[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! 🙂

[2011 Recap] Highlights Part 1

(Belated) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Please do pardon my inactivity the past several days. Christmas and birthday parties, meetings, and shopping activities left and right flooded my schedule. My body clock also changed drastically to the point that 2 AM is the new early (because sleeping is too mainstream :D). Oh and don’t even get me started with the food. I don’t think our refrigerator was never not brimming with delicacies and viands the past several days. Christmas has gotten the best of us!

Can I just say how grateful I am? Truly, truly grateful.

This year was super. Nah, I didn’t feed a hundred hungry children with my  money or located one’s missing pet. But through grace and the working of my Lord Jesus Christ, I was privileged to feed spiritual food to hundreds of people and lead them to Jesus. I myself was fed and found by my Savior when I got sidetracked more than once. More than twice. Yep, lots of times.

2011–my 2011–was super.

Here are the top 7 reasons that made it supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  🙂

“It ain’t the end of the world!!!”

Although I’m not a huge fan of Jay Sean, I shared his sentiments in his song “2012” last May 21, 2011. Lest you have forgotten what occurred (or did not occur) on that Saturday, then maybe the name Harold Camping would jog your memory. How about Doomsday? End of the world? Turned out it wasn’t the end of the world…well, not yet, at least.

I was so thankful that I was blessed with more time to invest for eternity. 🙂 Although “the world is full of tribulation,” as Jesus said, I am thankful to Him for giving me more time to grow as a person–and you as well! So whoever said that the world will end sometime 2012,

I still plan on graduating. And I will. Hopefully by 2013 or  2014. 😀

Hate-and-love relationship with my body and with food and ended up loving both

There was never a year in my past 17 years of existence when I have struggled intensely with my body than 2011. However stressing this struggle might have been to me, I still consider it a blessing for three reasons:

  1. I drew closer to my Heavenly Father and bonded with Him in the process.
  2. I experienced His grace. I finally learnt what other people meant when they said that God’s grace is awesome. And it is! 🙂
  3. I learned to love food the right way and the food I should prioritize: the spiritual.

Frankly, I still struggle with my body and food.  Jesus never promised me a bed of roses after all. I am doing my best to keep it fit and in good shape by making healthy food choices and exercising regularly. If I put my guard down, I can be overweight, but I don’t think I will ever be anorexic or bulimic because I just love food too much! 😀 (Never lost my appetite even when I was sick) Because I also discovered a passion for cooking (another blessing!), I get to prepare meals healthily and enjoy them with family and friends. 🙂

New school, new relationships, fresh new insights and knowledge

The main reason I transferred university was time constraints. We–Dad, Mom, and I–thought that our family would migrate to the United States of America by the end of my 1st semester.

Clearly, God had other reasons because after a semester and 2 months, we’re still here. 🙂

I believe one of those reasons is that I could meet new wonderful people whom I can establish relationships with and go through an okay semester. People I can listen to and vice versa; boys and girls who, like me, are perfectly imperfect and in need of heavy doses of grace.

Thank you for making me laugh, smile, study hard (so I can teach others, haha), and sharing meals with me in and out of class. You may not know this, but you taught me a lot on dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and with differing personalities.

Another reason I’m thinking God allowed me to transfer schools is so I could face realities I was good at running away from: accounting, basic law, school uniform, and evening classes. (6-9 pM, twice a week–waddup?!)

More hosting and storytelling opportunities

Tron motif hosting

at my high school friend, Camille’s debut

telling about Naaman’s story during Summer Adventure (May 2011)

hosted with my cousin, Miko, during our high school’s talent night

a short spiel with my cousins at our aunt’s birthday last December 13

The gift of speaking is one God-given possession that I take seriously, use correctly, and ameliorate constantly because I know lives are at stake–mine and those around me. More importantly, I want to be able to hear from my Lord and Master, the words every servant is dying to hear:

“Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

So if you’re in Metro Manila and you are in need of a host for your party or a storyteller for your outreach program, contact me! talamjenny@gmail.com 😀 chos biglang nag plug

Jedi

If you chanced upon my blog around September, you would have probably met my gorgeous, then 2-month old puppy and prince, Jedi. He is a bundle of joy to our family even if he was the primary cause of my mom’s asthma.

When he was brought to us by mom’s friend and her husband, he fit perfectly in a small box. He was about the size of a small pillow and, if you’ve got well toned biceps and triceps, can be carried with one hand. My brothers and I huddled quietly around him as he slept peacefully in his basket or underneath our sofa. I delighted whenever he ran and slipped, then rose to his furry paws and ran again. To say that Jedi was cute was an understatement.

Although he spent most of his days at my grandmother’s house (his official master), I watched Jedi grow, and boy, did he grow quickly. I smiled when he smiled at me (or at least that’s what I thought he did). Whenever I used our Air Climber, I saw him bark at me angrily and run far away from me because (I learned later) he disliked vacuum sounds. Even if he peed and pooped wherever he wanted, I still loved him because I knew he is still naive. And even if he’s doing absolutely nothing, one look at him makes me smile and gush about his adorableness.

Only lately have I realized that in some ways, what  I have felt for Jedi is what I believe God feels about me as His daughter. He watched me grow–and made me grow! He smiled whenever I smiled at Him and especially if I caught up with His commands. Instead of looking at me condemningly because of my sins, He sees His Son’s righteousness in me and smiles, confident of the fact that I belong to Him. He knows my weaknesses; He remembers that I am dust. 🙂

But just as I undergo training, I believe Jedi must also undergo dog boot camp. And I’ll be needing the help of Cesar Milan. Haha!

Let’s take a breather. I fear overwhelming you with words and photos! o___o

Part 2 coming right up. 🙂

“Do Not Fear”

Dear child,

Do not fear; I am with you.

My plan for you is working perfectly as I expected, beginning the moment when I formed you with My very own hands. Your wholehearted obedience both in surety and in the unknown makes me swell with joy because you are living according to My design for you. Blessing you is one of my actions that I look forward to do. Continue pursuing excellence and seeking Me in everything you do.

There are certain footholds in your mountainous journey that I wish to eliminate, and you, my child, must do something about them. I am fully aware of your weaknesses and limitations, but haven’t I told you that no one can snatch you away from My hand? My hold is firm, tight, and permanent. I am the LORD God, enthroned between the cherubim, Maker of Heaven and earth. I am unequaled in strength, glory, power, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I am before anything came to be. Is there anything too hard for me?

You say, “Father, I know that already;” do you? Because your response to your circumstances does not align with My truths. Fear lingers in your heart still; this is where your life’s footholds are founded on. Fear of the inevitability of failure, the future, the response of the people around you–these fears are not healthy. As a matter of fact, they are sinful in nature.  The greater your fears, the wider your comfort zones. My work is accomplished in the realm of divine possibility which will always seem absurd and impossible to fearful men.

There’s only one way out of fear, and it is faith. It’s always about faith and trust in Me. Always. Constant. Unchanging. If I can conquer the grave, I can also conquer your fears. Give them up. Your fear of failure will only inhibit you from trying, persevering, and eventually, succeeding. I am pleased with authenticity and faithfulness and not perfection; obedience, not heartfelt emotions; excellence, and not merely good. Besides, you don’t have to win the victory because it has already been won! Never lose sight of the goal: Christ-likeness. Let go of your fears, and let Me takeover. I’ll show you what I can do. 🙂

I am delighted with you, My child, because your heart is slowly but surely becoming more attuned to my own heart. Many times, I see you in Me. Your heart longs to be perfect and dwell in eternity. You seek joy and gratitude, which is My will for you in my begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Be patient with Me, my work is far from completion, but it’s getting there. Oh, how wonderful that day will be when I weave you into your final stage of perfection! You shall see Me and talk with Me face-to-face. 🙂

Do not fear; I am with you.

I love you.

Sincerely,

Dad

My Dystonic Affair

I’ll never forget the first time I experienced its mild yet very noticeable attack. I was 12 then. It was an ordinary Saturday. I was in my room when my mom called me from the dining area. As I walked to her, I suddenly lost control of my legs, feet and arms. I limped slowly towards my mom. She watched me perform this epileptic-like act for about 3 seconds, then laughed. The thing about my mom’s laugh is that it so contagious you can’t help but laugh yourself. So I did. And we just laughed it off. Just like that. Only to find out it was a neurological disorder that is permanent, incurable and…weird.

About a year and a half later, my parents and I visited a neurologist. The way she mentioned my disease was very casual as if she would when she’d say, “it’s just a common cold.” That simple. She enumerated the pluses and minuses of FG (my Mom coined it after seeing me during an attack and realizing I resembled Forrest Gump). FG (dystonia) is not lethal; it does not lead to death or worsens so as to lead to death, at least in my case. Attacks may fluctuate and increase over time, but those are the worst cases. It also does NOT impair my memory, personality and other brain functions. However, dystonia is still incurable. There are drugs to help ease the attacks, but not to eradicate the disease causing them.  There are only 2 probable causes: genetics and trauma. Since I don’t recall any traumatic experience in my life, I’m guessing my case is a cause of genetics. But how come none in my family has the disease? I was handpicked for it. 😐

An attack varied in the areas it affected, the times it occurred, the duration and the personal effect on me, which I think bothers me the most. There were times an attack would be precedented; sometimes it’s not. Before a major performance or a strenuous activity, I relax and breathe deeply several times because it relaxes the nerves. Sometimes, I can get an attack while lying down in bed or even reading (my eyes blur for a very few seconds). I hated it whenever it haunted me during a conversation, meeting, class discussion, performance or whenever I needed to move really quick (e.g. getting out of the MRT, writing in a contest). I remembered the time we were in a quiz bee and my teammates told me to write the answer. I mumbled words of rejection and a command to let the other person write. He did. By the time the attack ended, we scored a point, but I felt ashamed of myself. “How strange must have I looked!” I always thought to myself. However, the people who see me get attacked don’t seem to notice. Except for my parents. They usually reenact the scene jokingly. Although there were times when I just wanted to tell them, “It’s not funny at all!” I thanked them because it made me forget of the past and move forward.

I always refer to this disease as my thorn in the flesh. I don’t think of it as God’s punishment (He never does that to His children), but I do put it in the “humbling” category. I am thankful that it keeps me from being proud and claiming my achievements for myself, but sometimes I scorned it when I could not do things my “normal-gened” friends could do. Although I disliked doing military stuff, I really wished I could have joined the Flag Corps back in high school. FG kept me from doing so no matter how much I wanted to. Thankfully, military is not my only option. And praise God because dystonia does not and will not destroy my brain’s functions and parts. There’s just a “miscommunication” between the brain and muscles, but that’s all it is: a miscommunication. 🙂

I am still learning to deal with it. I know at times the problem lies in my perception of myself. I tend to think very lowly of myself because of FG. I was encouraged by the words of a website made for helping dystonia “masters”:

“Teenagers with dystonia are just as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than others their age. Dystonia may make you look or move differently than other people, but it does not affect your ability to be liked, make friends, or date. Dystonia does not affect your personality, creativity, imagination, sense of humor, or style. The fact that you have dystonia does not make you who you are. Young people with dystonia succeed at school, make friends, learn to drive, get dates, have sex, graduate from college, develop fulfilling careers, get married, have families, and accomplish great things. Although living with dystonia can be confusing and difficult at times, it is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.” (Dystonia Foundation)

Please pray for me–not that I be cured, but that I would walk and live by the Spirit in spite of my challenge. The temptation is for me to complain, sulk and throw a pity party. My Father hates that. I should, too. 🙂