For the Love of Food

Food is a great means of unity, celebration, expression of love, reconciliation, happiness and heaps of other things. For me food is my source of creativity. I am a person who refers to recipe and method but never really follow the exact measurement or method. Most of the time, I prefer to modify the recipe to suit my taste, the needs of my family as well as availability of ingredients.

Recently I felt inspired to try steaming fish the way restaurants did. It was a pleasant learning experience because in the past, I could not be bothered doing a few steps process. I like things simple and easy. However, my past way of steaming fish never produce truly satisfactory taste. With the newfound knowledge, I immediately hooked on to the method and started creating all sort of sauces for steamed fish. It was such fun experiments and I look forward to Fishful Friday just so I can create new dishes every week.

Creating food being therapeutic has been a great help especially when changing diet is a neccesity due to the autoimmune diagnosis. Eating healthy can be tasty and enjoyable. All that is needed is a dash of creativity.

I recently came to realise what a great gift is this expression of creativity. It was a difficult morning and I was starting to beat myself up for not being a perfect parent. I knew “being a perfect parent” is a lie, I had that intercepted so those negative emotions did not drag me further. As I was trying (and struggling) to gain better perspective, I decided to create a new dessert for dinner. It resembles milk pudding from my hometown but I have never been able to get any recipe. So with a little bit of imagination of the taste I began my experiment. Praise God it turned out well.

The effect of that 20 minutes of creativity was beyond just yummy dessert, I was able to clear my mind and start seeing things from a better perspective. I was able to show empathy towards myself and to express my loving concern towards my child. My level of happiness increased so was my overall wellness.

I recalled my days in the mission centre where celebration of life was emphasized. We will work together to create a beautiful atmosphere for celebration. The most elaborated one would be an Agape Meal that typically involved good food, well decorated room, well dressed people and heaps of honouring – a setting that enabled expression of creativity in so many ways. I remember having fun cooking, baking and sometimes trying things like decorating and flower arrangement. That kind of excellence has become my lifestyle though not as elaborated. We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday and it happened to be a Friday. I was jumping with joy as that was an opportunity to express myself creatively. I steamed a large fish and made a marble milk pudding as the “cake”. It was a joyous occasion filled with love.

Some of my food creation

The experience of having my mind cleared and filling my love tank through creative expression has demonstrated to me its importance. Creative outlet does something great to our being. It helps us to connect deeply to our true self and hence enable us to appreciate the being who’s made in the image and likeness of God. The direct impact is the release of stress and clarity of mind. In our fear saturated and highly stressed out world, creative expression becomes a remedy to bring us some sanity.

Dear friends, I pray that you are encouraged to make time for creativity, however you like to express it. May you find joy in the little things in life that fill up your love tank. Make sure you also empty your stress tank regularly. Have fun expressing yourself creatively.

With lots of love,
Irene

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

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

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

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

 

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

Place of Honour

Who does not like to take the place of honour? Honestly for me, I like the place of honour. I like to be treated with honour and dignity; which in all its essence is a normal human desire. Interestingly this word stood out prominently when I reflected on the passage for the gospel of Luke on humility and hospitality (Luke 14: 7 – 14)

In the Kingdom of God, the place of honour may not look like the place of honour we see here on earth. To be at the place of honour in the Kingdom of God would probably mean being like the saints. They were people who lived ordinary lives like we do today with the grace of washing the feet of the others, the courage to take up their cross and follow Christ, the endurance to run the race for Christ and the perseverance to always choose to enter through the narrow gate.

I would imagine that the place of honour is quite comfortable and it is a nice place to be. Looking at my own responses in life, I realised I often respond to an invitation with this phrase;

“What an honour!”

And then when I brought those invitations and responses to prayer, often time I felt really humbled by the invitation. Of all people, the person who invites chose to invite me. My response is call of responsibility and I am well aware of it. Through those beautiful encounters, God taught me that the place of honour is the same time a place of humility. I do not merit anything on my own but He chose me, continue to choose me purposefully. What better response than “THANK YOU”? May we be encouraged to be like the saints; choosing to wash the feet of the others, carrying our cross with great hope, running the race for Christ and living life to the fullest in the measure that God has for us. With that, let us be hopeful that we will be granted that place of honour.

With lots of love,

Irene

Spontaneous Humour

I was fully concentrating at mass when the gospel from Mark 2: 13 – 17 (the call of Levi) was proclaimed and what caught me was the question posted by the scribes and Pharisees;

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Precisely at that moment, the answer I got was;

“Because their food are tastier”

I was immediately entertained by this spontaneous humour which I believed was a gift from God to lift me up and break me away from mundane seriousness. When I ran a survey by asking people around me this question; 90% of them gave me a serious answer and the one who knew what was in my head was prepared for a laugh. I was touched by the gesture of having a serious answer that Jesus came to save sinners and by the those who were also up for some jokes. I see how people are touched by Jesus’ purpose of coming this earth (Luke 19:10) and how some of them would also be interested by another perspective.

Through that survey, I get to know people better and I also get to bless them with a little laughter. It is always true that good food do attract people, hence good cooks has lots of friends. And that for me is an opportunity to love people through food. Food for some reason has the power to build friendship and bring people together. This is so true for my root culture – the Malaysian Hospitality that always involve food.

We need food to sustain us and help us grow. Tasty food would definitely make eating a much happier experience. However, the taste of the food is not the purpose of the food. Food is meant to sustain us and praise God if we get to eat tasty food. Having been blessed by Fr. Rob Galea recently, I found a connection between worship and food. When he posed the question, what do you think are in heaven? My immediate answer was; “Good food”. Jokes aside, I came to embrace even more that the purpose of worship is for our holiness and the feel good factor is a good byproduct that we may not get all the time. Is not that the same with food?

In case of Jesus, the tasty food, I would imagine was fueled by His company. Tax collectors and sinners would probably be one of the most real people. People who are well aware of their brokenness and recognized that they are in need of a savior. Sincere people who live ordinary lives and being unaware of their worth would probably break His heart. I would imagine Jesus being really moved by that and that would have propelled Him to spend time with this group of sinners. That is good news! The good news of knowing that my Savior wanted to spend time with me just because I am Irene – Irene in my goodness and my flaws, in my awareness of His presence and in my ignorance of His goodness, in my desire to be holy and in my inability to do what is right.

I am just so grateful that God sees the heart and all that is needed of me is my pursuit of holiness in my life. And I pray that my pursuit of holiness will serve as “tasty food” for the people that God place over my path. But I am aware how human I am and I would not be “tasty food” all the time and for those time, it is my prayer that I am graced with the humility to own my shortcomings and allow Christ to redeem them. I pray that you will also be encouraged to pursue holiness in your humanness.

 

With lots of love,

Irene

Your Holiness

Poetry? Nah, I thought that was not my cup of tea as I drink coffee. However, tasting some good tea expanded my taste bud a little bit. So it was with poetry. Sometime ago I was privilege to go on a 30 Days journey with an amazing woman of God who shared her passion for poetry and had it reignited through that journey. Today I am blessed to witness her passion for poetry blessing people around her and she even encouraged me to write my own. So, here it goes, my first poem.

Your Holiness exposes my sinfulness

Your Holiness showcase my hope

Your Holiness so unreachable yet so near

Your Holiness so divine yet so personal

Your Mercy exposes my human-ness

Your Mercy showcase my hope

Your Mercy so deep yet so touchable

Your Mercy so endless yet so personal

Your Splendour exposes my small-ness

Your Splendour showcase my hope

Your Splendour so majestic yet so humble

Your Splendour so beautiful yet so personal

Father, Your Holiness calls me to Yourself

Your Mercy leads me back to You

Your Splendour fills me with hope of glory

Father, it is You that I desire

 

Hope that you are blessed and wishing you a great adventure ahead.

With lots of love,

Irene