An independent music album, FantabulouZ, co-written by 3PM Band’s Caroline Tjen and Jules Rusli takes life’s hard lessons and weaves them into songs of strength, hope and friendship.
When Caroline Tjen’s mother passed away in 2012 from a three-year battle with cancer, it sent her down a spiral of depression.
On top of grappling with the passing of her mother, whom she was extremely close to, “I was 39 and bankrupt,” recalls the City Harvest Church worship leader and songwriter. Once naturally positive and upbeat, she found herself getting angry easily, and feeling pangs of jealousy when she saw her peers having their own families, living seemingly happy, care-free lives.
She struggled with getting out of bed every day. But instead of turning away from God because of life’s disappointments, Tjen took her disappointment and sadness straight to Him.
“I learned to really be real with God, telling Him what I felt, all the ugly things in that were in my heart and my mind…and that was when the healing began. Oftentimes, people expect us to be ‘Christian’ and perfect, full of faith at all times, but you know, sometimes it’s easier to please God than to please man. God is okay with us being imperfect, He’s okay with our human weaknesses,” says Tjen.
It was only toward the end of 2015 that she came out of that dark period, stronger, happier and more purpose-driven than ever. “For me, I had to make a decision. If I’m still alive, that must mean that there are still things I need to do here on earth.”
Many Christians struggle with depression by themselves, but it need not be like that, Tjen says. “It’s important to surround yourself with true friends, friends who you know love you genuinely. It doesn’t need to be a lonely journey.”
Tjen says, “God never left me. When I look back, I still see His goodness in my life, even during those darkest moments. The verse from Deuteronomy 31:6, He will never leave you nor forsake you, that verse came alive for me.”
Tjen recalls her two prayers to God during her mother’s last days. While she was desperate for God to heal her, she also knew that His way was sovereign and perfect. “I asked God to tell my mother personally what His plan was; she was very detailed like that, she needed to know. Secondly, I asked that my mom would not be in pain when she took her last breath. I did not want my final memories of her to be of pain.”
Miraculously, when Tjen visited her mother in hospital three days before her she passed on, she found her smiling “from ear to ear.” She even told her daughter not to pray for her anymore, as God told her that her house was complete. She will worship Him face-to-face then, Tjen remembers her mother telling her.
These themes of finding hope, staying brave in the face of adversity and having genuine friendships have found their way into a new music album, FantabulouZ which Tjen co-wrote with close friend Jules Rusli, an air stewardess and fellow ministry member in 3PM, an Indonesian praise and worship band from CHC.
The idea for the album was conceived in 2008 as a creative project after some encouragement from Aries Zulkarnian, the pastor overseeing the Indonesian Church at the time.
Due to a lack of resources including finance, in addition to the fact that both had full-time work commitments, it was a good seven years before the album was produced. “One thing we did right was that we kept the dream alive. We kept talking about it, brought in our prayers and kept writing songs,” says Rusli.
The album was soft launched last year, with all six tracks being original compositions penned by Tjen and Rusli.
Explaining the title track “Fantabulouz” which she wrote, Rusli says, “It talks about daily struggles that we are facing everyday. Everyone has a dream and goal, but there will be many drawbacks to keep you away from it. There will be negative voices and discouragement from people around you, even from those closest to you.”
“When things might not go according to your plan or when your life is not perfect; we need to decide to have right attitude. When we are faced with crisis, there are always choices to make—to be sad and drown in depression, or to learn from our past mistakes, forgive ourselves, be happy and keep doing what we love to do. That is what we call the ‘FantabulouZ’ mindset and attitude,” adds Rusli.
One heart-rending song, “Sampai Jumpa Lagi” (“Till We Meet Again”) was written out of their shared life experience; Rusli had also lost her mother to cancer. The song speaks of temporary farewells and the hope of eternity against the backdrop of the Christian faith.
In the long run, Tjen and Rusli hope to build up an online community which connects women from everywhere via the sharing of their individual life stories.
“We want to help women identify their self-worth and self-awareness as they pursue their passion, calling and purpose in life,” explains Tjen.
“We are just ordinary people who want to realize our calling and purpose; sometimes it’s tiring because we have our full-time jobs and other commitments, but so far it has been a rewarding journey and there is a joy when we are doing what God has called us to do. We also believe that if we do our best to answer to His calling, God will honor us and He will give us clarity, vision, provision,” adds Rusli.
Fantabulouz is available for download on iTunes. For more information, log on to www.fantabulouz.com.