Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.


I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.


If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

11 thoughts on “Modeling Womanhood

  1. Hi, Joy. Your post touched my heart in so many ways. I lost my mom when I was 13. As a teenager, I try to be like her in the ways I remember her. Unfortunately, not all “skills” and wisdom was relayed to me and my sister before she passed away as she left in a hurry. I am happy for you and somewhat envious of you that you have a very good role model for womanhood. I have to “search” and figure out things on my own. But I am very much grateful I have came across your blog and CCF. I learn a lot from your blog on being a good wife, the submission part, and being a woman of Christ in general. Thank you for sharing and I pray that you continue to touch a lot of lives by your blog. God bless you more and your family.

  2. If all parents were like Ptr Tanchi and your mom Joy, what a better world we would have, How they honor and model their love for Jesus:) Truly a blessing 🙂

  3. Hi Joy, your personal stories are really so inspiring. I am so blessed to read them and hope to apply them to my children. I am so encouraged with your mom’s attitude on dealing with instances like you mentioned. I am guilty of what I have done to my daughter that although she is already grown up and have started working, I still feel that I should always be at her rescue. Thank you for all your inspiring messages. You truly are a blessing.

  4. Thank you for sharing (“,) Another interesting anecdotal story that will help and bless many people.

    I would like to share two poignant stories from Reader’s Digest and Time Magazine, about the use of addictive drugs… You might have read it already yourself…

    My Story
    Personal Stories Beyond the Call of Daily Life

    My Mother’s Hands
    Even in my darkest hour, they gave me comfort and love


    I remember sitting at the kitchen table in our Kuala Lumpur home when I was eight, watching my mother fix dinner. Before doing anything else, she would always take off her silver wedding band and place it on the counter. I remember playing with it, running my fingers over the grooves of the simple design.

    This particular day has stayed in my memory because it was a week or so after my father had given her a glitzy diamond ring to replace the simple band from their student days. “Why aren’t you wearing the new ring?” I asked. “Don’t you like it?”

    “Of course I do,” she replied. “It’s beautiful, but my hands are ugly and the new ring would only draw attention to them.”


    Seeing my look of disbelief, my mother wiped her hands on her apron and held them out before me. “See,” she said. “They’re bony and my veins stick out. That’s why I never wear nail polish or bangles.”

    I remained unconvinced. The bones and veins were what made those hands familiar, what made them hers. My mother’s hands were among the most comforting things in my life. Always cool, never shaky, they could soothe a fever instantly when she laid them on my forehead.

    From my relatively low eye level, her hands were the first things I tended to notice, whether she was making sandwiches or assembling the perfect teddy bear birthday cake the year I was crazy about stuffed animals. I remember when she taught herself to sew baju kurung, the traditional women’s attire in my father’s Malay culture.

    I also noticed that in fast traffic, she would grip the steering wheel so nervously that her knuckles would protrude, but she still managed to drive me and my brother and sister to piano lessons, school, birthday parties and all those other places that kids have to go.

    The years passed, and I noticed that my hands started to look more and more like my mother’s. I studied accounting at an American university, and moved back in with my parents after I graduated. I first worked as a magazine writer, then took a job as an auditor with a major accounting firm.

    Then life started to go wrong. For a tangle of complicated reasons, I fell into a depression. The drinking and pot smoking of my student days became a daily necessity, and soon I was shooting up heroin. Though I kept a job for the most part, I only existed to get high and got high to exist.

    In a friend’s apartment one day, I pulled a belt tightly around my wrist and started tapping the back of my palms. All the veins in my arms had collapsed or hardened, so I couldn’t use them. I tried desperately to find a vein I could use somewhere on my hands, but couldn’t.

    As I scrutinized them, I suddenly thought of my mother, whose hands I shared. I thought of what she had done with her hands and what I was doing with mine. I knew my lifestyle was hurting her. At that point, I was too numb to think about how it was destroying me.

    Exhausted with the despair and self destruction in my life, I eventually turned to my parents for help. We started the roller coaster ride called Recovery. I worked my way, painfully and slowly, through a maze of treatment centres, hospital beds, late-night phone calls, attempts to kick my habit and failures.

    And all the while, my parents stood by me, sometimes holding each others’ hands, more often than not, holding mine. I remember once opening my eyes slowly in a dimly lit hospital room.

    My mother was sleeping on the chair beside me, completely drained. Her hands were clasped and I noticed her wedding ring. I tried to think back to a time when I didn’t have this sadness inside me. That night, I cried tears of sadness for that little girl sitting at the kitchen table and tears of anger for what I had done to her.

    Today, I’m sitting in the car as my mother drives. She’s going grocery shopping and I have come along for company. I have been well for a while now, so we can do these things together. We talk about my brother’s cholesterol levels, what to do with the spare room, regular things – things she can actually think about, now that she doesn’t have to constantly worry about a late-night telephone call from the police or the morgue.

    At the traffic light, she taps her fingers on the steering wheel and says, “I must do something about my hands. They look terrible.”

    Knowing that no amount of convincing her otherwise will work, I suggest a manicure. Then I tell her that her hands look fine.

    I look down at my own hands and notice that the track marks have faded. I have a wedding band. One of my fingernails is slightly misshapen from all the typing I’ve been doing at work.

    I stick my hands in front of her. “See – mine are just like yours.” We smile at each other and I feel calm, relaxed and maybe even happy.

    I know this is just the beginning of a long, long road. Whatever lies ahead, I can’t think of a better pair of hands to have in mine.

  5. Memories of a Personal Opium War
    By LAVINIA CHANG Monday, Sept. 28, 1998

    While waiting at a bus stop near my home in Singapore recently, I was drawn to a poster. It was a photograph of a hand half-closed into a claw. It clearly belonged to a person in extreme agony, trying to claw his way out.

    The words on the poster warned against the use of heroin. It reminded me of my late grandfather.Grandfather was a gentle, kind and generous person. He was a skillful, self-employed mason. Every first-time visitor to our house praised his lovely workmanship in constructing our kitchen and bathroom. When he got paid for a job, he would come home with the best pastry treats. If it was a well-paid job, he would give his six grandchildren $0.50 each for our piggy banks. Then he would sit and tell us about the wonderful things he had built, the friends he had made at the job site and the interesting news stories that had been read to him since our last gathering (Grandfather was illiterate).

    Those were the good memories.The bad ones were of him shivering under a blanket at midday, with mucus dripping from his nose and saliva drooling from his opened mouth onto his perspiration-soaked pillow. When no adults were around, I took turns with my sisters and cousins to peep into his curtain-drawn room to check on him. Several times we emptied our savings onto a handkerchief, tied it up and put it into his hands. He always pushed it back, though we pleaded with him to take it.

    In our naivete we had hoped that our small fortune would buy him some relief. You see, Grandfather was an opium addict. Nearly everything he earned was spent on feeding his habit. When he had money, he would smoke better-grade opium; when funds were low, he would buy the poor-grade pellets that he swallowed several times a day. With no savings, there were times in between jobs when he could not even afford the pellets. That was when the withdrawal symptoms kicked in.It would start off like a cold, with teary eyes and a runny nose, followed by involuntary twitches in the face. His hands would start to shake, so he could not even have a drink without spilling it. At the full-blown cold turkey stage, he would lock himself in his room and push the key out from under the door. We could hear his desperate groaning from within but knew there was nothing we could do to help.

    I don’t know how long he stayed locked up; it seemed like a very long time. When he became quiet again, my mother or one of my aunties would go in and help him into bed. And that was how we always found him. Though he seemed barely conscious, I knew he was fully aware of his sufferings. Watching him, we suffered too. That’s one of the most cruel side effects of substance abuse. It produces a host of silent victims: parents, siblings, partners, children, grandchildren and friends. But somehow, he always lived through it. Perhaps one of his children had risked Grandmother’s wrath and slipped him some money for a fix. Or he just got better after a few days of withdrawal. If it was the latter, he never seized the opportunity to rid himself of the habit.

    Grandmother died without forgiving him for the addiction. They had traveled to Malaysia from China in the 1920s in search of a better life. But when Grandfather started smoking opium he burned every dream they had together. My mother, as the eldest of five children, started working at age 12 to help put food on the table. My aunties couldn’t stay in school for long either; only my uncle finished secondary school. To Grandmother, her opium-addicted husband had condemned their children to a life no better than their own–another generation lost to poverty and hardship.

    When I was 12, I asked Grandfather about his habit. I was foolish and thought I was buying a happier life, he explained, his voice heavy with regret. It was an escape. Twenty cents a day helped me get through the horrible working conditions. I thought if I could work harder and longer, I would earn more for my family. But the price shot up once I became dependent. It has cost me my life. I never dreamed I would become addicted.

    Those last few words stayed with me throughout my teenage years. It forever put to rest any curiosity I might have had about addictive drugs. No amount of peer pressure could have persuaded me to try a puff of marijuana, a dose of lsd, or any of the other drugs that followed.

    Grandfather died of respiratory problems at the age of 78. He was an opium addict for more than half his life. I will always have fond memories of him, but they are inevitably tarnished by the image of him shivering in bed. The saddest thing about his addiction was the irony of it. Grandfather was attracted to opium because it promised a better life. In the end, it robbed him of any possible happiness he could have had. It alienated him from his family and stripped him of his dignity. I now recognize what I saw in those eyes when he declined the small bundle of coins we offered. It was shame and humiliation, and my heart breaks for him once more.

  6. Hi Joy,

    I used to attend a cellgroup lead by your mother when your two younger sisters were still in high school. She always emphasized that she had to be home before 5pm because she wanted to be there when her children got back from school. Until I read your blog today, I did not realize what an impact her commitment to her family really made.

    I did not have the same role model as you had in your mom, but I will now renew my efforts to be a better parent to our children. The Tanchi family is a blessing and I will pray that God continue to protect your life testimony as an encouragement and Godly example.


  7. Ms Joy you are such a great teacher because you inspire through your blogs and each post is an opportunity to encouter Christ. After years of searching, finally, an advocate of Biblical Womanhood at its finest. Please continue to write! I want to be more Spirit-filled and Christlike after reading your blog, keep em coming!

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