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! 🙂 I’ll do my best to write, and that means not using laziness as an excuse. 😉

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!

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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.

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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.

Sunday’s Best: My New Nephew, New Books, and Lots of Seafood

Last Sunday, I finally saw the new and handsome addition to the Jarlego clan. World, meet my very first nephew, Lorenzo Jacob Jarlego Solomon!

Jacob was born last February 21 to my cousin, Kuya Es, and his wife, Ate Hiyas. When they first broke the news that Ate Hiyas was preggers last year, we were overjoyed. I’m sure Jacob will be spoiled….with love, tender care, attention, and lots of food (his momma is an excellent cook).

Later that evening after Dad & Mom’s Discipleship group (Dgroup) session, we headed to the much-talked about MV Logos Hope. It’s a floating library that carries Christian and other wholesome books as well as CDs and journals and sells them at prices lower than most bookstores. Last month (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) the ship docked in Manila Bay. Since last week, Mom and I kept pestering Dad to take us there, and he finally did last Sunday. Right now I believe MV Logos Hope is docked in Subic bay so if you’re near that area, I highly recommend you check out the library with your friends and/or family!

While I was busily reading synopses and filling my cart with books, I heard a familiar voice call my name. It was Camille, one of my batch mates and close friends in high school. I missed this woman! 🙂 We updated each on other on our collegiate lives and as usual, recounted hilarious high school memories. The way we laughed would have had us kicked out of a university library, so I’m thankful the peeps in MV Logos Hope were not so strict. Actually, they have nothing against noise, just don’t be too rambunctious.

After about an hour and a half (or was it more than that? time flies when you’re too engrossed shopping for books), our stomachs were calling out to us demanding they be fed. Since we were already in Manila (as in, Manila city), Mom suggested that we have dinner in Macapagal Boulevard, an area known for its seafood paluto restaurants. I am grateful to God for sparing us from any allergies towards seafood or else we would miss out on this scrumptious dinner. Also, I am grateful that I live in an island where fish is a staple to an everyday diet. I’d choose fish over meat any day.

After reserving seats in igmaan (an orange-themed resto that’s pretty hidden), Mom, Ericka (from the root word Erick kasi becky siya hahaha) and I shopped for our viands. I brought Dad’s camera with me to chronicle my palengke (wet market) adventure.

it was as if he was pleading to me with his eyes to take notice of his slavery and free him in the world where krabby patties exist. Whut?! 😀 We freed his other brethren so that they can make their new home in our stomachs and eventually, in the septic tank. #grossbuttrue

the fish vendor with his expensive product, the lapu-lapu. He wanted a photo for his Facebook profile daw. Or maybe it’s the fish who needed a new picture to report to his family back in the ocean of his earthly demise? 🙂

tahong or saltwater mussel Here he is again, this time, with a more expensive product: a lobster.

After shopping, we went back to igmaan and patiently waited for our dinner. After ten minutes, dinner was served! We had:

buttered garlic shrimp. I usually eat only two pieces of shrimp (sometimes none at all), but this dish was so good, I ate five (or more; I lost count).

This pako (fern) salad is simple, but its crunchiness and tastiness makes up for its simplicity. And it’s cheap too! Too bad they don’t sell these in our local markets. #boo

Other tasty dishes that we ate but not pictured here were: sinigang na tanigue, crab (I forgot the exact name of the dish, but it had a red, slightly viscous sauce), and grilled tuna belly. My top 3 favorites and highly recommended dishes were the sinigang na tanigue, buttered garlic shrimp, and grilled tuna belly. And just to tell you how hungry I was that night and how good the meals tasted, I consumed 1 cup of white rice. You see, I don’t eat more than 1/3 cup of rice because my stomach bloats easily and unfortunately, it stays that way for some time. I’ve conditioned myself to limit my rice intake since I was 12, but on that particular night in igmaan, I let loose! I’m warning you: if you’re the type that sticks strictly to a  certain diet, DO NOT go to any paluto restaurant. You will surely compromise your commitment. 🙂

After consuming five different viands and two large bowls of white rice (hey, there were five of us), our dining escapade ended with this:

Simot ang plato. In English: Wiped out the plates haha 🙂The dinner was worth the wait. Our financial manager was pleased.

so was his other half and the igmaan waiters. Waiter on the right ftw! 😀

Thank You, Jesus, for my loving family, books, and great food. Thank You for Sundays. 🙂

On Faith and Focus

About two weeks ago, a new show was introduced in the weekend schedule of Fox channel. The program showcased the world’s greatest magicians and tricks that could be mistaken for miracles. I enjoyed watching the pilot episode, albeit several minutes late, because it was a show that needed only my eyes and awe and not my head for analysis (unlike Criminal Minds which followed right after). Magic tricks relieve stress, but when it’s my mind who does the tricking, stress and sin are written all over it.

Most, if not all, of the reasons behind my struggle for the past three months rooted out of erroneous and sometimes utterly repulsive thoughts which turned into beliefs which translated into actions.  Instead of walking in the Spirit day after day, I boarded the roller coaster and braved the loops, plunges, and lifts on my own strength and wisdom. Living with me, you won’t realize all the nasty things going on inside my head because I often kept mum about. I shared a struggle or two to my closest Christian friends and family members, but that tidbit of information was only the cherry on top; layers of sin lay beneath it.

Last Sunday, God spoke to me in a most personal and convicting way. I wasn’t going anywhere in my walk with Him because of two things I lacked: focus and faith. I leaned more on disobeying God rather than doing His will because I did not foster a high view of Him. To me, God was always gracious and forgiving. He is always gracious and forgiving, but He is also righteous and just. He established a rule called “sowing and reaping” through which I shall bear the consequences of my wrong decisions. Through Pastor Peter’s message last Sunday and a rebuking but redemptive quiet time session earlier this morning, God brought me back to basics: faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

– Hebrews 11:6

Faith is a requisite to pleasing God. I did not please God on a regular basis (somehow I was still good) because of my unbelief. Instead of believing God according to what His Word says He is, I formulated an image of God that suited my plans and desires. Dear reader, beware of thinking the same way I did! God simply requires you to believe in Him for Who He says He is–nothing more, nothing less.

The lack of a proper focus also contributed to my aimless living. Your life can really be simplified by sticking to one goal. “Lord, what is this goal? What do you want me to do?” This morning God made me realize that this prayer was an incorrect one. If David knew right on that his predecessor, Saul, would grow jealous of him and hunt him down, would he entrust his life into God’s hands? God sustained him day by day, moment by moment; He revealed His plan on a daily basis as David trusted Him on a daily basis. After realizing the error in my prayer, I asked God for forgiveness and His wisdom and understanding so I could make right decisions today.

Because of my gracious, just, and patient Father, my eyes are opened once again and I am breathing and living on a renewed focus:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

At some point in my tumultuous journey, I discarded setting goals because I thought goals would just add to my confusion. How foolish was my mindset! Why should I quit planning when Father Himself is a Planner? I would be inexistent and condemned if it not for His plan to send His one and only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for my sins. 🙂

If you’re a Christian experiencing “theological confusion” right now, it’s time for you to go back to basics. Believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Humble yourself before your God and ask for His forgiveness, for “He is faithful and just and will forgive all your unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Be completely honest with God; cry out your heart to Him.

“Lord, I’m sick of going through this sin cycle. Help me love You more than I love sin.”

Recommit your life to Him and watch Him work. I know I will. 🙂

To watch the inspiring message last Sunday (it was CCF’s 27th anniversary, by the way!), click this link!

images c/o Outlaw Army and my Tumblr page

Highly Favored

“And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace….The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins….”

– Esther 2:15b-17b, NKJV (emphases added)

I love receiving compliments. My liking of a compliment depends on: 1. who gave it and 2. the level in which it is given. I usually get the best compliments from the people who know me best: my parents, and boy, are they ever good at giving them. 😀

Three months ago I was privileged to host a dear friend’s birthday party. My dad, who is currently teaching himself digital photography, offered to take a few shots of me hosting. Apparently his idea of few was more than 200 photos. 🙂

On our way home, I asked my dad if he could critic my hosting. Parents have a knack of “complimenting” their children because they are their offspring, but my parents do not condone such pretentiousness. They are like magic mirrors which truthfully and gently rebuke the wicked stepmother or praise the amiable Snow White in me. Usually I was in between–a Snow White stepmother–but that night, I acted more like a princess. At least in the way I hosted.

Magaling, magaling. Mas angat ka dun sa kasama mo. Nakakatawa pa.” (You were good, good. You stood out compared to your co-host. And you were funny too)

“Angat” (stand out) stood out of all the words he said. There was something about being excellent superlatively, being cut above the rest. In my heart I thanked God for blessing me with the gift of eloquent speaking. I am also grateful to Him for placing me where I am at this moment in time to develop me holistically. As I dismounted our vehicle that night, my heart swelled with glee over what my dad just told me. For a moment I forgot about his more candid and extrovert other half waiting for us.

I showed mom the photos dad took during the party and asked me questions about the program, my former classmates, and my hosting. After a series of questions she proceeded to commenting on my attire, makeup, the venue–basically everything.

“Ang galing mo na mag make-up, ah. Aba, ang ganda ng dress ng debutante. Next time close your legs!” (You’re good at applying make-up! Wow, how beautiful the debutante’s dress.)

Ladies, close your legs. All. the. time.

Since my dad failed to take a video of me hosting, mom was unable to comment precisely on my beloved skill. Compliments of people thrill me, but nothing gives me more joy than hearing God commend me.  I appreciate my parents’s remarks because they know me well. Therefore it’s just right for me–or anyone else for that matter–to accept as truth what God says I am.

When I read the verses above (first paragraph) earlier this morning, I was awed. The verses gave me more reasons to love and adore Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia, even more. The Bible repeatedly mentioned the words “all” and “more than all the others…” to describe Esther.  Talk about supreme beauty!

How did Esther obtain favor and grace in the sight of all who saw her? How did she earn the king’s favor? Was it because of the 1-year intensive beauty treatment she underwent? The other virgins in the king’s harem underwent treatment, too. I wish the Bible elaborated more on Esther’s life prior to her queen-ship, but later I realized, it need not write additional chapters. I learned an invaluable lesson:

Favor is earned through the working of character being built over time.

Sure some individuals are naturally gifted with some skills or physical traits, but that does not make them favorable to all people. In fact, the more a person knows and believes he is exceptionally gifted or smarter than his peers, the more he would succumb to bossiness and pride.  Esther chose the narrow path of humility; she submitted to the leadership of her guardian and cousin, Mordecai. You can see it all throughout Esther (18th book of the Old Testament). A truly beautiful woman keeps her will and entire being under God’s control not because she’s weak, but because God is stronger and knows what is best ahead of her. Probably the other virgins were bossy over the eunuchs (“assistants”) assigned to them so they were instantly disliked. But not Esther. As an orphan and a captive in a foreign land, she learned how to treat others with respect and dignity. She could have seen and experienced for herself oppression–verbal, physical, or emotional–and so she decided to return the kindness to the people around her no matter how badly they treat her so as not to become like them. Therefore, her Commander-in-Chief openly commended her in His Manual.

I know there wouldn’t be a 67th book in the Bible named after me, but I am more than happy in hearing God commend me as His servant through my fellow servants. 🙂 He accepts me as I am, but I strive to earn His approval so that I “am a worker who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15) I hope that you, too, will choose to be a woman or man approved by God–a person of noble character, highly favored both by God and man. 🙂

The Art of Being A Woman: What I Learned

I, along with thirteen hundred other women, braved the pouring rain and strong wind last Saturday to attend the single women’s conference titled, “The Art of Being  A Woman and Other Lost Virtues,” in CCF St. Francis. True to its title, the conference (or should I say, the God Who orchestrated the conference) helped me rediscover lost virtues that I once upheld and taught me how it is to be a single woman in today’s world. Surprisingly, the first lesson on womanhood I learned not during the 1st topic (which was delivered by none other than Pastor Peter’s other half, Mrs. Deonna Tan-chi), but at home. I awoke an hour earlier than I expected, and every time this occurs, I attribute it to God wanting to say something to me or to do a certain task that required a lot of my time. Instead of bright rays of sunshine illuminating my face, raindrops battering against our windows and opaqueness greeted me. Instinctively, I logged on Facebook to see if the event was cancelled. The administrator, being the optimistic child of God that she is, claimed in a status in the event’s page that the storm will be gone by tomorrow (that is, Saturday morning). To me, this goes to show that God can work mightily even through a heavy storm because He never loses control over nature. Ergo, the event pushed through.

Optimism was not my first lesson, however. That’s just the introduction. Womanhood 101 started when I checked my phone’s messages. A friend and a cousin of mine who registered for the event said that they were prohibited by their mothers to attend the retreat due to Falcon, the typhoon which soared high above Manila’s skyline. These two beautiful ladies happened to be the same girls I’ll be sitting with during the conference; thus I thought twice if I should prohibit myself from attending or not. During those moments that I contemplated whether to go or not go to planned event, I expected my Mom or Dad to peek in and tell me to keep calm and stay home and cancel whatever appointment I set for that day, but on that gloomy Saturday morning,  I was left to decide for myself. Well, not really because I have the Teacher with me. Calmly He introduced lesson #1:

Be careful how you are influenced. Never act upon something without My approval from My Word or my designated people.

The point He impressed upon me was not  in choosing right over wrong, but in choosing the best over what is good. By His  power vested in me through His Holy Spirit, I chose to do what is best for me.

An hour and half later, I was standing with thirteen hundred other women in CCF’s 5th floor auditorium. I’ve never seen the 5th floor so girly, even if it’s only for a day, in my 17-year part-time residence there. Just a few feet away from the elevator located at the “west wing” of the 5th floor, a large Shiseido mirror complete with its array of cosmetics greeted me. Walking further, I saw more advertisements of the different sponsors: San Marino corned tuna, Curves and Boudior Dolls. I knew I was in for a treat.

To say that The Art of Being a Woman Conference was inspirational is an understatement;  it was more than that. Convincing a woman (or at least, a woman in her own feminine eyes) to surrender her entire being to God, saying,

“Lord, whether or not marriage is part of Your game plan for me, I’m all in. Use me as you will,”

is no easy task, but because she was planned long ago by God, the conference spoke and inspired the participants  effectively. That day, I finally understood what the Bible calls “peace that transcends human understanding.” Statements of faith shoot out of the heart unnecessary worries and anxiety it carries.

Talks were divided into 6 parts, namely: The Art of Being a Woman in Today’s World, Pursue True Beauty, Pursue Purity, Pursue Modesty, Pursue Excellence, and Pursue Undivided Attention. Albeit all of the topics pulled my heartstrings and gave me deeper insight on true womanhood, I especially like the topics on purity and undivided attention. Impurity in my thought life has always been one of my toughest struggles. It still is, actually, but lately I am conquering it by God’s grace and power and through Him alone. 🙂 As for undivided attention, it is topic which compelled me to surrender my whole life to God–this time, for real–because I know and believe that He has my best interest at heart.

Here are some of the quotes and statements made by the beautiful women who shared their lives and testimonies, made us all laugh and think, and imparted to us, as well as verses from the Bible. If you are a single and you want to be all that God wants you to be as is, where is, then claim these statements, too! 🙂 God has a great, big, wonderful plan for your life too! 😀

“She [the virtuous woman] puts on strength and honor as if they were her clothes.
She can laugh at the days that are coming.

  • Proverbs 31:25

“If you catch a man with your looks, be prepared to keep him with your looks.”

“Purity has to be planned.”

  • Monique Ong on Pursuing Purity

“True beauty begins with the heart, with a gentle and quiet spirit.”

  • Joy Tan-chi–Mendoza on Pursuing True Beauty

“Being single is not being insignificant, incomplete, or in a holding position. The single life is a beautiful moment characterized by undivided attention to God.”

“GB [God’s Best] is not a guy; it’s a life.

“Spiritual maturity is measured by the span of time it takes one to respond to God.”

  • Cindy Soriano on Pursuing Undivided Attention

“There is no thing better than God’s best. He is your God’s best!”

“If you are not content in your current situation, you are NOT ready to get married.”

“Homosexuality is not a destiny; it’s a choice. You can change.”

  • Deonna Tan-chi on The Art of Being a Woman in Today’s World

“Save your beautiful body for one man!”

“Men want to see the good you do and say.”

  • Jenny Tan-chi on Pursuing Modesty

“When it comes to character, focus on your weaknesses, but when it comes to talents and skills, focus on your strengths.”

“The key to excellence is to have a full partnership with Jesus Christ.”

  • Cata De Jesus on Pursuing Excellence

🙂 Part 2 of Womanhood 101, the conference, and how I translated these priceless lessons into action shall come soon.

More stuff from my notes and Patrick Nuo’s “Beautiful”