While standing in our front yard in early spring, I noticed a single dandelion standing tall, away from the rest. Held by its own strength. Sure of itself. Unfazed. But until when?
There is power in numbers, absolutely, but we cannot completely undermine the amazing strength and benefits of being alone.
In the past year, most of us have endured the difficulty of being away from our family, co-workers, and friends. The thought of being confined in our own home indefinitely, cut off from the rest of the world, was extremely challenging for most people, but more so for those living alone.
The truth is during those difficult times is when we find a very special time of peace, solitude, and prayer.
Do we pray enough? Do we believe in the existence of God during our darkest moments? Do we cling to the Almighty when we feel we are at our lowest point?
The grace of faith, unfortunately, is not for everyone, and this saddens me to the core. It is for those who seek, those who listen to the Divine, those who firmly believe without a hint of doubt that we are never alone because God is with us in every step of the way.
During the past year and well into the early part of the year, our life was utterly different from the daily normal living of appointments, chaos, deadlines, parties, and trips that what we were accustomed to before the pandemic hit us. I wondered if we will ever go back to the way we were. The change was so drastic that it completely caught us off-guard. Almost everything came to a halt. We felt lost and restless.
But what a gift it has been! The places of worship were shut down, (who would have thought?) but the faithful have found a way to worship and have even grown so much stronger in faith. During those quiet times, I have discovered a great amount of resources that enriched me spiritually. It is so comforting to know that a lot of people have rediscovered their faith and have found strength in prayers that they have not felt in a very long time. I am so grateful to be in the virtual front pew where I was able to attend the mass and watched incredibly inspiring homilies (yes, Fr. Mike Schmitz is amazing and I recommend you check out his Sunday mass on YouTube), listened to uplifting talks of brilliant minds, not to mention the Bible-In-A-Year podcast that I desperately needed.
During the course of the pandemic, while we’ve learned of unspeakable pain, sickness, struggles, brokenness and losses, we’ve also realized that there’s incredible kindness, compassion, an amazing sense of community, and a great deal of good, graciousness and love in the world. We have learned to appreciate what really matters in life. We have gained a renewed appreciation for our family, friends, co-workers, and livelihood. On top of that, we have forced ourselves to confront our own fears and struggles, realized our hunger for divine guidance, truly relished God’s steadfast love, and more importantly, we have allowed ourselves to look deeper into our own mortality. Are we prepared for the inevitable? Where do we go from here?
While standing in our front yard in early spring, I noticed a single dandelion standing tall, away from the rest. Held by its own strength. Sure of itself. Unfazed. But until when? I guess until its prime has passed. Until it withers. Waiting for the wind’s next blow.
In the grand scheme of things, that is the mystical beauty of life, even in its smallest form. We are all part of the divine order. Each of us has a story. All revealed during the extraordinary moments of peace, solitude, and prayer. And then there’s you. Embodied by the amazing strength of one. Strengthened by the grace and love of God.
Do you realize how special you are?
Be kind. Be fabulous.
And the world was made flesh. And dwelt among us.
How often do we encounter the question “Who Am I?” It is probably the most fundamental question we ask ourselves, yet we still struggle to find the most honest response. If we fail to answer it as candidly as possible, could you imagine how other people feel and think about us? More often than not, not knowing who they are dealing with is a very easy path to assumption, judgment, indifference, and even rejection.
I remember attending a friend's birthday dinner with my husband and 5 other couples years ago. One of the ladies, a new acquaintance at the time, talked about how much she enjoyed her recent lunch dates with the other two ladies in the same table, then asked the lady right next to me to go lunch in the coming week. That leaves me out and the host, who I know is already a close friend of hers. Well, my immature self at the time thought that it was kind of rude and tacky. I somehow felt rejected. Of course she’s not interested in getting to know me!
According to Pew Research, Christians make up just 2% of adult population in Israel. That’s a surprising number and that means most Jews still reject Jesus as the Messiah while we have approximately 2.3 Billion Christians around the world, making up nearly a third of the world’s 7.3 Billion people (as of 2015).
When we think that the greatest man who had ever lived on Earth was rejected by his own people, it makes it so much easier to accept rejection. Surprisingly, they do not know Jesus the way we do. And even for us Christians, we still struggle with our own faith if we don’t know him.
This Sunday was the 4th week of Advent. We are approaching Christmas. We have been talking about the waiting and anticipation of the birth of Jesus, while most of our preparation focused on decorating, preparing for family gatherings, shopping, baking and sending Christmas cards and gifts. While we associate the feeling of joy and excitement with waiting for Christmas, generally in life, waiting is not something we enjoy. "We hate to wait, specially when we do not know or understand the circumstances around it". Fr. Mike Schmitz (a beloved podcaster that I follow and a priest from Duluth, MN) was right on on this. Why do we wait? Why can't we just get on it...now!
ADVENT is all about waiting and anticipating the birth of Jesus.
In this Sunday’s homily, in the words of Fr. Mike: "Waiting is meant to serve a purpose. God invites us to wait in silence. Waiting purifies. Silence magnifies. It is in those quiet moments that we gain clarity in whatever fills our heart and mind".
Not being the favored one? Missing out on an invitation to an event or gathering? Not receiving the best seat in the house? Not a problem. While Jesus was rejected by his own people, may we learn to graciously accept rejection as we navigate through life, otherwise be burdened by an unnecessary feeling of inadequacy. What a waste of energy! He equipped us to face our own struggles by living through his own. In the coming days and as we start the new year, I hope we get to learn more about Jesus, the son of God who dwelt among us, rejected by his own people, yet celebrated by everyone who believes in him.
Painstakingly, we have lived through the challenging days of 2020. We've been physically isolated for the most part of the year. We have had plenty of time for solitude and reflection. We have had some great opportunity to prepare ourselves during the Advent. Unlike the past Christmas seasons with all of its bustling sights and sounds, parties and all, my hope is for us to find this opportune time to sit still and listen to the stillness of our hearts.
As Fr. Mike emphasized, waiting is meant to serve a purpose. Waiting purifies. Silence magnifies. And now this. The wait is almost over. More than 7.3 Billon people eagerly await the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, the begotten son of God, rejected by his own people, but still remembered, celebrated, and believed by Christians around the world, two thousand years later.
What a great ADVENTure He lived!
Merry Christmas to all.
Be kind. Be fabulous.
And just like that… SUMMER is gone!
Toward the end of winter, I welcome the thought of spring and summer with utmost exuberance. Gorgeous flowers popping everywhere, fun summer trips, trees coming back to life, outdoor parties, colorful sun dresses, toes in the sand, fruity summer drinks and watermelon, sizzling barbecues, patio dining, pool time, and of course, the glorious sun…well, plenty of it!
No matter the challenges of Covid-19, the current social climate and the moral ambivalence that unexpectedly dominate and dampen this year’s spring and summer experience, I made a conscious choice that I will embrace and brighten up my days. Sometimes, you don’t need to leave your humble abode to delight in this season of relaxation. So many things to enjoy even in the comfort of your own backyard. You just have to find it. How I relish waking up to the quintessential summer scents, a whiff of magnolias or the smell of freshly cut grass in the air! My daily routine of afternoon swim in the backyard pool and some gardening while listening to the valuable lessons of Jordan Peterson and Ted Talks kept me going. For some reason, there’s a lovely feeling of exhaustion that comes from a relaxing or productive day spent beneath the summer sun. What could be more invigorating than a luxurious afternoon nap or curling up with a summer read? And of course, who could dispute the fun in trying a new banana bread recipe? (Did you know there’s a gazillion ways to make banana bread?)
Summer days are simply made for being completely immersed in the moment, wherever or whenever those moments would take you. The key is to find joy.
How about you? How did your summer go?
Be kind. Be fabulous.
"The purpose of life, after all, IS TO LOVE IT, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
"When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
– Ernest Hemingway
I’ve thought about it every time I look out from my window. I imagine running in the yard like a kid in my pajamas and feel the luscious green grass under my feet until I run out of breath. It’s a good distraction from the morning news.
After the long winter, followed by a seemingly unending series of unfortunate events, there is so much to process and a lot to weigh. We can choose to look at the headlines, be informed, but in most cases, be anxious, or worse, be afraid. Is it intellectually fulfilling? Or exceedingly exhausting?
When I’m not sure what to think of and how to feel, I know it’s time to step out and focus on the beauty that surrounds me. How I choose to feel is within my power, at least that is something I can control. Balance is what I seek. Optimism is my friend. I can start by asking myself what I am grateful for today.
Spring mornings, as ephemeral as it may seem, is worth celebrating. Because even if we say we are fine, the global epidemic is like a dark cloud hovering over us. What to do when it hit us? Major paradigm shift!
This morning, I stepped outside the confines of our home and breathed the fresh scent of morning breeze, delighted myself with the sight of wild blooms popping everywhere, and found comfort and strength in the presence of our giant trees in their very state of revival. Spring mornings are glorious. Birds chirping. Squirrels running. Splendid sunrise. Finding bliss where my mind would take me—it is the way I choose to live.
How about you? What are you grateful for today? What brings you smile?
Be kind. Be fabulous.
I am not a culinary snub. I love to mix simple techniques and kitchen hacks while creating a homemade taste. Since it has been an inconvenience to make frequent trips to the store due to lockdown, it's best to simplify it. That's what I have been doing lately!
Pasta dishes are my most favorite dishes to make. It allows me to be creative and inventive in the kitchen using readily available ingredients. And the outcome? Always delicioso!
This mussels and vegetable pasta dish in creamy red sauce is super easy, healthy and packed in flavor and yumminess. To simplify my process, since I didn't have plenty of time to work in the kitchen, I used store-bought packaged mussels that are available in the frozen section, four-cheese spaghetti sauce (or you can use marinara sauce), herbs and spices, fresh vegetables, parmesan cheese, then finished it up with my own brand of magic.
"The idea of having a special place where we can celebrate each other's uniqueness and individuality and channel our positive energy collectively inspired me to create
My Slice of Nice".
- Cora Newcomb
Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? I love breakfast and I can eat it anytime. Some people, however, can't seem to care for a bite after a long night. I feel like I need to break the fast and provide my body with food rich in sustenance and energy before starting my day.
But Why? What's the science behind it?
In the days ahead, I will share a number of breakfast ideas that are easy to make so you don't have to settle for a breakfast bar that are mostly loaded with sugar and preservatives. Back in the 1960s, nutritionist Adelle Davis famously put it: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” (Sifferlin, 2013) Here's a good read from ScienceDirect.
We all know the power of colorful fruits and vegetables and their effect in improving our overall nutritional health—that’s what we've been taught since childhood. And when it comes to color, fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors offer different nutritional advantages. It is certainly a healthy option when boosting our immune system is uppermost in our mind!
Here’s a recipe that offers a cornucopia of colors for your enjoyment and health benefits, so get your large serving of lutein, lycopene, carotenoids, anthocyanins, and a whole lot more!
For the complete recipe, click here.
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