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

Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With lots of love,

Irene