Still going through Refinement

Still going through Refinement

Solana and the "refined" gold ring!
Solana and the “refined” gold ring!

In Process of Refinement

Solana was quite insistent, wanting to play longer, even as I reminded her it was time for daddy to read his devotional and pray.

Sensing the need to stay engaged though, I opted to share my reading with her from the devotional Streams in the Desert for today, Oct 29. It was about God being our Refiner and we, small blocks of mined gold. Essentially, the message is we need to go through some pounding and heating to refine us and perfect us over time.

I gave her my wedding ring. “So Solana, that beautiful ring started as a small block of gold. Do you think it liked it when it went through some pounding?” She replied, “Nope.” “What about going through the fire to shape it? You think it found it fun?” “No, daddy,” clearly she was getting the point. To bring it to conclusion, and cap our learning for the day: “But now it looks great! So, Solana, after all the pounding and the burning, what’s the result?”

Solana: “You get married!”

 

 

 

Child Awaits

Child Awaits

Child AwaitsYesterday, my wife Maricel sent me a picture of my 5-year old daughter counting the days until I came back home. I left a page of 8 illustrations representing what I anticipated would be highlights of each day I was out with a box in each one of them for her to “check” until all the boxes were marked signaling my return. Maricel captioned the picture as Solana checks the 7th box: “She’s excited!” That warmed my heart, and honestly, got me excited too, perhaps more than she was.

But it wasn’t always exciting for her, these past days I wasn’t home. For a 5-year old, days waiting can feel like forever! Especially when the “busyness” of my trip kept me from daily assuring her I’d be back soon. Thank God for Maricel and the kids who more than filled the gap, assuring her she would not only survive the waiting but she could enjoy it without dad, and even add joy to many others.

 As I reflect upon my scripture-based devotion on my flight back, I see parallelisms to the experience of sisters Mary and Martha as they awaited Jesus’s arrival having sent word of Lazarus’ serious condition. It must’ve been excruciating to wait! And I have no words to imagine how they must’ve felt when their brother died without their beloved “Savior” bringing healing to one He particularly loved.

But Jesus purposely stayed away until all hope was gone! Because, as Oswald Chambers puts it in today’s reading, “He saw that they could withstand a greater revelation.” He wanted them to witness a more powerful miracle and a greater blessing: Lazarus’ resurrection! And this wasn’t only for them; it was for all for in the community He cared for as well.

I can be impatient. Not only for what I have set as worthwhile goals for friends and family, but for the change I still believe should happen to our country. While I see certain gains in political will, I am disturbed with the drug-related killings and grieved for the families of the innocent, even the guilty who may not have been given due process, or a chance to reform. I plead to the heavens to move the president – because I believe it is only His Spirit that can transform any man molded in his ways – to mind the power of his words said (and unsaid), and to continually seek wisdom and help from anointed men and women to truly lead and transform this country and its people. I pray because if I have changed in any significant way the past 5 decades, I realize, it is because of people who prayed for me and who believed “that prayer moves the Hand that moves the world.” One lesson I discovered in recent years that escaped me for so long about leadership (and I credit this to one of my mentors, Dr. John Maxwell)? Followers have no idea how much influence they have, not only to demand, but to inspire – and to equip – their leaders towards good change. If they choose to.

Clearly, my prayer does not only cover the president and our leaders. It moves me more to “keep the faith” and to do what I can, with what I have, here and now. I believe my Father has a plan, and as I watch it unfold, I should do what I can to live “my best life now” and to add value where I am. I will maximize my skills. I will not create more enemies. I will respect the unique paths others have taken in which to engage with government and society (and I struggle with this!), no matter how different from mine. I will seek ways to get my message across to the president that even as he remains passionate doing what has helped him in the past, it will benefit all if he is open to new and better ways to shape this country for a brighter future. We can preserve some ways of past doing, without compromising our country’s future being! I will also be the first (and I am working on this) to shut my own mouth when it’s best to do so. I will be sensitive to others as it is a difficult and even painful time for many among our people. As for those I clearly see with self-centered (or downright “evil”) agendas, I am ready to expose and fight if need be, but in the end I entrust them to the Lord who has delivered me and His people, time and again, from the forces of darkness.

I am coming home to Solana soon, imperfect dad that I am, and I am giving her presents and my presence to secure because I love her. And though I have lost and miss my earthly father dearly, I stubbornly hold on and declare, with whatever faith I still have, that my heavenly Father will come too, in His time and in His way, and it will be glorious for us all.

 According to my faith, be it unto me, my family, and my country.

Step down, Anthony, and level up with your Family!

Step down, Anthony, and level up with your Family!

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“Hon, be their biker!” Maricel encouraged me to consider joining my daughters Ella and Hannah who were contemplating joining the Ironman relay – adult division – for the first time. They all graduated years earlier from “Ironkids.”

It was about 5 months to  the race and I was initially against giving up my individual slot as I was hoping for a strong finish in the triathlon race for perhaps my one last time. I joined the Alaska Ironman 70.3 race since it started in the Philippines 8 years ago, and I felt it was time to “move on,” focusing on marathons instead. But I was planning to leave with a bang!

But as I asked friends and colleagues, the response was the same: go for the relay instead, “because racing with two daughters” will not only be more fulfilling; it will impact more lives as well.

So, I “quit” the individual race and stepped in the relay event instead. Hannah was to do the 1.9km swim, I’d tackle the 90km bike and Ella would complete it with the 21km run.

We were all amazed at the support and the excitement of everyone as we announced our participation as a relay team. It was heartwarming to see our brands go all out as well as they fully supported our needs for the race which included training, traveling, competing, and ofcourse, recovering from such a grueling race!

I must admit a few days before the race I was quite nervous; not only was my “saddle time” (time spent biking or spinning) inadequate, I fell ill with a virus two weeks before the competition. In the meantime, I could see my two daughters determined and increasingly consistent in their preparations for the race. I was getting cold sweats and hot flushes!

But I pressed on regardless. Inspired by my teammates commitment and guided by my coach’s “customized” training plan (given my busy work and travel schedule), I kept the faith. It helped that partners like Quaker (Benby Philippines), Timex Philippines, Adidas Philippines, Rudy Project, Gatorade, Felt Bikes, B Hotel and USANA leveled up their support: I simply couldn’t let them down! They gave me what I needed to race, and race with all my heart I did.

I had no idea how exhilarating that day would be. Seeing Hannah come out of the water among the top 5% of over a thousand swimmers almost brought me to tears as I recalled her struggling years earlier as an Ironkids participants. Those tears quickly turned into fears, as I was pressured to keep up! Considering my lack of training, Ella was pleasantly surprised to see me come in almost 30min ahead of my expected finish, and I knew it motivated her to perform amazingly in what became a blistering run, her first 21km ever.

It was a tough ride for me for the most part, but I was amazed at how I felt increasingly strong toward the last 3rd of bike route. I credit that “kick” to the highly personal training approach Coach Dan Brown developed and adjusted for me as the months rolled by. I almost feel like it was a war won by smart guided missiles as against massive, indiscriminate firing. Training, nutrition, sleep, the right mindset, and above all “Divine Intervention.” Don’t race harder, run smarter. And it worked. We not only finished; we finished 7th in a field of over 70+ teams in our division! 

I’m 51 and I am privileged to experience these kinds of feats with the help of family, friends and partners. Hats off to our team manager, my wife Maricel. And once again to our partners like Timex Philippines who’s been with us from our first race as Team Pangilinan built in triathlon and running into our lifestyle.

Indeed, the race ended with a bang! But not for what I had accomplished on my own. Rather, it was what we achieved together, my daughters and I, which was far beyond what we could have done individually. It’s true: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” (Dr. John Maxwell) But may I add, “…and our lives worth living.”

Hannah’s Vlog #3 – Cebu Ironman Experience

Whose life am I living?

Whose life am I living?

Chateau Margaux wines "in process:" Do Not Disturb
        Chateau Margaux wines “in                   process:” Do Not Disturb

“Live Jesus in our hearts,” we used to say in school growing up. It’s only now that I’m beginning to understand what that prayer really means. The personal challenge is precisely that, to live Jesus in my heart, because all too often I draw from my own (limited) wisdom, trust in my own (futile) strength and live my own (“manly,” but un-Godly) life.

The interesting part is I actually survive. I make do. I live a “good life.” But that is the tragedy spot on: the un-lived life of the Son of God long born in me, and a family and community void of the blessing meant to be.

This shall not be! I am not young (well, not that young : ), and there have been many wasted years…but I still have “what’s left,” and they shall be made right!

And so this morning I, again, turn over my life, my time and my plans to Him, whose life I ought to be living. Not just to surrender, but to “embrace” all my Father has set before me, a blessed though undeserving son, because when He sees me, He sees His Son in me!

There will be many options presented before me, and some, interestingly, I craft on my own. But they will all “become shadows in the light of Him.”

O Lord, give me focus and courage, and success, from Your point of view! Let me say, today, with conviction, as Nehemiah declared amidst threat, distraction and temptation: “I am doing a great work, I cannot come down. “ (Nehemiah 6:3)

Indeed, live Jesus in our hearts!

 

Redeeming the Time

Redeeming the Time

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        Our 4-year old Solana, or “Ray of Light”

 

Redeeming the time 

So, it’s a 26miler once again, but this time, you take regular sips of wine and tastes of cheese – and steak! – along what you anticipate will be at least a 4 hour “engagement.”
Marathon du Medoc. That’s this Saturday, the 12th of September, for me, Kim Atienza, Yael Yuzon, Gilbert Remulla and a few other “crazy” members of Team Chateau Siran.
Hasn’t been easy, preparing and psyching myself for this run: training at least 4-5x a week the past months, anticipating a “whole new dynamic” as running is actually paired off with drinking (I don’t know what to prioritize!) and getting downed by the flu just this Sunday, halting all training to zero! But no sulking, no excuses, no fear. It’s a given, and in math, you don’t complain about the givens: you simply factor them in.
What I experienced this morning though, tops the challenge: saying goodbye to our 4-year old Solana.
Being honest with our kids has long been a conviction of my wife and I: we will not avoid nor hide the truth from each other or our kids, as it is a foundation of trust and confidence. Not that all must know what everyone else knows, but we will be truthful re those things that affect them, for the benefit of all.
And so for the past days, I’ve been prepping Solana for this “8 sleeps trip” with Maricel, to make sure she will be able to take the momentary loss and physical separation and perhaps even look forward to the good it will do for her in the long run (sleepover with the grandma, more bonding with the sibs, and ofcourse, the pasalubong!)
But nothing prepares you for a last moment “agonizing cry and appeal” as we experienced it while finishing our packing at 4am this morning.
“I don’t want you to go Daddy.” “I want mama.” “I want you here…” as she awoke and sobbed uncontrollably.
And this I just had to give it’s course. Something Solana and our kids have graciously accepted in this life, but every so often still asked to assure themselves: “But it is ok to be sad, right Dad?”
Ofcourse it is ok, even as I hate seeing my children and my loved ones go through it.
In our last few moments before Maricel and I head off, I again ask her: “Dad and mom did tell you about this trip, right?” Even as she tears, she nods to confirm. “You do know that this is good for mom and dad, and what’s good for mom and dad is good for you, right?” Again, she acknowledges that. “And we will be back after 8 sleeps, right?” Even as the concept of multiple nights seems forever to a 4-year old, she confirms this as well.
By the time Maricel said her good byes, she had quieted down by then. When I checked on her again before leaving, she had this calm, surrendered yet hopeful spirit, as if to say: “I don’t like this dad, but I’m taking it, and you can move on.” She had one last request though: if her Kuya Benjamin could join her by her side as she slept another hour or so before school preps.
This trip better be worth it. No, let me declare it: it will be well worth the time. Nothing can ever justify leaving our loved ones behind except those things which will allow us to love and care for them even better.
To think of it now, for every marathon and triathlon I have joined in the past (and I am sure the same applies to my wife and kids), there are moments – sometimes loooong moments – of questioning and doubt: “Ano ba itong pinasok ko?” Kailan ba matatapos itong pagsubok na ito?!” (“What did I get myself into?” “When will this ‘trial’ ever end?!”). It’s the finish, and the reflections that follow, that make the struggle worth the while.
Just before we reached the airport we called home knowing all the kids would be up now, Solana including, preparing for school. We spoke to each one to again to say our goodbyes, and Solana’s words warmed our hearts: “I’m not sad anymore! I’m not crying. I’m ok na!”
It will be a journey. There will be moments of both joy and sadness. But it will be worth it. And before we know it, we will all be home together, as was meant to be.