Healthy Mindset Makes Healing a Great Journey

A very important but seldom talked about element when it comes to bodily healing is mental health. We are a whole being, therefore mental health is vital for any healing journey. It was clear to me one of the biggest aggravator of Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in me was chronic unmanaged stress. Hence managing stress and regulating my emotions became a primary goal. I learnt to let go of a lot of unnecessary worries, grudges and heaps of things not in my control. I began to set better priorities and strengthen my boundaries all the while learning to live with MG as well as learning to mother.

What helped me to stay on the course was an overall healthy mindset. I am determined to beat MG and thrive in my life. I know well the reality may be difficult at times, not denying it in a bit. It was tempting to get into a pity party when symptoms hit hard. In all honesty, symptoms are discouraging and hard to live with. I felt like I want to get over and done with it fast whenever it hit me. However, there’s a hard reality that my body needed the time and conducive environment to heal. So, bouncing between “yes, I got this” to “I just want to give up” were common occurance especially in the beginning. I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who support me in this journey, constantly reminding me who I truly am.

Those reminders were fuel for me. Every time I felt beaten, I face the giant instead of running away from it. I allow myself to acknowledge how I felt and also decide not to stay in that low state for too long. How do I rise above the feeling of defeat? – that has been a question I asked myself over and over again. Friends, this is where it is so important to have someone (or a few people) you trust that you can share your life with. I have a few people that I share deeply with; just being able to talk to someone who love you for who you are, is healing. It would be extra awesome if the one you share with is able to just listen and ask you meaningful question. Effective questioning practiced by coaches has power to unlock certain perspectives that would otherwise be blind to us.

In our fast paced world, so many of us lack the time to even be present to ourselves. Some of us due to childhood trauma may not even know how to regulate our emotions. When I was on the peak of taking steroid as a means of MG disease control, my emotions were so messed up. I cried for small matters and it was hard to even regulate my emotions properly. Thank God my husband was really understanding and supported me through those tough times. This is where having some tools in hand would be helpful. When we feel a certain uneasy emotion, it is important to take a pause. A simple way that I practice is to first name the emotion, then ask Jesus how would I like Him to minister to me at that moment?. These kind of pauses helped me to calm down. With a calm mind, then I can tackle the source of those uneasy emotions. From then praise will rise. In the same way, I think it is also good to take a pause when good emotion arises – just taking time to thank God for the blessings and share that moment with Him. I am pretty sure God loves celebrating with us.

Whatever journey we are on, the path would sometimes be smooth and sometimes there are potholes on the road. Whether it be a nicely paved road or some bits where we are met with holes, always remember to look up – I bet the view is beautiful. Dear friends, I wish you a great adventure in your journey. If you find it particularly hard at this moment of your journey, reach out to someone – a family member, a true friend, a coach or a counsellor. Please share your life in all sincerity because it is normal to want to be known by someone. Indeed it is very good for our mental and overall health if we are able to allow ourselves to be truly seen and heard. I leave you with this quote and pray that you are blessed in your journey.

With lots of love,
Irene

Self Responsibility and Healing

One common outcome I observed from coaching is the client’s shift from chaos to ownership of their actions. This eventually lead to a happier life as they embody a lifestyle that empowers them to self responsibility. They no longer see the surroundings as disadvantaging them, rather they are empowered to take the responsibility for the actions towards their wellbeing. In other word, self ownership is a major step towards meaning in life. When it comes to my healing journey, self ownership plays an important role for me – it shifts my perspective and energy towards the important and necessary. When I first got the diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis (MG), the question I asked myself was: “what needs to happen to give me the best chance to beat this?”.

That question was the beginning of a creative journey of exploring my options. I left the hospital with prescription medicines, some advice on managing the symptoms with the prescriptions and nothing else. Lifestyle change, diet and management of stress was never mentioned. Thank God I have people who were experienced in managing other autoimmune with diet who immediately suggested that I research on the right diet. From our observation, autoimmune seems to be triggered by chronic stress, environmental change and sudden diet change. So, that became the first point of research.

There were so many articles and so little information about healing MG naturally. So a lot of decision were made based on the little knowledge we can garner. The first step was making a change in diet. My best decision was to cut down on sugar and carb. About 9 months afterwards I was so grateful I made that change. Turned out one of the side of effect of steroid is insulin insensitivity. My blood sugar was on a rising trend though still within limit. When we saw the trend, my doctor then asked me to cut down on sugar and carb. Imagine if I did not make that move earlier on! It also help as sugar worsen the symptoms for me, so it’s easier to say no.

Apart from diet I also explore the option of natural remedies that would support the healing process. MG is so rare that I never hear testimonies of any products that helped. I came across products that helped other autoimmune diseases and was very keen to try. Everybody asked me to consult my neurologist before trying anything out which is a safe move and I thank God my doctor is a very open minded and respectful person. When I brought the idea of trying the herbs out, his response was so encouraging. He told me he has no experience and the only way to find out is to try it out. If it doesn’t work, just stop it. I shared this experience with a friend of mine who is healing from another autoimmune disorder, his response was: “good on you, your doctor is very open minded and supportive”.

That is the right patient and doctor relationship. I recently came across so many instances where the opposite was true. It is utterly unacceptable that some doctors telling the patient to either listen to him/her or go home and die when the patient raised some concern. This is where we need to draw the line as patients. Something important to bear in mind is that your physician is responsible to help you co-manage your disease and you are responsible for your own well being and health. Get this, your attending physician is your hired hand, they work for you not the other way round. They are hired to provide professional opinions but it is still up to you to accept it or not. That’s why when things doesn’t feel intuitively right, it’s wise to seek second opinion. After all, informed consent of procedures and prescription drugs is the right of every patient.

Hence it is very important to NOT place your doctor as your ultimate health authority. They are also human and they like us can also make mistakes. Remember that God is your highest authority, with that set right you’ll discover great freedom in within you to listen to your body and you’ll also find creative ways to honor your God given body that has an amazing ability to heal with the right condition.

Some of us may have heard stories of people given the diagnosis of cancer and was given a “death sentence” by their physician who say that they only have a short period to live and the person really die at the predicted date. We know that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18: 21), hence that makes it even more important to know God is your authority. I was told I have a malfunctioned immune system at the beginning of the diagnosis but my immediate reaction was: “No, that’s not the truth and I refuse to believe that”. I said a prayer breaking those words and bless my body instead. I proclaimed to me that my immune system needed time to heal. This gave me great inner strength especially on difficult days that I could not even hold my eyes open for 10 seconds. Through the difficulties I still believe my body is amazing and has powerful ability to heal itself.

Another important responsibility of a person on the healing journey is to ALWAYS do your research and keep learning about the condition. Absolutely no one on this earth knows everything, even so called experts do not know it all. You are supposed to be the one who knows your body best. Unfortunately for some of us (myself included), we can be quite disconnected. When our body show us a symptom, our modern attitude would likely look for ways to suppress the symptoms like popping paracetamol whenever there’s a headache without even stopping to think if our body is trying to tell us something. Taking the symptoms seriously can help us to navigate our healing journey. Whenever the symptoms improved or worsen, I asked the question: what has been done differently? I go into all investigative mode just to make things a little fun for myself. That would give me a good way forward on what to continue or what to avoid.

Continuous education and openness to try different things has led me to a season of great progress in healing. I learnt to be patient with myself as most natural healing remedies take time and there bound to be some progress and some regress. That has been my experience with Terahertz treated water. I was initially drawn due to a lecture that pointed out our healthy cells vibrational resonance that is similar to the treated water, hence that would slowly promote healing with effective hydration. I tried it because it made sense to me and I took full responsibility in doing so and praise be to God I’ve been responding well to most of the remedies I tried.

It is really empowering to be more in tune with my own body especially when I can tell what works and what don’t. I did not choose to be sick but I chose to get the most out of my season of healing and celebrating every step of the way. Every medication weaned off is a great cause to celebrate. Every improvement on my eyelids strength when I drive is a great occasion to offer highest praise to God. I refuse to own the disease but I am owning every bit of my healing journey.

Dearest friends, have you stopped to think how in tune are you with your body? Do you agree that bodily health gives us the freedom to live out our calling more fully? Be encouraged therefore to take ownership of what you do with your body. Take time to read labels of food ingredients and discern well what you allow into your body, medication included. I pray for a great healing journey as well as a blessed journey of self discovery. Most importantly trust your God given body because your Creator designs well. May you be blessed.

With lots of love,
Irene

From Fear to Fullness of Life

Teal is the color representing Myasthenia Gravis

June is the month dedicated to the awareness of Myasthenia Gravis (MG) and it has become really close to my heart being on my journey of healing from Myasthenia Gravis. Yes I know the general consensus said that the condition has no cure but I choose to trust in my body’s ability to heal. MG thrivers are sometimes called snowflake warriors for the fact that every case is unique. That pose a challenge of its own as there is no certainty or a good pattern as reference. I have taken the path of looking at my unique condition as an opportunity to experience fullness of life in ways I would not have explored otherwise.

When I was given the diagnosis in Feb 2020, my world was an utter chaos. There were so many things that I needed to consider and to take care of, all at the same time giving myself the best chance to beat this. Not only my world was chaotic, the world around me turned into a real chaos with the lockdown and restrictions started to affect our lives shortly after I was discharged from the hospital. The looming fear at that point of time was intense and I can feel it in the atmosphere. If anything you need to know about autoimmunity, extreme stress is very bad for any autoimmune condition. Mine was triggered by a prolonged period of unmanaged stress plus sudden change of environment. It is also known that people who are immunosuppressed like myself are categorized as being high risk of viral infection. So it was natural of me of being fearful.

I was just beginning to navigate life with a chronic condition and then this virus chaos came about. Fear was all over the place and I was not spared from it. Fear causes stress that worsen my condition and it’s very easy to see how bad it affect me. So I made a conscious decision since being out of the hospital to manage my stress well. This fear business took a toll on me as almost everyone around me were fear filled about the virus. I reached the tipping point real quickly and decided that fear is no way of living. It was sucking life out of me and I did not like it. In my desperation for life literally, I called upon the name of Jesus and asked Him; what should I do? How do I live?

Let your faith be bigger than your fear!”

That was all I heard and that was enough to propel me forward. The first strategy of winning a battle is to know the enemy and that’s where I started – naming my fear. It was not hard to name them as the first and biggest one that came out was the fear of death. I feared death after escaping death not too long ago. I feared that an infection may kill me because at that point of time I was swallowing 20 tablets daily; a majority of which were immunosuppressive drugs. That would made me really vulnerable. Nailing this fear to the cross and charging forward in life with faith was my experience of saving grace. I have confidence and courage that I will live and thrive. Proper precaution taken, the rest is trust and choosing to live in joy. After all, my health is my responsibility, I personally think it is unfair to put my health risk as a burden for the rest of the society. Praise be to God for His protection; all through this year of healing I have regained strength and is rarely sick.

Putting fear in perspective is an important element in moving forward. The way to do that is to seek the truth about the specific situation. We know that the truth will set us free although it is likely to be uncomfortable. Let’s look at some comparison: if you catch a cold, you know that the chance of you recovering and healing is more than 99%. With that knowledge, fear is by logic small in comparison. The inconvenience of being unable to function optimally for a few days that may bother you more than the fear of death. In my situation with MG, nothing was certain. When I was administered with the rescue medication, there was no guarantee that it will work on me, we hope I respond which I did (with no side effects). Same with the maintenance medication, we can only hope I respond, which I also did until we adjusted the dose. When I asked if a remission is possible, the answer I got was “I can’t tell you for sure because MG is so variable. Some patients get into remission and it came back again, some get into permanent remission and some never get into remission”.

With such variability and uncertainty, it was very easy to despair and let fear grip over my life. But I knew this very clearly, fear perpetuate stress and stress worsen the symptoms. Given the situation, although saddened, I made the choice to live in hope. If some people get into a permanent remission, I shall be one of them. The choice I made to live in the fullness of hope and life carved my way forward. I took actions that would give me the best chance to get to the remission. A massive change in lifestyle was required – diet, habits, routine etc. It was a sharp learning curve to be in tuned with my body again. I realized how brainwashed I was! And that was uncomfortable! One great thing coming out of this healing journey is the deepening of my empathy towards myself as well as to others especially those who could not see a way forward in a fear saturated world.

Being able to face my fears with the truth and knowledge in hand and then move forward in faith has been a great blessing. I live in freedom precisely because I never allow the disease to define who I am. I admit it is not the easiest of journey and fear does creep in from time to time. I allow my self to process the fear and then to formulate the way forward with my Saviour. All this is possible thanks to my years as a coach and also those years in ministering to people as well as support from my inner circle.

Fear is a constant companion whether we like it or not. Some are necessary like in the case of meeting a tiger, you better let your fear propel you run for your life. I would say most fear we face today are opportunities if we allow them to. Dear friends, if you are having difficulty in navigating fear and are feeling stuck, do feel free to reach out to me. I run my own coaching practice and I can also recommend other coaches or counsellors to you. Know that it is my prayer for you to be well. Fear does not have the final say and it is possible to live victoriously. May you be blessed!

With lots of love,
Irene

The Sorrowful Face of Christ

Image source: pxfuel.com

Many of us would agree that the year 2020 has been a real mixed bag on high speed. Everyone is affected in one way or another. It has been really heartbreaking to see people losing their livelihood and my biggest personal heartache is the lost of communal worship. It’s really complicated and the complication somehow pushed me to a book on my shelf – Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

I was desperate and how blessed am I, due to that desperation. Given my daily rhythm with an active toddler, I did the retreat very slowly. One small chunk daily with the time I squeezed in during my daughter’s nap. The grace I received has been so abundant and I am just living in gratitude daily.

My daily connection with Jesus has been really rich ever since my DIY retreat. As the title suggests, consoling the heart of Christ becomes my daily “work”. I just come to the suffering Christ as I am in all my being – the mixed bag of my virtues and vices; offering him my little bit of presence as His friend. This in turn raised me up to praise His goodness.

So this particular December day was a tough one. My symptoms worsened and things were just not how I planned it. I was frustrated! Somehow grace comes flowing while I was nursing my child. I was sort of forced to stop with everything and just pray. And then there I went again, complaining instead of consoling but somehow grace overshadowed me. I decided to just be still and gaze upon the wounded and suffering Jesus. As I gazed on, I saw a pattern in me that needed redemption.

The pattern of my complain was an accusative one – my accusation that God did not answer my prayer. It has been a struggle of mine for a long time. Instead of judging me, Jesus brought me to the reality of His “neediness” – wounded, scarred and in need of a friend. I was quite struck by that image. That in turn brought me back to Feb 2020 when I was first diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (MG). After being discharged from the hospital, I created a fund raising page with an intention to create awareness mainly because prior to my diagnosis, I have never heard of MG. I gave a face to MG and at that point of time, it was also very important to raise enough money and to raise more awareness about this autoimmunity. I wasn’t thinking much back then or rather I did not have much capacity to think at that time.

During that grace filled time of prayer, Christ showed me what kind of face was I wearing back when I was first diagnosed – a needy face and probably quite sorrowful too. I was in need and I did not hesitate to reach out for help. I see the generous face of Christ in the people who supported me financially and through prayer. Little did I know back then, I was also a face of Christ – the needy and poor face of Christ. It was like scales came off my eyes and I felt humbled.

My mighty able self does not like to be needy, always prefer to give than to receive. Bu here’s a reality: there will be no giver if no one is willing to receive. Jesus humbled me to my knees and I realized that I have never wanted or like being a sorrowful and needy face. I also do not enjoy being needed, which is such a big lesson after the birth of my child. Now I am given the grace to embrace being needed and being needy with healthy limits.

Being the needy sorrowful face of Christ is also a beautiful face of Christ, a face to be desired. Sharing this reflection with a dear sister of mine led me to realise something deeper. Have you ever wonder why we have an affinity towards helping the poor? In the past helping the poor gives me a mood boost, always leaving feeling better after an outreach to a poor village. But deeper than that, our conversation left an even more profound reason – the poor face of Christ is the touchable and reachable face of Christ. I acknowledge that our preachers and community leaders are also faces of Christ but sometimes they are not reachable or touchable. I remember a sharing from a friend about his community leaders who are an amazing couple but being the leaders, my friend felt at that time, it was so hard to even talk to them. He literally felt they were high up there, too good to touch although that was not be the case. This revelation left us both so deeply encouraged. I am so grateful for the this beautiful lesson the Sorrowful Face of Christ taught me.

Dear friends, oftentime we are called to be both the Loving and Giver Face of Christ as well as the Needy and Sorrowful Face of Christ. Both are to be desired! Whichever we are called to at any season, I pray that we are given grace to carry that face lovingly. May you enjoy being the ambassador of Christ.

With lots of love,
Irene

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

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

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

Presence as Present

I had the privilege to spend some time back home recently and what stood out for me was how expensive were the price of food. I was in a state of shock and disbelief. But when I took that to prayer and reflection, I realized I was the one who stood still. My memory of things and prices were still of 4 years ago. It pinched me back then but not that bad. When I complained about the price of the food, everyone around me made the comment that the prices were normal prices.

I was the one who was stuck in time because for me time stood still at home while I was away. Spending time with people I cared also gave me the same sense. Sometimes it would be my friends or family who seemed to hold on to the Irene from years ago and sometimes it was me who need a little bit of adjustment to the person I met at their present state. Probably I was in awe in the person they have become and old memories seemed to want to take over.

It was indeed really easy to expect our old friends or family members who were away to stay the way we remember them to be? Having met friends who were still operating on the mode we were years ago launched me into a quest to look back on my life. Have I been present in my seasons of life? Have I allowed grace to flow in my life in a way that I would experience growth? Have I taken notice of the growth of my friends and family? Am I accepting the way my friends and family are now and not putting them in a box of the past?

The “good old days” has its charm to bring us back to our roots and it certainly has the power to give us the view of how far we have journeyed in our life. Looking back at the lessons we have learnt and celebrating the person we become, is such a precious gift to ourselves and the world. As I look back, I am grateful that I was present to my season most part of my life – the glorious seasons as well as the difficult seasons. The difference seasons has played an important role in shaping my life and strengthening my faith. Looking at life and being present through the lens of gratitude simply made the different seasons beautiful beyond measure.

Appreciation of my own experience has opened my heart to accept others in their current season. I am reminded to not box my friends and family in the past (most especially if it is not healthy to our relationship). Dear friends, wherever you are in your season in life, I pray that you are granted the grace to be present.

May you be blessed.

With lots of love,

Irene