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My 2016

IMG_6566.JPGI had a quiet day off today. I did some painting, happy that I’ve made progress with my strokes. My husband told me he’d ordered a Christmas present for me. What a nice surprise. It’s so nice to be loved.

If this time last year I’d been asked to paint a picture of what my 2016 would look like, I couldn’t have painted my life today.

In some ways, that’s how bizarre this past year has been.

After spending most of 2015 trying to manoeuvre a career change, it’s hard to describe the mental contrast between that, and having a role in a thriving real estate company this year.

So much of the past 5 years has been disruption after disruption that it’s hard to look back & draw from any fond traditions or memories. I stopped celebrating my birthday years ago, and all Chinese New Years and Christmases since then have been a blur.

For a long time, so much within myself was consumed with an awareness of problems. I was so geared towards survival, that it was hard to resonate with much else except helping others in worse situations. I was a nervous wreck within me, yet my experiences shaped me with a deep self-defence instinct to steel myself against any weakness within in order to carry on.

Being with Chris this year has slowly helped me let my guard down, helped me welcome happy things back into my life: good food, music, art…

On that note, a year ago, I couldn’t have seen that I would be married, & definitely not that I’d have a five year old stepson!

Suffice to say it’s been a huge, challenging transition, but also strange, even, to discover & rediscover the good things in life I’ve forgotten one can have in a family!

My life is richer for the journey of learning to trust & share & grow, of overcoming challenges together, learning to love & be loved…

…and the unexpected joys & surprises, like having a clumsily wrapped present under the tree from my stepson that I can’t wait to tear open on Christmas Day.

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10,000 Reasons

A major curveball hit some dear friends of mine recently, when the husband/father had a stroke.

As I heard his wife share about the difficult changes she and the children must learn to accept and adapt to, I could not help admiring and being encouraged by her outlook amidst the exhaustion and devastation they must be facing.

She spoke of gratitude for things they still have and cherish; of trusting in God amidst the pain; of hope for the future, and of 10,000 Reasons to sing…

It brought me back to the first time many years ago when I too found myself in a bleak valley where I had lost complete sight of a hopeful future. It reminded me of how the reality and presence of God at that time gave me enormous strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to forge a way out of despair.

Not long after my friend shared,  I heard the song again — this time at a wedding. It was a beautiful reprise to hear the melody carry through dark desperate days to joyous celebrations, from the peaks to the troughs to everything in between…

The song had a way of pointing to something beyond, and reminded me of all the people I know and stories I’ve read of people coming to the end of their ropes, and finding new strength and hope to sing and choose life.

 

My 27th birthday wish: Teach for Malaysia

The first book I ever borrowed out of my local library in Alor Setar at six years old was Enid Blyton’s The Three Golliwogs.

It started me down a path of discovering new worlds – and a love for reading that has fundamentally shaped who I am today.

TFM

Education changes lives. This song has bubbled into reprise after reprise in my heart over the years.

I’ve often looked back at my life and thought: I’ve been very, very fortunate to have received so many learning opportunities! So on my 22nd birthday, I fundraised for Room to Read to build a library for 300 kids in India. A huge chunk of the projects, causes and people I’ve supported in subsequent years have a common thread running through them: they all made learning possible and/or better for others.

I turn 27 on 7 February 2016. For several years my birthday has been a non-event. 😦

I want to celebrate this year! If you are thinking of blessing me with a birthday gift, the best thing you could give me is to help me impact the lives of Malaysian students: www.teachformalaysia.org/donate

Teach For Malaysia (TFM) is a program I had considered doing post-graduation. Following the ups and downs of friends who have taken 2 years out of their lives to teach in underprivileged schools, I’ve been inspired by their passion, dedication and creativity.

They’ve struggled with teenagers who still can’t write their ABCs. Who wouldn’t be able to read Enid Blyton fluently at 15 years old. They’ve laughed and cried and empowered young Malaysians to dream. Their work matters to me.

This year I will be financially supporting what TFM does for young Malaysian lives. I hope you will consider joining me in your own way -ESPECIALLY if you are a Malaysian abroad!

www.teachformalaysia.org

The giving of jasmines

I never thought life would do this to me – make me tired enough to forget the precious things.

It’s been a long hard year, and the grind of it all has worn me down.

But it must be true, what people say about the importance of stories, and how fundamental they are in shaping us. I guess even more so when the story is in my naming.

Some years ago, a Pakistani friend told me that my name Yasmin means “a gift from God” in Persian, named after their love for the exquisit bloom.

In Chinese culture, the jasmine is special too.

I thought this captured the blossom beautifully: “茉莉花叶色翠绿,花色洁白,香味浓厚,清雅宜人。它虽无艳态惊群,但玫瑰之甜郁,梅花之馨香,兰花之幽远,玉兰之清雅,莫不兼而有之。”

Stories about the sweet fragrance of the jasmine flower have been for me like the resonant strands you hear in your head long after the vibration of the strings soften into silence.

Smelling the jasmine-scented candle I received for Christmas, I could almost hear the beautiful song again – of fragrance released in crushing, of giving life, of blessing others.

I have always thought the sacrificial dying of oneself for the blessing of others to be beautiful.

I remembered it again now: in jasmines, but also in the Christmas story.

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