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! 🙂

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!

He’s Writing Your Story, and It Is Beautiful

Happy new year earthlings!

This year, I commit to blogging more regularly. One of my mistakes last year was procrastinating and giving in to laziness. At times I really was busy and tired from finishing school requirements, but I knew deep in my heart that I could have updated my blog regularly. For that, I am truly sorry (especially to those who said they followed the blog). I still have to ask extra patience and grace from you guys because I am in my last stretch of my college education. In a few months’ time, I shall graduate! Finally! 🙂 I’ll do my best to write, and that means not using laziness as an excuse. 😉

The first four days of January have been splendid for me and my family. We enjoyed an out-of-town trip with some relatives in what I call the Philippines’ “Chicago:” Tagaytay City. At least at this time of the year it is. You would have thought you traveled to another country because of the sudden temperature drop. We all wore jackets and even bought ourselves hats to cover our ears, because we couldn’t take in the cold! Nonetheless, we had so much fun! We ate hot bulalo and sipped hot chocolate to warm ourselves. This trip had been my most enjoyable trip to Tagaytay in my entire life (so far). I’m glad I spent it with the people I love the most.  Here are some of our photos from our 2-day roadtrip!

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Aside from the amazing view, delicious food, cool weather, and great company, perhaps the greatest blessing I received during this trip was hearing the voice of God speak to me.

During the early morning of our second day, I sat outside the terrace of our room, which overlooked the Taal Lake. The cool and clean Tagaytay winds brushed against my face, while the sun tempered the coolness with its warming rays. The passage I read that morning was Psalm 146, a beautiful psalm! After reading my Bible and journaling, I stood from my seat and stood still, gazing at the dormant volcanoes and vast lake across me. As I gazed upon my surroundings, I marveled at how beautiful they all were! Right there, while I gazed and beheld His marvelous work, my Creator, my Lover and Lord, Who couldn’t have picked a better spot, spoke His beautiful promise to me.

I will write your beautiful story, Jenny.

“If I can make beauty out of these volcanoes which cannot praise Me and love Me…, how much more can I make beautiful stories out of your life?”

These words left a deep mark in my heart and soul  after what I’ve been through last year.

In 2014, II struggled with accepting my God-given beauty, both inside and out.  There were days, many of them, when I woke up, stared at my reflection in the mirror, and told the girl who faced me: “You’re so unattractive. Kadiri. (Eww) Where has your beauty gone?”

I feasted on lies for breakfast, sometimes for lunch and dinner, too, which left me discouraged and more poised to sin. Sometimes when I wore extra make-up on or had a good night’s sleep (which I didn’t have often), I felt extra confident and was able to shun the lies . When I made poor decisions and failed in my endeavors, I went back to sulking and feeling hopeless and pessimistic.

Why did you do that? You’re so lazy. They’ll hate you now. Or at least give you a low grade. What will your parents think? You’re not setting a good example to your girls. No guy will ever want you. 

Some of these statements had some truth in them, but they weren’t the truth I wanted, or even needed, to hear. And so I lived many days of my 2014 with these discouragements (and a host of others) clouding my mind. They affected my response to situations, particularly in class where I “joked” about my ideas because I feared being turned down by people. One instance stood out.

It was during one of our sessions for copywriting and art direction class. Our professor, Ms. C., (let’s just call her that) divided us into groups and assigned products & brands for each group. Our group of three girls were assigned Belvita, a brand of breakfast biscuits that promises four hours of sustained energy in the morning. The assignment (to be completed in class) was to create a unique, creative, and targeted concept that would guide a campaign for our assigned brand. Ms. C gave us about an hour to come up with an idea and translate it on paper, but our group wasn’t able to come up with anything! When she dismissed the class, my group mates and I approached her table and asked if we could just email her our idea over the weekend.

“No, you can think of one now.”

One my group mates told me to just tell her one of the ideas I thought of. Reluctantly, I told her my idea.

“The concept of sustained energy is to use famous superheroes, like Superman, and we’ll say that adults can feel energetic like their favorite superheroes with Belvita biscuits. Joke lang yun (that’s just a joke).” And as soon as I said “joke,” Ms. C blurted out to me:

“Joke?! Stop saying joke!”

Ms. C startled me. Her tone was not mad, but it was firm and critical. She looked straight into my eyes. “See, that’s a good idea! Why did you say ‘joke?’ You say ‘joke’ when you think your idea is not good enough because you’re afraid people will shut you down. Don’t be insecure, Jenny! Don’t be afraid to say your ideas because often times the crazy ones are the ones that get chosen. Stop saying ‘joke.’ Say it! You’re killing your own idea when you say ‘joke.’ Who cares if they laugh at you?”

The cat was out of the hat.

That was when I realized my “jokes” weren’t funny at all, and that staying this way–insecure, pessimistic, hopeless–was downright foolish and sinful. Why was I allowing my past to define me when God already said: “leave the past behind, look forward to what lies ahead?” Blogger Phylicia said it well: “God isn’t your past as His outline for your future, and neither should you.”

God promised me that morning, on the second day of January, that He was going to write my story, and it’s going to be beautiful. However, He did not promise a bed of roses. In fact, as I looked at my surroundings, I imagined what it must have been like before these things came into being. A carpenter or two hammered the nails on to the walls. Someone bought white paint while another painted. The owner or owners bought the decors and perhaps hired another person to design the place. Even the lake had to be maintained by the authorities. In other words, beauty will require work–toil, sweat, tears, maybe even blood if it’s necessary. Beauty is both a gift and a responsibility. I’ll do my part, and God will do His.

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When God writes the stories of His children who remain faithful to Him, the endings are always happy. So with all the mess you’ve been through the past year, do you think your story will end up a failure? God brought you this far for a reason. He’s not finished with you yet! Whatever took place in your life the previous year are now threads of history which He will use to weave your destiny and character in accordance to His greater story. The antagonists will play their part, but remember that there is nothing and no one too hard that God cannot overcome. Failure is not final. You have to obey God’s plan for your life and trust that He will create something beautiful out of it, because He can, He wants to, and He will.

Will you trust and obey?

Beauty is calling out out to you.

He is calling out to you.

Perfection-er

In my previous post, I talked about feeling quite depressed over my lack of inactivity and my feeling of uselessness, as I stayed home in most days. Turned out I was just bored and that I needed to change my perspective and attitude. God was preparing me for something bigger, better, and busier.

Last week, I started school. (I can’t believe I’m already in my senior year!) I knew that over the next ten months, I would be needing a lot of strength, wisdom, and grace because not only was I going to be busy, but I was going to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged. Thus, on the eve of my first day of school, I posted a status on my Facebook account:

statusI didn’t realize these verses would be applied immediately, on the first week of school! God immediately granted my desire for useful activity, and oh, how much responsibilities He gave me! Firstly, the requirements for my majors (which comprise all of my subjects this semester) required intense, long hours of reading, reading, reading, reading…did I mention reading? Secondly, God revived His movement in my campus and specifically told me to be part of its core team when our youth pastor, Kuya Marty, told me to contact everyone and set a meeting. Then a friend of mine from a department in our youth ministry, ELEVATE, informed me that both of us were made admins of the host team. Add to that my commitment to meet two girls in school for Bible study, plus my own Dgroup upline (i.e., the group I attend for my personal “spiritual feeding and nourishment”), blogging, and Sunday School ministry. My hands and my plate were (at least from my point of view) overflowing with tasks!

At first I feared taking all these responsibilities (and until now I’m still praying and asking God if He can, if He will, put some on hold) because I feared not being able to juggle all of these with the growing demand in school, which was my primary ministry. Earlier this afternoon in our school chapel, this fear of incompetence and failure gnawed at me again. After my last class, I headed to the chapel to pray and have my quiet time because I wasn’t able to do so in the morning. I started thanking God about the fun day I had, and then I proceeded to the more serious stuff that really bothered me: the growing responsibilities and my fear that I would fail to deliver excellently. I reminded Him that I was bad at fulfilling my commitments, that I don’t want to fail Him and the people who were counting on me. I also told Him about my confusion about how to balance all these things and to deal with my insecurities (which still bother me)–my bad skin, increasing weight, baggy eyes even if I sleep early–and my unanswered questions about Him. In short, I was confused, disorganized, and fearful–all the things I utterly despise and do my best to escape from! As I dwelt on these negative things (a bad, bad idea), I started to cry. First in the volume of cologne sprays. Then a 500-liter water bottle. Then faucets. Inside the silent, public chapel. That’s when God, in His love and mercy, began conversing with me in my mind. I started it when I prayed, silently:

“Man, why did I even stay here? Why do I have to cry here? It’s so embarrassing…..Lord, You know my struggle. You know I’m bad at commitments. You know I want everything to be organized. Please guide me.”

Then amazingly, God replied.

“Honey, I want you to trust Me. I brought you here because I wanted to hug you, to let you know that I delight in you. I love you! I am delighted at you because you are walking in My will. Don’t worry! I love you, child.”

Of course, the pessimistic me did not believe, at least not completely. So God said:

“You’re here to have your quiet time, right? Okay open to Psalms, the chapter’s number is the date today.”

I said (in my mind): “Yeah, right, how am I sure I’m not just making this up and going after my feelings? Does God even do this?”

Although my question went unanswered at first, I went to Psalm 18 anyway. What I read shocked me and opened another valve in my eyes for more tears to flow. Here were some of the opening verses:

I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Verses 7-15 talked about awesome and terrifying things God did–earthquakes, consuming fire, blazing coals, darkness, hailstones–the apocalyptic sort of thing. I thought: “Seriously, God? Lord, are You…mad at me?” I wasn’t getting the idea. Not until I started reading from verse 16 all the way until the end in verse 50. Here were some of the verses that struck me:

He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;

The Lord my God illumines my darkness.

As for God, His way is blameless;

The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?

– Psalm 18:1-3,6, 16-3,25, 29-32 (emphases added)

By the end of the chapter I was lamenting. Thankfully I kept it inaudible, except for my occasional snorting, but I was relatively quiet. But wait…there’s more! God replied with an even more personal message.

“See? Of course I still speak to My children in a very personal way! You see, I am delighted in you. You are not in sin in the sense that you remain in it habitually. Honey, I know that you are very particular about the smallest details. I am, too. I like details, too. I also think they are very important. And yes, I am after perfection. But you see, I am not a perfectionist in the sense that I judge you and condemn you for your smallest mistake. I am not a perfectionist; I’m a perfection-er. I am perfecting you. I know that throughout the perfectioning process, you won’t have it all together. And that’s okay. As long as you trust Me and obey Me and fear Me (and you do, all these things), I am with you. Okay?” 🙂 

I thought the overwhelming emotion I felt was a result of the difficulty of management. I haven’t even started some of them! The real issue was that, I was afraid of making mistakes. I feared failure so much, I recoiled at the idea of having too much responsibilities and a lot people to be accountable to. God also told me that time that the key was not to avoid responsibility, but to eliminate everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me so that I can run with perseverance the race that God marked out for me (Hebrews 12:1-2). I had to remove the distractions and just focus on the main thing, and to keep it the main thing at all times. God wouldn’t have allowed me to be given these tasks or He would have told me to let them go had He not given me the strength, power, and ability to fulfill them. 🙂

I also learned that God wasn’t utterly strict in the perfectionist sense. I was. It’s unfortunate how the “don’t-sin-or-else-God-will-thunder-lightning-on-you” ideology from Greek mythology and other pagan literature still influenced me. I had an erroneous view of God. Surely God feels saddened when I sin, even the smallest one. But that doesn’t mean He is totally displeased with me that He won’t talk to me or that I should expect to be disciplined tomorrow. No matter what happens, we must always remember that God is LOVE. Everything He does stems from His love. Nothing He does is done out of hatred the way we humans hate, or apathy. Even God’s “hate” towards people is grounded on love. Especially with children who sincerely seek Him and do His will, He is ever gentle, patient, merciful, and gracious. He knows our weaknesses. That’s why He’s perfecting us, because we have deficiencies. That’s also why He’s patient, because He knows we’ve been so used to this faulty system that we think it’s normal. But, no. His perfection and His holiness should be our norm. There is no middle ground.

If you have a perfectionist tendency like mine or if you, too, feel like escaping responsibility for fear of failure, may I encourage you today to pause, take a deep breath, and know that God does not desire to condemn you? Really, He doesn’t. The process hurts but it doesn’t mean God hates you. In fact, the fact that He’s investing so much in you–disciplining, molding, mentoring, discipling, guiding, providing for you–means that He really, really, really loves you! Also, I pray that you (and I) will realize that failure is not final. Neither is success. We fail, we get back up. We succeed, we move past that, otherwise we become complacent or even recalcitrant when we’re told to move forward. C.S. Lewis put it perfectly when he wrote in his book, Beyond Personality:

“…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.”

So trust His character. It’s the only thing that remains constant in this ever-changing world. 🙂

After that drama session with God, I wiped my tears and went out of the chapel with my head held high. I may not have all the facts together nor am I relieved of the chance of failure, but I know that I am kept safe by the One Who goes before me, the One who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side! Above all, this Perfection-er of mine loves me. And really, that’s more than enough. 🙂

Reference:
Lewis, C.S. (1947). Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God. New York: The Macmillan Company. 
New American Standard Bible (NASB). (1995). The Lockman Foundation. via BibleGateway.com.