After observing life in another country for almost seven weeks and thinking about my own life halfway across the globe, I found out that I needed to pay more attention to the cobwebs – in our house, in the car, and in my heart. Before, I used to let others do the cleaning for all of the above. Now that every peso counts, however, I have realized that I could save a lot if I just learned to maximize the gifts that I already have.
One of my decisions for 2006 then was to do away with the dust collectors – even if they have sentimental value – and to do more frequent cleaning. This meant I would have to consciously create space in my schedule for this.
Ashamed though I am to admit it, I have never, in my five years of custody of my father’s car, used a vacuum cleaner to clean it myself. Not until today. I used to go to a shop that did this and paid a minimum of a hundred pesos every other week. Now, PhP100.00 is equivalent to two lunches at nearby Aling Rose’s canteen, which my officemates and I frequent. After much complaining from my mother– “Ella, you either have to stop buying sampaguita and ilangilang from the kids around the chapel, or you have to clean the petals in this car everyday!” - I finally decided to look for the CarVac in our garage. I had to clear away the dust in order to see the instructions on the box and understand how the thing works. I’m happy to report that I managed to clean the car floor and upholstery with it, and felt a long-overdue sense of accomplishment that accompanied doing something productive all by yourself.
I likewise found six containers of Shell Helix Plus, which must have oil enough to last me two quarters this year. I never paid attention to where the leftover oil went after each change oil/tune up session. Now that I have to be resourceful even in car maintenance, this is a welcome discovery. I'm not going to ask about the shelf life of Shell Helix. This has to be usable!
This girl needs to get a life, you must be thinking. Well, I had been so focused on my spiritual struggles- reading, counseling, serving, listening, and directing, that I’ve neglected the cobwebs and the dust that gather everyday in the clutter that I surround myself with. It’s like life in reverse – now it’s time to clean the external self in order to reflect internal peace. If indeed there is peace.
Since necessity is the mother of invention, a tight budget is the road to more reasonable living. Car vacuuming now joins my list of do-it-yourself discoveries that make use of the appliances/tools/gifts that we have lying around the house, and which lead to greater savings. Others in the list include: (a) my own foot spa (a gift from my brother 2 years ago) – I used to spend a ridiculous amount of money on this service despite owning a Homedics unit myself, but not anymore; (b) hair and makeup by yours truly for special occasions (I unearthed several hair dryers, a battery-operated curlash, and a well-stocked makeup kit in my room, all purchased during my shopaholic days); and (c) a hip-hop exercise video, which now allows me to dance away like nobody’s watching – because, let me see, nobody is watching, unlike in the gym when I felt under-dressed without a Nike Dance outfit or Adidas gear designed by Stella McCartney.
I have much to learn in life and whenever I achieve an inch of progress, I am thankful.
What actually led me to these reflections was reading this verse from my prayer time this morning:
Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.
I know I need to get rid of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in my heart in order to inherit “wisdom from above” – wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. With all the cobwebs and dust that have accumulated in my heart, it would take more than one round of Black & Decker’s Spiritual CarVac to clean it up. As my favorite line from the song “One More Gift” goes, “For the confusions around are mere reflections of what’s within me”.
I doubt sometimes that I can be healed and cleaned of all worldly tendencies. But I look at the miracle from today’s Gospel, and I find a powerful prayer:
Mark 9:21-25 (NAB)
21 Then he questioned his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" He replied, "Since childhood.
22 It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
23 Jesus said to him, " 'If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith."
24 Then the boy's father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
25 Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, "Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!"
Rebuke the unclean aspects of me that have been tormenting me since childhood, Lord. I do believe, help my unbelief.