A new season in life

Book matters, Lists, Singapore

It’s the second week being out of full-time employment. Quite surprisingly, each day has been full and fulfilling. I am meeting people, writing stories, arranging flowers. I also have time to cook and tidy the house.

I have also submitted the complete manuscript of my book to the publisher for editing. Another milestone reached!

Some stuff I found online and have become my favourites in these two weeks:

The Hustle – Daily emails with a smart-ass version of global news

Skillshare – Learning platform with tons of videos to teach you all kinds of things. Even Seth Godin is on it! (Paid membership required, but new members get a month of free unlimited access.)

The Futur – Brand agency but they provide some great content for free. Geared towards business education for the creative entrepreneur, the resources can be found on their website and various social media platforms.

Jeraldine Phneah – Personal blog by a 26yo Singaporean. She has a very well-written post on the non-existent 2017 Presidential Elections.

Launch Summit – Virtual conference for tech start-ups, presented by Launchpeer

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Wake me up inside

Book matters

These are the chilling words that opened the play I went to watch today.

“Wake me up inside. Call my name and save me from the dark…”

You probably might find these words familiar, especially if you were listening to pop music in the early 2000s.

Esther and I watched Falling today, a play about a family who has a son with autism.

I was prepared to witness some heart-wrenching scenes but I certainly wasn’t prepared to be in tears half of the time. Emotions were raw and as the events of each scene unfolded, it just broke my heart knowing that this is the same situation that parents with an autistic child are facing every single day.

And a quarter passes…

Book matters, Faith, People

There’s just about a week left to the second quarter of 2016.

When the year started, I set out to work on four projects: my book; an online platform for the book; a young adults ministry in church, and my flower hobby-turn-business.

Since I started work in a full-time position in mid-February, I’m quite glad that these projects are, albeit a little slowly, still moving.

Over the past weekend, I had professional photos taken for my author profile picture. I also got to meet up with Vincent, a relationship coach whom I met at a workshop in January. He shared a couple of valuable ideas with me that I could use in my book.

I’ve got an Instagram account for my flower hobby-turn-business: check out @postaposy! And I’m in the midst of setting up a Tictail store.

Yesterday at BSF, Dora mentioned the significance of the Lord’s Prayer. We were talking about “hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17) and Jesus being the “bread of life” (John 6:35) when she brought up that, as per Anglican tradition, we recite the Lord’s Prayer saying:

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

She shared that every day when she says these words, she is reminded that for each day, Jesus is enough for her. By holding on to Jesus each day, she has enough “bread” to sustain her through the day, no matter the circumstances.

That hit close to home. I realised that somehow I seemed to have forgotten that Jesus is the one who gives me the strength to overcome challenges. It seemed to have slipped my mind that I can rest in Him.

I’m thankful for that reminder.

Design Galore

Book matters, People, Singapore

It’s Singapore Design Week. It’s only Tuesday and the week is just busy, busy.

There is SingaPlural, Maison&Objet Asia, IFFS. I’ve got interviews and press events to go for. At these many, many press events, I meet lots of people and the team has been introducing me to the different brands we work with.

Even without these things going on, my mind has been quite fully occupied with work on the weekdays and I haven’t been doing much for my book even on the weekends. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll get back to my book once I’m more settled in my job.

But I think that’s not what God has in mind.

I met an editor of another publication yesterday and bumped into her again today. We started talking and the subject of my book came up. She then suggested something which I thought was absolutely brilliant–design for autism.

As she elaborated on her suggestion, I found myself being simply impressed.

I guess I’m always impressed by people who can come up with ideas and different perspectives on the spot. So cool, these people. I do come up with ideas but it takes me time.

So anyway, I got excited about that idea and decided that it’s something I definitely want to pursue, but probably when “I’m more settled in my job”.

But just half an hour later, I bumped into her again and she very excitedly introduced me to a designer from a very prominent local architecture firm. What they have recently done was put together the first-ever all-inclusive school in Singapore. It’s not yet fully operational and I think there hasn’t been much publicity because it’s just really, really new.

So, this seems to be a nudge to start work on the online platform.

A New Endeavour

Book matters, Faith

Instead of continuing with my freelance writer life (more like struggling writer life hurhur), I’m going back to full-time employment.

It’s actually not much of a surprise since -almost- everyone expects me to, although the question I now get is: How about your book?

Good question.

The first draft of the book is done. I’m currently doing corrections, re-writes, and re-organising certain sections.

So it isn’t exactly complete, and I will definitely need time to work on it, but there were reasons compelling enough for me to take on a full-time job, in particular, THIS full-time job.

The first thing that happened was that in November last year, R and I applied for a flat. This isn’t the reason that I accepted this job offer but it prompted me to look around for available positions that would give me a more stable pay cheque.

The second thing that happened was that my dad lost his job. Again, this isn’t the reason that I accepted the job offer. It was more like a nudge in the direction that I had started to step towards.

The third thing that happened was that I received positive replies from BOTH of the companies that I submitted my resume to. This does not happen to me any day. I have sent applications out before and heard nothing. So, to send two and hear from both was very encouraging.

The fourth thing that happened was that my former editor recommended me for a position that an editor-friend of hers was looking to fill. It was nearing Christmas by now and I didn’t think anyone would be keen to conduct any interviews. I was surprised to hear from the editor-friend just few days later and we scheduled to meet for a casual chat.

The fifth thing that happened was the calling to run an active Young Adults ministry in church. This will take up an entire blog post to explain so I’ll leave it for another time. In short, there were two main issues that arose from this: my English class on Sundays, and my insecurity over not being “gainfully employed”.

Then, 2016 began and I spent a week or two in a bit of a limbo before I realised that I couldn’t just be doing nothing while waiting for a job to fall into my lap. I should get started on my ideas, set up the business, work on my book, all as if I wouldn’t be getting a full-time job. Time flew by. Besides My Unique Child, there was Our Unique Stories and Post A Posy, with web addresses and email addresses all set up.

I was raring to go, and excited about starting these two new ventures alongside the book. But in the fourth week of January, the job offer came in.

Somehow I knew I was going to take it, but I was still a little conflicted when the offer actually came in. I had three amazing projects on my hand, and a fourth soon to begin (once approval was given by the pastor). Still, I accepted it, and the reason I did is simply because I believe that this job is God-given.

(In fact, all of my jobs have been divinely orchestrated but let’s just stick to the topic.)

1. There was no talk of expected salary during the interview with the big boss but the offer matched the expectations that I had talked to God about.

2. I now have no reason to be insecure over not being “gainfully employed” since I have just been given an excellent opportunity of being so.

3. This job came through favour. It was not of my effort and I cannot claim credit for it. Moreover, I had always been “secretly” envying people who got jobs through personal recommendations. I guess I have no excuse to indulge in the sin of my envy. God knows me entirely!!

4. I often talk about taking “a year” off to work on my book. I never actually took it literally, but I realised that come end-February, it would be exactly a year. And well, I guess if God is holding me to my word, I should keep my word.

So funny how God works huh.

I’ll be starting work in a week’s time. So much apprehension but I know God is with me and I have nothing to fear.

 

Restlessness

Book matters

With just three weeks left to the end of the year, there is this urgency to get things done, tie up loose ends and welcome the new year on a clean slate. For this week, I was hoping to start working on the marketing materials for my book, brainstorm ideas for a new website, and upload images on my friend’s online store so that we can start taking orders.

I definitely did not count on falling sick on Monday. And little did I expect that persistent scratchy cough to turn into a full-blown flu attack when I woke up on Tuesday.

Coupled with a job interview on Thursday and a few writing tests on Friday, this week took on quite a different direction than the one I had envisioned. There’s a high chance I may be back in full-time employment by mid-January. But I’m leaving it in God’s hands. At this point, even with a number of potential employment opportunities, I am still unsure if this is where I ought to be heading.

Opinions from people greatly differ. While the general mood is positive, one close friend has expressed caution against jumping into a job so hurriedly, gently reminding me of the experience at my last workplace. R is supportive as always, but also urged me to consider setting up my own business. Another friend says to have a job and work on the new website at the same time.

I guess it’s not easy giving career advice to someone who wants to do so many things.

Indeed there are so many things I want to do.

One of the best things I learnt this year is what I would call a “success framework”. This concept came from a book I chanced upon in the library called The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth. The author, Chris Brogan, talks about setting up a framework for achieving a specific goal. Simply put, it’s having a clear end-point and then breaking it down to see what that looks like on a daily basis.

It sounds awfully simple but when done right, this framework is so powerful. It helped me a lot when I was writing the book because I started to see how each day was leading up to the end-point of completing my manuscript.

Now that the first draft of my manuscript is done, I’ll be using this same framework to further the next stage of my book, as well as to pursue the other things that I want to do.

Having tasted the exhilaration of creative pursuits, it’s hard to return to a typical life of an employee. With this “success framework”, even with a full-time job that eats up the most of my daily hours, I think I’ll be able to manage my personal projects better. (Just as long as the flu bug stays away.)

It’s December.

Book matters

The last month of the year arrives and around me are conversations that go like this:

“Ommergawd, it’s December!”

“Where did all the time go?”

“Christmas is here!”

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to say this as December rolls around.. but hey, God is good and I’m really glad that I’m able to say that I’ve finished writing my book!

Yes.

It’s not entirely done, of course. There’s still editing and proofreading. There’s layout to be done. There’s marketing, getting testimonials and endorsements. The work is far from over but at least I can now say that the first draft is officially done.

 

A Little Wish

Book matters, Faith, People

The mother I met up with today shared her experience of going to the cinema with her son. At one point during the show, he started laughing. It would have been no big deal if it had been a funny scene. Unfortunately, it was not and his laughter elicited a cacophony of irritated hushes from the rest of the audience.

This reminded me of an idea I have of an inclusive cinema experience for all people. This idea was planted in my head earlier this year in May when I came across sensory friendly movie showings by AMC theatres. They are like any other cinema operator, except that they have allocated certain timeslots every month for certain movies to be screened in a sensory friendly environment. This means the lights are turned up, the sound volume is turned down, and audience members are free to move about, shout, and sing. Wow.

A bit more Googling turned up another interesting find. An organisation in the UK, called Dimensions, partners with different cinemas to offer autism friendly film screenings. All I could think of was, We need to do this here in Singapore.

Of course, after I got over my initial excitement, I knew it would be difficult for me to pull it off alone. I knew nobody up there in the film industry, and it would take time and effort to reach and connect with people who could make things happen.

Doubt also crept into my mind as I thought about it more. Will parents here appreciate this? Will people view it as discriminatory? Will the ignorant public turn this well-intentioned platform into a freak show on display? I had many questions, and no answers.

I saved this little idea in my folder and decided that I would re-visit it once my book was done.

That was five months ago, and little did I expect to re-visit it so soon.

After sharing that incident at the cinema, the mother expressed her wish that cinema-goers be more understanding. She acknowledged that having autism was indeed no excuse for inappropriate behaviour in public, but that it would be great to have a special screening where autistic people and their families could watch a regular movie without the stress and worry of upsetting other cinema-goers.

I think it’s God saying something to me here. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do next or how I’m going to make this little wish a reality. But I know God has His ways; I just need to avail myself to them.

What We Need

Book matters, People

I met with a mother today so that she could share her experience with me about her little boy.

At 11, he isn’t so little now, but I still remember the small boy with big, bright eyes whom I got to know when he was just 6 years old.

We talked about the challenges that she is facing and the struggles that she had been through. Through it all, she expresses gratitude for the people who have come alongside to help her and the family.

She mentions her mother-in-law, who travels down from Malaysia regularly to look after her little boy.

She mentions her superior at work, who has allowed her to take certain afternoons off so that she could accompany her little boy for therapy and activities.

With the support of these two special people, this mother is able to continue working and have time for her little boy. The impact of their understanding and compassion cannot be more real.

We need more people like that. More understanding and less judgement. More compassion and less pity.

Leaving the Desert

Book matters, Faith

The account of the Israelites wandering about in the desert for 40 years is a well known story recorded in the Bible. It has become a common analogy that many people like to use to describe being in a state of hopelessness or a season of spiritual dryness.

So much so that it’s becoming cliché, actually.

And I have never given this much thought or even questioned the accuracy of the analogy. I mean, desert = no water = dry. Duh?

But studying the book of Numbers the past three months has allowed me to read this episode in its context, thus seeing this story in new light. And receiving a huge reminder for myself too.

To understand their 40 years of wandering, we need to go back to the time before their wandering.

In Numbers 13, which was about two years since they left Egypt, the Israelites finally arrived at the border of Canaan–the land that God had promised to give them. Here’s the interesting bit, they took two years to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land, so why did they end up in the desert for 40 years?

The answer is in Numbers 14. The people had refused to enter the Promised Land. And guess what, they had even wanted to return to Egypt! Why? Because they had been afraid of what lay ahead.

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” –Numbers 14:2-4

Canaan at that point in time was inhabited by large groups of people whom the Israelites feared were larger and stronger than them. The Israelites thought that by entering the land, they were going to be killed by those who were already living in it.

They were already at the border. All they had to do was move forward in faith and the land would be theirs to claim. Yes, it would involve fighting and maybe some bloodshed but as God had promised, their victory is guaranteed. He wants to give them the land. But they simply refused to enter it.

Now, this makes the Israelites sound a little irrational doesn’t it? We can say to them, Don’t be silly, why would God lead you all the way to the border and then let you die in battle? It is His will for you to take the land, sure win one!

Of course, it makes sense to us now since we have the benefit of hindsight. In many ways, we’re often like the Israelites with our many concerns, fears and worries.

Even when we have experienced so many of His miracles and much of His providence in our lives, sometimes we still think that God has left us to fight and struggle on our own.

And sometimes, we simply refuse to take hold of His promises.

Many people reach the border, but because of the difficulties that they foresee, they decide to remain where they are. Instead of entering the Promised Land, they are camping at the border, outside of the Promised Land.

This is undesirable, in fact this is disobedience.

God was angry when the Israelites were adamant on not going into the land that He had prepared for them. He would have destroyed them if not for Moses’ intervening plea. Eventually, instead of striking them all dead at once, he sent them out into the desert so that their descendants may eventually return to claim the land they had rejected.

So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. –Numbers 14:28-33 (emphasis mine)

There are two main lessons from this episode:

  1. Difficulties present the choice for us to trust God or turn back in unbelief.
  2. Not believing in God’s promises is rebellion and this incurs His wrath.

And of the many questions that the teaching leader challenged us with, this was the most poignant: Are you camping outside and refusing to enter the Promised Land?

That hit me hard. At this point of my authoring journey (more on this in another post), I sometimes find myself wishing to return to full-time employment. I would look through job listings, fantasize about being in an exciting new job, and wonder if I should apply for a position.

I realised that I’m actually at the border now and it’s very important that I take hold of God’s promise. There are difficulties ahead, no one said writing a book is easy (maybe my publisher did) and it seems easier to turn back. Put the book off till another time. Get a job and save money for a HDB flat. Why write a book? But God has brought me here, He is with me, He’s on my side.

The Israelites could have settled into the Promised Land after a mere two years of travelling. God had planned for them to rest and enjoy the land. He had not intended for them to spend the next 38 years still in the desert. But because of their disobedience, they ended up doing just that.

I don’t want this book to take another 38 years, not even another 5 years. Definitely not. So if God says this is the time, I’m gonna believe that this is the time. I will leave the desert and trust Him to bring me into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.