My Story in a Nutshell: Celebrating Years of God's Goodness and Mercy
I just had my birthday and wanted to make a timeline of my existence. But while I was procrastinating, I remembered Nora Ephron's essay 'The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less' and thought, I could do that. But my, it was harder than just simply free-writing everything, which, by the way, already had ten pages in just a few sittings in two days. (I only get to sit for five or fifteen minutes because I either remember to do a chore or one of the kids is desperately calling me to give her breakfast in the kitchen or a new roll of tissue in the bathroom.) Well, here's the result.
I am five and playing with some neighborhood kids. While climbing trees, we talk. They are baffled. My siblings and I speak a different dialect than they do. They ask what we are speaking. I pretend I am speaking something universal--- Tagalog. I am thinking everybody speaks it. Their eyes open wide in awe. I realize languages are awesome. I am on an adventure.
So is the whole family. We travel by a huge barge which transports cars and big cargoes. It smells of exhaust fumes, but then we are not on a luxury cruise. Our young family is on a mission. I wonder whether my parents even think of going back to the place and people they knew and had bid goodbye. All I know is they give themselves and their lives to God, and it doesn't matter where they are as long as He is with them. Moving is our way of life--- anywhere, where my father (and the whole family) is called to serve. For that reason, I don't wonder why goodbye is all part of this wayfaring life.
"The Lord is my shepherd..."
Breathe on Me
I am in a hospital. I try to pull the tubes that are attached on my nose as my uncle/watcher tries to stop me. I get ballistic. My uncle gives up and asks my parents to let him go home. I have no idea that growing up with chronic asthma was not a choice, but getting uncontrollable is something that I can do something about.
Watching me labor for breath, Ma prays for God to take me to relieve her child from so much suffering. But God has other plans. I spend many days alone in bed as other children play outside in the sun. Instead, I read, sing, draw, think, dream. (We didn't have a TV while growing up.) I have to be careful with what I eat. I can't do many things. But I study.
I study in different boarding schools starting at a young age of eleven. I learn to be on my own, in more ways than one. Alone. The road ahead is dark. But God has other plans. I spend many days being busy with almost anything, neglecting the hunger within. I lead, preach, write, criticize. I am opinionated. I grow into a ball. A chubby one.
My self-worth is misplaced. I don't realize it is all in tatters. My dreams are out of reach. Life is hopeless. I am gasping for breath like an asthmatic that I am. I need a Savior.
God on a Mission
I am whining to a friend about how some people are born so lucky with sunny dispositions and easy personalities, and here I am so difficult that I don't even want to live with myself. Her answer stump me. "You're luckier. You have all the reasons to get closer to God. You need Him more than they do." My life changes. I become a missionary.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
I am on a mission trip. The team and I are on a ship going back from China to South Korea. The waves are big. We can not sleep. Our stomach heave as the waves heave us up and then down. Before going to China, my Pastor worries about me. He is responsible for whatever happens to me. I told him, "Wherever we are, God holds our lives. Even when it's our time to fade."
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
I am on my first month as a missionary in a foreign land. I feel like an island. I am surrounded by people who had a hard time talking to me. But every time I talk, they pay. Not really to me. Part of it is for mission. I am loaded with work and very much under-compensated. I walk in chilly autumn evenings because I don't have enough money to pay for the bus fare. I discover that some people only calculate worth by cash. But our value is firmly a spiritual, not material, issue. And people who don't know that are missing a very huge part of what life really is. For the first time, I ask God how to really forgive. He forgives me.
Five years later, I married a foreigner. Now I am a foreigner as I try to live in his homeland. I don't talk much as I don't know much about the language. But when I do, I teach, they learn. I am well-compensated, except when I choose to give it for free. Still, I can figure out when some people treat me by what I earn and not for who I am as me. That is their problem. Mine is to forgive as I am constantly forgiven.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
I am in a group studying the Bible. One asks, "How do we keep the Sabbath special and not get tired in celebrating it?" I know my answer. It is because of God's goodness and mercy that I get to celebrate one sabbath to another. That's why, every Sabbath that I am blessed to celebrate and spend time with my God is special for me, as I will never know when I will have to cease praising Him when I am in the grave.
Every year of my existence is a reason to rejoice in the Lord. Not that I have done greater things this year than the previous years, but because of what God is doing for me--- changing me even when in my human eyes the change seems to be microscopic in proportions. God's consistent goodness and undeserving mercy keep me from getting tired of living and has me hanging on. And so, every year is special, no matter what.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me...
Real life is amazing, especially when God is in it. Everyday is an opportunity to say hello, and goodbyes won't faze us as much as when we don't know they're all part of life and growing. Celebrate growth. Celebrate life. But most of all, never forget that it's all about celebrating the Giver of Life.
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