Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 in retrospect.

I used to write annual retrospective blogs before. Until I stopped blogging. Now it’s high time to get my feet wet and start writing again.

I always think of a word as a theme to set the brand-new year on a very good note.

2016 was Courage.
2017 was Passion.

For 2018, I chose Excellence.

I remember when I was writing those 3 words using a cheap watercolor set at the beginning of 2017.

But for some reason, all three words were perfect for each year.

At the beginning of 2018, I instantly agreed with my 2017 self to go along and use “Excellence.” I had no idea back then how I was going to do it, but I decided I should just trust myself.

And of course, to trust God as well.

But quite frankly, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic at all in the beginning. I was only a little over 2 months into my new job as a research officer in a background checking company, but I was not really that happy with my work. I felt that my performance was always mediocre, or even a bit lower than that. It was obvious that the job was not for me, but I was too stubborn to see it back then because I had resigned from a very cushy part-time job where I had stayed for 7 years.

I was feeling very complacent with everything for the first couple of months of the year, just waiting for things to happen.

A Mother Mary monologue.

By March, like the year before, I was being called to serve again as an actor for the Holy Week retreat. If in 2017, I performed a monologue as Mary Magdalene, for that year, I had to perform a brand new monologue, this time as Mother Mary. In Filipino. Apparently, since the talk for Good Friday was about prayer languages, we had to perform in different languages. One actor had to perform in English, I got the Filipino piece, and another had to do it in sign language.

It was a more challenging performance compared to the year before in so many levels. First, the whole stage setup was facing the entire audience of SM MOA Arena, while the year before was a theater-in-the-round where I was only facing one side. Second, the character was more emotionally challenging. Every time I read the piece, I couldn’t help but burst out crying. Thanks to the guidance of Kuya Paolo as our director and the support of my fellow servant-actors, I managed to control myself. And again, just like the year before, I requested to have the teleprompter turned off because seeing the script always makes me nervous. I was nervous enough already standing on my own in front of the enormous crowd. But I knew that I wasn’t really alone onstage. I knew the Holy Spirit was there with me.

As I always do for every performance, I offered that piece to the late Bro. Ceci Hojilla, a La Salle brother who asked me many years ago as to when he would see me onstage.

I thought there was nothing that could top the Mary Magdalene performance. But Someone knew I could do better. The Mother Mary performance proved it to me.

Teaching English.

In the meantime, my performance at work was quite the opposite. I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, and I even dreaded sleeping early on Sunday nights, because it would make Monday come sooner. It came to the point that I wanted to contract a really serious illness, or run into an accident, because I wanted to have a valid excuse to not go to work. Yes, it was that bad.

I had confided in a few select people about how I felt, and they agreed that the job was not aligned with my strengths. I already knew it when it was only my third month with them and I was already searching for a new job online.

After 8 months into my job at that time, I attempted to talk to my superior, and it took a week of convincing, but I was already rendering for my final month, as I found another line of work that I thought I could enjoy.

At the beginning of the second half of 2018, I resigned from a job that I realized I could not handle, and found myself in an ESL (English as a Second Language) company. And right from the beginning, I already knew that I was going to enjoy myself in something I love doing. I love the English language, and I love communicating and connecting with people. Yes, I finally found something I really love.

A couple of changes came along at that very same time.

Chorus head.

First, because our chorus head, Zach, got promoted to music ministry head alongside the existing head, Rex, he needed to appoint a new chorus head or two. And I was one of the people he chose. I was content with being a service coordinator all this time, probably because I was used to the same tasks when I had the same coordinator position in the Gateway program of Feast Bay Area’s Music Ministry. He first appointed Dennis and me as co-heads of the chorus, and by then I was already questioning myself if I really do have the capacity of being a leader.

What’s more, a month after being appointed, Dennis had decided to look for work in the Middle East, leaving me to find someone to replace him. It was quite a challenge, but after some careful selection and discernment, I finally found a co-head in Nat, who really proved himself when he least expected it.

I had some very big shoes to fill, becoming Zach’s successor. He had instilled a culture of family in the chorus, and he was a very kind and lenient leader. Being raised to be a stickler for rules, I had a different attitude. When he was still the chorus head and I was the active service coordinator, we played good cop, bad cop. Obviously, he was the good cop, and I was the bad cop. I was the one who pointed out certain things, and he had to cascade it to everyone in a kinder way. I was always the discipline officer to Zach’s guidance counselor. I didn’t know what to do with the herd he just handed down to me. I never saw myself as a leader, and there I was, being called to lead a big group of people who wanted to sing and worship the Lord in the way they knew how. Even until now, I have so many shortcomings as a co-head. I had to ask for prayers, but I knew I already had the answer in the core team where we were raising our leaders.

A mass singer.

What happened alongside stepping up as the chorus head was stepping up as well in service. I experienced immersion as a mass singer once back in late 2017, and by the middle of 2018, we were finally assigned to respective teams as their designated mass singers. I got assigned to Kuya Mond’s team, the same team I had my immersion with. Right from the start of service with them, they were the most welcoming and supportive group, and they treated us newbies like family. I felt so blessed to serve with them every month. I know I still have a long way to go when it comes to my singing, but I know I will grow even more in service because of them.

Retreat, reconvene, reset.

Just when I thought things were pretty smooth sailing, I had challenges with certain relationships. And one of them happened to be a good confidant, one of my closest, if not the best, friends in our ministry. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with my own emotions, and there were times when I would be either out of control, or I would just burst into tears. I always find it difficult when a very close friendship gets strained.

But I guess one of the best things that helped us was honesty, clarity, and honesty. It took some time to retreat, then after a little more time, we reconvened, and after talking, we did a complete reset. Hey, I like that. Retreat, reconvene, and reset. But anyway, I was glad we were pretty honest with each other. I can pretty much say that what happened was one of my biggest lessons of 2018, because there are some things I cannot control, but only learn how to deal with. And that helps you to grow as a person.

Spending my birthday in service.

Fast forward to the last quarter of the year. I had previously mentioned that there are things that I cannot control, and once I heard the lyrics of “Have Your Way”, a new song by Feast Worship that came out last year, I knew that that song was speaking to me in more ways than one. In fact, the song also summed up what I went through in terms of the relationship with the aforementioned confidante.

"Take away what’s not from You
Empty my heart and make it new
When there are things I can’t control
Help me trust in the unknown

Take what’s not for me to hold
Empty my heart and make it whole
Lead me to where I should be
Show me things that I can’t see

Oh my King whose voice the stars obey
Let Your will be done, Lord, have your way..."

Feast Worship songs were being used constantly ever since the album came out. One birthday wish I had was for that particular song to be included in the mass lineup during my service in December, my birthday month. Wish granted, it really was included. And to think that it was my actual birthday on the Sunday of my service as mass singer. But rehearsal day came, and I was afraid that if I was given a solo for the song, I might not be able to give it justice. I cracked under the pressure I gave myself. But I was still happy enough to get to sing part of the song that I wanted to sing on my birthday.

So I celebrated my 37th birthday by serving with the music ministry at the Feast. It was really a birthday to remember. Again, I still have a long way to go in terms of my singing ability. But it was truly a birthday blessing for me to listen and sing a song that spoke to me so much, alongside a very talented and supportive worship team and chorus team, regardless of how scared and insecure I was about my singing. They all inspire me to do my best in all that I do in service.

After the Feast, there was a Christmas party for the Feast Mall of Asia servants. There was a part in the program when Bro Didoy had us choose a partner and share our answer to one question.

“When was the time that you felt loved at the Feast?”

I couldn’t help but feel emotional because that day was pretty appropriate for that question. Maybe it was just because it was my birthday, but I felt really loved that day. I felt the warmth and support of the music ministry, from the chorus up to the worship team. I felt very self-conscious every time they would start up a round of the “Happy Birthday” song, though.

What more, a couple of groups of friends threw their own little birthday surprises for me. These groups are very close to my heart, and they made the efforts to make my day a little extra.

During a fellowship with my best confidants at the end of the year, we talked about what were our biggest lessons and blessings of 2018. I can honestly say that everything I wrote here are the biggest lessons and blessings that I received in my year of excellence.

2018 wasn’t a year of excellence entirely. Not all my actions to excel were deliberate, almost always hesitant. But I guess what made it excellent was that every little thing that happened all throughout the year were all stepping stones to that excellence.

This 2019, I welcome a brand new year of opportunities, blessings, and everything else that is yet to come my way. With a passionate heart, I enter 2019 with tenacity.

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