My family traded coconut and palm trees, beaches and Southeast Asian delicacies in favor of pine trees, East Texas canopies and Southern comfort food. I was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to Texas when I was nine years old. I have very fond memories of beach life and listening to my grandfather tell stories. He would weave old Filipino folk tales, Bible stories and the things he saw and the time he spent in World War II; these stories would inspire me, frighten me and make me laugh. In a word, I was RIVETED. I wanted to tell stories just like him.
I do not exactly remember when I decided to start writing. I do remember keeping a diary and journaling the “wonders” of middle school and writing about the “aches and pain” of high school. My grandfather would be proud, eh? But somewhere between puberty and graduation, I wanted to find a purpose and wanted to dig deeper into my faith.
Finding faith, reading about different religions, and pouring over the Bible became my life in the first two years of college. I would rather go to a Bible study than to clubs and bars. I realize this made me a “little” different. Society wanted me to experience college life and that meant, a few (or a lot) of parties, alcohol, sex and drugs.
Now, I’m not going to pretend I was innocent during college. During the last few years, I did experiment. I questioned my faith and my religion. I had a great time dancing at clubs and yes, drinking. I had friends who were into drugs and abused alcohol that it’s a wonder they graduated with their liver intact. I was pretty much all over the place, that at some point, I wondered if I was being tested and wondered if I failed miserably.
I wanted a handbook on what a Christian should do in tempting situations when the people doing the tempting were childhood friends. I lived with my two best friends who were on opposite ends of the spectrum and I hated that I had to choose between them. I hated that I sincerely believed that I was either living a life full of sins or seeing life from a shiny, sin-free pedestal. I was a mess.
So, I did what I do best. I wrote. I journaled my hypocrisy. I cried over being pulled in two. I chronicled my bargaining and pleading with a God that I questioned. My words became my conviction. The pages began to fill with the lack of fervor in my faith, the consequences and support of friendships…..somehow, I managed to write the basis for Love, Defined. In my ramblings, I shaped Alex, one of the main characters.
She was a mix of the old and new me; questioning about faith and devotion in our actions, but I wish I was as strong in her stance. I wanted her conviction but I wanted her to stop living as a witness and judge. She was the person I simultaneously wanted to be and someone I wanted to shake.
Lori and Andy were modeled after my best friends and college roommates. Lori was the girl with the perpetual smile and who is optimistic about life. You would never have guessed so much tragedy has happened in her life when you look at her. She loves her friends, and very thankful for her life – how it was then and how turned out now. Her nose was always buried in romance books and sappy movies, but the second someone gives her a chance to actually live those moments, she’s courageous enough to try to do something about it.
We all have an Andy in our life. The free spirit. The beautiful one. The one who gets the boys’ attention. The one who loves the most, feels the most and the one you root for the most. She’s incredibly lucky and blessed to have two lovely friends in her life and she understands that. Andy doesn’t get cheesy. She’s practical. She knows what she wants and who she wants in her life and she’s not afraid to go after them.
Love, Defined takes place during the summer. I liken summer as a spring board; so many changes happen in the fall, with the leaves changing and cool air gathering. Summer is the spring board that propels you to the season of change. As the summer unfolds, three young women learn that love and faith go hand in hand, that not everything is black and white, and sometimes, in a fast-paced world, you have to slow down, breathe a little and find your own definition of love.
Love, Defined can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. I have copies at home, if you want to take a peek at my beautiful mess. But, thank you for reading a little about my life. I blog at www.tuallaleila.blogspot.com, if you want to keep reading! These days, I blog more about my misadventures with a preschooler and an infant. I try to educate and spread awareness about Preeclampsia, and the premature births of my children, and postpartum mental health. I still struggle and blog about my faith, but I know how loved I am and how forgiven I am. I also know that there are more than two sides of faith. There are seasons of them.
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