Missing Out On Life?

Earlier this evening, I browsed through my Facebook news feed and saw the various activities of my friends in church and blockmates in school: attending & witnessing a prestigious awards ceremony in the media industry; going to the beach with friends; volunteering in the freshmen orientation; attending youth group (ELEVATE) meetings. After a few minutes of browsing, I signed out of Facebook and stared at my laptop screen. A thought sprang from my heart and entered my mind, and bothered my entire being:

I’m at home, doing nothing productive of that sort that my friends are doing. I’m missing out on life. 

Remembering Philippians 4:4-7, the passage I read this morning for my quiet time, I anxiously prayed: Lord, how can I share you with my friends if I’m here stuck at home? You told me to build relationships, right?

The Lord answered me, although indirectly. My gut told me to grab the Our Daily Bread journal right across me, from my Mom’s book shelf, and open it to today’s date (June 5, 2014). I opened to the correct page and searched for the passage for the day: it was 1 Timothy 4:10-16. . I took Mom’s living application Bible from the shelf and opened to 1 Timothy, but for whatever reason I read verses 7-10 which said:

“Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually and practice being a better Christian, because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too. This is the truth and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe it, for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted His salvation.”

I was  surprised by the straightforwardness of the language of this version, and for a while I was captivated by the beauty of its meaning. However, my anxiety did not go away. Again I recalled my quiet time passage this morning, Philippians 4:4-7. I opened to it from the same Bible, excited to read how the verses would be put.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (emphases added)

I was anxious and unpleasing to God, and I knew it. I put down the Bible and started praying. I told Him everything that bothered me. That nagging feeling that I was missing out on life by being stuck at home. That I feel scared I might not be as productive again in ministry in school. That His promise of the abundant life wasn’t being fulfilled in my life. I cried and prayed, and then, waited.

This time, God came to me in a rational way. He made me think. First, He asked me a question: “How do you define ‘life’?”

I knew the answer to the question, but He pressed on with more, and in the process, answered the first one.

“Is life the sum of all one’s activities and relationships built? Is life just that? Isn’t life–at least this one on earth–the training ground for your path to Christ-likeness? Isn’t real, abundant life one that lives out My good and perfect will?”

I kept quiet as the questions kept coming in  (in the form of thoughts, God talking to my mind, as if audibly, but not, because that would have been scary). “Okay, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are missing out on life. Tell Me: what is it exactly you’re missing out on? What other thing could you possibly be doing now that would have been My will for you, since that’s what you want and pray for everyday?”

I kept quiet and thought about these things. I kept silent for a while. I realized how shallow and selfish my thoughts were. However, the problem went deeper than that.  When I pinpointed the root cause of my anxiety, I cried some more. God spoke to me again.

“Your problem is, you have trust issues. You believe that if you make a mistake or don’t feel satisfied with the rate your spiritual walk is going, you are automatically removed from the path of abundance. You base your spiritual growth on activity and feelings, not on My grace, My mercy, and My love. Not on Me. You still think that I’m not doing My job of taking care of you, and so you think there must be something missing in your life. Well there is. The joy that you should have been experiencing is replaced by anxiety, because you did not trust Me enough to guide you.”

The tears kept gushing like a waterfall.

“Besides, if you’re really missing out on life, I would have told you. I just need you to trust Me and obey whatever it is that I tell you at the moment. You will be okay.”

Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re like me, thinking that you’re probably missing out on life. There will be times that you will miss out on life, and God will surely tell you about it and show you how you can get back on track. However, if you’re like me, you’re just probably bored because your parents won’t let you out of the house and you’re stuck at home browsing the Net all day and watching TV. I realized my desire was misdirected. By thinking that I was missing out on life, I was actually thinking: I was missing out on fun activities that will make me happy and less bored. In this kind of thinking, the will of God is irrelevant. Whatever makes you happy, do it. This is a product of hedonism, of which I am very much guilty.

This whole drama is a test on perspective and proper definitions. God taught me to view life as a process of temporary refinement for eternal glory. I’m just an alien here on earth. Everything God allows me to go through is intended to make me more like Him and to make others (whoever He wants me to come in contact with) know Him. Somewhere in between, abundance lies. Joy overflows. Peace envelopes the mind. I was not missing out on life because I was fulfilling the command of the Lord to obey and honor my parents who commanded me to stay home. During the past few days, I have been discovering good and bad things about myself, but mostly bad. God has been teaching me how to overcome these things, although I must admit, I am a slow learner. There are certain areas in my life I still have a difficult time obeying. After my dramatic time with God, I thanked Him for letting me stay at home and realize these things at home, before I go out to “the real world” where I probably would have suffered the consequences of my ill heart before I even knew my heart was a wreck.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that doing activities as those I mentioned earlier makes you a more noble Christian or refined person. Perhaps they do, if that is God’s will for you. One truth remains: as long as you are in the center of God’s will, you are NOT missing out on life. God never makes mistakes when He places us where we are right now. We are wherever we are for two purposes: to honor Him and to become more like Him. After a few moments of silence, I thanked God for the blessings staying at home brought me: epiphanies of truth, rest (lots of sleep!), more time to myself, and preparation for the tougher stuff in the future. God kept His promise to me right after I prayed by allowing His peace to guard my heart and my mind in Him. 🙂

Everyday, we should pray for God’s will for our lives. How He wishes to carry that out is His prerogative. Our role is to trust Him, let go of control, and obey whatever specific commands He has for us. If you fail to do these three, then you are missing out on life! God never wanted for us to live in misery. God, by default, is joyful, and He wants us to be the same. 🙂

If you’re like me, a stay-home on-break student and you share my “missing-out-0n-life” feelings, don’t despair. Chances are, like me you’re just bored. Boredom is a dangerous situation because we often resort to doing nonsensical activities to fill our time. I suggest you consider doing the following things:

  1. Read the Bible and other Christian books so that you will grow spiritually. Remember what 1 Timothy 4:7 said: Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. If you’re not a big fan of paper books, try audio books. There are also articles on the Net that can help you out, but for me, the written Word is still the best.
  2. Work out! Summer is the best time to do this because you sweat by default. Make the sweating a fun event by dancing or doing whatever sport you love! (or if you don’t have any, just dance whatever! Be a bit crazy and spontaneous)
  3. Clean the house. Even if you have househelp. It’s training for diligence, because it forces you to work. Laziness starts at home, you know.
  4. Learn a skill. I find it  unfortunate how we see the Internet only as a source of music, movies, gossip, and social media sites. It’s way much more than that! You can learn a new language, the history of the world, how to bake a cake, and even make a cool video by just clicking your way through some sites!
  5. Spend time with your loved ones. This works especially if you have siblings. Play games with them (if they’re not yet that old). Talk with them! Watch movies together. Clean the house together! (my brothers and I have been doing that the past 2 days) When you go back to school or start work, you’ll have less time to do this, so do it now!

Find out God’s will for you right now and fulfill it.Trust Him and leave all the worrying to Him. For sure, you’ll be missing out on misery and unnecessary pain, because you’re too engrossed in living the joyful, abundant, and exciting life! 🙂

 

P.S: always be grateful! ALWAYS. Too often we forget. I always do. It’s time we remember. A few photos of how my week went. Thank God for smartphones! 🙂 Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. :)
midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. 🙂

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lunch date with my Dad after enrollment. I AM ENROLLED! 🙂 Thanks Dad!
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first time to have my hair curled! 🙂 felt extra girly.
I liked the curly hair so much I didn't shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
I liked the curly hair so much I didn’t shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
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a beautiful butterfly posing in our bamboo tree! 🙂 the wings are so beautiful 😉

I’ve Got The Drive!

baby Jenny driving

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamt of driving my own car, or just driving a car, really. It was so cool being behind the wheel (or the manibela in Filipino), steering it whichever way you wish. That dream of becoming a non-professional driver should have been fulfilled summer last year if only I wasn’t such a professional procrastinator. This summer, however, I decided to make a U-turn. I made a vow to myself to learn how to drive before ending my teen years.

And so, three days ago, I embarked on my first ever driving class!

The experience was thrilling, quite nerve-wracking, and fun all at the same time. I can’t begin to describe it. Oh wait I just did.

Wednesday, 7:10 AM.

Dad brought me to Socialites Pasong Tamo in our car. When I got off, Ate Grace, the receptionist, ushered me to the vehicle, where my trainer, Mang Vic, patiently waited for me. I sat behind the wheel for the very first time in a long time (since that photo, maybe?).

Mang Vic started my lesson with a short lecture on the use of the brake, clutch (I used a manual car), and the gas pedals, as well as the handbrake and the gears. The lecture lasted about fifteen minutes. I was listening–really, intently, sincerely listening–but sadly, my mind wasn’t able to keep up. I had absolutely no knowledge about car things prior to the lecture, except for the fact that the brake is used to stop the car. Other than that, I’m a dummy. I didn’t tell Mang Vic that I was practically clueless, so just imagine my mild shock when he told me:

“Okay neng, ready ka na? Lalakwatsa na tayo, ah. Sige suotin mo na yung seatbelt mo. Gear 1 ka muna….”

I WAS GOING TO DRIVE ALREADY!!!!

I used to imagine my first driving moment as blissful, with a very relaxed me sitting behind the wheel, so sure of life and my future. Instead I was like,

“Dang, am I really driving?! Like, seriously. I don’t want to kill anyone today–not now, not ever! What if I run into a post?! Did my fee include insurance? What if this guy’s actually a phony?! Huhuhu where’s my Daddy???”

Okay, okay, laugh at me. I don’t care. 😀 I’m a scaredy-cat.

Well, I was a scaredy-cat until I remembered the men behind me. I remembered the Man who died for me and gave up His life for me, Who promised me that I can trust Him with all my heart. And trust I did.

There was another man–the one who inspired me to drive in the first place. The best driver in the world because he took me places even if he was tired (and he didn’t show he was tired, except when he wanted a massage :)). The man who made sure I was safe that day, so he followed me around in our car, waiting patiently for the hour to end.

My Savior and my Lord, and my Dad, literally behind me as I drove. How safe can you get? 🙂

So Mang Vic gave out the instructions. Press on the clutch all the way down, change gear to 1 (primera), step on the gas, then slowly release the clutch.

THE CAR MOVED! I ‘moved’ it! This is awesome!

We didn’t go that far, only a kilometer or two around Makati City. We were just going around Pasong Tamo, Metropolitan Avenue, Evangelista St.. When I traversed half a kilometer, I couldn’t believe what I was doing! I was actually driving! Driving was pretty simple, at least at first, when your trainer is beside you and assisting you with the steering wheel, and the greatest Men in your life are behind you, watching over you. 🙂

Although driving was easy in principle, it wasn’t easy in actuality, especially if you’re driving a manual. Dad wanted me to train in manual because it required a different discipline compared to an automatic, and he would most likely lend me our manual car because the automatic one gulped gallons of gas. I get shocked whenever the engine would die out because I let go of the clutch too much. :)) Thankfully, Mang Vic was patient, and by God’s grace, I was pretty alert and responsive to getting back on track.

When class ended that Wednesday, I was exhilarated, to say the least. I still couldn’t believe I drove a car around, and I wasn’t in Timezone or some arcade! 🙂 I was shaking a bit when I walked to our car and sat beside the driver’s seat. As I walked to our car, I saw Dad smiling beaming widely at me. I think my gladness infected his own. 🙂

I thought I was the only glad person about actually driving, but as it turned out, my Mom and my lola (grandmom, Dad’s mom) were even happier. When I stepped inside the house, they were seated in the dining table, smiling and eager to ask me questions. And ask they did!

“O, kamusta? Mahirap ba? Nag-drive ka ba? Ano, madali lang? Anong pakiramdam? Traffic ba? O ano, marunong ka na?”  (ulit-ulit?! hahaha)

It was like nursery class all over again, with my parents asking how school went and how I felt. I wanted to tell them every single detail but I only skimmed through it, as there was crispy bacon lying seductively on the table, luring me to partake in its lardy glory. Nonetheless, I think they saw how happy I was because I could not find the words to describe everything.

The next two days were more challenging, especially today’s session. Yesterday, Thursday, Mang Vic taught me how to “hang” on an incline and turn left and right. Turning left and right was harder than I thought, especially around Makati’s city streets with the hard, thick gutters! Again, my Dad followed us around, this time, for two hours.

Friday, 7:05 AM

Although Dad was supposed to accompany me at my last and most challenging driving session, I didn’t ask him anymore because he was tired and slept very late from a photography, work-related engagement Thursday evening. So, for the first time in forever, I went to my driving session alone. (my Savior was still with me, though, so no worries. :D)

By the third day, I trusted Mang Vic even more. I regret not getting to know him and really engage him in a Godly conversation because I was quite nervous on the road. Nonetheless, I got to know him a bit. My level of trust for him increased when I found out he’s been teaching driving to various people of different sizes and ages for more than 26 years! Although he spoke fast at times and kept mentioning “kaya maraming naa-aksidente” (that’s why a lot of people get into accidents), I appreciated his honesty, clarity, and concern. Today I had to trust him even more because we did the thing I was very nervous about: driving in the highway.

south super highway? Piece of cake. #not :P
south super highway? Piece of cake. #not 😛

Again like the first day when he shocked me with actual driving, Mang Vic gave me the jitters again when he told me to go straight along Zobel Roxas st. along the riles (railroad track) and turn left, exiting Makati proper, going to South Super Highway. It was about 7:45 AM at that time, traffic was light, and I was quite agitated. What if I suddenly stop in the middle? Will I get bumped from behind? Will it be the end of me as I know it?

“Calm down, child. Daddy’s got ya.”

I almost forgot I had a Heavenly Father aside from an earthly father. Unlike my earthly father, my Heavenly Father never gets tired or weary. He’s always with me, and I can always count on Him. (though my earthly father is very much reliable indeed. Love you Dad! :D)

And so, following Mang Vic’s instructions closely, keeping my cool, and enjoying the ride, I drove along South Super Highway! It was really cool. (to the pro-drivers out there, please be patient with my kababawan [shallowness]. Remember your first date. Yes, date.)

When we left the highway several minutes later, Mang Vic taught me parallel parking. The technique most people fuss over, by God’s grace, I was able to finish with ease (although with much reminder & instruction). But who cares?! I was able to parallel-park without bumping the car behind me! HAHAHA 😀

After two hours of driving in the streets of Makati, I drove Mang Vic and I back to our base in Pasong Tamo. I was a bit saddened, to be honest. Three days went by really quickly! I knew I had to document this in some way, so I took the infamous selfie with Mang Vic. Thankfully, he was game for the photos! 🙂

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What was once a figment of my imagination is now a reality: I can drive! I’m not good at it (not yet), but I know how to do it already. I just need to practice, practice, practice. And practice some more. Some more. A lot, actually, until changing gears, stepping on and releasing the clutch without stopping the engine, and parking parallel is as natural as singing the alphabet song (i.e., the English alphabet).  🙂

I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to driving, but in those three short days of my interaction with it, I already learned a few things about life. Life, like a car, can only be run by one person. Just one. Although Mang Vic was giving me instructions, I was the one running the car. I was the one primarily  stepping on the clutch, lifting the handbrake and steering the wheel, which makes me responsible. Whoever is driving is and should be responsible. Driving entails more of responsibility as it does enjoyment, because after those three days, I realize it was funner sitting at the back or beside the driver, calmly waiting to get to my destination. I realize a lot of people pay the price for bad driving because a lot of drivers forget that they are responsible. Parents lose their children way too early because a sleepy or drunk driver smashed into them along the highway. I hope and pray I may be a responsible driver! Or, should I lead people to Heaven, I pray that riding in a car with me driving will drive them to go on their knees! HAHAHA! 😀

Until I can apply for a non-professional license, I have to have someone with me (someone with a license) whenever I drive. Thankfully, I’ve got my Daddy. He’s the best driver I know. You can sleep even as he drives along a literally rocky road. He can get a car out or park it in even if it’s only 3 inches away from hitting a wall or another vehicle. My confidence in safety lies in his expertise, and of course, his love for me.

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I guess it’s the same with life. With God on the driver’s seat, I have nothing to fear. Running life has been His expertise even before life (as we know it) began! 🙂 His love is unfailing and constant, and worthy of all our trust. Why not trust Him? He’s got the best destination anyway. 🙂

So if you see me rollin one of these days, you better be ready….

…be ready to be ignored

…because I might not see you out of nervousness, focusing on the road and all, making sure I don’t let go of the clutch too much or the engine might stop. 😀 HAHAHA

8dhda

EDSA, here I come! Binondo, see you in a few! 😀 #buwisbuhay

Ms. Right

On our way home tonight, my brothers and I were having a conversation. James, our youngest, out of the blue, told us he hasn’t tasted or seen unleavened bread, and then he asked me why it was so flat.

“Well because it doesn’t have yeast, so it’s flat. It doesn’t rise like normal bread.”

Hearing this, my other brother, Josh, interjected with a “fun fact” on unleavened bread:

Sabi ni Sir RC mas makunat pa ang unleavened bread sa SkyFlakes.” (“Sir RC told us that unleavened bread is chewier than SkyFlakes.”)

Wait, what? “SkyFlakes is not chewy at all! It’s crispy!” I told this rather defensively to my brother, as if I was debating which superhero is better, Captain America or Iron Man, to their die-hard fans.

But Joshua insisted. “No, it’s makunat daw. He said.”

But no! He was wrong, and I was right. I defended my position again, this time, with more passion in my voice: “Ano kang makunat?! Ang lutong kaya ng SkyFlakes! Hindi siya makunat! Pag hinati mo ang dali-daling baliin, ano ka ba–-”

“JENNY!! JENNY! SSHHHH! SSSSSHH!!”

Mom. She cut off my argumentative monologue and aired hers. “Why are you so defensive? Huh? Why do you speak like that?”

“No, I’m not.” (Yes, I was. And  I knew it.)

“Why do you talk like that? You know what, you’re a bully. You sound like a know-it-all, like Ms. Righteous. You don’t always have to prove you’re right!”

That shut me up alright.

My ego was attacked head on, but my heart responded in a rather positive way. Sort of.  I didn’t react or defend myself again (because that would have been really stupid). When I looked at James he smiled at me and stuck out his tongue, and I also returned the favor by smiling and sticking out my tongue as if to surrender my right to be right. And for the rest of the ride (which was only a few minutes away after that “heated” argument), I kept all my rights to myself.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I always want things right, as much as possible. In a world where everything that’s right goes wrong, the way I’m thinking is a tad fantastic. Lately, God has been teaching me that my notion of being right all the time is not the same as Him being right all the time. Mine may be tainted with ill intentions or lead to negative consequences (as proven by my unleavened bread experience); God’s righteousness is always based on good intentions and always results in positive consequences. Christianity is not all about getting things right, about following rules to “avoid God’s wrath.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Christians should be loose and not totally do what’s right; I’m saying we shouldn’t be legalistic. I’m saying that as human beings, we have to deal with the reality that everything we do, say, and think can be wrong because imperfection is in our nature. I realized there are only two things you can be sure about the human race: mistakes and death.

Anyway, back to being right. When I got home and thought about my being Ms. Right, I thought about parts of my life that I always want to be right. The first thing that came into my head was Mr. Right, also known as GB (God’s Best), “the one,” soulmate or whatever way you want to call it. Hollywood has philosophized a lot of times on the subject of finding Mr. Right–how he seems to have all or almost all the characteristics you’ve been looking for in a husband, how he’s got you checking one item after another on your checklist. In church and retreats I’ve attended that talked about waiting and preparing for your lifetime partner, I’ve heard speakers suggest that we make a checklist on the qualities that we look for in our future husband. This suggestion fit my “right theology.” So I made my list. (But that’s another story of its own) Tonight, I rethought about that list and about Mr. Right, especially after what our pastor said earlier this evening in the worship service:

“What many people don’t realize is that marriage is a lifetime commitment to a defective individual.”

Let’s face it: there really is no Mr. Right or Ms. Right. I realized that when dealing with the human race, mistakes are more common and more predictable than successes. I also realized that looking for a suitable helpmate (in the future, for me) involves more than just looking for someone with desirable qualities; it is also figuring out what specific flaws and “defects” a person has that you can deal with…for the rest of your life. Waiting for people to change is futile. As has been said many times in different ways in so many movies, books, and whatnot on love: “You love a person for who they are, not for what they will become.”

So….what does that have to do with me being Ms. Right? A lot. Tonight, I had a mini-eureka moment. The SkyFlakes argument triggered that. If it weren’t for the question on the unleavened bread, my brother’s interjection, and my sudden outburst, I wouldn’t have realized how much time I’ve wasted displacing my anger and right to be right on things that shouldn’t be fought over, more so, debated on. I don’t always have to prove I’m right. Heck, I’ve never been consistently right! I’ve flunked almost everything, even the things I’ve been doing for so long–school, diet, sleep (by sleeping late…just like tonight), blog entries (I’ve revised this entry about three times), relationships (i.e., friendships), and all my other responsibilities. The Bible already said it: “There is no righteous, no not one.” Me proving myself to be right when I’m not supposed to just proves how wrong I am! The real righteous and good people do not have to prove themselves, just as a cheetah does not need to prove himself to a puppy that he can outrun him. Ms. Right sometimes needs to learn to take a backseat, let things “go wrong,” and laugh. Chill. Keep calm. As for looking for Mr. Right, she should be looking both at his sweet and sour parts, and see if she can deal with both.

Before she even searches for her Mr. Right, Ms. Right must first learn to accept her sweet parts and sour parts, and the fact that she doesn’t always have to be right. She doesn’t always have to win an argument. Or else, she would be no different than a bully.

Ms. Right and her minions a few months back
Ms. Right and her minions a few months back

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

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.”