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

Touching the Divine in the Ordinary

It has been rather challenging to find my rhythm after moving out of the mission centre. Time is now fully in my control. I enjoyed the freedom of managing my own time and that also comes with the responsibility of managing the time well.

Heaps were happening through those months of being the “master” of my time. Part of me struggle to keep being disciplined and part of me was being open to see what God was saying through it all. It was indeed an invitation to touch the divine in the ordinary. I learnt to pray in a very different way – to connect to God through the moments of my day. Sometimes I felt like I was not praying enough, not reflective enough, not sensitive enough and the list goes on.

Rapid changes proved to be challenging even to a person like me who enjoyed the freshness of change. I struggle to adjust to the rapid changes especially the fact that we moved country – a new environment that calls for new understanding, acceptance and letting go of the lifestyle I was used to. Through the rapid changes, prayer life also proved to be really challenging. I struggle to make time, struggle to just show up even when I do not feel like praying, struggle to trust and was very restless.

It wasn’t until I received the sacrament of reconciliation that things started to turn God-ward again. I am really grateful for the open arms of the Father welcoming me back into His embrace again. Christmas of 2018 became a time of welcoming Baby Jesus into our home again. Our humble and rather empty home has space for God to come in – so was my heart!

The simplicity of the infant Jesus taught me that prayer can be rather simple. I am invited to connect to God as Irene, the beloved. It is about being open to allow God to love me – not quantify by the number of hours spent I guess. I was beating myself pretty hard for not fixing a time to pray. Life is very different now that I have other responsibilities to carry. So, what does it mean to pray then?

Nativity Scene at Tianxiang Catholic Church

I realized for this season of my life, prayer simply means showing up, choosing to praise God in all circumstances and making commitment to have my holy pauses through the day. On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, my husband and I were talking about ways to increase our income. We are currently running a campaign to sell one of his e-book on special. So we talked about how many copies do we want to ask the Lord to bless us with? I was ready to pray small but my husband challenged my prayer. His point was; “if we are asking for God’s help, let’s give Him a big number”. I was scared and excited at the same time. If God answers our prayer according to the number we asked, a lot of our financial worries would be lighten. So, I was in and we prayed for the big number and let’s see what God thinks about it.

God is so able to answer our prayer in accordance to what we want specifically but does He agree with what we asked for? I guess we will find out at the end of the campaign. At that moment of grace, I told my husband this: “however He choose to answer to our prayer, especially if He choose not to give us the number we asked for, that doesn’t make Him love us any less”. It was a moment of epiphany for me – to have the courage to ask for something that I am not even sure will be answered and having the grace to trust in the infinite love of the Father, regardless of the outcome.

That God-moment of mine brought me to a rest from my “need” to be in control. My ideal thought may look really good for me but if my ideal does not lead me closer to Christ, I guess that would be in vain to have. Probably this is a glimpse of the heart of the Father. Yes, He desires good things for us, sometimes just not the way we envision it – probably way better than how we would have crafted it.

Dear friends, I pray that you find rest in your restlessness and may God grant you the grace to be assured of your belovedness – however He choose to unfold His plans to you, His love for you is infinite.

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 

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

Chances

25 February 2018 marked 4 years since my father’s passing into eternal life. I still miss him every day but the pain of losing him does not sting anymore. I am still eternally grateful that God has led me to grieve the death of my father in GRATITUDE. Things has changed over the years and I am glad I made a journey deeper into the heart of the Father ever since.

On the anniversary of my father’s passing into eternal life, I celebrated his fatherhood by honouring a spiritual father God gave me. I was privilege to stay at Brendan’s for 3 weeks as a special arrangement that enabled me to serve the community I was in and as a gap before moving into my next journey. Brendan is a prayerful man of God who is generous beyond words and has really blessed me through my stay.

When I was staying at Brendan’s, I prepared dinner for him as a sign of my gratitude. In the beginning, he was assuring me that I do not need to worry about his dinner but as time goes by, he began to appreciate my little gift. On the day prior to my father’s anniversary, I prepared 7 meals for him (some of which were frozen). While I was preparing the meals, it dawned to me that I would not have the chance to honour my own father that way. God must have thought about that and He gave me a chance to honour a spiritual father who took me under his wings for 3 weeks.

Brendan
With Brendan

I was again overwhelmed with awe at God’s generosity for allowing me the chance to bless my father through a father figure on earth. He knew I would miss my dad and as much as I am generally positive, I still have some moments of regret. Regrets of things I never get to do with my father. One of those little regret would be to honour my father with service and love – just the way he preferred to be loved. I so wish that he could see how far have I come in my journey.

At that moment of reminiscing the memory of my father, I could almost hear him whispered in my ear; “I am so proud of you, Irene. Proud of the woman you have become and how far you have come”. That was a God moment of consolation and I sincerely believe my dad would have said those beautiful words to me.

Dear friends, if you are in state of grieving the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to grieve with gratitude. The grace of God will bring you to a place where you will experience His glory in your life. I pray that your journey towards healing be filled with grace and love.

May you be blessed.

Love and blessings,

Irene

Closure

What an odd title for the beginning of the year and the first post of the year (after a real long time)! And this is my time to close an important season of my life. Sometimes God has a way to push us out sooner than we want. When I started my lay missionary journey in 2014 with the ICPE Mission, I somehow knew this is a seasonal call. The thing I did not know was when is the closure. It has been an adventurous journey that imprinted an indelible mark in my heart.

Like any journey, it consists of ups and downs. And it is kind of funny how I resisted staying in the community for most of time. The only reason I stayed was because I wanted to remain faithful to God. By the time my resistance to say yes to stay started to cease, God also started to close this season of my life. Looking back, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

The lessons that I learnt are so numerous that my heart just burst out with thanks. When I start coming to term that I would have to leave earlier than I wanted it, I started making closure here and there. I noticed how I started celebrating my lasts and at the same time also celebrating my first of many for the journey to come. During my last birthday celebration, I had everyone stood up honouring me. That was something awesome as you rarely see this happening. It was a day of full of surprise for me.

Today was another day of last – my last kitchen cleaning as a community member. It was a day of creativity and fulfillment. I remember wanting to change the condition of one drawer so that the knives can be kept securely for safety reason. The last time I cleaned that drawer was one late night of Oct 2015. I have always wanted something more solid for that particular drawer. For that purpose, I get to try a little bit of carpentry and it was so satisfying to be able to leave a tiny legacy behind. I joked with my brothers and sisters of the community that I will check on the drawer every time I visit the mission centre.

The other thing that I gathered in my last kitchen cleaning was creativity is abundance when human resource is scarce. We were so short in man power and I was happily scrubbing stains off the floor. I started off with the corners and as satisfying as it was, it was also taking a toll on my back as I was constantly squatting. Not to mention the slight blackout whenever I stood up. I was also at the same time adamant about cleaning the whole kitchen floor. So that was when creativity played a great and satisfying role. I came out with the idea to attach a metal scrub to the base of a mop. That way I can scrub the floor without needing to squat constantly. It was a brilliant idea that worked so well. I was very pleased with it.

IMG-20180125-WA0005
I was so happy!

Every journey has a beginning and an ending. I am so glad I enjoyed my journey through the sweetness of it and also the bitterness of it; through the times of strength and also the times of weakness; through the time of success and times of failure; through thick and thin. Truly for better or worse!

Dear friends, it is my prayer and hope that you enjoy your journey too. Every circumstance in our lives poses an opportunity for us to grow. And I really hope you choose gratitude and celebration as the fuels of your journey. May you be blessed abundantly.

With lots of love,

Irene

God Saw That It Was GOOD

God Saw That It Was Good

When He created the world,
God saw that it was good.

He created human being,
In His image and likeness He created them,
God saw that it was good.

When man sinned against Him,
Though it hurt Him so,
In His love He planned to save them,
God saw that it was good.

Man turned his back on his Creator
He tirelessly draws us back
Prophets He raised in His Theo-drama,
God saw that it was good

The time was right for His promise to be fulfilled,
His only begotten Son was born of a virgin,
With His foster father to raise Him,
God saw that it was good.

Jesus did His Father’s will,
Good news He preached,
The sick He healed,
God saw that it was good.

The time was right for redemption of mankind,
Christ suffered His passion,
On the Holy Cross He died,
God saw that it was good.

The veil was torn,
Silence was deafening,
Death was thought to have the final say,
God saw that it was good.

On the third day silence He broke,
In joyful triumph Christ He raised,
Death is beaten with victory resounding,
God saw that it was good

The Lord is risen indeed,
Easter joy and hope is ours to live
Alleluia is our triumphant song
God saw that it was good

How does the Story of my life sounds like through the eyes of God’s goodness?

When He created me,
God saw that it was good.

He saw me grew,
In love and wounds,
God saw that it was good.

I choose my life to live,
And I did not know Him,
In His mercy He planned my salvation,
God saw that it was good

When the time was right,
He put good people in my path,
Who led me to Christ,
God saw that it was good

I once was blind,
But now I see,
I want my life to turn Christ-ward,
God saw that it was good.

A year of RCIA,
Both exciting and challenging,
Prepared my heart to new life,
God saw that it was good

Initiated into the faith,
In fullness of God rejoicing,
He called me Beloved Daughter,
God saw that it was good.

I journey on,
Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter,
All the while praising Him,
God saw that it was good.

The time was ripe for me to grow deeper,
My Cross was heavy
And I was wearied,
God saw that it was good

In His love and mercy
He raised me from my pit
Alleluia is again my song,
God saw that it was good