Thursday Tune #33: Steady Me by Hollyn

An SUV almost scratched my car while I was on my way to work this morning. We only had an inch of space between us as we were turning a corner. The driver of the SUV must have been distracted by what was in front of him that he didn’t realize how close he was to me until I pressed on the horn for four seconds non-stop. When he realized that he had almost hit my car, he quickly steered left. We only had a few seconds of eye-contact just before we parted ways. And in that moment, I looked at him through his semi-tinted windows and I gave him an irritated stare that said: “Are you serious?! What were you doing?! You almost hit my car!”

In order to pacify myself, I turned up the volume of the song that I had been listening to since I left the house and started to sing the lyrics as I drove away.

“No matter what the pressure, pressure
You will always be the answer, answer

Only you know how to steady me
Ready my heart for everything that’s coming my way
Help me trust that you’re ahead of me
Going before my feet with every step I take.”

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While I was singing this song, I suddenly felt a slight burn in my heart because I was heaping coals in my head. Why was I so irritated at the driver? Why did I have to give him a stink-eye? Why was I so angry???

Then, it hit me. My proud heart was so concerned with the car’s condition that I forgot about my heart’s condition this morning. 99% of the time, I pray before I start the car’s engine. I pray for wisdom and protection as I drive. But, this morning, because I was focused on memorizing songs on my phone, I forgot to pray and thank God first before driving to work.

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”-Psalm 16:2

It was also ironic because one of the songs that I was memorizing was the song I mentioned above: “Steady Me” by Hollyn. I did experience God steady my angry heart as He revealed to me the unnecessary things that I did this morning. By God’s grace, I pray that I will learn to seek Him first, depend on Him moment by moment, and humbly trust that even in the midst of stress and problems, He is always with me.

Whew.

I discovered this song while I was searching for new ones on Youtube. I hope that as you listen to it, it will encourage you too.

Sunsets in Iba, Zambales

“Sunset addict”. This was the term that my colleagues used to describe me while I was sharing about my recent trip to Zambales. Oh, yes! Sunsets do have a special place in my heart. In fact, one of the major reasons why I wanted to go to the beach last weekend was because of the sunset view. For a change, I hoped to watch the sky’s color change without any silhouettes of buildings. Thankfully, I did have the privilege of watching the sunsets two nights in a row while I was walking around barefoot on fine sand. Oh how I wish I could do it again this week.

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GLOOMY SUNSETS ARE BEAUTIFUL AFTER ALL

At around 5 in the afternoon, we were welcomed by rainshowers when we arrived in Zambales. The idea of capturing photographs of a lovely sunset seemed impossible at that time. The sky was white and gray, the rain kept on falling, and the strong winds continued to linger in the area. However, despite the gloomy situation, I still saw a hint of orange in the sky and that gave me hope. Haha. So, I positioned my phone on top of a ledge so I could document a time-lapse of the sunset.  Eventually, after 15-20 minutes, the rain stopped. Without any hesitation, I headed towards the beach and waited for the sun to set.

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What happened in the next hour was just bliss. Because of the gloomy weather, the sunset that afternoon had cool tones. It played with cool shades of blue and pink. While the sun was setting, I made the most out of my stay at the beach by taking as much photographs as I can. What made the experience more interesting was that a random dog who was strolling around the beach decided to hangout near me. It was the perfect subject for the photographs I took! Also, there were some locals and a boat a few meters away from me which became awesome silhouettes in the photos.

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Aaaaahhh!! Everything about that night at the beach was just lovely. When it was already dark, I went back to the resort and stopped the time-lapse that I was recording. It was my first time to record a time-lapse of a sunset and I was very much pleased with the outcome. Although it only had two main colors (blue and pink), I loved how the video showed the movement of clouds through time. You can watch it here:

 

After watching the sunset on our first evening at the beach, you could just imagine how excited I was to have another photoshoot the next day!

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THE MULTI-COLORED SUNSET

On the second day of our Zambales trip, I knew that I had to prepare well for my sunset photoshoot because we were only staying in Zambales for three days and two nights. As the hours passed by, I noticed how perfect the weather was! Not even a hint of rain was seen or felt. It was just splendid. However, when it was around 3 in the afternoon, our parents and their friends spontaneously decided to visit a zoo in Zambales.

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Although I liked the idea of going to the zoo, I was a bit hesitant because we might not make it back in time for the sunset. I was starting to worry about it when I was reminded of the sunset experience that I had the night before. Somehow, God encouraged my heart to be grateful for the first sunset instead and to enjoy our time with my family and friends at the zoo, whether or not we make it back in time.

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So, I told God that it would be okay with me even if He doesn’t allow me to see and capture the sunset that afternoon. By God’s grace, I enjoyed our trip to the zoo and was able to take photographs of unique and funny animals as well. It was also in the zoo where I saw cotton trees and cotton pods for the very first time. So amazing! After hours of going around the zoo, we headed back to the resort and arrived at around 5:30 pm. Can you believe it? Just in time for the sunset at 6:30 pm! Woohoo! What a bonus!

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I had a good feeling about the sunset that night because there still wasn’t any hint of rain. So, again, I positioned my phone on a ledge to document the sunset and then, I headed towards the beach to watch and take photos of the sunset.

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I stayed at the beach from 6 pm to 7:15 pm and I will never forget what happened during that time. For one and a half hours, I think I saw 10 kinds of “filters” in the sky. The sunset that evening was CRAZY! The sky displayed numerous hues and colors that played around white, gray, yellow, orange, pink, red, blue, and purple. I remember saying “Oh, man!” and “Wow!” after almost every shot that I took. I was only expecting the usual orange sunset, but God exceeded my expectations and even my imagination! I didn’t mind walking alone on the beach with my camera. It was just a special moment for me. It also reminded me of Ephesians 3:20.

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MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE

While I was standing on the sand and marveling at the beauty of God’s masterpiece, I remembered what happened earlier that day. What if I made such a big fuss about going to the zoo and possibly missing the sunset? Then, I wouldn’t have been able to sincerely enjoy looking at the animals and bonding with my family and our friends. I guess, in a way, God used the multi-colored sunset that evening to wake me up and remind me that He is BIGGER than any concern, issue, doubt, or fear that I have in life. I didn’t even imagine seeing more than 2 colors in the sunset that night, but God went all out and gave me the privilege of documenting a time-lapse of one of the most beautiful sunset experiences I’ve had in my life.

 

A flurry of questions entered my mind as I walked back to the resort. I felt God ask me the ff.: “Nicole, do you still believe in the worries, lies, and doubts in your mind? Don’t you know that I AM WHO I AM? That I am able? That I make things new? That the skies obey Me when I tell them to change colors? That I am more than able to provide for your needs? That I know the deepest and hidden desires of your heart? That I made you and have a special purpose for you? That I love you more… more than you can ever imagine?”

And just like that, my heart melted again. How can I not get addicted to sunsets when they constantly remind me of God’s greatness, goodness, and grace? Ahh yes, here’s to a million more sunsets with You, Lord.

Oh, and by the way… The minute I got back to the resort, it started to drizzle. :)

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Of Grace and Phone Giveaways

I find it ironic that I took up Entrepreneurship back in college because generally speaking, I was and still am not a risk-taker. I’m the type of person who always orders the same Java Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks since I first tasted it eight years ago. I don’t go out on the streets and eagerly persuade people to buy products from me nor do I naturally confront people whenever I have concerns. I guess it has something to do with my personality as an introvert. So, when random, crazy, and risky ideas pop in my mind, it’s very hard for me to ignore them.

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A few nights ago, while I was driving home, I felt a strong nudge on my heart to give away the phone that I no longer use because I recently upgraded to a new one. Selling the old phone wasn’t an option for me when I thought about it that night, even if it would have been very practical and helpful. Somehow, it was crystal clear that God wanted me to give it to someone who needs a phone soon.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it even after I arrived at home. So, I prayed about it and I was led to post a status online that same night about the phone giveaway. I gave my Facebook friends two nights to leave a comment if they needed a phone or if they knew someone who did. I also mentioned that I would be randomly picking a name to announce the winner. Honestly, I expected a few comments that had “Me!” or “Yes! I need one!” on my status. But, after two days, most of the 28 friends who left comments shared heartfelt stories about their desire to bless their family members, friends, and even strangers. Somehow, I got to know their hearts even more through what they shared online. It was encouraging.

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After the reading comments, I wanted to give each one of them a secondhand phone. But, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t. And so, I lifted them up in prayer instead because I knew that God was and is more than able to provide for their needs. The night before I announced the winner, I received a lot of comments from different people on how I should pick the winner for that phone. Some gave their votes for specific people who left comments, while others expressed their disappointment towards those who left “less meaningful” comments. However, God reminded me of the idea that He placed in my mind that night while I was driving home. He specifically impressed on my heart to RANDOMLY pick a winner for that phone. So, even if I wanted to give the phone to a certain person, I decided to draw lots the day after.

 

When the time came for me to announce the winner, I recorded a live video on Facebook to encourage the viewers and to show them the process of selecting the new owner of my pre-loved phone. Doing a live video is a nightmare for an introvert. Okay, maybe the other introverts wouldn’t mind it. But, it wasn’t natural for me. Hahaha. However, it was one of the most humbling experiences that I had this year because it was an opportunity for me to share God and His grace and provision to random viewers online. Sometimes, I’m learning that you just have to step out of your comfort zone, step out in faith, and believe that God is able to use ordinary people like you and me to be a blessing and to share Jesus to those around us.

Congratulations, Ode! You won the phone. :) Woohoo!

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The day after I chose the winner, I still kept thinking about those that left comments on my status. In particular, I had one friend (RJ) in mind who left a comment that deeply touched my heart. Because of this, even though I didn’t plan on giving away another secondhand phone that I had, God encouraged me to do so this week. I remembered that I still had a Nokia C7 (in good condition) inside my drawer. That phone has been inside my drawer for over a year now and immediately, I thought that it would be better if someone else will use it from now on. I sent a personal message to RJ on Facebook and shared to him about what God encouraged me to do.

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Today, I met up with the two friends that were chosen for the phone. Before I gave them the phones, we talked about God’s grace and how He is able to meet our needs. It was such a refreshing time to catch up with them and be encouraged by this experience. My friend, Ode, shared that this experience is helping her draw closer to the Lord. While, RJ shared that his friend (who was a student missionary) has been praying for a phone recently, so this secondhand phone would really help him a lot! He also shared that recently, he has been encouraging his friend to fully depend on the Lord’s provision. So, this experience was very timely.

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After we parted ways, my heart felt like it was going to burst because of the overflowing joy and peace in me. By God’s grace, He allowed me to have the privilege of sharing His blessings and being an encouragement to my friends this week. But, more than that, God reminded me of His unfailing love and grace for you and me. These are just material things that would soon fade away. But, many years ago, God showed us His grace by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to rise again just so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We didn’t need to leave comments on God’s Facebook status. We didn’t have to explain our past, present struggles, and stories to Him. We didn’t even have to pay for the penalty of our wrongdoings. Even before we were born, He already chose to love, forgive, and give us  (sinners) His grace through Jesus! We just need to humble ourselves before Him, acknowledge our sinful ways, and receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9

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In the live video that I recorded on Facebook, I mentioned that God knows our hearts more than we do. It’s true. I may not know you personally or what your heart is going through right now. But, I want to encourage you as well to take some time today to get to know your Maker, our Father who loves us deeply. Did you know that you are dearly loved by Him? I hope you do.

Have a grace-filled week ahead! Keep on sharing His grace to others!

Thank God I Failed

Have you ever experienced exerting so much effort on a certain project or goal only to watch it fail in the end? Well, I have. For those of you who know me, you understand that gardening is very close to my heart. One of the most disheartening experiences I’ve had was when I saw my watermelon vine slowly deteriorate during the rainy season. Despite my attempts to keep the beautiful leaves and watermelon flower buds dry and safe from the constant heavy rain, it just didn’t survive.

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Slowly, I saw the flowers turn from green to light green to yellow to brown. I took a deep sigh after I realized that it could no longer be revived. The dream of growing a watermelon at home was washed away by the rain as well. What a bummer. I think it took a couple of days for me to finally let go of what happened.

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Even before I planted the seed, I knew that we were approaching the rainy season already and it wasn’t advisable for fruiting vines. If I only waited for a few more months, it would have been possible to grow the fruit in a container. But, I failed. I failed to grow a watermelon at home. Nonetheless, I still thank God that I did because it helped me to be wiser in the way I use the resources that I had. It also encouraged me to still put my confidence in Him and in His perfect timing even in my gardening adventures.

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Seven months after that incident, by faith, I decided to plant a melon seed. This time, I planted it at the start of the year, so I was sure that it wouldn’t encounter daily heavy rains anymore. After taking care of the vine for two and a half months, by God’s grace, I was able to harvest my first homegrown melon at home. While I was eating a slice of the sweet melon, I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed because it finally happened! I also remember telling my siblings how mind-blowing and heartwarming it was to eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown at home.

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Through this experience, I was reminded of my former blog post about growing watermelon at home and how God’s timing is always perfect. Yes, it may have been rough for me at first, especially when I saw that my efforts were “put to waste”. However, I’m learning that disappointments, failures, and discouragements will always be around. But, these things shouldn’t give us an excuse to stop trying and doing our best again. What I appreciate about disappointments and failures too is that we get to have opportunities that help us grow more in wisdom, knowledge, and character.

Mary Pickford once said “If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.”

Maybe some of you are also going through a rough situation. Maybe some of you have experienced failure recently. I want to encourage you today to get back up again and keep on doing your best. By God’s grace, you can! I pray that in spite of the pain or struggle you may be feeling, you will still find hope in the goodness of the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6

Note: I’ll share more about the process and experience of growing melons at home in another blog post. :)