That’s what I’d been for most of my life in the corporate world. Barring any snags beyond my control, I finished every chore on time and produced all I could in 24 hours. I was hardly ever late to any appointment, too.
Every moment had to be productive. When a task was on a slump, I'd start a new one. Doing many things all at the same time—that’s where you’d find me.
On the plane home from a meeting abroad, I’d already be writing my “thank-you” notes while every passenger would be asleep. Back in the office, I’d immediately shoot out those notes.
Are you panting yet?
“Chronos perspective,” that’s how our pastor called my clock-watching behavior. I thought of one day as 24 hours. My small white board had a to-do list with corresponding deadlines.
My thoughts ran parallel with what I read in Scripture, “We should number our days.” Our time on earth is so brief, I wanted to be a good steward of every second of time.
“On the other hand, this contradicts what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5,” our pastor added. Paul instructs us to redeem the “Kairos perspective,” which is to seize opportune moments.
My clock watching habit came to a head one day. I was furiously trying to beat a deadline when I got a desperate call from a friend about ready to give up on life. Would I miss my deadline for her?
Difficult question for a clock watcher.
But Kairos took over: time is an opportunity marching in, not a clock ticking minutes away.
The three hours spent with my despondent friend—and missing a deadline—was more valuable than the three hours I'd have spent finishing a task. After our talk, she resolved to move on.
Time stewardship, I have learned from that experience, is not packing as much as I can into 24 hours. Rather, it is being alert, like a hawk, on the lookout for the slightest hint of an opportunity to share the glory of God’s grace.
Note to moi: A true steward of time organizes a schedule with moments open to seizing Kairos moments.
In my writing journey, listening to voices is part of the process. From these voices, I make my choices.
The varied voices I hear either affirm or negate my initial thoughts. It’s like listening to the thump-thump of my future readers’ hearts. I see different perspectives—enriching and clarifying.
I recently finished my first draft—always a feat for me—of a story. I had son #1 read it. His terse comment, “Too harsh, too vivid.”
Upon hearing his voice, I wrote a softer version. Then to my second reader I went—Tony. He said, as tersely as my first reader, “Too tame; try being more graphic.”
Now I was faced with two opposing views. First version? Second version?
To settle my dilemma, I exposed both versions to four grade-school teachers, like a small-scale Focus Group Discussion (FGD). To my surprise, they all chose version 1! Being more communicative than son#1 and husband, they gave me insights that made me look more closely into version 1 to enhance it:
"Yes, crime has consequences."
"Very timely. Kids should know about their rights in case they get picked up by the police, especially today."
"Suspenseful. I wanted to know how it would end."
"Punishment and forgiveness came together. Nice."
Version 1 was on the right track, as far as readership is concerned. I followed my guts and saw it through.
For days on end, I worked on version 1, revising, polishing, tweaking, and twisting it (and checking my legal facts) to a point where I think I am now ready to send it to my editor.
Version 2 will stay in the freezer.
But the story is far from being finished. The editor has a voice, too, and so does the back-up editor, and so does the artist.
The book that finally reaches the reader’s hand is a product of all. I credit no one, not even the writer, for any published book to happen.
Christian books are a product of grace, my only enabler. God’s grace makes a writer’s ears and heart listen, and listen well, so she can make the right choices.
Red eggs used to be a staple on our breakfast table. They go well with juicy tomatoes and fresh mountain ferns; eaten with fried rice; then finished off with a steaming cup of coffee. Nifty-yummy and picker-upper they were.
That was before my brother D and his wife G gifted us with golden eggs—salted duck eggs from their duck farm that go by the same principle of making red eggs, minus the poison.
Surprised? It shocked me.
Since time immemorial, salted duck eggs are dyed red to distinguish them from fresh eggs.
Now here’s the shocker.
The red dye used by many commercial red-egg makers contain chemicals that cause conditions such as allergies and asthma, plus more. This has been proven in various research in the US and Europe. In fact, some European manufacturers have pledged to eliminate this dye from candy, soft drinks, and similar products.
Red-eggs fans may argue that the dye on the shell does not affect the egg, which is what we ingest. However, since eggshells are porous, there is no telling how much of the red dye seeps through and therefore eaten.
D and G’s golden eggs were dipped in and colored with turmeric (a perennial plant of the ginger family) powder and therefore all-natural.
They taste just as good as the red eggs—maybe even better—we had been used to. But golden eggs such as these are not commercially viable, because turmeric costs so much more than red dye.
This is not a discourse against red eggs. Rather, it is an ode to golden eggs, 100% natural, and therefore, pure grace.
Photo credit: www.cookingspree.com
In the last five years, or maybe even longer, I have slowly been losing interest in activities that I used to love.
Movies have become dull, except during the Cinemalaya Festival (Filipino Indie Films) where all movies have English sub-titles; TV shows have become a bore; and yakking on the phone for long hours with my sister, Lucy (my friend in California), and best cousin in New York have become an ordeal.
I have likewise shunned using or answering calls on my mobile phone, preferring to read text messages.
I conveniently blamed my waning interests on aging. But I was actually in denial. What I was losing was not my interest, but my ears.
Like my grandmother and mother before me (yes, it’s in the genes), my sense of hearing has deteriorated to a point where I hear words other than what are said:
First day vs. birthday
Tea vs. three
Daily vs. baby
Ryan vs. Gian
Ringing vs. meeting
Results? Wrong answers to the right questions, and vice-versa.
Son #2, a doctor and who calls from the US, must have known what I was going through. I’d immediately pass on the phone to Tony, or speak so loud the phone receiver popped. Once or twice, he had mentioned “hearing aid” but because it costs an arm and a leg, I was prepared to go through the rest of my life without ears.
All that has come to pass.
As a Christmas gift, son# 2 and his wife said I could have any hearing aid of my choice. So I headed to the Active Hearing Center where I was fitted by a nice, young lady with a pair of Siemens thingies. They are so discreet, you'd never know they're there unless you stared.
And guess what?
I am dying to watch the next movie, the TV shows I missed, and once again, I am looking forward to long phone chats with my sister, Lucy, and my best cousin.
Now, I hear every epithet some of my students utter under their breath, behind my back. I have abandoned my front-row seat during faculty meetings. And I am able to understand all the items put forth in our prayer meetings. The better to hear of how God’s grace works in people’s lives.
I feel gargantuan guilt that these two tiny widgets in both my ears cost one big motorcycle and a bike, but hey, I console myself, a mom costs more than that.
This New Year, I have new ears! I think I can hear you applauding.
Looking back to our clan’s 72nd reunion, which my family branch hosted, I go through a myriad of deeply reflective emotions. Sometimes I chuckle, shed tears, laugh out loud, or simply feel good by looking at our countless photos and videos taken by different nieces and nephews.
One of the many episodes that keeps a smile pasted on my face was narrated by a nephew, whom I call our resident pastor (and a real one, too) since he is assigned to deliver God’s messages in our worship and thanksgiving services, and to lead the prayers before every activity.
Here’s how he wrote it:
“On the first day of the reunion after the thanksgiving service, my wife and I went to the Kid's Corner and we saw the clay dough scattered all over. We started tidying up the area in preparation for those who will use it next.
"Adrian [my only grandson, aged 9, who attended our annual reunion for the very first time] and Matthew [my grandnephew, aged 8, who also attended the reunion for the first time] were there also—my Facebook friends whom, after a long time, I was able to meet personally!
“I told Adrian to use the plastic molds and create 72 stars to symbolize the 72 years of our coming together. Adrian asked if Matthew could join and do the task too. I agreed.
“After some time—probably, 20 or 30 minutes—Adrian approached me and told me that they were through. I was surprised.
“They took me seriously. And they finished the task!
“I was blessed with these two because they listened and they believed in what I said. They did what they were told even when no one was watching.
“You seldom see kids like them nowadays. Such is the faith that our heavenly Father delights upon. I commend the parents and grandparents, too—who are training these two children in the way that they should go!”
Family reunions are made of these. Starlit grace all, 72 and beyond.
Our 72nd annual clan reunion themed “Timeless,” which was hosted by my family branch, ended on January 1, 2017—one year to the day we accepted the assignment, as emblazoned on our uniform t-shirts.
On that same day, preps quickly began. That’s how serious we all were (28 in all) about the job, which comes every nine years.
Being the eldest in a family of five siblings, I was the de facto chairman. But on day one, I instantly promoted myself to emeritus and passed on the responsibility to my youngest brother, Dave, who still has the grace of vigor.
Our children, located in various parts of the world, and whose media savvy we envy, put up a Facebook page with a header featuring our acceptance t-shirt. They brainstormed on cyberspace and came up with varied monthly contests that generated excitement.
Then two months before the event, after a series of meetings presided by the chairman-designate, the chairman emeritus launched the theme and logo, also on social media:
On December 30, 2016, the Vergara Clan will come together for the 72nd time. But 72 is just a number.
“The tie that binds” spans yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our Lolo Berto and Lola Cionang, who started it all, are gone and so are the nine originals who came after them.
One day, I will be gone, too, following the neo-riginals who have said goodbye. But I know that the spirit behind the V-Clan reunion will remain timeless. Thus, it is this year’s theme. (Chit sub-clan)
During the event, we had efficient help from the clan execom (made up of representatives from each family branch) to man the corners, activities, programs, and prizes for all life stages: kiddies, oldies, and middies. For the first time, we had a photo booth where everyone unleashed his histrionic best.
All that has ended. On January 1, 2017, we bade the clanistas (our term of endearment for clan members) passed on the job to the next host.
In our effort to make our 72nd reunion memorable for all clanistas every day of the past year, we (28 pax) were exceedingly blessed daily with timeless joy from a timeless God:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
Over many Christmases in my married life, I have created some traditions, which I impose upon the family—all boys. These fall under their trivia list, which is why Tony humors me, probably thinking, “It’s no skin off my nose.”
First, a family Christmas card. I get the boys together for a family photo with a Christmas letter about how our year was.
Second, a roast turkey for Noche Buena. In the early days, Tony was chef after which son #3 took over. But both were blessed with a gofer—Ate Vi, our long-time househelp.
Third, a Christmas tree with a different motif each year.
For the first time in years, we have no Christmas card. My two unmarried sons, #1 and #3, were too busy with their personal pursuits. They are no longer kids, so I couldn’t cajole them into posing. My photo file has nothing close to a family shot.
“Mom, nobody reads Christmas letters anymore,” son #3 said.
“There’s FB, Twitter, and . . .” added son #1.
I gave up.
For the first time in years, too, son#3 opted to buy a roast turkey instead of preparing one. Reason: his gofer, now advanced in the years, retired one month before Christmas (but that’s another story). Ate Vi’s replacement hasn’t seen the likes of an oven.
“This turkey doesn’t come close to yours,” I complained to son #3. Tony and son #1 agreed, but we had nothing else for Christmas dinner.
Goodbye to home-cooked turkey.
And then, there’s my Christmas tree. Trimming it required no help from the boys so it went up and served as my uncomplaining photo model.
Two Christmas traditions now gone with the wind, what was I to do?
While writing a blog on Christmas and reading the Scripture, I came across how man-made traditions can control people. Jesus addressed the issue in Mark 7. The Pharisees and Jews had traditions such as not eating unless they washed their hands a certain way, etc.
In v. 5, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
Jesus reminded them of Isaiah’s prophesy on hypocrites—“These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Where in the Bible, I asked myself, does it require a family photo/letter and roast turkey for Noche Buena?
Without those, Christmas is still Christmas. In fact, man-made traditions could take time away from focusing on the King of kings.
While celebrating Christmas in December 2016, sans my traditions which kept me in stupor, I was doused in grace, and I quickly came to.
“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Psalm 65:11
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for your grace year after year. Help us to continue focusing on You, no matter what happens in the world, in the year 2017. Amen.