My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
"I have not been faithful, my dear angel. I did not heed the Lord when He summoned. I had all sorts of excuses, amidst my hectic schedule of packing, unpacking, travels, and jet lag."
My angel sighed. He was not surprised. He'd seen me fail, time and again. I admired his patience and understanding.
"The only thing He asked of you was to open your ears so you may hear and then write as the words come to you."
I knew what he meant. He'd been nagging me to write about the Word of Inspiration.
"Blog for the week about receiving the word of God like a fertile soil and becoming His instrument of inspiration for others. Be childlike in countenance, trusting and believing in the Father's promises and all your dreams from Him will come true. Just cut and paste from your spiritual journal."
The Parable of the Sower had been a recurring reading lately and had flooded my thoughts and journal entries.
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field. Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
I have learned that when the Lord gives the Word of Inspiration sometimes, the enemy comes and adulterates it. Sometimes I adulterate it. Yet God continues to use me anyway.
"Why?" I had asked my angel.
"If Jesus waits for the perfect instrument to bear His message, He'll not find anyone to use."
He's right, and I thought about my manuscript. I had not heard from the agent. It can only mean one thing.
The manuscript is problematic.
Doubt had assailed me. Perhaps I had been deluding myself. It's all a figment of my imagination—all His words of inspirations, His promises.
"Then toss it," my angel challenged me.
I sensed my angel's satisfaction. "That must be your sole motive in writing: to do the will of the Lord and you shall be purified in the fire of His love. He will also purify your message."
So I took my pen and wrote: "Blessed are You o Lord who is so lenient with our imperfection and impurities, for you allow your Word of Inspiration to grow within my creative recesses along with the weeds of my own. Even as I write flawed stories, You infiltrate it with Your Divine work, so it touches my soul and changes me."
In my mind, I heard the Lord speak.
"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
"I know Your word is powerful, Lord," I replied. Whatever You say through me will pierce the hardest of hearts, even those of stones and prickly thorns. You will send the needed rain to drench the soil, the hoe to plow the field and make fertile the land. But oftentimes I'm confused how and when to speak."
My angel took my hand and led me to a particular day in history, a chapter in the Book of Life.
"On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
"It's amazing how even for those who hear God's word and bear fruit, they vary in productivity," I told my angel.
"Because their attitudes vary when they receive the Word of Inspiration."
I turned to the Lord and said, "I want to bear fruit a hundred fold my Lord and not just sixty or thirtyfold. I want to give as much as You've given. Increase Your fruits in me my Lord that I may feed many who hunger for Your word. Let me be a huge channel of Your blessings Lord for You are a generous God and You need generous souls to use as Your channel. I am not generous, but I know I can be transformed by Your grace, into Your image and likeness."
Again the Lord spoke through His Word:
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple– amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
I cried at the words that consoled my doubting soul and said to God, "You have set before me The Work. Slowly You want me to look at it in a detached manner, detached from me. No longer must I view it as my work but the work You have set for me. You can do with it as You please. If You don't want it to be published, let it be. If You want it to be shred to pieces, let it be. If You want it to be buried forever in my hard drive, let it be. It is Your work in me; You can do with it as You please. Sometimes, pride would push me. But the reading for today also gives me a promise. If this is truly Your work, o Lord, no human being can prevent it from being published, not even me. You have promised that whoever will help will be blessed tremendously. Send out Your helper my Lord. If it is not this person, then please direct me to someone else. Please do not let me knock and knock at the door of someone who refuses to open it. Persistence seems to be Your message. So I guess if this is not the time, then lead me at least to the editor. Let me ask out there, and make a shout out. Help me discern."
"You pray and ask for God's will but tend to manipulate and pressure Him to do your bidding," my angel said and caught me by surprise. "For even before He could answer and make His will known, you have already turned your back and set out to do your will and even believe it to be God's will. O such hastiness and rashness, such lack of prudence. Although sometimes it's from your own zeal and passion to carry out the inspiration that would make you do this."
I shrank in shame as I listened to his words.
"Yet the Lord had been forgiving because He knows that you act out on what you thought was His inspiration," my angel added. "But don't be obstinate and stubborn otherwise, He'd allow you to carry out your will, and you'll witness the cross of your making. And when that happens, don't come around angry and complain to the Lord for being unhelpful and unfaithful to His promises."
"Have I been like that, my Lord? Have I been impetuous and assuming? Oh, Father may You forgive Your daughter. Obstinate and stubborn indeed I am. Let me know Your will, and I will carry it. I guess I should not move unless I know for certain that You want me to move. Help me find confirmation from my prayer partner, my husband. You have always used him to make Your will known in the past. Let Your will be known through him."
"My sheep hear my voice," says the Lord, I know them, and they follow me."
"Speak Lord for Your servant is listening. Here I am Lord. I have come to do Your will."
"Wait for the Lord to fulfill His promise," my angel said.
"I will, my Lord. I will wait before I make my move. Temerity is my new vocabulary for today because that's what I have been: imprudent, presumptuous and acting out of haste and rashness. I know Mother Teresa had felt that way when she was still discerning Your call for her. It's difficult to know Your timing. I've also read Sr. Faustina's diary. It's the same thing. I fall in this pendulum of doubt and presumption. I find it hard to rest in the center of the pendulum, where Your will resides. I keep on swinging to and fro and missing Your perfect timing. Why is it so my Lord?"
"Because your time does not coincide with My time. When I say `now,' it can span from the beginning to the end. My time is different from yours. Mine is all embracing and all encompassing. Yours is a mere snippet of a nanosecond of Mine."
"So that's why You are also lenient with us because You understand that we are confused most of the time because of this discrepancy in understanding time," I said in great wonder.
"You are truly good and forgiving LORD, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you. I'm so happy that You speak to me in the silence of my heart and I understand Your message encoded in Your Words and readings for the day."
From afar, I heard my brother St. Paul say, "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will."
"Thank You for revealing these things to me," I whispered.
The image of my Lord appeared in my mind and said, "Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom."
"You keep on repeating this verse like You want to imprint it in my soul," I said. "Am I one of Your little ones, my Lord? I've seen how You called Your little ones—St. Therese, Sr. Faustina, and Mother Teresa from among Your people. Each faithfully responded when You called them. To each, You've given Your grace to become Your instrument of love, mercy, and charity. LOVE. MERCY. CHARITY."
"Now You're telling me to proclaim Your Immense Love, Unfathomable Mercy, and Unending Charity to all. That we become these to all, we the little ones."
"And there are many souls You are calling to be Your little ones. I for one know I am called to be Your dear little one. I've seen You manifest Your will. When I held Your hand and allowed You to lead me, I felt secure and at peace even amidst the chaos. But when I acted on my own and ran around and gone astray, I lost You and was in great distress, like a little child who lost her parent amidst the crowd."
"This is a great mystery, and You've revealed it to me. I don't know which ones You want me to reveal to others and which ones I must keep to myself. I’m still groping like a little one, but I know You will lead me. All You ask is my complete trust and surrender, and I shall know."
"For one, I know You want me to write about how not all inspirations come from You. Some are sown by the enemy. Yet You allow it to happen that both weeds and wheat should inhabit my work so that I will remain humble. Everything that is good comes from You, and everything that is not is my own or sown by the enemy. Because I’m human, my work is not perfect. Not everything that I write is perfect and true, yet You allow it because if You take out the weed, the wheat might also be taken out. Human and imperfect that I am, I will always have both weed and wheat. If You stop using me because of my human imperfection, You cannot use me at all. I would be useless to You. But You tolerate my imperfection and use me nevertheless even when I dabble with Your message. You allow me to express it freely in my own way. You allow my creativity to meddle with Your truth. That is Your clemency and charity at work. Your tolerance for our imperfection is immense. You allow Your perfect message to be uttered by imperfect messengers."
"Help me to continue to hide in the shadow of Your wings as Your little one. I read the testimonies of the big eagles, of inspirational writers who still found their life dissatisfying after all their success in writing. I want to write as Your little one, like St. Therese, hidden from the sight of men. I will complete all three books. More and more I desire to write it only to fulfill Your will and less and less to be known and become popular as an author. I’m happy and contented with my simple life as a little one my Lord. I find my greatest fulfillment and happiness when I hear You each day."
In my mind, I see the Lord smile at me with great love in His eyes, "Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
My eyes stung with tears. "I’m truly blessed, my Lord. I don't know how it happened that You should choose me, a most unworthy and imperfect instrument to write Your message of love, mercy, and charity. Even though I’m a crooked pencil, You’re still able to make use of me to proclaim Your Word. Blessed are You o Lord God of all. Purify me in the furnace of Your love, so I don't adulterate Your message. My pride, self-will, vanity, and vainglory taint Your message, and the enemy uses these to mar Your perfect truth. May I not destroy Your work o Lord. Do not allow it. Do not allow me to mislead people. Silence me when not prompted and summoned because I should know by now that nothing that comes from me could be good unless You make it. It was a hard lesson to learn. Help me remain silent when not summoned. This runs counter against common rules for writing and publishing. No longer will I act with impetuousness. I shall wait for Your prompting. And when You call, let me heed in obedience."
"Lord, one thing that I noticed in Your little ones is the promptness with which they desire to heed Your call. St. Therese of Lisieux had to beg the pope to allow her to enter Carmel. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had to do the same when she started the Missionaries of Charity. Your servants tend to act in haste and zeal to do Your will and encounter hindrances along the way. I guess it’s part of the purification process. Or maybe You just want to test our will to see how much are we willing to work to fulfill it; how much are we willing to sacrifice and suffer to make it happen. In the end, when You’re satisfied with our commitment, You remove all blocks and pour forth Your blessings. It's the same way that You've manifested Your power against Pharaoh when he refused to make Your will happen and Moses in persistence and commitment, continued to prod and knock and speak until Your will would be done."
"Everything is a great mystery. Yet You reassure me that You will reveal it to me, Your little one. And I will come to understand how You unfold Your will and make it happen with our surrender, cooperation, and commitment."
Three things I need, according to one of the big eagles in the writing industry, Paulo Coelho (from the Warrior of Light): training, experience, and inspiration.
For some, training is not enough. They are wanting in inspiration. But for me, inspiration is not enough. I have need of training and experience.
The body is for training; the mind is for experience and spirit is for inspiration.
Training the body makes it strong and will grow the muscle it needs to do the work.
The experience makes the mind confident of the task at hand so it may tread paths that cowards will not dare pursue.
The inspiration is of the spirit and breathes life into the work, so it achieves what it wants to achieve, leaves the soul a different man and breeds more inspiration.
I turned to my angel and said, "I shall pursue The Work so, with training, experience, and inspiration, I shall bear God's fruit a hundredfold."
My angel rested as he saw my determination to fulfill the Lord's will.
My soul, too, found peace.
"One pen can change the world," the young girl, Malala, said with conviction as she advocated for education.
I watched the youtube video in awe. At a young age, this girl authored the book, I Am Malala and knew with wisdom the power of the pen.
One day, we visited a prayer room in a hospital. My husband said he wanted to go out because he couldn't breathe. I thought the room was stuffy, but as soon as I passed by where he stood, I felt a strange presence. A weeping soul, that of a woman's, sat where he stood. Trapped in that little chapel, her spirit didn't know what to do. As I rode the car, God prompted me to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy for the repose of the soul of that woman. I sensed a deep sorrow in her. At the twilight of her life, she experienced a crisis in her faith. She doubted God and His promises. At the fourth decade, I sensed her immense gratitude. God, in His mercy, had released her from the prayer room and welcomed her to the other side of the world.
I finished the chaplet prayer in thanksgiving and gratitude and urged the woman to keep us in her prayers, we who are still pilgrims on earth.
I knew phenomenon such as this could happen because someone wrote about it. The Diary of Sr. Faustina revealed that some souls spend their purgatory here on earth. They are trapped in a certain place, time or event where they needed purification. For that woman, it was a prayer room devoid of the Holy Presence of the Tabernacle. This aggravated her great longing and thirst for God which caused her soul immense suffering. While on earth, she had neglected her faith, although she led a good and decent life. There, God made her feel how His Heart thirsted for her love but she did not open her door to welcome Him. So the door of that chapel locked her in. There she had to suffer the pain of love that longed to embrace Love Himself.
As a writer, I have to be responsible for what I write. Ideas can inspire someone into action: bad ideas into gruesome action and good ideas into noble deeds.
I recalled that one occasion where I was in a strange area. I wanted to hear mass, and this chapel appeared in Google maps as just within walking distance from where we were staying. The landmark was a bank. So I walked and trusted my gut, but it led me to a street that made it hard for me to see the sign of the landmark. I saw it through the reflection of the building across the street.
I thought that was strange. I felt like a lost pilgrim looking for God. He was just right there beside me, so near yet I missed Him and only saw Him through a mirror from afar.
"You are to be that mirror for those who are having trouble seeing Him even when He is already so near," my angel said.
"Through your pen. Just as God used Sr. Faustina to testify about God's mercy, so shall you. Everyone is called to testify: some, through the spoken word while others, through the written word and all, through their lives. In small or greats ways, simple or grand, you are called to testify."
All the more, the gravity of the call as a writer weighed down upon me.
What if I point them to the wrong direction? Because as I approached the door and asked for the chapel, the man said it was the wrong branch of the bank. There was another one down the road. So I walked further down the road and again, failed to see the sign at the outset, for it was up so high. And when I did, I realized it was still the wrong branch. Finally, a man directed me to a street, two blocks away from where we resided, and there was the chapel, hidden and obscure. Had I followed the google maps and not my instinct, I wouldn't have missed it. But because I turned to the wrong street and different route from what I initially planned using the map, I missed the sign that was only visible from the other route.
Apparently, my gut instinct is not always reliable. I am prone to error.
"People should not believe all that they read, hook line and sinker," my angel said. "It needs to be confirmed and affirmed by another; at least from three sources, if of lesser authority but one will suffice, if of great authority in the given subject. Only then will your content be found reliable and credible. No matter how responsible a writer you are, being human, you are still prone to error and mistakes. It is the responsibility of the reader to seek for the truth. And he who seeks with a pure heart will eventually find the truth."
How Can I Purify My Intentions?
In the past, I have approached writing as a means to make a living.
God rebuked me.
"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. Write not to make a living. Write to give life and make life worth living. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. Do not dilute your works with thoughts of profitability and marketability. I am the Lord, your God. Do not have other gods before me. Do not be afraid to become a voice in the wilderness. Listen to me and announce the good news to my people.
Write not to make a living.
Write to give life and make life worth living.
Do not be concerned about the bread. I can multiply them. Nor the fish. I can feed 5,000. Be concerned about doing My Will. Hypocrisy is the yeast of the Pharisees. They turned the law into their favor. They made the law to suit their base desires. Do not be one of them. Be pure in your motivations. Be honest in your endeavors.
Marketing and promotion are important tools, but there is a more effective way.”
“What is the better way? Please show me, Lord.”
“Market yourself using testimonials of people I've touched and healed and whose lives I've changed through you.
“But I have not achieved that level yet. What else can I do?”
“Answer people's needs. What do they need? Ask them. Engage them.”
What Do People Need That I Can Give?
Last night I had a conversation with a friend. I related to her my story of how I've landed in this writing ministry and how God had unfolded His plan one petal at a time. She had asked, "How long are your blog articles?"
"It varies. The weekly blogs are between 1,000-3,000 words while the devotionals are much shorter, around 400-600 words."
"How do you do that?"
I laughed. "I don't know. If it were just me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Obviously, I receive much help from God. It's exciting and at the same time scary; it's like an adventure."
"I wonder what God's ultimate plan and purpose for me?" she said. "I know I am in the right type of work but somehow, deep within I also know that I am not yet in the right place."
I too wondered.
Many navigate through life without knowing where they're heading. Some have vague ideas. Others, none at all.
Perhaps people want some map or direction on how to navigate this life. Or maybe just a companion so the journey does not become too scary when one gets lost.
Prayer had always been my guide. Yet, I sensed that different types of prayers give different results.
In the past, as a naive Christian, I thought of prayer as a magic lamp where you rub it and the genie, that is God, comes out and asks me what I want and He grants it to me according to His whims.
Now, more and more, I have been asking Him for what He wants. And the more He tells me His wish and I fulfill it, the more I get my heart's desires even without me asking for it.
It's a great mystery.
"Because your prayers can only fly to heaven on the wings of love, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving," my angel said. "Those who approach God with only petitions on their lips will rarely get through the filter of love. Their prayers of supplication uttered in despair, anger, vengeance, pain, and doubt will chain it to the earth. Laden with all the negative emotions, it remains on earth unanswered and never reaches the throne of the Most High. So someone who knows the secret of prayer can aid them in their distress, someone who utters prayers lifted in the spirit of thanksgiving, love, and adoration can penetrate heaven for them. That is where having companions on this journey will benefit the one who is in darkness."
As if in confirmation, I chanced on these words from Psalm 20:4:
"May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose."
And then again in Psalm 37:4
"Take delight in the LORD, and he will grant you your heart’s requests."
"That is where you testify. Share them the map on how to navigate this life. Some may be traveling the same road that you tread, but others may be going in a different direction. It doesn't matter. Like a GPS, prayer is the navigational system that they need. As long as they remain connected to the system, they will not be lost. What they need is your testimony that will assure them that the system is reliable for as long as they know how to use it."
This reminded me of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."
Indeed, I can only speak about things I have personally experienced myself. This makes my message unique—as unique as my DNA.
Unique Writers With Unique Messages.
We are indeed a unique group of people. We have a unique message that only we can deliver. That message stems out of the creative spirit bestowed upon us. Because of our unique background and experiences, NO ONE ELSE can deliver it the way we can. So there is no reason to fear that another writer will steal my work and succeed at it. Nor can I steal someone else's work and deliver the message right. Whatever message it is that we need to decode within us only we can do so. He encoded it in us. These creative ideas need to come out of our consciousness. Most of the time it is during moments of silence, of deep self-awareness, in prayer, meditation, and contemplation that we can fathom it.
Creative Ideas, Guidance and Inspirations.
I recalled that day when I prayed for inspiration for my logo. God used the scripture for the day to answer my prayer:
In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!
I cried in gratitude and thanked God for the logo. It affirmed all my previous inspirations with this powerful symbolism.
The dove represents the Holy Spirit, the Lord God who resides in me and will speak through me. For Noah, the dove was also the bearer of Good News that the water had receded and there is life form on the surface of the earth. It was a symbol of hope. The Lord inspired me to put a pen on the tip of the olive branch to represent writings that give hope.
At that moment I prayed:
"Let me be a bearer of good news, Lord. Let my writings fill me with hope and give people hope. And let the message come from the Holy Spirit."
Since then, I’ve been receiving guidance from Him.
I felt like the deaf and mute man whom Jesus touched in Mark 7:34:
Then He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.
Jesus had been urging me to write in plain and simple terms. I knew the words came from Him because it would evoke a response from the reader for whom He sent it.
Nothing else can be more palatable than His words. It is true. His words are sweet as honey. We keep wanting for more. Only He can satiate our deepest longings. Only He can fulfill our deepest needs.
Where else do we go? He alone has everlasting life. That's what we all end up saying. Truly, once we've caught a glimpse of the happiness found in doing His will, everything else fades into obscurity.
In these moments, I feel deeply grateful and can only say, "Thank You for calling me to become one of Your pens. I hope you find me worthy and not blotting."
"For as long as you give your all, you will be worthy of Him."
"No reservations," my angel confirmed.
When I went to mass and received Jesus in communion, it suddenly hit me, and I cried, "My Lord, You have surrendered to me first and continue to surrender! During communion, You give Yourself, Your all to me. How could I have missed that self-surrender? You deserve nothing less from me, You who gave Your all, who loved me first."
"As long as you surrender your all to Him, He can use you in small and mighty ways," my angel confirmed. "He will give you an endless supply of pure creative ink."
At around this time, two years ago, my husband agreed to give me a sabbatical from my work as a nurse and pursue a writing career.
I finished writing my novel in 3 months and had been editing, submitting, revising, resubmitting, and exploring other venues of publication.
Other writing endeavors spurted and went away. It was not until Lent of this year that my writing career gained clarity and direction.
Two years ago, my husband had some misgivings about the financial impact of our decision to live off on a single income. Yet, after going through our usual discernment process we did it and never regretted the decision.
Now, as I end my two-year sabbatical I've come to a decision.
It's time for another "conference" with my husband before making this final committed step.
In the biochemistry parlance, I've approached the rate-limiting step, the point of no return that would push the enzymatic reaction forward.
It had become clear. God was calling me to this writing ministry.
So I told my husband, "I cannot promise you a definite income, as I hoped a writing career would, but God had reassured us of His provision. I've decided not to go back to the nursing workforce."
He didn't protest at all. In fact, he just said, "Sure."
I knew his confidence stemmed from the fact that he had witnessed God's hand in his promotion. It was clear, when God calls, He provides the necessary grace for us to answer the call.
I've noted a certain pattern in God's ways.
First, there's the call. It comes in many ways, some more dramatic than the others. It may come as an inspiration, an idea, a command, or a desire to respond to a perceived need.
And then there's my response. I'd usually acknowledge the call, say yes, or doubt (which is not unusual, and probably the usual norm) and I offer it back to God to seek for affirmation and confirmation.
He'd affirm or confirm in different ways. And often, these ways would appear like coincidences. Sometimes, God had to confirm not once, or twice but three times.
One confirmation is a sign; two is a warning not to ignore the sign, and three is an omen. If still ignored, the omen becomes a bad omen.
Disquiet and restlessness follow with failure to heed God's call.
For simple calls, one affirmation is enough for a sensitive soul. In more serious calls, God is more generous and showers His affirmations even more than three times.
God speaks through a person, an event, a book, or any means handy to Him to reach out to His beloved.
Once the soul finds the grace and makes plans to execute God's will, events follow that would hasten the decision, smoothen out wrinkles and pave the way for God's will to occur, sometimes in miraculous ways.
On one long weekend holiday, He spoke to me through three movies.
My husband and I had a movie marathon with the kids. We watched The Founder, Hidden Figures and La La Land.
The Founder was initially inspiring but left a bitter taste in my mouth in the end. The Hidden Figures inspired all the way through. La La Land left me thinking. It appeared that success can be achieved without giving up a relationship.
I realized, to lead an inspired life was a choice. There are two endings to the pursuit of my dream as a writer, my work vocation. The one that would lead to real happiness is built on relationships and nurtured relationships. It's a success achieved not at the expense of others, leaving broken relationships behind.
It seemed God was carefully laying down my foundation as a writer.
How Would I Define A Successful Writer?
One thing my husband requested when he realized God's special call for me was this: "Just make sure you don't neglect our home."
What he said affirmed what God seemed to be telling me. And God used him again to spell out His desire. I reassured my husband that his request echoed God's will and I have every intention of obeying it.
Knowing My Priorities
I've come to learn that there are calls requiring more commitment and held greater consequences than the others. Mine were bound by the sacraments I received from my Catholic faith.
Topmost in my priority is the call to be a faithful child of God. I received this Sacred Call through the Sacrament of Baptism and reinforced with the Sacrament of Confirmation, nurtured by the other Sacraments: Reconciliation and Eucharist.
At the ripe age of 21, God called me again. This call required careful discernment and sacred commitment on my part.
I had to ask the crucial question for vocation discernment: Was God leading me to the religious life, the married life or the life of single-blessedness?
Two years into my vocation discernment, in 1994, He answered this question, while I was serving the Jesuit Volunteer Program.
One night, while thinking about this particular young man, a co-volunteer, God asked me this "life-changing" question: "Will you take care of my son?"
It was a very distinct voice and call, louder than His other calls. Until now, it remained vivid in my mind. I said yes and took this young man as my boyfriend.
Three years later, I made a sacred vow to God in the Sacrament of Marriage to unite us with Him for all eternity.
This made my husband second to God on my priority list.
A year and a half later, I, together with my husband would make another Sacred Vow in the Sacrament of Baptism of our first-born child, to raise this child and the children that shall come after her, as a child of God.
This vow sits third on my priority list. Keeping this third priority from creeping into second place was a continual challenge, but practice had made it easier to maintain this priority list.
Now, at 45, God was calling me again this time to a service ministry of writing. The call was not sacramentally binding, yet just as sacred because it supported the first.
Things can get quite tricky with this last call because I could mistake the service ministry as God and put it on top of my priority. If this happens, my work would become my god. I need to understand that God is more than just my work or service ministry.
A Call Within A Call
Recently, I've been reading the book, "Mother Teresa Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the `Saint of Calcutta'". This was how Mother Teresa described her unusual call after years of being a Loreto nun.
A call within a call.
She had made her vow as a religious yet, one day, while on a train ride from a retreat, she heard God call her to leave her religious order and embrace a new life. As a religious, she was married to Jesus. She did not break her vow from Jesus, but only to the congregation that she initially entered, to respond to the new call of her Spouse.
Had she known the huge design of God for the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she eventually founded, she would have faltered. But God revealed His plans slowly and gradually.
Mother Teresa started with one poor man, with one community, with one country and her life of union with God bore many fruits. She became a miracle worker.
God's Hands In My Work
God's call to me as a writer took long to unravel. Even His design for my website did not come all at once. I made do with what little ideas I had at the start. Since then, I had revised it a number of times according to God's inspiration. My landing page had changed three times and is still evolving.
I looked at my old and new designs and noted the difference. Practice had trained my eyes. Prayer had trained my spirit.
How His designs came about followed the same pattern I had outlined above.
Just like the call to write, things were not laid out in its entirety. God seems to know my capacity and does not want to overwhelm me with all the details.
"Had Peter known that the Church he was to lead would spread to all countries in the world, he would have balked. Had Paul known that the churches he was to inspire would be from all over the regions of the earth, his knees would have buckled," my angel spoke.
I smiled. Just like Mother Teresa, the first apostles did not see all of God's grand design. He showed them a little glimpse and shadow here and there, enough to keep them going.
"It shall be the same with you. Don't bite more than you can chew lest you choke. Continue to pray and allow the Spirit to lead and use you. Keep your priorities in order."
I know I had to constantly remind myself of this.
As I end my two-year sabbatical discernment and start my writer's life, I need to keep my priorities straight in accordance to God's will:
Full-time writer comes fourth and last of my other priorities.
I was first a full-time child of God; second, a full-time wife; and third, a full-time mom.
"Keep your priority in that order and your life will be in order," my angel said.
"I HATED RUNNING. Funny that this is the first sentence from my book, "Running the Millionaire Lane," written in August of 2008. I've come a long way. Running has become a habit; my body craves for it.
With writing, it's the opposite. I've always loved it and running made me realize just how much.
So when at one point, I started to hate writing because it disrupted my family life, I knew I had to find the right balance if this were to become my work until I die. I could not inspire if I feel expired. I want an inspired life to follow me to the tomb; for my epitaph to inspire long after I'm dead.
Not many are blessed to leave work and pursue a writing career. I am one of the few, and one of the handful who'd witness it evolve into a writing ministry.
"You lead a favored life. This is the meaning of carrying your God-given yoke, which is light and easy. God's beloved sleeps while the others toil," my angel said.
"Why don't people strive for this kind of life?"
"Because they are afraid to trust God. They think God will make them carry a heavy cross. Little did they know that the cross they're carrying are much heavier and bigger than what God had intended for them to carry. Foolish men!"
"Why are they afraid to relinquish control of their lives when it's just like an endless adventure with God? In dire circumstances, He'd always provides in a timely manner. I only find myself in need when I take control."
"There's always more than enough for those who trust in God," he said. "He provides your daily bread. God has written your purpose in the deepest desires of your heart. The devil tries to camouflage and mask it with impure desires that mimic that of God's to deceive you and lead you astray. But no matter what harm the devil does, God compensates and uses your experiences for His end and your ultimate purpose."
"I don't practice medicine anymore but I feel my past profession merely foreshadowed a different kind of calling as a doctor."
"That's possible. Are you excited to unravel God's wonderful plan and purpose for you?"
"Just be faithful to His daily call. Your consistent `yes' will ultimately lead you to His grand plan."
"Just one day at a time? One step at a time?"
"Yes. Live and enjoy the present moment. Do what moves you to love."
So I picked up my iPhone and had a blast with blog graphic designs using Typorama and Canva.
If this was His call for the moment, I didn't mind at all!
Build Your Platform
The command has been nagging me since Saturday, the Feast Day of John the Baptist.
How apt, I thought. John was the voice that cried out in the wilderness. He spent most of his growing years in the desert with the Essenes, as some believed, until God sent him out to pave the way for Jesus' ministry.
"Proclaim the Good News through your blogs. Market the Lord's kingdom. You are a Christian Copywriter. That is part of your call."
So I turned to Problogger. The time had come to learn from the experts.
I need to use modern tools to reach out to the modern world, in the same way that John the Baptist abandoned his desert life to proclaim Jesus' coming and adapted to the mainstream life. He could not baptize in the desert. He needed water to baptize.
"Roll up your sleeves; time to work, for the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. Learn from them. Make friends for yourselves with wealth of this world and use it to build God's kingdom, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings," Jesus seemed to be telling me.
He gave me the next 30 days to focus and work on my website.
I remembered the parable of the beam and splinter on the eyes. The parable came out of Jesus' experience as a carpenter. Jesus spent 30 years to build His platform; He learned the craft and trade of carpentry. The priest's homily painted a humane image of the young boy, Jesus with His father, Joseph.
"A beam would sit in between them, and they would have a saw with handles on both ends. In a coordinated fashion, they would push and pull, and cut the beam in half. In the process, a splinter may fly into Jesus' eyes, and Joseph would need to set aside the beam to take out the splinter from the young boy's eyes," the priest described.
I realized that Jesus had called His apostles and disciples and talked to them in their language. Peter and Andrew, the fishermen, would become fishers of men.
"You need to learn the language of today's generation if you want to make sense to them."
Marketing tools, social media, SEO optimization, internal and external links, web layout and design—I have to learn these.
Instead of cringing from the task, I grew excited. I like DIYs and learning new things. I used to blog for fun, and now God is telling me this is to become my writing ministry. Oh, wow! I love it. I can do this for the rest of my life.
It's true, His designs match His purpose. This indicates I am on the right track.
I suspected that the roadblock and slow down on my work with the novel were His doing. He was redirecting me to build a platform to market the book, at the same to refine my voice, through the blog site.
"Establish your platform first—meaning the website," my angel had explained.
And so I had resolved to work on the website for the next 30 days.
In my personal experience, mapping God's movement requires a lot of testing the waters of inspiration and trusting in the Inner Voice. He uses these indicators that I am on the right path—peace, love, and happiness. When I am happy with my work, at peace with my pace and love what I do, I know I tread the path of God's Will.
You Can Be Happy Even Amidst Adversity and Trials
But loving my work at the expense of my other responsibilities can bear bad fruit. Balance is needed.
A couple of days ago, I missed Jesus in the Eucharist because I poured my passion into blog cover design; I didn't notice the time. Even though my work stirred my soul, it also made me irritable when my daughter interrupted me. On several occasions, I minced words with my husband; all sorts of annoyances came upon me.
The following morning I looked at the mirror and saw an ugly face with a deep groove above my brow and around my mouth. And I realized, it had been God who made me look young, beautiful, and radiant.
I recalled how badly I behaved the previous day. "I need Your gentleness and meekness, my Lord. Without Your Presence, I'm most wretched and unloving. My tree rots and I bear bad fruit. Infuse Your Spirit in me once again. Come to me so I may feel the sweetness of Your patience and Your gentleness. You are my life."
If this happened to me because I missed one communion with God what were the state of the souls of others who didn't receive Jesus regularly?
And He said, "You need my grace more than the others because of your poor constitution."
I fell in shame. No wonder He calls me daily to His house to receive Him frequently. Otherwise, people around me would suffer much from my wretched nature. Blessed indeed is the Lord who treats each of us differently according to our own constitution and for giving me my daily Bread.
That day, He sent tribulations to show me my wretched state. Disquiet and chaos filled me until Jesus rebuked me.
"Maintain your peace and embrace your suffering; offer it for your numerous intentions. You ask so many things from Me yet refuse to lift a finger to help Me carry your Cross. You're like Simon of Cyrene who just wants to watch Me and had to be pushed into service to help Me carry the cross he deserved."
What an impertinent child I was. I felt ashamed for thinking myself better than others. Now I see how patient my neighbor had borne her sufferings whereas I, favored and spoiled child, am shaken by mere trifles of inconvenience; even thinking, `how have I deserved such misfortune?'
Truly the light reveals all our imperfections. No wonder people love the darkness.
St. Bernard once wrote that to saints and the elect, tribulation incurs patience; patience, experience; and experience, hope. To the proud, tribulation causes discouragement; discouragement, confusion; and confusion, despair. He urged people to overcome evil with good and fix their hopes in God.
My angel added, "You will have trouble daily. It is your daily dose of the cross. If it comes from the devil, your patient suffering and offering will make the trouble leave as fast as it came, for the devil knows he will lose more souls because of your patient endurance and prayerful sacrifice. If it is from the Lord, your patient endurance will bear the fruit of your daily conversion and spiritual growth. You will come out of the trial brighter and more brilliant as gold tested in fire. Remain humble and abiding in God's love and you will bear your troubles in peace and joy."
It came to me that part of my ministry is intercessory. God nourished me in the spirituality of Carmel, a life devoted to prayer and worship, my priestly role. My preaching and prophetic role is just an overflow of my prayer life.
This inspired me to add another section in my website.
The Prayer Requests Section
As though in confirmation, the Gospel today recounted the story of the Centurion. He inspired the words that are recited every day in all the masses throughout the world, on account of his great faith, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed."
And Jesus had said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour, his servant was healed.
The centurion’s strong faith healed his servant. The servant didn’t even do anything.
This is the power of intercessory prayer.
God hears the prayer of the righteous man (Proverbs 15:29). And it was not the Centurion who was righteous, but Jesus, whom he approached.
In the same Gospel passage, the mother-in-law of Peter was healed not because she asked for healing. Jesus chanced upon her lying in bed with fever and healed her.
It came upon me that I could use my relationship with Jesus to benefit the people around me.
Every day, I talk to Him; every day or as often as I can, I take Him in the Eucharist to be united with Him, and He gives Himself to me not just for my own consumption and benefit but for the benefit of the people around me.
I can become His channel of mercy to those who are too weak and too sick to ask for His healing.
In communion with the saints on earth, I can lift up the prayer intentions in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass during the Prayers of the Faithful. Through my communion with the Saints in heaven, I can also ask the intercession of these Great Saints. They are now seated near the throne of God. They can help me pray to God for the relief of the sickness of my friends and their families, whether it is a physical, emotional, spiritual or financial sickness that keeps them from getting up and serving God.
When Peter's mother-in-law was healed of her sickness, she began serving the Lord Jesus, perhaps out of a sense of obligation, or in gratitude for the healing, or simply to serve her son-in-law's Guest or just because she loves Him. No matter what her motive was, she served and waited on the Lord after she was healed.
"And this is how you are to practice your profession as a doctor now. This is your call to practice medicine—you shall obtain healing and give healing through your prayers, works and sacrifices, so Jesus, the Great Physician can heal more effectively and permanently. Your past life is just a foreshadowing of your true call and mission,” my angel said.
“Some people already live their calls and their vocations through their work. But it shall not be with you. Many are called, but few are chosen for this kind of ministry. Some are called to be priests, others prophets, and still others kings, to govern God's people.”
“You shall be judged according to your faithfulness to your call and purpose. Do your work well, and you shall gain the crown meant for you. Sow sparingly, and you shall reap sparingly. There is always time to repent, and everyone is given many chances to pick up the pieces."
"Is God not the Lord of Mercy? He allowed the thief, who was crucified beside Him to enter heaven at the last hour. It will never be too late as long as you still live on earth. Even the pain and agony of your dying moments can be offered as a sacrifice of atonement for your sins and can pay your way to your rightful place. God had already handed the keys to you, but you must pick up and put it in the keyhole to enter heaven. He had given the medicine...but you must take and drink."
"Jesus promised to heal everyone. In fact, He had already healed everyone."
My angel was right.
He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.
He had died once and for all. The medicine is available, but the sick must take it to be healed.
To further affirm the inspiration, I came upon Sr. Faustina's Diary. She recounted the supporting roles of prayer warriors who may not be on the front line of the battlefield like the priests, nuns, preachers, pastors, and missionaries, but who are in the kitchen, the hospital, the homes, doing all sorts of jobs to support the troops out there.
I realize that these hidden roles are just as crucial in God's Church as those other roles directly in the service of the Church. We are the feeders that nourish the Body of Christ. Without the feeders, the Body will become sick, grow ill and even die.
Our domestic lives are those that send priests, nuns, missionaries, and workers to God's Church. It is from our humble homes that God calls His shepherds and faithful sheep. He builds His Church starting in our homes. And if our homes are in disarray and chaos, His Church will be in turmoil.
Your Sanctification is in Your Home
"This is your monastery," my angel said. "Establish truth in your home. Justice sits at the left and mercy at the right. Justice demands that you give what one deserves, but mercy demands more, that you forgive more than one deserves. Govern your home in such a way, and you will live in the Era of the Divine Mercy and enjoy the benefits of its promise:
“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”
“He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Justice demands that you give what one deserves, but mercy demands more, that you forgive more than one deserves.
"God's mercy abounds and overflows from His heart, but people reject and refuse it. You cannot enter heaven on your own merits. It can only be through the merits of the Firstborn Son, Jesus. He has opened the Gates of Heaven, and everyone is invited to come in."
"Happy are you if you find a welcoming banquet on your return home."
"And there lies your happiness, if you use all the tools you have here on earth to pave your way to your rightful place."
So this is the secret to happiness. I smiled.
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