Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Take Time to Grieve

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: ... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

In the aftermath of terrible tragedies—be they our own or a nation’s—we cannot ignore or hurry grief.

Grief is a complex process that takes many forms. When a mass tragedy occurs, not only do we grieve for the victims, but we also re-grieve from previous losses we’ve suffered. And when a parent dies, we grieve the past that dies, too. When a spouse dies, the present disappears. A child who dies takes a parent’s future with him.

Some say that the passage of time is the great emotional healer. In fact, it’s what you do with that time that is important.

When my mother suddenly passed away in 1975 at age 48, I wanted to be brave. I knew Mom would not want me to be sad, so I did not even go to Hong Kong for her funeral. I focused on completing my studies at Berkeley. After all, that's our plan. Mom wanted me to be successful in a new world, and I dreamed of one day buying her a big house and traveling with her around the world. I tried to move on, but part of me died with her. It was years later when I finally took time to grieve my loss.

The Feelings
During grief it is common to have many conflicting feelings: sorrow, anger, loneliness, anxiety, even guilt. Experiencing waves of these strong and often confusing emotions can make us feel out of control. In an attempt to regain a sense of control, we may deny the feelings.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grace Awakening, Gratitude and Appreciation

Research conducted by Professor Robert Emmonds, University of California, Davis, has showed people would be happier, healthier, more able to deal with stress, more optimistic, and more willing to help others if they express appreciation at least five times per week.

The Bible says, “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)

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am eager to share my gratitude and appreciation for Good Health, Relationships, and God.

On the first day of this year, I started to have back pain that got worse and worse.  Finally it was diagnosed to be Sciatica, a back pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. That is a large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. When something injures or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain in the lower back that spreads from hip to leg.  When having pain sitting, standing, moving, and sleeping, I felt very sad.  I thought I could never enjoy taking walks again.  Imagine how grateful I am to resume walking in our neighborhood with James!

Without health, I cannot move.  But without relationships, I would starve emotionally.

I am so grateful for family, friends and everyone who has been in my life, even just for a short while.

I thought of a young couple I met in Germany while serving with James at a Discipleship Training Conference in 2010.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Relieve Stress Through Creativity

Busy? Stressed? Too many things happening? Not everything under your control? You are not alone!

Jessica is a high school English teacher. Her job entails stressful interactions with administration and students in addition to the pressures of lesson planning and grading.

On days off, she prioritizes creative pursuits. She makes collages out of artifacts from world travels to Turkey and South America. She takes dance classes. Photography provides another way to untangle her mind from the pressures of daily teaching work.

Jessica says that creativity gives her a chance to play—to do something where the stakes are low and there’s no judgment. “Without these creative outlets I would be a lot less fun in the classroom and less open to the whimsical creativity of my students,” she says. “I’d definitely be more stressed out and wouldn’t enjoy teaching so much.”

As Jessica’s story shows, in a fast-paced world, creativity can be a fantastic stress relief tool. Whether we make collages, plant a garden, toss paint onto a canvas, or play the guitar—stress tends to go out the window when we let our creativity run wild.

Why Incorporate Creativity into our Daily Lives?
According to Ruth Richards, author of Everyday Creativity, creativity is necessary and attainable for everyone. It is “one of the most powerful capacities we have, bringing us alive in each moment, affecting our health and well-being, offering richness and alternatives in what we do, and helping us move further in our creative and personal development.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Come Sit Awhile with Me

One day my husband had to leave the house before 6:40 a.m. for an all-day meeting. Knowing James prefer oatmeal than donuts, I got up to fix breakfast. While cooking, lots of thoughts went through my mind.

Just oatmeal. I'm sleepy. Scrambled eggs? James would love that. Tired. May be I will go back to bed once he starts eating. Oh, asparagus that I already washed on Sunday ... It would be good to just sit with him for awhile.

James obviously enjoyed his breakfast. Suddenly, he looked up and said, "Thanks for getting up early and fixing breakfast. I so appreciate you eating with me. Do you know that in the song You Raise Me Up, the phrase 'Come and Sit Awhile with Me' always moves me? It means so much that you sit with me, even just for 15 minutes. I know you are tired."

My eyes got moist. "Thanks. I was tired. Part of me did not want to get up. Part of me just wanted to get breakfast done and go back to sleep. I wasn't ready to eat. But I wanted to sit awhile with you. Now you are telling me the same thing. Come Sit Awhile with me. I actually thought about that."

"Glad to hear. Now I can see that every week when we just sit, talk, sing or walk with Mom, we are giving her a gift."

Human beings yearn for belonging and connection. Every person needs a friend who would listen, or sit, fish, or play basketball with. Caring is not just feeling sorry for someone when bad things happen. Caring is not just doing things for family members out of duty. As followers of Christ, we can learn how to joyously help people by being there. CARE requires being Compassionate, Accepting, Respectful, and Empathetic. As followers of Christ, we already have a new life. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we can all become encouraging helpers, like brother Barnabas, by the grace of God.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Let Them Know You Care!

What did you do when you heard news like the recent bombing in New York and the train crash in New Jersey? For many of us, we called or texted our loved ones who live or work around there, and we prayed and waited.

I remember one late night prayer request from a sister in our care group:

“So and so just called. Her mother is in ER now and … not breathing. She is crying … just ask us to pray for her.”

My heart sank. I was physically exhausted and needed to go to bed, and I had a few long days ahead. What could I do? Pray!

Moments later, there was a message from the sister herself, “Thanks for your prayer. Here is updated info of my mother ... ICU … I will trust in Lord totally … Peace be with us!”

I gave thanks to God and sent a short note. Another sister wrote, “May I go to the hospital to see you and your mom tomorrow” and to the rest of us, “Dear Sisters, Can any one of you come with me tomorrow to the hospital to see her and her mom? … In the mean time, let all of our prayers to be with her and we pray that her mom is in God’s perfect protection.”

I felt disappointed that I could not visit the hospital, but I was comforted by our community of believers caring for one another. I'm grateful for the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Parenting in a Different Culture

"Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth" (Ephesians 6:2-3).

I love both my Mom and Dad although emotionally I always felt closer connected with my Mom. Like all parents, they had their ups and downs in life, and it was their broken relationship that affected me the most.

As a young girl, I heard about how Dad had a mistress who gave birth to a son (my half-brother) when I was only one year old. I was told that my grandmother told Dad, "Two girls in a row? You'd better go elsewhere to have a son," right after I was born. Since Mom wanted to give my older sister and me a good life, she eventually accepted my Dad's concubine.

There were pictures of me wearing boy's clothing before I started school. Feeling insignificant as a girl, I tried very hard to be better than boys academically, athletically, and socially. I wanted to please my dad and grandmother, and to honor my mom.

After their marital storm, my parents tried to live a normal life – as normal as it could be living with my grandmother. Being number 8 among ten children, my dad and us lived with grandmother's five youngest children (#6-10) and their families in her big house in Happy Valley, Hong Kong. Grandmother had two cooks. We used to eat dinner around four to five big round tables everyday. Since Dad's concubine lived in Kowloon, Dad only came home four nights a week.

On top of all this complexity, tragedy struck. When my half-brother was ten, he was run over and killed by his school bus. Dad was deeply saddened and guilt-stricken. Ironically, about one year before that fatal accident, my mom gave birth to my younger brother. After trying for nine years, Mom finally had a son of her own when I was almost 10. I cried when I first read the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Sadly, our mom passed away at age 48 when my brother was in his early teen. Dad felt guilty to both sides of his family but never really talked much about it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Impact of Unresolved Trauma on Relationships

Physicians use the word “trauma” to describe a serious injury to the physical body resulting from a sudden impact, such as an accident or a violent act. But you can also suffer emotional trauma, which can cause an equally painful wound to your sense of self as a whole, coherent being. Just like a wound to your physical body, emotional injuries also require care and attention so that you may heal.

When this trauma is left unresolved and your experience of yourself is one of not being whole—of somehow being broken—you are likely to bring the footprints of this to your relationships. To have healthy relationships, you must first have a healthy sense of your own being and place in the world.

Let’s take a brief look at trauma, its origins and symptoms, and then how this may affect your relationships.

Origins and Effects of Emotional Trauma
Emotional injuries result from any experience in which one feels that his or her life or well-being is endangered. These experiences might include the shaming of a young person by a parent or teacher, the molestation or beating of a child, the loss of a job or a divorce, a sudden death or life-changing accident, or being sent to war.

Whether the trauma occurred in childhood or adulthood, it changes your experience of yourself and your world. If you were young when the trauma occurred, you will likely have more scars, because you were more vulnerable and had fewer coping skills.

Friday, July 1, 2016

An “Exercise” in Vitality - The Missing Ingredient in Vital, Vibrant Living

Human beings do not like to be controlled by others. In 1776, the American colonists fought the British to became an independent country. We celebrate the independence of the United States on the Fourth of July.

While some people are thinking BBQ, road trips and fireworks, others are dealing with worries and concerns of this world. It seems that we are trapped in a world wide web of terrorism and catastrophes.

How do you feel reading the news about Brexit, Istanbul airport bombing, West Virginia flooding, California wild fires, shooting, killing and accidents everywhere? Just now I heard the breaking news about Gunmen attacking and holding hostages at a restaurant in a diplomatic zone, that was supposed to be the safest area in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Can we really shield and shelter our next generation from these troubles in the world? How can we raise them to become mature and independent adults?

One thing we can do is to live through the ups and downs of life by trusting God who sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us.

Even as Christians, our love of independence often causes us to forget the truth that we cannot live or do anything without God, even exercise!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Essential Father

Last Sunday morning, the deadliest shooting massacre in U.S. History happened in Orlando, Florida. At least 49 people were killed and more than 53 were injured. Like many people, I felt shocked and sad. I grieved for the victims and their families and friends, and worried about the effect on the general public.

The gunman was a 29-years-old husband and the father of a young child. Was he a lone-wolf home-grown terrorist? Investigations are digging up more and more things that seem confusing, conflicting, alarming, and troublesome. I cannot help but to follow some of the stories about his upbringings, his father, his ex-wife, his wife, his job, and his targets ... what people said ... and my head was spinning.

Who really was this guy? How can God let this kind of bad things happen?

I don't have the answer but this I know: If not for the mercy and grace of God, things could be much worse.

How can we live with so many bad news in a Fallen world?

I thought about what Jesus said. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Father's Day is coming soon. I want to appreciate dads who are trying their best to be involved in the lives of their children. Even if you are learning as you go, your participation and involvement count. Don't ever underestimate your role.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lost and Found

Last week, EgyptAir flight 804 went missing en route from Paris to Cairo. The plane just left Greece airspace when it disappeared. Later, it was found that the plane had crash. But why? how? what happened? There are lots of contradicting reports and speculations, and the truth may never be found.  But one thing is sure, all 66 precious lives were lost.

Sorry I haven't written you as often as I wished. I had to take care of a lingering back pain which seemed to get worse. In April, it was diagnosed as Sciatica nerve pain and I had to take care of myself, including going to physical therapy. Delays such as these were not in my plan.

I was worried about not being able to travel to the East Coast for a family reunion. I haven't seen my siblings for two years. So I prayed everyday that I would be well enough to travel. I had to be careful with my back so I checked in my carry-on bag while James carried his. With only a short time to make the connecting flight, I was happy to walk luggage-free.

When we arrived our final destination, we slowly walked to baggage claim area. Bags were coming out at carousel #2 but we didn't see mine. We waited, and waited, and waited.

Someone said those bags on the belt were from a different flight. "... Go to that room and ask. May be your bag was moved that already."

I gave a lady my tag and she looked among those poor bags sitting in the room waiting for their owners. "No. Yours is not here. Let me check."

She worked on her computer and looked up. "Your bag did not make the connecting flight."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Try New Ways to Communicate with Your Child

Parents are unique and so are their children. But there are common areas of concerns that parents can do something about. One of such areas is communication.

You probably have heard the saying that “Nobody cares about what you say unless they know you care.”

Parents who love their kids are devastated when preteens and teenagers yelled, “You don’t care!”

If you frequently get that comments from your child, no matter how old they are, pause, take a deep breath, and take some time to reflect on what is going on.  You love your child but how come she or he does not get it?

Does it surprise you that many children and teenagers complain about parents nagging them, being angry and critical of them, not listening to them, or not trusting them? If you have the tendency of reasoning with them but getting nowhere, and if you fear that your relationship is going down the drain, restore your hope by checking whether you could communicate better.

The Bible says, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).

Mignon McLaughlin, journalist once said, "We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that, and remember only half of that."

When our minds are distracted (e.g. "hey, what is there for lunch?") or we are preparing for a comeback (e.g. "no no no, you get it wrong!"), we are at best half listening. Even worse, we interrupt the other person in mid sentence. In frustration, they interrupt us back hoping their points can be understood. And the vicious cycle continues.

The four-sides communication model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun reminds us that every message has four sides (e.g. facets and aspects): fact, self-revealing, relationship, and appeal.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mom and Dad, Please Listen to Me!

Hey Mom and Dad,

I hate to admit, but you may call me a person with “a fierce demeanor but faint of heart.” Sure, I’d like to be cool, but I do care about you! As a teenager whose parents are going through midlife crisis, I have a lot to learn, but so do you!

1. Please remember this period of my “rebellion” is my time of searching for identity. I am learning to express my feelings and thoughts, not trying to sing a different tune. Don’t forget that I have to live independently and face the world by myself in a few years.

2. Whether you intend to encourage or discipline me, please be patient and treat me with kindness. I don’t need you to stay with me all the time, but I still hope that you would spend more time to understand me.

3. Trust me! By doing so, you empower me with love because I need your compassion, acceptance, respect and empathy. I need to know that as I grow, you are more at ease with me and are willing to let go.

4. Please don’t be angry with me for too long and don’t limit my freedom too much. You have your jobs, your hobbies, and your friends, but you are the only dad (or mom) I have.

5. Please talk with me without lecturing me, and listen to me with full attention. Even when we don’t understand each other, I will still feel your willingness to spend time to understand me, accept me, honestly address my doubts, and talk about sensitive subjects with me.

6. I will forever remember how you treat me and pray for me.

7. Before you curse or even hit me, please remember that I have enough strength to revenge even though I may choose not to.

8. Before you scold me and call me disobedient, uncooperative, stubborn, or lazy, please try to figure out whether something else is bothering me. I could be all stressed out due to peer pressure! May be I am not receiving the affirmation, acceptance, encouragement and care I need. I could be too tired, haven’t taken any break for quite some time due to homework and extra curriculum activities. My heart could have grown stiff because of growing pains and fears. Of course, sometimes I don’t know how to express myself or am affected by hormonal change.

9. Instead of rejecting me when I make mistakes, please understand, accept, and support me. Haven’t you experienced failures too? Please don’t deny your mistakes and failures. Your integrity and courage to change are my best examples.

10. As I am struggling through this difficult process of becoming an adult, I have to face setbacks and defeats. Your love for me will make it easier for me to face these teenage storms. Don’t ever forget that I love you, and that you have promised to love me all your life.

This article was published in Chinese by Family Keepers in April 2010.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don't Let Fear Stop You

Almost 40 years ago, I refused to drive after a drunk driver's hit-and-run at the speed of over 100 miles per hour zigzagging on Highway 101. Months later, I resumed driving out of necessity, but I constantly looked into the rear view mirror fearing someone would hit my car again. That fear lasted for quite some time!

Fear talks to people. And when they listen, this is what can happen:

Sheila loved to dance but she wouldn’t go out on the dance floor with her fiancé because she thought she’d look clumsy and ridiculous.

Arnie knew he deserved a raise, but he was so nervous about approaching his boss, he never asked for one.

Delia’s fear of bears was so great that she wouldn’t go on a camping trip with her friends. And their campsite wasn’t even in bear territory.

Fear is that voice inside our heads that says, you can’t, you shouldn’t, what if…. Fear keeps us from taking risks that might enrich our life or holds us back from doing some things we need to do. Experience new and exciting vistas? Accomplish something really great? Fear says “No" to all risks, real or imagined.
This isn’t to say that fear is all bad. At its best it’s an instinctive, natural ability to help us survive. Without fear we might attempt to stroll across freeways or scratch behind a lion’s ears. But given the upper hand, fear can dominate our life and make even the innocuous—taking a walk or answering the phone—a daunting experience.

Even if ninety-nine percent of what we worry about never happens, we still hold onto certain fears because they seem so real.

On its own, fear won’t disappear. Following are some strategies to help you deal with fears that might be holding you back from something you want or need to do.

Get information. In an information void, fear clicks in to do what it thinks is its job. But when you find out about what scares you, you replace fear with knowledge.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Coping with a Loved One's Mental Illness

Last Saturday, I heard the testimony of a father whose teenage son committed suicide in early 2015 after suffering clinical depression. He was in Taiwan on a business trip when his wife called and said their son was unstable. He flew back and saw his son. But on the following day, the 17 years old killed himself at home.

This was a case that the parents did not see the tragedy coming. Their son seemed happy, did well in school, had friends, and was involved in many activities. You could imagine the questions the dad asked himself and God. Questions such as

(1) Where did my son go since he stopped going to church in high school?
(2) Why do so many people with depression attempt suicide?
(3) How to look at a life that ended short?
(4) What's really important in life?
(5) What could parents do differently while they still have time?

Having comforted by God through his grief and loss, this father stood in front of hundreds to share his testimony, hoping to raise awareness of clinical depression which is a real sickness and an unseen killer. He described depression like a balloon losing air. The life force was let out. A person suffering depression is often tormented by repeated negative and destructive thoughts. In this day and age, through the Internet, everyone is constantly exposed to and bombarded by information which might induce negative thoughts about oneself, the world, and our future every day!

Witnessing the suffering of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations we face. Among other things, we may feel powerless, frustrated and frightened. That’s true whether the suffering originates from a physical illness or injury, addiction or self-destructive activity.

When a loved one suffers a debilitating, persistent and chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those feelings can be compounded. Strange, unpredictable behaviors can be terrifying and confusing. Your loved one may suddenly rage at you with blame or be utterly dependent upon you for basic needs and emotional stability.

You may experience many confusing emotions yourself, including anger, grief, guilt, fear and sadness. As you struggle with each episode of illness and worry about the future, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, since serious mental illness still carries a stigma, you may be keeping it a secret, resulting in increased isolation, frustration and difficulty because you may have no one to talk to about your feelings or no way to get information and support.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tending the Fences: Setting Healthy Boundaries

“Good fences make good neighbors.” So goes the old proverb from the well-loved Robert Frost poem.  

Likewise, good personal boundaries make for good relationships. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself. They let people know your limits on what they can say or do around you. Healthy boundaries give you freedom in relating to others. Make them too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow other’s actions to harm you.

It’s not always clear where our boundaries are or need to be. Recognizing and studying the signs of ignored or ineffective boundaries is a good place to start, as these “symptoms” give clues to the needed boundary. See if any of the following ring true for you.

Aloofness and distance. When you are unwilling or fearful of opening your space to others, or when you build walls to insure that others don’t invade your emotional or physical space, this may be a defense against cruel behavior, abuse or neglect that you allowed to happen. A person with healthy boundaries draws a line over which they will not allow anyone to cross. They recognize their right to say, “No!”

Chip on the shoulder. This kind of attitude declares, “I dare you to come too close!” and is often the result of anger over a past violation or ignoring of your physical or emotional space by others. Healthy boundaries mean you are able to speak up when your space has been violated, leaving you free to trust that you can assertively protect yourself to ensure you are not hurt.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Self-Responsibility Starts with An "I"

“Take your life into your own hands and what happens?
 A terrible thing: no one to blame.”
—Erica Jong

In the following three scenarios what do the people have in common?

Josie is a woman in her twenties. She still lives at home with her mother who makes all Josie’s important decisions: how to spend her money, who to go out with, even what clothes to wear. Josie is anxious and depressed.

Matt ordered a new printer for his office. When it arrived he discovered it wasn’t compatible with his computer. "Those idiots," he ranted, "why didn’t they tell me this was the wrong printer."       

Sally and Jerry had a big fight. Now Sally’s tossing and turning in the bedroom while Jerry beds down on the sofa. Neither one is getting any sleep and both think the other should make the first move to apologize.

If your answer was “Hey, no one is taking any personal responsibility here,” you’ve got a good eye for human behavior.

Because what Josie and Matt and Sally and Jerry all have in common is a lack of self-responsibility that leaves them dependent, impotent and victimized. They’re caught up in blaming others for their problems and waiting for somebody else to come along and make their life right. Unfortunately, they’re going to have a long wait and be disappointed again, again, and again ... 

Some people tell us this version of good news: Your life is in your hands. You get to make the choices, elect the options and take the actions that come with self-responsibility. It’s through the door of self-responsibility that personal power and independence enter, often hand-in-hand, bearing gifts of confidence and self-esteem.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

10 Behaviors that Block Happiness

"If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me 'happy,' then I'd have to get a 'new' marriage every two or three years."

That's a quote from Christian author Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More than to Make Us Happy?

But wanting to be happy is human nature! I was so disillusioned when James and I shared one tube of toothpaste after our wedding. I (and he) couldn't believe we would told each other we were wrong.

"Why are you squeezing in the middle? You are destroying my toothpaste."

"It's too slow to squeeze from the bottom! That's so dumb!"

Each of us were dumbfounded (because we never argued once in our three months of dating). To solve the problem, James quickly bought another toothpaste so that each of us can squeeze our own way. But I was still hurt.

Fast forward. Toothpaste is not an issue as we freely share one (while travel) or two tubes. At home, every time when mine is almost out, I would swap mine with his. When he finishes up his tube, I start a new one and give my crumbled up tube to him. It works. I feel loved.
Couples in counseling always tell me they argue about the littlest of things, and they don't like it. What they may not know is ...

10 Behaviors that Block Happiness
We all seek that elusive quality of “happiness.” Here are some things you can place your awareness on and STOP so you can be happier.
1. Impressing. What you have —your possessions, your accomplishments—don’t result in real relationship or lasting happiness.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Knowing Self, Knowing Others - The Secret to Win-Win Relationships

I will be giving three workshops (in Cantonese, Mandarin, English) in February on topics of communication and relationship. Here is the poster for the Mandarin workshop in Fremont.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Well Do You Maintain Balance?

It's hard to believe January 2016 is almost over! I set many goals for myself (e.g. getting organized). I wanted to start a new blog (and I did), get into a new exercise routines ...

Of course there was also that piece of furniture to be moved so to clear out space. Although James got help from a friend, I was there by their side to help. I only helped a little but I hurt my back!

Living and working in the Silicon Valley could be quite stressful. There are so much to do in every area of our lives. Many of us like excitements yet sometimes we are tired and wish life would be less stressful, less hectic, and more predictable (not in a boring way), more peaceful, and in other words, more restful.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Handling Adversity: You're Stronger Than You Thought

December 22, 2015

How is it possible to experience Love, Joy, Peace and Hope when bad things are happening?

For some of us, it is by believing in Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings. He came from Heaven to earth to save us from our sins and make "God with Us" a reality!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Do you believe you're stronger than you thought? Have you forgotten who you are in Christ?

Overcoming Overwhelm By Coming Back To Ourselves

December 8, 2015

Not ready for Christmas and New Year? Having too much to do at home, work or church? Stressed out by all the bad news in the world?

Wait! Don't forget that Jesus is the reason for this season. Matthew 1:23 reads, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

How would your life be different trusting that God loves you and is with you all the time? How about taking a new perspective and alternative?

Cultivating A Family Attitude Of Gratitude

November 24, 2015

"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:16)

Are you aware that people cannot be angry and grateful at the same time? What other benefits could an attitude of gratitude bring? Here are some new ideas for helping the whole family learn such attitude.

How Well Do You Handle Anxiety?

November 10, 2015

"Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." (Proverbs 12:25)

One way I deal with anxiety is to talk to someone I trust about my feelings, reasoning or thinking or the conclusions I've come to. Have you experienced other effective ways to deal with anxiety?

How about you? How Well Do You Handle Anxiety?

How Well Do You Practice Empathy?

October 27, 2015

Have you ever tried telling a friend something and he responded with, "If I were you, I would not be angry"?

What was your reaction? Did you get even angrier thinking, I'm sharing my feeling and he is shutting me up. He doesn't care!

What if you are the person saying those words with good intention to help? Do you feel misunderstood, hurt and rejected when she yelled at you? Why does she always overreact? What have I done wrong? Why can't she understand?

You're not alone! Both of you have similar needs. You'd like to be heard, be understood, be accepted!

But all we can do is seek first to understand than to be understood. Someone has to practice empathy first. How about you?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means To You

October 13, 2015

You tried to listen actively and express yourself assertively. But somehow, when it comes to your family members, especially your teenager, seemingly normal conversations could become very difficult very easily.

When they roll their eyes, you feel disrespected. Whether they say it with words or just give you that look, you could tell they think you are stupid, or hear them yelling, "I don't want to do it. I won't do it. You cannot make me do it!" You feel exasperated and can no longer control your tongue...

But stop! Don't get involved in a power struggle. Remember you are the parent.

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

What's hurting your relationships? Find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to you. 

Confidence And Self-Respect Through Conflict

September 22, 2015

In the last few newsletters, we have been exploring essential communication skills such as "Active Listening" and "Assertive Expression"...

Still don't know how to deal with conflicts with people you really care about? Maybe there are deeper issues that block you from applying your skills. For example, you are angry when your teenagers do not show respect when you try to teach them, so you yell at them and belittle them with harsh words. What if your words say one thing and your body language and tone of voice say something opposite?

Frustrated and discouraged? You are not alone. Is it possible that your teenagers feel hurt, disrespected and put down when you nag and lecture? How can you demonstrate and model living life in Christ?

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

Remember, you cannot force someone to change, but you can always let God change your attitude and reaction in any situation.

Pushy vs. Assertive. How Do You Tell The Difference?

September 8, 2015

"You are nagging me!"
"Stop lecturing!"
"It's always your way or no way!"
"You don't care!"

Have you ever heard these complaints from someone you love? If you feel misunderstood, you are not alone. But could it be possible that you are trying too hard to help?

Is there a grain of truth in their complaints? Can you break the cycle of destructive, negative, ineffective communication? Can you tell the difference of being Pushy vs. Assertive?

Are You A Good Listener?

August 25, 2015

"Help! Nobody is Listening!"

When that happens, you feel frustrated and alone, and wonder whether he or she cares.

Surprisingly, when conversations are not going anywhere, the other person often feels the same.

Do you play a part? Can you break the cycle of not listening to each other? Find out from the quiz how good a listener are you.

The Rewards Of Really Listening

August 11, 2015

Last weekend, I had the honor of leading four workshops and one parent Q&A group at a joint church retreat in Sonoma County. It was a wonderful experience talking with new people and reconnecting with old friends.

There were some surprises (like taking almost three hours to get there when mapquest estimated 1.5 hours). Thank God that things all worked out at the end. On our way back, James took me to the beach to see Golden Gate Bridge from a distance. We got there five minutes before sunset!
Like a bridge, communication can be messy at times, especially if the conversation is going only one-way. Maybe a new perspective is needed to make your communication more effective.

Are you frustrated that no one is listening to you? Try listening better to them first.

Give Your Relationship A Tune-Up

July 28, 2015

James and I just celebrated our 40th anniversary! Here is a gift from a new friend who lost her husband last year after 38 years together. She told me how she found this plate her late husband bought in anticipation of their anniversary. Now she wanted me to have it to share her blessings. I was so touched by her story and generosity. The love of Christ is so evident in her!
James and I married young after only three months of dating. When our honeymoon was over, there were many years that we struggled with our differences, wanting to change each other. We tried but there was no quick fix.

Skip forward to today, we get along well, enjoy each other, and help each other.  We accept our differences, appreciate our uniqueness, and are amazed how God put us together for His purpose.

How about you? Are you frustrated, disappointed and hurt that your marriage is not going your way? Take some time to Give Your Relationship A Tune-Up.

Top 10 Ways To Have A Great Day

July 14, 2015

How did you celebrate Independence Day? I was thankful for the freedom to live and work and travel as I choose in a free country.

Last month James and I took 11 days off from work and ministries to visit our son's family. My main responsibility was to take care of two grandkids (age 6 and 4) while their mommy and youngest brother (age 1) were away attending a wedding. I felt sad with them when they missed mommy. I felt happy when they enjoyed themselves... They were never tired of playing, inside or outside, rain or shine, and it was pure joy for me!

Every day could be a great day... Here are some ideas.

Music: A Soothing Balm For Stress

June 23, 2015

What roles does music play in your life?

I always love music. In Hong Kong, I tried to audition for my high school choir, which was very esteemed. I was so nervous I could not sing. I stopped singing for many years.

In September 2001, I joined the CCCMIW (i.e. Chinese Christian Church Music Institute for Worship) choir in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our conductor Dr. Richard Lin is a servant of the Lord by example and exhortation. I still remembered Dr. Lin's words such as "We are offering worship, not performance. Song leading is not preaching. And our purpose of praise and worship is to lead people to the throne of God."

In the next few years, I also participated in CCCMIW summer camps to improve my singing and learn how to lead singspiration and to select hymns and praise songs that match the sermons. He taught us worship as a heart issue. "Worship is to magnify the Lord. The hearts of song leaders and choir members need to be moved first before they can bring others to receive, enjoy, and feel the presence of our Lord."

Dr. Richard Lin went to be with the Lord on May 21, 2015. In my Chinese Article, you can read more about my experience learning from Dr. Lin, and how our son and I got to sing Messiah in Mandarin with Dr. Lin's choir in the summer of 2003.

Music still plays a very important role in my life. When visiting our son's family recently, I observed my granddaughter's violin lessons. Then I was tasked by her Mommy to help her practice every morning using a fun system. The little girl loved it when I accompanied her at the piano!

I still love to sing and now I can play many hymns and worship songs. Almost every week I play the piano or keyboard so that someone (e.g. my mother-in-law or a small group) can sing. When I am stressed, I listen to music, especially songs such as "God will make a way" by Don Moen.

Raising Compassionate Kids

June 9, 2015

How are you spending time with your (grand-) kids, nephews, nieces, and students in your life?

Summer is here. It breaks the routines of many families. If you are a parent, or in charge of any young person, this is a good time to change the direction of where you are going.

Is there anything you wish you have done differently? It is never too late to start. Today is the tomorrow of yesterday! How about take a moment to review your goals of parenting and caring?

Life's Choices Aren't All Easy, But They Are All Yours

May 26, 2015

What was the most difficult decision you have made?

Leaving a high-tech career to be a stay-at-home mom, resigning from being children's minister at my home church to be the pastor's wife at a new church, referring out potential clients in order to travel with my husband in conference ministries... those were all difficult choices, but they paid off. I was freed to discover what God has intended for me, one step at a time.

Today, I still have to make tough choices. I find out not making a choice may be passively making a choice. So I don't use "Waiting upon the Lord" as an excuse of not taking personal responsibility! 

Life is about making choices. 

Imagine bellying up to the counter at your local Haagen-Dazs and asking the server for "whatever you think I'd like."

From Hopelessness To Happiness—A Learnable Life Skill

May 12, 2015

Do you know happiness and joy are emotions that can be learned?

On this Mother's Day edition, I want to pay tribute to my mother who showed me sacrificial love in spite of her own struggles in life. Although she was mistreated and betrayed, she continued to live and love. I had many happy times with my mother because both of us enjoyed quality time and loved talking with each other.

In many ways, big and small, Mom sacrificed herself for her children. She encouraged me to keep on learning and seeking for a better future. She dealt with her hopelessness by putting her hope and future onto me. When Mom passed away at age 48, part of me died with her. My hopelessness and emptiness eventually led me to Christ; and my life, marriage, and family have never been the same!

"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)

Were you conditioned to feel hopeless from some childhood or recent traumatic experiences? Like me, you could also learn a new life skill -- from hopelessness to happiness.

Do You Have Trust Issues?

April 28, 2015

I still remember the trip we took recently to Jenner north of Bodega Bay!

Traveling on that part of Highway 1 (one) was some experience. On our way home, I was on the side looking down the cliff. Of course I was scared, but I was able to trust James' driving and trust God's protection.
James and I would not be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery if we believed it was not safe out there. That adventurous road ride reminded me of ups and downs in life involving trust. Have you experienced pain of betrayal directly or indirectly?

"Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me." (Psalm 41:9)

There were times that I could not trust anyone for my life. Praise the Lord that now I can share my joy and hope with others (more readily). How about you? Will you take the quiz  Do You Have Trust Issues?

10 Ways To Love Fearlessly

April 14, 2015

Have you noticed how fear stops people from taking risks in close relationships?

Nobody wants to get hurt, and I was one of those people. But when I was protecting myself, I was not free to love.

It is hard to embrace Good Friday unless you know there is Easter Sunday. Have you wondered why Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth from Heaven to save us? Do you know what it means to have a new life freed from bondage of sin and death?

Last Thursday, James and I adventured to Jenner (off California Hwy 1) when I spoke at a sisters' retreat. There was a section of the highway that was very winding, narrow, going up and down on the cliff. At one point, a car on our opposite lane came directly at us when trying to pass the car in front of it. I was scared to death. Thank God for his protection and getting us there 3 minutes before Sunset!

The retreat went very well. The sisters were open to share and willing to learn. On Saturday morning before breakfast, James and I walked outside along the coast. We were blessed.

Our return trip was more relax since we were not in a rush. After we were out of the dangerous zone, I asked James whether he was scared driving up and down the hills. He replied, "No, all I can do is to concentrate on my driving." I'm so happy he was able to keep his cool. Praise the Lord!

Is fear stopping you? Here are 10 ways to love fearlessly!

When The Name Of The Game Is Blame, No One Wins

March 24, 2015

Do you know someone whose life has been affected by blame, directly and indirectly?

Blame was not new to me. My paternal grandmother blamed my mom for having two daughters in a row; and later my mom blamed my grandmother when my father was unfaithful. Growing up, I thought it was my fault that I was a girl, so I blamed myself for causing my parents' marital troubles! Yikes!

Whether we fabricate unbelievable excuses like, "The dog ate my homework," or blame others for what happens to us, we give up not only responsibility for our lives, but also our power.

When things go wrong, blame is an easy way of taking the spotlight off ourselves and shining it on others. From the first excuse we used as a child, shifting blame often becomes an all-purpose gadget in our toolbox of defenses, so handy we often reach for it without even thinking.

Curiosity In Business And Life

March 10, 2015

I was blessed meeting friends, attending workshops, and worshipping in the general session with Don Moen and Dr. Paul Nyquist.
I can't believe that I have been leading workshops at BASS since 2006! When the late Jeanne Stenfort, the beloved Director of CEF Silicon Valley, asked me to present "Learning Style" and "EQ" for the children's track, I told her I could also speak on those same topics and "Parenting ABC" at the Asian track. That first year, I led five workshops in English and Cantonese on Friday and Saturday!

One of the organizers asked, "How can you keep track of which language to use? Won't you be confused?" That led to some interesting discussions (e.g. how children can learn to speak different languages to different people, at different places, and/or on different days.)

As parents, we all want our kids to learn. How about you? Are you interested and curious of what you might not know? Do you know there is a connection between curiosity and result in work, life and relationships?