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

Believing Without Seeing

One of my biggest conviction after living in a missionary community is nothing great can ever happen without prayer. Intercessory prayer played an important part of our Christian life and that is demonstrated throughout scripture. Having witnessed first hand the importance of intercession, I decided to invite a friend to start interceding for JumpStart, a programme I am passionately running now.

JumpStart has turned my life towards the dreams God has for me and I am delighted to have journeyed with and witnessed lives changed through this workshop. The recent message from our intercessory team suggested a time of faith strengthening – a time where I just need to believe that seeds are being planted even if I am not seeing it. For a person like me who’s very result orientated, not seeing anything happening on the surface is very challenging.

How can I continue to persevere when I don’t see a single sign up? When every odds seems to be against me, how can I see through the eyes of faith? With my own strength, I simply cannot. I am blinded by the adversities, the lack of communication and the biggest one is the lack of response. All these things made me question if I have really given my best? I felt really helpless to not be reaping any fruits and that tempted me to just settle for the easier path.

In the midst of the struggle I felt comforted that the still small voice refused to let me give up. Through my struggle, God continue to teach me and encourage me. I came face to face with my poverty – my inability to listen to God and to trust Him in totality. It’s frustrating when things does not turn out the way I want it to be. When faced with my human-ness, I am at times tempted to run away but I knew that is exactly where God is meeting me. It’s a comforting truth that my soul needs to experience.

Would the end result be of great success? I don’t know for now. What I do know is to continue to be faithful and do all that I can to make JumpStart available to more people. For my part now as I could not see anything in the horizon, the best way forward in believing would be to humbly ask for the grace to trust. This grace will also help me to enter into His rest and I believe that the power of rest opens up the floodgate of trust and love.

Dear friends, in times of doubt I pray that you will be carried through by abundance of grace. May you experience breakthrough and may your heart be filled with praise and worship of our Almighty God.

With lots of love,
Irene

Maturing into Parenthood

“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.

With lots of love,
Irene

When Providence is Insufficient

It was one of my hardest struggle to face. When I decided to leave self-providence behind for God’s providence about 6 years ago, financial insufficiency has been an uphill journey complete with challenges of the elements. Flipping from being self sufficient financially to being totally dependent on God has been quite a crazy move. Looking back I am so convicted that it was grace that brought me through it.

When I move into my new lifestyle I did not know it would be that difficult as things has always been relatively easy for me. I sailed through university smoothly, got a job less than a month after graduation, moved to a high paying job in less than 2 years and I excelled in everything I put my heart into. Then the calling to leave familiarity behind to an adventure of mission came. It was LOVE that got me to give my yes to this beautiful journey and it was also LOVE that has allowed the purification that came with it.

Being a capable person, it was not easy to be dependent. The concept of being dependent entirely was foreign to me. So the hard lesson began. Over the years, things has not gone the way I wanted it to be financially. I could not raise enough funds for my living expenses let alone raising enough to pay off my mortgages (properties that I bought not knowing God will call me out of my “normal” life). My family ended up helping me out for the debts that I started to accumulate. But there was only so much they could help me by.

It was really conflicting as to why there were deep peace in my radical response to God and at the same time, providence wasn’t sufficient. I was hearing all sort of unpleasant stuffs from my loved ones who was helping me and that led me to judge myself as being irresponsible. I hated being irresponsible as that is just against who I am as a person. Financial scarcity became a giant I have to face through my sincere response to the Lord being in mission.

Those difficulties has thrown me into bouts of doubts about my call. Questions like; “if I have heard and discerned this correctly, why isn’t providence pouring in like a floodgate being opened?”; “maybe I have heard God wrongly”; “maybe this is just me wanting a fantasy of being holy”. All sorts of thoughts which was not entirely wrong but certainly confusing. I pushed through because I knew greater things were yet to come. The grace of God has truly sustained me and I did experience some miracles of finances along my path. There must be good reasons and great treasures awaiting me if God allowed those financial difficulties to be part of my journey. The hours spent in prayer has certainly shaped me in ways I would not have imagined. How my heart was able to truly surrender this giant to the Lord was just simply miraculous.

What struck me today as I look back into my journey of conquering the giant of financial difficulty was the immensity of love I’ve experienced from the people I am indebted to. I would rather be owed than to owe because I believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. However, being on the end that receives mercy, taught me heaps about humility and the way God’s economy works. The people who has bailed me out financially has nothing but pure love for me. I would love to repay them but I guess peace in within my heart can only come when I allowed God to provide in His time. One friend of mine whom I am indebted to assured me that the providence will come when she actually needs the money. Someone being that generous to me showed me a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. I came to acknowledge my own pride and my brokenness that needed great redemption.

As I look into my life today, I can still easily see areas where providence is insufficient. The difference in me today is my response. I am rather at peace to just simply praise God for what is provided and keep praying for open doors. It’s surely not easy when we are not doing that well financially but I am very sure that’s also an opportunity to be creative. It’s a matter of priority and being happy with what we have chosen. For example; choosing to home cook our meals over eating out; choosing quality goods over less durable stuffs so that we don’t have to replace our goods too often (that way we are also reducing the amount of waste on the planet). More importantly; choose to live simply and trust generously.

Dear friends, I pray that you are sustained through times of difficulties. When providence is insufficient, take heart that grace is always overflowing to bring you through it. Greater things are awaiting you at the other end of the trying time. May you be blessed abundantly.

With lots of love,
Irene

Father – the Source of Life

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.

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