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Life was just so hard when I was growing up in the Philippines.
My earliest years were not happy ones. My youth was misspent on many worries and problems centered on extreme poverty. I cannot recall any happy moments from my childhood and teen years. I know that's kind of sad to say, but that's the way it was.
I was the ninth child of twelve. My father was a village carpenter. My mother was just a traditional Filipina subservient wife doing everything humanly possible to take care of all of us. We were like a small army. As Napoleon noted, an army travels on its stomach. Napoleon also said, "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, let the nations tremble." What he didn't say was, "A walk is as good as a hit."
I would tell Napoleon that while I'm not quite sure exactly what he meant by his most-famous quotes, I've trembled and I've been hit time and time again. My stomach has often ached for even the smallest morsel of food. Have you ever been truly hungry even one day of your life?
Back to my loving mother ... all of the housework was done manually—laundry, cooking by firewood, and so forth. And let me tell you that fetching water from the well took forever and a day. A woman's work is never done. These never-ending tasks made my mother a spent woman, tired and haggard all of the time. It was very sad to witness. It left an indelible impression upon me, so much so that I vowed I would never get married.
I recall many sad moments when I was only about seven years old. My father would go to buy lumber and other materials for his house-building contracts and would not come home for days on end. It would happen many times. I saw the heartbreaking spectacle of watching my mother cry because she would have to send me to the neighbors to borrow rice, as we didn't have any food in the pantry. If a burglar had broken into our house, we would have robbed the burglar. That's how poor we were!
Later on I learned that my father would gamble all the money away to no end, even until there was no more money for his bus fare. When he did come home, he would work until the wee hours to pay off his gambling debts and had very little left for our food and bare necessities. It was like Of Mice and Men, only instead of George and Lenny, one smart guy and one stupid guy, we had two stupid guys—my father and the mystery man who took over his body to start gambling. I swear if we lived in Las Vegas, my father would have become the second coming of Wayne Newton and never left the place.
Meanwhile, all my older brothers and sisters capable of working in different factories in Manila left to help support my mother and us younger brothers and sisters. The sad part was although my older brothers and sisters were very smart academically, none of them went past the sixth grade in school. As I noted, they all had to go to different places to find work. You might think all of this is like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, but this was our reality. We were not the Partridge Family. This was not Family Guy or the Simpsons. This was hardcore poverty. This was the result, in part, of sin.
Wasn't Jesus Christ Himself and His father Joseph a carpenter? Didn't Joseph, Jesus's earthly father, take Mary and Jesus into the deserts of Egypt to avoid the assassins sent by a local jealous king? This had to have been the ultimate special forces mission ever attempted in human history. The whole fate of humanity rested on the shoulders of one carpenter moving by stealth from Bethlehem to Egypt. God trusted a carpenter with this.
Was our father gambling with our very lives? This is the result of a life of sin and temptation—to gamble for what ... a cheap thrill? Where is the satisfaction in that compared with building a house or a barn or a den or a library, something that will last years or generations that you can take real pride in? Why didn't my father look at life in this way? He wasn't using "the Force" like in Star Wars. He wasn't in the special forces. He was a disaster waiting to happen. I never really understood why.
But make no mistake about this fact—my father was a very kind and generous man. He was even considered a genius and partly a medicine man, as he often cured himself of various illnesses. He is a Roman Catholic, and although he seldom goes to church, his philosophies and words of wisdom come from the Bible.
Sadly, his pitfall was his gambling compulsion, and he lost all of his inherited real estate properties. It can be looked upon as a sad tale that we learned about through my mother's constant conversation with us on the matter. She always said we could have all gone to school if my father hadn't gambled away our collective and individual futures.
I'd always dreamed of going to school and learning beyond my years. I was always in the top of my class from first to the fourth grade. I went to school with no books and sometimes no pencil or paper—and most of the time with no slippers or shoes. I was "the little girl with no shoes." I will never forget when I heard there was a famous baseball player over a century ago called "Shoeless Joe Jackson." I was "Shoeless Julie."
But Shoeless Joe took off his baseball cleats in the outfield (according to baseball folklore) because they were uncomfortable for his feet. They said "his glove was where triples went to die." I like that phrase because that is how God, His angels, and the Holy Spirit operate, like a fleet centerfielder like Rick Ankiel running down all of the spiritual hits that might smash us.
Sometimes we crash into a wall chasing down fly balls or even false dreams. I had a dream of a normal life. I suppose those American soldiers marching through the Bataan Death March also had future dreams. I don't mean to complain. Look at the people in Cambodia stepping on land mines. A handful do so each and every day.
Food was always more important to my family than education, and as far as my father was concerned, as long as I knew how to read and write—well, that was sufficient enough. He figured girls just end up getting married anyway. Again, as noted, I made a vow to myself, believe it or not, that I would never get married, and at that time I was only eight years old.
My mother would always scrounge and provide money for my school necessities, but I knew it was very, very difficult for her. This situation left an indelible mark on my consciousness and later the pact I made with myself, namely that I would never forget little children, like myself, with no shoes and to help schoolchildren who can't afford school supplies.
These days I buy them in bulk and send them back to the needy in the Philippine Islands as frequently as I can. I don't want a medal. I don't want praise. I just want to bring God glory by serving others. We are not saved by works, but we must show good fruit. This so God will tell us in the end, "Well done, my good, and faithful servant."
Anyway, at night back in those days I prayed to God and wished upon a shooting star that some stroke of good luck would happen—and that we would somehow get out of poverty. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I thought that maybe God had forgotten us, like Joseph of old in Egypt must have felt, stripped of his coat of many colors. So I would pray, look at the shooting stars up in the sky, and ask, "God, why is this happening? Why are things like this? Where are you, God?"
I know being poor is not a sin, and I was not ashamed of our deplorable situation. However, I thought that if God truly loved my family, perhaps we would not be so very poor. But I also think perhaps we were rich in other ways. Former Vice President Dan Quayle sometimes spoke of a "poverty of values." I heard he also couldn't spell the word potato. Oh how I longed for a potato at times back in those days.
During my fifth grade year, I had to go to another school, as the village school I attended only went up to fourth grade. The elementary school was five kilometers each way from home. (A kilometer is .6 miles.) I would get up at dawn, cook my food, and then walk barefoot to school every day, rain or shine. I would cross the flooded river when it was heavy monsoon season, arrive home wet, muddy, and exhausted, and then do it all over again. This went on for the next two years until I graduated from the sixth grade.
Despite all the hardships and the fact that there was plenty I couldn't count on in life, I made it through graduation with honors. It was one of the happiest moments of my life when my mother walked up to the stage with me and pinned a ribbon of honor upon me. At that particular moment, I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to write, and I wanted to take lovely pictures of many beautiful places in the world.
Back then I had yet to look up in the dictionary just exactly what a photojournalist was. But all along that is what I wanted to become. Little did I know I would have the opportunity later on in life to learn photography and carry out my own writing projects.
* * *
At a very young age, I was different. I was mature for my age, and I had lofty ambitions. Despite my poverty, I believed I could still rise up. I believed I could fly and that I could reach for the sky. Dreams do have the capability to create miracles in your life.
But a major disappointment broke my heart to pieces after my sixth-grade graduation. I was told by my mother and father I would not be able to continue my education to high school, as they could not afford the matriculation fees, books, uniform, and shoes. (As if I needed shoes. I mean, come on! I was Shoeless Julie, roaming the outfield of life.)
It was devastating for me, and I cried for weeks. My heart became so sick and very sad. I became sickly and depressed. I became mad that God made us poor, and I even thought in those weak moments that God had forsaken me as His child. I went through loneliness and depression seeing my classmates go by to school every day.
Now and then when I remember those days, I have to find ways to help some students who are in need. Again, I can't stress this enough, those very sad experiences made me compassionate to the needy. How can I ever forget?
I now have a medical and dental mission every year at my resort. Of course it is free for indigent people. Always I hold this event on my birthday as a gift of appreciation to God for resurrecting my life.
My older brother as well as my sister, who both could have helped me go to school, eloped and married simultaneously, so I lost all my hope of going to school. I was back in the gutter. The star I was looking to become was far away indeed. I was the sun, and my stardom was Proxima Centauri, the next closest star to our sun. I don't know how far away it is, but it's really far—light years kind of far.
Another year passed, and my brother decided to bring me to Manila and got me a job at a hosiery mill. At the same time, I was also his babysitter-housekeeper. I was overworked and overtired all the time. I was extremely anemic and would pass out constantly. When my brother finally took me to the hospital and did all the blood work, my diagnosis was summed up in one word.
That word wasn't, "Oh, she needs some vitamins." No, not for Julie; it was "fatal." The doctors told me that I had I something called leukemia. They told me I was going to die.
But you know something? God wasn't going to let me die, because God had big plans for me, just as He has big plans for you, my dear reader.
Remember again Jeremiah 29:11: "I alone know the plans I have for you. Plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future that you hope for."
I was very wrong. The doctor openly discussed with both of them that what I had was not just acute anemia. It was more (there's that word again) fatal, and I would have to be hospitalized at once. My illness could not wait. In fact, I needed a massive blood transfusion immediately.
The doctor called my illness "acute lymphocytic leukemia."
I had no clue what was going on. I mean, I was fifteen years old. Whatever it meant, my sister started crying, and my brother shook his head.
I thought my illness was simply due to chronic monthly loss of blood and poor nutrition, but no. It was far more serious. I said to myself, "I am going to die." It was so terrible.
My brother and sister were speechless and told the doctor we would have a family conference to decide what to do with me. Of course they couldn't decide right in that moment. They had barely scraped the money together to pay for the blood test and consultation, let alone to bring me to the hospital emergency room. The doctor had dropped atomic bombs on us—health bombs and financial bombs. It was horrendous.
The following day we all went home to bring the bad news to my mother and father. My father was brave in accepting the news. Thank God he didn't try to set up a lottery to see what date I would die on. That would have been kind of depressing.
I saw my mother cry. I could sense that she didn't want lose another child so young. My younger brother, Mario, had died when he was only seven years old. He died in the arms of my mother. I know now that his illness could have cured if we had the money for doctors and medicine. Mario was three years younger than me, and he died of diphtheria.
In this day and age the disease is curable with antibiotics like penicillin. How could this have transpired? Well, for one thing, going for a general checkup for simple illnesses was not a usual practice for indigent people in the barrio, and that included my family.
Again—and I know I am not the second coming of Florence Nightingale—it is a lesson well learned for me now. God willing, I will do my best to always have the medical mission at my resort for as long as I live. No child of God should have to suffer like myself or my brother because of lack of money and preventive medicine.
Going back to my own predicament of having blood cancer is a different story. I didn't know at that time that I could have the very same genetic blood disorder that my niece Sandy died of just two years before. (I will explain that whole scenario later in this book.)
Sandy's bleeding was mostly internal. My bleeding was mostly external, and it lasted for days on end. You might recall a story in the gospels about Jesus healing a woman with a blood disorder. For the grace of God, why do serious illnesses strike the same family? Is it the test of faith? Or is it in our DNA? DNA wasn't discovered until 1944. The human genome was not cracked until the summer of the Y2K. Understanding DNA is a relatively new phenomenon. Blood disorders are apparently as old as mankind. Don't get me started on how they used to bleed people with leaches in the Middle Ages.
And so, the family conference was indeed held between my father—whom you might know from that Kenny Rogers song "The Gambler"—my hysterical mother, my two older sisters, and my older brother. You know that TV show House? This wasn't House.
The decision was made to take me to a "faith healer." It is a decision frequently made by poor people in the barrio who don't watch the TV show House, and even if they do.
There was no way we could afford the hospital, the blood transfusion, the medicine, and all the comings and goings hospitalization entails. I mean, let's get real. If we could hardly afford to buy food, how could we afford all of those expenses?
At that moment, my mother cried so much. I know it was not because she would have to sell her precious Singer sewing machine but rather the thought of losing another child.
I mean, look at my family and the vanishing people—my brother Mario, my niece Sandy—what is this, the Bermuda Triangle?
I know my mother began praying for me. I would always see her at night in the dark on her knees with her hands up in the air. Then she would bow to the bamboo floor. She had faith and knew the right source to go to for a miracle.
Excerpted from I Ordered My Future Yesterday by Julie Cox Copyright © 2011 by Julie Cox. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 22, 2012
Admittedly, I am not an avid reader, however a friend of mine highly recommended that I should read "I Ordered My Future Yesterday" by Julie Cox and I am grateful that I did. Julie's story is eye-opening and at times hard to read because of the terrible things she went through, but not once did she ever paint her story in a negative light. Instead, Julie puts a positive touch into everything she has gone through and her story teaches you that no matter what bad may come your way, that you should always find the positive in it and grow. Use those experiences to better yourself as a person and to push you to accomplish anything you believe in.
What I also love about this book is how Julie celebrates life, something frankly, the world needs to do more of and how she teaches and inspires through her experiences. Her story also serves as a great lesson to us all to always think and live positively and to never give up. It also makes you realize that negative things will happen to us all, but it is how you handle adversity which will help define you as a person. You can either sit back and feel sorry for yourself or you can inspire others by teaching them through your experiences.
After reading Julie's story, you really will believe you can accomplish anything. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a motivational and inspiring read that will touch your heart and soul.
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Posted April 5, 2012
Julie Cox offers up an incredible heart wrenching story of overcoming incredible odds- several times. Yet has ended up victorious over several types of life altering altercations. The world needs to hear Julies story! Here volunteer work is yet another chapter in a life filled with Can-Do in a world of Oh-Oh and I-Can't !
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Posted January 21, 2012
This book was a recommended reading for me.I was told it is a compilation of incredible stories of triumph over many tragedies.It is an amazing story of an immigrant woman whose resiliency in life is unbreakable.
Lisa Bower of Clarion Foreword Reviews gave this book Four Stars (out of Five) I give this book Five Stars.Why? Julie Cox's writing is genuinely heartwarming,highly motivational and very inspirational.
This book reaches readers of all ages as her amazing story started at a very young age and continued on to the present.
What makes her story one of a kind is her sheer determination,courage and faith to go on searching for her dreams and making them happen while she was also helping everyone in need along her way.
As Lisa Bower of Foreword Reviews said..."Her book is not a collection of depressing tales.Instead,it celebrates the author's ability to fight her way past her circumstances and find success,happiness and redemption.
On this note...if in this moment in your life, you think you are having life's challenges,then you should buy this book and read it. "I Ordered MY Future Yesterday" can and may change your perspective of existence.This book will make feel and see the real meaning of life.