Is There Hope for My Broken Family?

One of the most difficult questions I’ve had to answer after our family’s 3-week vacation to the States was “How was your trip?”. Every single time a friend or a colleague asked me this, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said: “It was good! Really fun!” But, behind those answers was a heart breaking inside of me. Yes, by God’s grace, there were good and amazing highlights which I hope to share sometime soon. However, I couldn’t just let go of the fact that our family went through an emotional roller coaster ride that continued even a month after we got back to the Philippines. We went home to the same house each day and had occasional chats, but there was definitely an elephant in the room.

 

PRIDE IN THE FAMILY

The trip was supposed to be a fun time with the family because of three main reasons: 1) Our eldest sister’s wedding and meeting the extended family in Hawaii, 2) Our family reunion with my father’s side, and 3) Our whole family’s first time to travel the States together. But while we were still in the States, our different types of personalities clashed almost every day. From the smallest concerns to the biggest problems we encountered, the pride in us took over our hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, this caused us to stumble and sin not only in our thoughts, but also in the harsh and unloving words that we carelessly threw against each other. When someone made a mistake, some of us were quick to judge and comment about it. When someone made suggestions, some of us chose to disregard and belittle them. When someone opened up that he/she was hurt, the other side became defensive. When we experienced delays, hassles, or detours during the trip, blaming and getting annoyed at each other became a normal response. Moreover, smiling for the camera in between these moments was the cherry on top! It was very tiring and frustrating.

 

INDIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY

As each day passed by, I kept telling God about my disappointment and heartbreak because of our family’s situation. There were moments when I would cry or cringe especially when I would see myself and my other family members being joyful with others, yet having not much emotion or interest back at home. It broke my heart to see how it was normal for us to worship God and serve others when we ourselves weren’t honoring God in our relationships in the family. I also noticed that some of us preferred staying out late instead of going home early to spend more time with the family. In addition, some of us kept ourselves busy with work or other interests, since it was more convenient compared to dealing with the problem. In a nutshell, our family was already giving up on each other.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.Psalm 43:5

 

HUMILITY IN THE FAMILY

Last Saturday, during a road trip with my older sister to a coffee farm, I had the opportunity to open up to her and share what I was feeling and thinking of, in relation to the elephant in the room. I said things like: “I honestly don’t know my parents and siblings anymore. We don’t make time for each other which causes us to be quick in judging and not understanding each other.” and “I’ve been ranting about this to God almost every day. I feel like He’s telling me to stop ranting and to start doing something about it!”

Our exchanges of experiences led us to agreeing that we needed to resolve issues and have a family meeting. We just couldn’t imagine seeing this problem snowball into something bigger in the years to come. I sent out a chat invite to our family’s group chat and surprisingly, they all (parents, older sister, and younger brother) confirmed their attendance for the next day. Ironically, that same road trip, I let my pride take control of me and it caused a tension between me and my sister (which I shared in my previous POST). But, God used that experience for me to understand the value and blessing of humility and by His grace, this inspired me to be intentional in praying for and facilitating our family meeting that weekend.

It was one of the awkward moments I’ve had with the family. Seeing them walk in the coffee shop one by one and knowing that we all had unresolved issues in our hearts. But somehow, God was encouraging me to trust that He is more than able to restore our relationships in His perfect timing. After Mom opened in prayer, I started to lead the discussion by sharing that the purpose of our talk that night was for us to be aware of the situation we had and to trust that God will help us restore what was broken.

I then asked everyone (including myself) two questions that night. The first question was: “What changes do you desire to see in our family?”. This was our chance to let each other know about the improvements that we wanted to see in the members of the family. After around 10 minutes, I asked them the second question: “What changes do you desire to see in YOURSELF, in relation to the family?”. I remember seeing some of their eyes widen and hearing some say “ohh my!”. I guess it was a question that they did not expect. After everyone finished typing their answers on their mobile phones, I said: “Okay! It’s now time to share our answers to the group. Let’s begin with question… #2.”

By God’s grace, He inspired me to set the tone of humility in our discussion by starting with the second question. Knowing our family (based on the previous open forums we’ve had in the past years), whenever we first shared about family issues and problems because of each other, our conversations did end up having action steps, but they also turned a bit sour afterwards. Sometimes, there would still be conversations after the open forum where some of us would say, “I still felt that I wasn’t understood when I opened up…” and all those similar responses.

So, for our recent family meeting, it was refreshing and very humbling for each of us to start the discussion by admitting our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and desires to improve ourselves within the context of family. By the time we moved on to question #1, the issues and concerns shared were willingly welcomed by each member. After a loooong time, I sincerely saw how each member was intentional in hearing out and understanding where the hurting member was coming from. There were no defensive or harsh comments made and when we were almost leaning towards a tension, the other members helped in balancing the conversation. Not only did we get to know each other and our hurts more, we also had the opportunity to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to believe in the best towards each other. Hugs were given, tears were shed, funny comments were occasionally said, tips to love each other were shared, and walls among us were slowly being destroyed.

“God, I’m done running from the reason that You sent Your Son. So I’m gonna choose to love.
Maybe I’ll hurt, maybe I’ll bruise, maybe I’ll cry, maybe I’ll lose.
Still I will choose to love.” –Francesca Battistelli

 

HOPE FOR THE FAMILY

We ended the night by encouraging each other to grow in our relationship with Jesus and in our love for each other, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart was overjoyed, not because all of our family concerns were solved, but because we found hope in Jesus. In spite of our weaknesses, He is more than able to transform our hearts and do miracles in our families, no matter how simple or hopeless the situations and problems may be. All it takes is a step of faith when He calls us to act on it and trust in Him.

You too might wonder: “Is there hope for my broken family?”

I think you already know the answer to it. Will you believe it? :)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13

*Note: I asked my family’s permission before blogging about this.*

I Didn’t Want to Say Sorry

I didn’t want to say sorry. So, I chose to gargle the pride in my mouth and let it linger overnight! It’s interesting how easy it is for us to just sweep things under the rug and ignore the nudge of the Holy Spirit, especially when our ego is hurt or when we focus on ourselves and selfish desires.

Yesterday, during a roadtrip bonding with my older sister, we got into a conversation about pursuing certain studies that we were passionate about. As I was sharing about mine, I unintentionally put my passion on a pedestal and made it seem like it had a more meaningful purpose than hers. Our conversation and bonding didn’t turn sour, by God’s grace, but my heart knew that I wasn’t careful with my words and motives.

What was I thinking? Looking back, I realized how selfish and proud I was to believe in the lie that I needed to prove that I was better. Even though it was unintentional for me to carelessly react that way, I was reminded of Matthew 12:34 where it says,

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Obviously, my heart was already overflowing with pride and insecurities even before our roadtrip. So, when I had that conversation with my sister, the words just naturally flowed from my heart to my mouth. And unfortunately, it wasn’t a moment that I was proud of.

We still had the rest of the afternoon and evening to bond and although I knew there was pride in my heart, I did not say sorry immediately. I just disregarded it and continued to have a good time with her. Later that night, I remembered my pride and thought, “Why should I even bring it up? I don’t need to apologize for the way I acted earlier today. She seems fine.” But, I praise God for the Holy Spirit that cares and convicts.

This morning, God opened the eyes of my heart. It happened while I was throwing trash in a brown paper bag of Frankie’s inside our kitchen. The frankie’s staff apparently wrote these words on the paper bag before they gave it to us last night: “You are enough just as you are.” This hit me hard. Immediately, I knew that God was renewing my mind and reminding me of my true security in Jesus. I didn’t need to prove myself or seek affirmation and praise from people. I didn’t need to nurture the pride in my heart because clearly, everything that I am is only by the grace of God.

So, with His help, I reached out to my sister this afternoon and apologized for my behavior and pride yesterday. She was gracious in forgiving me and making me feel loved by her! 

This is just a simple struggle that God needed to deal in my heart and I do praise Him for His endless pursuit and pruning in my life. By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we CAN choose to humble ourselves and forgive others no matter how big or small the struggle is. I pray that I will continue to grow in this aspect as I expose the dirt and hurt and let God work in and through me. For the love of the relationships that He has blessed me with and for His glory, ultimately.

P.S. Thanks, temic, for our roadtrip bonding yesterday! 

Hollywood Walk of Fame

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting Hollywood with the family. Our aunt toured us around the area, including the famous Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame.

As soon as we got out of the car, I hurriedly walked along the stars with a camera on hand, ready to take snapshots of the stars of the actors and musicians that I see on the screen! It was a fun experience, knowing that these people, at least once, walked on the same streets. Some of them even left their signatures and hand and feet prints on the cement. I was definitely starstruck! These people were amazing in their respective crafts!

However, towards the end of our tour, as we walked back towards the parking lot, I noticed that some of the stars along the Walk of Fame aren’t in good condition anymore. Aside from the dirt, there were cracks and faded gold names on them too. When I passed by a star without any name on it, it made me think about the possibilities of fame in my life and being recognized for achievements like all the others who had stars!

But, I was reminded that fame and success should never be the goal of my heart and hands. For just like the stars on the ground, these earthly riches will eventually fade away. Indeed, there is danger in pursuing things that are here today, but gone tomorrow.

Instead, as I live, love, and serve in this life, I pray that I will be like the stars in the sky, that give glory to the Everlasting One who made them; who made me. 

Psalm 148:3 “…praise Him, all you shining stars.”

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

My Starbucks Confession

I’d like to confess something that some of you may already know about me…

I like going to Starbucks.😅

It started when I fell in love with their frappuccinos back in college, even if I did not (and still do not) have a sweet tooth. This love grew when I realized that I could have quality, quiet times in this coffee shop! My introverted self was overjoyed! Starbucks is usually expensive and unhealthy for my body, but ironically, it has been very good for my heart. I can’t even count the number of times the Lord has spoken to me thru His word, broken me, and revealed Himself to me in the various Starbucks shops I’ve stayed at before. There were moments when I would even cry quietly or write songs and poems and not have a care in the world. It has been a safe space for me.

During my quiet time last February 25, 2018, when I was struggling with insecurities, I was encouraged to be intentional in reminding myself of my identity in Christ. Each time I bought a drink in Starbucks, I decided to ask the barista to write one identity on it. Every time they finished preparing my drink, they would call out: “One Java Chip frappuccino for REDEEMED!” or “One Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit & Honey for FORGIVEN!” …and I would receive it!

It was awkward at first, because the baristas usually gave me a confused look whenever I asked them to write these down. But as time passed by, my barista friends got used to it that even before I said my order, they would ask me in advance, “Hi Nicole! What would be your name for today? :)”

It was a really good way for me to remember my name — WHO I AM — my identity in Jesus! I am forgiven, redeemed, free, never alone, new, beautiful, accepted, alive, and many more! It fueled the desire in me to keep on digging deep in God’s word and seeing myself through His eyes. By God’s grace, this “Starbucks Identity Cups” experience even gave me the opportunities to engage in conversations about the Bible with the baristas that serve my drinks.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” -Colossians 2:6-7 

This afternoon, I was tempted to dwell on my insecurities again. I asked the Lord why He was still allowing me to have them despite me knowing and believing the truth, and even experiencing Him in my life. I didn’t get a specific answer from Him, but somehow, I did feel peace in my heart as I recalled how these insecurities have helped me to run towards Him and His word each time I hurt and fall. I felt the Lord shifting my focus on my struggle and what I can do to overcome it, to who He is and what Jesus, my Lord and Savior, has already done for me when He died and rose again. It reminded me of John 16:33 where it says:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It has been a year since I started the Starbucks Identity Cups and I am still attacked by insecurities and worries every now and then. But, Jesus has always been constant, faithful, and gracious. And because He is who He is, I will fix my eyes on Him and trust that He will finish the work that He started in my heart. I pray that I will indeed stay rooted and find my true security and identity in Christ alone.

Since this isn’t the healthiest way, I am praying that I will be able to be more resourceful in finding other shops or spots where I can journal and dig deep without being distracted. But until then, I will most likely visit this coffee shop. (Please feel free to give suggestions. :) )