Sunday Reflections – Love is Gentle

It was late in spring and the buds still refused to open. Tightly wrapped up in themselves, they were as hard as stones.

The wind shook them. The hail beat them. The frost squeezed them in a fist of iron.

All three shouted, “Open up! Open up!”
Instead of opening up, the buds reinforced their shells, and retreated even more deeply into themselves.

Then along came the sun.
It issued no threats and made no demands.
It just created a more friendly climate.

And what happened?

Almost overnight the buds began to soften and expand.

Then their shells cracked, and they burst out.

If you love, you are gentle.

And there are certain tasks which only gentleness can accomplish.

Excerpt from the weekly parish bulletin published by the local parish.

Sunday reflections the Urban Ma blog

When it rains, it definitely pours and the past couple of weeks have been one of those times where so many things were going on, I just had to take some time out.

I didn’t want to leave you without any posts to read though, so as always when I’m feeling that it’s all getting a bit to hectic and busy, I stop reflect and read. With a cup of hot chamomile see in one hand and some dark chocolate with almonds in the other. Today I was reading through the parish bulletin and loved the above excerpt from it.

So many forceful and violent things are happening around the world and we need to be reminded that gentleness and love is powerful.

It’s the most powerful way to help create change and leave a positive impact.

I will always strive to be that sunshine…to create that friendly climate…we are all human…we are all family. Life is short – sprinkle kindness everywhere.

Have a great week everyone and thanks for stopping by!

What act of kindness or change in attitude will you be engaging in this week?

-xx-

Reflections – Love Thy Neighbour

Sunday Reflections
It’s been quite a heavy week this past week. Numerous trips to different hospitals visiting different loved ones has really got me thinking about life and what happens at the end of life. I was speaking to a friend who works as a doctor last night and she told me that one of the most rewarding years she’s had so far was the year she spent working in palliative care. Seeing people through the dying process brought to light a lot of change in them and family and people around them. The important things in life rise to the surface like a beautiful shell emerging from the shore as the waves pull away all the sand around it. Suddenly, the things that are around them everyday that they may take for granted or they are too busy to notice, become beautiful and important in their eyes. Attitudes change and there is longing to live a more meaningful and wholesome life.
What if this longing was in all of us, not just at the end but now? Imagine how different our communities would be? Living in harmony and love.
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 Sunday Reflections The Urban Ma blog
This pic was taken at UST in the Philippines – thinking & praying for all those in Manila and the surrounding areas affected by the recent quakes. And all those around the world who are suffering hardship and injustice. May we all continue to find light and love in our daily lives. 
Every day we are presented with opportunities to love our neighbor and
help him “carry his cross”. These opportunities aren’t usually big events, they are usually ordinary occurrences like helping someone carry
their groceries or holding the door open for them. The key is putting the other person’s needs before our own and not expecting anything in
return – An excerpt from our parish’s weekly bulletin publication.
Every year during Lent, our parish priest Noel, provides environmentally friendly shopping bags for all those who care to take one so that when we all complete our weekly grocery shopping, we are reminded to add a canned, non-perishable good for those in need. After the six weeks all the bags filled with food and grocery items are then donated to St Vinnie’s in order for them to hand out to members of our community that may need them more than us.
What are some other ways we can love our neighbour?… It’s the simple things.
Hope you have a great week.
-xx-

Sunday Reflections – Self growth

Bulacan life

Tis the season of lent, the fifth Sunday of Lent to be exact. In today’s morning homily we were left with the following question to ponder, “What in us must die in order for new life to flourish?”

The above pic was taken on our recent family trip to the Philippines. Seeing the way of life in the provinces of my parent’s homeland has again got me thinking how much resources we waste here.

They are so careful with the water they use, they repair things when they are broken instead of just buying new items, they spend most of their day outside chatting to neighbors and playing games, and farm to table eating is not just a fad or trend – they’ve been doing this the whole time. Hence dishes like paksiw lechon which uses all the leftover parts of the roasted suckling pig, dinuguan which uses pigs blood, the ever popular sisig which uses pigs cheeks, and other snacks such as isaw, a popular street food find which sees chicken intestines twisted onto a skewer. The Filipinos are so ingenious when it comes to making the most of what they’ve got, that they even have a dish in which they use goat or cow bile as an ingredient. The dish is called papaitan and is definitely an acquired taste due to its bitterness and ingredients such as goat or cow innards.

While for some of you the mentioned dishes bring wonderful memories of Filipino parties and walks along streets of Manila, others may cringe at the not so appetizing sounding delicacies. Filipinos really try to have minimal waste and we have so much to learn from them.

There are quite a few things I’ll be working on this Lenten period . Old habits which I hope to replace with new, more sustainable and earth-friendly ones. Old behaviours that I hope to replace with peaceful, soft, focused ones. And I would absolutely love to do more volunteering. These are not new goals I have…they’ve just become more apparent after coming back from a place that holds to much meaning to me.

What self growth are you going through right now?

Themes: Self growth. Minimalism. Awakening.

 

Sunday Reflections – Romance and Mystery

The kids are sick. The weather has cooled down. Tomorrow it begins all over again. Packing lunches. School drop offs. Planning, or more like wondering what’s for dinner then remembering that you’re the one that has to cook it! Before the hustle and grind of another week begins I find that more than ever before, I can’t go without my insightful hour of mass in the morning (or Saturday evenings). There always seems to be a richness in life lessons and a sense of community in the parish that fills me with hope and a breath of fresh air. A new day and a new chance to love and forgive.

In the weekly Parish bulletin today I came across the article below. I can totally relate. Seeing young love so spritely flourishing in the new relationships of my friends and some family members, to the more enduring, long lasting love of my parents and grandparents, reading about romance and mystery made sense. So below is an excerpt from the bulletin which can be found in full on the Resurrection website, if you’re interested. Otherwise I have shared the article from Smart Loving below with you in case you’re needing a little reminder like me!

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One of the things that makes a new romance so exciting and attractive is the element of uncertainty: Is this person really interested in me? Will this person really be the one I’ve longed for?

We can all relate to the thrill of the start-up relationship where the other is essentially still a stranger and quite mysterious to us. Where is this all going to lead? The suspense is both thrilling and invigorating!

The initial thrill is the stuff of movies and music and is an intoxicating experience. Yet it is also very limited. It captures nothing of the magnificence of a couple’s devotion which has stayed strong over decades and matured into a love that can be truly relied upon.

Deep Christian love depends on more than the romantic feelings that come from ‘falling in love’; it requires a deliberate willful and intentional loving.

“Over the years I’ve noticed that when pragmatism dominates our relationship, we are less playful and more prone to criticism. Conversely, when we are more romantic with each we are also more gentle and forgiving.” – Bryon

St Valentine Valentine's Day

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p style=”text-align: center;”>Fact File
St Valentine was a Bishop in Rome who was imprisoned for performing marriages for Christian soldiers against the decree of the Roman Emperor, Claudius II. While in jail, Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailor and they became friends. He was eventually beheaded in Rome on February 14, 269AD, signing a farewell notes to the young girl with “From Your Valentine”.
His feast day became a popular celebration among couples in the eighteenth century, who expressed their devotion with greeting cards which were known as ‘Valentines’.
St Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, epileptics, travellers and bee keepers.

Keeping Romance Alive

Romance carries with it a sense of playfulness and delight in one another, and is not only for the young. Mature couples need it too. In fact, couples often ask about how to keep the romance in their marriage, because it is associated with relationship health and good will.

One way is to remember that we can never know all there is to know about the person we love there is always something more to know and love about him or her.

Romance happens because we are mystery to each other, and so an attitude of curiosity and wonder about each other’s differences helps to sustain a couple’s romance over the years. Men and women are different. Our differences can divide us as the years go by, or we can choose to see them working as a complementary force, attracting us deeper into the mystery of the other.

Mystery is foundational in our most intimate relationship because it connects us profoundly to divine love, which will always be a mystery to us.

The mystery of being loved so intimately by our romantic lover is that it reveals to us the urgency and intimacy with which God loves us: Can it really be that I am loved so deeply?

In Good Times…and Bad

It’s easy to feel romantic in the good times when things are easy between us and life is fairly simple. The early years, especially the newlywed period, are often high points in a couple’s love history when maintaining a romantic connection is uncomplicated.

It’s important for couples to be proactive in fostering romance in these good times lest they fall into the trap of thinking that romance is spontaneous and effortless. Too many couples founder because they fail to make the most of the opportunity to set up romance habits that will see them through their life together.

As heart-warming as young romance is, there is something even more amazing about the romance witnessed in couples of advanced years. Like the tender attention given to a spouse who is seriously ill or the patient acceptance of a spouse with dementia.

It is in moments such as these, when one’s devotion to the other surpasses expectations, that the world witnesses the real power of romantic love.

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And on that note, what have you got planned for Valentine’s Day? Are you the mushy type who loves to plan and has everything booked and organized months in advanced? Or are you the type that just goes with the flow and thinks it’s all a load of commercialized blah blah blah? Perhaps this year are you like me where you’ll be spending a nice quiet evening in sharing Valentine’s day with the kids and hoping they’ll go to bed super early so you can get your romance on! However you choose to spend the day, the week, the year, it doesn’t have to cost anything to celebrate your loved one and show them you care. Below are a few free activities that to try out!  Because every marriage matters. Bring that curiosity and romance back into your relationship.

The hubby and I circa 2003!

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p style=”text-align: center;”>The Lover’s Gaze Challenge
Make time to watch each other at work or play. Look into each other’s eyes with love and acceptance. Try holding your gaze for five minutes, using only your eyes to communicate your openness.

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p style=”text-align: center;”>Kinky Twister
This is a twist on the good old Twister Game and can be played at home when you’ve got the kids staying over the grandparents’ house for the night! It might need a little preparation (and stretching!) but we played it on my hen’s night with my girlfriends and it was so much fun! It would be even more fun with your hubby! Print a variety of “positions” from the net (I don’t know where my friend got all of them from but she managed to find heaps!). Then shuffle them, pick a card each, and try to get in that position without telling your partner what the name of the position is. You each have to guess the name of the position that’s written on the card and if you don’t guess right, you need to take a shot or a sip of whatever you’re drinking!

20 Questions
Find out something you don’t know about your loved by playing 20 questions. This activity is a great way to deepen your relationship and can get a little sentimental or could make you pee your pants from laughter! Take the time and listen to each other.

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p style=”text-align: center;”>1. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
2. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
3. Which part of your body do you like the most and why?
4. What’s your favourite movie?
5. Have you ever looked in the mirror and winked at yourself?
6. What do you think your best and worst qualities are?
7. What soothes you the most after you’ve had a bad day or bad news?
8. Describe to me what your perfect day would consist of?
9. If you could change anything about the way you were raised what would it be?
10. If you could wake up tomorrow and acquire one new ability or quality, what would you want it to be?
11. What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
12. Who do you look up to the most and why?
13. What is your favourite memory with your mum? And your dad?
14. If you weren’t in the job that you’re in now, what would you be doing?
15. What could I do for you that I don’t do now?
16. When do you feel the most protected and taken care of?
17. If you could go back in time to your teenage self, what would you tell yourself?
18. What would you do in life if money wasn’t an issue?
19. What do you like best about our relationship?
20. What is your favourite chick flick?

2009 The Yuan Wedding

Reflections – An endearing little read about Christmas

With all the buzzing of Christmas preparations around, non stop emails of sale offers and ongoing Facebook notifications, I sat down the other day making myself comfy in one of my favourite places in our home, the Snuggle chair. Surrounded by things to read and with a cup of hot chamomile tea in hand I came across this lovely little passage.
I hope you all had a very merry Christmas this year and spent quality time with loved ones.
Nativity scene Christmas The Urban Ma blog
THE REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
One week before Christmas, a well-known visitor made a surprise appearance…
I had just finished the household chores and was preparing for bed when a noise startled me. I
cautiously opened the door to the front room. To my amazement, Santa Claus stepped from
behind the Christmas tree! He placed one finger over his mouth so I would not cry out.
“What are you doing here?” I exclaimed. Then I realized that Santa had tears in his eyes. His
usual jolly manner was gone. The eager, boisterous soul we all know was very sad. Santa
offered one, simple statement,
“TEACH THE CHILDREN!”
I was puzzled—what did he mean?
Anticipating my question, with one quick movement he brought forth a great bag from behind the tree.
I stood there bewildered. Santa explained, “Teach the Children! Teach them the old meaning of
Christmas. So many people today have forgotten what Christmas is really about!”
Santa then reached into his bag, pulled out a tiny FIR TREE, and placed it on the mantle.
“Teach the Children that the stately fir tree remains green all year round, showing the
everlasting hope of mankind. The needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of ourprayers that always reach God.”
Santa again reached into his sack and pulled out a brilliant STAR.
 “Teach the Children thatthe Bethlehem star was the sign of promises long ago. God promised to send a Savior to deliverthe world. The bright star pointed to the fulfillment of that promise—God’s only Son had been born!”
Next, Santa pulled a CANDLEfrom his bag.
“Teach the Children that the candle symbolizes that Jesus, God’s Son, is the light of the world.
When we see this light remember the One who overcomes the darkness.”
Once again Santa reached into his sack. This time he removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree.
“Teach the Children that the wreath reveals the endless nature of God’s love. Real love never
ceases. Nothing can stop God’s amazing love.”
Santa then pulled from his bag an ornament of HIMSELF.
“Teach the Children that Santa Claus symbolizes the generosity and good will we show to others because God has given us His
very special Son. Don’t forget to tell the Children that Saint Nicolas was not part of the first Christmas in Bethlehem.”
Santa then reached into his sack and carefully placed a CANDY CANE on the tree.
“Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s staff. The crook on the staff rescues
sheep who have strayed from the flock. God never gives up on people who wander from Him.”
Next, He removed a delicate ANGEL and lifted it to the very top of the tree.
“Teach the Children that angels shouted the glorious news of the Savior’s birth. These heavenly messengers sang
‘Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good will to everyone on earth!’”
Finally, Santa pulled out a beautifully wrapped GIFT.
He said, “Teach the Children that God deeply loves people, so He gave them His most precious gift—Jesus, His only Son. When the
wise men arrived in Bethlehem, they bowed before the Child and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
This is why we give gifts to others each Christmas.”
Then Santa paused. He stared at the tree and seemed to be pleased. I saw that the twinkle had
returned to his eyes. He turned, looked at me, and smiled. Santa offered these final words,
“Remember to teach the Children the true meaning of Christmas. Please don’t put me in the
center, for I am but a humble servant. Jesus Christ is the real reason for the Christmas season. I
am glad to join all others who bow down and worship Him, our Lord and God.”
— Author Unknown.

5 Places in Melbourne to Celebrate this Filipino Tradition – Simbang Gabi!

5 places to experience Simbang Gabi in Melbourne

The most liveable city in the world not only has spectacular landmarks, world class events and, cuisine and coffee second to none, it also has a vibrant mix of the most friendly and welcoming people. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Melbourne is made up of such a vibrant mix of ethnicities in which a myriad of customs and traditions are celebrated, igniting people’s imaginations, sense of belonging and passion.

 Simbang gabi pandesal Melbourne The Urban Ma blog

It’s that most wonderful time of year again when fresh, soft pandesal and sticky Filipino desserts are enjoyed together after a mass that takes place as the sun rises. Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) is a tradition brought over from the Philippines and celebrated each year during the nine days leading up to Christmas.

Rising with the break of dawn, community members full of faith and joyful spirit attend the novena celebrations with the twinkling hope that upon completion of making it to all of the nine masses, their wishes and petitions will be granted.

Be it the granting of wishes, the tasty Filipino fare, the harmonious guest choirs and priests or the celebration of mass, it has been amazing to see this tradition being embraced by so many people in the community from different backgrounds. I remember when I was a little girl, my parents used to drive to Braybrook’s Christ the King church to attend Simbang Gabi as it was the only parish that celebrated the dawn mass tradition. These days Simbang Gabi masses can be found in various Parish in Melbourne.

Now with two young ones, I find that waking up and rising in the sun, and sitting in silence listening to the stories of guest priests and the sweet melodies of the choirs, is an amazing way to start the day. Quiet moments and reflection with two under 5 is a rarity so these days I cherish this tradition even more. Especially with all the hustling and bustling people around during this time of year, the early morning stillness is priceless.

puto Filipino Christmas tradition in Melbourne simbang Gabi Noel Brady Resurrection Parish simbang gabisopas at Simbang Gabi Melbourne dawn mass filipino Resurrection Parish Christmas in MelbourneResurrection Parish Christmas in Melbourne Simbang gabi

Today we are blessed to have the spirit of hope and love alive in Melbourne during Christmas that you can find Simbang Gabi being celebrated in numerous parishes.

Resurrection Parish, Kings Park (Congratulations on its 15th year of celebrating Simbang Gabi in Melbourne!)

St Peter Apostle, Werribee

St Peter Chanel, Deer Park

Holy Eucharist, St Albans

St Francis Xavier, Frankston

and now Our Lady’s, Maidstone

Does your parish celebrate this Filipino tradition or do you know of any others in Melbourne that do?

If so leave a comment below and share the spirit and joy of Christmas.

The Variety Santa Fun Run

Ditching the Friday after work drinks for a Friday night fun run

Variety Santa Fun Run – Melbourne

What better way to end the week than with a fun run. It was our first ever time committing to something of the sort. After watching my little brother complete his first ever run I was inspired. Albeit I didn’t do nearly as many kilometres as him! – he completed 22kms and we were so excited and proud! We had been meaning to start running the other year…but then I got pregnant and didn’t think it would be a good time to start on that activity so I just kept up with my daily walks and pregnancy pilates. Our biggest inspiration would definitely have to be my dad. I always remember him telling us the story of when he joined in a fun run and ran over the Westgate Bridge while it was so heavily pouring down rain. The rest of the story may be TMI so you’ll have to ask him for the rest of the details yourself. Let’s just say it was good it was raining so much.

We joined in the 5km stretch and walked/ran our way around the Yarra with some of Melbourne’s iconic landmarks in the background. Melbourne’s buzzing happy hour crowd seemed surprised to see a plethora of Santas running under the Princes Bridge, and everyone cheered us on as we endeavored to make our way to the finish line before our two kids in prams started wanting to get out of their seats for a little run around of their own. We had to keep them occupied with drinks and snacks!

It was a fun way to help kids be kids and spread the Christmas spirit of hope to those in need. And get a little exercise in there too!

Us and the kids in a sea of Santas – Variety, the Children’s Charity help when others can’t helping children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs through the provision of specialist equipment and services when families can’t afford it, and when government assistance isn’t available.Variety Santa Fun Run santa squad Melbourne eventsIt was a kid-friendly, family-friendly and pet friendly event!
warm up fitness Variety Fun Run SantaWarm ups before it started
Variety Santa Fun Run Melbourne Held at the Alexandra Gardens there were food trucks and we were spoilt with goodies at the finish line with yummy Jalna yoghurts, Bellamy’s organic baby food, Ardona water and even vouchers and mini pancakes from The Pancake Parlour. The smoky BBQ rolls from Smokin Barry’s food truck were a hit!

Care to share any tips for us newbie runners? Thanks in advance! xx