How Migration Deepened my Faith

To deepen my faith, God told me to step outside my comfort zone: 8,000 miles away from it.

Want to have deeper faith? Try migrating to a foreign country eight thousand miles away from home.

I prayed to the Lord to deepen my faith, so about two years ago, He called me and my family to pack our bags and migrate to the United States of America. I tried as much as I can to assuage my fears of starting anew in a far, foreign country. Even if I’ve been coming to the US as a kid, migration is a completely different ballgame and living there consisted of a whole new set of rules. No more yayas and helpers to do my chores for me. No more parents having to shoulder every expense at home. No more random hangouts with familiar friends who I’ve grown to love and appreciate.

The Honeymoon Phase

My first three months as an immigrant were blissful. Together with my grandma (Dad’s mom), I came right in time for Thanksgiving, my first of many. Less than a month later, one of my many cousins got married at Diamond Bar so along with the wedding came a slew of other fun activities: bridal showers, lettering her aisle signages, gown fittings, and out-of-town trips with our extended families. It was also during my second and third months where I was exposed to my first job interview at a lone attic-cleaning office right at the heart of San Fernando valley. Thank God He opened a door for me to work at an advertising agency where I currently work. Life moved in freeway speed (60 mph) and I enjoyed the ride.

Then as soon as I started working and my to-do list became even more routine and ordinary, the honeymoon phase ended.

Moving From Known to Unknown

Two months into my job, I worked until 11 PM to meet deadlines and manage the workload. I expected the overtime having been exposed to advertising from a young age, but it was the feeling of not being sure if what I’m doing is right, or how I should respond if I made any mistake, that weighed me down. As I was new to the company, I couldn’t seek solace among my co-workers, so when I went home I poured out my heart to the Lord. During those times, I lived with my one of my many aunts (one of Mom’s sisters) as my parents and brothers returned to Manila. Although I told myself that I should be grateful that I had relatives who loved me, I couldn’t help feeling lonely. When my mom and I talked via Viber, I held back the tears for fear of my tita (aunt) seeing my fragility. I felt like I was in my freshman year of college where I knew no one and felt alone in a big pond full of stronger, tougher fish. I recall praying: “Lord, I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on you.”

As I continued working, I slowly learned how to process my emotions and stress when the pressure mounted. By God’s grace, I was evaluated and kept my job! I opened up more of my heart and mind to my teammates and gained their trust. I became more acquainted with how things worked, yet by all means remained an amateur and hungered to learn. The Lord built my confidence in Him as I gained more knowledge and experience, yet there was so much more to learn in another space: my local church.

When I first attended CCF LA, I thought it would be easier to adjust because majority of the worshippers were Filipino, not to mention their worship style was similar to CCF back in Manila. In some ways it was easier to adjust, but in the most important aspect of church life, i.e., in loving and serving fellow believers, it was (and still is) a struggle. I became someone I never got to experience back in Manila: a first-timer, that girl who attends Sunday service and wants to be part of a group but isn’t. My cousin, Deb, who migrated a year earlier than I did introduced me to her discipleship group and friends. I appreciated her effort in bringing me to her gigs and events even if I mostly just talked to her. Once again, the Lord pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone by sincerely and genuinely getting to know new people who happened to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, although my relationships with many of them are still works in progress, I can say that God is teaching me to love in ways I’ve never loved before.

The past two years as an immigrant were nothing short of boring–if any, they were years of what I’d like to call “introduction to more fruit.” In John 15, the Lord Jesus called Himself the Vine and His beloved church as the branches. He desires to see His bride bear fruit, to bear more fruit, and as if it cannot go any level higher: much fruit. God has been working in and through my life all these years since childhood, but He placed me in a whole new level of faith that would take some time to learn. Back in the Philippines, there were some ways of doing things that were quite predictable, like working and daily routines; they were so familiar and systematized, you needed only to follow a certain steps and success follows. Even if life threw a curve ball, that was somehow predicted so you would know how to respond. But when I started living in the United States, I encountered new challenges and unfamiliar practices that made me uncomfortable, fearful, and lonely. Back in the Philippines, it was easier for me to be diligent even if I felt a strong urge to be lazy because people were watching, the weather was warm (not ideal for lying around), and again, I already knew what to do most of the time. I didn’t realize how moody I can be and how easy it is to justify laziness: “I deserve to watch Netflix all day because I’m sooo tired from work this week.” Whenever I applied that reasoning, I soon realized that I failed because unlike in Manila, I had no helper to cook me lunch or dinner when I did not feel like cooking. The place dictated new rules, and I was not willing to submit.

The unpredictability of life unsettled me. At times I expressed my annoyance by binge-watching, bing-eating, and binge-spending. Not therapeutic at all. My intimacy with the Lord grew cold as my quiet time became quieter–that is, I was either falling asleep or prioritizing Instagram over my Bible. Not helpful either. I became a fool. What person in their right mind would, if their tooth ached, continue eating candy instead of visiting a dentist? Thankfully, my Physician took the initiative. He placed a discomfort in my heart that made me seek Him. Today, by His grace, I’ve never been more closer to Him.

A lot of the learning in the past two years happened as I unlearned my former ways, some of which weren’t sinful but were not effective for deeper faith. Through it all–the unpredictability of life, my moodiness and foolishness–God is gracious. He is patient and kind, yet in His wisdom He disciplines His legitimate children (Hebrews 12:5-8). Many instances I behaved like an Israelite fresh off the camel who complained to the LORD and wished she was back in Egypt (aka the comfort zone). God showed me through His Word how He trains His best soldiers by moving them from a comfort zone, to a discipline zone, and eventually to a pleasure zone. As I reflected on the greatest characters in the Bible, most of them were immigrants: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, Paul, even the Lord Jesus Himself. Imagine Him migrating from Heaven to earth–surely it was worse than moving from a first-world country to a third-world country. Jesus moved from a holy, loving and sinless place to a dark, evil, and wretched territory! He, too, experienced feeling out of place and endured loneliness. He, too, had to “unlearn” His ways of doing back in Heaven because earth was a completely different place with a whole new set of rules. He used to be served by angels, but on earth He served men.

Faith in the God Who Knows

As I reflect on God’s hand at work in me the past two years, I experience His promise in Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” I see how He humbles my mind to trust and believe His Word, not merely on experience and established habits. Surely, habits are necessary and helpful for growth, but when my Father deems it best to replace an old habit with something better, He would do so even if I find it uncomfortable or unsettling. Pruning and discipline are part and parcel of Christlike discipleship (John 15:1-2). Sometimes that would mean moving to a foreign place where life is lived differently so that you would realize (as I do) that it’s not the place or the circumstances that dictate your success, but God Himself. When God moves you into the unknown, chances are He will make Himself known to you afresh so you may realize that indeed life is made through and for Him (Colossians 1:16). To my fellow earthly immigrants and sojourners, let us deepen our faith and fight the good fight by fixing our eyes on the God we know–the good and gracious God Who loves, guides us, and will never leave us.

When the Once-Was-Lost Guides the Lost 

Ever wonder what your calling is? One evening I discovered mine, when I helped a beautiful stranger find her way to her destination–despite my trust issues.

What am I called to do and how do I discover it?

At 22 years old, taking my baby steps in the advertising world and continuously learning what it means to be disciple of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, this question is the most pressing on my list.  I’ve fallen to the erroneous thinking that God’s will was “way up there;” that it is only via an intense 3-day prayer and fasting with tons of serious planning and quiet time, and nothing else. I do not discount these methods, in fact, they are necessary. However, these are not the only methods God uses to reveal His calling to His kids. Our God-endowed personality, interests, skills, experiences, and present circumstances are all used by God to shape us into the kind of people He wants us to be. Sometimes, He even uses annoying and unexpected circumstances (like getting lost) to reveal His will to us, like what happened to me one Tuesday night, a simple yet unforgettable experience indeed.

January 17, 2017

I planned on going home on time at 5:30 but ended up leaving the office at 6:30 as I worked on a report due two days later. I left the office with my co-worker, Ginna, and our media director Ascon.

While Ginna and I walked together to our respective destinations, I felt something drop from my lunchbox so I looked behind and saw my colds medicine on the ground! Apparently I was carrying my lunchbox upside down so the contents from the zipper-less pocket fell off. I picked it up immediately and resumed walking; however three seconds later, I realized that my TAP card (aka my ticket to the bus and train), which was also inside that pocket, was no longer there! I told Ginna I had to walk back to find it (by this time my heart was racing), so I ran back a few feet and lo and behold, my TAP card was on the ground! “This has about $100 worth of rides!” I exclaimed to Ginna. After we crossed the road, we parted ways and I headed to the train station.

The escalator at Metro Wilshire/Vermont station in LA is a long one so I usually hurry down the steps to catch the coming train. However,  the guy in front of me who was carrying three gigantic bags took up the entire passageway of the escalator, so I couldn’t pass. I heard the train coming but I chose to stay put because I couldn’t walk past the guy, and I was not in a rush to go home anyway. By the time I reached the tracks, the train already left and had to wait four more minutes for the next one.

As I stood on the tracks, I noticed a lady in her late twenties with a wheeled luggage and a handbag standing beside me. After a minute or so, she came up to me, pointed to the TV monitor and asked, “Does that ‘4’ mean that the next train will arrive in 4 minutes? And ‘9’ 9 minutes?”

“Yes it does. So 4 minutes for the red line and 9 minutes for the purple line. Where are you headed?” She walked back to where the map was and pointed at the different train lines. “I was supposed to get down at 7th Street Metro Center but stopped here, so I just have to take this train and get off after 2 stops, right?”

“Yeah. You can take any train that passes here, whether the red or purple one. Where are you from?”

She replied, “San Francisco. That’s why I’m so lost. I’m trying to get to Anaheim,” pointing at Anaheim St., a station close to downtown Long Beach. I got confused and wanted to make sure of her destination so I asked again: “So you want to go to Anaheim? In Orange County?”

“Yeah that’s right!”

“Anaheim St. is just a name of a station; it’s not the same as Anaheim. Anaheim is somewhere here–” I pointed to the eastern part of LA near Norwalk where the green line train went (see photo below). “Anaheim St. is far from Anaheim!”

metro
Anaheim is further east from Norwalk (see green line). Anaheim St. is a station near downtown Long Beach (blue line, south bound)

She got shocked and grew anxious, I could tell, so I told her where she should go. “The best way for you to get to Anaheim is to take this train–the one headed our way–get down at the last stop which is Union Station, and take another train called the Metrolink. Unfortunately you already missed the last train because it’s already 6:50, and that’s the last trip of the Metrolink to OC tonight.”

“Oh my god. So is there any other way to get to OC?”

“You can take an Uber from here. Or you can go to Norwalk and take an Uber from there because Norwalk is closer to Anaheim. In that case, you’d still take this train and another one, the blue line train.” At this point I was wavering if I should tell her that I was going to Norwalk, but as I heard our train approaching, I surrendered my trust issues and told her: “You know what? I’m headed to Norwalk, too, so you can just go with me.”

“Okay that’s great I’ll just follow you then! Oh my god!”

We boarded the train and I could tell that she still felt agitated. I mean, who wouldn’t? Getting lost in unfamiliar territory (especially in a crazy city like LA) is no fun. I’ve been there and it’s annoying. Thankfully, she trusted me enough to follow my lead. After two stops, we dismounted the train and took another one that would connect us to our third train. Thankfully the trains arrived shortly so our entire travel time was under an hour.

While we sat inside the second train, I learned that her name was Natalie and that she was on vacation to meet with her friends here in Anaheim, and from there drive to Vegas. “I need to take a break from school!” she told me. I also shared with her how I just got out of work, an advertising agency, and that this was my usual route home, so she was in good hands. We talked some more–she showed me photos of her family and I showed one of mine, however due to my trust issues, I failed to ask her number or even her Snapchat/Instagram username. I wish I did. Anyway, back to the story.

During the commute, Natalie coordinated with her friend so he could fetch her from the Norwalk station. “My friend lives only 15 minutes away from Norwalk, so he’d pick me up.” When we arrived at Norwalk, I told her that my ride was there so I had to leave her. We hugged and said our goodbyes.

When I got inside our car, I told my dad the whole story and how time and time again, even back in Manila, I had several encounters of strangers asking me for directions even if I’m not as adept as he was. I don’t consider myself an expert on directions unless I have memorized the place. I asked my dad why this could be and he told me I looked trustworthy (thanks dad). As I pondered on this and my past experiences,  I wondered what place they have in my life. Are they accidental? What is God trying to tell me?

Miss Teacher

That’s when it hit me. In every area of my life where I’m good at or at least knowledgeable, I find joy in teaching others the things I have learned.  I like finding connections in things and seeing how they could relate to each other, and possibly how that could make people’s lives better. At the heart of every passionate deed is the desire to teach, the vision to see people know, grow, and soar.  Does that sound far-fetched? Not when you have a history of making math workbooks with sheets of stapled scratch paper and letting your “students” (aka dolls) “answer them.” Not when you’ve been volunteering for Sunday School for over five years. Certainly not when you’re notorious for being the family grammar Nazi and the tutor to two younger brothers.

Going back to my initial question: what am I called to do and how do I discover it? Do I have it all answered? Certainly not! However, I do know the backbone of my calling: it has something to do with teaching. This very blog is one manifestation of it! As a teacher, I’m not ending this without throwing the question back to you. What are you called to do and how do you discover it? God’s will is knowable–it’s not reserved for monks in the mountains or pastors on the pulpit. God’s will may not be completely revealed, but He shows us what we need to know at the moment. Where do we start? The Apostle Paul gives us insight:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (emphasis mine)

Two things: do not be conformed (don’t take the world’s shape), instead, allow God’s truth to mold your mind. Start by knowing God–His character, His plan for the world, His heart–as the Holy Spirit through His Word reveals to you. Then as you grow in Him, He will change your desires. He will guide your mind. He will “align your stars” so to speak, so that you will live in the center of His will. Word of caution: this path to blessing is not problem-free. In fact the greatest trials happen to the greatest Christians; but you’ll never know the awesome life that you missed until you take the step of faith.

Finally, through it all, trust the process and the process-Maker. I used to think (and sometimes still do) that a single failure meant that I was not walking in God’s will. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As I look back at that fateful Tuesday night, I realized how delays–me leaving the office late, my medicine and TAP card dropping, the guy blocking the path of the escalator so I’d miss the first train–all led me to meet the lost Natalie and help find her way home. That’s exactly what Jesus did for me. I once was lost, but He found me. Sometimes I still feel lost, but His truth says otherwise: “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) If you feel lost in your life’s direction, turn to Jesus. Not only does He hold the promise to an exciting and adventurous life, He will guide you all the way. If you are already walking with Him and get or feel lost, fret not. Get back up, trust Him again (no matter how hard it gets, He loves you), and do what He tells you to do. He delights in guiding His children (Psalm 32:8). He knows the way, so let Him lead the way. He is the way.

PS: I’m praying I find Natalie again so we can get in touch. Natalie, I hope you read this! #findingNatalie (lol) 

Life Moves in Stages, so Don’t be in Such a Hurry!

What if things happened instantaneously? Let’s say I wanted to make banana bread. What if, after preparing the correct measurements and portions of the ingredients and mixing it all up, the bread magically appeared before me? Or what if I arrived at a certain country, expecting to have a job, then after sending out resumes, I immediately get calls and offers from various companies? Oops that sounded too real. Actually, it is. You can tell that I’m not a very big fan of waiting and waiting patiently.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was (and still am) waiting for a job after sending more than a dozen resumes to various companies. During this period of waiting, thankfully, I haven’t been much of a couch potato. However, after all the people in the house have gone to work and I am left alone, I wonder: when will I ever get to work and earn money? LORD, how long must I wait?

One of the grave effects of the Fall of man was the sudden default setting of the human mind to think ill of God’s intentions and grow impatient during a period of prolonged waiting. Whatever it is you’re waiting for–a knight in shining armor, damsel in distress, a job, healing, or financial breakthrough, you despise the fact that you have to wait. (If you don’t, please teach us antsy, anxious beings your secrets!)

To be fair, I have been enjoying my prolonged (excess) hours of sleeping, reading, and writing that would have otherwise spent on working. It is during these quiet and calm moments where God is teaching me more about Him. I have been studying the book of Exodus during my personal quiet time, and one day, I read Exodus 17. The first verse immediately caught my attention:

“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.” (Exodus 17:1, NASB)

Two words caught my attention: by stages. The Israelite exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land did not happen overnight. In fact, it took them forty years to reach the place! More than the length of the journey, it was the word “stages” that captured my attention. God did not rush their growth. He led them by the hand, one step at a time. In this chapter, during that particular stage, water, an important and valuable necessity, was cut out.

Imagine the scenario. 2.5 to 3.5 million people travelling on foot with their children, goods and animals, setting up their tents and temporary shelters in a wilderness–a barren expanse of land. These were the people who crossed the Red Sea on dry land. These were the people who witnessed the plagues and the Passover and emerged from the plagued country of Egypt unharmed and wealthy (because they looted their Egyptian neighbors). Perhaps when they arrived at Rephidim, there was still water inside their jugs and pots, but after a few days, they quickly ran out. Perhaps they waited for a source of water to be discovered, but there was none. So these former slaves and now freed men went up to their humble leader, Moses, and quarreled against him, grumbling and complaining. “Why did you take us out of Egypt to kills us and our kids and animals with thirst?!” I felt hurt for Moses and for the LORD while reading these accusatory remarks. They could have just come up to Moses and asked him to pray to God for water. Why did they have to think evil of him? Why did they have to question God’s goodness and love for them?

As I meditated on these verses, I grew disgusted, not at the Israelites, but at myself. I did the same thing to Jesus by complaining and grumbling for not giving me a job during this stage in my life. I was so eager to move to stage ten, but He is still working on me at stage three. I wrote verse 1 according to my present circumstance so I could get a clearer idea of God’s message to me that morning:

“Then [Jenny] journeyed by stages from the city of Metro Manila according to the command of the LORD, and camped at North Hollywood, and there was no job for her to take…yet.”

The LORD already planned a means to provide water for Israel, but His timing differed from theirs. God has already planned to give me a source of income, but His timing differed from mine. If I claim Him to be my Lord as I said He is, then I should trust His timing.I confessed my sin to the LORD that day, for questioning His goodness and love for me. Every evil act and response is founded a wrong belief and view of the living God. I did not truly believe that God wanted what was best for me. I did not understand that God’s ways are higher than mine, and that He chose to work in stages.

If you think about it, life works and moves through stages. Sitting on a chair happens in stages: first you approach the chair (or get one), place it on solid ground or pull it out, bend your knees, place your buttocks on the seat, and lean comfortably. The same goes for the hundred other ordinary things we do out of habit and thousands of experiences we go through in our lifetime.Every stage begins and ends according to the will of God. Indeed they end, even if they seem like forever.

My stage of waiting for a job will eventually be over because God intends that I work. The ideal scenario is that as we move from one stage to the next, we become better individuals, and for the child of God, resembling Christ more and more.

As I contemplate on the idea of God working in stages, I picture a stage Father. In the theater of life, He is the Father who not only cheers for us in the seats, but also directs, designs our costumes, provides the props, writes the script, and does my make-up. He’s the only control freak I trust because He sees everything and does everything perfectly. Most importantly, everything, absolutely every single thing that He does is done out of His love for me and for everyone He created.How are you responding to the challenges you currently face in this stage of your life? Know that behind every act of God towards you, no matter how undesirable it may seem, is an act of love. Trust Him in this stage. He is bringing you to the Promised Land.

My Fruitful Jobless Season & the Fulfillment of my Introvert Dreams

As I write this, I am munching on my almost-midnight snack (appetizer for the actual midnight snack) and hearing only the clicking sound of my keyboard and the rumbling of the AC. I am all alone in our hotel room while my Mom is out partying with her friends. Yes, my Mom is partying. Not clubbing, but attending a birthday party (of course I had to delineate that). I’ve never been this alone in my life and I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Earlier I just had dinner at The Habit–alone; took a long, warm, and slow bath–alone; read Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman without noise and interruptions, alone; cried my heart out to God and blew my nose heavily in between–alone. Introvert dreams that would have otherwise been unfulfilled if I were back in Manila, or, if I already have a job.

Oh yes, that three-letter word that proves problematic to every normal person who just got out of college.

When 2016 kicked in, I was determined to find a job. Just like any person itching to get their minds and hands working, I sat myself down, went online, browsed through various companies and job listings on the big names of job search sites. Just like any other person, I expected answers. I hoped eagerly for a “We would like to set up an interview with you” in the next week or two after I sent out literally two dozen applications. I should have known. I learned the hard way. Job hunting is much like keeping healthy relationships: you gotta wait for the right time, usually a long time, and decrease your expectations.

So I decreased my expectations. After sending my resumes to over a dozen advertising agencies, I realized they probably won’t notice an applicant such as myself, a newcomer, who, although with legal status, does not have local experience. I’ve been told that the job culture here in the US prefers experience over education, which was quite the opposite in Manila. Actually in Manila, it’s 60% who you know, 30% what you studied, and 10% what you actually can do that are the bases for getting hired for the job. Anyway, so the day after I applied for the ad agencies, I shifted my focus to nearby companies (so that I don’t have to travel far) and those with clerical positions. I have to start from the bottom before I can say “now we’re here.” I applied as an admin assistant in the most random but legit companies. That was Monday night (actually Tuesday morning at around 1 AM).

The next day, I ran errands with my Mom, aunt, and uncle. On our way home, my phone rang, and it was from an unknown caller. I picked it up, and from the receiver spoke a man with what I thought was an Indian accent.

“Hi this is insert his name here–because of his thick accent I didn’t comprehend it. You applied for our job opening as admin assistant at insert company here. I reviewed your application and I think you would be fit for the job….”

This is it! It’s actually happening. It wasn’t quite what I expected, though. I thought it would happen around daytime while my mind is more alert and I just had breakfast and not at 7 PM when I can’t wait to get home and have dinner because my stomach’s crying out to me. Good thing my excitement got the best of me and spiked my alert levels with much needed adrenaline. “Oh okay so what time will the interview be?”

“Are you free at 9”

“AM or PM?”

My Mom, who was beside me, chuckled, “Syempre AM ano ka ba!” (Of course AM, what are you thinking?)

Fail. Am I really ready for this?

“In the morning of course. If 9 AM is not good for you, how about 9:20 AM, Wednesday, is that okay?”

“Yeah sure!”

“Okay, I’ll see you then, Jennifer!”

“See you!” (Who are you?!)

I got home feeling excited to have my first job interview for a position I applied for online. I’ve never applied for a job and been notified for an interview ever before, so this was all new to me. Although it wasn’t my first job interview, it was my first interview for a non-corporate company, especially for a start-up company, and most especially in the US! Someone actually dared to look into someone like me, who had no experience.

My Mom and I left the house 30 minutes before my call time. I estimated we had about extra 5 minutes just in case we got lost. Well, we got lost for about 8 minutes and required another 5 minutes to find our way back so I was late for my interview. Strike 2. I wanted to just ditch the interview to save my face, but then to do that would be even more disrespectful.

When Mom and I got to the office’s location, I was shocked. The office faced a railroad track, and its very edifice had no label whatsoever to tell you the company owned it or was in it. No company logo, no signage, nada. Just a plain, old, and low roofed structure with the address number. My Mom and I grew nervous for a bit. The Criminal Minds and CSI episodes all raced through my head in a matter of seconds. However, I still managed to knock at the door and wait for a response. After a few seconds, a tall European-looking man opened the door and confirmed the name of the guy I spoke to last night (he texted his name when he sent me the address). I got in, he closed the door shut, and my Momma remained outside. Poor Mom. I am so thankful for her. Good thing there was a restaurant right beside the strange, plain edifice, so Mom stayed there.

To cut the long story short, the interview went well. I think the guy saw me fit for the job. Twenty five minutes after I got inside, I went out to my Mom, who, unbeknownst to me then was actually worried and anxious about my state that, so much so that she told me, when I sat with her in the table: “I told myself, ‘If she’s not coming out there in twenty minutes or so, I will come knocking!'” Her inner Grissom and motherly radar were on red alert. Thankfully, I came out alive and actually sweaty (at least my armpits were) because a) I was nervous what the guy would ask…or do and yet b) he was really handsome so I was hoping he’d have a good heart (BUT NOT so he’d get my number or anything like that, okay, I’m just stating facts).

After that interview, Mom and I explored Hollywood via train and our feet. It was a great way and day to bond! I lost one of my favorite scarves though. 😦 Good thing Mom bought me Ghirardelli chocolates so I sorta felt okay about my scarf.

A week after that interview, the guy called me again while I was vacationing at my aunt’s place at Chino Hills. Actually he called while I was sleeping. I only found out he called an hour after he called, when I saw my phone. I called back immediately.

“So are you still interested in the job?”

Interested? Of course I was! Then the image of the place came to my mind, and my Mom’s worries over it. I thought twice. I told him I’d think about it first and get back to him after an hour. I called my Mom (who went to the gym at that time with my aunt) and related the news, and after a bit of discussion, and prayer, I called the guy again.

“When do I start?”

He told me he’d me on Tuesday for training (it was Saturday at the time of our call). After I hung up, I thanked the Lord and wrote on my journal: January 16, 2016. Hired at insert company name. I went downstairs, smiling, that finally my prayer has been answered.

When my Mom and aunt got home from the gym, Mom came up to me and related news from the first job offer that I got, prior to this one from the shady-place-but-handsome-boss place. “I called the person from the company. She said you might have an interview next week!” And that company was an ad agency.

Immediately my phone sounded. I got an email from the said agency stating that I have a presentation due next week. I was devastated. “But I already said yes to this guy.”

“Yeah honey but I’m worried for you! The area is not as…safe. Besides, this is a much bigger company.”

So after washing the dishes and watching an episode of Law and Order, I composed a message saying that I’m turning down the job I already had (in a subtler and kinder way). Once again, I’m letting go. insert derp face

Three weeks later, my introvert dreams came true. In the middle of those three weeks I also got to visit another aunt up north, see the Levi’s Stadium, meet new people, and eat dinner all by myself. Three weeks of pure relaxation, grace, waiting, and time with the Lord.

Finding a job is one thing. Getting the job and staying in it is another. I had so many expectations and misconceptions about work and jobs before I got here, and I’m glad that through my initial experiences, they are slowly being corrected. Indeed, even in my job hunting, God is in control. Moreover, He’s changing me. If I was in the same position last year, at this month,  I would have cried and complained to God for not giving me a job, as if He was obliged to give me one. I would have told Him that I hated being a bum and that He called me to work so He should give me a job. As I wait on Him to hand me greater responsibilities, He is teaching me that:

  • my future jobs are not to be my source of income and of life. He is.
  • He is in control. Always. Forever.
  • I should live in the present and be grateful for the things He sends my way.
  • I am to glorify Him in my present circumstances.
  • I should allow Him to shape my idea of the ideal life. I thought the ideal scenario was having a job straight outta uni. Eight months after graduation and I’m still “pre-employed.” Not all jobs and job-hunting experiences are created equal.
  • I have to work hard and be patient because the best things in life don’t come instantly. You can never get the top quality ramen of a Michelin star restaurant from a cup of instant noodles.

If you’re like me, a fresh grad with the high hopes of getting the job without the hurdles that you’ve experienced in college, I suggest you change your perspective and lower your expectations. This season of waiting is the season of preparation. I like how Jim Elliot put it: “Wherever you are, be all there.” Allow God to work mightily in and through you as you wait. As His child, that future job is not my main job. His work is.

And while you’re still jobless (“pre-employed”), go do the good things you’ve always wanted to do when you were still working! Now’s the time! 🙂

PS: This week, I actually have interviews (yes, more than one, yaaay) so please include me in your prayers. 🙂 Until then, I have to finish my reading list and rehearse! 🙂 

The Struggle Is Real: Forgiving, but not Forgetting

The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I deal with them. Good news: you're not alone in your struggle. Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. :)
The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I respond to them. Good news: you’re not alone in your struggle! Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. 🙂

We were watching our favorite television show in the living room. Wanting to relax, I put my legs up and sit in an Indian sit position. She immediately slapped my legs repeatedly and whispered: “Ibaba mo yang paa mo! Ayaw nila nakataas ang paa!” (Put your feet down, they don’t like it when your feet are up on the couch)

The moment I recalled that scene, negative thoughts and irritation sunk in, and I felt vengeful again. Instantaneously I thought of hurtful words that I wanted to lash out at her in my defense. Who do you think you are? You’re not the owner of this house. Uncle H and Aunt G aren’t prohibiting me from putting my feet up; in fact, they want me to feel at home. If I were the owner of the house, I won’t tell that to my guests, especially not my relatives! Of course at that time, I didn’t tell her these. How could I? She’s my grandmother.

Hours owning up to that flashback moment, I chose to forgave my grandmother for her nasty habit of nagging me and being sweet to the hands that feed her and not so much to her “co-tenants” such as myself. I forgave her because I loved God and God loves her. Also, even if I don’t quite like her, deep down I still love her. I want her happiness and blessedness. However, every time I remembered that scene (and others like it) and the ill feelings and negative thoughts come back to me, I questioned my forgiveness. Was it real? Wasn’t I sincere enough? If it’s not real, how do I really forgive her, then? Is forgetting the sign of true forgiveness?

Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me hard lessons on forgiveness, humility, and love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not keep a record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4a,5b) Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) When Peter came up to Him and asked up to how many times must he forgive his brother who wronged him, Jesus trumps Peter’s seven-time comment with His own number: “No…but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Through the course of my study, the Lord asks me a question: Jenny, do you notice anything similar with these verses?

Being the grammarian that I was (and still am), I replied: “Yes Lord. All the main verbs of all the sentences are in present tense.”

“Very good observation. You see, true love is present tense. That’s how I love. It goes on and on as long as you have breath and life. The same goes for forgiveness. I commanded you to forgive as I forgave you. And how did I forgive you? Although all your deeds are written on My book, I do not hold it against you. I may not forget (as if I have amnesia), but I choose not to remember. You sin everyday, don’t you? Then guess what? I forgive you everyday! Every single day I still provide for you, teach you, guide you, and uphold you with My righteous right hand. That’s how I forgive you, and that’s how I want you to forgive your grandma.”

I learned that God commanded me to forgive, not to forget, and forgiveness is present tense. If I must forgive my grandma every day, I should. Forgiveness also applies to how I treat her. Even if I don’t feel like honoring her, I would. I would still obey her commands and hold her hand when we walk in the mall not only because she’s my grandmother, but because it’s what love would do. In the moments when I feel hate and dislike for her, I would remember the words of my Lord Jesus: “I forgave you, so forgive. Love, as I have loved you.” I can only fulfill this command because the Holy Spirit is in me, and He gives me the power to forgive. Jesus showered me tremendous amounts of grace, and through Him, I can do all things. Some situations and some people just require heavier doses of His love and mercy (myself included).

Is forgetting the sign of true forgiving? Not at all! God did not forget our sins, He chose not remember them. There’s a difference. Do we really think God actually forgets, as if He had amnesia? Of course not! He’s God. In fact, He has a book that records every single day of our lives (Psalm 139:16). I our good deeds and misdeeds are recorded there, too. However, He chooses not to hold a grudge against us. When we confess and repent, “He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I have grown so used to living by my feelings that I base the sincerity of my actions on whether I feel good about my present circumstance. We are not to love according to our feelings. I like how C.S. Lewis puts it: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” 

The day my Mom and I moved out to live with another aunt and uncle of mine, we had breakfast with my grandmother. She told stories of how she met my grandfather (Dad’s dad) and her colorful circumstances with difficult members of the family. In each one, I noticed how grandma always seemed to defend her loved ones–her sons, siblings, and her grandchildren. I realized she always wanted things in order, and for many years she fought her way to keep things in check. Maybe that’s why she slapped me on the legs. My Indian sit position was a threat to her order, and she wanted things to be in order because to her, that’s a sign that her family was okay. Nothing brings her greater joy than seeing her family in great condition and in good spirits. Remembering that, plus the many times I annoyed my own parents on purpose, humbled me and reminded me that I, too, was in dire need of forgiveness and mercy. I, too, ought to be forgiven. Did my parents ever forget the times I hurt them? Perhaps not. But did they ever hatch a plan to get back at me? Never. They still sent me to school and even let me graduate. They still let me eat at my favorite restaurants and give me gifts, sometimes even on ordinary days.

Whenever we remember the faults of others, let’s remember our own. How many times have we been on the receiving end of mercy? More importantly, let us remember how the Lord Jesus forgave us and how much He sacrificed to forgive us and save us from all our sins. We may not forget, but let’s choose not to remember. For the times when we do recall (especially on wayback Wednesdays and throwback Thursdays), let’s choose to forgive. Seventy times seven. Let’s choose to love in present tense. It’s hard, but it’s the golden ticket to eternity. Let us love and forgive in spite of our feelings. Let us love continually and forgive presently.