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!”

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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) 

You are Insignificant but Dearly Loved

What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Three weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday in one of my favorite cities: New York City.

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My Dad, brothers, uncle, and I went to Liberty Island and paid Lady Liberty a visit. She was still as beautiful as when I first laid eyes on her three years ago. Actually, I thought she was even more beautiful that day when I saw her again. The weather was perfect–sunny but not hot, cool wind breezing through our faces, and just about the right levelof humidity, so we did not sweat. When you’re in New York, sweating concerned me because we walked a lot; I didn’t want to smell and look haggard in photos!

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During my birthday, I felt like I had the right to be treated specially; after all, it was my day. So when I did not get what I wanted exactly the way I wanted, I played bratinella inside. On our way back to Manhattan from Liberty Island, I told Dad I did not want to sit at the top of the boat because it was hot and I did not want to tan. Dad insisted we sit at the top since it was windy and the view was spectacular. I complained and tried to convince him out of it, but when his tone marked a sense of disappointment, I quit nagging and complied with his request. As I took my seat and saw the water around me, I realized my Dad was right. This was way better. I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong, so I shut up the rest of the trip . Strike one.

When we returned to Manhattan, we walked from Battery Park to Madame Tussaud’s near Times Square, where we waited for our bus that would take us to different key destinations. It was half past seven, and we were really hungry. The original plan was we would meet our other family members at Macy’s and then eat at a restaurant. However, Dad had to change the plan because he couldn’t walk anymore; his foot ached. Instead of meeting at Macy’s, we would just meet at Grand Central Terminal near our hotel.  The five of us went to Grand Central and bought dinner.

Below the main terminal, there was a food court. I wanted to eat something Asian–like rice or noodles–and have a small cake afterwards for my Dad and I to blow since it was his birthday the next day. However, Dad insisted we buy pizza. Pizza?! But I want Asian. Ugh, why doesn’t he let me get what I want? It’s so annoying. I just told myself I should be grateful I had food to eat. Strike two.

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The following day it was my Dad’s birthday. We explored other parts of Manhattan, and towards the evening we went to Koreatown and ate Korean food. My craving for Asian food was finally satisfied!

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That evening as I lay in bed, I realized my heart was full of spiritual toxins. Yes, I was having a great time exploring and enjoying the city, but inside I felt rotten. I complained a lot; I was very ungrateful, and not to mention, disrespectful. I hated myself. Frankly, the past few weeks during that month, I wasn’t doing my quiet time with the Lord consistently, and if I did, was really distracted. I’d rather log on Instagram and Facebook or hang out with my family. I lost intimacy with my Best Friend. It killed me inside. I cried that night, and before I closed my eyes and slept I told myself I’d spend my last day in New York with Jesus, even for just an hour or two. I set my alarm at 8:30 the next day, Mother’s Day, so that I can go off by myself.

The following morning, I woke up energized and prepared quickly to have my alone time. Our hotel was really near the New York Public Library along 5th Avenue at 42nd St, but the building I wanted to visit, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, opened at 1 PM, so I stayed at the Mid-Manhattan Library, just across the street from Schwarzman. Because the library opened at 10, I decided to go to Bryant Park first.

 As I was walking to Bryant Park, I prayed silently and asked God to speak to me. I wanted to hear Him and to help me change my stinky attitude. As usual, I saw a lot of people. Ever different, and some, ever weird. When I saw homeless people begging outside restaurants and shops, I told the Lord: “Lord, You must love them, too, don’t you?” He did not reply because I already knew the answer. I walked some more, and this time, I noticed the building towering above me.  I’ve never felt so small and so ‘1-in-a-million’ in my life. When I reached Bryant Park, God still wasn’t speaking. When I went inside the Mid-Manhattan Library, still n0 word from Him. Unfortunately, my solo adventure was cut short when my Mom called me to return to the hotel. She called at around 10:30 AM. I walked as briskly as I could because I thought the check-out time was at 12, and I still had to fix some things in our room!

When I got to the hotel, Mom told me the check-out time in our hotel was at 3 PM. Dang, I should have stayed longer. Then I had a better idea! “Mom, can I go to the NYPL at 1? The building I want to go to opens at 1. Pleeaaaase.”

“Sure, just be back quickly.” I felt so happy! I grabbed my backpack and zoomed out of the room. This time, I ran (when I could). I had to get inside the library no matter what.

When I got there, I was not disappointed. The place was so beautiful! I really wished our public libraries in Manila were just as beautiful and well-kept. I was amazed by the details of the architecture and the grandeur of the whole place! I didn’t have much time to look around much less read, so I feasted on whatever my eyes could lay on and took photos at the interesting spots. After 15 minutes, my Dad called me and told me to go back to the hotel. I was a bit dismayed, but at least I was happy.

As I walked hurriedly back to the hotel, that’s when God spoke to me. What He said was a slap on the face but a breath of fresh air at the same time. Only God can do that to me.

Jenny,

You are proud, and that is why you feel My disappointment. You’ve been focusing on yourself again, making yourself an idol. You rely on your feelings, choosing whatever you feel like doing, instead of obeying My commandments. My commandments are meant to protect you, not harm you! Your parents love you, and you should obey them because through your obedience, I will bless you. 

You want people to pay attention to you, so you get disappointed when your posts don’t get much likes or your friends don’t chat with you online. Well guess what: you are insignificant! Your existence does not make or break the world. Intelligent as you may be, you are puny. There are so many people around you, and your existence does not control theirs.

Yet, I love you. I love you so, so much.

I love you so much I consider you important and worth dying for. When I hung on the cross, I thought of you. I wanted you to be happy, to be intimate with Me, and to enjoy Me and the blessings that come with our relationship. I thought of this adventure of yours, and I wanted it to be as TALAMazing as possible–not because you’re good, but because I’m good. Yes, your existence does not make the world go round, but I am more than willing to risk My life just to save you–and I did.

Will you Trust Me? Will you stop running away from My plan and start running towards it? You made mistakes, and I forgive you. I do not condemn you.

I love you, child. Come home.

Love,

your Heavenly Father

I had no words for that response, only tears. As I walked back to the hotel, I couldn’t do anything but just confess my sin and weaknesses to God and humbly receive His love. What an awesome God! I began thanking Him for everything–that I existed, our family’s complete, we’re enjoying this vacation, our safety, the good weather, this dream come true…and so on! 🙂

This is what I truly loved about New York: I saw my smallness and insignificance. I realized how great, awesome, and loving God was. I started growing up. I fell in love with Jesus again. I learned that the antidote to pride is not denial or a change in behavior, but an inward transformation brought about by a deep conviction of one’s insignificance and need for surrender to the living God.

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Dear human being, you are highly insignificant, but you are dearly loved. God loves you and me! He wants all of us to experience our own amazing adventures because He is amazing! The first step we have to take is not to try to be good, but to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do it on our own. That we have messed up. That we want Him, and we trust Him because He knows best. Then He’ll come to our rescue. He’ll steal the show. He’ll set things straight. At the end of the day, all we’ll be able to say is: “God, thank You. Who am I, O sovereign LORD, that You care for me?” We will be grateful and not complain. We will praise the LORD and forget not all His benefits! 🙂

Take The Plunge!

The most thrilling part of my TALAMazing adventure happened exactly five weeks ago, when I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain–for the very first time!

With the squad! (L-R) Jared, Josh, me, Eivo, Sheliz, and Clarisse

I first heard of Six Flags Magic Mountain through my childhood best friend, Deuel. He and I absolutely loved roller coasters! After he let me watch his DVD about Six Flags, I knew I had to go there. So when my cousin, Jared, invited me to celebrate his 21st birthday there last April, I did not hesitate!

My brother, two of our friends from Manila, and their cousin joined the group, so there were six of us. Of the six in our group, I was the most nervous. Although I’m used to riding roller coasters, I always got nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. What if the screws weren’t in place? What if I throw up after? What if I can’t handle it? I asked the group if we can ride the not-so-extreme rides first for a “warm up.” Thankfully, they agreed, so the first ride we went on was the Revolution. (Yes, that’s the least extreme thrill ride there, at least in my opinion)

When we got out of Revolution, one of our friends, Sheliz, encouraged all of us to ride Tatsu next.

Flying at 62 miles per hour, the 263-feet high Tatsu made us feel like we were flying, and it wasn’t because of the speed. Once the belts on our upper body and feet were securely fastened , our seats moved so that we faced the ground. So throughout the ride, there was nothing between us and the ground! Before the ride started, I asked my friends, Sheliz and Eivo, who have been to the ride before, if anyone died as a result of falling from this ride. They laughed at me and told me to enjoy the ride. Gulp

When the ride started, I prayed and kept muttering “oh my God” while at the same time expecting that I’ll have the best time of my life. About five seconds after lift off, the ride zoomed, and all I can remember was me screaming like crazy with eyes half shut. Two minutes after the ride, I was so eager to do it all again.

I knew Tatsu wasn’t the craziest ride there. Unfortunately due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to ride all the thrill rides, but I rode the ride that stuck in my head when I first learned about Magic Mountain seven years ago: Superman.

13 wannabe superheroes were shot up 415 feet at 100 miles per hour–in reverse. I wasn’t so sure if Lois Lane had the same experience, but as for me, it was exhilarating! Out of all the rides I tried that day, it was the most surprising.

When it was our turn to take our seats, I sat next to Sheliz and two strangers. Behind me sat the other members of our squad. Eivo and I were comforting each other and expressing our nervousness. As the Six Flags crew were adjusting our seat belts, I talked to the girl beside me.  I asked her: “Is it your first time?”

“Yes it is. I’m so nervous—AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!”

While we were talking, the ride suddenly accelerated from 0 mph to 100 mph!! We were even faster than the allowed speed limit on the freeway! I felt as if my heart left the ground. When the ride finally reached the top, it stopped for about 3 seconds, then zoomed back down! Clearly there was no kryptonite around. Surprisingly, when we got back to the base, I felt really good and bitin (the ride could have been more thrilling, perhaps if it was longer). Nonetheless, after the ride, I was so proud of myself for conquering Superman!

But wait! There’s more!

Before closing time, my cousin pushed us all to go on the ride beside Superman–Lex Luthor’s Drop of Doom!

The ride to the top was the longest 90 seconds of my life. An up-and-down drop kind of ride thrills me even more than loops because of the butterflies it produces in my stomach–about 10,000o of them!!

After blast off, Luthor’s steel engines gradually lifted us up, up, up, up….waaay up. If I wasn’t so scared, I would have admired the gorgeous view of Valencia, California, but as the name of the ride, suggested , I prepared myself to face my doom. When we got to the top, the ride stopped, allowing us to enjoy the scene. I think my friends enjoyed the view–I was too busy closing my eyes and taking deep breaths–then ZOOOOM! We went down 400 feet at 85 mph!!

As our time in Magic Mountain came to a close, I felt adrenaline rushing through my veins. I felt like I could conquer anything! Space Mountain in Disneyland and Jurassic World in Universal Studios were nothing. Because I conquered my fears, I knew I had the courage to face even faster, higher, and more thrilling roller coasters (yes, there are more extreme rides. Crazy, I know!)

Days after our Magic Mountain experience, the thrill died down and I reflected on what I went through. Here’s what I realized: Faith plays a major role in our daily lives. Without faith, we won’t be able to really live because we’ll doubt everything! You’d always think twice: whether you should sit on your chair or not, eat the burger you bought from McDonald’s, drive your car, and so on. It takes a whole lot of faith to ride on a roller coaster. I remember asking my friends repeatedly throughout our trip: “Are these seat belts really fastened? Is this safe? Has anyone died from riding this ride?” When I lined up for the rides and took my seat, I placed my faith on the guys who built the ride, the screws, bars, and all the materials they used to build it, and the word of the crew that I was going to have one heck of a ride! My faith is only as strong as its object, and seeing the rides and reading about it, I figured, the steel supporting me were pretty sturdy.

Having a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus is very much like riding a roller coaster. You get nervous because you know there are so many exciting things to expect–both positive and negative–but you also know that this ride is going to be worth it. So worth it. He promised you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) I will never leave you or forsake you! (Hebrews 13:5) If you believe in the LORD Jesus, you will be saved. You will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).” You have all these promises (and more), and then you trust that He will take care of you. Your faith is as strong as its object–the King of Kings and sovereign Creator of the universe. When you decided you’d take the ride, you hop on, fasten your seat belt, and wait to see what He will do.

In the nine years that I’ve been on this ride with Jesus, there are ups and downs–times of joy, times of grief, and times of just…meh. Even if I’ve been a Christian for a long time, God still invites me to take the plunge because as I advance, God places me in “more thrilling” rides, so to speak, that would require me to take another leap of faith. Sometimes God will take you places or allow you to undergo circumstances wherein you feel like you’re too inexperienced to face. Well guess what? That experience is training in itself! He wants you to exercise faith in Him through your obedience. Abraham did not have experience killing kids when God commanded Him to offer Isaac. I believe experience is not the best teacher; God is.

Are you experiencing difficulty right now? Do you feel as if God is making you ride a roller coaster with deep plunges and countless loops and you feel like backing out? Don’t worry! Jesus is beside you in this ride. He promised not only to help you, but to actually be with you (Joshua 1:9). To hold your hand (Isaiah 41:13). To never give up on you (Hosea 11:8). Above all, to love you forever and ever.

Once you’ve conquered this roller coaster, and you’d look back, you’d be able to say: “I conquered this, by God’s grace! What else can I not conquer through Him?!” As Romans 8:37 says: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” 

So once you’re on a ride, buckle up, take a deep breath filled with overflowing faith, and take the plunge!

Conqueror!
Conqueror!

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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! 🙂

 

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! 🙂 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. 🙂

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lunch date with my Dad after enrollment. I AM ENROLLED! 🙂 Thanks Dad!
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first time to have my hair curled! 🙂 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
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a beautiful butterfly posing in our bamboo tree! 🙂 the wings are so beautiful 😉