There’s Hope

“…but those who hope in the Lord  will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  – Isaiah 40:31

My work contract ends on March 31.  My bosses are working hard to keep me.  However, visa issues have kept them from making any promises if I’d stay or leave. 

If I’d manage to stay, I would survive a second redundancy case.  Being kicked out is nothing new.  Working in the Middle East as an expat is an uncertainty these days. In fact, it has been, the past couple of years.  My husband was actually one of the first casualties.

It’s sad considering we’re still way above our heads in debt.  And with my husband still unemployed, I should have worried myself to death, or to debt, for that matter.  To even imagine the prospect of being jobless as well, would have made me cringe.

But even I am surprised how the grace of God has given me the absolute trust that my husband and I are not alone in this plight.  I know that He sees what we are going through, and He will not leave us alone, helpless and hopeless.  

I don’t know what’s in it for me by the end of this month.  But God knows.  Because he had already written it long before I was even born.  He planned it for He is the architect of my life.

Surely His plans are not to harm me, but to prosper me.  Exactly how, only He knows.  And if only for that, I should not be afraid.  Because if I depend on what I know, there’s nothing but despair.

But in God, I lean on because only He knows what my purpose is.  Through Jesus Christ, who is the Way, I shall find it.

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Abundance as a State of Mind

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” – Acts 4:32
We have been praying to receive our annual bonus.  Oil and gas companies are not doing well in the Middle East, so our expectation is as low as our revenue.

But hope is there until we received the email confirmation that there will be no bonus or salary increment this year. Oh well, we’re still grateful that we still have jobs.  Our faith is in God’s plan.

We would not know what exactly the plan is, until it unfolds before our eyes.

Then I remember the story that’s gone viral in the internet, about a student who they say is Einstein (though some say it ain’t him). He argued with his teacher that there is no evil, but the absence of God in our heart.  Much like there is no darkness, but the absence of light.

Abundance in the universe is always there ready for our picking.  It’s just up to us which kind we choose to see, partake and share.

So scarcity is actually non-existent.  It is the absence of an abundant mindset and the presence of a selfish existence.

If our mind dwells in what we lack, no amount of wealth can satisfy us. But if we choose abundance in whatever form, nothing will ever fall short.

Bonus or not, I choose to always be grateful, because if God is all I have then I have everything I need.

What Easter Means to Me

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. ”  Luke 24:30-35

Today is Thursday after Easter Sunday. In the Middle East, it was a working Easter. That day being also the deadline for submission of month end reports, I struggled to keep my focus on the image of the risen Christ as I battle emails and phone calls, in between entering data to finish the tasks at hand. To top it all, my colleagues were on holiday and so my work load was multiplied like the bread to feed thousands.

By end of business hours, I was really exhausted but nonetheless, the Holy Spirit helped me through the day. So it happened that we were able to attend the 7pm Easter Mass. The smell of tires being burnt on the road leading to where Sacred Heart Church was located, dominated the festive atmosphere. That did not stop the hundreds who were inside the church compound to pray and praise God. And that was my Easter of 2015.

If the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a one day affair, I would really, really feel bad that a great number of hours on that day was taken up by my earthly duties. But as I continue to “follow” Jesus after He left the tomb, my eyes were opened.

Easter is our daily reminder that Jesus is alive and one day, we shall see His face when He comes again. My eyes were opened, that it is alright to fulfill our earthly duties when it glorifies God and the greater good comes out of it. My eyes were opened, that as we go about our daily lives, the Holy Spirit is ever present. Just like Jesus was, with Cleophas and his companion on their way to Emmaus.

Between life and death, we choose life. Easter is the life after Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross. We also died from our old selves during Lent and were renewed on Easter, forgiven of our sins when we repented sincerely. So therefore, let us celebrate Easter everyday so that the sacrifice of Jesus, the sign of His infinite and eternal love will ever be worth it.

Bloom Where You Are Re-planted

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them…” 1 Corinthians 7:17

I just celebrated my 48th birthday a few weeks back. As part of my annual sentimental “look-back” at what have been, I realized that there is one constant that dominates the story of my life- and that is MOVING.

Before I finished my studies, I lived at 5 different houses and went to 8 different schools. from the time i got married until now, I lived at 9 houses and worked in a commercial establishment, a government agency, a bank, 2 schools and a hospital. That does not include where I live and work now.

Sometimes I wonder what my life could have been if there wasn’t too much action. How stress-free it could have been if i work at the same office table until i retire. And how comforting to live in just one house until my last breath. But who really knows?

So S also wondered how it could have been if I was stuck in only one corner of the same office and worked consistently on the same assignment everyday. by now I would have probably mastered the grooves and accomplish all without batting my short lashes, but how bored to death I would be now.

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I also wondered how many places I would not have the privilege to visit if it was my destiny to normally age within the four corners of the same house i was born to. How I would have missed the rapid beating of my heart whenever i experience the rising of the sun and its setting from different perspectives, the changing of the seasons under a different view of the sky, the genuine tastes and sounds of various societies.

And yes, I wondered how many people I would not have met… and known… and loved, if I was just bounded by the walls of my immediate family. I would not have known people from other nations who are as diverse in our culture and tradition, yet so similar in our humanity.

Moving is actually a joyful adventure for me rather than a futile exercise; like a flowering plant that is constantly being pulled from where it has grown its roots and re-planted to a new and strange spot. It may be a new pot or a beautiful garden. It doesn’t matter where, only its purpose is to bloom.

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I believe I am God’s little flower. And I am repeatedly being uprooted and re-planted to serve my purpose. I am in the here and now because God planned this from the beginning.

When it is time for that little flower in me to move again, I will no longer wonder. because all I need to do is bloom.

All The Sweet Moves

“For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:15

Holy Monday, and here in Bahrain it’s business as usual.  I’m unable to go to Sacred Heart church all by myself,  yet thanks to technology, there is no lack of literature and videos that could somehow remind us of the importance of this week.  Not to mention the Holy Bible.

I’ve been distracted the past weeks.  Had recurring respiratory ailments, was busy with the tender , still concerned with Miguel’s pending leap from a career in films to a life in the kitchen, excited about Megan’s graduation, and worried about the hot weather when we come home for vacation in Pinas.

In similar situations prior, I vent all my perceived helplessness by binging on food.  They say sweets are great stress busters.  Especially chocolates.  But somehow added stress goes with the end result of having to lose the extra pounds later.  So eating just for the heck of it, is just a temporary relief.

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Now I found another sweet way to battle my way out of  the “insanity” of  it all.  Who says only the young can play candy crush?  It’s calorie free, but it’s bad for my eyes.  And it makes my back ache.  Yet for some precious MY moments when I reach home, I transform from a middle-aged, tired, sickly, corporate lady to a fresh and vibrant girl again.  All because of candy.

As I play it over and over, I learned that no matter how I try, if I am meant to stay on one level for a period of time, my jellies won’t get crushed, even if only one has to remain.

It’s not about the candies. It’s how they fall on my favor.   Because even with candy crush, someone wiser designed them so.  I just have to persevere. But not lose the enthusiasm  to play the game.

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Do you feel stuck where you are now? That you are heading nowhere despite the effort?  Do you instead get negative results after all the hard work and late hours? Do some obstacles block the plans that you so long prepared for?

We don’t have five lives.  But we have infinite chances to learn. We just have to try and try.  Even if all options seem exhausted.  We just need to wait. Try once more.  Until we got all the right moves. And everything falls into place.

Just Move

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and  said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  In all this, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1:20-21

Did you ever hear a song and relate to it, like the singer was singing only for you? It was a couple of  weeks ago at the office. The JoseMari Chan sang only for me.

“We’re on the road. We move from place to place.  And often times when I’m about to call it home,we have to move along. Life is a constant  change.”

I was assigned to our Bahrain office August of last year. From then till now, I was able to learn and accomplish more in my professional life than the years before that put together.  The task given to me was a huge challenge which I reluctantly accepted.  Catalin, my boss, had such confidence that I could do it, more than I trusted myself that I can.

Every month was a struggle.  Just when we’ve gotten used to one report format, we had to learn a new one. And each time, it gets more complicated and broader.  The deadlines were such killers.

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But together, with the full support of the MI Bahrain family, we always pulled through.  Of course, not perfectly, but we always did.  Because we worked as a team, Catalin, Roland, Reem and Stefan.  The company’s objectives became ours, which made our own individual goals only secondary.  Our workplace was ideal, almost too homey for comfort.  Business was exceptionally great.

So it’s just normal for me to feel sad and reluctant to leave my desk, our office, my assignment, my officemates who I now not only consider as my dear friends, but together with their own families, are now my Bahrain family as well.

I became terrified to tread a new path. It is often difficult to  move on, especially if one is  already at his comfort zone.  But to refuse to move on, to just stop and play safe, is to stunt one’s growth, and eventually, stagnate.

All these, I believe is God’s plan for me and for those lives who intertwined with mine during my short but sweet Bahrain experience.  It is  not my choice nor my will, and I’m not certain of my new assignment in KSA.  But to trust in the Lord completely, is to be assured that no matter how the road twists and turns, it will eventually wind up in a good place…the one that God prepares for us.

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I am forever grateful for all the blessings of genuine friendships, good fortune and  precious memories.  The Lord gives.  And if He ever takes away, He gives something better.

when the time is now

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

we’re now ten days into 2011, and i still don’t have a list of new year’s resolutions.  not that i even plan on having one, but it has been tradition that before the old year ends, the list should have been done and must be followed from Day 1 onwards.  but since it’s a bit late already, maybe my new year’s resolution is to not have any new year’s resolution at all.

before Christmas, Megan was giving slight hints here and there about what gift she really wanted-a canon 550d camera.  since it is quite expensive and we don’t have the money to buy one just yet, i told her that patience is a virtue. wittingly she responded that time is goldhaha!  that camera might as well be gold!

aah youth! –  carefree, always in a hurry as if there’s no tomorrow.  but only with age will they realize that time is just a passing fancy.  and i sure finally did. in fact, as i grow older, i perceive time as a curse.  especially when life is defined by the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds… 

when i was younger, i used to believe that time is really gold because our culture dictates our life in terms of the years that we live.  like when at 12, one has to finish grade school.  one can vote or date at age 18.  by 20, one has to finish college.  by 30, one has to have established a career already, earned his 1st million and settled down.  between 30 to 40, one should already have a family, built a house for them, sent kids to school…

between 40 to 50, one would be preoccupied with advancing with that career, take care of seeping health issues and playing on retirement plans.  at age 60 onwards, one should then enjoy the fruits of retirement, then eventually die of natural causes or old age.

imagine the frustration when one doesn’t catch up with the hands of time.  i won’t be surprised if that expensive rolex, that cheap wall clock or that annoying alarm clock can be as deadly as a butcher’s knife.  these timepieces may actually be the number one cause of stress.  and stress as we all know is the number one cause of any illness, or the reason some diseases get even worse  for that matter.

 it’s been two months since my surgery, and i’m still stuck here in my room. since i felt stronger, i think that i should be elsewhere doing something else, which “culture” expects of me.  but God put me exactly at this spot at this very moment. just as He planned.  building up my patience, strengthening my faith and bolstering my confidence in what He has in store for me.

we should be defined by the moments we live. not the hours we spend catching up with the future.  not the minutes fighting off the ghosts of the past.  we are in the here and now. and whatever we think or do now, will shape up our tomorrow .  or change how we look at our yesterday.

if you want a taste of hell, go ahead.  stare at that clock as it excruciatingly tick-tocks your life away.  waiting for that something that may just happen only after a century, or worse, may not happen at all.  do whatever you can wherever you are-NOW.

remember that in heaven, there are no clocks.  no calendars.  no new year’s resolutions. only moments of everlasting joy and infinite bliss with our Lord.  so savor each moment like you’re already in heaven.

the tale of two friends

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? – – `My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

i remember this story about two very close friends.  in fact, they were too close that they already treated each other as family.  one day, the other friend left and worked away from the other.  before he left, he asked his friend to take care of his mother while he was away.  he also entrusted his business and savings to him not wanting to bother his mother with finances.  on top of that, he also sent part of his earnings monthly.  his main concern was for his mother to be well taken care of.

two years after, the friend who went away came back.  only to find out that the friend he left behind betrayed his trust;  his money gone, the business went bankrupt and his mother neglected.  when he confronted his friend, this friend who betrayed him simply said he needed the money, but never asked for forgiveness nor did he show any remorse nor shame for what he had done.  he was even proud to say that he can pay him back anytime.  that was the last time they saw each other.

after some time, the friend had to leave his mother again.  but this time he made sure that he trusted the right people to care for her.  not long after, the friend who betrayed him was caught stealing from his place of work.  he was forced to resign without any benefits from his thirty years of service, or else the company would file charges against him.  he left the company empty-handed.  because of his lavish lifestyle which his salary alone could not sustain, he was also neck deep in debt with personal loans from other people which he could no longer pay.  his childred stopped going to school.  his house foreclosed by the bank.  and because he was already getting older, he started to get sick. 

it was time for vacation again for his friend.  during one of his routine visits to his doctor, he saw the friend who betrayed him in the hospital corridor, seeking treatment for his heart ailment in the charity section; pale, thin and weak.  but this then sickly friend was still hardened with pride.  he said he was supposed to pay back what he owed, but he got sick.  and yet, not a single sorry was uttered.  his friend who had long forgotten what he had done, simply said, “you know, my friend,  all our sins each have their own punishments.  maybe this is yours.”  and the friend who betrayed him, still proud and enrelenting answered back “you know what you said really hurts me.”  and the friend who betrayed him walked away, never looked back, not realizing the hurt he had caused the other.  now this friend who betrayed the other, has nothing.  no money, no family, no friend. 

when bad things happen to us, we associate it to God’s punishment for our past wrongdoings.  because i see God as a loving and gentle God, i refused to see him in this perspective especially when i was younger.  but when i grew older, i believe i also grew a bit wiser.

because by now, i know that everytime i sin, God calls my attention because he loves me and he wants me to change.   in subtle ways first.  but when i don’t listen, he jolts me.  like lightning in the middle of summer, i would be caught by surprise.  then, he gets my attention.  and i learn my lesson.  the hard way.

that does not mean that God is not a loving and gentle God.  He is.  it’s just that, i’m a stubborn sinner who needed something more than a push to make me understand. 

we can be the friend who trusts or the friend who betrays.  in which case, we can be forgiving like the other.  or really, really mean and proud, like the one who betrays him. 

the point is, when God does punishes us, let not foolish pride get in the way.  acknowledge that we had done something wrong.  ask for forgiveness.  resolve not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  or else, we would end up with nothing.  no love.  no friend.  no family.  no home.  and sadly, no soul.

never alone

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

yesterday i experienced the scariest and weirdest moment ever. 

you see, there is no company transport provided for us,  so i have to go with bhoy every morning.  that means i am always an hour and a half early for work.  that also means that it is my duty to unlock the office main door and switch on the lights. it also means that i could enjoy some peace and quiet before each stressful day.  there’s time for me to pray the rosary, retouch make-up, clean my desk, read the news and update my facebook status, even before everyone else arrives. 

except for some familiar sounds that come from the kitchen, which by this time i’ve already gotten used to, nothing unusual happens.  not until yesterday morning.

as i placed my bag and packed lunch on my desk and was about to take a seat, a loud banging on the glass part of the wall divider behind me swallowed the silence that i’ve grown to love now. BANG! BANG! BANG! as i turned to look at where the eerie noise was coming from, my heartbeat raced really fast that i felt it was out of the building within a sec.  but then, the rest of my body froze in my seat.  I WAS REALLY, REALLY TERRIFIED!!!  (thanks to my love affair with horror movies, my imagination became gory and gruesome OMG! )

the first thing that i could think of was a remote possibility that there maybe somebody locked inside the office the day before.  the second thing was oh well!  i could not think of anything more other than how scared i already was. as i sat motionless for like an eternity, i just prayed “Oh God, please don’t leave me. I’m all alone.”  minutes were transformed to forever.  you can just imagine my relief when my officemate and friend, mila, eventually arrived.  it was then that i got my heart back to its rightful place…my frightened heart that seemed to have taken a flight back home to laguna.

of course there may be spirits or souls that roam around, whose energy may have caused that really loud banging. and so, i was really wrong when i thought i was all alone.  in fact, i realized now that indeed, i was never alone. and never will be.  to quote Pope Benedict XVI during Sunday’s Angelus prayer, he stressed: “Every time we recite Our Father, our voice becomes entwined with that of the Church, because those who pray are never alone.” http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=37525

in connection to my weird experience yesterday, this legend about the cherokee indian youth’s rite of passage was sent to my email this morning. here goes:

his father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.  he is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. 

he cannot cry out for help to anyone.  once he survives the night, he is a MAN.  he cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

the boy is naturally terrified.  he can hear all kinds of noises.  wild beasts must surely be all around him.  maybe even some humans might do him harm.  the wind blew on the grass and the earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing his blindfold.  it would be the only way he could become a man!

finally after the horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.  it was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him.  he had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

we too, are never alone.  even when we don’t know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us.  when trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Moral of the story:  Just because you can’t see God, doesn’t mean He’s not there.

oh yes God is always with me.  but question is, am i with him? or will i rather be elsewhere? how many times did i go astray and got lost along the way? do i sometimes get ahead of Him who is supposed to lead me instead? 

next time any sound breaks that precious silence again,  my prayer is that the presence of God would build up my courage and strengthen my faith.  let it be a resounding assurance that He will never ever leave me, even when most of the time i am not worthy.

the coconut nut

“Should you then seek great things for yourself?  Seek them not.  For I will bring disaster on all people, declare the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”  Jeremiah 45:5

fely comes to our house regularly to do the laundry.  she also helps mommy with  stuff.  she runs errands, cleans and cooks too.  sometimes, she just drops by to check on mommy and if there’s anything else that she can do for her.  but at the end of  every day’s work, fely walks to her humble abode to be with her family, for whom she works very hard for.

fely, who did not take an oath, serves our family the best that she can.  with her frail and thin physique, she is able to do things which seem incredible for us to do.  she doesn’t demand to live in our house, much less sleep in the master bedroom.  her husband, who drives their family-owned pedicab for a living, follows simple barangay traffic rules and regulations.  though life is hard, they do their jobs diligently.  and i am certain that they are happy and comfortable with whatever they are blessed with –  jobs to do, family to belong, a small rented house.

fely and her husband are simple people with simple needs,  but that doesn’t mean they live without dignity. 

what is dignity then? it is the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect.  we don’t have to be rich, or pretty, or hold a high government position, or live in a coconut palace to have dignity.  dignity is not something that one should demand from others because it emanates from one’s innate nature of being treated with respect.  dignity comes from within and radiates spontaneously. 

for a newly elected public servant to even consider a grand residence and office for dignity, is an insult to the poor people that he promised to serve, a great percentage of which live in shanties.   we are made to think that our house is what we are.  that thinking only reduces the self-image to inferiority and helplessness. no less than President Noynoy said “Kayo ang boss ko.”  can’t a vice-president also serve his countrymen and perform his functions with dignity if he lives in a modest house in a modest neighborhood? was his predecessor less dignified? now more than ever, it is worthwhile to recall what lolo and lola once said “Mabuti pa ang kubo kung ang nakatira ay tao, kasya isang palasyo na ang nakatira ay kwago.” 

isn’t it ironic that the new president whose official residence is a palace, humbly chose to reside in a small guest house across the river, yet his vice-president asks for a palace with the famous view of the manila bay sunset to be his official residence? if this is a tumor, there’s something benign here that must be treated soonest before it turns malignant.  seriously…

we are all equal in the eyes of  God.  He placed us exactly where we are now, because he has a master plan for the natural order of things. my fervent prayer is that each of us realize what our role in that plan is, in order to fulfill the ultimate purpose of our existence.  otherwise, the tale of the coconut nut in the palace will go down in history.