Arise, my soul, arise

I was going to write this post titled Lady in waiting, and I absolutely still feel that way, but this song we are rehearsing in choir for Easter Sunday is so beautifully uplifting that I forget my circumstances and psychological state when I sing or hear it. How apt (ironic?) that the song is sung by a girls choir, who are so young and full of excitement for what their bright futures hold.

In the spirit of Lent, and of waiting (although I am now waiting for a totally different thing altogether) I must confess that a few years ago I got tired of waiting. I jumped the gun, like Abraham and Sarah did when they decided that perhaps God’s promised heir could be born of Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden. And while my actions will not affect the future of nations and faiths, they did lead to heartbreak.

How does one stay hopeful when the waiting seems like it’s taking forever?

That short period of time between “It is finished” and the sunrise of the third day, when you know there is a promise and you hope for what is promised, but everything just screams that it’s not going to happen – “shake off your guilty fears”.

Oh, of course my personal drama is nothing as earth-shaking, but this song! What a lovely reminder.

Arise, my soul, arise,

Shake off thy guilty fears:

The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears:

Before the Throne, my Surety stands.

My name is written on His hands.

Five bleeding wounds He bears,

Received on Calvary,

They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me:

“Forgive him, O, forgive,” they cry.

“Nor let that ransomed sinner die.”

My God is reconciled,

His pard’ning voice I hear;

He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear;

With confidence I now draw nigh,

And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

Arise, my soul, arise!

(Arise, My Soul, Arise by Dan Forrest)

A girls’ girl

Before I became half of a couple, I disdained the pseudo-holiday that Valentine’s Day is. Then for a few dreamy years I was showered with flowers and mush… And then, this year, I wasn’t half of a couple anymore. Yet somehow I didn’t notice the build-up to this Valentine’s Day, and even much of the day itself, although I saw giddy girls carrying roses everywhere around town.

I made a new friend this morning; she was a friend’s friend looking for a church, so I invited her to try mine. And we had brunch, and talked as if we were old friends, after the morning service. Then I did a couple of errands before meeting a girl friend and her visiting mother to watch Brooklyn, the movie. And then I took my flat mate and her son to dinner. And my heart is grateful, and full.

Of course I wonder that I will be half of a couple again, that a man will hold my hand in his and make me believe that together we can conquer the world. But also, today, I knew that I can also conquer the world with my girl squad. Between Brooklyn and dinner, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my girl friends are the best support group and surrogate family I didn’t even ask for. I was – and am – happy to be a girls’ girl.

“Of course Brooklyn is a date movie”, the friend I watched it with said, when she was trying yesterday to convince another girl friend to join us. What struck us, though, while we were watching, was the immigrant, fresh-off-the-boat theme. “How OFW!”, she commented. The scene where Saoirse Ronan loses it after reading her first letter from home – I lived that heartache every time mom called or messaged me my first month here. And the scene where she takes a new girl under her wing, because another girl had done the same for her, I learned that immigrant’s-pay-it-forward tradition, too. That’s how the bonds of my surrogate family -slash- girl squad were solidified.

Happy Valentine’s Day, girls! Here’s another poster of Brooklyn, just because it’s so pretty.

PS And I did receive a Valentine’s Day present (although I think it was meant for Christmas) – my sweet friend Pierra’s signed book landed in my hands today 🙂


Be Still My Soul

I love traditional hymns. Maybe it’s a combination of my grandmother’s legacy of faith and the time I served in Bible Study Fellowship, but hymns are definitely one of the things I look for in a church. It’s one of the reasons I sing in my choir: so that I can learn more hymns.

Today, while we wait for the Lent devotions to begin on SheReadsTruth, I revisited an old devotion from one of its Hymns series. I woke up from anxious dreams, and I knew I needed to sing Be Still My Soul. He who can calm stormy waters, pacify the crazed, the possessed and the grief-stricken, can ease my anxiously waiting heart. And as I sang through this hymn, written by Katharina von Schlegel in 1752 (translated by Jane L. Borthwick in 1855), He did more than still my soul. He spoke to my broken heart (which I had pretty much ignored since just before Christmas because I got so busy with preparations for the big move that I am now waiting for), and told me that not only will I be ok but that He would repay what I had lost. Ohh. I had to stop singing because I was so struck by these words that…had to cry:

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,

And all is darkened in the vale of tears,

Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,

Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.

Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay

From His own fullness all He takes away.

That unexpected verse followed this one that I had wanted:

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake

To guide the future, as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know

His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
You can find the entire hymn here:

Playing a lady who lunches

Two lunches, two different types of “comrades”.

I was so pleasantly surprised to be invited to a catch-up lunch by Gwen at her husband’s swanky new mod-Spanish restaurant Dehesa on Tuesday. She came late, so he entertained me for a good round of tapas. The last time I had seen either of them was probably over five years ago (I say that because they now have a five-year-old, and she was pregnant when last I interviewed her). I had always, only just known them for work, but they welcomed me to their dining table like old friends. Over smoked eel on chicharon, wet squid ink rice with prawns, and Iberico egg, we talked about work, the last five years, and what 2016 looked to have in store.

It seems odd, especially as Gwen gave me a warm squeeze goodbye, how comfortable we have always been with each other. We met as I was starting my career as a design journalist in Singapore, and they were considered up-and-coming architects to watch. Our first meal together, after a house shoot, was a local favourite known as yong tau foo in a hole-in-the-wall. I like to think that our immediate bond was formed because they saw me not as a reporter, but as a fellow graduate of the crazy-hard school of architecture. Although we’d gone to different universities in different countries, we knew those six-hour studio classes, the nervousness for presentation and critique, and sitting for board exams. And for Gwen and I, there, too, was navigating a construction site in heels. We were comrades.

Today I had a Chinese New Year dim sum lunch (with Lo Hei!) at Canton-i with another set of comrades. These were my art director, client manager and fellow editors at one of the most challenging arenas in publishing, Custom Publishing. We had been in the trenches together, battled with insane deadlines and sometimes-irrational clients, and washed our frustrations away with office cocktails. Although two of us had left the arena over a year ago, we still laughed over war stories past and present as we shared baskets of har gow, shu mai and char siew bao. It’s a really unique bond that’s formed when you’re in the trenches together. And while we had limited time, because the others had to go back to those trenches, it seemed as if we’d drunk copious amounts of tea to celebrate the fellowship we had.

Love is…


Four short little legs
tripping over themselves to greet you
when you come home from school;
A wet little nose sniffing and snorting,
Exhorting you to quickly, quickly
Take off those shoes
So she can get at those socks;
Tiny puppy teeth yanking at your digits,
Pulling off the five-fingered footwear
One toe at a time
The tug of war, a nighttime game
She always wins, triumphantly
Flinging each sock off
So she can tickle your feet with her tongue.

The constant scratching
Outside your bedroom door
Waking you up in the morning;
Or the quiet little whine
Outside the bathroom door
Because eight hours of sleep was too long
To be apart from you;
Inching herself between your feet
So she can crawl underneath
For a belly rub while you sip coffee.

Ears twitching, head cocked,
The only one alerted by
The little sigh that escapes your lips,
Or the tear that finds itself rolling down your cheek,
Or the slightest tremor in your voice;
She knows with a look to climb on your lap,
Front legs up to your shoulders, head near your chin,
A hug only she can give,
Because she’s the only one who knows
You need one.

Always the same welcome,
No matter how long you were away
Always the same bright-eyed smile
From when she was a puppy
Until the last time you held her,
A lifetime later.

(Kimba +Nov.22.2013)