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Not my own strength but His

“We are not on this earth to accumulate victories, things, and experiences, but to be whittled and sandpapered until what’s left is who we truly are.”  

– Arianna Huffington

God allowed me to experience many, many things to appreciate how He works through my life. I know that despite the negative things that has happened to me a few days ago (losing phone, failing a quiz, hurtful comments), I anchored my strength in Him to keep going. If I just rely on my own strength, I know I will just go back to the pessimistic-and-easily-discouraged version of myself. But  God is so good, He disguises these sad moments to make me see how my family and my friends love me. I sometimes feel ashamed that I am not worthy of this amazing love, yet God’s love overflows. All I can do is stare in awe, and do my best to respond in His call to love others.

Today is one of those days when I felt so energized. Though I already know how God loves me, it is still different when you try to reflect back on those moments when you think you’ve exhausted all of yourself, when you were so much in pain, when you think you’re already a hopeless case, when all you want is to shut yourself from the world away from every living fiber. But God is so great, He surrounds me with a loving God, family, and friends and I find strength to face my fears and uncertainties all over again.

Five months before, my relationship with Him and my family and friends is not like this. Not at all. Before, I would rather keep things to myself or write it down on my journal. But God showed me that why not open up to people and see how they can make me see the world beautifully. Why not allow Him to take control of my life again? I’m glad I did.

Fast forward to the present, God never stops moving mountains and oceans right before my own eyes. I know that the remaining journey is long, winding, and difficult. There will be storms to chase and dreams to fulfill. My bucket list never stops growing. But after talking to some of my closest friends today, I know that God’s plans in my life will bring me beyond my own dreams. He will turn them into a beautiful reality. All I need is to continue to draw strength, trust, and inspiration from Him.  To choose Him even when the world doesn’t.

As the year 2012 draws near to it’s end, I am getting clearer picture of what God’s plan has intended for me. This year has been a year filled with discernment. This year I felt I was at my lowest point, but  it is the same moment that my vulnerability opened me to the biggest changes in my life. This year God showed me how important it is to invest in people and earn life’s greatest rewards in return. This year I had to deal with tragic losses, but gained significantly in y relationship with Him and with my loved ones.

With a brave heart, I know I can be bigger than my own fears for the years ahead because I have a great God with me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is one of my favorite worship songs at the moment. Thank you Lord, for using people’s talents to inspire me as well.

How He Loves Us

He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane,
I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of
His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.

Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.
(x2)

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves.
(x2)

We are His portion and
He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption
by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns
violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
OH, how He loves
(x2)

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us
He loves us
He loves us
He loves.

Yeah, He loves us
Whoa, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves

He loves us,
Whoa, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves us
Whoa, how He loves

 

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Musings over the grave

Yesterday, we visited my uncle’s grave to pay our respects and pray for all the demised members of our family from my mother’s side. It was a peaceful time reminiscing about his life and sharing this moment with my relatives. Even if it is All Saints’ Day and not yet All Souls Day, it has been a tradition to visit the cemetery and spend the day in solemn prayer in the company of family members.

I realize that indeed, time is quickly passing and fading right before our eyes. Especially with this year’s two deaths in my father’s side, it is difficult losing your loved ones and even if it has happened months ago, I know there is still pain. Somehow I wished I was in our province right now to remember this day at their graves. Praise God we still have each other to give comfort and pray that all our loved ones and the lost souls in the purgatory may rest  in peace.

While my mom and sister were talking to our relatives, I looked around at people on how they are also spending this day in this place. I also glanced at some of the graves and gave a short prayer, hoping that they will receive a visit from their living loved ones. As I peer at the dates etched on the graves, I could not help but wonder if these people were able to celebrate life to the fullest or brought secrets and regrets to their deaths. I thought about why some had to die so young while  some seemed to have been forgotten by friends or family. Well, who knows? These things, they are always part of His Divine plan.

I remember the quote from Mitch Albom’s latest novel, The Timekeeper, when Dor asked the old man about why God limits the time of people on earth.  The story is riveting, involving about a person who counted time but never truly lived it, an old but rich man who wanted more time, and a hopeless romantic who wanted less of time. I realize that yes, God limits the days to make each moment precious. It is a hard truth to realize that when people who matter in life cease to exist that begin to understand and wished that we should have done more for them.

As I removed myself away from these thoughts, I caught my relatives engaged in conversation about our annual family reunion. I realize that life on earth is temporary, and we really should make an effort to enjoy it, just like getting excited about the family reunion. I’m getting pretty chummy about it because that is the occasion that I look forward to right after Christmas and before New Year. It is when almost all of the relatives in my mother’s side gather in one place and have fun over food, games, gifts, and just being together, not to mention that this year, we might celebrate it right in our own home.

It is an amazing life after all.

 

Musings over train ride: A child’s smile and a gesture of hope

A heavy downpour, suspension of classes, and a train ride on the way home made this day the most amazing day of October. I took the usual route every day for the past five years of college life, but today, seeing him with his father changed the way I see my train rides. The father was carrying his son inside a pram, and looking at the son, my heart broke a little because he was diagnosed with epilepsy. I decided to take the seat next to them, and for everything that happened in between, I am grateful for it.

The passengers kept giving the father and son furtive glances, as if not knowing on how to express sympathy for the sick child. I was one of them. The father, probably used to the sometimes hurting stares, just kept quiet and continued to attend to his son’s needs. As I am the one sitting closest to them, I realize how loving the father was, for taking care of his son, for looking at him with love in his eyes.

When his son was finished with the milk, the father gently patted his son’s back so he can burp and breathe easier. At that moment, I looked at the child, and he flashed me with his wide and toothy grin. I could not help but return that smile. He is happy, that’s all I know. His radiating smile changed the gloom inside the train and made his father beamed back at him. How could not anyone love this sweet and innocent child? His father took out an almost-empty medicine bottle, and then I really felt sorry because there are probably quite a few pills left for his son.

Silently in my head, I was praying that the weather be more friendly because it seems like the father and the son still had a long way to go. I was hoping I brought food with me to share or I had extra money at that time to give, but all I did was mutter a short prayer for them.

A few more stations later, a lady–dressed simply in white shirt and jeans–sitting across the father suddenly took out her wallet and drew PhP 500 cash to give to him. God bless her, she did not say anything else but this: “Sir, kunin mo na ‘to. (Sir, take this.)” The two young girls who were beside the lady and were busy laughing at their own conversation suddenly became quiet. It is almost as if time froze and all passengers were touched by the lady’s simple gesture of help. The father humbly accepted the money, “Salamat po, salamat. (Thank you, thank you).”

Initially, I thought this lady was one of those passengers who would just give a couple of stares to the father and child. But out of her desire to help, she did not hesitate to extend the money for child’s medicines. The way she even handed the money is not “show off”. She wasn’t staring at the child out of pity, she was gazing at him of pure love.

At that point, my eyes were brimmed with tears of joy. Literally. I don’t want to embarrass myself, and it was a good timing too that an old lady came in so I can give her my seat. I stood up two stations ahead my stop and saw the elderly lady engaging the father in a conversation to wipe my tears away. I gave the kid one last glance and he just smiled back as I stepped out the train’s doors.

Today, I would like to honor all the fathers and mothers who would give up anything and everything for their children. Their unconditional love shows us that as children, we are also called to love others unconditionally. The lady who gave out her money could have spent her cash on something else. Instead, she selflessly shared a part of her own so that an innocent child may continue to live. Like her, we should use our blessings to become blessings for others.

The child’s face is always smiling and his eyes are windows of hope for everyone to see. He reminded me of how we, adults, see life as difficult, thus we tend to look at our situation in a negative perspective. Yes life is not easy, but it should not stop us from approaching it with a smile. His story gives me hope, and I am glad that today, God granted me the opportunity to sit beside him and his father. Sometimes, even if we have lived here on earth for so long, a child can teach us more than what other people can’t.  Indeed, a smile warms the heart and soul. Thank you dear child for reminding me that even in the most difficult situations, we can still smile with life.

Today’s Drastic Turnarounds

For the first time, I can finally acknowledge to myself that I am a totally different person from what I have written last June 12. That day in June marked a significant turning point in my life, not because it is the Philippine Independence Day but because it is my own declaration of independence from all the persons who have caused me so much pain this year. A few hours after that incident, we had a scheduled household meeting (a prayer meeting with my friends from the YFL community) and our topic can not be any more perfect: Love.

Before I even ask God “Is this the answer?”, He has already surrounded me with people who truly loves and cares for me. It is only three months after when I went back to my blog post  that day when I realize that indeed, when I surrender everything to Him, all this pain is truly worth it. From June 12 until today, I began to appreciate why I have to go through losing people. The empty spaces in my life were filled with new experiences, new friends, new life lessons. I have to give up certain relationships that does not make me happy anymore and focus on the business/mission of loving my members in YFL. Today I know I have found more reasons to fall in love in this calling.

Truly, God is awesome. I said it before and I’ll say it again: If God brings me to it, He will bring me through it. Today is September 10, I cannot barely remember who I was last June 12. All I did during that household meeting was to write this:

I know that in pain, God gives me the appreciation of what love really is. I never hated them in spite of what they have done to push away my love for them. God tells me that right now, these people I do not deserve to prioritize with my love. In His time, these persons and I will be blessed to fix things. Only time can heal these wounds in my heart. It is never easy especially now that it is still fresh. But God is my healer.

Honestly, these people I have issues with cause me tears and disappointments. But I do not blame God for putting me in this situation. All I can say is I trust God that these pains will change me. My trust and faith in them might have been broken now, but in my broken self, God will make me whole. My hurts remind me that I am alive and human. I still love them. I know I also have others whom I love, and I know that I can love them more.

While I know that the time where God will give me the blessing to “fix” things is far from the horizon that my heart so desires, God has picked me up from that point and took me under His loving care.

It was only today that I remember I wrote the household topic on Love when my friend was giving it as another talk in another household. While the June 12 was surrounded with the YFL leaders in our Vicariate, today’s household comprised of YFL household leaders that me and my friend are supposed to train for our own parishes. It is a totally different feeling when I had to share the list of names now that before. I was more confident, more open, and more secure of God’s love than ever.

Indeed, true love encourages a person to grow, even in times of pain. I am now happier more than ever than these past few weeks because of the peace of mind that emanated from such pain. I am grateful that God planted me in this YFL community so that I can always turn to. His plan is always greater than what I have imagined. Life in Christ is the best life ever.

Eight days of September ’12

I realize that I should write more often. I admit, I have a poor memory at times, and writing my thoughts down seem to help me retain my ideas more and turn them into something useful. I have not yet posted an entry in this blog for September, and now it is time to do so. While I have so many blog ideas (film reviews and book reviews), I still do not have enough time and inspiration to continue on with my drafts. So in the meantime, I would like to write about some scenes about me. Here are snippets of my life from September 1 up to today, arranged from most recent happenings to the list.

Welcome, September 2012!

September 08, 2012. Before anything else, allow me to greet Mama Mary a very happy birthday. Mama Mary is my perfect model of how any woman should aspire to be: a woman of God.  It is inspiring to realize that she is someone to look up to, someone we can count on with our prayers, and someone who is always near us. She epitomizes grace and obedience, and I really wanted to be someone like her.

When I was still a kid, I would always remember how we would always pray the Rosary and learn about her life story and impact in the world, how she is as a mother of Jesus Christ, and how she lived her life in total surrender to the will of God. I am still praying that I will be more like her in her most admirable qualities: showing pure love and complete trust to God’s plan in her life.

September 07, 2012. Tonight is our usual schedule of upper household in YFL. Praise God because I have the opportunity to tell them how I missed them so much because I missed some activities because of my work (as a tutor) and school (Finals Week). I felt that our topic tonight is perfect in my situation, and I really felt that the Holy Bible verse taken from Matthew 11:28-30 (RSV) is talking to me. The verse is:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I realize that I am really blessed in my life having a good run in my academics and in work, while balancing them with the most important relationships with my family and friends. Although my routine of school-work-study is challenging, I know that God continues to give me strength in helping me do my best when I share my burden with Him.  As what my YFL partner Arvin said, “I’m glad God made me weak. I admit I am weak, for He makes me strong.”

I am inspired by what my sister in YFL Icon said that we should seek R.R.E.S.T. in Jesus Christ. By this, I have to recognize that it is God who works in my life, and He is in control. Sharing the burden also means reaching out to the community we serve, and I am thankful that in this mission, I am in the business of loving people. All my fears and woes should be elevated to Him, for He knows our deepest worries and desires and He will help us overcome those things. It is not just about raising all our concerns, but surrendering these to God. By admitting to ourselves that we cannot do these things, God will work through us in making each battle a successful one. When we surrender our yoke, we become more trusting in Him. The realization that we can have a God to share our burden is empowering in the sense that it gives me hope that every challenge is a victory to celebrate. No hurdle is too big not to accomplish, and I know God is by my side in all of my burdens.

September 06, 2012. Today marks the first day of my term break. However, instead of spending it right at home to catch up on my favorite TV series, I opted instead to go to school. I know people might find it weird for someone on break to be in school, but I had to do things for my organization and plan on how fixing up my schedule of subjects until graduation. Oh yeah, I am excited to be graduating by October 2013 even if it seems to be so far, far away.

September 05, 2012. Last day of finals! I am supposed to take three final exams for my first term today: Introduction to Philosophy, Legal Environment, and Partnership and Corporation. But because my group in our Philosophy class made a project which we gave the title “My Last Day On Earth” using themes in existentialism, we got exempted in our final exams. Praise God I only need to focus on studying on my two subjects: Legal Environment and Partnership and Corporation. With His grace, I was able to answer confidently with the exams. I honestly thought I would get crazy cramming all 12 weeks worth of lessons for both subjects, but with a lot of prayers and cups of McDonald’s brewed coffee, I made it. During exams, it is very tempting to cheat, but I am thinking that cheating during exams means I am only cheating with me. Knowing that I really pushed myself to study, I can be a better student when I do not fall into temptation. Now, I am praying for a good outcome when the term grades are out this September 10. Whatever happens, happens for a reason, and I will not sacrifice academic integrity with such tactics.

September 04, 2012. Today is my first day of finals, and my only exams scheduled for this day is Strategic Management. I do not have a clear idea of my class standing, aside from the result of the past quizzes so I really studied hard. I even made a reviewer on my yellow pad for the entire lesson covering 10 chapters. However, after writing the notes, I felt really lazy to review it too much. I think that it is a very bad habit I still have to change. The exam was so-so, and I am hoping that my best efforts for the class would eventually pay off.

September 03, 2012. Even if the required project is only  a Facebook page, we even made a Twitter account: @mylastday2 and a Blogspot account: An Existential Mind for our philosophy subject. While doing all the posts on existentialism, I realize that the social media accounts are also forms of thought experiments. I myself do not want to become a cookie-cutter version of my Facebook account or Twitter account, and that having a lot of friends / followers who liked, retweeted, or replied to you does not necessarily validate your authenticity as a person. Everything that I share on Facebook, Twitter, or Blog is not “mine” anymore, and I do not want my social media accounts to define my total being. I still prefer to stylize my connections outside my social media network, and I find it more “social” than just spend hours on these platforms.

Praise God we got exempted! Our professor shared our page via the page of The Philosophy Department of De La Salle University-Manila, and according to his guidelines, it means that we will be exempted in our final exams. Now I can concentrate on my Legal Environment and Partnership and Corporation exams. I would like to thank my friends who liked our page and our posts. I hope that somehow, they were able to appreciate seeing existentialism in every day life.

September 02, 2012. As part of our philosophy project, we were tasked to create an “obituary” of ourselves if we die today. I know it is weird writing an obituary while you are still alive. But this thought experiment made me realize on how would others see my existence as how I want to be remembered. In my passion to try to be digitally creative, I made Nadine Estrella’s Obituary using the website Prezi.com. It is my first time to use this site, so I know I still have a lot to improve.

September 01, 2012. Hello September! The year 2012 seems like a blur, and now it’s the 9th month of the year! In the Philippines, once the calendar turns to the pages of the “-ber” months, the first thing that comes to the minds of Filipinos that it is already Christmas. What can I say? All I know is that this year, it will be a different Christmas for myself and my loved ones. Right now though, I have to focus on my final exams and getting our group project on philosophy on the roll. It is already finals week next week, and if we do well in our project, we will get exempted from the exams. It is very motivating!

Fight all your battles on…

Fight all your battles on your knees and you will win every time.

Image

Integrity and How I lived by July 6, 2012

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” – Barbara De Angelis

 

“A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.” – Unknown

 

“Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change in the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” – John D. MacDonald

Sometimes, I really don’t know what to do with people who doesn’t know how to say sorry simply because they think it is alright to hurt other people with what they are doing. All I know is it takes great humility to know when you are wrong, and it takes great wisdom to apologize sincerely.

Owning up to your mistakes is one thing any (wo)man should do; gaining respect for the choices you make is another thing… and standing firm for what is right is probably the greatest thing.

Honor is about dealing with the consequences of our actions, and there is no other way to do it but to respond to it correctly. Too bad it is something not so common nowadays.

Don’t make false and empty promises, no one will take your word for it when the time comes you actually try to make a real one.

Don’t lie about your feelings even if people can take you for granted. God actually knows what you are feeling, and it is perfectly okay. People may not realize it, but God always do know.

Never forget about the people who truly loves you. They know how much your worth is as a human being.

Never compromise your values. When people lose these values, it is a sad thing. If they were our loved ones, they sometimes become perfect strangers to us.

Treasure family relationships and friendships. Our character says a lot about it.

What is important is who you really are, not how bad others may treat you. Believe in that. Always.

People come and go. It is a fact of life. Feel good for those who are genuine, and don’t feel bad for those who screwed things up and wasted everything. It is better to realize it now, than later and regret it.

Always strive for purity of heart. It will get you a long way. Let the posture of your heart guide you to live the life in the best way you can be.

Remember the people you love, they also deserve the best person that you can be. So never allow someone decrease your value as a person.

Love creates. It is never destroying. When in pain, it only means you need to create and to give more love. Love is not driven by selfish desires. Of things better left unanswered.

Love is so precious, do not cheapen it. Love is so precious, do not make it ugly. Love is so precious, do not rush it.

The only way to love is the way that God loves us, nothing can be greater than this.

🙂