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.

IMG-20180125-WA0005
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