Tag Archives: Hana

The Hidden Life of Jesus

"Dreams," painting by Akiane Kramarik
“Dreams,” painting by Akiane Kramarik

I don’t like being interrupted during “me time.”  Unfortunately, sacrificing “me time” is part of the covenant when I said, “I do.”  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, I find myself being happy instead of frustrated.  Please witness:

I’m engrossed in a short biography of Larry Page from the Business Insider.  I’m sitting in our oversized, super-cushioned rocking chair and the lighting is soft and relaxing.  The house is quiet.  I thought my wife and daughters were asleep and it was only 8:30pm.  I was going to enjoy a lot of “me time” tonight!

Then my wife storms out of our bedroom.  She throws down the Ergo Baby carrier like a gauntlet and Hana slides down her leg and onto the floor.  My wife isn’t mad at me, but she’s frustrated that Hana isn’t falling asleep.  It’s my turn.

Hana runs to me with a squeal of joy.  Her big, round eyes hide behind wispy long black hair.  Hana’s pink jammies are all bunched up on her chunky baby legs.  I chuckle and smile at her, put away the article, and pick her up just as she hugs my leg.

If I was a man without the Holy Spirit, I would not find joy in this interruption.  I would have been slightly irritated that my wife was unsuccessful in putting Hana to sleep.  I would have resented the need to put both our daughters to sleep for the past few evenings.  I suffered a screaming shower session and would just like a little time to unwind.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, those thoughts didn’t even cross my mind.  Actually, I had to force myself to think that way just now in order to draw a contrast.  I’m a changed man because of continual conversion into Christ.  The fruit of my faith can be seen in the joy, patience and charity I experience instead of the anger, impatience and “counting the cost” that the old me would have done.

Hana snuggles the side of her face against my chest as I carry her.  When I change her into a fresh diaper, I have to tell her to not laugh or talk because big sister is sleeping.  I pick her up and kiss her for the hundredth time that day and then strap her onto my chest with the Ergo Baby.  I can see the anticipation of my baby daughter’s eyes as the plastic “click, click” of the buckles lock around my waste and shoulders.  After turning off the lights around the house, we walk to the kitchen.  I turn on the stove-oven ventilator to create the magical white noise.  Hana clonks her head against my chest, like she was hypnotized.  I pace back and forth as she starts to relax.  Hana stretches out her small hands and absent-mindedly caresses the stubble on my chin.  From the broken pale light streaming in across from our neighbor’s porch, I could see that Hana’s eyes were drooping.  I kiss her forehead and stroke the bridge of her nose with my thumb.  Hana can resist no longer: her hand goes limp against my stubbly chin.

I often wondered why the Gospel writers left so much of Jesus’ childhood and teenage years to the imagination.  Folks called this the “hidden life” of Jesus.  Being a father, I questioned why God didn’t give more guidance on how to imitate the Holy Family.  How did Joseph and Mary deal with a whining toddler?  How did they counsel other parents who had rebellious teenagers, even if the teenage Jesus was obedient?

These moments I have with Maya and Hana give me such profound joy.  It is a kind of joy that escapes description.  It’s fleeting and easy to miss if I worshipped money, fame, power or beauty instead of God.  As it is, I’m blessed.  Dozens of moments like these happen in the course of a full day with my children.  I can’t remember them all, but I trust that Heaven is recording them even if I don’t have the camera on my smartphone ready.  I may forget these small moments, but they all add up to this emotion, this absolute certainty of love.  What I feel towards my children is merely a shadow of what God feels for me.  I cannot touch, see, hear or measure this love I have for my daughters, but I’m experiencing it.  So, it’s true.  I cannot touch, see, hear or measure the love that God has for me, but with eyes of faith, I see.  So, it’s true.

My love is only a shadow of God’s love.  This fact compels me to love even more.  It is the only natural response to someone who loves you this much.  It’s not easy to go from loving just your daughters to loving even the people who persecute you.  Yet, if the Holy Spirit can convert me from a man who loves his “me time” to a father who can give it up without even a second thought, then I trust He can convert me as I grow into Christ even more.  As I live out the hidden life of Jesus in my own family, grow in my belief of the Eucharist and progress in my prayer life, I am drawn deeper into Christ.

The Beatific Vision

"Empyrean," by Gustave Dore, an illustration in Dante's "Divine Comedy"
“Empyrean,” by Gustave Dore, an illustration in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”

The whole point of trying to become a saint is to go straight to Heaven, right?  Skip Purgatory and see God face-to-face.  That’s what is called the “beatific vision,” a word I see coming up as the purpose of trying to live a life of holiness.  To confirm my deduction, I looked up the term in the Catholic Encyclopedia here and found its mention in the Catechism here.

I pray that I’m not causing scandal in others by asking this question: What’s so cool about the beatific vision?  I had been tackling this question for a while since I’ve accepted the universal call to holiness.  It didn’t make sense at first because I thought that in the person of Christ I was seeing God.  God the Father is abstract, but God the Son is visible.  Wasn’t looking at Christ on the Crucifix seeing God face-to-face?

The question went on the back-burner for a while as I pursued other avenues of the faith.  Now, that I’m back exploring the interior life and Catholic spirituality, I am seeing this term again.  Beatific vision.  Intellectually, I get that “seeing God face-to-face” should be awesome.  Yes, but what does that mean?  I get it up here (tapping head), but what does it mean here (pounding stomach)?

Praise the Holy Spirit for the gift of understanding (#2 of the Seven Gifts)!  One day, as I looked at Hana smiling back at me, I got the intuitive feeling of what it meant to have the beatific vision.  In her cute little mind, my face, my body… my person is, for her, a source of joy, happiness, mercy, comfort, and unconditional love.  My wife, her mother, is all that and more for Hana.  So, when the two of us walk into the home after a date, and Hana is squealing and simultaneously kicking both her chubby legs, it is as if she is besides herself with ecstasy.  Is my baby having a transcendental, mystical experience?  I don’t know, but I know she is REALLY happy to see both of us in person.  A photo of us won’t cause the same reaction.  It has to be either mommy or daddy in person.  Better, both.

So, I imagine her sudden burst of joy in seeing my face, multiply that by infinity and that’s the happiness I’d feel when I see my Heavenly Father face-to-face.  Beatific vision.  Gut-feeling.

A moment of contemplation made me consider that, in that encounter, I would also see every single person who has ever brought me joy and happiness, but I would see how that person was really an emissary of God.  I would learn how every event that gave me happiness was the result of a chain of people who made that possible.  I would meet these people and learn that they, too, were emissaries of God.  I would meet all the saints who prayed for me.  And then I would see God.

It’s kind of like one of those romantic movies where there is an elaborate proposal.  The girl coincidentally runs into all her good friends and then all of his best friends, one after another.  Each one tells her something nice about the man who is going to propose to her and then gives her successive clues to where she can find the man who has been after her heart all these years.  She finally sees him and they marry.  The thought of spending the rest of her life with this perfect man has her heart overflowing with joy.

In the beatific vision, I would be like that girl.  I would finally see God.  He’s the one who has been after my heart all these years.  I would spend my eternal life with Him.  And the party would be for an eternity.  And there are no limits to how many guests can come.  The food and wine, of course, would be endless.  I know that there is more to Heaven than endless food and drink (cf. Rom 14:17-19); this would be more like a welcome party followed by the hallowed work of saving as many souls as possible before the Last Judgment.  Still, I’ll have some time with my One True Love before that holy task.  I would turn to God and say, “It was you.  It has always been you.  Thank you.  I love you!”

Dammit, My Wife is Holier than Me

My wife had to go back to the U.S. to attend a funeral and I had to take care of our two children for five days.  It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life.  It was only five days for me, but my wife has been doing this for over three years.  The experience was humbling.  Now, I have a profound respect for my wife.  Single-parents — I can’t even imagine — must have heroic virtue just to survive day-to-day, let alone help their children thrive.

We are blessed to live a life where the cost-of-living permits us to have part-time household help.  Although I never brought it up to my wife, I always wondered why she would say she didn’t have enough time to do certain things when we have Lorie to help around the house for half the day.  The purpose was to give Anne Marie more free time, but she would claim not to have any.  Now I know.  Even with the extra hours that Lorie put in, I could barely check my emails once a day, let alone get any time to read, think or relax.

Taking care of one’s children full-time and going to work full-time are really not the same thing.  For one, I get breaks at work.  There could be a lull in demands and I could check the news.  I can go off to lunch by myself and read for a whole hour.  That doesn’t happen with one’s children.  Not my children.  Not with daddy.  I’m like a honey pot and they are like Winnie the Pooh times two.  To top it off, they’re jealous of each other.  Maya could be happily playing in one corner, but as soon as she sees me holding Hana, she’d storm over and complain about having a “tummy ache” and wants me to carry her.

Another difference between work full-time and children full-time is intellectual and emotional detachment.  Screwing up at work is one thing.  Screwing up with your kids has a different magnitude of consequences.  While I have pride in my work, I don’t love my work.  I do love my children and so the amount of self-giving is that much greater.  That’s the thing… it’s the self-giving that is required with one’s children that is not required with people at work (i.e. supervisors, co-workers, clients, etc.)  Caring for one’s children is physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually draining.  And that’s on the good days.  Even on the worst days at work, I only complain about being mentally drained.

These five days with my children has been humbling spiritually.  In “The Three Ages of the Interior Life,” Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “The great sign of love of God is precisely love of one’s neighbor.  A saint who has little learning in theological matters but who has a very great love of God, is certainly more perfect than a theologian who has a lesser charity.”  I have more theological knowledge than my wife.  I never realized it until now, but I thought that made me more holy.  It’s not knowledge that makes one holy, but self-giving to others, especially the less fortunate and the helpless (like one’s children).  My wife has given a tremendous amount of herself these past three years for our daughters.  Just these five days gave me a taste of the cross that she continues to bear for our family.  Taking care of our girls is not torture (per se), but there’s a lot of self-sacrifice.  All the virtues are practiced (faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance).  Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are exercised.  I’ve come to realize that despite all my book knowledge about God, my wife loves Him more than me because she gives of herself more than I, especially for our children.

If I am to pursue the holiness, I need to exceed the charity that my wife exhibits.  A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt.  The prize is the Beatific Vision.

Theology of Parenthood

“Theology” is the study of the nature of God.  Being a parent has really helped me understand God’s nature more.  I’ve been compiling these personal anecdotes for a while and I’m afraid I’ll forget them if I don’t put it down on paper.  So, here are a few observations I’d like to share with you under this category:

  • When Maya was born, my heart was so full of love I felt like it was going to explode.  I had so many dreams for her, of what she can do, who she can become.  As I dream for my daughter, so God dreams for me.  He, too, has dreams of what I can do and who I can become.
  • My wife and I love each other so much that another person was born from this love.  God the Father and God the Son love each other so much, so perfectly, from eternity, that another Person results: the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Holy Spirit goes forth to help others enter the Kingdom, my wife and I will be raising our daughters so that they can grow up and help others enter God’s Kingdom.
  • I tell my daughters “I love you” all the time.  When they were babies, they didn’t understand the words.  As their father, I yearn to hear them say “I love you” back to me one day.  God has this same hope for me, too.  He also wants me to turn to Him and say “I love you” and mean it. 
  • My children learn to repeat “I love you, daddy” from their mother.  Christians learn to pray (“I love you, Abba”) from their Mother Church.  My children will one day contemplate the love they have for their father (and mother) in their hearts and this will guide how they will act.  When I start to contemplate the love I have for God, I am moved towards acts of virtue and away from vices.  I am moved to patiently suffer trials for the love of God.
  • My children do not need to give my wife and I anything because we are complete with each other and in God.  However, Maya and Hana can show their love for their parents by loving one another as sisters.  If they take care of one another, protect one another, and help each other grow, then we will know that they love us.  In the same way, I love God by loving my fellow human beings, who are my brothers & sisters in Christ (whether they know it or not).
  • This was true when Maya was a baby and true of Hana now when she is still a baby: sometimes I love them so much I feel like I want to eat them.  It’s a bizarre feeling.  Not like a cannibal.  I don’t want to cook them up or anything.  I just have this overwhelming desire to consume them out of love.  During this Christmas season, I was struck by the thought of Baby Jesus and the Eucharist.  Why can’t I desire to literally eat the Eucharist as I desire to figuratively eat my own babies?
  • Hana does this endearing act: every time I sit cross-legged on the floor, she would drop whatever she’s doing to crawl over and sit on my lap.  She would only crawl away to get a toy and then come back and just sit on my lap.  She likes being near me and the simple joy of being in the arms of her father.  This made me think about the contemplative life.  When I think about the mysteries of God (i.e. Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, Glorious, etc.), am I not like Hana sitting in the lap of my father?  Rather than rushing through my prayers, do I instead take the time to enjoy being in the lap of His presence as my daughter is in mine?

Great Advice for Daughters

Muhammad Ali and Daughter
Muhammad Ali and Daughter

The following advice has been blogged about by various people.  I haven’t been able to find the original source.  So, if you happen to know, please comment and let me know.

The story allegedly comes from Muhammad Ali‘s daughter, Hana, a name that also happens to belong to my youngest daughter as well.  Ali’s daughter visited him one day, but was dressed indecently.  The story continues:

When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”

He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

Story of Hana’s Birth

Hana Therese Chiang was born on a rainy evening, November 29th, 2012.  We barely made it to the Methodist Hospital in time; my wife already felt the need to push as we went down the elevator to Labor & Delivery.  All told, we were in the hospital less than 30 minutes when our second child came into the world.

[instagram url=http://instagram.com/p/TkE_mDQKJ3/ width=400]

We didn’t intend to cut it so close.  We wanted to put our two-year old, Maya Elise, to sleep at my parents’ home before going to the hospital.  Maya wouldn’t fall asleep even after an hour.  We could hear her voice faintly in the cool and calm evening, screaming abandonment at our sudden departure.  I wiped the sad raindrops from our windshield as we left Maya with my parents.

We should’ve gone immediately to the hospital after Maya’s dinner and bath.  The contractions were getting closer, but still manageable at that point.  Had we done so, the hospital staff would have had time to get my wife a proper bed, prepared her with an IV solution in her arm, filled out the standard intake forms and Dr. Morrison would not have already gone home for the evening.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  There was no sense in beating ourselves up.  The contractions were doing a fine job of that already.  Our immediate task was to divert attention away from the pain with breathing and visualizations.  Think happy thoughts.

It’s not exactly hypnosis, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  I didn’t use a gold watch and ask my wife to follow it with her eyes as I swung it back and forth.  I did use my most calm and soothing voice and insist that she look at me and breathe with me.  “Take a deep breath and moan when you exhale,” I’d say.  The contractions were hitting her hard while we were on the road.  My wife was getting nervous.  “We’re almost there, sweetheart — breathe with me!”  Her sweaty hands clenched mine tightly as I drove the wet roads with my other hand.  “Don’t worry, my love, we’re still an hour away from active labor.”  That, of course, turned out not to be true.

The nurses were scrambling for a bed and equipment while I tried to keep her from pushing.  My wife dropped to her knees in pain.  She held onto my hands, but gave me a look of fear.  “I want to push!”

One of the nurses stopped what she was doing, “Don’t push, dear, the doctor’s not here, yet!”

“Deep breath… Moan!  Uhhhhhhh!”  I moaned right alongside her.  “Relax… Deep breath… don’t push, relax the muscles — moan, uhhhhhhh!”

The water broke.  The nurses came into the room with a delivery bed and my wife immodestly ripped off her clothes and slipped into the hospital gown.

“There’s myconium,” a nurse said as she checked my wife’s labor.  I looked between my wife’s legs: yes, that looks like baby poo to me, too.  This means fetal distress and usually calls for a C-section.  Fortunately, we were too far along active labor for that.  There was a real emergency, though, because Hana could end up breathing the myconium into her lungs.  The nurse will stick a tube down Hana’s throat, suck out the afterbirth, and check to see if there’s any signs of myconium in the lungs.

“Where’s Dr. Morrison?”  My wife a asked.
“He’s on his a way,” replied a nurse.
“Should we get the epidural?”  she asked me.  Her brow was already covered with huge drops of sweat.
“Dr. Morrison is almost here,” I replied.  “Only a few more minutes.  The epidural will delay for an hour or more.”  My wife nodded in agreement.  The need to push came again.

My wife is literally a hero.  Courage, endurance and patience against an onslaught of pain.  Between each contraction, I tried to focus her on breathing, relaxing and preparing for the next wave.  I described visuals of Guam, Hawaii, and Moganshan.  I reassured her that Hana was okay.

Her eyes would bulge as she stared into mine.  I smiled, “You’re doing great!  I’m so proud of you.  You’re amazing!  Breathe with me — deep breath, uhhhhh!”  We kept that up for over 20 minutes.

When the doctor finally arrived, my wife only needed a few pushes and Hana was out.  We didn’t need to push with Maya.  The doctor we had then, Dr. Fong, insisted that we not push and let the uterus do the pushing.  Perhaps there was more of an urgency this time because of signs of fetal distress.  The pushing caused a bit of tearing.  Hana was also bigger than Maya at birth: 7lbs, 6oz compared to 5lbs, 3oz.

Hana latched on quickly.  I was back at my parents’ home before midnight to put Maya to sleep.