Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Am I the Same Girl?

Yes I am, yes I am.

The same girl who wrote the previous posts is also attending the one-week Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Compliance Program being given by the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Law Center Institute of Judicial Administration. The prodigal lawyer is back in her alma mater.

The MCLE is required for members of the Philippine bar, who all have to take 36 units in prescribed courses every compliance period, a cycle of three years. Failure to do so would lead to dire consequences for a lawyer.

For a year and a half, I spent 95% of my time doing non-legal work as I volunteered for a non-stock, non-profit foundation and aside from being corporate secretary, I worked as the National Administrator for Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon. I hardly set foot in the UP College of Law while I was in Lingkod Office.

Last compliance period, I was exempt from the MCLE as I was a court attorney then and as such took the program given by the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA). There were less subjects and hours required. Now I am forced to sit through nine-hour lectures with just a lunch break to look forward to. I cannot bring enough "toys" (gadgets, planners, pocketbooks, etc.) because my "classmates" and I sit in front and I don't want to distract the speakers too much by my movements.

As I am attempting to integrate all the pieces of my life this year- lawyer, Christian, daughter, friend, parishioner, sister, etc. (talk about multiple personalities! No wonder this blog has too many Labels.) - the MCLE more than takes me back in time to a decade ago when I was a law student. Listening to the lectures on different subjects, I cannot help but wonder which field is really for me, where I would make my mark, find my niche, and be considered an expert in someday. I had criminal law background in the Sandiganbayan, corporate law background in the law firm, and a myriad of other interests between those two extremes. In this confused state, I cannot make that decision so easily.

Lawyers network for a living so the first question they ask one another after not being in touch for some time is "Where are you connected now?". Upon learning that I'm not connecting to anything legal (pun intended), they automatically give suggestions as to what I can do - take "junket" trips and short courses given by different foundations and governments, work in law firms, go back to the government, try being in-house counsel, travel the world, get married, etc. I just laugh everything off. If I think too much I would get a headache. It's nice to know there are people who think I have the whole world in my hands, even if I have very seriuos doubts on the matter.

I took a tour of Malcolm Hall last Monday. I visited the Office of Legal Aid, the Law Student Government (LSG) Room, the Student Lounge, and other familiar places. I leaned on one post and prayed to God to please show me how to connect my past to my present and eventually lead me smoothly to my future. They don't make sense right now, all these roles, possibilities, hurts, failures, triumphs, memories, and challenges.

I take it one day at a time. This MCLE week, it is one subject at a time. I leave the future into God's able hands.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Youth Alive! Launching

The Parish of St. Benedict's Youth Alive! is a program of the Missionaries of God's Love. We had our launching last Saturday, January 27, 2007 after the 6 p.m. mass. Around sixty-five youth of all ages, but mostly between 14-21 years old, attended this event.

Who would have known that I would be leading the Chuga Dance in this day and age? The kids said they had so much fun with that action song. Malou and I tried to catch our breath after the many rounds of "Chuga Up" and "Chuga Twist". Then we had games where we asked them, who belonged to different chapels, choirs and ministries, to interact and get to know one another. The youth were most alive when we started praising and worshiping God. It was awesome to sing and pray with them.

Then Fr. Brian gave a talk about "pilgrimage". He said that Youth Alive! has always had a World Youth Day flavor and we in St. Benedict's were no different. He invited the youth to a physical and a spiritual pilgrimage. He discussed the theme for WYD Sydney 2008, which is Acts 1:8, Acts Chapter 1 Verse 8, or Actv8! That's "Activate!" in text lingo, which the Filipino kids arevery familiar with.

The priests and I have always been puzzled at how the teenagers could afford to subscribe to Unlimitxt and send us messages at any time of the day. When I askd them, they said that they set aside a portion of their allowance for this. In my day, if I wanted to stay in touch with my friends, I had to go to their houses. I also used the landline a lot! This is a reminder that I am not so young anymore, I guess.

I happily posed here with Ate Sallie Orbigo, the dynamic woman of Banal na Puso Chapel over at Filinvest Road, and some members of YouthAlive! I would like to thank Fr. Geoffrey Coombe, mgl for taking these photos, and Adam Domingo and Fr. Brian Steele, mgl for uploading them to flickr. You can search flickr for more photos under "youthalive!". Meetings are every fourth Saturday of the month, from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

In this post I'm also launching a new label in this blog called "Parokya ni Ella", in which I will be talking about events and happenings in the Parish of St. Benedict's in Don Antonio Heights, Q.C., where I belong to and serve in the youth ministry. We have Charismatic prayer meetings every Sunday at 10 a.m. I loved reading last Sunday when I served as lector, for the reading assigned to me was 1 Corinthians 13.

Little Angels

They are Miguel and Gabriel, named after two great archangels. In this photo taken at the Our Lady of the Pentecost Parish (OLPP), my nephews Miko and Luigi look their angelic best. Miko had his first communion and Luigi served as a sacristan for the first time. The Bukas Palad Music Ministry sang during the mass held for the Grade Two first communicants from Centro Montessori.

During lunch I interviewed Miko about his experience and found out that he had his First Confession with Fr. Roy Cosca, SJ, the godchild or "inaanak" of my father, and a family friend from Olongapo. Fr. Roy's dad and aunt were our family doctors. Of all the Jesuits, Miko met the only one who had a connection to our family. This gave him a thrill. That's the beautiful thing about children. Everything is a big deal for them. They delight in the littlest details and are very easy to please.

Tita Mel and I went to Little Angel Study Center when we were, well, little. We also looked angelic then and most likely, we were also very easy to please. Now we just look angelic, haha.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Now, I'm Burned Out

A year and a half ago, I read a book the title of which caught my attention at Books for Less. It's entitled "When God Wants You to Rest", written by Flor Ulan-Taylor, a former U.P. professor of Philippine history who became a missionary to Thailand.

While reading the book, I thought that I was thankfully not going through what she was going through. She described a point of being totally exposed - fragile, bitter and vulnerable. It took years to recover from her burnout experience but she lived to tell the tale and thus wrote the book. I was fresh in my volunteer work in Lingkod at the time that I read it and burnout was the last thing on my mind.

Last week, I read the article "Burnout: Prevention and Cure" by Dr. Archibald D. Hart. He said that pastors were most prone to burnout because:

(1) they have not been taught to care for others in the right way;
(2) they care too much out of guilt;
(3) they care too much and feel helpless about providing solutions;
(4) they care too much all of the time; and
(5) they do not care enough about their own self-recovery.

Ouch. I am not a pastor but I could identify with some of those reasons. Then I took the test included in his article, and guess what my score was?

71, his assessment was: You are beginning to experience burnout. Take steps to better control your life.

Of course I didn't need an article to confirm what I was experiencing. I suffered sleepless nights, difficult mornings, lost ambitions, constant headaches, etc. all throughout last year. I did not blog about it everyday because it was too negative and might put people and things I loved in a bad light, when it was not their fault, but mine.

It took Flor Ulan-Taylor around twenty years before she suffered burnout from teaching, counseling and mentoring women. It took me only seven years in Lingkod and one year as a full-time volunteer staffer before I began to experience burnout. I blame this on the fact that I cared too much of what others thought and of problems that were not mine to deal with, and thought too highly of myself, that there was nothing I could not do.

I am taking steps now to better control my life. It frustrates me though when people don't respect the space I asked for, thinking I still derive happiness from being involved in everything related to community. I have tried to explain several times to these brethren that I need some time to recover. The solution to my depression is not additional service; neither is it in jumping to the other end of the spectrum and immersing myself in hard-core corporate law or litigation.

I talked to a missionary friend of mine and he said that he learned through the years that we have to look after ourselves, that when burnout and depression kick in we can't expect others to handle us with care. We have to set our boundaries and not be guilty about seeming to not give or care enough, like we used to.

I saw on ANC one morning an interview with an expert on depression. She clearly described my inner life. I wanted to call the network and ask for her number. She's a stranger, maybe she would understand.

I'm still reading "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World". I'm being described there too in every page. The solutions are on paper but my journey might take a while. At the back of my mind I know that I don't have a job now because I'm not yet ready. It is a blessing in disguise.

Hoping to be a Biblical Scholar

Ok, I got this from Ted, and when I clicked on the link my heart beat so fast. It wasn't just my competitive side, but I wanted to do well sooo much. I'm glad I did take the test. It might not be the Ultimate Quiz, but it sure made me smile after reading this:

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Something Beyond the Theoretical

Over the years, I have seen some friends who went through months, even years, of joblessness. A few of them even had master’s degrees and double majors from top universities, and yet they each came to a point when nothing just seemed to fit. A sister from my action group in Lingkod shared with us that she was sustained throughout those lean years by God. “He provides for my needs”, Cindy assured us over our worried and sympathetic looks.

I used to wonder at how that worked practically, since manna did not fall from heaven anymore in my generation, and money did not grow from trees as far as my limited experience showed. Bushes didn’t talk anymore, and angels didn’t provide food and water to God’s servants running away from their persecutors. The time of Moses and Elijah belonged to the distant past. As far as I was concerned, flour and oil ran out and their jugs did not miraculously get refilled.

Last Monday, I counted that it had been one month since I resigned from my last job. How am I doing? People are kind enough to ask that. I can say this with conviction: I have moved beyond the theoretical in seeing and realizing the phrase “God will provide”. I am living it out 24/7.

1. God provides through my parents. I have a roof over my head even if I don’t pay rent. I used to berate myself for this, thinking I should get a place of my own already, but now that it’s next to impossible, I am appreciating this blessing. Utilities are paid even as I close my eyes when I hand them the bills from the mailbox. I close my eyes and dream of the day when I would once again be handling the groceries and giving my share for our bills.

2. God provides through my siblings. Even while I was a volunteer missionary, getting around 1/10 of my earning capacity (as a salary expert assessed), which let me just say did not bother me too much as it was part of what I got myself into, I did not need material things because my blood brothers and sisters often sent me things. Bags, perfumes, shirts and stuff came through the door, in balikbayan boxes and packages. They knew what to give me for birthdays and Christmas, too, the much-needed extra cash that I could use, to buy gifts for others!

3. God provides through my friends. I used to be overly sensitive about others paying for my meals, but I had to face my pride head-on and learn to accept my situation. I know it is better to give than to receive, but the time to give shall come, now I receive their offers to buy me lunch, dinner or coffee, as long as it isn’t the same person and I know I’m not abusing their generosity. One friend even described me as a “cheap date” as I always chose the hot drinks at Starbucks over his frappuccinos, and I explained that it was not so much the cost but the calories that I was concerned about. This was so far from the me who used to be regarded as a “high maintenance date”, a title I resented. I have a Starbucks planner mostly earned from friends’ treats and stickers, proof that even little whims are answered if they wouldn’t do me harm.

4. God provides through my community. This happens in countless, unexpected, and wonderful ways. Last night, I attended my last Action Group meeting in Lingkod QC and the sisters gave me an honoring – saying what they appreciated most about me as a sister – through beauty products, for they knew me as a beauty junkie. I got an eyemask because I was described as “relaxing” and an “eye-opener” to the beauty of Scripture study. I got lip gloss because I was said to be a gifted speaker and always shared with wisdom and love. I got a hand sanitizer because I was “clear” in dealing with sisters, quick to point out what needed to be said without beating around the bush; I made them “germ-free” because of loving correction; and “sweet but potent” because I made people laugh during my talks but deep inside I got the message across convincingly. I was surprised at their gifts and how they described me, because having been cooped up in my room for a month I had forgotten who I really was, a daughter of God and a follower of Christ, whom the Holy Spirit could use to share the good news to others.

The QT’s are my second home, for they allow me to live out my love for God. Of course I have to grow in love with another community and another service now (at the “Parokya ni Ella”, as they put it) but as far as committed Christian relationships went, Lingkod brothers and sisters have really seen me through the best and the worst of times. This is just one of them.

5. God provides by transforming me. The difference between “needs” and “wants” was vague to me until I lost all purchasing power in my wallet. Since I still did not trust myself around mall sales, I minimized my stays at the mall, arriving just in time for appointments and not strolling around too much lest the call of the huge discounts wreak havoc on my already precarious finances.

I sit here typing amidst my anxieties and doubts, chasing the blues away by counting my blessings and reminding myself that this too shall pass. Everything belongs to God and He can easily open doors for me. I try to follow His commands and explore job opportunities, but until the matter of my joblessness is addressed with finality, I have to deal with this humbling, learning experience. I often say that money is inversely proportional to time in my world, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Well, I really I hope they do at the right time.

Every single day I try to spend my time wisely by praying earnestly, receiving Communion, doing chores, running errands, pursuing opportunities, meeting old friends, making new ones, taking on service, giving up attachments, and drinking everything in from the Cup that is before me.

I am 32, single, jobless, and extremely blessed. Shudder, shudder. When I say that God provides us in our emptiness, at times in our lives when we have nothing to be proud of – no job, position, relationship, or accomplishment – I now speak from experience and not just from obedience. This is a sink-or-swim situation, and I’m one person who has always loved to swim. As Dory told the clown fish in “Finding Nemo” whenever he felt distressed and hopeless, “Just keep swimmin’… just keep swimmin’…”

What’s even better than swimmin’, on days when the current gets too rough, is the idea of floating and letting the water take me on its normal course. I am consciously aware that Jesus has the best solution, however, for He walks on water! I used to think I was walking towards Him, but I lost my focus and I started this sinking process. I am glad that He provides second chances, and when He calls, I hope to be ready to walk with Him again. For now, I’m practicing listening to His voice and turning to Him for all of my needs, so that I will be stronger against distractions.

Miracles don’t happen in ways we expect them to. Water is not turned into wine the same way it was when Jesus walked the earth. In my life, however, as in the lives of those who have offered everything to the Lord, there are miracle stories that are slowly recognized and appreciated, for they have to do with encouraging me to take one foot in front of the other, to live one day at a time, and to wait with expectant faith and unwavering hope, because God surely provides. Finally, I have seen how He does this in the example of my colorful life.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cenacle VOCJAM on Feb 4

Click on photo to see full resolution and to be able to read the text. :)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do-It-Yourself Ella!

I woke up today feeling all the tension in my muscles. I thought about getting a massage but it does not seem practical. I told myself that will be my reward when I get a job. In the meantime, I rub Lander Crystal Ice which also works wonders.

After my prayer time I silently wished once more to go on an individual retreat. I settled for the next best thing, which was to set an appointment at the Cenacle for a session with my spiritual directress. Then I got out of bed.

That's why when I saw this ad from Daysrping, it caught my eye. "Renew Your Relationship with God This Year", the email said. Then a lovely picture of a gift set featuring a planner, candle, pillow sachet, jotter, calendar, tote bag, magnet set, memo pad, and note folio, all in blue pink and other pastel, relaxing colors, showed me "what I needed". It's from their Rejuvenate Gift Collection. I'm glad these products are not available here in the Philippines otherwise I would be tempted to run to the mall and buy them.

I have several planners, calendras, bags, magnets, pillows and notepads already. I don't really need these now. Interesting how the right colors and words could create the need in the gullible reader's eye. Maybe I could get all the stuff I have and arrange them in a pretty pile as in the picture, then I could rejuvenate all I want in the comfort of my home.

Who needs to spend, when I have books to read, coffee to brew, music to play and video to exercise to right here at home? All I have to do is to stand up and get moving. I'm doing it. I'm standing up. I'm rejuvenating, renewing, relaxing and recharging. You will see a better me the next time I blog. Well, that is my hope.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lessons are Repeated Until Learned

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:15, 18; ESV)

I find myself in this dilemma. With a lot of time for soul-searching, prayer, meditation, and examination of conscience, I am aghast at my propensity, despite all that, to "do what I do not want" and to ignore doing "what is right", whether on matters of sin or even simply on practical things that are good either for me or for others. Yes, I wage war within me about these things on a daily basis. My only hope is the grace that God provides to triumph over sin and weakness.

I have a friend who got injured again while playing badminton last night. I called her up while she was lined up at the E.R., and there she was, writhing in pain and telling me, "I won't stop playing. Yes, I'm stubborn but I won't quit badminton!"

I could only beg her to be more careful and wear protective gear while playing. Last year, she injured her knee after a bad fall, could not walk normally for months, let alone dance which she loved doing. I asked her to go swimming instead or try another sport, that which I could do with her (as I don't play -- a rare Filipina who cannot play badminton, that's me).

I realized I'm a lot like her in that I know what's good for me but sometimes I insist on what I want. So maybe badminton is not a perfect analogy, for it's not "bad for her", and her lesson is not to quit but perhaps to be "less intense", in her own words. Whatever it is, for her own sake I hope she learns the lesson so that this will be her last injury.

As for me, I hope to learn my lessons too so that I don't keep injuring myself or others when I engage in things I love doing, or at least have a compulsion to do, like volunteer work. As I explore another community and open my heart to new possibilities, may I wear protective gear and be less intense, this time. Protective gear was already described in Ephesians 6 and I will look it up after posting this.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Phones, Parties, Photos, Prayers for 2007

This is the iPhone. I forgot to upload this photo in my previous post about it. Mama said its price is in the neighborhood of the worth of my preciousss 6600 when it first came out in the market. She believes I could find the job in time for the Philippine release of the iPhone next year. Anyway the nokia is three years old. Time for an upgrade. I think Mama is trying to motivate me, too. I wonder how long they could tolerate me hanging around the house too much before they force me to fly from the nest.

What's a girl to do? I have less responsibilities than before. I'm able to attend birthday parties now. This photo was from Tina's party. She invited the QTs Marlon, Darleth, Ella, Leah, Abby, Imee, and Lorie who are in this picture, and a few others who couldn't fit around the dessert table. It was a night of fun and laughter.

Tina's mom served wonderful food. It was the best homemade rhum cake we'd ever tasted, and she served it with vanilla ice cream. The great food helped set the mood for an interesting honoring for Tina. God does have great plans for that sister. I'm amazed to sit back and watch His hand moving hearts in Lingkod QC. I know it will always be in good hands.

Last night I was at Joseph's birthday party. Joseph is from the Banal na Puso choir. It was a fabulous party full of games, songs, food and drinks. I was moved by the simplicity and generosity of the Francisco family who welcomed us into their home and entertained us so well.

My circle of friends is growing, too. I now have textmates in their pre-teens, from the choir. I don't always understand their text lingo but it sure is fun to hang out with them. We were all together before the 2006 ended, at a swimming party exclusively hosted for them. I served as tagabantay as I was too sick to swim. Still, hearing them sing about going to World Youth Day '08 (Someday we'll know if Posh can go to 'Stralia) and strolling around the mini-zoo with them was time well spent.

Since the year started, I've been to a baptism, a funeral, and a house blessing. I go to daily mass and meet friends for coffee. These are the things I used to not be able to attend or even if I could be present, savor, due to my busy overlapping schedule. But now that I'm slowing down, every invitation and the relationship that goes with it seems sweeter.

I accepted a new service last night. I hope to learn from past mistakes. As the Second Reading for today states, we have different gifts from the same spirit, and each is given according to God's purpose. I have to recognize my limits, without compromising generosity. I didn't plan this but then, this doesn't seem to be a year of planning for me. So far it has been full of surprises. I've made some new friends, while the old have stuck with me throughout the many changes in life.

My relatives will come visit us this year, one couple each month, that our house is beginning to appear like a bed-and-breakfast with airport transfers and a service phone to boot. My immediate family is also planning a reunion, and praying that we be complete, in the last quarter of the year.

Yes, I will not focus on projects this year. It will be about realizing dreams I never knew I had, and discovering answered prayers I long stopped asking for. Jesus can make miracles in my life just as when He transformed water into the best wine in today's Gospel. I saw how He knows what I need and fills my empty heart with His love. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. No fairy dust or magic ring could take me there, but only the light that Jesus' love brings.

Point of Grace has a song that I sing in my head these days. It's from the album "The Mercy Project" and it speaks about the hope that's building in my heart.

Love Won't Leave You Now

Point of Grace

Hey, I can see all your dreams
Lying scattered in your fragile heart
You think your world's come apart
But hey, I believe there's gonna be
A brighter day that shines for you my friend
It's waiting around the bend

You've been dancing on the wire
Walking through the fire
Thinking you're all alone
But you're not on your own
There's a faithful hand to guide you
God will always be beside you
All because he is love
And love won't leave you now

So fly, on the wings of your dreams
To the places he is taking you
You're gonna make it through
And, if you doubt just think about
All the promises that he has made
You don't have to be afraid

Through the smiles, through the sorrow
He was faithful yesterday, and he'll be faithful tomorrow.

You've been dancing on the wire
Walking through the fire
Thinking you're all alone
But you're not on your own
There's a faithful hand to guide you
God will always be beside you
All because he is love
And love won't leave you now.

All because he is love

And love won't leave you now.

Friday, January 12, 2007

My Alternative Careers: A Case of "Be Careful What You Pray For"

I'm experiencing the power of the written word. I should have entitled this blog "Adventures in Shopping" or "Successes in Writing", maybe then I would not be going through repeated bouts with impatience, no, perhaps I would be reaping the rewards of engaging in things I actually enjoyed doing. Instead I had to name this blog "Lessons in Waiting", and so periodically, maybe more often than normal people do, I go through such exasperating lessons.

I did not plan this and the options before me are not exactly to my liking. I am in-between jobs and my patience is (yet again) growing thin. I had lunch with my high school barkada earlier today. They asked me how long I have been jobless. I said, "About three weeks, including the holiday season". I received a first-class ganging-up from them. They said I had nothing to complain about because it had not been that long and I had more waiting to look forward to. Government appointments usually took one to two months, international organizations one up to five months, and the private sector three to four months, depending on how picky the candidate was.

Boy, was I picky. I met with a headhunter today to know my options outside of government and to practice my interview skills. She told me point-blank that the demand for lawyers among her clients was very low. She said she could easily find me a job but I had to consider doing a career shift. What were the things I was interested in?, she asked. I actually forgot all the alternative careers I listed down in this blog last year. She presumed I was good with numbers because of my Business Economics and Manila Science background. I said I was better with words, and said maybe I would consider a career in writing, to which she replied, "There's no money there, either."

I was not disheartened by this exchange. She continued to probe. She asked if I could do branding and communications work for corporations, because she had an opening there that fit my asking salary. She considered my Lingkod experience as a speaker and leader alongside my interest in gadgets and makeup and said she was mentally running through the job descriptions in her inbox.

Midway through the interview, we started talking about the difficulty of attending once-a-week bible study with the work hours we had to put in. She said she is a Christian but seldom injects that into her interviews. I was open about my faith that was why she recommended that I read "Sweet Spot", a book about using our God-given gifts in the workplace. She said she would help me but I had to pray hard, for I was not a typical candidate. I did not care about money, for she said I didn't ask for much in order to make a living, which made me re-think if I should have asked for more, and then made me thankful that at last I was learning to live simply... maybe. She asked that I be patient, for matching me with the right job would take time.

Before I left, she, like a typical female, complimented my suit, which was my new power suit as all the others were last worn two years ago and did not give me the confidence I needed to go back into the corporate world. Well, I was not exactly going back, just testing the waters while I waited for the government to make an offer. I left her office feeling grateful that I met her for it was, to me, a good interview. I was, however, sure that I was not ready to give up my profession again so soon, not for the money or the prestige of having a job now. I was willing to wait a bit more for that next job somewhere, in an imperfect workplace, where my imperfect self could offer my sweet spot once again. I could reconsider, just not that drastic a change this early in the game. I'm not discounting that possibility in the future but it would not be so simple and easy to do that anymore.

Yesterday I was invited to judge a speech contest by the English department of an all-girls high school. It was conducted per year level so I was there the whole day. I survived on three cups of coffee and the memories triggered by the display of talent before me. I loved speech fests when I was a student and saw my idealism in the words of the representatives of each section. I listened to each one intently and concentrated on what grade to give, for it was a complicated process to compare "Diction", "Pronunciation", etc., among four contestants in each year level.

One of the teachers told me that the contestants said they were terrified of "Judge No. 3" and refused to look at her because she was not smiling. She said that she told them in reply, "Oh that's because she's a lawyer". What's that got to do with my attempt at being poker-faced? If only they knew that I was rooting for them, but did not show it, as I was concentrating on listening and well, "judging". I was not the harshest judge, by the way, as a former Religion teacher, Judge No. 1, despite showing his dimpled smile while making eye contact with the contestants, gave grades of "57" and "60".

I cringed every time my credentials were announced by the emcees. It didn't sound right to me. Those things seemed to speak of a self I knew from the distant past. I could hear their "oohs" and "aahs" at achievements received ten years ago, which didn't seem that big a deal anymore, and I wanted to tell the students, "It's OK, it's just me, and that's a glorified way of putting that I'm out of a job right now. Don't get too impressed. You haven't heard of my failures yet." I wanted to say something like that but did not have the heart to break the illusion of credibility that the English teachers wanted to create, not just for me but for all the judges, to create role models for the youth. So maybe the parts of my story that were not so impressive deserved to be heard another day in another way, like here in this blog.

In reality, every morning I beg for the grace to have faith and to believe that there is something in store for me, after all these tears and anxieties. I am learning to trust in the Lord more for Him to sustain me - every bit of me - during this period of waiting, which my friends recommended that I enjoy. I will write that down in my "to do" list: Enjoy waiting. It's almost funny, like an oxymoron for impatient souls like me.

It's no wonder that Gay gave me the book "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World". Perfectionism, over-achieverism, and messianism (two words I have invented) have to be purged from my system. I'm reading it now and I'm hoping it could teach me to sit at Jesus' feet, to enjoy "one thing" - "the better part" - Communion with Him, and not busyness in the "kitchen" where I cook my plans and ambitions.

Seems like I have to speed up my learning on waiting. Otherwise, I'd be better off maintaining another blog, say for example "Triumphs in Holiness". Maybe those words could come true as well and I would be all the happier.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Obsess

Gadget Girl is smitten. Gadget Girl is going gaga over iPhone, which has not even been released in the market yet. Gadget Girl would willingly trade old, broken down nokia 6600, 2GB scratched iPod Nano, and this secondhand Motorola clamshell inherited from her Ninang, for iPhone. Gadget Girl's older sister works for Apple in Sydney. Could Ate who reads this blog please line up for an iPhone now? She must have employee discount somehow. Gadget Girl would also willingly give up dreams of going to World Youth Day in Sydney 2008 (gulp) and live with ancient desktop computer instead of Macbook Pro she used to daydream about carrying into Starbucks, if she could save up for iPhone. Unless Gadget Experts, which Gadget Girl is not, say that it's not worth it, in which case GG (Gadget Girl, not gaga) can go back to real world and count her blessings again.

Marketing! I should probably know better, but sometimes I buy into these schemes too much for my own good.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tell Me Who Your Friends Are

Currently, I hang out often with my Friends Phoebe, Joey, Monica, Ross, Rachel and Chandler.

Although I've never been to New York, I find the distance between our houses to be an insignificant detail, considering that we have so many things in common.

We all love lattes and cappuccinos,

... and we're all trying to get by with a little help from our friends. I started with the First Season DVD and I remembered how hard I laughed with my law school friends at the garden of our apartment in Matahimik St., UP (or was it Teachers' Village) back in 1996 everytime we re-lived each scene from all angles. I was reminded that even from Season 1, Friends already hit the nail on the head when it came to the highs and lows of single life.

I'm currently able to relate with Rachel, surprisingly, because this was the time in her life when she walked out on her own wedding and became a lousy waitress. When she got a job interview with Saks Fifth Avenue, Phoebe said, "Wow, it's like your Mother Ship calling you home." Rachel didn't get that job but we know she eventually worked for Ralph Lauren, something she seemed born to do.

Ross' early efforts to win Rachel Greene also amuses me on a daily basis now. He's so cute, practicing his lines and never getting to deliver them because he's often interrupted just when he's ready to make a concrete move on her. That girl Rachel also knows how to play her cards right. I'm learning a thing or two from my friends, really.

I've always been a fan of Friends. I used to borrow VHS tapes (back when we still had a working player) during sem break, and then after we got cable I would sometimes watch it three times a week, one regular showing on a local network and two re-runs on different cable channels. My real-life friends and family also love them, I feel they are a part of my life already.

Some people like to clean house when they're in between jobs. I can only clean so much, as it's not my forte. With Friends, I can fold clothes, surf the net, and send text messages while being entertained with their little outfits and huge heartaches.

Don't worry, once in a while I do go out for a latte or a cappuccino with real people, ones who don't make fun of my crazy decisions in life (at least, not to my face), but friends who listen and who share in my waiting, making me feel loved and, well, not so alone. But when they're busy with their own lives and I don't feel like facing mine, I sneak in my Friends DVD and am transported to Central Perk instantly.

I have to go now, I can hear them playing poker and calling me for my turn.

Monday, January 08, 2007

If I Could Ask...

Just One Question

I skate on the brink and glide to a stop:
Full stop.
When I close my eyes and spread my arms,
I dream they are wings that take me to you and I become
Your dream.

Then I see you walking away
But I cannot cross the line, for the ice has melted.
The nightmare has started.
Next thing I know, I am drowning.
Why don’t you use your wings?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Theme for the Year

Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love,
for in thee I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to thee I lift up my soul. Ps 143,8 (ESV)

It's natural to want to start the new year right. Some people do this by writing new year's resolutions. Others, like people I've met in community, go on a Day of Prayer to come before the Lord and spend time quietly listening to His direction for the year.

I wanted to go on a DoP last week but somehow I could not organize who to go with and could not find a way to fit it in everybody's schedule. Spiritually, the year had not yet completely started for me, so when I was invited to my first sectoral prayer assembly this morning, I said to the Lord that this might be the only opportunity for me to listen to Him on a start-of-the-year mode so I begged that He speak to me about 2007 and what to take for my upcoming journey.

I've been a daily communicant again since Advent (a major source of peace, hope and joy for me!) so that, along with my interactions with godly people and services with godly ministries, became the venue for Jesus to speak to my heart. I reflected on His messages fully during the time of worship with the Ligaya ng Panginoon North Sector held at U.P., which was so near my house that there was no excuse for me not to attend.

I could summarize my theme for the year, and my resolutions, in the following sentences:

1. Face and embrace reality.
2. Allow God to surprise me.
3. Lean on and rest in the LORD.
4. Look at the bigger picture.

For me to remember it, I studied the first letters and formed the word "FALL". The Lord wants me to fall this year? Kind of a downhill promise, isn't it? Like "yield", my theme a couple of years ago, however, the word "fall" has many meanings. It could mean the most common thing - which is to "fall in love", as the secular world often associates the word with. Or it could mean what a Christmas carol says "Fall on your knees...." It could mean failure, or to slip, both of which makes me think, "Again??? I thought that was so last year, Lord?"

Then looking at the positive elements of my personal acronym "FALL" enumerated above, I cannot help but believe that He wants me to "fall" so I could accept His strength, His grace, and His love. Only then could I face an uncertain year confidently.

As always I would understand this a little better in hindsight. Now that I'm looking ahead I don't completely see where God is leading me. But then again, this is the only way He could surprise me.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Now Playing: Awake

Josh has a new CD, Awake, and I love this cut. Whenever I hear it, it's as if Somebody Up There is assuring me that...

You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)
Josh Groban

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy I
I will lift it for you
Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you I
I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you

Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up

Because you are loved

Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside I
I'll be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you I
I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you

Everybody needs to be loved
Don't give up are loved

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world

Don't give up
Everyone needs to be loved

You are loved

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Party with the Phinx

I missed out on a couple of Christmas parties last season, but I did attend the one with my high school barkada. With only eleven guests, we had a Prichon and seafood fiesta. The star truly was the prichon. The waiters could not believe that we were so few in the party, for they usually served one prichon for 40 people. In fairness, Carla brought home half for her family. We didn't finish the entire prichon. Thank you, Carla!

L to R: Cyrill, Sofia, Butch, Clarisse, Laura, Kaila, Sonny, Carla and Melissa. Some of the gang were still stuck in traffic when this photo was taken. The others who were absent were the happily pregnant ones. We are a growing family!

Hanging out with the girls. Super busog.

During the exchange gift, Paully and Glecy turned out to be mommies of each other. Paully gave Gles a Hello Kitty tissue holder, which Clarisse and Kaila could not take off their eyes from.

We missed the rest of the Phinx and their respective families, but at least the tradition of partying, eating and gift-giving lives on. Thanks Carla for sharing your album! Thanks Cy and Butch for hosting the party as usual; for the take-home goodies; for the video of old wishes and new dreams; and for my white Ipanemas, which a month later don't look so white despite diligent brushing on my part. :)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year Realities

Back to reality, I texted a teenager friend this morning who wanted to see me or at least accompany me on my errands. I said they would get bored with the things I got lined up for the day. Reality means doing the laundry, paying the bills, watching the news, and facing unfinished projects. For though the year has changed, it still feels like one continuous week for me.

I heard on TV the newscaster from a Hollywood show who updated us on the latest celebrity hook-ups and commented, "It's already a busy 2007." It came true for me today - the busyness, not the hook-ups. By the time I got to the 6p.m. mass, I was exhausted and felt a new year's resolution just got violated today - for I was busy already and it's only the third day of the first month of the year.

I was invited to spend a Day of Prayer by my old community and my new action group, separately, this Saturday, but I had to beg off because of other commitments. To think I'm the one who is thirsting for not just a day of prayer, but hopefully a month of silent one-on-one with the Lord. All in due time. Maybe when the newly renovated Cenacle Retreat House re-opens this February and my government work appointment has not yet pushed through, I could indulge myself in a serious retreat. For now I have to be content with learning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and taking time to reflect and journal more.

I'm daydreaming of getting some spa treatments (it's been ages!) and shopping for an updated corporate attire. I wish I could go to the beach and just marvel at God's creation. Instead life is snowballing before me again and I'm only able to respond to the immediate concerns before me. I have vowed to set aside daydreams and face reality this year!

I need to put some order into my overlapping schedule too but I haven't claimed my planner which I annually get from a friend who works for Shell. My old boss is thinking of how to take me back amidst suggestions from my former officemates of possible positions for me - all of which seem incredulous at this point; a new boss is opening doors for me - I wonder where this will lead and if I should keep walking to find out; and my immediate previous boss called to ask some documents that the external auditor needs from the corporate secretary, which happens to be me until September. And then my mother called to ask me to pick her up from the department store as she shopped for some furniture for her extended kitchen. Four bosses in one day!

Between all these pressures I forgot to drink my antibiotics at midday. I wonder if it has something to do with my headache, dizziness and soreness tonight. I'm trying to get some work done (yes, I'm unemployed, but I still have work -- the things I get myself into) but my brain is not cooperating. So I blogged, the best escape from reality. Maybe in writing about my duties I could fulfill them one by one.

I wil remind myself that God is my only boss. The rest have to be aligned with His will for me or they would have to wait their proper turn. (Dear God, Hi. Uhmm as you know, I need a raise and I wish to take a paid vacation in one of your island properties, and I have many other requests but of course you know best so I will wait for your response... Thank you. It's me.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Long Overdue, so This is Long

Some people go through life not knowing what they were meant to do. They graduate, take the first available job, make a career out of it, and never look back at their unfulfilled dreams and unrealized ambitions.

I'm the exact opposite. I seem to have made a career out of seeking God's plan for me. I have never been content with what is simply before me. I tend to look at the world and ache to serve. I have periodic wake-up calls that I am not the Messiah, though, and whenever that happens I learn to accept God's gifts that may not take the form of a big service or an important job, but could just be there to remind me that I'm His daughter by adoption and a follower of His Son, called to love more than to be busy or successful or helpful.

Tiredness and confusion; dead ends and blank walls, these and many other events remind me that I am human and I need grace every moment of every day to love the way God wants me to; that on my own, I cannot get things done. I cannot right all wrongs or expect others to. I cannot be nice, thorough, present, or correct all the time. Omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence belong to God, and the sooner I accept my limitations, the happier and more relaxed I will be.

So all my life I have not been what people called "normal". I followed the rules, yes, but the older I got, the more defined the rules became, until I found a personal relationship with Jesus, and followed Him with all that I had. From being a good student to a kabarkada ng bayan (everyone's friend) to an active multi-organizational member and leader, I was slowly transformed into a disciple of Christ. If before I actively served in choirs, newsletters, student councils and other clubs, I packed all of those into one and gave it all to God. I served Him as a writer, choir trainer, leader, speaker, dancer, driver, lawyer and singer for seven years through Lingkod-Quezon City.

I was not content with that, so I gave up being a lawyer and decided to be a full-time volunteer staff worker at the National Office of The Philippine Foundation of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon. I prayed about it for six months and was very excited when I started. I felt then that I could do anything for the Lord! I was asked to be the national administrator of Lingkod, and since I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, I said yes in obedience, with joy and hope that it would be life-giving for me.

The experience was unlike anything I expected. Instead of making my heart sing because finally, I got to work with God's people directly, the career shift made me question my sanity. This is no exaggeration. Lingkod stood for something I believed in with my whole heart - for it introduced God to single young professionals and trained them to give their time, career, talents, money and other resources to Him. I saw how Lingkod members Christified (a coined term) their respective workplaces, and eventually, raised Christian families, and to be part of all that was such an honor.

In Lingkod Office I worked with fellow missionaries - professionals who gave up careers as accountants, engineers, businessmen, bankers, etc. to serve the Lord. I was in great company. We shared beautiful stories during lunch; had regular bible study and sharing; had company-sponsored retreats; had relationships with Lingkod members nationwide; and had a wonderful time whenever we had staff meetings.

Deep inside me, however, I could not keep up with the demands of the job. I served four roles while I was there and I could not keep up with them (I was national and office admin, corporate secretary, support staff to the national director, and assistant to the national women's moderator). In my previous workplaces, I could leave the worries of the job in the office and go home or attend Lingkod. When I was a staffer I could not leave behind my job. I carried it with me and consumed me! I slowly lost patience with myself and even others; I expected too much from people. I was not cheerful everyday and showed how burdened I was to my officemates. There was something terribly wrong with the setup that I could not put my finger on. The conclusion I have is that I was a square peg in a round hole. The hole wasn't evil; and there was nothing seriously wrong with me (although I was a square!). It was just a wrong fit.

To give it up seemed folly, however. After explaining the decision to be a staffer to my family, friends, brothers and sisters, I would have to re-explain that I would not serve there for life and was going to resign, without making Lingkod and its leaders look bad. The worst part was that it felt like turning my back on God and taking charge of my life again. I did not want to do that. I did not want to worry about little details like career, or insurance, or promotion. I wanted to serve God alone!

I was a mess. I had to make a decision quickly, however, because of some changes in the setup and staffing of Lingkod. A lot would be affected if I left and I wanted to give them a chance to find a replacement for me. Although, with the kind of job I felt I was doing, I felt they could hire anyone and they would do a better job!

I could not make a decision about my future without crying. It was too painful. I broke it down into two decisions - one was whether I should stay; and the other was where to go. Having decided that I should go, I revealed my decision and was at peace with it even with the myriad of reactions I received. Lingkod people were shocked; my family cheered (they never wanted me to give up my law practice). I learned later on from my officemates that I had the gift of administration and that I showed no signs (at least not to everyone) that I was miserable. That was a miracle because I'm a very transparent person. I thought they could tell that my heart was revolting and I was contradicting myself every single prayer time for months!

Even before my work in Lingkod ended, I started looking for a job. Nothing came out of it. I sent my resume to several headhunters, even signed up for a couple of online job placement sites, and applied in a few positions that seemed to interest me. Nada.

Their silence made me all the more frustrated with myself. I stared at my resume and wondered if I could be all that again. I searched my heart for direction, drive, dream, or desire, and found those slowly dying. In bits and pieces throughout this dark period in my life, I heard the Lord. He told me:

1. "You are mine. I will not let you go back to the world." This was His answer when I asked His blessing to apply in huge multinational corporations and have a high-flying job with the greatest perks in the world. The World, ugh.

2. "You will know that the job is for you because it will be easy, smooth, and effortless for you." He assured me with these words when one morning I could not believe that I was not being scheduled for interview left and right. It was also the end of the year and a bad time to apply anywhere.

3. "Now is not the time to move." This was in response to my prayer to bless my desire to study abroad. I was clearly given "No" as an answer to that one so I didn't file a single application despite hearing from several different law schools across the globe. This saddened me a bit. I also wanted to move to my own place already, even rent a tiny dorm room just to live away from home.

Unemployment attacks a person's self-esteem and I reached dangerously low levels before Christmas. That's why I went through Simbang Gabi, even alone, at dawn for nine days. I needed all the help I could get. By the way, I wasn't really unemployed at that time, as I still had Lingkod up to December 22. I was just dreading it.

I felt hope growing in my heart during the days leading to and even during the Christmas season. For the New Year, I prayed for joy and peace to come as well. I could not think much of the future anymore, I just lived one day at a time, going through errands, being productive whenever I could.

I was given a new prayer guide and spent a very long time of personal prayer this morning. Then, I attended a baptism as I was asked to be godmother of a beautiful baby girl by a couple who have been my friends since college and who have been walking this journey with me and the Lord. After the ceremony I rode with a friend going to the reception. Also a ninang at that baptism is the daughter of one of the top government officials, a good friend of the couple. I engaged in a casual conversation and then when she found out I was a lawyer and did not have a job, she asked me if I wanted to work for her dad's office. She just happened to be the chief of staff and she said her dad needed "spritual people". Since I had no plans of working for the government again, I did not take our little conversation seriously. The office she worked for was located just a few minutes away from my house, just a floor above my previous office at the Sandiganbayan. I knew Ted, I knew Bobby, and I used to work for Justice De Castro - those were the only credentials she needed to hear before offering me a job. I asked her about the work load and the salary range, as if we were sitting in her office and doing a proper job interview, but interspersed with personal stories and laughter.

When my lawyer friends at the party heard of my "job offer", they all encouraged me to take it, as the boss is a respected person, and it was extremely convenient for me. I still wasn't ready. I was in the middle of my drama as a jobless person. I was planning to apply as "housewife" but there were no openings in the employers I was praying for (had to slip that one in, hehehe).

Then my friend put in a good word for me with government-official's-daughter (let's call her the Princess). He said I could sing and could invite her to Lingkod, on top of my legal skills. Princess then said, "If you're recommended by him, you're good as hired. Please come to my office tomorrow. I will leave your name with the guard and he will take you directly to me. I will attend Lingkod if you come work for us. I will wait for you." Then she greeted me on the cheek as if we're very old friends.

Shall I come to court tomorrow seeking employment with the king? I gave myself today and tonight to pray about it. I told my parents, of course they were ecstatic that I would be working again and that I would be only seven minutes away from home. I told them to hold their horses because government appointments could take forever. Nothing was final yet. There was even an upcoming hiring ban due to the elections. Princess assured me, however, that she would fast-track my appointment and that they would apply for exemption from the ban.

I didn't want to grab the opportunity. I went to mass early. I saw Fr Steve and Fr Geoffrey before it started but I went straight to the church and talked to God. I told Him that since I needed a job, I would apply for this one, but He must show me if it was His will for me. Then I was reminded that He gave me the three senses above, and this all fit His promise for me. It was too easy. I hadn't even handed my application yet, and the door was opened for me. I wouldn't have to move. And I wouldn't exactly go back to the world, as I would be serving in government and fighting graft and corruption again.

So maybe I have to say goodbye to my worldly dreams again, and to my little desires to have my own apartment, and to travel. I could get them all in God's time anyway. Many things can still happen and it's premature to say whether I shall end up with this job. But during Mass as we sang the Our Father and I stared at my hands lifted up to heaven, I heard from God,

"Take my gift with open hands, Ella." This might be my daily bread, not enough to feed thousands, for that's not my job, but enough to sustain me, one day at a time. This way I could still hear mass everyday at our parish and even continue serving in the Youth Ministry. After mass I told the two priests the good news and they were happy for me. It was a miracle and an early New Year's gift from the Lord, they said.

Will take this one step at a time. First things first, like I have to send in my resume and application letter before the appointment process starts. While waiting for that, I could attempt to put some order in my life. It is a New Year, after all. This doesn't have to be the job I would die with, so it's ok if it's not perfectly fit. God is transforming my heart.

As in all things, I will continue to pray about this. I will keep you all posted. And please pray with me! Thanks.