The Cloud Chaser

Like a child, I like chasing clouds of the skies. (No, not fancy tricks with smoke.)

The Lamentation and Memeology of the In-Between

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“I honestly started thinking that perhaps, that song wasn’t the best choice for a setting like that,” my friend shared as she drove us back to her place. She recalled a time when she brought a friend who had endured many a hardship to church. And there we were in church, singing that God will never let us down. I’m not saying it isn’t true, but considering what she has gone through, I don’t suppose it’s easy to just sing that He’s good and that He will never let us down. I’m pretty sure she feels let down by Him. And it must have been difficult to be in corporate worship, pushed to sing that aloud.”

I honestly don’t remember when this car conversation happened, but it has never left me. It got me thinking not just about song choices for corporate worship, but also about how we are uncomfortable with suffering, even more so when it’s shared vulnerably; a lamentation of sorts.

Too often, we wait for the “…but God is good” statement to end off an account of suffering and pain. We wait for the overused (and inaccurate) “God is in control, and He is teaching me something through this” conclusion when we listen to someone’s story about loss and life’s struggles.

But what happens when we don’t have that ending/conclusion?

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that God is good. But I’m gonna be real here – in the uncomfortable space between the beginning and end of a wrestle, I can’t guarantee that I am able to say it aloud. The in-between space is one dark valley, and at times, a necessary valley to walk through.

Yet, will we ever be okay with the description of said darkness?


Know me long enough and you’d probably encounter #thelifeofweijan stories at some point. It ranges from how I ran from Terminal A to C of Berlin-Tegel airport armed with a large backpack and an excruciating ingrown toenail problem. I’d later be stranded in that same city in the peak of winter because my bus was late, causing me to miss my connecting train. Or the time in Vietnam when a baby peed on me, so I changed out of my clothes and hand washed the soiled clothes, only to have it stolen from the line. Oh, all of that happened in a convent. My host insisted on getting me new underwear as a result. There’s also the time I was awakened several nights in a row while sleeping in a dark cornfield in Kenya, thinking I heard a woman screaming, only to find out later on that it had been a goat instead. These stories are just the tip of the iceberg of the oddities I’ve found myself caught in. And I have a knack for packaging these stories in a way that it’d induce laughter (and a number of “awwh man that sucks” as well).

(In recent times, memes have become the format of choice for such packaging of stories)

But what people don’t always know is what goes on in the in-between of the beginning and end of those stories; I was not a stranger to confusion, anxiety, fear, injustice, pain, exhaustion…the list goes on.

So what happens when I do share vulnerably, openly, and transparently, about the in-between space that I find myself in?

The reality, is unsettling.

I was told to pray more, trust Him more, worship more.
I was rebuked for my seeming lack of faith and inability to forgive.
I was asked to attend some healing/deliverance programme, as if I hadn’t been receiving professional help (in fact, I do).
I was even ousted from the team I was working with due to a misdiagnosis of my mental state.
I was misunderstood.
(The most recent one was concerning a meme I posted about the craziness of my week — my wisdom in posting one such content was questioned.)

I’ve also heard of stories of others losing their jobs or being excluded from a team for similar reasons. Such stories, I find, are too common, and unfortunate.

It’s as if the in-between is too dark to listen to, and the easiest way to deal with it is to offer a bandaid of sorts, to squirm in reaction to the discomfort, or to cease relationship and/or involvement in the lives of those people living through an in-between space.

(Think of Job and his friends.)

The authors of the book of Psalms and Lamentations were unafraid of the darkness of their valleys; their in-betweens. They were no strangers to the reality of the wrestle. They longed to see hope, yet were honest about their painful present.

I desire to see the conclusion of the struggles I’ve endured as a result of the pandemic and a generally hectic few months I’ve had. Yet I know full well that I’m caught in the in-between right this moment, and it’s uncertain when I’ll see the end of this chaos. My plans are up in the air, and most of my questions are unanswered. My friends have gone through many difficulties just by trying to leave their host country to return home in the midst of a lockdown. And I know I might be next in line. There are days that I’m too tired and anxious to say that God is good and that He’d never let me down. There are also days that I have only that much strength to sit in silence with Him, with no prayer, no singing.

But I know this is just merely the in-between, not the end of the story.

May I challenge us to look at the dark in-between space in a new light? (pun unintended)

After all, if it’s not for that uncertain, uncomfortable, and unsettling space that we might never be led to its conclusion. How the in-between is handled determines how the story ends. The fallen hero finds the strength to rise up again. The hopeless situation is met with bravery and creativity. The tunnel sees the light at last.

And it’s only possible if we allow for the in-betweens to be brought into the light, if we allow it to be called for what it is, if we allow the risk of one’s heart’s outpourings to mean something. All this with no judgement, no bandaids, no expectations.

I’m far from resolved, but I’d like to make room for the in-between to be what it needs to be. I don’t want to push it aside, nor ignore it. I don’t want to dampen it, nor give it too much power either (I suppose by making memes out of it).

I want to make it an altar; a pivotal point of the story that hasn’t seen its end yet.

Would you like to join me?

Secret Garden Spring

August 2019 // Worcester, South Africa

The grass crunched as I paced back-and-forth the field barefoot. My feet felt the very field that had become my secret place with Daddy God. I had spent the past hour crying out to Him about the things that were beyond my control, yet had some measure of responsibility over. I’ve been known to carry the weight of the world in the past, and I found myself to have matured immensely over the past season that brought me to my knees many a time. I finally understood surrender, the kind that doesn’t negate my own will, but also the kind that trusts Daddy enough to see things work out for good. And it was in that state of understanding surrender that He caught me.

“Wei-Jan, I’ve heard your cries about all these things that you care about. But there’s one thing that you care about that you have yet to bring up to Me.”

“Oh…?”

“It’s your heart; specifically the part that longs for lifelong companionship.”

I got quiet. Not just in speech, but in my heart. It’s a sore spot for sure, after all the suffering I’d gone through over the years. I remember how I found it easier to ask Him for everything else but that part. And He cared enough to bring it up again.

“Okay, Daddy. What do You have in store for me in the next season?”

A garden.
Blooming in spring.
I saw my feet on the path.
And I wasn’t alone.


September 2019 // Worcester, South Africa

“I’ve started to notice that things between us have been a little…different lately.”

His greenish-blue eyes gazed deeply into mine. I would usually shy away from such a gaze from anyone, but this time around, I surprised myself by being okay with it. He wasn’t a stranger to me; he was someone I’d considered to be a best friend. Those eyes had grown on me over the almost two years that I’d known him. I could tell that he was nervous, yet he was confident enough to maintain his attention on the person he was risking everything on, by bringing up such a topic. And it was that confidence in such a nerve-wrecking situation that made me treasure him even more.

He, had no idea that God had spoken to me a few days before, on a Tuesday, that he was the gold I’d be missing out on if I remained distracted.
I, had no idea that God had spoken to him a few days before, on that same Tuesday, that things were changing in our friendship.
We, had no idea that God had been arranging many more pieces in the shadows, hidden from our sight, until He saw it fit for it to be revealed that Tuesday.

We realised then, that God had started opening our eyes to the spring season He had prepared for us to experience together. The spring season that’s known to be a season full of weirdness and surprises.

Us, is nothing short of a weird and wonderful surprise.

(Even when everyone else seems to have predicted this long ago.)


It’s only been a couple of weeks since God spoke. It’s been over a week since we committed to journeying together in this odd spring season. But it feels like it’s been ages since we began. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we know that we’re not figuring it out on our own. God led us to this garden, and we’ll enjoy its surprises together.

So here I am, writing about the beginning of a new chapter of this crazy story. I don’t know its next parts and when it’ll come. And I guess I’ll continue loving God and him, regardless of what I know and don’t.

I’ll just let spring blossom things naturally, in this garden.

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Of Ambiguity, Spring, and Cakes

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“How do you handle ambiguity?”

The question Mindy asked in response left me speechless. We had been on the plane for a while then, still ways away from our destination – Nepal. She had been listening to my story – one with many twists and turns this year – and I had arrived at the present part that was filled with “I don’t know why”-s and “I don’t get it”-s. The Irrational Season I so named.

I looked away, in an attempt to piece together a good answer. The little media screen on the back of the plane seat in front stared back at me. I didn’t have a good answer. But I answered anyway.

“I don’t think I do well with ambiguity.”

If revelation was like a flood, then I must’ve been engulfed by the waves of a tsunami – something that I found to be a common occurrence on plane rides.

It’s true. I don’t do well with ambiguity.

“Wei-Jan, ambiguity is okay.”

Can it be, though?


A garden.
Trees and flowers grew wild and free.
Birds chirped.
Messy, but beautiful.
 
I followed the person ahead of me as I tried to make sense of everything that I was surrounded by.
 
“Wait, God, why are you showing me this when it doesn’t answer my question?”
 
He stopped to pick the flowers. He collected it in His hand, one by one.
 
“But, really, God, are you going to answer me??”
 
He stood up, and handed the bouquet of flowers to me.
 
“Child, it’s spring time. The sun is breaking through the clouds. The crocuses are pushing out of the snow. New life is blooming. Beauty is coming out of hiding. Yet you will still experience snow, hail, and maybe dust storms too. It’s a season that doesn’t make sense, but one filled with beauty.”
 
A season that doesn’t make sense, but one filled with beauty….?


Recently, a friend spoke to me about the process of baking – the baker gathering multiple ingredients that are required, and how they all need to work together to make that tasty treat. On their own though, they taste disgusting (hint: baking soda). But the baker uses all of them, together.

I gave it some thought, and how that correlated to my past few years with God.

The events of the past few years of my life do not make much sense to me.

The plans that failed.
The many questions to God about what would be next.
The excruciating waiting periods.
The unexpected deaths.
The people who walked in and out of my life.
The choices made and its consequences.
The heartbreaks and heartaches.
The riddles in which God spoke.

I like knowing. I like things making sense to me. I like feeling in control with foreknowledge.

And obviously I get crushed when I don’t have that luxury. Uncertainty has crippled me one too many times.

I’ve probably interrogated God about His intentions behind the various events that took place. Okay, not “probably.” I definitely have. I’ve wondered if I was set up for disappointment. I’ve questioned how it was meant to be for my good. I’ve made it clear that I didn’t wish for things to turn out the way it did.

I guess if I were to look at those events individually, none of it would make sense. There is no resolution for it. And it bugs me not to have resolution. It’s like having a song stuck in your head for an entire day, and it never comes to the ending chord.

Yet, He’s God and I’m not. I can’t see what He sees. I can’t decide what’s truly the best for me, because let’s be real – I’ve made enough mistakes on my own accord, and so have others. It was Him who picked up those pieces to make it work out in ways I wouldn’t have expected. He was that good, to ever do such a thing for me.

Maybe He’s been baking a cake and I’ve been fixated on only a handful of the ingredients. There’s a process of putting all those pieces together. There’s a story He’s written for me, and I’m only living out its early chapters.

Fullness is promised, but in His own time.


I don’t remember how, but my conversation with Mindy came to an end. Maybe it was when food was served, or maybe we just knew that’s where it had to end.

I leaned back on my seat and stared at my reflection on the screen in front of me. I sensed an invitation being presented to me. It wasn’t an invitation to the answer to my multiple why-s that irrational season. It wasn’t an invitation to an outcome I desired.

It was an invitation to the next adventure. An adventure of coming alive in a garden in spring. Except, I didn’t know what that really meant.

And it was up to me to decide. All I had to do was say, “I surrender this to You, whether or not I gain understanding. You know better.” 

So I closed my eyes and whispered those words.

I didn’t think that soon after, I’d arrive in Nepal only to receive news of an undesired outcome. I didn’t think that I wouldn’t fall apart despite not understanding why. I didn’t think that instead, I’d be whisked into one of the sweetest times of my life. I didn’t think that God would give me excitement about the future He has for me.

It was as if spring had come, along with its complexities and randomness, and I couldn’t help but notice its beauty.

I guess that’s what adventures are made of. A pinch of longing, a spoonful of challenges, a dash of heartbreak, a few drops of sweat and tears, and a whole lot of butter…of trust in His goodness, to bring it all together.

For now, I’ll lay off the nasty baking soda, and just let the Baker do His job.

(P/S: Thank you Mindy, Liv, and Sandi)

Protected: Open Your Heart & Watch Your Pain Become Beauty

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Protected: Lily in the Field

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Starting The New Year with Forgiveness

(The original post titled “What I Didn’t Know About Forgiveness” back in Aug 2017 experienced the unfortunate “shredder” that is the WordPress app glitch. It was frustrating, but a brilliant idea came…..)


31st December 2017 – 1st January 2018 // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

New year’s eve.
I was not out at some party somewhere. Instead, I was home, hoping to stay away from the crowds….and of all things to happen – a major bug on the WordPress app permanently deleted a post from August. It was the one titled “What I Didn’t Know About Forgiveness.” I spent the last half hour of 2017 and another hour of 2018 doing everything I could to retrieve it, to no avail.

I thought about the loss, the disheartenment to start over, the impossiblity to recreate it word-for-word. I did, after all, write that post in the heat of the moment when things were intense emotionally.

“There’s no way I can get back into that very same headspace,” I thought to myself.

Midnight came, and 2018 was ushered in. I was not celebrating, I was mourning about the incident….well, sorta. I hit the sack thinking about all the prophecies about what would 2018 look like for me and how the 2018 really began on my end, with this issue. It felt like a smack to the face but God in all His humour, gave me something to chew on.

“Let’s look back at what else I had done concerning forgiveness this year,” said the still small voice.


July 2017 // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I plonked on the bed after returning from what seemed like an excruciating hour of being questioned by some authority figures, mostly about the tragic premature exit from Greece a few months before. There were things I wanted to say, but held back because it would’ve been considered “too much information,” as the situation was complicated to begin with.

I was exhausted just by not being able to talk about the truth during the meeting.
But the tears that came weren’t because of that only.

I was feeling the weight of carrying that part of my story, whether shared with others or not. And what made the story difficult to carry was my struggle to forgive myself and the people involved.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to forgive, it was because pain has a way of making one unable, or find difficult, to forget.


August 2017 // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I went to church this particular Saturday evening, even though I had to leave before the sermon to attend my high school class’ 10-year reunion. I was not really excited about the class reunion for a variety of reasons, but it wasn’t the main thing weighing on my heart.

It was that I thought I knew enough about forgiveness, but I didn’t.

And I was about to meet a bunch of people who would remind me of many things, especially the not-so-great ones.

The communion emblems were passed and I held them tightly in my hands. So tight that I almost smashed the wafer and spilled the grape juice. “Would You show me what forgiveness looks like?” was the whisper of my lips but the loud cry of my heart. And I swallowed the wafer and chugged the juice.

(I was so lost in the moment that I had consumed the communion emblems before the cue. Oh well.)

I walked out of the church not too long later. I just didn’t think that I was going to walk into a series of events that would answer that prayer.

“Wei-Jan, you don’t have to have it all figured out now, but what you can do is choose to forgive today. You may have to start from scratch each new day, but you have the choice to make that day count.” – Mike Oman, September 2013.

One weekend.
One high school reunion.
One reunion of sorts with my former colleagues.

I looked at their faces, and the filmreel of memories began rolling.

I saw the times I had been treated unkindly, unfairly, and unlovingly.
But I also saw laughter, joy, and love.

I had a choice to make. And a choice I did make.

I made a choice to release the prisoners I had made of them and spoke life.
I made a choice to stand up and pour out love onto those people, knowing that I can choose to forgive despite not being able to forget the bad memories.
I made a choice to let Him take over, even if it means 7×70 times in a day. Life and beauty were prophesied and the prison walls came down.

The lessons didn’t end when the weekend was over. The very next day I would be challenged to walk out the truth of those lessons with a person I’d find most difficult to forgive. I made a choice, again.

(That choice made a friend go, “OH SNAAAP BRING ON THE CONVICTION!”)

I didn’t think that all these choices would set me up for what was coming up ahead.


October 2017 // Kampar, Perak, Malaysia

“Father, they’re swimming in their brokenness and with the amount of conflicts happening, I’m at my wits’ end,” I said to God as I prepared to go to bed. I was exhausted and mentally drained from all that was happening with the group I was leading.

“And what choice would you make this time?” He asked in return.

“I choose to forgive them. I release them to You.”

The next few days made history. The breakthrough came. The darkness left and light invaded. I thought that was the end. But the gentle voice spoke.

“No, you’re not stopping here, because I’m not. Go and embrace her.”
“But…I mean, things look good now. Do I really have to do that?”
“Yes.”
“Can I do it later?”
“Nope. Now.”

With the quote, “Delayed obedience is disobedience” playing in my head, I looked up at the person that I had been speaking to God about. She had just been freed of a lot of pain and darkness the evening before, and she was relishing in this newfound freedom. It’s easy to think that my work was done then, but I went with that voice and approached her.

I opened my arms to hug her.
I hugged her.
I was still hugging her. Or more like she was still hugging me.
I wondered if it was time to let go, but this hug didn’t look like it was going to cease soon.

Then her tears started flowing as she repeated, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry…”

“I forgive you. You’re all good.”

Something in the atmosphere broke and she came undone. God had something bigger for her, as I was realising then. The rest surrounded us and our tears flowed. Tears of utter joy.

And the beautiful singing of these words marked that moment in history.

“Oleh darah Yesus, ku bebas dan hidupku menang,
By the blood of Jesus, we are free, we live victorious.”


1st January 2018 // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Looking back, I actually did learn more about forgiveness after I had that post published back in August. The loss became an opportunity to revisit this. God is certainly not done teaching.

So, this thing you’re reading now – it doesn’t really end here either. 😉

 

Seen

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The year God proved that He sees.


12th March 2017 // Thessaloniki, Greece

The stranger showed up at a church and quietly made her way to an empty seat. She sat down and looked around. It was her first time at this place. She didn’t know anyone there. In fact, she was also new to the country, the culture, the language. She was a stranger in (almost) every sense of the word. The new kid in town. The new kid in town who had no clue that everything was going to change that day.

“If you feel small, invisible, overlooked….I want you to know that God sees you. He sees you where you are. And He wants you to know that you’re seen by Him.”

She looked at the preacher as he delivered the message from the pulpit. She wondered if it’s the message for her. (She’d find out the answer later on.)

Hours after the end of the church service, she was seen in another part of the city, weeping as she hurried back to her (temporary) residence. Something had gone horribly wrong, and she couldn’t do anything to change it.

The stranger felt that her world was caving in.
The stranger felt that she was not worthy of being loved.
The stranger felt like a tiny speck in an ocean; tiny, overlooked, and probably unneeded.
The stranger wondered if God passed her by.

Even the streets that received the broken pieces of her heart and drops of tears had little to say in return.

Three weeks later, she was at the airport about to get on a flight home (that wasn’t part of her plan), still feeling like an utter stranger…when a Greek family asked her where she came from, snapping her out of her thoughts.

Bewildered, she looked at their faces that were eager to receive her answer.

“They want to know more about me, a stranger?” she thought to herself.

The irony of the situation got her pondering upon the words of that preacher from three weeks before,
“God sees you,”
and of her friend from a week before,
“I, your brother and friend, see you.”

This stranger is…seen?


We have longings to be seen and loved, for it’s strange to love someone we don’t take notice of. I didn’t think that my longings to be seen – in spite of the many things I already have – would put me on the receiving end of devastation. Devastation, that would eventually lead to the restoration of my very being.


6th April 2017 // Penang, Malaysia

The stranger showed up at a church and quietly made her way to an empty seat. She sat down and looked around. It was her first time at this place. She didn’t know anyone there. In fact, she was also new to the coun–…state, the culture (she didn’t understand the way the locals drove), the language (local dialect: Hokkien). She was a stranger in (almost) every sense of the word. The new kid in town. The new kid in town who had no clue that everything was going to change that day.

“You, the one in the grey top. I have a word from God for you.”

The stranger, who happened to be wearing a grey hoodie, looked behind to see if the person on stage was calling out to someone behind her. “There’s no way a stranger like me is getting called out in a crowd of more than a hundred,” she thought.

“Yes, you, the one who just looked around. There’s no one else dressed like you here.”

Bewildered, the stranger awkwardly stood up. This makes no sense. I’m just a stranger.

“God is saying that He didn’t pass you by.”

The next few minutes became a defining moment in her life. The confusion, uncertainty and questions that she carried with her met with laughter and peace, lots of it. The people on stage were speaking about what was on the Father’s heart. The crowd cheered in agreement.

This stranger was seen.

Not only was she seen, her destiny and calling were revealed to her in the presence of many witnesses. They didn’t know who she was, but soon enough they’d remember her as the one with a unique future coming up ahead.

They never once mentioned that she was a stranger.


There are many things in life that we don’t understand, nor will we ever understand. We’d feel like we’re on our own, trying to make sense of things.

But God sees.

When I questioned why I even chose to pursue something (that would lead to devastation) in the first place, God saw me in my regret and disappointment.

When I questioned why what once made sense didn’t any more, God saw me in my confusion.

When I felt that He had passed me by, God went above and beyond to show me that it was so not true.

He saw me, and He called me, proving that He can make even a grey hoodie stand out in a crowd.

I began the year as a stranger.
I am ending the year as the one who is seen.

And God can do the same for you.

What I didn’t know about forgiveness

(This post got deleted because of a WordPress app glitch. So this has been rewritten, with a twist. Read here: https://thecloudchaser.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/starting-the-new-year-with-forgiveness/ )