Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cultivating a Grateful Heart

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1)

With so many bad news in the world, near and far, do you sometimes find it hard to give thanks?

There was a time that I was scheduled to give a talk in a support group. When the time came, I had reserved one morning to finish my handout. But that day as I was fixing breakfast, my back suddenly hurt so badly that I couldn't stand up straight.

Oh No! My sciatica pain has flared up again!

I carefully moved towards the wall and started doing the "Untwisting Your Nerve" exercise that I learned in physical therapy. But when it did not seem to work, I started to panic.

There is no way for me to prepare for the talk! May be I cannot even go!

I prayed and slowly walked to my home office in a crouching position. After sitting quietly for awhile, I sent an e-mail.

"Hi, I'm still planning to be there but I may not have handout.  Most likely I will send you the handout pretty late because my back is hurting and I have other responsibilities. Please pray for all attendees and me, especially for my sciatica pain. See you."

I sat quietly and accepted (not just enduring) the pain of the moment. Before I knew it, my back pain was gone. Two days later, I shared this most recent example in my "Dealing with Emotions -- How Emotions and Stress Affect Our Health" workshop. How could I not give thanks to the Lord?

Counting our blessings and giving thanks can take our minds away from troubles in our life and in this world. I like to use the following list to cultivate a grateful heart during Thanksgiving. Please try one or two questions.

1. What one biggest gift (tangible or intangible) have you received this year?
2. What two things changed your life this year?
3. What three incidents help you grow in your faith this year?
4. Which four blessings in your home are you willing to thank God for?
5. What five happy experiences have you had?
6. What six things created by God are things that we cannot live without even though we sometimes take them for granted?
7. Who are seven people, inside or outside of your home, for whom you are most thankful?

My biggest gift in 2019 is our fifth grandchild. After my daughter-in-law's mother took care of them for a month, I went to help for 24 days. I could hold the baby all day, even though I had to first sit down and wait for her parents to bring her. I also enjoyed spending time with the other grandchildren, often playing one game after another, or reading one storybook after another. Thank God that my son and daughter-in-law are responsible parents and they understand my sciatica. Going to bed early and taking naps, I was more relaxed there than in California!

There were many other incidents and changes that helped me grow in my faith this year.

One is regarding my sciatic pain. This time last year I told my primary doctor the recurrence of lower back pain. Once again she prescribed physical therapy and plenty of rest. Since I already tried Physical Therapy a few times without lasting outcome, I was skeptical. Nevertheless I made an appointment for December when I wasn't so busy. However, my back was hurting so badly the morning after Thanksgiving that I had to call for help.

Amazingly, they said I could see another Physical Therapist that afternoon. After asking me about my situation, she asked me to stand naturally in front of a mirror and put my hands on my hips. She showed me how my left and right sides were not leveled. She diagnosed the cause of my sciatica pain and taught me exercises and sleep positioning in the next few months. She even prepared me the right way to hold my new grand-baby.

The "Untwisting Your Nerve" exercise was so helpful that I was able to resume daily walk with James since the end of May. Thank God for His divine appointment for me to meet this knowledgeable, skillful and caring Physical Therapist!

I also experienced God's amazing grace with James' eyesight changes. In late July, his left eye suddenly had blurred vision. I was scared because that is his only functioning eye. After seeing a Retina specialist, an injection was given to his eyeball in early August to slow down the build-up of fluid in his retina. The off-label drug was normally prescribed for chemotherapy treatment. There was no guarantee for healing. "Perhaps we can rely on injection to keep his vision from getting worse. When his vision is stable, perhaps he can wear special glasses."

I sent out prayer requests pleading our merciful God to allow James to drive, read, preach, and lead Bible studies.

James remained calm. I tried not to be emotional but I was feeling very scared and worried, especially after searching the Internet and reading many negative reports. What if the shot had negative effects? What if James became blind? What if ...

Amazingly, James' could see clearly in just 2 days after the injection. In his September check up, even the doctor was surprised how fast his eye had recovered. James did not need another injection but had to be checked again to make sure his vision was stabilized. Imagine our joy when James tested 20/20 on his left eye in November! The doctor said, "All is well. Let's check again in December because we need to keep an eye on you." I could not help but say "Thank God!" Even the doctor nodded his head.

In 2007, James underwent surgery on this left eye to treat the macular hole in the retina. I was scared to death before his operation until I was comforted by the Word of God in our Thursday Bible study. 12 years later, the same eye needed an eyeball injection and I was scared to death again. Amazingly, a few days before the injection, in our Monday Bible study in a different city, God spoke clearly to me again using the same passage (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus said to me, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." How can I not thank the Lord?

Life is unpredictable but we can thank the Lord Jesus for saving us and walking with us. Please Click HERE to read my article titled "Giving Thanks While Bowing Down" to find out how James' left eye lost and regained central vision in 2007. Thank God for His love and faithfulness!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

How are you? Let me listen to your gratitude and stress, and pray for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Lord Gives Peace

"People have sorrow and joy; they part and meet again and again. The moon dims or shines; it waxes and wanes again and again." This quote by Su Dongpo reminds us the reality of life. On this day of the Autumn Moon Festival, I would like to share a real life experience many years ago.

Four days after the 911 terrorist attack in 2001, my husband James and I drove our son to college. We stayed at a friend's house on the way so that we could arrive at the campus early. Unexpectedly, there was already a long line of cars waiting for the "freshmen move-in" service provided by upperclassmen and we had to line up a few blocks away. Fortunately, the college juniors and seniors were strong, and the line moved fast. When our van reached the front of the line after two hours, some muscled guys unloaded all of our son’s belongings and placed them into huge canvas containers with wheels. With ease, they rolled the containers through winding pathways connecting different buildingsBefore we knew it, our son's belongings arrived the upstairs suite where he would live for one year with five other guys.

I was relieved watching how our son took initiative to greet people and strike up conversations. We met a young man who was helping his younger brother to move in. When he noticed the cross on the homemade necklace our son was wearing, he asked, "Are you a Christian?" The two of them became friends and quickly exchanged phone numbers.

With lightning speed, our teenager set up his PC and made sure everything worked. While I was making his extra long bed, he and James took turn checking their e-mails. Sitting in front of his desk in his single room, our son put his hands behind his head, looked out the window, and proclaimed, "This place is like a palace."

Not wasting a moment, James said, "Time to go."

Caught by surprise, I uttered, "Let's check out the bookstore and help him buy his books." 

Suppressing my feelings, I stopped by different attractions to take pictures, trying to appreciate the beautiful campus while we walked. But how I wanted to linger on!

I could not believe how fast our son found all his text books and paid for them with his credit card. I was proud of him but also felt regretful. Has my boy really grown up?

As soon as we left the bookstore, James said again, "Time to go."

I almost collapsed but still pretended to be calm. I glanced at my watch. "Hey, it's almost noon, let's have lunch. We can stay a couple more hours." They did not object, but we were all very quiet on the way to the cafeteria.

As we walked, I asked myself, "Why are they so eager to separate? My friends said their daughters were reluctant to let their parents go home. Doesn't my son love me anymore? Why doesn't my husband support me?"

Suddenly, I thought about 911 and the news that there might be more terrorist attacks. I have mixed feelings and thoughts. After I came to the United States for college, I never saw my mom again because she died of heart failure two years later at age 48. Mom had never seen her son-in-law and grandson. What if ... Thinking about all these things, I can’t help but feel sadder and sadder.

Waiting in line for food in the dining hall, my son suddenly asked: "Mom, are those tears in your eyes?"

I could not stop my tears when I poured out my heart. I was feeling angry, disappointed, sad, anxious, afraid, ... They both nodded as they listened. Thank God that they listened, understood, and accepted me! As it turned out, they also felt the sadness of separation. And that's why they longed for a quick departure to fix the pain!

After lunch I suggested, "Let's take more pictures on campus. Mom will be on her way in a couple of hours." They burst into laughter at my delay tactic. Two hours later, James took our final photo with our almost six-foot tall son wrapping his arm around my shoulders. The tears in my eyes and the smile on my face is the proof of my bittersweet experience.

When we arrived home late at night, an email was waiting for us: "Dear Mom and Dad, thank you for taking me to school. I am fine so don't worry. My new friend today will pick me up for church. Good night. Love you."

Jesus told His disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Remembering Dad and Giving Thanks to Our Father in Heaven

On this Father's Day, I remember my father and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for His wonderful salvation. May all glory, honor, and praises be given to our Father in Heaven.

Remembering Dad -- a father who made mistakes but eventually became a "New Creation"

Although Dad has passed away for many years, he is still in my heart. My Dad betrayed my Mom and had a son with another woman when I was one year old. Mom was helpless in changing his mind. Using Grandma’s “two girls in a row ...” as a excuse, Dad made his mistress his concubine and broke Mom's heart. I became Mom's confidant as she instilled the concept of being an independent woman who would never rely on my husband.

Strive to be Accepted

Even though Dad betrayed Mom, she still desire his love and acceptance. It was evident from my preschool photo (having a boy's haircut and wearing a jumpsuit) that Mom was still concerned about being able to give birth to a son. She took risk of pregnancy disregarding her doctor's warning. After nine years of trying, she finally gave Dad a son to regain his love. At the same time, I worked hard to compete with boys. I tried to find affirmation with good grades and good behaviors so to please my Dad and Grandma, and to make Mom proud.

However, in spite of human efforts, despite the apparent peace of mind, nobody can break the tradition of favoring boys over girls, make up for the infidelity in the marriage contract, and heal the wound of being rejected. I can't believe that I am valuable, and love can last.

After the marital storm, my parents tried to live a normal family life, and finally they had a son. My younger brother brought happiness to my parents. But their good times didn't last long. In his thirties, Dad lost his son (my half-brother). In his fifties, he lost his wife (my mother). He felt deeply guilty about his two wives and children through pain and suffering.

I don't understand why Dad has to go through so much pain. In his generation, people can marry many wives. He desperately wanted to treat them fairly but that was impossible. I still remember an occasion when he was drunk, he tearfully advised my cousins: "Don't marry two wives! One is enough!"

Jesus heals my wound

Unhealthy thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are often passed down from generation to generation. The tragedy of my family of origin helped me understand the dark and struggling side of human nature. Although I have always loved my father, I have hated him. When I became a young mother, the tragedy of my parents became the shadow behind my relationship with my husband, which made me both over sensitive and insecure.

In 1989, I realized that I am a new creation. God's love and faithfulness healed my wounds, helped me to accept my past, and forgive those who had hurt me, especially Dad. I am most grateful to find out that he had already believed in the Lord before he died in 1986. This news brought me unexpected peace and great comfort, thanking God for the wonderful salvation of Jesus Christ!

I am sharing my family secrets on Father's Day because I could imagine that if Dad is still alive, he would share his failures and weaknesses without the fear of losing face. He would share how the Lord Jesus Christ healed his sorrowful and contrite heart. In retrospect, Dad still tried to correct the terrible mistakes he made in an unhealthy cultural environment, trying to be a good husband and a good father: providing for both families, sharing dinner with my mother and us four nights a week, taking us to parks, movies, restaurants, and sending me to college in the United States. 

After making his share of mistakes, he repented and became a responsible person.  This has affected me deeply to help couples deal with marital crisis today. I can't rewrite history, but I can say, "Dad, I love you! How glad I am that you and I have a new life given by the Lord Jesus Christ!"

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mom's Unconditional Love in Action

Thank you for praying for me and my family. I am back in the Bay Area after visiting my son's family. Here is a photo of my newest bundle of joy soon after I arrived their home.
On this Mother's Day, I wanted to remember my mother's unconditional love. A similar article written in Chinese will be sent separately in a short while. 
It was August, 1973. The day before I left Hong Kong for college in California, my mom insisted on ironing all my shirts by herself (even though our family had a maid).
Suddenly Mom cried, "Oh no!"
I rushed in, saw what happened, and yelled, "Why did you do that?"
I walked away to conceal my disappointment -- my favorite blouse was ruined! Then I felt really guilty yelling at Mom. Why did I do that?
I was sitting there dejected when her gentle voice called, "Your blouse is okay. Look..." She had cut the burnt tip off and made both pointed collars curved!
The next day we hugged and bid farewell. Two years later, she died of heart failure while I was still in college. Yet her love lives in me and sustains me. I treasure our last family photo taken a few months before I left Hong Kong with me standing next to Mom. Who could imagine I would never see her again after coming to California?
How do I know my mom loved me? That day when I yelled at her, somehow she knew I was anxious about going to the United States and she forgave me for taking things out on her. Her love helped me years later to understand the greater love of Christ. 
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hoping Is Not A Hopeless Endeavor

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen Indeed!
Years ago, I did not know how I could ever repair my marriage with James while we kept on arguing who had the right way of raising our 5-years-old son. Today, I have the privilege, honor and pleasure to hold our fifth grandbaby, and to read to and play with four older grandkids. Who could have imagined?
Thank God for giving me hope when I felt so hopeless! And that's why I believe in Hope!
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible." - Anonymous
Having a healthy dose of hope can be motivating and inspiring. It keeps people focused on what's ahead instead of what's in the past. It can also help keep the focus on possibilities, and reframe obstacles as opportunities.
For some, however, being hopeful goes hand-in-hand with feeling naive or foolish when things don't work out as planned. They would rather not have hope at all if it means later disappointment.
But for others, having hope doesn't mean living in denial of life's difficulties; it simply reminds them there are better times ahead.
The Benefits of Hope
Research indicates that it's more beneficial to have hope than not. Hopeful people tend to show more resilience when faced with difficulties. They have healthier lifestyle habits and, on the whole, are more successful, personally and professionally.
According to the Mayo Clinic, having a hopeful, positive attitude has health benefits as well. These include:
  • Increased life span
  • Reduced depression
  • Lowered levels of distress
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Greater emotional and psychological well-being
  • Decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Improved coping skills during difficulties/stress
In addition, people with hope typically have:
  • Meaningful long- and short-term goals
  • A plan to achieve those goals
  • Flexibility to find alternate ways to achieve goals when faced with obstacles
  • Positive self-talk
We human beings are sometimes too inventive for our own good -- we can envision a future course of action along with every potential catastrophe that could occur along the way. Being aware of everything that can go wrong often makes doing nothing -- in an attempt to avoid failure or pain -- seem like a viable option.
Cultivating hope, on the other hand, helps activate creativity and inventiveness and prompts us to solve the predicaments we face by taking action in spite of our fears.
Hope brings with it the belief that things can change for the better. Regardless of how dire things may seem, there is potential for a positive outcome.
Is It Possible to Be Too Hopeful?
It could be said that optimists have a healthy dose of hope while "extreme optimists" suffer from blinding hope. They want nothing to do with bad news.
Researchers at Duke University found that extreme optimists (you could call them "high-hopers") don't save money, don't pay off credit cards and don't make long-term plans, but they are more likely to remarry if divorced.
Moderation, as usual, is the key. The researchers also found that "moderate optimists" tend to:
  • Work harder
  • Work longer hours
  • Make more money
  • Save more money
  • Pay off credit cards
Being a moderate high-hoper doesn't mean keeping your head in the sand when it comes to life's occasional unpleasant circumstances. It just means keeping a positive attitude -- believing the best will happen, not the worst.
In other words, whether you expect the best or the worst from life, chances are that's what you'll get.
Studies seem to suggest that being hopeful is a skill that can be learned. So whether you're an extreme optimist, an extreme pessimist or somewhere in between, there is hope for us all.
A Different Kind of Hope in Christ
I came to know a different kind of hope in 1989 when I entrusted my life to Christ. Ultimately, hope does not disappoint the followers of Christ, not because Christians are "moderate high-hopers," but because Christian hope is grounded in the promises of God. Consider Abraham's story:
"He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (Romans 4:20-21)
What are you hoping for? Are you in a seemingly hopeless situation? You are not alone!
As a counselor, I try to understand your pains and suffering although I can never completely understand you. As a workshop leader, teacher, coach and writer, I try to share what I have learned. We all have to face problems on earth; but the Risen Christ already has victory over sin and death. I am called to be a Marriage & Family therapist and a pastor's wife because I believe there is Real Hope in Christ.
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:19)
Life is not easy. Are you hurt, disappointed and angry today? Please share a prayer request with me. I may not have time to write back but I will take time to pray for you and with you. I will keep things confidential. I know it is between you and God but you might want someone to pray with you.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)
May our Risen Lord Jesus Christ give you peace and hope!

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Friday, April 12, 2019

Making Sleep a Priority

Over the last half a century, we have shaved off an average of two (precious) hours of sleep a night. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll a few years ago, 40 percent of adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep on a weeknight, compared with the seven to nine hours that are recommended.
Of course, most of us know this. We burn the midnight oil, we get up way before the kids just to get things done. Our days are go, go, go! And it’s often hard to stay asleep once we get there.
And while most of us know that too little sleep makes us cranky, less focused and less available to those who need us, did you know this?
• Bodies deprived of sleep produce less leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone; this increases our craving for sweets and salty carbohydrates.
• Shortened sleep produces metabolic changes. These may lead to diabetes or may alter the nervous system in a way that could contribute to high blood pressure and heart-rhythm irregularities.
• Insomnia substantially increases the risk of developing depression.
In short, not getting enough rest can affect both our mental and physical health much more than we thought. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts that will help you get healthful, renewing sleep more often.
DO structure your sleep. Try to go to bed and arise at the same times every day. Irregular hours can throw off the internal biological clock.
DO create a soothing bedtime routine. Watching the news or reading the latest page-turner are not good sleepinducers. Meditation or soothing music helps to end the day.
DON’T work, eat or watch TV in bed. Keep your bedroom for sleep. DO keep it quiet, dark and cool, and your feet warm. However, within five minutes of waking, expose yourself to bright light.
DON’T exercise or eat heavily within several hours of bedtime. Both energize the body. However, DO exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. This reduces tension and makes falling asleep easier.
DO avoid stimulants and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine, nicotine, sugary snacks and alcohol all can cause wakefulness.
DO head off potential anxieties at the bedroom door. Make lists of chores or tasks for the next day, and/or gather things you will need. (It’s like laying out your kid's school clothes!) If worries keep you awake, write your concerns down and list possible solutions already swimming in your head without analyzing them.
DON’T look at your clock if you wake up in the night. Figuring how much sleep you’re missing intensifies the wee-hours stress of insomnia. Cover your clock, if you need to.
Sleep is important for human beings. When Jesus came to earth, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. During His physical stay on earth, Jesus slept, ate, grew, moved around, talked, served ... and prayed ... I love this story in Bible:
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:37-39)
Do you have a habit of staying up late and waking up early to do things on your own? How do you feel when nobody around you seems to care?
If you feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, lonely and terrified, you are not alone!
I felt the same until I found real safety and security in Christ. We all face pressure and challenges of life; but I trust that Jesus loves me and will never leave me nor abandon me. By nature we all want to fix problems and make things better on our own. But who is really in control?
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Love, So Amazing! 何等奇妙的愛

Thank you for those of you who attended my workshops in February and March. I'm so glad to meet old and new friends! I really appreciate your invitations to speak in your church and community events. I hope you don't mind waiting due to my existing commitments and priority.

Thanks to those for praying for me and my family. The biggest news this month is that James and I now have five grandchildren. We are grateful for another little girl from God. I can't wait to visit our son's family in a few weeks. I'm so excited and would like to share an article published in Challenger, CCMUSA in 2011.
謝謝參加二月三月的講座。很高興看到老朋友和認識新朋友﹗謝謝代禱,我的第五個孫已出生,是個可愛女孩,我等不及去看她。興奮之餘,願分享一篇2011年出版的文章《等奇妙的愛希望將來可以翻譯成中文。

Love, So Amazing
by Winnis Chiang

I walked into the room. There on the far side of the room was our granddaughter, playing with her toys. I called her name, and up she stood, dropping her toy, and stretching out her arms to me. I squatted down to greet her as she, with a big smile, threw her body into my arms. We hugged and cuddled, and in that moment I rejoiced in the love of God—a love, so amazing! At one time, however, I didn’t know God’s love and was, instead, a lonely girl desperately searching for true love.

Do You Really Love Me?

Born and raised in Hong Kong, I came to the United States for college in 1973. I met my husband James (who immigrated from Taiwan with his parents and siblings) at U.C. Berkeley. We were both in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) department. He was finishing up his masters degree and I was a senior. He asked me out after we completed a design project with two other guys. He spent a lot of time with me and introduced me to his family. The first time I met them in San Francisco, his parents were holding hands. They were already in their fifties. This impressed me, and I knew I wanted a love like theirs.

One day James told me, “If everything turns out fine, I would like to marry you.” I quickly replied, “But I don’t know how to cook!” He assured me we could eat out every day. We did get married, the last week of July 1975, after only three months of dating! We moved to Santa Clara where James started his full-time job as a hardware engineer.

I decorated our one-bedroom apartment and surprised myself for cooking three meals every day. While in Berkeley I had lived with a Caucasian lady in her eighties for free room and board. There I learned to fix meals like ham and egg breakfast, tuna sandwich lunch, and shake-and-bake chicken with boiled broccoli. Now, as an eager wife, I spent hours cutting, mincing and stir-frying in my new iron wok. I diligently fixed the few Chinese dishes I knew. One day, I asked, “How do you like dinner?”After what seemed like eternity, James uttered, “Good, but can we have some variety?” This small criticism broke my heart and the thought “So I’m not good enough” turned my mind back to my earlier life in Hong Kong.

Darkness from Family of Origin
As a little girl, I lived with my mom, dad, older sister and many relatives. Our four-story house belonged to my paternal grandmother who had ten children. She insisted on living with her youngest five kids, even after they became adults and had their own family. I was told that after I was born my grandmother said to my dad, “Two girls in a row? If you want a son, go somewhere else.” When I was one, Mom discovered Dad’s mistress and their new-born son. She cried, yelled, and threatened to leave, but with only a third grade education, she feared that she could never make a good living for her girls. Eventually, Mom accepted her “fate” and Dad’s concubine.

My parents tried to live a normal life—as normal as it could be—under the same roof with others in our extended family. Through the years, I tried to please my grandmother and my dad, and I brought honor to Mom by excelling academically and being well-behaved in front of people. I was Mom’s confidante and her hope for the future. I dreamed of one day giving her a big house and taking her around the world.

Dad tried very hard to be a good father—and a good husband. Despite my mother’s heart problems, she kept trying to give Dad a son. She succeeded when I was ten. Ironically, when my little brother was one, my then 10-year-old half-brother was run over and killed by his school bus. Dad never talked much about it. But I have a vivid memory of what Dad told my male cousins one evening at dinner after much liquor. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Don’t ever have two wives. One is enough!” When my younger brother was 13 or 14, a few months after I was married, Mom died of a heart attack in Hong Kong.

Looking for Love in the Wrong Places
After that silent episode at dinner, I still cooked for James, but I lost my enthusiasm as a young bride. At the end of summer, I hurried back to Berkeley to finish my degree while James worked in Santa Clara. Life was easier, I concentrated on my studies, and weekends when James came home were kind of like we were dating again. In November I received the message from my sister telling me that Mom had died. I could not believe it! She was only 48. She had not even met my husband!

That Thanksgiving, at my in-laws’ house, so many things seemed to have changed for me. I had been attracted to my husband’s close-knit family from the start, but now as I watched them laughing and talking together in Mandarin, I felt left out. I could not engage even when some of them tried to talk with me in English or their rendition of Cantonese. All I could think about was my family in Hong Kong, and especially how much I missed Mom.

In spite of my emotional state, I continued to work hard on my degree and graduated with honors in March 1976. I began my career as a software engineer in Palo Alto, the sixth (and the first woman) programmer in a start-up subsidiary of a big company. At first, I would go home after work, cook dinner, and wait for James to come home. One day I thought, If you can work late, so can I. It suited me well to go out for dinner, then each of us return to work separately. James, a calm person by nature, seemed satisfied with this arrangement too. I focused on my work, gaining recognitions, raises, and promotions. Before long, I was hooked, addicted to work and climbing the corporate ladder.

Will You Love My Baby My Way?

When our son was born in 1983, it was a joyous occasion. Even though I returned to work when he was only two months old, I pumped milk in the company locker room and nursed him for eight months. Often times, I had the urge to stay home with my baby but then I could hear my mother saying “Study hard … Work hard … Make a good living … Don’t depend on your husband.”

By 1985, I was managing an engineering department with around fifty software engineers and five to six managers. Child care and house work were delegated to helpers. Since I had many meetings to attend, James drove our son to preschool, doctor appointments, etc. On weekends, the two of them would go to San Francisco where our son played with grandparents and cousins while daddy did his MBA homework.

Calm and objective at work, I was easily irritated and frustrated at home. I began to fear that I was losing my son. It was hard for me to share my feelings with James, and we were spending less time together. When we were together, we frequently ended up arguing about child rearing. We both wanted the best for our son, but we had different ideas. When he rationalized things, I got mad. When I attacked and blamed, he retreated and withdrew. Our interaction spiraled downward with negative thoughts, actions and words. We were stuck.

I thought about getting a divorce, but I didn’t want the world to know that my life was not perfect. Even James did not know! I worried about our son and was anxious about our future, asking myself, “Is this what life is all about?” After Dad died of lung cancer in 1986, I felt even more alone, except when I was with our son.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
In December 1988, we accepted a friend’s invitation to a Christmas celebration at church. We sang some songs and listened to someone’s sharing, but I only remember the drama that night. It compared and contrasted the lives of two women, one with and one without Jesus Christ. Somehow that gave me a glimpse of hope.

On January 1, 1989 I started attending church in Palo Alto, intentionally waiting until the singing started and leaving as soon as the sermon was over. Then on Saturday, January 28, I attended an evangelistic meeting in the evening. The speaker was a medical doctor from Hong Kong. My accomplishments seemed small compared to his, yet he had felt the same emptiness I was feeling! Facing terminal illness, he had cried out and God gave him double healings. I sobbed when I heard how God restored his relationship with his wife, and that he had written letters to be mailed to his children as they grew up without him.

Then someone led us in singing a song I had never heard before, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” The verse “Oh, what peace we often forfeit? Oh, what needless pain we bear? All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” was my wakeup call. I cried for the years I had tried so hard to fix life on my own. I thought about James and our son. I answered the speaker’s questions in my heart. I confessed, I am a sinner. I believe Jesus loves me and died for me on the cross … I am willing! The moment I received Jesus as my personal Savior, I was filled with love, joy and peace that I had never experienced.

All Things are New!

When I arrived home, James asked, “You’re in a good mood. What happened?”

“I am saved! Jesus saved me! I am a sinner!”

“Oh, a sinner. I knew that all along.”

Somehow that comment did not hurt me. I was filled with the love of Jesus. A few days later, a friend showed up with a Chinese Bible and offered to visit my home every Wednesday and help me with my new life in Christ. Soon, other than Sunday worship and Sunday school, I was also attending Friday night fellowship, Monday night pre-study, and Tuesday night neighborhood small group.

One day, James said we needed to talk. He asked me to sit down. “You said you were saved. You found your clutch. I’m not going to stop you. But going to church every night is ridiculous. You are just the same, always doing what you want! You don’t care about us! You are a workaholic, and now you are a churchaholic! Nobody can stop you from buying things. Now writing checks to the church? I don’t even know what you are buying … I have had it!”

Prepared for a big fight, my responses surprised him and me. Without interruption, I listened attentively. When he finished, I said with tears in my eyes, “You are right. I didn’t take care of your needs and I still don’t. I’m too selfish. I understand you are disappointed and mad. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me!”

The door of communication had reopened. Somehow I was able to calmly share my feelings, thoughts and needs with James. I was willing to limit my meetings to Sundays and Wednesdays, and to give within the budget he agreed to. As I practiced living out truth and grace, our home atmosphere changed, and the feeling of love returned. And, by God’s grace, one by one, my husband and son placed their trust in Jesus.

On the New Path

I loved church life. After spending years in a competitive male-dominant field, I enjoyed friendship with women, young and old. I started teaching children, first as an assistant. Then after our son was saved at our church’s first Vacation Bible School, I realized children needed the Lord as their Savior! In March 1994, I became a deaconess in charge of Children’s Ministry.

With my usual enthusiasm, I got quite involved in my service and found it hard to balance between family, church and work. Through another wakeup call, the Lord convicted me that there would always be things to do and people to help, but I was the only mother for our son. By the summer of 1995, I had become a “stay-at-home” mom for our twelve-year-old son. Little did I know God’s full plan.

Beyond My Wildest Dream
One thing led to another, and I started studying Marriage, Family and Child Counseling at Western Seminary. During our son’s junior high and high school years, I was available to him as my first priority while I still had opportunities to study and volunteer at church. During practicum, I counseled women and their young children at a Christian residential recovery facility. Upon graduation in 1998, I was appointed as a full-time Children’s Minister on staff in our home church.

On my day off, I volunteered at a community counseling agency, but my main focus was counseling students at public schools. I accumulated the required 3,000 hours of internship, and in early 2003, obtained my California license as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I started a private practice part-time—all thanks to prayers and support of my family and our church!

Through the years, my passion for helping children deepened. The more I tried to help kids and teenagers, the more I realized the roles their parents play. With my background, education, training and experience, the Lord called me to focus on a special population with specific needs. By 2004, my husband had graduated from seminary with his Master of Divinity degree and started to serve full-time as a minister. We reflected on our journey and calling, and he suggested we name what I love to do “Parenting ABC.”

Unconditional Love
It was August, 1973 when I left Hong Kong for California. The day before my departure, Mom insisted on ironing all my clothes. In many ways, big and small, she sacrificed herself for me. She encouraged me to keep on learning and seeking for a better future. Her love helped me years later to understand a greater love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God accepts me just as I am and loves me unconditionally.

By the grace of God, James and I have found amazing love in Christ and become a couple having FUN functioning as a team! Providing discipleship training and mentoring in Europe, Asia and America, we especially love sharing our experiences with other couples and teaching them how to break destructive cycles, rekindle their love, and communicate so that they get the love they really want. I believe our vulnerability and faith have also impacted our son who has become a loving husband and father. I am very grateful for my second family—the church, the body of Christ. May all glory be to God!

Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin and Cantonese speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and influence their American born children.

Credit to reuse from Challenger, Apr-Jun 2011. CCMUSA.
Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=CHG20110201