what love to me is

maxresdefaultNovember of last year, I sat in a public speaking club and listened to a speech entitled “If You Asked Me About Love…” It was heartwarming, romantic and tear jerking (but in a good way). The line that struck me most was “Love is holding someone gently yet protectively.”

I shared the speech to my friend and she asked me, “How about you? What would you say if you were asked about love?” I didn’t give her an answer. At that time, love was a fantasy to me. After my first heartbreak, I came to believe that love doesn’t go well with someone like me. I couldn’t fathom it. I couldn’t understand it.

Before hearing that speech, my friend and I were having a huge misunderstanding. There was too much push and pull. She wanted me to do something but I kept on refusing. She said that she was insisting on it because she loves me. At that time, I thought, “Her love is too demanding.” However, I came across a quote by the late Pope John Paul II – the first explanation about love I encountered on my goal in answering her question. He said, “Real love is demanding…Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.” That’s when I became appeased to the love she had for me.

I haven’t shared her this yet. I was only planning to do so once I gathered enough understanding of this whole thing about L.O.V.E.

The next explanation about love that made impact to me was from the book of 1 Corinthians. Now, this isn’t the usual line about love being patient and kind, which can be found at the beginning of the 13th chapter. The line that hit me hard in my pursuit of understanding love was written in 1 Corinthians 13:7, which says, “It (Love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I was in elementary when I first read about 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and I always thought that these definitions of love are too shallow. Too simple. I was hoping for a more flowery explanation about what love is that’s usually found in most novels. However, upon reflecting on it and relating it on the most intense love I knew which was from my friend, I knew that love being protective, trusting, hopeful and persevering is what love really is. It was close to my favorite line in the speech I heard.

Finally, the last explanation about love that made everything click was by C.S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.”

Love is not for the cold-hearted. You can’t love if you don’t want to feel it. Unfortunately, feeling it requires you to soften your heart and subjecting it to be hurt. If you love something or someone, you can always be hurt by the thing or person you love.

“Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Love it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.”

I’ve put up tall and thick walls around me that hardened me and kept love away from me at all cost. I obsessed myself with Korean pop and made my world revolve around it. The only concept of love I only allowed myself to practice was my love for Korean idols. I kept my relationships shallow and casual, because I knew that having deeper connection to people will bring complications.

“But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

There was a time when my friend found it hard to come near to me. She said I had these walls around me that she couldn’t get past through. I felt bad and decided to let her in, thinking that I could still manage to be cold even with her. I could be open towards her while closed off towards others. How wrong I was. Letting her in and lowering my guard for her caused me too much emotional whiplash. Opening myself up to her means letting others see the real me too. Once you choose to be vulnerable to one person, you become vulnerable to everyone.

I kept my eyes open to every definition and explanation of love that is out there. There’s a lot of them. Someone said love’s mysteriousness and complexity are the reason why people obsess themselves with it. However, despite encountering more opinions about love, the three above are the ones that really hit me.

when god speaks

img_9108I have been in five companies since I graduated in 2009 before I came to work in my current job and it’s the best workplace I have ever been.

I was happy, I was thankful. I believed that God answered my prayers about Him bringing me to a company that could possibly be the last workplace I’m going to stay until I die. Exaggeration, I know.

We have the best bosses any employees could’ve ever hoped for. They always put our welfare before anything else. They provide us with everything we need. They make sure that we feel comfortable in the office every single day. They were perfect.

Aside from that, they always provide us opportunities that would help us grow. They took me to London last September and it was amazing!

However, somewhere along the way, things have changed.

After the London trip, one of the British staff resigned and her job was passed onto me temporarily. For three months, I juggled two jobs – mine and hers. It was no easy feat, but I tried my best to handle both of them until I had to sacrifice my job to do my temporary one because it was more time sensitive. I’m a multi-tasker but I realized that doing more than one job is different from doing more than one task.

I began to hate the work. However, I told myself, it’s just because of the temporary job I had to do. Everything would go back to normal once they found a new person for the said job. So, I endured everything and, true enough, they hired a new staff. I was free again. I was back to my original job.

Still, it wasn’t the same anymore. I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly. It was as if my heart’s not in the job anymore. I don’t feel the excitement I used to feel even if the task I’m working on isn’t really exciting. Nevertheless, I tried to brush everything off because I might just be getting used to normalcy again.

Then, during the Christmas vacation, while I was lying on my bed, doing nothing and thinking of nothing, I heart a voice. The voice said, “You’re going to leave *insert our company’s name.*” I cried right away. I didn’t want to leave my job, but I know that it would happen. The voice was incontestable. It was final. It was absolute.

It was God’s.

I knew it was His because I couldn’t argue with it. I already had my own plans for my future and yet I know that the voice’s will would prevail over my plans. True enough, from my devotion, I learned that when God speaks, things will happen. His voice can change any situation and His voice changed everything for me.

When I went back to work, I would look around me and feel sad. I don’t know where I’ll be leaving, but I can’t help but miss everything already. I cried over it a lot. But I don’t ask God why. This is one of the things that accepting God has done for me – I learned not to question His will.

Also, everything has been settled as well. My heart no longer beats for the best company I have ever known. It’s now focused on what God has in store for me in the future.

brave little soldier

img_8740[Warning: Spoiler ahead]

Sometimes, the biggest sacrifice comes from those people think of so little.

Ever since “The Great Wall” was announced more than a year ago, I was already looking forward to seeing it. I admit that it was due to Lu Han’s inclusion that made me interested in the movie. Though I know his role won’t be that big, I knew I just have to see him in it.

I was curious what character Lu Han would play. The story was set during one of China’s dynasties and it was a story about war. What could he possibly play? Then they said that he would be a soldier and I laughed at the ludicrousness of the idea. How could a sweet, boyish young man become a soldier during the said era? Then they said that he would be a soldier who was weak and cowardly. Again, I laughed. That character would indeed suit him.

I know it’s mean of me to think of him in such a way, but I just couldn’t help but be realistic.

So the time finally come to watch the movie. I don’t know what I was expecting. I know Lu Han had a small role and yet his name and face is all over the movie poster – out-billing the two Hollywood actors who have more scenes in the film. I just don’t want the reason to be marketing (no one can argue that he’s one of the most bankable Chinese celebrities).

Anyway, as expected, Lu Han only had few scenes and even fewer lines. Just like what Matt Damon said in his interviews when asked about Lu Han, the boy acted with his face and eyes really well. Upon seeing the movie, I understood what he meant. Without much dialogues, everything the Lu Han’s character has to say was conveyed on his face – the shame, embarrassment and frustration.

It might sound biased but Lu Han’s character has more dynamics than the rest (probably aside from Matt Damon’s). In the span of 1 hour and 55 minutes, Lu Han’s character evolved (not drastically but just right) from being a cowardly soldier into a brave one. He didn’t become a soldier who suddenly knew how to fight just because he faced his fears – that won’t be realistic. However, he became a soldier who gained enough courage to help fight the war (thanks to the few encouraging words from Matt’s character that he didn’t understand).

So, Lu Han’s fate in the movie was actually really noteworthy. I even felt bad for him. But at the same time, I was proud of his character. The brave little soldier.

how i came back home

img_7589Last week, I wrote about how I grew apart from God…now, it’s time for the story on how I ran back to Him.

Towards the end of college, I suddenly thought of going back to church – the kind of church that I knew when I was a kid. This was going to be easy because two of my friends are active church-goers. Coincidentally, I needed someone who works in TV stations (for our thesis) and they said that they know one and he goes to their church.

Sadly, this just went on for a month. After getting what I needed for our thesis, I stopped attending again. My friends didn’t bother to drag me to church, they just let me focus on “important” things that needed my time.

I felt bad because I really wanted to go to church. I hated myself that I wasn’t committed enough to it.

I kept the plan in the back of my head. I told myself that I’m going to revisit the idea again when I’m finally really ready.

I graduated from college in 2009. Got my first job a couple of months after then left that job in 2011. After that, it was one unsatisfactory job after another until the end of that year. During these times, I even abandoned my thinking that I should just believe and pray to God.

However, out of desperation to have a stable job by the coming 2012, I called on Him again. I laid out what I wanted for 2012 before Him – I said I want a job where I could jumpstart my life as a young professional, a job where I would stay for some time. I prayed about that repeatedly all December of 2011 and it worked! After the New Year, I got a job interview and I started my new job the following week.

I stayed in that job for three years. During these years, I didn’t talk to God again (well, there are occasional times when I did like when I asked Him to please allow me to watch my favorite artist in Seoul).

It was only in 2015 when I did again. I asked for almost the same thing I did back in December 2011 – a new job, a job where I can stay for a very long time. Like before, He gave me what I prayed for.

However, it seemed that from 2012, God had been planning for my return. In that year, He put a girl in my life. I didn’t know who she was at first. It was a friendship that really took time to develop. I laid my eyes on her towards the end of 2012 and only managed to establish an easygoing kind of friendship during 2014.

This girl turned to God when she broke up with her boyfriend in November 2015. She became a Christian. In the middle of 2016, she asked me if we could have a deeper and closer friendship – something I don’t really offer too anyone (a story for another time). I agreed and it was chaos right after that.

Opening up caused me to feel insecure, anxious and depressed. I blamed her for all those emotions. Yet, she repeatedly told me to turn to God. To really believe in God. However, despite doing what she told me right away, I was compelled more to not do it. I was feeling pressured and it wasn’t right. I told myself that if I’m going to reach out to God in totality this time, I’m going to do it because I was doing it on my own free will not because my friend was urging me to do it.

So, I asked for some space. During the distance and time the two of us were not talking much, that’s when I started doing devotions again. I didn’t tell her this. I kept it to myself for some time. I want to get used to everything without her looming over me. Fortunately, it worked.

Now, I’m doing three devotions, reading articles about God, praying a lot, going to cell groups and accepting invitations to attend church. I have never felt more alive than now.

how i got lost

img_8648Sometimes, I wonder what happened to me.

I know I had a strong relationship with God when I was a kid (as strong as it can be for a kid, at least). As young as I was back then, I easily accepted that there’s someone who I don’t see who loves me, looks after me and cares for me. Never once did I wonder where is He, being told that He is in heaven was enough for me.

Even when I was being bullied by my classmates, I knew He consoled me every single day that I cried. Though I would get pissed at the people who were hurting me, I would only get pissed but never too angry at them to the point that I would hate them. He kept my heart pure and soft.

John 3:16 was the very first Bible verse I ever memorized. I was in 1st grade back then in a Born Again Christian school (I’m thankful that my parents sent me there). I think it was perfect that a kid of 5 years old of age learned this passage before anything else. Any kid deserves to know from the beginning that someone loves him or her fiercely and that he or she is meant to have a great life.

But growing up can really be a pain.

Towards the end of my grade school years, I was itching for something new, something big. The small Born Again Christian school had become too small for me. I wanted to meet new people. I wanted to be in a new environment, a different world. I wanted huge things for myself and I came to the conclusion that staying where I was wouldn’t help me get them.

Transferring to an all-girls school was probably the best and the worst decision I ever made in my life.

I love my high school. I met a lot of awesome people there – cool teachers and great friends. It smashed my shell and turned my shyness and meekness into confidence and fierceness. Despite girls being ruthless on their own, I wasn’t made fun of. I was also pushed up to my limits academically and hardened my endurance for tough and stressful school moments.

However, I grew apart from God. Being in an all-girls school managed by nuns meant that I had to embrace a religion that was entirely new to me. Yes, maybe I was baptized as a Catholic (my certificate of baptismal can attest to that) but I wasn’t raised in that. I don’t even have that much memory of going to a Catholic church to attend mass when I was a kid (the only time I stepped near the church in our area was when I played with other kids every summer afternoons).

Religion classes were a pain. I rejected the doctrines being taught to us. I disliked my religion textbooks. I shook my head every gospel reading because it only focused on four books of the Bible. I groaned every Advent season because it meant that we had to pray the rosary every class. I didn’t understand praying the rosary because I was taught to only pray to God and Jesus not Mary. Feasts days of the saints left me dumbfounded because I never really knew who they were.

It was complicated. I wondered if following God was really that hard. I hated everything that they’re shoving down my throat to the point that I asked if there was a God at all because I didn’t want to waste my time in all of those things if there was going to be none. Thankfully, I had a friend who kept me in line and told me that it’s better to believe in God and to find out there’s none than to believe there’s not only to find out there’s one.

So, yes, I kept my belief that there’s God. But I told myself that I’m not going to embrace the religion that I was being surrounded by.

I wanted to go back to the time when I was in grade school wherein we would do devotions everyday at morning assembly (I didn’t know it was called devotion back then), wherein Christian Living classes meant that we’re only studying one Bible verse for almost an hour, wherein we would do praise and worship once a week with loud singing and interpretative dancing, wherein we’re free to pray for things we need to pray for every class.

I yearned for those because that was when I felt God. But I know I had to move on and maybe find a place that will be exactly like where I came from. However, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to look for it. So I lived with my own kind of religion. I settled on just believing in God. I didn’t pick up the Bible. I just made myself that knowing God and praying to Him will make things alright.

 

and i’m alive

img_8518I was sliding. There was nothing to hold onto. The rocks were smooth and wet. No rough edges could stop me from going straight down. I already pictured what would happen. Then, I silently and loudly called, “Lord!” Just then, everything stopped.

My friends from work went for a climb at Mt. Balagbag (Rodriguez, Rizal) yesterday. It was an easy climb. It was more of a trek actually. Still, it was tiring. Walking up a hill isn’t easy anyway if you didn’t grow up in such a place.

After the climb, we went to one of the nearby waterfalls. I think it was called “Otso-Otso.” There were a lot of people in the front so we headed up to look for a spot where we could relax.

I took pictures of the falls with one of my friends while the others are already dipping in the water. Then, we called them to swim where the falls is so that it would be more fun. The water was cold but refreshing. We took pictures with someone’s GoPro (I put my phone aside with my friend’s so that it won’t fall on the water) and joked around.

Then, it was time to go.

I climbed back up from the water. I was wet all over. I put on my slippers and picked up my phone along with my friend’s phone and watch. Then, I headed carefully to where my stuff is with my hands were both occupied – my left hand was holding a monopod where my phone was attached and my right hand was holding my friend’s phone and watch. Then, it happened.

I slipped. On the rocks. By the edge of the waterfalls.

My butt landed on a rock and I felt myself sliding down. The rocks were very smooth and there were no rough edges to stop my fall. My head was filled visions of the next chain of events – I would roll down along the rocks, bump my head against them and land on the shallow cold water. I didn’t reach the part of how I would look like after all that. I just immediately called on the one being that could possibly help me – God.

My heart called for Him. Upon the first cry, it was like the time froze. I wasn’t sliding anymore. I was shocked in disbelief.

A friend of mine rushed to my side. She clung onto my right arm, hoping and trying to keep me in place. However, there was no need for that anymore. I was already safe. Everyone was shouting something, but I just told them to calm down. I felt like I would really fall if they kept on their loud voices.

Stupidly, my first concern was the stuff in my hands. I looked on my left where my phone was. It got detached from my monopod, but luckily it was still plugged into the cord. It was hanging there on the edge. I immediately handed it over to my friend who was beside me as well as the other phone and watch in my other hand.

Free from everything, I got up on my feet. On my own.

The back of my ankles were hurting and so was my butt. However, I was all fine. No wounds or even scratches. I was alive.

Usually, such incidents would leave me high on adrenaline. I’m a thrill seeker and that should’ve been a perfect thrill. However, I was scared. For the first time, the thing that would usually excite me scared me. Scared me so much that I called on God.

I couldn’t help but be amazed. God heard me and He was really there. He was the one who kept me in place when I should’ve went straight to my end. He was also the one who told me to stand up. He saved me – literally – and it was overwhelming.

reuniting with matilda

img_8244One of my favorite movies as a child was “Matilda.” I remember my mom bringing home a copy of it on a VHS so that we don’t have to rent it from the stores. I watched it a lot to the point I memorized the dialogues. But despite all that, I still suck as a fan because I didn’t know it was a book – a children’s book – by Roald Dahl until a couple of years back. I suck as a fan.

Last year, Mara Wilson (better known as Matilda to us who grew up with that movie) released a book. An autobiography. Upon the announcement, I knew I had to have her book. I remember going to bookstores in Stratford when I was in London looking for it. I was so excited because the UK release coincided with my stay there. However, it seems that book releases don’t work that easily even in the UK, so I came home empty handed. Good thing, my colleague offered to buy it for me online and I got it.

“Where Am I Now?” is the first book I read this year. I am still in a state of utter speechlessness. I didn’t even wrote a review on my Goodreads because I don’t know how to put all the feels I got from the book on coherent writing.

All I know is that I loved reading the book. Mara’s a really good writer. She’s engaging and funny. I felt everything she put down on paper. Which was why, reading the book was also hard for me.

I knew it was about her life since it was an autobiography. So, I knew I’d finally learn where she had been after leaving Hollywood. However, It wasn’t just your typical narration and I was caught off guard. I was shocked, confused, heartbroken, relieved, etc.

She didn’t just talk about her career and life after Hollywood, she talked about sex (how she learned about it and how she struggled with her thoughts about it), death and religion (which really got my brain working), mental health (this got me on my feet), relationships, breaking up with Hollywood, being in a choir, losing her mother, NYU, Robin Williams, and her present.

I wasn’t ready for the book. I knew it upon reading the first few pages.

It left me bothered, especially on the part when she let go of her belief in God. That really got me thinking. It’s not because I’m against atheism. I’m a very open-minded person and I respect each and everyone’s beliefs. I just couldn’t figure out how she just let it go so easily. Well, she struggled at first, but I guess I was looking for a specific huge life-changing event (like something tragic) that could’ve altered her perception about God. Anyway, my friend told me we have our own unique journeys when it comes to God.

I was also left worried when she discussed her OCD. Because of what I’ve been through last year, I wondered if I have some mental health issues of my own. I have put the thoughts aside towards the end of the year but this book brought them back and it brought them really strong. Thank goodness I have a friend who knows how to calm me down when I worry too much. Now, I’m all good once again.

Nothing could’ve prepared me for this book. I didn’t read any detailed reviews. I just knew it was a good book. Mara Wilson is that good. So aside from the confusion, I was left inspired. I learned a lot and I hope she’ll release another book soon. This time I know what I am up against.