Two Thumbs Up

When I was still a kid, one of the biggest insecurities that I had was how my thumbs looked like. For more than a decade, I disliked my thumbs and thumbnails, since they were smaller than the usual thumbs others have. As I am typing this, I am literally laughing out loud because it does sound funny to be insecure about such a small thing. But, I remember how badly affected I was before, especially when others teased me about it. I felt so conscious when others saw my hands and I rarely took photos of my hands through the years. But eventually, God helped me focus more on important things that helped me slowly accept how He made my hands.

As I was scrolling through photos on my phone this evening, I saw my thumb again and I remembered how insecure I was because of it. Then, I had a random thought that I whispered to God: “It’s so interesting how I struggled with my thumb before and how now, You’ve allowed it to become such a huge part of my life, especially when it comes to having a green thumb! You are funny, Lord!”

In that brief moment with the Lord, I felt His reassurance as He showed me what it would be like if I continue to let go of my insecurities and what others think of me. He then reminded me of sooo many other things that He has allowed me to do through the years because of my thumbs. By God’s grace, He has helped me easily bake, cook, play the guitar, do photography, play sports, drive, and hold things wherever I went. Also, He reminded me that whatever I have right now is really because of His grace, and that at any moment in my life, He can easily take them away, if He wants to.

If others didn’t tease me growing up, I wondered if I would still feel insecure about my thumbs. I probably wouldn’t have felt as bad as I did. But, looking back, I realized that the real issue wasn’t because others teased me. It was because I was finding my security and worth in how others viewed me, instead of finding them in Jesus and His love for me.

After that, there were more events in my life where I gave in to my insecurities. Also, even as I type these things now, I remember all the other insecurities that I’ve been holding dear to my heart. In any case, the Lord reminds me that as long as I am still breathing, it’s not too late to keep surrendering these to Him. It’s not too late to ask Him to continue changing my heart, as I go back to the truths in His Word and apply them in my life. Whatever the Lord allows me to have or experience is enough to fulfill the purposes that He has for my life… and this includes my lovely thumbs! Woohoo!

I thought of sharing this anecdote with you, in case you’re dealing with insecurities too. I pray that you will also choose to find your security in Jesus, even as you go through your own personal struggles. Even if the process of surrendering to Him takes a day or a decade, we can find comfort in His presence, sovereignty, and in knowing that His goodness and love for us will never change. :)

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:16

 

 

Thank God for Struggles!

A random moment happened this evening: I thanked the Lord for allowing me to experience spidermites in my recent gardening journey. In case you were wondering, spidermites in the garden can be likened to lice on ones hair. It is an incredibly annoying pest that can severely damage plants, if they aren’t removed immediately. Also, it doesn’t help that these tiny mites easily spread from one plant to another.

Earlier today, I was chatting with a stranger who follows my gardening blog on Facebook (Anyone Can Garden), and I was helping him deal with certain pest issues on his chili plant. After this, he mentioned how beautiful my chili plants were and how they didn’t seem to have pests. I replied by showing old posts on my chili plants being attacked by spidermites and aphids, and how I was able to treat my plants last year. He eventually thanked me and encouraged me to keep sharing helpful tips to others.

As I was preparing for bed, I recalled how disappointed and discouraged I was last year when I first encountered spidermites. Mainly because of the hassles involved and the fact that in the past 7 years of gardening in our balcony, I’ve never experienced severe problems with pests. But, then again, whatever good I have experienced really was because of God’s grace and not my own doing!

I then browsed through my old journals and found an entry last July 22, 2020, where I wrote this to God:

 

On July 26, 2020, four days after this journal entry, I encountered spidermites in our balcony garden. Talk about perfect timing! Haha.

 

I really wanted to grow in gardening and I prayed for this online space to be a blessing to others. God, in His sovereignty, knew that my plants experiencing pests would actually be an answer to my prayers! Even though I struggled so bad during those months of infestation, I saw how the Lord allowed this gardening struggle to happen, so I could grow more in knowledge and skills. And I did! By God’s grace, I learned so much about pest control, and I was able to help other gardeners (strangers and friends online) who struggled with the same experience too!

As I thanked the Lord this evening, He reminded me of how this is also applicable to other aspects of my life.

In the same way, He is working and He is in control, even if I go through unanswered prayers, delays, closed doors, or those on-going struggles that don’t seem to end.

He reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where it says: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — This is exactly what the Lord is teaching me right now. By His grace, I pray that I will continue to trust in His goodness and sovereignty moment by moment. Even if He allows me to go through struggles again and again.

Oh! And a sweet bonus from the Lord! The same chili plants, that struggled with spidermites and aphids, recently produced this beautiful bunch of chilis! What an amazing God!

 

Do you have disappointments or struggles right now? Whatever it is that you’re going through, I pray that your heart would also find comfort in knowing that our good God, who sees and knows everything, loves us always. Draw near to Jesus! Even in the midst of struggles.

 

How to Grow Long Chilis

This type of chili is also known as Siling Pansigang here in the Philippines. It takes around 4-5 months before the plant starts to produce fruit. In case you want to try growing your own chilis at home, here are some of the things you can consider doing. :)

Tips on Growing Long Chilis:

 

1. CONTAINER

I sowed my seeds in small paper cups, kept the soil moist each day, and waited for them to grow 3″ high, before transferring to their final containers. The final pots I used were 15″ high and 9” wide, with holes at the bottom. It’s important to have only one plant per pot, to avoid overcrowding of roots. One plant can grow at least 25” high and 12” wide. Also, if you’re growing it directly in the ground, you can leave at least 18″ of space in between plants.

2. SUNLIGHT

Expose them to direct sunlight at least 6 hours each day, to help speed up the process.

3. WATER

Depending on how hot the weather is, you may apply deep watering every other day. Those grown in containers have soil that dry out more quickly, than those planted in the ground. Also, overwatering may cause the chilis to have a milder flavor.

4. SOIL

I grew mine in loam soil + potting mix (carbonized rice hull, vermicast, and cocopeat)

5. FERTILIZER

Feed at least once a month. I used chicken manure and fish / kelp liquid fertilizer (diluted) — high in Phosphorus, to promote flowering and fruiting.

6. SUPPORT

Stake the plants as they grow. I used thin bamboo sticks. This will prevent their main stem from bending or snapping.

7. PESTS

Aphids, mealybugs, and spidermites. These are the pests that I encountered. I used a Neem oil solution spray every week or every two weeks, depending on the situation.

8. HARVEST

You may harvest the green chilis once they are 4-6” long. Harvest often, so the plant will be encouraged to produce more flowers and fruits.

9. SEED SAVING

For future planting, you can let the chilis ripen on the vine, until they turn red and start to wrinkle. Then, you can harvest them and use the seeds for your next batch of plants. Also, if you want to store your seeds, you can let the harvested chilis dry completely in a cool and dry place. Make sure to wear gloves when removing the seeds, since the capsaicin (active component of chilis) can cause a burning sensation on the skin.

10. PLANT AGAIN! :)

 

I hope this helps! Let me know if you’re growing chilis soon. I’d love to hear from you!

 

For more gardening updates and tips, feel free to visit the ff. pages of ANYONE CAN GARDEN. :)

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12 Highlights of My 2020

2020.

The year when I was able to see things more clearly.

How broken the world is. How messed up my heart can get. How tremendously gracious God is. How I desperately need to abide in Jesus each day… and so many other things.

Since 2016, I have been summarizing 12 highlights of my year, as I remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. However, if I were to be honest, I think it would be more accurate to change this blog post’s title to “12 Highlights and Hurdles of My 2020”. This is because of the many events that happened last year, which shook the world (and my heart), in the process.

But, I’ve come to realize that because of Jesus, I CAN choose to look back with gratitude and look forward with hope. As you read through the list, I pray that you would also be encouraged to see how the Lord has been faithful to you last year, both in the highs and lows. :)

 

12 Highlights of My 2020

 

1 – BOYCE AVENUE

Last February 16, I went to my favorite band’s concert for the 6th time in my life. Haha. My sister joined me too! However, I wasn’t able to see the band after the show, because of safety reasons. There weren’t confirmed cases of COVID-19 yet in the Philippines at that time, but I do understand why they had to cancel the Meet & Greet. I’m still so grateful that we got to go, especially since we’re not sure when we can attend a concert like this again.

 

2 – RESIGNATION

After 7 1/2 years of working at my first job, I took one of the biggest leaps of faith in my life, by resigning in the middle of a pandemic. Back in 2019, the Lord made it clear to me that it was time for me to close that chapter, so I can pursue another calling. Thank you, FGI, for the many memories, lessons learned, and opportunities to grow!

 

3 – COVID-19 / QUARANTINE

People from all over the world experienced different kinds of suffering because of COVID-19 last year. My heart breaks, but also chooses to find hope, not because of the vaccines that are being developed. But, because I believe that Jesus is still good and is in control, in spite of what we know and see. Also, because I know that this world isn’t our home forever; we were made for eternity in Heaven with Jesus!

 

4 – EAR SITUATIONS

Last April 24, our pomeranian bit my ear and I had to undergo careful treatment for months. Also, during the second week of December, that same ear had a painful infection. As of this moment, it is still recovering. In both cases, it was clear that the Lord was disciplining me. Before these happened, I was struggling with certain sins in my heart. But by God’s grace, more than Him healing my ear, I am grateful that He has been helping me flee from sin and continue running towards Him.

 

5 – HAIR INSECURITIES

I shared in this post how I have always had insecurities with the way I look. But, last 2020, the Lord has been helping me slowly overcome this. For the first time in my life, I cut my own hair during quarantine. Also, after two decades, I am now more comfortable posting photos and videos of myself, even if my hair isn’t styled or my face has no make-up. These seemingly small things are actually huge milestones for me. :)

 

6 – SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

By God’s grace, I had the privilege of speaking in two conferences this year. The first one was held last January 22, where I shared about practicing spiritual disciplines, in front of women leaders in various church satellites. The second one was done over a Zoom call with young singles and college students last November 17. I shared about my journey in battling with lust and pornography, and in pursuing purity.

 

7 – DISCIPLESHIP GROUP

I praise God for these ladies who have walked alongside me in both the good and painful times last year. By God’s grace, they have been a constant source of encouragement as they prayed for me, gave me Biblical counsel, rebuked me in love, listened to me, and cheered me on to keep walking with Jesus. I also had the privilege of walking with them and witnessing how God moved in each of their lives last year.

(Some of the ladies aren’t in the photos below.)

 

8 – FAMILY BREAKTHROUGHS

God allowed our family to experience many faith-stretching and humbling moments last year. From having conflicts almost every day to getting to know each other deeper, being a blessing to each other, and seeing God’s faithfulness in the lives of each member. Also, we welcomed our newest baby in the family: Lucas Kai, who is currently in Hawaii with my sister and brother-in-law.

 

9 – ANYONE CAN GARDEN

God has graciously allowed me to grow in knowledge and skill in gardening! I became more intentional in sharing gardening updates on Facebook and Instagram. I met new friends and we got to exchange stories and tips. I won a gardening contest with a prize of Php 8,000. Also, Manila Bulletin and Agriculture Monthly published two articles about my gardening journey online!

It has been such a pleasure to eat and share the literal fruits of my labor. Really, these things are only by the grace of God!

 

10 – 30TH BIRTHDAY

This is definitely one of the best and most humbling moments in my life. You can read more about this in the links below. :)

When Grace Overflows
12 Highlights of My 30th (Part 1)
12 Highlights of My 30th (Part 2)

 

11 – SONGS COMPOSED

Last 2020, I was able to write seven new songs about different struggles and lessons learned from the Lord. God has been using His Word and music to speak to my heart. I really am grateful for the privilege of making music about Him and for Him!

 

12 – WALK WITH JESUS

I started this year with a heart full of hope, as I took a huge leap of faith. But, this quickly turned sour, as I encountered one closed door after another. This affected how I viewed and approached God, and it even caused me to think of wanting to end my life one morning at our balcony.

But, the Lord has always been faithful and by His grace, He has turned my mourning into joy, especially in the last few weeks of 2020. Looking back, I can clearly see why the Lord allowed those things to happen. He wanted my heart to draw closer to Him, to want Him, and love Him more than anything or anyone else in this world. Oh, to be fully known and loved by the King of Kings! #grace Thank You, Jesus, for helping me walk with You again. :)

(Screenshots below were taken on the last day of 2020 and on the first day of 2021.)

 


Here are some of the verses that I held on to last 2020. May these encourage your heart as well!

 

“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.” – John 16:33

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, [39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:25-26