Monday, January 31, 2011


Do you believe that broken things can be fixed?

When I think of something being broken, I imagine a Barbie doll with a missing leg or arm. She looks so incomplete but the painted smile on her face is daunting. Barbie has no choice but to smile, whether she has all her limbs or one or two missing.

I remember being broken at a very young age. I remember my father (I only have two solid memories of him) fighting with my mom one day and breaking the locks on our apartment door out of anger. I remember watching everything ensue, understanding that something was not right yet not comprehending the situation at all. I remember my mother crying and I wept for her. I knew she was sad because Papi did something that was not nice, but my mommy was inconsolable, and I felt obligated to take in all her tears. I was four years old. I was already broken.

It seems that when you are ripped apart that first time, the next time it happens doesn't hurt as bad. Eventually you get used to it, even longing for it because it becomes normal.

But we all know broken is not normal. You either get fixed or you get thrown away.

If my mother would've seen the Barbies I dismembered, cut their hair, and colored their faces with markers, she would've thrown them out.

I saw them differently. They were different in their brokenness, their ugliness. In their changed appearance they were unique. I liked them this way, my misfit Barbies. They gave me comfort. Not everything was perfect. Some have flaws, many missing some vital pieces, but they remained the same Barbie, with the never-changing, painted-on smile. I longed to pretend everything was okay, plastering on my own Barbie smile, hoping people noticed that and not my missing pieces. Instead of searching, or even realizing I could search for healing, I opted for plastic surgery.

And now I have very big scars.

My father was broken. My mother was broken. It seemed like damaged goods became the family heirloom, therefore I inherited the fractures, always believing it was natural. Embracing them like items of value and significance, I never thought for one moment that I was not whole, that some rehabilitation was in order.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed;
Save me and I will be saved,
For you are my praise.
-Jeremiah 17:14

The healing process takes time. I know God forgives our sins the second we confess whole-heartedly, but we forget to see that the aftermath of that sin is in need of healing.

How do we stop from doing it again? We look to Jesus for help.

How do we turn away from what used to hurt when it seems so commonplace to do so? Ask Jesus to hold your hand as you walk away.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
-Matthew 7:7

Jesus gives me immense hope. In Him I can heal. Perhaps I can never attach the arm and leg I am missing. With age, my face will change, my hair will gray. Whether because we have been broken by original sin, our own experiences and/or just our body's natural decaying process, one thing that never changes is God's promises to us. In our constant need for repair, God comes with His toolbox, to mend our souls and set us free in hopes that we will just turn to Him and say,

"I'm done with being broken Father. Now all I want is the everlasting cure."

Doesn't it feel so comforting to know that?

God bless!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

He Allows This!

Remember in the Gospel, when Jesus travels to Galilee to the river Jordan? Remember, He goes to be baptized by John the Baptist but John tells Him,

“I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”
-Matthew 3:14

Here is John, baptizing all these people. Thousands come to repent, to be cleansed of sin with water, by his hand, so that they can be nearer to the Lord. He even sends away the Pharisees and the Sadduccees, calling them a "brood of vipers", telling them that their ancestry means nothing if they harbor evil in their hearts. John has been given the ability to do all of this even when he himself says that someone mightier than he is coming, and how he isn't worthy to untie His sandal straps.

Yet Jesus tells him,

"Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness."
-Matthew 3:15

I have been called to be a part some many great things in the church and for the church and community. I never would've dreamed I'd be given the permission and the support not only from the clergy, but from my peers. To have said "No", to have refused for whatever reason would be to reject God's plan. I've met amazing people, the type of people that are genuine and sincere. They all share in my love for Jesus. We love to rejoice together.

Feeling blessed.

Jesus allows this!

God bless!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Looking for Jesus in All the Right Places

I've been wrong all along.

I've been looking for the face of Jesus. You know, the face we know from all the images. That soft expression that stares back at us. I've been looking for that image.

...and I can't find it any where. Not like the one in the images.

I seem to forget how Jesus's image can appear in many ways.

I seem to forget that a whole lot.

Especially when Naya is crying and I have no idea why. Or when Zaes asks me if I want to play a board game with him while I am busy. I forget to look for it in Liani's face when she awakens me in the middle of the night to tell me she had an accident.

Funny thing is that Jesus doesn't appear as a face. Sometimes He's in the pile of laundry that I've been avoiding or the crowded dishwasher that I've passed by all morning. He seems to find His way into everyone and everything.

Why don't I see this?

Instead, I get frustrated, annoyed, lazy, over-emotional. Is that how I want to react to Jesus when He truly appears? When He knocks on my door, am I going to say, "Not right now Jesus, I'm busy," or "What is it that you want!"

I could react better to those simple moments when Jesus is trying to look for me. Instead of being bothered by things that don't seem to hold the essence of Jesus, I should bow down. I should genuflect and be thankful that He has chosen to be here with me in all the ways He chooses to appear. He's allowing me to wipe away Naya's tears, no matter where they come from and He's asking me to stop whatever it is I'm doing to play that board game with Zaes. He's urging me to help Liani through her nightly accidents, so I can boost her confidence and keep away all the scary things that go bump at night. Jesus is looking for the quiet moments while I am folding clean clothes or putting the dishes away to send me messages of love.

Here's a song by JJ Heller that touches me deeply every time I don't feel God present in me. It's very uplifting and she has a beautiful voice. Lyrics below.

Only Love Remains
Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart

Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

God bless!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hurry! This way in...

On Monday, my third grade class learned about Harriet Tubman. We spoke of how similar she was to Moses who freed the slaves from Egypt. Perhaps at their age the concept of enslavement really doesn't sink in. As eight-year-olds, most aren't aware of how crushing to the spirit slavery was. All they kept saying was "That's not fair," and "Why are people so mean?"

I wish we can shelter kids from the harsh realities of life. Most parents do, by telling little white lies because frankly, younger kids might not understand the truth. I wonder if God forgives us for lying to protect our kids from a broken heart. This world is ready to shatter it into pieces.

Then again, children are so full of wisdom. My daughter Liani always surprises me with some heart-felt words when I am most down. I go through moments where I need a good cry and she senses my pain and does her best to rub it out from me. It's this knowing, this sense that children have that makes me wonder, are we protecting them with those lies, or are we protecting ourselves?

Jesus said that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 18:3). That is probably the hardest thing to do as an adult. By the time we are of a certain age we know too much, we've experienced too much, we've been loved or hurt too much. We've been through a lifetime and to bring ourselves back to vulnerability is unfathomable. How does one let go of the feelings of "that will never happen to me again," or "no one is ever going to hurt me that way anymore," etc. Your experiences become like extra strands of DNA. They become such a part of you and as much as you'd like to let go of the bad times, they've already become your past.

We become slaves to our experiences.

Sometimes we refer to them because they are all we know. We rely on them to tell our story. They contain a certainty of something valid and real in this mysterious life of ours, and so it becomes comfortable to know we went through something, good or bad. It proves that we are alive somehow.

When the Hebrew slaves saw that their food was scarce they began to panic. They remembered how comfortable their enslavement was. They would rather go back, then suffer from starvation. But their spirits were starving back in Egypt. Their souls were withering away. The revival they needed couldn't be fixed with food. The Hebrews needed more than grain. They needed saving. They needed a Savior.

Don't we need a Savior too? I know at one very low point in my life, it would've been great to know that I could count on somebody to lift me up and carry me to safety. The Hebrews had Moses. He came with his simple wooden staff and with the Lord that simple staff became a miracle worker. Harriet Tubman came back for the slaves. She could have stayed put in her freedom, but she refused to be free while her own parents and brothers continued to be other people's property. Both Moses and Harriet led the way to freedom, the Lord providing all they needed to accomplish this heavy task.

Are you enslaved in your past? Do all those old wounds still hurt you? Are you still angry, sad, holding on to memories that are robbing you of your spirit? Do you feel that you are withering away?

Well we have someone better than Harriet Tubman, better than Moses who wants to save you. He stepped up for the job over two thousand years ago, when they nailed Him to the cross. He rose again to show us a new life. We can leave those past lives behind. We can be born again and walk to freedom like little children. In the darkness, there is a faint light that we can faithfully follow, the light becoming larger and larger as we walk closer and closer towards it. We walk trusting we'll see a hand reach out, softly saying to us,

Hurry! This way in..."

Because Jesus is ready to take us to His kingdom. He's willing to help us remove the chains of our sins, of our hurting, of our anger, our sadness. He's ready to give us new life, better than food. But we have to trust Him like children. When He extends His hand, like children, we have to grab it tightly, knowing that our Savior will lead the way.

I'm in Your hands, Jesus. Lead me to safety. Lead me to your kingdom.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Everlasting Sin

Tonight is not a good night for me. I'm feeling very weak and vulnerable. I did something stupid and my conscious is reminding me of it, in the worst way.

Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.
Genesis 42:15

This is the first thing Joseph's brothers thought when he began to treat them harshly in Egypt. Although their intentions weren't to sin, but to feed their families back home, Joseph's brothers carried that sin of long ago like a badge and immediately felt they were being punished for it now.

They felt guilt, shame and scared. The byproduct of sinning is just that. The sin comes and goes but it leaves behind a messy trail in your heart and soul. The residue of sin doesn't let you rest until you confess to God whole-heartedly and ask for His forgiveness.

In my eyes, we should beg, but as long as we truly feel sorry in our hearts that we've hurt Him then He forgives and forgets.

As simple as that seems, it's really hard for us to admit when we're wrong, or when we messed up. I know for me, every time I sinned I'd end up punishing myself. I was too ashamed to even speak God's holy name. I felt I didn't deserve to be forgiven and so I would turn against myself.

and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up,
and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
James 5:15

I needed healing then. I still do. I have moments when I regress back to that "angry at myself" state. I'm nowhere near what I use to be, but it still hurts nonetheless. Nowadays, when I do sin, it not only makes me feel horrible, it makes me more aware of how much I am hurting God.

I am a work in progress. I now walk a much better path, but it doesn't necessarily mean I am perfect. I'm trying my best and I know God sees that.

God bless!

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Constant Battle

I admire missionaries. They go out into the unknown with a special mission, to spread the Good News. They go to foreign countries, where they know no one. They don't know the customs, traditions, the rules, laws. They have to learn them. They have to struggle, resist the challenges not only of culture shock, but of the natives who don't want them there.

They carry the word of God in their hearts and hands.

God is my shield.

But, I don't need to be a missionary to feel the need to grab my shield. I'm constantly in battle everyday. From my own home alone I am constantly being challenged. When I visit relatives, I feel constantly challenged. A request to say a prayer over a meal gets me nothing but resistance.

I find myself praying alone sometimes.

I feel I am a one woman army most times.

But I'll never turn back.

I'm on a mission too. I have a To-Do List that I need to get to. I don't have a five-year plan. I have to trust that God will provide for me five minutes from now. I have to walk blindly through the world, only keeping my eyes on Him. I have my Shield to protect me.

"the Lord is my strength and my shield"
-Psalms 28:7

Lord Jesus, I trust You will protect me always from those that want to distance me from You. Help me to continue to pray for those that don't see, that don't hear. Help me to remember that although this passage feels lonely, I am never alone, as long as You are by my side.

God bless!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Please Forgive Me

"Since when did I begin thinking my contribution to the world was so significant — uncrumbed counters, unlegoed floors — that I was so necessary, that I couldn’t stop, slow, still and commune with Jesus?

God’s the One who keeps the world in orbit, keeps the river running, not the efforts of any human hands. It’s okay to take a moment and close your eyes and pray. Just pause, and exalt God. Even if in the midst of children, if its to throw apron skirt over head to create a quieted island-moment of prayer."

Last night, I was so wrapped in myself and my own self importance that I forgot to praise God and let Him do His thing.

I'm so sorry. I have nothing to give to anyone unless You will it through me.

In the meantime, it is right to stop, pray, say "thank you", and "You are an awesome God!" In my grief, I didn't see Jesus clearly. I forgot for a moment that He is still here.

Dear Father,

Yesterday night i forgot to call You because i was sad and hurt. i didn't come to You because, once again, i thought i could and should help solve the world's problems. That is obviously not the case. All i needed to do was look to You. So simple, and yet, my EGO got the best of me. For that i am so sorry.

it is You that i need. It is You that i need to speak with all the time. It is You i need to STOP and say hello to. i need to remind myself that You're right beside me, that just because the scenery has changed, Your presence hasn't. But look how amazing You are...You allowed me to see the error of my ways. You too felt hurt and You decided to tell me so.

Thank You. i am sorry and i love You.

God bless!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I cut my thumb today. I was cutting carrots for dinner and I sliced my thumb. There was blood but no pain. It should have hurt but it didn't...

because there was a greater pain in my heart.

My husband asked me what was wrong. "Talk to me," he says. So I tell him what's going on in my community, but he cuts me off and says "Don't get involved honey."

He was only trying to help.

But that didn't help.

It made me even more determined, because that is the exact attitude people take when something bad happens. Don't get involved. Pretend like nothing has happened.

But I can't do that. Even if I tried, I'd still feel affected. I can't turn away. It's not in my DNA.

Jesse told me once that as an MTA employer is not obligated to help someone in a wheelchair or handicap flee if there is a fire in the tracks. They are to tell them that help is on the way, and hope that what they say will happen. But they are REQUIRED not to go back.


What, as human beings are we required to do? What, as God's children are we supposed to do. Jesus tells us to love they neighbor and pray for your enemies.

Jesus, that's hard.

I'm at a lost. Our community is suffering. Our youth thinks it's better to face death than to face life. We've already lost two. How many more are we going to let go before we feel REQUIRED to do something.

Jared Loughner was a lost soul. He decided to take his life in a different robbing the lives of others. This was an active defiance against God's commandments.

So when we keep silent, when we do nothing, when we behave as if we don't care, is that too a defiant act against God?

What can I do to help? I've been asking God this question all night and all day. So many teens are lost in the dark and I can't sit here, hands tied.

I can pray, I know that. I will pray for their souls, for their families and for my community.

I can stay with God. I know that too. That will never change. Never.

But what can I do for them? What will Jesus allow me to do to help?

I need an answer real bad because I feel so lost. I'm not turning back to pretend like nothing is wrong. This affects me. It affects you. It affects all of us.

"...not as I will but as Thou wilt."

God bless you more than ever!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poetry Tuesdays: Children

I love poetry. It’s in the words that people open their hearts. I love how poets hide behind their prose, wanting to scream to the world how they feel and yet are too shy to face it plainly.

I was reading an old entry in one of my journals that had a poem I dedicated to Liani when she was a baby. Despite how sad I felt, the birth of my first-born was a pivotal moment for me. I truly believed that if I brought into the world a person that unconditionally loved me then I would feel better. Liani was tiny, three weeks early, a week before Christmas. Almost no pain and when I first set eyes on her she was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe I could help bring into the world something so precious and beautiful. Her every being depended on me and I promised myself to be happy for her.

The Angel that Presided O’er my Birth
The Angel that presided o’er my birth
Said “Little creature, form’d of Joy and Mirth,
Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth.
–William Blake

Here’s a poem I wrote a few years before Liani was born:

It’s a constant,
The blue of the sky,
Its ever-changing shapes
That float by.
Don’t undermine the sky.

Beneath it’s heavenly mane
Ants walk around
On two long feet.
Crawling into boxes,
Roaming the dirt,
Clashing and crashing,
The soil turning red.

Leashed with chains
All wrong doings
Fixed with a tug
A pull
A yank
That’s how you got me babe.

I won’t even begin to try and remember what I was feeling. You can tell I was starting to conform to things. It wasn’t a pretty scene I’m sure.

The following poem reminds me of the day Naya was born. Liani came to see her new baby sister and that day, as I looked into my eldest’s face, I noticed how big her eyes were, as if they were drinking up the scene. She looked so grown to me and it made me proud and sad all at the same time.

Resting her on my chest like a sleeping cat
I cannot recall my older daughter so small and new
And fear the memory of this
Complete, absolute something will grow away
And fear the hand will never remember
Stroking her head as she nursed
Or fear I’ll forget her soft cry
When I look up from sleep and see you lift her,
4 am, the curtains blowing in and out of the window
as the whole house breathes.
–Kimiko Hahn

Sometimes that feeling of love comes from our Father above. When I was young, I used to think that every time something bad happened to me it was because God had abandoned me. But Jesus tells us differently. I think Jesus was very poetic. He liked using stories and imagery so the crowd can understand Him. Every time I read this verse I’m reminded of a parent that has lost their child in a huge department store. They don’t stop searching until they find that lost child, no matter the cost or consequence.

What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
–Matthew 18:12-14

The following poem I read when I was in high school. I was already a Gwendolyn Brooks fan, but this poem made my heart sink. It was so honest and open. At the time, I had never read anything like this before.

The Mother
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
–Gwendolyn Brooks

Poems are rubber-band balls of emotions and feelings that are so strong and so very hard to explain. Poetry is imagery in words. It’s the heart’s song that has sung silently long enough.

God bless!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who is Love?

Two of my friends from the Mom's Group went to grab some coffee this afternoon after attending a prayer service. I think it's safe to say that we've been a bag of emotions as of late and we are now so aware that we are not alone. Isn't that enough to be joyful? To know that in this hard life we are not alone. Of course, God is always with us, but what about our human friends? Are they walking through the same struggles that we find ourselves going through?

Someone said today that he learned that we are put here on this earth to learn to love. It sounds so simple, and yet for many it is hard. When you've been beaten down, ridiculed, criticized, looked over, dismissed, payed no attention to, frightened, saddened, hurt, violated, where is there room for love? How does one love despite all of this?

How did Jesus love despite all of this?

We're only human. Isn't that such a great scapegoat? We're only human. We have a limit. We can only do but so much. These statements are easy to run to. They make us feel justified for not going above and beyond. We set up these levees of excuses to catch the harshness that is life.

But eventually, life's residue builds up. It punches holes in our excuses. It creates cracks under all the pressure. These statements become weaker and weaker every time we use them. They are not solid, but made of nothing substantial. Just words we leave in the air. Life runs through them like a tsunami. We're hit, thrown off ground, flung around, and when we land, we land hard. And those excuses are nowhere to be found.

My mind is spinning right now. So many thoughts are going through my mind. I wish I can jot them down but they are truly spinning out of control. I feel sad, guilt, confused, weak, clueless, stupid but at the same time I feel loved, embraced, hopeful and in shock. I don't know if I've ever felt more human in my life, and yet, I am ready to walk forward. I'm ready to do more, be more, overcome much more. Is this what it feels like to be in love?

I just looked up the definition of the word "love" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary online. First thing that came up was an add for a hamburger that said "Holy Cow."

Well, that's one way to describe it.

Okay, so this is what I got after the ad:

Definition of LOVE

1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

b : an assurance of affection love>

2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion

3 a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration

b (1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address
4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind(2) : brotherly concern for others
b : a person's adoration of God
5 : a god or personification of love

6 : an amorous episode : love affair
7 : the sexual embrace : copulation
8 : a score of zero (as in tennis)

9 capitalized Christian Science : god
— at love
: holding one's opponent scoreless in tennis
— in love
: inspired by affection

I bet we can improve on this definition right? Definition 5 kind of comes close.

Love is God. God is Love.

The Beatles said "All you need is love."

All you need is God.

Here's what scripture says love is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own
is not provoked
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails...

Read this again, only replace "love" with Jesus and "it" with He.

(I read that somewhere and I fell in LOVE with it. :D)

Doesn't it fill your heart up? This gives me so much hope for a happier, human life. This is how He intended us too love and be loved.

I want to dance and sing. I've been heartbroken, trodden down, even spit on (literally), but this verse, changes all of that. It makes me not care about all the hurt. It makes me not think of all those who've hurt me. It even gives me a sense of promise. I can forgive and be forgiven because of love.

I can forgive and be forgiven because of love.

I can forgive and be forgiven because of love.

God bless!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Perfect for the Job!

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
-John Wayne

One of my Facebook friends posted this quote on his page and I thought it was so relevant to my relationship with my church today.

When I first started attending church again, I didn't know what role I wanted to play as a fellow parishioner. To be honest, I didn't know if this was going to last. I've had temporary interests in the past and I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl, so my reputation for commitment was not very reliable. My mom would say that I would get a fever to do things and then drop them as passionately as I started them. It's true, I've been that way with many things and I accepted that part of myself. I thought that joining the church would give the same results.

So far, that's not the case.

In fact, God has given me so many responsibilities in my parish. Here I sit, thinking about how undeserving I am to be given such tasks, so unworthy, so unknowledgeable. Apparently God doesn't think that way about me. On the contrary, He's ready to give me more.

Today I received an invitation in the mail for a meeting that was mentioned to me last month. Seeing the letter reminded me of a night I had about a month ago. I kept waking up to nightmare after nightmare. They weren't scary, but they weren't pleasant. At the time I didn't know how to describe them, but one thing I was sure of, they left me with a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. I remember the next day, walking around as a zombie due to lack of sleep. I found my church pastor and we talked about the dreams and how they related to what was going on in my life. Seems the devil was trying to throw in a dash of self-doubt and a sprinkle of low self-esteem to ruin my plans. Pastor said I must be doing something right.

I'm very shy. I'm very friendly, but if you put me on the spot, I'd much rather hide under a desk or something. I don't like being in the spotlight, I just like to add to the party. I don't mind being the stage hand. I stumble in speech and sometimes I say things that aren't appropriate. I've been known to shut down a room with one uncomfortable comment. I never finished college, I'm not very worldly and my vocabulary isn't really stellar.

This is not a good resume.

God knows this. I don't think all this matters to Him.

Makes me think back to Moses' first encounter with God. I could imagine what He must have felt to be able to face God in a way that no one he knew had. Moses was given the opportunity hear God's voice calling his name. I'm sure Moses must have thought God had the wrong person, but still he answered, "Here I am." God gave him his mission and of course this threw Moses off big time.

Who me? Wait, do you know who I am? Do you know what I've done? Are you sure you want ME to do THAT?

When I was first called to become a catechist, I was excited, but I was scared. I asked these same questions. I gave God my resume. He stayed quiet for awhile, and then He called again. I contemplated, I prayed, I imagined, and I talked to my stepson. I asked him if he thought I'd be a good catechist. He just said, "Yea." That same day, we went to Mass, just him and I and someone made a speech about the church needing more catechists. He turned to me and said, "See!"

The wisdom of God through the mouth of an eleven year old. Interesting...

God has big plans for you and I. He's very willing to wait. He knows that when we do go back home, like the prodigal son, we will be sorry, and willing to do His will. In the meantime, He lets us go through life, He smiles at our accomplishments and sadly watches our downfalls. He can save us then, but what will we learn if we never experience the lesson. What can we give to others what we've never had ourselves. He takes our wrongs, and places them along with our goods and He uses both to show His grace through us.

Reminds me of St. Paul and his conversion. Jesus took this persecutor of Christians and made him to be one of the most important figures of the church today. Paul was responsible for evangelizing many Gentiles. He too had a horrible past filled with sin, but God took that past to show His grace. Because of Paul's past, his ministry was richer. He knew what it was to be on the other side. He was able to relate.

Just because we have a past, doesn't signify that we mean nothing to God. Today's homily was just about that; one man's trash is another man's treasure. Others may see you as unworthy, useless, not good enough. We may see ourselves this way too, but God sees you differently. He see you and me for what He created, not what we've become. As parents, when our kids do wrong, we automatically say to them, "That's not how I raised you," yet we know who they really are and we hope they can make good use of those good qualities they have. Well God wants us to make use of our good qualities and also make use of those bad decisions. They too tell a story of how God can change the hearts of the worst sinners. We are no better and no worse then the saint in heaven or the rapist in jail. The thing to think about is whether you believe this to be true about yourself.

Are you good enough to turn to God? Can He look past what you've done in the past? Can He entrust you with His most important tasks? Can you learn to love yourself no matter what?

He says yes.

Not only does He say yes, but He will give you what you need to succeed. You're shy? He'll give you the confidence. You don't speak well? He'll provide the Holy Spirit to inspire your thoughts and words. You don't know much about the church or don't know all the prayers? God will give you the opportunity to learn as you go. Whatever you need, He will provide, and then some. With God, nothing is impossible. All you need is faith, love, and the courage to trust in Jesus and He'll take care of the rest. Are you ready?

Then saddle up!

God bless!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Knock, knock...

What would you do if Jesus Himself appears to you? What if someone knocks on your door and when you open it it's Him? What would you do? What would you say? Would you laugh and close the door, thinking, how can this man says He's Jesus? Would you tell Him to go away because your house isn't clean? Would you not be able to make eye contact out of shame? Or would you just simply invite Him in?

I often think about how I and the world around me would react if Jesus physically appeared among us today. When He did walk among us many didn't believe He was the Son of God. Out of the thousands that followed Him, there were millions more that didn't. Out of the thousands that followed Him, only a handful stayed at His side when He died. Out of the many that witnessed Jesus' miracles only a few believed and even fewer understood His teachings. If people were so unbelieving, unwelcoming then, what about now? Will humanity be able to recognize Jesus from the masses the way John the Baptist did that day on the Jordan? Will we be able to recognize His face? How will He come? What will He wear? What will He say? Will I be ready?

Being ready is what is scary to me. Am I ready to go with Him? If Jesus approaches me and says "Follow Me", am I willing to leave everything and go? I have my husband and children that I would have to leave. I'd have to leave my mother, my friends. All the comforts of my home, I'd have to leave those too. With just the clothes on my back and the love I have in my heart, can I just get up and go?

I'm not a perfect person, and most definitely not a perfect Christian. I look back at my life and all the things I could've done better, said better. The past can never be changed and I carry it around as a book bag sometimes. It's hard for me to let go. I've held on to old memories of good times, bad times, people I've known, people that hurt me (I somehow tend to carry more of those inside) and events that changed me. I, unfortunately don't carry lite. I've got baggage to fill a few shopping carts and it weighs me down, but at the same time it's hard to leave it all behind. Perhaps I feel it defines who I've become. All my experiences have made me who I am today.

They also don't allow me to forgive and forget very well.

Ah, and my back is killing me!

You know, our baggage contains our past hurts too and when we carry them around we never let them heal. We pick at them for the world to see we've been hurt.

"Look at me. Look at what happened to me. Feel sorry for me because I am still bleeding from a wound that happened six years ago."

I once read a story about two Buddhist monks who were on their way back to the Temple. They reached a river and saw a young girl with a load at the edge. She was contemplating crossing the river when the younger of the two monks offered his help. She agreed and he lifted her and her bag up and begin to walk across the river. This made the older monk very upset. It wasn't customary for a monk to touch a woman let alone carry her, but he remained quiet. After the three travelers reached the other side of the river, the younger monk placed the lady on dry land. She thanked him and went this way and the monks went that way. Hours later, when the monks arrived at the temple the older monk turns to the younger monk and says, "You are in big trouble. You were not supposed to touch that lady let alone carry her. The Master will hear of this." The younger one responds, "Brother, I carried that woman across the river and placed her on dry land so that she may go her way and we go ours. I let her off my back hours ago. Why are you still carrying her on yours?"

Why are we still carrying around things that happened or didn't happen? People that hurt us? Didn't Jesus tell us to leave our burdens with Him?

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS .30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
-Matthew 11:28-29

Amazing how Jesus tells us to do something now and we STILL don't listen. He's is offering to take away our bags. He's saying to give them to Him because He doesn't mind taking them from us. He wants to remove them from our backs. He wants what's easy for us, what's good. When he knocks on our door and our house is filthy, do you think Jesus will look on us with disgust? Do you honestly think Jesus didn't know that your house would be a mess and that you would be ashamed to open the door to Him? Do we really think Jesus doesn't know who we are and what we carry within us? Remember the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:16-18)? He knows us, better than we know ourselves. He knows our mess.

That's why He's knocking.

If Jesus knocked on my door today I would hope to recognize who He is. My house is a mess and I probably won't even have a cup of soda to offer Him, (I wonder if Jesus likes Pepsi) but I'll let Him in nonetheless. He'll probably immediately start to help me clean my mess. He won't snap His fingers and Viola! No, I think He'll help me pick up the pieces little by little, piece by piece and we'll talk. He'll let me vent and rant. He'll give me advice with His infinite wisdom. He'll stop to hug me when I begin to cry. He'll tell me that everything will be alright because now He's here. He'll let me go and we'll continue cleaning up. He'll say a few jokes and tell me a few parables, teach me a thing or two and before I know it, my house is clean. I'll say "Thank you Jesus!" and He'll smile and extend His hand. I'll take it and as we close the door behind us, we'll walk off into the sun.

The scene ends there because we'll never know where God will take us, but we do know it will be a good place filled with light. We won't need to carry anything and best of all, it will be with Jesus, hand in hand.

How many of us are willing to let go of the past, clean up our mess so that we can walk with Jesus to the future? He's knocking on your door as you read this. Will you let Him in?

God bless!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Whirlpools and Headlights

Sometimes life puts us in a whirlpool. We spin and spin, watching the same scene go by, flailing our arms and kicking our legs to try not to go down, only those movements we make are only bringing us further into the vortex. We fight, we panic, we cry for help but a force greater than us is pulling us closer to our impending doom, to nothingness, to black. So we think...

There's this song that's been running through my mind for weeks. TCM (Tuner Classic Movies) channel always creates a tribute of all the actors, directors and many important Hollywood figures who've passed away that year. It's a beautiful montage of their images with a melancholic song playing in the background. They always manage to make me cry. Last year's tribute included a haunting tune by an artist named Sophie Hunger called Headlights. The song has stayed in my mind for weeks. I've shared the video of the tribute along with lyrics below but first...I want to explain why this song haunts me so.

How many times have you been in love? How many times have we obsessed over this feeling with someone? Have you ever fallen in love with the notion, the idea of someone loving you back? Did you submit yourselves to making sure they were happy, making sure that they knew how much you cared? How many times did they let you down and yet you made excuses after excuses to be able to feel that feeling of being loved again? Did you dance around with the feeling for a long time only to find that you weren't loved back, that it was never reciprocated? Maybe they did love you, but not in the way you expected? Did your world come crashing down around you when things went sour?

Did you do this to yourself more than once?

For a long time I ran with the notion that love was only real when it hurt. Easy love didn't exist. I always had to leave a piece of myself to get the love I wanted. If things weren't working, then here, take a little more of me. Relationships were like a drug to me. I was addicted to them. Some relationships were brutal, filled with conflict and battle. Others were more passive aggressive, quiet and calm but with a storm always on the horizon. When things didn't work out, when there was a struggle, I automatically blamed myself. I just didn't give enough.

I'm not just talking about relationships between a man and a woman. I'm talking all kinds; my mother, my father, my boyfriends, my friends. My love addiction took many shapes and forms. It distorted itself to whatever it needed to look like, whatever was appropriate. People use to compliment my relationships all the time. I used to hear things like "You guys are perfect for each other." They'd admire how well I got a long with people and I did get along with everyone. I am the master shape shifter. I've learned to please everyone I meet. How else will they like me, accept me?

This all doesn't sound right, does it? Is love supposed to be so harsh, so dramatic, so one-sided? Is love so selfish? Is it so abusive?

When we wake up from the love trance, how often do we realize what just happened? Sometimes, still high from the last relationship I would stumble into to the next, worsening my condition and making myself believe that this time will work. Believing real hard that things will get better.

But they didn't.

They got worse.

I got worse over time. Like I said before, I became empty. And what do people do with an empty vessel? They throw it away, or if they're kind they'll recycle you, but into something different. Nothing is ever the same twice.

Okay, Ivy. Since you're on this Jesus kick what does this have to do with Him?

Well folks, what doesn't. Remember the whirlpool I mentioned earlier? That scary freak of nature pulling you into the unknown? You panic because the world around you is drowning and you along with it. You can't even see the end, yet you know it will. You think at that moment that you're dying, but that's really Him, trying to save your life. Jesus sucks all of it in, takes all of the mess, pulls you into nothingness, into black, so that you can start over. He breaths in new life, in hopes that instead of going back to your addiction, you turn to him for salvation. He provides the finale, that final note at the end of a song, the period at the end of a sentence so that we can start anew. Jesus respects our choices. He allows us to choose. He hopes we choose Him, but when we don't, He waits and continues to save us until we do. Some people don't have faith that Jesus can save. It's hard to fathom a human from ancient times being able to help me now. But see, what He did for us, the teachings He left us so long ago does help us now. It reminds us that through Him we can overcome anything.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." -John 16:33

Jesus overcame the world so that when we cry out to him in our own despair He can tells us, "I know how you feel. Let me help you rise." Our God, the man above, that can create a world with the snap of His fingers is telling me He understands my pain. He allowed Himself to suffer so that He can say that to me and so that I will know it to be true. How could you not believe in that?

Here's the song. The image on the video is jarring, I know. I think it's her album cover. Nevertheless, it is telling of that desperateness one feels when you're emptied of all you have. You may interpret it differently than I did. All in all, I think we've all gotten caught in headlights one time or another and that bright deceiving light can take us on a journey where we hope to be uplifted. Lyrics underneath:

You told your tales with pictures
I tried to make it seem good
I borrowed the heart of a preacher
And believed as hard as I could

You don't know how much I worked there
You don't know the risk I took
You hardly, hardly saw me
Behind the mirror round my neck

Caught in your Headlights
I had to close my eyes
Caught in your Headlights
I had so little time
Caught in your Headlights
I couldn't turn back
I was never myself
I was you
I forgot

You sold your smiles untroubled
Your light was on every face
You were too young to know that it mattered
That every time someone must pay

I bought your every word then
I didn't have my side
I was too old to learn my first lesson
So I dance with tied hands in mind

Caught in your Headlights
I had to close my eyes
Caught in your Headlights
I had so little time
Caught in your Headlights
I couldn't turn back
I was never myself
I was you
I forgot

If you want to see the TCM tribute click here.

God bless!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lost and Found

For me, the death of the young man who recently took his life took me back into time. From fourteen years old until recently I was in a huge valley.

For a long time, I felt there was no end in sight. I had many suicidal thoughts, few failed attempts, many moments of screaming for help, too many days of self defeat. I searched. Hard. For all those years, I did everything. I searched real hard for a way out. I went to church, I wrote journals, I went to therapy, I took drugs (the legal and illegal kind), I searched for love, I spoke to my mom, I spoke to my friends, I spoke to complete strangers. I yelled. I drank myself drunk many times. I’d hurt myself physically. I gave myself over to people for nothing in return. I was empty. I was suffering. I hated myself. I was lonely. I was vulnerable. I wanted to die. Dying was better than this. Dying was sleep. I became numb to everything. Life went on as best as I could make it. On the outside I was a sweet girl, always generous, always smiling. People had nothing bad to say about me. But on the inside, I was mush. I’d sit alone for hours. Crying, writing, thinking, plotting. With each passing hour, day, month, year, I sank deeper into a depression that enveloped me. Nothing I did to get myself out of it worked. My attempts to feel better, including death, were futile. I messed up so many times and that only made things worse. I had absolutely no self worth. So I gave up. I locked myself up in a small dark room in my heart, closed the door and tossed the key. I thought that perpetual feeling of loneliness, self-hate, self-destruction was just life and as they say, the show must go on.

I found my husband. We started a family. Little glimpses of light. But with each of my daughters, I managed to blow out the candle because I wasn't good enough for them. I had absolutely nothing to offer them but despair, lies and false moments of happiness. I was prepared to tell them that life was hard and sad but you make the best of it. But even in that small statement of hope I felt nothing. All the happy events in my life were overwhelmed with all the darkness I saw within me. I remember the few times I had the courage to speak up, to tell someone I didn’t feel well, only to be knocked down with a “Snap out of it!”, “Stop being a baby.” or my favorite, “This is life. Deal with it.” The very people I trusted gave me no hope. They had no idea that was my cry for help. They had no idea how weak I was becoming.

Then one year, during Easter. I went to church alone one day to see a live re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross. At the time I was reconciling with God. I had apologized to Him. I wrote Him a letter about how much of a fool I had been. I said sorry for not being a good friend. I told Him I had hopes of starting it over with Him.

But Jesus, to me, was another story.

I didn’t know Him. I read the gospels, lightly. I didn’t want any of that to sink in. God was my God, but a human being as My Lord and Savior? That was a hard pill to swallow. I was too smart to believe in fairy tales. I told myself I’d stick to God and keep it there.

God said nope.

So this evening I sat, alone, like always, and watched the scenes. I listened to the reflections. Something hit me, a sharp pain in my heart. I cried. I bit my lip and in my mind I could hear God saying to me, “You love me? Well you gotta love Him too. Because He loves you. More than you’ll ever know.” I sat there waiting for the nuclear missile to hit the church, or for the earthquake to start. I sat and waited for the destruction of my world because I was ready. It didn’t happened, at least not on the outside. Someone tossed the key back to me. Someone beckoned me to get out. Someone whispered softly, “Come with me.”

I walked out of that church feeling like a bird, ready to fly. I smiled, but this time it was for real. I went home to hug my family. This time it was for real. I was a prisoner set free. I felt like the blind man who was given sight. I felt like the lame man who was told to get up and walk. I was that dead little girl who was told to rise and get something to eat. I was with Jesus, God’s son, and for the first time and I was ready to be with Him forever.

You know what this feels like? I’m sitting here, typing this out to the world, crying the happiest tears. I mourn for who I was. I think back at who I was and it makes me so very sad. I was truly dead inside. But Jesus raised me from the dead. He called my name. And I followed.

I know how it feels to be in that dark, small dungeon of hurt, despair, desperateness. The devil is the warden and he loves to collect the lost. That boy that took it another step further perhaps couldn’t hear Jesus. I’m sure it was very hard for him to see in the dark. Maybe no one told him to call out His name. Maybe he felt ashamed to seek Him. Like me, maybe the young man didn’t feel worth anything. So he took himself away. I wonder if that young man now sees that he wasn’t alone, that somebody saw him and truly loved him.

I have this strong desire to help the youth. Because for most of mine I was lost. I will never forget what it felt like and because of that I will never turn back. Everyone deserves to be happy. Only Jesus can gives us that joy.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

-Amazing Grace, By John Newton

God bless!

Valley Girls

I originally set up this blog as a place to vent my feelings about motherhood, being a daughter, friendship, etc. I called it Fingerprints for Liani because I thought that sounded sweet. I left it standing for a bit with one entry (since removed) to see where my motivation to write would take me.

Months pass by...nothing.

But this week, particularly on Tuesday changed all of that.

I belong to a mom's group at my parish. I've only been attending a little less than a year, but from the beginning it felt like home. These women are from all walks of life, different cultures, different experiences, but we all manage to come together under one strong bond, our love of Christ. With time, we became friends and have embarked on a few things here and there to bring us together beyond our twice a month get-togethers. In my opinion, we are drawn to each other and truly look forward to being with one another. I've made these meetings a priority. It recharges my spiritual battery.

Well, this particular meeting brought on some very heavy emotions. A young man from the community decided to take his own life. Many of the teens came together in solidarity and wore all black to school the next day. Many also came to Sunday Mass to mourn, to be together, and perhaps, even, to be with God. We also discovered that one of the pioneer moms (I unfortunately didn't know her but many in the group did) passed away this past summer and we had no idea. The room felt heavy as we tried to not only cope with our feelings of guilt and sorrow, but with a drive to not allow both tragedies to repeat themselves. We obviously can't control natural death, but we can help prevent a suicide and we can definitely be there to help the mourning families of someone who leaves us all too soon.

So the gears are in motion.

With heavy hearts, we are all together walking in this great big valley. It feels like God placed us there so that we can help bring those that are stuck in the darkness into the light. Perhaps, we ourselves belong there because we have our own darkness to combat. God threw us in there for a reason. We’re working towards the climb with as many people in tow. Who can we pull out of the rubble?

On that note, I was listening to a radio segment last night about a gentlemen who happened to be in Haiti one year ago when the earthquake occurred. He was in a hotel when it all happened. Upon looking around at the devastation, he knelt down, thinking this was where he would die and called for The Lord. The gentleman realized that in these last years, although he called himself a Christian, he was distant from God. Prayer became an obstacle; the relationship strained due to everyday life and other worldly distractions. He asked for forgiveness, he asked for mercy and he felt Jesus right beside him. Jesus granted him all these things and more. He gave this gentleman a new opportunity at life, physically and best of all, spiritually. Fr. Tom, our parish pastor, once said that God takes every opportunity to bring us closer to him. It put events like these into a whole new perspective.

So who can we pull out from under this rubble? Well I will start with me. I’m under the rubble of the “100+ things I need to do everyday,” or the “I’m too tired to play with my daughter right now,” or the “I know my husband and kids love me. I don’t need to say it or show it.” So many heavy rocks that are weighing me down and not allowing me to see the light. We live in a world of gravity. Life WILL weigh you down. There’s only one way up.


Fingerprints for Liani. Now I know why I named it this way. How else will my daughters find themselves? If I’m going to leave something for them, I want it to lead them straight to Him. We all leave fingerprints on everything we touch. Let’s lead a trail out of this valley to the top of this mountain. Sunrises and sunsets look better from up there.

God bless!