Sunday, January 08, 2017

Finding Joy (Belated Christmas Day Post)

Handmade Christmas card received from Ivan Ho.
Today is the Feast Of The Epiphany, which also marks the end of Christmas. The gospel today is also an interesting one, talking about the quest of Magi where they are on a journey to follow the one and only star, which is the Messiah. You know, I used to not like singing 'We Three Kings' during caroling because I personally find the song quite sorrowful since it's slow and a little bit down haha. But now, I actually liked it a lot and reading the lyrics made me understand so much better about the three wise men and their longing/quest in following that particular star after all these years hahaha. Pope Francis explained it so well on how the Magi represent people like you and me, people who are lost, broken and is out there seeking God. Pope stated that, “Don’t give Jesus only your “spare time” or “some thought occasionally, like the Magi, let us set out, clothing ourselves in light, following the star of Jesus, adoring the Lord with our whole selves.” Couldn't agree more :)

Anyway, I was planning to post something on Christmas day but, I was too caught up with helping out with the wedding stuff when I was back in KK and I just didn't had the time to just sit and write down a proper post. So I guess today will be the day I'm doing it since it's back to reality for me already pffft. I know I do get excited on being able to be home to celebrate Christmas with my family and friends but, I gotta be honest and I know I've blogged about this before in year 2013 & 2014 about finding the joy of Christmas, but the thing is still so hard to find that 'joy' looking at my situation. One of the most important things in finding the joy for Christmas is when you are able to celebrate it with your family, together as a whole unified team. I have not felt like that for many years now and the sad thing is, I always need to find 'joy' out from my very own family. I mean, yes I do love celebrating Christmas with my cousins and best friends but it's a totally different feeling when you can celebrate it with with your own parents and siblings. That particular 'joy' is in my honest opinion, has already long gone. I think I was already holding down my tears the minute my parents came to fetch me at the airport on Christmas Eve. Our family car was in a mess, there was no effort to even make the house look Christmas-y and basically looking at my house situation, I might think it is slowly on the verge of collapsing, I'm not even kidding. I wasn't very happy about it and I was actually quite angry at that time, but the minute my mom said that she has to literally do almost everything by herself, my heart broke into a million pieces.  Not to sound like I'm exaggerating but oh man, I was asking God why am I feeling like this when I am about the to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year?

Longing for that kind of 'joy', I am not even sure when will I get to experience it again. I talked about this to my cousin Merl on Christmas Day, while we were busy hunting for wedding stuff. I guess she and her siblings are probably having a harder time than me because they've lost both their parents and it's definitely hard for them not to think about their parents during Christmas. But what we agreed upon was that, we just have to find joy from each other and I think we are just going to continue doing that in years to come. During the Christmas Eve mass, I was very surprised when the priest said that it was hard for him to feel the joy of Christmas even when the choir was singing the opening hymn about glorifying God to the highest. I was like, "Father, you don't feel the joy too?" But I think it was because of the pressure and stress that he must've felt since he had made a promise to the parishioners that the air conditioner for the Church was supposed to be installed few months back but it wasn't ready yet till now. Well, I don't blame him as I know that he's been doing a lot of things for the Church and also he had to take care of his health, which is more important. But being a good priest he is, even if he personally said that he did not felt the 'joy', he still managed to deliver a good homily that evening stating that Jesus was born for a reason and we should open our hearts and give him a chance to be inside because through him, is where we are able to find the 'joy' that we are looking for. Let Him work within our hearts, all we have to do is never lose faith in Him.

I think that's why Advent is such an important time to give us the time to not only reflect and reconcile but to me, it was like a challenge in finding the faith, hope, joy and peace in what we do, the people we are with as well as our surroundings. Maybe it is difficult for me to find that particular 'joy' that I wanted during Christmas, but I have to always remind myself to constantly be thankful that I am after all still with my family. I can pray for the 'hope' that one day, I will eventually feel the 'joy' of Christmas again. All I need is to continue to have 'faith' in Christ, always be patient in His timing and eventually learn to have 'peace' in my mind and also towards my own family. The true joy will come, in His time. I pray that God will not give up on my family, just yet. I hope you did had a wonderful and Blessed Christmas. Let's look forward to continue our journey to walk along the way of God's mercy and tenderness, as stated by Pope Francis :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Behind the scene of the 2016 Christmas cards

To be really honest, when I was done with the design of my Christmas cards, I was feeling a little bit down and all the negative/over-thinking stuff hits hard on me again. I think one of the main reasons was because of peer pressure that was around me and it clearly led to me thinking I am still not good enough no matter how much I've tried *sigh* Seriously, I might think I am bound with this problem for life and I just don't know how to get over it. I know how 'commercial' looking can my artworks be and obviously my precious little penguins won't win the hearts of Catholics because, to the eyes of the Catholics, Pope Francis is numero uno haha. But it's okay, as long as I have fulfilled my main 'objective', which is to spread joy and holiday cheer to my friends, then I am all good. Always remember to do it all for the glory of God. 🙏  Well, that's easier to say than done but...I'll try.

Anyway,  this is already my 4th year doing this 'Christmas project' and although I've blogged about this Christmas project and posted photos of my WIP before, I never really got into the details on it. So I thought I'd do it this year and bring you the behind the scene or the making of this year's Christmas card. Fyi, I don't claim that I am the best in what I do and I know that some of my students could do better anyway haha...but again, as a self reminder: Do it for the glory of God 😁😁😁  I think there are still people who get the misconceptions of designer/artist and they would probably think that all we do is just draw and design...what's so hard about it right? Well, for a person who have studied in this field, we do put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into producing a good artwork plus, the time and effort that we dedicate into out work is very valuable to us. This is why we can't always give 'special discount' or 'friend's price' especially to our own friends whenever they needed help in doing design stuff. I mean, unless you don't mind a shitty design then I guess it is okay?  For my case, it's an exception because it's Christmas season and it is also a time for giving so here I am doing an one woman army job, from painting to printing and all the way to sending out the Christmas cards. So here goes~

1. Sketch out your ideas
Always start with sketches to generate your ideas. Even though we are living in the era of modern technology where Google and Pinterest are always available for us to look for ideas, I still love doing the old-skool way, which is to sketch. This method has been instilled to me way back in my college days and have been continuing to do this even when I am studying my MA. Sketch as many ideas that you have, although in the example b example below doesn't seem to have much lol. Mind you, these sketches were done while my students were doing their assignment in the computer lab and I had extra time to spare :) The ones with the Christmas carol lyrics was also part of the plan but alas it didn't made the cut 'cos it might take a longer time to finish it since I am still in the learning process of watercolour lettering so...I'll save it for next year.

2. Execute your idea
The next step is of course to do the execution once you've confirmed with your idea. Actually, this year's Christmas card is similar to the owl and cat illustrations that I've done previously...but the reason being was because I wanted to make it into a series so I can sell it as a set next time. This second step is actually my favourite part because I get to paint! Sometimes I get worries that I might screw up my painting and had to redo everything all over again, but these things is inevitable during the process so the key is to try and be careful while you paint especially if you're left-handed! So, being a certified night owl, I normally would start painting at night till...late. The earliest would probably be around 10pm and the latest is at midnight. I know it is not a great lifestyle to practice at my age, but I's like I am very immune to start my work late at night because I felt it is easier for me to focus. Maybe it's also because it is more quiet during this hour, hence I can put my heart and soul into my work (okay, this is not exactly true haha 😂 ) What's the ideal time for me to stop and go to bed? Well, it really depends...but I try not to go overboard so it's usually around 2-3am. The next day will be hell at work due to the lack of sleep again but like I've said, I'm so immune to this so it is already a norm to me.

The raw and unedited outcome, before it is transferred to Photoshop

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The low key Birthday

I've mentioned about this on my last birthday post that, the more older you get, Birthdays would just feel like any other ordinary day and this year, I am experiencing the same thing as well. Maybe it is also because I don't exactly fancy big celebration and also the fact that non of my family members are even here to celebrate it with me totally turned out to be just another ordinary day. When it becomes ordinary, you can't really expect much...maybe the one person that you thought or want to get a Birthday wish from probably won't even remember it was your day just have to be okay with that and move on. Once again, I'm taking this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone for their wishes...a lot comes from social media because that's how we live these days haha. I'm grateful to have friends who genuinely loves to host people coming to their house to have a feast, I am grateful for my BFF who calls me every year to personally wish me and updating each other with the Korean drama that we are currently watching (this year, it is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo), also I am very grateful to receive a call from my dad because he never calls me at all! And to know that he actually remembers my birthday surprised me a lot 😭

I am also going to be forever grateful to share the same birthday as the blessed Holy Father, Pope Francis because although he is THE POPE, he also celebrated his birthday in a  low-key style, without any grand or big celebration but instead, he chose to have breakfast with the homeless people in Vatican. His true humility shows how important it is think about the others and to give whenever we can even if it is a day to celebrate our birthday. We always hear people say "Another year older, another year wiser." As cliche as it sounds. I do hope that I can practice to be more wiser too in a lot of aspects in my life. The more wisdom that we can get, tho more fruitful our life can be. Pope Francis mentioned this during his birthday. "Old age sounds ugly, and cause fear. But old age yearns for wisdom." So in turning 32 years old this year, I pray that I will continue to learn and have more wisdom and also to constantly look/spread joy in whatever I do or wherever I am. Thank you and God bless everyone.

"Old age is quiet and religious, but also fruitful. Pray that mine will be that way, quiet and religious, fruitful and also joyous." 
 ⎯ Pope Francis

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent 2016

This week marks the first week of Advent. As I said it before, it is a time to calm ourselves down, take a step back and wait for the coming. Last week during Sunday mass, the priest mentioned that we should "Keep calm and wait" I thought it was definitely a good time to do as we countdown till Christmas. To be honest, I'm not really sure if I've "reflected" enough since this year, there wasn't any super happening stuff that has happened except to have finally done with my studies...well, that was quite a milestone heh. Actually, I am glad that my studies ended around mid August because I could do more other things during the remaining months and not feel too stressed out over assignments. Although, on contrary I wouldn't say I've been that productive cos if I did, I would probably update this blog more regularly...but I didn't lol.

As always, I felt like I have soooo many things to say, so many things to update but it seems like I just can't put my mind into words? Or maybe I just prefer to talk about it verbally instead of typing it out. Just glancing through on what I've done this year, I think that I *did* regain back my spiritual life, although it is still a slow progress but I personally felt more stronger spiritually. Part of the reason was because I've started to join the weekly Working Adult Ministry cell group where I am surrounded by people with the same faith. It is still something totally new to me and also something that is out of my comfort zone but I guess, it is all well-planned by God cos the minute I'm done with my studies, I participated in the camp and then started joining the cell group, not forgetting to also being assigned to help out with STM's Church annual dinner deco. Maybe it is a sign that God wanted to do and grow more in his faith. So yeah, I know this year I didn't really get the chance to do much...half of the year was dedicated fully to my studies and I  didn't even get the chance to travel anywhere... expect to Port Dickson lol...BUT at least I've gained something else, new friendships, discovering more on my own faith and also strengthen myself spiritually... like I said, it is still a very slow progress, but as I type this and reflect, I think God has opened my heart to be more willing and not to be afraid of taking risks (actually, I still am hahahah)

So during this time of Advent, I would also want to continue in keeping my faith strong, to take time to pray more and not forgetting to reflect daily through the word of God. I know I am always very excited about Christmas...all the decos, carols, gifts, etc but it is really also about us having the quiet time with God, to pray and stay calm as we await for the arrival of our King.

P/S: I just discovered that every year during Advent, I will post something about 'time for reflection' lol. But hey, it is a good reminder right? This post from 2013 was one of my favourites. Read it here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Follow Me Camp

During the Malaysia Day public holiday last month, I attended a 3D2N Church camp organised by STM Lifeline at Marist Brothers Champagnat Youth Centre, Port Dickson. I realised that 5 years ago, I was also in Port Dickson attending a Church camp as well and now, I am back in PD for another one. This camp actually came just at the right time and also when I felt that I finally can have the time to sit and talk/pray to God one on one, just me and Him. I know...again I just wanna say that I am not gonna be the 'holier-than-thou' person for writing this...I just thought that I'd share my experience throughout this camp and also as a personal reflection so that I can/may read again in the future. I was invited to go for this camp by my friend Ivan (I'm sure you know who he is if you've been reading my blog lol) and to be honest, I didn't put a lot of thought about it but instead, I just said yes and ended up registering for this camp. But back in my mind, I always have this 'worry' whether I am able to be comfortable in an environment where I have to meet new people...I mean I can't help it, sometimes I just felt awkward being around with new people and social skills level isn't the best. I think I've written a couple of posts on how awkward I feel when I need to meet new people. Imagine my surprise when I was told that I am going to follow the Church van to PD instead of taking the bus like everyone else on the day of the camp. I was thinking, "Oh man...I am gonna be separated from my friend and gonna sit with all these new people?" Not that I am clingy or sticky towards my friend but I just find it to be comfortable to have someone that I know well sitting beside me.

I know you'd probably be thinking...grow the eff up you 30 year old lady hahah but I am just still working on my 'social anxiety' okay and in my defence, I do think I've made big improvements over the years. I attended the Alpha course all by myself last year without knowing anyone there and I survived :) Anyway, the ride to PD was actually alright...met and had little conversations with all the new people and even met a fellow Sabahan girl who's also from KK and thought that I have sisters studying in SFC because she heard about my surname before. The said 'sisters' are actually my nieces and also my next door neighbours back home and they're like the remaining ones who are sharing the same surname as me :) Alright, I shall not continue this grandmother story but to just go straight to the point. I am going to share my experience based on this new term that I've learned during the camp called 'JJJ'. I have no clue what does that triple J meant when I first heard about it and initially I thought it was 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus'...I mean, I didn't go the the Krakow Worth Youth Day, so I thought it was really something only the people who went to Krakow knew about, you know like their secret code or something haha. But then, I was given an explanation about it and finally understood what it meant. So here goes:

1) Joy moment
I could think of several joy moments in this camp...actually the 3 whole days of camp did gave me joy. The first thing was, being able to get away from the city life even if it was just for 3 days was so so good and finally being able to feel the beach breeze just totally calms my mind.  The past months, as you know was crazy hectic for me and everyday I've been on this repetitive routine that eventually makes me feel like I am on an autopilot mode everyday. So when my hectic days were finally over, I got so not used to it, like what am I going to do when I don't need to stay late in the office anymore? So I guess just being away from the same damn routine and just to be able to be somewhere out of the city life was really something that I needed. We didn't get the chance to have a lot of beach time though but I did had fun during the game session although I was really embarrassed when I had to be carried by a guy who definitely weigh less than me! My weight issue is truly another thing that I hate to talk about but sometimes I have no choice to accept the fact that I am a plus size person, even all the zumba classes and gym time doesn't exactly make any difference haha.

Another joy moment would definitely be meeting these bunch of new people for the first time. Like I said, I was worried things could get awkward but it turned out to be okay. I met these Sabahan girls who were also from KK and instantly felt like we can vibe so well haha. Met a lot of young youths who are all mostly college students and you know what, it was actually interesting to learn about the field that they are studying because they're all different and I was also glad that these young youths are so open and friendly to talk to. Oh, I also should mention that one of my student was there too...well, technically she was my ex-student cos I don't teach her class anymore but yeah, it wasn't awkward at all to see her there haha. I remembered she was the only one who sincerely said thank you to me during the last day of class so I will always remember her kind words :)

The last night of camp, the lights were supposed to be out by midnight but knowing me the ultimate night owl lol, I didn't want to go to bed early so I stayed up to continue writing affirmation notes with a few bunch of people down at the hall. I ended up talking with people I didn't had the chance to talk much with during the camp and it was really a nice feeling :) There's this girl, Diana who is super funny and friendly...she practically entertained all of us while we were all busy writing the notes. I did shared about this joy moment during lunch the next day and to be honest, it was something that I actually never expected to know meeting new people and actually truly felt good about it haha. Compared to the two Church camps I've attended before, I think my social skill is so much better in this current Church camp and I am very thankful for that.

2) Jesus moment
A lot of the Jesus moments actually came from the sharing by Fr. James and Fr. Iwao, who were specially flown from the Philippines as guest speakers for this camp. Fr. James is Scottish while Fr. Iwao is Japanese and both of them work as missionaries in Philippines. I'm impressed hearing their life stories because both of them actually had a pretty good life back in their countries, with good family, education and well paying jobs but decided to take the plunge to give it all up and be missionaries instead. It definitely took a lot of guts to change your paths 360 degrees, but it showed how faith has been put truly upon God and letting Him plan where He wants you to be...and what we'll do is to go and follow Him. Similar to the two camps I've attended, the topics discussed were also things that again, giving me constant reminders and to learn and apply it in my daily lives. Things like to always be thankful...although I do say thank you all the time when I pray especially when I am attending Sunday mass but you know how life is, sometimes I'll end up wishing I had more of this and that...I mean we're humans and it always seems like we always can't get enough of wanting things. Sad reality, but it is true. This had happened to me so many times, I kid you not. Seeing my friends having the chance to travel to different places and putting it on social media and there I was trying to strategize my time so I could finish my assignments and work before the deadline. Things like this can sometimes make me feel really shitty about myself but when I really think about it, am I not supposed to feel content with how my life is now? Cos I am sure there are other people who probably are not as lucky as me but yet, they don't let it affect them that much.

Sometimes, simple things like being thankful or finding joy in ourselves can be one of the hardest things to do because even I am struggling with this. So, I really liked how Fr. James are talking about these topics during the camp as it is very on point and applies well to everyone. One of the sharings by Fr. Iwao that I liked was also when he was talking about 'Aiming High'. It is when we fully put our faith in God and by keeping Him by our side then we are able to be clear with our direction. This is also something that I feel like I need to work on because to be honest, I am not exactly a big risk-taker person and it felt like whatever I've done in the past even until now has always been 'safe'. It felt like I am too afraid to just  leave it to God for once, although I do know that I should let God do his job and not be skeptical with his powers haha...but yeah, I have no idea why am I not daring enough to fully out my trust to God. I've seen my friend who's facing so many obstacles throughout the years and yet, he doesn't seem to be that worried...or maybe he is but he just didn't want to show it out. All I know is, he does leave it to God when the going gets tough and eventually, things will come in place.  Fr. Iwao mentioned that, "Have God's same mind, same feelings and same way of loving. To follow Jesus is to widen our horizon." That was indeed a very good point. If we are able to practice having the same values as Jesus, I am sure our horizon will be as wide as the pacific ocean. Really trying to work on this and I don't think I will see a definite result yet but I'll continue praying, that's for sure.

The adoration during the night was also where I had my Jesus moment because I knew that I needed a one on one moment with Him and thankfully I managed to spare that time to do that. Almost all their 'thank yous' to Jesus and unfortunately, I didn't say it out cos...I don't know if my thank you would be as good as theirs haha...oh man, I need to freakin' stop with all the overthinking! Actually, I wanted to say thank you for the constant guidance and protection. I just didn't managed to say it out loud...sigh. On the second last day, I also managed to finally go for confession after having missed so many (yes, I do feel guilty about it) and what Fr. James had adviced me was to also learn to be thankful and look for joy instead of trying to compare with others. It might be a very advice but, it definitely spoke to me so much. People who knew me really well would also know that my never-ending battle with my self-esteem hence I always tend to be envious on other people and that's just plain bad. I think these issues are like the MOST hardest one that I have to deal with because it is an everyday battle, a battle that is so much harder than my Masters Study to be honest. To look beyond being envious is also something that I truly need to work on...I have no idea how people like Pope Francis or Mother Teresa can have so much compassion and love to people that there's probably no single trace of envy that can be found in them. I think one of the best way is to constantly pray.

3) Junk moment
There wasn't exacly any junk moment during the camp except for Digi's reception is kinda sucky so I couldn't go online most of the time but maybe it is a sign cos I can be too dependant on my phone just to check on social media which isn't exactly a good thing but I guess, it was a sign for me to lay low with my phone and focus on the main purpose of the camp instead. Kinda wished the blanket that we were given to use can be a little thicker too cos I know some of the girls in my dorm are practically freezing their ass off while sleeping at night. But so far, the venue was good, clean and well-maintained. Oh, I also did kinda wished that the lights didn't have to go off at midnight so there would be more fellowship but I guess the only time we are able to talk more with others are during the meal time.

So the question is, have I changed after this camp? Well, the answer is probably not BUT it does helped me to see and understand things more clearly and also to be able to sort of put 'things in persepctive'. Like I've said, just because I attended this camp it doesn't mean that I am now a holier person or anything,  I do know that I will end up sinning doubt about that but what made me think about was how and what can I do to contribute more expecially for the Church. The last session shared by Fr. James was about mission and how by having/doing missions can provide stability spiritually. This indeed relates to what Pope Francis has been doing for the past year when he launched the Jubilee of Mercy. It was his mission to show and provide God's mercy to the people which is why he has been visiting so many places, preaching the good news and not forgetting all his wise words, guiding and loving them in the same way as God. When I was discussing with my group about mission, we did agreed that even if we can't do big missions yet, we can always start small. Of course, there are people who can be all gung-ho and can do the mission immediately but I guess everyone do have their ways and time for this, as long as you are following the right path. Maybe some missions are not big yet but maybe eventually, it could turn out to be a lifelong mission. As quoted from Mother Teresa, "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love." That's what important too...applying love in what you do. As for now, I am also starting to take small steps...I recently decided to join this working adult ministry or the easiest way to translate is 'cell group' that meets every Thursday for fellowship and also worship/spiritual sharing. I decided to give it a go because I also wanted to be in a Catholic community and of course to also meet new people. It is something that I felt so concious/awkward about but so far it has been okay. I only started going two weeks ago actually haha so I am still super new on this. Then gradually and hopefully will contribute more in the Church maybe?

Continuing to do good and also providing support to my friends and family is also a mission right? So, this I definitely will also continue to do also not forgetting, I also wish that I can contribute something through my art too. Is sending out Christmas cards consider a mission too? Cos I am definitely gonna do that in December haha. Anyway, I did received nice affirmation notes from the camp participants and I really appreciate it! I am so not used to people giving me compliments or affirmation but I am thankful for all the nice notes :)

The aftermath of this camp...I actually had a long talk with my friend and poured out all the stuff that I have been keeping for a while and it didn't turned out good, cos after that I just realised I've done some mistakes and all I can say is, I am sorry. Maybe you won't agree with my opinions but it's alright, I hope everything's still good. Writing this post took me days, I felt like I really have to re-evaluate myself in alot of things lol but this camp really did come at the right time and I did learned a lot from it, even if it was only 3 days. To have faith, to believe, to pray and to follow God's path is what we always should and apply in our daily lives.

“These are the two conditions in order to follow Jesus, hear the word of God and put it into practice. This is the Christian life, nothing more." 
- Pope Francis