More Than A Passionate Writer

Recently, I enrolled to an online course, “Web Writing and Social Media Communication”, at University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

Today is our first Day, May 21st. My first task: introduce myself.

I began to scratch my head. I am still recovering from a writer’s block. I asked myself, “Where do I start?”

Is it enough to convey that writing is my artistic expression and I am passionate about it?

Reflecting on it, I remembered coming across a formula shared by Mark Sanborn, an inspiring author and motivational speaker, necessary to increase a person’s value during this challenging times.

According to him, “Value is equal to Expectation plus Education plus Something Extra.”

I began to realise there is more than being a passionate writer.

Allow me to introduce myself:

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My name is Laurence. I am in the process of pursuing a second career. I explored writing online by maintaining a personal blog since 2011. And what used to be an outlet for creativity, now, became a passionate endeavour.

Each post fueled me to delve more into it, however, my enthusiasm is not equal to direction. I need instruction. My skills require assessment to further enhance it. My audience deserve something more.

I desire to be more than a passionate writer.

It is an inspiration to see online writers become established in their own projects. Significantly, I see more value in the learning process they went through in order for them to reach their goals.

I believe online learning can be both informative and interactive. Regardless of the course being undertaken, these areas can be attained by collaborating the instructor’s wisdom and creativity with the learner’s show of enterprise and discipline. Online learning will also allow me to study at my own pace and utilize a style that works best for me.

I understand the process is gradual, but certainly, it requires action.

In his bestselling book,”Up, Down or Sideways”, Mark Sanborn emphasized, “Mind-sets are important, but not enough. Doing the right things for the right reasons in the right way, and doing them consistently – that is what creates sustainable success.”

I am traversing my restraints by being proactive. In this changing world, it is my objective to create distinction in my work and artistry.

Like an archer who finally releases his arrow towards his target, I am letting go of those “words” and use them significantly. For I believe, I am more than a passionate writer.

Even Superman Needs The Sun

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There goes my ride.

I haven’t been working for the last three days. I feel weak and I’m shivering when my temperature elevates. My throat hurts, my body aches and my wallet whines.

My pee smelled like it’s contaminated with chemicals. Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen have become my very good friends.

What’s worst, any food I eat tastes dull. I guess my mom’s wish that I lose weight will finally come true.

Hopefully by tomorrow, I can report back in better condition.

In the last few days, I pretended like I’m wearing a red cape: slept less than six hours a day, worked like a bull and did not have regular spiritual nourishment.

Regretfully, I began to discover that I am no man of steel.

One significant daily discipline I often neglect is to build up my reserves.

I am now learning the importance of knowing my limits and showing restraint. Despite his Kryptonian strength, Superman knows he can’t go through lead.

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Recently, I upgraded my phone. My old one is already demonstrating some problems.

“It has an eight-megapixel camera and HD video recording. It will be a huge discount on my part against buying them individually “, I rationalized.

“It has retina display, utilizes 4G network, has a 4-inch screen with oil-resistant coating, operates on an advanced operating system…”, I started to drool. I even forgot I have fever that day.

Who am I bargaining with? Of course in a moment’s heartbeat, I had given in to the culture of consumerism with open arms.

Currently, I’m reading Mark Sanborn’s “Up, Down and Sideways.” He explains, “Indulgences become detrimental when they go from occasional to regular, and the distance between the two is a slippery slope.”

“I know I bought a seven-inch tablet as a ‘gift’ for myself last Christmas”, I can’t help my eyeballs from rolling upwards.

I confess, I slipped. I spent on something more than I can make.

Mr. Sanborn further elucidates, “Saving is something we should do regardless of our circumstances.” When situations become tight, we can no longer create them.

He empathizes “Changing our spending and saving habits isn’t easy.” ( Yeah, you’re right!) He further motivates, “But it is possible! Building financial reserves starts with a commitment to do so, and it’s never too late to start.”

More importantly, he also emphasizes the importance of building our spiritual reserves.

Quoting the words of Dallas Willard on his book, he also encourages, “A carefully cultivated heart, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying ‘Why?’ ”

He is right. Building reserves is a survivor’s secret.

Skydivers have backup chutes in case the primary one doesn’t work; definitely, it’s hard to ask for help when you’re way up there and falling down rapidly.

Even Superman basks under the sun for replenishment.

I learned my mistake. I am not from Krypton. I don’t even own my life and whatever I have.

God does. And He guides me to a point in my life where I will know He is my everything.

Enemy Inside

 

Robotic tentacles extending from the virus-sized machine completely replaced the damaged neuron.

His body is laid inside a cryonic chamber. Early this morning, he succumbed due to a massive cerebral haemorrhage.

“He is making significant progress”, the scientist grinned.

Upon opening his eyes, what he saw made him fluster. For him, it is an unwanted prison. Suddenly, he felt rage surge uncontrollably. He balled his fist.

The glass cover exploded with a single blow.

Hyperventilating, he pulled himself up. His eyes started to roam around subtly pleading to be rescued.

“Welcome back son!”, an unfamiliar figure began to approach him.

 

Part-time

The ceiling light flickered.

“Bad timing!”, I grumbled. Nothing’s immutable in this life.

I lost my job and it felt like I was ran over by a truck.

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The phone rang but I ignored it. I continued reading the “Game of Thrones.”

Her message played, “Kyle! They can only offer you sixteen hours a week. Call me soon if you’re interested.”

I turned the page and got caught by a line that made me pause and contemplate —

A bruise is a lesson…and each lesson makes us better.”

He’s right.

I picked up the handset and started making a call.

My Fat Cells Cried This Morning

8:45 AM.

My head is still buried under the pillows. It’s seems like my bed has a large magnet underneath preventing me from rising up.

 

 

 

 

I am going to run at the nearby park. I need some exercise. I really need it.

 

Why? One year has passed and one thing I absolutely gained is an extra chin. The weighing scale’s assessment is pretty straightforward…I need to lose weight.

 

 

 

Edward Stanley, an English Cricketer, logically advises,”Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”(Uh-oh)

 

 

 

Well, this is a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heard it’s going to rain tomorrow. I should take advantage of today’s fair weather.

 

 

 

 

 

Renowned American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens, considers running as “Freedom to go in any direction, fast or slow, fighting the wind, seeking out new sights on the strength of our feet and the courage of our lungs.”

 

 

 

 

Daniel Liebermann, an evolutionary biology professor at Harvard, perceives, “Humans are born to run.” His research indicates our ancestors did persistence hunting long before horses were tamed. They run long distances chasing animals until it collapses.

 

 

 

 

So, should I start chasing them?

 

 

 

 

I believe I’m the one who is about to collapse.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from experience, Olympic gold sprinter, Michael Johnson, views life as, “Long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which opportunities are given to perform our best.”

 

 

 

Tempting.

 

 

 

 

I need to endure.

 

 

 

 

 

Australian swimmer, Bill Kirby, runs so that his goals in life will continue to get bigger instead of his belly. (Ouch! That’s a perfect motivation!)

 

 

 

 

 

My fat cells are crying.

 

 

 

 

I’m so bushed. It feels like I need to recline the whole day and rest! (And I’m craving for a hot dog bun!)

 

 

 

 

Nonetheless, I will run again.

Running requires perseverance, endurance and training. It goes the same with my Christian life. God promises in Isaiah 40:29-31, ”The Lord gives strength to the weak. And He gives power to him who has little strength. Even very young men get tired and become weak and strong young men trip and fall. But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weak.”

So Goes My Life

Since 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival yearly brings together a collection of culturally diversified films from more than sixty countries. The people behind this festival aims to lead the world in cultural and creative discovery through the moving image.

It was amazing to witness a display of exceptional dedication from the TIFF organizers and volunteers. They systematically ushered a flock of moviegoers who were there two hours before the movie starts.

Unfortunately, there was a long line ahead of me. Nevertheless, I’m still grateful.

I didn’t plan to participate this year. However, through my friends’ generosity, I was able to watch, not just one, but two movies.

Bwakaw, a film by critically-hailed director, Jun Lana, is about Rene, a man who discovers his unconventional sexual preference at a very old age and who sees himself imprisoned by the consequences of his delayed decision. This led him to become repulsive towards the people around him. His agitations became a rich source of humour in some scenes. Distraught by guilt and loneliness, he approached each day lifelessly nearing his deathbed.

During the course of his melancholy, he adopted a stray dog, whom he named Bwakaw(because of its voracious appetite), and developed a profound friendship.

One riveting scene I got drawn into is when Rene is consoling his dog during its dying moments and professing his deep friendship to it. The inevitable arrived, Bwakaw, breathes its final breath and closes its eyes,bids farewell to its closest friend. ( Is there an award-giving body for dogs?)

This tragic loss, as well as his failed attempts of gratifying himself, brought him to realize that life is still precious. The film ended with Rene walking on a long street, going through life despite of unfavourable endings.

Indignant over a 30-million lawsuit filed against them by a record company, Jared Leto and his band mates in 30 Seconds to Mars, made a feature-length documentary, Artifact. The film depicts their tumultuous experience battling against unfairness within the imploding music industry. It explains how unfavourable the recording contracts being provided, at present, to artists, who later on accumulates an enormous amount of debt.

It also gives a detailed account of how they struggled and persevered through unpleasant circumstances while finishing their album. Ultimately, they never lost track of what’s important – their connection, their passion, and their music. In hindsight, this led me to realize how piracy disregards the musician’s efforts and the life he poured in order to complete his artwork.

In my opinion, both movies similarly staged one important message. An individual’s direction in life determines his destination. In his inspiring book, The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley significantly points out, “What captures our attention influences our direction.”

Rene paid so much attention on regrets and on the life he wanted to have while Jared focused on his rights as a musician and on the injustice he is suffering from. Both of them struggling over, what they believe, they don’t deserve.

The outcome has a ripple effect. It is bound to influence the direction and destination of people within their circle of influence. Rene’s friends and acquaintances had difficulty associating with him while Jared and his band mates encountered disagreements among themselves and difficulties pursuing their career.

Both of them sought advise from people. Both of them focused on what they can do. Unfortunately, both of them would still be facing, up to now, an unfinished battle.

It’s my one year anniversary living in Canada today. And my life is still a work in progress (and its not easy as pie!). Instead of coming out a list of resolutions, one question inevitably popped out in my mind. I asked myself, “Am I consistently giving my attention to things that merit my attention?”

Honestly, my attention is drawn to what, I believe, is best for me.

To discern what is best, the Psalmist prayed, “Lead me in the path of Your commands, because that makes me happy. Make me want to keep Your rules instead of wishing for riches. Keep me from looking at worthless things. Let me live by Your Word.” (Psalm 119:35-37)

 

I am learning that life is not a series of unrelated decisions. And it is hard to decide when my hands are so full of myself. This limits me on making that best decision in my life — to let go and to lean heavily on God.

 

 

Sorrow Rhymes with Joy

Inspiring millions of people, Helen Steiner Rice’ poetry radiates the profound yearnings of every individual who seeks a deeper relationship with God. With compassion and sincerity, she joyfully writes each uplifting verse to share about God’s love.

She grew up in a family that nurtured her faith in God and love for His Word. Life had been fairly good for Helen until it was punctuated by episodes of misfortune.

Her father died during the 1918 flu epidemic and left her devastated.

After losing his job, Franklin Rice, her husband, sank into depression and committed suicide.

Her mother, whom she’s very close to, suddenly died of a heart attack.

At a mature age, her health deteriorated and she began to experience depression.

Despite of all her sufferings, she acknowledges, “All things work together to complete God’s master plan, and He can see what’s best for man.” Her circumstances led her to commune closely with God and to become more sensitive with the plight of others.

Out from her sorrows, she wrote,

 

When everything is pleasant and bright

And the things we do turn out just right,

We feel without question that God is real,

For when we are happy, how good we feel,

 

 

But when the tides turn and gone is the song

And misfortune comes and our plans go wrong,

 

 

It is when our senses are reeling

We realize clearly it’s faith and not feeling,

For it takes great faith to patiently wait,

Believing God comes not too soon nor too late.

 

 

Helen Steiner Rice anchored her heart at one truth that forever remains —

God’s love never fails, never gives up and never runs out on us. His love is constant through trials and change.

 

 

Rising Above Sheldon’s Routine

 

Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper is a fictional character in the American sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. He is characterized as extremely intelligent, socially awkward and rigidly logical. (wikipedia, 2012) One of his eccentricities include strict adherence to routine like compelling himself to do designated activities on each day of the week and sitting on the same cushion of his couch at all times.

 

 

 

 

Sheldon: (Smelling the french toast) “That does smell good! (throwing away the toast) Too bad, it’s Monday.”

 

 

 

 

I also adhere to a daily routine. Uncertainty is something I don’t want to wake up on every morning. But of course, I don’t have Monday pyjamas!

I always aimed to live life in a secure box where I’ll feel safe or at ease and without stress. But the reality is, at some point in my life, “adversity” will arrive knocking at my doorstep.

Ashton Kutcher once said, “I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.“

As a part-time medical assistant, I follow a designated schedule in a week.  Aberrations seldom happen unless a staff cannot report to work. Until recently, there were major changes made in the staffing which significantly reduced my number of work days. Caught unprepared, this turn of events left me distraught and unsettled. Along the process, I learned, emotions are unreliable allies.

In his book, Think on These Things, John Maxwell encourages, “Some of life’s greatest virtues — such as faith, patience, perseverance and hope—come by way of disappointments. By God’s grace, I was able to accept my unfortunate situation. I began to realize, I got so satisfied with my present position than my future growth. I resumed applying for other jobs and started being prudent in my expenses. Although it took a toll on my monthly budget, I still continued offering my tithes to God. I strongly believe, the Lord deserves honour with everything I have. He promises,”Your store-houses will be filled with many good things and your barrels will flow over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Last 28th of June, I was asked to fill in someone’s absence in another branch. It is something new and it broke my daily routine. I had to learn a new route going there, work in a new environment and rub elbows with new people. Even if it’s just temporary, God gave me the conviction to do my best. Working for ten hours that day left me bushed when I got home. However, I can’t contain my joy for I got rewarded to regularly work there for two days.

In her article, Out of Your Comfort Zone, Lee Anne Bartlett explains, “In life, things never stay the same — you are either moving forward stretching for bigger better goals or you are slowly moving backwards.”

I began to learn that embracing change is not an end in itself , but only through change can there be true growth. (Maxwell, 2010)

These changes opened the door for me to build new relationships and learn from them.

 

 

It also allowed me to serve others and lay aside my own comfort.

 

 

Definitely, it’s always easier to stay in the same rut. But why only settle with our comfortable nests? Each day, we can reach another undiscovered height and give God the glory He deserves.

 

 

10 Minutes Longer

In his article, What’s courage got, David Gouthro defines courage as an inner quality that becomes evident when you take action on an uncertain or unpredictable outcome. He further expounds,” You have a sense of what you hope to achieve — but there’s no guarantee you’ll do so.”

Last June 15, 2012, 1500 ft above raging waters, aerialist Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope battling brisk winds and thick mists. And he tells people,in pursuing their dreams, the most important legacy his great-grandfather passed on to him is not to give up.

The following day, I also experienced demonstrating courage 250 feet above turbulent waters — not on a tightrope — but being pulleyed across on a spanish aero car.

After a breathtaking view of the Niagara Falls, we decided to visit the Niagara Whirlpool. We took out our maps and studied how to get there (‘almost like huddling together in a football game).

 

 

The cable car is suspended by six sturdy cables and it offers a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool . It can carry 35 standing passengers. A round trip is about one kilometer and takes about 10 minutes to navigate.(nyfalls.com)

 

Have you tried riding those aero cars?”, one of our friends asked.

Oh, I haven’t…uhmm…it really looks spectacular riding one, don’t you think?” (Honestly, I never considered doing so for I’m afraid of heights and I don’t know how to swim in case something bad happens)

You should try it now. Go with Cyrus.”

After clearing my throat, I answered, “ Sure! Why not?”

Walking with Cyrus, I candidly told him, “I’m sure you know how to swim. I’ll just cling on to you, just in case.”

 

 

Unfortunately, I’m not a good swimmer myself”, he replied.

 

 

 

Great, that makes two of us!” (There goes my security blanket)

Armed with a bag of cookies plus the support of our friends, we sauntered towards the embarking area.

 

A whirlpool is a swirling body of water produced by the meeting of opposing currents. The sharp and sudden change in direction of water flow, coupled with the rapid flow of water exiting the Niagara Gorge results in turbulent swirling of the river.(wikipedia, 2011)

Problems coming from all directions can be perceived as whirlpools too. And many times, people become enslaved to their situation because they see nothing but problems. But a proper perspective shrivels a bad situation. (Maxwell, 1999)

What really caught my attention is that the river looks majestic despite the turbulence.

The oxygen and minerals it contains create an excellent environment for the growth of algae. When sunlight hits it at the right angle and intensity, the algae acts like prisms reflecting back an aquamarine hue.(nyfalls.com)

We can eventually see clear waters in the whirlpool of our trials.

According to John Maxwell, success is never instantaneous. It is continuous. It takes growth and development. The true measure of success is not what position we have reached in life, but what obstacles we have overcome to reach our desired goal. Persistence overcomes obstacles.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “ A man is a hero not because he is braver than anyone else, but because he’s brave for ten minutes longer.” I rediscovered I can be one but not by my own strength.

Exit Ramp

I am beginning to experience the creative joy of cooking. One day, I came across a recipe on preparing Vegetable au gratin.

Every cook, being human, errs, bungles, botches, and screws up in the kitchen once in a while. But for a novice cook like me, a recipe can become a dangerous minefield.

 

 

The cream sauce turned out lumpy. The vegetables were both bland and soggy. And the potatoes tasted raw.

 

 

My brother tried to hide his distaste, unfortunately, he almost choked on it. Even so, he lauded me for my ingenuity.

In her article, Cooking Blunders: Whatever do you mean?,Marjorie Dorfman emphasizes, “It is important, however, to re-trace your steps and understand the error of your ways so that you do not repeat the mistake.”

Mustering up courage, I decided to do it again.

 

Ingredients:

2 large potatoes, diced
a handful of frozen corn
1 tsp butter
1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
1 cup shredded four cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the white sauce:
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1.5 cup Natrel coffee cream ( or milk)
1 tsp butter
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

I discovered that baking potatoes requires more time. I went on doing it first.

 

Apply a tsp of butter at the bottom of the baking pan and then layer the potatoes and corn on it. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Grill this in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350°F until the potatoes are slightly browned.

 

 

Next, add all the diced vegetables and spread them evenly on all sides of the pan.

 

In preparing the white sauce, you need to warm the butter in a non-stick skillet. Make sure that the butter is melted and not burned. Mix the flour with the cold cream until you reach a smooth consistency. Next, pour this mixture in the sauce pan and keep stirring constantly. Season it with salt, pepper and add a teaspoon of sugar. To avoid formation of lumps, I kept on stirring it over low heat until my potatoes are baked nicely. ( a simple test of patience and endurance!)

 

The next step is to evenly pour the white sauce on the vegetables. Then top it with a layer of four cheese.

Bake this at 350°F for 15-20mins.

It is a good thing that the highway of imperfection has exit ramps.There is always a way getting back on the right direction whenever we make the wrong choice.

God is always in the process of developing our character.

Troubles help us learn not to give up. And when we have learned not to give up, it shows we have stood the test. When we have stood the test, it gives us hope. (Romans 5:3-4, NLV)

Our shortcomings in life may cause us to fall apart. But in the pain, we can find healing. In Jesus’ name, we can always find meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

I intended doing a taste test. Instead, I ended up eating a big slice.