The Challenge Ends (Sort of)

(Day 30 — 5 good things that happened since you started the challenge)

Tucked behind the back pocket of a long forgotten favourite pair of jeans she had once worn habitually was a dream she had once dreamed about repeatedly. Pragmatics, the demands of the busy nine-to-five, and the simple frustration of not being able to come up with anything significant had pushed that pair of jeans – and that dream – deep, deep into her closet. They would have remained there. They would have stayed as mere mementos if it hadn’t been for a gentle prodding of the Spirit to plough through the closet and bring that pair of jeans – and that dream – out.

Hesitantly, she dug through the layers of excuses and doubt, allowing her fingers to touch the familiar and comfortable fabric once again. Her heart did Russian somersaults as her hand reached into the lint-filled pocket.

Though covered with dust, the golden ball was as magnificent as it always was.  Finally. The dream is out.

I started this 30 Day Challenge at the beginning of the year because I was looking for way to get my creative juices flowing. I wanted oh-so-badly to go back to writing, to go back to my very first (or was it my second?) love. I already knew then that I wouldn’t be able to finish it in 30 days (full time work, ministry, and social life anyone?) but I had set it in my heart that I would finish it, I would finish it, I would finish it, I would.

And so here we are. At the end of the challenge. If you wish to retrace the journey, you’ll find it all here:

Oh but I’m supposed to write about the five good things that happened since I started the challenge. Well, here they are:

Number 1. I fell back into love. With writing, with drawing, with painting even the simplest pieces of artwork.

Number 2. I learned about the profound power words have on other people. With my writing I can inspire, change mindsets, induce bouts of laughter, and even make waves of kilig warm other people’s hearts.

Number 3. I found out that my parents are still my greatest fans.

Number 4. I learned to keep dreaming, keep writing, keep living, even when – especially when – the world around me – the world as I knew it, the world as I hoped it would remain to be, the world as I hoped it would be – crumbled down into indistinct gingerbread shambles.

Number 5. I realized that when God gives you a gift, you just have to use it. Don’t worry too much about what other people say. Don’t worry too much about what other people think. Just use the gift, hone it, and wield it well. I am trying to do that now — I know one day I shall get far. Very far.

And so this challenge may end here. But the writing does not. Thank you for reading through this entry. If you have also read through the others, I thank you for being part of the journey, too. So cheers to this. Cheers to us. Cheers to you. ;)

So old school.
So old school.


(Day 29 — Who is your hero? Can I change this to “Who are your heroes?”)

Some called them pioneers. Some called them forefathers. Some called them dinosaurs. But she called them heroes.

Their exploits were recorded in chronicles which she kept inside two clear books — one bright green, one bright purple. She looked up to them, marvelled at their sacrifices, and really just saluted them for their passion and perseverance. “Abraham, Abraham. Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family and go to the land which I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) To get up and leave family and friends behind to fulfil a higher call was no joke and she honoured them for doing that.

One day, she found herself dwelling among those giants. She felt small in comparison to them — like a grasshopper, like what the 10 spies felt when they stepped into Canaan. But soon she realized that she too was a giant — nay — a giant slayer like them. And soon, she realized that those pioneers were not just pioneers. They were friends — family she could always run to and turn to.

But as fate would have it, destiny brought those heroes to shores distant — elsewhere — and the grasshopper — nay, the giant slayer — found herself alone.

Or so she thought.

Soon, she found herself in the company of a new breed of heroes. She saw a new breed of giant slayers rising up, getting ready to take over the piece of land that was given to them, preparing to fight the battles and conquests which were at hand. These heroes — new, hand in hand with the old — gave her hope. Hope that all things were possible, that the almost forgotten dreams and promises would soon — yes, very soon — come true.

And because the Hero of heroes was with them, she knew. Those dreams and promises would soon come true.

Stressed Much?

(Day 28 — What stresses you out?)

Long lines, heavy traffic, commuters pressing in left and right — Mari is patient, Mari is kind. Hard to solve computer and web-related issues, tight deadlines — Mari is so patient, Mari is so kind. Confusing people, confusing situations, confusing — MARI IS SO VERY PATIENT AND MARI IS SO VERY KIND.

Thank You, Lord, for good music. Thank You, Lord, for friends who’ll laugh with you, listen and rant along with you, and even sing along to crazy karaoke songs with you.

Thank You, Lord, for every good stress busters that there are.


I’m going to stop right here before this entry also stresses you out.



(Day 27 – Photo of your city)

It’s 6:18 PM here in Kuala Lumpur. 6:18 and the sky is still relatively bright. I’m used to it. I’ve been living here for 3 years and 5 months now, thus the Malaysian part of me now finds sunsets between 5:30 to 6:00 PM strange.

My cubiclemate sent me an IM during yesterday’s afternoon lull: “You should find a Malaysian BF and marry him so that I can see you forever!” (Implying that I should stay in Malaysia until I met face to face with my Maker.)

My reply: “Can not be, somebody will get angry.”

That elicited an, “Oooh! I didn’t know you had a boyfriend!” response from her (I didn’t know that I had one either, lol). I just chuckled and messaged her, “Look in my photos page.”

I glanced over my shoulder and saw her browsing through my Facebook profile. Her eyes must have been turning round and round like the wheels of her Myvi so I stopped messing with her. I slid my office chair closer to her and pointed to a picture of a lovestruck couple posing at a bus station somewhere.

“My parents will get angry if I do that.”

Poor cubiclemate. Hehe.

But seriously. I love Malaysia and will stay here much longer. My car’s under a seven year loan, thank you very much (as if that doesn’t speak loudly enough).

But the world is big, far, far too big. There are many more cities to discover.

But for now, this is the city which I have yet to explore. This is the city which I have yet to conquer.

This is the city which I have yet to conquer.

So who’s in this with me? ;)

A Short Break

Taking a short break from the writing challenge to give you this retelling of Ecclesiastes 12 (New Living Translation). Finding it fun doing this. Perhaps I should retell stories/verses more often? Hmmm. Enjoy. ^_^

Vanity of Vanities

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Vanity of vanities — everything is vanity!

I turn my eyes towards the sky, but the sun, the moon, and the stars have all been replaced by this thick blanket of darkness. Ominous clouds swirl about the heavens even though the rain has already long fallen.

This only means one thing. My eyes have grown dim.

My legs tremble. My shoulders stoop. My teeth — as my eyes — they are gone and are no more.

I have nothing more to live for. Every door to every opportunity has already slammed shut in front of my face. I have given up the daily nine-to-five a long time ago. But why do I wake up each morning still? Why, when I do, do the birds continue to sing? But why, though I know they are chirping, do I not hear even a single tune?

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

Heights and falling scare me now, as do danger in the streets. My hair is no longer golden — every strand is as white as snow. They compare me to a grasshopper and aphrodisiacs no longer turn me on.

I shall die later on.

My dust shall return to the earth. My spirit — will it indeed return to the God who made it?

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

I should have remembered Him while I was at the prime of my youth, before any of these happened.  I should have made my Maker my front row and centre. I should have sought Him more than knowledge and books, more than booze and empty fun.

But now all must come to an end. The silver chord has snapped. The golden cup is broken.

As am I.

Would things have been different if I feared God? Would things have found meaning if I kept and obeyed His commandments? After all, it should have been simple — to simply love God with all I am, and to simply love my neighbours as I love myself.

But everything is meaningless. Vanity of vanities — everything is vanity.

Yet I heard God will judge us for everything we do — the good, the bad, the seen, the unseen.

Meaningless. Everything is meaningless.





When I get to the end of the road, would I want to be like that person crying out in disdain because everything is completely meaningless? Or would I want to be a person who would be crying out for joy having lived a life of abundance, a life of satisfying fullness (John 10:10b)?

It’s a choice. A simple one, really, that would boil down to this: Will I fear God and obey His very commandments? McManus says:

When we fear God, we fear nothing else. It is only in fear of God that we find ourselves free from the fear of death, of failure, and all the other fear that binds us. (from Uprising, page 242)

Misty Edwards also sums it up well in her song, Point of Life:

Knowing You is the answer to the riddle of the point of life. The point of life is You. It’s You. Loving You is the reason that I’m breathing. It’s the absolute — the point of life is You.

Meaningless? Everything is not meaningless. :)

Marry Christmas. Again.

(Day 26 – Your dream wedding)

So I’m supposed to be writing about my dream wedding, huh? I guess it’s pretty much in season as wedding bells will be resounding once again this December — A LOT of my friends will be getting married during that festive month, you see. Pity I won’t be able to join in any of the fun. I’m stuck in My because of my passport. Anyway. I’ll just turn into a likebot then and like every single one of my friends’ pictures in Facebook.

But back to this entry’s topic. My “dream wedding”. Well, today’s fanciful story isn’t so much a dream wedding in the sense that this specific wedding is what I want my wedding to be like. In fact, it’s a “dream wedding” because the truth is that I’ve been having recurring fantasies of this specific nuptial since 2008. Lol. Four years ago, I scribbled a little story about a wedding from the point of view of a maid of honour (‘honor’ in these tales because I followed the US spelling) who was struggling because her younger sister was the one getting married while she — the older one — had no suitors in sight. I followed it up with the bride’s side of the story because I wanted to give the younger sister justice. Three years later, the wedding planner came in and put her two cents into the storyline, giving you, dear readers, new insights to learn about lurv and all that jazz. 

So now I’ll throw in another love story into this web of stories.

Twill be quite long. But I hope you’ll enjoy this one anyway. :)

Marry Christmas (Shirley’s Story) 

Mari Anjeli B. Lubrica

08 November 2012

Perfect sunshine. Perfect breeze. Perfect everything. Did everything have to be so perfect? Shirley knew it was wrong, but she couldn’t help but be a very glum attendee of the “wedding of the year”.

She looked around the rooftop garden, around the deep red and forest green scene, and found herself sighing, seeing how everyone there had “somebody to love” with them. There was the exuberant bride who would waltz into the arms of her dashing groom, of course. Then there was Grace with dear old Wilson. There was Sandra, the wedding planner, with David, the photographer. And there was — oh. Laura didn’t have anyone with her. Shirley glanced at the maid of honor who was, at that moment, wearing a disdainful look that was all too very much familiar to her.

It was familiar because she was wearing it as well.

Oh, Marcus. Why can’t you be here, too???

“All right! Everyone marches in at the count of three! One – two — ”

Te-te-te-tennn… te-te-te-tennn… te-te-te-tennn tennn tennnen tennn tenn tennn te-ne-nennn tennn tennn…


Shirley heaved a sigh and willed herself to enjoy the wedding. I will not think about Marcus Reyes. I will not think about Marcus Reyes. I will not — God, what on earth could he be doing right now?

As the flower girls, the bridesmaids, and the maid of honor paraded down the rose strewn pathway, the wedding guests craned their necks towards the rooftop’s door, eagerly anticipating the giddy bride’s grand entrance. Everyone held their breath.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the bride.”

Shirley gave Ashley’s beautiful countenance a quick look over and thought to herself, Wow, Ash is so pretty.

Oh God, what could Marcus be doing now?

* * *

“Bye! Bye, Shirley! Bye, Grace! Thanks for everything! Wilson, take care of those two… Bye! Oh — and Merry Christmas!”

Was it already Christmas? Shirley glanced at her watch and saw that the clock had indeed struck midnight. Well, trust Ashley to set “The Night Before Christmas” as her wedding date. The woman gave Laura a nod goodbye, mouthing out the words, “Merry Christmas to you, too!”

It was very “un-Christmasy”, but Shirley felt her foul mood return when she walked through the parking lot with the mushy Grace and Wilson. The couple promenaded a few steps in front of her with their fingers intertwined and Shirley felt a sigh rising up from her chest yet again. Wilson had been kind enough to offer her a ride home. Now, she wasn’t so sure if she should have accepted the offer. Perhaps it would have been better if she had hitched a ride with Sandra instead.

Her disposition improved, however, once they got into the secondhand Toyota. At least there’ll be less cheesyness here, Shirley thought to herself, knowing that Wilson liked to be focused when he drove. Let’s all have a nice and quiet ride home.

But the engine had barely started to rev up when Grace popped the dreaded question. “So, Shirley. You’ve been very quiet tonight. How’s Marcus?”

“Oh, he’s great.” So much for a nice and quiet ride home.

* * *

Shirley woke up the following morning feeling a thousand hammers hammering through her brain. She wasn’t used to sleeping short hours anymore. But she had a shift at The Bean. She had no choice but to get up at that unmerciful hour that Christmas morn. 7:30 AM. She had an hour. She’d have to shower soon.

She glanced at her phone — set strategically next to Marcus’ picture by her bedside — and peered into the screen. No message. No missed call. No nothing.

Shower, Shirley, she told herself. You have to shower.

The 25-year-old stripped her pajamas off and dragged herself into the bathroom. As she turned the water on, she felt the hot water beat down her back like rain on a hot summer day.

Rain. Marcus is so much like the rain, Shirley thought to herself. You don’t know when he’s going to call or message you. You don’t know if it will be a torrent or a drizzle. All you know is that, sooner or later, he’ll drop by a hello. But you just don’t know when. He really is like the rain. So very, very, very unpredictable.

She turned the water off and wrapped herself in a fluffy light blue towel, the one Marcus gave her last Christmas. It was her favorite color. And her boyfriend knew that she liked anything warm and fluffy, thus the well thought of gift.

The truth was, Marcus was a really sweet fellow. He was an awesome boyfriend. He was an awesome person, really.

But because he was so awesome, he just had to take a couple of months off for himself to go to an art exposure trip to Europe. Right now, Shirley didn’t know whether her boyfriend was in Paris, Nice, London, or Madrid. Well, the last postcard that she got from him had a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in it. But that was a month — or two months — ago. When they Skyped the previous week, he said that he was in Venice. Well, who knew where he was now. She hadn’t heard anything from him since that voice chat.

Shirley put on her Bean’s brown uniform and glanced at her phone again. Nothing.

Right. It was time to get to work anyway.

* * *

“Hey, Shirley! Wassup? Merry Christmas!” The barista was busy refilling the coffee maker when David Sanchez came in.

“Hello, David! Merry Christmas to you, too! What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home with your family?”

“Haha. Yes. But I stole a couple of minutes — well maybe it’ll turn into a couple of hours — away from the house. I’m here to meet someone.”

“Oh, okay. Can I get you anything?”

“Just a glass of water for now. Don’t want to get too caffeinated just yet. I’ll place my real order later.”

“Sure thing. A fake order of water, coming right up.”

The photographer laughed as Shirley filled up a glass for him. “Thanks, Shirl. By the way, how’s Marcus doing? Has he called you up to greet you a sweet, sweet Christmas yet?”

Shirley made a face. “No, he hasn’t. Now why does everyone keep asking me about Marcus???”

“Uhh, maybe because he’s your boyfriend?”

The barista scrunched her nose up. “Yeah, maybe that’s it.”

David threw her an understanding look. “Everything going well with the dashing painter?”

The was no other customer inside the coffee shop save for David, so Shirley took the seat in front of him as well as the opportunity to talk to him. “Swell. But to be honest, I don’t really hear that much from him these days. Our last Skype was, like, last week. I miss him.”

“Well, you have to extend your patience and understanding, you know. He’s a busy man. He’s always on the road. He’s always got a paintbrush in his hands. He’s — “

“He’s always got the time for everything except me?”

David smiled. “C’mon, Shirl. Don’t think that way. Marcus loves you very much. You know that.”

“Then why doesn’t he show it???” Shirley was really thankful that nobody else was at the coffee shop to witness her unhappy outburst.

“Well, men have different ways of showing love, I guess. Come on. Think, girl. I’m sure Marcus does show his love for you — in his own Marcus ways.”

“Well, he did give me that towel. Okay, that doesn’t sound so romantic, but that was sweet. He gave me flowers once. Chocolates, too. Paintings. Lots and lots of paintings.”

“You see! He does show his love for you. I think gifts are Marcus’ love language, Shirl.”

“But my receiving language is time! I need him to give me time! Words, too! Though I do love gifts very much…”

“Well, you can’t demand too much of that from him right now.”

“I can’t demand anything from him right now.”

“Patience, dear. Give him time. Give him space. How long is the program going to last, by the way?”

“I really don’t know. It’s still indefinite. Sometimes I get the feeling that he’ll only come back when his money runs out.”

“Again, I tell you — patience. Well, he’s out living his dream. So go and live yours out now. Enjoy life. Enjoy the learnings in this time that you and Marcus are apart. Besides. It’s not like you guys are already “one” right now. You still have your separate lives. But you’ll get there, girl, in time.”

Shirley shook her head and got out of the chair, hearing the entrance bell ring, signalling the arrival of a customer. “Why are you so sensible, David?”

“Because I’m totally awesome. Isn’t that right, Sandy?” David called out to the newcomer.

Sandra rolled her eyes at him. “Yes, you are totally awesome. Hey, Shirley. Can I have a short caramel macchiato, please?” She reached out for some bills from her purse but David stopped her.

“No, no — it’s on me. One short caramel macchiato for the lady. One tall americano for me.”

“One short caramel macchiato and one tall americano coming right up,” Shirley quipped.

David caught the barista’s eye as she headed back to the counter.

“In time, my friend. In time.”

Sandra raised her eyebrows at the photographer who in turn winked at her. The wedding planner rolled her eyes.

Suddenly, Shirley’s phone began to ring. “Hold up, guys. I’ve got an incoming call.”

David and Sandra looked at one another and gave the girl a significant glance. “Merry Christmas, Shirley!”

Paint Me a Picture of a Future Scene

(Day 25 – Something that you’re looking forward to)

The colours came easily. I thought it would be difficult to paint that picture but, surprisingly,  it felt natural to mix the browns with the greens, the purples with the blues, the reds with the yellows and blacks. Quickly, the different hues mixed in to form what my heart believed to be a future scene.

A rainbow. A door. A clear blue sky. White swirls that stemmed out of my fanciful imagination. These gave allusion to dreams and promises waiting to be fulfilled, unknown territories waiting to be discovered. Joy. Happiness. Squabbles over soap and laundry detergent brands. All kinds of unexpected adventures and endless possibilities blended in with the painting’s blues and greens.

A girl. Facing the door. Fulfilled after walking down her own independent and clandestine path.

A boy. The bravest she has ever met. Next to her. Blurry still in this picture but clearer – perhaps – in time.

Together. Eyes, hearts, minds open to the invitation of that life yet to come.

My fingers trembled holding the finished piece. Truly, it was something any girl would look forward to. It was something I – honestly, yes, oh so very truthfully – have always set my heart onto.

I heaved a sigh, yet, at the same time, looked at the picture with a smile. It shall find its place in that box, that chest secured by a very special lock and key. One day, it shall once again see light. One day, it might even be put up on display.

But then we’ll have to wait for that ‘one day’.

Well, we shall get there in time. :)



(Day 24 — Something that you’ve learned)

I should never have set my feet upon this road. They warned me, you know. They said that I was likely to get beaten. They said that I was likely to get robbed.

Well. I was both beaten and robbed. What more, I am stripped off the very fabric that just this very morning had clothed and covered my skin.

I’m almost naked. The sun is beating down upon my wounds. I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my arms. I can’t feel my — Oh God, what did they do to my arms?

Water. I need water. If only it would rain. Perhaps that would wash away the blood and grime off my skin. Perhaps that would soothe my parched throat. Perhaps —

Wait! What is that I see? I fear I’m in the state of delirium — but is that a wayfarer there yonder? Tassels in his robe — oh, he’s wearing a robe — and —

Gone. My first hope of rescue. Lost.

I squint at the dust. The brown particles, they lull me to sleep. They fly up into the air, swirl around my nostrils, conjuring up unidentifiable images that only make my head spin.

Linen. They’re forming patterns that look like linen. Linen??? On a Levite? Could it be? Is that a Levite down the road? Oh kind-hearted soul —

Gone. My second hope of deliverance. Lost.

I shall die today in this road I never should have taken.

What will happen to my wife? She shall have to find a kinsman redeemer. Oh, I can not bear it. Her with another man! But I can not bear the thought either of her facing the stigma of being a widow, of being a —

What are these? Hands. Hands touching my wounds. Is that oil dripping on my skin? Are those bandages being wrapped around my shoulders? Are those —

I can feel my feet again. I can feel my arms. My fingers — can I move my fingers again? A tiny twitch. That’s good enough.

The hands. They are lifting me up. Into the back of an animal. I am saved. I am being rescued. I am —

My mind goes blank. After a second, I remember nothing more.

* * *

“Well look at you. I was thinking you’d never get up. You’ve been out for three days now, you know.”

“I was? Wait. Where am I?”

“Jericho Inn, my dear friend. Jericho Inn.”

“How did I get here?”

“A Samaritan fellow took you in. Haggard fellow, really. Kept fishing around his pockets for some denarii that could at least keep you here. Said he’ll come back. Got some more expenses to cover. Was that guy your friend? You mightn’t see him anymore though. Dunno if you’ll catch him. Or if he’ll catch you. You’re good to go by this afternoon, you know.”

I imagine my eyes are as wide as saucers as the innkeeper and I engage in this exchange. A Samaritan? A man from an opposing camp? A Samaritan fellow helped out a — a Jew?

How totally unreasonable.

Moments later, I hear footsteps. My heart jumps in my chest. Seconds after, I see him.

“Innkeeper, is he well?”

I clear my throat. My eyes meet those of my deliverer.

“Yes, I am well. Thank you. My life is indebted to you.”


“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be the neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

The Good Samaritan. The Helpless Jew. It’s a well worn tale I grew up with in church and in Sunday School. But revisiting the story this Sunday gave a rather fresh learning — and yes, a fresh stirring — to my soul.

The lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit life eternal. Jesus had asked him in turn, “What is written in the law?” The lawyer knew this well. It showed in his reply — “Give your all to God. Give your all to your neighbour as well.” (See Luke 10:25-28)

But who is my neighbour? And — this is a tough one — based on the story and based on Jesus’ and the lawyer’s exchange — am I a neighbour?

“The neighbour is the one who showed the man mercy.”

This be my Sunday learning. Truly, it is not right to say that you love God but not love His people. Indeed, it is incomprehensible if you give your whole heart to the Invisible but withhold every part from those visible around you.

So. Today. Tomorrow. Will I be like the priest, like the Levite, who just drifted by? Or will I be a neighbour? Will I be like that Samaritan guy?