The Gifts of 9 Mornings

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The Christmas season is my most awaited part of the year. A big part of the excitement is the 9 mornings I spend sacrificing sleep and fighting the chilly air to be able to attend dawn masses. With eyes half-closed and gritting teeth, I sometimes wonder why I put myself through such a challenge. And the reasons quickly flood in. These 9 mornings before Christmas bring gifts much greater than the sacrifices.

 

1. The gift of a wish granted

Most of those who flock to the dawn masses believe that one is given a wish upon completion of the 9. I don’t really know where the belief came from. As a child, I didn’t bother to ask. I just believed. Throughout the years of completing the masses, I have had some wishes granted and some I am still awaiting answers to. In time, I know they will be granted too. This year, it is unfortunate that I have missed the first one due to a typhoon. I don’t get to have a wish this year but I still tried to attend the others. There are other things I love about the 9 mornings, after all.

 

2. The gift of tradition upheld

The 9 mornings have been my tickets to the past. As a child, I would attend the masses with my grandma and she’d take me with her after mass when food was provided for the mass goers. Sometimes, I would even help when it was her turn to cook and share food. Those were the best bonding moments we had. So, whenever I get to spend these mornings in my hometown, I go to the same church and seat in the same pew near the choir just to feel my grandma’s presence. I know she is happy I am continuing our little tradition even after her passing.

 

3. The gift of new traditions

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As the years went on, new traditions were started and maintained. One such tradition is the suggested color of the clothes people are to wear to mass. It has been extremely nice and fun seeing most of the church goers seem like minions or seeing even the men wear pink. Another tradition is assigning specific items per day for the offertory. At the end of the nine days, all items from all parishes will be gathered and combined into complete gift baskets to be given to the less fortunate people in the community. More than the fun, these traditions have been a symbol of the solidarity of the community.

 

4. The gift of Christmas treats

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Oh, the Christmas treats! I would never miss these tasty treats that are sold only during the Christmas season and usually during the masses. I would gladly wait in line to be able to bring home and enjoy some bibingka, puto bumbong, and free tea.

 

5. The gift of Christmas spirit

The more masses you get to attend, the more you feel the Christmas spirit. Day by day, the air gets a little chillier. Day by day, songs get sung a little jollier. Day by day, people get a little merrier. Even the tricycle drivers that brought us to church can’t help but smile, greet us a merry Christmas, and say a cheerful “thank you!”.

 

6. The gift of being with family

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These 9 mornings also mean more time to spend with family. I get to spend these masses with aunts, uncles, cousins, and my extended family, the Catholic community. It has always been a joy to be with loving and faithful people.

 

7. The gift of reflections

As I hear mass and the lessons of the homily while Christmas day and the year’s end comes nearer, I get to think of the highlights of the year that has passed. I get to be reminded of the things I did right and the things I did wrong. I get to examine my actions compared to my grand plans before the year started. I get to reminisce all the lessons brought about by every experience.

 

8. The gift of resolutions

As I hear mass and the lessons of the homily while Christmas day and the year’s end comes nearer, I get to think of the changes that I have to make for the coming year. I get to decide to make every experience count. I get to commit to put to good use every precious lesson learned.

 

9. The gift of reliving the story of Christ’s coming

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The best gift of all is being able to relive the story of Christ’s coming. Being reminded of Joseph staying with Mary despite the difficult situation they were in, Mary’s wholehearted “yes” to the Lord’s will, and the Lord’s sending of His only Son means being reminded of the true meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.

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The Return Of The Prodigal Child

I was exhausted. I just wanted to get away from it all. So, I left my job. I left the city. I left the life I was so used to. In the process, I didn’t realize that I left the good things, too.

I was starting to drift away from my faith.

I used to go to church every Sunday. And I’d leave with His love and reminders that I was full of goodness. But as I was trying to rebuild my life and failing every time, I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel worthy enough to be in His presence. I’d tell myself I’d go as soon as I was doing better. I’d go as soon as I was feeling better.

The more I postponed going, the more I felt that nothing was happening. So, I changed my thinking and just decided to finally attend Sunday mass.

As I was sitting there, it felt familiar and awkward at the same time. It felt real and surreal. Then, out of nowhere, the head commentator appeared in front of me. She was giving me a white candle to light the 2nd candle in the Advent wreath. It felt weird but I obliged.

The sermon went on about being in the desert and times in our lives when nothing is happening. The priest preached about how there is a lesson to learn in everything, a lesson to learn in abundance the same way there is a lesson in scarcity, a lesson to learn in hardships and in a smooth flowing journey. He said that deserts come and go and are a part of life. It is during those times that we realize who we can count on, our Father who loves us dearly.

When it was time, I lit the candle as if to signify the end of the dark desert in my life. I was ready. I was ready for the light, the hope, the warmth. I felt good. I felt loved.

I looked up. Nice one, Lord. Thank you for the warm welcome back.

A Deer Caught in Headlights

For almost five years, I was a business analyst for a well-known food manufacturing company in my country. I received constant praises from my colleagues and superiors. In my five years in the company, I received five awards inluding one that merits being included in a prestigious group of achievers called the General Manager’s LEAGUE. I was great at my job. I was one of the best. I loved it, too. It was never perfect and I was happy with that. But somehow, I knew I could be happier.

Cue in the present.

I am now three months in after having quit.

I feel like a deer caught in headlights.

I have taken that big, bold step of crossing the road. I was so sure of it. I couldn’t exist in that side of the forest anymore. And there was no other way but to go to the other side no matter how dark and scary the road was in between. This was it! My one big move. THE gamechanger. My very own leap of faith.

But now, I am in the middle of the road, caught by the bright light of that approaching car, and unsure of what to do. A million thoughts are running in my head right now.

What should I do?

What have I done?

Why did I do this?

What made me think I could even do this?

Should I go back? No. I probably shouldn’t. There is no life back there for me anymore. I have nothing to go back to, not the kind of life I yearn for. I could make it work. I could always make it work. The thing is, I don’t want to. Not anymore.

Should I just stay here? No! That would be foolish. What use could it be to stay suspended, to be neither here nor there, to just stop and stay in between?

I should definitely continue moving forward.

But I’m scared. What if it isn’t what I hoped it would be? What if I fail?

And I’m exhausted. Nothing ever seems to happen. I haven’t even seem to have made a dent in what I want to accomplish.

Wait. Here I go again with all these negativity. I have to stop this.

I have been through a lot of things before. I have had challenges I thought I would never get through. I have made it through a lot worse. And here I am, much stronger and a lot wiser than before.

So, for now, I would start thinking more positively. My past have been nothing but a story of personal triumphs and valuable lessons. It has always been a reminder that there is always something good in every situation. So, what is there to be scared of?

For now, I would celebrate even the tiniest of successes. No matter how small, every action Is bringing me towards my dream. Also, with every action is a lesson: a lesson about the universe or myself. And that is not nothing.

For now, I would remind myself that it is not supposed to be easy. There would always be struggles and challenges along the way. They are there to separate the good from the great. They are there to make it all the more fulfilling in the end.

For now, I would believe in myself. I am amazing. I have been given the greatest of gifts. I am a miracle created with love, with His love. I can do anything.

For now, I would take another step. And take another after that. I would continue to charge forward. Along the way, I know there are times that I would falter and fall. But then, I would remind myself that as long as I continue moving forward, I would get to where I want to be eventually.

At Home

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I like visiting churches. I go not because I am religious. Believe me, I am far from being one. Instead, I prefer to describe myself as “faithful”. Well, I try to be.

I like sitting in pews. I find content in just staring straight ahead. I could sit there for hours.

I like looking at the cross. I am reminded of the beauty in suffering. I feel like it all makes sense.

I like talking to Him. I know He knows what’s inside my heart. He knows what I’m dying to say. I don’t even have to say anything.

I like lighting candles. One more lighted candle means less darkness in the world.

I like being surrounded by faithful people. I feel like they are my people. I am one of theirs. And I just feel right at home. 

Of Bucket Lists and Miracles

I have always wanted to visit the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan for a number of reasons. For one, it is located in my home province and I occasionally encounter a pang of guilt for having visited other places first. Also, it has been a popular place for miracles. And who doesn’t want a miracle?

Last Sunday, I finally got to visit the place. I can slash that one in my bucket list. It was a good thing that there were jeepneys going directly to the church from Malolos Central Terminal. And they pass by the North Luzon Expressway so the journey was fast. 

I got to explore the place. It is huge and immensely beautiful. There are several places where the masses are held, a small cave-like place with religious artifacts, a small park, a souvenir shop and a humongous parking space.

I got to attend mass there, too. I don’t know where it came from but there is this belief that when you visit a church for the first time, you get a wish. I fervently prayed for a miracle.

Where Were You, Lord?

When my siblings and I were really young, we considered ourselves pretty well off. We had really nice clothes and we stood out among our peers. We studied in one of the best schools in the province. And it was not cheap. We had the latest toys, the best that money could buy. We could afford all these because my mom was the vice president of a huge insurance company. Then, that fateful day came when my mom lost her job. Her name was dragged into a civil case and she was accused as an accomplice in embezzlement of funds from the company. We had to use all our resources to prove my mom’s innocence. We were left with very little resources and very little faith.

Where were you, Lord?

Help came in the most unexpected places. Relatives and friends offered help in every way possible. They took care of us and our needs. Aunts helped us with our tuition. Our grandfather helped with our daily expenses. We felt important. We felt loved.  It was much more than the clothes, toys and status could ever have given.

He was there. He was teaching us lessons on humility and materialism.

~

I was fresh out of college. I graduated in one of the top universities in the country. And I graduated with honors. I felt invincible. It felt like I could do anything! I would achieve it all! But I got sick. I went to several different doctors. They could not find what was wrong with me. Eventually, they found out that I had an autoimmune disease. I was told I could never work. There were a lot of times I cried myself to sleep.

Where were you, Lord?

My mom was there with me through every checkup and every laboratory examination. Even when giving up seemed like the easiest thing in the world, she remained strong for me. My family was there to make me feel loved and cared for. Friends, even those I haven’t seen or talked to for a while, came and spent time with me. I eventually got better and was able to work. But much more than that, I learned that achieving it all was not as important as nurturing the relationships I have been blessed with.

He was there. He was telling me to not take anything for granted.

~

I landed my first job in a government office in the province. I was doing okay. The workload was a bit scarce. The boss was lenient. The people were nice. I could do more but there was nothing much to do. Why change anything? I was comfortable and the office was just nearby. Then, the head of the office was replaced. Along with him, some people’s contracts were terminated along with mine. It was so sudden. I was devastated.

Where were you, Lord?

I got another job that was beyond what I wished for. It was far away from home but I was invigorated. I looked forward to going to work. Every minute of my every day was put to good use. I became exposed to a lot of challenges. I learned more in my first month there than I had in a year’s work in my previous job. And I realized that by not using them, I have been wasting all the abilities I have been graciously blessed with.

He was there. He was pushing me to do greater and harder things.

~

He was. He is. He will always be there.

*This is in response to Blogging University’s Writing 101, Day 13: Compose a series of vignettes

Be Grateful for the Hard Things

” Why is everything so much harder for me than it is for everyone else? No. Stop. It isn’t. It is hard for everyone. No one who has ever achieved something great has not had a challenge to overcome, a disability or injustice to fight through, or an obstacle to maneuver from. The only difference between them and yourself is that they committed to fight through whatever life throws at them. So, stop the excuses. You have been given numerous blessings more than you care to count. And that great potential? It will remain only that unless you decide to use every little ounce to make the dreams in your heart a reality. Own that battle. It was created exactly for you. Yes, it will test you and break you down to your very core. But it will also reveal your courage and your strength, the one you never thought you had. Be grateful for the hard things. Your greatness lies beyond them,” she told herself for what feels like the thousandth time.

*This is in response to Blogging University’s Writing 101, Day 5: Let social media inpire you

*Inspired by the tweet below:

Between Me and My God

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

I walked inside real quietly

I gave the Guy in front a nod

I needed someone to hear me

It was between me and my God

~

I just felt completely lost today

And everything just felt really odd

I didn’t know where to start but hey

It was between me and my God

~

I didn’t have to say anything

I knew He’d lovingly understand

And that fully summed up everything

That was between me and my God

~

I was overcome by peacefulness

There was no doubt that I am His child

I’m glad I had an amazing moment

That was between me and my God

~

*This is in response to Blogging University’s Writing 101, Day 4: A story in a single image

Hold On to Your Light

You look around and you see

All the bright lights from far away.

You look and stare enviously

And wish you had that awesome glare.

Why do you have to be alone

And feel so lonely in the night sky?

You do have a light of your own

But it feels so weak; You can’t get by.

Hold on to your light; It is your own.

Nurture it and you won’t regret you’ve sown.

One day you’ll see it will grow

To the brightest light you’ve ever known.

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