Smile, Though Your Tooth Is Aching

I just came from an appointment with my dentist. The right side of my mouth is still pretty swollen as I am typing this. But, by God’s grace, I had a smooth and painless root canal session this afternoon. This, by the way, was my second root canal and I honestly do not want more in the future. Huhu.

When 75% of the treatment was completed, Doctor Grace was observing the X-ray of my tooth that she took in the middle of the procedure. While I was waiting on the patient’s chair, I thought about how the anesthesia felt like grace. Throughout the procedure, she asked me this question a couple of times: “Does it hurt now?” and I responded with “No.” each time. It was amazing! Was it supposed to hurt? I did not notice because of the anesthesia’s effect on my mouth. Despite my shortcomings in taking care of my teeth, I was still able to go through a painless treatment to kill the nerves of my tooth. Because of the anesthesia, I was spared from feeling the intense pain. It reminded me very much of GRACE. I felt so comforted and encouraged as I waited for the doctor to do the final steps in the treatment.

But then, the unexpected happened.

Doctor Grace asked me to stand beside her so I could also have a careful look at the X-ray. At first, it seemed normal, until she said: “We will need to monitor your teeth in the coming days or weeks. I am not yet sure why, but there’s something unusual about your tooth. It looks like the bottom side of your tooth is cracked.” While she was explaining these to me, my surroundings started to become clouded and I remember trying to keep myself focused on what she was saying. I said some words such as, “Ohhh, yeah!”, “That’s weird.”, “There IS a crack!”, “What does it mean?”, and “What could have caused it?”. She answered my questions as she led me back to the dental chair and then she finished the rest of the treatment.

Usually, when I encounter concerns or problems in my life, I quickly whisper a sincere prayer to the Lord saying “Lord, please help me.” Or “Please guide me. What should I do?”. But, at that moment, I couldn’t even muster a word to the Lord. I responded with a blank stare and with silence in my heart. Before leaving the clinic, I did my best to ask as much questions as I could about the options that I have, things I should expect and watch out for, and the possible worst scenarios that could happen. My dentist eventually told me to go back after a week or two, so I could have it checked again. She also said: “Let’s pray that it won’t be something serious and that it would not worsen.” I said “Okay, doc!” and went straight to the car.

“Let’s pray… let’s pray about it. Pray? Really, Lord? Do You really answer prayers? Why do problems in this life never end? In my life?! I just came from a root canal treatment and You know how huge this leap was for me. But, after making that leap, You still allow me to face another hurdle with my teeth? I bet other people don’t have problems like this. Lord, I am honestly so disappointed with this situation.”

I think I spent the next five minutes withdrawing from the Lord and drawing near to Him again with a heavy heart and with a few tears in my eyes. In Tagalog, I said to Him: “Lord, nagtatampo ako sa Inyo. Bakit ako? Bakit ngipin ko na naman?” However, despite the hurt and numbness in both my tooth and heart, I somehow kept repeating these lines in my mind:

“God answered your prayer for a successful root canal session! Praise God! Thank Him!”

“Grabe, Nic. Remember grace. Even your doctor’s name is Grace! God is encouraging you to remember that His grace is sufficient in your weakness.”

“Just like any other test or challenge in the past, this is an opportunity to strengthen your faith as you trust in the Lord, Nic.”

“You have two options now. You can either COMPLAIN or TRUST that God is in control.”

…and then, I started to sing the lyrics “He is high and exalted and worthy of praise. With our hearts, we will love and adore. He is high and exalted and worthy of praise. Holy is the Lord.”

Honestly, a part of me was discouraged to pray for blessing, prevention of worse situations, provision, and protection because I felt that these were beyond God’s control. But, clearly, this was a lie in my head. By the grace of God, another side of me continued to remind me of verses in the Bible which talk about who God is:

ISAIAH 55:8 – GOD IS SOVEREIGN

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

MATTHEW 17:20 – GOD IS FAITHFUL AND ABLE

“…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing is impossible.”

PSALM 84:11 – GOD IS GOOD

“For the Lord is a sun and shield… No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

A few minutes before I typed this blog post, God encouraged me to humble myself before Him and ask for Him to remove every hint of bitterness, disappointment, anger, and doubt towards Him in me. Even if it is currently very difficult for me to swallow problem after problem when it comes to my aching teeth, by God’s grace, I will keep on trusting in the Lord’s sovereignty, faithfulness, power, and goodness.

With this, I humbly ask that you would pray for me as well as I go through the next few days and weeks. Here are some of my specific prayer requests for my teeth:

  1. The “crack” on my tooth – We’re not yet sure if it is a crack. But, if it is, please pray that it would not cause any pain or swelling at its area or around it. That it would miraculously heal and be attached to the tooth.
  2. That I would not have to get that tooth extracted, so that it would not require me to have retainers or dentures and more expenses in the future.
  3. That the tooth that went through a root canal would completely heal in the next two weeks.
  4. That the weak molar beside that tooth would not be sensitive and would not need to go through a root canal too.
  5. That I would not have infections in my teeth, gums, bones, nerves, etc.
  6. That I would be intentional in taking care of what’s left in my set of teeth.
  7. That I would still faithfully walk in obedience to the Lord and have the desire to spend time with Him and His word. More than experiencing the pain in my teeth, I know that it would be more costly and painful for me to NOT walk with the Lord. May You be glorified in this situation; in my heart.

All of these things I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Thank You, Lord, for answering these prayers, in advance! Because of who You are, I can smile even though my tooth is aching. :)

When Letting Go Lets You Grow

Last 2017, I spent an average of 7 hours a day online. 7 hours a day, 2,555 hours in one year, or 106 days. That’s almost a third of my year invested in the social online world! Tonight, I will not state a list of goals that I plan to achieve this 2018. Instead, I will be sharing one thing that I won’t be doing this year. I have decided to let go of Facebook and Instagram for 365 days. Why? So I can grow.

Now, for my online friends, this might come as a surprise because I am known as someone who posts anything any time of the day. But, according to Peter Tan-Chi, “How you spend your time shows what you think is important.” If I spend time taking a bath and brushing my teeth in the morning, then I believe that having good hygiene is needed. In the same way, if I spend 7 hours of my day on Facebook, then I must think that being online is important. Although, I should say that going on Facebook has its benefits too, such as remembering others’ birthdays and communicating with friends.

However, I have noticed that too much hours spent online caused me to experience more of its cons than its pros. Instead of me pursuing dreams and developing skills, I’ve invested in the thrill of seeing my posts reach a certain number of likes, comments, and shares. And if I didn’t get any notifications, then that would make me wonder about my self-worth. But, I bet if Facebook didn’t have the like or react button feature, it would probably change the way people post or spend their time online.

Too much time on Facebook and Instagram also discouraged me to be content with my life. Whenever friends online would go to places I couldn’t afford to go to or reach certain milestones such as earning millions of pesos, getting promoted, etc., it would sting my heart. As a result, I realized that if I am not careful with how I use my time online, eventually, I would end up feeling sorry for myself and my lack of progress. Unfortunately, this is a danger that social media has on our generation and it’s something not a lot of people talk about.

So, this 2018, I am finally being honest with myself and I will choose to let it go for now. If I log off of Facebook and Instagram for 365 days, how exactly will it help me grow? Well, let me share with you these three things that I think will personally help me:

FIRST: DEVELOP SKILLS

Having 7 extra hours in a day would give me a lot of time to develop skills such as writing, preparing travel itineraries, working out, starting a business, and many more! In those 106 days, imagine how many fruit-bearing plants I can grow, books I can finish, recipes I can conquer in the kitchen, and songs I can make! The list is endless if only I set aside time for these productive activities.

 

SECOND: DISCOVER MYSELF

Instead of constantly being reminded by others’ travel goals or milestones, I will have more time to think of what I have and what my purpose is in life. Discovering ones true self online is like studying for an exam at a rock concert. You can try, but it will be very difficult to do so, especially since you’ll be surrounded with so many opinions, pressures, and filters to become someone you’re not. But, if we quiet ourselves and take time to recall and appreciate how God has blessed us with unique strengths, skills, and dreams. Oh, what a difference it would make!

 

LASTLY: DEVELOP REAL RELATIONSHIPS

One worry that I had was “Oh no! I won’t be able to interact with people anymore! I won’t be updated with their lives!” But, as I thought about it, it made me laugh. “Of course, you can still interact with them, Nicole. You can give them a call, invite them for dinner, or go to out-of-town trips!” I think being online for the longest time helped me develop friendships only at a certain shallow level.

Out of the many friends I have online, how many of them do I really know? I just interact with most of them by clicking on the like button or by greeting them on their birthdays! Being offline would help me be creative and resourceful in meeting people face-to-face and developing deeper relationships with them. There’s something nice about looking at a friend in the eyes and walking with them as you get to share life’s struggles and sweetest victories together. Now, that’s something you don’t always get to experience online.

Developing skills, discovering myself, and developing real relationships. I believe these three things are more than enough reasons for me to let go of Facebook and Instagram for 365 days. Yes, at first, this might be a crazy and challenging idea. But, I am reminded that how I spend my time shows what I think is important to me. This 2018, I believe that it is crucial for me to finally grow.

And so, I will let go.

Today marks my nineteeth day since I have logged off of my Facebook account and so far, it has been both a struggle and a breath of fresh air for me. Here’s to the next 346 days!

8 Things to Consider before Going to Laiya Coco Grove

On the weekend of my birthday, I decided to book a room at a resort in Laiya since I was attending a wedding in the area too. I found numerous affordable and expensive resorts along Laiya, Batangas. But, what caught my attention about Laiya Coco Grove was their unique accommodation. They offered rooms inside beautiful treehouses. Thankfully, there were still available slots a week before my birthday.

I booked an overnight stay at the Couple Room Treehouse. I was supposed to go there alone, but my sister decided the night before that she would join me. Inside Laiya Coco Grove, you’ll also have the option of staying inside the cabin rooms or dormitories which are much cheaper. But, do note that they have shared facilities with other guests. I preferred to stay at the Treehouse room since it seemed like a better adventure for me. Haha!

If you’re thinking of visiting Laiya Coco Grove, here are some of the things you may want to consider:

1. It is a 4-hour drive from Manila

This includes your time for stopovers. You can either go to the resort via private car (which can be searched using the Waze app) or by public transportation (directions seen in the photo below). My sister and I travelled via car, while my brother followed via public transportation (Bus-Van-Jeep). If you’ll be commuting, it’s safe to leave an hour earlier so that you’ll have extra time for queues.

My brother mentioned that the directions given by the resort were more or less accurate. One tip, though, is that the bus can drop you off at SM Lipa where you’ll find vans heading towards San Juan Public Market. Also, upon reaching the market, you might have to ask where the jeepneys to the resorts are. They’re not easily seen in the area. Regarding the exact directions on commuting back to Manila, you may try to ask Coco Grove via email. Sorry, I don’t have any experience on this. Most likely, it will be via jeep, van, and bus again.

 

2. The staff members are nice and polite.

From the time we passed through their main gate to the time we checked in our rooms, we were greeted by smiling staff members at the resort. Also, when we had an issue with the loose door knob at our treehouse, their mechanic immediately fixed it.

 

3. Wi-fi signal is very poor

We were able to connect to their Wi-Fi, but we couldn’t load anything online. We had to use our mobile data (3G at most) for the duration of our stay. But, the good thing about this is it gives you a very relaxing time at the beach. No Wi-Fi, no worries. Haha! Just make sure you finish researching everything you need when you’re still in the city.

 

4. Their food was average

The meals they provided during the buffet times were just okay. They did not taste bad, but they also weren’t excellent for me. Don’t expect much if you’ll avail their buffet meals. Do note that buffet meals are REQUIRED in the treehouse packages. In a buffet meal, you’ll expect to see one type of fruit juice, soup, and dessert. You’ll also have three to four options of viands with rice and a set of condiments. Drinking water is also available. Brewed coffee is served only during breakfast.

I requested for fresh buko juice twice, but unfortunately, they denied me twice since they didn’t have staff members who could safely go up the trees and get fresh ones. It was too risky since it was raining that weekend. Oh well. We bought fruit juices in cans instead. Haha!

Breakfast – 7:00 am to 9:00 am
Lunch – 12:00 nn to 2:00 pm
Dinner – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

 

5. The couple treehouse room was the best part about it!

It’s not everyday that you get to sleep inside a room with a huge trunk in it. Unless of course, you’re blessed with a treehouse in your area. Hehe. But for me, it was my first time to experience it. We didn’t need to turn on the air-conditioner during our first day and night because it was raining. So, the weather was cool. But, the next day, it was bright and sunny! So, turning it on at that time was very useful.

The room includes windows, a mirror, small cabinet which has bottles of water and coffee cups. It also has a bed for two people, a side table, and a comfort room complete with a shower (with heater), toilet, sink, and mirror. It also has a small balcony with a table and two chairs overlooking the beachfront. Moreover, when you go down the steps, you’ll see an area with a few more tables, chairs, and a log where you can hang out.

They provide an umbrella inside the room and a bidet spray before you go up the steps, so you can wash the sand off. One downside to sleeping in the treehouse is it sometimes shakes. We noticed this when the wind became stronger. It still is sturdy, but if you have motion sickness, you might feel a slight discomfort at first.

 

6. The resort has two sections

First: The Main Resort

This includes the treehouses, cabins, and dormitories for overnight stays. It also has a small beachfront area, cafeteria, trampoline, swimming pool, game area (with billiards and pingpong), chapel, public restrooms, bar area, and parking.

 

Second: The White Beach Extension

The resort provides a free shuttle to and from the extension until 6pm. It is a 2-minute drive from the main resort. It has a bigger beachfront area and it has around 10 cabanas where you can stay. They also provide a net for beach volleyball.

This is the part of the resort where you can rent jetskis and banana boats to go around the area. They have other water activities such as parasailing and snorkling. But, I don’t really recommend snorkling in Laiya since you may not see much as compared to snorkling in Palawan and other provinces.

 

7. The sand is finer compared to other resorts in Laiya

I’ve tried the Acuatico resort in Laiya before. The grains of sand in Acuatico are bigger and rougher compared to the sand in Laiya Coco Grove. You’ll enjoy walking along the shore and digging your feet in the sand in Coco Grove than in Acuatico (and the other resorts beside it). Of course, Acuatico has other better features but that’s a different story. Do note that the sand area in Coco Grove did have trash, unfortunately. From wrappers of candies and empty packs of sinigang mix to lost slippers and body bags washed on the shore.

 

8. The views inside Laiya Coco Grove are very photogenic

I’ll let the photos below support my statement. Hahaha! Despite the gloomy weather during our stay, I did enjoy taking photos around the place. I love how it’s filled with coconut trees and treehouses. It certainly was a peaceful and relaxing getaway! If you’ll go there during the summer, the resort will probably have more guests. During our stay, only four groups were staying at the resort, so it felt very private.

To the management of Laiya Coco Grove, if ever you’re reading this, I enjoyed my stay. But, hopefully, you can improve in providing useful Wi-Fi connection, better meals, cleaner shore, and availability of fresh buko juice. Haha! I really wanted to have buko juice at the beach.

12 Highlights of My 2017

Day 365 of 2017. I still can’t believe it. I am excited, nervous, determined, encouraged, pressured (haha!), and hopeful as I welcome the new year! But, before anything else, I would like to take this time to share the highlights (and hurdles) of my 2017 with you.

 

1. FINISHED TWO 10K RUNS

Last February and July, by God’s grace, I was able to finish two 10K runs near SM Mall of Asia. It was my first time to participate in a run. I shared more about both experiences HERE and HERE.

 

2. GREW PECHAY AND CORN

Compared to last year’s harvest, I was only able to grow two vegetables this year. I was preoccupied with numerous things which hindered me from being intentional in gardening. But, at the latter part of the year, God still allowed me to initiate and experience once again the joys of growing vegetables at home. Oh, the beauty of seeing things grow!

 

3. COMPOSED THREE SONGS

All three songs were spontaneous and were from my heart. By God’s grace, He has been encouraging me to express myself more through music this year and it has been a wonderful instrument to share about who God is and what He has been doing. The last time I composed a song was when I was still in college (around 9 years ago). So, these three songs were a delightful and encouraging highlight for me this year!

 

“Burn Away the Pride”

(I shared it on Facebook, but I haven’t uploaded a video on Youtube yet.)

 

“A Nice Surprise”

 

“Heto na Naman Ako”

 

4. TRAVELLED MORE (2 countries and 7 provinces)

Bulacan, Pampanga, Cebu, Batangas, Bohol, Tagaytay, Baguio, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. All of these were vacation trips. Woohoo! By God’s grace, He gave me the privilege of meeting new people, spending within or less than my budget, getting lost in a different country, and exploring new sights and food. Traveling this year taught me a lot about being selfless, lifting things up in prayer, and knowing God more through His creations. Hopefully, I can travel more this 2018.

 

5. BLESSED WITH DEEPER CHRIST-CENTERED FRIENDSHIPS

I specifically praise God for two pals who became my closest accountability partners and dearest friends this 2017. (H and Z. You know who you are. Hahaha!) They’ve seen me rise and fall countless times this year. They’ve also been cheering me on to persevere for Jesus and to grow in my walk with Him. I really appreciate you, guys! Thank you for being a huge part of my 2017.

 

6. FAMILY BREAKTHROUGHS

From breaking walls within our family at a weekend retreat to sharing God’s faithfulness in our family’s testimony at church. From siblings serving as a panel at a youth leaders’ retreat to meeting almost every Saturday for a devotion or bonding time at home. Only by the grace of God! I am grateful for the many breakthroughs we’ve been experiencing at home and I am excited to see more of God’s work in the coming year. Please pray for us!

 

7. SURVIVED TEETH AND CAR PROBLEMS

This year, I’ve experienced so many problems with my teeth and car in a span of two months. Aside from dealing with the pain and hassles, I had to go through the struggle of trusting God with his provisions for the expenses. It was a very challenging and humbling time for me. But, God was, is, and will continue to be faithful.

 

8. WITNESSED MY DGROUPMATES GETTING MARRIED

It happened so fast! It seemed like it was just last year when our highschool selves would spend Saturday afternoons together at our church’s youth services. Now, two of the ladies in our discipleship group got married this year, by God’s grace. Oh, and one was recently engaged too! Haha. I was deeply blessed to witness the humble and obedient hearts of my friends as they surrendered their marriages to the Lord. They also shared the gospel and love of Christ at their weddings, which was the best part for me.

(Photo taken by Zeus Martinez)

 

9. ENJOYED DEVELOPING SKILLS IN PHOTOGRAPHY

Taking photographs is still part of my top favorite things to do. This 2017, by God’s grace, He has helped me improve in this aspect and has even given me the privilege of winning a simple food photography contest online. But, more than the rewards, it’s being able to document fleeting moments and memorable things and people in my life that I appreciate most. Thank You, Lord, for technology!

 

10. INVESTED IN LIFE INSURANCE & STOCKS

After years of delaying and praying, I finally stepped up and invested in these two financial milestones in my life. Whew. Here’s to being more intentional in wisely managing the finances and savings that God graciously gives me because it is His.

 

 

11. BOUGHT MY 30TH JOURNAL

30th since 2007. This is a reminder for me to continuously walk with the Lord as I spend time in prayer and in my personal Bible studies. Having a journal has been very helpful for me, especially since I am able to express myself more through writing than speaking in public.

 

12. LEARNED THAT CHRIST IS ENOUGH

I ended my post last year about my 2016’s highlights with “Entertaining the idea of courtship in my life”. At the start of 2017, God allowed me to experience it. But, as the months passed by, He led me to a different direction. At first, it was heartbreaking. However, God has been faithful in reminding me since then, that He was, is, and will always be more than enough for me. As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, believing that God is enough has been a struggle for me this year, in different aspects. But, by God’s grace, I found comfort in His sovereignty and love for us. I sealed this with an actual ring to serve as a constant reminder for me.

I’ve made so many mistakes and believed in so many lies that hindered my growth this year. But, there is so much to be grateful for. Tomorrow is a new day and God’s mercies are new each morning. So, I am encouraged to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I surrender my past victories and failures, present condition, and future dreams and plans to the King of my heart.

Thank You, Lord, for 2017! What a year it has been!

“Because of the Lord ʼs great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬