a time to be emptied

One of the reasons why I traveled to Philippines was to attend a Singles For Christ International Conference (SFC ICON). Exactly a year from today, I had travelled to Singapore to attend the SFC ICON held there. And although last year’s ICON was a good experience, I felt a bit cheated because I got sick leading up to it. I went into a minor emergency surgery the day before my flight, so for the whole week that I spent in Singapore, I was very uncomfortable and was in a lot of physical pain. But I went anyway because I had a really strong desire to go.

The production last year was amazing – well planned and even better executed. The speakers and sharers were so inspiring, hearing their stories made me feel so fortunate for the life I had in Australia. But apart from that, I didn’t really get much from it because I wasn’t well enough to meet people. It was my first ICON and everyone always talked about how their highlight of any ICON was meeting new people from all over the world. I felt like I was robbed of this chance when I got sick and was very disappointed and frustrated with myself. At the end of the conference, when they announced that the 2017 SFC ICON was in Iloilo, I told myself I would go, God willing, to make up for what I missed out on because of my physical inabilities.

And so, with a lot of apprehension and fear, not knowing how I would find the money to be able to afford it, the flights were booked and there was no turning back. I had risked a lot to attend this conference, including the potential of landing a full time teaching position as a new graduate. But God provides.

Hoping I wouldn’t get sick again in the lead up to this year’s conference, I was, however, suffering in a different kind of way. I was suffering in desolation and felt so empty in my prayers. I wasn’t looking forward to the conference at all and had thoughts of backing out despite paying around 10,000PHP for the registration fees.

Oh, how I would have regretted that choice now knowing what God had in store for me at this conference.

I’ve been in this community for as long as I can remember. Starting from Kids For Christ, I joined Youth For Christ in 1999 and Singles For Christ in 2010. That’s almost 18 years of fruitful service that this community has given me. I particularly find extreme joy and thrill when I get the chance to work in a team to plan an event and watch it all unfold. I most especially love working in the production team – it’s my bread and butter. One of my service goals was to be able to work in the production team of an international conference, even if it was in the smallest way.

So of course, one of my highlights for this conference was when I was given the opportunity to be a production assistant for the Saturday segments of this year’s SFC ICON. Now I’m not sharing this to boast. I’m sharing this because I want to remind you how faithful our God is.

Desolation is one of the hardest yet most fruitful experience someone can go through. Imagine being in a relationship with someone but not having your feelings reciprocated. I prayed to Him, I spoke to Him, I reached out to Him and I felt nothing. It was so heartbreaking. I felt so empty.

But I was reminded of the humbling story of St Teresa of Calcutta, also known as Mother Teresa. She suffered through years of desolation, afraid that God had rejected her or was hiding from her. But despite these doubts, it didn’t deter her from serving, especially the poor, and finding her path to heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Mother Teresa, but her story, as well as a good friend reminding me of the fruits of desolation, motivated me to push through with attending the SFC ICON. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have experienced all the graces and blessings He had in store for me.

I am so happy to say that I am no longer in desolation. On the last day of Pre-ICON (a mini 3 day event for 200 or so ICON delegates before ICON), we were led into worship by the beach in Guimaras Island, Iloilo. My first thought, while suffering in desolation, was “Here we go, another worship to remind me of my emptiness in prayer.”. But as we reached the final song, Larger Than Life, my ever faithful God allowed me to feel His presence again. I felt Him in the wind gently caressing my face and blowing my hair.

“You are God of these dreams I’ve been longing.”

These particular words resonated in my thoughts. I thought about my dreams of being a teacher, a wife and a mother. Although I had desired these dreams, He planted them in my heart because He is the God of them. And then I thought about my suffering in desolation. Although it had emptied me and led me astray, He was still the God of my life and it led me back to Him. For the first time in months, I heard Him again. And He reminded me that..

He was in control. That He has planned for me my deepest desires. That it was going to be okay. That it’s ok to feel now, to feel again. To receive again, to receive His love through others. To trust again.. to trust in Him

On Saturday night of ICON, during the final worship, I found myself in disbelief of how much He loved me. Everything that I had experienced, all the suffering from the year that passed, all the emptying of my cup, it had led me to that moment. And as tears rolled down my face, again I felt the wind, my God, gently caressing my face. I opened my eyes and saw the view He saved just for me.

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“It is because of my emptiness that He will fill my cup.”

With a cup overflowing – M.

Ps. S/O to our SFC aka Super Feeling Close crew – Ate Michel, Moosey, Girlie, Djeb, Tophie, Raimz & Qwayne. Thank you for allowing me to share this story with you that Sunday night post ICON. Only with God’s grace (and silliness) will He put together the most random group of 8 people and somehow get along to the point that we were super feeling close and missed each other when we started going our separate ways. God is truly good.

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a time to breathe

Earlier this week, through His grace, I found some stillness despite being in the central business district of Makati in Philippines. I had just finished a couple of really slow, half assed laps in our hotel pool. And before getting out to bake a few shades darker, I found solace under the shade and casually leant on the edge of pool.

With my head placed above my folded arms and the rest of my body still in the water, I heard myself breathe in. And then out.

In again. And out.

After a few seconds, I had achieved complete stillness in my mind and body. It didn’t last long because I was falling fast asleep and was awaken by the feeling of pool water rushing into my ears. Without thinking, I took a deeper breath through my nose and floated back up.

I should mention, I’m not an experienced swimmer. The “laps” I mentioned earlier weren’t accomplished with any graceful strokes. They were merely made up of a mix of dog paddling and barely surviving in the water. Hahaha. So when I realised that breathing in deeper meant I could float more, I was intrigued! I’m sure this is general knowledge to regular/professional swimmers but the science of it all was captivating.

So I kept doing it. Breathing in deeply, and slowly exhaling until I found myself sinking into the water until it reached my ears. And repeat.

Fascinated by the effect of breathing in the water, I slowly realised how simply we can apply this in our lives.

Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in the chaos that life throws at us. Because of this, we tend to only take on tasks we think we can handle. Little breaths of this and that. Little breaths of relationships. Little breaths of prayer. Little breaths of risks. Little breaths of God. I get it, life is hard. But at some point, even while only taking these little breaths of life, we still end up drowning.

Sometimes we need to be a little braver, and take in life as big breath of air, despite our fears and reservations. Because it is in our life giving relationships, prayer and risks, where we will find Him to help us stay afloat.

This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me.

Dog paddling – M.

a time to receive

Today is an exciting day for me. And it’s not only because in less than an hour I’ll be flying off for a holiday/conference/self seeking journey.

I’m excited because today was the first day this year that I received Him through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And what a blessing it was. For a whole month, which felt so long, I shamefully felt so unworthy to receive Him.

Don’t get me wrong, I never feel worthy of receiving Him. But today I was reminded of how blessed I was because He lets me have Him anyway. And although I had strayed away for so long and so far..

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

His love is so unconditional. And today I felt this love through the kindness and generosity of my family and friends.

Despite my keenness to get away from reality for a little while, I had a lot of apprehension in leaving for this trip. I was constantly stressed about how much it’s costing me, and not just my (non existent) money.

But upon reflecting, as you do right before you get on a plane, I leave with the comfort of knowing that I am loved and blessed. God, who always finds a way, provided for me. He went above and beyond through my mates who made sure I am where I am right now (shout out to you all ❤). All I had to do was open my heart to receive Him.

Oh Lord, forgive me for ever doubting You. Thank You for your graces and your faithfulness despite my lack of faithfulness in You.

Don’t hesitate to receive Him, my friends. For His promise is greater than you could ever imagine.

Always seeking, -M.