30 Things I’m Thankful For This 2016

Back in 2011, it was a totally different New Year’s Eve — losing daddy — and today, we have come a long way. Up to this day, I still cannot believe how the Lord healed us and uplifted us from that unfortunate experience. Ashes to beauty, ruins to life. I have learned that no matter where you are now, what you’re going through — whether you’re in a bad place or somewhere far beyond your dreams — life can get better. It will get better. Just have faith. 👆

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Its 8:36PM and I still don’t feel like 2016 is coming to a close. I’ve been on hibernation the past few months but I want to take this time to just share how much the Lord has been good to me this year. This year has been the best so far, and I don’t want to say goodbye to the past 365 days just yet. You know that feeling when you graduate from high school? That feeling of anxiety ‘cos your high school experience was too fun, too memorable and comfortable that you don’t want to move on to college, ganun yung feeling. But well, in a few hours, even if I don’t want to, 2016 has to go to make way for even greater things in 2017. Though it feels scary and uncertain, I’m excited. I choose to be excited. 😊 For now, allow me to share what 2016 was for me.

(I tried my best to put it in a chronological order, I hope I didn’t miss out on anything. 😁)

  1. Spent January 1 visiting my dad’s sister and brother with the family + tagged Josh for the first time ❤
  2. Celebrated Josh and I’s fourth year anniversary 💑
  3. Went back to writing and blogging 4 years after I went on a strike (after my daddy died, I stopped journaling and writing so I won’t remember any important or memorable that happened to me)
  4. Got a video message from Jericho Rosales ♡
  5. Went back to the gym (and to eating oatmeal for lunch 🙊 )
  6. Joined my boyfriend’s family reunion 😁
  7. Survived Josh’s dengue 👊
  8. Headed Discipleship for the first time in a youth camp 🙌
  9. Started training new SMG leaders for youth camp 👆
  10. Tried driving for the first time (and hopefully, I’ll get a license this year) 👌
  11. Received an unexpected bouquet of flowers – and wow, I don’t like flowers much but I loved this one! 😍
  12. Celebrated my 26th birthday in a beach trip with my family 🌊
  13. Camp Ablaze 2016 happened and it was amazing! Praise you, Lord! (Plus I gained 4 Titas of Naic as friends 💛)
  14. Was able to facilitate two Ablaze Leaders Huddle
  15. Lunch out treat for my own team
  16. Got promoted to Assistant Manager (and had a lunch out with our very own Senior Vice-President) 💃
  17. Had the opportunity work with new sets of amazing people at work 👌
  18. Had more family lunch with Josh 💓
  19. Found my new love – Korean food 😋
  20. Got a new charming, adorable niece — Psalm 
  21. Opportunity to work with Business Development team at work for a project I’m a truly interested in & had more Rockwell site visits this year 🙋
  22. 5 years with Rockwell Land and it has been an amazing, learning and challenging experience so far! 5️⃣
  23. One-on-ones with our AVP and SVP (Yehess, to career growth!) 😁
  24. Attended two of my long-time elementary friend’s wedding 💒
  25. Had more wonderful dates with Josh ♡
  26. Became part of a new bible study group + discipleship group 😃
  27. First time Ayala Triangle Lights Show date with Josh 💛
  28. Level-up Leadership Conference 👆
  29. Was called out during GA for being one of the outstanding employees of the year, praise God! 🙏
  30. Currently spending the last day of the year with the complete family in a place I’m proud of, in Aruga by Rockwell 😉❤

I can go on and on here listing down things I am thankful for this year. Thank you Lord for new friendships and for developing old ones. Thank you Lord for my teammates in the office who made each working day not only bearable but fun. Thank you Lord for all the things that happened in my career, all the doors that have been opening and all the new people that I got to work or interact with. Thank you Lord for Youth Ablaze Ministry, for our faithful leaders, for all our successful events and for each and every experience we had in the ministry. Thank you Lord for my family who are all healthy today, for us having always the time to spend with each other. Thank you Lord.

Back in 2011, it was a totally different New Year’s Eve — losing daddy — and today, we have come a long way. Up to this day, I still cannot believe how the Lord healed us and uplifted us from that unfortunate experience. Ashes to beauty, ruins to life. I have learned that no matter where you are now, what you’re going through — whether you’re in a bad place or somewhere far beyond your dreams — life can get better. It will get better. Just have faith. 👆

Salamat Lord! You have filled my 2016 so much with blessings, goodness and joy, something I thought that I will never experience again. 

Dear 2017, I’m ready for you. (Well, I’ll be ready. 😁)

To My Favorite Scar

Everyday I carry in me something that I will never forget. A big chunk of my life, I really owe to you. And just like all bruises, it heals — and becomes a scar. You are my favorite scar, dad. It’s a deep, long and noticeable one but still my favorite. 💛

Today supposedly is your 63rd birthday on earth but reality wanted you to spend it in somewhere else — your 4th birthday in heaven, actually.

Five years after, it’s still the same yet so different. Back then, I would literally feel my heart twitch just at the thought of him never coming back. I would regret not permitting myself to celebrate a debut. Had I known he wouldn’t reach my wedding day, I could have pushed for it just so we could have our first (and unknowingly last) dance. I would ask the Lord several times to calm my mind and give me peace for not knowing what happened in his last few hours in that Russian hospital. I could not stop thinking if knowing it earlier would make a difference. What happened five years ago changed a lot of things in my life. It changed the way I dreamt for myself, the way where my plans were headed and the things I envisioned myself. And if there was anything constant in my life then, it was nothing but fear. It paralyzed me — crippled me — from the moment I woke up til the second I went to bed.

To be honest, one of the first things I had to learn about being on the receiving end of the loss is having no choice but to move on. I’m sure you’ve felt pain. Whether it was a heartbreak, failure, or like in my case, losing someone, the reality is after going through the numbing pain, you got no choice but to move past it. Yep, no choice. (Well, the other option is to stay sad and cry but one day, you will get tired of doing that too.) You have to wake up one day and decide not for anyone else, but for yourself. 

It took me three years. A hard three years. I did not feel regret over not saying how much I love my dad or spending more time with him given that he worked overseas, what I regret about is not being able to spoil him the way he spoiled me. He wasn’t able to experience my first treat from my first job, he wasn’t able to see my college diploma and he wasn’t able to see the fruits of his labor in my life. There were so many things that could have happened…but it did not. I got bruised real bad and there was no aid. Especially since the bruise came from a really deep trauma.

Five years after, it’s still the same yet so different. I still miss you everyday and I still remember you for a lot of reasons. I know I would no longer have that first and last dance. I would no longer be able to spoil you and slip you a little piece of chocolate. There are a lot of things that wouldn’t happen anymore but that’s okay, and I write that with a smile. I wouldn’t let this be another sad post of how much painful the loss was or a sad story about a daddy’s girl who lost the first love of her life. I know things will never be the same but I have chosen grace. Grace to restore my whole heart, grace to step onto new beginnings and grace that had let me create new dreams for myself and my family.

Everyday I carry in me something that I will never forget. Because of you I am able to enjoy a lot of things today. Because of you I became stronger than I thought I was. Because of you I learned true hard work and resilience. A big chunk of my life, I really owe to you.

And just like all bruises, it heals — and becomes a scar. You are my favorite scar, dad. It’s a deep, long and noticeable one but still my favorite. I love you forever and happy birthday. 💛

Love, your baby girl. ♡⚓

When The Music Fades

When the worship and preaching sessions, squad devotions and prayer times are no longer there, what should you do to take care of what you have received from camp? When the music fades and you now have to fight for your own salvation, what should you do?

Ablaze

So, Camp Ablaze is over. What’s next?

I am sure a lot of you misses camp. The squad, the Ablaze Encounter sessions, the worship times, the bonding moments with just about everyone who are there, the warm smiles, the encouraging prayers and the whole security it gives you as it takes you away from the realities of your life. Somehow it created comfort for all of us – yes, we, the YPC, is not exempted. We all miss it and we want to go back again! Because truth is, it is so much easier to worship, pray, love and desire to know the Lord more when we’re closer to each other. But you know, the good news is, it should not stop in camp.

Yes, once you step out of the bus, upon arriving in church and as you start to bid goodbye to your squad mates, you go home and go back to the normal life you have when you left 3 days ago. You still might have to face the same situations, problems or temptations because the camp’s intention is not to change your situation, it’s intention is to give you something new that can change you from the inside out.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-20 NIV)

After the camp, you have been given the option to choose what is right, you have the ability to pick who’s side are you on and you have now the strength to say no to the things that does not help you glorify the Lord. You are a changed person and the grace of the Lord is available to you as you stand for His truth.

So now the question is, when the worship and preaching sessions, squad devotions and prayer times are no longer there, what should you do to take care of what you have received from camp? When the music fades and you now have to fight for your own salvation, what should you do?

I do not know all, because I, too, fight every single day for the things that I believe in and for the freedom I have received through Jesus but allow me (by the grace of God) to share to you three practical steps that I have learned throughout my years of being a camper. This helped me grow in the Lord and are basically the reason why I am where I am today in my walk with Jesus.

1. You are now part of a family. Each and every person who attended the camp has already become a part of the family. Your squad/smallgroup and the whole Youth Ablaze, is your family. We will pray together, fight together, weep together, worship together and grow in Jesus together. You are part of the bond that was sealed in camp, do not waste your camp experience by being detached. Show up and engage in Hotrock, continue to talk to your squad leaders and approach any of the YPC. Feel free to open up and be accountable because we want to pray for you and we want to walk with you. Stay connected, stay with the family.

2. You have to decide to take care of your relationship with the Lord. Just like any other living thing, the life span and depth of your relationship with the Lord depends on how much you are willing to take care of it. No matter how many times your squad leader or pastor shares and preaches to you, if you don’t water the seed that was planted in you during camp, any time soon, you will wither and fall. So I am encouraging you to continue reading the Word, continue having your own worship and devotion time and most of all, surround yourself with people who runs the same race with you. Keep the fire blazing!

3. Do not just be a receiver, do something. Some of you might be saying, I am not yet equipped and I do not deserve to serve Jesus. You are wrong. It is not us who determines whose deserving or not, the Lord does not operate and define people the way humans do. As what our preacher, Pastor Mark Rosacay, said this morning, Christianity is not a spectator’s sport. You cannot just go to a Sunday service after camp and expect yourself to grow. You have to engage and walk hand-in-hand with people who has the same desire as you do. As young as you are, join a ministry and let yourself be used by the Lord. It will teach you more about the heart of God and through that, you will get to know Him more and overflow. [And based on my experience, I have learned a looooooot of things as a servant of Jesus than when I was who sitting at Hotrock, and just listening to the preaching.]

You see, you accepting the Lord as your personal Savior is just the beginning. Loving the Lord and living for Him is an everyday decision that you have to make. You have to stay connected, decide to have that desire to take care of your relationship with the Lord and commit to walk with people who understands and speaks the same language that you do. It won’t be easy, I tell you, but remember, you’re with family and families look after one another😉 👊

As what our Pastor Josh Hernandez reminded us last Hotrock, camp may be a yearly thing but the presence of God is available daily. 

Camp may have ended but the Lord has given you enough to overcome what life throws at you. Continue to fan the flame for God has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

[Love note: I am and will forever be grateful to my small group leader, Ate Andy Pampolina, and my ministry mentor, Ate Arlene Cruz, for all their patience, effort and commitment that they had poured out in my life. And of course, to my Pastor Brian Kairuz, who listened to me always and prayed for me when I needed serious shepherding in my life. I won’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them. And I thank them for not giving up on me.]

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This blog is intended to reach those who attended the Ablaze Camp 2016 but can somehow also be applicable to those who just recently attended a youth camp in their church. 

Ablaze cover.jpg

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Photos are the official posters of Lighthouse Youth Ablaze’s Ablaze Camp 2016 🔥

Overcoming Fears From The Past

We all have fears we need to conquer. Some we can move on from in an instant, some we’ll need forever to understand. But the same God who has carried me through the most meaningful experience of pain I had when I lost my dad is the same God who can show you that there is hope after every losing battle.

jesus

Disclaimer: This will be a long post since I’ll be sharing a personal experience. Please be patient or not, you decide. 😆

Last week has been the longest week of my life – okay I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. 😂

Josh had dengue. His fever started Saturday after lunch and continued on until Sunday. He went to the hospital Saturday late afternoon but was told to go back Monday since he still cannot be tested for dengue (he was told that it takes 2 to 7 days incubation of the virus before it manifests, or something to that extent, please don’t quote me though 😁). By Monday morning, he had a blood test and was said to have a 129 platelet count. He was then asked to return the next day for another blood test so they could see if his platelets will go down from there. Monday night came, he was already vomiting. So Tuesday morning, his parents already brought him to the hospital, had a blood test and yep, his platelets decreased to 110. That same day he was admitted.

So with all that happening, of course the girlfriend got terribly worried. Overthinking and paranoia does not really go well together. (So friends remember, don’t feed those thoughtsBe careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NCV) But I am not here to talk about myself as a girlfriend, or about how hard it was for me choo-choo. This is not a mushy post about my boyfriend. I wanted to highlight something else here. I am writing about this because I want to share something more important, I want to talk about fear and what the Lord has revealed to me about my heart through this experience with the hope that it could help you in some way.

[The very reason why I am overly affected is because] Ever since my dad died, I had this fear of sudden death. When my dad died, it caused me too much pain. Too much that in every corner of our house, I would stop and just cry. I also stopped keeping a planner and remembering happy moments. For years, I protected myself by practicing to easily forget anything that makes me happy. I thought to myself that at least when someone else dies, I won’t remember that much and the pain won’t be as much as well.

[Here’s the backstory, allow me to waste your time a little bit longer] My dad died while he was away from home. He was aboard ship in Russia, veryyyyyy far from us. Heart attack, as his death certificate indicated. But based on the hospital’s record, he was admitted for more or less 8 hours before he passed on. And the battle of not knowing what actually happened was the hardest. That feeling that you just have to accept things as they were and just move on. My mom, my sisters and brother did not have much choice but to move forward and just accept the fact that dad is gone THAT FAST. Thirty-three days after niya sumakay ng barko, twenty-one days after his birthday and just nine days after my college graduation. It was a terrible terrible terrible feeling. Even up to this day, I still remember how heart-wrenching that experience was for us – personally for me, especially as I was the closest to him, I was the youngest daughter, his favorite [they say]. It was then an ongoing battle in my mind. It was a struggle. To trust the Lord and to get over what had happened. I realized how short life was. How things can change in just a span of 8 hours. How your plans can never go your way and how sometimes, you won’t have a choice but to work your way out through the dreadful circumstances life throws at you. After three years, by the grace of God, I was completely healed. I can declare with all of my heart that God is still good. His plans are sovereign even at the times that we do not understand, and by faith, all things work together for the good.

But you know fear has its own way of slowly creeping in. When Josh told me, he was positive for dengue, my mind got way ahead of me. I started thinking of the worst scenarios (blood transfusion, critical blood test results etc.) based on the stories of the people who had dengue. I started worrying so much and before I knew it, fear has already taken over my mind and my heart. I could not get any sleep. I woke up every two hours, checking up on Josh even if I know he wouldn’t be able to reply because he feels too weak. I was even checking up on my mom if she was okay, checking if everyone in the house is still alive and breathing. I was just so paranoid to lose another loved one that I already forgot about God – to submit to His sovereignty over my life and the lives of the people around me.

And the hardest thing about the whole situation, dengue has no definite and medically-acclaimed cure. Day after day, the nurses will just check you for a blood test, check your blood pressure, check if you have no signs of bleeding and check for signs of neurological changes or if you’re already becoming lethargic. They’ll double check if you still know your complete name and birthday, in short, kung aware ka pa sa sarili mong katinuan. And as the patient, all you have to do is….. Well, wait until the platelets will go up again and make sure your immune system is strong enough to combat the virus. Drink water, eat fruits, get enough sleep. But because the nurse comes in and out of the room for the daily check-up and blood test after 12 hours (every after 6 hours on Josh’s day 4 and 5 as it were the critical phase, his platelets went down to 44 and 38), its not easy to get that enough, uninterrupted sleep.

Now here’s what I realized from the entire waiting experience – a different kind of waiting experience I must say:

1. You have to leave your fears of the past in the past. The wife of our NewGen pastor told me, “Not all situations are the same”.  Yes, you may go through the same things at different times. You perhaps experienced a same situation in the past and the outcome then was heartbreaking and painful (just like what happened to me) that it has now created fear in your heart. It greatly affected you, the way you think, the way you relate to people, the way you react to situations. You’ve built walls, you’ve been consumed by your worries and doubts. And without you noticing it, fear already has a foothold in your heart and have overpowered your faith. I repeat, NOT ALL SITUATIONS ARE THE SAME. Learn how to trust the Lord as you go through that trial (again), learn to surrender the pain and the anxiety it caused in the past so you won’t have to carry them to the present. The same God that have saved you then is the same God that will lead you through the current valleys in your life.

2. Prayer changes our hearts. Most of the time while we wait, we pray not because we come to God with a genuine heart of submitting to His will. We pray demanding that He should do something for us and expecting to have something good to come out from it – “because we prayed”. Day after day, I was praying to the Lord that the next blood tests will have better results. And day after day, I was let down. Platelets are still decreasing. While it is good to have faith in the Lord, to declare Him being in control of every situation, we have to realize that prayers are not magic pills. Not because we prayed about it, we’ll already get the result we expect to have. Prayer does not work that way. Instead, we should pray because we want to invite the Lord as we go through a disheartening or challenging situation. We should pray because we want the Lord to give us peace. We should pray because we trust the Lord and His will over our life. Yes, we may not all the time get our expected result but it will give our heart peace and courage to face what we are and will be going through.

3. Wait with faith. I was doing my own research and consultations from my friend in med school and while everything Josh was experiencing was really part of the dengue phase, I was getting impatient. I wanted to fast track everything. I believe in my heart that Josh will be safe and he is in good hands, I was telling myself, its just dengue Mae, compared naman to other sicknesses and diseases some people are going through. (But I cannot also dismiss the fact that in snap, a lot can happen) My bestfriend, being the supportive that she was, sent me a verse and was rebuked by the Lord through Psalm 112:

Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. [Psalm 112:1, 6-8 NLT)

Even if I have been a Christian and have become a leader for more or less 6 years now, the Lord is continuously teaching me new things. I was reminded to not let current circumstances dishearten me. He revealed to me the importance of having to wait with faith – to be faithful in prayer even if the situations don’t get better. Wait on the Lord with faith. Whatever your fears are, lay it down at the foot of the cross and believe in the power of His Word: Put your confident trust in the Lord for He will take care of you.

We all have fears we need to conquer. Some we can move on from in an instant, some we’ll need forever to understand. But the God who has carried me through the most meaningful experience of pain I had when I lost my dad is the same God who can show you that there is hope after every losing battle. 

My fear from the past still stings from time to time but I know for a fact that it could not and should never hold me down. Remember if God is for us, who can be against us?

PS: Josh has been discharged already last Sunday and is now in Cebu with our NewGen pastor ministering to a youth camp. Thank you for everyone who prayed!  💪

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Psalm 90:12

I hope that today, as you read this (if you actually will), you will find that urge to pray and seek the Lord for wisdom. I pray that you will grasp the brevity and shortness of life and finally take action. Life is too short. Make wise decisions. You’re here to live and not just to survive. There’s a huge difference between the two.

“Teach us to realize the brevity and shortness of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NLT)
Woke up with this question in my head:
“If I’m about to go today, am I ready?”
Then I read that verse. Life is too short, really. One day you’re okay then the next day, you’ll receive a text from your sister about losing your dad to a heart attack. (True story by the way) And all of a sudden, your whole life will change forever. And this had happened not only to me but to friends I know who lost their loved ones either to an accident or to a sickness. As cliche as it may sound, life is too short to waste on things that is not worth your time. We wake up everyday and go on with our same routines, then when you check your phone calendar, weeks – sometimes months – have already passed. And yep, your days just went by like that. Then you think about where did all those months go… You’re still at the same place, have accomplished little by doing the same things over and over and have not felt fulfilled all those times. You check your life and you still have all those anger, regrets, baggage. You still haven’t went to that place you wanted to go to, you still haven’t saved, you still haven’t made amends with that person you’ve had broken relationships with, you still haven’t pursued that goal you wanted ever since you started your career, you still haven’t talked and forgiven your mom or dad. And you still have not opened your bible, you still do not know what your purpose is and where your life is headed. I hope that today, as you read this (if you actually will), you will find that urge to pray and seek the Lord for wisdom. I pray that you will grasp the brevity and shortness of life and finally take action. Life is too short. Make wise decisions. You’re here to live and not just to survive. There’s a huge difference between the two. Find your purpose, seek direction for your life. Do not settle with just waking up to do the same things over and over again. Live your life wisely and live it well (Psalm 90:12 MSG).
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My Two and Seventy Five Cents 👌

My two (and seventy five) cents that I’ve been seriously thinking about for days. Not to convince anyone of my belief or force them to side with me but this is for me. For me to rightfully assess where my faith and stand is. Homosexuality has been there since Sodom and Gomorrah, but the main point here is about marriage. The way God designed marriage – for a man & woman – in accordance to their callings as husband and wife. And yes, the bible is offensive. Especially if you are a sinner, whether or not you’re a homosexual. I actually get offended by the bible, even by preachers. And that ‘s totally fine, because we have to identify what’s right from wrong, good from evil. So no need for condemnation, there’s the bible for it. I am sure one of these days, same sex marriages will be legalized and the norm would be totally different from what it was before and what it is today. And by law, that is their human right, to be equally acknowledged and to get the freedom a man or a woman gets to enjoy. Still, let’s respect the fact that my desire (as well as most Christians) for my future kids is to stand true to their faith and be Christ followers according to His teachings. Yes, no person can ultimately follow everything that is written in the Word but Christianity is not about being perfect. It is about pursuing the Lord – that in all our shortcomings as a sinful human, we find peace in repenting from our sins and deciding again to follow Him. A daily pursuit of our faith in Jesus and obedience to His Word. That’s all it is. Bottomline: I want a marriage (and promote one) where the man functions as the husband and the woman functions as the wife – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and EVEN sexually. I want that because I want to experience the beauty of it all the way my God designed it to be. 💙

(And no, I will not engage in any discussion about this. Either you just read it or just read it. 😉💛)