TALAMazing Adventure: God’s Timing Is Always Perfect

Sometimes things don’t go according to “our time,” because God’s time is way better. And when God intervenes, ADVENTURE happens! ūüôā

Find out how God worked His impeccable timing in my life, and the adventure He gave me and my family! ūüôā

Hello everyone!

Once again, it feels so good to be back here in my personal cyber space!  When it comes to timing, I am obviously not an expert in it, as the date of my last post indicates. During the months of February until early April, I was extremely busy as I finished the last leg of my college education. I am graduating in two weeks’ time! Frankly, I also succumbed to laziness during the remaining days of April and May…until today. I realized how selfish and disobedient I am for not sharing with the world how good, gracious, and faithful God is in my life. Indeed, He is faithful even if we are not! Moreover, God’s timing is always perfect. Always. I can say this, because I experienced it firsthand.

In one of my posts, Thankful for the Delay, I shared how grateful I was (and still am) to the Lord for delaying my graduation. It happened because I switched schools; the school where I eventually finished my studies did not credit all the units I took from my previous school and the units that were credited were insufficient to advance me to the junior year. Thus, I became a sophomore twice. That switch of schools happened because at that time, we thought we were migrating to the US.

This migration dates back to 1993.

lolo
My lolo (grandpa) many hairs ago. Haha

Twenty-two years ago, my grandfather Wiro, a US veteran, petitioned most of his 11 children and their families so that they can be permanent residents and eventually, citizens, in the United States of America.  My parents just got married, my aunts and uncles were starting their families and had little kids (my cousins), and none of them imagined that, over two decades later, most of them would be living in a land thousands of miles away.

Over the years since 1993, the US Embassy occasionally contacted us¬†and informed us of our immigration status. I remember the first time I thought we were migrating to the US. The year was 2004, I was 10 years old and very much eager because I heard so many wonderful things about Disneyland and I wanted to see it for myself. That year we went to the US, but only for a vacation (and all my Disneyland dreams came true). Seven years later, we received another letter from the Embassy that made us think ‚Äúwe‚Äôre leaving.‚ÄĚ Our relatives who were also petitioned thought the same way. That‚Äôs why I switched schools, my Mom resigned from her job, and a host of other things happened. But that year, and the next, God said it was not yet time. We had to wait some more.

When there was silence over the immigration issue, I somehow lost interest in it. After all, I was about to graduate and was looking forward to working in Manila. God graciously provided a new home for us and for the first time in my life & my brothers’ lives, we moved to a new house. We (including our parents) made more friends, served in various ministries in church, and enjoyed each other’s fellowship. After hearing and learning about devastating news from the US and signs of an improving economy in the Philippines, I got even more discouraged to migrate. I pondered about it at times and imagined myself living in a rented apartment in California, but I shrugged it off and went back to my busy Manila life.

Then came early 2014.

Around March, we got news again from the Embassy that they were processing¬†our papers (my family’s and those of my relatives‚Äô), and that this 2-decade long wait would finally come to a close. Some of my relatives completed the processes¬†and left the Philippines ahead of us.¬†I thought our family would migrate last year also, but once again, God said no, just wait. Nonetheless, we completed all the procedures and submitted¬†all the documents required of us in time, and before 2014 ended, we received our visas. We had to leave the Philippines on or before the first week of April 2015.

I did the math of the time needed of us to do what moving to another country entailed: fix all our documents, sort our stuff, sell whatever can be sold, attend goodbye parties (very important haha), etc. We needed at least a month and undivided attention. A month we had, but undivided attention we didn’t as we, my parents and I, were extremely busy with work and school respectively. Thankfully, God gave my parents wisdom to come up with a solution and the resources to execute it. We would leave in April, return to Manila, fix everything, and unless God says otherwise, return to the United States.

As our family counted down to the day when we would leave for the US, we prayed more earnestly and sought God’s will for our lives. As we prayed together, we grew closer as a family and more dependent on the Lord. In my personal time with the¬†Lord, He reminded me that this earth is not my home. If He is indeed¬†my God as I say He is, then I would trust Him‚ÄĒHis plans, His motives, and His timing. If there‚Äôs one thing I really appreciate God for in this experience, it is His undoubtedly, wonderfully, and absolutely perfect timing.

As I look back, I am even more thankful for the delay that happened to me three years ago. If I was not delayed, I would be taking my master‚Äôs now, and I won‚Äôt be able to leave in early April because I had to complete my thesis. God commanded us to go out at a time when I have already¬†finished college and¬†thus be fully equipped to work and help my parents earn a living. My brothers aren‚Äôt too young to require extra attention, so they can be relied on to do chores at home (plus they‚Äôre really good boys so my parents never have to worry). By God‚Äôs grace, our relatives who have gone to the US ahead of us have been established and secured, and they were more than willing to help us (as well as our relatives who followed suit). Above all, God allowed us to spend a great deal¬†of our time in Manila being grounded in His Word through our personal quiet time and corporate worship so that we can face the spiritual and emotional challenges that we would face in the US (more about that in my future posts‚ÄĒstay tuned!).

Oh, before I end, there’s one more thing.

Let’s go back three years ago, 2012, February.

My Mom was scheduled to visit her sister in April that year. Aside from visiting California, she‚Äôs visiting the East Coast: New York, Chicago, D.C.‚ÄĒall the cities I dreamt of visiting. In May that same year, I was turning 18. Where I come from, a girl turning 18 is somehow a huge deal.¬†Titos (uncles) and titas (aunts) of Manila get excited and ask you where the party’s at.¬†Parents get excited, too, but not as much as the titos and titas because they are the ones spending (haha). Unfortunately for my titos, titas, and parents, I wasn’t into the¬†grand celebration. I had another idea of grand. I wanted to travel.

So when I learned that my Mom was going to the US that year and going to the East Coast, I prayed that she and Dad would let me spend my 18th birthday there with her. The other details of the story are written here (with details on the struggle and some awesome throwback photos), but long story short, I went with my Mom to the US and celebrated my 18th birthday in Chicago.

In October 2012, I posted a photo of myself posing in front of a City sightseeing bus in New York. Here’s the exact post from Facebook:

New York throwbackNow let’s go back to the not-so-present-present. March 2015. My parents briefed us on our US trip and excited us with the news that we’ll be visiting the East Coast! One day, as I was scrolling through my old profile photos on Facebook, I saw my earlier photo from New York. Call it a prediction or whatever, but I prefer to call it God’s favor and grace. Without me knowing it or expecting it, I returned to one of my favorite cities right exactly at the time when I said I would: after I graduate!

And the best part is, this time, my favorite boys are with me! We're complete!
And the best part is, this time, my favorite boys are with me! We’re complete!

Before leaving for the US a month ago, one of my best friends dedicated this verse to me:

‚ÄúMany are the plans in a man‚Äôs heart, but it is the LORD‚Äôs purpose that prevails.‚ÄĚ – Proverbs 19:21

Even if we wanted to leave for the US years ago, God did not allow it to happen. Even if I wanted to graduate ‚Äúon time,‚ÄĚ God had His own version of ‚Äúon time,‚ÄĚ and truly it was the time! Even if we wanted to fix everything within a couple of months with our busy¬†schedules, God told us not to and gave us a solution to make up for our lack of time. All of these, and more, only because God is in control.

Finally, last¬†April 4, our family of five flew to the United States of America¬†and began a journey of faith and fun‚ÄĒa journey we call the TALAMazing adventure.

_MG_9072

As unpredictable as our future may be, I daresay plunge right in, because God’s got us! I believe He’s got you, too. He has everything under control, including the proper timing. God’s timing is always perfect, so trust Him! ūüôā

Stay tuned for more posts about our adventure! This time, I’ll post on time. Just like Jesus.

In the meantime, enjoy some of our photos during our first four weeks in the US! (Shot by my Dad and I, in random order) ūüėÄ

13092_10153199485302878_6801382792355822358_n

cha2O

dennys

11033394_10153215309173094_6791741563108758280_n

11052424_10153202606927878_1728330414763741385_n

21692_10153227876183094_7882627207915566382_n
Meet my beautiful and adorable niece, Kenna!

16004_10153222777843094_3226265897621155986_n

10408854_10153222779468094_5270171269686759063_n

10480125_10153222780298094_5503301962587865479_n

11149472_10153230928187878_7914207449182336814_n

11144929_10153230928957878_8945843704830785147_n

11138693_10153227881283094_8315002905430991473_n

11151029_10153227880443094_5534083468508151400_n

_MG_6499

10406531_10153245162553094_6613529624136012558_n

11150411_10153249508972878_6620369427392313250_n

11193326_10153249507032878_6418742149537763407_n

11168454_10153245580803094_1094182356722583231_n

11182164_10153263260377878_3519617544214368897_n

11182264_10153263261757878_8056005985926226105_n

He’s Writing Your Story, and It Is Beautiful

Happy new year earthlings!

This year, I commit to blogging more regularly. One of my mistakes last year was procrastinating and giving in to laziness. At times I really was busy and tired from finishing school requirements, but I knew deep in my heart that I could have updated my blog regularly. For that, I am truly sorry (especially to those who said they followed the blog). I still have to ask extra patience and grace from you guys because I am in my last stretch of my college education. In a few months’ time, I shall graduate! Finally! ūüôā I’ll do my best to write, and that means not using laziness as an excuse. ūüėČ

The first four days of January have been splendid for me and my family. We enjoyed an out-of-town trip with some relatives in what I call the Philippines’ “Chicago:” Tagaytay City. At least at this time of the year it is. You would have thought you traveled to another country because of the sudden temperature drop. We all wore jackets and even bought ourselves hats to cover our ears, because we couldn’t take in the cold! Nonetheless, we had so much fun! We ate hot bulalo and sipped hot chocolate to warm ourselves. This trip had been my most enjoyable trip to Tagaytay in my entire life (so far). I’m glad I spent it with the people I love the most.  Here are some of our photos from our 2-day roadtrip!

1458425_10152956941252878_2595947979215509777_n

10891458_10152956945732878_1615842945981708987_n

photo1 (2)

10897807_10152956947332878_2000493647254930927_n

10891686_10152956947802878_7514093327477054144_n

10897097_10152956948022878_7141734702558408693_n

10363783_10152956953672878_5567239140701325379_n

10888952_10152958378467878_8682511900691008717_n

10888780_10152963017827878_9177032938723119714_n

10892012_10152963012217878_3494392712082475431_n

14319_10152963029362878_1486635268447875762_n

10915265_10152963032677878_8811537967892254319_n

10891661_10152963032672878_6905678757704196562_n

10882261_10152963033572878_5008910979328301433_n

10676157_10152963030697878_4520808505366751793_n

10559663_10152963035772878_3954565405027704681_n

10690097_10152963041042878_820503054157617054_n

Aside from the amazing view, delicious food, cool weather, and great company, perhaps the greatest blessing I received during this trip was hearing the voice of God speak to me.

During the early morning of our second day, I sat outside the terrace of our room, which overlooked the Taal Lake. The cool and clean Tagaytay winds brushed against my face, while the sun tempered the coolness with its warming rays. The passage I read that morning was Psalm 146, a beautiful psalm! After reading my Bible and journaling, I stood from my seat and stood still, gazing at the dormant volcanoes and vast lake across me. As I gazed upon my surroundings, I marveled at how beautiful they all were! Right there, while I gazed and beheld His marvelous work, my Creator, my Lover and Lord, Who couldn’t have picked a better spot, spoke His beautiful promise to me.

I will write your beautiful story, Jenny.

“If I can make beauty out of these volcanoes which cannot praise Me and love Me…, how much more can I make beautiful stories out of your life?”

These words left a deep mark in my heart and soul  after what I’ve been through last year.

In 2014, II struggled with accepting my God-given beauty, both inside and out.  There were days, many of them, when I woke up, stared at my reflection in the mirror, and told the girl who faced me: “You’re so unattractive. Kadiri. (Eww) Where has your beauty gone?”

I feasted on lies for breakfast, sometimes for lunch and dinner, too, which left me discouraged and more poised to sin. Sometimes when I wore extra make-up on or had a good night’s sleep (which I didn’t have often), I felt extra confident and was able to shun the lies . When I made poor decisions and failed in my endeavors, I went back to sulking and feeling hopeless and pessimistic.

Why did you do that? You’re so lazy. They’ll hate you now. Or at least give you a low grade. What will your parents think? You’re not setting a good example to your girls. No guy will ever want you. 

Some of these statements had some truth in them, but they weren’t the truth I wanted, or even needed, to hear. And so I lived many days of my 2014 with these discouragements (and a host of others) clouding my mind. They affected my response to situations, particularly in class where I “joked” about my ideas because I feared being turned down by people. One instance stood out.

It was during one of our sessions for copywriting and art direction class. Our professor, Ms. C., (let’s just call her that) divided us into groups and assigned products & brands for each group. Our group of three girls were assigned Belvita, a brand of breakfast biscuits that promises four hours of sustained energy in the morning. The assignment (to be completed in class) was to create a unique, creative, and targeted concept that would guide a campaign for our assigned brand. Ms. C gave us about an hour to come up with an idea and translate it on paper, but our group wasn’t able to come up with anything! When she dismissed the class, my group mates and I approached her table and asked if we could just email her our idea over the weekend.

“No, you can think of one now.”

One my group mates told me to just tell her one of the ideas I thought of. Reluctantly, I told her my idea.

“The concept of sustained energy is to use famous superheroes, like Superman, and we’ll say that adults can feel energetic like their favorite superheroes with Belvita biscuits. Joke lang yun (that’s just a joke).” And as soon as I said “joke,” Ms. C blurted out to me:

“Joke?! Stop saying joke!”

Ms. C startled me. Her tone was not mad, but it was firm and critical. She looked straight into my eyes. “See, that’s a good idea! Why did you say ‘joke?’ You say ‘joke’ when you think your idea is not good enough because you’re afraid people will shut you down. Don’t be insecure, Jenny! Don’t be afraid to say your ideas because often times the crazy ones are the ones that get chosen. Stop saying ‘joke.’ Say it! You’re killing your own idea when you say ‘joke.’ Who cares if they laugh at you?”

The cat was out of the hat.

That was when I realized my “jokes” weren’t funny at all, and that staying this way–insecure, pessimistic, hopeless–was downright foolish and sinful. Why was I allowing my past to define me when God already said: “leave the past behind, look forward to what lies ahead?” Blogger Phylicia said it well: “God isn’t your past as His outline for your future, and neither should you.”

God promised me that morning, on the second day of January, that He was going to write my story, and it’s going to be beautiful. However, He did not promise a bed of roses. In fact, as I looked at my surroundings, I imagined what it must have been like before these things came into being. A carpenter or two hammered the nails on to the walls. Someone bought white paint while another painted. The owner or owners bought the decors and perhaps hired another person to design the place. Even the lake had to be maintained by the authorities. In other words, beauty will require work–toil, sweat, tears, maybe even blood if it’s necessary. Beauty is both a gift and a responsibility. I’ll do my part, and God will do His.

photo2

When God writes the stories of His children who remain faithful to Him, the endings are always happy. So with all the mess you’ve been through the past year, do you think your story will end up a failure? God brought you this far for a reason. He’s not finished with you yet! Whatever took place in your life the previous year are now threads of history which He will use to weave your destiny and character in accordance to His greater story. The antagonists will play their part, but remember that there is nothing and no one too hard that God cannot overcome. Failure is not final. You have to obey God’s plan for your life and trust that He will create something beautiful out of it, because He can, He wants to, and He will.

Will you trust and obey?

Beauty is calling out out to you.

He is calling out to you.

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

1001812_10151457332455826_1886772074_n

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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.

photo 1

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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!)

10298757_10202916153280251_6239945423219708739_n

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

10712948_10152492781558785_1699345892565461521_n

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.

 

Missing Out On Life?

Earlier this evening, I browsed through my Facebook news feed and saw the various activities of my friends in church and blockmates in school: attending & witnessing a prestigious awards ceremony in the media industry; going to the beach with friends; volunteering in the freshmen orientation; attending youth group (ELEVATE) meetings. After a few minutes of browsing, I signed out of Facebook and stared at my laptop screen. A thought sprang from my heart and entered my mind, and bothered my entire being:

I’m at home, doing nothing productive of that sort that my friends are doing. I’m missing out on life.¬†

Remembering Philippians 4:4-7, the passage I read this morning for my quiet time, I anxiously prayed: Lord, how can I share you with my friends if I’m here stuck at home? You told me to build relationships, right?

The Lord answered me, although indirectly. My gut told me to grab the Our Daily Bread journal right across me, from my Mom’s book shelf, and open it to today’s date (June 5, 2014). I opened to the correct page and searched for the passage for the day: it was 1 Timothy 4:10-16. . I took Mom’s living application Bible from the shelf and opened to 1 Timothy, but for whatever reason I read verses 7-10 which said:

“Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually and practice being a better Christian, because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too. This is the truth and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe it, for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted His salvation.”

I was  surprised by the straightforwardness of the language of this version, and for a while I was captivated by the beauty of its meaning. However, my anxiety did not go away. Again I recalled my quiet time passage this morning, Philippians 4:4-7. I opened to it from the same Bible, excited to read how the verses would be put.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” (emphases added)

I was anxious and unpleasing to God, and I knew it. I put down the Bible and started¬†praying. I told Him everything that bothered me. That nagging feeling that I was missing out on life by being stuck at home. That I feel scared I might not be as productive again in ministry in school. That His promise of the abundant life wasn’t being fulfilled in my life. I cried and prayed, and then, waited.

This time, God came to me in a rational way. He made me think. First, He asked me a question: “How do you define ‘life’?”

I knew the answer to the question, but He pressed on with more, and in the process, answered the first one.

“Is life the sum of all one’s activities and relationships built? Is life just that? Isn’t life–at least this one on earth–the training ground for your path to Christ-likeness? Isn’t real, abundant life one that lives out My good and perfect will?”

I kept quiet as the questions kept coming in ¬†(in the form of thoughts, God talking to my mind, as if audibly, but not, because that would have been scary). “Okay, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are missing out on life. Tell Me: what is it exactly you’re missing out on? What other thing could you possibly be doing now that would have been My will for you, since that’s what you want and pray for everyday?”

I kept quiet and thought about these things. I kept silent for a while. I realized how shallow and selfish my thoughts were. However, the problem went deeper than that.  When I pinpointed the root cause of my anxiety, I cried some more. God spoke to me again.

“Your problem is, you have trust issues. You believe that if you make a mistake or don’t feel satisfied with the rate your spiritual walk is going, you are automatically removed from the path of abundance. You base your spiritual growth on activity and feelings, not on My grace, My mercy, and My love. Not on Me. You still think that I’m not doing My job of taking care of you, and so you think there must be something missing in your life. Well there is. The joy that you should have been experiencing is replaced by anxiety, because you did not trust Me enough to guide you.”

The tears kept gushing like a waterfall.

“Besides, if you’re really missing out on life, I would have told you. I just need you to trust Me and obey whatever it is that I tell you at the moment. You will be okay.”

Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re like me, thinking that you’re probably missing out on life. There will be times that you will miss out on life, and God will surely tell you about it and show you how you can get back on track. However, if you’re like me, you’re just probably bored because your parents won’t let you out of the house and you’re stuck at home browsing the Net all day and watching TV. I realized my desire was misdirected. By thinking that I was missing out on life, I was actually thinking: I was missing out on fun activities that will make me happy and less bored. In this kind of thinking, the will of God is irrelevant. Whatever makes you happy, do it. This is a product of hedonism, of which I am very much guilty.

This whole drama is a test on perspective and proper definitions. God taught me to view life as a process of temporary refinement for eternal glory. I’m just an alien here on earth. Everything God allows me to go through is intended to make me more like Him and to make others (whoever He wants me to come in contact with) know Him. Somewhere in between, abundance lies. Joy overflows. Peace envelopes the mind. I was not missing out on life because I was fulfilling the command of the Lord to obey and honor my parents who commanded me to stay home. During the past few days, I have been discovering good and bad things about myself, but mostly bad. God has been teaching me how to overcome these things, although I must admit, I am a slow learner. There are certain areas in my life I still have a difficult time obeying. After my dramatic time with God, I thanked Him for letting me stay at home and realize these things at home, before I go out to “the real world” where I probably would have suffered the consequences of my ill heart before I even knew my heart was a wreck.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that doing activities as those I mentioned earlier makes you a more noble Christian or refined person. Perhaps they do, if that is God’s will for you. One truth remains: as long as you are in the center of God’s will, you are NOT missing out on life. God never makes mistakes when He places us where we are right now. We are wherever we are for two purposes: to honor Him and to become more like Him. After a few moments of silence, I thanked God for the blessings staying at home brought me: epiphanies of truth, rest (lots of sleep!), more time to myself, and preparation for the tougher stuff in the future. God kept His promise to me right after I prayed by allowing His peace to guard my heart and my mind in Him. ūüôā

Everyday, we should pray for God’s will for our lives. How He wishes to carry that out is His prerogative. Our role is to trust Him, let go of control, and obey whatever specific commands He has for us.¬†If you fail to do these three, then you are missing out on life! God never wanted for us to live in misery. God, by default, is joyful, and He wants us to be the same. ūüôā

If you’re like me, a stay-home on-break student and you share my “missing-out-0n-life” feelings, don’t despair. Chances are, like me you’re just bored. Boredom is a dangerous situation because we often resort to doing nonsensical activities to fill our time. I suggest you consider doing the following things:

  1. Read the Bible and other Christian books so that you will grow spiritually. Remember what 1 Timothy 4:7 said:¬†Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. If you’re not a big fan of paper books, try audio books. There are also articles on the Net that can help you out, but for me, the written Word is still the best.
  2. Work out! Summer is the best time to do this because you sweat by default. Make the sweating a fun event by dancing or doing whatever sport you love! (or if you don’t have any, just dance whatever! Be a bit crazy and spontaneous)
  3. Clean the house. Even if you have househelp. It’s training for diligence, because it forces you to work. Laziness starts at home, you know.
  4. Learn a skill. I find it ¬†unfortunate how we see the Internet only as a source of music, movies, gossip, and social media sites. It’s way much more than that! You can learn a new language, the history of the world, how to bake a cake, and even make a cool video by just clicking your way through some sites!
  5. Spend time with your loved ones. This works especially if you have siblings. Play games with them (if they’re not yet that old). Talk with them! Watch movies together. Clean the house together! (my brothers and I have been doing that the past 2 days) When you go back to school or start work, you’ll have less time to do this, so do it now!

Find out God’s will for you right now and fulfill it.Trust Him and leave all the worrying to Him. For sure, you’ll be missing out on misery and unnecessary pain, because you’re too engrossed in living the joyful, abundant, and exciting life! ūüôā

 

P.S: always be grateful! ALWAYS. Too often we forget. I always do. It’s time we remember. A few photos of how my week went. Thank God for smartphones! ūüôā¬†Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. :)
midnight workout! First time ever. Felt good. Felt sleepy afterwards. ūüôā

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

WP_002196
lunch date with my Dad after enrollment. I AM ENROLLED! ūüôā Thanks Dad!
WP_002206
first time to have my hair curled! ūüôā felt extra girly.
I liked the curly hair so much I didn't shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
I liked the curly hair so much I didn’t shampoo the next day to keep it intact, because it was only temporary. :p #smellsgoodtho
WP_002282
a beautiful butterfly posing in our bamboo tree! ūüôā the wings are so beautiful ūüėČ