"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Notes from the Yuletide Homecoming

27 December 2008

"Surrender is not giving up. Surrender is giving in. And letting go." ~ Fr. Jett Villarin, sj

I spent the morning at Sister S's final vows at Our Lady of Pentecost Chapel just a stone's throw away from the Cenacle Center. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with song and a lot of insights about Sister's journey to her final vows and God's goodness. I have asked Sister M if she can get a copy of Fr. J's homily and if that's possible, I will post that on this blog because really, it was a great sharing of Sister S's steps into her life of the cloth.

I found myself holding back tears every so often. I can't say that it was solely the glorious singing from Hangad. Or the thoughtful and at times funny and always insightful homily from Fr. J. Or Sister S's moving thanksgiving and vow-taking. Or how all the Cenacle Sisters stood up to declare their promise to take care of Sister S. It wasn't any one of these things. It was all of them combined, speaking eloquently of God's goodness.

There were times when I teared up thinking of how awesome Sister S's love for God was to take this momentous step. And it touched me so to see her tears of joy and how much the ritual of her final vows represented a significant step. And how it was in utmost freedom that she chose this path.

You know Lord, I have never thought of becoming a nun. I have had no desire or inclination towards it. But I have in my own way struggled, submitted and succumbed to my own vocation. And I know how it feels to say "Where would I go but to Thee?" I too have uttered with sighs and tears "There is only You."

Which is probably why a part of me needed to hear that bit about surrender that Fr. J mentioned in his homily. How it is not a giving up, but a giving in. It is not about resignation, but a letting go of how we figure You come into our everydays. How we interpret Your plan in our human encounters and emotional entanglements. How we feel You get Your will done in our lives.

I reckon if you are quite a way along the path and if you've somewhat trained yourself to be acutely aware of His stirrings, either seismically inside of you or externally through others or circumstances, it should be easier for you to recognize God's goodness. But that awareness, that knowing in your sinews should be present in good times and bad. To recognize God's goodness when things are good is one thing. And recognizing it when things aren't so good is the other side of the same coin. All goodness, sure. But so vastly different in experience.

What I desire of late is to learn not to constrict my definition of His goodness in my life. To give in to His will, especially because it is far more awesome than what I envision it to be. And I pray for a knowing in the sinews that that is true.

30 December 2008

The family just got back from three days of gluttony in Tagaytay where a cousin of mine has a house. It was a nice break, although we ate too much as is always the case. Needless to say, it's been a no holds barred kind of Christmas on the food front. Too many disgustingly delicious, cholesterol-rich or sugar-laden dishes out there to savor. What can I say? A foodie's a foodie. :)

Anyhoo, I'm not sure if it's age-related but I notice that I seem to have a deeper introspection of the times I share with my family. Maybe it's cause Tito R's death brought home how fleeting our time here on earth is. It was exactly a year ago when we visited him and his family in Bacolod. I am so thankful we took that trip. I don't regret a moment.

The simple pleasures that make up my life come to mind. Here are some of them:

(1) Taking evening walks in the village with Pa
(2) Treating my Ma to her favorite merienda, beef macaroni at Greenwich
(3) Grocery shopping with Ma - letting her choose whatever she wants to buy
(4) Countdown kisses with my nephew Papi
(5) Watching my parents interact with their grandsons
(6) The one time our family goes to Mass together (Midnight Mass)
(7) Meeting up with old and new friends and sharing not just a lot of laughs but meaningful, thoughtful conversations
(8) Having my nephews arms around me
(9) Taking photos of my family
(10) Playing with our dog Tanya
(11) Listening to Papi recite his bit in his school's Christmas presentation
(12) Listening to Papi and Marco sing "Little Drummer Boy" with their Lolo (grandfather)

31 December 2008

Yes, another New Year's Eve. It's 9.36pm and I've been trying to get into the writing mood for the past two hours but to no avail. There are times when the mood simply seizes you and does not let you rest until the words are out. There are other times when you need to come to the empty page empty yourself, waiting for the muse to enter.

This is one of those times.

It is not because I am ungrateful for the year that will pass in a few hours. If anything, I am grateful maybe to the point of having no words to express my gratitude. For a successful eye operation to get Mama's infection out. That even if her one eye goes slowly blind, we have her left eye in good condition. For Papa's good health this year. For my nephew Eyo's healing from Kawasaki disease. For getting to visit Zippy and his family in Baltimore. For the times my pockets were emptied because needs arose and soon after filled much more than I could imagine.

If there is a theme to 2008 in my life, it is God's awesome providence. Because He has provided not just aptly but generously, even as He painstakingly and patiently teach me to live in loving kindness. And I guess when we get to talking about Aslan's providence and His generosity, we get back to the root of all of it: God's relentless love and His immeasurable goodness.

I am especially thankful for normal days. Days strung together in a chain where each one comprised rising up, going about the business of everyday living, and coming home to rest before going through it again the next day. They seem so inconsequential sometimes, these normal days. But tonight, I find myself inexplicably moved by its simple grace. It is a gift that is not much different from good health - one that you are happily unaware of until you lose it. I choose not to live in unawareness of this special blessing. These days are my life.

So as I expectantly welcome 2009 and bid adieu to 2008, I rest my hopeful heart on the heart of Christ. The same heart from which the purest love emanates. The heart that loves all those I love, and loves all those who love me. The same heart that coaxes me to open up my heart. Thank You for Your patience, dear Savior God. Please don't give up on me.

3 January 2009

"There's an ancient recipe for fleeing all evil: Age quod agis. If I am doing what I'm doing, without fantasies of approaching dangers, without my mind displaced, I am centered. I am here one hundred percent. If so, then in that moment I am afraid of nothing, and need nothing. Thus, I find fullness." ~ Piero Ferrucci

I read this passage in Peiro Ferrucci's book I'm currently reading entitled "The Power of Kindness." I picked it up at a bookstore while searching for Eugene Peterson's latest book which apparently wasn't available in the Philippines yet.

Anyhoo, back to the passage.

I'm in this chapter on mindfulness and I couldn't help but ponder that a lot of the moments of this Christmas break are similar in all the others that preceded it in the sense that there are times when I just sit still, breathe in and savor the moments.

Like this evening, I sit typing away in the loft while our the Christmas lights are basking our home in soft yellow glow. My nephews are playing tag, my sister Piglet is spending time with our youngest nephew, my parents are at the backyard playing mahjong and dinner will start in a while. My brother's playing my ipod on the sound dock and my current favorite Disney song "So Close" fills the house. I sit here in the loft, just listening to the conversations, the interactions and sometimes the altercations. The affections and affectations. These are times I really enjoy. When I am present in the moment, I forget everything except what is currently at hand.

And as we start this year in earnest, my heart yearns to make kindness my way of life, the fabric of my everydays. I hope to learn to be more kind to others, and to myself as well.

4 January 2009

I went swimming for a bit with my two older nephews this afternoon. It's been years since I went swimming in a pool, although the last time I was on a beach was a little over a year ago when I was in Palawan.

The nights have been windy where we live so it was no surprise that the water was cold. I almost spurted out expletives when I took a step into the icy water, but given that I was holding two children I was surprised that I remembered not to swear. Maybe there's hope for me yet!

Our beloved maid L who's more like a sister to me swam with us and it was just so much fun with the nephews. Mama came along, so did my youngest nephew Eyo and his nanny Ate Riz as well as my brother N (my nephews' dad). Soonafter, their grandfather took a walk to the village park where we were swimming and my eldest brother took our dog Tanya for a walk. The whole family was practically in the park, except for my sister-in-law A, our other helper Nana and my sister Piglet who flew back to Singapore today.

I love this kind of day. From the outside, it may not seem like a day out of the ordinary, and really it wasn't. Except that it was. We went to Mass where I wore my new clothes (I still have this habit of wearing my new clothes to church first. Talk about traditional, huh? What can I do. That's part of who I am.), had a leisurely lunch at home, spent the afternoon talking around the dining room table while watching Sunday variety shows (more like empty calories for the brain, actually), then off to the airport to send a tearful Piglet off, then to the swim. Now I'm nursing a cold while waiting for dinner to start.

I love this kind of day. :)

5 January 2009

I'm writing this entry in the morning which is a first given that all my other entries this Christmas break were written in the evenings. If you're wondering why the urge to write overcame me so early in the day, I think it's because today everyone goes back to work or school or regular life, so to speak. And here I am still on vacation, or more to the point, recovering from the indulgences and revelries of the traditional Filipino Yuletide.

I will spend this week internally gearing up for the year, which will be an awesome year, simply because it is the year of the Lord! As is every year in fact, but it's nice to remind yourself that there is no year that is not the Lord's. Having started the liturgical year with an Advent recollection from the perspective of St. Joseph's walk of faith, I also intend to reflect this year more on faith through his perspective and experiences. As Sister M said in an sms exchange I had with her, this too is Joseph's year in her life. Always on the brink.

I quite enjoy this week when everyone else goes back to their lives and I am still on holiday. I get to breathe and think and ponder on my life and it's direction (Which won't surprise you one bit if you've read this blog since I started. You would know that this is a January ritual of mine).

It is also a time to set goals and tweak mantras. A time to stop and gather yourself and write down your intentions for the year. To really ask yourself what you want to achieve this year, and how you want to improve yourself, and how you want to invest yourself and make the most of your life.

It is a good time to contemplate and pray for discernment and to let Aslan know your heart's desires.

A good time to pause. And pray. And be still.

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