11/27/2012

Religion?


The blank line in a document stares at me. I stare back and wonder how to fill it up properly. 

Religion:_______________

In a world that runs on labels, it is sometimes complicated to give a definite answer to a simple question. 

If I were asked what my religion was verbally, instead of filling in a blank, I would explain:

“I have no religion. But I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I attend a home church affiliated with other churches so I can fellowship and grow in my knowledge of God with people who share my faith. There, my brethren in Christ help me become closer to God by keeping alive the Scriptures together—and making God's Word be seen in our lives. I belong to this movement of Christ-centered families and individuals wanting to be Christ-like.”

11/23/2012

Six Years Is a Long time

Consider the following numbers:

• 2,191 days
• 189,302,400 seconds
• 3,155,040 minutes
• 52,584 hours
• 313 weeks

They define six years. Proudly, I like to think I own them because they show how long Leaves of Grace has been in cyberburbia. Tomorrow I complete my sixth year! I am blogging about it today because I am following my regular blog rhythm.

My old header comes down:

My new header goes up:

There are other numbers that come after the above numbers. You may skip them; I am recording them only to keep track of where I am this year, compared to last year:

151,000 hits (from 111,000)
171 countries (from 154)
614 posts (from 506)
120 followers (from 98)
2037 comments (from 1530)
7 change of headers (from a total of 19)

My numbers increased bountifully and so did grace. Thank you, Lord.

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.” Psalm 100:1-2

11/19/2012

Driver and Driver

In "Gifts of Grace" Book 2, I devoted one whole chapter on my drivers—those kindly souls who brought me to and from the office and napped in all the hours in between. They couldn't make it to Mensa, because they were on call to drive me to meetings, client calls, and other business concerns. There were 24 of them in quick succession in a span of three years.

They came and went, courtesy of the HR department, who evaluated employees' performance and screened applicants.

"Hilarious," is the comment I get from readers. One sent me a text message at 4 AM, "I am reading about your drivers and laughing so hard after a long day of TV ad shoot. My neighbors may think I am a candidate for a mental institution!" 

Well, I, too, laughed with every word I wrote. Oh, those were frenzied, manic days!

After jumping off the corporate tightrope, I settled into a placid, sedentary life of writing, glued mostly on a computer chair in one nook at home.  There is no sense in having a driver on standby for my short hop to the university where I teach part-time, once-a-month trip to a book talk, twice-a-year book launching, or occasional coffee or lunch with friends.

I have learned to enjoy the perks of public transportation—tricycle, bus, jeepney, cab, FX—and the extraordinary grace they cart in.

There are very special occasions, however, when I need a car, and therefore a driver. So without the aid of an HR (and the absence of a steady income), I have to hire someone for . . . free.  

This someone is driver #25 and, between you and me, if I still had the luxury of an HR, I'd beg for driver #26.

This current one is in a class all by himself. His mysterious and obsessive rush to get ahead of every vehicle on the road makes my heart skip and my toes curl.

Sometimes, I resort to praying for my life. But if I have to get to where I need to be, intact, I stay quiet.

What brings about the horror, I think, is the fact that with this driver, I need to sit politely awake in the front seat instead of the back where I used to nap, daydream about the next TV concept, do whatever I wanted, and openly verbalize my displeasure over sudden swerves and brakes.  

In this new hallowed front passenger seat, I hear every gear change, every tire screech, every whiz of racing motorcycles zooming straight past me just when my driver is turning right, every silent expletive and grunt in tune with Elvis' rock n' roll or gospel songs.    

I can't take my sweet time with this super-punctual driver either, nor ever change any of our prearranged-or-agreed schedule. He slots me in his busy calendar, honks his horn when I am taking two seconds too long looking for my cellphone or eyeglasses, and tells me where I need to wait, at what exact time, for pick-up.

Although he says nothing when I am delayed for an important reason (like trying on  blouses on sale), nor has expressed anything that resembles complaint, I feel the need to treat him out for keeping him waiting and hungry. Meals or coffee cost.  

Oh, what a ball I had writing about those 24 paid hands!

And now it's as though all 24 of them have conspired against my person, daring me, "Okay, now write about the 25th one." 

Huh? How can I write about the one who shares my home address and who lists me as the principal beneficiary in his insurance policies and bank accounts, and whose driving fee I can never afford? 

Those 24 drivers would now be rolling with laughter. After their abbreviated stints in my employ, I am left with a driver I can't fire, suspend, berate, admonish, ignore, chide, pay, replace, nor name—for life.

They would be right, can anything be more hilarious?

P.S. Oh, I have an occasional driver, my friend G. But she and my driver above are two peas in a pod. The only difference is—G, who is gorgeous with a capital G, can disarm any traffic cop or any other driver on the road.
 

11/15/2012

A Dog's Love

The Second Time Around

When Attorney, our dog, was put to sleep by the Vet a month ago, we didn't give ourselves a period of mourning.

Illness came to her early (she was four years old) and she wasn't able to cross the critical line between life and death. But she brought us joy all those years and guarded our house fiercely from intruders. 

Losing a dog that loved unselfishly can be depressing, and the sooner you get out of the moping stage, the better.

Immediately, we looked around for one to fill the void left by Attorney and it came in a beautiful package that looks so similar to Attorney when she was that age.

The decision, therefore, to name her Attorney came from the real attorney in the house, JR, who was the late Attorney's real master. He said it was the most logical thing to do—and the wisest one, too.

So although Attorney (the first) is gone, another Attorney (the second) has come to love us and whom we will love in return.

Meet the new member of our household, Attorney II—another grace delivered at our doorstep.

11/11/2012

Bird Nest on the Roof


It was too late for me to say, "Don't!" The painters had already wrecked and taken down a bird nest from our roof. The once awesome, sturdy nest made of twigs, hay, and feathers was now a sorry sight.

What was left of it was dumped on this bush in our garden. In this condition, the nest was no longer fit for the birds who made it their home. I am sure they will not come back. 

“Sorry, po,” the painters apologized, seeing my long face. “We can't paint the roof properly with a bird nest on it.”

What they ruined was a work of many days and maybe even nights.

Birds build nests to hold their babies and to give these helpless ones a safe shelter, a hideaway from predators, until they are old enough to fly on their own. A bird's building materials depend on what types of supplies it can find: grass, soil, twigs, feathers, rocks, etc.

To build a nest, a bird makes hundreds or thousands of trips to and fro just to gather building supplies piece by piece! Using only its beak, the bird carries these nesting items and constructs the nest by weaving the materials or putting them together using its saliva, or other sticky items like spider webs or mud.

When we think of a bird nest, we usually picture it on tree branches. But birds these days nest in and on many different places because their habitats are being destroyed by unscrupulous nature villains. Now you can find nests on rooftops, eaves, and even under the ground.

Nests come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they look like cups or bowls on trees. Some hang like sacks from branches. Some are flat, others are round.  Some nests look like piles of leaves and sticks—just like what was found on our roof!

Birds are indeed some of nature's greatest builders!

All the nests we see around us speak of perseverance and love. They were built painstakingly with so much love. 

I wonder how long it took for the bird on our roof to build that nest that now lies beneath the rotting mess in our garbage can?  It took seconds for the painters to trash it. 

May we never throw grace away in that manner.

11/07/2012

Little Angels

On Halloween last week, I saw many children on the streets for “Trick or Treat”dressed and made-up like devils, ghosts, evil spirits, witches, and ugly monsters.

My stomach churned. 

The images in my head of little children have nothing to do with those; they have everything to do with the good and the beautiful. I think of kids as angels—lovable and adorable, God's delightful gifts to one and all.  

Call it a coping or healing mechanism, but when I lost my second son, Adrian, I pictured him as an angel happily playing in that wondrous place where Jesus lives. From that day to this day, over 30 years later, I can't imagine him any other way.

Some parents who dress up their kids in ghoulish costumes say, “Where's your sense of humor? It's just for fun!”

Fun for whom? For the kids? Will they have less fun if they were dressed like the lovely creatures in storybooks and fairy tales?

Children love wearing costumes, that much I know (having reared three boys myself), but parents have the authority to choose or censor or recommend. 

I liken this to choosing which books children should read. Today I have no jurisdiction over what my adult sons read, but when they were little, my husband and I had the responsibility as parents to make sure they read only  those that would make them see the goodness in people and God.

The evil things, well, they eventually learned them on their own just by going through life. But by then, they had strong enough foundation to choose between right and wrong.   

Once I read a book written by the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham. In it she narrated about one dinner where she and her brother were kidding each other about who was the devil. Billy Graham shushed them both. He said, nobody talks about the enemy on the dining table, not even in jest—the devil is no laughing matter.

As a children's book author, I am extra careful about the concepts, the characters, the moments, and the words I write. It is my desire that the children who read my books will learn only good values from them and help them grow up into well-principled and well-grounded adults.

The world has enough advocates of evil and to even add a hint to it—like costumes on Halloween—among innocent children is unconscionable.  

“Holier than thou,” I am not trying to be. I am simply a believer of little angels born purely of grace.

11/03/2012

Last Song Syndrome


Insomnia was a malady I couldn't understand. I had absolutely no idea about tossing and turning in bed. 

I could sleep through any crisis, sleep with my eyes half open, sleep sitting down, and sleep standing up. All I needed was something to rest my head on and I would dream on. In fact, I often blogged and bragged about it.

Not anymore. I have been having bouts of occasional and intermittent insomnia. I wake up at all odd hours—12 midnight, 2 or 3 AM to go to the bathroom—and can't go back to sleep for an hour or two,  even if I sang myself a lullaby.

So I sing this song (not too loud, or the husband would kill me) instead—before, during, and after going to sleep, like an LSS:  

“When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.”                                

 
“No LSS can cure the sleep patterns of the aging,” one of my friends, who is suffering from the same problem, said. “We just have to get used to it.”

I researched this issue and I am more confused than ever. Medical studies show so many reasons for “sleep awakenings.” I can't pinpoint which ones are mine.

And so I sing my LSS and count my blessings—as you and I know, this can take forever. In the beginning of my sleeplessness, I got terribly frustrated. But now I simply go to bed early, too early, to make up for the hours I am up singing my LSS and counting my blessings.

Grace comes around to refresh me in the morning. And I count that as another blessing.