As a young graduate, my first job was working as a secretary to one of the lead pastors in my home church which I grew up in. And so for three and a half years, I was blessed to work closely under a man who is not only a great boss but who has become for me, an inspiring role model. And after 15 years of working life, a huge part of my work ethos is influenced by him. So I decided to email him today:
Dear Pastor George
This is a long overdue letter from me but I thought ‘hey,it’s better late than never’!
It’s been four years since Chin Seng and I moved to Perth. I am now working in a local university. As I entered into my third year working here, I found myself reflecting where I’d come from in my working life journey. That’s when I realized a huge part of my work ethos has been influenced by you. And I’d never told you but I’ve always considered you to be a mentor during those years we worked together. In my current role, I have a fair share of management and leadership responsibility. So I have been reminded of you on occasions. I really wanted to appreciate you for teaching me, and more importantly, modeling for me, these lessons:
1. ‘Expect what you inspect’ – if something is worth doing, it is worth investing my time to make sure it is doing well
2. ‘Spirit of excellence’ – it can never be perfect but at least we have given our best
3. ‘Contingency, contingency, contingency’ – it’s not good enough to have a contingency plan, we need to have contingency plan for the contingency plan!
4. ‘I’ll back you up’ – supporting staff in their decisions not just in my words but through my actions
5. ‘You can do it’ – empowering staff to go beyond their own perceived limitation
6. ‘The importance of follow-up’ – never forget to follow up with a phone call or email or both!
7. ‘Sense of purpose and destiny’ – it is never about how much money one makes but the difference one makes in the lives of others
So really, this is a thank-you note.
1. Thank you for being a godly leader who always seeks to do what is right according to what God has placed upon your heart, no matter what
2. Thank you for being a leader who demonstrates you are a follower first of all
3. Thank you for being a courageous leader who never walks away from a challenging situation
4. Thank you for being a leader who tempers justice with mercy
5. Thank you for being a leader who leads louder through your walk than your talk
6. Thank you for being a leader who is real because you would share candidly about your struggles
7. Thank you for being the best boss one could ever have, especially to a young graduate who just started on her first job!
As I journeyed on in my working life, you will continue to be an inspiration to me. It is my desire that I will, do for others who come along my way, what you’ve done for me.
I turned thirty-six today. But hey, who’s counting really? I liked what a young adult posted on FB when it was her birthday recently and she declared this birthday is not about her; rather it is about her mum who endured through labor pains to bring her up to who she is today. And so I thought of my mum who has always been the strong silent type yet so full of tenderness for her children.
Besides the birthday greetings from family and friends, I am also blessed by some people who went out of their way to make today a special one for me:
- Flowers from CS never fail to make me smile. And he ‘surprised’ me with a remote control timer release for my DSLR because I saw a church mate using it and exclaimed that I wanted one myself. It was a ‘surprise’ cos I found out what the gift was when I overheard a phone conversation between CS and the said-church mate where CS was asking him to get one for me on E-bay!
- Having had 2 birthday cakes baked by my boss. ‘All from scratch, Erv; not from those pre-mixed boxes!’ he proudly declared. And his lovely wife chipped in with her contribution of walnut and date slice cake.
- Receiving a phone call from the big boss after work apologizing that she couldn’t make it down to office to wish me happy birthday personally today.
- A text message from a friend who had moved back to Melbourne. Thanks for remembering, Rob!
- Mish who dropped by the office to wish me happy birthday and reminded me that we should catch up soon. Yes, we should, babe.
- The neighbour who brought over a cupcake in the evening and had intended to sing me a ‘happy birthday’ song with it; alas I was in the shower. And so CS had to sing it on his behalf instead when I came out of the bathroom!
- Two girlfriends who popped by the office today separately with their presents.
This month we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years. 120 months. 3650 days. And what a journey it has been; one in which we are still learning about each other and, more importantly, about ourselves through the process. Just recently during a car ride, we came up with the idea that the next time we catch ourselves squabbling over the silliest thing (and you thought we’d know better from ten years of marriage!), one of us would ‘pretend bite’ his/her arm to prove the point, and hopefully, stop the silly squabble!
[Photo taken at Sculptures by the Sea, Cottesloe Beach in Perth.]
Your note arrived today.
You don’t have to apologize for the ‘hiatus’ and how you had to think long and hard as to how to reply us ‘in style’ because you are not that ‘a creative, artistic, scrapbook person’. Any news from you is better than no news. And we really do love the handmade touch in your note.
The title of your note makes us smile – if this ain’t called love (then what is). I don’t think when we first got married we had any idea what love really is (though we probably thought we did!) but after nearly a decade-long marriage, I think we are getting a glimpse of that.
Love is hard work. It means loving when you don’t feel like it. It means your action has to speak louder than your words. It means thrashing out your conflicts even though the last thing you want to do is talk. It means even when things get tough, giving up is not an option. Ever.
Truth be told, I don’t think we had consciously lived out our marriage with the intention to be a ‘testimony’ of His love. I think that good intention can sometimes come with unnecessary pressure and expectation. But what we have tried to do is include God in our relationship; kind of like a pseudo-marriage counsellor! And oh yes, a sense of humour. That’s right; you read it correctly. We try to have as much fun as we can along the way!
I hope, one day, you too, will have this amazing experience of marriage.
It is great to read about what God’s been doing in your life. Really, one of our greatest pride and joy from serving in the young adult ministry is seeing young adults like you stepping up and rising to the call of leadership, in one way or another.
Frankly, it has been challenging for us since we took over the young adult ministry here in Perth; we are still finding our way around to connect with the young adults. It is a struggle sometimes and I guess your note is a timely reminder of the rewards we will reap, one day, if we persevere.
So our prayer for you is that you too, will persevere in the call that God has led you to. Never let the enemy deceive you with: You are not good enough. Not old enough. Not young enough. Not mature enough. Not holy enough. Not loving enough.
Guard your walk with God jealously because without it, everything you do is meaningless. Remember: God doesn’t require sacrifice more than your obedience. Your service for God should be an outflow of your love for Him – everything you do is because you want to, not because you have to.
All right, that’s enough rambling for now. Your note ended with a refrain of ‘remember to not forget me yah’; well, know that you remain close to our heart, and that you are missed as you do us.
CS & E”
- Receiving snail mail – A young adult from Singapore had sent me a handbound journal and calendar from her Nepal travel. She’s also enclosed a copy of her final year project – a publication commissioned by The European Commission for which she was privileged to travel to Europe for. Thanks Fen, for all the lovelies in the mail.
- Reading a random poem scribbled on my work document – courtesy of one creative staff member
Weddings are always such a special occasion. Smiles and hugs are everywhere. And Love is almost tangible in the air. It is the beginning of a new chapter in life’s journey, only this time round, you do it together with someone. This month we attended our first Aussie wedding – Jaimee my gorgeous co-worker and Ryan the dashing professional footballer.
Since I was busy snapping shots of the couple most of the time, I didn’t manage to get any personal shot except when we had a break between the church and the evening reception so I quickly took a self-portrait from CS’ car. I’d worn a black ruffled silk dress and accessorized it with a white belt and vintage white Glomesh bag bought from a flea market weeks ago.
At the evening reception, however, there was a vintage photo booth for the guests to pop in anytime to take their photos. The best thing about that is you get to take home a photo strip and the wedding couple gets a duplicate as a keepsake as well. Here’s what we got up to in the photo booth:
I love weddings!
It has been 10 days since my last blog post so here are 10 random updates:
- We had shepherd pie which I made for dinner last night. It was delicious although CS preferred the usual mashed potato topping instead of the sweet potato version.
- We caught up with friends over coffee yesterday afternoon. One of them had started seeing someone recently and now wondered if the affection was mutual. It was hilarious to hear all the different interpretations that came through because of our diverse cultural background – French, Italian-Bosnian, European, American and Singaporean. Yet it was also interesting to see how dating norms and relationship rules differs.
- I am still baking – my latest creation was a a mango pineapple and coconut cake which I baked last Saturday.
- We had a great time of drinks with the neighbours last Friday. We met in honor of jR the neighbour’s cat who had to be put down last Wednesday because of leukemia. To a large extent, jR was the one who brought all of us closer together when he started hanging out at our house. We were happy to have him over and the neighbours were happy that jR found a second home especially since they had 2 dogs, 3 puppies and 2 amazing fish tanks to take care of as well…
- I started a weekly aqua-aerobics class with a girlfriend 3 weeks ago and has been enjoying it. (Despite a Swedish co-worker’s initial comment: oh aqua-aerobics; that’s what the old ladies do for exercise back home… And that made me realize that was also true in my class too. But who cares as long as I get my hour of workout that doesn’t leave me feeling all sore and achy afterward!)
- For the last 2 Sundays, we have been attending a Chinese service in a different church that we are hoping mum-in-law would settle down in. Thankfully, the initial signs are promising.
- What I am reading currently: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert and September Songs by Maggie Scarf. Interestingly, both books were about marriage especially in its later years. I guess it’s because we’ve entered ten years of marriage and I don’t want to take things for granted.
- I am starting to like my new car that CS bought me at an auction. Compared to my last car, this is like a luxury to me. Curious? Will post a picture here soon, I promise.
- My herb garden is flourishing so we have been eating home-grown parsley and coriander. I bought rosemary at the farmer’s market yesterday and hope it will grow as well too. I also bought mum-in-law some strawberry seedlings because this is the season to grow them, so hopefully that turns out well too.
- I am learning to trust God to work in His time, not mine. When nothing seems to be happening, it doesn’t mean nothing is moving. Makes sense? I guess this is when faith is called into action. Hebrews 11: 1: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (New Living Translation)
Last Saturday, we squeezed in a trip to IKEA to have breakfast and buy stuff. Our haul for the day: candles, napkins, floor lamp, picture ledges, 3 coffee tables (which CS is going to modify it into a shoe rack for the hallway).
Then in the afternoon we went to Serpentine Falls National Park to see the water falls and the wild kangaroos. It’s been a long time since we got up close and personal with the kangaroos, so it was fun to re-acquaint ourselves with these furry things again. I must admit they frighten me a little initially when I saw them approaching but they turned out harmless. It was also fun mucking around with Terry in the great outdoors!
On Sunday, we went whale-watching. I think the whole experience was a lesson in patience because most of the time was spent waiting for the whales to surface; and the law actually prohibits us from coming within 100 metres of them. But our patience was rewarded when we caught glimpses of the magnificent mammal bobbing in and out of water every now and then.
In the night, we had an Australian/Kiwi couple from church over for drinks. This was the first time we’d invited people from this church we started attending since June. And it was an intentional effort because we finally felt this was where we could settle down in; thus we started looking out for people we could possibly connect with.
Jay and Aida was one of those. We had a meaningful night getting to know each other and our respective life stories. It’s always good when you are able to know someone beneath their usual Sunday appearance, probe a little deeper and suddenly that person is not just a face but a unique individual with his own story to tell…The drinks went on for 3 hours but it didn’t feel that long. CS and I went to bed exhausted but satisfied that we finally took the first step in building relationships with people from church…
On Monday, we went to Ivan/Bel’s for brunch. As usual, the good food was always accompanied by an even better company. It was a lazy day spent indoor watching movies which was the perfect winding down to the long weekend…
During our daily lunchtime phone conversation this afternoon,
CS: I really enjoyed last night…
E: What do you mean?
CS: I liked the long chat we had with each other before we went to bed.
That’s what I love about our relationship – it’s never sustained by expensive gifts or extravagant gestures. Just plain simple appreciation and enjoyment of each other’s company.