Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

via Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

I’ve just finished reading a novel, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. It’s about this mentally disabled man, Charlie Gordon, who undergoes brain surgery as part of an experiment and becomes a genius. The entire novel then focuses on this seemingly scientific breakthrough, but I won’t tell more because I may write a proper review of the book soon.

Today’s prompt and the novel have got me wondering when I last experienced a breakthrough of any kind — mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. I suppose when it comes to the physical, learning that I have silent reflux was one.

But I think it’s been a while since I’ve had a mental or spiritual breakthrough. You know, those moments, when you’re doing something mundane like sweeping the floor, and suddenly an epiphany comes to you about a question or problem that’s been bugging you for weeks. That lightbulb moment, when the little pieces fit together and make sense as a whole, or the dark clouds part to reveal the joyous sunshine.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve not been actually looking out for a lightbulb moment. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have an issue or problem to deal with in the first place. Not at this time, anyway. Is this a good thing? Or should we persist in challenging ourselves to greater heights — to always be asking and learning and trying, lest we drift in the doldrums of complacency.

But what if I’m just in a good place and time right now?

Habit tracker: Week 1/4; Post 2/5

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A Writing Challenge and Today’s Daily Prompt: Value

via Daily Prompt: Value

Sometime last week, I came across a podcast by Jeff Goins on the benefits of writing or blogging consistently. Basically, he encouraged the habit of writing daily. It was a simple podcast with easy-to-remember points, but it was enough to challenge me.

I call myself a writer, but my writing habit is shameful. This is my current “habit”: I write when I have to. I do write in my journal almost every day, but lately even that has slacked. After the podcast and the Twelve Strands book, I’m left with one question:

Just how much do I value this gift of writing?

At this time, my lifestyle doesn’t reflect the value in which I claim to esteem writing. So either its value needs to be re-assessed, which could lead to my dropping the pen altogether, or the lifestyle needs a-changing.

I still value writing enough not to give it up entirely. So lifestyle it is.

This October, I’m going to use this blog to kick-start this daily habit. These are the guidelines:

  • I will set aside 30 minutes to writing a blog post
  • I choose to commit to writing 5 days a week
  • I will mostly rely on these daily prompts, but will attempt a weekly unprompted post
  • I choose to make this habit-builder challenge public because as Goins also points out, going public will keep me accountable

I will probably address the usual interests of writing, books, family life, and faith. But since the primary goal is simply to oil this rusting habit, I shall not restrict myself and go with the flow.

I hope you’ll bear with me if the posts are sub-par in content, or if the topics are too wide-ranging. But if I don’t at least try, I may never improve in quality or quantity. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover my voice or niche by November.

Habit tracker: Week – 1/4, Post – 1/5

Book Review: Twelve Strands

twelvestrands_frontcover_300Title: Twelve Strands: Journeys with Asian Authors

Editor: Bernice Lee

Publisher: Graceworks

Price: SGD 15 (paperback) / SGD 11.20 (ebook)

 

Like many of my peers, I grew up on a diet of Western literature. From Enid Blyton to Jane Austen to Mark Twain to C.S. Lewis, these are some of countless works that millions over the world know. But when it comes to local literature, as it is in many developing countries, the numbers were few.

Thankfully today, we see marked growth in local literature across nations, and it is an exciting season. It is out of this that Twelve Strands presents the life stories of 12 Asian authors who all share one thing — the almost compulsive need to write.

Each author hails from a different country: Bangladesh, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines, to name a few. Some lived and breathed words from adolescence, others discovered them along the way. Some write children’s books, others pen essays, and still others produce evangelical materials and devotionals. One underlying gold thread weaves through all 12 stories — the call of God to the written word.

Although I connected with a few writing styles better than others, each tale was so particular to the author as a person that none should be discounted. It was fascinating to learn how circumstances that appear non-cohesive eventually come together. That’s not to say that the journeys were perfect or complete. Many rejections and dejection were experienced, and while several now happily declare their niches, few are still riddled with uncertainty. But through it all, God was faithful in leading them to their calling as writers.

This collection also opened my eyes to the literary opportunities to be had in the developing world. Growing up on Western literature was not a bad thing; I’ve gleaned invaluable wisdom from them. But now I also see that we have just as much to offer. Building up the local industry may be a difficult undertaking with all the grooming and honing and polishing still needed, but it is a worthy pursuit.

Twelve Strands was a light read that spoke volumes, because it has caused me to reflect on my own response to the call to write. Firstly, it comforted me to know that I am not alone in this journey. Secondly, it cleared my doubts and inspired me to keep going and, more importantly, to trust God more. He knows my future and where I should be going.

I believe Twelve Strands will also resonate with the general reader and not just the writer. Each of us are given a specific calling or gift, and this book affirms that whatever it is, if it is God-ordained, you can be sure that He will be there beside you bringing you and your good work to completion. It may take years and a few trials, but ultimately, God is the Author, and His stories are always the best.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book gratis from Graceworks, in exchange for an honest and independent review. The opinions are entirely my  own. If you’d like me to review your book, drop me a note here.

The Happy Unpredictable

One day while I was in the midst of an uneventful chore — I can’t remember now, probably folding laundry — I sat up with sudden realization that I’ve not blogged in a while.

What has it been? Weeks?

I looked at the calendar and counted five months. I had a mini heart attack.

This is an unusual occurrence for me. Well actually, writing blog posts between extremely long intervals of time is not unusual. But in those intervals, the unchecked to-do will haunt me constantly.

You have not been writing. You have not blogged. You still haven’t written that post. You have not blogged.

The inner nagger will haunt until I surrender and offer a sacrificial post to appease  it.

This time, though, I was not haunted. I clean straight forgot I had a blog.

I then discovered that I clean straight forgot a few other things, too. Sunrise and sunset, I slept and I awoke, and I let the days slip into months without realizing it at all. This was particularly disconcerting because this year, I had been more intentional with my work, projects and time. So I was really baffled how I could have overlooked so much without missing them.

What happened? 

And then it dawned on me that something did happen five months ago. Something good. Something so good that it outshone almost everything else the minute it happened.

I got pregnant.

I cannot quite explain why this could have caused the lapse in memory. The pregnancy was anticipated. But I believe it’s because I was keeping my pregnancy a secret initially (except from family and close friends), and somehow that seal of silence inadvertently extended to other things like this blog.

It’s like, this was one of the BIGGEST and most exciting news to write about and yet I couldn’t. And other possible topics just didn’t seem as worthy. So I paused writing for a while, and in time this blog got neglected.

Upon this realization, I had to accept that my plans for this year didn’t turn out the way I expected. Yes, I now have to catch up on certain things to meet deadlines and prepare for the baby’s arrival. Yes, five months is a substantial loss of time.

But in the end, I’m not disappointed. Loss of time in plans meant gain of time in something else that may turn out to be of more value in the long run. I had let life happen. And life has proven itself to be an unpredictable but happy journey.

How I Came to Learn that I Have Silent Reflux

Have you heard about acid reflux? That’s when you have that odd feeling of indigestion or heartburn after stuffing your face with a bit too much food.

For some people, it’s not a one-off thing. When it’s chronic, it’s called GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). It’s a digestive disorder that affects the sphincter, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach. When the sphincter isn’t working properly, then the stomach’s acid and food ‘burp’ back into the esophagus.

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is similar to GERD in its cause. But the symptoms are not commonly affiliated to acid reflux. That’s why its other name is Silent Reflux, because many may not even know they have the condition. Like me.

My development of silent reflux was gradual and over several years. There were countless moments of anxiety from not knowing what I had. So I’m sharing my story in case it could spare someone else that same anxiety.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Pattern

ThePattern_frontcoverweb_300Title: The Pattern: Discovering God’s Design for Marriage

Author: Dev Menon

Publisher: Graceworks

Price: SGD 12

 

Lately, there seems to be renewed discussions on the institution of marriage. The discourse goes beyond the “how-tos” of communication skills and financial management. Instead, it goes behind the scenes, focusing on ideas and principles that shape one’s view of matrimony. The common conclusion is that ultimately, marriage is to glorify God and testify to the gospel of Christ.

In his latest book, The Pattern, author and minister Dev Menon explores that same line of thought. But The Pattern is not just about what a God-glorifying union should look like. It hopes to reveal that an authentic, successful marriage is dependent on a proper understanding of God Himself.

Almost from the get-go, 1 Corinthians 11:3 is introduced, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (ESV).

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Reflections on March

Ah yes, the start of another month, and the end of the first quarter of 2016. Time flies, so on and so forth.

This year, I’m learning to break things down to smaller goals. One method is monthly reflections. So before I get lost in April, here’s an evaluation of March.

March turned out to be a month of realignment. It started from a need to do a juice cleanse. I was feeling sluggish, and pimples were breaking out – sure signs that my body was not at its optimum health. So a detox was needed.

From there, I noted other parts of my life that possibly needed a detox. There was a sense of confusion mentally. I was trying to figure out my next career steps, and had to deal with the unsettledness that comes with a nomadic lifestyle. So I needed to take stock of things, cut out the noise, and refocus.

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Book Review: Wherever You Go

P1070290 cropTitle:
Wherever You Go: A Conversation About Life, Faith & Courage

Author: Hannah Lau

Publisher: Graceworks

Retail Price: SGD 22 / RM 59.90

 

When a vision of God first captures us, we are often taken up with excitement, confident that the journey ahead would be filled with wonder and glory. But the truth is that fulfilling our calling is not a bed of roses. There will be seasons when it gets exhausting and confusing, and that is when our faith is stretched and tested.

Author Hannah Lau tackles this very challenge in her debut novel Wherever You Go, a work of fiction based on her own experience. The tale unfolds through the email correspondence of two young women, and delves into what it means to follow your dreams with courage.

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The Day I Saw Need at the Supermarket

Seeing that this Saturday is the World Day of Social Justice, and in light of the current debate on a certain plan to recruit 1.5 million foreign laborers into Malaysia, I thought sharing this post would be timely. The encounter below happened in Singapore and was recorded in late 2015.

Disclaimer: This post does not mean that I endorse the government’s plan. I suspect they’re doing it for ulterior motives and we should critique it wisely. But I hope that this would help put a face to the foreign workers already in our neighborhood.

It was Monday afternoon and I was buying groceries for the week.

Happily I carried my basket of greens and meat to the counter. As the cashier scanned and bagged the items, I looked at the SG50 cash vouchers inside my purse, wondering if I should use them. The bill came up to $43.75. My fingers grabbed $40 worth of vouchers and passed it to the cashier. I fished in my purse for cash to pay the balance and looked up. That’s when I saw it.

As the cashier laid the vouchers out to verify them, a pair of eyes were staring at them. They belonged to the customer behind me – a foreigner, probably a Bangladeshi. He was obviously a blue collar worker. His blue polo shirt was faded, his jeans worn, and his slippers and feet dusty. And he looked tired. In pure awe and hunger, he looked at my vouchers, his own hand clinging to crumpled $2 notes ready to pay for his one carton of eggs.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year – According to Me

Ah, Chinese New Year. Or Lunar New Year, as it’s more commonly known in the rest of the world. ‘Tis another season of travelling and feasting. Homes are filled with the happy cacophony of relatives and visitors. And for 15 days, red is the new black. In fact, don’t even think about wearing black!

When I was planning this post, I reflected on my experience of Chinese New Year growing up. The truth is, the celebration was always a mix of joyful memories, uncomfortable moments and learning to laugh at yourself.

For me, Chinese New Year is when:

1. You’re reminded of the goals you’ve yet to achieve

It’s a painful ritual: Smiling and pretending I understand what my 10th granduncle is saying. Then when he realizes what’s going on, he’ll ask the dreaded question, “Cannot speak Mandarin? Hokkien also? Cannot, must learn!” I try to appease his horror by promising to learn soon. But next year comes, and I still haven’t made good on that promise. Repeat.

Oh well. At least I’ve gotten pretty good at visual communication. I think. (For the record, I’m finally putting some effort in learning the language. Yay me!)

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