After 13 years away, I recently moved back to Los Angeles, the city of my birth and childhood. I do love this city -- a metropolis with diverse communities, good food, and pleasant weather. But, it's also where I oftentimes felt trapped by parental, cultural, and societal expectations. For me, L.A. meant constant pressure to perform and to meet or exceed standards. I never felt I had my own identity or that I could be accepted as I am. Don't get me wrong: I love and appreciate my parents and all the sacrifices they made as Filipino immigrants to this country. But, at the same time, all those years ago, I couldn’t wait to get away from this city and to break free from the dreams my family created for me.
Moving back to L.A. is a huge transition for me. Returning here means coming to terms with my father's passing from cancer more than a year and a half ago. I miss him. I know he loved me, and I pray he rests in God's peace, mercy, and love. Coming home means I feel I'm strong enough to accompany my Mom as she adjusts to life without Dad and I'm confident enough to discern God's dream for my life. This new chapter means I am trusting God that I made the right decision to leave a comfortable life, loving friends, and a supportive community in Sacramento for a new job, more traffic, and the hectic pace of LA.
Despite the busy-ness of moving and the return to a big city, I have found a tremendous amount of peace. Yes, I still catch myself freaking out about some logistical issue, such as doubting whether my Sacramento cable service really was cancelled or whether my mail will ever be forwarded. But, here are three ways I've discovered everything will be fine, and I am not alone:
The Quiet Moments
In quiet reflection during the early morning hours or in the stillness of Sunday mass, I find my heart filling with gratitude for the blessings of my life...for the privilege of crossing paths with good friends, for countless opportunities, experiences, and adventures, and for the miracle of waking up each day. I am strengthened by the peace in knowing God loves me and calls me by name despite my many wounds, sins, and imperfections. In particularly stressful moments, I find little reminders of God's presence (check out this pic below of the glow from my neighbor's porch light refracted through my bathroom window screen on my last night in Sacramento). In these still moments, I have been comforted and reassured.
Community of Faith
I also find peace in the sense of belonging and support of the Christus Ministries faith community from Boise to San Jose, from Sacramento to LA. The conversations of the heart and the relationships of genuine love with fellow companions in Christ renew my spirit. I have been so overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness, and hospitality of these friends. I trust that our common bond will continue despite any miles apart.
Opportunities to Serve
I also find peace through service to others out of pure gratitude and glory to God. Such opportunities help me realize I am exactly where I need to be. I have encountered Christ in one-on-one conversations with young adults facing difficult times, in personal interactions with the homeless and the hungry, and in deep prayer for those around the world who suffer in spirit, addiction, and war.
"Home" has a new meaning for me. I return to L.A. not because I "should" or out of obligation, but because I feel God calls me to be here. Wherever the geographic location may be, I am at home knowing Christ is with me and has been with me all along. I drafted this prayer to remind myself of the peace beyond understanding I have found in these moments of transition and uncertainty:
Lord, help me to love myself as much as You love me so that I may love others as I love myself. Help me be still, quiet my thoughts, and listen to You and rest in You. You call me to do Your will...to reflect on how You show me Your love in my life in its many many forms and to share Your love with others in overwhelming gratitude and praise to You. Help me to not turn inward and stew, to instead trust in You when times are tough, and to rest assured everything always unfolds as it should. I am not alone. Thank You for Your love. Amen.
May peace be with you all.