Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 71 of 90: Trading Sorrows

My eighteen year work history is so far doing nothing for me here in the US. From a successful radio career to a challenging career shift into the call center industry, to my most recent season in the full time ministry with Every Nation Ministries in Manila, I am now unemployed. If not for my housekeeping stint in Tallahassee, I would have nothing.

And it's not for lack of applying. I've sent close to thirty applications so far and have been interviewed only four times. Interviewers tell me they are very impressed by me - articulate, intelligent, warm, friendly. But I still don't have a job. I have been deemed either overqualified or unqualified due to lack of blue collar experience.

I just got off the phone with someone who interviewed me for a position with a non-denominational church-planting organization that I really wanted to be a part of. She graciously, kindly, gently informed me that I did not get the job. As my heart sank during our conversation, I listened thoughtfully to her words.

"There were three amazing candidates...", "...nothing you could have done differently...", "You were highly recommended and were given glowing recommendations...", "... liked you very much and appreciate getting to meet you...", "prayerfully considered you and reached the decision to go with someone else...", "...keep you on file so we can reach you if another position comes along...", "I'm so sorry to have to ruin your day."

I kept my chin up and smiled as I thanked her, hiding the disappointment and sadness from my voice, and sobbed deeply after I hung up.

Job's words came to mind, "Though He slay me I will yet praise Him!"

I called to mind the many miracles God has given me in this journey of ours to the US and I'm encouraged that He is still God. And that His love for me has not changed.

It's only a matter of time before the best job comes along.

Is it housekeeping at the mall? Or selling mouse ear caps at Disney World? Or Universal Studios souvenirs?

Or is it behind a desk... of a bank? Or a reception area?

Only He knows. For me, it's back to scouring the job openings. And praising and worshiping Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Days 64 to 70 of 90: Two Enchanted Locals

This past week has been uneventful save for an occasional trip to get groceries, watch movies, connect with HighPoint and Orlando World Outreach Center.

We're in a season of abundant grace in this limbo of waiting. Me for a job and Kyera for her US Passport. We got to play Heroes and walk the streets of Universal Citywalk and Downtown Disney in between endless days of hanging out at home. It's been a good rest but I'm seriously raring to work again!

Oh! I met someone.... Ssshhh....

Orlando is starting to grow on us. Can you tell?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Days 56 to 63 of 90: Domesticating the Diva

Now that Kyera is finally here, I find myself doing the stuff I missed out on doing when she was growing up - homemaking. Being a single parent since she was two, I have spent the last fifteen years making a living. And though I did spend a year and a half playing house as a pregnant newlywed, having helpers didn't really render me fully domesticated.

I'm so thankful that my mom made me do chores as a child in Portland, Oregon, and for the brief season that I did have a husband to take care of. These seasons prepared me for my recent housekeeping stint at the mall, and this now, wherein I do nothing but the following:

Gears are gonna shift again soon when I start working though. It'll be all of the above and then some. Speaking of which, please pray with me for my job hunting in Orlando to be successful. I'd like to call this place home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 55 of 90 Until Forever: Grateful

This return/move to the US began as early as July of 2006. While attending the Every Nation International Leadership Conference in LA, I felt a tug in my heart for the land I spent the first eleven years of my life.

I started praying for an opportunity, or a reason, to return. Being a US citizen and having lived in the Philippines for twenty-seven years, it was not an easy feat to uproot from a perfectly comfortable and successful existence to a new place to from scratch. More so as a single parent.

January 2007. The annual corporate prayer and fasting of Victory Christian Fellowship. Not a duty, but a delight to start the year off seeking God. This year, my only desire was simple - more of God in my life.

At Alabang one evening, Pastor Keith Lindsey preached out of Ezekiel of the man who walked into the water until he was fully submerged. This, he said, is what it is to be in the will of God. Untethered and without control. The difference between asking, "God, what is Your will for my life?" from "God, what is Your will?" is removing 'my' from the question.

About ten days after the fast, one of my best friends, Joyce, shared with me about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000: Minors below the age of 18 who are under petition by an American citizen parent automatically become US citizens upon arriving in the US or on US Territory. Kyera turns eighteen on December 28, 2007. I had to start moving if we were to beat the deadline.

And now she's here.

The following have helped us on this journey. To them I owe the deepest gratitude. I would do for them in an instant what they have done for us.

Ron and Joyce. Thank you for convincing me to do this and for encouraging me every step of the way by your example. Because you were one step ahead of us in this, I was braver and surer because you pointed me in the right direction. Your experience and advice has been my beacon every step of the way. My life has been tremendously blessed by our sixteen year friendship.

Len. You already know I love you and treasure you deeply. It's the hardest thing being half a world away from a best friend but I am fully confident that time and space cannot fade what we have found with each other. Being apart from Kyera and knowing she was under your care and loved like your own made a world of difference to me as I struggled many times with missing her. I rested in the knowledge that you kept her safe. I know that our reunion some day will be just as sweet as mine was with Kyera.

Michael and Janet. Thank you for making me an unofficial Turner. I cannot thank you enough for having me stay with you "so you could take care of me". For reassuring me that drink refills are perfectly fine, to letting the whole family wait for me to get my driver's license, I treasure every moment and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because of your tireless efforts, I got everything I needed in order, swiftly. Kyera is in the US now because you helped me do what I needed to do. You and Zane, Zak and Zephan have a place in my heart and home always.

Filipinos in the US from VCF. G3, May, Carol (Malaysian but Pinay at heart!), Tess, the Duques and the Magpantays were my life support system when I had days that found me at the end of my rope. They truly understood/understand what it's like.

Leah. Knowing we were both in the "same place at the same time" where our daughters were far away from us is an experience I will not soon forget. I can honestly say that the past two months were easier knowing that we shared a unique journey. Our cyber-hugs pulled me through many a dark valley, my friend. And now, we both have our babies back. *hug*

Multiply and Blogspot.
It may seem odd to thank a social networking site and a blog, but in this day and age wherein the world is at our fingertips, I cannot not thank the friends both online and in real life, old and new, who stop by to read and leave comments. I have been deeply encouraged. Many a sharp pang of homesickness and loneliness have been averted by the comfort of reading replies and others' posts. Thank you!!

If you haven't ventured out into the water, jump in. It's amazing.

Days 53 & 54: Eight Weeks Later

Someone once said a picture paints a thousand words. Here's what ours says. Plus some excerpts from our Twitter posts from that day. (Twitter rocks!)

She was nowhere to be found. I scanned the crowd at the Baggage Claim but there was no sign of her. I went to the NWA counter and was told she was waiting for me at her arrival gate and was not allowed to leave until I got her. I was then given a security pass and half ran through the security check - including having to remove my shoes and putting my phone through the X-ray machine - before jumping on the train.
on airport shuttle to get my daughter!!! (Eastern Standard Time)
Just landed in Orlando! In one piece! Hehe. Missing people but excited to see mom. (Manila Time)
As an Unaccompanied Minor, they would not let her out of their sight until duly claimed by the person listed on the form. The ground attendants were all praises for the "nice young lady who was so well-behaved". I was deeply touched. "It's a testimony to you how well raised she is! You raise 'em right, they turn out right!" I smiled and thanked them.
She was standing next to a wall near the NWA counter charging her cell phone. I had to restrain myself from shrieking and crying.
"Mom, please, please, don't make a scene..." We hugged and went home.
i felt like i gave birth again. only this time she's 17 and i didn't have to wait 9 months! i looove her sooo much.
I'll share my gratitude list tomorrow. I couldn't have done any of this without certain people.
falling into a deep and blissful sleep for the first time in 8 weeks.
Thank you for praying with and for us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Days 50-52 of 90: Two Sleeps til Kyera

I said good-bye to my child almost eight weeks ago. I left her in Manila as instructed by the US Embassy to re-establish myself as an adult in the US. The longest we've been apart was for ten days when she was 22 months-old when I worked as a Liaison Officer for the Boardsailing event of the 13th SEA Games which were held in Manila in 1991. Of course, I was still married at the time and we lived with my mother, so technically she wasn't alone.

Being a single parent since she was two, Kyera and I became, and have been, very close. More so since the time my mother passed away in 1997. Losing my mom meant I was truly left alone to fend for us.

The past ten years have been an incredible testimony of the countless volumes of Grace and Goodness that come from God alone.

Eight weeks and half a world away from her later, I miss her with all my heart and feel as if a part of me has been missing. There will be time enough for her to grow up and leave me. But for now, all I want is to see and hold her again.

She flies to me on Tuesday at 6AM, Manila Time. Or Monday at 5PM, Eastern Time. She'll land Tuesday afternoon.

Please pray for her trip to be safe and for her to find favor every step of the way from Manila to Detroit to Orlando. And for grace, peace and joy to fill her as she spends her last day and night in the Philippines.

I know it will not be easy to leave.

I felt the same way eight weeks ago.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Days 48 & 49 of 90: Orlando Bound

A little past my halfway mark of the First Ninety Days Back in the US series, I look back at the places I've been to since returning to America last September 19th.

First stop was Metro Morningstar DC where I visited for six days.

Then on to Tallahassee last September 25th to be reunited with the Turners. I've known them since 1995 when Michael and Janet moved to the Philippines and stayed for close to eight years. I got to see them last year when I attended the Every Nation International Leadership Conference. I've been staying with them all this time.

Tomorrow I head to Orlando to visit with a long, lost aunt who I haven't seen since my mom's funeral in 1997. I only recently found out she lives in Orlando! I'll get to see my Victory Christian Fellowship pastors and their families - the Duques, the Magpantays, and hopefully the Punzalans too!

I'll stay for ten days to explore the job market. The highlight of my visit is KYERA'S ARRIVAL on Tuesday the 13th!!

I miss hearing Christmas carols at the malls in Manila as early as September. Nothing like that here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 47 of 90: Kyera Gets Her Visa

Tuesday afternoon, Manila time, from Kyera's Twitter post:

My visa has been released! It's for delivery today! Happiness!

Thank you, God!!! Words cannot describe the gratitude, relief and joy I feel!!!

To celebrate, we had strawberry shortcake with dark chocolate at the Turner household.

Can't wait to see my baby!!!!

Image taken from her Despedida (Farewell Party) / Advanced 18th Birthday Party at Casa Santos. My heartfelt thanks to Len, Phoebe, Faye, Nikki, Miguel, Red, Nanay and Tatay, and everyone else who was part of it. She was very happy. Thank you for making her feel loved.

Day 46: The Real Thing... Among Many

Janet and I went to Walmart and I just had to take a picture of what I am faced with every time I set foot in a grocery or pharmacy - CHOICES.

For instance, if you want to get a Coke, it's not as simple as you might think.

You have to choose from: Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Lime Coke, Diet Coke with Splenda, Diet Coke Plus Vitamins and Minerals, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Regular Diet Coke...

Diet Vanilla Coke, Regular Vanilla Coke, Berry Coke, Cherry Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Coke Zero...
And good old-fashioned Regular Coke.

Don't even get me started on Pepsi. Or on the over the counter (OTC) medications. Or on the makeup. Or on the shampoos. It's daunting. Really. And good pictures for another blog.

Janet helped me with all the flavors. Give me a couple more months to memorize and taste all these.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 45: Every Nation Tallahassee

My Sunday in pictures. It felt like Victory Christian Fellowship! I caught the last of the Money Talks Series: Live to Give.

First time visitors get mugs. I chose a silver one.

The lobby where the book table is located has a table for visitors and a nice coffee nook similar to but fancier than the one we have at Victory Christian Fellowship-Alabang.

In true fellowship fashion, I spent the afternoon with new friends watching a movie at the dollar cinema (aka budget moviehouse). The matinee (afternoon) screening of No Reservations cost $ 1.25! That's even cheaper than Manila!

It was a guuuude Sunday. Very guuuuude.

Hoping that WEEK TWO OF KYERA'S VISA WAIT will be just as guuuuuude and rewarding.

I was very encouraged today to hear a fellow mom remind me that God is responsible for our children. "God does not have grandkids! We are all His children!" Oftentimes as parents, we wish we could control the things that life deals our kids. But the truth is, we can't. It's one of the hardest lessons I'm learning as a parent. My daughter getting a visa is out of my control. I've done my part.

I rest not only in the knowledge that God loves Kyera more than I ever could, but that He can and will take care of her more than I am capable of. Saying this half a world away from her has truly been a faith-stretching season! But I know that He has only her and my best in His plans.

And when I desperately want to hold her, He can do that for me too.

Like now.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 44: Happy Feet

It took me seven weeks to finally get a pedicure. My last one was in Manila the Monday before my Wednesday flight. Kyera and I treated ourselves to our beloved Tips and Toes. That was September 17.

Nail pampering is considered somewhat of a luxury here in the US, due largely to their price tag of anywhere between $ 18 to $ 23, depending on where the nail salon is located. Add $ 10 for a mani. Oh, and don't forget the tip of 10-15%.

I held out for as long as I could since I 'm being very careful with my money, but today, I needed a little treat. I have days that I get really homesick not just for Kyera but for life in the Philippines. It started with a week-long craving for siopao.

There's a small Chinese restaurant next to the library and I finally decided to go inside and check their prices. To my dismay, the Chinese owners didn't know what siopao was! I tried racking my brain to recall if "siopao" is a Tagalog word... My eyes scanned the menu and the pictures on the wall but could not find anything like the yummy white steamed flour ball filled with pork or dimsum.

I had to settle for a $ 1 egg roll. Not as good as the beloved lumpia back home but enough to satisfy a homesick Filipina-American who still feels culturally lost at times.

I didn't get to satisfy my craving but at least I got a little taste of my life back home when I went next door to a nail salon that cost me $ 18 for a pedi. It wasn't Tips and Toes but the Vietnamese teenage guy who worked on me did a good job of making my feet feel like they used to once upon a time. Plus, I got to keep these cool pedi slippers!

Aaah. The things we miss when we are half a world away from home.

Days 37-43: Halloween & Library Love in the Time of Stomach Flu

Greetings from a chilly Tallahassee!

The weather is starting to feel more like Baguio instead of Tagaytay and less like Manila. A light jacket is a must but I've been pretending to look like a local by not wearing any. Until Halloween. For some reason, I felt cold that day so after reassurance from the Turners that it was okay to wear a coat, I did.

It was nice to get out after a bout with stomach flu. I had intense pressure and bloating in my stomach similar to gas (insert giggles here) but nothing would make the pain go away! I had no appetite and was curled up in bed mostly for three days. I tried everything - over the counter (OTC) remedies, baking soda, a heating pad, warm water - but nothing worked. I guess all it took was for it to run its natural course.

Our neighborhood library lets you borrow up to 50 items at a time - books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, VHS - so I was well stocked with books.

Not being able to eat well, I made up for it Halloween dinner when we went to a pizza place called Cici's Pizza. Buffet pizza spread!

We then head for the mall where stores gave away candies to kids in costume. They started at 5PM but by the time we got there at around 630-ish, many of the stores were starting to, or had already run out of goodies.

The kids did have a good time though and were tired when we called it a good haul by 830-ish.

A lot of the parents who took their kids were also in costumes. I saw Captain Jack Sparrow and medical themed families in scrubs. Most kids were in store bought costumes but I did see a handful in good old-fashioned creatively self-made outfits. (Sorry, no pictures. I'm careful about taking photos of strangers without their permission...)

Leading up to Halloween, a store called Party City put costumed reps out on their street corner to attract customers. We drove by one afternoon and I did manage to take this moving picture of Davey Jones!

I wanted to get a blonde wig but figured I wouldn't be able to use it after Halloween so I decided to go dressed as a thirty-something Asian chick with dyed brown hair instead.

Kyera and I are still waiting for her visa. Week One was only a two-day work week so no word yet. We're hoping this coming Week Two will by THE WEEK. Please pray with us.

And pray for a job opportunity I'm exploring in Orlando. Another move and another adventure just might be waiting for me there.