ease/heart

Sometimes, it takes very little to make my day. Today was a very good day. There was just enough going on, and I didn’t over-think anything or get distracted or become too inward-looking… I just really enjoyed my day, enjoyed what I was doing and who I was doing it with, lived fully in each moment and tried to praise God through all of it too. Today, I’m grateful for simple things like sunshine, and for things I often take for granted, like mass and prayer.

Tonight, rather than feeling like my heart is very full, instead I feel like my heart is very simple, and just the right weight – not light and floaty, but also not heavy.  (Can anyone tell me if there is a perfect word to describe this? In English, preferably.)  It’s an unfamiliar feeling.  I like it 🙂

Praise God for the simple joys in life 🙂  here’s to more good conversations, more presence, more happy days ahead 🙂

via Daily Prompt: Minimal

SOWn – 1 week later

It’s been almost exactly a week since I completed an 8 week live-in Catholic discipleship school. Wow that’s really a mouthful isn’t it? And even though it’s late and I need to sleep, I feel like I really need to pen down some thoughts before they fly away…

So many people have asked me how I’ve been since completing SOW. I never really have a good answer and I think I’ve given a different one to each person, but one thing has been a constant – whenever I talk about it, I can’t stop grinning broadly. I can’t quite pin down the source of that grin – part of it is just from sheer awkwardness I feel, but I think partly it also expresses something that I find difficult to put into words – that the biggest change in me is that now, I’m happy.

 

I’m trying to say more about what this means, but it seems that words fail me tonight. Maybe I need more time to process this change in me. I feel completely the same – I don’t feel particularly displaced coming back to real life; life goes on. But yet something is completely different, and I can’t say anything more about it other than – I’m happy.

I struggled a lot this week, earlier in the week, as my earlier posts will attest to. But somehow in all that struggle, God was so clearly with me that it just helped move me to a much better space, and the tail end of this week has just been so graced. Every conversation and every experience seems to be just overflowing with God’s presence and grace.

I know that times of greater struggle will come, and there will come a day when I look back on SOW and it will be such a distant memory that I will wonder to myself, did that really happen? Was that really me? Was that really God? But I will let tomorrow take care of itself; for now, I want to just enjoy every moment of this grace-filled existence.

in/out

(warning: overly dramatic and possibly pity-party-esque post ahead.)

Tonight I think I’m beginning to understand why we build walls around our hearts, why sometimes we make the choice to not feel anything at all, rather than risk being vulnerable.

While I was still in primary school, I met a really interesting girl. She was charismatic and full of life and passionate and daring and fun. And beyond all that, she was a fantastic listener. I had never met anyone like her before. She made me feel like everything I shared was important to her, and I felt like she really got me. I had never desired anyone’s friendship so strongly before.

There was a problem, though: she was a popular girl, understandably, and many others were vying for her particular favour. Although we were friends, I soon came to understand that I would never be as special to her as she was to me. I saw her as someone who was almost a soulmate, the only friend I would ever need. She saw me as just one of many friends in her circle. Even more painful was the realisation that I wasn’t the only one who felt like she “just got me”.  Turns out that she had a particular gift for people. I don’t know what to call it – friendship and the intricacies of social behaviour have always been rather a mystery to me. Maybe it was just some combination of charm, charisma, vivacity, good listening skills and genuine presence.

For a long time, I became resentful of people who had this gift – this gift of getting others to like them, to open up to them, of making others feel wanted and understood.

(As I write this, it’s beginning to dawn on me how ironic it is that all those things exactly describe the person who for the past 15 years has held the title of “bestie” in my life.)

I held on to the bitterness of that rejection of my friendship, or rather, a perceived rejection on my part, for more years than I care to admit. I felt strongly that people who had this gift ought to be more responsible with it – great power, great responsibility – without fully understanding how hard it must be for those people to even figure out what power they held, or how few of them even wanted such a gift in the first place. In fact, my own best friend and I often used to refer to it as the “gift-curse”, because we saw how the vulnerability that came with depth of friendship put one at risk of being deeply hurt.

Perhaps, in its own way, my friendship with my best friend has been healing me of this particular hurt all this time – because as special as he is to me, I know I’m special to him too. It’s perhaps this security that is at the root of why I do not resent the fact that he is the “particular friend” of so many others, why I do not feel jealous or neglected. Importantly, it’s also because he does not take our friendship for granted. As vulnerable as I’ve been to him, so has he been to me. I’d like to think that we’ve both treasured each other’s openness, appreciated the risk that the other is taking in being vulnerable, and allowed space for the friendship to continue growing in depth over the years – which means leaving space for the other person to hold things back too. This way, every step taken forward is precious – significant, because I realise that part of that original hurt was a feeling that the intimacy of friendship was taken from me carelessly, without regard for, or indeed, even realisation of, the fact.

So perhaps I have to eat my words here. Perhaps it’s not irony at all, but God’s way of giving me healing, slowly but surely. And I think this short walk through my own mind has also helped me understand that, as much as I’m hurting now, God has been healing this wound from before I came to be aware of it.

I’m not sure where this leaves me. Well, ok then, let me focus on what I am sure of. I have a very small collection of important friends in my life, and I’m very, very sure that I’m pretty important to them too. I’m grateful that they are all very generous in their affirmation of this, and have not given me cause to doubt their regard for me. Their friendship has allowed me, subconsciously, to be that much more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I am secure in my identity as their friend.

I’m also sure that one hurt that has been coming up in the past half year or so has been the feeling of being rejected by the people who are most important to me. Being forgotten by people I put in extra effort to remember. Being neglected by people I put in extra effort to do things for. Being unseen by people I’m always looking out for. Generally just situations where my love is unreciprocated or, worse, goes unnoticed. I realize now that one reason why my current situation is triggering me so much is because one of the nerves it is pinching is this exact one. And that also reveals to me that this is one hurt that still needs to be worked on, that still needs to be offered up for healing.

Well, we always say in school – what God reveals, He heals. I’m not sure if I’m ready to invite God into my current situation, but at least this hurt of feeling like my love is constantly being rejected or unnoticed is something that I feel I can offer up to Him.

Wow. I can safely say that this is not at all what I expected when I started writing tonight. I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am that God has taken what started out as an angry, wounded rant, and turned it into a journey of self-discovery and healing. What wonders the Lord worked for us; indeed we were glad!

 

 

sixteen/seventeen

The Sound of Music was one of my favourite films growing up. I must have watched it once or twice a week, every single week for the first 6 years of my life, at my grandparents’ house. I invariably ended up falling asleep somewhere just before or just after (spoiler alert) (but seriously, if you haven’t watched this movie you need to watch it) Maria & the Captain get married. The year I turned 7, real life imposed itself on my movie-watching life in the form of primary school, and thus ended my weekly appointment with Maria and all those songs which had become my friends. But a great love like that never really ends; it simply continues to live on in memory. And for some reason, this week those old friends of mine have been dancing around my head every other day or so.

Perhaps it’s because my thoughts are currently in a mess. I know this because, despite my best efforts, I sped all the way home from Nativity church – that’s a very long way – even though I promised Jesus I would be more responsible with my driving from now on.  I hope writing will help to sort them out, but right now it feels like trying to catch a cloud and pin it down, as those good sisters sang.

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Today I feel exactly like that – like a problem that needs solving rather than a person who is lovable in all her idiosyncrasies. Maybe it isn’t the best time to dwell on a movie in which a girl seeks God, and He leads her against all odds on a crazy adventure which ends up with her finding her soulmate in a most unlikely man. It almost makes me feel like, if only I could seek God with a pure heart, He would “reward” me by giving me a soulmate. A real human person, in the flesh. Almost. Right now, just to remember that I am a normal person who can interact normally with other people is already an effort, much less trying to believe that it’s possible to meet a person who might qualify as soulmate.

Am I just projecting my longing for God onto people? I’ve written and spoken many times before about that deep longing in every person’s heart that can only be filled by God. But that’s also a longing that will never be fully satisfied in this human life. And what about the desire for companionship, the desire to be seen, to be known, to be understood, in this life and by someone other than God, someone whom I can in turn learn to see, to know and to understand? Tonight I cannot make sense of this. Am I expecting something of a person that only God can give me? Am I asking too much – should it not be enough that my Creator sees me, knows me, loves me deeply? Tonight, Jesus, it just doesn’t feel enough. And that thought, of feeling like Jesus is not enough for me, in turn fills me with such guilt, regret and despair that I don’t know what to do with myself.

past/tense

I’m struggling. What can I say? I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that tomorrow is my last day at SOW, but this past week, I’ve been slipping.

I would tell you what Jesus thinks about it, but the fact is I haven’t spoken to Him about it yet. Suddenly I feel unable and unwilling to let go of all my old comforts – all my dark little caves in which I love to hide. The cave of sadness. The cave of self-pity. The cave of unlovableness. The cave of unrequited love (romantic or otherwise). Cold and dark, but familiar and indulgent.

And then there are the old pieces of armour. This morning during praise & worship, the worship leader told us to exchange our cardboard shields and swords for the armour of Christ. And my mind was flooded with the image of a beautiful armour, strong yet supple, like a living metal, a second skin encasing me, and the Word of God as my sword.

And yet more and more I’m reverting to hiding behind old and outdated shields of my past identity – that I cannot dance because I’m uncoordinated, that I just cannot get along with girls, that I’m socially awkward and have zero social skills…

In particular with the social skills – why is it so simple sometimes and so difficult at others? Actually if I think about all the interactions I’ve had here at SOW, the basic pattern is – social interactions initiated by others are easy, as long as it’s someone I am already comfortable with or feel interested in (not in a romantic way, you understand, but in an “ooo that person seems interesting” way).  Social interactions initiated by me are only easy if I already love the person and am pretty sure the person doesn’t mind me either.

Every other interaction outside of those 2 categories has been such a struggle, especially over the last few days. Being present to people, gracious, welcoming… I feel like my capacity for, and also my inclination toward, doing any of the above is very much lacking.

I’ve also discovered that after all these years of discussing friendship as a concept at work, I still have no idea how to actually pursue a friendship with someone. I’ve always been the antisocial one and so it has generally fallen to the other party to initiate the friendship and pursue it, so to speak. Writing this now, I’m starting to wonder how I ever managed to make friends with anyone. Not in a “wow it’s a miracle I have friends” way, but rather I’m actually curious – if I explore the beginnings of each of my friendships, what will I find? What roles did I play?

Anyway, in the middle of writing this post I visited the adoration room and spent a bit of time in silence, half asleep, just being physically in the presence of Jesus’ real presence. And as I was sitting there, I realised that the real issue is not that I’m struggling. The problem is, I hear Jesus trying to tell me surrender these struggles to Him, and my answer this week is “No”.  There are some things in that messy box of struggles that I just am unwilling to let go of. And I feel a somewhat like I have to surrender all or nothing. And so I just retain possession of that box, every messy thing within it, so that I can continue indulging that one area of my current situation.

I think perhaps the worst part about the past week has been the tension between the good moments and the bad moments. One moment receiving great consolation, the next drowning in self-obsession. One moment healthily balancing enjoying time with friends and being in solitude with God, and the next, isolating myself while wishing for company, sinking into a loneliness that is directionless.

I don’t have a conclusion. If I can’t reach out to friends and I don’t want to reach out to God, then all I’m left with is myself, and cut off from God all I am is a black hole for myself, a star imploding into nothingness at the end of its life.

Jesus, please break through my stubbornness. And maybe, help me to value and receive the love that is being given to me, and to let go of the love that isn’t. Jezu ufam Tobie.

 

 

 

I do believe; help my unbelief!

 

Rainy days & Mondays

I have 2 minutes to lights out but I just wanted to squeeze in a quick one. 

I got in early tonight so I was lying on a bench outside, looking at the stars, and this song came into my head. And I thought, how apt, as it does happen to be a Monday and it was drizzling a bit. 

But as I thought about it more, I realised how it reads like a song about my life before coming here and falling deeper in love with Jesus. 

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothin’ ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong
Feelin’ like I don’t belong
Walkin’ around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
We know what it’s all about
Hangin’ around
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

So much of what it says describes exactly who I was – always down for no reason, finding myself back with Jesus but then also looking everywhere for someone to love me. 

Something has really changed. I’m sure I’ll have those days again, as she says, days that have come and gone before, but I hope I will never forget that when I run to find the one to love me, that person I’m running to is Jesus. That person my heart is aching for is my God. 

inhale/exhale

I’ve been wanting to write since my first weekend “book out” from SOW, but somehow the thoughts have not been flowing. I feel like a clogged pipe – much like the image my cell group leader got when she prayed over me, much like my uncooperative nose/sinuses over the past week. Very unromantic. I think that pretty much sums up how I feel right now.

And yet I long to write – thoughts, feelings, memories are building up and threatening not so much to explode as to disappear altogether. *poof* trying to begin feels precariously like removing a single stone from the wall of a dam – you’re not quite sure if you’re going to be releasing a controlled stream of water, or whether you’ve gone and picked a stone that was critical in keeping the wall intact in the first place.

Here we go.

I think the most interesting and surprising thing about SOW so far is how much of who I am, or who I perceive myself to be, is built on lies, on less-than-truths, on self-taught or adopted beliefs that have come to shape who I am, but which actually hold me back from who I could be, and more importantly, who God is calling me to be, who He made me to be.

Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’

Gen 2:18

It had never occurred to me before, that in the story of creation, after saying that God saw everything He had created to be good, there’s this one sneaky little line in there where God explicitly says something is not good. And that something is man being alone.

So after writing the above, I decided to drive down to church and go and spend some time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, because I really felt so restless and ill at ease. And I’m happy to say that I’m in a very different, less clogged space now.

When I was done praying I walked down to the car park, and the sky took my breath away. A long time ago, I used to go up to the roof garden we have in my church, usually in the middle of the night, and just lie on a bench there and stare at the stars. And I would pick a star that was calling out to me, and I would pray. My church is blessed to be in an area which has almost no high-rise buildings nearby, and just about as little light pollution as you’ll find in any residential area in Singapore. And so I would lie there with nothing between me and God’s great sky, and feel so distinctly that God was right there, staring down at me and embracing me with the night sky.

It’s been so long since I last did this that I had almost forgotten about it, until a few weeks ago, my cell group leader asked me to do something that is life giving instead of stressing too much about praying. And the memory of those star gazing nights came to me.

Tonight when I walked into the car park, the entire place was dark, there wasn’t a single soul around, and the sky, instead of being black, was a deep indigo. The weather was perfect – dry and cool, the sort of weather we never get here. And somehow I ended up climbing onto the back windscreen of my dad’s car and just lying there, gazing at the stars. Not so much praying as just trying to absorb the beauty and majesty of this God who has baffled me so much over so many years. I couldn’t look into that sky and not adore Him.

My confessor once said to me, consider that perhaps, God is compelled to love you, just as you feel compelled to love Him. I found that such a beautiful and comforting image, and I think tonight, looking into that sky, that image came back to me. If God feels about loving me what I felt about worshiping Him when I looked up into the stars… and then add to that all the infinity of God’s love, compared to the puny, almost ADHD nature of my desire for Him… It’s mind boggling.

When I first saw the prompt for today, my mind immediately jumped to recognizing God in all things. I was thinking  of all those times, especially in the past week, when I’ve struggled to see God in my experiences, in my dryness, in His silence, in my lack of silence. But I think God tonight was like, challenge accepted. And He fed me in so many ways, and especially in that great, indescribable beauty that compels me to acknowledge that He is there for me, loving me, every moment of my every day and everyday.

The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink?

via Daily Prompt: Recognize