Spiritual Reflections on My 34th Birthday
BY Odilia Lee
Peace Families and Friends!
Thank you much for all your birthday blessings I thank God for my life and I thank God for all your love and care. The past year was a turning point of my life. I want to share my spiritual reflections with you on this special day. I invite you to journey and experience God’s amazing work in my life…
In mid-Oct last year, just before my 33rd birthday, I bought a book called “The Road Home” by Fr. Vincent Traverns OP. Fr. Vincent wrote stories about\ life, 365 of them with great wisdom. The stories were short and they spoke to me. I remembered after reading a few of them in the car, I told Terry my hubby that “Wow, what a birthday gift from God!” Fr. Vincent’s reflections help me to ponder two great life lessons: life is all about decisions and life is all about relationships.
Nov 2006 was a tough one. Two days before my 3rd child, Kwan-Yuet, was born, one of my best Catholic friends wrote me an email about her full conscious decision on aborting her 3rd child, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 13. I was sad, very sad, I felt like a stab to my heart. My tears ran non-stop while I read the email and whenever I thought about the baby.
After I read the email and while we were on our way to the hospital for a fetal monitoring test (Kwan-Yuet was already 7 days overdue), I shared with Terry how weak and unfaithful we human beings were, just like Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied Jesus. At the hospital, my test went well, our OB gave us two options: to induce the baby on that day or to wait for a few more days. I discussed with Terry and he told me that we could wait. However, right after we stepped out from the hospital, Terry was angry. I asked him what happened, he told me that he thought that baby would be induced that day. Huh? But that’s not what he told me 5 minutes ago? He said that he knew I wanted the most natural way, but that was not what he
planned. At the very moment, I felt like I was abandoned by him, I was on my own, I felt tremendous loneliness. That night, I cried the entire night. I knew I could only turn to the Lord and rely on Him. So the next day, I went to St. Helen’s in Burnaby where it has 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration. I cried my heart out in front of our Lord. With Fr. Vincent’s book with me,
I flipped a page to seek some comfort. I read a story on St. Catherine of Siena from “The Road Home”. She explained how God’s love was beyond our understanding and feelings… How deep His love was, totally beyond our comprehension… I looked at our Lord and I got His comfort. My tears finally dried. That night, my water-sac broke and as Terry needed to drop the girls off at my in-law’s place first, I was admitted to the hospital alone by myself. Though alone, I was relax and calm and I didn’t feel loneliness as I knew my Lord was with me. After a few hours of hard work, Kwan-Yuet was born and Terry showed intense joy and gratefulness. Finally, after 48 hours of “separation”, our hearts join together again to celebrate and rejoice for the gift of life! Thanks be to God!
Dec 2006 was a tougher one. Physically strained, body was extremely weak, but what made things worse was the first time I encountered misunderstanding and miscommunications with my dad-in-law. That happened on the very day of Kwan-Yuet’s first full month. I was sad, scared and stressed. My friends comforted me that I was extremely lucky, 6.5 years of marriage before I hit the first challenge of our relationships. The whole Choy’s family was tensed up. I prayed and I turned to Mother Mary for intercession as I sensed how frustrated Terry and his sister were. I read a few little stories from “The Road Home” and I knew I needed to continue to love my dad-in-law with my whole heart regardless, because life was all about relationships. I prayed all the sleepless nights with the Rosary and to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 9 days later, 1 day before the baptism of Kwan-Yuet, my dad-in-law initiated to hold a family meeting and shared his thoughts with us. We sought to understand each other and I was amazed by how my dad-in-law stepped out his comfort zone and took the risk to share his inner thoughts. I couldn’t thank the Holy Spirit enough for the inspiration and the understanding. The family meeting was a great gift to Kwan-Yuet’s baptism. What a breakthrough among Choy’s family relationships!
Around April, I was reading a book called “Rome Sweet Home” by Dr. Scott Hahn. It was a radical conversion story that deeply touched my heart and prompted me to ask myself if I could follow Jesus Christ without holding back. Scott showed me how he wanted to love our Lord Jesus Christ that he gave up his career as a Presbyterian minister and followed God’s will. As Scott journeyed to the Catholic Church through the Bible, his knowledge in the Bible made me read the Bible seriously again and dwell on it more. Verses by verses, the Bible started to come alive and led me to experience more in Medjugorje.
The pilgrimage to Medjugorje in May was the highlight of the year. Traveling long-haul with 3 young kids (4 yrs old Kwan-Nok, 2 yrs old Kwan-Yau and 5.5 months Kwan-Yuet) was not easy at all, though my parents were traveling with us. There were many moments that I wanted to give up going… Problems with booking air tix, kids and I were physically ill… Miraculously, Terry stuck with the decision and arranged the whole pilgrimage. Well, given the fact that he was the one who wasn’t keen to go to Medjugorje at the very first place. The climax and the moment of God’s grace happened on the Cross Mountain. For a normal adult, it took around 2.5 hours to hike up and down the mountain. I got 3 young kids and a mom with bad knee… When my dad told us on the 3rd morning of our pilgrimage that we would follow the pilgrims from Hong Kong (nearly 40 of them) to climb the Cross Mountain, I thought he must be joking. I turned to Terry and asked if we should follow (before the trip, Terry told me that we would not climb the mountains). Terry answered that we would follow them. He told me that if we felt too tired, we could leave the group first and return. I took his word and followed the big group to the Cross Mountain. I was carrying my 17lbs son with a Baby Bjorn carrier while Terry was holding 22lbs Kwan-Yau. Fortunately, Kwan-Nok was willing to follow a big sister, whom she met the day before, with the leaders of the group. My dad took care of my mom. So, Kwan-Nok was by herself with the group leaders leading the group and we were at the end of the group. We got three angels from the HK group. It was a hot day, the 1st angel held an umbrella over me to block direct sunlight on my son. The 2nd one helped Terry and my dad to carry our backpack. The 3rd one was the big sister who took care of Kwan-Nok.
The Cross Mountain was the 14 Stations of the Cross. After the 2nd station, I already felt tired so I asked Terry and my dad if they were okay. Both replied okay. But I doubted if I physically could handle that. Then two Bible verses echoed in my heart “O man of little faith!” “Don’t be afraid, have faith!” As I continued to sweat and hike up the Cross Mountain, I was short of breathe and I was thinking when could I u-turn and leave. I kept telling myself I would aim at one station at a time. I was afraid that I would pass out and fall off the mountain. With my son on me, I couldn’t afford a fall, so I tried my best to concentrate on each step. At the 5th station, I asked Terry and my dad again. I knew if either one of them said “not ok”, I would leave with them immediately. However, both replied ok. Then I felt like being betrayed as no one wanted to u-turn and leave at all. I knew in my heart if no one wanted to return by the 7th station, I would not have a chance to leave. So I wrestled with the Lord in my heart and asked all sorts of “Why” questions… “why were we there” “why my kids and Terry needed to suffer so much to make to the Medjugorje pilgrimage”…
Finally we were at the 7th station, I didn’t even bother to ask Terry and my dad anymore, I knew their answer. I finally accepted the fact that “there is no point of return”. As soon as the thought came to my mind that I couldn’t u-turn and leave, I instantaneously felt my footsteps were lighter, Kwan-Yuet was lighter, my whole body was lighter and I felt a lot easier to walk. That’s the moment of grace while the Bible came alive. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30
I literally felt how Jesus’ yoke was easy, but the requirement was I needed to will to pick up the cross at the first place. I was such a dumb head! Then verses by verses, I finally had an understanding on why Jesus said tirelessly “Pick up the cross and follow me!” My goodness, the cross indeed became lighter once I was willing to carry it! And when I said I wanted to follow Jesus, there was indeed “no point of return” as His love was so great, attractive and compelling that there was nowhere I could turn to.
At the 10th station, the group leaders asked Kwan-Nok to lead the Hail Mary in Cantonese. What? Kwan-Nok? She didn’t know how to recite the Hail Mary in Cantonese, she only knew the English one, she probably picked it up when we prayed the Joyful Mystery when we hiked up the Apparition Hill the day before and when we hiked up the Cross Mountain… I was touched, I had tears in my eyes when I heard her voice. That gave me strength to finish the last few stations when the path was getting steeper and more difficult to climb. Kwan-Yuet started to cry too as he was hungry…
At the end, we were at the foot of the big white cross of the Cross Mountain. I ran to the cross, touched it and tears poured out like a fall! Tremendous peace and comfort from our Lord Jesus Christ!
We spent an hour on the Cross Mountain. While others prayed, I was busy breastfeeding, changing the diaper, feeding my family with the sandwiches we brought… Attending my kids’ needs became my prayer to my Lord!
Thanks be to my whole family and the HK group who didn’t give up and enabled me to climb the Cross Mountain!
There were many many other great experiences in Medjugorje. Here were a few other messages that I started to reflect, ponder and live: “Do not try to convert anyone after you go back home. Words are superficial. Words are empty. Just stand there. It’s all about the body. Stand there for Christ.” “God’s grace is like living water flowing through a hardened heart. Go to confession and obtain God’s grace.” “Have strong firm faith, pray for strong firm faith.” “Flower cannot live without water, human heart cannot live without God’s grace. Pray for strong firm faith.”
For my myself, I only want to do God’s will alone, nothing more.
I want to decide for God, make each and every single decision for God. All daily decisions for God.
Life is no longer about how capable I am, but how open I am to receive God’s grace to lead my life.
Since we came back from Medjugorje, all priorities in life changed. I lost 20 pounds three months after we came back from Medjugorje. Why? Because I walked up the Cross Mountain at least every few days, if not daily With God’s grace, I now see the crosses in my life and I am willing to pick them up and carry them. I am not running from my crosses anymore. So, instead of waiting for Terry to take care of the house chores, I try to be the first one to wash the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum the house. I listen to the needs of my kids a lot more closely: cook for them, play with them, rest with them, chat with them… Be with them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Motherhood comes alive. As a mom, I know not only the daily chores/tasks of a mom, but also the indescribable joys and sorrows of a mom. Dads and Moms suffer a lot for the family. Now when I need to learn patience with God, myself, Terry, my kids and others, I seek examples from our Mother Mary, our Mother Church, our Mother Earth… I also know I want to love my moms back. I try to chat with my mom and mom-in-law more and let them know that I love them I try to love my Mother Earth as well, so we become more environmentally friendly: we change from full-time disposable diapering to part-time clothe diapering, we cut back on junk food and stick with healthy basic food. I try to look into the teachings of our Mother Church, understand them, defend them and live them. I try to do what Mother Mary asks us to do, the five little stones against Satan: pray the Rosary daily, read the Bible daily, receive the Eucharist at least weekly (if not daily), fast twice a week, and go the confession monthly.
When I just go back to the basics in life, life becomes very simple. I believe life is meant to be simple
Three days before my birthday, my parents and their friends helped us to baby-sit our kids. Terry brought me to fine dining. We shared everything about our marriage, our family… His gift to me was his awareness of my effort to cook better food, to listen to our kids better, and to understand his original Choy’s family better. His acknowledgement and affirmation was like a pat on my shoulder We have decided to spend the next 15 years on our own family ministry! Thanks be to God!
On my 34th birthday, the birthday gift that Terry and my in-laws gave me was they took care of the kids for their swimming lesson, so that I could bring my parents out for dinner and share with them how grateful I was for the gift of life and the gift of faith. As we walked out from the restaurant, I was able to kiss them, hug them and hold their hands like a little girl! Thanks be to God!
Two days after my birthday, I attended the daily Mass to give thanks to our good Lord. But it became another birthday gift from God. He again surprised me… The readings (Romans 6:19-23 / Lk 12:49-53), the homily on Romans 6:22 “But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life”, and on the hymn “Amazing Grace” and its composer (who used to be a slave trader), the hymns (The Love Song, On Eagle’s Wings, Shine Jesus Shine). He just delighted me. When I sang the Offering Hymn “O Lord, my love is only a shadow of Your Love for me…” My tears started to run. After I received the Eucharist, my tears continued to run as Jesus my Lord entered completely to my body, mind and soul. I couldn’t describe the intimacy…
Now I decide to live my life completely out of love and out of gratitude to God. I decide to obey and do His Will. The commitment and the decision will last until my death: love God loves, will God wills, dream God dreams!
As I take The Road Home, I decide to work on my own home first and focus on small things at home. Yes, I am so “ah ma” or so “c9″ (translation: mother) now. Though life is still very chaotic and driving me crazy with three little dinosaurs and two big ones (yeah, my impatience and my own weaknesses are driving myself crazy) at home, there is still peace and lots of fun!
LIFE IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!
Families and friends, please pray for me. I need God’s wisdom to prioritize each day now, especially as I return to work in November.
Okay, thanks God for finding time for me to finish this piece of sharing.
Families and friends, please take care. You are all in my prayers!
BTW, if you are visiting Vancouver, please give me a shout and I will cook you a good homemade meal! Yeah, you won’t believe it, it’s easier to prepare a meal at home instead of bringing three kids out
With Peace and Gratitude,