Life Moves in Stages, so Don’t be in Such a Hurry!

What if things happened instantaneously? Let’s say I wanted to make banana bread. What if, after preparing the correct measurements and portions of the ingredients and mixing it all up, the bread magically appeared before me? Or what if I arrived at a certain country, expecting to have a job, then after sending out resumes, I immediately get calls and offers from various companies? Oops that sounded too real. Actually, it is. You can tell that I’m not a very big fan of waiting and waiting patiently.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was (and still am) waiting for a job after sending more than a dozen resumes to various companies. During this period of waiting, thankfully, I haven’t been much of a couch potato. However, after all the people in the house have gone to work and I am left alone, I wonder: when will I ever get to work and earn money? LORD, how long must I wait?

One of the grave effects of the Fall of man was the sudden default setting of the human mind to think ill of God’s intentions and grow impatient during a period of prolonged waiting. Whatever it is you’re waiting for–a knight in shining armor, damsel in distress, a job, healing, or financial breakthrough, you despise the fact that you have to wait. (If you don’t, please teach us antsy, anxious beings your secrets!)

To be fair, I have been enjoying my prolonged (excess) hours of sleeping, reading, and writing that would have otherwise spent on working. It is during these quiet and calm moments where God is teaching me more about Him. I have been studying the book of Exodus during my personal quiet time, and one day, I read Exodus 17. The first verse immediately caught my attention:

“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.” (Exodus 17:1, NASB)

Two words caught my attention: by stages. The Israelite exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land did not happen overnight. In fact, it took them forty years to reach the place! More than the length of the journey, it was the word “stages” that captured my attention. God did not rush their growth. He led them by the hand, one step at a time. In this chapter, during that particular stage, water, an important and valuable necessity, was cut out.

Imagine the scenario. 2.5 to 3.5 million people travelling on foot with their children, goods and animals, setting up their tents and temporary shelters in a wilderness–a barren expanse of land. These were the people who crossed the Red Sea on dry land. These were the people who witnessed the plagues and the Passover and emerged from the plagued country of Egypt unharmed and wealthy (because they looted their Egyptian neighbors). Perhaps when they arrived at Rephidim, there was still water inside their jugs and pots, but after a few days, they quickly ran out. Perhaps they waited for a source of water to be discovered, but there was none. So these former slaves and now freed men went up to their humble leader, Moses, and quarreled against him, grumbling and complaining. “Why did you take us out of Egypt to kills us and our kids and animals with thirst?!” I felt hurt for Moses and for the LORD while reading these accusatory remarks. They could have just come up to Moses and asked him to pray to God for water. Why did they have to think evil of him? Why did they have to question God’s goodness and love for them?

As I meditated on these verses, I grew disgusted, not at the Israelites, but at myself. I did the same thing to Jesus by complaining and grumbling for not giving me a job during this stage in my life. I was so eager to move to stage ten, but He is still working on me at stage three. I wrote verse 1 according to my present circumstance so I could get a clearer idea of God’s message to me that morning:

“Then [Jenny] journeyed by stages from the city of Metro Manila according to the command of the LORD, and camped at North Hollywood, and there was no job for her to take…yet.”

The LORD already planned a means to provide water for Israel, but His timing differed from theirs. God has already planned to give me a source of income, but His timing differed from mine. If I claim Him to be my Lord as I said He is, then I should trust His timing.I confessed my sin to the LORD that day, for questioning His goodness and love for me. Every evil act and response is founded a wrong belief and view of the living God. I did not truly believe that God wanted what was best for me. I did not understand that God’s ways are higher than mine, and that He chose to work in stages.

If you think about it, life works and moves through stages. Sitting on a chair happens in stages: first you approach the chair (or get one), place it on solid ground or pull it out, bend your knees, place your buttocks on the seat, and lean comfortably. The same goes for the hundred other ordinary things we do out of habit and thousands of experiences we go through in our lifetime.Every stage begins and ends according to the will of God. Indeed they end, even if they seem like forever.

My stage of waiting for a job will eventually be over because God intends that I work. The ideal scenario is that as we move from one stage to the next, we become better individuals, and for the child of God, resembling Christ more and more.

As I contemplate on the idea of God working in stages, I picture a stage Father. In the theater of life, He is the Father who not only cheers for us in the seats, but also directs, designs our costumes, provides the props, writes the script, and does my make-up. He’s the only control freak I trust because He sees everything and does everything perfectly. Most importantly, everything, absolutely every single thing that He does is done out of His love for me and for everyone He created.How are you responding to the challenges you currently face in this stage of your life? Know that behind every act of God towards you, no matter how undesirable it may seem, is an act of love. Trust Him in this stage. He is bringing you to the Promised Land.

2016: The Year of Moving On

In a short while, we will kiss 2015 goodbye and say hello to 2016. How does this make you feel? Are you overcome by excitement, paralyzed by uncertainty and fear, or discouraged by last year’s performance? Personally, I feel all three. Somehow in my jungle heart, all three emotions found room.

 

describe 2015 in 1 phrase

 

How would you describe your 2015, in one phrase? Share it with me on the comments below! Here’s my phrase: breaking up. I broke up with the life I used to love.

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In April 2015, I entered the United States as a permanent resident. Although I did not stay permanently yet at that time, that move opened the door to a more permanent move later. This move wasn’t painful at all, as my family and I were on vacation. They say time flies quickly when you’re having fun, and I couldn’t agree more because those two months felt like one! (Check out this post for more details on that vacay)

When I returned to Manila two months later, I moved from high school degree-holder to a bachelor’s degree-holder. I actually graduated, can you believe it?! Graduation gave me mixed feelings: eager anticipation at all the hours I can spend on my hobbies; dread at not finding a job; and discouragement, if the job hunting would take too long and I’ll have to spend my days as a bum. Before I got my first job, I thought my days and weeks would be spent in nothingness; however they were actually productive! I volunteered to build our youth ministry’s marketing and host the weekly service. At home I developed my cleaning and cooking skills and mastered the ability to sleep two times a day. My lifestyle shifted from erratic to slow-paced and regimented. Again, it was mostly a positive move, a pleasurable change.

By late September, I landed my first job. The change from unemployed to employed brought about another lifestyle change: from active to sedentary, as my work was 95% desk work. Nonetheless, I felt useful again. The terms, processes, ideas, and information that I stressed over back in college, made sense and felt easier to me. The best part is, I earned money! My salary wasn’t large enough to make me financially independent, but enough to fund my weekend excursions and some wants. 😀

After I resigned from my first ad agency stint two months later, I only had five days left before I changed address permanently. Five days! Change happened so fast, I felt like my life was a movie on fast forward. My schedule during those five days revolved around two things: packing my whole life and saying goodbye. I ate out with friends, mostly from church, and spent my “last days” reminiscing, taking photos, and receiving prayers and advice. Fixing my room gave me a mild case of sepanx (separation anxiety), especially on the day of my departure when I saw it mostly bare. Surprisingly, I did not cry. Perhaps things happened too quickly, there was no time left to cry. Haha :p In retrospect, these changes prepared me for the greatest move of all.

sepanx because of these people (plus more who are not in these photos huhu), our house, and my room

In November 25, 2015, my grandmother and I changed our home addresses. We moved to the United States to live there (here) permanently. Because my brothers had to finish school requirements, they, together with our parents, delayed their trip here. Again, another change, another move for me: it was my first time to be away from my family for an extended period of time, and from my friends and the places I’m familiar for an even longer period of time.

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If you knew me well, you’d know that I’m a careful and organized planner–not necessarily OC, but I dislike change and abruptness. If you want me to attend your party or event, you have to let me know three to six days in advance because a) it takes my parents that long to make a decision and b) I plan my schedule in advance so if you tell me too soon, I mostly have something to do already. Prior to migrating to the US, I only changed address once and schools four times (from preschool to university). Permanence is my preferred option. If I’ve gotten used to something, I’d rather stay there. (With food and leisure travel as the only exceptions!) So when the Lord told me to not only leave my house, but my country, my continent, and the friends I made, I was dismayed. I grew despondent when I thought of the idea of starting from scratch: making new friends, looking for a new house, moving from one apartment to another, learning the new roads and landmarks, and everything else that goes with migration.

I was so in love with my life in the Philippines that when I got here to the United States, I had to break up with it. For about a month, it was quite a struggle especially since I spent a quarter of my day online where most of my friends post about the latest happenings. Fear gnawed my resolve to begin anew. What will people think of me here? What if I can’t blend in and make any friends? What if I can’t be as home as I was in Manila? I grew desperate over my “ex”, who, although it helped me become a better person, wasn’t “the one” for me (or at least, not now).

Moving on is terrifying. You’re probably moving on from a breakup or some other life change right now. I kinda know how you feel because I know what it’s like to love someone (or in my case, something), only to realize later on that you have to part with it. God usually does that to His best disciples. Do you know why? During one of my devotions, the Lord inspired me with a powerful truth: Jenny, do you love Me or your experience of Me? As I struggled with this question, major figures in the Bible came to mind: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself. What was their common denominator? They all migrated from someplace to someplace else! Moving to another place and moving on is a test of faith on so many levels; it challenges your beliefs about God, His reality in your life, and if your faith is really as strong as you say it is. Moving taught me that my salvation in Christ Jesus was and is the only permanence I can hold on to in this life; everything else is temporary.

Last year, God told me at the start of the year that He was writing my story and that it was beautiful. He continues to write the chapters as my story moves on. For 2016, I will let go of the fear of moving on, and by faith, earnestly expect God to “work and to will His good pleasure” as I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” My greatest fear was to remain as I am without changing because I know I have so much left to improve! God is patient, gracious, and faithful. He will finish what He started.

This 2016, I pray that you, too, will continue to move forward; and if you must move on from something or someone that you held on to the past year, may you find the courage and the strength to do so. This next year will be a fresh start for all of us.

A blessed, joyful, and awesome 2016 to you, fellow earthling! 🙂

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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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.

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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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dennys

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Meet my beautiful and adorable niece, Kenna!

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