Seven Things I Learned About God

Debriefing post #6. Two more to go. Aiks. For this post, I will be sharing seven things I learned about God:

1. God cares for the harvester, not just for the harvest. As Christians, we sometimes deny ourselves, die to ourselves too much, and, though the Jesus and the Bible does tell us to do so (Luke 9:23), Jesus also said He came so that we might have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10b). The bottom line is, life before ministry, and our relationship with God over ministry as well.

2. God's thoughts for us outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17-18). He cares about us more than we can imagine. He has hemmed us in and out (Psalm 139:5) and it is His delight to be involved in the different parts of our lives. I have seen how He's been working in everything, even in my love story with Adrian. We've had so many moments when we saw God intervening at the speed of thought, especially when things got rocky.

3. Even when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful. He draws the prodigals back to Him. He proves true though we turn into doubting Thomases at times. I gave up so many times, but through it all, God never gave up on me. He never gave up on His work as well.

4. God is a good, good Father, perfect in all of His ways. He may bring us through seasons we can't understand. But when we look back at everything, we realize He has caused things for the good, after all.

5. God does great things through people who say "yes" and are available. Nuff said. Just do it, people. Just do it.

6. God LOVES people. He is not a tyrant king. We must learn to love others as He does, and not be blinded by prejudice and hate.

7. God is always just a prayer, a breath, a song away. Many times, I've forgotten Him, pushing through life without Him, living dependent on myself and on my own strength. But I must remember this. He is my Lord, my Savior, my Father, my Friend, my Everything. And so I must be aware of Him and spend more time with Him, not out of duty, but out of love and pure devotion.

This has actually been one of the harder posts to write. I don't know if some people will throw stones at my theology. But these were the things I've learned through my walk these past years. I know I will learn some more.

Seven Things I Learned About People

It seems other people have been enjoying reading these debriefing posts as much as I have had writing them. I think that's one wonderful thing writing does. You hear (well, read) other people voicing out things you have learned and experienced yourself, and you somehow feel you aren't alone in this often disconnected world. And when readers nod their heads with you, well then you, as a writer, you start to realize there are kindred spirits out there who get you.

So let us go on with debriefing post #5. Seven things I learned about people:

1. People are people - they will hurt you (consciously or unconsciously) but that does not mean you should love them any less. You should actually love them more, because the people who hurt other people are likely to have been hurt greatly, too. And guess what? The ones closest to you are the ones who will hurt you the most. Yeah, we already know that. But this became more real to me here. And by closest, it includes those close in proximity and close in heart-connectivity.

2. Stereotypes are helpful, but I believe we should do away with them for the most part. I once had my hair done by a tattooed, pierced, gangster-type guy with the help of his denim-clad friend (another young man). Take note I wasn't getting spiky green hair. I was retouching my roots and upgrading my locks to a caramel-orange hue.

3. People come and go. As much as we want people to have a permanent place in our lives, their time with us - as with our time with them - is limited. But whether it be a night, three days, a week, a year, two years, six - we should just make sure we make good memories and see to it that we live with love.

4. People have interesting lives and have interesting stories to share. You just need to ask questions and get to know them enough. I've known people where actually ballerinas, heavy metal singers, cooks, and writers wearing corporate attire in disguise.

5. Age is often just a number. You can't gauge a person's maturity by their age. And you can't gauge a person's age by simply looking at them. The other day, we were trying to guess some colleagues' ages. I realized I mostly peg everyone in the workforce to be in their late 20s. And I get surprised when I realize they are either actually much younger or much older.

6. People change. They aren't this memory you can put into a tiny little box. The years will take its toll and you'll realize you aren't all the same people you were before. But that's good. I read from somewhere that the only things that don't go through some sort of transformation are dead things.

7. Nobody is living the perfect life. Social media may say otherwise, but everyone has their own seasons, their own heartaches at times. "Perfect" people can have their petty fights, clogged toilets to take care of, and - you never know, they might be trying their hardest to fight off their own demons, too. So two words of advice (for everyone and for myself): first, do not compare; and second, be kind.

I suppose, as we get older, we'll learn even more about people, and this list could grow from seven to seventy. Well, even though I consider myself an old soul, these seven things are plenty enough for now.

Taken September 2014 at Laman Seni.

P.S. Oh, I have also been processing this journey through poetry. If you like poetry (or if you are trying to force yourself to like poetry), have a look at my little project here. Cheers!

Seven If Onlies

I generally try to live a life with no regrets, a life with no what ifs and no if onlys. (Onlies? Only's?) But, there you go, like that possible lapse in spelling and grammar, uncertainties and mistakes are always bound to happen. So we learn to pick up the pieces, make the most of them, and move forward.

I need to uncover all my regrets in Malaysia so that I can go on to the next chapter with a complete heart. This is debriefing post #4, after all. To be clear, I may have these regrets but I may not necessarily want anything to be changed. But I am getting ahead of myself. So, regrets:

1. If only I had taken a three-year-loan for Caleb instead of a seven-year one. That would have saved me from this headache of trying to sell him off now. But then that would probably mean weeks of me living on mee sedap or indomie. So here I am, still with some debt to pay, still with a faithful Myvi looking for a trustworthy owner.

2. If only I had communicated with my family more. I mentioned in my previous post how I became more grateful for them. But I still feel I didn't communicate enough. No matter. When I go back to Manila, I will make sure to take that commute up to Baguio at least once a month.

3. If only I hadn't isolated myself so much in UKM. Once I started working, I sorta became more outgoing. I had more friends. I had people outside church whom I could confide in. I did have friends back in UKM. But I still wish I had opened up more. Lesson learned: open up your life, open up your heart.

4. If only I hadn't put my relationship with Adrian too high up on a pedestal. We had so much heartaches because of so much pressure and expectations. He is my first boyfriend, I am his first girlfriend, and we both jumped straight into a long distance romance. I wouldn't go as far as saying if only I hadn't said yes to an LDR - though I do keep telling people considering getting into relationships this: DO NOT DO LDR. No, I won't go as far as saying if only he'd found a way here or if only had I never left home or if only we had never fallen in love or if only I had known what I was getting myself into or if only we had waited until I got home - I won't go as far as saying those things. Because these - this long distance friendship, this long distance courtship, this long distance relationship - these are the very things that have made our love story unique. And, hey, we have stood the test of time, distance, and inconsistent Internet connections. Now that we are finally doing short distance, I have no idea how things will work out. But I shall remember this if only. I will not make an idol out of this relationship. Gah, I think I already said too much for item 4.

5. If only I had saved up earlier! What on earth did I do to my money??? I had some debt, yes. I traveled a bit, yes. But I still wish I had more pesos in my Philippine account. Mission once I get a job next year: save, save, save!

6. If only I had been more sensitive to people. If only I had loved more, listened more. To have someone close to me disappear so suddenly and to have her go through so much heartache right under my nose - would I have been able to change anything? And yet, looking at where we all are now, would I have wanted things to be changed? I honestly don't know. In that parallel universe wherein she had stayed, wherein she still had constant communication - I have no idea how that world would have turned out like, and if we would all be happy in that world. I would like to believe so. But this is the world we have now.

7. If only I had no if onlies. I'm having trouble thinking up of a 7th one. But what if I never did have any regrets in my stay here? That would be such a perfect world. But I realize that I do have regrets. And now that those are all out in the open, it's now time to move on.

I want to leave being in good terms with Malaysia and my memories here. It's time to move forward, time to move on.

No more regrets.

Seven Things that Changed in Me

Debriefing post #3. What were seven things that changed in me?

1. I began to look at the world with a bigger set of eyes. Things are not always in black and white. Things are not always what they seem. The world is so much bigger than UPLB and my academics. Working in an international setting with people having different backgrounds and backstories has been real eye opener.

2. I began to let go of a lot of mindsets about faith and religion and learned to embrace love all the more. At home I was used to a predominantly Roman Catholic setting. Here, I made friends with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Tribesmen, Christians, and Unreligious people. You gain nothing by arguing with people. Love wins every time.

3. I became more adventurous, taking leaps instead of just talking about things. Hello, open mics, solo trips, literary experiments and all that jazz!

4. Physically, I got fatter then slimmer, got inked, got my hair colored a couple of times, got braces again, will get the braces taken out again by December... basically "Nene" no more.

5. I  began valuing my biological family more. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, noh? And though spiritual families are of great importance, I realized blood is thicker than anything. Come what may, your family will always be your family and the ties you have with them are deep, deep, deep.

6. I became more independent, having had to stand on my own more than a couple of times.

7. I discovered my capacities as a leader. For so long, I forgot I had it in me all along.

I kept saying I was so sweet and naive 6.5 years ago. I think I have grown rougher, tougher, much like the black coffee I drink. But, unlike my regular joe, with a huge dose of sugar, though. Basically, I came to Malaysia as Vanilla Milk. And now, I emerge as Black Coffee with seven spoonfuls of sugar.

I would like to say I changed for the better. I believe change is a necessary constant in all our seasons in life.

Through the years. Guess the year.

Seven Trying Times

And now it's onto the sour. Here are the seven trying times in my history in Malaysia:

1. 2012. The world almost ended. But not in the way the Ancient Mayans predicted. This was the year a dear friend of mine left. Abruptly. For reasons too complicated to analyze or elaborate. The repercussions? Weight gain, Big Bang Theory marathons, and a battle with something which very much felt like depression at the time.

2. H1N1. I survived H1N1. At first, I actually thought I was going to die. That's how dramatic I am. Read more about the ordeal - err, adventure - here.

3. Waiting for wood companies. IE the respondents for my thesis. Not having any respondents would mean graduating at a later date and nobody really wants that.

4. Waiting for a job. After I passed my thesis defense, I started looking for work. And then I waited. And waited. And waited some more for work to open up. Everything fell into place eventually.

5. LDR blues. Long distance relationships are not, I repeat, are not for the fainthearted. We had our rocky moments, the rockiest perhaps was at the beginning of this year. The second half of 2015 was a close contender, too.

6. Team conflicts. I guess the closer iron gets to another, the sharper they drive themselves to become. Not that I was directly involved in any of the conflicts. But, hey, I was affected, nonetheless.

7. Homesickness. Especially those first few months. Apparently, I combated it through writing letters. When the letter writing season was over, I continued to turn to words for therapy.

Well, God has a way of turning things around and using everything for His glory. I look at these moments and see how everything brought me closer to Him. Not only that, these moments pushed me to creativity. I wrote songs, stories, even a bit of poetry. And speaking of poetry... I have an announcement which I shall be sharing in the Facebook page, soon.

I think we all desire a life without any sour moments. But it's those moments which let us appreciate the sweet moments all the more. :)

2012: On the road to healing.
Photo by Ate Mrose, I think.