Great Grace (Part 3)

This post completes my trilogy on the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF).

From the opening day to closing time, I tried to be there. Lynnie, my friend from OMFLit Cebu said at the last hour, “You're the last author standing.”

I didn't plan on going there daily, but friends had called that they were coming to see me. And so I tarried at the OMF booth as much as I could—running to the bathroom and cafeteria only when necessary.

Sure enough, friends and family appeared—to say hello and buy books. I figured, the MIBF happens only once a year and being there was such a small price to pay for readers who made time to have a book/s signed.

The president of the university where I teach, together with our HR head, turned up. A group of friends from my previous workplace popped in. A niece and nephew dashed to the booth before it closed on the second day.

Friends of friends showed up, expecting me to be there. My brother Earl and his family (who had arrived days earlier from Australia) re-arranged their schedule to be at the MIBF.

Still, I missed some friends when I sneaked out to have a late lunch and when I left early on the fourth day to say good-bye to JB, Gianina and Adrian who were heading back to the US.
And so . . . on the last day, I was last in line to the cashier, carrying less books than I intended to buy. I waited too long—my choices were all gone by the time I decided to do my shopping. 

No matter. I had a heyday trying to cart much of the great grace at the MIBF, to save for a rainy day.

Rainy day came the day after.

My grandnephew Ronell, 15 years old, was rushed to the hospital due to extreme pain. After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia. The slew of frantic emails and FB messages appealing for blood and funds would have been enough to crush the spirit and plunge one into panic.  

But the spillover of great grace at the MIBF kept me calm and confident about God's comfort where needed. I went on my knees, with the rest of our clan, to ask God to hug Ronell tightly. I did my own phone marathon to relatives who have not heard of the news.

Help rushed in.    

As of this writing, Ronell is being prepped for his third chemotherapy, and I believe that our loving God will do what is best for him. Right now, what the Lord wants may be fuzzy to those who love Ronell, but in time we will see it clearly and be grateful for it.


More Great Grace

It takes more than one blog post to write all about the grace that inundated the Book Fair. So here's another one.

Day 3: OMFLit booth
Day 4: DZAS booth
A lady with three sets of Gifts of Grace (books 1, 2, and 3) said, "You don't have to write any message on these books.  I just need your signature."

"Early Christmas shopping!" I exclaimed.

"No-occasion shopping!" she replied. "I have already lost several sets—well, not lost, really.  I lent them to friends and they asked if they could keep them."


"I am buying three sets now, anticipating more borrowers," she laughed.

"You're very generous," I said.

"God never scrimps on His grace. We can never duplicate that, but we can try—in our own small way," she replied, then took her newly signed books to the cashier.

Before I could recover, a young man in a tie asked me to sign a copy of Solo Flight.

"Gift for a sister or . . . an aunt?"

"Gift for my girlfriend. I want her to know all the angles of singleness before I ask her to marry me. She has to be very, very sure before saying yes.

I ached to say a rejoinder about his thoughtfulness, but a young mom carrying a toddler and looking troubled cut in and and asked, "Ms. Grace, do you have any book on losing a father?"

"Oh, not a book, no. But I may have an entry in Super Devos (365 devotions for energized kids) that speaks of losing a loved one."

"I lost my husband last year and my seven-year-old son can't seem to cope. Daytime is no problem; he has many distractions.  But when he goes to bed at night, he cries."

I cupped her hand for lack of words. "Maybe I should write about that issue sometime soon," I wished aloud.

She hurriedly left and when she came back, she had with her a copy of Super Devos. “Will you sign it? I will read this with him whenever he goes to bed at night.”

I wrote on the first page:

Dear Joseph,

God, our heavenly Father loves you and watches over you every moment. Your dad can't  not be with you anymore, but Jesus can.  In fact, your father and Father God are together in heaven. From that wonderful place, God feels everything you feel and He knows your every need.  Talk to Him every night and trust Him to make things right for you."

"Ms. Grace," the lady said after reading what I had written, "you just made me very happy!"

The bright look on her face was grace so great my eyes pooled.

In celebration, I am changing my header:

A new one takes its place:    


Great Grace at the Book Fair

This was the experience of the Early Church: "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)

I might have experienced the same at, of all places, the noisy Manila International Book Fair. As people swarmed and buzzed like bees inside the OMFLit booth, I signed copies of my books, particularly the two new ones: Solo Flight (Embracing the Single Life and Discovering God's Purpose), co-authored with Francie Castaneda-Lacanilao; and Tree for All (book #13 in the Oh, Mateo! series), illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero.

But the signing took only half of the time. Posing for photos and conversing with readers took the other half.  

Through these two activities, great grace also came upon me.   

"Your photo with my kid last year—I had it framed.  It's on his bed headboard," one dad said.

Then while I was signing about two dozen books for an eight-year-old boy,  I exclaimed, "I see you're buying most of my books.  I hope you enjoy reading them!"

He replied, "Oh, I have read them all.  My mom wants a new set to give away to my friends and cousins!"

Next in line was a pretty teenager who asked me to sign Tree for All.  Sheepishly, she said, "I am 16 years old, and you might think I am too old for children's book. But I love reading the Oh, Mateo! series and I bought this to complete my collection."

“Nobody is ever too old for children's books,” I assured her.  The Little Prince is a required reading for my college students in English class."

"I heard you talking about Solo Flight on DZAS, so I rushed over to buy a copy," a middle-aged single lady said.

"May the Lord bless you a thousandfold as you continue writing about His grace," a Pastor whispered in my ear so I could hear it over the noise.  

"The lines to all the four cashiers are too long, so would you sign my books now—I promise not to abscond with them!" an elderly lady said.

"I need four copies of Solo Flight," a yuppy remarked as he took them from the pile on my table.

"Christmas gifts?" I asked.

"No, I am going to leave them at the nurses' station in the hospital where I work, so they'd be available for anyone who goes there," he said.

"Oh, you work in a hospital—as what?" I asked.

"I am a doctor," he replied.

All this great grace at  the book fair!   

I prayed right then and there that by this same grace, I can keep writing for and about the Source of it all.

Solo Flight: for single adults; Tree for All: for kids
Day 1: Book Signing for SOLO FLIGHT
Day 2: Interview on DZAS


Cushioned Fall

Is there a place in this life where nothing hurts?  Even if you stumble or slip, you won't feel any pain?

There is. I was there with Adrian.
It's one of those play centers, where, for a sum, children could exert all their energy jumping, screaming, skipping, tumbling, falling and nothing will ever make you sad. Everything has been padded to cushion every fall.  

What a wonderful world it was.  It was mine, too, when Adrian spent a few days with us, while his parents took a much-needed respite in Bangkok.

It was a world loaded with fun, laughter, and adventure. Everyday cares vanished; weekly chores waited; appointments slumbered; and schedules hibernated.

It was a world wonderfully turned upside down, in four short days. (At this writing, he and his parents are back in Michigan.)

Alas, the real world isn't as safe.  We experience everyday bumps and humps. We hurt and ache from some quirky turns and risky rides.

And yet, life is worth living and exploring—this is the lesson I learned when I saw life through the eyes of a four-year-old. 

With much verve and energy,  Adrian taught me that for one to fully appreciate the gift of life, one must, without fear, keep trying, exploring, experimenting, discovering with all the varied gizmos God has given us, over which we have dominion.

Although we may grieve in the process, we can echo David in Psalm 16:8 (NLT), “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.

Adrian's “no fear” attitude and David's confidence are what we need to have a wider view of and truly feel the many layers and dimensions of grace.


Beside Still Waters

What can the first three verses of the Shepherd Psalm mean but this?

This is being made to lie down in green pastures. 

This is being led beside the still waters. 

This is when the soul is being restored. 

This is being gifted with one marvelous hour of rest.  

This is quiet grace in loud abundance.  

Thank you, Lord, for a day such as this. 

(Taken one early Saturday morning at a resort club south of Manila, while waiting for the rest of the family to stir for breakfast.)     

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; 

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  Psalm 23 (KJV)


Compartment Bags

Finding a needle in a haystack is easier than shopping for the bag (purse) I like.

This nugget of wisdom came to me on the 2nd hour inside the 5th store and I haven't found the bag. (I need a bag like I need a hole in the head!  But the search continues.)

I actually found it in the fund-raising auction of our clan reunion. Unfortunately, when I reached my price ceiling, I stopped bidding.  Naturally, I was outbid by a cousin.

What sort of a bag is it? One in a bright neutral color; with a sweeping view of all its contents when zipped opened, zero weight, 10-inches height; and has a 2-inch-wide straps that would hang just so from my shoulders.

No bag organizer please—it's additional weight.


Little Ones Need Words

“Cambodia is beautiful!” my son JR gushed after a four-day tour of the country's sights.

I was in Phnom Penh in 2007 and stayed double the time JR was there, yet I hardly saw anything except the sights along the main road and an orphanage hall where I conducted a workshop on writing for children.

But I agree with JR, “Cambodia is beautiful!”

I saw the nation in the heart of its people who, despite help from the UN and other countries, are still reeling from years of pillage and plunder by a cruel regime.     

When I say people, I mean 14 budding Christian writers who attended the workshop, with the help of two translators. There was still no children's book written by a Khmer for Khmer children.

Media Associates International (MAI), an organization of which I am a member, made it possible for me to be there.  In partnership with a local publishing house, MAI “helps satisfy local children’s hunger for stories that nourish their hearts and fan their imaginations.”

I shared with the attendees all I know about weaving magic in stories. Saddened by their country's tragic history, I was surprised by their enthusiasm. Only the themes of their drafts revealed their fears.

From that workshop, an engaging story entitled Miknia's Doll was published a few months later—the first-ever book for children written in Khmer!

Although  the 14 new Christian writers still had to understand happiness, in eight days they learned about giving hope to children born in turbulent times.

Aside from Cambodia, many more hard countries are parched from a dearth of children's books written in their heart language.

MAI has been helping, but the organization subsists on grace—on funding from organizations and aid from individuals who share its vision.

May I ask you to help? How? 

MAI hopes to win a grant from “Giving of Life,” an organization ready to give funding to ministries that can garner the highest votes.  Please click and vote for MAI.

Your vote will help MAI equip writers to make little ones know—through excellent literature—that children are wonderfully made, and to them the Kingdom of God belongs.     


Captain America is Here!

Adrian came home to a rousing welcome by two sets of families (his dad's and mom's), with a midnight snack and a Captain America cake.

Unlike last year (exactly 16 months ago) when he wasn't in perfect mood to meet strange faces, he didn't disappoint this year. Despite lack of sleep and fatigue from an 18-hour or so flight, he gave out two cards he made himself—one for each family—tight hugs and kisses.

This writer has misplaced words that describe the feelings of seeing one's absentee grandson in person again.  (That is not to say we excluded his parents from the excitement, but the little superhero took the lion's share of the mass delirium).

As his other (maternal) grandpa aptly said, “Our boss is here.”

Please excuse me while I spend short precious moments with Captain America.


Bad news and Good News

Life is a quick succession of bad news and good news.

It doesn't take brain surgery to figure this out. One simply has to wake up in the morning and a surprise can either startle you or make your sparkle.
This week, I sparkled just thinking of the much-postponed meeting with an old friend whom I see only on Facebook. We made time for coffee. During our non-stop chat, she startled me with the news that her husband's cancer, on remission for many years, has recurred and soon he will go through chemo. 

Later in the day, I sparkled bumping into a friend in a hotel lobby. She looked much better than when she lost her son a few months earlier. After some pleasantries, she startled me with what had happened to her husband—he was diagnosed with liver cancer and is recuperating from surgery.