The Novice

I have nothing to say

I have too much to say

I don’t have enough to say

Will it ever turn out right?

 

Should I leave this behind?

Should I leave this for now?

Do I wait or contend?

Do I struggle or let go?

 

Is this for me?

Or did I buy into an illusion?

A will-o’-the-wisp

Or a seed waiting to grow?

Unspoken

When was the last time you had an unspoken wish? You know… something you wanted to have or wanted to happen but didn’t utter anything about it. Not to anyone. Not even to yourself. It was just a thought that crossed your mind, a feeling that touched your heart for a moment and then was gone.

Well, I recently had one but I didn’t even know I was wishing for it until it happened.

Tuesday night last week. A friend called saying he had an emergency. Curious what this was about because he didn’t sound as panicky as in a life-threatening emergency, I bid him spill. He said he needs a worship leader for an upcoming retreat just a few days away. Usually, I’d ask all sorts of questions to get all the details first and then ask for some time to decide. I said okay almost right away and was surprised with my quick decision. But when I put the phone down I realized that a heart’s desire was answered.

Alone one afternoon in the room I share with my cousin, I was idly strumming on my guitar and humming from time to time to no song in particular, just enjoying the random hushed sounds. The songs came later. One song blending into another like water slowly poured out, making a calm, steady, refreshing rush.

I miss singing to God like this, was the one quiet thought.

Weekend came. I sang to God. I lead His children and those who are yet to know Him that day in worship. Simply, with just a guitar and with old, familiar songs but with voices eagerly lifted up, we worshipped God. I miss singing like this with God’s people but I think I’ve never done so before with such peace and quiet confidence that I didn’t feel I was in front of many people but was facing an audience of One. A heart’s desire, a wish come true.

I realized after this that God does hear and listen to the whispers of our hearts, even those that are too faint for us to recognize.

Languor

Planes and birds fly in confused circles on an orange-y pink sky at dusk. I try to breathe slow and calm my heart as I cool down from yet another afternoon run. I’m grateful to be back to running a few kilometers non-stop and I tell myself, “not bad” as I sit down on the grass. I let languor – very much like the feeling one gets after crying a lot and just before surrendering to sleep – embrace me. All of this is sublime and yet I’m left wondering at the strangeness of my life these days. Two months into moonlighting and I thought I would’ve already gotten used to il dolce far niente but somehow she remains aloof, a stranger I do not know how to befriend. I thought we were going to have a jolly good time together when I stepped down from the bullet train of routine. I sought her company because I believed she would help me harness and act on the ideas I didn’t have the time to pay attention to in the whirlwind of responsibilities and concerns that come with a full-time day job. Instead, I found the very space and time she moves in so different. And so I remain ill at ease in her company.

I look again at the confused creatures and machines flying high above me and see that they mimic my thoughts going on endless circles. I continue to watch them and wonder if they know I’m doing so. Can they sense my confusion from where they are? Can they trace the meandering paths my thoughts take to go where I can’t seem to find them again? I look around me and try to get a sense of where I am. Ah yes, I’m back in the city. The famous oblation statue stands proudly a few meters behind me and I’m sitting on the grass-covered grounds. Right before me is the university avenue, the main road to and from the country’s most famous and sought-after state university. I focus on the row of towering streetlights in the middle of the busy road. Public and private vehicles come and go – some going in, some just passing by and some leaving the campus – but you don’t have a way of knowing which one’s coming or going or staying or just passing by, though you can identify whether it’s a car or jeep or bike. They’re very much like the ideas in my head, identifiable by name but their purpose or connection to one another (or lack thereof) I can’t seem to grasp.

And so one doubts whether the decision to step away from routine, even if only for a time, was a sound idea at all. My mind seems to take all focus in trying to make sense of this new landscape I’m moving in that it can’t accommodate anything more. Big deal. The world has so many pressing problems for one to waste time on such trivialities.

The sun’s sinking lower as I wave off another failed attempt to relax in the luxury of doing nothing. Maybe I need not try to dissect it into the littlest of details. Maybe all it takes is receiving it for what it is. Planes and birds fly in confused circles on a now darker orange-y pink sky as dusk slowly yields to night.

Grateful

My life, so far, summarized in a thanksgiving list..

well-provided-for childhood

having gone to the sea several times

studied in the best schools

restoration and healing each time I run away or get sick

godly, loving and supportive parents

sisters who are also friends

intact family

a job even before I graduated

finishing my (undergrad) thesis

being a member and leader of the youth worship team

camps and other events

meeting interesting people and friends for life

learning from life

discovering and knowing myself

learning how to deal with different people

gadgets (the ones I need)

food on the table everyday

place to call home in each place I move into

laughter

love

pain

loss

courage and hope

dreams

books

still small voice and learning to listen to it

music and poetry

a world to discover

people to love

God to love, to worship and to treasure

new chapter I’m facing

Twenty Seven

You know that song which you loved ever since you first heard it? Then you hear it several times after that just like any other song in your usual playlist. But there comes a moment when it’s as if you are listening to it for the very first time and you realize it tells you everything you need and long to hear.

That song for me is White Owl.

White Owl

from Love & War & The Sea In Between by Josh Garrels

When the night comes,
and you don’t know which way to go
Through the shadowlands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road

Like an owl you must fly in moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as your guide, to navigate the way that lays before you,
You were born to take the greatest flight

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
And carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow
Every hollow in the dark of night
Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

‘Cause child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm

Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released
Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling
As you’re sailing, across the great divide

Like a wolf at midnight howls, you use your voice in darkest hours
To break the silence and the power, holding back the others from their glory
Every story will be written soon
The blood is on the moon
Morning will come soon

Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm

 

Each time I read the lyrics, I get chills because they tell my current story so accurately and clearly in words and images I, myself, could have chosen. But I’m so glad that someone else wrote them and crafted a song. It’s a miracle that someone whom you do not know and who doesn’t know you is able to tell you your own story, echo back your own melody and rhythm. And somehow you understand yourself better and you get a more vivid picture of the present. And you become just a bit braver to face the unknown.

Thank you, Mr. Garrels. I owe you.

Summer Memories

Where the river meets the sea

Where the sea meets the sky

One summer day I went there

Half wishing you were with me.

 

Where purest white meets palest pink

Where trains and temples meet

One summer day you went there

I wished you were half wishing I was with you.

Panic

Last night, panic attacked big time. I was tossed about by big, mean waves of doubt and strong winds of unknowing. I was not getting anywhere with my final paper for the Bible Study Methods class. I tried to talk with God before going on to read resources for the overview and background portion. I knew I needed to talk with Him. Then I found myself running to Him, rushing to His arms to cling for dear life. This I did by reading something on my devotional book about worry and it led me to Luke 12. The Message translation was what I exactly needed to hear last night.

And after soaking in His words I just cried like a kid who doesn’t know what to do. I was a child trapped in an adult’s body who has been given a responsibility too much for me to handle. I felt incapable. The task just looked too insurmountable. But God’s arms were around me as I cried and wailed my heart out. The burden was too heavy I was literally whimpering under its weight. But I knew that I was where I belonged, right there in my Father’s embrace.

I stayed like that for a while, with a messy, tear-stained face, gulping great breaths of life-giving air from God. After that, I knew I wasn’t capable of doing anything more. I was relieved and comforted but I knew I also needed to rest physically. My mind couldn’t process well after that vicious attack from doubt. Thankfully, I had peace to go to sleep. It was the right thing to do. I felt safe that God is in control of everything. Time seemed to stop running too fast and went back to its steady rhythm. It could only have been possible through God because time is in His hands.

One thing that really helped me last night was a painting, a birthday gift from a very good friend. She said that I am the girl in the painting. I’m leaning on a tree, a Bible clasped in my hand, my eyes closed and my face a picture of contentment and peace. I am surrounded by a colorful field of flowers under a peaceful summer sky. I became that girl on the painting after that panic attack last night, leaning on something solid, at peace, and the world around me was as it should be. In the picture, I had long, wavy hair and I am wearing a simple but beautiful light blue dress. I was surprised to be able to comfortably see myself that way, comfortable in my femininity, in being the “weaker vessel.” Last night was one of the rare moments in my life that I was really thankful to be female. I felt blessed in being weak. It made me see and appreciate more fully my dependence on God, someone strong, solid and reliable. I usually despise this weakness in being female because I am someone who loves being in control, in full command of myself. But last night, another layer, another mask was stripped off of me. I am beginning to grasp and appreciate this kind of vulnerability in me. It’s meant to draw me to my Maker, to the Lover of my soul, to my solid rock and foundation.

Weakness is not necessarily a disadvantage, nor neediness something to do away with. Not when it comes to relating with my God and Savior.

An Attempt to Analyze

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of good education, a stable job, and acceptable looks must be in want of a husband. However different her feelings, thoughts, dreams and goals are in life, this is so fixed in the minds of people around her that they constantly badger the happily contented single female nearing the age of 30 with questions, teasing and endless seemingly innocent inquiries on what her plans are regarding marriage. The happy, young woman however just brushes these off. Sometimes she laughs and joins in the joke. She playfully chooses among the many suggested candidates they throw at her and invents reasons why so-and-so is much deserving than the other one. But in her mind none of them even comes close to one with whom she may consider sharing her life. She can’t help it. She’s a stickler to details and she knows what she wants and why. If anyone would care enough to sit down with her and really listen to what she has to say and not just bother her with unsolicited advice, she would directly tell that person that she prefers not to be married.

She plans to go back to school and study some more. Not because she’s a degree hoarder but that she finally found what she wants to do in life. She wants to write. And she’s going back to school to soak herself in the music of the best poetry and prose as she tries to find her own voice and rhythm. She wants to be like the minds who forever gave the world a deeper understanding of reality and who gave access to secret worlds that were once hidden inside their minds. She wants to know other souls like her who have the same passion for life, for truth, for beauty. She wants to mingle with crafters who work with words or colors or sounds or wood or metal or mud or maybe with two or three or all of these. She wants to build bridges toward them and see if they, too, had struggled most of their lives looking for what they were meant to do. She also wants to know the stories of those who have known all along what they want to do in life. She wants to explore how they knew, if anyone helped them or if there was a vivid moment that told them what it is they were meant for. She wants to see what she could accomplish together with these people. She wants to reach out to the ones among them who have yet to know True Beauty and tell them why all their lives they have been yearning to express, to create, to experience and how all of these yearnings point to Him. She longs to be there with them as they discover why they have been designed and gifted that way, and why they are who they are, even as she herself continues to discover these things in her own life.

She wants to birth books. But any husband would want to have children. And so she cannot reconcile the writing life and the married life right now. She can’t imagine how she’ll ever accomplish any writing with a husband and a child or children to take care of. This might seem selfish but think about the considerations she has to make. She, who has been a hopeless romantic all her life, is now confronted with the reality that she might have to choose between her craft and a “normal” life. Not that she’s scared of being different. What concerns her is that almost all the old maids she has known are either sickly or grumpy or have some sort of weirdness in them that she doesn’t want to have. If ever she’s meant to be a Miss all her life, she’d want to be like her favorite author, beloved and delighted in by her nephews and nieces, brother and sisters. But Ms. Austen is cheerful, gay and able to write in a common area and accommodate anyone who comes near her. She, on the other hand, is mostly serious and oftentimes a loner, and can write almost only within the confines of her room. That doesn’t spell like someone who could be a favorite among those who know her.

She is aware though that there are many women who write and have a family. And so she doesn’t dismiss the possibility of being married someday. Maybe someone would come along who also has an artist’s spirit, someone who knows and understands her craft as much as she does. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be willing to ruin someone else’s life by pretending that she can be a good domestic partner when, in truth, she wants to be so dedicated to growing her craft and to fly free and see the world because she always wants wider horizons.

As of now, this is how she sees things. This is what makes sense to her. Time may change her perspective on these matters but whether she ends up married or single for the rest of her life, she has the comfort of knowing she has found what she loves to do. Not many people can say the same for themselves.