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”

“How Can I Give You Up?”

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it can be personalized. Albeit unknown to many, God’s Word is His love letter to man. 🙂 Even if a verse, chapter, or book was written to a specific person or people, God’s words still apply to people today because it’s the only truth that will last forever.

” The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

– Psalm 119:160

“ All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

– 1 Peter 1:24-25

My quiet time this morning left me in awe of God’s amazing love. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but I had to, because it is the truth. This is the personalized version:

 “ I taught Jenny to walk,
Taking her by her arms;
But she did not know that I healed her.
  I drew her with gentle cords,
      With bands of love, 
And I was to her as those who take the yoke from her neck.
I stooped and fed her.

How can I give you up, Jenny? 
      How can I hand you over, Jennifer Grace? 
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.”

– Daddy God (Hosea 11:3-4, 8)

If you are a child of God, claim these verses!! God can’t and won’t give you up no matter how bad you get. However, God is also just. He cannot let your sin go unpunished. As a Father, He will discipline you when you do wrong.

“For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

– Hebrews 12:6

God’s love has no threshold, but His patience does. Don’t abuse it.

I’m sure you will agree that it feels good to know you’re loved–really, actually. This feeling, which actually transcends feelings, is amazing! 🙂 Thank You, Jesus.

 

Let Go and Let God Transform You!

Transformation.

It’s a long word–heavy, even–but I believe it’s what most of us really want. When people say they want to “change,” they actually mean transformation. It’s just that we don’t want to risk our temporary comforts and luxuries for the eternal treasures that lay ahead. Change will only do so much: make a house sparkling clean, slim down a bulging waistline,  bring a broken family together. What does it take to keep a house sparkling clean, lead a family from togetherness to forgiveness and patience and empower a person to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Transformation. Even better than that: heart transformation. 

Last week, I was in “change” mode. The intense house cleaning and cooking made me giddy and on my toes and thankful to God for giving me the break from idleness which I really needed and wanted. All of the meals I prepared (except for the banana-custard layered dessert, unfortunately) were well received and consumed. 🙂 I worked out everyday, ate less and picked healthier gastronomic choices. I bonded with family and friends and enjoyed our fellowships. At the end of each day, I felt good, relaxed and fulfilled.

I can still feel the joy, relaxation and fulfillment hard work brings, but I know that these feelings won’t last. I won’t be surprised when I will post songs on keeping strong and not giving up and fangirl photos to shove the stress away. That’s just a phase. The whole roller-coaster adventure is just a fraction of the entire transformation process. I just have to muster my courage and say, “You signed up for this. He’s got your back, don’t worry.” He’s not done with me yet. 🙂

Wherever you are in your life right now–seven and clueless; seventeen (like me) and somehow confused; twenty-seven and happily married; forty-seven and thinking of giving up; eighty-seven and frail–transformation is possible for you. It is indeed a costly feat, but surely invaluable! Enough with temporal and secular gratification! Let’s throw hedonism out of the window. I think we’ve had enough in the world’s buffet table; we’ve had way too much disappointment, pain and anguish to put up with.

Transformation begins with a T: TRUST. Godly transformation feeds on the tested, proven and tried promises of God. 🙂 Don’t give up! Stay strong!

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”

– 2 Chronicles 20:17

Let Go and let GOD. Let His transformation of you take place. Now. 🙂

\”I\’m Letting Go\” by Francesca Battistelli