Great expectations

A conversation with daddy on the family chat, as my parents vacation in Baguio for his birthday (translated into English):

Dad: …Love you guys. I miss our family vacations in Baguio. Maybe someday, we can do it with the grandkids. (*three laughing emojis*)

Me: Ahhhhh hahahahahahaha!!! Even without grandkids, lezzzgoooo.

Patty (my sister): DAD. IT’LL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE GRANDKIDZZZ.

Me: You gotta have faith dad. #prayersalone (#dasallangtalaga) And very very very good health.

Patty: LONG LONG LONG HEALTHY HEALTHY HEALTHY LIFE

Dad: (changing the subject) #notexpectinga1000wordFBgreetingonmybday

Me: Oh dad, don’t expect it at all. (*laughing emoji*)

Dad: #pamyisnotfeelinganypressurerightnow

***

That, right there, is a true story. Hashtags included. And in that short exchange you immediately see three things about my dad. His love for family (and his yet-to-be, unknown grandchildren), his sense of humour (complete with #dadjokes), and his great expectations.

Now there is probably not a sane parent out there who has not had grand dreams for their children. Yet not every parent approaches this in the same, level-headed manner.

We are fresh from a wedding in the family—one that many of us jokingly refer to as the only wedding we’ll be having in a long time. It is in moments like these, that get me thinking of how my dad has graciously dealt with the many unmet expectations heaped upon him in 34 years of parenting.

Many people ask why none of us in a family of six children have followed in his footsteps to become medical doctors. The more kaypoh* ones may go a step further and pry about why we have yet to settle down and give our parents grandchildren.

35144771800_900e081173_oWhile I’m sure dad has his hopes for us, I didn’t feel that overbearing burden of expectation upon us. There wasn’t one course to take—not a case of medicine or bust. There wasn’t one way of living a life—not marrying for the sake of it, as if it were the only inevitable option. There wasn’t just one mold of thinking, being or doing, which looking back, may have been simpler for a young person finding her place in the world. Of course, we were well-aware of his preference, but in the end, the choice was still ours to make.

Well, he asks for a 2 million-word piece for Father’s day in June; and instead he gets these 977 words—as a belated birthday greeting, at that.

***

Growing up, dad was the one to start the fun and jokes at the dinner table (especially when he was in a very good mood. Ahem.) And admittedly, it was mom I would run to for the serious talk. Still, when it mattered, dad always came through with his words of love, encouragement and wisdom, usually written. I’d like to think I get my inclination to writing from him, among many other things. This is one old email I keep from the time I hit a rough patch in a previous relationship.

 


“…(you will find) someone who will share your dreams and aspirations…You are a beautiful person not only outside but moreso inside. I am sure that one day (maybe even sooner than you expect), Mr. Right will come your way.

 Again, I know that right now you feel that the world is coming down on you but please don’t feel so. I will tell you now to pray, pray harder than you have prayed before. Ask our Lord for guidance and strength. Prayer is powerful. Part of my daily prayers is that nothing but positive things come out of your relationship, no matter what happens. I am certain that even with your breakup, something positive will come out of this.”


I read back on this email five years later, and it astounds me how it was indeed prayer that saw me through that time in my life. Back then, I had my own daddy remind me to go to my Father in heaven. And out of that dark period, the light of a renewed relationship with God came forth.

Prayer
Picture taken from Heart of God Church Instagram account (@hogc)

We recently concluded a series on prayer at church. Pastor How preached that prayer is a posture of humility, a petition to the highest authority, a position to defend and hold, and that secret place where we encounter Him. It lifts our spirits to rejoice in Him and stirs up faith to expect great things from God.

***

Dad, on your birthday, I come before God grateful for you, my father here on earth. Through you, I have felt what it is to be loved unconditionally and to receive freely. And because of this, I can approach my heavenly Father with even greater expectation.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:20, NLT

So yes, I pray not just for a life abundant in years, but one rich with love for and from God, and those around you. Yes, let’s pray you will be walking your children down the aisle, or enjoying with your grandchildren in due time, but also pray that you would walk with Him closely and enjoy His presence daily. I am expectant to see what God can do in and through your life in these golden years of wisdom. 

The Message version of the Bible puts it beautifully: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

So dearest dad, hope and dream far beyond what the world dictates. For if there’s someone who gives above and beyond what we expect, that is our Father God.

I love you always. Happy Birthday! 🙂

 

 

*kaypoh: (Singlish), (noun) a busybody, (verb) to pry into someone else’s business

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A toast to the first

It has been over a month now since our family congregated on that lawn in Semara Beach, Bali. And today is Lex and Ashna’s first wedding anniversary from last year’s solemnization rites. I’d like to share this supposedly five minute speech that I gave during the wedding dinner in Bali. This was the script at least, but I’m sure I may have deviated from it slightly.

Lex and Ash, we will never tire of seeing you two exchange vows. Give us another reason to celebrate. 😉

***

This is my first time to give the Best Man speech, but being Lex’s sister, I shouldn’t be surprised at this choice. If there’s anyone in our family who firmly believes in a true gender egalitarian utopia, that person would be Lex—the man formerly known as PB boy, but will always be Pablo.

I still remember that morning Lex went into my room and said he needed to tell me something. I had the privilege and what I felt then was a responsibility of being the first person to find out about his plan to propose marriage to Ashna. I launched into a long spiel about marriage and the motivations for doing so, which he probably wasn’t expecting. Turns out that what he needed was “logistical” help – a credit card with a certain limit to secure the ring.

Not that he needed my unsolicited advice. For the longest time, Lex has been blazing trails in our family—the first-born boy after two older sisters, the first to leave home, the first go overseas (back in 2004) and carve out his independence. And now the first to marry.

As a child, Lex was never afraid to stand out. When he outgrew the literal leash that we, his older sisters, used to tied around his neck,  he showed early signs of his avant garde, unconventional tastes. His talents as an orator are fondly remembered with his original dramatic performance of “The Egg”. And once he discovered the art of argument, it was hard to keep the outspoken Lex down.

It is hard to imagine that young PB once wanted to live in a functional box, with just his Linux powered computer and nothing else. Hard to remember his reluctance to go overseas. How far you have come indeed from our days as housemates in Ang Mo Kio. Almost a year ago (July 23, 2016), and once more today, you have made a decision to build a life together.

Throughout their six or so years together as a couple, I have seen glimpses of how they have conducted their affairs. Many of you will know them as an intensely private couple, and they have forged their own way of doing things, never to be defined by convention. We are definitely the few privileged to share this joyous occasion with them.

It amazes me how time and love can truly transform a man, one who could never be coerced to do anything if not by logic, to one who now spends his Sunday afternoons at wedding dance practice, social painting sessions, and even ice cream-making classes (*edit to reflect today’s events in July 2017).  And I see how both Lex and Ashna bring a grounded and stable counterpoint to each other when needed the most.

Lex and Ash, indeed what a blessing that you get to marry the same person twice, and in such poetic fashion for Lex, my fellow Piscean, to be wed by the sea.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In many ways Lex has set the stage for how our lives played out. If you had not gone to Singapore 13 years ago, many of us would probably not be here today, finding our own paths outside the familiarity of our childhood home. It is always comforting to know that someone goes ahead, and your courage gave us that push to make it on our own. With you being the first, you go where none of us have gone. Yet take heart, that in our parents (daddy and mommy) and in Uncle SK and Auntie Sushma you have fine examples of marriages tested by time.

And so to my dear brother and my lovely new sister— I pray that you would find your strength in each other. But more than that you would find an anchor to place as first in your lives, a higher calling or purpose, something, Someone to place your faith in.

Yes, put each other first. But also find the Anchor that stands firm when all else fails and nothing remains. As the wise King Solomon has written,

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.

Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

And so I propose a toast to my favorite married couple in Singapore. To Lex and Ashna, may you live each day with the same fervor and wonder as if it were your first together. I love you both.