So Where's the Book? (Part 1)

After I announced that my sister Aie was converting our parents' old house in the province into a public library, friends and relatives from everywhere have been sending me boxes and boxes of books. My friend, Lucy, from Palm Springs, California, mailed a big balikbayan box of her own collection.

Trouble is, I have first access to all these books and unable to help myself, I take a few (okay, heaps) to read before sending them to Aie. It feels like bookstores are suddenly sprouting in my house and I “own” them all!

I never doubted the endlessness of grace, but this is like unprecedented manna storm from heaven!

One of the books I took from Lucy's box was The Miracle of the Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

The title intrigued me. Unfortunately, it was not about The Christmas Box at all! It was the backstory of The Christmas Box.

It tells of how The Christmas Box book was written by the author as an expression of love for his daughters. He made 20 photocopies of it as gifts to other members of his family and close friends. It wasn't meant to be published. But before he knew what hit him, his relatives who read the story, and relatives of relatives, and relatives of friends, and friends of friends were photocopying the story and sending them to many others. Their common comment: they were inspired by the story.

Quickly, he decided to self-publish through a small-town printing shop. The sales moved faster than lightning, and soon, the book made history by becoming simultaneously the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the US! There was a great deluge, not unlike the time of Noah, of orders, letters and calls. The national press and the town's public officials got into the fray, and the latter erected a monument that relates to the story.

Since then, more than ten million copies of The Christmas Box have been printed. It's the wildest-dream-of-every-beginning-writer-come-true.

But where is the book? I rummaged through Lucy's box but The Christmas Box wasn't there. Frantic, I called Lucy but she thought I was talking Greek!

I combed all the bookstores in my neighborhood and in the neighborhood of others—nada, nada, nada. I emailed friends and foe to lend me their copy, but nobody seems to have heard of the book. I have a trauma from online purchasing.

In this country, we call this bitin! Rough translation: cliffhanger.

So where's the book? (to be continued)


A Canister of Dreams

This canister contains 27 lofty dreams. I have it in my possession because I want to pray for each of them as often as I can. The canister is in a place where it can always be a part of my repertoire of daily tasks.

Goal Setting Theory was the last tool in Time Management (TM) which I discussed in the workshop I facilitated in Laguna. It was the third and last day, last hour, and my “class” was ready to wrap up. I told them to write down their time-bound goal—on which they would base the other TM tools we have learned.

They were not meant to be discussed; the exercise was done simply to focus on their measurable goal so that they could cut their time into workable segments to achieve it.

But the writing took longer than I expected. Before we broke up, I asked them to leave their papers in a canister I earlier used as an illustration prop.

At home, before throwing the whole canister away, I decided to read one paper. It so moved me I went about reading all of them. On those pieces of papers are dreams, lofty dreams, zealously written. And it dawned on me that I have gotten so smug over the years I have forgotten how it is to dream.

These 18-year-old kids, Compassion International scholars, are struggling in poverty, but they believe in the fullness of grace, and therefore, are infinitely richer than many moneyed brats I know. Their papers are full of hope, so poignant in their honesty and simplicity.

Praying for the dreams in the canister is the only way I can help my 27 kids beyond a three-day TM workshop. What a privilege to do so!

LDP Batch 13


Middle of Nowhere

Grace found me in the middle of nowhere.

Who would have thought there'd be a hotel right smack on a rice field dotted with horses and cows?

This was where we I stayed for four days and three nights in Laguna, the venue for Compassion International’s Leadership Congress nicknamed, LAMBAT.

My workshop on Time Management was scheduled in the mornings at the Rizal Recreation Center, a five-minute drive away. So in the afternoons, I would be ensconced in my room, which had a fabulous view of more stretches of farms. I’d never have found a more idyllic place for writing. To my surprise, I was able to meet deadlines with so much time to spare for napping and reading my Chronological Bible.

I brought my laptop with no illusion of doing any work. But the place was so peaceful and time was so slow, I was able to do in three days what I couldn’t do in three weeks elsewhere. Right, I managed my time well because the place calmed my earlier fear of being the wrong facilitator for a workshop on Time Management.

It was literally a get-away from the noise of the city and of the soul. Yes, somewhere out there, where grains were countless, countless grace found me.


Time Mismanagement

I’m on my way to Laguna to conduct/facilitate a three-day “Time Management” seminar. What I have is a slew of theories. Lately I have been having time management problems myself and the theories I have banked in my head for years are sometimes unworkable.

JR tried to simplify the root cause of my problem: “Mom, a large part of Time Management is saying no to some of the things you do.”

I have doubts if he is right.

All my activities and deadlines are calendared. But along the way, the unforeseen happens.

An activity is moved earlier and it overlaps with another event. Then deadlines become shorter. An event is postponed, and again, it overlaps with another event. It will take extraterrestrial travel to attend both.

Suddenly, too, a close friend gets very sick. Everything takes a backseat. I feel presence and relationships are far more important than non-life threatening activities.

How does one manage time? Theories can only go so far. But grace allows you to get it done right, in the proper order of priority.

Here’s the core of the seminar: which comes first, the “urgent” or the “important”?

I am looking forward to learning from my “class”—all 27 of them (third year university students).


Creative Celebrations

The first order of the day was to have a thanksgiving lunch in church on the first Sunday after the results of the bar exams were published. JR won’t have it any other way. This church is our spiritual family, where everyone is a prayer warrior for everyone, where JR grew up worshiping God, and where we are one in a circle of grace.

The food was nothing fancy, just our usual potluck fare plus, of course, the traditional lechon (roasted pig) which adorns Filipino tables on important occasions.

Then the day after, the family took a trip to the North—San Fernando, Pampanga.

It was a two-hour drive to Everybody’s CafĂ©, the benchmark of the famous Capampangan Cuisine, for lunch. There was hardly any space for parking. We were beaten to the draw by fellow foodies, most of them Manila residents.

We vowed to order only the exotic food this restaurant is famous for. Buko (young coconut juice) for me and Sugar cane juice for the boys; Camaru (mole crickets); Betute (frogs); Ulang (giant shrimps); Kambing caldereta (goat stew); and murcon (beef roll). For dessert, sweetened saba (native banana).

I had the biggest burp in years! Bar none.

This is not a food blog, so here’s what happened after lunch. Tony and JR—two peas in a pod—wanted to indulge their passion in old, old structures. We trekked to the old, old church (1600’s) in Bacolor, which was half buried in the 1991 earthquake.

Before the earthquake (from the book, Angels in Stone) and after the earthquake (by my Kodak camera):

From there, we went around all the towns of Pampanga along the way and admired more old architectural treasures—most of which, unfortunately, have been restored haphazardly. Sigh. No matter, it was like a trip down a world way before ours.

Again, this is not a building/architecture blog.

So I will end with what this blog started out to do: document the two-day celebrations creatively touched by grace.


The Bar Exams Results Are Out!

My old header comes down because I am celebrating.

We have a second Attorney in the house!

The first one is our dog.

And the second one is: JR.

JC downloaded the September 2008 bar examinations results just now. I had a choice whether to scream or cry. I did neither. I closed my eyes in thanksgiving for this moment of grace. Then I texted and texted and texted and e-mailed and e-mailed and e-mailed and called and called and called family and friends.

And changed my header to this: 
I'll think of more creative ways to celebrate tomorrow. It's way past my bedtime. Good night.