Monday, August 30, 2004

We Were Neither Scorched Nor Burned

This is going to be a jumbled sharing but I just want to share some of thethings that our family experienced.

God's mighty and victorious hand saved us all, no one was hurt or injured, andthe damage to property was limited to the warehouse compound where the firestarted in the first place. There was no wind that night even though it was awindy Saturday and Sunday, so the fire did not spread. Half of the leaves ofour santol tree were burned; the top of the wall separating our property fromthe warehouse was likewise toasted, but it was as if angels blocked off the flames.

Inside our house there was no smoke and no sign of the commotionoutside. My father's TV was tuned to CNN the whole time. I watched the fire from down the street because fire trucks blocked the way back to our house. Ireally thought the flames had engulfed our house. I imagined that our entirehouse was muddy from the water from the hose. I could not believe how protectedthe house actually was. When I stepped back inside after several hours ofuncertainty, and felt the peace and calm inside the house, I could not believe it.

At 4 a.m., and while firemen were still battling the flamesnext door, my parents and kuyas said we should go to bed and rest. My brothers turned off the lights and fell asleep immediately in exhaustion. My father dozed off immediately too. The women in the house - Mama, Jane and I - couldnot rest as easily, but we had to submit. I prayed in my room, which was the room nearest to the neighboring fire, and felt the Lord's comfort that if He hadprotected us that far, He could as easily ward off the flames so we could go to sleep.

Though I walk through the fire, I will not be scorched nor burned
And the flames will not harm me at all.

I hold these lines from Isaiah 43 dear now, even though I've always counted on that verse and the song. I literally saw a building that contained flammable materials such as Baygon insecticide, katol, and other things sold at Save MoreDrug (which owned the building) going up in flames and sending forth explosionsfor one night. I held my breath, together with, our neighbors, the newsmen, and the UZis, as the heroic firefighters attempted to contain the flames and the explosions and to eventually subdue them.

The next morning I saw our garden lined with burned cans of sardines that flew off the warehouse during theexplosive night. But we were protected. As I was putting on Nivea Eye Control and night moisturizer at 5 a.m. Sunday, I could not believe how normal life was,how each piece of junk in our house, how all of our valuables, were still with us. We were not harmed. Angels protected us. I did not have to see them tobelieve they were there.

The whole night, at the back of my mind I was comforting myself with the knowledge that we had fire insurance. Well, wonder of wonders, I later onlearned that our insurance expired on August 16 and that we had forgotten to renew it. Mama only told us about it when we were all sitting in the living room already,and after we had coffee and sandwiches.

Be still, and know that I am God! - Psalm 46:11, which I had just recently used to exhort my Lingkod sisters at the household, became my mantra that terrifying night. We almost lost everything,and everything was what we gained. Maybe in time we would understand, and appreciate, this blessing.

This incident happened hours after I shared about God being my provider in times of helplessness. Saturday night was another, and more difficult, moment of helplessness. God could not have asked me to give atalk on the power of the Holy Spirit at a more perfect time.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

My Place Under the Sun

This week I finally watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” and it came at a perfect time. Although it is more Tippy’s life story than mine, I picked up many pearls of wisdom along the movie and they have made me view my life from a much broader perspective. I got to watch it because I was on sick leave. I had to take another day off because I had a minor accident in our slippery bathroom, and had to take the doctor’s advice to rest my foot and to have it X-rayed. My boss did not take my absence well. She called me up on the cellphone, not hiding the disappointment in her voice that I could not come to work, and proceeded to discuss the case with me. Now, I’ve had a difficult month. I’ve had to make many adjustments just to balance going to the household for women, moving to Makati for two weeks, getting sick with a bad cold in the process, trying to hide my tiredness and sleeplessness from my boss, keeping in touch with my family, that I had gotten so used to making the most of difficult situations. On the phone with my boss I explained what the case was about, offered to have our helper go to the office to pickup the draft with her revisions, and offered to submit the final draft that afternoon. Without checking myself, I was willing to go the extra mile just to do my job well despite my unfortunate accident. She said that I did not have to do that and that she could ask the other lawyer in our office to write the revisions she wanted. I felt so guilty that Dinah, my friend and classmate from law school who had recently joined our office, had to do my job.

I put down the phone and before I could stop myself, felt heavy tears escaping from what seemed like my lungs and stomach. I went to my room and gave in to the tears of frustration and disappointment. I could not live with the fact that I disappointed her again. I asked God why I had to be so stupid as to hurt myself that day, when I already went on sick leave the week before, for a day, because of my colds and its complications, and for another day two weeks before that, because my stomach acted up after a week away from home. I looked at myself from my boss’ point of view and I just hated the feeling. I had just come from a two-week household which turned out to be much better than I expected. I wanted to make it up to work this week. I did not want to have to go on sick leave again. So why did this happen to me? I could not blame my boss at that point, because more than her, I was disappointed in myself. Yes, for losing my balance while taking a bath, because it was not part of my plan.

I prayed hard that morning, after my usual prayer time, and voiced out distress calls to the Lord. I asked Him if He could take me to the hospital without me having to arrange it. I asked Him to take care of me because I was helpless and not in any condition to take care of myself. A few minutes after that, my mother called. She had asked my brother’s driver to pick me up and then we would pass by for her at school. She would leave her students so she could take me to the ER. I told her I did not know which hospital my new MedServ (our office healthcard) card was accepted in, so I said I would get back to her in a while. I then asked my officemate to send the MedServ pamphlet with our helper Jane, whom I still asked to go to the office to pick up other cases I was working on. My text came after Jane had already left my office, so they were not able to give her the documents I needed to contact a hospital. What my officemates did was to contact MedServ directly. My officemate happened to have connections and she was able to pull some strings so that I got a surprise call from MedServ. That had never happened to me before – my experience with PhilamCare had been long queues in its clinic while waiting for my Letter of Appointment before I could be treated. The girl from MedServ asked me how I was doing and what happened to me. She then promised to get in touch with the ER of Capitol Med so I could be treated immediately. I did not have to go through the coordinator, she promised.

I was picked up by my kuya’s driver (who is our distant relative), then we picked up my mother from her school. Miko, one of my beloved nephews, went to school there too so I got to see him and got a hug and a kiss from him before going to the hospital. I was in pain but I could walk and was just eager to get the Xray over and done with so I could work with the files I asked Jane to pick up. Such was my guilt. Anyway at the hospital, we went to the ER where everyone was waiting for me. I approached the staff on duty and they said that MedServ called them already to attend to Atty. Del Rosario. They must have thought they were treating a hotshot, a boss in the company, because they thought my mother was the patient. I said I was the patient, so a nurse got my temperature; another nurse got my blood pressure, while a doctor interviewed me. Another attendant wrote down my med records, while another attendant pulled out a wheelchair and took me to the Xray room. I had never been on wheelchair before, but I was beyond protesting. I did not have to wait – so you must imagine how elated I was. Everyone was pleasant. My mother could not believe it, for we were given star treatment. I knew God was being lavish upon me so I told my mom to just smile as if what we were experiencing was the more natural thing in the world. After that, I was brought back, on wheelchair, to the ER staff. Another doctor came to interview me, and boy, was he one good-looking doctor. Tall, mestizo, boyish looks, no ring on his finger, but before I could project my cutest self, he was making me sign my release form. I wanted to act as if I was in pain, but I just ended up asking him when I could drive again. He said I only needed a day’s rest. I did not have to pay a single centavo for that star treatment. A prayer answered by a very lavish God. I treated Mama to pancit at Café Pilo across the hospital after that.

When I arrived home, I put “Under the Tuscan Sun” on DVD. The movie opened up the sleeping dreamer in me. Diane Lane’s character was a writer who learned about freedom. I started to recognize the message God was trying to convey to me. I thought I could put it off, though, because again it was not part of my plan to pursue my writing dreams or my concepts of freedom at this point in my life. I had tied myself down to responsibility and guilt, so much guilt, in my family, workplace, and service. The experience of God’s lavishness during my point of helplessness concretely reminded me, however, that I should not limit my God. It also made me realize that I could be happier without the guilt I always loved to bring upon myself.

I still had a time frame, though, so God also shook that. During last night’s prayer meeting, the first sense I received was a verse that was not consistent with the words being spoken by the first brother who prophesied. I put that verse aside until the Lord led me to another sense, which was clearly for the community last night. Before going to bed, I reviewed my first sense and I realized that it was for me, and it spoke about His blessings for me. Our prayer meeting leader/speaker/sharer talked about his year-long journey of waiting and fighting for his Kumon center. What struck me the most was something which he already said before in our Stepping FOURward anniversary worship, but which had more impact to me last night. He said that God always instructs as to “Go”, and in fact, it is when we want to stay that we need permission from Him. I still denied that God was asking me to “go”. I cannot define here yet what “go” means, it is still to be discovered in prayer and discernment, though I have many indications already. I felt that “going” now would affect so many people. Well I’m playing the greatest joke on God because I’m even attempting to plan my life after offering it to Him. :) Today, after a very long conversation with Shane, I realized that nothing was holding me back from going where my heart was longing to go and that I was free to pursue my dreams. The parable of the talents today spoke to me not in the language of burden and guilt, but in a way that exhorted me to continue pursuing my talents, for that would lead me to my heart’s true desire.

My family, my work, my service, my finances, past, present, and future, at this moment, appear to be in God’s able hands, where they truly belong. As they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Today, I took a step. I shall share about it when the journey becomes clearer. For now, I am assured, by the books, people, talks, and senses I have around me that God is a generous God. He is not out to punish, or to judge, but He operates in the language of love, a lavish, unconditional, and abundant love. It took me thirty years to realize that. :)

Friday, August 27, 2004

By the River Pasig I Sat and Wept

Singing loudly to Gary V. songs with the sisters as we went about our household chores; receiving gifts and notes from my angel-in-disguise Gabbie; enjoying meals prepared by kitchen goddess Mercy and her angels; waking up at 5:15 a.m. to the soft voice of Leah; morning prayers led by Gay as we saw the sun rising each new day outside our bay window; night prayers in our pajamas to cap each significant day – these are just some of the memories I have kept from my two-week stay at the Lingkod QC First Women’s Household. For each of the women I stayed with, I believe there stayed a thousand memories, made more special by their own beautiful experiences of living, and resting, at Unit 205 Bonaventure Homes, Pililia cor. Osmeña St., Makati City.

It All Started in Quezon City

As to why we ended up renting a condominium in Makati is a story of surrender in itself. I went there with a very personal challenge as well, that of leading a household when I myself had never been part of one. Talk about the blind leading the blind!

The goal of conducting a household, I learned, is to help the women (or men, as it’s given to them as well, separately of course) establish their relationship with God and with one another more deeply by providing a venue and an atmosphere conducive to achieving this. Thus, various teachings and activities are incorporated in the schedule. Women of wisdom and experience in community are invited to give the teachings and facilitate the activities. Household chores are assigned to each participant, and the values of simplicity and responsibility are learned hands-on. Common prayers and meals provide a rich venue for expressing love for the Lord more deeply as well as for building sisterhood. It is hoped that all the women who attend would make resolutions as to God’s will in their lives and their participation in this community.

I read the Household Handbook from cover to cover several times. I interviewed Ate My, Ayie, as well as past and present BWMs in order to familiarize myself with what I was about to lead the sisters into. Knowing that I had a very intelligent and independent group of sisters whom I invited in QC (the ULs, AGLs, and one SeCo member), I wanted to come prepared. As the household opening day approached, however, I realized that I was still clueless as to what was in store for us.

We prayed for a house. God knows that we searched far and wide for a house. Our requirements were basic, and yet not so simple. We needed to fit 12 women, translated into two toilet/bathrooms and sufficient sleeping space. We likewise needed to find a place accessible to our respective workplaces. Simple living was encouraged but we knew we needed at least two parking spaces. Add to that the temporariness of staying for only two weeks, with a very, very tight budget, and we had a headache. I personally approached all my friends and was totally bewildered that nobody could help me find a suitable house.

It took us more than a year to finally settle to the idea of living in Makati. Some household participants started to complain about the distance, but after prayer we all came back to the Lord and obeyed His will. Household was about stepping out of our comfort zone, we were told. So we took that first step.

Several weeks before Opening Day, the UL’s and I came together to pray for the household. We sought the Lord’s message for us and came up with our household theme. It was clear that the Lord was calling His daughters to rest; to be still; to listen; to receive. He wanted us to stop striving. He led us to Psalm 46.

Based only on what I read and heard, I started to draft the tentative schedule, incorporating as much “rest” into it as I could. I presented it to Ate My, who then asked me about the profile of the household participants. I said that we had women leaders who serve all out for the Lord but who sometimes experience tiredness and who were longing to surrender control to God. Since this was a first in the branch, the Lingkod National Office had to take a more active participation in the household to make sure, at least to my mind, that we did it right. Ate My said that she thought we needed to be surprised a little bit. So for two weeks she tweaked, bended, and even changed the schedule so that we would stop striving and thus would become still before the Lord. Surprisingly, it did not drive the QC sisters crazy, as we welcomed each change and the loving promise that the Lord had in mind behind it.

First Night with Bantay

Some habits were hard to break. Worrying what the household would take from me, I wanted to make a head start. Even if nobody could stay with me on Saturday night at the house, I decided to move in already, thanks to the help of the Sikats and Johanna, who helped me carry my sleeping mat, clothes, pots, and pans up the rickety elevator into Unit 205. The house looked lived-in as in fact, another household, from Ligaya, had just moved out a week before that. I discovered each room and opened the windows to let the air in. I was surprised to see a grand view of the Pasig River which shimmered under the moonlight. There was a huge stuffed animal, a gray dog, which kept me company the whole night. I found it sitting on the sofa, as if guarding the living room, which was to become my bedroom.

I prayed for wisdom, fortitude, compassion, patience, self-control, gentleness, and a very long list of qualities I knew I did not have but figured I would need for the household. I barely slept that night as I adjusted to my surroundings. I woke up as night gave in to day and I watched the beauty of the changing colors of the sky. Along with it came the transformation of the Pasig River, which looked as beautiful as a princess the night before, but which turned into a brown, polluted body of water as daylight revealed its true nature. Looking down on it, I was dismayed. I looked up instead and enjoyed the morning sky which I rarely saw, if ever, as I seldom woke up in time to appreciate the glory that it revealed.

Busyness, Tiredness, Sickness, Where was the Rest?

As Gay, Arlene, Mirac, Leah, Mercy, Ria, Karreen, Sheila, and Jhing arrived, we started to “build” a house, room by room. We put up curtains, mopped the floor, scrubbed the tiles, and set the table. We each brought appliances, cookware and dinnerware that our mothers could spare for two weeks. It was a fun but a very tiring day. Ate My asked us about our expectations, and they were as varied as the spellings of our names.

On that first week, we just did what we thought a household should do. We prayed, cooked, ate, cleaned, talked, listened, and slept. Slowly, however, each one of us started to ask the Lord why we were called to that house in the first place. We knew we were in for a very personal surprise from the Lord. We heard talks from Ate My, Riza Fortuna (xBWM of Cavite), Joyce Viñas (former Lingkod Office staffer), and Beth Melchor (Gay’s leader at the Jerusalem House, living single for the Lord, a woman of wisdom and substance if we ever saw one) about Love, Brokenness, Sisterhood, and Priorities. We invited our AG members, the GovTeam and SeCo brothers, to join us in some activities. We had very personal sharings during dinner. We served one another as angels-in-disguise. We went to work together and got home together. We had night sharing partners and chore partners.

In all these, we suffered from sleeplessness. We thanked God that our bosses were not so demanding that week because we could hardly focus at work. Our bodies needed adjusting to the schedule and the distance. We also battled with thoughts and emotions that surfaced from the household. I got sick and had to take a day off to recover. We went home on Sunday, but had to go back on Monday, because we knew God was not done with us yet. He could not have placed us in one house and not have a grand plan, could He?

Changes That Made Changes

On our second week, Kristine arrived from Singapore and Karreen had to fly to Singapore. It was no coincidence, just a part of some divine plan. We found out that Cherry could not join us anymore because of her parents’ health. We got more used to singing the night prayers; waking up at daybreak; taking a shower for a few minutes; and having chore assignments.

Jackie Blanco, xBWM of Makati, talked to us about Being Christian Single Women. Ayie Santos, the Regional Women’s Moderator for GMMACQ, emphasized to us the call to Servanthood. Finally, Riza Carasig, xBWM of Greenhills, led us into a time of meditation on the whole of Psalm 23. At that point we could no longer hide from God for He made us sit down and face Him in our hearts. Some of us felt peace and calm; others recognized their brokenness for the first time. We learned that we were as helpless, as stupid, and as loved as little sheep before our Shepherd. The answers to our questions started to form in our hearts, but we could not speak them out yet. Jesus’ voice, however, started to come out clearly amidst the noise and haste of our minds. He was calling us, but we were nowhere near stillness.

GMA declared August 21 a holiday so we had complete attendance, and a lot of time, for morning worship. Ate My and Pepot (current BWM of Makati) joined us in ministering to one another. There, the Lord spoke to us individually. He sat down with each of us and whispered words of love and assurance. To some, He verbalized His commands and wishes. We could not escape His voice anymore, and we welcomed the Rest in His open arms.
Be Still and Know that I Am God.

Having gone through all that, we were reluctant to let go, however, the rest of our lives were waiting for us. Arlene had to go to her vacation in Hong Kong; Kristine’s new job demanded her full attention; Ria’s nephews and nieces were waiting for her. We came together one last time to worship and to pray. God told us that He would equip us to face mountains and storms; wars and famines; by these words from Psalm 46:11 “Be still and know that I am God!” It was no longer a whisper, but a strong voice heard throughout the vastness of our fears and anxieties. Could we love, serve, give, and pray without the household? Did we meet God’s expectations of us? Would we still be this close even if we no longer stayed in the same house? God’s Word cut through our minds and pierced our hearts with its truth, and we claimed it together in faith.

Ate My told me on the first week that the Lingkod QC household sisters were so easy to love and magaan dalhin. She was so confident with us that she stayed only one night in the house, occasionally checking through cellphone how we were doing. I told her that we needed a lot more – to listen with our hearts; to open our minds – but on the Closing Day she was so proud of how far each sister had come in terms of embracing God’s message of love and rest. She said that throughout her term, she could say that this was the easiest household to handle. We no longer disputed that, casting out thoughts of our difficulties, dramas, misunderstandings, and accepting that in the greater scheme of things, perhaps our household experience was indeed a blessed one.

I was not afraid to weep openly during the talks. The household forced me to face conversations with God that I had walked out on in the past. I trusted the Lord with the little faith I had, and He delivered! I praise and thank Him not only for the wonders that He brought into my prayer life, but also for the growth that I saw in each and every sister. The assistant household heads Gay, Mirac and Mercy, who were like the three branches of the government, supreme in their respective fields yet interacting and supporting one another, allowed me to concentrate on the pastoral and overall concerns of the house. Ria, my angel-in-disguise Gabbie, gave me a Russian doll, a Babushka, straight from my Sesame Street days, that brought laughter to us at the end of each working day. Kristine not only brought donuts but her willing heart as well. Sheila, a sister we could not help loving, was such a joy to be with, night after late night that she arrived from La Salle. Arlene gave her best to every aspect of the household, duty demands and travel worries notwithstanding (sis, da best yung Wacky Night mo). Jhing, whose sharing pinched my heart, renewed my desire to be faithful and to entrust my future into God’s hands. Karreen, although her stay with us was cut short, gave so much that built the foundations of love and service in that house. Leah, my sister with the surgical gloves for cleaning, has taught me about humility and true service.

I have to end this sharing sometime or it would not be read at all. As in all days at the household, let me end with the night prayers (sung with Mirac):

Praise the sisters ng Household Batch No. 1
Both now and forever
The Crying Ladies by the River Pasig
They sat and wept.

Mutya ng Pasig No. 1 si Manang Mercy
Napilay kaya nagpa-MRI
Ngunit kahit pilay, kusina’y gamay
Instant trainer ng mga walang alam sa bahay.

Mutya ng Pasig #2 ang Maribeth Bichara ng QC
Isang linggo lang dahil nag-Singapore
Buti na lang at siya’y nag-hosehold
Kundi ala tayong CD player.

Umalis si Karreen, dumating si Sister Donut
Dala-dala’y puro tsokolate at donut
Tatlong beses lang naming nakasama sa kainan
Dahil puro OT ang kanyang beauty.

Mutya ng Pasgi #4 ang chocolate-hater na si Ria
Pagsapit ng morning prayers ay bangag
Pagkatapos magdasal sa kama ay laglag
Kaya Suspect No. 1 bilang Angel Gabbie.

Mutya ng Pasig #5 ang small banyo Queen
May potensiyal maging Dancing BWM
Naglaba’t nagplantsa ng kanyang uniform
Noise barrage sa umaga with the kaldero’t kaserola.

Mutya ng Pasig # 6 si Mini-Beth Melchor
Well done talaga siya bilang worship servant
Pag siya’y nag-lead ng night at morning prayers
Darna powers gamit niya pati paglinis ng big CR…

Mutya ng Pasig # 7 isa sa Robinson’s Girls
Kahit panay ang duty sige pa rin ang serve
‘Yan si Arlene baluktot kung matulog
Ngunit nung Lord’s Day siya’y masarap magluto…

Mutya ng Pasig # 8 ang OC na si Leah
4 hours lagi kanyang tulog every single day
Kinareer pagwawalis at paglalampaso
Kaya spotless ang sahig with her surgical gloves.

Mutya ng Pasig #9 model ng Efficascent Oil
200 sit-ups sa umaga, sa gabi ay photo-finish
Natuto magluto baka inspired kasi
It’s OK to hope daw but guard your heart…

LORD, save them while they are awake
Protect them while they sleep
And Angel Gabbie who watches over,
Them pa pala,
Will guard their souls in peace.

Now Lord, you will let the household go in peace
According to your Word
For Our eyes have seen their wacky deeds
Which we performed without the men
Ang daming revelations by the sisters
At andaming baon naming pag-uwi…


May the almighty and merciful Lord
Grant the desires of their hearts
And be still, and know
That I AM….

Monday, August 02, 2004

Phinx @ Taal Vista Posted by Hello

Phinx @ Antonio's Posted by Hello