the struggle

He was so excited. The box held such potential.

Just before dinner, he unpacked the model kit and began building the boat, piece by piece. It was a little too complex for someone his age but he didn’t care what the label said. It was all tremendously intriguing. Half an hour later, the enthusiasm waned and he was struggling. Crying out in frustration, he tore pieces of tape and threw them into the bin.

‘They don’t work!’ He sobbed. His eyes were tearing but it never occurred to him to ask for help.

I sat there watching him in silence.

‘Have you read the instruction manual?’ I prodded.

The little boy picked up the booklet, stared at it for a while, then threw it aside. I didn’t know then that the instructions were all in French. Five minutes later, the boy was banging the table and throwing the pieces that didn’t fit on to the floor. Quietly, I watched him although my heart ached. When was he going to ask for help?

‘Mommy… can you help me?’ He finally looked up, tears streaming down his face. I didn’t want to hurt his already broken pride, so I showed him how the tape worked and where he could attach it to fix the sails. The boy’s little fingers began its work again. And then… the boat materialized.

‘Look! It works!’ He shouted, ‘Look! Watch me!’

I watched. And saw my life and its perpetual struggles.

How many times have I found myself trying to make sense of life with the logic that I acquired over the years? How many times did my pride break when the best of plans, efforts and commitment yielded no results? How many times did I push myself to tipping over before I turned to the Dream Maker and said, ‘Help me, please?’

Too many, too often.

Oddly, watching the boy struggle made me love him so much more. All I wanted to do was wrap him up in my arms and absorb the angst. Did the Dream Maker feel the same way, watching me struggle to make sense of a world that is too complex to understand?

*

Hope.

I fear that word.

Images of failures, frustration and disappointment cloud my mind whenever I find myself in the place where – as a dreamer – I long for something to happen but am scared that it wouldn’t pull through. I don’t want to be disappointed. But that was because I was trying to do it all on my own.

I’d hold the instruction manual to my goals in my hand, its rules and guidelines memorized. I’d make sacrifices, in hope… but I was depending on the wrong person to make it all happen.

You see, my dreams were birthed in the supernatural realm – the spirit. And what’s birthed in that realm is made flesh there too. Natural progression can only bring you to the point where you almost break, you can’t go on. Nothing works anymore.

‘It doesn’t make sense!’ I’d throw my plans to the ground. The worst bit was the shame that came with my failure.

Just like the little boy.

That’s why I’m making a change from this minute on.

I’m giving up.

I’m letting go of my plans and I’m going to recognize the weakness in me.

‘Can you help me, please?’ I turn to the Dream Maker. And I know… this is my beautiful moment. It’s the tipping point, if you’d please. This is the place where it all changes for the better.

‘Here,’ the Dream Maker’s finger points my next step ahead. He doesn’t intrude because He wants the plans to be fulfilled in my hands. He wants to see me glow with pride at what I did.

Except… I didn’t do it. He did.

*

The greatest struggle in living the impossible life is NOT the impossibility of every challenge, every mountain, every problem.

The hardest thing is giving up on yourself, and giving it all to Him.

Hope.

It sings to me.

 

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hope


Standing on the brink of camp, my insides are slowly expanding with the potential of good things to come. I’d been dragging my feet in the dust regarding this getaway, many times regretting that I’d even offered to go with the team due to work and my recent spate of procrastination.

This time round, I really have bitten off too much to chew, what with camp, work, life and the upcoming trip to Nepal… feeling overwhelmed every morning when I wake has been something of the norm. It probably explains why I’ve been unable to sleep well. Worry has been etched into my face and I hate how it disfigures my smile.

Besides work, I’ve also been considering some massive changes in my life (albeit unwillingly but for the good of the future) and with no one to really talk things through, my thought life had been a tad abysmal.

Tonight though, as I started preparing for this trip, the excitement began building.

How will it end? Will it provide the answers I need? Can I get the rest I desire?

Check in a week later and we’ll see how it rolls. Let’s hope it’s all good.

*

‘It’s all dead,’ the girl whispered to herself as she sat in her barren garden. Picking up a withered daisy, she held it close to her heart. ‘What happened? You promised me flowers and fruits but all I have is the withered image of what could be.’

‘It does look dismal, doesn’t it?’ The Dream Maker sat down beside her on the cold, dry ground. ‘This dying garden, is it all you can see?’

‘What else?’ the girl answered, ripping the flower apart. ‘What else is there to see? Just look at this!’

She held out the dried petals and leaves, before scattering them onto the ground.

‘I am so angry I want to destroy everything, tear them all apart and walk away. I give up. I’ve worked so hard to keep the garden alive but it dies on me. It’s all a work of futility. I hate this place…’ she gritted her teeth, digging her fingers into the earth with frustration.

‘Let’s destroy this place then,’ the Dream Maker answered. ‘Let’s set fire to all that’s dead and gone.’

‘What?!’ the girl looked at him in horror.

‘I’ve got the fuel. Let’s kill everything that’s in here.’ He said firmly.

‘But… but I still love this place,’ she said. ‘Look, I know I’m angry but I had dreams for this garden. Maybe if I work the ground harder, something will change. I think destroying it is a little harsh.’

‘No, it holds the ghosts of what could have been,’ the Dream Maker stood up. ‘Let’s torch the past together and rebuild it all from scratch.’

The girl didn’t stand up. She didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to her.

‘Hey,’ the Dream Maker stooped beside her, ‘when we burn what’s dead, it fertilizes the ground and rebirth is easier. You don’t see it now but everything that seems wasted effort can help build something beautiful for the future.’

Sweeping a clear spot on the earth, the Dream Maker used His finger and began drawing His plans for the new garden.

‘What do you see?’ He asked the girl.

With tears in her eyes, she looked at the lines in the earth.

‘I see hope,’ she sniffled.

Then wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she stood up and tentatively reached for the matches.

‘Where do we start?’

*

Neubauten’s lullaby

The demolishing of what was once a carefully designed toilet is finally underway. Several weeks ago, the neighbours one floor below us complained of water leaking and staining their ceiling. After some checks, it was found to be due to the building’s old age so with some subsidy, we now have to redo the waterproofing for the toilets. We have two – one in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom.

Today, they began works in the kitchen’s toilet. First up, hacking away at the tiles, removing the toilet bowls and all other attachments. What I didn’t anticipate though, was the massive noise we’d have to endure. The drilling went on for hours and even after it stopped, I still felt the tremors and heard the ringing in my ears.

It really felt as though Einstürzende Neubauten were playing live in my house. There was no escape. And like all music (experimental, in this case) the sounds continued to ring long after the songs had ended.

Totally random information that’s unrelated and yet, somehow connected to this entry, is that Einstürzende Neubauten actually means collapsing new buildings, and the band’s trademark is using custom-built instruments made out of scrap metal, building tools and samples of noises in their performances. Destruction was part of their music order.

After the contractors left my house, I surveyed the mess and shuddered at the thought of them ‘doing’ my bedroom toilet next. I am not looking forward to sleeping in my bed when that happens.

Yes people, it’s my princess-and-the-pea moment. Except that the pea here is a destroyed toilet.

*

Destruction. Does it really need to take place before improvements can be made?

Let’s take a house’s foundation, for example. To build a simple one-storey structure, the foundation created would be perfect for that purpose, and nothing more. But once expansion is required (multiple storeys) and perhaps, further extensions outwards, the builders would have to destroy what was once familiar – home – and start rebuilding from scratch. Imagine the hacking, demolishing and noise that takes place.

What happens then when your dreams grow bigger and your potential increases? When you pray and ask the Dream Maker to extend your borders… what actually are you asking for? Are you ready for the demolishing of what was once familiar – not because it was necessarily bad but because it’s not sufficient for the amazing things that lie in store?

Growth gets painful, noisy, confusing and at times, plain dirty. At the end of the day, you clean up the mess and sigh with relief, thinking that maybe, it’s all over, until a new day arrives and the hacking begins. Then there’s the drilling deeper (introspection, anyone?), the painstaking brick-laying (which seems to take forever) and the moment when you survey the process and ask, what in the world is happening? Weren’t the old days better? Can’t we just be happy with the way things were?

The only thing that grounds you then is the hope of something beautifully glorious ahead which you can’t quite see yet. So you hurry to the blueprints to recapture that vision, to flesh out the rooms of the future.

That’s why I read the blueprint of life. It’s what I need to get through my days when I feel overwhelmed by the mess that greets me. It reminds me of promises made, dreams painted and one day… a new and glorious place to live in. My life sometimes feels as though it’s constantly under construction, a works-in-progress.

Destruction. I think I can deal with it.

Especially when I know the contractor in charge is the Dream Maker.

He is the best builder I ever know. After all, He made Himself the chief cornerstone of my new home.

*

Einstürzende Neubauten, play on. Your music is now no longer the sound of massive destruction but one of hope. Great things are ahead of me.

And yes, my toilets too.

why wait? why hope?

I am being forced to take things slow tonight.

It’s the beginning of the weekend and due to the heat, hundreds of people are choosing to stay indoors to surf the internet and watch cable – activities which obviously clog the bandwidth, leaving me with pages that load at a supremely languid pace.

My fingers itch to click open a new tab and fill my waiting with more browsing but I resist the temptation for fear of stalling my current download. It feels like when I first got my internet connection, almost 16 years ago. Back then, a single page on the internet took several minutes to load and because I knew I had to wait, I would always sit at the computer with either a magazine, a notebook (to write in my thoughts before I forget them) or watch the telly at the same time.

There seems to be an undercurrent in all our activities these days, a certain immediacy that’s been inculcated by modern technology’s efficiency. Need food? There’s a microwave to heat up leftovers. Need to talk to someone? There’s the mobile phone. Need to find out something? There’s the internet. Even applications for passports, bank transactions and credit cards are now approved within 24 hours.

I find the demand for an immediate response bleeding into my expectation for results in life. The danger of course, is when I begin to demand the same immediate results from the people around me.

Waiting – is it a lost language?

The desire for instant gratification is a scary one, all the more so because I know I have an impulsive nature. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about my actions but that when I finally decide to do something… I do it now.

Recently, I made a decision to go ahead with one of my seemingly impulsive plans (which of course, means that it had been brewing within me for over three years) and when I did, I immediately sought for instant gratification to my decision. Thank heavens none of the plans pulled through. I was made to wait for more than a month – a month that I will wisely spend being rational, thinking through all the pros and cons, weighing the effects carefully.

I have a hunch that I will still go ahead with my plans but in a way, because I have been made to wait, I think… I will be better prepared for whatever comes my way thereafter.

It’s been an hour since I began writing this entry and with a sigh, I watch a carefully chosen page slowly fill in with images, as though the artist is drawing the picture right then and there. But I am not impatient.

I am more than willing to relearn the art of waiting. It is, after all, how I was made – I am a culmination of more than 31 years of development, a story that will take a lifetime to tell.

And like all good books, hopefully, the ending will be worth every single minute of its creation.

*

‘Is it bad that I broke down after finding out two more of my friends are pregnant and they weren’t even trying?’ a friend asked me today.

‘No, it’s totally understandable,’ I replied, wishing I could be there to give her a huge hug.

I understood her feelings then – the frustration at not getting what you want, the pain at seeing another person’s happiness and the guilt that follows, because you are actually coveting their moment.

‘Sometimes, I wonder how long I can go on,’ another friend confided in me. ‘The situation hasn’t improved, the same difficulties are replayed over and over again… I want to walk away. And yet, I don’t. I stay. I don’t know why…’

I do.

It’s called hope.

We all carry on because we hope.

Hope that at the end of the waiting, when the rain has ceased… the rainbows will appear, our dreams will come true. And therein is the reason why in this day and age, we can wait – we have a Dream Maker. He wrote our days before we were born. He crafted our life as a beautiful melody, a song rich with meaning and weight.

And He can’t help Himself. He loves happy endings.

So…

To the friend who’s waiting for a child…
To the woman who needs a change at her workplace…
To the boy who struggles with his dreams that came true…
To the man who crams for his tests…
To the couple who searches for a new home…
To the new mother who feels a little lost…
To the guy who wants to explore the world…
To the girl who sometimes feels so alone…

May you continue to hope while you wait for the birth of new promises. Your story isn’t over and a new chapter of loveliness is just a turn of the page away.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

– Jeremiah 29:11

I’ll look forward to turning my pages. I hope you will too.