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A Love that Believes: Happy Fathers' Day

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One of my earliest memories of my father is of him driving me to school. I must have been about 7 or 8. I have never been good at early mornings, and was half asleep in the car. When we got to the school’s side gate, he stopped the car and I managed to get out, blinking sleepily on the pavement. He got out too, came round the side of the car, and bent down to give me a good-bye kiss. Then I walked up the school steps, knowing he would watch a while and then get back into the car and drive off to that mysterious place called “work”. What he did there we never knew, but we knew we would see him again when he came back in the evening.

As a child I was always aware of “Dad” as a faithful and tender presence. He could always be relied on to drive us around when we needed a ride, to school or to church. He never went to church himself, not being Catholic, but must have spent countless hours waiting around outside for us to finish. He would be persuaded to come in, though, for special occas…

What is Your Heart’s Desire?

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Today is exactly five years to the day when I joined the FCJ Society as a postulant, on Pentecost of 2014. That Pentecost weekend is still very clear my memory. Waving goodbye to my parents at the airport, my eyes misting as I turned away, knowing their unhappiness. Arriving at the airport in Manila, following the careful instructions that had been emailed to me, and seeing two figures - one tall and the other short - waving wildly as they ran up to welcome me. Having a simple lunch in a strange house with people I didn’t know, until someone asked, “How are your parents?” And then, floodgates opening, running to my new, strange room to be alone with painful feelings.

I don’t remember much about my acceptance ceremony, but laugh now to look at the photos - everyone else dressed in nice, formal clothes for the occasion and me standing out in my sleeveless blouse and short denim skirt, not having known what to expect. After that we had a nice dinner, followed by a round of Bailey’s, appa…

A Love That Keeps Giving (Happy Mother's Day)

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They say you appreciate your mother a lot more when you have children of your own. Having children is probably not something I will ever experience! Even so, as the years go by, my appreciation for my mother has grown more and more.

Two years after I left home and was living in Indonesia, as part of some coursework on psychology, I called home to ask my parents what they remembered about my birth and early childhood. "Before you came along," my mum said, "we hadn't had much experience with babies. So when you did come, we hardly knew what to do. We just looked at you lying there and the nurse had to tell us to pick you up!"

Apparently, as a baby I had problems latching on to either breast or bottle. "We were going to the shop every other day to get a different size of bottle top," my mother laughed.

Imagining them fretting over me as a fussy baby always brings a smile. Fast-forward 24 years, and another memory stands out - my own this time. I was jus…

Is Your Well Empty?

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A week ago I dropped (with some difficulty) all my work and other preoccupations, and took a bus an hour and a half out of the city to a Jesuit retreat house, where some of us are now taking a course on spiritual accompaniment. The retreat house is a peaceful place, surrounded by fields and bordered by towering, shade-giving balate trees. There is even a flock of (cute but admittedly dirty) sheep that comes by to graze at certain times of the day!

I didn't quite expect how relieved and light I felt at being here, away from all the usual pressures and things cluttering up my mind. As I breathed in the atmosphere of the place I also came in touch with the deep longing for God in my heart that had been obscured by all these other things. I had felt for some time now in the grind of daily life like I was trying to draw water from an empty well, but was not quite aware of the strength of my desire to hear and talk about God and - perhaps most importantly - to experience God's love…

Living Your Difference As Gift

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As someone living and working in another country and culture, I have become quite familiar with the experience of “difference”. Some days I hardly notice it, having lived, breathed and moved in its shadow for so long. But at other times it still impinges, unwelcome, upon my consciousness: when I walk into the lunchroom and don’t understand the conversation with its jokes and innuendoes; when I try to make awkward conversation in Tagalog with the lady I buy vegetables from; or when my opinions on how we should live together as community seem to conflict with those of others.

The first few months of working in the place where I have my ministry now was an especially interesting experience. As a Singaporean with a background in law, newly venturing into research and advocacy on social issues in the Philippines with colleagues who were sociologists, I felt quite often like a fish out of water and unsure of myself. One day as I was relating this to a companion, she asked, “Well, what do y…

How Much is Enough? : Trusting God in the Questions

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It’s been some time since I wrote. The intervening time seems to have passed in a bit of a blur. Some moments stand out: the sunset on late afternoon walks home, light moments with the community, surprisingly deep conversations with friends or people I met for the first time, curious dogs on the street, the excitement of children. But a lot of the time has gone by in restless activity – one thing after the other of what I might call work – leaving me drained and looking for ways out of the “productivity trap” (which I wrote about in an earlier entry).

It’s not that the work is not interesting. But sometimes I wonder if it is enough; if it really makes a difference. Perhaps some of this is due to the nature of the work I’m engaged in at the moment – research and advocacy – which has no visible immediate impact; but perhaps in another way it is a question that can be asked about anything that we do.

As I write this I’m sitting in a hotel in Cebu, where a colleague and I have come to do…

Fullness of Life: Blooming Where We Are Planted

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Our guest writer this week is Valerie Tan.

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I believe that many of us ask ourselves - what can I do to make my life more fulfilling? How can I be happier? And some of us may think that the answer lies in taking decisive steps to discern and effect a change in our external circumstances. For instance, a switch in careers, re-establishing ourselves in a different country, ending or beginning new relationships, etc.

I fully believe that there are times when God calls us to step into new territory. There are times when He leads us to new terrains and new experiences, as a part of our journey to be more fully human, more fully His children. There are indeed times when He will thus call us to take decisive action to move on from where we are, to move us closer to Him.

Yet, there are also times when He says - wait.

Just as it can be challenging to take a step into the unknown in order to move into new places that we are called to, it can also be challenging to sit on your hands and wai…