Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thief in the house!

I almost became a victim of burglary last Sunday. Thank God the burglar’s plan didn’t succeed!

I slept overnight at my parent’s place last Saturday and went back home Sunday evening. After attending the church service in the morning, I had to do some pictorial for our news magazine cover in the afternoon. The intruder sensed that there was no one in the house so he planned the break-in Sunday afternoon. Or he probably noticed our big padlock, the size of a man’s fist, on our small red gate. I couldn’t really tell what it was that caught his attention to our house. It’s just a tiny and plain apartment adjacent to bigger apartments.

Maybe he just wanted to try his luck. But lady luck wasn’t on his side that afternoon. First, it was a bad idea to intrude during broad daylight where the neighbors can easily see him. Second, he didn’t know that the caretaker of the apartments has a key of our gate padlock and usually checks on our place because the water tank, which supplies all water for all adjacent 4 apartments, is located in our place, a few steps from our gate. Third, our neighbor, whom I don’t know personally, saw him jump over our short and small gate. The neighbor then called the attention of our caretaker, and when the caretaker opened our padlock, the burglar panicked and climbed the water tank and jump over a wall to escape. The neighbor recognized the face of the burglar, saying he was the same person who robbed another neighbor. But after this neighbor got back his belongings, he forgave the thief, he didn’t charge him anything which leaves the local cops no choice but to free the thief. Unfortunately, the notorious burglar didn’t learn his lesson and was out to victimize others. Thank God I wasn’t included in the burglar’s list of mission accomplished!

I really thank God for protection. He kept me away from harm. If I was in the house that afternoon, who knows what could have happened to me. (Or what I could do to that burglar! I could have shouted so loud that the decibel of my voice would be enough to chase him away, hehe.) Other neighbors have noticed already that I’m home alone whenever hubby leaves abroad for 2-3 months. And I also thank God for protecting our house. And I thank God for this experience, because He only showed me once again that His word, from the biblical times up to now, is still so true. That particular Sunday, our pastor mentioned in passing through his preaching that we must not be worrywarts when it comes to leaving our house so that we can attend the church, because when we trust God that even our homes are safe, harm won’t come to our doorstep, especially when we are out of our house to work for Him.

He also mentioned the scripture in Psalm 127 that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” In biblical times, house may refer to a building or family such as House of David, House of Abraham, etc. In this experience, I’d say this verse applies to me as well. I’d say this apartment was “established” by God for us. We chose to live this year in this southern part of Manila, though it’s far from my family and friends, because we decided that after I resigned from work, I’d like to serve God by being more active in the church and taking key roles, so we need a place that’s just a few minutes away from the church. We almost gave up our hunt for a nearby place that time because all decent-looking apartments were occupied within the vicinity. When we saw this place, we wanted it badly because it’s inexpensive and it looks well maintained by the landlords. But the caretaker then said it was being reserved for the landlord’s relative. But we prayed for the perfect place for us. The week after, we checked on apartments again and tried to convince the landlord’s secretary to give it to us by paying in advance, the landlord gave in. So here we are. At first, I thought it was bothersome that the water tank had to be located just outside our apartment but within our gate, because either us or the caretaker had to open and close the water tank at certain times of the day. Little did I know that because of this water tank, in a way, the burglar’s plan failed. And the Lord’s word succeeded! Thank you very much Jesus for keeping me and our house safe all the time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Strange stranger encounter

Have you ever experienced a total stranger paying for your meal in a restaurant or eatery? I just did last week. A friend in the church, whom I usually invite for a dinner treat after a prayer meeting, had her spiritual birthday last, last Tuesday. After the meeting, I want to treat her again. I have cooked Norwegian salmon at home already before I went to church but it’s just good for feeding one mouth only. That time, I have three mouths to feed – myself, hers, and my mom’s maid who just arrived at home because I borrowed her for a week from my mom to help me clean my house.

And then I realized, I only had 100 bucks and some loose change in my wallet. I left the rest of my cash at home and the nearest ATM from where we were standing that time was quite a walk. I told my friend that I only had 100 bucks and we would just eat at a cheap eatery or carinderia nearby and that she’d just have to add some more money if it’s not enough to feed the three of us. She said she didn’t have much cash too that time because she hadn’t withdrawn any cash from her ATM yet, she only had enough cash for commuting to her house. I wasn’t confident that my 100 bucks can feed the three of us because when hubby and I ate there, the bill was 100 bucks more or less. I have one more mouth to feed, not to mention that we’re all hungry that time, but even though we were worrying, off we went to the eatery.

We were looking at the viands and my friend opted for a veggie viand because it was cheaper, and decided she’ll just have service water instead of softdrinks or any soda. We had some good conversation, a few laughs, though it wasn’t a fancy place at all. After a few minutes, I decided to get the bill and pay. The waitress told us a man paid for our meals already. We didn’t believe her at first, but she insisted that someone paid for us already. My first reaction, that’s scary… My friend said, no, that’s blessing. When I learned that the man already left even before we can finish our meals, I relaxed. I don’t know exactly why I was scared at the thought of someone paying for our food, but I did. My friend was so intrigued by what had happened that she interviewed the waitresses and the cashier. The cashier told her maybe he liked your companion, that’s me. Yaiks, it’s one of those places where you really don’t need someone’s attention. Apparently, the one who paid for our meals is the manager of the whole place, their eatery, food kiosks nearby and the grill house at the upper floor. My friend told the cashier to tell the man, if he ever ask about us, that I’m already married. But I doubted that the man really paid for us because he got interested in me, it was just the opinion of the cashier. First, he didn’t approach us while we were eating, he didn’t bother to introduce himself. We didn’t even notice that he was also eating at the next table just like what the cashier said. My friend remembered that a guy was sitting at the next table but she can’t even remember his face. Second, he didn’t even wait for us to thank him, he just left; he didn’t even leave a message to the cashier in case we ask about him. In short, he didn’t want to really make himself known to us, so I figured, it was just really an act of generosity on his part, not a way to impress us.

When I told all of these to hubby, he was quite irked. He thinks the man still has an ulterior motive. He said I should have paid though the man paid for our meals already and should have requested the cashier to give back the money to him. I haven’t thought of that because I really don’t think the man was interested in me, or with my friend or with my mom’s 54-year-old maid, hehe. Hubby said maybe the man was hoping he could see us again in that eatery since he is the manager of the whole place and then when we see him, we would feel indebted. Honestly, if you ask me, I don’t feel indebted to the man, I just feel thankful, but more thankful to God for what had happened. I don’t know if that man overheard us when I said I hope our money’s enough, but my friend said my voice was lowered that time, and I know I did, because I didn’t want the waitresses to hear me, hehe, they might not serve us clean food if they learned a customer may not be able to pay later on, hehe. Whether he heard us or not, I consider it the work of God. I rarely bring just enough cash or just 100 bucks in my wallet, but this had to happen so God can show me once again, that He is a provider and that He works in ways, even in unexpected, mysterious ways, we cannot see.

Anyway, here’s my message to the man, a stranger we never knew existed:

If that was an act of sheer generosity on your part, thank you very much. I hope you told us so we could have ordered more, hehe, just kidding. Thank you because you allowed God to use you for our sake. Rest assured that He’ll give you more than the 100 bucks or more that you paid for us.

If you did it with ulterior motive, thank you but your strategy didn’t work on us! On me, on my friend or even with our 54-year-old hot helper, hehe! Try to do better next time, try to approach us, so you’ll know you don’t have to pay for someone who’s not interested. And we don’t credit anything to you at all, we credit everything to our Great Provider!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The day I loved my crying

If you know how to cry, you can get rich. Me and my elder sister thought so after seeing a child actress on TV getting famous and rich for shedding fake bucket of tears easily. That night, while lying on our beds in a shared room, we practiced crying. Sister said, “think of unhappy thoughts.” After several attempts, she had tears, I had dry eyes. And that's when I knew, I wasn't born to be a star, I can't cry.

Maybe, at 7 years old, I really can't think of horrible situations to make me cry. Or maybe as a child, I never cried. I didn't cry when my parents failed to pick me up from school and I was left alone in the hallway when I was 5. I didn't cry when I got lost in a supermarket. Nor sob when an angry cat bit my ankles furiously. Even when schoolmates teased me for my dream to be a model, I didn’t cry. No tears even if I didn’t get my favorite toy. I got scolded for not listening and was called dumb, yet, I didn't cry.

Ironically, I cried during teenage years. I cried when mother tore off the clothes that I was wearing so I can't go to a big birthday party all high school students were anticipating. When my parents and grandmothers were all shouting and fighting and they could not be stopped, I screamed then wept. When my elder sister pulled my hair and almost made my head bang on the sink, I cried. In college, when a big pro-administration organization literally thrashed the materials my classmates toiled for an exhibit that was getting popular in our school, and then realized as the president, I need to fight these goody-two-shoes bullies, I sobbed. In a confrontation with classmates, who got defeated in the elections and were planning to oust me even though I just got elected, I cried. When my parents asked if I got the editorial position I wanted in our school paper and told them I didn't because the adviser favored someone else with less talent but more charm, I cried.

In these instances, I cried because I was angry, sad, frustrated. I don't want just this kind of tears. If crying can't make me rich just like the young actress, I'd rather not cry. I want tears that really make me feel better. Crying that doesn’t only release bitterness but also happiness. I want to cry when I'm happy, or cry when I'm happy though the situation looks unhappy. How's that? That time, I didn't know yet.

Until I met someone who really made me cry, P_. Because he courted and chased me impressively, when I agreed to be his girlfriend, I thought I'd never cry for someone who wanted to please me badly. Besides, I vowed not to cry for a guy. Before I met him, I had a boyfriend and I didn’t shed tears even during lover’s quarrels. But on the first week of my relationship with P_, we fought and he said we could just split. For the first time, I cried because of a guy. For the first time, I didn’t know why I cried. Hurt ego? I can’t accept the fact that I was being dumped when I thought he’s so into me. Out of pride, I retorted, “sure why not? You chased me, I didn't, so it's your loss.” But inside, I wanted us to last. I wanted to slap myself for saying my piece with tears flowing on my cheeks.

More bickering followed. I can't remember the details because I automatically self-delete bad memories. What I’m sure is that, in all those fights, in all those years, I cried. One day, I got tired crying. My best friend, who returned home from abroad for a short vacation, just listened. I apologized for being a drama queen and not making her laugh. She let out a few sighs, a deep breath, then said, "you cry now because you learned to love."

Really? Did I cry because I want to be loved more? That’s pride. Or was it because I still love the man who made me cry? Maybe this is crying when you're happily unhappy. That’s crazy. I was hurt by our fights, but in my heart, I’ll be happy to stay in love. Crazy love.

I got crazier with my friend’s explanation, but I couldn’t deny it. When I learned to love without counting how much love I get in return, I cried. When I got more love than I wanted, I cried. When it was time to say goodbye to my not-so-perfect family and embrace a new strange world to me, I cried. I just cannot stop crying the moment I tied the knot with the man who first made me really cry.

Now, I see tears welling up on my eyes over scenes from movies or books. Or when I pray for someone I don’t personally know but feel his or her burden. And cry when hubby makes me feel so loved. I cry over situations I never thought I'd end up crying. And I don't mind now. I like these tears better, they are my so-called “happy tears.” They just flow easily, but they remind me I feel what it means to truly love and be loved.

Unhappy thoughts make you cry, but happy thoughts can sometimes make you cry even more, I now tell my sister. This crying doesn’t make me any richer like the actress. But it gave me a sense of power. Hubby told me that when I cry, his heart just melts though I hurt him too. He warned me not to use it constantly or it will lose its power. I won’t risk that, it makes me feel like a rich queen of a king who first taught me to really cry and still makes me cry.