It’s All About Me, Right?

“You can find the taco shells… at the… uhh… frozen section.”

Clearly, the staff member at the grocery store didn’t know where the taco shells were. Hahaha. I am able to laugh about this now, but last night, when it happened, I honestly couldn’t contain my irritation.

TACO, TOMATO, & CORN

It all started when I was buying ingredients for tacos and shrimp kebabs for yesterday’s dinner. The staff member was arranging the spices on the rack when I asked him where the taco shells were. I already had an idea but because the supermarket had around 40 aisles, I didn’t want to waste time going through a lot of them.

“Frozen section? But sir, they’re taco shells. Similar to chips?” I said. I even showed a picture of the taco shell which was on the packaging of the taco mix I was holding.

He slightly panicked, mustered enough strength, and said “Yes, ma’am. At the… uhh… frozen section.”

“Umm. I don’t think so. But, I’ll just find it somewhere.” I replied as I gave him an awkward and confused stare.

While I was pushing the cart away from him, my mind started to heat up. “What in the world?? Who keeps taco shells or chips at the frozen section?? Was he trying to look confident? If he didn’t know where it was, he could have said so or endorsed me to another staff instead! Ugghh.” I then saw another staff member and asked him where the taco shells were. He gladly assisted me and showed me the correct aisle.

A few minutes later, I went to the vegetable section to get tomatoes and raw corn. Again, I had another encounter with a staff member. After putting my tomatoes in a plastic bag, I asked a staff member who was arranging potatoes in front of me if he could weigh the bag for me. Without even looking at me, he said “Pumunta ka sa kabila.” In English, “Go to the other side.” He was referring to the staff lady who was two meters behind him. (Just two meters!!!)

I didn’t expect that to happen because every time I ask the staff members at the fruits, vegetable, meat, or even fish sections, they usually get the plastic bag and weigh them. If they weren’t in charge of weighing, they would give the bags to the one who is, so that we (customers) wouldn’t have to go around or walk towards the weighing machine. But, unfortunately, the staff member wasn’t in a good or polite mood.

I then walked towards the corn area. As I was selecting the peeled raw ears of corn, I noticed the date printed on the price tag. The packed date was May 7, 2017. It was only May 6. At that moment, I was already starting to have trust issues with this supermarket. If I would go to the store today, I would believe that they only peeled and packed them today (7th). BUT!!! They were packed a day before!

I got a few pieces anyway, paid for the items, and left the supermarket. As I was driving home, I thought about what happened in the grocery store and my encounters with the taco shells, tomatoes, and corn. “What a failure. Wow. They were soooo HAPPY to serve! Right.”

 

JOY IN SERVING

As soon as I sarcastically commented on their service today, I recalled what I read and learned from Matthew 25:31-46 an hour before I went to the supermarket. I remember being reminded by God to put others before myself. To love and serve others and not remain in my selfishness. I even wrote down the acronym shared by our senior pastor at church many years ago: JOY. Jesus first. Others next. Then, You (myself).

I realized how ugly my heart was when I was feeling entitled and selfish the whole time at the grocery store. I wanted people to serve me. I wanted them to make things convenient for me. It was all about ME. But, in reality, everything about me and everything that I have is only by God’s grace.

Maybe the staff member who didn’t know where the taco shells were was new at his job. Maybe the staff member who shrugged me off at the tomato section had deadlines to meet (sacks of potatoes he needed to finish arranging by last night? I don’t know.). And maybe, the computer used to print the price tags of the corn just accidentally had the wrong date — that they didn’t mean to deceive the customers.

Immediately, I apologized to God for my selfish attitude and for how I allowed my anger and annoyance to brew even for just 30 minutes that night. As I surrendered it to God, I remembered the good points that I did see that night too. First, I still got to find the taco shells (at the chips and salsa section) thanks to another staff member. Second, the store sold headless shrimps, which was the kind of shrimp that I needed for kebabs. Third, the cashier lady double checked with me if I wanted to check my balance first before swiping my debit card.

After remembering these things, I thanked God for preparing my heart even before going to the grocery store and for allowing me to instantly experience first-hand what it means to serve others joyfully. Putting others before myself helps change my perspective and behavior. I may not be able to change how people behave or react. But, I can always choose to humbly serve and honor God and others in any situation.

Before I went to the grocery store, after reading Matthew 25, I even asked myself “How can you be a blessing to others? How can you genuinely serve?”

Last night, my older sister (Michelle), younger brother (Gabo), and I were supposed to eat out. But, we decided to spend time together at home instead. Ate Michelle graciously offered to pay for the grocery items and I helped by buying the ingredients and cooking dinner for the three of us. After dinner, Gabo secretly followed me to the kitchen where I was washing the dishes and he whispered “Thanks for cooking dinner!”. When he left, I smiled and thanked God for His grace.

We are all called to serve each other, even through the simplest ways. How can you serve others today? :)

Make Room for Growth

This morning, I harvested my second batch of pechay leaves, which are also known as Bok choy or Chinese cabbage in other countries. The leaves I got from this batch were much bigger than the first ones I had last August. The ironic thing about it? I didn’t even know that I had one pechay seed growing in the pot until I saw a seedling in it three months ago. Today, by God’s grace, I snipped off a lovely bundle of big pechay leaves here at home.

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I happily showed my family members the stalks of pechay in my hand while they were having brunch earlier today. I then shared the background of the story and emphasized how interesting the experience was. Even though I exerted so much effort in the first batch by regularly watering, adding organic fertilizer, and taking care of the plants, they weren’t able to reach their maximum size. Why? Because there wasn’t any room for growth.

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One major mistake that I made while I was growing the first batch was planting too many seeds in a small area. Because the seedlings were overcrowded, their roots could not expand and fully develop under the soil. This resulted to smaller leaves and thinner stalks.

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For the second batch of pechay leaves, however, since it was only one seedling growing in the pot, it had adequate space for its roots to expand.  Even though I wasn’t able to add fertilizer to it as often as I did to the first batch, it still grew and reached its maximum potential. There weren’t other pechay plants absorbing the nutrients in the soil.

I learned two things today as I took photos of the larger pechay leaves at home.

 

FIRST: Hindrances to growth may also be the good things in life.

It is very easy to put the blame on the weeds and difficult moments in life whenever we experience delays in our growth. However, I am learning that even the good and seemingly harmless things may also hinder us from experiencing the best and becoming the best version that we can be. Of course, this still depends on how we respond. In gardening, I realized that fruit-bearing or leafy greens shouldn’t be overcrowded in a pot if we want them to grow and reach their full potential.

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In the same way, personally, I am reminded to be more wise and intentional in the way I manage my time, resources, and activities. For example, I’ve noticed how casually surfing the internet or social media applications take up a lot of hours in a day. Even though these aren’t bad tools, if I am not careful with how I use them, I may end up “overcrowding my soil” and not leaving enough space for more important things that can help me grow.

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Another example is being idle or enjoying too much rest or sleep. Yes, I do believe that rest is important. But, I also know that if I just sleep all day and not plan ahead on the activities that I can productively do in a day, then it would be a waste of time and resources.

What are the activities (both good and bad) that hinder me from reaching my full potential? In what areas do I need to improve on? (e.g. Physical fitness, communication skills, homemaking skills, preparation for exams or work, etc.)

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SECOND: God makes things grow.

This is my favorite part in this blog entry – the part where we talk about God’s grace. There’s something about the grace of God that strikes our hearts, humbles us, and inspires us to press on. In my case of growing pechay leaves, clearly, it was God who caused the growth of the second batch. Originally, I did not want to grow pechay during the months of September to December because I knew that we would be having rainy days in this tropical country. But, God allowed one pechay seed to be left behind and He helped it grow even without me attending to it daily. AMAZING.

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This experience encouraged me to depend on the Lord and not on my own strength and wisdom. He makes things grow. He can allow us to experience growth and reach our full potential in the different areas of our lives. We just have to trust in Him, do our part, and see Him work wonders in and through us. When I saw the lone pechay sprout in the pot, I had the choice to pluck it out. But somehow, even if it was just one seedling growing in the pot, I saw its potential and started to take care of it. I didn’t know that after three months, it would become a beautiful harvest, by God’s grace.

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Maybe there are areas in our lives right now that seem hopeless or seem to have no progress at all, just like the lone seedling in the pot. Maybe it’s a financial struggle or a heartbreak that we can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s seeing little development from all of the hard work we’ve been doing or a blurry vision of our dreams and goals in life. Whatever it is, I hope that you will also be encouraged to surrender it to God, do your part, and trust that in His perfect timing, He will allow it and you to improve and grow.

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

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A Lady’s Pride and her Lady Fingers

In our baking class today, the head chef taught us how to make lady fingers (a.k.a. Broas) from scratch. He emphasized the importance of piping the batter close to each other to produce more pieces of broas on the tray. When it was my turn to practice piping, one of my classmates shouted “Nic! That’s too close. You have to make larger gaps between them!” I then replied, “But, chef asked us to pipe them close to each other.”

And so, I continued to pipe.

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After doing my part, we moved on to the other steps and recipes for the other kinds of cream cakes we made. However, somehow, my heart felt very heavy. Without a doubt, I saw the pride in me as I still lingered on self-centered thoughts like “I know what I’m doing. I’m just following the chef’s instruction. I don’t need to listen to my classmate’s comments.” But, who was I kidding, right?

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Instantly, I felt a huge thug on my heart as I realized how proud I was. I went to class to learn, NOT to compete or compare myself to others. Without the grace of God and the guidance of our head chef and fellow classmates, I wouldn’t be able to work and bake efficiently and correctly. Everything that I have and everything that I am able to do is only because of the grace of God. Not even 0.1% of the glory should be given to me. I whispered a prayer to God as our instructor’s voice faded in the background. I asked for forgiveness. I asked God to renew my heart and remove every hint of pride in me.

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After I prayed, while the rest of the class was listening to the head chef, I caught a glimpse of the freshly baked lady fingers that we just made. Guess what? The ones that I piped did stick to each other! They were too close! Unfortunately, they were included in the batch of “damaged lady fingers”. Thankfully, though, they were still used inside the layers of our Tiramisu cakes. Sigh. Ahhhh! It was such a humbling moment for me to see the result of my pride.

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By the time the class finished decorating the cakes, our head chef suggested to take a group photo with the finished products. But, before he asked us to pose, he quickly shouted “Okay! We have to clean up first!” It was interesting, really. Since my first day in our Pastry Arts course, I noticed how the senior and junior chefs quickly cleaned the used utensils, tissue paper, bowls in the area while the head chef cooked and baked. There was never a time in the kitchen when the head chef prepared the baked goods in the middle of a messy table or workstation.

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When the junior and senior chefs were busy with other tasks, the head chef even initiated on cleaning his workstation. While he was waiting for the egg yolk and sugar mixture to boil, he wiped the table near it to remove crumbs or cocoa powder on it. He made sure to clean as he cooked and baked. What a humbling sight and reminder for me. Even the head chef knows how to model humility and cleanliness in the kitchen. I should definitely learn to do the same as well.

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It says in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Simple Sunday Snack: Bacon-Wrapped Potato Bites

Bacon, potatoes, and cream. It’s as easy as one, two, three!

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I finally made time for The Kitchn (without an “e”), a cookbook given to me by one of my colleagues for my birthday last year. As I was browsing through its recipes last night, I found a delicious choice for today’s simple snack. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: the crisp bacon-wrapped potato bites! It’s very easy to prepare and it’s tasty too. In the original recipe, the author used sour cream and hot sauce to complement the potatoes. But, I didn’t have hot sauce with me. So, I used a few stalks of spring onion instead.

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If you want to give it a try, feel free to go through the photos and instructions below. I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did! Here’s to more bacon-wrapped treats in the future!

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Bacon-Wrapped Potato Bites with Sour Cream Dip

Inspired by Faith Durand’s The Kitchn cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 20 Marble potatoes (or 2 large potatoes cut into large cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon of Fresh or Dried Rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 long slices of bacon (cut them in half, crosswise)
  • ½ cup of plain sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped spring onion

Steps:

1) Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes or until you can poke the potatoes with a fork without much resistance.

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2) Remove the potatoes from the water and season with salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil.

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3) Wrap each potato in bacon. Secure the bacon using a toothpick.

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4) Bake* in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Make sure to turn them around after the first 15 minutes.

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5) In a small bowl, add pinches of salt and chopped spring onion to ½ cup of sour cream.

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6) Serve the potatoes while they’re still hot. Dip them in cream and enjoy!

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*If an oven isn’t available, you may fry the bacon-wrapped potato bites on a non-stick pan for 8-10 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. Make sure not to add oil because the bacon already has fat.