Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Season of Farewells

I am going home soon. The OFF year is ending. The ON year is coming.

It is the lunar new year's eve, so it is still a good time to contemplate on new beginnings.

Being far away from home, from all that was familiar, all that I could (or tried to) control, and all that I had going for me, has changed me a lot. It has also introduced me to deeper levels of my idiosyncrasies.

A person can only take rejection from the world so much, and the past year was an exercise in that. Whereas before I could easily cry on a friend's shoulder, this time I had to face my challenges more squarely in the face, as most of my friends are overseas. Although I still asked for help where available, the usual suspects could not easily come with a cup of coffee to sort out my life for me. Those that had internet access received broken accounts of incomprehensible (foreign, actually) events and realizations, and gave advice based on incomplete narrations. Long distance friendship has been a lesson in independence, one that I needed to take.

I had dinner with some friends last night, the start of my farewell season I guess, and they said they thought my life was all about travel and meeting new people and living a relaxed life. When they learned of some of my misadventures, they realized how deceiving social media could be. Friends are great, they cheer me up for some time, as one of my favorite songs puts it. After an evening of laughter, I came home to the harsh realities of life: I need to get the next chapter of my life going.

But the heart wants what it wants. Therein lies the problem. That has always been my problem. Maybe I want too many things. Maybe I list down too many dreams. Maybe I am never satisfied. Maybe I am a restless soul.

I am very grateful for being where I am and for receiving the kind of support that I did not deserve. I know that God is the one who is in charge of the fine print, and all I have to do is wake up and embrace the day. But I want to know more. Where all this will lead. Why those mistakes happened. Who are the people to rely on at this time. What more I could do to express my heart's desires. How I am going to reconcile my head and my heart. The furthest distance I've ever known is from my head to my  heart. Old songs are filling my head again.

In a moment of gratitude, I counted my blessings: the indisputable truths, the undeniable skills, the incomparable endowments, the unchanging advantages. I told myself to not let any rejection take those away from me, for they were mine and what made me unique, even special. If people did not recognize that, then it is really their loss.

I just need to learn not to feel like I am the one who lost me.

Furthermore, and this is more important, I have a constant, unflinching, loving God. He knows me best. I have been talking to Him in prayer; He is in charge. He will not let me down. He is taking away all that is not good for me. His denials are His greatest mercies. I have proven and tested countless times how He works behind-the-scenes and how He always provides the happy ending.

It is because I have this God that I am not losing hope in anything, although everything is still uncertain.

One thing at a time. For now, this is certain: I am going home, and that is where I am meant to be.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Philippians 4 Moment

What I'm learning is that we can't have everything. We can have some good things, but not have the other things. And as my niece would say, "That's okay."

The thing I also want to learn, and hope to become, is how to be consistently cheerful and grateful in all circumstances. To remember that the God I know is not bound by any human limitations - that even if January did not start out well for me, that does not mean God cannot turn things around and make February to December rosy.

It's a matter of perspective, and I don't want to be consumed by the rejections and uncertainties that seemed to start my new year.

God is not bound by years, and I put my faith in that. I try to live each day and find what I am called to do, and to respond to it. Times like these, I am most able to surrender to Him the things I cannot handle.

I sometimes ask for a miracle, but I need it more often than I ask for it. This year, I need a miracle a day.

Heavenly father, I entrust these worries and difficulties to you. I know I am not meant to carry them alone. Please show me the way. You alone are the one who knows what I am going through.

This is a Philippians 4 moment.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. 6 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. 13 I can do all things in him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Renewal of My Baptism

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

During the homily, the priest said that being one with Jesus in baptism, God is speaking to each and every one of us as well with these words, heard from a voice in heaven:

‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’
I tried to listen to that, to God speaking to me. "This is my daughter, Ella; my favour rests on her."

I could picture God being proud of Jesus, He who has fulfilled this prophecy, from the first reading today:

Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 ©
Thus says the Lord:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.
He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.
Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.
I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

But of Ella? It was not easy picturing that one. I felt undeserving of such favour. I felt unworthy of such honor. The priest was certain, however, that God included me in that blessing.

I looked in my heart and my definition of worthiness, and put it down. For I knew I would never be worthy, and I only struggled to become someone I could not be. With His grace, I could accomplish what He wanted me to do next. I could still serve Him and be part of a ministry that is pleasing to Him again.

Since I had nothing, I was very open to God's leading. During offertory, I lifted up to God all of me again. And I received Him in communion, in my undeserving heart, and believed that He only had to say the word and my soul, my very tired and sometimes confused soul, would be healed.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Now Showing: Frozen

I went to see the Disney movie "Frozen" yesterday with my four-year-old niece. It was her second time to watch it, but a first for me. I already knew the story by heart, however, as she made me and everyone in the household read her storybooks almost thrice daily.

In this post I will not discuss the debates surrounding the movie re feminism and the Disney-fication of a beloved classic, "Snow Queen." You can jump to this article for that and more links. I am not an expert on either subject matter.

My niece's take is totally different from mine, that's for sure. She focused on the little girls' games, the snowman, the marshmallow man, and the reindeer. It was a delight to watch her with her tiny 3D glasses, sitting at the edge of her seat, squealing in delight at her favorite scenes.

Despite my job as a mere movie companion, I found myself relating to the Snow Queen herself.  I liked her icy, translucent gown, to start with. And the freedom she enjoyed while unleashing her powers and being herself on top of the North Mountain held such a compelling image for me. I wanted that. The music helped to seal the deal: this is my current favorite Disney princess movie as well.

Elsa, the Snow Queen, thought she could isolate herself and not hurt anybody. But Anna, her warm, passionate, and persistent sister, showed her that Elsa's powers affected their kingdom down below and buried it in deep, deep, deep, deep, snow. Elsa was frustrated because she did not know how to bring back summer, and despite trying so hard not to hurt anyone, she still ended up hurting the ones she loved the most.

I will not put spoilers here, because those inclined should go watch the movie in 3D. But I must say that Elsa's journey showed me how I should accept my powers (gifts or skills or talents), and instead of hiding who I really am and what I can do, I should learn to just become Ella and trust that there is a place where I can unleash those powers and learn to control them.

The above song was performed by Idina Menzel, whose concert was my first at the Sydney Opera House, only last year. It really spoke to me powerfully.

The movie resolves its conflict by concluding that "an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart."

My own story does not have a conclusion yet. At heart, I am more like Anna. Mine is not the frozen heart.

In photo below: Refusing to be frozen last winter in a farm in Victoria, the hills were alive with the sound of Ella. And the cows moo-ing behind me.

A beautiful farm in Flowerdale, Victoria

Friday, January 03, 2014

After the Gap, Then What?

I came across this today on Twitter and found it apt for the start of 2014:

A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch but in her own wings. Believe in yourself.
I know the voice within me is speaking and I am listening. I may be closer than I think to the answers.

I felt that last year, I was carried by the love and support of family, friends, and friends of friends. But I also recognized that even their well-meaning suggestions have to give way to what I want to do with my life after my gap year.

Good old Google yielded the following definition for "gap," my keyword for study:
1.  a break or hole in an object or between two objects.
2. a space or interval; a break in continuity.
"there are many gaps in our understanding of what happened"
synonyms: pause, intermission, interval, interlude, delay, break, breathing space,breather, respite, hiatus
The second definition speaks to me: "a break in continuity." The last synonym states it well: "hiatus."

It will take time to make sense of things, to process what "the two objects" are, to go back to my "continuity." The gap served its purpose well. I had a good break. I found space to embrace myself. 

It is not over yet as I did not follow the calendar year, but already, I find my heart moving, searching for permanence. I will believe that though the branch I'm sitting on might break, my wings are strong enough to lift me up. The branch is not mine; it belongs to the tree.

The wings, however, are mine. And these wings shall set me free.