Monday, February 24, 2014

Gap Year Lookback

Around this time last year, I was running around like a headless chicken trying to meet work deadlines, preparing for a year of travel to four countries, and shutting down life as I knew it, to get ready for the big reboot that was my 40th year.

I was not able to finish everything on my checklist, but I met as much of the people I wanted to say goodbye to as I could. Back then, my friends did not know if I was going back after a year or if I was going to send an email saying I was planting myself on foreign soil for good.

This time, I have a slower pace and more opportunities to ruminate. My social calendar is not overly booked. I have less clothes and shoes to pack. But is it any easier? Who likes goodbyes, please raise their hands? I know I don't. I'm pretty bad at it.

And so I sit with this sadness as part of the process. All good things must come to an end, so this holiday, this vacation, this time with my Sydney family and friends has reached its closing credits.

I am at peace with the decision. I know my future is bright, it is in God's hands, and even now doors and windows are opening for me. If only I could just stop feeling too much.

Yesterday I looked back at what I've written in my two blogs the past year, and came up with this:

1.  I introduced you all to the concept of my Gap Year:

I was going to eat, pray, love, write, travel, cook, babysit, sleep, walk, dream, and write some more.

In terms of travel, I've been to the following wonderful places since then:

Port Stephens, NSW
Sydney CBD
Chatswood, Lane Cove, Willoughby - my neighborhood and neighboring suburbs
Canberra, ACT
Auckland - CBD and Hobbiton in Matamata, NZ
Melbourne, and Flowerdale, Victoria
Hunter Valley, NSW
Fiji Islands 
Bowral, Southern Highlands of NSW
Coogee, Bondi, Sydney
Melbourne, Flowerdale, and the Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Auckland, NZ again – Wenderholm, St. Mary’s Bay, North Shore
Terrigal, Central Coast, NSW

2.  As soon as I got here, however, I expected to write more. I did not.

Writing From Down Under:

3. In May, I realized I was living a good life, but found the concept strange.

At times, I felt displaced, but not discouraged. I also wrote about "Experiencing the Mass in Sydney."

4. In June, I went to Canberra and Auckland, and wrote the following about my travels, posted in July:

 5. In August 2013, I had a fantastic trip to Melbourne, stayed at a beach house and then a farm, and visited good friends. 

6.  September came, and I flew to the Fiji Islands. I also experienced spring for the first time and wrote about it. The creative juices started flowing. I planned my 40th  birthday party for 2014.

7. In October, I hatched a big plan, as an outlet of all my dreams: Defying 40, A Showcase of Talents for my friends

8. In November, I hardly posted anything. I was busy with my niece's birthday party and my parents' arrival.

9. December was the  most eventful month of all. I traveled to Auckland again and Melbourne again!

I accepted who I was, and wrote Next to Normal to welcome the new year:

10.  In January, I finally did a lot of Creative Writing:

I asked,

11.  And in February, I saw how I was Connected to the World:

And I kept writing the two storylines that were born in my heart.

This list in no way summarizes the past year. I may have to read them all in order to document my gap year.

I just went through it to be grateful, and to channel the sadness into productivity.

I have been blessed, and I will be again when I go home. I am counting on that.

Going to Bondi Beach

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Praying for Sick Loved Ones

Today, I am praying for a miracle, for healing for my friend's mom, and for positive CT scan results for another friend's mom. This is making us pray more regularly for our loved ones and is reminding us that our parents need our love and care more each day.

I was grateful to read that in today's Gospel, Jesus healed the blind man. I claim healing for the sick.

Mark 8:22-26

22 When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” 24Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” 25Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. 26 Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

I claim comfort for those who are afflicted. I claim consolation for those who are grieving. I claim relief for those taking care of others. 

Friends, we'll get through this together. Let's ask for Mama Mary's intercession.

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

Oh ever immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comfortess of the Afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings. Look upon me with mercy. When you appeared in the grotto of Lourdes, you made it a privileged sanctuary where you dispense your favors, and where many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. My loving Mother, obtain my request. I will try to imitate your virtues so that I may one day share your company and bless you in eternity. Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

All the Bread We Need

Mark 8:14-21

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”16 They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread.17 When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
As I played this scene in my head this morning, I was grateful that Jesus was not just a teacher, but the most patient teacher there ever was. How frustrating it must have been, after demonstrating how five loaves could feed five thousand, or the seven loaves could feed four thousand, that his disciples, the very men who had been walking with him and listening to his teachings firsthand, could still miss the point of his lessons. How he must have shaken his head, that after talking about greater things, his men could still be hung up on the basic needs that he had proven to be already covered through faith and action.

Bread basket at the Green Dragon Inn, New Zealand
In the past, I taught law students about legal writing and research, and much as I loved to pass on my tips and techniques, I got easily frustrated when, even after several exercises and projects, my students still committed the same mistakes during the final exams.

They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. I imagined this scene and almost laughed out loud, thinking of the disciples, looking at each other, whispering, with puzzled expressions, trying to make sense of what their teacher was saying. In that scene, I could not fathom the depth of Jesus's patience, but could easily relate to the disciples' stubborn confusion.

I felt the Lord lovingly asking me, in my life, if I could remember how He had provided for me, and how there was always more than what I ever needed.

 Ella, do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember? Do you still not understand?
I smiled as I recalled the "wicker baskets of fragments" that I was able to pick up after each answered prayer; the abundance, the generosity, the magnitude that always accompanied an event or milestone in my life, by the grace of God, especially the past year.

As I, voluntarily, face another impossible turning point in life, and Jesus speaks to me, I hope to hear what He is really saying, and not conclude to myself that it was because I forgot to bring bread in this castaway boat. May my heart and attitude be changed, and my feelings be lifted. May I see that I already have Jesus, my savior, and nothing should be impossible for me. Like the disciples and my law students, this lesson has to be repeated until learned.

For a bible study on leaven, I read this very helpful article.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Workout for the Heart

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  (Proverbs 18:24
Waves and Cliffs (Great Ocean Road)

I came across a quote today that brought on a search for what the Proverbs said about friendship. This is the quote:

The most memorable people in life will be the friends who loved you when you weren't very lovable.

This spoke to me because I was not a very good friend during my gap year. Aside from being far away from my friends, I was too moody, sensitive, and emotional. They would probably argue that I had always been all those, but distance and the luxury of time allowed me to embrace those parts of me more, and to accept them.

I didn't even try to be lovable. I express my love language through service, quality time, and giving gifts. How could I exercise those three by being in another country?

I was selfish the past year. All I thought about was how to improve myself, how to face my demons, how to break my barriers, and how to reach my dreams. Of course I had the noble purpose of getting healed so I could be a better person and friend. But still, I must have been a pain to listen to, or read.

I must be getting on in years, too. I am ready to say that I do not need a whole village anymore, just a few friends.

My heart was pierced recently, and I thought it would break completely. My SD reminded me that my heart is a muscle, and it needed the exercise to be stronger. Well if pain was the workout for my heart, then I had a lot of opportunities to strengthen it.  

And the true friends are the ones who loved me when I wasn't very lovable, and who did not hide their love even if it meant staying through my storms and saying the painful words.

As for the rest, I will try to let go without regret. Maybe as the wounds heal, so shall the memories, and I will hold no grudges, only gratitude.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

He Calls; I Follow.

"My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me." - John 10:27

Sheep in New Zealand

It is time again to listen closely and firmly to that one voice who calls. I am at peace, knowing I am with him.