Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hi I am Serene, who are you?


Last December I cried at a family Christmas party – really the last place you want to be crying at. It’s family, and it’s Christmas, and it’s a party. The first time in six years the whole clan was together and a really special photoshoot had been planned. We were told to be punctual so we could get a good picture before sundown. Aunties, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces were arriving and catching up. How could you not be merry?

An aunty had asked me how is the new mum doing (Jireh was 5 months old then) — I could hear the carols playing, smell the roast pork in the oven, see the kids zooming around, and feel the merriment of everyone inside and outside — and I just couldn’t bear it anymore.

All my fears, anger, resentment, tiredness exploded and I might have cried more than Jireh did that night. Right there, in the corner of the front porch, at a family Christmas party. She turned me around to talk so we could have some privacy and my road to recovery began.

Oh it’s been one year but I will always remember Christmas 2011 — getting to tell someone that “I can’t cope!!!”, the kind sensitivity of that aunty, my forced smile in the family photo afterward.

I have since recovered from post-natal depression (mine was mild, nowhere near suicidal, thankfully) but some days it feels like I am still  walking in its shadow… (although isn’t all of life the shadowlands?) It has cost me something and changed me inside but I don’t know what or how.

Which is why I have decided to write about it.

It’s been a year and I think I am ready to do it. I am turning 30 next year and I want to do it. There could be people out there who could really use my story so I want to tell it.

And most importantly, I am a different person and I don’t know the new me. So this is my self-introduction.

“Hello Serene! Let’s talk about it.”




It’s our third year anniversary. And the three years are marked by:

  1. We got pregnant. (morning sickness!)
  2. We got baby. (post-natal depression!)
  3. We got toddler. (life as usual)

And so we finally made it back to Dan Ryan’s for the first time since we held our wedding dinner!

Since it is our anniversary, I get to make the usually taciturn husband answer questions.

Name 3 things you like about me:

  1. You care about Jireh’s sleep (because I don’t)
  2. You take care of the house
  3. You pray for me

Use 3 words to describe me:

  1. Happy
  2. Dedicated
  3. Witty

What 3 things would you like to do together before our 4th anniversary?

  1. Go for a holiday
  2. Visit the conservatories at Gardens By The Bay
  3. Go for family dinner

P/S – At 12:12 12/12/12 I was napping with Jireh.

It’s 7pm now and we are so beat that Jireh is asleep (his usual bedtime) which makes #3-3 above very challenging, Graham is also asleep (not his usual bedtime), and I am going to sleep (my ideal bedtime!).

the oven is hot and God is good


“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

(Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Jireh loves to play around in the kitchen while I am cooking. Sometimes I give him a box of dried beans and some spoons, or he would push a tablecloth around the floor, pretending to clean it. I love that we have a spacious kitchen (old flat!) and that I can watch him and talk to him while I chop, cook and clean.

But one thing I don’t love that much is the oven right under my stove, right smack at… that’s right… Jireh’s level. He likes to go really close to it and stare at his reflection in the shiny glass door. Or he grabs the bar across the door and does some ballerina-warm-up-ish movements. It’s just one of the more fascinating things at his eye-level in the kitchen and most of the time that’s fine.

Except when I am baking… at 180 degrees! Then I put a rug on the floor, and a stool in front of the oven to block his way. I make sure he doesn’t wander around the oven because he might absent-mindedly back into the stool and crash into the hot oven. And thankfully, for some inexplicable toddleresque reason, he’s really good at listening to my warnings to not go near the oven when it’s hot. He even has this “oops-I-am-too-near-look” when I go “Careful Jireh”, then he carefully tiptoes around the rug and move somewhere else. 

So the other day while I was baking cornbread for dinner, we did this whole hovering-round-the-oven operation again. And once when he was really curious about what’s cooking inside, I stopped my chopping, squatted down and looked him in the eye: “Jireh, that’s HOT. It’s DANGEROUS. Don’t touch it ok? Can you obey Mama?” He did and went back to his spoons. 

Satisfied that he’s safe, I went back to my chopping. But I continued with another lesson I never prepared: “Jireh do you know why the oven is hot? It’s a warning for us not to go near it or we might get burned. God is so kind to give us warnings about dangerous things! When we want to do something wrong, he gives us warnings too. His Holy Spirit tells us it is wrong and helps us not to go near it! We should thank God for warnings huh?”

He’s not listening and I know that, and I always laugh to myself when I do one of these monologues. But you know what, I am the one who needs the practice telling him about God so that when he does listen and when he does understand I would hopefully be a faithful storyteller, teaching him to love God in all of life! 

how to stay married (II)


When you can see the sun, everything is clear as day.

I counted the nights that Graham couldn’t come home each week, doing the sums of how these hours apart would subtract from our marriage in the long run, one night at a time. So gradual you won’t even notice. And in the end we would just be parents, no longer lovers.

It was this anxiety, this desire, this covetousness that drove me to fight and quarrel with him (even though he does his very best to come home faithfully every evening). An anxiety that told the same old lie since the beginning of the world: God is not for you! You have to make your own marriage work. You have to spend time together to make it work. You are not going to make it like this. You have to try harder. You have to make it work.

It is wrong; I know now.

And I have to keep on knowing till death do us part, that:

God is for me. God is for my marriage. God is in my marriage. God wants my marriage to display to the world the loving relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.

The way, God’s way, is so simple, so clever, even a little cheeky. Spend as much time as Graham needs to spend with me! (Not, how can I get him to spend all his time with me!) Instead of counting the hours, consider his needs. Instead of satisfying my own needs, count him as more significant than myself.

Eureka. Joy. Grace.

A joy that comes from following my Saviour and not “saving my marriage”.

How to stay married!


A few days ago, our marriage was in a crisis. It had come down to this for me: Either you spend more time with me, or we are slowly but surely heading for a divorce! I was feeling abandoned, unloved and taken for granted — all because my husband wasn’t staying home, erm, all the time. I have a right to my time with my husband because my love language is Time ok! And Passion and Love swaggered their fingers before my dejected husband to back me up. 

Suddenly, I understood why people have affairs. Suddenly, a divorce sounds reasonable. I was disappointed, even grieving in my heart, that my husband had no desire to spend time with me. My need was not met. What else is there in a marriage?

Thankfully I am both a drama queen (in my mind) and the possessor of a goldfish-memory. By the next day I had forgotten my fury but I was nursing the hangover of my exaggerated overture. I began to consider if I would ever resort to divorce when my need is not met. After all, the need is real and so is the pain and disappointment when it’s not met. If haranguing my husband for more time together is sucking the life out of us, then why not skip out?

It’s not an easy question to answer even if I already had the right one. That marriage is to make us holy, not happy? How do I become holy when I am unhappy? What do I do now? Sure I could be the ho-hum classic cynic: “I am just not going to expect anything anymore so I won’t be disappointed. Or the matriarchal martyr: “I do everything for my husband, for this family, even though he doesn’t love me.” But those are dreadful in themselves. Blah!

So this may sound boring but I figured I will spend as much time with him as HE NEEDS to spend with me. (And of course I secretly bargained that he should do the same for me as well.) Quit the “why-can’t-you-be-home-7-nights-a-week” spiel and put his needs before my own! It’s starting well. It is kinda liberating when I snap out of having to meet every single want of mine. And remember what marriage is all about. 



The other night Graham and I were chatting about old times — y’know, where we got together, why I cried at my birthday, how he proposed (and amazingly, to my amusement, he remembers more details than I do!)

Those were good times.

I’ve never seen myself as a sentimental person (you know by the old cards and gifts I throw out every time I spring clean, oops) but that chat revived something special between my husband and I. (It was a pleasant surprise to know how much he remembers!) It was sweet talking about shared memories. And we had a good laugh over how scanty my memory can be (ok I’m not sure if he found it as funny as I did!)

And it struck me as a good idea to remember old milestones in my spiritual life when there’s really not much going on now. It is appalling how poor our memory is (as is already proven for mine). But maybe I can dig out some treasures to keep the fire burning.

Yeah those were good times.

All of life…


Life has settled down considerably since that crazy first month when Jireh popped out in the world. And on the whole it’s becoming a daily humdrum — y’know, nothing I really hate or enjoy but just the same ol’? And I can’t help reflecting that this is what life becomes when Jesus is not at the centre! It really does affect all of life.

So in order to put a fresh coat of paint over my life, I have written up the following reminders:

Do or say 1 nice thing for Graham daily
Read the bible and pray
Take one break offline
Write a blog post
Stretch and exercise
Take a walk or run an errand
Bake goodies and share them
Pray for family and friends
Spend special time with Graham
Keep in touch with friends
Thank God for everything