Monday, January 30, 2017

When I Grow Up

"I want to be a mom!"

That was my answer from day one. I was five, having braved half a decade of existence with gusto, when I made that declaration. Over the years, other opinions came and went. I went through the flight attendant stage, the fashion designer stage, the celebrity chef stage, and even the princess stage (Prince William was still single then, okay?).

But the fundamental wish never changed.

I wanted to be a mom. That was my goal in life.

I still do want to be a mom...but that's not my goal in life.

Biology aside, becoming a good mom required being a good wife first. My urgency to get to that stage almost caused multiple stupidities as a single girl. I knew I wanted to be a mom; so I had to find a husband by necessity. At that time, any random one would do.

God, of course, had better plans. It's by His miraculous guidance that I fell in love with my husband and married him as soon as we knew it was His will.

In my mind, step one was done.

Becoming a mom - the ultimate dream - felt only a stone's throw away.

For the first 18 months of marriage, I constantly expected myself to be pregnant. Month after month, I bought pregnancy tests. Month after month, I geared myself up to buy maternity clothes. Week after week, I tracked my body. Week after week, I nodded silently as family members gave me mythic tips on how to get pregnant. Day after day, I sacrificed high heels and caffeine and eating processed food.

Day after day, I cried.

Why wasn't it happening? Upon multiple occasions, I had dear older people in church walking up to me to say, "You should have kids as soon as possible. Don't wait until you're older."

It pained me every single time to say, "I know. I know."

I wasn't waiting. We wanted kids, and we wanted them right away. We even expected to be holding a child (or at least a pregnant belly) by the time our first anniversary rolled along.

God didn't let that happen.

We ran tests. We took medication. We consulted doctors both Western and Oriental in training. We consulted doctors for women, doctors for men. We got masseuses, herbs, vitamins, and a dozen other means of supposedly aiding fertility.

Our bodies aren't perfect. We can have kids, but it's hard to have them.

The thought was sobering.

But God is our sun and shield. No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

He is the strength of our hearts, and our portion forever.

He sent people to cross our paths. A wonderful church deaconess reminded me that having children or not didn't matter in eternity. A pastor's wife shared with me that God's legacy in us reached beyond that of sons or daughters. A loving husband reminds me repeatedly that he will never love me any less even if I never bear him any children.

Don't get me wrong. We received tons of wrong advice too.

Some people said that it would surely happen someday, though they couldn't guarantee it. Some people told me I just didn't have enough faith. Some others claimed that I just "didn't want it enough."

Friends and family conceive - quickly and repeatedly - and I feel that life is just utterly unfair.

They sound silly in my saner days. But whenever I come home after a family reunion where EVERYONE had a kid, I feel lonely and sad and feeling entirely inadequate. When Mother's Day rolls around and a new mother runs up to me to say, "Look! Look! I have a baby now!"...I still go home and cry out half of my body's water content.

It's in those days that I forget what it truly means to be a Christian, and all the wrong advice sounds almost right.

Being a Christian means that there is nothing on earth I desire besides God. It means that despite what society might tell me, my life is not missing anything.

I am complete.

I am complete in Him.

I am not living an unfinished life. I am not in any way less of a person than the person with half a dozen kids. I am a child of a King. That's all that matters.

Hey, guess I did end up being a princess, after all.

When I grow up, I still want to be a mom; but I don't HAVE to be one.

Not having children allows us to study, to shop, to grow, to travel, and to do so many things we wouldn't be able to if we were tied down with any children. Not having kids lets us have so many more years alone to prune and fine-tune our marriage. Not having kids helps me understand what it means to be complete, complete in my God.

I am the child of a King. Nothing else really matters. And even when I forget that at times, it doesn't make it any less true.



Friday, November 25, 2016

On Being a Millenial

There are days when I wear that label proudly. I came of age during the new century. I am a digital native, a confident and opinionated woman, an expressive individual, and a writer and traveller. In less than 30 years of life, I've had the opportunity to see, read, visit, and explore so many things.

Being a millenial is fun. It's a generation of opportunity, after all. Color and gender suddenly don't matter when it comes to choosing career paths. My marriage is one of mutual respect and consideration, not a one-way street of dominance. Social media and the Internet leave the world (and everyone in it) at my fingertips.

I love being a millenial.

We are part of a global village. We invent cool words and type in acronyms. We have gadgets instead of pets.

It's pretty cool.

But there are days when I am less proud of the label.

There are days when the term means laziness, faithlessness, and narcissism. There are HR department heads who shudder in fear at a stack of applications with no one born before 1980. There are moments when the word is spit out with total disdain.

And as much as I'd like to argue, those bad days happen more often than the good ones.

Because whether we like it or not, our actions do speak louder than words. Or, in some cases, louder than inaction.

Millenials, it's our turn to make sure we leave the right legacy (not that most of us care about anything beyond 'today' and 'right now,' apparently). But if you're still reading, then you're probably one of the hopeful ones. It's our turn to write the next chapter of history.

Are we leaving anything of lasting achievement?

Or just a bunch of selfies?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Finding Mr. Darcy

I have never shied away from the fact that I adore Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I re-read my favorite parts of the book quite regularly, and I've hungrily consumed its various adaptations. After all, there is no flawed heroine as charming as Elizabeth; and there is no elusive prince more dashing and admirable than Darcy.

I've loved the book since I was twelve.

And that means I've been waiting for my Mr. Darcy to show up for all of the twelve years after that.

There's just one little problem: Mr. Darcy doesn't exist.

He's a figment of maiden Austen's imagination, and he's been the object of my dreams for so long that he simply couldn't exist. There is no perfect man.

"No!" The fangirls cry. "We're not saying Mr. Darcy is perfect!"

No, we're not. But we sure act like he is, don't we?

The irony of it all is as follows: We are all as blind as Elizabeth.

We think that if we wish it hard enough, that handsome and brooding modern-day princes will appear and refuse to leave our sides. It doesn't work that way. We live our own lives. Sometimes Prince Charming shows up; sometimes he doesn't.

And sometimes, he comes as the person we least expect.

The charm of Pride and Prejudice's love story is that Mr. Darcy wasn't someone Elizabeth treasured right away. And for many of us in real life, it works the same way. I know I've had my share of Mr. Wickhams. But none of us really want to be with Wickham, do we? We want Darcy! But maybe if I had known earlier what qualities really made a Darcy, then I wouldn't have had to meet so many Wickhams (and Collinses too!).

What makes a Mr. Darcy?

It's not the height or the riches or the handsome features. Unfortunately, it's not. It's not the brooding introverted nature, even. In other words, it's nothing that the world exalts.

It's not the athleticism on horseback.

It's not the fame of the Darcy name (or the ten thousand pounds per annum that comes with it).

And it's definitely not the fact that he's related to Catherine de Bourgh.

What makes Darcy a prize includes much deeper, less visible things.

It's the kindness and generosity of a brother and landlord.

It's the faithfulness of a man with a heart unchanging.

It's the humility that changes a once-proud gentleman for the better.

It's the respect of a thinker for the woman he loves.

And those are the things I found in mine.

I married my Mr. Darcy, whose birthday is today, more than three years ago. Like Elizabeth, I didn't appreciate him at first, choosing rather to hurl rejections in his face (my baby brother was there, ask him). Like Elizabeth, I also took quite a while to warm up to who he truly is, rather than who I thought him to be. I didn't try to imitate Elizabeth intentionally, but I somehow ended up doing so.

But I'm glad my husband is as steadfast as my favorite fictional hero.

Happy birthday, Tim. You're far better of a man than I could ever have hoped to marry. Thank you for loving silly ol' me.

And guess what? As far as I'm concerned, my Mr. Darcy is just as handsome and dashing as Eliabeth's - and our humble home is as luxurious as Pemberley. He is the introvert that balances my talkative nature, the ballast to my whims and fancies; and even though he doesn't brood (it's not becoming, really), I think he's cool anyway.

I fall in love with him a little more each and every day. Who knows, maybe one day, all the love can compensate for the years I didn't appreciate him for who he was.

Ladies, don't be me. Look for the right things. Then maybe, when your Mr. Darcy comes along, you'll recognize him right away.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Social Media and the Green-Eyed Monster

Social media - the term breathes excitement, fear, or sustenance to a variety of people.

For some, the thought of uploading a play-by-play of their life online causes paranoia or a prickly sense of privacy invasion. For others, like myself, social media is a tool (and upon occasion, a necessary evil) for keeping in touch with the friends, students, teachers, and family members scattered across the globe. For anyone born a decade after me, it's a lifeline. They'd stop breathing without it.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other hashtag-friendly folks have served a revolutionary role ever since they turned mainstream. Suddenly, the world is a much faster, much smaller place.

I can tell you what my college professor had for breakfast.

I can gasp judgmentally at how my cousin's cousin's cousin's drastic weight gain looks far worse than mine.

I can even be regularly informed of which Avenger, Disney Princess, language, color, or inner child my once-upon-a-summer-camp high school friend is supposed to be (even though he or she categorically denies being any of the above).

Because of social media, life is now so much more complex, so much more riveting, and so much more suffocating.

Because, to be honest, most of the feelings I harbor as I scroll up and down my feed, unless duly kept in check, are rather on the sinful side.

Covetousness, self-righteousness, impatience, and misplaced pride are just a few to start off the list. There's also the invariable materialism that constantly lurks in every other post.

Sometimes I wonder why I so eagerly gobble up this stuff.

Hedonism? Check. Narcissism? Double check. Selflessness and true learning? I'll admit I've had my share of timely reminders from inspiring quotes with flowery backgrounds.

But most of the time, the primary sentiment churning to the rhythm of my heartbeat, as I survey post after post, is plain, ol' jealousy.

Yes, jealousy - along with discontent, ungratefulness, condemnation, indignation, and all their accompanying evils.

Someone got a new car. Well, good for them.

Someone is on vacation, again. Don't they ever work? Okay, fine, Paris was so last month. Florence is a whole different story.

Another baby.

Another grandchild.

Another wedding - and God forbid it looks fancier than mine.

Another baby? Oh wait, that's the same baby. They just need to upload an hourly picture of him. Baby sitting, baby standing, baby sleeping.

Another graduation, medals and all, while I struggle to pass my classes.

Another parent publicly boasting about their pride for their children's achievements, while I wait for mine to remember that it's my birthday.

Another wedding. Wait, didn't she already - oh, that's her baby sister, who happens to be five years younger than I. Oh, well.

Another -

Okay, hyperbole aside, here's the deal. Since everyone wants to post disgustingly happy things about their lives to make me uncomfortable and jealous and hurt - maybe I should return the favor?

I eat a good meal - snap photo, upload, and wait for LPP (likes per post) to go up.

I have a staycation - snap photo, upload, celebrate new and higher LPP.

I mention something sentimental about my family - make collage, upload, and stand triumphant over reaching three-digit territory in LPP land.

I make a post about lunch. Hm, this is going slow.

I rant about homework - this should do it. And it does! LPP average back on track.

A week later, I lie depleted on my bed, depressed that the latest picture of my new haircut barely got sixty likes.

What happened? It's not like it was my fault. I just treated them the same way they treated me, right? Right?

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn," Romans 12 commands. If anything, social media should be the perfect aid to fulfilling that Bible verse. What better way to know exactly how to empathize than being told by the person himself, often with photo evidence?

The only thing in the way - is that stubborn, narcissistic self in me.

The reason that envy can become such a powerful driving force behind my actions is that I forget how little this world is about me. If someone posts pictures of their beautiful family enjoying God's blessings, the way I click the "like" or "heart" button doesn't have to come with a tinge of bitterness. It's not about me. When someone frankly pours out their struggles, what better chance could I have to comfort and edify, perhaps immediately?

And then there's the other me problem.

Why do I post something online in the first place?

If my goal is to inspire jealousy and draw attention to myself, then I am no better off than the people I so rashly judge. If my purpose is to feel better by getting human affirmation, then I'm diving headfirst into a giant black hole.

If I share something - be it photo, quote, article, link, video, or note - because I believe it would glorify God and benefit others, then there just might be a higher chance that it would.

Dear social media, I don't know what I'd do without you. But maybe right now, what matters more is what I do do with you - be it through what I contribute or what I consume.

Because, at the end of the day, it's not about me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Full Circle: Journey of a Homeschooled Child

Being the homeschooled kid of our church has been part of my identity for as long as I can remember. By the time my brothers came along four and ten years respectively after me, people had gotten used to the idea. Me? I was a novelty item.

“So what do you do all day?”

“So do you have, like, no friends?”

“Does your mom know everything?”

Those were just a few of the questions regularly thrown my way by fascinated strangers and family friends. For a practice that’s been around far longer than Father Abraham, homeschooling sure seems mysterious to many.

Primarily due to that mystery, my mother—juggling duties of homemaker, homeschool mom, and pastor’s wife for the past 24 years—has long accumulated a mental list of homeschooling benefits, ready to advocate her family’s choices at a moment’s notice. From time to time, people would visit us to inquire about or copy from my parents’ practices, eager to understand what homeschooling in the Philippines entails.

In the midst of all that, I remained blissfully oblivious. As far as I was concerned, I followed whatever schedule my parents set for me from day to day, learning all sorts of fun and exciting things along the way. While my friends in church were complaining about projects, traffic, and annoying boy stalkers, I was enjoying myself with trips to grandma’s house, activities in church, playtime with my brothers, and even off-season vacations to various destinations.

Life wasn’t about living in starchy uniforms and stuffy classrooms. It wasn’t about enduring one more boring class after another.

Life was real.

Life was about learning to run a household, from meal planning to sewing up my broken stuffed toys. Life was about making friends with little babies all the way to old grandmas in our church. Life was about reading, endless reading, of books that acquainted me with the whole wide world before the Internet was a way of life. By the time high school came around, life became a time for blogging and writing and reaching out to various communities

And life didn’t stop with home and church. It got bigger.

By God’s grace, I moved on to different chapters of life. I completed my college degree in Florida, U.S.A. I became a high school teacher in MGC New Life Christian Academy, a school whose administration and students I still love to no end. I dated and married my wonderful husband. Life was real and blessed and happy.

Then God called me back to my roots.

Last year, the Lord led our church to make the decision of establishing a homeschool academy—a school that would provide multilingual, biblical curriculum and guidance for homeschooling families. The need is present, and someone has to answer the call.

So here I am, administrator of Kairos Homeschool Academy.

Am I nervous? Yes.

Am I excited? Yes, yes.

Am I perfect at this? Not a chance.

But more than anything, I believe with my whole heart that the Lord’s grace is ever sufficient. It is the heart of every person involved in Kairos to build up a school that will bless, guide, and enable the next generation of parents who, like mine, want to bring up their children in a godly home.

I never saw it coming, even if others did.

Being a homeschooled child established the essence of who I am. It’s not a perfect system; there are no perfect systems. But my parents’ efforts and sacrifices in homeschooling have equipped me and my brothers with the love and skills we possess today, each of us still following God’s leading one step at a time.


And by His grace, Kairos will be making the reality I so enjoyed as a child into a reality for many, many more children to come.