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.”

Words in Cookies

When I was in highschool, one of my classmates opened up to me and said: “Nicole. You know what? You’ve changed – in a good way. I don’t know if you still remember this, but when we were in the 4th grade, you used to tease me because I was chubby. But now, you’re so nice to people, including me, and I really appreciate it.”

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At that time, I really couldn’t believe what she just shared to me. I honestly couldn’t remember bullying others verbally before, but by God’s grace, He changed my heart through the years and restored my friendship with my classmate. I told her that the change happened because of my desire to honor God in my relationship with Him. After she shared, I also asked for her forgiveness. I even remember getting teary-eyed while hugging her that day.

 “Words can build you up. Words can break you down… Start a fire in your heart or put it out.” –Hawk Nelson

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It’s truly amazing how our words can instantly strengthen or discourage the people around us. This is one of the aspects in my life that I really need to improve on. But despite my past mistakes, my careless words and weaknesses, it’s encouraging to be reminded of God’s grace and the new opportunities He gives me to honor Him with my words and heart.

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Also, God has been faithful in teaching me to tame my tongue by guarding my heart. By His grace, the more I spend time reading, memorizing, studying His word and soaking my heart in it, the more I am able to honor Him with my mouth and encourage others too.

Matthew 12:34 says: “…Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

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A few days ago, I tried making Fortune cookies again and instead of putting fortunes in them, I placed some of God’s promises (from the Bible) that are close to my heart. After making them, I shared them to my family and we all broke our cookies and read the promises. God graciously uses moments like this to encourage my heart to dwell more on His word (even while I’m in the kitchen baking treats).

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All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

It doesn’t matter if we read and study one verse or one chapter per day. God looks at our hearts when we spend time with Him and He graciously speaks to us through His word wherever, whenever.

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“God, Your voice is the only thing we need to hear.” –Hawk Nelson in “Words”

It is my prayer that I would grow more in my walk with God this year. God says in His word that nothing is impossible with Him. So, I believe with all my heart that I can improve in this aspect and honor Him with the heart and mouth that He has given me.

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If you want to make fortune cookies too, you can try this recipe. :)

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NOTE: Making the fortune cookies wasn’t easy. In fact, after baking and folding all of the cookies, you’ll probably have sore fingertips (especially if you don’t use gloves or other things to cover your fingers while folding them). But, the experience is exciting because you’ll only have a few seconds to put the strip of paper on the HOT cookie, fold it in half, fold it again with the help of a mug, and let it rest/ harden in a cupcake pan.

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Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

To Be Like You

One of the things that I genuinely enjoy about baking is being able to personalize the goodies that I make. I just love how baking allows us to get creative with the quantity, design, colors, size, and taste of the treats. Moreover, being able to see the good, beauty, and “desired look” in the finished products makes it a delightful experience for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity and privilege of sharing some of the treats to my friends at Friday Night Light (FNL). At that time, because we were raising funds for the ministry by selling shirts, I thought of experimenting with sugar cookies and making personalized FNL sugar T-shirt cookies. :)

 

The process of making these treats involved the ff:

Make the cookie dough.

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Use cookie cutters to shape the cookies.

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Prepare the Royal Icing.

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Design the cookies using the Icing.

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Let the Cookies Dry and Serve/Pack

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At that time, I remembered looking at and using the FNL shirts that I had at home as my pattern and guide while making and designing the sugar cookies.  There were moments when I experienced difficulties in applying the icing, rolling out/cutting the soft cookie dough, and even letting the cookies dry. But, God reminded me to continue looking at my pattern and guide (FNL shirts) and persevere in making the FNL sugar T-shirt cookies.

He reminded me of the same principle in the Bible, where it says “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)

This verse shows us the reality of experiencing discouragements, weaknesses, and problems in this world. But more importantly, it shows us the peace and victory that we have in Christ even in the midst of these things. What an encouragement! :)

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By the end of the night, I was able to make and pack more than 50 FNL shirt-like sugar cookies! Only by God’s grace. :)

It really was a lovely sight for me because the little shirt cookies looked like the real thing — the FNL shirts I had in my closet!

It was also encouraging  because I was reminded of how God, the One who made us, also desires for us to become more like His Son, Jesus. He takes pleasure in us not because of our “own” righteousness, achievements, status, or strengths, but because of His righteousness and grace in us through His Son, Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

♫ Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart… ♫

[Hillsong]

And so I ask myself this question: “Is there anything in my life that does not look like Christ?”

Thank You, God, for giving us opportunities each day to grow more in our walk with You and become like Jesus. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

S’mores and Something More

For the past few months, I’ve been praying for God’s direction for me in ministry. Specifically, if it is His will for me to continue serving Him at CCF Makati’s Friday Night Light (FNL) and be a facilitator at the True Life Singles Retreat or to serve in another ministry. I was praying for this because I was struggling with managing my time and resources since I get off from work late and I don’t live near CCF Makati. For the longest time, I felt like God was so silent about this, but by His grace, He gave me an answer three weeks ago.

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Last August 3, I had my quiet time with the Lord at home. I poured out my heart to him again, humbled myself before him, and told him: “Lord, I want to hear your voice more than anything else right now. I’m listening, Lord. Please speak to me tonight. Please give me direction. Thank You…” After writing that, I stared at space for a few minutes and when I was about to write some more, I noticed this…

You

The word “You” was on the next page and it was the only word written there at that time. God was showing me that life really is all about Him. It’s all about Jesus. Ministry is about Him and not about my comfort, or my skills in serving Christ, or about the number of girls I handle, or where I’m active in ministry, or who I’m friends with in ministry, etc. It’s all about “You”, Jesus.

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Photo taken by Flonnah Valencia

I spent the rest of the night reading the first part of Genesis 12 and it was about the Call of Abram. He obeyed God when he was instructed to go the land that God will show him. And one of the things that struck me in that chapter was verse 7, where God said “To your offspring, I will give this land.” It made an impression on me because a few verses before that, I read that Sarai was barren. And now, God is telling Abram that he will give that land to his offspring.

It was encouraging because it reminded me of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and power even in the midst of my weaknesses and “impossible” & difficult situations. Abram built an altar after God said “I will give this land” and it was also nice because it showed that Abram acknowledged God’s presence at that time and in that place. I was encouraged to trust in God again.

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After having my quiet time, God prompted me to read through my old blog posts, to remind me of my moments with God for the past year. I then happened to read my blog post about S’more Cookies & last year’s FNL teambuilding (http://encouragingtreats.com/smore-cookies/) and while I was reading it, it seemed like I was a different person back then. I was so full of encouragement, light, peace, and joy.

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Jeff serving the S’more Cookies (Photo by Jill Bantang)

I even wrote this: “Maybe God gave us the sticky situations/rollercoaster ride to remind the FNL team that in the future as we serve Him in ministry, we may also encounter similar sticky situations and even sudden changes in our plans. However, I’m learning that sticky situations actually encourage us to focus on God’s grace, faithfulness and love. They are opportunities for us to seek Him more especially as we make decisions. Also, they help develop our hearts and character as we trust in His sovereignty.”

God humbled me that night as I read through my old blog and He encouraged me to be like the Nicole who blogged about this last year. She didn’t worry about her struggles and concerns in ministry. She was focused on Jesus.

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

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At the end of the blog post, I noticed something that struck me. “Did you know that the original name for “S’more” was “Some More”? This is because when the people tasted S’mores before, they constantly asked for more! Similarly, in our teambuilding experience, I realized that although we didn’t ask for more, God decided to give us some more problems and sticky situations for His good purposes. I’m glad He did! :)”

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And that was it. God spoke to me. I honestly believe that God answered the prayer of my heart that night because when I read S’mores or “Some More” in my blog, I remembered this year’s True Life retreat which was entitled “Something More”. By faith and by His grace, I went to the retreat last weekend. :)

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Photo taken by RJ Magno

I praise and thank Jesus for the privilege of serving and knowing Him more in the True Life Singles Retreat. I’ve witnessed so many changed lives and hearts surrendered to Him and I know that it was only by His grace. It really was a humbling experience for me because I was reminded of God’s indescribable grace and love for me.

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I really cannot imagine my life without You, Jesus. You have been and you will always be everything to me. I just can’t explain how you’ve changed and renewed my heart, mind, and life. Thank You so much for dying on the cross for me so that I can spend eternity with You in Heaven. Thank You so much for being with me and for being my Risen Savior, Lord, and best friend.

Jesus, You are worth my every cent, every second, every breath, and every step. :)

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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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My wonderful ladies at the True Life Retreat.
Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera

“Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart.

It’s all because of You, Jesus.”

[Scandal of Grace by Hillsong]

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Flonnah publicly declaring her desire and decision to follow Jesus. :)
Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera

And if I may just add, the food committee served s’mores in the retreat. When I saw those treats, my heart melted and I smiled because I remembered how God encouraged me to step out in faith and serve Him in this ministry. Thank You, Lord! :)

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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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My new BarCARda. :)

TRUE LIFE SINGLES RETREAT VIDEO: http://vimeo.com/73079435

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHT: https://www.facebook.com/ccffridaynightlight

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)