Crossing/Seeking

This is so interesting… I told myself, I should write because writing is good for me, makes me think, helps me improve my English, allows me to kill time while waiting for my hair to dry… And I like using the daily prompt so that I at least have some direction to my jabbering. But when I saw today’s prompt… haha. Crossing is actually the name of the young adults community in my parish, and I’ve been talking about it with various friends of late. Coincidence? 🙂

Community is a strange thing. I used to hate the idea of it. I didn’t like being around people, and so community seemed like the worst idea ever. Plus, I didn’t like the implication – that I needed community because I couldn’t be a good Christian without it. It all seems so silly now – if I had asked myself, “would you like to grow to be a better Christian?” and then realised that community was part of the answer, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much with it. It’s funny how our egos work eh.

I find it so ironic that after my own journey of rejecting the idea of community, and then abruptly embracing it due to an ulterior motive, and then finally falling in love with it after finding a place I could truly belong, I still cannot express why community is important to people who have never belonged to one. If I was that person, trying to convince the me of 3 years ago to join a community for the sake of it, I would fail miserably. Why is it so difficult? I can’t quite put my finger on it.

What I do know, though, is how finding my community – by the way, not Crossing, but a worship community called Seeking Surrender – has changed my life. And I guess perhaps the problem is that experiences like this are unique. It’s all well and good for the person who’s experienced it, but it doesn’t then give me any confidence that something similar might happen for me. But regardless, I’m going to talk about it anyway haha, just cos it’s something that’s pretty close to my heart, and also just good timing – I’ve just come home from our community’s Christmas party 🙂

Somehow, when I stepped into this community, I found a group of people who were all slightly weird, slightly awkward, in a similar way to my own brand of weird awkwardness. People who all loved music. People who were all still figuring out their Christian identity, whose music identity in that sense was often stronger than their Christian identity. People who, despite all this, were open, vulnerable, who embraced me with open arms, who were funny, who just felt like home. It hasn’t been all roses, but I know that I’ve found myself in a really precious space, a space that tries to remain open to all those who are seeking but who may not even realise that they are. A space that tries to give space to those who don’t quite know how to respond to God’s call yet.

Of late, I’ve been struggling in this space. From the moment I stepped in, this community has always been home to me, always been second family. But recently, it hasn’t quite felt that way. Because I’ve become a bit overwhelmed by the work side of things – planning, worrying, thinking, arranging, reaching out, balancing – so much so that my beloved community is starting to burden me more and more. But I guess this is a good moment to step back for a bit and recall what I’m working so hard for. And of course, to remember that this is God’s garden at the end of the day. I might be called to sow, or to water, or to till, or to prune, or sometimes just to be – just to be another plant and allow others to grow me. Whatever it is, what’s important is not what I’m doing, but whether I’m called to do it.

This has been a nice little monologue haha. Thanks for coming along for the ride 🙂

via Daily Prompt: Crossing

Advertisements

interiorly/exteriorly

so. it’s been a really, really long time since I’ve written. I’m not too sure what’s brought me back here tonight. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s past 2am and I’m still awake. Maybe it’s a certain feeling that I’m slipping and sliding down into… what? into something that might escalate into an out-of-control spiral of not-good-ness. you can always tell the state of my mind by the physical state of my room, and let me tell you, it is currently well on the way to disaster.

So today’s prompt was interesting to me. I recently signed up for School of Witness, an 8 week, live-in discipleship school run by the Office for Young People of our archdiocese. so of course people asked what made me sign up, and usually I tell them how my best friend kinda sprung it on me, and how me signing up was my birthday gift to him. and all that is true, but that doesn’t really answer the why.

I guess I’m searching for something. I was texting a friend earlier about vocation, and one of the things I thought of saying to him was, “God is clearly calling you to something. It’s just about the journey of discovering what He’s calling you to.” And as I thought about it, i realise that pretty much answers the question. Why did I sign up? I guess because I keep feeling that God is calling me to something. I strongly believe it. But I can’t seem to find what that something is. And somehow that search has left me a bit broken, downcast, tired out and lacking fire. Somehow I’ve ended up not wanting to search anymore, ended up fleeing back to old comfort zones and old ideas of who I am and the limits of who I could be.

but the thing is, much as I try, I can’t completely erase God from my life. That hunger, that longing to know the answer, that knowledge that I’m called to something more, no matter how deep I bury it, it’s still there, inside. I can’t pretend that that God-shaped hole isn’t there inside me. Of course, I could try to pretend that the hole is just a hole, the same hole that everyone experiences, even if they don’t show it on the outside. But that’s the thing. All of us thirst for God, whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not. At least that’s what I believe. And I can’t seem to un-believe it. Something about that simple truth resonated so much when I learnt it, that no matter how difficult life is when I do believe, I simply cannot un-know it.

And I’m grateful. Grateful even as I say that sometimes I wish I could un-know God. because I know that if that day ever came, I’d be lost. I feel lost now, but it’s nothing compared to how lost I would be if one day I lost the grace of faith.

So I guess it’s that struggle, that constant inner struggle, that’s pushed me to sign up, without thinking, without overcomplicating. I know it’s there. The struggle is constantly there. And it’s not that I think that going for this camp will make that struggle go away. I’ll probably always struggle, in so many ways. Always fighting with God, always not trusting Him despite all the experiences I’ve had and I’ve witnessed in others. But I’m trying to accept that this is part of our relationship, and to continue working on it. Wow, it almost makes me feel like I could one day be whole enough to try having a relationship with a real human being. *rolls eyes* but that’s a whole other issue story.

Gosh, I actually only brought up School of Witness as context to something else entirely. Talk about digressing. Let’s see if I can actually write about that now haha, at the risk of making this completely too long and unreadable.

So I’m actually pretty terrified of what I’ll find when I’m at School, and one aspect is what I might find when I look into my past. I think I’ve changed and grown so much in the last 1-2 years, and then also in the 3-5 years prior to that, that sometimes, I almost forget what it was like being younger and more lost, forget what I was like those years ago. And I do have a tendency to gloss over bad times in my memory. So I’ve been trying to think back on my past, in a way to try to prepare myself a bit and not get too much of a traumatic shock when stuff comes up that I’d completely forgotten about or buried.

And one of the things I thought about was how much I struggled to be authentic and accepted at the same time, when I was a child especially. I think I’m so used to being comfortable in my own skin that I’ve almost forgotten that it wasn’t always this way, what it felt like, what I was like. And it makes me feel – how authentic can I really be, as who I am today, if I don’t even remember my own past? Who I used to be is part of who I am today, and I don’t mean it in a good or bad way, but just as a matter of fact way. It’s part of the journey that led me to who I am today, and understanding the path that I took helps me to understand how I got here, and where I am, better.

I can’t remember exactly when it started to be important to me, but I do remember when it was that someone said the word “authenticity”, and it just clicked. It was our first Core Leaders Retreat – basically, the core team members of the various ministries in our youth community come together for a retreat to work on ourselves and our relationship with God. And I was in my very first experience of personal spiritual direction, with a really, really excellent director. And he said to me after listening to me just pour everything out, that he could feel that authenticity was something very important to me. Before that point, what I felt had no name, and I had never even thought to name it. But when he named it, that helped me so much with that aspect of my identity.

It also helped me balance better this struggle I have with showing on the outside how I feel on the inside. I used to feel (without being able to put it in words) like “truly authentic” people need to just be basically no filter people, showing on the outside exactly what they are on the inside. And so, unknowingly, that’s what I tried to be, but of course it was a disaster. First of all, I didn’t know myself at all, and so there was dissonance between what I was showing exteriorly and who I thought I was interiorly. This dissonance wasn’t because I was being inauthentic, but because I lacked awareness, both of who I was on the inside and of what I was projecting on the outside. And secondly, it’s generally a disaster if we just express exactly what we think and feel without consideration. Especially when it actually becomes an obstacle to communicating what we are actually feeling. Sometimes I wish people weren’t so complicated haha.

Ok, I feel like i’m starting (only starting? haha) to become a bit too longwinded and preachy, so I’m going to stop myself here. It’s been a good few days, and I’m just going to allow myself to appreciate it while it lasts and take one step at a time. Hope the new year is treating all of you guys well too 🙂

via Daily Prompt: Interior

ART/life

It’s the middle of the night, as usual, but it’s really been some time, and I’m in a space where I feel writing might help to get a bit more structure in my life, so here goes.

Tonight I watched a play (can you say “watched a play”?), ART, originally a French play and staged here by the Singapore Repertory Theatre. It’s been ages since I went to the theatre, and tonight was quite an accident – a friend got free tickets from another friend who had double booked herself. But what a happy accident it was. I really, really enjoyed myself. The play itself made me laugh a lot, while dealing with interesting issues – nothing too deep or depressing, just deep enough to make me think about friendship a bit more. Fitting, then, that the friend who brought me happens to be my oldest friend – we celebrate our 25th anniversary next year.

I’ve said often that if not for her efforts at keeping up the friendship during the 5 years she studied overseas, we probably would not be friends today. Mind you, this was before the time of what’s app or even facebook. Our mobile phones were just that – phones. Staying in touch with someone overseas meant… to be honest, I don’t even remember what it meant. I doubt I really used email then, since I barely use it even now. So she had to call me up every time she was back in Singapore and make a date for us to meet and catch up. At the time I thought little of it, but in the years that have passed, she’s become one of my closest girlfriends, and I’m so grateful for this friendship, and always mindful that I did little to deserve it.

The reason why I’m talking about this is partly because friendship is one of the central themes of the play. Why we befriend certain people, why we esteem them, how their role in our lives influence our view of ourselves, and how we are different to different people. It made me think about how much more comfortable I am today with what would have chafed me greatly when I was younger. Things that I would have considered duplicitous or inauthentic, I now see as, well, human, first of all. Acknowledging that I’m multi-faceted, that different people affect me differently, that each friendship has its place and, indeed, its “use” in my life, and being ok with that. And also slowly accepting that my friendship has its use and its place in the life of others too.

I guess at the end of the day, I’m just so grateful that my thinking has changed and grown over the years. It may sound equal parts silly and affected, but in all sincerity, I think my personality puts me in danger of being trapped in a space of self-centredness and self-assuredness, without any real perspective or objectivity. If not for certain friends in my life, things that I learnt at my previous work place, and most recently my relationship with God, I could be so much more narrow-minded now. Not to say I’m hugely enlightened now though. I’ve got a long, long way to go. But I’m trying not to stress about it, and just to enjoy being who I am at this point in my life.

Which brings me to the prompt of the day – panic. I was wondering if I should just ignore the prompt, because at first I couldn’t think of anything in my life currently related to it. But in a sense, that’s precisely the weird thing. I think that on a certain level, I feel like I should be panicking. I haven’t been in a full time job for quite a number of months now. Everyone talks about how the market is getting so bad. I don’t seem to be any closer to figuring out what I want to do with my life than I was all those months ago. All this sounds like real good reasons to start getting worried. And yet, I find it hard to muster up any sort of real feelings of anxiety when I think about where my life is going. On the one hand, I do over-think it a lot, but at the same time, I don’t feel a sense of urgency. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. In a way, I feel rather paralyzed – maybe the same way a deer in the headlights feels. Paralyzed by some unknown fear, and not daring to move forward or backwards. Maybe it’s that paralysis that prevents me from panicking and doing something.

Well, that was a really weird ramble, not very much in my usual style I feel. But there you go – doesn’t offer much for people to take away tonight, but hopefully getting some thoughts out of my overcrowded brain has done me some good. Goodnight all. Say your prayers – Jesus always wants to hear from you. (Advice I need to take myself. I have been postponing prayer so bad, I’ve taken to writing it down on my to-do list, but to no avail.)

via Daily Prompt: Panic

MAGIS day 3: prayer

So, after months of alternating between excitement and freaking out about it, I’m finally here at MAGIS 2016 in Poland. What is MAGIS exactly? I don’t quite have the words for it yet. Suffice to say for now that it’s a Jesuit-led experience of finding God outside of your comfort zone, a pre-World Youth Day gathering of young people from Jesuit communities all over the world. 

Today has been the best day so far. A really blessed day actually. When we were recollecting our day during MAGIS circle, I thought about it and I can’t really remember anything negative today. And I cried 3 times so that was awesome hahaha. 

One of the highlights of my day was recording a tutorial video for the item that our contingent is going to put up at the Festival of Nations a week from now. We basically did it in one take, start to finish, after practising it once through prior. And despite small mistakes from each of us here and there, it went so smoothly without a hitch, as if each of us were really dancing the words and soul of the song – a song that speaks of the many blessings that our small tiny island nation has received.

Watching that video really made me face a little bit certain insecurities or entrenched ways of thinking about myself – that I can’t dance, for example. The past 3 days have just been one giant mass dance, and it’s been crazy because I love music and I love the idea of dancing but it really doesn’t come naturally to me. So being out there, there’s been an intermittent jumble of “oh my God I really can’t do this” and “ooo I love this” and “argh stop saying you can’t do it and just do whatever” running through my brain. I’m grateful that for the most part I’ve been able to just enjoy myself and dance in whatever way I can. Probably cos there are 2 thousand people here, most of whom seem to be awesome natural dancers 🙂  

But yeah. Watching myself dance in the video is very disconcerting. It kind of forces me to stare at myself in reality, who I am in real life, and confront all the ways in which that picture is not adding up with the picture of myself that i have in my head. It’s… yeah. Disconcerting. 

There were lots of good things today. Great conversations with people I didn’t really know. Confiding-type conversations with my own group. So many things. I don’t have the capacity to write about them all tonight, as much as I love talking about myself and my day. 

What I really wanna write about though is prayer. I guess I should be/am grateful that I even feel a desire for prayer. That hasn’t happened in some time. But yes. In a sea of new faces and lots of activity etc, I’ve been left hungry for some form of prayer that I can just really go deeper into, and it’s been hard. 

Community prayer is hard, because the style of worship here is very different from what I’m used to back home. It’s really quite confusing to be in what should be a familiar situation – worship – and finding it so different and feeling so displaced. Which is one reason why I cried today – they sang 10,000 Reasons at mass, and it was such a blessed relief to be able to just sing and praise the way I know how. In terms of prayer just within our own contingent, we haven’t really had/made time for that either, and definitely not in the slow leisurely way I like haha. 
Personal prayer is hard too. Today I suddenly realized that I miss spending time with Jesus in adoration. I felt a sudden hunger, though mild, for Him. But so far there has not been any chance for adoration. I guess I will try to sit with the hunger and learn what God wants to teach me through this experience of hungering for Him. But it’s hard 😦

The other thing that’s been a challenge is the lack of easy access to silence and space. I feel a hunger for that too – just somewhere quiet where I can walk or sit and talk to Jesus or just be with Him. I hope this will change tomorrow, since we’ve just arrived at new accommodation tonight. We’re staying in a Jesuit dormitory so I’m feeling optimistic that they have beautiful spaces like a garden, made to encourage conversation with Jesus. 

Meanwhile, I guess I will try to journal a little, and maybe that will help. Goodnight world 🙂 #beMAGIS

Easy :)

Just wanted to pen a short note of thanksgiving because today was a really good day, a better day than I’ve had in some time.

Had lunch with a really old friend, which was easy, comfortable and made me think. Our conversation led to new ideas and new hopes for the future. And it’s always nice to have the advice and counsel of those who know me well and can give me some perspective on my own life. Very grateful for that.

Also super grateful for time with family – my awesome sister made awesomely cool food and we all sat down to dinner together. Not being blessed with culinary skills, I took the job of cleaning the prawns hahaha but that was pretty satisfying in its own way.

And then some supper time with a brother from another mother. Again, just someone in whose presence it’s easy to be. So yeah. Just super grateful! Goodnight all 🙂

God’s prompts

It’s funny how these things work. A letter that prompted a blog post, a single word prompt that sparked off a theme. UnderestimateThe first word that stared at me when I opened the wordpress website.  And suddenly I realised, that’s what I’ve been doing to God. I’ve underestimated all the things He can do and how great His love is and how His hand stretches across time to lay the path down for me.

So here’s where it began. I’m supposed to be packing the house today – I’m a hoarder, and my room is now filled with boxes of stuff from years ago. I have primary school (grade school) stuff in there.  I’ve been trying to go box by box over the past couple of weeks, since I’m not working at the moment.  This morning I don’t have much time, so I pulled out a small shoe box filled with cards and started reading them (of course).  And then I came across this letter which I wrote to God in 2005 (the date is an estimate based on the stuff I found with it, from a church camp that year):

You already know what I want to thank You for.

Thank You for love.

You’re always there 4 me, even when I deny You.

You’re in my family.  You’ve given me the most perfect family in the world.

Thank You.

There are too many things I seek.

Help me to be the one You send to others.

Is this pride? Perhaps. But I just wanna be You to others.

Maybe let me touch others, but deny me the knowledge & the reward. At least the earthly reward. Then I can keep my pride at bay and continue to do Your will.

Continue? I hope I’ve already begun.

Open my eyes Lord. And my ears, and my heart. To the pain & hurt of others. Let me be Christ to them.

Amen.

Reading this just stunned me. Yes, I was already 20 then, but what a lost 20 year old I was.  In fact, I can’t reconcile any of what I’ve read to the person I was back then.  I can’t tell you how many times in the past few years I’ve prayed so many of these words.  They are very much a reflection of where I am now.  And to read that so many years ago I already made this prayer… I’m starting to second guess my dating of this letter.

I could choose to see this as defeat – I’ve been praying the same damn prayer for so many years and asking God for the same damn thing, and where has it brought me? But instead I choose to see it as faithfulness – I made this prayer at a time in my life when I was lost, not even knowing what I was asking for.  But God heard me – He probably inspired me to pray it from the depths of who I could be, because God knows this wasn’t who I was consciously back then – and since then He has been faithful to His promise.  He has been answering my prayer every step of the way since then, even when I went so far off course, even when I totally forgot He existed. He never forgot His promise – ask and it shall be given unto you.  Somehow, in all my wanderings, He’s kept me on this same path – I’m still seeking today to serve without pride, and I’m still praying for that Sensus Christi.

It really makes me look at who I am today and the journey I’ve taken to get here with new eyes.  In a new light.  Every step as one that has been guided by the Spirit, who has sustained my own spirit and my own heart of worship and desire for God within me, despite everything I’ve done.  10 years is not too long to wait for God.  In fact, it is Him who has waited for me, all these long 10 years – waited for me to do my part to move in the direction that I asked for in the first place.

It’s also a gift of hope for me as I enter my silent retreat tomorrow.  5 days of just resting, journeying, reconnecting with God, and hopefully surfacing some stuff that needs to be dealt with in order to grow more.  In this season of my life, I think my experience will be very different from the one I had 3 years ago, so I’m looking forward to what will happen – not without trepidation though.  Pray for me, send me good energy, which soever you are inclined towards.  Thank you 🙂

voice

I realise that I seem to have lost my voice a bit. what is our voice, really? being a musician, you would think music is a big part of my voice. I think in some ways it is, but in other ways, music has never been able to give voice to who I am, the way I’m sure many other musicians feel it does for them.

over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been intermittently mourning the death of a part of my musical soul, wondering whether I should try to seek it out again. I haven’t made a decision yet. I think a part of me feels that my music really finds it’s meaning only when I use it for worship.

In fact, I had a really great conversation about worship tonight. Had a super blessed chance to hang out with 2 people who are big musical presences in my worship life at the moment – Val who is our lovely, beautiful, talented pianist and John who is my bestie, the writer of incredible psalms, one of my favourite people to harmonize with and one of the best worship leaders I know.  We were talking about how leading in worship, whether through voice or instrument, can make anyone supremely attractive.  I think it’s just that vulnerability of that heart of worship, that barefaced declaration of love and devotion to God, never mind how unpopular a notion that might be, or how weak it might make one seem to admit that they have to lean on God.  (Weirdly enough though, I haven’t fallen in love with any worship leaders yet haha)

But yeah, I think I haven’t been able to connect to my own heart of worship in a long time. Just been too obscured by so many other distractions and burdens that my heart is hidden under piles of rubble.  I’m hoping to re-locate it though. It’s very tiring, trying to get through life actively ignoring God.

In other news… well actually, this week wasn’t a particularly good week. It was the first week, I think, since I’ve quit my job, that I did absolutely nothing at all, and not because I was feeling unwell or anything like that. This week I was just completely unmotivated to do anything, to leave the house at all. It was a terrible feeling, and I’m not quite sure why too. One of my friends asked whether it’s because I’m the type of person who can’t do nothing, but I don’t think that’s it at all. Generally I’m extreme when it comes to this – I’m either crazy crazy busy, or absolutely refusing to do anything, and usually I’m comfortable at both of those extremes – not healthy in terms of reaching a balance, but it also means that the idea of doing nothing for a whole week shouldn’t bother me per se.  So I’m not really sure what’s wrong, but it just felt really… not right.

we played for a special mass last week… i think it was celebrating vocations? because it was Good Shepherd Sunday, and so the Archbishop was here to celebrate mass and we had holy hour before that to pray for vocations and everything. And I was talking to one of my seniors who is now in the seminary – yay! I feel so blessed that random people I met in earlier life are now exploring religious life! – and he suggested that I go for a retreat.

And it made me realise that I haven’t thought about going back for a retreat in a long time, because I’m just so far away right now.  In fact, I promised one of our spiritual directors last year that I would attend a retreat before the year was out, and then I went into a terrible spiral and never followed through on it.  So even though I don’t really feel like it, I think I should try and go.  It’s time to explore various avenues of jump starting my spiritual life again. I’ve had quite a few false starts in the last couple of months, and while I’m very grateful for all of them – because even if I haven’t moved forward that much, at least I haven’t been moving backwards much either 🙂 – I feel very tired taking 3 steps forwards and then sometimes 2, sometimes even 4 steps back.  Really want to gain some momentum and make a break for some clearer skies.

don’t get me wrong though. I am a firm believer that to a certain extent, life will always be a struggle. partly because there will always be that longing and that thirst for that missing part of us that can only be completed by God, after we leave this life. So in that sense, I hope that I’m being realistic when I say I’m looking to be in a better place. I’m not looking for a magic pill that will make everything suddenly right. But I do know from experience that when I’m in closer communion with Jesus, everything does seem better. So yeah… haha I’m getting away from myself. Hopefully you guys know what I mean.

Alrights that’s all for tonight. Just when I’m getting into in too! I have to be up early though, and have a very full day to contrast my very empty week, so I best get some sleep soon. Nights all 🙂 push on!