This is it

And so we are finally here. It's my last week, my last day in Malaysia. What happens next is still a big blur.

I'm honestly all out of words now. I simply would just like to thank everyone who has been with me on this journey. On shore and offshore, thank you for making this the adventure that this was.

I thank God, most of all, because it was Him who made all these things possible. And it was Him who was and will continue to be with me through it all. "You're the Captain of my soul. You're the Captain of my heart. You see through every end and every start. Like a sailboat, I will follow where Your wind takes me to go." (Little Sailboat by Mari Anjeli)

This is it. Bring on the next adventure.

Jumpa lagi!

Seven Things I Am Looking Forward To

TWO WEEKS. I am leaving Malaysia in TWO WEEKS. Eep. I still don't know if I am prepared enough. I don't suppose we will ever be though. Sometimes, you just have to jump. (Oh shifting voices.)

I still feel a mixture of fear and anxiety, but excitement and the endless sea of possibilities keep me optimistic. With that, though I know there are and will be more of these, here are seven things I am looking forward to, in this journey home:

1. Time with family. A daughter has got to make up for lost time. Now that I've learned how important blood family is, the seven-hour ride home would never be a hassle.

2. Time with Adrian. "Para sa pag-ibig! For love!" Let's see how this short distance relationship will play out.

3. Time with friends and kindred spirits. Friends! Who's up for discussions about life, literature, writing, music, or art??? We'll have plenty of time to meet up!

4. A brand new start, career-wise. Ahhh. Endless possibilities. I am praying for the perfect job to open up.

5. Rest. After a roller coaster ride here in Malaysia, next year will be my seventh year. And on the seventh year, Mari rested. Hence my use of the number seven in these debriefing lists.

6. The opportunity to explore the Philippine Isles. "Tara na, byahe tayo!" Oh time and money, please cooperate with me.

7. A new writing journey. I had thought of parting with this blog once I parted with Malaysia. Since, you know, I would be back in my home shore. But, but, but... noooo. Well, I registered the domain for two years more. Perhaps this will give me the motivation to travel, or even explore Metro Manila? Well, Stories from Distant Shores will remain. And, well, I've been dabbling with poetry this past quarter. I am seeing more poetry projects in the near future. Speaking of which, care to take a peek at my project, In Transit? There'll be more of where that came from.

Seven isn't enough, knowing all the things God has in store for what is up ahead. And I am grateful, knowing there are a lot of good things in store.

Seven Things I Learned About God

Debriefing post #6. Two more to go. Aiks. For this post, I will be sharing seven things I learned about God:

1. God cares for the harvester, not just for the harvest. As Christians, we sometimes deny ourselves, die to ourselves too much, and, though the Jesus and the Bible does tell us to do so (Luke 9:23), Jesus also said He came so that we might have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10b). The bottom line is, life before ministry, and our relationship with God over ministry as well.

2. God's thoughts for us outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17-18). He cares about us more than we can imagine. He has hemmed us in and out (Psalm 139:5) and it is His delight to be involved in the different parts of our lives. I have seen how He's been working in everything, even in my love story with Adrian. We've had so many moments when we saw God intervening at the speed of thought, especially when things got rocky.

3. Even when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful. He draws the prodigals back to Him. He proves true though we turn into doubting Thomases at times. I gave up so many times, but through it all, God never gave up on me. He never gave up on His work as well.

4. God is a good, good Father, perfect in all of His ways. He may bring us through seasons we can't understand. But when we look back at everything, we realize He has caused things for the good, after all.

5. God does great things through people who say "yes" and are available. Nuff said. Just do it, people. Just do it.

6. God LOVES people. He is not a tyrant king. We must learn to love others as He does, and not be blinded by prejudice and hate.

7. God is always just a prayer, a breath, a song away. Many times, I've forgotten Him, pushing through life without Him, living dependent on myself and on my own strength. But I must remember this. He is my Lord, my Savior, my Father, my Friend, my Everything. And so I must be aware of Him and spend more time with Him, not out of duty, but out of love and pure devotion.

This has actually been one of the harder posts to write. I don't know if some people will throw stones at my theology. But these were the things I've learned through my walk these past years. I know I will learn some more.

Seven Things I Learned About People

It seems other people have been enjoying reading these debriefing posts as much as I have had writing them. I think that's one wonderful thing writing does. You hear (well, read) other people voicing out things you have learned and experienced yourself, and you somehow feel you aren't alone in this often disconnected world. And when readers nod their heads with you, well then you, as a writer, you start to realize there are kindred spirits out there who get you.

So let us go on with debriefing post #5. Seven things I learned about people:

1. People are people - they will hurt you (consciously or unconsciously) but that does not mean you should love them any less. You should actually love them more, because the people who hurt other people are likely to have been hurt greatly, too. And guess what? The ones closest to you are the ones who will hurt you the most. Yeah, we already know that. But this became more real to me here. And by closest, it includes those close in proximity and close in heart-connectivity.

2. Stereotypes are helpful, but I believe we should do away with them for the most part. I once had my hair done by a tattooed, pierced, gangster-type guy with the help of his denim-clad friend (another young man). Take note I wasn't getting spiky green hair. I was retouching my roots and upgrading my locks to a caramel-orange hue.

3. People come and go. As much as we want people to have a permanent place in our lives, their time with us - as with our time with them - is limited. But whether it be a night, three days, a week, a year, two years, six - we should just make sure we make good memories and see to it that we live with love.

4. People have interesting lives and have interesting stories to share. You just need to ask questions and get to know them enough. I've known people where actually ballerinas, heavy metal singers, cooks, and writers wearing corporate attire in disguise.

5. Age is often just a number. You can't gauge a person's maturity by their age. And you can't gauge a person's age by simply looking at them. The other day, we were trying to guess some colleagues' ages. I realized I mostly peg everyone in the workforce to be in their late 20s. And I get surprised when I realize they are either actually much younger or much older.

6. People change. They aren't this memory you can put into a tiny little box. The years will take its toll and you'll realize you aren't all the same people you were before. But that's good. I read from somewhere that the only things that don't go through some sort of transformation are dead things.

7. Nobody is living the perfect life. Social media may say otherwise, but everyone has their own seasons, their own heartaches at times. "Perfect" people can have their petty fights, clogged toilets to take care of, and - you never know, they might be trying their hardest to fight off their own demons, too. So two words of advice (for everyone and for myself): first, do not compare; and second, be kind.

I suppose, as we get older, we'll learn even more about people, and this list could grow from seven to seventy. Well, even though I consider myself an old soul, these seven things are plenty enough for now.

Taken September 2014 at Laman Seni.

P.S. Oh, I have also been processing this journey through poetry. If you like poetry (or if you are trying to force yourself to like poetry), have a look at my little project here. Cheers!

Seven If Onlies

I generally try to live a life with no regrets, a life with no what ifs and no if onlys. (Onlies? Only's?) But, there you go, like that possible lapse in spelling and grammar, uncertainties and mistakes are always bound to happen. So we learn to pick up the pieces, make the most of them, and move forward.

I need to uncover all my regrets in Malaysia so that I can go on to the next chapter with a complete heart. This is debriefing post #4, after all. To be clear, I may have these regrets but I may not necessarily want anything to be changed. But I am getting ahead of myself. So, regrets:

1. If only I had taken a three-year-loan for Caleb instead of a seven-year one. That would have saved me from this headache of trying to sell him off now. But then that would probably mean weeks of me living on mee sedap or indomie. So here I am, still with some debt to pay, still with a faithful Myvi looking for a trustworthy owner.

2. If only I had communicated with my family more. I mentioned in my previous post how I became more grateful for them. But I still feel I didn't communicate enough. No matter. When I go back to Manila, I will make sure to take that commute up to Baguio at least once a month.

3. If only I hadn't isolated myself so much in UKM. Once I started working, I sorta became more outgoing. I had more friends. I had people outside church whom I could confide in. I did have friends back in UKM. But I still wish I had opened up more. Lesson learned: open up your life, open up your heart.

4. If only I hadn't put my relationship with Adrian too high up on a pedestal. We had so much heartaches because of so much pressure and expectations. He is my first boyfriend, I am his first girlfriend, and we both jumped straight into a long distance romance. I wouldn't go as far as saying if only I hadn't said yes to an LDR - though I do keep telling people considering getting into relationships this: DO NOT DO LDR. No, I won't go as far as saying if only he'd found a way here or if only had I never left home or if only we had never fallen in love or if only I had known what I was getting myself into or if only we had waited until I got home - I won't go as far as saying those things. Because these - this long distance friendship, this long distance courtship, this long distance relationship - these are the very things that have made our love story unique. And, hey, we have stood the test of time, distance, and inconsistent Internet connections. Now that we are finally doing short distance, I have no idea how things will work out. But I shall remember this if only. I will not make an idol out of this relationship. Gah, I think I already said too much for item 4.

5. If only I had saved up earlier! What on earth did I do to my money??? I had some debt, yes. I traveled a bit, yes. But I still wish I had more pesos in my Philippine account. Mission once I get a job next year: save, save, save!

6. If only I had been more sensitive to people. If only I had loved more, listened more. To have someone close to me disappear so suddenly and to have her go through so much heartache right under my nose - would I have been able to change anything? And yet, looking at where we all are now, would I have wanted things to be changed? I honestly don't know. In that parallel universe wherein she had stayed, wherein she still had constant communication - I have no idea how that world would have turned out like, and if we would all be happy in that world. I would like to believe so. But this is the world we have now.

7. If only I had no if onlies. I'm having trouble thinking up of a 7th one. But what if I never did have any regrets in my stay here? That would be such a perfect world. But I realize that I do have regrets. And now that those are all out in the open, it's now time to move on.

I want to leave being in good terms with Malaysia and my memories here. It's time to move forward, time to move on.

No more regrets.