We’re in a new year, a time of fresh hope and anticipation for better things for everyone. Hope to get a new job, a better job, find a relationship or improve the one we have. Lose some weight. Everyone hopes for a happy new year, or a least a happier one, a better one.
What about the challenges that we will inevitably have to face in the course of the year? If there’s one thing we’re guaranteed in this life, it’s hard times. In fact sometimes we’re not so sure about whether the good times are guaranteed, but the hard ones, for sure, we all face them and sometimes for a much longer period than we would want to.
The bible is full of stories of people who faced hard times. Genesis chapter 16 tells an interesting story of Hagar, the maid of Sarah and Abraham. Hagar finds herself the hapless pawn in the scheme of Sarah to get the child promised to them by God. After Hagar falls pregnant with Abraham’s child, she stops getting along with Sarah and is mistreated to the point that she flees into the wilderness.
While wandering hopelessly in the desert she has an encounter with an angel of God who gives her a word about the child she is carrying. This moment, this encounter, is so momentous in her life as she realizes that at her lowest moment, when she felt forgotten and forsaken, God saw her, God was with her, God cares. She calls this God who comes to her in her time of need, El Roi, which means, the God who sees me.
The challenges we encounter are important because they lead us to experience this moment when we realize that God sees us, he cares for us. Be assured you will come through the difficulty to the other side and experience the blessing of God.
Buy my book El Roi: The God who sees me available here on Amazon.
I sent my son off to visit my sister who lives in a neighboring country nearby. He just finished his high school exams and the send off now feels like a sort of official marking of my new status: an empty nester. Yesterday it did not feel like it because in the last minute rush to get everything done and catch the bus in time, there was no time to think or reflect. But today, sitting by myself in a house which all of a sudden for the first time feels far too big, I’m having time to reflect on this. As in where did the years go?? My gosh. You never think this day will come when you’re struggling to pay the bills and trying to keep your teenager in line. How did this time come? Did I do enough, is he ready?
I know I’m probably being a bit over the top here because soon enough he’ll be back here, and we still have a ways to go with thinking about college or what courses or whatever. But this is it basically. I’m done. I’m relieved though, to have him out of the house for a while. He had gone into a bit too much of wild behavior and I was getting stressed. Every time he was out with his friends or not in the house I was worried as to what mischief they could be getting up to. So I’m happy to have a bit of peace in the meantime. It’s raining today and I love. It feels like a washing away of my old status and welcoming a new one.
There’s no shadow you won’t light up
Mountain you won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall you won’t kick down
Lie you won’t tear down
Coming after me
I’ve been loving listening to this song. Here’s the link to the video.
The author, Sharmila Sen, immigrates to America from India at the age of 12 with her parents. She finds herself in a new world where she has to learn how to talk, walk and think like an American. So she lives the life of the good immigrant. She is light skinned enough to almost pass for white which should be and probably is an advantage in a predominantly white society. But looking back now on 3 decades of playing the good immigrant she finds herself angry at the fact of the parts of herself she had to deny in the process. The phrase diary of an angry brown woman came to mind as I read it. Some quotes from the book:
The truth is that the opposite of blackface is not whiteface. Blackface is jolly, makes fun of others, is entertainment, is a game you get to play when you are already the winner. Whiteface is sad, demeans me, is deadly serious, is a game we play when we know we are on the losing team.
“We smile,” he tells me, “because it is the only face we can show. If we stop smiling, they will see how angry we are. And no one likes an angry black man.” Or an angry brown woman, I add, silently editing our conversation.
When I stopped smiling like a good immigrant, I risked becoming a bad American, an ungrateful immigrant—an angry brown woman. The smile was my road to becoming American. I did not know I would find anger at the end of the journey.
The book is heavy but worthwhile reading. I saw a book excerpt published on Longreads and that’s how I ended up buying it from Amazon. I give it 4/5 stars.
I rarely read books more than once but this one I’ve read 3 times. That’s because the writing is so good and the story so jaw dropping it’s unbelievable that it’s based on a true story. If you’ve never read any literature about escaping from North Korea you need to read this book.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll just give a general outline. The book tells the story of how a young girl escapes from North Korea and eventually makes it into South Korea after having to live life on the run, taking on pseudonyms to avoid being tracked down and sent back, thus the seven names.
But its not merely the account of the escape which is of course fascinating. Its a very personal story of her family, living and surviving under the communist regime and what basically amounts to the cult of the ruling Kim family. I learnt a lot about what it means to live under this oppressive regime and about the politics that govern that part of the world.
The book is very well written and reads like an adventure story except in this case its very real. I googled the writer after I was done reading and listened to talks she’s given just to confirm that this could be something that actually happened.
The first time I finished reading the book I was like woah what did I just read? And I went right back to the beginning and re-read it immediately. Which I have never done before.
Its a great read! 5/5 stars.