Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Island of Hope and Healing

I think I'd be a morning person if I could wake up to this each day.

Marami ang nagsabi sa akin: "Mabuti at napadaan kayo dito sa Culion." Ang aking sagot: "Napabuti ako sa pagdaan ko sa Culion."
(Roughly translated from Filipino to: Many people there told me: "It's good you got to drop by Isla Culion." My response was: "I was made good, or a better person, because I did.")
God is in Isla Culion in the Philippines, a beautiful home-away-from-home where I spent an entire week on a silent retreat leading up to Easter. More than 100 years ago, Isla Culion was the world's largest leper colony. Today, it is a healed, historical, grace-filled island aspiring to be a top eco-tourism destination. It's a simple and laidback coastal town, with only 12 hours of electricity a day, but in close proximity to amazing coral reefs, dive spots, and white beaches, and blessed with the most amazing sunrises. I experienced God in all of that--but most especially in the warm and gracious people who, with their bedimpled smiles, earnest eyes, and open hearts, welcomed me to their home and changed me for the better.
PS. I have so many stories just waiting to be shared. I wish to write them soon. (I also wish I was there to soak in the seabreeze and all that sky.)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Gift of Uncertainty

I can plan all I want, strategize all I want, write all the checklists and to-do lists, but I still won't really know what will happen and how things will turn out. My former boss always said: there is no manual for the future. There are no guarantees. My highly-perfectionistic self freaks out sometimes, but I'm learning to embrace the uncertainty.

I remember a prayer session I had at one of my Easter retreats and it was a powerful reminder about how I was living my life. I asked the Lord if he could tell me what my life's purpose was and how my life would turn out, just as he knew His grand purpose in life - he lived to show us Love and redeem us. He smiled and said, "I could easily do that, but if I told you, I'd be robbing you of living your life."

I continue to be and do the best that I can, but I have learned to take more comfort in the gift of uncertainty. Living each day without knowing what tomorrow will bring allows me 1) to be grateful that I have another day, a chance to rediscover a little bit of myself, and a choice to do good to others, and 2) to trust and practice childlike faith in my God of Surprises who only wants better than the best.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making Room for More

I liked what the priest said at last night's Ash Wednesday Mass. Most of the time, we focus on the negative side of Lent: what we give up. However, we should also focus on the positive: what more can we do, give, share, be.

Lent provides me with an opportunity to renew my commitment to:
  • pray more
  • call home more often
  • write more
  • listen more
  • be more patient
  • sleep earlier
  • wake up earlier
  • spend more time outdoors
  • meet more people
I started the year getting rid of a lot of things: a termite attack quickly led to ruthless spring cleaning. I realized that there is so much stuff that I don't really need. It was a joy to sort, shred, recycle, donate, and dispose. I let go of a lot and it felt so good.

I can give up the non-essential things in life to make room for the More. Here's to a life of Magis.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Journey Begins

It's the season of Lent once again. I take time to pause and ask: What will this 40-day journey bring? How will I be changed come Easter morning?

I don't know just yet but I offer up each step of the way.

My dear friend's poem below says it all.

(Salamat, Djoni! Nabulaga ako.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Favorite Verses

One of my best friends in high school often criticized me that I didn't know my Bible well enough. I couldn't argue otherwise because I knew she could quote verses by heart (and I couldn't) and so she had a point. I remember her asking "Do you read the Bible, Nikki?" and I remember not being able to answer quickly enough because... well, okay, I didn't at all. Thanks to her constructive criticisms and positve example, I was challenged to pick up my Bible and get cracking.

I haven't read the entire Bible, and I'm nowhere close to reading it as much as I really should. But allow me to share my top four favorite verses of all time, and why I love them so.

Psalm 8: 3-4
When I behold Your Heavens, the moon and the stars that You have set in place,
What is man that You should be mindful of him?

I have always been fascinated by the sky. I enjoy watching clouds (and even take lots of photos of them, especially the "crunchy" looking ones... yung parang tirahan ng Care Bears?) and stars (I have starcharts and can name certain constellations from memory). I love watching the sun and moon rise and set. When I read this verse, my love for the sky made so much sense - far from being New Agey, it's that feeling of awe (and ultimately, humility) that keeps me gazing upward.

Matthew 6:28
Learn from the way the wildflowers grow.

Aside from the sky, I also have this fascination with wildflowers. Some may call them mere weeds, but if you take the time to look at them up close, you may be surprised at how complex (and beautiful) they are. Check out my original (and sadly unmaintained) prayer blog for my favorite photos of wildflowers. What can we learn from them?

Psalm 37: 4
Delight in the Lord and He will grant you all your heart's desires.

I love how Ignatian spirituality highlights God in all things, particularly in our purest and deepest desires. Isn't it great that He also wants what we want? As a good friend of mine put it so well: "I've learned about God's perfect time. Whatever you seek, and whatever He promised, is only a matter of WHEN, not a matter of IF." I couldn't have said it better.

Isaiah 30: 15
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
In quiet and in trust you shall find your strength.

My Holy Week retreat focused on these two lines and I am still overwhelmed with how much you can get out of 14 unique words (yes, I'm a logophile... okay, nerd... hee-hee... and actually counted!). For now, let me just say: I realized I haven't been very good at waiting, remaining calm or quiet, and trusting in the last months. No wonder I felt so lost and tired. More to come in future prayer posts.

Posted for LD's Prayer Musings, 30 March 2008.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Isaiah 30:15

By waiting and by calm you shall be saved
In quiet and in trust you shall find your strength

This is the verse I stayed with and relished in during my individually-guided Holy Week silent retreat at my favorite sacred space, the Sacred Heart Center in Novaliches, Quezon City.

Sa pagbabalik at sa pagpapahinga ay matitiwasay kayo
Sa katahimikan at sa pagasa ay magiging ang inyong lakas

Thank You, Lord, for the graces of waiting, calmness, quiet, and child-like faith.

Monday, April 09, 2007

God in All (Small) Things

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. (Matthew 6:28)

The first two photos were taken at the Sacred Heart Novitiate during last year's Holy Week Silent Retreat. Can you see the tiny yellow flower cradled on the leaf in the second photo? I stopped mid-stride when I saw it and got teary at the beautiful sight. The last two are from The Karis Tagaytay where I spent the last few days in glorious silence. I found the little yellow flower standing proudly amidst the gravel in the parking lot. Yes, the last is an extreme close-up shot of the lowly makahiya plant. So the next time you wish to run your foot against it (to see it fold up and close, and open again), be careful you don't trample on the pretty purple dandelion-like flowers!

Thank you, Lord, for the grace of seeing the Extraordinary in the smallest of all small things. Thank you for speaking in the Silence and Smallness. I beg for the continuous grace to share your Word with others to see the Extraordinary in the most ordinary of Every Day Things.