[2011 Recap] Highlights Part 2

Bonded more with family

Bonded More With Family

This year, I made my Dad cry.

Prior to June 19, 2011, I never saw my Dad cry. Not a single tear. It’s not that he’s stoical, but I think since my Mom does the crying of them two, he ought to stay strong and hold back the tears. Dad always remained calm, cool, and composed even in the face of problems. His threshold of tears must be high, I suppose.

Until, of course, I and my brothers exceeded that threshold with a presentation.

Two weeks before Father’s Day, I secretly planned two musical numbers to be performed by me and my brothers, Josh and James. Forgive me Bruno Mars and Kelly Clarkson, but I altered your songs’ lyrics to suit our message for our Dad (“Just The Way You Are” and “My Life Would Suck Without You”). My siblings and I capitalized on the minutes and hours our Dad was out of the house to practice our trio number.

June 19, 2011, Sunday.  Before having breakfast, I whispered to my Mom my plan and asked her to take a video of our number. Casually, I borrowed Dad’s DSLR, saying “I would just look at something.” I was certain he did not sense a surprise coming up because his reaction to our number was priceless.

I signalled my brothers to stand up and position themselves as we have rehearsed. For about eight minutes we sang our hearts out, with my voice crackling and occasionally sounding off key because I struggled to hold back my tears. After we sang the last note of “My Life Would Suck Without You,” we paused and watched our Daddy give in.

That was one moment I shall never, ever forget. I did not expect the tears because as I’ve mentioned earlier, I (as well as my brothers) never witnessed Daddy cry. Father’s day went better than expected.

Unable to suppress his joy, Dad shared his experience with his 600+ friends on Facebook with a note (the only one he’s made so far):

“Today shall be considered one of my best days in my life. I have cried this morning, tears of joy of course. My children gave me a song & dance presentation not once but twice. I usually get a greeting during this occasion but today it was so wonderfully different….After their presentation I embraced them tightly while I was crying. My wife Jean started to cry as well then she told me she has not seen me cry again until today. Also we had a great bonding time with our relatives and loved ones, eating together, laughing together, enjoying the moment as we speak of plans for the future.  And before I go to sleep I will read the lovely letters given to me by my children. As I sat down here at home I could’nt help but to thank my Father in heaven for giving me another day to experience all of these. Thank you Father God for allowing me to become a father, to receive the kind of love you yourself would want us to have. I love you Father! God is good!”

The memories and moments that followed that Sunday further strengthened our relationship as a family. No matter where God leads us, we are full of His joy, peace, and grace because He is good. I am even more grateful that God allowed us to spend time together in picturesque places such as Boracay and Balay Indang.

We are imperfect. In fact, yesterday, each of us recounted the times we hurt each other and individually asked for forgiveness. But you see, the beauty behind imperfection (and pain) is that it allows God’s grace to overflow our lives, filling the hollow cracks that were caused by our own sinfulness.

Drew closer to God

I have a confession to make.

My relationship with God is the hardest and most uncomfortable of all my relationships. Many times I am lost in the sea of confusion; sometimes I don’t know if what I’m hearing is from me or from His Spirit. The desire to unwaveringly love and serve Him is never constant so when it reaches an all time low, I usually succumb to my old, sinful self. If you’ve been a Christian for quite some time, you’d understand. I would utterly disdain my 2011 if it were not for Yahweh.

God is one of those precious few people in my life who love me in spite of my failings and never lets me go even as I suffer the consequences of my wrongdoings. When I worked my way to win Him over because I thought I was not good enough, He looked at me compassionately. Finally when I gave up, He embraced me, reassuring me that there is nothing I could do or will do that will diminish His love for me. Nothing.

He never ceased to speak to me and nudge me, reminding me of who I am in Him and the consequences I shall face if I disobey His command. Openly He rewarded me when I followed His leading; likewise, He disciplined me when I followed my selfish desires.

My Papa Sheph (short for Shepherd) heeded my prayer when I asked for discernment so that I can make the best–not just good–decisions. God also withheld many of my desired ‘what-if’ situations so that my heart would be guarded. Indeed, He is the Keeper of my heart, however deceitful it might be.

Best of all, He filled me with joy. He enables me to live my Lifeline with joy, and only He can do that because He has overcome death and sorrow. 🙂

Grasping my Papa’s hand tightly, I shift my eyes away from 2011 and look forward to 2012.  I am excited because I know God will work mightily in me and the lives of my loved ones.

I want to end this post (and year) with a verse. Each year that passes brings God’s family closer to this promise’s fulfillment:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

-Revelation 21:8

A joyful and blessed 2012 to you! 🙂

Forever Not Alone

A cool evening from Manila, ladies and gents! 🙂

I must admit that over the past few days, I totally forgot about my blog. Not that its memory has been erased off my mind completely, it’s just that the idea of posting and encouraging my lovely readers never crossed my mind.  Effect of a loaded schedule, I  suppose. I have so many things to share with you guys, but because you only have a few minutes to spare, I must break down this post into the biggest internal experience that I went through this week: two oppositely-charged emotions and my tumultuous journey with them and most importantly, their Maker. 🙂

The journey began two Saturdays ago. I went to Jzone as usual, wanting to share the Gospel, hoping to bond with friends, and expecting to meet with my fellow Sunday school teachers for our presentation the next Sunday, that is, yesterday. I only got to share the Gospel, which went well–praise God! 🙂 Two new ladies have been added to God’s big and wonderful family. Unfortunately, my teachers attended a meeting which ended while I was already attending the service in Jzone so I missed the meeting. Most of my closest friends in Jzone were absent and friends who were left behind proceeded to their planned dinners and rendezvouses. Needless to say, I was

I am no stranger to loneliness, whether in a bad sense or a good one. However, last Saturday’s loneliness dwelt more on the bad side. Negative emotions and past struggles haunted me slowly, one day at a time. Worry, the meanest of them all,  spearheaded the homecoming. Am I too weird? Maybe I should be more interesting. But I don’t know what to say. If I focus on my God-committed plans (God has been nudging me about planning), I might be too work-focused and in the process, compromise my relationships. These thoughts fueled my desire to seek for things that I subconsciously hoped would relieve me of my loneliness–eating, watching television, 9gagging, reading all sorts of books, and posting supposedly eye-catching statuses on Facebook whenever I so desired. It turned out food did not completely satisfy, laughter was not the best medicine, and entertainment was far from being the joy expert. Suddenly it was first year, first semester in college all over again.

After worry came self-centeredness.  And even though I did not admit it to myself at that time, I acted with this thought in mind: What am I supposed to do to push loneliness away? The answer I found from the world seemed favorable: pleasure. Watch a movie. Eat and be merry. Spend hours on your favorite social networking sites. Eat some more. I grew increasingly insecure of my body, weight, and condition as a child of God. I did not know it that time (which was only last week), but God led me through the wilderness (thankfully my journey lasted only a week and not 40 years).

Because I was full of myself, my heart could not contain the love and patience the people around me had to offer. That was so, until I relented a little. I texted four close people to pray for me (just like I did last year during my 1st semester in college). And again, the one who went to me and consoled me was my mother. She visited me in my room, laid beside me in my bed, and asked and waited patiently for my honest response. I fumbled for the right words to say, but I realized the most important thing to do then was not to be right but to be true to how and what I felt and needed. Tearfully I admitted my feelings of loneliness and hopelessness with unfulfilled plans (especially regarding exercise and healthy eating).

Honestly, I expected Mom to say something like, “You’re going to be okay.” Well she did, but not until she said her timely and unexpected response.

“Your feelings of loneliness? Okay lang yan. (They are okay)”

Loneliness is okay?

“This is the best time for you to spend time with God.”

She recounted the stories of the first Christians in the Bible who were chained and imprisoned. “Mas malungkot yun, kasi sa kulungan wala ka talagang kausap.” (It’s sadder to be inside a prison cell because there you have no one to talk to) Loneliness, instead of removing their worth and joy, brought them closer to God and strengthened their hearts for service.

Our conversation lasted for more than half an hour, and although my heart was not completely healed after that, I definitely experienced relief. 🙂 Bouts of loneliness and worry lingered in the shadows for the rest of the week until the seminar I attended on Saturday.

Agnes Sarthou Ph.D spoke to a group of women on finding and living out God’s purpose. Mrs. Sarthou is the wife of one of CCF’s pastors, Pastor Ricky Sarthou. Years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Instead of succumbing to depression and human strength, she yielded to God’s control and love and allowed Him to work mightily. By the grace of God, she was cured! She now inspires people, particularly cancer patients and survivors, to know and love Jesus Christ because He loves and cares for them. 🙂 Aside from sharing her story with us, Ms. Aggie also shared with us her life purpose: to love and serve her God all the days of her life. To love, submit, and be a blessing to her husband. To love and care for her children. To train people excellently. And then afterwards, she asked us to do the same: Write out your life purpose.

That’s when it hit me: I lost track of my purpose. Instead of pleasing God, I pleased myself. No wonder I was so depressed! After clearing my conscience before God, I wrote my life purpose, and in one sentence, it is this: to love and serve my Heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior all the days of my life, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus. 🙂

God changed my perspective regarding loneliness. It’s not a negative state that  one should avoid entirely. In fact, when you’re alone, there is nothing and no one that stands between you and God, and that for me is the best state. To just stand before Him and be moved by Him. Many people fail in their relationships because they thought being in a relationship means escaping loneliness. Loneliness, I learned, is vital for growth. Alone time is essential. Jesus Christ did not muster the strength to keep calm and carry on by perpetually bonding with His family and disciples; He withdrew intentionally to the wilderness to be alone with His Father from Whom He gained real and lasting strength, Besides, with God speaking to me, I’m really not alone. There is a time to bond and be with people as well as a time to be alone and bask in the presence of the Living, eternal God Who will never leave you or forsake you, whether you are in green pastures, the valley of the shadow of death, or the wilderness.

If you are a bonafide child of God, regardless of your situation, you are always safe in the Father’s hands. 🙂

PS: On a totally unrelated note, I cut my hair! New hair, new vibes! 😀 hihihi What do you think?