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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Heart Aches

My heart aches for your embrace 
Your voice echoes in my mind 
With my eyes closed 
 I see your face and I smile. 
Before I sleep I pray 
For a chance 
To be with you 
Even if only in my dreams.
I wake up in tears 
To a love that can never be.
Still I beg for God to permit 
You and me 
A fleeting moment 
Of affection.
So even when we part
We'll have the sweetest memory
To cherish 
 A love that could have been.

--elle

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sprinklings of Grace

A friend asked for salt to sprinkle on his mango. When I asked why, he said the salt makes the mango sweeter. Apparently, adding salt to pineapples, tart apples, strawberries or any fruit needing a little sweetening, neutralizes the acidity of the fruits, making the fruits sweeter. Jokingly I quipped, "Maybe I should sprinkle some salt on you." To which he managed a chuckle.

I imagined God sprinkling salt in my life to make it a little sweeter just when I need it. The Lord has His way of letting us know how fond He is of us. Whether you recognize it or not, He gives you special treatment every day. That empty parking space near the building entrance is no coincidence. That accident you narrowly escaped as you were about to change lane was your angel, swooping in to save you at God's command. The phone call, email or text you didn't expect came just at the right time. God's timing is always perfect! People that are in your life are there by design.The last boysenberry pie was reserved especially for you because He knows exactly what you want. Oh and that awesome deal you just closed? Yup! That was God, too. These are what I call sprinklings of grace that sweetens the bitterness that life sometimes serve.

Sprinklings of grace are there to remind us that God is ever so vigilant, looking for opportunities to manifest His goodness, love and mercy. Each and everyone of us holds a special place in His heart, no matter how hardened our hearts have become. His sprinkles of grace do not discriminate. There are times when we are quick to take credit for every good things in our lives. Some would argue that it is with their own abilities they were able to acquire fame or fortune or whatever it is they worked hard for. We forget that we are nothing without God; all good things come from God, therefore, all honor and glory belong to Him. Even when unfavorable circumstances happen in our lives, we should look for the sprinkles of grace,  the little spark of hope that tells us someone higher than us is in control. I know it's hard to believe when things look grim but place your faith in the Lord and you'll see His goodness, love and mercy at work in your life.

As I look back in my own life, not only have I encountered (and continue to encounter) God's sprinklings of grace, but an outpouring of affection, like a big load of salt is continuously being dumped on me! Most of the time it's the little things that make a difference, it's the unexpected but welcomed surprises that make life much sweeter. I believe it's important to recognize and appreciate the subtle ways God communicates with us to let us know He is within our midst.

Today, may we  open our hearts and receive God's sprinklings of grace.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Peace and Acceptance

It's upsetting to discover someone close to you is not being truthful. Today I didn't know whether I was upset that they lied or more upset that they kept something from me. I felt that this sudden mendaciousness violated a bond between friends. All throughout the day I ruminated on the resentment I felt and all I was focused on was the bitterness that kept brewing inside of me. If you've ever seen a commercial or a video of a person trying to decide whether to be good or bad and you see a devil and an angel on each of the person's shoulder and they kept score depending on whether the person decides to do good or bad, that was me today. The left side was saying "How dare they? You have every right to be angry." While the loving voice on my right side was saying "Now, now, let's think things over. You're in a quicksand and the more you struggle, the deeper and faster you'll sink." Should I keep an ear on my left shoulder or should I divert my attention to the voice on the right? I knew I needed to sort this out so I phoned a friend. Our conversation went like this:

Me: What do you do when someone lies to you? How do you get past it?
Friend: You accept it.
Me: Just like that? How do you accept it? (My friend will be disappointed to know that I've lost interest in listening further at this point. I needed this friend to sympathize with me and not point out an obvious truth. I politely let this friend proceed.)
Friend: You just accept it. They already lied. It's done. There is nothing you can do about the fact that they lied.
Me: (sigh) But...but...that's not what I want to hear!
Friend: I have someone here that I need to talk to. I'll call you back when I'm done if that's ok.
Me: Of course. Yes, it's ok. (Not really because I was having a pity party and it wouldn't be a party if nobody was pity-partying with me! It looks like the left side just scored a point.) I had to consciously remind myself that my emergency is mine alone. Read more about Patience here.

What my friend didn't know was I already had a plan. I took my pity-party where I know the "attendee" is going to be all ears. This party guest will give me all His attention and there will be no interruptions.

I headed to St. Joseph (1 point for the right side) and there I unleashed my frustrations (sans food and wine). I prayed to God for clarity and to indulge me with an answer but I was also prepared to wait should He choose a different time. I've learned to be persistent in prayer so I added it would be nice if I can get a reply. How do I get to acceptance as my friend so bluntly put it? There are times when he jolts me from my slumber (mental or otherwise spiritual) that I find myself in shock at the impact of his simple, unpretentious words. I sat down in silence for a while and waited for the voice of reason.

I started to analyze the situation, sorted things out in my mind and this time I was able to see things in a different perspective (another point for the right side). Earlier today I was so focused on resentment that I was being irrational. I went over the facts. Can I change those facts? No. Now that I know I can't change it, what do I do about it? I had the option to continue to be miserable or accept it and move on. By recognizing that it happened and after putting things into perspective, I was  already halfway to full acceptance. I say only halfway because acceptance does not necessarily mean forgetting that it happened. It is appropriate to forgive but it is just as appropriate to stay cautious. For me, full acceptance means forgiving and forgetting an offense. Since I've only chosen to accept that it happened and that there is nothing I can do to reverse it, but at same time  didn't have it in me to forget (not just yet), I'm only halfway there, which I am completely comfortable and at peace with.

Anger and resentment no longer weighed me down. I cannot control others' actions but I can control how I react to it. By letting go of something that is beyond my control, even though it took a lot of willpower, I began to feel at peace (the right scored another point for the win). I imagined flicking little luci on my left side and smiled at the thought that my angel's halo shone a little brighter.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Come Sit With Me

There is a marble memorial bench at the cemetery where my dad is interred and it has a caption that reads "Come Sit With Me". I try not to look at it whenever I visit. It makes me uneasy so I briskly walk past it while rubbing away the goosebumps on my arms. I can walk the other way but it's in very close proximity to my dad's niche so there's no way to completely avoid it. Just the thought of it there, inviting me to come sit, always make me want to cut my visit short. I can sense Katherine sitting there, looking at me and waiting for me to sit with her. I've ran past it to get to the car faster where I can feel safe with the doors locked (as if a locked car will stop a ghost from entering it).

Come sit with me. These words resonated with me as I found the picture of a bench that my son Angelo snapped today. This bench looks inviting. Positioned under the shade of a big oak tree, I can see friends catching up on each other's busy lives; a young couple sharing dreams of the future; a family enjoying an afternoon picnic.

Come sit with me. I got reminded of the times when I was young, walking past a kid sitting alone at lunch. It makes me think of people who choose an empty spot in the bus instead of sitting next to a sullen-looking stranger. It makes me think of the times I took for granted spending quality time with family members, even to sit at the dining table to talk about our day. I wonder how many lives I could have touched just by getting over my ego and striking up a conversation. I wonder how many more friends I could have made. These days, the internet is filled with news about kids taking their own lives because they were bullied and this is worrisome and heartbreaking for a mother. This serves as a reminder to parents to talk to their children about the impact of bullying and the difference a smile or a conversation starter as simple as a "hi" can make. School officials remind children if they see something, to say something. They might just save a life.

Lastly, the phrase "Come sit with me" also reminded me of a flyer I found at church, inviting parishioners to spend an hour with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That's Jesus saying, "Come sit with me. Tell me about your day. Tell me about your dreams, your desires, your successes and failures. Tell me about your relationships, your friends and your family. Tell me what makes you smile, what makes you sad. Tell me what worries you." Of course He already knows about all these things, but He wants to hear from us. He invites us to build a close relationship with Him. He wants us to be real. You can sit with Him wherever and whenever. There are times when you don't even need to talk, just surrender and listen with your heart. Will you accept the invitation? Jesus is not very particular about appearances. Come as you are.

Come sit with me. For some, this might as well be an invitation to reach out, to heal, to make friends, to rekindle relationships, to re-awaken dormant faith. If you're not sure what to say, "Hello" is a good way to start a dialogue.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Be True To Yourself

Do you say yes to something that you do not completely agree with? Do you do something that is not aligned with your belief? Maybe you're doing something in order to please someone even though you know you're losing yourself. Trying to fit in with a group whose values are not similar to yours? Trying hard to be accepted? Are you careful with what you say around "friends" for fear of saying the wrong thing and risk being rejected? Stop!

Stick to your principles and your values and remain true to yourself. Don't keep chasing something or someone until you become a stranger to yourself and to the people who genuinely care.

Surround yourself with people who love and accept the real you and see a much happier you.

"Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Patience...

In a world of instant gratification, we want everything right now. You find a dress or a pair of shoes and you couldn't wait for them to go on sale so you buy them at that very moment. You're hungry or thirsty and you're only a few minutes away from home but you drive through a fast food joint anyway to satisfy your cravings. You send a text or leave a voicemail and you expect a reply right now.  You call to make an appointment with your hair dresser and she's booked 2 months out! What?! But you need a haircut right now, today, not tomorrow or the following day. So what do you do? You call around to find someone who can work around your schedule, which is right now because you're already in the parking lot just waiting for confirmation that they're free. Sound familiar?

We're all guilty of being impatient. It takes humility to realize that the world does not revolve around us. People will not always be free when we are. We just need to accept the fact that our "emergencies" are ours alone and we need to wait in line just like everybody else.

They say that patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting; it is being able to endure suffering or discomfort without complaining.

Patience is such a simple word but it's not easily practiced most times. I'm one of those people who will get things done myself if I know it'll take others too long or not get it done to my satisfaction. I switch registers if I see the clerk is taking too long.  I roll my eyes and breathe a heavy sigh if I'm kept waiting. Patience...patience, my Friendster would often remind me. He gets a double dose of my eye-rolling, heavy sigh response because his patience is disgustingly extraordinary; for which I'm thankful because he is patient even with me. I am a work in progress and I know God is not done with me yet.

Let's all strive to be patient with one another (or endure the discomfort of waiting to purchase something).  It not only builds character (maybe even save some money) but it also pleases God.

--with faith and gratitude
Elle

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Live. Learn. Repeat.

When babies are learning to walk, I doubt they think about failure.  They don't think about whether or not they can get from point A to point B. They don't formulate a plan. They just do it. Oftentimes they fall and without thinking twice, they get back up and try again. They fall and they get back up. They repeat this until they finally master the new skill. Ah! They don't even realize it at that time that walking is a game changer! Not only can they get to other side of the house quicker by walking, but soon they learn that running is more fun! All of a sudden, their world becomes much wider with their newfound freedom and all because they didn't give up. 

As adults, we are much more inclined to analyze our decisions and actions. We become more conscious of the consequences, at the same time consider various factors that directly affect the outcome of our decisions and so we take calculated risks. A reasonable adult goes through a decision-making process. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. We all should be  making reasonable decisions. But have you ever wondered how many opportunities were missed by over analyzing something? By the time you're ready to commit, you've missed the train (or the bus, or the boat or plane). 

Sometimes taking a leap of faith is necessary. There are times when dipping our toes in shallow waters is not enough to satisfy our curiosity and we need to jump into the deep end of the pool and learn to swim. Mistakes are an essential part of our existence. We make mistakes and we learn from them. It's how we grow and mature. By taking risks, we live. By making mistakes, we learn. We live, learn and repeat the process of living and learning. This is how we gain new experiences. Sometimes we make the same mistakes and that's okay but this shouldn't discourage us from breaking an unhealthy cycle. Live. Learn. Repeat. 

The point I'm trying to make is, there are times when we are faced with tough decisions. This however, should not stop us from living our lives. Don't be a victim of paralysis by analysis. Try not to over complicate things. Make a decision and run with it. Later on if you find out it was a misstep, get back up, learn from the experience and move on. Live your life again and take the lessons life throws at you. Live. Learn. Repeat. 


"The biggest mistake you could ever make is being too afraid to make one." -- Anonymous

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Hummingbirds

If you've ever bought or received a greeting card from Papyrus, chances are, you've seen one of their inserts about hummingbirds, which coincidentally is their signature logo. It reads:

"Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation."

I just love hummingbirds. I love to watch them flit from flower to flower. When I'm out on the trellis at work, I usually hear their cheerful chirps before I see them. I marvel at their tiny delicate bodies which allow them to fly at ultra fast speeds, their agility in hovering over flowers, and their vibrantly colored feathers.

Every time I see them, I am reminded of the beauty around me. God did not spare any details when He created the world. He filled it with great big creatures and wonders and tiny seemingly insignificant creatures yet it's these things that harmonize our surroundings. All things big and small create a synergy that makes our planet the perfect place to live in. How many of us take the time to appreciate these gifts that God has so lavishly blessed us with?

"Like a hummingbird, may we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday." -- Papyrus

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Long and Winding Road

Sometime in 2016, during the Holy Year of Mercy, I found myself making a pilgrimage to different parishes outside of town. It was almost noon when I left Sacramento. I started at Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Fairfield, CA, which was about a 45-minute drive on Interstate 80. Whenever I need to recharge mentally and spiritually, Our Lady of Mt Carmel is where I always go. First, because the drive affords me the time to reflect as I unwind and release all the built up tensions. Second, it seems like all my prayers are almost always instantly answered there. Almost always. I'll get back to this later.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel is my special happy place. As I was driving, I made a list of all the prayer requests I was going to offer and seek answers to, but I settled for one prayer that I felt was the most urgent and told myself that this will be my only prayer intention on this pilgrimage.  

After a visit to the Blessed Sacrament (they have Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration) at the Chapel of St Therese of Lisieux, I set out for St Joan of Arc in Yountville, a cozy little town in Napa. Whenever I visit Fairfield, Napa is always next on the itinerary, if only for a quick stop at Gott's Roadside for their chocolate shake or Bouchon Bakery for their macarons (Usually both. As I'm typing this, images of Three Twins Chocolate Shake and pistachio macarons taunt my senses. I think a trip to Fairfield and Napa needs to happen soon). This time though, I was on a pilgrimage so I didn't make any side trips to satisfy my sweet tooth. I uttered the same prayer intention at St Joan. It was about 2:30 p.m. when I finished there.

Unfamiliar with the other churches in the area, I searched for other churches nearby and since I wanted to travel a bit further, I settled on St Eugene in Santa Rosa. According to my navigator, it's about 27 miles from where I was at. I could just take St Helena Hwy to Oakville Grade. No problem. It's Napa, I told myself. Enjoy the scenic route. I just love the sight of perfectly straight rows of vineyard vines, plus the leaves on the trees where starting to turn gold, orange and crimson. It'll be a beautiful drive I told myself. Convinced, I set my new destination on my map.

I've traveled St Helena Hwy many times, but never really noticed the turn to Oakville Grade. It was only a few miles from St Joan and it wasn't surprising when a vineyard greeted me as I turned the road. Up ahead, I could see the lush green mountains. It always excites me whenever I go on an adventure and discover new roads. I was so distracted by the beauty around me that I dismissed the thought that the mountains up ahead were an ominous sign. I was oblivious to what lay ahead since I was surrounded by endless rows of grapevines and fall foliage. Never mind the fact that the road was beginning to ascend. It's just a small incline I told myself. But the road is getting narrower. Just this part. It'll widen again, you'll see. Totally dismissing the tingling I was getting on the back of my neck as I started to firmly grip my steering wheel. Well, according to my trusted navigator, this road is only about 11 miles. How bad could it be?

I wished I turned around right then there because as soon as I rounded the corner, it was too late when I realized it was the point of no return. There was no place to pull over and with cars behind me, I had to keep driving. Starting to panic, I tried to calm myself. It'll be okay, just stay in the middle of the road so you don't fall into the ditch (a.k.a. cliff since I can't see the bottom and the road is completely alien to me so I don't know how high or low the drop is in case I do end up careening to the side of the road). That road was so narrow that you'd think the cars are only going one way, at least until one comes towards you with flashing lights warning you to get out of their lane!

The road started to twist and turn and here I was driving to almost a crawl with a truck wanting to ram my rear bumper. It was a monster truck that even if I pulled closest to the cliff, I doubt he would have been able to pass by me. Instead he rode my bumper until he reached his road. Maybe that's where he lived. I mean, really? Who lives there? How do you even know where to turn? Did the residents there have rocks and mountains to mark their driveway? How do they give directions to their visitors? "Oh, at the third protruding rock, just right after the single giant redwood, you'll see an inconspicuous road. Make sure to honk your horn to alert incoming traffic before you round that corner." 

I started crying and praying, saying Lord please help me! Jesus please help me! Please don't leave me. Get me out of this road. I don't want to be on this road! Please help me, please help me, please help me. Through tears and sweat, I must have prayed this a thousand times over. Every turn was blind as I either had the cliff on my side or the mountain at some point. I drove in the middle of the road, giving way to oncoming cars every now and then that zoomed past me like race car drivers! Clearly they've driven that road since they were 8 (I'm kidding, but you know what I mean). I was white knuckling my steering wheel as I prayed my mantra and wiped away tears and sweat. I've never been so scared in my life! After what seemed like two eternities, I finally came to the end of the road and got on the main highway. The rest of the drive to St Eugene was uneventful as the road was pleasantly flat! Despite the gut-wrenching, white-knuckling drive through the mountains, the redwoods at St Eugene kind of made up for the horrific drive. What should have taken me only an hour, probably took me a little less than two. Did I say I crawled those 11 miles? Well, I asked for an adventure and I got one! On the way home, I made sure to really look at the terrain on the map and chose the straightest path for my drive back.

As I was driving home, I looked back at my experience. Whereas I cried my way to St Eugene, I laughed and smiled all the way home, amused at God's sense of humor. I tried to find the lesson in all of this. I thought Lord, really, couldn't You just have had me read a passage on the bible or pointed to an inscription somewhere? Why did You take me on that road? Then, an image of St Therese of Lisieux flashed back in my mind. Remember what I said earlier that my prayers are almost always instantly answered at Our Lady of Mt Carmel? Well, I saw an icon inside her chapel but I vaguely remember the inscription. Something about persevering in prayer. I was so engrossed at repeating my prayer request that I didn't pay much attention to it. If I had, my adventure would have ended right then and there. He had already answered me through St Therese but in my stubbornness, my heart was not open to His words at the time. Instead, I pursued my own path, not knowing God had a better lesson for me. 

That winding road was my entire life presented before me, with its twists and turns, ascending and descending, gaining confidence when there were no cars (trials) and slowing to a crawl when obstacles were present. All the while, I was praying, Lord please help me! Don't leave me. Please help me! Then an impression in my heart said "You of little faith! Why are you so afraid? Don't you know I've been with you from the beginning? What made you think I will abandon you now?" I cried at the realization and for  good reason this time. It made me realize that no matter what the obstacles are, no matter how difficult and unpredictable life is, I can always count on Him to stay with me. During the drive home I was praying a different prayer, one of praise and thanksgiving!

I will never forget that adventure I shared with Papa God. It makes me smile in amazement each time I play it back in my mind.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Where Is The Good in "Goodbye"?

Goodbyes can sometimes be difficult. The pain caused by goodbyes is debilitating, especially with breakups, a child going away to college, a significant other moving to another country to chase their dreams, and perhaps the most painful of all, saying goodbye to a dying loved one. Just the sheer thought of bidding someone goodbye makes you emotional. Even when you try to rationalize the situation, nothing can console you because you've become very attached and letting go is difficult.  Oftentimes it's heart-wrenching.

So if saying goodbye causes so much pain, where is the "good" in goodbye?

Today I found out that the word goodbye comes from the term "Godbwye" which is a contraction of the phrase "God be with ye". As time went on, it is believed the phrase was influenced by terms like "good day" and "good evening", transitioning from "God-b'wye" to "good-b'wy" and finally ending in today's blessing of goodbye. Did you catch that? Goodbye is a blessing.

By letting go, you make room for growth and you create an allowance for other people or opportunities to enter your life. By saying goodbye especially when you're getting away from a difficult situation, you're giving yourself another chance. For me, it's giving way to God's plans.

Today I spent some time alone in church. I questioned and I cried. I resisted and cried some more. When I was done crying, I just sat there and opened my heart to His words. I felt an impression in my heart that said, "Even when you fall, even in your brokenness, you are whole because My LOVE for you is unconditional." 

What an amazing God we have! People and situations can break us, but with God, we are complete!

So my friends, may we always remember that a goodbye is a blessing.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Friendship, BFF, Bestie, 'Day, Sis, Bro. No matter what you call your friends, the sound of the term is endearing. You feel comforted by the fact that you have someone to turn to in times of need and they're there to share your joys, and triumphs. Conversely, they know they can count on you to be there for them. You know you've found real friends when they stay with you through the good, the bad and the ugly. No words are needed. They know that their presence is enough and you begin to heal.

There are times when we become self-centered and neglect their needs. All it takes is a text, a phone call or maybe even lunch to stay connected.

Today let's take a moment to appreciate friends. Say you love them for just being themselves and being part of your life.

Just as we acknowledge our friends on earth, let us also acknowledge our Friend in Heaven, who was, is, and will always be The One above all.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bestie's Question

A good friend of mine works with the elderly and today he asked: "Where will I be when I get old? Who will take care of me?" To which I replied: "God had already packed your provisions for your life's journey, packing it with essentials He knows you'll need along the way even before you know you'll need them."

Indeed, God knows what we need so why worry about what's not even here yet? Have faith that He has our best interest at heart.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pore Strips?!

Pore Strips. You know those sticky things you put on your nose and face to remove whiteheads and blackheads from your pores? Not exactly how I envisioned my comeback to the blogging world, but hey, you can't exactly choose when and what God will use as an inspiration to impart His lessons.

So then I asked, what could I possibly learn from this? It didn't take long to realize that just as the pore strips purge our face of impurities, we sometimes need to purge ourselves of impurities to become better children of God.

Every now and then we need to do an assessment of ourselves, much like doing a yearly appraisal report at work. What is currently working and what is not? What battles are we currently fighting? Are there negative people in our lives that could be affecting us? Maybe addictions we need to cure? Bad habits to stop? Relationships to restore? What can we do to turn these things around? What is stopping us from rising above these challenges? One thing comes to mind: Pride.

Whether we like to admit it or not, pride is what's stopping us from becoming a better person. We don't want to admit that we were wrong; we don't want to take the first step to reach out to someone we've had a falling out with; and we're ashamed to come to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His forgiveness endures and is free to those who seek it. We can rid ourselves of impurities by going to confession and resolving to avoid the near occasions of sin.

A good friend always reminds me that we have a forgiving God. He loves us unconditionally. We just need to accept that and be humbled in the fact that we are unworthy of His love, yet He is faithful. He never tires of waiting for you to seek Him. Who are we to turn Him away? Who are we to reject His invitation to enter His Kingdom?

Maybe it's time to do some reflection...

God loves you and me!