Ten Days: A Week After

 

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Disclaimer: This will be a lengthy one. 

It has been a week. 

Last week, as of writing this, at this time, we were at the renowned Singapore Changi Airport having our late lunch of chicken rice, laksa, Subway Chicken Tandoori sandwich or some muffins. A few hours back in Manila, we had our last Filipino breakfast meal (I remembered having sausages, poached eggg and fried rice that day) then later questioned by the Filipino immigration officer why and where were we staying in Da Nang, Vietnam. (Although with trepidation, I knew, we would be able to answer their questions with confidence! Galing ni LORD, eh!) 

I remembered the feeling of anticipation coupled with excitement and nervousness. But then again, I knew, too even before hand, that God went ahead of us already. He was the One who prepared the way for us. 

It was He who divinely appointed each one of us into one goal — that is, to share His message of great love and hope to the people of Da Nang — without us also realizing that God has His own special mission in our hearts. 

It has been a week of memories being brought back alive by the fact that reality, in truth, bites back. After two weeks of being together, the truth remains that I am a mere government employee; I work an 8am-5pm job and I am a Filipino (I almost dreamt being a Vietnamese, haha!) by nationality and by blood to the core. 

Yet, looking back, only by His grace would have been these things made possible. 

It was He who divinely appointed each one of us into one goal — that is, to share His message of great love and hope to the people of Da Nang — without us also realizing that God has His own special mission in our hearts. 

This journey is a story of many firsts for us. As for me, there are a lot of good memories to look back to 2016; still, this trip will always be a highlight.

Writing this brings tears to my eyes, really. Staring at those photos and then reminiscing what went through behind them makes me realize that I not only have new found friends. In each one of you is a family. Thank you for the time we spent together. It will always be a pleasure serving together with you. 

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Kuya John and Ate Joyce, I thank you for your leadership. God is mindful for sending the two of you to lead us in this mission journey. Aside from your leadership, your love for each other will always be included in my #relationshipgoals. I hope, one day, I will also find a partner who has the same, if not, more passion and love for God, for His people and for the nations.  Your testimony, from the time you were both single until now that you are happily married, is a blessing and something I would like to emulate, too in the near future. 

Kuya John, the first time you interviewed me for Ten Days, I knew how blessed am I for having you as our team leader. Your passion for God and His Word always reminds me to do the same. Thank You for your patience with us. I know how trying it might be to have an all-female team. I am grateful for you always never let us lose sight of the goal of why we were called to this mission trip. Likewise, thank you for showing us your “other side” — the cool, adventurous, nerdy one. I appreciate the fact that you never hindered us to be daring in trying out a lot of things in Vietnam — from riding at the back of a motorbike (with proper helmet, of course!) to eating out Vietnamese delicacies (from shrimps to frogs to snails, etc. Sayang! We did not see crispy crickets or locusts. I bet, we tried that as well, hehe!). Thank you for being not just our “Kuya” for two weeks, but sometimes, a “Dad” as well (remember the time you allowed me to travel in motorbike going to Hoi An? You just told me, “It’s okay ; just be careful. Wear your helmet.”). Always being mindful of our whereabouts, it showed how a great father you would be in the future. We are looking forward to see little  “Johns” and “Joyces” in the future. 

Ate Joyce, your administrative skills is noteworthy. From the requirements we need to accomplish to our team budget to finding the most affordable flights and hotel accommodations for our team, you did it with such excellence and grace. I admire you for that. Thank you, too for being an attentive and gracious listener (remember back at Cong Cafe? I almost cried pouring out my heart to you, haha!). Your timely and wise advise  will always be something I will carry in my heart. Thank you for being there when I do not know whom to talk to. I hope I can bond and talk with you more in the future. 

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I always thank the LORD for having you, Sheen, as my buddy and room mate for the last two weeks. It was fun being with you almost everywhere. I can see a passionate and joyful woman in you. I know you will make a great campus missionary back home. Thank you for being like a “little sister” to me. Hearing your stories when you decided to go full time in the ministry always serves as an inspiration for me as well. I see your love for the people, your unwavering energy, your practical thoughts in life, your love for your family and your inner beauty (Aba eh, kaypalad ni Inan sa iyo! ). Thanks for always reprimanding me not to eat shrimps, in spite of my anti-allergy meds at my bag’s pocket (I truly appreciate your concern!) I love you, Buddy Sheen! I hope to be in the same team with you some day soon! 

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Your humility and your leadership is outstanding, Norie!  You could have as well take the lead in our exhortations for the prayer meetings back in Da Nang, but then you willingly take the back seat and let other people “shine”.  Thank you for showing a different side of you back in Vietnam — your hearty laughter, the not-so-serious one, the lady with thought-provoking questions, the photographer and the actor (naks! Yan, eh after nating mag-photoshoot sa ilalim ng mainit na araw sa Dragon Bridge). Your heart for the people as well as your love for God is always visible with the way you engage with people. I hope to work with you in the mission field again. 

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Elaine, you will always be our team’s Miss Harmony. Thank you for sharing your laughter, your love for adventures, great landscapes and photos and your love for life. Your energy and wit is always amazing. Thank you for always reminding us of our schedules (Yes, you may never noticed that but I really appreciate it!) and for always being optimistic about almost everything. Your prayers are always heartfelt. Thank you for sharing a part of your life back in Vietnam. I look forward for more bonding times with you back here in the Philippines, and to be with you on the same team again! 

 

 

These photos are not enough to say how grateful am I being with you in this wonderful, unforgettable journey. Thank you for teaching me things in life, leadership, humility, kindness and A LOT in between! Thank you for sharing a part of you. It will always be something that I will carry in my heart and will tell my future children, that once, I stepped out in faith with such great people like you. 

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Until our next journey, Team Xin Chao!! 

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The Afterthoughts

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Dear Da Nang, 

It has been four days since I stepped back to my real hometown. Once again, I savor the usual commotion of the almost long-forgotten Manila noise and traffic. 

Still, the memories, the places, and the people still linger.

I miss all of them. 

It seems like those twelve days I was with you is a dream — one that captured my eyes and my heart — which transpired like fairy dust. Being with you is a bittersweet experience. It was enough to build memories and friendship, but short enough to say goodbyes. It left me longing to be with you and once again, see how every place and people remind me of how gracious the Author of my life and Creator of the universe is. 

You taught me valuable lessons in life, Da Nang. These lessons, which life graciously gave me, were the ones worth keeping. Thank you for opening my eyes to the wonders beyond the comfort zones I know. I saw your beauty in a different light — one that tarried in my heart and mind — which was a diamond waiting to be polished by His Almighty hands. 

Whenever I remembered looking at the vastness of your skies, I remembered thanking God for setting my foot in a land that was – and still is – rich in history, arts and culture yet hungry for His Word. 

I long to see you again, Da Nang but I know, one day, in His perfect timing, my heart will not long for you anymore.

I will, once again, see your blue skies tainted with white clouds, your mountain embracing the vastness of the sea, your people teeming with friendly warmth, your gastronomic cornucopia, your adventures waiting to be discovered, your rich history and culture that felt like my own, your struggles and your victories and everything else in between. 

My heart may be restless to see you now; still, I will wait. 

. . . I know, one day, in His perfect timing, my heart will not long for you anymore.

I will always carry you in my thoughts and prayers. 

I may go to different lands afterwards, yet I know, you, Da Nang, has already etched such place in my heart. 

Until I see you again. . . 

To the 500 Days with You

500 Days of Summer

Now, I am saying goodbye to the great what ifs of yesterday.

I bid farewell to those childlike hopes and dreams — one that seemed to reach the stars and the moon overhead. Perhaps, I am waxing poetic to the fact that once, I realized that I was not as apathetic as I used to be.

With you, I realized that I could be vulnerable because I allowed you to strip me open of my innate thoughts, of my fears, of my simple joys and happiness, of the shallowness that I often masked with my indifference from others. You see, in a season of my life, I allowed one person — that was you, my dear — to break down the fortress of my sheltered life. I allowed you to see the hurts and pains of my life’s dissatisfaction, the unrelenting inspirations while having meaningful conversations, the passionate way I speak to something that captured my psyche, the song I sing and the poems I write through the rollercoaster of emotions that I hid and carried. You saw a different side of me which, almost, nobody did — the unsuspecting, free-spirited, weird, melodramatic, happy, complicated me.

You’ve seen a part of me that was broken, shielded only by that fact that more than anything else, my soul cried out — and still is — to the Maker of the stars and the heavenly I gazed at every night (except when it was too cloudy or when it rained).

You see, a life with you then was a life filled of inspirations, of unexpected surprises, of dreams untold, of love, of expectations waiting to be turned to reality.

That is, until reality sank in.

When such distance divided us — the intangible to the tangible, the real from the tales, the you and I (or the “us” that was never be) — that was when, in my perspective, colors faded and pains shattered the glass-like dream of us being together.

That is, until reality sank in.

 

I carried your heartinto my heart, but you chose to take yours away, leaving me dancing in the smithereens of such brokenness, of shards of glass flying nowhere in dreamland.

You left me in the tangled daze of confusion, of self-anger, of not believing in the pretend magic that used to be ours…alone. You left me longing for the warmth of hand that used to envelope mine.

You said, “I’m sorry”, but t’was too late.

It was because there was never an us, dear — it was only you; it was only I.

The dream faded; I did, too in the aftermath.

Until, sunshine broke.

A hand lifted me up; strong arms carried me tenderly and a soft whisper encouraged me to let go and to forgive. It was difficult, I must tell you. It was more difficult to say goodbyes to the dreams, to the failed expectations and to the great what ifs of our brief life together.

Yet, I had to because letting you go is the best way to love you, not in my eyes but His. To let you go means I am also allowing you to grow deeper in the love of our Father in Heaven.

It hurts, yes. There are still remnants of pains in my heart from time to time, yet I know that I am freed from my own disappointments and expectations. I hope — and that is my prayer — that your heart will be filled with His love, the way He did in my wandering, hurtful moments.

. . . letting you go is the best way to love you, not in my eyes but His. To let you go means I am also allowing you to grow deeper in the love of our Father in Heaven.

I learned that the best way to love is to forgive, that life continues even if a part of you seems ramshackle and you feel falling in a bottomless pit of despair, that there is always hope to the lost and the broken, to the longing and the forlorn.

I was there, my dear.

Now, I am free again — to write, to dream, to love and to forgive, to give grace and mercy, to run, not in endless circles but in the race set before me, and win. Yes, I lost you; however, I gain redirection and focus to the things, moments and people who also matter.

It’s not just you.

In my lost and brokenness, I realized one thing: there is a greater love which can only fill the expanse of my heart’s vacuum. It’s a Love Who came down from Heavens and died for my freedom’s sake.

Now, I dance in such freedom and in the second chance of life. .  .

Today, I bid farewell to the lost girl and welcome a new me: the Creator’s adored princess, God’s chosen — redeemed and brought from death into life.

Until we meet again, my dear . . .

Dear You

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Today, at exactly 3:22 in the morning, I had quite a weird (but vivid) dream. In my dream, you were helplessly mad because I brought a friend in a family gathering of ours. You were telling me how unfair I was because we already had a conversation before to wait, yet I was allowing somebody to be with me (talk about the feeling of “parang binabakuran”, hehe!). In my dream, I wanted to tell you that it wasn’t what you think about and that, the male friend I had with me was simply just a friend. When I asked you why you were reacting that way, you quieted for a while then told me, “Can’t you understand? Can’t action speaks louder than words?”

It was quite funny. I woke up then checked my phone beside me. When it read it was just past three in the morning, I slept back. I was hoping against hope that, somehow, my dream would be continued into another time. It wasn’t. I woke up today at past ten with quite a hopeful yet disappointed heart  (what an irony!) Perhaps, I just miss you. Or maybe, there is some hidden thoughts inside the sub-conscious state of my mind that it became visually enhanced in my dreams. Somehow, I know that my heart, perhaps, just want to hear those same words, those same actions. Nevertheless, it is a dream for what it is: the hidden notions, sighs, whims, hopes and hope-nots that I cannot simply divulge in the open. Maybe, those are my hidden thoughts about you…or about us – one that my conscious mind can “control” but my sleeping self cannot. I guess, that was also the time I decided to keep silent about it.

As you know, it has been two quarters since a lot has changed. The proximity. The time used to be spent with each other. The endless chats over cups of coffee. The movies we both watched together. The conversations in between our long walks together. The surprises we discovered.  Our “battles” together as friends. The joys and the pains of this friendship. The discovery, that somehow, there is someone out there who can appreciate you for who you are in spite of, despite of, no buts nor ifs. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I could have said “nagtatampo na ako!” I could have asked you for the umpteenth time, knowing that I would receive the same answers. I could have cried (because I did) again every night – asking myself, then asking God with my constant droning of “why?”.

But then again, I also decided that I would not sulk on this forever. I decided that the best way to move forward was – and still is – to choose to be joyful about every circumstances, whether good or bad. This, I said, would be one of the worst, most painful yet one of my best moments, too.

I chose to be joyful. I chose to be happy – even if it means just seeing you from afar or conversing with you for a few minutes. Those quick snapshots of our moments together could somehow make my heart beats so wildly that only another thought can “distract” it.

I want to write something to you, but I do not have the courage yet…

How ironic when even if you have known me to be quite outspoken, I can always allow myself to be bolder in thoughts while deep inside, I am but a coward to really voice them out. I guess, there are times when silence can really fill in the gaps or when it is merely an avenue for somebody to “speak” out what one has to say…

Because I miss you so much…