Simply Stress-Free

I believe life here on earth was meant to be simple. By simple I mean free from the stresses caused by the minute-by-minute bombardment of information to our brains by the marvels of technology. My husband and I just came from serving at a six-day youth summer camp in the suburbs. It was a most welcome break from all things that have been causing us much stress the past twelve months.

It was such a blessing – such freedom! – to be off the grid known as the social network. We may not realize this but there is so much pressure and expectation to project a certain persona, to greet and respond to all our Facebook or Twitter “friends”, to accept all “friend” requests and invitations to join other social networks, to never “un-friend” anyone, to always be online, to comment on people’s photos and status, and the list goes on.

Just a few days ago, we “lost” our internet connection again. This time, it was caused by some freakish factor. If not for the fact that we are paying for our internet subscription, I felt relieved to have an excuse not to check mail, FB, etc. Believe it or not, it’s not all good news and pleasantries in social networks. There are a lot of conflicts, bad news, personal attacks masked as famous people’s quotes, and wars being waged online for the entire world to see. No one cares anymore if personal conflicts are not for general consumption. The more people know about it, the more powerful the weapon. It’s not only very sad – it’s downright tragic!

I don’t know if someone else already came up with these, but here are my thoughts about social networking:

It is to be used to seek peace and pursue it; not to wage war. It is to be used to build bridges; not burn them. It is to be used to affirm and encourage others; not to berate or malign anyone. It is to be used for decency; not for obscenity. It is to be used for thoughtful truth; not for hurtful lies and deceit. It is to be used for good; not for evil.

It is also healthy to rest from social networking every once in a while. I still believe that more meaningful relationships are built, developed and sustained in personal, face-to-face encounters. Any misunderstandings can be cleared faster in a face-to-face conversation. Loving and forgiving touches can be given and received, and these promote healing in the most profound ways.

We are relational beings. We need to experience touch; we need to be able to smell aromas and associate memories with them. The same goes with sights and sounds. We need to be able to “speak” and “listen”. More importantly, we need to connect with other human beings; people we can grow with, laugh with, cry with, hurt with, or just BE with.

Life was meant to be simpler than it has become. It behooves us to “un-complicate” things and get back to the basics. Spend real personal time with family and friends. Lay down our mobile phones, PDAs and laptops and actually learn to communicate verbally and listen attentively. Turn off the TV. Slow down. Leave the car home and take a walk to the bakery. Stop and smell the roses, because they may soon be gone. Pray. Meditate. Heal.

May we all learn to give up what we don’t need and keep what matters most. Have a stress-free day.

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My Experience at an Adoption Home

My husband and I just came from volunteering at a local shelter for abandoned and abused children. Appropriately called CRIBS (Creating Responsive Infants By Sharing), it opens its gates to people who wish to give an hour or two of their time, in the morning and in the afternoon, caring for and interacting with babies and toddlers.

Since it was our first time to volunteer, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After changing into our clean and white “work clothes”, we entered the babies’ and toddlers’ sections and were immediately and eagerly greeted by the tots. I hardly had time to see where my husband went because the child that greeted me at the door of the nursery held up his hands to be carried.

I was overwhelmed. So there I was, wondering how I could help when I didn’t have children of my own and nervous as to what was expected of me. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out. I just needed to give them love.

There were many volunteers but there were also more babies than everyone can handle. I was in the room that housed eight babies ranging in age from four months to perhaps one year. Each one wanted to be carried, comforted and put to sleep. After playing with two of them, I carried a crying little boy with almond eyes and a cute round head. He was crying  and rolling from side to side in one corner of the play mat that I had to attend to him immediately. All volunteer hands and arms were full so I rushed to him after putting down the little boy that first greeted me.

It took me just two seconds to lift him up and he immediately stopped crying. The distress was lifted from his tiny face and he seemed content to just be held. My heart just melted. I needed no special mothering skills or years of child-rearing experience to calm a crying baby. I was humbled and I offered prayers to God for those babies whose parents didn’t want them anymore.

I put no blame on their parents. I don’t know their stories and I’m not their judge. I can only pray for more people whose hearts will be touched to volunteer their time and love to these children. This is not the only shelter in our country. There are many more that need not only volunteers but donors so that these homes and shelters will continue to be in existence and will be able to take care of more children. You can look them up on the internet, check out their wish lists, and give them a call.

There is also a need for more caring people to adopt these children and give them a more permanent home. Each child needs special and constant attention, which adoption shelters cannot provide 24/7. There are costs to be counted, the most crucial of which, I believe, is commitment.

My husband and I are seriously considering adoption and we are doing our research, on our knees. If we could give a home to just one child, then that’s one child less at a shelter. That’s one more child assured of love and a better future. We don’t have all the resources just yet, but by God’s grace, we can work those out.

We pray for that baby He has already matched and prepared for us. And as we wait, I am always reminded of our own precious adoption by God the Father, through Jesus Christ.   “5He (A)predestined us to (B)adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, (C)according to the kind intention of His will” – Ephesians 1:5 (NASB).

I was never alone…

Southern Luzon Medical Center

It has been a week today since my first ever surgery. I had a laparoscopy cholecystectomy done last March 24 to remove my gall bladder because of the many stones that resided in it and caused me many hours of pain. Many may say it’s a very common procedure for a minor organ and that I’m making too much of a deal of it. Like I told my hubby, it’s still my bladder and it’s still my body. There is nothing common about it. I only have one of each!

I had about a week to prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought I was doing pretty well in that I was still able to function around the house and do my baking and deliveries. Well, not really. I did break down the day after my surgeon told me that I had to go through the surgery. I was tearing apart at the seams as my fears surfaced and almost engulfed me. I was losing my bladder! It’s major!

Many friends and family members sent their support and prayers through text messages and e-mail. I read and re-read my Facebook messages and thanked God for His love expressed in tangible ways. These were the messages I reviewed in my mind when I was wheeled to the operating room. And as I was laid down on the bed with the many green and blue-masked figures hovering around me, the bright OR lights reminding me of the many ER episodes I’ve seen, I listened calmly to the soft buzz and beeps of the various machines I was hooked up to. I thought I was calm until one of the nurses read my blood pressure to me: 120/90. That’s high! I’m cool with my normal 110/70.

I realized then that the surgery may be postponed if my BP didn’t cooperate. That was when I suddenly felt Christ’s comforting presence in me. I thanked him for the treatment I was about to receive and silently prayed for my anesthesiologist, surgeon and nurses. And then I blacked out.

I woke up to the voice of my able anesthesiologist and my sweet hubby. Since I was just beginning to regain my consciousness, I could only manage a “thumbs up”, with my heavy eyes and parched mouth still shut. I also realized that I survived the surgery and that I was never alone. Jesus was with me the whole time.

I look back now and still fight back the tears whenever I remember that special moment before I lost consciousness. That was the moment when I felt so much fear yet so much peace and comfort afterwards. I am also filled with gratitude for the love and support of our church family who visited me in the hospital and stayed to care for me. That was love in action. I will never forget that. And to my hubby, a big kiss and hug for his loving care and sacrifice.

I was never alone. I know that now.

This is why I blog…

I have always been a thinker, and a very independent one at that. Random thoughts, movie dialogues, quirky quotes, personal opinions, new words, useless trivia (this is probably a redundancy) and meaningless observations fill my mind to overflowing on a daily basis. I have often felt like pulling my hair out ‘til my roots scream to silence my mind for even just a split second. Of course, the thought of having several red, icky, bald spots as my hubby and I walk hand-in-hand in the mall freezes my fingers mid-air every time.

It is, therefore, not a chore for me to wait in line at a slow cashier or sit on a rock facing the ocean ‘til the moss start growing on my legs because thoughts can fill my mind and entertain me for hours.

However, I also silently voice out pretty strong views, observations and unsolicited advice and opinions so often and all but rage inside because of the strong urge to just blurt them all out and set things straight. Of course, this is not always expedient and more often than not, the less said, the better. And since I was never into writing (by hand!) in journals and diaries, my mind just simmered with all these thoughts.

So you see, blogging could not have come at a better time for me.

To be able to write down, rather, type, all my thoughts freely – no rules, no standards and no censures – is a haven of rest for my sometimes weary mind. To be able to experiment with new words and new ways of expressing my thoughts and ideas is an exciting exercise; much like stretching out muscles I never even knew existed! To have my articles in a blog read, appreciated, and even quoted, is a balm to my aching soul. And to be able to do all these in a cyber-venue that is very simple to use, update and design is a bonus I simply cannot resist!

I could be anywhere at any time and still have access to my blog site. This is true writing without borders! And for someone like me who sometimes experiences the oft denied “memory gap”, blogging is the best way to keep those elusive details fresh. All I need is my handy laptop, an electrical outlet and a relatively peaceful place to sit and write.

A new and ever-growing community of bloggers also exists worldwide to inspire and even challenge writers like me to persevere and pursue our passions without a moment’s hesitation. I have nothing to lose but everything to gain whenever I make the most of every opportunity to be heard; to be read through my blog.

It behooves me, therefore, to write responsibly. And that’s okay. I can be both passionate and responsible with the freedom I am given in cyberspace.

Blogging can be an ally or a foe. It’s really up to me, and I’m happier knowing that blogging is a worthy friend to me.

Too late for Twilight?

In just a few short months, the Twilight Saga’s Eclipse will be in movie theaters and fans will be risking life and limb to secure premiere tickets. I can’t say I blame them. I’m forty years old and I’m a fan! Do I hear some not-so-subtle comments and poisoned darts flying at me? C’mon, cut me some slack and hear me out.

I’m not here to review the books or the movies. It did puzzle me, though, that I would actually be into this whole saga. Like I said earlier, I’m 40 years old and way past (or so I thought) the teeny-bopper stage that goes gaga over handsome and hunky teen idols. I was also never into vampire stories because I found them to be too gory and depressing. The romance in them didn’t work for me either because fangs, blood-red eyes, claws and coffins were hardly turn-ons. Ugh!

Stephanie Meyer, the brilliant author (if I may say so) of the Twilight Saga, found the perfect formula to lure me into her make-believe world of mythical creatures. She wrote a classic romance, added a love triangle, spiced it up with both internal and external conflict, jazzed it up with highly interesting, not to mention, incredibly good-looking characters, and iced it with the forever-after (literally) we all wish for in our own romances.

I’m married to my best friend 11 years now, and I never get tired of re-living our romance in our life now, in my mind and in my sleep! I’m a sucker for a good romance and the Twilight Saga did not fail me. So, you see, it’s not too late for me yet. I think I will always appreciate a great romance way into my sixties! My hubby so generously gave me the first two books on our anniversary, and I now have all four books. I cannot wait for Eclipse to be out and I made my hubby promise me movie tickets that will allow me to see the movie twice in a row.

An added plus? I get to relate with our many younger friends who are so into this craze, while also exchanging notes and observations  and how they relate to us in our present lives. And, no, I am not justifying my fondness for all that’s Twilight — I don’t need to. I’m in my mid-life stage and I’m enjoying the “twilight” while I’m at it.

When Compassion is Sadly Lacking

The Christmas season is fast approaching. For many families here in the Philippines, it will be a season of sadness and grieving, of homelessness and even hopelessness. The Christmas carols and blinking lights will be cruel reminders of loved ones lost and bleak futures. The typhoons that ravaged the country one strong fury after another will cast a dark shadow over the holiday celebrations. In these times of darkness and pain, the gift of compassion is greatly needed.

Sadly, there is a dearth of compassion in this world, even among so-called “Christians“.  It is highly encouraging to witness through the news funds being raised and food being distributed among the typhoon victims week after week. The heroism of a people is usually seen in tragedies of epic scales. But among the ordinary folks eking their way into existence every single day, a brief encounter with compassion is an oasis to a thirsty and war-weary soul. Yes, an oasis in the desert — hard to find, seldom seen, and a flitting mirage at best — but very much needed.

Compassion —  the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the active desire to alleviate it — is something every hurting soul needs right now. Let us give it. Let us throw away useless platitudes, judgment, self-righteousness and even a messianic complex. Let us just feel with the hurting — no words, just feelings and loving gestures. Maybe a hug, a sincere pat on the shoulder, an understanding and kind glance. This is compassion. A soft and gentle voice mouthing judgment is not the same thing.

We call ourselves “Christians” — let us live in the way Jesus Christ lived. He is compassionate (Exodus 34:6 – “…The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”). If we want to know how else we can sincerely express compassion, we can look to Jesus’ examples in his word (you can check out BibleGateway.com). After all, he is our best example.

Ignorance is not bliss!

Have you ever noticed how many people so readily offer unsolicited advice? This always gets to me. I hope I am not guilty of the same thing — at least, I try to be very aware that I just listen and not give some random and unresearched advice.

As I have posted earlier, I am going through major depression — or a relapse of it. I have already shared this with a group we used to belong to only recently. It  was necessary for me to share this because I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities to the group.

I was half expecting it, yet I dreaded it — that someone in the group would eventually say her piece to try and make me feel better. And then it came. The so-called “advice” was so ridiculous that it reeked of total ignorance of my condition and even the lack of compassion. Why, oh why, did she have to say it?

Why do people love to give their five cents’ worth of advice without first getting their facts straight? Why do people love to talk and sound knowledgeable when they know nothing at all? In our field of ministry, we also encounter a lot of people who love to “counsel” other people but don’t bother to equip themselves with even basic counseling skills. So instead of being a comfort to the troubled person, they unknowingly become a source of discouragement and guilt! But they don’t know this and think that they are simply gifted with the ability to counsel people.

I’m sorry to burst their bubble but ignorance isn’t bliss! With the availability of information over the internet, there is simply no excuse to be ignorant. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we have the desire to help others. I especially urge those who have the annoying tendency to play doctor to at least get some much needed facts before even blurting anything out.

The truth is, the more one talks, the more one’s intelligence or ignorance is made evident. I have noticed many times,though, that the more knowledgeable and secure a person is, the less he talks. But the more foolish and insecure a person is, the more he tries to compensate for his lack by blabbering. This is sad.

I pray I will not encounter another faux doctor any time soon. No, I don’t need any advice about my condition. I’ve done my research and I continue to do so. I also have a real doctor to tell me what I need to hear.

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