Reflections: Present Love for Future Joy

Earlier today, our pastor preached on re-igniting our love for Christ and others. He shared how he asked his golf mates to show him some tips & tricks, which eventually made him win. One of them told our pastor why he did it: “kung saan ka masaya.” He meant that he sacrificed his winning streak because he wanted our pastor to be happy.

I reflected on that phrase: “kung saan ka masaya” / where you will be happy. Sometimes making people happy means giving them what they truly desire with an immediate positive result, like the excitement one feels when he receives the item on his wishlist. But many times, true love demands doing the uncomfortable & inconvenient, the results of which take time: like waking up at 3 AM to feed a hungry baby. Resigning from a dream career to invest more time with the kids. Respecting an unreasonable parent. Confronting someone with the truth that could rock the relationship. Many times, true happiness & lasting joy is preceded by sacrifice & inconvenience. Many times, our acts of love do not always have immediate, pretty results, yet we must do them because we want the beloved to experience true joy in the future. My parents disciplined/spanked me then so that I can reap the joy of good character & behavior today.

Kung saan ka liligaya” —a Tagalog phrase that roughly translates: “where you will (eventually) be joyful.” Love that is both present & future. “I love you, and because I love you I seek your present & future good even if it means sacrifice on my part.” That’s what Jesus demonstrated when He hung on the cross. He humbled Himself because of the joy set before Him. He loved sinners because of the joy set before Him—the joy of seeing His beloved reconciled to Him, no longer plagued by sin.

This is how we know we truly love: when we don’t just seek the temporary happiness of a person, but their true, lasting joy both now and in the future. Kahit na masakit, mahirap, o matagal. Kung saan ka liligaya. Where you will eventually, by God’s grace, revel in joy.

How Migration Deepened my Faith

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

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

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

The Honeymoon Phase

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

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

Moving From Known to Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith in the God Who Knows

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

When the Once-Was-Lost Guides the Lost 

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

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

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

January 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah that’s right!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Follow Your Heart; Guard It!

June 17, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the timing is not perfect!

your intro sucks. Change it!

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

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

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

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! 🙂

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

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 “we’re leaving.” Our relatives who were also petitioned thought the same way. That’s 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’), 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—His plans, His motives, and His timing. If there’s 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’s now, and I won’t 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’t too young to require extra attention, so they can be relied on to do chores at home (plus they’re really good boys so my parents never have to worry). By God’s 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—stay 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’s visiting the East Coast: New York, Chicago, D.C.—all 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:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” – 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 “on time,” God had His own version of “on time,” 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—a journey we call the TALAMazing adventure.

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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! 🙂

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) 😀

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cha2O

dennys

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Meet my beautiful and adorable niece, Kenna!

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