Thankfulness: a commercial

colour run

I was at a festival recently, where one of the speakers said that she does ‘thankfulness commercials’. When her kids start to get grumpy or complain, she makes them stop, and each name five things that they are thankful for.

And you know what? She said that once they start, they never ever can only name five. They just carry on – “I’m thankful for…my mum, my dad, my brother, my house, the sun, the moon, the stars…” etc.

It made me think how mostly, the white noise of my heart is not thankful noise. It is grumbly, complain-y, ‘if only…’ noise.

This week, I am thankful for:

  • A fab weekend away – the Colo(u)r Run, thin-crust pizza, a sandsculpture festival, the sea, and About Time
  • A warm, sunshine-y afternoon
  • Casual weekday badminton (and flexible working)
  • One of my new housemates discovering that he owns a microwave (!)
  • Other furniture gifts still coming in: a dining table, another sofa, a wardrobe, vintage porcelain dishes, money
  • A garden harvest of fat green beans and six beautiful tomatoes
  • A team and job that I love
  • A friend to sit with while reading
  • Winning at this game.
  • Long-distance phone chats
  • Encouragement to persevere, from the book of Hebrews
  • A borrowed umbrella when it was raining
  • This good read
  • The most bombastic crumble ever – plum, peach, rhubarb, fig and ginger
  • My entire church staff helping me to move house
  • My vicar/boss sawing a hole in the back of my bookcase so that I have access to power sockets
  • A helpful contact agreeing to be interviewed for an assignment
  • Cantonese curry. Stroopwafels. Home-baked jam cookies the size of your hand.
  • That man in the queue behind me at Costa, who helped pick up my change that had fallen all over the floor. (He also said it was an ‘omen from the Lord, telling me to relax today’…! Maybe so, Mr. Helpful)
  • My baby nephew. Oh the cuteness, oh the chub.
  • Complete support from ex-housemates (‘do you need any food? Cleaning supplies? Anything at all?’)
  • Indoor picnics with the just-moved-in look

 indoor picnic

And that, my friends, is all.

Have a weekend full of things to be thankful for!

the Color Run, vindication, and…an exciting announcement

Dearies, it has been a most up-and-down week. There was a big misunderstanding with this course that I’m doing, with them threatening to make me resubmit an assignment and cap my score at 50%. But after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and sleepless nights, it has all been resolved with me not needing to do anything – very relieved and thankful to all who prayed and said kind things and got indignant on my behalf. One thing I have discovered, my people are very sweet.

And now, onward – to Brighton for THIS. And camping and eating Italian and Japanese food and exploring a sand sculpture festival, with my lovely lovely housemate. Feels like a proper last hurrah to the summer, and a much needed getaway.

 

new house keys

In other news, my community house is multiplying! This has been in the works for awhile; I had a sense that while we all dearly love one another, it was time to share that with some other people, to grow to include more friends in our community life. So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be moving down the road to live with two friends, both international students, who are just great, and to build up a community life of our own. At the same time, it’s not the end for my current housemates; we’re going to share rhythms of prayer and mealtimes across the two houses, and obviously stay fast friends. Exciting (and crazy) times! We got the keys to our new house yesterday 🙂

Our new house is also unfurnished apart from kitchen appliances, and God’s massively come through on providing furniture that we can’t easily afford to buy so far. We’ve been offered, by people in our communities, entirely free:

– Two single bedframes
– A wardrobe
– Three chairs
– Two dining tables
– Two sofas
– Three desks
– A picture
– Two armchairs
– A portable radiator
– Six standing lamps

And…entirely unnecessarily:

– A piano keyboard and stand (which I just tacked onto my wishlist, thinking, “Oh, we’ll never get that”)
– A murder mystery game (the day after I had thought how nice it would be to have a collection of games)

Don’t you love it when the standard for reasonable provision is not ‘bread and water’ but chocolate too 😉 wish us luck/pray!

Have a colo(u)rful weekend, everyone.

 

majulah

(Mentos being very silly and funny)

Hey folks. I was going to write you a totally navel-gazing, soul-searchingly deep post about what it means to be Singaporean and all, but on this my country’s 48th birthday, I’m just going to relax. Submitted the third of my four fundraising course assignments yesterday, and I still feel a little like a new mum who’s given birth but her body hasn’t quite realised it yet. My brain is still all jumpy and thinking about word counts and ROI and LTV. I even woke up with the hiccups that I had while doing final essay edits last night! What.

So it’s time to properly wind down for the summer. The last of my stressful deadlines is over. You know, I used to never wind down; up until four years ago I’d never intentionally had a day off in my life. (Going on holidays doesn’t count – that’s like binge-resting.) And in some ways, that was easier, because boy, working is what I do best. When I’m achieving and producing, I’m worth something. It took so much more character and discipline to just start cherishing myself and my relationships, than it did to carry on staying late at the office.

But I’ve found that there’s a real wisdom in that, because that’s how the upside-down secret way works in life. Want to live? Die to yourself. Want to be rich and successful? Learn to be poor and childlike. Want to find freedom? Train to surrender and submit. Want to produce and contribute the most? Take a break.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – Jesus, John 15.5

So as we celebrate Singapore’s great successes today, I’d like to invite you to remember that progress isn’t linear, but seasonal, and that most of what causes success to apparently just pop up all of a sudden is long, slow spiritual and character formation in secret. Perhaps you can use some of your long weekend to find that secret, still space.

I, for one, am going to find some bubble tea in Coventry city centre and harvest my friends’ garden (hello, courgettes and rhubarb! Nice to eat choo).

Have a secret, still weekend, everyone.

*

Also, I give you some more National Day-themed links:

Singaporean 90s-kid nostalgia.

Google loves us.

And ok not really National Day-themed, but Singaporean and close to my heart – include an ‘outsider’ in some way this weekend, won’t you.

Excerpts from my favourite Singapore film ever, here and here.

And, wah! Mr Brown got music video.

solitude, calling, and the internet man

sheep

Ok friends, and here we screech to the end of a rather bumpy week. I was alone at home for a lot of it because my exciting housemates are all away. Oh, and also because the internet man decided that this was the week he would come and fix us up, which meant having to work from home A LOT and wait (and wait and wait) for routers etc to appear. Hopefully, by end of today, we will have the internets and this will conclude THREE MONTHS OF SORROW AND AGONY (talktalk I am never talking to you ever again *£^%&*@gfthgft).

Anyway. Do you find that as you get older, you seem to develop towards the opposite extreme from your personality type? As in, e.g., you used to introvertedly suck up alone time, but now you can’t live without human interaction for even one evening? That is what I have discovered about myself this week. Hmm. Interesting considering what Bonhoeffer says:

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community […] let him who is not in community beware of being alone […] each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

Maybe it’s time for me to learn to be by myself again for a bit. Summer is a good time for that.

(Speaking of which, have you seen this comic about understanding introverts yet? Pretty good stuff.)

landscape

My other big reflection on the week is that no one has a full understanding of what I am called to do with my life except God. Not my friends, not my parents, not my church leader, not myself. And everyone, myself included, will sooner or later bump up against something in my life that they/I don’t think I’m called to do, but which is in fact right to do.

This is why following this particular God isn’t about rules, because sometimes obedience will look like steeling myself to defy the talking heads in my life, while other times (like right now with fundraising) it looks like everyone trying to nudge me towards this thing that I so feel inadequate for.

This is also why Jesus had so much to say about unity, I think. Because unity means that his followers keep on loving each other even when they are being led down completely different paths, encouraging each other to do completely different, even opposite things.

Practically, right now, here’s how this stuff is hitting me:

1. I want to learn to experiment again with fundraising, to unashamedly start from zero knowledge. To not let childlikeness make me feel inadequate, but to actually learn that this is the best preparation for learning.

2. I want to refuse to compare. How should I know whether these guys are supposed to be in this career or not, married or not, spending money on this or not? All I know is, I’m trying to follow Jesus, and presumably, so are they.

sweeping

Oh and finally, there’s been an awful lot of sanctimonious talk coming out of Singapore this past week. Pastor Kong Hee, Family Pledge, opine opine, waffle waffle…can we all just give our judging skills a rest now, please? Judging skills, it’s holiday time, ok?! You just sit yourselves right down and take a little break.

Have a restful, non-judgemental weekend, everyone.

PS. A coffee personality type chart that made me laugh.

(Photos: Are mine from a day trip to the Cotswolds.)

leaning the other way

leaning into windI had an assignment deadline yesterday, for this fundraising course that I’m doing over the next six months. First essay in a long, long while — I found myself really stressing over it. Would I have enough time to finish? Would I get my writing mojo on? What if I produced something incomprehensible/incoherent? What if (nightmare) I failed?

Having spent too much time on this assignment and lost too much sleep, and backlogged lots of other commitments this week, today I’m in a chastened sort of mood. I feel all disillusioned with this course process. Fear is just a lie.

There was a moment, while walking home from spending time with friends yesterday evening, when I only had an hour left to submit my assignment and was still 600 words over, that I realised something really important. Given my personality type, aiming to do as well as I can on this course and stressing about performance is entirely the wrong goal. It just heightens tendencies that I already have to an unhealthy level. To be arrogant but honest, there is almost nothing that will stop me doing well, because academically, there has never seriously been such a thing as me doing badly.

The right thing to focus on, and what, for me, will actually determine the success of this course experience, is whether I have a life while completing the assignments. Whether I still have regular mealtimes and regular prayertimes and regular seeing people times. Whether I keep communicating with my housemates and cleaning the kitchen. And having a day off and going on runs.

C S Lewis writes something in the Screwtape Letters that has really helped me to see this thing clearly:

“We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger […] the game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.”

The world isn’t linear, it exists in continuums and tensions, and so in his sagely way, Lewis is able to remind me that actually, when I think I haven’t gone far enough in one direction, there’s the whole opposite end of the spectrum to tend to as well. And going in that direction — now there’s a challenge which feels unnatural. But upside-down success looks like deliberately leaning that way, even if only flailingly at first, for that is how to learn.

(Picture from here. With thanks.)

lunchtime quickie

Hmmm. At work on mundane things, but brain is also doing some thinking about solving social problems and increasing social interaction today. Check these out:

Structuring random social interactions. I’m thinking of making my student core team do some variant of this.

Read this interesting book on the gift vs profit economy this week. It was an oddly spiritual experience.

“I still believe that the primary commerce of art is a gift exchange […] I still believe that a gift can be destroyed by the marketplace. But I no longer feel the poles of this dichotomy to be so strongly opposed […] gift exchange and the market need not be wholly separate spheres. There are ways in which they may be reconciled […] there is little to be gained by a wholesale attack on the market. We can sometimes limit the scope of its influence, but we cannot change its nature. The market is an emanation of logos, and logos is as much a part of the human spirit as eros is.” – Lewis Hyde

Hyde goes on to talk about ways in which ‘artists’ (broadly applicable to anyone living for something that the market will not support) have reconciled themselves to a marketised world: by finding a patron, by taking second jobs, or by managing to commercialise their work without diluting it. Of course, some people will find that they just can’t bring themselves to live in this way, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who does is selling out. Lots of good thoughts.

Finally, speaking of the gift vs. market economy: Dan Pallotta has an interestingly radical take on marketising charity operations. Not sure I’d agree with all he says, but puzzling over whether that’s just because it’s so unlike what currently happens that it sounds shocking…see for yourself.

Enjoy your weekend, guys.

recent interestingness

pan's labyrinth

Ofelia and the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth

May this roundup fascinate, tantalise and perturb you:

Pan’s Labyrinth. (Okay so I may just be the last person on the planet to have watched this…) Gore and horror elements are not really my thing, but still, what a great realistic fairytale.

Carrot batons steamed and flavoured with honey, thyme, salt and curry paste. From here (it’s rule number 69).

19 things to stop doing in your 20s. You got me there.

Summer is coming. I must make these.

This talk on the different human motivations for green behaviour and how to tap into them.

It’s not every day your church leader gets killed for attempting to assassinate Hitler. Whatta guy. (Also, this is a classic text on living in community.)

And finally, because as a fundraiser I get to keep tabs on interesting events, this! And this (oh please come to England. We will still run, for sure).

Have a good weekend, everyone.

(Photo from here, with thanks.)