You are Insignificant but Dearly Loved

What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Three weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday in one of my favorite cities: New York City.

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My Dad, brothers, uncle, and I went to Liberty Island and paid Lady Liberty a visit. She was still as beautiful as when I first laid eyes on her three years ago. Actually, I thought she was even more beautiful that day when I saw her again. The weather was perfect–sunny but not hot, cool wind breezing through our faces, and just about the right levelof humidity, so we did not sweat. When you’re in New York, sweating concerned me because we walked a lot; I didn’t want to smell and look haggard in photos!

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During my birthday, I felt like I had the right to be treated specially; after all, it was my day. So when I did not get what I wanted exactly the way I wanted, I played bratinella inside. On our way back to Manhattan from Liberty Island, I told Dad I did not want to sit at the top of the boat because it was hot and I did not want to tan. Dad insisted we sit at the top since it was windy and the view was spectacular. I complained and tried to convince him out of it, but when his tone marked a sense of disappointment, I quit nagging and complied with his request. As I took my seat and saw the water around me, I realized my Dad was right. This was way better. I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong, so I shut up the rest of the trip . Strike one.

When we returned to Manhattan, we walked from Battery Park to Madame Tussaud’s near Times Square, where we waited for our bus that would take us to different key destinations. It was half past seven, and we were really hungry. The original plan was we would meet our other family members at Macy’s and then eat at a restaurant. However, Dad had to change the plan because he couldn’t walk anymore; his foot ached. Instead of meeting at Macy’s, we would just meet at Grand Central Terminal near our hotel.  The five of us went to Grand Central and bought dinner.

Below the main terminal, there was a food court. I wanted to eat something Asian–like rice or noodles–and have a small cake afterwards for my Dad and I to blow since it was his birthday the next day. However, Dad insisted we buy pizza. Pizza?! But I want Asian. Ugh, why doesn’t he let me get what I want? It’s so annoying. I just told myself I should be grateful I had food to eat. Strike two.

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The following day it was my Dad’s birthday. We explored other parts of Manhattan, and towards the evening we went to Koreatown and ate Korean food. My craving for Asian food was finally satisfied!

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That evening as I lay in bed, I realized my heart was full of spiritual toxins. Yes, I was having a great time exploring and enjoying the city, but inside I felt rotten. I complained a lot; I was very ungrateful, and not to mention, disrespectful. I hated myself. Frankly, the past few weeks during that month, I wasn’t doing my quiet time with the Lord consistently, and if I did, was really distracted. I’d rather log on Instagram and Facebook or hang out with my family. I lost intimacy with my Best Friend. It killed me inside. I cried that night, and before I closed my eyes and slept I told myself I’d spend my last day in New York with Jesus, even for just an hour or two. I set my alarm at 8:30 the next day, Mother’s Day, so that I can go off by myself.

The following morning, I woke up energized and prepared quickly to have my alone time. Our hotel was really near the New York Public Library along 5th Avenue at 42nd St, but the building I wanted to visit, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, opened at 1 PM, so I stayed at the Mid-Manhattan Library, just across the street from Schwarzman. Because the library opened at 10, I decided to go to Bryant Park first.

 As I was walking to Bryant Park, I prayed silently and asked God to speak to me. I wanted to hear Him and to help me change my stinky attitude. As usual, I saw a lot of people. Ever different, and some, ever weird. When I saw homeless people begging outside restaurants and shops, I told the Lord: “Lord, You must love them, too, don’t you?” He did not reply because I already knew the answer. I walked some more, and this time, I noticed the building towering above me.  I’ve never felt so small and so ‘1-in-a-million’ in my life. When I reached Bryant Park, God still wasn’t speaking. When I went inside the Mid-Manhattan Library, still n0 word from Him. Unfortunately, my solo adventure was cut short when my Mom called me to return to the hotel. She called at around 10:30 AM. I walked as briskly as I could because I thought the check-out time was at 12, and I still had to fix some things in our room!

When I got to the hotel, Mom told me the check-out time in our hotel was at 3 PM. Dang, I should have stayed longer. Then I had a better idea! “Mom, can I go to the NYPL at 1? The building I want to go to opens at 1. Pleeaaaase.”

“Sure, just be back quickly.” I felt so happy! I grabbed my backpack and zoomed out of the room. This time, I ran (when I could). I had to get inside the library no matter what.

When I got there, I was not disappointed. The place was so beautiful! I really wished our public libraries in Manila were just as beautiful and well-kept. I was amazed by the details of the architecture and the grandeur of the whole place! I didn’t have much time to look around much less read, so I feasted on whatever my eyes could lay on and took photos at the interesting spots. After 15 minutes, my Dad called me and told me to go back to the hotel. I was a bit dismayed, but at least I was happy.

As I walked hurriedly back to the hotel, that’s when God spoke to me. What He said was a slap on the face but a breath of fresh air at the same time. Only God can do that to me.

Jenny,

You are proud, and that is why you feel My disappointment. You’ve been focusing on yourself again, making yourself an idol. You rely on your feelings, choosing whatever you feel like doing, instead of obeying My commandments. My commandments are meant to protect you, not harm you! Your parents love you, and you should obey them because through your obedience, I will bless you. 

You want people to pay attention to you, so you get disappointed when your posts don’t get much likes or your friends don’t chat with you online. Well guess what: you are insignificant! Your existence does not make or break the world. Intelligent as you may be, you are puny. There are so many people around you, and your existence does not control theirs.

Yet, I love you. I love you so, so much.

I love you so much I consider you important and worth dying for. When I hung on the cross, I thought of you. I wanted you to be happy, to be intimate with Me, and to enjoy Me and the blessings that come with our relationship. I thought of this adventure of yours, and I wanted it to be as TALAMazing as possible–not because you’re good, but because I’m good. Yes, your existence does not make the world go round, but I am more than willing to risk My life just to save you–and I did.

Will you Trust Me? Will you stop running away from My plan and start running towards it? You made mistakes, and I forgive you. I do not condemn you.

I love you, child. Come home.

Love,

your Heavenly Father

I had no words for that response, only tears. As I walked back to the hotel, I couldn’t do anything but just confess my sin and weaknesses to God and humbly receive His love. What an awesome God! I began thanking Him for everything–that I existed, our family’s complete, we’re enjoying this vacation, our safety, the good weather, this dream come true…and so on! 🙂

This is what I truly loved about New York: I saw my smallness and insignificance. I realized how great, awesome, and loving God was. I started growing up. I fell in love with Jesus again. I learned that the antidote to pride is not denial or a change in behavior, but an inward transformation brought about by a deep conviction of one’s insignificance and need for surrender to the living God.

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Dear human being, you are highly insignificant, but you are dearly loved. God loves you and me! He wants all of us to experience our own amazing adventures because He is amazing! The first step we have to take is not to try to be good, but to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do it on our own. That we have messed up. That we want Him, and we trust Him because He knows best. Then He’ll come to our rescue. He’ll steal the show. He’ll set things straight. At the end of the day, all we’ll be able to say is: “God, thank You. Who am I, O sovereign LORD, that You care for me?” We will be grateful and not complain. We will praise the LORD and forget not all His benefits! 🙂

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. 🙂

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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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 😉

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.” 

Emotional Roller Coaster

In the second TVC of Jzone Wired Camp (which was awesome by the way, more about that soon), I went all out in saying that I am a blogger. Since that video was posted on Facebook and aired in our church’s Sunday service, people never stopped addressing me as “The Blogger.” I’ve never felt more compelled to blog! I should have just said writer. That way a 3-week “leave of absence” can be justified as…well, an absence. #ansaveh

I apologize for failing to update The Lifeline regularly. I think I’m having my busiest, craziest, not to mention HOTTEST summer of my 17 years of existence (which will soon be 18. Yay). When adults (especially my aunts) remind themselves of my impending debut, they always tell me, “Aba! Dalaga ka na! Hindi ka na bata, ganap na dalaga ka na. San ang party?” Um actually po pag twenty-one ko na gustong samantalahin yung pagiging dalaga ko kasi surfboard pa rin dibdib ko (unless yan na talaga ang tinadhana sa aking ng aking Manlilikha) at hindi pa po ako marunong magmaneho. Party? Tinatanong niyo po ba kung may kakilala akong caterer para pag sinurprise niyo po ako at least man lang kahit pumalpak ang program at walang dumalo, okay ang food ? Italianni’s po okay lang? #uyjokelangto

Anyway, back to now. Last Monday, I came home from the Wired Camp. It was life-changing! Really. It was also my most memorable camp to date. Not only because I experienced God in a whole new level. Certainly not because I met a guy who swept me off my feet and promised to wait for me until God says yes. (Gosh that would be kilig but really scary. A Walk to Remember ba ang peg ng buhay ko kaya pinapa-aga ni Lord ang pag-meet namin ng GB ko? haha)

It was the first retreat when I came home not feeling so okay. Actually, I was not okay. In fact, if anyone asked me if I had fun during the camp and the bus ride going home, I would immediately burst into tears.

Don’t worry, I was not bullied physically, verbally, or emotionally. My body was sorta bullied with food, though, and it was the only type of bullying I’ll ever enjoy. What went wrong?

After reflecting on my life during the camp, I realized the negative emotions I felt and sins I struggled with–loneliness, envy, self-seeking shyness–were merely the overflow of my lukewarmness prior to the retreat. Intimacy with anyone, whether it’s God or your Mom or your spouse, requires a daily effort to go deeper with a person. I allowed the fleeting pleasures of this life to fill in the gap that only the Diving Being could fill. And that, my friends, is a very stupid, foolish, and crazy decision. If you have experienced what I’m saying you could bear with me. I just proved to myself that I am human when I did such a stupid thing. Thankfully, my God ain’t stupid and He certainly won’t give up on me.

Remember my post on the 3 reasons why you should attend Wired camp (or any other Christian retreat for that matter)? If you don’t, do check it out. Basically I outlined 3 reasons why a college student should sign up for a retreat even if he does not know anyone. I am starting to learn that the things worth spending your money, time, and energy in are those that are very purposeful and soul satisfying. Did I do my post (and self) justice with the 3 reasons?

YES.

I may have cried–lamented–before my God, but I  found rest. Physically I was relaxed because the weather was very cool and so unlike the 39-degree Centigrade temperature here in Metro Manila. I may not have found all the answers to my questions, but I did find answers. When I asked God what was wrong with me, He told me that I needed to stop looking in myself for the answers because it’s futile to look for in a place that’s obviously empty. What I needed was HIM–His presence, His filling–Him. Just Him. I also found love. During the second night, I talked with a good friend of mine, Billie, and she encouraged me greatly. Also the girls who were under me (because I led a small group) encouraged me by listening and simply being there. A lot of times I don’t ask for answers from people; I just need their ears and heart. 🙂

Right now if you ask me if I’m okay, I’d say no. I’m doing great! I’ve learned (and still learning) that emotions will always fluctuate. You have a choice whether to let them reign supreme or to let yourself reign supreme over them. I serve and belong to a God Who is greater and more powerful than my emotions, positive and negative, Who understands my weaknesses and loves me still. Right now if you’re feeling down, depressed, or on the other side of the line–extremely happy and excited–fret not. Cry it all out to Jesus; share your laughs with Him. You’ll be amazed at how He will fill your heart with peace and joy incomprehensible. 🙂

Pictures, quotable quotes, insights, and other updates on my life shall be posted soon! I also have to tell you guys something but I can’t disclose everything right now. 🙂 But please do pray for me. Just pray for God’s approval. If it gets approved (or even denied, it’s okay), I’ll tell you all about it. Right now I have to go to sleep! 😀