SENTIMENTS AND REFLECTIONS

When I was growing up, the period from October 31 to November 2 was a big holiday in the Philippines. It is not a huge festivity like Christmas but people would normally take a few days off work, travel back home to be with their families to honour their loved ones, both the dead and the living. Filipinos are very superstitious and religious people you see . . . even those who claim to be nominal Catholics do pray for, and to, the dead (the image of President Duterte crying in his mother’s grave uttering ‘Tabangi ko, Ma!’’ — please help me, Mother! — is a classic example of this). Back in my day, and I’m referring to 30-40 years back when I was very young, everyone did lit candles in the cemetery to commemorate All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd). In our family we always had a novena (a form of worship consisting of special prayers on nine successive days) at home every night during these festivities aside from offering a mass (that is, paying money to the priest to hold a special service) for the dead family members. A lot of Filipinos still do practice this tradition to this very day. Personally though, All Saints’ Day took on a completely different meaning when my father died on November 1, 1984, exactly thirty three years ago today. Three days ago my older brother turned 50 and as I was on Skype chatting with everyone, the family gathered to celebrate his birthday, I was reminded once again that my father died at age 51 — really young. 

So this is the time of year when my own particular brand of seasonal affective disorder sets in. And no, I’m not talking about a depression that goes on for months, or until the dead of winter is over. Rather it’s intentional, I purposely spend some time being sentimental, reflecting or dwelling in the past, and sometimes I seem to get stuck there, at least for a week or two. I don’t get weepy, or spend time crying for hours on end, or have no appetite and don’t wanna go out or see anyone. None of that. I just tend to be more quiet and solitary. I naturally keep things to myself and not bother to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with anyone, not even with my husband. I deal with it on my own. That’s just the way I am. I know how to live inside some of my sorrow, the grief that never really goes away.

Around this time of the year since my father’s death, I become quite nostalgic for the way things were, in what seems like only yesterday, but in fact they’re long ago and far away moments. I’m no longer a little girl, anticipating Christmas or any of the holidays. We all grow up, we get older, and yes, we lose people we love. Our siblings, or those we’re close to do get married and move away, and start spending their holidays in other family circles. In my case, I am the one who moved farther away, thousands of miles from my family and friends. In the same way that once we settle in one place, we make friends and then some of them move to other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, or become estranged. And as we get older, our beloved elders pass on and the list of people we miss gets longer.

Just about everyday last week I listened to my parents’ favourite music, and I haven’t listened to any of it for many months. But the other night I played one of my mother’s favourite songs ‘The Autumn Leaves’ over and over — probably a hundred times that day (FYI, Eva Cassidy’s rendition is my number one favourite). For some reasons, I have vivid memories, as a 3-4 year old girl, watching my mother playing the guitar while singing The Autumn Leaves and I tried to replay that particular moment in my mind as I was listening to the song while doing calligraphy and watercolour painting — which, by the way, I find very therapeutic.

A good part of the weekend and yesterday, and yes, a fair portion of today, particularly this morning, were laced with these melancholic moments, and broody concern for the past. Each time I was ready to caw under the weight of my own deep oblivion, strong arms wrapped themselves around me and Jared would simply say, “I’m here, my dear!”  That was all I needed in order to remember that indeed, I have a lot for which to be truly thankful. It seemed time, today, to come full circle, and invoke the spirit of my father and mother, thirty four and eight years gone respectively (November 1,1984 and November 15, 2009), by going through old photographs, videos, listening to their music — simply reminiscing the days gone by.

Christmas is just around the corner; strong arms are wrapped around me as we make plans for the holiday traditions we’ve begun to evolve over the past seventeen years. Making plans always cheers me up. And really, how sad can I be when there’s so much to be joyful and thankful for? Besides, I’m drinking English tea right now, and a cup of tea makes everything better! 

I’d better stop right here before I get maudlin again.

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Last week I noticed these tiny flowers in one of my walks at the park, and I have no idea what they’re called, but they smell so good that it actually reminded me of my maternal grandmother. When she steps out of the bath, she always smelled just like those tiny flowers. After my morning run today I picked some of those flowers again, and yes, more autumn leaves, and I kept smelling the flowers on my way back home. That, my dear family and friends — picking flowers and smelling them — is my own particular brand of seasonal affective disorder. 

PONDERING AND POSTCARD FROM LONDON

Summer is my favourite season. I love wearing cotton and linen dresses as well as ballerina shoes and flip-flops. I am a tropical girl indeed! My body has already acclimatised to the cold weather, that is, after living here for almost 18 years, but I still give Jared the customary whimper at the onset of winter months.  

It’s mid-October and my autumn/winter clothes are still in the loft! Next week I plan on taking them out; to quit trying to wear summer clothes in the middle of autumn and to finally sort out the wardrobe. The thought of returning to winter months fill me  with dread. But the Lord reminded me this week that He made a perfect plan when He gave us time and seasons. He declared in His Word that the time and seasons will stay so long as the earth remained (Genesis 8:22). And His timing is perfect. Time and seasons come and go as the Lord planned it from the foundations of the world. That everything happens according to His plan. They are in God’s hands, we just need to trust Him. One of the scripture verses I’ve been meditating on this week is Ephesians 5:16-17. It says that we need to redeem the time because the days are evil. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

Despite the little whimper I usually give Jared about the onset of winter season, I also relish the joys of autumn especially the changing foliage and the mild temperatures. It’s hard to resist the warm colours and I simply can’t ignore the red and gold while out taking a walk in the park.

Here are some photographs I took at Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park during my afternoon stroll this week.

Enjoy your weekend!

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This week I saw for the very first time this rather odd but beautiful flower at Kensington Gardens, just behind the Albert Memorial. If anyone knows what they’re called please drop me a line. Thank you!

SATURDAY THOUGHTS ON MY MIND . . .

Today I want to be a discerning learner. I wonder what does it mean to be a learner who is made in the image of God? The world is full of learning opportunities for ourselves and others. And with the technology available to us today, almost all of the educational materials we need is at our fingertips. As Christians, how do we determine what is worth the cost, both in time and money, to invest in for education? Does it really matter if educational materials include the Christian worldview as long as biblical studies receive sideline attention?

When I was a baby Christian, I had to navigate those murky waters. I started out with The Navigators (an international, interdenominational Christian ministry established in 1933) discipleship program which had been used by the Navigators missionaries during my time at the University of the Philippines. All the reading materials available — pamphlets, books, etc., for me to read and learn from, came delivered into my dormitory. Despite the variety of Christian materials, the box did not include any bible. Back then I’ve only used the modern translation of the bible and didn’t own a copy of the AV or Authorised Version until I went to graduate school.

As time passed, I grew in my knowledge of the Word, and learned more about living as a Christian. I then realised the importance of having the Christian worldview included in the daily study of subjects. I began to understand that if Christianity becomes considered a Sunday morning or afternoon activity with a ten minute daily Bible study time, that faith can begin to wither as the brain compartmentalises who or Who has authority over the subject matter and hours of study time.

Now I choose to invest in educational materials for myself which integrate the true authority of God. When God is left out, subjects seem dry and without life. Materials lacking a mention of God’s place can be used discerningly with a sprinkling of salt to make them palatable. Mature Christians have a shaker full, but new Christians may not possess enough discernment to enhance dead subject matter.

These initial thoughts speak on what learning in the image of God means to me.