family, Heart, life, love, reflections, Soul

Thank You for 2017: A Yearly Examen

Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught me to be in awe of the best things like stars in the heavens. For this year, I will continue doing the Examen – another thing he left for us – only in the yearly perspective. I learned of doing a Yearly Examen through an article published in Aleteia last year, and I plan to do it again this year.

Here are the ways on how to do an Examen according to the article:

  1. After placing yourself in God’s presence, first give thanks to God for all the many blessings received during the past year. Pass through each month, remembering the blessings that occurred.
  2. Pray for the grace to understand God’s divine providence.
  3. Next, review each month again and take notice of any feelings or movements that occur in your heart while doing this activity. Whatever you may feel (whether it was a good feeling or bad feeling), ask God to help you understand why an event happened.
  4. Fourth, ask pardon for any sins you committed, trusting fully in God’s mercy.
  5. Last of all look forward to the New Year think of ways that you can collaborate more with God’s loving plan for your life. (Article written by Philip Kosloski from Aleteia.org)

Before moving on to the main blog entry, you may also watch this short vlog I made about a timeless lesson I relearned this 2017.

Giving Thanks

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This 2017, I am thankful to God for many things. I was able to start my journey as a full-time artist, I got to gain strength as I began taking control of my health again by exercising regularly and tracking my food intake and portions, I got to try my hand at helping my Mom with our business, I got to visit new places and revisited places I can call second homes, I got to spend quality time with my Mom, Dad, and families from both their sides, and I got to launch a product: my first ever e-book containing short stories and prose I wrote over the years since 2009.

Besides these personal things, I am also happy and grateful for the blessings God gave my parents, relatives, and friends.

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We also got to adopt three stray cats (Tars, Tina, and Pupung!), and Tina recently gave birth to three healthy kittens.

Our four dogs are in a cheerful disposition, and although Pumpkin, our last Golden Retriever, is getting weaker due to old age, she remains happy and shows signs of gaining strength.

Praying for God’s Providence

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This year, I learned how the universe does make things align for us, only if we are ready by passing the tests that God sends us. All throughout, He has been faithful in everything I’ve gone through. He gave it all: comfort, guidance, assurance, love, understanding, patience, clarity, purpose, Divine Providence…

Just this afternoon, I said to myself I felt so in love with God and with life and with people. I ran from the room to the living room, yelling, “God is amazing!”

And He is, He is, He is.

For the next year, I pray for my obedience and readiness to accept His help and providence. I pray that I be a faithful steward of what He puts onto my hands and to multiply them as He wants.

Feelings during Events

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Generally, I have been happy and optimistic about this year, but there were those days and seasons punctuated by episodes of fears, doubts, anxieties, and embarrassments. I can laugh at the embarrassing moments now and charge them to the experience and lessons, but I still hold those dark episodes with seriousness and regard, for those were the instances I had to face things I did not like about myself.

But considering my past selves and the years I’ve lived through, I think it’s safe to say that this was the year I felt most joyful and hopeful about life. About people. About the beauty of the word ‘possibilities.’

There were moments when I said to God that I wish He would take me away already, times when I was going through something deep and emotional and personal and I harmed myself by hitting my fist on a wall or on my leg. I mentioned my rare plea to God to my cousin, and he said to me non-verbatim, “Well, you’re still here.”

And that means that my mission from God in this life hasn’t been fulfilled yet.

Last 2016, I experienced panic attacks twice. It was a scary moment for me, and I was alone when it happened, gripped tight by emotions and overthinking. I’m thankful for my parents for talking to me and giving me comfort over the phone. Meanwhile, sometime this year, I also experienced my downs, and these manifested in sleep paralysis episodes and pain in my body. Thankfully, they stopped gradually.

So yes, I can say that this 2017 (as it comes to a close), I’m starting to embrace joy more. I cannot say it has been easy-going, for it hasn’t been, but I just don’t want to let my circumstances or past experiences hinder me from growing.

It’s truly amazing to be alive… Life is a miracle already. We have so much to do, so much to grow into, so much to love, to still experience.

I felt things so deeply this year, that every memory, even some are now hazy, I can still strongly recall how I felt.

Sins and Mistakes Committed

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There were times when I prioritized tasks to my goals more rather than helping out with chores or simply doing a small favor that will only take just less than five minutes. I could have been a good friend, but I wasn’t. I could have been more polite in responding, but I wasn’t. I could have let a game of chess remain a game, but I let my ego get in the way. I could have been more loving to others, but I wasn’t. I could have been more loving to myself, but I wasn’t.

These happened, because I had to learn or re-learn a particular lesson. And I agree with one of my cousins’ sentiments: the universe will keep testing us with one lesson, until we get it right. With God, I know that we can always change for the better starting today. But this does not license us to committing a mistake over and over though.

Collaborating more with God’s Plan this 2018

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Last year, I said my word was ‘grounded.’ I wanted to be firm and deeply rooted in my beliefs and faith, but it was only this year that I discovered what my non-negotiable principles were.

Was I grounded? I was in my goals of becoming an artist, but in staying present, I was airy at times, as pointed out by my cousins in Vegas. I would have my head in the clouds often, so no, I haven’t been grounded during those instances!

As of now, I still have no word for 2018. Like what I said in my previous year-ender post, I’m bad at keeping a word for a year! I forgot about being grounded mid-July this year. I guess I don’t want to constrain my year into just one word.

But what I do hope (and will work towards) is self-love and -acceptance, good health, deeper connection to my soul, helping others more, creating more art, fortifying relationships, and praying to God more.

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That’s it for my Yearly Examen! If you have read all the way to here, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and patience!

As a way to breathe these out, I need to share eight things I’ve learned throughout the year:

    1. Be present – The best way to do so is to pay attention. Pay attention to your companions, to your surroundings, to the sounds, to what God is trying to speak to your soul. Let your mind focus on the present moment rather than a moment in the past or an event that hasn’t even happened yet.
    2. We get to choose – In everything that happens to us, we choose how to respond. Most of the time, we react, and admittedly, that’s what I’ve been doing sometimes. This can be applied to with our lives. There’s a Switchfoot song that I like called “This is your Life.” It’s chorus goes like this: “This is your life – are you who you wanna be?” Isn’t free will good? Isn’t it a gift of love? We get to choose. God gave us the freedom to choose, but remember to choose what is right and what is good. We abuse our free will and the generosity of God when we choose something that is bad.
    3. Embrace the possibility of new and strong friendships – This December, I have realized that I made new good friends this 2017. Some are already friends and co-workers by my cousins and some I met over on Facebook and Instagram because of common interests or a community challenge. I read somewhere before that it would be hard for us to make lasting friendships after college, but I don’t think that’s true for everyone. Kindred spirits, as Anne Shirley would address her closest friends, can be found at whatever time fate leads us to each other – even if it’s on social media. (Hoping to meet them soon in person!) There’s also the possibility of getting to know old classmates from before whom you weren’t close to previously. But since you both have shared circumstances, welcome the possibility of the friendship!
    4. We cannot love truly and fully without knowing – I wasn’t able to grow up with my cousins, in both my Mom’s and Dad’s sides, so now that I get to visit them in the US, I want to foster my relationship with them. For me, I cannot truly and completely say that I do love my cousins if I don’t get to know them more, and share important events or conversations together. For some reason, it just makes it blind love, right? I love the person, but I don’t even know much about him. Is that really love? Can I love God if I did not know Him? So take the time to really listen to your families and friends. Get to know them better. What would it be like if you were friends?
    5. Say thank you always – Take the time to say thank you. It’s not just the words but the gesture of taking the time and effort to extend gratitude. Say thanks to the person who opened the door for you, who held out your chair for you, who helped you with a certain project – the little and big things.
    6. Take care of your relationships with family and friends – Don’t let your dreams and goals overshadow the most important things like your relationships with God, families, friends, and colleagues. I realized this when I was spending more time doing projects rather than helping my Mom out with something, especially if what I’m doing is not so urgent or that her favor is only a little one. Was my dream suddenly more important now than her and her needs? I forgot for a moment that the reason I was able to pursue my dreams is because of her and my Dad. When you’re on your way to accomplishing your dreams, please do not forget the people who taught you, cared for you, nurtured you, supported you, believed in you, and enabled you to do the things you love. Put more love in doing house chores, respond kindly to a request by them, and make time for them just talking with each other, enjoying togetherness. Send a message too to someone you haven’t talked to for a while, even if it’s just a video that reminded you of him/her!
    7. Love your neighbor as you love yourself – How do I want to love my neighbor? Jesus asks us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If I do not love and respect myself, how can I do the same to my brother, to my sister? Self-love begets love for neighbor. Really go within yourself and see what you love and what you do not like. Improve on what can be improved. Give yourself pep-talks. I did when I was going to meet two of my art heroes in CTNX in Burbank, California! Also, how can other people believe in you if you don’t even believe in yourself?
    8. Let God talk to you in ways you understand – God is bigger than anything good and awesome I could ever imagine… He can speak to me in ways He likes, in ways that only I can understand, that only you can understand. Allow yourself to be in awe with how He communicates to you. This year, the Creator has been surprising me in many ways through various signs and through various people. I know that I could never fully understand Him or His ways, but what I do know and understand is that He is love, and love, I believe, is the strongest and purest force in this universe.

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And isn’t that something to believe in with our whole selves?


I hope that you come out strong of this year, my friend. Happy Happy New Year to you and your family! ❤

Here is a favorite song of mine that I only heard again just now… It certainly brings back memories. May it warm you as we end this year.

“Just because everything’s changing
Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before
All you can do is try to know who your friends are
As you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light
You’ll come back when it’s over
No need to say goodbye
You’ll come back when it’s over
No need to say goodbye.”

Love, light, warmth, and God’s blessings be unto you and your family,

Arli

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