At Our Darkest

Mercy

I actually do not know what to type in this entry. I initially wanted to write about gratitude, grace, mercy and love but the right words escape me at the moment. I find now that there will be no amount of words strung together that could ever describe or narrate how good, merciful and loving God is. If the tears that accompany this typing can ever speak, I hope it will. But let me just leave it here how my heart is overwhelmed at such a love that loves me at my darkest. How, despite of being a great and terrible sinner, despite previously knowing how painful it is to hurt the one you love and yet you did it anyway, despite all that… I am still here. I am still loved. I am still chosen.

For the past two days, I have been listening to just one song in repeat. I guess it is my song at the moment and the song that will guide me through the rest of these holy days.

I hope that this song will also touch your heart the same way. May you find people in your life, guides who will mirror to you the mercy and tenderness of God. When I thought I was not worthy to continue, when I thought that I was too terrible to be chosen to do things beyond my years and beyond what a 30-year old sinful woman could do, I found very holy people who looked at me as if I did no wrong. Who urged me to even walk further and see my experiences as a preparation for greater things. I weep at the fact that I was told: “No, you are good. You have such a good heart.” I weep because it felt liberating. I weep because it felt like I was washed clean. I weep, because I saw in their faces…the face I so long for.

Now I kind of understand. It is this unfathomable experience of mercy that will lead us to respond in such a radical way – to the point of giving off oneself to the Love that loved us despite of our shortcomings. It is this memory of mercy that will prevail as He washed away our sins and even the memories of it. It is this being embraced by mercy that will melt away all traces of anger, disdain and pain.

“Set the child free, she is mine now,” said the Father. And so she ran as He ran first to meet her.

May you experience the Love that will never cease to love you; yes, even at your darkest. It is in this “darkest” point that we walk further into His way, knowing that in the end, with much faith, hope and love, we will find peace.

We shall find Him, who completely, unconditionally, faithfully loved us.

 

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These Fragile Hands

Hands would always provide a sense of comfort. It is always consoling to have warm hands to squeeze when the world seems to be falling apart. In my lifetime, I’ve had so many hands that touched mine. Some stayed, some let go. To those who let go, it was difficult for me to recover. Maybe because at a very, very young age, the strong hands that should have held my little ones had to let me go for so many reasons I only understood later on.

It would take time for me to trust anyone who would provide that sense of comfort. I would find it very awkward at the beginning until I find how it is safe to let go, too, of my doubts. Maybe because I am afraid? I guess I am. Deep inside this strong exterior, I am actually a child. And rough and calloused my hands may seem, they actually easily break.

But I found that in my lifetime, there was a hand that really never let go of mine even if it felt He did at times. I realized that even if there will really be hands that will leave you broken, His hands would always be there to mend the pieces back together. His would even wound itself just so my small, fragile hands would be safe.

And these hands have also taught me to expose my fragile hands for the world. Not exclusively for another, but for all. He taught me how to reach out. Even if I would find myself withdrawing in fear, He would always remind me how His hand will never reject mine. Even if the hands I thought would stay would abandon me, His would always be there to make me feel secure.

A few days back, I found my hands closed in a fist. Each day it would harden in disdain. Then just last night, as I was going home after a long and tiring day, defenses down and completely open, I knew that my hands were more tired than my heart. So in the silence of the car that brought me home, like a lullabye that put the anger to sleep, He “sent” down a song to remind me how He is faithful promise-keeper. That in a world of people breaking promises and breaking fragile hands, He is present and very real.

Slowly, I opened my hands once again. Surely, I know there may still be people who would see beyond its fragility and use these hands to provide a sense of comfort for a just a little while. But because He showed me His hands and the scars left by the very people He loved (me included), I got the message how mine was meant to be that way too. That while He had fragile hands too, those hands never gave up in reaching out, never closed itself even in the face of suffering.

I look at mine and fragile as they were, they were actually strong too. And if His remained open, I think I could do the same too. I think I could now begin again to hold very fragile hands too.

I just cant compare you with
Anything in this world
As endless as forever
Our love will stay together

You’re all I need to be with forever more.

Ikaw pa rin at Ako

I dated God a while ago.

Fresh from an overnight of precious encounters, I was dropped off in Don Bosco Makati. Thinking that a good cup of gelato would be nice to cap off the retreat experience, I walked to Amici. Turned out that the 10-minute projected stay went on to an hour and a half of eating my favorite Tartufo pasta while I read a book in Kindle. I was about to get my gelato fix when someone called my name and lo and behold, I found Fr. Bobby alone in a table!

“Sino kasama mo?” he asked.

I said I was alone and that I came from a retreat in Batulao.

“Alone talaga?”

I looked at my table and looked back at him with a twinkle in my eye that he pointed out later on as I replied: “‘Di naman. Si God ka-date ko.”

“Ah yes, solitude. Alone but not lonely…the life we lead.”

We went on to discuss briefly about something else related to that statement when the waiter reminded me of my pending gelato order. Fr. Bobby gestured that I proceed to the counter and I excused myself, thereafter, saying my farewell since I saw that he was about to pray vespers.

When I went back to my table and saw how the rest of the room had two people together or three or four making up a family, I realized how I was, indeed, alone. But unlike the feeling of alone-ness in the years past, I am actually…okay with it now.

The practice of “dating God” began around three years ago when I would find myself drawn to do things alone like eat in a good restaurant to celebrate, watch a movie or even sit in a solitary spot in a coffee shop with a good book in hand or just to be there. I’d imagine He would be with me there in the quiet and it felt quite comforting to think that He is there “dating” me too.

“Don’t you find that weird and lonely, being alone? You should find a partner in life!”

I would always hear that from people when they find out my age and what I do. I would usually smile and reply, “What is wrong? There is so much joy in being single and living out your life purpose!”

I guess the world has come to that thinking: you’re one sad individual when you don’t have a hand to hold or someone to hug and kiss goodnight. Maybe we’re too obsessed with finding “the one” to satisfy our heart’s longings that we end up restless, unable to sit down in solitude to look at the world in a different light. Maybe we need to shift our gaze and look at the fact that true joy is not equated with having a romantic relationship with the opposite sex. Joy can be found in the completeness we feel when we are comfortable with who we are and the life we lead -when we find what satisfies and when we know that we are enough. What we have is enough. And cliche as it may be, that completeness can be found when we have God within.

I sat there in Amici, relishing my gelato when a song came to mind. I went to Youtube and listened to the love song that made me smile. The week that was prior to the retreat I had, I was battling a different kind of alone-ness to the point of anger. I came out of the retreat with a different perspective of what happened in the past, a renewed sense of love in the present and an eagerness to grow more in love in the future.

God made me remember the great capacity He gave me to love and love and love only that my faulty memory got the best of me. I looked at not having a hand to hold with resentment rather than gratitude. Gratitude, because, I may not have a tangible hand to have my fingers clasp the spaces of another’s but I have always had God’s hand to hold. I forgot to hold that hand. I guess when we focus on ourselves too much rather than God, we will really get easily eaten up by our emotions and by the circumstances we are facing.

And so I took one last scoop of that Coffee Crumble gelato, I looked at the empty space at the other end of the table and knew I was not alone. I had never been alone.

I stood, got my things and walked to St. John Bosco Parish. It was just about time for evening prayer. I recited vespers in the Adoration Chapel and lingered a bit more before I left. I walked relieved, with a renewed sense of joy in being alone. It is in solitude that we find the God who loves us and who makes us completely satisfied with what the present gives.

Even if we may take so many steps back in the struggle to fend for ourselves, we would always find that He takes the same steps too, making us aware that no matter where we go, no matter how far we run, no matter where we hide…there is no space that we cannot find Him there.

He was, is and always be ever with us.

Kahit ano man ang mangyari,
Sa dulo laging may bahag-hari,
Magkaiba man ang mundo,
Umulan Bumagyo,
Bumaha Lumindol,
Magkahawak kamay, pangako
Ikaw pa rin at Ako.

Better than I

I am somewhere dealing with what happened a while ago, alone. Five minutes ago, I was consoling someone who came to me tonight. I had to drop what I was doing. I knew just had to.

She told me what she was going through and later on told me something that brought me to tears.

When she was five or six, she was sexually abused by a cousin. She never got to confront the feeling. Years after, she would be physically and psychologically abused in the family. Each night she would ask God “why?” And in each question, she only received a “hug” before she slept. On to the next day with no escape and still so many questions.

She only faced how angry she was when someone recently broke her heart. Suddenly she felt used. She said that she is very aware why she is mad – she is angry because the little her never got to feel that way when she was taken advantaged of. She said that all of a sudden, what happened at present  somehow opened so many wounds of the past. She found life unfair, that person unfair and even God unfair.

But oh she loved God. She loved Him too much she would do anything for Him and even give up her very life if He asked her to. It was just that her heart that was so used to giving was not in the capacity now to even agree that she had to pray for the person who hurt her. She could not fathom why God would ask her to continue praying. She just wanted Him to hug her now because she could not bring herself to even remember that person. She did not want to remember. Just for now, she said, she just wants to forget the feeling of being ignored, abandoned and used.

And I really did not know what to say. I did not know what to feel. What I had in mind was a song that came to mind at Mass a while ago where I met her and I shared that with her before she left.

At the moment, I am left with that feeling and with the unanswered questions that I may never get answered but I know He knows better.

He knows better. Maybe that would be enough for her to get through this.

And I too.

Living with MVP

It happened a few days ago, after so many years without – the chest pain and shortness of breath that accompany the condition called Mitral Valve Prolapse. I was diagnosed to have such when I was in High School, because of the chest pains that suddenly occur. I still do not know what really triggers the occasional pain.

My doctor said it was not that serious. I could actually live with it and get used to it. When I was asked if I could tolerate the pain. I said that while I may have low pain tolerance, life taught me the value of endurance. My doctor chuckled but warned me: “But MVP may have complications later on when there is a stress in the heart, like an infection or a clot. Just make sure you take care of yourself.”

I tried different “stressful” activities later on to test what works and what should be avoided. So far, boxing, running, swimming, mountain climbing, cardio workouts have proven to be safe for me. I guess I just have to continue praying that whatever bacteria would try to invade my system should not travel to the heart.

But it happened a few days ago, again. And like the usual, I still do not know the trigger. I still do not know what constantly stressed it to have the condition manifest again. All I am sure of is that there was probably a stressor that repeatedly caused it.

And well while it is said that because it was designed to beat involuntarily, the heart does not grow tired, there are moments it gives you a warning. I was told by my doctor that when the warning signs are there, I needed to rest and get away from whatever is stressing it. If it was an infection that involved a strep throat and fever, I needed to: get confined, take medications and make sure I disclose my MVP history so the doctor would know that my heart was at risk of getting worse. It was also for the doctor to include medicines that may prevent heart damage and/or promote healing of the heart.

I was informed that MVP is a lifelong condition. I just needed to get used to it if it was not so bothersome or fatal. But I guess, just like the things we face in life, sometimes it is okay to rest. It is okay to avoid triggers. It is okay to think of one’s own heart first lest one day you find it failing.

Come to think of it, it is okay. To gather the little triggers, put them in a box and store it in the garage. To erase, to delete, to ignore. It is perfectly okay.

‘Til Our Hearts Beat No More

John

I was in first year college when I discovered St. John the Evangelist. I did not have a background in Theology then for I was preparing myself to be a nurse. But in that one subject called Philosophy of Man, I was tasked by my brilliant professor to report on the Gospel of John. Clueless, I went to St. Paul’s, bought a Robert Brown book (who later on, became a staple in my library!), tried to decipher the jargons and when I gave up, dashed to the Seminaryo to consult my cousin who was still a Theology student. I would like to believe that that first encounter with the study of John began the stirring of what was to come many years later.

As I read the entire Gospel, one line during the Last Supper scene made an imprint in my heart: “One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (Jn 13:23) This verse, though not part of any reading today, visited me again in prayer and then a song:

Once upon a Thursday night
A supper did renew my life
Once upon a garden pray’r cried
“My solitude is nigh now”

And then I wondered, as I listened to the song while in transit, what could have made John stay with Jesus from His side, to the Garden and then to the cross? What could he have heard in His beating heart on that Thursday night when he laid his head on his Master’s bosom? What could have he witnessed that never left his mind? What could have he heard that will make him stay steadfast ’til the end, despite the nights he had to endure and the constant threat of death?

Before entering the adoration chapel in St. Francis this morning, I felt moved to stand beneath the big cross that stood amid the Franciscan saints. Then the answer came: it was Jesus’ faithful, unwavering love. I looked at the saints beside him, each who ran the race sometimes bruised and battered but have found the reward of seeing Him in all His glory in the end. What made Saints saints was not because their hearts were free from blemish; what made St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Pio saints was their fidelity to the Master who loved them first.

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.”  (Jn 13:1)

The beloved disciple’s response of love came from his experience of the faithful love of his Master who “loved them to the end.” Despite their unfaithfulness, despite their shortcomings, despite the abandonment and the pain of being rejected, He loved them unceasingly.

I sat before the Blessed Sacrament, remembering the days past. I found myself again in the garden. I find myself now in the garden. But holding fast to His faithful and merciful love, I believe the night will soon be broken by the sunrise. Maybe in order to stay faithful, we need to lay our heads on His heart that understands what we could not. And just stay there. Stay in the joy. Stay in what is now. Stay in the ache. To listen to His heartbeat that says nothing but, “I love you.” 

In listening to His heartbeat, in staying at the foot of the cross, we would receive the grace to carry on, knowing that He endured everything first. And as He endured firstly, so should we. And as He obeyed and loved the Father’s will wholly, so should we. And as He loved as firstly, so should we…

’til our hearts beat no more.

Whose but Savior’s night, who but God’s Delight
Who but he whose night His friends had left behind can
Fill my emptiness and promise me a sunrise?
Jesus Lord of life…candle of the night
Sweet solitary life.

 

I Am Ever With You

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I am here, sitting in some coffee shop one tricycle away from home, with an empty chair before me. Trying to fight an impending flu, I type away as songs from Arnel Aquino, SJ’s playlist accompany me as I strive to find inspiration. It is hard to be inspired when what happens in reality can paralyze one to be uninspired.

And as it is with the God who knows me well, a song played in that random playlist that begged for attention. I had to stop what I was doing and listen as its melody hit every strand of unquiet within. For a moment, I had to stop what I was doing as the tears began to fall.

That is how it is with God. In the most unexpected moments, He sits before you in that empty chair before you in some coffee shop. He would invite Himself in and in the most unguarded moments, speak with so much compassion. (This, I figured can only happen when before Him we are totally unguarded). He would reach out His hand for you to hold and grasp, offer a smile to give you a bit of consolation. He would be often quiet, not answering the questions you might present before Him because maybe the answers are still not meant to be revealed, for our hearts may not be able to contain the truth of whatever it is that we seek. (Or maybe the answers are already there and we struggle at the incomprehensibility of how so, for we can really never know the mind of God. We can only acquiesce, confident that He knows best and that His will is beautiful despite the world finding it otherwise.)

But He is there. He is ever with us, especially in moments when we struggle with His silence and our hearts moan with the pain of emptiness. He is there, accompanying us in solitude. His is a comforting presence. A peaceful one, to put it succinctly. And isn’t peace not the absence of noise or pain but the enduring presence of Someone stronger who we may anchor our weary hearts on?

I find that even if no one sees the hidden struggles, even when no one sees what occurs in the heart in the solitary moments, He is ever present in each bout of grief, wiping each tear away with His gentle hands.

And so oblivious to prying eyes who may wonder why the tears, I continue to type and do what must be done, knowing that He is here, before me sitting in some coffee shop one tricycle away from home.

Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not stay afraid
It is really I who you see
I offer you all my peace

I have waited for this moment
To be with you again
In my heart you’ll remain
In your heart I’ll stay

I am with you, till the end of your days
I am with you, have faith
That I hold you
Even when you let go
And I love you,
You must know I am here. I am ever with you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled
Do not stay afraid
I’m beyond all anguish or death
I’m risen to life anew

When you feel that you’ve been emptied
And can give no more
Know that I am your breath and I fill your soul.

I am with you, till the end of your days
I am with you, have faith
That I hold you
Even when you let go
And I love you,
You must know I am here. I am ever with you.