Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Kintsugi Heart

Kintsugi (金継ぎ) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. Rather than gluing the pieces back together in a way that conceals the cracks, Kintsugi makes the cracks even more visible by filling them with lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This results in a metallic design that runs across the surface of the pottery, making it look even more beautiful than before it was broken.

The philosophy behind Kintsugi is that objects don't need to be thrown away because they are broken; nor must their brokenness be hidden. Rather, brokenness is embraced as simply part of an object's life. The significance of an object does not fade just because it's been broken.

The same philosophy applies to us. Our value does not decrease because we are broken. In fact, sometimes brokenness is required to live lives that are fully surrendered to God. Sometimes the road to falling more in love with God means letting our hearts be broken first.

God never said it would be easy. "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23). | "... Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24) | "Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:35)

See... We can't fall more in love with God until we fall out of love with whatever isn't, first and foremost, Him.

Everything we've built our lives upon, everything we've sought false security in, everything we've gotten far too attached to -- our jobs, our hobbies, our relationships, our plans -- sometimes God will ask us to let go these things. And even if we know it's all for the better, it certainly won't feel that way for the time being. It's going to hurt. It's going to feel like the definition of having a broken heart.

But all that's left is to surrender to this brokenness.

We commonly look at Mary as the model of obedience. But let us not forget that she, too, harboured a broken heart. By witnessing her Son break from the sins of the world, she, too, broke. She allowed herself to. She let it be. She surrendered to the pain and united it with the Lord's because she had knew God's love would triumph. She allowed herself to become so empty so that God, alone, could fill her. And He did.

As part of Mother Teresa's consecration to Mary, she prayed something like this: "Mary, keep me in your most pure heart" and "Mary, lend me your heart." If we, too, want to draw closer to Jesus through Mary by asking her to lend us her heart, then expect to be broken hearted -- because her heart was one that was broken.

Yet, broken as it was, no other heart in this world was able to love Jesus more than hers. No other heart was more united with His than hers. No other heart became as swollen with the Holy Spirit as hers. We have nothing to fear in this brokenness. We have only to hope.

So give God your heart, even if it's in pieces - no, especially if it's in pieces. Give Him the broken shards and He will return it, gluing the pieces back together, not bothering to conceal the cracks but celebrating them, painting them gold -- so that, like Kintsugi, our hearts will be returned to us, even more beautiful than before they were broken.

Beautiful because they were broken.

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Don't Let Fear of "Not Knowing" Stifle Your Growth

Being okay with "not knowing" has always been difficult for me, as it is for many. There's just something uncomfortable about it. We fear taking risks because we can't foresee the future. We want to be able to plan, to predict, to prepare, and to control. We want to be certain and we want to know. But, obviously, we can't possibly know everything. In some cases, uncertainty is inevitable. 

The same thing also applies to learning. To 'learn' is to acknowledge that we are at a point where we don't know yet (hence the reason for learning). But some of us are so afraid of being beginners, of admitting that we don't know, of looking foolish and making mistakes throughout the learning process, that we actively give up learning altogether. We no longer pursue new challenges out of fear of looking stupid. We choose, instead, to stay in our comfort zones. 

However, Lauryn Hill provides some valuable insights on why "not knowing" is the key to eventually "knowing," and why we shouldn't be afraid of admitting that we haven't reached mastery yet. Here's the clip below ... 



THE POINT?

New situations can be really intimidating -- whether it's hitting the gym for the first time, taking on a new job, re-learning how to enjoy your own company after ending a long-term relationship, or starting a new relationship after relishing your independence. But don't let fear, discomfort, and uncertainty keep you from learning and trying new things. After all, in order to master anything, you must first begin

Don't be afraid to be a beginner again.

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas: Joy in the Midst of Suffering

As much as we'd rather sweep things under the rug and hope the sparkle of sequinned dresses and Christmas lights can distract us, the Advent season does not make us immune to stress, pain, mourning, loneliness, illness, and suffering. Life does not suddenly stop throwing curveballs just because its Christmas. No, life keeps on rolling, and many of us find ourselves drowning in a sea of distractions--even if that's the last thing we want.

I wish I could tell you that the pain would go away. I wish I could guarantee that you'd find all the answers to your questions. I wish I could tell you that Christmas would magically heal your illnesses, your brokenness. But I cannot. All I can give you is a reminder of something much deeper, of something that remains true regardless of your circumstances: God loves you

For just this moment, forget your burdens. No, don't forget them, acknowledge them. Feel them, and feel them fully. But in the end, offer them to God.. and read this. 

Below is a letter from Mother Teresa, written to the Missionaries of Charity. I want to share it with you because it speaks of the LOVE that is so central to Christmas, the reason Jesus came down to Earth as a baby in the first place. Read it slowly. Digest every bit of it. Here it is..

LETTER FROM MOTHER TERESA

Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much love He has for each one of you—beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus—one to one—you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in the chapel—but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He’s longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying “I Thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you”—impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead—meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him—speaking in the silence of your heart.

Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes—to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more—He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes—He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe—you are precious to Him. Bring all your suffering to His feet—only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.

You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you—but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead. … That is why I ask you to read this letter before the Blessed Sacrament, the same place it was written, so Jesus Himself can speak to you each one.

… His words on the wall of every Missionaries of Charity chapel [“I Thirst”], they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? If so, you will hear, you will feel His presence. Let it become as intimate for each of you, just as for Mother—this is the greatest joy you could give me. Mother will try to help you understand—but Jesus Himself must be the one to say to you “I Thirst.” Hear your own name. Not just once. Every day. IF you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand.

Why does Jesus say “I Thirst?” What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—if you could remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—“I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.

… Our Lady was the first person to hear Jesus’ cry “I Thirst” with St. John, and I am sure Mary Magdalen. Because Our Lady was there on Calvary, she knows how real, how deep is His longing for you and for the poor. Do we know? Do we feel as she? Ask her to teach … Her role is to bring you face to face, as John and Magdalen, with the love in the heart of Jesus crucified. Before it was Our Lady pleading with Mother, now it is Mother in her name pleading with you—“listen to Jesus’ thirst.” Let it be for each … a Word of life.

How do you approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret—the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. ‘Repent and believe,’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor—He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time. Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete.

THE POINT?

While its tempting to focus more on ourselves than on Christ when there is so much suffering in our lives, do NOT let these challenging circumstances keep you from experiencing the REALNESS of God's love ..for you. For you, specifically

The Nativity isn't just a historical event reinacted on the Discovery Channel. It is not just something from the past; it is our present and future. As a priest from my parish constantly says: our hearts are the mangers that Jesus wants to be born in. That is His thirst. 

This Christmas, will you quench it? 

"The magic of Christmas is not in presents but in His presence." MERRY CHRISTMAS! :)

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Making Peace with the Ordinary Grind of Everyday Life

Sometimes we can grow frustrated with life, wishing we were somewhere else but feeling stuck in the same unglamorous grind of everyday life. Like plot points in a movie, we wish every moment could be jam-packed with excitement, that we could fast-forward and skip over the mundane, ordinary details of day-to-day living -- things that seem so insignificant.

That was my mentality.

I discovered I had a strange fear of the mundane. I wanted everything in my life to be meaningful, to know that every task I did contributed to the betterment of the world or to myself in some way. I felt frustrated or drained if I couldn't see the immediate value in the tasks on my plate, things that seemed to be stripped of anything 'profound' altogether.

But I was wrong. Sometimes the path to holiness is the one that seems to be mundane, the one that looks awfully drenched in ordinariness. As many saints can attest, significance can be found in the seemingly insignificant.

  • "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." - Mother Teresa
  • "Not all of us can do great things. Only small things with great love." - Mother Teresa
  • "Do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well." - Saint Don Bosco
  • "Our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity." - Saint Therese of Lisieux 

I will never forget what a priest once told me. It was something like this: "Stop thinking of your vocation as something that'll just unfold in the future. Your vocation starts now. If you are student, a daughter, a friend, then your vocation right now is exactly that: to be a student, a daughter, a friend -- and do so excellently. The key to the future is the present. Live well in the present. Be faithful in small things, do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well -- that is the pathway to holiness."

As Saint Therese of Lixieux once said, "If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient. But I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future."

Think about it: Mother Teresa's life looks epic in hindsight, but it consisted of 'unpleasant' day-to-day activities like cleaning toilet bowls or puss-filled sores of the sick. Saint Don Bosco spent many days simply playing games with children to lead them to holiness. Saint John Paul the Great earned several doctorate degrees, which also meant years of rigorous reading, studying, writing papers, etc. (those of us preparing for midterms/finals right now can totally relate! LOL).

THE POINT?

The point is that these saints (or soon-to-be saints) were not immune to the unattractive, day-to-day grind of everyday life. In fact, they were fully immersed in it. But they were immersed in it for the sake of loving God.

As it says in the book called Imitation of Mary:

  • "The greatest of perfections is to love one's own state and to carry out its obligations, however ordinary they may be."
  • "God wants of us a continuous series of little actions, but you want to do some great ones. The only result, if you follow your own way, is that you will do neither the small nor the great well." 
  • "Manual work and even occupations that are burdensome and irksome cannot distract a spiritual and interior man from union with God ... You can taste [God's] sweetness in any occupation." 
  • "You can become a great saint simply by doing ordinary things, but doing them in no ordinary way." 

It's easy to wonder what our part-time jobs or boring electives have to do with our vocations, but really, they have everything to do with them. The exams that need to be written, the dishes that need to be washed, the difficult customers that need to be dealt with -- all of these mundane details of life can be powerful prayers offered to God.

It's just a matter of remembering Him from day to day, and acknowledging Him ... even in these little things.

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dare to Be Different (Pt. 3): Unique by Necessity

Now I can't pretend to be an X-Men expert, but I saw the most recent movie X-Men: Days of Future Past and loved it. Weirdly enough, I actually cried during that movie -- more than I did with The Notebook.

I cried because I was incredibly moved by its themes. In a strange way, I could relate to the challenges the mutants faced: the challenge of being different. As Magneto put it, "Humanity has always feared what is different" -- and therefore aims to extinguish it. Consequently, many mutants felt the need to withdraw and go into hiding.

** Spoiler alert: do not read the next 5 paragraphs if you don't want the movie spoiled for you **

Central to the film was Professor Xavier's identity crisis, as the younger version of himself struggled to come to terms with accepting his mutant 'powers' (telepathy: the ability to read and control minds). It was difficult for him to see his superhuman abilities as gifts; in fact, at the time it was excruciating.

Young Professor X from the past confronts his future self.
Telepathy was excruciating for him because reading other people's minds meant experiencing their pain firsthand; their pain became his pain. Rather than utilizing his superhuman abilities, he drowned them out using a serum which altered his DNA and temporarily removed his telepathy, silencing the 'noise' of other people's thoughts.

The serum also restored his ability to walk (he was originally wheelchair bound), making him even more like an ordinary human being than a mutant. And it suited him fine: he would rather lose his unique abilities because they were also burdensome.

However, as the plot unfolds, young Professor Xavier learns that embracing his uniqueness is necessary for him to make a powerful difference in the way the future unfolds, and in helping other mutants embrace who they are and use their superhuman abilities for a greater good.

Although being different can be painful at times, he realizes that "It's the greatest gift we have: to bear pain without breaking. And it's born from the most human power: hope." Enduring the pain that came with his special abilities was the only way to fulfill his greater purpose; he was unique by necessity.

AND WHAT ABOUT US?

How many times are we tempted to drown out our own differences? What we need to realize is that God made no mistake in giving us unique qualities: they, too, are necessary for accomplishing our greater purpose in His Bigger Plan. To say 'no' to what makes us unique is saying 'no' to the very way He wants us to accomplish His work.

You and I are unique by necessity. My dear friends, #DaretoBeDifferent

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Dare to be Different (Pt. 2): Burdens to Blessings

We humans are funny creatures. We know we should be seeing the glass as "half full" rather than "half empty," but we still gravitate towards the latter.

We focus on how far we still have to go rather than acknowledging how far we've come.  We count others' blessings rather than seriously dwelling on our own. We spend time wishing to be someone else rather than genuinely thanking God for the gift of who we are and the unique journeys we find ourselves in.

We find it difficult to accept what makes us different because we aren't grateful for what makes us different. We look back at our own life stories or personal characteristics wishing we could edit, tweak, or delete some stuff. But that's not how this works. Gratitude means being grateful for the WHOLE thing. Even the burdensome things are blessings in disguise.

"I asked God to give me happiness. God said no. I give you blessings; happiness is up to you." 

So take this challenge: look at your life in retrospect. See the whole story, the rise and fall of action, the conflicts and resolutions. See the people who've walked out and those who walked in,  the ones who helped you fit into your skin, and the brief encounters that came at just the right moments. See how you cried out of sadness and out of joy, how you worried and how you found peace. See how you toiled hard and how you conquered, how you failed and how you learned. See how you were weak and how you found strength, how much you doubted and how you found faith.

Above all: see the One who authored your life story. The One who will never drop the pen. The One who is found in the details. In all things, God has made himself and his love known to us. If only we'd take the time to acknowledge him. Maybe then we can open our eyes to see that our lives -- our unique journeys -- are just as they should be. We are just as we should be.

Be grateful.

Grateful, knowing that when God looks at us he sees people whose unique features are worth celebrating rather than changing. Grateful, knowing that no matter how badly we've sinned, his unfathomable mercy covers us anyway, his love unstoppable in endless pursuit of us. Grateful, knowing that God has held us in his hands this whole time and always will be.

THE POINT?

Own up to your unique life story and to who you are, because all of this is a gift. Own up to it without shame. God is found in every detail -- in your life and in yourself. You were made in God's image.

I was in a discussion group once for my church youth group and realized that my journey with Christ was different from those around me. I realized that while most were in a season of abundance, I was in a season of draught. But I also realized that this was fine. My life was just as it should be. The way God speaks to me is different from the way God speaks to others, and the way God speaks to me will be different from the way he speaks to you.

Find His Voice.
You, too, will have the courage to #daretobedifferent.

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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dare to Be Different (Pt. 1): Embrace Who You ARE

One of my biggest frustrations in life is being misunderstood -- and surprisingly, it happens OFTEN. I'm not just talking about "misunderstanding" in the lighter sense (such as being unable to articulate myself clearly). I'm talking about being misunderstood in the deeper sense -- with things related to the core of who I am and what I'm about.

I've never been transparent. Can't pretend to be. I'm an onion with so many layers that it takes time to actually know me (if this analogy sounds like it's from Shrek, that's because it is). Of course this makes me more prone to being misunderstood.

I'm also very different. And while diversity brings so much beauty and intrigue into the world (I wouldn't trade it for anything), it also increases chances of misunderstanding. As someone who is different on so many levels -- from my physical appearance, to the fact that I'm left-handed, to the way I think, to my personality (I have the rarest personality type according to the Carl Jung Typology Test. Shout out to the rest of the 1% LOL) -- I can honestly attest to this.

Being misunderstood can be pretty tough. I'm not writing this to be emo. I'm writing this to be an outlet of expression for others who've felt the same way. To be misread as someone who could care less about others when it's the farthest thing from the truth; to have your good intentions be taken wrongly; to share an experience that is so raw and deep to you, only to realize that few people actually understand you because they've never gone through what you did; to have a vision of something you are so passionate about, only to have no one 'get it' because you think on an entirely different level ...it's frustrating.

MY STORY 

There came a point in my life when I really hated being different because it made me feel more misunderstood.  I couldn't understand why God made me the way He did -- in a way that 'set me apart' rather than allowed me to 'blend in' -- because in my mind, it made it harder for me to find that sense of 'community' whose importance God so strongly emphasized.

Rather than finding validation in others for my unique experiences, I felt even more isolated and alone. I was horrified to find that many people actually couldn't relate to me, even if they badly wanted to. And I couldn't force myself to think or experience the world in the same way they did either, even if I tried. I was just 'programmed' differently. It was hard for me to accept.

There were many times when my prayers would involve the exasperated statement of, "God ... you've made me so different." -- as if expecting him to fix it. But God didn't see anything that needed fixing. Otherwise, he would've done it. When I'd cry out, "God, you've made me so different," his only response would be: "Exactly."

And that shut me up.

Because for the first time it registered to me that there was a purpose to all this --  to the way God designed me. He wasn't going to change it for the sake of my comfort; it was my responsibility to find comfort in Him.

LESSONS LEARNED ...

While I still struggle with accepting this, I can proudly say that I am learning.
I am learning that my inability to find comfort in this world is a gift, because it makes me fully dependent on God as my source of consolation. 
I am learning that God is calling me to embrace myself rather than wish I was someone else -- to trust his plan and design for me.
I am learning that no one is ever fully 'alone.' There will always be someone who can relate to you, even if the number of people who do are few. Otherwise, this blog wouldn't exist. I am grateful for those of you who read my words and vibe with them, affirming that I am not alone in my experiences.
I am learning that I don't necessarily need anyone to 'understand' me in order to proceed with life and feel validated about who I am and what I've been through. Be self-affirmed and trust God completely. That's all you really need. 
I am learning that while my friends and loved ones might not necessarily 'understand' me, it doesn't mean they don't love me. The fact that they stick around and listen to me anyway is enough testimony of that. Vastly different people can still get along. :)  
That's all I've got for now -- hopefully it helps. I'm sure more will be revealed to me as I go on through life :) #daretobedifferent

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