First Reading

Last night was my last time to attend mass in Liverpool; I’ve been going to church in the Crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral for two years, a weekly promise to myself and commitment to work on my faith. It took me this long to muster up the courage to sign up to read for mass and as the mystery in God’s timing, my turn came yesterday.

Practicing the night before to read the First Reading, I worked on my pronunciations and pacing to avoid any slurs and respecting the scripture. As I sat in the front bench of the Crypt, the minister cheerfully informed me the cantor fell sick and I would have to read the responsorial Psalms as well, which of course I have not read.

My heart beating like a horse galloping for a race, trying to retrace my steps around the altar and on when to pause. I knew what to do with the music as my rehearsals were based on the cues, I had no music this time so I played everything by ear. The priest greeted the audience, room silent and I was still sitting on the bench confirming with the minister if this was my slot.

I am one of those people who work well when prepared but on days with missing steps and cues, the chaos and nerves can take over. Standing in front of the microphone and keeping still whilst ensuring the people at the back could hear me, I began to read.

My finger moving from one word to another as my guide and before I knew it, both my parts were done. You must be wondering why I’m even writing about this moment, well, it has been more than a decade ago since I read in front of a crowd and second, people tend to sound different on a mic. The crowd and the unfamiliar voice bugged my thoughts, I just wanted to get it right with this one chance.

People are called in different ways and times; I’ve been discerning for years on the decision to read and when my time came, I was asked to stay to read a few more bits. Instead of focusing on my pronunciations and when to pause, the First Reading felt like a calling to hear Him out. To give Him time to convey His message to me.

The church is not a place for the perfect but rather for the hurt and the work in progress, I was reminded of this when I read the passage of our mission as men and women of God.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners

A place of sinners and the broken yet also a place of conversion and revelations. As I leave the beautiful city of Liverpool to go back to Philippines with two luggages of winter coats and what nots, for this one night at mass, I felt blessed with God’s grace. Gifting me the message of peace amidst my personal hurricanes, He tells me, my child come home, remain in me.

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The Crypt is as gothic as it sounds, a place tucked away in the back of the mammoth sized Metropolitan Cathedral. I started attending Sunday morning mass at the cathedral but found a sense of intimacy in the evening service. The longer walks, the dark nights and smaller crowd were my moments of solace. I remember there were always two beggars at the gate; one who sat with a dog and another selling paper. The grotto was concrete and the statue of Mary had a blue rosary around her neck. Wooden benches that creaked when the cushions were opened to kneel on. Families were complete, university students, night shift workers attended this service for this is when we promised our time to pray. And the Crypt is where we did our rosaries, our silent nods of hello to strangers, lighting candles and came for His words of nourishment and healing for we came impatient, wounded and hungry.

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The priest’s sermon that night made me smile from the inside; this is the time when Catholics spend hours decorating their Christmas trees, on getting the right Turkey and thinking of strategies to keep warm in the dark cold winter nights. With a firm end, he says, there’s nothing this world can do or give that our God cannot provide. Let’s put everything down during the time of Advent and step back for our eyes to see what matters.

Dear friends and readers, I pray that you may find happiness in Him and remain in God’s love for He knows what your heart longs for, for He knows the plans behind your cries. Be in peace this Christmas for we believe in the one who saves.

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Changing Shapes

For the longest time, my favorite shape was a circle. I liked its repetition and how it symbolizes forever. Infinity.

Two years ago, I packed my bags and before I left the airport, my elder siblings hugged me tight and said goodbye. That broke my love for circles. For mornings, I’d search for familiarity in faces. A reference or a joke – I talked about beginnings, they talked about the weather. I talked about coffee sessions and they talked about drinking sessions.

From days turned to months and months turned into seasons. Two winters later and a semi version of Spring later, I saw a face at a train station. She wore a gigantic bag pack and held a cup of coffee. I hugged her tight and said hello!

We took a photo together with the name of the train station above our heads to remember this moment we meet again.

These circles were cut in the middle and flattened out as straight lines, years have changed us. Broken us apart and pieces are still finding it’s way back.

From airports to phone calls to train rides, these lines have kept us together. Perhaps cut circles weren’t damaged goods but new pathways to meet and to move forward.

I like these lines.

Home For The Nomad

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Note: Dear readers, this is not at all a political blog/rant/article, just merely inspired by 2016 political results from my point of view.

If 2016 was a person, I’d buy him a glass of wine to celebrate for endurance, a cup of coffee as my way of sharing comfort and then kick the jukebox for some old tunes to talk it all out. Loss comes in different forms and 2016’s political events had an evident pattern – Brexit, Duterte and Trump for example. How different would our lives be if votes that won were to stay, to let political dynasties continue and had another Clinton to rule?

As I sip my cuppa tea, I grinned at how votes turned out across all elections this year. And how mainstream of me to use this line but people wanted a change.

Three years ago, I moved into my own apartment after over a decade of serious Asian parenting, Catholic schools / communities, Sundays at Church (a weekday in Dubai) and fighting over the remote control (five people versus me).

I was at home.

I built the foundation of my single adult life in that studio apartment with my first ever groceries purchased by yours truly, furniture of my choice, music at my volume and a brand new car to top it all off. Freedom defined, hey?

Three years ago, my parents left Dubai for retirement and I remember losing both my maternal grandparents that same year. These people have long served the countries they worked in and considered it home. I remember my first Christmas in Bahrain; I don’t think my parents could afford a big tree then so they got creative and got Christmas lights instead. They taped the lights on the wall and shaped it as a tree and there they placed our oddly shaped presents. I never really thought we needed a better tree, at an early age, we knew my mom and dad did their best. That they were just starting out.

I remember the first time I saw Kodak photos; they were glossy prints of Lolo and Lola (grandpa and grandma) in Universal studios, Lolo was posing with a Jurassic Park logo while Lola was looking for something to eat. They looked very funny in their oversized coats amongst a world of dinosaurs and film references. I never thought much about it except how cool of them to go to all these grand theme parks! But Mom was in Bahrain and her parents were in America. She kept those photos to remember of how happy they looked as she stayed back to take care of us, her own family.

I remember when we would go on an adventure with Mom while Dad was on a business trip, we watched a Jackie Chan movie at the theatre as we waited for his arrival and sneaked our microwaved popcorn to share. We would have our alarms set at odd hours so we could welcome him home from the airport. We waited because we missed him and wanted to tell him about our adventures.

Fast forward today, my siblings and I have taken the roles of the new generation of expats. How strange this world has become with oceans and continents that brought people apart now merely feels like a lake and a few mountains. We’ve become closer yet still apart. We have what we want but is it what we need?

People voted to leave, a change and to go against the popular choice. They did this silently amidst the noise because they didn’t want to be in the same place and wait for the next election. They didn’t want to stay.

My sister called me a few weeks ago and started with “you’re not gonna like what I’m going to say next” – we’re nomads by DNA, where you are now is not where you will be in the next three years. You will be somewhere else; building, discovering, finding your own oasis and also facing your own versions of sword play.

People choose the cards they play for their wellbeing; it is one of those needed self centred acts for their own betterment. We deserve the president we voted for. Benefits and sacrifices included.

Which means – this is the path we chose. The path not to stay, to keep going and continue building a home in every house we live in. To seek similarity and celebrate differences in the people we meet. To make things work. To love above and below imagination.

It is now three years since my first apartment and I am now in my new home. I’ve oriented myself to locals terms (hob vs stove / cardigan vs jumper / fries vs chips, etc). I’ve walked most of the city through hail, rain and wind. No TV but hey, there’s Spotify and Netflix. Work – home – work – home. This is my version of silent voting; it’s been two years since my family has been together; the wait at the airport has been replaced with Skype calls. The Christmas tree is there with presents kindly sponsored by DHL/FEDEX/ ARAMEX boxes. Death threats over dinner and remote control ownership is replaced by cheesy emoticons and funny memes from different timezones.

As 2016 is close to an end, if it was a person, I would  punch him with my new boxing skills and hug him because sometimes it gets so tiring to deal. Rest for the night and then keep going. Loss may come in different forms but seeking home in people and places is a consistent reminder for the kind of life we want to build and the person we want to be.

Loving above and below imagination,

Pia the Nomad