Dad, Mom and Me: It Wasn’t Always What You Think

This is my first time ever to write something like this, especially as it is about my beloved parents. I’m going out of my comfort zone as it isn’t easy to be writing from a deep, dark, wounded part of my soul. This piece is to be a blog post for the meantime, but I intend to include it in my “legacy writing” some day.

I’ve written several posts about my mother and one about my father. I have even contributed one article about Mom for a book project, which we launched last Mother’s Day. And in these articles, I have described almost an ideal loving relationship among the three of us.

But, let me break that myth for you. It wasn’t always what you think it was!

Ours was at times a Clash of Wills. Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Mom and Dad so dearly and they loved me more than I could ever repay them that love.

You see, we three were first-born. Each three of us had our own unique, distinct personality and temperament, like chalk and cheese. I cannot even claim to be a blend of their best traits.

Yet, I assure you they raised me well and good and I have imbibed the best of their characters. Most of all, they loved me to a fault.

“You always want to have the last say, always!” That was Mom. Dad, silently approving.

Just in my late childhood, I remember being scolded for some wrongdoing – quarreling with my younger siblings – who to my sensitive heart were more bullish than me — for not doing my assigned chores right away or well enough.

“Okay so you know everything now, huh?!”  Mom again. Dad was often silent, but with a face like thunder.

“No, it isn’t like that, po!” I painfully defended myself.  Then I’d go off  like a loose canon, giving off steam.

 “Stop!” “STOP, I say!” Mom and Dad in unison – and even years later back into their home, I found myself arguing with them – often on little incidents that would flare up in the end. Nay, for me it was only rationalizing. To them, it was answering back.

Hot tears flowed, stinging my tongue with its bitterness. At times, my fists clenched to beat my chest so hard that it left me breathing hard.

I hated each scene. I hated myself even more. I was angry with Mom and Dad. Yet, I couldn’t hate them.

During such confrontations, I wasn’t my very best. Pride often overtook me.

Being the silent, aggrieved party riled me so. “Why does Mom have to see it her way?”  “Why can’t we just talk?” I groped for answers.

“Let me finish first,” Mom often would order me. The thing is, she sometimes drew a mistaken assessment of the situation. Hurting, accusing words would stream from her mouth.

So, my ears would flinch. My mind would rush to my defense.

And like any beaten animal, I felt like beating them in turn. Hurt for hurt.

Worse still was when Mom would recycle old issues. I felt like the worst person in the world.

All I had at such point was to reclaim my wounded honor, dignity, and pride, or to restore a sense of justice.

I failed to appreciate that what I felt was so much true for both of them, even more. They needed to restore their sense of parental authority. How I wish now I could have just embraced them and soothed their broken hearts.

But I guess in any family, in emotional struggles like these, compassion is hard to give no matter how much you love your parents or your siblings or your children. You only see things from where you are.

Sometimes, I thought Mom was just being childish. In that aspect, I thought we were alike.

Perhaps our ugly battles ensued when the Parent in me would clash with the Child in each of them.

Yes, I see now that was how we transacted with each other during our verbal fights.

If we transacted such that it was my Child addressing to the Parent in them, or vice versa, the result depended on circumstances. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Everything was fine, however, when we interacted with each other on the same level: Child-Child or Parent-Parent or Adult-Adult. For then, we understood one another. We were in harmony.

Mom hated the drama of reconciliation – so did I. But I – like the rest – needed to utter the magic words, “I’m sorry po,” whenever we erred. No silent treatment from us. No giving of excuses, too. They never wanted that.

Mom and Dad just wanted everyone to cool off – and be back to our normal, happy, loving selves. Sometimes, that was easy. On other occasions, it took a little while.

Our family’s saving grace during ugly scenes was my Dad. A paragon of patience he truly was. He’d come to comfort me after each clash, advising me to learn to let go and let Mom have the upper hand.

Humility wasn’t my best trait.

Fast forward to each of my parents’ waning years – specifically – on their death throes, their dying was in a way my own saving grace.

It gave me a chance to give back and care for them as they did when I was still an infant in their arms.

I cannot get over this striking realization: Mom’s hands were the first that held my tiny hands at birth – and in the first few seconds after her death, my hands were those that held hers. 

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

My Dad’s passing was even more grace-laden because God blessed me with the opportunity to be a co-caregiver with my sister even for a few months. Tearful goodbyes, expressing our filial love, humbling ourselves, and asking for forgiveness marked his last week of life.

Today, my heart still grieves for them. The grieving will remain for long, for grief never truly leaves. Yet, recalling their last days on earth helps me to soldier on — and to forgive myself, little by little, for the countless aches I caused them.

Photo by Emma on Unsplash

Moral Lesson: Treasure your parents while you still have them around. They may not be perfect — no one else is — but they are the only ones you’ve got. Life is short, so spend quality time with them as much as you can. Give them your understanding. Treat them with compassion and patience. Be easy with their shortcomings. Make their remaining years happy and fulfilled. Hug and kiss them, and say the words, “I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad.” Most importantly, when you’ve hurt them, or they cause you pain — for this happens in any family — ask to be forgiven and to forgive them as well.

For when they are gone, no amount of tears will ever bring them back.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.4  —   (Ex 20:12)

 

 

 

On Capturing the Sacred Beauty of Nature

Sometimes we have to let things be. We have to let the sacredness of the moment pass us by without having to document it as it happens. To be more specific, I am talking about capturing in photographs the sacred beauty of nature as you see it in the here and now.

I know, I know what you are going to say.

Perhaps for photography buffs like me — you’d disagree with my above statement because you believe each moment is fleeting and there’s nothing like capturing it in a photograph to help you remember it. True.

But hear me out. I’m also much like you who almost never let a beautiful scene of nature pass by without me clicking on my phone’s camera button.

Yet — my AHA moment regarding the importance of a silent appreciation of Nature’s wonder came to me recently as I was about to do that. As usual, I’ve been watchful of the sky especially in the early mornings, midday, and towards late afternoon until sunset.

As soon as I saw the stunning colors of twilight in the skies, I rushed to get my phone only to pause and ponder: wouldn’t it be better to appreciate this ephemeral moment, this beautiful scene just in the silence of my heart as my deep tribute to the Great Artist Himself, my Creator God?

Sometimes we need to break away from our tendency to just click away anytime at something that catches our interest. Just like what most of us are doing at the start of a great — or even a simple — meal. Be at home or dining out, people tend to photograph every morsel of food before partaking of it.  Some even forget to offer a blessing or prayer of thanks for the grace of food; they are busy shooting the laid-out meal, dish by dish, to post the photos later on their Instagram, Facebook and other social media profiles. (More on this later in another post).

Photography’s vaunted capture of a moment in time is the seizure and freezing of presence. — Rosalind E. Krauss

Indeed –yet,  photography need not be too trite that it cannot allow us to step back and gaze in Awe and Silence at the wonder of Nature before us.

Photographing. Every. Scene. of Nature you see  is like stealing a kiss or plucking a flower from its stem. Or more bluntly, it is a sacrilege like photographing every moment in the Mass.

Not every wonderful scene needs to be Instagrammable. God’s wonderful work of Nature cannot just be confined to mere photographs, but should be enshrined in our memories and in our hearts.

He doesn’t take a photo or a video because he wants to remember – by which he means he wants to misremember because the moment is made up of what the camera can’t capture. —Jeanette Winterson

How about you, my dear reader, what’s your take on this? Do you think every scene of nature should be photographed? When is it okay or not to do this?

 

 

Gateway to God’s Grace

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the sky and I especially find clouds fascinating whatever form they take. Now I’ve been noticing, perhaps from the start of the year, cloud shapes are becoming more and more dramatic or strange or weird.

And now for the past several evenings, I’ve been seeing this kind of night sky…a bright, shining opening amid an enveloping darkness. Stunning, isn’t it? How amazing God’s piece of creation!

With the pandemic still raging, on top of the mounting problems we are facing the world over, I believe this must be God’s message of hope and assurance all will be well, with God’s grace!

It’s become sort of ritual for me to view the scene fronting me almost each evening —

“Shall I open the womb and not deliver? says the Lord; shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb? says your God.” — Isaiah 66.9 (NRSV, Catholic edition)

Now, it strikes me that this Sunday Gospel and readings give the same message of hope and assurance from our Lord God.

From Zechariah 9:9-10, we read:

9 Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 He will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem; the bow of warwill be banished. He will proclaim peace to the nations, his empire will stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the limits of the earth.

The second reading from Romans 8:9, 11-13  sets the condition with which we ought to develop in ourselves, in our daily living, — the gateway to God’s Grace.

The Gospel taken from Matthew 11:25-30 speaks of Christ’s assurance, of His offer of rest from our daily struggles.

Indeed, God speaks to us through His words in the Scriptures, through the people He sends in our lives, and through His wonderful works in nature.

 

Pruning: New Life, New Growth

Each time I prune my few potted plants, I always think they may wilt and die because of limited space and soil. Yet, each time they seem to grow even faster than I could imagine.

New life. New growth. After pruning, my plants start sprouting. They indeed continue to grow.

It’s the same with us. We need pruning in our journey to self-growth.

We need to shed leaves of our old selves, cut off the branches of our failures and shortcomings, and unchain the weakest links in our lives.

What are those weakest links, you might ask. Well, these are our inordinate attachments, our obsessions to things or people that limit or destroy our capacity to grow and become our authentic selves.

Pruning ourselves propels us to grow into the better persons we can ever yet become. It drives us towards our goals, as we go on improving ourselves and helping others grow as well.

Our limited circumstances or resources are not hindrances to our goal of growing ourselves. All it takes is a growth mindset ready to overcome any obstacles or limitations. It needs sheer willpower, decisive action, and a bit of creativity too.

Pruning in the time of the Pandemic

In this time of the pandemic and lockdowns, perhaps you have done some pruning in your lives, just like the rest of us. In fact, one good effect of having to stay at home and keeping safe from COVID-19 is many people have been forced to give up their favorite leisure activities, such as window shopping, going to movie theaters, and eating out. And as money have become tight due to the effect of the crisis on the economy, people have become more budget-conscious and wiser in spending money.

To relieve boredom or the so-called cabin fever, many have tried coping with the restrictions creatively. Cooking, baking, urban gardening, yoga exercises with the family, attending online daily Masses and other religious events – are some of the activities many of us have taken up these past few months.

Following live-streamed Masses and religious events has become daily New Normal…
The Holy Hour (Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) on TV

Others have also become more entrepreneurial by putting up small home businesses delivering essential goods to our homes.

Re-learning basic home skills and learning new ones – because we need to be more practical — that ‘s what most of us are busy with nowadays.

Families have bonded more strongly. Doing things together as a family has become the norm — especially eating meals together. Even those who live apart from one another have come to get in touch more often through family video chats using Zoom, Skype Chat and Facebook Messenger, to name a few.

At the same time, caring for those in need, including front-liners, extending help in any way is a common sight to behold.  We have learned what is most essential in life, and who matters most in our lives.

Even the environment has benefited from the months-long lockdown and curfews, giving us cleaner air and clearer views of the horizon.

These are only some of the good many of us have experienced during the recent months. So while the pandemic has caught us all by surprise and changed life as we knew it then, it has given us time to look deeper into ourselves, prune away bad habits, cultivate good ones, and plant seeds of hope and love for a better humanity. Shedding our old selves to grow into our better, more authentic selves — may this be ‘new normal’ even long past this pandemic.

For us Christians, let us ponder more deeply this idea of pruning with these words from John 15: 1-6.

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

2 Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.

3 You are clean already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.

4 Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.

6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch — and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt.

 

A Daily Pattern and Rhythm: Worship, Work, and Music

In my previous post, I talk about the need to Establish a Daily Pattern and Rhythm in Our Lives.

This is so we can have some order and inner peace and a sense of balance. But how can we create a daily pattern and rhythm to bring about these?

Let us first look at these terms.

Pattern, according to Oxford dictionary, is “a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations.” Rhythm, says Oxford, is “a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes.”

Through our daily routine and regular activities, we are able to build a system or order of conducting our lives, which lends a certain cadence or tempo into our days.

Hence, we talk of our regular eating/sleeping time and so forth. If we skip a beat, we might feel uneasy. We get sick, if we form the bad habits of sleeping too late or getting not enough sleep, and missing our meals. (I will be writing more on this in a later post.)

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Again, using the fine example of contemplative religious communities, they start and end their day in worship and prayer, and interspersed in between are their hours of work and/or study, as well as time for their rest and recreation.

Such mindful use of their hours with nothing put to waste! So much so they have no time to focus too much on the bad and the ugly. Rather, they tend to set their sights on the good, their hearts on God.

God’s Template

Come to think of it, I’ve realized God himself has given us the perfect template for creating pattern and rhythm in our daily life:  work and rest and worship.

“For six days, you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.[…] For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” — Exodus 20:8-11

  • Worship and Prayer

Wouldn’t it be good to also start your own day with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to your God, the Creator of the Universe and of all beings? As well as end the day with a prayer or quiet time with Him?

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

For Christians, worshiping God is His first commandment to us, which He himself spoke to Moses and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai:

“I am the Lord your God […] you shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20: 1-3 (NRSV)

And Jesus too spoke of the same when He was tempted by Satan in the desert:

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” – Matthew 4:10 (NRSV)

For the religious communities I mentioned above, in obedience to God’s divine law  to worship Him, these  are two verses from the Bible by which they design their daily life:

Psalm 119:164 “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.” (KJV)

Psalm 119:62 “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.” (KJV)

So Christians even in the secular world are called upon to worship God — though not exactly in the way religious communities arrange their prayer time.  I myself have been doing my best to preserve my own sacred time with God. I wrote about this in my previous post, Create Sacred Time in Daily Life to Attain Calm, Achieve More, and Grow.

As God himself commanded us, so be it, as it is good for our spiritual lives. Worshiping Him is God’s greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might.” — Deuteronomy 6:5 (NRSV)

Non-Christians also do pray. They have their own special ways to commune with a Higher Being or Deity.

In other words, praying is as basic as the need to eat, sleep, and breathe — to  ground oneself, be firm, and grow.

  • Work/Study

Surely you know how work and study are important for us to grow.  Work is the means by which we can make use of our God-given talents, and enables us to provide for ourselves and those entrusted to our care, as well as be of help to the less fortunate.

But what I’m stressing more here is how to make your day more meaningful. How are you maximizing your time? What are you aiming for — being busy or being productive?

Aim to spend each hour of the day in producing results that can lead you closer to your goals. Avoid spending time on needless tasks or activities that will not help you grow — as in too much time on social media. Allot time for your continuous learning. “One hour per day of study in your chosen field is all it takes, “ as Earl Nightingale once said.

When we fill our days with meaningful work or activity, we glorify God. And we are safe from the temptation of the evil one, as the popular saying goes, “An idle mind/hands are the devil’s workshop.”

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash
  • Music

What better way to mark our daily pattern and rhythm with special sounds that can enhance our day than music? I like this definition of music from Wikipedia: “Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time.” 

Music as a form of worship and prayer is uplifting, soul-refreshing, unifying our soul and spirit with God. It is indeed the highest form of prayer we can offer to God, to whom all Glory and Praise belong.

Outside the realm of religious rites, music is an invaluable part of our lives. It’s one of the most effective ways to express emotions and create mood. Isn’t it nice to have music playing in the background while you work (or do chores),  study,  or to simply relax?

Also, today more and more people are turning to music as a healing therapy, such as those offered by Breathe & Chill on YouTube: binaural beats, calming sounds of nature. They even have binaural beats for children.

So there, dear reader. If you are already getting fed up by the noise  and pain in the world, or yearning to deepen your spirituality, or to gain clearer direction, it is time to re-arrange your daily life with these 3 important elements of worship, work and music. Let go and let God, too, if things are getting too much to bear!

  • God created the Universe and all in it according to His set design and pattern, so there may be ORDER in the natural word.

“For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it, (he established it; he didn’t create it a chaos, formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD and there is no other.” — Isaiah 45:18 (The NRSV Catholic Edition)

  • God gave us His commandments for our own good, that we may lead orderly lives and not lose our way.

“GOD is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. ” — 1 John 5 (NRSV, Catholic Edition)

See this article too on “Why is Obedience to God Important?” by Mary Fairchild, Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020.

God’s perfect template for pattern and rhythm in our daily life: work and rest and worship.

 

 

 

Establishing a Daily Pattern and Rhythm in Our Lives

Are you getting jaded, disheartened, or depressed by what is happening around the world?

Our world today is full of strife, noise, and excesses. These chaos around us can deplete us of our inner energy and peace, causing us to drift mindlessly or drown in a sea of confusion or meaninglessness. It is easy to lose ourselves.

So we need to retain or restore our sense of balance and of self. One way to do this is by establishing a daily pattern and rhythm.

Lately, I’ve been striving to build pattern and rhythm into my everyday life under the maxim, Ora et Labora: Prayer and work incorporated into each of my day. I also include listening to music into my routine: classical, instrumental, and healing music.

My inspiration for this is the monastic and convent life of religious orders and congregations of contemplative  priests/monks and nuns, (those whose main life is devoted to prayer inside their monasteries or convents) such as, to name a few, the Benedictines, the Carmelites, and the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (Pink Sisters) of which my younger sister is a member.

A community of Pink Sisters at prayer. We brought my dad’s urn to the Pink Sisters community where my sister is a member, for a memorial Mass, as they are not allowed to go out and attend family events…

Their daily life is marked by a routine of worship and prayer, work and study, rest and recreation.

Not to overlook that singing is also part of their worship and prayer. Music is very much interwoven into their daily pattern.

PATTERN and RHYTHM Brings ORDER into Our Lives

It will be good for us, if we can adopt the same principle into our own life in the secular world.

Establishing a daily pattern and rhythm  brings order into our lives, both external and internal. Let me explain further.

Have you ever had some experience dealing with or interacting with contemplative monks/priests and nuns?

If so, you must have noticed how calm, quiet, and gentle they go about their day. Even their movement seems unhurried and fluid, their voice soft and angelic. Nothing harsh nor abrupt in the way they move or speak. The same is true with my own sister and her co-sisters in their convent.

It must be their disciplined, structured life. I also remember my professor in Pastoral Psychology and Counseling, a Jesuit priest, reminding us to “move slowly, speak slowly, eat slowly.” He stressed the importance of being in the moment, in the here-and-now.

Perhaps there is wisdom in that way of living, which we can adapt to our own individual environment, circumstances, and everyday living to:

  • Help us put up with the negative forces around us of which we have little control;
  • Enable us to tackle the challenges and problems of modern life, especially those brought about by technology, and still remain sane.

Among the downside of technology we are facing today are:

  • Disconnect between the real and the virtual world
  • Climate of negativity and superficiality on social media
  • Spread of fake news, lies, and hate-crimes
  • Depression and suicide among the young
  • Technology-driven warfare

So disheartening, huh? That is why, I state again, we need to have some form of defense against these negative forces in the external world, or call it crutch if you will, to help us maintain our inner composure and equilibrium. Something to pull us back to ourselves in case we get lost.

Now,  some of you  especially the young or those of you who are more free-spirited and dislike being hemmed in by a strict time regimen and routine,  maybe you won’t agree with me. But it pays to have structure and regularity in our daily life.

Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

In fact, studies show we are wired to follow certain patterns and rhythms – just like our heart beats, breathing, and sleep-wake cycle, for example. Even nature follows patterns and rhythms, like the rising and setting of the sun, the ebb and flow of tides, seasonal changes, and so on.

Just observe things around you. You will notice the presence of patterns and rhythms in your own life and in the natural world. Don’t you just feel safe and secure when you see daylight comes out after the dark hours of night? No matter the weather is, day is sure to follow night. That is the natural law, the natural order of things.

More than a disciplined, well-arranged daily pattern, these priests/monks and cloistered nuns seem to be possessed with quiet confidence that everything will be alright despite all the above-mentioned issues. They remain unperturbed like lotuses in a pond.

We can indeed re-arrange our days to help us weather the external chaos going on around us; that despite the turmoil of a superficial, hostile world, we can still live with inner peace and balance.

In my next post, I will show you how you can create pattern and rhythm in your own life through Worship, Work, and Music interwoven into each of your days.

 

* NOTE: This is my revised post. The original contains the 2nd part which I now have to make into a new post in itself.

 

 

 

Create Sacred Time in Daily Life to Attain Calm, Achieve More, and Grow

I remember growing up with a daily structure to follow. I belonged to that generation when parents instilled a disciplined time management to their children. Whether on schooldays or vacation, we had to start our day early.

Do you know the saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise?” That was my parents’ motivation for us.

This is true for most parents that they want their children to be successful in life. They believe success starts with an early day.

Another parents’ favorite saying is, “The early bird catches the worm.” Thus, when my own children were growing up, I also instilled in them this good habit of waking up early.

Downside of Flexible Hours

But as years went by, long after my children had grown and started their own lives, I managed to establish my own flexible time routine as my needs demanded it. Like if I had a class, or appointment, or an errand late in the morning, I’d get up late too, beyond 7 am.

My days became more and more flexible, since I quit my teaching job at a pastoral institute and opted to work from home. Yet, the freedom flextime (flexible hours) gave me was both simultaneously good and overwhelming!

Photo by Enikő Tóth from Pexels

I realized I wasn’t as productive as I used to. Without a set time structure for my day, the hours seemed to fly by without me having accomplished as much as I wanted or needed to.

Besides, the feeling of cramming too many things in a few hours of the day was already creating a sense of mindless flow and needless stress.

It seems like Time and Temper run in short supply, as we get older.

The Beauty of Creating Sacred Time

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, I vowed to be more mindful of the hours I spend in a day.

I had to rediscover the joy of waking up much earlier again, at the crack of dawn when everything was still dark, cold, and dreary.

But, more than waking up early, something inside me was still yearning for more, for something deeper and far more meaningful for each of my day.

I realized then I needed to create a special time for prayer or quiet meditation, a time for communing with God.

And I can only do so by setting particular hours of my day for this Sacred Time, spread throughout my day, with intention; to pray not only when I feel like or have extra time.

So far, this has been helping me set the tone for my day.

The beauty of doing this? Waking up earlier than usual and creating Sacred Time for certain hours of the day, I can, among many other benefits:

  • Start my day with a prayer and conversation with God with no hurry
  • Enjoy watching the dark dawn turn light into a new day
  • Watch the first glow of the morning sun peeking through the mountains in the eastern side of the metropolis
  • Observe the pigeons in the neighborhood take flight for their morning exercise
  • Organize my day’s activities, including rest, more mindfully and meaningfully
  • Focus more on the present
  • Feel more calm and relaxed despite hardship and challenges knowing I am a prayer away from my Creator
  • Accomplish more by giving priority to the most urgent tasks and doing away with killing time
  • End my day with a healing prayer before bedtime
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In short, I find it refreshing and energy boosting in starting and ending the day on a positive note, which can only come from having a time for prayer. My Sacred Time! It has helped deepen my prayer life.

Of course, I still feel challenged at times, and problems still take the better of me. Yet, growing closer to God through my Sacred Time, I can overcome the negatives, do more, and grow to be the best person I can ever be.

“Be still and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10

If you feel you need more calm, want to be more productive, and grow, you too can try this. You can also create your own sacred time or space. You may have your own version of it – your own quiet, solitary time, communing with your Higher Being, at an hour/or hours  and place you choose. It brings the same effect. It will surely benefit you in many more ways than you’ll ever know.

 

 

 

 

 

2020: New Year, New Life, New Hope

It’s 2020! A brand New Year!

Like most people, I ‘d like to believe a New Year signifies New Life, New Hope.

A new year inspires in us a new way of living.

Living more positively.

Resolving to overcome bad habits.

Creating new ones in the hope these will bring us much closer to our goals.

And this is what I’d also like to wish for my blog, too: time to head for a new direction, a fresh outlook, more inspiring posts and articles, and so forth. To rise again like a lotus.

There was a time I used to name this blog, Summr LotusPond. Why?

As I wrote then in my blog’s former About Page, I’d like to see my blog as somehow akin to a Pink Lotus flower — that despite my imperfections in writing, my blog can hopefully withstand these and continue being a garden for my creative inclinations where my dream of being a writer can flourish.

And though I still see my blog as ‘a garden for my creative inclinations,’ I will strive to post something more useful, more inspiring, for you dear reader, straight from my heart.

Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

The Pink Lotus is considered to be the supreme lotus; though not a Buddhist myself, I like the symbolism attached to it — Rebirth. The Lotus thrives in dirty, muddy ponds — goes through a cycle of opening all its petals in the morning, then closes each in the late afternoon — yet, it emerges untainted and beautiful despite its mucky surroundings.

And just like the Pink Lotus that is said to symbolize a person’s spiritual journey: while still a bud, it represents a ‘closed’ person who is yet to move on to the next step in his/her spiritual journey; as the flower blooms, it represents an opening up of a person to all that is around.

Last year, my blog sort of went on a limbo, when I stopped posting in the second half of the year.  And this year, I promise you, just like the Pink Lotus, English All You Can will have another of its Rebirth!

 

What I Am Learning About Grief

“Grief is the rope burns left behind when what we have held to most dearly is pulled out of reach, beyond our grasp.” –Stephen Levine

I write this as I remember my father who has recently passed on to the afterlife.

*Grief is hard to describe in vivid detail. It takes a lot of effort and courage to do exactly that. It overwhelms because of the pain of remembering, or the fear of waking up that pain you try hard to bury. Yet, it relieves, as it helps unburden you of that pain.

All I know, as from my experience with the passing of Mom and Dad, the sadness and sorrow, as well as the joyful reminiscing of the good times, even of the bad, of happy and sad memories, all bring a sharp sting to the heart.

Although with the passing of time, the intensity may lessen, still grief remains attached to your very core.

*Grief stays in the deepest part of your being, then unexpectedly surfaces to tear you apart. Like a veil, that silently covers you in your most unguarded moments, grief comes to choke you up in tears welling up in your eyes or gently trickling down your cheeks. Your sense of loss becomes more real even as you fight off this heavy feeling.

But because of faith that your departed loved one’s soul is being guided by God’s perpetual Light, you continue to live with hope and trust, and as much closer to how they’d want you to live.

I remember Mom’s final message of love and advice to us her children through a letter she dictated to my niece, on her last week at home, as well as Dad’s tearful message of love, forgiveness, and gratitude for each of us. They both wanted us to continue living out our Catholic Christian family values, so that one day we may all be together again in our eternal heavenly home.

*Grief is when you have a story or incident to share or a question to ask, then realizing the person to whom you’d like to share or as ask is no longer around, never coming back. I was so used having had a story to share or a question to ask my parents, almost on a daily basis, even just on the phone or texts.

*Grief manifests itself in different ways – and of course, from person to person.

When Mom died, I was filled with so much sadness and pain. But Dad was still around, so our family’s loss was cushioned by the strength and consolation he provided – even though he himself was hurting and breaking inside. He was our family’s crutch, and losing Mom was bearable in a way.

Now with Dad also gone, we have to rely on one another for strength and comfort. Because I was able to tend to him in the last few weeks of his life – since his stroke in July – helping my sister nurse him back to health, my grief is all the more unbearable.

*Grief makes you hold on to precious little things – words, gestures, moments shared with your departed loved ones – like bringing alive your loved ones even through just those lingering memories.

Dad, clasping a big Crucifix in his hands as we prayed together with him…

I shall always remember one evening close to his passing, my Dad telling me “Salamat” when I gave him a little kiss on the cheeks; and when he held each of our hands to bring to his lips and tell each of us, “I love you.”

Something Sacred Stands at Death’s Door

I can never forget that moment my dad went gently into the night, and how my sister and I were completely shocked. We could only wail and feel helpless in our futile attempts to wake him up.

Yes, my dad was already at the throes of death…he had been preparing us his family for quite a while, and we knew it was just a matter of time. Yet, his passing felt so sudden even then.

Something sacred stands at death’s door, and  it must be my father’s last gesture of love and kindness. My dad did not let us see him going into the night even though just a a fraction of a moment before that, my sister and I had just been beside him attending to him.

Today, it’s been a month since Dad is gone. Please say a little prayer for him.

My father’s urn during a memorial mass for him at the Pink Sisters’ convent…

 

 

 

 

The Call to Serve the Lord: Giving Care to an Ailing Parent

Sunday thought July 28, 2019: Last Sunday’s Gospel story of Martha reveals something of Luke’s depth in presenting human psychology.  The irritation of the “dutiful daughter” Martha mirrors our own when we are filled to the brim with responsibilities.  In this vein, Pope Francis cautions us of “Martha-ism” or excessive industriousness.  Those who overly immerse themselves in work inevitably neglect “the better part” of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His word.  “Rest” is also a necessary duty when one’s work or mission is completed.  We have to spend some time with family and loved ones and respect the holidays as opportunities for spiritual and physical replenishment.  As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything under the sun.” – Fr. Gil A. Alinsangan, SSP

From another homily delivered by an SVD priest during today’s Sunday TV Mass, I learned about 4 Elements of Prayer:

*Being persistent
*Being disposed to the Will of God, which means to:
Trust in the Lord
Have faith in God’s Love and Mercy
*Being sincere
*Being transformed

The Call to Serve the Lord: Giving Care to an Ailing Parent

Listening to the priest’s Sunday homily today on the 4 elements of prayer as well as reflecting on the other priest’s thoughts on being too much of a “Martha,” I was struck by the coincidence in my present situation.

For just earlier in the wee hours of the night during my shift in watching over my sick, bedridden but recuperating Dad, I was thinking of the difficulty and challenges of being a caregiver especially for someone suddenly entrusted into this situation.

Comes a time for many of us when we are indeed called to put our lives on hold. Like when we have to care for our aging or sick parents.

When we were infants, they spent sleepless nights for us: feeding, cleaning up, bathing/dressing us up,  giving our medicines, comforting us whenever we cried or felt sick —

Now the wheels are turned! The call for me to serve the Lord at this time comes in the form of giving care for my ailing, elderly father. And these are the things I am now doing for him.

For the past several weeks since my Dad had a stroke, I have been staying with him and my sister, on alternate weeks, to help care for him.

And these thoughts from these two priests moved me to ponder about my current daily life, and how these insights can help family caregivers in general.

REFLECTION

First, we must offer our daily life — as an Act of Prayer.  That each chore or task or errand is our prayer of offering or sacrifice to God.

I understand for secular or lay people, it isn’t what we are used to do. For most, daily tasks and demands of work, home, and studies are apart from prayer/praying.

For example, even though I have already been practicing this as much as I can, I still forget. Many times I go about my day doing what I need to accomplish routinely, hurriedly or mindlessly.

Not as a loving offer of praise and gratitude as it should be.

More importantly, each task we need to do must be in obedience to the Lord. It helps to look at our situation — whatever it may be — as the soil in which God has planted us to grow in faith.

Looking at our daily life as an act of prayer encourages us to fulfill each task or chore the best we can and with joy in our heart.

This is important for caregivers, and for us Christians in general because such attitude is our best weapon to keep negative emotions — for example, irritability or impatience — at bay. Especially when you have to take on a big, heavy responsibility such as taking care of a sick or elderly parent.

And this is where the temptation of being too much of a “Martha”– or what Pope Francis refers to as “Martha-ism” or excessive industriousness” distracts us from fulfilling the duties of being a caregiver with love, compassion, and joy.

For instance, if you are a caregiver to an elderly or ailing family member, you may feel all responsibilities of taking care of your loved one are heaped upon your shoulders. So while you may accept the situation wholeheartedly, at some point, you may feel drained especially if you tend to do things all by yourself, without asking for help or taking time out to rest.

WARNING

If you do not watch out, little strains soon come creeping up on you until you can no longer carry the weight of your present situation with equanimity and grace. When this happens, the quality of your care and interrelating with your needy loved one may suffer. Every little mistake or appeal for help becomes irritating and burdensome. This can happen to the best of us, even though we love our parents so much.

Besides, the devil is always on the prowl for souls to ruin. And the more we try to be good, the wilier he gets looking for our weak spots.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.” — 1Peter 5:8

GUIDELINE for CARE-GIVING

Thus, it will be for our spiritual good and emotional well-being to understand deeply the 4 elements of prayer to use as guideline in answering the call of God – how, when, and where – He wills.

That means, we are to live every moment and carry out each task  as family caregiver as our Prayer. We need to be:

  • Persistent in praying for His blessings and guidance
  • Open/disposed to God’s Will, and this requires our complete trust and faith in His Love and Mercy
  • Sincere in obeying God and in interrelating with those around us, especially those needing most our care — our aging, ailing parents, in this case
  • Transformed — that is, we seek to grow more loving, more compassionate sons and daughters, not only being dutiful towards our parents

“So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:6-7

Caring with Compassion and Joy                    Photo by Isaac Mehegan on Unsplash