Remembering Beginnings

July is a month packed with important celebrations – from celebrating lives of loved ones to remembering a very important starting point.

The story began with a promise of resurrection at Easter of 2017 after spending 3 years in “death”. My season of death began when my father passed in 2014. Everything I knew and was good at was literally stripped away from me. In obedience to my loving God, I gave my yes to every step He led me to and that included tonnes of discomfort being broken so that He could rebuild me from a redeemed place.

So when I heard the promise of resurrection, I jumped in joy and God in His loving kindness confirmed that promise with tangible signs. Good Friday of 2017 was one of the most painful experience of allowing my all to be buried with Christ. As I rose with Christ at the vigil, I experienced something really wonderful and beautiful. It’s like Christ when He rose – wounds were visible in a glorified body. That’s the best I could word it. I experienced a sense of renewed joy with all my wounds visible; my sense of confidence was renewed and I felt I was ready for more.

That was also the year of decision as my formation programme was coming to a close. The sense of invitation to stay in New Zealand had been lingering for a long time and I had also been resisting it for as long as the invitation began. I knew fully well at that point I have not reached the state of holy indifference and I want to be in that state to make my decision. Hence from Easter onwards, I was occupied with God’s dreams for me and possibilities ahead. I felt it’s time to spread my temporarily clipped wings.

In the excitement of going deeper in my calling, the thought of state of life vocation did cross my mind. That thought somehow led me to remember a friend of mine who met her husband in her 40s. I made a conclusion that if that were to be my case, it’s a long time away. Since I’ve waited long enough by then and the wait ahead is going to be a long time, why not enjoy my present to the max and live my calling to the fullest?

With that mindset and attitude, is there any wonder that I was oblivious when the man who would become my husband reconnected with me? It was early July and I later found out the reason he reconnected with me through our Young Adult Prayer Meeting was in response to an answer he heard from prayer – Irene (he was asking God: where is she?). There began our friendship and I was still oblivious until my community members started pointing it out to me – some very directly and some too subtly that I did not get the cue.

My new awareness did not change me much but the events that followed led my now husband to ask me out at end of July. I responded with a yes with the intention of getting to know him better and if I don’t like him at the first date, I can say no the next time round. Turned out I liked him and that led to many yes to follow.

The First of Many

The first month of us seeing each other was packed with special events like my first Marian Consecration Journey and my silent retreat for the close of my formation programme. I was just enjoying our dates and getting to know this amazing man better. Then a serious “now what?” question popped up in prayer after our 3rd date when I realized he shared my principle. It’s a very important element for me. People who know me well enough often describe me as a strong woman. I am indeed quite a strong woman both in character and in my conviction. Sometimes too strong in my opinion that my facial expression spoke before my mouth.

Falling in love with Jesus and deepening my faith journey has led me to be convicted with the teaching of Christ. One of them being authentic Christian marriage according to St. Paul (Eph 5: 21 – 33), hence it was crucial for me to marry a man who shares my principle because I want to honour him as the head of the family and be able to submit to him as my equal.

As the time came for my silent retreat, I entered that grace filled 8 days with a deep sense of love from God. I was ready to work it all out but my Lord and my God turned that into a loving experience of rest and restoration. Through that 8 days, I missed Hans (and he missed me too) and when the retreat ended, we made arrangement to celebrate together. The celebration led to the defining question about us which marks another beginning – the start of the pursuit of each other’s heart exclusively.

I remember distinctly sharing my story with a dear brother priest of mine and his comment was that it sounded like a fairy tale but this is real. Indeed it’s a beautiful story that I have allowed God to write. The bigger part of our individual stories were filled with great struggles and pain. Prior to meeting Hans, I spent vast amount of my time discerning and embracing my state of life vocation. After embracing the invitation to marriage, purification in the most painful way was a big part of my story. All these happened during my season of death and the biggest gift of my resurrection would be the gift of my husband.

Hans is certainly worth the wait although he wished we met each other 10 years earlier. Well, that’s how it’s written and we choose everyday to celebrate each other and to encourage each other in the path of holiness.

Dearest friends, if you are in your season of waiting, be encouraged to wait actively. Seek the Father’s heart and allow yourself to be loved completely. Your joys and agonies of the season are seen by our loving Father. None of us know how will our stories progress but one thing for sure is that God is faithful through it all. He writes your perfect story, are you willing to let him hold the pen?

With lots of love,
Irene

Navigating Motherhood through a Chronic Disease

My world was in a daze back in February when I fell flat on my face on the road before being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (MG): an autoimmune disorder that attacks the neuromuscular juncture causing muscle weakness; including voluntary muscles used for breathing. The first thing I was asked from every person I talked to was: “Were you carrying your baby when you fell?”. Thank God I was not carrying my baby. It all started a little less than a month prior to that fateful mid February day, when I noticed difficulty in chewing my food. I thought it was the effect of me feasting away during Chinese New Year.

The symptoms got worse that I started making my food softer and did some research on what could be happening to me. MG came out as the top possibility. Reading more about it made me dread it and kept hoping that it’s not MG. My GP was hoping of the same but somehow my symptoms worsen to the extent that I could not lift myself up from sleeping position, chewing became increasingly difficult that often followed by slurry speech, lifting my arms for short while took a toll on me, smiling was a task and I was constantly exhausted.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the neurologist ordered a brain MRI scan to rule out stroke. MG was given as a preliminary diagnosis that was to be confirmed the following Monday (I went in on a Saturday), when the nerve testing centre is in operation. We decided to go home for the night and planned to be seen as outpatient on Monday. However, I started having difficulty in breathing. It was a scary evening, the what ifs were all over the place.

Sharing with community of friends who prayed for me certainly helped me through that evening. I received the grace to accept the diagnosis and to enter into treatment regime. Upon seeing me as inpatient, my neurologist quickly ordered the necessary tests to be done and had me started on IV immunoglobulin (IVIG) rescue therapy while also start me on my longer term treatment. I was blessed to have tolerated the treatment well. After the first dose of IVIg, I could tie my hair and that felt so good. A Chest CT scan also revealed the existence of a thymoma which means surgery is needed to remove it but that can only be done once I am stable enough.

My biggest worry was my daughter. How am I going to mother? How am I going to provide for her anymore? I enjoyed our breastfeeding journey and does that mean I need to stop altogether? God was so gracious to speak to me at that time by inspiring me to seek breastmilk donation. I am grateful we have a very good network of breastfeeding advocates. Through the group and through friends who helped out, I managed to source out enough donated breastmilk that nourished my baby. Till today she is still enjoying the benefit of human breastmilk thanks to the generous giving of our local Mama Tribe. My own breastmilk supply has suffered a great decline due to the treatment. Even if it is limited, I am still grateful my child still get something from Mama.

We recognized that strength is the major challenge for MG patient, hence we were quick to get practical help. My mother arrived the day I was admitted to the hospital which was such great help for us. She helped me with the baby and daily household stuffs when my symptoms was at the worst. We also arranged for cleaning company to clean the house. My mother’s stay for almost a month helped me to balance a new lifestyle. I was able to get the rest I needed and to get around organizing stuffs that would aid daily living.

At the peak of the treatment to suppress the autoantibodies and to replenish my strength, I was swallowing 20 tablets daily with the help of 5 alarms to remind me of the timing. On top of that, I also started taking specific health supplement tablets to aid with my body function as well as to counter side effects of treatment. The first month since the diagnosis was really blurry. I could only hold enough strength to play with my daughter. I was afraid to carry her in case my strength fail and she slipped off my arms. My emotion was all over the place partly due to the side effects of the medication. Normalcy were hard to imagine.

Source from this link

Days passed and then months, I started to feel much better. Looking back at the timing, I can testify to the goodness and mercy of God. After my mum left, I got help from my niece and sister for a short while. I’ve also got a friend to help out with cooking on some days. At that point I started to take back the cooking role at home. God in His mercy showed me His unique way of empowering me forward.

Due to the lockdown, we were short of an extra pair of hands after my sister went back to her home and also was locked away from hiring help for cleaning. By that point, my symptoms has started to stabilize to the point that I was confident to carry my baby with the help of a carrier. But I still occasionally feel overwhelmed and limited. So I asked God what was the best view to see my situation? God was quick to answer: “think possible and do what’s possible!”

It was a great place to begin. What’s possible were different on day to day basis. Some days possibility looked like a clean house and warm meals, some days it’s the grace to be grateful that the day went well with little done in the house. There were times possibility meant just being able to pray and connect to my Source through the demands of motherhood. The invitation was to enter to a place of trust and rest; and I happily accepted that invitation.

One of the first breakthrough was me driving alone to pick up my baby’s breastmilk donation. Heaps of preparation ahead of time and I was so pleased that I made it. Driving can be difficult as the bright sun tends to tire me and often resulted in ptosis (droopy eyelid). That fateful morning was bright as and I responded with praise because if God allowed it, then He must be planning to show me His glory.

Thinking possible and doing what’s possible has also helped me to recognized my own preference. I realized piles of chores can overwhelm me, so I start to manage household chores in bite size. Meals became simpler and priority to spend time as a family became our top agenda daily. As my baby grow, her needs also evolve and I am invited to follow her growth with an open mind. The abounding grace I receive through prayer has helped me to have enough time and strength to learn about supporting my child’s development. One of the most fun thing we have decided to apply is Baby Led Weaning method of introducing solids. I had so much fun watching my baby enjoying her food and growing in her fine motor skills. Through all these, the joy of the Lord is my strength!

What brought me through from the peak of my flare up (with the autoantibodies level 200 times above the positive trace) to where I am now; is this scripture;

do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41: 10

A dear friend of mine reminded me to let the One who loves me hold everything up for me. That encouragement has helped me in my process of surrendering and that eventually led me to my rest in trust of the Lord. There’re still heaps to figure out and many are graces that I need. I pray that sharing my story with you will give you a sense of awareness about MG and that you are also encouraged to live in your victory through your circumstances.

With lots of Love,
Irene

My Postpartum Prayer Life

Chaotic would be my word to describe how my prayer life looks like after the birth of my daughter. There’s hardly any structure and I am missing the consistency I used to enjoy, not to mention it is almost impossible to pray my favourite prayer – the rosary. As I reflect carefully on the word I used to describe my prayer life, other words started to emerge: raw, honest, desperate, HUMAN. Imperfectly human!!!

Although energetic by nature, I still like my life to have some kind of order. My daughter’s arrival brought great joy has also thrown me out of balance. It took me a little more than half a year to find my prayer bearing when I moved back to Malaysia; I really hope it doesn’t take too long this time round. My desire for control is pretty apparent but who doesn’t like having their lives under control?

I am basically pinned to my breastfeeding couch that face the little altar in my house. Great place to pray! I spent most of my day crying out to God for the lack of control in my life. The floor is dirty and I could not clean it; the toilet needs cleaning; the kitchen needs organization; meals needed to be prepared; the laundry needs hanging and folding and the list goes on. My honest helplessness of not knowing what to do and also my occasional meltdown from overwhelming emotions has somewhat become my prayer.

Just recently my husband asked me to pray for his work and I was almost playful when I prayed in tongue. That playfulness reminded me I have a treasure in this gift of tongue. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8: 26-27) kept ringing in my head that the Spirit helps us to pray. The day I spent edifying my soul by praying in tongue was not the easiest day. Baby was extra fussy and extra clingy, not to mention wrists injury felt worst than ever. A stark difference I noticed on that day was my extraordinary calmness. My spirit cried out in sincerity and it helped me through the day. I can only thank God for His grace upon me.

Another treasure that I was reminded of was the examination of conscience. I realized I could do that while feeding my baby especially when woken up in the middle of the night. The examen has helped me to be more aware of God’s presence in my day – more aware of my own frailty especially when frustration gets better of me. This is where the design of God is just simply awesome. One night I was woken up by my baby needing a nappy change and she moved a lot while being changed. My injured wrists were not taking it too well. In my frustration, I told my baby to stop and frowned at her. She in turn gave me the sweetest smile. My heart melt into a smile on my face. That is definitely another occasion of abundant grace of God.

Dear friends, my prayer for you is that you will appreciate the grace of your season. May you always see the beauty of God’s abundance in your life.

With lots of love,
Irene

Motherhood

Finally holding my child in my arms was a feeling that is beyond words. Our little one decided to come early and turned our world around. The idea of sleep deprivation and not knowing what to do became a day to day normal. It was truly not easy given the fact that hormones were also erratic and making my mind unclear. Tears of joy and then tears of defeat all come at once. Self doubt, spiritual warfare, lack of confidence, feeling at loss; you name it.

I thought I knew what it’s like or at least I thought I could imagine it well enough. Turned out that my imagination was not as concrete as the real experience. Never in my wildest imagination would I have seen conflicting idea of parenting would occur with my own mother. The reality of sacrificing for the sake of my child helped me to get a glimpse of what it was like for my mother to care for me as a little child totally dependent on her. I have the privilege of my mother helping me during the first few weeks postpartum; that was a great blessing as well as an opportunity for conflict to arise.

Some days were so difficult that made me say things I regretted immediately and some days were just too overwhelming that I could only cry. As I calmed down, I asked myself what was more prevalent? Gratitude for my mother’s presence or the occasional conflicts? I was overall more grateful for her presence. My husband wisely pointed out that I took most of what my mother taught me. There were just a few things that I stood my ground and not taking her way. Those were the stuffs that kept being magnified by the enemy; making me feel like a horrible ungrateful daughter.

The more I communicate with my mother, the more I see my own poverty. One instance was her suggestion to help my child sleep better. Due to lack of space in my home, I did not take her suggestion. After she left my place, there’s only me and my husband with our child. Between the two of us, I am the main caretaker and I quickly realized how valuable were the extra pair of hand. My child is not the best when it comes to sleeping, hence the idea of getting sleeping aid came into our conversation. I admitted to my husband that my mom made some suggestion but in my pride; I refused to acknowledge it.

After the conversation with my husband, I asked myself, what was happening to my heart when I refused to acknowledge that my mother was right about the sleeping aid. The words “I told you so” were sounding loud and clear. My whole being cringed to those words but how could I respond better? It was by the grace of God that I can come to a place of forgiveness, rest and acceptance. My mother was just trying her very best to be of service.

A few days after that, I told her about our decision to get sleeping aid and she was supportive; without telling me “I told you so”. That was one amazing work of grace! Threading through motherhood has taught me how much I do not know and how much I am dependent upon the mercy and grace of God. Learning from my experience with my mother I wonder if I would step on my daughter’s toes when it is her turn to be a mother? God willing, I guess I will find out when the time comes. Meanwhile, it is now time to be present in the moment.

The unsolicited parenting advice from other people is also a rather annoying thing we have to deal with. Everyone seems to be better in parenting my child than me and my husband. For this, we decided to not invest too much emotion in it. People has all the freedom to say whatever they want and I can choose to be polite and just take what is useful and chuck away what’s not. After all, my husband and I are responsible for our child not other people.

Now that my child is physically in my care, I can really say parenting is hard work. I come to appreciate every sacrifices my parents made for me. This new role of mine also opened up my heart to embrace the struggles of work from home mom. I used to think it’s the easier path until I became the main character in this story. Being so used have full control of my time, I am learning everyday to prioritize my child who is genuinely in need of me and whose survival depended on me. I want to give the best chance in life for my child and I want her (and her subsequent siblings hopefully) to grow up with our values. Hence, I am well aware that my husband and I are choosing the narrow path in such a time as this where single income household is almost impossible.

Our child has also inspired us to start a new venture with the aim to encourage parents in our parenting journey. We know now how hard it could be, so why not have some fun by seeing the lighter side of parenthood. Do check out Bountiful Potential for more info. Tell us what do you think about it and how can we serve you better.

We wish every parent grace upon grace as you raise children who are full of potential into great adults. May your journey be filled with joy.

With lots of love,
Irene

Daydreaming…

One of my favourite hobby is daydreaming as it often left me feeling good. I daydream even while I was praying. Recently those distraction during prayer went as far as going back in time and winning a huge lottery ticket that would have changed how my life would look like now. It can be so addictive but also proved to be super counter productive. Takes a bit of effort to get out of it and get a move on with the day.

As I spent time in Adoration on Thursday, I was reminded of my lottery winning daydream. Typical me reaction – I smirked knowing full well it’s not possible to go back in time and buy that winning ticket. At that moment of grace, I examined the character of God – loving, compassionate and most importantly He cares about my salvation. Beautiful but it would still be nice to win the lottery ticket; said my thought all the while holding on to that daydream and smiling with no reason. Then our gracious God spoke to my heart from the scripture;

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55: 8-9

Those words led me to check my heart. Truthfully, in my opinion, my ways and thoughts are better. But in reality, God sees in full and I only see in part. My humanness has two sides here – the resistance to bend to God’s will and at the same time the desire for holiness. Realizing that I do not actually have the grace to trust fully or to allow God the space to fulfill His promises; I seek His rest in humility.

God’s way of fulfilling His promises in my life has been mind blowing. One great example is the gift of my husband. I was restless when I embraced the invitation to marriage as there was no man in my sight that would be right for me. I could not bring myself to settle nor was I patient in my wait. After much struggle with God, His grace overshadowed me and I was able to fully surrender my desire for marriage into the loving hand of my Heavenly Father. It was then I found rest. Once I started resting and actually believing that it’s going to be a long wait, the man God has for me reappeared in my life. I was so busy waiting for the right one that I was oblivious of his intentional friendship for a few weeks. Now I am married to my amazing husband whose character far surpassed what I would have imagined.

The other crazy fulfillment of my heart’s desire would be my heart to serve the people of my land. When God called me out of my beloved nation, it was the biggest struggle ever. I struggle to give Him my unreserved yes most especially embracing a new nation. I am grateful for the spiritual guides I encountered while being in New Zealand who has helped me to love this new nation as my own. My prayer was “your people shall be my people, dear Lord” (Ruth 1:16). When I found rest in fully giving my yes to the Lord for New Zealand, the funniest thing happened – He called me home to Malaysia. Hence, here I am given the full opportunity to serve the people of God here in my homeland.

Reflecting upon God’s way all these while, I can testify that He is trustworthy. I just need to allow Him the space and freedom to work in my life as He wills. Visions planted in our hearts are so great that they sometimes felt overwhelming because we know it too well that they are almost impossible by our own might. I truly believe that if what we have sensed as an invitation from God is to come true, He is going to show us His splendour. So much so that we would not be able to hold back our praise of Him even if we want to, when He fulfill His promise in His time.

I left the chapel that evening filled with hope. Those words are still being pondered upon in my heart, changing me slowly. The journey to fully trust and surrender has proven to be one challenging path. If I pay enough attention to look around the path, I am sure I can pick some flowers along the way.

Dear friends, I pray that you will take time to taste the goodness of the Lord as you live a life of trust in His will. May your journey be fruitful and sweet.

With lots of love,
Irene

Abide by Commitment NOT by Feelings

Ouch!!! was probably my response when I had those words spoken to my heart at Eucharistic Adoration last night. It has been a real long time since I last spent time at Adoration. Responding with a yes to the invitation placed in my heart earlier on the day was an awesome decision. It was refreshing and encouraging.

Navigating my new life has not exactly been easy with so many adjustment to make. I was not satisfied with a lot of things, the biggest one was my prayer life. Although I have been confessing my not too good kind of prayer life quite many times, the advice from the confessor only hit me recently. So I became careful to keep watch on my prayer life. The first week seems to excel with flying colours but as time and other demands of daily life took over, it became increasingly challenging to keep up with it.

The faithfulness of God was unwavering. As I struggle to keep my prayer time, I also experienced overwhelming grace. The fruits coming out of my little commitment was just so extraordinary. I noticed myself growing in my desire to lean my ears to listen to the beating heart of God.

So when I whined about the difficulty to keep up with what I want to achieve; like regularly updating this blog and to expand JumpStart, Christ in His loving way showed me what I had experienced these past few weeks of keeping up with my prayer time and encouraged me to abide by my commitment not by my feelings. It was awesome and at the same time an “ouch” moment. Gently, I came to accept that my procrastination and lack of drive to do anything for my own dreams are my responsibilities.

I am responsible for my happiness and my growth. What I sometimes did following my feelings were detrimental to my journey – like feeling lazy (and actually acted on the laziness) to do any promotion for JumpStart or to turn my reflections to meaningful words. Pushing on was never really easy considering my personality. I am blessed by the example set by my disciplined husband who chose to press on even when he did not feel like it just because he knew the outcome would be good.

My prayer was what kind of commitment would I like to give God? I believe that writing specific kind of commitment would help in getting things going. Through this time of encounter with Christ, I realized my strongest kind of commitment would be the ones I made with God and then had them shared with someone whom I can be accountable to. Here is where abiding in my commitment rather than my feelings would be a great tool in bringing me forward.

Dear friends, I pray that you are blessed with my little sharing. If you are struggling to keep up with your journey towards greatness of your being, reach out for help. Spiritual directors, spiritual accompaniers, coaches and mentors are there to support you in your journey. May you be encouraged to abide by your commitment and not by your feelings. Remember to celebrate along the way for every milestone achieved.

With lots of love,

Irene

Resistance to Love

The title may sound illogical at the first glance. Yes, I would have said that was totally illogical 10 years back when I was starting my faith journey. How could anyone in their right mind resist love? It did not make sense until I started to go deeper into the heart of God.

My days used to be so filled that I hardly had time to stop and take a good look at my life. Or rather, I hardly desired to make time for it. That changed about 5 years ago when I took a new turn. It was quite a drastic change from what I was used to. From a life of total busyness to a life of total surrender. From a season of self sufficiency to a season to total dependency. 

Time was suddenly in my hand. At that point, I was very uncomfortable with the change. I felt useless, not chosen, sidelined and under appreciated. However, me in my stubborn nature was determined to make full use of that season because I would not know how long that season will be. In all honesty, it was pretty difficult. I was forced to withdraw from my comfort zone – the stage front, a place I know God has for me but for my sake, that was the season He withheld it from me. 

With time in hand, I had the luxury of whining to God in His holy sanctuary every day. Yes, I was a whiner. I complained almost all the time. As I look at my life now, it is clear to me that those time spent with God has been bearing great fruit. I came to see my need of Him, to acknowledge my human-ness and to embrace it fully. I came to term that I am not the superwoman almost everyone thought I was (myself included). That was the time, God taught me more about Him and more about myself. 

Those precious moments has shaped me to be who I am today – imperfect but perfectly LOVED. The time of formation has been a season of deep intimacy with God. It was a season I learnt how to fight properly by knowing who is my real enemy and by being aware that worship is my strongest weapon. 

Just a little over a week ago I had a God encounter through someone who loved me dearly. My complaint of back pain due to bad posture was taken seriously and action was taken immediately to solve that. The action taken to help me came with a sacrifice. I was really touched and at the same time felt bad that someone has to sacrifice for me. On the other side of the story, it was never a question of sacrifice, it was only love. 

When I look at that beautiful experience, I could not help but to draw a parallel (although unequal) to Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. It is hard for us to watch our loved ones suffer and we do all we could to stop that. I wonder what was going on in Mother Mary’s being when her Son, our Lord was going through His passion? It must have hurt her so badly. I bet she was tempted to stop Him but look at what she did instead. She accompanied Him through it and was obedient to God’s will. With Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are made worthy to reconcile with the Father. 

We may at times resist love without us realizing it. As I had when I was tempted to believe I was not as important as my beloved’s work. After we had spent the time solving my back problem, I told him about the temptation that maybe his day should be spent working not taking care of my back. His response to me was; “that is not happening! You are my priority and I want you to be well”. The only appropriate response from me was “thank you!”. I knew deep in, the temptation to “sacrifice” me seemed noble but at the same time it will be unhealthy for our relationship. To really honest, I do want to receive his love, I want to be able to embrace the love he showed me and that was when I realized I still needed grace to receive. 

In a world like ours, the struggle to just receive love is real. We want to be independent, we want to do things our way and we always want to be the giver. To a certain extent, those are good values. However, we do need to be careful not to go overboard. Those time that we are unable to receive are time of abundance grace. From experience, just acknowledging my need to be humble, being truthful that I cannot receive has been of great blessing. 

Truth be told, if no one is receiving, we can have no giver. So, if you are in a position to receive, be encouraged to receive gracefully. At the other side of the story is love and the person who gives is blessed beyond measure. Giving generously and receiving gracefully make a beautiful God-story. Happy giving and receiving!

With lots of love,

Irene 

Chances

25 February 2018 marked 4 years since my father’s passing into eternal life. I still miss him every day but the pain of losing him does not sting anymore. I am still eternally grateful that God has led me to grieve the death of my father in GRATITUDE. Things has changed over the years and I am glad I made a journey deeper into the heart of the Father ever since.

On the anniversary of my father’s passing into eternal life, I celebrated his fatherhood by honouring a spiritual father God gave me. I was privilege to stay at Brendan’s for 3 weeks as a special arrangement that enabled me to serve the community I was in and as a gap before moving into my next journey. Brendan is a prayerful man of God who is generous beyond words and has really blessed me through my stay.

When I was staying at Brendan’s, I prepared dinner for him as a sign of my gratitude. In the beginning, he was assuring me that I do not need to worry about his dinner but as time goes by, he began to appreciate my little gift. On the day prior to my father’s anniversary, I prepared 7 meals for him (some of which were frozen). While I was preparing the meals, it dawned to me that I would not have the chance to honour my own father that way. God must have thought about that and He gave me a chance to honour a spiritual father who took me under his wings for 3 weeks.

Brendan
With Brendan

I was again overwhelmed with awe at God’s generosity for allowing me the chance to bless my father through a father figure on earth. He knew I would miss my dad and as much as I am generally positive, I still have some moments of regret. Regrets of things I never get to do with my father. One of those little regret would be to honour my father with service and love – just the way he preferred to be loved. I so wish that he could see how far have I come in my journey.

At that moment of reminiscing the memory of my father, I could almost hear him whispered in my ear; “I am so proud of you, Irene. Proud of the woman you have become and how far you have come”. That was a God moment of consolation and I sincerely believe my dad would have said those beautiful words to me.

Dear friends, if you are in state of grieving the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to grieve with gratitude. The grace of God will bring you to a place where you will experience His glory in your life. I pray that your journey towards healing be filled with grace and love.

May you be blessed.

Love and blessings,

Irene

Closure

What an odd title for the beginning of the year and the first post of the year (after a real long time)! And this is my time to close an important season of my life. Sometimes God has a way to push us out sooner than we want. When I started my lay missionary journey in 2014 with the ICPE Mission, I somehow knew this is a seasonal call. The thing I did not know was when is the closure. It has been an adventurous journey that imprinted an indelible mark in my heart.

Like any journey, it consists of ups and downs. And it is kind of funny how I resisted staying in the community for most of time. The only reason I stayed was because I wanted to remain faithful to God. By the time my resistance to say yes to stay started to cease, God also started to close this season of my life. Looking back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

The lessons that I learnt are so numerous that my heart just burst out with thanks. When I start coming to term that I would have to leave earlier than I wanted it, I started making closure here and there. I noticed how I started celebrating my lasts and at the same time also celebrating my first of many for the journey to come. During my last birthday celebration, I had everyone stood up honouring me. That was something awesome as you rarely see this happening. It was a day of full of surprise for me.

Today was another day of last – my last kitchen cleaning as a community member. It was a day of creativity and fulfillment. I remember wanting to change the condition of one drawer so that the knives can be kept securely for safety reason. The last time I cleaned that drawer was one late night of Oct 2015. I have always wanted something more solid for that particular drawer. For that purpose, I get to try a little bit of carpentry and it was so satisfying to be able to leave a tiny legacy behind. I joked with my brothers and sisters of the community that I will check on the drawer every time I visit the mission centre.

The other thing that I gathered in my last kitchen cleaning was creativity is abundance when human resource is scarce. We were so short in man power and I was happily scrubbing stains off the floor. I started off with the corners and as satisfying as it was, it was also taking a toll on my back as I was constantly squatting. Not to mention the slight blackout whenever I stood up. I was also at the same time adamant about cleaning the whole kitchen floor. So that was when creativity played a great and satisfying role. I came out with the idea to attach a metal scrub to the base of a mop. That way I can scrub the floor without needing to squat constantly. It was a brilliant idea that worked so well. I was very pleased with it.

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I was so happy!

Every journey has a beginning and an ending. I am so glad I enjoyed my journey through the sweetness of it and also the bitterness of it; through the times of strength and also the times of weakness; through the time of success and times of failure; through thick and thin. Truly for better or worse!

Dear friends, it is my prayer and hope that you enjoy your journey too. Every circumstance in our lives poses an opportunity for us to grow. And I really hope you choose gratitude and celebration as the fuels of your journey. May you be blessed abundantly.

With lots of love,

Irene

Celebration

Celebration is an integral part of life and a lifestyle that I am living by. Whenever we talk about celebration, the first thought a Malaysian would typically have is MAKAN (food). We take our food seriously and to mark any celebration, the food plays a very important role. More important than the food is the reason of the celebration.

We celebrate to mark an important milestone, an important event, successes or progresses we made in life. In my coaching training, my coach taught me to apply celebration as part of the principle of a coaching session. I found it really essential as part of a healthy and connected lifestyle. Last night I was privileged to be reminded of the importance of celebration based on St. Paul’s love poetry (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8) and that has left me thinking about my own lifestyle of celebration. Have I been celebrating God’s goodness as He deserves?

When I put celebration in the right perspective, I found that it is way to grow in humility. This is how it made sense to me. Through my countless conversation with people I encountered (or I coached), it is common to hear this from me; “Have you celebrated your progress?” or “How are you going to celebrate this?”. It is also common for me to encounter a startled look, especially if the person has just started to talk to me or just started their journey with me. Those priceless responses were my opportunity to share what I believe celebration is all about.

For some of us, celebration can only happen if a big goal has been achieved and yes that is totally justified and necessary. Here I am talking about celebrating progresses along the way, even the smallest progress. I believe celebration is the fuel that propel us towards our goal. Very often I see people getting discouraged because they did not celebrate their progress. For them some progress is just way too insignificant. Think about this; without those seemingly insignificant progresses, can we actually make it to our goal? It is precisely those small steps that brought us to our goal.

You may wonder now, how can celebration be a way to grow in humility? So, this has been my story. The right perspective of celebration for me lies in the WHO. Who am I actually celebrating? Every progress we made is by God’s grace. From my experience, being able to acknowledge that God is the One who made it possible for me to progress in my journey brought me to a place of celebration. Celebrating the One who made it possible for me. When my focus is celebrating God, I am humbled because the focus of celebration is not me, rather it is Him who made me.

Through my journey of having coaching conversations, I also get these question often; “What do you mean by celebration? How do I do that? Must I eat all the time to celebrate? I encouraged people to celebrate their progresses by doing something they enjoy. For example; if you enjoy reading a book by the beach; then set aside some time to do that as a form of celebration. If you like eating, it would be so easy to celebrate though eating is not the best celebration if you are celebrating your progress in weight loss. If you like watching a movie; that would be a great form of celebration. And if you are a people person like me, celebrating with people who cares would be such an occasion of joy. To mark milestones, I would encourage we do something really significant like skydiving to mark your 30th birthday. Or something crazier like leaving your secular job to serve God full time (ONLY recommended if that is what God wants of you). Hence, it is also important to choose your form of celebration wisely.

I am indeed very blessed to be influenced by people who live a lifestyle of celebration from the beginning of my faith journey. These saints-in-the-making taught me the value of living life to the fullest – a life in humility that always acknowledge God as the provider of everything in my life, including the seemingly insignificant progresses I made in my life.

Dear friends, let us celebrate the goodness of the Lord in our lives. He is our reason of celebration and He is certainly worth celebrating as you are worth celebrating. I pray that celebration becomes the fuel for your progress in life and know that your being are worth celebrating.

With lots of love,

Irene