Category Archives: Self

A Letter to the Discontent – Is it Ever Enough?

 

I’m sorry this is an almost photoless post, my friends. But I have made it a point to write more frequently here so that I can put out more regular content for you all. And also to return back to my first love of writing.

So on that note. Here we go :)

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There is so much hate on social media lately.

I know this is a rather strange topic to ‘return’ to this blog to be writing about, but it’s been a matter that has been circulating in and out of my mind for months. And the more and more people I talk to, or rather, the more people that talk to me about it, the more I realise there is a growing culture of discontent breeding and permeating the current generation of us who spend a large portion of our time online – which lets face it… is most of us.

So many of ‘us’ are unhappy or never truly satisfied. Just when we think, YES, I think I am ok, we are hit with another wave of restlessness. We want more. Or become jealous over those who have what we seemingly think makes up the life we wish we had.

…. Why?

It is because we are the person who looks at that someone’s never ending load of ‘free stuff’ and wonder why we don’t get the same things. We are the person who sees another’s perfect relationship online and then questions ‘why doesn’t my partner love me like that’. We are the mother who sees another’s child and feels crummy when they are celebrating their baby sleeping through the night when you are still waking up 3 times a night and questioning if your baby will ever do the same. We are that person who looks at the other person’s followers and goes – why aren’t I more famous? We are that person working 9-5 every day slugging it to make ends meet and looking at a friend who gets to travel the world and buy designer goods and you wonder, why is it so hard? We are the person who looks at another woman’s body and wonders why our own legs are not as long, or our abs only have 2 packs instead of 6, or why their eyes and nose are perfect when yours are small and crooked. You are the woman who cannot get pregnant after 8 years of trying and see what seems like the 50th pregnancy announcement on instagram this year and question, what is wrong with me? The list goes on and on people. I could keep typing for many more hours. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

And why is it like this?

It is because SO MUCH OF OUR LIVES is online these days. SO MUCH.

I know I am sounding like somewhat of a hypocrite writing out these words, considering I run two brands that heavily uses social media as part of its business.

But hear me out.

Just 6 years ago, facebook and instagram were still baby platforms. I hopped on the bandwagon when using the in program filters was considered cool, I had to sign up an account for my husband because he didn’t see what the big deal was, and back then it was not about curating the perfect looking feed. It was simply a means to see what your friends were up to. Just 6 years ago, my friends! Before that, I was using the traditional methods of a website and a blog to put out my work and my writing. People didn’t know what was going on in another person’s life unless you actually met up with them and talked to them face to face over coffee or on the phone and really just ‘caught up’ (that, or gossip. But for the purpose of this post, we won’t go into this latter. Maybe at another time, ok? ). People also didn’t check their phones as the first and last things they did in the day.

Today? Nowadays, our eyes and our minds are completely SATURATED with content. Daily. Hourly. Maybe even by the minute.

What others are doing, buying, eating, where they are, how they are feeling, are literally thrown at us even if we aren’t searching for it (anyone seen the explore feed on Instagram? See my point?).

It is no wonder so many of us are not content with our lives.

In all honesty, I also question myself daily – am I using social media right? Do I use it too much? Am I being an ambassador that inspires and encourages? Or do I also breed and add to this culture of discontent and secret jealousy? I will also admit that I have caved into the whole envy wave and have been caught grumbling and wondering a number of ‘whys’  – my husband will attest to that. Its a cycle I have fought over and over.

Anyway… this post isn’t to jab. Not at all. I just wanted to raise the issue. Because I felt sad for a number of people I’ve spoken to who feel like they dont have enough. Sometimes they aren’t even aware they are doing it. But when I read the things they say online in jest, or when I sat down and looked at their lives in totality, they are INCREDIBLY BLESSED. I kept thinking – don’t you realise SO MANY PEOPLE out there don’t even have half of what you have. You have it good, girl.

So I guess, the purpose of this post apart from raising the issue, was also to hopefully encourage more of you out there to do two things.

1) Be aware of what you put out. Be sensitive. Think about those who may not get to enjoy whatever it is you are possibly going to gush about, and be wise about your captions appropriately.

And

2) For those who are feeling like they are on the losing end, or that their life isn’t enough….Remember that the things you have now, were once things you didn’t have before. Or perhaps they were things you wished for previously. And for my brothers and sisters in christ, I want to share with you something a friend of mine shared recently that encouraged me in this area immensely:

She shared:

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3

Did you read that? Did you look really carefully? BETTER THAN LIFE. Thats right people, God’s steadfast faithful and unfailing love is BETTER THAN LIFE itself.

We are cheated into thinking all the time that there is a better job, or a new life we should be living, or a more suitable spouse, a bigger house, nicer clothes and shoes, more friends, more followers an fans, that will satisfy this never ending thirst we have… but ever realise that once you have it, your mind wants more? I’ll let you in on a secret… it is because we weren’t designed for a life chasing purely after pleasures. They are good things to have and enjoy, but they should never be the basis of our happiness or contentment. I was reminded (again) of this recently.

I know we can keep looking towards ourselves (which is good! I’m not asking you to not do this. We should always keep working on a better version of ourselves) – but we humans are inherently flawed. And sinful at the core. So, because our flesh fails us, it reminds me we constantly need to look to the cross and our Saviour who promised complete fulfilment of our souls in Him. Only Christ can truly satisfy. He says so time and time again in His faithful word.

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

We can have all the fame, riches, perfect marriage and kids in the world, and keep feeding our hearts with pleasures, and I can bet your bottoms that it will never be ‘enough’. There is ALWAYS something else next. It is a tireless pursuit to look for completeness in things and people… because people inevitably also fail us, and possessions cannot love us back. And lets be honest, sometimes even love disappoints.

Now, before this post gets depressing, hear me out for a little longer. It will end on a good note (I hope! :D).

I just want to say first and foremost (before you roll your eyes at me in judgement thinking I’m some martyr), I don’t claim to be good at this. I have failed many times. So I’m also writing this post for me. To remind myself to be grateful. To pursue the right things. To remember that pleasures like money, clothes, holidays and so on are good things that God gives us to enjoy, but they should never become the benchmark for our definition of success or happiness. I am reminding myself to drink the water that completely satisfies from the well of life Himself. I am hoping this post reminds you of the same things.

To my non christian friends reading this, I know what I just said sounds weird. But if you take anything from this, I hope you take encouragement to spend less time comparing. And appreciate what you do have in the present. Spend less time online scrolling, and spend more of those minutes and hours of yours cultivating real relationships with those around you. And to remember to always be grateful for the small and the big things you have been given for there are always people out there who have less or nothing :) . The grass is not greener on the other side. It is green where you water it.

Alright… Tuesday night reflections are over. And it’s time to put the baby to sleep. Til my next post. Yes, my friends, I am trying harder to write more often.. Shorter posts, but more frequently. Hopefully ;)

ps: Enjoy the little graphic I designed below. It’s there for anyone who wants to save it and print it to keep as a reminder on your phone, your desk or wall or journals :)

Jenny Signoff
yoursteadfastlove

Happy One Year Sienna


I hear my baby crying.

I look to the clock and realize it’s late. The weight of fatigue is aching in my bones and my body sighs with the familiar tiredness that comes with the ushering of another evening. Another 24 hours past. Yes, it is late. But it is her usual hour of the night where she seems to sleep a little lighter than the other hours of the evening, and she becomes more unsettled.

Usually, I’d quickly run over and attend to her. Pat her back gently over and over again until she calms down and slowly drifts back into whatever dreamland she was in before what I like to call her ‘witching hour’ began. It almost always works. And within a few short minutes, she is sleeping soundly again and I will go about the rest of my night whether it is prepping her food for the next day, replying client emails, editing photos, or just spending time with my husband catching up on our day and relaxing in front of the TV.

However this evening, she was a little more restless than usual. So I decided to pick her up and cradle her in my arms.

For some reason, tonight, I felt an intense need to just hold her.

It is the eve of her first birthday. Yup, we made it to a year.

364 whole days.

My, how far we have come since those early newborn days when the rawness of motherhood weighed on my shoulders so heavily it bore tears on my back from the burden of trying to ‘get it all right’ and the uncertainty of how things would pan out with raising a high-needs baby. Would this ever end? Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard? When will this get better? Will I ever love my child? Why can’t I breastfeed? Am I abnormal? Why doesn’t my baby eat like other babies? Why can’t my child sleep better? Am I ever going to feel like myself again? Those were just some of the haunting questions from the beginning that plagued those fragile few months. Questions that now, thankfully, are just mere shadows. Remnants of another time.

Motherhood seemed so scary in those days. So terrifyingly alone despite being surrounded by so many people. However, a year of motherhood has somehow slowly forged a strength and a wisdom that continues to grow as I navigate through this season of life with Sienna. Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning. Every day in fact. But I am no longer that frightened woman who had all the baby preparation checklists crossed off, yet felt so naked under the buckling pressure that comes with the birth of your first child.

And then, while I was hugging her little frame in the bend of my arms, I realized that I had been holding on to the thought that my little girl would not look like how she does in this very moment much longer. Her baby features such as those incredibly round full cheeks we have become so familiar with, her little double chin, the folds of skin in between her arms and legs that I’ve come to love and adore so much, will soon be changing as she rapidly grows into toddlerhood… and then childhood… and then the teen years… and…. You get the picture. They grow up :(

How does time pass by SO quickly? Especially when at the beginning, it crawled so painfully by and the minutes would seem like hours, stretched between more hours.

I wasn’t ready for her to grow up.

And I guess that’s why I was holding on to her more these days. Because I don’t know for how much longer she will let me do this. You know, to just carry her. Sleep in my embrace. Or have my arms still be the most comfortable and easiest place to slumber away those tired eyes.

The irony of all this is, I used to resent that she would need me so much. Everyone around me commented that my child was crazy clingy. Overly so. They still do. It used to make me annoyed. Resentful. Bitter at times. Crave independence. And be jealous of those mothers who could push their baby in prams, or sleep in their own cot, or be able to go out on date nights with their husbands when I was stuck with a child who seemed forever chained to my side and constantly cried. Who never slept anywhere but my arms, and whom I could hardly bring outside because she would always wail, and would never sit in the stroller that her daddy so carefully handpicked just for her before she even inhaled her first breath.

Then something funny happened. One day, I started to like her more. She started to smile. Then I began to love her. She learned to respond to my voice. And then, we got to 1 year and now I cant bear the thought of putting her down because I know one day, I wont be able to hold her like I do now. She will get too heavy. And physically my bones will not be able to bear her flourishing weight. And of course, she will eventually prefer her friends over her mama.

So when she crawls towards me in her usual fierce stealth and proceeds to lift her hands upwards motioning to be picked up, I will pick her up. And I will scoop her into the cove of my elbow when she cries at night. Because I know it’s her mama she is crying for. It is me she wants. And I am telling myself every time it’s okay because with everything in regards to kids, it is only temporary. It passes with the pages of time. So I will embrace it. Celebrate it. Love it. For it doesn’t last forever, and one day I know we will miss these days with a piercing ache, when our babes needed us this much. Craved us so intensely.

She is not the easiest baby, and I am definitely so far from being the most perfect mother. But we love each other imperfectly, and in that irony that is what makes us perfect for each other.

So, as the last page of her first year of life makes a slow turn, I think about what kind of girl I want her to grow up to be… and these are the letters and words that form in my heart before this mamma of hers gets too old to remember. This letter is for her…

My dear baby girl,

The world is a big and scary place. But your mother knows that you will grow up to be all sorts of wonderful. However before you get there, you will come upon crossroads, and questions, and people who will tell you many things.

Of all those things, your mama just wants you to remember a few…..

First, remember that you are always beautiful. Whatever size, shape, or height you grow up to be, know that God made you that way purposefully and with intention. You don’t ever need to fix anything about your appearance. Remember that physical beauty is not everything. The world will tell you otherwise, and that you need to have perfectly symmetrical features. That your eyes should be a certain width and size. That your nose needs to be of a particular height and thinness. That the dresses you’re wearing are too large and that the gap in between your thighs is not wide enough. That you should be eating lettuce and starving your body to be beautiful. That you are less than amazing because you lack those very things.

Please know they are lying.

The truth is, beauty is seen in how you treat people. It is translated when you love those smaller and lesser than yourself with grace and abundance. And it is felt when you are friends with someone not because they have 150 thousand followers on their instagram account, but because you genuinely love their presence and care about what makes them happy or sad.

And you are incredible not because of the clothes you wear or how small the numbers on a scale say you are, but because your eyes can tell a thousand and one different shades of color and can see better than the best camera that exists today, because your voice has the capability to speak multiple languages and sing lilting or off key notes, because your hands have the nimbleness to hold a needle and thread the smallest of loops yet also carry the weight of a sack of rice from the car to the kitchen for your daddy one day, and also because your mind…your beautiful mind, is so intelligent because it has the potential to compute a million mathematical puzzles yet paint a rich tapestry of hues and shapes on a canvas. Just knowing those connective nerves in your brain are already teaching you how to form your first spoken words now as I type this letter to you amazes me.

Next, work hard and be responsible with all that you are given. But don’t ever get too busy chasing after money that you lose time making memories and doing life with those whom you love. Life and youth disappears faster than the next beat of your heart and no bank account you build is large enough to replace what time robs you of. Before you know it, you are old or loved ones have departed this life, or people have forgotten you.

Lastly, my baby, I want you to chase your dreams…. Yes, go after them… But don’t be fooled by the pursuit for fame or the ‘glamorous life’ to the point where you lose sight of the bigger picture or forget the more important things on this side of heaven and the other. It is an exhausting and often empty deceptive quest. They will tell you that it is all about how many people behind a screen follow you. But I will tell you my dear, that the only numbers that matter are the ones on your phone whom you have dialed and called up today to ask how their day has been. And how many people you have prayed for. And how many friends whom you can trust with your very life. Remember that popularity is not how many people whom you can gather on a computer to say they love you – that, my babe is a hollow representation of what a real leader should be. The secret is that people will be drawn to you instead by the hope you shine when you show them you are strong. And kind. And compassionate. And loving. And humble. And genuine. You don’t ever have to pretend you are perfect to earn the respect of those around you. Instead, shower your path with humility, and dignity, and be real about your flaws and imperfections because people are not looking for another plastic unattainable figurehead. Instead, they are looking for someone whom they can see as a sister, a friend, and find a fragment of themselves in, a trusted confidant. Hold yourself to a standard of grace and love always. And seek, relentlessly and steadfastly seek, to be that proverbs 31 woman that her children call blessed to have as their mother. And whose husband is proud to call his own. And whose friends are honored to call their sister. This is the kind of woman that God adores. And if the God of the universe says that is what pleases Him, we listen :)

Love,

Your mama.

…..

Happy One year old, my dear Sienna Rose :) Your daddy and I love you so very much.

Thank you to my sister in law, Bertha, who not only decorated the whole little family affair we had, but also made this beautiful and sweet birthday cake (in fabulous Red Velvet *shrieks*) for Sienna! Massive Love.

For All the Misfits and Rejects

I am by nature, a writer first and foremost at heart. Even more so than a photographer. During a really tough time in my life, I penned down some thoughts for every person who has ever felt like they never fit in, or belong….As you may or may not already know,  God is a big part of my life… I know a lot of you don’t see that (yet), because I don’t write about Him often (yet), but He is the very very best piece of my existence, and I wanted to share with you partly in this post, why :)
 
Like I mentioned earlier, during a really hard period of my life, when I was feeling weighed down it made me feel quite inadequate as a person. However,  to understand this post better, I need to rewind a full decade and some more. When I do that, you will see that I was not a popular kid in school. In fact, I had very few friends growing up. Continue reading

 I never got invited to sleepovers, or parties, no boys ever asked me out, I never got valentine roses from secret admirers, and I often floated through my school days just dreaming of the time I could leave because while I wasn’t hated by people, there was the occasional teasing for being a nerd, the odd racist comment thrown at my face for being Chinese, and then there was just being ignored by my own group of friends from time to time as they found cooler people to hang out with – I never felt completely accepted or loved by my peers. And it was a somewhat lonely existence, growing up where I was feeling mostly unworthy – for example, it would be a common thing for people to judge me as a cold and snobby person because of the way my face looked. Just like that, the way my face was made, already made me an outcast. Little did they know that deep down, I was just really shy. That I am naturally an introvert, and that I was really craving for their friendship, if they would only give me the chance… Maybe I wasn’t likeable enough, perhaps I wasn’t pretty enough, what was wrong with me? Were some of the questions I would ask myself time and time again.

 
Then, one year, I heard this message from Romans 8:God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And my life completely changed.

It was then that I accept Christ in my heart – to this day, it was the best decision I have ever made. It hasn’t been the easiest decision to live with, but it has definitely been the best thing I have ever done. I was so awestruck and humbled by these words because it meant that even when I was at my very worst, and when I was God’s enemy and had rejected God himself, He died on my behalf so that I may live and have eternal life in Him. It gave me so much hope and encouragement because it meant that I was wholly and completely loved and accepted for who I was – even at my very very ugliest and blackest. They say a good man may die for you if you are on good standing with him, but no one will die for you if you are their enemy. But God did. And that is why I love Him so much… no matter what is going on in my life, no matter who hates me, or what hurdle I am being put through on a work or personal front, I know I have a God that stands behind me, and takes me with open arms, and lifts me up under His wing each and every time without fail.  
 
“… Though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly…” [Psalm 138] 
 
God loves the rejects, and the lowly. I see it time and time again in the bible, how the Lord Jesus gravitated towards the scum of society, the people that were outcasts, hated by their people, and rejected by their own family. And it always amazed me that our God, would associate with and even love the lowliest of the lowliest. He doesn’t have to, but he CHOOSES to. And that’s what gets me every time. God loves the lowly. I have kept coming back to this truth over and over again… To be honest, I’m not even sure why that particular phrase even surfaced in my mind, but I do know that I have been thinking a lot of the souls out there who are having it hard, the misfits, the outcasts, those who have been suffering, or have hit rock bottom…my mind has thought much of you and for you lately…maybe because I consider myself as one of you. A little lost at times. Wondering where we really fit in. And just misunderstood.  
 
So this post is for all the misfits, the outcasts, the rejects, the misunderstood, the abandoned ones, the ones left out, or have hit rock bottom, the outsiders, the lonely ones, the oddballs, or even if you are just hurting and aching inside. I believe there is a place for all of you. And while we may be from different backgrounds and beliefs, my heart, love and prayers go out to you anyway, and know that I am cheering for you. I hope you conquer the world. Show them that the underdogs do win. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, or make you feel that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough because someone once told me that stars can’t shine without darkness….and finally remember to stay strong – make them wonder how you suddenly shone so brightly one day. I know I plan to charge ahead with my head held high, because I have a God that accepts me wholly for who I am, faults and all, and that kind of fire and hope goes all the way through to eternity and beyond.  

 

Image By Jasmine Downling. http://www.jasminedowling.com

Image By Jasmine Downling. http://www.jasminedowling.com

 

Jenny Signoff