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

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

Resistance to Love

The title may sound illogical at the first glance. Yes, I would have said that was totally illogical 10 years back when I was starting my faith journey. How could anyone in their right mind resist love? It did not make sense until I started to go deeper into the heart of God.

My days used to be so filled that I hardly had time to stop and take a good look at my life. Or rather, I hardly desired to make time for it. That changed about 5 years ago when I took a new turn. It was quite a drastic change from what I was used to. From a life of total busyness to a life of total surrender. From a season of self sufficiency to a season to total dependency. 

Time was suddenly in my hand. At that point, I was very uncomfortable with the change. I felt useless, not chosen, sidelined and under appreciated. However, me in my stubborn nature was determined to make full use of that season because I would not know how long that season will be. In all honesty, it was pretty difficult. I was forced to withdraw from my comfort zone – the stage front, a place I know God has for me but for my sake, that was the season He withheld it from me. 

With time in hand, I had the luxury of whining to God in His holy sanctuary every day. Yes, I was a whiner. I complained almost all the time. As I look at my life now, it is clear to me that those time spent with God has been bearing great fruit. I came to see my need of Him, to acknowledge my human-ness and to embrace it fully. I came to term that I am not the superwoman almost everyone thought I was (myself included). That was the time, God taught me more about Him and more about myself. 

Those precious moments has shaped me to be who I am today – imperfect but perfectly LOVED. The time of formation has been a season of deep intimacy with God. It was a season I learnt how to fight properly by knowing who is my real enemy and by being aware that worship is my strongest weapon. 

Just a little over a week ago I had a God encounter through someone who loved me dearly. My complaint of back pain due to bad posture was taken seriously and action was taken immediately to solve that. The action taken to help me came with a sacrifice. I was really touched and at the same time felt bad that someone has to sacrifice for me. On the other side of the story, it was never a question of sacrifice, it was only love. 

When I look at that beautiful experience, I could not help but to draw a parallel (although unequal) to Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. It is hard for us to watch our loved ones suffer and we do all we could to stop that. I wonder what was going on in Mother Mary’s being when her Son, our Lord was going through His passion? It must have hurt her so badly. I bet she was tempted to stop Him but look at what she did instead. She accompanied Him through it and was obedient to God’s will. With Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are made worthy to reconcile with the Father. 

We may at times resist love without us realizing it. As I had when I was tempted to believe I was not as important as my beloved’s work. After we had spent the time solving my back problem, I told him about the temptation that maybe his day should be spent working not taking care of my back. His response to me was; “that is not happening! You are my priority and I want you to be well”. The only appropriate response from me was “thank you!”. I knew deep in, the temptation to “sacrifice” me seemed noble but at the same time it will be unhealthy for our relationship. To really honest, I do want to receive his love, I want to be able to embrace the love he showed me and that was when I realized I still needed grace to receive. 

In a world like ours, the struggle to just receive love is real. We want to be independent, we want to do things our way and we always want to be the giver. To a certain extent, those are good values. However, we do need to be careful not to go overboard. Those time that we are unable to receive are time of abundance grace. From experience, just acknowledging my need to be humble, being truthful that I cannot receive has been of great blessing. 

Truth be told, if no one is receiving, we can have no giver. So, if you are in a position to receive, be encouraged to receive gracefully. At the other side of the story is love and the person who gives is blessed beyond measure. Giving generously and receiving gracefully make a beautiful God-story. Happy giving and receiving!

With lots of love,

Irene