions and forge a constructive path ahead.  Slowing down also allows us to recall assurances God has he given so far, and to anchor back onto the larger movements of the Spirit that persists: God is faithful, and though the way is jagged and strewn with the debris of our mistakes, the journey is shaping up and the life is unfolding yet.

Just this month, older moms have shared with me children's graduation, awards, marriage. These same kids have driven these moms near crazy. As one mom put it, "...still remember bringing him to different schools to get somebody to take him in and even dragged him to take IQ tests to make sure he has no learning disability....But now, wow!".

Prayer is all the more a lifeline if you
 feel alone in your parenting. Your spouse may not quite get your values or plans. The Bible included a lovely story of  a mom and a grandma who knows all about that. 

They were the grandma and mom of a young man. His name is Timothy. Yes, the one in the Bible, the spiritual son of the great apostle Paul, the young pastor who did not quite have the stomach - physically; and for strong personalities, and sometimes felt pretty unsure about what he is meant to do... Yet, Timothy was a man of faith and he was pastor of young churches needing a faithful, wise shepherd. It may seem unlikely; but he was the man of the hour.

Timothy was born into an inter-faith family. From what we can glean, his dad was a regular Greek guy which mean myth, religion, hedonism and possible some chauvinism too. But Timothy had a grandma and mom who were Jews and devout ones at that.

4 amazing things* emerged from his life story, which we do well to remember:

1. It's really important for children to know the Scriptures from the earliest age.
2. It's really important to keep parenting - especially when the going gets tough. 
3. It's really amazing how an ordinary faith can lead to great usefulness. 
4. It's really amazing how our kids can turn out, despite all the obstacles.
 Points 1 and 2 are instructional. Points 2 and 4 are sooooo inspiring!

Slow down, pray, ask good questions, stare down your fears.

Mother on valiantly --

knowing you are shaping a soul one day at a time, one determined smile at a time, one teary conversation at a time, one more sacrifice, at a time.

And if you need a fika, arrange for one!

*adapted from

29 Dec 2017

My 2017 best-thoughts about life, parenting, church...

It's Monsoon season in the tropics, with plenty of rainfall. This means a pretty low season for getting out to the beach. So we headed did that for two reasons. One, it's always more restful to avoid the crowds, and secondly, the son had written in his list of post-exam delights, a visit to a beach. I know Singapore is an island, but our beaches aren't very pleasant. The sand is coarse, it's really humid, and when you look at the horizon, all you see are cargo ships which isn't a pretty sight. So, we drove the nearly two hours towards the East Coast of Malaysia to Desaru and checked ourselves into a space that was (I found out later) recently renovated. God mercifully gave us a good bit of sunshine and held the rain back so we could be at the beach. The kids read on swings hung from large tree branches or on the deck chairs.

But after a while, we simply could not resist the call of the wind and the waves. We aren't exactly sun and surf beings, but the waves' insistent pounding on the beach with its roar, beckoned us to venture towards the bit of South China Sea right at our feet.

First, we gingerly walked around the edges where the water reached the shore. Then we jumped into the waves. Then we sat on the beach and waited for the waves to come and crash us over! A slow submission to the forces of created order.

O my, what fun!

Will it be a large, strong wave that will knock us over?
How far out should we try to walk out?
Is it a good idea to perch on this rock and wait to be awashed with sea water?

There is something thrilling about being in nature and having a sport with it. Some of the most luminous pictures and writing have come to us from men and women who did not see nature as resource or entertainment, but as a world to enter in, investigate, relish and respond to.

There was something primal, basic, and simple to our joy at wave-play.

Now as I am contemplating my year soon ending, the year ahead and what to write, the memory of the waves returns to me and I smile.

This image though is of a gentler wave.

The kind that grows with the wind and momentum and then slows as it approaches shore, landing as a gentle crest on the sand. This kind of wave will not catch or knock anyone over who had their backs turned. It will not threaten to drag anyone who was playing idly by the shore out to sea. It comes in and softly caresses the shore, leaving it smoother and cleaner.

This is what I hope to do in this post. Be a gentle wave.

There is so much on my heart and in my head as the year draws to a close. Most years past, I have written about the Hope of  New in a New Year. But somehow, this year, that's not forthcoming.  Instead, I want to offer some of my thoughts this year about several subjects that always occupy me, and perhaps they occupy you too.

So this blog is about the wind and forces of God this year - in my thoughts. As a person with an active mind, I always have some new and unfinished thinking going on. I confess that they aren't always what I call 'high, holy or happy' - the ditty I used to help my son apply Philippians 4v8:

"... brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things"

We like to think that our thoughts are private, shy or secretive affairs. But they aren't. Although no one can read our minds or really tell our thoughts, they become public eventually because thoughts are the words and actions that are waiting to emerge. Indeed, the world is constantly shaped by thoughts that are being communicated, often without the actual articulation of the thought.

A relationship isn't going anywhere because the thoughts about it aren't.
That problematic situation doesn't improve because the thoughts about it are unchanged.
A dream doesn't transpire because the thoughts have not moved from ideal to action.

We are able to think ourselves into traps, corners and caves. I have enough thought experience by now that I can rather quickly tell of I am following a thought down a trail that is dark and disabling. Some lead to familiar trails that seem comfortable but are really discouraging and lead to a miry bog. When these happen, it usually ends up that I speak and act and serve muddy pies rather that life-giving delights.

Humans are presumably the only creatures in Kingdom Animaliae that can examine our thoughts.

So I want to learn to think my thoughts in God's grand presence. This means taking my thoughts to the Light and letting what is really happening be revealed. At times I have to question a thought that comes and then decide if I will bother with it. At other times, the synapses fire away so quickly, I have to check it against His Word and allow his forces of truth and grace to chisel away so that the edifices they become are more noble than otherwise.

So here are some of my hopefully, Light-infused thoughts on several subjects close to my heart.

I am writing this for myself. As you read it, I hope it works like a gentle wave that comes upon you and leaves your heart and mind feeling better. You are welcome to share it, highlighting the bits you found useful or meaningful.

A] 'Perfect' Parenting

A young adult who teaches Secondary School was talking with me about parenting. She concedes that it is really hard in a society like Singapore where we have been raised on a narrative of "win or lose it all". For the longest time, the older generation of politicians have been telling us how vulnerable we are, the need to plug into the world and be open to the gales of change, how we need to keep paddling to stay afloat. Socially, this has spurned the famous kiasu culture, where there is a fear of losing out. In a largely consumer world, this tallies nicely with another set of value: "get the most for whatever you pay". Successful bargains and great deals are a point of pride.... "Only forty dollars!"

No wonder parenting is so tough.

We need to capture and maximise our child's potential. We must not lose out, but have to grab all those opportunities. We have to get to that mega sale. Did that article say 'prebiotic'?

All of it requires energy, time, and money. The last one itself, money, requires substantial time and energy to generate! It will be great if we can decide that one enrichment class, a birthday party and a new outfit during Chinese New Year were enough. But we don't know where the finishing line is. New products and classes are always been advertised.

Yet deep in our souls, we still feel like we owe our children something. We simply cannot ensure their happiness or their success. Many women also struggle with mom-guilt at being away from home due to work.

We are driven by fear.

The funny thing is, children are happy when life has a structure and the parents are happy. It's really quite simple. But we have buried this simple thing under layers and layers of needs, demands, expectations and discontent. Our fears and worries do not a happy home or child make!

Things tend to atrophy when not actively tended to (fires die down, interest wanes, muscles weaken), then someone must take charge to build up the children and that includes building a home that has structure and peace.

That aside, 'perfect' parenting can happen if we stick to one other simple rule: respond to the child you have, not the one you wished you have. We are called to raise our children, not our dreams.

At some point, our kids will challenge our proud parent moments and make them feel like so much empty froth. They don't like to read, struggle to sit still, soil their pants at five, are awkward and shy, aren't athletic, have a fear of the water, gag on their vegetables. This is before they are a bundle of angst, question your authority and integrity, sulk and talk back!

I think the perfect parent is the one who will take a step back and look realistically at the situation, find strength in God, say "this too is a gift", and courageously head on to deal with it patiently and sacrificially.

Being child-centric is not creating a world that revolves around the child's whims and tantrums. It is a commitment to get to know your child and build a world that supports his humanity and his growth as a person first, then some possible talent or occupation. Being child-centric actually requires us to be family-centric too, for a child by design, is born into a system and thrives when the system is functional and healthy.

B] 'Perfect' church

Phil and I are very privileged to be friends with, and work with so many churches in Singapore and a few in the region. It gives us insights and a bird's eye view of things.

The church in Singapore has seen growth in the last few decades but now confront some serious challenges. We are seeing a generational divide as the millennials grow up in a vastly different world than us. Some are disenfranchised with the church. New churches have sprung up. We have serious cultural and theological conundrums, from gender issues to family discipleship.

They used to say that if you do the same things, you get the same results. I suspect that if we do the same things, we may not get any results.

It is time to consider our ways, examine our philosophy and broaden our understanding.

The church is in need of renewal.

We need to find a way for people to encounter God, to dig the Word, to be embedded in community, to be exercised in meaningful engagement with society. We need to create a way for leadership development and succession and mission expressions that are more organic. We need champions for each of this. Yet, we need a way that won't see us running all over the place, with loyalties and commitment stretched too thin to really matter.

We need brave men and women and institutions who will confront the tough stuff, and thankfully we do have them!

Online realities have emboldened many to share emotional wounds, and we  need a way for those who are seeking and are hurt to find healing. It's hard to start over in a new community, yet this is exactly what is needed. We need to help our people be more resilient and accepting of the tough stuff of community, including embracing those who need a great deal of care and patience before they turn a corner and mature.

We are being challenged to stop turning to programs, and to start being the people of God.

Seeking our definition as as people will be an ongoing journey. Our identity is lived out in context. We are loving, pure, gracious, Christlike as we respond to our situations. Our calling and impact too is worked out in context. Hence the tendency we have to hark back to a time where the church was pristine is a rather immature approach. We can and must certainly examine Scripture to see the qualities that the first disciples had. Their radical faith, courage, commitment and witness must be our compass. We need to ask how these qualities of the faith-life are to be nurtured and lived out today in our settings.

The people of God is a fascinating mix of maturity, talents, convictions and expressions. Our unity and one-ness is found in the deeper regions of the mystery of our faith: that Christ has saved us and lives in us. It is this one Christ that is our unity. Today, there is much to divide the people of God. The LGBTQ issue, Israel, Trump, and I hear of old wars regarding hymns and choruses being revisited! Let's face it, centrifugal forces are always at work. The faster we spin, the easier we fly outwards, away from centre and each other.

We need to stop being slaves to efficiency, quick answers and fast solutions.

If a plant has a sore, is a little shaky or has suffered, we do not drown it with more water, overwhelm it with fertilizer or simply re-pot it. It is needing some tender, loving care. That is exactly what the head of the church wants to do. He needs many husbandman who are willing to be his eyes, mouth, hands and feet.

C] 'Perfect' Peace

Soul, are you well?

This question can feel like an invitation, an interrogation or a threat. It all depends on how you hear it.

The person who must measure up feels a threat, suggesting he does not.
The person who has been dodgy feels like he is being searched.
The person who knows that he is welcome and his soul is a treasure hears tenderness.

The shape and texture of our Christianity matters.

Some are habitually thankful, some are constantly worrying, some are like yo-yo's. But of course we only see what's apparent. I am mostly thankful, but I do worry, and emotionally I have my yo-yo moments for sure.

During a personal retreat, I decided to do a little artwork. The first thing that I wanted on the paper was a thick red line. Not usually one given to invoke the blood of Christ, I found myself somehow relating that line to the blood that was shed for my salvation. Along and around the line, I drew trails and paths I had taken. Some seem pretty straightforward, some meandered and plunged and one or two thinned out because I had no idea where they led. It seemed the thick red line flowed right through it all and in a way called it all back and held it all.

This is peace - that He holds the pieces.

Since I keep forgetting this truth, I need to remind my soul often of it. But it's not a mind-over-matter exercise, because in the end, our minds really do matter because they have several tendencies that can undermine us. We like to think the same thoughts, it's comforting for us. So worries begat worries. We seek out information that confirms what we think, again it's comforting for us. So doubts and suspicion are easily reinforced.

So simply to tell ourselves to quit worrying is like trying to speak gently into a swell. There's an entire chorus going on in our heads that will drown out our good intentions and earnest declarations.

In my upcoming book, I will share how silence is the key to disrupt our minds and lay out new tracks for our thought-trains. But because we awake with thoughts and basically never really stop thinking, the Bible has called us to be intentional about what we think on. With that, I end this piece on my thoughts, about thoughts:

In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. (Good News Bible)

Consider the fruit of this over time, for your family life, your church, and the state of your soul. May we be more perfect* in 2018!

*perfection is a Wesleyan theological idea, of being made more like Christ.