Finding Happiness @ Home

Let’s cut it to the chase.

Most of us are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with life, with the children, with our husband, with ourselves, with our jobs, with our boss, with our bills.

Life just happens and you feel like you can’t even take a grip of it. Most of the times we just fall prey into the routine and motion of our day without much thought put into it.

Most of us here are mothers, stay at home or working. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like I’ve had enough of this life or when will this madness ever going to end. When will I stop getting pregnant? When will the workload ever ease out? When will the children stop fighting? When will there be an end to the noise and chaos in the house? When will my bills stop stacking up? When will my husband come home early enough to help me out with the kids and the housework? When will he ever measure up?

We have tons of questions like these going through our mind every day. Sometimes thinking about them is exhausting enough.

My husband often asks me “Are you happy with your life?

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His question never failed to make me think.

What is there to be happy about when you can’t even have a 5-minute uninterrupted coffee break?

FINE.

Well, despite all these seemingly insurmountable odds, I have good news for you, for us.

We have at the very palm of our hands the recipe for happiness.

Motherhood is divine.

That sleep you had to interrupt in the middle of the night to attend to your child who is sick, that dinner you lovingly prepared for your husband, that moment you bit your tongue so as not to unleash uncharitable words to your child who can’t eat fast enough in the morning or who woke up the baby for the nth time, that time you organized the living room for the third time during the day. All these little, unnoticed and often unappreciated things if we supernaturalize it, if we offer it to God, if we do it for and with love, it acquire a full and deeper meaning.

Either we find God in our ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find Him. – St Josemaria Escriva

Motherhood = Life of Service

Service is royal.

Why? Because Christ served and is still serving through us. It is pleasing to God.

The essence of our lives is to love. To love is to sacrifice. To sacrifice is to give-up one’s comfort, one’s self to make another happy.

Victor Frankl, an Auswitz survivor and a pyschoanalyst wrote in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that “Those who have a “why” to live can bear with almost any “how”.

The one question we should always be asking in everything we do is “Why am I doing this? Is it for Christ?”.

Christ gives a deeper meaning to the things that we do. Our work becomes a smile of God. Affection will grow in the family.

Pope Paul VI (Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete in Domino (On Christian Joy)) Happiness is a spiritual thing, it is a gift from God. Happiness is a consequence of self-surrender. Happy people know that their joy stems from a heart that knows itself to be loved by God and which in its turn is madly in love with Him.

Remember, we are God’s project, His masterpiece.

Isn’t it true that you feel joy even after a long hard day of work? You are happy to see your children eating healthy food, enjoying each other’s company and growing in virtues. You are recognizing the impact of your hard work in their souls. Don’t you feel elated when your husband praises and thanks you for the meals you serve, for keeping the house warm and for being around and taking care of the children? Don’t you feel satisfied after you have performed your duty with your utmost best? Don’t you feel rewarded with the peaceful silence at the end of the day or a good night of uninterrupted sleep? These simple joys are the fruits of your demanding sacrifices.

Once we have experienced this joy, how do we ever keep it?

(1) Through prayer.

St Josemaria said” Prayer is all powerful.”

“Apart from me you can do nothing”.

Mental prayer is nothing but a friendly conversation in which the soul speaks, heart to heart with the One who we know loves us.

It is a loving conversation.

You pray in silence “Lord, I can hardly get up today and I don’t want to leave my bed. The baby barely slept last night and the rest of the kids are sick. I don’t know if I can through another day. I think it’s too much.”.

Then the Lord may answer, “Just breath. Carry on. Take it one moment at a time. Don’t even worry about the rest of the day. I will be your strength.”

(2) Go to the Sacrament of Mercy

It is difficult to experience God’s love if you haven’t experienced His mercy yet. The other name of God is Mercy.

We are not perfect and we make mistakes all the time. We carry that burden of guilt unnecessarily.

We have to lighten our load by going to Confession. Let Christ through the priest show us His mercy, His love.

(3) Another way to keep our happiness is through mortification or sacrifices.

Our lives as mothers and wives provide sufficient opportunities for self-denial. We don’t even have to invent, they come in naturally and profusely.

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Another difficult but fruitful sacrifice is loving our better half for who he is and not for who we want him to be. To renew our marital vows everyday. Most of us are overwhelmed with family responsibilities and commitments and we always expect our husband to help as much but sometimes they fail to meet that.

In this year of Mercy, Pope Francis is encouraging us to avoid judging people. The less we judge, the more we forgive. The more we forgive, the more healing takes hold in our marriages, in our families.

In his Catechesis on the Family (Wounds of the Family), Pope Francis emphasized that parents should focus more on the needs of their children and not to think obsessively of their own need for freedom and gratification. Children hurt more in silence and are spiritually wounded when husband and wives hurt each other in whatever way.

Let’s always think of the children.

(4) Rest.

Yes, we all need it. If I can take an hour afternoon naps with 6 children around me, I think anybody can. When our body is rested, our soul sings.

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I noticed that even if I was faithful to my schedule of prayer, if I don’t get enough rest, I still snap.

It is important that we do something different or creative even for an hour. Write. Read. Try a new recipe. Volunteer. Jog. Knit.

Make time to meet up with a friend. Many people around do not suffer from material poverty but spiritual ones. People need someone to listen to them, to counsel them. This is one of the spiritual works of mercy.

If we know of a family who is going through an extremely difficult time (i.e. the mother is ill, a child is hospitalized), a pot of hot meal will definitely help and go along way.

Old people in our parishes will certainly light up with a visit from a family with young children.

We cannot remain blind to other people’s misery.

(5) Fill your life with gratitude.

Thank God for your husband who puts up with your defects and strives to love you more. Be grateful for your children. They give your life a deep meaning. They help you mature spiritually. Be grateful for the house you live in, this is your children’s school of love. Be grateful that you can afford to stay home with your kids.

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Count your blessings and don’t focus on what you don’t have. The less you need, the more you have.

(6) Last but not the least is through divine abandonment.

Our brother or child who is in an inappropriate relationship, our best friend who can’t find a job, our old and sick parents, our disabled child. After we’ve done our best, let’s leave the rest to God. Let God do the worrying. Allow God to surprise us.

They said that women worry a lot. They worry more if there is nothing to worry about.

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Let us go through life completely convinced that we are daughters of God.

We have every reason to be happy.

So to answer my husband’s question.

I am happy with my life because I have him and it is grace filled.

St Therese of Lisieux said that “Everything is grace”.

Bring It On

Last week was a killer.

All kids got sick with either asthma, sore throat, fever or whatever they were. Kiko was the worst hit and ended up with Croup. He was almost admitted to the hospital.

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Doesn’t help that my hormones are all over the place.

Really it’s enough to cause a breakdown for a Mom like me.

I think I never really grew up. I am still a child at heart who longs for routine and regularity.

I realized that I started to shriek at difficulties the older I get. I like my days to be always smooth sailing.

Probably this is why God is giving me all these challenges. He wants me to GROW UP. He wants me to embrace difficulties. Or maybe He wants me to live my days with ever greater trust in Him.

Alone I can’t do anything.

Times like these remind me that God is my strength.

I am For Sale

We’ve been planning  to drive to Sale to make a pilgrimage at St Mary’s Cathedral in keeping with the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

So we pushed the button last Saturday when temperature was around 42 C. With all 6 kids. For a 2-hour drive.

We need to have some sacrifices. Come on.

We prayed our rosary before an extremely beautiful image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

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The Cathedral was sadly empty. I think because of the heat wave.

The children were not exactly at their best behaviour but I think Our Lady didn’t mind. They felt very much at home.

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They all wrote notes to her and my favorite was Luis’.

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We drove around town and managed to get nice coffee at Redd Catt along Raymond St.

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But Pastry and Pieces, bakeshop along the same street, was a pleasant surprise. It’s cakes were surprisingly above average . I bought a caramel slice and chocolate mud cake cupcake. I was not disappointed neither were my babyccinos. No wonder the girl at the Information Center recommended it.

We stopped by Lake Guthrie. It was so serene. Well, until we came along.

Forster St was full of historical places and buildings. I wanted to check out the Botanical Garden but the heat was too inhibiting.

Anyway, we will definitely come back. Sale is too rich, a single visit won’t suffice. I also enjoyed driving through a 110 kmph freeway.

Happy Mary

My babyccinos behaved extraordinarily well yesterday. Luis even took out 4 days worth of clothes from the washing lines, organized his drawers and toys, wrote his journal without a word of complain.

I didn’t lose my temper or raise my voice.

That is what I consider a miracle.

We baked a cake for your special feast. We ate it after evening Mass. I must confess I had two serves, it was hard to resist.

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I hope we made you happy. You certainly made our life worthwhile.

We love you Mama Mary.

Here’s what happened behind the scene:

 

 

Just Between Us

Dear God,

Today, I am specially proud of myself.

I kept my cool.

I was able to keep from blowing my top off after I lost one son then another son and another son in succession in a Kids’ Day at a park filled with gazillion of mothers and young children. Thank you, Kiko is still a baby!

I almost felt like my brain wanted to shatter apart. Thrice. Or maybe it’s not even there anymore.

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I bent.

Finally remembered to do that and I’ve always wanted to do that to be at their level.

I bent to give Anton a kiss and hug after his afternoon nap.

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I listened.

Amidst a crying, hungry baby and a dinner to be rushed, I took a few minutes of my time to listen and watch Luis as he explain to me how his Lego creation works. I listened to him like he was the only person in the room with me and I wasn’t pressed for time. His eyes glistened with delight.

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I bathed all 6 kids.

It’s a dream come true.

I’ve been wanting to give all of them a general clean up for the longest time. Finally, I gave them more importance than a screaming pile of dishes or that ever dirty floor.

The boys were tickled to be scrubbed. The girls loved to have their scalp and hair massaged.

It felt good. They really looked and felt clean.

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I rarely feel this proud about myself as I go through my day.

You must be working extra hard on me.

Living Unity of Life

Most, if not all of us, are mothers. Our professional work is the care of our family and the home. I dare say this is one of the noblest professions.

I will tell you what unity of life is in our professional work by telling you what it is not first:

I know I’m not living unity of life when I’m nice to people I meet at church, at the shops or in school then I become cranky or moody towards my children when they spill milk on the floor or wake up the toddler or talk at the same time.

It is not having a double life. You are tolerant with other people outside your close family circle then you turn into a momster at home.

It is not a life of faith divorced from daily work like some publicly known Catholic Christians who support gay marriages, contraception or divorce.

Having unity of life in our work at home means turning every opportunity into prayer whether that be waking up on a cold morning to prepare breakfast for the family, ironing the work clothes of your husband or the uniform of your kids, rushing the kids to school, cleaning again the living room which you just cleaned an hour ago, taking care of a sick child in the middle of the night. It is in these little realities of life that we will encounter God that we will seek and find him.

St Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei said “There is no other way, my daughters: either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life or we shall never find him”.

Unity of life is like the string that connects the beads of the rosary. Our spiritual/interior life has to run through and touch every aspect of our lives – social, professional, family lives. Only then will our lives turn into a beautiful prayer.

How do we effectively live this unity of life?

Let me tell you three stories to illustrate better.

1.Let me begin with the engagement period story (Right intention)

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I’ve always thought the happiest part of our married life was before we got married. That time when you see each other as the perfect person God has ever made. Of course we know better now. But at that time, our every thought leads to that one and only guy. You can’t stop talking about him to your friends. You get out of your way or inconvenience yourself even to great lengths just to do something for him. You can’t wait for the day to finish so you can talk to him. You can’t wait for the week to end so you can go out on a date with him. You can’t wait for that moment when you will finally tie the knot.

Simply put, you can’t wait to be with him. Loving him is being with him, forever. You try your best to work on your dominant defects because it displeases him. You make yourself worthy of the man who will become your husband.

Unity of life is the same. Only this time, we do things out of love not for our husband but for a greater one, who is God. Our intention should be to give glory to God and not out of ambition or other forms of selfishness or personal satisfaction.

St Josemaria taught us that “When a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God”.

If you want to please God, you will work in an orderly and intense manner even if it’s unpaid or no one is watching or appreciating what you are doing. Because we know that God sees everything. God is our boss, no less. We also try to see the good in everything instead of dwelling on what is difficult.

Okay, I have five young kids with me and I’m pregnant. Thank you God that they are all healthy and well provided for. Never mind the noise and chaos. Children are meant to be that way. If they don’t fight, they will never learn to apologize then to forgive. If they don’t mess up, you will never have the chance to instill the virtue of order in them.

If we fail and discover other motives for doing our work that are less noble, we have to purify our intentions. “To rectify. A little each day”. To strengthen our resolve to do everything no less than for love of God, we need to constantly seek God’s presence in our work.

Talk to God. Avoid having a dialogue with yourself.

“Oh Lord, these children are so annoying. I’ve told them 10 x to clean up their but they don’t seem to hear a word”.

“I don’t want to get up Lord. The baby kept on waking me up last night”.

“I can’t stand these noisy children anymore Lord. They fight more than they breathe”.

“Lord, my husband spends more time with his phone than with me”.

Then you might hear Him reply “These little ones are your little crosses. Without them, how can you become closer to Me, how will I shower you with more graces?”

We have to fall in love with God every day, every moment. Live for love. Live your engagement period with God with greater intensity each day.

2. Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t make it right. (Right reason)

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When I was working back then in Singapore, none of my colleagues went home before the boss leaves her desk. I assume it is still the same now. It doesn’t matter whether the boss leave at 8 pm or 10 pm or 3 am. Staying behind, pretending to finish something, has become the norm, the standard. It doesn’t matter whether your husband is waiting for you to have dinner, it doesn’t matter whether you have a sick child waiting for you at the end of the day, and your family doesn’t matter during the work week.

So working late becomes right.

Most mothers work too. Double income family is the accepted way of life. Children are normally cared for by grandparents or helpers or placed in childcare.

Working to earn more so you can augment the family’s income, so you can put your children in the best school, bring them to overseas holidays, send them to tuition classes became an obligation and not a choice.

Working mothers who had to work long hours, travel for business, climb up the corporate ladder became the ultimate ambition for most women.

In life, we can fall into doing and believing so many things because most of our friends are doing it, we don’t want to go against the grain.

What is wrong with working long hours to earn more money, what is wrong with wealth as the measure of success, what is wrong with contraception, what is wrong with living-in, what is wrong with same-sex marriages?

Everybody else accepts it.

To achieve unity of life, it is important to have our reasons for doing things not only right but it should be enlightened by a living faith, our principles which should guide our life should be Christian principles not only human ones.

We cannot always rely on our intuition to be right. That is why we need continuous formation, doctrine classes, and spiritual direction. We all need help. We all need guidance.

“Father, do you think I should go back to work?”

“My daughter, your children need you. It is better for you to move to a smaller house and simplify your lifestyle than to leave your children behind.”

“Father, should we have another child? Only my husband is working.”

“Pope Francis said: not to have children is a selfish choice”.

Pope Francis emphasized in his General Audience on 11 Feb 2015 that most of Europe is living in a depressed society. Why? Because they do not want children. They are not having children.

Life is rejuvenated and acquires energy by multiplying: it is enriched, not impoverished! Children learn to assume responsibility for their family. They mature in sharing its hardship. They grow in the appreciation of its gifts. The happy experience of brotherhood inspires respect and care for parents, to whom our recognition is due.

Lord, may I have due measure for everything except in love. – St Josemaria

When I quit working for good, I heard so many hurtful comments like “Your house is the most expensive childcare” or “You’ve wasted your hard-earned education” or “You could have been very rich by now”.

But you know what? I have never been more fulfilled and happier in my life than now. When you are doing God’s will, when you are living your life’s purpose, you are rewarded with that ever elusive contentment and joy.

3. Blissful Madness (Daring and apostolate)

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Let’s face it. A mother with her children always has problems, always has work. It never ends.

Pope Francis in his General Audience on 7 January 2015 said that “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honour…. Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfilment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the martyrdom of motherhood, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life.

Motherhood is martyrdom. It is beautiful.

If there is unity of life, it is only natural that those around us notice it. We have to have “the courage always to act in public in accordance with our holy faith”. Jesus promised himself “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”

We cannot be afraid to speak of God. Our lives will be the most effective sermon.

People often tell me “Is this your sixth child? You are crazy!”

I often tell them: “Children are blessings. I love my husband so naturally I want to bear his children. We are open to life.”

We have to aspire to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.

Unity of life is a gift from God and at the same time a challenge that demands personal struggle. It is important to always have the right intention, right reason illumined by faith and as consequence of both, that daringness to let others see that we are in love with God.

Simply Be

“Under God’s gaze, we are delivered from the constraint of having to be “the best” or perpetually having to be “winners”. We have a deep sense of release because we don’t have to make constant efforts to show ourselves in a favorable light or waste energy pretending what we are not. We can quite simply be what we are.”

From the book, Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

Let’s Get This Straight: Marriage is Sacred

I have been greatly disturbed by the recent changes in how some countries define marriage.

I am sure most of us have an opinion on this. I have my views as well. Fairly strong ones.

I have been married for 9 years. Happily, thankfully. We have been blessed with 6 children.

I am an engineer by training so I express myself best in equations.

Marriage= Man + Woman + God

For those who don’t believe in God, I think I’ve lost you at this point. But for those who do or are sincerely seeking Him out, hear me out.

Marriage is first and foremost a sacrament. It was instituted by Christ to be between a man and a woman and no supreme court can change that truth.

The Bible has been crystal clear on this matter. Read Matthew 19:4-6.

…“that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”…

Christ wanted it to be a fountain of grace. He wanted to reassure us that He will be with us through thick and thin, in sickness and I health, for richer or poorer until death do us part.

He has given us His divine guarantee that He will help us through and through. He will never default.

Self giving, not unbridled pleasure,  is the real essence of marriage. It has to reflect Christ’s love for the Church. There has to be a total gift of self.

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It has to make us holy. Holy people are happy people. Authentic happiness is spiritual not carnal.
Marriage should be fruitful. If you love a person so much, you want more of him through his children. It completely escapes me how children can be naturally formed in any other way. If people don’t revere God, that is their issue. But you have to understand that our bodies are temples of immortal souls. You have to respect it.
What goes around comes around.
Children NEED a father and a mother. The complementarity of their roles is imperative in the upbringing and education of children. Here’s an Open letter to the Gay Community from a woman who grew up with two mothers.
Children need to grow in a family within the loving protection of a father and the nurturing embrace of a mother. Any other alternative is not for the child’s utmost interest.
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Join me in praying along with many others to uphold the real essence of marriage.