SHE STOPPED FOR THE ONE

A few years ago one December night, I found myself walking along Freedom Park. I was 22, already past my supposed graduation age, but I had just given up studying. I didn’t know what was in front of me, left to decide on my own, needed to think of possible ways how I can survive.

I was dealing with lost dreams, zero financial and moral support from parents (I do not hold this against them, I was not a minor anymore), possibility of losing friends, unstable ministry involvement, feeling of inadequacy and deep regret for what I’ve just ‘thrown away’, and well I could go on… But the point is that it was the time when it felt like everything was stripped away from me.

I was just walking slowly, looking nowhere, and being interrupted was the last thing I’d imagine. I was in my bubble.

Then, there was this Tita whom I met along the way, bending her back while titling her head up towards me, just so she could grab my attention. It was as if she appeared from thin air and poked that little bubble I’ve wrapped myself with.

She asked, “Ella? Are you okay?” The question made my heavy heart want to explode right then and there, if only I could properly articulate my thoughts.

“Halika dito. Okay ka lang ba?” she asked as she signaled to stand on the edge of the sidewalk to make way for the passersby.

“O, anong problema?” she asked persistently, to which I still could not give her the right words. I remember answering her but not exactly what I said.

She then invited me for dinner. We walked from in front ACCI Dorm to the parking lot in SU as I slowly opened up what was going on inside me.

While she was driving, she was deeply encouraging me words I needed at that moment.

“You have to remember that UP is not everything, and Chemistry is not everything. The world is bigger than these. Los Baños is not the whole Philippines. It is not the whole world.”

At that time, she was pursuing her passion from her younger days. She was taking up Film at UP Diliman as her second degree. She was past 60 and had lived in Italy for years but chose to go back to the Philippines–experienced enough to tell that I should stop making this small town my whole world. Because there was just too much to see out there. I was deeply encouraged.

She took me to a nice restaurant in Anos (they’ve closed already), and ordered for me the best dish she could think of as she talked me out of my anxiety. I felt the burden eased somehow. And free food is always uplifting, right?

We were having a good talk over a good meal when it started raining. She was telling me how that moment was actually orchestrated because she was about to go home before she met me but she decided to go one more round in the Freedom Park. Had it rained a little earlier, it would push the both of us to just go home. Maybe we wouldn’t even meet.

I went home that night with a lighter heart, heavy stomach and an extra meal for the morrow.

Two years after that, we saw each other again. I was walking (again) along Pili Drive (near Ansci) when she saw me. She’s driving a different car this time. She pulled over and gave me a lift to our office’s building. We had a little catch up. I was then training for my first job, already graduated and board exam passer. She was so glad knowing that.

There are a lot of people who believed in me along the way, and I wouldn’t be as strong, I wouldn’t be where I am not had I not met them. But tonight, I just remembered her and how she believed in me.

She believed in me when I was so lost. I had nothing. But she believed in me, invested her time and resources to me. She believed. She stopped for the one. She stopped for me.

Oftentimes, you’ll hear enough voices in your head (and in the world outside) that would reason out why you should stop believing. But rare are the people who carry such light inside of them and share them to people. She believed in a bruised reed, spoke to her tender words, and left a mark in her heart forever.

Of course the road to healing and recovery was slow and must be taken one step at a time. But that night was enough to keep a faint heart going.

And believing.

When God Asks to Surrender My Isaac

For the past years my heart has been trained to fight for a certain thing I’ve already given up with. And no, it wasn’t a “suddenly” but a gradual, day by day struggle I had to face—my daily bread, fading dreams, broken friendships, my sanity. At first, it was hard for me to understand this facet of God—a God in the midst of suffering. What happens when God asks you to surrender your Isaac? What happens when suddenly God wants you to throw everything away—all your sleepless nights, hard-earned marks, even your loved ones’ investments for you?

I still remember the moment God led me to surrender Chemistry. That was in a conference with Heidi Baker. In the sea of people crying out to God, I was weeping, asking God why He had to take it away. Only to receive the reassurance that it was the path I had to take and that I could trust Him in the midst of suffering. Some people may be tempted to think or even judge you when you’re in that “dark night of the soul”. Maybe you haven’t prayed enough. Maybe you have to have more faith, serve more, be more. But in His great wisdom and in response to our desire to know Him more, He shows us a facet of Him that can only be understood in the midst of suffering.

In those times, I have learned to find Him in the faintest hints of Himself. He introduced me to Himself as Hope. I saw Him everywhere I looked–and in those times I understood that even in the darkest valley, even when people call you hopeless by their own standard, there He anchors. There He takes you by the hand. There He provides a ram and turns the whole thing around. So that He can prove to us how He can be trusted. When Mary and Martha were anxious about Jesus not coming quickly to heal Lazarus, He decided to make them wait a little more… to Lazarus’ death. This, so that many people will see His resurrection power. So that they will experience that in Him, nothing is impossible. So that people will believe. It’s crazy how in a year, He can restore it all. But it wasn’t an easy ride. When God raised Lazarus from the dead, he was still wearing his grave clothes. Only after it was removed that Lazarus was set free.

Raising the dead is logically impossible. Surrendering your Isaac might cause people to think you’re going nuts. But in the broken, most trivial things of this world, God shows Himself strong and mighty to save. And this is the assurance of Christian faith. So that wherever He leads us–mountain high or valley low–we will still rest in the truth that He alone can save. Different seasons, different facets of Him, same faithful and mighty God.

The Shack in Ypomoni

It’s dark in here. All the bright lights I have seen dim out as the sun hid in the hills. The moon is nowhere to be found but the stars are out as if reminding me what the dreamers had always told me: Stars shine the brightest when the night is darkest.

The journey is still long, perhaps three dream years more before I reach the Lighthouse. I cannot see it from this tiny town of Ypomoni. Here in a starlit room, I found in me a thousand stories unspoken, questions I never dared to ask, a past that is yet to inspire. But right now, these stories are far from making sense yet. See, I have all these broken pieces, clueless of how this puzzle should look. I cannot see in this dark room, Baba. The days unfolding before my eyes were as tough as the storms I braved in the seas. Petrifying.

No one’s up here but me… and this little hope that I hold on to that soon the dawn will break, and the Son will illuminate every corner of this room. Yet again. I am waiting for a day so bright even the faintest shadows would shy away, so warm my tears will start to thaw. But for now, all I have are these, these bottles of frozen tears you managed to collect somehow.

I know now that I am not alone after all. You must’ve been here.

On the floor are puzzle pieces yet to be solved, and on this shelf are bottles of tears on display, altogether reminding me that in my mess, in the darkest of nights, in silence, in solitary moments such as this, there You are still. How comforting it is to know, Baba, that there You are still. More real, louder, closer than my breath.
– Ghana // D.Y. 5 // Adventures in the Dreamland

This was written by Ghana when she reached the outskirts of the Dreamland on her way to the Lighthouse.

To the one we lost

If you willingly did what time required
With all your heart, you did what’s right
We’ll cheer you on
No matter where you’ll be sailin’

But if one day you find yourself on the other side
Healed, restored and ready to reach out,
by all means,
We’ll be just right here where you left, waitin’

 

Words in the featured photo are lyrics from the song Promise I Always Will by Steffany Gretzinger.

A Letter from Terra

I took a walk down the streets of Talent Fair, where I’ve met fallen dreamers struggling to find their way back into the Lighthouse. They’ve found comfort in the transient, disappointed but still refusing the quest to climb back up the Seven Mountains where there mansions await.

On one corner, I saw an angry young woman broke her lenses and abandoned her post as a scribe. You know you can’t see who you really are when you’re not wearing those lenses. I do understand how tempting it is to do so when you’re at the end of yourself and you go straight to the Valley of Broken Dreams without those lenses.

I let out a sigh and whispered a plea to the Still Small Voice that he won’t let her stay there far too long and that she will keep her heart open.

Unlike what most dreamers think, it’s not always jolly in the Talent Fair. Here, it’s filled with all kinds of dreamers, but I am especially drawn to dreamers such as her. It’s what I’m meant to do, my royal assignment in the Dreamland.

I must say, there are still so many places yet to explore, lots of work to be done, so many dreamers who refuse the healing the Skypark has to offer. Oh, if only they know how gentle Heal O’land is! But that is why I’m here, Ghana–to remind them of their Lighthouse encounter, of their First Love. I’m all in for this.
– A Letter from Terra, Ghana’s childhood friend // Adventures in the Dreamland