Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Love, So Amazing

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


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 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 & 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.)

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

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Want to reprint this article? No problem! Just make sure you include a complete attribution and, whenever possible, a live link to our website. Please notify Winnis where and when the material will appear. The attribution should include this information:

Winnis Chiang, MA, MFT, Founder and Director of Parenting ABC, is a
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She specializes in helping
Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy,
and influence their American Born Chinese children. Reach her at
ParentingABC.com.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living in Love and Unity



I am in love again ... this time with a little guy who weighed 8 lbs.
3 oz. and measured 21 inches at birth. I love to hold him,
especially after he was nursed and burped. It helps that I don't
have to take care of him in the middle of the night nor change his
diapers.

One evening after dinner, I held the baby while his mommy was
playing with his big sister. We stared into each other's eyes when
he was not dozing off. I talked "googoogaga" and he smiled.
Suddenly, I heard his mommy, "Wow, you two look so comfortable and
happy together. Are your arms tired? You've been holding him for
more than an hour." I just grinned ear to ear, "Really?"

Dear Friend, words cannot fully expressed our joy being Nai Nai and
Ye Ye (Mandarin for grandma and grandpa on the father's side) the
second time around. As of mid December, we still did not know where
the baby would be born and whether we could visit him. You see, our
son and his family had been living in Africa since March 2010. The
matter was complicated because my husband James and I were
scheduled to fly to Germany on December 25 for a mission trip.

Finally, we heard they would be back on December 21. As major
airports in Europe were paralyzed by heavy snow storms, James was
checking airport condition and flight status around the clock. It
was past midnight when he reported, "They just landed at Frankfurt.
But their connecting flight is cancelled." My heart sunk as I
imagined our son dashing around with his very pregnant wife and
very young daughter in the cold and crowded airport.

As if to cheer me up, James said, "If they could not get back,
maybe we can meet them in Frankfurt."

For a moment, I felt hopeful. Then I puzzled, "But how can we get
there?"

James admitted, "It is beyond me too. Let's pray and get some
sleep."

I felt dejected when I went to my office early next morning. Then
my spirit was lifted up when I read our son's e-mail, "Our flight
was canceled. We had to switch flights ... Not airline XX but YY. See
online. YY Flight number nnnn. Currently 4 hrs delayed."

By the grace of God, together we celebrated Christmas Eve with
James' mother and siblings. The next morning, our son took us to
SFO. For 24 days, we traveled in Germany, UK and France to teach,
lead groups, coach and mentor young Christians in Discipleship
Training conferences (DTCs) and at some local churches. I'll tell
you more about our trip later. But let me first share family
stories.

When our son was growing up, the three of us lived in a six-bedroom
house. In 2003, James and I downsized to a two-bedroom unit to
prepare for his full-time ministry. When we were assigned to a
church in another city, we lived temporarily in rentals. After our
son graduated from college in 2005, he stayed in our place while
attending seminary and serving at our home church. Although we
visited a day here and there, it was more of the home for him, his
wife and daughter until they moved to Africa and we moved back in
March last year.

Once I knew they were coming back, I moved boxes into the garage
and hired a cleaning lady. My daughter-in-law showed appreciation
immediately. "The place is so clean, much cleaner than it was when
we lived here. You did this for us. Thanks!"

At first they refused to take the master bedroom. But I said, "It
was your room too ... You have a growing family ... We want you to
have lots of rest. Besides, we're leaving town in a few days. We
will figure things out later."

While in Europe, James and I slept in three conference facilities,
someone's home, the dormitory of a mission organization, and a
small hotel. We traveled by planes, taxis, cars, trains, the
Eurostar, and subway. The people we were serving kept our full
attention. But every few days, we would read and send e-mails
during our short breaks. In UK, we learned that baby was on
schedule.

By the time we were flying back to SFO, I could no longer wait to
see my family. Our son picked us up and took us to a late dinner. I
was surprised when he told us that his wife and daughter were
staying with her parents for a few days.

"They are not home?" I tried to conceal my disappointment.

"Your e-mail said you were sick and we don't want her to get sick
catching some European virus right before the baby is born ..."

I was speechless. But that was in UK, I was fine in Paris! After
our son parked the car in front of some restaurants, James
suggested we walked another block to pick the best place; I was
irritated, snapped at James, and refused to go along. We were quiet
at dinner. Before getting back into the van, I said, "Sorry. It has
been a very long day. I am just too tired."

I felt better the next morning and met with clients as planned. I
bought food home for dinner. We were more relaxed than the
previous night. Suddenly, I appreciated how God had given us a
chance to talk with each other, just the three of us. Soon our son
asked about the DTCs.

James explained, "We have four different modules. Each conference
focuses on only one module. Two conferences are held in one place
every year. Therefore, it would take two years for someone to
finish four modules. The first module is 'Living in Christ' which
helps believers realize that although we have new life in Christ,
most of us still live according to our old value system, old ways
of thinking, old habits, and business as usual, hence losing our
joy and peace in Christ."

Seizing the opportunity, I jumped in, "Like last night, I was
unhappy even though I understood the importance of avoiding virus
during pregnancy. Somehow I felt rejected. Then I worried whether I
had said or done something wrong and made you mad at me."

James added, "Mom did not like being quarantined. Everyone wants to
be loved and accepted. I was angry at her when she picked on me for
nothing."

Our son reassured, "Mom, of course we love you! We are not angry at
you. Are you worrying about ...?"

I replied, "Yes, I worried because we did not have a chance to
talk. Message is up to interpretation. I don't know how my hurried
e-mails came across. When I assumed the worst, I felt sorry for
myself. When I could not hold my negative feelings anymore, I
picked on Dad. It is a bad habit of mine, just because he is safe."

I apologized to James. He accepted and added, "I understand.
Returning to Christ last night in my thoughts allowed me to accept
your weakness. I'm glad we are both learning and growing."

Nodding in agreement, our son said, "That's cool. Sorry you felt
rejected, mom. That's not our intention. Anyway, they will be back
in two days."

When they returned I was overjoyed! My little granddaughter who
could only use sign language could now talk! Her sentences are
short, simple, and usually have three parts. For examples, "Please
Ba Ba milk," "Please Ye Ye (Ba)nana," or "Please mommy excused"
(after she finished her food).

I am amazed at her language ability. At meal time, we held hands to
say grace. One day, she requested, "Please Me Pray." From then on,
it became a ritual. After one of the adults prayed, she said in the
cutest voice, "Dear God, thank you for food. Amen."

But "Please Nai Nai Play" is by far her most favorite sentence. For
that reason, I could not finish this newsletter even though I
started before Valentine's Day. There is no way for me to ignore a
sweet little girl with big brown eyes and a lovely smile saying,
"Nai Nai, what you doing?" or "Love you Nai Nai," and "Please Nai
Nai Play."

However, I have to admit that while I usually could not resist my
granddaughter, sometimes she bothered me, especially when she
said, "Mine," "No," or "Why" one time too many. One evening, I was
cooking and she was playing in our combo living room, dining room
and kitchen. Suddenly, I saw her pushing some buttons on the front
panel of our dishwasher. Oh No. The setting would be wrong.
Immediately I said, "Don't do that." When she did it again and
again, I grabbed her little hands tight and raised my voice, "No!"

She startled me when she started crying and running into her
mommy's room. Soon, she came back with her mommy behind her.
Before I said anything, our daughter-in-law got down to the girl's
level and instructed, "Tell Nai Nai you're sorry. Not listening is
disrespectful."

She said "Sorry Nai Nai" and I hugged and kissed her. As she turned
away to play, her mother softly said, "She was scared when you
yelled." How embarrassing!

Incidents like these opened up conversations afterward.
Misunderstanding was clarified. As we communicated our feelings,
thoughts and needs, and agreed to keep discipline appropriate,
consistent, and within boundary, the four adults have unity among
us. James and I have no problem following their lead. They are the
parents!

To avoid the infant and toddler waking up each other, we decided to
have our granddaughter sleep with James and me in our second
bedroom, which is really James' study. Her Ba Ba handled the going
to bed routine effectively. If she woke up in the middle of the
night, she would ask to go potty. I had the privilege of taking off
her diaper, putting her on her small toilet seat, waiting for her
to be done, putting on her diaper again, and returning her to bed.
I am still amazed that I could do all those things in the dark and
falling back to sleep.

On February 18, James and I went to Denver to serve in another DTC.
Just like the recent conferences in Germany and UK, this one was on
module 3--"I and the Church." The body of Christ is characterized by
love and unity with the following theme passage:

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy
of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to
keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians
4:1-3)

Sharing tight living space gave us the opportunity to practice what
we preach. For example, I always thought I loved my granddaughter.
But how did I feel when she said "NO!" with a smile to my inquiry,
"Do you want to give Nai Nai a hug?"

I felt hurt and rejected! One day, her mommy observed my
disappointment and suggested, "She is too young. I just do it her
Ba Ba's way."

As it turned out, her Ba Ba's way was also my way. Whenever I
smiled, squatted down, stretched out my arms, and said, "Bao Bao"
(Mandarin for hug hug), she would rush into my arms.

I often have unrealistic expectations during adjustment periods. I
thought I could deal with jet lag, catch up with my counseling
practice, write a few Chinese articles, and publish this
newsletter. Not only was I interrupted by "Please Nai Nai Play" all
the time, I was busy shopping, cooking, washing dishes, laundary,
etc., even though they also chipped in. And of course I loved to
hold the baby.

Trying to do it all, I was stressing myself out. One day, I broke
down and cried in my car. I turned on the CD player and a choir was
singing, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does
not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not
self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of
wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

But what grabbed my heart was when they sang, "If I speak in the
tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a
resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of
prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I
have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am
nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body
to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain
nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

I asked myself, "Do I have love? Am I a loving person?" Admitting
my impatience and self-centeredness, I cried out to God and
received forgiveness (according to Bible verse 1 John 1:9). From
that day on, I treasured every minute with my family. Although I
missed them even before their departure on March 1, I am forever
grateful that we had the chance of living together, baby and all.

When I finally had time to check e-mail, there was a shocking news.
"I'm sorry to inform you the sudden passing of our dear brother ...
He collapsed while playing basketball, most likely due to heart
attack. He was rushed to the hospital but couldn't be revived."

My friend passed away at age 56. He and his wife have been my
friends for over thirty-seven years. In the eighties, they invited
us to their church year after year, rejection after rejection. The
seventh year, we reluctantly attended their church's Christmas
program after enjoying dinner at their home. The following Sunday,
I started going to one of their sister churches. Within four weeks,
I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior on January 28, 1989.

The invitation to my friend's memorial service described him as
"Our visionary leader, a loving father and husband, a kind and
generous friend, and a faithful servant of God." The sanctuary was
packed with people who came to say farewell and to celebrate his
life. Even though our friend is with the Lord, it is still very hard
for all of us to lose him on earth. Please pray for his wife, two
grown children, his parents and three sisters.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw his wife at church in between services.
I excitedly pulled out my cell phone and showed her photo of my
grandchildren. We were talking and laughing when he came up from
nowhere and asked in Cantonese, "What are you looking at?"

I replied, "I have a grandson now." He smiled and said, "I knew. I
saw your son last Sunday when he came to play basketball with us.
He told me."

Life is short. When I feel sad missing someone, I comfort myself by
redirecting my attention to the good times we have had together.
Sometimes I sing my favorite songs. This past week has been very
tough, even though I was happy to see some of you at BASS and DTC.
During this time, a Mandarin song entitled "Going through Life with
You" (與祢同走過) kept coming to my mind. I have placed the lyrics and
a YouTube video link in my Chinese article blog. You will also found
a newly published Chinese article of mine. Check them out.

Chinese: http://winnischiang.blogspot.com/
English: http://parentingabcnewsletterinenglish.blogspot.com

It is my joy to know Christ and people like you. Thank God that our
paths have crossed. May you and yours live in love and unity!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Want to reprint this article? No problem! Just make sure you include a complete attribution and, whenever possible, a live link to our website. Please notify Winnis where and when the material will appear. The attribution should include this information:

Winnis Chiang, MA, MFT, Founder and Director of Parenting ABC, is a
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She specializes in helping
Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy,
and influence their American Born Chinese children. Reach her at
ParentingABC.com.