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

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.

My Fruitful Jobless Season & the Fulfillment of my Introvert Dreams

As I write this, I am munching on my almost-midnight snack (appetizer for the actual midnight snack) and hearing only the clicking sound of my keyboard and the rumbling of the AC. I am all alone in our hotel room while my Mom is out partying with her friends. Yes, my Mom is partying. Not clubbing, but attending a birthday party (of course I had to delineate that). I’ve never been this alone in my life and I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Earlier I just had dinner at The Habit–alone; took a long, warm, and slow bath–alone; read Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman without noise and interruptions, alone; cried my heart out to God and blew my nose heavily in between–alone. Introvert dreams that would have otherwise been unfulfilled if I were back in Manila, or, if I already have a job.

Oh yes, that three-letter word that proves problematic to every normal person who just got out of college.

When 2016 kicked in, I was determined to find a job. Just like any person itching to get their minds and hands working, I sat myself down, went online, browsed through various companies and job listings on the big names of job search sites. Just like any other person, I expected answers. I hoped eagerly for a “We would like to set up an interview with you” in the next week or two after I sent out literally two dozen applications. I should have known. I learned the hard way. Job hunting is much like keeping healthy relationships: you gotta wait for the right time, usually a long time, and decrease your expectations.

So I decreased my expectations. After sending my resumes to over a dozen advertising agencies, I realized they probably won’t notice an applicant such as myself, a newcomer, who, although with legal status, does not have local experience. I’ve been told that the job culture here in the US prefers experience over education, which was quite the opposite in Manila. Actually in Manila, it’s 60% who you know, 30% what you studied, and 10% what you actually can do that are the bases for getting hired for the job. Anyway, so the day after I applied for the ad agencies, I shifted my focus to nearby companies (so that I don’t have to travel far) and those with clerical positions. I have to start from the bottom before I can say “now we’re here.” I applied as an admin assistant in the most random but legit companies. That was Monday night (actually Tuesday morning at around 1 AM).

The next day, I ran errands with my Mom, aunt, and uncle. On our way home, my phone rang, and it was from an unknown caller. I picked it up, and from the receiver spoke a man with what I thought was an Indian accent.

“Hi this is insert his name here–because of his thick accent I didn’t comprehend it. You applied for our job opening as admin assistant at insert company here. I reviewed your application and I think you would be fit for the job….”

This is it! It’s actually happening. It wasn’t quite what I expected, though. I thought it would happen around daytime while my mind is more alert and I just had breakfast and not at 7 PM when I can’t wait to get home and have dinner because my stomach’s crying out to me. Good thing my excitement got the best of me and spiked my alert levels with much needed adrenaline. “Oh okay so what time will the interview be?”

“Are you free at 9”

“AM or PM?”

My Mom, who was beside me, chuckled, “Syempre AM ano ka ba!” (Of course AM, what are you thinking?)

Fail. Am I really ready for this?

“In the morning of course. If 9 AM is not good for you, how about 9:20 AM, Wednesday, is that okay?”

“Yeah sure!”

“Okay, I’ll see you then, Jennifer!”

“See you!” (Who are you?!)

I got home feeling excited to have my first job interview for a position I applied for online. I’ve never applied for a job and been notified for an interview ever before, so this was all new to me. Although it wasn’t my first job interview, it was my first interview for a non-corporate company, especially for a start-up company, and most especially in the US! Someone actually dared to look into someone like me, who had no experience.

My Mom and I left the house 30 minutes before my call time. I estimated we had about extra 5 minutes just in case we got lost. Well, we got lost for about 8 minutes and required another 5 minutes to find our way back so I was late for my interview. Strike 2. I wanted to just ditch the interview to save my face, but then to do that would be even more disrespectful.

When Mom and I got to the office’s location, I was shocked. The office faced a railroad track, and its very edifice had no label whatsoever to tell you the company owned it or was in it. No company logo, no signage, nada. Just a plain, old, and low roofed structure with the address number. My Mom and I grew nervous for a bit. The Criminal Minds and CSI episodes all raced through my head in a matter of seconds. However, I still managed to knock at the door and wait for a response. After a few seconds, a tall European-looking man opened the door and confirmed the name of the guy I spoke to last night (he texted his name when he sent me the address). I got in, he closed the door shut, and my Momma remained outside. Poor Mom. I am so thankful for her. Good thing there was a restaurant right beside the strange, plain edifice, so Mom stayed there.

To cut the long story short, the interview went well. I think the guy saw me fit for the job. Twenty five minutes after I got inside, I went out to my Mom, who, unbeknownst to me then was actually worried and anxious about my state that, so much so that she told me, when I sat with her in the table: “I told myself, ‘If she’s not coming out there in twenty minutes or so, I will come knocking!'” Her inner Grissom and motherly radar were on red alert. Thankfully, I came out alive and actually sweaty (at least my armpits were) because a) I was nervous what the guy would ask…or do and yet b) he was really handsome so I was hoping he’d have a good heart (BUT NOT so he’d get my number or anything like that, okay, I’m just stating facts).

After that interview, Mom and I explored Hollywood via train and our feet. It was a great way and day to bond! I lost one of my favorite scarves though.😦 Good thing Mom bought me Ghirardelli chocolates so I sorta felt okay about my scarf.

A week after that interview, the guy called me again while I was vacationing at my aunt’s place at Chino Hills. Actually he called while I was sleeping. I only found out he called an hour after he called, when I saw my phone. I called back immediately.

“So are you still interested in the job?”

Interested? Of course I was! Then the image of the place came to my mind, and my Mom’s worries over it. I thought twice. I told him I’d think about it first and get back to him after an hour. I called my Mom (who went to the gym at that time with my aunt) and related the news, and after a bit of discussion, and prayer, I called the guy again.

“When do I start?”

He told me he’d me on Tuesday for training (it was Saturday at the time of our call). After I hung up, I thanked the Lord and wrote on my journal: January 16, 2016. Hired at insert company name. I went downstairs, smiling, that finally my prayer has been answered.

When my Mom and aunt got home from the gym, Mom came up to me and related news from the first job offer that I got, prior to this one from the shady-place-but-handsome-boss place. “I called the person from the company. She said you might have an interview next week!” And that company was an ad agency.

Immediately my phone sounded. I got an email from the said agency stating that I have a presentation due next week. I was devastated. “But I already said yes to this guy.”

“Yeah honey but I’m worried for you! The area is not as…safe. Besides, this is a much bigger company.”

So after washing the dishes and watching an episode of Law and Order, I composed a message saying that I’m turning down the job I already had (in a subtler and kinder way). Once again, I’m letting go. insert derp face

Three weeks later, my introvert dreams came true. In the middle of those three weeks I also got to visit another aunt up north, see the Levi’s Stadium, meet new people, and eat dinner all by myself. Three weeks of pure relaxation, grace, waiting, and time with the Lord.

Finding a job is one thing. Getting the job and staying in it is another. I had so many expectations and misconceptions about work and jobs before I got here, and I’m glad that through my initial experiences, they are slowly being corrected. Indeed, even in my job hunting, God is in control. Moreover, He’s changing me. If I was in the same position last year, at this month,  I would have cried and complained to God for not giving me a job, as if He was obliged to give me one. I would have told Him that I hated being a bum and that He called me to work so He should give me a job. As I wait on Him to hand me greater responsibilities, He is teaching me that:

  • my future jobs are not to be my source of income and of life. He is.
  • He is in control. Always. Forever.
  • I should live in the present and be grateful for the things He sends my way.
  • I am to glorify Him in my present circumstances.
  • I should allow Him to shape my idea of the ideal life. I thought the ideal scenario was having a job straight outta uni. Eight months after graduation and I’m still “pre-employed.” Not all jobs and job-hunting experiences are created equal.
  • I have to work hard and be patient because the best things in life don’t come instantly. You can never get the top quality ramen of a Michelin star restaurant from a cup of instant noodles.

If you’re like me, a fresh grad with the high hopes of getting the job without the hurdles that you’ve experienced in college, I suggest you change your perspective and lower your expectations. This season of waiting is the season of preparation. I like how Jim Elliot put it: “Wherever you are, be all there.” Allow God to work mightily in and through you as you wait. As His child, that future job is not my main job. His work is.

And while you’re still jobless (“pre-employed”), go do the good things you’ve always wanted to do when you were still working! Now’s the time!🙂

PS: This week, I actually have interviews (yes, more than one, yaaay) so please include me in your prayers.🙂 Until then, I have to finish my reading list and rehearse! :) 

The Struggle Is Real: Forgiving, but not Forgetting

The Struggle Is Real: Forgiving, but not Forgetting
The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I deal with them. Good news: you're not alone in your struggle. Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through. :)
The Struggle Is Real is the series on the struggles I deal with currently, and how I respond to them. Good news: you’re not alone in your struggle! Bad news: struggles suck. Better news: Jesus will see us through.🙂

We were watching our favorite television show in the living room. Wanting to relax, I put my legs up and sit in an Indian sit position. She immediately slapped my legs repeatedly and whispered: “Ibaba mo yang paa mo! Ayaw nila nakataas ang paa!” (Put your feet down, they don’t like it when your feet are up on the couch)

The moment I recalled that scene, negative thoughts and irritation sunk in, and I felt vengeful again. Instantaneously I thought of hurtful words that I wanted to lash out at her in my defense. Who do you think you are? You’re not the owner of this house. Uncle H and Aunt G aren’t prohibiting me from putting my feet up; in fact, they want me to feel at home. If I were the owner of the house, I won’t tell that to my guests, especially not my relatives! Of course at that time, I didn’t tell her these. How could I? She’s my grandmother.

Hours owning up to that flashback moment, I chose to forgave my grandmother for her nasty habit of nagging me and being sweet to the hands that feed her and not so much to her “co-tenants” such as myself. I forgave her because I loved God and God loves her. Also, even if I don’t quite like her, deep down I still love her. I want her happiness and blessedness. However, every time I remembered that scene (and others like it) and the ill feelings and negative thoughts come back to me, I questioned my forgiveness. Was it real? Wasn’t I sincere enough? If it’s not real, how do I really forgive her, then? Is forgetting the sign of true forgiveness?

Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me hard lessons on forgiveness, humility, and love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not keep a record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4a,5b) Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) When Peter came up to Him and asked up to how many times must he forgive his brother who wronged him, Jesus trumps Peter’s seven-time comment with His own number: “No…but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Through the course of my study, the Lord asks me a question: Jenny, do you notice anything similar with these verses?

Being the grammarian that I was (and still am), I replied: “Yes Lord. All the main verbs of all the sentences are in present tense.”

“Very good observation. You see, true love is present tense. That’s how I love. It goes on and on as long as you have breath and life. The same goes for forgiveness. I commanded you to forgive as I forgave you. And how did I forgive you? Although all your deeds are written on My book, I do not hold it against you. I may not forget (as if I have amnesia), but I choose not to remember. You sin everyday, don’t you? Then guess what? I forgive you everyday! Every single day I still provide for you, teach you, guide you, and uphold you with My righteous right hand. That’s how I forgive you, and that’s how I want you to forgive your grandma.”

I learned that God commanded me to forgive, not to forget, and forgiveness is present tense. If I must forgive my grandma every day, I should. Forgiveness also applies to how I treat her. Even if I don’t feel like honoring her, I would. I would still obey her commands and hold her hand when we walk in the mall not only because she’s my grandmother, but because it’s what love would do. In the moments when I feel hate and dislike for her, I would remember the words of my Lord Jesus: “I forgave you, so forgive. Love, as I have loved you.” I can only fulfill this command because the Holy Spirit is in me, and He gives me the power to forgive. Jesus showered me tremendous amounts of grace, and through Him, I can do all things. Some situations and some people just require heavier doses of His love and mercy (myself included).

Is forgetting the sign of true forgiving? Not at all! God did not forget our sins, He chose not remember them. There’s a difference. Do we really think God actually forgets, as if He had amnesia? Of course not! He’s God. In fact, He has a book that records every single day of our lives (Psalm 139:16). I our good deeds and misdeeds are recorded there, too. However, He chooses not to hold a grudge against us. When we confess and repent, “He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I have grown so used to living by my feelings that I base the sincerity of my actions on whether I feel good about my present circumstance. We are not to love according to our feelings. I like how C.S. Lewis puts it: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” 

The day my Mom and I moved out to live with another aunt and uncle of mine, we had breakfast with my grandmother. She told stories of how she met my grandfather (Dad’s dad) and her colorful circumstances with difficult members of the family. In each one, I noticed how grandma always seemed to defend her loved ones–her sons, siblings, and her grandchildren. I realized she always wanted things in order, and for many years she fought her way to keep things in check. Maybe that’s why she slapped me on the legs. My Indian sit position was a threat to her order, and she wanted things to be in order because to her, that’s a sign that her family was okay. Nothing brings her greater joy than seeing her family in great condition and in good spirits. Remembering that, plus the many times I annoyed my own parents on purpose, humbled me and reminded me that I, too, was in dire need of forgiveness and mercy. I, too, ought to be forgiven. Did my parents ever forget the times I hurt them? Perhaps not. But did they ever hatch a plan to get back at me? Never. They still sent me to school and even let me graduate. They still let me eat at my favorite restaurants and give me gifts, sometimes even on ordinary days.

Whenever we remember the faults of others, let’s remember our own. How many times have we been on the receiving end of mercy? More importantly, let us remember how the Lord Jesus forgave us and how much He sacrificed to forgive us and save us from all our sins. We may not forget, but let’s choose not to remember. For the times when we do recall (especially on wayback Wednesdays and throwback Thursdays), let’s choose to forgive. Seventy times seven. Let’s choose to love in present tense. It’s hard, but it’s the golden ticket to eternity. Let us love and forgive in spite of our feelings. Let us love continually and forgive presently.

 

2016: The Year of Moving On

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.

-o-o-o-

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.

IMG_4335

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

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.

11200620_10153274609192878_5705446208505890217_n

11193281_10153274610592878_751044750854070346_n

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!

22295_10153276465577878_6044410736070147328_n

10688364_10153276465627878_4598097580409003381_o

10665307_10153276465462878_6182462758782535135_n

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.

11201608_10153276492892878_6995118149524111599_n

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!

11118830_10153278657852878_635690159282667547_n

 

11259726_10153278658177878_3179032034353178024_n

11136615_10153278569582878_3134799236119639902_n

10407207_10153278643797878_4312129051861463051_n

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.

11259694_10153278764717878_4032320444591208757_n

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!

TALAMazing Adventure: God’s Timing Is Always Perfect

Hello everyone!

Once again, it feels so good to be back here in my personal cyber space!  When it comes to timing, I am obviously not an expert in it, as the date of my last post indicates. During the months of February until early April, I was extremely busy as I finished the last leg of my college education. I am graduating in two weeks’ time! Frankly, I also succumbed to laziness during the remaining days of April and May…until today. I realized how selfish and disobedient I am for not sharing with the world how good, gracious, and faithful God is in my life. Indeed, He is faithful even if we are not! Moreover, God’s timing is always perfect. Always. I can say this, because I experienced it firsthand.

In one of my posts, Thankful for the Delay, I shared how grateful I was (and still am) to the Lord for delaying my graduation. It happened because I switched schools; the school where I eventually finished my studies did not credit all the units I took from my previous school and the units that were credited were insufficient to advance me to the junior year. Thus, I became a sophomore twice. That switch of schools happened because at that time, we thought we were migrating to the US.

This migration dates back to 1993.

lolo
My lolo (grandpa) many hairs ago. Haha

Twenty-two years ago, my grandfather Wiro, a US veteran, petitioned most of his 11 children and their families so that they can be permanent residents and eventually, citizens, in the United States of America.  My parents just got married, my aunts and uncles were starting their families and had little kids (my cousins), and none of them imagined that, over two decades later, most of them would be living in a land thousands of miles away.

Over the years since 1993, the US Embassy occasionally contacted us and informed us of our immigration status. I remember the first time I thought we were migrating to the US. The year was 2004, I was 10 years old and very much eager because I heard so many wonderful things about Disneyland and I wanted to see it for myself. That year we went to the US, but only for a vacation (and all my Disneyland dreams came true). Seven years later, we received another letter from the Embassy that made us think “we’re leaving.” Our relatives who were also petitioned thought the same way. That’s why I switched schools, my Mom resigned from her job, and a host of other things happened. But that year, and the next, God said it was not yet time. We had to wait some more.

When there was silence over the immigration issue, I somehow lost interest in it. After all, I was about to graduate and was looking forward to working in Manila. God graciously provided a new home for us and for the first time in my life & my brothers’ lives, we moved to a new house. We (including our parents) made more friends, served in various ministries in church, and enjoyed each other’s fellowship. After hearing and learning about devastating news from the US and signs of an improving economy in the Philippines, I got even more discouraged to migrate. I pondered about it at times and imagined myself living in a rented apartment in California, but I shrugged it off and went back to my busy Manila life.

Then came early 2014.

Around March, we got news again from the Embassy that they were processing our papers (my family’s and those of my relatives’), and that this 2-decade long wait would finally come to a close. Some of my relatives completed the processes and left the Philippines ahead of us. I thought our family would migrate last year also, but once again, God said no, just wait. Nonetheless, we completed all the procedures and submitted all the documents required of us in time, and before 2014 ended, we received our visas. We had to leave the Philippines on or before the first week of April 2015.

I did the math of the time needed of us to do what moving to another country entailed: fix all our documents, sort our stuff, sell whatever can be sold, attend goodbye parties (very important haha), etc. We needed at least a month and undivided attention. A month we had, but undivided attention we didn’t as we, my parents and I, were extremely busy with work and school respectively. Thankfully, God gave my parents wisdom to come up with a solution and the resources to execute it. We would leave in April, return to Manila, fix everything, and unless God says otherwise, return to the United States.

As our family counted down to the day when we would leave for the US, we prayed more earnestly and sought God’s will for our lives. As we prayed together, we grew closer as a family and more dependent on the Lord. In my personal time with the Lord, He reminded me that this earth is not my home. If He is indeed my God as I say He is, then I would trust Him—His plans, His motives, and His timing. If there’s one thing I really appreciate God for in this experience, it is His undoubtedly, wonderfully, and absolutely perfect timing.

As I look back, I am even more thankful for the delay that happened to me three years ago. If I was not delayed, I would be taking my master’s now, and I won’t be able to leave in early April because I had to complete my thesis. God commanded us to go out at a time when I have already finished college and thus be fully equipped to work and help my parents earn a living. My brothers aren’t too young to require extra attention, so they can be relied on to do chores at home (plus they’re really good boys so my parents never have to worry). By God’s grace, our relatives who have gone to the US ahead of us have been established and secured, and they were more than willing to help us (as well as our relatives who followed suit). Above all, God allowed us to spend a great deal of our time in Manila being grounded in His Word through our personal quiet time and corporate worship so that we can face the spiritual and emotional challenges that we would face in the US (more about that in my future posts—stay tuned!).

Oh, before I end, there’s one more thing.

Let’s go back three years ago, 2012, February.

My Mom was scheduled to visit her sister in April that year. Aside from visiting California, she’s visiting the East Coast: New York, Chicago, D.C.—all the cities I dreamt of visiting. In May that same year, I was turning 18. Where I come from, a girl turning 18 is somehow a huge deal. Titos (uncles) and titas (aunts) of Manila get excited and ask you where the party’s at. Parents get excited, too, but not as much as the titos and titas because they are the ones spending (haha). Unfortunately for my titos, titas, and parents, I wasn’t into the grand celebration. I had another idea of grand. I wanted to travel.

So when I learned that my Mom was going to the US that year and going to the East Coast, I prayed that she and Dad would let me spend my 18th birthday there with her. The other details of the story are written here (with details on the struggle and some awesome throwback photos), but long story short, I went with my Mom to the US and celebrated my 18th birthday in Chicago.

In October 2012, I posted a photo of myself posing in front of a City sightseeing bus in New York. Here’s the exact post from Facebook:

New York throwbackNow let’s go back to the not-so-present-present. March 2015. My parents briefed us on our US trip and excited us with the news that we’ll be visiting the East Coast! One day, as I was scrolling through my old profile photos on Facebook, I saw my earlier photo from New York. Call it a prediction or whatever, but I prefer to call it God’s favor and grace. Without me knowing it or expecting it, I returned to one of my favorite cities right exactly at the time when I said I would: after I graduate!

And the best part is, this time, my favorite boys are with me! We're complete!
And the best part is, this time, my favorite boys are with me! We’re complete!

Before leaving for the US a month ago, one of my best friends dedicated this verse to me:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

Even if we wanted to leave for the US years ago, God did not allow it to happen. Even if I wanted to graduate “on time,” God had His own version of “on time,” and truly it was the time! Even if we wanted to fix everything within a couple of months with our busy schedules, God told us not to and gave us a solution to make up for our lack of time. All of these, and more, only because God is in control.

Finally, last April 4, our family of five flew to the United States of America and began a journey of faith and fun—a journey we call the TALAMazing adventure.

_MG_9072

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)😀

13092_10153199485302878_6801382792355822358_n

cha2O

dennys

11033394_10153215309173094_6791741563108758280_n

11052424_10153202606927878_1728330414763741385_n

21692_10153227876183094_7882627207915566382_n
Meet my beautiful and adorable niece, Kenna!

16004_10153222777843094_3226265897621155986_n

10408854_10153222779468094_5270171269686759063_n

10480125_10153222780298094_5503301962587865479_n

11149472_10153230928187878_7914207449182336814_n

11144929_10153230928957878_8945843704830785147_n

11138693_10153227881283094_8315002905430991473_n

11151029_10153227880443094_5534083468508151400_n

_MG_6499

10406531_10153245162553094_6613529624136012558_n

11150411_10153249508972878_6620369427392313250_n

11193326_10153249507032878_6418742149537763407_n

11168454_10153245580803094_1094182356722583231_n

11182164_10153263260377878_3519617544214368897_n

11182264_10153263261757878_8056005985926226105_n

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!

1458425_10152956941252878_2595947979215509777_n

10891458_10152956945732878_1615842945981708987_n

photo1 (2)

10897807_10152956947332878_2000493647254930927_n

10891686_10152956947802878_7514093327477054144_n

10897097_10152956948022878_7141734702558408693_n

10363783_10152956953672878_5567239140701325379_n

10888952_10152958378467878_8682511900691008717_n

10888780_10152963017827878_9177032938723119714_n

10892012_10152963012217878_3494392712082475431_n

14319_10152963029362878_1486635268447875762_n

10915265_10152963032677878_8811537967892254319_n

10891661_10152963032672878_6905678757704196562_n

10882261_10152963033572878_5008910979328301433_n

10676157_10152963030697878_4520808505366751793_n

10559663_10152963035772878_3954565405027704681_n

10690097_10152963041042878_820503054157617054_n

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.

photo2

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.

Thankful For The Delay

Thankful For The Delay

Hi! Hello! MABUHAY! I’m baaaaack!🙂

5 months of absence and complete silence is way too long. I can explain! I started my senior year (last year!) in college this June, and since it started, I have been immersed in one intense requirement after the other. Even on weekends and holidays, my classmates and I met to work on our presentations, decks (PowerPoint/Keynote presentations), paperwork, and ideas. I am grateful to Jesus and to the people who’ve helped me go through that fun, crazy, and unnerving semester. Our semestral break started two weeks ago, and in two days, I’m going back to the daily grind. Surprisingly, even with all the stress I’ve been through last semester, I can’t wait to start the second one, because I know it’s gonna fly by pretty quickly, and I’m FINALLY GRADUATING!

Speaking of graduation, did you know that I was supposed to graduate last year? If things went according to my plan, I should be finishing my master’s degree now.

However, God had another plan. This verse from the Bible never became truer in my life than in my college experience:

“The human heart plans the way,
    but the Lord directs the steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) 

My plan for college was simple and pretty much laid out before I graduated high school. I would enter college in 2010, graduate in June 2014 if I don’t make the required grade for the 5th year (master’s degree) and 2015 if I did. By senior year of high school, I was decided on enrolling in UA&P (go UNITAS!) and take up IMC or Integrated Marketing Communications. The first part of my agenda went as planned: I spent my freshman year in college in UA&P and during the second semester of that year, sealed my application for my course of choice, IMC (because during that time we had to apply for our preferred specializations). However, when 2011 rolled in, the plan started crumbling.

Early 2011, my parents informed my brothers and I that we might migrate to the U.S. late that year, or at most, early 2012. This did not come as a surprise because migration plans have been existent even before I was born. A few of our relatives also planned to migrate (because our grandfather petitioned us), and one of my cousins who was of my age and also a freshman in college stopped school in order to save money for the move abroad. My parents also wanted to save money but did not want me to stop school, so they decided to enroll me in a new, more affordable university, one that was nearer our place. Trusting my parents’ wisdom, I applied for a university within Makati that had a marketing course. So by 2012, I was a college sophomore taking up Marketing Management in FEU-Makati.

The move proved to be great for me while I was in the school because I felt so relaxed! My first year in UA&P really challenged me–from enduring hour-long commutes, going through the day with only 5 hours of sleep, writing papers in the wee hours of the morning, reading ancient text of classical literature and tons of readings! On the contrary, my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was so chill. Although I had early morning and late night classes, I had a long break in-between which gave me time to go home, have lunch, work out, take an hour-long siesta and a shower afterwards. Sometimes after classes, I would meet with my family in the mall and watch a movie or have dinner. Compared to the 23 units I had to take in UA&P, the most I had to take in FEU was 19! The best part is, I instantly clicked with a group of people whom I still communicate with to this day. We were even able to hang out at my place a couple of times where we had lunch and Bible studies. I felt happy and at ease that year because I was in control.

Come 2012, when my sophomore year in FEU-Makati was about to end, God intervened once again.

It turned out we weren’t migrating anytime 2011, 2012, or even 2013. (2014 is about to end and we’re still here!) One night while I was massaging my Mom, she told me how relaxed I looked and told me to consider going back to UA&P. Although I enjoyed FEU, she knew I would do better at a place that challenged me because I like taking on challenges, besetting as they may be. Besides, I really liked IMC. I told her I’ll think about it. I prayed about it earnestly and asked God where He wanted me to go. Although I was going to miss my new-found friends and the nearness of the campus, I knew God was calling me back to UA&P. Trusting that He knew best, I enrolled in UA&P again, excited to take my junior year in college.

Thankfully, some of the units I took in FEU-Makati were credited in UA&P. However, the units were not enough to compensate for the other subjects I missed during my sophomore year in FEU-Makati. I got the worst news of my life in 2012 when the registrar told me that I was officially enrolled in UA&P as a sophomore, not a junior. In other words, I was automatically delayed a year. I felt dismayed as I saw my perfect plan crumble. And if that wasn’t enough, my former block mates (who moved up to junior year the same year I got back), were not my block mates any more, which meant that my new batch mates were total strangers to me. I was an irregular student with no definite block and no set of friends to hang out with on a regular basis.

For the first time in my college experience, I felt lonely. Really lonely.

Although I still met with a few of my former blockmates, I knew practically no one in most of my classes. During my breaks, I ate alone, read in the library, or had my quiet time in the chapel. I made new friends along the way, but most of them alreay had their own groups and cliques, and I was too timid to make myself a part of them unless I was invited. I went home immediately after my last class, and sometimes, when I got home, I cried a bit (okay, sometimes a lot haha) because I felt so alone. I wanted a more solid group of friends in school. At night, I cried some more and complained to God about His perfect plan. Why did He allow me to go through this? What did I do wrong that made Him think of delaying my graduation by a year? God never answered my questions directly; He only reassured me of His goodness and His wisdom and invited me to trust Him completely. Although it was hard to trust Him completely at first, I found myself doing so, because I knew there was no other good apart from Him. Besides, I wasn’t alone; He was with me! My motto for my sophomore and most of my junior year was: Lonely, but not alone. My relationship with Jesus and my appreciation of His presence deepened and solidified during this period of loneliness. If it weren’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have gotten so close to Him.

When junior year rolled in, I felt eager and nervous because, for the first time, in over a year, I would be part of a block! That year, I was no longer an irregular student, so I felt more at home in the university. I remember entering the room of my first majors subject for the first time and meeting my block, SDL, for the very first time. I saw some classmates from my other subjects, but none that I could really call a friend. I felt insecure at first because they seemed to be pretty close. For the next few weeks, I prayed intensely to God that I would fit in and make new friends, and hoped that they would like me. That year, God has been teaching me to assert myself correctly by intentionally befriending my block mates and gaining their trust. In return, they made me feel welcome and entertained my responses to them. By the end of my junior year, I felt even more at home not only in UA&P, but with my new block. By God’s grace, He also allowed me to meet and be good friends with people from my other classes, and those who also went to my church, CCF. I wasn’t humanly alone, after all.🙂

1001812_10151457332455826_1886772074_n

After junior year, I thanked God for blessing me with new friends and the feeling of home in UA&P.  I thought to myself, “I’m okay now; not totally ecstatic, but better.”  Once again, God had other plans. He didn’t want me to just be okay; He wanted me to be joyful. JOY is a word of abundance, and abundance is God’s currency. I spent this currency in massive amounts during the first semester of my senior year.

The subjects I had with my batch mates really challenged us think creatively and strategically within a very short amount of time. Almost weekly we had a presentation, which meant that we had to come up with the deck (the PowerPoint/Keynote slides) and rehearse our lines and content. In our subject called Business Process, our batch was tasked to raise a minimum of Php 400,000 in four weeks for a young boy with ALL or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Our class of about 80 students was divided into two teams, product and event, each with a project that should raise at least Php 200,000 so that the combined effort would reach 400K. I belonged to the product team, and we sold shirts under the name Team Galaxy. We chose this name because we wanted to brighten the young boy’s life and his future which has been darkened by his debilitating disease. Each member of Team Galaxy was tasked to sell at least 32 shirts per week. That may seem like a small number, but believe me, it was difficult to reach, especially after the first week of operations. By God’s grace I was able to surpass my personal quota, and so did Team Galaxy as a whole! The other project, a concert called All Out!, also exceeded their quota. A lot of meetings, some arguments, mishaps, coordination, sleepless nights, computations, emails, trips to different locations, and intense contacting of people ensued in a span of three weeks just to make our projects and target a reality.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

For me the highlights of my first semester happened during the final presentations. I never won a pitch during ordinary lecture days, but by God’s grace, I won all the final pitches I was part of! God deserves all the glory because He helped me and my team mates. For one of our presentations, we revised our idea three times and came up with the winning idea the night before the deadline! For another presentation, we changed our strategy twice or thrice before we came up with the winning idea. Great things don’t come by easily, I learned; you have to work really hard for them. The feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment, along with the sweet news of victory, makes the work even more valuable. The experience not only gave me the good feels; more importantly, it molded my character and unlocked the potential I never knew I had.

photo 1

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Remember what I said earlier about abundance being God’s currency? He is a generous God, and He will use you if you surrender your life to Him and commit to faithfully follow Him. I prayed to God to also use me to revive the campus movement in my school and in the Ortigas area, so that more students will get to know Him. When I re-entered UA&P in 2012, I met regularly with a good friend, Camille, and together we prayed earnestly for God to raise leaders and revive His ministry in our school. Well, guess what?

When school started this year, a number of freshmen from our church enrolled in UA&P. They were not only eager to experience the college life, but also to work together with us, the upper classmen, to impact our school for Jesus. Over the months, we prayed together and even ate together and grew more as a family. Sometime late June, Kuya Marty, the director of our youth ministry called ELEVATE, met with us regularly and told us about his plan to create a weekly youth service for students from the Ortigas area. He also assigned two beloved campus missionaries, Randy and Anita, to help, train, and pray with and for us as we begin our ministry. Around July, Kuya Marty told us that our team, the Ortigas team (because our school is located in Ortigas) will merge with ELEVATE students from The Fort to work together and start the new weekly youth service we called ELEVATE SNL (Saturday Night Live). The people I serve with in ministry have also become my new family. Not only do I see them on weekends, but I also see them in school! (What is clingy?! haha!) Last week, we attended a retreat that sealed our family-ness and God’s plan for our campuses in our hearts. (More about that retreat in the next post, so stay tuned!)

10298757_10202916153280251_6239945423219708739_n

Looking back, I can only thank God for bringing me this far and allowing the Grand Delay in my college experience. Four years went by too quickly, and now I’m about to cross the finish line! Now, I laugh when I remember my drama back in my 2nd sophomore year and how I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year old self: “Now don’t you go cryin’ over that one year delay because you don’t know what’s going to happen! It’s gonna blow your mind!” Through my experiences in college, I affirmed the reliability and veracity of God’s promises. God told me of  “great things beyond the reach of my knowledge” as He promised when I called upon Him and looked for Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He comforted me when I felt alone. What I thought was a bad plan turned out to be a successful one when I entrusted to Him my plans (Proverbs 16:3). He blessed me with good company, rich experiences, closeness to Him, and not to mention knowledge and depth of insight. Above all, He was so patient with me when I became cranky and lazy under stress. And now, He gave me the privilege of writing this beautiful story.🙂

10712948_10152492781558785_1699345892565461521_n

Last Sunday, our pastor preached about embracing Gods’ amazing plan. As I listened, I remembered how God had worked behind the scenes as I went through college. He has been working all along even if I thought He wasn’t. Sometimes when we have to take detours, we think God is sleeping on the job or made a mistake in His plan. Our tendency is to fret and regret trusting Him. This will be our biggest mistake. If you truly are a child of God and are walking in obedience to His will, you can be certain that He will carry out His good and perfect plan for you. God’s ways are higher than ours, and higher often entails discomfort, uneasiness, and even pain. As I mentioned earlier, great things don’t come by easily. God is willing to risk our physical comfort so He can accomplish His greatest work: unique Christlikeness in each of us. He is purifying our hearts, perfecting our character, and molding our personality reflect His own.  God works, day in, day out, and He won’t stop until He finishes what He started.

If God is interrupting your plans and agenda, fret not. Keep calm and trust Him because He knows best. Embrace His amazing plan for your life! Trust Him and you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t.🙂

Photos (c): Facebook photos of Ina Villegas, Patricia Depante, Mai Arcano and Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF Main)