Of Gifts and Hobbies

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My DIY planner -- an old Usana binder covered with cloth and inserts I printed (both self-made and from online craftees).

I love notebooks! Journals, diaries, organizers, planners, notepads and colorful pens make me super happy — the same happiness and kilig ice cream gives me! I guess whatever we want to receive on our special days all comes down to one thing – our hobbies.

I am so awed at people who have hobbies that are totally incongruent with their jobs or their academic capabilities. An example is a friend from college. He was one of the smartest people I knew; he was also one of the weirdest. He loved reading books on psychology and philosophy, yet Playboy and FHM magazines were also part of his library. He had the most objective opinions and ideals. He drank; he smoked; he even smoked marijuana, but his fancy for little kids was so endearing one would think he’s already a father. 🙂

So back to what I was saying. We usually classify people according to their looks, their brains, and even their upbringings, but we can’t judge them for what they do in their secret times and places. For me, hobbies define the heart of a person – the inner personality only he/she and God know, and whatever gift we always look forward to on our birthday and at Christmas only reflects our values and belief system – who we are when no one’s looking and how we view ourselves in relation to the world and life itself.

Since forever I’ve thought of myself as a poet, a playwright, a female Shakespeare clothed in thick adipose tissue. If I had to express myself, I would gladly do so in writing — in poetry more often. I couldn’t imagine my life without words written by my calloused fingers.

The funny thing, though, is when I receive a journal or a notebook that I actually terribly like, I don’t use it just yet. I keep it on display until I grow tired of poring over it and admiring its pages. Until a new and fancier one arrives, I wouldn’t be using my beloved journal for just any writing. It should contain my best works, my best poems or stories. This was the case until September 30, 2011. I didn’t have spare money to buy a new devotional journal, but I had all those cute diaries from Korea and Taiwan that I didn’t want to use for JUST any writing. I had them for display!

Then came the voice of thunder. Yeah, God spoke to me about my pretty journals.

I came to realize that daily devotions are NOT just any writing. It’s God’s voice in a horrid and unpleasant situation. It’s His comforting embrace amidst a dark and repulsive state of mind. It’s passionate, unconditional love pouring out on a seemingly hopeless life. Why couldn’t I dedicate even one of my favorite notebooks to the One who gave His one and only, of course, favorite Son for my salvation? *bangs head on the table*

God gave His best for me. What is a notebook compared to Jesus? I know – a speck of dust in a palace of pure, untarnished gold. I doubt if it has any purpose at all. If I don’t give my best and all the best gifts I have received to God, do I have a right to claim the perfect Gift of all as my own? Not a chance.

So yeah, I like all these stuff for writing, but over the years, I learned not to buy the prettiest. Looks might mislead me to a different purpose, and I wouldn’t want that. ✌

Winning, for What?

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I have issues with winning.

As a student, I wasn’t one who participated in a lot of contests. I remember playing in an inter-school Scrabble competition in freshman year and joining the speech choir and sabayang pagbigkas in grade school and high school.

I wasn’t very competitive then, though. I never wished that I’d score higher than my best friends. I never thought of being top of the class. I just wanted to be appreciated, to be recognized — but winning doesn’t always promise appreciation and recognition.

Over the years, as I learned more about myself, I found out that I was actually competitive, that I liked beating others, if not being the best. However, in Filipino culture, competitiveness is almost synonymous to pride and boastfulness. With this mindset arose my love-hate relationship with winning.

A lot of times I feel guilty for wanting to win in competitions, especially the ones I’ve put so much effort into.

Just recently, I coached a group of kids in journalism, and I wanted them to enter the regionals badly. I didn’t actually know where that desire came from — if it was pure selfish ambition, I wasn’t sure. Some friends challenged me with this question: “Why did you join the contest? Is it for them to win, or for them to learn?”

I pondered on the question for quite a while. True, it must have been selfish — I did consider the possibility. But what if winning wasn’t actually bad? What if victory was actually ingrained in my and my students’ DNAs? What a lovely thought!

I was about to give up on my desire for victory when I remembered the verse God impressed on me the first time I accepted the task of handling the students:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.” — Genesis 15:1

Right then I knew, and God assured me. I wasn’t being selfish — I wanted my students to experience Him as their shield, their very great reward. I earnestly desired for them to win because that would mean their victory was first and foremost a product of God’s unconditional grace and promise.

Hoping to win takes a lot of trust, but expecting to win? That requires a great deal of faith.

That night, during the awarding ceremony, I’m just so glad I’ve got too much faith when my student was losing hope. I waited for the result no matter how late the announcement was, and God didn’t fail me.

We may not have bagged awards for all 15 of them, but we sure experienced how winning is not only about how we perform, but much more about how much faith we have on the one who holds the victory.

I think my issues with winning will appear from time to time, especially since I’ve got 2 competitions waiting for me this school year, but hey, I’ve got someone to remind me and keep me company every time. 🙂


This post was supposed to be a response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Victory, but my writing just went awry and didn’t fit the photo I was about to post.

Meanwhile, since we’re on the topic, I’d like to look back on this victory with my grade school kids two years ago.

Understanding by Design

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A recent fight with my husband taught me two things:

  1. Those who don’t understand tend to get angry first.
  2. Those who do understand could use a little more understanding.

I am not saying I’m right, and he’s wrong. I would like to think we both have weaknesses we need to work on.

As I locked myself in the bathroom, all sorts of thoughts entered my mind. I was angry. I was crying. I was crying because I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t shout at him. I was no longer that kind of person. Over the years I have learned to keep all the words — especially the mean ones — from coming out of my mouth. Surely, this wasn’t one of the situations that called for my mean speech.

In my mind I thought, “Heck, how you reacted was just the worst. Now you sound a lot like —.” I calmed myself down. I had to. The sudden outburst of tears made it hard for me to breathe. Thank God for hyperventilation — it keeps me sane enough not to cry most of the time.

You see, the problem with marriage is that there is no trial version. It comes as a whole package. No, there isn’t a crack. There is no keygen. You discover and work things out on your own. Together. It’s up to you and your mate to solve your differences — all the more your misunderstandings.

Back in the bathroom I wondered, “What if, after he reacted semi-violently, I approached him more gently? What if I smiled at him, cracked a joke, and reassured him that we could work on his forms together?” Seems easy, but not really. It was especially straining because I hate going through stuff repeatedly. My favorite line, which he usually mimics, “Eh paulit-ulit naman tayo eh,” was the same line that made him snap — it showed no hint of understanding on my part. It was more of complaining that I had to repeat what was already previously said.

Clearly, marriage requires understanding, not just of one, but of both. There may be setbacks. One might have, or know, less; the other might have more, but where the other person lacks, the partner should provide. That is true partnership.

Four months into married life and I am slowly learning. I thought it wasn’t hard at first, but challenges come, and they make us better at what we do. 🙂