For a long time now, I have wanted to take some photos of the more understated, daily side of Kuching. But who am I kidding, these really are just some half-hearted photos I snapped randomly on the streets. With lots of photo filters applied, like make up :)

I had other photos taken with phone cameras that I can’t retrieve now, and so many missed shots my heart aches a little, but it’s okay. Warning: these do not represent Kuching well.

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It’s the time of the year again. There’s quite a lot for 2014, so this is just a selection of randoms, partly for fun. One thing I have deeply learned though, which I will say outside the list, is the importance of developing gospel-reflecting relationships with the people around us.

Anyways, here are some things I learned over the past year, about life!

  1. Adding a little salt when boiling corn enhances the flavour of the corn.
  2. You cut off the end part of the stems when someone gives you flowers, to prolong their life (in futility).
  3. The trick to housework is to do them in small but frequent amounts. Clean up something as soon as you see it, after shower or after cooking etc.
  4. I have always regretted the unkind words I have said, no matter how justified I believed they were at the time. And I have always been glad for the kind words I have said, no matter how unjustified I believed they were at the time.
  5. Removing the Facebook app from my phone is one of the best things I’ve done.
  6. A way to remember un-memorise-able cytogenetic details for exams (eg. t(x;18) for synovial sarcoma, 1p19q for astrocytomas) is to set them as your work passwords.
  7. You need to allocate time to maintain good things. Leather shoes and bags, the car, a tidy and fresh house, your own body. (Some may add “girls” onto the list, but I will definitely stay out of that one.)
  8. Taking out time to memorise Scripture is infinitely worth it. Not least of which is providing an anchor for my thoughts rather than letting them drift around to useless unhelpful things. (The mountain is not unscalable. In the last six months I’ve done five chapters.)
  9. One of the perks of living near the children’s hospital is being able to easily walk a short distance to sit down and watch kids play.
  10. Not wasting time is one of the hardest things to do.

(Previous lists: 2013, 2012, 2011.)

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Little plants

She was from Lebanon, a woman who spoke Arabic as her native tongue, but also fluent English that you can’t fault, and in a high school in Australia she taught French. I guess a little like the backstory of someone you would expect to see in a romantic drama. “I have four children,” she said, “Sixteen, fourteen, twelve, and ten. The first two, they were conceived with IVF, and the two younger ones, naturally. They are like little plants, so precious to me, as I watch them grow,” she gestured her hands upwards with a smile, but her smile quickly dropped, “… I don’t want to die.”

“That is what we’re trying to do,” Joan replied Nora, “to control this disease as much as we can, and give you relief from symptoms, so that you can do the things you want to, for as long as we can… But with how things are going,” Joan said as she looked at the CT scan, “I don’t think I can give you five years…”

A silent gasp. “Five years? Only a minimum of five years?”

Joan bit her teeth. It wasn’t a minimum, but the opposite, rather. “…No,” Joan corrected at a lower tone, “I don’t think I can confidently say even five years…”

“Even less than five years?”

A slow nod. Silence, as what had just been told sank in.

And then she started to weep. Actually weeping. Tissues. Empathic faces from us. She continued to weep. A million confused thoughts fired in her mind.

There in between her sobs, she managed, after a while, to say out loud some of what she was thinking. “Five years…,” she said in broken sentences, “In five years, my eldest son will just be starting university. I want to help him pack, and see him off. And my daughters… I’ll never be able to see them get married?” And she starting weeping again.

Joan reached out her hand to hold Nora’s. “I have a 15 year old daughter. I think I can understand.”

“Oh, may God bless you to be able to live a full life!”

I suppose I’ve held similar conversations enough times to not feel too awkward to be sitting quietly in the room. Of course I might have used slightly different wordings, and surely I don’t have a 15 year old daughter to throw into the conversation.

But just listening in this time, I realised even more profoundly that here was someone with her heart’s desires taken away before her. She can never get them now. They are, from now on, not hers to even daydream about when she so fancies to, anymore. Not ever, forever.

I immediately thought of some of my experiences, and the experiences of my friends around me. They can’t compare with Nora’s, but at least I think I can relate a little, and I think the underlying issue might be similar. Also, what are we assigning saviour-like attributes to?

Recently I met up with a friend who had completed university several years ago, who is getting older, but still unable to find a stable, proper job. Imagine his suffering in this current modern society. And another friend who had broken up only recently with his long-time girlfriend. He had “I’m so hurting” written all over him. And a couple who has had a miscarriage. They were grieving over a lost one that could have been. Flowers from their friends and family graced their kitchen and living room. (I will understand if you conclude that you would rather avoid being my friend lest some misfortune befalls you!)

More and more I am convinced that it is crucial to develop a proper, correct theology of suffering, now. And I wish, somewhere in my subconscious too I suppose, that I could do more of standing by people and say, “It’s okay, I’m here with you,” as Jesus did and does.

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