Grateful 34 part 1

photo 1

Yes, I am 34 now. No amount of compliments that I don’t look like my age can change that. And I have to say that 34 feels a lot different from 33, or 30. Unlike the years before, that just blend into the next, 34 feels like a huge cog in the wheel resounding with a solitary click.

My birthdays used to be a big deal to me and I loved to throw parties to celebrate, but lately, I have been wanting more and more to be left alone as I see the day approaching. Maybe it’s because I dread the extra year, and for some reason I have forgotten why I celebrated my birthdays in the first place: it’s not about the years I have, but it’s the years that God has been faithful.

The more birthdays, the longer that God’s been great in my life.

And wow, how that thought just chased the blues away.

The best cure for whining is a better perspective.


So, for my 34th birthday, I’ll be listing 34 things I’m grateful for so far. Here’s part one, in no particular order:
1. I am always reminded that it is not that I ask too much of my God, but I ask too little. I always pray, “I expect great things from You, because You are great,” and He, in turn, helps me walk my talk, by showing me just how much greater He actually is as opposed to my definition of “great.”


2. Today, on my 34th birthday, I am off to a place where I haven’t been before. I’ve been wishing I could get away by myself for my birthday, and while I was willing to settle for someplace nearer and more familiar, I was given a business-class ticket to somewhere far far away, above and beyond my comfort zone. (And this also helped with me being ridiculously excited about my birthday again. hehe)

3. I have amazing parents. One of the running jokes in the family is that I get sick a lot becauseMom and Dad threw out the colostrum that I was supposed to have when I was a baby. But the thing is, from there, they have—by trial and error, with a lot of grace, patience, love and sense of humor—done a great job in raising me to be who I am today: still a work in progress, but far from a lost cause.

4. I am proud of my siblings. Would it sound obnoxious if I say that I think they are all exceptional? Well, I guess not if it’s true. If you know us, you know what I’m talking about.


5. I am 34 already and I still get great birthday gifts from my friends and family. Thanks guys!

6. A life of forward motion. I’ve always lived by this, albeit I do get stuck in ruts once in a while, but I’m grateful that God still moves me forward, whether or not I want to.


7. Growing up with pets. My mom said that my very first pet was a chicken—and that I eventually had it for dinner. After that, no more edible pets. Our house has always had a menagerie of different animals—dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, fish, guinea pigs, birds, an iguana (but that didn’t stay long), and a hedgehog. Loving and taking care of pets have taught me and my sibs how to be gentle, loving even the difficult to love, to forgive bites and scratches, to accept others how they are—although it was easier with animals because they are so cute—and eventually, about death, how to mourn and move on. 10665778_10152688413411210_5997660033304440003_n

8. The gift of words. I don’t know how I could’ve survived my tough depression years if I hadn’t been able to sublimate my thoughts through stories and poetry. Reading gives me the satisfaction that shopping could never supply. Few accomplishments feel as good, or come as regular (since it’s my job), as finally finishing an article for publication.

9. My friends. You guys know who you are. It’s amazing how many you are who consider me as a friend too. I know I haven’t been the best kind of friend to have, you never give up on me. You pull me out of my hermit modes, drag me into adventures, challenge me, offer and give comfort, solicited and unsolicited advice, listen patiently to my complaining, remind me of what I have forgotten, love me despite my dubious choices in life, for telling me that I am beautiful, pointing me back to God whenever I’ve lost my way. You guys are awesome.

10. The opportunity to teach writing. I always say that I write better than I talk, and I still believe that. There are many evidences and witnesses to support this. So, it’s a huge deal for me to be given the chance to teach Writing for Print for the first semester of this academic year at the St. Dominic’s College of Asia. I still don’t think I’m a good teacher, there were many things that could’ve been done better, but it’s so gratifying to see my students’ works show improvement throughout the semester.


11. Being a magazine editor. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my career as a magazine editor (because it can get stressful), but it has given me so many things in my life—new friends, experiences, free food and swag, trips, interesting conversations with interesting people, stories and the privilege to practice my craft for a living. Thank you, People Asia, 24/7 Nocturnal Navigator, Metro Society, Metro Weddings, Lucerne Luxe, HOLA!


12. Mentors. My mom who taught me stories from the Bible and answered my questions even before I learned how to read, for teaching me about boys, men, and love by word and by example; my dad who first taught me how to swim, shoot a basketball, gave me my first roller skates, skateboard, and rollerblades, encouraged my pursuit of sports by supplying me equipment, lessons, he explained the mysterious world of professional tennis, golf and the Formula One, he’s always been my number one financier of everything I need to get ahead in life; Kuya JJ who let me play with his Transformers and Ghostbuster toys, who let me read his comicbooks on weekends with him and his high school buddies; Ate Lorna, for that year in Sunday School where, instead of the usual Bible stories, got us to study church doctrines and theology; Ilou, who showed me that notebooks can also be used to write stories, for those summer afternoons of just writing on the branches of the giant calachuchi tree in their backyard; Teacher Nina who helped me give grammar the respect and attention that it deserves, introduced new hifalutin words to our vocabulary every week, nurtured my growing love for reading, and coaxed stories out of me with some healthy dose of competition; Edgar Allan Poe (AKA Carlo Curay), who tolerated a highschool freshman who, just out of the blue, started writing poems about him and his friends and exchanged poem and poetry with me and called me Emily Dickinson (I had no idea people thought I had a crush on him, but it had never crossed my mind); Tina who opened up my creativity in new ways while in Baguio; April, who took me and my comic book geekiness to different places, most notably to Italy, hiring me as a research assistant and getting me to read the best of Philippine literature in English, and for introducing me to the best writers of our time, and she also gave me Merlin, my first official cat; Jacs took me under his wing and gave me my first real break in the magazine industry after I let him hitch a ride home with me to Cavite, this friendship has grown stronger professionally and personally, he is now one of my best friends; Rheea practically adopted me after an MRT ride after school, taught me the rudiments of making and managing a magazine on a skeleton staff, made me her firstborn’s ninang, and always welcome me into their home for a dinner and a nap; Tita Sandy, thank you for taking me in when I was in such a stressful mess and helping me make some sense out of this stage in my life.

13. My girl friends. I grew up getting along better with guys, so I took it as a sign of maturity when I started getting along with girls, and these friendships have helped me through times in my life that range from ridiculously shallow to honest-to-goodness earthshakers. They are my rock and fluffers, amazing women in their own right. Thank you for your lives, ladies, you are amazing.

14. My childhood friends. We’re scattered all over the place now: San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Fort, Makati, Sucat, and Imus. A few of us are moms, a couple of dads now; one of us is a famous singer/actor/host, then we have a pastor, photographer, designers, teachers, accountant, IT expert, and editor (me!). I don’t think we’ve had the whole gang together for almost 20 years now, but  these people will always be close to my heart.


15. My childhood church. Imus Unida was like the incubator for my faith. It was safe, all my friends grew up there. We all attended Sunday School together, sang in the choir, went to summer camps, starred in Christmas and Easter cantatas, attended the youth fellowship, started Xchange, served in an outreach. This church taught me to serve joyfully in the ministry, I got to witness lives given to God time and time again, I may not serve there anymore, but it will always be home.

16. My church now. WinMakati is a church that I chose to serve in, no matter what the circumstances are. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to call it home, but it felt like it. I feel my churchmates’ love and support, there is safety found in there for me. I love WinMakati, sometimes I don’t know know why I do, but every time I wonder and ask if I should still be there, the answer is always a resounding YES.





August 18, 2014 Joy Dare: A gift in red, read and written

Ok, this is a tough one. Maybe it’s because I’m already half asleep as I write this, and man, what a tricky prompt this is!

A gift in RED: Red roses. I might have said (several times) that I prefer yellow roses over red ones, but I still love it when I get red roses, or any flowers, for that matter. From guys. Yes. Especially on Valentine’s Day. Yep, this strong, independent, single woman still appreciates those gestures. So far, I haven’t had a Valentine’s Day without roses… yet. Although there were a few close calls for the past couple of years.

A gift READ: I get books a lot, and I love it–even if I don’t necessarily read most of them. One time, a friend who I knew in real life, but got to know better on Facebook, just sent me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s Til We Have Faces just because she read that I had lost my first copy. That was an awesome and unexpected gift.

A gift WRITTEN1601017_10152597036221210_7323397567922395574_n

I got this yesterday from Sky. She always likes giving me these drawings and random notes that just say “I <3 U Ninang.” I post them on the cork board by my desk. These gifts are priceless.

Aug 17, 2014 Joy Dare: 3 Gifts in the Morning

My friend Rheea did this last year, and she’s started with it again. I’ve been wanting to join her bandwagon, but I don’t know why I never did. But as part of getting out of the mire, I need to start being consciously grateful again. And perhaps, the Joy Dare prompts can help.

So here goes.

3 Gifts in the Morning

These days, with only a few exceptions, no matter what time I sleep the night/early morning before, I always wake up at exactly 6am. Of course, it can be a pain when I need to wake up earlier than that, but my body clock’s come in handy for all those times that I have fallen asleep without setting the alarm.

This Sunday morning, Sky came into my room to wake me up (I was already awake though) for church. She sometimes come along with me to church at WinMakati, and it feels pretty good to go to church with family again–even if it’s just a five-year-old girl who only goes with me to play with Lucas.

Despite having my own place at a convenient location in Makati (right at the heart of Makati CBD, in Legaspi Village, near Ayala Ave. and the Greenbelts, and a 15-20 minute drive away from my office), I still insist on sleeping Sunday nights in my parents’ house in Imus. There’s a lot of comfort in waking up in the house you grew up in, where you celebrated the victories and mourned the losses, and the people who live in it have seen you at your best and worst, but wisely held their tongue when things don’t need to be said. This is why I try to make the most of my weekends at home as I could. I love waking up on Monday mornings to the Cat giving me dirty looks as I get ready to leave him for the week again, but lets me hug him one more time.

Daring to Move

If/When I get a tattoo, I have decided that it’s going to be just one word, in English (no fancy Elvish/Chines/Hebrew/Whathaveyou script for me), and it would say:


But lately, as you can see from my intermittent blog posts here, it seems like I have been stuck in a rut where I have gotten comfortable in misery. And I notice that I have been scared to get out of it, no matter how miserable I am already. This is just plain stupid already.

And God’s calling me out of it, reaching out with his hand, but I have curled up in a ball, too inexplicably scared to even give Him my hand.

Deep breath. I need to do this. I’ve spent enough time stuck in the mire.

So here goes. This week, things will change.

They have to.

Wake up, sleeper. Get moving.


I had a hard time breathing today… well, I still do. And it doesn’t have anything to do with being sick, well, not physically. But my chest felt tight all day, I had a hard time focusing on work and I was wound up so tight I was afraid other people could hear the twanging every time I moved.

And here I go again, writing another morose blog post, in Godspotted! I should have another blog for all my emo posts and just leave this blog for posts about sunshine and rainbows and happiness and dancing and singing Christian songs. This is Godspotted after all, it should be all positivity and stuff. I should be ashamed of myself. I guess this is why I haven’t written here for a long time, I just kept on waiting for something happy and light to write about. But whenever I do, I can’t sit still long enough to write about it.

But difficult times cause me to pause and check on my breathing. And that’s when I sit still long enough to write. (And it makes me feel better and more focused.)

Hence, I’m writing this now, at four in the morning.

I went to bed as soon as I got home to my parents’ in Cavite, desperate for the day to be over, but I woke up at around 1AM because I remembered I neglected something at work in my desperate bid to make it out of the day alive. But then, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thought of writing this because I needed to remind myself why it was a better choice to stay alive than throw myself off a building last night. If I let myself, the reasons for leaving (though few) are getting themselves heard above the reasons why I should stay.

So, here goes. Here are my reasons to stay (by order of appearance)

My nieces: Sky, River, Casey and the incoming baby girl, my mom, my dad, my sisters and my brother. Actually, considering my family was enough, that’s why I ran straight home even if I still had obligations in the city until later. Then my friends—although at the height of my breakdown I couldn’t remember if I had any friends that would care if I was gone (of course I underestimate them, but forgive me, I was not in the right state of mind at that time). I wanted to ask for help, but how? I could only croak to my Bes “Help” when I called her and because she was in a crowded bus at that time she could only reply “Wuh?” before the call was dropped (thanks a bunch Globe) and that left me wondering if I just imagined the reality out there and if I’m really going crazy. And then there’s the future that there would be better days beyond this, and all I had to do was hang on until the fever to end it all was goneMy life is good despite what I’m being made to feel at this moment

I am loved.

God loves me.

For some reason, that came in last. And it was only after Tita Sandy reminded me. I wish it had made me feel immediately better, but for some reason, it’s always something I’ve known, but I didn’t really think it mattered if I died today or later.

But I chose and I’m still choosing to stay. And live for another day. Even if that day means facing the fallout of the responsibilities I neglected because I just wanted to get away from high buildings. I still wish I had just gone back to the office like I said I would. But… yeah.

But I’m alive. The storm is almost through and I made it out. A little worse for wear, but I’m still here.

There’s a lot of cleaning up to do. But for now and, hopefully, always, my Father, my God, I’ll rest in You, and breathe.


Something broke. I wish it didn’t have to take everything else with it. Tomorrow I have to face the fallout of my choice to save myself.


I know that when You 
don’t calm the stormy weather
You hold me close
Until it blows over.



What I look for in a man

I have to admit that the thought that maybe I am meant to be single and unmarried for all my life does cross my mind once in a while. Once when the haze of meeting someone new clears and the reality that he is an actual person–both wonderful and flawed at the same time, working on an entirely different script that I didn’t write for him–has finally sunk in, I find myself fearfully stepping back. Heart carefully tucked just out of reach.

This does worry me a bit. But we’re working on it (God and I).

I was talking with a couple of girl friends over dinner this evening and I found myself rambling these thoughts aloud. And I stumbled into something that I didn’t really think of putting on any of my “must have” lists before. I’ve discovered my ultimate  non-negotiable when it comes to the man that I would want to marry and it’s all about:


Not a humility that makes him shy and retiring, nor a humility that turns down recognition. I am still attracted to some measure of boldness, after all… I meant a humility that knows forgiveness because he asks and gives it.

I think I would need a man like that should I be married to one. I need him to place forgiveness above being right– which is different from speaking the truth, truth still needs to be said, just as forgiveness needs to be present because one must have love and truth at the same time. A man who knows when to ask for forgiveness even if he is the one wronged for the restoration of the relationship– I need that kind of man, just as much as I need a man who can forgive even when he’s angry.

I’m not saying that he needs to find forgiveness easy, no… I need him to understand the forgiveness given to him by our Father through His Son, and works it out in His life, even if and when it is hard.

I need him to be like that, because I need to be like that.


And that’s the kind of humility that makes me respect a man.



“You were wrong. It did work out.”

“I am so proud of you.”

“Let’s be friends.”

“I understand.”

“Are you ok?”

“You will be fine.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“Where are you?”

“I get it.”

“I’m sorry for breaking all those promises I made.”

“I know you have been working really hard on this.”

“Need a hug?”

 “Thank you.”

“Well done.”


For Truth Thursdays.

TRUTH THURSDAY: To answer your question

How are you?

You know already. But… Can I just lie and say, “I’m ok?”


Ok… so, I’m not really THAT ok. I mean, I’m working hard to look ok, because, I don’t know– I just don’t want people to think that I’m not…ok…um

Because that takes a longer answer.

Yes. And I’m tired.

Why are you tired?

Because I have to look ok, when I’m not.

You already said that.

I know…

So? How are you, really?

I’m… hiding. I don’t know why, but for some reason, my defenses are up, and I don’t want anybody to come near me. I think they know the truth– but I don’t want them to confirm it. I’m scared that they might see how hideouspathetic I am, and leave.

But, since the walls came up, I have been very very lonely. Because nobody comes by to see me anymore–and I can’t see them. But the lonelier I get, the higher the walls get. And I bury myself with work. A lot of work. So much work, I can’t do all of it anymore. 

I don’t want this anymore! And I know what to do, it’s just that I’m afraid that if I do it, I’ll be left really vulnerable and exposed…and that scares me.

But then, it begs the question–what am I so afraid of that I have to defend myself from it? Would it be so bad for people to find out just how weak and how needful (needy) I am?

(Come to think of it, yes– it was bad before, when people did, and they left, because they couldn’t handle a needful (needy) weak Stef. But maybe it’s because they’re not used to it… because I always fight to look ok even when I’m not…

and blahblahwhineblah)

But I knew, all this time. And I’m still here. 

I know you knew. And I know you’re still here. But you don’t count.

Why not?

For that very reason! You don’t leave! I know you’ll always be there, so you don’t count.


I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that you don’t count that way… I mean, you’re the most important one of all. But, oh. You know what I mean!

I do. But I think you needed to hear yourself say it.

How do you put up with me?

Because I love you.

I know. And that’s why you don’t count…

I’msorry. I suck.

It’s ok. I still love you. And you won’t suck all the time. 

That’s a relief.

I’m working on it.

I know… but why are you taking so long?!

This isn’t too long. Compared to eternity.

I know. We’ve talked about this already. I’m trying to get it… it’s just… Oh, you know how stubborn I can get!

Yes. I do. 

But you still love me?

Yes. A million times. Yes. 

I love you too.

So, what happens now?

We break down the walls. I think… I need it more than I am scared of them being down. And, because I know you want them to be down, even if you’re not saying it.


But. I can’t do it on my own.

I know.

Help me?



This moment of vulnerability is brought to you by Truth Thursdays


Truth Thursdays: When it was over

When it was over
I was still standing
I was whole
Nothing broken

When it was over
I was mended
I was stronger
Though I was sad that it ended

When it was over
We walked forward
After I’d been through
I was no longer a coward

When it was over
You knew what to do
When it was over
We started something new.


(For Truth Thursdays)


Tagged ,

Truth Thursday: What’s in Your Hand?

“Scars are not injuries… A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.”
(China Miéville)

I have scars on my hand, one covers all the fingers on my right hand from a fire I started on purpose but did not mean to burn. I have stitches on my wrist that I don’t remember getting from my childhood. And I have scar tissue in my wrist, probably, where it broke in second grade. The cuts don’t show as much, I’m glad.

Then there are the scars I carry with me– like badges of honor of all those incidents in life that have made me strong. Not all of them are from sad or painful experiences. Most scars come from falling off great heights and the falls are always as exhilarating as the climbs, or from going too fast and taking a tumble, or from trying something new, or reaching out and sometimes being bitten.

These scars come with stories and words that I pluck out of air to tell them.

Scars are gifts, along with other gifts I have in my hands. The more I share, the more I have to give away.

For Truth Thursdays.