Tag Archives: Family

Living in the moment

A couple of weeks ago my older daughter was coming home from winter camp.  I had promised to leave work a little early so I will be there before her bus arrives at the school.  Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get out of the office quite as early as I had hoped, and as a result, instead of getting to the school before the bus, I got there about 10 minutes late.

As I walked up to the bus, all I saw was a flury of activities:  volunteers helping to unload the luggages from the belly of the bus; parents helping their kids pick up their bags, making sure they haven’t left anything behind; kids running around playing with each other; teachers trying to keep the kids in line.

As I got closer, the cloud of frenzy began to clear, and I saw her:  standing a few feet from the crowd by herself, holding her little backpack in front of her, eyes looking around, searching for me.  As her eyes found mine, she broke into this beautiful smile, ran up to me, gave me a big hug and said, “I thought you were going to be early!’

All the ink in the world is not enough to describe what that moment feels like.  Yet there was a time in my life, now feels like a lifetime ago, when my heart was so caught up in my work, that I would have just hurried her to get her bags because I have a meeting to rush to, or have some other business waiting for me.  Today, having hit the “reset” button in my life, I found myself simply holding her, savoring the moment, helping her to get her bags, and then out of the blue, suggested, “Let’s get some ice cream on the way home!”

Last Sunday I was watching her play hockey, freezing my butt off on the bench, all the while being my usual obnoxious cheerleading self for her. (She says it’s embarrassing, but I know she loves it :).  All of a sudden, one of the other dads (whom I don’t know) came up to me and said, “Can I tell you something?  I have been noticing you since the beginning of the season and I love the way you cheer the kids on and encourage them.  But what I really want to say is, I watch all the parents, and you are ONLY one who never took out your phone or blackberry to text or email during the game.  You are really HERE for your kid.  I have to confess that it’s hard for me to turn the phone off and just watch them play.”

To which I simply smile and said, “I once was like that too…”


Yesterday we threw a 45th wedding anniversary party for my parents.  Mom and Dad didn’t want a huge deal, as they really wanted it to be a night to spend time with a small circle of long time,  life long friends.   The four of us (myself and Anna, my sister and her husband) became the de facto organizing committee for the party.   My Dad, in a bit of a surprising move, asked me to perform a set at the party.  I of course was honored to sing for them at such a beautiful occasion.  As the date drew closer, my dad made a special request:  he wanted me to perform the well known Mandarin love song “月亮代表我的心” (The moon reflects my heart) for them.   The song carried a special meaning for me:  The first day we picked up Taylor from China, the whole group of “new parents” went out for dinner that night at a large Chinese restaurant in Nanjing.  It was the first meal we had together with our little girl.  At the restaurant, there was a live band singing, and as I held my little girl, the singing was singing that song (月亮代表我的心).  I just never knew that it was a special song for Dad as well. 

There were many touching moments at the party…old family pictures that we have not seen (thankfully!) for a long time, friends that my parents have not seen in over 10 years came, the grandkids presenting their gifts to their grand parents, just to name a few.  But my favorite moment came when I was singing that song that Dad had requested.  As I introduced the song, I tried to put my Dad on the spot by  asking him to sing it instead.  No chance :-)   But as I was singing the song, Dad sat down beside Mom and sang the song to her.   Anna was singing with me and she said she had to look away, because if she looked any longer she would not have been able to finish the song.

Thinking back now to last night, I learned from that moment what made it possible for my parents to have been married 45 years.  Both of them are not as healthy and strong as they once were.   In fact, mom’s leg was giving her so much pain that she had to shuffle around on an office chair with wheels throughout the night.   But they both shared with everyone how much the passing of time had made them treasure each moment they have together.  As Dad sang that song to Mom, it was as if he was saying to her, “It doesn’t matter what circumstances we face, as long as you know what’s in my heart, that is enough.”   I learned, right there and then, that no one can set out to build a 45 year marriage.  You can only build your marriage, from your heart out, one moment at a time.

你問我愛你有多深﹐我愛你有幾分; 請你想一想﹐請你看一看﹐月亮代表我的心

Friends and Family…

Half Marathon Finish

Whew!  What a busy, busy weekend it was!  On Thursday night, I performed with a couple of good friends at a Starbucks in a fundrasing event for Canadian Free the Children.  On Friday, we performed again at a Canadian Red Cross youth event, trying to encourage the youth to make a difference with their lives. 

Then, to top it all off, Sunday morning my sister and I went downtown bright and early (and I do mean EARLY) to run the Scotiabank Toronto Half Marathon!  It was her first road race in 7 years, and it was my first marathon-distance race in a long, long time.   We had a great time running together and despite being runners and racing for many years, for the first time brother and sister crossed the finish line in a race together (in 2 hours, 22 minutes and 18 seconds!), basking in the upbeat music and loud cheers from supporters who came out to encourage the 20,000+ runners who took part in the event.

After the race, Anna cooked me a fantastic dinner in the evening to refuel my exhausted body.  After everyone had gone to bed,  I sat back with a beer, put up my feet and quietly reflected on the crazy weekend.  I was thankful for the opportunites to perform for a good cause and I enjoyed every step of the marathon experience.  But what I treasured most from the weekend was the fact that I was surrounded by friends and family…

Running a long distance race always put me in a reflective mood.  As I was sitting there, being thankful for those who had remained faithful as friends, I couldn’t help but think of that wonderful saying in Chinese:  路遙知馬力﹐日久見人心 (Distance will reveal the endurance of a horse, time will show the heart of a man)  It seemed especially fitting after I just finished a half-marathon. 

What can I say?  I am a blessed man.

Click here for a video from the Starbucks event

In a split second, anything can happen…

Today started out just like any other day. Got up, drove Anna to work, dropped Taylor off at school, went to the office.

Travelled to another meeting that ended early. Had 15 minutes to spare before I had to pick up Taylor from school. Decided to stop by Chapters to browse. Found out my favorite photography author had just came out with the newest volume of his book series. Cool. Bought it.

Picked up Taylor, as usual. Buckle her in the car, as usual. Gave her her after school snack, as usual.

We started talking as I drove to pick up Anna. About 10 minutes into the ride, I suddenly heard her cough, and then stopped talking.

I turned, her mouth was opened. She was staring at me, desperatelly trying to tell me something. But no words came out. I instinctly knew what was happening…my daughter was choking…

I slammed on the brakes, stopped the car in the middle of a busy street at the height of rush hour, jumped out of my seat and rushed to her aid. Thankfully, she managed to gag and spit out the food and breathe again. She was crying. She was so scared. I held her…so tightly….”You are okay, sweetheart….you are okay….”

I would live 1000 years and never forget that look in my daughter’s eyes: Filled will fear, desperately reaching for me, wanting to say, “Daddy! HELP ME!!!” but not being able to speak or breathe…

I had gone through tough times before, but I will gladly endure everything 100 times over rather than ever seeing that look on her face again…

I guess what I am trying say is simply this. In a split second, anything can happen.

Whatever you have been dreaming to do, the things that you have been meaning to say, the love that you have been wanting to give….

What are you waiting for?

Another Step Forward

This past Sunday we enjoyed an interesting worship service at our church. Rather than the “typical” teaching/preaching time, we had what was called a “family worship time”: Each of us were given a piece of paper and crayons and we were encouraged to draw a picture in answer to certain questions about our experiences of God. There was a list of perhaps 15-20 questions to choose from, and we were told to simply pick one that “speaks” to us and draw a picture as a response.

When I looked down the list of questions, I came to one that for some reason drew me in. The question was: “What would a reflection of God’s smile look like?”

For some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the phrase “God’s smile”. On one hand, it sounded like something so abstract. But as I thought about it, slowly the abstract became concrete. In my mind I saw the smiles of Anna and Taylor. It then occured to me that the one place on earth where I experience what is closest to God’s unconditional and undeserved love, and yes, see God’s smile is at home. So I grabbed my crayons and paper and produced the above masterpiece :-)

Following the “family worship time”, we had the weekly Lord’s Supper time. A few “Worship stations” are set up with bread and wine, and members are encouraged to go up and partake the Lord Supper whenever they are ready. So far, I have never taken part in it. After my experience of betrayal and rejection by those whom I trusted the most in my former community, I really was not sure if I ever want to be a part of any Christian community again. But last Sunday, as I sat there looking down at the picture that I had drawn, “seeing” God’s smile, for the first time in a long, long time, I felt “safe”. Suddenly, at the same time Anna turned to me and asked, “would you like to go and partake the Jesus meal with me?” (That was the first time she’s asked me.) I nodded yes, and we went up together. There was no fanfare, everyone was worshipping and reflecting in their own “space”. But for the first time in almost 2 years, I took part in that rich, historical, symbolic act of Christian community. Clutching the picture in my hand, it was as if for the first time, I saw God smiling at me. As I quietly took the bread and the wine, the weekly repeated words rang in my ears with renewed meaning: “This is my body, broken, for YOU…”

Out of the mouths of babes…

With our little one quickly reaching grade 1 (where did the last 4 years go?), we are going through the discussion that every parent in the city has had one time or another: “May be we should move into a ‘better’ school zone.”

Now, we haven’t actually decided to move yet, but when we are both working quite far from where we live right now, it seems to make sense. So yesterday in the car we casually brought up the subject with our little girl.

“Hey sweetie, what do you think of us moving into a different house?”


“But sweetie, you will get a different room, we will live closer to where you will go to school, may be there will be some nice parks nearby where you can play…”

“NOOOO! We are NOT going to move and I don’t want to talk about it again, OKAY??”
(By the way, that was an exact quote)

End of discussion.

We were a little puzzled, so we probed a little further. We asked if it was because she likes her room, or the backyard, or if she thinks we will leave all her toys behind…we assured her that she will have all those things even if we move to another house. Neither one of us expected what came out of her mouth next.

“Yeah, but we won’t be living beside Uncle Lou!”

Louie is our next door neighbor whose family have become quite good friends with us. They are immigrants from Europe from long ago (I always forget which country :-P ) . Louis is one of those guys who is always looking out for his friends and neighbors. He bought a snowblower this winter and I always see him helping others clean their driveways after he finishes his. In the Summer time, whichever one of us is out mowing the lawn, it’s understood that we will do each other’s front lawn while we are at it. When it’s nice out, Louie is always sitting on his front porch with a beer and when we pull up to our driveway, Taylor always makes it a point to go over to give “Uncle Lou” a hug before going into our own house. She has become quite a hit with our neighbors!

What struck us about the conversation was that while we thought she didn’t want to move because she was attached to “things”, the truth is that at this young age, she has learned to value her “community”. Something that as adults, we are prone to lose sight of.

It reminded me that as parents, it is all so easy to model a lifestyle that places the pursuit of success above everything else. Even in the church, it is so easy to forget something so simple and fundamental: people are important. People are more important than ideologies. People are more important than property. People are more important than institutions. People are more important than numbers and statistics. It still saddens me to think of the people who have been left behind and abandoned by the church in the name of progress, growth, politics, etc.

Meanwhile, in our own little situation of deciding whether to move or not, our little girl has just given us a whole new dimension to think about.

A Chinese New Year photoshoot :-)

We were sitting at home on Chinese New Year’s Eve with nothing much to do in the afternoon when we remembered that Taylor was supposed to wear a traditional Chinese costume to school the next day! As we dug through her closet bringing out the different outfits, we decided to do an impromptu photoshoot at home :-) Hope you enjoy the pics as much as Taylor enjoyed being in front of the camera :-)


The dance

“We played the flute, but you did not dance…” Matthew 11:17

This morning one of my staff member handed me an interesting document. It was the script from the speech that she gave at her daughter’s wedding. Knowing that I have a public speaking background, she wanted to share it with me and hear what I think of it.

It was a moving speech. At the time, her husband had passed away already and so in a way she was speaking for both of them. The speech made reference to a picture of her husband dancing with their daughter. I asked her about the picture and her eyes began to moist. She told me that at the wedding, they prominently displayed a picture of her late husband dancing with their daughter at her grade 8 graduation party. At the time, she made sure that she took a good picture of them dancing, because she knew her husband would likely not live long enough to dance with their daughter at her wedding (he was quite a bit older).

As a father of a beautiful little girl, I have often thought about that day. I have wondered if I will live long enough to dance with her. My staff’s speech reminded me that’s not important. What IS important is whether I hear the music today and dance with her while I still can. Who knows what will happen tomorrow. Who knows if I will get to dance with my little girl at her wedding someday. But I can live today, and each day, giving myself to her in such a way that even if I am not there to dance when that day comes, she can say, “It’s okay. I danced with my daddy already.”

“Hope is the ability to hear the music of tomorrow;
but faith is having the courage to dance to it today.”

A Quiet Longing after a busy weekend

I felt slightly weary driving to work today after a busy weekend. As I mentioned in my previous post, we were busy cleaning up and purging stuff on Saturday. On Sunday we did a little more cleaning up, had lunch with my parents, did some grocery shopping, and as usual, I went to play hockey at night (and as usual, our team lost, but that’s another story for another post :) In the car this morning I was going through in my mind the list of things we did this weekend. At the same time I started another mental list of all the things we still have to do before Christmas comes (yikes!). Let’s see…we are putting down new floors at home, our office is moving, I have a whole bunch of meetings to line up before Christmas with potential corporate funding partners for our agency, oh my…I am getting a headache :(

It was just another busy, enjoyable, but uneventful weekend. And it occured to me, that it was another weekend without church. It’s been more than a year since I’ve been in church. But after what was done to us by some in our own church, I still do not feel I can “entrust” myself and my family to another “Christian community”. But this morning, as I ponder upon the arrival of yet another Christmas, there was a quiet longing to belong somewhere and to invest our lives to make a difference in the life of another community. Although right now the wounds still feel fresh, I hope one day I can allow myself to belong again.

Thoughts from a day of purging…

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (Ecc 12:12)

Today, in preparation for doing some renovations in the house, we spent the day doing some much needed “purging”. As part of that process, Anna and I went through our collection of books, some of them from our university days, and donated almost all of them.

As we pick the books off the shelves, it was like a journey through time. Each phase of our life journeys were marked by certain books that spoke to us during that time. It was interesting to see how in our earlier days as young Christians we were drawn to books that defined the Christian faith in black and white terms. There were books on how to “defend” our faith, books that spelled out the “definitive Christian position” in no uncertain terms on a variety of ethical issues, books that gave “tried and true” tips on how to “win over secular people”, just to name a few. I think both Anna and I felt that in a very real sense, we have “outgrown” those books. Not to say that we are “smarter” than those writers by any means, but we just felt that is not how we approach faith anymore. So, into the donation bin they went.

Then we came upon our big collection of “Christian marriage” books. That was a significant moment for both of us. There was a time when both of us really “believed” in the “recipes for a great marriage” presented in those books. But, after having gone through what happend last year, again, both of us felt a sense of having “outgrown” them. So, all of them ended up in the donation bin.

I think the one main reason why all those Christian books simply don’t resonnate with us anymore is that we are both longing for an approach to faith that is not afraid to face up to the ugliness that exist within the “Evangelical Christian religion”. Having been betrayed and abandoned by those in our church, we know that the “Christian community” is not always a wonderful place to be. And having seen the hypocrisy of how many Christian leaders having marriages that looked great in church on Sunday mornings but are in shambles once they got into the car, we are tired of the idea that somehow Christians have “cornered the market” on good and healthy marriages.

I think both of us are seeking to be part of a Christian community that takes the reality of “brokenness” seriously. One that is opened to admitting that “Yes, we are broken. None of us are better than anyone else. And yes, that brokenness rear its ugly, really ugly head in our personal lives as well as in our community. And yes, there are times that we as a church end up hurting people. But if we admit it, if we acknowledge it, if we don’t pretend we are better than we actually are, then perhaps we can take the first step towards demonstrating what the Gospel is about.”

Toward the end of the day, I came across the “trophy” that I was given at my 10th anniversary at my old church. It was a quiet emotional moment for me. As I slowly put the trophy into one of the garbage bags, I felt incredibly sad. It was ironic. I felt sad, because I felt nothing at all…