Sunday, September 24, 2006

Star for all seasons

"Be still, and know that I am God..."1

I've been pondering on this verse for an article I needed to work on. But my thoughts are far, far away. Be still and know that He is God! Hello, me!

Indeed, He is God! He is in control of everything. He has always been. I've seen over and over again His faithfulness. One million times and one. Gazillion times, if you will. Why then, am I bothered?

You see, our dear little Star (the cute little girl in the photo) has been nose bleeding the past two weeks almost daily. Three times last Friday. Thank God, it has stopped the past two days. No more bleeding yesterday and today. (And thanks to all our family members and friends who've prayed for Star.)

I wasn't bothered by the nose bleeding the first week. We had grown used to it, Star especially. She has had episodes ever since she was a baby, usually when she has colds or when the temperature suddenly changes. Some of the episodes happen in school. Because she sort of "grew up" with it, she knows very well now how to handle it. She knows she has to bow her head (and not tilt it) and just pinch her nose/nostrils for a few minutes.2 After a while, it's gone.

Sometimes, Star no longer tells us when it happens. But the other week, on the third day that she had it in a row, she finally told me. "It's now the third day, mom," she calmly tells me. She probably realized it was no longer "normal" like her previous episodes.

I called up our family doctor. She advised us to bring Star to a hematologist just to be sure. Have her blood checked, she said. This doctor-friend has been Star's doctor since birth and she knows that our "baby" had anemia. She recommended a specialist at a Manila hospital but I don't like that hospital so I texted my friend Cathy instead, and asked for a referral. Cathy used to edit a medical magazine so I surmised she must know a hematogist. (Thank God for friends like her who knows the experts!) Turned out, Cathy's daughter P also has a similar thing. She adviced me to see P's ENT first. And so off to the ENT we go. It was a relief when the doctor said it was nothing. The culprit could just be some allergins. He gave Star Claritin, to be taken for a week.

When the bleeding didn't stop after the Claritin medication, we finally decided to bring Star to a hematologist. The hema recommended a blood test that included PT and PTT, whatever those are. Star was reluctant to go to the laboratory, knowing too well what it meant. Among our three kids, she's the "suki" of St. Lukes and the Children's Medical Center. Up until she was five, Star would be confined at least three times a year mostly for lung problems.

As we were waiting for her turn, she goes, "Mom, I'll just think happy thoughts so I won't be scared." Yeah, that's a very good idea, I said. This girl is really so cool. Her words of wisdom amazes me no end. When everybody else ran out of things to say, she would always go, "I know, I know" and blurt out words that mostly make us laugh.

When her turn came, she dutifully sat at the extraction chair. She wanted to sit on me like she used to when she was younger and smaller (and so was I.) But now that she's grown, we couldn't fit into the chair anymore. I sat a few feet away instead, watching her closely. Star was so quiet and would smile back at the medtech everytime she smiled at her. Then on the third round of extraction, tears started to flow from her eyes. I knew then she was already in pain, but she was so composed. Oh my baby, she's really still a baby.

While we were visiting the hematologist earlier that day, she asked me Star's history. Like her kuya and ate, Star was born prematurely.... she had anemia... was in and out of hospital mostly because of weak lungs (like most pre-term babies)... had her first nose bleeding episode when she was less than a month old...I went on and on...

When it came to family history, I enumerated all that normal families have -- asthma, highblood, heart problem, diabetes...Suddenly, it struck me. My mama died of bleeding. Yes, in fact, she died on the operating table. Her brother almost died of bleeding too while being operated on...Oh uh...

Having that realization and seeing Star's blood test results later jolted me. She has low platelet count, low hemoglobin or hematocrit (I'm not so sure anymore) and low in others I can't exactly remember now. Friday, she had three nose bleeding episodes.

I felt a tinge in my heart...Oh our baby, how can this be happening to her?

I learned that she woke up at 4:15am Friday. "I thought it was just my sipon so I went to the bathroom. But it was sticky and then I saw it was blood," she would tell me while dressing up for school that day. My husband was awaken by the rush of water at the bathroom and suspected that Star was nose bleeding again. And indeed, when he checked out, blood was still coming out of her nose. She had another episode two hours later and then another one late afternoon.

I felt so sad for my daugther. At such a young age, she has to go through this. But more than feeling sad for her, I realized I was beginning to be shaken. Sometimes, it's easier to deal with other "big" problems than problems of health especially of those those close to us. When it comes to our kids' health, I easily freak out.

I have yet to go back to Star's hematologist for the interpretation of the results. But God has gently reminded me in my quite time and as I read His words that He is always in control. Nothing is impossible with Him. No sickness too grave for Him to heal. We just need to ask Him. Whatever we are facing, whatever we are going through, we can always "command" Him to do it for us.

I like how L.B. Cowman said it, "What a distinction there is between this attitude (of knowing that we can 'command' God) and the hesitancy and uncertainty of our prayers of unbelief, to which we become so accustomed! The constant repetition of our prayers has also caused them to lose their sharp cutting edge."

Like Star, I can "think happy thoughts" knowing that I can always ask God even for what may seemingly be impossible. Yes, I will be still and know He is God.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Losing a baby


For HORIZON
Originally uploaded by gwilmore.

I lost a baby. Not a physical one though, thank God! But a project I've nurtured since last year.

We conceived this "baby" last year amidst the growing political unrest that wrought a great divide to this nation. Growing up in a political family, I've always have a heart for the betterment of our beloved Philippines. I never stopped believing in the greatness of the Filipinos. Given opportunities, like many, I try to inject social relevance in whatever I do, even in my "commercial" endeavors.

So when we were given the opportunity to re-launch a product last year, we pitched for a never-been-done kind -- one that would bring communities together bayanihan style. Not saying, of course, that we are God's gift to humanity. It is more about making Filipinos appreciate the good values we have. (I say in the present tense because it is an on-going thing.)

Thank God for all the favors, He opened doors for us to make the project so successful in many ways.

But I understand the realities the client has to face -- business has not been so good this part of the planet. Some sacfices have to be made.

I was part of the big team that conceptualized the whole thing -- from the name to the participants to how the campaign would be done. Only for that, I felt sad. It's like being deprived of nurturing one's baby into maturity.

But in a way, I'm also relieved. Waiting can sometimes be hard. (Although at times, I welcome it.) Because of this "baby," I couldn't commit to doing other long-term things in anticipation of the responsibilities that come along with it. It's like when you're infanticipating. You can't conceive another baby when you are already pregnant.

Having finally been told that I will no longer be part of the project ended whatever expectations I had. I harbor no ill-feelings at all for the client. They are so nice. And I will surely miss them.

Thank God, I've learned by heart that truly all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. I don't look at projects just for the rewards. Naturally, if it is for a commercial purpose, I have to make a living. But money is not the ultimate. Rather, I look more on the purpose why God has placed me in it. I try to do the best I can, more for the testimony rather than the gratification. (I still haven't perfected it, but I'm trying my very best.)

While doing the project last year, I had the opportunity to pray for some mayors I met and encourage them in their God-given positions. Some are my good friends now.

I praise God that while doing the project, I got encouraged myself. I've seen how the bayanihan spirit is still much alive in Filipinos. Communities came together if only to beat others in the "game." Even political foes set aside their differences for the sake of making their town or city the best.

There is still so much hope for this nation. Despite all the bickerings, so many public servants still live up to their calling -- to serve their constituents, and not lord over them.

But there is always an end to everything. I know my partners fought tooth and nail for me, so to speak. But at the end of the day, it's always the client who decides.

I'm sure God has greater plans for me. He closes doors. Then He opens the ceiling. Now that the waiting game's over for the old "baby", another waiting has began. I'm excited as I anticipate for the the new "baby" God has in store for me.

In the meantime, life goes on...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Learning from a child



Originally uploaded by nascity.

Faith is believing what we do not see, and the reward for this kind of faith is to see what we believe. Saint Augustine

My husband and I were crossing a curved street with our 7-year-old daughter when suddenly a tricycle came rushing so fast in our direction. I signalled to the driver to slow down but he didn't seem to care a bit. I can feel blood rising in me as fast as the gush of wind of the passing tricycle. Grrrrrrr!

As we safely reached the other side, my husband and I stopped to gather back our senses. I can't believe how some drivers can be so rude! And to think he saw we had a little girl with us. Sensing our annoyance, my daughter looked at me. "Why, mom?" she asked, oblivious to what just happened.

She was so secured as her dad and I held each of her tiny hand that she didn't feel threatened at all. Oh, if we can only be like little children! Nothing at all will move us, not even the gushing storms in our lives.

After I resigned from my full-time job a few years ago, I learned so many lessons in life as I spend more time with our children. It moves me so much how they love and trust us, their parents, no matter what. Their faith and humility amazes me. Indeed, I came to understand deeper what the Lord Jesus meant when He said we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we change and become like little children.1

I have learned not to ask the Lord to increase my faith. I ask Him instead to make me feel more and more of HIS presence in my life. To draw me closer and closer to Him that I may be like a little child always dependent on her parents. I pray to the Lord that He always hold me in His Hands and never let me go. Only then, when I am completely dependent on Him will I have real faith.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Survival of the fittest?


Andes Mountains
Originally uploaded by So Cal Metro.
I was so disturbed by an article I read in Reader's Digest (September Issue) yesterday. It's about the 1972 plane crash in the Andes Mountains where 32 people survived, including Uruguay's top rugby team.

For the first time, one survivor came out in the open to give a testimony on their harrowing 72 days at the unfriendly terrains of the Andes. It was a shocking revelation of how they survived, but that's going ahead of the story.

The article, written as told by Nando Parrado, talked about courage, teamwork and determination to survive against all odds, no matter what it takes. (Read here)

Indeed, it is truly amazing how one can survive at 12,000 feet on a snow-packed glacier with no help in sight for over two months.

What will you do when your food supply ran out and you know that help is no longer coming? When you are left with nothing but dead bodies and your determination to live? This was the grim reality the group had to face weeks after rescuers failed to find them.

I admit I was shocked as I was reading the story. Seeing it in a movie is one thing. But reading the account of a survivor admitting that they actually agreed to eat frozen flesh of their fellow passengers is something else.

But I'm not making any judgements on whether or not it was ethical. It's an issue between them and God.

The initial shock though made me realize how we sort of "eat" other people's "flesh" in order to save ourselves when we feel pushed beyond our limits. How different are we from the plane survivors? Indeed, it is easier to think of ourselves first when situations get out of hand.

The good news though is that we have a choice. We can choose to "eat other people's flesh" or rely on God to save us.

We have a mighty God who is in control of everything. No matter how difficult the situation may be -- whether we face mountains as gigantic as the Everest or we are seemingly surrounded by killer whales in the deep blue sea -- we can be assured that if we put our trust in Him, we will emerge victorious.

God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.1 This is one of my favorite verses which always lifts me up when I'm faced with difficult situations.

Indeed, we are more than conquerors. Things may always not turn out the way we want it, but we can be assured that in the end, God will turn the situation around for good.

It's amazing how God works when we learn to let go of our own abilities and just let Him be God.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Endless sufferings...a letter to a friend


Lone Fisherman
Originally uploaded by indigo2brown.
Few days ago, I got an email from a friend asking for prayers for her and her beleaguered husband, a mayor of a town up north. The couple has been through a lot. They used to live quite a comfortable life in Manila until the hubby accepted his town's call of duty and gave up an otherwise well-paying and stable job. The wife, my friend P, supported her husband's decision. In contrast to many mayors I know, the couple live a very simple lifestyle and I truly admired them for that.

In a country where corruption of many kinds is so entrenched, people who remain humble despite their high positions are truly gems. I can see that my friend's husband is driven by nothing but his earnest desire to serve their town. He had a choice to earn more in Manila and give a better life to his family. (Considering they have eight kids!) Yet, he chose to serve his town. Earlier this year, I've helped the couple promote their town. Gratis et amore, for the love of God and country. Truly, when you see the place, you can only praise God and His magnificient work! It's a paradise waiting to be discovered.

I am not the kind who shares personal letters but my friend P distributed my letter to "kingdom come" so I might as well share it with the rest of the world. I pray that whoever reads this will also be encouraged.

For as long as we are in this world, sufferings can always be expected. But may we be encouraged with the examples set by those ahead of us and rest assured that we have a great God who loves us dearly.

Dear Mayora,

I just wana share this with you. (Reflections) I wrote this a long time ago when I was going through a lot. I know how you are suffering because of what others are doing to you and Mayor V. But may you always remember that God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Mahal ka ng Dyos, day. (God loves you, sister.) He doesn't give us anything we can't bear. It's hard, I know. But think about the great men in the Bible -- Joseph the dreamer, Job, David and of course, Jesus, among many others.

Joseph was sold by his own brothers because they envied him. But later on, Joseph rose to become the "side-kick" of Egypt's Pharaoh. Because of his position, God used him to save Israel from famine. Joseph told his brothers later, "you meant it for evil but God meant it for good."

Think about Job. He loved God with all of his heart. In the whole of Israel, there was none like Job. Yet, God allowed all bad things to happen to him and was able to test the heart of Job. No matter what happened to him, Job loved God. But Job did question God. Hindi naman bawal to question God. But we should not keep our eyes off Him, who created everything. In the end, God blessed Job more. Job became more richer and more influential. But all because he endured the test.

David is my favorite man of God. He fell into sin many times. Yet, he always wanted to please God and truly repented everytime he sinned. God tested David many times and even punished David for his sins. But in the end, God saw that David loved Him. God even called David "a man after My own heart." David's reward is ever lasting. Jesus' humanity (Mama Mary) came from the house of David. Wagi ang Lolo David, our Savior came from his descendants. All because David loved and trusted God.

Jesus is the Son of God. He could have done whatever He wished because He is God. Yet, He suffered every human pain possible to set an example for us.

I always pray for you and Mayor V. You are in a position to change the lives of your kababayans for good. God placed you there for a reason. May God's strength and wisdom be upon you and Mayor V always.

Ayan, seryoso din naman ang lolah mo minsan. Basta always remember, favorite ka ni God that's why He's giving you trials. Kaya mo yan. Just keep your eyes on Him.


your beautiful friend (wag ka nang kumuntra ),

Andrea

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Remembering 9/11


Ground Zero 4
Originally uploaded by Abode of Chaos.

"...deliver them who through fear of death were all their lives subject to bondage" Hebrews 2:15

I spent my whole afternoon in Davao airport yesterday. Flew there early morning for a meeting. The meeting ended early but my return flight was not until 6:45pm. So I tried to rebook for an earlier schedule. But because my ticket was bought on a discounted rate, I had to pay additional charges of over a thousand. I opted to stay and wait for my original schedule.

It was a welcome wait though. I've learned waiting could also be good, literally and figuratively. It gives me time to just slow down and silently talk to God.

Yesterday was 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I still remember the live coverage on TV. It was like seeing an action movie. Only, the reporter was frantically mumbling her report on the verge of tears.

What happened to the World Trade Center was just unthinkable. Who would have ever imagined such attacks could happen to America? Suddenly, the superpower, the giant, became so vulnerable and weak in the face of the world.

It made me think about our own vulnerabilities. Sometimes we feel so strong, so in control...

But think about taking plane rides. We are all just passengers, far from being in control of our fates. Surely, those passengers of the ill-fated planes maneuvered by terrorists never imagined they would end-up in another destination -- eternity, that is.

I used to be so afraid of taking plane rides, or more aptly, dying in a plane crash. Close family friends died in plane crashes. Early on in my career as reporter, I've covered two or three plane crashes. I've interviewed families of victims and not one of them were prepared for the suddenness of the deaths of their loved ones, not even the victims themselves.

But God does find ways of reassuring us that we can truly rest in Him. And what better way He takes away our fears than making us conquer the very things we fear, death included. One day when I was still a reporter, I had to take a 4-seater Cesna plane with my photographer partner so we could take a closer view of a controversial island I was to write about. And I thought taking an Asian Spirit plane earlier that week was already the worse thing I had to face!

Our newspaper sent us to the Visayas to write on a brewing controversy that time. To my consternation, I found out that we could not cross to the island by boat because the waves were just too big. We had no other recourse but take a small plane. (Only a few days earlier, the governor of Palawan died of crash and you guessed it right, he was on a Cesna plane.)

There was no way I would back out from an assignment. Not when I was already so close to the story. But all through out the ride, I was silently praying, wrestling with God like Jacob. I was telling Him, "God, surely You have great plans for me. You will not let me perish in this small plane." Then I remembered how Abraham negotiated with God to spare Lot and his family from the imminent punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham's conversations with God kept on ringing in my mind. "If you find 100 righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, will you spare it?"1 Abraham asks God. And God assured Abraham, "If only for those 100 people, I will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah." Then the number went smaller and smaller until it reached just 10.

It makes me laugh everytime I remember my own conversations with God that time. I know I wasn't righteous, I still am not. But I know God loves me and I am special to Him. So I claimed His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."2

Surely, God has great plans for me. I just know that the moment I read that passage. I have claimed it ever since. That's the best thing about being a child of God. My Father is rich beyond imagination, and so is my inheritance.

After a few shots and circles around the island, we headed on to Manila. It was the longest one-hour in my life. The ride was bumpy because small planes can't go up too high. I found out that winds are stronger on the lower altitude. But the moment I set my foot on Manila's domestic terminal, I was forever changed.

I became so sure that when it is not yet your time, no matter what happens, God will spare you.

It's good to be vulnerable to some extent. God makes us realize our vulnerabilities so that we will always depend on Him, the Pilot of our lives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tribute to Teachers


Teacher
Originally uploaded by Obi-Akpere, ObiAkpere.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Henry Adams


Last Saturday, over 15,000 teachers (or more) from all over the country converged at Araneta Coliseum in what may be the biggest ever gathering of teachers. Inspirational speakers -- world renown Denis Waitley, Francis Kong, Butch Jimenez, Sandy Prieto and Roselle Ambubuyog took turns in paying tribute to the faceless, nameless unsung heroes of this country -- our teachers.

There are no great men and women in this world without great teachers, says Francis. Denis, on the other hand, encourages teachers to "plant seeds of greatness."

He shares the story of this little girl who was banished in a dungeon, believed by doctors to be a hopeless case. Everybody gave up on her. Except for one nurse, who day by day, showed the girl that she cared. Until one day, the girl became well enough to go back to school. Years later, the girl who everyone thought was hopeless, became the mentor of another seemingly hopeless girl -- Helen Keller -- who's life touched millions across the globe. Helen's advocacy for the blind changed the fate of the visually-challenged of this world. But if not for the seed that that unnamed nurse planted in Anne Sullivan, the world would not have known a Helen Keller. What a wonderful reminder!

Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, president of the country's most-read newspaper, paid tribute to three of her teachers including one "tormentor mentor" (I like that!), who pushed her to give her best. While she was a so-so student, Sandy can now be considered one of the most influential women in this country -- thanks to her teachers who challenged her to excel.

But the most heartwarming of all in that afternoon's event was the testimony of Roselle Ambubuyog, the first blind summa cum laude graduate of Ateneo. Roselle's success, like Anne Sullivan's or Helen Keller's, is one very inspiring proof why we -- teacher or not -- must never give up hope.

Kudos to Bato Balani Foundation for the noble advocacy of paying tribute to teachers. And congratulations to Ardy & Tingting Roberto and the rest of the Salt & Light Ventures team for never stopping to inspire us.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

In my Father's arms


In daddy's arms
Originally uploaded by laura.bullock.
This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! Today (Sept. 10) is my 30 somethingth birthday. What can I say? I am overwhelmed. I am at a loss for words. My gratefulness to the Lord is just beyond description.

All these years, I feel like a baby always in my Father's arms. I love to tell people I am my Father's favorite daughter. Truly, I love to boast what the Lord has done in my life. I am a sinner, yet like a baby everytime she falls, my Father patiently holds my hand and brings me back to my feet again. Patiently, lovingly, He holds my hand.

How amazing is the Father's love for each one of us...Let me share this song that has touched me so much.

Amazing Love
by Hillsong

I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well, you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again
I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were
condemned
I’m alive and well,
you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again
Amazing love, how can it be that you my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor you
Amazing love, how can it be
that you My king would die
for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor you
In all i do i honor you
I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were
condemned
I’m alive and well, you’re spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Friday, September 08, 2006

My destiny

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...Ephesians 1:11


What on earth am I here for?

Long before Rick Warren came out with the book that "disturbed" so many lives, that question had been ringing in my mind. By nature, people are so selfish. Egocentric. We always think about three persons important to us -- I, me and myself.

But how ironic that the more we think about ourselves, the more we are not contented. So many rich and successful people lived their lives miserably because they didn't care about others!

God has predestined each one of us according to His plans. Even before we were born, He already know exactly what will happen to us. All the blunders included. Yet, He gives us the liberty to do what we want in our lives. But when we cry out to Him, He is also merciful to take us out of the quagmire we ourselves have chosen to fall into.

About two years before I "moved on" from my previous job, that question on the meaning of life so bothered me. To be a reporter of the biggest newspaper in the country had always been my dream. Yet, at the height of my journalism career, here I was feeling so bad about how I felt. Confusing?

Let me explain. Influence can be intoxicating. This I realized when my stories started to affect the lives of others. How easy indeed it is to feel proud when you are in a position to influence others. Not that I was that influential. I was not even close to the feat of the journalists I admired.

Yet, I felt that pride had crept in my heart. God was no longer my priority. More so my family. It struck me how easy it was for me to leave my sick baby in the hospital because I had to cover a story that would surely put my name in the front page. If I couldn't even care for the children who came out of my womb, how much more for a God who I couldn't see? (to be continued)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amazing Grace


( OH ) Zone
Originally uploaded by | HD |.

Words by John Newton 1779

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.



How I love this song. Amazing indeed is the grace the Lord gives to His children. We do not deserve anything good from Him. Yet He does not withhold blessings from us.

I never stopped getting amazed by how the Lord moves especially at times when everything just gets crazy. The past week had been a very busy one for me (and the days to come). It's the kind that you'll only survive by God's amazing grace. But truly God works in mysterious ways. He grants favors you never imagined if you just entrust everything to Him.

PRAISE REPORT:

Glory and thanks be to God who answers prayers of His people. My friend, Kaka, who was confined for a heart ailment was released from the hospital last Monday. Thank you for all your prayers. By Wednesday, he was back to work, leading us in planning for the formal launch of the P.E.A.C.E. Plan in the country. I will be sharing it with you soon. We are all excited to see how God will move in rebuilding our nation through His people. As Rick Warren says, the Christian organization is the single biggest organization in the world and by mobilizing Christians to help others, there is no doubt we will soon see a transformed world.

Praises be to God for the safe operation of my friend Cathy. God miraculously saved her from complications of an ectopic pregnancy. I am so amazed how God has been moving in Cathy's life. Indeed she is another testimony of God's amazing grace.