Patience Progress

God: Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? (Evan Almighty, 2007)
As a good friend once put it, patience is a virtue I do not have.  I once was famous for it.

For all my impatience, however, I have had more life transitions than the number of times Madonna has reinvented herself in her singing career. I tried to document them all here in this blog, as I began sharing my reflections as early as 2002.

I used to hate waiting; now, not so much. I have learned in my old age. But not without much struggle, as you can see in the posts below.

If you have ever had a problem with waiting, then you might be able to relate with some of my experiences. On this page, I will post the links to all the articles I have written through the years on the subject of patience. :)  You may have to wait a while before I succeed in organizing this page, though. I have written about impatience a lot.

Lord, please give me patience.  Now....

Back to the Waiting Room
March 25, 2012

There was a waiting room that I entered a few months ago, and then I thought it was no longer mine.

Then I saw it again, and so I knocked. The door was opened. I walked in. And sat. And waited.

I did not know what I was waiting for.

Then somebody came, with a set of questions I must answer, before I could proceed to the next waiting room.

I have not given her my answers yet. It may be that I do not know the answers. I wanted to be given the key to the next room. Or at least the password. But this is what I got, and I should do my best to respond.

Paolo Coelho wrote that if you want something bad enough, the universe will conspire to give it to you.

I do not talk to the unknown universe, I talk to a personal God everyday. I asked Him for something specific. So whatever was given to me, I knew came from Him.

So I shall go forth with great courage.

The Waiting Room
24 August 2011

I'm the girl with the waiting issues, as I have been blogging about since 2003. Of late, however, it seems like I have finally learned an ounce of patience.

I have a particular prayer request and I do not feel impatient towards God at all. Okay, at least not yet. I am willing to wait for this one.

I did my part. I aimed for the stars, and they are my kind of stars. God will know where to find me after this: at the waiting room, smiling.

If it doesn't work, then it's back to the drawing boards for me. At least I tried.

I hope I don't change my mind about this tomorrow.

What I Did for Love
April 10, 2010

Sometimes, I still want to do it all over again. I still want to do God's work full time. It's still in my heart. The desire is still alive, after everything that has happened.

Regular readers of this blog know that chapter in my life when I quit being a lawyer for a while to serve full-time in Lingkod. But that only happened for a period of two years, after which I felt the need to go back to practice my profession and earn a living.
Five years after making that decision, I am now involved in various ministries, albeit not on a full-time basis. What time I used to give to my trans-parochial community, I now give to our parish. Although still able to pray in the charismatic way, I now spend time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament more often than I used to. I continue to read spiritual books. I observe the liturgical calendar more closely because of my parish involvement, and have grown to draw peace and strength from these observances.

A friend from Lingkod pointed out that I am still a missionary at heart, and what brings me joy is to do God's work. In being part of the Lectors and Commentators, attending Scripture study, going to the BEC seminars, giving talks to the youth, counting the mass collection, participating in the prayer meetings, or talking to my co-servants in the parish, I have reached a different level in my spiritual journey, and I am grateful for where I am now.

This is the year of pruning and disciplining for me: less of the world, more of the Lord. Circumstances in my life prevent me from going out too much, or living a lifestyle of a single young professional without a care in the world. With more responsibilities at home and at work, my free time is best spent doing what I love the most. And I have discovered that going to parties, hanging out in noisy bars, and wasting time on frivolous (to me) matters no longer appeal to me. At least, I cannot afford to do them.

In my prayer time, I feel God calling me more deeply into a relationship with Him. Everything I do now is in pursuit of that. As for the people and events that do not fit my present situation, I believe there is a proper time for everything. Friends, if they are true, will understand and eventually go with the changes in tastes and preferences. Opportunities, well, they will come as long as I give my best to my job. I am not at all afraid of losing out or being left behind, just because my calendar is filled with work, errands, service, or sleep.

I can still do it - one day. But for now, I live each day with God, walking with Him, waiting for Him, listening to Him, and encountering Him in the people that I deal with, whether they are aware of it or not. This is another step in trying to please my Audience of One, and no longer the whole world. I am happy to note how love grows through time, and how in knowing myself more, I can love God more.

What I did for love, I can still do now, wherever I am, with whomever I choose. I am more confident in this, after the first experience of a radical lifestyle. I'm a little subdued now, maybe, as a factor of age. But guess what? I am so much happier.

Can't You Stay with Me for Forty-Five Minutes?
11 January 2010

Forty-five minutes. I can do a lot in 45 minutes.

I can walk or jog around the UP Oval. I can watch an episode of Glee. I can sing 12 songs on the videoke machine. I can bake lasagna. I can lose myself on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I can read a few chapters from a good book. I can get a foot spa.

The mass I attended yesterday ended 45 minutes later than usual, but instead of focusing on the blessing and grace present, I was mentally ticking away the clock and things I could have done with the "lost" time.

It was the weekly Sunday mass at our parish, which also happened to be a Charismatic mass. The priest led us in the renewal of our baptismal promises and blessed us all with holy water at the start of the mass. Then, after communion, Fr. Brian encouraged us to approach the altar if we wanted to offer ourselves to God and to receive a special, personal blessing.

Usually, altar calls would yield a few willing souls who would stand up in front and be prayed over. To Fr. Brian's and the congregation's surprise, almost everyone in church lined up while the choir was singing the song meant for our reflection. Fr. Brian said, "Bear with me, I will approach you all and pray for you."

In hindsight, it must have been the Nazareno season. Filipinos celebrated the annual observance of what had simply been known as the Fiesta of the Nazareno last Saturday, with over two million people flocking just to see and touch the image of the Black Nazarene.

It could have been the start of the new year and the desire to receive a prayer, a blessing, a new "baptism", that led people to the altar. It could have been the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and minds of my brothers and sisters in the parish.

Whatever the reason, I was not immediately grateful for the long wait to be prayed over. Fr. Brian could have said a generic blessing for everyone and whisked holy water on us all. But no. He prayed over each one, and when my turn came, I understood what it was about. I looked at Fr. Brian's smiling face and tired eyes, and received the prayer. When he placed his hands on my head and prayed for me, specifically, I felt like I was being blessed, like my sins were being washed away, like God was getting me started for a new mission for the year.

I regretted all the impatient thoughts that ran in my head while waiting for Fr. Brian to get to my end of the line. While the choir was singing "STILL" by Hillsong, I was restless. I was thinking of the lettuce I wanted to buy to go with our steak for family lunch. I was tempted to get the baskets of offerings and to start counting the money donations so I could slip away quietly and quickly to cook the steak. I felt the heaviness of my bag and regretted all the unnecessary things I put in there. I wanted to sit down as my legs grew tired of standing and waiting.

Waiting. We all know I am not good with that.

Fr. Brian thanked us all for our patience and I felt all the more that God was smiling down on me. After mass, I expected Fr. Brian to be exhausted and regretful of his decision to offer to pray for people. Instead, he was exuberant and rejuvenated. He said that they (the MGL fathers who were in charge of our parish) had always wanted to do that - to offer individual prayers. He was very happy that a lot of people responded to the altar call.

My heart was put in its proper place. I realized that God wanted to bless me, and I must have been a sight, thinking of all the things I had planned to do "after mass". Half the people had left the church by the time mass had ended, but those of us who waited were in for more blessings. It was not for God's benefit that we were asked to stay. It was for our own personal time of prayer and reflection. It was for us to be prayed over and to be baptized, just as Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, which was the Gospel for that day.

I am a latecomer in terms of spending an hour with Jesus in the blessed sacrament. It is something I want to do more often, if not regularly, starting this year. The experience of waiting in line was not empty waiting at all; it was waiting with Jesus, and waiting for Jesus. I am glad that God took away my blindness to His grace.

I am readier to face the challenges and to embrace the triumphs of the year. Thank you, Lord.

Productive Rest
July 22, 2009

Coming from a lifetime of being too hard on myself, one of my latest struggles is about being productive.

Like every obsessive-compulsive control freak, I have come to measure my days by accomplishments. I am seldom at peace unless my task list gets updated with a few checks everyday. I am distressed, guilty, and unhappy in between days of accomplishment, whether at work, and apparently, even at rest.

I am on a couple of week's break before I re-assume the detail-oriented position of being court attorney. Therefore, I should be, literally, taking a break.

So I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Singapore, my first international trip in almost two years, and immersed myself in window-shopping, mall-hopping, and cuisine-tasting.

But then I got back home and faced my cluttered room. Waiting for me were my suits for dry cleaning, books for reading, stuff for writing (two for Lingkod), lessons for finalizing, and other piles waiting to be discovered.

My state of mind is reflected in this mess. I have this habit of stashing things- and thoughts - until I'm ready to sort them out and file them properly, either in the keep, recycle, repair, or giveaway bins.

Rest has scriptural basis, my friends remind me. I should not be guilty for not being productive - whatever that means. If my body needs to rest, my mind needs to process, and my heart needs to ponder, then I should listen and respond, rather than resist, and push myself to do things that I do not exactly want, or need, to do. Like going out.

I have responsibilities and my prayer is that I can fulfill them in the order of urgency. Otherwise, I will try not to be guilty for slowing down, taking time for myself, and not publishing a paper, writing a book, or composing a song (as if I were in the habit of doing those things, but just to illustrate).

Sometime soon too, I hope to reconnect to my God. To ask Him my questions. To sit with Him, even if I don't understand His answers. To surrender to Him my worries. To express my gratitude. To listen. I have not done that, or enough of that, in a long time. I know I should do that first. I may have forgotten how, in my busyness with all things of far less importance.

I wish that God would come to me, and speak to me, and embrace me now. Perhaps that is the motivation that I need to make sense of the chaos that I have surrounded myself with. Yes, His Word, His assurance, His presence, that is all the rest that I'll ever need.

Almost There
June 8, 2009

Someday I will understand why it is so much easier to write when I am depressed than when I am ecstatic.  It probably has something to do with the reason why it is more natural for me to hold on to negative thoughts than positive thoughts.  I'm afraid the reason for the happiness won't last.  I'm afraid to hope so much and then fall flat on my face afterwards.

I don't want to operate on fear, insecurity, and anxiety anymore.  In fact, I have no reason to.  As usual, my fiscal year has signaled the end of my waiting period and the start of my blessing period again.  When the rains come and when the schools open, that's when I notice God's blessings.  

This month, I have found new opportunities previously unimaginable and unreachable for me.  I have enjoyed healed relationships that are even stronger than they were before.  I have felt the end of my time of pruning and testing, and the beginning of another season in my life.

That cliche about the caterpillar being in a cocoon to make way for a beautiful butterfly?  It's true.  The analogy of the ugliness of the caterpillar trapped in a dark cocoon for an unbearable period that results in a colorful, ethereal creature finds consistency in the life of a Christian.

Yes, God speaks.  He directs.  He moves.  He listens.  I have uttered prayers to Him in desperation, about things beyond my control but which were oppressing me, and He came through for me.  He answered my prayers the way I asked Him to.  He opened new doors.  I only had to wait for Him.  It's frustrating to listen to this when you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but take it from me.  I have seen Him work in my life too many times.

From darkness and uncertainty, I am on my way to a future filled with hope and light.  I cannot write the details now, but I will soon enough.

For now, I want to share my joy, and to proclaim that God is good.  He has saved me from my personal distress and I have Him to thank for all these.  There are still many details to iron out, and many challenges to face, but I am assured that I am almost there.  To the next step.

One New Thing
June 4, 2009

I'm going to be a teacher. Did I ever write about that before? I must have forgotten. With the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I've turned to microblogging and have utterly neglected this online journal.

I never planned on being a teacher. When we were kids, it was my sister who liked to write on the blackboard and pretend the rest of us were her students. I was going to be many things (search "Alternative Careers" on this blog), but not a teacher. I called my teachers by their last names. Only. I took part in "Malcolm Madness", where they were parodied, sometimes mercilessly, by the law students. And I have this insatiable need to be liked by everyone. Who knows what students these days want?

I come from a family of teachers, from both sides, actually. My parents, aunts, cousins, siblings and even siblings-in-law have tried their hand at teaching. As for me, I just kind of bumped into it.

I was asked to give talks and 'teachings' in Lingkod, the Catholic movement for singles I was heavily involved in for several years. And then, I took part in training lawyers to update their written English and improve their electronic legal research skills. And then, before I knew it, I was saying yes to teach freshmen the subject "Legal Research and Bibliography". Now is the time to study. Gadget Girl who loves to write and is a lawyer on the side needs to get her act together two hours a week, for the sake of her students.

I could give Madonna a run for her money in terms of reinventing myself. I have gone from Business Economics into Law, from law firm into government service, from the Court to a foundation, from Lingkod to my parish, from singles to youth leader, from travel writing to marketing.

So now, teaching it is. Even if it's just two units, I'm going into unchartered territory. This is an answered prayer, however, and I fully entrust it to God.

And oh, obedient daughter that I am, I have joined the faculty of my father's law school alma mater. With his remarkable grades, he should be the one teaching. Needless to say, I am a little bit anxious and a little bit excited at this new chapter in my life.

I will keep you posted on the other things. I'm waiting for the right time.

Talk About Patience
May 12, 2009

We have weekly bible study here in the office [CD Asia]. This year, we're discussing the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and have assigned people who will lead the discussions and give the talks for specific topics.

I was given the topic Kindness (not Goodness, as earlier posted) for the month of June. So I started to gather materials on the topic, and prayed for it.

Until last week, when the one assigned to talk about Patience announced that due to movements in her schedule, she had to assign the task to the next speaker. I felt a dryness in my throat.
Could it be? Is it she?

I could not believe it. Patience is not one of my virtues, as the title of my six-year-old blog connotes (Lessons in Waiting). God has a way of letting those who know the least about something study the subject matter so that they could share their struggles with others.

I will be a living example of impatience to my office mates when I start the series on Thursday. Oh, help me Lord! Only by Your will could I go through with this.

Putting My Tomorrow in God's Hands Once More
March 16, 2009

It is hard for me to share about a crisis if I am still in the middle of it.  Thus I have been holding back from blogging.  I'm no longer as free to share as I was when I started this blog.  Somehow, I have gradually hidden inside my cocoon and preferred to just let the storms pass.

I have wished, for many years now, to end my waiting - for God, for my career, for my state of life, for my finances, for happiness - but it is a futile wish, for the waiting ends only when I get to heaven.  If I get to heaven.  

Tonight I am experiencing a terrible sense of helplessness.  I have been preparing for something for quite a while now, but earlier today I learned about a development that threatened to nullify all my preparations.  It was not fair.  It was totally unexpected.  I worked hard for that, and there was so much at stake.  

And then I prayed.  I told God that I did not know anymore what to do, and His word to me was from Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."  Oh, it was hard to be still.  I wanted to take charge once more.  I wanted things done my way, my time, my own pace.  But it was very clear that nothing I could do could change the situation; I needed a miracle for my plans to work and the thing to be successful.  I also needed to let go, and to consider that perhaps I would not succeed on this one, but this thought scared me and caused me to panic.  It was at that point of helplessness that I recognized, once more, my dependence on God, and my own powerlessness.

Working apart from God had made me tired, weary, stressed, and sick.  Without realizing it, I seemed to have forgotten all that I had learned about God's love and the way He usually worked in my life.  I had wanted so badly to be a good witness for His greater glory, but instead, I slipped farther and farther away from Him, and weakened my faith in the process.

A friend of mine told me about the time when she went up a mountain, only to see everything covered in fog.  Her companions encouraged her, being the only first-timer in the group, to pray that the fog would clear so she may behold the beautiful valley below.  She prayed for God to remove the fog if it was His will; but said also that she would not mind not seeing the valley.  When the clouds moved, partially at first and then fully, she saw what her friends wanted her to see below, and she praised God.  

She told me that our challenges in life were that fog, and we were both being called to pray, and to trust, and to believe that God had our best interests at heart.

She believed before she saw.  Tonight, I have three things that are not just foggy but are in total darkness.  I want to give up but I have nowhere to go, but to stay, and to trust in the Lord.  I will trust despite this fog.  I will pray that His will be done.

If only faith were a one-time lesson, which we learn after a painful episode in life, and then apply over and over, without running out or faltering, for the rest of our lives.  In my experience, however, answered prayers and unexpected blessings of before are easily forgotten as soon as a new challenge, obstacle, or difficulty comes along.  It becomes a new test of faith all over again.  If only I could, with each test, grow stronger in faith and sustain it much longer.

I will end this post by sharing this video, which a friend and brother shared with me after reading my Facebook status/ prayer.  I cried when I watched it, because God heard my prayer, and spoke to me through the words, music, and images of this short video.  

Waiting to Exhale
May 6, 2008

I need a new life.

I'm wishing for a new car, as the one I'm driving is slowly deteriorating and is getting more and more expensive to maintain.  I can't afford to upgrade, however, so I just imagine myself winning in one of those raffles that I keep joining in supermarkets and gas stations.

I broke my digital camera and I'm wishing for a new one, which would allow me to take better pictures. Cameras are so expensive, I found out, and I might have to wait a bit more for this wish to come true.  When I buy, I want the real thing, or nothing at all.

I have been tempted many times to get a new haircut, as that used to take away my blues.  Some good friends would object to this, I just know it.  For their sake, I have managed to refrain from getting my haircut fix.

I'm thinking for the umpteenth time of getting a foreign scholarship again, a telltale sign that I'm growing a bit restless, for I think of it as a surefire ticket to a whole new world. 

Deep down inside, I know I won't just fly away without a secure job or a generous scholarship.  It would be foolish to leave this country, this life, that I complain about so much, because I know I'd miss all these the minute I enter unfamiliar territory.

I need to shake off these thoughts.  I have to go back to work tomorrow.  I have a good job.  I just wish I were a little good at it.  Instead, it is, as it has been for several months now, a test of patience - not with other people, but with myself.

Some readers might ask, where is God in this picture?  Why have I not written about Him in this post, when surely He would have a say on my wishes and frustrations?

The truth is that I haven't had time to listen to Him.  I haven't been following my advice - of silence in praying and diligence in journaling.  I've been doing all the talking in my prayer time.

A new life He can easily give me.  Perhaps I just haven't allowed Him to do so.  I guess you can tell.  I'm afraid to listen.  I might not know how to respond if I hear Him again.

Too Blessed to be Stressed
May 23, 2008

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because "the Lord is compassionate and merciful." (James 5:10-11, NAB)

The leading of the Holy Spirit for me this season in my life is to face hardship with faith and confidence. For the longest time, I have abhorred any form of suffering. Having gone through my fair share in the past, I have made deliberate choices to avoid heartache, pain, and hurt, ignoring their Scripture-based benefits to my faith.

Like a little child who lives in a fairy world where magic cures all ills and rights all wrongs, I have trodden the path of ease. I have only involved myself in things I would succeed at. Failure, though a necessary path of life, has become my enemy. Living in a broken world where all, most of all me, commit mistakes whether they intend to or not, all this focus on perfection has just led me to sheer and utter frustration.

The most uncomfortable and inconvenient truth of all is that to follow a path of righteousness, we have to bite the bullet and plunge head on into the unknown - where everything is beyond our control, where we will experience pain, where we will encounter obstacles, where our strength and joy and confidence will be used up - but where God waits to empower, encourage, and enlighten us.

Why is it that the search for truth still cannot stop me from denying it? I have discovered that I am not alone in this quandary - that my favorite writers Philip Yancey and Henri Nouwen have undergone deep moments of doubt and confusion as well - despite knowing and proclaiming the truth of God's amazing love, of this world being His and about us being His children, not His super-children to be shielded from all harm or to have all powers to by themselves conquer evil.

The world does not value this truth, for everything around us tempts us to take control of our lives, to think only of ourselves, to worship ourselves as gods and goddesses, to associate only with similar diety, and not to follow Jesus at all. Jesus' teachings on the call to discipleship are so contrary to the "values" of the world - for He espouses humility, patience, and generosity, while the world applauds pride, speed, and greed.

To be a Christian is to fight back with refusal, resistance, and responsibility. It is to find God's voice from within our hearts and to follow Him, whether it is a slow, inch-by-inch process, or we find ourselves to be strong enough to skip and jump and soar. This is a great challenge, but therein lies true joy. I have yet to reach that phase. These days I am starting to acknowledge again how weak I have been and to surrender the worldly attachments I have chosen to be my source of joy. It is an upward call.

For God did not give human beings the power to fly and to teleport. Thus, we cannot escape dangerous situations, painful confrontations, and complicated communications. We are meant to stay put, face our fears with courage, and wait on the Lord. He WILL sweep us off our feet. He will carry us in His arms and take us to His heart, where we shall find all the rest, comfort, and love that we need.

My soul cries out to be heard, and this is more important than my tasks at work, my besmirched reputation, and my persistent plans. Even to take time out to listen to my heart and rest my weary soul is difficult. Now I am slowly facing those areas I have declared as off-limits to God, and admitting how helpless I am to fight this battle on my own.

My lesson on waiting for today - to persevere, and to learn to have the patience of Job. Tomorrow is another day.

Doubt in the Midst of Waiting
March 20, 2008

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
(John 13:12)

Do I realize what Jesus has done for me? I am not sure if I ever will. My mind cannot comprehend it. My eyes cannot see it. My heart cannot believe it.

I attended a Bible class last year where the book of Romans was dissected by Fr Steve Tynan, our parish priest, and where he explained the significance of Christ's sacrifice, of our sanctification and redemption. The revelation was too much that I finished the course still in awe of what Jesus had done. If I were asked to explain it now, I doubt if I could.

There it is. There lies the problem: doubt.

I never thought it would happen to me. I thought I was immune to it - doubt, fear, backsliding, hardening of heart against the Lord - but in the past few months, I have been guilty of all these, and more. It started with a drying up of prayer time, which seemed at first to be just that, a drying up of the well. It was something even the saints went through in their journey with the Lord. I thought in due time the water would come gushing. If only I had waited a little longer.

But inch by inch, I let my impatience take over me. From sunrise to sundown, I declared my war on waiting. I drummed my fingers whenever I was stuck in traffic, and caught an accident as a result. I could have listened to Christian music or prayed the rosary, but no, I resorted to inane text messages. I was impatient at home, and impatient at work. I was impatient with myself, and underneath it all, impatient with God.

I did not plan to rebel against God, whom I professed to follow all the days of my life. It just happened. I let my guard down. My foot slipped. I ignored all the warnings. I shut out the voices of reason. I even felt entitled to "a little break".

This Holy Week, I learned the difference of being "on a break", and having a "breakup". I realized that I did not want to break up with Jesus. I merely wanted to be on a break from the routine I had lost myself into for the past several years. My confessor and spiritual director said it was okay, that I should be patient in times of transition in my prayer life.

And what a transition I was in! Prayer took on a new form. What used to work did not work anymore. The people I ran to for help suddenly became busy. Service became harder and harder because I doubted God's love for me. I needed a very long, restful break.

It could not have been rest as I was doing it on my own. I had cut down on activities but still felt restless. So I went to two celebrations of the Lord's Supper today, just like last year - first in the parish, and then with Ligaya. I did not want to choose between them so I attended both.

I needed to hear God. I needed to hear Him again. I realized, however, that none of the emotions I used to associate with Holy Thursday were coming. During meditation, I wasn't Peter in the Gospel anymore, having that important conversation with Jesus, but just a spectator, who did not want her feet to be washed by Jesus, and who was hoping not to be asked to wash other people's feet.

But what was I so afraid of? This was Jesus who was inviting me to love, just as He was inviting me to serve. How could I forget what He had done for me? Just looking at the earthly miracles, I got my job because last year, during the same Holy Thursday service, Lou Sitaca asked me to try CD Asia, after years of conversations about the company and inviting me to be a part of it. I was also asked to serve as Lingkod QC BWM by God during Holy Thursday. In fact, this was the start of my fiscal year. I had experienced many other miracles and received many healing words on Holy Thursdays.

I had been running a good race, and then lost my way out of stubbornness and impatience. I do hope that there is a chance for me to go back to being in-love with God alone, and of being Jesus' faithful servant, and of living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Like a runner, I look forward every year to Holy Thursday as it starts the Easter Triduum, and with it, Easter - the finish line. This Lent is coming to a glorious end whether I feel it or not. A spark of hope is rising within me tonight.

Let me then go back to a life of waiting for the fulfillment of that Hope that I had almost forgotten. And that hope, that reward, is not of this world. It is simply and clearly to see God face to face, and to worship Him forever.

To think I almost lost forever, for the passing fancies of today. I will not think about what might have been.

I will just keep waiting.

May 17, 2007

Like a sandwich filling, I am in-between.
I'm neither fit nor dying;
neither young nor old;
neither successful nor broke;
neither winning nor losing.

I am floating,
leaving behind all that I have been
and believing tenaciously in a bright future Promised to me...
but for now, I am in-between.

This is a place I have never been.
I never planned this;
never wanted this;
and for sure, I don't know what to do with this.

There are days when I hold my breath in anticipation,
other days I just let out long deep sighs.
I return the balls that are thrown my way.
I close my eyes and let difficulties pass me by.

When through the cracks and crevices,
sunshine passes,
and a flower blooms like hope in my heart,
I pause to ponder,
stopping myself from analyzing its color,
and purpose in life,
but letting it be,
the promise of beauty,
in me,
and of more to come.

I am waiting -
for heaven,
or heaven on earth,
or to make sense of earth -
and I embrace The One who holds my hand
and assures me that my time shall come.

A Chapter in Life's Book of Waiting
April 14, 2007

There was a question I dreaded to be asked while I was still at the peak of burnout and bewilderment, it was "What are you going to do next, Ella?" I'd asked myself that countless times. I'd bugged God about it morning, noon and night time. I still didn't have a proper answer, so to be faced with such uncertainty was torture for me then.

It was largely my fault, for I'd heralded every little twist in my journey in this blog, on email, and in person, so that my friends naturally started to expect that I had a short and sure answer to that question after I resigned from Lingkod. Surely, my God and I, who had weathered the storms of the bar nightmares, career decisions, service "crucifixions" (some services were personal hell but my God & I endured them all), recurring heartaches, and similar catastrophes, would take no time in moving on from that point of uncertainty. So what if I was giving up something I had prayed and fought for with blood, sweat and tears? It must mean a better place just around the corner.

But I moved at a snail's pace. There were days when I hardly wanted to move at all. Outwardly, I was filling out applications, showing up for interviews, and registering for online job matches. I was just going through the motions so that I could tell God, or the world, or myself, that I was doing something about my life. Inwardly, however, I just wanted to pause and reflect. What happened, why was I there, and where was God taking me?It was only after reaching a clear dead end that I decided to do what I should have done in the first place - LET GO. I let go of my dreams. I let go of my plans. I let go of my fears. I let go of my wants. It was time I started being a human being and not a human doing. These were not new lessons, and I had even shared them with others before in my talks. I saw first hand how I could not relinquish control of my life to God one day and take it back full force the next! I had to listen to my heart, which was tired, unhappy, and distressed.

It was at that time that I learned to trust everything that I had learned - from my parents, teachers, mentors, and spiritual directors. They said, I seemed to remember, that I would never run out of options in life, that God gave me so much that I would never run on empty. I doubted myself at some point, reached depression and faced all my insecurities once more. I felt like I was good for nothing and almost forgot that I was God's daughter - chosen and precious - meant for His Kingdom. I forgot that all that I had came from Him; that He who created me knew where to place me and make me bloom. Him - The Potter, The Vinedresser, The Shepherd, The Father; Me - The Clay, The Branch, The Sheep, The Daughter. Truly, when darkness surrounded me, the truth of God's Word revealed in His Son was my only anchor of hope. I'm thankful for that.

What happened? Did I wake up one day to a perfect world? I still did not. Slowly, however, I started to pick up the pieces of my life and see the gems that had always been there. I saw what I valued and recognized what I treasured. I said "yes" to God one day at a time, consulting Him in every decision, and accepting opportunities to rest and recharge.

That was when I found myself at an almost unbelievable job (albeit temporary) - helping one of my best friends in high school set up a travel website and agency. It was a welcome opportunity, and just what I needed. It came at the right time. It was not yet the final thing I felt God was calling me to do, but for the time being, it was something that made use of my brains and talents and gave me chances to travel and earn while doing what I did best - writing from the heart and relating to people. As DiscoverPH's Business Development Manager, legal consultant, and travel writer, I was able to go around Bohol, China, and even Old Manila. I worked for a very good friend whom I respected and admired. Somebody commented, "That's not a job, that's a paid vacation!" It IS Easter, and I WILL recognize that blessing. :) My God fully paid for it, not me.

Now I have to pause when asked what I'm doing now, for really, there is not one thing that defines where God has taken me. I pause not out of lack of things to say, but due to uncertainty as to which blessing to share first. There's the travel sideline, the parish council, the youth ministry (which might involve serving as choir master, if I gather enough guts), the covenanted community (still investigating), and the former Lingkod branch full of supportive friends. I might take two trainers' training courses - one for work, as a trainer for customer service specialists; another for service, at the Institute for Pastoral Development, where the best of both worlds, Ligaya and St. Benedict's, just might meet in my heart, mind and soul.

I am serving different communities by giving talks and retreats, which is true to my call as I clearly heard the Lord many years ago. I have a meeting with one of my mentors, a lawyer, for a possible project or employment in her company next week (please intercede, it's the nth time that they've offered me something and this might be it). I'm still waiting for the government to lift the hiring ban after the elections to see if I made it to that agency I want to work for (not the one I wrote about early this year, that took a veerry slow turn that allowed me to re-assess if I wanted to work there, but will see after June).

Do I have a simple, one-sentence reply to "Where are you connected now?", something brothers and sisters ask one another every now and then? No, all I can do is smile and give a non-responsive but nevertheless honest reply - that I know that Easter has come. I celebrate Christ's victory in my life this Easter because I saw a brutal, personal Good Friday. I understand more how Christ was able to rise again: it was because first, He allowed Himself to suffer and die.

I can better appreciate my life's "resurrection" because I went through a long period of suffering with my share of little deaths. Good thing I have a Redeemer who took on everything on my behalf, so that when I join my heart to Him in prayer everyday, I receive enough grace to realize more that I have been saved already. It IS Easter. I may be a long way from heaven, but here on earth, I shall not be depressed anymore.

"And as I wait
I'll rise up like an eagle
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on,
by the power of Your love."

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day
07 March 2007

According to a French proverb, Rome was not built all in one day. I was reminded of this in my prayer time this morning.

I try my best to pray the Lauds or Morning Prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours everyday. A lot of times, the prayers, psalms, readings, responsories, and intercessions strike a chord in my heart, expressing what I am thinking or feeling at the moment that I recite them. This happened again this morning. A very simple prayer spoke to me.

"Grant that we may receive good things from your hands with gratitude and accept the bad things with patience." (R: Lord, give us your Holy Spirit.) What usually happens is the opposite - I receive good things with ingratitude and face bad things with impatience! Last year, amidst all of my troubles, I was impatient with myself; impatient at the world; impatient at my circumstances; and impatient with God! I ignored the fact that bad things happen to His servants in order to test our faith and make us stronger.

Now, I have received good things but the attitude of gratitude still escapes me. I have a writing project that allows me to travel, earn and write. When I tell people about what I'm doing now, they're all ecstatic and say I have a good life. Do I feel it? Naturally, no. I tense up to meet my self-imposed deadlines. I panic at the overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done. I criticize myself for all my mistakes. I focus on the negative. I need to de-stress, definitely!

So in my prayer time, I asked for the help of the Holy Spirit to grow more in gratitude and patience. I felt God asking me if workers who build a Cathedral get impatient with themselves that the building is not finished in one day. Surely, I realized, they report at the cathedral-building site to work on a window one day, a door the next, or a wall a couple of days later. They do not carry the weight of the enormous job on a daily basis. They earn their keep for a particular day and go home to be with their family and to rest.

Such basic lessons, even if already deeply ingrained in my memory, still have to be re-learned apparently. I'm not just waiting for the best lawyer job for me; I'm building a Cathedral. I'm not just writing to earn a living; I'm building a Cathedral. I'm just not juggling family, career, community, parish, friends, health, and recreation; I'm building a Cathedral. My life is a Cathedral, where God will be glorified, by the help of the Holy Spirit!

I end on a somewhat secular note. There's this song that's playing in my head now. I heard this from the soundtrack of Bounce way back when I played cassette tapes in the car from my collection of movie soundtracks. It's not applicable on all fours, but the closest theme song I could have at this time.

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day
Artist: Morcheeba

You and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

In this day and age it's so easy to stress
'Cause people are strange and you can never second guess
In order to love, Child, we got to be strong
I'm caught in the crossfire why can't we get along?

'Cause you and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

I'm having a daydream, we're getting somewhere
I'm kissing your lips and running fingers through your hair
I'm as nervous as you 'bout making it right
Though we know we were wrong, we can't give up the fight
Oh no

'Cause you and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll run away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

You and me we're meant to be
Walking free in harmony
One fine day we'll fly away
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

You and me (you and me) we're meant to be (meant to be)
Walking free (walking free) in harmony (in harmony)
One fine day (one fine day) we' ll run away (we gonna run away, we gonna run away)
Don't you know that Rome wasn't built in a day

Rejoicing in WaitingFebruary 16, 2007

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
(Psalm 33:10-11, NIV)

Some friends told me upon learning that I was looking for a job, that surely "malakas ako kay God", meaning I enjoy a special favor from Him, and He would reward me handsomely after serving Him for many years, and even giving up my career for a time in order to do mission work in His name. I didn't want to express my contrary thoughts then, but now that I'm "in waiting" again, I reflect on how God rewards His servants like me and would like to share my thoughts.

I wanted to tell my friends that I knew right from the beginning, when I gave my life to the Lord and committed myself to follow Him, that I was in for an uphill climb. I knew that prioritizing service over career would mean being left behind in the latter. I knew that discerning my state of life and surrendering it to God meant not compromising on my essentials and valuing my identity as God's daughter over my desires and attractions. I learned from reading the lives of the saints that they who followed Him did not experience success as the world defined it. They might have needed a luxury or two and might have given up all of their desires altogether, but those were part and parcel of the job description of a disciple.

When I left the law firm that was making me work twelve (12) to fourteen (14) hours a day in favor of the Court in order to serve God more through Lingkod, I did not do it expecting a proportionate reward from God in due time. When I left the Court in order to volunteer as a mission worker for the Lingkod Office, I did not expect to meet the man of my dreams in the process who would sweep me off my feet. If those were part of God's plan, then I would have happily accepted them. But since they were not, this does not mean that I served a heartless, demanding God who did not want to reward His people.

The Lord never told me that He would shield me from pain or suffering; He only promised to be with me, and He has never failed me in that promise. I did them and shall continue to make such "foolish" decisions for him because I wanted to see Him face to face one day in heaven, and to bring others into a similar relationship with Him. Service was its own reward. I only wanted a room in my heavenly Father's house.

I am very far from leading a holy life. Impure motivations still envelop me, relentless temptations still overpower me, and there are days when I simply want to give up. However, the knowledge that God is with me quiets my heart. All of the anxieties and fears I battle with now, I share with Him openly during my prayer time and at daily Mass, and I have affirmed that I'd rather be in bad times like these with the Lord, than to have good times with someone else who would take me away from Him. Yes that's a line from a love song that I sing to Jesus in my heart.

His ways are not our ways. People like me who have left major service, mission work or even the religious life cannot expect to be welcomed by high-flying jobs and "all the things we gave up" in one glamorous package. In fact, we are called to do the opposite, to be lay people set apart for the Lord, fully submitting to His plans which are forever and far greater than our dreams and plans, as the Psalm I quoted above says.

I felt a peace that surpasses all understanding yesterday. I had three interviews in one government office, which went okay, but this was followed by a written examination, which I think I did poorly on. I was not prepared for it as I last read about the pertinent laws and cases some seven years ago, when I was reviewing for the bar! One question pertained to a procedure which I handled while I was a law intern but could not for the life of me remember in detail. I answered the exam with cold, clammy hands and a sinking sensation that I was not going to be hired, after all.

When I handed my papers, the admin officer reminded me that the hiring ban was coming up, 45 days before and after the elections. Considering the many other steps my application had to go through (ranking of all applicants, review by HR, call back for psychological exam, medical exam, and rigorous background check), they could not assure me that I would be hired or even if I were chosen, that it would be earlier than July.

As I left the office in a daze, part of me was saying I should be officially in panic. Hiring ban meant two of my pending applications would have to wait, unless the respective offices were granted exemptions. It meant lack of steady income for several more months. I searched for panic but there was none. I was reminded that God provided me with other skills and talents I could use for the meantime. Faces of friends who were willing to hire me as speaker, facilitator, writer, etc. flashed through my mind. I would get through this long period of dryness. My days of harvest shall come. I was going to be ok.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.
(Hab 3:17-19, ESV)

Malakas talaga ako kay God! He shows His favor by making me go through periods of dryness and waiting and lack. These are precisely the things I do not like to face, but His plans are better than my plans. When the seasons change, I shall share about them again. For God is truly good and full of love, though we may not understand His ways! I rejoice in Him and praise Him continually.

My Alternative Careers: A Case of Be Careful What You Wish For
January 12, 2007

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.

Long Overdue, so This is Long
January 2, 2007

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.

Where I'm At
August 23, 2006

I will write what I’ve been up to in snippets.

The Blind Leading the Blind

Sometimes I say yes to service and then later on realize how much God is teaching me in the particular areas where I’m supposed to lead.

I’m helping a sister with her discernment now and as we journey in prayer together, I find that I have to plow through my own heart and be discerning in major areas of my life for me to be able to pray with her. I’ve had to face my own ghosts, unknown to her, and I’ve gone back to my previous journals to see how God had led me and where He might be taking me. My own waiting had been brought to the fore of my prayer time once more. And we have a long way to go, God and I.

Another thing I said yes to was to serve in the bible study/sharing ministry for sisters. Although I would love to formally study Theology someday, all I had attended so far were short bible study courses. So when the women signed up, hungry to study God’s word and apply it in their lives, I felt some pressure and asked for help. Thankfully, priests came to the rescue. They gave me study materials and said they’re available for consultation anytime. They also said I’m not blind, that I could do this if I just kept things simple. This was something that I did for love – of God, His Word, and my Lingkod QC sisters. Now I’m reading up to prepare and thinking of our lesson plan. It’s a new and interesting ministry.

As the parish of St. Benedict is being formed, I was asked to serve there in a ministry. Being clueless about serving in a parish, yet unable to say no, I said yes but to put me in any ministry except finance. I have yet to find out where I’ll end up serving but I would like to think that building a parish with the Missionaries of God’s Love would be inspiring and exciting. At least in this area, I would be a follower and those who are leading me are not blind. Fr Steve, who would be installed as Parish Priest on August 27, and Fr. Geoffrey, who would become Assistant Parish Priest, certainly know what they are doing. And I would be happy to follow them as they in turn follow Jesus’ call for them to serve here in the Philippines.

Three Mountains

For three weeks (with one weekend’s interval) now, Lingkod QC has been singing praises to God on top of a mountain. It's a different mountain each time.

Last Aug 4-6, we were up in Antipolo serving in the RLTC. It was an exciting, albeit exhausting, weekend full of surprises. Our cup was filled to overflowing, so much so that last August 12-13, the Music Ministry decided to go up to Baguio to celebrate the many blessings in our service. There we went to all the major tourist spots and had the time of our lives in pure fellowship. Then on August 21, the RLTC service team went up to Tagaytay for a half-day of prayer at the Don Bosco Chapel on the Hill and for the requisite visits to Leslie’s and Bag of Beans. We were filled with the gift of joy all throughout that trip, discovering who among us were most knowledgeable about Philippine movies. We exchanged movie trivia and were delightfully surprised that shy and quiet Leah beat all of us in answering Doc Jun’s most trivial questions about movies and stars from way back the ‘70’s. Going home, we listened to Ted’s CD, the tribute to the Apo Hiking Society, over and over again. I particularly liked the remake of their famous song “Ewan”.

All of us were in high spirits as we went back to work today.

Rest in Various Forms

I was able to rest last Sunday too as my high school best friends and a particular family from there adopted me for a weekend getaway at Canyonwoods Resort. I was able to do the most basic fun things with them – eat, swim, drink, and sleep. The Jacuzzi and the spa also added to the restfulness of our short vacation. A bonus was that I was able to memorize the songs from “High School Musical” as the two girls, one of them my inaanak, repeatedly played the movie on their portable DVD inside the car. I couldn’t get the songs out of my head! Disney lyrics! When I listened to my own music later on, the Apo songs, they reminded me of my own childhood.

Happiness versus Joy

Rick Warren explains this better. Basta happiness is external while joy is internal. Happiness is based on happenings, while joy is based on the truth that the Lord is near no matter what happens.

A friend asked me if I’m happy with what I’m doing. She who remembers me from the time I was a driven student, acing Algebra and English, running for student council, joining the choir and the school paper, entering U.P. and all that. She had to ask if I was sure I was where I was supposed to be. I said I could not explain to her, just as I could not explain to my own mother, that true, I might not be happy all the time – due to my own weaknesses, or even other people's- but that does not mean I’m not joyful, just at the knowledge that I was called, and I followed, and I have faith that the One who called me would never let me down, even if His ways are not my ways and His time is not my time.

It’s so hard to make my loved ones understand this because they don’t want to see me struggle, and I know they worry for me. But when I myself am not sure of my plans, when I myself am not in control, and I’m ok with this as this is the only way God can truly take the lead and steer my life at this point, the contradiction is something I cannot explain yet. So I leave even this up to God to explain. It’s within His expertise anyway. Maybe someday the clouds will open up and reveal to me my future. Or maybe they will not. I have just enough light for the step I’m on.

I just came home from our Action Group (my support group) meeting, and there we discussed verses in the bible that speak of joy, to check our hearts on where we were in this area. I was reminded that Jesus wants our joy to be complete (John 15); that He could turn my mourning into dancing (Psalm 30); that I should rejoice in all circumstances and let my gladness be evident to all (Philippians 4). All these, because the Holy Spirit is in me already, and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruit of the Spirit that is in me (Galatians 5:22-23).

I would like to bear that kind of fruit in my life, but sometimes I falter. So each time, I will go as Jesus did, up to the mountain to pray, to get some rest, and to be reminded of my joy and of who truly leads me: the Son of Man, who makes even the blind see.

You're Late Again, Lord!
August 22, 2005

A lovely couple, Dr. Chris and Teacher Miel Rayala, are in the Philippines for vacation and they treated me to lunch and coffee at Katipunan, to places I haven't visited in years (Ken Afford and Cravings). We had a wonderful time discussing how the Lord keeps us waiting wherever we are. They are waiting for Chris' confirmation about his job at Tennessee, hence everything is on hold - house, community, career, family. They are being so patient about it that I marveled at their faith in the Lord. I shared with them my own recent experiences with waiting, having just finished (for the nth time), Lingkod's Christian Sexuality Course where I was moved to unearth my State of Life Discernment journal and to review my reflections from ages past.

They brought me home but just before I got down from their van, they handed me a pasalubong, a title that bookworm Mirac said isn't available in the Philippines - "You're Late Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing" I asked them whatever gave them an idea that I'm impatient, and we all laughed, for they have been my friends for many years now. Imagine their patience, because they listened to me for three hours talking about waiting - mine and theirs - and they didn't give me the gift until going home time. They saved the best for last. I promised to be patient while reading this book and not rush to finish it immediately. They also asked me to share with them whatever I would learn from the book to help them with their own waiting time as well.

The Introduction to the book goes, " I have to be, without a doubt, one of the most impatient people our Lord ever put on this earth. Perhaps you're a close second, or Heaven forbid, even worse." My dear author Karon Phillips Goodman, Heaven forbid but I have to be, without a doubt, worse than you. When the word "impatient" arises in any Lingkod talk, brothers and sisters would almost always surreptitiously look at my direction as if motioning for me to listen more closely to the speaker, or just checking my reaction to whatever words might be said that could refer to me. Yes I am notoriously impatient. Good thing that the Lord meets us where we are, and He gives me Lessons in Waiting everyday, and twice on Sundays.

This reminds me of a movie I should have seen, "The Terminal". Everyone said I would learn from it. Didn't catch it on the big screen and now my kuya and his wife who used to be my supplier of DVDs are in faraway Munich and I can't bring myself to buy a DVD. So if any of you my friends have a copy of that film, do me a favor please by lending it to me.

I can't wait to read this book about waiting. Oops. Here I go again.

Life is Waiting.
February 1, 2006

I'm realizing as life goes on that God is NOT the God of the 'quick and tidy neat ending, where everything is easily resolved.' I think it probably is His desire to have us left hanging for long periods of time so that we are forced to trust whether we like it or not! I used to struggle against this a lot but I think I'm at peace with it now.

Those are words of wisdom from my good friend Saruman. He is not the first person to remind me of this nature of God. A wise elven elder told me before that waiting for God to work things out to my satisfaction was my favorite recipe for disappointment, and I had to learn to wait on Him more deliberately if I were to find fulfillment in the everyday routine of things. It’s 2006 and I’m up to my old tricks in the department of impatience.

Oprah understands me as well, for she writes in the September 2005 issue of her magazine:
“The dog has been walked, the birthday card has been mailed, and the mortgage has been paid. You’ve done all the things you’re supposed to do; now it’s time to get started on that one thing you’ve been aching to do… if only you knew what it was. Maybe, to paraphrase U2, you still haven’t found what you’re looking for. Maybe you’re just plain stuck.”

And as her magazine encourages women to live “our best life”, one page is devoted to “Things to Think”, from “Morning Poems” by Robert Bly. It’s a refreshing piece of poetry.

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks at the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

That feeling used to be second nature to me, consisting of mild panic at the thought that I wasn’t as busy as the people around me, and that if I were to lie down, even if I were sick, the world would stop turning, a disaster would erupt, and I would get all the blame. (And my conscience speaks: Somebody remind her that she's not starring in her own TV show, that she's not Felicity, Ally McBeal, or Dawson! I have news for you: the sun is at the center of the solar system, sweetie. Not you.)

In the process of ironing out most of the glitches in my belief system, my spiritual leaders have convinced me to be nicer to myself and to get healed before I got worse. I try to share that with my sisters in Lingkod. I tell them that we are not responsible for the salvation of the world. That was already accomplished by Jesus. We should act the part of the ones who were saved. Yet like most women I still haven’t gotten the hang of this letting-go-and-letting-God piece of advice.

This reflection admittedly comes after a few days of boredom. I was not familiar with being bored, because I used to not have the luxury of time for that. Yet I found myself over the weekend restless after realizing that I had recently been to the dentist, gone to confession, seen most of my friends, spent time with family, even actually ticked off a whole page in my To Do list AND accomplished some of my New year decisions. Then I spent some sleepless nights just reading and surfing, waiting for the sensation that would tell my body to call it a day everytime.

Funny, but now I know that I actually was having a worry-free time, and I grew restless in the midst of it. My mind was preoccupied at all the things God had left hanging for this year, and I waited for big news to come – through a phone call, a door bell, an email or a text message, or a post card. I was waiting for some news that would tell me about my future. Or answer the biggest questions in life -like why I hadn't talked with a certain close friend over irreconcilable differences for almost a year now; or why all of a sudden, I'm next in line (chronologically speaking) in the family to get married; or why I refer legal queries to my lawyer friends instead of answering them myself. I could die and not find answers to these, right!

This is the struggle of people who live for highlights and deadlines. When we are faced with opportunities to dine in the middle of the day al fresco, to stop and smell the proverbial flowers, and to spend our time any which way we want to, we start to wonder if it’s just the eye of the storm and we’re about to find out that something is wrong.

I pray that I could, like Saruman, be more at peace with what is before me. As a brother once said, and as I probably wrote already before somewhere int his blog, trust an unknown future to a known God.

Perhaps I should read my own journals and reflections more often!

Yeshua and Ella
June 17, 2005

If I could have things my way, I would be standing at a beach right now, not to party or to get a tan, but to speak to the Lord. When I look at the horizon, the sky seems to kiss the earth, and I can feel God’s presence more concretely.

In Olongapo where I grew up, I could watch the sun hide behind clouds at dusk, leaving behind majestic rays that infuse color into the darkening sky. I could stare at the water and breathe the salty air and take in all that beauty through my five senses until darkness envelopes me. The sound of the waves, the sight of the setting sun, the smell of the salt, the feel of the sand, and the taste of the water on my lips all work together to remind me of God, my Father, Creator, Teacher and Friend.

I used to visit the beach to talk to God about my hopes and desires. Once I got my heart so broken that I just lifted it up to Him there for healing. When I got back to the city, I carried His love with me and it helped me recover from the pain of loss that I thought would never leave me. At another time, I was able to have an unforgettable time of prayer and worship with brothers and sisters at a generous family’s house where we saw the mountains and the sea. We sang in Tagalog some beautiful Church songs from our childhood.

I thought of the beach today because I believe this occasion calls for such an intimate conversation with my God. But alas, I have to wait for the perfect opportunity to address Him in the way that my soul yearns for. Since God is everywhere I am sure He could hear me now.

This is what I wanted to tell You, surrounded by the perfect ambience of Your creation.

Lord God, thank you for the power of Your love that led me through two years of service. Who was I that You chose me to be Your servant at a time when all I could think of were myopic dreams and shallow ambitions? You have taught me humility, patience, compassion, forbearance, mercy, and grace. You have given me first-hand experience of what faith, hope and love mean. You sustained me by Your love, encouraged me by Your Word, and empowered me by Your anointing. I can feel You gently putting me down today from the places that we flew to while I was BWM of Lingkod QC.

I do not deserve Your faith in me. I disappointed and failed you countless times, even in the recent past, and yet You did not cut me off. You sent Your angels to guide and protect me. Through fire, accident, heartache, pride, selfishness, and other dangers, You were true to Your promise. I am here, a stronger person, I think, because of what You have done in me. Thank You for disturbing me so I could do Your will more fully. We have a long journey ahead of us, my Lord, but for today, I want to proclaim Your greatness and glory, for I am a living witness of all that. Blessing, honor, worship and praise belong to Your Name. I am Yours. Here I am, Lord. Before You send me off again, I want to stay in Your arms for a very long while.

The Love Worth Waiting For
February 16, 2006

I was writing my reflections for Wednesday’s readings when I realized that I had more reflections for the other day’s Gospel. The other day was dated February 14, 2006. While I was typing away here about romantic love, in my prayer journal I was communicating to God about the kind of love that He had been patiently trying to teach me: agape.

The Gospel yesterday was taken from Mk 8:14-21, which reads in part:

Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

I read it in the morning and then heard it during mass at night. I was struck by the same lines, which I highlighted above. Jesus’ frustration at his very own disciples was apparent. Here were the men who listened to his teachings first-hand; who received his full explanations about the parables; who saw his miracles with their naked eye; and who were supposed to understand, more than the crowd ever could, what He was doing and what He was teaching. And yet, since it was difficult to see who or what Jesus was really about during their time, the disciples habitually turned to their own limited understanding to explain what was going on around Jesus.

Jesus patiently reminded them of his just-concluded miracles, wherein he broke five loaves of bread for 5,000 and then seven loaves for 4,000, with several baskets leftover. The second miracle even occurred on the first part of the same chapter (Mark 8:1-9).

Spiritual amnesia is not unique to the disciples. Neither is spiritual blindness a thing of the past. Our hearts, to this day, are still hardened towards God, and this makes it virtually impossible for us to see, hear, and understand Him. Our eyes do not see. Our ears do not hear.

The story continues. In last Wednesday’s Gospel (Mk 8:22-26), Jesus healed the blind man, but not instantaneously. At first all that the man could see were “people looking like trees walking”. Jesus laid his hands on the man a second time before the latter could “see everything distinctly”.

Our own conversion, in much the same way, is not instantaneous. For the past couple of weeks I had a long litany of “why’s” to God, because of the people and things that I loved –country, community, friends, and family. There were many things that defy explanation, but I wanted so hard to understand. Pain was not something I took lightly, and I asked Jesus why there was so much suffering in me and around me.

Then I remembered a lesson we took up in the Joy of Discovery, from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. It is timely because this chapter is not really about eros, but about agape. It’s not only for Valentine’s week, but for Christians’ every day. It is often read during weddings, a few lines lifted from an entire chapter so powerful it blew my mind and my heart away when I joined a Bible study on it.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

13 5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My group was assigned to the last verses, 8-13. In JOD, we look at dictionary meanings of words, then Bible dictionaries, and cross-references to the verses, historical accounts, other reference materials, and finally, commentaries. Our group’s reflections on these verses led us to cry our hearts out at the goodness of the Lord. My group-mates, by the way, were two religion teachers and a businesswoman/mother. We “discovered”, joyfully, I may add, that a reflection in a mirror is not really complete. Hence now we see dimly, but one day clearly. Different Bible translations use “imperfect” rather than “partial”. Both mean that on this earth, we have neither a complete view nor a perfect understanding of God. When God is finally revealed to us, face to face, then we shall see perfectly.

We also discovered a cross-reference to 1 John 3:2 that explains v. 12:

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed 2 we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

After our “intellectual” reports of our discoveries, we were asked by our teachers to come up with a creative expression of what we learned. So the next day, our brilliant group leader came up with a complete presentation – we recited the chapter on love using sign language, pausing in between some verses to :1.) give a personal testimony; 2.) sing a song; and 3.) present a painting of Jesus on the Cross. We all ended up crying while we were presenting our report (and yes I was with more mature, much older people), and it must have made an impact on the whole class, as we were asked to present again during Closing Lunch to the whole group, with students from the other classes that were held that week at Scripture Ventures.

Personalizing it now (the last step in JOD), I believe that the Lord is reminding me as well that giftedness without love is nothing. Speech, prophecy, wisdom, faith, charity, and even voluntary martyrdom, as shown in the verses above, amount to noise, or worse, rubbish, without love. But time and again I ask how to love. It is not easy to be patient, kind, truthful, forbearing, or hopeful all the time. These characteristics of love are the very things we lack, and which cause our problems. Envy, jealousy, pride, arrogance, irritability, resentfulness, untruthfulness, and impatience –these are prevalent in this world.

Through prayer and meditation I ask for the grace to do the most loving thing, even in the toughest of situations. Oh, but it’s not easy. Right at this moment there are a few people I would rather not be patient or forbearing with, or whom I have given up hope on. One day, if ever I make it to heaven, I might understand. I might be able to love like that. For now, I will imitate love. I will imitate Christ. He is showing me the way. And that is what I am waiting for. That is what we all wait for.

All the longings of our hearts just point to a deeper longing for God. It makes me cringe every time I see people who supposedly are following the Lord but instead focus their waiting on temporal things. Moreover, I take exception to the allegations that all single women wait 24/7 for a man, and once that man is found, they live happily ever after (even though in reality some women do act as if their life would be complete once The One sent by God comes along—and may the spirit of blindness be cast out!). As those of you who are married could attest to, not even the intimacy of marriage could replace the yearning in each of our hearts for a connection to, a relationship with, and an understanding of God.

From Psalm 130:5-6

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

I hope this restless night was productive. In writing this I wait in agony for the Lord. All my lessons in waiting teach me to wait for my God. I never get to be good at waiting, but I have no choice. Everything amounts to nothing without His love. All these little triumphs and struggles we have, these too shall pass. For, say it with me, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My Favorite Scenes

January 28, 2006 

My youngest sister’s favorite scenes in the movies, the ones that really made her sit at the edge of her seat, always involved the part where the lead character underwent intensive, back-breaking, soundtrack-worthy training. That was the case with The Karate Kid series – you bet she had the wax on-wax off classic memorized by heart – and the same went for Mulan, Strictly Ballroom, The Chronicles of Narnia, and most other films that she saw.

I used to think that I favored those scenes as well, until recently. This week I discovered that I much preferred those scenes of waiting in the movies. I liked the uncertainty, the agony, and the discovery that the hero/heroine went through. This usually happens towards the end of the movie, right after a gut-wrenching, painful experience so consumes the character’s good spirits and she (let’s quit pretending that I can relate to the “he’s”) decides to stop feverishly pursuing her dream, whatever it was, and she goes back to the basics. She lets go.

You can imagine these scenes with me. In Runaway Bride, this happened when Julia Robert’s character thought she almost lost Richard Gere’s character, and so she concentrated on her passion – making odd-looking lamps and finally selling them – and exercised like crazy (she loved to run). That way, when her love found her in the end, she was already complete, accomplished, and fit, all by herself. It was in the space of waiting that she found who she really could be, without the demands brought about by wanting to please another person in her life. By then, the writers of the film thought she was ready to give and receive love like she had never done before.

In Love Affair and An Affair To Remember (my favorite chick flicks that my friend Saruman cannot stand), the period of waiting occurred while the star-crossed lovers spent six months apart, before and even after, the agreed-upon meeting at the top of the Empire State Building. She pursued her passion for music while he finally got a decent job and learned to earn money. They had no idea what the other person was going through during that time of distance, but they each tried to become the best that they could be.

These quiet, sad scenes always pave the way for a happier ending. In Bridget Jones’ Diary, after breaking up with a guy who cheated her (the incorrigible Hugh Grant), she lost the weight and did well in her job. She threw away the pathetic books that filled her nightstand, and purchased self-help books. She grew more comfortable with herself and thus was able to consider herself worthy of the love that was offered to her by the irresistible Colin Firth.

Those scenes in between the highlight of the films and their production-number, fireworks-inducing endings sent the message to the viewers that they had to start looking inwardly if they wanted change in their lives. War, sickness, loss, heartache or betrayal had not killed them yet and they had to find what it was that was worth living for. In some cases, the heroines got swept off their feet (Pretty Woman’s white limousine/carriage and long umbrella/sword is a good example), while in others, the characters simply moved on. The person or situation they were waiting for never came about, and the movie ended with them being forever changed by the waiting and content to be so changed.

I just might be in such a scene right now. This week has been a journey in picking up the pieces of what a tumultuous, but exciting, year 2005 brought me and concentrating on what I am really about as an individual. I have learned that letting go of music, writing, dance, reading, friends, cooking and other things I loved just because some dreams ended with a loud, hapless thug the past few years wasn’t healthy. And even though the work that I am in right now is still being defined, I have come to believe that work does not define me. In Fr. Jboy's words, Ella, if you're happy, stop being guilty.

So after the changes and leave-takings that are ongoing in this movie, and before any conclusions are reached as to the major areas in my life (career, mission, passion, family, and/or lack thereof), I am here, now, waiting. I am not in training, because that means there’s a defined agenda, a schedule, and a goal in mind. I have been through so much of that all my life. I have seen some triumphs and had my share of failures. Right now, I think what I'm called to do is to polish, get rid of, take up, and let go of.

Once again, I am busy waiting.

Struggles, Struggles, So Often, So Soon
September 8, 2005

Is it just me or have I reached the point of "insecure dis-orientation", as described by Menchie Rojas, a woman of wisdom not unlike Yoda in stature at the Institute of Pastoral Development?

It seems like my days of "secure orientation" have ended. At that state, a person is full of hope, gratitude, passion, and peace. I felt that my time in such period was so brief. Now what Jesus said about God being the vine-grower who prunes even those branches that do bear fruit, seems to be coming to pass. My decisions are being challenged, my priorities are being shaken. Broken, imperfect and weak me needs grace in order to make it through this. I do not like to have to go through this. Take me back to Paris.

The pruning hurts no matter how "forewarned" I have been. Mentors and spiritual directors have said that I would face further questions and tests in life, and I said I would willingly embrace them all. Here I am being pruned and I'm not enjoying it one bit. For one thing, I can't sit still, so I'm inflicting more wounds on myself than are necessary. Furthermore, I am stubborn and unyielding. Pride has so crept up in my heart like a tenacious weed that I have difficulty in loving these days. I no longer work for the courts yet I still tend to think like a judge, feeling like I have the last say in every situation, even if the "decision/resolution" is just formed in my head.

Impatience has developed out of such pride, so much so that the I struggle, and wiggle, and wobble, in relating to others who do not follow the same rhythm that I have been used to. People who were raised and made differently from me are now my source of holiness, and this is where I'm being tested. As a Christian, as a servant, as a daughter of the heavenly Father, how do I respond to this? I have a textbook, formula answer, but the practical aspect is where my grade would be based from.

Lord, enlarge my heart. Give me your mind so that I may handle emotions and channel them properly to productive ends. Allow me to hope that relationships which do not seem to take off right now would someday be part of my treasure. Teach me to be patient of others who, like me, are just trying to give their best in everything.

Finally, Lord, take me to the point of peaceful re-orientation.

My Classmates Before I Knew How to Wait
August 16, 2005

I am a perpetual student. The fact that I have entitled this blog "Lessons in Waiting" shows how I view life as a series of such lessons, at this point. Somewhere along the way though, I have had to figure out who my classmates actually are, for there are no formal classrooms and teachers anymore. This analogy is a rich subject for reflection, but let me focus on classmates for now.

When I was young I used to be so conscious of my age and grade level. Somehow the girls who were even just one grade higher than I seemed superior to me, and naturally those girls in the lower grade leves were inferior to me. With my classmates, however, I have always maintained a strong bond. I made it through much of my student life because of my classmates. I wanted to be around them a lot so we could together figure out our lessons, pour out frustrations, and share our dreams. Our house in Pureza, Sta. Mesa, was open to all my classmates.

It was easiest in grade school. The goals were simpler, in my young eyes - to get good grades, to read as much books as I could that were not on my father's assigned reading list for me, to get into the coolest clubs (dance, journalism, even bible study for a schoolyear), to have my own barkada and to name such barkada. I actually belonged to a group called "Catsup Sisters", after a Punky Brewster episode, if I remember correctly. Then I formed the "Kisses" before I graduated. I had some heartaches at a young age which involved a medal, a presidency, and a crush, but those three formed me early on in life and gave me the values I still hold up to now about priorities in life. Ironically, I lost contact with most of my grade school barkada, but through the years I have developed close friendships with people from grade school who belonged then to different groups. We were the ones who had the same personalities and the friendship was not forced or fabricated, it just happened by natural selection, I guess.

In high school, although I learned to have fun like I never had before (mostly wholesome fun - but this is a past life, so... I digress), I also encountered some complications that were not around in grade school. It was considered cool, at the Manila Science High School, to have the best imported rubber shoes for P.E. class (Tretorn, K-Swiss, Nike Air), to be at the top three sections, to excel in Science and Math (we had two to three math and science subjects each every school year), to have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, to win competitions for the school - and to get first place all the time, and of course to be part of a group. I don't remember owning the rubber shoes of my dreams in high school. Although I was in the top sections, I was not as much of a scientist or a mathematician as my classmates were. I did not have a relationship then, definitely, and I had only one first place to my name (Science Reporting at the journalism competitions) as opposed to dozens for the favorite students. It was my greatest blessing that I formed good friendships at MaSci with women, who used to be called "The Phinx", whom I consider to be my best friends up to this day. I passed Biology, Trigonometry, Linear Algebra, Analytic Geometry (barely!), and World History with these girls.

We were inseparable up until college. MaSci '91 had a tambayan at U.P. Diliman as there were nearly a hundred from our batch of 318 who entered that campus. As a result, most of us refused to join campus organizations, which was a major requirement for freshmen in order to belong. I felt separation anxiety in sophomore year because then we were forced to part ways most of the time, as we had different majors. I was a Business Economics major and had limited common subjects with my barkada. I did make new friends at the School of Economics Student Council, and other college-based and campus-based organizations, however. They made Econ 131 and Econ 199 bearable. I cannot remember the conclusions we made in our undergraduate thesis, for it was my partner who did all the econometrics stuff while I concentrated on the research and writing, but I remember the friendships, some of which I have kept to this day.

Immediately after graduation, I entered law school, where I was part of A '99, the block that made the most number of case digests and subject reviewers. The requirements for a happy law student life were the hardest to meet of all - one has to study 12 hours a day, memorize laws, read all the cases, wear all the latest fashion trends, get invited to parties, and, this was new for me - befriend all the celebrities' and politicians' children who entered Malcolm Hall year after year. There were other "must-haves" like a fraternity for men, a sorority/organization for women, an ability to consume large amounts of caffein, nicotine and alcohol, a semester or more as a member of the prestigious Order of the Purple Feather (the honor society of law school where harry potter's order must have been patterned from, hehe), a slot in the Top Twenty or at least the first two pages of the graduates' list (this is where the top law firms get their associates), etc. I barely survived law school alive. It was through prayer that I managed to graduate. I neither had the discipline nor the interest to study Latin in order to impress my future clients. I preferred to serve in the student government than to study criminal law, much to the chagrin of my professor who chose to humiliate me in front of class as a result. My classmates gave me hope, for they believed in me through and through. They made me edit and layout 90% of our reviewers, because it brought me so much joy and because I was the most obsessive-compulsive and perfectionist when it came to such things. They helped me through recitations, supported my student government projects, taught me the rules of drinking (the how-to's and the what-not-to-do's), and tried to inspire me to want to be the best law student I could be. If not for my classmates, I would probably have had a miserable time at Malcolm Hall. They were God's encouragers for me.

I fell back big time from my law school classmates when most of them passed the 1999 bar and I didn't. I was majorly disoriented because I was having periods of darkness and depression while they were celebrating their entry into the legal profession with one party after another. They felt for me and did what they could to support me through my second take, but I would never know the taste of passing the bar after your first take. That sets me apart from them.

When you're a normal student, it is easy to know who your classmates are, who to get support from, who to ask about the rules and requirements of the school you're in. Now that I have graduated from the university, I no longer have formal classmates. I am still not alone - with friends, family, community and officemates around, but the lessons we take are all different now. There is no one to share the latest "Sweet Dreams" novel regularly with, unlike in grade school. There is no one to copy scientific formulas and Egyptian characters' names from, unlike in high school. There is no one to prepare for me the parts of the thesis that I hated, unlike in college. There is no one to get "radyo" from during recitations, unlike in law school. Life is not as neat, orderly, and predictable.

Yet I know that I am not alone. I have classmates in learning, classmates in hoping, and classmates in discovering. Our classes may not last beyond one hour, for Scripture lessons; one weekend, for retreats; or one week, for conferences, but I do find classmates still. I have teachers up to this day - a father confessor, a spiritual directress, a service leader, a national director, a women's moderator, a family counselor, among other things, but I don't get grades or honors or awards anymore. I don't get conditional "4's", "incompletes" or even red failing marks from them, but how life turns out seems to show me how I did with the lessons they imparted to me.

Most of the time, however, I find that I am physically alone, with a prayer in my head and a song in my heart, and a pen or a computer in my hands. This classroom called earth can be intimidating at times. I long for moments I could spend with my Dumbledores. I wait for glimpses of Aslan to keep me going. I search for hidden treasure, within me and in the world around me. A lot of the time, I find that I am waiting. Perhaps the readers of this blog are my classmates in waiting.

My Waiting Soul
April 6, 2005

In October of 2004, He told me to take nothing for my journey. But I was stubborn. Thus began a long battle against what was obviously an urgent call from the Lord to serve and follow Him.

I had assessed my fears and attachments, and yet at the end of the discernment, I still let those fears and attachments hinder me from joyfully anticipating the day of dawning for my mission.

He is asking me to wait now: for a decision upon which I do not desire to hinge my future, but which is important nonetheless; for a person who has more control over my situation than I would like anyone to have, simply because he is my leader. Who likes waiting? Who likes submitting? And yet into these two boiling cauldrons I am dipped and soaked so that when the right time comes, I would be ready for the purpose that God has for me.

Oh stubborn, impatient, and rebellious soul, surrender to The One Who Loves you. The Joy of Easter is just a breath away.

Labyrinth, A Life Metaphor
January 13, 2005

I visited a chapel together with Lingkod-QC brothers and sisters last month. The chapel had a labyrinth built on its floor. We prayed in silence while walking our individual ways through the labyrinth. I had so many personal reflections that afternoon.

I went home eager to post my reflections on my blog. I decided to do some research, however, before doing so, and I found out that there were actually a lot of people who objected to putting labyrinths inside churches and asking Catholics, and even other Christians, to walk in it. The dissenters of the labyrinth claimed that instead of pointing to God, the labyrinth just led people to “the god within”, and thus propagated new age ideas. I read through those webpages, one of which was, had a glimpse of where the authors were coming from, but could not fully share their experience as I was not exhorted to go through the labyrinth under the same circumstances.

Some people actually could pray through the labyrinth, and one such testimony could be read at

I do not intend to join the debate. I would just like to crystallize my reflections by writing about them. As in all things, God looks at the posture of the heart of the person walking the labyrinth, and it may not necessarily be true that a prayerful walk through such a maze could be evil. I don’t know; let me ask God when I see Him face to face in Heaven so I could be 100% sure.

I was writing in my personal journal this afternoon (one which involves a pen and a paper, containing my innermost thoughts that only God could read, not the online kind!) when I realized that my life had taken on so many turns the past few months that it was as if I were inside a labyrinth. I was reminded of the reflections that I set aside.

I walked the labyrinth on my Day of Prayer to thank God for the year 2004 and to ask for His Word for the year 2005. I had all my plans and dreams written down but could not tell, at that time, where the Lord was actually leading me. In my heart I wanted to do one thing but heartbreaking obstacles hindered me from making my most radical decision.

Praying for my future, I started walking the labyrinth. A few people were meditating on it while walking but I figured we need not cross paths anyway. I put one foot in front of the other, much like the characters of Terry Brooks’ books did, at first concentrating on my Game Plan. I wanted to do it perfectly, to find my way through the maze without making a fool of myself. I heard the Lord calling me to slow down and surrender control to Him, because the path had already been laid down before me. It had already been planned and mapped out and I was SURE to get to the center, where He would be waiting to speak to me. It would have been ideal to enjoy a leisurely walk. And yet, wanting to find answers to my questions, I labored through my journey. I talked to God and asked Him what the future had in store for me, why people I loved and looked up to could not understand me, why it was so hard to pursue my dreams. I reflected on verses that I had written down from my prayer time and realized that I was being called to recline my head on Jesus' waiting embrace, like the apostle John, from the Gospel that day. Jesus wanted to teach me His ways and I had to learn to wait on Him.

I noticed that whenever I ran out of patience in my thoughts, I ran out of steps in the labyrinth as well and I would be led to a turn which I did not foresee but was lying there all along. It was like that in life, when opportunities knocked when I least expected them. I did not welcome all opportunities as they tended to confuse me. I kept looking at the center of the labyrinth, calling out to Jesus in my heart, “Take me there, why do I have to keep walking? Take me out of the darkness and confusion I am in about my career/service dilemma!” I could have, really, just walked away and not finish the labyrinth. Or I could have chosen to ignore the patterns on the floor and walk right into the middle. What held me back was the nagging thought that I would regret walking away. I also realized that I would distract other people from praying if I broke away from the path and made my shortcut to the goal.

At some point, Mercy and Ted walked the labyrinth as well. I could not help looking at them to see how they were doing. I heard a voice inside me telling me to concentrate on my path, for each of us had our own journeys and God had already timed everything perfectly so that we could move in the same direction and reach the same goal without crowding the path.

Finally, I reached the center of the labyrinth and I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to walk through a difficult journey. I knelt down in prayer and worshiped God who made me, laid out the path for me, and waited for me to make it to His heart. I wanted to stay there and start my little taste of heaven by praying for a very long time, but I knew that the journey wasn’t over. I had to walk the labyrinth again, this time going out into the world to apply what I had learned. Armed with the certainty that I only had to keep walking and God would guide me, I re-traced my steps and found my way to the exit, where I started the journey.

I went through labyrinthine twists and turns in the recent months, from being told by God in my personal retreat that my service in Lingkod QC would end in June 2005; to being tired of being a pleaser in the workplace and not setting boundaries to what I gave; to being scheduled a job interview out of nowhere; to watching a movie (Under the Tuscan Sun) that inspired me to plan to study abroad; to spending weeks and weeks surfing for scholarships and courses; to realizing I was more interested in traveling than in studying; to going to a week-long conference and being asked to consider full-time missionary life; to struggling against my attachments and fears but being so attracted to that lifestyle; to going through 40 Days of Purpose AND intensive spiritual direction to discern my calling; to being so anxious to jump out of my life as I knew it; to talking to my friends about it and getting so much support; to telling my parents and not being able to explain it properly to them; to cultivating deep friendships with new mentors who helped me sort out my feelings; to growing spiritually as I went to Mass more often and lengthened my prayer time; to finding my boss getting promoted and being swept in her excitement; to seeing my workplace improving and all my previous complaints slowly being addressed; to taking part in a decision of national significance that made newspapers quote my words – my words! – without being acknowledged, of course (such is life as of now); to being offered a scholarship once again; and finally, to this point of indifference where I acknowledge that wherever it is that I am going, God surely planned it considering my SHAPE (as the purpose-driven life puts it, Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience) and I would find joy in it.

Just like when I went through the labyrinth, the secret is to just keep walkin’. All these roads would lead me to be united with God and see Him face to face.

Then perhaps, I shall see these words come to pass:

Baruch (Chapter 5, NAB)

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God's command;
For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

I am going on retreat again tomorrow until Sunday. I hope the Lord would speak clearly and conclusively about this particular decision I'm making.

New Year, New Word, New Title
January 3, 2005

This blog used to be called "My Process of Yielding". I have changed it to "Lessons in Waiting" though in order to reflect God's word for me this year. Last year, He was faithful in blessing me with much fruit after I learned to yield to Him more. The first part of 2004 was marked by my anger and resentment towards certain people and situations, but which the Lord miraculously dealt with and healed midyear. Then I received His blessing and affirmation in service and relationships. The fruit God promised became literal, as in fact, I found myself involved in a decision at work involving coconuts. I bore fruit in terms of new friends as well towards the end of the year. It was a thorough process of yielding, but "yielding" as in obedience indeed "yielded" fruit as God promised.

For the coming year, He is calling me to wait on Him as He teaches me His ways. This is Patience 101 all over again, but this time for new areas previously unsurrendered to the Lord. I've been notoriously impatient all my life, and so in offering my heart to the Lord He is teaching me to once again learn the art and science of waiting.

I thought discerning what He was calling me to do and what I really wanted to do would immediately lead to a changed mission, career and lifestyle. But His ways are not my ways! Jesus' signs in my life right now are all about waiting for His timing. Do I like it? No. If I had it my way, I would have done something already: either radically leave everything behind as I've badly wanted to do since October; or belatedly rebel against God by pursuing further studies abroad; or stubbornly fixate on worldly pursuits like shopping or dating. I would do anything just to get to my Promised Land at the soonest possible time.

"Wait on the Lord", I'm told, and so I hang on to His every word. I neither know nor control the future anyway. There's a stop He wants me to take that I didn't plan on last year. He wants me to go through Healing Stop. Rivendell. I have long-forgotten wounds no ordinary man could heal. I need elven magic to work on me.

Wake me up when it's over.

December 17, 2004

I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
-- Harry to Sally, "When Harry Met Sally"

have realized that I want to spend the rest of my life doing something.

Unfortunately, the rest of my life cannot start that way as soon as possible. :-(

Ang tagal! I've never been good at waiting, and I'm right smack in the middle of the Season for Waiting!

For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. -- Habakkuk 2:3 (RSV)

Sink Deep My Roots
November 14, 2004

I started re-reading The Purpose-Driven Life today as part of a program.

I was pleasantly surprised to open my copy of the book and find familiar words that spoke to me directly, from Jeremiah 17:7-8. God is not done with teaching me that lesson yet and He wants it to sink deep into my heart. That passage was written in Day One all along, and I had forgotten about that because I first read the book a year and a half ago. I knew then that this Second Reading would have a deeper meaning for me. I was impatient during my First Reading and wanted to finish it in 40 days, on my own. Of course I got stuck in some of the chapters and actually finished the book a few days off my target. Come to think of it, I’ve always been that way when I get hold of a good book, and it takes utmost self-control to savor the words and ruminate on the messages. Hopefully patience is growing to be one of my virtues.

To get a holistic PDL feel, I purchased The PDL CD featuring Jamie Rivera. In true karaoke/videoke culture, I opened the accompanying lyric sheet and sang along during my prayer time. I was struck by song number 10, the title of which is “Sink Deep Our Roots”. The words were inspired by – guess what? – our theme for NLTC 2k4, Jeremiah 17:7-8! Grabe na ‘to. Parang sinasabi sa akin “Hello, Ella. Heller! Fear no heat, fear no drought, your leaves will stay green and you will bear much grain.”

I was reminded of one of my recent realizations. Last First Friday, we invited Father Geoffrey to Lingkod QC and he gave a very inspiring homily complete with his personal testimony. I came back from the NLTC on a spiritual high, but faced heat and drought the first week in different areas of my life. I was a bit disheartened that Friday so as I listened to Father Jeff, I was hungry for comfort and assurance. The Lord did not delay – for I heard him say that “to bear fruit takes time”. It was a reminder I needed to hear that day. I was disheartened because some of my perceived sacrifices did not seem to bear the intended fruit, so there Jesus immediately assured me that results may not come during my expected time frame but they shall come, if I just stay put and deepen my roots I Him. I prayed once more for the elusive fruit of patience.

This morning I was also reminded of that truth in the first words of Day One – “It’s not about you”. It’s not about me and that is a huge relief!

Is it Dessert Yet?
September 23, 2004
I wonder if I'm being like a child who hides the vegetables under her plate so she could skip to the dessert. In the book What Color is Your Parachute?, at least the version that I borrowed from a friend's friend, the author says that there are two kinds of job-hunters: the patient ones and the impatient ones.

It has already been established that Patience is not one of Ella's natural virtues. By God's grace I have been granted patience in some areas of my life in the past. This time I'm being called to seek the Holy Spirit's help once more, for I might stray off course again if I listen to the voice inside me that tempts me to flunk the marshmallow test.
It's just that I've grown impatient chewing on the main course when others seem to enjoy sweet chocolatey dessert all the time. I have been an obedient child all my life anyway. I brushed my teeth and flossed regularly. I took my vitamins. I ate my vegetables, actually, except for bitter ampalaya. I picked the right friends. I drank socially, but stayed away from all substances that would abuse my body. I read classical books, not just science fantasy or love stories. I practiced the piano. I cleaned my room.

Now that I've realized that God is not just a strict parent making a list and checking it twice, I wonder. I wonder if it's time for me to skip to the dessert.

Crossing Another Crossroads
September 18, 2004

Why are some decisions so hard to make? I thought I had only two options - status quo and master of laws. Now a third road-less-traveled-by-lawyers has come my way. A headhunter is after my head! She's dangling a position that seems tailor-fit for me. A multinational company is looking for a lawyer with managerial, writing, and editing skills. She must be a self-starter; able to carry herself well; confident in dealing with Caucasians as she would be the Filipino Production Manager handling US law firms as clients. I don't know about this. I really don't.

When I started this career discernment process, I was happy and excited. I felt I had the leeway to dream big dreams. My imagination went full blast imagining sceneries of love, peace, and joy, with me in the starring role. I daydreamed about freedom to do research work and to write without worrying where to get my next paycheck. I saw myself traveling on a budget, but traveling nonetheless. Alas! My excitement was short-lived. When I started surfing for possible schools, courses, scholarships, and countries, I faced ghosts from my past and fears for my future. I could not decide on a thesis topic and so the rest of the decisions that I had to make were put on hold. I learned about tough competition in scholarships and came across so many deadlines.

Deadlines. I hate deadlines. I've killed myself over them in the past, at school and at work, that's why I've been longing to remove all external pressure from this discernment. I want to go about this in full faith and confidence in God's perfect plan and timing. So what if I missed the Chevening and Fulbright scholarships already? I'm not cut out for them anyway. Still, deadlines are a reality in this path that if I wish to take it, I should brace myself for more. Looking for funding for graduate studies, I found out, is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the impatient. So what am I doing exploring this option?

I don't know. Well, I do. I heard God asking me to consider this. I asked Him to be more specific. He just assured me that He would send an angel to guide me and that He would instruct me. With so many doors opening before me, I need the patience of Job (is this right? Was Job patient?) to get through this and reach my promised land.

I could write better if my mind wasn't so cluttered. Something tells me that all shall be well and that this shall have a happy ending. I just pray that I take the right steps towards the right decision.

This is a belated quarter-life crisis. What do I want to do with my life? At 30, I thought that the answer to the child's questions in Que Sera Sera would be clear to me. Well what do you know, I am at another crossroads. Lead me to the ancient paths, Lord!

I wrote this article for Youngblood sometime June 2000 but I never got around to sending it. Instead, it was published in the website of Christ's Youth in Action and then in the October 2001 issue of Kerygma. The Kerygma version was cropped. This is the whole story.

Who is in Control?
by Laura C.H. del Rosario

It was not supposed to be this way. Nobody expected that I would celebrate my twenty-sixth birthday jobless and still dependent on my family for support.

At an early age people had pointed out to me my potentials. They said that I had leadership qualities. They saw that I excelled in school, that I could write, and that I could play the piano. Therefore, I could be anyone I wanted to be. Convinced that I was meant for something great, I planned to heal the world, eliminate hunger, and make a difference. I thought I could achieve all that by becoming a lawyer.

In college, my undergraduate course in the University of the Philippines was what people told me would ensure my entrance in the College of Law. Even though I hated the Economics side of Business Economics, it must have helped boost my confidence when I took the Law Aptitude Exam afterwards.

Law school. For the first time in my life, I could not rely on cramming skills to pass my subjects. I was forced to study for hours everyday. I contented myself with passing grades. I was humiliated repeatedly in class. I missed out on parties and gimmicks. But I endured all that because those were all part of the Plan. While my peers were already earning, getting assigned abroad and even giving birth, my concerns revolved around highlighters, tape flags, self-stick notes, and other school supplies that law students love to collect if only to reflect some color in our otherwise maddening lives. I refused to compare myself with others, though, because I believed I was going the distance in order to reach my goal.

The occasion eagerly awaited by everyone, even by my parents’ friends and my friends’ parents, arrived – my graduation with a degree of Bachelor of Laws. Now it was only a matter of time before my name made it to the front page of the Inquirer as a bar topnotcher, Everyone said. I had my doubts but I did not want to pop their balloons. They believed in me more than I did. To them, I was unstoppable, the hope of the nation. "Kayang-kaya mo yan," they said every time I complained during bar review. They did not see the warning signs that I was losing faith in myself. When I took last year’s bar examinations, I lost control. Those were not my type of questions. They did not make sense to me. The four Sundays of September were pure torture that I simply wanted the sufferings to end.

But after working in my ideal law firm and finding out that Christian lawyering is possible, I forgot about my actual performance in the bar and believed in myself again. The months of waiting for the results I spent working, traveling, and partying. I would save the world once I become a lawyer, I thought. I postponed getting life insurance, working out, and writing to Youngblood, among others, until I passed the bar. My whole life was suspended.

And then, sometime during Mass last February, God spoke to me. He asked me what I would do if I failed the bar. ME, FAIL? Lord, I said, my personal life could be a mess but NOT my career. I had it all planned out. I did all the required steps. I was in control. But the voice was so strong, my siblings suddenly found me shaking and crying. For the next few weeks I had sleepless nights, my whole life flashing before me. One time the Lord asked me which of these two I wanted – to pass the bar or to have true love. Are they mutually exclusive? I asked Him. Eventually, for my peace of mind, I chose true love, albeit reluctantly. I thought it was the right choice.

Just before the bar results came out a reporter from a major television network pestered me for an interview to ask how a barrister felt about the delay in the release of the results and the controversies surrounding the 1999 bar. I refused to grant the interview because I did not want the entire nation looking for my name on the list of successful examinees. I had a premonition.

Thus, when the actual results came out, Everyone in my support group was shocked. I thought that the Lord had readied me for failure but nothing compared to the real feeling. The humiliation was too much, I wanted either to go insane or catch a disease in order to have an excuse to live.

Until I remembered my choice, and realized that I was going to get what I wanted after all – true love. Things began to look up after that. True enough, the people who loved me not for my title but for who I am inside slowly formed an intricate, solid and comforting network of material and moral support with everything I needed to bounce back. I was given the time to find myself again. I was assured that I was strong enough for this. I was provided my own apartment, fully furnished, with food and water delivered to me regularly. I was sent heartwarming e-mails. I was hugged and reminded that I was truly loved.

Sure, I lost some people in my life who, to this day, do not know how to approach me about my situation. But I have everyone and everything I would ever need. I am studying not only for the bar but for life in general. With friends who visit me, treat me to meals, and text me sweet messages; with a family under whose eyes I did not transform into this monster failure but who still loves me and believes in me; with partners in a law firm who say I could still be one of them someday; with brothers and sisters in Christ who walk with me in my journey and who inspire me so much; and with a God who gives me TRUE LOVE, I am content. My life is more meaningful now than, say, if I had passed the 1999 bar examinations.

As for my second take, I hope that when we all look at the papers for my name next year, we would not be disappointed. And if it is not there, do not worry about me. I have learned that God is in control of my life and He knows what is best for me. I have learned to let go of my own life so that I may live it in full. Someday I still hope to heal the world, eliminate hunger, and make a difference. I still hope to have a successful career and to give back all that I have received. But as to HOW I would achieve all that, I am now open to all possibilities. I am no longer limited by my own perceptions. I am no longer pressured to meet Everyone’s expectations.

I am no longer afraid.

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