Monday, 8 February 2016

The Truth About Healing

Well, I suppose it's safe to say that I've done what most people can't do. I let go, when most people would latch on. I leaped and I did, in fact, fall. I let go and I did, in fact, lose. I consented to having my heart broken, knowing full well what I was getting myself into. And reality did not disappoint; it was everything I expected it to be and more. Am I stronger now? I don't know. I can't say conclusively, but that's just what it's like to heal.

Healing is nothing like it is in the movies. Or maybe it is, except the concept of 'time' is vastly warped. You don't 'break' and then come out totally confident a few weeks later. The reality is that the healing process is NOT linear; it's a freaking roller-coaster. You have good days and bad days, and the cycle repeats itself. You take one step forward and then two steps back. You think you're getting up, but then you fall back down again.

Forgiveness, I realized, is also not linear. First of all, it's not an emotion, but a choice. Second of all, if you think you can do it without God's grace, you are kidding yourself; forgiveness is essentially countering everything your natural human tendency is telling you to do. Thirdly, forgiveness is a decision you constantly have to make and then re-make—for as long as it takes. Even if that means multiple times a month, a week, a day.

You also have to come to terms with the fact that life can be downright perplexing at times. While asking "Why?" ("Why did this happen? Why me?") can be helpful, sometimes it is unproductive—especially when not a single person you ask has a clue how to answer it. Some things aren't meant to be made sense of. These are the moments when only the grace of God can help you trust Him.

Finally, when it comes to healing, be patient with yourself. If you're anything like me, you'd want nothing more than to be free of the things that hold you down, to shake all the unnecessary weight off your shoulders so you can finally use your energy on something more productive. But, for the time-being, you still find yourself tangled in a strange mess you never wanted to be in. Personally, I would cut the cord and untangle myself immediately if I could. But it doesn't work like that. Detangling takes time, and for now I am still indirectly weaved into a story that I will soon not be a part of.

Until then, here's to the journey towards healing. If you're on a similar road, join me. If there's any good that can come out of this, it's growth in virtues, I suppose. Total reliance on God; blind trust in His will despite having no clue how the hurt can be transformed into something meaningful; forgiving when it's the last thing you feel like doing; and having enough patience to allow His promises to come through.

Keep your chin up. :)

John 14:1 | 2 Corinthians 12:9 | Jeremiah 29:11

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Winter Solstice: Lessons on Healing and Recovery


I live in one of the darkest places in the world. Vancouver gets less sunlight per year than many places on this planet (that is, according to Google). As I was observing how late the sun rises and how early it sets these days, I was relieved to find that the Winter Solstice (the shortest day and the longest night of the year due to less sunlight) has already passed—which means that every dreary winter day that passes from now until Summer Solstice will only bring us more sunlight. (If you live in a perpetually sunny place, you might not understand why sunshine is such a big deal to those of us living in the Pacific Northwest. Haha.) 

This means that the darker days are (literally) behind us and the brighter days are ahead.

Yet it might not immediately seem like this. Many of us forget that Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter, not the middle of it. As we trudge on through cold winter days, it might seem like gloom is all there is. It's hard to imagine that we're actually getting more hours of sunlight as winter progresses. In fact, it takes a quarter of a year before we start seeing noticeable differences in the amount of sunshine we get. 

And—surprise, surprise—this is just like LIFE. 

Whether it's getting laid off from your job, having your heart broken, or losing a loved one, the 'initial blow' is always the hardest part of anything in life. It's our own human version of the 'Winter Solstice': the darkest day of the year (the day with the least sunlight). When these things happen, it feels like it's only uphill from here—like the darker days have just begun.

But remember:

Your metaphorical 'Winter Solstice' is the darkest day—which means brighter days are ahead of you. The days that follow might still appear to be gloomy, but don't let appearances deceive you; each one gradually brings more sunlight ... even if you can hardly detect it. Every tear-filled night that happens afterwards functions like raindrops, making your soil fruitful in due time. 

When you are physically wounded, your body will immediately begin to repair itself. The same goes for emotional and spiritual wounds. After the 'initial blow', your spirit will begin to heal itself too. And so will God. So rest in Him. Don't leave Him out of the healing process; He is the process. 


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Thursday, 31 December 2015

6 Quotes to usher in the New Year

It's New Year's Eve! For some people, reflecting on the past year gives them a feeling of triumphthey've made great strides, accomplished important goals, and overcome many challenges. But for others, reflecting on the past year can feel wearisome, filled with regret and disappointment. Here are some quotes to help you look up instead of down and give you a glimmer of hope for the New Year to come.

1. "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Gandalf 
It's easy to look back at the past year with a tinge of regret. We notice the blessings, but also the holesthe baggage we still carry, the things that still need repair, the areas of our lives that still need refining and watering. It's tempting to think: "If only I had realized this earlier..." or "I thought I'd be in a different place by now..." But we all know that none of us can turn back time or speed it up. We can't erase our mistakes or skip the growing pains that come with learning. So do what you can with the time you have now.

2.  "Sometimes it feels like you've been buried, but actually you've been planted." Anonymous
You might look back at the past year and realize you've hit your lowest point. But these experiences which made you feel 'down in the dirt' could be the very same soil that enables you to grow.

3. "Your speed doesn't matter. Forward is forward." Anonymous
Sometimes it feels like others are progressing, but you're still stuck in the same rut or moving in an excruciatingly slower pace. Do yourself a favour and stop being hard on yourself. Forward is still forward. You're not moving backwards. Slow motion is better than no motion.

4. "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant." Robert Louis Stevenson
Sometimes it feels like all your effort has amounted to nothing. But don't be fooled. Effort matters, even in the absence of immediate visible results. Be patient, celebrate your efforts, and trust that they will eventually become fruitful in God's time. Don't let anything discourage you from 'planting seeds'. You might be surprised which circumstances they sprout up!

5. "Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge." Kahlil Gibran
Maybe you're ending the year off with unanswered questions. Perhaps you thought you were heading in the right direction, only to realize you were totally wrong and are struggling to redirect. Maybe you face tremendous uncertainty for what the future holds. Maybe you don't even fully understand yourselfyour wants and desires, your calling and vocation. Take heart: perplexity is the beginning of knowledge. Don't be afraid of your questions.

6. "Rock bottom was the foundation on which I rebuilt my life." J.K. Rowling
Finally, if you feel like you've hit rock bottom—sometimes that’s exactly the inciting incident you need to rebuild, reform, and recreate your life with completely new material. God allows you to hit rock bottom so that He can be the one to save you when you have nothing left, to transform your life into something greater than you imagined. So usher in the New Year with hope in Him.  

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR! :) 

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11 

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Sunday, 6 December 2015

10 Lessons I've Learned from 2015

December is usually the time of year when people get a little more introspective, reflecting on the past year and all the lessons that came with it, in preparation for the New Year. So here are 10 lessons that 2015 has taught me. Hopefully they resonate with you.

1. Be solution-focused. 
Some people are naturally action-oriented. They notice a problem and immediately jump into action to 'mitigate the disaster'. But others (like me) are way more reflectiveand that means we're more prone to dwelling. Now dwelling serves a good purpose: it gets you out of denial and helps you face the reality or a problem (which is better than ignorance). However, it's important to put a cap on it. Too much dwelling is not helpful. There comes a time when you've got to throw on your Big Girl pants, roll up your sleeves, and plot out how you're going to move forward from here (aka develop solutions). This has made a tremendous difference in my life.

2. Don't take life too seriously. 
Whoever said "laughter is the best medicine" is a genius. Sometimes it really is. My friend and I recently had a conversation about how we thought we'd have everything together by now, that things would be perfectly aligned, but it seems like the exact opposite has happened: everything we planned for has basically gone down the drain (don't you just love life's plot twists?!). Yet somehow we ended up finding this whole situation hilarious. Sometimes in life you'll be half-crying, half-laughingbut that touch of laughter makes all the difference.

3. Realize that different friends serve different purposes in your life.
It's way too demanding to expect one person to play all the roles that you need in your life. So cherish each individual friendship for what they arealmost like enjoying a bag of Skittles with different flavours. Not everyone can be that friend you can have deep, intense talks with. Not every friend can understand you at your most vulnerable. But others can definitely bring you joy, laughter, and good times. Some friends are there to slap sense into you, others are there to give you warm hugs. Some friendships will be more surface-level, but that doesn't mean they're less significant. 

4. Be okay with uncertainty and ambiguity.
Hollywood movies spoil us with resolved, happy endings. They tie up loose ends neatly. Everything's explained. The audience has an "aha!" moment of revelation. However, life is often more like an annoying indie film which has an open-ended, unresolved (or semi-resolved) ending that leaves you scratching your head. You want closure? You often won't get it. You want an explanation for why certain things panned out the way they did? You often won't get it. You want to know what the future holds? Good luck. In other words, accept that life's ambiguous and is filled with uncertainty. And then move on. 

5. Don't overcomplicate things.
You want to know if something is meant for you? Try it out. A friend of mine recently said, "Praying for your vocation begins I think, simply by ... praying for your vocation." The simplicity of his response was so awesome (and frankly relieving). You want to know if you're called to religious life? Spend time with Jesus then (your would-be spouse). You want to know if you're called to marry a particular person? Spend time with that person (and Jesus). You want to know if a career path is for you? Do some volunteer work, do an internship, or do some job-shadowing so you'd know. Life is simpler than it seems. 

6. Focus on what you can control, not on what you can't. 
This is one of the most liberating lessons I've learned. The recipe to hopelessness, frustration, and prolonged sadness is to keep focusing on things you have no control over. For instance, can only influence a person's perception of you to a certain degree. After that, it's totally in their hands. Misunderstanding happens. You could have the best intentions in the world, but someone could still take it the wrong way. Don't lose hair over that. Don't chase approval. Heck, Jesus was totally misunderstood by others. But he said his piece, presented the truth, 'shook the dust off his feet', and moved on. Clearly it wasn't his top priority to please everyone. So instead, focus on what is within your control and let go of what isn't.

7. Work with what you've got.
It's an utter waste of time to wish you were 'different'if that 'different' is something you have no control over. Wishing you had a better metabolism will literally do nothing to help you get to a healthier body weight. Yes, it's true that some people are born with better metabolism than others. But is that going to help your particular situation? No. So just hit the gym and eat healthier. If you aren't naturally thin like other girls, then celebrate your curves (or the reverse if that's your case). If you aren't an extrovert, maximize your strengths as an introvert. My point is: work with what you've got.

8. Stop telling yourself you wasted your time, because you haven’t.
Did you major in the wrong subject in college and are now blaming yourself for switching gears? Well, don't. As tempting as it is to tell yourself it was a complete waste of time, meandering in the 'wrong road' will probably be very useful to you in unexpected ways (how about a unique skill set?). Did you just get out of a long-term relationship with someone you were convinced would be your spouse? As good as it feels to be dramatic and say it was all a waste of time, it probably wasn't. That person was "put in your life to teach you a lesson" (I actually hate that phrase for being so damn true). See the value in everything. It'll save you the heartache.

9. Do something meaningful. 
Whatever 'meaningful' means to you is up for you to decide. It's a little different for everybody. For me, it means doing something that builds you up and/or builds others up. Beware of the trap of empty pleasures! We all need to unwind with things like Netflix, TV shows, or going out dancing once in a while. But do so in moderation. Too many nights repeating the same shallow things can add up to months of lacking meaning or purpose in your life.

10. Do whatever brings you joy.
Remember that 'meaningful things' don't always have to be ground-breaking or epic. Even seemingly shallow things, like a simple hobby, are worth doing simply because they bring you joy. For instance, I mentioned briefly in a previous blog post that dancing used to be a HUGE part of my life. I'd go summers practicing for competitions every single day, I kid you not. And then I stopped dancing when I went through depression. But lately I've been dancing again on a weekly basis, leisurely rather than competitively, and it has been surprisingly transformative. I feel like I'm thawing again after being frozen for so long. I feel like the colour is coming back to me, like I'm recovering a part of myself that I lost. Am I going to make a career out of dance? Probably not. But does that mean it isn't worth doing? Heck no. Sometimes God gives us these little talents and gifts because it brings joy to us, brings joy to him, and hopefully brings joy to others who witness it. If something brings you joy, keep doing ityou don't need another fancy reason.

SO THAT'S IT! :)

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Sunday, 11 October 2015

The One Who Wants You Present

Have you ever wondered if anyone would notice if you fell off the grid? If your presence truly mattered? If your whole self -- your thoughts, your being -- was valued? Have you ever felt like a puff of smoke that people walked through rather than a human being standing in a room? Have you ever felt so easily forgettable, hardly memorable, barely detectable at all? Like a light brush of wind, never leaving your fingerprints on anything or anyone?

I'm not asking these questions for the sake of being dramatic. I'm asking them because, my suspicion is, many of us have felt this way. We react to it in different ways, sure -- we might throw on a mask, live a false life that runs contrary to who we truly are, or withdraw completely -- but at the root of it all lies the same struggle: we grapple with believing that we matter.

It hurts to offer ourselves to others, only to be rejected or to go unnoticed. It's tempting to lock ourselves up from within, vowing to no longer venture out because we're convinced that our presence doesn't matter. It hurts and there's really no way to soften it ... But have you ever considered, even for a second, that it might hurt God even more?

My friend... His heart aches for you. Your presence means a heck of a lot to him. And that is why it hurts him so badly when you're missing, when you're gone, when you disappear, when you don't show up -- literally, figuratively, or whatever. Your absence may or may not go unnoticed by others, but that's beside the point. The point is that you matter to God, if to no one else. Your presence -- and your absence -- he notices it. So don't be fooled.

He remembers. He searches. He counts his sheep and goes after the lost one. What kind of reckless person does that? Only the person that is Jesus, who is madly, deeply in love with... you.

Everything that Mother Teresa did was propelled by the desire to quench Jesus' thirst. And she said, time and time again, that he thirsts for you. Honestly, with everything else thrown aside, all he really asks for is that: your presence.

The whole world might calculate your worth based on your utility -- how useful you are, what you've produced, how you "add value" -- but to God, what you do or don't do is nothing compared to your presence. Your presence, in and of itself -- even if you did absolutely nothing but sit at his feet -- is "added value" to him. You never have to worry about proving your value, because he gave it to you.

I hope this gives you enough courage to share your presence. To inch out of hiding, even if slowly, to unite your heart with God's, and later, with those around you who greatly need your presence too, but may or may not realize it yet. Don't wait for permission from others; just answer God's invitation.

Luke 10:38-42

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Hope: The Underrated but Necessary Virtue

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13

I've heard this verse many times before and thought I understood it. But I didn't - not fully, at least. Because out of these three virtues, the one I took less seriously was hope. 

Let me explain:

I always viewed hope as a type of naive optimism or wishful thinking that was hardly grounded in reality. I viewed it as a passing, unreliable, 'feel-good' emotion that one could live without. And most of all, I was afraid of being hopeful because I was afraid of disappointment. But my thinking was so flawed. While hope can have emotional benefits, that is not its sole purpose. Its purpose is much greater: to point our eyes to God rather than to our present circumstances. Hope means believing that God will provide, that He will keep His promises, that He is enough.

HOWEVER, MANY OF US LIVE IN RESIGNATION.

We often put our hope in other things - in other people, in our careers, in our possessions, in our talents, etc. We do this because somewhere in the back of our minds we fear that we can't actually find fulfillment in God. We say we do, but do we really? 

A life of resignation comes in different forms. The most obvious is what some would call the 'hopeless/pessimistic' disposition - those who are cynical or depressed (I've experienced mental health issues myself so I know that no one is born wanting to feel this way). 

But it comes in less obvious forms too. How about the girl or guy who settles for a relationship that doesn't really make them happy, that isn't really fruitful, that's even toxic at times - just because it's convenient, or it's easily available, or it quenches their loneliness for the time being and makes a dull life more entertaining? They yearn for something far more real, fruitful, and intimate, yet they've given up hope that God could grant them anything close to that. So they take matters into their own hands in order to speed up the process, winding up unhappy. 

Or what about the reverse of that? Those who remain closed, who never risk opening themselves up to deeper friendships/relationships because they've stopped hoping that they could ever love or be loved? 

The same could be said about the person who looks to their career, their talents, or their achievements for a sense of worth, even though they know that if they lost their jobs, their skills, and their titles, they'd lose all sense of themselves, because their hope is not grounded in something more permanent. Or what about the reverse: those who settle for mediocrity because they've lost hope in much more? 

We live a life of resignation when we refuse to return to God, to ask for forgiveness, or to seek His mercy, because we've given up hope in His grace. The false belief that we are 'damaged goods' is living in resignation. When we fall down and choose not to get up with the grace of God, that is living in resignation. 

Fr. Jacques Philippe would even go as far as to say that sin is the direct cause of living without hope: "At the root of sin lies doubt, suspicion of God ... Doubt gives rise to distrust: we don't believe God can fulfill us and make us happy. Then we try to manage on our own, in disobedience." If Adam and Eve had placed their hope in God for fulfillment, they wouldn't have bitten that apple. 

THE POINT?

Hope is the virtue that keeps us pushing when we've practically lost our fight. Hope is what empowers us to live the life we were called to live, despite being countercultural. Hope is what gives meaning to our suffering. In fact, the difference between suffering that leads to despair and the suffering that leads to sainthood is hope. 

WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE TO LIVE WITH HOPE?

Hope means banking on God completely, and that takes a lot of guts. Hope is not for the fainthearted; it's for the courageous. Hope is not for the naive or for those who are ignorant of reality; it's for those who are convinced of the Truth, of a reality beyond this reality. Hope isn't simply for the weak; it's for those who aren't afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses because they are sustained by God. 

I'll leave you with a few statements from Fr. Jacques Philippe in his book called Interior Freedom
  • "Hope can only be born in poverty. That is why poverty of spirit is the key to all real growth in love." 
  • "Faith, then, produces hope, and hope makes love possible and helps it grow."
  • "As long as hope remains, love develops. If hope is extinguished, love grows cold." 

As long as you hope in God, there will always be hope for you. Always