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? :)

Through the Eyes of the Chef

Earlier today, I treated myself with a Fillet Mignon from one of the restaurants in megamall. I actually planned on eating a steak this weekend because I wanted to satisfy my craving for juicy meat. Since my siblings had other plans after the church service and I didn’t, I decided to buy the steak and go home immediately.

While I was driving home, all I could think of was how good the steak would taste like. As soon as I could, I prepared my late lunch and took my first bite. After a few seconds of chewing on the juicy piece of meat, I thought to myself, “Umm.. Is it just me or is the flavor of the steak kind of… bland.” I ended up getting disappointed with the dish. It wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t worth the money. It wasn’t good enough for me, even when I added more spices to it.

But, somehow, in spite of my ungrateful and proud heart, God took that moment to speak to me. Through Him, I realized that maybe the chef who prepared that dish had a special purpose for it. Maybe, he’s used to creating dishes with mild flavors. Or maybe, other customers would like mild-seasoned steaks more. I realized that I shouldn’t let my disappointments hinder me from having a grateful heart. I was having steak for lunch and that was something I can thank God for. :)

After eating, I spent the rest of the afternoon browsing through my old journals and I read my entries last January 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 for a special reason. And it was interesting because when I went through my journal last January 12, 2012, I read a lesson that God taught me when I was dining in one of the restaurants in megamall. The funny thing about it was that the restaurant I mentioned in my journal last year was the same restaurant that I went to a while ago, when I bought the steak.

Photo taken last January 2012

I wrote:

“The moment I got in this restaurant, I noticed the messy, broken, seemingly undone and ugly brick walls around. While I was waiting for my drink, I thought about the walls and realized that the owner of the restaurant really designed and made the walls the way they are right now for a special purpose. Maybe, he wanted them to reflect the place where the restaurant originated from (with matching foreign music playing in the background)..

In spite of the chipped walls, hardened drippings of cement, and partial white painted walls, I somehow began to appreciate the walls when I look at them through a panoramic view. It’s like I’m actually in the country where this restaurant came from. :) Thank You, Lord, because in the same way, You are showing me that it’s so easy for me to look at myself and others and see only the “ugly” things in our lives. It’s so easy for me to dwell on thoughts and think of how I’ll never be good enough or never have enough in this life (similar to these walls.)

Photo taken last January 2012... with my mango shake. :P

But, just like how these walls were carefully made by the owner, I know that You have beautifully created us for a purpose and You’ve given deep thought to every detail in our lives. You remind me to continue looking at my life (and others’ lives) through Your eyes; through the “panoramic view” and see Your goodness and beauty. Definitely, You are more than enough for me, Jesus. Thank You for the encouragement. :)”

Psalm 139:13 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I couldn’t believe it. God somehow connected what I learned today to what He taught me last January 2012… concerning the same restaurant.

Indeed, even though I got disappointed with the Fillet Mignon I ordered today, I am encouraged to look at the dish through the eyes of the chef who made it and appreciate it for what it is. Maybe it is the chef’s specialty… or maybe it is not. :P Nonetheless, I thank God for the dish and for the privilege of learning through it. :)

Steak Au Poivre a la Julia Child

Google’s logo last August 15, 2012 caught my attention while I was browsing through the internet that day. Julia Child would have turned 100 years old last Wednesday! It was very interesting for me because ever since I watched the movie, Julie and Julia, I was more encouraged to pursue cooking and baking. In honor of one of my culinary inspirations, I prepared Steak Au Poivre in the style of Julia Child and served it with homemade, creamy mashed potatoes and buttered asparagus.

I honestly still get intimidated by Julia Child’s recipes. They seem to require a lot of effort and expensive ingredients. Moreover, in her cookbooks and television shows, she even walks us through EVERY SINGLE detail of her recipes. Talk about hard work, determination, and passion for food! However, despite the long procedures involved in her recipes, the dishes continue to fascinate me. :)  Thus, although I’ve never cooked a steak in my life before, I was inspired to make Steak Au Poivre last night.

I was staring at my raw steaks while my pan was heating up when I told God: “Lord, I honestly don’t know how to cook these. I’m not like Julia Child or other well-experienced chefs. Would you please give me wisdom? I know that YOU know HOW to cook steaks. Thank You! :)”

After I prayed, God somehow encouraged me to feel and poke the seasoned, raw meat with my fingers before cooking them. I then carefully placed the meat on the hot pan and let it cook for a few minutes. Later, I flipped the meat and cooked the other side for a few more minutes. And lastly, when both sides were done, I wrapped it in foil and let it rest for a while. (Resting the steak in foil would help keep the juices inside the meat, making it more tender.)

I felt nervous after cooking the steaks because I didn’t have a meat thermometer, and I couldn’t tell if they were medium rare, medium well, or well done. Nonetheless, I opened the wrapped foil and by God’s grace, the steaks looked amazingly juicy, tender, and were wonderfully cooked. I immediately prepared the dish with mashed potatoes, buttered asparagus, and sprinkled bits of basil on top.

 

My very supportive and encouraging family enjoyed the Steak Au Poivre with me. One of my brothers, after tasting the steak, even said: “Wow, Nic. I’m speechless, astonished, and amazed…” Hahaha. I actually laughed at him when he said that because I knew that it was a line from a song (Speechless by Steven Curtis Chapman). I continued the lyrics and said to him: “…I am silenced by His wondrous grace.” :) Indeed, it was only by God’s grace that I was able to make Julia Child’s Steak Au Poivre

As I was cleaning some of the equipment I used, I could still remember the delicious combination of the tender steak, creamy mashed potatoes, and the fresh, crisp asparagus. And although I am not an expert, I always enjoy rearranging the food, taking photos of it, and making the dish look more presentable. :)

Before going to bed last night, I read more about Julia Child and got encouraged by what she quoted before:

You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made,’ [Chef Bugnard] said.

‘Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.”
―Julia Child, My Life in France

After reading that, I learned that Julia Child saw the beauty in the dishes that she made, even if other people didn’t exactly agree or find pleasure with how or what she cooks. I was amazed by her ability to use even the simplest ingredients to make extraordinary French dishes. God then spoke to my heart and I realized how I was even more amazed by Him and the beautiful things He createsIt says in: 

Psalm 139:14

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Isaiah 49:15

“…I will not forget you.”

If Julia Child can excellently make French food and inspire millions of people in the world, how much more can God, the creator of the universe, make beautiful things out of us? It was also such an encouragement to be reminded by God, that in spite of the “ugly” things we may have done in the past, our failures and wrongdoings, He still sees us for who we really are — chosen and unconditionally loved by Him.

Certainly, God does not look at us and think: “Wow, what a disappointment.” But instead, He takes pleasure in what He created and He sees the good and beauty in us; He sees Jesus in us. :)

Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

 

What a treat, indeed! Thank You, Lord, for making beautiful things. :)