Miracles Happen When You Believe

Deaths of my loved ones made me doubt the existence of miracles. Despite years of prayers and tears, witnessing a sibling suffer from incurable illness for many years (until he eventually passed away) led me to become a pessimist. I used to believe that most of the time prayers were futile. My young heart and mind was scarred by tragedies. I loved the idea of miracles but I used to console myself with the thought that expectation hurts. I used to believe in praying but Thy will be done. And His Will was often not the way I wanted.

Months ago, dramatic turn of events happened in my life which made me wonder, “Was it miracle? If not then what was it?” Let me share a long story.

A True OFW Story

More than a year ago, I finished my job contract and I found a new employer which promised a better salary and job benefits. We already found a new accommodation 5 minutes away walk from the new workplace. I shopped for new clothes for my new job. Excited to work with my new employer, I stopped working in my old company immediately after I finished my contract without waiting for my last working day notice. I was not able to sign any clearance because I was forced to continue working although my residence permit was expired. I told myself that after I finished my contract nothing can stop me from leaving. I left without even turning back. To my shock, my residence permit was canceled by my old employer right after I stopped working with them which means I was no longer legal to stay in this foreign country as an OFW. I must go back to my hometown.

My husband was telling me that I needed to stay because we just came from 8-month lockdown 6 months ago in the Philippines where I just gave birth to our first baby and we had not paid all our debts. I fought so hard for my rights to transfer sponsorship. For months I kept going to Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour, and Social Affairs (ADLSA) and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) countless of times to submit documents and ask for help. I even desperately called and emailed National Human Rights Committee and many other individuals who might offer help. As advised by the POLO-OWWA I filed a case against my old employer for not providing end of service benefits, one month overtime pay, half month salary, ticket and leave pay after cancelling my work visa.

It Was Dead End

I crawled my way painfully in hopes of reaching a greener pasture only to find an enormous barrier, a great wall of China, no window, door nor a small opening, a giant barricade as tough as a stone heart. I was like a dust among other sands on ground with no power to climb over it nor destroy its massiveness. I saw many people who struggled as much as I did. I was not special. The fierce hope I drew from the thoughts that I am a child of God and God is the Creator of all these things, was gradually fading. I faced people of different races with same eagerness, frustration and pain as mine. Perhaps everything people said to me was right.

“There’s really no chance that you can transfer sponsorship because your visa is cancelled.”

“You have to go back to the Philippines and apply for new visa again. There’s no other way.”

“Once your visa is canceled, your employer has the only authority to reactivate it. In your case, there is no hope.”

“How long are you going to wait for your visa reactivation? You’re waiting for nothing. Months already passed.”

“Better go home. Your daughter is waiting for you.”

The government officer in the ADLSA also told me, “You can’t transfer sponsorship because you need NOC. No chance.”

To say that I was weary from everything I had been through was understatement. I gave up my dream of transferring sponsorship. My burning hope lost its warmth and turned ice cold. I was ready to go home and meet my daughter. I bought and created decorations for my daughter’s first birthday and dedication which I would bring to the Philippines. Everything was set.

Horror Story

We had numerous times of hearing in ADLSA until it was decided that my old employer would finally provide the due amount they owed me in their facility as discussed. Money which I could use to buy flight ticket was the only thing I was waiting for. The next day as directed, I went to my old employer’s office to collect the money but they denied that they were informed about the agreement. I felt nothing but extreme frustration, hatred and exhaustion. To make my miserable situation even worse, my previous employer also filed an absconding case against me which led to another unending predicament. I became a constant visitor in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for a month.

Five months painfully passed and I could not go home to the Philippines due to financial issues. My daughter turned one year old without me. All the decorations we created left untouched. My unemployment made us move from spacious flat to cheaper, tinier, windowless partitioned room with my husband. I felt like a prisoner inside of our dwelling. I was whispering when speaking because my husband told that I might disturb other dwellers by my normal voice. I could not even play my ukulele which was the only thing that could help me cope. Because I felt like I was buried in a tomb, I barely slept.

It looks bigger in photo.

Therefore, we used to spend our mornings in the park with my ukulele. I also hated going to malls or supermarket because stores reminded me that there was nothing I could afford.

5 am at Oxygen Park

I paid no attention to my appearance until one day while looking at myself in the mirror I just realized I was having the worst case of acne and pimple marks I ever experienced in my entire life. I looked like a different person, a lot uglier and prematurely aged. My knees ached and I could not walk with ease. I drank only a glass of water a day and my urine started to turn brown. I neglected not only my looks but my well-being as well. I was merely existing, breathing but not living.

Walls Crashed

After a month CID came to a conclusion that a case filed against me had insufficient evidence to prove its veracity. My residence permit was finally reactivated by the Ministry of Interior as ordered by the ADLSA. I was not anymore an illegal alien. I looked for a new employer because the previous one got tired of months of waiting for me. Most of the companies were asking for No Objection Certificate (NOC) which I could not provide since my old employer sole mission was to send me back to the Philippines. However, everything went the way I did not expect. ADLSA approved my request for change of sponsorship though I did not submit NOC. I got hired. Today I am earning more than I was earning before. If it was not miracle, was it luck? Some say it was luck but I did not wear some charms to attract good fortune. I believe that God placed right people at the right time and in the right place.

I remember the scripture in Psalm 27:11-13,

“Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done; with every breath they threaten me with violence. Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.”

It is your choice to believe in luck or to believe in God and I choose to believe that the Lord put the right person at the right moment for me. When I went to ADLSA to complain after my old employer broke the agreement, the Lord placed the right person in the reception who could allow me to enter without a schedule (which was prohibited) at the right moment when the Qatari officer was in his good mood so that he could help me in reactivating my residence permit (which was not his job). What if the receptionist did not allow me to come in and just asked me to go home and wait just like other receptionists always said? What if the government officer was annoyed at that moment and chose to ignore me? Everything was possible but at that moment everything conspired for my own good. Things acted in harmony toward a common end which was for my own benefit. Even the indestructible walls crash. Who is stronger than those powerful barriers?

Lessons Relearned

Though I pitied myself for living in a room almost as small as our queen size bed, for not being able to buy cheap things, still God provides. He taught me that we can still live with just having less. We are not enslaved by material things. What matters is not what is happening to us but what is happening inside of us. If experiencing all these issues will make me less materialistic and more grateful, then let me feel all these pain. I am confident still, that I can see the goodness of the Lord in this life. To God be the glory!

An Alternate History of Me

Some people know my life story but nobody knows a bizarre history of me narrated by my own awkward inner voice. Sometimes I felt it was just part of my nightmares I deluded myself into thinking this was true. Sometimes I thought this was real because as highly sensitive person my intuition seldom failed me. If you want to hear my alternate history, read on.

I was the fifth and youngest child of my hardworking parents. They say youngest is the most favorite and most spoiled but I vary in opinion. We weren’t well-off so it’s understandable that raising five children was problematic. My one and only brother spoke to me, “We thought you were a boy. I would have named you Bernie if you were.” My brother wanted a boy sibling he could relate to him in many ways and here I was, yelling at him with so much disgust. My existence was an inconvenience. My family would have experienced a more comfortable life without having me because feeding an extra mouth hindered them to partake adequately. My assumption was my parents’ hope to have another boy led them to conceive me and only to perpetually have another boring female with grown up body similar to a male. Perhaps I was mistaken but whatever the reason might be, I was still an unwanted offspring.

I didn’t want going to school when I was in early grade school because no one wanted to converse with a quiet and reserved child. When I moved to another school and excelled in class I gained some friends, however, I was despised by my teachers. I was accused of cheating exams by my elementary teachers but I was too innocent to even consider failing an exam a horrible scenario. I heard gossips describing me as an imbecile. I was my worst critic and to hear someone criticized me like how I condemned myself eradicated all my doubts that I was a stupid person.

I won medals in essay writing contests competing with students in all levels in high school but when I went home and enthusiastically flaunted the fake gold coin shaped thing in my hand, nobody glimpsed at it. I then understood that speaking was incomparable with writing. Articulate people were given recognition whereas those who were not capable of speaking eloquently but could only write effectively were unnoticed or worst looked down upon. I was not well-spoken but I wrote passionately and it did not make me less moron. I was after all a dumb. I did not graduate with flying colors.

No wonder I was not the favorite but disliked. I grew up with bad temper and unpleasant traits no one, even myself would ever like.

Are we great historians of ourselves?

Not everyone writes their life story the same way I did. However, to those who have written their alternate history as though they were the ultimate villain, let’s ask ourselves, are we great historians of ourselves or an unfair storyteller? If I saw strangers treated people how I treat myself, I wouldn’t hesitate to call it cruelty. Our reality can be distorted and in order to check the truth we must see another person’s perception of us. We must check the reality against another’s and there is no other person more reliable than the one who created us.

Real History of Me By My Maker

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms‬ ‭139:13-16‬

But You are He who took me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother’s womb You have been my God. Psalms‬ ‭22:9-10‬

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side! Psalms‬ ‭56:8-9‬

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalms‬ ‭23:4-6‬

We Are Not Awful

The Word of God never fail to make me cry tears of joy. Some of us harshly criticize our own selves because in our early lives some people made us believe that those hurtful words were facts. We hate ourselves because we once felt unloved. We dislike ourselves because we once felt disliked. Therefore, the Lord made His Word available to us to remind His people that we are not awful and unwanted. We in fact are adored, set apart and dearly loved. His powerful and truthful Words outweigh the wounding lies we tell our inner selves. May we see how valuable we are in the eyes of God.

This post is inspired by this video:

I am also on social media.

How I Met My First Love

I met my first love when I used to wear bright green pants paired with cheap brown shoes and didn’t think I looked like a bamboo tree. I weighed only 45 kg and didn’t know how to choose good clothes which could flatter my rectangular and malnourished physique. That was 8 years ago. I was young and naive as pubescent gal who never touched anyone’s hand of opposite gender nor had any thought of being adored by any man. Looking back to that moment is like looking at my old photograph lurking in an antique box. I used to call myself ugly until I met him.

I lack precise words to fully express my emotion which consumed me when I first met him. Meeting him is like listening to a noise and it suddenly becomes a meaningful song. It’s like stumbling and then all of a sudden you feel like dancing and jumping in joy. It’s like starving and then you feel full without even eating. My words won’t be sufficient to describe it vividly because I believe it is something that can’t be put into words. Is there such thing as indescribable mirth? But then, it’s my most favorite story I can passionately tell to anyone, my first encounter with my first love.

I already heard a lot about him before we met. I came to know him through the words people say about him. He is famous. Everyone knows his name. I thought I knew him enough. I thought I knew him so well until I found out a shocking truth. He knew me all along. I figured out that he wrote me heartfelt love letters before I was born. It seemed surreal. How could someone as popular as him know so much about me? How could he know me so much without even meeting me?

I was in tears while reading his letters. I never thought that anyone could see me the way he saw me. He said I was beautiful when all I could see in the mirror was ugliness. He called me worthy when the world made me feel unappreciated. He said he died for me when all I could think about was killing myself. He was the only one who chose me when nobody seemed to care. Knowing his unconditional love for me got me interested in knowing him more. Who was this man who claimed that he has loved me more than anyone else?

I wanted to see him. I longed to see his face. I was hungry for truth. Was his love real? Was he even real? He said in those letters, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” And he was right. I found him. I found him when I sought him with all my heart.

You may not believe it but I first met him through a song. He showed his face to me when I closed my eyes and sang. And when I stopped singing and listened to the music, I heard his beautiful voice singing to me. I saw his heart through every word of the lyrics. He was alive in each musical note. He held my hand and danced gracefully with me through every strum of guitar and beat of drum. You could think that I was crazy singing with eyes shut and dancing erratically with hands lifted up. You might think I was losing my mind when you saw me in such weird state but if you could only see my heart, it was melting, beating wildly with euphoria. When the music stopped, everything went back to what it was used to be except my heart. It will never be the same again.

He loved me first before I learned what real love was. I can always boast about his love for me but I know I can’t love the way he does. To be honest, he wasn’t my first love. My first love was myself but when I felt the warmth of his presence, I didn’t want to feel cold again. I don’t want to let go of his embrace. I don’t want to walk blindly away from his light anymore. However, I know, my love for him is so small compared to the love he always has for me, but I believe his love and grace are always enough for both of us.

Below is one of the letters he wrote for me, and for those who choose him,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John‬ ‭15:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

His name is Jesus and I will always remain in His love for eternity.

Life Realizations in the Workplace

As I was folding up my freshly laundered old uniforms, I noticed that their colors faded and there were sturdy ink stains all over. They’ve served their purpose well and just like places and material things, you’ll leave them when you’re done with them. You leave places because you are not a tree which grows in one place all its life. We grow in various places. We leave material things behind when carrying them limits us to go further. All we can bring with us wherever we go are the memories, lessons and realizations which have changed us.

I placed my uniforms neatly in a paper bag, ready for disposal. Keeping away all my old stuff which used to be useful is like closing a significant chapter in my life. I got rid of the old and worn out things of the past but I brought with me all the lessons and life realizations that I decided to share.

Realization #1

Don’t take everything personally.

I used to get hurt easily by nasty gestures and tone of voice. When someone was rude to me I started overthinking and hating. People’s emotional reactions aren’t necessarily based on us. When someone shouted at you, it didn’t solely mean that you were stupid. It might be because that person had personal issues, was feeling sick and stressed out or he or she should have anger management sessions with an expert.

As long as you did what was right, as long as you did your best, as long as you didn’t intentionally hurt others and as long as you learned from your mistakes, then keep your cool. Work, go home and chill.

Realization #2

Don’t expect your hard work to be appreciated.

Our desire to gain recognition and appreciation from others shouldn’t be our only driving force to do our best. Being appreciated encourages us to work even harder but most of the time people may not see your efforts. But don’t stop doing what is good because God sees all. You will reap what you sow in His own time and way. I remember what Colossians 3:23 NIV says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

Realization #3

Don’t believe everything you hear.

Unless there’s a proof don’t believe anyone’s word of mouth. Tongue seems harmless but when used in a wrong way, it irreversibly damages relationships and reputation. It can cause mental agonies and lost of trust.

Don’t fall into trap of believing false information. If you believe easily, you are allowing others to manipulate your perception, feelings and decisions by the words that they’re feeding you. Words are like foods that you ingest. We are the words that we believe. Don’t be a victim of people who think they know everything but the truth is 90% of what comes out of their mouth is opinionated idea and 10% is fact. Choose the people you believe like choosing foods that you want to consume. In Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Realization #4

Everything can be learned if you are willing.

Any skill can be learned by practice and repetition. I don’t believe that there is anyone who is incapable of learning except for those who have mental disability (But don’t underestimate them. They have special abilities that normal people lack.) When I was new at work, I knew nothing. But when you kept doing same thing for many weeks and months and you still knew nothing, I think it wasn’t because you were plainly dumb but because you didn’t exert extra effort to learn.

Educate novice rather than ridicule or criticize them because of their lack of knowledge.

Realization #5

There is no easy job. There is no easy money.

People complain if the workload is too heavy and if the job is too light they also complain because it’s hard to kill time. Fact: money is earned through hard work, perseverance, persistence and determination and it doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor or a manager. All has different duties and responsibilities. The cashier and security guard stand up whole day until their legs hurt while office staff sit down whole day until their back pains. Every employee has his or her own struggles. If you are struggling right now in your job, congratulations. Not all people are blessed to have a job like yours.

Realization #6

People come and go. Appreciate the ones who showed goodness and don’t hold grudges against the ones who hurt.

We aren’t going to work in a particular place forever. All of us will retire or resign with our own different reasons. Treasure the people who were good to us while we’re with us because we may never know when we can see them again. Let go of the negative emotions toward people who wronged us with the same reason that we may never know when we can see them again anyway. Life is short, cliche but it is indeed true. Those who forgive easily and cherish little things live short but happier lives.

To Those Who Lost Their Dreams, Hopes and Jobs

Yesterday was my tenth time to withdraw a sum of money from my bank account since the start of the pandemic outbreak. I often glance at the digits imprinted in my passbook, calculating the amount deducted and contemplating the total amount left. At first it was nothing but slowly as my savings decrease significantly, I am almost on the verge of panic. My mind can’t take the fact that we spent such a huge amount of money for the past 7 months. And yesterday, once again, a large amount was taken miserably from my savings which I earned for years of working hard.

I shouldn’t write these things, my mind tells me. Just keep it to myself because it’s too personal. But I want to share these matters because I know that I’m just one of the thousands of people around the world who lost their jobs and are struggling to earn a living. I’m one of those people who are immensely affected by the outbreak of virus. This isn’t something to be ashamed of. This is reality which is most of the Filipinos are facing.

Yesterday, we needed 21,600 pesos for the payment of the house we reserved for our return to abroad. For 7 consecutive months, approximately 170,000 pesos was consumed. That’s small money for the rich but for a middle class such as myself, it breaks my heart into pieces. Just to give an idea how it happened, this is the breakdown of my monthly expenses.

  • Prenatal check-up — ranging from 6,000 to 7,500
  • Health insurance — 5,370
  • Water bill — ranging from 1,200 to 2,500
  • Electric bill — ranging from 3,500 to 7,000
  • Internet bill — 1,800
  • Food, toiletries and others — ranging from 10,000 to 15,000

I thought of many things to earn money while I’m at home. I tried to apply as a transcriber and freelance online writer but got rejected. I tried drop shipping but it was harder than I expected. I sold my old collection of books and helped my sibling sell plants online. I enjoyed it but I approximately got only 2,500 pesos in exchange for those efforts.

Because I left my prayer notebook abroad, for the past months I haven’t written my prayers like I used to do. I grabbed my old 2016 journal and started writing. My prayers were just simple and concise. I wanted God to know my needs in brief and precise words. I wanted Him to know that I have needs in case He forgot. I know that He never forgets but certain circumstances urged me to think that maybe, somehow, the Lord has forgotten me. Trying not to entertain that thought I scribbled a letter to God which I usually do in my journals.

Excuse my penmanship and misspelling.

I share this to you because as soon as I finished writing I was reminded of the verse from Isaiah 43:2,

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.

God doesn’t say that He won’t let us experience any hardship. He says that whenever we pass through different kinds of sufferings He will be with us to help us. In this difficult time, we are vulnerable to evil’s lies. We have lost our dreams, hopes and jobs and think that we can’t make it. We’re currently passing through deep waters and think we’re drowning. We may be walking through the scorching fire and think we’re burning. The enemy’s persuading us to believe that we are defeated, abandoned and forgotten but the truth is there’s a reason why until now we’re still getting by.

My husband told me, “We had nothing before but God blessed us with something. Why are you so worried if we may lost everything? Surely God will restore what has been lost.” Marlon was right. I temporarily lost my job right now but we still have good food on our table. Our house has still stable roofs which protect us from sun and rain. Most of all, we’re surrounded by family who is more precious than golds.

A Letter To My Baby Girl When She Is Still 31 Weeks Inside Her Mama’s Tummy

Dearest anak,

I wonder what you look like and I don’t think you look like me because I don’t want you to. You are definitely more good-looking and charming than Mommy. Some people will see your beauty and some won’t but that’s alright, anak, because to Mommy, you are the prettiest and most lovable human being. I want you to realize that real love is loving someone regardless of looks because I love you even before seeing you. God loves you even before you were born.

Whenever I feel you move, I’m reminded that I am never alone. Whenever I eat something, I’m reminded that you’re also eating same thing too. I feel happy whenever I think about it. You make me happy by just being you.

You start to kick a lot in my womb. I can feel it even while I am sleeping. You are part of my body, taking up so much space in my belly. Giving birth to you is like a part of my body will be taken out of me but still a part of me. I know that you will grow up and someday you won’t need me anymore but I want you to know that nobody can love you more than I and God can. How can’t I love a precious part of my body? You will be my tiny baby in Mommy’s tummy forever.

Anak, I am excited yet anxious about what you will become. I want you to be more sociable and outgoing like Daddy. I want you to be more expressive and bubbly. But even if you won’t be, it doesn’t matter. I still love you the same. I want you to find your own voice and create your own personality. I will help you unleash your full potential, discover your talents, embrace your weaknesses and celebrate your strengths. Above all, I want you to realize your true identity in Christ. May you grow up to be a good person who fears and follows the Lord. I’m always here to guide you and support all your endeavors. I’m not a perfect mother and I’m afraid that I can’t raise you better than I should. I may read more parenting articles but I know it won’t suffice. I’ll let God do the rest.

I’m your mother and also your best friend. You can confide in me. I will listen to you with no judgment but let me teach you things that I learned from my experiences. I don’t have all the wisdom in the world but I will be glad if you will learn from me.



When a Friend Unfriends You

When I was in high school my classmate refused to sit next to me on the bus for our field trip. She was telling her friend that I was too quiet and too boring to be seated next to. Our teacher wanted us to make friends with whom we weren’t close to so she enforced seating arrangement. I was hurt and felt rejected so I told my friends if I could sit beside them instead. When I was in college I saw Facebook account of that high school classmate who refused to sit next to me and I added her to my friends list. She accepted me. She wasn’t ugly before but she blossomed into an attractive woman. Later on, she unfriend-ed me. She wasn’t the only one because I found out that my classmate in college also removed me in their list of friends. I felt so small and unwanted so since then I haven’t added friends except if they added me or they asked me to add them so that if they will afterwards unfriend me it will be less hurtful.

Being unfriend-ed in social media isn’t a big thing and shouldn’t be taken personally, I told myself. It isn’t as if people who unfriend us hate us. They perhaps dislike the things we posts on our social networking accounts. Is it possible to like a person and at the same time get irritated by her pictures and opinions she shares and decided not to see them? I don’t want to think too much but because of that I learned the significance of unfriend-ing. I learned to set boundaries, to protect my personal space, to build walls around me, to appreciate only those who try to engage and keep in touch, and to ignore who ignore.

Admit it, most of our friends in Facebook aren’t our friend.

Way back I had a strong desire to be accepted and to feel belong to a group of people whom I could be myself without fear of being judged. As I grow old, that desire diminishes. Not everyone will like you. You won’t like everybody. When it seemed like you were the only one exerting effort to reach out, when it seemed like you were all alone yet you were with a bunch of people, when it seemed like you were an intruder in their private world, better leave. As much as we want to befriend everyone there are certain people in our circle who either tend to stick with us or drift away. Introverts are compatible with extroverts. Certain personalities complement certain personalities. People who think alike seem to get along well. Like what we always hear, same feathers flock together. Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. My high school pals had things in common. We were studious but weren’t too grade conscious. While some of our classmates were campus crushes or winning in beauty pageants in school, we were suffering from awkward stage of puberty. We were the late bloomer but we became a lot better years after graduation. In college, most of my friends were single since birth and I liked to call our circle ‘the manangs’ who dressed up simple and no intentions of involving in any form of romance or maybe because we were watching too many Korean dramas.

We choose our peers and our peers choose us.

But what if I thought we’re friends but I was wrong.

As we become mature, our circle of friends becomes smaller. We changed jobs, locations and paths. We outgrew them and perhaps there were certain things which made us skeptical and reluctant to establish new relationship. Perhaps we have been betrayed or we have felt left out. I would like to tap you on your back and say, remind yourself of your worth. Like what I often say to myself when a friend unfriends me, either in social media or in person, you are more important than you think you are. Or it’s about time to be self-aware. I sometimes blame myself for friendship that didn’t work out. Perhaps I was really too quiet and too boring to be seated next to or I was often apathetic in times when I should be spontaneous. We all have flaws and trying to please everyone is a waste of time.

The Greatest Friend

I know Somebody who knows our shortcomings and past mistakes but still willing to be our friend, Somebody who won’t unfriend us even though we share a lot of opinionated political posts or too much annoying photos, Somebody who can break strong walls we built around us and can embrace us with no judgment.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Jesus lay down His life for His friends and those friends are us, the ones who believe and follow Him. We are loved by a great and loving friend for all seasons of our lives.

2 Lessons in the Time of Covid-19

Everyday I always look from our terrace to observe our neighborhood. Is everyone doing well inside their dwellings? What are they up to? I am curious about how Covid-19 has changed their routine and way of life. Our neighbors seem at peace and oblivious to their surroundings. I watch the clouds turn into orange and then violet and then dark blue. I see the trees and plants dance in the rhythm of the wind. When the rain falls, I can feel my lips twist into a smile. The sound of pouring rain, the beauty of the moistened scenery, the cool breeze after a hot and humid noon soothe my nerves. Raindrops make the leaves greener and soil more potent. In moments like this I can think of many good things. The sweetness of Ube jam in Baguio, my favorite cozy jacket I bought from Ukay-ukay in Session road and this time lessons Covid-19 has taught me.

1. Though it can buy food, money can’t buy time.

Money is very significant in this time of crisis. We temporarily lost our jobs abroad because of travel restrictions. I supposed to be a front liner checking vital signs of patients in my workplace but the pandemic extends our vacation. I don’t want to deceive anyone that I don’t feel anxious. Who won’t worry if you’re regularly paying bills and buying needs but you haven’t received monthly salary since February? Money is essential to live but living a meaningful life isn’t all about what money can buy.

Working abroad since 2013 robbed me of my time with my family. I come home once every 2 years and each time I arrive home my mother looks older, weaker and slimmer. The first time I came for vacation my nieces who were children before I left home became as tall as me. I felt cheated. I didn’t expect that two years could do so much changes. I thought of the years I missed. Those years seem fast but those years drew us apart. I no longer knew them. Perhaps they no longer knew me. My sister isn’t the same sister I remember 2 years ago.

Though I’m losing my money I saved for years of hard work I know the time I spend with them can’t be bought. I can still earn money but I can’t turn back the precious time I wasn’t with them. I can still earn every cent I lost but the lost time is lost forever. Money can’t buy time. This pandemic took our wealth but gives us time to spend with the ones we value more than our wealth.

2. The Lord’s plan is always amazing.

I love planning and setting goals to achieve. We planned to buy a property as an investment and by God’s will, it happened. We planned that after I transferred to other company we were going to have a child because we’re already of age. I planned to save more money to build my dream business. But Covid-19 came unexpectedly and all those plans flew away like birds in the sky.

I set a goal that by the end of the year 2020 I will have a specific good amount of money to be added in my bank account but little did I know that by the end of the year, a particular amount of money will be deducted from my bank account. Overwhelming, right? But what is more surprising is that I was already four weeks pregnant when I left my work for vacation last February. My pregnant colleagues who were working when I left are also put on forced leave because they are at risk due to Covid-19. I can’t resume duty even though travel ban will be lifted.

They say that conceiving a child during this time of crisis is a curse. But I tell you, God’s plan is perfect because I am with my family in the Philippines, safe, instead of staying in my room in Qatar because pregnancy inhibits me to work, while others are falling ill or working away from their loved ones. The Lord’s plan is the best because being home with my family is such a cherished commodity I was deprived of for many years. I also believe that having a child is always a blessing like how blessed your mother felt when she first knew she was carrying you in her womb, like how joyful your parents were when they first heard your heartbeat or how ecstatic they were when they first knew your gender. We didn’t plan it but God’s plans for me are beautiful.

I still have plenty of plans for next year and years to come and when God permits, it will happen but if not, I understand that He has better one. In the book of Psalms 31:15, King David says to God, “My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, And from those who persecute me.”

Our times are in God’s hand.

2020 Soundtrack

Hi folks! We’re done with the first month of 2020 but I’m still adjusting to this new decade. I feel hopeful for this year though I didn’t eat good food on New Year’s eve nor had fireworks or something fancy for the celebration of New Year. I just slept. But there is something exciting about this year which overwhelms me and led me to create my 2020 soundtrack, accumulation of songs which will hopefully motivate me to become the better version of myself in all aspects. I adore music. There are meaningful songs which remind me of my unforgettable childhood summer vacations, my first year in high school, my review classes after college graduation and my first year as an overseas employee. Lyrics speak words my silent heart longs to utter and its beat add flavor and emotion for each word. Here is my list:

1. Never Lost – Elevation Worship

You can do all things

‘Cause You’ve never lost a battle

No, You’ve never lost a battle

And I know, I know You never will

I chose this music because its melody gives happy vibes and it declares God’s capability, power and proven track record of winning against the enemy’s schemes. I would love to listen to this song whenever I want to chill and relax while having a good time in an intimate get-together with close friends, or in the morning while fixing my bed or preparing breakfast, or whenever I want to feel happy.

2. Defender – Upper Room

I imagine this song playing when I amble along the seashore all by myself, contemplating life while admiring the beauty of the beach and feeling the warm sand in my feet. This song is a kind of music I want to hear whenever I am enjoying my own company watching sunsets and sunrises or with my special someone while holding his hand and sitting still.

The lyrics are mainly taken from the story of King Jehoshaphat of Kingdom of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20. A multitude of army came to attack the people of Judah. King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah. They came together to pray to God and they all bowed down in worship before the Lord. All men of Judah marched down against their enemies and King Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing and praise God with loud voices as they went out as a head of the army. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. (2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭NIV) Their enemies destroyed one another! Not all that, there was a bonus. They also found among the dead armies great amount of ‬‬equipment and clothing and it took them 3 days to collect all. Led by King Jehoshaphat, all the people of Judah joyfully entered Jerusalem singing and worshiping God with harp, lyre and trumpet because the Lord fought their enemies.

All people of Judah did was praise. All they did was worship. All they did was bow down to the Lord. All they did was stay still. As they were singing on the top of their lungs, a battalion of army was killing one another. If God could to it in ancient times, who says that God can’t do it today? All we have to do is to sing our worship and praises to God and let God fight for us.

3. Surrounded – Upper Room

The chorus is repetitive like a chant which is able to ruin Satan who aims to ruin us.

This is how I fight my battle

It may look like I’m surrounded

But I’m surrounded by You

This how I fight my battle

This is how

This music has similar meaning to the song Defender. Sometimes we feel like we are almost defeated by our enemies but the truth is we are surrounded by God’s protective hands. Fighting our battle means worshiping and praising God just like what King Jehoshaphat and his people did in old times. Fighting a vast of army means singing this song out loud. The same lyrics go on and on until I can feel Satan’s face distorting in pain and his body crumbling, collapsing and slowly banishing. If we are battling with emotional turmoil, financial crisis, physical pain and illness, this is our song. This is how we fight our biggest struggles and greatest agony, through singing praises to the Lord.

4. Echo – Elevation Worship

My favorite lines go out like this:

When my mind says I’m not good enough

God, You’re enough for me

I’ve decided I won’t give up

You won’t give up on me

I will go with this music when I feel like listening to upbeat sound and it’s a good choice for dance music. Who says that Christian songs are always solemn and boring?

5. This Is a Move – Bethel Music

This is more than a music or a melody but a move. Singing songs of worship is more than singing but a fight.

We are here for You

Come and do what You do

Set our hearts on You

Come and do what You do

We need a move

The chorus is a call for God proclaiming that we are present and our hearts focus on Him.

Bodies are still being raised

Giants are still being slayed

God, we believe it

Yes, we can see that

Wonders are still what You do

We clearly have no doubts on God’s cabability to perform miracles long time ago and up to this day. God has brought dead people back to life. The Lord has fought strongest opponents to protect His people. He has done all of these before and we are calling Him today to do these things again.

Miracles happen when You move

Healing is coming in this room

This is a move

This song is simple but powerful. The scriptures say that when you have a faith as little as a seed you can move a mountain. (Matthew 17:20) What more can we do when we have a faith as big as a mountain? We can move hearts and souls.

6. Here Again – Elevation Worship

This music is for my good old closest friend whenever I feel like I’m starting to forget how beautiful He is because I get distracted by fleeting colorful rainbows and temporary glitters. This is my song for Jesus whenever I want to encounter Him once again because I came to a point where the fascination I had in singing song for Him lost its warm. I get excited whenever I sing this music like how excited we are when we are about meet our closest pal after a long while. This song brings me back to my first love. It brings me back to a good old place where we first met.

I’m not enough

Unless you come

Will You meet me here again?

Cause all I want is all You are

Will You meet me here again?

7. See A Victory – Elevation Worship

It was love at first hearing.

I’m gonna see a victory

I’m gonna see a victory

For the battle belongs to You, Lord

Remember the amazing story of King Jehoshaphat. It was written in 2 Chronicles 20:15,

“He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Sometimes when we solely depend on our own strength and ability to conquer our biggest war, we may feel discouraged and afraid but when we inquire the Lord just like what the people of Judah and Jerusalem did, we already know how the story ended. The Lord fought for them. God has never lost a battle. We will see a triumph. Victory is ours, that’s what the song is all about.

I chose songs which I feel more alive when I listen to them. It amazed me that most of my chosen music has same meanings because I didn’t plan it that way. In 2019, I fought battles and felt defeated in some areas in my life. This 2020, the battle still continues and this time I know the best strategy to win. To win is to sing my 2020 soundtrack. Cheers, folks!

5 Big Changes I Did in 2019 That Changed My Life

2019 was a year of financial struggles and work-related stress and pain. But I am grateful for the hardship because it changed me into a wiser and tougher person. Life is hard, that’s a fact but we are more than conquerors through God who loves us. (Romans 8:37) Without these trials we will never grow mature. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, Jesus said, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) I would like to share with you the changes I did in the previous year and I will continue doing this 2020 and for the years to come.

1. I decided to become a minimalist.

When I was younger I used to think that minimalism is boring because I thought that minimalists only use either black or white things. I was wrong. Reading a lot about sustainable living, I figured out that minimalist is all about buying things that you only need. I am not ashamed of the fact that I bought a bag way back 2016 and I’ve been using only one bag at work for the last 5 years (which was a gift to me in 2015). The last purchase of shoes that I use for going out (not for work) was in 2015. Minimalism is not about depriving yourself to buy things that you love. It’s about being content with what you have. I became a minimalist because unnecessary shopping doesn’t excite me anymore. I remember I was often mistaken as a saleslady when I went to malls because I always wear jeans and just black tshirt which is the usual attire of people working in malls. Wearing black or white clothes is fun for me because it doesn’t matter if you wear them endless times. I’m not impoverished but I want to spend my money with more valuable stuff such as investments.

2. I don’t care about people’s perception of me.

If I care about people’s opinion of me I will buy many trendy and latest items to impress them. If their perception of me matters to me I will be ashamed of my 5 year-old bag that I use daily for duty and my clothes that I used hundreds of times. But no, I am proud of my ancient but durable and high quality things. I am not impressed by others (with the same salary as me) who always have new expensive clothes. Our worth doesn’t depend on the things that we have or we lack.

Our worth also doesn’t depend on what others say about us. Whatever we do, people will comment bad things about us. Assess ourselves. Are they right when they tell me I’m incompetent? Are they correct when they say that I’m dumb? If we know ourselves enough we know which comment is truth or just trying to put you down. I heard many bad remarks about me and I know that I am not the kind of person they think I am. I don’t care anymore. I practice the thing called Mind What Matters. What you don’t mind doesn’t matter. Don’t mind them and they don’t matter.

3. I don’t collect things anymore.

I realized that my mind is clearer when I’m dwelling in a place with less clutter. As an overseas worker, collecting things in a foreign land is a waste. I will end up going back to my homeland and I can’t bring all useless things with me when I go home. I also hate the idea of stuffing my room with too many shoes, clothes and the like until my place turns into a mess. I rather collect memories with the people I love the most.

4. I plan my retirement.

I want to retire as early as possible because I want to spend the rest of my life enjoying the fruit of my labor. Retirement for me doesn’t mean working no more. I imagine myself managing my dream business when I retire. Planning my retirement is setting my priorities, educate myself on finances and saving money for investments. Being a minimalist also helps in saving money for my dream job when I retire as an employee.

5. I write my prayers in my notebook.

I always believe in miracles and the power of prayer. As a Christian, I believe that prayers can move mountains. We may not see the result right away but as we continue praying day by day, God slowly teaches us how to pray and what to pray for.

Most of my prayers written in my notebooks are still unanswered. But the mere fact that I’m writing my prayers in my notebook has changed my life because it has changed my outlook and disposition in life. Rereading my prayers everyday is like reminding myself that the Lord is working everyday even if I don’t see it or feel it. There’s blazing hope in every prayer because He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)