dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Embracing A Fresh Start

So… the husband and I are getting Confirmed as Anglicans in our new church of choice this Sunday. It’s a major milestone, a fresh start, a new commitment, the first official step of a brand new journey, the next chapter in the story of our lives.

So it’s nice that while taking a few minutes’ break to rest my brain a little while working on stuff in the office, I came across these sites/pages that I thoroughly appreciated:

Right Reason: The Blog of Dr Glenn Andrew Peoples on Theology, Philosophy and Social Issues

The Diocese of Singapore

Anglicans Online

Anglican Communion

The Anglican Catholic Church

I’ve also resolved to keep more up-to-date with The Rabbit Room.

Advertisements

Look Around, Look Ahead, Now What?

So we’re supposed to have been pondering these questions for discussion tonight: Where am I in my spiritual journey? Which area in my spiritual journey do I think God wants me to focus on in 2018?

Where am I? The short (and safe) answer would probably be: At the start of a completely new phase but having to get back to the basics and relearn some things I’ve forgotten in the past couple of years.

I can’t really see how else to sum it up. The long answer requires elaboration of historical context, and the listing of a truly complex web of factors including relationship/marital issues, emotional and mental health concerns (possibly mild clinical depression), stress and fatigue. It’s not that I’m denying culpability in the decline of my own spiritual health – I’m saying that I’m probably a classic specimen of a woman who’s had to (or took it upon herself to?) carry both hers and her husband’s responsibilities for some time, and crumbled under the weight of it all.

I’m not supposed to be the leader of the household, I shouldn’t be the one pushing for a lifestyle that integrates more with what we say we believe. I’m not supposed to have to be the spiritual barometer in the household, I’m not supposed to be the one pushing for some sort of regular family prayer or scripture reading time.

I shouldn’t feel awkward singing worship songs to or praying over my child. I shouldn’t feel out of my depth and anxious about wanting to pray as a couple or a family over anything, good or bad. I shouldn’t have to feel left out and lacking, wishing that my husband would pray over me like I know other men pray over their wives. I shouldn’t be battling tension and anxiety and insecurity about whether or not I actually married a Christian in the first place, or whether being Christian really means anything real to him at all, and whether that is grounds for divorce.

But I do. All of it. And I’ve spent much of the last few years pitying myself and letting my anxiety and frustration grow to a point where I’m having trouble with resentment and bitterness and finding it hard to give him the benefit of the doubt in anything. And it was probably definitely and obviously a stupid move but I deliberately let my own spiritual discipline slide in the process, thinking that if he realised how absolutely shitty things were getting, he’d finally wake up and get his act together.

I’m struggling to reconcile the need – and the scriptural command – to submit to him (and to the grace and mercy of God), and the staring-me-in-the-face-screaming-me-in-the-ear need to hold up the crumbling foundations of what should be a God-centred, Spiritually-led household. At least, what I think makes a household a God-centreed, Spiritually-led one. I think that what we are now, is not… I don’t really think I’m wrong?

I’m struggling to reconcile “wait”, “rest”, “trust”, “hope”, and “submit” with the physical situation staring me in the face – the fact that in a lot of the ways that matter, we’re really no different from a family of atheists or agnostics.

So… what does God want me to focus on this year?

I think it means something that we’ve made the decision to settle the family in this church. I think it means something that all the signs are pointing to it being the right move to quit my job despite the risks and uncertainty. I think it means something that we feel this is the right cell to stick with. I think it means something that the cell mainly comprises families that are a little older and more experienced than us. I think it means something that we both feel a connection with the cell leaders, a sense that it is safe to trust them. I think it means something that he’s been willing to attend a 7.30am men’s meeting.

I think the sense I’m getting is this phrase: Hold on.

You’ve come so far. There’s no turning back. Hold on.

And there’s this part of a song (Eyes On The Prize) by Sara Groves that’s coming back to me now:

I got my hand on the gospel plough
Won’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Ain’t no man on earth control
The weight of glory on a human soul
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The wait is slow, and we’ve so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

When you see a man walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee

When you see a child walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee

When you see a family free
It makes you dream of jubilee

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.

Picking a Side

Where does one draw the line between practical wisdom and faith-fuelled conviction? Between foolhardy optimism and promise-fuelled faith? Between confidence (in a God who will not let me fall, so long as I seek to follow Him) and pride (not wanting to back down from what I’ve said)?

I’ve always been a rational sort of person, and I’ve always prided myself on my ability to use logic and reasoning in my decision-making. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons I took so long to make my final decision to leave this company.

Yeah, I resigned, I’m serving notice, and my last day of service is just six weekdays from now.

This exit has been pending for a long time. Months. And I’d been vacillating on it and then its date for most of that time. I’d been applying for other positions from time to time, thinking on and off about what I’d do if I decided to be my own boss, and basically just waiting for a sign of some sort from God. Occasionally asking Him to please make the path ahead clear.

Nothing happened. The few callbacks and interviews that I had been getting dwindled to nothing. No new leads showed up. I got more depressed, more irritable, more frustrated.  The rubbish coming from the crazy clients got worse. And more (unlooked-for) information on certain persons in management turned up, making me lose whatever hope/trust/respect I had left for this company. And I still couldn’t seem to hear anything from God.

Then I quit. And suddenly ideas I had been toying with gained clarity. And I had offers of projects from a few different sources, such that if everything works out smoothly, I’ll be occupied all the way through July. A friend who’s been in the freelance scene for four years offered to guide me and connect me. An ex boss extended me an open door to part-time employment. And best of all, I felt free. And excited about forging a new path. And eager to finally have the time to do some things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time. And I am finding that old sensitivity to the Spirit’s prompting and prophetic insight that I used to have returning, bit by bit.

Funny how I should already know this, but couldn’t seem to see it. We need to do our part and then trust the outcome and the direction going forward to the Lord. Sitting on the fence isn’t going to cut it. Blaming inertia and procrastinating on an inevitable decision is just asking for trouble. God doesn’t want His people being passive – we are meant to act.

Funny how this is the church’s focus during this period, too:

James 1: 2-18, NKJV
2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
5If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9Let the lowly brother rejoice in his exaltation, 10but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
12Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Meanwhile, this old favourite passage has come back to me too:

Isaiah 30: 1-5, 15-26, NKJV
1”Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation. 4For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes. 5They were all ashamed of a people who could not benefit them, or be help or benefit, but a shame and also a reproach.”
                  15For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not.
                  16And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses” — therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses” — therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! 17One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill.
                  18Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.
                  19For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. 20And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. 21Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. 22You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, and the ornament of your molded images of gold. You will throw them away as an unclean thing; you will say to them, “Get away!”
23Then He will give the rain for your seed with which you sow the ground, and bread of the increase of the earth; it will be fat and plentiful. In that day your cattle will feed in large pastures. 24Likewise the oxen and the young donkeys that work the ground will eat cured fodder, which has been winnowed with the shovel and fan.
25There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.

Today I had lunch with a colleague. I know he means well, but he is what he is — a man who stands on his own strength, who does not put his trust in any god, and who is a pragmatist. And the more he spoke the more I felt the same doubt and fear and anxiety and depression of the last many months creeping back in.

So I shut the door. Being surrounded by such is a trial. Being sucked down into the morass of negative emotions and self-reliance is giving in to temptation. But —

I will not be moved
And I’ll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need

Truly, I am convicted that this move is of the Lord. I believe that He has made this clear. It is now up to me to walk in discipline, and not waste the opportunities that my Father has laid in my path. I know that “The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish (Proverbs 10:3).”

It is well with my soul!

*****

2 Thessalonians 3:7-13, NKJV
7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

                  10For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
                  13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.

Colossians 3:23-24, NKJV
23And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Psalm 128:1-4, NKJV
1Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. 2When you eat the labour of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. 3Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. 4Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

Proverbs 14:23, NKJV
In all labour there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 12:11, NKJV
He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

Proverbs 10:4, NKJV
He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 20:13, NKJV
Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.

Proverbs 28:19-20, NKJV
19He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough! 20A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 24:30-34, NKJV
30I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; 31and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. 32When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: 33A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; 34so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.

Proverbs 22:29, NKJV
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.

Ecclesiastes 9:4-12, NKJV
4…for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished, nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.

                  7Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. 8Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. 9Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labour which you perform under the sun. 10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
                  11I returned and saw under the sun that — the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. 12For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.

Looking For a Way Out

I can’t breathe. I want to just get up and run, get out of here, and keep running until I feel like I can breathe again.

The speed at which things have been transpiring, and therefore the speed at which my thoughts have been skidding around, have been way beyond my ability to sit down and write about them.

To write, I need space and quiet. I need things to settle and for periods of calm, or nothing happening, in order for my eyes and my hands/fingers to feel like they have any hope of catching up with the content that’s flying through my conscious and subconscious.

And frighteningly, I’m seeing that at the bottom of all my current issues is this pattern where I seem to keep being told again and again and again by various people and organisations that I am nobody’s priority, I will always be the last to be taken into consideration when choices have to be made, and I am so tired of it all.

It might be me projecting unresolved issues onto others, for all I know.

But the sort of things that have kept happening don’t seem to require projection on my part.

Take last night for example. N had made an agreement with me on Saturday to have a quick meet up last night for me to show her a couple of interesting spaces in my neighbourhood that might be useful in the future. I texted her at 5pm to ask if she was definitely coming, and if so, at what time. No answer. But she was actively answering and sending messages in the groups we are both in from 5.30m-6.30pm. I texted her again at 8.45pm and 9.10pm, and again, no response – but she’s sending out group texts. I called. No answer.

Finally, at 9.27pm, she texts back saying sorry, she was driving, she’s just reached XYZ Hotel. End message. I reply saying I’m confused about this and should I assume that we are postponing the recce meet-up? She replies at 9.40pm saying that yes, we’re postponing because “tonight is the only night in my schedule that I can spare to go and support PKK” (a musician from out of town who’s performing here for a few days).

And here I was dealing with a constipated toddler, unsure whether I should proceed with her usual schedule in light of being unsure of what time I had to be out of the house to meet this woman for the recce meeting that she requested and agreed upon.

Are you starting to get my drift?

And then there’s this job. I didn’t want this position, but I have tried to give it a good shot – have been trying, despite all the crap that it has thrown at me in the past half year I’ve stuck with it. Then last week I found out that it isn’t only my salary that’s being suppressed: HR flippantly said that I have not been, and am not going to be, bumped up officially to an executive rank on file – even though I am marketed to clients as an editor, burdened with the full workload and responsibilities of an editor, and expected to think and function and seek out extra ways to value add… like a fully invested editor. But I don’t have the same benefits as the other editors, and neither do I qualify for the same pay scale.

Meantime, I’ve just been getting more and more sick of the way things work.

We market ourselves as the industry leaders and experts whose role is to advise and guide our clients – but the truth is that the bosses have no clue what’s going on, and management doesn’t want to incur the “irrelevant expenditure” of sending staff for training that isn’t 100% directly related to their exact job scope. This means that even though we are a media company, none of the creatives have ever gotten training in digital media, even though many of us have been asking for it for years. When something comes up – like when a client suddenly asks us to storyboard a video – everyone scrambles to read/watch online how-tos and muddle our way through. And then we have to plaster on a grinning mask and act like we know exactly what we are doing and our way is better than whatever it was the client had in mind.

Another truth is that despite all the posturing, most of the time (excepting the rare cases where the person who drew up the contract that was actually signed was smart enough to have protective clauses incorporated) the client’s directives rule the process, and the client’s decision is final. They can do anything they like, whenever they like – and on top of delivering in accordance to their demands we have to protect their reputations by pretending to anyone who asks that they are perfectly reasonable and pleasant to work with.

Don’t bother telling me that this is normal in the media/publishing industry. I know it. I’ve done this sort of thing before, albeit from within a smaller set-up. It was crazier there, actually, but: There is a big difference between having to deal with crazy shit that you knowingly signed up for, and having to deal with crazy shit that you sure as hell did not sign up for and only agreed to “try out” because the alternative presented to you was “your colleague who is nearing retirement age gets fired”.

At least in my previous company – and I’m still good friends with my ex boss, mind – we didn’t have to fake it. It was what it was. And that might be the difference between a large corporation and a small set-up, or it might be the difference between management that cares more about the company than the staff, and management that cares more about the staff than the company. I don’t know for sure.

The long and short of it is that I really can’t find it in me any longer to care what happens to this company. I’m abandoning ship the first feasible chance I get. And I won’t feel a single smidgen of regret.

I’ve had more than a decade of publishing/media experience now, and I am heartily sick of the industry. I want out. I’ve been considering all sorts of alternatives – even brushing up my sewing skills and running a part-time alteration/tailoring service from home. Anything, really.

Well, almost. Has to be within my skill set of course, and has to mean something more than just reputation and money.

Wish me luck.

Undersides of Unfinished Tapestries

Where to start? I don’t even know where to start taking stock of my own life, it’s like looking at the underside of a tapestry (or an unfinished piece of crochet with hundreds of loose ends to weave in). But it’s amazing how just one encounter can be a pivot between frustrated despair and awakening hope. Perhaps that in itself is a sign – as close to a shout, I suppose, from a God who hasn’t been listened to for some time.

A month and a half ago I was forcibly transferred to a senior position at my current workplace. There were no direct threats, of course, but when one is taken out into the office corridor in mid-May and told, “Management has decided that you will be going upstairs to XX department from 1 July,” and when one’s queries to the HR department about a new contract with terms and compensation commensurate to the new position are met with evasive refusals to discuss, and finally a dismissive, “This is normal, it doesn’t count as a promotion and it doesn’t merit any change of contract, you didn’t request or apply for the job, we are just redeploying staff; it’s just the way it is here,” a mere five days before the official move, it’s quite obvious what the company’s view of you as a person and an employee is.

Barely four and a half weeks into the job, an additional account is thrown into my lap. And then, last week, just as I was starting to get into the swing of things and preparing to officially take the reins of this third assignment, I’m told that management is considering handing my current favourite account to a colleague because one of her accounts has been cancelled – and I might need to “help out” with another, particularly annoying, account in order to continue “justifying my employability”.

Wow.

Friends and colleagues have advised me to stick it out until the end of the year so that I at least have six months’ worth of official experience in the role on my resume, and also so that I have something to show for my pains (a few issues with my name in the credits). My rational side totally agrees, of course – I mean, I’m pretty much the sole breadwinner now and we have a kid to raise – but that old feeling of being sickened by the thought of continuing in this particular work environment that I last felt in 2009 is back. It’s not the disgusted frustration I felt when I decided to leave my second workplace, or the exasperated fatigue I experienced in my last weeks at my previous workplace. It’s that creeping sense of illness, of wrong, that drove me to leave what I had initially thought was my life’s calling – except that this time, I’m under no illusions about my current employer’s suitability as a long-term career partner.

Yesterday, during our third visit to a church we’re considering attending, we asked for prayer with one of the pastors. He said a lot of things that stunned me, both before and during his prayer. He asked if I’d taken any practical steps to ascertain my position and options while waiting for a clear direction from God, whether I’ve heard from God about whether to stay, and if yes, for how much longer, and prayed that I would not make decisions out of fear that I will not have/find another job.

Frankly, I’ve not been listening much, so even if God has been speaking, I’ve not heard. I’ve been angry and discouraged and not asked for His input. I have been afraid of making the wrong decisions financially. And when the pastor said those words about God’s direction and call for my career, I had a flashback of a church camp prayer/ministry session from years ago – I can’t remember if it was 2003 or 2004 – when I was fully convicted of a full time ministry call on my life. It was also the first time I experienced being “slain” as the charismatics like to call it – I prefer to simply call it falling under the power of the Spirit. I have not thought about that session for more than eight years now. The last time was when I was leaving my full-time position in that church (my first job) for a secular job and feeling like everything had been a lie, or that I had misheard God terribly and brought disaster upon myself.

I realise I really don’t quite recognise myself any more. Where is the woman who told her husband to go ahead and take a sabbatical to decide what it was he really wanted to do, when it was clear he was miserable in the IT industry? Where is the woman who was unafraid to confront company management over unfair or unethical practices, even to the point of being willing to leave if they refused to capitulate? Where is the woman who supported her husband’s unorthodox and seemingly impractical – even foolish – decision to go into massage/acupressure therapy, because she believed God gifted him with that skill, bent and interest for a reason?

Where is the woman who did all these things because she was entirely convicted that God would provide, so long as we were serving Him and doing our best to remain in the centre of His will? Where is the woman who fearlessly met every disapproving or discouraging word with, “It is written, ‘I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’ Psalm 37:25,” and, “It is written, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’ Philippians 4:6?”

I must find her. She must still be there, somewhere, half asleep, waiting to be woken. She has to return to the surface. She must.