all my hope, in the truth of your promise

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No amount of mental preparation could have prepared me for how cold it is here, yet no amount of mental preparation prepared me for the peace I have found here either.

In the last 2 hours before my flight, my heart was beating too quickly, my stomach was in knots, and I couldn’t help but ask myself repeatedly – am I really doing this? Am I really leaving for 4.5 months, when even 5 weeks could make me so homesick? And then I caught a cold in the plane and ended up being sick before I even arrived.

And yet, it has been lovely here. Despite the cold (weather) and the cold (in my nose), it has been so quiet and peaceful and – I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s not a huge, intense emotion, neither extreme excitement nor great fear; just quietness and stillness and peace.

Today, I decided to head out into the snow and look for the Madonna Della Strada Chapel. As my boots crunched through the snow and the wind blew snowflakes into my eyes and my breath blew out in little clouds, I happened upon this beautiful sunset by the lake. It was muted, delicate, ever so gentle and slight – but it summed up how I was feeling so completely. There is great beauty to be found in majestic, intense sunsets where the colours are so rich and deep that you cannot help but stare; but sometimes, there is even greater beauty to be found in what often goes by unnoticed, unless we really look.

When I finally reached the chapel (after staring at the sunset and the lake in awe), it was empty except for an organist. I only knew he must have been there because the chapel was filled with the sound of his playing – how fortunate, that I should step in at just that moment! And the chapel was 100x worth the cold walk there.

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It has been only 2 days (and who knows how I will feel tomorrow?) yet I am overwhelmed with grace, because I know that this gentle (almost invisible) peace could have gone by unnoticed if I’d let myself be busy and go about doing as much as I can. Yet, He has given me eyes to see and a heart to look – as St Ignatius would say, to find God in all things.

Oh, so much grace, I cannot even :’)

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god’s love notes

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI haven’t blogged in a year but this post really inspired me. At first, I was going to add it on to my special commitments for Lent, but then I realised – why not just make it a permanent feature of not just my wall, but my life.

The idea is beautiful: If someone were to leave you a trail of sticky notes to find throughout the day, wouldn’t you be delighted and grateful for each one you found? I would probably be posting each one on instagram or facebook to share the joy that it brought me. And the truth is, it’s the same with God. He leaves us little notes throughout each day to tell us He loves us and to remind us that He’s thinking of us – through our conversations, a sudden breath of wind, or a passing moment of peace. But most of the time, we don’t notice or give much thought to the love notes He leaves for us to find – let alone celebrate them as they deserve to be celebrated!

I hope that by the end of this semester, this wall will be filled and that this Lent (and beyond), my eyes will be opened to the love that God wants to shower me with each day. :-)

And if you’d like to join me – send me pictures of your own love note walls or journals or whatever mode of documentation you decide on!!

love,
denise

hello from 台中

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I’m feeling really blessed to be surrounded by so many lovely and kind people and for this opportunity to have such a wonderful adventure for the next seven weeks. I’ve only been here for two and a half days but already so many things have happened and everyone has been super nice.

  • Late night ice-cream run with my roommate for the next two weeks
  • Cooking dinner with my host family
  • Meeting so many cute students in the jr high school I’m attached to
  • Receiving a whole bunch of Taiwanese food and snacks from them (including bubble tea!!!!)
  • 7am walks to school
  • Jamming with my ukulele
  • Meeting a 7 year old artist who gave me his very first drawing
  • Getting a whole bunch of postcards, photos and a roll of washi tape from one of the students
  • Finding out that there’s a catholic church nearby

I also made a video to share my past travels with my students /// posting it here for you guys to watch too:

I’ll be posting regular (ish) updates on adventuresofdenise.tumblr.com and on the hashtag #adventuresofdenise on Instagram! :)

too much

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do you remember the first time you were called annoying? 
how your breath stopped short in your chest
the way the light drained from your eyes, though you knew your cheeks were ablaze 
the way your throat tightened as you tried to form an argument that got lost on your tongue.
your eyes never left the floor that day. 
you were 13.

you’re 20 now, and i still see the light fade from your eyes when you talk about your interests for “too long,”
apologies littering every other sentence,
words trailing off a cliff you haven’t jumped from in 7 years. 
i could listen to you forever, though i know speaking for more than 3 uninterrupted minutes makes you anxious. 
all i want you to know is that you deserve to be heard
for 3 minutes
for 10 minutes
for 2 hours 
forever.

there will be people who cannot handle your grace, your beauty, your wisdom, your heart;
mostly because they can’t handle their own.

but you will never be
and have never been
“too much.”

– Tyler Ford

I don’t think I will ever forget these three words someone said to me 7 years ago.
“You’re kinda annoying.”

I have long forgiven the person. I have long forgotten why it was said.
But… I don’t think I can ever go back to how I felt before that day. At 20, I still cannot let go of my fear of saying the wrong thing, of saying too much.

 

(images do not belong to me)

2013

It has been a long, long time since I last posted, but today is the last day of 2013 and even if I haven’t posted anything for 4 months, today did seem like it did deserve a post.

It has been quite a bit of a roller coaster, but I’m just going to recount some of the many blessings that happened this year because this was a year of many wonderful, great things happening, beautiful things falling into place whenever I needed them to. I may not have deserved all of it, but I guess that just makes me even more grateful and thankful for everything.

January

Taught me a lot of perseverance.
This was a month filled with calling up preschools and childcare centres in the hope of finding one that would support my final year project research. Of the 80+ schools that I called, only 8-10 took the time to listen to my pleas, and of those, only 1 finally agreed. It was also weeks spent with my family (breakfasts in and out with my mom, grandma and baby brother every few days) and in church with the youth cats. And the frantic filling up of scholarship application forms, receiving acceptance letters to some of the UK universities I’d applied to and basically being happy with the company of adventure time and birthday celebrations.

February

Probably the most tiring month this year.
Finishing up my final year project, writing reports and doing presentations and making edits until 3am in the morning; living on coffee and finding out the terrible ways my body reacts to redbull through firsthand experiences. Also the last few weeks of being in poly, with all the farewells and feeling time just fall past our fingers, never to be held again. This was also my first household for the year, where I got my blessings jar (yay!) and went back to yfc.

March

Art, art.. art?
March was the completion of my portable sleuthing kit, and also other Illustrator related adventures. I spent a lot of time with people I hadn’t seen for awhile – it was finally the long awaited break after finishing the last day of school after 3 whole years.

April

was beautiful.
I went for the International Leaders Conference (ILC) in Manila, and it was so amazing; a total blessing and beautiful experience of God. This was a month of experiencing God’s love in such a very extremely real way… I also worked as a wardrobe assistant for a TV show (it was not the best experience, but I did learn quite a bit). I ordered a lot of books, and sewed a lot of stuff, made a lot of things, and went for a gazillion exhibitions.

May

brought a shower of unexpected blessings.
I got into YNC (which I had found out about only in April) and it was totally unexpected and never part of the plan. I made so many new friends, explored a lot of pretty/cute/fab cafes and bookstores, did something special for Mother’s Day with my baby brother, baked a lumpy space princess rainbow cake!, went for all the different schools’ art/graduation shows, and also explored different parts of Singapore. May was also the month of my graduation and I wrote a letter to every single person in my class (+ a few others).

June

spelt e-x-c-i-t-e-m-e-n-t.
I couldn’t wait to move into the residential college for school and for school to start. I finished my job as a wardrobe assistant and spent my time eating good food, baking bunny shaped cookies, reading up on useless information, having sleepovers and feeling damn badass for battling the haze. I took a ferry with my family to Batam for the first time, and went for several camps, a friend’s debut, and pinkdot.

July

was like a dream come true.
School finally started, and we had orientation. I made new friends, and those same friends are still my best friends and (spoiler!) one of them is my boyfriend. Most of July, though, was spent in the US of the A – my first (and probably only) trip there. It was the best three weeks ever!!! I went to Mystic, Boston, Salem, New York and spent the rest of the time in Yale University in New Haven. I visited so many cool places and museums (MoMA, MET, Yale Uni Art Gallery, etc), took a walk in Central Park, ate pizza bigger than my body. I spent so much time doing so many amazing cool things with the best people ever and it was just. Really gr8.

August

the start of something new…
We visited the UN headquarters and met Ban Ki Moon, and then school started proper. It was overwhelming but fun and so different from anything I’d ever done before. Also, dorm life. A mixture of homesickness and spontaneous fun doing the most of random of things! I also went for the Color Run which was one of the coolest “marathons” ever, and.. sushi feast for my birthday (heck yeah).

September

was full of joy.
I got to be a bridesmaid for my cousin’s wedding (tick off the bucketlist!), and then E asked me to be his girlfriend officially and it was the happiest moment ever (I’m grinning to myself as I type this hehe). First dates, walks and whispering secrets in the middle of the night. I also spent a lot of time savouring homecooked and homebaked food and eating a lot of icecream yum yum. And oh, so many people came to visit me in my temporary home bearing gifts and food :D

October

made me a temporary hipster.
We had our Week 7 special activity/project thingy, and mine was about modern art and the meaning of life and identity and it was quite fun to pretend to be a pretentious hipster and be all like, like. I started painting my nails again too, and I spent a lot of time eating and meeting people (not eating the people).

November

was full of tiny surprises.
I got a lot of cute stuff from my angel in school, and it was a constantly uplifting feeling to come back to my room and find someone had left me stuff outside my door :’). I also got surprises from many other people and a lot of them told me to let myself be loved – I guess I never realised how much I shut myself in a tower and refuse to let people in. I also went for the Singapore Art Book Fair and it was so freaking lovely.

December

not anywhere near the end.
I moved back home for the holidays and spent most of my time trying to rest in between going out and going for camps and making/buying christmas presents. I went for a DIY pancake buffet by chance, had a 2am pizza party, dressed up as Aristotle’s wife and later the little mermaid, walked down Orchard Road to see the Christmas lightup, explored Tiong Bahru and went cafe hopping, baked cookies and cheesecake with my mom for Christmas and played a lot of lame computer games.

2013 has been good to me and I have all that I need – my family, friends and E.

#TYL

PS I’m sorry for the lack of pictures, but if I went to look for them I would never be able to post this before midnight. :p

What do you dream about?

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sad things, happy things
hopes and wishes and magical things that aren’t real (or are they?)

i dream about love and finding someone who loves the me that no one sees
about adventures and exploring the world and the universe and soaring through skies and oceans and tiptoeing so i don’t scare kittens away

i dream about places that i’ve never been to,
palaces and kingdoms created in my head
big scary numbers eating me alive and fairy lights binding me
and swinging me from tree branches
leaves of gold, and jewelled blossoms

candy coloured houses, each one identical to the next with candy coloured people wearing candy coloured clothes and carrying candy coloured babies

i dream of the space between dreaming and reality
the tiny line between sleep and dreams

Explorer by day, explorer by night

So I was cleaning up the files on my computer and I came across the essays I wrote for my ync application… and well, I decided to share them! So here’s the first one, about something that inspires me:

When I was 16, a book changed my life completely. In that moment of tearing away the plastic covering the book and reading the first few pages of my new treasure, I felt something change inside me.

I never knew my heart had eyes or that my eyes could do much more than just see. The world was the same, and yet I’d never really looked at it before. All of a sudden, I saw the same world I had always seen – and a whole lot more. This magical, mystical creature that the book seemed to be, was also called ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’ by Keri Smith. And within those humble pages, was a collection of the most valuable treasures in the universe.

The first was the idea that everything is interesting (look closer), and quickly, this beautiful idea became my greatest belief. I began the endless search of finding something beautiful, something interesting in every single thing around me. I don’t just see things; I look at them.

The second was a license to create my own reality. With the help of the missions and lists of inventive ideas in the book, I have indeed become an explorer of the world around me. I change my course often, never stopping and settling for too long. I am more observant. I notice things (both tiny and huge). I document my findings in different ways. I question. I do research for the sake of curiosity and the desire to learn more. I use all my senses to appreciate and explore. I am never bored.

The third was the true definition of what a mistake is: Happenings or occurrences by which the creator does not have complete control over the final outcome that result in conclusions the creator did not predict. I lost my fear of making mistakes; instead choosing to work with whatever result I got. In fact, mistakes make life even more interesting. Mistakes are the result of answering that question at the back of your head that stops you from falling asleep (What if…?). If the predicted outcome is always supported, there isn’t much to learn from doing research. Yes, it feels good to be right and to know the ‘correct’ answers. But sometimes, it feels even better to be wrong and to learn something amazing in the process. I have done so many research papers and experiments, and the one observation that I cling to is this: A non-significant result is still a result, and the disproof of a hypothesis is still a finding – no more, no less.

This book holds countless treasures, and I would never be able to list them all. It has made me challenge convention, and the greatest treasure it holds is the realisation that someone – Keri Smith – is willing to share her wonderful ideas, for the pure joy of seeing other people also find beauty in the world around them.

I want to do that too.

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Blessings

blessings

Warning: This post may be slightly incoherent.

The last week has been an amazing, abundant waterfall of blessings and miracles, both big and small. Yesterday, I was writing out all my blessings from the last 2 weeks to put into my blessings jar… And for that matter, even having blessings to write down is a blessing in itself. (Woah, blessception?)

But anyway, I feel so affirmed in the decision I have made in my service to the Lord. I don’t think I ever really surrendered everything to Him, because oh my stars is the feeling amazing or what?! It’s the complete opposite of what I thought it would be, scary and full of insecurities and I’m-not-sures. Instead, I feel overwhelming peace. All my fear has been washed away, and I know that I don’t ever have to be scared or insecure.

I am fearless, because I have faith in Him alone. When I surrendered everything, every day something happens that just shows me how much He is promising to take care of me. Words cannot describe the immense outpouring of blessings that I have received simply by opening up my heart to Him and letting Him in completely.

I guess that I’m writing this post because I really want to remember this moment in my life, where I feel God’s presence so strongly in EVERYTHING. Like for srs man. It’s. Amazing. asdhoa;dsfhdl;ksafhd;slkhfo0iewt.

#thankyouLord

#yfcilc2013

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A few years ago, I had to make a difficult decision: To serve in church or in yfc.

I chose to serve in church. I drifted further and further away from yfc, and the further away I was, the harder it was to come back. I didn’t believe that I had the time or ability to serve in two different ministries (both catechism and yfc).

But my two closest friends in YFC never gave up on me. Year after year, they would still invite me for activities and events and even though I said “no” a lot of the time, they still never stopped asking. So this year, I was blessed to have one of them as my household head, and when she asked me to come for household at the start of the year, I decided that maybe, just maybe I should give it a try.

It is amazing how easy it was to fit in, even after all those years of fear and worry and feeling so out of place. The more I opened up, the more God could work in me. She asked me to go for ILC, and at first I was really unsure, but I didn’t know how to tell her that, and so I told her I would have to ask my mom, thinking that my mom would say no, and I could use that as a “valid excuse”.

But God had other plans. My mom texted me back just one word. Yes. And so I went. I went knowing only a handful of people, and I came back knowing everybody else, feeling so blessed and so accepted. I went filled all the wrong things, the wrong priorities, wrong thoughts and wrong ideas. But God emptied me. He emptied me of all that was wrong and poured His love and goodness and grace and mercy into me instead.

The worship was amazing. It was beautiful, and pure and full of desire for God. Singing our hearts out, worshipping Him in different languages, having hot wax drip down our arms from a candle burning with Christ’s light, praising God in the sweltering heat with perspiration literally pouring down our bodies until we didn’t even feel the heat anymore. Shouting out our love for our Lord with thousands of other youths… There are no words that can ever sufficiently describe this overwhelming experience of God in my life.

The second night, was for me, the most overwhelming experience of all. I learnt and realised so many things. It is only God who can fill us and make us feel complete. We seek to fill ourselves from all the wrong sources, and we blame God when he takes away the things in our lives that are so important to us. But we cannot feel complete until we are filled with God’s love. And for God to fill us, He has to first make us empty.

A priest prayed over us, and he prayed in Tagalog (which I can’t understand at all). But my heart understood every single word, and I cried. I cried so much. I surrendered my heart to the Lord and let Him take away all the pain, and fear and insecurities. And His message and mission for me came so clearly to me:

I will go back to serve in YFC along with church. I will put all my trust in the Lord because I know that if it is His plan for me, I can to do it for Him.

Before this ILC, I had given up on someone very close me. I felt like our relationship was pointless and that no matter how hard I tried to reach out to her it would only get worse. But I won’t give up on her. I will show her more love, more patience, and more trust.

I can. And I will. I will do it for Him.

I don’t need any more wine now, because Jesus has filled my cup to the brim. What I need now, is a JAR.

Thank you Lord. Thank you, so so much. May all the glory be to You alone. :’)

“I said never apologize for how you feel. No one can control how they feel. The sun doesn’t apologize for being the sun. The rain doesn’t say sorry for falling. Feelings just are.”

– Iain S. Thomas, Intentional Dissonance

I think it’s important to acknowledge your feelings. We always ask other people if they’re okay, tell them not to worry, tell them it’s okay to be happy or sad or angry. But what of ourselves? We don’t give ourselves the same freedom to feel.

“I will not be angry. I will not be sad. Why am I sad? I shouldn’t be sad.”

But why not? What’s wrong with feeling a certain way? Good feelings, bad feelings, strong feelings…. they’re all part of what makes a human.

In fact, it is being human that gives us the capacity to feel such things.