Celebrating Progress

I recently learnt that healing is circular instead of linear; that was quite astounding for me. There’s great encouragement and wisdom in that school of thought. I found myself experiencing setbacks in the midst of progress periodically. Those moments can be discouraging but when seen through the lens of a circular healing journey, it’s quiet empowering. Setbacks just meant it’s time to take a pit stop and evaluate. It becomes a circle of learning more of myself and the condition. With every circle of learning, I also come to appreciate myself and the whole journey more deeply.

In an older post, I elaborated the importance of celebration. Living celebration through my healing journey from Myasthenia Gravis (MG) has been a great experience of affirmation. We started celebrating from the moment we’ve got a confirmed diagnosis as we finally knew what we are up against. When I was discharged, we celebrated with a good meal. I remember vividly how nervous was I when I finally started driving again. Thanks to the lockdown, the option at that time was me driving out to collect donations of expressed breast milk (EBM) for my child. We were blessed to have generous donors who helped us through those early months of fully breastfeeding our child. I knew my limit very well at that time, so there were great planning involved – with full gears of sunglasses and hat plus praying really hard for an overcast morning. I came back within an hour with new supply for the baby and feeling victorious. We celebrated that big time as it was real progress and such a great milestone.

Then came the time when I started on the steroid dose reduction, it was a happy day and great celebration. After a few months and was almost off steroid, I started having regression. It was quite discouraging but I did not allow that to stop me. Pushing through with a good mindset and a strong network. I was still experiencing a fair bit of symptoms back in Dec 2020 but we decided that my birthday is a good day to celebrate. Every initial disappointment after the doctor’s visit was being treated as an opportunity to find a better remedy for me.

Having friends that introduced various natural remedies to me is a true blessing. I am glad people are open and they know me well enough to be confident that I take responsibility for my decision whether to try the remedies they introduced or not. The values that I believe in and live by has also been a navigating post for me. I cannot imagine missing out on good remedies just because of being a scary blamer that absolutely nobody dare to recommend anything. Being daring to try stuffs (some of which did not work) is certainly something worth celebrating.

Celebrating progress keeps us going and it makes the journey pleasant. Dear friends, I encourage you to be creative in your celebration keeping in mind that this is not just a reward system. Celebrating yourself is directly celebrating the One who made you. Think about it, who gave you the grace to see goodness in the midst of darkness? Who enable you to work through your issues? Who is the happiest when you are happy? My answer to those questions: none other than God. I wish you a great time honoring your Creator by celebrating you.

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.

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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

My Mother – My Hero

It has been three years since dad left us. Three years ago today, our lives were forever changed. As I remember this important event in my life, my heart swell with gratitude for my mother who has been heroic at that time. The memory of that day and the days preceding my father’s death is still fresh in my mind. I remember the fateful Sunday, 23 Feb 2014 when dad had a hypertensive bleed in his brain that caused his death, mom was pretty calm when she told us that things were not looking very good.

The bleed has been deep seated and the medical team was not too keen to try as the chances of survival was really slim. But we, the children could not let go and mom was the hero at that time. She was in her role as our mother at that precise moment when it would be so easy for her to be weak. After all, she was losing her husband, she has all the right to be weak and needy. After spending some time in prayer, we decided to give dad a chance by releasing the blood in his brain through surgery. I knew mom was not very keen as she knew what chance my dad stand through her experience working as a nurse. She was however respectful of our decision when she told us; “if all of you want to give dad a chance, I will sign the consent for surgery”.

Through the longest 72 hours of our lives – from the drama of the hypertensive bleed in the brain to the surgery to the 50 minutes of reviving my dad due to a cardiac arrest to the moment we let go of him; mom has been MOTHER. She was the one who provided us with comfort and consolation. I was the one who could not let go and she was there to listen to me. Never once had I experience an inversion of role through the death of my father. Having had some knowledge of inner healing principle, I know how damaging parental inversion could be and it is really likely to happen in times like this. Although as an adult, I would probably be less affected should it happen. Looking back, it was kind of funny that we were trying to be strong for our mother but it turned out the strong one was her. Strength found in her vulnerability.

At the time of mourning, she learnt to pray the rosary for the first time and she is open to share with us how much she misses dad. Mom have to relearn and readjust to life without her life partner. I can imagine how hard it was! She has been dependent on dad especially in terms of transport and after 30 years of not driving a car, my mother started driving again. How amazing is that! She went on to grow in her faith and she was baptized into the Catholic Church on Easter of 2015.

I have the privilege to witness her growth in her faith thanks to technology. I would love to be with her physically but I would never trade it for anything. God knows me enough to know that if I were there with mom physically through these 3 years, she may not have the opportunity to experience what she had experienced. I would be way too happy to be her driver and my physical presence may have prevented her from driving again. She gets to make new friends in the circle of faith and if I were around, that may be a different outcome.

Siblings
Re-enactment of our childhood photo

Today my relationship with my mother has grown so much closer; partially thanks to technology but most importantly thanks to the grace God has showered on us. I am grateful for my siblings who are taking care of my mother. Without you; Simon, Olivia, Martha and Bartholomew; who would I be? Thank you for your relentless care towards mom. Mommy, thank you for being our MOTHER!

With lots of love,

Irene

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

Following the Star

The Feast of Epiphany celebrated today is the great feast of revelation of the Word became flesh. It is apt to note that the wise men followed the star to reach to where Jesus was. The star caught my attention today as I ponder upon this great feast. The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ was guided by a star. That brought me back to precious memory some time ago when a trusted friend and brother honoured me. What he mentioned stayed with me and that made me question am I really living that out?

“You are a STAR and you are meant to shine” was the line that stayed with me. If I am star and shining, is my light leading people to Christ? Just as the Star of Bethlehem did to the wise men? The other question that I frequently ask myself is; am I even shining? Sometimes it is hard to see the value of my being through my tainted lens. I wonder if I am living fully as God intended me to be. Being in touch with my humanity – my strength and weakness, my beauty and my not too beautiful side, my joys and my sorrows, my talents and my areas of lack; brought me to a place of humility. This is where I can praise God for making me Irene – the one that does not have it all, the one that is in constant need of her saviour, the one that desires to glorify God through her being. What can I say but thank you.

My recent months journey has taught me a great lesson of total dependance on God. Being a generally hopeful and positive person, it was never exactly easy for me to understand tragedy or failure. I have been quite blessed to not have major failures in my life and I like to see those as opportunity to rise higher instead of looking at it as failure. And through my journey of ups and downs – with downs that made me felt helpless and hopeless; I finally get it. I get how it felt like when there seems to be no hope. I get it now why it was tough for people to get out of the pit once they fall into it. God was training me to be all for all – strong for the strong, weak for the weak, compassion for the grieving and celebrations for the joyful. With my somewhat glorious past, it was never that easy to connect to people who struggle with failures and hopelessness. I am grateful that God has found me worthy of this journey.

Through the rough patch, I also learnt what it meant to give a sacrifice of praise and I know how valuable are those praises and worship. Choosing to smile and to give my best even at times that I do not feel like doing so. I get it now how much Christ love me and how He supply sufficient grace to sustain me. Coming back to my question; am I a shining star? Well, once a wise man told me – when things seems bleak, check the fruit of your being and he quoted Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa been through a period of darkness in her soul but she remained faithful and her ministry flourished. That is the fruit!

It gives me much encouragement that although sometimes I do not feel like I am shining but a star will always remain a star – it shines. And I believe that each one of us is a unique star. We are meant to shine and our ray is the leading light that brings people to Christ. Quoting Mother Teresa again when she was asked if Jesus was like her and her answer was; “No, in fact I want to be like Jesus”. It was her witness that drew people to ask if Jesus was anything like her and the reality was that she aspired to be like Jesus. Who would not be drawn to Jesus by such great witness?

Mother Teresa was simply living out her being as the beloved of Christ and if we allow ourselves to be loved into our being by Christ, we would also be simply living out our intended being. May we all find the courage to allow God to love us more and more and may we allow His love to break our being into His light. And as His light, may our being draw more people to believe in the One who first loved us.

May you have a shining 2017!

With lots of love,

Irene