2016: A Year of Lessons/Realizations

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PHOTO taken by my good friend and brother in Christ, Jared Kaiser

Fresh from a wonderful Sabbath of serving God and fellowship with my family plus friends, I am so stoked to have this post as my last for the year 2016. I was so blessed with the messages I heard from the Divine Service (it was so timely!) up to the AY Program. And it is my utmost desire to faithfully apply these in my life as the new year begins. (So help me God!)

2016 has been a very challenging year for me. In a lot of ways: physically, mentally (more of like academically), socially/emotionally and of course, as evidenced in recent write-ups, spiritually. I have to say I’ve grown for the good but it would be a lie not to admit that I’ve also grown for the worse. But despite all the happenings I went through this year, God has ever remained faithful and gracious to me. May that be reflected in the things I’m about to share.

Instead of writing about my highlights, let me share the lessons (hence, the title) or the realizations I’ve had from out of the different experiences I was in or circumstances I dealt with:

  1. No matter how hard you try to be good or kind to others, there will always be people who will use you, take advantage of your or hurt you for hurting’s sake. But then again, we live in an imperfect world; we can’t please everyone. So I guess I end up reminding myself that it is God Who I need to please or to focus on. And worse, maybe they thought that by dong such, you will go dark. But you will prove them wrong because you choose to let the good in you remain and improve for the better. Ouch! It seems like the first one is salt on a wound but definitely it’s the one that has the most impact on me. As you may have read in a post in the past, I’ve been through one ‘valley’ which tested my faith in God and my will to survive. But the Lord saw me through. So with love and forgiveness in my heart, I will move on to 2017 with this lesson inculcated in my heart.
  2. I’m a garbage collector, a good one. During the general cleaning of my room, I got to see how many stuff I have kept through the years that needed to be disposed. It made me ponder that I probably collected a lot of garbage, not only  literally but also in my life’s room; maybe people, habits, emotions or other things which I definitely need to let go. So with enthusiasm and for a good purpose, here’s to cleaning up my life! (Plastic also serve as part of my collection but hopefully they’re not the people I know!)
  3. You can never survive anything life throws at you without God. Well, I believe I’m not the only one who understands this fully. From the book of Job (which was our topic for the Sabbath School lesson this quarter) to experiencing many tough times, I came to value how a relationship with God really helps during such and what faith in Him entails. Yes, being comforted by your family and friends is a blessing. But to know that the God of the Universe knows your pain and cares enough for You; to add, that He is always in control no matter what happens, is certainly far better. So here’s to enriching my spiritual walk even more as I enter 2017!!!

There are surely a lot of lessons/realizations for this year but these three are the ones worth sharing and heart tugging as well! I just could not overemphasize how deeply thankful I am for God’s love manifested in His guidance, sustenance, protection, and of course His forgiveness! Your grace is truly amazing, dear Lord!

With a grateful heart, a focused mind and a confident spirit, I move forward to 2017! Happy New Year!

My First Day of School

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When a happening got you thinking…

My first day of school was cancelled.

Ouch! As for most of my classmates I believe that means hurrah, it spells disaster for me and that is what I’m going to share through this post. I felt the urge to share what I went through today before I hit the books.

You see, I was absent on the real first day of classes which was last Monday, August 8. This was a great disappointment for me, of course but what can you do when you get infected with a virus? I suffered from viral exanthema for roughly 2-3 days and I thank God I recovered quickly so that I was able to return to Iloilo yesterday. (Thank God even more that it was not dengue or chikungunya! Spell relief!) So yes, I missed out a lot on the 1st 2 days  of 2nd year which is considered as the hardest and is even dubbed as “Hell Year.” But I got to move on with that!

However, what happened this morning seemed to tell me that I belong to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I have to say that what happened wasn’t grievous  but it wasn’t non-stressful. Well, for someone who was absent for two days already (and one lecture on one day to be exact), I was looking forward to having one full, regular class day at Roxas Hall today. To add, we were to have our first meeting for Jericho Walk, an annual event of CCC, a college organization I joined. I was going to speak. So yes, my plate was full and before I forget, I even had to go to my aunt’s house to have her sign my excuse letters.

With my exigencies written, you could imagine how busy my day could have been. And with the rain not cooperating with me, it was a challenge to keep my white pants clean and spot-free. After visiting my aunt, I was on my way to school when I learned that classes were cancelled. Burn baby, burn! Wow. That was hard to swallow. (And yes, if I were to swallow such, it would still be really difficult because my throat still hasn’t cured completely and eating these days is a painful experience.) Anyway, in a time where some would lash out the S word or get mad, I’m glad right now I chose to laugh it off. I can’t remember if I prayed but the Lord knows how dependent I was/am on His will. I wish I did and more importantly, I  wish to be more prayerful. Good thing, the org head was communicating with me and with encouragement, it was decided that we push through with the first session. She and her best friends would come just for the event! (May God bless these precious, passionate souls!) So there I was, walking my way to school while other students were going home. I will not deny that I felt a bit downtrodden but God was good enough to encourage me so yes, I walked with determination along the muddy puddles of water.

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With the wind so strong, my bag looked like it swam in a pool.

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(sighs)

And as if my sickness and the weather/class suspension combo were not enough, some of the people who came for the event had to leave because it turned out they still had one class. Talk about such relentless opposition from the enemy of souls! But it was clear as Rejine (our group coordinator) expressed: we were doing something right as God would be doing something powerful through us and Satan doesn’t like it; hence, all these. But we still pushed through with the first session. We could not afford the devil to succeed with his intentions and plans. With Arvey and Jib (God lovingly provided him to add to the company), I shared my prepared message on renewal and we closed the session with a prayer. Matthew 18:20 comforted me as it says, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

So yes, that was how my first day of school went so far! With a trial (or was it a test?) that didn’t prevent me, didn’t hinder us from doing what must be done for the Lord and with Him as well. I will still be looking for reasons why the Lord allowed such especially throughout today. But once again, He has gently reminded me that no matter what happens, He is always there, He is always in control.

On a brighter note, I can still have classes at my room. So, let’s study!!

July 24-30: A Week of Losses

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“We may lose something or someone but our loving God would not leave us without gain.” – KBH

For my second post on Simple Recall to be late again really proves how busy I am. I returned to Iloilo City just yesterday to attend a burial and throughout my day, I had no time to sit down and write this post. However, the fact that I can write now is because I’m already through with my important things-to-do for today. Spell relief!

Well, this week started with a big challenge for our family: the heartbreaking loss of my uncle Toting (He was the husband of my Aunt Lydia, the eldest sister of my father.) I remember how deeply sad I was upon learning of the unexpected news that Sunday morning. It was only two months ago when an uncle died, you know. So it was another tough ordeal for all of us. However, despite his death, I thanked God that he died peacefully in his sleep. And the best part? He got to see his youngest daughter who arrived the day before from the US so seeing all his children before dying could have been meaningful to him. Talk about the promptings of the Spirit! I guess God must have orchestrated how his daughters could go home out of the blue and spend time with him. His timing is always perfect, don’t you think?

Besides the familial loss, I had my share of losses which I could not describe in detail here because they are too personal. But one thing was and is sure: God brought me up where I stumbled and by His grace, I am fighting on even with all my scars and wounds. No matter how many times I failed Him, He has never given up on me! His love is so everlasting and His grace, so empowering! (Please pray for me, dear reader as I press on in my journey to where God wants me to go and against the things that must go…)

So throughout all my losses this week, I still praise Him for as I can see, I still gained something which He alone can give! And also, the Lord knows what He is doing so I trust His will.He always knows what is  best!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

PHOTO SOURCE: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2010/02/10/health/loss480/loss480-blogSpan

July 17-23: A Musical Week

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PHOTO SOURCE: woodlibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/musical-notes

NOTE: I wanted to start blogging about how my week went by and to share the different lessons or notable experiences I had if there were any. This will be written in a context of gratitude to God by which without His grace I know I could never accomplish anything or survive. But since I was busy yesterday (Sunday, July 24, Philippine time), I have to apologize for the delay! You see, I’m back as the official atsoy (helper) of our household. Haha, that’s another topic! Anyway, it’s better late than never as I fondly believe!

Well, to start things off, I came from a very tiring yet fulfilling week! The Thursday before, I found myself miles away from home again as I was back in the “City of Love”, Iloilo City. I was there for a chorale appointment which entailed me to practice and although I was already late, I was able to catch up with the rest of the group in learning new songs. Besides the daily grind on my vocal cords, I managed to have a general cleaning of my dorm room every day. I didn’t push myself to clean it in just one time because that was too tiresome. What really mattered was before I leave for home, my room would be decent as possible. I thanked God for helping me with these but there are 3 things that I’m certainly grateful for:

  1. Gracious sustenance: With only 2,000 pesos added to my pocket, I had to make sure that my spending was wise for groceries, payments, etc. And with limited money, I survived! That was because I had 4 free meals within the week! It really helped! Oh, God bless those kindhearted people!
  2. Miraculous healing: As evidenced above, my voice got sore from all the singing and late night sleeping! Sadly, I couldn’t sleep immediately on some nights. I was concerned because the day before our chorale gig, my voice was not in good shape! With appropriate regimens, I sought help by asking my friends to pray for me! And what do you know? On the night of our performance, I was able to sing my heart out as my singing voice came back! Faith and prayer really do wonders! And I thank God again for the healing power of ginger! 🙂
  3. Successful event: Dubbed as the ‘Mystical Moonlight Serenade’, the mini concert of Med Symphony (yep, that’s the name of our group!) proved to be a delight to the listening ears of the Philippine Psychiatric Association. From timeless classics to modern Tagalog compositions and to a fun, concluding Abba medley, I believe the doctors were more than entertained as we were more than overwhelmed with the financial gains we received.Wow! It was just a beautiful evening at a beautiful place (twas my first time in Casa Real, huh!) with beautiful people! #Beautiful na ini! But seriously, we did it on such a short time! And how can I forget to give credit to the Master Musician?
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Photo taken by Fritz Hernz

So yes, that was how my Musical Week went. Musical not only because of #3! But also because, like music, I had my highs and lows but through it all, everything still played well at the end, beautifully! Thank You Lord! Here’s to more musical weeks!

Don’t Stop the Drip Drop

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The view from my room after the downpour. I hope you can see that unclear water drop from the ceiling.

It has been a pluvious morning so far and the rain actually stopped like 2 minutes ago. Well, it brought mixed emotions within. Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain. I thanked God for it because I know the plants are rejoicing now with the abundant water supply provided for them. Well, I think the shower today was the strongest for this month. (By the way, if you still don’t know, it’s already rainy season here in the Philippines. It starts from June and can extend up to September. We only have 2 seasons here you know. So yeah, lying on a pile of orange leaves or making a snow angel is still on my my bucket list.) And with this weather, it’s not hard to appreciate the coolness of the air, a refreshing balm from the usual heat we have in a tropical country. But my gratitude and relief were quite short-lived. I got irked out because the rain came on such a wrong time- when I was doing the laundry manually outside the house (plus some other related stuff which I need not mention). Good thing, it stopped for a little while but talk about the perfect nightmare of having the clothes you just washed drying slowly, without the sun’s help. (Our washing machine is left unfixed so you get the picture. :/) But this is not what I’m going to write about. Looks like I’ve shared too much already. (Laughs) Forgive me. With the timeliness of a rainy Wednesday, I just wanted to share how my Tuesday was rainy too but in a different way.

You see, yesterday, before I wrote my “Round and Round… No More” post, I spent some alone time with the Lord through contemplation and prayer. With music to enrich my experience, I was getting emotional. And I cried. I cried out of desperation, out of shame, out of conviction, out of helplessness. (If you read my post, you’ll understand where I was coming from.) I just cried to Him.

It wasn’t long until I cried again while watching the movie, “Miracles from Heaven” with my family. Although some parts of the movie didn’t agree with my beliefs, the true-to-life story touched my heart in ways I didn’t expect. I was clearly overwhelmed with the many essential lessons I drew with regards to faith and family. (If you still haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it! Just prepare your tissues or hankies though especially if you’re onion-skinned.)

And just when you think it’s the end of my tear provoking journey!  I decided to respond to the people who liked my post yesterday and I ended up reading some of their works. I was inspired and blessed with what I read. Until that one post where I almost cried because her message was just what I needed at the moment!

(Sighs.) I really cried a lot yesterday that if there was like a normal value range for tears, I’d say I was in the ‘Very High’ category. Or worse, did I defeat Sadness from ‘Inside Out’? Haha… But seriously, I realized later (and even now as I’m typing this) something valuable: Crying is okay. Crying is beautiful. We live in a world where crying is ‘usually’ considered weakness or femininity. But I beg to disagree. To cry is to say that you are strong enough to accept that you can’t make it on your own. To cry is to let go. To cry is to be human.

So whatever happens or wherever I may be, if I feel  like crying, I won’t stop the drip drop. Because after all, for me, tears are no waste.

P.S.Wow, just, wow! As I was about to end this post, the rain returned! Talk about natural reinforcement!

 

Round and Round….. No More

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Let our constant speech be: “Lord, save me or I perish! I surrender all!”

Have you ever felt like your life is an endless cycle of mistakes and failures? You fall, dust off the dirt, you rise up; you stumble, you rise up again. And it’s with the same things you’ve been battling ever since: some formidable strongholds, darling sins or even secret weaknesses that have plagued you for too long. By and with God’s grace, you recover and experience a plethora of rich blessings and wonderful opportunities making you feel like you’re completely over the things that link you to the past; that you’d never do them again. But before you know it, you end up at the same place you never wanted to return to. With this heart-aching turn of events, the enemy of souls would cause you to think that there is no chance for you to come back to God, to change for the better. And now, you feel utterly hopeless and undoubtedly helpless. Too much for a description huh?  But I guess that’s the way it is when you really experienced such. And if your answer to the question above is YES (a resounding but bitter one), welcome to the club, dear friend! (Here’s my comforting virtual hug!) Don’t get stuck up with these negative feelings though! There is always hope in our Redeemer, Savior and Friend Jesus Christ! And it is my utmost desire to briefly share some insights the Lord has provided me with to you!

I believe that everyone in the world has his/her own spiritual Waterloo. Well, some have become victorious in their battle! (Praise God for that!) But to those who are still on the rocks, we need to understand one important truth: we are wretched human beings, born as sinners and always having the propensity to sin. Paul got it right when he wrote in Romans 7:24- “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (This verse actually has captured the essence of my personal spiritual experience.) Once we come to a full understanding of this, we see that whatever we do, we can’t stop something or change ourselves without divine aid. We are nothing on our own. We surely need the grace of God more than a strong will to overcome! Please echo with me in response to the said text, “No one can save me but Thee!”

But we later realize that God’s grace doesn’t win us all the time when it competes with our sins.It should because His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Corinthians 12:9) However, this is enough to say that something is still wrong or something is missing. You see, salvation is never a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It is a daily process of full surrender (where those things that kept you far from the Lord are not worth clinging to or they lose their power over you) and total commitment to what a ransomed life in Christ entails. What would it profit me if I am saved but I still do the same things that God is against? To add, it could be possible that we depend on feelings and think everything’s okay; only to find out in the end that there was no true conversion within us at all. Let us not forget that “true conversion means a changed life” as one of my favorite authors, Ellen G. White puts it. Or maybe we have been relying on ourselves too much that His grace is nothing more but just a lyric of a song.

Somehow, in assessment of myself, all those factors played a role on why I’m still struggling.But it’s not the end for me yet. I chose not to give up and get away from this mess. I am determined to make things right with the help of the Lord and now, I am humbled to say that I am 100% dependent upon His grace! Through faith, grace by which I stand, by which I am saved, by which I can change.

I don’t know about you but I’m sure tired of going around in circles!

P.S. Here’s a song to complete my post and to serve as a musical add-on!

IMAGE SOURCE: https://adventistmissionary.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/christ-hugging

You Raise Me Up

 

I’m going to sing the very popular song of Josh Groban, the title of which is the same as this entry this Wednesday. Not only once but twice. And in public… Somebody pinch me! I never thought that I’d get to sing this long loved ballad for real. I only sing it at the shower or in my room, you know. Being a fan of the named artist, I am quite excited to do this but I cannot escape the nervousness because it is such an emotional song, familiar to lots of people. I hope and pray that my performance on  the 27th would be a success! However, I am not dwelling on how I feel for my upcoming rendition. I would like to share, briefly, how this song, seems so timely during this challenging time in my life.

As of the moment, my uncle is in the ICU in such a critical condition and it makes me feel like it’s God sustaining Him all along with the medical apparatuses. Please pray for him; I’d greatly appreciate it. Adding to my concern is the fact that our pharmacological study is still under rocks and it never runs out of presenting us with new problems or difficulties. They said research was fun but so far, it has never been that way, somehow. With limited time and resources, I am trying to be positive that we can start promptly. But it looks like this won’t be the case for us. I am keeping my finger crossed! On top of all these, I am still dealing with some personal struggles that present a daily  burden upon me. It seems to me that the brunt of all these is upon my shoulders.

But God constantly reminds me, especially through ‘You Raise Me Up’, that I am strong when I lean on His shoulders; that He can raise me up as I deal with these present challenges and difficulties. And the weight feels like it is lifted off when you get to express your emotions. How much more when you have surrendered everything to Him?

I don’t think it was a coincidence that ‘You Raise Me Up’ ended up to be my song opportunely! This is undoubtedly a gracious provision of the good Lord!