Run It!

Last November, I signed myself in running class to fulfill my requirement for P.E. In spite being the only member of our block to sign up for that class and the fact that it starts at 7:30 A.M. every Monday and Thursday, I still opted for it. I feared volleyball (surprisingly) and preferred to travel early morning (when there’s less traffic) than to rush for my 9 A.M. strength training class (considering my ever faithful vehicle, the MRT going northbound, was a human sardine-like can from 8 to 10 A.M).  I never regretted that decision.

Running is so simple and cheap you actually don’t need a class to study it. However in school,  you have to require an activity for students to feel compelled to attend the class regardless of their feelings. I also believe that a formal class was (and still is) necessary so that the coach can assess and take note of the students’ progresses. I am thankful for Coach Lei Mangubat who was very patient with all of us. 🙂 Although there were times when I felt like sleeping longer on Monday morning instead of running, I enjoyed the running sessions and felt energized afterwards (my brain cells were exercising their muscles for my next class:  CHEM. @_@)

Last Sunday, my classmates and I culminated our running class by joining a fun run hosted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This run celebrated the 25 years of the prominent newspaper company. However, we still have classes until the 2nd or 3rd week of March. But who cares?! 😀 If running sessions in Ortigas were a-okay, this run is epic. At least for me. Even if I finished quite late (40 minutes), I am determined to beat my record soon.  The run was my first and by far longest run considering that I’m not that much of a runner (even as a child!) and I only started running seriously last November. The strength that kept me going emanated from the loving heart of my Fathers–Heavenly and earthly–and my Mom.  They supported me all the way: from the training, to the fee,  to the early morning ride to the venue, to the shoes and my companion, Nathaniel Stefan (a.k.a. iPod shuffle. My gadgets have guy names. HAHA!) I am so blessed! Thanks, Dads and Mom!

Here are some pictures from the run at Bonifacio High Street.

Runner 5519

Kailangan talaga nakapikit. haha! 🙂 Side kwento (story): After 39 minutes of running, I was so tired and my legs burned like crazy; but when I saw the digital clock by the finish line several feet away, I ran as quickly as I could, parang kotseng nasa 5th gear sa SLEX. Haha!

with classmates Fatima and France

with my Dadday

(L-R) Coach Lei, Ivy, France, Olivia, Ja and Fatima 🙂 too bad we’re incomplete in the picture! 😐

the winning pose 😀

By the way, I would like to thank the following sponsors:

Adidas, for my shoes and jogging pants

Apples  – one for my ears (iPod shuffle) and  the other for my stomach :))

Mizuno – for the singlet (the sleeveless jersey)

Nature Valley – for the yummy treat after the run: Granola bar with dark chocolate and nuts! 🙂

Powerade – the much needed colored fluid after the run

P.S.: I was so inspired by this run that I willingly woke up early this morning at 5:30 AM to run! Hope early morning running becomes one of my habits 😀

The Showroom

“Father, where are we going? I should be going back to my paper.”

Silently, He kept on walking until we reached a white bungalow surrounded by a vast  garden dotted with red and white carnations and  various colors of roses–my favorite flowers. Although I was glad He intervened in my hysteria over my paper that I cannot seem to write perfectly (which I always do), I was anxious about visiting another person’s showroom. Upon adopting a child, Father made him or her a showroom where He hammered away the nails, painted all the right, beautiful colors, exterminated all pests and embellished the entire house at the right places until perfection emanates from all its [showroom] angles.  Once He took me inside an extension room of twin brothers (they each had separate showrooms) where I learned how shallow my life was in my own little world back in “the real world” and how I was victimized by the world’s low expectations of me. I got mesmerized by the beautiful, exciting, disciplined and different lives on display across the red walls of the room that I vowed to step in the “rebelution” myself. Right now, though, all the passion and zeal contained in me two years ago slowly faded away as I encountered tough challenges. Maybe–just maybe–I wasn’t made to be that different at all. Father fumbled for the key in His  bag, and having found the right one, He unlocked the showroom and opened the door. “If I were you, I would forget about that paper for a while and enjoy this showroom. Leave your bag by the porch.” So He heard me after all. Although He did not intend to comfort me (or maybe He did because His tone was gentle),  for some reason His words brought consolation to my weary soul. I removed my heavy backpack and left it on the porch. I walked to the showroom frowning, but when I entered inside, I smiled. Make that beamed.

“This is my dream design!” The thick cement walls were painted white with a wooden design like old bungalows on a private beach. Vintage and femininity marked every item, painting, furniture piece, appliance and object that were neatly and correctly designated in different areas. A large, square colorful sketch on a canvas of my family of five–Dad, Mom, Josh and James–hung on the wall facing the door. “I always wanted a family painting in my house.” Below the gigantic picture were two pictures half the size of the first one which showed the beaming faces of my relatives from each parental side (the maternal side seemed smaller from afar, though, because we had to squeeze in all 20-plus of us while on the paternal side, we are only 11). I continued tinkering with accessories, toys and other objects that I had back at home which reminded me of my elementary and high school years: the glass plate I received in grade 4 for having the best-looking cubicle (only this time, the plate was marble and my name was engraved in Old English font) and the many 1st-place medals I won for Poetry Recitation, Storytelling, Singing with 3 other girls and memorizing and reciting five books of the Bible. My favorite part was the diploma display above all the other medals and certificates in a staircase style–the first one back in preschool was on the lowest stair, followed by the elementary diploma then the high school diploma. The empty case above the high school diploma inspired me all the more to work hard in college because I was only 3rd best in high school. After a minute passed, I walked to the adjacent area near the dining room where pictures attached in strings hung from the ceiling. Memories flooded my mind as I held each photograph: my firsthand experience in government under the Arroyo administration; the various retreats I’ve attended and enjoyed, my evolving style and physique (from “What was I thinking” to “I’m in my right mind now, thank you very much”); receiving my gadgets from my Dad; birthdays in hotels and fancy restaurants; roles in different plays, performing at the Araneta Coliseum during our church anniversary and so many other memories. After what seemed to be an hour or two of beholding this showroom–my showroom–I heard that deep yet gentle voice calling me from a not-so-distant room. I totally forgot about Father.

I followed the path of His voice and arrived at a small room. “Do you remember this, honey?” What He showed me awed me. I held a 3D and 4D LCD replica of my church’s previous architecture back when the main auditorium was smaller and was situated in the 4th floor. Inside the hall, it was dark, but light emanated from a stage where I saw a familiar man speaking.

“Oh, it’s Kuya Ryan! He used to be Jzone’s youth pastor.” His voice sounded exactly the same as if today was five years ago–February 25, 2006 to be exact. “I remember this very much Father! This was the time I became your daughter!” It was indeed a glorious time for Him and a comforting moment for me as I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart that day. Father hugged me tightly and at that moment all the stress, fear and anxiety I stuffed inside me vanished. Finally, I was free. I cried in His arms, mumbling sincere confessions and breathing deeply every once in a while. After a few minutes, I let go, wiped off my tears and smiled. I looked up to Him and saw that He did exactly the same. He cried when I cried. I couldn’t be any more joyful.

“I saw a while ago that you’ve enjoyed My design for you. But that’s not the best part.” He closed the windows and shut off the lights until the room was pitch black. He switched on the light and suddenly, stars appeared on the ceiling.

“The dark room!” I exclaimed. It was indeed wonderful. The pictures floating in midair seemed to be generated by some highly advanced computer software where the people in them moved. I watched the photos intently as they passed before me. Each passing scenario flashed a moment when I encouraged someone in one of many ways: staying up late to help a brother with his homework; nursing my Mom when she was sick; listened to a friend who was burdened with so many problems; or simply smiling to a child along the street.

“Don’t you ever dare say you are insignificant, child, because if it weren’t for you, these people would have missed out on the most important person in their lives: Me.”

“But Father, you were the one Who sought them out. I mean, You  died on the cross,not me.”

“But you let yourself be used by Me. I want people to be members of my team. You stepped outside your comfort zone and bravely shared My Word to broken people in spite your fear and own problems. You depended on Me every step of the way. And I commend you for that.” Immediately Father switched on the lights and the images disappeared. I looked past Him and saw an unpainted wooden door with  “Progress” written on it. “What is that room, Father?”

“That needs yet to be furnished. If you continue to trust Me, this showroom–and in the future, a house–would grow more beautiful than it already is.”

Wow. More beautiful. Anything far more beautiful than what I just saw exceeds the capacity of my imagination. “But why is the door different? I mean, it’s so shabby and holed.”

Father looked at the door, then at me. “Everything you saw a while ago and the things I plan to do in the future are all made with joy. Once the termites set in, they start corrupting.” I looked down and knew exactly what He was talking about. Why didn’t I think of that? Worry should have no place in my life.

Before I could even ask Him more questions, the house vibrated. I wished it didn’t, but I knew that we had work to do. This was Father’s workplace. “It’s time to go back now, my child. Do not be troubled. I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy.” The showroom faded into black and then into my room. I stopped my vibrating phone and looked at my word-free paper in front of me. Finally I can write a creative narrative of my life–perfect, just the way I like it. 🙂

 

Confessions Of A Glutton In Denial

Just like Goldilocks, I’ve had enough of porridge. Time to walk out in the woods. © Life.com

I have a confession to make: I am a glutton. Yeah, you heard that right. According to my colleague Dictionary, I eat and drink (but more of eat) excessively and voraciously. When you see me, I bet you’re going to say what everyone tells me when I tell them of my bulges: “You’re NOT FAT!” Okay, maybe I’m not (but I did gain 10 pounds last year! @_@). I’m not saying I’m fat; I’m saying that my love for food has taken a wrong turn–I gradually idolized food. In other words, I loved food more than I loved God.

At about this time last year, I was a health chick–disciplined and in perfect shape. I faithfully and accurately monitored every single calorie-filled bite that entered my mouth and utilized the energy it gave me through exercise. Actually, all my other habits were in line–studying, sleeping, meditating and writing. Discipline was my middle name. My planner dictated my actions and not the other way around. I was the adamant member of the family who rejected the white bread served at breakfast on a Saturday after I consumed all the wheat bread during school days. Even while watching TV when I’m supposed to relax, I lifted weights and performed a hundred or more crunches. For about five months I sustained this healthy, disciplined and self-controlled lifestyle (with God’s help, of course). Actually, all the power I had to fulfill these “hard things” came from God. I read and meditated on verses everyday and would even skip some TV shows just to have my quiet time with Him.

Then college came. As much as I would like to blame college per se for my degradation, I wouldn’t and couldn’t because I’m sick of playing the blame game. It’s my fault. I failed. I let my guard down. I thought I can easily say “NO” to the second temptation of buying that delicious, chocolate-filled bread from a favorite bakery of mine in Shang (a mall near my school) after trying it once. (NOTE: I am not against eating so-called “unhealthy” foods, but I do believe that I should limit my intake of such meals because they contain ingredients that may prove detrimental to my health in the long run) Some thoughts are just plain wrong and should be thrown out of the window. I found myself indulging in the delicious pastries almost every week. Soon, my other habits followed suit. I slept late, missed out on daily quiet times, watched more TV and movie premieres, exercised less and ditched writing. It was a slow, painful (emotionally, spiritually and even physically) and devastating ride downhill. Not a good picture. Far from my dream destination of toned muscles, a flat, chiseled stomach, fair skin tone under my eyes (not black) and DISCIPLINE.

Over the past few months, I’ve cried a lot over this issue of mine. Usually I asked forgiveness from my Father, vowed to never overeat and not exercise again, then perform the whole cycle all over again. Again and again I sin and gain more weight, baggage and awful consequences. I realized that I’ve been dwelling cozily in the place I thought I escaped: my comfort zone. All along I thought I was already stepping outside my comfort zone by loving others when I didn’t feel like it or holding my temper when I wanted to shout at people. Of course they were all done outside my comfort zones; but once I finished them and saw the chocolate cookies smirking at me from the table, I stepped back in the zone. (I became so intimate with food I imagined them performing human actions. Weird.)

This morning, God spoke to me through these verses:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Since I did not have much time to write my thoughts on paper, I just memorized them.  I did not realize until now (well actually fifteen minutes ago) that God was telling me to GET OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE THIS INSTANT! The thing about God is that He does not like working in comfort zones. These places limit the dreams and visions He has for His kids. Comfort zones produce the world’s greatest losers. Where does God work then? Ever heard of a battlefield? He wants His authentic children-slash-warriors to bear arms, fill themselves with His Spirit and fight with His power, grace and love. The reason people lose their battles is that they fight them unarmed and unauthorized by the General i.e., Christ. I’m actually speaking to myself here and slapping my cheeks hard. Okay the last clause, not really. As the verses above said, whoever does not produce good fruit will be cut down and incinerated. I don’t find burning very appealing, do you?

I already asked God for forgiveness–for the nth time–but this time, I have to partner it with action. True repentance is evidenced by actions spurned out of love. As our senior pastor, Peter Tan-chi, said at the afternoon service last Sunday,

“If you really love Jesus, you would not have a hard time obeying Him.”

Amen.

Please do pray for me. The battle rages. The enemy shudders at my sudden dependence on God and resolution to combat his attacks with God’s Spirit, power and Sword (the Bible), but resolutions have to be backed up by correct A-C-T-I-O-N-S.

I want to end with this song by Toby Mac entitled “Get Back Up.”

I may be knocked down, but not out forever!

Rebelutionizing The World: A Review on Do Hard Things

Where have all the adolescents gone? Apparently, the 21st century earth is replete with teenagers, or kids who matured physically but still retained their childish mentalities. Gone were the days where one had to memorize a book from cover to cover—literally—in order to fulfill a course requirement. No wonder men like Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini and Marcelo H. Del Pilar were apt and equipped enough to face the daunting task of liberating the Philippines from Spanish tyranny. Gone were the days were young women cared for their sick relatives and other people as a profession and in the process, educated themselves on proper medical care.  We owe what we know much of nursing, piety and blood donation (the American Red Cross) thanks to Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa and Clara Barton respectively. Do these people have a secret weapon or formula that enabled them to do hard things during their teenage years? 21st century authors Alex and Brett Harris discovered the answer to that question and plainly explained the answer, as well as several crucial insights relating to it, in their book entitled Do Hard Things. Although the book was mainly written for teenagers, Do Hard Things also reaches out to adults who desire to live above the world’s low expectations. Albeit the accessible knowledge and the vast amount of strength present teenagers have in their hands, many of them still fail to maximize their full potentials and leave a mark in the lives of the people around them. According to the authors, many teenagers today are unfortunately blinded by what culture expects of them—expectations that are shallow, less risky and offers quick yet unsatisfying rewards.  A “good”, average teenager is one that gets good grades in school and is not involved in drug abuse, alcohol or premarital sex, but his life is not exactly productive. If he’s not doing schoolwork, eating or hanging out with friends, he’s either sleeping or wandering around a popular social networking or gaming site. Six years of teenage life is mostly spent on nothing but a routine of all these activities. The Harris brothers (did I mention they are twins?) provided several similar examples of low expectations and their consequences in their 12-chaptered book. Although the authors dwelled on teaching, inspiring and describing do hard things and the “rebelutionary life” instead of pointing out specific how-to’s and action steps, they made their point loudly and clearly: Don’t waste your teenage years on a boring cycle. Start doing hard things.

Alex Harris and Brett Harris, now twenty-two, launched a blog called “The Rebelution” last August 2005 when they were only sixteen. The website was widely accepted by teenagers from all over the world, and to date, receives about 32 million hits. Two years later, the brothers published their best-selling book Do Hard Things and its follow-up book, Start Here. Today, The Rebelution is a campaign and a movement aimed at helping teenagers all over the world to rebel against worldly expectations. Their movement spread even in the small Philippine archipelago as they featured Filipino “rebelutionaries” in the book and The Rebelution website.

The book consists of parts 1, 2 and 3 having 4, 5 and 3 chapters respectively. Part 1: Rethinking The Teen Years laid the foundations of the book and introduced radical questions that will get a reader off the edge of his seat and keep him reading until the last page. It also explains the concept of the word “rebelution,” which is an amalgamation of “rebellion” and “revolution.” Harris and Harris also introduced a myth responsible for the decline of good quality in adolescent (now called “teenager”) life. Following Part 1 is, of course, Part 2 which dealt with the Five Kinds of Hard. Being the part that took up the most number of chapters had a reason because it was in these five chapters where the authors discussed stepping out of one’s comfort zone in order to accomplish hard things. This part, which takes up the most number of chapters, also illustrates certain hard things one can accomplish in spite having few financial resources and social connections and other limiting factors. “Small hard things” such as obeying and honoring your parents, singing in church and helping your younger brother in his homework are activities that do not pay off immediately, but will surely do at the right time as long as they are combined with faithfulness and diligence.  For whatever type of hard thing a person can do, complacency is the number one enemy. A Bits and Pieces line frighteningly paints complacency like this: “Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course—downhill.” (2008, p.92) So now you know what to do if you want to break your crown and come tumbling after it.

Part 3 heightened the inspiration as the Harris brothers takes you into the present, Rebelution scene happening in every area of the world. Stories of teenagers stepping outside their comfort zones creates an itch in one’s heart to turn from zero to heros. What’s more amazing (at least for me) was the story of a Filipina rebelutionary who is doing God’s work down south. Amazing how two Japanese-American authors from the United States are connected to a fellow adolescent here in the Philippines!

The appendix, Do Hard Things, The Gospel and You, relates the foundation the brothers have for their beliefs and reasons for penning Do Hard Things. In the Christian world, this section can be likened to a “Gospel tract.” The book may have a Christian tone—for it was in fact written from the perspective of two Christian men—but it does not mean that the principles it holds would be invalidated by other beliefs.

In all my sixteen years and eight months of existence, I have never encountered a book written by teenagers (or adolescents for that matter) that impacted my life and inspired me to be the teenager God designed me to be save Do Hard Things. I agree with all of the principles and invaluable insights the brothers mentioned in their book because they do not contradict any moral, spiritual or legal laws. Also, I appreciate the Harris brothers for opting a down-to-earth yet profound style of writing. In so doing, I saw their desire to share truth with the world without any malicious desire to feel over and above their fellow adolescents.

The book has achieved its purpose to get teens from here to there—from living a shallow and boring teenage life to experiencing the best and most meaningful life and getting to help others at the same time. Practicality, usability and timeliness—kudos to the book for passing these tests with flying colors. The authors back then had fewer experiences than an average forty-something year old who writes books for teenagers, so Alex and Brett still have a lot of lessons to discover along the way. Then again, one does not have to abuse drug use in order to validate its probity.  If you are an adult who’s about to bawl because the reality of your adulthood sunk in just now, you just found the secret to living the exciting life you once dreamt about. You may not have the full advantage of robust health or time (or both), but you do have hope because God is not finished with you yet. As for us teenagers, the call to join the rebelution is incessant for there is yet so much goals left to accomplish; so many dreams to be materialized; so many lives to be saved. Souls are at stake. A war against the world and her low expectations is being waged against us. In the end, only the genuine rebelutionaries will remain. Will you?

Flunking and Still Going

I recall my first article for the year:

CAUTION: 2010 is Very Hot and Exciting.

Indeed it is. It’s like a dish of hot Thai noodle soup with a hint of chili on the side and mixed with fishballs, ground beef and kenchai. The first sip stings, but the taste satisfifes. As you consume and enjoy its delightful tastes, you experience “small stings” due to the chili and the temperature of the dish. Eventually, you get to enjoy and “bear the pain” of the stings, and when you take that list sip and gorge down that last piece of beef, you are satisified. In fact you enjoyed so much you ask for more.

For the past 4 months I have been experiencing “small stings” due to the problems, tests and temptations that come my way. I hate to admit it, but I’ve flunked already. I get discouraged at times and think that if I keep on committing the same mistake, how could I ever emerge victorious? Sometimes I feel like there’s no hope for me to improve because I fall time and time again.

Then I went to camp. April 6-8, 2010 were by far my best days of the year. Daddy met me in my awful state, whispered, “I love you with an unfailing love”, and lifted me up. Thinking again about Him and our relationship was productive. Until I left camp and returned to my “world” in Manila.

The following day, I was still doing fine. Well, sort of. I was not “sinning” as much as I used to. Then come Saturday.

I do not want to elaborate on the details, but I did something pretty nasty. So nasty that one of the people closest to my heart cried. My heart broke, I cried a river and I thought that this person had finally decided to give up on me after knowing each other for a very, very long time. But this amazing person did not. Moments of silence filled the gaps during our heartbreaking and heartwarming conversation that early Sunday morning. Moments that gave us time to think and think again. And it was ll worth it.

Whenever I fail and get discouraged, I am reminded of my Savior’s love through the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. I recommend that you listen to it as soon as possible. Many times I try to win His favor, and everytime I do, He constantly reminds me, “Don’t try. You are already favored.” I can never earn His grace because He freely gave it.

With all the flunking I did for the past 4 months, am I still looking forward to an exciting year? Of course! I may be in the midst of a “small sting,” but I’ll always end it with a final gorge of my personal beef and joyful smile on my face. 😀