Food is a great means of unity, celebration, expression of love, reconciliation, happiness and heaps of other things. For me food is my source of creativity. I am a person who refers to recipe and method but never really follow the exact measurement or method. Most of the time, I prefer to modify the recipe to suit my taste, the needs of my family as well as availability of ingredients.
Recently I felt inspired to try steaming fish the way restaurants did. It was a pleasant learning experience because in the past, I could not be bothered doing a few steps process. I like things simple and easy. However, my past way of steaming fish never produce truly satisfactory taste. With the newfound knowledge, I immediately hooked on to the method and started creating all sort of sauces for steamed fish. It was such fun experiments and I look forward to Fishful Friday just so I can create new dishes every week.
Creating food being therapeutic has been a great help especially when changing diet is a neccesity due to the autoimmune diagnosis. Eating healthy can be tasty and enjoyable. All that is needed is a dash of creativity.
I recently came to realise what a great gift is this expression of creativity. It was a difficult morning and I was starting to beat myself up for not being a perfect parent. I knew “being a perfect parent” is a lie, I had that intercepted so those negative emotions did not drag me further. As I was trying (and struggling) to gain better perspective, I decided to create a new dessert for dinner. It resembles milk pudding from my hometown but I have never been able to get any recipe. So with a little bit of imagination of the taste I began my experiment. Praise God it turned out well.
The effect of that 20 minutes of creativity was beyond just yummy dessert, I was able to clear my mind and start seeing things from a better perspective. I was able to show empathy towards myself and to express my loving concern towards my child. My level of happiness increased so was my overall wellness.
I recalled my days in the mission centre where celebration of life was emphasized. We will work together to create a beautiful atmosphere for celebration. The most elaborated one would be an Agape Meal that typically involved good food, well decorated room, well dressed people and heaps of honouring – a setting that enabled expression of creativity in so many ways. I remember having fun cooking, baking and sometimes trying things like decorating and flower arrangement. That kind of excellence has become my lifestyle though not as elaborated. We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday and it happened to be a Friday. I was jumping with joy as that was an opportunity to express myself creatively. I steamed a large fish and made a marble milk pudding as the “cake”. It was a joyous occasion filled with love.
The experience of having my mind cleared and filling my love tank through creative expression has demonstrated to me its importance. Creative outlet does something great to our being. It helps us to connect deeply to our true self and hence enable us to appreciate the being who’s made in the image and likeness of God. The direct impact is the release of stress and clarity of mind. In our fear saturated and highly stressed out world, creative expression becomes a remedy to bring us some sanity.
Dear friends, I pray that you are encouraged to make time for creativity, however you like to express it. May you find joy in the little things in life that fill up your love tank. Make sure you also empty your stress tank regularly. Have fun expressing yourself creatively.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Are you ready to take care of our child?” My husband casually asked me and I responded with a nervous giggle. Part of me felt ready and part of me felt there are heaps of unknown. Part of me felt relaxed at the fact that we do not have to know it all and the kiasu (fear of losing in SEA jargon) part of me wanted to know as much as I could. Principally we have decided to raise our children being totally reliant on God and that is probably why I can be at rest.
We know for sure our baby is arriving without a manual, hence it is on the job training. In my more idealistic younger days after learning about the effect parents has for their children, I set my mind to be the perfect parent. I want to be the superhero that absolutely shield my children from any hurt. As I mature in my Christian journey, I began to understand that perfect human parenthood does not exist. How liberating is that! More so now that I am actually in parenting journey, patiently waiting for my baby’s entrance to the world outside my womb.
I get it – we do our very best as parents but the reality is that we are going to make mistakes. After all we are human and there’s absolutely no way we can control everything. We have some clue as to how tiring it will be at the newborn stage, how challenging it will be at the boundary setting stage and how difficult it will be for us to let go. I am aware of my tendency to be super protective and super tiger mom. But I also know there are times I need to step back and just allow my children the space to learn. I guess I shall find out and enjoy the struggle when the time comes. Meanwhile I am to enjoy my present journey and not miss out of the blessings of the moment.
What was really interesting recently was an assurance in my heart from God on the question of parenthood. Being in a Worship Night that focused on our identity sparked an assurance of my Heavenly Father’s protection over my life. So I asked the question: Father, how do I parent? It was interesting that the invitation was to draw my parenting from my identity as His beloved daughter.
Wow! The most logical starting point – our unique identity as sons and daughters of God. Because we are first a child, then a spouse and then a parent. When we get the order right, our priority would be right too. The awareness of this reality keeps us grounded and empower us in every areas of our lives. It is so freeing! Some of us may ask what if a person stays single? I had that question too when I was single. And I decided that should not stop me from maturing into adulthood; choosing responsibility and meaning over recklessness and instability because I do not know if young people are silently looking at my lifestyle as a reference. Besides, none of us are exempted from the role of spiritual parenthood.
Deciding to grow up and ditch my childish ways was a great decision but certainly comes with a price. It means I no longer am “entitled” to entirely blame others for what’s going wrong with my life. It means I have a part to play and I need to own up my mistakes. Without that transition into responsible adulthood, it would have been so challenging in so many areas of my life now especially relationship. As amazing as the journey of growth has been, I am even more amazed that every growing day is a discovery of areas in my life that still calls for some “growing up”.
Dear friends, how was your experience of maturing from a child to an adult? Did you find yourself with an increased desire to honour your parents? Did the desire and struggle to forgive intensify at the same time? Did you experience overflowing grace like never before? Whatever you are experiencing, I pray that you see the hands of God in all these and give your highest praise to Him. May your journey ahead be one that is filled with meaning as you take responsibility through the lens of Christ love.
Hearing those words from my parish priest on the reflection of this week’s gospel reminded me of something I read recently. Placenta is a temporary organ in a mother’s womb to nourish the growing baby, attach the baby to the uterine wall and also the means to excrete waste. What fascinated me was the fact that the father’s sperm is responsible for creating the placenta and the umbilical cord.
The father becomes the source of life for this growing baby – providing protection and bridges the mother to the child. How wonderful and awesome are the designs of God! How very reflective is this to our spiritual life! Our Heavenly Father is indeed the Source of Life. Without Him thinking about us, we would cease to even exist. It’s so humbling to realize that we are indeed loved into being from conception to natural death.
It makes me wonder how great it would be if our men are empowered to enflesh the truth of fatherhood – be it physical or spiritual. My earthly father was far from perfect – not the most faithful husband nor was he the most gentle father. I am so blessed to have started the journey of reconciliation with my earthly father the year I was baptized. The journey that involved forgiving him of his shortcomings; forgiving myself for judging him and making the best effort to rebuild our relationship. Despite being closest to my dad amongst my siblings, I still experienced hurt from him. I am very glad that I dared to walk the path of forgiveness and today I can look back at the memory of my late father with a heart full of gratitude. That’s the grace of being courageous to embrace my father in totality – his love and his failures. In fact, he was the reason I started this blog.
My heart goes out to numerous people who did not have the best experience with their earthly father. It’s my prayer that men will rise up and take fatherhood seriously. This is a path of holiness and I also pray that all of us in society will support and empower our men to be real men with authentic masculinity. One way of doing that, I believe is for women to have Christ centric standard. The standard that we set for ourselves would influence the world around us. As we help each other in our path of holiness, let us be bold to ask Our Father for His Holy Spirit to guide us.
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.
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.
It has been three years since dad left us. Three years ago today, our lives were forever changed. As I remember this important event in my life, my heart swell with gratitude for my mother who has been heroic at that time. The memory of that day and the days preceding my father’s death is still fresh in my mind. I remember the fateful Sunday, 23 Feb 2014 when dad had a hypertensive bleed in his brain that caused his death, mom was pretty calm when she told us that things were not looking very good.
The bleed has been deep seated and the medical team was not too keen to try as the chances of survival was really slim. But we, the children could not let go and mom was the hero at that time. She was in her role as our mother at that precise moment when it would be so easy for her to be weak. After all, she was losing her husband, she has all the right to be weak and needy. After spending some time in prayer, we decided to give dad a chance by releasing the blood in his brain through surgery. I knew mom was not very keen as she knew what chance my dad stand through her experience working as a nurse. She was however respectful of our decision when she told us; “if all of you want to give dad a chance, I will sign the consent for surgery”.
Through the longest 72 hours of our lives – from the drama of the hypertensive bleed in the brain to the surgery to the 50 minutes of reviving my dad due to a cardiac arrest to the moment we let go of him; mom has been MOTHER. She was the one who provided us with comfort and consolation. I was the one who could not let go and she was there to listen to me. Never once had I experience an inversion of role through the death of my father. Having had some knowledge of inner healing principle, I know how damaging parental inversion could be and it is really likely to happen in times like this. Although as an adult, I would probably be less affected should it happen. Looking back, it was kind of funny that we were trying to be strong for our mother but it turned out the strong one was her. Strength found in her vulnerability.
At the time of mourning, she learnt to pray the rosary for the first time and she is open to share with us how much she misses dad. Mom have to relearn and readjust to life without her life partner. I can imagine how hard it was! She has been dependent on dad especially in terms of transport and after 30 years of not driving a car, my mother started driving again. How amazing is that! She went on to grow in her faith and she was baptized into the Catholic Church on Easter of 2015.
I have the privilege to witness her growth in her faith thanks to technology. I would love to be with her physically but I would never trade it for anything. God knows me enough to know that if I were there with mom physically through these 3 years, she may not have the opportunity to experience what she had experienced. I would be way too happy to be her driver and my physical presence may have prevented her from driving again. She gets to make new friends in the circle of faith and if I were around, that may be a different outcome.
Today my relationship with my mother has grown so much closer; partially thanks to technology but most importantly thanks to the grace God has showered on us. I am grateful for my siblings who are taking care of my mother. Without you; Simon, Olivia, Martha and Bartholomew; who would I be? Thank you for your relentless care towards mom. Mommy, thank you for being our MOTHER!