Quiet Strength – The Freedom to be Myself

quiet strength

The first time I believed with utter conviction that it was ok to be myself- completely myself – I was slurping spicy ramyun at the Filipino/Korean cafe below the tattoo shop where I got my first tattoo. The aroma of kimchi and fish sauce lingered in the humid twilight air. Cheesy elevator music blared from the SM mall up the street and snippets of Tagalog conversations ebbed and flowed from passing pedestrians. My wrist seared with pain but my heart was ablaze with triumph. I had a tattoo.

All my life I had been categorized as the “shy one.”

“She’s so quiet in class,” teachers would tell my mom, concerned at my inability to chatter away incessantly like all the other girls.

“You’re so quiet,” friends who didn’t know me well would blurt out, as if being quiet was the ultimate insult.

“Why don’t you like to talk about yourself?” people would ask. “We never know what you’re thinking.”

Why do you like to talk SO MUCH about yourself? I’d think in return.


quiet strength mountains


During my time in the Philippines, I spent many quiet evenings drifting gently back and forth in my hammock, gazing at a mass of mountains upon mountains in the distance. Sometimes the rain came, pounding on the corrugated metal roofs, trickling off banana leaves, dense misty fog slipping through the valleys like a chiffon veil. And yet, the mountains stood tranquil as ever, a still, black silhouette amidst a frenzy of rain showers.

Sometimes the sunny clouds came, bright white puffs that carried with them the essence of the ocean. Calm, powerful, vast and swirling, those gentle pillowy formations stretched for miles, engulfing all but the tips of my mountains upon mountains. And yet, those peaks stood tall and defiant; not to be overshadowed, even by floating snatches of heaven.

Sometimes the sun dipped lower and lower in a lazy decent, and the sky was filled with brilliant gold and pink patterns, trumpeting loud cries of sunset glory. And yet, without the dark contrast of the familiar mountain outlines, a twilight sky was nothing but a twilight sky.


All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other
– Only the mountain and I.

               ~ Li Po


Those mountains became my resting place, a source of comfort for all that they represented – silence, tranquility, peace, strength. I was mesmerized by their beauty, taken by their stature and stance; I felt pride and assurance that I too was like them. I reveled in silence, I basked in peace, I drew energy from tranquility, and I emitted strength – a quiet strength, not unlike the mountains I so much admired.

It was then that I decided that quiet was ok. See how the mountains stand dignified and strong? I told myself. I am like that. My strength came from my calm and quiet nature. I liked quiet; I liked me.

I sketched out an ambiguous idea and let it slowly percolate and transform through the next few months. Arranging and rearranging, drawing and scribbling, my sketch began to materialize into what I had envisioned.

A simple outline of the mountains represented strength. Underneath, inscribed in ancient Tagalog script Alibata, was the word tahimik – Tagalog for “quiet.” Quiet Strength. That was me to the core.


Tahimik – Tagalog for “quiet”


be yourself

I liked that no one could read the Alibata writing.

“I like your tattoo,” people would say, “but what does it mean?”

And then I would proudly explain my story; I would explain who I was.

It wasn’t getting a tattoo that made me someone special. Anyone can get a tattoo but it doesn’t change who you are. It was my acceptance of who I was; the pride and joy I felt at being the unique person God made me to be. No longer did I find the need to be someone that others thought I should be. I simply wanted to be the person I thought I should be.


“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”

~ Maya Angelou


Every day I continue to walk the path of discovery of who I am and what God is calling me to do. When I stay true to my core self and what I know to be my own strengths, I am continually surprised with how much joy and freedom comes with just being completely me.

And I like that. I like me.


Yours truly,
a girl who dreams


5 Ways to Trust in God (and Really Mean it)

bahala na

In Filipino culture, we have a saying, Bahala na, meaning, “it’s up to God.” When you encounter a situation in which you no longer have control, you shrug your shoulders, shake your head, and sigh a great, “Bahala na!” It’s up to God now!

It’s a great expression and one that I find myself using when I become so frustrated at life, or upset when things aren’t going my way. It helps me take a step back and realize that God is ultimately the one in control. Trusting in God does not mean you are confident God will bring about YOUR plan, it is about trusting that God HAS a plan and that it is wonderful (even if you don’t know it yet).

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~ Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah 29-11

That sounds great! But how does one really, “put trust in God” completely? Sometimes it might mean holding on, persevering through. Yet, other times it might mean letting go, giving something up. Often, we might think we are putting our trust in God but then still feel guided solely by our anxiety and fears.

What does it look like, exactly, to put trust in God completely? As a human being with limitations and fears that hold me back, I cannot answer that question fully. What I can offer are a few suggestions on what I’ve found helpful in developing more trust in God.

I don’t want to just say, “bahala na.” I want to really mean it.


how to trust god

5 Ways to trust in God (and really mean it):

1. Give Thanks

What makes your life beautiful? Who brings beauty to your life?

November is the typical time of year where everybody takes the time to remember the things they are grateful for. Cue warm fuzzy feelings. Imagine if you could do that every day, not just the holiday season. Filling your soul with a sense of gratitude and appreciation helps you to recognize the blessings you have and how God has been working in your life, even when you might not have realized it at first. Capture those moments and bask in the glow.

give thanks

2. Look Backwards

I have struggled at times with my faith and my relationship with God. I have even wrestled with belief and the existence of God. But when I look back on the events that have played out in my life, I can see how God has been a guiding hand through everything. Ever noticed the love of an elderly couple that has grown through the longevity of the relationship? When they both look back on their life shared together they can see how each supported and was supported, and it provides a deeper sense of appreciation and love for the other person. Looking back on my relationship with God is like that. It is only when I recognize how God has been moving my life in challenging but growth-filled ways I can understand the magnitude of God’s love. On days when I begin to doubt the presence of God working in my life, I look back at the ways God has brought me to where I am today and I find comfort in what I see.

3. Pray Hard

When you need a good heart-to-heart conversation or are seeking advice about a personal issue, who do you call first? A random friend on facebook that you met once? Of course not! Your call your closest, most trusted friends. And why is that? Because you have gradually built a strong relationship with them over the years and your level of trust has grown. Why wouldn’t it be the same with God? You can’t expect to give your complete trust in God when you have not even begun to develop a relationship with God. Trust then, is not something you do, but rather a result of a deep rooted faith in God and a relationship that has grown stronger over time.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

rooted tree

4. Work Hard

To some, the Filipino expression, Bahala na, takes on a negative connotation. The criticism is that the expression signifies one of laziness or apathy – an excuse to not do anything because “God is already in control.” Instead of working to change a situation for the better or finding a positive solution, the best thing is just to resign a “bahala na,” and not do anything at all. If God wanted the situation to change, God would make something happen to change it, right?

But real faith is not apathetic. While some might live life with that mentality, a majority of people express trust in God because they wholeheartedly believe in the mysterious workings of God. Trusting in God does not signify laziness nor does it mean you are calling it quits. It also doesn’t always mean sitting still. God can’t work in your life unless you are working hard in your life to do your absolute best. If you have talent, use it. If you have been given opportunities you were seeking, take them.

“If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

~ Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily 2013

5. Play Hard

Remember to relax and enjoy life too. Trusting in God doesn’t mean you live life with sombre faces. Find joy in laughter. Appreciate the genuineness of a friendship. Seek out the presence of a beloved a family member. Take inspiration from nature and enjoy the beauty of creation that God gave us.

Accepting that you can’t always control everything in your life is a good thing. Sometimes you do need to just sit still and let God work in your life.


Appreciate blessings, recognize how God has been working in your life, build your relationship stronger, work to the best of your ability, and don’t forget to enjoy the gifts God has given you. Have patience that God’s awesome plan for you will be revealed slowly over time.

Bahala na!


Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

This article was originally posted in the Words of Witness Blog


Does God Really Speak to Us?

Image attributed to Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/i-love-lucy-anniversary-2013_n_4098323.html (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Image attributed to Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/i-love-lucy-anniversary-2013_n_4098323.html (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Does God Really Speak to Us? – Listening for the Small Voice of God

During the lazy summers of childhood bliss, I enveloped myself in books, sprinklers, riding bikes, and watching I Love Lucy reruns everyday at noon. In one particular episode, I remember how Lucy decides to run a grocery buying business from her kitchen, charging everything to her grocery account and pocketing the cash she receives from the customers she buys groceries for. Ricky mistakenly believes she is buying stocks in the actual stock market and when confronted, Lucy lies and attributes her “investment knowledge” to the “small voice” in her head who speaks to her and gives her stock tips.

Ricky: Now honey, tell me something. Where did you get this power you have? Is it some kind of sixth sense?

Lucy: Yeah, yeah that’s it. Some kind of sixth sense. I found out that if I just stand still and listen, a little voice tells me what to buy.

Ricky: Little voice eh?

Lucy: Yeah, and yesterday it said, “Buy Canadian Allied…”

Ricky: Petroleum?

Lucy: Petroleum…yeah.

Ricky: How about that!

god's voice

Does God Really Speak to Us?

Does God “speak” to us? Have you ever heard the voice of God coming straight from heaven?

“Ahem…Hello (insert your name here). This is God speaking. Yes, it’s me God and I need to tell you something immediately.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? But hearing God speak is not what we expect. It’s certainly not easy. We want the dramatic bolt of lightning, the neon flashing sign, the loud and trembling voice from above that tells us exactly what to do.

“God, please. Just send me a SIGN!”

But God is not a God of easy answers. If every choice was obvious, how would we ever be challenged and grow deeper in faith and trust? God is a God of surprises and intrigue. God draws us closer with mystery, inviting us to search deeper for answers that satisfy and fill us. In fact, we can hear more through the small whisper of silence than we can from a giant sign or lightening bolt. Let’s take a look at how Elijah encounters God in the first book of Kings:

“Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?…” ~ 1Kings 19:11-13

Violent wind, earthquakes, and fire and still God is not present. It is only until Elijah hears that quiet soft sound that he knows God is present. Ok…so we get it. God speaks to us through the small voice in the most silent of silences. But what does that mean exactly? How do we hear that voice?

Sometimes, nonreligious friends have looked askance at me when I say things like, “I felt God tell me that.” Or, “I feel God is calling me to do this.” I can hear the inquiring thoughts in their head as they wonder (with good cause) how I really “hear the voice of God.” It is difficult to fathom how you can hear the voice of God without actually hearing a real live voice.

Listening to the small voice of God sometimes feels like I’m straining to hear through the fuzz of TV white noise. It sounds like it might be there, but I don’t always know what God is trying to tell me. And that’s where prayer comes in. LOTS of it.


“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

God's voice in quiet prayer

There have been times in my life when I could very clearly hear messages from God about what I needed to do in that moment of my life. Surprisingly though, those moments came through the most random ways. I’d be praying and reflecting on a particular situation, and each time I allowed myself to open up and trust that God’s answer would come, I’d receive a confirmation through something that seemed so perfectly addressed to me. Have you ever felt that a homily was written specifically for you alone? I have.

I believe that God works through the world that he created and speaks to us through creation, through other people, through the small moments and snatches of our ordinary lives. Although God speaks through the smallest voice, if we are sensitive, aware and receptive of hearing that voice, I find that we can hear him everywhere. I hear God speaking to me through the words of a friend, through scripture and the Mass, through that conveniently placed quote painted on the wall of a coffee shop, or through the random words of an extra friendly stranger. When I watch the sunset over a San Diego skyline and I feel at peace with a decision I had just made, I hear God speaking to me through that. God works in mysterious ways and we can find answers to our hard questions in unexpected encounters.

sunset god's voice

Just remember that without prayer and spiritual reflection, nothing will make sense. You might even be bombarded with conflicting messages and confusing thoughts if you do not allow yourself the time and space to just be with God and to listen. It is only through the silence you can begin to finally hear that soft spoken voice.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” ~ Psalm 46:10

Allow yourself to develop a constant alertness and awareness of God at all times and you will begin to hear God speaking to you through the most interesting ways.
How has God spoken to you lately?
Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

This article was originally posted on the Words of Witness Blog. Check it out for more articles on Faith and Spirituality!

Am I Good Enough?

am i good enough

I used to have a guitar student who could play a mean improv rock solo. His fingers slid up and down the fretboard, masterfully plucking out a melody that always evoked a few dropped jaws and a whole lot of awestruck stares from onlookers. He’d then finish abruptly as if suddenly self conscious about his playing and look up at me with his intense brown eyes, silently asking for confirmation. “Had I done a good job?” his eyes asked me in that brief flicker of a moment.

“Am I good enough?”

Despite how successful or talented we are, all of us have struggled with the feelings of inadequacy – not doing enough, giving enough, praying enough, not talented enough, beautiful enough, likable enough.

Our yearning to aspire for greatness, to better ourselves, and achieve our dreams and goals in life can sometimes bring us to the brink of a large canyon we find we are unable to leap over. Our ambition suddenly transforms into weakness, incompetence, inadequacy. We find ourselves lacking and our hearts ache with that realization. On days like that, we allow our minds to swarm with distorted ideas and beliefs of the measure of our abilities.

“I will never be good enough to do that.”

“I’m not pretty enough for a guy to like me.”

“I’m out of her league.”

“I’m not smart enough to apply to the school I want to.”

“I don’t have enough experience to get that job.”

“I don’t have the guts to do that.”

“I haven’t gotten to where I expected to be in life.”

These feelings of not being good enough can stem from outside influences – societal pressures, family expectations, comments from friends, even strangers – but most often, they come from within. We constantly compare ourselves to others. We fall short of our own expectations. We focus on what we haven’t done; we allow our failures to define us. We look over at the next person and think, “I’m not like them. Look how amazing and successful they are. Why can I not be more like them?”


Enough, friends. Enough.


The fact is, you are not like that person because you are not that person. You are YOU. You have different strengths and talents that were meant to be used by you alone. You are a child of God and you exist for a very specific reason. You were made in God’s image; you were created by the same artist who painted golden sunsets and fashioned delicate flower petals. You are God’s beloved.

sunset god's beloved

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ~ Jeremiah 1:5

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” ~ Psalms 139:13-14

god's beloved

Don’t allow yourself to accept the idea that you are not good enough, for you have been carefully crafted into the person you are. God will continue to lead you to discover more about who you were meant to be and the path God is calling you towards. One of my favorite books, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, written by Fr. James Martin, speaks of vocation and discernment in life. Who are we called to be? Where is God leading us? How do we use our strengths and abilities to express God’s love and live in a more engaged and fulfilling way? Fr. James explains it simply:

“Each of us is called to a unique vocation in life, based on the desires that God plants within us, as well as our talents skills, and personalities…That means letting go of the wish to become someone else and remembering that your own vocation – not someone else’s – is the path to happiness. You don’t need to use anyone else’s map to heaven, because God has already placed within your soul all the directions you need.”

When we start focusing on what we know to be true to our self and our own unique strengths, we instill in ourselves the power to move with forward momentum. Despite our human limitations and weaknesses, we have the capability to persevere and triumph over our personal obstacles and challenges. No matter how inadequate we may feel at times, God is our cheerleader, inviting us to see just how wonderfully made and delightful a person we have grown to be. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of focusing on what we can do in the moment, to do our best with whatever we have and to not be afraid to use the gifts we’ve been given.

you are loved

What if I don’t know what my strengths are? What if I’m not talented at anything?

If you don’t know your own strengths and limitations, now is the perfect time to do a little personal reflection. Maybe go on a retreat, ask your friends and family for feedback, or spend some time alone to discover what is truly unique about YOU. If you think you are not talented at anything, YOU ARE WRONG. Everyone has gifts and talents and it is our life goal to discover and utilize those gifts.

“A rough and unshapen log has no idea that it can be made into a statue that will be considered a masterpiece, but the carver sees what can be done with it. So many…do not understand that God can mold them into saints, until they put themselves into the hands of that almighty Artisan.” ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ultimately, when we stop comparing ourselves to others and start focusing on what God is calling us to, we refuse to be defined by others’ standards of success. Understanding and following the path God is calling each of us towards brings us to a more satisfying and fulfilling way of living. God knows exactly what we can excel best at and calls us to use those strengths. Start with what you know, build on your strengths, strive for what makes you feel alive, and let God do the rest.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson


My friends, you are God’s beloved. You are more than good enough.


Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

**This article was originally posted on the Words of Witness Blog.