This World Is Not Our Home

On my way home from work last Friday night, I recorded a song in the car, out of the overflow of my heart. Just a few seconds after I said thanks to God for allowing me to finish it, I heard a loud, consistent beat at the right side of my car. A motorcyclist who drove by me then, signaled me to stop and look at my wheel. During the next three minutes, my world slowed down as I went out of the car to inspect the damage.

My jaw dropped as I saw my exploded tire at the side of the passenger’s seat. My mouth blurted out, “Shocks, Lord. Is this really happening? Please help me.” Within a  minute, even before I could call my dad, another motorcyclist stopped by to ask if I needed help. My initial reaction was “I hope this guy isn’t sketchy.” But in my desperation, I said, “Yes, please!” He spent the next 10 minutes, going through my car tools at the back, setting up my emergency signals, and trying to release the spare tire that was hidden under my car.

I remember telling him countless times how much I appreciated his help and how it really was impossible for me to change my tire by myself. After a few minutes, another motorcyclist stopped by to offer assistance. They ended up helping each other as they raised my car, changed my tire, protect me from being scammed by tow people, and even assist me as I drove to the nearest vulcanizing shop. All this happened in 25 minutes which may have caused a 30-minute delay along C5 north bound.

I safely drove home, by God’s grace, and updated my dad, mom, and eldest sister who were inside our house. I couldn’t contain what I was feeling, so I shared to them how the Lord had been so personal and intentional in teaching my heart a lesson AGAIN. With a few sobs, I shared that the Lord revealed one of my blind spots to me this week which crushed my heart and that it led me to composing a song that afternoon.

The song is entitled “This Isn’t My Home” and it talks about how our mistakes and regrets do not define us; how we have already been forgiven and free because of Jesus; how we are never alone; and how this world (with all our problems and pains) isn’t our home. It was such a humbling moment for me to realize that God knew my doubtful heart needed that push, that extra reminder through an exploded tire, for me to understand and absorb my security in Jesus and His unending and unconditional love for me. “This Isn’t My Home” was a timely encouragement too since I was literally on my way home when this happened.

“…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things that you were redeemed from the empty way of life… but with the precious blood of Christ…” -1 Peter 1:17-19 

My heart broke this week because I sulked at the thought of how my blind spots, mistakes, shortcomings, and regrets affected my relationships with others and God. I wanted to turn back time and re-do some of my choices. I wanted to cringe and hide because of the shame and pain. But, this has always been a constant reminder for me:

GOD’S MERCIES ARE NEW EVERY MORNING. What a comforting reassurance from the Lord — this broken world is not our home! Because of Jesus, we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven, where there’ll be no more crying or pain; where angels will be praising His name.

The day after the incident, my dad accompanied me to buy new tires even if he needed to prepare for a message at church that afternoon. By God’s grace, God provided the two kind strangers (Anthony & June) at the right time who helped me on the road and my dad who guided and lent money to me for my new set of wheels.

There are still moments when I feel the ache in my heart especially when I remember my “What If’s” and other regrets. Sometimes, I still feel that I could make things better if only I had done certain things or made better decisions. But, as the Lord helped me see my frailty without Him, I am reminded to let go of the wheel, slow down, and trust that His ways, thoughts, and wisdom are better and higher than mine. Who am I to tell my Heavenly Father that Plan A is better than Plan B? Who am I to keep worrying about my past and my tomorrow when our God is sovereign and good?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

Today is a new day and the Lord has graciously put a new song in my heart. Thank You, Jesus, for Your sovereignty in the midst of my mistakes and regrets.

“One fall, one sin,

One mistake, one regret

Now, my world’s crumbling.

More lies, more heartbreaks.

More discouraging thoughts,

Will they ever go away?

In these times when my faith is shaken,

In these times when I begin to lose hope,

You remind me that You are still with me, Jesus.

You tell me that I’m never alone

And that this isn’t my home.”

-“This Isn’t My Home”

12 Highlights of My 2018

I almost forgot that I had an annual tradition of listing down twelve highlights of my year, which started last 2016. Hahaha. As long as I am alive, I plan to continue this simple way of remembering God’s faithfulness and grace every year. If I could summarize my 2018 in a few Bible verses, it would be Jeremiah 17:7-8, which says:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

I chose these verses not because I was similar to the tree in the passage (believe me, I struggled with worries and insecurities big time last year!), but because of its humbling reminder that God IS all I need. He is THE ONE whom I should trust in both the highlights and hurdles of my life.

Here are the 12 Highlights of my 2018:

 

1. MEETING BOYCE AVENUE… AGAIN!

Boyce Avenue is my favorite acoustic band. By God’s grace, He has been allowing me to experience faith-stretching moments during their concerts in Manila since 2013. Last June 2018, I attended another concert and met the band for the fourth time! Yay! More details HERE.

2. NOVA

2017 was a challenging time for me because I saw my savings decrease more and more due to major car repairs. After much prayer and waiting, God provided a better, secondhand vehicle for me last 2018. Thanks to my dad and older brother, it was sold at a very reasonable price and with gracious terms of payment. I also had the privilege of dedicating my Innova (“Nova”) and myself (as the driver) to the Lord last year. It served as a reminder for me to use this blessing for His glory.

 

3. PROMOTION & LDP GRADUATION

By God’s grace, I graduated from our company’s Leadership Development Program and Toastmaster’s club last year. Also, He gave me the privilege of being promoted before the year ended — something that I did not expect!

 

4. MY 10,000TH DAY ON EARTH

A close friend of mine and I had a conversation last August 2017 and we ended up talking about reaching milestones, including the number of days we’ve been alive. When we computed mine, we realized that my 10,000th day on earth would be on the 3rd day of May 2018. I celebrated it with a cup of my favorite Frappuccino and a weekend getaway with the Lord!

 

5. ISLAND HOPPING & ROADTRIPS

Two travels last year that delighted my heart: 1) ISLAND HOPPING: Bacolod-Iloilo-Gigantes-Guimaras and 2) ROADTRIP: Pampanga-Dagupan-Bolinao-Bulacan. I went with my awesome former and current colleagues, respectively. It sparked my love for culture, nature, food, photography, and our Creator!

 

6. NEW DISCIPLESHIP GROUP & MENTORS

I ended my 2017 with a broken heart because my small group (discipleship group) of 15 years at church dissolved. Most of my dgroupmates already got married and my discipler moved to Davao for work. So, we only get to keep in touch online. However, in God’s perfect timing, He introduced me to a warm and fun new small group who loves Jesus! I praise God for my mentors, Tim & Kina, and for the blessing of being accountable to the rest of the group, as we encourage each other to grow in love and obedience to God and His word.

 

7. GARDENING MILESTONES

By God’s grace, He allowed me to grow the best bunch of cherry tomatoes I’ve grown since I started gardening a decade ago. He also helped me experience the struggles and joys of growing chili (siling labuyo), which I brought home from my Bacolod trip. This plant produced at least 800 pcs. of sili (and counting), which I shared to family and friends. Growing this plant was very timely too because of the unexpected price increase of sili last year (Php 1000/kilo). I also grew more sili seedlings and gave them to some friends. Last but not the least, I enjoyed growing stalks of pechay in our veranda.

 

8. MUSIC MILESTONES

When the Lord inspired my heart, He gave me the privilege of composing two full songs and a few more songs with pending stanzas. He also allowed me to busk (thanks to Jello!) and play/sing one of my original songs in public for the very first time in BGC. Lastly, God gave me the honor of singing at a bridal march of a colleague and a special number in a wedding of my close accountability partner. Both ladies are named Tin. Haha!

 

9. BIBLE STUDY GROUP IN THE OFFICE

By God’s grace, I took a leap of faith and started a Bible study small group in the office where I shared Jesus and His word to my colleagues. We met every Thursday night since April 2018 and it has been such a joy for me to get to know each of them more and to learn with them as we prayed and studied God’s word. More details HERE..

 

10. DIGGING DEEP AT THE PRAYER MOUNTAIN

My not-so-secret getaway is definitely a highlight for my 2018. If it wasn’t for this venue where I could be alone with God and nature, I probably would not have had the opportunities to quiet myself, find rest in Him, pray for my concerns, listen to Him without being distracted, and see the areas in my life that I needed to surrender completely. I went to the prayer mountain at least 10 times last year and slept for a night or two each time. More details HERE..

 

11. FAMILY MILESTONES

It was a colorful year for our family and I can only thank the Lord for His faithfulness and grace in each milestone that we had. 1) My older brother’s marriage, 2) My eldest sister’s engagement, 3) Our whole family’s US Visas getting approved, 4) My first niece / our parent’s first grandchild, 5) Our first time to wear costumes as a family on my 28th, and 6) My older sister’s 30th!

 

12. A YEAR WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

It was only by the grace of God that I, a former addict of social media, survived the year without it! I learned so much through this humbling experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s struggling as well. More details HERE..

 

By God’s grace, I have survived another year and I look forward to seeing Him move beautifully and mightily again this 2019. :)

Day 365: A Year without Social Media

Exactly one year ago, I had an epiphany while I was driving home from church. I did not want to admit it at first, but the reality hit me. I WAS ADDICTED TO SOCIAL MEDIA (especially, Facebook). However, by the grace of God, I have been able to survive 365 days of not posting on Facebook, which was very difficult for me considering that I have been active online almost every day in the past years. In this post, I’ll be sharing more about what happened and what I learned throughout the year. If you also struggle with an addiction, whether or not it’s social media, I pray that this would be an encouragement for you as it has been a humbling and meaningful experience for me.

THE MOTIVATION

Ever since I signed up on Facebook a decade ago, by God’s grace, I have been using this platform for the good and for His glory. However, things turned sour for me when I let it affect me in many aspects. I saw how I developed this false sense of achievement whenever my posts got more likes, shares, or comments. I noticed how mindlessly being online consumed A LOT of my time (30% of my day), which made me more unproductive. I shared more about this in a previous entry, “When Letting Go Lets You Grow” .

But more importantly, I let this addiction become an idol in my life. It HINDERED me from growing in my walk with God, reading and studying the Bible, pursuing the passions that He has placed in my heart, and finding my true security and joy in Him. Every time I didn’t receive the comment or number of likes that I hoped for, I secretly felt disappointed. Instead of praying for and taking action on the activities that God wanted me to do, I ended up feeling more insecure as I compared my status and life with others.

I remember reminding myself to limit my time online, but there would be nights when I would refresh and scroll through my news feed for hours until I fell asleep. It was crazy! It was definitely an unproductive season in my life! It needed to stop. I NEEDED TO STOP. But, I honestly couldn’t do it on my own. This weakness in my heart motivated me to draw near to God and ask for His help, which led me to having the epiphany that I was talking about earlier.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Last January 2018, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting together. At that time, one of the things I fasted was social media. After letting go of it for 6 days, I noticed how it helped me spend more quality time with the Lord, which I dearly loved. I remember telling God: “Lord, this has been amazing! I should fast from social media more often!” After praying, I felt a strong affirmation from the Lord, “Yes, Nic. Why don’t you fast from social media? FOR ONE WHOLE YEAR.” To which I sincerely replied, “Wait. What, Lord?! One year? Hahaha.”

That surprising conversation with the Lord was the start of a beautiful and grace-filled challenge for me that I never imagined I would do. As I processed the idea the next day, I knew that it was what He wanted me to do for 2018. John 3:30 spoke to my heart at that time which says: “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” I started fasting from Facebook last January 9, 2018 and I decided to continue fasting from it even after our church’s fasting week. In addition, my fast from Twitter and Instagram followed a week after that.

Before I decided to extend my fast, I asked God: “Lord, what about my blog posts? What about the random, encouraging, or funny posts that I share every now and then – people appreciate it, right? I won’t be able to share those on my social media anymore. Also, I’ll miss out on the updates of people’s lives, on their posts, and on the latest topics!”

As I continued to dwell on these thoughts, I felt the Lord gently rebuke me. “Why are you concerned with these things? You can still post on your blog and glorify me through it, without being fixated on the likes or comments. You can still get in touch with others in person and ask how they are. And about your random encouraging posts, remember that they’re not about you, Nicole. Whatever good others see in you is only because of Me and My grace.”

It was a huge and bitter pill that was difficult to swallow. But by God’s grace, I took that step of faith, updated a few accountability partners, and surrendered my heart and the results to the Lord.

 

THE RESULTS & LESSONS LEARNED

 

1. Letting go of an addiction is not enough. It must be replaced with a pursuit that has greater worth.

During the first two months of the fast, I remember struggling so bad with not being online. There were a few times when I logged into our dog’s Facebook account just to check if people tagged me in posts or photos. Who was I fooling, right? Because of this, I decided to update my settings so that others won’t be able to post on my wall anymore, which would help me avoid being conscious of my profile page.

Also, throughout the last 3 months of my one-year fast, I noticed that even though I had not been active in posting online, I was hooked in watching episodes on Netflix. I realized that it wasn’t enough to just let go of social media. I needed to hold on to what I was pursuing, or else, I would just end up getting addicted to another thing. By God’s grace, the struggle to be offline was real in the past year, but God has been gracious in allowing me to get back up each time I was tempted and to dig deep in my relationship with Him through prayer, the study of His word, accountability, and fellowship with others.

 

2. Having less time online encouraged me to be creative and resourceful in doing productive activities.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I knew that God would be honored if I let go of this addiction and pursue Him and other productive things. As a result, last year, by God’s grace, I…

  • Developed my skills in gardening, photography, blogging, and culinary
  • Composed two full songs and a few songs with pending stanzas
  • Read eight books by Christian authors, which was more than the number of books I read last 2017
  • Wrote a few poems
  • Listened to Chip Ingram’s podcasts on some nights
  • Organized celebrations of family and friends for birthdays and milestones
  • Went up and slept at a prayer mountain ten times by myself to have quality time with Jesus
  • Spent more time having meaningful conversations over coffee and dinner with close friends
  • Attended a workshop on songwriting
  • Had more time to intentionally intercede for others
  • Volunteered as a photographer in our church’s media ministry
  • Sang special numbers on two weddings of my friends
  • Had a weekly bible study with a small group of ladies from the office
  • Met new friends
  • Went on fun and eventful roadtrips with different groups of friends

…and many, many more!

One of the questions my friends asked me while I was fasting was “How can you survive not being online anymore? That’s really difficult to do in our generation.” There’s nothing wrong with being online especially if one’s work or calling is directly connected to it. However, if we are not careful or if we spend time online unnecessarily and it hinders us to grow, then it is wise for us to lessen our time with it or take a break and replace it with more productive things. As I went through the year with more available time on my hands, I was pleasantly surprised with the activities and people God graciously allowed me to encounter in person.

 

3. The measure of a man is not defined by one’s status in society or in the social world. It is based on the identity and security that we have in Jesus.

The greatest challenge for me in letting go of social media was surrendering my desire to look for affirmation and attention from others. This has been a blind spot that God revealed to me last year. Although the things I posted before were sincerely from my heart, I knew that deep down, there was still this longing in me to want more responses from the online world. In fact, I realized that if Facebook did not have any react buttons or spaces where we can add comments, it would not have been that appealing to me. I probably would not have been as addicted to it as I was before.

By the grace of God, He has been renewing my mind and heart as the months passed by. It was refreshing to go back to His word and take into heart who He really is and who I really am in Him. Nothing in this world can ever satisfy the deepest longings of my heart – only Jesus can. He IS more than enough for me. I am loved by my Abba Father. I have been saved by grace. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and for Him. He is my Hope and my Security. He is my Peace and my Provider. My constant God in the midst of my chaos. My sovereign Lord in all of my struggles. My Rock and my Redeemer.

THE AFTERMATH

At 12 midnight earlier today, I logged into the three social media applications that I fasted from and I was finally able to accept friend requests online. Hahaha. Yay! Hello, friends! Surprisingly, as of the moment, I do not have the urge to post as much as I did last year. In a way, it had a similar feeling to tasting your favorite candy from your childhood, but not having the appetite or desire to indulge in it anymore. It was wonderfully weird.

I praise the Lord for sustaining me as I took this challenging step of faith. I also thank Him for giving me the support that I needed through His word, prayers, and encouragement from family and close friends. Definitely, this principle of “letting go to grow” is something that I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction. It doesn’t always have to be a one-year challenge (although it really would help remove an unwanted habit). We can always take it one day at a time. Please do pray for me that I will continue to grow in obedience and in my relationship and walk with Jesus this year.

Today is the 13th day of 2019 and I have yet to find out what my next challenge is, by faith. Until then, I’ll see you around… and online too! :)

Hello, 2019!

I woke up on the first day of 2019 with a heavy heart. This usually does not happen every new year. But, instead of being excited for the future, I felt more anxious because of the many worries and fears that slowly crept in my mind. What would my career look like this year? What huge hurdles will I be facing again? How will I survive this year, financially? Will I finally be intentional in pursuing my passions? Will my insecurities ever go away?

As I spent the first few minutes of my day with discouraging thoughts, I knew that I had to battle them with truths from God’s word. I sang these lyrics to myself: “Jesus, you’re my firm foundation. I know I can stand secure. Jesus, you’re my firm foundation. I put my hope in Your Holy word. I have a living Hope. I have a future. God has a plan for me — of this I’m sure, of this I’m sure!”.

In the quietness of my heart, I opened up my frustrations to the Lord and asked Him to search me and renew my mind. I spent the next 30 minutes immersing myself in His word, remembering His faithfulness throughout 2018, and trusting that He will continue to be faithful this year.

In my journal, I wrote on only one page that night (which can be seen in the photo below). Usually, I would find comfort after writing my concerns. But, I was encouraged to write down the verses that spoke to my heart and reflect on them instead. I praise God for the peace that He gives. I praise Him because He is with us always, both in the clear and in the unknown.

I still don’t know the answers to my questions and I will probably still be tempted to carry my worries with me. But by God’s grace, I will choose to let them go, trust Him, and say hello to the new day and new year that He has graciously placed in front of me.

Hello, 2019!