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. ūüôā

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:¬†‚ÄúDo not waste time bothering whether you ‚Äėlove‚Äô 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.‚Ä̬†

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.

 

2016: The Year of Moving On

In a short while, we will kiss 2015 goodbye and say hello to 2016. How does this make you feel? Are you overcome by excitement, paralyzed by uncertainty and fear, or discouraged by last year’s performance? Personally, I feel all three. Somehow¬†in my jungle heart, all three emotions found room.

 

describe 2015 in 1 phrase

 

How would you describe your 2015, in one phrase? Share it with me on the comments below! Here’s my phrase: breaking up. I broke up with the life I used to love.

-o-o-o-

In April 2015, I entered the United States as a permanent resident. Although I did not stay permanently yet at that time, that move opened the door to a¬†more permanent move later. This move wasn’t painful at all, as my family and I were on vacation. They say time flies quickly when you’re having fun, and I couldn’t agree more because those two months felt like one! (Check out this post for more details on that vacay)

When I returned to Manila two months later, I moved from high school degree-holder to a bachelor’s degree-holder. I actually graduated, can you believe it?! Graduation gave me mixed feelings: eager anticipation at all the hours I can spend on my hobbies; dread at not finding a job; and discouragement, if the job hunting would take too long and I’ll have to spend my days as a bum. Before I got my first job, I thought my days and weeks would be spent¬†in nothingness; however they were actually productive! I volunteered to¬†build our youth ministry’s marketing and host the weekly service. At home I developed my cleaning and cooking skills and mastered the ability to sleep two times a day. My lifestyle shifted from erratic to slow-paced and regimented. Again, it was mostly a positive move, a pleasurable change.

By late September, I landed my first job. The change from unemployed¬†to employed brought about another lifestyle change: from active to sedentary, as my work was 95% desk work. Nonetheless, I felt useful again. The terms, processes, ideas, and information that I stressed over back in college, made sense and felt easier to me. The best part is, I earned money! My salary wasn’t large¬†enough to make me financially independent, but enough to fund my weekend excursions and some wants. ūüėÄ

After I resigned from my first¬†ad agency stint two months later, I only had five days left before I changed address permanently. Five days! Change happened so fast, I felt like my life was a movie on fast forward. My schedule during those five days revolved around two things: packing my whole life¬†and saying goodbye. I ate out with friends, mostly from church, and spent my “last days” reminiscing, taking photos, and receiving¬†prayers and advice. Fixing my room gave me a mild case of sepanx (separation anxiety), especially on the day of my departure when I saw it mostly bare. Surprisingly, I did not cry. Perhaps things happened too quickly, there was no time left to cry. Haha :p In retrospect, these changes prepared me for the greatest move of all.

sepanx because of these people (plus more who are not in these photos huhu), our house, and my room

In November 25, 2015, my grandmother and I changed our home addresses. We moved to the United States to live there (here) permanently. Because my brothers had to finish school requirements, they, together with our parents, delayed their trip here. Again, another change, another move for me: it was my first time to be away from my family for an extended period of time, and from my friends and the places I’m familiar for an even longer period of time.

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If you knew me well, you’d know that I’m a careful and organized planner–not necessarily OC, but I dislike change and abruptness. If you want me to attend your party or event, you have to let me know three to six days in advance because a) it takes my parents that long to make a decision and b) I plan my schedule in advance so if you tell me too soon, I mostly have something to do already. Prior to migrating to the US, I only changed address once and schools four times (from preschool to university). Permanence is my preferred option. If I’ve gotten used to something, I’d rather stay there. (With food and leisure travel as the only exceptions!) So when the Lord told me to not only leave my house, but my country, my continent, and the friends I made, I was dismayed. I grew despondent when I thought of the idea of starting from scratch: making new friends, looking for a new house, moving from one apartment to another, learning the new roads and landmarks, and everything else that goes with migration.

I was so in love with my life in the Philippines that when I got here to the United States, I had to break up with it. For about a month, it was quite a struggle especially since I spent a quarter of my day online where most of my friends post about the latest happenings. Fear gnawed my resolve to begin¬†anew. What will people think of me here? What if I can’t blend in and make any friends? What if I can’t be as home as I was in Manila? I grew¬†desperate over my “ex”, who, although it¬†helped me become a better person, wasn’t “the one” for me (or at least, not now).

Moving on is terrifying. You’re probably moving on from a breakup or some other life change right now. I kinda know how you feel because I know what it’s like to love someone (or in my case, something), only to realize later on that you have to part with it. God usually does that to His best disciples. Do you know why? During one of my devotions, the Lord inspired me with a powerful truth: Jenny, do you love Me or your experience of Me? As I struggled with this question, major figures in the Bible came to mind: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself. What was their common denominator? They all migrated from someplace to someplace else! Moving to another place and moving on is a test of faith on so many levels; it challenges your beliefs about God, His reality in your life, and if your faith is really as strong as you say it is. Moving taught me that my salvation in Christ Jesus was and is the only permanence I can hold on to in this life; everything else is temporary.

Last year, God told me at the start of the year that He was writing my story and that it was beautiful. He continues to write the chapters as my story moves on. For 2016, I will let go of the fear of moving on, and by faith, earnestly expect God to “work and to will His good pleasure” as I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” My greatest fear was to remain as I am without changing because I know I have so much left to improve! God is patient, gracious, and faithful. He will finish what He started.

This 2016, I pray that you, too, will continue to move forward; and if you must move on from something or someone that you held on to the past year, may you find the courage and the strength to do so. This next year will be a fresh start for all of us.

A blessed, joyful, and awesome 2016 to you, fellow earthling! ūüôā

Don’t Follow Your Heart; Guard It!

June 17, 2015.

About 8 AM after I finished my daily quiet time and Bible meditation, I opened my planner and took out my pen. Instinctively, I began writing bullet points of the activities I planned on accomplishing that day.¬†Cook lunch. Exercise. Cook dinner. Short prayer time. BLOG! Clean Mom’s bathroom. And a bunch of other activities. Activities I needed to do and ought to do; activities that honored my parents because I’m helping in the house; and above all, activities that gave me opportunities to glorify God with what I can.

When I got out of my room and went downstairs, my phone instantly connected to our home WiFi. (The WiFi range does not reach my room because the level where my room is is too high) Immediately, the notifications from my social media apps appeared: Facebook! Twitter! Instagram! Viber! Messenger! Instantly my mind forsook the plans I wrote and instinctively opened one app after another.

An hour later, I remembered I had to do even more important activities.¬†I reluctantly put down my phone and hurriedly attended to my chores. However, when I heard my phone ring, I opened it to see the notifications. By the end of the day, I only ended up ticking three boxes of the 10 on my to-do list. As this practice turned into a habit, my activities turned into vain attempts at planning. I grew discouraged. At one point, I decided to just do whatever I felt like doing, since planning didn’t seem to work out for me. So I ditched my daily planning and went with the flow, doing whatever I felt like doing. At the end of each aimless day, I felt so discouraged and emotionally unstable.

Can you relate with what I went through? Perhaps you may not struggle with incontinent social media surfing as I do, but in other areas, you ditch self-control and do as you please, and realize you’re worse off than before. You watch a lot of TV even if you have so much work in your hands because you feel so drained from work. You know your body needs to be fit and healthy, but everyday you always feel the need to eat more than what is needed, or buy a tub of ice cream. You know you’re supposed to be kind to this person, but there is no emotional fiber of compassion in you for him or her, so you continually resist and respond in harshness. Whatever you struggle with, oftentimes it’s a result of misguided feelings. I feel you. Therein lies our problem. We feel so much, we forget how to think. We fully embrace one of this world’s defining philosophies: follow your heart.

I grew up watching movies and TV shows and listening to music that promotes this philosophy. Scripts and lyrics have a way of twisting reality in such a way that ‘following your heart’ looks desirable and worth doing. Disobey your parents so you can be with the girl/guy of your dreams? Go for it! Ditch school so that you can be a superstar? Sounds great! Party all night till you get drunk? Yaaasss all the way! I put these situations crudely, but I’m sure you can name several, even dozens, of songs, shows, and films that have these themes. Unfortunately for us who are exposed to it, our minds and worldviews are shaped by them, even in small doses. For us Christians, these doses, no matter how small, will weaken our desire to serve God wholeheartedly, Whose view of the heart is totally opposite.

To God, the heart is “deceitful above all things, and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphases added). Our “hearts are full of evil,” and they are filled with insanity all our lives! (Ecclesiastes 9:3b, emphasis added) What comes out of our hearts are pure evil, according to the Lord Jesus: “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19, emphasis added)

If our hearts are deceitful above all things, desperately sick, and pure evil, why do we follow them so relentlessly?

Because when we follow our hearts, we serve ourselves. When we do what we want, at our time and our pace regardless of what others think and what God thinks, ultimately, we rob God of the glory that is due Him. Deep down, we desire our glory. Our comfort. Our happiness.¬†The “follow-your-heart” philosophy that has pervaded our culture and society has produced a generation of self-serving, #selfieish individuals. Because we insist our own way, we¬†pursue whatever makes us feel good, sometimes neglecting morality, leading us to following another fatal philosophy: hedonism.

Sadly, many Christians are guilty of this–including myself.

How many times have we said “I felt God called me to do this” to excuse our behavior and rationalize sin? God never called us to “feel” His will; He called us to know it, study it, discover it through His Word, and by walking in the Spirit. Being Spirit-filled is the Christian’s defense against the world’s follow-your-heart philosophy. When we are Spirit-filled, we obey God according to the rules He set out for us. Through the reading, meditation, and study of His Word, we discover what makes Him smile and what makes Him mad, and how we should live our lives. Even this is difficult for us sometimes, because we’re so used to following what we want to do and as a result, we loathe rules. We see rules as burdens to carry instead of channels of blessings. I know I do, until I learned the heart of God. God loves me, and He seeks after my good. He will never tell me to do anything that will harm me. Sure, some of the things He lets me do are uncomfortable (and in the future, some might even be dangerous), but He tells me not to fear because life on this planet is temporary. What I do here for Him reaps a hundredfold blessings for me in the life to come–which is eternal! So why should I worry?

I confess that the primary reason I failed to post here and share what God has been doing in my life was because I listened to my heart that told me a bunch of lies:

the timing is not perfect!

your intro sucks. Change it!

Don’t you want to see how many likes your photo on Instagram got? Stay at it.¬†

Feelings change, but the truth remains the same. If God calls you to do something, do it! By God’s grace, I am learning not to follow my heart, but to guard it, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs. We are commanded to “trust the LORD with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding….acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He shall direct our paths. Be not wise in our own eyes, fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We are called to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind” (Ephesians 4:23) and not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). Therein lies the practical solution: renewing the mind. I’ll talk about that in one of my upcoming posts. For now, it’s pretty clear: we are not to follow our hearts. We are to guard them–ABOVE ALL ELSE as Proverbs 4:23¬†said (emphasis mine). Make it your top priority. Guard it as if you were the Louvre Museum protecting Mona Lisa from thieves and robbers. Tighten security, otherwise, terror will strike and leave you broken.

Guarding your heart from outside influence is difficult; but don’t be discouraged, dearly beloved! We are all in this together. Our God who is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20) is faithful in keeping us faithful, so long as we keep on obeying Him. Don’t feel like doing what is right, good, and true? Do it anyway! It’s about time we regain control of our hearts. If we are to change this world for Jesus, let’s follow Him and guard our hearts with all our hearts! ūüôā

Thankful For The Delay

I’m baaack, after a 5-month absence! In this post, I share my story of how and why my graduation delayed by a year, and why I’m really, really grateful for it. ūüôā

Hi! Hello! MABUHAY! I’m baaaaack! ūüôā

5 months of absence and complete silence is way too long. I can explain! I started my senior year (last year!) in college this June, and since it started, I have been immersed in one intense requirement after the other. Even on weekends and holidays, my classmates and I met to work on our presentations, decks (PowerPoint/Keynote presentations), paperwork, and ideas. I am grateful to Jesus and to the people who’ve helped me go through that fun, crazy, and unnerving semester. Our semestral break started two weeks ago, and in two days, I’m going back to the daily grind. Surprisingly, even with all the stress I’ve been through last semester, I can’t wait to start the second one, because I know it’s gonna fly by pretty quickly, and¬†I’m FINALLY GRADUATING!

Speaking of graduation, did you know that I was supposed to graduate last year? If things went according to my plan, I should be finishing my master’s degree now.

However, God had another plan. This verse from the Bible never became truer in my life than in my college experience:

“The human heart plans the way,
¬†¬†¬†¬†but the Lord directs the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)¬†

My plan for college was simple and pretty much laid out before I graduated high school. I would enter college in 2010, graduate in June 2014 if I don’t make the required grade for the 5th year (master’s degree) and 2015 if I did. By senior year of high school, I was decided on enrolling in UA&P (go UNITAS!) and take up IMC or Integrated Marketing Communications. The first part of my agenda went as planned: I spent my freshman year in college in UA&P and during the second semester of that year, sealed my application for my course of choice, IMC (because during that time we had to apply for our preferred specializations). However, when 2011 rolled in, the plan¬†started crumbling.

Early 2011, my parents informed my brothers and I that we might migrate to the U.S. late that year, or at most, early 2012. This did not come as a surprise because migration plans have been existent even before I was born. A few of our relatives also planned to migrate (because our grandfather petitioned us), and one of my cousins who was of my age and also a freshman in college stopped school in order to save money for the move abroad. My parents also wanted to save money but did not want me to stop school, so they decided to enroll me in a new, more affordable university, one that was nearer our place. Trusting my parents’ wisdom, I applied for a university within Makati that had a marketing course. So by 2012, I was a college sophomore taking up Marketing Management in FEU-Makati.

The move proved to be great for me while I was in the school because I felt so relaxed! My first year in UA&P really challenged me–from enduring hour-long commutes, going through the day with only 5 hours of sleep, writing papers in the wee hours of the morning, reading ancient text of classical literature and tons of readings! On the contrary, my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was so chill. Although I had early morning and late night classes, I had a long break in-between which gave me time to go home, have lunch, work out, take an hour-long siesta and a shower afterwards. Sometimes after classes, I would meet with my family¬†in the mall and watch a movie or have dinner. Compared to the 23 units I had to take in UA&P, the most I had to take in FEU was 19! The best part is, I instantly clicked with a group of people whom I still communicate with to this day. We were even able to hang out at my place a couple of times where we had lunch and Bible studies. I felt happy and at ease that year because I was in control.

Come 2012, when my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was about to end, God intervened once again.

It turned out we weren’t migrating anytime 2011, 2012, or even 2013. (2014 is about to end and we’re still here!) One night while I was massaging my Mom, she told me how relaxed I looked and told me to consider going back to UA&P. Although I enjoyed FEU, she knew I would do better at a place that challenged me because I like¬†taking on challenges, besetting as they may be. Besides, I really liked IMC. I told her I’ll think about it. I prayed about it earnestly and asked God where He wanted me to go. Although I was going to miss my new-found friends and the nearness of the campus, I knew God was calling me back to UA&P. Trusting that He knew best, I enrolled in UA&P again, excited to take my junior year in college.

Thankfully, some of the units¬†I took in FEU-Makati were credited in UA&P. However, the units were not enough to compensate for the other subjects I missed during my sophomore year in FEU-Makati. I got the worst news of my life in 2012 when the registrar told me that I was officially enrolled in UA&P as a sophomore, not a junior. In other words, I was automatically delayed a year. I felt dismayed as I saw my perfect plan crumble. And if that wasn’t enough, my former block mates (who moved up to junior year the same year I got back), were not my block mates any more, which meant that my new batch mates were total strangers to me. I was an irregular student with no definite block and no set of friends to hang out with on a regular basis.

For the first time in my college experience, I felt lonely. Really lonely.

Although I still met with a few of my former blockmates, I knew practically no one in most of my classes. During my breaks, I ate alone, read in the library, or had my quiet time in the chapel. I made new friends along the way, but most of them alreay had their own groups and cliques, and I was too timid to make myself a part of them unless I was invited. I went home immediately after my last class, and sometimes, when I got home, I cried a bit (okay, sometimes a lot haha) because I felt so alone. I wanted a more solid group of friends in school. At night, I cried some more and complained to God about His perfect plan. Why did He allow me to go through this? What did I do wrong that made Him think of delaying my graduation by a year? God never answered my questions directly; He only reassured me of His goodness and His wisdom and invited me to trust Him completely. Although it was hard to trust Him completely at first, I found myself doing so, because I knew there was no other good apart from Him. Besides, I wasn’t alone; He was with me! My motto for my sophomore and most of my junior year was: Lonely, but not alone. My relationship with Jesus and my appreciation of His presence deepened and solidified during this period of loneliness. If it weren’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have gotten so close to Him.

When junior year rolled in, I felt eager and nervous because, for the first time, in over a year, I would be part of a block! That year, I was no longer an irregular student, so I felt more at home in the university. I remember entering the room of my first majors subject for the first time and meeting my block, SDL, for the very first time. I saw some classmates from my other subjects, but none that I could really call a friend. I felt insecure at first because they seemed to be pretty close. For the next few weeks, I prayed intensely to God that I would fit in and make new friends, and hoped that they would like me. That year, God has been teaching me to assert myself correctly by intentionally befriending my block mates and gaining their trust. In return, they made me feel welcome and entertained my responses to them. By the end of my junior year, I felt even more at home not only in UA&P, but with my new block. By God’s grace, He also allowed me to meet and be good friends with people from my other classes, and those who also went to my church, CCF. I wasn’t humanly alone, after all. ūüôā

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After junior year, I thanked God for blessing me with new friends and the feeling of home in UA&P. ¬†I thought to myself, “I’m okay now; not totally ecstatic, but better.” ¬†Once again, God had other plans. He didn’t want me to just be okay; He wanted me to be joyful. JOY is a word of abundance, and abundance is God’s currency. I spent this currency in massive amounts during the first semester of my senior year.

The subjects I had with my batch mates really challenged us think creatively and strategically within a very short amount of time. Almost weekly we had a presentation, which meant that we had to come up with the deck (the PowerPoint/Keynote slides) and rehearse our lines and content. In our subject called Business Process, our batch was tasked to raise a minimum of Php 400,000 in four weeks for a young boy with ALL or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Our class of about 80 students was divided into two teams, product and event, each with a project that should raise at least Php 200,000 so that the combined effort would reach 400K. I belonged to the product team, and we sold shirts under the name Team Galaxy. We chose this name because we wanted to brighten the young boy’s life and his future which has been darkened by his debilitating disease. Each member of Team Galaxy was tasked to sell at least 32 shirts per week. That may seem like a small number, but believe me, it was difficult to reach, especially after the first week of operations. By God’s grace I was able to surpass my personal quota, and so did Team Galaxy as a whole! The other project, a concert called All Out!, also exceeded their quota. A lot of meetings, some arguments, mishaps, coordination, sleepless nights, computations, emails, trips to different locations, and intense contacting of people ensued in a span of three weeks just to make our projects and target a reality.

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For me the highlights of my first semester happened during the final presentations. I never won a pitch during ordinary lecture days, but by God’s grace, I won all the final pitches I was part of! God deserves all the glory because He helped me and my team mates. For one of our presentations, we revised our idea three times and came up with the winning idea the night before the deadline! For another presentation, we changed our strategy twice or thrice before we came up with the winning idea.¬†Great things don’t come by easily, I learned; you have to work really hard for them. The feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment, along with the sweet news of victory, makes the work even more valuable. The experience not only gave me the good feels; more importantly, it molded my character and unlocked the potential I never knew I had.

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Remember what I said earlier about abundance being God’s currency? He is a generous God, and He will use you if you surrender your life to Him and commit to faithfully follow Him. I prayed to God to also use me to revive the campus movement in my school and in the Ortigas area, so that more students will get to know Him. When I re-entered UA&P in 2012, I met regularly with a good friend, Camille, and together we prayed earnestly for God to raise leaders and revive His ministry in our school. Well, guess what?

When school started this year, a number of freshmen from our church enrolled in UA&P. They were not only eager to experience the college life, but also to work together with us, the upper classmen, to impact our school for Jesus. Over the months, we prayed together and even ate together and grew more as a family. Sometime late June, Kuya Marty, the director of our youth ministry called ELEVATE,¬†met with us regularly and told us about his plan to create a weekly youth service for students from the Ortigas area. He also assigned two beloved campus missionaries, Randy and Anita, to help, train, and pray with and for us as we begin our ministry. Around July, Kuya Marty told us that our team, the Ortigas team (because our school is located in Ortigas) will merge with ELEVATE students from The Fort to work together and start the new weekly youth service we called ELEVATE SNL (Saturday Night Live). The people I serve with in ministry have also become my new family. Not only do I see them on weekends, but I also see them in school! (What is clingy?! haha!) Last week, we attended a retreat that sealed our family-ness and God’s plan for our campuses in our hearts. (More about that retreat in the next post, so stay tuned!)

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Looking back, I can only thank God for bringing me this far and allowing the Grand Delay in my college experience. Four years went by too quickly, and now I’m about to cross the finish line! Now, I laugh when I remember my drama back in my 2nd sophomore year and how I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year old self: “Now don’t you go cryin’ over that one year delay because you don’t know what’s going to happen! It’s gonna blow your mind!” Through my experiences in college, I affirmed the reliability and veracity of God’s promises. God told me of ¬†“great things beyond the reach of my knowledge” as He promised when I called upon Him and looked for Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He comforted me when I felt alone. What I thought was a bad plan turned out to be a successful one when I entrusted to Him my plans (Proverbs 16:3). He blessed me with good company, rich experiences, closeness to Him, and not to mention knowledge and depth of insight. Above all, He was so patient with me when I became cranky and lazy under stress. And now, He gave me the privilege of writing this beautiful story. ūüôā

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Last Sunday, our pastor preached about embracing Gods’ amazing plan. As I listened, I remembered how God had worked behind the scenes as I went through college. He has been working all along even if I thought He wasn’t. Sometimes when we have to take detours, we think God is sleeping on the job or made a mistake in His plan. Our tendency is to fret and regret trusting Him. This will be our biggest mistake. If you truly are a child of God and are walking in obedience to His will, you can be certain that He will carry out His good and perfect plan for you. God’s ways are higher than ours, and higher often entails discomfort, uneasiness, and even pain. As I mentioned earlier, great things don’t come by easily. God is willing to risk our physical comfort so He can accomplish¬†His greatest work: unique Christlikeness in each of us. He is purifying our hearts, perfecting our character, and molding our personality¬†reflect His own. ¬†God works, day in, day out, and He won’t stop¬†until He finishes what He started.

If God is interrupting your plans and agenda, fret not. Keep calm and trust Him because He knows best. Embrace His amazing plan for your life! Trust Him and you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t. ūüôā

Photos (c): Facebook photos of Ina Villegas, Patricia Depante, Mai Arcano and Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF Main)

Perfection-er

In my previous post, I talked about feeling quite depressed over my lack of inactivity and my feeling of uselessness, as I stayed home in most days. Turned out I was just bored and that I needed to change my perspective and attitude. God was preparing me for something bigger, better, and busier.

Last week, I started school. (I can’t believe I’m already in my senior year!) I knew that over the next ten months, I would be needing a lot of strength, wisdom, and grace because not only was I going to be busy, but I was going to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. Thus, on the eve of my first day of school, I posted a status on my Facebook account:

statusI didn’t realize these verses would be applied immediately, on the first week of school! God immediately granted my desire for useful activity, and oh, how much responsibilities He gave me! Firstly, the requirements for my majors (which comprise all of my subjects this semester) required intense, long hours of reading, reading, reading, reading…did I mention reading? Secondly, God revived His movement in my campus and specifically told me to be part of its core team when our youth pastor, Kuya Marty, told me to contact everyone and set a meeting. Then a friend of mine from a department in our youth ministry, ELEVATE, informed me that both of us were made admins of the host team. Add to that my commitment to meet two girls in school for Bible study, plus my own Dgroup upline (i.e., the group I attend for my personal “spiritual feeding and nourishment”), blogging, and Sunday School ministry. My hands and my plate were (at least from my point of view) overflowing with tasks!

At first I feared taking all these responsibilities (and until now I’m still praying and asking God if He can, if He will, put some on hold) because I feared not being able to juggle all of these with the growing demand in school, which was my primary ministry. Earlier this afternoon in our school chapel, this fear of incompetence and failure gnawed at me again. After my last class, I headed to the chapel to pray and have my quiet time because I wasn’t able to do so in the morning. I started thanking God about the fun day I had, and then I proceeded to the more serious stuff that really bothered me: the growing responsibilities and my fear that I would fail to deliver excellently. I reminded Him that I was bad at fulfilling my commitments, that I don’t want to fail Him and the people who were counting on me. I also told Him about my confusion about how to balance all these things and to deal with my insecurities (which still bother me)–my bad skin, increasing weight, baggy eyes even if I sleep early–and my unanswered questions about Him. In short, I was confused, disorganized, and fearful–all the things I utterly despise and do my best to escape from! As I dwelt on these negative things (a bad, bad idea), I started to cry. First in the volume of cologne sprays. Then a 500-liter water bottle. Then faucets. Inside the silent, public chapel. That’s when God, in His love and mercy, began conversing with me in my mind. I started it when I prayed, silently:

“Man, why did I even stay here? Why do I have to cry here? It’s so embarrassing…..Lord, You know my struggle. You know I’m bad at commitments. You know I want everything to be organized. Please guide me.”

Then amazingly, God replied.

“Honey, I¬†want you to trust Me. I brought you here because I wanted to hug you, to let you know that I delight in you. I love you! I am delighted at you because you are walking in My will. Don’t worry! I love you, child.”

Of course, the pessimistic me did not believe, at least not completely. So God said:

“You’re here to have your quiet time, right? Okay open to Psalms, the chapter’s number is the date today.”

I said (in my mind): “Yeah, right, how am I sure I’m not just making this up and going after my feelings? Does God even do this?”

Although my question went unanswered at first, I went to Psalm 18 anyway. What I read shocked me and opened another valve in my eyes for more tears to flow. Here were some of the opening verses:

I love You, O¬†Lord,¬†my strength.‚ÄĚ
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Verses 7-15 talked about awesome and terrifying things God did–earthquakes, consuming fire, blazing coals, darkness, hailstones–the apocalyptic sort of thing. I thought: “Seriously, God? Lord, are You…mad at me?” I wasn’t getting the idea. Not until I started reading from verse 16 all the way until the end in verse 50. Here were some of the verses that struck me:

He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;

The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

As for God, His way is blameless;

The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?

– Psalm 18:1-3,6, 16-3,25, 29-32 (emphases added)

By the end of the chapter I was lamenting. Thankfully I kept it inaudible, except for my occasional snorting, but I was relatively quiet. But wait…there’s more! God replied with an even more personal message.

“See? Of course I still speak to My children in a very personal way! You see, I am delighted in you. You are not in sin in the sense that you remain in it habitually. Honey, I know that you are very particular about the smallest details. I am, too. I like details, too. I also think they are very important. And yes, I am after perfection. But you see, I am not a perfectionist in the sense that I judge you and condemn you for your smallest mistake. I am not a perfectionist; I’m a perfection-er. I am perfecting you. I know that throughout the perfectioning process, you won’t have it all together. And that’s okay. As long as you trust Me and obey Me and fear Me (and you do, all these things), I am with you. Okay?” ūüôā¬†

I thought the overwhelming emotion I felt was a result of the difficulty of management. I haven’t even started some of them! The real issue was that, I was afraid of making mistakes. I feared failure so much, I recoiled at the idea of having too much responsibilities and a lot people to be accountable to. God also told me that time that the key was not to avoid responsibility, but to eliminate everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me so that I can run with perseverance the race that God marked out for me¬†(Hebrews 12:1-2). I had to remove the distractions and just focus on the main thing, and to keep it the main thing at all times. God wouldn’t have allowed me to be given these tasks or He would have told me to let them go had He not given me the strength, power, and ability to fulfill them. ūüôā

I also learned that God wasn’t utterly strict in the perfectionist sense. I was. It’s unfortunate how the “don’t-sin-or-else-God-will-thunder-lightning-on-you” ideology from Greek mythology and other pagan literature still influenced me. I had an erroneous view of God. Surely God feels saddened when I sin, even the smallest one. But that doesn’t mean He is totally displeased with me that He won’t talk to me or that I should expect to be disciplined tomorrow. No matter what happens, we must always remember that God is LOVE. Everything He does stems from His love. Nothing He does is done out of hatred the way we humans hate, or apathy. Even God’s “hate” towards people is grounded on love. Especially with children who sincerely seek Him and do His will, He is ever gentle, patient, merciful, and gracious. He knows our weaknesses. That’s why He’s perfecting us, because we have deficiencies. That’s also why He’s patient, because He knows we’ve been so used to this faulty system that we think it’s normal. But, no. His perfection and His holiness should be our norm. There is no middle ground.

If you have a perfectionist tendency like mine or if you, too, feel like escaping responsibility for fear of failure, may I encourage you today to pause, take a deep breath, and know that God does not desire to condemn you? Really, He doesn’t. The process hurts but it doesn’t mean God hates you. In fact, the fact that He’s investing so much in you–disciplining, molding, mentoring, discipling, guiding, providing for you–means that He really, really, really loves you! Also, I pray that you (and I) will realize that failure is not final. Neither is success. We fail, we get back up. We succeed, we move past that, otherwise we become complacent or even recalcitrant when we’re told to move forward.¬†C.S. Lewis put it perfectly when he wrote in his book, Beyond Personality:

“…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.”

So trust His character. It’s the only thing that remains constant in this ever-changing world. ūüôā

After that drama session with God, I wiped my tears and went out of the chapel with my head held high. I may not have all the facts together nor am I relieved of the chance of failure, but I know that I am kept safe by the One Who goes before me, the One who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side! Above all, this Perfection-er of mine loves me. And really, that’s more than enough. ūüôā

Reference:
Lewis, C.S. (1947). Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
New American Standard Bible (NASB). (1995). The Lockman Foundation. via BibleGateway.com.