Tag Archives: decisions

Arrived and Adjusting

They blew me away with their welcome. It wasn’t just awesome. It was CRAZY awesome.

It started with a thorough welcome letter about the household I would live in, and a few things to expect about the style of the work place: casual, occasional co-worker outings, and plenty of fun activities to participate in.

Then as my arrival date was just around the corner, they made a video about welcoming me, introducing me to each person as well as showing me around the home. It was a video just for me. Now, ask your self, when was the last time strangers made a video for you? Never? Because that was my case. I was floored! Wow!

Then, when I arrived, I was embraced and welcomed tremendously from every single person. I was again awestruck, and so very excited to be with everyone! They left me information on places to visit locally for banks, ice cream, bars, and falafel. I felt I was home.

Unfortunately, the next few days were somewhat of another story. I found people to be short in their answers to my personal questions about their lives. I noticed people were NOT incredibly thoughtful in acknowledging my presence with “good morning,” or a “good evening” phrases. More often than not, it was either not given, or it was said in passing without much emotion.

I noticed these events, and I started placing value on them. I began thinking of them as instances of proof that I was among women who were introverted and acting shy around me. In other instances, I wondered if these events were pointing to something about my own worth. “Maybe I am not what they thought I would be,” was the most frequent thought that ran through my mind, and it would run for the next five minutes to one hour depending on my mood.

I started realizing what it was like to be a stranger in a distant place. It had been so long since I did this. The last time was in college. This was completely a new city, without anyone I knew.

This past Pentecost, the homily had a word of advice for me: F.E.A.R. It’s an acronym for Face Everything And Rise. You would think the biggest thing I am facing is the change of the town, or the new job. Maybe you would guess that because my housemates are shy I am having challenges. A counselor might ask me to evaluate how much negative energy I am creating by believing the inaccurate thoughts about my self worth.

The answer is that there are many challenges. And I am asked to F.E.A.R. knowing that the Holy Spirit has never left me. That’s the trick of evil, to make any one of us believe that we have to Face Everything Alone. That is so very far from the truth! I have never been alone in that way. I may feel lonely, but I am not abandoned. I may have a heavy amount of challenges, but my faith in Christ can sustain me if I will allow Him to.

F.E.A.R. is what all Christians are called to do. To be extraordinary because we are not alone, but have the gifts of the Spirit welling up within us.

I have officially arrived in my new city. But I am thoroughly still adjusting. And I think I’ll feel better once I ask everyone I live with to give me a hug as a sign of unity, as a sign of trust, as a sign that we are F.E.A.R.ing together, with Christ. That, hopefully, will break the ice.

Interested in reading another great reflection on feeling alone but having God?

Our Journey Will Have Death and Resurrection

I got the call on an early Monday morning.  “Hi, Gilbert, it’s Bob from L’Arche DC.”  My heart pumped rapidly, and I started getting shaky with my phone as if I was going to hear something tragic…or something exciting.

“We are welcoming you to come join us, but with one huge stipulation.  You see, we tried having you come as soon as you can, but we just don’t have any more rooms for anyone else right now.  So, if you do join us, it’s going to have to be in May.”

I felt relief.  It was over.  My wandering had reached a point of clarity.  I now had a date to start my new adventure with a fantastic organization and incredible people.  I sighed ever so deeply.

“I am happy to hear about this opportunity and I assure you, I have no problem with the date.”  And I replied with a huge grin on my face.

I’m sure they were hesitant about whether I would be accepting their offer.  Afterall, I had expressed my eagerness to join them as soon as possible, and that I was even laid off from my current ministry sooner than I thought.  I was definitely welcome to the idea of moving to the East Coast in the dead of winter if it meant having a stable income AND health insurance.

Yet, despite my pronounced eagerness, I had pondered over an important detail that kept my eagerness in check.  In fact, there was hardly any talk about it– it was a detail only mentioned once. They did not know that I had prepared myself on the spiritual, emotional, and mental level to accept the possibility of a late starting date rather than an immediate one.  They had mentioned that I may not be able to move in as soon as the summer of 2014.  Nonetheless, they only needed to mention that possibility once in order for me to consider it.

I had to do some inner work even prior to being prepared to accepting a later start date.  I had shared with you all that I was frustrated wandering, and that I was so very ready to do something that would lead to a more settled life.  (Read my blog post on “Wandering”.)  I had to allow myself to be very upset at God, to be very upset at myself for not fulfilling my own expectations, and to just sorrow over all of it.

But as much as I kept posing the question to God, “What do you specifically want me to do,” I also tried to be positive about my situation by counting all the blessings I did have: awesome friends, an amazing family, living in one of most beautiful parts of the world, and having enough money to not ever worry about my basic necessities.  I let myself sorrow, but only during prayer times.  It was a psychological method I had randomly read about, that healthy people will allow themselves to feel their depth of grief, loss, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotions, and then they will commit to feeling content and resolute in their purpose of being the rest of the day.  If anyone would be willing to listen to me complain and rant, it would be God.  God could handle anything, and so I decided to let God have it: my tears, my shaking of my fist, my thoughts of being destructive to myself or to items that I used for worship.  Yes, I did imagine myself throwing my bible across the church, or ripping apart my rosary beads, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Why are you forsaking me!! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!”  But all this was in my head; I never felt the need to act out such fantasies.

I remember these times also bringing a sense of enlightenment.  I remember sometimes walking away from my prayer and feeling content…a deep peace.  I never received a voice in my head; just a feeling that I was going to be ok.  Alas, I did not have my anger and frustration wiped away.  I would start feeling upset about my lack of career path, lack of choices, and feel negative about my life after a couple of days, sometimes the very next day.

Yet, I was being mystically consoled.  Meaning, I didn’t feel good about venting my frustration, but I felt ok.  I felt strength in continuing to do the only thing that was the best thing to do: place one foot in front of the other.  And to do that 100 times, 500 times, then  1,000 times until I reached my destination.  Thank you, Lao Tzu for that wise saying.

I mentioned in my blog post “Wandering” that my listlessness meant I had no clue when I was going to stop feeling nomadic about my life.  I felt solidarity with the Hebrew people who were in an exodus state for such a long time, and their story recounts all the vocalized frustrations they had with God.  I suddenly felt more pity for them than for God, because I knew how bad it meant to me to have some sort of timeline, and I could not imagine walking around for an unstated period.  I would have joined them in their complaints, and would have told Moses, “This sucks, man!  Let’s just go back to Egypt, cause at least we know how to get there and how long that would take!”

I just wanted a timeline of when my wandering would stop.  “Please, God, is that too much to ask?”  And then I got it.

As you might have guessed from reading the beginning of this post, I called an organization called L’Arche Washington DC.  I knew I would love to work for them, and in that initial conversation the recruiter mentioned a significant fact, “Yeah, we love accepting new people and I hear what you are saying and I know what you are looking for.  But I do want to mention that it’s more probable for you to find a placement with us in the summer time than finding one now in the winter time.  We do have one or two spots to fill, but I just can’t guarantee you that you would get one of them this month.”

Those may have not been exactly the recruiter’s words, but they held the utmost important fact that I needed to embrace: I may not be able to join them until summer time.  To this very day I still remember those words being spoken, and my heart had a sinking feeling.  I was tired of wandering and I wanted to do something incredibly meaningful RIGHT.  NOW.  Yet, because I had been pleading with God for awhile to give me a timeline, I felt this was a nudge in my gut that the possibility of my acceptance in the summer of 2014 wasn’t just a possibility, but an answer God gave me;  after all, it was a timeline.   Not as soon as I was hoping for, and yet, it was still sooner than 40 years.  I was being given more compassion than the Hebrews had obtained.

So when it came to hearing the first week of January that I was welcomed to begin in May,  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait anymore.  I had a timeline to work with, and I was already hustling for jobs and making enough money to live and have some fun.  I was excited to announce to my family and friends WHEN I was destined to live somewhere new, and do what I love.

I had to die to the idea that a timeline was going to follow my ideal timeline.  I had to surrender to the God that took care of me at every moment of my life, and stop doubting that I was going to be left behind.  In my surrender, I gain so much more life.  I had stopped being angry during my prayer because I felt I did have purpose: to be the best of myself for the sake of others: to be incredibly friendly, wonderfully kind, somewhat goofy, and at all times be of a spiritual mind.

This is how God wants it: to be resolute in my faith so that I might inspire others, and to enjoy the love given to me so that I might be able to make time to love and serve others even when it’s inconvenient to do so.

We are all promised to experience death and resurrection in our journey.  But I don’t believe it has to only mean physical death, but it also includes inner death to expectations that frustrate us.  Resurrection does not have to be a promise we wait for, but in fact it’s what God wants us to live out RIGHT.  NOW.  If we’ll just trust Him.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The second reflection on this is about what Resurrection looks like.  I will write that post 2 months, if not 7 months from now.

Wandering

Wandering.  Someone described it as the space in which you come from and where you want to go.

In life, we hardly get from point A to point B in a heartbeat.  We desire to get married, and yet we have to date a few people before we find someone to be serious with.  We desire a position that will help us be financially stable and will stimulate us, but we’ll work many smaller jobs before we land that “dream job.”

Due to the economy, current culture trends, and whatever the case may be, there are many of us who are wandering.  This was never necessarily a bad thing.

We take the situation that happened with the Israelites.  We read that they wandered for 40 years in the desert.  We read that they also continued to forget about God and all the little miracles done during the journey.  There was much complaining and moaning.  “When are we ever going to get out of this?”

Oh, how I know that feeling.  I’ve been underemployed for the last….nine years.  I definitely chose most of those years to be underemployed.  I have been involved with the non-profit world for about six years and other employment has involved work with the church, which usually doesn’t promise high earnings.

I have agreed to be an underpaid worker.  I have always desired to serve God full time and work specifically with churches and non-profits.

….I just hope that I can find some position that will help me have a family.

And so I’m wandering.desert wandering

As I reflected on all the possibilities, and what I have done so far, I do see that God has never left me.  Some set backs have occurred and maturing has developed.  Yes,  I have felt lots of impatience, and I supposed I am feeling some right now.  I want to work in a position I see fit for myself RIGHT NOW.

Why the wait, God?

A pastor by the name of Gene Appel said that Christians need to understand that the 40 years in the desert for the people of Israel was an important time.  They didn’t know when God was going to say, “You have arrived.”  In fact, biblical scholars say that the numbers in the bible tend to be more than literal, but spiritually significant.  The number 40 is a number that stands for “a very long time.”  So who could really know the exact time the Israelites were lead in the desert?

It was an important time because God was able to just be with them.  God was not making relationships with other nations, or at least that is what seemed to be happening.  The people were being given this opportunity to bond as a nation, and to bond with God.  The people were also being tested and possibly their doubts and frustrations wear only indicators that they would not be ready to move forward with God’s plan.  This does seem slightly counter-productive since the Israelites really had no idea how long the journey was going to be.  If only they understood the length of time it was going to take, would that have made them more hopeful?

Pastor Appel said, “Will you follow God even though you don’t understand and you don’t know how long?”

Some days it’s a no.  I’ll not pray as much, I’ll let myself over eat or feel depressed.  Other days, I’m positive and trusting.  I’ll do the work I need to do: search out a position, contact people, do follow ups, go on dates.  I will move forward knowing God is guiding.

I’m praying I have more positive days.  But there is that whole aspect of time wearing someone out.  It feels so long after a few years.  It feels disheartening to keep trying.

I guess at times like these we need to say out loud a frequent sentence found in the Psalms of the Old Testament:

“O Lord, make haste to help me!”

  • The Soul in Depression: A Podcast on using the Psalms as part of the healing process of depression.
  • wandering… : A simple statement from a blogger about the necessity of wandering.
  • How to Quit Wandering : A more in-depth look at the benefits of wandering.
  • The Story: Wandering: this blog is posting each chapter of THE STORY, the same book Gene Appel is using for his church, Eastside Christian Church.

The house of my sojourning.

There are some blogs that are just fun to read, and then there are blogs that are frekin so amazingly heart-felt that you can’t help but share it….and then there are blogs that you wonder whether that person is just writing about you because it’s way too alike your own thoughts, ponderings, loves, and doubts!!
This is the second time I am “reblogging” this particular Blogger named Grace. She is AMAZING because she has such a better way of describing so much of what I also have experienced. And she just turned 33. I turned 33. So, read this, and know that I am not just merely passing this along as a good read…..it’s actually so much of what I am feeling right now!! Enjoy her post, and pass it on: ….

Bridging the Gaps in My Faith

…from a recent phone conversation…

Me: So what has your faith life been like recently?

Amy: Oh, I’ve been enjoying two churches, believe it or not!

Me: Really?

Amy: Yeah, I have really been enjoying [Church B] because the pastor does a great job at presenting the message, and I also enjoy all that they are offering.  I still go to [Church A] because I have been going there for so long, but I also just enjoying all that [Church B] has too!

Me: Wow, that’s really cool Amy!  In fact…it sounds exactly what I have been doing recently too.

I have been ecumenical and inter-religious ever since high school.  I have attended Christian groups, and some Christian services.  I am a Christian-Catholic, and unfortunately that’s a huge difference between Christians.  In college, I was the Public Relations Officer for the Muslim Student Association because they needed someone willing to do the communication, and I befriended a few Muslims.  I admired people in general who were willing to have passion behind their faith.

Passion dictates so much of what we do with our beliefs.  Those seeking out more from their faith are struck with a sense of passion.  Those involved with their faith community are energized with passion.  Read the poem at the end of this blog that further emphasizes this point.

eastside worship space

eastside worship space

Passion seems to seek us, and strikes, leaving us desiring more.  It struck me with my first attendance at Eastside Christian Church.  My housemates were already becoming regulars at Eastside.  I only heard about this church through them.  I never was able to go with them due to prior commitments.  Sometimes the commitment was to go to my own Catholic service while everyone else went to Eastside.  Then, one Saturday, as the group was about to leave, I just said, “Hey, I think I’ll join you.”

It was the music.  It was the professionalism.  It was the vibe of high energy and enthusiasm that the community gave off as you entered their worship space.  I was intrigued.  By my second visit, I was hooked.

Passion also can turn into fidelity that withstands the test of time.  This is not always the case.  I have been passionate about many things like USC football, or Angels baseball, but in the end, my passion was only as good as the team’s winning streak.  Yet, when passion was sustained for a long period of time, it then has loads of potential to become fidelity.

I have been passionate for my Christian-Catholic community for a very long time.  I got the love-bug for my Catholic faith when I was in high school.  It carried me through college, and even lead me to consider becoming a priest. (Read the blog post, “Not a Wasted Decision” to learn about my process of discernment in joining and leaving the priesthood path.)

I have shared with other Catholics about my current trend of attending two services a week for the last 3 weeks.  Some wonder if I am wavering in my Catholic faith.  I believe that’s a valid concern, but a concern I don’t have for myself.  I actually attend Catholic Mass almost every day, and have been doing so for the last 5 years.  I love so much of what the Catholic church offers…

But lately, even that hasn’t been enough.

Eastside is a well-run Christian community.  They have plenty of things to get involved in, and their services are just darn invigorating.  If praising God is supposed to be fun, don’t you think it would be invigorating too?

It is unfortunate that when I do attend a Catholic Mass, most of the time I find myself among the “walking dead.”  “Dead” meaning no passion.  Just enough energy to show up.  But I’m not sure if they know what it means to be in love with God.  I find myself singing love songs to God all by myself.  Imagine that!  Sing a love song about someone so loud, in public, and see if you don’t feel a little awkward.  That’s the same feeling I get singing at a Catholic Mass.  I have been yearning for more passion for a little while now.

Listening to my friend Amy speak about her own faith journey was comforting.  I bet there are plenty of us who are part of a couple of faith communities for the sake of trying to sustain the passion.

Passion.  We know when we have it, and we are certainly almost like another person without it.  I believe that my current church attendance at two different churches is more about sustaining my faith than changing it.

What about you?  What do you find lacking in your faith community?  How can you bridge the gaps you encounter?

“Nothing is more practical than finding God” by Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Nothing is more practical than finding God

That is, than falling in love in a quite absolute,

Final way.

What you are in love with,

What seizes your imagination,

will effect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

What you will do with your evenings,

How you will spend your weekends,

What you read,

Who you know,

What breaks your heart,

And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love, and it will

Decide everything.

Not a Wasted Decision

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

How funny things don’t always work out as you planned them to be; but there has been many gifts in all that I did not plan.

It was 10 years ago that I began my novitiate experience.  When I entered the novitiate, I thought nothing of it at first.  The novitiate is a place for a person to seriously take the next step towards becoming a “Religious,” that is someone who serves the Catholic church through a dedicated life of prayer, service, and who will live in community with other Religious.

I was told of my acceptance as a novice at a party only for Religious.  They were celebrating one of the Saints that founded their community, St. Ignatius of Loyola.  When I was told, I didn’t think I was going to be rejected, so I did lack surprise and even a little enthusiasm.  “Are you excited?” the Religious in charge of vocations asked me.  “Oh, sure!” I hastily replied, “I’m glad to start this next part of my journey.”  We looked at each other for a couple of moments, we smiled, and then parted ways.  I didn’t call anyone immediately.  Yet, I did tell people at the party, and they congratulated me.  My parents got the news when they came to pick me up.  “Wow,” and, “That’s wonderful,” were the main comments I remembered.  Everyone seemed happy, but as I said, I wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement.

I remember my enthusiasm shooting up as the week before I moved into the Novitiate began.  I had both happiness and nervousness.  I was sure I was doing the right thing for myself, renouncing any opportunity to be married in the future, but also knowing that the novitiate was still a trial time to really live out a Religious lifestyle so that in two years, I would make a proper discernment about whether to continue, or to do something other than the priesthood.

I remember also that very moment when my family and select friends said good-bye to me, and left the party that celebrated my moving-in day.  I remember watching them leave, and finally saying to myself, “Wow, this is it.”  Finally, I felt a sense of awe at the decision I had made.

It was only as I lived my first month at the novitiate that I started realizing how hard it was to live with men, be surround by men, and be constructively criticized by men.  I was well aware of the sacrifices needed to live such a lifestyle, but I didn’t know how much growth I needed in humility and courage to become a priest.

I definitely thought it was supposed to be a cakewalk if it was meant to be.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

I wrote about all this as one of my first journal entries in a leather-bound book I finally used up.  It took 10 years to use all of it.  I had stopped journaling often since I was writing in other ways: lengthy email updates to friends and family, writing reflections about books, and even writing letters to friends I had made across the Nation.

That was August 30, 2003.  Since then, I have done many different things, and most of them not what I intended.  The biggest change in events was my departure from the novitiate after one year, and eventually joining l’Arche in a very full-fledged way.

But it has been helpful to remember my “Entrance Day.”  It reminds me of the hurt I went through most of my time at the novitiate, and how much I felt abandoned by God.  I remember the fantasies of love that started to plague me as if I was smitten with a curse.  I remember feeling lonely amid a community.

It’s after all that pain that now I see the truth.  I now understand that God never abandoned me, nor did God want me to ditch loving companionships with women.  But there is a difference between falling in love and having a respectful relationship, and objectifying love as if it was a “cure-all” to natural passions.  I was lonely because I was choosing to distance myself from others, not letting the other men help me nor allowing my experiences to help them.

I would not change the course of events of my past.  My prayer life has forever been affected with depth since my time in the novitiate.  I believe that it wasn’t so much that my idea of becoming a priest was not meant to be.  It’s more telling about the graciousness of God in allowing things to always work out for the better because I’m cared for.  Maybe I was supposed to try harder to be humble, or grow deeper in courage, yet I am now where I am because I have said yes to dancing with God.  Sometimes I wanted to lead the dance, but the best parts of the dance in my life have surely been when I decided HE could lead instead.

I don’t wait anymore.

So, I will not regularly do this. BUT this post was written with lots of heart, and was well explained. If you read it too fast, you’ll miss some VERY important points about chastity, and dedication to God. Enjoy. May it make you ponder about your own relationship with God.