Of Love, Miracles, and A Walk to Remember

A few hours after my previous post was made public, a friend who had read my blog sent me a text asking what led me to find Jesus despite all the feeling of inadequacy and crippling self-doubt that I am struggling with from time to time. I was intimidated by the fact that this was someone who didn’t believe in God and that I may not be able to explain or describe exactly how the change came about. Since I was caught off guard I explained that Jesus dying on the cross reminded me of God’s love and whenever I am reminded of how tremendous God’s love is by sending us his one and only son to pay for our sins, the void that I have in my heart gets filled.

I know it might not have made a non-believer understand how Jesus dying on the cross and God’s love helped me with my daily struggles and it might not have been enough to explain how I started to believe because even I can’t explain it. I just felt it—felt that it was the right thing and that it’s the only thing that made sense. How can you explain something as intangible as a feeling or phenomenon that you can’t even name?

When I told some of the people I knew from the two years I was lost about my renewed faith, I could picture them vividly with their mouths gaping in surprise. I was a completely different person back then, full of hubris, that I could compare myself to Saul in the book of Acts before he was converted. Could we call it a miracle? Here was a man, a Pharisee, who persecuted a lot of Christians, until one day, the Lord appeared to him and he lost his sense of sight because the Lord had a plan for him.

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
Acts 9:15 (NIV)

When Ananias went to the house where Saul was staying, just as the Lord had commanded him, he placed his hands on Saul. And when Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, he regained his sight and was baptized. Like Saul, I had been blind. And when I opened myself up and was filled with the Holy Spirit, I was awakened. Everything that didn’t make sense before finally did.

Then my thoughts wandered over to one line from the film version of A Walk to Remember where Landon said, “Her love is like the wind—I can’t see it but I can feel it.” It was something that Jamie taught him which also brought me to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, another moving element in not just the film but the novel as well.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

This is probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible but contrary to popular belief, love here doesn’t refer to romantic love. Love here transcends that. This love is so much more. This love is God. And if you equate God to love, then God is all the things mentioned in this verse. But even more so, if we go back to what Landon said and equate that love to God, then it’s almost like saying, “God is like the wind—I can’t see Him but I can feel Him.” (I’m doing a mental ‘yay!’ because I love it when I connect things heh).

It wasn’t what I did or anyone did that made me turn to God. God made me turn to God. By His relentless love, He made me see what I had been too blind to see before despite all my iniquities and imperfections. And so I began my walk with Him, and in many ways it is and will be a walk to remember. 🙂

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You Are Not Alone

Not until a couple of months ago I was agnostic, and this isn’t something I usually say out loud. A lot of things just didn’t make sense to me and a huge part of my disbelief came from seeing other people who know their Bible verses, regularly go to church every Sunday, and proclaim God’s name whenever something good happens to them or whenever they try to ask for something but then these are the same people who are always so quick to judge and discriminate or do a lot of un-Christian things. I just couldn’t stand it and at the same time I didn’t want to end up like them. My resolve was to go on with my life, trudge on, and make my own destiny. I thought, Hey, I can go and pursue whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone, right?

And so I tried to live life attempting to reach a sense of independence and accomplishment, none of which I achieved. Even when I tried to be a doer instead of nothing but a plain ol’ dreamer, I still felt like I was wandering aimlessly. I had a goal in mind but it didn’t seem to be working for me. If it was, then why were there moments where I’d lie wide awake at night feeling a deep sadness I couldn’t explain? I’d read all these self-help or inspirational books and feel enlightened for a flickering moment and then it’s gone. It was like no matter what I did, nothing could completely fill the void that I had.

I had Christian friends, both from my high school and even work, who’d share the Gospel with me, but I always had my ears covered (figuratively). I didn’t like being told what to do and I didn’t like someone else’s faith being forced unto me. I couldn’t appreciate those people who preach in public transportation especially if after sharing the Word of God, they’d hand out envelopes, asking for donation. I questioned their motives. I didn’t want to be a victim to those who prey on other people’s faith for their own gain. My own father would also tell me to pray whenever I have self-doubt or feel sad but I just couldn’t get into it.

So what changed? To be honest, I still am baffled and in awe at how the Lord has worked His way to me and in me.

I had just spent Christmas and New Year with Mico and his family in Maryland and he was driving me to Washington, DC where I’d be riding a bus back to New York. A song was playing on the radio. I’m not sure exactly what song it was but it was a worship song. I was reminded of my late grandmother who would always sing songs of praise. I remembered the tattered and yellowed pages of a book or a pamphlet that contained all the worship songs which she had taught me to sing. All of a sudden everything that didn’t make sense to me finally did, and I was awakened to the fact that all this time, I didn’t even know exactly what it was I that I had been rejecting.

It took me a while to completely open up about my renewed faith here because I wasn’t so sure how I should even begin to tell my story. And even after a couple of paragraphs down, as I am writing this, I’m not quite sure if what I’m trying to share makes sense in another person’s eyes.

Just a week ago, I was up late at night and I was crying really hard because I felt inadequate. It’s one of the motions that I go through every now and then that I can’t quite explain. Sometimes I’d feel worse for feeling what I feel because I’m conscious of the fact that I probably have it easier than a lot of people out there but it’s something that I struggle with even to this day. And amidst of all the tears that I tried hard not to shed but still did, I was praying really hard to God to take away the self-doubt, the sadness, and the pain that I was feeling.

I had always wondered how it happens—praying and eventually getting those prayers answered. I’ve heard friends tell me how in times of doubt or not knowing what to do, they’d ask God for help or guidance and that God eventually answers them. Even in a non-spiritual sense, I wasn’t one to completely believe in or hope for “signs” that would tell me which is the right path to take. I wondered if it was something that could happen to me and it did. It wasn’t until last night that I finally got a response from God.

I decided to join a Hillsong connect group meeting in Jackson Heights last night and the message was about “Making Progress” and at its very core, it says that whenever you feel like you’re not going anywhere in life, just put your faith in Him and follow obediently and remember that He is always with you. You are never alone.

In such a fast paced life that we have today, we’re always looking to get everything that we want in an instant, forgetting that not everything is available to us the moment we want it or the moment we ask for it. Sometimes we have to learn how to be patient and that being at a standstill isn’t all that bad. Because sometimes it’s in these quiet moments that the Holy Spirit is trying to work out God’s provision for us. So wait and allow for the Holy Spirit to move. This was God’s answer to my feeling of inadequacy. All these things that I wished I had right now but didn’t have are just things. Things that I probably couldn’t bring with me to eternity. I was reminded that sometimes having enough is better than nothing at all. That simply being alive right now is already a huge blessing and something that I should not take for granted.

There’s something to be said about the humility I feel right now as I share these words, this story. I finally found who could fill that void in my heart. He’s always been there, I just refused to see Him and the fullness of His love.

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 — John 14:23-27 (NIV)

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Life Lately

It honestly feels like forever since I saw this blog. Really. The only time I even got to actually write something was to get some #feels off my chest to spazz over No Filter before its last two shows.

One Saturday was spent recuperating, then the following Sunday felt even more blah, and the following week went by piled with workload that I just couldn’t take even a peek of my online life, save, of course, the few moments during my bus commutes to and from work where I flood everyone’s Facebook feeds with random shared links or posts or lyrics with #feels.

Just two weeks ago, I scheduled my appointment with the US Embassy less than 48 hours prior to the actual interview schedule. I was having second thoughts if I should schedule it too soon but I didn’t really have a better option since the next available schedule was not until August 26 and my contact from the US Office advised that I have the interview as soon as possible.

I was nervous. I had been hearing stories about how it’s difficult to get an L1 Blanket visa approved especially if you’re applying under the specialized knowledge category. You have to prove that you really have a specialized knowledge that the company needs and can’t find anywhere else. It sounds easy enough to do if you already have four certifications in your credentials and you graduated from one of the best universities in the country but if you’re like me who usually doubts her own abilities and gets anxious whenever asked the question, “what’s so special about you?” it can be pretty nerve-racking.

Since I work nights and I wanted to be well-rested before the interview, I sent and email to my project manager asking if I could take the night off to “prepare” for my interview. I was lucky enough that my current project at that time had just finished go live and didn’t have a lot of issues that needed to be addressed. My project manager approved my leave and I spent the night drafting short speeches in my head about what I was going to say during the interview. I asked my dad to drop me off in the morning before he went to work.

That morning was chaotic.

You know how in the guidelines in one of the online forms or applications you submitted it says you are not allowed to bring a cellphone or any electronic device for that matter? I’m pretty sure I read that before coming in but I guess I just assumed that I could probably leave it there somewhere.

So my dad dropped me off and he headed straight for Sucat afterwards because that’s where he works. Minutes after I get inside the building, they scan my bag and found that I had my cellphone with me along with the charger and one powerbank. They wouldn’t let me in because those were not allowed inside. I gave out a plea because my dad had already left and I wasn’t sure how far he’s already gone. I was panicking but I kept my calm and went out the exit door a bit disheartened that I already had my first struggle of the day.

I quickly called my dad and told him he needs to come back to fetch my cellphone and all the other stuff that were prohibited to be brought inside. Luckily, he hadn’t gone too far and he was still able to turn around and come back for my stuff.

While I was waiting for my dad, I sort of hung out with this security guard outside the building. He was telling me how I should always keep my cool in dealing with the security, the staff, etc. He even told me stories of some people coming out of the embassy in tears after getting their visas denied (I’m not sure if that’s even true because I didn’t see a single person crying after my trip to the Embassy lol)

So as disheartened as I was, I still trudged on after my dad had picked up my stuff and hoped that there wouldn’t be any more mishaps after that.

Steps 1 and 2 didn’t take too long. After I had my documents checked, paid the fees, and had my fingers scanned, the only thing that really took long was waiting for my turn to be interviewed. A lot of people were waiting for their numbers to be displayed on the LED screen and there were only three or four windows that processed L1 and H visas.

I can’t even remember how long it was that I waited there sitting and being utterly bored because I forgot to wear a watch and I had to leave my phone with my dad. I had my journal with me but I couldn’t write because I was too nervous about the whole thing.

I can still remember how I felt my heart pound against my chest as I heard some of the questions being asked. I remember how this old man was standing across the room from me as he was about to have his fingers scanned. The lady behind the window was asking him what his name and birthday was and he just stared at her. The lady had to ask him twice before one of the staff approached him and repeated the questions to him again. I wasn’t sure if he was just nervous or if he just had a hard time hearing.

I also remember how one celebrity caught my eye after I recognized who she was. My initial thought was, why isn’t anyone flocking towards her to ask for a selfie?, until I realize, oh yeah, no one has their phones with them now. I had probably been waiting more than a half hour then and I was so pissed at how the staff just told them to go ahead and stand behind the person already being interviewed at Window 3; they didn’t even have to wait for their numbers to be called. But oh well, c’est la vie!

What sucked even more was that the number assignment to the windows were randomized. It would’ve been fair if the numbers being generated upon entering the embassy were random numbers as well, but no, they weren’t, so I really couldn’t estimate for how long I was going to be there. I found it weird. I just really wanted to get it over with since I was already running out of energy and I still had to worry about how to get to my father’s office afterwards.

After another hour or hour and a half, it was finally my turn. I handed in my passport, I-129S, and I-797 and kept the other supporting documents to one side in case they were asked for.

I wasn’t sure if that was just simply the consular officer’s demeanor or she just wanted to be done with it since it was already probably around noon at the time and there were still a lot of people waiting to be interviewed but the moment our eyes met I knew that it wasn’t going to be a long talk.

She asked me the usual stuff—which school or university did I graduated from and what degree did I take; how much my salary is now and how much I will be making upon the transfer. And then came the question about what specialized knowledge do I have. I honestly felt like Ross in No Filter during The Interview monologue. There were all these voices in my head talking while I try to answer the officer’s questions. But I kept calm and feigned confidence because to be credible, you have to look confident, right?

The whole exchange of questions and answers didn’t take more than twenty minutes. I didn’t even have to show her my diploma, transcripts, and the printed copies of my certifications. The ringing in my ears stopped the moment she uttered the words, “Your visa is approved and you’ll get it within a week.” This was it. My visa was approved. I’m moving to New York.

So now the waiting game resumes. The biggest roadblock against my work transfer was getting my visa approved and now that I already have it, I am only waiting to get called in for a project. No definite date yet as to when I’ll be leaving so each day feels like a YOLO moment: I need to read this book I have from my piles of to-read before I leave; I need to send this out to Louise because I can’t leave it lying around the house for my family to peruse; I need to sign up for this workshop because this will definitely be something I’ll miss once I am miles and miles away; I need to go out, experience life in the Philippines and take A LOT of photos!

While I’m sure life in New York will be an exciting one, I can’t help but feel anxious about the stuff that I’ll be missing here while I’m away. But that’s just the price you pay for grabbing a once in a lifetime opportunity such as this; you just have to make the most out of it.

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NO FILTER: An original play by Millennials about Millennials

Every generation tries to rebel against the rules somehow.

While the play’s tagline on the program says An original play by Millennials for Millennials about Millennials, I felt the need to omit the exclusivity of the phrase “for Millennials” because this play surely isn’t just for the generation it tries to embody.

This play was an honest-to-goodness tell-all show by a generation who has been described by many as selfish, entitled, lazy, and narcissistic brats.
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Friday's 10 Happy Things Vol. 4

Friday’s 10 Happy Things Vol. 4

It has been a pretty slow week on this blog because real life decided to get in the way. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a happy week! Work may have been up my ass but the week has still been pretty sweet!
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