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.

img_5637

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.

img_5672

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.

13507190_10154189037463548_4200543433497164490_n

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.

img_5670

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.

img_5660

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.)

img_5652

 

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.

img_5650

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.

fullsizerender

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

fullsizerender-1

Rest in God’s Promises

All I wanted to do after a tiring day at work was to relax at home, have my quiet time, and eat really good food. However, when my sister and I got home tonight, we were welcomed by an unpleasant aroma. We traced the smell and eventually, we realized that it was coming from our exposed garbage bin in the dirty kitchen — the bin that contained our trash from last night’s cooking and dinner. Immediately, we started tidying the place up and used our air freshener to somehow make our evening more relaxing.

While I was cleaning the dirty kitchen, I thought about what I originally planned to do tonight (to relax) and realized how funny it was that I ended up spending my first hour and a half at home washing the stack of dishes in the sink and cleaning numerous lock & lock containers in the kitchen.

DSC01179a

But God, in His perfect timing, used that moment to speak to me. After removing a bunch of the containers from the table in the kitchen, I noticed that there were a few pieces of okra and chili underneath. My brother and I used some of those ingredients last night when we made Sinigang and we forgot to put the leftovers in the refrigerator after.

DSC01165

What caught my attention was a distinct red-orange colored chili in the middle of all the other green chilis! Last night, they were all green, but because we didn’t store them in the refrigerator, one of them ripened fast. It had a lovely look to it, but what made it even more amazing was that it matched the color of the chili’s brand: “Jeremiah 29:11”. (Yes, this Bible verse is one of the brand names of the produce in the supermarket near our place.)

When I saw how beautiful it was, God reminded me of how beautiful His promise is too in Jeremiah 29:11. It says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

DSC01183a

I was reminded of God’s love for us and how He desires that we experience Him and His best. Often times, I find myself comparing what I have and don’t have with the people around me and honestly, it gets tiring and discouraging. But by God’s grace, He always gives us hope through His Word and I am encouraged to trust that he made me the way that I am because it is for the best. And if He calls me to do something for Him, He will equip me and provide all the resources I will need. Moreover, even though I may go through very difficult and challenging times in the days to come, I am reminded to trust His heart and thank Him moment by moment.

Originally, the first thing that I planned to do at home was to rest and relax by not doing any work. But just like what Peter Tan-Chi said in one of his messages before: “Rest is not in the absence of work. It is in the presence of God.”

Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to rest in You and in Your promise (Jeremiah 29:11) even while I do chores at home tonight.

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

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.

DSC00113 - Copy

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.

DSC00063 - Copy

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!

DSC00082 - Copy

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.

DSC00055 - Copy

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! :)

DSC00045 - Copy

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)

DSC00095 - Copy

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.

DSC00109 - Copy

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

Eggplant Parmigiana

It is quite a challenge for me to eat and enjoy bitter melons and eggplants. I guess it does take time for some to appreciate these vegetables. Maybe in a few months (or years), I might start to like them. :P

Interestingly, a couple close to our family (Thank you, tito Albert and tita Rosiel Noel) recently gave us a huge plastic filled with asian eggplants and okras from Palawan. As soon as I saw the bag, I immediately felt the urge to cook the eggplants first. I didn’t know why. Hahaha.

And so, I gathered some of my favorite ingredients and prepared this dish: Eggplant Parmigiana.

DSC09270 - Copy

Because I wanted to know more about the main ingredient before cooking the dish, I did a little research on the internet. After a few minutes, I learned from Alton Brown (Host of the show: “Good Eats”. Episode: Berry From Another Planet) that purging the eggplants help remove the bitterness and moisture from the eggplant, which allows them to absorb the liquid in the dish more.

DSC09199 - Copy

DSC09203 - Copy

I purged the sliced eggplants by salting them and letting them rest for a few minutes. When the eggplants started to ‘sweat’, I used a tissue to remove the moisture from them.

DSC09211 - Copy

After that, I prepared the tomato sauce and fried the breaded eggplants with a tablespoon of oil.

DSC09228 - Copy

Layering the eggplant parmigiana was fun and easy! I added the ff. ingredients to the bowl and repeated the process twice. :)

Tomato sauce > a few shrimps > Sliced Mozzarella cheese > Cooked eggplants

DSC09247 - Copy

DSC09251 - Copy

DSC09255 - Copy

Finally, it was time for us to taste the eggplant dish. I remember slightly cringing while I was getting my share because I didn’t really like eating eggplants. Haha. But, by God’s grace, He continues to change me for the better and help my taste buds cooperate and appreciate more food. Woohoo!

Also, by His grace, my family and officemates got to taste the dish and enjoyed it too! My dad even sent me a text message the next day: “Your eggplant dish is soooo good, anak! I just had a wonderful breakfast… Thanks!!!” Hahaha. Thanks for the encouragement, dad!

DSC09260 - Copy

It was a helpful experience for me because God encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things with Him. Even though the eggplant wasn’t (and still isn’t… haha!) my favorite vegetable, He still used it to speak to me and remind me of important principles in life.

Purging the eggplants reminded me of how God’s Word works in our hearts. The salt helped remove the bitterness (found in the moisture) in the eggplants which made them absorb the flavor of the oil and the tomato sauce more. In the same way, God uses the Bible to help us see and remove the unnecessary and unpleasant things that we keep in our hearts, so that we can absorb who He is and the promises and truth that He has for us, and grow into the person that He desires us to be.

DSC09261 - Copy

It says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Looking forward to learning more about God through His word this week! Hope this encourages you to do so too. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.

 

RECIPE for Eggplant Parmigiana

Estimated ingredients:

8 Asian eggplants

4 cloves of garlic (crushed or diced)

Half an onion (white, chopped)

2 tbsp. oil (1 tbsp. for sauteing sautéing the shrimp; the other for the breaded eggplants)

1 cup of Japanese bread crumbs. (Feel free to use other kinds of breading. We only had the Japanese crumbs at that time.)

4-5 cups (1000g) of crushed tomatoes (in a can). I used the brand: Doña Elena.

McCormick’s Italian seasoning and/or fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Mozzarella and Parmesean cheese

Optional: 1/3 kilo of your choice of meat (I used some of the shrimps that we had in the freezer).

 

Notes:

1. After cooking the tomato sauce and layering the ingredients, you may heat the dish in the oven or in the microwave. The melted mozzarella cheese is perfect for this dish. :)

2. You may also enjoy this dish with sliced plain baguettes.