Sharing stories – On Sunday, we had Pastor Charlie
and his wife over for dinner for the first time. He was the reason we kept returning to the church when we first visited. His friendliness and down to earth nature was so evident even in our first encounter with him. Dinner lasted three hours and it would have gone on longer if not for the fact that the next day was Monday. It is always refreshing to interact with the pastors outside their main “domain”, the church, and see the humanity that lies beneath.
Ministry at work – On Monday, I took a staff out for coffee when I sensed she wasn’t herself that morning. For an hour, in between sobs she shared her anger and pain from a relationship. I just held her hand and listened. I wished I was brave enough to pray with her there and then so she knew there is a God who cares…
Dinner with the boys – That night, we invited two young adults over for a roasted dinner. Good meals are always a great start! We chatted and caught up with one another. One is getting married in a year’s time; the other is still in uni. We shared about how we were travelling in life and some God-stuff. And I hoped the boys also got to know us better.
Church Connect group – On Wednesday, we had our fortnightly meeting again. The topic that night was the grace of God. And everyone shared about how their faith journey began. There were ten of us. I looked around the room and saw the most diverse bunch of people before me. Just in terms of age, we were ranging from 18 to 41 years old. Unsurprisingly, everyone was at different life stage – married couple, mother-to-be, students, working adults. Yet most of us have been meeting fortnightly for two years now since CS and I started the group. I felt blessed to be part of a group that God had brought together – a bunch of people who under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be hanging out together; yet here we are, fellow travel companions on a faith journey.
Heart-to-heart – On Thursday, I received an email from a young adult who shared openly about her disappointment and hurt from a friendship. I deliberated over what to write, stayed back after work and replied to her email. The same night, I chatted with another young adult about his struggle on how to handle a situation he was in. We disagreed at some point but there was no love lost. And I ended our hour-long chat by praying with him. In both instances, I made it a point to share from my own personal experiences. It is so easy to talk in cliches but what if it is me who is in the situation? Would I do likewise? I am learning to be authentic.
Is it any ‘coincidence’ that all these encounters happened at the time I’ve been thinking about relationships and community in our 21st century from one of the books I’ve been reading ‘Above the Line’ ? And attending Edmund Chan’s discipleship conference two weeks ago was a reiteration of what has been on my heart lately. Discipleship – the philosophy and its practical outworking in my life; I think I am slowly getting a glimpse of that…
“biblical Christianity assumes disciples of Jesus are being transformed by life changing encounters with God, a transformation that results in qualities such as gentleness, meekness, and humility being expressed deeply and regularly in the way Christians relate to one another.” Peter McHugh
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.
We had a office staff retreat last week. And one of the activities we did was having everyone write something positive about each other on a piece of paper which was then glued to a candle so that all of us would have something to bring home at the end of the day. What was written on my candle were:
“reliable, organised, helpful, powerhouse, innovative and welcoming, a true leader, inspirational, good hearted, a mentor, efficient, persistent.”
Of all the affirmations received, the ones I took most to heart were: good-hearted and a mentor. Good-hearted because rather than being known by my official job title, I’d rather be known as such a person. A mentor because I like to think that my job is not just a means of earning my keep but a vocation – and I want to make it count.
What a timely reminder, God.
This weekend is the Derby weekend which means that the 2 state footy teams we have – Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles will face off each other as part of the Australian Footy League competition. And every year, a staff at the university will ask supporters of both teams to come together for a Derby photo. I am not a fan of either team to be honest but was “dragged along” by my staff who insisted that I come dressed in purple (Dockers’ colour) and even got me a Dockers’ mascot. One of them even brought her toddler son and dressed him up in Dockers’ jumper, no less! And as a prank, we also brought a photo cut-out of the boss (away in Adelaide for conference) who is a die-hard Dockers fan and draped an Eagles’ scarf over him! Touche!
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 is Emma and me.
Last Friday was her last day at work and so we had a farewell drinks with her at Little Creatures. Emma and I started work in the same division at around the same time. We didn’t hit it off immediately, more because we were working in different departments. But over the last one year, we started going on lunch dates together and ‘discovered’ each other. And we started calling ourselves ‘E-square’ – the BIG E and small e. Coincidentally, both our partners are called ‘Ben’; how funny is that?! (The two ‘Ben’s finally met over drinks last Friday.)
As her farewell gift, I gave her a ‘cloud’ brooch (see photo) to tell her that the sky is the limits wherever she goes. Unknown to me, she also bought me something – a box of inspirational notecards. (One of the things we have in common is that we are both stationery-crazy fans. Only she will understand my fascination with handmade things, animal-shaped paper clips and what-nots!)
I will miss her but something tells me we will be in touch… (Not through Facebook ‘cos the silly girl just wouldn’t get onto it!)
I received a call this morning from the Finance Office and sighed inwardly: oh no, did I get the paperwork wrong? I was told to show up at their office when I could spare the time. And I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up to be presented with an amazing display of cupcakes on a beautiful cupcake stand! Turned out they had wanted to thank me for all the baking goodies I had showered them since I started baking this year. So one of them decided to make me some cupcakes and everyone chipped in to buy me the cupcake stand. I had always wanted a cupcake stand but never bought it for myself so what a great gift!
- 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!