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? :)

Simple Sunday Snack: Cheesy Baked Tahong (Mussels)

When my siblings and I were still kids, our mom would prepare a huge bowl of hot mussel soup with onions, ginger, and leaves of chili and a generous serving of cheesy “baked” tahong at home. Sometimes, she even let us help out by putting garlic, melted butter, and cheese on the mussels before they were toasted. More than a decade later, I still enjoy these dishes. Not only are they very easy to make, but they also have a naturally sweet and rich taste as well.

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Since the market and supermarkets close to our place rarely sell fresh mussels, we don’t get to cook mussels as often as we did before. So, when I had the opportunity to visit Farmers Market in Quezon city a few weeks ago, I only had one goal in mind: To buy fresh mussels. Hahaha. Okay, fine. I had three goals. The another two were: to scout for fresh ingredients and take photos around the market just because it was my first time to visit the place. After a few hours in the market, my mom, brother, and I went home with plastic bags full of fresh fruits, vegetables, root crops, and seafood. Yes, including a kilo of fresh mussels. Yay!

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As soon as we got home, my mom and I started to work in the kitchen. For our dinner that night, I was assigned to do the baked mussels and my mom was in-charge of the other dishes. While I was cleaning the mussels and trimming the beards (stringy part in the mussels), I noticed one opened mussel. My mom taught me about bad mussels when I was still a kid, so I knew that the opened mussel was a bad one. The shells of fresh mussels must be tightly closed before they’re cooked or they should at least close tightly when they are tapped. Otherwise, they are already dead and not fresh enough for us to eat.

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I was a bit disappointed because the opened mussel was going to go to waste. So, in my attempt to salvage it, I double checked and asked my mom again: “Mom, are you sure we really can’t cook and eat this anymore?” She looked at the mussel and said: “Yes. We can’t since it has already been open and dead. Opened mussels may be contaminated too.” And just like that, it became clear to me again. I realized that I shouldn’t use it anymore.

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While I was assembling the cooked mussels, I remembered the bad mussel in the trash. It would have been crazy if I decided to include it in the batch of fresh mussels for our dinner. Thankfully, my mom was there to reassure me of how to distinguish fresh mussels from bad ones. In that moment, I realized that it’s sort of similar to being accountable to a family member, a friend, and God in the different moments in our lives. Yes, we know what is true and what we ought to do. But, sometimes, we get distracted along the way and we think that it’s okay to do things our way or to depend on our knowledge and strength.

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It is during moments like this where we see the good and beauty in accountability. When my mom reassured me that it was a bad mussel, she was helping me understand the nature of mussels and was protecting me and our family from possible sicknesses and bacteria that may come from it. In the same way, having family members or friends who can graciously correct and guide us according to God’s Word is one of the many privileges and blessings that God allows us to experience. When we remain accountable to God and others, we can be more intentional in fleeing from sin, making wrong decisions, or stepping out of our comfort zones so we can grow in areas of weaknesses.

It says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It might sting a little, but it would definitely be a good practice for us to have our hearts checked by others regularly.

How can we encourage accountability at home, in school/office, or at church? Let me know your thoughts about this! :)

Oh, and feel free to make Cheesy Baked Mussels this week!

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  1. CLEAN. Rinse and scrub the shells to remove the dirt. Trim the beard attached to the mussels.
  2. STEAM. In a large pot, bring two cups of water to a boil. Cook the mussels until they open up.
  3. OPEN UP. After removing them from the pot, open up the mussels and separate the shells from each other by breaking off the hinges.
  4. ASSEMBLE. Place the shells with mussels on them on a tray. Add crushed garlic, butter, and grated cheese on each shell.
  5. TOAST/BAKE. Using an oven toaster, heat the mussels for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese on top starts to sizzle and become brown. Using an oven, bake the mussels in 375 F for 10 minutes.

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Simple Sunday Snack: Lemon-Ginger Fish and Asparagus

I usually don’t delete messages in my mobile phone and I am not sure why. But recently, I was motivated to do so because whenever I would open my inbox or sent items, it would take 5 to 10 seconds to load! I checked the total number of messages and saw that it was already more than 4000. No wonder it constantly lagged. And so, I finally delete all of my messages. All, except one: The oldest message in my phone, which was a video of a cartoon asparagus that was sent to me by my sister.

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At first, I was hesitant because I had numerous messages (for the past years) that were special. Some of them were encouraging words from family and friends, conversations about funny experiences that I had in the past, and even secrets shared by close buddies. But somehow, I knew that deleting most, if not all, of my messages would give me a fresh start and help me be more productive with the time I spend using my phone.

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True enough, after deleting a huge bulk of my messages, it took less than a second to load my inbox or sent items. Hooray! It felt so good to not experience delays anymore. I loved it!

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After a few minutes of enjoying it, I opened the only message that I kept in my phone and watched it again. It was just a simple cartoon video for children, but it had so much truth in it. I watched the asparagus tell God about his day and I was encouraged to do the same too. In the video, you will see that at the end of the day, the asparagus chose to see God’s love for him in everything. And because of this, he was able to find rest and security in Him.

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Out of all the messages that I had in my phone, I’m glad that I kept this one because it was a great reminder for me to always seek God’s presence, to go back to the truth (the Bible), and find rest in who He is, no matter what happens.

Thank you, Veggie Tales, for this heartwarming video!

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]

Looking forward to resting in God’s presence this week! :)

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Simple Sunday Snack:

Grilled Ginger-Lemon Fish with Steamed Asparagus

5 or more sticks of raw Asparagus

Raw Fish fillet (1/4 kilo)

Half of a lemon (or more)

Salt and Pepper

2 tbsp. of grated ginger

2 minced cloves of garlic

Paprika

Olive oil

Fresh herbs (a few leaves of basil or oregano)

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Steps:

  1. In a bowl, place the raw fish, juice of half of a lemon, grated ginger, herbs, and minced garlic. (Optional: pinch of paprika). Mix and set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Brush or sprinkle your pan/grill with olive oil and when it’s ready, add salt & pepper to the fish just before you cook them.
  3. Steam asparagus for 3-4 minutes until they have a bright green color. After steaming, set aside, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and drizzle lemon juice on them.
  4. Enjoy the grilled fish with crisp and juicy asparagus sticks while they’re still hot.

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Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

The Squid Ate a Fish

“Aaahh! Guess what?! The squid ate a fish! The squid ate a fish!!” I ran around the house with a lifeless, baby fish on my hand and told my family about the awesome moment I had with mom.

While I was helping her prepare our dinner last night, she casually told me that she found a baby fish in the belly of the squid. Before I could even react, she immediately threw the fish in the trash bowl near her. “Mom! Why’d you throw it away?” I said. “Hahaha. I want to see it!”

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So, she got the fish and placed it on my hand… and I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing!!! I was so amused by it that I had to tell everyone about it. I went back to the kitchen with the baby fish and asked mom why she wasn’t surprised or excited about it.

She told me that it wasn’t her first time to see a fish in a squid. And when I asked her how many times this happened before, she couldn’t give me an estimate. They were too many to count.

“What?? Hahaha. That’s funny. I’ve never seen a fish in the bellies of the squids I’ve cleaned before. This is so cooool, mom.” I replied.

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That simple moment with my mom reminded me of the privilege of freely spending time with my parents and learning from their experiences and wisdom. They know so much more than I do — and even if I, sometimes, am tempted to think that they don’t, I trust that God will continue to work in and through them as they speak to me and lead me. Besides, God doesn’t make mistakes and He certainly didn’t make a mistake in choosing them as my parents and making me their daughter.

Proverbs 1:8 – “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

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If I didn’t spend time with mom in the kitchen last night, I would have missed out on a rare opportunity: to see a baby fish in the belly of a squid. Woohoo! But, God allowed it to happen and I really enjoyed it! By His grace, I pray that I will continuously make an effort to spend time with my folks as much as I can. :)

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” –Exodus 20:12

folks

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)