Live for Today, forget about Tomorrow

My story starts in Singapore. It was here that I grew up, studied, worked, married and started a family. I worked as an art teacher. I felt the education system in Singapore imparted a burdening expectation on perform academically and heavy and needless pressure was mounted on the child. It was because of this that I used my role as an art teacher to help students embrace their childhood and comfort them. Many children could let go of their frustration and anxiety onto the paper.   In art class they were not judged on academic merit. My children suffered a lot under this education system so when my husband received an opportunity to work in Australia, after much prayer, we decided to move.

Moving was not easy. In Singapore the eldest daughter plays an important role in the family and leaving meant that I would be renouncing this role. This was a great loss to me but my mother was reassuring and gave her blessing for me to go.

Our house was packed onto a ship container. Until this arrived in Australia, we would live out of 9 cases of luggage.   My husband, 4 children and I left Singapore in early December. Throughout all our farewells my second oldest daughter remained stoic, but when the immigration officer stamped her passport declaring she would officially leave, she became a fountain of tears. The whole family joined in - all of us left Singapore crying!

We had no home of our own yet in Australia. Our cousin allowed us to housesit for the 3 weeks she was on holiday while we searched for a place of our own. On December 23 we moved into our own house and on December 24 the container of furniture arrived. It was the first Christmas I never cooked or did anything! Instead of unpacking presents we unpacked our house – this was the greatest gift of all as I felt I was making a home. The other place we found a home in was the Catholic Church. The church’s universality meant that wherever I went the moment I stepped into a Church I felt at home.

Adapting to the Australian environment was not easy. My life just stopped and I felt that I was not contributing to society. I decided to step out and trust God, so I volunteered as an Art teacher at the local primary school. I did this for 4 years and eventually I was offered employment. I am always grateful for the trust that the school placed in me to work for them.

My family’s biggest test happened a few years ago. Our agent bungled our immigration paper work and as a consequence we needed to reapply for a visa. The only way to do this was offshore – the whole family had to leave the country. With little money we could not afford to go to Singapore so we went to the closest foreign country – New Zealand. Unsure of the time it would take to process the papers we took a risk and booked a return flight date of November 18. We packed our bags; my husband took leave from work and pulled our children out of school.

During the first few days our children constantly asked when we would go back. On the third day my husband, usually patient and calm in temper, displayed an unusual bout of anger. With nowhere to go and no control over the situation, we decided to pray. Whenever we had the chance we would pray the Divine Mercy together as a family. From that night onwards the burden on our trip was not so heavy and we relaxed and treated the otherwise stressful time as a holiday.

love heartWe drove around New Zealand booking affordable accommodation along the way. We spent a lot of time in libraries so the children could do their homework and submit assignments. We prayed constantly and many times on the road we recognised God’s hand on our life and how He is always with us. One day my son (unknowingly) took a beautiful photo of clouds forming the shape of a heart. For us it was a strong sign of God’s love for us – we questioned if God loves us so much why do we doubt Him? To this day the photo hangs in our house and serves as a constant reminder of God’s endless love.

On November 17 we received a phone call saying that our paperwork was approved. When we arrived at the Embassy in Auckland they told us that it would take 3 days to process the final part of the visa! Our flight to Australia left the next day! Against all bureaucratic odds they processed our visas quickly. On November 18 we picked up our passports and caught the flight we had booked 1 month before. All the events out of our control had somehow come together.

All these experiences have strengthened my family and I in the virtues of faith, hope and trust. I like to say, “Live for today and forget about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). God calls us by name and we have to live in him. We can hope and trust him all the time. I cannot deny His hand on my life; I always smile and say God is good to those around me. I tell my students in Art Class something Pope Francis has told the world, “A person without joy is either not a person or he is sick.”