Friday, November 26, 2010


It will be our 4.5 wedding anniversary tomorrow. And you know I have this thing about anniversaries.

To be honest, I don't really keep track of anniversaries. Most days, I don't even know what date it is.

What I do is I create anniversaries when I need excuses to celebrate. Like when I want to bake a cake, or eat salmon, or share a sweet story about Hans.

This is how it works: I look at the calendar, discover that tomorrow is the 27th (we were married on May 27), do a little more calculation -- and voilĂ ! We have an anniversary!

A while ago, we went to pick someone up at the airport. We were behind a fancy black limousine as we approached the terminal. I was quite amused by the chauffeur in his slick, black uniform climbing in and out of the car opening and closing doors for his patrons. Daydreaming, I said, "mmmm... maybe I'll have a chauffeur in heaven."

Hans turned to look at me, squinted his eyes, and said, "How is that different from now? You don't even drive!"

And he is right.
In fact, I don't open or close my doors anymore.
He even has Emeth trained to open my door and offer his hand to me.

Oh I remember the days when I was so embarrassed that my gentleman-friend opened all the doors for me. It took my pig-headed skull a while to understand that he knew that I knew how to open doors (imagine that!). That he actually enjoyed serving me. That he did this to honor me.

He promised to remain my chauffeur when we get to heaven. I doubt that I would need his service much at all; I am guessing we will mostly be traveling on foot. I only consented to keep him close.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Things I Learned While Purging

A helpful step towards simplicity -- purging.
Here are some of the things I've been learning:

1. Purging can be fun, and a little addicting.
There lies a great satisfaction in seeing empty hangers and precious space.

2. The best part: The process requires me to be really, really picky.
Too small? Purge!
Too little? Purge!
Too many? Purge!
Too much? Purge!
Just plain ugly? Purge!
I haven't worn this for over a year. Purge!
There is always something else I would rather wear. Purge!

3. I had way, way too many turtlenecks.
Three white ones, two black, dark blue, gray, brown, purple, burgundy.

4. Two pregnancies and two births later, my body has changed (no, I did not just learn this). And I decided that I don't like wearing turtlenecks anymore. Purge!

5. I like saying "Purge!" in my head (maybe this is the best part).
It makes me feel powerful. It's like saying to that piece of clothing "I refuse to be bound by you. Christ is my perfect covering. I do not need you. You mean nothing to me." Fun times, do you see? A little over the top, I realized, but it works to keep things moving along.

6. Black is not always slimming.

7. Fact about purging: Out of sight, out of mind.
I've purged about a third of my wardrobe, and not once did I think, "Oh, I wish I still have that!" Honestly, I can't recall most of the things I've purged.

8. Clothes no longer look attractive after the purge.
I saw some of the clothes I had donated hanging at the thrift store, and there was no part in me that found them at all desirable.

9. I kept many things "just in case I need them in the future."
I kept an ugly black skirt just in case I needed to go to a funeral.

10. I was surprised by how easy it was to get rid of some things, and how hard it was to get rid of others.

 Christmas 1999

11. Things I found most difficult to purge were clothes that had been with me the longest.
You see that red skirt? And that brown top Evelyn is wearing? I still have those. The skirt because it reminds me of the last Christmas and Chinese New Year I celebrated in Malaysia (where all Christmas trees were fake). It also reminds me of the time when I turned down my dear friend Wini who wanted to borrow the skirt when it was still brand new (you can borrow it now, Wini!). As for the brown top, it was a present from Evelyn. These are happy, happy memories.
Among my other relics are a few long-sleeves shirts that Ma and Pa packed for me. They feared that I would be cold in the US.

12. I have the same struggle with some of my unrepentant sins -- the sins most difficult to purge are those that have been with me the longest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the squirrels' lunch under the glowing trees

The other day, I asked Emeth to be quiet (by toning down his voice) because Yohanan finally fell asleep. The sweet big brother that he is responded obediently to my instruction...

Mommy, Emeth quiet!
Good job, Emeth! Thank you for being quiet.

(a few seconds later)

Mommy, Emeth quiet; Hanan sleeping!
Good job, little bear!

(a few seconds later)

Mommy? Emeth quiet!
*sigh* ...

When I think I am humble, I am not.
Because humility is not a virtue to be spotted in oneself. When I prize my moment of humility, I can be sure that it quickly turns into something else. A humble person would not be thinking about herself at all. 

When I think I am wise, I am not.
Because wisdom completely trusts in God's instruction, not my own understanding. Wisdom loves correction and rebuke (is this even humanly possible? I mean, really). Wisdom recognizes oneself as a fool.

When I think I am being patient, am I or am I not?

There was a time when I thought I was patient. I did not mind traffic jams. Long waits in lines and airports did not bother me. And then, I became a mom. And then, I became a mom of two. There are days I look at myself, or worse -- listen to the tone of my voice -- and wonder whether there was ever that patient version of me. I had no idea what I was talking about.

I was outside with the boys the other day, for the autumn sunshine and dancing leaves. There was no agenda, no where to be. Emeth cooked with sticks and stones -- "squirrels' lunch," he declared. The sky was round and golden at that hour, like the whole wheat cookies I baked this morning, speckled with bittersweet chocolate.

Under those glowing trees, I think I caught a whiff of patience. Long-sufferance was definitely not on my mind -- it was no suffering at all!

Emeth is quiet when his attention is directed away from himself. He is most quiet when he stands by the window looking for the moon, singing about twinkling stars. Likewise, we draw near to humility when we fix our hearts on loving our neighbors; we approach wisdom when we fear the Lord. Perhaps patience can be gained the same way.

Soul, look away from self,
Look away from my schedule, my rules, my goals, my comfort,
Soul, lift your eyes to the hills.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Bearing Faces

I think I must have had a nose complex as a child. I spent too many of my waking hours pinching it, hoping it would "grow" a little higher.

When I was teaching in the juvenile justice facilities, my favorite way to break the ice was to show the girls a trick.

I showed them how I can touch both my eyes at the same time, with a pen across my face.

Now, you have to know that these are some intimidating girls. They've seen too much in their short lives to be easily impressed. But there they were -- a bunch of young criminals with pens across their faces, baffled that they can't do this simple trick. "How can anyone's nose could be so flat?!" they exclaimed. Sometimes, I would even get a few laughs.

At least this nose is good for something.

Confession. I almost immediately checked Emeth's nose when he was placed in my arms. I wasn't even really thinking about it, but I remember looking. When we called my sister Catherine to tell her the good news, the first question she asked: "so, whose nose did he get?" I found it tragic that she knew I cared.

But yes, he did. Emeth did get my nose. And so did Yohanan.

Hans thinks it's cute, but he is my husband.

Genetic inheritance is quite a fascinating, delightful thing. People naturally look for resemblances between parents and children. They love to give their (very strong) opinions about who the children look like -- more like mommy or daddy? Grandpa or grandma? I know I enjoy seeing my friends' faces in their children. I love seeing my beloved's likeness in our sons.

As I watch the boys sleep, I force my mind to contemplate this truth: In much deeper ways, my children resemble their Creator.

This baffles me. These little people that I cradle with their runny noses, yummy cheeks, teary eyes -- look like God.

He made them,
in his likeness.
They bear his face.

Long ago, a group of petty men asked Jesus whether they should pay taxes. Jesus asked to see a coin. "Whose image is this?" he asked. "Caesar's," they answered. Then he said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” He was telling them to give up much more than just taxes here.

Soul, you are a creature,
He made you,
in his likeness.
You bear his face.