Perfection-er

In my previous post, I talked about feeling quite depressed over my lack of inactivity and my feeling of uselessness, as I stayed home in most days. Turned out I was just bored and that I needed to change my perspective and attitude. God was preparing me for something bigger, better, and busier.

Last week, I started school. (I can’t believe I’m already in my senior year!) I knew that over the next ten months, I would be needing a lot of strength, wisdom, and grace because not only was I going to be busy, but I was going to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. Thus, on the eve of my first day of school, I posted a status on my Facebook account:

statusI didn’t realize these verses would be applied immediately, on the first week of school! God immediately granted my desire for useful activity, and oh, how much responsibilities He gave me! Firstly, the requirements for my majors (which comprise all of my subjects this semester) required intense, long hours of reading, reading, reading, reading…did I mention reading? Secondly, God revived His movement in my campus and specifically told me to be part of its core team when our youth pastor, Kuya Marty, told me to contact everyone and set a meeting. Then a friend of mine from a department in our youth ministry, ELEVATE, informed me that both of us were made admins of the host team. Add to that my commitment to meet two girls in school for Bible study, plus my own Dgroup upline (i.e., the group I attend for my personal “spiritual feeding and nourishment”), blogging, and Sunday School ministry. My hands and my plate were (at least from my point of view) overflowing with tasks!

At first I feared taking all these responsibilities (and until now I’m still praying and asking God if He can, if He will, put some on hold) because I feared not being able to juggle all of these with the growing demand in school, which was my primary ministry. Earlier this afternoon in our school chapel, this fear of incompetence and failure gnawed at me again. After my last class, I headed to the chapel to pray and have my quiet time because I wasn’t able to do so in the morning. I started thanking God about the fun day I had, and then I proceeded to the more serious stuff that really bothered me: the growing responsibilities and my fear that I would fail to deliver excellently. I reminded Him that I was bad at fulfilling my commitments, that I don’t want to fail Him and the people who were counting on me. I also told Him about my confusion about how to balance all these things and to deal with my insecurities (which still bother me)–my bad skin, increasing weight, baggy eyes even if I sleep early–and my unanswered questions about Him. In short, I was confused, disorganized, and fearful–all the things I utterly despise and do my best to escape from! As I dwelt on these negative things (a bad, bad idea), I started to cry. First in the volume of cologne sprays. Then a 500-liter water bottle. Then faucets. Inside the silent, public chapel. That’s when God, in His love and mercy, began conversing with me in my mind. I started it when I prayed, silently:

“Man, why did I even stay here? Why do I have to cry here? It’s so embarrassing…..Lord, You know my struggle. You know I’m bad at commitments. You know I want everything to be organized. Please guide me.”

Then amazingly, God replied.

“Honey, I want you to trust Me. I brought you here because I wanted to hug you, to let you know that I delight in you. I love you! I am delighted at you because you are walking in My will. Don’t worry! I love you, child.”

Of course, the pessimistic me did not believe, at least not completely. So God said:

“You’re here to have your quiet time, right? Okay open to Psalms, the chapter’s number is the date today.”

I said (in my mind): “Yeah, right, how am I sure I’m not just making this up and going after my feelings? Does God even do this?”

Although my question went unanswered at first, I went to Psalm 18 anyway. What I read shocked me and opened another valve in my eyes for more tears to flow. Here were some of the opening verses:

I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Verses 7-15 talked about awesome and terrifying things God did–earthquakes, consuming fire, blazing coals, darkness, hailstones–the apocalyptic sort of thing. I thought: “Seriously, God? Lord, are You…mad at me?” I wasn’t getting the idea. Not until I started reading from verse 16 all the way until the end in verse 50. Here were some of the verses that struck me:

He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;

The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

As for God, His way is blameless;

The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?

– Psalm 18:1-3,6, 16-3,25, 29-32 (emphases added)

By the end of the chapter I was lamenting. Thankfully I kept it inaudible, except for my occasional snorting, but I was relatively quiet. But wait…there’s more! God replied with an even more personal message.

“See? Of course I still speak to My children in a very personal way! You see, I am delighted in you. You are not in sin in the sense that you remain in it habitually. Honey, I know that you are very particular about the smallest details. I am, too. I like details, too. I also think they are very important. And yes, I am after perfection. But you see, I am not a perfectionist in the sense that I judge you and condemn you for your smallest mistake. I am not a perfectionist; I’m a perfection-er. I am perfecting you. I know that throughout the perfectioning process, you won’t have it all together. And that’s okay. As long as you trust Me and obey Me and fear Me (and you do, all these things), I am with you. Okay?” 🙂 

I thought the overwhelming emotion I felt was a result of the difficulty of management. I haven’t even started some of them! The real issue was that, I was afraid of making mistakes. I feared failure so much, I recoiled at the idea of having too much responsibilities and a lot people to be accountable to. God also told me that time that the key was not to avoid responsibility, but to eliminate everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me so that I can run with perseverance the race that God marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1-2). I had to remove the distractions and just focus on the main thing, and to keep it the main thing at all times. God wouldn’t have allowed me to be given these tasks or He would have told me to let them go had He not given me the strength, power, and ability to fulfill them. 🙂

I also learned that God wasn’t utterly strict in the perfectionist sense. I was. It’s unfortunate how the “don’t-sin-or-else-God-will-thunder-lightning-on-you” ideology from Greek mythology and other pagan literature still influenced me. I had an erroneous view of God. Surely God feels saddened when I sin, even the smallest one. But that doesn’t mean He is totally displeased with me that He won’t talk to me or that I should expect to be disciplined tomorrow. No matter what happens, we must always remember that God is LOVE. Everything He does stems from His love. Nothing He does is done out of hatred the way we humans hate, or apathy. Even God’s “hate” towards people is grounded on love. Especially with children who sincerely seek Him and do His will, He is ever gentle, patient, merciful, and gracious. He knows our weaknesses. That’s why He’s perfecting us, because we have deficiencies. That’s also why He’s patient, because He knows we’ve been so used to this faulty system that we think it’s normal. But, no. His perfection and His holiness should be our norm. There is no middle ground.

If you have a perfectionist tendency like mine or if you, too, feel like escaping responsibility for fear of failure, may I encourage you today to pause, take a deep breath, and know that God does not desire to condemn you? Really, He doesn’t. The process hurts but it doesn’t mean God hates you. In fact, the fact that He’s investing so much in you–disciplining, molding, mentoring, discipling, guiding, providing for you–means that He really, really, really loves you! Also, I pray that you (and I) will realize that failure is not final. Neither is success. We fail, we get back up. We succeed, we move past that, otherwise we become complacent or even recalcitrant when we’re told to move forward. C.S. Lewis put it perfectly when he wrote in his book, Beyond Personality:

“…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.”

So trust His character. It’s the only thing that remains constant in this ever-changing world. 🙂

After that drama session with God, I wiped my tears and went out of the chapel with my head held high. I may not have all the facts together nor am I relieved of the chance of failure, but I know that I am kept safe by the One Who goes before me, the One who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side! Above all, this Perfection-er of mine loves me. And really, that’s more than enough. 🙂

Reference:
Lewis, C.S. (1947). Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
New American Standard Bible (NASB). (1995). The Lockman Foundation. via BibleGateway.com.

 

There’s No One I’d Rather Be Than Me

WARNING: This post contains statements which may not be suitable for innocent Wreck-It-Ralph audiences. Parental, spousal, whatever type of guidance is advised.

 

Have you ever wished you were designed differently as a person? Maybe if you had a different temperament or a different occupation at this stage of your life right now, you would be a happier and more fulfilled person?

Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph did.

Ralph: good guy disguised as a bad guy

Disney’s latest animation delves into the occupation of Ralph as a wrecker in the arcade game, Fix It Felix Jr. and the loneliness that goes with it. With his abnormally gigantic fists, Ralph boxes bricks and windows of a condominium and throws bricks at Felix Jr. who is programmed to, surprise, surprise, fix Ralph’s wreckage with his magic hammer. Ralph’s job wouldn’t be so bad (and lonely) if it were not for the fact that after a game, when Felix receives his hard-earned medal, the citizens of the condo lift Ralph and throw him down the dump. That happens at every single game no matter what level the player (human, of course) reaches. Thus if 8 players play the game on average and each player reaches at least 3 levels (assuming all levels are successfully won), Felix gets 24 medals a day, and Ralph wrecks and gets thrown in the dump 24 times as well.

courtesy of Google Images

To make it even more lonely, when the arcade closes and the games are over, Ralph heads over to the brick dump, or garbage, and lives alone, while the condo’s citizens live with the very much praised and admired Felix Jr., who gets his daily servings of compliments and warm pies.

Provoked by his loneliness and the spiteful attitude of the condo citizens against him, Ralph vowed to win himself a medal just like Felix Jr. even if it meant breaking game protocol. In the games, it is impossible for the bad guys to win medals since they were reserved for good guys. Ralph had had enough of being a bad guy. He wanted to be good and win a medal. He wanted to be praised by the members of his game and served pies. He yearned to belong.

As I watched Ralph’s (literally) animated life unfold before my eyes last Sunday afternoon, I realized I shared his sentiments. It’s not the loneliness or the spiteful attitude of the people around me, because, by God’s grace, people treat me kindly.

It’s the fact that, once upon a time, I did not like the way I was “programmed.”

To answer the question I posed at the beginning of this post: Have you ever wished you were designed differently as a person?,

my answer would be a resounding “yes.”

After reading Beverly LaHaye’s book, The Spirit-Controlled Woman, I found out that God blessed me with the melancholic-sanguine temperament. Among my favorites of the descriptions of a MelSan person are: “one of the most gifted of all the temperament blends;” “usually does well in academia;” “she can sway an audience with her charm.” (In other words, a drama queen. Haha!) Although my temperament is blended with sanguine, which is extrovert, I am mainly a melancholic so I am still considered an introvert. Gifted as I may be, I easily get depressed because melancholics are wired to be so deeply emotional. We take our emotions and thoughts seriously. We think about our actions even after we’ve done them and worry if they’re not right or appropriate. Sanguines are our exact opposites. If a sanguine student recites the wrong answer in class, he won’t care (or at least dwell on) the embarrassment it caused. A melancholic, on the other hand, would slap himself (at least mentally) for answering so stupidly and would vow to never, ever do that again, or at least think twice before answering.

I used to hate the fact that I’m not as friendly as my sanguine family members and friends, such as my mom. She magnetizes people instantly–from the vendor at the wet market to the vice president of a company. At a party of her close friends or her own, she adds life, laughter, and camaraderie. When we hang out together, there are no dull moments–except maybe for the silence that ensues once our threader begins to thread our eyebrows; she sleeps, while I wince occasionally in pain.

My Mom is also one of the few people who never, ever gets insecure about their looks. She usually gets teased as fat, obese, and plump, but not once did I see my mom sulk, cry, or even frown. She responds with a smile and a witty remark while holding her portly tummy: “Dapat lang! Malaki investment ko diyan.” When I get called fat, I wish I could  also smile and reply wittily. In reality, I get sad. I get frustrated because I overate again the other day and went through a week without working out. Sometimes I don’t get sad at all because I know it’s not true, but sad or not, being called fat is a big deal to me. Well, was a big deal. (ngayon small deal nalang :D)

There came a stage in my life–a difficult and tearful stage, I must admit–when I disliked the temperament God gave me. I reasoned that it was the wheel behind my “inability” to allow myself to easily create deep bonds with people so that I’ll be part of their circles and not be left alone during lunchtime. Don’t get me wrong, people don’t intentionally avoid me or reject me; it’s just that, I’m the type of person who doesn’t push herself to be part of a group that doesn’t invite me in. In other words, I often lack initiative. I attributed that lack to my introverted temperament which in turn made me hate myself and my “program.” Just like Ralph wanted so badly to be “good,” I wanted to be an extrovert, more of a people person than an observant bystander.

As I sought the Lord and His will for me, He changed my heart of stone into a heart of flesh so that I may gratefully accept the program He made and gave for me.  According to LaHaye, falling into a black emotional hole is a negative tendency for melancholics, and the best way to avoid that tendency and turn it into a blessing is by practicing gratitude. Moment. By. Moment. “In everything give thanks,” God said in Philippians 4:13, “for it is the will of God through Christ Jesus concerning you.”  As I sought the Lord, He showed me one of the reasons why He prompted me to put up this site, The Lifeline: that I may list all the blessings that God sends my way and thank Him for them. This blog reminds me of Who my God is, what He has done, and what He continues to do in and through me–and overall, that leads me to discovering pure and lasting joy.  🙂

Wreck-It-Ralph made it to my top favorite movies of all time because it reminded me so much of my journey to accepting the way God programmed me. The way we are programmed–our ancestry, parents, genes, background, temperament, etc–cannot be changed. We can only accept it or reject it. Moreover, acceptance can either be grateful or spiteful. Just like Ralph, I choose grateful acceptance of my program. When Ralph failed to gratefully accept his program as “the bad guy,” one disaster upon another followed his tail, almost costing him his life (i.e., game over). The  times when I pretended to be someone I’m not were my most miserable and lonely experiences. Erasing gratitude out of the picture means erasing joy as well.

By my Father’s amazing grace, I have come to terms with my temperament and my body. At times I still struggle with conflicting emotions and insecurities, but my God gets me through them at the end of the day through prayer. How about you? Have you gratefully accepted the unchangeable program you’ve been endowed with? Have you come to terms with your negative tendencies and sought practical ways to turn them into blessings? The only way you can be happy the way you are is by realizing that the One who created you fashioned you so uniquely to serve a unique purpose. We stand equally before our Maker as persons and beings, but we stand differently as our selves. He loves you as much as He loves me, but He loves you differently. My needs are not met the same way yours are. I’m still baffled at those facts, but I am just grateful that I don’t have to worry about that because my God’s got me all covered!

I pray that if you haven’t gratefully accepted your program that one day, you will, just as Ralph and I did. Ralph affirmed his acceptance by wholeheartedly declaring what is called as “The Bad Guy Affirmation:”

“I am bad and that’s good. I will never be good and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

I am Jenny, an imperfect MelSan, and that’s good. I may never be as extroverted as I wanted to be and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.

And there’s no one you should rather be but Y-O-U. 🙂

Mac’s lipsticks are fabulous
sans make-up after Insanity. O___O

Dreams Come True When You Trust in Him

2 months and 6 days. Has it been that long since I updated this blog? It seemed like forever.  Anyway, I’m back!! 🙂

I’m still alive, in case you guys are wondering. 😀 School demanded so much of my time, energy, emotions, and not to mention money the past 2 months. Finally, after more than three months of grueling research, quizzes, papers, exams, and commuting, I welcome sembreak (semestral break) with open arms!!!! #cometomama

Now that I’m on break from seemingly inexhaustible deadlines,  I shall refocus my attention on my beloved Lifeline–starting with the post that has been calling out to me since June: my trip to New York City and other places, last summer (springtime in the USA), in celebration of my 18th birthday. Yes, I blew my candles this year. YAY! 😀

Last 2004, May-June, Dad, Mom, my two brothers, Josh & James, and I spent our vacation in the US for the second time. The plan was for us to spend a few days of our 6-week stay in the city that never sleeps, along with Mom’s sister and her husband. To say that I was stoked was an understatement.

However, because of problems with the availability of my uncle and whatnot, our trip was cancelled. My  hopes of setting my eyes on the colorful electronic billboards in Times Square were dashed instantly. My heart was crushed.

Fast-forward to 2012. Mid March, my parents, especially my Mom, were excited to celebrate my 18th birthday in May, otherwise known as a debut. Debuts are a major celebration in the Philippines, much like Sweet Sixteen in the US. It  is seen as a transitional activity, as a young female moves from clumsy teenage-hood to classy womanhood. Well, at least that’s seen as the first step. Anyway, going back to my story:  my relatives and friends are all eager to celebrate my 18th year with me. It’s not unusual. People you know look forward to picking out an outfit according to your assigned theme or motif, girls especially. Those who have experience in debuts–as a planner, guest, or celebrant–probably wanted to have their share in my program. Did I mention my Mom was really excited to throw me a birthday bash? She sat me down one morning and told me to type the details of the debut: guestlist, decorations, venue, caterer….all that event planning shiz. Everyone was eager to partey!

Everyone but me.

I’m one of those girls who want to spend their 18th year differently, and by different I mean NO BIG PARTIES. Don’t get me wrong, I love parties! In fact, I’ve had my share of birthday parties when I was growing up. However, my mind and soul enjoyed different things now. Before, I was enthralled at the fact that my relatives and friends would give me presents wrapped in colorful glossy paper and played parlor games with me, or that I was going to swim from 10 AM – 3 PM at the swimming pool of a nice hotel. That was when I was seven, ten, fifteen.

At eighteen (actually at seventeen), I wanted to travel. I wanted to board a plane in Manila and after a few hours of flying, get out of the plane and see a totally different city thousands of miles away from home.

My Mom already applied for a US visa last February, and because God granted her one, she planned to leave around March and return just in time for my supposed debut. However, one Sunday, God must have worked His magic in her heart because she noticed that I wasn’t as eager as she and my Dad were about the birthday bash.

“Why don’t you ask Dad to just let you go to the US with me? If that’s what you really want. All we want is for you to be happy.”

Will I be happy if I go with her? It’s like asking Julia Child, if she were alive, if she was any good at cooking.

Dad said yes to my request to go with Mom to the US, but on one condition.  If my visa application was denied, I wouldn’t have a birthday bash. This made me quite anxious because being granted a US visa in the past doesn’t always guarantee an approval in the next application.

So I applied for a US visa and scheduled an interview. I hoped for an interview around mid-April so that Mom and I can leave immediately. But guess what the earliest schedule was?

June 14th.  That was the first day of classes.

I cried. Let me correct that–I lamented. I wanted to travel so badly, and now my chance of doing so were gone.

“Call out to Me and trust Me,” Jesus spoke quietly in my heart.

“But…it’s just impossible, Lord! The date that I prayed for has already been fully booked. Why do I always have to cry every time I celebrate my birthday?”

“Nothing is impossible for him who believes. Do you trust Me?”

And trust I did. By God’s grace, He gave my Mom wisdom so that my schedule would be expedited.

To cut the long story short, several days later, on April 23rd,  I was scheduled to be interviewed at the US Embassy in Manila city.   Six days after my interview, Dad and my uncle brought Mom and me to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Eighteen hours after our arrival at NAIA, Mom and I landed safely at LAX. Four days after our safe landing in LAX, our plane flew us safely to New Jersey, and from there, we took a bus to New York City. ❤

Nothing is impossible for him who believes!

WARNING: Photo flood ahead! I think I’ve explained enough. I’ll just continue later. =)))


I really feel like Mac Taylor and I have a connection. Or any of the CSI: NY team. #fangirling

The following day, we boarded a boat and headed to Ellis Island, where Lady Liberty stands. She’s so…huge. Haha 🙂

post-processing of this photo by my Dad, who was back in Manila then with my two brothers during our 5-week stay. I really, really wished they were there with us, but Dad had work he cannot leave behind. Boo 😦

Mom and I maximized the use of our scarves! 😀 It was quite chilly even in the spring time, at least for Asian tourists such as myself.

God was just so awesome. I thought the only new & unique place I would visit over the summer was New York City. Mom and I also got to visit Chicago & Washington D.C., among other places. How cool is that? 🙂


Formerly called the Sears Tower, the Willis Tower is a skyscraper in Chicago. *cue Demi Lovato song here* haha. Okay ang corny ko. Next!

Also went to where this scene was shot


This was where Channing Tatum & Rachael McAdams sealed their wedding vows with a kiss–in character, of course–for The Vow.  Since my own Channing Tatum is still in the making, I just jumped in front of the bean. 😀 Haha! This is located in Millenium Park. That bean is one gorgeous piece of architecture!

We also dropped by the Obama’s crib.

and visited good ‘ol Abe, too. 

the Pentagon as well, which was bombed during the 9-11 attack. The name that you see there is just one of the many names of the people who died there at the Pentagon on that fateful day. The birthdays of the victims were also etched on the floors (some on the benches), and some of them were children as young as 5 years old. 😦

Part of my prayer request when I went to the States was to escape the intense summer heat in Manila and enjoy the cool spring time weather in the US. I wasn’t told that the climate in the east coast is way colder than that of the west which I think is because of  the Atlantic ocean (see body of water behind us). We were so cold that after taking pictures we ran inside the casinos (we were in Atlantic city, New Jersey’s mini Las Vegas), walked to Starbucks and ordered hot chocolate. 😀

I am blessed to have many relatives living in the US who are so generous and kind enough to spend their time, money, and presence with their extended family. I especially missed my cousin, CJ, because we grew up together! It’s been 2 years since he moved to Cerritos. Akala ko may accent na pag kinausap ko eh. Thankfully he prefers to remain true to his native tongue 😀

no vacation would be complete without shopping. This was the only photo taken of us shopping (well at least a decent one) since we’re too preoccupied with trying all the good stuff we saw, including our family and friends who owned the cameras! 😀

Ate Selah treated us to the Niko Niko restaurant–authentic Japanese and delicious sushi! I’m not a fan of Japanese food (except for teriyaki and tempura), but when I tried their dishes here, I changed my mind. If ever you’re in the Cerritos area, go check out this restaurant and order Monkey Brain. Sounds gross, but it tastes really good! So diba nag-plug ako. Ano ako brand ambassador? Chos!

For the 3rd time, I went to Disneyland with my cousins from Mom’s side, Ate Charlene and Kuya Matt. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my love for theme parks, especially one as huge and unique and totally awesome as Disneyland. No one is too young or old for one of the happiest places on earth! 😀

One of the rides you HAVE to ride on at the California Adventure Park is the Mickey Mouse ferris wheel–that round ride with Mickey’s face in the middle. When you do, make sure you line up for the swinging gondolas. You might think it’s scary up there, but I tell you, you will have the ride (and for us, the greatest laugh) of your life. Seriously. Take my word for it. 🙂

Disneyland is known for its evening shows. When we were there, World of Color was showing. It was awesome! The interplay of water, light, and sounds created lifelike images of different Disney characters against the black sky (because it was evening). The show was so cool! (well almost everything in Disneyland is cool, even their utensils and napkins. Haha) Although we were several feet behind the “wet zone” we still managed to take a light bath. Eh naligo naman kami nung umaga.  😦 😀

Aside from CJ, I also bonded and hung out with my cousins (ates and kuya) Trisha, Charlene, and Matthew. I find it amazing how you can easily connect and really enjoy spending time with people you haven’t seen in four years. I’m really thankful that I have the best cousins who are so fun to be around with. I know people who won’t even talk to their siblings, much more their cousins, and that’s really sad. Big Bang theory, Total Blackout, Impractical Jokers, and Filipino food made our moments funner. 😀

the last thing I did before flying back to Manila was hiking for 2-hours all the way to the top of the Hollywood sign, although we didn’t actually get near the sign because it’s illegal. This is the most exhausting and at first, hated activity I ever participated in in our entire trip. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the experience. I needed the exercise after eating so much. I ate so much I gave birth to two pairs of twin food babies.

5 weeks passed by and ended so soon, but I was grateful for everything that happened there. A lot of other activities happened in between, but I’m afraid I don’t have the pictures to show you exactly what happened. Aside from visiting east coast cities, I had other firsts during that trip: first time to ride a local plane 4 times in 1 week; first time to hike; first time to shop in H&M!; first time to cook adobo–because if you’re like me who gets tired eating burgers and craves for “real food,” you would cook Filipino ulam (viands) to satisfy your palate. So I did. I’m so glad it was successful! My lola would have been proud.

It was also my first time to travel out of the country with just one parent. My Mom was amazing the entire trip. She rode the swinging gondolas with us (me & my cousins) even if she’s not really into rides, and she’ll tell you that riding the ferris wheel was one of the highlights of her trip, too. She bought me the food I wanted. Although my Dad wasn’t there (which explains for the not-so-good-quality photos), I felt his presence with us especially when I saw things that reminded me of him. 😉

Although I really wished my Dad and two brothers were around, I am grateful that I went to the States last April and fulfilled part of my dream. I do wish I  got to watch a show on Broadway, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, or jog around Grand Central Park, but I am still thankful to Jesus, then my parents for making my dream come true. One day, I know I’ll go back to New York–maybe work there, or study, or just do the things I was unable to accomplish last summer. I can feel it. I fell in love with that city, and I am determined to go back. One day, in God’s perfect timing. 🙂

I used to think that God would only answer my prayer requests that concern His “work” like ministry and Gospel sharing. Sure, He answers those requests, but God is not KJ. He wants us to be happy; it’s part of His good and perfect will for us. We just have to trust Him to work things out and fulfill our desires for us in His proper time, because only then will we be truly happy. 🙂

I want to thank the people who made this awesome trip possible, as well as those who accommodated us: the Talam family, Robrigado family, De Guia family, Mom’s cool high school friends, De Vera family, and of course, my parents, Dad and Mom. I pray that I, too will be used by God to fulfill your heart’s desires.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.  Blessed are those who put their trust in Him!”

– Psalm 34:8

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.” 

Love Like Bacon

Last Saturday, I ate slightly burnt, long and crispy, juicy bacon.

Seldom do I eat bacon because it’s not exactly and apparently healthy; even more seldom do I eat bacon in an eat-all-you-can-breakfast, so just imagine my elation when I found it on the buffet table. I was smitten for the next hour as I walked back and forth our table and the buffet table, heaping spoonfuls of bacon on my plate. Each bite was a delight to my palate and a burden for my digestive organs. After an hour, I sat lazily in my seat, thankful to God for the bacon, but surprisingly, not wishing for any more. At least not at that time.

Although this true-to-life example is a shallow comparison to what being in love is like, I think the processes involved in it is just as the same. Smelling bacon, much more to eat it, is as irresistible as holding his or her hand as you walk, mindless of the world save each other’s presence. (If you don’t find bacon irresistible, unless you’re really sick, something must be seriously wrong with you)  Being in love, or being passionate about someone or something, does not only exist in the context of romanticism (or else I can’t say I’m in love). For a new mom, bathing her beautiful child is a joy. For a writer and blogger, posting one entry after another is a delight even if it robs you of sleep.

But what happens when the feeling is gone? Should a man ditch his woman in midair and rekindle the fire with someone else? Should a mother cease to attend to her wailing child when she does not feel like it? Should a blogger (and here I’m speaking mainly to myself), or any writer for that matter, discontinue writing, thinking that “nobody cares about what I have to say anyway?”

Unlike the process of eating bacon, which has and must have a definite ending or else the body will retaliate, the lifetime process of love has no end. It must persist through time. Why, then, do marriages fail? Why do passions die down? I don’t speak for everyone, but based on my experience, my love for people and noble passions dies down because I based it on the feeling of being in love. The top reason I did not blog the past 2 months (although I did write in my journal, but still) is that I did not “feel like writing.” There are a lot of bloggers out there anyway. My absence won’t make any difference.

While it is true that by not writing I am not exactly doing others any wrong, I am doing wrong for myself, because I committed to this and I am not keeping my part of the bargain. Love, whether for spouse, child, country, or God–especially God–must be, according to C.S. Lewis, “maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” Feelings go faster than you can say Mississippi, but your will stays with you. Although we may think that people and circumstances make us do the things we do, it’s really us who choose what we do. They just influenced us to do them, but they did not actually make those decisions for us.

For me, I have decided today that I will encourage you all with these words. (I hope you were!) I believe it’s part of my commitment to write for a world that is in dire need of trustworthy words to hold on to. I mean it when I say trustworthy, because the One Who gives the words to say is trustworthy. And by the One I mean the Lord Jesus. Think about it: Do you think Jesus felt like dying on the cross (and I got this idea from Tom Holladay)? Did He skip and jump gleefully from the Passover room to Gethsemane as His time for excruciating suffering was coming to a close? Yet He went on anyway. He maintained His will because He truly, absolutely loves you and me. Just think about that for a moment and let reality sink in because that’s what true love is. That’s Who He is–irresistible, satisfying, and truly delightful.

Just like a good serving of crispy bacon. 🙂

 

Holladay, Tom (2008). The Relationship Principles Of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan

Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. United Kingdom: Macmillan Pub Co.