Existence Is A Wonderful Thing

Flower PaintingI came across an article in the newspaper a few days ago as I carefully sipped my steaming mug of brewed coffee in a quiet spot overlooking the freshly rained-on pine trees. I needed very much to be reminded of the heart of the article – “existence is a wonderful thing”.

I wish I took note of the name of the author. She expressed in writing what I felt in my heart but could not make myself articulate out loud. Let me quote a paragraph she wrote:

“Existence is a wonderful thing, To exist, to be there, But more often than not, you get so caught up in the idea of getting to a specific destination that you entirely forget where you are right now. That, my dear, is where you start.”

Anxiety disorder causes one to worry so much about the future that one fails to simply breathe and focus on the NOW.

It is very difficult for my mind not to race. One thought (usually plans or goals) leads to another, and then another, until I get too anxious because the thoughts, more often than not, turn into fears. Fear that I will not be able to do what I had planned in my mind. Fear that the obstacles I imagined will be too great for me to hurdle without hurting myself in the process.

All my fears are self-imposed. They have not happened yet. They are not even reality. Yet I feel anxious about them almost everyday, and these anxieties stop me from existing — from living day-to-day. From even falling asleep or breathing normally.

It is an everyday struggle – to not get caught up in the idea of getting to a specific destination that I entirely forget where I am right now.

I have recently gone back to painting. It was a huge step in my recovery process because I was somehow able to overcome my fear and anxiety about just starting. And deliberately selecting the smallest paintbrush, I very slowly applied paint to canvas. The whole process was meant for me to slow down, to live in the now and stop the constant worrying about the future. It certainly helped.

To exist in the now is truly a wonderful thing.

The attached photo is my recently finished oil painting of my flower photograph. Yes, I do photography as well.

Advertisements

A Rainbow Spells “H-O-P-E”

Rainbow_BagasbasI woke up early this morning to witness a perfectly arched and unbroken rainbow. It was literally “clear as day”.

It rained for several days here by the beach – on and off — like a leaky tap.

So the start of the day was, to say the least, hopeful.

Inundated by depressing and stressful thoughts, and the harsh new realities I face, I could hardly appreciate the Pacific Ocean as I walked past it (I hear its roar every second) for a couple of days. It’s such a waste, really, when I SO looked forward to seeing it everyday.

I looked up for several seconds to stand in awe of that rainbow — to thank God for another day, and a new hope. The rainbow didn’t stay visible for long, but I managed to take a decent photo of it.

For me, that rainbow spelled “HOPE”. Even if that hope is short-lived, it is still hope.

It is hope that will sustain me in the coming days, as I wait for my husband to return.

It is hope that things will get better where I am now.

It is hope that a clear answer will come to our heartfelt prayers.

It is hope that we can let go when necessary — without looking back in regret.

I pray fervently for HOPE. Please, give us hope.

When Change Is Not What You Expected

Panoramic View_Madisons Compound

I guess the title of this blog hints at what’s to come.

The beach – work-life balance. It’s all there.

So why do I find myself feeling lonely even while being tickled by the fine sand underneath my feet, witnessing the majestic waves and being swayed by the non-stop onslaught of fresh salty wind?

Gone is the “honeymoon” phase of my transition, as my sister reminded me. Why did I expect it to last?

Different folks adjust to change – even if it is a “better” change – differently. For some, adjustment takes a couple of weeks, while for others, it will take longer. I guess I am part of the latter.

I expected to be “okay” in under a week. What was I thinking? Why did I put that kind of pressure on myself?

My husband and I are both adjusting in different ways. We left the life and home we knew for more than 3 and a half years. We left behind our three dogs with a caretaker while we prepare their new home.

We left a cool climate up in the mountains to live in a hot, humid (though windy) beach side property. I work up a sweat even while standing still! That’s if I’m not anywhere directly hit by the wind.

I don’t know where or how to begin marketing properties in another unique culture. I have so much to learn!

Change – I will need to give myself the time and space I need to acclimatize – to settle in – to feel like I’m home.

When will this happen? I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to wait it out and live one day at a time.

When It’s Time For A Life Change

Beach Life 2I don’t know. Has it been years since my last post?

Life happened. Past interests and passions faded into the background, replaced by the mundane task called “work”. Or should I say, “earning a living”.

Day in and day out, cleaning the house, washing dishes, feeding and caring for the dogs, washing and folding laundry, watching TV to ease the fatigue, and watching TV again.

I stopped playing my acoustic guitar, electric guitar and ukulele. I feel the pressure, reluctantly glancing at each instrument, feeling guilty for totally ignoring them. “Nope, I don’t see them”, I always tell myself.

And then there’s the blank canvas, still wrapped, sitting on a chair, waiting to be slathered on with oils. Oh, and my paint brushes are brand spanking new while my box of oil paints remains untouched. Guilt assails me once again.

This blog site sat unopened for years, it seems.

Where has my life gone? I mean, really LIVING! My work and daily chores became my life. Maybe for a while it worked out. It kept my place relatively neat and clean (I did say “relatively”), placed food on the table, paid the bills, and bought me a few extras to enjoy like a property investment and a car — though both are still on installment and eat up whatever remains in my bank account.

I had to keep asking myself: Is this all there is?

There are more than enough articles on this — some too generalized for me or lifted from another article to even take seriously. It IS different for everyone.

Change, and the reason for it, is different for everyone.

It’s time to head to the beach — literally.

It’s time to get real with myself. I need to be able to regain what’s left of my sanity and learn to really live again. I am nearing another critical juncture — middle age.

What makes me happy? What relieves me of stress? What CAUSES my stress in the first place? I’m talking about over-the-top stress levels – toxic people, negativism, pessimism.

I’m talking about beating myself up from guilt of not going for the things that give me peace and fulfillment. I’m talking about always beating myself up for suffering from mental disorders and not “accomplishing” enough. What is “enough”? It’s never enough.

So, it’s time to hit the beach.

I have always loved being in the water. I enjoy feeling the grainy sand under my worn out feet. It is like a foot scrub and massage at the same time. The warm breeze blowing from the Pacific Ocean calms my spirit and helps me to breathe in and breathe out in a rhythmic motion. Peace.

I will be there soon. My family will be with me soon.

It is time for change. It is time for my life change.

 

Image

Basking In His Glory

My husband and I have three dogs. The eldest is a female mixed breed name Toepy, the middle is a black male Labrador Retriever named Beans, and the youngest is a female Miniature Pinscher named Peanut. All three of them are a joy to have but they can also be more than a handful on many occasions.

ToepyToepy, being the longest with us (she’s around seven years old), is the most attached. She follows me around wherever I go, even when I just walk around in our small house. When I stop walking, she stops; when I turn, so does she; when I sit on our couch, she lies down right at my feet. And whenever I am within her eye sight, she stares at me – and she can go on staring at me for a full minute without blinking. While to many this may be wonderful, to me it can get downright irritating and unnerving.

BeansI do not relish being followed around or stared at, by a person or an animal. Many times I need to remind myself that our dog is not human and is just being a loyal dog. And when I am in a very tolerant mood, I look back at ole’ Toepy and just marvel at how she literally basks in my “glory”. She doesn’t seem to get enough of me, even when I get mad at her. And if she was given a chance, she would probably ride on my back all day and night just so she’ll never be far from me. This does seem very stalker-like, but then she’s just a dog!

PeanutBeans and Peanut are not this way with us at all. They do have their moments when they want to be with us, but they are not nearly as clingy as Toepy. And since there is really nothing I can do to lessen Toepy’s adoration of me, I decided to just look at the situation from a different perspective.

Do I bask enough in my Lord’s glory? I envy Toepy sometimes for her unconditional love and adoration. How I wish I could also adore Jesus and just be genuinely content. Can I be genuinely content just being with my Lord? Or do I make myself so busy that I hardly have the time or the motivation to  just bask?

It’s high time that I learn to really “live” — not to strive in a frenzied manner the way other people do every single day.  It’s time that I remind myself again that true success is not about how much money I earn or how many activities I can cram into one day.  I need to really believe that “living” is all about just that – having a life;  a life lived on purpose; a life lived like I really mean it. It is a life wholly surrendered to a higher being — in my case, my Lord and Savior,  Jesus Christ.

What Dreams May Come

This is the title of a movie I’ve seen many years ago starring Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra. The movie, What Dreams May Come, came out in 1998 and described its plot this way: After life there is more. The end is just the beginning. I distinctly remember feeling very sad yet slightly bewildered after seeing it. It is definitely not a popcorn-and-soda movie and one needs to dig deeply and somewhat uncomfortably into oneself to be able to appreciate it. It makes the viewer ask the age old question, “Is there life after death?”

It has been almost ten years since my mother passed away. I never thought I would lose her so soon and just when I turned thirty. She passed away two days after my birthday, and barely five months into my marriage.

It is understandable, I guess, for me to dream of her every single day since she passed. This went on for many years since but, for some unexplainable reason, I couldn’t reach her – even in my dreams. I would always wake up frustrated, depressed and in tears because my mother would be so close to me in my dreams, almost touching me, and then she would either fade away or refuse to be touched. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. I remember asking her why she wouldn’t hug me and she would always have some vague reason that she had to go to a place where I couldn’t follow. I suppose dreams are vague, unless they are used to give us a specific message, the way they happened in biblical times.

It did happen to me, though. I believe with all my heart that God sent my mother to deliver a message to me when I needed to hear it most. For the first time, the scenario of the dream was very accurate – from my bed and overhead lamp in the dorm where our church was having a weekend retreat, to the green trash bin at the narrow hallway to the left of our door. Every detail was accurate and current.

I needed to know so badly that my mother was not alone and that she was at peace when she passed on. My sister, husband and I were not with her in the hospital when she died because of several complicated situations that were beyond our control. She was already gone and the respiratory machines were already silent when we reached her bedside. I remember looking up into the ceiling lights, not really seeing them, hoping that her spirit was still inside the room, hovering above us and hearing our farewells.

As I go back to that lonely dorm only two months after she passed, I remember being awakened by something – or someone. It seemed like it was 3 AM and everyone was asleep. As I tentatively opened the door of our room, I saw my mother standing just a few inches from me, radiant and smiling. She wanted to tell me something and I remember sobbing in my sleep and wanting to just run to her and put my arms tightly around her. She took my arm and led me just outside the door, next to the green trash bin. What she told me changed my whole perspective of the day she passed and took away the guilt I carried with me.

The first thing she told me was, “I’m alright, don’t worry about me.” And my tears flowed. She then gave me the hug I had always longed for as she kept saying, “I’m alright.” That was all I needed to hear. I woke up that instant, back inside the room, on my bed with the overhead lamp, sobbing uncontrollably. I thanked God for sending her to me and giving me the assurance I needed so badly. And to this day, ten years later, I look back at that time and know that God had answered my deepest prayer.

At the start of this year, I began dreaming of my mother in a whole new place. I still dream of her at least three times a week and this time, I am able to touch, hug and kiss her. We are able to talk about everything the way we used to when she was still around, and there is much hope and happiness. In fact, I dream of her, my father (who passed away twenty years ago) and my sister, together again as one family – but this time, with my husband and with my sister’s kid.

I would tell my husband how, this time, I no longer feel that my parents are far away from me. In fact, they are very much alive in me, in my heart and in my whole being. I no longer feel lost and disconnected. And I find myself praying and asking God to tell my mother and father that I miss them, and that I want them to see how happy I am with my husband, and how great a mother my sister has turned out to be. I know they know!

For those of us who have lost our loved ones, we can take comfort and hope in God’s promise to all of us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, New Living Translation:

“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.

I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.”

Just Be

We’ve all heard and seen the very popular slogan of Nike, “Just Do It!” It is a catch phrase that spans several years and many countries and has launched Nike into yet another highly successful run. While for some it may just be another sales pitch, for many it is a 3-word command that has pulled them out of seemingly endless stupor. Often times I would catch myself saying these very words whenever I feel daunted by a task ahead of me, or when I find myself with too much time on my hands and too much guilt for “not doing anything” in the mean time. How about you?

Our God has recently reminded me that life – the Christian life – is not all about doing. If we stop long enough to listen, we will probably hear less of just do it and more of just be.

As I write this, the news of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s sudden death at 44 is very fresh in everyone’s minds and hearts. As a fan of his TV shows and conservation efforts, I feel a great sense of loss not just for myself but for the world, especially for the animal kingdom. However, I also thank God that Steve died doing what he loved and being the kind of person he was created to be. How many of us will be able to say the same at our final hour?

It is easy to be lured into believing that life and success are all about doing. After all, we only have a few years on this earth (beyond 70 years is already a bonus) and we ought to make the most of our God-given time. It is a terrible feeling to look back on our lives later on with much regret over things we haven’t done and dreams or ambitions we haven’t achieved when we could. This is especially true for those of us who are home-based, struggling to have a sense of identity, purpose and achievement in our lives. But let me propose Christ’s radical alternative to just be. It could actually change your life and mine!

Rick Warren said in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings (177).” Our character and the condition of our hearts are of greater importance to God than what we are or what we do on the outside (1 Samuel 16:7). And whatever it is we do must be a result and reflection of Christ’s work in us. Let me reiterate. It is Christ’s work in us, not ours, and this through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

For people like me who still get conned (mostly by my own feelings of inadequacy) into believing that “doing things”, specifically things that reap financial rewards, is a measure of one’s productivity, this is a truth that needs to be seriously and consciously lived. And I don’t even have a type-A personality! I need to be constantly reminded that God is far more concerned about my growth as his child than my physical or material accomplishments. Reflecting on his truths, praying in the spirit, basking in his glory, standing in awe of him and even struggling inside as he grows me up are all part of my being all he wants me to be.

When my final hour comes upon me, I pray that I will not regret having spent so much time doing chores and responsibilities but so little time just being in God’s powerful and transforming presence. After all, when all is said and done, it is only my relationship with Christ that I can bring with me to eternity. Making every second count is not so much cramming in a lot of physical activities as it is living a purposeful life in Christ. “Live like you mean it”, a catch phrase from HGTV’s Lifestyle Network, is advice I hope to apply to myself every single day.

Let me end with the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:5 from The Message (NavPress): “Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be (italics mine).”

Previous Older Entries