For These 25 Years

How do you begin to let go of 25 years?

It was 1991. My dad, in a heated conversation with mom, told me to pack my things because they wanted to part ways. I remember crying while I got my clothes. Silently, I prayed to God for help. Minutes later, I heard the doorbell ring and when mom opened the door, I saw Tito Nitz and Evelyn Sucgang head to our living room. That night saved my family.

Since then, my parents became active in Couples for Christ – Foundation for Family and Life. I was there when the young ministries began in 1993. My parents became one of the first kids’ ministry coordinators in the South area. I remember eating spaghetti every weekend as I got to know other kids and as we all got to know Jesus together. These kids I were with still remain my very good friends today.

Kids’ ministry taught me to love Jesus and Mary. The first traces of me writing and speaking were honed by the titos and titas who saw the spark of mission in me. In between grilled cheese sandwiches and the endless spaghetti were planning for assemblies and playing with my peers. Tita Maita Cabinian made me organize the kids’ newsletter back then in our area. She would do the layout and print it monthly so our parents can be updated with what’s up with all of us. It also became invitations for other kids to join us. Each time our parents would meet for weekly prayer meetings, we would also tag along and gather in one room. We had kids’ camps with the much-anticipated firehose bath, a tradition that lives on up to present. Our parents would get a fire truck to hose us with water on the last day of then camp as we played and ran in a field. I’d like to claim that the nurturance of my faith was due to the fact that my childhood was rich with God-experiences. I told myself, I’d like to die still part of CFC – FFL.

Then came youth ministry. How do I begin telling the story of my youth? The ten years of youth ministry allowed me to discover who I am in God’s eyes. Youth conferences, meetings, speaking stints, writing manuals, prayer meetings, fellowship… the in-betweens of my school-home routine. I met friends who never gave up on me and who saw me through the dark drama of my teenage years. Don Bosco said that to grow in virtue, we should also choose who we will be friends with. I gained friends in youth ministry who became my inspirations to be a better person.

Youth ministry sparked in me the beginning fire of mission and evangelization. I remember one battlecry from way back: “that all shall kneel before Christ.” It became something that I held so dear when I was 16. Service became a big part of my life and the zeal for souls urged me on in the major life decisions I did later on. I saw God’s grace work in my life and the lives of others around me.

And then it was time again to move on to the singles’ ministry. Here I found myself searching now for what God wanted me to do for the long haul. Here I got to grow even deeper in my relationship with the Lord. Here, I found friends for keeps and those who I know shall stay for the long haul. The pains of heartbreak, waiting, seeking, longing and the joys of moving on, finding, owning, taming… made my singles’ ministry experience very rich. It was also at this point that I discovered how God is leading me to care for more people in one-on-one encounters. Here, God taught me the different facets of love – especially that of loving people I barely knew. Here, I began learning how it was to love without counting the cost, how it was to love others who hurt me and judge me, how it was to love by willing the good of the other. Here, I learned the gem of discernment. Here, I learned what total surrender meant and how it is possible with grace (though very painful).

How do I let go of 25, precious years? What if the moment asks now that you let go of what you thought was the permanence you desired? What if detachment now is necessary?

If there is one thing I kind of understand at the moment, amid the many uncertainties and mysteries, to let go of something doesn’t mean forgetting. Maybe to let go graciously, we need to come to a point wherein we begin to be thankful of the moments that made us who we are today. Nothing that has passed by in our lives is devoid of meaning. Each experience, each person we encounter have contributed to the chiseling of our very selves as we progress to whole-ness and holiness. No experience ever goes to waste in God’s grand scheme of things.

So here I am, thankful for what was. I realized that when I look at pictures in my instagram account, 80% were all about the adventures God brought me to in CFC – FFL. While it’s time to go another way and take God’s hand to a new family and to a new adventure, the past 25 years will always be very, very, very close to my heart.

For a moment, yesterday, before the send-off of those who are resigning from missionary work, there was a point when I tried to fight back the tears as I took a long look at the people in the room. I remembered what my spiritual director told me when I “knew” God was calling me to leave, “you will know it’s time when you learn to love, even if the people you love hurt you and misunderstand you.” I found out that the entire 25 years in CFC – FFL was a training of love in the 1 Corinthians 13 fashion. I know I still have a long way to go in learning to love like Christ but these 25 years have made me grow so much that all I could ever express now is… “thank you.”

Thank you for the 25 years. Thank you, because this new quest of loving more people and loving God singularly was brought about by the wonderful, wonderful 25 years.

It’s not really goodbye but “see you soon.” In this one path of bringing the entire world to love Christ, I know I’ll see each one, still, along the way. And when I do, I know I bring with my smile the beautiful years of being in a loving, Christian community.

Thank you, CFC – FFL.

“We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace …

But, Jesus, would You please …”

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What Happened When I Decluttered My Room (Life)

For months, I had a messy room. I thought everything was just okay until I found myself sleeping in the couch for a week or two because there were so many things on my bed. There were papers, unused clothing, books, bags…etc. Everything was a mess! Little did I know that the mess “outside” was actually taking toll on my everyday activities…and my “inner life.”

It was probably a month ago when I noticed that I would usually wake up very tired despite sleeping earlier than usual. Whenever I combed my hair, I would find more hair stuck in the wide-toothed comb. It didn’t probably seem like it but I was stressed!

And then right after one morning mass, when I found myself with more quiet time for meditation, it dawned on me why I was feeling more worried, pressured and tired: my room needed cleaning.

Moreover, I stumbled upon this video which made me really motivated to begin decluttering:

It took a day to actually get my room from messy to organized. I cleared out my bed, fixed my desk, cleared my closet for clothes I no longer use. As I sorted things into “what I need to keep,” “what I need to donate,” and “trash,” I realized that deep within, I was also going through a process of assessing what are the essentials and what I can let go of. There were keychains, conference ids, t-shirts, letters and other stuff that were very memorable but I knew I could no longer keep. I was trying to hold on to some World Youth Day-Madrid items when I realized that I really do not need to preserve the memory of it through them; the lessons of WYD Madrid had already been learned well enough to stay in my heart forever.

I proceeded to declutter my closet and saw that nearly half of it was taking unnecessary space already. It was either that I had not touched a certain top for a year or I never even used it at all! There were also pieces that I am so sure I could no longer use because I am now trying to be mindful with what I wear. Also, that video on minimalism gave me a eureka moment: deciding what to wear in the morning takes so much of my time! So I kept everything basic and left only the clothes that I knew I would regularly use. Not only did it give me more space, it allowed me to see that I no longer need to buy more clothes. What I had was enough for me to use and be presentable in class and in other engagements.

I also let go of bags, shoes and other accessories. I completely donated all the bracelets, earrings, necklaces I no longer touched because I was content with my gold necklace with two pendants and two watches I use (one digital one for everyday use and one for more formal occasions).

Even my books needed to be organized since most of the essential books I had were already in my Kindle. I kept majority of it, though, and placed it in our “library” in the room outside our house. I lined up for display in my desk only those that I normally use when I teach and preach. The rest that I still kept close because I wanted to reread them someday, I stored in one of the cabinets cleared because of my newfound take on what I wear.

As for make-up and other beauty items, I had to give the excess away. There was no use of “storing it for later” because I also kept those things to a minimum. There was that eye cream that I always forget to use, that lipstick that I can use but too reddish or too dark. There were tubs of lotion that mom hoarded later on, along with some clothes I let go. And there were skincare items that I think I could simply not use anymore.

Bottomline, when you see my room now, everything is reduced to the basics.

What did I learn from the entire experience and the days that followed after that?

  1. It is nice to stick to only what you need. It makes choosing what to use easier and it makes life simpler. When I reduced my clothing to only a significant number of tops, jeans and dresses, I realized that it does not matter if you wear the same thing over and over. I doesn’t matter, too, if it is out of fashion or in fashion. For as long as I dress modestly and nicely, that is enough. Would what other people say, matter? Nope. What matters is what you do with your life. It is not what you wear that will attract people or define who you are; it is your heart.
  2. With a few items in my room now, I could find things easily. I could also move around better even if my room is really small.
  3. I can sleep on my bed now and I found out that I wake up better. The back pains due to my upper and lower back conditions are now manageable.
  4. I stay in my room longer now and I feel peaceful about it. I think better, pray better, and work better, too.
  5. Decluttering my room allowed me to see the state of my heart, too. It was a concrete step in detachment. Detaching from the memorabilia allowed me to also detach from people and things and see the beauty of keeping close only a few. For people, not that I am pushing everyone away and being uncharitable but I saw how it was okay to keep much of what happens in my life to myself and to a select few. My former spiritual director was right in saying that the interior life should be between me and God, him and the one who forms me. I can still share but I am in no way obliged to share everything to everyone. It was liberating!
  6. A clean room made prayer more conducive. I have more quiet moments now and I need not stay in the living room often and drown myself in social media. I have more time now for spiritual reading and lesser time for Facebook. (Social media, I realized, can be so tiring!)
  7. Keeping things organized and clean allows me to view life with fresh eyes. When I wake up in the morning, I no longer wake up “in a mess.” It is now easier to stand up, get my breviary and do the lauds before I head to morning Mass.

Basically, one’s room really reflects one’s inner room. A clean and simple room free from “mess,” “attachments” and other “unnecessary things,” benefits one’s spiritual life. One good advise I also got from a priest was to make one’s room so simple that when we die, there is not much in it to give away and discard. It reflects a life lived in poverty-a life lived for God alone.

Because really, we do not need much; we simply need God.

(image source: https://www.c2educate.com)

The Failure to Listen

I had a very brief but enlightening conversation yesterday with a Salesian priest who is actively working in youth ministry. We were conversing about our different experiences with the young today and he shared that the thrust of the Salesians in the North province for months now was to listen to the different voices of young people. Different, meaning, that not only those who they were actively serving in their institutions but even to those who seem far off. As I bid my goodbye to father, I pondered on that for a while. Ah yes, often times the problems that we have on hand in ministry are often left unsolved or allowed to “simmer” for long because of one thing: the failure to listen.

Way back, I had another conversation with a leader of a religious community who was asking counsel on what to do with certain problems he/she was facing. I remember asking this person: “So what are your members telling you about it?” He/she paused for a moment, reasoned out and continued to ventilate. I asked for the second time: “What are your members’ sentiments?” And he/she began stating them, each with “buts.” That conversation ended with me partially giving up. Here was a person who did not like to listen.

When I was still a nurse, I learned that before we can dish out nursing diagnoses to our patients, (yes, we have nursing diagnoses!) the first step is always assessment. For physical assessment, we would use a lot of medical-related techniques; for the psychological ones, a more in-depth assessment is needed and verification of what we observe will always occur when we finally engage the patient in a conversation. We will never get to the information that we need if we would do all the talking. And we will never get the patient’s problems solved when all we do is speculate and conclude things from our own point of view. That is why part of our training as nurses is to master the different communication techniques. A huge part of these methods is actually listening. 

What hinders us from truly listening? Is it the fear of finding out what is wrong? Is it our biases – both to the situation and even to the person talking? Is it our pride being wounded by what me may hear from the majority? Is it our being too stubborn to welcome changes because we cling to what we deem as “tried and tested” methods? Is it because we do not seem to “have the time to waste in sitting down with the other’?

Whatever is that that may hinder us from listening, I guess it will boil down to just one thing: we fail to be humble enough to sit down and find out the root cause of what may no longer be working or what the problem really is. It takes so much from us to let our guards down and be completely open to all possibilities. It wounds the ego. And if we are leaders, all the more we find it difficult.

If we fail to listen, we will also fail in giving the right solutions to the problems we are facing. If a doctor fails to listen, he might be giving the patient the wrong drug which could be very, very dangerous. In ministry, if we fail to listen, we might endanger more souls than helping them. If we fail to listen then we fail to be more like Jesus.

One of the best accounts in the Bible on listening and accompaniment is that of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman by the well. (Click here to read the Gospel) Here, Jesus would show us a “step by step method” on listening – both the attitude of the listener, the right posture in asking questions, the right questions to ask…etc. The result of that conversation was phenomenal: the Samaritan woman experiences a change of heart and suddenly becomes a “surprising evangelizer.”

‘Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”’

John 4:39-42

As I write this, the image of that kind Salesian priest comes to mind. The thought of him being humble to listen to the silent cries of the young warms the heart in this very cold and rainy weather. I pray that all of the pastors – not only the priests and religious but also lay servant-leaders – would have the same attitude.

This reflection actually came about after listening to Cardinal Tagle close the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization. He gave a synthesis of almost a week-long dialogue with different sectors. Since the speech was given less than two hours ago, I don’t think the written message is already available online. But here are two words that came to mind as I listened to the Cardinal: humility and compassion.

Just like I mentioned above, we can never get to the bottom of what we seek if we are not humble to acknowledge that we are helpless without the Lord. If the answers to the problems we have are ministry-related, all the more that we should cling fast to God. The Cardinal was right in saying that we are mere servants. We are sent by Someone greater than us. The work of evangelization is never ours; it is the Lord’s. It was God who provided the bread that fed the multitude who were hungry and sought out Jesus; the disciples were just the ones who distributed the grace. We often know this and we are constantly reminded of it but when our ego is already wounded, we usually forget.

In addition to being helpless, the Cardinal says that the moments of nothingness that occurs to us should not remain on a personal level, it should extend to us finding the helplessness of those around us so that we can create bridges that Jesus can walk from our lives to another’s.

Also on humility, Cardinal Tagle mentions that we should be vulnerable to those whom we serve. If we are too closed in and we fail to be genuine, our ministry is just like any NGO (non-government organization). Our service in the Church is more than that. It is a sharing of one’s life for another, to another. And if we put up walls and boundaries often coming from our self-righteousness, then we will fail to let Jesus truly shine.

Finally, compassion. When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him a drink, Jesus already saw that she needed saving; she needed the Lord. Compassion when we look at its etymology would lead us to this meaning: “to suffer with.”

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

The entire life of Jesus was moved by compassion. This is what made Jesus stop to listen to Zacchaeus without judgment. This is what made Jesus stop for a while to attend to the hemorraghing woman in his haste to see the daughter of Jairus. Even in the account of His passion, Jesus would stop, in His compassion, to converse with the daughters of Jerusalem and the two thieves. When, just like Jesus, we are moved by compassion in our ministry, we find ourselves willing to be interrupted to stop and truly listen to the needs of others around us. And this listening is not only “listening to words spoken” but a listening that looks beyond spoken words, straight into the heart of the other.

Are we truly a listening Church? Is our ministry a listening ministry?

There will always be reasons not to listen. There will always be excuses not to do so. But if we want change in our world, in our society, in our Church, in our organizations and in our families, we need to have a truly listening heart like Christ.

A listening heart willing to forego the ego.

A listening heart that does not think of the self but the other.

A listening heart that is humble and compassionate.

When was the last time we truly and genuinely listened?

 

Doing These Before Bedtime Helps the Soul

One of the best things a spiritual mentor taught me way back was to take the counsels of St. Francis of Sales to heart. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis laid out very practical ways for us to go deeper in our relationship with God. Among the chapters, the morning and evening prayer activities have proven to be the most helpful of chapters.

Before one hits the sack, here’s what St. Francis has to say:

As I have counselled you before your material dinner to make a spiritual repast in meditation, so before your evening meal you should make at least a devout spiritual collation. Make sure of some brief leisure before suppertime, and then prostrating yourself before God, and recollecting yourself in the Presence of Christ Crucified, setting Him before your mind with a stedfast inward glance, renew the warmth of your morning’s meditation by some hearty aspirations and humble upliftings of your soul to your Blessed Saviour, either repeating those points of your meditation which helped you most, or kindling your heart with anything else you will.

As to the examination of conscience, which we all should make before going to bed, you know the rules:

1. Thank God for having preserved you through the day past.

2. Examine how you have conducted yourself through the day, in order to which recall where and with whom you have been, and what you have done.

3. If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better.

4. Then commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God. Ask that the Saints and Angels may keep watch over you, and with God’s Blessing go to the rest He has appointed for you. Neither this practice nor that of the morning should ever be omitted; by your morning prayer you open your soul’s windows to the sunshine of Righteousness, and by your evening devotions you close them against the shades of hell.

(Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 2)

Since I started the practice of the evening meditation, I found out how keenly aware one could be with the many things that have occurred during the day, especially the details we might have not seen that would make us forget to be very grateful to the Lord and, likewise, the uncharitable moments of our day that might have wounded another/others (that hint of resentment towards God, that often unnoticed instances of pride, that moment when your ventilating to another turned out to be gossip…etc.).

Reflecting on what happened to us today helps us find meaning in our experiences, enough to retire with smiles on our faces because tomorrow (if God allows) is another day to experience more of God’s grace and mercy!

It won’t take you more than 10 minutes to do these things before you sleep. Maybe tonight is the right time to begin!

Good night. 😉

 

Some Notes to Remember for a Lifetime from Someone Wise

I recently bade farewell to someone who has guided me for the past months. The eight monthly meetings in an office at a seminary became very formative for me. This very wise person did not really say much but he allowed me to discover a lot of new things. Each meeting would end with a painful lesson on surrender and a virtue I needed to work on. His favorite line was, “But there is no other way than the cross.” 

I’d like to write about this person because at one point, when I was revealing a very dark part of me, I never saw a look of judgement. His face had the same calmness and his eyes, still with the fatherly gaze he is known for. I broke into tears, asking: “Aren’t you going to scold me?” He shook his head lightly and smiled, “Why would I? Look at you. You are still good. You are good.”

The first time I saw him in the seminary last year, he had the same vibe when I was able to hold the hand of Pope Francis. He had that aura of sanctity. And so this person also taught me to pray like I never did before. He told me things about prayer that I realized he was doing, himself. It showed in his way of life.

And so when I learned that he was leaving, I really did not understand the grief. For two weeks, whenever I would be reminded of the fact, I’d find my eyes water that I needed to go somewhere private. I learned later on that he was right in saying that I was being schooled by the Holy Spirit on detachment. “The Holy Spirit IS our spiritual director. I am just a guide.” He was truly Alter Christus. Probably the “grief” was a manifestation of a deeper longing to see God’s face, as another wise person suggested.

His flight was on the day of my birthday. It seemed like he just came at the right time when I needed his wisdom on my 30th year. Someone told me that him leaving on my 31st could be likened to a commissioning. Thanks to this very wise person, I believe something in me has changed greatly to the point that there are people, who I’ve been with before but met again only recently, who would state some changes.

Lest I forget, though I doubt it, here are the valuable lessons that helped me through the last eight months. May the counsels bless you, too:

  • You do not need to explain everything that is in your heart to anyone. The interior life is reserved to be seen only by the Lord. Be prudent in what you share. Even our shared joys may “cause injury to others.” The injury is not our fault, though. But we still keep a lot of things to ourselves. Learn from the saints whose interior lives were not known except by their spiritual directors, confessors, formators and most importantly by the Lord.
  • Be as meek as a lamb in the face of false accusations. “Truth is like a lion, it will defend itself.” Endure. Do not retaliate. Maintain your charity.
  • You do not need to explain yourself to anyone. Continue to be as you are. You do not need to explain how God is speaking to you to everyone. Not everyone will be pleased by what we do. When there are more people who do, rejoice! Be worried if you are well liked and no one dislikes you. Christ was very much disliked by the people who knew Him so well. So when people who you expect to understand you malign and slander you, know that you are in good company.
  • You also do not need to tell these people they have hurt you. Carry on with what God is calling you to do and do it humbly and meekly. If they are praying enough, if they are discerning, the Holy Spirit will be the one to reveal to them their faults. To a proud and stubborn heart, no explanation shall satisfy. In a proud and stubborn heart, the Spirit cannot work so much.
  • Be careful not to be idle. Occupy your time with the matters of the Lord.
  • To admit one’s fault, frailty, weakness is humility. Do not be afraid to expose your sins to those who are guiding you. You will only progress by the degree of openness you have.
  • It may be very hard to understand why now but one day we will know why. Even our sinful moments, when redeemed, have a purpose in God’s design. He writes straight in crooked lines.
  • There will come a point in prayer when our words will cease. You will just sit down before the Lord in silence, no words necessary, only love.
  • Detachment has a purpose. It is to be attached to Christ.
  • Be rooted in Christ. Roots go deeper when nourished by a constancy in prayer.
  • Holy Indifference – St. Francis of Sales wrote something about it. It is something we should desire. It is hard to get there but one day you will. Always subject yourself to God’s grace and desire to gain virtues.
  • Save for God’s will, there should be nothing or no one to occupy us.
  • There will be people who will come into your life only for a certain period of time. We must learn to let go and detach from certain people so we can be more available to a world who is finding Jesus.
  • So if confronted with a choice between persons, things and God, Himself, what is that you shall choose? Choose Jesus.
  • Gazing at the cross in silence teaches us many things.
  • Obedience is founded in love. It will not be very hard to obey when you love the One who calls you to obey. We trust in Him and the people who He appointed to guide us who we need to obey.
  • Love demands sacrifice. Love is merciful but it also demands justice.
  • There is no way to go but to follow the way of the cross.
  • Let Mary guide you when you do not understand. Let Mary protect you. Always seek the Blessed Mother.
  • Mission begins in the family. Charity is hardest to give in the home.
  • Solitude is when we are comfortably alone in the presence of God who never leaves us alone. Solitude allows us to form genuine relationships with others.
  • There will come a time when prayer will lead you to desire persecution and suffering. It will come. And when it comes, you will be ready for it.
  • What is happening is a purification. When we desire to be one with God. It is inevitable.
  • When we are tempted, these temptations signal us what virtues we lack or we need to sharpen.
  • Always check your heart and its intentions. Guard yourself from instances of pride.
  • Do not be too anxious about how the devil can harm you. Live in peace knowing that it cannot kill you and live in peace, especially when you know you are in a state of grace. Just carry on with what you need to do. Mary and the saints and the angels will guard you.
  • It is okay to walk away when to walk away is needed. But never let charity walk away, too. Be charitable doubly to those who hurt you.
  • For as long as you know you are doing God’s will, no one else matters. Nothing else matters.
  • Peace always accompanies the person who is doing God’s will. So be at peace, always.
  • Be careful. Choose what you say yes to. The devil hides even in what appears to be good. You will unmask his lie when you bring all decisions to prayer.
  • God may be silent. He may “hide” sometimes. When you cannot hear Him like you used to, this is where our memories should be at work. Remember His mercies and be at peace.
  • Focus not on the blessings but the One who gives the blessings. This is what will guide us through the dark night.
  • The Holy Spirit is the ultimate Spiritual Director. Pray to the Holy Spirit always.
  • Learn not to sin even in your thoughts. Do not think ill of others because it will reflect in your speech. Purify your speech, too. It shows the state of the heart.

Discerning? Do This First Step to a Lifetime of Adventures

I would often get asked: “What is the first step that we need to do in discernment?”

I realized the weight and true value of St. Ignatius’ prayer of total surrender, when I got the assignment from the Spiritual Director assigned to me during an Ignatian retreat.

Kunin Mo, O Diyos, at tanggapin Mo
Ang aking kalayaan, ang aking kalooban
Ang isip at gunita ko, lahat ng hawak ko,
Ng loob ko, Lahat ay aking alay sa ‘Yo
Nagmula sa ‘Yo ang lahat ng ito
Muli kong handog sa ‘Yo
Patnubayan Mo’t paghariang lahat
Ayon sa kalooban Mo,
Mag utos Ka, Panginoon ko
Dagling tatalima ako
Ipagkaloob Mo lang ang pag-ibig Mo
At lahat ay tatalikdan ko

When you examine the words closely, those are words of entrusting everything to the Lord, such as that nothing else really matters save for His will. But what could be that first step to totally trusting and obeying the Lord?

St. John of the Cross comes to mind:

If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.

And that is it, I guess! The first step to a life of awe, wonder, surprise and adventure is that we learn how to close our eyes so that the Lord, who knows the way, who is sure of what way we should tread, will lead us to where our heart will find peace and joy.

You know that instance when someone covers your eyes and leads you to a room to surprise you on your birthday? You really do not know what you will see but you trust in the person who is leading you. You know he will not endanger you. Often times, the walk to the room may lead us to fear, to impatience or make us a little jittery but what joy it brings to the heart when our eyes get uncovered!

That is the life of great adventure that God is calling us to respond to!

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

-John 21:18-19

When Peter told Jesus that he loved him three times, Jesus responded with what mission Peter had to do: “Feed my sheep.” But Jesus gave Peter the first step, too, how he was to go about in fulfilling this task: “stretch out your hand and let me lead you.”

It is not an easy thing to do: to close one’s eyes, to stretch out our hand for God to lead us and to walk in the path that He will lead us to. But if just like Peter, we do love God (though imperfectly), to take this step to a lifetime of adventures is what “our love” should bring us to.

It is also not easy – to abandon the security of seeing what is before us. But God assures us that He will never leave us alone. He is, and always be, with us.

I remember going through the Retreat in Daily Life last year, which was a live out retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. During the first part, my retreat master led me to recognize the God who was calling me and how unconditional His love was for me. It was also at that moment when one would meditate on his or her nothingness and faults. The “humiliation” brings one to cling to the Lord. It was a training in humility.

Not to see is an act of humility. To close our eyes is the beginning of it. It will be a lifelong process to close our eyes completely because we could be very fearful but we will get there when we recognize, and constantly remember, who God is and what His merciful love did for us. This “not seeing,” can be encapsulated by this very beautiful song:

It has been a year of adventure. I cannot begin to enumerate the many wonderful surprises I got to see. I could not number anymore how many times my eyes would well up in gratitude whenever God said, “Okay Lee-an, you may open your eyes now!” The many places, instances, people I got to see and encounter – all because I just had to close my eyes and let the child in me wonder.

I celebrate my 31st tomorrow. This entire year seemed like 50 years in its length and wealth of experiences. I could not wait for what the next year will bring and what adventures God and I will still be taking together. I only know one thing now:

PRAYERGRAPHIC_JPII2

Nothing Coincidental in this Grand Design Called “Life”

Some song has been on repeat lately:

Pardon the romantic mush in me. Not that I can really relate to the song but the narrative intertwined with the heartwarming notes just got me hooked. It got me thinking, though…that song. I realized that it has a serendipitous theme. Like a happy chance. Who would have thought?

The parade
Traveled on
With the sun in my eyes
You were gone
But I knew
Even then
In a crowd of thousands
I’d find you again

But you know, there had been so many “destiny” stories just like this one in “Anastacia.” I think you might have come across a few in your circles. I have my share of stories in mine. I does make you exclaim: “Who would have thought!”

Just this week, I got the chance to dine with an American couple from the CFC FFL community. Over pizza, pasta and chicken wings, that meeting with Mike and April Frigge turned out to be a reminder that in God’s great design called life, there is no such thing as coincidence!

We shared our stories of how we were called by the Lord. It made me look at my own story as I said it and I saw how beautiful were the events of the past year. My goodness! Since I turned 30 last July 10, 2017 up to this day, it feels like I have gone through 50 years of adventure already. They asked me of the minute details of the many instances God shook me this year and as I relayed a part of my story, I was able to “see” details I never got to see before. We all agreed and exclaimed as the clock drew close to 1:30 am: “Who would have thought!”

April let out a line that I had been writing in my journal for the past year. She said it exactly as how I wrote it one time last year: “God weaves the tiniest details in our lives into a grand tapestry to marvel later on.” And indeed, He does!

So many times, I would notice the minute details in my experiences. Graces happening during important feast days, connections with unexpected people, patterns in prayer…etc. Years back, I remember being “accused” of overspiritualizing things only to be corrected by the first spiritual director who taught us that – “All human experiences are religious. All human experiences are God-experiences.” He said that often times, we just fail to see. We fail to recognize that God can be found in ALL THINGS. Nothing is coincidental in God’s great design called life.

If we look closely enough, if we spend time to look within and reflect on our experiences, we can find how God does move in the minute details! I remember being told that the key to discernment and knowing what God wants for us is a constant examination of conscience. St. Ignatius of Loyola introduced what you call the examen. For the Jesuits, they would do the exercise many times in a day. I remember being taught to do so at night before I sleep. For years of doing so, (though not constantly) it has brought me great good. I slowly became at peace at how God moved in my life. Made me appreciate the good and the bad and find how my heart would swell in gratitude. It made me see that everything is grace! It also made me realize my lapses and uncharitable deeds. What virtues to work on more, what I could have done, thought, spoke and what could I have avoided. It ends with the resolution to do and be better the next day, if God allows us to wake again.

Again, nothing happens by chance. The great God whose “now” is eternal, the all-seeing, all-in-all God, knows better than we do. His ways are not ours. If we entrust our lives completely to Him and we anchor our fidelity on who He is as the great Promise-keeper, the God who weaved together the beautiful details of Salvation History, then we are assured that the tapestries of our lives are guaranteed to be perfectly beautiful and good. If we truly believe that everything works for our good when we give our all to Him, we will find ourselves surprised one day when everything comes together into one grand masterpiece for us to see and for others to see.

“In a crowd of thousands,” God sees us individually and works uniquely in us. Everything will fall into place, one day. Every single detail will make sense.