In Hebrew, Jedidiah means beloved of the Lord.

It was the name given by God to baby Solomon. “She [Bathsheba] gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.” 2 Samuel 12:24-25 (NIV)

I had never met in my life anyone named Jedidiah—till last Sunday, in a church where I was invited to speak to: first, the children’s Sunday school (ages 6-10); and second, the kiddie choir (same age group).

One of the teachers introduced him to me and he shook my hand like an adult would—with a firm grip. He also looked me straight in the eye, “Hello!”

I couldn’t pronounce his name properly, because Jedidiah was far removed from my vocabulary.  So I uttered a quick, “Do you like to read?” 

“Yes,” he said, “a lot.”
While I was speaking before the Sunday school class, Jedidiah listened to my every word and finished my sentences. Each time I asked a sporadic question, his hand was the first to come up.   

A book signing time ended our session. When he had his book (Twin Blessings) signed, the spelling of Jedidiah stumped me. Patiently, he spelled it for me and said, “The last two syllables are pronounced like Obadiah.”

“Oh,” I said, properly mentored. “I promise you, once you start reading this book, you can’t stop.”

“That’s what every book does,” he replied.

“Oh, but this one’s different. It is a devotional, so you should read only one each day and think it through. But because the story is continuing, you might be tempted to keep reading.”

His toothy grin turned his eyes into slits.  

On my way to the choir room for my next speaking session, I saw Jedidah in the lobby. He was reading his book, oblivious to the crowd.     

And guess what? When the choir started rehearsing, Jedidiah rushed in with his book. He was a member of the choir, too! Between songs, he would go back to his book and continue reading.
His face lit up when the choir conductress gave each one a copy of “Quiet Time with Mateo” after the short practice of Christmas songs.

A reader after my own heart, I mused.

The conductress then introduced me, “Ms. Grace, the author of that book, will now lead us in a group quiet time.”

I turned to a page of “Quiet Time with Mateo” and read with them a story and a Bible verse, after which we all bowed our heads in prayer.    

They each had me sign their books. This time I didn’t ask how to spell Jedidiah. 

On my drive home, I rolled the name Jedidiah in my tongue. Reflecting on it, I thought that those two groups of children, plus all the little ones in the world, are actually all Jedidiahs—God’s beloved.

I wished they would all grow up to read books that honor Him.


Eleven Wonder Years

Wonder is one of those versatile English words that can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective.

As I celebrate the 11th anniversary of Leaves of Grace, I use wonder in the context of all three.  

It’s been a wonder how I could have lasted this long. Every blog is a wonder—I do what I like most doing: writing. At no point in time did I wonder about the point of blogging. Therefore, the most apt adjective to describe my 11 years is wonder.

“You have hundreds of thousands of hits,” said Tony. “How many do you think really read your blogs?”

I have asked that question in my mind a few times, but I always come up with the same answer. “It doesn’t really matter. At least I know of one who reads them. Me.” After all, the etymology of blogging is journaling online. Journals are essentially done by the journaler for the journaler.

One other question friends keep asking is, "How much do you earn from your blogsite?"

"Zero money; googol of joy." 

Nonetheless, it gives me a sense of wonder to look at numbers. I have uploaded 100 more posts from the 10-year total of 1,044 recorded last year. In 11 years, I have had 56 change of headers (and no change of format), and now I have hits from all countries in the world. My page-view counter tells me . . . never mind, maybe Tony is right, most of those are accidental or random hits. I will view those numbers simply as feel-good images.

“There is always something about His grace to write about,” I wrote this time last year. That belief will stay with me till the day I leave for my Eternal Home. 

Coincidentally, November is thanksgiving month in many western Christian churches (and today happens to be Thanksgiving Day in the US). It is a time of hopeful waiting for the coming of Jesus (celebrated on Christmas). The Latin word thanksgivingus means "coming" as translated from the Greek word parousia, often referred to as the second coming of Christ.

I am singing the refrain of this old thanksgiving hymn by Seth and Bessie Sykes (1940), as I wrap up my 11th year:

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free


Athleisure, et. al.

One of my colleagues, Ayet, a Marketing professor asked, “Is at leisure one word or two words?”

“Two words, of course,” I replied, with a thought balloon, You didn’t know?!

It turned out that it was I who didn’t know. Tut-tut, you're slipping, I berated my unenlightened self.

She meant, athleisure—a term I heard of only then. How could have I not known that weird word? 

With the help of a quick digital research, I discovered that “athleisure was first used in 1976 on an advertisement for trainers, but its sudden rise saw the word officially enter the US Merriam Webster dictionary in April, 2016. It is defined as casual clothing to be worn for exercising and for general use.”

I came from an era when sleepwear was for sleeping and lounge wear was for lounging.  

But in this digital age, weird concepts, and therefore words, are born every minute. Creative people coin or invent them. Whenever I hear one for the first time, I say, “Duh.” Now I find myself saying “duh” with more frequency than ever before. A word, however, is not a bonafide word until it makes it into a legitimate dictionary.

How does a word get into a dictionary?

Frequency of usage. When it is widely used by people and often cited in an extensive range of publications—for a significant period of time—the dictionary editors research how the word is expressed in context to find its basic meaning. This process used to take years, but with global connectivity, the journey to a dictionary has been drastically shortened.

And because language is alive and is evolving, old words in the dictionary now have new meanings: cloud, scroll, and tablet to name a few.

Happily, one of the oldest words in the Bible is grace. To Christians, its meaning remains unchanged. 

The year has not yet ended and already more than 1,000 words have been added to Merriam-Webster and Oxford English Dictionary. 

Some of the new words I learned before I heard of athleisure were: NBD, awesomesauce, lookbook, and agender.

If you still don’t know what they mean, you may say “duh” but look them up quickly and be a hipster.


The Itch to Give

The Christmas season brings out in many people the obligation to give.  

This thought visited me every year and I’d always assumed it was either one of two reasons, or both:

One, malls and stores display inviting wares on sale that cover the gamut of needs and wants of everyone you know; two, it feels like people—including those you hardly say “hello” to all through the year—seem to expect it.

But I happen to be reading Charles R. Swindoll’s “Grace Awakening” (a present from a balikbayan friend). In one chapter, the author expounds on the itch to give on Christmas so powerfully, I re-processed my thought.

Looking back, I had not been obligated at all. I gave as many Christmas gifts as I could (my list is super long) not because I needed to, but because I wanted to.

And that makes a world of difference.

He writes, “Christmas scratches the itch of grace deep within us. It provides us the opportunity each year to deliberately get out of ourselves and do something tangible for someone else with no . . . interest in being ‘paid back.’”

My list, and probably yours, too, includes: janitors, mailmen, delivery guys, traffic officers, beauticians, hardware store salesman, street sweepers—people who have touched our lives during the year. As you imagine their smiles in unwrapping their gifts, you know they feel blessed, perhaps more than how you feel when unwrapping your own.

Swindoll adds, “Christmas [like no other annual celebration] prompts us to demonstrate true grace.” He asks, “What makes giving so wonderfully addictive?”

In sum, we have the itch to give on Christmas because we want to model the grace of Christ, who left His heavenly riches to give Himself to inconsequential us. 

Are you making your Christmas gift list yet? I am sure it’s going to be super long.



Pajama Glam

My sleepwear is a collection of loose old rags. The shabbier, the better—for dreamin'.    

G, my daughter-in-law, must have noticed my pieces of tatters when my husband spent our vacation in son #2’s home last summer. Whether she was aghast or amused, she didn’t show it. But the next thing I knew, she bought me the most beautiful pajama set.

“Oooh,” I gushed. “These are for office wear, not for snoring!”

She laughed, "Nooo." 

“Watch me,” I threatened her.

It was the opposite of shabby, but surprisingly, it was oh-so-comfortable.

When we got back home, I had my beautiful PJ’s washed and ironed, and on the first day of class, I wore it to school with my blazer. But first, I requested Tony to take my photo wearing my OOTD and sent it to G via Messenger.

In school, my co-teachers (the ladies) cooed:

“Your outfit is sooo cool.”

“You're glam personified, Grace.”

“America has done you good. You look better than ever!”

My students (the girls) babbled and burbled:

“Miss, you look so fashionable.”

“Wow, Miss, love your OOTD!”

G messaged me after receiving my photo. “Oh, gosh, you were right, Mommy, it doesn’t look like sleepwear at all.”

I’ll let you in on a secret. This is not the first time I did this. Once I saw a housedress (duster, we call it in the Philippines) with graphic paisley prints. It was so dirt cheap I bought it without thinking. The next week, I wore it to school beneath my blazer. It was the most comfortable dress I ever had and I felt like a million dollars.

But what do you know? I googled “sleepwear as office wear” and found hundreds of photos!

And I thought I was unique.

Well, as Margaret Wolfe Hungerford said in her book Molly Bawn (1878), “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”    


Reading between the Lines

I asked three millennials what "read between the lines" means:  

(1) "Narrating the scenario?"

(2) "Understanding something better?"

(3) "Sorry, Ms., nothing comes to my head."

When I requested #1 and #2 to explain their answers, they had run out of words. There was nothing to ask #3.

Author Shannon L. Adler wrote, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life-long quest of the wise."

I am afraid to say this, but we are losing (or have lost) the art of reading between the lines.   

With it, we have lost all understanding of other literary devices such as sarcasm, hyperbole, symbolism, etc.

We are in an in-you-face era where everything is taken at its face value. Cut-and-paste, sans critical thinking.

We are also in an era where cursing, lewd jokes, and rudeness are virtues, especially if uttered by officials in positions of power. 

Our president, for instance, curses at whomever has caused his ire. He also likes cracking lewd/gender-biased jokes, and eschews tactful language in all his speeches (formal or informal occasions). When I complain, I get these admonitions from his fans:  

"That’s trivia, look at his accomplishments.” 

"Those words are nothing, look into his heart." 

"He is the only president who is real; real talk.”

Whatever happened to GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct) that we teach our children at home and in school?

Whatever happened to role modelling?

One of my advocacies is children's literature. That's why I care about what children learn from adults, especially from our leaders.

Or do I sound like I am still living in ancient times when "yesses" and "nos" were read between the lines?

But let’s go even farther back—thousands of years ago. Jesus talked in parables to teach people lessons. Listeners read between the lines.

So, okay, today—if we insist on saying it like it is, without the folly of in-your-face foul language, Apostle Paul had these words to the Ephesians, chapter 4:29 (ESV):

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Can we get more forthright than that? 


Prose or Poetry

Once, long ago, I dabbled in poetry.  I must have been quite good at it, my UP professor in  literature  said, “Keep writing!” 

I did keep writing, but not in verse. I found more romance in prose—or maybe I discovered I could express my thoughts more profoundly in sentences and paragraphs. And poetry never figured in my writing life again.  

Up until this term. 

A colleague in the university where I teach is a hard-core business management professor. But deep inside him hides an artist. Aside from being a concert pianist, he writes poetry. He is light years my junior, but I am drawn to his chatter because they are mostly about literature, particularly writing. 

During one of our budget meetings, he wrote a haiku on a small piece of paper which he surreptitiously passed on to me. Truth be told, I have not looked into haiku for years. So this one took me back to that once-long-ago. 

Then last week, he wrote a sonnet, or was it a quatrain?  Then the next day, he was talking about cinquaint. 

Poetry must have made a comeback in my middle so audaciously, I woke up early this morning, rushing to my keyboard and writing my first poems in years—two cinquaints on the one word which I have written about in prose, in over 50 published books to date:

So will I take up writing verse again?

Hmmm . . .


Book Blitz at Brent

The word Brent evokes warm memories.  It reminds me of my cousins Faith, Hope, and Charity, who all attended the exclusive Brent School Baguio while I lived with their family for a year. They outshone other kids in other schools.  

Then it was the school—most expensive, with well-equipped classrooms sprawled on a wide rolling terrain and an international curriculum.

Brent has since grown and is now also in Metro Manila, where alumna Faith worked for many years. I never understood what she did there, but with her long years of experience as professor at UP and a Ph.D., it must have been something important. 

So when I got invited recently to the international school’s Booklatan 2017 (presentations from Filipino authors/illustrators/storytellers to promote Filipino arts and literature), I called up Faith. She encouraged me to go. 

My morning at Brent turned out to be a book blitz. With the Hiyas Team (book publisher), Domz Agsaway, illustrator of our newly launched “Dump Truck in My heart,” and I presented to over 200 students in three successive sessions (grades 3, 4, and 5). 

After a storytelling by Yna of OMFLit, Domz and I answered a battery (the kids had more queries than we had time to answer them all) of tough questions. After which came the usually festive book signing and photo ops. 

But it was the interaction (I call this my goodie truck) with the eloquent kids that will be parked permanently in my heart.  

“Were you experiencing some kind of grief when you wrote the book?”

“When the dump truck drives away, won’t it take all the happy memories, too?”

“What thoughts did you have when you illustrated the book?”

My deepest gratitude goes to the gracious grade school principal, Ms. Mitch; librarian, Ms. Teri; teachers’ aides, and library staff, for making our morning at Brent International School Manila a book blitz of grace.

Unlike a dump truck, Brent's goodie truck in my heart will never drive away.