joy in the crazy

“I’m sorry, I’m busy now.”

“Sorry this is late, I’ve only just managed to make time to see to this.”

“Sorry I don’t have the answer yet, I’ve been handling other matters recently.”

These are the most often repeated phrases in my conversations all week, for two, maybe three weeks now. Multiple projects. Anticipating down time because of mission trips. Assignments for school are backlogged. Letting people wait, letting people down. Letting things slip, forgetting some detail here and there. Schedule’s sardine-packed, and actually nothing’s new about that. If you know me personally, you know this isn’t new.

Except this time, something’s different. I have a constant joy.

Though… if you pass me at my desk, you might not have dared to strike up a chat because I know I look very focused and serious. I know my brows are furrowed. I’m staring at my computer like it’s a bug I’m about to squash. I’m plugged in with my earbuds so that I can drown out the distracting voices (and also it’s a helpful signal to others that I’m not available for conversation now). So it’s not a surprise that people have mistakenly (and quite annoyingly too -_-) commented on my being focused as being stressed out, when really I’m just in the flow of work.

Because when I’m in the flow, I’m seriously joyful, and joyfully serious.

Friends who ask me how I’m doing despite the mad packed overdrive; those who cared enough to lean in and say, “hey tell me how you’re really feeling, not just about the stuff going on that you’re dealing with,” would receive this reply from me, something to the effect of: “I’ve never before worked so continuously and intensely as I am now within the span of these weeks, yet every piece of debris the storm of this busyness flings keeps hitting something rock solid within me. In the frenzy, I’m not shaken. In the exertion, I am not crushed. In the exhaustion, I am not broken. Despite curve-balls and challenges, I am not giving up, and I am not without hope.”

Three months ago I would not have said that. I would have been a crying mess, curled up on the floor, my mind unable to silence sounds of fear, and shame, and despair. Unable to sleep, nervous and high strung. But I’ve come some way.  The Lord has strengthened me so, and girded me in His word. He has taught me new and improved ways to guard my heart and put boundaries around the areas that I need to keep negative influences out.

Because He’s shown me that happiness is an emotion, but joy is a condition. 

And I have joy enough to joke with the Lord that I’m going to claim a decade-long string of pajama parties all day errday, complete with the fluffiest pillows and comfiest bed. Somebody say it with me: sleep is also worship, amen and hallelujah.

When I got baptized 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to add a customary middle name in my baptism certificate. I sensed then that the Lord wanted me to add the word “joy,” so that my name became Samantha Joy Lim. But I had battled melancholy for so long and thought of myself as more often a sad or angry person rather than a joyful person, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. You have to live what your name says, after all, right? And I knew I couldn’t live up to it. Yet recently, God brought this idea that He put in my heart seven years ago to the forefront of my memory again. He challenged me to change my name wherever I publish it online. At first I hesitated, but then I finally took a leap of faith, and made the name change.

Because there is significance in a name, and He wants to mark me with His brand of joy.

And His joy shall be my strength, just as I have testified in today’s post. Work is sometimes hard, but God is always good.

xoxo
Samantha Joy Lim

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wave after wave, grace upon grace.

Just the other evening, before worship rehearsal started, I decided to have my dinner at the open space next to our church’s playground. I’ve sat at this table many times before, spending quiet moments with God when I needed to just get out of the office and have a breather. It’s a special place that holds special weight in my heart.

A friend came and sat next to me and I broke the news to him about a decision I had made (I might share more on this at a later, more appropriate time. But chances are, if you read this blog, you already know). As I finished saying what I needed to say, he pointed above my head and said, “Look, there’s a rainbow. A double rainbow, in fact.”

My friend got up, snapped a picture and dove into the social media world to share that double rainbow with everyone. But quietly, in my heart, I knew what God was up to something special in that moment. It wasn’t confirmation about the decision that I needed. God had already led me to walk this way. Rather, I needed the Father’s affirmation to let me know that He’s on my side, no matter how difficult things related to this decision are, for now. And with two rainbows, God affirmed me of his promise and presence; His presence is the promise.

Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him, to those who seek for him. (Lamentations 3:21-25)

The very next day I met with a sister, and somehow our conversation drifted to where she started speaking so much hope into what lies ahead for me. Wave after wave, grace upon grace.

In walking this season, God has brought clarity into places of confusion.

Unless the Lord had helped me,
I would have settled in the silence of the grave.
I cried out, “I am slipping!”
but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
(Psalm 94:18-19)

Ooh little do we know, as I write, my auto-play on Spotify has shuffled to two worship songs back-to-back. One’s called “New Season” and the other’s called “Moving Forward.” The lyrics have caused my heart to skip a beat:

It’s a new season, it’s a new day
Fresh anointing is heading my way
It’s a season of power and prosperity
It’s a new season coming to me

//

You make all things new
Yes, You make all things new

And I will follow You forward

i won’t go chasing the wind.

Oh, my heart, y’all. My heart is filled with thankfulness.

For the past hour or so, I have been on my phone non-stop, replying to friends’ responses to a prayer newsletter I put out earlier this evening. This morning, in the midst of praying through feelings of being overwhelmed at the task set before me, I felt God’s prompting to rally friends to pray over the Christmas production I’m planning, and at first I hesitated because this seemed a little attention-seeking. But I quickly put that thought away. I mean, if any one of them sent me a prayer request I wouldn’t think that they were attention-seeking! So I took one step away from the enemy’s lie, and took one step towards faith.

Putting out the newsletter was my faith act of acknowledging that I cannot do this alone. A faith act of standing still, not having to be paralyzed in fear, but being still in knowing God is able to pull this thing off. A faith act of casting a net out into the unknown waters to see what catch God will bring in when it’s time to lift the net.

It has been the most encouraging thing to hear from all these texts from friends that they are praying, and many of them have also volunteered to help in practical ways. What a beautiful thing to see that just because people begin to pray, God awakens small stirrings in different one’s hearts, and the best part is: I didn’t even have to do a thing. I just needed to stand still, right here in the eye of the storm, and let the Lord move. A hundred pieces of flotsam and debris may be whizzing past me, but I don’t have to flinch. Every fear and every doubt meets something rock solid within me: life is sometimes hard, but God is always good.

In other news, I came across scripture in my devotions that were really apt and timely for the issue of heart longings that I wrote about last post.

There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless – a sickening tragedy. 

A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, and he would have never seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else – well, what’s the use?

All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough. So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless – like chasing the wind.

–Ecclesiastes 6:1-9

I love that metaphor of chasing the wind. It’s an exercise in futility. The wind cannot be caught, cannot be contained. It goes wherever it wants and chases course whenever it wants. The wind is empty and fleeting.

Focusing on our have-nots, incessantly paying attention to our longings, will rob us the blessing of enjoying the very presence of our Giver. It’s not the gifts that satisfy, it’s the gift-Giver himself. He has given us promises, but it is not the fulfillment of those promises by which are sustained. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

xoxo
Samantha

 

heart strings and silly things.

Hello again, friends. It’s a lovely Monday evening after the rains, and I’m putting away my Church History study notes for a while, because I recalled that earlier this morning I wanted to pause and process something that’s been going on in my heart for a while now.

I think that God’s been tugging at my heart strings recently, in the department of fluttering emotions, beat-skipping heart matters, do you follow my drift? No? Okay, more plainly speaking: I’m opening my heart up again to consider a relationship that could lead to marriage. Nope, no one has come knocking yet, but there is someone who I think could be suitable. Someone who’s not only caught my eye, but who has captured the tender places and silent attentions of my heart. Which is all good, except I don’t like the frequency at which I am thinking about him. What’s that word we use? Yes, I’m obsessing. Or at least, I catch myself beginning to.

My girl friend tells me maybe God’s trying to direct my attention to open my eyes to possibilities. Maybe so. But I will say this, though: It feels like un-chartered territory, it feels foreign, and if I’m being honest, it feels unsettling and faith-stretching. Actually I think I meant faith-testing. Not that I’ve never fancied someone before, or have never experienced the ensuing ups and downs of the emotional roller-coaster ride that these feelings involve. It’s just – I’ve been so occupied with work and ministry and friends and family that I never stopped long enough to let a “good feeling” about someone develop into something more, like serious interest, and deep longings to be with that person. Also, the topic of relationships just never lingered in my mind long enough to become significant because I told God in December 2015 that I wanted to give Him two good years of my youth to dedicate fully in serving in ministry. And recently, with the more frequent rains and chilly winds (a welcome change I must say), I’ve come to realize, golly, December 2017 is almost here. It’s a matter of two months to the completion of those two years. And so the possibility that a relationship might blossom in 2018 is to be entertained. Along with that exciting possibility also comes the inevitable following question: what if it is not to be, yet again?

I’ve been wrestling with God over this. I ask Him, each time Mr. Interest comes to mind, to take this cup from me, please, and yes Lord I am being dramatic. I’d rather not deal with the aching of feelings not-returned, and the puzzle of what Mr. Interest’s words and actions mean. I’d rather not have my head and heart space occupied with dreams and longings, if they are not to be fulfilled anyway. I wrestle with God to take my wrestling away.

But I think He doesn’t intend to take it away soon. Another girl friend tells me, we’ll always have longing this side of eternity, and there is so much wisdom in that. When I’m single, I’ll want to be married. When I’m married, I’ll long for children. When I am a mother, I’ll long for my peace and quiet in the house, and time just for myself. I’ll long for my children to behave. When I’m a grandmother, and my children have their own children, I’ll long for the vitality and energy of my youthful days again. I will have-not for as long as I have.

And so I think… I suspect… if I know my Abba well, that His preferred solution for me is not to walk this out in the absence of my longing, but to learn what to do with my longing. To direct the longings of my heart not towards the obsession of what I long for, but to the remembering of how God has already blessed me. How I am blessed, just by believing Him for the things He has promised (Luke 1:45). And He has promised, indeed, good to me. Single is good, and married is good (1 Corinthians 7). Child-less is good. And a soccer team of children is good too. Life is sometimes hard, but God is always, always good (John 16:33).

 

 

So I went off the grid…

Oh gosh! It’s so difficult to write an entry after a long hiatus.

I’ve kind of gone off the social media grid these recent months. There was something about the constant hum and buzz of my social media feeds that became an issue for me. It became a noise that filled my ears, filled my eyes, filled my mind, to the point that one day I realized I could not live without that noise. I was afraid of facing my own bare thoughts, and sit in silence with nothing to see or hear. When I went to bed, I wasn’t used to having just silence and the four walls around me and my own last thoughts before drifting off to sleep. Of course this dulled my spiritual and emotional health. Spiritually, God’s voice wasn’t cutting through clearly. I lost my appetite for reading the Bible and for thinking about God things. I sought out easy entertainment rather than listen to soul-feeding podcasts or watching sermons, or even good ol’ reading books. In that mix, I lost my peace and I felt unsteady, tossing about the waves of my emotions on a day to day basis.

Emotionally, social media had its toll too. I wasn’t very conscious of it at first, but I realized I grew discontented with my own life. Others’ lives always seemed more fun, more luxurious, more fulfilling. In comparison, I began to feel unpopular, uninteresting, uninvited and unloved. What a lie I sold myself!

So I went off the grid! Have not posted anything (except for a ministry advert haha) on my facebook or instagram for a number of months now. I feel lighter, happier, and less of a busybody. Social news still travels to me via friends who take it upon themselves to update me about important things I might have missed – like whose baby popped, who got engaged, who posted a socially unacceptable selfie (haha!), stuff like that.

I think that social media makes me think that I have a lot of friends, but then bursts my bubble immediately because these friends who just celebrated above-mentioned events aren’t close enough that they would tell me in person or directly via a text message or a phone call. Which means that in actuality, I have many friends breadth-wise, not depth-wise. And functioning on that surface level with so many people actually steals time that I could connect with people on a deeper level, in real time.

Oh and one more thing – I was beginning to post a helluva lot of posts. Pictures, quotations, sunrises, sunsets, what I’m having for lunch, who I’m hanging with etc etc. Just mindlessly joining in the noise parade. So with the exit from these feeds, I think a side effect was that I had not much to say here on my blog too.

BUT – one can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater right? Or so the saying goes. There are benefits to blogging, or posting: recording memories. Oh my. Feels so good when an old memory pops up and brings a smile to your face. Or when you scroll through old posts and find silly things to laugh at. Or see how God showed you something new about a struggle you went through back then. Time passes so fast and this is a great way to defy it sometimes. Each blog, or insta/fb post can be a marker of an important moment.

So I guess with all that I’ve learnt so far, I’m not hopping back on my social media feeds too soon. But that’s not to say I’ll stay away forever too. As long as I feel that my heart’s in a healthier place without them, I’ll keep my distance. With all God’s help I can get, I want to focus on building a life that’s as good in reality as it is in my pictures.

A Mid-Year Review

“This will be a year of breakthrough,” the Lord said. I took it he was referring to work and ministry. January brought fresh excitement. I thought I could turn everything that was messy and broken and difficult around, just as easy as I turned the calendar page.

Six months in and we meet July. She is unrelenting. Her weather is erratic, both the heat and rain equally unforgiving. Dust has settled, dreams have shrunk. What good are dreams if they keep shrinking in size to meet the present circumstances?

Six months in and I find more brokenness than breakthroughs in my life. But I know that this very brokenness is the path to breakthrough. And I’ve got to trust that while I come face to face with all that’s broken in me, God will not let me be crushed. No, he is building me.

It’s the middle of the year and there’s still time before the next. Time to dig in, dig deep, get down to processing with the Lord. I’m asking myself questions to which the answers I’m not sure I’m brave enough to face.

Six months in, and every sunset is still beautiful, and He is still faithful.

2 Corinthians 4

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.