But anyway, doing outreach is something my dad and stepmom's been into for numerous years already. Probably started when I was in my twenties and so it's not something I grew up with. It's not something I was used to doing. However, it is something I ended up wanting to do because every event is, in one way or another, life-changing and it always help me put things in the right perspective.
In yesterday's homily, Father Robert - the priest we invited for the outreach and, incidentally, our priest also for LSS, which I wrote about previously - shared with us a story about a young boy who, like the kids listening to him, had a very tough childhood. He and his mother were relocated to a community similar to what was in Don Bosco, Calauan, Laguna, his stepfather beat him constantly, and when his stepfather died, the boy - at a very young age - had made the difficult decision of temporarily leaving his ailing mother to live with another family for 12 years just so he could finish school (but that family treated him more like an indentured servant than a part of their family) and provide a better living for his mother. The only highlight in his young life was when a priest came to visit the housing community he and his mother lived in, and through that priest he was able to discover Christ. Since then, it became the boy's mission to become a priest as well.
Last August 2014, that boy's dream came true. He became a priest and he went back to his mother, saying, "We made it. We did not give up." Through Christ, he is finally able to give his mother a better life.
That boy was, of course, Father Robert himself, and honestly I hadn't figured it out until may he was 90% into his story. >.< Sharing his story was essential because he wanted the kids to know that his life story isn't much different from the rest of them. In fact, during my dad and stepmom's first visit to the youth center, they had come to know a really young boy - about four or five I think - who knew that his father went to jail because he had killed the boy's mother and tried to hide her corpse in their kitchen. Your heart would break for that little boy when you see him. His eyes have lost its innocence, and sometimes even when you call out to him, he doesn't answer, too lost in his thoughts when he should have been playing and leading a carefree life like most kids do.
The moral lesson in all this, of course, is to NEVER GIVE UP.
Our own lives may not be as dramatic as Father Robert's or the little boy's, but I know you know it doesn't mean that our problems are not as heavy or as painful. We suffer so much especially when we see our loved ones hurting and we feel like we can't do anything about it.
But we can. It may not seem so right now, but we can. We just need to work hard AND have faith. I sincerely believe it's not one or the other. It has to be both.
I did not blame God at all for this, of course. Throughout this ordeal, I actually came to realize how arrogant I have been in the past months. I had been so busy working that I had forgotten to acknowledge God's hand in all my achievements and blessings. I felt like the challenge was there to remind me that we owe everything to God and without God we have nothing.
So I prayed to God for help and enlightenment. I admitted my weakness and I simply offered everything to Him and relied on His love and grace to get me through.
And you know what? Even though this month included the darkest days in my life, I also ended up releasing my highest-ranking book to date. To be honest, I was thinking my books this month would equate to career suicide because I was releasing them when I wasn't in the ideal frame of mind. Even worse, they're not in Kindle Unlimited and with Amazon these days, non-KU books suffer from visibility woes right out of the gate. Worst of all, I wrote them in serial format. I did this because I enjoy it - I get an unparalleled emotional high when I do so - but it's also that one format which offers a surefire way to get a few (definitely not all) readers pissed at you for various reasons (which I have nothing to say about since everyone's entitled to their own opinion).
But I still did it anyway because it felt right and it was a gamble I also felt I had to take, just so I can see which direction I'm meant to take with publishing. And with God's grace, the gamble that I thought I'd lose - well, it actually paid off, and in ways that I never imagined.
Moral lesson: God will NEVER let us down. Never. But we mustn't lose faith in Him either, whatever happens.
But actually, it was a good thing we did because Father Mario (advance happy birthday, sir!) also imparted a really wonderful message during his homily. To keep things short and simple, he said that people who truly feel blessed are those who work to be a blessing to others.
He spoke of this person he knew, who cursed his 90-year-old mom and blamed her and his siblings for not gaining his rightful inheritance. Father Mario asked why, and he said, "It's because I only got P400 million and..."
That's definitely one example of how you can be blessed but not see it and so you are also unable to be a blessing to others.
I truly believe that the greatest blessing in life is to be that exactly - to be able to share whatever you can with other people, even if it means that it will be - at times or even often - to your detriment. Sometimes, it may be perceived as weakness but even so...let it be. What matters is that you were able to help, and that you know in your heart you have done what God wanted you to do.
In almost three years of indie publishing, I have experienced a lot of personal miracles. There have been numerous times when I question myself, many nights when I'm sleepless and wonder if I've finally done that one mistake which will cause God to take everything away from me so I'll learn my lesson. And yes, I know that God isn't punitive or petty but that's how I feel. But always - and there's no exception - whenever bad something happens (which I am wise and faithful enough not to ever blame God for), I'd realize later on that it was actually a blessing in disguise.
My point is, well, rather my points are---
1. Everything happens for a reason. If we feel lost or defeated, let's just pray for wisdom and grace. We are NEVER alone, but we often forget this in times of trouble.
2. Focus on your blessings. Because we are blessed, all of us. It's just that not all of us realize this. The more you focus on your blessings, the happier you will be, and the more excited you'd be to share what you have. And because you want to share so much of your blessings, God will of course be happy to bless you more so that you have more to share. It's a cycle, and a really great one.
God bless you all!
Disclaimer: I do not earn millions and millions every month. I am not a celebrity. I understand that some may think only celebrities can do something like this, but like I mentioned before, it's something that my family has been doing for years and they're no celebrities either. What they do is tithe, and use this to reach out. This is what I do, too. My monthly tithing goes to my family's civic non-profit group and it's used for programs like this.