Gifts

Tis the season once again. Belt out those falalalalasbring out the keso de bolas, and spread some Christmas holiday cheer! Snow’s already been invading my blog these past few weeks, so that’s a start. But I thought I’d still do a little project, like the one I did last year with the Fire Potion thing.

I read a book entitled The Secret of Counting Gifts at the beginning of 2013. It was one of those gems which touched my heart profoundly. I think one of the biggest lessons I got from the novel is that it makes a big difference when we stop to appreciate the different “gifts” we encounter daily.

From now until January 1st, I’m going to list those gifts down. Will post on Wednesdays and Fridays, including one on a stray Monday. Care to join me on this journey?

These are the gifts that I will be counting:

  1. Gift of Memories: Seven 2013 highlights
  2. Gift of Song: Six Songs for 2013
  3. Gift of Stories: Five Memorable Books
  4. Gift of Pictures: Four Important Photographs
  5. Gift of Lessons: Three Lessons Learned
  6. Gift of Turnaround: Two Turning Points
  7. Gift of the Future: One Thing I Desire for 2014

Are you all ready? Let the counting begin!

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On Being a Writer and a Storyteller

I am a storyteller. After years of trying to discover my writing niche, I’ve come up with the conclusion that telling stories — both fiction and non-fiction — is what I do best. I write long, thoughtful, melancholy prose punctuated by an abundance of commas and em-dashes. I write gently, romantically, and whimsically. Rarely would you find me writing tongue-in-cheek, bitch-slapping pieces. I don’t talk that way (harshly, bluntly) in person so… It would be kinda weird if I start taking on that tone of voice as a writer.

Once upon a time, I was a feature writer in both my elementary and secondary school papers. Once upon a time, I was the EIC and I wrote editorial pieces as well. Once upon a time, I had the privilege to compete in two national level campus journalism competitions — feature writing in Tacloban, Leyte* when I was eleven; editorial writing in Sta Cruz, Laguna when I was fifteen.

I had dreams of pursuing a degree in mass communication but, in retrospect, that might not have worked out for me. I’m too much of a softie. I watched Patricia Evangelista’s Diliman Ted X Talk on “Why We Tell Stories” the other day. Let’s say the universe conspired differently and I would now be working for a newspaper or a television company, would I have the courage and strength to put my life constantly on the line by doing hardcore journalistic reporting?

Perhaps I would, perhaps I wouldn’t.

So yeah, right now I’m a coder and I sit behind the computer most days typing out scripts — HTML, jQuery, PHP, and no, not production nor broadcasting scripts. But you can never take the communicator away from me. And so I continue to write stories.

But to what end? Why put my voice out into the sea of others, into a sea which many now shun, take for granted, or care little about? I mean, come on. I’m thankful for my blog followers, I’m thankful for those who take the time to read these pieces, and I will continue to write even if I had an audience of none — but yeah. Sometimes it gets disheartening when you’ve poured out everything to a piece only to find that you can count the number of people who’ve read that with one hand.

Maybe I should stop writing altogether and do something more productive instead.

But take writing away from me and you’ll leave me dead, lifeless, void of dreams and passion. So I won’t quit. I won’t give up. I won’t.

I chanced upon a tweet from Juan Ekis, a Palanca winning playwright, the other day. He said, “Nakakadepress magbasa ng balita sa feeds [It’s depressing to read the news in our feeds]. This is the perfect time for storytellers to donate healing & affirming stories to our people.” Can I say amen to that?

I realize that is what I can offer as a writer, as a storyteller. I can offer stories of hope. I can offer stories of healing and affirmation. I can even offer stories of kilig if you want, but that’s mostly because out of the overflow of the heart the keyboard creaks.

I can offer travel tales (read: misadventures) which will add color to your dullest of days, I can offer prose which will make you fall in love with words in a thousand and one ways.

I’m going to continue treading upon the path of a storyteller. I know it won’t be easy. I may or may not make it but one thing is certain: I have to keep on writing.

No. Matter. What.

I am actually drawing here, but I tell stories through visual art, too.
I am actually drawing here, but I tell stories through visual art, too.

___

*Tacloban is still a MESS. Hope is starting to rise up from the ruins, but please do continue to pray. Keep those donations coming in, and help out by volunteering if you can. Thank you. You are all good and wonderful people.

Bungkus (Takeaway)

A week has passed and I am still singing that song – 10,000 Reasons (co-written by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin). It’s my takeaway tune from this year’s ICPM. More than having a melody which has hit me (and I believe everyone else) with a serious case of LSS, the song has wordings which have left significant marks on my heart. 10,000 Reasons basically sums up my ICPM 4 experience.

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning / It’s time to sing Your song again / Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me / Let me be singing when the evening comes

It’s a brand new season. There’s no doubt about that. A new day has dawned upon my personal life, a new day has dawned upon my work and my ministry – sometimes I have to pace myself (and all those involved) so that I (and most often, we) could keep up with all the changes taking place. But truly, it is time to sing His song again. I’ve fallen silent for a time, but I have to keep singing. I’m unsure of the things awaiting me in the road up ahead, but, yet again, I have to keep singing. I have to. I want to. I resolve to be so filled with gladness, to be so overwhelmed by gratitude, to be so overtaken by love that even through lonely or pain-filled nights, I will keep on singing.

Bless the Lord, O my soul / O my soul / Worship His holy name / Sing like never before / O my soul / I’ll worship Your holy name

It’s all about worship. It’s all about pouring out our lives to the King of Kings, showing forth His glory by simply being who we are created to be. I loved Kuya Paul’s session about convergence. He said, “Convergence is the point where all our talents, gifts, experiences, uniqueness, and personalities ALIGN for us to perform our GREATEST WORK.” I am still mulling over my five stones. What are in my hands? What do I have which I can use to topple over giants, to conquer my mountain, the mountains of – *gulp* – education and arts?

I have yet to make those things clear in my heart, but one thing is for certain: I will sing like never before. In all the things I am doing right now, I am determined to give my 100%. 100% in my relationships. 100% in my work. 100% in my ministry. 100% in everything. I want to live a life of excellence once again. I want to start asking questions the way Kuya John Eric asks them, I want to run the extra mile the same way Ate Visiel showed us how.

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger / Your name is great, and Your heart is kind / For all Your goodness I will keep on singing / Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

I shall do all these things because there are ten thousand and more reasons for my heart to do so. Because above all, God is GOOD. During one of the times of worship, I just felt Him saying these words to me – “I have always been faithful.” He reiterated those words when Kuya Lester honored us and asked us to stand up during his session. And I held on to them and saw a glimpse of them coming to life during the parade of nations.

“I have always been faithful.”

And on that day when my strength is failing / The end draws near and my time has come / Still my soul will sing Your praise unending / Ten thousand years and then forevermore

One day, I’ll get married. One day, I’ll have kids. One day I’ll move out of Malaysia, perhaps go home, perhaps move on to the next nation. One day, all my kids would have grown up and would have families of their own. And then one day, all the insurance money Wilbert educated me about will prove to be very useful.

One day, I’ll look back at these moments of my history and see them as significant but nonetheless mere memories.

But still I shall keep on singing. Ten thousand years and then forevermore.

Bless the Lord, O my soul / O my soul / Worship His holy name / Sing like never before / O my soul / I’ll worship Your holy name

And so I will bless Him. Let my life be simply full of praise. Let me be unstoppable, as I was during our amazing race when I tore the back of my favorite blouse just to get hold of the elusive Thai elephant. Let me simply sing like never before.

Heartfelt thanks to all the speakers who poured out their hearts during their talks and sessions. Hats off to the organizers who made all these things happen. Tight hugs to the big ICPM family, you are all my heroes and inspirations. And so much love to all the people who have run this race before me, who are running the race now with me, and who will keep on running with me.

Let’s all sing like never before.

With Cristina Joy. Thanks to Ate Kim and Kuya JM for the mugto eyes photo! :D
With Cristina Joy. Thanks to Ate Kim and Kuya JM for the mugto eyes photo! :D

Holistic Living

When I was in college, someone told me that man is made up of three core parts: the body, the soul, and the spirit. We have our physical flesh, we have our mind and our emotions, and we have that life inside of us designed for a deep, intimate connection with God.

Back then, I took that teaching to heart because of the spirit part — we live our lives with God-shaped holes inside of us because that innermost part was snuffed out ever since the fall. Only when we say “yes” to Him do we get to have the fullness of life back; only when we say “yes” do we get to have our spirits restored.

I love that teaching. I’ve found it to be true in my life and have seen it to be true in the lives of other people as well. Yet these days, I am also learning something new. The spirit is of utmost importance — yet the body and soul are both important, too.

For so long, I’ve been focusing all my energy on my spirit. In the process I’ve stopped taking care of my flesh. I’ve stopped taking care of my emotions, too, at an overwhelming number of times. But I believe we are holistic beings. We should take care of what God calls His temple. And we should not neglect our minds and our hearts as well.

I’ve been going to the gym and I’ve been trying to eat healthier these days. I want to make this a lifestyle and not just a one-time thing. How can I serve my God fully if I won’t be able to live that long because of a deteriorating body?

And how can I serve God if I can’t really do it joyfully? Thankfully, my soul’s much better these days (yihee). And it’s not just because I’m in love or anything. Truth be told, I’ve had battles with bouts of depression last year, but through the months that passed, I learned to do things that made me happy (like writing, for example). You’ll find me smiling more these days. Laughing more, too.

Something’s lacking in my spirit again, though. I need a fresh encounter. Like Misty Edwards sang in one of her songs, “Yesterday’s depth is feeling really shallow, I’ve got to go deeper, deeper, deeper still.” And in all honesty, I just need to get away from all the busyness of the world and spend time to acquaint myself with the lines of His face again.

I’m going to do that. I need to do that.

So there you go. Let’s go for holistic living folks. We only get to live this life once. Let’s make it count.

See me oh-so-happy because I’m going to live oh-so-holistically? Yey!

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I’ve wandered over to The Matticus Kingdom! Before helping me get back to where I’m supposed to be right now, why not stop and take a look around?

The Matticus Kingdom

The Scribbler  journeyed through the kingdom today, on a quest in unfamiliar territory.  No, she wasn’t searching for the holy grail, but for answers, for silliness, for truth – or as close as we can get to any of those things here:

The streets look different here. I can’t find the usual doodles. I can’t hear any melodious indie music being played out. And the books — where are all the books? Where are all the what if stories, the scripture paraphrases, the whimsical rants and raves?
Something tells me we’re not in Scribbleland any more, Toto.
I look around, trying to find any clue that would establish my current location. Poetry. Pictures of cats. Oh, a picture of a dog, too. Wit, humour, blogging awards — a western comedy that I have yet to look into. Hmmm.
Finally, I see the sign. Ah! “The Matticus Kingdom”.
Toto wags…

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12 Drummers Drummin: 12 Lessons from 2012

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 12 drummers drummin! 11 pipers —

Wait!

Hold those pipers. Don’t get so enthusiastic and finish the song off just yet. Can’t those little drummers have their own little spotlight first? That kid who went pa-rum-pa-pum-pum did, so why can’t they? They often get so easily glossed over, being sung about just once while the rest of the true love’s gifts get sung about two to twelve times in the cumulative Christmas song. I think they deserve a bit of a break.

I’m doing a 12 Days of Christmas Fire Potion Challenge and the 12 drummers — 12 lessons from 2012, in my version — are the first on my list of lists. So before we sing about them 11 pipers piping, let’s allow the drummers to first go a drumming. Let me share to you the 12 lessons that I got from 2012:

  1. Driving a manually transmitted car is easier than you think it is.
  2. Slice carrots into equal sizes if you want to serve a dish that’s not half overcooked and half undercooked.
  3. It’s okay to get a little lost as long as you have a full gas tank and as long as you have a clear destination in mind. You’ll find out there are signs pointing you to where you want to go to. You might do better with a GPS, but even a GPS can’t be trusted — sometimes.
  4. Make new friends. Don’t forget old ones. Life is so much better when you have people to share good times and bad times with.
  5. Call people up — your parents, your friends — even if it’s long distance. Those few precious minutes cost less than a packet of Oreos anyway.
  6. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel sad. But when you find yourself in the brink of depression and you find yourself falling in — well, if you must fall, fall into the arms of the Loving Father.
  7. Don’t be afraid to give. He who receives much also gives much. Have wisdom in managing your finances still.
  8. Read books. Travel. Paint. Write. Sing your heart out. Live life to the full.
  9. Set your eyes on what God has in store for you. Don’t compare what you have (or don’t have) with what you see in others’ possession. Contentment is the key. If you must feel some sort of discontent, it should be because you are not yet the you  you are supposed to be.
  10. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to revisit old dreams and rekindle long-forgotten talents as well.
  11. Treasure people. Cherish whatever time God has given you to spend with them. Life is too fragile and too unpredictable to take people and relationships for granted.
  12. There are people who deserve the most honest and most transparent you — don’t be afraid to “bear it all” and “watch [yourself] unfold”.

So there you go. 12 lessons. A lot of these lessons came from the depths of the depths because, in all honesty, this year has been one of the more rocky ones. This blog doesn’t quite show it but I have been through quite a lot this 2012.  Anyway, listing down all these lessons — I’ve come to realize that, indeed, “the experience is so different when you go higher” (at least that’s what my new notebook says). It is so much more different when you look at things from the Penthouse’s point of view.

Ain't it so? :)
Ain’t it so? :)

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.

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.

End

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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. :)