29 Nov 2015

You are the best parents for your child(ren): enjoying it.

I love how Joy supplants everything.

credit: goongkrazy.wordpress.com

Cannot quite remember the labour pains? The nasty and awkward breastfeeding / bathing moments? The long nights? The hundredth time you read that story?

With a mighty teen and a little warrior at 15 and 10, I am well into a new season of mothering for sure. And the Joy has supplanted the pains. Each one. Even now. The teen angst, the motivational mountains, the clean-room war-zone... not that they are over; but they are now rhythm and you learn to Rock and roll with it! How?

Here are 3 survive-into-Joy ways I found:

#1 It's going to happen - again

You ever feel like some days are so deja vu? You have already talked about it, laid down some rules..perhaps you shed a tear or more, prayed... and you thought 'ah, now let's move on'.. and it happens again! The same snarky remark, the attitude, the mess, the disrespect, the sloth and on... None of us grow or change by sheer reasoning. It takes far more. It certainly takes time, loads of it. So, you haven't failed to communicate, care or more. It's just the nature of the things.

Growth takes time, it takes protection, it takes practice.

So don't let every battle be a Waterloo or a watershed. In fact, parenting is not about winning battles but building lives. So keep that goal before you. Don't spend your precious energies trimming leaves for presentation when what you really need to fight are these enemies of the soul -

unresolved anger,
deep sadness,
repeated sin.

All behaviours come from a deeper place; so seek to know what is going on there and work your way towards it. The health will emerge - from the roots out.

And the Joy? From knowing there is a Gardener who knows our knotty roots well enough to heal and strengthen them. 

#2 Let your spouse take the heat too

Most moms, especially stay-at-home ones tend to shoulder so much of the family we forget we have a comrade. Like us, fathers did not really come armed and ready. But it's a catch-22 when we don't give them a chance to learn, practice and sharpen their abilities.

I have had my fair share (and still do) of being questioned, blamed, even berated! And I do deserve it because I have lost it, lashed out, licked my wounds; all three not really constructive ya. So I have learnt to notice my emotional gauge and signal for help:

whatsapp: not good today, expect some damage. pls pray.
SMS: so dog-tired! the kids are so stupid! when will they learn? Am still ok though.
verbals: need to pray, please take over ~ don't need to worry; he/she/they have to learn to sort it out. I am hiding for a while to recover.

To my surprise; spouse steps up! To be honest, he rarely does exactly what I hope: sprinkle magic dust on the kids and turn them into angels. But he drags me out of the house for coffee. He asks if I am alright/alive/spiritually ok. He scolds the kids! He takes over for a bit. He prays for me.

The Joy? When you know that even though you are sometimes awkward, disagreeing, impatient; there's We not just me.

#3 Be grateful for the good, not greedy for the perfect

With little kids, we have so much control that we can get suckered into thinking we forever hold all the strings of control. They gladly go most places, try most things and want totally to please you! Sure there are tantrums and meltdowns; but mother-influence is pretty mighty. Just recently, my son quipped, "it takes a genius to be a mom" and I heartily approved!

Then, they grow older, and all you have got are the purse-strings and the heartstrings. This is the time when your soul is being trained to be discerning; because you can plan to the hilt but it is just not going to go the way you want. There are preferences, moods, peer pressure, schoolwork etc. to contend with. So you have to be able to taste and delight in the morsels of closeness, empathy, respect, diligence, honesty, discipline, godliness ...

It is also the time to be self-controlled to be grateful and not grate on about what else is lacking. No soul ever thrived under condemnation. All life is coaxed into fullness that begins with acceptance.

Then Joy begins to bubble to the surface and breaks the tension. You will feel much more relaxed about your parenting - and enjoy it.

Christmas is near, and this is the angelic beckoning -

"I bring you good new of great Joy!"

All our daily, lesser and so essential joys beat a trail to this Great Joy.

ENJOY = EN(ter) into JOY my friends!

25 Nov 2015

Step out into the Beckoning, adventure awaits

The sights that dazzle us, that draw us, that hold us spellbound -

How long, and how much of it do we -



True, we are travelers. We will never be able to cling onto, hold onto, possess any of this. But travelers are not tourists. Tourists want a whiff and make the best of the buck collecting these whiffs of transcendence, purity, silence, majesty, magnificence.

And what if the way our souls open up is the beginning of stepping forth into something larger, an adventure, the Beyond that beckons? Which means that quickly, moving on to the next thing; causing our souls to shut again, is saying No to the Beckoning?

We believe too little. Our dreams are recycled notions. Everything passes us and slides into commonplace: like/instagrammed/tweeted. Short takes on deep things.

Like cliches. Platitudes. Or attitudes like, 'been there, done that'. 

Christmas is coming. Or is it just passing by, while you and I stay dead centre, watching it like window dressing as we move on with the train of humanity, on and on. More likes/pins/tweets?

And what if we are missing so much because we are unable and unwilling to really enter what beckons us? 

The last few months, I have been sensing an Invitation to journey deeper. It's hard to see how I can fit one more thing into my schedule. But the issue is deeper: i seriously doubt my capacity to handle more of whatever it is God has in store. I am confronted with the paucity of my soul. I am content with my small collection of sea shells of spiritual knowledge and experiences. 

"The sea shells tell you there is a wide open sea ahead!"
"I can't swim well! It's too dangerous for me to venture out there."
"Have I ever left you on your own?"

Do you too sense an Invitation? 
What is your response?

I finally offered my weak desire and take tentative steps towards the water.

All around us God beckons us - to live and to give, to enter and endure, to enjoy and enforce.

Watch for it this holiday season.

Maybe you are blessed to make a trip this holiday. then do slow and drink deep of what is set before you. No need to post a picture. Instead, scratch some notes on your soul -

why does this stir me so?
what may i have forgotten?
where is it leading me?

And if you venture outside your home, you will be bombarded with Consumer Christmas. How can you resist all that draw to be cool, hip, up-to-date, well-dressed, well-fed; and instead consider -

"..the time is coming when he'll make the whole area glorious... 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. 
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows - light! sunbursts of light! 
You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. 
Oh, they're so glad in your presence! 
Festival joy! The joy of great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings... 
For a child has been born - for us! the gift of a son - for us! 
He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: 
Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness... 
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going with fair dealing and right living, 
beginning now and lasting always..." ~ Isaiah 9 (The Message version)

Is Christmas a dream?
whose dream is it?
dare you share the dream?

20 Nov 2015

a retreat experience

retreat /rɪˈtriːt/ - a period of withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director

According to all battle strategies; there is a time to retreat.

When -

We forget we are in a war. 
We don't build in the strategic moments of retreat. 
We face defeat.

God in His loving, attentive, all-wise way, beckons me to step away, leave it all, and go to a quiet place to rest, to hear, to rec calibrate ... in order to engage the battle with fresh vision and strength. My disobedience to my Commander-in-chief will lead to horrid outcomes.

Retreating is not a luxury. It is a necessity. And I nearly missed it.

After setting my heart and arranging to take a retreat; I made a last minute decision (upon my dear husband's strong support) to attend a 5-day writing-related conference. This was going to be just before my retreat dates; taking me away from home for more than a week. 

i tried to reason that perhaps i could kinda retreat during my conference if i stole pockets of time. But the very first day of conference, I was uncharacteristically exhausted! It looked like i couldn't even enjoy and benefit from the conference; much less burden it with one more agenda: God. 

Also, i needed and wanted to give Him undivided attention. 

Good thing I did not cancel my retreat plans!

Yesterday at Bible Study, we looked at that familiar verse from Mark 1v35:

"and while it was still dark, Jesus arose and went to a quiet place.."
We were asked: what did Jesus do in the dark and quiet when he met with God?

Did he look at the stars and remember the long-ago promise God gave to Abraham his ancestor?
Did he review the day's route and asked for God's-Positioning-System?
Did he ache over the faces and lives he encountered?
Did he grapple with his humanity?
Did he talk about each of his disciples by name?

What do you do when you get to a place of quiet with God?

Quite often in the past, I went into a retreat time with many burdens, questions and longings. My last retreat I went with a huge need to find direction as I was feeling so out of sorts with where I was at. I was doing what seemed right but it did not bring me peace and I felt my soul warping with frustration and pride.

Weeks earlier, I had several questions I wanted answers to at this retreat. But when I got to the place and set my things down in the bare room; I was unable to find or frame my questions.

A simple and bare space can do wonders for us. It seemed to strip me of the questions and longings that clung to me. As I shed all the things I usually surround myself with - no more laptop, familiar books, the cat (!), the schedule, responsibilities and noise... suddenly there is this sufficiency, this simplicity. I tried in fact to dig around because when I was busy and filled with much to think/say/do; the questions pressed on me with urgency. But now, they lose their power and their claim. So I stopped. I reminded myself that being on retreat is to receive care from the One who knows me completely. I gladly opened my hand and let Him lead the moments.

If you have never known the freedom of having no datelines, no whatsapp, no emails, no one to answer to...then you must go on a retreat! Simply being on your own with nothing to achieve/settle/ resolve is a most freeing experience. it is not that your troubles are all sorted out; it's just not the time for it. In fact, we are so used to being a problem-solving mode that we really need a break from it; in order to come back fresh.

I ate my meal quietly; it was all set out. I did not need to fuss over what to eat. There was just one option. I did find and enjoy the last green-tea packet though! Again, the mind gets to rest, the body gets to slow. This in turn allows the deepest part of us to surface.

I went to the lounge area and looked at some stuff on a table: art paper, two tins of fabric with needles and thread, a large bottle of buttons. In a cupboard I found markers and paint and glue. I walked away to sit in a large armchair and began exploring a huge hardcover book on Thomas Merton's art. A most charming title isn't it?

But my heart felt drawn to return to fiddle with those buttons. I flipped and read slowly; then I got up and went to the table. 

Not quite sure what i was going to slap together, I picked out some fifteen buttons that caught my eye. The word 'mystery' had been floating around so I wrote that down on the middle of the page. With a oil pastel, I drew a thick red line across the paper. Finally i drew and then stuck the buttons on. 

I selected a few books I found and took them to my room.

In the evening, I started to journal. The pages filled out quickly! The spiritual director I arranged to meet had suggested a few Scripture passages. I read those familiar passages and listened. As i journal; i realised those passages helped me to pray about the questions I had. It was good to turn the questions away from being a quest for answers to prayers that expressed my hope in a God who hears and answers.

sitting with Jesus

Over the next two days, God would let me know He knows exactly where I am at: the longing for clarity for my ministry, my recent dreams about a former church, entering a feminine season where loss and rejuvenation combine called menopause, growing children...

brave Mary

in the chapel

I felt something deep within me being filled up. 

Then the deepening impression. Joy. Joy, Joy. We need it but we are so afraid of it.

I prayed relinquishment.
I prayed hope.
i prayed about missing my mom.

i looked at my artwork and i knew its meaning would continue to unfold for me: there is mystery to life. But a river of redemption runs right through it. And along the way, God buttons us up where we may otherwise unravel or split apart.

When I finally packed my things, I was ready,and eager to be home.

Retreat to Advance.