Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Heat Is BACK

Wahoo, this is the happiest day of my life!

Haha, no, I’m sure it isn’t the happiest – just exaggerating. But yes, the heat is back. I’m so glad I can finally wear shorts and take a cold shower! It actually feels like I’m in M’sia when it’s really hot and sunny – minus the humidity. I asked my sisters and mum earlier, “Which do you prefer? Heat or cold?” Jirene and Janna answered “Of course the cold is better!” But my mum and I preferred the heat.

Winter had taken its toll on me the past 4 months. I realized that the temperature and weather actually affects me a lot. I started to wake up at the last minute for school every morning, which caused my sisters a great deal of “stress” (having to wake me up) because they were so enthusiastic about going to school. My eating habits also change “drastically” and in my opinion, disastrously: I started eating more chips and donuts for afternoon snacks (which I never did in M’sia). I felt very bad about my “monstrous” eating habits – which I’m sure isn’t actually that bad. xD But compared to when it wasn’t winter, it seems quite appalling. I know, I know: how can I be telling you this?! :P

Apart from eating & sleeping habits, I also realize that I became less “outgoing” in school. I got bored of talking to people and getting to know others because I was too busy thinking of myself. I did still make an effort to ask questions, but I wasn't as enthusiastic. I don’t know why, but I became a very selfish person. Maybe I shouldn’t blame the season, or the weather. Maybe I’ve always been very selfish anyway. Most of the time, I felt like I was in my own world. On the many cold mornings I just wanted to stay under the blanket and not face another dreary school day.

After a while everything got pretty dull. I had to wear the same clothes every day – and on weekends, rotated between the same 4 jumpers/coat and 3 layers underneath. Everyday I would dread taking a shower: for fear of turning off the warm water and feeling the rush of cold air freeze me. Also, my hands were always cold – that made playing the piano even tougher.

But by the grace of God, I honestly say that the only 3 things that KEPT ME ALIVE in winter was my family, music (mostly piano) and most of all, God. Nothing else helped me survive. Thank God for the “light at the end of the tunnel”: the promise of warmth and heat and being able to dress more colourfully in spring & summer! Hahaha. =)

However, the strange thing is, I think the winter months were the most important months in my journey of growing in God. The winter months were also the peak of my life in music thus far. I also learned to stand alone, although it was and is still a tough thing to do. But of course, I really am not standing alone, because I know God is by my side and His Spirit renews my heart, mind and soul each day.

There were days when I felt like a loser. I felt terrible. I didn’t like myself. I knew I was selfish and irresponsible. Now I knew I could have done more. I could have done better. But that’s the past. What can I do if I can’t change the past? I can only change the present. It is easy to say all this when now it is nice and warm and I no longer feel loser-ish. (God help me.)

But on the other hand, I must admit that on the days when I felt hopeless, I discovered God more. So which is better? To feel good and not know God or have the desire to seek Him, or to feel bad and end up turning to God and discovering another bit of eternity? I realize that perhaps the latter is better – although it hurts.

So yes, although I did not enjoy the winter months, I now see that God had made it a worthwhile crossover even with all the unpleasant things to go with. God made it bearable enough because He was there with me. Now in 5 days time, it will be our first anniversary of living in Melbourne. All thanks be to God our strength and Provider. =)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where My Heart Lies

I recently picked up a book called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. You’ve probably heard of it, or even better, read it for yourself – it is a famous piece of writing! Anyway, I really enjoyed reading it, and connecting the key messages in the story to real life, my life.

In the heart of the book lies this quote, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Sounds familiar? This profoundly simple sentence is actually from the Bible! It is found in Matthew 6:21. And what’s more, Jesus had said it!

At first glance, it is just a simple one liner. But I do not truly understand it. I understand the concept of it, but I do not know how it applies to me. Perhaps it is because I do not yet know where my heart lies, or where my treasure lies. What do I really want in this life? But then again, perhaps it’s not about what I want.

Maybe what I think I want is a distortion of the truth that is my heart, what I really should want. I know we live in a world where everything is twisted around and fake. We get tossed to and fro by many ideas, opinions and theories. But really, all we want to know is the truth. What is the truth?

We live in a world where lies are floating everywhere. People choose to believe what they want to believe, whatever is convenient to them, whatever they want to hear. That’s why when a sliver of light, of truth, floats our way, we seldom believe it – we seldom take it seriously or heed it. And often, the truth hurts our ego. It brings to light the dirty, grimy recesses of our hearts. And sometimes it is best to ignore the sliver of light and shut it out, just so we don’t have to clean up the filth inside. I also think that’s what sometimes I avoid reading my Bible.

But what did the Psalmist David say?

“How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.”
Psalm 119:9 and 11

So where is my heart, that I might find my treasure? Maybe my treasure is very close by, yet I am so far from it because what I think is the truth is mingled with all sorts of confusing words and lies that stop me from discovering my heart, my treasure. Perhaps that’s why the Psalmist David said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart…” May God’s truth help us to sift out all the unnecessary crap from our hearts and minds, so that what is left is the pure and original desire that God has placed in us, which will lead us to discover our destiny in Him.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Gives the Increase?

I’ve always been amazed at how plants and flowers and trees grow. How do they grow? One day I plant a seed, the next day I check it, nothing has happened. After a few days, I become bored of waiting for it to grow. Many days later, when I care to look, I am amazed at how much it has grown without me noticing!

I can water a plant and fertilize the soil. But really, am I the one who causes it to grow taller and bigger, bearing flowers or fruit? I must also bear in mind that without the sun, there’s no life or growth. So even if I plant and water and fertilize the soil, if there is no sunlight, all my work is a waste of time because the plant will die anyway. So what causes the sun to shine, then?

Pondering such things, I remember a verse in the Bible saying:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Truly, in all things, in all my life, in everything I do, no matter how much I work for something, no matter how much I sacrifice, it is still God who gives the increase. It is still God who enables me to do it. He is the one who causes the sun to shine on us and the rain to pour on us. Who are we to think we deserve what we have worked for?

When I realize this, I realize how foolish I am to take pride in myself.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths…
Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase.” Proverbs 3:6 and 9


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eagles’ Wings

I hope for the future I envision now. I can’t wait to live it. But the one thing I fear is that I don’t make the most of it. We all get bogged down by life’s circumstances, people (those who say the most negative things), our own shortcomings, and the list goes on.

When I first started out, I was excited. I was glad to meet new people. But as time went by, my excitement slowly fizzled out. Doesn’t that happen to all of us? And we detest that feeling. The awful, squirmy feeling that tells us there’s nothing really great about this after all, and our enthusiasm dissipates.

I realize that I can get so easily bogged down by people around me. Well, meaning the wrong sorta’ people, of course. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’m actually talking about music again. Hahaha. And I’m referring particularly to the orchestra part of it. Most of the violinists in my group have no passion for music. It’s very tiresome to go for practice after practice if the people around you aren’t into it. The passion gets sucked out of you.

So how do I keep myself from swayed by the negative flow? Honestly, I do not know how to save myself. At some point we all realize how weak we are when it comes to standing against the current. Perhaps one can last for a while, but not for long. Surely there are moments when you lose your guard, and falter for a bit. That happens. But how do I stand in the long run?

I remembered a passage in the Bible (once again to the rescue!!!) Isaiah 40:30-31:

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the LORD

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

Wow, take that! I was really inspired and encouraged. What an uplifting promise God gives! How true is it that even youths shall faint of tiredness and utterly fall? But here’s the good part, it says those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength. I come to realize that it is only when we are weak that God is able to give strength. But when I am “strong”, I become proud, with a haughty demeanour, and then God has no gap in which to work His wonders.

Perhaps God allows troubling situations and people to enter our lives so that we will constantly wait on Him, which I think means to depend on Him.

The next beautiful part of the passage says that once we depend on God and have our strength renewed, we will mount up with wings like eagles! Meaning, we will SOAR ABOVE all the people, circumstances, and failures that drag us down. Then we will be able to stand against the flow. Although it is clear that I’ll occasionally fall, it does not mean defeat. It means God has a gap in which to work His wonders and give me His strength to stand and to soar above it all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lest I Forget…

On Monday night, my mum and I travelled to the city for an info night at VCASS. I was excited to see who were the other 24 who also made it through. Before I received the yes letter, I had a hard time counting the possibility of getting in. 300 auditioned. Half music, half dance. How can they possibly have only 25 places for music? My chances were too slim. At the most, they’d only accept 5 pianists. But it had to be less than 5, since there are so many other instruments!

That night, to my astonishment, I found out that they really meant what they said about accepting only 25. The whole time I sat there, one thought recurred in my mind, “I can’t believe I’m here. I’m one of the 25!” I thanked God over and over that I was sitting there with my mum.

When they got all the music students to introduce themselves, I felt even more grateful because I found out that I was only one out of three pianists that got accepted! Phew. BUT I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!! I’m so very excited; yet my excitement is kept “in check” by a tad of nervousness because I know a lot is expected of me at VCASS.

In his speech, the principal of VCASS, Colin Simpson, told us to brace ourselves for the heavy workload, the long days and practices. There will be triumphs and failures. There will be perfect performances, and also many with mistakes. But this is one thing he said that I will remember, “Here at VCASS, we help out students to not simply make a living – like what most high schools only aim to do – but here, we help our students make a life.”

It makes total sense to me. But ironically, to most of my peers I am probably the one who doesn’t have a life! They do not understand why I sacrifice recess time to play piano. But music IS my passion. I do it because it fills my time with meaning. And besides, I do not have the nicest piano in the world at home, so I usually grab every opportunity to practice on the grand piano at school. Haha.

That reminds me of one of the things I’m really looking forward to at VCASS (something I mentioned when I was interviewed at the audition). It’s the companionship I will find with people who are like-minded and also passionate about making music! They will understand why I relish every opportunity to play, because they feel the same way, too. =)

I can’t believe my second year in Melbourne would be another huge change. I have no idea how I will wake up 6.30am every morning – in winter, mind you. I am afraid I will hop on the wrong train some mornings, or miss the train on other days. I don’t know if I’ll find good friends, or not at all. I’m worried I won’t measure up to the standards.

Funnily, the principal told us that whenever we doubt our talent and passion for music, or feel it’s too hard, or that we’re not good enough, we must remember how we felt when we received the BIG ENVELOPE. Haha, that made us all laugh nervously. He said that while he had the joy of signing all of our yes letters, he also had to sign the other 300 no letters. The mood in the room suddenly changed. We all had the same thoughts, how would I have felt if I had received the small envelope with a no letter?

Once again I was reminded to not be proud of myself, but to give God the glory. I need to always remember to give it back to God. This victory He has given me, belongs to Him alone. Although I worked hard, like my dad says, any victory requires both 100% man AND 100% God.

The fact that I got in, considering the circumstances, tells me that this is not by chance. What my teachers, friends, parents, or even I say, does not matter cause’ in the end, I know it is God who has the final say. He alone chooses to bestow or to withhold; to open or to close doors. So although I’m worried, I can rest assured that once I cast all my cares on God, He will be my strength and my guide.

Lest I forget, I must always keep an attitude of thanksgiving to God and that wonderful feeling of receiving the big VCASS envelope. =)

Four months to go!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time to Go

Have you ever wished that it’s time to go Home? I hear my dad say it all too often. :P

I picked up a book yesterday. It was strangely entitled Veronika Decides to Die, by Paulo Coelho (the famous Brazilian author of The Alchemist). It’s about this woman who, although has a good life, decides she wants to die. Why?

The first reason: everything in her life was the same and, once her youth is gone, it would be downhill all the way. She would gain nothing by continuing to live; indeed, the likelihood of suffering only increased. The second reason was more philosophical: Veronika was well aware of what was going on in the world. Everything was wrong, and she had no way of putting things right – that gave her a sense of complete powerlessness.

So Veronika decides to die. She takes an overdose of sleeping pills and waits for death. But to her dismay, she wakes up some time later in Villette, a much-feared lunatic asylum. There she is told that although she is alive, her heart has been damaged and she has only 5 days to live…

Now you see why I instantly borrowed it! I love these sorta’ books. They make me think. The writers not only tell a story, they also had to do some soul-searching and have a message to share in a form of a well-spun story. However, this book is not what I intend to write about. Haha. Sorry, I didn’t think I would divert even before I started! :P

Well I am writing about a fearful thought that had transpired in my mind. It so happened that some nights ago, I woke up in the dead of the night. Usually I go back to sleep, but this time, my mind kept me awake. I found myself pondering over this thing for the next 1 hour before falling back to sleep. In my dreamy-but-conscious state, I was taken aback by the topic my mind pursued (at 4 am, mind you). A voice of my own spoke in my head, Do you fear death? ...Truthfully, I can’t say I’ve ever feared death. Because I’ve never even considered it a possibility! Like most young people, I think death is 70 years away – too far from my reality. I’m fearless. Am I not?

But for the first time, I was jolted by this question. Do I fear death? My mind continued: What if you die now…? For first time in my life, I actually considered the realness of it and I was afraid. If I die now, will I go to heaven? What if there is no heaven? Now I felt a real fear tugging at my heart. I really felt it.

To my dismay, it went on! What if you die now and end up in a forlorn place at a corner of eternity and you are all alone? In my mind’s eye, I imagined myself hovering in space, but with no stars, only darkness closing in. For a split second I felt a dreadful loneliness that was so crushing that I cried out to God. You promise you will never leave me!

At that point, I realized a shift in my understanding. I began to comprehend something I’ve never considered for myself. Death. I stopped in my tracks deliberately and decided to make something of this. If I fear death… (I suddenly realized that) all the more, I fear GOD! Truly, at that moment, I felt this fear of the realness of God. What happens when I die? Some people believe they disappear into nothingness; some believe in heaven. But is it just about going to heaven? Perhaps not.

Is it possible that one can live life as he pleases, doing “bad stuff”, then die and disappear into nothingness? Is that it? Take Hitler, (who I might say is an embodiment of evil itself): can he, by death, escape accountability for all the evil he has done and the suffering caused? No, I believe there’s no way anyone can escape accountability. I’m not talking about on earth, but after earth is done with.

Do you know why people feel outraged and demand justice when they read of murders, rapes, terrorist bombings, and all the horrible acts that rob the life of innocent children, women, men, and families? Why? Now, if we descended from apes and live by the code: “survival of the fittest”, we wouldn’t even think about doing justice to anyone! It’s even better if people die (in that sense, it’s ‘fair play’ cause’ they’re not fit enough to survive) and there’s higher chance of our survival.

YET, we know that’s pure nonsense because somehow, we care. We love; we want to love. We condemn evil. We want justice. And most ordinary folks want peace, not war. Yet we ourselves are not any good – we’re tainted, too. So deep down, we are depressed because we know something has gone terribly wrong in the world…

G.K. Chesterton said, “Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be explained.”

I know there are still many other questions, like, “Why would God allow evil in our world?” That’s a stupid question though. God chose to give us free will, not to put a leash on us so we won’t do stupid things. WE allowed evil to seep in. WE have shut God out. Most people don’t want to believe in God. Yet when disaster strikes, they say, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Excuse me, God, being the perfect gentleman, has quietly backed out of our lives because we wanted it. Now who is to blame, really?

Continuing, the way we feel outraged by the evil we see in the world somehow points us to the One whom each of us will stand accountable to: the Most High God, our Righteous Judge. That only makes sense. We can’t just die and that’s it. Do you now see that we must live in light of eternity? There’s no other way. It’s life or death. Heaven or hell.

Now I’m reminded of a statement Jesus Christ made. It’s the most radical, out-of-this-world statement (that either classifies him as a lunatic or the real thing), “Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There’s no other way to redemption, and eternity spent with God. The only other way (which is not an option at all) is the most dreadful and terrifying – it’s not hell, but an eternity separated from God.

“So let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

What else can better sum it up than this? At the end of my 4 am reflection of death and life after death, God brought those verses to my mind. Indeed, to fear God and to live by His ways is man’s all. Or else we live in vain, as the wise King Solomon said.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dare to Ask

A thousand times I’ve been jealous and envious of someone else. Why does the person have more skill, more talent, more than what I seem to have?

But then I realize that nothing is achieved by being envious or by coveting or fighting for the things I do not possess. We know that the root of all evil is not money (of course) it is the greed for money. People quarrel and squabble, they fight and war and murder to get what they want or to have their way.

“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” – James 4:2

Why not just ask? Many times I see others having more talent in music than I do, and I am a tad envious. It looks like I have to work much harder and they seem to already have the inbuilt “gift”. Haha. But I now realize my foolishness (although I still fall for it) and learn from God’s word that I should simply dare to ask God. After all, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17) and “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27)

So I learn to make a point to ask God, placing my desires and plans in His hands. But then the inevitable question pops up, what if my prayers go unanswered? Maybe that’s because I’m praying the wrong prayers. I’m reminded that the Bible has promised God will “provide all my needs”. It did not include my wants or wishes. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” – James 4:3

I learn to dare to ask the right thing. And what is the right thing? That, I suppose, is the challenge and the excitement of asking God.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Grampians Spring Camp

Our family just got back from the Grampians, which is beautiful nature & adventure place with mountainous and rocky terrain. It is a four hours away and I loved the place! I told mum that we must certainly visit again and go to the other hiking, rock climbing and waterfall spots with our cousins and relatives who are visiting in December. I love nature and adventure! I love taking all the photos and seeing the beautiful landscape. I think it’s the most interesting holiday spot I’ve visited so far in the surrounding areas of Melbourne.

Anyway, we were there for a spring camp organized by students from the Overseas Christian Fellowship (OCF) in Monash Uni Berwick campus. We were there from Mon to Wed. Thank God the weather was perfect – cause last week’s weather was horrible. It was unexpectedly cold, and there was a good amount of hail. But thank goodness the skies were blue and bright in Grampians and we took some splendid pictures! :D

Although we were a pretty small group, I thank God for the good fun we had getting to know each other better. We had a lot of day activities – hiking to the pinnacle at Grampians National Park, visiting the Reids Lookout, the Mackenzie Falls, and Venus Bath (it all includes breathtaking scenery)! I think we all lost 10kg from all the walking. Haha kidding, sadly no. :P

Anyway, as always, the pictures speak a thousand words. I took many, but here are some of the best ones. =)

On our first day we hiked up to one of the pinnacles at the Grampians National Park.

The girls. We were passing through a stretch called the "grand canyon".

I found it amazing how rocks can actually look so interesting and beautiful.

Dad and Janna on one of those funny large rocks that seem as if it'll topple over any minute!

Oke, Lin Jing, me, Lorence, Daniel and Nick.

Finally at the top of the pinnacle!

It was so windy and cold up there! Very thrilling.

Janna, mum, me, and Oke.

Nick, my dad, and Daniel. Crazy fellas! It looked so, so scary from that my point of view. Shudders.
Family =)

Yeah you bet I didn't want to fall over the cliff behind me!

Group shot at the pinnacle =)

Whee. At first I didn't want to go for the cliff edge. Too scary. But then well, its once in a life time perhaps - thought I must give it a go! Thankfully it wasn't actually as scary as I thought (cause earlier I was looking from the side and seeing the whole cliff edge).

This is now the next day's outing to a place called Reids Lookout. The sky was so wonderfully blue that day which made the shots much better than the pinnacle ones!

Too beautiful, isn't it?!! It's amazing. I'll definitely go back there again with my family to take time to enjoy the scenery and snap all the pics we want! Since we went with the group, we couldn't really take our time.

Haha, Nick, the famous oversized koala bear at Grampians!


All the girls! ... And my dad. =)

This was perfect! There were two white lines across the sky cause' it so happened that there were two jet planes flying across. It definitely made the shot more interesting with the mountainous view.

Jasmine and I

Me, Lin Jing and Sarah.

Nick standing on "the Balcony".

My dad got on the higher Balcony! He went to the very edge! I was so scared he'd slip. Shudders. Somemore he says he's scared of heights! Hah! :P

Love this shot. It was so cool!

=) This is a place called the Mackenzie Falls. (=

Haha :D

My dad and Nick climbing up the rocks in front of the falls. They said it was very slippery with moss and the water was freezing!

This is the best waterfall I've seen in Australia so far. The waterfalls here are ofcourse not as great as the ones we see in M'sia.

Janna and Sarah. I really like this one! Although they seem a big small, but its a nice perspective.


My sisters are my bests subjects or models so far! Haha =)

I was hoping to see a rainbow in the falls since it was a sunny day. Thank God I did just before we were going to hike back up!

Beautiful. And once again, I was the last person in the group to leave. Haha. ;P

The final spot we managed to visit (though there were many others) is Venus Bath. Most of them climbed up the smooth, sloping rock surface for fun.
Janna climbed halfway. Jirene did very little. I didn't attempt at all! Haha. I'm afraid of looking down and sliding or slipping!

Guess what, as always, my dad, Nick, and Daniel went all the way up! Can you spot my dad waving? Crazy fellas. I was praying dad wouldn't tumble down when they climb back down. Haha.


Yeah, my dad is still wearing his sunnies/goggles thingammajiggy! :P
Lorence, Oke, Lin Jing, Nick, Daniel, me and mum.

Cliffhanger, hey!
Nick was saying that if my dad was doing it for real, he wouldn't have been smiling. :P Hahaha.

Dad and mum =) I was mesmerized by the pattern these huge rocks created! Its amazing and so uniquely beautiful.

Quite an eerie shot taken on the way back from Venus Bath. The trees looked as if they had long, gnarled, twisted arms coming right out to grab you! Nature is so interesting in a million ways.

Group photo at the campsite before leaving. =) The End.

Phew, wasn’t that a load of fabulous scenic nature shots? God is so great – and I’m that puny photographer admiring His work of art. Nature humbles me. It reminds me how very tiny and insignificant I am. Like a flower in the field that quickly withers away. Hmm. Oh I wish we’ll visit Grampians soon again! I have a lot more other photos to snap! :D All in all, thank God for the great company we had. It was a good trip. =)

The Visitors