Day 8: Lessons from Coupleville

Two days ago was a very special day for Michael and I. It marked our 7th monthsary as a couple. Hooray! *cue marching band*

He actually took notes the first time we met. :P

His notes from our first “meeting’ :P

Michael has been really great. I cannot think of any other person I’d rather spend time (and the rest of my life) with. I sometimes still can’t believe that this awesome guy wants to be with me. It’s mind-blowing really.

And since I am in a “Let’s celebrate!” mood, I wanna write down the lessons that I have learned in the 7 months that we have been together.

1. It is not easy but it is worth it.

Michael and I had been friends for a year and a half before we became a couple, so you’d think that we would settle in our new boyfriend-girlfriend roles rather quickly. But nope, that is not what happened.

I really struggled during the first two months of our relationship. One day, I was this anonymous girl minding my own lalalalala business. Then the next, I got thrust into the spotlight that comes with the territory of being a PK’s girlfriend. I wanted none of the attention. I wanted to be left alone. I even asked Michael multiple times to end our relationship because the pressure was killing me. I wanted to be with him but I also wanted a simple, quiet life away from everyone else.

In fairness to Michael, he was super understanding when I was dealing with this. He was patient in helping me understand that the situation is what it is but it doesn’t mean that our relationship will be affected by other people’s opinion and expectations. He also assured me that everyone ultimately wants what’s best for our relationship. This is the community we will be in if the Lord leads us to marriage, after all.

I am still struggling with this. There are times that I really just want to throw in the towel and give up. But I take one look at Michael and somehow find the strength to carry on. When I look at him, I marvel at how God is moving mightily in our lives.

He is worth fighting for.

2. I need to let him know what I think and feel. He can’t read my mind.

Women are good with non-verbal cues. Unfortunately, men are not. There were a lot of times I wished Michael got what I was trying to say without me actually saying it. And as a non-confrontational person, that was hell at first. Michael is a natural problem-solver but needs all the facts before he can process things. That translates to me putting a lot of effort into verbalizing what I am thinking or feeling, especially since I tend to clam up when I am upset. Though hard at first, this brought us closer to each other. Now, we are better at resolving conflicts and letting each other in.

I am also happy that Michael’s nonverbal communication skills have since improved a lot. So has his Tagalog actually. I am one proud girlfriend!

See, he even makes Tagalog puns now!

See, he even makes Tagalog puns now!

3. Encouragement goes a long way.

I cannot count how many times Michael has been a tangible expression of God’s love for me.It would surprise you that the sarcastic meanie Michael is just a façade. Beneath it lies my biggest cheerleader.He makes me laugh when I am feeling sad. He goes out of his way to take care of me even if I was gray with sickness and smelling like puke. His helping hand was a constant companion during my adjustment months working in CCF. He pushes me to become a better person. I am a better version of myself when I am around him.Babe, I’m sorry if I am ruining your reputation. :P

4. We need to establish and keep the boundaries we set.

Because our Christian faith is important to us, we vowed to remain pure while we are dating. That meant having that awkward but very important conversation of setting up and sticking to boundaries. Having boundaries kept us from dealing with gray areas cause we have laid everything in black and white.

I am blessed to be with a man who respects and honors me enough to wait. Holding hands and hugs are as far we are gonna get physically. A 12mn curfew for the both of us has also been established. Saturdays are reserved for each other’s me time.

We also set up boundaries as a way of honoring our parents. Our temporary “happiness” is not worth breaking their hearts and trusts. We didn’t want them worrying about our every move when Michael and I are together. Especially since his parents do a lot of travelling and I am not living at home with my Mom.

5. It’s really not about the two of us. It’s ultimately about Jesus.

It’s easy to lose focus when one is in a relationship. I have a very adorable someone by my side all the time. Mix it with oh-so-intense feelings and well, you get the idea.

It is very important for me to not lose sight of my ULTIMATE relationship – my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is essential that I do not neglect Him as I am growing in my relationship with Michael. If I neglect my relationship with Jesus, I will most probably have a very hard time pursuing righteousness with Michael. It is only by His grace that I am continually being molded to be the woman He wants me to be – a woman who is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, quote the rest of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 here.

My life should be about knowing God, depending on God and being made like God.  With or without Michael.

Teehee <3

Teehee <3

Day 7: The Fear of Mirrors

Evil Queen on TV: Magic mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?
Little Angel: Not me.

I have no recollection of watching Snow White even though that was the first Disney VHS tape (90s kid whaddup?) our family owned. But I remember saying that back to the TV screen aloud. I was prolly five at that time.

Twenty one years later, nothing changed. That line stuck. Up to this day, I still mumble “Not me.” back to the mirror.

I had a hard time writing this. This post is actually weeks in the making. Remember that Dove ad? Yep, that started everything. I didn’t like the ad but it did spark a rather lengthy discussion with ze boyfriend about how society views beauty. It also made me realize how ugly I see myself.

That was actually painful to type.

This pretty thing never worked out for me. In a sea of petite frames, almond eyes and straight hair, frizzy top curvy tomboy me sticks out like a sore thumb. It also did not help that I grew up with a drop-dead gorgeous mom.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I do admit that not being pretty had its advantages. Because I can’t be the pretty girl, I decided to be the smart girl. That pushed me to excel in my studies. I drowned myself in books. I was thrilled to find Plain Janes like me in the stories I read. My heroines growing up (Jane Eyre, Jo March, Anne Shirley and eventually Hermione Granger) were everyday girls who were kickass, brilliant and capable. Their looks did not factor much in their stories. They were able to get their happy endings because they were feisty trailblazers. Besides, I know that beauty is not everything. I’d pick compassion over beauty any day.

books

I love these books. <3

Song of Solomon 4:7 
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

However ugly and fat I see myself to be, it does not change the fact that I am a woman created by the King of kings. I might find it hard to believe sometimes but I am a really His precious princess. He loves me. He sees my acne scars, jiggly arms, humongous feet, crooked teeth and declares my reflection beautiful. He appreciates that I love Him with all my mind and soul. He knows that my body is taking some time to catch up with the other two but He knows that it eventually will. He is amazing like that.

Someday, someday.

P.S. To the boy who processed this (and everything else) with me, thanks for putting up with my craziness. Two happy months! <3

Day 6: Of New Beginnings

There’s something about beginnings that always got me excited.

The crack of dawn. The first note of a song I really love. The flyleaf of a book I have been wanting to read. The opening credits of a movie I have memorized to heart. And of course, the first bite. Always the first bite.

It’s the discovery that draws me in. Knowing that I am about to experience something I have never experienced before is electric. Sure, I will pout and tantrum my way through a change cause I like my life to be as bump-free as possible. But deep inside, I live for the thrill of the new.

The past two months have been full of that. I am just in awe on how God orchestrated these new beginnings.  I still pinch myself to make sure that I am not dreaming.

Beginning #1 – Working at CCF

I spent half of last year wrestling with the decision to work full-time at CCF. (See Day 4.)

I knew God called me to serve him full-time but I dilly dallied. I didn’t want to obey. My friends had to drag me to submit my resume.

I had all these excuses. Me, a church worker? Seriously?! Aren’t church workers Super Christians who are Mr. and Ms. Nice 24/7? I am the total opposite of that. I am a mess. I don’t have my life together. I am definitely Ms. Tantrums 24/7. I am so not the church worker type. Besides, I tanked the interview. I knew the minute I stepped out of the room that I wasn’t the person they were looking for.

That literally brought me to my knees. Rejection was a hard pill to swallow. Especially since I knew that I was obeying God’s call. I sought and begged and cried God for answers but He remained silent. It was during those months of silence that God showed me how full of myself I was. He showed me that it isn’t what I can do but what He can do through me that mattered. He was more concerned on the shaping my character rather than me getting the job.

I started working in CCF last March 1 and it has been a blast. The team I am working with are all passionate on making Him known. It is such a privilege and honor to work with them. We have a lot planned for the upcoming months so it will surely be very busy. Bring it on, I say. I am looking forward to the busyness. And who knew that I will be back doing production work?

My "organized" desk. Yep, this 26-year-old has toys on her desk.

My “organized” desk c/o Sam Noel. Yep, this 26-year-old has toys on her desk.

Beginning #2 – These pretties!

I have always been fearful about starting my own Dgroup. After all, how could someone as broken as me disciple anyone? I didn’t feel I was ready or good enough. But God had been putting the burden in my heart more and more over the last few months. God has also been showing me more and more how He used ordinary, broken people for His glory.

When Pastor Joey challenged me to start my own Skypleship Dgroup, I mumbled a quick prayer to God before saying yes. I told God that I am afraid that the girls that will sign up will not have anything in common with me (I am a weirdo, after all.). I prayed that He gives me ladies that I can minister to. He answered by giving me J, Louise and Shiela.

Pretties! :D

We had our first meeting last Monday and it was so fun! The girls are such dolls! We have lots in common. I am looking forward to our walk with God together.

Beginning #3 – The best beginning ever!

We happened. <3

We happened. <3

1 month, 12 days and counting. (giddy dance)

Michael’s my best friend and superhero all rolled into one! I am really blessed to have him in my life.

P.S. Remember Day 1? :P

Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord has shown His faithfulness to me in more ways than one over the past two months. I have nothing on my lips but praise. My heart is overflowing with gratitude. His love is amazing. I am excited to spend the rest of my life serving Him. :)

Day 5: The Fear of Tears

The tears come.  They always do.

You try to brush them away and smile that perfectly rehearsed smile.  It works for a while.

You go about your usual routine. Books-tea-Liam-Walter-wallet-keys-cardigan, all in the bag.  You function more productively at work. You read 2 books ahead of your 100 books in 2013 reading goal. You sleep better after months of battling insomnia.  You gobble up media like there’s no tomorrow.  Occasionally, you even laugh out loud.

And then one obscenely early Sunday morning, it hits you like a speeding train.

And just like that, the tears come again. They always do.

Blasted tear ducts.

You berate yourself for feeling like the emotional wreck that you vowed not to be, never to be.  You tell yourself that you are not some silly high school girl.  You’re an independent 25-year-old fending off for herself in a big scary city and you’re doing really well.  You have a handful of friends who love and think the world of you.  Your family isn’t perfect but they mean the world to you and you to them.  Something big and beautiful and scary is in the horizon for you and you’re jumping hands up in the air while shouting for everyone to hear, “Look, Ma. No hands!”

But the tears still come.  You still start the year by making this silly post.

Things take time, I guess.

Day 4 – The Fear of Fighting a Battle Alone

I look up from the e-book I am reading and I see it.  And for the first time in months, I take the massive sight of it all in and mumble a quick thanks to God.

I have moved in to the new apartment that I share with my 2 roommates last September and from then til now, I have been averting my eyes every time I pass by that building.  Which btw is every freakin’ day.

I am a very visual person and I just cannot bear myself to look at it ‘cause the building represented everything that has been plaguing me this half year.

A prayer that was left unanswered.  A dream that was not fulfilled.  A future that did not happen.

Or so I thought.

I am gonna be the first to admit that patience is not really my strongest suit.  I despise, make that abhor waiting.  Especially if it’s waiting for something I really really really want or when I have sacrificed or am willing to sacrifice everything just to do this one thing that I don’t really want to do in the first place.

I gotta have things my way on my time on my terms.  All or nothing.  And I will do everything in my power to do everything to get it.

So the past few months of fighting for something alone wiped me out.  I cannot do anything but be still.  I seriously wanted to take the easy way out. Pull the plug and give up.  It was the most logical thing to do.  I don’t deserve to be treated this way.  I didn’t need this.  I am perfectly fine where I was.  I don’t need added drama (Yep, world.  That came from Drama Queen me.)  in my life. Plus the fact that it is easier and less complicated.

As is the theme of this blog, it was again about me, me, me, me, me and me.

Yep, I am such a self-centered, spoiled brat.

I have always wanted something/someone to fight for me.  I won’t admit it to your face but that’s what I have always wanted.  All my life, I was the one who picked up the wee bow (Should be read with Merida’s gorgeous accent, of course.) and fought for things/people/beliefs that I love.  I guess I am waiting for the moment that someone/something else will do the fighting for me.  Cause to be honest, fighting a battle by yourself can be extremely exhausting and lonely.

Because of months of silence, I assumed that I was just the one holding on, wishing, fighting and praying for this.

Little did I know that people have been fighting alongside me all this time.  They were actually on my side!  They didn’t abandon ship.  They wanted me on board.  And not because they were desperate or didn’t have any other choice but because they really thought that I can do it.  They believed in me even if I myself didn’t believe in me.

After all the sleepless nights battling self-doubt, hearing that was kinda too much.  (If you’re me, EVERYTHING is kinda too much.  I can be very dramatic, what can I say?)  How could I be so shortsighted?  How could I be so stupid?  As is always the case, all I was seeing was myself.  God was powerfully moving in the background but I was too busy with this whole self-preservation deal to notice that.

If I am to get this “figuring out life” thing really rolling, I have to believe that people are not out there to get me.  They are for me.  Sure, they can (and prolly will) disappoint me.  Sure, they can (and prolly will) hurt me.  But by shutting people out, I am just hindering myself from growing.  The problem with having books as your friends growing up is that they never talk back.  They never disagree with you.  I can always change the book if I don’t want to read it anymore. I have been so used to that setup that I was pretty much applying that to my dealings with people.  But that’s not how it works in real life.

I need to let people in.  I need them to challenge my beliefs.  I need them to broaden my perspective.  I need to give myself an opportunity to know them and vice versa.  I cannot just shut out everyone who does not make me feel safe.  Plus, it’s getting boring just hearing my own voice over and over again.

I dunno what will happen to this dream but every time I will pass by that building now, I will smile knowing that God and other people are fighting alongside me.  He may choose to grant the desires of my heart.  He may choose to withhold it too.  But I will choose to trust in His ways and timing and learn to accept His answer, whether it’s yes, no or wait.

Day 3 – The Fear of Not Being Different

If there was one thing that drove me to where I am right now, it has always been my desire to be different.

I remember 4–year-old me making a promise to lead a very different life from everyone in my family.  (You want the sordid details? Talk to me in person.)  I vowed that I will excel in my studies and use my education to get out of the hell hole that was Cavite.  I will not be like them, never be like them.

I entered school and the desire to be different took over my life.  I was kinda great at school so I thrived in that environment.  I was the weird literature-loving girl in elementary and high school. I was fortunate enough to go to UP Diliman where I was known as the black-wearing, music-loving, I-am–gonna-be-a-music-journalist-after-this-suckers girl who didn’t really care about what others thought.

I lived for the high that being different brought me.  Then I met Jesus my last semester in college and everything changed.

The Jesus I knew growing up was angry and distant.  The Jesus that CCC (Bless these people, really!) was so countercultural and awesome that I wanted to be like him.  Finally someone I can aspire to be.  Finally someone who loved me back wholly.  Finally someone who accepted me, flaws and deep wounds and issues and all.  I was so filled with His love that I wanted to go fulltime with CCC to share the gospel.

Life, however, happened.

My mom kicked me out of the house when she found out that I was a Christian and wanted to be a missionary.  I don’t blame her.  My mom has always been the pragmatic type.  She is also not a believer so the big revelation that her only daughter is “throwing it all away” (her words) for God (who was never really a figure in our lives) is so absurd.  Plus the fact that the one who financed my college education was my very pious Roman Catholic aunt in the States also did not help. She just wanted what was what she thought was best for me.  Translation? Financial security.

And that didn’t sit well with oh-so-smart-I-got-this-all-figured-out fresh from graduation me.  I wanted adventure.  I wanted to change and see the world.  I wanted to create.  I wanted to collaborate.  I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to be different.  I didn’t (and still don’t) care about money.

But all I had was passion.  Without firm Christian foundations yet(still?),  I got pretty bogged down by everyday survival that I decided to put God on hold and pursue a career far from the mission field.

Those were my wilderness years.  I learned it the hard way that a person cannot really spark a revolution however good your intentions are.  As much as I hated admitting it, I became part of the system that I vowed to change.  The idealist got disillusioned and beaten down.  I was no longer different.

I became a suit. *shudders*

Thankfully, God had other plans.

After 3 years, He finally called me to the mission field through OMF Literature, Inc.  For the first time ever, I was plugged into the Christian world and they were okay that I was different.  My typical day was filled with books, God, fellow Christians who understood and celebrated my quirks, spiritual mentors, meaningful conversations, lots of laughs, books and more books.  I also started taking my faith “seriously” and decided to plug myself into CCF St. Francis mid last year.

I was at my happy place and I got spoiled and complacent.  I thought that since I was leading such a great life, I can handle things my way again.

Yep, I can really be the stupidest girl in the world sometimes.

God gave me a clear vision of where He wanted me to be early this year.  I shrugged it off, tried to run away from it because it was so far from what I envisioned myself to be.  I told God that I didn’t want to be a bore. (BAHAHAHAHA)

But He was persistent.  He kept me awake for days on end.  I relented begrudgingly, took the first few steps that He showed me to take then He became silent.

Just. Like. That.

It seemed so unfair to stop hearing from Him after I did everything He asked me to.  Little did I know that He was using that silence to teach me something else.  I was so focused on His grueling silence regarding my obedience that I failed to realize that He is using this season to teach me that this I got this whole being different business all wrong.

This obsession for my being unique made me alienate/hurt a lot of people.  It wasn’t my intention and I wasn’t aware that I have been doing that but I have been judging people who didn’t agree with my likes and belief system.  Yep, the girl who hated judgmental people became judgmental herself.  The irony of all ironies.

I was such a jerk.

The funny thing is I am now realizing that in reality, I really am not that different from everybody else.  It will still take me some time to unlearn it but I am beginning to accept the fact that I am essentially just like you.  And that is not a bad thing.

After all, just like you, I am in need of God’s mercy and saving grace.  Without Him, who are we really?  Without Him, who am I really?

I am getting there in His time.  Someday, someday.

P.S. I’d still prolly judge you if you like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey but it won’t be a reason to pull the “Friendship over.” card. Or not.

P.P.S. I still want adventure.  I still want to change and see the world.  I still want to create.  I still want to collaborate.  I still want to make a difference.

Day 2 – The Fear of Reaching Out to Someone You’ve Wronged

They’ve always said that you always hurt the ones you love most.  As much as I wanna cry foul over that statement, I know I did just that to him 7 years ago.

Last time we saw each other, I said a lot of things I really didn’t mean.  I was sick with chicken pox, young and stupid.  I also just had a grueling NatSci 1 (a Physics and Chem combo GE subject for everyone who’s not from UP) midterms that I somehow managed to do great in despite my sickness so that might  have contributed to that, too.

“You never accepted me as your dad.”

“You know what’s funny?  The year I finally told myself that I want you two to get married, you do this to us. So thanks a lot for ruining our lives!”

I was tired of hearing my Mom cry herself to sleep.  I was tired of seeing my brother waste a year away just because of what happened.  I was tired of trying to be strong for everyone when I was also hurting.

The only family I knew is falling apart in front of my eyes and I cannot do anything to prevent it.

————————————————————————————————-

I picked up the phone, dialed AFPMC’s number and tried my luck into weaseling my way through the operators to talk to my ex-stepdad over the lunch break today.

It’s been 7 years.  I actually never thought I’d be able to hear his voice again.  I don’t know why but the minute he said hello, the tears started streaming down my face.

It was so good to hear his voice again.

We did the usual small talk.  I asked him how he is and he told me that his diabetes has taken a turn for the worse over the past few years.  He now has to undergo dialysis three times a week.  I winced when he said that.  He told me about seeing Inka and Topher last year.  Inka’s going to college next year and Topher’s doing great even if the kid is kinda sickly.  He also told me the last time he saw me was on TV.  I marveled at the fact that that seemed like ages ago.  My voice apparently changed, too.  I laughed a little and said that 7 years is a really long time.

He also answered the question that was plaguing me all these months.  It was really him whom I saw in Megamall on a wheelchair some months back.  He told me he saw my hair and knew instantly that that was me even though he didn’t get to see my face.  I told him I regretted not stopping to say hi.  I wanted to tell him that the reason why I stopped is that I couldn’t bear seeing him that way.  You never really want to see your parents (biological or not) that way. Ever.  I was not ready to accept the fact the he was that sick.  I wanted to tell him all these so badly but I didn’t.  I guess I wanted to tell him that in person.

I wanted to talk more but he’s scheduled for a dialysis and had to go.  I left my number and told him I wanted to meet him for dinner and I am bringing Oyie, too.  He told me that he’s free by Thursday next week.

If he doesn’t text me, I’ll call him next week.

————————————————————————————————-

Next up?

Contacting my real dad.