Words, words, words

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.

Envies and wishes and dreams and hopes

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For the first time in a while, I took some time to visit Dad’s blog again. I usually get his posts via RSS feed to my email, but it is quite a different experience reading the posts on his actual blog site. I read through a few recent ones and a few not-so-recent ones, hungrily searching for references to ‘kiddo’ as reminders of what our relationship used to be like and how it has morphed over the years.

Reading his blog triggered something. I have been overly teary the last few months anyway, but today I guess something snapped. Sun setting gloomily behind me, room empty (the recent floods in Canberra has rendered my ceiling leaky and thus my dining room has been vacated of furniture), alone in the house – I wept.

It’s been eight months since Micaiah proposed, and it feels like there’s nothing left to say or do anymore. I love my parents deeply, and I know they love me too. Reading Dad’s blog affirms that above all else, and every mention of ‘kiddo’ in his posts resonates with love, concern and care. It is this knowledge of love that makes it all the more painful to know that we disagree on something so crucial. I have waited, prayed, waited in prayer and on God, wept, fought through sleepless nights, woken up with an anxious heart in the mornings, questioned my motives, re-evaluated my life choices, weighed up the consequences, thought about logistics, made plans and backup plans, prayed some more, asked friends and pastors for advice – all these, over the course of eight months. Painful as it has been, it has also been an opportunity God has graciously provided to discern whether I am truly desiring God’s will or my own. To call myself a Christian, I need to do what God desires, not what I desire. Discerning that is difficult of course, but I have had time. And God has provided, with such grace, a man whom I love. And above that, this is a man who loves God, more than he loves me. And we are excited at the prospect of marrying someone whose life’s project is to serve God better, and submit ourselves daily to Him and to each other. The painful part, of course, is knowing that the timing of this decision will cause hurt to my parents.

How I wished it wouldn’t! How I wish they could choose to find joy in this, more joy than pain at least. I pray for that. I pray that I will be able to talk to them, expressing the love I truly feel for the people who brought me into the world and taught me to obey the Lord. I do not want to hurt them, and I have in my weakness made my best attempt at loving them for the past eight months. But I cannot make a decision that goes against all of my conscience and convictions, and I cannot continue holding myself accountable for their emotions.

I dream of their joy. I weep for it. I would trade all the wedding plans in the world to earn their happiness on the day. I know that entering into marriage is a big decision, and therefore I yearn for their support and advice – not only on how to get a job, but on how to build a strong marriage and how to embark on this next step of the journey. I picture my parents as part of the Christian community that will keep Micaiah and I accountable and faithful in marriage. I see them praying for us at the ceremony, giving the bride away, thanking our Lord for his grace in a speech. Are these still in the realm of possibilities? In my envies and dreams, perhaps, and, it remains, in my hopes.


Written by Elysia

June 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Values and Marriage and Culture and Bible

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Dad said that when he was a young man, he had to pick up the values of our family through subtle means. No one really spoke about such things explicitly. Rather, Uncle So-and-so would mention the “inconsiderate young people who only think of themselves” in casual conversation. Dad would then know that “Aha! I should be considerate and think of others” – and thus we have values being instilled in the next generation.

Auntie saw a friend’s wedding in my calendar when she arrived in Canberra tonight. “Are your friends your age? No, they mustn’t be, you’re too young to be married!”. A recollection of various relatives who had all married in their late twenties (or older) ensues. I think I’m picking up some ‘family values’ here.

In 2005, mum and dad and I moved to Melbourne. I was 10-going-on-11. Dad quickly developed an Australian accent, much more comfortably than I did. We bought Australian things and ate Australian food and I made friends with Australians in my Year 6 class. There was a Sri Lankan, a South African, a girl from Beijing and me, a newly arrived fresh-off-the-plane naive little girl from Malaysia. We were all Australians.

I’m 17, and there’s light teasing. “When you get a boyfriend…”. “Don’t forget to tell me har, okay?”. They joke about it, so I think they must be okay with it if I actually did get a boyfriend. But then again, we don’t really talk about these things explicitly.

In my first year of uni, I moved away from my parents’ home. I went from dorm to dorm, Bible group to Bible group. In Singapore, many friends wouldn’t think of getting married until they were well settled in their careers. In Canberra, my closest friends got married – some at 24 or 25, others at 20 or 21. Both groups are important to me.

Micaiah asks me out a few weeks before my 19th birthday. We have a few dates. Mum says that “it’s good to have a friend. Who is a boy. No need to get too serious so soon!”. In church, they say that you shouldn’t go out with someone unless you think you might be able to marry them. And that you should date someone in order to find out if you will actually marry them. “It’s a good experience to date someone,” mum says. I’m very confused, and we stop dating a few weeks later.

I panic when he proposes. “What am I going to tell my parents?” – that is my first thought. We have fought and talked about marriage for months. I think Tim Keller wrote something like marriage is a place to be fully known and fully loved in the image of how God loves us. Micaiah and I knows what that feels like. I want to make this whole, make this real. If God made marriage good, then I want what God made. For months and months, every fibre of my being has desired to be married with the man God has so graciously provided. When it comes down to it though, I panic at the prospect of telling my parents.

Why? Why did I panic, despite being sure of Micaiah (despite all his faults and my weaknesses)? And why are my parents so against my being engaged at 21, to be married at 22 or perhaps even 23?

We all grow up in cultures that tell us what to desire, what to aspire to, what to look down upon, and what to fear. The world tells us so many things at once – all at the same time, and so often in contradiction to each other. “Get married and have babies!” “Forget pinning yourself down to a husband, women must find careers!” “Lose weight now!” “Watch this amazing TV show about great fatty food!” “Have sex – we live in a sex-positive world that embraces sexual liberty!” “Don’t have sex – you will get pregnant and die!” “Go explore the world and have adventures!” “Buy a house in the right market and make sure you can afford a deposit and the mortgage payments!”. “Listen to your elders!” “The youth are the future!” 

The liberation I have experienced from the Bible is that we have one truth – that Christ died for us and is Lord over all. This one truth guides our lives, it makes me all too happy to obey the Lord whose wisdom is infinitely, incomprehensibly more vast than my own. By following the Lord’s wisdom, I can ignore the confusing cacophony of the world because I already have the truth.

But now I’m confused again. Does the Bible have an answer? I am caught between two cultures. In one, it is not abnormal to marry young. In the other, it’s so taboo there’s been a constant elephant in the room ever since he proposed. The Bible should be liberating me from having to answer to the world. But this doesn’t work that way – because the Bible also says we have to honour our parents and walk blameless in the world and honour God. So what do I do?

How do I stay true to myself, as a first generation migrant who feels deeply connected to both a modern evangelical Australian culture and a traditional Hokkien methodist heritage? How do I honour my future spouse, loving him and showing him that he is important to me? How do I honour my parents and my family?  How do I honour God in the gift of marriage that he invented for us? And do I listen to my own desires (desires that I believe to be not entirely selfish and Biblically founded as far as desires go)?

There’s the rub, isn’t there? Because as much as I can say that yes, marriage is God’s invention and it is good and sanctified and holy and something worth pursuing and desiring, that I want to get married in the near future to someone I love is at least partly also self-centred. Not in the arrogant ‘I don’t care what anyone else thinks’ way, but in that it is something I want. I want a life with this man, and I want it soon. (Yes, I’m aware of how petulantly childish that sounds). I want to quarrel with this man, be comforted by this man, be infuriated by this man, cook and clean and serve others with this man, grow with this man, love with this man and not have to say goodnight because dang it’s difficult. And the longer we wait, the more heart-wrenching it is – knowing that we’re on safe Biblical ground, that all our friends and pastors and mentors support this, but that we cannot begin this life together in the sanctified union witnessed by our Lord because of the cultural differences held by some of the most important people in our lives.

In the book of James, it says that the thing that causes quarrels amongst believers is our own selfish desires. I’ve been meditating on that verse for a few weeks now. It’s true, isn’t it? I’m motivated by my selfish desire to marry Micaiah, and (although I know that they mean the best for me and do this out of an overwhelming love and concern for me) my parents are also ultimately motivated by their own desires – to see me grow and mature and settle a little bit more before making such a decision (and maybe, if I’m honest, also to have my decisions match theirs a little bit more). Neither option is particularly more godly then the other. These are both merely conflicting human desires in a confusing world, conditioned by separate cultural influences.

Something’s gotta give. If the thing that causes quarrels is multiple sets of selfish desires, then at least one party’s gonna have to give. And thanks be to the example of Christ Jesus our Saviour, because he was the first to give, wasn’t he? Inspired by his example, I think I can give. It’s difficult, but in perspective of Christ’s sacrifice, it’s easy. That doesn’t stop me from wishing the world of culture and desires and conflict was different, though.

Written by Elysia

December 13, 2015 at 11:30 pm

“Viewing Virtually Squared is like being inside a Rothko painting, only brighter and lighter.”

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The above quote is taken from Sarah Scott’s review of James Turrell: A Retrospective.

 Source [x]

Source [x]

Written by Elysia

April 9, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Posted in History

On money and sufficiency

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Exodus Chapter 16

16 The entire Israelite community departed from Elim and came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left the land of Egypt. The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”[a]

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites: “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt; in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because He has heard your complaints about Him. For who are we that you complain about us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and more than enough bread in the morning, for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for He has heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron was speaking to the entire Israelite community, they turned toward the wilderness, and there in a cloud the Lord’s glory appeared.

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them: At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God.”

13 So at evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was.

Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lordhas commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts[b] per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’”

17 So the Israelites did this. Some gathered a lot, some a little. 18 When they measured it by quarts,[c] the person who gathered a lot had no surplus, and the person who gathered a little had no shortage. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat. 19 Moses said to them, “No one is to let any of it remain until morning.” 20 But they didn’t listen to Moses; some people left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and smelled. Therefore Moses was angry with them.

21 They gathered it every morning. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat, but when the sun grew hot, it melted. 22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, four quarts[d] apiece, and all the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He told them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you want to bake, and boil what you want to boil, and set aside everything left over to be kept until morning.’”

24 So they set it aside until morning as Moses commanded, and it didn’t smell or have any maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. Today you won’t find any in the field. 26 For six days you may gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

27 Yet on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they did not find any. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you[e] refuse to keep My commands and instructions? 29 Understand that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day He will give you two days’ worth of bread. Each of you stay where you are; no one is to leave his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

31 The house of Israel named the substance manna.[f] It resembled coriander seed, was white, and tasted like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Two quarts[g] of it are to be preserved throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”

33 Moses told Aaron, “Take a container and put two quarts[h] of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be preserved throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron placed it before the testimony to be preserved.

35 The Israelites ate manna for 40 years, until they came to an inhabited land. They ate manna until they reached the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (Two quarts are[i] a tenth of an ephah.)

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. Chapter Five (On Property), Sections 46 & 47

Sect. 46. The greatest part of things really useful to the life of man, and such as the necessity of subsisting made the first commoners of the world look after, as it doth the Americans now, are generally things of short duration; such as, if they are not consumed by use, will decay and perish of themselves: gold, silver and diamonds, are things that fancy or agreement hath put the value on, more than real use, and the necessary support of life. Now of those good things which nature hath provided in common, every one had a right (as hath been said) to as much as he could use, and property in all that he could effect with his labour; all that his industry could extend to, to alter from the state nature had put it in, was his. He that gathered a hundred bushels of acorns or apples, had thereby a property in them, they were his goods as soon as gathered. He was only to look, that he used them before they spoiled, else he took more than his share, and robbed others. And indeed it was a foolish thing, as well as dishonest, to hoard up more than he could make use of. If he gave away a part to any body else, so that it perished not uselesly in his possession, these he also made use of. And if he also bartered away plums, that would have rotted in a week, for nuts that would last good for his eating a whole year, he did no injury; he wasted not the common stock; destroyed no part of the portion of goods that belonged to others, so long as nothing perished uselesly in his hands. Again, if he would give his nuts for a piece of metal, pleased with its colour; or exchange his sheep for shells, or wool for a sparkling pebble or a diamond, and keep those by him all his life he invaded not the right of others, he might heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased; the exceeding of the bounds of his just property not lying in the largeness of his possession, but the perishing of any thing uselesly in it.

Sect. 47. And thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life.

Written by Elysia

April 9, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Posted in History

It’s Toulouse-Lautrec’s 150th birthday! (Japanese Influences)

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Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 11.21.56 AM

Toulouse-Lautrec (b. 24 November 1864, d. 9 September 1901)

Tōshūsai Sharaku, Ukiyo-e (woodblock) print of kabuki actors, (1794-95).

Tōshūsai Sharaku, Ukiyo-e (woodblock) print of kabuki actors, (1794-95).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, ‘Divan Japonais’, (1892-93), lithograph poster.

Written by Elysia

November 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Space and Time

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To say that I miss Canberra would be an understatement.

Yet looking back, a lot has happened here. I don’t think I’ll ever miss Singapore the way I miss Canberra, but hey, I didn’t expect to miss Canberra when I left it.

An exercise in fragmentary memories.

18 months. 15 modules (including 4 ISMs). An internship with a museum. 3 Confluences. Trips – to New York, to Cambodia, and soon, to the Philippines. Twice to Malaysia. Countless conversations over midnight suppers. 4 new friends, 3 old ones and many more I will try to remember. 2 nights in Arab St. 1 bag of fried crickets eaten on the bus to Phnom Penh. 1 broadway show. 3 days in Princeton University. 3 matric cards lost. 1 matric card found. 200 meal credits unused (probably). 3 visits to the Singapore Zoo. (3 visits too many). 1 lunch at Royal China. 1 dinner at Lao Beijing. Newly acquired taste for sashimi. 33 – the bus I’m now emotionally attached too. 33*C – the average daily temperature ’round these parts. 66 chapters of Isaiah. 3 terms in Kids for Christ. 1 missed flight. 13 museums visited (not disclosing how many times). 1 outdoor ballet evening show. 1 outdoor opera evening show. 1 Japanese cultural performance that put me to sleep. An estimated 45,000-50,000 words worth of essay submissions. 29 days until I go home.

Written by Elysia

November 22, 2014 at 5:59 am

Posted in Personal

Sunday school songs aint just for kids.

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When I am feeling sad


Or someone makes me mad


Without delay


I will stop and pray


So God can make me glad!

Written by Elysia

August 20, 2014 at 1:10 am