A Look Back at the Fading Year 2018

Three years ago in the last quarter,  I wrote this in a Facebook post of mine:

“…it’s been almost 2 weeks since I moved into this place which I now call home and share with my son, this time, with my eldest. […] Somehow I feel like a tourist in a strange land. With an inventive mind such as mine, it’s so easy to pretend I’m now in a place like Manhattan in NY. I’m no longer in my house on the prairie which I shared with my younger son and his family […] nor am I in my tiny English cottage by the woods which I shared with my dear feline friends.

“Now here I am in the heart of the bustling metropolis learning to ease out of my reclusive mood. What I get to enjoy is being able to keep house and prepare home-cooked meals for my son […] and having human company to converse  with, not just my plants, or my cats, or my favorite lizard…”

Now three years hence, and I’m still conversing mostly with my plants, my new set of lizard friends, some ants. No cats at all. Not that I mind. My son’s hectic work schedule and his personal life leave me all by myself most of the time.

On one hand, I’ve gotten used to my own company and still preoccupied with my part-time work, personal projects including this blog, my photography hobby, among other things. Yet it can be quite depressing at times.

Looking back, my life’s roadmap this year has been a riveting mix of ups and downs. On the upside, I’ve accomplished many of my goals. Topping them all was self-publishing my first eBook ever, Finding Your Authentic Self: A Path to Wholeness, which took me about 3 months to write.

But circumstances — such as work and financial problems — can be so overwhelming that without faith, I would’ve come crushing down. I must admit times when my very faith comes asunder letting me go on a roller-coaster ride with my relationship with God.

Like a child lost in the woods, I keep running to find my way — yet the farther it takes me away from home.

When doubt assails or bitterness creeps in, I quickly remind myself God is with me, in me, around me. He’s just hidden in the clouds.

My eyes look at the clouds to seek God’s face among them, somehow hoping to see Him in the concrete as well as in a deeper, spiritual sense. When I come to Him in prayer, I either feel empty or full of hope. When tears fall, I know deep in my heart, He has heard my cries, and suffered my agony too.

I find myself grieving still over my Mom’s passing, even after 4 years. As they say, something is taken away from you when your mother dies. So it is with me. During my difficult times, I miss my Mom’s strength and comfort.

I find I’m an irony unto myself. I, who long for human interaction and real conversation, has shied away from most invitations to social events and meetups with friends this year.

But I’m made of sterner stuff. My faith in God remains strong despite some backsliding. My faith in the goodness of others is still alive, my love for my family unshakeable, and my confidence in myself intact despite my defeats.

I’ve come to a few realizations:

  • A structured schedule for each day works best for me
  • I should assign a particular day for each important chore
  • I can no longer lump together in one day chores that use up too much energy
  • Less multi-tasking so I can focus
  • Must include writing practice, learning and reading into my daily schedule
  • Less social media and news reading
  • Back to book reading and journaling
My reading list — books I’ve read (since 2012) and current readings

Through all my ups and downs, God has been my Shield, prayer my best tool. I remind myself my human frailty is the devil’s strength. So I must always keep myself in check and keep God’s hope and promises in my heart.

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. –Isaiah 40:31

This is the trajectory of my life this year — and I hope and pray 2019 will be kinder to me, with God’s grace. That like an eagle, I can soar to new heights. I do believe.

I also pray for strength, clarity, and comfort for anyone dealing with their own pain and struggles.

Above all, I hope and pray for greater peace, compassion, unity, less violence and negativity,  as well as maturity in social discourse, especially in this Blessed Season of Christ’s Birth. Merry CHRISTMAS and a Peaceful, Brighter New Year to all!

Soliloquy – An Anguished Soul Speaks Out

You get stuck. Again. Something makes you stuck.  As ever.

And this perhaps is why you never can get your blog off.  Why you can’t attract as much traffic as you want to. As you need to.

Fear. Yes, fear is what keeps you from writing with your whole heart and soul. From conveying as much as you want to – in the way you want to express yourself.

You’re afraid of giving a piece of your mind about issues that matter today.

COURAGE – this is what you ought to have. Yet…

Now look at this quote — it’s supposed to inspire a trying-hard writer like you. Oops, never be too harsh on yourself. Please.

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”  — Robert Cormier

 

But it doesn’t really apply to you, right? In the context this post is about?

All you can think of now is how saddening to see how much the world today is ripping itself apart. Hatred. Violence. Injustice. Destruction of the environment. Loss of respect. Enmity between kin.  Apathy towards others. So much division, disunity, disintegration. So much Evil…

Others may tell you – hey,  this has been happening since time immemorial.

Yes. So you push back and ask —  why then has humanity not learned anything at all from the lessons of history? Is humanity that hardened, dense, fragile, weak …or just plain overcome with EGO? Must we just tolerate the negatives within and around us?

You start to feel at times your faith – in God and in humanity —  slipping. Especially when you read the news. The bad news all over. Or reading ugly debates on social media. You try to avoid these as much as you can. Yet you cannot totally do so.

There — you’ve bared your soul. You’ve expressed somehow that pain in your heart.

This one seems to be a perfect guide for you — by Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

And this is your reflection for now. You do NOT have to be as gifted as others nor try to be like them. For as long as you speak out your Truth. That’s your Life Purpose. Just be your Authentic Self.

For from Love and Goodness you have been created. SO it is upon you to answer that call to be the image of the ONE who has created you and the rest of the Universe. That’s being authentic.

Your authentic self is meant to provide light to those you meet on your life’s pathway. But it’s still your Choice.

To let the LIGHT from within you to radiate to others. And give Hope. It is upon you to share that hope. As you journey with others. You encourage others to grow into the best person they can ever be — by being the best you can ever be too because you have that hope in your heart. You choose to be that kind of person.

Yes you feel anguished, helpless, hopeless about the state of affairs in society. You even start to think that animals have become more civilized than humans, transcending their very nature of just living for themselves. You see how different species – enemies by nature -unexpectedly learning to co-exist peacefully and enjoy each other’s presence. You see and hear of stories of loyalty and love pet animals provide their owners.

Yet do not despair. Remember? Despite humanity’s brokenness and because of that very crack in humanity, the LIGHT of the World has come to save, to redeem us all.

It means despite our brokenness as  human being because we are not perfect – just like everyone else — there is that spark of Light within each of us. Within you.

Still in your own capacity, and with God’s grace – you can help bring the Light, and Hope, and Faith to others. It behooves upon you to rise above your own frustration and anger at what is happening in the world to spread even  a ripple of kind thoughts or deeds.

In whatever way you can. Through your writing perhaps. But remember  you can only do this with LOVE in your heart. Spread the message of love, hope, and joy, especially as it is almost the Season of that LOVE that has come to save.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…  — 1 John 4:18

 

Anthony de Mello’s “The Song of the Bird” – A Reflection

I cannot fully describe my total experience while going through each of the pages of this extraordinary book “The Song of the Bird” by Anthony de Mello. It was an assigned reading by my Spirituality professor in graduate school some years back. And this reflection was a requirement of that course, so here goes.

When I set out to read, I tried to put myself into a proper frame of mind. I created a mood in order to get a feel for what the author says: “the mystical.”

I knew being mystical was more than just feelings. So I seriously followed the third suggestion of how to read the stories – in a prayerful manner.

Most of all, I tried to open my mind, heart and spirit for the grace of wisdom I would hopefully gain.

Story after story, I went and slowly some things would strike me now and then but only superficially, I felt.

Later I discovered I must not predispose myself in a way too expectant nor too presumptuous, for what I found most enlightening were those that I read in a humble way.

Like what most of the stories have to say, we must not be too engrossed with the future. Neither should we be buried in the past because we must live in the present. We must become aware of what the present has for us.

If we do so, sooner or later the beauty of the moment unfolds before us to savor, to experience, to have. Then we cannot just analyze nor rationalize. We just have to let each moment be. And let us be still in the moment. Be in the silence of the present.

Like the fish who keeps looking for the big ocean, I learned I must keep still. I must listen to the silence of myself and to the lessons that were being imparted to me here, little by little.

I should only let my heart be open and let my mind be still. I should stop walking ahead, wandering around because I couldn’t just force wisdom into my heart — just because that was what I intended to find.

I also learned that this is how we usually go through life. We race ahead to the directions or goals we have set for ourselves, as if the future is all there is to life.

What also strikes me about the book is the varied sources of inspiration drawn from different religions. That they all speak of searching for the Truth, of being one with Creation. Most of all, these stories speak of finding God in our everyday lives.

Indeed – we are of different faiths, of different races. But we all have the same stories to share, the same longings for our same God, the same aspirations and ideals. We all can learn from one another.

I was most struck by one story here, “Change the world by changing me.” I believe that this is one powerful prayer that can really ‘move mountains’ — if only we are humble enough to first transform ourselves and ask God to help us.

Because I was definitely changed somehow by most of the stories, I decided to share the book with my youngest son and asked him to write his reflection. May I then take the liberty to share with you what he wrote verbatim:

Reading this book has made me strengthen my faith in God. I am grateful that as I was reading, a lot of questions stirred inside my heart, meaning I am not contented with my spiritual life because being contented means that I already know everything there is to know about God which I think is an impossible feat.

My questions led me to the fact that I was created in His image, a little lower than the heavenly beings which makes me greater than all things here on Earth but that God is infinitely higher so there is a vast difference between us. He knows all the answers to my questions but He may not reveal those to me since He said that there are things that are hidden and are for Him alone. And it is a good thing because His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts. So seeking answers that are not meant for me may be dangerous to do.

And to those questions that are answered, I will keep always in my heart knowing that those will help me experience God better. Also, it will help me lead more souls to Him. I am always looking forward to questions to pop in my mind because each question answered will help me become a more mature Christian.

 

I intend to read this book again and again, for each time, new insights are revealed.

NOTE: I’m reposting this  piece of mine — which I first posted here in 2013 because this book offers timeless gems of wisdom. And it’s a timely read as well. If you can get hold of a copy of this great resource, I invite you to do so. But read each story as mentioned above — in a prayerful manner to get the most of it.

Morning Lessons from the Birds

Today, my morning blessing as I watched the dawn break into a beautiful sweet day came through a delightful treat. A flock of birds – doves or pigeons – circled the sky in a choreographed dance. In flight formation, they cut an awesome picture of grace and fluidity, and I realize they have been doing this each morning. How many times I’ve watched them by the window!

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash ~~ this professional shot best captures how each morning flight of the pigeons outside my window looks like…

The birds glided together forming a wide triangle across the sky when in a split second, the head bird at the tip of the formation winged away on its own into another direction. It swept the sky with more dramatic, graceful motions. Yet the other members of the flock did not seem to mind, as if it were but natural for their guide to move away to oversee them from afar.

 

Despite the gulf that now lay between them and their head, the courageous birds held on with each other in formation without missing a beat.

 

How beautiful it is! Their morning ritual. Just like it’s become my morning ritual to gaze by the window.

 

Back to that bird going solo, and his flock, isn’t that an image of how God manifests His presence in our lives? Times when His presence is so palpable we can feel He is indeed leading the way. But sometimes, He seems to be gone particularly in our most trying times, or when we are overwhelmed with our daily concerns.

my own shot of a pigeon

 

Yet, the truth is He is always with us, in us…we need only to trust in His constant presence and care, much like those birds whose confidence in their leader never falters. 

 

Isn’t it awesome that we can glean many of life’s greatest lessons from the natural world around us?

The Broken Glass: A Reflection

God heals a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.

This quote came to mind after I broke a glass by accident, and I was keeping it away intending to wrap it carefully before I’d relegate it to the trash bin.

God mends our broken pieces to make us whole again…

Despite the damage, a sparkling glean radiated – like a glint of the rising sun – from its sharp, broken edges and the shards scattered at the bottom, transforming the broken glass into a stunning beauty!

Reflection

We are just like that glass ~~  broken, crushed at times. Yet we can appreciate ourselves even more, if we can look at ourselves through God’s eyes. And if despite our weaknesses, our failures, our struggles, we carry on and lift to God our pains and sorrows, we strengthen our character; we strengthen our faith in God and in ourselves.

But we need to trust God, first of all. Trust that He can work His miracle in us if we allow Him to do so. Thus, we need to lift up to Him all our cares, our sufferings — He has to have all the broken pieces” of ourselves to make us whole again, and again, and again…

Times when I do get angry at myself for some reasons, such as not meeting my goals for the day, or when stuck at a certain task, or faced with situations that make me think low of myself. Tears flow, especially when the hurt inside is much like the pain caused by the sharp edges of a broken glass. Yet I remember to pray – sometimes, it’s a real struggle to, still I cry my heart out to Him.

At that point, God’s Peace and Mercy fill my heart to the brim, and I get the confidence to move on. Indeed, I can start to love myself wholly again, for God makes me whole again with His undying Love.

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit…replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation.

Replace the turbulence within us with a sacred calm.

Replace the anxiety within us with a quiet confidence.

Replace the fear within us with a strong faith.

Replace the bitterness within us with the sweetness of grace.

Replace the darkness within us with a gentle light.

Replace the coldness within us with a loving warmth.

Replace the night within with Your day.

Replace the winter within us with Your spring.

Straighten our crookedness, Fill our emptiness,

Dull the edge of our pride, Sharpen the edge of our humility,

Light the fires of our love, Quench the flames of our lust.

Let us see ourselves as You see us.

That we may see You as You have promised,

And be fortunate according to Your word:

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

(prayer courtesy of the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration, Hemady, Quezon City)

 

My Saturday Epiphany

We are blessed differently — we Christians recognize this. Yet, this seems easier to think about in the abstract, for what makes it difficult though, at times, is not being truly grateful for whatever we have, — or being unable to accept the situation we find ourselves in.

Times when many ‘whys’ — borne of envy, fear, insecurity — assail our minds and erode our faith in God. Times when anger replaces the love that should fill our hearts, and we turn to put the blame on others, on things, and sometimes, on God Himself for the kind of life we have, never on ourselves.

It’s times like this when we need to pause, and reflect more deeply on how we can overcome such doubts. Where is the envy, or fear, or insecurity coming from? Are we  lacking in self-confidence; do our values lie in only the material? What is in the other that we value so much that we fail to appreciate our own? Do we use them as benchmarks for our lives? Don’t we recognize God’s intended goals for us?

Is God truly present in our lives, in ourselves? Perhaps, we  lean only on our own understanding without relying on His guidance. That is perhaps the reason we commit so many blunders. On the other hand, we should know that from the mistakes we make, we can learn our lessons.

God allows us to run the course of our lives through our free will –and when we fail, or stumble, He only wants us to stand up and try again and again. Like a child who is learning to walk by himself, he slips, stumbles, falters – with his mother or father silently watching so the child can get up by himself, and walk again. Like a baby bird who hesitates before he can fly on his own, we are just the same. Through our weaknesses we become strong. Through our mistakes, we become a little bit more perfect each day.

At the same time, too, God invites us to listen to Him, to let Him lead us, or let Him walk with us — yet many times we run away, or hide from Him. Then when we fail to reach our dreams, our goals in life, we start asking — why?

On the other hand, we may indeed be faithful, putting God at the center of our lives, and living the Gospel values. Yet, the more we seek Him, the more we feel God is nowhere — we experience what St John of the Cross calls “the dark night of the soul.” Hence, in our self-pity at times, with weakening trust, we cannot but feel unloved…

I for one have experienced many times being assailed by my fears and doubts, by my lack of faith. I sometimes feel so unworthy and so much unlike the great saints of the Church — that I cannot be like them, and so much away from God. I truly admire those whose faith is unwavering, whose faith even gets much stronger in the midst of suffering — physical or spiritual.

Yet, how good my God truly is — for on countless times in the darkest of nights, He makes His presence known to me. Like the glint of the early morning sun after a night of rain, God comes to freshen my soul.

I love you, O God. Amen