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Testimonies

My Life Opened to the Beauty of Life Itself

Tags: Abandonment to God, Family and work, Faith, Divine sonship, Formation, Children, Freedom, Marriage, Character, trust, family, happiness, Women, Philippines, Josemaria Escriva, Pope Francis
Gina Garcia in 1991 before one of her classical ballet performances. Photo by Pancho Escaler.
Gina Garcia in 1991 before one of her classical ballet performances. Photo by Pancho Escaler.
Gina Garcia from Muntinlupa, Philippines danced ballet professionally for years and is now a home-maker, a part-time ballet teacher, and also teaches Parenting Education courses as a volunteer. On raising kids, Gina says, "The greatest challenge is in reminding ourselves that these are the children we taught to think and encouraged to express their ideas. The challenge is then for us to remember that we have to listen to their ideas and open our own minds to different perspectives".

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My husband and I have been married 28 going on 29 years this 2015. We met during our senior year at university. We have 6 children, 2 have completed their university studies, 2 are in university, one is in senior high school, and our youngest in grade 8. We live in the Philippines, born and raised here. My husband's field of work is in business development, while I am a homemaker and help out in various activities related to parent education. I also teach ballet part-time.

Before being a full-time mom, you danced ballet at a professional level. What was it like to give that up? Do you still manage to have dancing in your life?
In giving up what I enjoyed most for myself, my husband and I were blessed with 5 more children, and my life was opened to the beauty of life itself.
Anyone immersed in her art will know what a wonderful experience it is! Giving it up was of course painful. I stopped as I was peaking at my career. There were more roles I dreamed of performing, but I struck a deal with myself. Just one major dream role and I would stop. That was because it was getting more and more difficult to leave for work, knowing that I was leaving my daughter (she was an only child then, and she would look at me with such a sad look on her face, saying "Mama, please don't leave me...") and to top it all, for nearly five years, my husband would come home from work and I wasn't there to greet him nor be with him for dinner. And for those 5 years, he would be the one to pick me up from my work that ended 10:30 PM and sometimes beyond. His constant companions while waiting for me were the mosquitoes at the parking lot. He never asked me to stop, never hinted, nothing of the sort because he knew how happy I was dancing. But then I knew it couldn't go on. I stopped as I was reaching my peak because I did not want to retire when my body was just too old and tired and I could not serve my husband and my then only child. So with my deadline, I just stopped. Yes it was hard. But in giving up what I enjoyed most for myself, my husband and I were blessed with 5 more children, and my life was opened to the beauty of life itself.
Gina with her husband, Gilbert.
Gina with her husband, Gilbert.
How does the advice and teachings of St. Josemaria help you in your daily activities?
When I first heard about sanctification of ordinary life, I was floored! It made so much sense for life---anything that is pleasing to God can be one's way to heaven. I remember reading a line from Furrow, #495: "You asked what you could offer the Lord. —I don’t have to think twice about the answer: offer the same things as before, but do them better, finishing them off with a loving touch that will lead you to think more about Him and less about yourself."

I then learned more and more beautiful things about my faith, and all I have is gratitude for St Josemaria's example of love and dedication as a son of God, our Loving Father. St Josemaria, in his obedience to God, has made it possible for many of us to love God deeply through our ordinary life.

Based on your experience, how would you describe the role of parents in the lives of their children?
There was one time when I was exhausted from trying to be a good example to my children and I felt like a total failure, until I received the advice that reminded me that I am not the example of "goodness" and that Christ is... Our role is to help our children know Christ more intimately.
Parents are there to guide their children to be the children God wants them to be. Always with love and affection, but firm and uncompromising in whatever our Lord asks of His children. There was one time when I was exhausted from trying to be a good example to my children (and I felt they never got the point) and I felt like a total failure, until I received the advice that reminded me that I am not the example of "goodness" and that Christ is. And that made so much sense. Our role is to help our children know Christ more intimately. Our role is to teach them to care of and serve others. As to MAKE them do it, well, wish I could... but that lies in the mystery of Freedom.

Raising children is not an easy task, and the dimension that involves educating in the faith presents its own specific challenges. What are your thoughts on that?
You are right. It is not easy, and it is not getting any easier, what with so many intruders into a family's life. Seeing that the Christian lifestyle ultimately leads to a happier life, better relationships, and more authentic freedom is the result of actually living one's faith. We talk with them about it, and only when they trust us enough do they live the demands and consequently they understand its fruits. Time spent with our children either at meal times or during one-on-one time spent together is when we "talk the walk". Yes, talk the walk, not just walk the talk. We go back and explain the lifestyle we choose to live. We have been blessed with children who think, and who are willing to talk to us when we feel we need to talk to them. Knowing that we as parents were given the authority and grace to form our children, we bank on that grace from our Lord.

What challenges do teenage children present for you and your husband?
The greatest challenge is in reminding ourselves that these are the children we taught to think and encouraged to express their ideas. We need to listen to their ideas and open our own minds to different perspectives.
The greatest challenge is in reminding ourselves that these are the children we taught to think and encouraged to express their ideas. The challenge is then for us to remember that we have to listen to their ideas (of course what is non-negotiable is that they speak to us in a respectful manner) and open our own minds to different perspectives. The additional challenge then is to stick to what we know is right, to trust the authority given to us by Our Lord, and hold on to tried and tested values that some no longer care about. We have to be strong in defending the family as it ought to be, but always understanding the unfortunate circumstances that other families face.

Gina, Gilbert, and their six children.
Gina, Gilbert, and their six children.
Do you have any advice for newly married couples?
Keep counting on God's grace. Stay in love with your spouse, keeping your relationship as fresh as that point of your first attraction! Know that your life is now shared and will forever be shared with your one and only spouse, and THAT should give you great joy! And yes there are some difficulties, but never so big as to overpower the reason that you said yes to marriage. Count only the good things that have happened and forget the painful episodes. Spend time talking (face to face, of course), sharing, and listening. Find the right time to correct each other. All these are possible only by the grace of God!

During Pope Francis' visit to the Phillipines earlier this year, he said that husbands and wives should "dream together" about their children. Do you have dreams for your children's future?
Our dreams are for them to live as loyal, loving children of God, working wherever God wants them to be, wherever they can serve God best, and finding happiness in that.

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