Harsh Realities

Life can be described with adjectives as many as there are Facebook and Twitter users combined. Today, I choose this one: Harsh.

I know that life is not problem-free, but the fact to me is just that: a fact. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, I experience problems growing up–self-image issues, insecurities, geometry problems, fights with loved ones–but not what I consider as Goliaths and Ondoys comparing to dying of cancer or dealing with your parents’ separation.

It wasn’t until last year when the reality of life’s hardness hit close to home.

Two years ago, one of my Mom’s sisters living in the US, my Tita (aunt) Len informed us that doctors found blockages in the veins of her husband, Monet. The Jarlego family immediately prayed for Tito Mon’s complete healing. Although I felt concern for my uncle’s welfare, I wasn’t too alarmed by his condition since my grandparents (Mom’s parents) also had blockages in their veins and their bodies are perfectly fine–no heart attacks and whatnot. Unfortunately my uncle’s body did not share my sentiments, and after a few weeks, he underwent bypass surgery. The next several months that followed until mid 2011, apparently, my uncle was fine and he and his family lived a “normal” life.

Then life, looking at them, put on his hardest suit and turned their lives around.

Halfway through 2011 (by the way I’m speaking from my perspective, so any news during that time when my uncle experienced something bad that was not disclosed to us by my Tita Len is not included), I heard that Tito Mon had colon cancer.  I shuddered. Colon cancer. Last 2008 our former President Corazon Aquino was diagnosed with the same disease. The following year, she died.

How much time does my Tito have?

And so I prayed all the more–for his healing, the family’s inner strength, provision, everything they needed (or at least what I thought they needed). Sometimes I even reasoned out to God, “Lord, Tito Mon’s such a good person. Please don’t take him away just yet. Please.” Although I haven’t seen him in the last 4 years, my heart went out to him because his heart went out to the people around him. He had a rare and attractive combination of qualities in him: benevolent, God-fearing, tech geek (i.e., he buys the latest gadgets), amazing cook, and a certified foodie–just like my own Dad. Just like my dad, his eldest was (and still is) a beautiful lady (my cousin, Ate Charlene) and two handsome boys, KC & Matt. He married and loved his best friend, my tita Len.

And so I prayed earnestly. I even asked my friends to pray for him. 2011 ended, and he was still fighting. One day in early Feb of this year, I remember having my quiet time before going to school as I usually do every morning. After reading my Bible and writing on my journal, I got down on my knees and prayed for Tito Mon. I was confident he will be healed because, well, I believed God still works miracles. I also thought that Tito Mon was too young to die–anything below 65 is young for me (120 years is our limit, so more than half is, in a sense, “young”). After praying, I stood up and left my room to prepare for my school.

I went to the dining area where my Dad and Mom are. My Mom saw me and called my attention.

“Jenny.”

“Yes Mom?”

“Tito Mon died na.”

What? But I just prayed for him. I just held on to the hope of him recovering and being healthy again and hopefully, someday, bonding with him and our families in their lovely abode. But no, those things aren’t going to happen because he’s gone. As my brother used to say, “Game over na siya.”

And that’s just the beginning of harsh realities. (Thankfully there was a “break” for four months because during my summer Mom and I went to the US to console my Tita Len and my cousins, and to have a meaningful vacay as well. And the events that transpired shall be posted soon.) When July came, life was at us again.

July 7th, Saturday, I hosted Jzone with my cousin, Miko. Two hours before Jzone started, I texted my friends and some cousins a verse (just cause I had an unlimited texting feature on my number for a day). The verse is from Isaiah 41:10:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

Immediately after one of my cousins got the text, she replied to me. When I read her message, my body shook and I felt so scared for her. After pulling over at the side of Daang Hari road in Alabang, she was held at gunpoint by a group of teenage boys. (You can read her story here) She called me after the incident, and tearfully recounted her story. I prayed with and for her over the phone because it was the only thing I could do–well actually there was nothing I can do and prayer was the only choice because we both knew that God, our good God, was in control.

The following week, another cousin of mine took the fall. Friday evening, some families of our clan huddled in my Tita Jayjay’s house for the weekly Bible study. My Dad, Mom, uncle, and I left at around 11 PM, and as we were heading home, Mom received a message from Tita Amy (mom’s sis; there’s 6 of ’em), saying to tell my Dad to report a certain taxi where my cousin, Rejoice, was hold upped and brought somewhere in Quezon Avenue. Oh Lord not again please. Please keep her safe. (Do read her story here) We were all scared for her. Who wouldn’t be? Thankfully, God was still in control, and He kept her safe.

Then just as I thought life would take a break from all the shiz he’s throwing at our family, he takes one big blow. Another lady cousin of mine (this time living in San Jose, Cali) was confined in the hospital due to extreme abdominal pain (which she had already experienced when we went there last May until first week of June). Apparently, three tumors grew inside her pelvis, and she needed to undergo surgery. But that’s not the worst part.

She acquired Stage 3 ovarian cancer.

It was the C word again. After , Tita Yai (again, Mom’s sister), broke the news to us, I started having this thought in my head: Could I be next Lord? I know it was selfish of me to ask that, but I couldn’t resist asking. 

And right this very moment, as I type this seemingly-pessimistic post (please stay with me; it’s not as sad as it sounds, I promise), 90% of Metro Manila is flooded from as low as 2 feet up to 15 feet!! 😦 #rescuePH  is trending worldwide because of the nanosecond updates on families and people that need rescuing and immediate help. Schools, churches, malls, and even fastfood chains opened up their facilities to accommodate those whose homes were flooded on the inside. According to our “national weatherman,” PAGASA, rains shall continue pouring tomorrow. Every Filipino (especially those in Metro Manila) are calling out for a cease fire for the rain. We just want to see the light of day again.

Life is harsh.  Good things happen to bad people. Bad people are surrounded with influences that help them become worse. Life is harsh. Earthly life, that is. On the other side of the fence is the eternal life, and boy, is it good!

Good, but it doesn’t free you from problems. What makes it good, then? The eternal life is good because its Giver is good. “Good an upright is the LORD….” (Psalm 25:8)  “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9) His thoughts towards you and me are always good and never evil (Jeremiah 29:11). Why does He allow us to experience life’s harsh realities, then, if He is good? To test our faith and make it stronger? To make us better people? Technically these are “correct” answers, but clearly (and experientially), they are not enough; they do not satisfy our desire to really know.  The only answer I can think of right now until I die is this:

I. know. not.

This I do know: Amidst life’s harshness, God is good. Not only is He good, He is trustworthy. He fulfills what He says He will do. I know this because I have experienced this. Last week until yesterday, when I thought that God would punish me because I procrastinated in my school work, He reminded me:

“Be still, and know that I am God. Do not worry, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let Me know your requests. And then My peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Me, Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) 

(I’m not saying that wrongdoing does not have any consequences; what I’m saying is that, even as I suffer the consequences of my wrong doing, God still loves me and He even helps me endure and be victorious over the consequences, even those that are not sin-related.)

This quote from a book I’m reading, The Good and Beautiful God, also encouraged me:

He gets the last word. I like that. It renews my mind on the way I look at the world because He is in control. Man never has control of anything (for eternity, that is). Thankfully, God does. 🙂

Here’s the good news: You can be joyful and at peace in the midst of hard times (go back a few lines & reread Philippians 4:6-7). My cousins Deb & Rej both praised God after their traumatizing experiences (if you haven’t read their stories yet, click the links and READ!) Ate Trish is still fighting and even smiling, and so is her mom. Although it will take time for the pain to heal, Tita Len and her kids are coping well and healthily, too. No one can truly be happy and content on their own doing–not for a long time and especially not for ever.

Life may be harsh, but I don’t blame it for being harsh because if it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t experience in a very strong and personal way God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness. Life shouts, “In your face!” but my God says, “Look at My face. I will fight for you.” 

Honorable Dressing

What to wear? What to wear? What to wear?!?!

This question haunted me, reminding me of the fleeting seconds and minutes, as I stood in front of my opened closet, still deciding what to wear. I’m one of those girls whose wardrobe is somewhere between plain Jane and Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes. I am also one of those people who thinks about his or her outfit before going to bed so as to avoid wearing the same top and bottom as last week. I plan carefully, but not to the point of being OC.

Okay, maybe a little.

Anyway, for some reason, I discarded my plan Friday night because I felt the heat seep through my skin’s pores Saturday morning; my outfit in mind would make me sweat like a hog. After three minutes or so of choosing, wearing, rejecting different outfits, I finally chose the “perfect” outfit: a loose blue-and-yellow blouse, thin, brown leggings, and brown-gold sandals. To complete the outfit, I borrowed my Mom’s brown Longchamp bag (oh wait the sandals are hers too). Pleased with my look, I rushed outside to say goodbye to my parents and ask my Dad for the remaining balance of my allowance.

Dad, Mom, and my uncle who just arrived from the US were having breakfast when I approached them so I hurriedly kissed Mom & Dad goodbye. As I was walking to the door, I stopped short in front of the master’s bedroom which had a tinted sliding door and looked at my reflection. You look pretty. Okay now leave. My brain programmed Feet to brisk walk alternately–that was, until the command was interrupted by my Mom’s exclamation:

“Shi! Look at Jenny’s blouse! It’s too short!”

*by the way, Shi or Suishi is my parents’ term of endearment for each other. Carry on.

Immediately Dad shifted his attention to my midsection all the way until the bottom, then looked at me knowingly. Before he could even comment about my blouse, I filled in. “But the blouse is long naman. Is this short?”

Dad, as he always did, commanded me sternly: “Jenny, change that. Wear jeans. Or change your blouse. The blouse is not that long and that (pointing to the leggings) is too tight. Remember, you’re commuting.” (Commuting simply means I shall travel via public transportation. That means I get to sit beside and travel with people I don’t know…men I don’t know.)

I seriously wanted to blurt out a “Thanks a lot, Mom” right there and then but my uncle was there. Actually, even if he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have done it because I would immediately be reprimanded, and worse, forbidden to attend to any of my plans for that day. Once more I tried to defend my “perfect” outfit, but my Dad was not to be moved.

“Change it.”

I returned to my room and shut the door behind me. I re-evaluated my outfit. It wasn’t kinky or showing too much skin–not a bit. In fact, my legs were concealed and my chest was covered completely (there was nothing to show off anyway; I have a surfboard with me). He should visit our youth group one time and see the girls there wear shorts. Now I have nothing against shorts, but I don’t wear shorts to church. I reasoned, “If other girls could wear shorts and still not look bitchy, then surely I could wear leggings–clothes that completely cover my legs!”  No matter how many reasons I can come up with to show how unreasonable my parents were being, however, I still changed my outfit. I still wore leggings (I already wore jeans last week), but my top was obviously longer and had longer sleeves. If he tells me to change again,

table flipping like a boss

Thankfully, my outfit was approved.

But because I hardened my heart and valued pride over honoring my parents, I left out house resentful and pissed that I didn’t get to wear what I wanted to wear. My past bratinella took over, and I submitted to her constricting regime (at least for several minutes).

Why am I sharing to you this incident? There are a few reasons actually. This is enough proof to show that preaching “Honor your Dad and Mom” to Sunday school kids is wasted unless you actually honor Dad and Mom whether you feel like it or not. I knew God was testing me, and initially, I failed.

As I processed my emotions on the road, I humbled myself so that I can hear what God had to say. What was wrong with me, God? Was it pride? Oh you bet it was! But my problem, my sin, ran deeper than pride. (Not that pride is bad enough, but it wasn’t all pride)

Who were you trying to honor when you chose that outfit?

I wanted to shut my ears to that question, but I knew God wanted a reply.

“Um, the people in church, I guess.”

Before my outfit outrage, I had my quiet time and I read the following passage from Proverbs 3:9:

“Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.”

I wrote that verse on my journal, word per word, and below it, I wrote a practical way to apply this verse. Guess what I wrote: Dress modestly.

Now don’t get me wrong: my outfit was not immodest, but it was not modesty at its best. I suppose if I wore that outfit during a family reunion, my Dad would have permitted me because he was there to watch me and I was with my close family members, not mere acquaintances. As I slowly allowed God to take my pride down, I saw where my Dad was coming from. That moment when I incorrectly justified my “right” made me doubt his goodness.

Three lessons I learned from “outrage,” and I hope you would too, especially if you’re an adolescent female:

  1. Honor your Dad & Mom even if you don’t feel like it. The long, full life that God promised (see Ephesians 6:1-2) is a daily experience. A lot of people live long lives, but unfortunately, they are full of misery and pain. Why? Well probably, along the way, they dishonored their parents (or standing parents), and that mistake brought with it grave consequences. Don’t wait until you suffer the consequences of disobedience & dishonor.
  2. Learning a Biblical command means you will most likely be tested in that area. Was it coincidental that I was tested on honoring GOD with my body? I think not. Although I failed the test initially, because I humbled myself, God honored my humility and “passed me” with flying colors. Thanks, Papa. 🙂
  3. Dress to impress your Creator, not your fellow creature. While this may not apply when you’re joining a fashion face-off or a beauty pageant, it applies to your everyday dressing. This lesson actually goes deeper than external appearance; it deals with heart issues. Girls and boys, when choosing an outfit especially if you know your Christian brothers and sisters will be present, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my blouse too tight? How about my jeans/leggings/skirt/shorts? (for ladies) when I bend, are my breasts showing? (cleavage as well) 
  • Will I be able to show myself confidently to my parents and get their approval? If I’m not as confident, what is the reason behind this?
  • Am I wearing this to honor my Creator or my fellow creature?
You may say, “I don’t see anything wrong with trying to impress the person I like. It’s not as if I’m enticing him/her to have sex with me. I just want him/her to notice me.” I agree with you. I have this sentiment, too. Pray to God for discernment regarding this matter. If you’re going to serve in ministry, then desperately wanting to impress your crush is not recommended. Remember: God looks at the heart. 🙂
In a society where posing nude in a magazine cover is not only accepted but applauded, it surely is difficult for girls (and guys) like me who want to stick to the Book because we believe in the promise it brings. What is the promise? Verse 10 of Proverbs 3 reads:
“It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.”
We place such a high premium on health, but we don’t do our part of the bargain. Always keep in mind your part:
Honor God with your possessions.
Honor Him with your ALL. 😀

Heart Struggles

Hello readers and fellow bloggers!

I apologize for a one week delay in posting, especially the Part 2 of my sembreak (which ended last Tuesday). I apologize, again, because I shall postpone that short but meaningful post for tomorrow and update you on what’s happening, or should I say, wrestling, in my life right now.

Heart struggles.

Big endings start with small beginnings. So does sin and its painful consequences. Being born and raised in a Christian home, I know the famous, “great and grave” sins of this world that I should (and did) avoid: murder (except for ants; it’s self-defense, they bit me first), idolatry (in terms of really worshiping physical idols), and the like. However, as much as I’m almost immune from committing the worst of iniquities, I am not exempt from the “smaller” or as Jerry Bridges coined and titled his book, “respectable sins.” I struggle with self-control, Godly discipline, obedience, and humility just as any Christian regardless of seniority. Lately, the consequences of my little sins over the past year culminated, and I knew I needed to change. Stat.

Just like a a victim of a vehicular accident who badly injured his left leg, had it amputated, and after weeks of treatment and extreme care in the hospital, went back home, I just underwent a major heart surgery. I’m okay in a sense that  the vessels that have been blocked by layers of sin have been removed by my Jehovah-Raphah (Healer), but I still have to recover and get used to a new and pure heart which is really difficult to keep pure many times. By my God-given nature and temperament, I keep things to myself most of the time. However, I feel the need to share what I am going through right now because, as I said, I need to get used to my new heart. I need help. Ever heard of a drug addict who went to rehab all by himself? People need people.

I wouldn’t go into all the details of my crazy, unpredictable heart, but I will share with you two struggles that I have a difficult time overcoming. First is servitude. Jesus said that if anyone wishes to be His disciple, that person must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord and Savior. I am serving God in many ways as of the present, but I am not always serving Him. When I’m at home or alone, I usually serve Jenny by gratifying her desires according to her time and her understanding. Serving my worst enemy cost me my spot on the dean’s list again the previous semester. It also produced in me unwanted stomach flab, a slightly calloused heart, and an untidy thought life. I used to be so excited when serving my parents and even strangers, but as I developed a habit of focusing on what I wanted, my zeal for serving slowly diminished. I still served, but only when the service was convenient for me. Even massaging my beloved parents became a burden to me because I “wanted to sleep” when in fact, I wanted to scroll more pages on Tumblr.

Secondly, I am struggling with self-control. Food, time management, simple pleasures, you name it. At first, I justified my lack of control in eating with the freedom I have in Christ to eat whatever I want because the dietary laws are abolished. Indeed they are abolished, but that does not make fish sans scales any healthier than they were during Moses’s time. Because my desire for Jesus varied in intensity, I often opted to surf in Facebook than in my NKJV Bible. As  a result, bad words sometimes come into mind when I get angry instead of “be angry and do not sin” and “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”

As much as I hate to admit it, I fing myself in a cycle of sin: commit to change, decide to do the same sin, confess, commit again, do wrong again, confess, and so on. At times I would succeed for a certain number of days, but after a week or two, I go back to my old ways. Until God unveiled my eyes and I saw how much I was hurting Him, I would have plunged downward to my demise. But God was not letting me go.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

-Isaiah 49:16

No sin is too deep to make God love me less. Nothing. Nada. If an earthly mother can forgive a prodigal and mischievous child of hers, how much more the Heavenly Father! 🙂 He gives me hope and a chance to continue doing good and play the role as His servant. Unworthy yet loved, broken and yet complete.

God repeatedly whispers truth to my ear because His truth will lead me in His direction. To change for the best, for life, we need to imbibe God’s truths in our hearts and minds to keep us from straying again to falsehood, where the devil rules.

“The Lord God in your midst,

The Mighty One will save.

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

He will quiet you in His love;

He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zechariah 3:17)

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast on You,

Because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“…not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

I am so, so, utterly grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for picking me up, renewing me in His love, and strengthening me so that I may experience Him again. Saying goodbye to the pity parties and the pride, I look forward to an exciting and adventurous life with Jesus Christ. One of the lies the enemy whispered to me is that the Christian life is boring. Lately, I’m beginning to see and testify that it isn’t. True, it is difficult, but it’s never boring. Do you know what’s really boring? Doing the same things over and over again (such as partying and smoking) thinking it’s fun but in reality it will destroy you and in the end, you won’t profit anything. The struggle is worth the struggle because it strengthens character and builds up hope–hope that will surely be actualized and fulfilled one day.

I may be weak, but He Who fights for me is strong. If ever you’re struggling in a similar situation as mine or any struggle for that matter, hold on. Don’t lose hope. No matter how young or old you are, as long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. Jesus always extends His hand. Take it! Grasp it tightly till it hurts because guess what? Your grip does not hurt Him at all. In fact, He will take you to where He is, but in so doing, you will struggle. But that’s okay. Wait on the Lord, He shall renew your strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

Wait, I say, on the Lord. 😀

PS: Let’s pray for each other! God’s kids are meant to help each other. Email me at talamjenny@gmail.com for prayer requests and other insights. I also need your help  (but please, no philosophical advice, that’s man-made, it’s not foolproof) so if you can share with me how you overcame your heart struggles, email me too! 😀 

Sembreak Part 1: Classic Boracay Vacay

It wasn’t too long ago when I first watched Sound of Music. My Dad bought a DVD of the said film and told me I should watch it because it was a classic. Without  completely understanding what a classic movie is, I obeyed. After being completely engrossed with the Von Trapp family and Fraulein Maria and learning the basic musical notes for 2 hours, I distinguished a classic movie from all the other types. A classic movie was one with an intermission. 😀

At first I was surprised. What was an intermission? Why can’t we just rush headlong to the rest of the movie? And of all the scenes to disrupt with an intermission, why the climax? My Mom who watched beside me then told me it was a pause because the movie was actually a musical play  turned into a movie and in plays, intermissions gave the actors and actresses an opportunity to rest and the audience to go to the restrooms. My immature mind did not process the pause pretty well, but somehow I managed to wait patiently in our sofa. (My immature mind also failed to remind me that I was not inside a theatre at that time and our DVD player had a fast forward button. Oh well)

For now, I’ll put aside my Sound Of Music encounter and introduce a new one with breathtaking nature and sights in the beautiful island of Boracay. Five years lapsed since I last visited the island in the mid-eastern part of the Visayan area.  A lot has changed since my last trip, especially my memory, so much so that all I remember was my braided hair, our island hopping, and me bringing home a sample of the white sand (as well as the memories stored in photos). Thankfully God gave me the opportunity to make new memories with family and relatives (our balikbayan from Australia).

As much as I enjoyed our three-day vacation, I cannot attest to its perfection. Like there’s a perfect getaway, really. Setbacks were inevitable. Our outgoing flight from Manila was delayed by forty-five minutes. As for outgoing flight from Kalibo, Aklan, it was moved two hours earlier than the appointed time so we left Boracay early in the morning. 😦 I learned to take it all in stride and with a grateful heart, not allowing these circumstances to dampen my joy. Indeed, I experienced a vacation devoid of city noise and full of nature and delicious (albeit quite pricey) food–a vacation I’ve never had in months.

see, I’m smiling? 🙂

Admittedly, I expected Boracay’s quality in terms of cleanliness and splendor to be diminished because of the rumors I heard that the sand and the water was not as clean as they used to be. The thing about rumors is, they are 99% fiction and 1% imagination which is usually vain and fictitious in nature. The water was anything but murky and trashed. In fact, it was crystal clean and blue. The sand was white, soft, and pillowy and the sky blue, clear, and embellished with fluffy clouds. If I brought a printer with me and printed the photos my Dad took, I would have made several postcards and people who bought them would think the photos were Photoshopped. The people who posed with nature needed editing, but not the background. I appreciated the sky more than ever during our vacay–its seeming “nearness” to me, the way it reflected orange, yellow, red, pink, and white lights, and its purity (free from city smoke).

Then of course, there was the beach. This time, though, I needed not to take home a sample of the sand because the memory of the sand’s texture embedded itself permanently in my brain. Of all the parts in my body, my feet enjoyed the sand as I walked barefoot most of the time. Who needs a foot spa when you can relax and exfoliate your feet at the same time as they come in contact with Boracay sand?

And who could forget the food we ate? They were not extraordinary or expensive, but since I ate out of hunger and enjoyed happy conversations with a cool family, they became extraordinarily delicious. I ate a mozarella and mushroom burger (after several months), squid adobo, pork kare-kare (the first time I ate quite a good portion), tempura, sweet-and-sour squid to name a few. On our second (and last) night, my cousin, Jaemie, craved for buko (Philippine coconut). With my classmate, Gemma, who happened to be staying in the island on the same days as ours (her holiday there was longer, though), Jaemie and I drank about 2 glasses of buko juice and ate the buko‘s meat.

One of the best moments I spent in Boracay I spent alone with God in the early morn. I read Psalm 19 prior to my walk, and I felt the psalmist David speaking directly to me. 🙂

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. They have no speech, they use no words;  no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

(Psalm 19:1, 3-5, NIV)

The sun indeed behaved like a joyful and nervous bridegroom watching his bride walk down the aisle; its rays were diffused by the giant clouds hovering in the sky so the temperature was not warm. The best man was also present: a short but noticeable rainbow. As I slowly scanned the scene around me, I thought to myself: how beautiful and indescribably gorgeous Heaven must be! My heart once again longed for Paradise, but then, as I stood on the shore and felt the cool breeze wrap my face, I breathed a thank you to the Creator of Boracay and all things beautiful.

Just like the Sound of Music, our Boracay vacation this year was a classic, and even more than that: it was an intermission in itself. As I meditated on intermission, I learned of its purpose. The intermission does not detach the audience from what they have already seen. As a matter of fact, it helps a confused child (such as yours truly) connect the dots, identify with his favourite characters, make meaning out of a wise saying, or ask his or her parent what they will be having for lunch or dinner. The intermission somehow makes the viewer ready and excited for what’s coming without spoiling the grand finale.

And today I realized, my 3-day vacation in Boracay served the same purpose: a preparation for what’s coming. A breather. A momentary period to eat voluminous amounts of food without counting the calories; to  swim under the morning heat even if I end up two shades darker; to gaze at the stars at night and count them without dozing off; to have a Godly reminder painted on my arm, pose for the camera in scenic backgrounds, and experience the joy of flying even domestically. Most importantly, my vacation provided me an opportunity to reconnect with my Creator and Father in a relaxing and awe-striking way. 🙂 I don’t boast about my country having a beautiful island such as Boracay; I gladly boast about my Creator, Savior, and Lord Who knows exactly how many grains of sand dot Boracay’s shore and the names of every star in the sky and every galaxy named and unnamed. This is my God.

The classic vacation shall be resumed in several hours…or days. 😐

Part 2 coming right up.

In the meantime, do The Lifeline jump!

The Battle Between the Good and the Best

If there is one thing that will never cease to exist in a Christian’s earthly life, it is struggle–emotional, physical spiritual, you name it. The battle between the heart and the mind shall always prevail until the Creator and Lover of one’s soul weaves perfection in His beloved’s entire being. I am feeling the struggle now more than I did four, five years ago because, by God’s grace, I am willfully putting to death the evil that longs to be part of my sanctified and precious body. Sometimes the struggle is between good and evil–clear-cut black and white. Should I answer back or hold my tongue? Will I trust God and fear no evil or worry and fear everything? The Bible does not beat around the bush when it comes to  the consequences of obedience to God and disobedience against Him; blessings and curses are explicitly stated. If  you honor and obey your parents in the Lord, expect a long and happy life on earth (Ephesians 6:1-2). Refuse to believe in God and die in your sins; repent and believe in the only begotten Son of God and you will live (John 3:16-19).

But what if you have a struggle that a command or a principle in the Bible does not explicitly state or explain? What if your struggle is not exactly sinful, but a battle between the good and the best, the mediocre and the excellent? This is where the going gets tougher.

When I eat out with friends, should I order beef or chicken? (very shallow I know, but it’s hard to choose when you want to eat everything!)  When my Dad tells me he’ll buy me one book and after canvassing for an hour and a half in the bookstore and finally collecting four to five various titles in my arms, which one will I choose–romance, mystery, or humour? When my crush sits next to me and my heart tells me that having a boyfriend is not so bad an idea, should I make the first move or wait until he talks to me (even if he does not eventually pursue me)? The battle between the good and the best is harder than I thought.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent….” -Philippians 1:9-10a, NKJV

The reason many people don’t experience the abundant life (even Christians) is that their choices are mostly good, not excellent, and the reason people would rather settle with mediocrity rather than to pursue excellence is their love is based on feelings and man-made ideas. “I’ll do anything that will make me happy. I know he or she’s the one when I’m unexplainably happy with him or her.” What is wrong with this picture? C.S. Lewis shed light on this topic in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…. In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last….But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will, and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because no matter how hard I try to repress the romantic emotions inside me, they always surface. Even if I commit to remain single until God tells both me and my future partner, “You’re ready. It’s time,” I cannot help feeling a little sad (but not depressed–no, not me!) when my girlfriends have their guy friends asking them out and acting way too close and I’m just sitting there like..

Okay, maybe that GIF which I got from Tumblr is exaggerated, but I hope you get my idea. 10% of me wants to experience her first kiss, holding hands with a guy, and receiving love letters NOW; the other 90% sincerely seeks her True Love, Agape–Christ Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot’s struggle back in 1948 remains to be same and true in me present day, 2011:

“‘Clogged with wishes.’ I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there.”

When I committed to be wholly pure for Jesus for His glory, I thought that I would never yearn for a boyfriend until I’m after college or maybe even two years after that. I thought I would never feel even just a little bit insecure when a girlfriend of mine shares with me the number of guys who are courting her presently. I did not foresee the time when my own cousins, now grown-up and enjoying their jobs, would come to our family Bible study with a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Maybe Donkey’s right. At least the boulder won’t change or grow tired of me.

But I am not made to talk or associate with boulders and certainly not self-pity and loneliness. God made me for someone, and that someone is God Himself. The battle between the good and best persists because my heart that seeks for eternity often looks for permanent satisfaction in things which are carnal and temporary. I am so grateful to have a Father Who is gracious enough to understand my pettiness and foolishness when it comes to love and emotions. He’s the perfect Lover because only He understands exactly what I’m going through and when I offer up to Him my everything (which I’ve been doing slowly but surely), only He can bring good out of all of my negative emotions. What once was a battle becomes a field for a joyous celebration.

Why do we love in the first place? Paul continues in verse eleven of Philippians 1: “to the glory and praise of God.” For His Name’s sake. I need to remind myself constantly that I or my world is not about  anything else but God. For God. Because of God. Even the battle between good and evil, the good and the best, will turn out the way that He wants it to because He is the Source of everything. Man may have started sin, but God has already conquered it. For that, I am truly grateful.

So what am I to do with loneliness? With that longing to be “close but not romantically related” with my crush? I surrendered it to God so for now, it’s not in my hands. What will I do with something I don’t have? That’s right.

Nothing. 🙂

Sources:

Elliot, Elisabeth (2000). Passion and Purity: Learning To Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila: OMF Literature.

The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Inc., 1985. Biblegateway.com