I know the feeling, and it’s absolute torture.

I grew up in a very religious environment: going to church every Sunday, going to a Catholic school, singing in a church choir, memorizing all prayers.  While all those were good and gave me a very solid training on discipline, the part of obedience though was motivated by fear.

When I was a kid my image of God was kind of like a punisher or even a dementor (if you’re a  harry potter fan you’d fear this creature).  So whenever I sinned, I felt so much guilt that I try o make up for it by accomplishing more, doing more, that I became almost like the perfect kid out there who’s got it all.  But,  who was I kidding right?

Inside I was broken. I hated myself and I envied everybody else who to me were close enough to be saints.  I feared God and his wrath so much that the scared me would either run away or crawl down a very deep pit of self-condemnation. Believe me, the place that I end up with was dark and lonely, even if that place only existed in my mind.

 

It wasn’t until my late twenties that the dark clouds in my horizon actually cleared. It’s like suffering from a cataract fro the longest time and finally able to see the world with its vibrant colors and distinct shapes.  and yes, it was beautiful, as it is today.

Now, the God I know is tender- hearted, forgiving, gracious and merciful. I want to say He fixed me but that would be an understatement.  He loved me and He loves me still. That’s all He did and still does.  When you have Someone like that, your response is no longer hiding and running away. It’s showing up and running towards. After all, who doesn’t want love or desperately need one?

It’s not anymore about what I think I deserve but what I’ve been freely given.  When I shifted my focus to this indispensable truth, I began to realize how my desire for worth was misplaced all these years.  I hungered for the world’s recognition and applause when God was filling me with so much more and all this time I took it for granted. Tell me about shortsightedness.

Of course, I still have my cracks and all, but it’s in these cracks where His love seeps through.  God can never fill your cup when it’s already full. So choose to stay in need of Him.

Last week I saw a video of a woman climbing a very large and tall tree. Reaching the top she muttered, “The world is very huge and we’re just but a tiny speck”. When you’re up there the tiny ones underneath becomes barely noticeable.  And when you come down everything and everyone one again becomes large.

Perspective.  When it changes, your attitude change and your take on the overall picture change. But to the One who made it all, you’re the same child He first breathed life into as the person that He’s looking at now. And it doesn’t really matter what you get to accomplish or achieve in this life, it’s how much love you put into it, and how much of that love was for Him.

You go about your daily tasks, work on projects, plan for upcoming weeks, you have resolutions to keep, deadlines to meet, dreams to realize and boom!  You get pulled out, uprooted, redirected.  Suddenly plans collapse and you’re in the middle of the whole wreckage.

Twists and turns, that’s how life surprises us. How do you respond to it?  You get bogged down, discouraged, frustrated and then what? What happens next when life stops you in your tracks?

You pause.  Take it all in. Step back. Recognize what life is trying to tell you.  Understand what God is trying to tell you.

The process won’t be easy. The answers won’t be crystal clear right there and then.  The right thing to do is to do the next right thing.

You don’t have to figure out the answers all the time.  You don’t even have to understand why things happened the way they did.  Acceptance is the key and an action is the only thing that will take you forward.

Many of us are stuck with indecision. We don’t give ourselves a deadline as if we all have the time in the world.  Before we know it, we’ve stayed too long on a flat stationary surface while everybody else is moving forward and moving up.

Many of us are too comfortable staying comfortable.  We resist too much. We refuse to change.  We only welcome surprises that we like and hoped for, not the surprises that pull us back.

Our response to circumstances is quite telling of who we are in terms of character and how much we believe that there’s an external force beyond us, far larger and deeper than our human grasp.

When interruptions take place in our lives, we need to examine our heart and where does it lean on. Our plans are not God’s plans. You aways have to believe that there’s a reason and that reason is always for your own good.

Walls we have strongly built sometimes need to be broken down so we don’t rely on them more than we ought to. We need to rely on the One who gave us the strength to build those walls in the first place.  People, possessions, fame, power and fortune are not eternal trophies.  We will lose some, we will gain some, lose all, gain more.  Our total dependence on something finite, on another human being or even on ourselves has its drawback.   When the supply runs out, the luster’s gone, the person dies, gets sick or grows old, then you know it all stops there.

So what makes an earthly person, eternal?  We focus on exactly that— the eternal.  So that when your plans get disrupted, recalled or overhauled, you have the eyes to see beyond that. It’s easier to let go because you trust the One who knows it best.

God for all that He is, is always with you and will always be with you.  It doesn’t matter where you go, what you do or need to accomplish, what you have to let go or surrender.  If it is His will for you and your life, obey.  Let Him surprise you. Let Him take care of the things you’re worried about. Let God take the wheel.  When you do, you will never lose your way.

As I am writing this, it’s been a week since we came back from Switzerland. An exhilarating short trip that has been made possible and more memorable by the generosity of a couple we knew. Let’s call them Uncle H and Auntie B and here are some of the things we were blessed with:

  1. Uncle and auntie offered us a place to stay for the rest of the week (the best place I’ve stayed on since I started traveling in 2010- it’s more like a hotel, really!);
  2. They made us meals (always yummy and imagining it now still makes me crave for more)
  3. They drove us around (honestly, this is so much more than a chauffeur service- we didn’t have a hard time getting to places— and yes- it’s free!),
  4. and took us all to as much city and countryside areas in a span of nine days (the entire itinerary would have taken us longer- I’d say three weeks at least)!

Scenic, picturesque, breathtaking, spellbound— I’d run out of magical and wonderful words to describe the places we’ve been and the sights we’ve seen.  We did a lot of picnics, we hiked most of the time to see falls, green fields, mountains, old houses,we ate by the lake, in the park, in front of museums, cool restaurants, at home and almost always with a hearty conversation. But more than that I had so much of a great time meeting and knowing Uncle H & Auntie B- what they’ve given me- the experience, the wisdom, inspiration, and the love- is a gift that I’d always treasure for as long as I live.

I have never been struck by the life of someone else after meeting and being with them for a short span of time. But this was an exception. The encounter had left me in awe, it supercharged my heart, my body, and greatly enhanced my perspective in life. If you can imagine walking with springs in the soles of your feet and wings on your shoulders- like you’re almost leaping and flying with a wide smile painted on your face- that would pretty much describe my current state. I feel super happy and super blessed, no words can express!

Most nights I wonder, “where is all the love coming from,” “how can they give so much selflessly, not just things that money can buy, but the time, the effort (the cooking, the long drive), “how do uncle and auntie recharge their energies after a day spent outdoors and hiking in the mountains (did I mention they’re already in their 70s?!)”,  and they have so much wisdom, knowledge, and stories- – I could just listen to them all night and it’ll be like having read a book or two, and just see the world through their eyes.

I wish to grow old like them- full of life, wisdom, love, and abundance- – to put more heart in everything.  They may not be a perfect couple but to me, they are.  I’ve met their daughters and their grandkids and you can just see the energy, warmth, and kindness that runs in the family.  Being around them made me feel at home and there’s always sincerity, kindness, laughter and of course, delicious food (can’t be missed)!

With all the delightful memories I brought home with me, those nine days can be summed up as:

Living in a postcard (with all hearts, smiles, and sunshine drawn all over it)

Signed: by the coolest, sweetest, enthusiastic couple I’ve ever known.

The goodbye wasn’t easy. I dragged myself from bed the morning of that day.  I had no words to speak and I was already missing them and the place while we were having breakfast.  The drive almost felt like an eternity, if I can just turn back time or reset the journey to day one, I would not have given it a second thought.

All the way to the airport, check-in counters, to the passport control, Uncle H & Auntie B were with us, escorted us like little kids-  they’re always thoughtful like that.  I held back my tears as I hugged them for the first and last time.  As I went in I looked back and waved as quickly as I can so as not to cry.  I sure hope to see them again.  I wish them long life, good health, more adventures and more strength.  Uncle H & Auntie B always carry with them a sort of charm, exuding slowly as you spend time with them day by day.  I was charmed. And I will always be grateful for that.

Now to me, Switzerland means more than just the Alps, the chocolates, and the cheese.  It’s so full of marvelous people & wonderful nature of stunning simplicity and warmth.  And somewhere in that little country, uphill on the slopes of Monte San Salvatore, live an extraordinary couple that continues to touch hearts by their lives.  They definitely overwhelmed mine.