Friday, February 25, 2005

Who is in Control?

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.

The Day After

Bar examinees all look forward to The Day After. In the Philippines, bar exams are held on four Sundays of September. It is a culmination of four years of law school and six months of intensive review. The Day After is Freedom Day. You won't know until six months after whether you passed or not. Chances are, you have to look for a job in a few weeks' time. But on that day, you are free to party, sleep, drink and be merry.

In my experience, though, the day after the bar was disorienting. Having been used to waking up to feelings of panic and anxiety, worrying about thick chapters to read and long provisions to memorize, computing the time left to study a particular subject, and such other headaches, I had to tell myself that it was okay to relax. My mind so used to inertia in motion had to take some time before going into inertia at rest.

Such was my feeling last Monday. I was free, right? I could do what my heart was yearning to do because I had talked it out with the most important people in my life. But just like waiting for examiners to check my bar blue books, I had to wait for things to move, and they were way outside of my control, before I could act on the product of my discernment. So, discernment continues. The waiting is meant to purify my heart.

The heart is devious above all else. My heart is particularly trained to zero in on worry. Rather than rejoice on a victory, it switches to search mode and looks for the next concern to worry about, and then latches on to it. Worry is familiar territory for me. There is a lot of unlearning to do before I could fully relax.

The practical things I have to do now are bogging me down. I had not even savored my freedom one minute and then my mind became immediately busy worrying about my finances.

I hope to re-program my heart into finding light and bubbly moments to rejoice about. I cannot add a moment to my life by giving in to all this worry!

I know the facts and it is my faith that fuels these facts. My train can move forward. The feelings will just have to follow. I just hope they won't take long, so I can experience joy amidst all these blessings.

I took the exam and gave my best to it. My life may depend on the result but just like the bar, it's all in God's hands. If He made me a lawyer, He could make me into anything. Anything I want to be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Now playing in the soundtrack of my life:

Be In Your Blessing
Erin O'Donnell, Adrienne Liesching
Written by: Scott Krippayne, Steven V. Taylor, Tony Wood

From "The Prayer of Jabez... A Worship Experience" CD

Maybe there's more You want to give me
Than I've ever known before
More of Your goodness, more of Your power
Than I've ever asked Your for

Father I come
Asking You now
Would You pour out Your favor
Lord, I'm crying out

I want to be in Your blessing
What I seek is what You'll do
In me and through me to bring glory to You
I want to be in Your blessing
Whatever You may have in store
I want to be in Your blessing Lord

There will be times when
I'm frightened
Times when I'm amazed
Where You're creating miracle moments
I'll need a heart that's full of faith

Whatever comes
Wherever You lead
All that I want is
What You want for me

I want to be in Your blessing
What I seek is what You'll do
In me and through me to bring glory to You
I want to be in Your blessing
Whatever You may have in store
I want to be in Your blessing Lord

As You lead me please protect me
Keep me from evil along the way
Don't let me forget I need You
Every step of the way

I want to be in Your blessing
What I seek is what You'll do
In me and through me to bring glory to You
I want to be in Your blessing
Whatever You may have in store
I want to be in Your blessing Lord

Monday, February 21, 2005

Doing my Father's Will

I faced another big challenge in life: to make a decision that was sure to disappoint, displease and dishearten my parents. I tried talking to them last December but initial reactions were too emotional for all of us so I told them that I would need more time before I could explain to them about what I wanted to do with my life.

I have just finished talking heart-to-heart with Papa. He accepted my decision to investigate full-time work for the Lord, after expressing all his reservations. It was “THE Talk” that I had been dreading since the NLTC in October 2004, when I explicitly heard the Lord’s invitation to leave everything behind and to follow Him.

I will summarize here the highlights of what Papa said:

“Since I know you thought about this, your Mama and I cannot stop you from what you want to do. I have my concerns about how you will support yourself financially. I wish I were rich so you could have a trust fund and not worry about your living. I just want you to maintain your membership in the bar so that you will have a backup plan, if after three years you want to go back to being a lawyer. Since this is God’s call for you, who am I to stop that? I also have to surrender. I have to die to myself.”

I closed my eyes and thanked Jesus after hearing those words. Papa and I talked for an hour. Mama was already asleep when I got home from Gay’s birthday honoring, when I learned that I had to communicate with my parents, like Gay with her mother, so they would understand and support my desire to serve the Lord. I talked to Gay’s mother, and she said that it is important to do what God is telling us in our hearts, even if it means hurting our parents initially. That, coming from a parent, who told me she worries about Gay too, was like a go signal for me not to tarry anymore. As I shared before, close to fifty people already told me the same thing over and over. It had been confirmed and re-confirmed in different ways, as I shared in my blog.

On the way home, I shared with Sheila, who rode with me, my inability to communicate properly with my parents when it comes to the matters that are essential in my heart. Sheila reminded me that Abraham sacrificed Isaac, with faith. I arrived at our house and did not immediately open the gate. I cried out to the Lord and prayed for the right time and the right words. I felt him telling me to come into the house.

I prayed that if my father was still awake, that means I should talk to him. Then I had a vague vision of Jesus standing in front of the car and motioning for me to come into the garage, for He is waiting. Immediately after the vision, the lights in our garage went on. Only one person does that for me whenever I go home late. The time for “the talk” had come. I closed my eyes and entered our gate.

And so I was in the best state before talking to my father. I had been crying for almost two hours and was too emotional to rely on my own wisdom and strength. I was prepared to pour out my heart to him. I steeled myself for whatever the outcome was. I relied on the Spirit to give me the words.

I cannot explain why I fear my father’s wrath so, as I’m still in the process of going through counseling for that. This conversation was a giant leap for me.

I told my father that I wasn’t sure how this would end. It does not matter to me whether I would serve in Lingkod, CYA, CLASE, or CLAS. I would find out at the right time. All I know is that He is calling me and because doing His will is my only source of lasting joy, I have to respond to His call now.

Tomorrow is my first day of freedom after carrying a heavy heart since October. From among dozens of verses from Scripture that struck me during this whole discernment process, I would like to end this thanksgiving sharing with this one as the one which I feel the Lord is teaching me at this point. This is the first reading for Sunday, February 20, 2005, the day when I went as the Lord directed me. God gave me this word through my former spiritual directress, Sister Thea Quintos, rc, when I discerned about being BWM in 2002. I knew even then that God was not just talking about my service as BWM, but He was talking about my entire journey in serving Him.

Gn 12:1-4a

The LORD said to Abram:
"Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.

"I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you."

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

To God be the glory forever.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

He Cares

I had not been to He Cares Foundation for several months. There was always something to do on Saturdays. I had missed going there and had always planned to go back to volunteering. Today I visited the streetchildren again, together with other volunteers. We served in the regular Mass and feeding, a once-a-month activity of our community. The people whom Jesus loves remembered me, maybe not by name but by face. They smiled in recognition and waved "hi!" They did not ask where I had been all those months. They were just glad to see friends who would care enough to visit them more than once and to share in their lives, even only for a few hours.

They had special lunch today because it was Ate Daisy's birthday celebration. They had hotdog, fried chicken, squid balls, menudo, rice, Choc-Nut and Flat Tops! My first job was to put catsup on the pieces of chicken. The younger ones always got to eat first. I interviewed some of them and asked which was their favorite among the food choices before them. One girl said she loved the ketchup. She had chicken, hotdog, even menudo, which is usually associated with Filipino fiestas, and yet her simple taste buds preferred the ketchup over rice. Her seatmate asked for the untouched chicken leg on her plate and she willingly gave it away. Some of the small kids, not used to having too many choices for lunch, gave back the viands they could not eat. When the teenagers and the "street-parents" came, they consumed their share and even the excess from the younger kids' plates.

Having come from my first cardio-latino workout before going to the activity, my feet were killing me, and so in between handing out extra rice, ketchup, and water, I stole precious seconds to sit down and rest my aching feet. The other volunteers were tireless and more energetic. Everybody smiled, even when a kitchen pipe burst and the floor became flooded. It was a familiar atmosphere. The Holy Spirit was so alive in that place.

A couple of times, some of the children cornered me and asked if I was the lady who appears on Channel 7. It never fails. For years now, there has been an urban legend among the He Cares kids that I am that traffic reporter. Sometimes, to indulge them I say that I am and see their faces light up with joy, to have a celebrity in their midst, no matter how little known. They do it for every ate and kuya, asking them if they are actors or actresses. Our new friend Daniel said yes he was an actor, and the kids probably believed him because he was white and could not speak a word of Tagalog.

I have not found a permanent solution to poverty and hunger. I believe in what Kuya Joe Dean, Ate Ardis and the He Cares Foundation is doing. They evangelize the streetchildren and streetparents, introducing Jesus Christ to them. More than feeding their bodies, they seek to nourish the souls of the children. That has always been my reason for going back, as the way I see it, the foundation forms and raises the youth into mature and productive citizens. I have personally seen some of them who look healthier and happier everytime I come back. The Lord must really be taking care of His children there. I am thankful for being a witness to that once more.

In His Time

I am involved in giving pastoral care to single women professionals. I have been serving in this community for almost six years now. Part of my service is to guide women who are in discernment in the major areas of a single woman’s life – career, state of life, family, and service.
I have heard real experiences of businesswomen who want to take up nursing; women who want to get out of relationships that seem to be going nowhere but to which they are attached; daughters who harbor resentments and issues towards their parents or siblings; Christians who struggle with surrendering their lives to the Lord repeatedly. It has been a blessing and a joy to be part of such rich experiences.

Whenever I talk to my sisters in Lingkod who are undergoing the process of discernment, I am amazed at how the Holy Spirit can give me the grace and the wisdom to help them see things in perspective and to offer encouragement, correction, advice, and enlightenment. If it were up to me I would be clueless on how to address the varied concerns of the women of today.

It is easy to tell them to take heart; to trust in the Lord; to go forth with great courage; to walk through fire and other obstacles. It comes naturally for me now to guide women in their blind spots and encourage them to be weaned from their attachments.

With the power of God’s love that I have witnessed, it would seem that I should have the answers. I am a living example, however, of how dependent on grace we all are. Despite the knowledge and experience that I have been blessed with regarding God’s mysterious ways, I find myself now still entangled in a web of confusion, resistance, denial, fear and anxiety in my own discernment.

I am utterly helpless and clueless and I have been begging for help for months now. I am so stubborn that I have not heeded God’s go signal for me to take up my cross and follow Him towards a new twist in my labyrinth.

The Lord has sent so many messengers to drive home His call in my doubting heart. I must have consulted close to fifty people and yet I am still in denial. They all said:

Follow your heart. If it is telling you that you need to put down full time legal work for a while in order to investigate missionary life, then you need not worry. There will be joy and peace if you walk down the best path that is laid down before you. If you don’t do this now, you might regret it. Listen to what you deem important, in a world where there are many ways to serve the Lord. Your lovedones will understand in time once they see you happy. You have to trust in the Lord who is calling you.

Oh, I can write a book already about everything that I heard since August of last year. Probably even as early as June. I’m discovering how stubborn I really am. How much of a control freak I still am. How much faith I lack. How limited my experience and knowledge really are of the ways of the Lord. How focused I am on people, positions, and other external circumstances. How I measure my love for the Lord and His love for me based on the setting of a family or a community. How much I still need to learn. How impatient I am at the very core of my being.

Tonight God sent another important person to deliver His message. As Kuya Raoul was speaking, I remembered all the people who had given me the same words and felt tears escaping from my eyes. There was Ate My. Father Steve. Sister Susay. Father Ted. Lou. Fr. Geoffrey. Gay. Mercy. Mirac. Karreen. Rommel. Ted. Shane. Tess. Alett. Abi. Mhel. Ayie. Riza. Pepot. Sonia. Bobby. Annabelle. Martha. Arvin. Ria. Paully. Glecy. Carla. I could go on and on with this list of beautiful people, who have listened to me, prayed for me, and encouraged me to take that leap of faith. How persistent, how passionate, how persevering the Lord is, especially when He wants us to listen to Him.

I am sorry to realize, and admit, that even if I have heard it said many times many ways, I am still afraid. I am learning to die to all these once more, just to be able to say yes to Jesus, who is calling me.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I hope in time it will. When my heart has accepted it more fully, I would perhaps be able to share it more clearly. The ladies in our parish sing this song almost everyday during communion:

In His time, in His time
He makes all things beautiful in His time
Lord, please show me every day
As You're teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In His time.

In Your time, in Your time
You make all things beautiful in Your time
Lord, my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time .

Today I have moved another inch. By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Raindrops on Roses

It is easy to be joyful and to bring others joy. Sometimes I just forget to put that in my To Do List. I will endeavor to think about what brings me joy and what I think brings others joy. People make lists like this all the time, I know. Those are theirs; these are mine. These are a few of my favorite things.

Happiness is (in no particular order)...

1. A full body massage at Nature's Day Spa;
2. Aromatherapy foot massage;
3. Fitting into your old jeans again;
4. Having any prayer answered;
5. Seeing a dream come true - like moving into a new house or finding a spouse!;
6. Making a wish and realizing it was fulfilled - wish is for babaw things like receiving a book you've always wanted as a gift;
7. Laughing with a child - in my case, with Luigi and Miko, major therapy;
8. Eating ice cream of your favorite flavor - mine is currently coffee crumble, avocado, or pistachio;
9. Having a project and succeeding in it after blood, sweat, and tears (like editing a long manuscript; inventing the lightbulb after 1000 tries; learning a piano piece);
10. Passing the bar or board exams - especially if you waited for it for two years, like me;
11. Knowing you will see your crush later that day - now doesn't that bring sunshine to your day and a stupid grin to your face?;
12. Having a conversation a la Before Sunset with a person you are deeply attracted to and with whom you connect;
13. Morning prayers at the annual National Leaders' Training Conference of Lingkod - hands down, taste of heaven;
14. Being prayed over after the Christian Life Program (my happiest moment, one day in October 1993);
15. Reading a book you don't want to put down;
16. Listening to your favorite music while tuning out the world - classical pieces or worship songs do this for me
17. Driving without traffic and pollution - either you're abroad or too happy to notice;
18. Having spare money to go shopping with - guiltless and sans credit cards;
19. Somebody special and/or important greeting you on your birthday or even attending your party - what a thrill!
20. Receiving words of affirmation from your parents, teachers, and leaders
21. A hug from your best friend who doesn't need to know all your dramas and understands anyway;
22. Receiving a letter, not a billing statement, through ordinary post, or even a postcard from family and friends who travel;
23. A slice of baked cheesecake (from Italianni's, Blue Bacon & Green Eggs, among others);
24. Or better yet, a piece of chocolate (Haigh's, Lindt, Cloud Nine, Serg's - any kind)
24. Holding someone's hand - whether my mother's, nephew's, or a special someone's;
25. Watching a movie with someone who shares your passion and doesn't fall asleep in the movie house - my dad is a movie lover but sometimes falls asleep while watching e, hehe;
26. A fresh cup of coffee - bawal sakin because of health reasons, so the rare moments of indulgence are appreciated;
27. Sharing God's word - whether one-to-one with a kapatid or to a room-full of people, it's inspiring for me to be a messenger of God's love;
28. Dancing from the heart, when I don't have to think of steps or costumes, just feeling the music;
29. Singing - not solo, I get so nervous and it shows in my voice! - with a group or duet (like with the PIM-famous TSCS), feeling artista
30. Walking in the afternoons, before sunset.

I have to stop this list as I realize there are so many things to be happy about! Just thinking of them made me happy na. Til I find the time again...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Did Peter Miss the Fish?

The Purpose-Driven Life Journal by Rick Warren says, "A proper journey needs a proper journal." I have the online kind on days when I want to have a conversation with the world. My part of the world, at least.

In writing this I try to pick away at my misery and confusion. I try to soothe my wound. I cannot walk away from these thoughts. I have to put them down in order to move inch by inch into my personal healing.

I wonder how Peter did it. One moment he's doing his father and brothers' trade, the next moment he's following this teacher named Jesus. From working on what he and his family thought he was born to do, he left his nets at first sight of the wisdom and power of this man Jesus. This is an oversimplification, for the full story, you may want to read Luke's account.

I envy Peter's courage. He must have found the only person worth believing in for him to give up what was comfortable and familiar.

The First Reading today reminded me how God's Word does not return to Him empty. Since I have heard His Word for me, and have come to glimpse the promise behind it, I need to continue believing that He would fulfill the purpose of that Word. Yet this calling in my heart is causing me deep pain, something which I don't know how to be healed from. I should be about my Father's business. Jesus was even so bold as to say that to his earthly parents after he stayed behind to lecture the scholars at the temple.

I envy Peter's humility. He said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." I felt like Peter once again during Mass a few hours ago. I said with all my heart, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." The centurion taught me to further pray, "But only say the Word, and I shall be healed." It took a lot from me to believe in that. From crying in my cubicle at the office this afternoon, I hid for a few minutes at the ladies' room to cry some more. I thought I was done crying, until I went to Church and stared at the Tabernacle. When Mass started, I had to hold back the tears as I did not want to distract my fellow Mass-goers, even Fr. Steve who celebrated it.

Who cries over a good job these days?
Who cries over a loving and protective family?
Me. That is my cross. This Lenten season, that is the cup I have to drink from in order to do my share in Jesus' suffering.

Peter did not let his family down by giving up the fisherman's trade. When something bad happened to his mother, he brought home Jesus, the Healer. He healed her and afterwards, she began serving Jesus, Peter and their friends. Peter was passionate and I've always been able to relate to the crests and troughs of his faith. It's only through the past few months' discernment that I began to appreciate him more. St. Peter, please pray for me that I may follow Christ like you did. And pray that I do not miss the lawyers' "fish" when I start becoming a "fisher of men".

Fr. Ted, Gonzales, SJ, my new counselor, suggested that in giving pastoral care to others, perhaps I should consider that my challenge is to bring home such pastoral care, without expecting anything in return. I have been laboring under the notion that I could explain my way towards understanding, acceptance and approval for my choices in life. True freedom lies in following my heart and allowing Jesus to hide me in His wounds. Fr. Ted was able to figure that out after hearing only a few minutes of my life-story! How could a total stranger identify my wounds and even prescribe a possible balm for it? How could people who have known me all my life still not see things the way I see them? I am amazed at how all these works.

Peter did not stop needing fish. He still ate it long after he became a full-time disciple and missionary. Did he ever wonder if the fishermen who provided him fish later in life followed the best practices for fishing? Did he miss the thrill of pulling a heavy net? Did he miss the sea? Of course after walking on it a few seconds, he must have a totally different perspective of the sea, but I digress. I just wonder if he had an identity crisis like the one I'm having now.

Oh I remember. After Peter walked on the water, sliced off a soldier's ear, dined with the Lord, experienced healing powers himself, witnessed miracles, heard teachings, and denied Jesus three times, after all those life-altering events, he and the other disciples one day went back to the sea to catch some fish. Thinking they had lost their master and teacher, after all, they saw Him die on the cross and they attended to his burial, they went back to what was familiar. Then the resurrected Lord Jesus appeared to wait for them on the shore and cooked them breakfast!

Lord, if I decide to leave my nets to follow you, and I witness things that would cause me to doubt, remind me Who it is I am following and where it is You are leading me. I still lack faith. Grant me the grace to do as I feel You are calling me to. Provide for my family as well.

On days like this when nobody seems to understand me, I feel closer to Jesus not just while offering the Eucharist during Mass, but even during the rest of my day. Not one of my friends, brothers, or sisters could make me feel better. I'm afraid their attempts to comfort me might just lead to further confusion. Part of me yearns to talk about this but it's too precious to me. I'm too sensitive. With feelings as fragile as mine, I'd rather hide from the people I love the most.

Painful though this time may be, I am thankful, for one day in Jesus' courts like this, is better than a thousand days in the world. I would rather be suffering with You, Lord, than partying away from You.

I know I'm going to miss normal fishing. But I'm sure that the joy of following Jesus, master, teacher, healer, and friend, would be totally worth it.

Only say the Word, Lord, and I claim I shall be healed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Shameless Plugs Three (Business and Lingkod)

A time to make good use of this blogspace.

1. My Ilongga lawyer-friend-Lingkod-sister (the list would be too long if I mention all her links to me) Karreen Ballesteros is opening a stall for their famous Napoleones,the custard-filled flaky pastry with a sugar glaze that their family restaurant/bakeshop, Roli's, sells in Bacolod. It was sold in UP CASAA around the late '80's to early '90's and many UP Diliman freshmen would recognize it. The stall is located at the basement of SM Megamall Bldg. A, in front of Watson's. Great for gift-giving especially for Valentine's Day! :)

2. Steaks from Australia - T-bone, ribeye, etc. - are being sold for half their price at the local delis. Available once a week, you may email your orders through and I'll be sure to forward them to distributors Martha and BJ Sazon, my friends since 1984! They're pre-seasoned and highly recommended! This isn't because they fed me for free last Christmas season.

3. Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon-Quezon City is starting to help out Anawim, a home of 55 abandoned elderly plus a few orphans and physically and mentally handicapped persons. Below is the e-mail of Imee Sioco, the one in charge of Lingkod QC's Works of Mercy. If you would like to donate or help out, please e-mail me at Thank you in advance!

We also found out that the primary need of our lolos and lolas are the medicines (specifically for hypertension). If any of you have the means to donate any of the following, pls pls do tell us. Below is the list of the medicines:

For Hypertension
TAMOFLEX (for Tita Neneng)

For Asthma

For coughs and colds


For Wounds

For Allergy / Antifungal

REVICON (for staffers/workers)
ENERVON-C (for staffers/workers)

They also need food stuff (rice, sugar, cooking oil, powdered milk, soy sauce, fresh eggs, etc) toiletries (soap, shampoo, alcohol, toothpaste, etc), cleaning materials (zonrox, cleanser, laundry bar,etc.) and other (battery -- black-AA, D & 9 volts, etc) needs. They also love fruits. We don't have to look far for our almsgiving this Lenten season.

4. This Valentine's, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon - Quezon City invites all single professionals to "A Different Kind of Love", an acoustic night-party for Catholic singles who live or work near Quezon City. We'll be at the rooftop of Sterten Condominium (116 Maginhawa St., Teacher's Village, QC), Feb 14, 2005 7:30 p.m. Free entrance! We wish to celebrate God's love with all of you. Please email me if you're interested to attend this event.

5. We're also conducting Christian Life Program for single professionals every Monday, 7:30-10p.m. at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish beside Claret School in Quezon City. If you or your friends or lovedones would like to listen to basic Christian truths and to follow the Lord, well and meet gorgeous Lingkod people too, then please visit us or email me at for more details.

There! I feel like this was a worthwhile post. :)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Shall I Dance?

I wanted to watch "A Very Long Engagement" tonight but it was no longer showing at SM Fairview. My mother and I decided to watch "Shall We Dance?" instead. As we came out of the movie house less than two hours later, we compared notes and agreed that we were both happily entertained by the film.

Out with the minuses first. The movie is not as evenly-paced as I want my last-full-shows to be. It started on a rather flat note, with Richard Gere's character narrating in a monotone and making me think like I could predict the movie's ending two minutes after the opening credits. Eventually, however, it was able to catch my full attention. I just wanted to ignore a scene that was a cross between a Broadway musical and a Disney cartoon.

A movie about a workaholic lawyer who wanted to search for his passion would eventually make me sit up straight anyway. I also love dance sequences on film. There is something about dancers on the silver screen that sends me dreaming. I must have watched "Strictly Ballroom" a thousand times with my sister Mel when we were younger. Anytime we felt bored, we put the tape in the VCR and watched the movie while saying all the characters' lines. We clapped so hard everytime the pasa doble scene came. We discovered Baz Luhrmann even before he did "Romeo and Juliet" with Leonardo! As long as there is dancing in a movie, I would consider watching it. I have always learned profound lessons in life from "dance films".

Shall We Dance is a must-see for married couples. It's largely about the choices that people make when their successful lives get routinary. John Clark (played by Gere) had a charming family and a successful career, yet it was only when he took up dancing that he found himself. I honor his character for the choice that he made in the end, which should serve as an example to all married men. Wives could encourage their husbands to watch the film by using Jennifer Lopez as a must-see. I wond how she could afford her designer outfits and flawless makeup with an assistant dance instructor's salary, but apparently we should overlook those details because this movie is making a larger-than-life picture of passions and dreams. A beautiful woman is part of every man's dream, I would reckon. The film may have J. Lo's best assets to boast about, but Susan Sarandon's performance as the perfect wife who did not know what hit her marriage gets my two thumbs up. Best supporting nods go to the detective and his wise assistant! Actually the more I think about it, the more I realize how fond I now am of each character in the film. They remind me of all my classmates in the dance school that is life.

They don't make dance studios like that anymore. At least not on my part of the globe. It was only in law school and Lingkod that I learned to dance confidently. Although it is not my ultimate passion (it is some other lawyer's, one who's very close to me), dancing, like Paris, is always a good idea for me.

Maybe, like Richard Gere's character, I should let Jennifer Lopez' figure inspire me to take up dancing more seriously. It sure broke the monotony of his life as a lawyer. In a Hollywood moment, he held a red rose in his hand and declared, "A dance needs a partner. And my partner is here." I think my mom's tear fell during that scene.

Passion can be tempered, as the movie taught us. It can be channeled to a more productive endeavor. Shall I dance then? I ask myself. Given the right studio, teacher, and of course, partner, why not?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Letter after the Crossroads

From: Ella C.H. del Rosario []
Sent: Sunday, February 06, 2005 9:57 PM
Subject: [lingkodqc] braveheart ba kamo?

The amazing, abundant grace of the Crossroads Retreat must be on my fingers as I can still type this despite the absolute tiredness from the past week.

I tried to pick up life from where I left it yesterday morning but found myself unable to. I have been changed because of a touch of Greatness. I had work and errands to finish in order to prepare myself for another work week but could not seem to find the energy to face them. I had to write something about the Crossroads.

There were three sets of characters that made this weekend special.

Nature took its course in front of my eyes. I've always been fascinated whenever the small tree in front of our house would sprout new leaves. That's because they never failed to look shiny, fresh, and new, and they made the tree look young and vibrant. That's my limping analogy for the breathtaking sight of new hearts being captured by God's love. Attending the Crossroads from the participants' point of view made me realize the basics of my faith. Just as we attempted to hammer into them that the best road is wherever God is leading us, I found myself more deeply convinced of that truth. Listening to their appreciation of God's love made me more aware of it. Teaching them new songs made me see that I have taken for granted the gift of music that we share in community. Finding myself expressing love to brothers and sisters in front of the participants made me appreciate once more how truly special Christian love is. I have reached a point of tiredness in my limited life, and this weekend God showed me how
blessed I am already just to know His love and to experience it through a loving community.

Some of you know that I had just come from a ten-day leave from service. I may have been online but I asked for some space from Ate My and Rommel so I could put down my BWM hat for a few days and plug in to the Source of wisdom (more on this when the discernment story of my life is finished). Because of this, I was absent in five activities and invisible in the preparations for the Crossroads, among others. Gay took on my service for that period. I knew that service was God's work and He had very able hands through the Crossroads team. Of course, brothers and sisters, you exceeded my expectations (and I didn't consciously set any) this weekend. Watching everyone serve, I couldn't help but feel proud and joyful and free. I told
you that the team served as a well-oiled machine. With God setting the direction, Paul catching the vision, and Gay implementing the mission, the servants shone like bright lights in a dark room. Put together, those bright lights made for a brilliant chandelier. God must be so proud of you. I didn't see tired faces. I didn't see burdened hearts. I saw servants in the truest sense! All the DGLs, sharers, greeters, guitarists, (allow me to say kahit parang self-serving, but I honor SG, Ria and Ding for this!!!) speakers, and [admin] staffers, played their part. That's what I would call a symphony. Your offering of time, talents and smiles must have made a beautiful melody that soared to heaven like songs of praise and worship would. I am in awe at how this community has grown!!!

Finally, I was touched, struck and slain by the Holy Trinity's incomparable presence. I saw the Father's love as He called His children home and forgave them of any sins. I saw the Son who never gave up despite writhing in agony at the price He had to pay for the sins of all the unworthy generations that exercised free will even at the point of hurting the Father. I saw the Holy Spirit pouring forth His grace to make everything go well, moving in everyone's hearts, whispering the truth against all attempts of the enemy, and empowering us to fulfill our part as Kingdom-builders for God. We serve a generous and victorious King!

My intense feelings may change tomorrow as they are affected by my hormonal imbalance, but this truth shall not change - I know that God chose me even before I chose Him, and this is true for all my brothers and sisters. It is a joyful feast that we're all invited to. The only thing being asked of me is to come prepared.

By the way, I referred to Braveheart in my title. :-) I was worried that you might have been oversaturated with my bar sharing already, but then again, I know that I would never tire of hearing Ria share about William Wallace's exhortation to freedom, and I would always anticipate Luis' tearjerker of a life story as well as his hilarious take on the "Amateur singing contest" and the worker tired of "two years of cow-cow at work". I know that even if Rommel is forgetful, it is just on trivial details that we could always remind him of, but he would never forget to pray and to lead based on that prayer. There are countless other reasons why I know that by God's grace, familiarity breeds not contempt but deeper commitment for this community.

I pray for all of us, that we continue to walk along the best road, and to live in peace.

As the Bone Thugs rapped, "See you at the Crossroads so you won't be lonely."

Your sister in Christ,

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Backlog and Blues

It's the second day of the second month of the year and yet I'm already deeply mired in backlog.

I have work backlog. I can almost hear the complaints from my friends and lovedones about the state of our judicial system. Tao lang po. I have a self-imposed deadline tomorrow. I would be the first one to chastise myself if I don't meet that deadline.


I have reading backlog. I have books given to me years ago that are just collecting dust in my shelf. I used to be able to read one book in one sitting and two books during one period of time. Now I'm in the middle of ten. I pick one up and put it down the moment something important catches my attention.

Something important always seems to demand my full attention.

I have writing backlog. All these inputs - from people, books, devotionals, e-mails - are now crammed in my small brain and I feel like I'll explode any minute now. I try to write morning pages, random thoughts, unedited. They fail to satisfy. I need to be able to put my finger on what's bothering me and write it down before I can get over it. I have letters to write, reflections to crystallize, and senses to document.

I have emotional backlog. This goes way back to my childhood. I got so used to blocking off feelings that are deemed to be irrelevant or improper. I filter my own thoughts, edit my own words, judge my own feelings. Now they're all surfacing as I go through my pre-Lent jitters. This Lenten season is bound to be crucial for me. Do I waste my time listening to feelings? Is that a healthy waste of time? Well that's what my spiritual directress says. I'm going to a real counselor next week. They've finally found out that I'm a nutcase. There's something terribly wrong with me and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put humpty dumpty together again.

I have service backlog. Oh, to think about all the things I want to do for the Lord and the community I'm in. I've had to stop thinking of activities and projects for a few days because of physical ailments and, as has been obvious from the above paragraphs, psychological disturbances I've been having. If God is building a cathedral, then I sure tried to put in more bricks than I could handle. My back complained. My eyes grew tired. It was time to go on leave. But did I go on leave? I panick eve now just thinking of the amount of work waiting for me tomorrow. Me of little faith in my brothers and sisters and in my God.

When the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to bear a child from the Holy Spirit, she asked only one question and got satisfied with the answer. She said, "Be it done to me according to thy Word."

She didn't respond as Ella would respond:

What should I do in order for Your Word for me to come to pass?
Why are you complicating my life?
When shall I know for sure if I'm the one you chose?
Who else did you ask?
How do I cooperate with this impossible thing you're talking about?

Why does my heart yearn to serve full time as a missionary when I have a grownup, perfectly presentable, day job as a lawyer?

Now you know why productivity is at a standstill; why efficiency was thrown out the window; why I'm on the brink of neurosis. I'm not letting it "be done unto me". I'm doing it myself, while it was God who asked in the first place.

May the familiar waves of nausea, feelings of panick, reminders of trauma, and threats of insanity not hinder me from choosing the road less traveled.

May I face my family, career, service, and state of life as a daughter of God should - in faith, hope and love.

I pray I survive my life one day at a time. One responsibility, one book, one person, one desire, one plan, one dream, at a time.

There should only be One.